Blog

Living in Faith, Scripture verses

Being faithful like Moses

I’ll be the first to admit that when I’m looking for parts of the Bible to read, I don’t normally gravitate toward Numbers. But a couple of verses from my devotional a few days ago really struck me. In them (Numbers 12:6-8), God is talking to Moses and his siblings Aaron and Miriam:

“Listen to my words: When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord.”

There’s no doubt that Moses had a different kind of relationship with God than most people. Although even Moses wasn’t allowed to see God’s face (Exodus 33:20), he had such a close relationship with Him that God spoke to Moses like a friend (Exodus 33:11).

And, thankfully, so can we – thanks to Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection.

Numbers 12:7 bible verseI don’t expect to ever be anywhere close to Moses’s caliber in terms of my faith, but there’s nothing wrong with working toward a closer relationship with God. Sometimes I get frustrated because I’m trying to hear God’s voice and don’t seem to be getting any answers. Sometimes I think it would be so nice to see God face to face, even for a split second. And when I do get nudges (or whacks over the head) that I think are God’s responses to my questions, it sure would be nice to get it straight instead of feeling like it’s all a riddle.

Will I ever get to that point? I don’t know. But in the meantime, I can work on the little gem hidden near the middle of these verses: “He is faithful in all my house.” I want God to say that about me! Whether I’m spending time with my family, talking with friends, writing something for work, noodling the next chapter of my novel or buying groceries – I want to be faithful to God. I want to stand up for Him and for what I believe He says is right. I want to share Him with others through my words and actions. I want to trust Him with everything instead of falling in the traps of doubt or deceit (which is where these verses originated, because Aaron and Miriam were grumbling about God speaking through Moses, but that’s a story for another day).

How about you? What’s your favorite gem from these words of God? How can we stay faithful to and humble before God in the middle of everything else? I’d love to know how you approach it.

Living in Faith, Scripture verses

Ash Wednesday: Sacrifices and social media

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the day that begins the season of Lent leading to Easter. It’s a holy day that wasn’t commanded in the Bible, but Christians have observed it for well over ten centuries.

Early Christians would sometimes have ashes sprinkled on their bodies as a public symbol that they needed to repent from sin. According to historians, all Christians began to show their need for repentance by having ashes placed on their foreheads in the shape of a cross.

We do the same during Ash Wednesday services today as a reminder that we’re all sinful and stand guilty before God. No matter how good we try to be, no matter how often we go to church or help others or pray, we still can’t save ourselves from our sin.

That’s why God sent Jesus – to be our Savior.

Lent is a time for us to think about this, to acknowledge anew that we’re sinful and mortal. Jesus saved us from certain death and separation from God because of our sin, but it wasn’t without a cost.

He took our place and accepted the punishment for all our sins even though He had none Himself. He knew what was coming – including being shunned, tortured, crucified, and separated from God – and He did it for us anyway.

We’re encouraged to use the weeks of Lent to remind ourselves of what God gave to us in Jesus and what Jesus gave to us in Himself. That can take different forms, depending on who we are and where we are in our faith at that point.

Some people will give up something as a tangible sacrifice to God. Whether it’s fasting, breaking a habit like smoking, or giving up chocolate, the idea is that we’re giving up something we enjoy as a way of showing our commitment to God and our desire to put Him first.

Other people will add something to their life during Lent that is designed to help them grow spiritually. We might commit to having more prayer time, to read through at least one of the Gospels in smaller chunks so we can really meditate on it, or volunteer in the community.

I’ve taken both approaches, depending on the year. And while giving up Diet Coke wasn’t nearly as serious as what some people do, it was a pretty big deal for a college girl who popped the tab on at least four cans of it a day.

The point is that we’re finding a way to mark this season, to think about what Jesus went through in the days and weeks leading to His crucifixion. To think about the gift He was willing to give us, despite what it cost Him during His time here on earth. To thank Him for that gift even though we’re so unworthy of it.

This year I’ll be doing a couple of things, one of which will be posting a Bible verse on social media each day that relates to this season of waiting and preparation. If we haven’t already connected there, I hope you’ll find me wherever you like to hang out and follow along (Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook).

Your turn: I also hope you’ll consider finding a way to observe Lent for yourself and strengthen your relationship with God. If you do, I’d love to know what you choose. Leave a comment and let’s start a conversation.

God sightings, Living in Faith, Scripture verses

A little faith can go a long way

The Scripture passage that our pastor preached on this week was one many of us have heard since childhood: the story of Jesus walking on water and Peter stepping out of the boat and walking on water to meet Him (Matthew 14:22-33).

I couldn’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve read this story, heard this story, taught this story in Sunday school class or at Vacation Bible School. But our pastor shared a perspective on it that I’d never considered.

For background: This story happens early in the morning following the day when Jesus fed the multitudes with five loaves of bread and two fish (14:13-21). After Jesus dismissed the crowds, He went up onto the mountain to pray and the disciples got in their boats to spend the night fishing.

Rough weather came up during the night, but the disciples weren’t worried. After all, they had been fishermen all their lives and knew when rain was worth worrying about. What did bother them in the early morning hours was when they looked up and thought they saw a ghost on the water, walking toward them. Here’s what happens next (Matthew 14:27-33):

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He 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?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.  And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Our pastor said she grew up thinking that Jesus was fussing at Peter when He asked, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” I’ll admit that’s what I’ve thought too – that Jesus was reprimanding Peter. After all, Peter had been following Jesus for a while now and should be seeing his faith grow, not shrink.

Here was the twist in her sermon. At some point along the way, a teenager shared a different way of looking at this with our pastor. The teen said she didn’t think Jesus was full-fledged “yelling” at Peter like her mom sometimes did. Instead, the teen said she wondered if the feeling behind Jesus’ words was more akin to her mom being exasperated and saying, “I know you know this. What were you thinking?”

I think that’s an interesting way to look at it. As our pastor said, what if Jesus wasn’t asking, “Peter, how can you have so little faith that you don’t believe?” What if, instead, Jesus was saying, “Peter, I know you already have a little faith. And that’s all you need to believe.”

Wow. That struck me as something to really mull over this week.

Jesus didn’t expect Peter to know everything or do everything on his own. Jesus wanted Peter to remember what he already knew and let that knowledge feed his faith. Then, having that faith would give Peter the courage to step out and follow Jesus with confidence.

Here’s the other thing to remember: Jesus didn’t expect Peter to have giant-like faith. He just needed to have enough faith to step forward and let God take it from there.

I don’t need to have giant-like faith either (though I’m sure God would be pleased if I did and some days I really feel like I need more). I just need a little – enough to trust God and step out of whatever boat I’m stuck in like Peter stepped out toward Jesus. That one step of faith might be what God wants to see before the next things He has for me fall into place.

As our pastor said, “Even if your faith is little, it is still enough for what God has planned for you.”

Because God is really good at taking the smallest things and turning them into something amazing for Him. Even if it’s such a small bit of faith that I almost forget I have it myself.

Book Love, Christian fiction

Book review: Romanov by Nadine Brandes

Book cover of Romanov by Nadine BrandesBack cover copy: The history books say I died. They don’t know the half of it. Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them, and he’s hunted Romanov before.

Nastya’s only chances of saving herself and her family are either to release the spell and deal with the consequences, or to enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya has only dabbled in magic, but it doesn’t frighten her half as much as her growing attraction for Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her.

That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad … and he’s on the other.

My review: I read Romanov by Nadine Brandes for my historical fiction choice in the Read Something New 2021 Book Challenge. It wasn’t the book I originally planned to read for that spot but kept begging me to take it from my ever-growing to-read stack. So I finally gave in – and am glad I did.

Portions of Romanov are based on historical fact. The father, Emperor Nicholas II, was the last czar of Russia. Their family was exiled and later executed by a Bolshevik firing squad in 1918. When the gravesite of the family was found years later, two members were missing: Anastasia and her younger brother Alexei. Rumors persisted for years that they had somehow survived the firing squad and lived out their lives in secret and/or under different identities. Their remains were not found until 2007, buried in a separate grave near the rest of the family.

Romanov adds magical aspects to historical facts to weave a fantastical but believable story. Anastasia is a beginning-level spell master who knows just enough magic to create spells that help relieve the pain and injuries that Alexei experiences because of hemophilia. She is fiercely loyal and feels tremendous responsibility to help him however she can, but the Bolsheviks are hunting down and killing spell masters (in addition to wanting the Romanov family out of their way).

But Anastasia also is a typical teenage girl in many ways – playing pranks, doing things to make her sisters or Alexei laugh, navigating the feelings associated with her first crush, and learning to remain hopeful despite grappling with frustration, anger, and forgiveness.

The characters of Romanov are multi-layered and believable, even the secondary characters and antagonists. That’s part of what kept me reading and enjoying the story.

Faith elements are also strong, despite having magic be such an important element in the story. The family prays together and talks about things related to their faith, plus topics related to living a life of faith (hope, respect, forgiveness, grace) are integral to the story.

Who should read it: Historical fiction fans should enjoy Romanov, though sticklers who might get hung up on the magical aspect might enjoy reading something like I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon more (I read that one a couple years ago and liked it). Romanov is categorized as young adult fiction, but I can see it appealing to readers from middle school to adult. It covers some fairly heavy topics related to the war and violence, but they aren’t too much for a mature middle schooler to handle (and are much less graphic than plenty of other books targeting that age group).

Your turn: Did you read a historical novel for this month’s challenge? If so, tell us which one and what you thought of it! If not, share what you did read – because there had to be something, right?

Coming next month: The February book category for our reading challenge is science fiction or fantasy. Any idea what you’ll read?