Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christmas Joy

Christmas Joy
As we light our pink candles this week, we recall the joy we have because of our Savior coming! The biggest example in the Christmas story of joy is the shepherds who expressed utter joy when they saw the Savior. These men worked at the bottom of society in a less than ideal job, yet they returned from seeing the Savior to their jobs praising and glorifying Him! I don't think it was coincidence that God choose these lowly shepherds to share the good news with. 

I think it is so hard for us to express joy at times, especially in the privileged lives we live. In my mind, it is easier to express joy when you go from having nothing to everything, than it is if you have a great life and comfortable living to everything. You can have all the joy in the world about Christ's coming, but unless you actually express it and show people you have it, you are not being a message that Christ is enough for you. Why in the world wouldn't be joyful about this Savior Who came to take away our sin in the past, present and future!? 

Jesus did everything with joy. He served His Father. He served others. Yet He endured the most brutal punishment for us, giving us a new identity in Him. We have so much to rejoice about. 
Be that joyful light to others as you go about this busy season. From the smile on your face to the "post" button on facebook. Share the joy and let others know that you are happy because a Savior has changed your identity forever.  

The shepherds knew. This Savior changed everything for them, despite their living situation. They had such joy and shared it with everyone. Share your joy! You have much to be joyful about!

Luke 2: 8-20
"That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them."

Day 71: Being Alert

Day 71
Leviticus 14, Matthew 25:1-30

There are many lessons to be taken from our reading today. One theme that stands out to me is being alert and aware at all times the placement of your heart and life. I think oftentimes we can lose sight of our true purpose on this earth and start looking to things of this earth to satisfy us and keep us happy. These things can cause us to lose control of ourselves and our hearts' desires.

Leviticus is one book I honestly have a hard time getting through. In fact, when I do a yearly plan in reading through the Word, I tend to stall there and throw in the towel. However, I've learned to look at the processes of these cleansings and atonings and seen how they can tie into our hearts in today's world.

Today, we read about how skin diseases and mildew can spread and cause such a pain for the one dealing with it. I think this can surely apply to the pain we go through when we allow something other than God to infect our lives. We can have a sense of loss or as if "something is missing" after awhile. There are many things we can allow to spread through our hearts - relationships, achievements, etc. But unless it is God, we will be left disappointed after awhile, every time.

The same is true when it comes to being alert for His coming. We don't know when Christ is coming back and we don't know how long we'll have to wait, but we need to be ready. We need to have our hearts in the right place and have a relationship with Him that is more than knowing about Him, but actually knowing Him and His will and ways. We read how some of the bridesmaids failed to be ready for when the bridegroom came to take them to the feast, and missed it because they did not have enough oil for their lamps. This is true for us today when we are not actively seeking God in our everyday lives. We don't want to miss Him by not having our hearts and minds prepared.

We also need to be alert when it comes to our gifts and talents. God provides us with resources that He wants us to use to invest in Him Kingdom. When we use our gifts on other things or give the glory to ourselves, we have squandered them. One of the quotes by John Piper I love (it hangs in our living room) is this:
"Only one life twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last."
We can use our skills on things for ourselves, but the legacy in those won't last as long as if we were to use them to further God's Kingdom. God wants more for us when He grants us resources. He doesn't want us to bury them or use them foolishly. He wants us to take our gifts and invest them in the lives of others so they are moved by Him through you to want to know more.

One example of this was when I was learning how to play the guitar. It seemed to come naturally to me, and I downplayed it. I tend to hate a spotlight and I hate being in front of people, but I felt convicted to start playing on the praise team, and God blessed it. Now, the spotlight doesn't bother me, because it isn't about me when I am up there. If people are looking at me, that is their heart that needs to be realigned, and realizing that takes away the fear. I do it because God has blessed me with this gift and to leave a vacant spot of service that I can fill in His church is like the foolish servant in this reading.
The same goes for any role you are good at that God needs filled. Invest wisely and be alert as to what you can do for Him, whether it's greeting at a church door or mentoring a younger generation to have a fire for the Lord.

We need to be alert to our hearts and lives when it comes to making God a priority. Don't allow things that are not Christ to contaminate your lives. It is so easy to get caught up in what makes you happy rather than what keeps you holy. Be alert to His coming again. Don't miss it because you weren't prepared in your heart and mind. Be alert with the gifts and talents He has given to you and don't squander them for your own glory or keep them hidden when a vacant spot is waiting for you. You have no idea how many lives you can reach for Christ if you just jump in and give Him the glory.
Be alert.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Christmas Peace

Peace. Peace and quiet...boy, would that be something to be treasured as a working mom with a two year old. Not to mention the working part is the role of a church secretary, so...busy, busy...always something to do...
Then there's the "extracurriculars". Meetings, missions, studies, praise band on occasion. Peace can be very hard to come by at times.
But, the night I experienced the greatest amount and most powerful peace, was also one that was filled with chaos and heavy unknowns. A night that God took the reigns from me and showed me how in control He is of my life, as doctors rushed around, warning me of the "risks", the "unknowns", and the "rarities" of my case, as they prepped me for emergency open-heart surgery.
In that time, I felt so stilled by God's hand. I knew that regardless of the outcome, I was going to be ok. I was actually to a point of being ok, even if I hadn't made it...and I had my husband in the room, and a newborn baby somewhere with relatives. That, is peace.
The night Christ was born, we received a gift that nothing under a tree could touch. When Christ died on a tree for us, we received something so powerful, that anything under a tree would be put to shame and never come close to this most prized gift. Peace that surpasses understanding was one of the things we received.
Because of Christ, we can stand confidently, face to face with the troubles of this world and know we will be ok. Because of Christ, we have the peace that reconciled us to God and took the punishment of the sins we take for granted. Because of Christ, I don't need to worry till my last breath about what will happen.
When we can teach ourselves to be still before God on a daily basis and allow Him to take hold of our lives and grant us remarkable sightings into His will and way, we can honestly enjoy the peace that will overcome the obstacles of the day. It is so easy to miss out because of the busy, busy, busy. Christmas is a prime time for busy, (especially if you work in a church), but coming quietly before God regularly, will allow you to come boldly before your problems and experience peace in the midst of them. Will they go away? No, but you will handle them and look at them in a different light.
"You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You." -Isaiah 26:3

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Christmas Hope

Christmas Hope
Christmas is right around the corner! Today, as the first Sunday in Advent, I think it's safe to play the music without fearing harassment, start the shopping (or finish the shopping), put the lights up for the neighbors to see, and get excited for another season of fun, love, and warmth around the living room with loved ones.

With Christmas though, comes the chaos. Parties every weekend. Dinners to get to. Presents to guess. Cookies to bake. Services to plan (if you work in a church). Items to wrap (or bag if you hate wrapping like me). For some of us, we'll be preparing the house for relatives. Cleaning everything during a time it feels impossible to clean. Stressing about the in-laws...or your own family...

But what if we took a minute to just stop and ponder the why of Christmas? I think over the years, commercialism has invaded and laid expectations on society that leaves us feeling stressed, busy and anxious about this Most Wonderful Time. But because a babe was born way back when in a place that a king shouldn't be born in, and toppled over the lives of all He influenced in that time, we have no need to stress or fear or be held to expectations. When we take Christ out of Christmas, we stress because we feel like we have to live up to the expectations and the satisfactions of the things we get or give. With Christ, we can enjoy those things too, but they aren't the everything that makes up Christmas, ready to leave us disappointed when it's all over.

We have Hope. This Hope came down on that night to walk with us and bring light into the world that saved us all from our darkness. This Hope overcomes. This Hope gives us the confidence to come forth to Him and know He will help us. This Hope gives us strength to face the situations that seem like utter, hopeless mountains to climb in life. And this Hope grants us an eternity. We have hope that He is coming again one day and we know those promises are pure.

So as you light your first candle on your Advent wreath tonight, think about that amazing Hope we have in Jesus. He is our ONLY hope and our ONLY way.

“May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace, as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  (Romans 15:13)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Day 70 - Preparations

Day 70
Leviticus 13, Matthew 24

As we read through the powerful, words of Matthew 24 (our primary focus for today), we can see why knowing the Word is a big deal to a Christ-follower. Jesus warns us to be prepared at any time to face the trials of being His follower, and to be prepared for Christ's coming again. How can we be so sure and ready for when He comes?

Know the Word! Read it. Listen to it. Learn from it. Apply it. God gave us this book we call the Bible for a greater reason than an indicator of you being a Christian. He wants us to study it and know Him through it. Knowing the Word will help us to distinguish from false teachings and know how to do life in general. There is much to read there, and it sure can be daunting, but reading something - a verse, chapter, passage- can surely help than not reading anything at all.

Stand Firm. This world is a tough place to be in as a Christian. We can fold so easily to the temptations and ways of this place, but knowing Christ's ways and alternatives will show you how much better life can be. God wants the best for us. When we stop living on our feelings and start standing firm on His Truths, we will be unshakable indeed.

Stop Worrying. There are so many things to worry about in this life. We worry about getting good grades, making a team, finding a spouse... only to turn around and start worrying about our spouse when we're married, worry about our kids making the team, getting good grades. We worry about money, things, keeping up with the riches around us, what we'll do after we do what we're doing now...STOP! Those things aren't bad, but worrying about them shows you that your trust in God needs some work. If you are worrying about these things more than you are concerned about your relationship with Christ and praying to Him about it, you need to revisit your priorities. Be prepared for Him to come. The things of this world will be gone and our lives are but a wisp of vapor.

We prepare for many things in this life. We get insurance to protect our stuff and ourselves. We get locks on our doors. We have fire extinguishers. Why don't we prepare to meet Christ? He is most important in our lives (or should be), but we spend our lives worrying about things that will soon be gone. Look to Him and His Word to stand firm, and set your priorities straight in this world.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Day 69 - From the Inside Out

Day 69
Leviticus 11-12, Matthew 23

The rules and processes we read in Leviticus were a way of setting God's people apart from the rest of the world. It was more than about what they ate or the way they compensated for sin, but it was a way to be different and show total devotion and obedience to God. When we bring ourselves before God, we should come with a heart open to Him, with no other distractions, whether it be a TV or the wrong attitude in approaching Him.

Jesus sure fires at the Pharisees in our Matthew reading today. We are to take a lesson from this though. The Pharisees who were known for being "religious leaders" of the time didn't have the heart that reflected what they preached. While holding people to daunting standards and demanding respect, rather than being loving people who try to help others. The leadership qualities that Jesus shares the lack of among the Pharisees should show us the one we should strive for as Christ-followers, including humility, integrity, compassion, vision, focus, generosity, and authenticity.

If you really think about having these qualities, you can see why they are important in being a true example and leader for Christ. When you are a genuine follower from the inside out, you put off a much better picture of Christ. But when you only live it on the outside or only act like a Christian on Sundays, you will be labeled a hypocrite, just like those Pharisees. Be careful of the picture you are painting and be sure that your heart is in it as much as your appearance.

Jesus longs for us to turn to Him with all our heart. We get a great a picture of this throughout His ministry and in the prayer He puts out at the tail end of Matthew 23. He has compassion on those in need, including those in need of a Savior. Are you doing all of it for show and to impress people? Or do you longingly pursue Christ with your all, wanting the best relationship and picture of Him?

Come before Him with a heart open and focused. We never have to clean up our lives before coming to Christ, but allow Him to cleanse you of the mess. Don't be a showy follower, trying to impress the people around you and dictating what is right and wrong. Lead with humility, integrity, compassion, vision, focus, generosity and authenticity. Be completely genuine from the inside out.  

Monday, March 14, 2016

Day 68 - All-Knowing

Day 68
Psalm 31-32

You may feel ignored by the people around you, or even the people who are close to you, but you should know that God always sees you and hears you. He keeps tabs on you and knows your heart. He will protect you and provide for you in the just the right ways. He will place you in just the right situations to help you grow and be more faithful to Him. He knows your desires and what you long for. He knows.

On the flip side, He also knows all of our bad thoughts. He knows about the person we lied to, the things we thought about that girl's dress or hair. He knows what we do when we are alone. He knows when our motives are not good.

However, we are living for a forgiving and compassionate God Who longs for us to come to Him. When we mess up and need to ask for His hand, He will give it to us. Holding in our sin and downfalls can create a guilt that is bubbling over to near-insanity. Letting those go to God and allowing Him to forgive you will take the burden away from you. He knows your situation, why not be open about it from your point of view to Him.

He knows all! He knows what we do when we are alone. He knows our thoughts and our motives. Come to Him with confession and be free from your guilt and from the pains that drive you down. He will offer you His hand and forgiveness if you just confess and ask! He knows what you need right now.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Day 67- Roles

Day 67
Leviticus 8-10, Matthew 22

Aaron and his sons had very important roles as priests. We read about the tasks and procedures they needed to carry out and the consequences of not fulfilling those roles well. We all have a role to fill. We are all called to live for Christ (if you are a Christ-follower) and fall into the roles He calls us to to carry out His ministry. When we are called to our roles, it is best to obey and use them for God's purposes so that we may carry out the mission in bringing others to Christ.

As priests, Aaron and his sons had to carry out some daunting and detailed tasks. But God called them to that role because He had faith in them. When Aaron's sons didn't fully obey and fully respect what God had called them to do, we read that there were deep consequences, because the role they filled was one that required careful respect.

Jesus talks about different types of roles and callings through Matthew. The parable about the wedding tells us that many are called or invited to the kingdom, but few accept the invitation. This invitation is open to anyone, but only few choose it. Again, being called to God's kingdom requires respect as you are displaying Who He is.

Jesus also brings up Caesar's role in taxing him, as well as how our roles in heaven will be different than what we have come to know as our roles here on earth. But one important element of being a follower of Christ is to carry out a role of love. This is our greatest commandment. Love God first. Love others second. Simple as that. All of the laws are based on these two commandments. Love is a huge piece of showing others Who Christ is. When we react out of hatefulness and shun those we don't agree with, what makes you think they will ever come to Christ? We must love all. We don't have to agree or waste our efforts over and over again on someone who isn't going to follow Christ, but at least treat them like a human being, created by Christ.

We have roles as friends, siblings, children, spouses, workers, etc. But our role in God's plan is by far the greatest, and encompasses all of these other roles. When we are content being in the roles He calls us to, and use those roles to further His kingdom, we will feel blessed and ultimately experience our rewards in heaven. Respect the roles He has put you in, and use them for Him.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Day 66 - Authentic Hearts

Day 66
Leviticus 6-7, Matthew 21:23-46

As followers of Christ, we all hit those slopes in life where we have a hard time being on fire for Christ. The meaning of what we're called to do and be fizzles low, and you kind of stop caring. That is what happened with the people who followed the rules of sacrifices throughout their lives. The meaning behind what they did with the sacrifices became monotonous and duty-driven, rather than a heart change. 

Sometimes, we hit these ruts. We face the duties of being a Christ-follower rather than the bottom line. Christ didn't intend for us to burn out and to feel doused in our flames. He came so that we may have life and have it to the full. The sacrifices offered in Moses' time was a form of worship. When our worship doesn't feel authentic and driven by the leading of the change in our hearts, it is time for a heart to heart with God, and some reflection on what He has done for us. Our worship to God comes in all shapes and sizes, but having the authenticity is key.

Christ dealt with some task-driven leaders. They talk a good game, but underneath, they are fakers, simply trying to say the right things to look good, and maintain control of others. The parables Jesus shares here hits them straight between the eyes, and causes them to be more angered. They wanted to play by their rules and the traditional rules they knew without having the heart change for why the rules were even in place. We can be guilty of this too. Perhaps you go to church each week, read your Bible when you can, and do everything right when it comes to serving and volunteering. These things, however, don't get you to heaven, and are not far off from the standards the Pharasees had. 

Authenticity. A heart that pounds and yearns for Jesus. Doing these things because of the passion you have for your Creator is where it is at. Never do things to gain or earn heaven; do things because heaven has been given to you by a wonderful Savior long ago and you just can't help but respond in love and worship. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Day 65 - Shutting the Back Door

Day 65
Leviticus 4-5, Matthew 21:1-22

It is so easy to pass a sin off as a "mistake". It is so easy to say "I swear" to do something when all you have to say is "I'll do it." Christ could have easily gotten out of the suffering He was about to face, but He jumped in with no return, as we read today.

We read about compensating for sins that weren't known were committed. I think it is fair to say that as we grow, there are some things we don't realize are sins until after we commit them. Perhaps you've hurt someone you didn't realize you hurt. It is important to listen to God's Word and the Holy Spirit in the proddings of our hearts. When we call a sin a simple "mistake" we can have the tendency to "mistaken" again. But when we own it as a sin, we have to face it head on.

Making a foolish vow to someone, and not realizing it was dumb until later seems to happen from time to time (at least to me). It is usually at that point I'm left doing something that I never wanted to do, or I'm bailing and hurting others in the process. God tells us to own our vows and simply say yes or no, telling the truth each time. Saying "yes" to someone, when really we know we don't have time, is telling a lie to that person. Consider your words before saying them.

In Matthew, we read about Christ's entry into the city on Palm Sunday. My pastor actually taught on this a couple of Sundays ago, and it wasn't until I heard his message that I realized the significance in Christ's timing here. Once Jesus rode into the city, He had begun the process of shutting the backdoor to escaping from the cross. People shouted praise and slander at Him as He rode in. This was the busiest time in the city, as it was Passover, so people from all over had come and witnessed Jesus riding in. For His entire ministry, Jesus had said "My time has not yet come", and told people to keep quiet about His miracles. But now, He put Himself out there for all to see. There was no going back as He rode into His final week on earth.

I encourage you to take a listen to the sermon Pastor Todd taught on this passage. It is great and helped me realize how much deeper this section of the Gospel goes.

We can put a backdoor on everything in our lives. Our marriages, our jobs...Jesus could have put a backdoor on going to the cross for us. We can call a sin a mistake, rather than owning it. We can make a vow to someone, then just ditch it. But we are commanded to own what we say and do. Be a stronger person and own it!  

Monday, March 7, 2016

Day 64 - Count the Cost

Day 64
Leviticus 1-3, Matthew 20

There is a cost for our sins that we don't realize too often in this world. It is so easy to pass off the "bad things" in our lives because "everyone does it". But as we read about the different rituals of sacrifice in the beginning of Leviticus, we can get a better idea of what the people used to go through to be cleansed.

Today, we have Jesus, Who died as our ultimate sacrifice for our sins, so we no longer needed to offer sacrifices. He has made it very possible and easy to come to Him now as opposed to Moses' time. This can cause us to forget what He has done for us though, as we go about life. We'll continue to read about the different sacrifices over the next day or two, but there were many of them that meant different things at that time. Each one covered a different type of sin or profession to God. Jesus did all of that for us, however.

Jesus goes into what the value of the Kingdom of Heaven is like, as He compares it to workers who get a day of pay no matter what time they started. I don't know about you, but I'm sure I would have raised an eyebrow if I worked from 9-5 and was paid the same amount as someone who worked 4-5. But we learn from this that the Kingdom is open to all who put their trust in Christ, whether it be at the beginning of life or at the end. We never know when this life will end, but if you trust in Christ, you will be rewarded the Kingdom!

As the mother of James and John asks if her sons could sit at Christ's left and right in the Kingdom, Jesus reminds her of the bitter cup He will have to partake to gain the Kingdom. The definition of a leader in heaven is so much different than ones here on earth. While here on earth, leaders have lots of success, get honored everywhere they go, have people working for them, and get what is first at all times, in Christ's definition they are humble and go last, serving others and act as slaves. Jesus is our example of this. "For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many."

The blind men didn't care what others thought of them as they shouted for Christ from the side of the road. They wanted Christ. We should be like those men, shouting and yearning for Him, no matter what others in this world think of us. You can count the cost of your sin, of what it means to follow Him, and what it looks like to be a ruler for Him. Is it worth it to you? Do you want Christ bad enough that you are willing to sacrifice life for His direction? Count the cost, and find that He is worth it all.

Day 63 - Dwelling Place

Day 63
Exodus 39-40, Matthew 19

Jesus turned the tables on what it means to have an expectation in what faith is about. As you'll read here today, the Jewish people (and we) have made it about a check list and our own expectation of Who God is and what we need to do to come to Him. We make it about what we do and what we need to do, rather than what He has done.

As we wrap up Exodus, we read that the Tabernacle was completed and that God was with the people there. We recall how hopeless the Israelites were at the beginning of Exodus, but how God had delivered them and dwelt among them as they moved about the wilderness. Now, at the completion of the Tabernacle, they can keep God at the forefront of their journey, as they move when He tells them to through the cloud. Through their complaining and sinfulness, God still stuck with them and led them along the path that they were meant to take. It was about what He did for them, no longer what they had to do.

Jesus is continually leading the example of what it means to come to Him. As the little children were brought to Him to be blessed and the disciples tried to turn the parents away, Jesus contradicts them and says to allow the little children to come to Him. The disciples probably pictured Jesus as too busy and too great to care about children, who were to be seen and not heard. But Jesus uses them to make a comparison to who will indeed inherit the Kingdom, as it is those with faith like the children. They simply believe and have awe, without worrying about what they must do.

The Rich Man who approaches Jesus gets a wake-up call as Jesus tells him how to have eternal life. We read that it is not about what we know and how much we know, but where our hearts belong. This man obviously knew the commandments and was ready to check off another part of his list. But when Jesus tells him to sell all of his belonging, he is stuck. Not because he has the stuff, but because he loves his stuff. It is the one thing on earth that he cares about more then Christ.

We can try and try to earn our way to heaven and into God's favoritism, but that isn't how it works. It is about a heart of Christ and allowing Him to essentially "destroy" your ideas of a happy life and happy dreams and allowing Him to show you what He has in store. Giving up our checklists, our hopes, our dreams, our hope for a spouse, our relationships, our jobs, etc. will show us His heart. It is not about what we do, but what He has done! When we allow Him to live and dwell in our lives, we will experience His Kingdom indeed. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Day 62 - Being a Team Player

Day 62
Exodus 36-38, Matthew 18

As a family in Christ, it is important we play as a team. I can't tell you how many times I see Christians fighting among each other and turn non-Christians off to being a part of that family. When did we as Christians along the way lose the purpose of love and teamwork?

In Exodus today, we read how the people came together with their gifts and sacrifices to build the tabernacle. This is something that sounds incredibly easy to do in today's world, but in Moses' time, it took hours and hours of work every day for months. Even though we have read about a community that bickered throughout the journey and probably didn't see eye to eye on a daily basis, we see how they came together to work under the common purpose of God's plan. This is an example to how we are to work together. Just because we don't agree on everything, doesn't mean we don't agree that Jesus is our Lord and God's purpose is number 1 in our lives.

Matthew really speaks on humility and teamwork as Jesus responds to the question His disciples ask, about who is the greatest in the Kingdom. Jesus points out that those like the children, humble and honest, wondering about His greatness, will be first in the Kingdom. When we cause someone of pure faith to stumble, or a child to lose their wonder in Christ, we might as well drown. We will face temptations, but those who tempt will face the wrath.

Working with other Christians when we face disagreements is laid out in this chapter of Matthew as well. We can disagree and that is ok, but to handle it in a healthy, constructive way is the best way, and it is all in print right here. The interesting thing about this is that a powerful section about forgiveness follows it. When we fail to forgive others, why would God forgive us?

Are you being a team player in the family of Christ? You have been given gifts, skills, passions and capabilities for a reason - are you using them in the church or to further God's Kingdom? And when you disagree with someone, do you direct them out of love, or do you guilt and shame them to the point of not wanting to return/be a part of God's family? Jesus says that if we turn someone away from the faith, we will be judged indeed. Stop being on your own team, doing your own agenda, and loving what your thoughts and opinions are, and start working together as a family of Christ, making others want that family. You don't have to be a pushover, but you can be loving and guide by example, allowing God to take care of the judging part of it.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Day 61 - Encounters with God

Day 61
Exodus 34-35, Matthew 17

We read about two very significant encounters with God today, and the effects that come with encountering God.

Moses, went up onto the mountain for 40 days to inscribe the covenant he and God made for the people into stone tablets. During this encounter, Moses had no food and no water, as the Lord provided all he needed in that time. One of the covenants that was brought up was that of only working 6 days and spending the 7th resting in God. While this is a very hard thing to do in today's culture, it is still extremely important. I can't even begin to tell you how valuable and necessary my personal time with God is. While it He doesn't only encounter us in the quiet times, those are some of the best times I've shared with Him.

Moses comes down from the mountain, glowing, after his encounter with God. I can see so much truth to how we "glow" after encountering God. I find myself longing for those moments again and again. My day gets off to a much better start when I have those times and I tend to "glow" more brightly in my attitude and demeanor throughout the day.

In Matthew, we see how Peter, James and John up to the mountain to be alone and again, encounter God. This powerful experience leaves the disciples trembling and in awe of the power of God. God gives huge credibility to Jesus, His Son, telling the disciples to listen to Him. We can take from this to also listen to what Jesus tells us through the Word and in His example for us.

We don't have to have a HUGE encounter with God like Moses and the disciples had. He can move in mighty, mighty ways in our circumstances and in the quietness of our souls. Jesus tells the disciples that faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains! It is interesting to me that this comes after this huge encounter on the mountain. God works in the big things and the tiniest of details.

Having those opportunities for encountering God is a necessary and powerful thing. It is so hard to do in today's culture and with the busyness of our lives, but when you allow that time, He actually makes life less complicated because you are in His Word and have Him in your mind. Allowing God to help you plan the steps of your day and being open to His encounter is a major relief. Life will still come with the problems, heartaches and pain, but when you have God in your day, you can face it more readily.

Day 60 - Fakers

Day 60
Psalm 28-30
David struggled a lot. I'm sure we can agree to this by now. Today, we read about the false securities and how they affected him. Whether that be his "friends" or the things he had.

As we get from David's cries in Psalm 28, he had a lot of "friends" who weren't actually his friends. People who play the game of being friendly simply to get information out of you or use you to gain for their own agendas aren't friends. But they do need grace and humility shown back to them. This doesn't mean you give in and give them what they want, but you show them Who Jesus is in your life. This needs to be spun the other way. Are you a good friend? Take a look at your relationships and ask yourself about them. Sometimes we can have blinders on that blur our vision of who we truly are being in a relationship.

The things we have can give us a false sense of security and also blur our vision. When we are relying on achievements, money, houses, etc. to provide us with that comfortable position in life, we are deeply mistaken in our view of what life is about. Things that can disappear in an instant will never fully satisfy. We will be left wanting more and more, and the cycle will carry on until we finally rest in the arms of Jesus, realizing we don't need anything in this world but Him. David had to learn this as he fled from his enemies and had to cry out for his life. Nothing could spare him but God.

When we rely too heavily on people and things, we can lose our dependence on God quickly because we are not focused on Him and what He has done for us. People will disappoint. Things will go away. The high of your feelings will come down, and you'll be left wanting more. Don't let these impostors send you on a false sense of who Christ is. He is a forever sort of satisfaction, unlike anything else. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Day 59 - Losing it All

Day 59
Exodus 31-32, Matthew 16

When you give all that you are to the movement of Christ, you gain so much more than you can ever gain from the world. People came together with their individual gifts to help build the tabernacle. God has equipped each one of us in a way to give back to Him. We can choose where we use our gifts, but the ultimate reward comes when we use it for Christ's mission.

We see how quickly people can turn from God and give up what He has given to us by turning to other things and idols. (Idols being anything from a golden calf, as we read about in Exodus, or the things in our lives that we put before Christ.) We see the wrath of God threaten to pour out on the sinful people, giving their worship to this thing, rather than to the God Who rescued them out of Egypt. Are you placing something else before the God Who redeemed you? He has done so much for us, and yet we can bat an eyelash and cling to the things we think will matter, rather than the One that has and will and does.

This is played out as well in our Matthew reading for the day too, as we read about leaders looking for a miraculous sign from Jesus to prove He is the Messiah. While Jesus could easily do this, He knows that their hearts aren't right as they are approaching Him on their own terms and basing their belief on themselves. Jesus has given us enough reason to have faith in Him. Why do we insist on seeing more? What we put into our hearts is what matter and when we lose what we desire, our desires will be met beyond our imagination when we give them up.

Peter declares Jesus as Messiah and the living God, then refuses to allow Jesus to go in order to save us all. Jesus points out:

 "If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn away from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your soul?" - Matthew 16:24-26

Everyday, we must make a decision to take up our crosses and follow Him. By taking up the cross, we face death daily - death in our hopes, dreams, desires - for the following of Christ's plans in us. When we try to cling to our lives and the things we put before Christ, we will lose what matters most. Losing is gain when it comes to Christ. We can have everything in this world, but in the end it is entirely meaningless in comparison to the eternal rewards that Christ gives us in this life and in the life to come.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Day 58- Heart Focus

Day 58
Exodus 29-30, Matthew 15

Our hearts can be focused on many things in this world, but focusing it on our relationship with Jesus is the most important. Because of His sacrifice, and because of His blood, we don't need to carry out the meticulous rituals of the Old Testament times. The details of the Exodus reading sure shows how serious it was to cleanse oneself of their sins. It also shows just how seriously we take our relationship with God and in coming to Him with pure hearts.

Jesus is our Savior. He restores, forgives and redeems. Accepting a relationship with Him is accepting the redemption, forgiveness and cleansing of our sins. The most important relationship you can say "yes" to is one with Him.

We read in Matthew how traditions and rules can be a heart issue. We are a people of routine, comforts, traditions, but these are the things that Jesus teaches against. These are the things that stunt growth. We cling to those things so much, that we miss the true meaning of our faith, of church, and of Christianity. Think about this in the perspective of the church. We cling to our buildings, things, traditions and routines. What happens to the mission? What happens when people who are unfamiliar with church walk in for the first time and see people more worried about structure, traditions and the things around them to notice a life that is in dire need of a Savior?  Or maybe they feel welcomed at first, but after awhile, the true colors come out. The rituals become more important than the mission. Where does your heart lie? In programs, in newsletters, in the things of the church? Or in the bottom line of the Great Commission? Jesus makes it pretty clear here.

The struggles faced in this reading are physical struggles. Jesus heals many sick people as they show Him faith and worship Him. When Jesus sees the crowd of 4,000 hungry people, He has compassion on them, showing us that His heart is in the needs of people, rather than the things and traditions of the religious leaders. When we are hungry for Christ, and seek Him, we will be shown compassion.

This is an example for us to show compassion on the poor and hungry ourselves. We can go through life in physical pain and struggles, but the same concept goes with having faith and asking God to heal us. Rejoice during the good days, ask Him for help on the hard days. Jesus shows us compassion as long as we seek Him and His will. As we can see when Jesus feeds the crowds of the hungry, He can take very little and make it overflow with greatness. We just need to trust in Him and have sincere hearts that have faith and that cry out to Him to do His will in our lives.

Is your heart focused on what YOU care about and want out of this life, or on the mission and greatest relationship you can ever have in Jesus Christ? We need to learn to let go of the things we put in the way of loving others and giving us focus on what truly matters. Take some time to realize what is holding you back from fully embracing God with your entire heart today. 


Friday, February 26, 2016

Day 57 - Christ's Compassion

Day 57
Exodus 27-28, Matthew 14
The intricacies of the piecing together of tabernacle and the logistics of it is definitely an indication of how detailed and intricate our God is. This shows how detailed He is with our lives and our hearts too! He cares about every aspect of our lives, no matter how trivial and complicated our situation may seem. He knows and He wants you to come to Him.

Our reading in Matthew today is a prime example of God's heart for us, as we see the compassion, sadness, and care that Jesus shows here. As Jesus receives word that his friend, John the Baptist, was killed He tries to go find solitude to grieve. But as we read, the people follow Him and He notices the need that is before Him. Rather than avoiding the multitude of people tracking Him down, Jesus feeds them by performing a miraculous feat in multiplying the bread and fishes.

When we read of Peter walking on the water with Jesus, we can see where faith comes into play here. Jesus cares for Peter and grabs him when he falls into the water, but also reminds him that it takes faith to stay afloat. Jesus wants us to have that faith in Him and to trust that He will catch us when we fall. He wants us to grow and to lean on Him, even if that means we have to learn some hard lessons at times.

The next time you question your worth, remember how much Christ cares for you. He has every detail and every step planned for us. He cares for our needs and what we are desiring. And, He cares that we continue to grow and lean on Him in all circumstances. Remember how much He loves you - so much that He died for you, so you can spend eternity with Him!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Day 56 - Welcoming Your Everything

Day 56
Exodus 25-26, Matthew 13:30-58

Do you realize how important a relationship with Jesus is? Jesus tries to explain in parable after parable about what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. Even though Jesus shares how urgent it is to hear the Good News, His words were still turned down by some, including His own hometown. Welcoming Jesus into our hearts and lives today is an urgent message that needs to get to all!

The Israelites built a tabernacle so that God could "dwell among them". While going to church or walking into the tabernacle then doesn't bring you salvation, or make you a Christian, it is a way to intentionally bring our offerings to God in worship and recognition each week. Everyday should bring this, in fact. The difference between the time of Exodus and the time after Jesus' death is that we don't have to have a middle party to have God's presence. Moses had to approach God on behalf of the people, and up until Jesus' death, a priest played that role.

Jesus, once again, breaks the trend and the traditions of what was known. God walked among us through Jesus, and because of that, the Kingdom of Heaven was explained through His Words. The comparisons we read of here include the Kingdom of Heaven being like:

A mustard seed - the tiniest seed can spread rapidly
Yeast in bread - it permeates with little
Hidden Treasure/Pearl - Once you find it, it is all you need
Fishing - keep the good and weed out the bad - what the angels will do with the people on judgement day.

These may seem daunting, but Jesus makes it so possible for all to get there. Accepting and welcoming Him into our lives is more than a checklist - but it is making Him our lives and allowing our hearts to embrace His mission. Little is much in spreading God's Kingdom, and it is everything we could ever need. Make sure the motives of your heart are in check and fully embrace Him. He is all you need and will ever need. Welcome Him today and feel the power of His Kingdom. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Day 55- Let it Grow

Day 55
Exodus 23-24, Matthew 13:1-30

Jesus explains the four types of seeds in His parable, which we can probably relate to if we've been working on growing our faith or planting the seed in someone else to grow. Jesus says "he who has eyes and sees is blessed and he who has ears that hear is blessed."

It takes an open heart and soul to allow our faith to grow. The Israelites have experienced this every step of their way, and now they are ready to build a relationship with God and know Who He is. God comes to them and tells them the covenant He wants to form with them, and the people are able to be in awe of the Lord because of their ears that heard (literally at times) and there eyes that saw.

This can be a very frustrating thing in our lives. Sometimes we long to see God and we long to hear God but we feel like He isn't moving. God's timing, as you know by now, is everything. There are seeds that are sown that land on a path, and never have the chance to grow, because their foundation is not ideal. Maybe you've shared the message with someone, but it just didn't click for them, or they were turned off by it.

The seeds that were sown onto rocky soil also didn't have ideal conditions to form roots. They are so excited about what they have heard or what they have experienced, but as soon as life throws them a curve ball or worries hit, their hearts turn to other things. The seeds that are choked by thorns let the worries of life invade and they don't turn to God for those worries. They deal with them on their own and fall away from the true help they could have had. Then there are the seeds that grow in the good soil and produce great fruit in their lives that give off the sweet taste of God and their faith. They are able to share it with all who come near them because they give off a wonderful vibe of Who God is.

What kind of seed are you? Do you know someone who falls into a category that could use some prayer?

If you have the open ears, open eyes and open heart to received the goodness that God has poured into your life, you are blessed indeed. Even in the rough times of life, if you can cling to what God has in store for you, you are sitting pretty good. But for those who need prayer to grow in faith and to hear the message in a powerful way, don't give up! God's timing is everything. Keep planting the seeds and let God work.  

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Day 54 - Bottom Lines

Day 54
Exodus 21-22, Matthew 12

While policies are so boring and can make a person feel like they're being put through the processes, they are a necessary evil. As the people of Moses begin to settle in together as a traveling community, we read how the policies are needed to keep the lines evident and the expectations clear. The same goes for certain areas of our lives today, whether it be in our work or as a parent to our children.

As we begin just the beginning of the rules and regulations that are being presented in Exodus (and beyond), we'll probably have to shrug our shoulders at some of them and remember how different the times and culture were back in that day. The bottom lines still remain though - love God, love others.

In Matthew, we see how Jesus puts a spin on the old rules and gets called out by the Pharisees for allowing the disciples to eat from the fields and by healing people on the Sabbath. Jesus challenges them and their reasoning however, and asks a very important question that is relevant today. "How much more valuable is a person than a sheep?"

But really. We cling to our traditions. We cling to our "ways of growing up". We cling to everything but reaching out to people it seems. Jesus shows us how to love. Traditions are great, but they can sure hinder the outreach part of church and life at times. The organ may be traditional and a very beautiful-sounding instrument, but it isn't so appealing to the younger generation that just needs a trusting place to fit. We can turn them away (people) because we care too much about our things and traditions. We are NEVER to give up the Gospel message and the essentials that go along with that, but for the other things that hinder growth of someone's faith, we need to think hard.

What is the bottom line in your life? Do you cling so tightly to traditions and the old rules, that you can't see past what people need today? Everyone is looking for something. The people who enter our churches looking for something honestly don't really care about your traditions. The bottom line is Jesus and loving Him and loving others. Jesus makes that pretty clear. There is nothing wrong with traditions and doing things the "ol fashioned way", but don't ever let it hinder the love we need to show others, so they may have a clear picture of what Jesus is about. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Day 53 - Consistent Life

Day 53
Psalms 26-27
Coming to God anytime and all the time, rather just when we need Him to rescue us is ideal. We see how David has constant contact with God throughout his life, when times are good and when times are bad. I can't help but wonder when people say "God isn't real because He didn't answer my plea". God becomes real when He is THE reason you live life and you treat Him with a proper relationship.

Where is your heart? What are its motives? Leaning on God for one situation and then acting like He doesn't exist in your life will show you where those motives are. David asks God to show him the blind spots in his faith and in his life. His heart longs to be right with God as he goes about life.

We see David relate with God in all aspects of his life as we read throughout Psalms. David not only asks for protection, but he also praises God, admires Him, asks to be cleansed, points out attributes, etc. What else do you talk to God about rather than just asking for His provision in a particular situation?

Don't treat God like He's only there for your provision. To have a true relationship with people, you talk to them about whatever, you don't only ask them for things. (That is just downright annoying too.) If you are seeking to have a "real" God in your life, start treating Him like He is real and keep your conversations with Him consistent all throughout the day, not just when you're facing a problem.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Day 52 - Evidence of God

Day 52
Exodus 19-20, Matthew 11

It is interesting that God reveals Himself in mighty ways to fill the Israelites in on the 10 Commandments. The complaining and disbelief would have likely ended here with that kind of evidence that God was with them, but we'll continue to read of the peoples' lack of faith as we continue on through Exodus.

The rules weren't made so that we as a people couldn't be free in Christ, but so we can be made whole in Christ. Think of it as setting the rules for kids. Parents set rules not to stomp on their kids' fun, but to keep them safe and growing up right. God made "rules" so that we can be kept safe an continually growing in Him. Our hearts will land in the rule book in the precise spot that it longs for. What I mean by this is that if we long to have Christ in our lives and to grow in Him, the rules will come naturally and your life will carry evidence that Christ is a big deal in it. If you care about yourself and having temporary fun, then you'll probably land somewhere outside of the rules.

According to the 10 Commandments, God values 2 things: Respect and respect for others. What we value, we put rules on. He values us, thus the rules. There is evidence that we are His valuable creations.

John the Baptist needed confirmation that Jesus was the Messiah. He was having a tough time seeing the evidence that Jesus was He. How many times do we do this throughout life? We question the whole "God's path" thing because it just doesn't seem spectacular enough, or flashy enough. Jesus came as a humble baby - not what many were probably expecting. He wasn't the most respected person as He carried out His ministry. Again, probably not what people were picturing in a "messiah". And He was crucified. This led to the disciples and many questioning everything, until He rose again. All throughout Scripture, there is great evidence of Jesus being the Savior.

Is God evident in your life? Do you realize that there is evidence that shows how valuable you are to Him? When the path we are on doesn't seem all that "miraculous", remember how humble God is. His plans are always perfect and in time you will see how evident He was in the molding of the plan He sent you. Ask God to show you evidence of Him as you proceed through today, so you can continue to be in awe and have an inexplicable faith that longs for Him.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Day 51 - Ultimate Provider

Day 51
Exodus 16-18

God grants us with astounding provision at just the right time. We see the example of the Israelites and the manna that God provided just enough of for the day. It is so easy to keep thinking we need more when we live in a culture where we can have anything we want anytime we want. Keeping up with the people around us and trying to have what they have is a dangerous path to be on. The people learned this as they tried to take more than they needed, and it rotted.

Not only in food did the Lord provide for the Israelites, but the very next chapter of Exodus, He provided water. Even when the people continued to complain and show their lack of trust. And then in the next section, we read that He granted them protection from the Amalekites. The Lord cares about our personal well-being too, as Moses is told by his father in law to start delegating the numerous tasks to trusted leaders of the people.

I can't even tell you how important that delegation thing is, but it is gold. Not only does it take some off of your plate, but it empowers other leaders to take ownership in the mission you are trying to carry out! There are great benefits to doing it, no matter where you are!

In Matthew, we read as Jesus "delegates" the disciples to go out and spread the Good News. He gives them specific and solid instructions, telling them not to bring anything with them, but to depend on the hospitality of the homes they find themselves in. He tells them not to fear or to waste their time on places that refuse their welcome. Jesus also says to shout His news from the rooftops!

I just love this part:
“But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. 27 What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear!"

I think it is so easy for people to speak their minds about whatever, but when it comes to talking about Jesus, Christians can freeze up and avoid the conflict. We read though that we shouldn't be afraid and that the Lord is on our side when we work for Him. If we hold on to our reputations and pride, we will lose our lives. But when we give it up for Christ and His mission, we will have greater life to come! 

Where do you need His ultimate provision today? Hopefully most of you reading this have food in the fridge and water, but do you need to delegate more? Maybe you need protection from a situation or a deep, heartfelt prayer answered. Jesus calls us to go out and shout His News from the rooftops. Do you need a little courage to do that? God has it and He knows just what you need TODAY! Give it to Him and He will be your Ultimate Provider if your needs match His will! 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Day 50 - Faith in Action

Day 50
Exodus 14-15, Matthew 9
Prayer is a very essential part to faith and finding out God's direction for your life. I am a firm believer that it should be a a major part of your walk with Him. But when we begin to use that "wait and pray" time as an excuse not to jump eventually, it can sure hinder the faith in action portion of your walk.

We read an example of this in Exodus as the Israelites stay put and pray to the Lord as the Egyptians close in on them. God tells them to get moving, asking them why they are still crying out to Him. If we wait around too long, too fearful to move in the direction God is telling us to, we can get overrun and miss out on a great opportunity. Because the Israelites had faith in God doing the impossible, they got to witness great miracles done by Him, and we read how much they praised Him for it.

There are many examples of this throughout Matthew 9, as people continue to approach Jesus, needing healing and help. It's the people who go to Him and take the initiative who experience His true power. The bleeding woman who reached out and touched His robe took quite the risk in carrying out her faith, and it paid off. She was healed and blessed because of her boldness and faith.

At the end of Matthew 9, Jesus points out how workers are needed to help others in need. Isn't that so true today too? I think many times we are too afraid to help or jump on board a mission opportunity because we want that specific "nudge" from God that we can keep changing the specifications of. We can sit around and wait for the perfect opportunity, or we can pursue and path and know that God will close the door if it isn't right.

God wants us to take a leap in His direction. We can sit around all our lives waiting on all the "answers" and the "specific nudging that we make the rules for," but we will be missing out on what God has in store for us. His miraculous ways are evident when we move in His direction and allow Him to guide us through the seemingly impossible paths that lie ahead. As intimidating as they may be, He will make it all so worth it.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Day 49- Remembering

Day 49
Exodus 12-13, Matthew 8

God sure pulled people out of some hefty storms and situations. I think He has come to everyone's rescue at some point, whether you believe it or not. We read how the Israelites celebrate Passover in order to remember the great rescue God provided them from Egypt. As we continue to read about their journey, we will see soon enough that they quickly forget about God's faithfulness to them and complain about even lesser situations.

It is important to remember what God has done for you, both big and small. Whether He healed you in a miraculous way or put food on your table, proclaiming glory and gratitude are in order. As we read how Jesus healed the sick, we can see the different reactions from the people. Many rejoiced and told everyone they knew. Others felt humbled and deeply grateful for the miracles blessed to them. Some ordered Jesus away. 

The disciples even had a rough time remembering how faithful God was and were scared in the midst of a storm at sea. Jesus questions them and calms the storm right before their eyes. After witnessing all of the miracles Jesus performed, they still forgot in the midst of hardship. 

How do you intentionally remember what God has done for you and His faithfulness to you? It's hard to relive the hardships we have faced, or the difficult situations we have found ourselves in, whether we put ourselves there or not, but how do you celebrate and remember God's goodness? The Israelites struggled with this, and even the disciples who walked next to Jesus. Remember what God has done for you, and cling to that as you face the next storm. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Day 48 - Giving it Over

Day 48
Exodus 9-11, Matthew 7

What is hardening your heart recently? When God asks you to give something over to Him, what do you tend to hold onto the tightest? We see how Pharaoh refused and refused to give over the Israelites, even though God's power was displayed over and over for him to see.

I think we sometimes miss the miracles that are right in front of us. We expect God to do mighty, obvious acts, like He did with the 10 Plagues, but don't you realize that everyday He does do just that all around you? Every breath we inhale and every beat of our hearts is a gift from God. The way He works out a situation or when you run into the right person at the right time, He is moving in mighty ways. I have experienced miracles a few times in my own life, and I am a firm believer of the modern day miracles that show Who God is in powerful ways. Yet I still struggle with letting go of some things.

Pharaoh slowly built up to letting the people go, but he kept on holding onto his pride, insisting on getting something out of the deal - whether Moses was only allowed to take the men, then all but the livestock, and finally he folds and gives it all over. We see how God takes away more and more throughout the whole ordeal with him though. When we have trusted God with everything, we can be okay when things fall out of our lives, because we know His plan far-exceeds our own.

This kind of faith can guide us in what we ask God for and how we judge others. Knowing God's heart and trusting in His hand to take care of us no matter what we lose and what we go through sure changes the picture when we approach Him for "favors" and requests. Building that relationship with Him so we can get to that point is a long and painful process, but so worth it!

What do you hold tightly to? Is there something in your life that you need to be okay with handing over to God - like your finances, your family, your career, your plans for even tomorrow? Building that relationship on the Rock can give us a true perspective of what really should matter most in our lives, and then we can be okay no matter what we lose or what we endure in this life. Consider the miracles He shows you daily and know His power is greater than anything else in this world!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Day 47 - Show Them Your God

Day 47
Exodus 7-8, Matthew 6:19-34
Did you know that when you claim the title of "Christian" you are constantly painting a picture of who God is to all around you, especially to unbelievers? In Exodus 7:1, God tells Moses that He "will make him seem like God to Pharaoh." Moses is essentially showing Pharaoh how powerful and persistent his God is. What are you showing others about your God?

We can show people over and over Who our God is, but maybe they stay hard of heart like Pharaoh. Be persistent. You never know when God will move in them. Show them why you shine and why you have a reason to hold your head up. God can perform great miracles through you like He did with Moses. Moses didn't have the confidence to face Pharaoh, but we see that God still used him to move mountains and rescue His people.

As we continue to read the Sermon on the Mount, we read about storing our treasures in heaven and casting aside our worries. When we store everything we care about in heaven and have a heart for what God's heart beats for, we can find freedom from the worries of this world. Where your heart and worries are makes all the difference as to the light that shines from you. When your cares are in God's hands, you can fully give yourself to Him and His cause. But when you are weighed down and worried about things of this world, it is easy to forget where your heart needs to be.

Believe that God has you and you can shine His light so bright to those around you. Paint that picture of Him to others that portrays Who He really is. Be persistent when you don't think He is using you for His cause. Stay in tune with Him and let Him direct your steps and the mission He calls you to. Cast your worries into His very capable hands and let your light shine so that others want a piece of what makes you glow. 

Day 46 - A Good Shepherd

Day 46
Psalm 23-25

Even though we read Psalms 23-25 today, I'd like to take a closer look at Psalm 23, and see what it means to us today.

The Lord is my Shepherd
I have all that I need

How has God provided for all of your needs?

He lets me rest in green meadows, 
He leads me beside peaceful streams

 How do you find peace in the Lord? Reflect on something today that you could use peace from or about.

He renews my strength
He guides me along right paths
bringing honor to His name.

Where do you need strength today? How can you bring God honor with the strength He provides for you?

Even when I walk through the darkest valley
I will not be afraid
for You are close beside me
Your rod and Your staff protect and comfort me.

How can you remind yourself that everything will be ok, even as you walk through a tough time in life? A shepherd uses his staff to keep a sheep on the right path and correct them. How does this line up with what God does for us?

You prepare a feast for me 
in the presence of my enemies. 
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.

What are your thoughts on this section? How does this apply to you today?

Surely your goodness and
unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life
and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

How does sticking close to your "Shepherd" lead you to a life of love and goodness? What about in the dark times of life - how does this apply then? What reward awaits us at the end of this life for staying close to Him?

Psalm 24 is a good follow up to the end of Psalm 23, as it goes into who will truly see the Lord. Psalm 25 leads us into our everlasting trust in the Lord, even when life throws us enemies (whether that be in health, people, jobs, etc.). Repenting and remember what He has done for us and holding tight to what He will do will keep us close to Him.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Day 45 - A Real God

Day 45
Exodus 4-6, Matthew 6:1-18

Making excuses to God when we are called to do the hard things can be a bad habit indeed. We see how Moses was pretty much terrified to face Pharaoh, but God didn't allow him to keep making excuses, as He provided everything Moses needed to approach Pharaoh.

What kind of excuses do you feed God when you feel that nudging to do something you don't think you can do? One thing we need to remember is that God is truly real and that He will carry you through if you are pursuing a task for Him. I think it is so easy to make these excuses because we don't think that is really God prodding us, or we forget that He can do great things because we don't always see Him.

When we can look back and see God's faithfulness in our lives and how He pulled us through the missions that seemed intimidating at the time, we can look ahead at the next mission He calls us to, and perhaps feel like it isn't so bad compared to how the last time went. Any mission that God calls us to will be well worth it in the end, and you will come through a new, changed person with faith that can move mountains.

It is important to remember how real our God is when we are praying to Him. In Matthew, we read that Jesus told the people not to just babble on and on when you pray, but to take it seriously and have faith that your Father is listening. The same goes with how you fast and give. Remembering that God sees all and knows all is important, as we strive to please Him and Him alone. What people around us think won't matter in the end. God has the last say and everything we do should be for His glory and not for ours.

How real is your God to you? Do you have faith in Him to carry you through the missions He calls you to? Excuses are easy to make when we don't feel like doing the hard things, and passing them off is simple because even though you feel God's nudging, you can easily deny your abilities and His calling. But if you believe in a Real and Powerful God, you can find it easier to have faith to do the hard things. The same goes for when you talk to Him in prayer. Rather than sharing your words with the people all around you and showing them how "good" of a Christian you are, make it real just between you and God. Talk to Him like you would a friend. Make God real in your life today.

Day 44 - Obedience in God's Timing

Day 44
Exodus 1-3, Matthew 5:27-48

As you recall back when we wrapped up Genesis, Joseph and his family were a high-ranked people in Egypt. As time went by, and rulers passed on, however, the Hebrews become intimidating to the Egyptians, and they are forced into harsh slavery. As Pharaoh calls for all the newborn boys to be slain, in hopes of controlling the population of the Hebrews, we see two midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, who take the high road in doing what is right to preserve the lives of the newborn boys.

Because of another mother's heart for doing the right thing, we see that Moses' life is preserved and he would go on to rescue all of God's people out of Egypt. God's plan in the small acts is something that can end up huge in the end. This mother's small act of putting her baby in a basket, turned into a big deal later down the road.

Once Moses grew, he had a sense of justice as well, when he saw the Egyptian beating a Hebrew, and he reacted by killing the Egyptian, then fled. But as we continue to read, Moses escapes and God comes to him with a master plan through a burning bush. Moses, being unsure, still obeys with God's help, as we will read later.

The theme of obedience in God's timing continues as we read through the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus state various laws that came out of Moses' time and puts a different spin on them. Rather than abolishing the law, Jesus makes them more relationship-oriented. We can see how timing is everything here and in Exodus. As a world takes on a Savior, the laws become different. If you are 5 years old and your parents give you rules about staying out too late, that doesn't seem to fit. You have rules for what applies at the time and in the specific situation. The similarity is here as Jesus speaks about the laws. After a Savior dies for us, the world became a different place in terms of how things were done as believers.

Obedience in God's timing can be tough. We want things on our time and we have a hard time when things change. But trusting that God has a plan in the timing scheme, can help us to see past our wants, and look deeper into the grand plan of His power. Trust in His timing and allow Him to work in and through you as He carries out His master plan!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Day 43 - Blessings

Day 43
Job 41-42, Matthew 5:1-26

The ways Jesus put out on who is blessed vs. what the world says about being "blessed" seem to completely contradict each other. Those who realize their need for God will inherit the kingdom! Job was this person. He knew how much he needed God and he repented in this way towards God in the end. Job fit many of the categories listed in the Beatitudes. We can see just how blessed Job was, and just how much he shined for God in his circumstances.

God wants us to do right by others, as he states in the Sermon on the Mount and as we see at the end of Job. "So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the alter in the Temple, and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the alter. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God."

At the end of Job, God has his friends bring sacrifices for speaking wrongly about Him, and has Job pray for his friends. This seems like a genius way to humble the friends who thought they knew it all, and help Job be reconciled with them.

Are you living in a grudge of a broken relationship? Being reconciled with that person is huge to God as He tells us to not even bring Him our offerings until we are reconciled. Communion is a classic example of holding off of until you are made right with the people in your life.

God blesses the most unexpected people. The ways of the world say that you will be "blessed" by all the stuff and power you have. Jesus says that the poor, meek, merciful, pure, peacemakers, and persecuted will find blessing. Forgiveness and a humble heart are key. Be reconciled with one another and experience the true blessings of our Father, so you can truly shine for Him!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Day 42 - All-Knowing God

Day 42
Job 38-40, Matthew 4

Arguing with God is so easy to do, especially when life seems unfair. We question God's motive and wonder why He would let bad things happen to us. We see Job struggle with this as well as his friends on his behalf. But when God rebuttals and makes Job realize just how all-knowing He is, Job is left practically speechless and ashamed.

When we question God, it is important to remember that He knows everything. Every details of our lives is planned out and set ahead of us, as well as the big picture of His perfect plan. We can question all we want, but it won't change this fact. Just because God speaks audibly to Job (as it seems), doesn't mean He doesn't speak to us, through His Word, wise counsel around us, through nature, etc. He leaves us reminders all over to help us through and call us back to Him.

As Jesus is tempted in the wilderness by Satan, we see just how well He knows the scriptures to avoid the temptation. There is something major to be pointed out here - Jesus is tired and hungry. Isn't this when we are at our weakest moments in life? We tend to make irrational decisions when we are hurt, hungry, angry, tired, or lonely. (H.A.L.T) Because Jesus quotes scripture, we see that He remembers His Father's words and has them embedded into His life. And while we can expect this from the Son of God, it doesn't mean we shouldn't take note of this and embed the Word into our lives as well, to be reminded in the weak moments of God's all-knowing characteristic.

As the followers come to Jesus as He begins His ministry, we can take example from them in considering what and who we will follow in this life. We can follow the unknown things that know nothing about our lives, or we can follow an all-knowing, all-powerful God, Who cares for us deeper than anyone else ever could.

God knows where our lives are heading. He can pinpoint the days ahead and lay out spectacular plans. He knows all! He knows the intricate details of our lives and the big picture of His perfect plan for all of eternity. Knowing Him and embedding His Word into our lives will help us when things get tough. Follow the One Who cares the most for you, rather than the temporary things in this world and the people that disappoint. He knows your heart and He knows what you need in this very moment.

Day 41 - Wonder

Day 41
Job 36-37, Matthew 3

I have a song that is completely ingrained in me since returning from the Dominican a couple weeks ago. Maybe you have heard it - "Wonder" by Bethel. Some of the words that repeat are:
"May we never lose our wonder. 
Wide-eyed and mystified, may we be just like a child, staring at the beauty of our King."

I find such beauty in this song since hearing it for the first time in the midst of a poverty-stricken community. I can see what Elihu is getting at here when he goes through all of the wonderful things God has accomplished in nature. We can't help but wonder how His plan comes together and becomes His best work when we are at the bottom of the hole like Job. He has commanded the lightening, created gorgeous store-houses in the snow and He can surely create beautiful things in us.

I think the more we wonder about God and His ideas, we draw nearer to Him. John the Baptist creates a great sense of wonder when he prepares the way for the Savior. People aren't sure what to believe, but it sure got them wondering what was going to happen. Then Jesus turns the tables on John and asks that he baptize Him. John is at a loss and feels like it should be the other way around.

We can sure wonder at times about our situation and what God's plan is in the end. If this Mighty God can create a home for the birds and make everything so intricate, He can surely work the same way with us, who He finds much more important than birds and nature. Jesus' ways weren't like that of our world. They sure contradict what we are surrounded by. But when we continue to wonder about His teachings and put them into practice, we can grow and be unashamed of who we are in Him. May we never lose our wonder.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Day 40- Seek Him

Day 40
Job 34-35, Matthew 2

 Even though reading parts of the Christmas story right now may seem funny, the concepts most definitely still apply! Even in Job's situation, we can tie together these two books of the Bible.

As the wise men traveled far to seek their Savior, we need to understand that these men were much like the "unchurched" in today's world. They were "looking for something" meaningful, as many who are seeking meaning do. The wise men were not the high of the society, but they still went to Christ, outwitting King Herod in the meantime.

Once they found Him, they brought Him gifts and worshiped Him. The process here is stunning. Seek, give, worship. There is no reason this can't apply in today's world. People are looking for something - a meaning, a fix, a way to live. We can pound Jesus into their heads all we want, but it won't matter until they experience Him themselves. One person's word doesn't mean much when you come from a life of disappointment and life falling apart.

Once you find Him, and give Him your all, the amazing things begin to blossom in life, and we can't help but worship.

We need to seek Him in every situation. I'm sure you know by now that situations like Job's require a lot of heart searching and remembering Who you serve. His friends could take this to heart too. Seeking Christ will lead you to the best advice, and give you words to live by. Rather than repeating over and over again how arrogant Job was, and how sinful he was, his friends could have had the truth revealed to them if they just opened their eyes instead of their egos.

Are you seeking something right now? Is the meaning of life something that is just blurry to you? Look for something different, something eternal and something that is completely worthwhile. In everything you do, seek Him! Finding your place in Christ's plan can cause amazing awe in your life, and you can't help but worship because of the amazing things He as done.