Keeping the Awe

Exodus 14

February 12

It always amazes me that the Israelites respond this way after seeing the great works and power of God:

10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”

If we aren’t careful though, I think we all can easily lose the awe and reverence for God that He so richly deserves. We all have been witness to the great and mighty things God has done, but we can quickly forget all of it if we don’t take the proper precautions. The Bible is an amazing tool to continually remind us of just how worthy God is of our praise, reverence and adoration and just how fallible our hearts are. As noted in, Hebrews 4:12:

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

His word keeps our hearts in check. If we are missing that frequent interaction with it, our hearts can wander astray. We read in Matthew 13:15: For this people’s heart has grown callous; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn, and I would heal them.”

Romans 1:21 also speaks to the dark turn that our hearts can take, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and darkened in their foolish hearts.”

A number of years ago, I was introduced to an acronym that helps us with prioritizing our prayer and approaching God in a manner that is worthy of Him: A.C.T.S. I don’t quite remember the source of this acronym, but it has always stuck with me. The “A” is for adoration and reminds us first and foremost to adore God. “C” is for confession and reminds us to confess our sins before God and repent. “T” is for Thanksgiving and reminds us to give thanks to God. The “S” is for Supplication and reminds us to ask God about whatever is on our hearts (praying for a need for others or ourselves). Oftentimes our prayers can get very out of balance and are simply reduced to an act of supplication. The God of the universe deserves so much more from us. We are reminded from this week’s readings that God hears our cries and cares about us; however, that should not be the sole focus of our prayers. 

-Kristy Cisneros

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Do you consistently give God the praise, glory, adoration and thanksgiving that He so richly deserves? If not, what are some steps you could take today to change that?
  2. How is your prayer life? Do you find that you sometimes bypass the important part of prayer where you get a chance to adore God and just go straight to the asking? Why not create a challenge for a week to see if you can start out each day with a praise to God when you wake up?

Next up – Exodus 20

The Saving Blood of the Lamb

Exodus 12

February 11

It’s a beautiful thing to read of the Israelites’ obedience regarding the Passover meal and God’s subsequent command to continue observing it through the generations and to teach their children about the significance of it.

24 “Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. 25 When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. 26 And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ 27 then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” 

It is a powerful story of salvation and it is worth telling and celebrating. I love that we as Christians can mirror this celebration of God’s beautiful provision of salvation through the observance of Communion. The salvation at the original Passover was temporary and specific and only pertained to being shielded from that particular plague of death at that specific point in time. Thanks be to God that the salvation offered through the Passover Lamb Jesus Christ is not limited to a specific group of people in a specific time in history. It is a free gift with an eternal reward that is open to all of mankind who choose it. 

While God’s provision for salvation is so beautiful and worthy of celebration, we would be remiss if we did not recognize those who fall in the shadows outside of God’s protection of salvation. I can’t help but imagine what a terrifying time it was for the Egyptians as the angel of death struck the households that were not protected by the blood of the Passover lamb. Verses 29-30 give us a glimpse of the sounds of that night,

29 At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. 30 Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.

As I read that passage and experienced compassion for those not covered by the blood, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the pressing urgency there is to reach out to those today who are not covered by the blood of the ultimate Passover Lamb Jesus Christ. As the Israelites were instructed about how to avert sorrow and disaster being brought upon their household by covering their doorposts with blood, we need to help others find the way to salvation by being covered with the blood of Jesus. 

May we be challenged to revisit the story of the Passover with a new set of eyes and a heart full of compassion for those who need to hear the greatest story ever told.

-Kristy Cisneros

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Do you feel a sense of urgency for the lost? If so, pray to God to instruct you on how to increase your effectiveness in reaching others. If not, pray to God that He will change your heart in this regard and give you a newfound sense of urgency and compassion for the lost.
  2. The Israelites were saved from what by the blood of the Passover lamb? Describe as fully as you can. Christians are saved from what by the blood of Jesus? Describe as fully as you can.
  3. How can we make sure we are covered by the blood of the Lamb? How will we make sure we – and our children – do not forget? Who do we know who is not covered by the blood of Jesus?

Tomorrow – Exodus 14

In Your Weakness

Exodus 4

February 10

God is the very epitome of a patient and loving father in the beginning of this scenario. Moses is feeling very insecure and inept for the task God has called him to do. I personally can really relate to Moses’ fear and apprehension when it comes to public speaking. God doesn’t respond with anger or derision in this moment with something along the lines of “Don’t be ridiculous Moses! You are speaking to the God of the universe here. I’ve got you covered.” Instead, He very patiently answers Moses’ questions and actually gives him a step-by-step game plan of how to carry out his mission. 

Even with this carefully thought out plan so carefully and lovingly delivered to him, Moses is still overcome by his own anxiety and insecurity.

10 Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

Moses still doesn’t seem to get the point God is making. Even after He assures him that He will be with him to help him speak and will teach him what to say, Moses has the audacity to tell the God of the universe no!  13 But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” The audacity! But, wait?!? Have I been like Moses in my life more than I care to admit? Do we let our own fears and insecurities keep us from carrying out our God-given missions? Do they overshadow our confidence in God and His abilities? Are we ultimately saying that we don’t believe that God is up to the task?

Disobedience is dangerous! We read in verses 24-16:  24 At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses and was about to kill him. 25 But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. 26 So the Lord let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.)

Moses knew the requirements for circumcision and he also knew that the God of the universe was calling him to complete a task and he had been disobedient in both regards. Genesis 17:12: “And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.”

I am not sure if this scene was in any way a reference to Jesus being a bridegroom of blood to us, but it certainly came to mind for me. What a gift that Jesus’ blood covers our sins and we are given a chance at new hope!

Getting back to Moses’ insecurity and lack of belief that he could carry out what God called him to do. While reading this chapter, I called to mind Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians chapter 12 concerning the thorn of his flesh,

8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

What a comforting reminder that we can actually boast in our weaknesses because Christ’s power is actually made perfect in our weakness. We don’t have to have it all together, God meets us right where we are and equips us as He sees fit in order for us to carry out his missions. Trust Him!

-Kristy Cisneros

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Have you ever felt led to do something for God but shrinked back because you were afraid you were not good enough for the task? What would God tell you?
  2. What are some ways that we can use our weaknesses to glorify God and honor Christ? What strengths will be provided?
  3. How did Zipporah and Aaron each add to or compliment Moses’ ministry? How have you been a help to the spiritual life and work of another?
  4. What will you learn from Moses’ example that you can put into action this week to help ensure that you will participate fully in God’s plans for you? What excuses will you overcome? What does God want to teach you what to say? Who may God be calling to be on your team in ministry?

Tomorrow we will skip ahead to Exodus 12

God Cares

Exodus 3

February 9

Two powerful themes stand out to me in this third chapter of Exodus. One is the holiness of God and the second is God’s continued compassion for His people.

5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

This scripture always strikes me as an extremely important reminder of the holiness of God and the importance of recognizing it and considering if our actions adequately reflect that recognition. Are our hearts and minds in the right place when we go before God in prayer or worship?

The second theme of God’s continued compassion for His people jumps out at me in verse 7:

7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.” 

God chooses to hear our cries and to care about our suffering. I have been through a very difficult season the past few years that has been punctuated by many great losses. For this reason, reading those words in verse 7 takes on a whole new meaning. There is power in being reminded that He is listening and that He cares so very deeply.

Not only does He care about our suffering, but He also understands our insecurities and the challenges they can present for us.

11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

-Kristy Cisneros

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. In what ways might you need to “take your sandals off” before God so that you can properly acknowledge His holiness?
  2. When you encounter hard seasons in life, what are some ways that you can be reminded that God hears you and cares about your suffering?
  3. How might God be calling you to help others who are stuck in suffering? How can you bring God’s words, power and compassion to them?

Tomorrow we will read Exodus 4.

God’s Character

Exodus 2

February 8

In today’s reading, we read what is probably a very familiar story of a Levite woman giving birth to a very fine baby. In spite of the pharaoh’s orders for every Hebrew boy that is born to be thrown into the Nile, she makes a courageous decision to hide him for three months. At that three-month mark, she makes an even more courageous decision. 3 “But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. 4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.”

As a mother, I really can’t imagine the horror of being in her position. We are given a comforting reminder though in verses 23-25 that God cares when we go through tough things:

23 “During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. 24 God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25 So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.”

A couple of years ago, I heard about a challenge of reading the Bible all the way through with a specific goal of seeing what could be revealed about God’s character. I had never read the Bible through that specific lens—and let me tell you—it was powerful! It brings me great comfort to read in the above verses that the Israelites’ cries reach God and He heard their groaning and remembered His covenant and He looked on the Israelites with concern. I am often awestruck that the creator of the universe is mindful of us and our feelings and what we are going through. The truth is, He cares very much. It is almost incomprehensible to me that His son suffered and died so that we can have the hope of the kingdom and that God had to bear the pain of witnessing it while Christ called out, “My Father, My Father, why have you forsaken me?” God gave us a way out of our mess because He loved and cared about us just that much! Praise God!

-Kristy Cisneros

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. How can you use this story to deepen your understanding of the character of God?
  2. How was God working even when it seemed hopeless for this baby left in a basket in the Nile? How was God still working when Moses fled from Egypt?
  3. When have you been reminded of God’s character – even during a scary, hopeless or uncertain time in your life? How has He provided what was needed, even if you thought you needed something else? How did He show His concern for you?
  4. What do you find most powerful in the sacrifice of Jesus planned and orchestrated by a loving Father who loves and cares for His Son and for you?

Tomorrow we will continue the account with Exodus 3

Faithful with the Little Things

Exodus 1

February 7

In this first chapter of Exodus, we see that the Israelites are viewed as a formidable threat due to their increasing numbers. There was a great fear that the Israelites would continue to multiply and if war were to break out, they would choose to join with Egypt’s enemies and eventually leave the country. In verse 16, we read of the horrific remedy that the king of Egypt concocted and delivered to the midwives: “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.”

We then read with great relief in verse 17 that the midwives “feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.” 

Do we always have the courage to do what is right in the eyes of God—even at great risk and cost to ourselves? We might think that we would never be put in such a dire predicament, but I believe our faith is tested in both big and small ways. Our faithfulness in the “small things” can actually speak to the overall health of our faith. As stated in Luke 16:10, “The one who is faithful in a very little thing is also faithful in much; and the one who is unrighteous in a very little thing is also unrighteous in much.” Imagine you are eating dinner at a restaurant and you notice the server forgot to charge you for that delicious artichoke and spinach appetizer. Do you think, “Ha! It’s my lucky day!” or do you remember that the right thing to do in the eyes of our Heavenly Father is to pay for everything that you ordered?

I have a theory. I think that it might actually be easier to make the right choice in dire circumstances as opposed to authentically living out our faith on a daily basis amidst the small trials and challenges of life that constantly wash up against us. Have you ever been in the ocean or even in a tidal pool at a water park and found it hard to regain your footing after getting knocked down by a wave? Even the smallest of waves can wipe us out and deplete us of strength if we don’t feel like we can catch our breath between the waves. Psalm 42 gives us some comfort for these times:

6 “My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you in the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar. 7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. 8 By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life.”

May we be encouraged by this reminder that God’s song is with us and that He rewards our faithfulness. Verses 20-21 of Exodus 1 demonstrates how God rewarded the faithfulness of the Hebrew midwives: “So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.”

May our goal always be to please our Heavenly Father in the big and “small” things and to lean into Him when the waves of challenge sweep over us.

-Kristy Cisneros

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Do you find it difficult to live out your faith authentically when faced with the big and small challenges of life? 
  2. How can we better lean into God during times of challenge?
  3. Which heroes of the faith inspire you with how they leaned into God during times of trouble?

Tomorrow we continue with Exodus 2

Joseph’s True Identity

Genesis 45

February 6

Next to the greatest story ever told, the story of Joseph is by far my favorite Bible story. There are so many valuable lessons one can learn from reading it. Some lessons that stand out to me are the sovereignty of God, the importance of trusting God even in the midst of tragedy and suffering, and the beauty and power of forgiveness. 

I have often asked myself if I would have had Joseph’s attitude in the midst of a seemingly unending chain of absolutely horrific events. In spite of the terrible hand that he continued to be dealt, we don’t see him being consumed by anger, self-pity or a quest for vengeance. There’s something very powerful about Joseph’s unwavering faith in God that inspires me. He seems to possess a quiet assurance that everything is ultimately going to be okay. 

In this 45th chapter of Genesis, we see Joseph revealing his true identity to his brothers. We know he had risen to a very prominent position of power as second in command of Egypt. The stage could have been set for him to get the “perfect revenge” against his brothers. We read in verse 5 right after Joseph reveals his identity to his brother: “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” I find it especially poignant that not only does Joseph not want to exact revenge in this situation, he actually chooses to comfort his brothers in this moment rather than “giving them what for.” We know from earlier scriptures that Joseph was clearly hurt by their previous actions, but he wants to spare them the hurt of being angry with themselves or beating themselves up because of their actions. He points them to an understanding of God’s sovereignty and that they were players in God’s plan. 

How differently that 45th chapter of Genesis could have played out if Joseph had been bent on vengeance. Instead, we see the true beauty and power of forgiveness and a reminder that God is in control even in the midst of our darkest hours. 

If we choose to be consumed with anger or self-pity, we miss the important lessons God is trying to teach us. We read in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Perhaps the answer in those dark times is to focus on loving God even more deeply and purposely than ever before.

-Kristy Cisneros

Questions for Reflection and Discussion


1) When you encounter hardships and tragedies, does your attitude reflect one of unwavering faith in God? If not, how can you further nurture and strengthen that faith so that it is at the ready when life’s storms come your way?

2) What action can help us love God more deeply and purposely than ever before?

3) What other lessons can you learn from the story of Joseph?

Damascus Road Illumination

Acts 9

Acts 9 3 4

Saul was a man of deep convictions. He was deeply convicted that he was doing the right thing in the eyes of God. Not only did he feel he was right in the eyes of God, I believe he truly thought his vehement persecution of Christians was God-honoring work. Perhaps he even thought he was on a special mission from God. Saul was a Pharisee and Pharisees were known for their strict adherence to the law. I think the law was like a blanket of security for him, a metaphorical checklist that he could check off point by point and be assured he was in good standing with God. How dare these Jesus followers, pushing their radical message of grace and echoing the teachings of Jesus that the contents of one’s heart far outweighed any outward action. Heresy! Something HAD to be done!

 

Is it possible that we are deeply convicted about something that we feel is God-approved- or even God-honoring- that in fact might not be? While we are not likely to have a flashing, blinding light from heaven to illuminate our paths and pinpoint the error of our ways, rest assured, our Heavenly Father does illuminate our paths. We have assurance from the well-known verse found in Psalms 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (NASB). We are also told in Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (NASB). Our Damascus Road illumination often comes in the form of scripture. We must be brave enough to continually compare our convictions up against scripture and prayerfully consider if those convictions resonate with the heart of God. In many ways our Christian walk is like a perpetual Damascus-road experience- if we are open to it. If we allow Him, God will continually refine our hearts and shape us. We read in Isaiah 64:8: “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”

 

The beauty of being a Christ-follower is that we can have a new identity in Christ. We become a new creation. Saul’s conversion was marked by a change in name to Paul. Does our name-tag still read Saul? Or are we continually striving to be a Paul for Christ?

-Kristy Cisneros

A Spirit of Boldness

ACTS 8

Acts 8 4 (2)

There are many valuable lessons to be learned from Acts 8. Here are two that stood out to me:

1. Go forward in a spirit of boldness, not one of fear and timidity. If you know me well, you know I LOVE the movie The Princess Bride. (Yes, I realize this movie is now a classic!) Spoiler alerts ahead! If you have ever seen the movie, you will recall the scene where Wesley is leading Buttercup into the Fire Swamp and Buttercup fearfully exclaims to Wesley, “We’ll never survive” and Wesley replies to her, “Nonsense. You’re only saying never because no one ever has.” True to Buttercup’s fears, they encounter the widely known dangers of the Fire Swamp: fire, quicksand and R.O.U.S.’s (Rodents of Unusual Size). In reading Acts 8, especially on the heels of Stephen’s stoning that we read about in chapter 7, one might imagine an atmosphere of fear and timidity could have easily festered in the Christian community. In Acts 8:1 we read about a great persecution that began against the church. We read of Saul who was waging war against the Christ followers, going from house to house, dragging off men and women and putting them in prison. One might think Christians might have chosen to go underground and keep a low profile. As we continue reading the chapter, we find just the opposite to be true. Christians were scattered about because of this persecution, but we read in verse 4 that they continued to preach the word. In verse 5 we read how Philip went down to Samaria and proclaimed Christ. This wasn’t a clandestine type of preaching, his bold proclamation of the gospel was also accompanied by miraculous wonders such as healings and driving out of demons.

In John 15:20 Jesus tells us, “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” We are not promised a trouble-free life. Jesus assures us this life will bring us trouble and persecution if we follow him. What should our response be to persecution? Do we shrink back and try to keep a low profile? Or do we move forward with boldness like Wesley and Buttercup in spite of our fears? 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” Jesus assures us we will have trouble in this life, but we are never ever alone. He reminds us of this in John 16:33 when he tells us, “I have told you these things, to that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”


2.  Be sensitive to the leadings of the Holy Spirit. Your Christian life is unscripted. In many ways, it is a wild adventure. We have the most excellent advantage of knowing how the story ends and that the good guys do win after all, but there will be many plot twists in between. In verses 25-40, we read about how an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” There Philip sees an Ethiopian eunuch and we read in verse 29, “Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and join this chariot’.” We continue reading that Philip preached Jesus to the eunuch and the eunuch declares his belief that Jesus is the son of God and gets baptized by Philip. We later read that Philip gets snatched away by the Spirit to Azotus and preaches the gospel in all the cities on his way to Caesarea. Following the lead of the Holy Spirit means we will lead life unscripted and we will often be pushed out of our comfort zones. What is the Holy Spirit stirring you to do? Be sensitive, be open and be bold. A grand adventure awaits…

-Kristy Cisneros
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