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. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Day 110: The Chaos of Disobedience

Day 110
Deuteronomy 28-29; Mark 13

The readings for today may feel like jumping into the scene of a horror movie. We see the consequences of not following God and His commands, and the blessings of following Him and His commands. We also see what it means to be His follower as this world continues on and gets closer to His coming back. Hold on to Him and the hope of His promise to you.

At first, reading the section in Deuteronomy may make you wonder how a loving God can do such things to a group of people. The sad thing, however, is when we disobey Him, we fall into our own consequences. God knows what will happen if you follow other gods, or put something ahead of Him, or get into a relationship we should stay away from, or act on selfishness. He warns us of what will happen, yet we do it anyways. We disobey and then we blame God for the horrible things that happen to us. At this point, we need to stop, take inventory of our lives and how it matches up with what God wants us to do - which is put Him first.

I think it is a common occurrence to push our boundaries. We are a lot like toddlers. We want something, so we start to inch closer to it, until it becomes something "we just do", or something "everyone is doing anyways". We forget Who we belong to, and fall into the arms of the world, rather than a God Who created us and has unfailing love for us. As parents, you warn your kids what will happen if they stay out too late, touch the stove, fail to complete chores, etc. Yet kids who disobey get angry at their parents because they think it's unfair. The truth of the matter is as parents, you want your kid to grow up responsible, safe, independent, respectful, and most importantly putting God ahead of everything else. We do the same thing to God Who wants the same for us. Yet when we disobey, we fall into the consequences of being reckless, dangerous, dependent, disrespectful, and the worst of all, apart from God.

If you have experienced misery before, or if you are right now, consider a few things. How is God using it to grow you? Is there an area of your life you need to give over to Him? Are you serving Him wholeheartedly with your life? Remember that God doesn't cause these bad things, but He'll allow them to refine you and to make you stronger in Him. He'll allow them because He has given us freewill, and because of that freewill, we will probably cause our own pain at times, or someone else's freewill cause you pain at times. We read in chapter 29 that that we shouldn't ever think we're safe, just because we know the warnings, but follow our own stubborn hearts anyways. We are still pursuing something other than God, and for that God will have no pardon. However, we don't always know why bad things happen, we also read in chapter 29, "the Lord has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that He has revealed to us..." Stay alert, stay informed, and stay close to your God so you don't fall into the chaos of disobedience.

As the second coming of Christ draws nearer, we will experience hardships throughout the world. We are warned as followers numerous times throughout this chapter to "watch out" and to "be on your guard". To truly be alert, you need to know what Christ looks like, sounds like, feels like, etc. Without ever opening your Bible and knowing Him, and recognizing His role in your life, how will you ever know His voice? There will be deception, persecution, and misery. Be assured that God is in control, if you are His people. His people will be rescued and will be taken home. Don't lose heart in the midst of these miseries, for we read in John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Do you trust that? More importantly, are you willing to live that out?

There is no doubt that in this world, we will experience some miseries. Much of it comes from direct disobedience from God, as we pursue our own freewill and desires more than Him and His desires for us, despite the warnings He lays out for us in His Word. Other instances are because of other people exercising their freewill and their actions ripple through your life too. Some, we'll never know the answer to until we can ask Him. Just stay alert, stay informed in His Word, and stay close to God so you can continue to grow through those hardships and be changed by His unfailing love. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Day 109: Worship

Day 109
Psalm 47-48

Check out this video in preparation of our reading today. 

We have every reason to lift up our God in praise. We read of the great things He has done. We have experienced the great things He has done. We have seen the great things He has done. Yet, we are sometimes timid. When we are looking around during worship at church and become to nervous to lift our  hands and pour out our hearts, we are holding back our true emotion for Christ. Or maybe, you don't have that emotion for Christ yet.

In Psalm 47, we read of the adoration and amazement of our God, written in the form of worship. Do you truly know Who God is, that you feel so inclined to lift your hands, shout for joy, clap your hands, dance around? We read of what God has done for the people that they praise Him - handed over their enemies, blessed them with the Promised Land, He reigns over them.  What has God done in your life that deserves praise and adoration? Do you show it?

As we step into Psalm 48, we read of the protection and security God provides to His people. The parallel of this city described here is the Church, a place that to be secure to all, protecting God's standards, and full of God's presence. When we worship in this place, we recognize those things in our lives.

We also recognize His unfailing love and the guidance He provides us in life. How has anyone loved you the way Christ does? It doesn't falter. He has given us all so we an have all. This alone is surely worthy of our praise and shouts. He guides us daily. When we ask and are in tune to His voice, He will show us the way. He has given us the Word. As we read to the end of this chapter, we discover that God is like the city described. Many watch towers that guide you, fortified walls that protect you, and the presence of God all throughout.

When you go into a heart of worship, don't look at the people around you. Don't even think about them. Rather, focus your thoughts on God and what He has done for you. Surely, that is worthy of our praise. Praise Him with song, and emotions, and joy, and shouts, and clapping.

Day 108: Heart Health

Day 108
Deuteronomy 25-27; Mark 12:28-44

Your heart is the central part of your body that keeps blood flowing and nourished with oxygen so you can continue living. Without a healthy heart, other body parts start to suffer, and eventually your entire body shuts down. Keeping your physical heart healthy is vital to a healthy body. The spiritual heart, however, is even more vital to your life. A healthy spiritual heart is what God sees and considers. Today, we'll look at what this means and how it's done.

There are certain things you naturally do if you indeed have a heart that yearns for God. In our trading in Mark today, we encounter the greatest commandments, which are love God with all of your heart, mind, and strength, and equally as great, love your neighbor as yourself. If your heart is one filled with taking pleasure in pleasing God, you will find these to come naturally. However, we are humans, and we tend to self-sustain, self-preserve, self-indulge, self-serve more than we should. We will fall short, as Jesus was the only One Who lived perfectly. Deep down we know we should show compassion to the people who drain us, and we should speak lovingly to the people who hate us, but needless to say, it's hard. We need to get heart healthy to see them the way God sees them.

How do we do it? In Deuteronomy, we discover how the people will get to experience God's blessings in their lives versus the curses. In agreeing to obey God, they are claiming allegiance to Him, and calling Him their God. Over and over we read about the presence God had with them and the presence He wanted with them. On the flip side, we read about the people when they truly experienced God's presence and when they only wanted God to protect them and obeyed to simply stay out of trouble. It goes deeper than wanting to stay on God's good side. Our obedience to Him must be a way of life if we truly want that heart that beats for Him. Get closer to Him by obedience to Him, cutting out things that you put before Him, and spending time with Him. Want to get closer to Him. Remember, if you seek Him with your whole heart, you will find Him. Stay spiritually heart healthy by remaining in His presence, as the Israelites learn the blessings of it.

All of the commands we read in the Bible boil down to these greatest two, as we discussed earlier. Love God, love people. Our hearts, our whole hearts should love Him fully. If we permeate Christ through our entire being, we will live lives that are spiritually sound and full of faith. Your worries will be on His will and His way, rather than your own. 

Don't worry about how you look to the people around you. The religious leaders were out to impress with their wordy prayers, upholding the legalistic rules, and flaunting their robes. Their hearts were not right, as they self-served. Worry about what God thinks of you. If we live our lives trying to appeal to people, we will die of rejection, and the glory is going to the wrong place (you). Our performance is not what God is looking at. The motive and state of our hearts are. 

Finally, a spiritually healthy heart gives from the heart and with faith. We can hold back because we don't want to give of our time and money in fear we'll be short or burn out. However, giving from the heart will feel different. As we read of the poor widow giving all she had, Jesus points out that she gave more than the others. She gave it all. It's not bad to give a portion of your income, in fact it is advised throughout the Bible, but Jesus is pointing out the heart motives here, not the amounts. The widow had faith God would take care of her, so she gave it all. Her attitude in giving was much different than the rich. She gave willingly and out of joy, while the others gave out of obligation and reputation. Check your heart for what attitude it has.

Give yourself a spiritual heart check up. Do you long to obey God and remain in His presence? Do you love God fully with all your heart, mind, and strength? Do you care about how you look to others more than you care about how you look to God? Do you have an attitude that trusts Him in your giving? Be aware of your heart health, as that is what God sees when He looks at You. Strive to impress Him and not the people around you. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Day 107: The Wide Lens

Day 107
Deuteronomy 22-24; Mark 12:1-27

Every situation we encounter in life has something we can take away from it. Every situation we face also affects us based on the perspective we take on it. Read more on what this looks like with me today.

As you have read through the story of the Israelites so far, you have probably noticed by now that it is riddled with commands and consequences laid out by the Lord to the people in order to keep the community in order and the people close to God. This portion of Deuteronomy is no different, as more regulations are laid out and consequences explained. God wants us to be set apart from this world. Not necessarily by following these specific rules, as they were for that culture and time, but by simply doing things that show our love for Christ. When we make poor decisions, a consequence usually follows. Do you think ahead enough to consider what the consequences of your actions might be and how it may not only affect you, but the others around you? Having this perspective can surely save you some heart ache. However, it is hard to keep the ripples from other peoples' actions from impacting your life. This is why we must be careful and consider what is ahead when we make the decisions we make.

We will all make a poor decision at some point or another. I know I make probably one a day, simply because I don't always think things through as thoroughly as I should. God continually reminds the people to remember where they once were and how He delivered them. He does this because it is so important to remember what God has done for you, and act as compassionately towards others who are in the boat you were once in. We aren't to dwell on the past and our mistakes, but we are to always remember God's power in our lives, and apply it as we continue forward. Learn from your mistakes, and more on from them, striving not to repeat it, and helping others who have been put in that same boat.

If you are truly a Christ-follower, seeking Christ daily, and striving to fulfill the mission He has set you out too, it is important to view everything from an eternal perspective. The religious leaders who continued to try and nail Jesus to the cross didn't see the bigger picture. They couldn't see past the rules, regulations, and traditions that they have learned so well. Jesus, being a game changer, caused them to fear Him and His ideas. When we don't see things through the point of view of eternity and what will truly matter in this life, we too can fear like these leaders did.

It is entirely easy to worry about money, health, life situations, relationship statuses, etc, But when you can think of those things through the wide angle of the bigger picture to come, or the perspective of what God is trying to do or how He will use it, the intensity can be lessened. Everything in this world is temporary - which can be good if you are heading for heaven, or depressing if you're heading the other way. Nothing in this world belongs to us, including money and spouses as Jesus points out in today's reading. When we can see Jesus for Who He is, and what He did, and apply it to who we are (sinful, deserving eternal separation) and what we can do (nothing apart from Christ), it changes everything. You can lay those worries in the hands of the One Who created you and is laying out the life to come before you. Give to this world what belongs to it. Don't worry about what you are losing, but focus on what you gain in trusting Christ.

Walk this world with a wide perspective of what you've experienced through consequences of poor decisions, remembering what Christ has done for you, and most importantly with the perspective of His Kingdom and plan. Set your worries into His hands and allow Him to take care of what is His (everything). Use every opportunity to point the way to Him and show others how to cast their cares, worries and eternity on the One Who created them.