May 11 – Defining Moments – Abraham

Read Genesis 12:1-20

Here is a man, who is well in his years and probably established in his hometown with his wife and an occupation. Seemingly, out of nowhere, He is asked by the Lord to move somewhere that the Lord is going to wait to tell him where.

“The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”

Here is Abram, a follower of God Almighty who has this trust relationship and he is asked to leave all he knows behind him, all he has claimed to be and is.

How would you respond?

Do you think you would freak out? Go? Stay calm? Ask a ton of questions?

Being completely transparent, I would freak out and ask a ton of questions. That’s my MO. I am a high communicator and a Type A planner. So, my flesh does not do well with “the unknown”.

Does anyone do well with the unknown?

There is a defining moment in this story. It’s not when the Lord commands Abram to get up and go and explains the promises to Abram and his family. The defining moment is in verse 4;

“So, Abram went, as the Lord had told him…”

I remember so many times in my walk with the Lord where He asked me to trust Him without seeing the “where” or the “why” and the “how”.

I am living in that moment now.

As I am writing this, I am sitting in the hospital with Jake, my husband. Some medical things have taken place that need all the attention, monitoring and answers. Just this morning, a close friend asked me how I was doing. My reply was that I feel like my faith is being tested and that I am in a constant state of striving for surrender and trusting that the Lord sees it all.

James 1 continues to replay in my heart and mind:

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.”

“Consider it all joy” … joy, the testing of our faith. Do you know why God would want me to consider this joy? Well, my definition of joy is “God not only knows about our problems but cares about them”. So, in this, speaking of considering this testing to be joyous is knowing that I can trust in the God who sees my unknown.

He sees it, allows it and has much bigger plans for it than I could ever imagine.

Abram’s defining moment was trusting in the Lord to know what was to come and walk in a trust exchange. This wouldn’t be the first time the Lord tests Abram’s faith, it wouldn’t be the last time Abraham had to walk in complete surrender, knowing that the Lord sees what is to come and just lean on Him.

Where would you say your faith is in these defining moments? Do you cling to the Lord? Do you question the happenings?

Do you surrender, joyously?

Kelly Lawson

May 10 – Defining Moments – Enoch & Noah

Read Genesis 5:1-32

“LeBron, Tebow, Adel, Brady”.

Just say the name and everyone knows who you are talking about. Their talents have made them household names. That is great for the here and now, but what about eternity?

In the Bible, there are 2 names of men whose fame isn’t because of anything they could do but who they listened to.

Enoch was a man in the direct ancestral line from Adam to Jesus.   His name is hidden in a long list of “begats.”  So and so begat so and so; he lived “x” number of years AND THEN HE DIED! Over and over the same thing is said of generation after generation of men.    

Then there is Enoch.  

“Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

What?  He didn’t die?  God took him away?   In Hebrews 11:5-6 we read:

“By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: He could not be found, because God had taken him away.”

So, out of all of the people on Earth at the time, Enoch was chosen by God to not die but to be taken away. 

What did he do?  Did he have some hidden talent?

No! He walked faithfully with God.  He spent quality time with God…. he heard God’s still small voice and did what God wanted him to do.

Enoch’s great grandson, Noah, was a friend of God’s also. Even though Enoch wasn’t around when Noah was born, surely Noah had been told about his great-grandfather and how he had “walked with God”.

What a legacy Noah was given!  We can only guess how much harassment Noah faced as he set about building a huge boat for years! But Noah’s mind wasn’t focused on what was going on around him, he was focused on God and what HE commanded Noah to do. 

You may not ever be able to shoot 3-pointers in a basketball game or stand center stage before an adoring crowd, but you can be like Enoch and Noah by walking and talking WITH God, not ignoring and talking AT God.

The refrain of an old hymn goes like this:

He walks with me, and He talks with me,

And He tells me I am His own,

And the joy we share as we tarry there,

None other has ever known.

Do you walk with God?  Are your thoughts His thoughts?

Are the words that come out of your mouth His words?

Are your actions for His glory instead of yours?

What example are you setting for your children and grandchildren?  Is God only on your mind and lips when you are in trouble or at church?  Do you walk with Him daily, delighting in His company and He in yours?

There is no time like the present to be in His presence. 

Pat Arnold

May 9 – Defining Moments – Cain & Abel

Read Genesis 4:1-26

When Cain killed Abel in Genesis 4, the story was captured for all of history to see the depressed spirit of Cain’s behavior as he responded in comparison to his brother starting with their offerings to God.  The comparison struggle is real for many people, and I once heard Pastor Nick say (when talking about social media), that “comparison is the thief of joy”.  The human element of the tension felt from comparison can lead to dark places and, unfortunately for Cain, one could say that his defining moment was when he killed his brother.  However, I think it is something different that can be described as “prominence vs. significance” (something I once heard a guy named Doug say).

He described it like this: Prominence does not equal significance, but, for many people, they think it does.  Discovering what is significant for God is often confused by our desire to do something for Him that is prominent.  This can be especially damaging, if we fall for this trap, when we consider our relationship with God.

When you consider Genesis 4, Cain’s offering to God is indeed significant. For starters, Cain gave an offering to God (4:3), and it can be inferred that what he brought was part of the “first” from his crop (4:4).  That fact alone bears much significance in that, for followers of God, to give is to sacrifice, and to give from the “first fruits” (Prov 3:9) is honoring to God.  However, as the Bible describes, God had “no regard” (4:4 NASV) for Cain’s offering in comparison to the kind of offering that Abel brought forth. Was Abel’s offering more pleasing to God due to the cost of meat instead of the cost of vegetables? One could think, “Hey, lamb chops are more expensive than carrots so I can see why God is unimpressed by Cain’s offering.”  We see what is prominent, the monetary value. 

However, the significance is a matter of the heart.

To better understand this idea, don’t miss the “and” in Gen 4:5:

“Abel, on his part, also brought the firstlings of his flock and their fat portions”.

Abel’s offering was an offering of significance that was pleasing to God as it reflected the heart (indicated by bringing the extra fat as an offering too). It reminds me of when Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees (Mat 9:13) and tells them, “Go and learn the meaning of this, ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice’ (NIV).

A defining moment for me personally, was when I discovered God’s desire for my significance to be deeply connected as the result of His work in my heart.  It was only then, when I began to realize that what I bring to Him (whether offering, worship, or work) is not valued by the prominence measured by people, but by significance defined by Him.

What about you? What does your struggle with comparison look like? In what way do you need to zero into the work God is doing in your life and allow that to be enough?

What do you need to release to Him in this moment?

Joe Rubino 

May 8 – The God Who Comes Through – He Dwells Among Us

Read Exodus 40:1-38

The God who comes through is also One who shows up!

His glorious presence was something that Moses yearned for at a crossroads in the Exodus experience. He pleaded with God, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here” (Ex. 33:15). It could be argued that there is nowhere that any of us can go where God is not present. After all, God is always and everywhere present in this world (Ps. 139:1-6). We refer to this as His “omnipresence.” But Moses was calling for that and more. He yearned for God’s revealed and directive presence that assured him he was not on his own.

The tabernacle served as an expression of that. It was a sort of portable, pop-up tent in which God manifested His glory and from which a cloud would rise to lead God’s people. Surrounding the tabernacle was an outer courtyard. Inside, the tabernacle was comprised of two sections; each with its own objects and symbolism. There was the Holy Place. And then, further inside was the Most Holy Place, into which only the high priest could enter once a year to offer sacrifices for himself and for the people (Heb. 9:7). It was there that God’s presence resided and His glory was revealed. It was also from the temple that the cloud would rise to lead the people onward.

The tabernacle is an important part of both the Old and New Testament.

  1. It was a tangible, earthly depiction of heavenly realities fulfilled with Jesus as our sacrifice and High Priest (Heb. 9:23-28).
  2. Its blueprint helped in the future design of the more permanent temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 6-9).
  3. The temple curtain was torn without human help at the time of the crucifixion (Matt. 27:51) indicating humanity’s access to God through the sacrificial, atoning death of Jesus.

But for believers in Jesus, there is one more important symbolism of the temple. It is the fact that the God Who comes through now lives in you! You have become the temple of the living God as the Holy Spirit resides in you (1 Cor. 6:19, 20).

As His temple, you and I should choose to glorify God with our bodies (1 Cor. 6:20). This includes issues of addiction to sexual expression. In what ways do you glorify Him? In what ways do you need to make changes?

Keep in mind…the God who comes through not only shows up. He chooses to live in His children.

Steve Kern

May 7: The God Who Comes Through – He reveals His glory and transforms His people

Read Exodus 34:29-35 (cf 2 Cor 3:12-18)

Going back to school in the midst of a pandemic is tough.  I had been volunteering and subbing in a school since my retirement 8 years ago, so I knew many of the students who attended there.  We had talked, laughed, hugged and learned together throughout the years.  However, when I was required to wear a mask, my greetings were met with lots of quizzical looks as they searched their memories to recognize me, using only my eyes for clues. We could talk thorough the masks, but it wasn’t until I slipped the mask down and said, “It’s me!”  that the lights of recognition and smiles returned to their faces.

For so many years, Moses had talked to God.  He had seen His miraculous power.  He had followed God’s direction and God had heard his pleas.  But it was when God removed the mask and revealed His full glory that Moses was so filled with His glory that his face actually glowed!  It glowed so much that the other people were afraid.  Moses put a veil over his face until he was once again in the presence of God in the tabernacle.

Being in the presence of God was deemed to be way too much for any normal person and even the priests needed to stay behind a veil that separated the holy of holies within the tabernacle.

But that veil, that separated the normal people from God, was torn in two when Jesus died on the cross, giving you and me full access to God Himself. We are God’s children and, as such, we can boldly approach Him with our prayers, requests and thanksgiving. He is never too busy to chat with us. Being able to talk directly to God gives us comfort and strength. Through His guidance, anything is possible.

Our great nation was formed through His guidance.  The Pilgrims left the comfort of their homeland to sail across the ocean to an unknown land for the right to worship Him. 

Through His guidance, a small fledgling group of states dared to challenge the powerful English military to build a country whose motto is “In God We Trust.” Through His guidance that same country has been the beacon of life and liberty to the rest of the world!

When God reveals Himself, He can empower the meek. He can bring hope to the injured.  He can comfort the lonely and frightened. He can bring healing to the sick. We just need to be bold enough to ask.

Do you recognize God when He speaks to you? Or are you still seeing Him through a mask of doubt?  Maybe you need to pull down your mask and say,” Hey, God!  It’s me! Can we talk?”

Trust me – you will never be the same!

Pat Arnold

May 6: The God Who Comes Through – He keeps His covenant

Read Exodus 32:1-35

In a conversation I had last week, a friend said something that got me thinking. She said, “Sometimes I try so hard to manipulate my circumstances so that, in the end, things turn out the way I think is best.” I don’t know about you, but I am guilty of living like this. So often, we carelessly throw God’s plans and promises for our lives out the window. We think we know what is best for ourselves and will do just about anything to try and make sure things end up that way. This issue is not unique to us today. In fact, there’s a story recorded in Exodus 32:1-35 where we see God’s people manipulate their circumstances and even break their covenant with God, in order to get what they want.

Moses was leading the Israelites at the time this story took place. The Israelites were settled near Mt. Sinai and there was a period of 40 days where God called Moses up onto the mountain to meet with Him. While Moses was up on the mountain meeting with God, the Israelites grew impatient and questioned where their leader was. They wanted to keep moving on to the land God had promised them and Moses was taking too long! So, they asked Moses’s brother, Aaron, to make them gods who would go before them and lead them. Aaron listened to the people and created a god for them, an idol made out of gold. In creating this idol, the people broke their covenant with God by disobeying His commandment given to them in Exodus 20:4. They manipulated their circumstances by taking the control that belonged to God.

In Exodus 32:10, God responds to what His people have done. He said to Moses, “Leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” Because God is just, righteous, and holy, disobedience angers Him. In His power, He could have wiped the Israelites out right away. But, there is a beautiful truth about God that is put on display in this story. While the Israelites sought their own favor, Moses sought the favor of God and, in faith, asked Him to turn from His anger. Verse 14 says, “Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.” Even though God’s people deliberately broke their covenant with Him, He does not break His covenant with them.

The same God keeps His promises to us today. His promises for us can be found in His Word. Even though we continually try and take control from Him, He will never cut off His promises to us. We don’t deserve the kind of faithfulness He shows us, but that is why we can praise Him for who He is.

Sidney Rupp

May 5: The God Who Comes Through – He gave His law so that we might know our sin

Read Exodus 20:1-19

The God of heaven is indeed the God who comes through!

By this point in the book of Exodus, He has protected His people, provided a leader to bring them out of bondage, and miraculously guided them by cloud and fire…even through a sea! If you have followed along in the reading, you have also identified the fact that He can come through in your life.

The setting for today’s story is a mountaintop. With the people of Israel gathered in the valley below, the peak was covered in a cloud as thunder bellowed and lightning flashed. As if that wasn’t enough, the ground quaked as God captured the nation’s attention in holy fear. The God who comes through wanted to clearly communicate His expectations for His people…the 10 Commandments.

What were God’s intentions in giving these famous words? Of course, they communicate His desires for mankind, giving us instruction for life, but here are some of His broader intentions:

  1. These commandments remind us of the simplicity of the Christian life. In total, the Old Testament Law consisted of 613 commandments. Here we have 10 that serve as a summary of God’s two-dimensional plan for living. You can mentally divide these 10 into “two tablets.” The first four commandments remind us how to love God and God alone. The last six commandments point out how to love our neighbor as we relate to them.
  2. These commandments point out the impossibility of measuring up. That’s right, it is through the law that we gain an awareness of sin. By defining what the bullseye is, we understand how we have missed the mark. The God who comes through intentionally outlined His righteousness demands for us (Rom. 3:20-23).
  3. The commandments lead us to the necessity for faith in Christ. We can be so grateful that God does not leave us in a position of sin, guilt, and judgment. No, the God who comes through uses the Law to point us to our need for the grace of God, extended to us in the person of Jesus (Gal. 3:23-25). That was part of His purpose in giving us the Commandments.

The God who comes through does more than define the target. He makes every provision for all who cannot hit it!

Steve Kern

May 4: The God Who Comes Through – He satisfies our hunger

Read Exodus 16:1-35

“It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat.” (v.15b)

It had been two months and fifteen days since the Israelites had walked through the middle of the Red Sea. These people had walked straight down God’s miracle mile into liberated life apart from the Egyptians. But new life started in a desert. They’d spent their first two-and-a-half months of freedom camping out, walking from desert to desert. 

The Israelites had seen God do amazing things for them. But now they were hungry. And hunger has a way of bringing out the worst in people. It has a way of revealing true character, showing what a person is really made of. And what God’s people, the Israelites, were made of was less than stellar. They blamed Moses and Aaron for letting them starve, as if they were the providers. They forgot who’d dried up the dirt for their walk down Red Sea Lane. They lost track of who had turned the bitter water they found into the drinkable water only He could offer. Yes, hunger has a way of showing off the true state of someone’s soul and what they really think.

I wonder if that’s why God let them get so hungry before He served up the manna and quail.

I wonder if that’s why sometimes God lets us walk wilderness miles before raining down the only kind of bread that’ll satisfy our hunger. Maybe it’s the only way we’ll see who actually provides what we need for real life. Does God sometimes lead us into brokenness so we can see how much we lack, how incredibly unable we are to provide for ourselves any true kind of soul-sustenance?

These people had just walked to freedom by the leading of a God whose words made ocean water step aside, dry up, then wash the bad guys away. Only the one true God could do that. So when the manna bread came, they couldn’t deny whose hand it was that made it. Always exactly as much as they needed. Never more, never less. 

In the same way, only God can provide exactly what we need. Even when we’re walking from desert to desert. Even when we feel like we’re lost, without purpose. Even when we’re so hungry for something to satisfy that we forget who He is, God will always provide what He knows we need. And it will always be enough.

 Bria Wasson

May 2: The God Who Comes Through – He turns seas into highways

Read Exodus 14:1-31

Can’t go over it! Can’t go under it! Can’t go around it! I guess we’ll have to go through it!

This is a fun chant that I used with my kindergarteners but it might easily describe what was going through Moses’ mind when he and the thousands of Israelites were trapped between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army! God said, “Go through it!” Moses, being the spiritual man he was, did as God commanded, raised his rod and the waves parted and he led his charges through the dry sea bed safely to the other side. 

One of my very first memories of going to the movie theater with my grandmother was to see the movie, The 10 Commandments. I can still see the waves rolling back to both sides as Charlton Heston raised his rod with the wind blowing through his hair and beard! The impossible became possible that day! Our God is a god of possibilities! He will never leave nor forsake us, if we will only listen to His voice for guidance. He will part the hazards of your life and guide you through. He won’t always remove what is in your way but walk beside you as you go THROUGH it, coming out on the other side stronger than before.

David, in the 23rd Psalm, says, “. . . even thought I walk THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.”  Not just into but THROUGH!

So, when you face heartaches, disease, cancer, disabilities, or any hardship, know that God is with you.   He has your hand and He won’t let go!

The lyrics of this old song say:

“God will make a way,

Where there seems to be no way.

He works in ways we cannot see.

He will make a way for me.

He will be my guide.

Hold me closely to His side.

With love and strength for each new day,

He will make a way. He will make a way!

He turns seas of trouble into highways of hope. And those highways lead you directly to Him if you will let them.”

Pat Arnold

May 1 – The God Who Comes Through: He leads by clouds and by fire

Read Exodus 13:17-22

What a sight it must have been . . . during the day a pillar of cloud and at night a pillar of fire that was so large it gave light to the entire group of Israelites. Keep in mind that this group could easily have been 2 million people when you count all the men, women and children. That would take a very big cloud and fire.

Also, it wasn’t just that God sent the cloud and fire but He was actually in the pillar leading His people.

Not only did He lead them but He led them in the way that was best for them. As they left Egypt, they were ready for battle but God took them on a longer path, around an enemy, because he knew it could be too hard for them if they faced battle right away.

 So what did the people have to do to be guided?

They just needed to keep their focus on the pillar.

 Let’s look at today. Who is guiding your life? Is it God or yourself?

Take me as an example and we will compare me leading my life vs God’s leading.

When we look at me, I am a limited human being who can only see a very small part of the past and even the present and certainly not the future. My power to affect significant change is very limited at best.

God on the other hand, knows absolutely everything past, present and future. He is sovereign which means He is in control of every little detail of all of our lives so brining about change is nothing for Him.

Also, He loves us so much, with an unconditional love, that He sent His son Jesus to die for us.

 So it’s completely clear to me that our Heavenly Father is infinitely better equipped to lead my life than I am. I can think of many times in my life that I went my way instead of God’s and it didn’t work out well at all!

So since I’ve never seen a huge pillar of cloud/fire, how does God lead us today?

I believe there are many ways and I think we should start with His word (bible). It’s like the user guide for human beings.

Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path.

Psalm 119:105

 There is basic guidance for anything we will face.

 He also uses the Holy Spirit. When someone chooses to accept the free gift of forgiveness, offered through Jesus Christ, that person also has the Holy Spirit come to live inside of them. How great is that, God actually living in us. That’s even better than having God’s presence in a pillar!

 I believe God can use people to help guide us. He can even use dreams and visions.

 No matter how we get the guidance, we want to make sure it’s really from God and the best way I know to do that is to test it against His word. God would never lead us in a way that is contrary to the bible.

So how is God leading you?

 It’s so critical that we spend time with God and a big part of that time is listening. After we have listened and are convinced the guidance is from God, we need to trust and follow (obey) even when we don’t think He is leading us in “best” or easiest way.

 So please, get rid of the distractions, listen to God and act on the guidance.

Focus on our Heavenly Father the way the Israelites focused on the pillar.

 You won’t regret it!

Mike Molter