66 in 52 Challenge, Bekah's Heart, Devotional

Reflections on Exodus

It’s easy for me to read through a book like Exodus and kind of wonder: “How couldn’t they see it?!?” God’s provision, protection, and guidance are so clear chapter after chapter. From protecting Moses as a baby to grand things like splitting a sea in two or food appearing out of thin air day after day, God’s action on behalf of the Israelites is obvious. Yet, they complained constantly, thought going back to slavery would be better for them, made idols while God’s presence was still on the mountain in front of them, and blamed God instead of praising Him. How could this be? Couldn’t they see what God was up to?

But when I really stop to think about it… some days I’m no different. God performs a miracle, but we miss it because we were expecting something different. God figuratively splits seas or thunders from a mountain and the next day we’re so caught up in daily life we forget His power. We become immune to daily ‘manna’ falling from the sky in the form of food and shelter and friendships and His love and start to complain. I’d like to think that if I saw some of the miraculous things the Israelites witnessed I would never stop praising, but I’m not so sure I’d be any different.

One verse that struck me came right as God was enacting this great plan to lead them out of Egypt. Pharaoh had finally worn down and they were on the move. Passover had been instituted and God’s people had been spared the death of the firstborn that plagued the rest of the land. They had not yet come upon the Red Sea, but certainly had plenty to praise God for already.

So Moses said to the people, ‘This is a day to remember forever—the day you left Egypt, the place of your slavery. Today the Lord has brought you out by the power of his mighty hand. … On this day in early spring, in the month of Abib, you have been set free. You must celebrate this event in this month each year…” (Exodus 13:3-5 NLT)

Reading this translation struck me… REMEMBER… YOU HAVE BEEN SET FREE… CELEBRATE! It goes on to explain how God wants them to celebrate but the party stops pretty quick as they approach the Red Sea and see that Pharaoh has changed his mind. The army is approaching quickly from behind and the body of water ahead has them trapped.

As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the Lord, and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’” (Exodus 14:10-12)

Suddenly they wanted to go back. Their current situation seemed worse than slavery, but that’s because they forgot the powerful mighty hand of their God.

Earlier this month I attended a conference. One of the hosts said this as he wrapped up one of our sessions:

Sometimes we feel like: “God you’ve led me to a place where there’s no where out.”
God says: “That’s only because you haven’t seen a sea parted.” – Ben Stewart

As I thought about this story that I’ve heard many times, as well as my own tenancies to complain and forget what God can do, I wondered if a key piece in all of it was the celebration God instituted the chapter before.

When Moses told the people to remember the day they had been set free, he said, “you MUST celebrate it”.  One way to read this Scripture would imply a focus on trying to please God and so we must praise Him because He deserves it. It’s true, God does deserve our praise, but I wonder if the “must” here is more about God knowing our nature. He “demands” celebration in a sense because He knows we need it. He knows that we MUST celebrate or we will forget. We must celebrate or we will worry. We must celebrate or we will feel trapped and see no way out. We must celebrate because we are free. Without celebration, we find our souls enslaved again.

I don’t know what celebration looks like for you, but find a way to party today. God has done everything to secure our freedom. May we never be slaves again!

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Bonus Thought: Music is one way I choose to celebrate. Maybe this song by Ellie Holcomb can help you live free today!

So we will sing, to our souls
We won’t bury our hope
Where He leads us to go
There’s a red sea road
When we can’t, see the way
He will part, the waves
And we’ll never walk alone
Down a red sea road” – Ellie Holcomb “Red Sea Road”

 

Lent

Giving Up The Fear of Not Being Enough

Why would they choose you?

What do you have to offer?

What makes you think that you could ever do that, especially with your past?!? 

These and other similar lies are questions that I have to believe all of us have thought at one time or another.  I see these kinds of doubts in myself. I see them in my friends. And perhaps more than anywhere, I see this play out in the lives of the young people I get to interact with.  There is this underlying question in our hearts:

Am I enough? 

In the question itself is where the fear lies. Fear that the answer is no and if that’s the case we’re back to that lonely place, that place of looking to what others think to find our worth. 

As I got to thinking about why this seems like such a universal fear, I realized that it probably comes out of the fact that, to some degree, it’s true. We AREN’T enough.  

God made all things and deemed them good.  Yet, as sin creeped into the world with that snake in the garden, it took with it our enough-ness.

No longer are we good enough… We see all the mistakes we’ve made.

No longer are we smart enough… We too, like Eve, get deceived by the serpent, Satan.

No longer are we brave enough or strong enough or thin enough or………… and the list goes on. 

And Satan can get us to believe those things because we really aren’t enough. 

BUT…

Our GOD is enough. He’s always been enough and always will be.  When I trust in His saving grace poured out from the cross, all those “not-enough” fears come untrue.  

Perhaps you’ve heard of the phrase “robe of righteousness”.  It sounds kind of “churchy” but it’s a perfect picture for this. Look at it this way, to be “righteous” or have “righteousness” means to be right with God, or perhaps in other words, to be enough. 

In our nature we are UNrighteous… NOT enough. But Jesus came to earth, takes away that “not-enough-ness” and covers us instead with a robe of righteousness, a robe of enoughness, you might say. With that covering any imperfection or hurt or pain or sin, when he looks at us, we now are enough!

The way we give up this fear that we’re not enough is to compare ourselves to God alone.  When we compare ourselves to others we will never measure up (or we become prideful and think we’re better than eveyone, also not a fun place to be). That’s the end of the story. 

When we measure ourselves against God and his standards, well, we don’t measure up there either… not even close! BUT there’s a Savior! He is MORE than enough and comes to make us new, to make us enough.

So now, the only real truth left on the table is that YOU ARE ENOUGH! 

You are smart enough, brave enough, strong enough, good enough! Because you’ve got Jesus’ ‘robe of enough-ness’ on!  No matter how frazzled or fearful you feel, wear that robe proudly today! You are enough!

  

Lent

Giving Up Fear in Loneliness

If you’ve ever taken a Myers Briggs personality test, you know that one of the spectrums that you are rated on is I and E … Introvert and Extrovert.  We often think of extroverts as loud and outgoing and introverts as more isolated.  While that is part of it, this is also measuring how someone gets recharged.  Do you prefer to be alone or have a few close friends?  Or is heading out to a big party where you don’t really know anyone more thrilling to you?  Do you get energy from being around people or does it drain you?  Most of us need both but tend to lean one way or the other.  Over the years I’ve taken this personality test 3-4 times and every time I end up EXACTLY in the middle of “I” and “E”.  I see this as true in my everyday life too.  I NEED both to be with other people as well as to be alone.  Too much of one or the other can be draining to me.

All that to say, even the most introvert of us doesn’t want to be alone ALL the time.  God created us to be in relationship with each other and when we don’t have enough of that (what ever “enough” is for each individual person), we crave it. I might even go so far to say that we perhaps fear that loneliness.  We all love to be alone from time to time, but no one wants to feel lonely.

Just like the other fears I’ve mentioned so far this week, I see this fear creep into my life and lie to me, paralyzing me from things.  When fear and loneliness get together, Satan has a heyday bringing a million “what ifs” to mind and when you’re alone, there’s no one to remind you how ridiculous some of them are?  What if something bad happens to you and no one knows about it?  What if some of the dreams you have for marriage and family never come to fruition?  What if you make the wrong decision about this major purchase because you had to make it on your own?  What if someone breaks into your house?

What if?

What if?

What if?

When I force myself to step back and think about all of these what if questions, I begin to see how unnecessary (and unhelpful) these fears are.  If something bad happened to me, Kathy Figini would know within 5 minutes and have help on the way.  I have friends and family around me to help me make decisions and if I still make a wrong one, they’ll be there to figure out the next steps.  And no matter what any given day or the future in general holds, even if it ends up being bad, it’s not worth my times to live in fear.

No matter what, God’s promise over and over and over in Scripture that He is always with us and we are never alone.  We have no reason to fear when God is on our side.  So, in those moments where fear and loneliness meet, may we give up the fear and cling to these beautiful promises of God:

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.(Isaiah 41:10)

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”(Joshua 1:9)

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.  (John 14:16-17)

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

lonely

Lent

Giving Up The Fear of What Other People Think

My dearest child,

I see you.  I see you craving the approval of others.  I see you paying attention to each “like” or “retweet”.  I see the way your fear of what people think dictates your life.  I see you and it breaks My heart.

When will you stop living for the opinions of others? When will you realize that they’re so focused on what you think of them, that they probably aren’t even thinking about what they think of you?  When will you finally refuse to let anything but My love for you and My calling on your life dictate your actions?

You have no need to be ashamed and no need to fear.  I am on Your side.  When that is the case, what else matters?!?  Who will you trust in… them, or me, the Almighty God, Your Father and Friend?  Whatever you do, work hard at it, without fear.  But don’t do anything (or not do something) simply out of what others will think; work as if you’re serving Me.

I love you!  My opinion of you is all that matters.  The world may not like you, in fact it may even hate you, but I will ALWAYS love you and I will always lead you and I never fail.

So give up that fear that holds you captive.  Give up the fear that keeps you from abundant life.  Give it all up and let Me flood your life with grace and power and amazing things beyond your imagination. Give it up.  It’s worth it.

Your Loving Savior,
Jesus

(Based off of 2 Timothy 2:15, Galatians 1:10, Psalm 118:6-9, Colossians 3:23-24)

fear of what others think

 

Lent

Giving Up Fear… 

What do a dark room, a tall building, and spiders have in common?

They all top the list of things people fear.  While those may be the first things that come to mind, I actually believe there’s another list of top fears that are perhaps even more common.  Things like fear of what other people think or fear of failure. Fears over what might happen to people we loved or fear based in uncertainty about the future in general.

Fear is such a big part our lives and can keep us from all that God has in store for us. This week I’m going to spend each day giving up some of my biggest fears.  Over 300 times in the Bible God reminds us that with Him on our side we have no reason to fear.

To get us started today, here is one of my favorite:

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (‭Isaiah‬ ‭41:10‬)

Jesus, help us to give up fear today and every day, resting in your hands and trusting your provision for us. In your name we pray, Amen!

Bekah's Heart

A Hand Holding God – Jesus Interruptions

I really am loving our current series at church about the ways that people interrupted Jesus or He interrupted their lives through Scripture and the way it still happens today.

This week’s story (read the whole thing here) was about a man who interrupts Jesus to ask him to come heal his daughter. When a woman interrupts Jesus along the way it delays Jesus and the man’s daughter dies. Yet, the story doesn’t end there. As Jason said in his sermon this week, he invites the father a little closer, to trust a little more and continues on to the house where the child was. Here’s how the story ends:

“…(Jesus) took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.” (‭Mark‬ ‭5‬:‭40-42‬ ESV)

I went to bed Saturday night after hearing the familiar story once again at church simply thankful that even when interruptions come in life and our plan seems to be falling apart, that God may indeed have an even more glorious plan.

In the middle of the night, I woke up, my mind swirling about a million different things, I found myself reading the Psalms trying to fall back asleep and came across this treasure:

“The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.” (‭Psalms‬ ‭37‬:‭23-24‬ NLT)

It wasn’t until the next morning when I was finishing preparations for the children’s sermon that I made the connection between these passage though…

Our God is a hand-holding God.

He reached out and raised this girl to life, by holding her hand.
When I stumble through life, he holds my hand.

Suddenly other verses came to mind:

Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand. (‭Psalms‬ ‭73‬:‭23‬)

For I hold you by your right hand— I, the LORD your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭41‬:‭13‬)

Our God is that near… So close to hold our hands. He faithfully walked with Jairus through the ups and downs of the situation. He welcomed the interruption of the woman as she got close enough to touch him. Our God is not a far off, distant God. He delights, as the Psalm 37 verse says, in the everyday details of our lives. He walk through every step of life, holding our hands all the way. Oh, yes, we may stumble and fall, but He’s got our hand, and we will never be completely destroyed. He picks us up, dusts us off and reassures us we have no need to fear the next steps, He is near.

“Against all hope
Help me hope
Against all fear
Draw me near
Against all hope
I will hope
Against all fear
I will draw near…
In You I have everything I need”
– Christy Nockels

Jesus, thank you for being a God that gets so close, you can hold our hands. Walk with us today reassuring us that you are near, to comfort in the hard times and celebrate with us in the joyful moments. Against all hope, help us hope, Lord. Against all fear, draw us near. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

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31 Days of Imperfection

(Im)perfect Love {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 14}

This morning I found myself thinking more about yesterday’s post about looking back at times when our past keeps us from action in the present or future.  I think one of the biggest hindrances for almost every single human is remembering times when they were hurt in relationships before.  Maybe someone did something that betrayed you, or a loved one died, or someone had to move away.  Whether the loss was intentional or not, these situations often keep us from wanting to love again.  We’re afraid that if we love again, we’ll just be hurt again and we’re not so sure that’s a risk we want to take.

I’m learning a lot right now in my personal devotion life about the truth that if there is fear involved, then it can’t really be love.  See what I mean in 1 John 4:18…

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 

As I said, I’m still learning about this and don’t have it CLOSE to being figured out, but I think it actually has something to do with being okay with imperfection in relationships.  If we could figure out exactly how to be in relationship with other people, if we could discover a way to take away all the risk, I don’t know if those relationships would be worth it.  Isn’t that why God gave us free will in the first place?  He loved us so much but if love was forced into this perfect risk-free box, it wouldn’t really be love at all.  Despite the risk of us turning our backs on him again and again and again, He desired perfect love, which is messy love and risky love.  He wanted real love even if it mean he’d have to die for us.

While there is risk involved, we somehow, by God’s grace, must learn to step past that fear because, as the passage says, “one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  Fear and love can’t reside at the same time because if we’re living truly in the love God’s given us, it drives away all fear.

My perfectionistic personality then wants to “figure it out” to “make sure” I’m loving the “right” way.  Yet what I hear God saying in this passage and the ones before it is this: Don’t worry about if you’re loving “right” just let me love you and it will all flow out of that.  Here is the above passage more in context:

“And so you know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him.  In this way love is made complete among us so that we have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:16-19)

Love is worth the risk.  Not only do we need other people, other people need to see Jesus’ love through us.  It’s not about figuring out how to love or if it’s okay to love it’s all about KNOWING and RELYING ON the love God has for us.  If we’re drowning in God’s love, we’re going to be okay.  If we’re drenched in it, other people will take note.  If it’s overflowing in our lives, they’ll get covered in it too.

Perfect love drives out fear. 

We love because He first loved us.

We don’t have to figure out how to get rid of that fear on our own, we just have to seek Love Himself and fear will pack its bags and disappear.

Even if we do get hurt again, God’s love… his PERFECT love remains.  We can trust in that truth and let our hearts rest in that when fear wants to creep back in.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. … This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us.  For God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.”  (1 John 3:16,19-20)