Promised – Matthew 1:1

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”
Matthew 1:1

This morning, I just want to focus on Jesus as the Promised One…that’s where my heart feels compelled to land.

I don’t know that there are really words for it. Just a sense of peace and wonder at the steadfastness of God’s promise.

To David. To Abraham.

There were generations between promise and fulfillment. Times of silence and of turmoil. Times when God appeared to forsake it all. But never a time when He wavered from fulfilling His promise.

Every step was another moment of setting the stage. Aligning the details. Getting every piece ready for the entrance of Immanuel, God With Us, the Promised One who would save His people from their sins.

Jesus came. Just as God promised. And God upholds every other promise with the same steadfastness, the same determined and sovereign purpose. Setting the stage, aligning the details, readying each piece for His entrance and His purposes to shine.

As you go about your day, as you face difficulties and pain and details that just don’t seem to fit as they should, I pray that God will assure your heart that His promises, and His purposes, stand firm. They are good, and they are beautiful, and they will make your life shine with the light of His glory and His goodness to you. He will not waver (James 1:17). His Word proves true (Psalm 18:30). It will stand even when everything else is shaken. And you will be able to look back and know that “not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed” (Joshua 23:14).

In those moments of doubt, “may the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5). Because He is steadfast. And He loves you with a greater depth than you can imagine.

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The Richest of Blessings – Philippians 3:8

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ”
Philippians 3:8

I’ve been working on prayer lately. Really praying, with fervency and firm belief, as we are called to do. And I have already seen God respond with power. But there is one aspect I have been struggling with: praying for blessing. Trying to figure out right motivation and humility with the persistence of the widow (Luke 18:1-5) and of Jacob (Genesis 32:22-28), and what all of that looks like. What’s even right to ask for.

And in it all, thankful that God knows my heart and understands.

This devotion isn’t intended to go into all the details of that, or to spark intense discussion – it’s about what God showed me this morning.

In praying for blessing, my eyes have been on either the potential blessing in front of me or whatever God knows would be better. Desiring the right motivation, yes, I prayed that God would be glorified in the greatest way. But I still focused on the blessing.

This morning, I recognized that focus – and that it’s easy to “surrender” a potential blessing when you then fix your eyes on a greater blessing that God may have waiting and you just can’t see yet. Maybe “easy” isn’t the right term, but hopefully you all are following me here.

It still makes it about whatever I’m getting from Him. My eyes are on the “things”…they aren’t really on Him.

This became clear as I quietly sang through the song, “Give Me Jesus.”

I didn’t have any particular aim when I started singing. I was reflecting on the beauty of the morning, and it came to mind. The words came easily until I reached the line, “You can have all this world, but give me Jesus”…that’s a hard line. One I couldn’t let go. Because I don’t like to sing things I don’t mean.

So I began to wrestle. The part of me that wanted to mean it, and the heart that was focused on “things.”

I started thinking about what I had been praying for. And realizing that it’s easy to “surrender” my request by asking for “something even better.”

But what if the “even better” is simply more of Him?

Is Jesus not the richest of blessings?

Is He not the fullness our hearts are longing for, that which satisfies and fills all in all?

And my prayer began to change…because I want to mean that line. I don’t want to be afraid of losing everything, if it will gain me Jesus. I want Him to be everything, to be the foundation of my joy and the root of all I could ask for. I want the eyes of my heart to be fixed on Jesus, and to say resolutely, “Yes, Lord, I want the richest of all blessings – I want You, and whatever will give me more of You.”

Father, today, bring our hearts here, to this place where all we truly want is You. You bless us immeasurably, with blessings beyond all we can ask or imagine. And that’s wondrous. But in it all, may we fix our eyes not on the things, but on You. Because You are the richest of all. Getting You is the greatest treasure. You are the “something better.” So bless us, Lord, with the richest blessing. More of You. However that appears. Satisfy our hearts with Your steadfast love that is better than life. Fill us with Your fullness and with fullness of joy in Your presence. May we be radiant over the goodness of the Lord because we see You more clearly. Lord, we do bring all of our cares and the desires and thoughts of our hearts to You. And You hear them all, because we are Your beloved children and we matter to You. We thank You for all the good things You give us. But above all of those things, Lord, may we seek You. As much as we can get. Remind us of the fullness of all that You are. May our eyes see our King in all of His beauty, and our hearts truly be able to say,
“You can have all this world – just give me Jesus.”

Pausing to Breathe in Grace – Psalm 36:5, 7-9

“Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds…
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light.”

Psalm 36:5, 7-9

Because of the steadfast, unmoving, unwavering love of God, love that extends to the heavens:
– We take refuge, we find refuge, in the shadow of His great wings of might, protection, and warmth.
– We feast on the abundance of His house. Not relegated to scraps. Not fearful of lack. His provisions overflow, and He gathers His children in. Our God provides abundantly in His faithfulness that reaches to the clouds, that our hearts may overflow with thankfulness, wonder, and joy.
– He gives us drink from the river of His delights…

Let us pause here for a moment. Breathe in this evident grace. Behold our good Father. For He is a refuge and fortress, who provides abundantly and doesn’t miss a step. He gives good gifts joyfully from His river of delights, that we may rejoice in this amazing God, Maker of the stars, who descends to bless us. Who draws near and does not merely give us things – for He knows that things will never satisfy, never fill our hearts or bring truly abundant life – He gives us Himself.

That is the true wonder. That is the greatest delight. The prize worth giving everything for (Matthew 13:44-46; Philippians 3:8-11). That is eternal life: knowing God as our Father, and knowing our Savior, Jesus Christ (John 17:3). Not with an intellectual awareness, but through personal, intimate relationship. Closer than a breath, God has poured love itself into our hearts with the giving of His Spirit (Romans 5:5).

Because this God? He is love (1 John 4:8). Its very manifestation and purest form. Love that delights to give exceeding abundantly beyond all that we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). Love that knows what we need before we even ask (Matthew 6:8) – but also requires that we ask, so we know that He hears us, He sees us, and we do not forget who He is. Love that is a refuge for you. Love that draws you into His house not as a guest, but as a beloved son or daughter (1 John 3:1). Love that will not withhold good things from you, nor will He withhold Himself (Psalm 84:11).

So hold fast, dear one, to the One who holds fast to you. Whatever your season of life, know that our God of mercy and hope is for you, Faithful and True, and He will surround you with favor as with a shield (Psalm 56:9; Revelation 19:11; Psalm 5:12).

The God Who Answers Me – Genesis 35:1-3

“God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there.
Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.
So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Put away the foreign gods that are among you
and purify yourselves and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel,
so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress
and has been with me wherever I have gone.”

Genesis 35:1-3

See in these verses the important decision and declaration of Jacob. He and his household will worship and serve and devote themselves to this God, and this God Alone. Putting away any other gods that have pulled their focus and their hearts in the past. Purifying themselves, which we do by confession, humility, repentance, and surrender, and through faith that God forgives and cleanses with faithfulness and joy.

This connects to Joshua’s later declaration to the nation of Israel that they must choose that day whom they will serve, whether this God who brought them from slavery, gave them His Law, and won the promised land, or other foreign gods. But as for Joshua and his household, he stated firmly that they would serve the Lord (Joshua 24:14-15).

It is not a light declaration. It is bold and decisive and requires commitment. Which can be scary if we question who God is or if we doubt our ability to remain steadfast.

So within this declaration of Jacob, see also the personal element here. Because this God is not distant. Or unfeeling. Or distracted. He is “the God who answers me in the day of my distress.” He is the God who “has been with me wherever I have gone.”

Jacob had personally experienced the faithfulness and nearness of God throughout difficulty and changing circumstances. And those promises, those experiences, are not for Jacob alone.

They are for you as well.

Psalm 107 paints a beautiful, powerful picture of God’s response to those who call out to Him in the day of their distress. Those wandering in a wasteland, finding nowhere to rest, no home in which to dwell. Those trapped in darkness, “prisoners in affliction and in irons” because of their intent rebellion against Him. Those suffering the consequences of their sin, ignoring any help and running toward their own destruction. Those caught in heavy storms with no apparent hope for salvation or peace.

Each of these “cried to the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress” (verses 6, 13, 19, 28). They didn’t have to prove themselves first. They didn’t have to meet a certain standard. No, they just had to cry out. And He was there. They were given satisfaction and good things and a home. They discovered freedom as their bonds were shattered and they were brought out of darkness. They found restoration as God “sent out his word and healed them” (vs. 20), delivering them from their self-destructive path. They knew safety and rest as He quieted their storms and brought them safely through.

This is the God who answers us. Whose ears are attentive to our cry and does not delay in responding.

And He will be with us wherever we go. Not because of anything we bring to the table. Not because we never falter in our steps. But simply because we are His and He is faithful.

“Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,’
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.”
Psalm 139:7-12

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20b

Eyes on Our Comforter – Genesis 29:31-36

“When the LORD saw that Leah was hated, He opened her womb…And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, ‘This time I will praise the LORD.’ Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she ceased bearing.”
Genesis 29:31-36

Reading this portion of Leah’s story in Genesis 29, I am drawn to an underlying purpose in her childbearing.

Leah was unloved (hated, by her husband and her sister) and unwanted (her husband had not and did not want her – nor had anyone else desired to marry her). The Lord saw her pain, and He gave her children to show His presence and favor, and to bring her comfort.

Yet there is a pattern in the births of Leah’s first three sons. Her focus is continually on her husband. Longing for his love and attachment, and understandably so. But it is in the birth of her fourth son, Judah, that I believe we can see what our gracious God wanted to accomplish in and for Leah.

He gave her comfort in her pain, but comfort alone was not His only goal. His ultimate desire was that her eyes would be drawn to her Comforter. Not to the one who hurt her. He wanted Leah to find wholeness, healing, and joy in the God who hears her, the God who sees, the God who answers her cry. The God who loves her. When her eyes turned again to Jacob for acceptance and fulfillment, she was once again left bereft.

But God didn’t give up. He kept pursuing, kept answering, kept loving her and beckoning her to Himself – to find her identity in Him and discover her immeasurable value as one who is His.

O Lord, don’t give up on us, either. As our eyes are drawn to that which will not fulfill us, as we are awash with hurt and disappointment, comfort us in grace and tenderly, patiently work to turn our eyes to You. That we may say with Leah, ‘This time I will praise the LORD.’ Because You hear us. Because You see us. Because You make us whole, and our heart’s delight and healing are found in You.

Why Did You Doubt? – Matthew 14:29-31

“[Jesus] said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’
Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him, saying to him,
‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’”

Matthew 14:29-31

How easy it is to get focused on circumstances around me. My attention shifts from my God to the strength of the storms, and I feel intimidated and overwhelmed and in danger.

When the reality is, my God is still there. Directly beside me. His power has not lessened. He isn’t remotely intimidated by my circumstances, because He knew they were coming, He has purposes in them, and He is entirely in control.

Why would I remove my gaze from the One who remains steadfast, the Rock I can count on to remain firm?

He is ready to uphold me if I will but ask. There won’t be even slight hesitation.

There must be determination here. A decisive choice made, and resolve to keep making that choice. There is comfort in knowing that if my focus slips, my Savior hasn’t moved, and He will immediately reach out to catch me. But how much better to banish the shadows of doubt before they gain a foothold, by resolutely fixing my eyes on Jesus and continually meditating on all that He is?

Because He is glorious. He is light and strength and hope and healing and provision. He has already disarmed the rulers and authorities that would seek to destroy you (Colossians 2:15). As my pastor said yesterday, we are able to fight FROM victory, not for it. Because Jesus’ victory in all that we face has already been assured.

Walk confidently, believer. You are the beloved of God Most High. He fights for you. He upholds you. He establishes your steps. However great your storm appears, your God is far greater. He’s got this. He’s got you. He will not let you fall. If ever your focus slips, He’ll be there to uphold and strengthen you. Don’t let fear or doubt or question grab a hold of you. Combat it with the character and might of the God whose power dwells within you.

And pray. “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:17-21).

We Won’t Miss This – Psalm 16:5-6

“The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
You hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”

Psalm 16:5-6

If God holds my lot, that means He is in control of it. It rests, resides, in His hands. Those same hands that promise to keep me as His forever (John 10:29). It means that He is sovereign over the course of my life. I do recognize His allowance of free will and that any decided rebellion against what He leads me to do has its negative consequences (though sovereignty and redemption have their part in that as well) – but that isn’t really where my focus is this morning.

Rather, my thoughts are focused on the beautiful truth that if I am looking to Him and endeavoring to listen and obey and follow and trust, I won’t miss my “lot.” Because even if I misread something, and even if I slip in my efforts to keep on His path, He will honor my heart that longs to run after Him. That heart which loves Him but is prone to wander, prone to distraction, prone to overanalyzing and complicating what He lays out before me. I will not be cast headlong, because I am upheld and my life is directed by my sovereign, gracious heavenly Father. I will not miss the “lot” He has lovingly, wisely, purposefully chosen for me.

And neither will those whose lives are and will be intertwined with and affected by mine.

Because this isn’t even just about me. Yes, God will preserve my lot and give me counsel (Psalm 16:7) because He loves me, but He is also actively preserving the lot He has purposed and designed for those who will be impacted by mine.

This isn’t ultimately about me. While there is light and joy and the goodness of the Lord before me in my path, this is all ultimately about Him. And that is a good thing. Because it underscores the certainty that our God won’t fail here. There is more at stake than just how my personal story will play out. It’s not just my story – it is His. It’s a part of His tapestry and the unveiling of His glory and personal action in our lives.

This lot that He chooses for me, for each one of us, is about His glory, and how glory will be revealed in our lives through salvation and changed hearts, through restored relationships and redeemed brokenness, through faithfulness and love and brilliant hope in the midst of struggle.

It is about Him. And that is a beautiful, wonderful thing. Because His glory and our joy are irrevocably intertwined. So rejoice today, knowing that God holds your lot firmly in His loving hand. He will see it through to completion. You only need to continue looking to Him, listening for His voice, and faithfully walking the path He sets before you. You aren’t going to miss this. You aren’t going to miss Him.