Thursday, December 26, 2013

Day 125: Trust in Crippling Times

Reading: Psalm 56:1-13

I know there have been many times in life that I was afraid. Tonight, for instance, I spend my first evening alone in our new home as my husband works late. The sounds are different than that of our apartment. The space is bigger, we are more into the city, and the smallest sound makes me fret. We read how on numerous occasions David feared, and for good reasons too. He constantly had people after him. But we also read that when he feared, he turned to The Lord. "But when I'm afraid, I put my trust in You," he writes in verse 3. 
There is no point in fretting your life away with fear and worry. When fears come our way, we can remember to do what David did in his hard situations. We can remember that The Lord can deliver you. He fights to protect you, and helps you to trust Him more and more. Look to Him to deliver you from those fears. 

Reading: John 4:27-42

As we continue on with the reading about the Samaritan woman, we see the other half of her story is about being a testimony of her encounter with Jesus. She goes and tells her town about how He knew everything about her, and gets people curious about Him. People come from all over to see and learn more of Jesus. 
There is a great example we can take from this woman. As she went out and shared her story, we also need to share the stories we have about our encounters with Christ. This woman didn't need to know the scripture inside and out to share the good news. She didn't need theology or a degree to tell her town about Him. She simply shared a story from her experiences with Him. And because she did, we read that many from her village came to believe. 
As a Christian, you have a story to share about your walk and encounters with Christ. Why keep it a big secret when others can benefit and relate to your story? Go share it so many can believe. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 

Reading: Judges 2:6-3:31

God uses unlikely people to help deliver a nation. We read many times in Judges how the people continue to disobey. But they find peace when unlikely heroes trust in His direction and follow His will to do what needs to be done to bring His name to a broken land. Othniel was brought forth as a judge who does what God's will is. And because of this, The Lord helps him take victory over the king of Aram, causing 40 years of peace in Israel. 
Even when the people of Israel once again do evil in God's eyes, He once again delivers them with another brave leader, Ehud, who cleverly kills the king Eglon and gives Israel another 80 years of peace. It must have taken a great load of courage for Ehud to go into enemy territory and secretly kill the king, yet cleverly out-smart the servants. He certainly relied on God's power.
We also read of Shamgar, who killed 600 people with an ox goad. 
These leaders walked with The Lord, and trusted Him to get them through the giant tasks they faced to bring peace to Israel, even though they continuously did evil in God's eyes. Are you allowing God to use you as a strong leader for Him, delivering His people into peace? Take heart and consider the great work He did in these leaders we just read about. 

God can deliver you from the fears that take a grip on your life. We must remember, however to be a testimony of His deliverance. We, as believers, have a story to share with the world, to encourage them in following the God that can rise up great leaders to complete His work in a very broken world. Take heart, and cling to His promise of deliverance. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Day 124: Lighting Society

Reading: Proverbs 11:9-18

You can be a blessing not only to the society you live in, but in the nation! We read about the kinds of people that bless a society, and those who tear apart a society. Impacting your world starts at home. How do you treat your family and those you live with? Can you uphold a respectable reputation with them? You can relate with either side of each of these Proverbs, whether you've seen someone else in action, or you yourself falls on one of the sides. However you act at home will always carry into everywhere else you go. Just because you can put on a mask and a sweet face doesn't mean your family is oblivious to how you treat them. But when you are respectable and seen highly within your own family unit, trustworthy, prosperous, wise, sensible, gracious, kind, and full of life, you can then carry those morals into society in the way you carry yourself. These Proverbs are key to being an upstanding citizen and member of your family. Consider which side you fall on. When you have a positive or negative impact on your family, that carries into society and your community, and from there into your country.

Reading: John 4:1-26

Jesus broke barriers that even believers today would drop their jaws at. The question that hangs out there is why does that bother some Christians so much? Why can't we also break barriers with nonbelievers? We see an instance in Jesus' life where He encounters a Samaritan woman. Not only was this woman, well, a woman, but she was a Samaritan, and Jews were never caught associating with Samaritans. Jesus shows how He hung out with women, people of another culture, people of another social status, and sinners, and because we as followers of Jesus should do as He did, we must welcome all with open arms into our churches. Church isn't a country club for those who share a 1 common trait, but a welcoming atmosphere for all people in all walks of life.
Jesus tells this woman that the water He offers is water for those who will never thirst again. He offers it to all people from all phases of life. We should never deny someone the opportunity to come into our church to taste and see what Jesus is about. He makes it very clear that this living water is for all, no matter the sin, the color, the income, the gender.
Who do you need to welcome to church with open arms?

Reading: Judges 1:1-2:5

Sometimes it's just hard to follow what God says compared to what the world says. God warns the Israelites repeatedly throughout their journey and in the Promised Land to be ruthless with the temptations in their lives. Because they disobey (again) they find that these sins become nothing but thorns in their sides, causing a miserable life. To change a society, it takes leaders who are ruthless about the sin in their lives. They need to strive for perfection when it comes to following Christ, and though they will never be perfect, as only God is, the heart of it is that they try for it. We are all leaders for Christ. If you call yourself a follower of Him, you are also a leader in this world, advocating His purpose and light. Be ruthless about the temptations of the world and the sin you allow into your life. No matter how much someone tells you to "loosen up" or "it won't hurt anyone" the truth of it is that it can hurt you, for a long time. Being adamant about diminishing sin and temptation in your life is important to being a strong follower of Christ and a strong leader in this world. Don't let a stupid mistake become a thorn in your side for life. Lead the example.

Being a light in society can seem daunting and just impossible at times. But Jesus came to overcome the world, and He has given you that gift as His follower. By being a strong follower of Him, you can be a strong leader for Him in this world. Change in society starts at home. Start with your heart, then the nearest people to you, then spread the change to the world.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Day 123: Choices for Life

Reading: Psalm 55:12-23

Choose Trust
I admit, I'm a worrier. I worry about all sorts of things, big and small. But I always have to remind myself to trust instead of worry. Reading this Psalm is a great example of how David continually puts trust in the Lord over carrying around the burden of worry. I never could quite comprehend how David went through trial after trial, and running from everyone and somehow staying sane. (The same goes with Job, but that's another story for another day.) But we read in verse 22: "Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall." I find encouragement in this verse as I face struggles today. It would be a great idea to write each year in the margins of this verse a struggle you're facing, then when you come back to it, to see how God moved in that, and remember how you put your trust in Him.
When we choose to trust, we open a whole new door of confidence and faith. No matter how things turn out, we can rest assured that God doesn't want us to have the burden of worry. When we trust in Him, we grow in Him. What burden are you worrying about today that you need to turn into trust in Him?

Reading: John 3:22-36

Choose Jesus
We can see how popular John the Baptist became as more people came to him to be baptized, and even though John's followers got competitive with Jesus, John pointed them to Jesus. This should be how we all live life. We can always work towards bettering ourselves, moving up the ladder, training for success, but in the long run, where are you pointing your life? John compares his relationship with Jesus as the friend and "best man" to the groom, he being Jesus' best man. He is there for Jesus, and pointing people to Him.
We can live for ourselves, or we can live for Him. "He must become greater; I must become less." John echos this in this reading, and we are to do the same in our lives. When we find success, we should give it to God. The focus should never be on ourselves when our mission is the point people to Him. When we choose Jesus over ourselves, we will reap eternal rewards and find the ultimate success in Him. Are you being the "best man" or "best woman" to Jesus and making it about Him, instead about yourself? How do you display this in your life, and what evidence do you see of Him there? May we live each day proclaiming, "He must become greater; I must become less."

Reading: Joshua 23:1-24:33

Choose Whom You Will Serve
As we near the end of Joshua's life, we read how he reminds the people of what the Lord has done for them. Once he lays this out, he challenges the people, asking them whom they will serve. We know that in this world the choices are endless. There are so many pleasures and things we can commit our lives to. We can depend on power, money, sex, drugs, sports, success, etc. But the people proclaim that they will indeed serve the Lord.
When we assess our own lives, what is the thing that sticks out most? Do you spend hours and money on one thing in particular? Is it for the Lord? You can always tell where one devotes themselves by looking at their schedule and their checkbook. There are temptations all around to sway us to spend our devotion on one thing or another. We will always be seeking though, if we don't come to the conclusion that God is the ultimate satisfaction. Life is short, and culture gets more daunting. When we pass these values down to our children and raise them in the standards that God lays out for us, we pass along the most important possession they will ever have.
Choose this day whom, or what, you will serve. Make it evident in and out of your life.

We face choices everyday. Some are tiny, some are huge. But we read about some of the bigger ones today. We can choose to trade in worry for trust. We can choose to trade in the world for Jesus. And we can choose to trade in serving other things for serving the Lord. Where is your life devoted? Your life will reflect it. Choosing Jesus is the most important decision you can make, and I say this from observing my life and the lives of others. Choose this day whom you will serve. Become less, so He can become greater.

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Day 119: Proclaiming His Uniqueness

Reading: Psalm 53:1-9

Jesus was the only One Who never sinned on earth. He is unlike any other. Though there are many different people in the world, none are as righteous and perfect as Jesus, Who rescued all of mankind from eternal separation. We read in this Psalm that God looks down and finds no good man, not one. But Jesus gives us that opportunity and opens that door for us to be righteous and with Him. We can celebrate this uniqueness of Jesus!

Reading: John 1:1-28

There is loaded information in this reading, that is almost incomprehensible. John explains and sets the path for Jesus in such a unique, powerful, clever way, that makes all groups of people wonder who this One could be that he is expressing. There are many reasons according to this section of our reading that express why Jesus is indeed the One and Only:

John expresses that Jesus is the Word of God. This is so clever because not only does this appeal to the people reading the Bible today, it appealed to the Jews, as this idea was very important to them. The Greeks because they associate the word to the "meaning of life". And the Philosophers because they viewed "the Word" as being an unknown meaning and purpose to the universe.
But this appealed to all as being Jesus. Jesus is the Word of God. 

Jesus is also expressed as a unique Creator in John's description. Without God's creation, we would have nothing. Everything comes from His creation. He is the ultimate Creator and Mastermind behind what is given to us.

Jesus is Light! Light always overpowers darkness. Jesus was the ultimate Light in that He was full of both truth and grace. He loved fully, yet He held tightly to His convictions. He is goodness and truth. Darkness is evil and false. One, tiny light can be seen from miles away. Darkness cannot overcome it.

Jesus transforms lives. He can turn lives around in unique, powerful ways. We join a family of God when we say "yes" to Him and allow Him to have rule and reign in our lives. This causes powerful transformation.

Jesus is God. He reveals God and shows God's power. He is God that came to this earth, so He may relate to us. He came so that we may have life. The only perfect and good person to walk on this earth. He was fully human and fully God.

We see the contrast of John the Baptist and Jesus here. John humbled himself to Jesus, claiming that Jesus is the All-mighty, Whose sandals he's not even worthy to touch. We are to be the John's out there, proclaiming Who Jesus is. The Living Word, the Light, God, Creator and Transformer.

Reading: Joshua 15:1-16:10

Though Caleb and Joshua had made it to the Promised Land, they still had to take it. God had led them to this land in crazy ways and had blessed them with it, but they still had to respond and take the land for themselves, with God's help. We learn much about God's truth and grace from our John reading. God offers us salvation in Him, but we still need to respond. He doesn't just give it to us automatically, we need to accept that invitation, and allow God to be our #1 in life. When God blesses us with various things in life, we need to work for it sometimes. Salvation is never, ever earned, it is indeed a gift, but we need to respond. God led the people to the land that was promised for them, but they still had to show initiative and claim it. May we live a life full of truth and grace, and be thankful to God for being full of both of these things, no matter what task we are facing.

Today, may we celebrate the uniqueness of Jesus. We can be in awe of His truth and grace, of His ultimate creation, His life transformations, His goodness, His light. May we be like John the Baptist and proclaim this wonderful uniqueness of Jesus high and low.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Day 122: The Conflict with Conflict

Reading: Psalm 55:1-11

Confrontation can be a tricky, scary thing for some people. If anyone is like me, you run the opposite direction of it as quickly as you can. But God never intended us to run from conflict, but to handle it properly and according to His Word. In this Psalm we read how David handles conflict in the city and around him - prayerfully. We can relate to David even in today's world. There are ridiculous acts of crime and terrorism all around us. There are bombings, shootings, child molestations, kidnappings...all things full of strife and darkness. David recognizes this in his own time, and he prays for those things. They may be too big for us to handle alone, but we know that with God all things are possible. He can change a heart in the midst of conflict, and before we even think about engaging in conflict with others, we should always get God involved in prayer. Pray for the conflict around you and the conflict that directly involves you. Don't ever rush into it with haste.

Reading: John 3:1-21

Jesus gives us an example of how to handle conflict. He handles it with love. Nicodemus, a pharisee who asks Jesus about evidence of God sending Him to them, continues to challenge Jesus and His teaching. Jesus gently explains to Nicodemus the process of being born again so that one can enter the Kingdom of God. The entire bases of the gospels is love (agape). Jesus displays it well.
Approaching conflict with hate is doing nothing but feeding the fire of the argument. But approaching conflict with love is feeding the relationship. Even if you never see eye to eye on the subject, there was still a respectable way of handling the conflict at hand.
Coming at darkness with darkness doesn't create nothing more than darkness. The same goes with hate and evil. Both just make it worse. However, coming at darkness with light helps deplete the darkness. Coming at hate with love will feed the relationship, even if hate still holds on, the example was still planted. The same with good and evil.
Take Jesus' example through out His ministry and live an example of love. Just because you love someone doesn't mean you have to agree with them, but you don't feed the hate. Jesus was light that came into darkness. Be a light to someone today.

Reading: Joshua 21:20-22:34

Here we read about an example of why we should always approach conflict wisely and never in haste. Though the 2 and a half tribes that built up an alter looked bad and like it was going against the Lord's will, their motives were just the opposite of what the other tribes thought.
The others even prepared to go to war with these tribes, but wisely, decided to confront them and get answers for their alter building. Because they did this, they saved themselves from a great mistake, learning that the alter was to ensure their children always kept their faith.
We can learn a great deal from this. Instead of going behind backs and talking about conflict, we can just approach it wisely before jumping to conclusions. This can be an issue in the church especially and it is exactly what Satan uses to divide a church and cause havoc among the body. Always get the straight answer before telling your neighbor about your own conclusions. If you don't, you could start quite a war for no reason, and this doesn't only make you look bad, but the entire body of Christ.

Conflict can be such a puzzling and tricky thing to approach. But God lays out instructions and even examples of how to approach it wisely. Never jump to conclusions about your neighbor, as this could lead to division in the church for no reason at all, but talk it out with love. Follow Jesus' example when He had to confront the Pharisees. There is a biblical way to handle conflict and it is a biblical thing. Conflict is only bad when it is handled the wrong way. Educate yourself on God's way of handling it.

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Day 121: When Surprised by God

Reading: Psalm 54:1-7

It's quite amazing how quickly attacks can come out of nowhere from people we don't even know. David knew this all too well, as we read about his experience in this Psalm. Though David ran from all sorts of opposition and was attacked from all directions, he did turn to the Lord to deliver and help him face his pursuers. As we see how David reacted to these hardships, we too, can turn to God for help. We can turn to Him whenever any surprise attack hits us. Whether it's people we know (or don't know), medical issues popping up, car repairs at the most inconvenient times, troubles at work you never saw coming, whatever it is, take it to the Lord to help you and give you the strength and words to make it through. He's delivered you before, whether you realize it or not, and He surely can do it again. Give those surprises to Him.

Reading: John 2:1-25

Jesus had many surprising traits, as we read about in this section. He displayed this to many around Him right off the bat in His ministry.
His ability to enrich you. We see a surprising enrichment at the wedding Jesus and His disciples attended. Though the party had run out of wine, Jesus performs one of His very first miracles and turns bath water into the best wine. He didn't judge the people drinking the wine in the process. But by simply knowing there was a need, Jesus was able to fulfill that need and enrich those around Him.
In our own lives, when we bring our needs and worries to Jesus, He can enrich us by turning the bland, boring, dirty parts of our lives into refreshing, goodness. It is ironic this enriching miracle took place at a wedding, as that is also proof that Jesus can enrich a dull marriage in need of refreshing. What in your life needs to be enriched? Have you brought it to Jesus?

We also see how surprisingly passionate Jesus is in this reading. His outburst in the temple towards the people selling shows how passionate He is about His Father's house and purpose. He turned over the tables and chased them out with a whip. Money should never be the bottom line of the church. Though we are to be given the opportunity to give our tithes and offerings, sales and one's own gain on church grounds is definitely against Jesus' view of the church. We can see just how intolerant He is of it. When the focus is on money, there needs to be urgent and blatant reevaluation.

Jesus show just how important He is. Jesus tells the people in the temple that it will be rebuilt in three days after it is destroyed. Though this confuses and even insults people at the time, we know that Jesus is the new true Temple, as His body is the temple. God's dwelling place is symbolized by the temple. Many viewed Jesus as a great Teacher, but His significance was far greater, as He was the way to God.

We also see that Jesus was surprisingly realistic. Jesus is the only perfect man to walk the earth. He didn't easily trust everyone around Him, as He knew the faults of humankind. This can be a lesson to those of us who are always looking to have perfect human beings in our lives. I can't believe how many women put their lives on hold because they are waiting on that perfect man. (Sadly ladies, there are none.) But keep in mind that you are not perfect yourself. We waste energy and emotion, longing for the perfect spouse, perfect kids, perfect parents, perfect friends, and a perfect church, when in reality, that doesn't exist in this world. Jesus knew this too well. Though Jesus understood the balance between love, trust and openness and of the flawed human heart.

Reading: Joshua 19:1-21:19

There are many startling laws we read about in the Old Testament. Though they may be startling to us, back in the times of the Israelites forming new societies on the other side of the Jordan, these laws were perfectly normal and the way it was. One we read about today is the law that protects someone who was involved in accidental murder. It provides places those people can go, and they must be kept safe there until they are proven guilty. Now this law may be ok to us. Justice should be a big part of the Christian faith, and humane justice at that. Back in the times of the Israelites, however, this law could have been startling, especially coming from a God Who held such strong standards. But this goes to show that we have a God of justice, Who cares for us all individually, and wants the best from our lives.
God is on your side when you are following His will. He wants to protect and help you succeed in life. That is why He puts the rules in place, and our response to His love is to keep ourselves in check with those rules. It is how we can have the best life we can now.

God sure throws some surprising stuff our way at times. Life can also do this, as we face those surprises that aren't as fun. But we need to remember that we serve a God of wonderful, surprising attributes, Who cares deeply for us. We can take our worries and burdens to Him, and He will provide for us. He has our back when we follow His will. Go to Him, and let Him surprise you.

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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Day 120: Taking Ownership

Reading: Proverbs 10:31-11:8

As Christians, we are given the gift of righteousness, however, just because we are given righteousness, we need to take ownership of it. We read a lot about the wicked vs. the righteous in Proverbs, and we can see the obvious one that God favors. When we are righteous and in a right relationship with both God and people, we get a package deal. With rigteousness comes:
Wisdom - As we read in Proverbs 10:31a, 32a, godly, righteous people speak words of wisdom and are helpful with their words.
Humility- In Proverbs 11:2, Pride is disgraceful, but humility brings wisdom. People full of humility put others and God before themselves.
Integrity - Proverbs 11:3a, 4b says that good people are guided by honesty and integrity, and that living by these things can save you from death.
Character - Proverbs 11:5a and 6a tells us that being a person of good character are guided and saved by their honest morals.

Have you taken ownership of the righteousness that is given to you? If not, how can you do that today?

Reading: John 1:29-51

Jesus offers all kinds of gifts to us. He has given us the promise that all things are possible through Him, and that we need not feel guilty or powerless with Him. Taking ownership of these facts can be tough, but are indeed facts that we need to take to heart.
When we see Jesus come around after John the Baptist points people towards him, we see a myriad of men approach Him, calling Him many excellent titles, from Messiah to Rabbi to the One whom Moses and the prophets wrote about. Many of Jesus' disciples go on to do great things in the history of the Christian church, as we see how much Simon Peter influenced its gain. Others simply pointed others to Him, bringing friends and family to Him to meet Him.
When we take ownership of what Jesus has brought to us, we too can do these great things. Some of us may do great things like Peter in shaping the history of the church, and others will also do great things in inviting a neighbor, friend, family member to Jesus.
We need to remember the promises Jesus gave to us and the gifts He gives to us to do just these things. Have you been able to take ownership of His promises and His power? Do so today, so that you may go and do amazing things for His name!

Reading: Joshua 17:1-18:28

Here we read of a tangible example of taking ownership or possession of something God has given us. Joshua asks the people why they are standing around and not taking possession of the land God has given them. Many times, we are like these people, too fearful to take ownership of our gifts. To make this more applicable to us, consider an area of your personal life that you haven't claimed victory in yet. Maybe it's your job, your career plans, your love life, etc. What is that one thing in your life that isn't quite given fully to God because of your fears? Are you too scared to give most of your life to Him because you're afraid the fun will end? God provides the most fulfilling life you'll ever get, and not giving those areas you cling to to Him, will result in you missing out. Just like the people not taking possession of the land that was given to them because the opposition was strong, we fail to take possession of God's power and the ability it has to work wonders in all areas of our lives.
What power are you putting higher than God's power? Do you have more faith that God can fulfill you more than you know how to fulfill yourself? Take possession of His power. Thrive on His power. Allow Him to take your life, and give you fulfillment in it.

Though as Christians we are given many, many gifts from God, we need to take ownership of them. Just because we now have the power of God on our side, we still need to take ownership of it. Giving God areas of our life to work His fulfillment in may be scary and maybe we just don't feel like giving Him power over our jobs, careers, love lives, futures dreams, because we are fearful in what He'll do with it. But He has proven Himself to be good, always. So why do you fear? Give Him the power over those things you cling to, and He'll fulfill your life better than you even know how. Take ownership of His power, His name, His love.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Day 118: Go Hard

Reading: Psalm 52:1-9

David was always thinking and visioning. He always strove to keep things improving and at peace. Even when David faced hardship and setbacks, he turned to God and trusted in Him. In the midst of chaos, David could keep putting forth the passion and vision of his heart, and put his full trust in God's mercy and love. We can take great example from David when it came to flourishing through the storms and chaos of life. Many times we just want to throw in the towel when hard stuff comes, but David took it and learned from it, then applied it. When we follow this example of David in the hard times, and be like the "flourishing olive tree in the house of God," we can be a blessing to those around us, as well as a strong asset to God. Take those hardships and grow from them. Apply those lessons to your life and continue to flourish in God's grace, not letting the opposition get you down.

Reading: Luke 24:36-53

We can be encouraged that Jesus is alive and with us today. Though many have their doubts, as the disciples in this reading do, Jesus proves Himself to them. He challenges them to carry on the Word and the good news of His grace. He blesses them and opens their eyes to the scriptures as He ascends into heaven, leaving the disciples and His followers to take the next step. Jesus has left us with a very important challenge and call. We are to take His message to all nations. Though this challenge seems like the end of the story, it is merely the end of part of the series. We are the next chapter, the plan A in a message with no plan B. Knowing that God is depending on us to carry out His message is huge, but we are never alone. He promises the Holy Spirit and to give us the words when we need them, as well as to never leave us.
We need to get out there and go hard for Him, expressing this great joy to everyone. The disciples were bursting with joy after Jesus ascended into heaven, and they worshiped Him. May we find the same awe and joy in Him today as those disciples felt then, as we feel empowered to go and proclaim His message everywhere to everyone.

Reading: Joshua 13:1-14:15

Though Joshua was near the end of his life, as God said he had lived a long and prosperous life, but there was still much land to be taken. One thing we learn by many great people in the Bible and throughout history is that the ones who go hard for Christ are the ones who will always have an unfinished agenda. If you think about it, all Christians who strive to get the good news out and pass it from nation to nation will have unfinished agendas, but they will leave a legacy to keep it going after them. I think of this in the instance of our pastor who passed away last week. He had a sold out, passion for reaching the lost. He challenged his congregation to be the light and follow the light. And now that he has passed on, our congregation has taken these directions very seriously, as we revision and let go of the things that aren't helping our mission of reaching the lost. This take growing pains and there will always be unhappy people, wanting the old ways, but in the end the impact will be so great that it won't matter. Lost people will be reached in our community because of the legacy our leader left for us.
The same went for Moses as he passed his legacy on the Caleb and Joshua, and the same will go for them when they pass in our reading. But great leaders will never finish their agendas, however, they will pass it down and keep the ball rolling. Go hard to be the example to keep that ball rolling.

How do you go hard for God? In the midst of struggles and opposition, do you continue to be a flourishing, fruitful vessel for Him? When you feel like all hope is lost and that you just can't carry on, remember what Jesus did, and the challenge He laid out for us as He went up into heaven. And though Joshua was at the end of his life, he left the legacy of continuing to take the land. Good leader and people that go hard will be a strong influence to keep the ball rolling for God. Go hard and leave that legacy!

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Day 117: Hope in Victory

Reading: Psalm 51:10-19

This honest and heartfelt prayer from David can relate to all of us. We can follow this example daily and pray these words in the midst of our sin. David not only has cried out for forgiveness, but he has now cried out to defeat his sin. When we mess up, we tend to feel far from God and His ways. We see David is longing to hold on to that here. God is never far from us, nor do we lose our salvation because of our sins, but we can distance ourselves from God, and we can lose the joy of our salvation. David cries out to cling to those things, and when we make this our prayer daily, we can experience the joy of salvation and the presence of the Holy Spirit each day, not because they are far from us, but because we are more open to them. Make this adding your prayer today and experience the joy and presence of God in the midst of dark times.

Reading: Luke 24:1-35

You can imagine the defeat the disciples and followers of Jesus felt after His death. They were without a leader and seemingly without hope. But in this reading, we see a huge turn of events. When the women approach the tomb to anoint Jesus' body with the spices they had prepared, they discover His body is gone. An angel is there, and tells them not to seek the living among the dead. As the women recall what Jesus told everyone about rising from the dead, they see that the prophesy has come true.
The disciples probably felt as if their dreams had died when Jesus died. They were probably crushed and didn't know what the next step was. I can't help but reflect on this past week for me and my church family, as we have lost a great leader of our church to pancreatic cancer. Not to compare him to Jesus (as he would not like this at all), but many of us have felt unsure of the future and the direction to go in next. But when the disciples see Jesus living, an even break bread with Him, they see that God indeed takes brokenness and hopelessness and turns it into the ultimate dream. As a church family, we can fall apart and go our own ways, or we can stand together and keep the dream alive and continue on the path God has laid out for us.
Though we face times that feel like our dreams and hopes have died, we can see just how powerful God is and that in Him all things are possible. When hard times come in the church, we must stand united, as we see how communion unifies the church. I believe Jesus had a great purpose in breaking bread with the disciples after this dark time in their lives, but shown that hope is greatly restored. When we break bread, we remember the hope we have in God.
Take heart when your dreams die. Jesus has made the ultimate victory for us and we can find hope in Him no matter what defeat we may feel. Cling to Him and His victory.

Reading: Joshua 11:1-12:24

It is clearly evident that God wanted these people to have this land. The whole, crazy journey and battles fought prove just how much He wanted them to have it. We read of another string of battles that Joshua fights and wins to take control over the land, just as God told Moses to do. This entire story can sure give us hope that if God wants us to do something, or to have something, He'll give us the victories to get there.
When we put this reading together with the Luke reading, we can clearly see that anything is possible through Christ, and if it is His will, then His will will surely be done. When we are on track for Him, we have nothing to fear because we are the tool of His grand plan. We are simply following His direction and guidance, and He'll take care of the rest. Don't sweat His will.

We can take heart in the midst of broken dreams and lost hope. As we read about the ultimate victory we have in Jesus as He rose from the dead, we can press on with the dreams He lays out for us, and they turn out much better than our own plans. When we sin, we can turn to Him to regain victory, as David cries out in Psalms. We can take confidence from Joshua's many victories over the kings of the land God intended for the Israelites. We shall not fear when we are walking on His side. 

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Day 116: Foundation of Faith

Reading: Proverbs 10:21-30

In Proverbs, we've seen comparisons of people who live right and who live wrong. Here we see the fools vs. the wise, and the righteous vs. the wicked. As we read through the 9 verses of this reading alone, we can see the benefits and warnings of living in either camp. There are promises for the both too. God promises that the words of the wise will encourage others, but fools will be destroyed by their lack of common sense. How sadly true this is when we see certain situations today.
We also read that doing wrong is only fun for a fool, but living wisely is fun for the smart. How do you measure up to this statement?
Another very truthful verse in this reading is looking at the foundations of the fool and the wise. Only a righteous person will have a firm foundation in the Lord when the storms of life try to overtake them, but the wicked will be easily swept away.
Heed these many truths and analyze which side of the proverb you land on. Then play it out in your own life. Do you find yourself a food and doing wrong things all the time, or a wise person who does what is right?

Reading: Luke 23:26-56

We see the ultimate righteousness play out in the reading of Jesus' death and sacrifice. No matter how scorned and mocked Jesus was, He had to continue on with this burden in order to save us. Though the soldiers mocked Him and told them to save Himself, He couldn't listen to them, because He was in fact dying for them and us, and all of humanity. We see the dialogue play out between Jesus and the thieves on the crosses on either side of Him. One thief mocked Him, as the soldiers were, but the other realized this righteousness that was playing out and showed his faith in Jesus. Because of that, Jesus told him that he would be in paradise with Him that evening.
We also see an act of faith with the women follow Jesus after He is taken from the cross after His death and go to prepare spices and ointments to anoint His body with. I couldn't imagine the thoughts that were cast towards them in that setting. I'm sure it was like when Peter felt he had to deny Jesus because of all the judgment going on around him, but these ladies stuck close to Jesus.
The question is where will you be when the judgement takes place because of Jesus? Will you be mocking Him as the soldiers did? Maybe you'll be in awe of His righteousness and come to a huge realization as the thief on the cross did. Or perhaps you're a loyal follower who will stick with Him through the thick and thin as the women did.

Reading: Joshua 9:16-10:43

Joshua saw a lot of huge success in his days because of the solid faith he stood on. His faith came because of his strong relationship and council in the Lord, not because of what he did for the Lord. Joshua probably faced fears many times throughout his journey and in leading the people, but he always was reassured by God and he always reassured his people to "be strong and courageous". This took great faith, and it takes great faith when we face unsure times in our lives. Because of the trust and reliance Joshua had in the Lord, his faith was great. God used him for many great things, like taking over kingdoms and towns, not so he could get faith, but because of his great faith. Faith is not generated by the things we do, but because of it, we can do great things. Standing solid in Christ can give you great faith and remembering that He is with you creates even greater faith, but never work to gain faith through your actions.

Where do you stand? Is the ground you stand on full of wisdom and righteousness, or foolishness and wickedness? Do you rely on Christ and have great faith in Him, or do you go it alone? Will your foundation crumble when you face the storms of life, or do you have a solid ground in Christ to keep your head up? Are you a faithful follower, or a crowd-pleasing mocker? A solid ground is important in life. Consider what makes up your foundation, and if it will crumble when a few raindrops hit it.

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Day 115: The Switch

Reading: Psalm 51: 1-9

As we read about the process David goes through after his affair with Bathsheba in this Psalm, I'm sure many of us can relate when we look at the sin in our own lives. We can learn a few things from David's response, however.
First off, David runs to the right place after he sins. He runs right to God and lays out his heart. Many times, people will turn to more sin, or drugs, or any other coping strategy that suites them. But when we run to God, we are promised He will be there, with unfailing love and open-arms, waiting to help us make it better and to grow from it.
Secondly, David confesses his sin. He puts it all out there for God to hear. And though we know that God knows all about our lives, there is a huge portion of the healing process that occurs in the confession part of our sin. When we can embrace it, we can learn to let it go. When we try to hide or cover up our sin, we will find ourselves with a hanging guilt and run other places to feel better. Put it all out there for God, even though He already knows.
David also cries out for mercy and to be cleansed. We need to do the same in the midst of sin. When we realize the power of God's mercy and the healing He can give, we will find ourselves starting to come back to normal life before our sin. God will wipe out the sin we confess and repent from. He will turn away from it, and wipe the slate clean when we bring it to Him.
We see a result of our confession when we experience the joy God places back in our lives. He wants to restore us, but we need to be willing. When we have the ability to bring our sins to Him, He will forgive. We then can experience a full love and joy after sin.

Reading: Luke 22:63-23:25

We can see clearly how Jesus took our place in this reading. A tangible example is when He changes places with Barabbas. Even though Jesus was a perfect man, living a life of absolutely no sin or lack of faith, He is the One Who took our place with scorning and insults, then to be led on to an excruciating death in order for us to be saved from the sins we have. We've read this story twice before in our reading plan, but each time we need to realize just how great this love was that was poured out for us, so that we may have the opportunity to have life. The punishment we should have taken was taken by Jesus, Who was guilty of nothing. But without His sacrifice, we could not come to God and break away from the rituals and traditions of the Old Testament culture. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice, cleansing us of our wrongs.
Take time to thank Him today for His amazing love and gift.

Reading: Joshua 8:1-9:15

There is an example in this reading that shows us how God takes our sins and failures and turns them into good. We read how the Israelites finally take over the land of Ai, a feat they could not accomplish in the past. God however, takes this past failure and turns it into a victory, giving over the land to the Israelites. How many times do we get to see God do this in our lives? Maybe you used to party and get drunk, but now that you've seen this fault in your life and have moved on from it, you are able to talk to kids who want to fall into the same mistakes. It doesn't matter what it is, but it matters that God can turn it into a victory. God can swap out our sins and turn them into a blessing for us and others. Just giving Him that power can turn lives around. As we read about how the Israelites took over Ai, we can see the concrete example of how God works past our failures and fears. Just allow Him to take those and turn them into something great.

God is able to swap out the messes in our lives for blessing. When we fail miserably, we can just run to Him and confess, then He will restore us and cleanse us. We see how He did that with His Son on the cross. Jesus swapped with us so that we may have the opportunity to choose life. God can swap our fears and past failures into future victories, used to spread His work.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Day 114: The Fork in the Road

Reading: Psalm 50:16-23

We all choose what put attitudes toward Christ will be. Some people may think they are strong followers of Christ and even follow the rituals and know the rules, but when it comes down to it, they still reject His ways when the tests of life come. This world is full of temptations and influences that reject God's ways. I've seen it over and over with teens and young adults who think thy are standing firm and standing up for their faith, but as soon as something else comes by, like a new crowd of friends to hang out with, or attraction for a guy or girl, suddenly their faith isn't so important, and frankly, they have rejected God and His ways by doing things to fit into the crowd that pleases them. 
When we give thanks and truly realize what God has done for us, and be grateful that He has chosen us to carry out His tasks on this earth, we show a high volume of honor. 
Where is your attitude when it comes to living for Christ?

Reading: Luke 22:39-62

We see three paths play out as we read on through Luke. 
First, we see Jesus' part of the story. Jesus prayed to His Father, asking for the burden to be removed, but that His Father's will stay in tacked. Jesus was willing to suffer in anguish for us because He wanted to please His Father, and because He felt love and compassion for us. Following God's will in our lives may seem tough and we may beg and fight to not go down the path He leads us, but if we want to please Him and end up with the best choice for our lives, we need to take it. God always works through the tough stuff, and going through the tough stuff in life will accomplish so much for Him and us. 

Next, we see Judas' path. Judas gives into the temptation of 30 pieces of silver to betray the One he followed, learned from, and worked with. We can see the two ends of the spectrum here, as Jesus prayed for God's will and Judas went against it. Jesus had an angel that came to strengthen Him, and Judas reigned in the power of darkness (vs. 53). Judas, like many of us, screwed up, but maybe to just a more extent than most of us screw up. We know we can never measure up to Jesus, and we will screw up again and again. But the question is, what will you do with your mess ups?

The difference we see between Judas and Peter is just that. When Judas messed up, he ran and ended up hanging himself. But when Peter actually does as Jesus predicted and denies Him 3 times, he feels remorse. He runs away, weeping bitterly. Later, we will go on to read of how Peter had a big hand in the church and getting that going. He takes his mess up and makes it a message. He becomes a huge asset to the church and it's start. He followed the path God wanted him on, even after his mistakes. Judas ran. 

Which paths will you take? Will you do God's will, no matter how hard it might seem? And when you mess up in life, will you do all you can to get back on the path and learn from it, or will you run?

Reading: Joshua 5:13-7:29

It is easy for some of us to compartmentalize in life. Though it feels like an easy coping mechanism, it can be a dangerous one as well. Joshua gets the wonderful opportunity to stand on holy ground and fully worship his Lord. We may even experience those times in life when we feel so close to God that we just have to lift our hands, kneel down, or display emotion in His presence. It is quite an honor to be in His presence and have the privilege of removing your sandals for Him, so to speak.
But we also have times in life where we stow away our sins. We read about Achan and how he stole silver and gold, risking a curse upon the entire camp. We can be like Achan in many cases. When we mess up, we may cover our sins, or hide them, then put on a face around others that convinces them you are innocent. Compartmentalizing your life in this way is certainly a dangerous path to take. When you are one, perfect person at church, but hide the fact you partied all Saturday night with people who would laugh at the fact to show up to church the next morning, that seems a little fake. It is important to be real with yourself, so you can be real around others. God knows the truth all around, so why hide it? Decide this day to carry a sense of integrity with you everywhere, being as real at church as you are with your friends.

Where do you find yourself when you meet the forks in the road? When you have the choice to accept or reject God with your words and actions, where do you lean? When you mess up, as we all do in life, do you run from it, or face it and grow from it? When you sin, do you hide it or confront it? Are you the same person at church as you are around your friends? Choose today which side of fork in the road you will walk down, then stand firm in it everywhere you go.   

Friday, July 12, 2013

Day 113: Our Part, God's Part

Reading: Psalm 50:1-15

Everything in this world belongs to God. All of the animals, all of our resources, and even the possessions we have acquired with the money God has blessed us with- His money, in fact. God is in control of everything, as He placed the sun and tells it when to set. 
God does, however, give us a role in praising Him, as He asks us for thankfulness and gratitude, acknowledging His provision in our lives. 
He also asks that we honor Him, and praise Him for how wonderful and mighty He is. Displaying this type of worshipful awe will only draw us nearer to Him. 
And God asks us to call on Him when we face troubles. Relying and trusting in Him will help you carry your burdens and guide you throughout. 
Though God owns everything and has power over everything, we still have a role to play in praising Him, as He did not create us to be robots that are forced to praise and follow Him. 

Reading: Luke 22:1-38

There has always been a question about predestination vs. free will. And in this reading alone, we can pick out 3 examples of how God does His part, and we have our parts. 

Judas- though he was chosen to be one of Jesus' disciples, we read that "Satan enters him" and he is tempted in betraying Jesus. Though Jesus' death was a prophesied event, the fact that Judas was the betrayer was how Satan thought he was getting the upper hand. Judas decided on his own to follow that temptation and take the actions to betray Jesus for the pay off. No one, not even Jesus' closest followers, is immune to temptation.

Simon Peter- we see how strong and loyal Simon Peter is to Jesus, as he is convinced that he would never let Jesus down. But Satan sure has a sneaky way of getting into the most loyal followers, as Jesus tells Peter that he will deny Him that very night. This can be a tough thing to grasp, as we see how this plays our in terms of free will and predestination. Jesus knew that Peter would deny Him, but Peter made that choice, and Jesus knew that would be his choice. 
We can also see a powerful example of prayer here, as Jesus prays for Peter's faith to not fail. And we go on to read later on in our study the mighty work Peter does for the church. Prayer is powerful, and Jesus practiced it wholeheartedly. God has a role, a big one, in our lives, but we also have the role of taking action and how we will proceed. 

Jesus- Jesus Himself is a prime example of free will vs. predestination. Jesus knew His fate and His Father's will. Though He could always ditch the plan, as we will read later, how He asks His Father to take away this burden, He knows that He must carry out this huge plan for all of humanity, as He is the only One suited to do so. That is why there is an unfailing, immense love here. 

Though all of the topics on free will vs. predestination are hard to grasp, we can clearly see that God has a role in our lives, and we do as well. We are always given free will and the opportunity to choose for ourselves the actions we will take, but God sees e big picture, and knows how things will turn out. Stand firm on what you know, and don't get hung up or agonize over the things we don't quite know. God is good and that is all that matters.

Reading: Joshua 3:1-5:12

There is a balance in preparing and providing for ourselves and counting on God's preparation and provision. We read here how Joshua prepared the Israelites for crossing the Jordan, and told them to prepare themselves. We have seen this theme throughout their journey as they needed to set themselves apart for The Lord and His instruction. We need to prepare ourselves since we are living in a culture that doesn't always follow the ways of The Lord, by sticking to His direction only, and indulging in the delights of Him. Because of our security and trust in Him, we will be provided for in mighty ways. God provided just enough manna for the people, and never over indulged them. The view of materialism in our culture and having all we want makes it hard to grasp the concept of "just enough" and feeling satisfied in what we have. 
Lean on God's security. Forget about the security of others and of things. God's love and provision is enough, just enough. Prepare yourself to indulge in His direction and path. 

There is a balance between our part and God's part in life decisions. To an extent we need to consider our part in preparing ourselves for God's will. We also need to make decisions for ourselves, as God didn't create us as robots that do everything He says and asks of us. When we open our hearts to Him, that is something we decide to do. God's part will come into play when we do our part and stay open to Him.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Day 112: Word Power

Reading: Proverbs 10:11-20

There is great power in the words that come out of our mouths. This reading in Proverbs has much to say about the power of words, in both good words and in bad ones. Words have the ability to both destroy a relationship and to build it up in mighty ways. Words can express all ends of the spectrum, like love and hatred. Words of hatred lead to destruction, rumors, violence and ruin. But words of love cover all wrongs and are like silver, building up even the most broken relationships.
Choose your words carefully and know what power they have. 

Reading: Luke 21:5-38

Sometimes we face situations in life that are hard to find words for. In this reading, however, Jesus tells us that we will have words when we face those times of persecution and hardship in His Name. This reading sure tells us some scary things that will happen, but also empowers us to stand strong and aware. Jesus spoke with such authority, that large crowds came to hear Him daily. Using His powerful words to empower His followers, Jesus promises to give us the power of words when we need them. We can look at ourselves now and feel so incapable of answering to persecution, but we will be sent the words and power when the time comes. Though many things will pass away, Jesus says His words will never fade. 
We need to also be on our guard for false words that claim they are the returning Messiah and to ignore their speculations on what will happen. Don't find yourself deceived by what Jesus has warned you about. And though we must love all, including our enemies, we need to realize we will be hated by all. 
So stand very aware and strong in your faith, preparing how you will answer opposition. Don't get distracted by the parties and impulses of this world, when the best party of all awaits you in heaven.

Reading: Joshua 1:1-2:24

It is highly important for followers of God to meditate on His words. When Joshua becomes leader, God reiterates to him to follow all of the commands He has given, as well as meditate on them, apply them, practice them, and speak them. Great leaders in Christ need to especially heed the words of God since they are the example and authority figure. God promises a couple things to Joshua and the people: rest and His presence. 
Joshua will find rest as they take the land, and we all will find rest through Jesus' coming. When Jesus came, He call all the weary and burdened to come to Him, allowing them to rest in Him. We have that same opportunity today through Jesus. 
And just as Joshua was promised God's presence, we can still heed those words today. "Be strong and courageous...for The Lord your God is with you wherever you go." We can find encouragement in these words as well, knowing that we have nothing to fear when we play on God's side.
A great example of this is when we read about Rahab, who protected the spies. By knowing that God had chosen these people to overtake the land, she worked with them, by protecting them. And in return the spies agreed to protect her and her family. When we bless and work for God, we too, will be blessed and find ultimate rest and presence in Him. 
Heed His words. Meditate on them. Be encouraged by them.

Words are a powerful thing. They can tear down or build up in mighty ways. Jesus spoke some hefty words and promised to empower His followers with words they need to face opposition. The words that Joshua receives are for all the people to obey and follow. Be encouraged and empowered today by God's words and let your focus be on them.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Day 111: Possession Perception

Reading: Psalm 49:1-20

When we read this Psalm, it is blatant that riches and wealth are meaningless after leaving this earth and being finished with this life. Though they may gain recognition and applause from others in this life, that recognition is also meaningless. When we they and live life without God, we turn to wealth, success, riches, recognition, and reliance on ourselves. These things, however, can make live very heavy, as pressure keeps building to be the best, to get more, to have more than the next guy. Ten when life is all said and done, you are left with nothing. These things can't go to the grave with you. Putting confidence in these things is misleading.
When we put all our confidence and reliance on God, though, it's a whole different ball game. Suddenly life is lighter, and you don't need to keep up with anything. God works in and through you, and you have no pressures to succeed when you lean on Him. Making God your wealth and priority is a wise move indeed. After this life is said and done, there is an eternity of wealth with Him. 
Just today I read a status update on Facebook from one of my favorite artists, Lecrae: "There is no reward at the end of life for wealth, fame, accomplishment, or beauty. There is reward for faithfulness. Hang on." 
Don't fall into the traps of this life to get rewarded temporarily now, when there is an eternity of rewards waiting when we stand firm and faithful to God. Hang tight to His promises. 

Reading: Luke 20:27-21:4

As people living on this earth, surrounded by earthly things and customs, it can truly be hard to grasp what life in heaven will be like. When the religious leaders once again challenge Jesus in asking how a woman with seven husbands will be married in heaven, Jesus explains that those worldly customs and needs will be diminished. This concept can surely be hard to grasp and the point the religious leaders were trying to catch Jesus on was about resurrection and whether it existed, as they only focused on the legalistic side of the scriptures. Jesus cleverly talks about Moses and how he believed in resurrection, as he would call on the living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 
Another example of clinging to worldly riches is when the widow puts all she has into the offering, as others only put in a small portion of what they have. When we cling to things of earth, we have a harder time letting go with the more we have. Our attitudes about possessions are very hard to change when life is all about acquiring stuff and keeping up with the latest. It's hard to have a mindset on heaven when we have to have more. When we have less, we have less to lose. This widow had nothing, so giving when she got a little was what she knew to do. 
Don't cling to your stuff. As we read before, it is meaningless.

Reading: Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12

As Moses prepares for his death in the final chapters of Deuteronomy, he blesses each tribe with comforting and encouraging words. We can follow Moses' example when it comes to pouring out your life for what God's plan is. Moses lived each day doing right by God. He started by sticking up to Pharaoh in Egypt, demanding the people be let free, then right on through crossing the Red Sea and seeing God's faithfulness as they wandered in the wilderness. Moses stayed loyal to God's commands and His directions, though the people he led at times drove him crazy and always complained. But because of the leadership and selflessness Moses displayed throughout his life, his legacy was huge. Moses never cared about riches or wealth, but about doing what God asked of him. Though he faced his own fears and falls, he still led the people to the Promised Land, relying on God the whole time.
How do you sacrifice your own path for what God calls you to do? Moses could have easily given up at anytime when he led the people to go do what he wanted, but stayed the course God laid out for him. Don't put your trust in worldly things, but in the directions God sends you. You can see the legacy it will leave in this world, but more importantly, the legacy it creates in the life to come. 

The way you look at wealth will determine the way you go all out for God. In plain text, Jesus tells us in the gospels that if we cling to our lives (our possessions, wealth, dreams, jobs, etc), we will lose them, but if we lose those things for Him, we will find ultimate life in Him. When we cling to our stuff, it's harder to live with less or with nothing, and give it to those in need. But when we have nothing, it's easier to give. Careful how you value your wealth and blessings.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Day 110: Sources of Guidance

Reading: Psalm 48:11-14

In this Psalm, we read a promise that God will guide us forever. This is a pretty encouraging promise, especially when the paths of life can seem overwhelming and indecisive. We need to take initiative sometimes and get that guidance however. In this reading, it talks about meditating in the temple, or worshiping in church. Sometimes we need to be surrounded by others who are walking alongside God as well to help us make decisions. God places the church in our lives to spread the missions and carry out His work, but He also places it there for us to seek accountability and advice from other believers. A community of people who stove to stay on the path God has carved out for them is a tangible place to go when you're seeking Godly counsel. 
I loved working at a Bible camp in the summers because I always surrounded by that community. We would attend chapel services twice a day, as well as engage in staff devotions each morning, and we formed relationships with other strong believers that carried beyond my summers on staff. We always had a fellow staff member to turn to who was on the same journey. Seeking advice from them was always reassuring and full of God's Word. Seek guidance from Godly people.

Reading: Luke 19:45-20:26

We are also guided by God's Word, as we've seen Jesus apply it many times throughout the New Testament. In this case, we see Him react to the sales in His Father's house by turning over the tables and stating that the Scriptures say that "My temple will be a house of prayer." By the Scriptures declaring this, Jesus has this backing from His Father, though He is God as well. This is an example to us, however, showing us how God's Word helps us decipher right and wrong as we encounter different situations in life. 
We also see how the Holy Spirit serves as guidance to Jesus in this reading. The answers Jesus has for the religious leaders when His authority is challenged as well as when they ask Him about the taxes is so clever, that you could only imagine the Holy Spirit sending that guidance. When we are stuck for an answer or direction, we can rest assured that the Holy Spirit is there for all who follow Christ. Though at times it can feel so intangible and hard to feel Him, those promptings and words still come at the perfect times. 
We also read here that even though we have guidance from God in different ways, we will still face hardships and struggles. Jesus is constantly challenged by the religious leaders and faces crucifixion, though He is God's Son. We are guaranteed struggles in this life, though we have the guidance. Jesus lays this out in His parable about the evil farmers, as He really makes the religious leaders uncomfortable. 
We can guarantee struggles as we walk our paths, but we can also count on guidance when the time is right.

Reading: Deuteronomy 31:30-31:52

Guidance sometimes comes from past circumstances we have been through. Sometimes we fall into sin and once we climb out of it with God's help, we look back at it and realize how stupid we may have been, and how we would never want to be in that situation again. Though sin and hardships are tough, we can definitely grow and learn from them, as well as help others learn from our mistakes and hardships. Take this dark places in your life, as the Israelites had to do, and learn from them. Don't find yourself falling back into those things and situations. Moses has to remind his people of this, and we need to be reminded as well.
We also see how the people used plain old common, sense to guide them. Sometimes common sense is formed by past circumstances, as we read about above, but many times we can have the mind to see ahead of a decision and know that the outcome probably won't be that great. Moses tells his people to take wisdom, and to have sense when they face those decisions. We, too, and learn from these words and be empowered by them.

When we are scrambling for Godly guidance, we can turn to many places which God provides for us. The people of church who carry Godly advice is a good tool for us to use, as well as the Bible. We can also wait on prompting from the Holy Spirit and on God's timing. We also read that we can take our past sin and hardships and apply them to future decisions, and use good, ol'fashioned common sense. Remember, though we have many amazing resources for guidance in life, there will still be hardships and struggles. You have these this to turn to in those times, though. 

Day: 109: Humble Leaders

Reading: Psalm 48:1-8

There is something so powerful and majestic about some cities. If you have been to a city that held so much culture and so many aspects to it, then try to picture God's city, I'm sure the thought would be overwhelming. This Psalm particularly is referring to Jerusalem, which is "the city of our God". There is an even greater city in heaven, that we can't even fathom. There is importance to having a secure and protected city, and God's city is most protected in the greatest power. The church is the new Jerusalem, shining light to the dark places and bringing joy and beauty to the earth. May we as a church take the initiative to be a city, shining for God - Humble, Godly leaders, shining light for God's mission.

Reading: Luke 19:11-44

We see just how much responsibility can come out of the smallest things. Though a city isn't as small when we picture it from our point of view, it is quite small in the grand scheme of the world. And though the money in the teaching didn't seem like such a small sum, it turned into a greater responsibility when used right. Jesus tells us the story of the servants and their money because it can relate back to us and our talents and gifts. When we are given what seems like an insignificant and small talent, God wants us to use those gifts to do great things for Him. When we apply them wisely, as the first servants did with the money, they get more responsibilities over cities. The same goes for when we apply our gifts to further God's kingdom. The more we use them for God, the more ways He'll have us take responsibility in that area. 
We also read about Jesus riding into Jerusalem, the city of God, on a simple donkey colt. This should tell you just how willing He is to use you in His majestic plans. If Jesus can use a colt to carry Him into a beautiful entrance to the city, He can certainly use you to make His name shine. Let Him use you and the gifts He has blessed you with. Whatever you're good at, and whatever you love to do, use it for Him! Don't waste them, or hide them or you might lose them. 
Though many kings ride into cities to show their reign and rule over it, Jesus rode into Jerusalem to show compassion over it, as He wept over it's fate. When we look at the fate of our cities today, and think about the lost people there, how do we react? A city can shift a culture. When we bring Jesus and His news to a city, we can work to alter that culture and then spread it to other cities, until all have heard about Jesus. Do you feel compassion over your cities? How do you use your gifts to further God's kingdom?

Reading: Deuteronomy 30:11-31:29

We have seen a great characteristic of leadership in Moses up to now, and here we see it again. It takes a great leader to truly run a nation in a strong, Godly way, and Moses is a wonderful example of this kind of leader. Through many ups and downs and times of failure, Moses still clung tight to his faith and carried his people to the Promised Land, which he himself would not even get to cross into. Despite this disappointment and let down, Moses continues to lead his people and prepare them before they enter into the land, telling them "be strong and courageous, do not be afraid. For The Lord, your God is with you. he will never leave you or forsake you." Moses knows full well that the people he has brought here by God will face hardship of the heart, mind and body in this new land. He uses this time to put out last warnings, reminders and words of encouragement before they enter without him. In a way this is Moses' final legacy as his death is near. 
Many great things will happen in this Promised Land, and though much it happens beyond the generations of the people under Moses' leadership, the fact is God uses these people to bring greatness to the world. Good leaders may not always see the reward of their work, but the fact that God has used them to create the next link in the story is huge. Following God's will as a leader is important and honorable as He uses them to do His mighty work now and years down the road. 

There is something to be said about a good, Godly leader, such as Moses. Tough he faced his ups and downs and even messed up at times, God still uses him to do great things during and after his time. Jesus uses the most humble people to help Him carry out His work, as he rides a simple donkey colt into the city, where His Name is praised. We can see the rewards of our Godly leadership now and in eternity. Allow Him to use you in His work, whether you believe you're a leader or not. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

108: Choosing Transformation

Reading: Proverbs 10:1-10

When we make decisions in life, being able to have the vision of whether or not we'll regret them or not would be a nice gift to have. However, it is laid right out in the Bible the sorts of decisions to say "no" to. Right here in this reading are a lot of wise concepts and thoughts, that can help you decipher certain decisions that come your way. There is a lot of talk about being honest and living a clear, honest life, full of integrity. That goes with gossip, malice and laziness. Deciding to do these things will not mark your life with honesty or integrity. Why risk giving yourself a bad reputation and lack of trustworthiness when you can simply walk away from those situations? Work hard and do everything as if you are doing it for The Lord, because you are. 

Reading: Luke 18:31-19:10

When we decide to be transformed by Jesus and His power, we make a very important decision that changes our lives forever. Jesus tells the disciples how He will die and rise again, and though this is over their heads, we realize now how this is the biggest transformation for humankind ever. Through this, every human being is given the opportunity to accept redemption and eternity. 
We also see how a man is physically transformed because of his faith. As Jesus enters Jericho, and a blind begger hears He is there, he begins to shout for Jesus to come and have mercy on him. Though people hush him and tell him to be quiet, he shouts louder, proving he just doesn't care what people think. Jesus, recognizing this man's faith and courage, heals him, and this man's life is changed. He goes on praising God, and passing on that praise.
We also get to see an instance of transformation with a man named Zacchaeus, a despised chief tax collector. In this culture at this time, tax collectors were very despised. As he sat up in a tree to see Jesus, Jesus again knew his faith and asked to be a guest in his home that day. You could imagine the reactions from around town. But by Jesus going to spend time with this man, who was curious about Him and what He was about, this man was able to have a transformation. Zacchaeus tells Jesus he is going to give the money back and hen some to the people he cheated. 
From this, we see that God loves imperfect people. We all have our downfalls, our quirks, our pasts. But that doesn't separate us from the love and opportunity we have in Christ. We can't hide our sins from God, but we can take them to Him and repent. Be transformed by this power of Christ. 

Reading: Deuteronomy 29:1-30:10

Determining the course of the rest of our lives is dependent upon whose path we follow. There are many things laid out for us in the Bible, like making wise choices and following the example of Jesus. But there are also unclear things, and as this passage quotes:"The Lord God has secrets known to no one. We will not be accountable to them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that He has revealed to us..." (29:29) We need to focus on what is laid out for us, and not worry about what is not disclosed. The Lord knows what we need to live successfully under His terms, and He knows what we don't need to burden ourselves with. Deep theological discussions, though fun for some, can be hard to grasp for others. This verse helps with that. Live life out the best way you know how through the words Fod has given to us. Decide to follow His transformation in all areas of your life, for the rest of your life. 

Life can sure be heavy with rules and things that we don't even know how to handle. God lays out some great advice in His Word, showing us how to decide on transforming our lives for Him. We see examples of how faith transformed lives in today's reading, and we read about letting go of the things we don't need to know. Let yourself be loved and transformed by a perfect God, Who loves imperfect people.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

107: Centered on Him

Reading: Psalm 47:1-9

Living a God-centered life requires heartfelt worship. When we read this Psalm, we can see the words that express a strong, exuberant worship to God. When you devote all you are to God through worship, surrendering your cares and worries to Him, that is the expression of trust and true praise to Him. I love the words to "The Stand" by Hillsong that go "I'll stand with arms high and heart abandoned, in awe of the One Who gave it all. I'll stand, my heart Lord, to You surrendered..." A true expression of worship requires a full abandonment to God, showing how devoted your life is. The music doesn't need to move you in a worship song. Simply in everything you do should reflect your devotion to God. Your work should be for Him. Your daily tasks and the way you handle money are all testaments to Him. Let us never be ashamed to praise God, and may we always find ourselves with arms high and hearts abandoned for Him, giving our all to Him. 

Reading: Luke: 18:1-30

Living a Christ-centered life takes prayer and full reliance on Him. When we come to God with our worries and requests, we must never give up asking Him. Jesus tells us a story about a persistent widow asking an injust judge for justice in a dispute. And though the judge turned her down again and again, the widow kept coming to him with her request, and finally the judge gives in, being driven crazy by the widow. 
If this widow can go to an injust judge for her single problem, how much more will a just God listen to our prayers? We must remember, however, that God's answer for us may be yes, no, or not right now. He does after all, know what's best for us. 

We also read that living a God-centered life requires humility. Much of what we do will show our humility. When we pray like the Pharisee and think of ourselves better than others, treating our faith as more than a ritual and almost as if we think God needs us more than we need Him, our hearts are in the wrong place completely, and things aren't going to end up the way you expect. However, we also get a view of the heart of a tax collector praying. Though the Pharisee sees himself as higher than him, the tax collector's heart is in a better place, as he sees his faults and bows before Fod, begging for forgiveness and grace, knowing he is a sinner. This tax collector knows he needs God. He doesn't put himself at the mercy of rituals and earning God's grace. He doesn't compare himself to others' short-comings. We are to have a heart like this man, knowing full well how much we need a Savior. 

Jesus expresses the importance of having faith like a child in this reading. When we are children, we don't worry about tomorrow. We have full reliance on our parents. Children don't judge. They are humble and full of love. When we build our lives more around the faith like a child, we will find ourselves focused on Him, and not our own worlds. We don't have a set of set foresteucture on our own stubborn views of faith. Seeing Christ and the faith through a child's eyes may be just what some followers need.

Finally this section of reading shows us that a Christ-centered life requires full devotion to Him. We need to surrender everything to Him, and devote our lives to living and following His direction. This means we give up our own dreams, plans and possessions to Him. When we live lives with the focus of acquiring the success and stuff we will lose sight of our main focus. Being rich doesn't make entering heaven impossible, but it makes it higher risk to get the heart right. Check your motives and make sure you're following Christ fully, without any distractions in your life.

Reading: Deuteronomy 28:15-68

As we read about he disasters that can take place when we choose not to follow God, we can begin to realize why having a Christ-centered life is so crucial when it comes to obeying and serving Him. When we choose our own paths, it can spiral out of control and lead us down a road of destruction and separation from God. When we choose the world, we will get just the world and all the chaos it comes with. A life opposite of peace and joy. Perhaps we'll find temporary peace and joy, but never any that measure up to that we get from living God-centered lives. Choosing our own path is dangerous, and though we will end up choosing in the end, may we always choose the path God intends for us.

Living a God-centered life can sure be tough in a self-centered world. Remembering that we are not to make our goals and focus on things of this earth, but to place our emphasis and all that we are on God and His ways can take some work. Allow Him to guide you each day as you encounter each twist and turn. Keep Him the center, the focus, and the passion of your life.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Day 106: In His Presence

Reading: Psalm 46:1-11

Sometimes it's hard to realize that God is closer than we think. He is there ready to protect us when hardships and temptations loom around the corner. He is there to comfort us when the troubles and devastation hit. He is to be our security over all else and over all others because He knows us inside and out. He is always there to give us peace at life's most overwhelming moments. He is also there to give us inexplicable joy and delight as we walk in the light with Him. 
This Psalm calls us to be still and know that He is God. Realize His unbelievable measure and His everlasting resources. God wants you to be in His presence forever, and to feel His when life is at all circumstances. Be still. Know Who He is.

Reading: Luke 17:11-37

The Kingdom of God is present through God's reign and rule in our lives. We are able to follow Him daily because of the Holy Spirit in us and the words He has left for us. However, in the visible sense, the kingdom of God is not yet here, but Jesus urges us to be ready for His return. It is eery to think about how people were just living day to day life, eating, buying, selling, attending social occasions, when God sent the flood to wipe out the human race. This also occurred when God poured His wrath out on Sodom and Gomorrah. People were living life, though many not so innocently, when God came. Jesus warns us to remember that He is coming back. His presence will be ever so visible as we see Him face to face. It is important that we don't just carry on with life, doing everything we can to be fulfilled and happy on this earth, but focused on what is to come after this life and when we get to live the ultimate and eternal life with our Maker. 
We are to be the man who came back after the ten were healed of their leprosy, to thank Jesus and to remember Him in all we do and in all we encounter. Living a life focused on Him and His presence both in His rule and reign in our lives now, and in the physical, visible presence we will experience later on, is where our goals should be.

Reading: Deuteronomy 26:1-28:14

Doing everything in the presence of The Lord sure changes the way you may do things. Moses reminds his people about the way they were rescued from Egypt, and how their people were blessed greatly, even before Egypt oppressed them. Now that the people are getting ready to enter the Promised Land, God is reminding them to remember their blessings and to obey His commands. Remembering God's presence in both the good times and bad is important. We may run to him when the path gets rough and troubles come our way, or we might feel like He's not there during those times. We may feel His presence full on when life is going great and everything is looking up, or we may forget about Him because we have no need for Him at the moment. The truth is that we are always in need of God's presence, no matter what are lives are like in the moment. 
The Israelites are reminded of this as they are about to enter a wonderful, but unknown land. They need to be reminded that no matter how wonderful life is at any moment, they still need to remember what God has done for them and obey His commands. When they face battles and troubles, the same goes. 
Remember God's presence in all circumstances of life. Obey His commands and lean on Him. 

We are always to be ready for Christ's return. Thinking back to the normal lives people were living in Noah's time, as well as in Sodom and Gomorrah when God came to them out, we will never see it coming, thus we must always be ready. Though we need to remember in all circumstances God's presence is always with us now, it will be a glorious day when we can be in His full, physical presence. Hold tight to these truths and promises today.