1 Samuel 12:20-22

And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the LORD but serve the LORD with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the LORD will not forsake his people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for Himself.”

I stand alone in the crowd this morning at Gilgal, conspicuous in my solitary state, a teenage widow. My husband of less than a year followed Saul into battle against the Ammonites. I begged him not to go; I told him how much I needed him and how afraid I was that he would not come back. He chided me affectionately. He had no choice, really, because he was one of the many in Israel who demanded a king to rule over us so we would be like other nations. When Saul, the newly selected king, demanded an army to defend Jabesh-gilead, all the men in our village prepared to go. My husband wanted a king, and so he would fight alongside this king. He was even excited to do this. My needs were not important enough to make him stay. Saul and his army defeated the Ammonites, but I cannot celebrate today. My husband gave his life for this king now crowned before the LORD God of Israel. My fears realized; I feel only sorrow.

I try to make sense of the jubilation around me. I confess I never understood why we needed a king. Didn’t Yahweh tell us He would fight for us? He delivered us from slavery in Egypt and gave us this good land. He defeated our enemies in the past, and He set good men, like Samuel, to be judges over us. I know I am just a woman, and a young woman at that, but all my life I heard the Torah recited. Our history as children of Israel chosen by Yahweh to be His people was known by every child. When I asked my husband why we didn’t just rely on God instead of insisting on a king, he patted my head and told me not to worry about things I could not understand. Now he is dead, I am alone, and I feel abandoned and forsaken. Of what good is a king to me?

My misery drowns out the sounds of victory around me, and I miss Samuel’s beginning remarks to us. Suddenly, though, everyone is wailing and shouting, crying out to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.” How had the mood changed so quickly? What did I miss that caused this outcry? Confusion becomes bewilderment as I see the panic in my neighbors’ faces, and I find myself pushing through the crowds to be closer to Samuel. It takes quite a while for the crowd to quiet enough for Samuel to continue, and by then I am standing directly in front of the platform where he stands. I hear him calmly tell us not to be afraid even though we have done a great evil in asking for a king. He tells us to not stop following Yahweh and to serve Him will all our hearts. Then, he looks down and sees me standing alone and unprotected in the mass of our people. Smiling, he looks into my eyes as he admonishes, “And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty.”

My heart is burning within me, my mind a tumultuous jumble, and I frantically push my way through the packed assembly of people, finally breaking free and running through the barley fields to the mantra pulsating through me: “How did Samuel know? He’d never met me. How could he know?” Finally exhausted, I through myself on the ground, hiding beneath the grey storm clouds and the swaying plants ripe for harvest. It makes no sense, Samuel looking at me as he spoke, but somehow, he knew. All my life I searched for fulfillment and acceptance. I was obedient as a child and hardworking, hoping my Abba would notice me. I was a good sister and a friend who never demanded to have my own way. But I was the youngest in our family, small in stature, easily overlooked. I was the quiet one among the girls in my village, easily ignored and always on the fringe. I thought marriage would give me a sense of belonging and did everything I knew to be a good and proper wife, but my husband had important responsibilities; I was  easy to dismiss. Now I am a widow with no children, and I will wear obscurity as my cloak for the rest of my life.

The reality of Samuel’s words finally penetrates my self-pity, and I sit up startled by their truth. Samuel knew because I was not the only one who turned aside from following Yahweh faithfully. He addressed his words to all Israel, but no one else mattered to me right now. I was personally guilty. I searched for fulfillment and acceptance, but I never searched to know God, content to let others tell me about Him and His ways. I hadn’t clamored for a king like Saul, but I had turned aside from Yahweh to pursue the emptiness of pleasing others in the hope of being worthy of someone’s love. I had crowned other kings all on my own – a king of self-absorption ruled my emotions; I crowned insecurity a king and let him rule my mind; I crowned fear a king and let him dictate my actions; I crowned my husband, my family and my friends king and counted on them to fulfill me. And I was in the process of crowning misery a king and letting him decimate my heart. All these empty things, with empty promises, without profit or help, received more of my focus than Yahweh. I had done “all this evil,” just as Samuel said. Hugging my knees to my chest as I rocked back and forth, my confession is a groan from the deepest place inside me, a wrenching cry for forgiveness that only God could hear.

Then I remember the rest of Samuel’s words, “For the LORD will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a  people for Himself.” As these words break through my tortured, repentant heart, the sun breaks through the storm clouds, warming me from the inside out. Yahweh’s words are full of promise and surety. He will never leave me or forsake me, not because of anything good I ever did but because of His great name, because of His steadfast love. It pleased Him to make Israel a people for Himself. Almighty God, El Roi, notices me. I matter to Him. He will not overlook me or ignore me. I belong to Him. I fall on my face as the sweet song of praise and thanksgiving rings out over the fields and the barley stalks bow their heads in worship around me. Yahweh is my King; He shall be as a husband to me. I will fear only Him with reverence and awe, and I will faithfully serve Him with all my heart. He has done great things for me, and I choose to seek Him for the rest of my life. I will wear His cloak of love and acceptance. Forgiveness follows confession. Now I will celebrate.


1.) What empty things have you run after?

2) What “kings” have you allowed to rule over you?

3) Who will be the focus of your life?

Wet Feet

Joshua 3:5-6

Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” And Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on before the people.” So they took  up the ark of the covenant and went before the people.

I am just a small, unimportant girl, the youngest in my family and forgotten most of the time. But when it comes to learning what is happening in the camp, being small and ignored has its advantages. I’ve learned to quietly sneak beneath the tent flap and lose myself among the people and the animals. I’ve also discovered a perfect hiding place near Joshua, in a large basket outside his tent, where I often am the first one in camp to hear important news. Here I listened as Joshua told the elders what God revealed to him, “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous.” This makes no sense to me, and when I told Ima she said I was too tiny to have the faith necessary to understand. She said my faith would have to grow but she didn’t tell me how. She didn’t even tell me what faith was. So, I keep hiding in the basket hoping my faith will get bigger as I listen to Joshua, even though that makes no sense either.

Three days ago, the camp was in a frenzy. The spies Joshua sent out to Jericho were returning and people were crowding around them demanding to know what they learned. I heard them tell Abba that they would only divulge their news to Joshua, so I raced to my secret hiding place before they could arrive, hoping something they said might make my faith get big. Gently lifting the lid just enough to peak out, I saw crowds forming around Joshua and the two spies. They spoke quietly at first, but I heard every word, “Truly the LORD has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us.” This was the most exciting news, and I couldn’t help wiggling in anticipation. We were really going to enter the Promised Land! Surely there my faith would get bigger. I couldn’t wait to scamper out of the basket and race to tell Abba and Ima and my three know-it-all brothers! But then I heard them say we would have to cross the Jordan River and it was overflowing its banks right now. I’m a child of the wilderness; we all are. Not one of us knows how to swim, least of all me. Fear clutched at me, and without waiting to hear the rest of the news, without waiting till no one was looking, I jumped out of the basket and ran home in a panic, hiding under my blanket in the corner of our tent, all desire to gloat over my news forgotten, all thoughts of growing faith cast aside.

I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I knew Ima was yanking the blanket off me. “What are you doing, child? Get up, you lazy girl! Come, we must begin to pack our provisions. In three days, we are to pass over the Jordan and take possession of the Promised Land.” Ima was like a whirlwind, Abba and the boys also hastening to prepare our departure. No one listened to me when I tried to tell them about the flooding Jordan, no one saw the tears of fear that ran in rivulets down my dirty face as I tied our bedding together. No one paid any attention to my dragging feet the next day as we slowly traveled away from Shittim toward the watery grave that I knew waited for us. No one saw my downcast eyes of doubt yesterday as the priests issued the command from Joshua, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” And no one heard my cry of horror this morning when the priests chose Abba from our tribe to accompany eleven other men and the priests carrying the ark of the covenant into the floodwaters of the Jordan. I heard the priest say, “When you come to the brink of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan,” and I clung tightly to Abba, trying to prevent his leaving. How could he stand still as torrents of water assaulted them? Why would no one listen to me? “Have faith,” he calls out as he leaves. How will that help when Ima says I only have tiny faith?

Now the silent air is heavy with anticipation and expectation. The only sound is the approaching footsteps of the priests and twelve men as the ark of the covenant passes before the people. Joshua’s voice echoes off the rocky hills surrounding the valley, his words accurately passed down the miles of Israelites waiting to move forward. “ Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is passing over before you into the Jordan. And when the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the art of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall stand in one heap.” Our tribe  would be the first to cross, and my fear mounts with every step I take.

Nearing the river, I spot my father and breathe a sigh of relief. As I was accustomed to doing, I slip away from the crowd and hurry towards him, the smile on his face acting as sunlight to evaporate all my fears and worries. Abba scoops me up in his arms and points to ark of the covenant. “Look, Yaldati Hak’tana, my little girl! Do you see what God Almighty has done for us, His chosen people? The waters of the Jordan stand up and the ground is dry for us to cross over! Just as God told Joshua, He has done. As soon as the feet of the priests dipped into the brink of the river, the water rose in a heap and the ground where they stand became dry and clear. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the Faithful God who keeps His covenant with His people. What He promises, He will do.” My Abba looks deeply into my eyes and says, “This is what the Almighty says, little one, “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.” Then he whispers in my ear, “Sometimes faith means getting your feet wet. It’s not how tiny your faith is; it’s how big your God is.” He chuckles then as he asks, “Will I carry you over now or will you walk on dry ground over the Jordan River?”

Boldly, on tiny legs with tiny faith in a very big God, I march to the riverbank and cross over into my Promised Land. Chosen by the Almighty to be His own, I know that He sees me, and He hears me. I matter to Him. I can be strong and courageous because He is with me. With each determined step, I feel my tiny faith growing.


  1. When has God asked you to trust Him in the face of impossible circumstances?
  2. What was the outcome?
  3. How has God used “wet feet” to grow your faith?

Almighty God, I praise You for Your promise that You will never leave me or forsake me. I lay my fears and worries at Your feet and choose to trust You to lead me through the floodwaters in my life. Help me to obey Your command to be strong and courageous, to not be frightened or dismayed because I know that You are with me wherever I go. Amen.

The Letter

“You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that You are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Corinthians 3:2-3

Sifting through tubs of old photos in preparation for her mother’s 90th birthday, she discovered a stack of letters tied with a faded pink ribbon written almost 100 years ago. Carefully untying the ribbon, she gently lifts the crackling paper from the first envelope and begins to read. Addressed to her grandmother, beautiful copperplate script fills each page, and long before the signature’s confirmation, she recognizes the author of the letters as her grandfather. Etched onto onion-skin parchment with the fine nib of a fountain pen is her grandfather’s charm, wit, honesty, and integrity. These yellowed pages tell the story of her grandparent’s courtship and growing love for one another. They also reveal the depth of her grandfather’s faith, his love for Jesus and dependence on God’s Word.

Her grandfather had no idea when he wrote these letters that someday his granddaughter, now a grandmother herself, would read them and lose herself in memories of the legacy entrusted to her. Her thoughts drifted to languid summer days, cool glasses of fresh lemonade, and begging her grandparents for just one more story of growing up during the era of World War I. Her grandma was matter of fact in her tales, but her grandpa wove stories with gossamer threads that shimmered with light and life, mingling favorite passages of Scripture into each story. It was that same light and life vividly transparent in the words scrawled across the pages on her lap. Her grandfather’s raw vulnerability brought tears to her eyes:

Dear One,

I hesitate to write tonight, fearful you will see my ramblings as frailty and turn away, but I cannot help but tell you the truth of me. You, so strong and beautiful, so filled with laughter, must know what kind of man I am. I read the words of St. Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians this morning, and they have echoed through me all day. “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men.” My life is an epistle, a letter from Almighty God, known and read by everyone. And that terrifies me.

O dear one, I fear what kind of letter my life must show. It breaks me to think that people I may never meet again read this letter. It breaks me even more to know that you read it. I fear this letter contains more selfishness than loving service, more pride than humility, more anger than kindness, more impatience than love, more me than Jesus. I fear it is more a letter I am writing than a letter from my dear Lord. How much of this letter must be He censor? I long for my life to reflect His goodness and His mercy and His grace. I want His signature on this letter to be clearly visible to all, especially visible to you, dear one.

He reminds me, even as I write these things to you, that He is the one holding the pen. It is His Spirit who is the author of His story inscribed on my heart, a heart redeemed by His sacrifice, a heart transformed by His love. Too often, that which I want to do, I don’t do and what I don’t want to do, I do. But I know He is at work. Can you read this in my life? Oh, how I pray that you can and that you will write to me again in care of the depot whose address I will enclose . . .

The man her grandfather described was not the man she knew. The grandfather she knew was giving and generous of his time and his talents and his money, sacrificially and quietly serving others without acknowledgment or praise.  He was patient and loving, and she never heard a cross or unkind word come from his mouth. The God he loved and served faithfully had clearly written the letter of her grandfather’s life. She remembered then him telling her that Jesus wrote the greatest love letter ever written just for him, and Jesus would write that same letter just for her if she’d let Him. She hadn’t understood then, but she now recognized how God used His living letter in her grandfather to draw her to the saving knowledge of Jesus.

Wiping her eyes and tying the pink ribbon around the stack of letters again, she thought about the lost practice of letter writing. She thought about her own life. She thought about her children and her grandchildren. She thought about the letter the Holy Spirit was penning on her heart. Would His signature be visible? Would His love and grace and mercy be evident?

Bowing her head, she prayed, “Lord, thank You for the love letter You wrote on my grandfather’s life. I know You are still holding the pen, and it is Your Spirit beautifully inscribing Your letter on my heart, the greatest love letter ever written. Please censor out anything of me, I pray, so that everyone I meet, from family to strangers, will read about You in the living letter of my life. I pray this legacy of the greatest love letter ever written would continue in the lives of those who come after me showing that they, too, are a letter from Christ. Amen.

Then she pulled out some discarded stationary and began to write letter to each of her children and her grandchildren.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What letter is God writing in your life?
  2. What areas need the censoring pen?
  3. Who can you write a letter to today?

Humbled Priest

And you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall guard their priesthood. . .” Numbers 3:10

“But you are a CHOSEN RACE, a royal PRIESTHOOD, a HOLY NATION, a PEOPLE for God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

I am a proud priest of God Almighty; my father was a priest and his father before him. We are direct descendants from Aaron appointed by God to serve Him and make Him known to the people. I treasure my priesthood and guard it carefully. As priests, we lead in the exact laws of worship revealed to Moses and laid out for us at Mt. Sinai. My life revolves around the daily sacrifices, the Feasts and Festivals, and the High Holy Days. I take seriously the sacred responsibility to protect God’s temple, to keep out those whom the law forbids entry, to protect against the profane. I revere the Law and take pride in my duties. The priesthood is a consecrated and orderly job, respected and admired by the masses, and I am comfortable in its predictability and preciseness.

At least I was. Until Jesus.

I was there on duty the day Jesus entered the Temple courtyards, drove out all those who were buying and selling animals for sacrifice, turned over the tables of the moneychangers, and denounced all of us. I still hear his loud, strident proclamation, “It is written, MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER, but you are making it a robber’s den.” He turned everything upside down that day, not only in the Temple, but in my life as well. The chief priests and Pharisees were furious, their faces red in indignation, their gestures wild in resentment. I hid behind a pillar, however, unsettled by Jesus’ authority, and remembering the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Even those I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” (Isaiah 56:7) Of course I knew about Jesus. He was the source of daily whisperings among the priests. But now I wondered if the rumors I heard might be true and if what Nicodemus claimed could be right. Is it possible that Jesus really is the Messiah? My mind and my heart were as chaotic as the mess of broken tables, smashed bird cages, and scattered offerings that littered the outer courtyard.

I left my post that day in the Temple for the first and last time. I skirted the fringes of the crowds around Jesus the remainder of that Passover week, hungrily feasting on every word from his mouth. The more I heard, the more I wanted to know. My soul burned within me in awe and wonder until the horror of his trial and crucifixion left me ruined, on my face in the dust of Golgotha. I wandered aimlessly through the twisted streets of Jerusalem. I couldn’t go back to the Temple. There was nothing for me there anymore. But I didn’t know how to move forward. I had followed Jesus’ disciples to a home close to where they buried him, and I finally fell into an exhausted sleep outside this door. It was here that I first heard Peter yelling as he ran out the door toward the tomb, “He’s Alive! Just like He said!” Peter’s excitement was contagious, but I remained fearful and confused, wanting to believe, struggling to understand.

I decided to stay near Peter as much as possible while remaining in the shadows, trying to reconcile my priestly heritage with the undeniable truth of the crucified, resurrected Jesus. From Passover to Pentecost, I followed in silent contemplation. On Pentecost I was in the crowd and heard the violent rushing wind from heaven. I listened as Peter addressed the masses in Aramaic, and I stood amazed among the throng of people from Egypt and Rome, Libya and Mesopotamia, Cretans, and Arabs as they heard Peter and the disciples speaking in the tongue of each represented country. There was no language barrier that day to Peter’s authoritative proclamation of Messiah Jesus, His life, death, and resurrection, the perfect spotless Lamb of God who shed His blood for the forgiveness of sin. I received the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost when I repented and turned to Jesus for forgives of my sins. I joined 3,000 others who were baptized in His name.

My proud, blinded, repetitive, and routine life of duty yielded to radical and extraordinary clarity as the reality of Jesus’ identity opened my eyes to the truth of the Torah and the Prophets. For the first time I understood that everything points to Jesus! My priesthood had nothing to do with my Levitical heritage or my Temple duties. God called me out of the darkness of sin into His incomparable light of Truth, from the judgmental Law to the grace of Love. I realized the body of believers are His chosen people; we are the royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own possession. He forgave me not because of the sacrifice of bulls or lambs but because of the shed blood of His only Son; the sacrifice of Jesus saves me and cleanses me completely, once for all, from past, present and future sins. His sacrifice tore the veil in two, granting me free access to the holy of Holies. My heart is His tabernacle, where His presence dwells through the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the Light of the World, the Menorah; He is the Bread of Life, the Shewbread. My prayers are the fragrant incense acceptable to God.

I recognized that my parents and my lineage have no bearing on my right standing with God. I am a vile sinner who could never keep the Law of God. The Law that I revered condemns me. Jesus alone completely fulfilled the Law, and His precious blood purchased my life. He saved me only by His grace through faith alone in Christ alone because of His great love. My life is His. My priestly duties now are pouring out blessings to others from a thankful heart, not pridefully condemning them with the Law. I want to make Jesus known, to introduce others to the life-giving, eternal relationship with Him that is available to all who call on His name. I want them to understand the purpose of the Law was always to point them to Jesus. I want both Jews and Gentiles to know that through Jesus they are no longer slaves to sin but consecrated to God, renewed, and sanctified by the indwelling Holy Spirit. I want them to understand that our bodies and our souls, our earthly delights and gifts and abilities are the sacrifices pleasing to God, given out of thanksgiving in worship and adoration. I want to share the truth of Jesus woven through God’s Word from Genesis to Malachi. I want to worship with abandoned joy, praise with exuberance, and serve Him in loving submission all the days of my life.

The proud priest and haughty keeper of the law is now a forgiven, grateful, and humbled servant of God Almighty and His Only Son, Jesus Christ by the power of His Holy Spirit. Now it is the priesthood of the Gospel of Jesus that I treasure and guard carefully.

Thank You, Jesus, for Your Grace, for calling me from darkness into light as part of Your Royal Priesthood, Holy Nation, and a people of God’s own possession. I am Yours, Lord Jesus, bought with Your precious blood. Help me faithfully guard the sacred trust of the Gospel and proclaim Your excellencies to everyone I meet.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What does 1 Peter 2:9 mean to you specifically?
  2. How are you guarding your priesthood?
  3. Where do you struggle with the law instead of living in His grace?


The camp was noisy this morning with excitement, fear, and trepidation mingling with the agitation from the animal pens. It was barely dawn as I exited our tent, awakened by the racket. The normally slow, quiet pace of the awakening camp was now a frenzied swirl of activity, men calling instructions to their wives who frantically began hauling belongs outside their tents. My husband left hours ago with the tribe leaders and had not returned, so I had no idea what the uproar was all about. I tried to ask my neighbor, but she just brushed past me, calling over her shoulder, “It’s time!”

It’s time? Time for what? Standing with my water jar on my shoulder and my mouth open in astonishment, physically rooted in place by fear that the wandering would start again, I heard my husband calling me as he raced through the chaos. “Wife! Have you heard? Why are you standing there? We’re to break camp! We’re going to the Promised Land!” My husband saw my face blanche and gently led me back into our tent. We hadn’t been married long, both sets of parents died before we came to Mt. Sinai, but he knew I struggled with change, especially sudden change like this. He knew how tired I was of wandering. Holding my hands and looking directly into my eyes, my husband gently recounted the LORD’S message to the Israelites. I heard the words, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain. . .Go!” They only made me want to dig in my heels.

I was born in the wilderness soon after the Israelites left Egypt. I grew up hearing the stories recounted of God’s miraculous deliverance of His people from slavery. But I spent my childhood wandering as our people followed the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day, wandering the same landscape over and over because the people rebelled and refused to go into the land God was giving them. My parents talked of the paralyzing fear that gripped the camp when the scouts reported there were giants in this promised land. They spoke in sorrow and dismay that they failed to listen to Joshua’s and Caleb’s testimony of the fruit and goodness in the land, the failure to believe God who promised to be with them and give them this land flowing with milk and honey. All I had ever known was wandering, quail, and manna. A land flowing with milk and honey and fruit had no meaning for me. Now my parents and their entire generation was dead, and we had begun to settle at the base of Mt. Sinai. It was all I wanted now, to settle and be at home.

We had been here a year, and I thought we’d be here much longer. I hoped my wandering was over. It was here that God’s glory thundered from the mountain and shone so brightly from Moses’s face that he had to cover his face with a veil; it was here that God’s finger wrote on tablets of stone His commandments and His laws for us. Surely, we had much more to learn. This was a good place, and God is here. Why would we leave what we knew for what was so unknown?

My husband wiped a tear from my face with his thumb, smiled said, “Wife, God said it is time. We must trust Him. Don’t be afraid. It has been 40 years, just as He said. He is the Promise-Keeping Deliverer, and He will go with us, just as He said. I want us to walk with Him as Joshua and Caleb and Moses do, with faith and in obedience. Our wandering IS over; our home is in Him.” The truth my husband spoke about God washed over me in confident peace, and I suddenly wanted nothing more than to follow God’s command. He said, “Go,” and I will go. The unknown was known to Him. I took my husband’s hand and prepared to walk by faith with him from this wandering desert to God’s Promised  Land. Smiling, I shooed him out. I had packing to do!

I, too, struggle with change and with the unknown. I want to stay where I have had mountain top experiences with God. I want to remain where I am comfortable, where I feel safe and secure, where I have rested. I want to remain where I have enjoyed God’s presence and experienced the freedom of His forgiveness. But my journey with God is never stagnant; it is an on-going walk of faith, not a mountain top fortress. I have heard Him say to me, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and set out on your journey and go.” And so I will go, because I want to walk with Him as Joshua and Caleb and Moses did, with trust and obedience and faith.

Father, You are the faithful God who takes Your children through the wilderness of this life and will bring us safely into Your Promised Land. You are the One who directs our steps and leads us onward. Help us to not dig in our heels and refuse to move when You say it’s time to move on. Help us to not run ahead or run away from You. Help us to be ready to follow You in total surrendered trust, without fear, and with our eyes fixed only on You.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What mountain top fortress have you built that God may be calling you away from?
  2. How do you respond to God’s call to “turn and set out on your journey?”
  3. How would you describe your walk with God?
  4. Where is God leading you today?

Good Friday

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My the unimaginable love of Jesus demonstrated in His shed blood on the cross at Golgotha overwhelm your soul today.




Mary  Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” John 20:18

Mary threw open the door to greet the rising sun lighting her courtyard. The baked clay beneath her feet was still blessedly cool, though she knew that would quickly change. Stretching, she witnessed the glory of the morning and savored the delicious aroma of baking bread mingled with pungent spices, ripe fruit, and delicate honey. Mary lifted her voice to mingle her praise with the cooing dove’s worship, “I give thanks to You, Adonai, for the rest You provided through the night and for Your Spirit who breathes life into me this new day. Great is Your love toward me. Your faithfulness endures forever.”  She wanted to linger, but Passover would be here soon, and there was much to prepare.

This was the first Passover celebration since her Lord ascended into heaven. Her home would overflow with friends all week. Peter, James, and John were coming along with Dr. Luke. Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Joanna were already here. She could hear them laughing, and she rushed to join them knowing they would be sharing memories as they worked to clean the house in preparation for the special night. Never had Passover been more significant to her, never had she fully understood the meaning of the Passover Lamb and the cost of her deliverance.

She was known to the disciples and her friends as Mary Magdalene because she came from the fishing town of Magdala along the western bank of the Sea of Galilee. Magdala, meaning tower or castle, had not been her place of refuge, however. It had been her prison that no amount of wealth or influence could free her from. When Jesus found her, battered, bruised, and completely dominated by seven demons, she was as wild as a caged lion, snarling and clawing at anyone who tried to come close to her. The demons controlled her mind and her body, her ravings were wild and savage, her self-inflicted injuries oozed the poisons of demonic possession. Her body still bore those scars though the powerful word of Jesus drove the demons screeching and howling in agony as they left her body. She was grateful for the scars. She never wanted to forget His deliverance.

How could she, though? She remembered clearly looking up from the rough cobblestones along the wharf and seeing Jesus as He reached down his hand to help her up. His love and compassion, the first image her renewed eyes saw, seared her heart. She whispered aloud her first rational thought in years, “Messiah! Adonai! Lord!” From that moment on, Mary was desperate to be in His presence. She followed him, along with Joanna and the other women, serving Jesus and the disciples in any way she could. She became an attentive witness. Sheard Him teach, she experienced His miracles, she blossomed in His loving acceptance. With a heart awash in gratitude, nothing was more important to Mary than attending her Lord.

Putting down her cleaning rag, Mary gathered Jesus’s mother and Joanna to her side, and they rested on the warm stone steps, each woman lost in individual memories with the silken threads of Jesus’s love connecting their hearts. Each in her own way remembered the last Passover supper Jesus celebrated with his disciples.

Mary and the other women prepared the Passover lamb for their meal, and she remained hidden but within hearing as the men ate. Her heart broke as she watched Jesus wash His disciple’s feet. She understood, somehow, that He took the form of the lowest servant to demonstrate His love for them and to teach them to love others as He did. She watched Judas suddenly get up from the table and go out into the night, wondering how he could leave the Master when it was clear that His heart was heavy. Mary followed from a distance as Jesus went with the remaining disciples into the Garden of Gethsemane. She heard Him tell them to watch and pray, and she fell to her knees, cloaked in darkness, to do that herself. She was still there when the Roman guards entered the Garden. She saw Judas approach Jesus and kiss him in greeting just seconds before the guards seized Him. She saw Peter cut the ear off the guard closest to her hiding place, and she saw Jesus reach out, touch the side of the man’s head, and restore his ear. And she hid as the disciples ran away and the soldiers bound Jesus, taking Him to the Chief Priest.

Fear and horror paralyzed her for what seemed like hours, but love propelled her forward just moments behind Jesus. The love and gratitude that characterized her renewed life made her vigilant throughout that endless night as the priests, Pharisees, Pilot and even Herod interrogated her Lord. Her loving devotion bore witness to the mocking and beating and flogging that ripped His precious flesh from His body. Her grateful eyes refused to look away when the nails hammered into His hands and feet, pinning Him to the cross that rose between that of two thieves on the hill of Golgotha. Her body shuddered with grief as He cried out, “Tetelestai! IT IS FINISHED!” and blackness covered them, and the earth split open, and all heaven wept with her. She felt the demonic laughter of victory in her body’s remembered torture, and she crumbled to the ground in despair. She heard the guard’s confession, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” She knew that was true, she believed it, but she witnessed His death, and she did not understand, and she did not know what to do now.

She had followed Him for so long; she would not leave now. So, she helped them wrap His body and accompanied them as they laid Jesus in the tomb. She stood and watched the soldiers roll the heavy stone over the opening and seal it. Slowly, everyone drifted away in silent misery until only the guards at the tomb remained, and she curled up under a cypress tree as noiseless sobs wracked her body and she continued to keep watch. The Sabbath came and went; she remembered nothing except the overwhelming need to anoint His body for burial as soon as the Sabbath ended. She and Mary, the mother of James, Joanna, and Salome prepared those spices and hurried to the tomb at first light on the third day. Mary smiled now remembering, and looking at her friends, she knew they were also remembering that morning.

They worried about someone being there to roll the stone away, but when they arrived, a violent earthquake erupted beneath them. An angel, whose appearance was like lightning, dressed in a robe of pure white, came down from heaven and rolled the stone away from the tomb. Sitting on the rock, he said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him.’” The women ran then to Peter and John, panting in their haste and excitement, and told them. As Peter and John raced off to see for themselves, Mary rushed after them, not really comprehending what she had heard and seen.

Much later, after Peter and John went back to their homes, Mary remained outside the tomb weeping. All she knew was that someone had taken her Lord away, and she did not know where they put Him. Looking again into the tomb, she saw two angels sitting where Jesus’s body had been and told them why she was crying. Then she turned to leave and stumbled into someone she assumed was the gardener. He, too, asked her why she was crying and who she was looking for. When she replied, she heard the one word she would never forget, “Mary.” It was Jesus! It was her Lord! He was alive! Jesus, who witnessed her in her deepest dungeon of demonic possession, now revealed His glorious resurrection to her! And He called her by name with incomprehensible love. And she ran then, with all her might, shouting the refrain that now identified her, “I have seen the Lord! He is alive!” She was His witness!

Mary Magdalene was Mary the Witness now, the first one to tell this good news to others. They would celebrate Passover this week, together again, and it would be that good news that echoed in all their hearts. The Passover Lamb, whose shed blood delivered them from darkness into light, from death into life eternal, was ALIVE! Their Passover Lamb was their soon and coming King, and someday they would celebrate the feast with Him again in heaven. Mary was ready.

Seen and Known

“Therefore, I tell you her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke 7:47

I watched from a distance for days, not daring to draw close. I am a Gentile, an outcast, living a life of sin. My sinful life was not a secret, and until recently that had not bothered me. I had money and fine clothes, my home was comfortable with rich appointments, and I answered to no one. Proud of my independence, scorning the contemptuous glares and snide comments that followed me as I boldly meandered the marketplace, I was a woman seen but never known.

But it was all different now, and I hid within a cloak of shame straining to hear the words of Jesus. For months I heard talk about this rabbi from Galilee. There were people who said he was a sorcerer, others claimed he was the Messiah. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, drove out demons. He told stories, parables really, and confronted the self-righteous religious leaders. Though all I heard puzzled me, I did not spend time dwelling on it. Until that morning I saw him, or that morning he saw me. There in Capernaum’s marketplace, amid a cacophony of shouting vendors, Hebrew and Aramaic bickering, lambs bleating, and birds flapping, a silence descended only on me as I looked up from the fish carts and saw him. Jesus looked at me, and in that look of compassion I realized he not only saw me, but Jesus also saw all the hidden empty places in me, places I didn’t even know were there. He saw me and he knew me; shame’s weight buckled my knees and I fell on the rough cobblestones, crushed by the crowd. Staggering to my feet I ran then, drawing my cloak around my face, desperate to hide, to be invisible.

I cowered in my home the rest of that day, aware of the yawning chasm of emptiness threatening to swallow me. I wanted to be alone, but the loneliness mocked me with an incomprehensible desire to be near Jesus. And so, I skirted the fringes of the crowd around him, my face hidden in shadows. I was there when he raised to life the widow’s son in Nain. I heard him answer the disciples of John who asked, “Are you the Expected One?” He said, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those that have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” The more he spoke, the more I needed to hear.

Today Jesus spoke of forgiveness. He said he came to call the sinner to repentance. Though hidden in the crowd, I knew he spoke those words just for me. I was that sinner, and he was calling me to repent. Quietly, I whispered, “Lord, forgive me! My sins are so many. Forgive me Lord.” Once again, I was on my knees jostled by the people pressing close to him, shoved aside by a group of Pharisees. Then I heard him agree to dine with one of them, a Pharisee known as Simon, a Pharisee who knew well my sins.

I ran again, but this time I was not running from my sin. This time I would face it, acknowledge it, and beg for the forgiveness Jesus offered. For the first time I saw the rich trappings and independence of my sinful life as a dark dungeon that imprisoned me. I recognized my heart’s anguish disguised as scorn, and my shame bolstered by defiance. I wanted none of this anymore. I wanted to be free from the sin that chained me. I wanted Jesus. He was all I wanted.

I grabbed an expensive alabaster jar of perfume, my most treasured possession, and with my head uncovered in full view of everyone in the village, I rushed to Simon’s house. I could no longer remain outside or hidden in the crowds. I had to be near Jesus.

He was already reclining at the table preparing to eat when I pushed my way into Simon’s home. Falling at Jesus’s feet, my tears were a torrent washing the dust from them. I vaguely heard Simon’s reproach as I dried my tears from his feet with my hair that came unbound as I dashed through the streets. Abased and vulnerable, I poured my perfume on his precious feet, anointing him with kisses and all the love stored up in my broken soul. He touched my bowed head so gently then, rebuking Simon and saying to me, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

And oh, what peace floods my soul now as shame’s heavy chains crumble around me. I have left everything behind me tonight, and I will follow Jesus wherever he is going. I will not hide in the crowds anymore. Today I met the Lord. My prideful independence is now humbled dependence, my hardened shell of scorn now a broken well of praise, and overflowing love fills all the hidden empty places. I am a woman seen, deeply known and completely forgiven by the Messiah.

Reflection Questions:

  1. How will you respond to Jesus’ penetrating gaze of love and compassion? How will you respond to His offer of forgiveness?
  2. What is causing you to try to remain outside or hidden in the crowds?
  3. What treasure do you need to pour out at Jesus’ feet?

Jesus, thank You for seeing me when I wanted to hide, for knowing me and loving me while I was still dead in my sin. Thank You for Your forgiveness and for drawing me to You. You, Lord, are my treasure. I pour all that I am and all that I have at Your feet to use for Your glory. I love You, Lord!


“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” Luke 9:51 NIV

Andrew trailed the others today. Though that was not unusual for him, today was different somehow. He did not understand what they were doing or why Jesus was so determined to go to Jerusalem now when the threat against him from the chief priests and the Pharisees was well known. They had recently withdrawn to the desert village of Ephraim because it wasn’t safe for Jesus to move around publicly. He thought they would stay there until the threat had passed, but now today Jesus set his sights on Jerusalem, and no one could talk him out of it. Andrew’s mind was a raging torrent of reflections and questions, a turbulence he had to make sense of, though he doubted any of it would ever make sense. And so, he followed the others lost in his own thoughts.

By nature, Andrew was a follower, a quiet, introspective observer comfortable in the background. His younger brother, Peter, was the boisterous, outgoing, impetuous one, a natural leader who swallowed space with his presence. It wasn’t that he was weak; he and Peter learned fishing from their father, taking over the boats and nets when their father died. His strong muscular body was a testament to his arduous work. But being out on the water never excited him like it did Peter and Abba. He preferred quiet spaces where he could watch, learn, and interact personally with one or two people at a time. As a boy, he loved attending Bet Sefer, the school in their local synagogue. The first day when the rabbi recited from Psalm 119:103, “May the words of God be sweet to your taste, sweeter than honey to your mouth,” Andrew hungered for more. Six days a week he soaked up the writings of Moses and the Prophets, begging to continue advanced studies. But he was the firstborn son of a fisherman, and his father was adamant that a fisherman is what he would be, so he quietly and firmly tamped down his desire.

Then he met John, called the Baptizer. He stole moments at every opportunity to listen to John, even though he did not understand at the time all he was saying. “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” Then came the day when he could no longer ignore his desire for more of God. He had been with John at the Jordan River when Jesus came toward them. John cried out, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Unbidden, Andrew left John and followed Jesus. He would never forget what Jesus said to him that day, the question he asked that changed everything for Andrew, “What do you want?” He had no words for what he wanted; he only knew his heart burned within him. Saying the first thing that came to his mind, Andrew asked where Jesus was staying. With a smile that lit up his face, Jesus replied, “Come, and you will see.” He spent the rest of that day with Jesus, knowing that what he wanted was Jesus himself.

As darkness descended, he ran to find Peter. He did not notice Peter’s irritation at his absence that day. Shouting he proclaimed, “We have found the Messiah,” and immediately grabbed Peter to take him to Jesus. That was three years ago. Fishing forgotten, they both followed Jesus. Andrew soaked in every word he spoke, and he pondered them over and over in his quiet way. He brought others to Jesus as well. He could not help himself. He wanted everyone to know the Messiah was in their midst. When the crowds gathered and refused to leave even though they were hungry, the other disciples were explaining to Jesus why they needed to disperse. Andrew, however, saw a young boy with a few fish and loaf of bread. He had no doubt that this boy needed Jesus and that Jesus could use those fish and bread somehow. The miracle still brought tears to his eyes as he recalled everyone eating their fill with food left over from that small offering. So many miracles in the last three years. The roots of Andrew’s faith grew each time Jesus spoke or looked at him. The calmness and peace in his heart was unlike anything he had ever known.

Now, however, he was frightened. Jesus slept little, spending more time alone in prayer. He taught them in parables and spoke of signs of the end of the age, warning them to be on guard, to keep watch. Today he was insistent on being in Jerusalem for Passover, and he told them what awaited him there. “The Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” Andrew wanted to protect Jesus, to keep him hidden from those who were intent on taking his life. He begged Jesus, much as he had begged his father all those years ago, but the result was the same. His father refused his pleas, and Jesus would not change course. Tonight, they would rest in Bethany. Tomorrow they would enter Jerusalem.

Before his fear could consume him, Andrew quickly caught up with the others, matching his stride to that of his Lord. If Jesus was resolute about going to Jerusalem, Andrew would resolutely go with Him, and he would remain by Jesus’s side each step of the way. He did not have to understand to trust; he didn’t have to understand to believe. He knew. He knew Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, and with Jesus, Andrew could resolutely face anything. Jesus looked at Andrew then, and in his tender smile Andrew heard again, “Come, and you will see.”

Reflection Questions:

  1. What does the passage from Luke 9:51 mean to you personally? Take time to journal this as a prayer to God.
  2. How will you answer Jesus’s question, “What do you want?”
  3. Where is Jesus asking you to trust Him today beyond what you can understand?
  4. Where is Jesus biding you to come and see? How will you respond?

Jesus, I want to be like Andrew, resolute in following You wherever You lead even when I do not understand. I want to remain by Your side and trust you with unwavering faith. I want to be one who encourages others to come and see, to introduce others to You and to walk side-by-side with them as we walk with You daily. Thank You for loving me beyond what I can comprehend and for resolutely going to Jerusalem knowing what waited for You there. Make me mindful of Your sacrifice as Easter approaches.

I love You, Lord! Amen.


“We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides we saw the descendants of Anak there.” Numbers 13:27-28

“The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” Numbers 14:7-9

Giants in the Promised Land! The children of Israel wandered in the desert for forty years because of their sin and rebellion. Now they were on the cusp of going into the land God promised their ancestors. The Israelites experienced God’s deliverance, protection, and provision from the parting of the Red Sea to manna in the wilderness and water pouring from rocks. They witnessed the destruction of their enemies; their sandals and clothing never wore out; their feet never swelled in forty years. They heard God thunder from the mountain top; they followed Him as a cloud by day and a fire by night. God told them He was giving them this land. He told them to send spies into the land, one from each tribe, to report on the land and its inhabitants. Twelve scouts, including Caleb and Joshua, brought back evidence of the abundant fruitfulness of this land as well as accurate reports of the people and cities.

All twelve saw the richness of the land and the goodness promised to them, and they all saw the strength of the people, the fortifications of their cities, and the giants living there. They returned with honest reports but differing recommendations. Ten scouts succumbed to terror and doubt. They saw only the difficulties, only the giants, and only their own limitations. They quickly forgot everything they experienced and knew about God in the panic of that reality. Joshua and Caleb also saw the difficulties, but they never lost sight of the promise and the Promise-Keeper. They knew their God; they trusted His Word and they depended on His power. They knew they had nothing to fear because God was in control. The other spies stirred up the people into a frenzy of fear. Joshua and Caleb reminded them that they were God’s treasured possession, and God would fight for them.

Sadly, I find myself reacting to difficulty and unwelcome news exactly like the ten spies and children of Israel did. I see the giants in my land and react with dismay. Wars and rumors of war; earthquakes, floods, tornados, and tsunamis; political machinations and untrustworthy news dissemination; broken and hurting families, violence in homes and violence in the streets; inflated prices at the gas pump and in the grocery store; plagues and pandemics, cancer, and heart failure; toddler tantrums, willful teenagers, aging parents; demanding jobs, no job; loneliness, depression, anger; overeating, over-drinking, food disorders. There are more giants in this land than I can name! And when they loom on the horizon or charge down the hills to thunder on my doorstep, it is easy to fall into despair and tremble in fear. I quickly forget God’s faithful guidance and protection. I lose sight of His power and might, and I crumble in an anxious heap of wilderness dust.

This is not where God wants me, and it is not how He wants me to respond. I know that, but how do I practically move from fear to faith, from gloom to grit, from trembling to trusting, from victim to victor? How can I be more like Caleb and Joshua in the face of my giants? Here are three things I have learned about giants from Joshua and Caleb:

  1. Giants are real, unavoidable and come in all sizes and shapes. The giants in our lives, the troubles, heartaches, and persecutions, illness, irritations, and pressures are all part of living in a fallen world. Pretending they do not exist does not make them go away. 1Peter 5:8 admonishes us,  “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” We need to be calm and circumspect, cautious, and vigilant. We need to be careful about what we allow to influence us and our families and avoid those things that can easily entangle us. For example, one of the smaller but no less dangerous giants in my life is sugar. I have a sweet tooth. Having cookies and desserts in my home is an entanglement for me, and I need to simply not go down that aisle in the grocery store!
  2. Giants are powerless. God sees the giants in our lives, in our homes, in our cities and in this world. He is not surprised by them or by our reaction to them, but He calls us to trust Him to deal with them. Ten spies paralyzed by fear, saw only the size and magnitude of the giants, and their fear paralyzed a nation. Joshua and Caleb sought the LORD and knew it was His power and might who would fight for them. The giants were powerless against their Almighty God. Their faith encouraged the Israelites and propelled them forward to victory. We need to seek God and walk by faith, not by sight, trusting Him with our plaguing giants. “Those who know Your name trust in You, for You, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek You.” Psalm 9:10
  3. Giants are unprotected. The giants in the land were nothing more than prey for the children of Israel, “bread” for their consumption. They had no protection against the armies of God. Our giants are likewise unprotected and cannot stand against God. As we put on the full armor of God each day (Ephesians 6:11), we can stand firm in the face of our giants. God is sovereign and totally in control of every giant we face. Jesus promises, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” John 16:33. Eternal victory is our heritage as believers in Jesus Christ.

Father, thank You for the assurance that You will bring us safely through this world inhabited by giants into the Promised Land of eternity with You. Thank You for the truth that someday even the fiercest giant will bow his knee and confess that You are Lord. Help us to abide in You, Jesus; to know Your Word, the very truth that sets us free from giants; and to walk by faith with Your full armor securely in place. Let us be like Caleb and Joshua, and trust fully in Your power and might.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What giants have intimidated you or paralyzed you, keeping you from claiming the blessings God has for you?
  2. How is God calling you to be like Joshua and Caleb, standing firm in faith even when others are against you?
  3. What influences are you listening to and how do those influences impact your walk of faith?