The Finger of God

In Exodus 7-8, God sent a wave of plagues against the land of Egypt because Pharaoh would not release the Israelites from slavery. First, all of the major waterways of Egypt were turned to blood. The fish in the Nile died and smelled so bad that the Egyptians couldn’t drink the water (7:21). But Pharaoh’s magicians seemed able to replicate the miracle.

Hand of GodThen frogs invaded the land. They got into every nook and cranny; every home, everywhere. When they died they were piled into heaps, and the land reeked (8:14). Once again, Pharaoh’s magicians replicated the miracle, and Pharaoh would not relent.

Then something interesting happened. God turned the dust of the ground throughout Egypt into gnats; swarms of them, settling on all the people and animals. But the court magicians (spiritualists) could not copy this miracle, and they said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” At last they were beaten, and these sorcerers admitted the truth. But “Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen.” (Exodus 8:19)

When we refuse to acknowledge “the finger of God” something happens to our hearts.

This cuts two ways. Pharaoh refused to acknowledge the judgment or discipline of God. But how often do we ignore or refuse to acknowledge the blessings of God?

In Mark 3, the scribes accused Jesus of “casting out demons by the ruler of the demons.” They accused Jesus of being Satan’s puppet, and were willing to give Satan credit for the work of God (delivering people from bondage to demons). Jesus responded in a surprising way. He said: “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” (Mark 3:29)

An unforgivable sin?

The scribes in Mark 3 essentially did the same as Pharaoh in Exodus 8. They refused to acknowledge God, and gave credit to Satan for what God had really done.

Here’s a crazy thought: Might we do something similar when we say “Good luck” or “That was lucky” or “Knock on wood” or something similar — attributing to “the Fates” (not God) any good thing that might happen in our lives?

I wonder if our careless or thoughtless language (at times) might blind us to “the finger of God” and thereby harden our hearts just a little to His reality and presence? Are we lucky…or blessed? Fortunate…or graced?

When we fail to acknowledge “the finger of God” something happens to our hearts. Perhaps a subtle change in our language would yield a surprising change in our hearts. Will we see His hand in our lives today?

Just something to consider as “the Exodus” becomes our own story.


Front Cover ImageMy final reminder: Lent starts next Wednesday. Ready? If you’d like a bed-stand or coffee-table book (a devotional guide for the 40 days) I invite you to take a look at “Reflections Though Romans.” There’s still time to get a copy. Just click this link.

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Be Different, to Make a Difference

Light dispels darkness, precisely because it is not darkness.

That sounds altogether too obvious, and simplistic. But the only way that darkness disappears is when non-darkness comes. Darkness has no power over darkness. Open the door between two pitch black rooms, and you’ll still be in a pitch black environment.

Light in the DarknessThis helps me understand the powerful statement by the Apostle John, speaking of Jesus: “In Him (Jesus) was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5) Of course! Darkness never drives out Light. Have you ever opened the front door of your home on a dark night, only to have your home suddenly go dark because the darkness washed in past you? Not at all. But Light? That’s different. And because it’s totally different, it makes a profound difference. Even a candle in a dark place can make a profound difference.

I suspect that the Apostle Paul had a little of this in mind as he wrote: “You (followers of Christ) were formerly darkness, but now you are Light because of the Lord; walk as children of Light.” (Ephesians 5:8)

It’s a call to be different … and thereby make a difference.

Is it not odd when we think that we can live just as the world lives and yet make a difference? When we embrace the same values, lifestyles, practices, and priorities as the world around us, we have nothing to say (of any consequence) to that world. We may see the brokenness, the pain, the anxiety, and the shame, but when we are both in the world and like the world we can make no difference to the world.

The Gospel fundamentally calls us to change. Grace beckons us to transformation. The Kingdom of God demands that we be different.

How? In what we watch, how we parent, and in our language. In our priorities, in how we treat others, how we lead, and what we wear. In service, in love, in hope, and in compassion. In forgiveness, in peace-making, in spending, in web-surfing, and in just about every way we can imagine.

Our spouse needs us to be different. Our children need it. Our workplaces need it. Our schools and communities need it.

This past Sunday, the Patriots and the Eagles played each other in the NFL Super Bowl. During the halftime show, Justin Timberlake invited the huge crowd in the stadium to turn on their phone flashlights. Small pinpoints of light began to beam all around the stadium, and the place was utterly transformed into a gorgeous sea of stars. It didn’t require searchlights or military-grade flashlights, just Androids and iPhones in unison.

If your marriage, family, workplace, or inner life feels dark, be Light. Be different. Begin to re-charge your spiritual battery, because until we are different we cannot make a difference. By God’s grace, change comes first to us … and then through us. Perhaps make a fresh resolve right now.


Front Cover ImageJust a reminder that Lent begins next Wednesday. You might like to join the spiritual journey this year. I plan, Lord willing, to blog throughout Lent (as in past years). If you’d like a devotional book for your bedside table, with more background to Lent and space to make a few notes each day, you might take a look at my latest book. Here’s a link.

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My Latest Book (in time for Lent)

Dear friends –

Lent starts on Wednesday next week!

Front Cover ImageI’m delighted to let you know that I have updated, edited, and turned my 2016 Lenten series “Reflections Through Romans” into a 130-page book. This 40-day guide through Lent is now available. You might like to use it for this coming Lent or perhaps simply pull it out for a 40-day spiritual journey of your own at some other point in the year.

Copies are available on Just click here, or type in “Reflections Through Romans.” By the way, these Lenten reflections are no longer available through the blog, and the book includes updated and new material.

I hope you find it helpful, and a worthy addition to your night-stand, coffee table, or kitchen table during this season.

Praying that these words might nourish your soul as you read (or re-read) them. I’m so grateful that we get to share this journey of faith together.


David Timms

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Comments from Colossians (3:5-6)

So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. (Colossians 3:5-6; New Living Translation)

In a rampantly sexualized culture such as ours, sexual purity seems as rare as an albino rhinoceros, and as relevant as an abacus.

White RoseIn recent times, the mainstream news has poured out stories about movie producers, Hollywood actors, Olympic sports officials, state and federal politicians, and other public figures who have abused their position and power to manipulate others for sexual purposes. Social media has enabled the explosion of the #MeToo movement which has encouraged women (in particular) to chronicle their experiences of sexual misconduct by men.

Our sexuality is not only confused but confounding. Somehow we have come to believe that sexually-charged speech, entertainment, marketing, and dress is neutral; that what we watch and what we say — even the videos and images we preserve electronically (sexting) — should not make us vulnerable to exploitation. But it does.

Nothing can excuse sexual abuse, but it doesn’t require graduate research to understand the correlations within our culture. As a kid, I used to hear, “If you play with fire, you’ll get burned.” That cliche holds consistently true. And in a culture that plays very loosely with human sexuality, the innocent often get burned.

The genie is out of the bottle. The news is not creating this tsunami of sexual assault. It’s simply reporting it.

Christianity was born into a world just as confused and confounding as our own. And as the Apostle Paul wrote to young Christians and new churches around the Mediterranean, he was not writing to puritans. The Roman Empire and the ancient Mediterranean world had little affinity for purity or Judeo-Christian morality. Yet, Paul bucked the norm and urged followers of Christ to “put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires.

If we want to make a difference, we must be different.

Those living in darkness cannot simultaneously be light. We cannot model freedom while we live in bondage. It’s time to change our minds and change our lives (by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit), so we can be genuine agents of change in a world that needs it desperately.

Secularists sense this pivotal point in our history. Movement after movement (Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, Women’s Marches, and more) loudly and rightly declare “Enough!” In this moment of opportunity for the Gospel, Christian men and women must not only declare a way forward, we must model it; in our marriages, our families, our churches, and our communities. Will we step away from self-indulgence and step up to the plate, even today and this week?

#Hope #GoodNews #WeWill

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The First Noel

Have you ever read a word a thousand times and never checked what it actually means? Noel was one of those words for me. I saw it in store-fronts and on front lawns, read it on Christmas cards, and sang it in Christmas carols. It popped up every year, but I never pinned it down.

NoelNoel: early 19th century French word meaning “Christmas”; possibly from early Latin natalis, a word that could be translated “birth.”

Oh, that’s what it means!! Noel = Christmas. Noel = birth. I love that deep in its etymology, noel is not just about a date or an event but about beginnings and life itself; birth.

In the past 24 months, 24 million people have viewed the wonderful Pentatonix a capella rendition of The First Noel. All of a sudden, the song leaps out at me with fresh vigor and meaning. “Noel, noel, born is the King of Israel.” It’s a song all about birth and life and hope. “Born, born, born is the King of Israel!”

This coming Monday, the four weeks of Advent conclude with Christmas Day. Four weeks of declaring we desperately need a Savior; four weeks of waiting; four weeks of acknowledging sin and darkness; four weeks of anticipation. And Monday it all bursts forth with the greatest declaration possible. Born is the King. The wait is over. The Kingdom of God is among us.


It’s really a dual declaration. His birth; our birth. We were “helpless and dead in our sin” (Romans 5:6; 12) , “without hope and without God in this world” (Ephesians 2:12), but the birth of Christ changes everything.

We typically wait until New Year’s Day to make resolutions, to start new habits, and to seek a fresh start. But it often gets tied purely to our own will-power, determination, and effort. Perhaps that’s why so much of it fails. But Christmas (Noel) invites us to new birth, because of the one birth that changed the world.

The babe of Bethlehem assures, enables, and empowers our own re-birth … over and over. That’s something to celebrate. Noel. 

On a personal note: THANKS to each of you who have so graciously received these posts throughout the year. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to continue this Journey of faith with you. BLESSINGS THIS CHRISTMAS! May the grace of our Lord sustain you and renew you, as we quickly head towards 2018.

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Christmas Light(s)

I recently read that light is something, but darkness is nothing. It had never occurred to me. We can measure light (how fast it travels). We can refract and reflect light (using mirrors, glass, and lenses). We can bend it and split it (that’s how water produces rainbows). But darkness?

Light and DarkDarkness has no qualities. It doesn’t move, refract, reflect, bend, or split. In fact, it is merely a word to describe the absence of light. It is the nothingness that happens without light.

In the lofty prologue to his Gospel, the Apostle John said of Jesus: “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness…. There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man….” (John 1:4-5, 9)

Light is powerful. It drives out the darkness. The darkness never drives out the light. We have flashlights, not flashdarks. So, if we live in darkness, it’s simply because we have not opened the door to Light.

Jesus would later say of Himself, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

We should not miss the great irony of this Advent season. As we head towards the winter solstice (December 21) which is the shortest day (and longest night) of the year in the northern hemisphere, it is no accident that just a few days later (December 25) we celebrate the coming of the Light; not merely the lengthening of our day, but the One who gives meaning to our days.

Perhaps this adds poignant meaning to all of the Christmas lights we put on our trees and homes. They do more than simply beautify. They announce and declare that the Light has burst forth into the darkness. Christ dispels our nothingness. He casts out all despair, futility, cynicism, and fatalism.

In August 2007, my friend Joe’s marriage collapsed. After 20 years of marriage, his wife announced her intention to divorce him, and leave him for another man. Shattered and broken (and needing to get out of the house), Joe borrowed a car and drove towards the old family homestead in the Idaho Valley.

It was a hot August night, and the long drive meant he didn’t arrive until nearly 11pm. He didn’t know what to expect. He had hardly spoken to his parents over the years. Their relationship with him was virtually non-existent. But as he approached, he saw a glow coming from the house. When he got close he saw what it was.

His parents, in their 80’s, had hired someone to come and string Christmas lights all over the house and down the driveway. They had adorned the front yard with colored lights and ornaments. And there they sat on the front porch, looking longingly down the road for his arrival.

The lights were an invitation to renewal, to forgiveness, to a fresh start, and to grace. Darkness be gone; the Light has come.

Perhaps our Christmas lights this year will speak the same message to each of us. Perhaps they will remind us of the Light who comes to us in our darkest places and darkest moments to give hope and life.

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Expect the Unexpected

When I was a kid, my buddies and I would taunt each other with a twinkle in the eye and say, “When you least expect it, expect it!” We loved to say that.

In many ways, that’s the message of the Old Testament and the prelude to Advent.

TreesFor seven centuries, the Israelites had suffered at the hands of foreign powers; Assyrians, then Babylonians, then Greeks (Seleucids), and finally the Romans. Israel had felt the ruthless hand of despot after despot. The land was pillaged, the economy ransacked, the people subjugated, and their religion both persecuted and marginalized. Generation after generation knew little more than hardship or political maneuvering.

But if God’s Word had any word of encouragement for the people, it was simply this: “When you least expect it, expect it!” It lay behind the promise to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15. It was tucked beneath the prophecy in Micah 5:2. We find it sprinkled everywhere throughout the Old Testament.

When you least expect it, expect it!

None of us have suffered relentlessly for seven centuries, but seven weeks, or seven months, or seven years is not out of the question. And it’s easy, when our heads are down, to forget; to forget the promises of God, to forget His faithfulness, to forget His Presence.

As Libby Lane writes in A Good Year, Advent — this special season leading up to Christmas — invites us to look “beyond the routine and the obvious…to watch, to expect the unexpected and to live in hope today.”

I like that Advent coincides with Winter (in the northern hemisphere). The shorter days, longer nights, colder weather, and darker skies all seem like a profoundly fitting backdrop for the explosion of hope that comes with Christmas.

When you least expect it, expect it!

Do you need a break-through today? Need redemption? Need a fresh start? Need real hope? Advent is for any of us who has forgotten to expect the unexpected. God shows up in unexpected ways, unexpected places, and unexpected times…for all of us who look consistently for His coming.

Perhaps today we can share the prayer of the ancient Psalmist (in the very first Psalm of Book 2).

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence. O my God, my soul is in despair within me; therefore, I remember You…. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why have you become disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

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