Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Day 82: Communication to Grow

Reading: Psalm 37:1-9

Communication is a necessary tool in growing any relationship. The same goes for growing in our relationship with God. In Psalms today, we read that when we open up before God, and put our delight in Him, He'll give us the desires of our hearts. God promises many things when we are open and allow Him to give to us.
He promises faith in fear. When we face the the hard and unknown things in life, we can know that our faith in God will provide us a way. Having an open communication with God will help us to place our faith and trust in Him in those hard times.
He promises guidance. When we commit our hearts to God, He'll make a way for us. We may be facing hard decisions in life, and have no clue which path to take. When we give it to God though, as this Psalm suggests, we will have guidance and wisdom that comes from Him. He will open the right doors and close the wrong ones. We can have faith that He intends good in our lives.
He promises to give us peace. When we commit to being quiet before God on a regular basis, it will grow our faith and communication with Him. This causes us to have peace of mind in all situations and to turn to God instead of fretting.

Reading: Luke 4:38-5:16

We can see how busy and tiring Jesus' ministry was as the crowds of people would hunt Him down to be healed, to hear Him, or to bring their loved ones to Him. This ministry was the biggest one that existed, ever. How did Jesus stay so energized and not burn out? In a parable He has the fishermen act out, we see how He does it:
Knowing the Need. Just like there are tons of fish in the Sea of Galilee to be caught, there are tons of people that need to know God. Mission is the primary task of the church. We are called to cast our nets in deep waters.
Knowing that nothing is impossible with Jesus. When Jesus first asks the men to cast their nets, the initial reaction is negative, insisting that they'll catch nothing, as it has been that way all night. But once they realize Jesus is asking them to, they do it, and catch a great amount. Though we may think things are impossible, especially the ones we've already tried over and over, we need to remember that Jesus makes all things possible.
Having partnership. A very important part of ministry is having partnership and unity. When the men catch the huge load of fish, they summon their partners to come help them. We were never meant to carry out the mission alone. When we go on mission trips with a team of people, the last thing we want is disunity and not getting along. It is very unattractive to those you witness to, and causes unsettled issues in the group. The purpose of unity is to build up and to display the love of God.
A worthy vision. When Jesus asks the men to follow Him and to fish for people, they drop everything to follow Him. Could you imagine the though their minds? This was a vision these men believed in. They wanted to be apart of it, so much so that they leave everything to follow it.
Find alone time with God. Everyday, we need to be renewed by Him. When we try to do a day without focus on Him, it makes for a hard day.

Reading: Numbers 15:1-16:35

After reading this shocking section, there is now doubt that God takes communication and relationship with Him seriously. The Sabbath day, though not taken so seriously now, is set aside for us to stop and meet with God. In a culture that continually moves and keeps us busy, it is hard to take a day to just rest and be with God. However, this is vital for our relationships to grow in Him. We saw the penalty in Moses' day for working on the Sabbath. Though death may not stand now, it can sure be bad on our relationship with God when we put our busy schedules before Him.
We also see what happens when we rebel against God's plan. Though these men thought they were doing right by trying to overthrow Moses and Aaron, they were obviously very out of tune with what God's plan was. When we fail to spend time with God and communicate with Him, we run the risk of not knowing His plan too. Though the earth may not swallow us up, we can sure find ourselves down a dark road when we don't follow Him.

Communication is the basis of any relationship. When we fail to communicate, we fail to grow that relationship. Communication keeps us in tune with God's will and plan for us. We can hold passion for His vision when we know His direction. Make it priority to spend time with God, despite our busy lives and schedules. Where do your priorities lie anyways?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Day 81: Generosity

Reading: Psalm 36: 1-12

God's generosity is described in mighty ways in this Psalm. This is indeed a refreshing look at generosity as we live in a world where sometimes people think it's best to take more for themselves than to give excess to others. We read here though, that God is different, in giving all that He has for us. His love reaches to the heavens. His faithfulness reaches to the sky. His righteousness is like the mighty mountains. His justice is like the depth of the ocean. Maybe you've heard the Third Day song, Your Love Oh Lord, which follows this Psalm almost word for word.
The love of God is so huge, that no matter what we do, unless we reject Him, He will always love us.
His faithfulness will always stand beside us in all times.
His righteousness is firm and strong, and He has never sinned.
His justice is as deep as the ocean. This means He'll judge those who have wronged us, but we will also be judged.
We can seek refuge in Him and come and feast at His table. God's generosity is unending and humbling. We can learn from Him.

Reading: Luke 4:14-37

We see that Jesus went to ministry with the power of the Holy Spirit. The power of the Holy Spirit comes to all who follow Him. The generosity of God is again revealed as He makes the Spirit available to us. This may sound freaky or weird, but we can see how it worked as Jesus healed, taught, and rose all sorts of emotions in His presence. People were amazed and riveted by His words and teaching. Others, were driven to fury and rage. The same rings true today as Christians. The name of Jesus is a powerful one, raising feelings of all sorts in a mere whisper of it. Some people are excited about this Christian thing, but others flee from it and want nothing to do with it. In other countries, Christians are killed for their status. I'm sure a few of my friends have blocked me or "defriended" me because of what I share on Facebook about my faith. Thee is endless controversy and emotion when it comes to Jesus. We are granted this authority through the Holy Spirit as well. We can stand by it, or run from it.

Reading: Numbers 13:36-14:45

When God pours out His generosity on us like He did for the Israelites, there are a few things to keep in mind as we learn from the people in this reading. When we face a blessing and generosity from God, we need to own it. What I mean by this is claim the blessing He gives to you. The people here are too frightened to enter into the land because of the giants. Even though God had brought them this far, only four people in this entire nation believed they could defeat the giants. They obviously didn't remember how powerful their God was. How many times do we do this in our lives? We stare long and hard at a problem and practically give up without ever even giving God a thought.
We need to remember God's promises. God will be generous to us if we follow Him. He promises to never leave us or forsake us. This kind of generosity should be empowering and cause us to stand up, not shy away from what God has given us, even if it seems unknown. The people here didn't keep God's guidance and provision at the front of their minds. They looked at the problem instead of at God and His will. When God is generous to us, we need to also remember that He takes care of us and always intends good for us.

We can see many traits of generosity that God has throughout these readings in all His forms. God was generous to the Israelites in leading them to the Promised Land. The Holy Spirit is generous in empowering Jesus to do His ministry while He was on this earth, as He is to those who walk in the ministry of God today. And Jesus lived a life of selflessness, coming to proclaim the work of His Father and serve others. May we follow and be empowered by these examples of generosity.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Day 80: Conquering Temptation

Reading: Proverbs 7:21-27

Temptation is a feeling we all get to face. Jesus even faced temptation, as we'll read later. In this reading, we see the warnings against falling into it, as it describes the man being led away like "an ox going to the slaughter." Temptations will always feel and seem appealing at first, and even in the moment, but they are like a delicious poison that comes back to hurt you later. There are some things we can do to guard against temptations. Be on the Word and in tune with God. When we don't know God's standards, how do we set our own?
Beware of words that try to persuade. When you hear things like "this is innocent"..."don't worry about this"..."it won't hurt at all" in a conversation that is trying to lure you into a situation, run. And run fast.
Control your thoughts. Thoughts are a dangerous root, where temptation takes its own root. Don't let thoughts of justifying a situation or justifying your temptations take hold. Brush those off and get into prayer and the Word.
Control actions. Always have control over a situation. Don't put yourself in places that can lead to trouble. Don't walk down a street of temptation in the first place.

Reading: Luke 3:23-4:13

As mentioned before, we see that Jesus faced temptation like we all do. We can even see in the bloodline of Jesus how fallen people make it up. God uses even the fallen to do great things.
When Jesus was in the desert, Satan sees the opportune time to tempt Him. Satan usually targets strong people at vulnerable times. Jesus was hungry and tired, though He had just come off a powerful experience in His baptism, but that is how it usually goes. When we are on a spiritual high, days, or even hours later we may run into a very low point, taking away from that goodness we just had. We see Jesus battle with Satan about three very common forms of temptation.
- Instant Gratification: Jesus was very hungry from His 40 days of fasting, so Satan comes and tries to lure Him in to making bread out of a rock. Now I don't know about you, but when I'm starving, or think I'm starving, I would probably eat anything that looked or sounded food to me in a heartbeat. Jesus, however, turns and rebuttals with scripture, remembering to rely on His Father.
- Selfish Ambition: Satan then takes Jesus to see all the kingdoms of the world, tempting Him with ownership of those kingdoms. Could you imagine the power you would have? Talk about a tempting offer. Jesus, again, fires back at Satan with scripture. Many times we may face a temptation to further ourselves the easy way. We may be tempted to steal to earn more money, or take money under the table. This would be the sinful and easy way out. Consider scriptures when these temptations arise.
- Power: Lastly, Satan tells Jesus to jump off a building, causing His angels to come rescue Him. Again, Jesus rebuttals with scripture, telling Satan that it is written that "you shall not test God". We are called to a life of obedience and strength through Christ, not our own power. Jesus performed many miracles, as His Father told Him to. Jumping off a building and being rescued by angels would have only drawn unnecessary attention to Himself, and not to His mission. When we do God's work only to get the glory ourselves, we go against the obedience of Christ. We do great things to bring glory to God, and not to ourselves.

Reading: Numbers 11:4-13:25

We are a people who suffer the temptation of comparison. We are always comparing ourselves to others. We compare bodies, jobs, degrees, kids, houses, spouses, belongings, trips, whatever...we will compare anything and everything. The people in Moses' time did this too. They compare the manna they eat day after day with the luxuries they had in Egypt. This angers God, as they are not thankful for His provision, but complaining about it. When we become discontent in what we have, we are ungrateful, and then become jealous and covet what others have. Being thankful and relying on God's provision creates a sense of humility that God loves to see in us. We are a society that craves more, and wants with others have. The problem with this is we'll be on this treacherous cycle forever die still unhappy. When we are grateful for everything God gives us, we will be a much more content people who are less likely to fall into the temptation trap.

Temptation lurks at every corner, waiting to pounce when we are most vulnerable. We can withstand temptation by being in the Word and keeping ourselves from situations that can cause us to fall. Resist comparing your life and possessions to others, and contentment will wipe out temptation more easily.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Day 79: Goodness of Fruit

Reading: Psalm 34:19-28

There are two different definitions of "good" when we read this section. There are two different definitions of "good" in our world still today. There is the world's definition of food, and then there is the goodness that comes from God and as one of the fruits of the spirit. We see the frustrations David shares about those who are up to no good. Much like David, we may face a crowd of people who gossip, or lie, or attack you- a crowd that is full of no good, who may think they're doing good. Many bullies fall into this category, and they will even take it to the next level of their definition of good:
The crowd who have their own definition of "having a good time". They may think that a good time is partying, doing drugs, hurting others, hurting themselves.
God, however, has a more powerful definition of "good". David speaks about God's good work in us, and through the hard situations in life. He works good through seemingly awful situations. David also strives to share God's goodness. Telling the world of this amazing good that exists in Christ. A goodness that the world cannot reproduce without God. May we decide what kind of goodness we want to hang out with.

Reading: Luke 3:1-22

Sometimes we need to hear negative to get to the positive. That is what it feels like as John the Baptist prepares the way of Jesus' coming. When we strive to better ourselves, we must prune what is unfruitful. John tells the crowds to be generous in sharing what we have to others who lack. He tells them to be honest, and he tells them to be content with what they have. These same concepts apply for us as we prepare ourselves for God's work. The goodness of God comes from the Holy Spirit, as we see Him work through Jesus in His baptism. The Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus and tells Him that He "is His Son, whom He loves and is well pleased." When we join the family of God, those words apply to us. We are children of God, and we are deeply loved by Him. He takes joy in us. When we cleanse ourselves of any dishonesty, selfishness, and discontentment, we can feel the goodness of God in all circumstances, and then we can be fruitful for His work.

Reading: Numbers 9:15-11:3

We have read much of Moses' story, and we have seen the goodness God has poured out on the people Moses led. We even see it here, as God provided a cloud to guide His people in a very clear way. Though the Israelites had all these blessings and provision from God, the continued to complain. I can't help but think of those times I've been blessed in great ways one day, but then the next, complain as if I had forgotten about God's provision in my life. God takes complaining very seriously, as we can see in the way He reacts to complaining in this reading. When we fail to see and proclaim God's goodness in our lives, we fail to have that goodness in our lives. We fail to be fruitful and testimonial for God. Why would he keep an unfruitful part of His kingdom? Like we need to cut off our unfruitful parts, God will cut off His. Don't be that part.

We are surrounded with all sorts of goodness. Whether it is God's goodness, or the world's definition of goodness, we hear about it all the time. The media tries to tell us what is good for us. But God has a different, more satisfying goodness in mind for us. When we follow His goodness, we can be fruitful assets in His kingdom. But when we follow the deception of the world's goodness, we aren't so fruitful.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Day 78: Building Intimacy

Reading: Psalm 35:11-18

There are countless times in life we may feel down and angry. Things may not seem fair. Things may seem like they'll never turn around. David was in this position many, many times. We see just how open with God he was though when these times occurred, speaking his mind no matter his emotion or feelings. We see the various struggles he dealt with in this reading alone, from frustrations about unanswered prayer, to the failures he faced, to the enemies and opposition he had to fight or run from. Many of these things we can relate with. The way we can find intimacy with God is by being open and honest with Him. When we can come to God with a wide open heart and mind, sharing what we feel, our relationship grows with Him. Though it may seem like a weird way to grow a relationship, if you think about it, being open and honest with God will show you how to trust and rely on Him in those tough times. Build intimacy with Him in sharing with Him, no matter how you're feeling.

Reading: Luke 2:41-52

Being intimate with God will lead us to wisdom. When Jesus sat in His Father's house to learn from the teachers. We read He was listening to them and asking questions. When we have a hunger for God, we would probably attend worship services and get into the Bible. Jesus always had a hunger for God. As He grew, we read He held on to that wisdom as he "grew in wisdom and stature." Wisdom is to apply what you learn in life. Stature is to grow physically. But we also read that Jesus grew in favor with God and all people. This means that He was a good representative for God. He did right by God and we read that He did right by others. He served others, as we see when He obeyed His parents when they told Him to come from the temple. How are you growing in wisdom and favor with God and others?

Reading: Numbers 7:66-9:14

We see the pattern of communication that Moses carries with God all throughout his story. Here especially we can see how vital it was as Moses asked God for direction in the Passover feast and how he went to the special place to speak with God. Moses would always go listen for God's instruction, then take it back to the Israelites, who would obey that instruction. Today, we have an easier time talking to God. Unlike Moses, we don't have to go to a specific, holy place to talk to God. We can talk to Him in the car, at home, at church, at work, wherever we are. Communicating with God, and knowing His ways and His will are powerful ways to build intimacy with Him. When we include God in our conversation with our brains, we can talk to Him like we would a friend or loved one. God wants to talk to us, and He wants us to talk to Him. We build our relationship with Him in that way. When we don't know what to do, we can go to Him for clarity and direction. We can go to Him with our feelings, like we talked about in the Psalms passage today. We can just talk to Him in thankfulness. God is always open wherever you are to have a conversation with.

Building intimacy with God may seem hard, and it does take some time. Like any of our friends, we need to talk and listen to Him. We need to grow in wisdom through Him by learning His ways and will. Though it can seem hard, we need to be open and honest with God about our feelings and our frustrations. Building intimacy with God may seem hard, but when you try it, you'll like it, and it will be so worth it in the end.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Day 77: In Need of a Savior

Reading: Psalm 35:1-10

We are in need of a Savior. As my favorite artist, Lecrae puts it: "I’m not a Christian because I’m strong and have it all together. I’m a Christian because I’m weak and admit I need a savior"
One thing we can do as Christians is be humble enough to cry out to God when we face times of trouble. We can admit we are in need of a savior. When we do that, we rely on Him and go to Him in times that seem rough. Just the label you carry as a Christian can bring about enemies in your life. But when we focus on the one thing that matters most to us as Christians, we can be pulled up by our Savior quickly. And we can praise Him in all times.

Reading: Luke 2:21-40

When Joseph and Mary took Jesus to be presented at the temple, as was custom of the time, we read how a man named Simeon came to bless Him. Through the words Simeon says, we see the importance of Jesus' coming both now and in the troubling times in Israel. Jesus was a glimpse of God, and we look to Him as our example. When we look to our Savior, we find peace, as Jesus brought and brings to many. We also read though, that He causes many to rise up and many others to fall. There is a fullness of grace and truth in Jesus too, as we are to carry out in our lives. Jesus showed compassion, yet He never compromised the truth. When we turn Jesus away, we turn away a life filled with God's blessing and peace. We need a Savior, and we need to acknowledge that Jesus is our Savior to find the rewards that He has to offer.

Reading: Numbers 7:1-65

The repetitiveness of this reading may seem unnecessary and monotonous, but it sets up the big picture in the coming of Jesus. When we look at the equal offerings of the tribes here, and see the presenting of Jesus by His parents at the temple, we see a correlation of how Jesus came to wipe out all the rituals and offerings that took place in Moses' time, and suddenly, the things said by Simeon and Ana in the Luke reading today become more meaningful. In a culture that relied on sacrifices and offerings to get right with God, you can imagine the freedom the people felt in the coming of Jesus as their Savior from the bondage of their sin. They knew that a Savior was coming. And word had gotten around that Jesus was it. This, of course, cause much conflict during Jesus' time.

We are in need of a Savior. We don't come to Christ because and only when we have it all together, but we come to Him as broken, sinful people in need of a Savior. Let us rejoice in His coming as the people of Jesus' time did.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Day 76: Being Faithful

Reading: Proverbs 7:6-20

Being Faithful in Relationships
Faithfulness in marriage is a hard concept to grasp in today's world. In a society laced with consumerism and instant gratification, we have learned that if we don't like something we have, or if it is broken, get rid of it and get a new one. Unfortunately, this has come to apply to relationships and marriage. We read in Proverbs today the exchange between a naive man and an adulterous woman. Sadly, in this Proverb there is much truth to what happens in even today's world. We are heavily warned throughout Proverbs to avoid adultery and things that compromise marriage, whether you are already married or not. Hanging on to your sexual morals while single is so important. Many may think it is outdated and old fashioned, but there is something so much better and special about entering into marriage vows with a pure start. Having your mind in the right place before you find that right person to spend life with is significant. Having standards now will cause you grief later. Though God can wash us clean when we fall, we are to start new this day.

Reading: Luke 2:1-20

Be Faithful to God's Promises
I couldn't imagine how it must have felt for either Mary or Joseph in that time. Though they each knew that Mary had not been unfaithful (a huge disgrace in that time), they held true to God's promise of this important event. Joseph could have easily been angry with Mary, and left her, but he held to the promise that was given to him. Mary was probably in a little doubt as she saw her baby, but she kept to herself and held to the promise of her humble baby being the Savior of the world. The shepherds here also show faithfulness as they heed the words of the angel and go see and honor this newborn King. They all need to trust in God's faithfulness that there is a huge plan behind this little baby. Though it seems impossible, the faithfulness in God's work is extraordinary. What extraordinary work can He do in and through your life? Are you willing to be faithful to Him and His promises?

Reading: Numbers 5:11-6:27

Faithfulness in Response to God's Faithfulness
We see the consequences of unfaithfulness that took place in Moses' time. Though there was a tangible, immediate consequence in the policy back then, today the consequences may not seem so apparent, but are brutal. When adultery takes place, here is hurt and there is the breaking of relationship. Our faithfulness to our spouse is a response to God's faithfulness to us. Many times throughout the Bible we see a comparison of a husband and wife, compared to Christ and the church. There is a tight bond between both, and unfaithfulness between those should never be tolerated. We give back our faithfulness to God by serving Him. In our churches, in our marriages, in our families, in our relationships. When we act in such a way that is apart from the actions that are the norm of our world, we make a statement that is bold and promotes Christ and His faithfulness to us.

Faithfulness comes with responsibility and great love. When we choose to be faithful, to God, to our spouse, to our mission, we give back to the faithfulness Christ has in us. We can be faithful to God's promises and to our own areas in life. Faithfulness promotes a statement of our love for God.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Day 75: Freedom in Him

Reading: Psalm 34:11-22

There are many times in life we find ourselves bound by the chains of many different things. What we read in Psalms today though tells us there is hope and freedom in crying out to God. He promises He hears the cries of those who seek refuge in Him. He will set us free from the things that enslave us and have taken over our lives. There is a freedom that comes from only God. Turning to other things will leave us disappointed in the long run, and may even enslave us more. One thing we can do is look back on previous trials and hardships and remember God's presence when we called out to Him. Seeing where we were then in comparison to where we have come can encourage us to cry out to God in our next storms. We were never promised to never have storms, but God promises to hear our cry when we seek His refuge.

Reading: Luke 1:57-80

There is an extent of symbolism between Zechariah's muteness with the time of Roman rule and oppression. Once John was born, people thought he would be named after his father, but once Zechariah insisted that he baby's name be John, he was free to speak again, and he praised The Lord. Because of Zechariah's obedience and faithfulness to The Lord, he was set free of his muteness. John came to prepare the way of Jesus into an oppressive time. Jesus was coming to set the people free by carrying out and obeying the mission and will of His Father. Because of His obedience, we are set free. When we fail to obey God, we are oppressed by our own will and consequences.

Reading: Numbers 4:1-5:10

Our freedom is never to be taken for granted. Because Christ has set us free, our life should be a response to His love. In doing this, we serve in our churches, spread His Word and worship. The people in Moses' time each had gifts and jobs they carried out. His is a foreshadowing to the church. God gives His people gifts and skills to help Him carry out His mission. When we simply come to His church as consumers and not contributors, we are taking advantage of our freedom. We live in a country that we can openly serve and worship Him, and failing to carry out His mission and use our individual gifts is not giving back to Him. May we do our part in God's plan. He can surely work through someone else, but the blessing of being in His work is far greater than being a spectator of it.

We are granted a great freedom through Christ. When we cry out to Him and seek refuge in Him in our times of trials, we can be set free of our worries and storms, and grow in them. We can find freedom when we obey Him. And we can have freedom when we do His work. May we never take our freedom in Him for granted.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Day 74: Blessings > Happiness

Reading: Psalm 34:1-10

David finds true delight in God's blessings. He praises Him for all He has done. We are told to "taste and see that The Lord is good." Like foreign food or something we're not accustomed to, we may look at something and think it doesn't look appealing. Some may look at the Christian life and think it doesn't look fun. But they tasting it, we may get a whole different view on it. David finds true happiness and delight in what he's seen in God. He praises Him for His protection, His answers to prayer, for freedom and for light. When we walk alongside God in our lives, we will discover the enormity of His blessings. This happiness is greater than anything we can ever experience here on earth.

Reading: Luke 1:39-56

Mary expresses such great praise on the blessing she has in carrying the Son of God. Though the fear of this responsibility was great, Mary's willingness to be open and used by God was seen as a blessing, not a burden. When we have the opportunity to do hand-picked work for The Lord, we are extremely blessed, and should be grateful for being apart of His plan. We may try to strive for the happiness and temporary pleasures of this world, but they will never last as long, or be as great as the blessings that come from God. There is so much more to be gained when we are blessed by God. Our faith, love and humility can expand in ways we would never have thought. Be so excited about God's blessings as Mary was in a time of uneasiness as well.

Reading: Numbers 2:10-3:51

The blessing of God's presence is amazing. We see back in Moses' time how there was a division between the people and God. It was a great honor and blessing to approach God. Just because it is easier today, it is still a huge honor and blessing. God has made it possible for us to come to Him in easy ways through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. Because He took the punishment for our sin, we can fully come to God and be in His presence. We can experience His presence, as God has made possible throughout time. He provided the people of Moses' time to come to God in the holy tabernacle. He sent Jesus to live among people. Now He allows us to come to Him freely, and experience His presence in church or wherever we're close to Him. And He is coming back to us sometime. We are blessed to have this privilege of coming before God.

God's blessings on us are far greater than any temporary satisfaction we can encounter here on earth. We may seek happiness from those thing, like trips, experiences, drugs, food, sex, people...but we'll be left still unhappy later. To be in God's blessing, however, is surely a life-changing view of true contentment. Don't let those slip you by.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Day 73: Be a Winner

Reading: Psalm 33:12-22

When we face life's trivial battles and hardships, David tells us to put full reliance in Christ. Winners put God at the forefront and find their strength in Him. When we rely on our own strength and will, we fall fast, focusing on ourselves and not the direction of God. Those who rely on His love and fear Him, will find strength to face the hardships of daily life. If we place our hope in people, in things and in ourselves, we will be left broken and hurt. But when we place complete hope and trust in Christ, and allow Him to envelop us in His unfailing, unconditional love, we will be filled with light and strength to press on.

Reading: Luke 1:26-38

Jesus is the common denominator to Christians. We all share His Name, His existence, and His sacrifice in common. Though we share this amazing, all-powerful factor, we still fight and battle with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We fight about theology, about paint colors, coffee offers in church, pews, songs...whatever we feel convicted about. Our conviction should be to fight for Jesus, however. This amazing, loving, powerful, example came to us as a humble, tiny baby. What does that tell us about winning our battles? He came to save the lost, not to pick battles with believers. This commonality we share needs to be the bottom line and the only major battle we put up with fellow believers. The rest will fall into place. When we have the love of God in us, we will fight for others to know that love, not to know our music preference, or color preference, or what version of the Bible you stand by. Choose your battles with love and humility, placing Jesus at the front.

Reading: Numbers 1:1-2:9

We continue to see the history of the Israelite people. These are a people brought out of the hardship of Egypt, to the trials of the wilderness and then to an established society. We see the work God has done in a through them. Throughout Leviticus, we see the people strive for holiness in offering sacrifices and reading of the customs they needed to follow to be a set apart people in the name of The Lord. In Numbers, we read about the preparation for battle. God raised up leaders in this society that listened to Him and longed to follow His direction. Listening to God raises up leaders to follow Him. Raising up leaders empowers people. The question you face when looking into the eyes of life's battles is who are you listening to, and who are you following? What kind of a leader are you setting yourself up to be? When trials come, be empowered by Him.

Life will come with battles. They are inevitable in a broken, fallen world, filled with broken, fallen people. How will you choose your battles? Who do you look to for your strength and hope? Winning at life is taking those battles in stride and knowing how to handle them as a follower of Christ.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Day 72: Boundaries

Reading: Proverbs 7:1-5

When rules are laid out for us, we may feel constricted and not free. But when there are no rules, that is the case. When we watch or play football, the rules of the game keep it structured and fun. If there were no rules, no one would know what they were doing and there would be disagreements all over, constricting the motion of the fun. The same goes with the rules for life that God has laid out for us. He shows us in His Word how to live because He loves us and doesn't want us to have to face the consequences of life. This Proverb is pretty straight forward on how important the rules are to keep close to our hearts, as they will lead to a better life.

Reading: Luke 1:1-25

We see the amazing examples of people all around us who know the boundaries and happily follow them, probably not even thinking about them. We see how the book of Luke is opened by Zechariah and Elizabeth, both people who have good standing with The Lord. They, unable to have children pray and ask for a child, and we see how God grants them with that request. When we do our best to follow The Lord and His rules, we will be blessed in one way or another. God uses this couple to bring one of the greatest people in the Bible into the world, John the Baptist. When we have God's will and not ours in mind, He will use us to do His work and bless us through it. We can ask for things, and know He will bless us if it is in His will. Keep the commands of God close, as they are your guide.

Reading: Leviticus 26:14-27:34

In not obeying God's commandments, we can make life quite sticky for ourselves. The hard part is when we shove God and His rules away, and then blame Him when we get into trouble. Ouch. Seems a little self-righteous. Bit even when we get mad at God for the things we get ourselves into, we will always be able to turn to Him for help. He is always there with welcoming arms, when we're ready to go back to Him. God really lays out what the consequences of not following His rules are in the end of Leviticus. It is a big deal to the love God gives us that we follow the rules to reciprocate that love back to Him. He knows what is best for us, and wants us to have a successful life in Him. Nothing in this world will ever give us the satisfaction that only He can give. People disappoint, things break and get old, but God's love and mercy are new everyday.

Boundaries in life may seem restricting and not free enough for us, but the harsh truth is that without them, we are left wandering astray without a purpose. God lays out rules because He loves us, and wants us to live life to the fullest. Rules are a response to God's love, not the way to it. Boundaries set us free.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Day 71: Plans

Reading: Psalm 33:1-11

There is no doubt in my mind that God has a huge plan for you. He moves in great ways through the big things and the little things in life. David was able to see God's capabilities by looking back on what God had done. Simply looking around the nature of our world, we can see He holds majestic plans and power. When we are able to look back and see His work in our lives, we can stand a little more confident about what's to come. Though we may face hardships, we know God has a plan through them. I do struggle with the worry factor in everything. This is something that can crush faith and make you depend on others or yourself. When we give all our plans to Tod though, we can breathe easy and know He has it.

Reading: Mark 16:1-20

We see the grand plan of God come out into the light following such a tragic event in Jesus' life. Because He died, He was raised. And because He died, He has saved us from eternal separation from Him. If Jesus hasn't faced the hard, unknown plan by God, the story would have ended even more tragically for us. After we read about His rising, we read about His next plan for us. That is to go out and spread the word that He lives and to make more disciples. This is the plan God has for His people. We can choose to follow and obey, or we can choose to follow our own plan in living life the way we want to live. The rewards may be temporary out of this world, but the rewards of following Christ are great and eternal. The plan is your choice.

Reading: Leviticus 25:1-26:13

The plans that God has for us belong to Him. He sets the rules out of His love and and we show our love for Him by responding to these rules. They are not a way to a god, but a way to respond to God. God promises we'll have great futures if we follow Him and His decrees. This is definitely a plan to be a part of. When we call ourselves Christian, and truly are at heart and soul, following the rules of Christ just fall into place because of God's love in you. You will put God first, and treat your neighbors well. Don't get me wrong- having the love of God in us doesn't mean we won't still mess up sometimes and make mistakes, but the love will cause us to go to Him in repentance and asking for forgiveness. His plan is great for us when we decide to follow it.

Plans are a big part of our culture. We plan where we want to live, the path of our career, kids (most of the time), the whole plan for our lives. But what would happen if you dropped those plans completely, and followed God's plan for you instead?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Day 70: Forgiving

Reading: Psalm 32:1-11

Jesus came to set us free from our guilt and sin. This not only means we are forgiven, but we are to forgive others and that they are also forgiven. When we refuse to forgive, we are refusing God's love and forgiveness. We need to stop trying to hide our guilt and sin and confess it to God. David tells us of the great joy we get in doing this. Bing stubborn through life and refusing His direction is not going to get you anywhere. Trust in The Lord and His direction to put you somewhere amazing. This includes forgiving those you hold a grudge against. Let there be joy in your life through the freedom and peace that comes with forgiveness and love. When we forgive those around us and ourselves we are granted a fresh start and ultimate freedom from the guilt that comes with it.

Reading: Mark 15:33-47

Ultimate forgiveness came when Christ face separation from His own Father, and not even for His own sins, but ours. We see that love and forgiveness were poured out for us that day, and when we accept that forgiveness, we are to give back by forgiving others. God loves us so much that He wanted to give us a chance to be with Him in closing the gap between us and Him, between His perfect presence and a fallen world. He loves us so much that He made a way of forgiveness through His very own Son, Who took our punishment for us. That is the ultimate kind of forgiveness. If God could forgive us in such a huge way for all the things we do that are against Him, surely we can forgive someone in our lives that we don't think we ever could.

Reading: Leviticus 23:1-24:23

We can tell by all the Old Testament regulations and laws, that sin was nothing to mess around with. One thing we need to learn about forgiveness is that it can't be earned. It is a huge gift from God for us, and it is given to others who have wronged us. When Jesus came to die, He wiped out all the rules and legalism. When someone sinned, the regulations needed to be followed. Now, sin is forgiven freely. Jesus gave us the gift of forgiveness, and that is something that can never be earned on our own. When someone wrongs us, it is wrong to make them earn our forgiveness, because that would also put us in the wrong. Don't be legalistic, but focus on what Jesus did. Forgive and love freely.

Forgiveness is a powerful concept from both angles. We are to freely forgive, because Jesus forgave us through His ultimate sacrifice. Holding a grudge is "like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die." Don't taint your life through grudges and hurt. Allow relationships to flourish through love and forgiveness.