It feels like forever since I’ve done a post! I’ve been happily absorbed for a few weeks in Illustrated Faith Devotional called “A Heart that Receives.” I love working with a devotional. I find in the midst of a busy life, it’s nice to be given a verse and some thoughts along with the verse to get me started. The Illustrated Faith devotionals come with art supplies and a color scheme (even better!). My Bible always feels changed in a positive way, once I’ve completed one. This has been my favorite Illustrated Faith devotional kit. I love Bible stories and find every time I revisit them I glean something new. I probably should have shared the pages one-by-one, but here’s the whole thing…
This devotional began with the story of Noah. Kim Marquette, the author of the devotional asks: “If God gave me an assignment with great detail that would take years and involved something I have never seen before, would I have the faith to follow through?” As I ponder the question: Through the unfolding of the Bible,we are given instruction in how to love God and each other; we are invited into a lifetime of love to prepare us for a heaven we have yet to see, but can only imagine. May we trust God like Noah and do all that God commands us to do, most of all to love one another as Jesus loves.
The next page of the devotion turns to the story of Abraham. God gave this man instructions to go, promising him offspring, land, and that he would be blessed to be a blessing to others. But 25 years passed before Abraham and Sarah had a son and named him Isaac. Kim writes: “Waiting can be discouraging. Sometimes the promises of God unfold quickly and sometime’s its 25 years. The waiting years are fertile ground for an intimate relation with God to grow.”
On the day that I read this page of the devotional, I looked out my kitchen window to see our two children playing with neighborhood children on the swingset in our backyard. I was so filled with overwhelming gratitude that the scene made it into my Bible! When we first moved into our home 15 years ago, I planted some pine tress and envisioned the spot where the swingset sits now. It took another 5 years of waiting and hoping for my son to arrive. The wait was hard on me, but it was a time to grow closer to God. I suppose the best thing about the long wait is that I appreciate so much more the little moments that make motherhood a joy.
Speaking of dreams, Joseph, the dreamer is the subject of the next day’s devotion. Joseph is a wonderful example of a man with a heart of receivership. Kim writes:
He receives the dreams and believes them. He receives assignments in the home of Pharaoh, he receives a prison sentence, he receives the opportunity to interpret another’s dream, and then he receives the mantle of leadership that eventually saves his people and all of Egypt from a famine.
Through all these events, God’s favor rested upon Joseph and everything he experienced, the good and the bad served a purpose. I had a pastor who was fond of saying: “Nothing is wasted in God’s economy.”
As I reread the story of Joseph, my imagination was captured by the story of Potiphar’s wife. I found myself wondering: When the wife could see that what Joseph did was successful and that her husband had nothing to worry about, but what to eat: Why would she cause trouble for him? That doesn’t seem particularly in her own self-interest. Still, wherever Joseph went, things ran smoothly. The keeper of the jail put him in charge, and whatever he did, the lord made it to succeed. Joseph rises strong from every setback. His life story is testimony to the truth that all things work together for good for those who are called according to God’s purpose.
By way of contrast, Kim shares Moses as an example of a person reluctant to receive. When God calls him and asks him to go talk to Pharoah, he has all kinds of excuses as to why he can’t. He claims that he’s not eloquent and that he’s slow of speech and tongue. He begs God to please just send someone else. I always appreciate that in the Bible, the heroes of faith all have their weaknesses. As I reread this passage, I asked myself what advice I would give to Moses in this situation and I thought of verses from Hebrew 13:20-21:
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus the great shepherd of the sheep by the blood of the eternal covenant equip you with everything good that you may do his will working in us that which is pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ to whom be the glory for ever and ever.
As I read the passage again, the language that St. Paul used brought to mind parts of the Exodus story. I reflected on how much passed between what Moses saw and accomplished until Jesus and how every moment, even the weak moments like this culminated in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Moses will grow, receive, wait on God, become strong and courageous, learn to say “yes, Lord” and see that God works for the good.
(I think I used all the word stamps from the Devotional kit on one page! And the flowers, too.)
Up next: Joshua! The name Jesus comes from a Greek translation of the Aramaic short form of Yeshua (in English Joshua). In the Bible, its common to see parallels between people of the same name. The name Joshua means “Yahweh is salvation”. Its Joshua who leads the Hebrews into the promised land.
Kim notes that the phrase “Be strong and courageous” appears four times in the first 18 verses of Joshua. The first three “Be Strongs” are spoken by God and are followed by the promise of an inheritance, an exhortation to be careful to do all the law that Moses commanded, and an assurance that the Lord God is with His people wherever they go. The fourth “Be strong” is the people of Israel telling Joshua to be strong and courageous after they answer Joshua: “Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever your command him, shall be put to death.”
Jesus was put to death, even though he was perfectly obedient, so that we might have an inheritance in heaven, that his righteousness may be ours, and that we may be with God for eternity.
I illustrated this page before, so I just took time to write out the Lord’s instructions to Joshua on a tip-in. I used Faber-Castell brush pens on the flower stamps.
The instructions took up both sides of the tip-in. It was a pleasant surprise that the “Be Strong and Courageous” tip-in that came with the kit coordinated with the colors I already had on the page!
I really got absorbed in the story of Esther, in part because it’s not a Bible story that’s as familiar to me as many others. I watched the story of Esther on Netflix and read the book of Esther several times. To the extent that I’m familiar with the story, I’ve heard it told as a story of courage and civil disobedience just as Kim told the story:
In Esther’s day no one approached the king unless summoned. This one act could cost Ether her life. However, not asking for mercy could cost many their lives. Esther asks all the local Jews to fast for three day. Then she starts the process of asking for mercy from the King for her people.
As I read it and reread it, it struck me odd that Esther is known for her one act of disobedience, but this seems to be an exceptional event in the life of a woman who was willing to take instruction and easily won the grace and favor of the king. The story took on new meaning for me as I read it the story of a bride preparing to meet her king.
I am not sure why, but I was really struck by the words: six months oil of myrrh and six months with spices and ointments for women. Esther spent a long time preparing to meet her king! (The Netflix movie glosses over this point!)
This next page just had me singing…”Don’t you be afraid of giants in your way. With God you know that anythings possible!”
The devotional took me on a quick visit to the book of Job. I appreciated this quote from Kim: “Learning to receive, preparing to receive happens long before the presentation of something, someone, or situation. A heart of receivership is cultivated through and intimate relationship with God.”
As I worked on the page below, I was reminded that those moments in life, where what we hold dear is stripped away we encounter God more directly, particularly when we have lived a blameless and upright life and feared God and turned away from evil. Job declares: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.” All the things of this earth will pass away, but God is eternal. In Christ we can be assured that we will be with God forever. Blessed be God’s name!
Our true hope is not found in the things of the world, but in Christ…
The page of the devotional had me singing again…
And pondering this question from Kim in the “A Heart that Receives” devotional: What if your life lived with a heart of receivership changed the lives of others? Causing many to worship your God? (Like Daniel).
It’s an honor to think about inspiring others to worship God in new ways. I was looking for a definition of worship. Connie Denninger of Vintage Grace supplied me with a long list of definitions for just about any Christian term. Worship was defined this way:
To adore, obey, revere, and focus positive attention on. Any action or attitude that expresses praise, love, and appreciation for God. Can be expressed through obedience, the way we treat people, can be private or public.
Bible Journaling is such an important part of my private worship of God and helps me to make worship and prayer apart of my life throughout my day in all that I do.
As I reflected on the life of Nehemiah, I just thought what a blessing that God brings restoration and allows us to be part of His restoration work….
Regarding Mary, Kim asks in the devotional: “Is God asking you the impossible? Do you consider yourself the Lord’s servant?”
Like Mary, may I say, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you will.”
The following passage is one I illustrated simply many months ago. I love Kim’s view of John as a waymaker for Jesus. Kim writes, “it’s not easy for anyone to be second. To fully understand and receive the role as one who is making the way for the one who is the Way! Bot John received his assignment and set an example.” As I pondered this, I could think of so many people who make way for others: parents, teachers, mentors, pastors, and coaches. I think being part of another person’s success, even a small part, can be deeply gratifying. I can think of many who relate to John’s words: “Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.”
As I read through the whole passage, I was struck by a verse that I’ve never noticed before: “A person can not receive one thing unless it is given to him by heaven.” This seemed to fit with the theme of the devotional!
I’ve been using the “Yes, Lord” stamp quite often as I worked through this devotional. I admit to tearing up a bit when I read the words “Yes, Lord” as Peter’s response to Jesus after Peter was asked if he loved Jesus. I always associate keys with Peter. As I looked at this passage, I thought to myself: “The keys to the kingdom: take care of one another!” To bring God’s kingdom to earth we simply need to live in love and serve willingly as called.
The final page of the devotional took me to the garden where Jesus prayed: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” This has always been a hard passage for me to read. I hate the thought of Jesus alone and in agony.
I wasn’t sure how to illustrate this page. I looked online for inspiration and saw many familiar pictures of Jesus alone and praying, but then I saw the picture of the angel comforting Jesus a painting by Carl Bloch. I couldn’t see anything else. I imagine the angel whispered the words that the Lord spoke to Joshua: “Be strong and courageous.”
Thanks for joining me on this journey through the devotional! Blessings!