April 29 – The God Who Comes Through – He designed that the sacrifice of a lamb would lead to the salvation of people

Read Exodus 12:1-28, John 1:29 and 1 Corinthians 5:7

In our world, appearances are everything. Vanessa Van Edwards says that, within seconds of meeting someone, we have already made an initial judgment on them. Our impressions of people, either accurate or not, stick with us for as long as we know someone.

I will distinctly remember being told in high school that I would be guarding a 6’10” out of town basketball phenom who had a full ride Division 1 scholarship. I remember him running out of the tunnel with his team and immediately pondering why I got into playing basketball in the first place. The game was about to start and, as I stood behind him, I was looking straight at the number on his back. Before the game even started, my impressions of this guy were overwhelming. In case you’re wondering, that game didn’t go so well for me.

When I was born on May 26th of 1992, I was 11 pounds and over 20 inches long. When the delivery doctor brought me to mom, his first words and the first words ever said about me were supposedly, “Oh, wow.”

When my wife, Kelly met me, I was 19 years old and straight out of high school. Let’s just say my maturity level was that of a 19-year-old and, to this day, I still ask Kelly what her first impression of me was and she insists it wasn’t all that bad. She was supposedly able to look past my immaturity because we were married 5 years later.

The imagery that God uses throughout the Bible is something which always amazes me. He constantly uses imagery that portrays Himself, not as a warrior king, but a humble servant. For example, in Matthew 21, when Jesus enters Jerusalem, He chooses to ride on the back of a donkey, a sign of peace and humility, rather than a horse which would imply a warrior or king.

Therefore, it doesn’t surprise me that God would deliver His people out of Egypt via a lamb, again, not the most triumphant of animals. God tells Moses to have the nation of Israel spread the blood of the lamb on their doorpost so the angel of death that was coming that night, would pass over them and thus deliver them from death. This is incredible foreshadowing on how we would be saved from our sin by a result of the blood of Jesus, or Lamb of God, as He was commonly referred to.

Blood was so important to God in the Old Testament because it was the lifeblood of the creature. It is only fitting that, only through the blood of Jesus, we can be forgiven of our sins and experience eternal life.

Understanding the symbolism behind God and His work through Jesus paints a much different picture. A picture that shows us His plan for the deliverance of the human race thousands of years before the cross.

Jake Lawson

April 28 – The God Who Comes Through – He assures us in times of discouragement

Read Exodus 5:22-6:13

We take the hand of a toddler when crossing a street. We offer an arm to the elderly when they need a little stability. We lend a hand to a needy friend. We throw up our hands when we’ve lost all control and we take matters into our own hands when we’ve got to get it back.

If our present world was in your hands, what would it look like? Whose hands is it in anyway?

The Israelites wondered the same thing. Moses told them God was going to grant them freedom but they were working harder and more enslaved than ever. They told Moses… “May the Lord look on you and judge you! You have made us obnoxious to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” (5:21)

They complained to Moses so he complained to God. “Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” (5:23)

Moses said ‘yes’ to God and all hell broke loose. His people were mad at him. Pharaoh was annoyed by him. Moses was probably mad at himself…why did I ever let God talk me into this? There’s something deep inside my soul wanting to believe that, if I say ‘yes’ to God, all will be well. And it will be…

In the life to come.

Jesus said,” I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” So what do we do with the trouble? How do we stay encouraged? (John 16:33)

God met Moses in his discouragement. He will meet us there too. He wants to take us from what we see, experience and feel, and remind us who He is. I love how He responds to Moses and tells him all the things He will do by His mighty hand. “Then you will know I am the Lord your God!” (vs 7) Without difficulty, we’ll never know the power of His mighty hand. Without our weakness, we’ll never acknowledge His strength. We’ll take the credit every time. We’ll think we’ve got everything all wrapped up in our own ‘capable’ hands.

The Bible has so much to say about the power of His hands. I wish I had room to tell you all that I found but here are some of my favorite passages.

The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in His hands. (John 3:35)

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:27-29)

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”

1 Peter 5:6

Keep following His voice, my friends. It’s time to loosen your grip and rest assured that you are held. No matter how crazy this world gets, He’s got it and you!

Shelly Eberly

April 27 – The God Who Comes Through – He provides (imperfect) leaders to guide us

Read Exodus 3:9-22 and 4:27-31

“Who am I that I should go?” (Ex 3:11).  As Moses appeared before the LORD at the burning bush while shepherding sheep, he received what felt like an impossible task.  “Go, I am sending you” (Ex 3:9) the LORD declared to Moses.  Have you ever felt ill equipped or unworthy of serving the LORD?  Have you ever wondered how you can be used by God?  Perhaps you feel that you have too much sin in your past.  Or maybe you feel you are not educated enough.  Or maybe you don’t have enough time in your schedule to serve.  Maybe you are fearful that you will not know what to say or what to do.

This story of the LORD calling Moses really hits home for me.  I can recall being in my early 20’s and coaching baseball at a local high school.  I loved being around the game and coaching.  I loved the kids who would want extra batting practice, work on pitching mechanics or fielding after practice.  But one thing really shocked me while I was coaching.  I would have kids come up to me and want to talk to me about their personal lives.  Things like their parents’ divorce, drug and alcohol use, sex with their girlfriends.  WHAT!!!  I didn’t sign up for this!!!  I just want to coach ball!  Having played football, basketball and baseball myself, I could never have imagined talking to my coaches about any of those things.  But, of course, I was there to listen and give advice when I could.

A few years later, now married with a young child, starting a career and taking care of our first home, we were a family who attended church regularly yet did not serve.  We would sneak in and sneak out each Sunday.  Then it happened.  Our church had the new pastor of the youth group speak at the service to recruit volunteers to help lead students.  I totally ignored it for weeks but then, they asked again. This time I got “the nudge”.  All guys know the elbow that your wife gives you to get your attention. 

I remember going home and discussing the possibility of serving with Carol.  “I am not worthy to serve, I have too much dirt in my past.”  “I don’t know what to say, what to do.”  “I don’t have time.”  One thing that stuck out to me was those baseball players I coached.  I couldn’t tell you there ERA or batting average, but I knew their struggles.  I was just some dude who happened to be there and help them through those difficult times in life.  And I realized a couple of things: #1 – the Lord had already prepared me.  I had been doing “youth ministry” and had no idea.  #2 – I was NOT worthy, I was NOT ready and would NOT know the things to say. 

Do you think Moses was ready to lead the Israelites out of Egypt?  He had even killed someone.  He was not a well-spoken man.  Or how about King David, “a man after God’s own heart”?  He was a shepherd (not a priest), he had an affair and had his mistress’ husband killed.  Or how about the disciples of Jesus?  They were not Bible scholars but fisherman, and tax collectors – just normal average men. 

All of us are imperfect.  None of us are worthy to serve; however, the LORD has blessed each one of us with a calling and blessing to serve Him and be a part of what He is doing.  I invite you to take some time and think for a moment about this:  Where do you feel God is calling you to serve?  What is your next step that you need to take to make it happen?

Nate Mills

April 26 – The God Who Comes Through – He sees our need and hears our cry

Read Exodus 3:1-8

“…I have heard them crying out… and I am concerned about their suffering.”

There is a time in everyone’s walk with Jesus that something happens…something happens where more questions arise than answers and doubt kicks in. Here is Moses, removed from his people knowing the suffering they are facing and the Lord meets him with a promise and a plan. Moses has more questions than answers but He listens, He follows, He doubts yet obeys. In his obedience he was displaying the faith that God was asking him to have so He could meet the needs of His people. 

Whether it be heartbreak, valleys to walk through, mountains we face, life altering decisions, illness or loss, there are moments that come up in our lives that we forget the Truth that God not only knows about our problems but He cares about them.

Just as God told Moses in that field, He tells us that our suffering matters. He will use this chapter of suffering for His Glory. His goodness pronounced and His promises fulfilled because He knows, He hears and He cares.

A couple of years ago, Jake and I experienced a loss that we never thought we would know. Even after all this time, it’s still a fresh wound and yet the Lord’s presence and power is so strong within our midst, our family, and our marriage because we are holding steadfast to the Truth that He hears our cries, He knows our heartache and sadness, He cares deeply about it and He will be here through it all.

In the beginning of any suffering, it is incredibly easy to walk into the lies that God does not care, that we have control over what has happened. However, just as God knew the needs for His people on this journey to the promise land, He knew ours and it was Jesus himself.
 
The Lord showed up for His people in Exodus, He shows up for us, and He will always show up for you.

He knows our heartache, He knows yours and even though He never promised that we would NOT walk through the valley, He promises to be holding us through it and walking alongside us.

He has this. He has You.
Through it all, He is welcoming you to come forward in His presence.

What is something that you may be holding onto because in your mind you thing He doesn’t care?
I pray that you see the Truth that He does. He wants it. He wants to carry the load, the burden and walk with you. He will show up for you; You just have to bring it to Him.

Kelly Lawson

April 25 – The God Who Comes Through – He sends compassionate people

Read Exodus 1:1-22

God comes through!

That fact resonates throughout the Scriptures. He provided for your greatest need in the person of Jesus. If you have given yourself to Christ, He will gather you into His presence for eternity.

But while you may embrace that idea of “God coming through” on the macro level of life, what about the micro moments that you are living in now? Even there, we are assured that the God of heaven “works all things together for good” (Rom. 8:28). Without exception, He orchestrates it all. And the outcome is good…not necessarily the outcome we would have chosen, but somehow, in the grand scheme of things, still good.

The book of Exodus illustrates that well. Over the next few days, you are offered a front row seat, from which you will observe God coming through in some of the most impossible of situations. That reality begins to surface already in the first chapter.

Four hundred years earlier, God came through by providing food in the midst of famine. The people of God migrated from their hunger in the Promised Land to Egypt where they were welcomed, respected, and fed. But those days were gone. The current ruler of Egypt did not care to know about the history of the Israelites’ journey. He saw them only as a multiplying threat.

Consequently, He forced them to labor as slaves. Still, they multiplied. No problem. He knew how to stunt their growth. He would have the Hebrew midwives kill the Hebrew baby boys at birth. Just imagine…for those, who experienced the oppression of forced labor and for those who knew of the decree to have the babies killed, it must have seemed as if God had deserted them.

But God came through.

The Hebrew midwives had a greater fear of God than they did of Egypt’s king. At the risk of their own lives, they protected the lives of others. They let the little boys live. These two women, Shiphrah and Puah, were God’s provision for the welfare of the babies.

Sometimes, God comes through by sending others to our rescue. A stranger stops by to help. A friend offers words of hope. A fellow believer provides a gift of money. A relative is faithful to pray. Who are the people who have blessed you when life seemed most challenging?

As you recognize this, don’t miss out on the fact that God may also send you as His means of rescue.

Steve Kern

November 29 – 10 Commandments – Don’t Covet

Read Exodus 20:17

“Covet” is a strange word that is not used very much these days but is practiced all the time.  

According to the dictionary, “covet” is a verb that means “to yearn to possess or have something.”  God first lists your neighbor’s house and wife but goes on to include anything that belongs to your neighbor.  That can be possessions, positions in life, perceived happiness, talent, fame, or fortune. It goes beyond just the old practice of “keeping up with the Joneses.” It is a yearning, a feeling of intense longing for something.  

When feelings get intense, one usually takes action to get whatever it is they want.  Does that lead to adultery, robbery,  or despair? Despair leads to heartache and pain. The underlying cause is that one is not happy with their OWN life, talents, possessions, or status in life.

Hollywood is a multi-billion dollar business to make you covet the lives of their stars. Magazine covers, commercials, movies, tv and award shows are there to promote the “rich and famous.”  They are filled with pictures of grand mansions, beautiful clothes, thin bodies, luxury cars,  and diamond jewelry just to increase your yearning for more and more things. However, a closer look into the private lives of the rich and famous tells a completely different story of broken marriages, failed relationships, fake friendships, drugs, alcohol, and rehab and all for what?

There is nothing wrong with being inspired by people around you.  In fact, I remember thinking at my cousin’s college graduation, “If she can do it, so can I!”  So I went back to college and finished getting my degree!

Inspiration often means putting forth an effort to change or improve.   Inspiration + perspiration = success.  Coveting has the connotation of not earning what you want but wasting your time wishing for more and not being happy with what you do have. 

Some of the nicest and happiest people I know live in small homes, drive old cars, and their kids wear hand me down clothes. They might not have many material things, but they do have one thing that no amount of money can buy.  They have a close relationship with their Lord and Savior Jesus and their Heavenly Father! With that, they can close their eyes each night with a clear conscience and a blessed assurance that God is watching over them and their family.  No matter what life might throw their way, God is in control and will see them through it all.

Like George Bailey at the end of the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, when he didn’t get all the things he THOUGHT he wanted and nearly lost everything he already HAD, he found out that, with all the people who loved him, he was the “richest man in the world.”

Don’t throw away what God has given you, searching for happiness next door when happiness is right there in your own back yard!

Give thanks for what you have!

Pat Arnold

November 28 – 10 Commandments – Don’t Lie

(Today’s devotional is borrowed from the You Version plan, “The Ten Commandments: A 10-Day Devotional”.)

Read Exodus 20:16 and Proverbs 18:17.

The ninth commandment doesn’t cover just courtroom infractions. It deals with all manner of falsehoods. Throughout the Ten Commandments we’ve seen that God cares about justice. Why would He make laws against murder except that He cares about each person made in His image? Why would He make laws against stealing except that He cares about the right of private property? Here we see that God cares deeply about verbal justice. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” just isn’t true. Lies hurt people deeply. This command was meant to protect marriages, property, life, reputation, and honor.

Why is telling the truth so important? It’s important because it is the nature of God himself. “The Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret” (1 Sam. 15:29). What makes God *God* and not human? One answer is that He doesn’t lie—ever. “Let God be true though every one were a liar” (Rom. 3:4). As Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). It’s the nature of God himself.

Reflect

How is motive a factor in breaking or keeping the ninth commandment?

November 27 – 10 Commandments – Steal

Read Exodus 20:15

Looking back on my childhood, one of the things that I am most grateful for is that we were raised modestly. We didn’t have all the newest toys and gadgets but we always had what we needed. Sure, there were times where I wanted to get my hands on the newest PlayStation that my friends had or a smartphone when I still had a “dumb phone”. However, I never allowed those thoughts to resonate too much because there was a certain peace with being content.

That way of thinking has continued to be present as I have continued to grow older. When the new PlayStation 5 came out with a $500 price tag, I literally laughed out loud and said there was no chance I would get one anytime soon.

Every parent wants to give their kids what they want but, I would argue a better way of thinking and parenting is teaching and building contentment in the heart of your children and the next generation.

The command to not steal is another one of the “duh” commands through which we don’t need to explain much. We can all agree that taking something that doesn’t belong to you is wrong.

When you take the time to think deeper about the physical act of stealing, what causes one to do that?

Discontentment.

When you aren’t happy with what it is you have, you begin to entertain the thought of getting your hands on a better version of your outdated version…and who doesn’t like something that’s free?

While we can all agree that we shouldn’t steal, I will take my challenge a step further: in what way can you grow in your contentment with what God has given you?

Do you need to think about the people who aren’t lucky enough to have what you do? When you begin to think about a “first world problem” that you have, think about the amount of people who would do just about anything for what you aren’t content with.

Take a moment and think about the things you aren’t content with and change your discontent mindset to one of gratitude. Many people around the world are happy with what they have and it turns out to be a fraction of what you do.

Thank God for what you have and pray about ways that you can show contentment to those around you as well as opportunities to use what you have to further His Kingdom.

Jake Lawson

November 26 – 10 Commandments – Adultery

Read Exodus 20:14 and Galatians 5:19-22

“It’s the second glance that ties your hands.”

Casting Crowns

The following is an excerpt from the book EVERY MAN’S BATTLE: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time:

“After training my eyes to look away, I was sunbathing with my wife on a Florida beach. My wife, Brenda, called my attention to a bikini-clad woman approaching us. ‘Fred, look! You won’t believe this’. I turned to look but initially I couldn’t. My good habits that I had developed had become so strong that I had to force my eyes to look.”

The book’s authors (Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker) write that the first defense against lust is with your eyes and so we need to employ the strategy of bouncing your eyes. You can train your eyes to bounce away from individuals, images etc. If you bounce your eyes for six weeks, it becomes a habit and you can win this war.

Bounce away to prevent a slow, negative fade. Pursue sexual purity!

If you train your eyes to bounce and eliminate the visual stimuli and leave no food for the mental fantasies, the sexual attractions that can draw your mind to lust in the situations can be broken.

Eliminate your visual stimuli.

“But a man who commits adultery has no sense; whoever does so destroys himself.”

Proverbs 6:32

As one of the 10 Commandments, adultery refers to sexual relations between a married person and a person who is not his or her spouse and is mentioned 40 times in the Bible. The Bible is clear about the commitment of marriage and the purity that must be maintained in the midst of it. In the age of the smart phone, problems can develop when pornography is viewed.

Is this lust a slow fade into adultery? Is it a gateway to something much worse?

The Bible says that God shows mercy to those who repent and turnaround from their sins—including adultery. (Acts 3:19). To repent is to turn from sin leading to a change in life. 

In fact, the Bible talks about men and women who stopped committing adultery and later became God’s friends (See 1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Is this an area that you struggle with or have before? Seek forgiveness from God and other necessary parties and commit to tighten up your life so you aren’t exposed to any gateway sins.

Tom Weckesser

Casting Crowns – Slow Fade

November 25 – 10 Commandments – Murder

Read Exodus 20:13

“You shall not murder!”

Wow, you can’t get any plainer than that!  Don’t murder, take someone’s else’s life, stab, jab, shoot…murder!

You might be thinking “I could never do that!”  That’s good, and I think it’s safe to say that not many of us struggle with identifying murder as wrong and have not committed it in the past.

However, do you commit murder without even knowing it?

We kill other people’s spirits, reputations, faith, all the time without even giving it a second thought.

As I am writing this, there is a news report on TV about false stories that were published about a man.  Now he has to try to prove they were false, if he wants to get his life back, while the person who started the rumors will go on to destroy other people’s lives!  They just destroyed a person’s reputation.  Isn’t THAT murder?  

What if it happened to a less wealthy person who couldn’t afford lawyers? What if they would have been so distraught that they committed suicide or decided “What is the use?” and turned to a life of drinking or other harmful behaviors?  

Isn’t THAT murder too?

Gossip hurts and sometimes kills. 

How about your words?  How about the way you talk to people or about them? Do you use your words to encourage others? Maybe a struggling single parent or a confused teen?  Or do you choose to criticize the way they look or speak or act?  What about the person who might be less well educated than you and uses “poor English”? Do you look down on them, tune them out, KILL their ideas?  Treat them like they don’t exist?

Thou shall not kill!

Thou shall not tramp on spirits, kill thoughts, destroy reputations, make fun of, ignore, etc.

It is so easy to listen to or join in on a gossip session, to join in with people who love to cut down others, to talk about someone else’s parenting skills or children.  But remember their claws can easily be turned on you when you are not around.  

I enjoy watching murder mystery shows on TV. It is fun playing detective and see if I can figure out “who did it” and why. I have found that almost always the true motives of the criminals were jealousy, greed, or fear that their other crimes will be exposed.  Plus, there is usually a person or several persons who could have stopped it.

So, when you find yourself in the middle of a gossip session or hearing of someone being slandered, take a step back, put on your detective hat and ask:

                1) Who is being murdered?

                2) What is the motive? Greed, jealousy or fear etc.

                3) What can I do to stop it?

“Do not go about spreading slander among your people.”

Leviticus 19:16

Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. 

THOU SHALL NOT KILL!

I pray the murderer isn’t you!

Pat Arnold