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Small Beginnings

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand…” (Zechariah 4:10a).

Finding this famous phrase in the Bible surprised me. As Biblically literate as I am, I still missed realizing this common saying had roots in the Bible. “Do not despise these small beginnings…” (Zechariah 4:10).

What small beginnings are being referred to here in the Bible?

In this particular passage, Zechariah was having a vision of the future when the temple of God would be rebuilt. The temple was the center of the Israelites’ original promised land. At the time of this prophecy, the Israelites would have been downtrodden, discouraged, defeated, disappointed. All the “D’s.” It was after their city and country had been destroyed, including their beloved temple. It was after they had been taken captive by a foreign nation. But the Lord encouraged them that it would be rebuilt. The small beginnings referred to here were the foundation of the new temple. It might have looked measley compared to the old one. It might have looked like nothing, but a foundation. Small as it was, it signified the start to something big.

What does the Lord say about these small beginnings?

The Lord told His people two things regarding these small beginnings. First, He said not to despise them. Second, He said that He “rejoices to see the work begin” (Zechariah 4:10). I’ve had to recently start over in many ways. My house is half the size it used to be. Some kids recently came over and asked, “Do you have a basement? Do you have an upstairs?”
I answered plainly, “no, we don’t. We miss our basement. But we’re close to the park and we have a great location.” I have to remind myself that we’re rebuilding. We’re starting over, just as the Israelites were. God did not despise their small beginnings. He was happy that they were moving forward, taking small steps in the right direction. The Lord did not care that it wasn’t grandiose, like Solomon’s temple before. We too, must remember, to not compare ourselves to others. Our small beginnings will be used of the Lord for great things. God will use my small house, our start over. Just as He brought that temple to completion, He’s bringing you and me to completion too. The Israelites’ relationship with the Lord was restored, along with their temple. So the Lord will restore in me and mine, all that’s been broken. He will bring it to completion, despite these small beginnings. And He will do the same with you! Whatever seems small and dispise-able in your life, God can use for His glory!

What significance does the plumb line have?*

The plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand referred to a man going to work completing a work God had called Him to do! Despite how hopeless the work looked to the masses, God loved that this man was pursuing it’s completion, trusting God would bless it. What work has God called you to? As you consider that for a moment, let’s look a bit deeper. The small beginnings referred to here can also be translated in other places in the Bible as “young, youngest, small, least…” ( Logos Word study). What in your life has the Lord led you to that seems young, possibly the least, needing MUCH improvement? Instead of being annoyed at it not looking Pinterest perfect, remember that the Lord LOVES those things. He loves His people seeing value and bringing value to something the masses see as insignificant. Perhaps it’s people, literally young children, or others young in their faith. Perhaps you’re called to build them up just as this temple was raised up to glorify God. Do not despise teaching Sunday school to preschoolers. Do not despise that small business you’re starting with just a few sales, or that online presence with only a few likes. The Lord LOVES you moving in a direction, be it ever so small, in order to glorify Him!

Whatever you’re working on today, no matter how small and insignificant it seems, remember not to despise small beginnings, for the Lord LOVES seeing you work as you trust Him to bring your work to full glory. God’s got this. God’s got you. He’ll enable you to finish what He’s called you to. Amen!

Afterthought

Just a reminder. God sent Jesus to earth with a “small beginning,” being born in a manger, with animals. In God using Zerubbabel to prophecy this message, He was also preparing His people to receive a Savior, born in a manger. That small beginning saved the world! If God can use that, of course He can use you.

*The plumb line had significance, which you can Google.

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Strong Men Needed

2 Timothy 3:6

“They are the kind who work their way into people’s homes and win the confidence of vulnerable women who are burdened with the guilt of sin and controlled by various desires.”

Sometimes, verses sound down right confusing! Other times, they sound so familiar it’s frightening!

This verse today, 2 Timothy 3:6, unfortunately reminds me of the plight of many women today. They grew up in troubled homes. They got married, thinking their husband was their knight in shining armor, who would rescue them from all the trouble of their childhood. Years down the road, some wake up, realizing the man they married is just like or possibly worse than their troubled home they ran from.

The women are vulnerable. They’re hurt and seeking healing, possibly in the wrong places. Whatever healing they find, seems to work, albeit, short lived. In time, they realize the disparity of their situation and their inability to fix it. Enter young man with smooth words, who knows how to make her laugh. She falls head over heels, in love, possibly, again. She finds herself once again, bound by an unhealthy relationship. She’s stuck in sin. She doesn’t know how to break free.

Men used to be expected to protect women and not take advantage of them. If a woman was considered an enabler or a co-dependent, it was her husband’s job to take care of her. Despite her enablement, the husband would have had self control. Despite her co-dependence, the husband would have seen her need for people and validation and helped provide for that need! Despite her imperfections, the husband should not use it as his excuse to sin, to abuse, to refuse, to neglect, to run.

This verse is such a far cry from Ephesians where Paul tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5).

My grandparents did not have a perfect relationship, but it seemed perfect to me. My grandma did everything for my grandpa, cooking, cleaning, going everywhere with him, hosting, etc etc. We never realized just how much of her life was lived for him until he died. She stopped largely, being social. She was a homebody at heart, but loved my grandpa so much, that she went everywhere with him. But he too, took excellent care of her. He bought a lake house and took her there often because “raising six kids was stressful,” he said. But he knew she could always relax at the lake. He took her out to eat multiple scheduled times a week, just so she wouldn’t have to cook, long before going out to eat was a thing. He took her to see her grandkids regularly, because she loved them so. He arranged trips to see her sister nearly weekly, though they lived well over an hour apart. They did this their whole lives. He took her on regular dates a couple times a week without the kids. He not only took good care of my grandma, but he took good care of his business staff. I’m told he sent all his office ladies on a trip to Chicago, just because. He was a man who loved the Lord and lived it. He still held my grandma’s hand when out walking until his death. And she still stood by his side until then too. Sure, they lived in a Leave it to Beaver age. But there were some good parts to that time that we’ve lost today. While there’s no need to go down the road of arguing which time was better and why. Today, we need to recognize that the verse in Timothy is happening. Some men are taking advantage of women. Therefore, we have all the more reason to preach the Word, reminding women who they are in Christ, bathing them in the Word like Ephesians 5 says. In this way, enslaved women will be set free.

Photo credit: samer daboul

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What to do with non-believers in Church


“These people are grumblers and complainers, living only to satisfy their desires. They brag loudly about themselves, and they flatter others to get what they want” (Jude 1:16).

I read recently that only about 40 percent of church goers are Christians.* If you’re a church goer, that statistic makes you question your salvation. I thought it was more like 80 percent. Sure, a few here and there might not really be Christians, but the vast majority are, right? Apparently not.

What do we do with verses like those in Jude? It’s an entire book ,albeit only one chapter long, about those in the church who don’t actually follow the Lord! Jude knew this was a serious problem. He says people like that cause divisions in the church, use God’s grace as an excuse to sin, defy authority, care only for themselves, and rebel (Jude 1). The Bible describes them as “dangerous reefs that can shipwreck you,” just from sharing a meal together (Jude 1:12). Our verse explains them as “grumblers and complainers” (Jude 1:16).

I don’t know about you, but as I read this, I couldn’t help but think, “I know people like that!” Unfortunately, I know people who flatter others just to get what they want (Jude 1:16). I know a whole group of people who will try to stop me from pursuing God’s will for me if I spend much time with them.

So what do we do? I mean, nobody’s perfect and we’re supposed to be around non Christians too, right? Thankfully, Jude tells us. We’re to build each other up and to pray (Jude 1:20). Note that he doesn’t say we’re to snuff out the non Christians and kick them out! Instead of complaining or praising to get what we want, we’re to show mercy to others, loving the person, but hating their sin (Jude 1:22-23). We can do this when we remember that God is the One responsible for keeping us in Him (Jude 1:24).

Do you know a person described in Jude’s book? How can you show them mercy without falling into sin yourself? If you truly know someone like that, you know how difficult it can be. Let’s start with prayer. Pray for those you know like this and how you can show them mercy without compromising your faith.

*From the book I Am a Church Member (Rainer).

Photo credit: Laura Stanley

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The Faithfulness Miracle

I’ve read and taught about Daniel in the Lions Den more times than I can count. My kids know the “story” so well they can tell it to each other. This morning, I read it again. And once again, I was amazed at some points within it that I had not noticed before. Join me as we review one of the greatest Bible “stories” of all time. It’s not just a story though, folks. It’s a real situation with real people and hungry lions that actually happened!

Daniel was OLD

First of all, Daniel was old. While Daniel had been taken captive as a teen, that was with King Nebuchadnezzar, a good while ago by the time Daniel chapter 6 with the lions happens. After serving King Nebuchadnezzar, his son, King Belteshazzar ruled. Daniel lived during that time, but it does not say he was involved in government. In fact, he was probably enjoying his retirement! Who knows, maybe he wrote a book called So Help me God about his time in government as a Christian and was busy promoting it. Maybe he was preparing to lead a tour to the holy land because he knew the 70 years was nearly up. Perhaps he was a health coach, promoting the Daniel Plan diet. Maybe he had cancer and had to go get chemo treatments three times a week that wiped him out. Not likely, but anyway. Until the last day of King Belteshazzar’s reign, Daniel mostly lived out of the public eye.

Next came King Darius, where our “story” takes place. This was the third king Daniel served! He obviously wasn’t losing his memory yet, because he was sharp and the king noticed that. The king wanted to promote Daniel. But, as we know, some haters got all hateful and mad about Daniel getting promoted. “We don’t like his politics! He’s horrible in government! We need him out of there! Let’s pass a law that makes it illegal for him to be promoted! Better yet, let’s pass a law to get him killed! Yeah! We’ll get rid of our problem Daniel, and his politics, just like that. Agreed? Agreed!” You can see the drunkard mob talking around a table figuring this out. Yet they knew the only way Daniel would do something against the law was if the law interfered with his faithfulness to God. So they said Daniel wasn’t allowed to pray to God anymore.

Daniel was FAITHFUL.

Next, let’s look at Daniel’s faithfulness. Daniel 6:10 says, “But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.” OK, first of all, what did he do when he learned of this law? Did he cry? Did he find a rack a shack and a bungalow and tell his friends not to be caught praying? Did he pull a Mordecai, dress in sackcloth and ashes and go  plead at the palace gate? Did he pull a Haman and go cry to his wife and friends? Or pull a Noah and get drunk? Or pull a Judas and just decide to end it himself instead? Did he pull a Jonah and run away? Or an Elijah and hide in a cave? You know, not all of these examples were sinful in their responses to trouble. But Daniel was different. He didn’t cry, look to others for help, gorge himself on food or alcohol, run, hide, or give up! He could have! Folks, is the miracle the shutting the mouths of the lions or the calmness in which this man approached his coming doom fully entrusting his life to the Lord? So what did he do?

He went home and prayed! The law said, “you can’t pray to God anymore,” and he went home and did JUST THAT! Note, he didn’t go before the palace and defiantly do just that. He didn’t decide he was going to start praying just because he disagreed with the law. But alone, in his own home, “as he had always done,” he prayed, “giving thanks to…God” (Daniel 6:10). He had a habit of praying three times a day. It wasn’t a pleading prayer either, but a prayer of thanksgiving! Three times a day! I’m sure Daniel had faced some times in his life where he thought he should have been killed. Captivity, refusing to eat the king’s food, interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, interpreting the writing on the wall, two kings taking over the throne and likely killing top previous aids. Now this. Was Daniel thanking the Lord that he’d lived such a long life? Was he thanking the Lord that the church would be purified through persecution? Was he thanking the Lord that he’d finished writing his will the day before? That he got to celebrate his grandson’s first birthday the week before? Despite the trial, Daniel found things to be thankful for.

My daughter likes to complain sometimes. If I’m honest, she gets it honest. I have to remind myself, as I remind her, to find things to be thankful for. Being thankful in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18) doesn’t mean we’re thankful for all circumstances. But it means we find things to be thankful for despite our circumstances. The other day I had to do some outdoor maintenance for work. I’m not very skilled in this area, but it costs too much to hire someone else, so I have to do it. I was pretty grumpy about it. Then I realized I needed to have a grateful heart. As I thought about what I could be thankful for, it occurred to me that it was an unusually warm day for the middle of winter! Thank God that He provided a nice day for me to have to get that outdoor work done!

So Daniel was faithful. He prayed every day three times a day, even when the law said not to. Because of this, he was thrown into the lions’ den. Let’s fast forward. The king liked Daniel. I would say, he loved Daniel! I would say, Daniel was the king’s favorite of all time! The king wanted Daniel to be in charge so he could rest east at night. This news that Daniel needed to be thrown into the lions’ den upset the king, to say the least. But what does the king, say to Daniel, as he’s headed into the lions’ den? “May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you” (Daniel 6:16b). What God does Darius hope will rescue Daniel? The one Daniel serves so faithfully!

OK. I could go on, but perhaps we’ll finish this next week. For now, consider: Are you faithful to God? Do you have godly habits as Daniel did? Perhaps you don’t pray three times a day facing Jerusalem, but do you do something once a day faithfully for the Lord? Do you read your Bible faithfully? Pray regularly? Teach your children the Word faithfully? And when trials come, do you stop? Or do you just keep on following God faithfully trusting Him? Let’s be like Daniel this year in our faithfulness. God faithfully brings up the sun every day and puts it to bed every night. What godly practice can you do faithfully?

photo credit: Monstera

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Go to the Ant

Ever get really overwhelmed by something? Or all the things? I recently heard a great explanation on Proverbs 6:6-11 about the ant. I have been meditating on that passage ever since. Ants are tiny, right? Yet they store up their food in summer. Have you ever noticed that each spring and summer, ants return? Like, no matter how cold it gets, the ants return!


We spend a lot of time marveling at famous people doing amazing things. But how often do we look at what they did in order to get to that point? One of my favorite examples is Odell Beckham Jr. He was just another football player until one day, during a game, he made a phenomenal one handed catch that was a game changer. I’m not big on watching sports normally, but I saw that catch as it happened. I said out loud, “I wonder if he practiced that!” He did it so flawlessly. Guess what?! He DID practice it! He’d practiced catching that football with one hand, while running, many times. Then one day, when it mattered, he was able to do it perfectly. He became known for that catch. Not every football player can catch a football one handed. But every football player could practice and then be able to.


It’s the same with us. The big moments are few and far between. But what makes them stand out is what we’ve done quietly, daily, preparing for those big moments. We might not be able to accomplish something huge today. But we could take a step in the right direction. We could, like the ant, take a lot of little steps, moving lots of little grains, one at a time, until we have moved a mountain. Maybe that’s what Jesus meant by faith as small as a mustard seed. The faith to take one little step, followed by another, and another, until the mountain is moved.


Instead of being overwhelmed by all the boxes to unpack, I can unpack one. I can submit my work to one publisher, then another, then another, knowing that will help me achieve my overall goal of getting published. I can weed one area of my yard, knowing that if I keep at it, eventually, all the weeds will be gone. I can devote 15 minutes a day to playing ball with my son, knowing that investment in his life will have eternal benefits. I can’t do everything, but I can do something, today.


And you can too. What are you overwhelmed by currently? Maybe it’s your kids’ birthday party that you’re supposed to clean the house for. Just clean one room, or one corner.
Perhaps it’s trying to finish that house project before hosting family for the holidays. What step can you take?


Or do you have a work deadline? Or did you just move and there’s just so much to do. Unpack one box. Hang one thing on the wall. Just do something, no matter how small. Choose to do something instead of being frozen at the insurmountableness of it all. (Sure it’s a word! You just read it, Lol)

One last thing, if doing something, even something small seems impossible, maybe you need help. Call a friend. Enlist a support group. Get some accountability. I recently recruited some friends to join me in submitting our writing to publishers. We have a total goal number we’re working on together. Simply having friends in it with me has boosted my motivation immensely.

Proverbs 6:6-11
Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.
    Learn from their ways and become wise!
Though they have no prince
    or governor or ruler to make them work,
they labor hard all summer,
    gathering food for the winter.
But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep?
    When will you wake up?
A little extra sleep, a little more slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest—then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit;
    scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.

*9 Things You Simply Must Do by Henry Cloud reference

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Ritual of Remembrance

Photo credit: Daniel Sandvick

“They must not leave any of the lamb until the next morning, and they must not break any of its bones. They must follow all the normal regulations concerning the Passover.”
Numbers 9:12 NLT

When my first child started at a school with uniforms, I was overwhelmed by the strictness of it all. With children coming from various economic backgrounds, the school had a unifying purpose with their uniform code. Likewise, God had a purpose in His strictness regarding sacrifices in the Old Testament.

A year after their exile from slavery, God had the Israelites celebrate through a ritual of remembrance (Numbers 9:1-3). Through sacrificing a lamb and eating it all, without breaking it’s bones, they would remember how they did that exact thing one year prior. As they took the lamb to kill it, they would recall the thoughts in their head the year before. As the smell of roasted lamb hit their nose, they would recall the excitement they had a year prior at their two year old starting to talk saying, “lamb lammy!” At the sight of everyone eating the same meal they had the year prior, they might recall trying to answer their children’s questions. “Why are we eating standing up? Why didn’t Moses explain more? Why did we put blood on the doorway? Why didn’t Joey’s family put blood on the doorway? Is Joey going to die?”

Along with the memories, a grateful heart would emerge at all the Lord had done the year before. Year after year, they would do this same ritual of remembrance to fix their eyes on the Lord and what He did for them. The bones of the lamb would not be broken. It would all be a part of it.

When the Jews saw Jesus, the lamb of God be sacrificed, they would remember the Passover lamb. When they saw that His bones were not broken, they would remember how the lamb’s bones were not broken. They would know it was more than a fluke in the Roman execution. It was by God’s perfect will and design. It was because He truly was the Son of God!


What traditions or rituals of remembrance do you have that remind you of what God has done for you? Do Christmas lights remind you how Jesus is the light of the world? Does gift giving remind you of Jesus being the greatest gift of all? Do you celebrate the day you came to know your Savior? Do your children’s birthdays remind you of God’s grace in giving them to you?

****This is a preview of my Advent Devotional I’m writing. Please stay tuned for more! And if you’re interested in helping edit or give feedback for the book, please send me an email: bec.harbert@gmail.com****

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The Reality of Taking a Step Back

“… They are stupid children who have no understanding. They are clever enough at doing wrong, but they have no idea how to do right! (Jeremiah 4:22)”

We all need to take time to laugh at some verses in the Bible. Then after regaining our composure, context helps greatly! God is not mad at His children, as much as He is incredibly hurt. Their destruction is upon them because they’ve chosen their own way. Earlier, God says, “my heart, my heart-I writhe in pain!” because the enemy is upon His people! He’s given and given and given to a people who have turned their backs on Him. He’s sent warning after warning through the prophets, yet they’ve refused to turn from their evil ways. God knows they need punished for their sins, but it’s still hard for Him to watch His children suffer. Every parent understands not wanting to see their children suffer, but needing to enforce an unpleasant consequence due to their misbehavior. I find I love the idea of things a lot more than their actuality. I love the idea of being wealthy, but I don’t want to put in the effort and sacrifice my family time to make that happen. I love the idea of living for God, but I don’t love the actuality of getting up early to devote the first part of my day to Him. God loves His children so much He wants a relationship with them. But He doesn’t enjoy having to discipline them when they disobey.

Ultimately, God is saying in this verse, “they don’t get it!” And He’s realized that He has done all He can for them. The only thing left to do is to allow them to face the consequences of their sins. It’s like a parents with the drug addicted child who keeps stealing from his parents and using it for drugs. They’ve put him in rehab, but he’s not chosen to change on his own. Finally, exasperated at knowing they’ve done all in their power to do, they kick their grown child out of the house. “If you’re going to do drugs, steal from us, lie to us, and not respect the rules of our home, then you can no longer live here. We’ve done all we can for you. You’re on your own now.”

I can’t help but think about relationships in our own lives. Some people like to focus on God’s grace and forgiveness. But they ignore God’s justice. God, being the perfect parent to His children, the Israelites, still had His children turn away. Is there a relationship that we’ve poured our hearts and souls into that it’s had little to no effect on the person? God eventually took a step back. He left the temple. He stopped intervening and protecting and allowed His people to face natural consequences. Is there a relationship where we need to take a step back? We like the idea of continuing in a relationship, but the reality is that there’s nothing we can do to help the person anymore. With much prayer, sometimes taking a step back can be the most loving and Biblical thing to do.

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Avoiding the Lesser Causes

“So I replied by sending this message to them: “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?”” (Nehemiah 6:3)

I have been mulling over this verse for a few days now. Nehemiah was working for the king and had a burden on his heart to go to a different town and rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. Nehemiah prayed and the Lord paved the way for him to leave his job, go and build the wall around Jerusalem, with the King’s blessing. What an awesome opportunity! What if your boss encouraged you to go on a mission trip and gave you the time off and money to cover some added expenses? We need to know the background to understand the context here in this tiny statement. While working, a man named Sanballat got all grumpy about the wall being built. Maybe he had a rough childhood. Maybe he had a few bad experiences in life. Maybe he was just a big bad bully for no good reason at all. Sanballat did all he could to stop the wall from being built. He tried reason, manipulation, and even force. Nehemiah was even told to hide in the temple because Sanballat might kill him. Instead of hiding, Nehemiah led the people to be prepared to fight. Half the people stood guard while half worked. You know what’s amazing about the book of Nehemiah? They finished the work they had set out to do! You know how long it took? Only fifty-two days (Nehemiah 6:15)!  It was SO quick! But how did they finish so quick? They were focused on completing the work God had assigned to them. When adversity came, they didn’t dwell on it or even waste any time at all being upset about it. They strategized and continued working. They re-strategized and continued working. When Sanballat tried to talk to Nehemiah, Nehemiah refused because he was too busy doing God’s will to get involved in meaningless controversies. “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come,” (Nehemiah 6:3). Nehemiah also asked a question, “Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?” (Nehemiah 6:3). It’s a question I’ve been thinking about lately too. Why should I stop doing what God has called me to do in order to…fill in the blank. Are you involved in a great work for which God has called you? Do you stay focused on the task at hand? Or are you distracted and downtrodden by those against you? Lord, help us focus on living for You and not on our struggles.