Sunday, January 29, 2017

Day 76: A Unique Relationship

Day 76:
Leviticus 21-22, Matthew 27:1-31

As humans, we strive deeply for relationship. Relationships seem to be the things that empower or devastate us in this world. There is one relationship we can have that is unchanging, unconditional, and ever solid, however. Today, we'll take some time to explore the dynamics and power of this very special relationship available to any and all.

As kids, we don't necessarily love rules. I even know some adults that hate them. But as parents, we set rules for our kids because we love them and want them to grow into decent adults. As we read through Leviticus, we encounter all of these rules and requirements of the people from God. These may seem steep to us, but if we ponder these, and think about the bigger picture and intention of them, we can see why God laid those out. That is a unique relationship. God knows us deeper than our own parents, friends, spouse, etc. He knows what we need in the long run and cares enough to create us into lovely hearts that long for Him. As He shows us time and time again, His plans are always better than our own.

We also read repeatedly in Leviticus as God communicates with the people is "I am the Lord your God." He reminds the people Who He is in their lives and why they should listen to Him. He is reminding them of His faithfulness and His goodness. It is hard to trust in something you can't see all the time, but God is the One you can put your full trust in. There is something quite unique and powerful about that kind of relationship.

As we read about Jesus' trial play out, we see how symbolic it becomes of His relationship and sacrifice for us. Judas and Peter both stumbled in their relationships with Jesus. Even though they both messed up, they both react differently. Judas decided it was too much and took his own life, while later we'll see Peter thrive as a key leader in the church. Both of these men had an opportunity for redemption and Peter was the only one who took it. We have a unique relationship with a God of second chances and third chances and fourth chances...He will always take us back because His love is unconditional, yet we may continue to mock Him like the soldiers did.

The symbol of the people cutting Barabbas loose, is a great one in Jesus taking our place. He was perfect and Barabbas was a notorious criminal. As Jesus was betrayed and crucified for us, we are the Barabbas He took that spot for. While some of our friends would "take a bullet for us", that is a deeper kind of love. We weren't even born yet, and Jesus did that for us! He did that for you!

Can you walk through this day, this week, this life and remember who the "Lord your God" is? Remember the special relationship you have with Him. He takes you back again and again after you fall and stumble. He went as far as taking our place on death row and closing the gap between us and God in eternity. What other relationship can do that for you? If you ever have questions of need help with this, message me. I would love to share that hope I have because of this amazing relationship with Christ!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Day 75: Our Reputation

Day 75:
Leviticus 19-20; Matthew 26:36-75

Being a Christ-follower can be a tough label in this world. There is judgement from people all around you at times, and that can be a hard label to bear when you're trying to do right by God. We see that there is hope, however, if we ever fall and deny we are associated. There is a distinct contrast as we continue reading later on about Judas' path after denying and betraying Christ, and that of Peter's denial. 

When we place God at a distance, it seems to be our pride and protection of our reputations that come into play. There are many things in today's world that cause us to want to have a good reputation to those around us. What is socially acceptable, however, isn't acceptable to God. We are in a time that twists what God's words are and make His words fit into what our world accepts. On the same token, we have a jealous God. When we put our agendas and that of the world's ahead of His Words, we will be punished.

This is a touchy topic in this world right now. I've seen Christians battling each other about where the socially acceptable stands on Holy Grounds. We are called to love, but not accept. Judas upheld his reputation by betraying Christ. Peter tried to uphold his reputation by denying Christ. As followers in today's world, our actions aren't far off from what they did. We try to "fit into" this world by being ok with what is happening around us.

Leviticus lays out a bunch of rules for the people. While rules are a bore to us, as parents, we create rules because we love our children and want them to do well in this world and by us. God laid out these rules so we can be a set apart nation for Him. While the New Testament Jesus frees us of the heavy rules, we still show our love and allegiance FIRST to Him by obeying Him. Our love for others comes second, and will fall into place in our love for Him.

We see the reputations of two that were close to Jesus play out here. One betrayed Him. One denied Him. Both of these men will face consequences, but both take a different path when seeing redemption, as we'll read later. In this world, we try to grasp our reputations in this world, rather than in God's eyes. We twist the things He says in His Word to "make it fit" into what the world finds acceptable. What reputation do you hold, and what does it say about your allegiance to Christ first and foremost?

Friday, January 6, 2017

Day 74: Truly Trust

Day 74:
Psalms 33-35

There's a song that I fell in love with awhile back that I first heard on our local Christian radio station called "Trust in You" by Lauren Daigle. If you haven't heard it, or want to hear it again, check it out here. This song reminded me to not get bent out of shape when my type A personality wanted to kick in and try to control everything. (Have you ever tried controlling a two-year old?!?) There is something peaceful and reassuring about David's writings today, as we read his words about the Lord. On the other hand, there is something scary and eerie if you're reading those words and are not a Christ-follower. It is clear here that putting our trust and love into earthly things will result in the ultimate falling away. Yet, putting our trust and love into Christ will result in the ultimate satisfaction. 

There is a lot in our readings today about trusting in Christ alone and hoping in Him alone. I have to admit, that even though I worry about things, I don't worry as much now as I used to years ago. Christ moved deeply in my world as He put me to such an earth-shattering test. All I could do was trust Him in that moment, as my life was in the hands of others. Not to mention, I had a two-week old at the same time. Since then, I've learned that exclusive trust in Christ is all I need. I adore my family. I am in love with my husband. I love my job. I am very fond of my life, but those things aren't "needs" per se. Christ is my need. The rest are what have fallen into place and He as blessed me with.

David had to learn to trust in Christ alone as well. We can tell from his writings how passionate he is about His Savior, and how deeply he professes the love and trust he has in Him.
 "I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces." -Psalm 34:4-5
While those times of trials and unknowns are some of the darkest, scariest ones we can face, Christ can free us from our fears. I experienced this. I felt and now feel very at ease with Christ as my light. While trials still come and things still hit, the joy of the Lord is my strength, and to that I have to look up and say amen.

How do you react when God doesn't lead you down a road that seems right? Sometimes we face things that are brutal and unfair. We have fears that we'll lose something or someone. We fear for our reputations. We fear for how people look at us. The opposite of fear, however, is faith. Do you have faith and trust that God is enough for you? Do you see joy in the midst of your hardships because you know that God will deliver you in the right time, allowing you to grow and be refined in your faith?

It is hard to trust in something you can't see. But look back on your life and take a moment to see how Christ has worked in you already. You CAN see Him and the evidence of His work in you. Trust that He hears you. Trust that He will help you. Trust that His plans are greater. Trust that He will free you. Do you display a joy to others around you that shows that Christ is indeed enough for you? This is hard, especially in the middle of a situation that you feel is hopeless. Remember that Christ is your hope and His plans are greater.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Day 73: Standards

Day 73
Leviticus 17-18; Matthew 26:1-35

As we pick up our reading in Leviticus, we read many things that seem to go against our culture today. There are so many "hot-button" issues read here in today's world. It is easy to set our standards to the people around us, the news on the television, or to the "norm" of today. However, God has asked us to be set apart. He has made us to be set apart, as we stand in alignment with His standard, rather than try to continually mold to the ever-changing standard of the world around us.

God set up the laws for the Israelites so they may represent who they truly stand for. As the Israelites were tempted to take on the behaviors of the world around them, God reminded them "you must keep MY decrees and MY laws." (Leviticus 18:4) These laws weren't meant to be a "buzzkill" but serve as guidelines and protection for your heart. A heart for Christ is one that is set apart from the rest of this world's temptations, and we are truly surrounded by those. We can tie these Old Testament laws right in with the New Testament command: "Do not conform to the patterns of this world." (Romans 12:2)

What about grace? The beauty of our giving in to temptations is that God offers grace to those who ask for it. As we read in Matthew, while the "religious leaders" were plotting to kill Jesus at a time that made them look good, Jesus was showing compassion and grace to a woman who was truly displaying her allegiance to Him. This woman, in the same manner of what Christ did for us, gave all she had to Him by breaking her jar for Him. This jar represented her future, her status, her wealth, all she had. She gave Him her all. While the disciples were condemning her, and the religious leaders were plotting to kill Jesus, Jesus blessed this woman. Are you setting your own standards as you criticize and judge, or are you truly offering your all to Jesus, striving to live for Him by His Words?

The Last Supper is a symbol of Christ's grace to us yet today, as we celebrate communion, remembering what He has done for us. As the disciples sit around the table with Him, we can see how standards come into play. Judas, who has just accepted money to sell Jesus out. Peter, who will deny Him. A slew of humans who will or have screwed up, even though they spent time with Jesus and doing His work. Yet, Christ's body was broken for us. Yet, Christ's blood was spilled for us. What do we do in remembrance of Him daily?

Living by the standards of this world is a very easy thing to do. We look at our neighbor and say "at least we're not that bad". We watch as the world shifts into modern customs and culture encourages things that are unacceptable to God, and get more open about where we set our allegiances. If your standard is looking at your neighbor or at the media, it's time to set a new standard. A three-year old can draw a very curvy line on a paper, and you can draw yours next to theirs and say "mine is WAY straighter". Yet God can make the perfect line and your line will then look imperfect. Grace has leveled that line for us. Just know who's standards you are living by.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Day 72: In His Presence

Day 72
Leviticus 15-16; Matthew 25:31-46

We see quite a contrast in the way God portrays Himself in our readings today. Leviticus shows us how formal of an occasion it was to come into God's presence, as we read that Aaron had to do all of these things to be presentable. In fact, if he failed to come into the Lord's presence in the way described, he would be killed. (See Exodus 28:43)
It was quite a sacred privilege to be the priest who entered God's presence on behalf of the people, but also a very serious role in the Old Testament times.

When Jesus died for us, however, these formalities and rules were wiped away. I still believe we are to be in awe and respect for our King, as we prepare ourselves to be in His presence, but we no longer have to work through a priest or depend on someone else to come to Him for us. We can meet God wherever we are. The only preparation is having an open heart to hear His words and directions. In fact, He tells us to come boldly before His throne. (Hebrews 4:16) 

On the other end of the spectrum from what we read in Leviticus, we read Matthew 25:31-46. Jesus says that He is the "least of these", and we are to serve Him through serving them. This would seem to indicate that Christ is present when you help the least of these. I know that there is great blessing in helping others, and you truly experience God's hand at work. We can truly get to know God and His heart when we serve and see the humility it takes to do for others. We are to come into His presence with humility and openness, but we can come to Him anywhere we are.

We have different eyes on when we see God in the least of these as well. We see Him in humbling ways, rather than great and powerful ways. The cool thing about our God is that He is all of these. He is humble. He is mighty. He is powerful. The dynamics of experiencing our God is awe-inspiring and unfathomable. Coming into His presence is intimate and vast. He meets you where you are and hears your prayers.When was the last time you came into the powerful presence of your God? Feel His blessing as you bless others. Feel His power as you experience His sovereign hand at work in your life. Experience God in dynamic and mighty ways! Be open to His presence in your life and in your trials. He is there, showing you the way. All you have to do is ask and seek.