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.