Thursday, February 28, 2013

Day 56: Don't Waste Your Life

Reading: Proverbs 6:1-11

There are many great words of advice throughout Proverbs that show us how to stay out of life's various traps. Today's reading, though talks about mastering self-discipline and being a hard worker. One way we don't waste our lives is by putting these things into practice. This passage warns very sternly about laziness and failing to be self-motivated. When we fall into debt, we spend our lives trying to get out of that hole. This Proverb says to swallow your pride and beg to get out of debt. Work hard to pay it off. A hard worker gains much when they develop their character, because they realize the value of self-discipline and self-motivation. Sitting around, and waiting as life passes by is a good way to waste it. We need to go hard in God's work, completing the tasks He's laid before us.

Reading: Mark 8:14-9:1

Jesus calls us to lose our lives for His sake, and we will find life. Though this sounds daunting and scary, it is necessary to be changed for Christ and the mission He calls us to do. We see Jesus warn against the yeast of the Pharisees, and while this confuses the disciples, it means to not let them affect your lives with their works and rituals. Yeast works through the entire loaf of bread, and the ways of the Pharisees were able to do the same. Don't envelop your life with ritual and legalism. Instead, Jesus calls us into a life of service for Him. To take up our cross daily, and deny ourselves, meaning to not get wrapped up in the things of this world, but to remember the ways of heaven and the poor that so desperately need to know Jesus. Instead of focusing on the next gadget, fashion or fad, focus on the mission of Christ.
Peter knew exactly Who Christ was, but he didn't understand the mission. So many times we make the same mistake. We know Jesus is our Savior and Lord, but we fail to do anything about it. We may call ourself a Christian, but our lives don't reflect that at all. Don't fall for the things of this world, because gaining it will cause you to lose your soul.

Reading: Exodus 37:1-38:31

Living all out for God means we put our best work forward at all times. This applies when we're not only serving God in the ministry we're passionate about, but in the jobs or careers we face each day, no matter how daunting they seem at times. We see the hard, tedious work Bezalel puts in as he constructs the various parts of the Tabernacle. His heart is full of the passion for God's work and God's work ethic. I can't imagine how long and how hard it must have been for him to mold and shape every detail of the lampstand alone. The dedication and detail that Bezalel put into his work is a great example of living his life for meaning and passion. May we take the example from him when we look at our own work ethic in every aspect of life.

Going through life without a notice to it's meaning is depressing. Jesus calls us to a higher standard and a higher calling, as we are to take up our cross daily and choose to sacrifice our plans, agendas, work, loved ones, etc, for His sake. When we choose to lose all the things the world offers, we will gain the ultimate life through Christ. Don't waste your life, find it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Day 55: Dealing with the Multitudes

Reading: Psalm 25:16-22

David certainly had his troubles with enemies. He cries out again in this passage for God to save him since his enemies have increased in number. One thing we can always expect in good leadership and blessing is plenty of opposition. Though God may pour a multitude of blessings down on us for doing the right thing as leaders, there will of course be a multitude of opposition. What we need to do when we feel overwhelmed with the opposition we face, is remember God and the blessings He gives us for following Him and not what our enemies want. Cry out to Him to rescue you from those hard places as you follow Him and His leading, because God's leading is certainly not the leading of the world.

Reading: Mark 7:31-8:13

We can bring very little to God and He can use it to do great things. We read another story of Jesus feeding a multitude of people with very little. Jesus asks His disciples to gather all the available food from the crowds, as He loves to involve us in His plans too. Wi the little they bring Him, He makes into plenty for 4,000 people. We may feel like we don't have enough to help with the multitudes of lost people in our world. But when we allow God to use us and make us a part of His plan, He can take our little and make it a great blessing to people around us who so desperately need to hear about Jesus. We can't let our excuses get in the way, however. When we refuse to go do God's work be cause we are too scared or don't think we have the skills it takes, we need to remember that Jesus took very little from His disciples to feed thousands. We may face skeptics, like the Pharisees, but we can't allow them to sway us from God's work either. "God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called."

Reading: Exodus 35:1-36:38

Unity is shown in this reading as the people come together and work towards one, common purpose- to build the Tabernacle. We see some important ways that the multitudes come together to accomplish God's work:

They all pray- Prayer as a community is powerful. When you are all focused on one thing, prayer can truly unify you under God's purpose and work. There is great meaning and passion with prayer. When a multitude prays, the power in community is great.

They all contribute- The people all come together and bring what they can to contribute to the cause. When we freely decide to give to God, and not out of guilt, God can accomplish His work, and the passion for His work will grow in our hearts. When many come together to accomplish God's work, the unity among the multitudes is great.

They all serve- There is blessing all around when you serve. There is a lot of blessing when you serve alongside others. Not only do you all bring different gifts and skills to the team, but you can all fit together and work well with the individuality you each have. Coming together to serve for one common purpose not only grows passion for that purpose, but for the people you work with as well.

Dealing with the multitudes in your life can be a great, positive task, or a hard, tiring task. We have read about multitudes of enemies, how God makes our little to offer a multitude of greatness, and what it means to have unity among a multitude of teammates.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Day 54: Staying in Tune

Reading: Psalm 25:8-15

When we open our ears to hear what God is saying to us, we drop our own plans and agendas, and cling to humility. God is only audible to those who are open to Him. Sometimes we may wonder why we can't hear where God is leading us, but really, we need to look into our own hearts and straighten up our motives and pride. This part of Psalm 25 really expresses that fear of The Lord, that is awe of The Lord, and humility are key in seeing the path He wants for us. He will be friends with those who are humble and fear Him, and they will prosper for many generations. Be humble and in awe before God, and He will teach you His ways and His path, because you'll be receptive to them.

Reading: Mark 7:1-30

Sometimes our ability to hear God's Word is muffled by our rituals and traditions. We see a great example of this as Jesus goes back and forth with the Pharisees about caring for elderly parents. They try to dodge the "honor your father and mother" commandment with the tradition of giving all their wealth to God. Jesus has something to say about this however, pointing out firmly that this is a misuse of His Name (commandment #3), and that God's Word always takes priority and precedence over tradition and rituals. What we put into our hearts is what comes out. We can clearly see the motives of these Pharisees' hearts in that they didn't want to take care of their parents, thus dodging God's commandment by using God. Pretty malicious and manipulative.
What we need to remember when applying this concept to our lives, is that we should never cling to our rituals and traditions when God's Word calls us to do something else. We can certainly relate to this within the church. Traditions are nice and fun, but people and love are more important. God calls us to love and bring the lost to Him. A fight over pews and hymns are inward focused. A fight over how to bring in the lost and those who don't know God is outward focused. Check your motives in the church. Check your agenda and allow God's agenda. Listen to His calling to us to make disciples, and to seek the lost.

Reading: Exodus 33:7-34:35

Moses longed to be in tune with God's plan. He wanted to be apart of them, telling God to be their Presence or they could not continue on the journey. He asked for God's plan, and God lays out the plan and the instructions. When we hear from God, we have a glow, much like Moses had a radiant face. Our glow comes from knowing God is in control. We put our trust in Him, and let Him take the reigns. Moses allowed God to take the reigns all throughout their journey out of Egypt and through the wilderness. When we give God control and stay in tune with His will for our lives, we can rest easy, and take the pressure off. This doesn't mean we won't face hardship and trials, but we can trust God to pull us through them. When we stay in tune and in communication with Him, like we would our friends and family, we can trust Him to work in our lives. Moses had a special relationship with God, and we can have the same intimacy with Him when we decide to consult with Him for His plans.

Staying in tune with God and really hearing His instruction and will for our lives is a way we can relax in His work. When we give it over to Him, we can rest in faith, trusting Him to carry and lead us through all of life's situations. Stay in tune through prayer, quiet times and His Word.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Day 53: Crucial Quiet Times

Reading: Psalm 25:1-7

To seek direction
The term quiet time means finding a daily time alone with God. Probably reading His Word, praying and just listening to Him. One thing we can gain from this practice is direction. This Psalm talks about seeking the path God wants you on, as well as seeking His truth and light. When we spend time with Him daily, we can find it easier to get in tune with Him, and finding His path for our lives, both in the long run and daily. Getting this insight is key to aligning ourselves with His plans for us. A daily quiet time is a good healthy way to start out your day on His path.

Reading: Mark 6:30-56

To regain our faith and strength
Jesus made it priority to meet with His Father. He would find a place to be alone and to pray. Though these times were hard to find because of the great needs of the people, Jesus still would have compassion on them. When He worked the miracle of feeding the 5,000, He told His disciples to feed them. They were confused, having nothing. But Jesus works a grand miracle, having them fed with only 5 loaves and 2 fish. Jesus can take the very little in our lives and make it something great. Reading stories like this and the ones like Jesus walking on water really can boost your faith and make you remember that Jesus can take what you think is small and make it a big blessing.
We face storms, whether we do a quiet time or not, but those quiet times remind us to feel God's presence throughout the day. Facing storms can be lighter when we remember to rely on God, and have faith in Him. Be renewed in faith and strength through a daily quiet time.

Reading: Exodus 31:1-33:6

To keep us focused and listening
We see how quickly the Israelites lose sight of what God had done for them. Even after all the miracles God performed for them, rescuing them out of Egypt and providing for them in the wilderness, we still see here how easily they fall into the temptation of making an idol - just after God commanded them not to.
When we are able to do a daily quiet time, things seem to click better in our minds throughout the day. We may remember something we read in the Bible that day and have better discernment when facing certain situations that arise. Reading the Bible is the best way to listen to God too. We know His stance on things because we've read it in His Word. When we are able to come to Him daily, we keep our focus sharp and our discernment up to speed. Though the Israelites had just seen God in powerful ways, they fall into great sin, even Aaron who is one of their strong leaders falls into it. The only one among them that discerns correctly is Moses, who goes and meets with The Lord frequently. He is in tune to what God wants on a daily basis. May this be a lesson for us to keep in the Word and stick to our quiet times regularly.

Quiet times, or the time we take out daily to be with God alone, are crucial to the Christian walk. We just read 3 instances throughout the Bible where it is proven important. Make sure you can make it priority to go to God daily.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Day 52: The Importance of Relationship

 Reading: Proverbs 5:15-23

The importance of marriage is greater than our culture leads on in today's world. With a media that promotes doing what feels good, and getting what you want now, knowing what is right and wrong in a committed relationship can be tricky. This Proverb gives strong warning against sex outside of marriage, completely opposite of what the status quo puts out. With so much value on relationships, like marriage, the Bible stresses the importance of self-control in efforts to preserve them. Don't just write off the blessing of relationship when it comes to your spouse, whether you're married or not. Respect for your spouse starts before the "I do". Be faithful to your spouse with the person you're with now, be faithful with your spouse by only being with you're spouse, and be faithful to them by praying for them and including God into your relationships. In fact, make Him the center of them.

Reading: Mark 6:6a-29

Notice that Jesus sent out His disciples in twos. This shows that He knows the importance of relationship. Jesus obviously was never married, but He knew the importance of having a companion, whether in marriage or friendship. We read in Ecclesiastes that "two are better than one...if one falls the other can pick him up." When the disciples were sent out to do ministry, having a brother with them allowed them to rejoice together, build each other up if one was discouraged or down, and just see the blessing of ministry together. Going through the Christian walk alone was not God's intention. Though at times, life can feel lonely, especially as a Christian in today's society, we need to find an accountability partner, and/or a fellow Christian friend to share sound, Godly advice with. Going to church, being involved in ministry, being a part of a Bible study group, and just talking with other Christians can help you in this. Don't isolate yourself. Get yourself good, Godly friends.
King Herod, on the other hand, had good intentions, but weak morals. His weakness for a girl caused the death of John the Baptist. Because Herod didn't have the accountability and good-standing moral foundation, he found himself regretting his lack of counsel. Don't misjudge the importance of accountability.

Reading: Exodus 29:1-30:38

Our relationship with Jesus is the most important one we can have. Because of His sacrifice, and because of His blood, we don't need to carry out the meticulous rituals of the Old Testament times. The details of this reading sure show how serious it was to cleanse oneself of their sins. It also shows just how seriously we take our relationship with God.
Jesus is our Savior. He restores, forgives and redeems. Accepting a relationship with Him is accepting the redemption, forgiveness and cleansing of our sins. The most important relationship you can say "yes" to is one with Him.

Relationships are important. We are to value them more than society lets on in some cases. Our relationship with Jesus and the ones that keep us on track with Him are most important. Stay on the course with Him and with the people who help you grow in Him.

Day 51: Meet With Him

Reading: Psalm 24:1-10

Meeting with The Lord is an awesome privilege and should never be taken lightly. He has opened up the door to meet with Him, but we must check our hearts and minds before we come to Him and expect answers. A clean heart and pure mind will show us the way to Him. When we come into His presence with the right motives and a heart open to His will, the power will be all the more great. We need to acknowledge that God is great and that He is the Almighty, and the King of Glory, as David does throughout this Psalm. When we are able to humble ourselves to Him, He will make our desires fit His good and perfect will. Meeting with God will truly be a time of awe.

Reading: Mark 5:21-6:6a

Coming to Jesus requires an act of faith. We see many instances of faith of being necessary for healing and for God's work to happen in our lives. When Jesus is moving through the crowds, a very sick woman longs to get to Him so she can be healed. When Jesus feels the healing power leave Him, He demands to know who touched Him. Because of this woman's great faith, she is made well just by touching Him, and Jesus announces this to her.
When Jesus is told that the little girl is dead, everyone seems hopeless around Him, but He tells hem not to worry, just to have faith. When He gets to her, she rises right up as if she were sleeping. Again, faith plays a huge roll.
We see what happens when the opposite happens as Jesus visits His own hometown and is rejected. Since the faith is so low, the reading tells us that Jesus is only able to heal a couple of the sick in His town, and He is amazed at their lack of faith.
Faith is required when asking God to work in our lives. Simply asking and trusting He will work in our lives is all it takes. Just have faith!

Reading: Exodus 27:1-28:43

As we continue to read about the complexity of the Tabernacle that needed to be built in order for people to meet with God, we can begin to appreciate how Jesus made it easier for us to come to Him. Because of the blood He shed for us, "the veil was torn" and we are no longer separated from speaking to God with our own hearts and mouths. The Israelites had to prepare all of these fancy specifications in order to meet with God, and they still needed to go through a priest to talk to Him. Though this may make us appreciate coming to God a little more, we can give thanks that we have straight access to Him. Jesus came to close the gap, remove the curtain, wipe out the rituals and the rules, and offer Himself through humility to us, so we might have a relationship with Him. How awesome is that? Take advantage of the simple way we have been given to meet with God.

Meeting with God is no light task. We can go to Him with requests, to pour our hearts out to Him, to thank Him, ask for advice, whatever. He is longing for relationship with us. Go to Him in awe and with faith. He has made a way for us!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Day 50: A Real Relationship

Reading: Psalm 23:1-6

Our personal relationship with God is like being His little sheep who look to their Shepherd for guidance. This famous Psalm really drives that personal touch home. When we lose our way along life's road, we can count on Christ to guide us back, as long as we listen for Him. He is all you need as the Psalm says we "shall not want". He renews our strength when we're down, and brings us peace of mind to conquer the day ahead. He is our Protector, Comforter, and Provider. Much like a shepherd watches over and cares for his sheep, God does the same for us. That kind of relationship is pretty special.

Reading: Mark 4:30-5:20

Another aspect of our personal relationship with God is that He is big enough to save us, but small enough to know us. The parable of the mustard seed talks about taking something so small and allowing it to do such great work and turn into something huge. From here, God calms a huge storm, but not until after His disciples spend time fretting and worrying. A true test of faith is when we face storms in our lives. When it feels like God is sleeping on us, we may fret and worry, but we can also trust He is right there, with a bigger plan in mind. The disciples wouldn't have been able to see the true power of Jesus if He just would have stopped the storm from coming. But after they saw how He had the power to calm such an outrageous storm, they respond in awe and faith. God uses the small things to show us amazing things.
The next part of this reading goes into Jesus healing a crazy man, who officials had no choice to contain him but to lock him up. This man cut himself, lived among graves and howled. I'm pretty sure many had a hard time approaching this man. Jesus, however, saw his potential. He saw past the craziness of this man and healed him- something no one else could do. This man in turn evangelized to thousands about what God had done for him. How great this story is.
God can see past our flaws. He knows us so deeply that He picks out the potential in us,maven when others may have given up on us. If you allow Him in and to do His work, He can move you in mighty ways!

Reading: Exodus 25:1-26:37

It is quite amazing how the Israelites knew just how to hear the specific instructions on how to build the Tabernacle. Each person contributed what they felt in their hearts to give because God wanted them to build a place where He could live among them. God wants to live among us too. He wants to be apart of our lives and every aspect of it. When He gives us specific instructions, we too can hear Him with great clarity, as the Israelites did. We also need to decide how much we're willing to give to Him in order for Him to come live among us. We can give God pieces of our lives, but until we are able to give it to Him in its entirety, we won't get to fully see His powerful work in our lives- we may see it in pieces of our lives, but not in full transformation in Him. What part of your life do you have a hard time giving to God? Your future? Your spouse? Your family? Your friends? Your money? Are you able to let Him lead you through every aspect of your life? Show Him you're ready to have Him take control by giving Him the number one spot of your heart. Allow Him to dwell in you, as the Israelites allowed Him to dwell among them.

The relationship we have with God is so real and powerful. He is our Guide, our Protector, our Healer, our Provider. He wants to dwell in us and have control over every aspect of you. Will you allow Him?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Day 49: A Love Letter

Reading: Psalm 22:25-31

Our Love for Him
The Bible shows not only God's love for us, but it shows proclamation of others' love for Him. David expresses many emotions towards God all throughout Psalms, but here we can see an exultation of victory and praise. The whole world will one day rely on God and bow to Him. This Psalm begins with the death and hopelessness of the prophesy of Jesus' death, but it ends with this strong proclamation of victory and insuperable love. God pouring out His love on us should rightfully lead to us giving our lives in love for Him.

Reading: Mark 3:31-4:29

Jesus' Love in Relationship
Jesus wants to be in close relationship with us. He says that anyone who does God's will is His family. Makes sense. When we have a close-knit family, you're willing to do whatever for those people in it. When we truly want to be close to Jesus, we do whatever for Him - or His Will in our lives. Jesus talks about the Word and the importance of truly hearing it. When we truly hear the Word and get deeply rooted in it, our relationship will be deeply rooted in Him. But if we have a time of not being deeply in His Word, our relationship with Him may feel distant. The comparison Jesus uses here is perfect. The thorns that can choke plants that are like worries in life. The Word helps us deal with those worries, but without it, the fruit we produce will be scarce. Staying deep in the Word will keep us deep in our relationship with Christ. How many times have you had a consistent quiet time, diving into the Word, then missed a day or two? How did your day go the days you missed? It's amazing how much it can affect you.

Reading: Exodus 23:1-24:18

Covenant of Love
God makes a covenant with His people. The covenant He makes with the Israelites seems hefty, but it all is common sense. God rescued them from Egypt, and He leads them to the Promised Land. He would like to have the love reciprocated. God commits Himself to us, and asks us to do the same with Him. Communion is a way we remember what Christ did for us. The New Covenant we have in Christ was through the shedding of His blood for us - the greatest kind of love there ever was. We are asked to carry out our covenant in following Him and His Will in our lives. He promises to be with us as we proclaim His love and sacrifice to the world. May we have the courage to carry out His commission in our world. He gave His life for us; may we live ours for Him.

The Bible is a love letter. A letter from God to us. A history of how He has saved us, and how others expressed their love through praise and obedience to Him. Stay in the Word and stay in His love.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Day 48: Good and Evil Battling

Reading: Proverbs 5:1-14

Evil can sure look good. In this Proverb, we read the desirable characteristics that temptation puts on at the first look. But this Proverb also warns that giving into temptation can ruin our lives. It warns strongly to run away from evil. Living life in regret of poor decisions made is not an ideal way to go. Don't put yourself in the destructive situation of giving into things that look good and appealing from the outside, but torment the rest of your life because of the consequences. Though this Proverb talks mostly about sexual immorality, it applies across the board. From drugs, stealing, murder, lying, simply following the wrong crowd- all could have major consequences. Sexual immorality is certainly a big one in our culture, and it certainly comes with some hefty consequences at times. Heed this Proverb wisely and guard yourself from temptations that destroy.

Reading: Mark 2:18-3:30

It is up to you and your heart to decide what you think about Jesus. From this reading, you can see there were many opinions expressed on Who Jesus is. Today, there are still many opinions and feelings express about the Name Jesus. Some think He was evil. Some think He was insane. But others think He is right on, and live their lives to follow Him and His ways. It can take great courage to stand up for His Name and all that comes with it, but the rewards are eternal. The Pharisees sure thought that Jesus was evil because He stepped on the religious laws and rituals. Do you tend to cling too closely the traditionalism of the "religion" side of Christianity? Here's a scary fact for you: Jesus came to wipe out the ritual and make it about relationship.
The lifestyle and teachings of Jesus sounded insane to many. Maybe you have this thought sometimes. How could someone follow someone with such crazy thinking?
Then there are the devout followers of Jesus. Those who proclaim and support everything about Jesus.
Where are you at? The opinions about Jesus surely are a battle between good and evil.

Reading: Exodus 21:1-22:31

The rules begin to be established among the Israelite people. The purpose is to promote good and keep evil out. As followers of Christ, it is important to promote good and to keep evil at bay. In a world so tainted by the ways of the media and the socially acceptable views on things that should be left taboo, it is important to stand strong on the views of God and what He expresses in His Word. People will write off the Bible as old fashioned and irrelevant. But God is all-knowing. He knew what our culture was going to be like. Writing His Word and instruction off as old-fashioned is an easy argument, but not a valid one. The Word makes complete sense if you take the time to apply it. It is a guidebook to life that will point you in the right direction. Stand up for it and let good carry on.

There are so many things in our world that would cause a battle between good and evil. The battle of temptation is a huge one. The Name of Jesus and opinions expressed about Him can be a battle. Then there are the ways and socially acceptable areas of our society. The question that remains is where do you stand and what will you do about it?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Day 47: Priorities Done Right

Let me start out today by apologizing for getting behind on these next few days of readings. The flu bug caught me and all I could do for the last few days was lay and sleep. Luckily, it is a new day, and God's Word is always fresh. It's ok if you miss a day. Just remember to pick it up the next day. Don't just give up, keep it up. With that said, here is a new day of reading God's Word.

Reading: Psalm 22:12-21

We continue on with the prophesy of Jesus' death. He cries out to God to save Him, like Jesus does during His death on the cross many, many years later. When we are at our lowest, where are we looking to for help? Though Jesus didn't need to take our guilt and punishment, He still made His Father His priority by making us a priority and saving us from the wrath and separation of sin. He came to earth to do what His Father set out for Him to do, and He didn't stumble in His focus or priority. May we make it our priority to carry out what God calls us to do, no matter how hard it is.

Reading: Mark 1:29-2:17

Jesus' priorities become quite clear as we read more about His life throughout the gospels. He cared first about God, then about people.
Jesus made it priority to spend time with God alone. We read in these verses how Jesus would go off to secluded places to pray. This was hard with the crowds constantly following Him, but His next priority was for people. We read how He has compassion on them, how He healed them, and how He proclaimed truth to them.
The priorities Jesus put forth in His own life can be strong examples of how we are to align our own priorities in our own lives. I personally remember with this acronym:

JOY, which stands for Jesus, then Others, then Yourself. When we put God first, the others seem to fall into place, because that is the type of example Jesus set out for us. He lived a life full of many lessons we can learn from, and priorities and how we line those up are one He showed us how to do well.

Reading: Exodus 19:1-20:26

The verses in this reading are some of the more famous ones in our world. When you ask someone to name one of the Ten Commandments, odds are they can give you at least one or two. Get to five or more though, and it could be disappointing how many Christians can't even name them.
Though some people look at the Ten Commandments as rules or laws, they are meant to be confirmations of our relationship with God, not conditions. When we establish rules in our lives, they show what we find valuable, or what we prioritize. When parents set the rule to their not to stay out past 10pm, it's because they care about their kid and their safety. When God sets the rule of not murdering, it's because He loves us and wants the best for us. When we follow the rules God sets out for us, and when we make those rules our own rules we are confirming that God is our priority. The Ten Commandments are a response to a relationship of love. Marriage has boundaries because there needs to be a trusting love relationship there. The same goes with God. When we show Him we trust in Him and that we love Him, the rules come without much work or loss. When we love our spouse, we wouldn't want to hurt them, so the rules here also feel like they're without work. Just remember that rules within relationship are a confirmation of love, not a condition. When we prioritize Christ in our lives, the rules apply without much work. Following the first 2 commandments alone cause the others to fall into place.

Our lives reflect our priorities. Christ should always be number 1, followed by our loved ones and others around us, then ourselves. Be sure you are reflecting this throughout your life.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Day 46: Highs and Lows

Reading: Psalm 22:1-11

Trust in Him in the lows.
This Psalm has quite a familiar foreshadowing to Jesus' death on the cross. We cry out when we feel the lowest of lows, like Jesus did before He died on the cross. But out of these lows come incredible highs and victories. We saw the power poured out as a result of Jesus' suffering for us, and we can trust in Him to use our sufferings to create beautiful things in our lives as well. Even Jesus felt abandoned by God. At times, we will too. But we see the great example of how God works in our lows. We just need to trust in Him and His timing.

Reading: Mark 1:1-28

Trust in Him in the highs.
Mark is good a placing such excitement and spunk to the gospel, as he races from story to story. We see the wonderful ministry of Jesus arise as He calls on His disciples and makes His purpose known. We see His ministry in full swing as He heals and casts out demons. Many people who are witnessing are excited. The disciples who are called on had to trust. Though they could see how powerful this Jesus was, they still needed to trust in Him enough to follow and endorse Him. Sometimes we experience spiritual highs and simply are complacent in them. We sometimes fail to look at the growth from the good times, as well as trust in God and remember Him through times that we seem to not need Him at the moment. When we find ourselves in the rays of sunshiny highs, we need to remember those moments and take growth and give thanks for them.

Reading: Exodus 17:1-18:27

Act in the highs and lows.
When Moses needs to deal with the complaints of the people, he cries out in prayer. Obviously these complaints are frustrating to him, but he does the right thing and prays about it. When we face lows, pray. Moses also learns to delegate some of the responsibilities put on him. He can humble himself and let good leaders lead for him. Any good leader can appoint other good leaders to help manage. This is definitely a huge lesson for me personally.
When Moses is able to hold up his staff and help Joshua win the battle, God tells him to document this win. We are to remember the good things and be thankful for them. That way when another low comes around, you can remember what God has done in your life before.
Whenever we face a high or low, we are to act on them. Pray about the, grow from them, remember the victories that come with them. We see the Israelites encounter many highs and lows throughout their journey.

Highs and lows will come. We shouldn't turn our backs on God in any of these situations, but remember His past victories and trust in Him through them.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Day 45: His Perfect Power

Reading: Psalm 21:8-13

Today we will read all about God's remarkable power, whether big or small. David praises God for His power in saving him from his enemies. Though today, people believe they hold the power, whether good or evil, one thing that needs to be understood is that while their power is temporary, God's is forever and more powerful. He will always get the final say, and the final judgment call. If you hold a position of power, be sure you're including God in on your plans. A good leader always does.

Reading: Matthew 28:1-20

This is the part of the story that loses so many people. As arguments and speculation circulates, I fully believe in every word of the Gospel, including this reading. We are not authorized to pick and choose which parts of the Bible we want to follow and believe, because it was all inspired by One God. That being said, this reading displays the mighty power of our God. He loves us enough to die on a cross, but He is powerful enough to rise again, and be with us to the end of the age. Because of our belief in this great act, we are to go to all nations and proclaim the good news that Christ has risen and is with us. The command to go, also comes with the promise of His presence. Many will mock, question, speculate and even write it off as fiction, but the power of Christ is stronger in the end. All authority has been given to Him, and He has commanded us to go, whether the ears we tell the story to believe or not.

Reading: Exodus 15:1-16:36

The power of God has the ability to provide for our needs when we need them. In a culture that wants everything fast and now, it's really hard to trust God in His timing. We see this amazing power poured out in rescue of the Israelites in yesterday's reading. Today we see their celebration. The singing and dancing they give back to God for His great work is so appropriate and we should follow their lead when it comes to worshiping God for what He's done for us. As we can see from the other readings today, He has done great work for us.
However, we see how quickly we forget about His work in our lives. The Israelites go right back to complaining when they become worried about their lives. They forget about God's great provision for them at the Red Sea exactly when they needed it. God will take care of us. Maybe not in our timing, but in His perfect timing. Trust is huge in this part of the relationship. When we put our worries into our own hands, our worries waste a day, room for positive thoughts and it's an taint the time we should be spending in thankfulness to God for what He has done for us. Trust in His power to protect and provide when the time is right.

The power God pours out on us is overwhelming and so great. When we overlook it, we lose out on the experience we can have in His power of protection and provision. Give thanks for what He has given you in life, and trust in His timing for what you need.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Day 44: A Life of Enrichment

Reading: Proverbs 4:20-27

Life doesn't always have an instruction manual for everything, but the Bible covers the important stuff. Proverbs is a book full of words of wisdom and advice to help us have a successful life. This reading helps us in "guarding our hearts". We can guard our hearts by...

- Where we focus our thoughts: We can control our minds and how we handle situations from the inside. Having a positive outlook is a good base for this. In Philippians we are told to think about whatever is true, noble, lovely, pure, right, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. These filters can be good when sorting our thoughts.

- What comes out of our mouths: We are told in this Proverb to put away all perverse talk and corrupt speech. One thing I found really sums it up:

- What you look at: We are warned to keep our eyes straight ahead. The eyes are the lamp of the body. What we expose ourselves to also allow those images into our hearts and minds. Guard yourself, and don't allow the temptations to overcome you.

- Where you hang out: Where you go can be a temptation within itself. If you struggle with alcohol, a bar would be a bad choice. Night clubs, friends who don't have the best influence on you, and places that tempt you to bad choices are all bad ideas.

Reading: Matthew 27:45-66

Our lives have meaning and enrichment because of what Jesus did on the cross for us. When we accept this great gift and a life that follows Christ, we have a life full of blessing. Things don't always get easier when you walk in the path of Christ, in fact they can be harder. But that faith you carry and the reliance you have in Him is what gets you through. A life in Christ and in the sacrificial love He poured out for us is a life of blessing and meaning indeed.
When Christ died for us, the curtain was torn, meaning we have full access to communication with Him. We don't need someone more holy to pray on our behalf. God has made a direct connection to Him. Our lives are full of relationship with Him because He has made a way for us. May our lives be enriched because of Him and His sacrifice for us.

Reading: Exodus 13:1-14:31

God will sometimes lead us through a path that is harder and longer to get somewhere that is actually not so far away, like He did with the Israelites. But His power shows through the trials and hardships we encounter. Exodus 14:14 says that The Lord fights for us. We may face the hard way to somewhere at times, but when God gets us there, we can stand in awe and thanksgiving of what He did for us. God shows us how to trust in Him by getting us through those hard paths. When we know He fights for us when we follow His will, our lives can carry on with great trust and hope.

Our lives are enriched, simply by saying "yes" to God. He lays out instructions for us in His Word, showing us how to make choices that give us a better, fuller life. We also have a life full of meaning and blessing because He's created that opportunity for us to have relationship with Him by taking away the separation that was between us. And when we face a path that seems impossible and hard, we can believe He will fight for us when we are indeed following His will. Let Him make your life full and beautiful.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Day 43: Rescuer

Reading: Psalm 21:1-7

The salvation and rescue God provides for us is full of many benefits and blessings. This Psalm goes on about the rewards that come with God's salvation. We can experience answered prayers, especially when we've called out to Him for rescue. The rewards we get for choosing God's direction and accepting His salvation are eternal. We live a life of ultimate victory, because nothing can ever separate us from God's love. We can cling to the hope and help He has for us. Our lives will be filled with joy and an ultimate happiness that can only come from God. We will experience life to the fullest when we can accept that He is the cause of our ultimate peace, happiness, security, and salvation.

Reading: Matthew 27:11-44

The story of Jesus' crucifixion is always a hard one to get through. We see a completely innocent man go to a torturous death to save us all from our wrong and sin. The ultimate salvation and sacrifice that allows us to not be separated from God forever comes from this selfless, voluntary act by His Son. He is our ultimate Rescuer. His love for us is that powerful. To give your life up for someone who is mostly good would be hard enough, but to give it up for everyone, even those who reject you and the gift you sacrifice everything for would seem impossible. The symbol of the people wanting Barabbas released, and sending Jesus to His death is a lot how He frees us. Though He was an innocent man, He allowed someone guilty to be free in His place.
Jesus knew what He needed to do. He didn't fight the punishment. He didn't give into the taunting, or try to prove His innocence. He came to complete the mission and rescue us from our own sin. May we have a life of thankfulness and awe to Him, proclaiming His great love and sacrifice to the world.

Reading: Exodus 11:1-12:51

The blood put on the door frame during Passover was for protection. Jesus shed His blood on our behalf, however. He is our Protector, and by His blood we are saved from death. The Israelites had to practice this each year in an act of redemption. Today, we have the eternal redemption through the blood of Christ without the ties of ritual and rules. When we accept His eternal gift, we accept an eternal life of rescue and salvation through Him.

Our ultimate rescue comes from God alone. He saves us from our sins, separation, and the hardships we face. Accept this great gift from Him and the eternal blessings will flow.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Day 42: Freedom to the Fullest

Reading: Psalm 20:1-9

We have freedom through faith.
When we have faith in God, we have freedom in many areas, especially when we're facing a struggle of some sort. We can experience an unimaginable peace through the freedom God gives us by offering protection, help, support, success, acceptance and victory through Him in all of life's crazy twists and turns. We can experience freedom from worry, enemies and tough circumstances when we pray for and pursue God's will.

Reading: Matthew 26:69-27:10

We have freedom from our guilt.
We have all let Jesus down in one way or another. When we realize we've let Him down, we can be overwhelmed by guilt and bitter sadness. We see two big instances in this reading. Peter, who denies Jesus 3 times copes with his guilt in a Godly way. He weeps bitterly, realizing his fault. We read later that Peter's heart is healed and he later becomes a great leader and advocate for the purpose of Jesus' ministry. His guilt, though bitter at the time, comes back in growth and passion for the ministry of Jesus.
Judas, on the other hand, realizes his guilt and takes his own life. Though it may seem that he would deserve the punishment of death, taking one's own life is never God's plan. This coping with guilt is worldly and the easy way out. Jesus comes to free us from our guilt and sin. When we come to Him with our guilt and repentance, He will free us from it. At this point we are to repent and let that sin and guilt go, not dwelling on it any longer. God wipes it away clean when we go to Him a those affected with a heart of sincere apology. Let Him set you free from your bitter regrets.

Reading: Exodus 9:1-10:29

God fights for freedom.
The ongoing battle between God and Pharaoh through Moses is a hard-fought one. The hardness of Pharaoh's heart is utterly unbelievable as he keeps dealing with the ridiculous plagues that come his way. The irony of it all is that the plagues that were sent were Egyptian gods at the time. God attacked Pharaoh with his own gods. The freedom Pharaoh begged for was from the things he and the Egyptians worshiped.
God fights for freedom of all people. Not only for physical freedom, but freedom to worship Him. Moses is asking Pharaoh to let his people go so they may go to the wilderness and worship God. God hates oppression. We've seen that through our previous readings. He fights to free all the oppressed, whether they are oppressed by human trafficking, persecution, enemies, or for those who aren't free to worship Him freely. He fights hard for Moses' people, and you can bet He'll fight for you.

Freedom, in it's entirety, comes from God alone. Only He can free us from our worries, our guilt, our sin, and from the things that keep us from fully worshiping Him. Allow Him to take those things away that oppress you. Give those strained feelings to Him. Those who are set free by Christ are free indeed.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Day 41: The Insatiable Word

Reading: Psalm 19:7-14

The Word of God is precious, powerful, and perfect. We see from this reading alone that there are many benefits to be reaped from it. Applying and obeying God's Word create such a satisfaction and joy within the heart that it's work is undefinable. When you do more with the Word than just read it and listen to it, you will experience it's awesome power. Simply reading it is not enough. The daily application and obedience to it create such a life of direction and guidance in whatever circumstance you're facing. We see all the ups and downs that David experiences, but because he pursued God's direction, he can rejoice in His will.
Rejoice in God's Word, and apply it daily.

Reading: Matthew 26:47-68

It is evident that Jesus studied scriptures. His response to the accusations, betrayal, and abuse all show His humility and willingness to carry out His Father's will, no matter how painful and hard it was. His strong grasp on the scriptures helps Jesus cope with the hardship He faces. He is well aware of what He needs to do to carry out the mission His Father sent Him to do. The Word is our guide to making our way through this world. Jesus applied the Word to His every move. He uses scripture in His illustrations, when He is tempted by Satan in the wilderness, and when He faces His death. We are to follow His example when we face struggles and opposition. We are to follow His example and use the Word in our everyday life.

Reading: Exodus: 6:13-8:32

Repeatedly, Moses hears the word of The Lord and obeys throughout this reading. Though God gives him the power to perform miracles and show Pharaoh how serious the command to let the people go, Pharaoh still hardens his heart after making empty promises to release the people if Moses prayed for the plagues to be relieved. The persistence of God through Moses continues on, and Moses continues to listen and obey the word coming from God.
Sometimes we can face stubbornness, whether it is in our own hearts or the hearts of others around us. When we continue to be persistent, and listen to God's Word and what He wants us to do, or keep doing, we will eventually succeed if it is indeed God's will. The Word keeps us in line, no matter how hard it is to get through. Keep studying it. Keep talking to God in prayer. He will lead you through the stubbornness you face, keeping you hopeful and assured in His will.

Keep at the Word. Read a chapter or a verse a day, and spend some time reflecting on it. Reply to God's Word in prayer. Find a study plan you can get excited about, so you thirst for it daily.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Day 40: Which Way?

Reading: Proverbs 4:10-19

Proverbs teaches us that there are two ways to carry yourself through this world - the wicked or evil way, or the wise and righteous way. Though we are not told to completely avoid those who are evil, we are told to avoid their ways. Proverbs is full of the wise ways, showing us how important it is to get wisdom. When we pursue wisdom, we reap the benefits that come with it. Our paths are made straight, and we won't stumble. The ways of the wicked are to be ran from. There is a strong warning in this reading against the ways of the wicked. Keep the ways of wisdom close. Pursue them daily.

Reading: Matthew 26:31-46

Though God's way was a hard, painful one for Jesus, He still chose to follow it. Jesus prays for His Father's will and not His own. Sometimes we can drift through life and prefer our own way over God's way, because we want the easy way. What if Jesus would have chosen His way and His feelings because they felt easier? He came to do His Father's work, even though He asked if there was another way, He made it very clear He wanted God's way no matter what.
Remember as you face struggles in life, Jesus faced them too, and much more. Remember that He held strong to His Father through the taunting of His distress, and we are to do the same. God's plan will prevail when we follow Him. Sometimes we feel as if our "spirit is willing, but our bodies are weak." Hold on to these words as you face trials and tough decisions. Thank Jesus that He did not take the easy way out.

Reading: Exodus 4:1-6:12

We see the battle Moses puts up with God when He is asked to do God's work. We also tend to put up a plethora of excuses as to why someone else would be better. God picks you to do a job for a reason though. He can lead you and teach you through it. When we put up excuses, we disobey and we miss out on the opportunity to see Him twirl in and through us. Every time I allow God to do His work through me, no matter how daunting it may be at first, I catch myself growing in character and in Him. God's way may seem hard and scary, just like how Jesus felt when He prayed to His Father the night before His death, but because He allowed Him to do His work and not his own will, God's grand plan was accomplished. We can open our hearts to His way instead of ours, and He will work in and through us. The opportunity is great.

There are many paths we can follow in this life that offer the easy way out. Just because it seems easier, doesn't mean it's right. Be careful of the way you choose to follow. Follow wisdom and follow God's righteous way.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Day 39: God's Face in a Fallen World

Reading: Psalm 19:1-6

The evidence of God is everywhere around us. His creation loudly proclaims His existence in a fallen world. His creation of nature is universal in all parts of the world, and the uniqueness of it in all parts of the world is marvelous. Let these beautiful and unique creations be a reminder of God's intimate love in a world that can be so lost and cold.

Reading: Matthew 26:1-30

In a world full of betrayal, accusation, lies, and hostility, we can hold on to the hope of God's love. We just read about the love that Jesus still pours out to His disciples, even though He knows He will be betrayed and denied. The woman who came to worship Jesus with the broken alabaster jar of perfume is criticized for her actions, as we may be in this world when we choose to sacrifice for Jesus in worship of Him. Jesus still sticks up for her though, and tells the people of this awesome thing she's done for Him. We may face times in this life where we are persecuted and criticized for our faith in Christ. We may have to face times of betrayal and hostility because we are Christians. Our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world face death for their faith, yet they hold strong to what is most important and true - the love and hope they have in Christ.
We live in a world that taunts and mocks. Though Jesus lived in that same world, He still chose to die for us. He died for His mockers, His accusers, His betrayers, and all sinners - which is all people. When you face moments of mockery, remember how Christ handled it - with love.

Reading: Exodus 1:1-3:22

Even when the world seems full of people who don't care for one another, and only about what they can gain for themselves, it's good to remember that there are people who do the right thing by God in the midst of hostility and darkness. We see many examples of this through out the first 3 chapters of Exodus. When Shiphrah and Puah are asked by the new regime in town to kill any baby boys they deliver, they listen to God instead, and spare them. Because of their good choice, Moses is born.
Pharaoh's daughter then makes the right decision in rescuing and keeping Moses around. From there, Moses grows and fights against the abuse the Egyptians were placing on his fellow Hebrew people. God later tells him that He is going to use Moses to lead his people to a better land.
Even though this land was filled with so much hostility and abuse, we see that there were good people that God used in His grand plan. We need to remember to be a contributor to the plan God has for His world, and be advocates of good.

In a fallen world, we are still surrounded by so many good things that God provides for us. We read of three examples today, but He places so many more around us. Take heart and remember that God intends good in a world full of so much darkness.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Day 38: Giving Back

Reading: Psalm 18:43-50

God's faithfulness should be praised highly and worshipped. When God shows David His faithfulness and saves him from his enemies, David devotes Psalms to Him as praise, worship and thanksgiving. We are never deserving of God's grace or faithfulness, but He bestows His unconditional love and kindness anyways. We are to give back our lives in praise and thanksgiving to Him.

Reading: Matthew 25:14-46

Another way we give back to God's faithfulness is being faithful to Him. He blesses us with gifts and talents. Like the servants in the parable, we can take those gifts and resources and increase them by using them, or we can hide them and bury them for ourselves and lose them, like the servant who lost the silver given to him after disgracing his master. When God blesses you with the gift of music, join the praise team at your church. If He blesses you with the gift of teaching, help in children's ministry. If He gives you a passion to mentor youth, hang out with the youth group kids. Whatever you're good at, use it for God. Be faithful with the gifts He's given you.

Jesus goes into serving Him, in serving others. When we see the poor, the hungry, the lonely, the hurt- we are to care for them. Caring for them is caring for God and His children. If we fail to do this, we fail at what God has called us to do. Jesus even says that those who turn their backs on those in need, He will turn His back on them. Be faithful to Christ in serving those in need. He is all about love, and we are to follow that example.

Reading: Job 40:3-42:17

As we conclude Job's story, we read about God reassuring Job that He has plans beyond Job's understanding. He also praises Job for remaining faithful to Him throughout the hardships He's endured, and rebukes his friends for the lies they told about He and Job. Job remained faithful to God, giving Him control of his life, and never blaming Him for the trials he was put through.
God remains faithful to Job in doubling his fortune after all is said and done. Job is blessed for his faithfulness.

Are you giving back to God? We may face hardships and struggles as David and Job did, but we need to remember that God will be faithful to you, and we need to praise and thank Him for that. God has given us many gifts and resources and we need to give back to Him in those areas too. Don't let a day pass by that you don't thank and give back to God. We are undeserving of His grace, but He gives it to us unconditionally.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Day 37: The Unknowns

Reading: Psalm 18:37-42

When we face battles in life,mike David faced throughout his, we can trust that God will give us the strength we need when we need it. Though we do not know the hardships that lie ahead in life, it is best we don't. Instead of worrying about preparing ourselves for the hardships we know are coming, we take them as they come, trusting God to grant us our strength then. Though we may look at ourselves now and feel like we could never have the strength to take on hardships that come, we need to remember that God will supply us our needs as we need them. When we were kids, asking our parents for spending money for a trip we were going on, they never gave it to us weeks ahead of time. Smart parents waited until the day of the trip so we didn't lose our money. God's supply is similar. He gives us what we need right when we need it. David had this kind of faith in God when he faced trials, and we should follow the same suit.

Reading: Matthew 24:32-25:13

When Jesus is coming again is another unknown in our lives, like the coming of hardships in our lives like we discussed from Psalms. We know He is coming again, and He tells us to keep watch and be ready, but we don't know the time. There will be signs, like when summer comes each year. Being ready is important. Don't let your guard down, because He will come when we least expect it.
The parable shared about the ten virgins is an example of those who missed the opportunity, because they weren't prepared, compared to those who were prepared. This can apply to us and always being ready for Jesus' coming again. Make sure your heart is right and you're living alice for Him. He doesn't care what you've done, but where your heart is.

Reading: Job 38:1-40:2

Suffering is another unknown to us at times. When bad things happen to good people, the feeling is harsh. We see the troubles and suffering Job is put through, and God finally speaks after numerous conversations with unhelpful friends. God goes on and on about how He is all-knowing of those secret things that we as humans can never know, from the snowy storehouses of nature to the paths of lightning bolts. Suffering is much like those mysteries. God has extraordinary plans for our lives, and though we hit those bouts of suffering time after time, we need to trust in His plan and His work. We may never have answers to our sufferings, but God works through them to weave His master plan in our lives, and as a testimony to others around us. Just trust Him, and know He has a plan.

Here are many unknowns in life. When we hit those times, it is important to remember that God alone is our hope, trust and security. He will supply our needs and work in our lives.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Day 36: The Powerful Tongue

Reading: Proverbs 4:1-9

Words of Wisdom:
Words are powerful. They can tear down and they can grow. God's Word can grow our wisdom. When we devote ourselves to gaining wisdom from Him at all costs, we will be able to make wiser, smarter decisions in life. Proverbs is all about wisdom and the importance of getting it. When we strive to get wisdom, we get good judgment. Wisdom will protect you, guard you, and place honor on you. Just hear the powerful words of this Proverb. It is a blatant command to get wisdom and run at it at all costs.

Reading: Matthew 24:1-31

Word of Power:
God's Word is always true. Jesus states this as He is speaking to His disciples about the future of our world. Much of the description is unsettling and scary, but God's promises are true. We need to remember that God's Word is most true over all prophecies that are thrown at us. Jesus warns against false words about coming prophets and speculation, but reminds us to stay in tune with His Word. We need to cling to the love and the power His Word holds and keep following what it proclaims. Go and share His Word to all nations, informing the lost of His promises and salvation. The hope that comes with the Word of God always there. His love is with us, and we can never be separated from it. Jesus makes it very clear to hold tight to His truths, and to not fall for the false words of this world. The Word is living power. Use it.

Reading: Job 35:1-37:24

Empty, Hurtful Words:
Job has sure gotten the run around with his friends and their so called advice. Their words are empty and hurtful, offering no help to the situation. We may find ourselves attacked or spoken to with empty words filled with nothing but stirring up hurt and anger, the frustrations are almost endless.
One thing we need to keep in check are the words we use towards others. We may think we're speaking right words and offering sound advice, but your words may actually be hurtful and unhelpful. When Job is constantly attacked by his friends, when he is already down, is pretty discouraging. All our words should be out of love, as the basis of God's grace is love. Watch your tongue and make sure your words are our of love. It's one thing to direct out of love and concern, but it's a whole other story when your words are simply placing guilt and are attacking others. Keep your tongue in check and pray before you speak.

Words hold extreme power. They can hurt, hinder, love, grow, build up or tear down. God's Word is true, always. His promises are true. Watch your words, and cling to God's.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Day 35: Leadership Lifestyle

Reading: Psalm 18:25-36

We are all called to be leaders. No matter how introverted you are, just the example and life you live in front of others says a lot about what you believe in. In Psalms, we read how one lifestyle of a leader is to rely on God. David, a great leader, continually cries out to God for protection, strength, and guidance. As leaders, we need to make Christ our leader. He is the one we need to rely on for decisions we make, steps we take, and troubles we face. Follow David's example and make God your control center to your leadership, whether you're leading before crowds, or quietly on the side.

Reading: Matthew 23:1-39

The rant Jesus carries on about the Pharisees and religious leaders is quite a harsh one. This tells us just how much Jesus cares about the "practice what you preach" concept. He carries on about the traits a good leader should have and what these leaders don't carry.

Humility- As leaders, we must approach others with a sense of even ground. The "holier than thou" attitude doesn't cut it. We should never thrive on titles, promotions, awards, or positions. Instead, we need to put Jesus on the pedestal, and share the glory with Him. When we care about what people think of us, that's inward-focused. Humility is caring for others without getting recognition is the key to a good leader.

Integrity- What you do behind closed doors should always reflect what you teach and how you act in public and before the people you lead. When you teach, don't weigh others down with your words. Be sure they are building up. If you're putting words out to people that you can't even attempt to follow, you probably shouldn't. It's one thing to put a challenge out there that you, yourself knows you need to work on and try to, but it's a whole other to call others out on their areas that need work when you're not right there either.

Compassion - As leaders, we need a heart for people. Jesus shows us a huge example of this throughout His ministry. Be available to help people, not hinder them. Care about people.

Vision - The religious leaders attacked the petty problems. Jesus had a vision and mission. The narrow minds of the religious leaders distracted from the big picture. When we get too legalistic, we fail to see the true purpose of the mission. Carrying it out becomes almost impossible.

Generosity - Good leaders don't self-indulge. They give back. We need to let our hearts reflect what we portray on the outside.

Reading: Job 33:1-34:37

A good leader has tough critics. When you have an influence on people, some will take it hard and put in their "two cents" about your leadership. Job certainly had critics in his so called friends. Sometimes the toughest critics come from our friends or from people within our church family. If you are grounded well, you will know what to do with those opinions. Either take them or toss them.
Another perspective on this is to make sure you are being a good critic. Don't judge others superficially, like Job's friends do. Know their whole story, listen to it, take it into consideration, and then offer your advice. Remember that being a critic about something you can't even get right is definitely wrong. It's pretty hard to relate when you don't even know the correct model of something.

Leadership is an honorable and daunting task all in one. We are all leaders in our own way, whether it be up front, leading crowds of people, or subtly off to the side leading by example through your life and actions. Keep yourself in check when you're being that leader and example.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Day 34: Life's Victories

Reading: Psalm 18:16-24

God is our ultimate rescuer and causes great victories in our lives. David faces so many challenges, and has many enemies pursuing him. Can you imagine the relief he finally gets to feel after God rescues him from those enemies? We all have someone or something that irks us. Maybe people nag at you, or you have a job where all you hear is complaints all day long. Maybe you have a family member or coworker always on your case for no reason. Whatever your "enemy" may seem to be, cry out to God. If He can resume David from thousands of pursues out to kill him, you better believe that He can rescue you from your tormentors too. If you are currently in a peaceful place of life, thank Him for that peace!

Reading: Matthew 22:15-46

In this reading, we see how impressive Jesus is with dealing with the tricks and traps of the religious leaders. His wisdom comes into play here as He continually shuts down the traps set up for Him. As Christians, we can face some daunting questions from the critics and curious alike. Our best ammunition for these times is God's Word. Knowing scripture, and having it embedded into our lives won't guarantee we'll know all the answers every time (only God knows all), but it will be a good basis of understanding when we are put in a position to give a good, Biblical answer. Remember that it is ok the say that you don't know, but you'll look into it. It's not wrong to talk to a Pastor or a trustworthy fellow Christian about a question that arises. As a camp counselor, I faced all sorts of questions from kids from 5-18. Some were pretty deep, especially the ones from the Sr. High kids. But a blessing of working at a Bible camp was that I was surrounded by plenty of fellow staff members from all walks of faith who I could bounce questions off of and get good advice at handling questions and situations that arose. It's ok to not know all the time, but be sure to keep in the Word for reference. It's your best one to find victory in the traps and tricks.

Reading: Job 30:1-32:22

Job is very confident that he'll be found blameless before God. He knows the power of God, and refuses to have His wrath put upon him. Job lists off the things he has done right in, and we can sure take an example from Job in these matters:

- Stay Pure: In a world like ours, purity is not valued much anymore. In God's eyes, it is of greatest value. Don't copy what the culture says is ok, or what is happening on media. Copy what God says in this area.

- Dodge Materialism: This is yet anger big issue in our culture. Keeping up with the latest and greatest is a way of life in our country. But God says that it is all absolutely meaningless. Don't waste your time, energy and resources getting the newest gadgets and toys. Put it into something with eternal value.

- Love Enemies: This can be tough, especially after reading the Psalms passage we read today. The greatest revenge you can have on an enemy though is loving and being kind to them. Seems pretty backwards, but it will drive them crazy. God calls us to love our neighbors, and yep, our enemies are also our neighbors.
- Be Generous: One of the things God cares about most is giving to the poor and being generous to those in need. Don't hoard your resources, but take what you need and pass it along to someone else in need.

Following these few ideas will help you find victory in being a confident, blameless person.

Allow God to give you a victory.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Day 33: Most Intimate Friendship

Reading: Psalm 18:7-15

The presence of God is overpowering, whether you look at this Psalm literally or symbolically. When God shows up, the earth trembles - your earth trembles. The relationship with God we have is powerful and intimate. When God's love hits us, it's like a mighty wind. When God's anger comes out against things that are against love, like abuse, it's a feeling of His fist and wrath coming down. Though our lives are filled with other relationships, like family, friends, and loved ones, we need to remember that our relationship with God is even more intimate. He knows our thoughts, desires, dreams, fears and feelings. We see much of the intimacy of God as we read His Word, and specifically Psalms. Allow Him to have at intimacy with you as you spend time each day engaging in His Word and in prayer. Before long, you'll catch yourself in constant communication with Him throughout your day.

Reading: Matthew 21:33-22:14

The invitation to God's kingdom is a huge privilege. He invites us to be in an intimate, loving relationship with Him. We can either accept or reject that invitation. When Jesus is telling these parables to the crowds, He is directing them at the religious leaders. They refuse to take the invitation Jesus offers them. This invitation shouldn't be taken lightly. We are privileged to have the way that Jesus prepares for us to join Him in His Kingdom. If we refuse, we face eternal torment and separation from this wonderful relationship God has for us.

Reading: Job 25:1-29:25

The friendship concept in Job's story is a strong comparison of how much more intimate our relationship with God is compared to the relationships we carry with our earthly friends. We see Job's friends accuse him of things he didn't do, and Job is confident that God has his back because He knows what Job has done.
Job speaks of God's wonderful friendship in chapter 29. He reflects back on the times when he could truly feel the intimate friendship he had with God. Though now he feels like the relationship is far away, he puts forth that hope and trust that he'll feel it again. Job even speaks of how the importance of this friendship in how it brings upon wisdom that can't be bought or found anywhere else. Having that intimate relationship with Christ is how you can feel what He feels and apply it, like helping the poor and widows as Job did.

A relationship with Christ is not like any other. It is the most important friendship you could have that benefits for an eternity. Don't take His invitation lightly.

Day 32: Keep the Faith

Reading: Proverbs 3:21-35

Faith in God gives us true confidence. We may find confidence in things like sports, skills, looks and smarts, but ultimate confidence comes from The Lord. When we display a life of confidence, we gain wisdom from God, learning to apply His Words to our lives.
We find ultimate peace, trusting in Him to take care of us no matter what. When we sleep, we don't need to worry. We can have complete security in Christ no matter what our situations are. This goes for jobs, spouses, kids, and futures. When we have confidence in God, we trust in Him completely with everything.
Our faith and trust in God creates strong intimacy with Him. Could you imagine if you had a spouse you couldn't trust or have faith in? Or a friend you couldn't trust? What would happen to the intimacy of those relationships? The same concept goes with God. When we don't put our faith and trust in Him, it's hard to have a good relationship with Him.

Reading: Matthew 21:18-32

Making faith the center of your life can be a task. Jesus calls us to do this to have the best life now, and an eternal life with Him. He shows us ways of doing this throughout this reading. Great faith comes without doubt. To attain great faith, you must wipe away doubt. It sounds so simple, but it's a hard task. Jesus tells us though that we can wither fig trees and move mountains when we have great faith. Doubting is always the hard part.
Faith entails obedience. When we have faith, our actions will show it. When the religious leaders question Jesus' authority, they disobey by not believing in Him, even though they end up talking themselves into corners anyways! Jesus goes on to say that sinful people who have nothing to do with God in the first place are the ones who are more open to faith because they don't put their smarts and rituals in the way. Obedience is easier for them because they can see Jesus for Who He really is. Those with religious smarts assess too much and put their thoughts in the way. Truth is cancelled out by preconceived notions. This is very dangerous to faith.

Reading: Job 22:1-24:25

Faith in the middle of struggles is another tough element to life. We've all been there, or will be there someday. We see how Job handles his unending struggles and the accusations of his friends with faith. Though he says he searches for God and can't seem to find Him, he knows He's there, with great plans. Job knows his life and knows he's innocent in the eyes of God, even though his friends continue to accuse him of doing wrong, which led to his misfortune. Job knows God has a grand plan though, and he keeps the faith through the hardship and accusations. How easily could he have turned from God though.
The lesson we can take from this is to keep the faith in all of life's situations. The fires of life may hurt and burn us, but we come out stronger because of them when we keep the faith. Job shows this throughout his story. God may feel far away, but He is there through it all, asking you to trust Him. What you decide to do from there is what will form your character and faith.

Faith can be a daunting task. But when we hold on to it, it is beautiful. Let your actions speak about your faith, no matter your circumstance.