Not only was she under the same death sentence as her people, she could also be killed for going to the king without being summoned. Esther found the courage to act, and the king granted her favor.
There are some pretty cool similarities in Esther’s story that we find in our own stories. First, Esther herself was saved and shown favor - first through adoption and then by being chosen by the king. As believers, we are chosen (John 15:16) and adopted (Rom. 8:15). Secondly, Esther was invited to partner with God in saving her people. We, too, are invited into a partnership with God to usher the lost into His salvation.
Here’s some mind-blowing good news: we have the favor of a King just like Esther did. There is a beautiful partnership between the God who saves and the people He saves. We aren’t saved and shown favor so we can live a life of self-indulgence or idleness. We are saved and ushered into great purpose and into the work of our Master. He requires something of us - our trust and obedience. The work He has for us to do is the work of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18). We are ambassadors of Christ, working with Him to bring heaven to earth and the lost to the same salvation we ourselves have received by grace.
Salvation is at hand. It’s now. His favor is also now. In Luke 4:18-21, Jesus reveals He was sent “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” I believe that favor is upon us as we work in the family business with Him. By accepting the mantle, we are entrusted with the favor, resources and authority of the King. It’s a partnership - one in which we need to be in close proximity and relationship with our Partner. There is no greater quest, no greater Leader, nor no greater favor than that of King Jesus. Just like Esther, we can step into our role as highly favored daughters of the King. Let’s share the Good News of the Gospel and pray for lost souls to encounter His saving grace.
“For He says, ‘In the time of My favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:2 (NIV)
In Daniel 5:10-12, the queen heard the baffled voices of the king and his noblemen. They were in great consternation because of a mysterious message written on the wall by the fingers of a human hand. All the king’s wise men could not help the king interpret the message, and they became afraid and turned pale. Imagine how they murmured amongst themselves and shook in fear. When the queen caught wind of their distress, she entered the banquet hall where they had gathered and spoke up. She told them there was no reason to be alarmed because there was a man in the kingdom full of insight, intelligence, and wisdom. She explained that King Nebuchadnezzar had leaned hard on Daniel’s wisdom in the past and highly recommended Daniel to help the king solve the complex problems and puzzles he was facing. So, King Belshazzar did just that. Daniel was brought in to explain the message written on the wall.
The queen was a calm voice of reason when everyone else panicked. She knew from previous experience that Daniel’s wisdom came from the Lord, and he would bring clarity to the situation. As women of God, let us use our voices to point people to the source of true wisdom, God himself.
Just as Joan was a calm voice of experience when I was distraught, you can also guide someone to seeking wisdom from God as well. Through conversation and prayer, your input can shine a light into someone else’s dark moment.
Is there a situation you are aware of that is infused with confusion, worry, or anxiety? Do you hear murmurings around you as people struggle with fear or uncertainty? Can you be the woman who commits to speaking up at the right moment with holy clarity and insight? Pointing people to biblical wisdom and praying for them when they are vulnerable, is regal behavior befitting a daughter of the King.
“She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” Proverbs 31:26 (NIV)
So how can we trust that God will come through with His promise even when from our vantage point things look hopeless? The whole point of promises is to build trust and God left us with a Bible full of fulfilled promises. When faced with a hopeless situation, we can turn our attention from the anxieties of this world and instead focus on the fulfilled promises of God.
A couple of verses later, in Jeremiah 29:13 God says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” This amazing promise from our righteous holy God to sinful people echoes a promise in Deut. 4:29, “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.” And it remains true even to the present day as Jesus said in John 6:37, “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”
God will not hide from His people when they seek Him. This promise is echoed throughout the Bible many times. Even though we can’t see the whole picture that God sees, we do have access to a bigger picture than the Israelites did. A better vantage point! We can see the thread of this promise woven throughout scripture.
Are you facing a hopeless situation today? Remember God’s promise of peace and plenty, and ask God to lead you to a better vantage point.
"God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" Numbers 23:19 (NIV)
In 2 Kings 20 we see king Hezekiah sick and fragile. In one instant after following God and doing what was right in the sight of the Lord for so long, a foreign king showed him kindness and interest. He was blinded with self-righteousness, pride and ultimately lost focus of God. As the Babylonian king sent messengers with a letter and gifts to woo the king, they scoped out his kingdom. Hezekiah fell easily into their scheme: “He received the envoys and showed them all that was in his storehouses–silver, the gold, the spices and the fine olive oil– his armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in the palace or in all his kingdom that he did not show them” (2 Kings 20:13). He let his guard down and welcomed the enemy into his house. Hezekiah was distracted by what looked good in that moment and later led to his death, Judah’s captivity and generations of suffering.
We will do the same if we are not careful. Too often we are wooed by the self-care movement. We turn to social media, a friend or family member or anyone that will make us feel better about ourselves. However, we must be vigilant and on guard against any advice that does not share our biblical perspective.
Don’t wait around to recognize that you have given access to the enemy. He will stop at nothing to take your eyes off of the one true God. Everywhere we look, there is so much confusion, division and chaos. Why? Because we have forgotten what God has already done for us. We like to change His Word to fit our agendas but we have to check our agendas and see if they align with God’s Word.
To be vigilant of the enemy's schemes requires us to remember all that the Lord did for us and to choose every day to seek Him first.
So, friend, I want to challenge you today to make your own blessings timeline. Start with the day you chose Jesus as your Lord and Savior or the day that you recognized Him moving in such a way that led you to that choice. Add dates in between when you know His presence was near or maybe a very difficult time that now you can look back on and vividly see Him at work in that moment.
There are no right or wrong ways to do this, we are human and flawed, so we must be reminded of His faithfulness.
Reflect on your timeline often, pray continually and remember who God says He is. We can stand firm on His promises when we keep our gaze fixed on Him.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 (NIV)
In Isaiah 40:11, Isaiah paints us a beautiful picture of what Jesus is and will be when he comes. “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lamb in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11). He promises to carry us close to his heart, protecting and guiding us! What could be more comforting than that. As a mother, when my children are scared or hurt, they immediately climb into my lap seeking hugs and shelter. They seek a comforting word from me that it will be okay and I always urge them to trust me, promising to protect them. I desperately needed this from Jesus, but by allowing that precious time with Him to pass by, I was pushing that comfort away. This time could have filled my heart and mind with peace and understanding but instead I was choosing chaos.
Later in the chapter, Isaiah takes 3 verses to describe even further the love He has for us: “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:29-31 NIV). I think this is perhaps one of my favorite verses. I repeat it often and one I recall easily. However, I had no strength to remind myself of what God could do for me because I was choosing my world over His. I was selfish and greedy with my time instead of inviting God into my time to give me strength to exit out of those 27 tabs filling my brain with anxiety.
Friends, I urge you to stop hitting that proverbial snooze button, whatever it may be that’s hindering your walk with Him. When we make spending time with the Lord a priority, He gives us the strength to push through the weariness of this world. He will give us strength when we ask for it. He can give us peace, when we ask for it. He offers us comfort, when we ask for it. But we can only ask for these things when we seek time with Him and his word. Make time for God, just as you make time for all the other “to-do’s” on your list today.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)
But what I learned in the midst of counseling was that God’s love runs deeper than I could ever comprehend. As I began to pull back the layers of my heart, I realized that even though I had God’s whole heart, He didn’t fully have mine.
If God’s love for me is anything like His love for the Israelites, it is fierce. In the book of Hosea, we see a God with jealous love for His people, the Israelites. In desperation, God sent His prophet Hosea to communicate His distress and anger with them. After all God had saved them from, their hearts were still divided. Instead of fully surrendering to God, they chose to betray Him by worshiping other gods. Interestingly, God compares the relationship that He has with the Israelites to an adulterous wife who is unfaithful to her loving husband. However, in spite of the future judgment coming upon Israel, God did not give up on His people. Hosea 11:8-9 affirms God’s desire to protect His people: “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboyim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I devastate Ephraim again. For I am God, and not a man— the Holy One among you. I will not come against their cities.”
Friend, God is also jealous for you! The Oxford Languages dictionary defines jealousy “to be fiercely protective or vigilant over one’s rights or possessions.” God is protective over you because you are His. While we may not be worshiping Baal like the Isrealites, we do have a tendency to idolize things of this world over the one who created them. I distinctly remember, in the midst of my depression, I found myself seeking an escape through mass media, human relationships, and material possessions. In reality, I only needed my loving Savior and so do you.
While the word jealousy has a negative connotation in our interpersonal lives, God’s jealousy is quite different. God is jealous because His love for you runs so much deeper than you could ever imagine. I encourage you, if your heart is divided in any way, turn back to Him. May His jealous love overwhelm you, as He freely offers up His mercy and grace.
Works Cited: “Jealous.” Concise Oxford English Dictionary, edited by Angus Stevenson and Maurice Waite, 12th ed., Oxford UP, 2011, p. 761.
“Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” Exodus 34:14 (NIV)
The people of Israel would follow God for a bit under a good leader, then they would choose a different path and follow Baal or build Asherah poles. Then, another semi-decent king would come along and they would tear down some poles before choosing again to worship pagan gods with various evil acts.
I can almost hear the exasperation in Elijah’s voice as he commands the people, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21). What a command from the Lord. If I am the Lord, follow me. If something else, follow it. Choose. Commit. Stop wavering.
We can easily fall into wavering back and forth in our faith and trust in God. Maybe it is due to fear, maybe the temptations of this world grab hold of us, or maybe, like me in college, doubt and uncertainty creeps into our thinking. Whatever the reason, we can trust God to hold us steady. Psalm 16:8 reminds us to keep our focus on the Lord because then we will not be shaken. Peter asked to step out of the boat onto the waves to follow Jesus. However, when he took His eyes off the Lord and began to see the wind around him, he began to sink (Matt. 14:28-30).
As the years have passed, I have recognized that I can quickly make coming to Jesus regularly a big, complicated event. Thoughts such as, “Oh, I will begin my regular quiet time when I have the right journal and have replenished my highlighters” or “I slept late and can only give ten minutes to reading scripture today” can easily cause me to not seek the Lord. I had to simplify my expectations and goals. I make it a priority to come to Him each day. Sometimes that is prayer during my commute to work and other times I can devote an hour to study. Both are fruitful in my relationship with Him.
Let us keep our eyes, our hearts, and our minds focused on Jesus. We can do this by seeking Him each day. We can draw close to Him through time in His word, time devoted to prayer and silence before Him, and by drawing close to a community of believers who will build us up, encourage us, and hold us accountable in our walk with the Lord. Doubts will arise, trouble will come, and temptations will stand before us, but when we choose the Lord as God of our life, He will hold us steady.
“I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8 (NIV)
Jeroboam was offered the same sort of blessing and provision if He followed the Lord through the prophet Ahijah in 1 Kings 11:38-39. Unfortunately, both Solomon and Jeroboam made poor choices. Solomon turned away from the Lord and toward the gods of his wives, so the Lord tore the kingdom away (1 Kings 11:11). Jeroboam feared man over God and created counterfeit feasts, gods, and priests, so the Lord cut off the house of Jeroboam (1 Kings 13:34).
What the Lord wanted from each leader is the same thing He wants from us: to love Him with all our heart, soul, and strength and to keep His commands (Deut 6:5, 17). This is why it is so important to know the word of the Lord that He has given to us in the Bible. If we know the Scriptures, then we will recognize the counterfeit “truths.”
Jeroboam was the clearest example of this. He said it was too hard for the people to obey so he set up idols, a counterfeit feast of the Lord (his own date for the Feast of Tabernacles), and priests who weren’t Levites. I have to wonder why the people followed all this. Did they not know the command of the Lord? Had they not learned from the history of the Israelites that you cannot just stamp His name on something He hasn’t designed and call it okay (Exodus 32:4-10)? Yet for many more leaders of Israel, it is consistently said that they followed in the sins of Jeroboam.
We are given the same sort of choice: if we follow Jesus, then we have eternal life. If we follow His commands, then He walks with us. We aren’t bound by decisions of the past or our ancestor’s sins. God gives each of us a choice, and as we grow in our knowledge of the Word, we may find ourselves in error. For example, we may realize that culture’s call to follow our hearts is a counterfeit to knowing our heart is deceitful (Jer 17:9), and we must follow Him and His commands. We will learn to filter what we have heard through the Word and must be willing to repent and follow Him, no matter the cost.
As we look forward to our Messiah’s return, may we take heed to His warning that false messiahs and prophets will arise with great signs and wonders to deceive us (Matt 24:24) and let that spur us deeper into His truths. If we commit ourselves to truly knowing Him and His ways, then we will have a much better chance of recognizing the counterfeit and enduring until the end.
“In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3 (NIV)
Now, I am a rule follower, but friend, I have never experienced such an obsession with God’s laws as is professed in Psalm 119. Have you?
God gave Moses specific rules to follow, taught to each new generation of Hebrews. Prior to Jesus, people did not have direct access to God. Following these rules, and atoning when a rule was broken was not just a suggestion in their society, it was how they were able to experience God’s presence, community and be in right standing with Him (Gal. 3:24).
For our psalmist, God’s laws were encouragement (119:23-24), comfort (119:49-50), and justice (119:95).
We find the same reassurances in the Bible today. And, while King Solomon built God a temple so the Isrealite’s would have a place to come worship and sacrifice to God (1 Kings 6:11-14), we do not need a special place. We have scripture, and we have direct access to God.
As believers, our bodies are His temple; the Holy Spirit lives within us (1 Cor. 6:19). God’s rules are important, but no longer the only way to know Him. The Mandelorians say “This is the Way” referring to their laws, but Jesus says “I am the way” (John 14:6).
Because of Jesus, our High Priest (Heb. 4:14-16), and His sinless sacrifice on the cross, God can look at us as pure and in right standing with Him even if we still struggle with breaking some of His rules.
We can draw near to God in prayer and when we do, God restores our soul to Himself (Heb. 7:25-28) and makes all things new in our lives if we ask (Rev. 21:5).
What a blessing it is for us that we can know and experience God’s presence anywhere, everywhere and all the time.
If you have been feeling far away from God, or maybe, like my son, have been struggling with obedience, I encourage you to draw near to Him today. He will meet you in the quiet confessions of your heart.
If you have never invited Jesus into your life and would like to, just find a quiet place to pray:
“God, thank you for giving me direct access to you through your Son, Jesus. I accept the sacrifice He made for me on the cross, please forgive my sins. I want to live a life in a relationship with you from this point forward. I turn away from my sin, and I turn to you. Amen.”
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever…” John 14:16 (NIV)
Like David, as mothers, we have important work to do. We may not be ruling a nation, but our duties do affect the Kingdom. We are called by God to disciple our children, serve our husbands, and maintain our households. Perhaps you also have work outside the home where you have God-given responsibilities to attend to. We must be continually on guard that we are not making choices that casually shift us into idleness causing us to neglect our responsibilities. Our choices, however small, matter. They either set us up for success, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us, or they set us up for failure, allowing the devil an opportunity to whisper lies and deceive us. Mamas, let’s choose wisely. Intentionally choose to be diligent in the work God has called you to do.
For me, some of these small choices include getting up early, ahead of my children, to prepare my heart, mind, and home for the day. Another is limiting my time on social media and carefully curating the influences I allow to speak to me there. Most recently, it’s been “giving up” the romcoms I loved to escape into and instead choosing books that edify my spirit and further the values I hold. None of these choices would seem to singularly define or direct my life, but together they have set me on a path to deeper joy and purpose in the work God has given me, chiefly motherhood.
Of course, these convictions and choices are not something we can set out to do in our own power. God, by his infinite grace, is the one who convicts, draws us to repentance, and provides the power to change. We must simply draw near to Him and ask. Like the Psalmist in Psalm 139: 23-24, we can cry to the Lord, “Search me, God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” He knows us better than we know ourselves and He is faithful to provide all we need to walk according to His way - including conviction and the grace and opportunity for repentance.
Today, I encourage you to begin seeking the Lord in prayer. Ask Him if there is any area in your life, however minor, where you have been idle. Then listen and watch as He enlightens your eyes. Respond to the grace He provides, repent and turn back to the work He has called you to. Then allow Him to empower you to make small choices that create a fruitful and joy-filled life.
“Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Ephesians 5:15-17 (NIV)
The ark of the covenant (described in detail in Exodus 25:10-22) represented the very presence and glory of God to the Israelites. Unfortunately, it became captured by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4). For seven long months God’s own nation was void of His glory. Meanwhile, though, the Philistines were plagued with misfortune. From tumors to toppling idols, they started to understand the message (1 Sam 5:2-12). So they sent the ark on a cart, loaded up with guilt offerings and pulled by two cows “mooing all the way” (true story, 1 Samuel 6:12, NIrV).
I love that God tucks these reality-show-like stories into scripture. Ahem. Let’s fast-forward…
After a failed attempt to bring the ark home to Jerusalem, David gathered his gumption to try again. This time David’s men succeeded because they did it God’s way. So “Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sounds of trumpets” (2 Sam 6:14).
David was “a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Sam 13:14). His real-deal zeal for God’s presence and glory led him to dance like no one was watching. However it turns out his wife, Michal, was watching and she was far from impressed. She not only “despised him in her heart” (2 Sam 6:16), she was openly vocal about her opinion.
As committed followers of Christ, our zeal may not lead us to dance, but it can lead us to do other “foolish” things such as --
To those who don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus and are unable to comprehend His infinite worth, these things can seem downright reckless. When loved ones become vocal about their disapproval, it can be a hard pill to swallow.
I love how David answered His wife though: “It was before the Lord, who chose me… I will become even more undignified than this…” (2 Samuel 6:21-22). Basically, “I’m not living my life for you, I’m living it for the Lord.” I love this confident statement.
Unshakable zeal is a result of a deeply abiding relationship with Christ.
Has your red-hot zeal for God become cold in the attempt to please others? Has your wholehearted obedience waned to half-hearted service unto the Lord?
Unlike my brother’s silly boyhood antics, our “foolishness” is for more than entertainment: it is for the glory of the One who is worthy. If you’re struggling to see Christ as the Prize worthy of your highest affection, ask Him to reveal more of Himself to you today.
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10 (NIV)
This story has always captured my imagination. In this story, David was angry. Very angry. He was going through a hard time. He had spent a long time on the run hiding from Saul and then his long-time trusted mentor, the Prophet Samuel, had just died. Low on supplies both internally and externally, he was in a vulnerable place.
David sent men to ask Nabal, a rich man in Maon, for much needed supplies. They greeted Nabal with blessings and reminders of the kindness and protection David and his small army had provided Nabal’s servants. Nabal’s response was not one of grace but instead, was laced with insults. Nabal called David a nobody, insulted his family lineage and treated him with contempt. David, the one who had killed Goliath and the one who had chosen to not kill Saul when he had the chance, took this insult to heart and decided on revenge. Nabal’s response to David hit a raw place in him and he made up his mind to defend his honor. It was one too many blows and David was faltering.
At this crucial moment, in stepped Nabal’s wife, Abigail. After finding David, Abigail bowed low and offered him the gift of perspective. She reminded him he was a future king made to fight the Lord’s battles; he was held securely by God and he did not want to be someone who would have to carry the guilt of needless bloodshed. David accepted what she offered with humility and gratefulness.
I love to imagine myself as Abigail in this story, but oftentimes I am actually David. I am the one acting in a way that is contrary to who I want to be and need to be reminded of who I am in Christ. I may not kill with a sword, but I am pretty skilled with words. When an ‘Abigail’ steps into my life to confront the harmful ways I sometimes relate to others, I can learn from David’s response. Listening to correction takes humility and is not easy in the moment, but it leads to a more godly life.
When reading this story, I am forced to ask myself if there are ways I protect myself at the expense of others and if I listen when others see in me what I cannot. Sometimes our Abigail comes in the form of a person and sometimes it is the still and small voice of the Holy Spirit, but it is always gentle mercy from God. The question for our lives is “Will we listen?”
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)
In 1 Samuel 8:5, the Israelites came to Samuel to “appoint a king to lead (them), such as all the other nations have.” Samuel was unhappy with the Israelites' request and prayed to God about it. The LORD responded by saying, “‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king’” (1 Sam. 8:7).
Samuel warned of the terrible ways an earthly king would rule, but even so, the possibility of immediate safety, security and protection captured their hearts and ruled their lives, plunging them into decades of distress and dysfunction.
We, like the Israelites long to feel the safety, security and protection that comes from the rule and reign of a perfect, loving, just and righteous king. Also like the Israelites, we settle for lesser versions of The King in hopes that our problems will be solved, anxieties will be calmed and chaos will be brought into order.
We buckledown when money goes out of our account faster than it comes in; we begrudgingly vacuum yet again when popcorn gets spilled all over the freshly clean carpet; we retreat into our own thoughts when the person we love most is no longer on this earth to talk to. When we turn to our own solutions, our problems, fixations and sin get worse, not better.
Thankfully, Jesus meets us in the fear of not enough, the chaos of managing a home and the pit of emptiness after loss. When we are tempted to ease our unrest with quick fixes of lesser kings, remember, Jesus is the King of kings who brought safety, security and protection to our souls with His finished work on the cross. We can cling to the good news that in Him we have a king who would never lead us into distress and dysfunction for his personal gain, but instead endured the ultimate form of distress and dysfunction for our gain.
Home is not the place we make for ourselves on earth, but rather the place where Jesus is in our hearts.
In what areas of your life are you like the Israelites? What lesser kings are you fixating on to bring order to your life? Where in your life does the good news that Jesus is King refresh and replenish you? Now, take these reflections to the King of kings and be at home in His presence.
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11 (NIV)
We find him hanging out with the wrong crowd and one character in particular will end up taking him down. After pushing, pushing, and more pushing, he finally hands his secret over to Delilah. And once he does, she uses it to her advantage.
Oh my, have I heard numerous people talk about this story and get some slight entertainment at Samson’s expense. It seems so obvious to us that this poor guy is being strung along! However, if we’re being honest, at some point in our lives haven’t we all been the fool in one story or another? (And if you said, “not me” to that question, you’re fooling yourself).
I can look back at my life and see so many times when I was pressured to do something that wasn’t right in the eyes of God. I thought I was being brave by saying, “yes,” when the bravest thing would have been to say “no.” Over and over and over again.
I often look back in the rear view mirror of my memory, as I am sure Samson did, and feel vastly full of regret. Unfortunately, it just has never done me a lot of good. I can’t undo it.
But there is hope.
There is one verse I have glossed over numerous times in this story: “But his hair began to grow back” (Judges 16:22). He ended up killing more people at his death than in his entire life. God used him greatly at his most humbling moment.
Samson was never too far gone for God's plan. And neither are we. Even at rock bottom, God can use you exactly where you are.
Today, if you are looking in the rear view mirror, don’t let it use you. Allow God to use you where you are. Look to Him with repentance and know that He will always forgive and use a willing heart. Making mistakes humbles you. When we allow God to soften our hearts by leaning toward Him, instead of our ego or inner critic, we can see our trials and errors in a new light: as an opportunity to glorify God.
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 (NIV)
Every temptation to wonder what “could’ve been” had to die right then and there, because what was ahead was far better than what might have been amidst the rubble.
In Joshua 6, we read of the Lord’s deliverance of Jericho into the Israelites hands after a mighty seven day march and glorious, faith-filled shout, “‘Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!’ Forging into the exposed city, they laid waste to all that was unholy in the Lord’s sight, burning down and destroying with the sword all things living, ‘then they burned the whole city and everything in it…’” (Josh. 6:24).
But what followed that destruction was an oath, “Cursed before the Lord is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: ‘At the cost of his firstborn son he will lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest he will set up its gates’”(Josh. 6:26). A warning to let what was dead stay dead and what had been burned and buried remain so .
How many cities have you torn down only to begin relaying the foundation? What situations have you surrendered at the foot of the cross only to pick them back up? What have you buried in faith only to unearth in fear?
At what cost have you revisited the things you've already laid down? Friend, don’t sacrifice your peace and faith because of the fear of what you might be missing, because when He’s in it, what lies ahead will far surpass what might have been.
When the temptation to pick up something you’ve long since relinquished exposes itself, remember the faith it took to bury it. Remember the faith it must have taken to walk for seven days before finally watching that wall fall. Remember the faith it must have taken to let that rubble lie and know that what was to come was far better.
Let your Jericho fall. Let rest what has been laid to waste, standing firm in faith, and let the future hold His promises unhindered.
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.” Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)
Like Rahab, I looked for love in all the wrong places. The weight of my shame held me captive for many years until I met people like me in the story of God’s people. Does your story have pieces you have tried to cut out or run from? God has already gone before you to restore your life.
As the Israelites prepare to enter the land God has promised them, Joshua sends two spies to check out the land on the other side of the Jordan. This is when we meet Rahab, the prostitute. She is the one who saves the spies from certain death by hiding them. In return, she asks them to save her and her family. She says, “For we have heard how the Lord made a dry path for you through the Red Sea when you left Egypt" (Jos. 2:10). She knew who they were; she knew their God was powerful. Crossing the Red Sea wasn't last week's news. It has now been 40 years, yet they still remember. They had heard the stories. God always goes before us.
The spies gave her a scarlet cord to hang from her window. A red rope would signify to the invading army to save her family. Just as the blood of a lamb painted on the Israelites’ doorposts in Egypt was a sign for the Angel of Death to pass over their homes. The scarlet thread, the lamb's blood, runs throughout God's story, foreshadowing the lamb that would be our salvation. As promised, the two spies save Rahab and her family before Jericho is destroyed.
This woman who was looked down upon saved the spies who, in return, saved her. Despite her circumstances, she held tight to the scarlet cord and became part of God's history. Along with Sarah, she made the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews, and she was one of five women listed in the genealogy of Jesus.
Sitting around a table of perfect women at Bible study wasn’t where I wanted to share my story of shame until I met Rahab. Those pieces of my life shine the light of God’s love, His mercy, His redemption.
Recognizing the past allows us to see God's scarlet cord of redemption throughout our life. Does your story have pieces you have tried to cut out or run from? Cry out to Him and hold onto that scarlet cord that leads to redemption and allow God to weave the broken pieces together.
“The Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you.” Deuteronomy 31:3 (NIV)
It takes courage to step up for justice. It takes courage to speak up or to take action. This courage was displayed in the words and actions of Zelophehad’s daughters. Zelophehad only had daughters, and by Jewish law, only sons received an inheritance of land. Moses and the leaders of Israel were working to distribute the promised land. Zelophehad’s daughters knew that their father’s name would die along with him without an inheritance, and they would have no provision of their own. They decided to speak up. They brought their case before Moses who then brought their case before the Lord: “The Lord said to him, ‘What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them. Say to the Israelites, “If a man dies and leaves no son, give his inheritance to his daughter”’” (Numbers 27:6-8).
These daughters had courage to speak up, and they brought change that affected each generation to come after them.
As God’s children, we have courage through His Spirit, and through the sacrifice of Jesus, we have been given freedom and new life. Let us point others toward freedom in Christ by speaking up and taking action when we see injustice. As Isaiah the prophet wrote, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6).
The defendant was found guilty and will spend many years in prison. Justice was served for his crime. However, what if someone had intervened when he was younger? What if a man or woman of God had seen his circumstances, stepped in to get to know him, and help “loose his chains” and share in his burdens? What if someone had shared that Jesus could set him free? What if someone had stepped in and spoken about the injustices in our school systems, our societal systems, and our criminal system? When we fast, like Isaiah, let us fast to “loose the chains” of injustice, to free the oppressed, and to break every yoke. As we fast, let our prayers focus on these things.
“Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully.” Proverbs 28:5 (NIV)
And then, I heard Holy Spirit tell me to step outside the tent. (Don’t you just love it when God puts you in timeout?).
I stepped out into a wide open space where I could feel the wind and I began to sway. Holy Spirit impressed upon my heart again, “The more freedom you are willing to experience, the more freedom your children will enjoy.” So I began to dance and twirl with big, beautiful, awkward movements.
In those moments I made an exchange. I traded in fear and the need to control for the freedom to be joy-filled and carefree.
As I opened my eyes, I saw my little girls playing and my son dancing. I saw the host of the feast running with laughter as children scattered all around her in a game of tag — all of this during worship. When we choose to live out our freedom, it is worship to the One who freed us!
I used to think freedom was something I needed to work hard to maintain. Now I think freedom is an invitation to adventure deeper into the heart of God toward us.
Friends, like Israel we are free but each day we must make choices to walk in that freedom. Walking in freedom takes trust and practice.
You see, Israel was free the moment they walked out of Egypt, but they had to make choices that built upon their trust in God rather than live under the heavy slave master of fear.
As we read in Exodus 16 (and throughout the book), God extended opportunities for Israel to go deeper and to explore his heart toward them. Each time they were hungry, they had a choice to trust God as a Provider or complain. When they needed water, they were free to choose the Well of Living Water or panic.
Sometimes it seems easier to have the predictability of the hard task masters (fear, coping mechanisms, etc.) than to trust in Holy Spirit, who is described as wind (Jn 3:8)! C. S. Lewis put it best in his novel, Prince Caspian. Aslan, who represents Christ, informs Lucy that in His kingdom, “Things never happen the same way twice” (Lewis).
I used to get annoyed with reading Israel's 40 year saga in Exodus, like, “What are y'all doing? Can’t you see He didn’t bring you all the way out of Egypt to let you die in the wilderness?”
Then I realized, I am like Israel. But I am learning to trust, and so are you! One reminder from heaven can settle our hearts and awaken us to freedom - we just have to choose! I don’t know about you but I would rather have the freedom Jesus offers than any counterfeit! Let’s choose to live out our freedom daily as an act of worship to the one who freed us.
Works Cited: Lewis, C. S. (Clive Staples). Prince Caspian : The Return to Narnia. New York, N.Y. :Collier Books, 1970.
"He has sent me … to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners." Isaiah 61:1b (NIV)
God didn’t leave Moses to figure it out on his own. He gave him very, very specific instructions on how the tabernacle and its components should be made ready for His presence (Exod. 36-40). I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been prone to skip or speed-read through these ancient instructions because they don’t seem to be the most relevant. However this past year, as I read through, a fresh truth settled into my spirit.
God’s set-apartness is like none other. He is so holy that He cannot commune with even the slightest sin, so to be near Him requires an impossible clean-up. The prophet Isaiah once described man’s best deeds, in light of God’s holiness, as filthy rags (Is. 64:6). This means no matter how dirty our physical houses get, our spiritual houses are far more hopeless.
Yet through Jesus, “the true and better Moses,” our hearts are made holy— holy enough for God’s Spirit to dwell. If we pause to consider the preparation of the tabernacle, we get a sense of the weight of everything Jesus accomplished through His death and resurrection.
Jesus became the New Covenant and the Lampstand. He offered up His very life as fragrant incense. He was the final Burnt Offering needed for our forgiveness. He is the Gate through which we enter. He is the Priest throughout all generations, standing at the right hand of God, interceding for us.
So, while Moses “...was faithful in all God’s house… Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory…” (Heb. 3:2-3 ESV, emphasis mine).
Through Jesus, our hearts are made holy enough to hold God’s glory.
Friend, where are you still striving today? What perceived imperfections are keeping you from a state of rest? Are you pushing away God’s presence because of fear of what He’ll find inside?
Put away the fresh paint.
Set down the sponge.
Return to a state of rest— the work is finished (Jn. 19:30).
See, with eyes of faith, that through Christ you are good enough. He stands at the door, simply longing to spend time with you. Thank Him for the gift of holiness. Receive Him in, and let your heart be His home today.
Works cited: Keller, Timothy. Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism. Reprint, Penguin Books, 2016.
“‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.’” Revelation 3:20 (NIV)
But God knew it was a tall order and was completely prepared to meet the needs of Moses and the Israelites in order for them to be successful. God knew the process required divine inspiration.
The equipping that takes place in this story is what stands out. God equipped Moses to lead the people; Bezalel and Oholiab to build and create; and others to give possessions as offerings. The whole community was able to contribute and play a role in this beautiful creation of the tabernacle. No one person was overwhelmed because the whole congregation was contributing.
Just as God put His Spirit in the artisans to craft the tabernacle, so the Son gave us the Holy Spirit so we can bear fruit. By His Spirit, we have everything we need to carry out our assignments. He knew the Holy Spirit was the comfort, power, wisdom, courage and truth we needed to stand firm in our identity and calling as His daughters.
Whether it’s raising a family, missions, or leading a Bible study, we can trust that He is going to equip us. Each assignment can feel overwhelming because it’s usually bigger than we can accomplish on our own. I’m pretty sure He designed it that way so we’d remain humbly dependent on Him and collaborate with the community He’s placed us in. We were never meant to do it on our own. My assignment to nurture my children was achievable because God was with me, equipping me each step, and because He set me in community with other moms to find encouragement and help when needed.
In my experience, even if I’m a little intimidated by the assignment, there are a few things I can always look to for a boost in my faith and confidence: the scriptures, testimonies of other believers, and my personal history with God. When you feel the weight of an assignment, seek out a trusted believer that can help redirect your focus to scriptural truth and remind you of all the ways God has moved before. Remember He always provides, His Spirit never fails, and He’s always with you. That, my friends, is good news!
“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21 (NIV)
Without realizing it, I had become an idol worshiper. The fertility specialists, the fertility treatments, the image of that child I so wanted to conceive had all become my idols.
In Exodus Chapters 6 through 15, we read the story of God sending Moses to extricate His children from bondage in Egypt, the plagues God sent on the land, the Israelites’ deliverance and their miraculous crossing of the Red Sea. In Exodus 8:1, God again gives Moses this message for Pharaoh, “...Let my people go, so that they may worship me.” Even after seeing Aaron’s rod changed into a serpent that consumed the rods of his magicians, and the waters of Egypt turning into blood, Pharoah stubbornly resisted God’s command. Pharaoh did not know the one true God. He had many gods, many idols. Every plague that God sent on Egypt was in direct response to one of Pharaoh’s gods. Yet, his heart was continuously hard towards God’s people. The plague of the death of every firstborn in Egypt who was not under the ‘blood of the Passover Lamb’, finally led Pharoah to say, “‘Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested’” (Exod. 12:31).
God gave me many opportunities to tear down my idols, but like Pharoah, I held on to them, refusing to let them go. My pride got in the way of His grace and I failed to see Him as God Almighty. Seven years of chasing the technology left me with empty arms, and finally, heartbroken and weary, I surrendered my idols to God. Months later, God blessed us with a son through the miracle of adoption. A daughter joined our family three years later, again through adoption. Our family was complete. God had blessed us beyond our wildest dreams.
1 John 5:21 warns, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” All created things become idols when we put our trust in them, rather than in God. I was so focused on the specialists and the technology, that I lost sight of the God who created the technology, who created me and who creates life. Worship the Creator rather than the created. The blood of Jesus, the Passover Lamb, frees us from every sin, including the sin of idolatry. I accepted His free gift. Are you struggling with idols in your life? Jesus can set you free. You only have to ask.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
Living the life of a shepherd and nomad, Moses learned about the ways of the people he would eventually be called to lead and also about life in the desert. Moses couldn’t appreciate this lesson, but God was preparing him to free Israel from Pharaoh's grasp.
In Exodus 4, God asks Moses what was in his hand. He then proceeds to use what Moses had which was a shepherd's staff. God likes to use our past experiences along with what is in our hand. Moses’ years of tending sheep were not useless. God used those years to place experiences in Moses’ life that he could later draw on to bring God glory. Moses was a shepherd and he always carried a staff. So what did God use to show his miraculous signs? What Moses already had in his hand! Moses just had to lean in and trust God with what was there. A simple stick, but with obedience and trust that staff will go on to help Moses lead God’s people out of bondage.
Moses wasn’t just a prince or just a shepherd, his past occupation didn’t define him. God made him for more. It is so easy for me to question if all of nursing school and my time working as a nurse was just wasted years. But the truth is that God prepares us in ways that we may not understand. Those years of learning and working in the medical field were not useless. When I had a high risk pregnancy and my son spent two months in the NICU, my background in nursing helped me immensely. The years I spent taking care of new babies as a nurse helped me to not be as scared as a first-time mom. The care and compassion I learned while taking care of patients is something that I still use to this day.
I am learning to trust God to use what I have in my hands and the knowledge I carry from my past. Just like Moses I am not defined by my past occupation. I am not just a nurse or just a mom. God also made me for more. I don’t know if I will ever go back to working as a nurse, but I know that God will continue to use that time of my life and those experiences for what He has planned for me.
God uses the ordinary things in our lives for extraordinary purposes! So friend, what do you have in your hand? Something from today or something from your past. It can be a pen, a broom, a book, a stethoscope, a classroom. Remember, God made you for more as well and if we lean in and trust God with these ordinary everyday things, God can do immeasurable things not only for us but also in the lives of others! The decision Moses made by the burning bush to lean in and trust God saved an entire nation.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20 (NIV)
While Joseph was Jacob’s beloved son, his brothers were extremely envious to the point of selling him into slavery. However, in spite of his circumstances, God was ordering his steps.
As I read Joseph’s story, I’m in awe of how God showed Himself to be faithful time and time again. During the time Joseph was sold into slavery, he was made overseer by his master because his master saw that the Lord was with him. Despite being falsely accused by his master’s wife and thrown in prison, the Lord made it clear that He was still with Joseph by elevating him to be in charge of all the prisoners. While in prison, God used Joseph to interpret dreams. Ultimately, this led him to interpret King Pharaoh's dream. By this act, King Pharaoh knew the Spirit of God was in Joseph and he placed him second-in-command. In spite of every situation Joseph found himself in, God showed up.
Friend, did you know that this is the same God that is with you? He is with you in the middle of financial hardships; He is with you as you battle that health condition; He is with you as you grieve the loss of your loved one; He is with you on the hardest days of parenting, and He will continue to show Himself faithful. In the midst of turmoil, I am reminded of Isaiah 58:11 which states, “the Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Never forget you are His beloved child. Whatever season of life you’re in right now, take that leap, knowing you will fall into your Father’s arms. If there is ever an inkling of doubt, remember Joseph’s story. Remember that even at his lowest of lows, the Lord guided him, strengthened his frame, and satisfied all of his needs. Place your full trust in Him and watch as He does the same for you.
“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 58:11
This was a dangerous place to be and often led to a lot of heartbreak, guilt and shame.
It wasn’t until I found myself pregnant with my daughter that I truly felt out of control and a flood of fear came rushing in. That wasn’t the plan I had for my life; how was I going to raise another human when I didn’t even know what I wanted to do with my own life? I was just out of college, newly engaged and ready to move forward with my life but I still felt so helpless and alone. I cried out to God and what I didn’t realize at the time was that separation from the world was exactly what I needed to shift my perspective and surrender to the life God had planned for me.
In Genesis, we see how Esau and Jacob had a past full of shame, lies and heartache, too. When their father, Issac, was very old and it was time to give his son’s their blessings before he passed, Jacob deceived him into thinking he was Esau. He takes the blessing that was intended for his brother. This leaves Esau outraged and ready for revenge after mourning his father’s death. So Jacob flees.
Years later, the day finally approaches when Jacob is to see his brother again. Jacob tries to prepare but can’t help but let guilt and fear back him into a corner. Jacob turned to prayer and God met him where he was. The story tells us, “Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man” (Gen. 32:24-25). Jacob was in a hard place mentally and God was there with him, as “The man said, your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome” (Gen. 32:28).
God wasn’t telling Jacob that he actually won. The Lord allowed this match to continue for his own purpose, to deliver Jacob from his own self-reliance. After wrestling all night, he put up a good fight but in the end was tired, weak, in pain and left holding on to God.
When we feel completely helpless, we are reduced to a place where all we can do is hold onto Him.
I believe God did the same for me by throwing a wrench in my plans. After years of wrestling, He opened my eyes to how much I truly do need Him, which led to my surrender just like Jacob.
Friend, if you are trying to do this life on your own, like I did for far too long, I invite you to reach out to the Lord. Bring your struggles to Him and hold on tight, because He is faithful to walk through it with you hand-in-hand.
He loves us and wants to lead us on a beautiful journey, if we are willing to follow.
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” Psalms 34:4 (NIV)
Without delay, Abraham obeyed. He packed up quickly, assembled a travel party for the three day journey, and obeyed the Lord. Abraham heard God’s promise that Isaac would be his special heir and now he was being asked to kill him. Knowing all this, he showed great faith when he told the servants, “we will be back.” He believed that God would make a way for both he and his son to survive this trial.
The Bible gives us only a brief glimpse into the conversation between Abraham and Isaac as they journeyed up the hill. Isaac inquired about the sacrifice, and Abraham responded that God would provide a sheep for the burnt offering. As they walked along, the old man carried what he could carry–the fire and the knife, while the young man carried the wood meant for his own sacrifice upon his back. In many Bibles this passage has a bold heading with something like “Abraham’s Faith Tested.” In reality, the faith of Abraham and Isaac was tested. In Genesis 22:9, we see Abraham tying Isaac and placing him on the altar on top of the wood. Isaac who was much younger and stronger than Abraham could have bested his dad in a physical match of strength. He could have escaped the ropes and the altar. But he did not. He willingly allowed himself to be placed as a sacrifice on an altar.
God is with us in difficult times. He does not leave us alone when the situation looks grim and the future is unknown. God shows up in surprising ways during troublesome times and trusting Him through tough times can build your faith.
Facing an uncertain diagnosis, I place myself in the Lord’s care. I earnestly desire for God to show up in miraculous ways for me. At the same time, I know that God has provided a support system of people who love me and support me. We will get through this health trial and praise Jehovah-Jireh, the LORD who provides.
What is the hard thing you are facing right now? What situation has popped up that does not make sense? Be encouraged by the example of Abraham and Isaac. Trust that God will provide in ways only He can.
“Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’ And the two of them went on together.” Genesis 22:8 (NIV)
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