Harsh Consequences

Today’s reading:  Numbers 19-21, Colossians 4

In my Life Application Study Bible, the heading for Numbers 20 is A New Generation. By this point, it had been 40 years since the Exodus from Egypt.  While all the people who lived in Egyptian captivity had almost died off, it doesn’t seem like much had changed.  The next generation was still grumbling and blaming Moses, their leader, for everything they didn’t like. In this specific instance, they were frustrated because there was no water in the Desert of Zin where they were camping.

They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the Lord! Why did you bring the Lord’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!” (Numbers 20:3-5).

When I look at the context, I understand the stress.  This distance from Egypt to Canaan, “The Promised Land”, was only 40 miles.  It shouldn’t take that long to walk there, even if you are walking with 600,000 other people.  However, God’s people had been wandering the desert for 37 of the last 40 years, making no real progress toward their destination, and grumbling the entire way.  I’m sure Moses was frustrated with the people he was leading and frustrated with God.  On top of that, notice that Numbers chapter 20 starts off by telling us Miriam, Moses’ wife, had died.  In spite of his immense sadness and stress, Moses continued to carry out his responsibilities as leader and chief problem solver by seeking God’s answer to their water problem.

The Lord said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink” (Numbers 20:8).

Like he had done time and time again over the last 40 years, God performed a miracle through Moses and took care of his people’s needs.

So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them” (Numbers 20:9-12).

Look closely.  This time the end result was different.  God was displeased with Moses and told him that, despite his job of leading God’s people to The Promised Land, he was not going to get to enter with them.  Why?  Because this time Moses took credit for the miracle instead of giving credit to God.

I’m not sure about you, but in spite of the circumstances, this punishment seems pretty harsh to me.  Moses had been leading God’s people, solving their problems and listening to them complain for 40 years.  During a time of immense stress and sadness, Moses makes a mistake and God has no mercy?  What gives?

Two things to remember.  1) God is a God of justice and mercy.   Choices that are against God’s plan have consequences.  While God is willing to offer forgiveness, he does not always protect us from the consequences of our actions.  That is how we learn.  2) God holds leaders to a higher standard because of the influence they have on other people.

Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless— (Titus 1:7).

Be Holy

Today’s reading:  Leviticus 19-20, Hebrews 7

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:1-2).

The first two verses of Leviticus 19 set God’s expectation for his people.  His message was very clear.  Be holy.  The problem was…his people needed help understanding exactly what it meant, and how holiness was to show up in their daily living.  What about you?  Do you know what it means to be holy and how it shows up in your life?  To be honest, I needed a little help connecting the dots.

The Hebrew word for “holy” means to be set apart for a specific purpose.  The purpose for which the Old Testament Israelites were set apart, and the purpose for which Christfollowers today are set apart, are the same.  We are to be used for God’ purposes, to bring glory to him.  That makes sense to me, but what does it really look like to be set apart?  How does it look to be different than others?

It is no surprise that the Israelites needed help connecting the dots too.  The next 35 verses of Leviticus 19 are a painfully detailed description of God’s expectations for how his people were to act.  In the Old Testament, this was the recipe for being set apart.   Have you ever wondered why some people think the Bible is a book of don’ts?  This is why.  In 37 verses of Leviticus 19, the words “do not” appear 26 times.   Nevertheless, for God’s people in the Old Testament, the law outlined in Leviticus was the recipe they were to follow to be holy.  Set apart.  Different from others.

Fortunately for us, we are not under Old Testament Law.  Jump forward to Hebrews 7 with me.

For the law made nothing perfect, and now a better hope has taken its place.  And that is how we draw near to God…it is Jesus who guarantees the effectiveness of this better covenant (Hebrews 7:19, 22).

We no longer have to rely on sacrificed animals and priests to be the mediator between us and God.  Jesus, our high priest, is our eternal mediator.  Under the new covenant, Jesus’ death on the cross was the once and for all payment for our sins.  If we accept him as Savior and Lord, his blood will cover our sins and make us perfect and acceptable to God on judgement day.

Makes sense, but again, how is being holy supposed to show up in our daily actions today?  Fortunately Jesus collapsed all the Old Testament do’s and don’ts into two guiding principles for our lives.

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31).

When our actions consistently demonstrate that we love God and love other people, we will look different than others.  Holy.  Truly set apart.


Live on purpose

Today’s reading:  Exodus 25-27, Psalm 90, Philippians 1

As we’ve been reading the story of the Exodus (Moses leading the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt), have you noticed God’s people grumbling a lot?  I joke with my husband and friends that one of my core competencies is complaining (especially about the weather in central Illinois).  But even I, a master complainer, am shocked at how often the Bible tells us God’s people were whining to Moses.

The Israelites had been oppressed in Egypt for 430 years (Exodus 12:40).  They were eyewitnesses to 10 plagues God brought on to convince Pharoah to let them go.  Then, at the beginning of Exodus 14, God miraculously parted the Red Sea so they could cross over and get out of Egypt.  God’s people had barely gotten to the other side of the sea when they looked in their rearview mirror and saw Pharoah’s army coming after them.  Immediately they started whining.  “They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have take us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done brining us out of Egypt (Exodus 14:11).” Seriously?  After all the miracles God performed to deliver them from 430 years of oppression they had the guts to grumble?  But it didn’t stop there.  Soon they complained about not having water, so God provided water.  Then they grumbled about not having food and God provided manna.  Then, when they were tired of the manna and wanted some meat, they grumbled again and God provided quail.   Do you wonder why these people wandered in the desert for so long?  God was sick of it.  He let them wander around for 40 years until the entire generation of complainers died.  Only then was he was ready to usher them into the Promised Land.

Psalm 90, our scripture for today, was written by Moses. It was his prayer asking God to help the Israelites learn a lesson he had learned during 40 years of wandering in the wilderness with them, experiencing defeat, discouragement, and death. The Psalm begins with recognition of God’s sovereignty.  Then acknowledges the aimless, self-absorbed, sinful ways of God’s people.  Moses’ ask of God comes in verse 12 – to teach his people to live purposefully with eternity in mind.

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12).

Here I pause and look at my own life.  Like the Israelites,  I have a tendency to grumble and be so focused on myself that I forget about God. What a timely reminder that my days on earth are not unlimited.  Whether I die or Jesus returns first, I will stand before the God of the universe and account for how I lived my life.  You will too.  Today, will you join me in praying Moses’ prayer for God to teach us to live on purpose with eternity in mind?

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16).



Psalm 25

Today’s reading:  Genesis 47-48, Psalm 25, Galatians 3

Yesterday afternoon (Friday 1/20) I attended a funeral service for my dear friend and co-worker Julie.  She was an amazing and fearless woman who never met a problem she didn’t think she could solve or an issue she couldn’t work through.  It didn’t matter if the problem was her own or someone else’s.  When she was invited to the conversation, she dove in and went right to work.  Her strategic approach, innovative ideas, and a can-do attitude made her someone I always wanted on my team.

Friday afternoon funerals aren’t usually a great way to start the weekend.  My heart is so sad.  I don’t know why God’s plan was to take her from this earth so fast.  But I trust his plan, and because of Julie’s faith, I am at peace.  See, Julie’s solution to the cancer problem she couldn’t solve on her own was to put it in God’s hands.  Her words to me were, “God always makes his presence known in tough situations.”  And while I didn’t get the answer I wanted this time, which was to restore Julie to the friend I knew and loved, I know she is in Heaven.  She is free from all sickness and sorrow.

God made his presence known to me today.  My heart is comforted as I make David’s Psalm 25 prayer my own:

In you, Lord my God, I put my trust (Psalm 25:1).

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.  Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish (Psalm 25:16-17).

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.  Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long (Psalm 25:4-5).


Authoritative Source

Today’s reading:  Genesis 24-25, Psalm 4, Mark 9

In my day job, I do a lot of work with third parties.  These are people who provide service to my organization, but are employed by a different company.  While the folks I work with are bound to uphold the contractual provisions to which we agree, third parties always have divided loyalty between the organization to which they are providing service (my company) and the organization with whom they are employed.

My teams’ day to day management of third parties involves a lot of metrics and data.  Some of which comes from the third parties themselves and some of which comes from my company.  We spend a lot of time evaluating whether data elements are useful (or not) for decision making.  Often times it comes down to the authoritative source of the data.  To be fit for decision making, data must be sourced from within the company , or when it comes from the third party, the data must be corroborated/validated with internal data.  Making decisions about third parties using data they provide is like letting the fox watch the hen house!

Our text for today begins with Mark’s account of the transfiguration.  This short passage reveals to us God’s perspective on the authoritative source for how to obtain salvation and spend eternity with God in heaven.  Let’s take a closer look.

Jesus took Peter, James and John with him up the mountain.  When they got up to a place where they were alone, Jesus transformed into a heavenly being.  Elijah and Moses also appeared.  As a devout Jew, Peter knew Elijah and Moses to be heroes of the faith, great leaders who God used to do significant work for his kingdom.  While he was a little tongue-tied, Peter wanted to show respect and offered to make shelters for all three of the heavenly beings – Jesus, Elijah and Moses.  Notice how God responds in verse 7.

Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (Mark 9:7).

In no uncertain terms, God affirmed the authority of Jesus, the name above all names, over Elijah and Moses.

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Fortunately for us, we have Jesus’ teachings at our fingertips daily.  The Bible, the inspired work of God, can be our roadmap for daily living.  Thanks for embarking on our 2023 journey to read it cover to cover.  I promise we will all benefit from better knowing God’s word.







Play the hand you are dealt

Today’s reading:  Titus 3

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people (Titus 3:1-2).

On December 11 my dear Grandma, Evelyn York, peacefully left this earth.  After 97 years of faithfully following Jesus, she finally got to meet him face to face.  She was ready.

Gram emulated the characteristics of a Christfollower described in Titus 3:1-3.  But just because she was submissive to authorities, helpful and considerate to other people, never quarreling and always courteous, she was as tenacious (or perhaps stubborn) as they come.  She was never afraid to stand up for herself or advocate for those she loved.  She tackled problems head on and never shied away from hard conversations.  One of the most valuable life lessons I learned from Gram was to play the hand you are dealt.  Your circumstances might not be what you would have chosen, but don’t wallow in self-pity.  Find a way forward.

  • She fiercely loved my Grandpa.  As a preacher’s wife, Gram faithfully supported him wherever his ministry led their family.  While I’m sure they did, I don’t ever remember them quarreling or disagreeing about anything.  (Although Gram told me she she occasionally had to remind him that she was his wife, not one of his parishioners.)
  • She loved and supported her family, even though she was quick to remind us who was in charge.  (When my sister and I were younger, Gram enjoyed playing “King of the Raft” with us.  She always won, but only because we were afraid to push her in the water because it would wreck her hair…note that Gram went to town once a week to get her hair “set”.  Do anything to mess it up and you would suffer her wrath…we all knew better!)
  • She was a hard worker.  In their early 50’s, my Grandparents moved to St. Joseph, Illinois and Gram went to work for Carle Hospital in the medical records area.  Despite her age and initial unfamiliarity, she led the way in supporting technological advancements.  (Although every summer we called from the lake and talked Grandma and Grandpa into leaving work a few days early so they could spend a little extra time with us on vacation.)
  • She served others.  After my Grandpa died, Gram served other widows in the Leesburg Christian Church and in her neighborhood for 25 years.  (Including her crazy neighbor Margaret who stopped over for “happy hour” most afternoons. As they enjoyed a cup of coffee, Gram listened to her stories and gently encouraged Margaret to go home and take a shower when she smelled like a billy goat…which was more often that not.)
  • She did what she knew was best, even though it sometimes was not what she wanted.  In 2016, after another heart attack and some time at a rehab facility, Gram agreed it was time to move closer to family.  This meant leaving her beloved home in FL and moving to Illinois with my parents. (I was down visiting her just a few months before she moved.  While she knew this was the beginning of the end, she also acknowledged it was just the next phase of life and something she knew she had to do.)
  • She did not fear the unknown, rather she put her trust and her hope in Jesus.  When the hospice nurse came to visit for the first time on November 29, Gram didn’t really know what to expect.  After the nurse was gone, Aunt Muriel asked her if she was scared.  Gram responded with a firm, “no, this is just something I need to walk through.”  (Gram’s final days weren’t as smooth as we’d hoped, but God made a way.  My Mom, who had been her primary care giver for the last 5.5 years, was in bed with COVID.  My Aunt Muriel, who had come to help my Mom take care of Gram while my Dad wrapped up a business trip, got COVID from my Mom and then gave it to my Dad when he got home.  While the rest of us couldn’t go inside for a week, we were able to care for them by leaving meals and whatever else they needed on the porch.  On December 11, when my Dad was no longer contagious, I went to see Grandma, kiss her face and tell her how much I loved her.  Two hours later, with my Dad and Aunt Muriel by her side, she went to Heaven.)

These last 5.5 years have been hard as Gram required increasing levels of care.  Thank you to my Mom and Dad, especially my Mom, for doing whatever it took to meet her needs until the end.  Thanks to my parent’s small group for befriending my Gram and helping support my parents.  Thanks to Dr. Kindred for overseeing Gram’s healthcare and doing a masterful job at making the last 5.5 years of her life as vibrant as they could be.

I love you Gram.  I’ve got a big hole in my heart right now with you gone.  I’ll see you soon.  Take care of things upstairs until I get there!





A Bridge

Today’s reading:  Malachi 4

Have you ever been part of a project where current state and future state are considerably different?  Or maybe a project where there is a longer than ideal time gap between the wind down of current state and the official start of future state?  If you have, you know these circumstances require a bridge – specific tactics to help the organization successfully get from point A to point B without things falling off the rails.

Malachi 4 is a bridge.  This, the last chapter in the last book of the Old Testament, serves as a bridge between the Old Testament and New Testament.  After the prophet Malachi’s death, God’s prophets were silent for 400 years. Talk about the need for a bridge, 400 years is a long time between current state (Old Testament Law) and future state (salvation through Jesus Christ)!  Focus here on the last two verses of this short chapter:

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction” (Malachi 4:5-6).

God promised to send a great prophet, like Elijah, to prepare the way for future state.  Because we have the benefit of hindsight, we know this prophet was John the Baptist.  After 400 years of being left to their own sinful ways, God sent John the Baptist to prepare God’s people for the coming Messiah by guiding them to repent from their sins.

The message of hope the prophet Malachi shared with God’s people in Malachi 4 is the same message of hope John the Baptist spoke of in the first century and the same message of hope for Christfollowers today.  God controls the future.  In his time, everything will be made right.  Those of us who love God and put our trust in his son Jesus can look forward to a victorious and glorious future.

But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty (Malachi 4:2-3).


Today’s reading:  Matthew 24:29-51

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “surprise”?  Something unexpected?  Do you think of something good, like a party or running into an old friend you didn’t expect to see?  Or do you think of something bad, like an unexpected bill or an unfavorable medical diagnosis you didn’t see coming?   When I think of surprises, I generally think of bad (or inconvenient) things.

  • Surprise, I’m going to show the house in an hour.  Can you go home and run the vacuum, make the bed and shine up the bathroom?
  • Surprise, my boyfriend is coming home with me after school.  I told him you would drive him home to Fox Creek (40 minutes round trip) before dinner.
  • Surprise, I am sick in bed and might need your help taking care of Grandma until your Dad gets home on Friday.

Yes, I can be surprised by good things too.  But I am a planner by nature.  If possible, I like to know what (good or bad) is coming so I can plan ahead.  I like to be prepared!

Our scripture for today is about being prepared for the end of the world and the second coming of Christ.  To people who don’t follow Jesus and/or don’t read the Bible, the second coming of Christ will likely feel like a surprise because no one (not even Jesus himself) knows the day or the hour of his return.

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father (Matthew 24:36).

While we don’t know when, we do know for sure he is coming back.  As such, we should not be surprised when he gets here.  Between now and then, we should spend our time getting ready.  Since we know he is coming and we have plenty of time to prepare, we have no excuse for not being ready when he finally arrives.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him (Matthew 24:42-44).

So what does exactly does preparing for Christ’s return look like?

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it (Luke 9:23-24).

Claim, Evidence, Reasoning

Today’s reading:  Psalm 105

Are you familiar with the claim, evidence, and reasoning (CER) framework?  It usually begins to show up in middle school when students learn how to make a hypothesis and support their conclusions with data.  The model goes like this:

Claim – Make a one-sentence statement that answers the question at hand.

Evidence – Provide quantitative and/or qualitative evidence to support the claim.

Reasoning – Explain how/why the evidence supports the claim

As I studied our text for today, Psalm 105, I kept coming back to the CER framework.  The entire chapter follows this model.

Claim (verses 1-2) – The Lord is worthy of our praise.

Evidence (verses 5-41) –

    • God made a covenant with Abraham to make him a great nation.
    • God made an oath with Isaac (Abraham’s son) to be with him and bless him.
    • God promised Jacob (Isaac’s son) he would protect him wherever he went.
      • He allowed no one to oppress Jacob’s family as they wandered from nation to nation.
      • He called down a famine on the land, but sent Joseph (Jacob’s son) to protect them.
    • God made his people fruitful, too numerous for their foes.
    • God sent Moses as a servant, along with Aaron, to lead his people.
    • God performed miracles among the Egyptians to get them to release his people.
      • Covered the earth in darkness.
      • Turned the water to blood.
      • Infested the land with frogs, flies, and gnats.
      • Destroyed the land with hail.
      • Infested the land with locusts.
      • Killed the firstborn of every Egyptian family.
    • God’s people safely escaped Egypt.
    • God guided and cared for his people as they wandered in the wilderness with a cloud by day, fire by night, quail and manna to eat, water to drink.

Reasoning (verses 42-45) – God saved the Israelites so they would follow his ways.  Because God was faithful to deliver on his promises throughout history, he was worthy to be praised.

God was faithful then and is faithful now.  He kept his promises then and keeps his promises now.

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom (Psalm 145:3).


Victory Cheer

Today’s Reading:  Revelation 4

Do you like to be on the winning team?  I never had much athletic talent, so I’ve never actually been on the team that won.  But if you know me at all, you know I love most sports.  Even if “my team” isn’t playing, I’ll pick a favorite side and have fun cheering them on to victory.  Case in point – last night we got our first look at this year’s College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings.  My team isn’t on the list (and won’t be on the list even if they win out).  But, it is still fun.  If it the top four hold, I have to decide whether I cheer for UT where my friend’s son is in school or OSU because of my Big Ten loyalties.  Either way, I want to be on the winning side.

In obedience to God’s instruction (Revelation 1:1-2), the apostle John recorded the visions God shared with him about the end times in the book of Revelation.  Like B.J mentioned yesterday, this book can be a bit scary because it serves as a warning to all about what is to come.  Revelation, however, is also mean to be a message of hope.  Hope that comes from the assurance that good ultimately triumphs over evil.  While Satan and his allies will rage battle against God, Revelation gives us a picture of Jesus as the conquering King. Team Jesus wins!

Our text for today is Revelation chapter 4.  The main point of this short 11 verse chapter comes right at the end in verse 11.  All creatures in heaven and earth will praise and honor God because he is the creator and sustainer of everything.  This is the victory cheer.  I’m so glad to be on the winning side as Jesus reigns victorious forever.

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being (Revelation 4:11).