John

Today’s reading is 1 John 1-2 and Revelation 1.

The Greek word for sin in the original New Testament was “hamartia” which is translated as missing the mark. Have you missed the mark? I know I have…every hour of every day of my life…maybe every minute. It is clear John wants us to realize this. God is the mark, and we miss it and Him. I’m taken back to my roots and part of the Lutheran liturgy with the words of 1 John 1:8-10…

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

Paul also states in Romans 3:23…

..for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

John is clear not only that we miss the mark and sin, but also tells us how to avoid it as much as possible in 1 John 1:15-16…

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life- is not from the Father but is from the world.”

Constantly the world is trying to tell us what is “ok.” It’s on the internet, TV shows, commercials, movies, books, and the list goes on and on. And not only is the world trying to force things God says is wrong upon us, but the world tries to tell us that if we don’t agree with the world we are not only in the wrong, but we are also practicing hate. Isn’t it crazy what Satan is capable of and how he works? He can twist things not only from what is actually bad to make it look good, but also make the world believe what is good is hate. The world tells us we cannot dislike a sin and still love the sinner. We can because we in fact ourselves as Christians are sinners (1 John 1:8-10), and yet Christ loves us.

The first step in finding Jesus is realizing we need Him. How? We have to be truthful with ourselves about our sin problem. Let’s go back to 1 John 1:8 for a moment. We must specifically name our sins. That’s how we realize we have missed the mark and need Him. We must not compare ourselves to others and what the world says is acceptable. John tells us the world is not the mark…God is!

So, what do we do now that we realize we’ve not done what God wants? 1 John 1:9 tells us we must confess our sins, and He makes us white as snow..cleaning us from all our dirty deeds. John wants us to know we have an advocate in Jesus who took our place; He is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:1-2). Through Him, and only through Him, do we please God. He knew we could not do it on our own..that we would miss the mark. John is clear that God had a game plan all along. John tells us God knew we needed Jesus, and Jesus was their all along with the Father from the beginning of Creation (John 1:1-5 and 1 John 1:1-2).

There is no relationship like with Him. All relationships are two sided and conditional….know matter how much we say, or even try not to make them that way. This is not the case in the relationship with Him though..He loved us before we loved Him and still loves us today when we miss the mark. All we can do is try to do our best to follow His will by walking in the light John discusses, and say, “Thanks! Praise be to God!”

Nobody But Jesus

Today’s reading is Acts 10:1-11:18 as we focus on Cornelius.

The Bible tells us Cornelius was a centurion in the Roman army meaning he commanded at least one hundred men and held an important social status. Despite his non-jewish, Gentile background, we are told in Acts 10:2 that he was devout, feared God, and gave alms or money to the poor and needy. Being a believer, Cornelius likely thought he was already being used by God for a purpose with his favorable position of power. However, we serve a big God who has bigger vision for each one of us and the people of this world than we can see. Cornelius is visited by an angel telling him to send a few of his men to get Peter who he’s never met and doesn’t know. Not coincidentally when Cornelius’ men show up, Peter just had a vision from God (Acts 10:9-15) telling him that the Gospel was available to all nations. Peter then went with Cornelius men to Caesara helping bring the Gospel through the Holy Spirit to them and all the Gentiles.

As I read these verses, I could not help but think of and look back on my notes from a sermon Pastor Mike Baker from Eastview Church did a few years ago on Genesis 12 where Abram is called to leave his country. Pastor Mike said, “Faith is not a ‘stay’…it’s always a ‘go.’” If you ‘stay,’ you don’t need faith and you can’t grow to be all God’s called you to be. God doesn’t give us the details of the future even when we are in turmoil wanting to know His plans for two reasons. First, we would likely freak out if we knew everything that would happen. Second, we would try to take over and mess it up thinking we can do it better than God can. Cornelius could have just said, “Hey God..I’m doing good things here as a centurion. I’m giving to the needy and using my position for good, and I have 100 men here under me I can witness, too.” However, God called him for bigger things..to bring the Good News of Jesus through the Holy Spirit to all the Gentiles and letting them know that His forgiveness through the cross was available to all people and all nations (Acts 10:34-35, Acts 10:44-48 Acts 11:18). He called Cornelius to “go” and do bigger things, he obeyed, and look what happened.

Today, on Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for Cornelius, the Holy Spirit, and the big God we serve that is always working on our behalf.  Sadly, I don’t know much about my genealogy, but likely similar to many reading this, I don’t think I have any Jewish roots. I’m thankful that Cornelius obeyed God’s command so we non-Jews know that we are also one of God’s people through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We can be thankful Romans 8:26-28 tells us the Holy Spirit is always working on our behalf and interceding (just like here to come to the Gentiles and make Jesus’ forgiveness available and known to everyone). Despite whatever challenges and changes in your life you may be going through today, you can be thankful that He working ALL things for His good. Be grateful you don’t know and can’t control the future because through His power within you, He can do more than you can ever ask or imagine, and He will be glorified (Ephesians 3:20-21), so that ultimately through you the world can see “nobody but Jesus.” How blessed are we that He uses us for His purpose.

 

 

Nathanael

Today’s reading is John 1:43-2:11 and John 21:1-13 as we look closely at one of the twelve disciples in Nathanael.

You may recall Nathanael, who was from Cana in Galilee, was asked by Philip to “Come and see” Jesus of Nazareth saying He was the Messiah they have long awaited. However, Nathanael doubted saying in John 2:45, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” However, with Philip’s prompting..he went. When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, Jesus said, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asks Jesus how He knows him, and Jesus reveals his omnipresence by saying He saw Nathanael under the fig tree before Philip called him. From there, Nathanael stated He believed. Jesus goes on to tell Nathanael that this is just the beginning of what he will see.

Aren’t many of us like Nathanael in that we need someone like Philip in our lives to say, “Hey…why don’t you come to church with me sometime…” or “Want to join me for small group?” Most Christians come to faith because they are asked by someone else to come learn more about God. Then, God reveals to them through His Word and prayer, and in their hearts, that He’s been there all along when they didn’t even realize it. They begin to trust in the words of Psalm 139:13-18..

13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

God also reveals that He sees good in them despite their past failures and wrong doing just like He tells Nathanael He sees no deceit in him. They understand the truth of Psalm 103:10-13…

10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

I would venture to say it’s highly unlikely that Nathanael had never done anything deceitful in his life. However, Jesus tells Nathanael how He sees Him which is different than anyone else and different than Nathanael likely even sees himself.

A few weeks ago, I scolded our 2-year-old for repeatedly disobeying as we were brushing his teeth and getting him ready for bed, and he went to sleep crying. Afterwards, I started feeling bad about it wondering if I was a little too stern and if he would even be upset with me when He woke up the next day. Would he remember his unhappiness with me when He woke up? I was a little sad as I wondered if He would send me off to work with the same hug and words of “Bye-Bye, Daddy..love you!” Guess what….when He woke up the next day He came running into the bathroom where I was getting ready, smiling and excited to see me giving me a big hug. A smile instantly came on my face with me giving thanks to God not only for this moment with my son and for him not being upset with me, but also for revealing that this is the same way He sees my sins. Instantly the verses from Lamentations 3:22-23 came to mind..

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[a]
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Thank you, God, for your new mercies every morning.

I found it also very interesting that in John 1:49 Nathanael says Jesus is the Son of God and believes. However, in John 1:11 after Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana the disciples (and we can assume Nathanael was there since He was from Cana and this was immediately following his calling), it says, “His disciples believed in Him.” Later, in our verses from John 21 it says this was the 3rd time Jesus revealed Himself to them after His Resurrection. Did they not believe before? Nathanael said he believed Jesus right after meeting him. God knows we have a short- term memory and need affirmations almost daily. When we stay close to Him through prayer and His Word, as they did by being with Him at the wedding and continuing to follow Him, and stay close with fellow believers through church and small group, as they did by staying together after His death and fishing together here in these verses, He will continue to re-affirm His promises and presence in our daily lives. If we don’t stay close to Him in these ways through prayer, His Word, and fellowship with other believers, we may miss Him…although He’s always there (just like He saw Nathanael under the fig tree) and looking to bring us as His stray sheep back (Matthew 18:10-14).

As we end this week, reflect on who might be a Nathanael in your life where you need to play the role of Philip by inviting them to “Come and see.”

Mary

Today’s reading is Luke 1:26-56 and Luke 2:1-7 with a focus on Mary.

As I read these verses and reflected, the two words that come to mind are trust and obedience. After the angel Gabriel told her what would happen, she says in Luke 1:28, “….Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” We then see in Luke 1:46-55 she sings song of praise to the Lord. It’s one thing to say in the moment when she was in the presence of the angel Gabriel that she would be a servant of the Lord, but the fact she followed through and continued to praise Him and follow His will is amazing. She could have questioned whether she was dreaming and whether the encounter with Gabriel was truly real. It’s easy to breeze over the fact she was likely ridiculed for being pregnant before marriage, yet she didn’t say “why me” or shed the responsibility God had given her. She says in Luke 1:47 that all generations would call her “blessed.” She embraced and trusted His will for her life.

Many of us have likely walked through an open door or taken a path we thought was God’s will for our life where we told God in prayer that we were his servant, and we would trust and follow Him. Yet, when trials and tribulations come later, we may begin to question whether the path we are now on was really His will, and we may even fall into sin. Again, despite Mary likely receiving much ridicule and embarrassment, she knew the promises in His Word (Luke 1:55) and trusted Him and remained obedient to His plan. We don’t know much about Jesus’ childhood and if He performed miracles or other acts Mary observed which no one else did. But, let’s assume for a moment that Mary did not observe any miracles since the Bible does not tell us she did, Mary still trusted in who the angel Gabriel told her He was years and years later when at the wedding in Cana she spurred Him on to his first miracle we know of by saying in John 2:3, “…They have no wine.” Then, she showed further trust in who He was still when she told the wedding officials in John 2:5, “..Do whatever He tells you.”

As we finish this week, let us reflect on the trust and obedience Mary showed and pray to do the same in our life today despite what might be trying to pull us away.

The Pharisees

Today’s reading is Matthew 12:1-45.

Do you have a hero of the Bible you like to compare yourself to or like to think you’re similar? Could it be Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Joshua, David, or Ruth to name a few? I doubt very many of us like to compare ourselves to the Pharisees, but I for one, have to admit that often times I am more like them than some of the other aforementioned desired people.

First, we see in Matthew 12:1-3, the Pharisees judging the disciples for picking grain and doing work on the Sabbath. We then see them questioning this again when in Matthew 12:9-10 Jesus heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. It can be easy to quickly judge someone for how they parent, how they spend their family time, the car they drive, or the home they own. I heard a quote one time that said…Question: “How big of a house is too big of a house?” Answer: “Just a little bit bigger than my house.” Please forgive me for not giving the proper credit, but one of our other Bible Journal writers commonly says they remind themselves by saying, “Stay in your lane.” What a great saying. Even if what someone does is in fact a sin (and it may not be), their sin is no worse than any of my own sins in God’s eyes.

In Matthew 12:22-24, we see the Pharisees not wanting to believe the miracles Jesus performed in front of them were from God, and then they asked in Matthew 12:38 to see a sign. How often do we have the sin of pride by not giving credit to God for what He’s doing and then not seeing the “signs” right in front of us of what He has done already or will do. Recently, I’ve faced a challenge that I’m wondering how it will be resolved, and it has consumed many of my thoughts. The crazy thing is that this same exact challenge has been overcome many, many times before under arguably more difficult obstacles. Yet, God pulled through in the past and has even used some circumstances this time to help give me clues that this to will pass. However, like the Pharisees, I find myself looking for more “signs,” nearly completely ignoring His past provisions and evidence that this to will be resolved.

Why do I consistently do this? Why am I like the Pharisees when I don’t want to be? I’m a sinful human in need of a Savior just like the Pharisees. All I can do is pray for more awareness to make me more like Him and less like the Pharisees, to not lean on my own understanding by trusting Him with all my heart, soul, and mind, and most importantly by confessing my sinful nature and by thanking Him for His saving grace on the cross.

Baruch

Today’s reading is Jeremiah 36, 43, and 45 with a focus on Baruch.

Who was Baruch? Most know of the prophet Jeremiah, but may not know of Baruch, his scribe. Not only was Baruch given the task of writing down the prophecies God gave to Jeremiah, but he was also given the task to tell the Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and his officials what the prophecies said about the fall of Jerusalem to King Nebuchadnezzar when they would be taken into exile as a result of their idolatry and turning away from the Lord. I have to imagine Baruch’s thoughts when he was writing this down for Jeremiah. He was likely thinking this not good and probably wondering who the pour soul would be that had to risk his life to deliver this message….only to find out that pour soul was him!

What else was Baruch thinking? Was he scared for his life? Was he wondering why it had to be him? Was he bitter that although these were Jeremiah’s words, he was the one who had to risk his life and deliver the news? Was he thinking…why me? Whatever fears, anxieties, and maybe even bitterness Baruch had about delivering this message, he must have faced them and let God use him as His servant because he did in fact deliver the message. While we don’t know his thoughts, we are potentially given some insight that he may have been wondering some of these things and really thinking, “What’s in it for me?” In Jeremiah 45:5, God speaks directly to Baruch through Jeremiah and says, “And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing great disaster upon all flesh, declared the Lord. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places which you may go.”

Is your life in a spot right now where you are wishing you had accomplished more worldly success and you are not where you thought you would be at this point? Have you been a “behind the scenes” guy or gal like Baruch without much notoriety? Let us remember what the world, and what we being in the world, view as success is not what God views as success. Jesus tells us in Matthew 19:30 and Matthew 20:16 that the last will be first. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have big goals and aspire to be all God’s called us to be and use the talents and gifts He’s given us. If that means we are to be CEO, then that’s great. These verses also tell us the school cafeteria worker, the garbage person, the ditch digger, and the retail worker are viewed just the same in God’s eyes and potentially must greater if they are living for God’s purpose and His Kingdom instead of the world. Jesus says in Matthew 21:28 that even the Son of Man (Him) came to serve and not be served.

If we have not achieved the worldly success we desire or have faced financial or health hardships in our lives despite the fact that we believe we are doing most things right and living for Him and wondering why and “what’s in it for me?”, let us remember that God has given us “life” like Baruch and everything we truly need which is forgiveness from our sins through Jesus so we can live with Him for eternity. This is the greatest gift we could ever be given….for eternity is much longer than the life we are given on this Earth, whatever suffering or challenges we face or lack of worldly success and accolades while here. Do you also believe you have not been living for Him to this point? Well, He gave His life for you and forgives you, and now you have the option to give your life to Him from this day forward. Let us all pray for clarity on where we are today in our relationship with Him and for wisdom on where He wants us to go from here.

Mordecai…Do you know him?

Today’s reading is Esther 3:1-15, 5:9-6:14, and 10:1-3 with a focus on Mordecai.

I have to admit, sadly, that I was more familiar with the major league baseball pitcher and manager from the first half of the 20th century, “Three Finger” Mordecai Brown, than I was with Mordecai from the Bible. I at least knew the major league pitcher and manager had three fingers but couldn’t tell you anything about Mordecai in the Bible until this post. A famous comedian Rodney Dangerfield main punchline was always that he didn’t get any respect. Well, I feel like Mordecai might be the “Rodney Dangerfield” of biblical heroes who stood up for God and what was right despite the risks. Many of us know about Daniel, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego, and even Rahab to name a few, but may not know much about Mordecai. Although I don’t think Mordecai himself would really care, what he cared about doing what was right in God’s eyes for God’s glory, despite the risks and lack of notoriety. We can learn from this and should strive to do the same.

If you like soap operas or just a good drama, take the time to read this entire book of Esther. I’ll try to sum up who Mordecai was and what he did as briefly as I can. Mordecai took Esther, the daughter of his uncle Abihail, as his own daughter because she had no father or mother. This was after King Nebuchadnezzar had taken the Jews from Jerusalem during the rule of King Ahasuerus while the Jews were still exiled. Not only had Mordecai sacrificed to help make Esther his own, but he also helped her behind the scenes to rise to queen while her Jewish beliefs and lineage were hidden. He went to great risks to foil a plot from some of King Ahasuerus’ own men to kill him, even though he received no credit. Like the more well-known Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, he refused to bow down anyone other than God when he did not bow down King Ahasuerus’ right-hand man Haman. As a result, Haman plotted to annihilate all the Jews across the land and eventually hang Mordecai. However, Mordecai convinced Esther to potentially put her life at risk by asking her to reveal her Jewish lineage by telling King Ahasuerus about Haman and his plot to kill all her fellow Jews and him. After much time had passed since the event, the King learned it was in fact Mordecai who exposed the plot some time earlier to kill him and saved Mordecai’s life, as well as all the Jews, promoted Mordecai to his right-hand man, and ultimately hanged Haman instead.

I’ve heard the quote before, “It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing.” This is what Mordecai did time and time again, despite the risks to himself, all the Jews, and Esther who he raised and obviously cared so much for. I’ve had the opportunity to hear Mark Whitacre speak on two occasions. You may recognize his name as the FBI informant who exposed the ADM price fixing scheme in nearby Decatur, IL and may have even seen the movie with Matt Damon starring as him. I admittedly have not seen the movie, but what you may not know (I’m not sure if it is in the movie…) was that his wife, Ginger, told Mark that if he didn’t go to the authorities, she would. Although Mark did and was responsible for initially helping to expose the scheme, he did not fully cooperate with authorities and served 9 years in prison while the average stay of the others involved was only 30 months! Do you think Ginger who gave up a wealthy life and who was now raising their children alone without her husband and their father might have regretted her decision and might have been bitter about the others’ lesser sentence? I don’t know if any of these thoughts crept in, but I do know that she prayed for her husband consistently throughout this time. Ultimately, Chuck Colson, who was guilty as part of the Richard Nixon Watergate scandal, witnessed to Mark while he was in prison, and Mark gave his life to Christ. Mark now travels the country sharing his story and witnessing to thousands about the saving grace of Jesus he received which they can also receive. If Mark doesn’t go to prison, or has a shorter sentence, it’s likely he doesn’t find Christ, nor help others find God’s grace through sharing his story. This all started by Ginger Whitacre doing the right thing and encouraging her husband to do the same.

While we may not be in the situation to step in the middle and stop criminal activity, we are faced with opportunities each day to stand up for God and His Word. The world keeps telling us that there is no right and wrong and everyone should just do like they feel, seeking pleasure and whatever makes them happy. It’s their choice, right? If we don’t agree, we are looked at as being in the wrong. Well, God is clear in His Word what is right and what is wrong, and we must not let the world convince us differently. We must also let the world know what God’s Word says is truth, despite the risks of being ostracized and despite the fact that we who are witnessing and standing up for God are also sinners in need of God’s saving grace ourselves. Like we learned from Mordecai in the book of Esther and Ginger Whitacre, “It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing.”

If you want to read more verses on how we must not heed to what the world says is right, despite the risks, check out James 4:4, Matthew 10:22, John 15:18, Matthew 24:9, Galatians 4:16, 1 Corinthians 1:18, and finally Matthew 5:10-12.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kind of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in Heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matthew 5:10-12

Elisha

Today’s reading is 2 Kings 2, 4, and 6 as we focus on the prophet Elisha.

A famous movie line many know from the movie Top Gun is, “I’m not leaving my wingman.” Maverick, the movie’s main character, learned his lesson after leaving his wingman earlier in the movie for selfish ambition which led to a bad outcome. When he made the decision later to stay and protect his wingman, putting others’ needs above his, good things happened, and he ultimately became the hero. Elisha was the long-time servant of the prophet Elijah. As we read here in 2 Kings 2, Elijah tells Elisha to leave him 3 separate times because Elijah must travel further. However, Elisha stays true to his master, his mission, and purpose by staying with Elijah to the very end. And what happens, but he receives a double-portion of the same prophetic gifts Elijah had. As we read on, not only does God help Elisha perform many miracles in the Lord’s name, but we see God protect him with horses and chariots of fire, who we can assume to be angels, in 2 Kings 6:15-17 when the king of Syria sends his men to kill Elisha. A few weeks ago, we read about how God rewarded Ruth for her steadfast loyalty to her mother-in-law Naomi which led her to not only receiving gifts at the end of her life, but also naming a book after her and becoming part of the genealogy of Jesus. We also know about the prostitute Rahab who showed courage to protect the prophets of Israel and as a result is referenced throughout the Bible and who also became part of the lineage of Jesus. The people we just mentioned showed an unfailing courage and trust in God for their lives. Over the past weeks we have also read in the Old Testament about many kings and rulers who abandoned God and things didn’t go so well for them.

Here is my question…what is God asking you to do in your life to serve Him, your family, and others in His name that is not an easy decision and choice to make requiring great faith and trust in Him? It could be helping a friend or stranger in need, a financial change or commitment, dedication of more of your time to person or a cause or even your own family, or could be a change in career direction. Whatever it is, I can assume it’s not easy. It may put your time or money at risk which are two things I know I hold far too tightly far to often because wrongly I see them as 2 of my most valuable resources which in my mind are also scarce. However, God sees our spiritual gifts to serve others in His name as being way more valuable and has no limitations on what He can do if He sees fit financially…and His timeline is also eternity. I have seen it time after time, and we can also see in the Bible, where it may not come for a very long time, but God rewards this faithfulness to Him and his purpose in ways we could never imagine. Yet, it is still very hard to completely trust and follow Him and His will for our lives. No, these choices will not get us to Heaven, only belief in Jesus’ loving sacrifice on the cross will (Ephesians 2:8-9), but scripture does tell us we will be rewarded when we get there (Revelation 22:12, Revelation 2:23). In what way, I’m not sure…but isn’t hearing Him say to you, “Well done my good and faithful servant” enough?

See His Vision.

Work His Mission.

Live His Values.

 

 

 

 

Hannah

Today’s reading is 1 Samuel 1:1-2:21 with a focus on Hannah and what we can learn from her.

Hannah was the wife of Elkanah. Hannah could not have children, and this deeply saddened her. However, in her distress, she prayed for God to give her a son and vowed to give him to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:10-11). The Lord answered her prayer by giving her Samuel who she presented back to Lord, leaving him in the temple to learn under Israel’s ruler and priest Eli. Later, God also gave her three more sons and two daughters. Even though Samuel was not in the bloodline of Eli, he became Eli’s unlikely successor and leader of Israel because Eli’s sons were “worthless men” (1 Samuel 2:12). She gave her problems and pain to God, and He did even more than she could ask or imagine.

The first part of 1 Samuel makes it very clear that Hannah was a sad woman for years because of her inability to have a child. This brought the question to my mind…is it a sin to be distressed or sad because of something you want but are not receiving? I believe that initially it is not a sin to be sad or distressed because of something you want because the Bible is clear that Jesus was without sin and yet in Luke 22:43-45, Jesus, knowing of the pain he would suffer on the cross, was in “agony.” In fact, He was so distressed that he perspired drops of blood as he asked God to “remove this cup” from him in Luke 22:42. God gave us the ability to feel sadness so I don’t think it in and of itself is a sin. The question is…where do your thoughts go from there, and to whom do you go? What do you do when you feel sadness or stress or anxious? Maybe God allows us to feel sadness at times so we go to Him.

Jesus went to His Heavenly Father in prayer, and “prayed more earnestly” (Luke 22:44). At the same time, He also said, “not my will, but yours, be done (Luke 22:42).” Hannah, not having yet the example we now have from Jesus, did the same…she went to the Lord in prayer.

“She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.” 1 Samuel 1:10

She tells Eli….

“I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.” 1 Samuel 1:15

It is then that Eli tells her the Lord will grant her a child.

Although it says Hannah had “great anxiety and vexation” in 1 Samuel 1:16, I think we gain more insight in how she may have prayed that prayer asking for a child when we see how she prayed another prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 where she gave great praise and adoration to God. It is clear that she knows there is no one like Him. He is in control, and He is the one who she worships. Christian musical artist Toby Mac recently posted on his Facebook account, “Worry is worshipping the problem.” That is powerful. It is clear that Hannah still worshipped God and knew He was in control during her sadness. Feeling sad and having anxiety in and of themselves must not be sins since Jesus had these feelings, but worrying that consumes you constantly and thus worshipping those problems, and not going to God, is. Ask yourself, as I am definitely asking myself today, am I worshipping my problem in my worrying? Or, am I giving my problems to Him, worshipping Him in adoration of His greatness and sovereignity, like Hannah did in 1 Samuel 2:1-10?

We must also ask ourselves, is what I want for His glory or mine? Also, am I willing to give that blessing to Him when I receive it? And, do I FULLY believe that he can and will answer this prayer? Finally, can I find peace in whatever His will is and trust His will is what is truly best? I could do multiple other journal entries to each one of these questions, but I’ll sum it up briefly. I believe God answers Hannah’s prayer because as we can see through her prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-1-, she knew she served a mighty God, full of wisdom, who could do anything.  And despite her sadness, she says she will give her son that God gives her back to God for His glory in 1 Samuel 1:11! Can you imagine wanting something that bad for that long and then just giving it right back to God when you receive it? Then, she follows through. And God blessed her and Samuel for that by making Samuel an unlikely leader of Israel and by giving her five more children.

Let us follow the example Hannah set here and the words of Paul…

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:4-

Let It Go

Today’s reading is Exodus 1:1-2:10 with the focus being on Moses’ parents.

We don’t know much about Moses father other than that he was from the tribe of Levi from the 12 tribes of Israel (Jacob), so we will focus on his Israelite mother which we will call his birth mother and his Egyptian mother which we will call his adopted mother.

To set the context for our discussion we want to quickly review that Joseph has passed and the current Egyptian Pharaoh was fearful of the Israelites due to the number of them and thought they may side with another enemy of Egypt in the future, so out of fear he enslaved them. He also ordered that any male babies be killed at birth. Moses’ mom hid him for three months until she could hide him no more, then she let him go on the Nile in a basket. Although we don’t know Moses’ mom’s name, we know how highly God thought of the bravery of her actions and her trust in God to protect him because her actions are referenced in what some call the chapter of faith all-stars in Hebrews 11 which mentions some of the Bible’s biggest heroes who exhibited great trust in God through their actions.

“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.”  

Hebrews 11:23

Moses’ sister followed her baby brother Moses down the Nile and saw that he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter. She took a very brave step as well to follow him and then approach Pharoah’s daughter and ask her if she wanted her to find an Israelite mother to nurse the baby to which she agreed. Unbeknownst to the Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses’ sister directed her to Moses’ birthmother who nursed him and stayed with him for a period of time. Although she could have maybe tried to escape with him wanting to keep him, and who could blame her being his true mother, she likely realized his opportunity to have the best life possible was to give him back to Pharaoh’s daughter to become his adopted mom. She put her son’s needs in front of her own, and most importantly, trusted that if she gave him away God would take care of and provide for him. She was willing to let go of that which she loved so greatly, her son, and give Him to God, not so different than the way Abraham was willing to let go of and sacrifice Isaac.

How often do we hold too tight to the people, circumstances, and things in our life, instead of giving them to God with faith, fully trusting Him?

Hebrews 11, which we referenced earlier, starts with the following….

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Hebrews 11:1

We must ask and trust in God without doubting…

“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

James 1:6-8

This also defines faith has having no doubt whatsoever.

By the outcome of Moses’ life being protected, and with God doing amazing things with him similar to God doing big things with Isaac after Abraham let go, I would have to be lead to believe that his mom asked God with big faith and full trust to protect him and to do big things with him for God’s glory. That is exactly what God did.

Take some time to reflect today, what do you need to let loose of and fully give to God with faith and without doubting? My guess is that when you do let go, your desires will come true. But even if not, one thing is certain…you will have a peace that passes understanding by trusting in Him and His perfect plan for your life and circumstances….whatever the outcome is.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for the good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:28