Saturday, August 2, 2014

Day 59: Lord, Be Merciful

Reading: Psalm 27:7-14

David faced so many downfalls and continually seemed to be staring up from the very bottom of life. His enemies pursued him hard, but he never lost faith in God rescuing him. We will absolutely face trials and fear in this life. Some will be huge, and others will be small, but each offers an opportunity to look up to God, and rely on Him to pull us through.
One of the reasons I've been away from this blog for so long is because of one of the greatest trials I've faced in this life yet. After giving birth to my gorgeous daughter, I had to have open-chest surgery for a 7-inch long pulmonary embolism. It was definitely a low in my life, as I spent a week in the icu, and two week from my newborn. But God granted me an immense sense of peace and comfort through the entire thing. The weeks after that were tough as well, as I had to learn to have patience to heal and trust others to take care of my baby, as I couldn't lift. It was probably tougher for me than the whole ordeal itself. There were many time between the 3am feedings and the painful days of getting by that I just wanted to shout "why?" at God.
He, however, grants us much mercy, as we stumble through life. He comforts us when we're down, and we are responsible for sharing His great love with those around us. My story has touched many, and continues to get around, but I offer no one the glory, except God for pulling me through those hard couple of months.
So when you are at the bottom of the pit of life, be sure to look no where but up, and give Him all the glory for your success.

What is something you are facing lately that seems impossible to conquer?

 Who do you tend to turn to when things go wrong?

Reading: Mark 10:13-31

Jesus displays mercy on the children, the poor, the rich and the persecuted. He calls us to do the same. Some societies can tend to look down on children, especially in the time and culture of Jesus. Others look down on the poor. Some look down on the rich, usually because of jealousy and the power money gives them. Many look down on Christians, which causes persecution. It can be easy to live in a country that allows freedom to worship as a Christian and that is one of the richest in the world, though many might not believe that. Jesus showed mercy to the kids that the disciples tried to turn away, but blessing them, and telling them to allow the children to come to Him. When we have faith like children, we are more open-minded and excited for what Jesus has to offer us. As adults, we tend to over-analyze and ask questions we don't need to know. We bicker over the small things in church, and refuse to worship until it's our way, rather than God's.
When we rely on money, as Jesus says it's hard for the rich to come to heaven, we put that first in our lives. We can know scripture, obey the commandments, and impress our pastors, but those things will never get us to heaven. Only true, child-like faith, and His grace alone will get us there.
Jesus loved the outcasts. We are to have mercy as He did.
As the song by Relient K goes, "Jesus loved the outcasts. He loved the ones the world just loved to hate."

Is there a group of people in particular that you tend to isolate? How can you apply these words to changing your love for them? Remember that loving them doesn't have to mean accepting their way of life.

What kind of faith do you have? The child-like faith that gets excited and open about what God has to offer you, or the kind that over-analyzes it?

Reading: Leviticus 4:1-5:13

As you can see from this reading alone, getting forgiveness was a messy, detailed process before Jesus died for our sins. To be made right with God before Jesus, the people had to follow all of these rules and processes to be atoned. Jesus, however, came to wipe out all of those rules. His mercy and love for us got rid of that barrier so that we may come to Him at anytime and any place. There is no need to be made right with God through all of the rules, when it is by His grace alone that we are saved and made right in Him.

What are some rules you find overly done? Why do you think they exist?

What about God's grace do you love the most?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

You call me out upon the waters...

I would like to write devos based off of the song "Oceans" by Hillsong, line by line. It has become my life song in response to all that has happened in my life this past year, and I think writing my story to this song will help immensely. 

Today's line: "You call me out upon the waters..."

God's calling in our lives can leave us feeling a bit unsure. When God calls us into a mission, a place, a job, a new start, etc. we may look at Him with an eyebrow raised, as if He is calling us to walk on water. The thing we need to remember is that Jesus physically DID walk on the water.

We don't always know what God is calling us to do. Sometimes it is just thrown into our lives and we must take it in stride. If we don't, our faith could waiver. When Jesus called out to Peter to step onto the water with Him, I'm sure Peter just stared and thought deeply about what was being considered. His first steps out onto the water was probably like that of a toddler learning to walk for the first time. They cling to the side of the couch, looking around for the next place to step to and grab on to, but Peter didn't have anything but a boat, open water and Jesus.

Circumstances in life can leave us feeling stranded and unsure about what God is actually asking us to do. I can't tell you how terrified I was to bring our newborn home from the hospital. The day we were released from the hospital and had to strap her into that car seat, then drive her home 2 hours, was probably one of the most unsure days and nights of my life. Now Mark and I would have to raise her without the luxury of calling the hospital nursery to our aid, or a nurse to show us again how to swaddle and bathe. Jesus certainly calls new parents onto the waters.

If that wasn't terrifying enough for me, I came home from the hospital a second time to still take care of a newborn that I hadn't taken care of in three weeks, and do it after open-chest surgery. Talk about waters! I remember just looking up at God and asking "What are you doing, God? How do you expect me to do this?" I could barely bend over, pick up my arms, and get in and out of the shower, let alone take care of an infant, but those were the waters I was called to at the time.

When God throws those unsure waters at you, consider the outcome of it. Consider where it will take you and what it will do for your faith. It will give you the opportunity to look at yourself and see just how capable He is in you.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Day 58: Set Apart

Reading: Psalm 27:1-6

Life sure can come with an overwhelming tone at times. No matter where we go, there can always be something to pull us down or make us feel as if we're sinking, but when we run to God, we can find peace can worship the only thing that matters in this life. No matter how hard we plan our lives and what we do to stick to those plans, we will be disappointed. Working around God's plans are the only way to experience a peace and joy that last forever. David was surrounded by hardship, constantly. Yet he expresses such a style of worship here that would say otherwise. David puts his plans around God's plans, not his own. We can take heart in the fact that God has it all under control, and when we accept that, we'll see a peace that overcomes all understanding. Fight the urge to take control in a world where you are encouraged to. Let go, and let God.

What about your life is chaotic right now?

When have you experienced peace by working around God's plans instead of your own?

Reading: Mark 9:33-10:12

There are many things that Jesus encourages us to do that don't quite match the world's way of doing things. We see division among people early on, as the disciples argue about who is greater. Jesus shuts this down, however in saying that in His world, the last are first and the first are last. We are to show great love to those who can't do things for us, including the children, poor, needed, sick, etc. So many times we focus on the "what's in it for me" before even considering welcoming those who are weaker into our churches and homes and lives. We need to take a stance of humility and do what Jesus did for these kinds of people. Invite them into our churches, accepting them as equals to us. We need to give to them without expecting anything in return.
We also read about how Jesus wants us to handle temptations and sin. He takes a very blunt stance on what to do if we are tempted, though we aren't meant to actually cut our hand or foot off. He tells us to rid of those things that cause temptation in our lives, whether that be the people we hang out with, or the things we let into our minds. Just get rid of them.
When it comes to divorce, Jesus has some clear opinions on that, that are controversial today.
We can choose to live in Jesus' world or this world. We are in this world, but don't have to be of it.

What are some things acceptable in society that go completely against what Jesus stands for?

How do you personally feel about these things?

Reading: Leviticus 1:1-3:17

Though sacrifices aren't needed anymore, as Jesus came to take away the need for those, we can see just how important they were to making yourself holy before God. God's people are to be set apart and not like the people who care only of things of this world. Sacrifices were necessary for forgiveness and cleansing to happen. We can see the power it took for Jesus to take that all away on our behalf and offer Himself up as the perfect, ultimate sacrifice for all sin for all time.
We still need to be set apart from this world today, however, following Christ and His plan for us. Don't let the world and religion weigh you down with all the rules, when all it takes is an acceptance of Christ's sacrifice for you. Bring your sin and troubles to God and He will make you clean.

What things in your life do you need to bring to God?

How can the world and religion weigh you down with all of its rules?

We are called to be a holy people before God. As followers, we should build our plans around His, rather than trying to fit Him into our lives. When we take the focus off ourselves and put it on Christ, we'll experience an overwhelming sense of peace. It's your choice to follow either the world's way of doing things, or God's. Your life will reflect the path you take.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Day 57: Toxic Entitlement

Reading: Psalm 26:1-12

It is incredible to stand in the glory of God, as we see David proclaim how glorious God is. David, being a king himself, pointed toward God with his life. He gave God all the glory and props for where he was led and when he was rescued. He never took the credit for himself. David tried to live a blameless life before God, but asked for cleansing in times of weakness. When we stand here in this world, admiring the awesome glory of God, we can take something from David in proclaiming God's wonderful hand in our lives. Even when we think we have it all together, we can humble ourselves before Him and lead lives that come to Him when needing cleansing.
Don't roll around in your own glory when everything in this life you have is because of God. Give Him the praise and props He deserves.

When have you experienced God's amazing glory?

What is something in your life that you need to give God all the praise for?

Reading: Mark 9:2-32

Though we are to proclaim and give glory to Jesus' Name, Jesus told many not to tell anyone Who He truly was. He put His Father first and insisted we turn to His will as well before our own. In a world that is filled with people who believe they are entitled to know all and to get what they want before believing, we need to shut this down in our own lives as followers of Christ. Entitlement is a poison that causes frustrations across church families, taints a humble heart and causes you to stumble. Jesus didn't display a sense of entitlement. In fact, He insisted that people have faith and He humbled Himself so that we may have life. He shares a piece of this awesome return with James, John and Peter on the mountain, yet tells them to keep it secret.
When the man brings his boy to be healed of the demon, Jesus admires the man's humility when he states for Jesus to help his unbelief. Humility and putting others ahead of yourself can build faith strong and help you to reach the people who need faith most. Don't let the world taint you with this messed up view of entitlement and getting what YOU deserve first.

Is there any sense of entitlement in your life? How can you begin to rid of this?

Where do you need to take a stance of humility in your life?

Reading: Exodus 39:1-40:38

As we wrap up the book of Exodus, we can see how the people have come out of such darkness and hardship to see the wonderful glory of God come together in the Tabernacle. As we read over the last couple days, the people came together with their gifts and skills to help put the Tabernacle and the parts of it together, which now reflect the glory and radiance of God. When we can pull together as a people of God and make it all about Him instead of about ourselves, we can enjoy His work before us. God rewards those who work on His side, whether that be when you go out in the mission field and feel the blessing of helping others, or contribute to something like the Tabernacle to bring His glory forth.
Putting God before yourself truly brings forth His radiance in and through your life.

Do you need to put God first in an area of your life?

What is something that you've done before that you felt rewarded by God by?

In a society that thrives on entitlement and putting self before anyone or anything else, we must learn to shove this perspective away if we truly want to put God's glory ahead of all else. Having humility and giving God the glory through our lives will surely be a great witness for Him. When we can get past the "me" factor and focus in on putting God ahead of all else, we can grow in great ways and in faith. There is nothing worse than chasing your own glory while doing the Lord's work. Don't let this society taint your heart and faith with the entitlement factor.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Day 56: Don't Waste Your Life

Reading: Proverbs 6:1-11

Two things we are warned not to waste in this Proverb are time and money. Making the most of our finances and our time can keep us up in life, and help us to make the most of life. Wasting our money on things that we don't need or owing money can suck life out from under you and your family. We are told to do everything we can NOW to settle financial problems and to get on track with our money.
Time works the same way. There is a reason why God took the seventh day off after creating the world, but there is also a reason He provides the example of working the other six. A well-deserved break is always good, but not if we're taking our breaks frequently and accomplishing little to nothing. To get the most out of life, we need to work hard and do our best to avoid laziness.
Honoring God with our time and money is important and a key in making the most of our lives.

Are there places in your budget that need to be fixed? What can you do to solve those issues?

What do you do in your spare time? Does it honor God?

Reading: Mark 8:14-9:1

Walking in a life with Christ requires a daily denial of yourself and acceptance of Him. Jesus uses yeast in bread to symbolize how something little can taint your whole life. We need to be careful of those things that we turn to instead of Jesus, which can cause us to lose life. Taking up our cross daily means to give up everything you have dreamed about, planned, and cling to in order to follow Jesus and do what He wants of you. Wasting our lives on worldly things will  only leave us desperate and disappointed in the end. Why gain whatever you want in this world, but lose your soul? Jesus tells us to choose carefully the path we will follow when it comes to deciding the lives we want. When we choose the life that follows Him and His plans, we'll gain a satisfaction much greater than what anything in this world can ever offer us.

What do you need to give up in this life for Jesus?

What do you do on a daily basis that requires denying yourself and following God's plan instead?

Reading: Exodus 37:1-38:31

We see excellent example of honoring God fully through our work. Bezalel was a very skilled craftsman who poured his skill into making the elements of the Tabernacle. We can learn from this example to pour ourselves into our work, honoring God as well. Wasting our lives away, only working half-heartedly in a job that doesn't fill the calling God has given us. We should take our gifts, skills and talents and use them to honor God, building up His Kingdom and Church.
Don't waste your life by wasting those things He's given you.

What gifts, skills, talents do you have? How do you use them for God?

Are you working somewhere you don't feel called? How can you make a wise decision for Christ in this way?

We need to be careful not to waste our lives by blowing our time and money. We are called to follow Christ daily and make a decision to deny ourselves and follow Him over and over with each new day. Honoring Christ is all we do, including in our work with our gifts and talents will fulfill us and we'll be doing what is in His plan for us. Don't waste your life and use it on yourself, when you can give it all to God and find wonderful satisfaction through Him alone. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Day 55: Little to Great

Reading: Psalm 25:16-22

There is no doubt that we'll face troubles in life. Sometimes we'll face trouble after trouble. Though sometimes we can feel forgotten or left out when we sink in these troubles, God can work through them in great ways. We see the work He does through David and others in the Bible, and they sure made an impact in the world with their words to us. When the big problems come your way, remember that God is big enough to handle them. They are like little problems to Him, yet He cares for you in big ways. Let Him take the reigns for you when you feel overwhelmed and broken down.

When have you allowed God to take control when facing a big issue in life?

How do you know that God cares for you in big ways?

Reading: Mark 7:31-8:13

We can sometimes feel like we don't have much to offer God and furthering His Kingdom, but the truth of the matter is He can do so much with our little. We read how once again, Jesus performs a miracle in multiplying very little food for thousands of people. He lets the disciples do some work in it in collecting and distributing, as this shows that God wants us to work with what little we have to show those around us His power and capabilities. Even though Jesus fed this tremendous amount of people, He still went off to be with His disciples and pour into them as a smaller group. This is important in raising up leaders to go and do what Jesus did.
Jesus also cared for people individually, as He took the time to heal a deaf man one on one. He cares deeply for us individually, and wants to do great things in our lives. Let Him take the little you have to offer Him and turn it into something great!

What talents, skills, gifts, etc. do you have to offer God?

Have you ever seen God do great things with very little? When?

Reading: Exodus 35:1-36:38

We see a practice play out here that still is used today in the fact that the people all contributed what little they had to help build up the Tabernacle, where today, people willingly give to help build up the church and keep the mission going. Everyone brought what they were willing to give to complete the Tabernacle. They also used their skills and prayed over it. We can do the same today in building up the Church. Giving what we are willing to give to help keep the mission going is key in expanding the Kingdom. God wants us to give willingly, not because we feel guilty or because we feel forced. Giving from the heart is the best form of giving. Bring your material resources, skills and prayers to keep the Church growing. When we all contribute, we can work side by side for the best purpose of all.

Do you contribute to God's Kingdom expansion in any way? How?

How can you give to His Church and mission on a regular basis? What has He given you that you can give back?

Even though you may feel insignificant and small in this world, God can turn what little you have into powerful and huge things to further His Kingdom. When you come to Him with your skills, materials, prayers, problems, etc. He can work great things through them. Allowing Him to do so will help Him to shine through your life and you can be His witness to those around you.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Day 54: Heart of Hearing Him

Reading: Psalm 25:8-15

Hearing from God requires a certain heart for Him. As we make our way through this reading, we find that God will answer those who are open to Him in different ways. He guides the humble, leads those who obey, is a friend to those who fear Him, etc. When we come to God with our own ideas and agendas, we cut off communication with Him since we are so in tune with ourselves, rather than Him. Hearing His direction, and feeling His presence in our lives takes some clearing of our own hearts and minds. We need to be willing to be open to Him and His direction in order to hear it.

What is something in your life that may be hindering you from fully hearing God?

How can you take the time to hear Him today?

Reading: Mark 7:1-30

Having a heart to hear God's direction takes letting go of tradition sometimes. As a church, really assessing traditions and rituals can be tough and can even tear apart the membership, but we read here that it should never take priority over God's Word and way. The problem with tradition and ritual in this case was the heart of the religious leaders who tried to hold it over the disciples' and Jesus' head. Jesus sure handles this view by stating that they are not as important as the bottom line. When they get in the way of really caring about people and reaching people for Christ.
We see a true heart from the woman who comes, asking for healing for her daughter, and really proves that her recognition of Jesus is through faith. Because of her faith and heart, Jesus heals her daughter instantly. The difference between this woman and the religious leaders is their hearts.

What traditions may be getting in the way of doing outreach for Christ in your life?

Where is your heart when it comes to genuine relationship and work for God? Focused on the traditions and rituals, or on the needs of people?

Reading: Exodus 33:7-34:35

Opening ourselves to God creates an amazing structure to our daily walk with Him. Though the road isn't easy, we can find ourselves walking alongside Him and hanging on His every word. We see the close relationship Moses has built up with the Lord, as he goes to Him to speak as you would to a friend. Moses gets all of his plans for the people from God and refuses to listen elsewhere. Though Moses' face is visibly radiating after he talks to the Lord, we too can have bright lives in listening to God's plans for us. When we give up ourselves and the plans we make to follow the ones that God has for us, we have brighter futures and a more fulfilling life. We're never promised an easier life, but we are promised to have God next to us every step of the way. Getting our plans and dreams from God will lead us down better paths and make us much more happy in the end.

What plans do you have for your life? What kind of hand does God have in those plans?

What do you do to make sure God is apart of your planning?

Hearing God's plans and direction in life takes having a heart and mind open to Him and His Words. We need to make sure we are receptive to His calling, rather than trying to do life our own way. It is possible to do it ourselves, but it is sure a heck of a lot harder and less fulfilling. True direction and fulfillment come from giving up your plans to God and allowing Him to guide your steps. Consider God's way over your own sometime. Hearing Him becomes easier the more open you become with Him.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Day 53: Growing in Quiet Time

Reading: Psalm 25:1-7

I know for me that each day is one that you never know what you're going to get. As a church secretary, you can encounter all sorts of circumstances throughout the day, from that same telemarketer that calls every other day and won't get the hint, to complainers, to angry people, to meeting after meeting, and once in awhile you get the quiet days where things get done (rarely ever happens). One way I can prep for my day and one thing I can count on in the midst of all the variables of the day is quiet time with God. We read here how David came to God during his hardships and put his focus daily on Him, allowing Him to take the reigns of life. This is exactly what we need in a culture that is unsure each day. When I miss those days of God's Word, I find myself more distracted and upset when I encounter the angry, complaining type days. But when I'm grounded in the Word that day, things seem better and though I care about those people who voice opinions, I realize they are not the end all to my day.

How does quiet times with God help you get through the variables of your day?

How do your days go when you have quiet time? What about without quiet time?

Reading: Mark 6:30-56

Sometimes, when all we want to do is have quiet, alone time, especially with God, that's when the distractions come. The phone will ring; an unexpected visitor comes; work gets too demanding and you spend your free time doing projects for that. Even in ministry, you can get distracted from that time, as we read when Jesus feeds the 5,000. He the disciples were on their way to be alone, and yet the crowds came, and Jesus felt compassion on their hunger. Because He followed through with fulfilling that need however, He witnessed to many and showed them He cared for them. When doing ministry, it's important to show people how much you care before you show them what you know.
Within the whirlwind of those busy days, we can feel quite defeated and struck down by life, but when we keep our eyes on Jesus and His power, we don't need to fear about tomorrow and what life is about to throw at us. Jesus walked on water and came to save the disciples from the strong winds that kept them straining. When we count on Jesus to calm our lives, we can get through those days a little easier.

When has life kept you too busy to connect with God on a quiet time basis?

How does looking to God in those crazy times help you to recognize needs around you and to keep you going strong?

Reading: Exodus 31:1-33:6

Being a good leader for God can surely mean being the odd man (or woman) out sometimes. It is so incredibly important to turn to God regularly in quiet time, prayer and study to know His voice from the rest of the world around us. We see how Aaron fell into the trap of the popular opinion and ended up creating the golden calf which the people worshiped instead of God. Moses, however, knowing God's voice and will, knew how wrong this was. Walking in close relationship with God will help you to stay strong against temptations, even if it's what the world around you demands. It's important to engage in quiet time so that you know what is right in God's eyes. Just because the rest of the world insists on one things, doesn't mean it is God's plan for you. Stand close to Him daily so you can stand strong when those questions arise in life.

How does daily time with God help you to know what He intends for you in life?

When have you faced temptation and were able to turn away from it because of something you read in quiet time with God?

It is so important to be in regular quiet time with God, reading His Word and praying to Him. When you stick close to Him daily, you will be able to withstand the hardships, worries, distractions and temptations of life. Knowing His voice over the world's demands can be a lonely road as a leader, but when you are certain of God's will because of your close walk with Him, you'll be able to lead well in Him. Get into His Word and will daily.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Day 52: Right Relationships

Reading: Proverbs 5:15-23

It seems that there is a lot of cheating in today's society when it comes to marriage. This reading is pretty straight forward about what kind of position we should take in our marriages and with our spouses. It is so easy to get tangled up in the temptations and patterns of the world, especially in this area of morals. It seems so acceptable now to sleep around and to have an "open" marriage or relationship, when it is clear in God's Word to be thankful for the spouse you are blessed with. Whether you are married, or want to be married one day, you need to decide now the type of person you will be to that future person. The decisions you make when you are single can tell a lot. Why disrespect your future spouse by sleeping with other people now? The whole "try before you buy" argument is shallow to me personally. If your relationship is based solely on sex and how it makes you feel and you are basing your chemistry on that alone, you will be one disappointed person once you both start to age. Respect your spouses, even before you know who they are.

What is your opinion on sex before marriage? Why?

What decisions do you regret when it comes to relationships? Which ones are you thankful for?

Reading: Mark 6:6b-29

Jesus was all about relationship. He proves that you don't have to be married to have companionship, as He sends out His disciples in pairs to go carry out the ministry. Doing God's work with others is always a great blessing. It's a way to stay accountable, have someone to bounce ideas off of, and to pick you up on those days that ministry is frustrating. We can learn something from this concept of going out in pairs or teams. Having others in support around us makes our work more efficient and easy as you both experience the same things. Jesus encourages good relationships with good people.
Yet we also see how a bad relationship works in this reading. Because of Herod's relationship with his brother's wife, he makes a decision that he regrets in taking John the Baptist's life. He makes a vow to Herodias' daughter, and she orders John to die. Immediately, Herod regrets this, but in fear of looking bad in front of everyone at his party, he orders it to be done. This relationship, as John told Herod many times, was unhealthy and immoral. Though it left Herod perplexed, he still liked to listen to John and kept him around. But because of this immoral relationship, Herod is wound up in it enough to take orders from the woman's daughter and make a horrible decision.
Good companionship is highly praised and encouraged by Jesus, but immoral relationships and bad companions come with a price. Choose who you surround yourself with carefully.

Who are your closest companions? Are they good or bad for your relationship with Christ?

Is there someone in your life that is causing you to make poor decisions? What can you do about it?

Reading: Exodus 29:1-30:38

Similar to what we read yesterday in meeting with God, a relationship with Him is just as important and majestic. We can never be worthy of His relationship. Jesus, as we talked about yesterday, provided that way for us to have a straight relationship with God and to come to Him without all the sacrifices and rituals. A relationship with God is indeed the most important one you can have, and His relationship better be the one you put first. Enjoy His presence and be thankful to Jesus for creating that opportunity to come to Him.

How would you describe your relationship with God?

What relationships in your life are you putting first?

Relationships will happen in this life, whether they are healthy ones or horrible ones. God's Word tells us how to live in right relationships with those around us, whether they are with the person you are married to, will be married to, companions, coworkers, fellow Christians and most importantly, with Himself. Putting God number one in our relationship categories will help us to have healthy relationships with all the others around us. Choose your relationships carefully, and be sure they aren't coming before your relationship with God. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Day 51: His Holy Presence

Reading: Psalm 24:1-10

Coming into the Lord's presence is much bigger a deal than we make it out to be at times. This Psalm lays out just how great and holy He is. It answers the question on who is worthy to come into the presence of the Lord, and that is those with pure hearts and clean hands, as well as those who do not trust in idols or other things more than Him.
Though these standards sound impossible, Jesus has made the way for us to meet with God. He has closed the gap that between us and God that exists because of His holiness and our imperfections. We can rejoice in Him for making this way for us, for coming into the presence of the Lord is surely an incredible honor.

How do you live your life in thanksgiving to Jesus for closing the gap between us and God?

What about your heart do you need to examine as you come into God's presence?

Reading: Mark 5:21-6:6a

It takes faith to come into the presence of God. We read many faith-filled and faithless stories here as Jesus proceeds with His ministry.
First, as Jesus is making His way through the crowds, a woman who truly believes just touching Him can heal her does. Jesus knows right away, despite the hoards of people around Him. He knows this woman's faith, and because of her faith, she is made well.
We also read about Jesus bringing a little girl back to life, even though her loved ones thought it was too late. Jesus shows them that if they just believe, she can be made well, and she is brought back to life.
We also get a look at the flip side of faith as Jesus experiences the lack of faith and rejection from His own town. Because of this lack, He couldn't do much healing for the people there, except for a few sick. Faith is key to experiencing the power of Christ and His ability to do anything in your life.
If you're facing a problem or illness, have faith. We see the amazing things it can do. And yet, we also see what lack of faith does for us as well.

In what area of your life do you need have more faith in Christ for?

When have you seen faith move?

Reading: Exodus 27:1-28:43

We can't fully appreciate coming into the Lord's presence without realizing the work and intricacy it took before Jesus made it possible for us to do so. We read about the work and details that went into the Israelites building a special meeting place for the Lord, the Tabernacle. We can get an idea of the majestic holiness of God through the vibrant details of His meeting place.
Though today, we don't need to find God in a fancy building or in high terms, it is still important to know how special meeting with Him is. Jesus came and created a way for us to connect with Him, and we can easily access God with all of our concerns and worries today.

What about God do you admire most?

How often do you come to God in a day?

It is a very big deal to come into the presence of the Lord. Jesus has created a way for us to do just that. But we must never take for granted the importance of coming to Him and realizing just how holy He is. It takes faith to fully experience His presence in our lives, and we can come to Him with faith that He will take care of us. Be sure to go to Him daily and with every concern and worry you have. Praise Him for His presence in your life.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Day 50: The Greatness of His Intimacy

Reading: Psalm 23:1-6

I'm sure many of us have heard this passage read at some point or another, most likely at a funeral. But when we really dive into this Psalm, we can see the personal message it sends. When it states the Lord is MY Shepherd, we are meant to take that in a very personal way, and carry that closeness throughout the passage. God knows exactly what you need in this moment and exactly what you are struggling with. He is your Guide, your Comforter, your Protector, your Host. When we face those awful times, whether it be a death of a loved one or the death of a dream, He provides us with comfort and direction. God is a very personal friend to you. He knows you inside and out and longs to take care of you, as a shepherd cares for his sheep. Take joy in this powerful, very personal, relationship with Him. Allow Him to bless you in the way you need each day and celebrate that relationship by radiating to those around you.

When have you experienced God in a very personal, close way?

How can you walk in closeness with Him and carry Him close in your life?

Reading: Mark 4:30-5:20

We see many contrasts of God here, starting out with a small mustard seed. Jesus tells how the Kingdom of Heaven is like that seed, starting out small and then expanding into a huge plant by comparison. We also see how Jesus is powerful enough to calm a raging storm that has the disciples (many who are experienced fishermen) shaking. How many times in our lives do we face huge storms that leave us trembling? Jesus, however, calms this storm with simple, firm words, proving His power and greatness.
We also read of a man who is overtaken by many evil spirits. All are afraid to go near him and chaining him up doesn't even hold him. Jesus, however, approaches this man and casts out the many spirits. Jesus knows this man deeply, and feels compassion on him, as He does for us when we are overtaken by life's demands. This act and miracle causes the man to go and share this great news with everyone in his town, bringing many to Jesus. A small act from a man who probably thought he had nothing great to offer in this world, becomes a powerful testimony, proclaiming God's greatness! Don't hold back the small things in your life, as God can make them great!
We can gather the complexity of Jesus from these readings. He is small enough to know us intimately, yet powerful and big enough to take down the most debilitating storms in our lives. It's incredible to serve and feel the love of such a great, intimate God!

How has God turned a small thing in your life into a huge difference for Him?

What huge storms have you endured in life? How has God used those to proclaim His greatness?

Reading: Exodus 25:1-26:37

Though this section feels like you are just reading a heavy, detailed description of the Tabernacle (and you are), there is so much more behind the meaning of the Tabernacle and what it meant. God had the people work together to make this so that He could have a tangible presence among them. He wanted intimacy and closeness with them. And while God is always close to us, there is something about being in a holy place that solidifies the feeling of being near to Him. We don't need to be in a church or holy place to be near to Him, but to come to Him in reverence and awe can happen in such a place for the Israelites. This is to set Him above them and help them remember His presence and majesty. God is close to us in the same way, no matter where you are. He longs to be the center of your world and to have a majesty in your life. Set aside that holy reverence for Him each day, and come to Him in awe.

What is a tangible presence of God in your life?

How do you come to Him in reverence and awe each day?

God is both big and small. Big in the sense that He knows all and is powerful enough to calm the most debilitating storms in our lives. He is big enough to be revered and worshiped. Yet God is small enough to know you personally from the inside out, even better than the people closest to you. He longs to have a deep relationship with you and provide for your personal needs. God knows where you need comfort, what you struggle with, what you are needing this very moment. Let Him do great things in your life through the small ways He reaches you.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Day 49: Keeping up the Mission

Reading: Psalm 22:22-31

There is much to celebrate in Jesus. He has given us victory over darkness and sin, and we can come to Him freely and openly with our cries. Psalm 22 starts out in such hopelessness and darkness, reflecting forward to the day that Christ was put to death. However, it ends in great victory over the darkness as this Psalm does. We have a great hope in Christ and through Jesus. One day every knee will bow to Him. When darkness comes in your life, hang onto the light that comes in the end. Remember the wonderful plan God carried out after His Son was put to death of us. His plan is always good and always the best.

Are you facing a dark time right now that feels like it is hopeless?

How can you celebrate the victory you have in Jesus today?

Reading: Mark 3:31-4:29

Hearing and embracing God's Word is highly important in carrying out His mission in our lives. Jesus wants us to live in a close relationship with Him, as He states when He calls us all His brothers and sisters. He emphasizes many times throughout this reading to listen closely to His Words, and the emphasis is still there today. When we allow God's Word to embed into our lives, we will be able to bring it to many others and cause a great harvest for Him. Yet others will hear the Word, and just let it bounce off of them, as their roots are not deep enough to sustain the relationship with Him.
Making sure we are deep in God's Word throughout our lives will help us to gain the wisdom and knowledge He intends for us, as well as to be empowered to take it to others. It is important to find the time to get into His Word and listen for His instruction through prayer on a daily basis so that we can continue to carry out the work He has for us.

What does it mean to be a brother or sister in Christ to you?

How can you continue to grow your life closer to Him and His Word?

Reading: Exodus 23:1-24:18

Just like God wanted a close covenant with the Israelites, He wants to be in close covenant with us with the New Covenant. We remember this New Covenant with Christ when we partake in communion and remember what He did for us on the cross to close the gap between us and Him. Christ sends us out to be the message to the world for Him, and He says He will be with us as we do this. The same went for Moses and his people with their covenant. God kept an angel to keep watch on them, guiding them along their way. Christ promises to be with us and never to leave us or forsake us when we are carrying out His will in our lives. Sticking to His path and remember His great sacrifice for us will get us far in the mission. Don't fear what's around the corner, for God is with us.

When do you feel closest to God?

How can you serve Him and carry out the mission He lays before you?

We are called to be messengers for Christ, carrying out His mission around the world. Even when it seems dark and uninviting, as it was for Christ going to the cross, we need to remember the great light and plan that came about because of Christ's suffering for us. When we stay in His Word and embed it in our lives, we can be better prepared for what's ahead and carrying His Word to all. We have nothing to fear as we go out because He will be with us every step of the way.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Day 48: Wisdom in Right and Wrong

Reading: Proverbs 5:1-14

There is a good reason we are told to strive to get wisdom. Knowing the ways of the Lord will help us to live a life free of regret and falling into temptation. We read about the temptations that lurk around every corner in this section. We are told to be aware and to prepare for it. When we can guard our hearts against the enticing things of the world, we'll be able to walk a better path in life. Letting our guards down and not caring about what happens with our lives will leave us looking back later and wondering what we were thinking. When we have the wisdom to decipher between what is right and wrong for our lives, we can truly walk closer to God.

What kinds of things tempt you?

How do you guard yourself from those things?

Reading: Mark 2:18-3:30

There were many opinions floating around about who Jesus was, and there still are today. Even Christians can mix up what is right and wrong in the church and when it comes to the Sabbath. Jesus was all about becoming new and doing what was right, whether it was the Sabbath or not. Today, we can fall into this trap of putting things and rituals of the church ahead of what is truly important. Jesus made a point to tell the crowds, and especially those who were plotting against Him what is most important in following Him. We can't let the rules and rituals get in the way of what Jesus' ministry is really about.
This concept still drives people crazy. We can get busy focusing on the look of a church, rather than on the people who need to be there. We can get so wrapped up in the style of music and what version of the Bible is being used that caring about those around us becomes low priority. Ultimately, these are the type of people who led Jesus to His death. The rules and rituals got in the way of the love and relationship. Jesus taught and went about ministry with truth and grace, and we need to do the same when we reach out.
Make your mind up about Jesus. You can either do as He did, or do what you want.

What rules and rituals in the church can get in the way of what church is really about?

How do the rules get in the way of reaching out to others who have never even stepped foot in a church?

Reading: Exodus 21:1-22:31

Here we read a series of scenarios and rules that seem bizarre and out of place, but this was how the culture dealt with issues that arose. These rules were guidelines for judges when sentencing people. Many of these rules actually still apply today in different ways. God set these rules before the Israelites to keep chaos at bay and to promote loving your neighbor. Though the rules are different today, we still need to keep close to what God want of us in order to promote good and prevent evil. God cares deeply that we get along and love one another, and He cares deeply that we care for those in need, like the widows and orphans. When we can successfully follow through with His desire, we can live lives in harmony and be great examples for those around us in showing His love.

What rules have you found strange in the Bible? Why do you think God had rules like that?

What rules do we have today that promote loving each other?

Going through life, trying to do what is right and keeping ourselves in line with the wisdom God gives us can help us get through some sticky situations in life. When we simply strive to do what Jesus did in our churches and personal lives, we can share His love to those around us in great ways. Consider what it looks like to promote good and prevent evil in the world around you, then strive to live a life that does that. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Day 47: Reflecting Priorities

Reading: Psalm 22:12-21

One of my favorite quotes is "He gave His life for you; live yours for Him." We are given plenty of reason to make God our number one priority in life. He sent His Son to die for our sins and take our punishment, even though He never did anything wrong. Making God our number 1 in life will direct us down paths greater than if we put other things in our lives first. He is our ultimate happiness and contentment. If we try to put anything over Him, we will find ourselves frustrated and disappointed in life. Look to Him and remember what He has done for us.

What things in life do you try to put before God?

When have you been disappointed by those things?

Reading: Mark 1:29-2:17

We can learn quite a bit about priorities when we look at Jesus' life and what He cared deeply about. We read here that He cared deeply for the sick and the lost. Jesus also wen to be alone with His Father to pray. As we read earlier, spending time with God should be our first priority and He should be the One who calls all the shots in our lives. As a church, we need to make sure that Christ is the head of the church, not a group of people or one person.
We read here though, that our next priority should be those who are lost, when it comes to the church anyways. Jesus makes quite a statement when He invites Levi to follow Him, even though Levi is a tax collector that many look down on. When Jesus eats with Him at his house, people question Him. Jesus states that He came for the lost, not those who are already saved. Why would a church only exist for those who are saved, especially when Jesus is pretty straight-forward about it here?
As a church, our first priority is Christ, then those outside of the church, and finally those inside. May we never lose sight of why Christ came.

How do you feel about people outside of the church?

What do you think we can do to reach people outside of the church?

Reading: Exodus 19:1-20:26

Rules are set by people who care deeply about something. When a parent cares deeply for their child, they set rules because they want so desperately for them to live happy, healthy lives. Many people misread the 10 Commandments as just a set of rules God sets down before us to take away our freedom, but this is definitely not the case.
God sets these rules before us because like a parent cares for a child, He cares for our well-being. And in all honestly, our priorities will be reflected by how we respond to these commandments. The first four come naturally if we put God first and love Him. The rest come naturally when we put others first and love them. It all reflects to the greatest commandment - Love the Lord, your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And the second greatest - Love your neighbor as yourself. When we put God first, the rules just come naturally. When we put others before ourselves, those rules also come with it. But when we decide to live a life of rebellion and simply view the rules as being there to stifle our freedom, we will find it very hard to do life without consequences.

How do you view the 10 Commandments in your life?

What rules do you set? How does this show what you care most about?

Our priorities should focus on God first, then others, then ourselves. In church, God is the head and comes first, then those outside, then the inside. Jesus lays this out quite bluntly, and as followers, we should do what He did. We shouldn't view His rules as ways to limit us, but as ways to set us free. When we are living lives that put God as first priority, those rules are seamless and just come with how we live without even thinking about them. Your response tells a lot about where your priorities lie. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Day 46: Growth in Highs and Lows

Reading: Psalm 22: 1-11

Yesterday, we read about how a huge low in the followers of Jesus turned into a victorious high. We read many similarities here of David as it foreshadows the cross. Life can work much like this pattern at times. We experience this high and we're on top of the world at one point, and before we know it, it is crashing down around us. Or we are sitting in a deep, dark pit in life and suddenly we experience something marvelous. We see that even though David is facing this incredible low, feeling abandoned as Jesus did on the cross, he still  puts great trust in God to deliver him from this darkness. Jesus felt this low in a greater way, but in the end there was a huge plan of victory for all who follow and trust in Him. God uses those low times to make something good. Just put your trust in Him when those pits come, and before you know it, you'll be on a high.

When have you felt abandoned by God?

When has God turned a deep low in your life into a wonderful high?

Reading: Mark 1:1-28

Dealing with the spiritual highs and lows in our lives help build our confidence in faith. Jesus taught and spoke with authority, which impressed the people who listened to Him. We read how Jesus went through this amazing spiritual high in His baptism, hearing the words of His Father and being built up in ministry, and just after gathering His first disciples, we see a demon-possessed man challenge Him. Jesus, however faces him with authority and confidence. When we experience those high times in life, that is the perfect time for Satan to attack and knock us back down, causing us to lose our confidence. But we can see how Jesus battled these attacks and kept His composure in the focus of His mission.
Let those times that hit you hard and try to knock you down actually build you up. Gain strength and power from the Holy Spirit and allow Him to use you through those attacks. When you are sitting on a spiritual high in life, allow that time to build you up and help you to gain confidence in proclaiming the Good News.

When have you experienced a spiritual high in life that was attacked suddenly?

How do you gain confidence and strength from both the high and low points in life?

Reading: Exodus 17:1-18:27

When we experience those lows, we need to remember to turn to others to support us. Moses faced many lows as he led the people through the wilderness. Here we read about the complaints, quarrels, battles, etc. that he had to manage. Moses would turn to God and get advice from Him as to what to do with certain situations. When the battle against the Amalekites came about, we read how as long as Moses had his hands up with the staff, the Israelites had the advantage, but when Moses grew tired and dropped his hands a bit, the Amalekites would gain. But Moses also had the support of Hur and Aaron who helped him keep his hands raised so Joshua could overcome the Amalekites.
We also read how Moses' father in law gave him sound advice and encouragement as Moses learned how to manage the people. We were never meant to micromanage everything around us. Delegation is a very biblical concept, as we read here. Moses learns to delegate to good, honest leaders so he doesn't have to carry the load of the people alone. The key to delegation is good delegation, however.
Remember to look for support in those frustrating, hard times, as Moses did.

Where do you look for support when you face frustrating situations in life?

Do you delegate well, or is this something you could work on? How can you get better at it?

Life will be full of highs and lows, and many times they hit one right after the other. It is important to remember that God can turn the lows into good and He can grow us through both the highs and lows. We need to remember to grow ourselves through them, rather than simply wallowing in them. Growing can give you confidence in your faith to stand up to those inevitable attacks in life. We also need to remember that we don't need to endure those lows alone. Seeking God's advice and the advice and help from others can do us a world of good. Just make sure you are turning to the right people for that advice.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Day 45: Power & Provision

Reading: Psalm 21:8-13

It is amazing the controversy the name "Jesus" rises up in today's world. Yet, when we read of the power and strength God possesses in this Psalm, it's no wonder why the topic gets so run over. God is all-powerful and all-knowing. We can sing praises because God will conquer those who are against us and bless those who follow His will. Those who mock Him doubt His authority, yet it is sad the wrath that will one day be poured out on them if they don't turn to Him and follow His path.
We can take heart in times of feeling defeated by our enemies, just because of this reading alone. David faced endless enemies, yet God carried Him through. Don't let people get you down, but let God raise you up, protect you, and rescue you. You need only rely on Him.

When have you felt overrun by mockers, enemies, or opposition?

 How are you trusting God to deliver you?

Reading: Matthew 28:1-20

While the power of Christ causes people speculate about what really happened when the tomb was found empty, it can encourage the rest of us. In a bleak time for the followers of Jesus, they are overwhelmed suddenly, by this powerful hope of Jesus rising and commissioning them to go out and share the good news. This is probably the most controversial part of the gospel story - that Jesus was powerful enough to rise from the dead. What it ultimately comes down to is whether or not you believe these words you read, or you reject them. Many have come up with theories and explanations, as we read here about the disciples stealing the body, and have spread to ease people's minds about whether or not Jesus was really God. I suppose that is up to you to decide, but when you have power on your side like what Jesus displays here and many times throughout the gospel in smaller ways, you open yourself up to a fulfilled life in His presence and guidance.
Jesus commissions us to go and share the great news with all, and though this can seem intimidating, we are promised His presence and power as we do. Take heart when the opposition comes your way, especially about your faith.

How do you react to this power? Do you believe it?

What struggles have you faced in sharing the Good News to those around you?

Reading: Exodus 15:1-16:30

No matter how powerful we read God is, we still tend to worry about things. The people went from celebrating God's great power and rescue to complaining and worrying about God providing for them out in the wilderness. We know this is human nature, yet God gives us all kinds of evidence He will come through for us. Moses and Aaron had to deal with complainers and worriers all throughout their journey in the wilderness, no matter how many times God proves Himself to them. So, God provides the people with manna, which literally means "what is it?" The people are to take exactly what they need, and no more. Those who took more lost that extra to maggots and rot. It can be hard to trust God and His provision and we live in a culture that stores up "just in case". But God tells us to trust Him with TODAY and not worry about tomorrow.
I think I will struggle with worry for a long time, if not my whole life. I'm always fretting about something, and longing to be prepared for what is coming. Yet after reading about the power God pours out and the evidence of His provision throughout history, you would think I could let some worries go. Remember God's provision both in Moses' time and for you in your life.

What is something you are currently worrying about?

How can you remember to go to God with these worries and count on Him to provide for you as you need it?

We face much opposition in life, whether it be against mockers of our faith, conflict about our beliefs, or a battle within ourselves against worries. We see great evidence throughout the Bible, however, of God's great power and provision throughout time. We can still count on Him to be with us during those times of opposition and worry. His power and provision are far greater than our battles and worries.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Day 44: Beautiful Life

Reading: Proverbs 4:20-27

To have a beautiful life, God tells us to guard ourselves from the ways of the world. Though we live in the world, we don't have to take on it's customs. There are many ways advised in helping us achieve living life the way God intends for us here.
Guarding our hearts is one we've probably heard before. But what does it mean? Being cautious of what we think about and how we think can keep us pure minded and set straight on good things.
We also need to avoid saying bad things. Saying is eventually becoming and living. When we say things, even jokingly, we put a bad name on ourselves and even those around us.
Keeping our eyes from seeing the wrong things. We live in a world surrounded by media full of dirty things and concepts. When we come across a tv show or movie that doesn't help us live holy lives, it is best to turn it off or walk away.
Staying away from bad examples. We can do all we can to surround ourselves with great people who build us and our faith up, but in doing this, we need to avoid places that we know we can get into trouble or fall into temptation. Watch the paths you take and keep focused on what God intends of you.

How do you need to guard yourself from falling away from the beautiful life God intends for you?

Which of the above discussed areas do you need to work on?

Reading: Matthew 27:45-66

Jesus died an ugly, brutal death so that we all may have the opportunity to live beautiful lives with Him. Because of this grace, we can go to Him and have our slates wiped clean when we mess up and when our own lives get ugly. He is there to welcome us back anytime. Yet, we need to accept and go to Him. We see the work Jesus did and the power of His ministry in helping others to have beautiful lives. He made it so we can come to Him freely with our messes and our problems, and He takes them away so that we may be made new. Though He was abandoned and felt alone on the cross, He had each of us in mind when He took the weight of our sins and our lives on His back. This is the only kind of love and grace that makes our lives beautiful in the midst of darkness and mistakes.

How has Jesus made your life beautiful?

Who do you need to share this glorious news with?

Reading: Exodus 13:1-14:31

Cooperating with God and His plan is a way He can truly make our lives beautiful. We have seen Moses go from hesitation as to whether or not God had the right guy to lead the Israelites out of slavery to following God's every direction, and empowering people who doubted through the exodus. When Moses and the people are finally let go and make it to the Red Sea, they feel trapped and like it will be impossible to run away from the Egyptians. People claim they will die there and that all was for not. But Moses reassures them and trusts that God will get them out of an impossible situation. He tells them "the Lord will fight for you; you need only be still." How often do we trust these words? It can be hard to trust and know that God will get us through those situations in life that just don't seem to be feasible. Yet we read how He creates this amazing miracle in parting the Sea so the people may cross safely.
If God can deliver this nation, He can surely deliver you from the impossibilities of life and make it into a beautiful story.

When have you faced an impossible situation and thought there was no way out?

How did you trust God to deliver you and just remained still, waiting for His rescue?

Jesus died an ugly death for all of us so that we may have beautiful lives with Him, if we accept it. We see how God takes Moses and the people through impossible situations and declares His beauty and power through it and in the people He guides. We are advised on how to walk beautifully next to God in this life in guarding our hearts and watching what we allow into them in this world. The question that remains is whether or not you will accept Christ to make this messy life of yours beautiful or if you'll continue going it the world's way. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Day 43: Rescuer

Reading: Psalm 21:1-7

God is our only true salvation in life. Not only is He our ultimate salvation, but He is our Savior and Rescuer from so many other things in this life. David, facing the many battles he did, goes on about the blessings of God's saving grace. He has experienced them time and time again, and shares them through his writings to God and for us. We will experience victory and empowerment through God's amazing grace and He will guide us where we need to go. We may feel hit over and over again, as I'm sure David felt, and we see him express in his other writings, but we can feel the reviving power of God's salvation in this life too. Express great joy and thanksgiving during these times.

When have you been empowered and blessed by God's saving grace?

How can you share the wonderful news of His saving grace?

Reading: Matthew 27:11-44

The greatest sacrifice of all unfolds in this reading, and into the reading tomorrow. Though Jesus had all the power to rescue Himself and stand up to His mockers, He didn't because He knew what His Father's will was. He made no reply to the people who mocked and asked questions. Jesus endured the punishment that He never deserved and set us free from our punishment, much like what we see symbolized when Barabbas is set free instead of Jesus. Though Jesus didn't rebuttal against His mockers, He knows what will happen and what His Father intends.
We need to put our trust in Him, no matter how dark times get, and how life seems to be crumbling one day. We will read of how He saves us and the great redemption He comes back with.

When have you felt like life was at it's darkest?

How did God rescue you when you waited on His timing during that time?

Reading: Exodus 11:1-12:51

We see close similarities to the Passover sacrifice and Jesus' sacrifice. In fact, Jesus was put to death the same time as Passover as our ultimate sacrifice and Savior. When people in Moses' time put a 1-year old animal to death to cleanse them of their sins, death passed over their households, and the death of Jesus sealed that deal once and for all, causing no need to sacrifice animals anymore for our sins. We find life in Him that only He can provide. Those who didn't have the blood on their door frames during Passover lost their first-born son. Jesus came to give us eternal life. We don't need to experience separation from Him when we accept His sacrifice and freedom.

Have you accepted Jesus as your Savior and ultimate sacrifice? When?

Who do you know that needs to know Christ in their lives? How can you work on them?

God rescues us from the darkest of times. Though life can seem dark and unsettling, we can trust in God to deliver us and show us His light again. The day that Jesus was put to death seemed very dark and gloomy to His followers, but we see the purpose and will of His Father through it, and light once again shone to them. Trust in Him and see His amazing plan turn out.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Day 42: Free by His Grace

Reading: Psalm 20:1-9

Like David, we will face distress and trials in life. But David recognizes the saving grace and freedom that can only come from God, and he shares it in this reading. David trusts that when he cries out for help in the midst of chaos and imprisonment by life, God will come and pour out blessings upon him. We read that we cannot gain such blessing from anything else, but only through God. He will grant us victory and rejoice with us when we are saved from the hardship of life. God can grant us such freedom and success that only comes from His wonderful grace and mercy.

What do you need to be rescued from today?

How does this Psalm give you the same hope that David has through his time of hardship?

Reading: Matthew 26:69-27:10

To be a follower of Jesus definitely doesn't mean you have to be perfect. We read here about two examples of imperfect people, and followers of Jesus, who mess up, but have two very different ways of taking it.
Peter denies Jesus three times before the rooster crows, and immediately he remembers what Jesus said about him doing just this. He weeps bitterly and goes to repent and receive forgiveness. Jesus was led to the cross and died for us so that we may be set free from our sins. We can come to Him with our mistakes, failures, addictions, pasts and receive the gift of freedom from those things. He longs for us to come to Him and be made clean. We will read later on how Peter becomes one of the greatest leaders of the church movement. Even though he messed up here, he goes on to do great things for God.
Judas on the other hand, realizes his mistake and has a very different reaction. Instead of striving for freedom and redemption from it, he goes and hangs himself. Though many may think this is what should have happened to Judas, Jesus forgives even the darkest of sins and wants to give us freedom no matter what. Judas doesn't take this route, and ends his own life, fearing guilt and shame, which we can be granted freedom from as well.
Go to Jesus with your mistakes, failures, addictions, pasts, etc. He wants you to come to Him and feel the gift of freedom and the feel the weight come off your shoulders through Him.

What is something you need to take to Jesus to receive freedom and redemption?

How do you usually react to sin in your life? Do you confront it and grow from it? Or do you run in guilt and shame?

Reading: Exodus 9:1-10:29

Like Pharaoh, we too can be stubborn about being set free. We see how Pharaoh's pride keeps him suffering with plague after plague. He continues to beg for mercy, but after the fact, refuses to give into what God wants in letting the people go so they may go worship the Lord. We might be blind to what is causing our suffering, as we continue to hold on to our pride and status, without letting God in to show us the easy way to get through life. We have the freedom to worship the Lord, yet we don't do it. We can speak His Name, yet we are too timid. The Lord may ask us to live one way, but we stick to our own ways. Freedom can only come to our lives if we allow God to work in our lives. Don't let your heart be hard towards God, but be open to His will and ways.

What part of your life have you hardened your heart to God?

How does this cause you to suffer in a way?

Freedom is granted to us through Christ. All we need to do is go to Him and accept it. When we face trials as David did, we need to realize the power God has to rescue us from those dark times, trusting in only Him to deliver us. We will mess up and sin, yet we can run to Him for redemption and freedom from the guilt, shame, sin, addiction, mistakes, our pasts, etc. Or we can hold on to our pride and take matters into our own hands as Judas did. Give up those things you cling to to receive full freedom in Christ.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Day 41: The Sweetness of His Word

Reading: Psalm 19:7-14

As we read God's Word, we see the benefits from this section of reading it. There are so many good things about diving into God's Word and taking what He has to give us. We see how valuable it is in our lives and we should embed His Words into them. There are some appealing words and phrases in this reading, and that goes to show just how precious and gorgeous God's Word is in our lives. We read that His Words are trustworthy, perfect, clear, right, pure, true, desirable, fair, etc. Diving into God's Word is how we get the sweetness of His wisdom. We wrap up this section with a prayer, asking God to make the meditations of our hearts and the words of our mouths pleasing to Him. His Word takes response, not simply pouring in knowledge. We need to read it, listen to His direction, and apply it to our lives. Make this your prayer today and your prayer everyday.

What about God's Word do you find appealing and valuable?

How do you apply God's Word to your life?

Reading: Matthew 26:47-68

We can tell how Jesus had the Word embedded in His life just from these scene alone. Jesus knew what the prophesy of the scriptures was and He knew this was His Father's will for Him. We see the humility and strength He possesses as He undergoes various emotions throughout the night. His friends abandon Him, He is betrayed, and He is falsely accused, yet He displays such strength. Jesus hangs on every Word His Father delivered, and lives it not only here, but throughout His life and ministry as we have read.
When we encounter those horrible trials and downward spirals in our lives, we need to remember Jesus' response to His. He knew there was a purpose and reason for His suffering. He remembered the scriptures and how to handle the trials that arose. We need to hang onto God's Word when times of darkness come, including this part of it.

How does God's Word help you in times of trial and hardship?

How can you really implement God's Word in your life? What is your goal for embedding it in your life?

Reading: Exodus 6:13-8:32

We see the two types of people here when it comes to listening and obeying God's Words. There are those like Moses who walk closely with God and listen carefully to His instruction. Then, they go out and obey and apply it. Moses got his instruction from God as to how to convince Pharaoh to release his people. No matter how intimidated Moses was at first to face Pharaoh, he trusted God and His Words to be with him.
Then we see those who are like Pharaoh when it comes to listening and obeying God's Words. Though Moses proved again and again the power of God and shared His words with Pharaoh, Pharaoh kept his heart hard and refused to obey the demands to let the people go. He was even able to imitate some of the miracles Moses performed with his own magicians, proving that the devil is indeed an imitator who will do whatever it takes to sway us off the path that God means for us to take.
We need to decide how to take God's Words. We can walk closely with Him and hang on to His every word and command, or we can completely reject Him and disobey what He wants of us, no matter how many times He's proven Himself to us in life.

Do you or someone you know tend to treat God's Words like Pharaoh did? What can you do about this?

How does this reading prove just how powerful God's Words are?

We look to many different things to satisfy us when it comes to walking in faith and attending church. We look to the music style, the programs, the building, the people, the coffee, etc. But how often do we only treasure God's Word? In many countries, having God's Word or the Bible is a complete and dangerous luxury, yet people meet in secret just to read it and talk about it. Do we treasure God's Word as much as those people?

Day 40: Whose Way?

Reading: Proverbs 4:10-19

We live in a broken and dark world. Yet we are told to be in the world, but not of it. This means that we are to follow God's procedure in how things are done, not follow the world's. We are told in Proverbs to strive for God's wisdom and way. When we do this, He will make our paths straight and we can live a life that strives for Him. We don't have to be so full of knowledge of God, but we do need to live daily striving for His will and way. It doesn't matter how much we know, but the direction we're going in is what we need to keep in check. What are your motives everyday you get up?

How are you striving to follow God's path and ways instead of the world's?

What are your goals each day you wake up?

Reading: Matthew 26:31-46

We read about the great distress Jesus went through before being betrayed and crucified. He even prayed for His Father to provide another way, yet He was willing to do His will no matter what. Jesus knew His friend would deny Him. I can't imagine the loneliness that Jesus felt as He knew His time was coming. He had all the power to stop what was coming, yet endured it to save us all. It's nice to know that Jesus felt all the things we feel at times, yet to a bigger scale. No matter how hard it was, Jesus still followed through with His Father's will and no matter how hard life gets for us, we need to remember to say "Your will, Lord, not mine."

What hardships are you facing currently?

How are you asking for God's will through it instead of yours?

Reading: Exodus 4:1-6:12

We can't depend on our own will and way. We see how terrified Moses is to follow God's plan for him, yet God keeps reassuring him that He will be with him through it. Moses feeds excuse after excuse to God, claiming that he can't speak well, and that God has the wrong person, and that if he doesn't do it, someone else will. Sound familiar? I know I've thrown some excuses to God in times of fear.
God will provide us with the strength and words we need when we need them. We might fear for the future and the plans God has for us, but we can trust that He will provide us with what we need.

What abilities do you feel like you lack when it comes to obeying God's direction for you?

What excuses have you given God before? How did it turn out?

Many times in this world, we are encouraged to be empowered by our own strength and will. While this is a positive thing and helps us to feel good, it takes God out of the equation. We will face hard stuff in this life and wonder what to do. While going it alone may make us feel good, it can also land us on our faces. But going with God's way and plan for us can give us better direction and straighter paths in life. Outweigh which way you'll take in life - God's way or the world's way. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Day 39: Evidence of God

Reading: Psalm 19:1-6

We read about the evidence of God in nature in this section, especially from the skies. What is cool about seeing God in nature is that it is available to ALL, not just those who believe, or those who speak English or who live in certain places, but to everyone here on earth. God has evidence all around us in stars, rivers, mountains, trees, the cycle of the sun -  many things that you can see just by looking outside whether you live in the city or in the most rural of areas. It's hard to say there isn't a God when we can experience beauty and perfection like these things.

What part of nature do you see God in the most?

What part of nature are you most perplexed by or think is the most intricate?

Reading: Matthew 27:1-30

Evidence of Jesus in our individual lives is what sets us apart from the rest of the world. We read the build-up of Jesus' betrayal and death here, and different ways He is portrayed in different lives.
Some find Jesus offensive and want to banish Him. There is actually strong evidence of the power of Jesus in lives that don't acknowledge Him. When we read about the people who wanted to rid Jesus from their lives, we see this passion they have to accomplish it. Judas agrees to betray Him for a mere 30 silver coins. The effect Jesus has on people is strong, whether it be negatively taken, or positively.
We also read about the woman who comes with her expensive jar of perfume and pours it out on Jesus. If you don't know much about the alabastar jar, it is a sign of a woman's singleness that is meant to be broken for the man she will marry. A family spends a year's wages to get it for her to one day use on that man. This woman gives hers up for Jesus. He has such an impact on her, that she risks the accusations and wages to show how Jesus has impacted her life.
We also read about the Last Supper. Today, we take communion to remember the impact Jesus has had in our lives. We drink from the cup and break the bread as a symbol in remembering Him and what He has done for us.
No matter what kind of evidence you portray of Jesus in your life, whether it be a loathing dislike or a passionate love, He is portrayed.

How do you portray Jesus in your life?

What is your "alabastar jar" for Jesus? What are you willing to give up for Him?

Reading: Exodus 1:1-3:22

Moses shows us many ways that God is evident is life. From the very start, Moses had odds stacked against him. Pharaoh wanted all the male babies killed, but Moses was spared by the compassion of Pharaoh's daughter and the cleverness of his own mother and aunt. God protected Moses so he could be used to do great things.
We also read about how Moses stood up for what was right, rather than use his status in Pharaoh's family to indulge in the Egyptian power, in protecting those who were being poorly treated.
God also made Himself very evident to Moses in the burning bush, telling him what he must do to help His people out of their awful situation. Moses feels inadequate, but God tells him that He will be with him through it all. Moses simply has to obey.
Many times in life, we feel the odds stacked against us and wonder where God is. But in Moses' case, we can see how quickly God can work through us. He will make Himself evident in the midst of dark times. We need only to trust and obey Him to do His work.

What odds do you feel are stacked against you in life?

How has God made Himself evident to you in a personal way?

We can see evidence of God everywhere. Nature, in our personal lives - whether we accept Him or reject Him, and in the amazing things He will use us for. He is with us and will carry us through when we follow His will for us. Though we may reject God, sometimes the passion we display against Him is enough to prove how real He is. When we live lives full of Him, we will radiate evidence of Him everywhere we go.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Day 38: Faithful Lives

Reading: Psalm 18:43-50

David, having great faith in God throughout his trials, finds God's faithfulness in this reading. He expresses gratitude for God's amazing faithfulness in his life, and we should follow example. Even though there are dark days and rough patches, God is always faithful to those who seek His will. He will bless us greater than we an imagine and raise us up out of the darkest of pits. Be grateful for the blessings He gives you and the faithfulness He shows you. Be faithful to Him through out those trials too.

When have you experienced God's wonderful faithfulness in your life?

How can you praise Him for that faithfulness?

Reading: Matthew 25:14-46

Jesus is very serious about using the blessings God gives us. We read a couple of examples here on how we are to use our gifts and talents.
If we fail to step out with our gifts, like the man who buried the money given to him instead of using it, we risk losing it. God doesn't mean to give us great things if we don't use them to bless others. He wants us to reach out and grow our gifts and blessings. The more we use our talents for Him, the more we gain from them. But the more we hide them and fail to use them, the more likely we will be to stop using them for good.
We also read about using our gifts to bless those in need. The hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned, are mentioned here. When we don't take care of those in need with what we have, we fail to take care of God. When we serve the least of these, we serve Him. But when we turn our attention from them, we turn it from God. It is important to remember this when we consider being faithful with what we have. God wants us to give back the blessings He granted to us. They are gifts for us to use to expand His kingdom.

What gifts and talents has God blessed you with?

How are you using them to be faithful back to Him?

Reading: Job 40:3-42:17

Job's faithfulness to God throughout his sufferings is incredible, especially as he deals with friends who are full of false information. Job never once blames God for his suffering, but continues to talk highly of his God. It is difficult to do this when we are faced with suffering and hard times. Sometimes, we may feel like turning on God and ask Him why we are encountering what we are. Satan tries to get Job to turn on God in causing him to suffer, but Job proves to him that faithfulness can still endure through tough times. And since Job was so faithful, the Lord blesses Him greatly after it all. May we take Job's life and see it as an example for us when those awful times come.

When have you found it hard not to blame God during a rough time?

How has God blessed you after a rough time in your life?

God is truly faithful to us. He pours blessing on us just by the lives we have here compared to other places. We need to be faithful right back to Him, however. When we received gifts, blessings and talents, we need to give back to God and others with these, or we risk losing them. When life is tough, we can learn from Job's reaction and speak highly of God rather than blame Him for our troubles. May we live lives that are vibrant of faithfulness!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Day 37: Trusting in Unknown Times

Reading: Psalm 18:37-42

It can be scary to think about the future and what we don't know that could be coming. We wish for God to supply us with all we need now so we can be prepared when hurdles come, but many times we have to trust God to bring us that strength and knowledge when the time is right. He provides for us at just the right times. When we dwell on the future and the potential worries of it, we miss current opportunities. David received his strength and power to take on his enemies when the time was right. God will provide for us at the opportune time as well, whether it be preparing to talk to someone about Him, dealing with illness, or a broken relationship.

When has God provided for you at just the right time?

When has worrying about the future prevented you from focusing on the present?

Reading: Matthew 24:32-25:13

Jesus tells us to always be prepared for His coming. We won't know when He is coming, but we can see the signs of His coming. Jesus tells us a parable about 10 bridesmaids who went out to wait for the coming of the bridegroom. Five of them brought extra oil for their lamps, but the other five did not. Since the bridegroom was delayed, the five who didn't have enough oil had to go get more, and while they were gone, the bridegroom showed up.
We can learn from this story to always be prepared to meet Jesus face to face, because you never know when He's coming back. We can't live our lives faithless then be ill-prepared when the hour comes. Always being prepared is what we know to do.

When have you not been prepared for something?

What are you doing to be prepared for Jesus' coming?

Reading: Job 38:1-40:2

We finally reach a little different taste in Job's story, as God comes forth and speaks now after a brutal conversation with Job's friends up till now. We read all of these questions that God puts forth, that we know Job can't answer. The point God is trying to make, especially after his friends just spent so much time giving him false and empty advice, is that we can't know everything. We need to know that God is in control and He is still God when the bad comes. Though this can drive us crazy when hard times come, we need to remember God's promises in our lives. He'll never leave us or forsake us. When we walk with Him, He will fight for us. Even this is better advice than the empty words Job's friends offered.

When was a time your life felt out of control, but you had to remember that God was in control?

Why do we see here that it's ok to not know the answer sometimes?

Our lives are filled with many unknowns. Our pasts are filled with them too, as well as our present. But what we can take from our reading today is that we don't have to know what the Bible doesn't tell us, yet we must cling to what it does. Trusting in unknown times is all you can do when faced with the next step and we can be prepared for what we do know.