Thursday, May 11, 2017

Day 132: Living With Certainty

Day 132
Ruth 1-4, 1 Corinthians 15:1-34

The photo above is when I worked at a bible camp and did ropes courses during the summers. Each summer, we'd take on the Leap of Faith at least once, just to get our feet wet a little before campers came. While I would like to say that leaping off of that pole was an easy thing to do, I still doubted at least a little each time that the ropes would hold me, or that people would catch me at the bottom. Yet with God in our lives, we can hold tightly to Him and know He will not fail us. He is even more dependable than those ropes I had to rely on. If we could just live like He has us, our stories would speak volumes.

Holding certainly to God's power honors Him with your life. Ruth and Naomi's story is one that speaks volumes of where God is in their lives. How certain are you that Jesus indeed has risen from the dead to save you? When you can grasp His power and intentions for you, you can move in your story in a powerful way.

Picking up everything and moving to an unknown land can be a nerve-racking thing, especially as a widow in Old Testament times. The book of Ruth is such a breath of air after reading of the destruction and disobedience in the book of Judges. It shows you that there were still people that obeyed God and put Him first in their lives. We see an unselfish love from Naomi as she works to send Ruth and Orpah back to their land so they can remarry and carry on their lives. Orpah agrees with hesitation, but Ruth sticks to Naomi unswervingly.

The way Ruth cares for her mother-in-law is quite a testimony of the person she is, and this reputation gets the ear of Boaz, who is one who looks to the Lord. I think many times, ladies (guys too) especially try to manipulate a situation to gain a relationship, rather than serving the Lord and waiting on His timing. God knows you are ready for a relationship when you can serve Him without putting that relationship ahead of Him. Ruth worked hard to take care of her mother-in-law. Her heart of service and diligence stuck out to Boaz, and he noticed her and in turn, promised to take care of her. Are you serving the Lord while you patiently wait for His timing in your life? Are you showing Him that He is more important to you than what's next in life?

Paul sends a reminder to the people of Corinth that they need to live certain in the resurrection that saves them from their sin and separation from God. Without the resurrection of Christ, we live pointless lives as Christians. Without the hope the He gave us through His sacrifice, we have nothing to look forward to. How different does your life look because you are certain of the resurrection of Christ? Consider Ruth's life for a moment here. She lived in service to God, knowing her place in His authority and love. Because she knew that God's plan was good for her, she served without hesitation and took care of her mother-in-law. Because of her certainty in God, she was blessed. How does your life show you are certain about Christ's resurrection and goodness for your life.

How does your life speak certainty to what Christ has done for you? Do you manipulate situations to get your way and worry about Him taking care of you? Remember Ruth and her faith as she pressed on with certainty that God would take care of her. Because of her faith and her trust in Him, she was blessed. Because she proclaimed His name and served Him first, she was blessed by God with a man to take care of her. Are you showing God that He can trust you to put Him first before He gives you that thing you really want? Show God that nothing will ever shove Him aside in your life. Live with certainty that He is there.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Day 131: Be a Light

Day 131
Judges 19-21; 1 Corinthians 14

Sometimes, it take tragic events or desperate hardship to realize we have drifted so far from God. It is up to us as followers of Christ to be a light in those dark times. Today, we will see how terrible it is to drift from God and lose loyalty to Him. Our awakening can be quite harsh at times.

The events of the last books of Judges are quite atrocious. Because of Israel's drifting and the morels of the world at that time, we see how incredibly wicked people were. When a person drifts, a country drifts, a world drifts, we lose sight of where our standards lie, and in time, our standards come from the person next to us, or the country next to us, or the group of people who are "worse than I am". Rather than looking side to side, think about looking up for your standards. Keeping your loyalties in God is the most solid thing you can do to anchor down.

Notice that the people finally started talking to God after this tragic incident. It took something like this for them to realize that God was missing from their picture - because of them drifting and losing sight of Him. Unfortunately, this had been a pattern for the Israelites as kings and leaders came in and out of the picture of their history. The whole situation with the concubine was insane, and the matter shouldn't have even left that community. Yet, it blew up and gave people a reason to go to war, so they did. Because this matter was not handled properly, within the bounds of the community it happened in, it got carried away across the nation. How many times do we blow things so far out of proportion, that rather than letting the process handle the judgement, we rely on our emotions and "right to revenge" work ahead?

The biggest thing we can take from this, and from the entire book of judges is that we need to trust God. When we drift away, we fall out of His direction, guidance, law, light...As a result, atrocious things happen, and we want to blame Him for it, when all along, we wanted nothing to do with Him because we thought our way was better. Let Him light your way in all circumstances. He is the Light that will drive out the darkness in this world, our nation, and our hearts. Be loyal to a God Who has set the system out before us and wants the best for us.

Be a light in your church. Don't walk in asking what you can get from the church, but walk in asking what you can offer to your church and do for it. We need to remember that Paul is writing specifically to the situations that were occurring in the church of Corinth. Many were view church selfishly and wanting their way, when really, Paul wanted the people to work together as one under the One Who guides them. Many wanted to offer their opinions and make the choice on who was smartest, most gifted, wisest, etc. How often do you want to simply "show off" what you're gifted at? There is nothing wrong with showing it off, but there is a lot wrong with doing it out of selfish motive, rather than for the sake of being a light for Christ.

We are all entitled to our opinions, however, we are not to let our opinions overshadow that of God's direction. We can talk for the sake of talking and "being heard", but don't talk for only for that reason. Offer light and love to those you worship alongside of. Remember back to 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul told the people that if they speak without love they are as annoying as a gong. Don't be that person. Speak with love to further the Kingdom, for the sake of the Kingdom and bringing people to it. Don't speak with hate and intent to draw lines in the sand and prevent people who are broken like you from entering God's Kingdom because you put the sour taste in their mouth. Be light. Offer light.

Look to the Light to guide you, and be a light to the people around you. Don't allow hate and revenge to take over the love you should be offering in an effort to further God's Kingdom. His Kingdom isn't exclusive, but available to all who want it. Make sure people know God wants them in it. Walk into your church thinking about what you can give, not what you can get from it. Change your view on people you don't particularly agree with and be a light in love. They are broken like you.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Day 130: Relationship in Prayer

Day 130
Psalms 55-56

As you may have gathered by now, David faced a lot of torment from enemies. Today, you'll read how he finds it more hurtful to feel betrayed by his best friend. Even when our friends may turn on us, however, we can find a more powerful friendship in God, Who will deliver us when we cry out to Him. Find a prayer relationship with God so you can be close to Him when times of darkness hit.

Pray for your community. Even though we are surrounded by so much, various destruction in this world, we can learn to be in a prayerful relationship with God about the evil and taking action. David shows this here, as he prays for wickedness he sees within the city, crying out to God to make it good. How often do you cry out to God for your community? As followers of Christ, we should be the ones on the front lines of our communities and our world, helping and praying where wicked has taken over. When your community can see you (as a church) cares for them in being for them and praying for them, you begin to open up a new relationship with them that is trusting and that they belong.

Pray, so that you can let it go. As David faces betrayal from friends, he does the one thing we should all do when we face disappointment and hurt from loved ones: prays to God. David tells us to "cast our cares on the Lord" (vs. 22). This can be a hard thing to do, especially if someone has hurt us, but it is the right thing to do. Constantly thinking about the ones who hurt you and how you can hurt them back isn't a way to live at all. It is what creates the wickedness that rip through our communities, as we discussed above. David says to give it to the Lord. Are you struggling with a loved one who has hurt you or turned on you? Do as David says.

Pray, building trust in God more and more. Fear can be a very debilitating thing. I can't imagine the fear that went through David as he encountered all of these foes and traitors in his life. Yet his secret was to trust that God had him. It isn't easy to trust God when we face impossible situations, but sometimes it is all we have left to do. The more you practice trusting in Him and the more you see Him delivering you, the bigger your trust will be in Him next time. (Yes, there will probably be a next time.) Praise Him for the deliverance He as given you through those hard situations and know He has you in His mind.

You can build relationships through prayer. Ask the people who serve you (waiters, receptionists, mechanics, baristas...) "how can I pray for you." This tells them that you care about them and then you move from a relationship of being served to serving, opening the door for making them feel like they belong. Prayer is powerful and it can be used in building your trust in God as well. Pray and cry out to God to move you from complacent to passionate. Pray to God to move you from fear to faith. Pray, to build your relationship with Him. It is an important part of our lives with Him and those around us.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Day 129: Choosing Love Wisely

Day 129
Judges 16-18; 1 Corinthians 13

It is important to know your standards as you date. So many young people (especially ladies) settle for someone because they simply don't want to be alone forever. Yet marrying someone who doesn't line up with the same beliefs as you in Christ will leave you alone forever anyways. The only true One Who can fulfill your heart and the hole in it is Christ. You can find the most ideal man, the best career, achieve the greatest reward, and you'll still be lonely without Christ in your life at the front. There is much we can learn from today's readings.

Samson was most definitely a fool for love. He found a prostitute to fall in love with, and she didn't honestly want his love, but the money that she was given for getting the secret of his strength out of him. Even though Samson worked hard to keep it hidden, he still budged in the end and found himself in a harsh situation as Delilah had betrayed him and he was being tormented and mocked by his captors. Samson finally came back around at the end of his desperation and summoned God to grant him strength one more time, and as a result, he had made a bigger impact in his own death than he had in his life.

Samson fell into the trap of putting an immoral woman ahead of his relationship with God. Even if you are a strong, fervent follower of Christ, you can still find yourself putting an earthly relationship ahead of Him, easily. Even though Samson had messed up, however, he still cries out to God as he prepares for the end of his life and does one last impact for Christ - the biggest he had done in his life. Even if you have fallen into the trap of putting someone ahead of your relationship with God, He is still waiting for you to come back to Him. Be careful when you start getting so wrapped up in a person (or in searching for a person), that you forget to make God the center of it, laying it in His hands first and foremost.

Another form of leaving God behind was the instance of idol worship, as we read about with Micah and the tribe of Dan. The Israelites had gone without a leader for sometime and they just aimlessly did what they thought was best for themselves. In the process, they worshiped idols and became mindless towards things of this world, rather than focusing on the plans of a sovereign Lord. This is yet another easy trap to fall into as we wander this earth. So many things can steal God's place in our lives - sports, work, things, sleep, etc. We fail to put God in the front because we desire more of the other things. Be careful that you don't wander from His perfect plan for you in thinking things of this earth feel more right.

If you have ever been to a wedding, the words of 1 Corinthians 13 probably ring a bell to you. However, these words go far beyond simply a love relationship between a married couple. They actually can go a long ways in the way you lead and walk about this world. If you are leading people in love, they are more likely to follow. In fact, when a person knows they belong in your life or in your church, they are much more apt to join you and get on board with church. Lead in patience, kindness, not in jealousy or boastfulness. Lead not in pride or rudeness. Don't lead, demanding your way. Don't lead irritably or keeping record or rights or wrongs. Don't lead, rejoicing in injustices, but lead, rejoicing when the truth wins. Lead, not giving up, never losing faith, always hoping, and enduring all circumstances. Imagine the followers God could have if His people roamed this world with these traits. Remember that people won't care what you have to tell them unless they feel loved by you. Love will remain. It is what they will remember from you - how you treated them.

Choosing to love wisely always puts God first. Don't compromise your relationship with God by shoving Him out of the forefront of your life for a person or searching for a person. Make Him the center of your world and He will provide. Lead in love and be someone who loves others because you love God. Imagine the testimony that comes from simply treating people with love and kindness. People want to know you love them before they feel like they can believe what you believe. Choose love and truth will follow.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Day 128: Unique Puzzle Pieces

Day 128
Judges 13-15; 1 Corinthians 12

There is no such thing as "ordinary" when you are working as a child of God. He calls each of us here on this earth for a reason and He uses us and the gifts He gives us to help carry out something intricate and incredible for Him. Today, we'll read the front end of Samson's story, as well as look at how we are to be used as a part of a greater picture.

The way that Samson came about is very similar to the way Isaac, John the Baptist and Jesus came about. Parents who couldn't have children. An angel appearing. Restrictions or requirements that set them apart. Samson was to be someone great to the history of the Israelites and he was a very unique and gifted individual.

Like any other person, however, Samson had his downfalls. He was a wild at heart sort of man who sought revenge in harsh ways, and was overcome by the spirit of the Lord on many occasions. And like any other person, he got tired, worn out, and depressed after coming off a high. Despite his downfalls and revenge tactics, God used him to rule over Israel for years. This proves that God gives us all different strengths and skills. He gifts us with passions and things that "make us tick". Samson was a unique piece of the puzzle that God used to carry out the rest of history for the Israelites. As a child of God, you are also a piece of the puzzle. Though what you do today may not come to fruition or make sense until after you are gone, it meant something if God commanded it. Don't make sense of the things God calls you to do, but do them, trusting that God will use it in the puzzle He is creating.

You are probably fairly familiar with the passage out of 1 Corinthians today. Just like Samson, you are blessed with a certain strength. God wants to use your passions, skills, gifts, and even your weaknesses to carry out His plan. We are all a part of one body of Christ, working together to carry out the mission set for us. How are you doing with your part of the team? How do you feel when someone else gets the praise for the work you helped with? Are you able to be a team player without letting your selfish ambitions get in the way?

Even though you may be good at some things, you are not good at others. You need others on the team to make it a well-rounded team. This way, you are able to face different situations more often. A team of 1 is not a team. But a team that works together as one is a great team. Work to see the gifts that others possess and bring them in on your team. Consider your weaknesses and who you can rely on to help you when you need a skill you don't have. Don't allow selfishness and pride to tear your team apart. You are working for the King and He deserves the best team working with Him.

We all have a unique skill set. God will use your strengths, gifts, skills, passions, and even your weaknesses on His team. Be sure to keep your heart in check as you work with others, so you don't fall into the temptation of selfishness or pride. Rather than always seeking the applause, allow others to have the credit. Most importantly, point that credit right back up to God, as it was Him Who gave you these gifts in the first place.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Day 127: When We Fall

Day 127
Judges 11-12; 1 Corinthians 11

We will stumble many times on this earth, regardless of how much we know about God and His commandments. No matter how centered we are in Christ, we will never be as perfect as He is. However, despite our downfalls and stumbling, He is there to make us great in Him again. Today we'll read about offering our worship and how He does that for one of the judges of Israel.

It is quite clear from our reading that Jephthah had a rocky past. He had a mother who was a prostitute, a handful of half brothers who chased him off so he couldn't have any of his father's inheritance, and yet he was called a "great warrior". Despite Jephthah's upbringing and past, God used him to secure Israel over the Ammonites.

One great downfall of Jephthah was that he made vows he didn't have to make, which resulted in him suffering great loss. Jephthah did not need to make a vow to the Lord, asking Him to lead him into victory over the Ammonites if he did something for the Lord. God never asked him to do that. As a result, Jephthah sacrificed his daughter, the first thing that walked out of his house. Do you ever feel so insecure in trusting God that you consider swearing to Him or solidifying it through your actions? "If you do this for me God, then I will do this for You." The problem is, that isn't how God works. He cares about our heart's motives, not our grand gestures of bartering. In fact, Jephthah had sinned in sacrificing his daughter, as it was very clear to the Israelites that this was unacceptable to the Lord as other nations did it in worshiping their gods.

There is equality in worship. Though these words from Paul could raise much debate, the one thing that is clear here is that he was trying to portray equality in worship. When we come before God, ready to express our awe and our thanksgiving to Him, we don't need to be someone fake. We don't need to pretend we are "good enough" to come to Him and feel inadequate because the person next to us is raising their hands. In fact, worship is something that is very intimate between you and God, as He knows your heart and it's motives more than the person next to you ever can. It doesn't matter if you stumbled or if you fell that very morning - God is there, and for that He deserves our worship without worrying about whether or not we are worthy or equal with the person next to us.

The same goes with the Lord's Supper. It is something that makes us one community in Christ, and for that we can come to the table no matter what our past looks like. There is seriousness, however, in the way you approach the Lord's table. Be sincere in your thanks. Don't do it for looks. And check your heart's motives and the relationships in your life. Come before Him without feeling like you need to ever compare your falls with the person next to you.

We all have a past and times we have fallen or will fall. However, we are all still equals in God's eyes. He will use you, if you are willing, no matter what your past says about you, and no matter how badly you will screw up in the future. Come to Him in worship and thanksgiving without looking to your left and right in comparing your worthiness to your neighbor. It is all between you and God and no one else. No One knows your heart and its motives more than He does.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Day 126: Loyal vs. Disloyal

Day 126
Judges 9-10; 1 Corinthians 10-11:1

There is quite a difference between being a leader who is loyal and one that is disloyal. I'm sure you've had bosses that were both great and not so great. Today, we read about a leader who was disloyal to God, his family and to the people he led. We also read the words of a famous leader, Paul, who looks to his example in Christ.

Abimelech was a terrible leader. He weasled his way into leadership and then proceeded to kill 70 of his half-brothers with his trouble-making soldiers. Abimelech's younger brother, Jotham, managed to escape the attacks and shares some words about leaders. It is about more than the power and reputation - it is about being loyal to your people and to God. A leader who is in it for themselves, such as Abimelech will be a crummy one. Because of Abimelech's insecurities and lack of faith, he killed off his brothers and was disloyal to the people he was supposed to be leading. As a result, he was killed by them in a violent way. Check your priorities as a leader. Are you in it for your own glory, or for God's and the good of the people you are in essence, serving?

The people of Israel themselves seemed to struggle staying loyal to God. Again, they had fallen away. Again, God had allowed oppression over them so they might learn their lesson. Again, the people ended up crying out to God when they realized they needed Him. As we read here, however, God was fed up with them, stating these facts of repeated offense to Him. I think many times we stop and ask God "why me?" In reality at times, however, we need to be open to what He is trying to tell us. Perhaps you are hitting your head on a wall over and over in disloyalty to God like the people of Israel. Look at your life and ask God, "what do you need to teach me, Lord?"

Paul's words as a leader to the church of Corinth are pretty well laid out in terms of loyalties to God and resisting temptations. He even uses the Israelites from long ago to prove his point. (Talk about a crummy reputation as grumblers, complainers, and falling into idolatry.) Paul tells the people to be careful when they think they are standing strong. Temptations and ways to fall away from Christ are lurking everywhere. Paul wants us to be a unified people in Christ, working toward building the Kingdom and resisting the things that take away from that mission. He tells us that in everything we do, do it all for the glory of God - even in what you eat and drink. This may seem daunting, but looking to leaders who look to the Lord to walk with you through this life can help.

Loyal leaders look to Christ. Paul tells the people to imitate him, just as he is imitated Christ. Leaders who value Christ in their lives will first and foremost lead you in the way of Christ. They want you to look to Him before looking at them. Paul is saying here, I am looking to Christ, and so should you. As a leader (because you all are one in some sense), are you directing those who look up to you to Christ, or are you beckoning them to look at you? Loyalties that lie in Christ are ones that can't be shaken.

A disloyal leader will have disloyal "followers". A loyal leader will have followers that want to support them. First and foremost, however, our loyalties are to lie in Christ, as we strive to be good leaders to those who look up to us. Check your life out today, and ask if you are like the Israelites, constantly hitting the wall, and wondering when God will show up. Ask yourself, "what are you trying to tell me, Lord?" Then pay attention to the answer He gives you - not the one you make up in your head that sounds ideal to you. Be loyal to His following and fall into His leadership over your life, so that you in turn can be a leader for Him.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Day 125: Standing Up to Yourself

Day 125
Judges 6-8; 1 Corinthians 9

Whenever we go on a trip to the Dominican Republic for our missions outreach with a group, we always get the same questions from females: "Why can't I wear a tank top in the community?" "Why can't I wear a bikini?" Why do I have to wear a skirt to the church services?" Paul wrestles with the concept as why we "become all things to all people" in order to reach some for Christ. Today, we'll look at how Gideon found courage to carry out Christ's commands and Paul's words on why our own desires can actually become a distraction to those around you when trying to be a light for Christ.

Stand up to your desire to do it yourself. We once again see the Israelites have turned away from God, (I'm seeing a pattern here) and are once again crying out to Him. When they finally realize that they are in trouble once again because they have leaned on the side of their desires, rather than His, they do the right thing in crying out to God and God hears them. Are you too stubborn to cry out for help when you know you are in trouble? God is with you when you cry out to Him, and maybe this is against your selfish desire as well, but He wants to rescue you. You only need to seek Him.

Stand up to your desire to be the strongest. One thing I struggle with is always feeling weak. I am most definitely a Gideon, and feel looked down on because I am always the sick one, the weak one, the emotional one. It's a hard pill to swallow, but eventually you just come around and accept it, as Gideon had. Gideon had all sorts of excuses, but God had all sorts of power to match them. God uses the weak to move His mission. This is a common theme throughout the Bible, though it is not a common theme throughout the world. Be encouraged by Gideon's story and allow God to work mighty plans through you!

Stand up to your self-confidence. I think so many times we rely on how confident we are feeling in whether or not we are willing to stand up to a task. In reality, we need to be relying on God's confidence in us. God had Gideon do many things that were huge risks. Yet, Gideon did them and as a result, Israel able to see God's hand once again. Never rely on your own understanding, but on what God's understanding is of you  We read how Gideon did not stay confident in the Lord, even after his victories that were brought only by the Lord. He fell into the snare of reward and got too confident in himself, separating from God and making poor choices at the end of his life.

Stand up to what you think you deserve. Paul's words here are really gold here for a Christian that wants ultimate impact for Christ. Paul has a list of things that are "perks" in this world or as one who shares the gospel message, like marriage and financial support for sharing the gospel. Yet Paul says that though these things are not wrong as a Christian, he doesn't want them to hinder God's work through him. He sees his call to singleness as a way of taking advantage of the opportunities to move more for Christ. He doesn't suggest marriage is wrong, as other apostles were married, but that he was perfectly fine as a single man, working for Christ, because Christ is his first obligation, as He should be for married folks as well. Paul took a second job so the gospel could be shared for free to all. He wanted to stay above reproach and be an example of Christ without hindering others to seeing Him. Rather than wasting time worrying about a spouse or a living from God's work, he did what it took to stomp out worldly desires for God's desires.  "We would rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the Good News about Christ." (vs. 12) Are you willing to put up with anything to move the Kingdom?

Stand up to your point of view. As Americans, I've seen so many instances of shock as to how other cultures behave or how they conduct themselves in certain situations. As I opened today's reading, I brought up how many question the dress code in the Dominican outreach trips we do. This is something that is hard to explain, but Paul does a stellar job of it here. To reach certain groups of people, you need to form a mutual respect. If the women in the Dominican Republic view Christians as being modest, than that is what we'll be. If our clothes are a distraction to those we have come to be examples of Jesus to, than we will not wear those revealing clothes, because we know that Christ is worth more than a bikini or a tank top. We will become whatever we need to become to not be a hindrance to Christ's work through our attitudes, our clothes, our actions, etc. That is why we don't allow those clothes. Paul will become all things to all people so that many can be brought to Christ without the distraction of his own point of view. This does not mean we are uncomfortable or that we change anything that changes the gospel, but we meet people where they are.

What desires and points of view are you gripping on to that can be a hindrance to others when trying to see Christ in you? Gideon was able to stand up to his weaknesses and accept God's power in his life so that God's work could be carried out. Paul tells us to be all things to all people so that we are not a hindrance to sharing the gospel. If we can't wear a tank top because it will be too distracting in a culture, than we won't wear it. The gospel is more important than our desires and our points of view. Consider your desires as way less than what God desires for you.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Day 124: Trading Comforts

Day 124
Judges 4-5; 1 Corinthians 8

Lately, we as people have felt the limitless boundaries of using our words and even our actions however we wish. We as people have actually felt the need to use our words and actions however we wish. I wish I could completely agree with all and say that you are free to say what you want, when you feel like it, even if you are a Christian. However, Paul lays out some thoughts here that may change your mind in saying and doing whatever you want with your freedom in Christ. We'll also see how well-respected Deborah was as a judge and how she carried herself in this manner.

The root of it here is arrogance. You can have all the knowledge you need to be a "good Christian" and know all of the rules and the words of Scripture, but Jesus laid it out for us. Love. Love. Love. Love God. Love your neighbor. Arrogance is not loving. In fact, Paul tells us that it can cause another believer to stumble, especially one who is still growing and learning, and is new to the faith. Paul says he is willing to sacrifice comforts for the sake of the kingdom expanding. Are you?

Deborah, a judge of Israel, who also happened to be a woman is an example to us that God can and will use you, no matter your status in this world. Obviously, women weren't very respected as leaders in that time, but Deborah and Jael shattered that illusion when they stepped up to win Israel back from it's oppressor. No arrogance. No boasting. Only faith and knowing God was on their side. They willingly did what it took to rescue Israel from its oppressor. Deborah tried to call on Barak to lead the army, but he insisted she come with him, and she did. Are you fearful of what God is calling you to? Who do you have in your life that can walk with you in that fear?

Think of the contrasting testimonies here. If you are arrogant in your freedoms and are busy judging new believers or those who aren't "to your standards", you may succeed in driving them away, which leaves dirt on your hands. But, if you lead by example, looking to Christ and working by His power, rather than your knowledge, the glory is His and in turn, others will see it. Deborah worshiped God after their victory. She knew her strength and victory came from God.

Do your best to wipe arrogance and boastfulness from your character. There is no love in those. Trade in your comforts and even your freedoms so that God's Kingdom will be exalted to all people, and so new believers can truly see what the bottom line is. Boasting and arrogance take away from that example and give Christianity a bad reputation. Do your best to live a life glorifying God and what He has done for you.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Day 123: Don't Be A Fool

Day 123
Psalm 52-54

I feel foolish a lot. Some days are more foolish than others for me. I tend to be awkward and introverted, and that tends to lead to some awkward conversations with people I don’t know well. However, we’ll read about the worst way to be foolish – foolish in our faith. We can be the wisest people in this world in everything else, yet we are completely foolish if we fail to boast in Christ and allow Him to be our vision and deliverance. Let’s check out how David documents the foolish people in his life.  

The foolish have selfish vision. They strive to tear others down so they can be built up. They are so busy looking at what they can gain, that they don’t see that pleasing God is the only way to ultimate happiness. They’ll betray and boast about it. However, we can be wise in putting our vision in God’s hands and trusting Him to give us the best plan of all. David knew God was on his side and he put his trust in Him, praising Him in all circumstances.

None of us are truly good, but those who know there is a good are smart indeed. Only fools believer there is no God, and go about trying to save themselves. You can know the smartest person in the world, but they are only smart by the world’s terms and this lifetime’s terms. They are eternally foolish and don’t consider the power that God has to save them. A foolish person will think they have it all together, only to find out that only God has their lives together. Don’t be a fool. Lay your life in the hands of your Savior.

We can withstand attacks from fools. God will deliver you from the words of those who think you are the fool. You can praise Him right now for the deliverance He will provide you in the future, because you know He will come for you. If you seek Him, you will find Him. If you cry out to Him, He will deliver you. Be smart in Who can ultimately deliver you from the worries of this world and remember His mercy and sovereignty in your life. No matter how much you are attacked by those who don’t fully understand the answer for your Hope, you have that Hope.

You can be the wisest person in this world, but still be the most foolish in God’s eyes. Don’t compromise your faith for your worldly wisdom. Because of God’s mercy and hope in your life, you can experience deliverance, peace, and great vision that comes only from placing your eyes on God. 

Day 122: Dangers of 'What If'

Day 122
Judges 1-3; 1 Corinthians 7

How often do you entertain an idea that starts out with "what if..."? The phrase in it of itself is not a bad one. In fact, you need to ask "what if" sometimes to set goals and dream. But saying "what if" in the mindset of falling into temptation and truly thinking the grass is greener elsewhere than with God is a dangerous road indeed. Another phrase that can stand as a dangerous one is "if only". We'll see the dangers, and even some benefits, of these phrases play out in today's reading.

As the Israelites continued to fight and try to drive out the other nations that were in the Promised Land after Joshua's death, we read that they weren't so successful anymore in totally driving out the people. The reason is unknown as to why they couldn't successfully drive them all out, but there could be many reasons - tired, would rather compromise than fight, didn't have a solid leader anymore, etc. The Lord was still with them, however, and they were able to live with the people rather than lose the battle completely. Not fully completing the work God leaves for you can be something that causes you to ask "what if" and say "if only." He intends good for you, yet you also need to work for it.

We see the generation of Joshua die out and the people growing up forget what God had done for their ancestors and begin to find other means of happiness outside of God. Speaking in terms of "if only" or "what if" can lead us down some dangerous roads. We can be like these people who forget what God has done for us in the past and start exploring more exciting ways to experience life. While those things may seem exciting at the time, they lead to devastating circumstances. Because of our "what if" we can fall into the trap of what this world says makes us happy and forget what truly makes us holy and ultimately happy.

Many people play the "if only" game when it comes to their relationship status. Paul devotes an entire chapter of 1 Corinthians on this. It is an issue for many now, as it was an issue then. His advice - stay single. As a married woman, I can say I am very happy God placed a husband in my life. However, there is this delusion that many young people (I'm guessing mostly women) don't see through until they are married. They think marriage will solve all of their problems, when in reality there comes a whole new slew of more complicated problems. This is fine and all, but if you marry before you realize only God can fulfill that loneliness, you are in for rocky road ahead in your marriage, and you'll be more miserable than you were when you were single.

The good news is if we fall into the "what if" trap, God will deliver us if we cry out to Him and turn away from the things we thought were better than Him. As promised in Deuteronomy, God comes back to the people when they cry out for deliverance. Despite us betraying Him and putting other things first, like a spouse, child, or other idols, we can give God His spot in our lives back, and He'll come open to us and give you grace. He delivered Israel through the judges He sent in Othniel and Ehud to get Israel back on track. Even though Israel continued to turn away, in the time of those judges, they were on the right track because those judges respected God. Keep God first, and all else will fall into place.

Beware of the traps that come with the "what if" and "if only" statements we make. Those are statements that cause us to be discontent, regretful, and questioning God's place in our lives. Put God first in your life and all else will fall into their spots. Even if you turn away and forget God's place in your life, He is there waiting for you to come back.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Day 121: We Will Serve the Lord

Day 121
Joshua 20-22; 1 Corinthians 6

You have a choice in this life as to whom you will serve. Your actions will speak volumes of where your allegiances lie. Making wise decisions and solving conflicts in a Godly way are huge in speaking of your Christian life.

Joshua pushes the people as he gets ready to die, telling them that they will choose this day whom they will serve. Joshua states that famous statement, "as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." This is such a grander statement than a plaque on your living room wall, however. The way you carry yourself and raise your family attest to this statement. This may be a hard thing to do, but that is why being in tune with God's Word and voice are crucial in your daily life. Things seem right by the standards of this world, but until you truly know what is right by the standards of God, you can't fully embrace the service in Him.

Joshua tells them to choose THIS day. We tend to be so wishy-washy in our commitment to God. When we can fit Him in, we will. When He can do us a favor, we'll talk to Him. Rather than spending those off times from God pursuing your own desires and doing what's best for you, choose this day who you will serve. Be bold in being in service to Him and allow your life to reflect His standards and His ways, rather than avoiding conflict with the world and agreeing with it.

The way we resolve our conflicts is one way we look differently from this world. The Old Testament example with the tribes of Reuban, Gad, and half of Manasseh building the alter before crossing back over to their land. The Western side of Israel assumed the worst and were ready to go to war against them. They assumed they were building an alter for foreign gods. Luckily, representatives were sent to investigate before the people reacted. They received the full and very acceptable story of them building it as a reminder of Who their God is for their descendants. Because of this, they knew the Lord was with them because of the way their conflict was handled (22:31).

Paul talks about how to solve conflicts among each other too, suggesting to just take the loss. (vs. 7) This may seem counter-intuitive, but the testimony of it will create ripples. God will bless you and use it to spread His Name, because you look differently from the world. We live in a world that wants fairness for oneself, or one's group of people. There isn't anything wrong with that, but consider what Paul is suggesting here. What statement would it make if you simply gave up what you wanted to reveal that you have something so much bigger and greater in your life in Christ?

Paul also challenges the people of Corinth for taking each other to court, even worse to court with secular judges. It is very frowned upon to dispute in front of unbelievers. That is an opposite testimony of Who God is - humble, loving, all-providing... When we fight for what we want, we are essentially saying we don't have enough in Christ. Why would an unbeliever want to even get involved in a place where their foundation wasn't enough for them? Why would an unbeliever want to bring more conflict into their lives in stepping into the church? A secular judge wouldn't know God's ways - only the world's. If you need to settle a dispute, look to one who knows God's way of settling these things.

Serve the Lord with your bodies, your actions, and your motives. The sins we fall into can not only affect you today, but they can affect you in the future and affect the people around you. God wants you to stay pure in testimony and look to Him when things fall out. We will fall and fail, but cleanse yourself in Christ and move forward, being a testimony to others who are struggling in the areas you had struggled in.

Choose this day whom or what you will serve. Don't be lukewarm in your faith, only using God when He is convenient for you. Serve Him in your actions, your motives, and your daily living. Make it greater than what you believe you need to be happy. Live a life serving Christ and doing what makes Him happy. You will find the greatest happiness in return.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Day 120: When Emotions Fly

Day 120
Joshua 19-21; 1 Corinthians 5

Things seem so gray today, as we decide what is right and wrong. We do things because it feels good, or because our heart tells us to, or because we are so angry, emotions take over. Today, we'll read about how we need to stand up to our emotions and hearts sometimes and follow what is right in God's eyes.

Sometimes, we can get so angry at someone that we jump to conclusions about the situation before we hear the entire story. This is why cities of refuge were created. When someone does something offensive to us, whether it's something as serious as murdering a loved one, or standing on the wrong side of the political arena in someone's opinion, emotions tend to fly. Rants are posted on Facebook. People want revenge. They call names. It's messy in general if someone can't handle emotions. The same was true when someone accidentally killed someone in Old Testament times. In order for the person who accidentally killed someone to be protected, there were the cities of refuge they could hide out at until it was all settled.

Sometimes our hearts and minds tell us to seek revenge and hurt someone like they have hurt us. When people face judgment and need to state their case, it is important to create space for them to do that without someone talking over them or someone who is too on the warpath to listen. Sometimes it's time to back away and let the other side cool down. If it's an argument that you know you will never win, perhaps it's time to back away for good from that conversation and call it an area you don't agree on. Don't ever allow emotions to get in the way of common sense. Emotions will get you into trouble. Your heart and it's "feelings" will get you into trouble, whether those feelings are good or bad. Listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and rely on God's leading - not yours.

1 Corinthians today talks about a different viewpoint of emotions and allowing them to rule you over God's ruling. We walk through this world thinking we deserve it. We deserve to find love with that person, no matter how moral it is. We deserve to be "happy". We deserve what our heart wants right now, no matter how against it God speaks on it. Then we twist His words to say it the way we want it said so we are fulfilled and not ridden with guilt. "Since God loves me, He means to say..." We put ourselves ahead of God because we think this world will fall apart without those things we want, that person we want, that lifestyle WE want. But the God who created you and knows your heart and what can fulfill it is shoved out for what you think you need. This is a harsh topic - I get it. We can twist words all we want to make it fit our life.

Paul is quite clear here. If a person living in sin has no intention of turning, they need to be removed from the protection of the church. They are still welcome in the church, but their sin will not be endorsed, no matter how "right" they think it is. As harsh as this idea sounds, it's in the Word. God wants all to ultimately come to Him. A church family is not to applaud the sin and accept the open-mindedness, then pat themselves on the back for being so accepting. They are to be loving, but not supportive of the sin. We are to encourage each other to live with pure lives, repenting for the sake of our eternity with Christ and living in a testimony to the power He has in our lives. We are not to come to church, living the way WE want, by OUR rules, not seeing anything wrong with it, and insisting we get a say in how the church is run. We need to see our need for a Savior. We can claim we WANT Him in our lives, but we need to also recognize our NEED for Him in it, and strive daily to put Him there.

The other side of the coin here is we need to be open to the correction of trusted friends in our church family. Don't deny the sin in your life, then call others judgmental when they lovingly try to steer you. God is the ultimate judge, and your friends will warn you, but God can make that final call and surely will. Be open, humble and in tune with God's direction - not yours.

Don't ever follow your heart or emotions. Those tend to cover your ears, your judgment, and your eyes to God's Word. Don't twist His Word to fit your heart. Do the hard things of making necessary changes in your life so that God is put at the front of your decisions - not your feelings. This is hard and harsh, but remember what is possible with the power of God.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Day 119: The Whole Story

Day 119
Joshua 16-18; 1 Corinthians 4

How often have you jumped to conclusions about someone you didn't really know? And by really know, I mean know their struggles, their heart, their weaknesses, their pain. When someone opens up to you about those things, they really trust you, thus they will trust your advice, opinion, etc. There are some lessons to be taken in jumping to judgments in today's readings.

We need to remember that we are all loved by God. God cares for each of us, whether or not we have accepted Him into our lives. He loves each of us, no matter what we've done, are doing, or will do. He pours out mercy on us every single day. We deserve so much less, yet He gives and gave us so much more. As the land continued to be divided up in Joshua, I can't help but consider how God chose these people to do His work and carry His Name. It is no different for us as His followers. He has chosen us to carry His mission and do the tasks that seem tedious or less than glamorous. If God chose you, can He trust you? Your ministry begins the minute you say "yes, Lord. I want you in my life."

The daughters of Zelophehad were a prime example of why traditions can lead to misleading judgment. Moses had put what was right ahead of the tradition of women not inheriting land back in Numbers, and now we are seeing their land distributed to them. Don't decide on actions, judgments, and a path because "that's how it's always been done" or "that's the way that always has been." Scope out the whole story or situation and rely on God to be the judge and make the direction clear to you. Imagine the impact you can have on someone's heart and life because you went a different direction than the typical treatment or judgment they always get.

There were seven tribes that procrastinated in getting their share of land. I think we tend to procrastinate because we think something will be hard or that we feel we are incapable of doing it. Even if something ends up being hard, it makes you stronger and teaches you something. If you are feeling incapable, allow God to show you His power through you. He is waiting to teach you how capable He is. Who knows? You may even completely misjudge the situation and end up having fun with it. Work at seeing something as an opportunity, rather than a task and you will continue to grow in Who God is and feel the power He has in your life.

Paul leans in pretty hard toward the people of Corinth as he warns them not to make judgments ahead of time about people and riches. This is still true for us today. We cannot count on riches to make us happy and carry us to eternity. We cannot judge people because we think we know how they view God and how they walk with Him. The truth is, that is for God to do. Paul reminds us that we are all human and we don't have the ability to judge one another, and we will all fail at one point or another. What we think is worthy is this world is actually foolish in God's eyes. What is looked down upon in this world is actually honored in God's eyes. Leave the judgment to Him.

Nothing in this world is as it seems to God. He views what is rich as poor, and what is poor as rich, as well as greatness as the lowest, and the lowest as the greatest. We shouldn't rely on past traditions to be a judge in every situation, nor is it our job ever to judge the heart of other people when it comes to their relationship with God. We are merely humans with human eyes and human intentions. God sees the heart for what it truly is. Before you jump, get the whole story. Before you decide about something, see it as God would see it.

Day 118: Work to Be Done

Day 118
Joshua 13-15; 1 Corinthians 2

We get tired of the work before us at times. We may feel old, or sick, or just simply drained of life because of the things we're doing for the cause of Christ. We may feel inadequate and like we're not ready, so the work should go to someone else. We may just need a kick in the pants to remind us of Who we are looking to and Who we are working for. Today, let's consider these concepts of continual work for the Lord.

Joshua was getting older, and there was still much to be done. There was tedious work to be done in dividing the land among the people of Israel and even more fights to be won. Even in old age, God still uses you to complete His work. I think we go through seasons of life where we feel like we just can't continue in ministry (if you're a Christian, you are in ministry). It can be tough when you are in ill health or feel inadequate, but God will still use you in some capacity to carry out what He needs done to bless those around you. Simply sharing your story and reflecting with others is a big part of sharing the love God has for us with others.

Caleb's faithfulness this far to the Lord paid off. Caleb wasn't faithful for his own benefit, but because he believed in the mission God had called him to. Joshua was the same, and God rewarded both of them by delivering them to the Promised Land. Joshua even fulfilled a promise to Caleb in granting him his share of land 45 years from the time God promise it to him through the Lord. These men were sold out, faithful to God and they showed it, no matter how old they became and how old the promises became. Can you honestly say that you are still willing to do ministry, even if it does become tedious and hard, until your last breath?

On the flip side, our lack of maturity can keep us from truly doing the work Christ called us to. In 1 Corinthians, we read about how the people stumbled on leadership agreements, jealousy, quarreling, disunity, and deception. They are tripping over the wisdom of the world rather than wisdom of the Lord. Yet, there is much work to be done that requires God's wisdom, unity, camaraderie, and knowing Who gets the glory. It's God, every time - in case you didn't know. Stop stumbling and do some work for the Lord. Stop looking at the people around you, judging them, comparing yourself to them, and start looking up and comparing yourself to Him. There is work to be done.

Today, I want to leave you with this poem by Jill Briscoe:
Shaken, drained, discouraged, sickly
Tired and troubled and depressed, 
Glad the time of serving over,
Now I’ll go home and rest.
Hot and humid was the weather
Sad and needy was the crowd, 
Feeling I had done my duty,
Earned the time of rest allowed. 
Soon I could return to family
"Yes," tomorrow I’d be gone, 
Sitting in the last hot meeting,
I tuned in to what went on.
Listened to my husband preaching,
My, it was a great last talk, 
All about the call of Jesus,
All about our life’s “faith walk.” 
Stuart opened up the Scriptures
Talked of Jesus’ pain and loss, 
How He who was our great sin bearer,
Bore our guilt upon His cross.
What a great word for the students!
Hoped “they’d” listened, yield their hearts, 
They were young, their lives before them,
Now their turn to do their part.
Time for prayers of dedication,
I was tired, so late at night,
Shut my eyes and wished it over,
When a picture sprang to sight!
Saw a cross alone, discarded
Lain at rest against a wall, 
Who’d lain down such holy symbol?
Who’d abandoned life’s “faith call”? 
Then a voice so dear – familiar,
Asked a question – pierced me through, 
Who is it that you’re expecting
Carrying it home for you?
How could I lay down that crossbeam?
How to think that no one saw? 
Who did I expect to lift it,
Carry it to heaven’s door? 
"Jesus, Jesus, please forgive me,
Carried Thou your cross for me, 
All the way to hell to save us,
Help me carry mine for Thee!"
"I’m no hero – special woman
Just a lady, old and gray, 
But my cross, Lord, I will carry,
Home, Lord, home, Lord – ALL THE WAY!"
Spoke His voice so quiet – but clearly then:
"All the way home, Jill; all the way, all the way home!"
Jill Briscoe © 2012 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Day 117: Aligning with the Cross

Day 117
Joshua 10-12; 1 Corinthians 2

There is a different kind of perspective that mature followers gain by aligning their thoughts with the cross. The cross symbolizes so many things, like grace, love, and victory. Seeing those things and and looking at this life with the perspective of the cross changes everything.

Joshua was commanded not to fear as he battled. Many times as we go out and stand up in those battles we face, whether they are spiritual, physical, mental, etc., we can easily be crippled by our fears. Joshua was reminded over and over again not to fear. I can't say that I blame him for being so fearful, as the nations he faced were mighty, and he was beaten by less than mighty ones when Achan disobeyed. We can see that God makes anything happen, as He even made the sun stand still until Israel's enemies were overtaken. When we can look to the cross and remember the victory we have been given through Jesus, we can stand in confidence that nothing in this world can touch us. Even if we lose everything, we gain in eternity. He has defeated death itself. A cross-centered perspective gives you confidence to face whatever battle you're looking at. Remember His victory and know it exists in your life.

Recall back to when the Gibeonites misinformed Joshua so they could align with him. We read here that they were a mighty nation with very mighty men to fight. They knew they couldn't overcome the power of Israel's God. Thus, they became their servants. The Lord will fight for you. His power alone will bring nations to their knees.

As the Israelites conquered nation after nation and king after king, we need to remember that this was over a period of time (about 7 years). When we think we can overtake our battles quickly and get discouraged when it takes so long, we need to remember that it's a process. Since we live a a culture of the "get it now" mentality, we tend to forget that things take work. We need to work on getting our lives to where we want them and that takes time and experience. The same goes for spiritual growth and learning the movement of the Holy Spirit. We get to know someone by spending time, and that it also how we get to know God.

There is ultimate victory and unity at the cross. Paul indicates that Christian maturity will recognize this and all their wisdom will be driven by the cross and what Christ has done for you and for me. The conflicts that took place in the church are "foolish" as Paul states in chapter 1. There is a certain wisdom that Paul talks about here that comes from the Spirit. That wisdom comes from aligning ourselves to the cross and viewing this world and every conflict we have by asking the Spirit to guide us and seeing everything from the perspective of the cross. True maturity lies within that. We can't grant others grace if we fail to see the grace poured out on us and on them.

When we accept the invitation to allow Christ into our lives, we gain His Spirit in us to help us in guidance and seeing things the way He sees them. We can have eyes that see the things the world sees, but hearts that can see God's purpose, God's plan, God's victory, etc. We may not always fully understand, but His Spirit in us will help us to comprehend the things that happen to us a little bit better. When we can align ourselves with the reason Jesus went to the cross for us, we can begin to see the reflection of it in our lives and throughout our daily living. Allow His Spirit to show you the way, inspire you, and give you wisdom that is only from Him.

Align yourself with the purpose of the cross. Know that the foot of the cross is a level place, open to all who want it. When we can see beyond our eyes and begin to see with our hearts, we place a different kind of value on people and we can see the complete victory we have in this world, regardless of what this world believes is our victory, and regardless of what this world takes away from us. The world has nothing on the cross. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Day 116: Forgetting God

Day 116
Psalms 49-51

We can forget many things throughout a day. Our keys, appointments, names, tasks... Yet one thing we tend to forget that has greater ramifications in our life is God. It is so easy to get caught up in day to day living, that we forget to acknowledge and honor Him. Today, as we pick up Psalms again, we'll discover some things that we tend to forget when it comes to God.

We forget that every possession in this world won't matter and ultimately, we need God in our lives. Money buys a lot of things in this world, but it does not buy the redemption that only Christ gives us. Wisdom dies, wealth is left behind, and lives without Christ ultimately die and only rot in the grave. Those who have put their trust in the Lord will be snatched from death and will experience the ultimate wealth of His Kingdom. We are to boast in God alone, as boasting in wealth and success only lasts a short time. What are things you boast about on this earth that will not matter in eternity? How can you boast in God?

We forget that He is in control and that everything is His. We read that He owns all the cattle, the animals in the wild, and all that is given to us on this earth. He would not even tell us if He is hungry because He owns it all. He does not even need us, yet He chooses to use us in His plan. He cares that much for you that He wants you. What is something in your life that you feel you have no control over? Remember that He is in control of it all. This entire universe (and beyond) belongs to Him.

We forget to praise Him for our blessings and when life is going well. Life gets to be stress free during certain seasons, and it can become really easy to forget God in those times because we simply feel like we don't need Him to solve a crisis. The reality is that we need to praise Him for those blessings He has given to us and for those seasons we have to catch our breath and not worry as much about the stresses of life. He wants us to acknowledge Him in all times, and give Him glory in all times. Thank Him. Praise Him.

We forget that we need to be cleansed when we sin. I truly believe that so many things are done flippantly in our culture, and so many sins have become the "norm". Because of this looseness of our words, our actions, our hearts - we pass it off and continually offend because we are "entitled". God expects more from His people, however. He expects us to honor Him with our words, our actions and our hearts. When we wrong Him in those things, we are to approach Him, asking for forgiveness, and then striving to do better so we may glorify His name. We read about David's struggle with sin in chapter 51, and the sorrow he pours out to God, asking for cleansing and being made right in Him. What are somethings in your life that you do or say that you need to keep in check?

We forget that we have victory in Christ, and to praise Him for it. On the flip side, we can forget to move on from our sin and spend too much time wallowing in it. David states in his cry out to God, "Oh, give me back my joy again, you have broken me - now let me rejoice." We can find joy in the victory of God's forgiveness and unconditional love. David not only was selfish and stole someone else's wife, but he caused murder in the midst of it. Yet God brought him through it and used him still in His plan. We can experience victory when we say yes to Christ and allow Him to rule in our lives. He brings us joy and can right our hearts. Don't feel like you have no chance of being redeemed because He has redeemed you. Rejoice in Him and boast in His love and grace.

In the midst of living this life, don't forget the bottom line. Don't forget what you'll end up with in the end. Don't forget that He is in control. Don't forget to praise Him when life is going well. Don't forget that you need to be cleansed in Him no matter what this culture calls the "norm". Most importantly, don't forget the victory you have or could have in Christ as you pursue Him in this life, and celebrate the life to come that He has enabled us to have if we accept it. Don't forget about God in your life, no matter what season you are in.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Day 115: Disunity

Day 115
Joshua 7-9; 1 Corinthians 1

You're not going to agree with everyone you run into at church. (gasp*) We are all human, with different opinions, backgrounds, passions, etc. We just need to learn to use our differences to create a well-rounded body of Christ to reach people in different ways, but facing the same direction. As a Church, however, we need to keep the bottom line the bottom line. Today, we'll see how disunity and a self-serving attitude can really affect more than just you.

The battle against Ai should have been an easy one. Even the scouts said not to send all of their people to defeat them, as it wouldn't take any ore than 2,000-3,000 people. However, the Israelites were soundly defeated by Ai. Joshua cried out to God, knowing that this defeat would spread a horrible reputation to the other nations they needed to defeat. However, it wasn't long until Joshua was notified that one of their own had already disobeyed the covenant made with God.

Achan completely underestimated the importance of obeying the Lord. What he viewed as something small and self-serving, turned into a huge issue and affected his entire nation, and more so, his family. When we acquire a self-serving attitude, we create disunity, whether we mean to or not. Because of Achan's disobedience, it fell on all the people. As a result, he, his family, and 36 others were put to death. Keep your selfishness in check. You may think it only affects you, but in the long run it affects people around you too. A self-serving attitude in the church can be completely toxic and cause discord. Don't be that servant. Be God's humble servant that listens to His voice and heeds it wisely.

As a result of banishing the evil from the nation, Israel returns and easily defeats Ai. Joshua could have easily taken the credit for keeping the nation pure, but we read that he built an alter to God after defeating Ai. Give God complete glory when you succeed in purging evil from your life. He is the One that does it. The Gibeonites became servants as a result of their deception, however, they became servants for the Lord. They in the end were unified with the Israelites, but had a more humble role, whether the Israelite people liked it or not. Even if you have sinned and been deceptive, God can still use you in the family of Christ. Be unified with them and find your purpose.

Paul was speaking out to a church that was in desperate need of unity among its people in Corinth. There was discord among them over who their leader was, and Paul writes, reminding them that we are all in nee of grace and we are unified as one under the family of Christ. We can argue about so many things within a church, yet forget we have all been redeemed and bought by grace in Jesus' blood. We need to remember that God uses things that seem foolish to shame those who think they are wise and vise versa. He sees the bigger picture, and we can fight over things that are not pertinent to the Kingdom.

Disunity within the church, if unhealthy, can be very damaging to folks looking in from the outside. The church is to be a safe place for those seeking what they need in the midst of their own hardships, battles, sin, etc. Unhealthy conflict is a killer for your church. There can be healthy conflict, however, that discusses, listens, understands, and humbles itself, remembering that we are all sinners in need of grace, no matter what our status or leadership role is. Be careful how you handle disunity, and strive to work as one body in the direction of Christ.

Since the beginning of human kind, there has been conflict and disunity. We all have an opinion, a passion, a gift, and a cause. When it all boils down, however, it is important to remember that we are all in need of grace and we can be humble people in the midst of disunity. There is no reason to shake a fist or demand one's way when we have God's Word right in front of us and remember He loves each of us. He has gifted each of us to move as one body in His direction. Respect each others' gifts and opinions, but be careful to stay the course of your marching orders, rather than fight for the battles out of the way.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Day 114: Victory in Death

Day 114
Joshua 4-6; Mark 16

There have been low points in each of our lives that caused us to think that all of our hopes, dreams, plans, were lost. I know I have faced those times of uncertainty and wondered what in the world God was doing in those moments. However, after I got through those times and saw the plan that God was carrying out, I grew leaps and bounds in my faith, and discovered that nothing in this world can touch the One thing that matters most to me.

The first thing that was commanded of Joshua when the people got across the Jordan River was to build a monument in remembrance of how God had delivered them to the Promised Land. I'm not sure the kind of hope Joshua carried with him in those early weeks of leading the people without Moses, but I can imagine he was a little on edge about it. When we think about the places God has brought us and the impossible things He has done in our hard situations, we can breathe a little easier the next time if we remember His power and victory in our lives.

As the people faced battling the walls of Jericho, I'm sure the plan sounded a bit ludicrous to them. Yet the people on the other side of the walls were fearful, as they had heard what the Lord had done for these people and figured that He would destroy them. Rahab and her family were the only safe ones, and they did good to obey God's will.

Is there a struggle in your life right now that you need to march around? Know that God is with you, providing for you every step of the way. He did this for the people as they entered into the Promised Land, providing food, land, victory and so much more. The key was for the people to remember that victory God had given them and use it to obey Him and remember it next time they faced a struggle. So many times we neglect to remember the victories God has handed us and fall away the next time a problem comes. We have received the best victory there is, as we read about in Mark today.

I find it intriguing that the first eyewitnesses of Jesus' resurrection were women, who weren't trusted in their testimony in that time and weren't even allowed to give it. Yet God used them to share the Good News of Jesus' resurrection. The disciples didn't even believe them or even two of His other followers, until He actually appeared before them. They were at such a loss that they had lost the hope of their Savior, so they thought. The problem was that their world vision is not like the heavenly vision, so they couldn't believe the miracle at first. How would your situation look different if you viewed it from God's point of view, rather than your own?

God's form of victory isn't the way we view victory. We cling to the things of this world - the status, the stuff, the relationships, etc. But true and eternal victory comes from trusting in God alone. When we face a time in our lives that is seemingly hopeless, we need to remember the only true Hope we have in Christ, as He will deliver us in ways that are beyond our comprehension. There is true victory in death. The death of OUR dreams, our hopes, our wants, our desires. Victory came on a cross over 2000 years ago. If God is for us, no one can stand against us.

Day 113: Risk Takers

Day 113
Joshua 1-3; Mark 15

The biggest opportunities for growth come when you step out and take risks. The Bible is full of both risk-takers and those who ran away. The question becomes which will you be when God approaches you with a step of faith to take?

The Lord told Joshua multiple times to be strong and courageous. Part of this charge of being strong an courageous was to be careful to obey the Lord's commands. I think as humans, we don't realize how much courage we can get from clear instruction, whether it is from the Lord or in the midst of a project here on earth. We have more confidence when we have clear direction. The Lord also tells Joshua that He'll be with him wherever he goes. Embedding God's Word on your heart is one way to carry Him everywhere, outside of His actual presence with you.

Rahab took a huge risk in hiding the scouts from the soldiers. Despite her past, Rahab knew the right thing to do, and because of that she and her family would be blessed. You don't have to be cleaned up to come to Christ and serve Him. He'll take you as you are and begin the work on your heart as you go. He has a place for you in His family and in His service. Rahab is a great example of this as we read how boldly she spoke of the Lord's people. She knew that having the Lord on your side was the side to be on. Do you have mistakes from your past that keep you from fully serving God? Remember this story of Rahab and know that you too can be used and redeemed by a beautiful Savior.

The people were getting ready to cross the Jordan, which I'm sure was a nerve-racking thing for them. Joshua tells them "purify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do great wonders among you." What would you do with those words? When the people do go to cross, they must allow the Ark of the Covenant to be ahead of them, as the Lord would lead the way and part the overflowing waters. It can be so hard to take a step into what seems so chaotic and scary, wondering if God will actually deliver you. Remember how the people allowed God to go before them, however. Follow God's leading and keep your eyes on Him as you step out in faith and allow Him to take the glory for your deliverance.

Jesus took the ultimate risk for us. While He was fully God and fully human, we know He knew His Father's will, but we know He felt with human emotions, like we do. He was probably terrified, yet had confidence that His Father's will was to be done to deliver a world that would be otherwise separated for eternity. Pilate on the other hand, didn't want to take the risk. He knew that Jesus was innocent and he even asked the people who should be released, but allowed the convicted criminal to go instead, worried that a riot against him would start.

After Jesus died, Joseph took a risk as a member of the Jewish Court. In order to give Jesus a proper burial, he risked his reputation and took care of Jesus' body instead. The women were in the same boat. They couldn't speak for rights. They couldn't stand up openly to the guards or the crowds, but they did all they could, and ended up playing a big role in spreading the news of Jesus' resurrection. We must look at the risks we take in life and see if they outweigh the ramifications. A risk for God is always worth it and will far-exceed any reputation you are trying to protect. Stand firm and courageous.

Step out and take risks that God calls you to. This is a hard thing to do, as you worry about your life and reputation, but remember that if you are stepping out for God, your risk will far outweigh the life you are trying to protect for yourself. These may be bold words, but there is great evidence in God's Word.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Day 112: Leading a Legacy

Day 112
Deuteronomy 32-34; Mark 14:32-72

There are many things that go into the lives we leave here on this earth. We can live our lives trying to fill it with everything we have ever wanted or wanted to do, which always brings temporary happiness, and we leave it all behind. Or, we can live our lives trying to fill hearts with Christ and what He can do to grant everyone eternal happiness. When trying to find your own happiness, you may actually stumble into Christ, and realize He is the ultimate, eternal happiness you need.

Moses goes out, continuing to spread wholeheartedly the words of the Lord to the people he's leaving behind. You can truly see how Moses' heart beats for the people and more for His God as he obeys and shares what God wants him to. He is truly a leader for the memory books who brought the people into freedom from Egypt, and continued to push them past the struggles and doubts they had as they went. We recall how frustrating Moses' journey with the people was at times, but as we wrap up Deuteronomy, we read the words of the Lord and the words Moses shares about the tribes.

The people respected Moses, and being a respectable leader is huge in sharing the ultimate legacy of Christ. While Moses didn't get to enter into the Promised Land, he humbly handed over his leadership to Joshua, who was chosen by the Lord. It's interesting to reflect back on Moses' life and see the kind of leader he was formed into as the journey progressed. A man who was too afraid to go and demand the people be set free by Pharaoh, now a man who wrapped up his life with speeches and eloquent words from the Lord to the people to continue this legacy for generations.

What kind of leader is God forming you to be? Even if you are reluctant to lead, you are leading someone in someway. The question will be if it is in a way that is holy, or a way that seeks temporary fulfillment from a world that can never offer you eternity. Watch how you lead and who you lead.

As Jesus nears His crucifixion in Mark, we read about how even the disciples were weak in standing by Him. These leaders that Christ had worked side by side with for months were now fleeing the scene when things got rocky. However, just because the disciples fled, we know that Peter still becomes a key leader in the foundation of the Church. He denies Christ, as predicted, but that is not his fate.

Have you felt like you have fallen away from Christ, or even denied Him? There is still hope. Peter was redeemed and lived to serve His Lord after he was frozen in sin and fear. Don't ever feel like hope is lost for you. You can still make an impact and you can still be redeemed if you have a heart that seeks the Lord and longs to do His work.

Christ Himself was willing to go to the bitter suffering on a cross for us. He prayed to His Father if it were HIS will let it be done. I think we hesitate to follow the will of God, even in the simplest of forms, because we are either too fearful, or we wouldn't believe God would make us do something so crazy. We need to be open to His leading and His will, no matter how scary it may seem. When He calls us to it, we know we're taken care of, because it is His will. Christ took the biggest risk and conquered death for us. If we take a risk for God, you never know the ripples it could cause around you. Think of the big picture and allow God to start small with you.

We may start out rocky in our lives of leading for Christ. Moses was afraid he couldn't speak. Peter denied Christ. But God used both of these men to do amazing things for Him. You don't need to be qualified to lead; in fact, you are a leader in some way right now. Someone is looking to you and watching what you do - especially if you claim to be a Christian. Take a step out and allow Christ to work through you in amazing ways. Lead with a legacy that seeks His will and His bigger plan, rather than you desires and the here and now agenda you carry.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Day 111: Action VS. Intention

Day 111
Deuteronomy 30-31, Mark 14:1-31

Yesterday we read about what happens when we disobey God's commands and pursue our own desires. Today, we read about the incredible redemption He has given us, despite our own, selfish agendas. We may think in a moment that we will always depend on God, but as soon as life gets a little rocky or on the other hand, too good, we can find ourselves forgetting His goodness to us. Our actions will speak louder than our intentions. It is never too late to turn to Him and run back to Him, even if we've been on that wrong direction for near a lifetime.

Deep down in my heart I truly wished the people would have stuck to the commands God had set before them. It has been such an epic journey so far for them as God delivered them from bondage in Egypt, brought them through the highs and lows of the wilderness, and now is reminding them of His greatness before they cross into the land He promised them. How beautiful of a wrap up would that be? However, upon further investigation of our passages today, we find that they will turn on God and forget His commandments, despite all the warnings they were given and the deliverance He had already brought them. God says the people will be given all they are promised, they will live it up, and they will forget their need for Him. A lot of us do this regularly. We forget the wonderful things God has done in our lives and that it was God that brought us those blessings, and suddenly we are worshiping those blessings more than the One Who blessed us. 

There is redemption. Even though we will forget God, He will not forget us. He will be there waiting with open arms, ready to restore us and bless us again. All we need to do is seek Him. It may take a disaster to remember Him, and He will let you grow in that time, but He wants to bring you back to Him. 

Our words and intentions are one thing, but our actions are another. We see this concept play out in many ways throughout or Mark section today. The first instance being with the woman who anointed Jesus with her perfume. This jar was not just a jar of perfume, however. In that time, it was a symbol of a woman committing her life to someone. When they found the man they were to marry, a woman would break this expensive jar as a symbol of her life with him. Understand that a woman really didn't have a voice or even many rights in that time without a man. This woman was willing to give her way of life, her future, her voice, her rights to Jesus. She knew there was something bigger than all of those things in Jesus. While everyone condemned her for it, Jesus defended her and honored her. Do you claim allegiance to Jesus, but when it actually comes down to acting on it, giving up your rights, your future, your married life, do you flee? Do you shy back when others condemn your faith? Maybe some would even betray Him, as Judas did.

We see an interesting dynamic as the Last Supper carries out. As Jesus is instituting this meaningful sacrament for us to remember what He has done for us on the cross, the disciples get concerned once the word "betrayal" is thrown around. Communion is something we are to take very meaningfully as we reflect on our imperfect lives, made perfect through Christ's sacrifice. This action should be much more than a ritual or words recited. It should be an active and moving remembrance of what Christ means to us. 

As Jesus states that He will be betrayed by one of the disciples that very night, they all become troubled. Peter even makes it a point to stick up and say no matter what, he wouldn't leave Jesus, even if it meant dying. However, Jesus tells him that he will deny Him, three times in fact, that very next morning. Peter is convinced in his mind that he won't falter, but his actions later state his fear over his faith, as his world falls apart.

You can say you are on God's side all you want, and state the purest of intentions, but until you actually face a testing of your faith and act on it, your words are empty. The woman who gave up her rights for Jesus is one who stood firmly in knowing there is something bigger than herself in Christ. But Jesus' own disciples, who walked with Him and learned from Him betrayed Him, denied Him, and ran when things got tough. He redeems us though. He is so ready to take us back the moment we run to Him again. Take hope in your fall outs. He wants you back always.