The End Before The Beginning

I had began working on Devotions from Exodus Part Two over five years ago, however the loss of my Dad to cancer had shut down the writing of this book and it has been a process to get my heart back to the place where I could write outside of me just trying to process my own personal grief. Then when my heart was finally able to write again I also began a new season in ministry. This new ministry season required my early mornings, which is also my best writing time. Therefore the completion of this book has been slow go, but I believe always in God’s perfect timing. This morning I finished my last devotion from the book of Exodus. I am so overwhelmed with the completion and also with what the Lord has taught me and reminded me of as I wrote it, that I wanted to share it. So here is the almost end of the book before I prepare it for publishing…

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

Exodus 40:34

In Exodus 13:21 we learned that the LORD was going before the people in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to give the people light. In Exodus 19:9 we learned that the LORD would speak to Moses from a dark cloud with thunder and lightening that the people might hear Him and know that Moses was indeed His mouth and spoke His commands. The cloud of the LORD would become so great that it covered Mount Sinai and hid Moses and the elders and yet so small that it would stand at the entrance of Moses’ tent in the midst of the camp as he met with the LORD for instructions concerning the people. 

The people had come to know that this cloud represented the glory of their God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This cloud had led them since the day they exited Egypt. The cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night had always met the people where they were and guided them to where they needed to be. It would be this very cloud that covered the tent of meeting when the work was finished. Then this cloud, the glory of the LORD, would enter the tabernacle and the people would know that they had done all the Lord had commanded Moses. 

Exodus 40:35 goes on to say that Moses was unable to enter the tabernacle because the cloud had settled on it and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. This cloud was not a fog, it was a presence. I read this account in Scripture and I try to imagine this cloud. How many times have I wished that the Lord would show up in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to lead me so that I might know that I am heading in the right direction. 

In 2 Samuel 7 we read of the account of King David’s desire to build a permanent house for the Lord, however it would not be him, but would be his son Solomon that God would allow to build it. In 1 Kings 8 and 2 Chronicles 7 we see that at the completion of Solomon’s temple fire came down from heaven, consumed the burnt offering, and the cloud, the glory of the LORD, filled the temple so that the priests could not stand to minister. This cloud had been the visual and experiential presence of the great I AM since the exile of Egypt and this cloud would once again be a confirmation to the people of Israel that they had done all that the Lord had commanded them. 

This cloud would remain as a presence in the temple until the day that the Lord would have to send the nation into exile at the hands of Babylon because their disobedience and rebellion to the Lord their God had grown so great. In 605 BC Nebuchadnezzar invades Jerusalem and takes Daniel    and his friends captive. Then in 597 BC Ezekiel and ten thousand captives are taken by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon. In the book of Ezekiel we begin to read of one of the saddest accounts in Scripture, the account of when the cloud, the glory of the LORD, leaves the temple of the Lord and the promised land that He had led His people to around a thousand years before this exile. 

The children of Israel had lost their way. They had forsaken the Lord that had delivered them from Egypt and grew them into this great nation. The temple that was built for the glory of the LORD now held idols to multiple false gods. The people worshipped only out of tradition and rote. Their hearts were far from the God that loved them so, and they refused to repent and return to Him. Therefore, the Lord sent them into exile. 

While Ezekiel was in exile in Babylon, the land of the Chaldeans, the Spirit of God took him to Jerusalem in a vision and he records for us what was taking place in the temple of the Lord and in the heart of Jerusalem. Ezekiel sees the glory of the Lord move from the cherub on the Mercy Seat to the threshold of the temple (Ezekiel 9:3). The temple was filled with the cloud and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the LORD (Ezekiel 10:4). Then the glory of the Lord moves from the threshold of the temple and moves to the entrance of the east gate (Ezekiel 10:18). In Ezekiel 11:22-23 we read of the glory of the God of Israel leaving the city of Jerusalem and standing over the mountain east of the city. The cloud, the glory and the presence of the LORD, had left the temple.

The nation of Israel would be in captivity for seventy years before they were allowed to return to the land. At their return, Ezra and Nehemiah would work to lead the people to rebuild the temple, but the cloud would not return to it. Herod would renovate and expand the temple around 20 BC and it would become known as Herod’s temple, but the cloud still would not reside in it. The glory of the LORD had departed the land of Israel at their exile and it would be hundreds of years before the glory would return.   

In Matthew 17 we read of the account of the day that Jesus took Peter, James, and John up on a high mountain. On this mountain Jesus had gone away to pray and the others had fallen asleep (Luke 9:32). When they were fully awake they saw Jesus transfigured before their eyes and they saw  His glory. We are told in Matthew 17:5 that a bright cloud overshadowed them and from this cloud a voice called out, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” 

I cannot imagine the overwhelming emotion that had to hit Peter, James, and John at the sight of Jesus transfigured before them. They were seeing Jesus in all His beautiful glory and the cloud that their fathers had spoken about, and the scribes had taught about, right before their eyes and they heard the voice of the Lord speak from it. With what we have learned about the cloud and the temple, we can better understand why they asked if they should build tabernacles there on that mountain.

In that moment the cloud, the glory of the LORD, had returned. The amazing thing is that even then Peter, James, and John still didn’t realize that they had been with the glory of the LORD all along. They hadn’t yet realized that the Word had became flesh and dwelt among them, and the entire time they were looking at His glory, “glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). We can shake our heads at these three disciples, or we can choose to take a step back and ask ourselves if we too are missing the glory of the Lord as He stands right in front of us, or worse, missing Him even as He lives within us.

Oh Father,

There are indeed times that I wished that You would lead me by a cloud that I can visibly see and a pillar of fire that physically resides before me. However, deep down I know that you have given me something greater than a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. You have given me your very Spirit to reside within me. Your presence in a cloud would still be outside of me and though it could lead my steps, it could not change my heart. My Jesus you came not to reside in a temple made with human hands, but to reside in me. You made me Your temple. Oh Father, how my heart is overwhelmed with me. 

My Jesus, how very much I do love you. It is in Your most holy and precious name I pray,


Who Is The Favorite?

There is a little game floating around Facebook this Mother’s Day season called Sibling War and one of the questions is about who is the favorite. Our girls seemed to be convinced that we have favorites or at least they chose to slide answers in for that question. Last night my husband and I sat back and honestly attempted to self evaluate this question and their assumptions. What we found the most hilarious was that the one voted the most spoiled was the only one not chosen as a favorite. Therefore, it’s obvious to us that they actually deep down see and know that we DON’T have a favorite but absolutely equally adore each of them.

Our oldest, Ashleigh, is adored for her loyalty and quiet strength. One of our favorite things is her ability to tell a story. If the story isn’t funny, that’s okay, the inner joy we receive just from watching her try and tell it is really what we are listening to so regardless of the point it’s going to be hilarious. She has the most beautiful tender heart toward all things living. She introduces us to all the latest documentaries and concerns of the day. She is our researcher and planet saver and if any of our children ever headed up a March on Washington to save the turtles it would be her. She is full of life and love and it has been our greatest joy to watch her raise her own daughter up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Our granddaughter is not even fifteen months old yet, but has already had her heart and mind flooded with the Word of God because her mother knows that this is foundational for her life and she didn’t have to wait until she was older to introduce her to the Scriptures.

Our middle daughter, Shelby, is adored for her tenacity and drive. She sets a goal and nothing is going to stand in her way in accomplishing it unless God Himself steps in and let’s her know she needs to let it go. She has a strong sense of justice and of right and wrong and she is not afraid to speak loudly to be heard. She has never waited for life to come to her, she has always taken the initiative to chase it for herself. At the same time she has a servants heart and never passes up an opportunity to stop and help someone she sees in need. She is not going to mince words or beat around the bush about anything. Don’t ask her opinion unless you really want to hear it, because she is going to speak the truth she sees even if it’s something you might not want to hear. She is always loud and always excited and loves to talk and thrives to teach and loves Jesus with all her heart and isn’t afraid to stand up and speak out and openly declare His truth even if she is the only one who believes Him.

Our youngest, Rebekah, is adored for the light and laughter that she brings everywhere she goes. She has the most amazing way of finding humor in life and her quick wit allows her to open the eyes of everyone around her to see it as well. However, everything is not a joke to her. She is also able to see past the fake smile and into the hurting heart and she immediately steps in to do what she can to help or at the very least acknowledge the hurt she sees. She is kind to all people at all times. She freely gives light and life to all. She sees the importance of the details and how the simplest acts of kindness can go a long way. She has the spiritual gift of mercy and this is made evident through the love and mercy of the Spirit of God that easily flows through her. She is quick to see the hand of Jesus in every situation and encourage others through her knowledge and experience of His sovereignty and faithfulness to see it as well. She is learning more and more every day to open her mouth in wisdom and the teaching of kindness is indeed on her tongue. She knows how to balance both grace and truth, never condoning sin, but always loving the one that is trapped in it.

As Mother’s Day approaches and I look at these girls that the Lord has entrusted us to parent I remain humbled. I remain humbled that the Lord kept chasing us and pursuing us with His everlasting lovingkindness and patient endurance. I am humbled that He rocked my world and brought me to my knees that I might look up and see that He was everything. I am humbled that as I chased after Him, or so I thought, it was really Him wooing me all along as He kept coaxing me through the stages and seasons of growth as a believer, a woman, a wife, a mother, as He was making me into a warrior of the faith that He would be able to use to raise up these beautiful young women of God to be about His business. I am humbled by the obedience of faith and all the blessings that follow it.

I am thankful for the lessons we learned from our own parents and for the teachers and experiences that the Lord brought into our life that opened our eyes to see our daughters individually for who they each are in Him. I am grateful for how He taught us that the things in their lives that made them different and possibly even got them in trouble as a child were the very things we needed to cultivate and teach them how to develop in a way that glorified their God. The enemy wanted to use them for evil, but their Creator knit them together with all their personality and quirks for good. I am thankful that the Lord blessed me with a partner in parenting that chose to see past the outward behavior to the inward cause so we could always find the good and use it to expose the enemy’s deception and distractions. We don’t chop the top off of weeds in this house for too long, we go straight to yanking things up by the root. We don’t beat around the bush or dance around difficult issues. We just jump in head first and hold on to Jesus for dear life.

Our girls know that they can talk to us about anything and everything without judgment. They know that authenticity is key and we are who we are no matter where we are and no matter who is around. Duplicity is not something that has ever been practiced in our home. They have learned the difference between hypocrisy and the act of discretion and taking the convictions of others into consideration. We are imperfect people who serve a perfect God who is faithfully at work completing what He started in all of us as He conforms us into the image of His Son. We are here to just keep encouraging one another as Jesus does what He does in each of our lives and the lives He allows us to touch as His hands and feet on this earth.

Mommas I implore you to trust Jesus with your babies. Parent them with His Word. Everything you need to know is in the Book. Look at Jesus. Teach them to treat people like Jesus treated people and treat them with the same grace and truth that Jesus treats you. Make the hard calls. Make the sacrifices. Take the time. Do the work. Don’t get so bogged down in making and enforcing rules that they don’t know how to let you into their mistakes and struggles. Don’t get so focused on protecting them from this world that they can’t figure out how to navigate life with Jesus while in it and end up living in fear or in the comfort of the box you built for them. They can’t shine and hide at the same time.

Let me encourage you that it is a sweet, sweet thing as a mother to look at my daughters and have no regrets. I regret not one ounce of time or energy that I have spent or will continue to spend on these girls. I regret not one mile I drove, not one hour of sleep I missed, not one tear I cried, not one battle I fought, not one job I didn’t take, not one outfit I didn’t buy. It is a sweet, sweet thing to experience the transition from just a parent to a best friend. If you try to be the “best friend” when they are young you are in danger of missing out of this sweetness, but if you stand firm and love like crazy… I promise you it will come. We are three for three y’all. Three of my most favorite people on this planet are our girls and not just because they are ours, but because of who they are and who we see them becoming in, through, and for Christ our Lord and the glory that His due His name.