Saturday, August 31, 2013

Day 124: Lighting Society

Reading: Proverbs 11:9-18

You can be a blessing not only to the society you live in, but in the nation! We read about the kinds of people that bless a society, and those who tear apart a society. Impacting your world starts at home. How do you treat your family and those you live with? Can you uphold a respectable reputation with them? You can relate with either side of each of these Proverbs, whether you've seen someone else in action, or you yourself falls on one of the sides. However you act at home will always carry into everywhere else you go. Just because you can put on a mask and a sweet face doesn't mean your family is oblivious to how you treat them. But when you are respectable and seen highly within your own family unit, trustworthy, prosperous, wise, sensible, gracious, kind, and full of life, you can then carry those morals into society in the way you carry yourself. These Proverbs are key to being an upstanding citizen and member of your family. Consider which side you fall on. When you have a positive or negative impact on your family, that carries into society and your community, and from there into your country.

Reading: John 4:1-26

Jesus broke barriers that even believers today would drop their jaws at. The question that hangs out there is why does that bother some Christians so much? Why can't we also break barriers with nonbelievers? We see an instance in Jesus' life where He encounters a Samaritan woman. Not only was this woman, well, a woman, but she was a Samaritan, and Jews were never caught associating with Samaritans. Jesus shows how He hung out with women, people of another culture, people of another social status, and sinners, and because we as followers of Jesus should do as He did, we must welcome all with open arms into our churches. Church isn't a country club for those who share a 1 common trait, but a welcoming atmosphere for all people in all walks of life.
Jesus tells this woman that the water He offers is water for those who will never thirst again. He offers it to all people from all phases of life. We should never deny someone the opportunity to come into our church to taste and see what Jesus is about. He makes it very clear that this living water is for all, no matter the sin, the color, the income, the gender.
Who do you need to welcome to church with open arms?

Reading: Judges 1:1-2:5

Sometimes it's just hard to follow what God says compared to what the world says. God warns the Israelites repeatedly throughout their journey and in the Promised Land to be ruthless with the temptations in their lives. Because they disobey (again) they find that these sins become nothing but thorns in their sides, causing a miserable life. To change a society, it takes leaders who are ruthless about the sin in their lives. They need to strive for perfection when it comes to following Christ, and though they will never be perfect, as only God is, the heart of it is that they try for it. We are all leaders for Christ. If you call yourself a follower of Him, you are also a leader in this world, advocating His purpose and light. Be ruthless about the temptations of the world and the sin you allow into your life. No matter how much someone tells you to "loosen up" or "it won't hurt anyone" the truth of it is that it can hurt you, for a long time. Being adamant about diminishing sin and temptation in your life is important to being a strong follower of Christ and a strong leader in this world. Don't let a stupid mistake become a thorn in your side for life. Lead the example.

Being a light in society can seem daunting and just impossible at times. But Jesus came to overcome the world, and He has given you that gift as His follower. By being a strong follower of Him, you can be a strong leader for Him in this world. Change in society starts at home. Start with your heart, then the nearest people to you, then spread the change to the world.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Day 123: Choices for Life

Reading: Psalm 55:12-23

Choose Trust
I admit, I'm a worrier. I worry about all sorts of things, big and small. But I always have to remind myself to trust instead of worry. Reading this Psalm is a great example of how David continually puts trust in the Lord over carrying around the burden of worry. I never could quite comprehend how David went through trial after trial, and running from everyone and somehow staying sane. (The same goes with Job, but that's another story for another day.) But we read in verse 22: "Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall." I find encouragement in this verse as I face struggles today. It would be a great idea to write each year in the margins of this verse a struggle you're facing, then when you come back to it, to see how God moved in that, and remember how you put your trust in Him.
When we choose to trust, we open a whole new door of confidence and faith. No matter how things turn out, we can rest assured that God doesn't want us to have the burden of worry. When we trust in Him, we grow in Him. What burden are you worrying about today that you need to turn into trust in Him?

Reading: John 3:22-36

Choose Jesus
We can see how popular John the Baptist became as more people came to him to be baptized, and even though John's followers got competitive with Jesus, John pointed them to Jesus. This should be how we all live life. We can always work towards bettering ourselves, moving up the ladder, training for success, but in the long run, where are you pointing your life? John compares his relationship with Jesus as the friend and "best man" to the groom, he being Jesus' best man. He is there for Jesus, and pointing people to Him.
We can live for ourselves, or we can live for Him. "He must become greater; I must become less." John echos this in this reading, and we are to do the same in our lives. When we find success, we should give it to God. The focus should never be on ourselves when our mission is the point people to Him. When we choose Jesus over ourselves, we will reap eternal rewards and find the ultimate success in Him. Are you being the "best man" or "best woman" to Jesus and making it about Him, instead about yourself? How do you display this in your life, and what evidence do you see of Him there? May we live each day proclaiming, "He must become greater; I must become less."

Reading: Joshua 23:1-24:33

Choose Whom You Will Serve
As we near the end of Joshua's life, we read how he reminds the people of what the Lord has done for them. Once he lays this out, he challenges the people, asking them whom they will serve. We know that in this world the choices are endless. There are so many pleasures and things we can commit our lives to. We can depend on power, money, sex, drugs, sports, success, etc. But the people proclaim that they will indeed serve the Lord.
When we assess our own lives, what is the thing that sticks out most? Do you spend hours and money on one thing in particular? Is it for the Lord? You can always tell where one devotes themselves by looking at their schedule and their checkbook. There are temptations all around to sway us to spend our devotion on one thing or another. We will always be seeking though, if we don't come to the conclusion that God is the ultimate satisfaction. Life is short, and culture gets more daunting. When we pass these values down to our children and raise them in the standards that God lays out for us, we pass along the most important possession they will ever have.
Choose this day whom, or what, you will serve. Make it evident in and out of your life.

We face choices everyday. Some are tiny, some are huge. But we read about some of the bigger ones today. We can choose to trade in worry for trust. We can choose to trade in the world for Jesus. And we can choose to trade in serving other things for serving the Lord. Where is your life devoted? Your life will reflect it. Choosing Jesus is the most important decision you can make, and I say this from observing my life and the lives of others. Choose this day whom you will serve. Become less, so He can become greater.

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Day 119: Proclaiming His Uniqueness

Reading: Psalm 53:1-9

Jesus was the only One Who never sinned on earth. He is unlike any other. Though there are many different people in the world, none are as righteous and perfect as Jesus, Who rescued all of mankind from eternal separation. We read in this Psalm that God looks down and finds no good man, not one. But Jesus gives us that opportunity and opens that door for us to be righteous and with Him. We can celebrate this uniqueness of Jesus!

Reading: John 1:1-28

There is loaded information in this reading, that is almost incomprehensible. John explains and sets the path for Jesus in such a unique, powerful, clever way, that makes all groups of people wonder who this One could be that he is expressing. There are many reasons according to this section of our reading that express why Jesus is indeed the One and Only:

John expresses that Jesus is the Word of God. This is so clever because not only does this appeal to the people reading the Bible today, it appealed to the Jews, as this idea was very important to them. The Greeks because they associate the word to the "meaning of life". And the Philosophers because they viewed "the Word" as being an unknown meaning and purpose to the universe.
But this appealed to all as being Jesus. Jesus is the Word of God. 

Jesus is also expressed as a unique Creator in John's description. Without God's creation, we would have nothing. Everything comes from His creation. He is the ultimate Creator and Mastermind behind what is given to us.

Jesus is Light! Light always overpowers darkness. Jesus was the ultimate Light in that He was full of both truth and grace. He loved fully, yet He held tightly to His convictions. He is goodness and truth. Darkness is evil and false. One, tiny light can be seen from miles away. Darkness cannot overcome it.

Jesus transforms lives. He can turn lives around in unique, powerful ways. We join a family of God when we say "yes" to Him and allow Him to have rule and reign in our lives. This causes powerful transformation.

Jesus is God. He reveals God and shows God's power. He is God that came to this earth, so He may relate to us. He came so that we may have life. The only perfect and good person to walk on this earth. He was fully human and fully God.

We see the contrast of John the Baptist and Jesus here. John humbled himself to Jesus, claiming that Jesus is the All-mighty, Whose sandals he's not even worthy to touch. We are to be the John's out there, proclaiming Who Jesus is. The Living Word, the Light, God, Creator and Transformer.

Reading: Joshua 15:1-16:10

Though Caleb and Joshua had made it to the Promised Land, they still had to take it. God had led them to this land in crazy ways and had blessed them with it, but they still had to respond and take the land for themselves, with God's help. We learn much about God's truth and grace from our John reading. God offers us salvation in Him, but we still need to respond. He doesn't just give it to us automatically, we need to accept that invitation, and allow God to be our #1 in life. When God blesses us with various things in life, we need to work for it sometimes. Salvation is never, ever earned, it is indeed a gift, but we need to respond. God led the people to the land that was promised for them, but they still had to show initiative and claim it. May we live a life full of truth and grace, and be thankful to God for being full of both of these things, no matter what task we are facing.

Today, may we celebrate the uniqueness of Jesus. We can be in awe of His truth and grace, of His ultimate creation, His life transformations, His goodness, His light. May we be like John the Baptist and proclaim this wonderful uniqueness of Jesus high and low.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Day 122: The Conflict with Conflict

Reading: Psalm 55:1-11

Confrontation can be a tricky, scary thing for some people. If anyone is like me, you run the opposite direction of it as quickly as you can. But God never intended us to run from conflict, but to handle it properly and according to His Word. In this Psalm we read how David handles conflict in the city and around him - prayerfully. We can relate to David even in today's world. There are ridiculous acts of crime and terrorism all around us. There are bombings, shootings, child molestations, kidnappings...all things full of strife and darkness. David recognizes this in his own time, and he prays for those things. They may be too big for us to handle alone, but we know that with God all things are possible. He can change a heart in the midst of conflict, and before we even think about engaging in conflict with others, we should always get God involved in prayer. Pray for the conflict around you and the conflict that directly involves you. Don't ever rush into it with haste.

Reading: John 3:1-21

Jesus gives us an example of how to handle conflict. He handles it with love. Nicodemus, a pharisee who asks Jesus about evidence of God sending Him to them, continues to challenge Jesus and His teaching. Jesus gently explains to Nicodemus the process of being born again so that one can enter the Kingdom of God. The entire bases of the gospels is love (agape). Jesus displays it well.
Approaching conflict with hate is doing nothing but feeding the fire of the argument. But approaching conflict with love is feeding the relationship. Even if you never see eye to eye on the subject, there was still a respectable way of handling the conflict at hand.
Coming at darkness with darkness doesn't create nothing more than darkness. The same goes with hate and evil. Both just make it worse. However, coming at darkness with light helps deplete the darkness. Coming at hate with love will feed the relationship, even if hate still holds on, the example was still planted. The same with good and evil.
Take Jesus' example through out His ministry and live an example of love. Just because you love someone doesn't mean you have to agree with them, but you don't feed the hate. Jesus was light that came into darkness. Be a light to someone today.

Reading: Joshua 21:20-22:34

Here we read about an example of why we should always approach conflict wisely and never in haste. Though the 2 and a half tribes that built up an alter looked bad and like it was going against the Lord's will, their motives were just the opposite of what the other tribes thought.
The others even prepared to go to war with these tribes, but wisely, decided to confront them and get answers for their alter building. Because they did this, they saved themselves from a great mistake, learning that the alter was to ensure their children always kept their faith.
We can learn a great deal from this. Instead of going behind backs and talking about conflict, we can just approach it wisely before jumping to conclusions. This can be an issue in the church especially and it is exactly what Satan uses to divide a church and cause havoc among the body. Always get the straight answer before telling your neighbor about your own conclusions. If you don't, you could start quite a war for no reason, and this doesn't only make you look bad, but the entire body of Christ.

Conflict can be such a puzzling and tricky thing to approach. But God lays out instructions and even examples of how to approach it wisely. Never jump to conclusions about your neighbor, as this could lead to division in the church for no reason at all, but talk it out with love. Follow Jesus' example when He had to confront the Pharisees. There is a biblical way to handle conflict and it is a biblical thing. Conflict is only bad when it is handled the wrong way. Educate yourself on God's way of handling it.

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Day 121: When Surprised by God

Reading: Psalm 54:1-7

It's quite amazing how quickly attacks can come out of nowhere from people we don't even know. David knew this all too well, as we read about his experience in this Psalm. Though David ran from all sorts of opposition and was attacked from all directions, he did turn to the Lord to deliver and help him face his pursuers. As we see how David reacted to these hardships, we too, can turn to God for help. We can turn to Him whenever any surprise attack hits us. Whether it's people we know (or don't know), medical issues popping up, car repairs at the most inconvenient times, troubles at work you never saw coming, whatever it is, take it to the Lord to help you and give you the strength and words to make it through. He's delivered you before, whether you realize it or not, and He surely can do it again. Give those surprises to Him.

Reading: John 2:1-25

Jesus had many surprising traits, as we read about in this section. He displayed this to many around Him right off the bat in His ministry.
His ability to enrich you. We see a surprising enrichment at the wedding Jesus and His disciples attended. Though the party had run out of wine, Jesus performs one of His very first miracles and turns bath water into the best wine. He didn't judge the people drinking the wine in the process. But by simply knowing there was a need, Jesus was able to fulfill that need and enrich those around Him.
In our own lives, when we bring our needs and worries to Jesus, He can enrich us by turning the bland, boring, dirty parts of our lives into refreshing, goodness. It is ironic this enriching miracle took place at a wedding, as that is also proof that Jesus can enrich a dull marriage in need of refreshing. What in your life needs to be enriched? Have you brought it to Jesus?

We also see how surprisingly passionate Jesus is in this reading. His outburst in the temple towards the people selling shows how passionate He is about His Father's house and purpose. He turned over the tables and chased them out with a whip. Money should never be the bottom line of the church. Though we are to be given the opportunity to give our tithes and offerings, sales and one's own gain on church grounds is definitely against Jesus' view of the church. We can see just how intolerant He is of it. When the focus is on money, there needs to be urgent and blatant reevaluation.

Jesus show just how important He is. Jesus tells the people in the temple that it will be rebuilt in three days after it is destroyed. Though this confuses and even insults people at the time, we know that Jesus is the new true Temple, as His body is the temple. God's dwelling place is symbolized by the temple. Many viewed Jesus as a great Teacher, but His significance was far greater, as He was the way to God.

We also see that Jesus was surprisingly realistic. Jesus is the only perfect man to walk the earth. He didn't easily trust everyone around Him, as He knew the faults of humankind. This can be a lesson to those of us who are always looking to have perfect human beings in our lives. I can't believe how many women put their lives on hold because they are waiting on that perfect man. (Sadly ladies, there are none.) But keep in mind that you are not perfect yourself. We waste energy and emotion, longing for the perfect spouse, perfect kids, perfect parents, perfect friends, and a perfect church, when in reality, that doesn't exist in this world. Jesus knew this too well. Though Jesus understood the balance between love, trust and openness and of the flawed human heart.

Reading: Joshua 19:1-21:19

There are many startling laws we read about in the Old Testament. Though they may be startling to us, back in the times of the Israelites forming new societies on the other side of the Jordan, these laws were perfectly normal and the way it was. One we read about today is the law that protects someone who was involved in accidental murder. It provides places those people can go, and they must be kept safe there until they are proven guilty. Now this law may be ok to us. Justice should be a big part of the Christian faith, and humane justice at that. Back in the times of the Israelites, however, this law could have been startling, especially coming from a God Who held such strong standards. But this goes to show that we have a God of justice, Who cares for us all individually, and wants the best from our lives.
God is on your side when you are following His will. He wants to protect and help you succeed in life. That is why He puts the rules in place, and our response to His love is to keep ourselves in check with those rules. It is how we can have the best life we can now.

God sure throws some surprising stuff our way at times. Life can also do this, as we face those surprises that aren't as fun. But we need to remember that we serve a God of wonderful, surprising attributes, Who cares deeply for us. We can take our worries and burdens to Him, and He will provide for us. He has our back when we follow His will. Go to Him, and let Him surprise you.

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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Day 120: Taking Ownership

Reading: Proverbs 10:31-11:8

As Christians, we are given the gift of righteousness, however, just because we are given righteousness, we need to take ownership of it. We read a lot about the wicked vs. the righteous in Proverbs, and we can see the obvious one that God favors. When we are righteous and in a right relationship with both God and people, we get a package deal. With rigteousness comes:
Wisdom - As we read in Proverbs 10:31a, 32a, godly, righteous people speak words of wisdom and are helpful with their words.
Humility- In Proverbs 11:2, Pride is disgraceful, but humility brings wisdom. People full of humility put others and God before themselves.
Integrity - Proverbs 11:3a, 4b says that good people are guided by honesty and integrity, and that living by these things can save you from death.
Character - Proverbs 11:5a and 6a tells us that being a person of good character are guided and saved by their honest morals.

Have you taken ownership of the righteousness that is given to you? If not, how can you do that today?

Reading: John 1:29-51

Jesus offers all kinds of gifts to us. He has given us the promise that all things are possible through Him, and that we need not feel guilty or powerless with Him. Taking ownership of these facts can be tough, but are indeed facts that we need to take to heart.
When we see Jesus come around after John the Baptist points people towards him, we see a myriad of men approach Him, calling Him many excellent titles, from Messiah to Rabbi to the One whom Moses and the prophets wrote about. Many of Jesus' disciples go on to do great things in the history of the Christian church, as we see how much Simon Peter influenced its gain. Others simply pointed others to Him, bringing friends and family to Him to meet Him.
When we take ownership of what Jesus has brought to us, we too can do these great things. Some of us may do great things like Peter in shaping the history of the church, and others will also do great things in inviting a neighbor, friend, family member to Jesus.
We need to remember the promises Jesus gave to us and the gifts He gives to us to do just these things. Have you been able to take ownership of His promises and His power? Do so today, so that you may go and do amazing things for His name!

Reading: Joshua 17:1-18:28

Here we read of a tangible example of taking ownership or possession of something God has given us. Joshua asks the people why they are standing around and not taking possession of the land God has given them. Many times, we are like these people, too fearful to take ownership of our gifts. To make this more applicable to us, consider an area of your personal life that you haven't claimed victory in yet. Maybe it's your job, your career plans, your love life, etc. What is that one thing in your life that isn't quite given fully to God because of your fears? Are you too scared to give most of your life to Him because you're afraid the fun will end? God provides the most fulfilling life you'll ever get, and not giving those areas you cling to to Him, will result in you missing out. Just like the people not taking possession of the land that was given to them because the opposition was strong, we fail to take possession of God's power and the ability it has to work wonders in all areas of our lives.
What power are you putting higher than God's power? Do you have more faith that God can fulfill you more than you know how to fulfill yourself? Take possession of His power. Thrive on His power. Allow Him to take your life, and give you fulfillment in it.

Though as Christians we are given many, many gifts from God, we need to take ownership of them. Just because we now have the power of God on our side, we still need to take ownership of it. Giving God areas of our life to work His fulfillment in may be scary and maybe we just don't feel like giving Him power over our jobs, careers, love lives, futures dreams, because we are fearful in what He'll do with it. But He has proven Himself to be good, always. So why do you fear? Give Him the power over those things you cling to, and He'll fulfill your life better than you even know how. Take ownership of His power, His name, His love.

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