Friday, May 31, 2013

Day 94: Trampled Blessings

Reading: Psalm 41:1-6

God pours out blessing on those who care for the poor. This doesn't only mean those without much money, but those who are lost, sick, suffer addictions, etc. When we care for them, and do what we can to help them get on the right track or to find encouragement, we will find ourselves in God's blessing.
However, we must never forget that the enemy is on the prowl, especially against those going all in for God and His mission. He will do what it takes to knock us off kilter and make us feel like we've done wrong. This could even be in the form of gossip and slander. People who we think we can trust or who we believe are our friends may fish for any blackmail or gossip that can get from our lives, then tell the world all about it. Don't let Satan's tactics push you down when you're working on God's team. God will always be there to pick you back up and pour His blessing over you when you continue in His plan despite the hardships.

Reading: Luke 9:57-10:24

Those who choose to be followers of Christ will be the most blessed in the human race. Jesus calls His disciples to go out and spread the news and heal in His name. He gives them authority and power as they are followers of His. As followers of Christ today, we have the same authority under Christ to proclaim His word and to reach out to those in need. We can have full confidence in what we are doing because God has commissioned us. 
On the flip side, Jesus warns His disciples that He is sending them out into a dangerous world. He says He is sending out sheep among wolves. As Christians, you will probably face some sort of opposition at one point or another. Jesus didn't promise an easy road, but promised blessings upon His followers. The persecution that comes with Christianity (not as extreme in American as it is in many other countries), can turn people off to the faith. Fitting into the culture is more important than following Jesus for eternity. Society can make very hard to be a Christian. Sometimes it may feel like the slander and abuse can outweigh the benefits in this life. But keep the faith and keep the strength and authority you have in Jesus Christ. 

Reading: Deuteronomy 1:1-2:23

We have seen the endless journey through the wilderness for the Israelites. Moses reflects and instructs the people from here, telling them of the great things The Lord has done in their lives. Remembering the great blessings and provisions God had poured out on the people and himself. Moses also points out the promises God has fulfilled in multiplying the people greater than the stars. 
With reward comes hardship though. Moses also goes into the discouragement he faced, as well as the physical battles they had to fight along the way. The bickering, arguing and complaining from the people was another hurdle in the midst of blessing. 
Life at times can feel like an empty wilderness. We may become discouraged and complain about something good coming, that we have no patience for. The journey in the wilderness should have only taken 11 days, but ended up being 40 years! God will fulfill His promises to us, but don't let your complaining, discouragement and bickering set you back. Remember what God has done in your life, and be grateful. He knows what He's doing, and sometimes we just need to be patient and obey.

With blessing will always come something to knock us back down. We are a blessed people. Followers of Jesus are always blessed, but let this not make us entitled. Don't let a big head take away from your blessing. Always remember that enemies are on the prowl, waiting to pull you down and put your focus on things that are not of God. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Day 93: Love in All Circumstances

Reading: Psalm 40:9-17

With love comes truth and with truth comes love. When we have only truth, without love, it is too hard. When we have only love, without truth, the love is too soft. David brings forth both in this reading as he begs God to send His love and mercy, but speaks truthfully about how his sins have piled up and he can no longer see clearly without God's love and forgiveness. When we go about life oblivious of our sin, failing to repent and confess them, the mercy of God may be hard to come by. He always loves us, but when our eyes need to be opened, He's going to pour out a little of truth on us until we realize our faults and make a change. Whether this is a result of our in, or a circumstance, He works through it. Don't forget to put love and truth together in your life too. Show love and show truth, but never separately. 

Reading: Luke 9:28-56

Love and mercy must always go together as well. Jesus displays this many times throughout this reading. We start out with the mountaintop experience of the Transfiguration. Peter, James, and John are left in awe and empowerment as they come back down the mountain and face real life again. Sounds like some of our mountaintop experiences. We can go off on all of these amazing retreats, conferences, youth rallies, camp, etc, but when we come back to real life, we are faced with many of the hardships we had before. However, when we do come back from those amazing experiences, we can be left empowered to make a change and tackle the issues in our lives. When they get to the bottom of the mountain, Jesus is faced with healing a boy with a demon, as the disciples had claimed they couldn't. After this experience, I bet James, John and Peter felt empowered though. 
Later, Jesus tells the disciples that the little children are the greatest, and should be welcomed. This kind of love and mercy was probably shocking in a time that children were better off seen and not heard. Jesus tells them they are the greatest, however, placing them above any religious leader and king. 
We also read of an incident where the disciples tell others to stop using Jesus' name to cast out demons because they are not a part of their group. Jesus reprimands them, however, telling them that if they aren't against Jesus, they are for Him. This should tell us to be accepting of others in the faith. Just because they don't attend your church, follow your traditions, or are even a part of you denomination, you should always welcome them. 
However, we must remember that we won't always be welcomed. As the disciples enter the Samaritan village, they are definitely not welcomed. The disciples become defensive, asking if they can call down fire from heaven to burn the people, but Jesus displays an example of mercy, rebuking the disciples, simply continuing on to another village. This can be a lesson to not seek revenge and even show love and mercy on those who don't accept us. I believe many Christians make this mistake, being defensive against people they don't agree with. This can even happen among Christians. Just because another Christian doesn't read the same Bible as you or prefers the traditional music over the contemporary, doesn't give any reason to pick a fight. The war is not about these things, but about bringing people to Christ, no matter their lifestyle. Seeking revenge and shunning them will definitely not get them there.

Reading: Numbers 35:1-36:13

We go into a whole reading about the laws, pertaining to accidental killing and murder. In this reading, we can see how serious it was to take a human life, but a trial was to be held for accidental killings, providing refuge for the people who did it from family who wanted revenge. Murder, however, required that person be put to death.
 Once Jesus came, however, we see that revenge and justice fell into God's hands. When we seek to take revenge, no matter what it may be, we need to stop and put trust in God that He will have the ultimate judgment against the person who's wronged you, instead of taking our own revenge. With justice, God calls for an element of love and mercy. What better testimony would there be for the person who did wrong against you then to show them love instead of hate? 

With many things in life, there needs to come love. Truth alone won't move a heart. Mercy alone would have no reason behind it. And justice alone would have no testimony. Love must cover all things. When we apply love in all circumstances, the mountains it can move are great.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Day 92: Aiming High

Reading: Proverbs 8:22-31

Aiming for constant joy and delight in God is what we are made to do. There is much to be joyful for when we have Christ in our lives. We can endure any struggle because He's by our side, and we can find immense joy when we see the wonderful things He's made. Not only can we take joy in the beauty of nature and the wonders of how He works, but we can take joy because He works through the seemingly impossible times in our lives. He orchestrates things just perfectly that the messes and heartbreak form into a perfect and full plan that is for the good of His kingdom and for our own good. Never stop finding joy in Him and in what He has done for you.

Reading: Luke 9:10-27

Aiming high in love is the greatest thing Christ did for us. He is the ultimate example of unconditional love. When it came to feeding 5,000 people, Jesus fed them, instead of sending them on their own to feed themselves. Jesus goes into what it means to be His follower and we can see that love is the basis of it. We must turn from our selfishness and become more selfless, putting Him and others before ourselves. Jesus calls us to not cling to our own lives but to lay it down for Him and gain life by giving ours away. This means we surrender everything to Him, including our jobs, lifestyles, agendas, plans, dreams, everything. When Jesus calls us to takes up our cross for Him, this is not a symbol of carrying the burden. This is a symbol of putting ourselves to death for Him. We have no plans or dreams because they are dead to Him. He will guide our steps and lay out our lives. We are to give it over to Him, instead of selfishly trying to take control of it for ourselves. 
We are to never be ashamed of Him. Jesus says that when we are ashamed of Him, He will be ashamed of us. This can be the biggest challenge in today's world. Speaking the name "Jesus" can cause so much conflict in out world today. People despise it. They despise the Bible. When you live it out in no fear though, you are acting in a passionate love for your Savior. Don't gain the approval of the people around you what all you need is the approval of God. Striving for their approval could lose you His.

Reading: Numbers 33:1-34:29

Looking back on the journey the Israelites had through the wilderness, we see how faithful God was to them indeed. Despite the grumbling and the hardship, God still carried them through. In this recall of their journey, may we be reminded to aim high when it comes to following God's instruction, cutting off any threat of sin in our lives and always striving to get more into God. We can learn quite a bit from the mistakes the people made as they repeatedly complained and whined, despite what God had done for them in many miracles and in major ways of provision. May we never overlook what God does in our lives, but hold ourselves at a higher standard, pleasing Him with our thankfulness and attitudes. 

Aiming high in life can carry us far. When we always keep the mindset of improvement, we will find ways to grow. God expects us to hold ourselves to a higher standard in being set apart in this world, instead of falling and settling for the ways of it. Aim high to go far.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Day 91: What Faith Can Do

Reading: Psalm 40:1-8

As you know by now, David faced many great hardships throughout his lifetime. He is able to see God's faithfulness again and again though, as he tells about being rescued by Him from a slimy pit, and being placed on steady ground. I'm sure there are many times you feel as if your life is stuck in the bottom of a slimy, slippery pit you just can't climb out of. But then we read what David states about putting your trust only in God: "Oh the joys of those who trust in The Lord, who have no confidence in the proud or in those who worship idols."(NLT, vs. 4) There are man times we rely on other things in this world- boyfriends, girlfriends, sports, jobs, drugs, whatever. But until we truly believe that we need to come to Christ daily in admiration and longing to spend time with Him before anything else, we will have trouble keeping on that solid rock when hardships come. When we see the awe of His work in our lives, we will sing a new song to Him. Daily seeking Him will establish a firm foundation for you when those storms come. 

Reading: Luke 8:40-9:9

We see a great example of what faith can do in this passage. Jesus healed and taught with such authority that He didn't need things like broadcast systems, power points, or sound systems. He spread the news through the people He encountered. Though there is nothing wrong with things like the technology I listed off, it is a reminder that we can't allow these thing to get to the heart of what is most important in our churches and in proclaiming the word of God. 
We see how people came to Jesus who were ill. A desperate woman comes to Him and simply touches His robe, having complete faith that she will be made well. Jesus tells her that her faith has made her well. After this interaction, Jesus again brings a young girl to life, telling her family to have faith, and that it will make her well. 
Jesus "advertised" through His ministry and the compassion He put out. He taught about faith and showed people what faith can do. Simply shoving a message on a big screen and yelling over a loud speaker may not get the same result as genuine love and compassion towards people. When we follow the example of Jesus, we need to remember to do what He did- love people and act on faith.

Reading: Numbers 31:25-32:42

Caleb and Joshua were devout followers of Christ, and because of their wholehearted following, we see how their faith comes into action in this reading. Because they followed God faithfully, God gave them the authority and power to carry out great things in His name. 
Moses also warns against sin and not following The Lord in this reading, as quoted in 32:23: " will have sinned against The Lord, and you may be sure that your sin will find you out."  In verse 15, Moses tells the people that if they turn away from following Him, they will be responsible for destroying the entire nation.following God's Word and even having time to dive into it can be a challenge at times. When you hit those lulls and low points in your life, opening the Bible can feel like the last thing you want to do, but when you do, the light and healing can commence. Stay close to God, so He can use you in mighty ways as He did with Caleb and Joshua.

Faith is a tough thing at times. When we are faced with the heavy load of discouragement or the bottom of the pit of hardship, we can have a tough time keeping the faith alive in us. But when we press on through those times and continue to follow Christ wholeheartedly, we can allow ourselves to be used and moved through Him, to do His mighty work.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Day 90: Resurrection Power

Reading: Psalm 39:1-13

We have the power to conquer death through Jesus. David talks about how short and small our life on earth is compared to what God offers us. We can spend our whole lives chasing happiness, whether it be in possessions, people, money, success, etc., but none of those things will give us the ultimate and eternal happiness we find in Christ and His gift to us. When we place our hope in something eternal and promised, our lives will be handled well now, and great in eternity. Trust in something that won't ever fail you, and all these things will also be added unto you. 

Reading: Luke 9:19-39

We have the power to overcome our fears and anxieties. We can see how Jesus casts out any worries from our lives when we simply rely on Him. The disciples are afraid of the massive storm that threatens to overtake them, as Jesus sleeps. But Jesus calms the storm, once again showing the disciples the power and authority He has. Jesus also casts out demons from a man who was feared. There is something to be said in giving our worries, fears, and anxieties to God, as He proves His faithfulness again and again. Jesus asks the disciples why they are scared and why they have no faith. I bet He asks us the same thing in the midst of our life storms. It's hard to naturally fall on God when we live in a world of many scary things and situations. But we can remind ourselves to always run to Him when we feel unsure and fearful. Turning anywhere else could only be temporary, dangerous or make matters worse. 

Reading: Numbers 29:12-31:24

There is much complexity and things at are hard to grasp in the Old Testament, but one thing is for sure: God hates sin. Thankfully, through the sacrifice on the cross, we have power over sin because God cared enough to give us a chance against it. We can read through all the Old Testament rituals and punishments that took place because of sin, but God wanted to simplify it for us because He hates it that much. Instead of focusing on the ritual of our cleansing, He wanted us to focus on the relationship with Him. 

We have great power over many things because of what Christ has done for us. When we accept the gift He has given us, we can have the outflow of His blessing. We can have power over sin, over fears and anxieties, and even over death. Just rely and trust in Him.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Day 89: Receptive to Him

Reading: Psalm 38:13-22

Through David, we are able to see someone who suffered through all kinds of trial and hardship. It can be quite easy to relate to David when we are facing troubles of our own. Maybe you can even relate with how he cries out to God in overwhelming emotion. David shows us a certain pattern of crying out to God when he is in need of rescue. He:
A- Asks: He cries out to God in the first place, asking for His help and rescue. This is an important first step in waiting for God's rescue. I think a lot of Christians especially assume that God will just come, and that is a great act of faith, but remember that faith without actions is dead. Asking God for help is an act of humility we all need to take.
C- Confess: We need to come humble before God, confessing our downfall and the traps we fall into. 
T-Trust: Finally, we need to put our trust in The Lord to get us through the trials. 

An example of this was when I was trying to decide if I should go to the Dominican Republic this year on missions, and it had become an agonizing decision for me, as the human mind can't grasp the greatness of God and His work. I finally asked God to make it clear what I should do, and prayed fervently over it, as well as had some close friends and relatives pray for me too. I confessed to God that I was scared and didn't know what would happen if I did go, especially now that I'm leaving my husband at home. Finally, after much prayer and advice, I decided to take the leap and go. It was a tough decision for me but I told God, "alright, I trust in You to take care of the things I'm worried about and to do Your work through me." I am so glad I went as I got to experience God in new ways. Just be sure to go to Him in times of hardship and direction.

Reading: Luke 8:1-18

Jesus compared His ministry a lot to the sowing of seeds and harvesting. In this reading, we see the different types of hearts that the Word encounters. The seeds are the Word and the ground it lands on is the heart. We see what happens when the seeds fall on different types of soil. 
People who hear the Word, but quickly write it off as fiction or nonsense are like the seeds that land on the pavement or the road. The fruit will never have a chance to grow.
People who hear the Word and are excited about it for a little while, but it wears away from their lives are like the seeds that land among rocks. They might begin to grow, but never have that deep enough root to maintain fruit. The people here may just move on to the next fad and find something new to excite them.
People who hear the Word, but are too busy with life's agendas and worries to consistently stay in it, are like the seeds among thorns. The seeds grow, but they are chocked out by thorns and weeds. I feel as if this is the most common form of seed in America, as we are a land of busyness and worry. 
But then there are people who are like the seeds who land in good soil. The Word is receptor by a willing, open heart that casts it's worries on God and sets proper priorities. They stay with it through all of life's trials, and they begin to produce fruit. 
Which type of ground are your seeds of God's Word getting sown onto? Be receptive and open to God's Word, and make sure you make it a priority. 

Reading: Numbers 27:12-29:11

Celebration of holiness and sacredness of The Lord was indeed a form of worship in Moses' time, and it shows how worshipful we should be towards our God today. Many of our Christian holidays have become so commercialized and seem to have lost their original meaning. Leaving Christ in Christmas and Jesus in Easter is a way of worshiping what He has done for us. When we start making it about ourselves, we lose the sacredness of of what it's truly about. Don't let the commercialism take over the true meaning of the celebration meant for Christ and what He's done for us.

So where are you in the faith? Where do you turn in times of trouble? What kind of heart do you have when you take in God's Word? What does He mean to you during worshipful celebration? Allow Him to work in you by turning to Him.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Day 88: Practices of a Follower

Reading: Proverbs 8:12-21

Follow with Wisdom
Everyday we make a choice to follow God or not in different ways. Wisdom is one of those ways. There are many traits to wisdom that make it so valuable. Wisdom helps you to be a good leader, as you make good decisions and do what is best for the people you lead. Wisdom is pure. It hates perverseness, arrogance and evil behavior. When your life is full of these things, you don't have wisdom. Wisdom comes from God. Respecting God is a way to get wisdom. And wisdom is there for all who seek it. Search hard for wisdom, as it is valuable to you and your life. 

Reading: Luke 7:36-50

Follow with Love
We see an incredible outpouring of love in this reading. When a woman, considered immoral and shameful by society because of her past, comes and pours expensive perfume over Jesus' feet, we can see the outpouring of love she has for Jesus. Though her past is dark, she knows she needs the forgiveness of God. The irony of it is that she is criticized for her actions by a Pharisee, a religious man. There are so many examples of how our knowledge of religion means nothing compared to the actions of our faith. We are all sinners in need of a Savior, not saints in need of rituals. When we show a deep, overwhelming love for God, we show the humility of ourselves and show our need for forgiveness. Our outpouring of love to God and others shows our commitment to Him. When we are followers of God, our love will show it. As the song goes, "they'll know we are Christians by our love..." This woman in the reading gets it and shows her love deeply, no matter what the religious men say. Showing your love no matter how much criticism you receive will show the world Who you serve indeed.

Reading: Numbers 26:12-27:11

Follow with Consultation 
The people of Moses' time had their share of arguing and issues to resolve. Luckily for them, they had Moses to seek out the advise of God. He always turned to The Lord when He was in need of sorting through the various situations that came up among the people. We see in this reading yet another example of Moses consulting with God on the rights of the women at the time in carrying on the family property. Moses had a very open mind when dealing with the requests and issues of the people. He sought out council from God, listening only to Him.
As we learn and strive to follow Him, we need to learn this practice from Moses in listening to God's advice instead of worldly advice. When we face troubles and issues, we need to learn to bring them to God and wait for His direction before taking matters into our own hands. 

Following God takes work and commitment. We can follow Him with wisdom, with love and with consulting with Him when issues come our way. Learning to rely on these characteristics of a follower of Christ will help you to grow in Him. Take some lessons from the examples today. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Day 87: Tests

Reading: Psalm 38:1-12

Maybe you have felt like David at some point in your life. I'm sure we've all experienced a low that we felt like we'd never get out of, whether it was in health, relationships, sin, etc. maybe you've had to feel consequences of a sin you fell into. Though you may not have gotten ill like David, you may have damaged a relationship, ruined an opportunity or hurt yourself in the process. We see how David suffers in guilt and sickness, feeling the wrath of God. Many times our sin causes us to deal with the aftermath of it. God may not just reach down and curse you for swearing or lying, but we form our own consequences to doing these things. Even if we get away with it now and then, we can't say we have a clean conscious. Cry out to God in these times of suffering in sin and traps that come up in life. He's listening, and He is always ready to welcome you back with open arms. 

Reading: Luke 7:11-35

We will face tests in life. Not only ones like David had to face, but ones like Jesus had to face in this reading. Jesus saw a need as a mourning widow stood beside the coffin of her last son. Jesus felt strong compassion on the woman and He raised her son from the dead. When you see a need, what do you do? Certainly you can't raise someone from the dead, but what do you do when you see someone poor and in need on the street? Or someone needing help carrying something? Are you a spectator or someone that takes action and problem solves? Jesus tells us to take action and be available for those in need. 
Another aspect to this reading is criticism. Jesus is criticized for who He eats with. This could be similar to a school bullying scenario. We see how Jesus handles it, though. He doesn't care what people think. What does this tell us about how we reach out? Especially in school towards kids who may not be accepted by others? This is certainly a test, and takes faith. Outreach isn't just intended for people we are comfortable with serving, but one of the main points is to get out of your comfort zone and help. Not only will it be a blessing to the ones you serve, but it will be a huge blessing to you.

Reading: Numbers 23:27-26:11

We see another kind of test in this reading in that of temptation. Balaam, who is quite a wild card when it comes to following the ways of The Lord, refuses to curse Israel, and doesn't give into the temptation of the reward Balak offers him for cursing them. He does what The Lord tells him. 
But then we see how the men of Israel give into the ways of the Moabites, having sex with their women and worshiping their gods. This, obviously, makes God livid, and many are killed as a result of the wrath He poured out on the people. 
We have read again and again just how dangerous temptation is. Though in today's world, we may not get struck by lightning when we anger God, we still have to live with the consequences of our actions, as we talked about in the Psalm passage today. 

In life, we face all sorts of tests. We face the tests of sin and temptation. We face the test of faith and taking action. We face the test of criticism when trying to do right. How will you deal with the tests that come your way? 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Day 86: Messengers

Reading: Psalm 37:32-40

When we are messengers for God, we need to remember what God is about. Sounds pretty obvious, but how many leaders actually have time for a daily quiet time? How many actually get into His Word on a daily basis? I bet there are quite a few, but I can also bet that there are some who don't. One of the keys of being a messenger of God is staying on His path, and knowing the difference between His values and the world's. Keeping in the Word and in quiet time with Him are ways to do this.
Messengers of God also do everything to promote peace. They strive to bring unity through Christ. All their messages are out of love, and never hate. When we as messengers promote peace among people, we gain trust and understanding about who God is. People don't care what you think until the can see how much you care. Care for people and where they are at before cramming the gospel down their throat. You can show them Christ no matter what the language barrier is by simply loving. You don't have to agree with their lifestyle, but you still need to love. Bring peace, don't cause division.

Reading: Luke 6:37-7:10

Another major aspect of being a good messenger of God is to check your faults before pointing out others' faults. When you are trying to bring the love of God to someone, but jump all over them about something bad in their life, I highly doubt they will listen to you past the blame. Judge and you will be judged by an even greater Judge. When you experience the ultimate patience God gives you as you work through your own faults, you can only then begin to help others with their's. 

Forgive. Forgive even when the other end isn't sorry. This will save you from wasted time on anger and sadness. When you forgive the other person, that then is on them, and no longer your worry. Truly forgive. Don't just say it and not mean it. If you do this, you'll be drinking your own poison anyway.

Give your life away. Don't live for the here and now, or for what the world is offering you. Invest in something a little more with Christ and His mission. When you pour into your own personal gain, you might be happy in the moment, but when you pour into something eternal, you'll be happy eternally.

Look to your Godly examples and mentors. When striving to be a teacher and messenger for Christ, pay attention to what the people you looked up to did. Notice their gifts and how they used them. Ultimately, look to what Jesus did, as He is the example for all.

Guard your heart. Whatever you put in is what will come our, so guard what you listen to, what you watch, what you read and who you hang out with. If you're striving to live a life running after God, you really need to be set apart from what the rest of this world does. Be in the world, but not of it.

Obey the Word. We see what happens to foundations that don't apply the Word. When storms come, you will either be firm in the faith and get through it just fine, or you'll write off everything you heard and read in the Word and crumble when storms come. True wisdom comes from application of the Word. 

Be in Authority. We are all called and authorized as Christians to be messengers. God promises the Holy Spirit to His followers. When we are authorized by God, we will be led and guided. Remember who you are in Christ and know He is with you each step of the way. 

Reading: Numbers 22:21-23:26

As followers and messengers of Christ, we need to pay attention to His guidance, as the Holy Spirit does for Balaam here. It took three attempts for Balaam to finally realize he wasn't to go where he was going. And beyond that, it took a talking donkey! Balaam tries to make it right by only speaking what The Lord tells him to speak. Instead of cursing Israel, he blesses them, doing only as The Lord tells him to as he speaks. There is something to be learned when we don't listen to God's instruction and try to do our own thing. Though He may not put an angel in our path and make a donkey talk to us, He will get His message out. The question is will you follow Him, or do your own thing? Messengers of Christ should strive to follow Him and His instructions, or they might find themselves down a disastrous path.

Being a messenger for Christ takes discipline and steady following of Him. You need to carry traits and tools that a messenger of Christ would carry, such as forgiveness, love, obedience and others we reviewed today. Will you choose to follow and serve Him, or do your own thing and serve yourself?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Day 85: Givers and Takers

Reading: Psalm 37:21-31

There is a strong difference between the righteous and the godly according to this passage. Givers and takers. In life, it is inevitable that you will come across both at some point. There are those who may approach you and you know you can expect good to come out of your time together. You will be poured into by that person, and you may feel mutual about pouring into them. Then there are people you may know who will want to get together who take. They might demean the way you do something, stretch you thin on time, or drain you financially, but you never quite feel as confident about meeting with them.
The question that remains then is, which person are you? When you see yourself through the eyes of others, do you encourage them, or drain them? What evidence do you have to tell you either way? I'm sure we all have moments of being both types of people at some points, but overall, where do you fall on the scale?

Reading: Luke 6:12-36

Being generous to those we love and even like is one thing, but being generous and giving to those we may despise and who may despise us is a whole other concept to grasp. When Jesus begins His sermon on the mount here, we read it began with being generous. This is so important to God, no matter who we feel like being generous to or not. Jesus offers up some pretty crazy-sounding words when He talks about giving someone who steals from you more, or turning your cheek to someone who slaps the other one. This could be very hard for people to grasp. When we come from a society of moving ourselves up the ladder and trying to get all we can to achieve success, it may seem near impossible to be generous to the people who try to get on our way of doing that. Jesus says to reach out to the people who we feel take away from us. Give them more. This is an absolute insane concept to our society. Why would we ever help our enemies achieve? However, when we look back at the passage in Psalms we read today, we are reminded of the people we need to be. And Jesus reiterate this here.

Reading: Numbers 21:4-22:20

The people of Israel had still not learned their lesson about complaining. God once again punishes them for their lack of faith, this time with poisonous snakes. Once the people admit their wrongdoing, the snakes are taken away and God gives the people who were bitten a chance to live by looking at a bronze snake up on a pole. This symbol is very similar to that of looking to Jesus on the cross to save us from the poison in our lives. We can spend our lives as takers, and God may teach us a lesson here and there, but in the end, we can repent and look to Him, the Giver of life. When we turn to Him, that is the beginning of a new life of giving. Giving to others, giving to Him. Living a life in Him is living a life of giving back. The people of Israel had to struggle with this over and over again, even after seeing God's greatness many times. We as Christians will struggle with this over and over. But much like the Israelites were continued to be led by God, and never left by Him, God will never leave us, no matter how many times we fail.

We quickly learn in life that there are two types of people- the givers and the takers. We can be either of those at any given time, but when we fail, we can see that God is always there to pick us up again and lead us in a life of giving. May we strive to be the givers of the world, and keep giving to even those who may continue to take.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Day 84: Mind Games

Reading: Proverbs 8:1-11

When we read of how important wisdom is (and we know it is, because Proverbs is devoted to it), we need to realize that striving for wisdom is much more important than striving for the gratifications of this world. It is called "more precious than silver, gold or jewels." Wisdom is making good choices throughout life. It is setting yourself up with healthy goals and ambitions. Jesus is how we get wisdom, according to the New Testament. Just as Wisdom competes for attention of a seductress in Proverbs, Jesus competes for our attention against the world and it'd deception. Know what you're chasing after in this life, and consider how long it will keep you happy.

Reading: Luke 5:33-6:11

We can see from this reading how knowledge can go to our heads. Knowing Jesus is a renewing of our minds. We must become new and realize that the way Jesus did things was different, thus the way Christians do things is different. When we give our lives to Him, it's like putting new wine into new wine skins. New wine would burst old wine skins, so new must go into new. A new life, committed to Jesus must be put into a renewed person. Saying you're a Christian, but still living in the same old sin doesn't mean anything. But saying you're a Christian and living it out day to day means everything.
We also see how the religious leaders called out Jesus and His disciples for harvesting and healing on the Sabbath day, as the Old Testament law speaks out against these things. The bottom line here is motive of the heart, however. The religious leaders hate what Jesus is doing. They can't stand the authority He has and the movement He makes. They are looking for any opportunity to get rid of Him. Jesus, came to change the face of law. He doesn't want us to be burdened by laws that don't promote compassion and truth. When Jesus fed the hungry and healed on the Sabbath, He makes a statement that doing good and changing a life is more lawful than doing evil and ruining a life. So many times we are guilty of this. We worry about technicalities of a Sunday morning, rather than the needs around us. We focus on the things in the church, the policies, the statements, the rules, the traditions, the rituals...but in the blur behind all that, are lives. There are people who are literally and figuratively hungry and hurting. Yet we are those religious leaders. Take this example from Jesus and heed it carefully.
Don't let knowledge go to your head, but grow in wisdom, as Jesus did.

Reading: Numbers 19:1-21:3

Trusting has been an issue for mankind since Moses' time and before. We have come quite a ways with the people of Israel, and we have experiences many of their highs and lows. But complaining seems to have also been a trait carried on from generation to generation. For some reason, our heads can play games on us and we completely forget the amazing things God has done for us in a matter of days. Though God led these people out of Egypt, parted the Red Sea, provided for them, guided them, established their people- they still find times to complain. This, understandably, makes God angry. The human head can't seem to always grasp that God will take care of them, no matter how many times He's proven Himself. Though the cross alone would seem like enough for us, we always need reassurance of His love and His provision. Let us try to keep our logic out of those situations that scare us, and focus on what God has done in our lives.

Wisdom is a huge asset to life. When we get wisdom, we have something way more valuable than jewels. As humans, temptations and our own logic can get in the way of wisdom. We need to cling to wisdom and what to what Jesus displayed for us when rituals and traditions tried to take precedence over compassion.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Day 83: God's Type of People

Reading: Psalm 37:10-20

There is clear evidence as to the type of people God chooses to do His work in this passage. This passage talks about the good and the wicked. God takes care of those He chooses. Here, we read about the meek, the lowly, the poor, and the innocent. We read that those who plot evil God laughs at, because He will have ultimate judgement on them. God uses the weak to put the strong to shame. This goes to show that God's plan and work isn't like that of the world, who put the strong, the wealthy, the high-up, and even the wicked on a pedestal. Remember who God uses in His work. Remember what is most important in this life. Remember who the ultimate judge is in the end.

Reading: Luke 5:17-32

Jesus chose some unexpected people to do His work and display His power. Here we read of a sick man on a may who had great faith - something that is hard to come by in a take-charge society today. But Jesus used this man to show both His power of forgiveness and of healing. Because of this fragile, sick man, Jesus could display His authority. He used not only the sick, but the sinners too.
Also in this reading, we see that He chooses Levi (Matthew) to follow Him as His disciple. He also eats with him at his home. Much ridicule was fired at Jesus for hanging out with such a person as Levi, who was a tax collector. But Jesus says something very key to ministry, both then and for today. "I have not come for those who think they are righteous, but for those who know they are sinners and need to repent." This is a huge deal for churches today. If we focus on the people inside who know God, and already follow Him, we will eventually run out of people in the church. But if we exist as a church for those on the outside who need to know Jesus and who are seeking that relationship with Him, then our mission is laid out for us. Jesus displays this well here. He created ministry, and He is our prime example for it.

Reading: Numbers 16:36-18:32

Moses, being the great leader and communicator he was, led his people through thick and thin, and as a leader, showed them what God taught about forgiveness. We read the extent of rituals that needed to take place for atoning sin back in Moses' time. Though forgiveness seems so easy when we're on the receiving end of God's forgiveness, we need to remember it is a big deal. When we practice the act of forgiveness, God can use us to move hearts in powerful ways. When we treat our sin as more than something God will just forgive anyway, we can being our hearts to humility and our lives to service for Him. When we stand in awe of His ultimate forgiveness, and begin to realize that we could never begin to know the depth of the cost of our sin, we can lead a life in complete, humble service to Him. God loves to use those kind of people for His work.

God's type of people aren't what the world's type of people are. In a world that glorifies wealth, success and living for yourself, it is hard to grasp that God actually uses the poor, the sick, the sinners, the humble to do His powerful work. Will you be the world's type of person, or God's type? Each come with rewards, but one is far greater and more satisfying.