Sunday, June 30, 2013

107: Centered on Him

Reading: Psalm 47:1-9

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

Reading: Luke: 18:1-30

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

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

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

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

Reading: Deuteronomy 28:15-68

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

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

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Day 106: In His Presence

Reading: Psalm 46:1-11

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

Reading: Luke 17:11-37

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

Reading: Deuteronomy 26:1-28:14

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

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

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Day 105: In Remembrance...

Reading: Psalm 45:10-17

Remembering Jesus throughout generations is the feel of this reading. Many times throughout the Bible, the church and God are compared to the bride and the bridegroom. We can see how much God loves and cherishes the church, and He wants it to thrive on remembering His mission, His work, and His ways. Verse 17 says that the church (bride) will bring honor and remembrance to the name of Jesus forever and ever. May we do our part in the church to bring honor and remembrance to the name of Jesus and all He has done for us. May every nation come to bow down to Him. 

Reading: Luke 16:19-17:10

We are called to remember the poor. This parable that Jesus shares is not only a little unnerving, but it is also from the Bible, which means it's true. We live in a nation surrounded by wealth and everything we could ever need and even want. Our pets live on more food and resources than over half of the people in our world. We are also surrounded by great poverty, not only throughout our world, but in our very own communities. Jesus makes it hauntingly clear that we are not to turn a deaf ear to the poor. When we come across someone in need to food or necessity, we are to assist them and help them get back on their feet. 
It is a scary image of the rich man in eternal death and Lazarus, who begged this man daily in heaven with Abraham. We know that this concept isn't attacking the rich people themselves, but the hearts. Abraham, himself was a very rich and blessed man, but he was in heaven. However, he was a faithful follower of God. He put complete faith and trust in God, though like everyone else, he had his rough days. But he never feared what would happen to his riches and his possessions. He never put his faith in those things. 
When we base our lives around "the next big thing" and keeping up with our neighbors and peers, depending on them for our well-being and our status, than we are living lives like that rich man. With this mentality, we will cling to those things and do everything we can to keep them and upgrade them. 
Jesus goes into a teaching on faith and forgiveness from this section of the reading. Just like our possessions and riches, we need to be willing to give up our grudges and pride to mend relationships. Forgiveness is a big topic for Jesus as He tells us to forgive over and over. Faith is a big part of these things. When we truly have faith and we are willing to put everything we are about and own into our faith in Christ, then we can have hearts that fully embrace God and His mission. But clinging to grudges and possessions and riches will sink you. 
If we can't believe the seriousness of God through His Word and His teachings, or even knowing that Jesus rose from the dead, then we may never repent, as Abraham told the rich man. Have the priorities of your heart in order.

Reading: Deuteronomy 23:1-25:19

Remembering what God has done for us is important, especially when we are extending the same grace towards others, as well as facing hardships. This reading goes through many rules for the Israelites, but also serves as a reminder of the grace and provision they have been given, thus they are asked to treat each other and foreigners alike with the same grace. Being reminded of how they were once also foreigners and slaves, and of how God provided them with guidance and protection through the wilderness, they are asked to do the same for others. When it comes to remembering the grace and love poured out on us, we too are asked to extend such service to our neighbors. A remembrance of what God has done in our life is portrayed by how we take it and use it. When we serve God by helping others and showing them the same patience God shows us all the time, we are proving how grateful we are for that patience. The same goes with grace, forgiveness, love, etc. Remember what God has done for you by serving others with the same loving actions.

Remembering what God has called us to do on a daily basis is important, so that we can keep the focus on Him and living our lives in thankfulness for Him. We remember His name so that it will be proclaimed from generation to generation, and across all nations. We remember to take care of the poor around us because when we neglect them, God has every right to neglect us. And we remember what He has done so that we may extend the same grace to those around us. May we never forget why we are here.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Day 104: Integrity

Reading: Proverbs 9:13-18

Integrity is important when we face temptations, especially the ones that we know we struggle with and have to avoid. This Proverb refers to a woman calling out to men, and tempting them. We need to be careful, as temptation lurks everywhere and can pop up at any moment. It's easy enough to stand firm in the forefront of our lives, we need to work harder to stand firm behind the scenes, when nobody sees us. When we are the same person in front as we all behind the scenes, dealing with temptations as they come, and realizing all Christians deal with them, it can be easier to have integrity. Though the thing that lures you in secret may seem like it would be more enjoyable and taste sweeter, it certainly is a lie. Things done in secret that come out always end up harming. Don't lie to yourself and fall into that trap.

Reading: Luke 16:1-18

When it comes to money and possessions, Jesus has much to say about them. In this instance, Jesus is teaching of integrity with your money. Jesus points it out that if we are unfaithful in little things, we will be in big things, and if we are dishonest in little things, we are not to be trusted with big things. Money is an instance of this, among many other circumstances in life. We need to realize that money is a threat and can take away from the main focus and priorities in life. We are to give it generously and remember that it is measly a tool. Jesus says that no one can serve both God and money, and that the desires and things that look good in the eyes of the world are very detestable to God. We are to care about the things He cares about, as we discussed in our study a couple days ago. Don't let money and possessions hold you back from serving the true God. Serving both is not an option, and is impossible. Keep your heart on what matters most.

Reading: Deuteronomy 21:1-22:30

When it comes to the way we live, God is quite clear what we are to not do to maintain our integrity. Many of these rules were temporary of the time, but many still are important, Biblical concepts today that are reiterated in the New Testament. Obviously God stands very strongly against rape, premarital sex, and any promiscuous behavior. When we observe our lives, can we honestly say that we live perfect, clean lives, rid of any mark or sin. Absolutely not. That is why Jesus came! To wipe out the rituals of cleansing yourself before God in order to be set apart for Him. The rules of love still apply. When we love God, and we love our neighbor, we need to question the decisions we make, as to whether or not they will harm yourself, others, or sadden God. When we analyze our desires against God's will, we need to wait for Him to tell us to move. Having integrity in the way you live can be tough in a society that makes everything so socially acceptable. We may go through life with habits we don't even realize are wrong because that is what everyone does. But it is important to match up your life with the words of the Bible. That is the only sure way to know God's plan and will. Do your best to honor Him and His commands, because He loves you enough to keep you from harm.

Living a life of integrity is important across the board. When we do when temptations come our way behind closed doors will define your integrity. What you do with money and how you use it will say a lot about where your passions lie. And how you live daily life, either following the ways of the world because it is socially acceptable, or doing your best to stay in the Word and knowing what is acceptable to God will grow you in a certain way. What kind of example are you leaving in the forefront? What kind of example would you be leaving if people saw you behind closed doors, or if your "church friends" saw what you do with your other friends? Someone always sees you. 

Day 103: Who is God?

Reading: Psalm 45:1-9

Majestic King
This gorgeous description of a perfect, beautiful king symbolizes Jesus. This praise to Him should be our delight daily, as we remember and look forward to His presence in our lives. A King Who loves justice and hates evil - what better king to have on your side? We can always trust and hope in Him, because His throne will go forever. He won't ever be defeated, and we can know that He will always endure. Let this image of God overwhelm you today.

Reading: Luke 15:1-32

Loving Father
When we face mess ups in life, we can guarantee that God is always standing back, waiting for us to "come to our senses". There is celebration for the lost returning to Him. This should tell us that our hearts should be focused in those who are lost, not those who are saved. Jesus tells a few stories about the value of the lost. If a man has 100 sheep, and loses 1, all he cares about is finding that 1. When a woman loses her valuable, silver coin, she tears her house apart, looking for it. And when a son disgraces his own father, wishing his death upon him, so he can take his part of the inheritance and squander it, his father rejoices when he comes home. Each one of these stories displays the compassion and love God has for us, and for the lost. 
If you really know a lot about the culture these stories took place in, there would be a whole new element of meaning. For instance, when a son asks his father for the inheritance, it is a disgraceful act towards your father, and practically wishing he was dead. This father should have refused and been very angerd by his son's request, but instead, he loved him enough to give him what he wanted. Another interesting thing about this story is that when the son returns home, the father literally runs to him. In this culture, older men never ran unless there was some sort of danger. This is also a shameful act for a man to do, but the love this father had for his returned son was so great, he didn't care. 
Sounds kind of like Jesus. 
When we put God to disgrace by our thoughts or actions, we are treating Him like that son treated his father. But God will allow us to have whatever we decide,because He loves us that much. But when we finally "come to our senses" and return to our Father, He is watching for us, and will run to us when we come back. He celebrates the lost returning to Him, much like the father celebrating his son's return.
That is a loving Father indeed.

Reading: Deuteronomy 19:1-20:20

Righteous Judge
It is tough to apply Old Testament rules to today's society, and luckily when Jesus died on the cross, He took away all the legalism in the faith, except of course loving God most and loving others as yourself. But when we read the rules and the way things God wanted things done in the Old Testament, we get an idea of what God is like. He obviously cares deeply for justice and fairness, as He orders there be cities of refuge for people involved in accidental death. But this God also doesn't tolerate evil, as He commands they no pity be taken on a purposeful murderer. He will stand by your side in battle, as long as you fight on His side. Doing His will will guarantee His presence in an empowering way. But going against His will could have consequences. 
Remember your God is full of justice, and revenge should always be His. 

We have the opportunity to see the many attributes of God by simply reading out of different parts of the Bible. Majestic King, Loving Father, Righteous Judge. These are the big three we read about today. Remember the extent and wonderful attributes of God today.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Day 102: Hardships of Faith

Reading: Psalm 44:13-26

When we face trials, hardship and oppression, it doesn't necessarily we have doe wrong, and now we are being punished. In fact, it could be because of how strong your faith actually is. When we face ridicule and mockery from people who don't agree with our faith or because of something you stand strong for, and they don't, you will probably have a run in there. When life is too easy, there is no opportunity to grow and mature. Going through life with everything being good and easy means you aren't standing up for anything. There is no possible way to hold so passionately to something, like your faith and not have someone upset with you. Whether it's someone who opposes your faith completely, or someone who is also a Christian who doesn't agree with the way you do things. When you face those oppressions and hardships, even though it may seem unfair, remember that you have a God Who loves you more than you can ever imagine. Cry out to Him. Allow Him to reveal Himself through the storms, and keep your faith strong, no matter how many people don't agree. The blessings will come for you soon enough.

Reading: Luke 14:15-35

There is a hardship in following Christ, yet it is the most rewarding thing you'll ever do. We kick off this reading with a story about a banquet and the excuses people make up to get out of it. We have all been invited to those social gatherings that we try to get out of because we think it will be awkward, or boring, or just a waste of time. Here, we see people ducking out of this great banquet, using ll sorts of excuses, but ironically, their excuses symbolize the excuses we tend to come up with to not follow Christ, or obey Him. One person claims he can't attend because of his new property. Going on missions can be hard because we don't want to leave the comfort of home, or move to far away places because they don't want to leave those comforts. Another excuse used is that of processions, as a man says he needs to tend to his oxen. The American society is all about possessions and having more, when Jesus calls us to give everything away to the poor. The final excuse is a man claiming he needed to be with his wife. Though marriage is important, we read later in this section that we are to place God above everyone else in our lives. And because of all these excuses from blessed people, the banquet is opened up to those who have hardly anything to lose - the poor, the sick, the needy... All who have a clear understanding of how great this privilege is. They don't have their view fogged by possessions, property or people they place high value on. These things aren't bad, but they should never trump God and His will. 
We get into the straight-forward part of this reading where Jesus tells the crowds that if they want to be His disciple, they must give up everything for Him. They must put everyone lower on the priority list. Not place emphasis on their stuff, and be willing to give up comforts. Carrying their crosses daily, disciples must treat everyday as a death sentence. They must surrender all plans, all dreams, all hopes, all jobs, all people, all finances, everything to Him and His will. Allowing God to decide everything about their lives. 
It is a hard sacrifice to make in a life that can be so good, but we must remember the rewards of it. 

Reading: Deuteronomy 16:21-18:22

We are strongly warned against worshiping other gods and believing false prophets in this reading, as well as practicing witchcraft, sorcery and fortune-telling, Ouija boards, horoscopes -  all things that are popular in today's world, whether you have encountered it yourself or not. There is great temptation in life to make other things our idols. Teens get pressured to do drugs or drink, which could ruin lives in the end. I have been asked to participate in witchcraft myself in high school, and luckily I was taught to run hard and fast from that. It is out there, and it is sternly warned against. Temptation to join in in these things is a tough thing to deal with, especially if you're a teen, trying to fit in. But standing strong in the faith comes with more rewards that are far greater and last for eternity. Stand strong against things that you have been warned to avoid. 

There will be hardships in the midst of keeping the faith. If there weren't, there would be no opportunity to grow. Standing strong in that faith is ultimately where you want to be. Cry out to God when you're struggling with opposition, or when bearing the pressures of life gets too hard. He's there, and nothing can ever separate you from that love.

Day 101: God's Heart


Reading: Psalm 44:1-12

Trust is what matters to God. We do not rely on our own strength, but on the strength of God. When we rely too much on ourselves, we will be run down and worn out. But putting our trust in God is highly important. When you think about your tightest relationships, whether they be with a spouse, a parent, a friend - what keeps thy relationship so strong? It is being able to trust that person no matter what. When trust is broken, the relationship is hard to fix. The same goes with God. When we put our trust in Him, we grow that relationship, and He becomes our guide. Putting our trust in Him and relying on Him will take the burden off our shoulders. It will take the pressure off of our daily living and allow Him to guide you. Where do you need to trust God more in your life? 

Reading: Luke 13:31-14:14

We read about a few things in this section that matter to God. We see an enormous amount of courage that Jesus displays when people tell Him to flee because He will be killed. But Jesus knows that if He does that, the plan of His Father could not be completed. No matter how hard it was to mentally grasp what He had to do, Jesus stuck to His Father's will and stood strong against those who told Him to run from death. We are to do the same when we face ridicule for our faith. 
We also read about the compassion Jesus had for people. Here we read about the motherly compassion He displays for Jerusalem, and a longing to rescue them. Jesus did this for all of us when He took our punishment on the cross. He longs to rescue and protect us. That kind of love and compassion is incomprehensible, but it is an example we must follow as a people longing to follow God. 
We also see how important humility is to God. When we subject ourselves to the lowest place, and stop taking the importance off of ourselves, we will be placed in honor. Taking the lowest point and allowing others to go before us is so very important to God. Humility is what Christ is all about. he took the lowest of punishments and subjected Himself to humiliation and the harshest of deaths for us. Practicing humility is what will bring you far in the faith.
Another example of what matters to God in this reading is poverty. It is said over and over again throughout scripture that we are to care for the poor. This includes the lost, the financially poor, the sick, those who are hurting emotionally. Jesus cared for all of these people, and God cares about how we care for them. 
Hold tight to courage, compassion, humility, and caring for the poor.

Reading: Deuteronomy 15:1-16:20

There is a theme of generosity and giving in this reading, that tells us just how much it matters to God. We are not to be stingy with our money and our resources, but to lend without complaint, or expecting interest. God wants us to have an open hand when it comes to giving to those in need, as all we have is actually His and comes from Him. When we are blessed with a big house, perhaps we should be hospitable to people in need of palace to stay, like traveling missionaries or those serving The Lord. When we have overflowing pantries, consider donating to the hungry. Or when you have extra money that could go towards eating out or a vacation, maybe put it towards extra tithe or a cause that helps those in need. Whatever it may be, always have a mind of generosity.
Remembering what God has done in our lives is highly important as well. We are to reflect and share our story with others so they may have the hope to get through the struggles they face, and be encouraged by God's power in our lives. God wants us to be grateful for those times, so when we face more hardship, we can proceed strongly, and in confidence that He can pull us through again. Give thanks for what He has done, and spread the wonderful news to those in need of encouragement.
Lastly, justice matters to God. When we accept bribes and payment to further ourselves and put someone else below us, God hates it. He tells us to never accept a bribe for doing evil right in this reading, and we not only should avoid it, but we should stand up against it. An example would be human trafficking, and supporting ministries that fight for that cause. Always stand for the rights of others, and allow God to have the revenge.

Doing what matters most to God will please Him greatly. We all know what matters most to us by our actions and what we spend our time and money on. But making what matters most to us about doing what matters most to God is a whole other view on priorities. Trust in Him, show compassion, display humility, have courage, care for the poor, remember what He has done for you, be generous, and seek justice.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Day 100: Wisdom

Reading: Proverbs 9:1-12

Wisdom in Criticism
In this reading we can read that it is pointless to insult a mocker, or one who lacks wisdom. Correcting them will only cause them to hate you more. But correcting the wise in their mistakes and areas that need improvement will be well received if they are indeed wise. Constructive criticism always depends on who is receiving it. Wise people will take it humbly, use it, grow from it and then improve on it. Those who hold too much pride and feel the need to hate all criticism will hate you more and take it the wrong way. They will stay in their skill level and never adapt to what those around them are looking for in that talent or profession. The question that hangs out there then is what kind of person re you when it comes to constructive criticism? Do you grow from it, or defend against it? According to this reading, the wise will grow from it, and even be thankful for it. 

Reading: Luke 13:1-30
Wisdom in Suffering
Jesus teaches about suffering in the first part of this reading. When He heals the crippled woman on the Sabbath day, He is responding with compassion, and would expect any of us to respond the same way. But when people seem to unfairly suffer, like in the case of Pilot killing those offering sacrifices at the temple, Jesus makes it very clear that suffering is not linked to their sin, but rather the human race is sinful and sometimes we will be affected by the poor decisions of others. Jesus cares more about our response to suffering, rather than the speculation of what underlines the suffering. Our response is how we show our love and faith in those hard times for others.

Wisdom in Pruning 
Jesus gives us a couple examples of pruning and fruitfulness in this reading as well, reminding us that we need to be smart about our pruning, whether it be on ourselves or he church. When we look at our lives and find an area that isn't very fruitful for the Kingdom, we need to either be patient and work on making it so, or decide to cut it out of our lives. In the church, if we have a ministry that isn't very fruitful, we either need to give it time to clean up the act, or cut it off. Jesus makes it very clear here that we need to be fruitful for the Him. When we read about the yeast and the mustard seed, He is showing us how to expand the Kingdom with the smallest start. Patience is a part of this process, but we also need to be conscious of the unfruitful weeds that could kill the fruit. 

Wisdom in Confrontation
Confrontation can be a hard thing to come across, but Jesus had it down when it came to proper reaction. Standing up for compassion over legalism, as well as hypocrisy, He called out what was important and what He was about. But Jesus never caused confrontation for the sake of it. He only stood up for what was truly right. Use your best judgement when you're deciding to confront something, and follow Jesus' example.

Wisdom in Following Jesus
Jesus reminds us here that the gate to heaven is narrow. We can accept Him and live a life in complete relationship and reliance on Him, or we can do good things and hope we've done good enough, but doing good isn't what gets you there. Jesus says that we need to be known by His Father. If someone came to your door and you didn't know them, would you let them in? Perhaps if they were in need, but certainly not as a long-time friend. Jesus compares the gate of heaven to this concept. When we go through life thinking that if we did good and that we went to church every Sunday, and that those things are what will build our relationship in Christ, we are sadly wrong. When we come to Jesus on a daily basis, deciding to follow Him, His plans, His ways, rely on Him, we will discover true relationship in Him. Make sure you decide to sacrifice your life daily for Him. 

Reading: Deuteronomy 13:1-14:29
Wisdom in Discernment
It is very important that as followers of Christ, we don't stray off and believe someone else when they say they are the returning messiah. We must never fall into the trap of worshiping other gods and beliefs. Keep your path straight and narrow, allowing no influence. In today's world, there are many traps and many "gods". Things we get addicted to and can't live without become gods to us, and we fall into a continuous pattern of worshiping them. My dad used to jokingly call our TV the house idol because we spent so much time in front of it, but in a sense he was right in calling it that, as we would do whatever it took to watch our shows, and we would spend hours a day before it. But picking up a Bible would only happen for minutes a day, if even at all sometimes. Be careful what you devote your time to.

Wisdom in Reverring God
We are called to be in complete awe of God because we are His chosen sons and daughters. He has done wonderful things. That goes for our money and possessions. Tithing is a way to show our respect for God and that we support His mission. He called the people in Moses' time to give ten percent of their earning to Him, and we still can follow this practice today. When we pour out our offering to Him, we are blessing others as well. Show your reverence to God in this way. It is a feasible, tangible way, and He commands His people to give to His cause.

Wisdom can bring you far in life, but sometimes obtaining and putting it into practice can be hard. Just stick to His Words and to His promises. Apply what you know and learn to your life. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Day 99: Blessings and Obedience

Reading: Psalm 43:1-5

Even the greatest of followers run into dark, depressing times. Even they have those times of emptiness. We get a taste of what that was like for the writer of this Psalm. They are surrounded by wicked people, and feel loneliness. But in complete obedience to God, this person turns to Him instead of trying to find other means of comfort from worldly elements. 
Just because we're followers of God, no matter where you are in your walk, you will still face those days of darkness and emptiness. As humans in an imperfect world, it is inevitable that we will. But when we choose to obey God and follow His commands of love and trust, we will be filled with an overwhelming joy and delight. The beauty of obedience is that we are blessed through it. No matter how down you are, keep going hard for Christ.

Reading: Luke12:35-59

Jesus tells us over and over again to always be ready for His return, comparing it to many different scenarios. When we are told to be ready, we are being told to live each day as if He were coming back that hour. This means we serve Him faithfully with the gifts He's blessed us with, and we treat others with love, as well as live lives that would respect Him. When we do these things faithfully, we will be entrusted with more responsibility and work in His Name. When you stand before Him in heaven, will you be able to hear that you were good and faithful to Him in using your gifts and living a pleasing life? With blessing comes obedience and with obedience comes blessing. When you can say that God has blessed you with health, or a job, or children, or a house, or the freedom to open the Bible and worship in your country, or all of these things, you have quite the love to pay back in obeying Him. When we are blessed by God's love, we need to show Him our love back by using those blessings for Him and by blessing others with what we have.
Always be ready, and always be serving wisely.

Reading: Deuteronomy 11:1-12:32

It is very clear here how close love and obedience are. In fact, they go hand and hand. When God asks us to obey Him, He wants us to show our love in this way. When we are blessed, we are being shown love by God. And in return, we are to obey Him, as well as embed His words in our hearts and teach them to our children. Though we are deeply surrounded by influences to do the opposite of obeying God and His commands, we need to hold tight to them. Following the ways of the world may grant you some good times and temporary blessing, but it is not true obedience to God. But when we choose each day to stand up for God and for our faith, we will find ourselves blessed and trusted with more. When we choose to disobey and carry on in wild living and doing what pleases us, it becomes destructive and full of guilt. Obey to be blessed. Obey when you are blessed. Embed His words in your heart and mind, and pass them down to the next generations.

Blessing comes with obedience, but when we are blessed we need to obey. If we wake up each morning, have a roof over our heads, have food on our tables, have the freedom to open our Bibles, we are already blessed more than over half of our world. Don't waste your lives on your desires, when He knows your desires and has so much more for you. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Day 98: Trust and Obey

 Reading: Psalm 42: 6b-11

There is a great amount of turmoil in this reading. The writer feels very let down, discouraged and forgotten. But in the midst of his frustrations, he keeps remembering that God is his rock on which he can stand. Though he feels like life is completely against him, he knows that God's unfailing love is still there, and he must make a choice to trust and obey. 
You know well by now that life will feel much like how this writer describes it at times. As if you can't handle the outflow of frustrations and turmoil coming at you. But also like this writer, we need to remember where we go for a solid footing. Remember what He has done and the love He has given you before. Then in the midst of the chaos, put your trust in Him and obey His direction. You will find yourself in a better place eventually and a stronger person. 

Reading: Luke 12:1-34

Trusting and obeying God are hard to do when we're busy worrying. Worries and anxieties take our focus off of Him and onto ourselves and our feelings. Jesus gives us numerous reasons why we are not to worry and to put our trust in Him. 
We are to fear only God. There is so much we could lose, but there is something we can never lose, and that is our souls for God. He is the only one Who can take that away, and when we put our fear and awe in Him, we have nothing else to worry about. 
We are valuable. Jesus explains over and over about how much He values us. In fact, He compares us to the birds, stating that if He even takes care of them, how much more will He take care of us. God places such high value on us, and when we fail to trust in Him to take care of us, we have a hard time building that relationship with Him.
The Holy Spirit is with us. When we face those hard times, not knowing how to deal with a situation or opposition, we are promised to have the Holy Spirit to guide us. He will give us words to say when we need them, and He will give us direction when the time is right. 
When we worry, we fail to see the whole point of life. Jesus displays this point with a story about a man who stocked up his crop for years ahead, so he could kick back and not work. But Jesus says this is missing the point. We can't plan for ourselves in the future because God is the one who plans it, not us. Being wrapped up in yourself fails to put yourself in God's arms. When we plan ahead, God can turn our plans upside down. We need to live day to day, one day at a time, trusting Him and relying on His direction as it comes. 
Our focus can't be on what we have. Fussing about our clothes and the things we have also fails to see the point of trusting in God fully. When we worry about these things, they become our focus and even our mission. It becomes a battle to get the next big thing instead of focusing on what God wants us to do. These things aren't bad, but they can be poisonous when they become everything we're about. 
Worry is the opposite of trust and obedience. I think this speaks for itself.
Always seek His Kingdom above all else. Seek that first, and everything else will come with it. Don't place your trust in things of this world. Trust and obey God by putting your focus on Him and casting your worries on Him.

Reading: Deuteronomy 9:1-10:22

Moses reflects back on the times the people did not trust and obey to reiterate how important it is. As the people get ready to cross into the Promised Land, he recalls the times things went wrong along their journey, and how trusting and obeying were the underlying issues of their struggles. God keeps their egos in check by reminding them that they are not acquiring this land because they are "good" people, and the reminders of how they made the golden calf and failed to trust Him throughout their journey display that.
We are reminded in this reading that no matter how blessed we feel and how much God is handing over great things to us, that we are never, ever to look away and fail to trust and obey Him. These two things go hand and hand, and will keep us in check with God. 

Trusting and obeying are two big elements to the Christian faith. When we fail to trust God in the midst of hardship, we may turn to other things that will only make it worse. When we fail to trust and worry about our lives and what's to come, we focus on ourselves and our plans instead of trusting and wanting to obey God's. When we continually fail to trust and obey Him, even when He's proven Himself in our journey before, we will see the struggles we face because of that lack. Trust and obey. When we do these things and apply them to life, we follow a path of faith that has a solid foundation. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Day 97: Building Inner Life Character

Reading: Psalm 42:1-6a

Our knowledge of God cannot fulfill an inner thirst for Him. Only having His presence in our lives can. We can try and try to fill that longing with other things, but they will only leave you weighed down and wanting more. Happiness with these things doesn't last long, but fulfillment with God lasts a lifetime and into eternity. It is comforting to know that though David fought and fought with hardships, he cried out to God and found satisfaction and celebration in His presence. When we fill our lives with God, we will find ourselves thirsting for Him. 

Reading: Luke 11:33-54

Our inner lives need to reflect God's light. Right off the bat, Jesus explains that our eyes are the lamps that provide light for our whole body. When we put our eyes on good things, like the Word and helping others, we will be filled with light. But when we put our eyes on less honorable things like ourselves and things of this world we know better than to get involved in, we will have this reflected in our inner lives. We see how passionate Jesus is about inner lives as He lays into the Pharisees about theirs. He goes into how they have to have the "best seats" indulging in their self-importance. He also goes into their love to be recognized and greeted by other important people in the streets. And He goes into their hypocrisy, calling them out in how they lay other burdens and rituals on people who listen to them, when they can't live up to their own standards. The religious leaders were all superficial. They had no inner relationship for God whatsoever, and only did the bare minimum to following God, such as tithing a very small portion to Him. We need to keep ourselves aware to not fill our inner selves with ourselves, but with the needs of others and with God. Don't just listen to these words and tell others to do them, but do them yourself. When you pick up God's Word and read it, don't just soak in the words, but live them out, allowing your life to shine for Him, and not of yourself. 

Reading: Deuteronomy 6:1-8:20

The reflection of inner maturity and love we have for God really sets us apart in who we are in Christ. Focusing on our inner well-being and not on the material things and the ways of our culture are explained in this passage. When we have pure hearts focused on getting God's Word tied to our hearts and minds, we are maturing in Him. We are warned many times in this reading as well:
Danger in abandoning God for other idols: This could be doing what it takes to fit in with the culture around us, or this people who do not follow God. Making something in your life your everything, outside of God - a very dangerous let down in the end. It's ok to have a passion for something and love it, but it's not ok to put it before God.
Danger in doubting God when hardships come: It is inevitable that tough times will come. When they do, they grow us. When we doubt God, we may find relief in other things, or find a temporary solution to our struggles. But when we stick it out and allow God to Carey us through and grow us, we will reap rewards through it. God will give us the mountain tops for encouragement, but He'll bring the valleys to mature us. 
Danger of forgetting God in our wealth: When we are blessed greatly by God, we must not carry on life without Him. He has blessed us, and for that we owe Him our lives. We can't go on without acknowledging that fact. God will always have to have center of our lives, no matter how blessed and wealthy we are. Always live a life of thanksgiving for Him. 

Growing in good character of God takes work and understanding. When we live our lives loving Him in full obedience, tying His words to our hearts, and working hard to be His light, we will be blessed in Him. We need to remember the things He's done for us, and live a life of thanksgiving for Him. Takes the hardships and grow in them, and be encouraged in the high points of your life. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Day 96: Seek and You Will Find

 Reading: Proverbs 8:32-36

Avidly seeking God is a matter of life and death according to this reading. We are commanded to listen and to hold close to instruction and be wise. When we listen, we find great joy as we progress through life's situations and hardships. We have a foundation that instinctively seeks God in all times when we train ourselves to follow His instruction. Falling on Him in those times of needing direction will result in great blessing and powerful work through Him. When we wait on God to come and lead us, we will find life. When we fail to wait on Him though, and take our own path, we will find ourselves lost and injured. We are warned that those who miss God love death. They won't find the joy that those who wait patiently in His timing will find. Remember this Proverb the next time you seek direction and instruction from Him.

Reading: Luke 11:5-32

This reading is pretty straight forward when it comes to seeking God. Jesus makes some pretty blunt promises in His words here. He says that anyone who seeks will find, asks will receive, and knocks, the door will be opened to. He reassures us 6 times, repeating it in different ways, as He knows we are a people of doubt. We have a tough time having faith in being blessed. But Jesus reassures us that we will receive, find, and enter those things we want or need. 
Another hurdle we face as a human race is that of fear, wondering if what we receive will be good in the end. Jesus again, reassures us that His Father is good, comparing Him to our earthly fathers. If fathers on earth have enough common sense to not put their children in danger, or to give them what we need, Jesus tells us that God knows us way better than our own fathers, and will certainly be good to us, giving us exactly what we need, even before we need it. He knows what's down the road for us, and He prepares us to face the things to come. Maybe He'll give us a job that gives us the skills to take on a huge task that comes later in life. Or a child that will be gifted in areas their parents are not, so they can help their parents in that way. Whatever it is, we can be certain that God will take care of us, and give us what we need when we ask. 
Another part of this reading goes into asking for the right things. The people demand a sign from heaven that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, but Jesus tells them they are asking for the wrong thing. He has already brought signs. Our motives need to be right when we go to God with requests. If we go to Him without the faith it takes to believe in Him, we might be shot down. I we go to Him, oblivious to our sin and not caring about making our lives right, the blessings may be hard to come by. Make sure you approach Him with a right heart when putting in your requests. 

Reading: Deuteronomy 4:15-5:33

Our personal lives must always seek to keep God on top. If we seek Him wholeheartedly, we will find Him and live prosperous lives (4:29). We can't go about life seeking approval of others and thriving on their love when God's love is most powerful and consistent. We read into the Ten Commandments, reminding us of where we seek. The first commandments focus on putting God first, and the rest on living humbly and in harmony with others. When we seek, we strive to obey, and set our priorities straight. God cares so much for us that He wants us to live prosperous lives. Many times we confuse the rules as boundaries that hold us back from fun. But when we place rules on things, it's because we care enough about those things that we want to protect them. Parents with kids put down rules out of love. They don't wake up in the morning thinking about how to take fun away from their kids. They worry and love them. They want to protect them, and help them live prosperous, long lives. God wants e same for us. When kids obey their parents and refuse to show defiance, that show they love their parents back. When we obey God, we show love back to Him. Seeking Him and showing our love for Him will truly lead us in prosperous lives, full of God's blessing. Seek Him daily, and strive to pay back your love for Him by following His instruction. 

Jesus promises us that when we ask, we will receive. When we seek, we will find. When we knock, the door will be opened. We need to strive to seek Him daily. When we have the right heart and motives, we will be blessed and live prosperous lives in His Name. Seeking Him is the best thing you can do. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Day 95: High Priorities

 Reading: Psalm 41:7-13

It can go unsaid that by now that we know David faced many worries and struggles. We also read over and over again how he cries out to God in the midst of these struggles and praises God when he sees Him work. We also have read, especially today, about how he seeks God's presence constantly. Our main priorities as followers of Christ should be to seek out His presence in our lives continually. When we lose focus of Him, we tend to fall off the path. We can claim we are followers, but if we don't show it with His direction in our lives, we are no different than anyone else in this world. But when we proceed to keep Him center of our lives, no matter the circumstances, we will be putting Him on display everywhere we go. Don't let His presence slip from your life.

Reading: Luke 10:25-11:4

Jesus is our prime example of setting our priorities straight in our lives. When He is asked what the greatest commandments are (or greatest priorities), He replies with putting God first, then loving your neighbors. He takes it a step further in telling the story about the Jewish man who was beaten and robbed, left on the side of the road. A priest and a temple assistant both came by at different times, but did not stop for him. Two men who are highly looked up to in the religious world both neglect to help a neighbor in need. There may have been many reasons these men wouldn't stop. Maybe they were late for church, or didn't want to become unclean as it made you unclean to touch a dead body in that day, thus not being allowed to enter the temple. Perhaps they didn't want to take the risk of the other robbers being around. Whatever the reason, they had one. I find myself sadly relating to this as many times I'm running off to church meetings or need to get to work (at church), and find myself too busy to help someone who needs it, or who calls. There's always a reason not to help someone, or to do something. 
Finally a Samaritan, a race despised by the Jewish people, stops and helps the man. This man not only stops, but takes him to a place to stay and get well, paying for it all. Now this is truly loving your neighbor and setting your priorities straight. 
Another example we read about is that of Jesus visiting with Martha and Mary. Mary sits and listens to Jesus as Martha rushes around, getting angry that Mary isn't helping her put a feast together. Jesus' response to this, however is that spending time with Him, as Mary was doing, was the right thing to do. This just goes to show us that spending time with God before we get into any of the busy work of this world is the highest priority we should have. One of my favorite quotes is "if you're too busy to open your Bible, you're more busy than God intended you to be." Jesus teaching His disciples how to pray is another example of the importance of spending time with God. 
Keep God number 1. Before work, before sports, before school, before anyone else in your life. Then love others, no matter how much you despise them. These are our priorities, according to Jesus.

Reading: Deuteronomy 2:24-4:14

As we read through the records of the people coming into the Promised Land, we can really begin to see that God neither cared about the land or His laws, but about having a relationship with the people that would carry on for generations to come. The laws are a proclamation of God's love for us, as He longs to have us near to Him, and our obedience to the laws are our response to Him in what He has done in our lives. God intends our relationship with Him to be a highly visible face in this world. We are to be set apart and only in this world, not of this world, and following its ways. Our priority should be to put God on display. This comes when we have His presence in every aspect of our lives, when we spend time with Him, and when we help our neighbors, no matter who they are. Make these things a high priority in your life as a follower of Christ.

Priorities are an important part of life, especially in a world as busy as ours. As followers of Christ, our example is laid out in Jesus. Today, we read about putting Christ center of our lives by keeping His presence in every aspect of it. Also following the greatest commandments of putting Him first, then loving our neighbors whether we like them or not. Putting these things on high priority in our lives will put God and His love on display for the world to see.