Thursday, May 11, 2017

Day 132: Living With Certainty

Day 132
Ruth 1-4, 1 Corinthians 15:1-34

The photo above is when I worked at a bible camp and did ropes courses during the summers. Each summer, we'd take on the Leap of Faith at least once, just to get our feet wet a little before campers came. While I would like to say that leaping off of that pole was an easy thing to do, I still doubted at least a little each time that the ropes would hold me, or that people would catch me at the bottom. Yet with God in our lives, we can hold tightly to Him and know He will not fail us. He is even more dependable than those ropes I had to rely on. If we could just live like He has us, our stories would speak volumes.

Holding certainly to God's power honors Him with your life. Ruth and Naomi's story is one that speaks volumes of where God is in their lives. How certain are you that Jesus indeed has risen from the dead to save you? When you can grasp His power and intentions for you, you can move in your story in a powerful way.

Picking up everything and moving to an unknown land can be a nerve-racking thing, especially as a widow in Old Testament times. The book of Ruth is such a breath of air after reading of the destruction and disobedience in the book of Judges. It shows you that there were still people that obeyed God and put Him first in their lives. We see an unselfish love from Naomi as she works to send Ruth and Orpah back to their land so they can remarry and carry on their lives. Orpah agrees with hesitation, but Ruth sticks to Naomi unswervingly.

The way Ruth cares for her mother-in-law is quite a testimony of the person she is, and this reputation gets the ear of Boaz, who is one who looks to the Lord. I think many times, ladies (guys too) especially try to manipulate a situation to gain a relationship, rather than serving the Lord and waiting on His timing. God knows you are ready for a relationship when you can serve Him without putting that relationship ahead of Him. Ruth worked hard to take care of her mother-in-law. Her heart of service and diligence stuck out to Boaz, and he noticed her and in turn, promised to take care of her. Are you serving the Lord while you patiently wait for His timing in your life? Are you showing Him that He is more important to you than what's next in life?

Paul sends a reminder to the people of Corinth that they need to live certain in the resurrection that saves them from their sin and separation from God. Without the resurrection of Christ, we live pointless lives as Christians. Without the hope the He gave us through His sacrifice, we have nothing to look forward to. How different does your life look because you are certain of the resurrection of Christ? Consider Ruth's life for a moment here. She lived in service to God, knowing her place in His authority and love. Because she knew that God's plan was good for her, she served without hesitation and took care of her mother-in-law. Because of her certainty in God, she was blessed. How does your life show you are certain about Christ's resurrection and goodness for your life.

How does your life speak certainty to what Christ has done for you? Do you manipulate situations to get your way and worry about Him taking care of you? Remember Ruth and her faith as she pressed on with certainty that God would take care of her. Because of her faith and her trust in Him, she was blessed. Because she proclaimed His name and served Him first, she was blessed by God with a man to take care of her. Are you showing God that He can trust you to put Him first before He gives you that thing you really want? Show God that nothing will ever shove Him aside in your life. Live with certainty that He is there.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Day 131: Be a Light

Day 131
Judges 19-21; 1 Corinthians 14

Sometimes, it take tragic events or desperate hardship to realize we have drifted so far from God. It is up to us as followers of Christ to be a light in those dark times. Today, we will see how terrible it is to drift from God and lose loyalty to Him. Our awakening can be quite harsh at times.

The events of the last books of Judges are quite atrocious. Because of Israel's drifting and the morels of the world at that time, we see how incredibly wicked people were. When a person drifts, a country drifts, a world drifts, we lose sight of where our standards lie, and in time, our standards come from the person next to us, or the country next to us, or the group of people who are "worse than I am". Rather than looking side to side, think about looking up for your standards. Keeping your loyalties in God is the most solid thing you can do to anchor down.

Notice that the people finally started talking to God after this tragic incident. It took something like this for them to realize that God was missing from their picture - because of them drifting and losing sight of Him. Unfortunately, this had been a pattern for the Israelites as kings and leaders came in and out of the picture of their history. The whole situation with the concubine was insane, and the matter shouldn't have even left that community. Yet, it blew up and gave people a reason to go to war, so they did. Because this matter was not handled properly, within the bounds of the community it happened in, it got carried away across the nation. How many times do we blow things so far out of proportion, that rather than letting the process handle the judgement, we rely on our emotions and "right to revenge" work ahead?

The biggest thing we can take from this, and from the entire book of judges is that we need to trust God. When we drift away, we fall out of His direction, guidance, law, light...As a result, atrocious things happen, and we want to blame Him for it, when all along, we wanted nothing to do with Him because we thought our way was better. Let Him light your way in all circumstances. He is the Light that will drive out the darkness in this world, our nation, and our hearts. Be loyal to a God Who has set the system out before us and wants the best for us.

Be a light in your church. Don't walk in asking what you can get from the church, but walk in asking what you can offer to your church and do for it. We need to remember that Paul is writing specifically to the situations that were occurring in the church of Corinth. Many were view church selfishly and wanting their way, when really, Paul wanted the people to work together as one under the One Who guides them. Many wanted to offer their opinions and make the choice on who was smartest, most gifted, wisest, etc. How often do you want to simply "show off" what you're gifted at? There is nothing wrong with showing it off, but there is a lot wrong with doing it out of selfish motive, rather than for the sake of being a light for Christ.

We are all entitled to our opinions, however, we are not to let our opinions overshadow that of God's direction. We can talk for the sake of talking and "being heard", but don't talk for only for that reason. Offer light and love to those you worship alongside of. Remember back to 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul told the people that if they speak without love they are as annoying as a gong. Don't be that person. Speak with love to further the Kingdom, for the sake of the Kingdom and bringing people to it. Don't speak with hate and intent to draw lines in the sand and prevent people who are broken like you from entering God's Kingdom because you put the sour taste in their mouth. Be light. Offer light.

Look to the Light to guide you, and be a light to the people around you. Don't allow hate and revenge to take over the love you should be offering in an effort to further God's Kingdom. His Kingdom isn't exclusive, but available to all who want it. Make sure people know God wants them in it. Walk into your church thinking about what you can give, not what you can get from it. Change your view on people you don't particularly agree with and be a light in love. They are broken like you.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Day 130: Relationship in Prayer

Day 130
Psalms 55-56

As you may have gathered by now, David faced a lot of torment from enemies. Today, you'll read how he finds it more hurtful to feel betrayed by his best friend. Even when our friends may turn on us, however, we can find a more powerful friendship in God, Who will deliver us when we cry out to Him. Find a prayer relationship with God so you can be close to Him when times of darkness hit.

Pray for your community. Even though we are surrounded by so much, various destruction in this world, we can learn to be in a prayerful relationship with God about the evil and taking action. David shows this here, as he prays for wickedness he sees within the city, crying out to God to make it good. How often do you cry out to God for your community? As followers of Christ, we should be the ones on the front lines of our communities and our world, helping and praying where wicked has taken over. When your community can see you (as a church) cares for them in being for them and praying for them, you begin to open up a new relationship with them that is trusting and that they belong.

Pray, so that you can let it go. As David faces betrayal from friends, he does the one thing we should all do when we face disappointment and hurt from loved ones: prays to God. David tells us to "cast our cares on the Lord" (vs. 22). This can be a hard thing to do, especially if someone has hurt us, but it is the right thing to do. Constantly thinking about the ones who hurt you and how you can hurt them back isn't a way to live at all. It is what creates the wickedness that rip through our communities, as we discussed above. David says to give it to the Lord. Are you struggling with a loved one who has hurt you or turned on you? Do as David says.

Pray, building trust in God more and more. Fear can be a very debilitating thing. I can't imagine the fear that went through David as he encountered all of these foes and traitors in his life. Yet his secret was to trust that God had him. It isn't easy to trust God when we face impossible situations, but sometimes it is all we have left to do. The more you practice trusting in Him and the more you see Him delivering you, the bigger your trust will be in Him next time. (Yes, there will probably be a next time.) Praise Him for the deliverance He as given you through those hard situations and know He has you in His mind.

You can build relationships through prayer. Ask the people who serve you (waiters, receptionists, mechanics, baristas...) "how can I pray for you." This tells them that you care about them and then you move from a relationship of being served to serving, opening the door for making them feel like they belong. Prayer is powerful and it can be used in building your trust in God as well. Pray and cry out to God to move you from complacent to passionate. Pray to God to move you from fear to faith. Pray, to build your relationship with Him. It is an important part of our lives with Him and those around us.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Day 129: Choosing Love Wisely

Day 129
Judges 16-18; 1 Corinthians 13

It is important to know your standards as you date. So many young people (especially ladies) settle for someone because they simply don't want to be alone forever. Yet marrying someone who doesn't line up with the same beliefs as you in Christ will leave you alone forever anyways. The only true One Who can fulfill your heart and the hole in it is Christ. You can find the most ideal man, the best career, achieve the greatest reward, and you'll still be lonely without Christ in your life at the front. There is much we can learn from today's readings.

Samson was most definitely a fool for love. He found a prostitute to fall in love with, and she didn't honestly want his love, but the money that she was given for getting the secret of his strength out of him. Even though Samson worked hard to keep it hidden, he still budged in the end and found himself in a harsh situation as Delilah had betrayed him and he was being tormented and mocked by his captors. Samson finally came back around at the end of his desperation and summoned God to grant him strength one more time, and as a result, he had made a bigger impact in his own death than he had in his life.

Samson fell into the trap of putting an immoral woman ahead of his relationship with God. Even if you are a strong, fervent follower of Christ, you can still find yourself putting an earthly relationship ahead of Him, easily. Even though Samson had messed up, however, he still cries out to God as he prepares for the end of his life and does one last impact for Christ - the biggest he had done in his life. Even if you have fallen into the trap of putting someone ahead of your relationship with God, He is still waiting for you to come back to Him. Be careful when you start getting so wrapped up in a person (or in searching for a person), that you forget to make God the center of it, laying it in His hands first and foremost.

Another form of leaving God behind was the instance of idol worship, as we read about with Micah and the tribe of Dan. The Israelites had gone without a leader for sometime and they just aimlessly did what they thought was best for themselves. In the process, they worshiped idols and became mindless towards things of this world, rather than focusing on the plans of a sovereign Lord. This is yet another easy trap to fall into as we wander this earth. So many things can steal God's place in our lives - sports, work, things, sleep, etc. We fail to put God in the front because we desire more of the other things. Be careful that you don't wander from His perfect plan for you in thinking things of this earth feel more right.

If you have ever been to a wedding, the words of 1 Corinthians 13 probably ring a bell to you. However, these words go far beyond simply a love relationship between a married couple. They actually can go a long ways in the way you lead and walk about this world. If you are leading people in love, they are more likely to follow. In fact, when a person knows they belong in your life or in your church, they are much more apt to join you and get on board with church. Lead in patience, kindness, not in jealousy or boastfulness. Lead not in pride or rudeness. Don't lead, demanding your way. Don't lead irritably or keeping record or rights or wrongs. Don't lead, rejoicing in injustices, but lead, rejoicing when the truth wins. Lead, not giving up, never losing faith, always hoping, and enduring all circumstances. Imagine the followers God could have if His people roamed this world with these traits. Remember that people won't care what you have to tell them unless they feel loved by you. Love will remain. It is what they will remember from you - how you treated them.

Choosing to love wisely always puts God first. Don't compromise your relationship with God by shoving Him out of the forefront of your life for a person or searching for a person. Make Him the center of your world and He will provide. Lead in love and be someone who loves others because you love God. Imagine the testimony that comes from simply treating people with love and kindness. People want to know you love them before they feel like they can believe what you believe. Choose love and truth will follow.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Day 128: Unique Puzzle Pieces

Day 128
Judges 13-15; 1 Corinthians 12

There is no such thing as "ordinary" when you are working as a child of God. He calls each of us here on this earth for a reason and He uses us and the gifts He gives us to help carry out something intricate and incredible for Him. Today, we'll read the front end of Samson's story, as well as look at how we are to be used as a part of a greater picture.

The way that Samson came about is very similar to the way Isaac, John the Baptist and Jesus came about. Parents who couldn't have children. An angel appearing. Restrictions or requirements that set them apart. Samson was to be someone great to the history of the Israelites and he was a very unique and gifted individual.

Like any other person, however, Samson had his downfalls. He was a wild at heart sort of man who sought revenge in harsh ways, and was overcome by the spirit of the Lord on many occasions. And like any other person, he got tired, worn out, and depressed after coming off a high. Despite his downfalls and revenge tactics, God used him to rule over Israel for years. This proves that God gives us all different strengths and skills. He gifts us with passions and things that "make us tick". Samson was a unique piece of the puzzle that God used to carry out the rest of history for the Israelites. As a child of God, you are also a piece of the puzzle. Though what you do today may not come to fruition or make sense until after you are gone, it meant something if God commanded it. Don't make sense of the things God calls you to do, but do them, trusting that God will use it in the puzzle He is creating.

You are probably fairly familiar with the passage out of 1 Corinthians today. Just like Samson, you are blessed with a certain strength. God wants to use your passions, skills, gifts, and even your weaknesses to carry out His plan. We are all a part of one body of Christ, working together to carry out the mission set for us. How are you doing with your part of the team? How do you feel when someone else gets the praise for the work you helped with? Are you able to be a team player without letting your selfish ambitions get in the way?

Even though you may be good at some things, you are not good at others. You need others on the team to make it a well-rounded team. This way, you are able to face different situations more often. A team of 1 is not a team. But a team that works together as one is a great team. Work to see the gifts that others possess and bring them in on your team. Consider your weaknesses and who you can rely on to help you when you need a skill you don't have. Don't allow selfishness and pride to tear your team apart. You are working for the King and He deserves the best team working with Him.

We all have a unique skill set. God will use your strengths, gifts, skills, passions, and even your weaknesses on His team. Be sure to keep your heart in check as you work with others, so you don't fall into the temptation of selfishness or pride. Rather than always seeking the applause, allow others to have the credit. Most importantly, point that credit right back up to God, as it was Him Who gave you these gifts in the first place.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Day 127: When We Fall

Day 127
Judges 11-12; 1 Corinthians 11

We will stumble many times on this earth, regardless of how much we know about God and His commandments. No matter how centered we are in Christ, we will never be as perfect as He is. However, despite our downfalls and stumbling, He is there to make us great in Him again. Today we'll read about offering our worship and how He does that for one of the judges of Israel.

It is quite clear from our reading that Jephthah had a rocky past. He had a mother who was a prostitute, a handful of half brothers who chased him off so he couldn't have any of his father's inheritance, and yet he was called a "great warrior". Despite Jephthah's upbringing and past, God used him to secure Israel over the Ammonites.

One great downfall of Jephthah was that he made vows he didn't have to make, which resulted in him suffering great loss. Jephthah did not need to make a vow to the Lord, asking Him to lead him into victory over the Ammonites if he did something for the Lord. God never asked him to do that. As a result, Jephthah sacrificed his daughter, the first thing that walked out of his house. Do you ever feel so insecure in trusting God that you consider swearing to Him or solidifying it through your actions? "If you do this for me God, then I will do this for You." The problem is, that isn't how God works. He cares about our heart's motives, not our grand gestures of bartering. In fact, Jephthah had sinned in sacrificing his daughter, as it was very clear to the Israelites that this was unacceptable to the Lord as other nations did it in worshiping their gods.

There is equality in worship. Though these words from Paul could raise much debate, the one thing that is clear here is that he was trying to portray equality in worship. When we come before God, ready to express our awe and our thanksgiving to Him, we don't need to be someone fake. We don't need to pretend we are "good enough" to come to Him and feel inadequate because the person next to us is raising their hands. In fact, worship is something that is very intimate between you and God, as He knows your heart and it's motives more than the person next to you ever can. It doesn't matter if you stumbled or if you fell that very morning - God is there, and for that He deserves our worship without worrying about whether or not we are worthy or equal with the person next to us.

The same goes with the Lord's Supper. It is something that makes us one community in Christ, and for that we can come to the table no matter what our past looks like. There is seriousness, however, in the way you approach the Lord's table. Be sincere in your thanks. Don't do it for looks. And check your heart's motives and the relationships in your life. Come before Him without feeling like you need to ever compare your falls with the person next to you.

We all have a past and times we have fallen or will fall. However, we are all still equals in God's eyes. He will use you, if you are willing, no matter what your past says about you, and no matter how badly you will screw up in the future. Come to Him in worship and thanksgiving without looking to your left and right in comparing your worthiness to your neighbor. It is all between you and God and no one else. No One knows your heart and its motives more than He does.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Day 126: Loyal vs. Disloyal

Day 126
Judges 9-10; 1 Corinthians 10-11:1

There is quite a difference between being a leader who is loyal and one that is disloyal. I'm sure you've had bosses that were both great and not so great. Today, we read about a leader who was disloyal to God, his family and to the people he led. We also read the words of a famous leader, Paul, who looks to his example in Christ.

Abimelech was a terrible leader. He weasled his way into leadership and then proceeded to kill 70 of his half-brothers with his trouble-making soldiers. Abimelech's younger brother, Jotham, managed to escape the attacks and shares some words about leaders. It is about more than the power and reputation - it is about being loyal to your people and to God. A leader who is in it for themselves, such as Abimelech will be a crummy one. Because of Abimelech's insecurities and lack of faith, he killed off his brothers and was disloyal to the people he was supposed to be leading. As a result, he was killed by them in a violent way. Check your priorities as a leader. Are you in it for your own glory, or for God's and the good of the people you are in essence, serving?

The people of Israel themselves seemed to struggle staying loyal to God. Again, they had fallen away. Again, God had allowed oppression over them so they might learn their lesson. Again, the people ended up crying out to God when they realized they needed Him. As we read here, however, God was fed up with them, stating these facts of repeated offense to Him. I think many times we stop and ask God "why me?" In reality at times, however, we need to be open to what He is trying to tell us. Perhaps you are hitting your head on a wall over and over in disloyalty to God like the people of Israel. Look at your life and ask God, "what do you need to teach me, Lord?"

Paul's words as a leader to the church of Corinth are pretty well laid out in terms of loyalties to God and resisting temptations. He even uses the Israelites from long ago to prove his point. (Talk about a crummy reputation as grumblers, complainers, and falling into idolatry.) Paul tells the people to be careful when they think they are standing strong. Temptations and ways to fall away from Christ are lurking everywhere. Paul wants us to be a unified people in Christ, working toward building the Kingdom and resisting the things that take away from that mission. He tells us that in everything we do, do it all for the glory of God - even in what you eat and drink. This may seem daunting, but looking to leaders who look to the Lord to walk with you through this life can help.

Loyal leaders look to Christ. Paul tells the people to imitate him, just as he is imitated Christ. Leaders who value Christ in their lives will first and foremost lead you in the way of Christ. They want you to look to Him before looking at them. Paul is saying here, I am looking to Christ, and so should you. As a leader (because you all are one in some sense), are you directing those who look up to you to Christ, or are you beckoning them to look at you? Loyalties that lie in Christ are ones that can't be shaken.

A disloyal leader will have disloyal "followers". A loyal leader will have followers that want to support them. First and foremost, however, our loyalties are to lie in Christ, as we strive to be good leaders to those who look up to us. Check your life out today, and ask if you are like the Israelites, constantly hitting the wall, and wondering when God will show up. Ask yourself, "what are you trying to tell me, Lord?" Then pay attention to the answer He gives you - not the one you make up in your head that sounds ideal to you. Be loyal to His following and fall into His leadership over your life, so that you in turn can be a leader for Him.