Thursday, January 31, 2013

Day 31: Good Leaders

Reading: Psalm 18:1-6

A good leader passes the glory to someone else. David displays this leadership trait in showing enough humility to cry out when he's in trouble, but more importantly to give God the thanks and credit for rescuing him. When we take credit ourselves, the mentality is slightly self-centered. Yes, you may have worked hard to get to where you are. Yes, you probably sacrificed a lot to get there. But who opened the doors to your path? How did your family react to you working so hard? Sacrifice was probably all around, and those opportunities didn't just pop up for you. God put you where He wants you. Give Him the credit. Give your loved ones some credit. God leaders dish out the props where the props are due, like David.

Reading: Matthew 21:1-17

The best example we can follow when it comes to being a Christian leader is of course Jesus' example. He displays in this reading alone, many important traits it takes to be leaders.

Lead from your heart. Don't allow your position to be the leader. Be who you are, and use your personal strengths.

Gentleness. Yep, I said gentleness. Definitely not a trait you'd expect in today's world. But when we lead with a gentle spirit, as Jesus did, we find ourselves being considerate of others' feelings and not being self-absorbed or arrogant. A good leader takes their follower's opinions into consideration, and gentleness is the right mindset for that.

Avoid a big head. Jesus rode into the city on a donkey. In the equivalence of today's leadership world, a donkey would not be the ideal choice. This display of humility that Jesus put forth was huge in telling people where He stood - at their level. When you play the holier than thou card in leadership, you'll probably get crossed arms and a face of "you got to be kidding me". Humility works.

Though humility is important, standing up for what is right is too. Jesus shows this by walking into the temple and turning the tables on the money changers. He shows this when He stands up to the Pharisees and their religious laws too. A good leader is not a push-over. They keep the values and the bottom line in the vision no matter what, and they fight for it.

God Christian leaders pursue power from God, not of the world. They turn to the Bible and prayer for their guidance. Prayer is priority. God's plan is their plan.

Reading: Job 19:1-21:34

Good, Christians keep God the bottom line. They know in the end that He is all that matters. In they know He is ruler of all, and that in the end He will be all that matters. Job says this to his friends as the tormenting conversations continue on. Though we have hard moments in life and leadership, it is important to remember that God is what matters over all. Job's frustrations are comforted in remembrance of this. It is key to have an eternal perspective, focusing on things of heaven, and not of earth. 

Turn to God's Word as a leader. Make sure all your decisions as a leader being glory and honor to Him, and that you are following the examples He sets before you.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Day 30: Just Ask

Reading: Psalm 17:13-15

David asks God for many things throughout his life. This reading is absolutely no exception. David states that he will be satisfied with God no matter His answer. Though David faces strong challenges and great highs, he accepts God's answers. When we face a new day, coming before God to listen for His answers and to bring requests before Him is ideal. But we also need to thank Him no matter what the answer is He sends us. Just because we think we haven't heard from God, His answer may just be one we don't want to hear. Stay in tune with Him, and accept whatever answer He gives you. His plan is best for you in the end.

Reading: Matthew 20:20-34

This reading displays 2 requests of Jesus. The first is very bold. James and John's mother requests her sons have a significant place in God's Kingdom. Jesus respectfully tells her "no". He knows the significance of this, and the pain it will take to acquire this position in the Kingdom. Though the mother from Zebedee did not realize what sort of suffering this would take, she still asked. Another factor of Jesus' response is the motive of her request. She desired to have her sons sit on God's left and right was for their own lordship. This motive seems a little selfish.
This would tell us to check our motives, consequences and content of our requests before expecting a positive response. But we also learn from this story that asking God for our needs and desires is not too out of the question. Just don't expect Him to always say "yes".

Another request we see presented before Jesus in this reading is from the blind men. Jesus asks them what they would like. Though you think He would know, He still has them ask. Asking is a huge part of coming before God with our requests. Just because we expect God to know what we need or want is no reason to not ask. Our interaction with God should be like a relationship, not just waiting on a higher power. When these men ask for healing, Jesus has compassion on the men and they are healed. They get a "yes" to their request. The motive behind their request is that of proclaiming Christ is Lord, not to gain a position of power, like the last request we read about.

Reading: Job 15:1-18:21

We continue to watch Job's friends beat on him with their words as Job waits for an answer from God. The waiting can be brutal at times, especially when you are surrounded by people placing the blame on you, and offering no help but "hot air". Job himself calls his friends "miserable comforters". One thing we can learn from Job's friends is how not to be a friend.
But Job continues to hope and wait on The Lord to provide him strength and happiness again. The patience he displays is quite remarkable. Though Job has to sit through continuous, painful conversations with his friends, he knows that what he needs to do is wait on God's plan. Sometimes we can be impatient and make things happen ourselves with no direction. Though sometimes this works out, there are many unfortunate times it does not, and you wind up getting to where you need to be the hard way, because you didn't wait on God's way. One response God may give us to our prayers is "wait". And if Job can do it with the pitiful advice of his friends through out the process, you sure can too.

When we listen to God for His answers, there are many important things to remember. You have to ask Him. Don't just know He knows, and do nothing- ask! The answer you get may be the one you don't want to hear at the moment. Be sure your motives are right, and remember that God knows the ultimate plan. Your timing may be very opposite of His. And remember that waiting is important. Don't rush off and do anything in haste. God's timing is the right timing.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Day 29: How He Loves Us

Reading: Psalm 17:6-12

Did you know you are the apple of God's eye? He pursues you and longs to protect you from your enemies. When you cry out to Him, your Rescuer, He comes to You. He longs to wrap His protective arms around you because He is so in love with you. He desires to comfort and hold you because you are His. Remember the wonderful, protecting love God has for you. He's always waiting for you, with arms held out.

Reading: Matthew 20:1-19

This parable may leave you very astonished. How many times do we find ourselves in a situation where we are envious of someone we believe did less, worked less, wasn't as skilled, or who did something worse than us, but they still get the same or better pay or treatment? Can you explain those feelings that well up inside of you? Jesus makes it very clear here that grace is not earned. His generosity is great all around. We see an example of this when Jesus confronts the thief on the cross. One person may work all their lives to be "good". But others, like the thief, may only just have that heart change right before their last breath. Yet God grants them all the same reward of heaven and eternal life. How do you apply this to the world you live in? Fairness isn't an issue in God's eyes. He loves all His children the same. His generous love covers all sin if we make that heart change.

Reading: Job 11:1-14:22

The hope Job clings to as he has these frustrating conversations with his friends is quite impressive. Job has a strong confidence in God's love and mercy, even though he has lost everything! What kind of hope do we cling to in these rough times? The world offers so many different comforts, but clinging to God's merciful love is the only true comfort in this world. He knows that nothing can separate him from the love that Christ gives him. No matter what we lose on this earth, the love of God is eternal.
Many times in situations we find ourselves in (in many cases less than what Job has endured) we blame God. This can certainly turn our world upside down. When we stay grounded and hopeful in the mercy, healing and love that God has for us though, we will see a light at the end, because that love is the most powerful kind. Keep the faith. Cling to His love.

No matter what you do, God's love is always with you, whether you accept it or not. How can you learn from this love and share it with the world? This is a love everyone needs to know about.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Day 28: Wisdom to Live on

Reading: Proverbs 3:11-20

The value of wisdom is immeasurable, as this Proverb continues to show us. We must accept the Lord's discipline if we wish to gain wisdom and understanding to the world He created for us. Wisdom, understanding, and knowledge are what God founded this world on. His greatness is filled with unimaginable understanding that He puts into action as we follow Him. We must strive for the wisdom He calls us to grasp, and apply it to our lives. Knowledge is simply knowledge. But knowledge that is applied to life is wisdom, and God calls us to get wisdom.

Reading: Matthew 19:16-30

The things we value most on this earth are not the things that God values from heaven. The story of the rich man who follows all the rules and is told to sell all his stuff is a hard one to grasp in our country. We may not realize it, or even think it's true, but compared to he rest of the world, we are the rich man. When Jesus tells him to sell all his possessions to the poor and then to follow Him, he gets really sad. We see how eager this man is to be a follower of Jesus. He's learned and followed the commandments, probably knows the traditional ways of the religious people well, but when it comes down to applying what he's learned, he can't bring himself to do it.
How often do we sit in on church, hear an amazing, challenging message, say our "amens", then go through the rest of our weeks unchanged and unmoved? We know the Bible, we've heard the sermons, we've even put money in the offering plate. But what about wisdom? At what point do we go out and do what that sermon moves us to do? Jesus challenges the rich, young man who has heard the teachings, knows the commands, but when he's challenged to move from his comfort zone, to apply the things Jesus has been teaching about the poor, he can't. He wants the benefits of Jesus, but not the work of Jesus.
When will we start applying what we've gained knowledge in, and turn it to concrete wisdom?

Reading: Job 8:1-10:22

We continue to see Job's friends offer him all sorts of advice, with mixes of good advice, true advice, bad advice, and false advice. Can we tend to do this to our own friends? Or can our friends tend to do this to us? Sometimes we comfort with the wrong words, yet sometimes we get the right words from God. Wisdom is a deeper plan of God's. When we have those rough patches in life, we need to remember that God's wisdom and purpose is deeper than we'll be able to see till later on.
We can offer our friends all sorts of comfort and advice, but when it lacks the wisdom of God, it can feel like we're just throwing words at them. The words can come out empty, and sometimes a little know-it-all if God's Word isn't in it. Words without wisdom are just words, a lot like how knowledge without wisdom is just knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Make sure your words are filled with wisdom and love, not just smarts and knowledge.

The value of wisdom comes with every aspect of our lives. Wisdom is the basis of our Creator's world, the proof of following Christ, and the love behind advice to our friends who need comfort. Wisdom carries great value, more so than the treasures of this world.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Day 27: Society's Path VS God's Path

Reading: Psalm 17:1-5

Our paths determine the way of our life. David states that he follows God's commands which keep him from following the cruel, evil people. We examine our hearts to see whether or not we've stayed on God's path, and we need to do an honest evaluation of where our decisions and choices have led us. Can we honestly say that we've followed the path that God has laid ahead of us? What do we look a when it comes to assessing our paths? What words come out of your mouth? What treasures and passions do you place in your heart? Where do you allow your feet to take you? These things can tell you exactly what paths you're choosing, as David describes in this Psalm.

Reading: Matthew 19:1-15

The paths of our world don't seem in line with God's paths and intentions. We read Jesus' view on some of the trends of our culture. Your relationship status is something that should always belong to God. Whether you're married or single. Though singleness seems to be the end of the world for many of our young people, God will use it if you just keep focused on Him. Many single young people focus on nothing but finding the right one, not leaving room for ministry or the intentions of God. Allow God to use your singleness for His work. You have time and freedom when you're single, perfect opportunities to lead a small group of high schoolers, work in the youth group, play in the praise team... Let God be your purpose and contentment.

Divorce is another trend of our society. When things get hard, a spouse may give up on another. Jesus calls us to work for what He intended. It is a nasty, devastating concept all around. We need to work to protect our marriages, and help others protect theirs. Dealing with divorce is tough. We should comfort those who have been through this hardship. It hurts everyone, and healing takes time for all involved. We must be very careful not to cast blame, but to come alongside those who are broken, and protect the marriages in existence. Society says do what you feel is right and what is easy. God says do what is right, and what is not always easy.

Children are highly esteemed in the eyes of Jesus. We are called to let the little ones come to Him, and to cherish them as blessings in our lives. Society at times places careers, status and money over our children. Abortion is an example of the easy way out. When dealing with the task is too hard, many have this option too easily available. Many children are neglected because day's out of the picture and mom's got to work night and day to make ends meet. Not an ideal situation for those God calls us to make priority.

Reading: Job 4:1-7:21

As Christians and friends, we have a responsibility to build up others who are struggling and need help to stay on God's path. We see the awfulness that Job endures, and when his friends come to encourage him, there are some different styles of "encouraging" that take place here. Eliphaz's words don't help Job at all, as he asks him what sin he committed to end up in the shambles he is in. Job has always offered Godly, encouraging advice to his friends, as we need to in order to help others stay on the right path. May we work to offer our struggling friends biblical, Godly advice. Surround yourself with solid Christian friends who will carry through those rough times and point you to the way of His will.

One thing that determines our path is our choices. We can listen to our society and follow the ways it endorses- the feel good, easy way out path. Or we can follow and offer biblical advice that isn't always the easy way, but the right way. Choose your path wisely.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Day 26: Hardship Redefined

Reading: Psalm 16:1-11

God is our refuge Who watches over us and our inheritance which is in Him alone. We can rejoice because the things of this earth don't matter, so when we lose them we will not be shaken. This life can come with its share of ups and downs, but we can rest assured that our greatest value can never be striped of us. Our relationship in Jesus Christ and our souls rest at peace in our Creator's hands. He will guide us through this world until we go to the place He has prepared for us. Take heart, because all of our troubles and trials of this world are in God's hands, and He watches over the most meaningful inheritance we have.

Reading: Matthew 18:10-35

There are many things that can cause hardships in our lives. Some of those hardships are caused by our own choices, or the choices of those around us. Jesus sets forth some good examples of what can bring about hardships in this reading.

- Wandering away: When we stray off the path God has laid out for us, we will most likely run into some tough stuff. Many teenagers tend to do this, though many adults do too. Rebellion against a parent's beliefs can lead kids into drugs and immoral behavior. I sound like a PSA, but when we choose a path apart from God out of hurt or rebellion, the choice we make probably won't be happy in the end. With that wandering though, we need to realize that God is never don't looking for us. He's always there, waiting with open arms to take you back and guide you.

- Sin: The definition of sin is separation from the will of God. We can wrong people, and sometimes we may not even realize it. Sometimes we sin out of selfishness. Much of the suffering in the world today is caused by other people's sin. God calls people to move, and they don't. God calls people to have compassion, and they don't. God calls people to put others ahead of themselves, and they don't. When we are called to go, as God tells us to do in the Great Commission, and we would prefer to stay in our cozy, comfortable houses and churches, we miss the point of God's mission. He has made us His plan A, and unfortunately, He doesn't have a plan B.

- Refusing to Forgive: This one's a biggy, but also the hardest one at times. When we are wronged by others, forgiveness can be rough. But we read here in Matthew that we are called to dish out unlimited forgiveness, no matter how much someone's wronged us. Why? Let's think about it this way: If God sent His Son to die an ultimate death to wash us clean of our lifetime of mess ups and wrongdoings, would it be comforting to think about if God went through and refused to forgive some sins because they hurt Him more? Not a comforting thought at all.
So what right do we have to hold someone's apology over their heads because they hurt us? This reading lays it out pretty firmly when it comes to forgiving others. If we don't forgive others, God won't forgive us. Simple as that. Forgiveness doesn't mean you have to forget, or that you even have to accept what was done to you. It does mean you won't hold it over the other person's head from then on though. Forgive if you want forgiveness back. And be very generous about it.

Reading: Job 1:1-3:26

Job faced some pretty terrible things as we dive into his story. Satan sure can stir up trouble and do all he can to turn a heart from God. But even after we see Job lose his wealth, possessions, children, health and livestock, the response he gives is astounding. He tore his robe, shaved his head and bowed down to worship The Lord. Would you respond like that if you had just lost everything? He even faces temptation from his wife to curse God and to die, but he never sins in blaming God, in fact he continues to trust Go, saying we are happy to accept good things God sends us, why not the bad things. His is a man of true faith. Job knows where his true riches lie, and he knows not to compromise it. Job certainly felt grief and anger though. He just didn't sin by blaming God.

Where are you placing what means the most to you? In the things you have on this earth, or in the greatest investment of heaven? Are you able to set aside your pride, your riches, your possessions, even your family to do what is right in God's eyes? We read some pretty challenging scripture today, but the Book is real, and if we truly believe it, we need to fully follow it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Day 25: The Traits of Standing Firm

Reading: Psalm 15:1-5

Psalm 15 is very descriptive on how we gain characteristics that will keep us standing firm forever. When we worry less about ourselves and more about the concerns of others, we stand firmer in the end. Those who speak truth with sincere hearts and refuse to gossip will stand firm forever. As well as those who speak evil of their friends, honor followers of The Lord, and loan to others without expecting more in return. These are folks who care about others over looking good themselves. When we choose to put others before us, even if it means hurt to us, we stand firm. Suddenly we don't put the focus and pressure on ourselves, but onto others and onto God. When your world seem to crash down and everything seems to go wrong, it doesn't hit you as hard in most cases because the focus is still strongly on others and the faith is in God, Who pulls you through the smoke. Try this. Focus on those around you and their concerns, and let God carry you through yours. Just see how firm you'll be standing in the end.

Reading: Matthew 17:14-18:9

Other things that keep us standing firm are explained throughout this reading in Matthew. Jesus tells us that faith like a mustard seed can move mountains. Faith is a huge characteristic in standing firm in Christ. In fact, faith is the basis of it. Without true faith, we don't stand firm. Faith is how we get through the seemingly impossible. With God all things are doable and possible. We see Jesus spare offending the temple tax collectors and tell Peter to pay the tax, even though Jesus should be exempt from paying in His own house (His Father's house). We see Him putting others before Himself, as we looked at in the Psalm reading. In chapter 18, Jesus emphasizes the importance of humility. Standing firm entails having a soul and character of humility. Think like a child, and respect the children. We live in a society of great pride and entitlement (we've had this conversation before). You can see how much God encourages and calls for humility throughout His Word, but how much our media thrives on fame, and the whole doing what you feel like doing concept. The focus is always own self, with an occasional "do what is right" message to keep the peace. Our minds should always be outward-focused, with the occasional self reflection and refreshing.

Reading: Genesis 49:1-50:26

Standing firm means standing firm through the rough times, and trusting that God has a plan. As both Jacob and Joseph see the ends of their lives in this reading, there is much reflection on where God has brought them. Both give the credit to no one but God either. Jacob blesses each of his children, remembering the promise God made long ago in giving Abraham many ancestors. This sort of reflection is credible to God alone, as Jacob tells of each of their struggles and prosperity.
Joseph continues to stand firm in his relationship with God as he grants his brothers forgiveness, crediting God for where he is today. The trials that Joseph endured and the triumphs he experienced are all passed back to The Lord. Standing firm no matter your current circumstance is important in trusting God in good times and bad. What are you trusting God for today?

The Word offers many ways to stay on the rock. Putting others ahead of yourself, humility, faith and trust are just a few, but definitely important. How can you put these things into practice as you carry on in our world? How will you leave a legacy like Jacob and Joseph when it comes to your faith?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Day 24: Learning to Listen

Reading: Proverbs 3:1-10

Listening for God's voice and direction can be a tricky task. The trick is to keep in communication with Him, as you will learn His voice more and more. In Proverbs 3, we are told never to forget the things God has taught us, to store His commands in our hearts, and tie them around our necks. We learn most about God through His Word. This passage emphasizes just how important knowing and reading scripture is. We can't rely on our own understanding and wisdom because it is so small compared to what aged knows and has planned. Trusting in Him to guide us, and coming to Him with every decision we face making is a huge part of knowing His will in our lives. We not only need to trust Him with direction, but with our money. What we honor The Lord with, He will fill up again until it is overflowing. The blessings we receive when we trust in God with out actions and decisions will be huge. Stick to scripture to keep hearing His voice and instructions.

Reading: Matthew 16:21-17:13

Sometimes an answer from God may not be the one we want to hear. When Jesus tells His disciples that He will die a horrible death and raise again, Peter interjects and even reprimands Jesus for telling them this. Jesus says some pretty powerful words in response in replying "get away from Me, Satan." Could you imagine the punch that felt like to Peter? However, we can tend to do the same thing when God tells us something we don't want to hear. Not everything along the way of God's will seems happy and fun; in fact, we are told to expect trials and hardship, but to trust in God's plan through it. When we try to make our own calls when God tells us to do something else, we are in opposition to the will of God, just like Satan.
Jesus tells us to not dwell and thrive on the wealth and comforts of this world. In the end they are all meaningless, but the mission of Christ is eternal. Don't gain the whole world, and end up losing your soul.
The true plan of Jesus' coming is revealed to Peter, James and and John later when they see the true power of God displayed before their eyes, commanding them to "listen to Him (Jesus)." This must have been the most terrifying, powerful thing the three men witnessed, but true direction was given through it. Probably just what Peter needed after denying the plan Jesus laid out earlier.

Reading: Genesis 47:13-48:22

The life story of Jacob is pretty incredible. We see how God has worked through this entire family line and kept the covenant made with Abraham. What a true testimony to trusting in God to carry on His promises even after you're gone from this earth! Because all of Abraham's ancestors trusted in The Lord to carry them through, great work was done through each of them. When we pay attention to God's voice and commit to His direction, the blessings are innumerable!
Jacob had recognized the work God had done in his own life, and in the life of his son, Joseph. Because Joseph had continued on the path God set him on, he was able to save an entire nation from starvation, as well as be a testimony of God's work and will. Imagine if Joseph had run away from the situation, or if his brothers had killed him instead of just selling him.
When we stick by God's Word and promises, He'll use us in mighty ways.

Listening for God's voice is a vital part of life. When we heed His instruction and direction, even if it's something we don't want to hear, we are part of His big plan. Don't resist the struggles that come your way. Learn from them and let God use them.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Day 23: Kingdom Privileges

Reading: Psalm 14: 1-7

This Psalm expresses just how unrighteous and sinful everyone is. None of us deserves the grace and love that Christ pours out on us, but He does. We don't deserve the rights to His kingdom and to Him, and to ever do enough to earn our way there. Within this Psalm, David lists a couple of specific examples of corruption in humanity, both which are very important to grasp as we bask in the grace and love of Christ:
~ Denying God. When we don't even acknowledge God in our lives, it will be impossible to ever access Him and His kingdom. This would be like denying one of your good friends is your friend, and then later expecting that friend to treat you like a friend, giving you all the benefits friendship would. Not only is this ridiculous, but hypocritical.

~ Ignoring the poor. From this Psalm and from all of scripture in general, we can see just how deeply God cares for the poor. This is quite the command that He gives us, and He cares just as deeply as to whether or not we care for the poor. In fact, one of the reasons Christ destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah was because of their lack of caring for the poor. (Ezekiel 16:49) God has a heart and compassion for the poor. When we accept the grace of God, we gain His heart of compassion and love. We break for what breaks His heart. There is reason to question if we have that sincere heart that accepts God's grace. Works will not earn our way to God's kingdom. We see the how the thief on the cross next to Jesus was told that very night he would be in the kingdom. He didn't have time to thrive on works, but Jesus saw the sincere heart he had. Consider this as you assess your own heart.

Reading: Matthew 16:1-20

When Jesus asks the big question, "Who do you say I am?" Peter answers, taking the initiative to proclaim that Jesus is indeed the "Messiah, Son of the living God." Jesus blesses him and gives him the amazing responsibility of expanding His church. These are some pretty hefty rights to the kingdom, as Jesus goes on to say that whatever he forbids on earth, will be forbidden in heaven, or permitted on earth, permitted in heaven. Talk about power! But Jesus knew Peter's heart, and He knew His maturity. Jesus entrusted Peter, and later He grants the rest of His disciples these rights, as they continue to build up His church after His leaving.
As followers of Christ, and as a people who call ourselves followers of Christ, we are granted the same power and responsibility in expanding His church and kingdom. The book, Radical, by David Platt states that we are Plan A in expanding the kingdom of God and carrying His message to all the earth, there is no Plan B.
We can't afford to listen to what the world tells us, like the "yeast" of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The teachings of this world are deceptive and wasteful. True rights of expanding God's kingdom come with maturity and sincere hearts for the mission.

Reading: Genesis 45:1-47:12

We see the rest of Joseph's story play out as he finally comes forward to his brothers as to who he really is. The reaction that Joseph has is unexpected. I don't know about you, but if I were Joseph who finally made my identity clear to the brothers who sold me because they despised me, I would probably have some choice words for them, especially with the power I now had. This is precisely what sets Joseph apart in God's eyes. The trials he endured, and the maturity he displayed throughout were true proof that Joseph could be trusted by God to possess such power over a kingdom. God knew Joseph's heart, and the credit (or blame) for where Joseph ended up was passed to God. Joseph expresses this to his brothers, stating true testimony of the work God had done through him and through his brothers' wrong-doing. The forgiveness Joseph expresses is also very unexpected, especially as we read it from the point of view our society has.
When we see this amazing story of a man who went from the deepest pit, to the highest power, to the position to use it against the people responsible for releasing him from the family, you can't help but be in awe and respect of how God works in the strangest ways. He can truly see our hearts and how we handle situations that arise, and grant us keys to His kingdom.

What do you do with the rights and privileges that God has granted you? What are you doing to be an asset to the kingdom? What does the story of Joseph teach you about humility and maturity when it comes to doing the Lord's work?
I hope you can take these readings and use them to learn the true meaning of having the power and entitlement of Christ. When we abuse that power, God can easily snatch it away. Don't let the ways of this world sway you in how you conduct yourselves.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Day 22: Misery to Message

Reading: Psalm 13: 1-6

As David expresses in this Psalm, we will have struggles come our way. We feel that God has forgotten about us at times as we ask Him "how long...?" But in this Psalm, we can also see the phases of hardship. We need to pray and cry out to God when we face trials. Then we need to trust that He will come. Once He has rescued us, we can rejoice in His name, giving Him the glory. Then we need to worship Him and give Him the thanks. Once we become Christians, the hardships don't end, but the process of them is different. When we have God to cry out to and to trust in, our trials can be lighter. Just remember to give Him the glory in the end.

Reading: Matthew 15:10-39

The struggles faced in this reading are physical struggles. Jesus heals many sick people as they show Him faith and worship Him. When Jesus sees the crowd of 4,000 hungry people, He has compassion on them. When we are hungry for Christ, and seek Him, we will be shown compassion. This is an example for us to show compassion on the poor and hungry ourselves. We can go through life in physical pain and struggles, but the same concept goes with having faith and asking God to heal us. Rejoice during the good days, ask Him for help on the hard days. Jesus shows us compassion as long as we seek Him and His will. As we can see when Jesus feeds the crowds of the hungry, He can take very little and make it overflow with greatness. We just need to trust in Him and have sincere hearts that have faith and that cry out to Him to do His will in our lives.

Reading: Genesis 43:1-44:34

The agony that drags on and on for Jacob and his sons leaves them crying out and wondering how long The Lord will keep them in such misery. When Jacob is forced to send Benjamin off with the rest of his sons, it's as if he has to jump off a cliff and have faith that God's work will be done, and his sons return safely. Sometimes when we feel like we've hit rock bottom and our misery is being dragged out for seemingly forever, we need to jump and let God's plan prevail. When we let go of our plans, and our way out of the pit, and allow God to take the burden for us, His plans will prevail. We will see that God has huge plans for all of this family because of the work He's done through the trials they've faced. Each person of this reading has quite a story. God turns our messes into great messages. Let Him take your hardships and turn them into extraordinary stories.

Are you stuck in a rut, asking God how long your misery will carry on? Have you cried out and trusted in Him to rescue you from the pit? Allow Him to work in you when you've hit your lowest. Then rejoice and worship Him when you see His marvelous work done in your life!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Day 21: Your Heart's Focus

Reading: Psalms 12:1-8

In a world full of liars who will say anything to look good, we can't help but find frustration in the world that is also short on Godly people. We live in a society that thrives on lies and doing what it takes to get ahead, even if it means deceiving people to get there. We have to cry out to God. He is always true, always good, always there. Politicians will lie and flatter. Men will lie and flatter. Women will lie and flatter. There are so many lies one will tell to get what they want. Have you searched your heart to make sure you aren't falling into the same trap? Don't lie to get ahead,mor to get your way. God knows your heart. You may proclaim Him with your lips, but your heart doesn't care about anything but looking good. Though you put on your church clothes and your church attitude on Sundays, what does your life look like Monday- Saturday?

Reading: Matthew 14:22-15:9

Jesus knows our hearts when we are in need of rescue. He responds when we cry out to Him. We may be walking along all fine, but in any instant when the winds pick up and the storms come, we lose focus on Christ, and begin to sink. When Peter cries out Jesus to rescue him, this cry comes from the sincerity of his heart. Many times when we're in trouble, we may turn to many other things, besides Christ. We may turn to drugs, sex, alcohol, acceptance from any other crowd, but it isn't until we cry out to Jesus will we find our true and most glorious rescuer.
We also read in this section how traditions and rules can be a heart issue. We are a people of routine, comforts, traditions. But these are the things that Jesus teaches against. These are the things that stunt growth. We cling to those things so much, that we miss the true meaning of our faith, of church, and of Christianity. Think about this in the perspective of the church. We cling to our buildings, things, traditions and routines. What happens to the mission? What happens when people who are unfamiliar with church walk in for the first time and see people more worried about structure, policy and the things around them more than the fact they are there? Or maybe they feel welcomed at first, but after awhile, the true colors come out. The rituals become more important than the mission. Where does your heart lie? In programs, in newsletters, in the things of the church? Or in the bottom line of the Great Commission? Jesus makes it pretty clear here.

Reading: Genesis 41:41-42:38

Joseph's life has been one full of rejection, pain, unfairness, loneliness, and of great blessing. The whole time Joseph endured these hardships, he held a heart for God and never blamed Him. God saw Joseph's heart, and knew his maturity as he grew through it all. Because of faithfulness Joseph held as he went through those trials, God saw his heart and placed Joseph in a position of great leadership, because His name would be praised and glorified, as Joseph had already done throughout his life through thick and thin.
On the flip side, we see how guilty Joseph's brothers still feel for getting rid of him and deceiving their father. Their hearts are burdened and they see the hardships they must endure. They tell Joseph themselves that they are "honest men" when long ago they lied and tricked their brother and father. How ironic that Joseph got to see the lie for himself.

What is your heart like? Do you fall for the lies of the media? Do you fall for the lies of someone who just wants their way? Do you tell lies to get your way? Don't cling to the rituals and traditions of your religion, when you can have the incredible work and relationship of a true and sovereign God. He'll work in and through you, if you keep your heart focused on Him, no matter how low life may get at times. He'll use those trials to build you up and see your heart.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Day 20: Direction

Reading: Proverbs 2:12-22

The paths of life can be hard to follow at times. Proverbs 12 tells us some tips on how to stick on the right path. Wisdom will guide us from those who pressure us to do the wrong things, as well as guide us from the temptations that lure us in. We are encouraged to follow the paths of those who are righteous. The righteous will enjoy the true rewards, but the wicked will be deprived of them. It is important to gain wisdom so that the paths you follow will be the right ones. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the temptations and the socially acceptable things of this culture. Just because everyone is doing it, the Bible and e wisdom we get from it may tell us we are not to do it. Stay in the Word so you can stay on top of the ways of the culture.

Reading: Matthew 14:1-21

This reading is the true example of what the Proverbs reading we had today warns against. Herod focused on self gratification, which is what leads to the death of John the Baptist. At a party, he lets the wrong words slip out of his mouth, and he tells a dancing girl she can have nothing she wants. After he hears her request, he immediate regrets his promise to her. A little wisdom could have saved John the Baptist's life. When we have wisdom and decide to think before we speak, things could be so much smoother in our lives. We are surrounded by so many means of social media, that can be used to build up or attack. When we are wise enough to hold back word we may regret, it can save so much remorse.
As this reading continues, we see the need Jesus has to be alone after learning of His cousin's death. He ends up getting swarmed by people, but instead of turning them away, He has compassion on them, and performs the miracle of feeding 5,000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish, with leftovers to spare. Jesus shows the wisdom to not turn away those in need, especially when He was emotionally strained Himself. When we bless others, we will be built up and blessed, even when we don't feel like it at the time. Jesus knows this, and creates the example for us to follow. Let wisdom be your direction and guide.

Reading: Genesis 40:1-41:40

We see the growth Joseph has experienced since he was young,especially in light of the trials and hardship. When Pharaoh calls on Joseph to interpret his dreams, Joseph tells him he doesn't have the ability alone to do it, but only through God. This passing of glory shows just how much Joseph has learned to rely on God through the hardships he's been through. Because of this wisdom and ability to interpret Pharaoh's dreams, Pharaoh calls on him to guide their nation in stocking up for the famine coming according to Pharaoh's dream interpretation.
Because of Joseph's wisdom and glory to God, we see how the hardships have become a blessing for him.

Where are you getting wisdom? How is your wisdom guiding you down the paths of life? Be sure your wisdom and guidance is coming from the only reliable source, Christ and His Word.

Day 19: Most Intimate Relationship

Reading: Psalm 11:1-7

The Lord examines and knows every person on earth. God is big and small enough to have an intimate relationship with everyone on earth. The virtuous will see His face. A relationship with God is the most important one you can have. When we find ourselves in need of refuge or rest, His arms are always open, welcoming us to Him. We can see all throughout Psalms the relationships people carried on with God. The emotions expressed to God are definitely raw and sincere ones that you would express to your closest friend or loved one. When we allow God to be our closest refuge, we can express those same types of emotion to Him and be confident He hears us.

Reading: Matthew 13:36-58

How much do you value your relationship with Christ? Enough to sell everything and sacrifice the "weeds" in your life to follow Him? In these parables, Jesus really puts into picture how valuable a relationship with Him is. Though things of this earth may be tangible, like a pearl, a true relationship with Christ may be a little tougher for us to grasp when it comes to the extraordinary value of it. To truly embrace this relationship, we need to cut out the distractions, the burdens, the sin, everything - and make the most important relationship in our lives the priority. We can cast our cares and our burdens on Him. Are you willing to search high and low for something even more valuable than a pearl? Everything in this life is meaningless without Him in it. In the end, we won't have our treasures and wealth, but we'll have our faith and salvation. Keep that relationship at the top of your priorities.

Reading: Genesis: 38:1-39:23

This reading is true indication of the importance of faithfulness in Christ, no matter what our circumstance is. When we embrace the intimacy Christ wants to share with us, even with our lives are at the bottom of the pit, we soon see that our faithfulness will get us through. Though Judah slept with Tamar, his daughter-in-law, without realizing who she was, he demanded that she be burned when he learned his daughter-in-law was pregnant. However, the evidence that Judah wasn't truly innocent either was in the seal, cord and staff he left her for collateral. This saved her, and revealed Judah's hypocrisy.
We see another picture of how faithfulness in Christ in the lowest of times can help us when Joseph is wrongly accused of taking advantage of Potiphar's wife. But the Lord remembered Joseph's faithfulness and he was taken care of while in prison, even granted some responsibilities. Later we'll see how God blesses Joseph greater.
Our faithfulness in Christ, even when life is at it's worst, will make it easier. God will take care of us no matter the circumstances of our lives. We just need to hold on to that hope and faith that He is there, and truly believe He will come through.

What is your relationship with Christ like? Do you allow yourself to know Him deeper than any other relationship you have? Turn to His Word, turn to Him in prayer, and turn to Him in faithfulness, even when life can make you bitter. Just remember that He remembers and knows you. Let Him take care of you, and stay strong in Him, making Him your priority!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Day 18: The Little Things

Reading: Psalm 10:12-18

Praying for the oppressed in our world and community is important in the desire for having a new and changed world. David cries out for God to help those who are oppressed, the victims, the orphans, the helpless, and to destroy the wicked who terrorize these people. If we want to see a change in our world- prayer is the way to go. It is too big a task for one person, but not for God. Pray that He'll place justice in our society and in our communities. Pray He'll help the oppressed. A change starts something that can seem so small, like prayer, but it's work and intentions are mighty.

Reading: Matthew 13:18-35

We can see from these parables just how much of an impact the little things can make. There are a lot of comparisons to seeds in this reading, but we can see just how beautiful and large a simple, little seed can get. The Kingdom of heaven is like the seed. When we plant the seed in someone's heart, they can either let it grow or it can die out when they stifle it. It doesn't take much to spread the Word of God. But it's as powerful as putting yeast in bread or a seed in good soil. It is our job as Christians to plant those seeds. Seeing what becomes of those seeds can either be devastating or spectacular depending on what happens with them. All that matters is that God can take the smallest of things and make them great- and that is much like His kingdom.

Reading: Genesis 36:1-37:36

Joseph's story begins here with some hardship. When Jacob makes a huge parenting mistake in favoring Joseph over the rest of his children, there arises some sibling rivalry. Joseph ends up being sold and the rest of the boys leave Jacob thinking that Joseph was killed by a wild animal. Though the reading we experienced today just seems grim and depressing, as we see these horrible hints play out for poor Joseph, later we will read of the wonderful ways God uses Joseph for all kinds of good and leadership. Though the elements of this story don't seem like small events in Joseph's life, they will seem that way once we get to the greatness of his ruling and forgiveness. The story of Joseph is just beginning, but the lessons we can take are numerous already. We can be in our lowest of lows, but God will turn those times into times of true and sincere growth and revealing a of Him.

Remember the little things God uses to make a mighty story in your life. Thank Him for the times in your life where you saw Him work through the darkness and shown a bright light in and through your story. These times are some of the hardest, but also can be the most fruitful in your growth. Allow God to use those moments.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Day 17: The Poison of Pride

Reading: Psalm 10:1-11

Entitlement is a poison that taints the hearts of those who are wicked and full of themselves. Our society is filled with this idea of entitlement. The Bible promotes humility over and over though. We are not entitled to anything. We are a fallen, selfish people, who only by the grace and mercy of God will we have salvation from eternal separation from God.
Entitlement leads to sin and destruction. Whether it's destruction to yourself or others in whatever sense, the fact still remains. Psalm 10 states that the wicked are too proud to let God in. They have no room for Him, because they are too busy seeking the temporary highs and rushes of life. Don't fill your heart, head and life with the petty joys of this life, when God can satisfy those ultimately. Don't allow yourself to be too proud and too entitled to need God in your life.

Reading: Matthew 12:46-13:17

There are many points and lessons taught here by Jesus.

First: Be open to the family of Jesus. Pride can sure cause some despair in a family when it is used by one individual. What happens when you see a teenager "too cool" to participate in family activities? The unity is less meaningful. Don't let your pride get in the way of the family of Christ. A humble heart and understanding are crucial to the family of God.

Second: Be humble enough to get a solid foundation in Christ. Jesus shares a parable about sown seeds. Only those that are able to get their roots in good soil produce the best and most plentiful harvest. The same goes for those who rely on the Word of God. Don't think you know it all when it comes to handling life's situations. When you don't have a good foundation or solid scripture under your belt, the tiniest quake can push you over. A sold- out heart for Jesus is what will keep you standing strong. His Word is a good play book for the game of life.

Third: Protect yourself. Have enough humility to rely on God to take care of you. Jesus compares the worries and struggles of this life to be like thorns that choke the plants. Much like having the humility to be deeply rooted in Christ, we need the humility to ask for help and peace from Him too.

Reading: Genesis 34:1-35:29

There is much to learn from the story of this reading. We see selfishness all around. One leading to the rape of Dinah, and the other brought about in a cruel revenge slaughter. Though we all screw up at one time or another (hopefully not to the extent of those in this reading), it is important to still find ourselves at the feet of Jesus, Who can make us truly clean and redeem us. We see that Jacob did this after the huge mistakes his sons made. God answers his cry in telling him what to do to make good of the circumstance.
Jacob wasn't too prideful to cry out when God felt far. We have those moments in life where we've been hurt, or have done the hurting, and in those times, God can feel so distant. But He never is. When we humble ourselves before Him in sincere and raw emotion, He hears our cry and can work wonders through the worst of situations. Don't think you have to fix things on your own. God is there to keep you going. Just reach out to Him.

Pride and entitlement are both very poisonous things when applied in the wrong ways. Our society seems to endorse both. Remember that God is the Humble King, Who needs your humility to expand His kingdom, as well as expand your faith. Don't close yourself off because of a sense of entitlement, or because you are too proud to ask for help. Allow God to work marvelous work in and through you. The humble are His best candidates.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Day 16: Sources of Outflow

Reading: Proverbs 2:1-11

The importance of God's Word is clearly explained here. When we dive into the Words God has set out for us, we will become wiser and more knowledgeable in our faith. We can also gain a better understanding and clearer picture of God and His commandments. When we input God's Word, the outflow of our hearts will be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. The way we answer other about our faith will have a more solid foundation, as you'll be more likely to have the scriptures you need in your heart. Treasure God's Word like silver! Seek it out daily and make it priority in your life.

Reading: Matthew 12:22-45

Jesus gives a pretty good picture of what our hearts are like. He tells the Pharisees that a tree can be identified by its fruit, much like us. If the tree is rooted in good, solid soil, it will have good fruit. However, if it is rooted in bad soil, the fruit it makes will be bad. How does this compare to our hearts? When we are rooted in positive resources like the Bible, the overflow of our hearts and mouths will be good. But when we are rooted on a foundation of bad movies, questionable tv shows and trashy music, what do you think will be the outflow of your heart and mouth? Most likely not anything much good. We need to be so careful in today's world to guard our hearts from the junk the media tries to sell us and show us. It truly does affect you and your children.

Reading: Genesis 32:1-33:20

Life's challenges and paths sure teach and mold us when we don't notice it is. We can definitely see the changes that both Esau and Jacob had made many years after parting on a sour note. Though those experiences aren't always fun, they can sure teach us how to relate to others and realize the places we need growth in. Jacob comes to realize how angry he made Esau because of his selfishness, and the time he spent away showed him just how precious relationships are, as well as how selfish he was for cheating his brother. He could feel that pain after all the ups and downs he had been through with Laban.
When Jacob struggles with God, it is quite evident that this is a defining and enlightening moment for him. This can be symbolic for us as we spend time wrestling with God in prayer when we are faced with times of trouble and worry. The tension Jacob feels in his heart shows the remorse he has for the bad things he did years ago. This out-pouring of his heart shows how sincere he is about the changes he's made in his life. May we allow God to grow us through our life experiences and may we let that growth change us and teach us.

The fruit we bear is a good indicator of our wisdom, growth, and where we're placing our roots. Challenge yourself to get rooted in the Word. Guard your heart from the trash of this world, and allow God to make changes in you through the experiences you go through.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Day 15: The Fruit of Our Motives

Reading: Psalm 9:13-20

This Psalm shows us just how the wicked can put themselves into trouble. David cries out to God for Him to set judgement on his enemies. "The wicked are trapped by their own deeds." God is asked by David to show mercy on him, by bringing judgement on his enemies. Many times, God will work in ways that we bring about on our own. When we tell a lie, many times it comes back to bite us. The wickedness we sow, is also what we will end up reaping eventually. But on the flip side of this coin, the goodness we cast about will bring positive outcomes to our lives. God blesses those who do His work and show compassion on others. Be careful of the type of fruit you want to grow in the end.

Reading: Matthew 12:1-21

When you are questioned as Jesus was in this passage about your motives and actions, how do you respond? Jesus is attacked by religious people for working on the Sabbath day, a day meant for rest and sacredness. Jesus replies, making a case for those in need of mercy and compassion on the Sabbath day. This could cause us to question our religious rituals. Do they get in the way of serving others? Seems kind of turned around to me. But if you are too busy, trying to follow all the legalism of church, and not having mercy on others in the process, there is something terribly wrong with the motives and compassion of your heart. God is about love, not rules and traditions. When we allow the desires of our hearts to overlook the mission of God, it is time for reassessment. The fruit you put out as a result of your desires will be selfish fighting for you, not fighting for the mission of God. Again, be careful of the fruit you won't to bear. Does it further the kingdom, or stir up useless quarrels?

Reading: Genesis 31:1-55

Jacob is definitely fed up of his father-in-law, and rightfully so. He's been cheated by Laban in working years and years for his wives. However, Jacob's done his share of cheating in his lifetime too. It's funny how God teaches us lessons in the things we need them in through those things sometimes. Jacob probably quickly learned that cheating his father and brother wasn't the classiest of moves he's made- especially after he got a taste of his own medicine from Laban in trying to work for his daughter. And then when he cheats Laban back, Laban seems to learn a lesson as well, especially when Jacob runs off with his daughters and grandchildren. They finally make amends and come to a truce, each learning their lesson. God will teach us through our faults when we choose to see a lesson in them.

How can we learn from our motives? How can they come back to bite us? God will teach those who choose to follow after Him and make changes in their lives. Remember to keep tabs on the fruit that will come from your motives. The wicked trap themselves. The Pharisees approach Jesus with selfish motives, causing them to crash and burn. Jacob and Laban were taught by their own poison. Keep your motives in check.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Day 14: Burdens

Reading: Psalm 9:7-12

This Psalm really puts on display just how sovereign and everlasting our God is. He's been the judge and rule since the beginning of time, and sometimes that can be very hard to remember with our small worlds and problems. We know the work of His hands and the care He shows for His people. Why worry about justice and the issues that come our way? God has a plan in each of our lives. When we call upon Him, He will not abandon us or ignore us.

Reading: Matthew 11:16-30

The whole concept of God in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are very complex and simple at the same time. It only takes the faith of a child to truly accept Jesus. But the aspects to Him are so great and complex. We are called to follow alongside Jesus and allow Him to take our burdens. As Christians, we don't stop facing trials, but with God, those trials can be so much lighter and easier to bear. Apart from God, they can be more complicated and lead us to even more trouble. Jesus tells us to come to Him when we are tired, worn out, burdened, burned out, or hurting. He will bear life's burdens and trials with us. God is small enough to know our deepest desires and hurts, but big enough to handle them, and form huge plans in our lives. He is eternal, and bigger than whatever comes our way. Allow Him to walk alongside of you and help you with the burdens. He will make it so much easier than this world ever could.

Reading: Genesis 29:1-30:33

We can obviously see the sister rivalry that took place here between Leah and Rachel. This story is full of a lot of trickery and scheming. When things don't go our way, like children, jobs, and life events in general, we can have a tendency to take matters into our own hands, whether that means plotting and scheming to get what we want, or paying whatever the cost is for it. When Rachel couldn't have children, she gave her servant to Jacob to get children. When Jacob worked 7 years for Rachel and got Leah because Laban wanted his oldest daughter married off first, we see that Jacob continued to do whatever it took to get Rachel. Then we see the two sisters battling over who is better to Jacob in providing children to the point where they are giving away mandrakes for his affection. Seems pretty desperate to me. The insecurities we carry can sure make us do some weird and sometimes dumb things. We have a hard time trusting that the God of all eternity has great plans for us and our loved ones, so we try to take matters into our own hands. This burden of insecurity should be placed on God and His acceptance of you. Not on people and things of this world. I see this all too often in our society- especially with the younger girls who so desperately want a guy to approve of them. They'll dress in half-shirts and butt-shorts, and do things that they regret a week later, or once they find Mr. Right.
Don't pass your longing for security off to anyone or anything but your Father in heaven. He calls us to lay our burdens on Him. Let Him handle your future. Taking matters into our own hands is dangerous.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Day 13: Doing God's Work

Reading: Psalm 9:1-6

The opposition is great and merciless. When we are doing God's work, and making great moves in His Name, that is when the opposition can be the worst. We will face trials when doing God's work, because Satan doesn't want it to happen. He can't stand another victory for the Kingdom of God. When we are working for God though, He'll pull us through, and the work we put in, and the opposition we succeed in warding off will be such a sweeter victory because of the reward it puts forth. Rejoice in The Lord when He wards off our enemies and the opposition that so deviously manipulates its way in. Rejoice because He has pulled you through in working in and under His Name!

Reading: Matthew 10:32-11:15

We are called to do God's work as Christians, even if it means it's messy for us. Jesus even states in this reading that if you love your mother and father more than Me, you are not worthy to be His disciples. Wow! If we cling to our lives, we lose it. If we give it away for the work of Christ, we find it. Our society places such value on success and possessions. The Christian life demands giving it away for the cause of Christ. When we chase after our own glory, we are left unsatisfied and thirsty for more, causing us to be gluttons for glory. The glory belongs to Christ.
Here we read that the opposition could end up being our very own family and friends. When we place more value on their opinions than on the cause and work for Christ, we are denying Christ. Don't refrain from doing God's work because you're afraid of offending or hurting others. Just because working in His Name could get messy for us, that is no reason to not do what is right for the cause of Christ. If we love our friends and family more than God, we are not worthy of being His disciple. If we refuse to face the opposition, we are not worthy to be His disciple. This reading is pretty straight forward and blunt. Be careful not to confuse being Christ's disciple for salvation. Works don't save. The grace of God does. But be sure to check the motives of your heart.

Reading: Genesis 27:1-28:22

The story of Esau and Jacob is definitely an exciting and drama-filled one. We see how both Rebekah and Jacob are very strong-willed people. This is good for doing the work of The Lord, but can also be used to manipulate and force your way. We see later on in Genesis how God uses Jacob in mighty ways in His work. The personality traits and gifts God gives us can be both powerful in doing His work, or a tool of hurting others for your own gain. This story alone is huge proof of how Rebekah and Jacob use their gifts and personalities for getting their own way.

So how will you face the work of God? How will you tackle opposition, even if it's coming from a loved one? What gifts and traits has God given you to carry out His work? Are you using those for the best God could call you to? Don't abuse the gifts He's given you. Use them for His glory.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Day 12: Dealing with Fear

Reading: Proverbs 1:20-33

If we fear God, we will have no reason to fear. When we seek His counsel and heed His advice, our fears can be washed away. However, when we push God away and ignore His nudgings, the road ahead could be scary for us. Why would God come to us when we're in trouble, when we push Him away when life is just dandy? We need to live a life in awe of Him, attentive to His guidance. Only then will He listen to our cries, and offer us His advice. A good place to start- His Word!

Reading: Matthew 10:1-31

This reading filled with some pretty steep warnings to God's people. Many of them can be translated into our time. Standing strong in your faith, and going where God calls you to go can be a scary, scary task. Jesus reassures His followers here though that He is with them, and will give them the words to say. He also reassures them that those who turn you away will have to answer to His judgement. Times are getting harder for Christians in a world that believes it's outdated and judgmental. Stand strong. This passage says the followers of Jesus are like sheep going out into a world of wolves. We need not be afraid of the words to say, what will happen to us, or what others will say or do to us. We are in this world, but not of it. Though we could lose our possessions or our lives, the world can never steal our souls. Take heart, for when you heed the wisdom and knowledge of God, He will protect you and show you the paths you need to follow.

Reading: Genesis 25:1-26:35

Isaac suffered a lot of fear in his time. He feared death, which caused him to lie about Rebekah being his wife, saying she was his sister. (Funny how the son of Abraham fell into the same lie as his father did with Sarah.) Sometimes our fears cause us to sin, and that comes from not trusting in God to take care of us. When was the last time you tried to take matters into your own hands? How did that go for you? However, we do see that Isaac reached out to The Lord when he asked for a child, unlike his own father and mother who first tried to take matters into their own hands with Hagar, bringing about Ishmael.
Esau ends up having to sell his birthright to Jacob because of Jacob's selfishness and fears. Fears can certainly cause us to do some wrong things. God repeatedly says throughout this reading, "do not be afraid". I honestly think there is a reason for Him repeating us and carrying it over to us to read today.

Fears and anxieties can cripple us. How are you staying in tune with God to learn His knowledge and wisdom? This can truly help you with your fear. Seeing God's work throughout the ages is certainly comforting to our lives today.

Day 11: Your Astounding Value

Reading: Psalms 8:1-9

We are valuable in God's eyes - very valuable! This Psalm and many others proclaim that loudly. God put humans in charge of His creation, and placed them just under Himself. The beauty of creation is compared to humans in this passage, and we are considered more valuable and beautiful. God places huge value on you, regardless of how misconstrued our society has created the definition value to be.

Reading: Matthew 9:14-38

When we read about the work Jesus did, sometimes we can't help but ask why Jesus chose to minister to dirty, sinful, even rude people. What didn't He come to live as a king and great leader? Jesus came to do the work of His Father. Though we as a society place value on the successes of our lives, Jesus didn't want the fame or wealth. He even tells the blind men in this reading to tell no one of what He did, even though they spread the news anyways. Jesus sought out success in making His Father known. He wanted to have compassion on people and show them that simply faith and belief are all that it takes to seethe Kingdom of God. If He could carry out His mission and the work of His Father, that was all that matters. As Christians, what do we view as our successes here in earth? How do these line up with those of Jesus? The harvest is big, but the workers are few.

Reading: Genesis 24:1-67

We can definitely see the value God places on His people here, in the sense of providing for their needs. One of the things I can't stress enough to the young ladies of our society is to trust in the value God puts on you. One way to do this is to wait for the one God has picked out to be your partner, if He even plans for you to be married. This is always a true test of faith for many ladies, and young men, I'm sure! Finding your mate for life is such a power struggle in our culture. Young girls will do anything (and I mean anything) to have a guy wrapped around their shoulders. Trusting God in this area is so hard. The story of how Isaac found Rebekah though is one of the most romantic stories in the Bible. We can see the qualities that make this story so great. Rebekah was a virgin, hard-working, compassionate, and trusted God enough to go off with a Godly servant and meet a Godly man, who shared in her same faith and beliefs. Can't we see that we need to wait for God's timing? Why don't we trust that He cares so much about us, that He'll provide our needs when the time is right? This not only goes for finding a guy or girl to spend our lives with, but it goes for everything we get in this life. Jobs, houses, children, etc. Remember that God values you enough to provide for you. Value yourself enough to wait for His timing.

We are deeply loved by a great Creator, Who values and cherishes us! Don't allow society to measure you by their definition of success. Don't try and figure out what is best for you on your time. Allow God to pour out His love and blessings on you when the time is right.

Day 10: Provision & Protection

Reading: Psalm 7:10-17

When troubles and frustrations fly our way, we can trust the God will protect those who are right and true. Those who rely on Him will find the shield of His protection. We can trust in Him to judge those who may cause our storms. He'll cast His anger on them until they repent and see their wrong-doings. Those who are wicked are full of nothing but trouble and spew out lies to cover their reputations, instead of coming clean and getting their act together.
If we are truly following Christ in daily obedience, or striving to obey and follow Him, we can rest assured that God will stand behind us and for us.

Reading: Matthew 8:23-9:13

Here we see how Jesus takes care of His people. Literally in a storm in one reading. This is a blatant symbol of how Jesus not only has the power to calm the storms of the sea, but also of how He has the power to calm the storms of our lives. When we see His power displayed in healing the demon- possessed men, we can understand more that Jesus can solve not only the impossible things like that, but also the most minute problems of our lives. Jesus showed compassion on the hurting and broken. Why would we think He'll leave His followers today without comfort and a way out of the storms in life? Though when those hard times come, we may feel abandoned and helpless, we need to remember that God is always there. He always teaches us and makes good from the bad. We just need to allow Him to do that work in our lives.

Reading: Genesis 21:1-23:20

God proves here that He is our ultimate Provider. He provides Abraham and Sarah with their own son, Isaac. Talk about an answer to prayer for this couple! Once Hagar and Ishmael are asked to leave, we see the storm that Hagar face in trying to keep herself and her son alive after running out of water. But we see here how God provides and gets them through their hardships; even leading Ishmael to a legacy of his own. From there we read about the battle Abraham must face in following God's instructions to sacrifice his son, Isaac. This is a test of how strong Abraham's faith is, along with how in line his priorities are. Once God sees how devoted Abraham is to following and obeying Him, He stops him and provides a ram to sacrifice instead.
When we place all our trust and faith in God alone, we can see just how magnificent His provision is, at exactly the times we need it most. We need to be in tune with what God wants from us though. We may face these storms in trying to decide God's will verses our own, but when we're in line with what God asks us to do, He'll provide and get us through.
We even see how Abraham's credibility and honest character provided him a burial place for his wife.

What storms or concerns are you facing in this new year that you need to put into God's hands? How can you take what you've learned today and really put your faith and obedience into action in staying in line with God's will?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Day 9: Who are You Judging?

Reading: Psalms 7:1-9

God is the ultimate judge. In this Psalm, we read about David practically begging for judgement and justice if he has done anything wrong. When's the last time you saw someone do that? When we are full of guilt, the only way to relieve it is to confess it and even ask God for justice so you feel better for our wrong-doings. But it doesn't feel so good when others judge us. We also see how David trusts in God to make the right judgement on his enemies. Revenge is not our job. Judgement is God's job. We need to trust in Him to seek judgement on those who have wronged us.

Reading: Matthew 7:24-8:22

Jesus goes about healing all who believe and have faith. Never once does He stop and judge the sick by their past, their looks, their families, or even their smell. He simply heals them and teaches to them. How many times do we pass someone in need when we're out and about, but fail to help them because our minds cast judgement of who they are, how they look, how dirty they are, or false thoughts on what they'll do with the couple bucks you give them. Even if they spend your money on something they don't truly need, keep in mind that you still were a testimony to that person and displayed the love of God to them. Jesus didn't want the recognition or the fame. He simply came to serve and be a witness. Let Jesus be our example for reaching out to those in need without casting judgement.

Reading: Genesis 19:1-20:18

This passage is a huge example of the torrential wrath God can use to lay judgement down on a city. The ways of Sodom and Gomorrah are scarily close to many of the ways of our culture. Not only did the people of those cities commit sexual sin, but in Ezekiel we read that it also entailed pride, greed, arrogance, and unconcern for the poor. Yikes! We should never mess with testing God and pushing His limits. If anyone knows how to judge and lay down the wrath, it is God. Where do we fall as a society in the sins listed above? We as the church need to stand strong against what the rest of the world begins to deem as acceptable. This could include premarital sex, cohabitation, cheating, and we even read in Genesis about homosexuality. The oppression will be great, but we have God's endurance to stand strong. Just remember that He is the only true judge. We definitely have no reason to look at the speck of dust in our neighbor's eye, when we have a plank in our own. It's one thing to disagree and teach, but it a whole other to be a complete jerk.

Which of the above examples do you need to work on in your personal life? Following the example of Christ? Trusting God to handle our revenges? Or standing strong for the ways of The Lord as opposed to the ways of this world?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Day 8: You are Stronger

Reading: Proverbs 1:8-19

There are so many appealing things in this world that just lure us into temptation. Since it seems like everyone is on that bandwagon, we may think that's where we belong too. Proverbs just screams at us to stay away from the enticements of this world. For a time, these things may provide a rush and sense of excitement in our lives, but in the long run we will be left in shambles. These things ruin and destroy lives. Why would anyone with sense go along with them? No temptation is too hard for God to take away. Allow Him to pull you through and away from those things in this world hat lure you to danger and a rough road ahead.

Reading: Matthew 6:25-7:23

These are some pretty hefty instructions from Jesus. We need to get the mindset though, that God is in control and nothing is impossible with Him. Why worry? God already knows what we need. Why judge? When we judge others, the same scale of judgement is used on us. Why ask God for our needs? Because He cares deeply for us, and knows us better than our parents! Why listen and heed His commands? Because only through Him will we get to heaven. The road is narrow, but God works through even the most seemingly impossible things that come into our lives. There's a reason Jesus spoke these words during His sermon on the mount. He knows what His Father in heaven can handle. It is way more than what we give Him credit and allowance to do for us in our lives.

Reading: Genesis 17:1-18:33

The part of Abraham's story is truly a testimony to the endless possibilities of what God can do in our lives. Even though both Abraham and Sarah are very old, God promises a son to them is Abraham upholds the covenant that is made between he and God. Though Abraham and Sarah both find this impossible to believe, Abraham strives to keep his end of the deal. God questions why Sarah laughs at His promise, asking if anything is ever too hard for Him. How many times in our lives do we laugh at the possibilities of God? When we doubt His power, we question His abilities. This story is very comforting to those of you who are going through tough stuff. Maybe you're facing the news of never being able to have children, much like Abraham and Sarah did. Perhaps you question how God can really use you in mighty ways. Don't give up asking God for provision in your life. He will provide, and He'll show you what you can do and what He has done.

Record what God has done in your life and give Him thanks. Remembering what He has done for you is true testimony to what He can do.

Day 7: The Importance of Humility

Reading: Psalm 6:1-10

This reading opens up with David describing his feelings with strong words. I'm sure all of us have faced a time in our lives that put us "in agony", in "shame", and caused us to "drench our beds in sobbing". We all face struggles and times of grief. They certainly do raise these feelings that David describes. The important thing is to cry out to God in these times, as David did. He will rescue us from the lowest pits we fall into in our lives, whether we put ourselves in there, or a circumstance did. Though it may not feel like He will in that moment, I can definitely testify that He turns our darkest of times into beautiful testimonies of His powerful work. Don't forget to reach out to Him in those times of darkness. It is so easy to be too prideful to ask for help. Humility is so important in times of trouble. When we are too proud nod try to handle things on our own, we find ourselves in even messier situations sometimes. Put aside your pride and cry out to God.

Reading: Matthew 5:43-6:24

Jesus is straight up preaching about humility here. Love your enemies? Don't tell everyone about your good deeds? Don't pray on and on in front of others to look good? Forgive those who have wronged me? Don't collect stuff for myself? What about this picture is so wrong in a society such as ours? We thrive on fame, success and possessions. Everything about Jesus' teaching would sound ridiculous to those foreign to Christianity and the Bible. Yet Jesus urges us to be humble. Why? Because without humility as the framework of how we carry ourselves, who will ever care about Jesus and Christianity? As Christians, we can't be acting like know-it-all, holier-than-thou people. That defeats the purpose, and leads others to wonder if you truly have the love and compassion of Christ in you. Jesus teaches us these things because that was what He is about.

Reading: Genesis 14:1-16:16

This section is quite an intriguing addition to Abraham's story. Abraham gets pretty real with God when he points out that he doesn't have a son. From here, God sure promises him a lot, including a son and more descendants than he can count stars in the sky. However, we see that Sarai tries to take matters into her own hands in giving her servant to Abraham to provide her a son. This ends up getting pretty messy, as the story will continue on. After Hagar is treated badly and runs away, she is comforted by God and told to humble herself and submit to Sarai's authority. God commands her to be humble and return to Sarai. From there, the story continues on with more blessings for both Abraham and Hagar. Sometimes God calls us to do things we don't want to do, like humble ourselves to someone who has mistreated us. Talk about tough, but necessary for His work to progress.

Where are you being called to humble yourself? Do you need to break down and just ask God to help you through a struggle? Is the media and society teaching you how to get a big head and use it to your advantage, when God is calling you to take humility to your advantage? What about humbling yourself before someone who has mistreated you? Maybe that will be the action to soften their heart? And if not, at least the ball's in their court. Pray on this, then do what God tells you.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Day 6: Directions

 Reading: Psalm 5:1-12

Praying for God's direction is not only a burden to take off yourself, but it is also an act of humility. You are including God in your plans by allowing Him to give you His. We can always expect an answer from God, as we read in verse 3. However, it may not always be the answer we want to hear. We can rest assured though, that God will bless those who heed His direction and path in life, as verse 12 states. We have no reason to fear the unknown because God will protect us and love those who need His direction.

Reading: Matthew 5:21-42

Jesus sure gives us some radical instructions when it comes to handling certain things that come our way. These teachings all tend to lean away from our society tells us. They tell us to turn a cheek when we are hurt by others, as opposed to seeking revenge from those who have hurt or wronged us, as much of our media glorifies today. We are to love our enemies, not hate them, or even talk badly about them. Marriage is intended to be for you and one other person. Just look at all the cheating and lust in our media. It's almost impossible to find a show without it!
What does this kind of instruction do for us? It gives us a better life. Remember in Psalms when we read that God will protect the Godly with a shield of love? That is what He'll do here. Don't allow the world and media to talk you into doing something you will regret later. Living the Godly life is always the best way to live. The outcome is always the best outcome, even if you can't realize it in the moment. That is just a part of faith.

Reading: Genesis 11:10-13:18

Here we get to see God's instruction in action. Could you imagine how Abraham must have felt when God told him to pack up everything he had and to just go to some land that will become evident as he got to it? This must have taken great faith for Abraham, but nonetheless, he obeyed. God gives him step-by-step directions too; He never reveals the big picture until it comes to completion, which eventually we'll read that God's plans for Abraham last far past his life. Following direction from God requires action and faith on our part. We can't always see the grand picture God has planned, but we know He means only the best for us. (Remember the promise of His protection in Psalms.) Obeying can be hard, but the rewards are great.

Is God calling you to follow His direction and instruction? How can you look past the ways of this world and follow the ways of Christ? Ask God what your next move need to be. Let Him challenge you.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Day 5: Your "Ultimate"

Reading: Psalm 4:1-8

When we call to God, He will answer. It is only In Him we will find true peace and security. So many people in our society strive to fill their fears and securities with money or success, but end up just longing for more or are left unsatisfied and crushed later. God is the never-ending abundance of security and hope we can rely on. Our lives won't be easier, but we'll sure have a great source to get us through that no money or fame can buy for us.

Reading: Matthew 4:23-5:20

Where are you finding the ultimate happiness? Many people will find it in money, fame, experiences, drugs, possessions, looks, men, women, etc. but we read in the sermon on the mount that Jesus say He is the only true hope and happiness. God blesses all who mourn, all who are poor, all who are humble, all who hunger for justice, all who are merciful, all who have pure hearts, all who work for peace, and even all who are persecuted and mocked in His name. Seems pretty backwards from our get all you want now society. We live in a world that glorifies sex, violence, immediate gratification, gadgets, technology, and money. Yet in Matthew, we are told that Jesus blesses the poor, the pure and the humble. So which of these do we follow? Something that will leave you longing for more later? Or the One, true happiness that will leave you with unimaginable, eternal rewards?

Reading: Genesis 9:18-11:9

In these readings we see examples of selfishness. When we read about Noah getting drunk, it is Ham who exposes him to his brothers, (perhaps to gain some credit?) when he could have just covered up Noah's nakedness himself. This angered Noah and I'm sure it embarrassed him too. When we read about the Tower of Babel, the people were working to gain the fame they wanted. What they fail to realize is that true fame only belongs to God, and all credit for accomplishment is due to Him. We see that this is how the different languages were made. Ultimate fame and blessing comes from God alone. One of my favorite lyrics from my favorite artist, Lecrae comes from his song "Chase That (Ambition)":

 "He (Satan) lies to us all, told Adam he could ball
'Why you following God when you could have it all?"
I tell you what's better, or better yet, worse-
Chasing your own glory, while doing the Lord's work
So holla if it hurts, but we were made for greater
Our greatest satisfaction is making His Name famous..."

So look to God to be your ultimate fame and the One Who you long to please.

Who or what are you making your ultimate in life? Are you constantly left disappointed? Could be a sign of where your heart is.