Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid… Matthew 1:20
I’ve never really taken the time to take Joseph’s perspective. He’s a grown man whose teenage wife-to-be is scandalously pregnant. To make things worse, she’s saying God got her pregnant. In his “kindness”, he plans to divorce her quietly rather than making a big deal in their tiny village of Nazareth. (Not sure small-town life is ever quietly done…pretty sure all would know and talk anyway). Joseph must be hurt, upset and think Mary has gone CRA-zy! Then the angel appears to him in a dream to tell him not to be afraid of joining his life with Mary's and that the baby is indeed from God. When he wakes up, Joseph is a changed man. I wonder how his view of Mary changed in that moment, from loose lunatic to chosen mother of God’s own Son. I bet he is in awe of her position and respects her more for it. He instantly, courageously obeys the angel’s message, takes Mary to be his wife, no more doubts. He accepts this new shared adventure with Mary. He submits to the interruption of God in their life plans. Up until this point, I imagine he had a life path laid out before them in Nazareth…carpentry, small village life, kids, family, obscurity. In the blink of an eye that cozy plan is upended and they spend the next years running from murderous kings, hiding out in Egypt, and finally years later back to their home town where few would believe their story. Joseph becomes Jesus’s earthly protector. From here on out he follows each call of the angel in his dreams. I want to be more like Joseph, able to flex when God interrupts my plans and rise to the challenge of whatever He calls me to because he is with me as he was with Joseph.
Thank you, Emmanuel, for your presence with Joseph, for appearing to him just how he needed and changing his heart. Thank you for meeting us where we are as well. We pray that you’d help us to be more like Joseph today, to allow your life interruptions to mold us into your people. Oh, Father, help us to trust you even when we don’t understand all the details that lay before us.
The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, so the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Luke 1:35
Mary, a poor teenage girl from a village far from anywhere important. God sends an angel to her to announce the most defining moment of her life. She is to mother the Son of God! The angel's words "The Holy Spirit will come upon you" and "overshadow you" have always seemed mysterious to me. I really don't know what they mean except that by the creative life-giving power of God, cells inside Mary began to divide and cleave and grow into God. When I was pregnant with my three kids, I loved getting to feel them move inside me. I loved imagining what they would be like and how life would go for them. Can you imagine knowing that for nine months, God himself is growing inside you. That it is God who is kicking you in the ribs, God who makes you crave ice cream and have a crazy sense of smell. The very bump that brings ridicule and judgement in her community is really her growing God belly. Now, we are not going to be pregnant with God, but what if we allowed him to interrupt our lives with his call and basked in his perpetual Presence as Mary did? How would that change your self-worth, your inner monologue, your responses to your family and community? It would sure change me, grow my confidence, and give me a peace that is solid despite the struggles of each day. I wish I could sit and chat with Mary and listen to her reflections on life with Jesus.
Lord, thank you for coming as a fragile baby, for taking on our humanity, for understanding us. We pray that you'd help us submit to your interruptions in our lives. Help us to let you fill us with your Spirit in re-make us into your children. May your Holy Spirit overflow us and ignite us with a passion for your life and purpose and glory. Help us to be more like Mary today.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20
Jesus’s last words to his disciples: I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS. Emmanuel until the end and beyond. He gives them their assignment…go and make disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them. I imagine their excitement for their purpose and mission, but terrified as well. They just witnessed Jesus’s death at the hands of the Jews and Romans. If I had been on that mountain with them, I think I’d have felt a bit like Moses when God threatened to not continue with them. Like, “Hang on a minute. I cannot do this without you here, without your power, courage, and presence.” Jesus knows the hearts of people. He knew what Moses needed way back when, he knows what his disciples need, and he knows today what you and I need…his presence. One thing has stuck with me in this study…when God is WITH a person or group, there is mighty power shown. This promise extends to us…to the very end of the age. Jesus is WITH us through the Holy Spirit! His power and might and wisdom and compassion are all available to us in what he has called us to…working, mothering, ministering, caring for parents, teaching. Whatever our call, God is WITH us! Let’s ask him to come into all the dimensions of our lives and display his perpetual Presence.
Lord Jesus, thank you for not leaving us alone to carry on the purpose you’ve given to us. Thank you for the power of your presence in our lives. We pray that we would be consciously aware of you with us in each moment. Help us to believe in the power of your Presence. In the calls you’ve given to us, help us to trust you to provide what we need and lean not on our own understanding. Thank you for being our Emmanuel.
“What do you you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. Mark 10:51
As Jesus and his disciples are leaving Jericho, a blind man named Bartimaeus shouts for Jesus to help him. He does not relent despite the crowds hushing him. Even more, he calls out to Jesus for mercy. Jesus stops and calls for him. The very people who’d shushed him must have led him before the Lord. He cannot see Jesus. I imagine him standing there awkwardly and in expectation of a miracle. Then comes the question that stills my heart. “What do you want me to do for you?” Bart wants to see. Because of Jesus’s power and Bart’s faith, his eyes are opened! His first sight…his Savior, full of joy and compassion and power! A Bible study leader asked us a few years back to close our eyes and imagine Jesus looking down at us, cupping our chin in his hands and asking this very same question: What do you want me to do for you? My instant response was healing for my dad who’s battled Multiple Sclerosis for 26 years. Then my heart ached as I imagined Jesus still gazing at me. My dad is still sick, despite decades of prayers. My second response: Jesus, I want your comfort, your peace, your healing of this ache that lumps in my throat, and for the ability to trust you when I don’t like your response. I wish it were always as simple as it was in Mark 10, but Jesus continues to meet me in my heart ache. How would you answer Jesus today if he lifted your chin to his eyes and asked you to share your biggest desire? Sometimes the process of the conversation reveals the depths of our heart’s needs.
Jesus, thank you for knowing our hearts, for knowing what we need, and yet asking us anyway. Lord, we pray that you’d help us to stand before you honestly and ask for our deepest desire. Guide us in our response to your answer. Thank you that you pour out compassion on us. Thank you for meeting us in this place of vulnerable need. Increase our faith to believe you as Bartimaeus did.
God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at the break of day…The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Psalm 46:5,7
Can I just say that Psalm 46 has become my new favorite! If you have the time today, sit with the whole psalm. Emmanuel is all over it! I could talk about this psalm for days…so hard to narrow down a focus for us today. The context of this Psalm reminds me of the battle between king Hezekiah and the Assyrians from yesterday. Jerusalem is threatened. Daybreak was a common time of battle back then. The psalmist declares that God is within her. I know that this refers to Jerusalem, but it’s so rare to see “her” in the Bible. It just catches my attention and I want to put my name in here…anyone else with me, ladies?! With the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, I feel like we can indeed take this to mean us! God is within each of us! We will not fall. He will help us at the break of day! I struggle with anxiety and at times, my mornings can feel like an uphill battle, feeling overwhelmed and like I’m failing before I step out of bed. This verse is one I want to commit to memory and say on those tough days…God is within me! I will not fall! God will help me as the battles surround me! He is with me! He is my fortress! Let’s walk into this busy, often overwhelming and sweet season today with that confidence!
Father, Emmanuel, thank you for the power of your Holy Spirit in us like a river of life. Thank you that you keep us from falling, that you fight our battles with us and for us. Thank you that our souls are safe in your hands. We ask that you’d give us a peace that passes understanding in this hectic season. Help us to love on the people in our lives with your love and rest in the powerful stillness of your presence.
With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and fight our battles. 2 Chronicles 32:8
King Hezekiah is one of the good kings of Judah who follows God’s way and destroys the alters and high places of false gods. The king of Assyria lays siege to the city of Jerusalem during Hezekiah’s reign. Hezekiah quickly sets to work, diligently getting the city ready for battle. When he assembles all his leaders and soldiers, he speaks these works to them. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him.” Sound familiar? Again and again, we are reminded in the Old Testament that God fights his people’s battles. He is the one who brings the victory to his people, despite absurd odds. The people are told to have courage when their eyes scanned the vast army and fear crept in. The King of Assyria only has the strength of people on his side, but God is on the side of Judah! As the siege continues, the Assyrians fling insult after insult at God and try their best to terrify the people. Hezekiah and Isaiah pray together and the Lord answers mightily! The Word says that God sent and angel and annihilated all the fighting men, officers, and leaders of the Assyrian army. The king returns home in disgrace. God brought peace to Hezekiah and Judah. What can we take away from this story for our lives? Let’s be like Hezekiah and walk uprightly before the Lord. Let’s do the work before us…preparing for battle…and when life gets tough, let’s hit our knees together. Let’s cry out to our powerful Father to bring victory!
Lord, thank you that you are with us. In the struggles we face daily, we need you. Help us to walk rightly with you as Hezekiah did and to come to you first when trouble hits. Father, in you we have power greater than any enemy. Grow our faith to see that victory rests solely in your hands, not our own. Thank you for being with us always.
Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.
The Hebrews arrive at the border of the promise land (the first time) and they send 12 spies to scout out the land for forty days. Just as the Lord has promised, it is lush and bountiful, just as they dreamed. Yet, the people of the land are mighty, some are even near giants. Ten of the twelve spies are terrified and spread fear among the people to not go up and take the land God promised them. At this moment, Caleb and Joshua, the only two spies with hope, speak to the assembled people these words. Do not be afraid of them…the Lord is with us.
The people compared the battle ahead to their own weakness while Caleb and Joshua compared the battle to God’s strength. Sadly, the people went their own way and followed their fear. Caleb and Joshua led the next generation into the same promise land forty years later. I would like to ask us the same question they were met with years ago. Do we compare our struggles to our own weakness or to God’s mighty power and understanding? When God is with us, who can defeat us? With God at our side, what giants will tremble and fall? In your life today, what giants loom over you and cause you to shake with fear? Take some time to rest in the fact that God Almighty is with you in that battle you face today. Let’s invite him to take the reigns and lead on.
Lord God, we face giants each day of our lives. Please walk ahead of us in battle and give us faith like Joshua and Caleb to see our struggles compared to your mighty strength rather than our own weakness. Give us the courage to believe you truly can bring victory and freedom.
My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest. Exodus 33:14
Israel is free of their bondage to Egypt, but in their desert wanderings, they quickly fall into the slavery of idol worship. Moses climbed up a mountain to meet with God and the people believe he’s not returning. They make a golden calf to worship instead. How quickly we replace God with something more tangible and convenient when waiting on the Lord seems to take forever. Who’s feeling the conviction here? I know I am. Well, God’s anger burns toward the people and he declares to Moses that he will not continue with them or he would surely kill the people. Now, Moses is desperate and begs the LORD to remain with them. This is when our verse today is spoken. God hears Moses’s prayer and promises to remain with the people and give them rest. I would love if this rest referred to life being easy for them, but it doesn’t. It refers to the promise land. He will be with them and will eventually give them their promised inheritance in Canaan. He’s declaring that he will continue with them all the way to the end of their journey and beyond. He will bring his promise to completion and they will enjoy the peace that will come when they securely have possession of their land. Hebrews 4 continues this talk of rest and extends it to us. The author implores us to make every effort to enter into God’s rest…into our soul’s rest. Our confidence comes not from our good deeds, but in Jesus, who like Moses, goes to the Father for us and intercedes for us. He is our perfect bridge to God. He lived with us. He was tempted in every way and yet was without sin. He can relate to our struggles and pain, and yet he is the perfect Son of God. He can intercede for us sinful people more powerfully than Moses could. More than that, he died in our place and rose again to conquer death itself. May we today enter God’s throne room and receive the grace and mercy we need in our time of need. His Presence goes with us today and his rest is at a soul level. No matter what we are waiting for or struggling with, the Lord’s Presence is with us and through faith in Jesus, our souls can find deep rest.
Father, thank you for going with us in life. Help us today to put down the idols that so easily tempt us to question you or give up on you. Help us to hold firm to our faith in you. Thank you that your Spirit goes with us. Thank you that we have soul rest because Jesus took our punishment for us and brings us to your Throne of grace. We fall at your feet and wait for your timing, trusting in you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
And God said, “I will be with you.” Exodus 3:12
I love how humbly Moses begins his leadership. The mighty man of God who will write the first five books of the Old Testament, who God will use to perform miracle after miracle, who will see God pass before him on the mountain, whose face shone with being in God’s glory…this same man begs God to send someone else at the start. God spoke to Moses from the burning bush to call him into leadership, to call him to be the voice of a compassionate God to his oppressed people. God has come to deliver them and bring them to the promise land…a promise that began more than four hundred years before. From the hindsight we now have, it seems silly that Moses would beg to not go. But, I can totally relate. He ran from Egypt forty years before and had lived peacefully and in obscurity as a shepherd. He had a family and had settled down. It’s hard to leave what’s known and comfortable. God promises Emmanuel. “I will be with you.” It’s this promise and that of sending his brother with him that finally calms Moses into agreement. He will not be alone on this adventure…The Almighty God who Sees goes with him. He will have community with his brother. Today, let’s rest in the fact that like Moses, God goes with us where he calls us to serve. He sees our struggles; he knows our hearts; he understands our weaknesses and insecurities and promises to never leave us or forsake us. Let’s be Aarons to each other today as well. Let’s be people who come beside each other in our calls and serve together. Let’s lift each other up before the Lord. Let’s be a community of believers wherever we are that brings courage and strength in our collective call to be the hands and feet of Christ to a hurting world.
Father, thank you for seeing our suffering and not leaving us alone in it. Thank you that just as you saw your people enslaved and delivered them, you will break the bonds of our slavery to addiction, to false securities, to unhealthy relationships. Lord, we pray for freedom and hope today. Lord, as we walk into the call you’ve placed in each of our hearts, thank you for the promise of being with us. We are never alone. Give us the courage to walk with you today. Help us to lean on you and each other when life gets difficult today. Amen.
Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.” Genesis 31:3
We are hanging out with Jacob again today. Decades have passed. He now has 11 sons and several daughters from four wives. He still lives in his uncle Laban’s household where he’s worked since he ran away from home years before. God is clearly with him. His flocks increased while Laban’s decreased. Eventually Laban and his sons become jealous of Jacob’s prosperity. Jacob notices his Uncle’s and cousins’ changes in attitude and had to be anxious about what to do. At that time God once again intervened. God told Jacob to finally head home and reassured him that he would be with him. I love how human Jacob is. After this great reassurance from the Almighty God, Jacob packs up all his possessions and wives and children and heads out while his Uncle is out of town. I can so relate. Can’t you? We have all these amazing promises for us in the Bible about grace, salvation, God’s presence with us, and yet, I so commonly hear God and half obey, half self-protect just in case. Laban eventually meets up with Jacob to say a peaceful good-bye to his daughters and grandchildren. Even with this sneaky lack of trust on Jacob’s part, God still continues on with him, blessing him not only with provision but also with resolution in his relationship with Laban and eventually with his brother as well.
Emmanuel, we need your help to continue in trust today. Thank you for your grace when we make a mess of our own way in our attempt to “help” your plan like Jacob did. Thank you for staying close to us through your Holy Spirit. Thank you for your Word and our ability to read your words every single day rather than waiting for decades for you to speak like Jacob did.
Hi. I'm Maggie. Current hats: Wife, mom, artist and starting this week, a devotional writer! Enthusiastic, creative, focused. I love chai tea lattes, and authentic conversations.