Exodus 9-12 (NLT)

Discover His heart: Our merciful God offers us many opportunities to turn our hearts towards Him.

I’ve known some stubborn people in my life, but none the likes of Pharaoh. After the snake-swallowing event with Moses, I’m reasonably sure that I would have given in and let God’s people go! Bloody water, frogs, gnats, flies, dead livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness – obviously Pharaoh wanted to keep his cheap labor.

For a long time, I didn’t understand the scripture that said God hardened Pharaoh’s heart because this would definitely put Pharaoh at a disadvantage even if he had wanted to let God’s people go. However, I have come to understand that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by God’s actions. I know many individuals who experience trouble in their lives because of their sins; and in blaming God for it, their hearts are hardened towards Him and His people. Jesus came to soften their stony hearts and bring healing and deliverance.

@ Exodus 12
The instructions the Lord gave to Moses regarding the Passover dinner preparations and the blood on the doorposts were detailed and non-negotiable. God was about to deliver from bondage all those who followed His instructions to the letter, and through their obedience, the sons of Israel were spared. “Pharaoh and all his officials and all the people of Egypt woke up during the night, and loud wailing was heard throughout the land of Egypt. There was not a single house where someone had not died.”(30) With the death of his nation’s firstborn sons and the wailing of his people, stubborn Pharaoh finally acquiesced – Israel was free to leave.

The story of the Passover dinner paints an interesting picture. “These are your instructions for eating this meal: Be fully dressed, wear your sandals, and carry your walking stick in your hand. Eat the meal with urgency, for this is the Lord’s Passover.” (12:11) Dressed for dinner! How appropriate! With the wailing of the mourning Egyptians in earshot, the Israelites were told to dress for dinner and eat quickly as if ready to leave at any moment. And they did.

I view the church today in somewhat the same position. We are dressed for dinner with our lamps full, with His blood on our heart’s door and waiting for the coming of the bridegroom. We are expecting to leave at any moment! But within earshot, if we really listen, we hear the wailing. We hear the wailing of the lost souls of our world expressed in so many different ways, needing deliverance too.

The blood on the doorpost was only for the Israelites, but it was replaced at Calvary by the blood of the perfect lamb, the perfect sacrifice, and this blood is for everyone! How can we ignore their wailing, their cries for help? Better we roll up the sleeves of our dinner dress, seek out the lost and bring them to the table. Maître d’? Table for….all!

Moving Forward: With a soft heart this day, I listen for the wail, the cry of the lost, and invite them to come and dine with me.

Tomorrow @ I Samuel 26-31

Exodus 5-8 (NLT)

Discover His heart: Through His perspective, nothing is impossible

When painting a picture, an artist goes to great length to exact the proper perspective in a landscape or portrait. An old trick that many painters use is to hold up the thumb at arm’s length to measure the apparent height of a tree in the foreground in relation to objects in the background, etc. The apparent height of the tree may look like it is the length of the thumb; but of course, we know the actual height is much taller. It’s all about perspective, the measured or objective assessment of an object or situation.

If the perspective in a painting is off, the entire picture will look skewed and off balance. This fact holds true in all of life as well – if our perspective in a situation is wrong, our response and behavior will be off balance and skewed. Moses learned a lesson on perspective in our reading today.

After finally acquiescing to God’s call on his life to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses buckled at the first sign of resistance from Pharaoh, “Why have you brought all this trouble on your own people, Lord? Why did you send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh as your spokesman, he has been even more brutal to your people. And you have done nothing to rescue them!”(5:22-23) God had to put things into perspective for Moses.

Once again, God revealed to Moses precisely with whom he was dealing, “I am Yahweh—‘the Lord.’ I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty’—but I did not reveal my name, Yahweh, to them. And I reaffirmed my covenant with them.”(6:2-4) The patriarchs knew Him as the Almighty, but now He also would be known as Yahweh, Jehovah, the One who would keep His covenant with Israel, the One who would perform great miracles in order to do so.

Moses! Raise your thumb and see the Egyptian landscape through faith in Jehovah, the One who keeps His promises. When I think of the challenge before Moses, I’m reminded of the story of David and Goliath. As David looked out on the landscape before him and saw the giant, perhaps his boldness came from a raised thumb as he thought, “God will help me take him! Why that giant is no bigger than my thumb!” Faith changes our perspective.

Moses went before Pharaoh with this promise from God, “Pay close attention to this. I will make you seem like God to Pharaoh, and your brother, Aaron, will be your prophet.”(7:1) Through God’s perspective, apparently, Moses seemed like God to Pharaoh who was considered a god himself. Even though Moses still met with much resistance from Pharaoh, he was allowed regular access to him because of his status.

How do we look at the challenges we face? When our trust is in Jehovah, the One who keeps His promises, we will measure our problems with a different perspective. We will hold up our faith, that thumb if you will, and see our apparent trial as God sees it. And in order to keep His promises, He will do great miracles. Thumbs up!

Moving Forward: Today my thumb is up. I’ll not look at my challenges in the natural, without faith. I’ll view them as God apparently sees them, and nothing is impossible for Him! He kills giants, parts water and raises the dead!

Tomorrow @ I Samuel 21-25

Exodus 1-4 (NLT)

Discover His heart: “I Am Who I Am,” and He’s all we need.

Whenever I go to a doctor’s office, I check out his or her credentials. Most doctors proudly display their college diploma, medical school diploma, residency, special recognition and honors right there on their office walls. I appreciate this because it saves me from asking embarrassing questions. If I see a diploma from a country that has only been in existence for about six months, chances are I’m not staying. I want to know that the individual who is going to diagnose, treat and/or cut me has received the proper training. It’s just the way I am.

We want our employers, politicians and church leaders to be well trained and prepared to lead. Thankfully, God sees things this way as well, and He spent 80 years training Moses for the leadership position of a lifetime. Moses, however, turned Him down.

@ Exodus 3
“I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering…Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.” (7,10) From birth, Moses had been in training to deliver God’s people from slavery in Egypt.  After 40 years in Egypt as prince learning the Egyptians ways and 40 years in Midian as shepherd preparing for flock management, God decided that Moses was ready to lead the Israelites for the next 40 years in the wilderness to their Promised Land – I think I see a pattern here.

Despite all his training, Moses was not the kind of individual who would choose to run for president or work his way up the corporate ladder to be CEO because Moses had some inferiority issues. I would imagine that downgrading from prince to shepherd did not do much for his self-confidence. So Moses started to protest, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” (11) But the question wasn’t really about who Moses was, and God was about to do just a little more training before He released Moses to his assignment.

I Am Who I Am. Say this to the people of Israel: I Am has sent me to you…Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.” (14-15) When God calls us to a task, it’s not about who we are. It’s about Who He is, and He is all we need. He never calls us without first equipping us and providing all the tools we need to do the job.

“O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled…Lord, please! Send anyone else.” (10-13) I think God loved that Moses’ words got all tangled up when he spoke because Moses could depend only on Him, not on himself. In response to the cry of Moses, God gave him Aaron because He always provides all that we need to do what He asks us to do. He doesn’t easily give up on us or on our calling.

So many times in my life God has assigned me to positions and roles that I felt utterly inadequate to do, yet as I looked back over my life, much of what I had done up to that point prepared me for those roles. “Take your shepherd’s staff with you, and use it to perform the miraculous signs I have shown you.” That shepherd’s staff from his 40 years of shepherding placed in Moses’ hand precisely what he needed to perform countless miracles. God is faithful to put in our hands the tools we need and the words in our mouths to prepare and equip us for whatever He calls us to do. May our words never include, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.

Moving Forward: I surrender my inadequacies and apprehensions to Him today because I believe He will prepare and equip me for every task He calls me to. He’s all I need.

Tomorrow @ I Samuel 16-20

Joshua 11-15 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He has a strategy for our lives that will bring victory

Strategic planning, surveillance and big guns are all important components of a successful army at war. Although Germany had developed the most powerful tanks during World War II, those tanks did nothing to keep the German soldiers alive in the frozen Russian countryside – their strategy had failed them.  All resources are necessary to win a war, but even with the most sophisticated equipment and strategy, success will not be realized unless the boots on the ground obey orders.  Because of this, training for military service is not for the faint of heart, and only those men and women who have learned to submit to their authorities are allowed to serve.  Joshua was one of these faithful soldiers who understood the chain of command, and because of it, God appointed him General. 

@ Joshua 11
Moses, Israel’s great leader, was gone, but he left a strategy and assignment for his assistant, Joshua.  Now in command, Joshua could have easily thought that he had a better plan, a more strategic way of conquering the Promised Land; but no, not this trained military man.  Joshua followed the chain of command, “As the Lord had commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua.  And Joshua did as he was told, carefully obeying all the commands that the Lord had given to Moses.” (15)

The Israelites soldiers won battle after battle because they, too, followed the orders that were given them.  After seven long years at war, victory had come, “So Joshua took control of the entire land, just as the Lord had instructed Moses.  He gave it to the people of Israel as their special possession, dividing the land among the tribes. So the land finally had rest from war.” (23)  We can be assured of victory as well when we obey the commands from our General and all those He has placed in His chain of command over us.  We may think we have a better strategy to take new ground, but we will never be more effective than when we, like Joshua, follow God’s plan and do as we are told.

I hate to mention this after such glowing reports of success, but a few of Joshua’s soldiers had a little trouble following his example of carefully obeying all the commands they were given by completely destroying the enemy, “But the tribe of Judah could not drive out the Jebusites, who lived in the city of Jerusalem, so the Jebusites live there among the people of Judah to this day.” (15:63)

Over the years, the Jebusites grew in number to where they controlled Jerusalem, this beautiful city promised to Abraham.  King David finally captured it 400 years later, but even after that, King Solomon had to deal with them and made them servants in the land.  Now, some 3000 years later, many non-Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem lay claim to this war-torn city because they maintain that they are from the line of Jebusites, even the late Yasser Arafat claimed to be a Jebusite.  Whether this claim is based on truth or not, it would not even be considered if the Jebusites had been completely destroyed by the soldiers.

There is no need to belabor the importance of obeying all the commands of the Lord because we understand the ramifications.  In the battles we face against the enemy in our own lives, we should be careful not to allow any part of his wickedness to dwell in our camp to affect our future and that of our children.  Joshua did as he was told. 

Moving Forward:  I want to be Joshua today, carefully following the Lord’s strategy and commands for my life, insuring victory!

Tomorrow @ Psalm 6-8

Genesis 1-3 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: The One who gives us breath desires our fellowship

As we read our scripture today, we were traveling at the breakneck speed of 66,000 per hour around the sun and spinning several hundred miles per hour at the same time, but I didn’t feel a thing.  At that speed, it seems like life would be a chaotic blur, but instead we enjoy order throughout the Universe. I just don’t have enough faith to believe as some do that this just happened on its own.  That our creative, eternal God brought the universe into existence? This I can accept.

While traipsing around the desert for 40 some years, leading a few million Israelites and providing a place of worship, food, shelter and guidance, Moses somehow managed to find the time to write the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch.  Genesis records the amazing story of creation, the universe and all its speeding parts, as well as our first ancestors.  Remembering how and why we are here provides a firm foundation as we begin our journey through what God is saying to us through His Word. 

@ Genesis 2
I really don’t give much thought to dust.  Other than the occasional writing in it on the surface of my furniture, dust is little more than a nuisance, even though, strange as it may seem, dust is in my DNA.  “Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground…” (7)  Even though scientists have tried through the years to clone humanity, to my knowledge, they have not been able to keep our dust out of the mix.  No matter what lofty heights we may reach while on earth, it helps to keep our humility in check by remembering that we, all of humanity, came from dirt.

“…He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.” (7)  This statement has intimacy written all over it.  Please excuse the imagery that comes to mind, but very little we do is more intimate than sharing one’s breath with someone because of the closeness it requires.  And what does His breath give to us? Most agree the breath He shares as recorded here is Hebrew for spirit or soul.  God spoke the animals into existence, but mankind was formed, created in His very own image, and given a spirit to separate it from all other creatures.  We are not an accident or the outgrowth from scum on a rock as some would suggest.   No, our creation is very personal.  Without His breath however, we would not be. 

@ Genesis 3
No wonder the enemy’s first line of attack on mankind was to introduce the element of doubt into God’s love and intimacy with His creation, “One day [the serpent] asked the woman, ‘Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?…‘You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. ‘God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.’” (1,4-5)  Was God not honest?  Did He not care for her and want what was best for her?  Doubts.  She should take matters into her own hands.

From this dialogue, we understand who the source of doubt is regarding God’s love for us and His desire to care and provide for us. It is when these doubts come that we must remember why He created us, “When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden.  So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’”(8-9)   We were created to be more than mere caretakers of His garden.  God has always, since the garden, and will always seek out His creation for fellowship. He wants to be with us. 

Moving Forward:  Reminded today of the intimacy with God that brought about my life and of the fellowship He desires, my first thoughts are of Him.  As I breathe throughout this day, I will not doubt His love and care for me. 

Tomorrow @ Joshua 1-5

Deuteronomy 33-34 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He knows us and blesses us with what is best

Some people seem to have a gift or talent for making money, everything they touch turns to gold.   Many have a natural ability for making friends, never meeting a stranger. Still others are great communicators, whether verbal or written.  We always seem to envy the gift we don’t possess and sometimes go to great lengths to achieve it.  After all, who doesn’t want to be wealthy, popular or wise?   But so often our striving to achieve what others possess backfires on us. Better to walk in the blessings and talents He has given us.

@ Deuteronomy 33
“This is the blessing that Moses, the man of God, gave to the people of Israel before his death:  ‘The Lord came from Mount Sinai and dawned upon us…Indeed, he loves his people; all his holy ones are in his hands.  They follow in his steps and accept his teaching.  Moses gave us the Lord’s instruction, the special possession of the people of Israel.’” (1-4)  As the Israelites stood at the threshold of their Promised Land, they listened as Moses gave his final address to them, one that was filled with blessings for each tribe.

Just before his death, Jacob, the patriarch of the sons who became the twelve tribes of Israel, delivered a similar message of blessing to his sons, but included what would be the history of their sins as well.  The address by Moses was about the blessing, character and function that each tribe possessed through their relationship with God.

The tribe of Simeon was not mentioned by Moses because it no longer existed and had been absorbed into the other tribes.  Levi was blessed with the ministry role for the tribes, Gad would be the great land owner and Asher was blessed with prosperity.  All together, the tribes would be a formidable nation in their new land…if they kept their relationship with God.

God has blessed each of us, His children, with giftings and talents that not only enrich each one of us on a personal level, but also advance His Kingdom here on earth.  We may envy the abilities of others, but we have no idea about the responsibilities that come with them.  According to Jesus, great wealth comes with a great struggle to surrender it to Him for His purposes (Luke 18:25).  Thankfully, without a struggle, He has promised that He “will supply all [our] needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)  Also, I’ve discovered that when I use the talents He has given me, His blessing overflows in many other areas of my life.

Early in his ministry, Moses did not want to accept the role that God had assigned him, yet this leader, gifted and blessed by the Lord for this task, delivered the Israelites to the door of their promise.  He may have worn the same pair of shoes for 40 years, but Moses was successful beyond measure because He walked in the gifts God had given him, “…the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” (Exodus 33:11), “There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” (34:10)  Life just doesn’t get better than that. 

Moving Forward:  I really don’t want the gifts and talents God has given others, but I do want to be faithful with what He has given to me. 

Tomorrow @ Esther 6-10

Deuteronomy 31-32 

Discover His heart:  He is our Rock, an immovable foundation

While I’m not an avid beach-goer, I have managed a few treks to the beach over the years, loaded down with beach chairs, towels, cooler and sunscreen. All that effort is spent in order to catch a few rays that will eventually dry my skin and give me freckles.  Somehow, it just doesn’t work for me; however, I digress. It’s definitely relaxing to listen to the waves and watch them blanket the shore with their glistening cover.  We build our sand castles and then watch the surf slowly eat away our creations, grain by grain, right down to the foundations. There’s something to be said about building on the rock – an immovable foundation! 

@Deuteronomy 32
The leadership of Moses was drawing to a close, and like most of us when our tenure in a position is ending, he shared his heart.  More importantly, Moses gave his final declaration from the Lord to the Israelites and did so in the form of a song before the entire assembly.  His song included Israel’s history, God’s warnings and words of hope. Shepherd, prophet, leader, warrior, writer and songster! Moses was a man whose words deserve our attention.

“I will proclaim the name of the Lord; how glorious is our God! He is the Rock; His deeds are perfect. Everything He does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright He is!” (3-4) When everything around us is shifting and changing, He is the Rock! When governments and institutions crumble and fall, He is the Rock!  When others abandon or fail us, He is the Rock!  There’s something to be said about building on the Rock!

“But Israel soon became fat and unruly…Then they abandoned the God who had made them; they made light of the Rock of their salvation.” (15)  I would imagine the crowd grew a little quiet when Moses sang this stanza. God delivered Israel from 400 years of Egyptian bondage – He was the Rock of their salvation! But they took Him for granted and abandoned Him to worship other gods. Just as we read about the Young Woman in Song of Solomon, sometimes we take for granted that He saved us from eternal bondage. He is the Rock of our salvation!

“You neglected the Rock who had fathered you; you forgot the God who had given you birth.” (18) The Song of Moses became very personal in this verse, from they to you. As any father would do, God delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage because He was the Rock who had given them birth.  He nourished and clothed the Israelites for 40 years in the desert because He was the Rock who had fathered them. He protected them from the hordes that came to annihilate them because He was the Rock, their father!  How could we ever forget the One who gave us new life, the One who delivers, provides and protects. He is the Rock, our Father!

“But the rock of our enemies is not like our Rock…The Lord says, ‘Look now; I myself am He! There is no other god but me!’” (31)  No other rock is like our Rock.  No other god is like our God.  I love the Dottie Rambo song that few have sung better than Whitney Houston on The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack:

I go to the Rock of my salvation
I go to the stone that the builder’s rejected
Run to the mountain and the mountain stands by me
When all around me is sinking sand
On Christ the solid Rock I stand
When I need a shelter, when I need a friend
I go to the Rock.

I pray Whitney went to the Rock in her final hours.  No other rock is like our Rock!

“When Moses had finished reciting all these words to the people of Israel, he added: ‘Take to heart all the words of warning I have given you today. Pass them on as a command to your children so they will obey every word of these instructions. These instructions are not empty words—they are your life!’”  (45-47)  He is the Rock of our salvation who has given us birth – there’s no other rock like our Rock.  These are not empty words – they are our life!

And today, especially this day, I am thankful for the Rock of our Salvation! Merry Christmas! 

Moving Forward:  Another great song comes to mind, my theme today, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” No other rock is like our Rock! 

Tomorrow @ Esther 6-10