The Bible is the Word of God! It has the power to change your life and lead you to God in profound ways. The culture in which the Bible was written is so different than our own that we struggle to understand what it means or how it is relevant to our every day lives. In this survey of reading through the Bible, we will capture the Bible’s key themes, show what the teachings meant to the people at the time, and demonstrate how those teachings are still relevant for us today. By the end, it is the hope that you will be able to understand and see how God has paved the way for you to come to Christ. Join me on the journey of a lifetime!
Day 1: Announcement to Mary
When I was in seminary and sitting in class, our professor had us go around the room and say what we always wanted to be when we grew up. I was the last one, but everyone in front of me had these amazing and exciting ideas of what they wanted to be and dreamed of…For example, veterinarians, doctors, nurses, lawyers, etc.…And, then it got to me…And, I said: The only thing I really- ever wanted was to be a mom.
God blessed me in that way. I vividly remember the announcement of all four of my children when I was told, “You’re pregnant!” It was a very joyous moment!
However, Mary learned about her announcement of: “You’re pregnant” in a very different way. Her announcement came from the Holy Spirit. My announcement came in the way of a nurse after a positive pregnancy test. I couldn’t wait to tell everyone my news. Mary could not tell anyone. In fact, Mary was not even married! She could have been ostracized – even killed.
Mary was human. When the angel came to her, she could have said “no.” She could have said that this is too hard, it’s a scandal and I don’t want to be involved, or I’m too afraid. But, she didn’t! She takes this huge leap of faith that God had this! She believed in her heart that God would take care of her.
However, I don’t think Mary had a clue what it meant for her to have the Holy Child of God. What if she knew that Jesus was going to be hated and treated so poorly in the end? What if the angel had told her that He would be crucified? I don’t think she could grasp the thought. I don’t think she could even possibly understand how it was going to be possible for Jesus to bring us salvation.
But, she trusted God. Her faith prevailed even in the unknown of what the future held.
Imagine for a moment if Mary had said “no.” We would not have the hope of our eternal life! Death would have the final say. We would never see our loved ones again after they die. Hell, would certainly be a possibility in our next life.
As Christians, God is calling each of us to worship, serve, and love our neighbor! Sometimes in the busy-ness of our lives, we want to say “No.” We always have so many excuses: I can’t go to church today because it’s too cold, too nice out, or I am too tired. I don’t have time to serve because I work. Somebody else will do it…And, the list goes on…
But, here is the thing…Just like Mary did not have a clue what God’s possibilities were for her and God’s Son; We do not know what God has in store for us if we were to say “YES!” to God’s calling for us!
When we say “NO,” we are saying NO to God. But, when we say YES, the possibilities of experiencing Christ in our lives are beyond any of our imaginations!
Mary’s YES to God changed her life forever. Mary’s YES changed YOUR life forever!
Where is the Holy Spirit calling you to today, tomorrow, and beyond? Your YES will change your life in profound and joyous ways! Your YES may profoundly change the lives of others!
Let us pray…Gracious and Loving God: We give thanks for the announcement of our Lord Jesus to Mary. We give thanks that she said YES! Help us to hear your calling for us. Lead us and guide us into that calling so that we may experience the Lord Jesus in our lives. Amen.
Day 2: The Birth of Jesus
It is the night that Jesus is born. Every child has a birth story. And, this is Jesus’ birth story…
The emperor decides that he wants to take a census – in other words, he wants to know where everyone is from, where they live, how many children they have, and so forth. And so, everyone is traveling to get to their hometown to do as they have been told. This was mandatory! Joseph, being the upright citizen, takes Mary and begins the journey. And, because everyone else is traveling, they cannot find a place to sleep for the night.
And, so…they were offered the only thing they could find…a stable where all the animals were kept for the night – a place where Mary would give birth to her son, Jesus. A place where the only crib for the baby Jesus was a feeding trough.
We know this story by heart! But, sometimes we can hear a story over-and-over again, only hearing the same things over-and-over again.
This story told in Luke’s Gospel is the only Gospel that talks about the Shepherds in the field. In fact, it is only in Luke’s Gospel do we get this clear vision of what it might have been like the night Jesus was born. But, why the shepherds? Why are the shepherds so significant in the birth story of Jesus Christ in Luke’s Gospel?
However, did you know that shepherds were the lowest job on the totem pole. As the Israelites gained more and more farmland, shepherding became more and more a menial vocation for the laboring class.
Religious leaders – such as the Pharisees and the Scribes maintained a strict caste system of the shepherds and the other common folk. Shepherds were officially labeled “sinners” – a technical term for a class of despised people. They fell into the same category as women, tax collectors, and considered dishonest as they grazed their flocks on other people’s land. And so, here it is in this context – shepherds – the most despised people in their society – in the context of religious snobbery and class prejudice,
And…what happens…God’s Son steps forth.
God picks the lowly, unpretentious shepherds to be the first to hear the joyous news: It’s a boy! And, he is the Messiah!” – the shepherds who were despised and the lowest of every economic standards and class – have now been moved, from the bottom of the social ladder to the top of the social ladder! Not in the eyes of the kings, priests, and scribes – but in the eyes of God!
And so, isn’t this the irony? WHEN IT COMES TO GOD: Nothing is the way WE would think it should be…We work hard to look good in front of other people…
Have a good job
Drive a nice car
Go to church
Appear to have our act together…
But, that isn’t what God looks at…that is not what is important to God. It is our hearts that God cares about…And so…It in the “UNEXPECTED” that God surprises us.
Who God chooses are not the ones who are educated and “appear” righteous, but are the ones whose hearts are open to the true Messiah. God went to the lowliest of all kinds of people – the shepherds who in those days were called SINNERS! (Imagine that!)
And, here is the thing…because if He had not – how then would we know that HIS Love – His Son would be for all people?
God demonstrated through the Shepherds that: God is all inclusive – God’s love is for everyone! Even people like the shepherds that no one else liked or cared about – Even people like you and me…That upon this night, a child is born, a Savior who will fulfill the law on our behalf – giving each of us a gift of grace, mercy, and love.
A Savior that will never forsake us or leave us. A Savior that shows up in the unexpected.
Let us pray. Gracious God, there is nothing that we can do to thank you enough for your Son, Jesus Christ. Lead us and guide us into this new year as we begin to dig into your Word, helping us to understand the significance of the presence of our Lord and Savior. Thanks be to God!
Day 3: Jesus’ Temptation
You may have seen the snicker’s commercials lately where being hungry changes their personality. In each commercial, their hunger makes them violent, angry, and aggressive. So, they have a snickers bar which satisfies their hunger and they return to their normal self. Their tag line is: You’re not you when you are hungry.”
It is true that when we are hungry, it is difficult to concentrate or focus. When we get ‘really’ hungry, we might would do just about anything to have something to eat. “You’re not you when you are hungry!”
Jesus had just been baptized by John in the river when he headed into the wilderness to be alone, pray, and discern His mission. Jesus knew his mission for humanity was going to be very difficult and this was his way of preparing for the journey. He had to be grounded in pray, grow close to His Father, and prepare His heart and mind for what laid ahead.
For forty days, Jesus did not eat a thing. So, by the end of those forty days, Jesus was hungry! He probably was at the point that he would have done just about anything to have food. And, of course, that is when the devil steps in to tempt Jesus to come to his side. Worship me, says the devil, and I will give you anything that you want!
But, even in Jesus’ weakest moment, He doesn’t give in to the temptations of the devil. And, here is why I think that Jesus held it together:
Jesus was very hungry after not eating for forty days. In fact, it states that He was famished. But, for those forty days, he was deep in prayer. His relationship with God was one in which, no one or nothing could come between them. Jesus was not only prepared for the mission before Him, but also prepared for the devil and his temptations.
Jesus demonstrates for us that when we are in an intimate relationship with God, we can sustain and survive even the most difficult situations and circumstances!
The devil is real! Every single day, the devil is waiting for your weakest moment to attack and tempt you to turn away from God. Our defense is to be in a relationship with God who will strengthen you!
“You’re not you when you are hungry.” I would like to think that you are not you when you are “hungry” for the Word of God! In his book, The Ignatian Adventure, Kevin O’Brian states:
“Something happens to us when we draw closer to God. We are not the same as we were. Our eyes are different and we see the world in light of God’s love. Our hearts are different too. They are aflame with generosity, freedom, and passion.”
Let us pray…Gracious God, as we begin this journey of being in your Word every day, we pray that You will strengthen us and prepare our hearts and minds for the temptations that we might encounter along the way. We pray that You keep us from evil, guide us into Your will, and help us to be grounded in pray and thanksgiving with You! Amen.
Day 4: Calling Disciples
As a little girl, I loved to play outside. It was back in the days when parents didn’t have to worry about their children being outside. We would travel the neighborhood – going to one friend’s house to another. I have very fond memories of those days. But, every evening around dinner time, I would hear my mom calling out my name telling me it was time to come home.
When we are “called” by name, we pause and turn to the one who is calling us.
Jesus was on the boat with Simon who had been trying to catch fish all night, along with James and John. They had given up for the night and had returned to shore to clean up. Jesus was gaining popularity. People were beginning to follow Him, hungry to hear the Word of God. So, Jesus gets into Simon’s boat, has Simon take him out a bit so that Jesus could preach to the people. Jesus then asked Simon to go out further and cast his net. Simon tried to tell him that they had not had any luck all night long. Reluctantly, Simon does as he is told. His net becomes so full that the boats begin to sink.
Simon witnessed a miracle! He immediately recognized who Jesus was – the Son of God, the Messiah. We know this because Simon states, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” but, Jesus doesn’t leave. In fact, Jesus “calls” him to be his disciple! He calls him by name and tells him his mission: From now on you will fish for people.
Jesus calls us by name. Jesus calls us to be disciples. Sometimes we don’t feel adequate to serve our Lord, we have doubts, or we feel afraid. I believe that Simon felt all the above. “Get away from me Lord, for I am a sinner” – Simon doubted his credentials. Jesus says, “Do not be afraid” – Jesus felt Simon’s fear.
Listen tentatively for God’s calling for you! God calls your name to be Jesus’s disciple! Simon, James and John left their boats, picked up and went with Jesus. How will you respond?
Let us pray…Gracious God, help us to hear our name when you call us to be your disciple. Give us the strength and the courage to follow You – wherever that may lead us. Amen
Day 5: Jesus the Healer
Have you ever wanted something so bad that you would do anything to get it?
A paralyzed man is on a bed (probably more like a stretcher so that his buddies could carry him), who had heard about this man named Jesus, who could heal people. Jesus was ‘really’ getting popular – they were coming everywhere to see Jesus – to hear God’s Word and to be healed. And, so I’m thinking that the paralyzed man asked his friends to get him to Jesus. He must have had some ‘really’ awesome friends because when they tried to get him in front of Jesus there was so many people, it was impossible to get through the crowds.
And then…talking about extremes…his friends take this man, who is still on the stretcher, up to the top of the roof, and find a way to lower him into the place where Jesus is standing. So, basically, the paralyzed man is plopped right in front of Jesus! Well, how could Jesus not miss that? How could Jesus ignore this very handicapped man?
Jesus does acknowledge the man that lies before Him and “saw their faith” (5:20). In other words, Jesus could read their hearts! He knew their hearts were in the right place. He knew that this man believed that Jesus was his Savior – the ONLY ONE who could make him well. In fact, because he believed this with all his heart, he had his friends go to extremes in- order to get in front of Jesus! Because Jesus ‘saw their faith,’ he told him that his sins were forgiven and he was healed.
However, the Scribes and the Pharisees don’t get it – they are questioning who Jesus is and what He is up to. Consequently, Jesus can read their hearts too. In fact, Jesus states, “Why do you raise such questions in your heart?” (5:22)
Here is the thing…Jesus knows our hearts! Jesus hears our cries and our questions. Jesus knows how much we want to be close to Him. This then begs the question…How bad do you want Jesus in your life? What extremes would you go to just to be near your Lord and Savior?
Let us pray…Gracious and Loving God, we give you thanks and praise for your Son who came to be with us – to heal our hearts and to give us peace. Help us to remember and know in our hearts that whatever is hurting and however we are suffering, that You hear our cries. Let us come to You for our refuge and strength! In Your name, we pray, Amen.
Day 6: Jesus the Teacher
We have a daughter who is in her third year of veterinarian school. She is so tired and I can even see it in her eyes. While her school is in the Caribbean, the only times she gets to enjoy the beach is right before her classes start and at the end when her finals are over. She literally spends about 12 – 14 hours a day studying, working in the clinic, and preparing for surgeries. She will often comment, “Why does it have to be so hard!” My response to her is…If it were easy, everyone would be doing it and we would have way too many vets!
But think about it…All the good things in life are not easy! All the good things in life take hard work and perseverance. Jesus demonstrates in our text today that to be a Christian is not easy. It takes hard work. It takes perseverance. For example:
- Love your enemies. That is probably the hardest thing in the world! I struggle with loving those who have hurt me!
- Jesus says that we should pray for those who hurt us. Honestly, sometimes I want to pray for revenge.
- Lend money with the expectation that you will not be repaid.
- If someone slaps you in the face, turn the other way…Be compassionate!
- Not only give someone your coat, but also give them your shirt.
- Do not judge others – HA!
This is very difficult stuff! To live the life that Jesus is teaching us takes thought, prayer, forgiveness, and perseverance. From the way, I see it, there is NOTHING easy about being a Christian! There again, if it were that easy, would we not all be Christians?
However, Jesus does offer promise and hope for those who try to live this life as a Christian. He says, you will be blessed, forgiven, and “your gift will be returned to you in full – pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap” (Luke 6:38, NLT Version).
Let us pray, Gracious and Loving God, your teachings are hard and difficult. We pray that you will help us and guide us to be the people you want us to be. Forgive us, dear Lord, in our struggles to live out your Word. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 7: Jesus the Christ
While in Leechburg, PA., our congregation participated in a ministry that fed the homeless breakfast once a month in the urban area of Pittsburgh. On one morning, one of the congregation members announced that we would be bringing fresh watermelon on our next visit. Keep in mind that we would feed about 65-70 people.
The next month rolled around and the food was purchased for the upcoming breakfast. The night before I went into the church kitchen and saw 2 very small watermelons. That night I prayed there would not be a big turnout because I didn’t think we would be able to fulfill our promise of fresh watermelon.
However, when I arrived that next morning for the breakfast, there was this huge bowl of watermelon all cut up and ready to serve! When I asked how did we get so much watermelon, no one seemed to know the answer, except that before giving the watermelon to the kitchen help, the watermelon was lifted -up to God and asked that it be blessed.
We fed around 70 people that morning and every one had watermelon on their plate. In fact, the bowl came around offering seconds. God had provided! I believe to this day that I had the joy of witnessing God’s amazing power at work!
That day, so many people had come to hear Jesus talk about the Kingdom of God, to be healed, and to be near Him. They were in the middle of nowhere! And, as the day wore on, they became hungry! The disciples became hungry. It wasn’t like they could just run to a McDonalds and get something to eat. The disciples wanted to send all the people home (only about 5000 of them!), but Jesus says, “NO, you feed them!”
And then, just like the watermelon that day, the bread and fish continued to multiply, providing for all 5000 men, not including women and children, to have more than enough, with left overs – 12 baskets to be exact!
Jesus says, “You Feed Them!” Jesus is Christ! How can we reach out to our neighbor who may be hungry? I wonder if Jesus is waiting for us “take action” …and then He will do the rest.
Let us pray…Jesus, our Christ, we give thanks and praise for all that you provide for us – enough food for the day! Help and guide us to be your feet and hands in our community to assure that others have enough to eat – having the faith that you will provide. Amen.
Day 8: Called to Fellowship
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
One of my favorite honors that I have as a pastor is to perform weddings and to unite man and woman into one. When I meet with the couple who are about to be married, I always emphasize the importance of communication with each other. I believe that the key to a happy and successful marriage is communication. As humans, we are not mind readers; therefore, it is important that we express to each other how we feel about situations, things that we want, and even things that drive us crazy.
No matter how you look at it…a relationship can only be built and deepened through interaction with each other. A relationship demands our attention!
St. Paul is writing to the congregation in Corinth. Because this church has been made holy by Jesus Christ, Paul reminds them how they have been blessed in so many ways – “…so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift…God is faithful; by Him you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1Cor 1:7;9).
God wants us to be in a relationship with Jesus Christ! As God’s children, you and I have been given the gifts (v.7), the strength (v.4), enriched in in speech and knowledge (v.5), and ‘Called’ (v.9) to be in ‘fellowship’ – a relationship where you share the joys of being together!
But, why is this important for us today?
I have been married to my husband for 33 years. It is very difficult for me to imagine my life without him. I believe it is because we have a deep relationship with each other. We are best friends. We communicate with each other – sometimes loudly! We know where we stand with each other!
That is the kind of relationship Jesus Christ wants with us! Jesus wants us to have such an intimate relationship with Him that we cannot even fathom living day-to-day without Him in our lives! Jesus wants us to talk to Him, ask for whatever we need…Jesus wants to be our best friend!
Let us pray…Dear Jesus, help us to continue to love you as you love us. Help us to remember that we can count on you – that You will always be faithful. Help us to remember that you give us all we need, all the up until our last days on earth. We love you so much. Amen.
Day 9: Half-Hearted followers
Occasionally, on a Sunday after worship, I have to run into the grocery store for a few items. I try to avoid stores on Sunday, but like everyone else, it is sometimes unavoidable. But, I get tickled because it never fails that I see a parishioner there who was not at worship. At first, they try to avoid seeing me and turn down another aisle. And, then when they can’t avoid me any longer, the first thing they say to me is all the reasons they were not at church. Honestly, I think I have heard every excuse imaginable.
This text in Luke is one of the most difficult to hear. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. It almost seems that his patience is running out. He is gaining popularity and people are following him from town-to-town.
They are traveling down the road. I try to imagine what that may have been like…nothing on the sides. For us, if we are traveling down the road and we get hungry, we just pull over into a McDonalds. If we need to go to the restroom, we pull into a rest stop. But, these people are probably in the middle of the desert, walking, and on a dusty hot road. Many are probably hungry, need to use the restroom, but at the same time, want to be near Jesus.
But, Jesus doesn’t seem to care that they may be hot and tired when someone tells him that he will follow Jesus wherever He goes. Jesus responds that he doesn’t even have a home to go to lay his head. And, then as though someone else is walking along with them and listening in on the conversation, Jesus says to them, “Follow me.” And, then another says, “I will follow you.”
And then…here it comes…one excuse after another…
My dad died, I need to go bury him. And, I will follow you Jesus, but first let me go tell my family I am going…”
Personally, I think these are very legitimate excuses. I know I would want to give my dad a proper burial and say “good-bye” to my family…This is really- hard stuff!
But, I think what Jesus is saying here is that for us to be true followers, we cannot sit on the fence. We must decide if we are “in” or are we “out.” There is no in-between. There is no gray area. In other words, there are going to be times in our lives where we must decide what is more important – putting Jesus first or putting ourselves and our desires first.
Let us pray…Gracious God, help us to make You our priority. Help us to put You first in our lives. It is what our hearts desire, but sometimes we get thrown off our path. Guide us and lead us into your will. In Your Name, we pray, Amen.
Day 10: Power of Prayer
So, why do we pray? What is the point of prayer? What are we hoping to accomplish through our prayer?
Here is Jesus with his disciples who have gone to a place to spend time with God to pray…The disciples have been watching Jesus pray…now they want to learn how to pray for themselves. And, Jesus gives them this perfect prayer…God, your name is great!Let your kingdom come…right here – right now – here on earth! Let ‘us’ everyone one of us…have enough food for the day and, forgive us god, for we have all sinned…sins we are not even aware of… Please keep us from evil and suffering…and God…help us to forgive others…
But, here is my struggle…How many times have you knocked and you didn’t feel the door had been opened? How many times did you seek and did not find? How many times did you ask and did not receive? All of us have experienced at some time or another, the absence of God and that our prayers feel unanswered.
But, I think that we forget that this is not where God reigns…We do not view this life the same way that God views this life…
Here is the thing…we think, because we are human, that it is this life that matters…But, for God, You were created for a purpose in this life – and there is only one purpose! God wants us to be in a relationship with God…And to live out Jesus’ mission here on earth…
It’s why you are here…It’s why you should pray…to make that connection with God… And, what do receive? God’s Amazing LOVE, JOY, and PEACE! Isn’t it true that our FEAR causes us to react and come to God because at the end of the day…It is God who is in control? YES!
Therefore, isn’t it God who can only give you what you truly need? YES!
- A Joy and a peace that passes all of our understanding…A peace in knowing that this is not our final resting place…
- A joy of knowing that we have a new life in Christ…
- Grace for sins…mercy when we don’t deserve it!
- Would we ask God to let us suffer? NO
- But, God will take away our suffering…
God will heal us…And, God does have mercy on us…I am going to make you a promise…but, it requires an action on your part: Because this I know for sure…
Pray the Lord’s prayer. And, when you pray for those to have food…Consider how you can be God’s hands and do something about it! When you pray for forgiveness for your sins, pray also for God to help you forgive others…but, do something about it!
God…Let your Kingdom Come! Right here, right now, on this earth…
As Jesus’ followers, we are the catalyst to bring love to this hurting and world that is so full of hate! Others are demonstrating their hate for others…What if we begin to demonstrate our love for others? And, here is my promise…
God will fill your heart with all the love, grace, and mercy giving you a joy that will pass all of our understanding…God will give the Holy Spirit to all those who ask Him…
Let us pray…Gracious God, we give you thanks and praise that you are always there for us – even in the most difficult of times. Help us to remember that are always with us – and all we have to do is ask for your peace and mercy, and it will be granted. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 11: God’s Kingdom
I can remember being in elementary school and the teacher would ask the class, “Who wants to be first to…?” And, every child would raise their hand saying, “Me first! I want to go first! I want to be the leader of the line”, or whatever it was the teacher was offering.
But, today Jesus turns our world upside down. It is not about being first. In fact, Jesus clearly states, “Some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last” (Luke 13:30). Honestly, do any of us want to be last? What is Jesus trying to get His reader to understand?
As Jesus was going from town-to-town and village-to-village, someone came up to him and bluntly asked, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” (13:23) However, notice that Jesus doesn’t say, ‘yes or no,’ but says, “strive to enter through the narrow door. Not all will be able.” (13:24).
Does that make you nervous? It does me! I want to be first! I want to know that I am going to be saved! Also, Jesus doesn’t say exactly what you need to do to be saved. However, He certainly gives us a good indication…
Jesus creates a vision in our minds of someone we don’t even know to come and knock on our door and wanting into our home. Would we just let anybody into our house? I don’t think that we would! I would be scared to let someone who wanted in that I knew absolutely nothing about – especially this day and time!
However, I would be willing to let someone who needed to come in that I had a relationship with – someone I knew and felt comfortable letting them into my home.
That is what Jesus is saying to us here! He wants to have a relationship with you! If you know Him, have an intimate relationship with Him, and know what His expectations are of you – you will be so secure in your salvation that you will never have to worry about your place in line when arriving into the Kingdom of God! Jesus will know you and you will know Him!
Let us pray…Jesus – our Lord and Savior! As we begin our day, be with us as enter Your Word and understand Your expectations of us as a Christian. Help us to get to know more deeply and more intimately. In Your name we pray, Amen.
Day 12: Forgiveness
My sister said to me one time that she could not accept a mass murderer or someone who had broken the law in profound ways would be sitting next to her in heaven!
The word “prodigal” means to spend money and resources freely, recklessly, wastefully, extravagantly, and lavishly. No doubt this young man foolishly spent his inheritance from his father recklessly by enjoying life a little too much.
If it were in today’s world, I imagine a young adult taking the money to go party every night, going to expensive restaurants for a good meal, staying in nice hotels. And, who knows, he or she may go to Las Vegas to gamble with the hopes of doubling their money.
Jesus uses parables to get his point across to those who are listening. If we were to decipher this parable, it may look like this: God is the Father, the prodigal son could be one of us, and the jealous son also could be one of us. But, of course, the Father in this story loves His children no matter what they have done wrong.
We know God forgives us when we repent. We know this because of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. It was the whole reason Jesus did what He did! However, I wonder if we need to focus on the son who was so angry because his brother did not obey his father and foolishly spent all his inheritance.
Like my sister who feels she has lived her life as righteous as possible, cannot fathom why someone who has not would get the same privileges as her! This son was angry for the same reason…Why did his brother be rewarded for acting out when he had obeyed his father and tried to do the right thing? For Pete’s sake, his father threw him a party and everything! It’s unfair!
But, here is the thing…whether we like it or not, a sin is a sin! God does not prioritize which sins are greater than others. In God’s eyes, even having an evil thought about someone else is a sin! All sins are to come before God and repent! It is only our judicial system that punishes us for the level of sin committed!
God, our Father who loves us no matter how great the sin, wants us to come before Him and ask for forgiveness! Otherwise, we are like the prodigal son taking advantage of God’s grace, mercy, and love for us – recklessly and foolishly!
Let us pray…Gracious God, as we come before you, we know that in many ways we have acted like the prodigal son – taking Your Love for us for granted and living our lives foolishly. Help us to come to you for repentance and forgiveness…regardless of the sin we have committed. In your name, we pray, Amen.
Day 13: Learning to Forgive
If you have ever said things you wish you had not said, done things that you wish you could take back, or did not act for justice when you should have, you know the agony it can create in your heart. In all honesty, I don’t know which pain is greater – the pain we inflict on others or the pain we receive from others. Both, are difficult. The pain can cause disruption in your sleep, the inability to function in your days, and the feelings of a deep depression.
Jesus tells us today: “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come…” (Luke 17:1) Jesus is telling us that we are not perfect! We are going to mess up!
This text that we have today is the heart of the Gospel. It is the reason Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem. It is and will be the ONLY thing that will free you!
Forgiveness, and the ability to forgive others is the hardest thing to do for us humans. When we are hurt by others, we often want revenge. We want them to hurt like we do. And, if we let it…that pain can destroy us.
Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection give us the means to receive God’s amazing grace – freeing us from our wrongdoings – things we have said and done or not done, and giving us hope for peace in our hearts.
Every single one of us have something to repent for something we have said or done. Every single one of us are hurting in some capacity. Saying, “I’m sorry” is the cure to that pain! And, then we are commanded: “And, if there is repentance, you must forgive!” (Luke 17:3)
Who might you need to forgive today? How might could you approach that person and ask for forgiveness on your side?
Let us pray…Gracious God, what would this world be like if Your Son, Jesus Christ did come to hang on a cross for our forgiveness? Where would we be? Help us, Lord, to not only ask for forgiveness from you, but to forgive others who have asked for forgiveness from us. Give us the strength and open our hearts to Your amazing grace. Lord, we love you so much. Amen.
Day 14: Wealth and Faithfulness
I have been very blessed in my life and I always give God thanks and praise for all that I have. My husband and I have worked hard, made a lot of sacrifices, and have always had enough. Honestly, if Jesus came to me and ask that I sell everything and give it the poor, I would have a difficult time. While I hope that I could give it all away, I’m not sure that I could go through with it.
It seems that the closer Jesus gets to Jerusalem, the harder it is to hear what is required of us as His followers. This man that approaches Jesus is wealthy. He has anything and everything, except for one thing – his salvation. I wonder if he thought that he could just write Jesus a check and then he would be saved??
But, one would have to love Jesus’ response, “You know the Ten Commandments…” Yeah, just follow those and you’ll be good – Ha! And funny, this wealthy man even seems to think that he has obeyed all the commandments! However, also notice that Jesus doesn’t mention the very first commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.”
I believe that this wealthy man asked the wrong question. He wants to know what “he” can do to have salvation. If this man knew God at all, he would know that it was impossible to obey the Commandments! There is NOTHING that this man can do on his own to earn his salvation. He needs Jesus! He needs Jesus’ forgiveness because he has already messed up trying to obey those Commandments! It is ONLY Jesus that can make his salvation possible!
Let us pray…Gracious God, why do we forget that it is only You that can save us? We want to do things on our own, but we cannot have eternal life without your love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Only you can make the impossible, possible. Thank you Lord Jesus! Amen.
Day 15: Faith in the Lord
We have a two-year old grandson. If you have ever been around little ones, you will know that they never hold back. They are always very direct about what they want. They know what they want and they can be very verbal about their desires!
Jesus is on the outskirts of Jericho where there are lots of people around – many following Jesus. A blind is sitting on the side of the road – probably much like we would see in our big cities where homeless people are asking for help. This man notices that the crowds are getting rowdy. He is blind, not deaf! And, so he asked someone what was going on. They replied, “Jesus the Nazarene is going by” (Luke 18: 37).
Immediately, this man did not hold back! He began to yell to Jesus to have mercy on him! This man knew Jesus without ever have seen Him! This tells me something! This tells me that his faith was in the heart! And, what about us? Do we ever see Jesus physically? NO!
I love the way this man just comes out with it when Jesus asked him what does he want: “Lord, let me see again!” (Luke 18:41). Jesus doesn’t hesitate and heals him.
Do we have a child-like faith to believe that Jesus can give us what we ask for because we know who He is – the Son of God! And, do we have the courage to be so blunt in our asking?
Let us pray…Lord Jesus, let us come to you with a faith like the blind man – that even though we cannot see you in a physical form, we believe that you are the Son of God – our Messiah! Give us the courage and the strength to ask specifically for what we need – to not be afraid! Lord, we love you so much. Amen.
Day 16: Zacchaeus
I read an article the other day that stated most people think they need to have their lives all put together before they become a part of a church family. This hit me hard because I don’t want my church to be like that – I want people to feel welcomed in a community of believers, no matter what their circumstances are in life. For me, church is a place to come hear God’s promising Word of forgiveness and Eternal Life!
Jesus has now made it into the village of Jericho where crowds of people are gathered around Him wanting to see and be with Him. Zacchaeus is a short little man, a tax collector, and rich. Most tax collectors in those days became wealthy from stealing and cheating others out of their money. Therefore, they were known as crooks and not exactly the nicest people in the community. However, here is Zacchaeus – ‘one of those’ but, is intrigued about Jesus. In fact, because he is so short, he climbs a sycamore tree so that he can see Jesus.
Jesus knows who Zacchaeus is and we know this because Jesus calls him by his name! Jesus shouts up to him and says, “Hey, I need to stay at your place tonight!” And so, if Jesus knows what kind of person Zacchaeus is – a crook, then why would he not choose to stay with someone who is upright and righteous?
Jesus demonstrates to us that it is not those who think they have their lives all put together before they can come before Him. Jesus comes to Zacchaeus – sinner, and his heart was opened to new possibilities! Zacchaeus confesses his sin – “And, if I have cheated (defrauded), anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much” (Luke 19:8). It is at that moment, Jesus offers salvation.
Let us pray…Dear Jesus, we recognize our sinfulness in the light of your presence. Let us come to you with an open heart with our confession and hope for a new life and a new beginning. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 17: Blessed is the King
Jesus has now arrived into Jerusalem where He will soon be crucified.
Crowds of people have been following Jesus from town-to-town, witnessing His miracles – healing the sick, blind, and crippled; feeding thousands of people at a time; and, offering God’s forgiveness to the worst of sinners. The streets are crowded as Jesus rides on a donkey (one that has never been ridden before) down the middle of the street while people are praising Him and giving thanks for all He has done.
And, of course the Pharisees in the crowd are mad. They cannot stand it because Jesus is getting so much attention. So, they ask Jesus to get His disciples under control. Jesus responds, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” (Luke 19:39)
God’s will cannot be stopped! Jesus’ mission is for all people and there is nothing that will keep it from happening – no matter how hard we may try to change the outcome!
Let us pray…Gracious God, let Your will be done! Help us to accept what is before us in our lives. Give us the strength to get through even the most difficult of days. Amen,
Day 18: A Widow’s Coins
A heard this story a while back about a wealthy family. They had some friends from another country who were coming to the states and who had literally nothing. The wealthy family wanted to help provide for them some of their needs. So, the wealthy family came together to decide how they would go about helping this other family. The dad said he had lots of watches and would pick out one to give that he didn’t wear or have a need for. The son who was about twelve years old wanted to give something to the boy who was about the same age.
As the young 12-year old looked at his toys, he decided that the best choice would be his favorite airplane. It was his decision to give this other child who had no toys, his favorite and best toy. This began a chain reaction as the father began to think about what it would mean to give his best watch and not some watch he did not care about.
When we have an abundance – more than we need – it is easy for us to give away the things that we do not use or care about any longer. But, it is much more difficult to give to others – our money, our time, and our gifts when in fact, those things may be very precious to us. It becomes hard to let go!
Jesus makes this point when He is sitting in the temple watching the people put their money into the offering plate. Those who have more than they need, put in their left-overs, while this woman put in the plate everything that she had needed to get through the week. She gave her ALL to the Lord – everything that she had!
And so, it’s about faith! It’s about feeling secure in your relationship with God! It’s about knowing that God will provide for you and that your job is to help others. Our generosity begins a chain reaction!
Let us pray…Gracious God, help us to grow in our relationship with You so that we feel secure in our generosity towards others. Increase our faith! Help us to let go of not just our leftovers, but even the most precious things in our lives that will help others. We love you so much, Lord. Amen.
Day 19: The Last Supper
Jesus is in Jerusalem. It is the Passover in which the Lamb had to be sacrificed. Little did the disciples know that the Lamb of God – their beloved friend, Lord, and Savior – Jesus Christ, would be the ultimate sacrifice for humankind.
Jesus unites His disciples one last time before Judas will betray Him and Jesus’ suffering will begin. They sit down together for their last meal together and this appears to be the one thing that Jesus was so looking forward to with His dear friends – the breaking of the bread and the pouring of the wine. It is with God’s Word and our faith that turns the bread and wine into the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ!
In this Last Supper, Jesus gives us the means in which we will receive His amazing grace. It is in this Last Supper that we partake in and participate, that even for just one second, we are pure and righteous – our sins forgiven and forgotten. If for no other reason, this should be the ultimate reason we go to church – to receive the forgiveness of sins through the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ!
Let us pray…Lord, where would we be without your sacrifice? Our lives would be muddled in sin and no way out of our guilt, hate, and misunderstandings. Guide us into your loving care of the breaking of the bread and the pouring of the wine – pour out Your amazing grace upon us so that we will get through our coming days – and especially as we look forward to meeting You! In Your name we pray, Amen.
Day 20: The Crucifixion
It is done. Jesus went to Jerusalem to die for each of us so that our sins would and could be forgiven. Why did this have to happen? What was the reason for Jesus to be crucified? Jesus was sinless! He never did anything wrong! Why was His mission so brutal and unfair?
In a Bible Study, it was brought to our attention that while most of us have good intentions to come to the Table of the Lord for repentance, that many of us are just going through the motions. In other words, we tend to think that if we haven’t done anything “really” bad like, murder or steal, our repentance is just a process.
But, here is the thing…Jesus says just before His death: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke23:34). How many of us sin without recognizing our sin?
If Jesus had not done what He did, you and I would have no chance of having a relationship with God! To come before God, we must be sinless and righteous! Jesus was and is our only hope, to not only have a relationship with God, but also to have an opportunity for our eternal life!
While thinking about what Jesus went through to be crucified, it is very painful. However, in all reality, we should be helping Him up on that cross – supporting Him and giving Him thanks and praise! Without Jesus Christ, you and I would have no hope for a better life!
Let us pray…Gracious God, it breaks our hearts to hear how Jesus was treated – so brutally beaten, spat at, flogged, and then nailed to the cross. There are not words strong enough to express our thanks and praise for what Your Son has done for us! Help and guide us to live out our lives as a response of our love for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Day 21: The Resurrection
Alleluia! Jesus Christ has Risen! We usually only hear these words on Easter morning, but are words that we should and could say everyday of our lives!
“Alleluia! Jesus Christ has Risen” means that you and I will also will rise from our old life into a new life with Jesus Christ! Jesus’ death and resurrection is a game changer! It means that we no longer will be buried into the ground only to lie there for our eternal life, but will rise- up into the arms of our Lord and Savior!
You and I will live for eternity! Can you even grasp how long that is? Can you even wrap your head around what eternity means? Because I cannot…
But, what I do understand that this life is so short. This life is over in a blink of an eye. However, our lives that we will live with Jesus will NEVER END!
Therefore, if we can recognize and acknowledge what little time we have, to” live out” our lives in a way that pleases God, we must begin today – right now! What little time we “really” have creates an urgency to repent, to turn away from our sin, and to be transformed into the likeness of Christ!
Every single day of our lives here on earth should be lived in the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior! Every single day of our lives is an Easter morning!
Let us pray…Gracious God, with the resurrection and life of Jesus Christ, we have been given new life in Your Son! It gives us hope in knowing that not only we can experience the resurrection life here on earth, but also when we leave this earth. Gracious God, turn our hearts and minds towards You – giving us the peace that no matter what happens to us, we are saved in the death and resurrection of our Lord. Thanks be to God! Amen.
Day 22: Trust
Proverbs 3:5-8; 11-14
Trust in the Lord with all your heart! (v.5)
When I was a kid, every summer was spent at Camp Lutheridge in Arden, NC – just outside of Ashville. I can remember that we would play this game where you would stand in front of one of your peers, close your eyes and then let yourself fall backwards – trusting – that he or she would catch you and not let you fall to the ground. Of course, the whole object of the game is allowing yourself to trust someone other than yourself – It is what it feels like to trust God, ultimately realizing that you do not have control!
Well, it is about control, right? We want control of our lives! We want to dictate when we do something, how we do it, and where we do it! And, for the most part, most days we get that control – what time we get up in the morning, whether we go to work, and how we might want to spend our days.
We never ‘really’ realize how “out of control” we are with our lives until something happens – something that is completely out of our control and we have no say in the direction that our lives may take us. Unfortunately, it is usually something tragic that happens that sets us in a whirlwind and spinning us out of control – such as bad news from the doctor, a loss of a job, or even tragedies like car accidents and the such.
But, I wonder if we can learn to trust God even when our lives are going well? How do we do that?
I believe we have the answer in this text: “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil” (v.7). This sounds easy; however, it is not! And, the reason is because that to, not be wise in your own eyes means to consult the Lord in every important decision that you make! To fear the Lord is to understand and acknowledge that there are consequences for our mistakes! Finally, to turn away from evil is to avoid temptations that may lurk in our lives.
This takes discipline! It requires a relationship with our God! It means that we must trust and rely on God to help us each day!
Let us pray…Gracious God, help us to put our trust in you. Help us to rely on You for our everyday decisions – in everything that we do. Help us recognize that our trust in you “is healing for our flesh and a refreshment for our body.” In your name, we pray, Amen.
Day 23: Promise, Presence
Acts 1:1-11; 2:1-21
Sometimes I wake up in the morning, and I feel like our world is in such a mess. But, I wonder if in the ancient Biblical days that the people then felt the same way. People did then what we do now – drink, prostitution, no moral values, the government taking the money of the people…It’s just now it is on a whole new level because of social media, news media and the such. In all honesty, I believe that many of us wonder if we are approaching the end of the world.
Jesus promises that He will come again. We have that promise. And, if you have ever wondered what it will be like, this text today gives us some clues. Jesus has been resurrected and has appeared to the disciples several times. While they were with Jesus on this particular day, they had the honor of watching Jesus ascend into heaven. We even get a vision of what that looked like: “…as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While He was going, and they were gazing up toward heaven…” (Acts 1:9-10) Can you imagine?
And, then to make the story even better, we are told how Jesus will come again: “…suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
But, here is the issue…You and I now live in the between times. We live in the tension of the ‘already’ but also, the ‘not yet.” We are waiting for the Lord to come again. And, it can be really hard.
Jesus knew it was going to be very difficult for us. He knew we would get tired and weary. And, so He sends the Holy Spirit to be with us – to give us strength, courage, and the ability to live in this world where everything feels like it is falling apart. Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit to be with us until He comes again who “will come again the same way he ascended into heaven on that day.”
Let us pray…Gracious and Loving God, we look forward to the day that You will come again to be with us here on earth – making all things right, turning chaos into order, and bringing each of us into Your everlasting kingdom. In the meantime Lord, send us Your Holy Spirit to be with us – giving us all we need to live out Your will here on earth. Amen.
Day 24: Believers Together
Acts 2:2; 43-47
If someone were to ask me why I loved the church so much, I would most likely answer, “Because I love being in union with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ!” I love worship; I love Bible Study with fellow Christians, and I love fellowship – mingling and eating together! We all have the same things in common – Our love for Jesus Christ, the desire to live out God’s will for us, and the struggles with day-to-day life. We support each other. We love each other. And, we break bread together for forgiveness.
The Book of Acts is a continuation of the Gospel of Luke. Luke ends his gospel with the death and resurrection of Jesus and Acts begins with the ascension of Jesus, the receiving of the Holy Spirit, and the forming of the first Christian Church. Remembering that the new Christians in those days were seriously persecuted, they would often meet secretly in someone’s home. But, they stood together in their belief in Jesus and supported one another both, financially and spiritually. They shared generously what each had and could contribute to the well- being of the church.
Jesus knew it would be this way. Jesus knew that His Love would consume those who believed that He is the One who came to bring us salvation. Our lives together as Christians will never end – There is no end in Jesus Christ!
Let us pray…Gracious God, we give thanks for the Holy Spirit that lives in each of us, reminding us who we are – Your child. Help us to live our lives in union with each other and with You! We love you so much – Amen.
Day 25: Everything in Common
Most of us know exactly where we were when 911 happened in this country. When the first plane struck the twin tower, I remember thinking that something terrible had gone wrong with the plane. But, I when was driving to work that morning, I heard on the news that the second plane hit the other twin tower. I remember feeling the chills as I knew that this was intentional.
While that was the biggest tragedy our country had faced in a very long time, I’ll never forget how we came together as a country. We reached out to our neighbors, we cried together, we prayed together, and people went to church! The pews filled up because hearts were hurting and we needed each other!
After Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, the church began to form and grow. The Christians that came together, shared everything that they owned. They were on one ‘heart and soul’ and all that they owned, they owned it together (v.32). “There was not one needy person among them” (v.34). The first Christians were very intentional about loving one another! In other words, to love one another takes effort and responsibility. It is putting others’ needs before your own.
While I pray we never experience something as horrific as 911, I do pray that we could be intentional about loving each other just as the first Christians that came together. What would this world be like if every single one of us made sure that “no one was in need?” What would this world look like if we became of “one heart and soul?” How could each one of us, beginning today, live out a life that is intentional about loving our neighbor?
The thought is overwhelming…
Let us pray…Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, help us to recognize that You have the power to live in our hearts – giving us the courage and the strength to live our lives as the first Christians – sharing all that we have, making sure that no one is in need, and coming together as one heart and one soul. Guide us into Your will. In your name, we pray, Amen.
Day 26: Seven Appointed
The church is forming and growing. The believers are beginning to recognize the needs of the community – “Hebrew widowers were being neglected in the daily distribution of food” (v. 1). So, the twelve Apostles come together to discern what to do, recognizing that they could not be everywhere all the time – “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God, in order to wait on tables” (v. 2).
The twelve Apostles come together and have the congregation to appoint 7 men, full of the Holy Spirit, capable and ready to serve the Lord by making sure the Hebrew widowers were not neglected.
I believe that as a community of believers – the church, we are called to reach out to our neighbors. This is what the first church in the first century realized and recognized. Often, this is not an easy task here in the United States because we are blessed in so many ways. Sometimes it is obvious if your church is in an urban setting where there are many homeless. However, in the suburbs and more rural areas, it requires data, digging deep into the community to recognize the needs and finding the gaps that are not being met.
For example, in my last congregation, we learned that in our digging into the facts about our community, over 50% of our children received free or reduced lunches, meaning that these families lived at poverty level or below! These families lived in our neighborhood. So, we came together to open a food pantry that helped families who were living paycheck-to-paycheck and to have the ability to get food, diapers, and toiletry items to help them get through the difficult days. Thus, far it has been a much-needed resource for that community.
Honestly, it can be easy just to turn the other way or think that someone else will do the work. The twelve Apostles could have easily done just that! But, in Matthew 14:16, Jesus tells the disciples, “You give them something to eat.” And, in John21:15-17, Jesus tells Peter three times, “Feed my Sheep.”
How might could we begin to think about our communities of faith reaching out to others? How could we, in our communities of faith begin that discernment?
Let us pray….Gracious God, sometimes we get so caught up in our own lives, that we feel like we don’t have the time, the resources, or the ability to help others who are hungry or in need. Help us to recognize the needs of others right where we are! In Your Name we pray, Amen.
Day 27: Stephen
Acts 6:8-15; 7:58 – 8:3
This is a very hard world that we live in day-to-day. In the United States, we have freedom of religion that allows us to believe and worship whomever and wherever we want. However, in many countries, that is not the case. Christians are being persecuted – killed all day long because of their belief in Jesus Christ.
However, as a Christian, there may be many occasions that I will stand up for justice, or what I believe that God is calling me to do and to be as a child of God. For example, my integrity is very important to me. I will not lie – about anything! I will stand for the truth to the bitter end. Therefore, if I am accused of doing something I did not do, I will stand up! This is persecution!
Anytime, we are persecuted for the truth in God’s righteousness, we are under attack! Being a Christian is not just proclaiming God with our words, but also through our actions! And, Christians are often persecuted for trying to do the right thing!
Stephen was appointed by God and was doing God’s work. Evil exists in our world. In fact, God and evil are always at war with one another. Many non-believers will attack us in various ways to keep God’s Word from being heard – whether in our words or in our actions. And, so Stephen is persecuted – He was lied about, accused of blasphemy. Stephen stood for the truth. He never lied – not ever, but stood his ground. They finally stoned him to death.
While we may not be killed in this country for being a Christian, we will face persecution when we stand for truth and justice. It will most likely happen just about every day of your life. Lean on God for your strength, stand for what is right, the reward will be great.
Let us pray…Heavenly Father, you know how difficult our days can be and how exhausting, when we are continually under attack for trying to do and say what is right. Give us the strength to fight evil and the courage to react with peace. Lord, in Your mercy, please hear our pray. Amen.
Note in this reading about Saul. We will learn more about him. If you have never read the Book of Acts, you may be shocked when you learn who Saul really is in the scheme of the Christian world.
Day 28: Phillip and the Eunuch
Many people struggle with trying to understand the purpose of their lives. I often have folks ask me, “Why am I here? What is it that I am supposed to be doing?” It is not always an easy answer; however, what I do know for sure is that God has created each one of us to be used for His Glory. God puts us where we are needed to shine – not for us to shine, but for God to shine! In other words, if we put God first in our lives, whether in our jobs, standing in a grocery store check-out line, or going out for the night, we will be given opportunities to be a witness for Jesus Christ, either in our words or in our actions.
For example, after work one late afternoon at Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati, OH, I was walking to my car. It was about 20 degrees outside. A woman was sitting on the steps with slippers on her feet and no coat. I asked her if I could help her. She said she needed food. I was not able to take her to the grocery store but followed the will of the Holy Spirit, gave her some money, and took her to the bus station. It was not a convenient time for me. I was in a hurry. I had to get home. But, I felt the Holy Spirit in my heart. I knew I could not just ignore her and keep walking to my car.
Philip, one of Jesus’ disciples, heard the angel of the Lord ask him to go south to a very specific road where Peter meets the Eunuch sitting in his chariot after have been to worship in the Temple. The Eunuch was reading the prophecy of Jesus Christ in the Book of Isaiah, which is in the Torah – the Jewish Bible.
Philip grabbed the opportunity to witness to the Eunuch about Jesus Christ and the Good News of his eternal life! When they came to a stream, the Eunuch wanted to be baptized. Other ancient authorities have included in this text, “And Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may’ and he replied, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ And Philip right at that moment baptizes the Eunuch.
But, here is my favorite part: The Holy Spirit doesn’t waste any time to use the gifts of witness and evangelism that Philip demonstrates. He lifts Philip up and places him in another town where Philip continues to proclaim Christ.
God will use you! For Philip, he heard the call loud and clear. But, sometimes for us, we must be paying attention, be on the lookout for opportunities to glorify our God! Believe me, if you ask the Lord to show you where you are needed, He will send you and guide you!
Let us pray…Gracious God, send us your Holy Spirit to work in us and direct us for your purpose in this world – give us an opportunity to witness, to share in our resources, and to help others to the best of our ability. Fill our hearts with Your purpose to work in this world. Amen.
Day 29: Ruth’s Decision
If you have ever had to make a difficult decision, you know how it can be very stressful. I consider a hard decision when it involves the lives of others. I think it is easier if it is only yourself that you must be concerned about. But, when making a decision that affects others, you have to be willing to put their needs in front of yours. For example, if you have children and you are moving to a new area, the decision about where you will live depends on the needs of your children. It takes discernment and careful planning.
Ruth was in this kind of predicament.
In those days, women had to depend on their husbands to take care of them. They did not have the means to provide for themselves. They were not allowed to own property or even inherit the property. If their husband died, a brother would step up and provide for the widow. If there were no brothers, then the sons would provide. In this story of Ruth, she lost her husband, sons, and apparently, there were no brothers of her husband to step up. She was now left in the world to figure out how she would survive. Ruth, her daughter-in-law made the decision to stay with her and they would do it together.
Ruth could have decided to go back home. She was still young and could have remarried and had children. But, she put the needs of her mother-in-law first. She made a decision that came from her heart. She carefully listened for God’s will to make her decision. This is important, because her decision plays a role in Jesus’ genealogy.
How might you, when faced with a difficult decision consult God for help?
Let us pray…Gracious God, help us to turn to you when we have to make decisions that affect others. Help us to make good choices and give us the strength and courage to do your will. Amen.
Day 30: Saul is Called
In the movie, Do You Believe, there is a storyline about a young African American who gets caught up in a gang. When running for his life, he runs into a church. A worship service is taking place and the custodian invites in him. At first, he doesn’t want to go in, but then decides that it would probably be safe there from his enemy. While sitting there, he begins to hear the Word of God. It is from that point forward, his heart begins to change. He begins to realize that what he is doing, is not God’s will.
Saul was a murderer! He was persecuting new Christians – all those who believed in Jesus. Remember, he allowed Stephen to be stoned to death! This man was far from being a good person. But yet, Jesus entered his heart. Jesus got Saul’s attention through a flash of lightening, took away his eye sight, and spoke directly to him: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
God can change hearts! God has a way of getting our attention! God will help us to turn away from that thing that is keeping us from having a relationship with Him! What one thing may you be doing that is preventing you to come closer to God? Ask God to change your heart and help you to turn away from your sin.
Let us pray…Gracious God, help us to recognize our sin and the things that keep us from you. Guide us into your will. Give us peace. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 31: Conversion of Gentiles
Peter is probably my favorite disciple out of the twelve who were chosen to follow Jesus. He is literal, not afraid to step out on faith, and very bold in his proclamation and witness to Jesus Christ. He seems to have already accepted the fact that he will most likely be persecuted for his love of Jesus, but doesn’t seem to care. He would do ANYTHING for the One who died for his sake.
And, so here he is on this day, talking to people just like you and me. People who were not Jews did not think that this Savior could be for them too. However, Peter stands up and says to them that God has no partiality – His saving grace is for everyone! Peter witnessed the wonderful things that Jesus did for all people – healed them, fed them, and chased the devil away!
But, here is what caught my attention:…but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people, but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses…” (Acts 10:40-41).
Not everyone could see Jesus after His resurrection! My guess is not the Pharisees, the Scribes, or those who helped him up on that cross did not have the opportunity to see Jesus after His resurrection! God chose only those who believed and whose hearts were open to the Word of God!
God knows our hearts! And, because our hearts are in-line with Christ, we will see God right now – in this world! We do not have to wait until our eternal life. God is present. And, it gets better…Because of our belief, the Holy Spirit is poured out upon us and we receive the forgiveness of sins through the name of Jesus Christ!
Honestly, it is what I need to get through my day. I pray it helps you to get through your day also! Thanks be to God!
Let us pray…Gracious God, pour out Your Holy Spirit to all those who hear Your Good News for the forgiveness of sins. Help us to see You in this world among all the evil that surrounds us each day. We love you so much. Amen.
Day 32: As Children in Faith
As a grandparent, I see my grandchild in whole different light than when I had my own children. I’m hoping it is because I am older and wiser. In any case, I love watching him interact with my son, who is his daddy. There is a very special bond there. His dad comforts him when he is hurting. His dad plays with him, makes sure he has enough to eat, and keeps him from danger. His son trusts his dad with his life! I witness this and it warms my heart.
Jesus tells us that we are supposed to be childlike in our faith. I believe it is in the same way a child bonds with his or her parents and puts their life in the hands of the ones who brought them into the world! Jesus wants us to rely on Him in the same way, we as children, relied on our parents. After all, God created us in God’s image! We are children of God!
However, as grownups, this is not an easy task. Somewhere along the line, we thought that we should be the ones in control – not God. Therefore, to begin again, to go back to square one, and be a child again, will take discipline, thought, and hard work. It means to think of God as the One who gives you life! It is putting your trust in faith in Jesus who died for you so that you may have this life that God desires for you!
Our surrender to God, in a child-like way of trusting, opens a whole new way of life – a life of grace, mercy, and love. We begin to deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ; we begin to build confidence in knowing we have a place in our eternal home; and we long to be with Jesus as we go through our days. We become transformed into the likeness of Jesus!
Let us pray…Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, help us to have a child-like faith – trusting and loving you like a child loves his or her mom and dad. Help us to remember that you provide for us all that we need to get through our days. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 33: Return to the Lord
I am often approached to give my opinion about the social issues we are faced with these days in society; for example, abortion, GLBT issues, and what I think about our president. In all honesty, I don’t have an opinion. It doesn’t matter whether I believe someone else is sinning or what someone else might be doing wrong.
What I know for sure, is that I sin! Every single day I get up in the morning and do the very things that I know I should not do! I think things I should not think! I don’t forgive others as I should. I don’t help my neighbor like I should. The list goes on and on. Every single one of us are guilty of something!
The prophet Isaiah says it plainly, “Let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon…” (v.7)
The Lord is speaking to you and me! It is for each one of us to recognize our sin and evil ways of acting and thinking, and turn to our God for repentance and mercy. Just because we are believers in Jesus Christ, doesn’t make us sinless! We still have the human condition of the ability to sin – A lot!
What matters is that we continue to ‘come back’ to our God who is lavish and forgiving! God wants us to recognize that we cannot exist in this world without His love! We would be miserable without our Loving God. The prophet says, Seek God- He is near! Pray – God is at hand!
What if every single person in the world concerned themselves with trying to live out a life of righteousness (being in a right relationship with God), would it not be a better place?
Let us pray…Gracious God, help each of us to recognize our own sin. Help us to ‘come back’ to you for your forgiveness and pardon. Give us the strength to never give up, to continue to find ways to deepen our relationship with you, and to live a life in Christ. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 34: Power of the Gospel
To be ‘righteous’ is often taken to mean that we must be pure in heart. We must be ‘right’ in our actions and what we say to other people. It can even come across to others as self-righteous, meaning that one believes he or she can only have the right answer, the right attitude, etc.…
Paul states, “The one who is righteous will live by faith” (v. 17). To be righteous in this context means that one is to be in a right relationship with Jesus Christ. In other words, Paul is describing that a life in Christ is to live a life in faith! Because we are on this journey of deepening our relationship with Jesus by being in God’s Word – hearing God’s Word, spending time in prayer with God, talking to God throughout your day, and living out God’s will in our lives, we begin to ‘let go’ and surrender ourselves to God! This is living by faith!
As we become transformed into the likeness of Christ through our relationship with God, we become more and more in a right relationship with God. We begin to realize and recognize that we cannot live our lives without the presence of the Holy Spirit and the communion of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us pray…Gracious God, help us to deepen our relationship more and more every day. Teach us how to live a life in faith. Be with us on this journey as we continue to grow in your love, grace, and mercy. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 35: Imitators of God
Ephesians 4:22 – 5:2
Have you ever been so hurt and angry that it gets the best of you? Words fly out of your mouth, you feel completely out of control, you say things that you ‘really’ don’t mean, and in all reality, you want the other person to feel as bad as you do. Afterward, your emotions are reeling, feeling helpless, guilty, and maybe even revengeful. You may even wonder if you will ever be able to get pass the hurt and the pain – not only the hurt and pain that was inflicted on you, but also the hurt and pain that you have inflicted on others.
In this letter to the Ephesians, Paul is telling us that we can move forward. We can let all that old junk be gone – throw it away. Through our new life with Jesus Christ, we can let go of the old stuff and start anew life clothed with grace, mercy and love! God has already forgiven us through the body and blood of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
God doesn’t love us because He wants something from us – But, gives everything of Himself to us and for us (v.5:2)! That is how we are to imitate God! Forgive others for the hurt and pain they have caused you, and in return God has forgiven you. Begin today…live a new life in Jesus Christ!
Let us pray…Dear Lord Jesus, we are human beings and sometimes we do lose control. Sometimes we are so hurt and angry that we begin to reel from those emotions and we say and do things we wish we could take back. Let us come to you for your amazing grace, mercy and love, giving us a fresh start. Help us to forgive those who have hurt us so badly. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 36: Good Tidings
Sadness and suffering are the hardest parts of life. If you have ever experienced a loved one passing away, a sickness that seems hopeless, or the depths of feeling lonely, you can know how hard life can be – it causes you to wonder why you are here on earth in the first place.
However, if you are a Christian and are going through these difficult times, you may have experienced the comfort of prayer from your church family, friends, and co-workers. It is a peace that is indescribable. It is a peace of knowing that somehow everything will be OK.
The people in Jerusalem were always struggling over something. But, these were God’s people! And, God loved them. So, in this text, God sends a messenger on His behalf to remind them that they will have comfort and have been redeemed by God! …”For the Lord has comforted his people…(v.9).
As Christians, we are chosen and belong to God. It is a comfort that you can rest assured and know that God will bring you peace no matter what you are going through in your life! We receive God’s inheritance through our baptism and become a Child of God!
However, even though we are God’s child, we will still experience suffering. Even Jesus Christ suffered while here on earth. There is no way to get around it. Rely on the Lord! God will send a messenger to bring you comfort and you will be redeemed!
Let us pray…Gracious God, we give thanks for your presence in our lives. We pray for comfort and peace in our difficult days. Use each of us as a messenger when we are strong to go to those who are seeking comfort. Lord, in your name we pray, Amen.
Day 37: Making Disciples
According to the Dictionary, the verb “Go” means to move or proceed as directed; to leave a place; depart – to be in motion or perform as required.
There is a strong military presence in the community that I live. This is a place where soldiers are trained for battle. They learn how to be prepared to serve their country! If needed, they are told, “GO!” Go and do what you have been trained to do! They are commissioned to perform the duties of a soldier in which they have been trained for.
As Christians, the church is our training ground. We attend worship, listen and hear the Word of God, and help our little ones to grow in the faith of our Lord. We are trained to serve God! We learn how to be prepared to be the Light of Christ in a secular world! We are commissioned to perform the duties of a Christian in which we have been trained for!
Jesus commands, “Go!” Leave this place – depart – Make disciples and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus didn’t say, ‘stay here’ and keep worshipping. He said, “Go!” This is our vocation! It is who we are if we believe in Jesus Christ!
Notice however, that the eleven went up to the mountain with Jesus. Not all the disciples worshipped Jesus on that mountain! Some still doubted!
What about you? Where do you stand in your faith and belief in Jesus Christ? Will you ‘come’ and worship? Or, will you stay home? Will you ‘go’ and serve God bringing others to Christ, or will stay in your comfort zone?
Let us pray…Dear Lord Jesus, give us the faith and belief that it is you whom we love the most. Give us the gifts needed to bring others to You. Help us to “Go” into the world with the faith and endurance to proclaim You and bring others into your fold. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 38: Witnesses for Christ
To be a witness means that you have seen and have personal knowledge about something or someone. For the disciples who followed Jesus while here on earth, ‘witnessed’ Jesus’ miracles – the feeding of 5000 people with just a couple of fish and loaves of bread; the turning the water into wine at the wedding in Cana; raising Lazarus from the dead, and more than we could probably count! They had living proof of who Jesus was – the Son of God! They even had the opportunity to witness His death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven!
Think of how difficult it was for them to believe, even when they had first-hand knowledge? Their witness to others were the amazing stories they saw Jesus perform! Our witness for Jesus Christ is much harder because we were not there! But, what we do have is the Holy Spirit to give us the power to witness! In fact, through the Holy Spirit, we have been given the authority to empower others to come to Christ!
I would like to invite you to pray for the Holy Spirit to stir up in you to witness to Christ. Pray for opportunities to witness – either through your actions or your words.
Let us pray…Gracious God, send Your Holy Spirit to all those whose hearts are open and ready to be Your disciple. Give us opportunities to be a witness to Your Son, Jesus Christ. When we feel in doubt, give us strength. When we feel afraid, give us peace. When it feels too hard, give us courage. Lord, help us to do all this in Your name, Amen.
Day 39: Paul in Athens
I had someone tell me they had not been to church since Christmas eve because their sleep was more important on a Sunday morning rather than coming to church and worshipping their Lord. I will be honest; it made me sad.
Idols come in all shapes and sizes. An idol is something that we worship; something we put before anything else in our lives. I even think of an idol as a ‘priority.’ People have all kinds of idols and maybe don’t even realize that they do. For example, many people want money – as much as they can get. Sports often are the priority for many people – especially sports that their children are involved in that require Sunday morning practice or games. It could be technology – Xbox, video games, and the such.
An idol is anything that you put first in your life other than God. And, God commanded, “Have no other gods before me.”
Paul was on the road proclaiming Christ. When he arrived into Athens, there were statues everywhere! The people in Athens were worshipping the statues. They believed that these idols were their god. And, when Paul had the opportunity to be in front of the people, he told them about Jesus Christ! Most people just laughed him off thinking that he was crazy. Only a few wanted to stick around and hear more about the Savior.
It’s no different today. We may not have statues all over our cities that we worship; however, there are many things that people worship and never give Jesus a second thought.
How can we look at our lives and discern who ‘really’ is our god? We are all guilty to some extent! It takes a concentrated effort to put God first in everything that we do!
Let us pray…Dear God, you know our hearts. You know how much we love You. Help us to remember what ‘really’ is important in our lives – You! Change our hearts to let go of the things that get in the way of our worship and praise for all that you have given us. We love you so much. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 40: Being an Evangelist
2 Timothy 4:1-5
For most people, the word, ‘Evangelist’ scares them. It has the connotation of going house-to-house, knocking on doors – cold-calling, and just start talking about their beliefs in God. However, in all reality, for me – that is far from what an evangelist ‘really’ means.
I believe that we can be and are evangelists through our actions – the way we treat others or in our words – the support we give to others who are doing good things in the name of Jesus. An evangelist will build others up, not tear down. An evangelist is one who is willing to suffer for the sake of someone else.
If our ministry for Christ is to be ‘Christ-like’ then we are an evangelist!
I’ll never forget the time when my daughter and I got behind a garbage truck. The man who got out of the truck to empty the cans looked so sad. I felt this nudge to grab my purse, take out the only money I had – a $20 bill, get out of the car and take it to this man. I thanked him for his service and his hard work. I’ll never forget the look on his face. It was an expression of thanks and perhaps even, relief.
The Holy Spirit will give us cues when we need to act! And, not only that – God will give us the words to say and when to say them! Being an Evangelist is a gift and an honor!
Ask God to help you be the best evangelist possible! Listen for the Holy Spirit to nudge you when the time comes to act or speak on behalf of Jesus Christ! Write those events down in a journal. It’s amazing to look back and see how God is working in your life!
Let us pray…Gracious God, help each of us to carry out our ministry for You fully! Use us to be evangelist in Your name – through our actions and our words. Send Your Holy Spirit to us, giving us the courage to act, speak, and encourage others. In Your name we pray, Amen.
Day 41: Doing the Lord’s Work
I love my dog! He is a gift from God for me. He brings me so much happiness and joy. In fact, I love him so much, my daughters would often ask me, “Mom, do you love me? If feels like sometimes you love Chester more.” I would always answer, “Of course, I love you more than Chester!” “How do we know, they would ask?” “Because…I would go to the ends of the earth for you…I would even die for you, if it came down to that…”
Jesus had been resurrected. In the days following his resurrection, He would often ‘show up’ in the presence of His disciples. On this particular occasion, the disciples seemed overwhelmed. It was if they didn’t quite know what to do with their lives since the death and resurrection of Jesus. So, Peter says, “I’m going fishing!” They go back to what they know and what feels comfortable – Fishing!. And, while they are fishing, Jesus shows up on the seashore, and makes them breakfast…
It is after breakfast that Jesus approaches Peter and asked him the question…not once, not twice, but three times,” Peter, do you love me?” Jesus loved Peter so much that He had died for his sake. Three times, “Do you love me,” because three times Peter had denied Jesus just before Jesus’ crucifixion.
After Jesus reminds Peter of His love for him through His questioning, Jesus then gives Peter a command, “Feed my sheep!” I believe this means to feed God’s people – not only spiritually, but also, literally with food.
Jesus loves you so much that He did die for just for YOU! His death and resurrection are proof of His love because it marks a new beginning – It opens the Way for your eternal life! Jesus doesn’t ask Peter three times because Jesus feels he needs to know – He wants Peter to dig deep for his love for Jesus!
This is crucial that we recognize how much we love Jesus because we are given a huge responsibility – to care for and love God’s people!
If Jesus were to ask you, “Do you love Me?” How would you respond?
Let us pray…Gracious God, we do love you so much. Help us to live out your command to care for and love Your people. Give us what we need to reach out to others in love and compassion. Flood our souls with your grace and mercy. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 42: The Saints Equipped
I have had people tell me before that they are not religious, but that they are spiritual. OK, I say…What does that exactly mean? Well, they say…it means that I don’t need to belong to a church. It means that I can go on Sunday morning to the golf course and witness God in the nature and beauty of the grounds. Or, I can go out and work in the garden and feel the presence of God. While these statements may be true, it is not the life Jesus intends for you as a Christian.
I love being with fellow Christians! When I am around other believers, I feel I can truly be myself – revealing my love for Jesus Christ! I can come to my church, knowing that I will not be persecuted for my beliefs. I can come to my church, teach others about Jesus! I can come to my church, baptizing those who desire to be baptized in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! And, just before worship on Sunday mornings, we share with each other our joys and concerns. We pray together. We support each other. We love each other!
The church is our training ground – our mission post! Together, we discern the gifts that God has given each of us. Together, we discern what God is calling us to do so that we effectively reach out to our neighbors in love. The church is our Christian family that supports us through difficult times in our lives.
The ‘church’ is where Jesus wants us to be – in unity with one another – to equip us for the work of the ministry and for building up the Body of Christ (v.12). As believers and followers of Jesus, we are called to speak in love and stand firm in the truth!
If you do not belong to a church family, I encourage you to seek one out. Get involved! Join a Bible Study; attend Sunday School, engage in fellowship opportunities; make worship a priority! Let the Holy Spirit work in ways that you never dreamed possible!
Let us pray…Gracious God, send your Holy Spirit to all those who are seeking to serve You. Ignite the power of the Spirit to help us grow in our faith. Knit us together as one with YOU! In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 43: Preparing for out Future
As a parent, my husband and I both have always tried hard to prepare for our children’s future. For example, while this may seem morbid, we always bought an insurance policy for each child in case some tragedy occurred. We also participated in long-range financial planning so that we would have ‘some’ money to help with their college education. I’m not saying things always worked out perfectly, however we did always make the effort. Our children’s future was always first and foremost!
In the same way, Jesus has prepared for our future! A future that includes a life in the Kingdom of God! In this text, Jesus is trying to explain to the disciples that he has not come this far with them on the journey just to leave them and never see them again. Jesus explains that He has every intention of bringing all those who believe in Him and have imitated His works – plus ones even greater than His! – will have a home with the Father!
Jesus did not come to earth to forsake us or condemn us! Jesus came to save us and prepare us for our future in the Kingdom of Heaven!
Then Jesus says, “If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it” (v.14). Can you imagine?? Because our hearts want to glorify our God, any and everything are possible! We can live a life that is ‘truly life.’ All we have to do is ask!
Let us pray…Loving God, I want to live a life that is truly life! I want to glorify you in everything that I do! Dream for us, making everything possible. Show us the way to Your Heavenly Kingdom! Amen.
Day 44: Serving the Lord
I feel that in today’s society, it can be difficult to find Jesus. When I drive into my neighborhood, or to my church, or even down the highway into town, I do not see homeless or the very poor walking the streets. They are not visible! I have to make an effort to go into the city to find those who live on the outskirts of society. It takes a concentrated effort
Jesus says today that when we see those who are hungry, in prison, homeless, naked, and sick, we see Jesus. There is caution if we ignore those who need our help – who have much less than we do. IF we fail to love our neighbor, we fail the Kingdom of God.
Out of sight, out of mind – right? No! But, it can take an effort to find the gaps in your community that need your help. We have gotten really good at hiding those who need help – whether financially, emotionally, or even spiritually. As Christians, it is our calling to get up every day and ask God to lead us to where we need to do God’s work!
Let us pray…Gracious God, sometimes it is not obvious as to what you are calling us to do for you in this world. Open our eyes and our hearts to reach out to those who need us. It is our desire to serve you. Show us the way! In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 45: The Spirit
1 Corinthians 2:6-16
When I attended under-grad school, I had to take just about every subject under the sky – math, science – biology, geology, and astrology, history classes, English and other languages, every kind of subject you can think of ever taking. Of course, the reason was to give me a well-rounded education – exposing me to all sorts of things so that ‘something’ finds my passion.
I loved graduate school for the opposite reason – I could hone in to what I love! For me, it was God’s Word. I studied both the Old and New Testament, the Epistles, the Prophets, and the Apostles. I learned the history of the Bible, who wrote the Books, and how the Books were chosen to be a part of our Bible. I loved every single minute of grad school!
In verse 9, we are told that those who love Christ, God has prepared for us what no eye has ever seen, no ear has ever heard, or the human heart has ever conceived. We cannot know Christ without having a relationship with Him! It’s just not possible! But, if we love Jesus, it will be our heart’s desire to get to know Him!
It’s like Grad school – we become focused on our passion and what gives us joy! Through this amazing relationship with Jesus, we develop the mind of Christ! We begin to see the world through the lens of Jesus’ eyes! We begin to live a life of Christ and we are subject to no one else’s scrutiny (v.16)!
Let us pray…Gracious God, help us to see what no eye has seen, nor what ear has heard, and what no human heart has ever conceived. Bring us closer into You. Let us receive the Holy Spirit! Help us to deepen our relationship with You – giving us a peace that passes all of our understanding. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 46: With the Lord
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Steve Jobs, creator of Apple Computer died a few years ago. He was not a religious man. However, if anyone were to read his bio, they would find that he was afraid of death. In fact, it is the reason that he never wanted an “on/off” switch on his computer. He did not like the way that when it’s ‘on,’ it’s on and when it’s ‘off,’ it’s off. It concerned him that his life was the same way – that when he was alive, he was on, and when he would die – the switch just turned off and that was that – all done.
I honestly cannot imagine living day-to-day thinking that when this life is over, my life here will mean nothing – that I will just vanish and that will be that. For me, that is the saddest news I could ever imagine.
In St. Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians, he assures the believers in Christ that our lives do matter and that we can have hope in a life with Christ after we are done here on earth. I always tell people who are dying that we will grieve our loss – we will miss them so much – But, in all reality, they are the ones who are so lucky! They will see Jesus! Their life doesn’t end. It’s not just a switch that turns off! Yes, we are sad for those leaving earth because we are left behind until we see them again! But, we can rejoice in their eternal life with the Lord!
When Steve Jobs passed away, his last words were, “Wow! Oh, Wow!” I believe with my heart that his life just didn’t turn off – I believe there is no ‘on/off’ switch – only a brighter future that none of us can fathom!
We will meet the Lord – either when we leave earth or when Jesus comes again – whichever comes first!
Let us pray…Gracious God, none of us can even begin to understand what the Kingdom of Heaven must be like. It will blow our minds when we get to see it for the first time! Help us to remember that with You will have a hope of living on and on – a switch that never turns off. Lord, we pray this in your name, Amen.
Day 47: Be Watchful
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Not too long ago, there was a well-known news reporter in the Savannah, GA area who was crossing one of the bridges one afternoon and was suddenly killed in a car accident. It was horrible and everyone was so shocked when they heard the news. I could only imagine the family’s grief and mourning when they heard of their loss.
St. Paul reminds the Thessalonians that we are to live our lives as if Jesus would be coming at any moment – “…the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (5:2). We need to be ready for Jesus! None of us know when we will breath our last breath here on earth! None of us are exempt from death and none of us know the day or the hour it will come!
I like to call our time on earth, our “Meantime” living. We are living in between the “already” and the “Not yet.” Jesus has come already and Jesus will come again. It is what we do in the “meantime” that is so important! It is how we choose to live our lives during this time that gives us the hope for our eternal life!
In verse 8 and 11, St. Paul tells the Thessalonians just how to live in the “meantime: “…put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation…encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”
I believe that living a life of faith is knowing who has my back – Jesus Christ. Living a life of love is ‘forgiveness’– all those who are our enemies and those who have hurt us. Living a life of hope of salvation is believing that I will see Jesus and all those whom I love so much are in my eternal future. In the meantime, how can I encourage others to proclaim Christ and support one another in the ministry of building the Kingdom of God?
Let us pray…Gracious God, only you know the day and the hour we will meet Jesus face-to-face. In the meantime, help us to live our lives in faith, love, and hope. Help us to build others up, encourage others in their ministries for your name’s sake. Guide us and fill our hearts with Your amazing grace and mercy. Amen.
Day 48: Live Worthily
2 Thessalonians 1:3-12
You have heard the saying, “Nothing in Life that is good comes easy.” For example, if you want to be physically fit and your goal is to run a marathon – it takes hard work and one would have to begin with baby steps – walk each day, increase their distance, increase their speed, until finally they are strong enough to start running the distance that would be required for the marathon they desire to run.
But, I think something else needs to be present for that desired end-goal to occur…If there is something that one wants to accomplish, there must be discipline and a deep desire to work towards that goal!
The Thessalonians wanted to know Jesus! They made it their priority to work towards deepening their faith and their love for one another. St. Paul recognizes their discipline to grow their faith, despite, the persecutions they were facing in their day-to-day lives. He commends their faith, prays for them, and reassures them that justice will happen!
We are all on different places in our journey with God. How can you begin today to grow your faith – to take another step further into your faith journey and begin to deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ? Being physically fit takes hard work. Being spiritually fit takes discipline and a will to know your Lord Jesus!
Let us pray…Gracious God, we love you so much. We want to know you more intimately. We want our faith to grow. We want to love our neighbor as you love them. Give us strength, the ability to reach out to our neighbor in love, and to love you more fully. In your name, we pray, Amen.
Day 49: New Heaven, Earth
We all have “really” bad days at some point in our lives…I have days where nothing seems to go right and I think that I should have just stayed in bed. But, then I watch the news and realize that I don’t have it that bad because there are refugees traveling on foot with no were to sleep for the night! Or, I talk to a friend who heard back from their test results and the prognosis is grim. Or, to put it even closer to home, to realize there are homeless families right in my neighborhood who need breakfast.
It’s all about perspective – right? Our lives are about how we perceive the world and our response to what we see and experience. However, it is easy to just go on with our own lives and put our blinders on to the rest of the world.
In the Book of Revelation, John writes to the first Christians of the Ancient days because of their great persecution for proclaiming the Resurrected Jesus Christ. This book is an Apocalyptic text – meaning it is something in the future. And so, the writer writes to a community who faces death for their beliefs, but assures them through a vision, of the glorious future they will inherit.
We are not persecuted in this country the same way the first Christians were persecuted for their beliefs in Jesus Christ. But, I wonder if that is because we don’t get out of our comfort zone to proclaim Christ. In other words, if we are not being persecuted then maybe we are not doing something right or doing enough in the name of Jesus?
I wonder, what are we afraid of? What are we being called to do in Christ’s name?
Let us pray…Gracious God, open our hearts to what we are to do for you in this world. Help us not to be afraid. Reassure us that our future is glorious. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 50: God Creates the World
One of the things that I love most about living in the south, is that the sun is just about always shining, bringing warmth to the day even when it’s cold. The sun has this magnificent effect on our lives – that even when our hearts feel gloomy, the sun can bring light and hope into our lives. The sun has the ability to brighten our days, our outlook on life, and change our attitude.
God created the world. To imagine the world as void – pure darkness – nothing there – is absolutely overwhelming for me to attempt to wrap my head around. But, notice that the first thing that God does when He creates the world…He brings about LIGHT! God lights up the world!
God not only brings light – sunlight to the world, but also gives us Light for our souls. He gives us His only Son, Jesus Christ to give us hope, grace, and mercy. While the sun gives us light to brighten our days, Jesus gives us strength to sustain us even in the gloomiest of days. Though Jesus Christ, hope, justice, and love light up the world.
Let us pray…Gracious God, some days feel helpless. And, then the sun comes out and brightens our days. Remind us that when it’s dark and gloomy, that Jesus Christ is with us – giving us the strength, love, grace, and mercy to brighten our souls and remembering that through Christ, we have hope for a better tomorrow. Amen.
Day 51: God Creates Humans
I have been seeing on TV the commercials from “Ancestor.com.” Apparently, there is a way to send in a sample of your DNA and they send back to you who your ancestors were – whether you are Jewish, German, etc…I find this quite interesting. And, it would be cool to know your history.
However, God tells us who we belong to and how we were created from the very beginning. Humans were always part of God’s plan! And, if we were to ask why, it is because God wants to be in relationship with us! We were not put here just to flounder around and do whatever we want, but we were created in God’s image – We have the DNA of God!
Think about that for a moment! That is really powerful! And, not only is that powerful, but also a responsibility. God gave us a job to do – to take care of the earth, the animals, and all the creatures in the world. We are God’s children!
Yes, it would be interesting and fun to find out our history and ethnicity of our past. But, one thing we can already know for sure is that we belong to God and we are God’s child!
I wonder that if we were to think of God as a parent – our creator, how might would we begin to act or how would we change our behavior beginning today?
Let us pray…Lord God, we have Your DNA! Reveal to us the behavior you would want us to portray to the world. Help us to remember that we are your child and that we belong to You. Amen.
Day 52: The Value of Humans
Have you ever flown in an airplane? It is not my favorite thing to do; however, it is quite an experience. For me, though while the view is magnificent, it is a realization of how insignificant I am in the whole scheme of things. While not even too far up in the air, humans, cars, houses, and buildings look like miniature play sets. It is like an ant village and we are the ants!
The Psalmist demonstrates that same kind of feeling when he looks up into the sky. I imagine in those days, the sky was magnificent because there were no lights, smog, or air pollution, like we have today. It was probably overwhelming beautiful! However, this Psalmist recognizes the enormousness of this world! We are like ants living in an ant farm!
Yet, God created us to take care of the world. God gave each of us a purpose to look after all that God created. The Psalmist writes, “You have made them (mortals) a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor” (v.5). We have God’s DNA! We were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). God created this earth for you and me – to live, love, and experience life in profound ways!
God loves us and wants us to be happy in the beautiful world that He created!
Let us pray…Gracious God, forgive us when we do not take care of what You have given us – the world in which, we live in. Help us to be mindful of the beauty that You created just for us! Give us what we need to go into the world and live a life in your name. Amen
Day 53: The Incarnate Word
I believe that words are powerful. I once told someone how offended I was when others would speak foul language around me…” Well, it’s just words,” they would say. But, words have meaning; words define character; words can demonstrate hatred or love; words can destroy or build up!
To demonstrate the power of words, the Apostle John makes this point very clear. Jesus Christ is the Word of God! And, not only that – the power of the Word of God gives us life! When we say with our mouth and reveal what is in our hearts by saying the words, “I believe,” we are changed and have a hope in our salvation!
Jesus Christ is the Word of God and came to earth to demonstrate what that means for us humans – His healing touch, compassion for the poor, and His desire to build relationships. Jesus’ death on the cross was not just a solution for humankind! Jesus’ death on the cross is pure love because with His death, we will never be separated from our God! Nothing can separate us – not even death.
Words are powerful! The Word of God will never be destroyed and will always persevere above all things.
Think about how you will use your words today? If words belong to God, how does that change who you are and how you communicate with others?
Let us pray…Dear God, you sent Jesus Christ to demonstrate the Word – the Incarnate Word – the Word that can never be destroyed…The Word that sustains us…The Word that gives us hope and Life! As we go through our day, help us to choose words that define your character of love. We love you, Lord. Guide us into that love. Amen.
Day 54: Creativity, Wisdom
I have a child in my congregation that I am ministering through his first communion. I was completely blown away by his knowledge and his security that he found in God. For example, he pointed out to me that God created everything…including the food that we eat, his mom, dad, and family that he loves so much, and that he belonged to God. If there had been any doubt that this child was not ready to participate in the Lord’s Supper, that doubt was erased away.
But, I think what I was most impressed with was his security in the Lord that he emphasized. He mentioned on several occasions that he knew he had free will – that he could make his own decisions, but felt secure that God would guide him. In his eyes, he had nothing to worry about!
Isn’t it this child-like attitude that allows us let go of our control and rest in the arms of Christ? “My child, do not let these escape from your sight!” (Proverbs 3:21). Keep this knowledge of belonging to God; that God created you and everything in this world – And, remember: “…you will walk on your way securely and your foot will not stumble.” (v. 23)
How could we live our day today with the knowledge that with God we can live a safe and secure life? If you knew without a shadow of a doubt that God’s arms are holding you close to Him, does it change the way you live?
Let us pray…Dear Lord and Savior, you have our backs – you know our struggles, our pain, our sadness, and most of all, our insecurities. Help us to lean on you for comfort and give us a strong footing on the ground we walk. Give us that child-like attitude that allows us to walk with you and never be afraid. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 55: Created in Christ
One of the promises that Jesus tells us through the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew’s Gospel, is that as we become more Christ-like, the more we will begin to the view the world through the lens of Jesus’ eyes. As I turn on the TV, I cannot think how true this is – It is so evident when I see all the hate, the disrespect for authority – our police and governing office, and for those who are different from us, that people have fallen away from God. The way that we treat others reflects who we are!
In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul tells the believing community that it is not your good works that will save you! It your faith in Jesus Christ that will bring you salvation! However, because of your belief – because you have received this gift of salvation, good works will just happen – it’s just who you are because you have been created in Christ! Christ is in your DNA and you will not be able to deny it! The way you treat others, help others, and pray for others is a response of your love for Jesus!
For me, it seems so evident that much of the United States have fallen away from our God who created us! Those who are full of hate and evil reflect evil through their behavior every day – just turn on the news! It is up to us, as believers in Christ – those who are created in Christ – to reflect the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ!
How can each of us begin today? What works of kindness can we give someone else today? Here is the thing…even though our smile, our kind words may not seem like much…it can be just the thing that turns someone’s heart towards God. I say it’s worth a shot!
Let us pray…Gracious God, help our world and our country to look towards you for reconciliation and love towards one another. Give each of us the strength, courage, and confidence to react in love and not hate. Help us to reflect the gift of salvation through all of our actions as we live out our days. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 56: All Things from God
Have you ever known someone who is ‘Power’ hungry? In other words, he or she is placed in a position of power that gives them control over other people. That person enjoys the power so much they can sometimes become abusive. I have seen this in situations in the corporate world. They realize that they can control others – determine whether others get to keep their job, what days they will have off to be with their families, and on and on.
Think of the power that God has over us! God created everything! Everything comes from God; Everything happens through God; Everything ends up in God! God has so much power over us that God could just say, “Heck with those people!”
Isn’t it though, because God uses His power to save each one of us, instead of condemning us, makes God’s love so extravagant? God’s love and God’s generosity is overwhelming. None of us deserve what God offers us – God’s Son who gives us the gift of salvation, mercy and grace! Honestly, I cannot grasp it sometimes. It feels way over my head. I’ll never be able to quite understand why God would love a sinner like me.
God created us and choose to use His ‘power’ to give us salvation and eternal life!
How can we begin today to celebrate the love of God and walk in the way of the Lord?
Let us pray…Dear God, you have the power to condemn each of us for our sins, but instead, you grant us grace, mercy, and forgiveness. We don’t deserve it! Help us to show our gratitude through our humble actions of love to others – beginning right now! We love you so much. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 57: God Calls Abraham
Do you have someone who is in your life right now that you are having a difficult time getting alone with – let alone, loving them?
God has never made it easy for those who choose to follow Him. Even in the very beginning of time, God reaches out to Abraham, tells him to leave everything that he knows – “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. “ (Genesis 12:1) God asked Abraham to leave everything he knows to go to a place where he knows nothing and no one!
God calls His people to live a life that is so radical to the rest of the population. But, there is always an award for doing what God asks each of us to do! For example, in the case of Abraham, God promises that Abraham will be blessed. We will all come from Abraham! If we could trace our roots that far back, we would find that we are related to Abraham! What a blessing for Abraham – and a huge responsibility!
God calls each of us too! Not all of us are asked to leave our families, our hometown, or our country; however, we are called each day to love others. And, this is no easy task! There are always people in our lives that we would like to just ignore.
How might God be calling you today to live your life in a new and radical way?
Let us pray…Gracious God, we want to live in your ways – we want to hear your call for us. Sometimes the call is difficult – to leave those we love, to help those we don’t like, and to love others who are difficult. Help us, Lord. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 58: God’s Covenant
Names are important. When I was pregnant with each of my four children, we would spend the months dreaming and thinking of a name to call our child. It was always amazing to me to me that when the child was born, the name seemed to fit! It’s like some sort of parent’s instinct.
God names each one of us. In this story of Abram, he is 99 years old! God changes his name from Abram to Abraham. God does this quite a bit, especially with those He makes a promise with in some way. God’s promise to Abraham is that he will be the Father of the nations. But, the biggest covenant is: “And, I will be their God…”
God promises – makes a covenant that He will be our God. He keeps that covenant so perfectly that He even sends His Only Son for our sake – for the sake of the world so that we can stay in a relationship with Him and have our eternal life with Him! God goes the extra mile just so He can truly be our God!
How does living out your day today knowing that God has promised to be your God – to name you and claim you as His own?
Let us pray…Gracious God, you have never broken any of your promises – we know that you have named us and claimed us as our God – A loving God who wants us to live a life that is truly life. Guide us into your loving arms as we continue to live out our days. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 59: The Birth of Isaac
So, if you don’t know the story about Isaac, God goes to Abraham (now 100 years old) and tells him that he and Sarah will have a child. Sarah laughs when she hears this because she is so old, she believes that there is no way she could ever possibly become pregnant! If fact, she takes matters into her own hands, finds an Egyptian slave-girl to sleep with Abraham so that he can have a child – and they do. However, to their great surprise, Sarah does get pregnant and gives birth to a son whom they name, Isaac.
The first covenant that God made with Abraham was that he would be the Father to all nations. Well, if you were to think about it, the only way that could possibly happen is for Abraham to have children so that in return, they could have children, and so forth. While Sarah should not have taken the matter into her own hands and had the faith that God would live up to His promise, one can see why she did what she did.
Two things here: First, God will never break any of His promises to us – God never has and God never will. Second, God can do the impossible! While Sarah and Abraham are way past child-bearing years, God promised them a child and they had Isaac, even at their age!
God may be calling you to do something that seems impossible. It may seem too hard or too overwhelming. God has called you by name – And, God promises to be your God. Let God dream your dreams for you – Let God do what seems impossible in your life!
Let us pray…Dear God, give us the faith to live out the dreams that you have dreamed for us. Help us to remember that you can do the impossible! Give us the strength to do what you are calling us to do. We love you so much, Amen.
Day 60: God Tests Abraham
I will do anything for Jesus! I left my home and my family to go to a place I was uncomfortable and unfamiliar to proclaim Christ; I chant in front of my congregation even though I cannot do it well, but feel called to do so; I even suffered persecution for Christ in a community where I did not feel welcomed. I would do anything for Jesus – until…I am reminded of Abraham’s test from God.
God goes to Abraham and tells him to go up the mountain and offer his dear son as a sacrifice to God. Abraham obeys. He gets up the next morning, along with his son, Isaac and does as the Lord instructs him to do. He even gets as far as tying his son down on the wood to be burned, raises his knife to kill him, when an angel of the Lord stops him. God said, “Now I know how you fearlessly fear God. You didn’t even hesitate to place your dear son on the altar for me.” At that moment, Abraham saw the sacrifice God intended – a ram.
Abraham had to be relieved. At this point, Abraham understood this to mean that God would provide. While this is one way to put it, I prefer to say it is about Faith! Not only the faith to know that God will provide for our needs, but also and maybe even more importantly, it is about having enough faith to trust God!
Do we have enough faith to trust God in our lives to go as far as sacrificing our children? I pray I am never confronted with that request from God because I probably would fail. But, yet it is exactly what God did for us – Sacrificed his Only Son for the sake of the World! God has done what none of us are willing to do.
I don’t think God is going to test us to the point of sacrificing our children. However, I do believe that God may ask us to do some very difficult tasks. How far are you willing to go for the sake of the Gospel? Do you trust God enough that whatever you are called to do in God’s Name, God will provide you with what you need?
Let us pray…Gracious God, increase our faith! Help us to trust you to know that you will provide us with what we need and when we need it. Help us to hear to what you may be calling us to do in the Name of Jesus. Lead us into your will. In Your Name we pray, Amen.
Day 61: Examples of Faith
Faith is believing in the things that we cannot see. Faith is the hope that what we want is what we will get.
Have you ever experienced a ‘gut’ feeling about something even though it goes against everything your head is telling you? What keeps you from acting on that gut, even when you think you should do what your heart is telling you to do? Most likely it is fear or just plain common sense. Fear of the unknown is probably the biggest fear that most of us face. Fear keeps us from following the will of God. Fear keeps us from believing the promises of God.
Can you imagine Abraham’s thoughts and reaction when God told him that they would have a baby at the age of 100 years old? Honestly, if I were 100 years old and I found out that I was pregnant, I would be devastated! How would I provide for that child? What if I die before the child can provide for themselves? The list would just go on and on. I would be scared to death! I may would even be secretly hoping that God was just joking!
Faith is believing that God will provide even in the most outrageous circumstances. If it is God’s will, God will take care of everything! I’ll never forget when I was preparing to go into the call process to become a pastor. We were so worried about selling our house. It was during the time when the housing market was crashing. One evening, I got a phone call from a stranger asking if we would be interested in selling our home! We closed and moved out within 30 days. God worked everything out!
How might God be calling you today to act on faith – even if it all seems so impossible? If it is God’s will, God will make it happen. God will provide. God will give you everything that you need.
Let us pray…Gracious God, help us to remember that with faith, everything is possible. With faith, we can know that you will work everything out. Lord, lead us into your will knowing that you provide. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 62: Children of Abraham
Temptation and the devil are real. As we begin this time in Lent, it is a time to reflect and to remember, not only who we are, but also, whose we are. We belong to God. God created each of us, but God also gave us free will. Free will is played out in the beginning of God’s creation in the Garden of Eden. The serpent convinces Adam and Eve that the fruit that God doesn’t want them to eat is the very fruit that will make them be like God. They will be able to know good and evil.
Well, they eat the fruit. Nothing was ever the same after that and they were kicked out of the Garden. This was the first sin. Adam and Eve disobeyed God and they were punished.
Temptation and evil were evident then and it is evident now and in every day of our lives. Each day we are faced with decisions that have consequences. If we want to obey God and do the will of God, it is God’s Word that can direct us to make decisions that reflect, not only who we are, but whose we are.
Let us pray…Gracious God, you know the temptations that we are up against each and every day. Help us to turn towards you for answers and the right path we should take that leads us to safely – away from evil. Lord, we pray that all our roads lead back to you. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 63: Jesus and Abraham
If there was one fear that most of us have is the fear of death. I’m not sure that we fear death so much as we fear suffering. In either case, it is the unknown that is so frightening. It is the same when we hear devastating news – like getting the bad news of a fatal cancer or that someone near and dear to us will be losing their life. Questions fly through our minds like: What will we do?
Jesus is telling the Jews that those who keep God’s Word will never experience death. They think Jesus is crazy. Even Abraham and all the prophets had died. What Jesus is saying is impossible! We will all die!
But, Jesus is saying that to die only happens when you do not believe in Jesus. That through Jesus Christ we will have life, even after our death!
I had a dear friend who passed away from a brain tumor. A few weeks after her death, her daughter claimed that in a dream, she saw her mom. Her mom was jumping up and down and proclaiming, “I am alive, I am alive!”
Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” (v. 59).
Let us pray…Dear “I am,” it is overwhelming to try and wrap our minds around the fact that we will never die. We pray and hope with all of our hearts that we will have the opportunity and rejoice in that day when we see your face! In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 64: Isaac’s Children
We have four children and believe me, there is such a thing as sibling rivalry. Also, I am one out of four children and believe me, there is such a thing as sibling rivalry! Children compete for their parent’s attention. It’s just human nature.
Isaac is Abraham’s son. Isaac is the one whom Abraham was going to sacrifice to the Lord, just as God had commanded. However, God did not make him go through with it. Isaac marries a girl named, Rebekah. Just like Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah have a difficult time getting pregnant. So, they prayed and finally at the age of 60 years old, they have twins – Esau and Jacob. And, as the two boys get older, there is sibling rivalry.
God speaks to Rebekah while she is pregnant and tells here that she is carrying two nations – one will be stronger than the other and they will be divided. And, Rebekah responds: If it is this way, then why do I live?
God created each of us for different reasons. As we move forward in this story, we learn that these two boys are very different and have a different role to live out. It is true with you and I. However, I believe there is no role more significant than the other. I experience this with my own children. They are all different, but offer so much to the world.
What gifts has God given you that are different from any one else that you know? This could be your niche in the world that separates you from others!
Let us pray…Gracious God, help us to recognize that just because our sisters and brothers seem to have great gifts, doesn’t meant that we do not have some gift that is even greater. Help and guide us to use our gifts for your glory. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 65: The Lost Birfthright
I guess we will do just about anything if we are hungry!
These two twin brothers, Esau and Jacob despised each other. Esau is the older of the twins. Jacob liked to cook. When Esau came in from hunting, he was really hungry. But, the only way Jacob was going to allow him to eat was to make Esau swear that he would give up his birthright to Jacob. In those days, the oldest son inherited everything – land and stock.
What is wrong with this picture? Well, just about everything! There is jealousy and hatred towards one another that will eventually lead to disaster. But, what I really don’t like is the fact that Jacob played on his brother’s weakness – when he was so hungry!
How can we pray for strength in our time of weakness? Isn’t it when we are hungry – famished, even for God’s Word, that we become vulnerable?
Let us pray…Gracious God, evil seeps in when we are weak. Feed us with your Word so that we may have strength in our weakness. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 66: Jacob the Trickster
Esau and Jacob are at it again; but then so are their parents, Isaac and Rebekah. Esau is Isaac’s favorite because he loves the outdoors and is a great hunter. Jacob is Rebekah’s favorite because he is more quiet and subdued. It is Isaac’s job as the father of the house to give the blessing – not just because Esau is his favorite, but also because Esau is the firstborn.
Remember when the Lord told Rebekah just before she gave birth, “The elder (Esau) shall serve the younger (Jacob)” (Genesis 25:23). Whether Rebekah remember this or not, it is now done. She has made sure that her son Jacob will receive the blessing of his father. Esau, although the oldest of the two, will now serve Jacob.
Jacob, in the literary sense, is now known as the “Trickster.” You have to give him credit though because he is smart, creative and gutsy. In fact, God will create the twelve tribes of Israel from him. God has a plan for these two boys.
Sometimes we do not know or understand why things happen the way that they do. We are going to find out how this story ends, but in the meantime, it is difficult to discern what is right and what is wrong. In modern day, I would classify this as doing whatever it takes to climb the ladder of success. It was deceitful and hurtful.
How can we discern God’s trust in difficult situations? And, how do we become the “bigger” person in situations where we have been deceived and hurt? What is God us to do?
Let us pray, Gracious God, we love you so much, but we need help when there are situations that seem too hard to understand. Help us to remember that you always have a plan for those who seek You and desire to do your will. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 67: Wrestling an Angel
In the sport of wrestling, neither person has a weapon. It is a one-on-one sport where two people are equal – one does not have the advantage over the other. The winner in wrestling is won by one or the other pinning down the one they are wrestling with.
Jacob is on his way to meet up with his brother Esau. On his way there, he spends the night at the camp when he meets up with some random man who begins to wrestle with Jacob. All night long they wrestle – until day break. In other words, neither one of them could pin the other down. The man finally breaks the rules of wrestling and hits Jacob in the hip socket so that it is painful for him to walk. He tells Jacob that he has won the fight.
But, Jacob cannot let it go. He wants to know who this man is and demands a blessing. The man says to Jacob, “Why is it that you ask me my name?” He says this like Jacob should know who he is! The man does bless Jacob, changes his name to ‘Israel.’ It is ‘Israel’ – the twelve tribes that will descend from Jacob.
Sometimes when we a discerning a difficult situation in our lives, we may wrestle with God. It is usually during a time when we are trying to understand what is God’s will in a certain situation. For me, it has been times when trying to discern a call to become a pastor of a congregation. I believe that in each of us, God calls us to do His work. Many times, we feel incapable of what we are being called to do by God. Our hearts are turmoil.
Are you wrestling with an important decision that God may be calling you to do? Sometimes we must wrestle with God for us to find peace. However, it is in that time that we can be certain of our discernment.
Let us pray….Dear Lord Jesus, every single day we are faced with hard choices and decisions that reflect our belief in you. Help us when we are wrestling with tough decisions to know your will for each of us. In your name, we pray, Amen.
Day 68: Peace Returns
My dad always used to say, “Blood is thicker than Water.” What he meant was that family is most important. They are our blood. We are connected in a very unique way. When our family members are sick and hurting, we are too. There is no way getting around it!
Esau and Jacob never got along – especially as siblings. As we have seen in this story, they were at each other’s throats, even though they were twins. Jacob conned Esau out of his birthright and then tricked his father thinking that he was Esau, and took Esau’s blessing. It was complete war between the two ever since.
But, God favored Jacob even though he did some ‘not too nice’ things. Jacob was on his way to see his brother, Esau when one night he wrestles with an angel. God changes Jacob’s name to Israel – meaning the twelve tribes will descend from him. This seems to change Jacob. Because when he meets up with Esau, they forgive each other – hugging and weeping when they come face-to-face.
During this time in Lent, we are focusing on what it means to be transformed. It is this miraculous thing that we cannot do – but what God does in us and through us. However, it is in the work we do to deepen our relationship with Jesus that opens our hearts to God’s possibilities. We find that when we become transformed, we have the ability to do things that we never dreamed possible.
When Jacob wrestles with God, it as if God does this amazing transformation in and through Jacob. Jacob is able to move forward with his life even though now at this point, Jacob will serve Esau. The two brothers find peace with each other.
How are you doing the work of deepening your relationship with Jesus? Transformation makes those things that were invisible become visible. How have others noticed your transformation through your actions and demonstration of love for Christ?
Let us pray…Gracious God, we pray for the Holy Spirit to come into our hearts and change us into your likeness – Give us peace in knowing that you will do your miraculous work in us and through us, giving the ability to change and do the very things we never dreamed possible. Lord, we pray this in your name. Amen.
Day 69: God’s Faithfulness
One of the things that has been greatly on my mind is how the secular world is so in our face constantly. For example, I was watching a TV show last night, during prime time – when young children would be watching, and over-and-over again were inappropriate words and language. In my perspective, there was no reason why those words had to be used. Evil is so constant in this world – everywhere you go and just about in everything that you do. And so, the question then comes for me: How do I keep God in front of my face, in my heart, and in my thoughts when I am up against the secular world – the world I currently live in?
The Psalmist tells us today what we need to do: “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually. Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles,” (V.4)
If we are “continually” in the world, then we must “Continually” be in God’s Word. It reminds me of a balance sheet – both sides must line up – Income vs. Expenses. Except in this case, we may want more Jesus than the secular world because it is so easy to let the world consume us before we even realize what is happening.
This takes a lot of work! It takes discipline and hard work. It has to be intentional – making time and setting time aside just to be with the Lord. And, for me, when I have the world and evil in my face, I try to back away from it, if possible. This is a very hard and difficult world today. God has a lot of competition.
How can you begin today to open your senses to the evil in the world? How might you begin to “Seek the Lord and His presence continually?”
Let us pray…Gracious God, help us to recognize the evil in this world that we live in and draw us into you. Give us strength to turn to you when we see and hear things that push us away from you. Be with us this day and every day. Amen.
Day 70: Children of Promise
Since the time of Adam and Eve, God has given each of free will. We have the ability to make decisions all day long about what we should do, want to do, and what we ought to do. We can decide whether or not, we will go to work, brush our teeth, exercise, or stay in bed. We have free will to discern what is wrong and what is right.
However, St. Paul reminds us that God is the One who is control. Who we are is not determined by your genetics, but by the promises of God. God has the power to initiate the action in which we play our part for good or evil (v.9, The Message).
But, here is the thing…While I wish God could just sit down and talk to me about things, we cannot know God’s will without God in our lives. God made each one of us for God’s glory to demonstrate and express in the world. That is the will of God – not our will!
Listening for God’s will in our lives is a discernment process. However, there is one thing that we can know for sure…that through our baptism, we have inherited the Kingdom of God and we are God’s children. We can always start there and begin today to live our lives as one of God’s chosen.
Let us pray…Dear God, we give thanks that you have shown your mercy and compassion on each of us. As your child, help us to mimic your love, forgiveness, and grace to others as we live out each of our days. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 71: Joseph’s Dream
Joseph is Isaac’s son – one of the twelve who become Israel. This is a popular You would think since Isaac and Esau competed for their father’s love and approval, that he would be careful not to show favoritism to Joseph. But, Isaac does. He loves Joseph the most and so he has a beautiful robe made just for him. Well, of course, the brothers are jealous!
Brothers and sisters know each other well. They know how to push the others’ buttons – get them stirred up and make each other act out. Joseph knows he is the favorite and he uses this to his advantage. Let’s face it…if Joseph really had these dreams of him become King, did he really have to tell his brothers about it? Why couldn’t he just keep it to himself?
But, I do believe that dreams are significant and that God does speak to us through our dreams. Whenever I have dreamed something that really puzzles me, I get up in the morning and write it down. It is part of my journaling experience. We think that we won’t forget those dreams, but often we do. Once when reflecting on my journaling, I came across a dream I had about where I would experience my internship. I did not have the name of the congregation in my dream, but I had the name of the street! The dream proved accurate.
How might your dreams reflect God’s voice speaking to you? Be sure to write them down. If you do journal, reflect on the past entries to see how God may be speaking to you in ways you had not noticed before.
Let us pray…Gracious God, help us to hear you in our dreams. Be with us as reflect on those dreams and to hear you. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 72: Joseph Sold as Slave
My dad used to always say, “Jealousy is a horrible thing.” And, he was so right. Jealousy causes us to act and react in violent ways because we want the thing that is making us jealous to go away. We want revenge. We want to retaliate.
The brothers of Joseph were so jealous of their father’s love for Joseph and the special beautiful robe that he had made for Joseph, that they wanted to kill Joesph! They were that jealous! But, instead, after thinking things through, they did not kill him, but sold him as a slave in Egypt. Reuben, one of the brothers, was able to get passed his jealousy, and had plans to rescue Joseph. But, when he returned to the place where he thought the brothers had put him, he had already been sold as a slave.
To make matters worse, the brothers took the robe, after being dipped into goat’s blood, and returned the robe back to their father. They told him that he had been killed by a wild animal. Isaac was devastated.
That is the problem with jealousy. We think we do things to make us feel better, however in the end, it effects so many others. There are always consequences for our actions. Often, in our fit of jealously and anger, it feels good to release our emotions, but then we must live with our guilt, wishing we had handled things differently.
What are things that you may jealous about today? Take those emotions and hard feeling to the Lord before acting and reacting. In the end, you will be grateful to not have to experience the guilt and grateful for the time to take a step back and ask for God’s strength.
Let us pray…Gracious God, we are human and we do experience jealousy in our lives. Help us to come to you when our emotions feel like they are taking over and we feel out of control. Give us the strength to deal with our feelings and guide us into healthy relationships with others. In this we pray, Amen.
Day 73: In Potiphar’s Service
God loves justice. This story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife is still so real of today. Joseph is righteous and wants to do the right thing. He demonstrates loyalty and respect to his master, Potiphar. But, when his wife realizes that she has been turned down by Joseph and refuses to have sex with her, she decides to make him look like he is a rapist. This sounds like a ‘Lifetime” Movie!
Potiphar’s wife could not handle rejection! However, even though Joseph has been thrown into prison, he makes the best of his situation. The Lord knows he is innocent and grants him mercy even in a very difficult situation. I truly believe that God will take care of us when we do what is right in the eyes of the Lord.
However, peer pressure is hard to resist. I can only imagine how it must have been difficult for Joseph to resist a woman who was willing to have sex with him. Every day we are faced with different degrees of temptation, rejection, and discerning right from wrong. We cannot and should not face them alone. Turn to God when life gets hard. God will give you a way out.
Let us pray, God, life is hard – every single day. Help us when are faced with temptation and rejection. Lead out of situations that are not your will. Be with us as we discern between right and wrong. Amen.
Day 74: Joseph Before Pharaoh
So, Joseph had been in prison when the Pharaoh asked that he come before him and interpret the dreams. Notice that Joseph never takes credit for his gift of interpretation of dreams. He gives God all the credit – “It is beyond my power to do this…But God can tell you what it means and set you at ease” (v.16). Joseph knows he has a special gift but also knows that it is God who has granted him this gift.
How many times do we fail to recognize that our special gifts and abilities belong to God? I think probably every day! It is human nature to want to claim the good things that we are capable of and have the power to do. However, also notice how Joseph is able to rise to the top. He believes that he is in God’s favor and God takes care of him.
What are you doing that you are not giving God the credit for? Would you have the guts to tell others that it is God who has given you that special gift? How might that change your life and use your gifts more fully for the sake of the Gospel?
Let us pray…Gracious God, you gave each and every one of us a special gift. Help us to recognize those gifts, to give you the credit, and use those gifts for your glory. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 75: Appointed to Office
In this time of Lent, one of the focuses is thinking about our suffering. I am terrified of suffering – of being in pain to the point of death. Of course, there are other ways to suffer. I cannot stand to be hungry. I believe starvation would be one of the most horrible ways a human could suffer and eventually die. However, it is through our suffering that we find ourselves reaching out for the Lord, looking for refuge and hope of when it will end.
Joseph was a dream interpreter. He was sent to the Pharaoh to give him his interpretation of the Pharaoh’s dream, in which Joseph does. Joseph’s interpretation was one in which, if he was right, would lead the Egyptians out of their suffering – If the Pharaoh listens to Joseph’s interpretation, they would have saved up enough food to keep from hunger.
God uses Joseph as an instrument to prevent suffering in the land of Egypt. Joseph provided hope for those people. How can we be instruments of God’s hope when others are suffering? Or, who in your life may have been sent to you to give you hope in your time of suffering? How can we open our hearts and minds to God’s call for us to reach out to others in their suffering? How might God be calling each of us to feed those who are hungry?
Let us pray…Gracious God, help us to hear your call to help others who are hungry or who need a voice of hope in their darkness and suffering. Send to us in our darkness and suffering to help us get through difficult times and situations. In your name we pray…Amen.
Day 76: A Time of Famine
In this time of Lent, I cannot help but to think about the whole story of Jesus Christ – who died for me and how I am on this journey to the cross. I carefully reflect the times that I have betrayed Jesus, turned away from Him; the times I have not spoken up on His behalf because of fear or just didn’t have the guts to witness to Him. But, yet Jesus went to that cross with no one to help him and I should have been there to help him up on that cross – recognizing and acknowledging that He was doing it for me! I feel so ashamed.
In this story about Joseph, we can see a foreshadowing of what Christ was going to do for us. Joseph is now in charge and the famine has come. Joseph has lots of food because God gave him the gift to interpret dreams and he was able to interpret the Pharaoh’s dream that this was going to happen.
And, lo and behold, who shows up, but his brothers who had sold him as a slave to the Egyptians. They even had taken the coat that his father had given to him, tore it in shreds and told his father that wild animals had gotten to him and killed him. His father was devastated and mourned for days. And, now the brothers are hungry, wanting and needing food, and Joseph is in charge of who he gives the food to eat and how much they are allotted.
Joseph accused his brothers of being spies and puts them in prison for three days (Jesus was in the tomb for three days). When Joseph gives them the ultimatum to leave one brother, take grain to Canaan, and return with the youngest brother, they seem to realize they are paying the penalty for what they did to Joseph. And, since they were speaking different languages, Joseph heard what they were saying, and his pain for what they did to him came through his tears. And, though they did not deserve the graciousness of what Joseph did – gave them food to take home and food for the journey, it was done for him. And, not only that – Joseph gave their money back to them. He took not one thing from them even for what they had done to him.
This is how our Lord works – gives us everything and we deserve none of it! Jesus climbs up on the cross on our behalf, yet so many people do not recognize what He has done for them. I have even heard some people say that they are only willing to give only so much of their time to the Lord, yet they will give hours and days to things that have no meaning or impact for their eternal life.
How can you begin to think about how you are using your time? What are words that you can use that will witness to Christ? How can you graciously thank Jesus for what He has done for you?
Let us pray…Gracious God, during this time in Lent, help us to turn to you, to recognize and acknowledge all the ways we turned away from you. Give us the opportunity to repent fully and turn back to you. Amen.
Day 77: Joseph’s Brothers
This really is a sad story because Joseph loves his family – even the brothers that sold him for slavery to the Egyptians. Joseph especially wants to see his father. He continually asks his brothers (even though they do not know yet that it is Joseph they are speaking with), if his father is still alive. Joseph is so overcome with grief – he has to leave the room to go and cry. This had to be very difficult for Joseph.
The humanness inside of us would want to initially retaliate against those who have hurt us so badly. However, Joseph made the best of his situation – not once, but time and time again. He believed that God had called him into those situations and therefore, had a purpose to respond to that calling.
Even though Joseph’s brothers sold him to the Egyptians, Joseph still forgave them and accepted his position in life. I believe this would be very difficult for many of us to do.
What situation could you be in that you could use for the glory of God? Is there someone in your life that needs forgiving? Could you respond to God’s call, even though it is not what you want to choose for your life?
Let us pray…Gracious God, help us to remember that you call us into difficult situations that can be used for your glory. Give us the strength to depend on you – to come to you for direction when we are confused and unsure what exactly you are calling us to do. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 78: Heirs of Christ
Equality is the one thing that we struggle with so greatly in our county. Women want equal rights. Blacks or other races in general, want to be treated equal. Sexuality calls for equality. No one wants to be treated differently than the rest. And, there is a reason for it!
God created each and every one of us! God never intended for one race, gender, or choice of sexuality divide any of us! We belong to Christ! We are one in Jesus Christ through our baptism and our belief that Jesus is our Lord and Savior and that He died on our behalf.
The Law brings out our righteousness – in other words, when we try to live by the Ten Commandments, we find very quickly that we cannot do it. We need our Lord’s grace and mercy just so that we can keep trying to do our best.
Whether we are male, female or black or white – or whatever race one is – we all try to live by that same Law and no matter what and who we are – none of us can do it. WE all need the love of Christ and what He did for us on that cross.
Jesus does not judge us unless we judge others. God loves us for who we are because we were created by God. We are then called to love one another because each of us are a child of God. God does not love you any more than God loves me. We are equal in the eyes of God.
How might you be judging others for the color of their skin, their gender or ethnicity? How can you begin thinking about how God loves them just as much as God loves you? With that thought, how does that help you to view someone else as God’s child?
Let us pray…Gracious God, we have not loved others as you would want us to do. Help us to remember that when we judge others or condemn them, that they too belong to you – therefore, they will receive your grace and mercy. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 79: Good News for Jacob
In the movie, The Shack, Mac was abused as a little boy and his 8-year old daughter was brutally taken from him while they were on a family camping trip. Two people in his life did “unforgivable” acts of injustice. Mac had every reason to live his life with hate and disgust both for his father and for the man that killed his little girl.
Joseph’s brothers tore the coat that his father had given him and sold him to the Egyptians. Joseph had every right to live his life with hate and disgust for his brothers.
However, Not only does Joseph forgive his brothers for selling him to the Egyptians, but also provides for them during the famine. Joseph is so excited about seeing his father, Israel that he would do anything to get him closer, just so he may spend time with his father.
Life is so short in the scheme of things. Death is forever. But, here is the thing…Jesus turns this all upside down when he comes and dies on the cross for us. Our lives here on earth is like livening a life in hell, if we choose to live in our sin. Repentance and turning towards God gives us life not only here on earth, but also in our “forever” life.
In this story about Joseph and his brothers, enables them to live their “forever” life on earth! Repentance and forgiveness changes everything!
In the movie, The Shack, God invites Mac to come to the very place where his daughter was killed. God shows Mac that if he were to live on earth or live “forever” with Him, he must forgive the two people that have hurt him. It turns out his dad was brutally beaten by his dad. And, then God shows him what “forever” looks like – His daughter who is so happy living with Jesus!
When Mac returns to earth after his encounter with God, his life is changed. He is able to truly live! Repentance and forgiveness changed his life and the way he lives his life!
Who is someone in your life that you may need to forgive? Or, maybe there is someone you have hurt that needs your repentance. Go to that person and make amends. And, then go to God to renew your relationship with Him.
Let us pray, Gracious and Loving God, you know our hearts and the things that trouble us. You know those who have hurt us and you know those we have hurt. Help us to recognize that all people are your children – and give us the strength to forgive. In your name we pray, Amen
Day 80: Bad News for Egypt
I was watching 60 Minutes the other night when they did a documentary on South Sudan. I was horrified. The people are displaced. They live in pure poverty. They stand in line in angle deep mud to wait for their portion of the food that drops from the sky. They are dying of starvation. Each night I have gone to bed thanking my God for a warm bed, a roof over my head, and a full belly. Honestly, I cannot even imagine what those people are going through. It breaks my heart.
Joseph took care of the Pharaoh. During the time when no food was available, Joseph played on the people’s hunger – they traded everything that they had in order to have the ability to keep eating. They sold their cattle, donkeys, land, and even sold themselves to the Pharaoh. The problem was that once the food was eaten and gone, they had nothing! Pharaoh now owned everything! Including them! The people are now slaves to the Pharaoh.
The world really has not changed that much when we compare with what is going on in South Sudan and what went on in Egypt! When you are hungry, you would probably do whatever it takes to have something to eat. Here we are in the United States where we have everything! In fact, I always say that if you come to the Lutheran Church, you will have food! We always eat!
How are we being called to help those who are so hungry? How can we give others a warm, dry bed at night? How might you be feeling the Holy Spirit to respond to the starvation in this world?
Let us pray…Gracious and Loving God, show us how we can do our part in this starving world. Lead us to those who need food, shelter, and a warm bed. Help us to see the world as you see it. Give us the Holy Spirit to respond to all those who are so unfortunate. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 81: End of an Era
I’ll never forget the day my father passed away. I was with him when he took his last breaths. Death is so difficult and so hard to understand. I hate the whole cycle of life. In fact, it is very hard for me to have pictures of my family in my home because it makes me realize how quickly time is passing and soon we will all turn back to dust.
Israel (Jacob) has died. Joseph is overwhelmed with grief, as so as, his brothers. It is obvious in this text that he was loved by all. Isn’t that what life should be about? The legacy that we leave behind…how we treat others and how we will be remembered by others?
But, in our grief, Jesus comes to console us. Jesus turns our sorrow into joy! With Jesus Christ, there is no end. There are no good-byes! We get to see all those we love again! What joy and relief there is in knowing that because Jesus loves us so much, it is His desire that we live in a place where we always are with those we love!
I look forward to the day I get to see my dad again. I can only imagine how glorious!
Let us pray…Gracious God, we have done nothing to deserve the kind of love you have given each of us. There is nothing that we can do to repay you for the gift of Your Son, Jesus Christ and what He did for us on that cross. Your amazing grace consoles us in our times of grief. We give you thanks and praise. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 82: Sinful People
In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, talks about Cheap Grace and Costly Grace. Cheap Grace is when we take God’s grace for granted. It is accepting God’s grace without acknowledging your own sin. Costly Grace is the recognition that Jesus paid a very heavy price for us to be able to receive God’s grace.
In St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, he is warning the church to be careful. It is easy for us to point fingers and see all the things that others are doing wrong. Sometimes we think because we are Christians, we are off the hook to be judged and that it is Ok for us to judge others.
It is easy to look at certain groups of people and point out their sin; however, remember that you also always belong to a ‘group’ that sins also. When we talk about others and how they are sinning, we are not diverting attention away from us, but towards us.
Jesus died for us. Jesus died for our grace and mercy that he so graciously gives to us. Don’t take that lightly. Hold it close to your heart. Witness to those who are overtly sinning and help them to Christ. Go to God for your repentance.
Let us pray…Gracious and Loving God, we love you so much. Please forgive us when we point our fingers at others who we think are sinning more boldly than us. Help us to bring others to you. Help us to come to you with our repentance. Bestow upon us your grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 83: Grace as a Gift
Law and Gospel. As a Lutheran and as a Christian, it is very difficult to not have one without the other. In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul makes this distinction. In other words, it is the law that convicts us of our sin – what we have done wrong. But, it is God’s amazing grace that forgives and allows us to keep living our lives the best that we can.
I like to use the example of the time I was driving along, only to look in my rearview mirror and see the police car and his flashing lights for me to pull over. So, I did. I was convicted of breaking the law – I broke the law of the speed limit.
It works the same with God’s law. If God could pull us over for every time we broke His Law, we would not get very far. Our punishment could possibly be great because in God’s eyes, a sin is a sin. God does not have different levels of sin like our human law does.
Therefore, the Law convicts us of our wrongdoing, but we have the grace that Jesus went to the cross for us! This is not just for some people – but, for ALL people!
How will you reflect today on how you have broken the Ten Commandments? Use the Law as a benchmark for your behavior. Come to God’s Table in repentance and receive the greatest gift – God’s amazing Grace, Mercy, and Forgiveness.
Let us pray…Gracious God, help us to look at ourselves in the mirror and see the sin that covers us. Let us come to You to receive the Good News – that Your grace, mercy, and forgiveness is for us! In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 84: Justified by Faith
“Access” is a word that is often used these days. We all want “access.” I have passwords for my computer, codes to get into neighborhoods, church, and even to get into my own home. We all have the need to gain “access” in some way or another. “Access” is a permission to enter.
St. Paul explains to us that we have “access” to God’s grace. We gain this access through our faith – our belief in Jesus Christ. We are justified for our faith. Therefore, we believe that Jesus’ death gave us that access. Jesus did this for us as a way to prove His love for us.
Paul also states: …though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die…What does he mean by that? Don’t we all have to die?
What Paul is stating is that if we truly believe in Jesus Christ, we are justified by our faith. We do not have to do anything to earn God’s love. It is a gift! However, are you willing to let go of your old self – the self that sins and die to that self? Do you dare to let go of your old bad habits, change the way you talk to others, and behave in a new way that reflects your love for Jesus Christ?
The access that we have into the Kingdom of God is not a special code. However, once we have gained access, we allow God to be in control knowing that we are reconciled by the blood of Jesus Christ. It is knowing that even in our suffering, we can use that suffering for the glory of God. This is hard stuff and not easy, by any means!
Let us pray…Gracious and Loving God, we give thanks and praise for gift of grace that you have given to us. Help us to know that you are in control of our lives. Help us to die to our old self and be born again into a life of Christ. Help us to use our suffering for your glory. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 85: Alive in Christ
I had a girl that used to do my hair and she belonged to a non-denominational church where they took turns doing “production” for the worship service. She was really frustrated because many of the younger adults who were a part of that team would show up on Sunday morning hungover or even still intoxicated. But, they would always say, “It’s Ok, because I am under God’s grace.”
St. Paul warns us of this very thing! Just because we have the gift of grace doesn’t mean we keep on sinning. It means that we walk away from that old way of living and begin a new life in Christ – turning away from our sin and our old habits! It’s turning towards God and away from this way of life – this secular world. It means that now we are ‘set apart’ – different than the rest!
This takes guts! It’s not easy to let go! But, here is the thing…we have a reward. When I asked my confirmation kids what is the Good News of Jesus Christ, they did not seem very sure. The Good News is that if we die to our sin – turn towards God, we have a new life in Christ. With this new life, we too will have a resurrection like Christ! It means we will never die!
This is a matter of life and death!
Let us pray…Gracious God, help us to understand what is at stake for us in this life. Give us the will, desire, and strength to “let go” of this life and choose a life with you. Show us the way to your grace, mercy and forgiveness. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 86: Inner Conflict
“For I do not do the thing I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (v.15)
Every morning I get up and say, “OK, today is the day! I am going to eat healthy, exercise, and do the very things that I say I am going to do…” And, what happens, I do the same thing every single day and nothing ever changes. I usually go to bed at night feeling frustrated and grateful for a new day and another chance to try again.
How many of us do the same thing when it comes to Jesus? How many times do we say that we are going to make church on Sunday, but then don’t? How many times do we say we are going to be in God’s Word, but then don’t? How many times do we say we are going to reach out to our neighbors, and then we don’t? This list could go on and on.
But, I think this is what most of us are missing…We think we can live a life in Christ without Christ! We forget to ask Him into our lives to guide us and help us do the very things we want to do!
Let us pray…Lord, we cannot live a life in Christ without you in our lives. Help us to remember that we need you to live the life you would have us to live. We pray this in your name, Amen.
Day 87: No Separation
Romans 8:31 is my favorite Bible Verse: “If God is for us, who is against us?” Well, the answer is “NO ONE!”
Those who love God and whom God has chosen, there is NOTHING that can ever become between us – not even death itself!
I believe that if we can somehow wrap our heads around what God has done, then some how we can understand the scope of life that we are dealing with in this life. God created us – not just so we can go about our lives doing anything we want, but so that God can have a relationship with us. This is huge to me because then that means God is on my side. God wants me to succeed in this life. God didn’t just set me up for failure, but wants to direct my life to be with Him! God desires more than anything to a presence in our everyday lives!
But, it’s like any other relationship. It takes work. It takes an effort on our part. But, once we realize that with God, everything is possible – even a relationship with Him forever and forever – we have nothing to fear!
Begin today thinking about your relationship with God. We are all at different places in our journey; therefore, God may be asking you to do something you have never dreamed possible. Whatever it is, God is with you and can never be separated from you.
Let us pray…Gracious God, help us to remember that we are a part of you – that you created us and want to be in our lives – this life and the next. You are “for Us” as we try to live out the life we have in YOU! We give you thanks and praise for your presence and your gift of grace. In your name, we pray, Amen.
Day 88: Hearts and Voices
There is nothing harder than to put the secular world aside and turn towards God. The secular world is right in front us – It’s in our face. We cannot escape it. It’s on TV, on the News, and right outside of our doors. It’s in the schools shaping the way our children think. It’s telling us what to think, how to act, and what to accept and not accept. The secular world is impossible to escape because we LIVE in it!
But, St. Paul reminds us today in this text that God’s Word is right here, as near as the tongue in your mouth – as close as the heart in your chest (The Message, v.8). The Word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (NRSV v.8). That is how close our salvation is to us! But, many will not see it. Many will not know it. Many will miss out on the Lord’s salvation.
But, today could be the day! Proclaim with your out-loud voice that Jesus is your Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead! And, salvation will be given to you. The work of the Holy Spirit has been stirring inside of you – waiting and hoping for your response to God’s love for you.
Let us pray…Gracious God, many of us do not realize that your love and saving grace is for every single one of us who are aching to be near you – to have a relationship with you. Even if we have already proclaimed you as our Lord and Savior, guide us into your will and help us to bring others to you. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 89: Gifts that Differ
So, what do we do with this New Life that God has given to us? We live in the Secular world – we eat, sleep, take care of our families, and go to work each day. Again, how can we not get pulled into the world that we live it? It feels so impossible!
Well, the answer is that you cannot do it by yourself. But, it will take dedication and hard work on your part. Put your attention on God – not the world. Pray for what God wants you to do in this world. God will give you the goodness, the strength, and the ability to react and respond to what He is calling you to do. And, what seems like the perfect thing for one person to do, does not mean it is what God is calling you to do. We are all very unique in the talents and gifts that God has given to us.
Start asking God today what He is calling you to do in this secular world. Ask Him to make clear your gifts and talents that you can utilize for His glory. For some, it is very obvious – like having the ability to play a musical instrument or the ability to sing…For others, it may be more difficult to recognize the God-given gifts that have been given to you. But, I promise, they are there!
Let us pray…Gracious God, how are you calling me to do your will in this world? Make clear to me how you want to use me for your glory. Send your Holy Spirit to me and fill my heart with the desire to proclaim with my mouth and lips that you are my Lord; and to believe in my heart that you died for me, and that because of your resurrection, I have this new and amazing life! In your name I pray, Amen.
Day 90: Marks of a Christian
Today, St. Paul tells the Romans in his letter how a Christian will act and respond to God’s love. It is a letter written to each of us how we are to be in the world – in this New Life that we have obtained through our Lord, Jesus Christ.
When I first begin to read the list, it feels overwhelming. But, there are a few things here worth mentioning:
- In our transformation, we have obtained the gifts of love, mercy, grace, and understanding. Living a life in Christ will be natural for Christians. We will know how to behave and act towards others.
- God knows that we are still human beings. We have emotions. We get angry. We get mad. We become hurt by others. We experience fear. God desires that we come to him in these difficult times to help us do His will. It is impossible for us to be the perfect Christian by ourselves. WE need our Lord to help us!
- We will miss the mark – over- and -over again. We try with all our might to be the Christian we are called to be – but, will still mess up and we will hate ourselves for our mistakes. “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing hate” (Romans 7:15). It is then that we are showered with God’s amazing grace – forgiving us and helping us to forgive ourselves.
Let us pray…Gracious God, help us to remember that we cannot be the person that you want us to be without your love, mercy and grace. Help us Lord. Help us to recognize when we have stepped out of bounds and we need you to reign us back into your love. Shower your grace upon us – forgive us when we have done the very thing we did not want to do. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 91: Set a Good Example
Nothing upsets me more than when someone tells me that I need to grow a thicker skin. There is no way that I can do that. God created me the way that I am – I am sensitive; I am a people-pleaser; and I take my vocation and job very seriously. If I feel that I have failed others, and especially if I have failed God, I will cry. I will agonize, be repentant, and feel horrible. It’s not going to change! It is the way God made me.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans, we are told that we are to please others – not ourselves. That is one of our jobs as a Christian! We are to build each other up – not tear each other down. But, here is the really good news…If we are condemned for trying to help others, build others up, or trying to please others for the good, then Jesus promises to take those hits for us. In fact, if we are hurting for the sake of doing good, Jesus is hurting with us.
Paul then says, “May God fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Our “belief” in God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are so key in getting through our day-to-day business of proclaiming Christ as we live out the Gospel. It is our life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit! It may even help in growing a thicker skin.
Let us pray…Gracious God, I pray for your Holy Spirit to give me peace this day – every day. I don’t want a thicker skin – I just want what it takes to love you more – to be a good example for others – and to build others up in Your Word of hope and salvation. Feel my heart with your hope and peace that passes all of my understanding. In Your name I pray, Amen.
Day 92: Promote Knowledge of Good
Paul is in prison for the sake of the Gospel. I have only once been to a prison. I went there to proclaim Christ to women who were in prison – mostly because of their involvement in drugs. I remember how grateful they were for the opportunity to hear about the Lord and to be in God’s Word. When we have hit rock-bottom is when our hearts are ready to hear about what Christ has done for us on our behalf. These women had hit rock-bottom.
However, Paul is suffering because of persecution. His circumstance is quite different. It seems that Onesimus was in prison with Paul, but is now out. So, Paul has him deliver this letter to Philemon, asking him to use Onesimus as a messenger for Christ. Even in Paul’s imprisonment, he is consistently working for Jesus and concerned for the Word of God. Notice that Paul does not pray for God to set him free, but is more concerned for Christ and that Christ is proclaimed. He does not let his circumstances keep him from working for Christ!
I wonder how many of us actually use our circumstances to glorify God? I don’t know about you, but when bad things are happening to me, all I can think about is how God can help me! Not the other way around.
What circumstance are you in that if the tables were turned – ask God how you might glorify Him in your situation and putting your trust in God that God has your back!
Let us pray…Gracious God, we come to you when we are in trouble and ask for you to rescue us – to give us strength in our difficult times. Help us to ask you how might we can glorify you – proclaim You even in our worst of times. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 93: Prepare the Way
Have you ever thought why did Jesus get baptized? He was not a sinner. He did not have the original sin that each of inherited from Adam and Eve. He was righteous. And, he had a clean heart. He was God. He is God.
But, here is what I think…I believe that Jesus was baptized so that we could see and understand what happens to each of us when we are baptized. Jesus goes to John the Baptist who was proclaiming the One who would be coming to save the world. John always made clear that it wasn’t him who would save the world, but someone in which he would not even be worthy to tie his sandals.
When Jesus is baptized, the Holy Spirit descends from the heavens like a dove. And, not only that – but God speaks! God says, “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.”
This is what happens to each one of us when we are baptized! Yes, we need our original sin to be washed away. However, we too received the Holy Spirit and we become a Child of God – at that moment! Not sometime later – but RIGHT then!
Our baptism is a means in which we receive God’s amazing grace!
If you are not baptized yet, what is stopping you? Ask God for guidance to lead you into God’s amazing grace.
Let us pray…Gracious and Loving God, you sent the Lord Jesus into the world so that we all might be saved by His grace. Lead each of us into your baptism where we become your child – and receive the Holy Spirit. If our baptism has already taken place, help us to remember to who we are – Your child! Amen.
Day 94: Jesus Came Preaching
There is one thing about the Gospel of Mark – He doesn’t mess around. “Immediately” the disciples that Jesus chose, drop what they are doing and follow Him. As soon as Jesus is baptized, the Spirit “immediately” drove Jesus into the desert. Mark doesn’t have a birth story. He goes straight into Jesus’ ministry.
But, what stands out to me is that when Jesus heals the man with Leprosy, he tells the man not to tell anyone. It could be that the man was told “not to” tell others about his healing that made him “want to” even more. But, I believe, however, that he was so over joyed with being healed that it was impossible to keep his mouth shut!
When we experience Christ in a profound way, the Sprit moves in such a way that we cannot hold it in. We want to tell everyone about how that experience has changed our lives!
How has God changed your life? Can you pinpoint that day when you knew that you believed that Jesus was your Lord and Savior? Share your story with other people! That’s what being an evangelist is all about. Write it down; tell others; proclaim Christ!
Let us pray…Gracious and Loving God, change our hearts and our minds in such a profound way that we cannot hold in our words of your amazing grace and mercy – but want to tell the world! Lord, we love you so much. Give us the opportunities to tell everyone all about you. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 95: The Sower and the Seeds
Our family has certainly has had its fair share of hard times. I will certainly never forget when my children were little and I thought there was a good possibility that we may end up on the street. I taught aerobics and waited on tables with swollen feet. They were really rough days not knowing if we would have food on the table or not.
Usually in these kinds of circumstances, we have two choices – we can blame God for our misfortune or we can turn towards God for strength and guidance. My prayer was that God would never leave me or forsake me – to get our family through the difficult days and lead us into a healthy future. And, God did. God was with me and did lead us out of situation.
In Jesus’ parable today, he talks about those who hear God’s Word, but when trouble comes, they fall away from God and the Word of God. And, Jesus says, there are so many things in this world that will lure us away from Him, if we are not paying attention.
The point that I believe Jesus is trying to make here is that as a believer, we are called to use our difficult situations as an opportunity to dig deeper into the Word, to listen and hear what God is calling us to do and then to obey that call! If we hear God then we will know that God will want us to use our circumstances and situations for God’s glory – it gives us then an opportunity to witness to how God never left us or forsake us.
Let us pray…Gracious God, not a single one of us doesn’t have hard days here and there. Help us to remember to turn towards you when we need you the most. Help us to sow the seeds – witness and tell others about you so that they too, will turn to you. In your name, we pray, Amen.
Day 96: Healing the Hurting
I am not proud of this, but when I was a little girl, we lived in a small town in North Carolina. You were known for which side of the railroad tracks that you lived. Literally, the railroad tracks in the town divided the blacks and the whites and those who were more fortunate than others. It’s so sad for me to think that it was that way – but it was.
In our stories about Jesus’ healing, it is not the railroad tracks that divide them, but the sea. Jesus got in his boat and traveled to the other side of the sea to where the Gerasenes lived – a place where the Jews did not go. There were a different ethnicity and it seems they were much more less fortunate.
After Jesus heals those who are “from the other side,” he then goes back across where the Religious leaders lived, and a man name Jairus came to Jesus asking that his daughter be healed. And, Jesus heals her. The next is a woman who had been suffering for years and she touches Jesus in the crowds of the people and is healed. And, then in our final healing is a little girl.
Jesus did not discriminate. He didn’t care which side of the railroad tracks you came from. In fact, he went to them! He doesn’t care what your title is or how important you think you are in society. He loves you strictly for who you are!
We are all worthy of God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, and healing!
Let us pray…Gracious God, you love us so much! You come to us when we are hurting. You are there for us no matter where we are in our lives. You desire for our pain to be gone. God, lay your healing hands on us – give us your power of healing when we are hurting. We pray this in your name, Amen.
Day 97: Feeding the Multitudes
As we begin our descent into the Holy City where Jesus will be crucified, many people still did not know Jesus. And, even those who had witnessed all of his miracles, still had a very difficult time of understanding and believing that it was all true.
Jesus wants all of his believes to feel safe and secure in their future. God provides for our basic needs. And, in this story of the bread and the fish, Jesus demonstrates his love by feeding over 5000 people.
Trusting Jesus to take care of us and providing for us is very difficult. But, He will! Jesus doesn’t just go to the cross and suffer the way that he does, just so you and I cannot live!
Let us pray…Gracious God, give us our daily bread and help us to know that you will provide for us. Lead us to where you need us to help others who are hungry. Help us to know that you will feed us with your grace and mercy. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 98: Cleansing the Evil Within
Some people think that words are just words – meaning that even if they say words that are taking the name of the Lord in vain, swearing, or fowl language, they are just words and it does not matter.
But, in our text for today, Jesus says it does matter. The reason is because what comes out defines and demonstrates what is in your heart. Our input determines our output.
How might your language demonstrate who you are in Christ? What is in your heart today that you could demonstrate to others?
Let us pray…Gracious God, help us to recognize that who we are is demonstrated by out output – how we treat others and the things that we say. Help us to be aware of what is in our hearts. Amen.
Day 99: Cost of Discipleship
Mark 8:27 – 9:1
Today is Palm Sunday. The day belongs to Jesus as he rides on a donkey into Jerusalem – the city that will execute him on the cross. But, today is a glorious day as the people rally around him singing, “Hosanna in the Highest!” The people thought that Jesus was the one who would save them from the Roman government. In fact, when others asked, “Who is this,” the response was that he was just a prophet – Not the Messiah – the One who would save them from death and sin.
And, so this misunderstanding continues through this Holy week. However, the disciples know who Jesus is – Peter says, “You are the Messiah” (Mark 8:29). But yet, Peter will be the very one who will deny Jesus, not once, not twice, but three times of ever having ever known Jesus, as he is beaten and flogged. Peter’s fear keeps him from acknowledging and telling others who Jesus is – the Messiah! However, there is a danger here – “Those who are ashamed of me and of my words…will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:37).
What is your fear this week that keeps you from proclaiming Christ as your Messiah when He is walking to the cross? How might your bold proclamation that ‘Jesus is the Messiah’ make a difference in someone’s life today? Are you willing to deny yourself for the sake of Jesus Christ?
Let us pray…Gracious God, we ask for our fear to follow you this week to be taken from us. Help us to be bold in our proclamation that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior! Give us the strength to walk with Him to the cross. Lord, we love you so much. Amen.
Day 100: Jesus, Son of God
Jesus takes three of his beloved disciples – Peter, James, and John to the top of the mountain. While they were there, Jesus is transfigured right before the eyes. I cannot even imagine what they were feeling, thinking, or experiencing. Perhaps it was so surreal that they thought they were sleeping and it was all a dream. Peter didn’t want it to end. He wanted to make altars for Elijah, Moses and Jesus so that they could come back and have this experience again and again.
I’ll never forget the day that I was ordained into the Lutheran Church. The bishop and all the clergy there that day, laid their hands on me while the Word of God was spoken. At first, I didn’t know what was happening to me because I felt like I was being elevated from the ground. There was an extreme “peace” that came over me and I felt confident that I could do whatever I had to do for the Lord. I didn’t want it to end. The experience so surreal.
How might have you experienced the presence of God in your life when you wished it didn’t have to end? We are walking with Jesus to the cross this week – an opportunity to experience Jesus in a new and profound way that may be unforgettable.
It is in these moments and times that we know that Jesus is the Son of God.
Let us pray…Gracious God, clear our schedules so that we can be with Jesus this week as He goes to the cross. Help us to remember that Jesus didn’t want to go and suffer – but “Had to” because He loves us so much and wants us to be in a relationship with Him. Let us not deny him or betray him, but be with him at all cost. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 101: Blessings of Marriage
My mom used to say, “Noting good in life is easy.”
I have been married to my husband almost 34 years. Marriage is very difficult. It takes a lot of hard work. However, I would never trade it for anything. My husband is the light of my life!
Jesus is talking about relationship in this text. When we decide to throw away a very special relationship, we effect so many people – the children we may have together, friends, extended family, and the list keeps going. Our relationship with others – especially our spouses are gold and are to be treated as such. I like to think about it as “respecting” one another – whether it is my husband, a friend, my children, or my parents.
Jesus values relationship. He values the relationship he has with you. He wants us to respect that relationship just like we would other relationships in our secular life. But, it is difficult. It takes hard work. Jesus dies for you. Take to time to get to know the one who cares about your future!
Let us pray…Dear God, relationships are hard work. Teach us to love and respect one another. Open our hearts to you so that we develop a deep and loving relationship with you. Lord, we do love you so much. Amen.
Day 102: Cleansing God’s House
Jesus was completely human and completely divine. It is a very difficult concept to understand. But, because Jesus was human, he experienced and showed emotions. We saw him weep with Mary and Martha when their brother, Lazarus had died. In fact, I believe that Jesus was who he was because of his compassion, empathy, and sympathy for other people. However, today we witness another emotion – anger! Jesus did get mad!
It was the week of the Passover and people from all over the country were pouring into Jerusalem. Part of the Passover was to have a lamb or a dove for their sacrifice to the Lord. And, depending on how much money one had, depended on the sacrifice – with the lamb being the most expensive. So, the locals were in the Temple selling to those who did not have what they needed for the Passover.
It would be like you and I going to the stadium to watch a baseball game or the movie theatre and we were forced to buy popcorn and coke from there – I mean, where else are you going to go get it? The prices are ridiculous just for a drink and a box of popcorn! Well, that was what the locals were doing to those coming in from out of town – they were ripping people off because they knew there was no other place to go! This made Jesus really mad! Not only were they “robbers,” – taking advantage of those who came to participate in the Temple!
This applies to our daily life because if we are not careful, we too may take advantage of others. I’ll never forget when our daughter was in a dance recital and we did not have enough tickets for grandparents that ended up coming. This woman had purchased too many tickets and was willing to see us her tickets at a greater cost than what they were at the door. I did not buy the tickets and wondered if she ended up with nothing, instead of something.
How might can we think about helping those who do not have what they need instead of trying to take advantage of them?
Let us pray…Gracious God, help us to open our hearts to others who may not have what they need, when we have more than we need. Help us to be generous so that we are not taking advantage others. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 103: The Great Commandment
Jesus simplified everything for us. There are only two commandments instead of Ten. The first: Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all our mind, and with all your strength. The second: Love your neighbor as yourself. This sounds easy, right? But, I tell you it is much harder than you may realize. Because here is the thing…It is human nature to put ourselves before God and before others. Otherwise, I believe that there would not be poverty and hunger. There would not be homeless people walking our streets. And, our churches would be full on Sunday mornings.
Every single one of us could do a better job loving our God and loving others the way we love ourselves. What are some ways that you can begin to love God and love others this very day?
Let us pray…Gracious God, we fail at living up to the standards that you would want us to live. We do not love you as we should. We do not love others as we love ourselves. Please forgive us, Lord. Help us to do better beginning this very day. Amen.
Day 104: The Last Supper
Maundy Thursday Sermon, 2017
It is to be believed that the terrorists – ISIS attacked the Christian Churches in Egypt with bombs just this past Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. Forty people were killed along with 100’s who are injured. I never dreamed that I would see in my lifetime when Christians are being so brutally persecuted.
Radical Muslims have been known to approach a Christian with a gun to their head saying: “Covert or die.” While I want to believe that I love Jesus so much that if that were to happen to me, I wonder would I stand up for Jesus – would I deny him? Would I confess that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior with a gun pointed at my head?
There is this thing, called Fear. Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger – If we didn’t feel it, we would not be able to protect ourselves from threats.
Therefore, FEAR is a natural response.
It is the night of the Jewish tradition, the Passover – a tradition in which the Jews celebrated to remember their freedom from the Egyptians. Jerusalem was busy and bustling as the Jewish people gathered from all parts of the region for this very special celebration. Jesus and his disciples go to a room, furnished and ready, and they gather to celebrate the meal This night was not a typical Passover night – but a night where…That while this is a time of celebration, for Jesus and his disciples, it was the night of denial and betrayal.
Jesus even warns the disciples this night: “You will all become deserters (v.27) But, they loved Jesus so much! They had been with him on this journey to Jerusalem for the past three years.
Peter says: “Even though all become deserters, I will not.” Jesus says: Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.”
Again, Peter says then: “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” (v. 31). And the rest of the disciples agreed.
We want to give the disciples a hard time. But, I wonder, what would I do if in this same position? Would we have turned our backs on Jesus in his hour of need?
Fear! It was FEAR that kept the disciples, that when confronted of having known him or being the one to lead others to him… Fear kept them from doing the right thing. It is often FEAR that keeps you and I from doing the right thing!
Peter: It was fear that caused Peter to deny ever having known Jesus. He was watching Jesus being flogged…and when for the third time, he was asked, “Aren’t you the man that has been with Jesus?” Peter flat out says, “I swear by God, I don’t even know the man.”
Judas: And, then there is Judas. He loved Jesus. But, in order for Jesus’ mission to be carried out, Judas had to do what he had to do. I just think Judas didn’t understand that Jesus was going to be actually killed. But, when he figured it all out…It was too late. He couldn’t live with himself and so he hung himself.
Pontius Pilate: And, then there is Pontius Pilate who had the authority to stop the whole thing. He was the governor. He even keeps saying that there is nothing that he can find wrong with Jesus. Pontius Pilate KNOWS THAT Jesus IS INNOCENT! His wife has a dream and tells her husband to leave Jesus alone. But, Pilate is afraid of the emperor and the crowds of the people. His political stance is more important than doing the right thing and standing up for Jesus. And, so he hands over Jesus and has him flogged and prepared for his crucifixion and execution.
His FEAR keeps him from doing the right thing.
The Pharisees: The Pharisees wanted Jesus dead because of their envy. They knew Jesus was gaining power and that the people loved him. Well, they couldn’t have that! They wanted to be in control. They wanted to be the ones who told the people what they could and couldn’t do. If Jesus lived, they FEARED that they would lose their power over the Jews.
And, so all of these people did the human thing…they put their selves before God instead of doing the right thing and standing up for Jesus –
Their FEAR kept the disciples from saying: Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. He is the Messiah. They put themselves before God because of their FEAR –
Fear of being killed like Jesus; Fear of peer pressure and losing popularity; Fear of the authorities; Fear of losing control. Jesus knew THEIR FEAR would lead him to his death.
Jesus knew that even though the disciples loved him, witnessed his miracles, and believed that he was the Messiah, but because they were afraid, Jesus would be crucified.
But, what about Jesus? Was He afraid? Because I think that He was. I believe Jesus did not want to have to suffer just like none of us want to suffer. Jesus prays that night as he threw himself on the ground: If it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.”
And, so I cannot help but to wonder how was Jesus able to get through it?
How can we get through our suffering? How do we do we overcome our fear? I believe that in order to overcome our fear, then we have to do the opposite…
What is the opposite of fear? Well, I think it could be FAITH.
Faith is the opposite of Fear. Faith is knowing and believing that your future is safe and secure.
Faith is believing that with God all things are possible. Faith is believing in the things that we cannot see – Faith is believing in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Jesus knew what His future held and that He was safe and secure – that He would sit on the right hand of God! Faith is knowing and believing that we too will be resurrected in our death.
Faith is what will get us through this night.
Let us pray, Gracious God, you sent your only Son just for us. And, even though we see the works of Christ right here in our own lives, we still do not have the faith to overcome our fear. Fill us with our love and help us to know that we are safe and secure in our future. We love you so much, Amen.
Day 105: The First Easter
Easter Sunday Sermon, 2017
THE BUCKET LIST – A 2007 Movie starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.
It is a story about 2 men who are dying from cancer. Jack Nicholson plays the character, Edward Cole. Morgan Freeman plays the character Carter Chambers. These two men end up together in a hospital room and they could not be more different in their personalities. They are on opposite sides of the spectrum.
Edward is loaded. He is a billionaire. He has been married numerous times. He has a daughter that he does not have any contact with. No one comes to visit Edward while he is in the hospital, except his assistant – and that is only because he is paid.
Carter is a car mechanic. He has been married to his wife for probably about 40 years and has four children. His wife comes to be with him every day to see him and his children care about him and love him. He has a loving relationship with his family.
The men have only two things in common:
They both are dying of cancer and have a need to come to terms with who they are and what they have done with their lives.
And, both have a desire to complete a list of things they want to see and do before they die. This list of things becomes known as the “Bucket” List –
Some things on their list are:
Climb the highest mountain
Visit other countries
Kiss the most beautiful girl
With only about a 6-month expectancy to live, the two men check out of the hospital to “Live” out their Bucket List.
What they learn about each other and about themselves surprises them in the end –In the present, they live in FEAR of the unknown of death. But, in the end, they learn what gives them joy. There is a tension that we live in – A tension between living in FEAR – but yet, searching for what brings us joy in our lives. But, I would like to make an argument for a different way of life – A new way of life!
A life that you can have without FEAR – A life that you live in pure JOY!
Let me explain…
Today is a glorious day, but the disciples don’t know it yet…Mary Magdalene and the other Mary are scared to death when they get to the place where Jesus was supposed to have been when an angel shows up – the stone rolled back and Jesus is not there, along with earthquakes. The angel tells them that Jesus is alive and that he has risen from the dead.
The angel gives them directions to go and tell the others. Hearing this news, the two women leave the tomb in “fear and with great joy.” Fear of the unknown and what they have just seen and heard, but at the same, they experience joy because they have received the news that Jesus is alive!
Fear and joy. This tension that we live in our lives every day – Both the angel and Jesus told the women this Easter morning, “Do not be afraid.” Is there a way to live our lives without fear?
How I am living out my life? What are my fears? How are you living out your life? What are your fears? What brings you joy?
Joy is difficult to pinpoint. In fact, I believe that many people get confused about the difference between Joy and Happiness. Both are positive emotions. However, they are achieved differently.
Most times “Happiness” is when something on the outside of you changes that makes you happy – For example, I remember when I turned 18 years old and I wanted a car. I came up with the down payment and went to the bank and was able to finance my first car. I was so proud of that car! I kept looking at it sitting out in the driveway. Well, I was happy until the first car payment was due. When I started making those car payments every month, that car did not make me near as happy as when I first bought it. Happiness usually is short term and it can change at the drop of the hat.
But, Joy comes from within. It is something that happens in our inner self – it’s not something you can buy or achieve on your own. It’s joy because it happens to the heart. Joy brings warmth and it’s long lasting.
Fear…Well, who doesn’t experience fear? I mean these are scary times right now – We live in a time of wars, refugee crisis, terrorism, global warming, the rise of empires, a divided nation, unstable governments – In fact, did you know that according to Google, on Election Day in 2016, more people searched “END TIMES” more than any other topic in the Bible?
Let’s face it! We are afraid! We are afraid of the unknown. We are afraid of our children’s future. We are afraid of our future! We are afraid of what tomorrow holds for us.
But, if we can understand today – our future has a different meaning!
A new day has come – Jesus’ Resurrection is an interlude of joy in the Midst of our fear! Can we trust God to keep our fear from triumphing our joy? The resurrection of Jesus is God’s sign breaking through every form of fear, human fatalism and despair! Jesus’ death and resurrection have erased our fear – giving us hope
It is that hope in God that transforms our fear into joy. Jesus promises us that we do not have to worry about anything. We are not to be afraid! Today is a new day – a new life! Alleluia! This joy that we experience is our faith – believing in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ that replaces our fear with faith!
In the movie, The Bucket List, Edward and Carter leave the hospital to begin their journey checking off the items on the list – They visit other countries. They attempt to climb the highest mountain, and they do go sky diving…
Carter leaves his family and wife to go with Edward. But, it is his time away from his wife and family that he begins to recognize that even though he was just a car mechanic and never had any money, he had more than Edward. He experienced Joy with his wife and kids. It was from within that he had these loving and lasting relationships.
Edward appeared to have it all – anything that money could buy – Edward had happiness. To make himself happy, he would just go buy the next thing or take the next vacation. But, Carter…he had love. He had true JOY – He had relationships with his wife and children. That wasn’t something money could ever buy. Carter begins to recognize that what he has is far more precious than anything that Edward has – When Carter has had enough of trying to live out his bucket list – realizing he had lived his bucket list, he wants to go home and be with his family and wife. Edward only returns back to work.
Before they part each other, Carter tells Edward: Find joy in your life. Go see your daughter.
It’s not too long in days after they depart, Carter passes away. It is not until then that Edward gets up the nerve to go see his daughter. To his surprise, she invites him in and rejoices in his visit. And, not only does Edward gain a daughter that night, but also learns that he has a granddaughter, who is about 7 years old. When Edward meets her for the first time, he leans over to give her a kiss. That night he checks off on his list, “I have kissed the most beautiful girl in the world.” Edward found joy for the first time in his life. He understood what the gift of a relationship means – to actually love something more than you love yourself. When this happens, we begin to put our faith in the one who gives us that joy – giving us a hope that we will see those that we love so much once again after we leave this place on earth.
Fear and Joy…Jesus doesn’t want us to be afraid or to live our lives in fear! Do not be afraid –Have faith and believe in the resurrection that can change your life!
Do not be afraid, Jesus said that day to the two women. And, I say: Believe! Believe in the Resurrection – the Lord who has died for you – the one who has conquered death and now gives us the opportunity to live a new life In Jesus Christ!
This is where fear and joy hit the rubber on the road! This is the crux of this text: The resurrected Christ who takes away our fear, giving us faith – Because of our belief in Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection, our fear is erased giving us the faith to live our lives in a new and profound way. God turns our fear into faith because we know we are safe and secure in our future – A future where we will live forever and be with those we love so much.
AND THAT IS PURE JOY! Our lives are about “faith” and joy, Not “fear” and joy!
Do you want this new life? A life that gives you joy in knowing that you will never die?
Jesus Christ has risen! He is alive and brings us this New Life! Believe! And, experience it right now!
Day 106: Moses is Saved
Exodus 1:6-16; 2:1-10
This new king was ruthless! He asked that every baby boy be killed. This is a story, however, that when it is God’s will, God will make it happen. Moses survives the killing of the baby boys. And, what is even more ironic is that the mother of Moses is called to nurse her own child, even though the Pharaoh’s daughter does not know this. This is no doubt, one of my favorite Old Testament stories.
God has a plan for each one of us. We are born for a purpose in this world! If God has a job for you to do, God will not stop until you receive that message! Doors will open, God will send others to you so that you will know what that message is for you, and sleeping and eating will be difficult until you act on what you are being called to do for the Lord.
Open your heart today for God’s possibilities for you!
Let us pray, Gracious God – Open our hearts to your will. Help us to listen with our hearts and be willing to step out on our faith for you. We love you so much. Amen
Day 107: The Reluctant Leader
Poor Moses! He just doesn’t want to go and do this thing that God wants him to do. He thinks of every excuse in the book – What if they don’t believe; I can’t speak eloquently; I don’t know what to do or to say. And, wow! God provides him with the tools and the words that he will need to go up against the Pharaoh.
I heard this exact words from my daughter who is a youth director for a congregation. She has said, “I don’t feel equipped.” But, the thing is, God will provide and give you what you need to do the job! God sent her to a retreat for youth directors. She was revived in her call and left feeling equipped and knowing what she needed to do!
What is God asking you to do that you may not feel equipped to do? Listen to how God is calling you and God will provide a way for you t accomplish the work!
Let us pray…Gracious God, give us the faith that we need to do your work – knowing that you will provide for us to do your work. We love you so much. Amen.
Day 108: God Calls Moses
A “theophany” is when God appears to humans. In this case, God appears to Moses in the form of a burning bush. In other words, the bush is burning, but never burns away. Can you imagine Moses’s surprise and fear?
God is calling Moses to go and rescue the Israelites from the Egyptians. The Israelites are slaves in Egypt. But, here is what I think is really interesting…Moses was raised by the Pharaoh’s daughter in Egypt. The last thing that Moses wants to do is go back to Egypt and deal with those people! And, I don’t blame him. However, it does makes sense because Moses would know the “ends and the outs” of the land and their culture. He would know better than anyone how to deal with them and what they are up against.
Moses doesn’t want to go. He says, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (V.11). But, God promises Moses, “I will be with you!”
Be prepared that you may not want to do what God is calling you to do for Him. I can promise you it will never be easy. But, God does promise, “God will be with you!”
Let us pray…Gracious God, prepare our hearts and minds for what you want us to do in this world for YOU! Give us the strength and courage to go out and do your will. This we pray in your name, Amen.
Day 109: Struggle with Pharaoh
I pray every day that those who are persecuting Christians – even just lately in the Christian churches in Egypt that God will somehow turn the hearts. There are so many people whose hearts are hardened and there is nothing that will convince them to turn from their sin and change. We are commanded to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our strength. And, to love others as we love ourselves. It feels no different today than it was then when Pharaoh treated the Israelites as slaves.
But, God hears our cries just as God heard the cries of the Israelites. None of us know what will happen to those whose hearts are so hardened; however, for the Egyptians, God did punish them and made life very difficult. Can you imagine that if our water source were a pool of blood? We would not live very long without fresh water. Unfortunately, not even this was enough to change the Pharaoh’s heart.
Let us pray…Lord, Jesus Christ, help us to turn from our evil ways so that we hear the cries of the people who are being abused, who are hungry, and need our help. We pray for those who are being persecuted because they love you – change the hearts of those who act with judgement and violence. We pray this in your name, Amen.
Day 110: Terrible Plagues
I believe that is important to take note that God loves the Israelites – even to this day, I fear that Israel will be harmed by other countries who do not see that they are God’s people. In this text in verse 12 it states, “But the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he would not listen to them…” I find this interesting because just as we cannot open our own hearts to the Lord, we cannot change our own hearts or the hearts of others. It takes the work of the Holy Spirit to change hearts!
But, why did God not want to change the heart of Pharaoh? Why then, would God not want to change the hearts of the terrorists who are persecuting God’s people today – the Christians? This is a difficult question for me to answer. However, in this text God says, “But this is why I have let you live: to show you my power and to make my name resound through all the earth” (v.16). Could it be that God wants us to turn to Him and put our trust in Him in these difficult days of terrorism, killings, and shootings? Could it be that God wants his divine power to be known and His name resound through all the earth? And, are we paying attention?
Therefore, I cannot help but to wonder if Christians are not being called to a greater faith and understanding that we are to know that we are safe and secure in God’s hands, no matter whose hearts are so hardened? Were the Egyptians not afraid those days of what was coming next? Because I think they were! But, the Israelites learned and trusted that they did not have to be afraid. They had God on their side! They were safe and secure and had nothing to be afraid of! God protected them through all of the plagues.
I think it is beyond us to know what will happen to those whom God chooses to not soften the hearts. However, for those of us who do love our God – we know our future! We know we are safe and secure!
These are frightening days as people are more and more bold about their hate for others. Trust in God who has your back. Live your life through the lens of Jesus Christ. Know your future is greater than anything we can humanly imagine.
Let us pray…Gracious God, we know you love us and will protect us through our days. Help us to deepen our faith in knowing that you have our backs in this scary and difficult world. Give us the strength and the ability to view the world through your lens and show us how you would react and respond in this world of chaos and hate. In your name we pray, Amen.
Day 111: The first Passover
I was living in Atlanta when I received my Master of Divinity and completed my year of internship. I still had to complete a year at the Lutheran seminary but then would be ready to accept my first call as a pastor. We owned our home in Atlanta and my husband and I were at a loss as to when we should try and sell our home. Of course, it was my hopes that I could stay in the area.
Before we ever made the decision to sell our house, I received a call on my cell phone asking me if we would be interested in selling our house. I told him that we would be. We sold the house that weekend and were moved out into a rental home by the end of the month. I still do not know to this day how this person retrieved my cell number. However, I knew at that point that God had plans for me – and it didn’t include staying in the area.
With the sell of our house, we were ready! We were ready for whatever God had for us next!
God sent 10 plagues on the Egyptians asking them to let go of the Israelites so that they could go home and worship their Lord. It wasn’t until this last plague where God sends the “destroyer” (v. 23) into the homes to kill their firstborn – not just the firstborn of the people, but also the firstborn of cattle, herds, and livestock. This is the plague that the Pharaoh lets the people go – It is the first Passover for the Jews in which, they will celebrate each year from here on out as a remembrance of their freedom from the Egyptians. But, they must leave immediately – “Then he (Pharaoh) summoned Moses and Aaron in the night, and said, ‘Rise up, go away from my people, both you and the Israelites…be gone!’” (v. 31-32). This being the reason for the unleavened bread because they would not have time to wait for it to rise. The Israelites had to be ready as soon as they had the opportunity.
Can you imagine the hearts of the Israelites as they prepared that night for the Lord to “pass over” their home so that their first born would not be killed? There is no doubt that one’s faith would have to be strong – the faith of knowing that you would be in the hands of the Lord! These Israelites had never been to the promised land and had no idea how wonderful it was going to be – but had the faith and the hope that they would have that opportunity to find out!
If we allow God to dream our dreams for us, allow our hearts to be prepared and ready for the next thing – whether it is here on earth or in our eternal life, we may learn that it is beyond anything that we could possibly imagine! This requires faith – faith in knowing that we rest in the arms of the Lord!
Are you ready for what God has next for you? What is God calling you to do that may require an action on your part? Has God opened the doors for you to begin your next journey? Are you listening? Are you paying attention?
Let us pray…Gracious God, help us to be ready for what you are calling us do next. Prepare our hearts and minds for your call and open the doors for us to move forward on our journey to the promised land. We love you so much, Amen.
Day 112: Free!
Exodus 13:17-22; 14:5-9, 15-31
In the United States, we are a free country! We enjoy freedom to ‘pretty’ much whatever we want to do – freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. We can work where we want, buy what we want, and go where we want. We are a free country. I believe there is no other place like this country we live in.
However, freedom doesn’t mean that it was ‘free.’ There was a price that was paid for our freedom. Many of young people have fought wars so that we can enjoy our freedoms and have the ‘freedom’ to do all things that we do and say.
I love this story about how God protects the Israelites from the Egyptians. God hardens the hearts of the Egyptians so that God’s glory may be made known to the Egyptians (14:17). God wanted both the Israelites and the Egyptians to know that if God is for you, no one can be against you! God will protect you! God loves justice! And, so God frees the Israelites and they cross over the divided Red Sea. When the Egyptians try to cross, the sea falls back into itself and the Egyptians drown. The Israelites are now free! They are no longer slaves to the Egyptians.
God wants us to be free! He doesn’t want us to be bound to our sin and so God frees us in a way that no one else can possibly free us – no matter what country you live in. We are sinful people by nature because of our free will. So, God sends Jesus – his only Son, so that we can be free! Through Jesus Christ our sins have the potential to be forgiven! When we believe in the Christ Jesus who died for us, and repent our sins, God frees us! We are no longer bound to our guilt for our wrongdoings – but ‘free’ to live a new life in Jesus!
We do live in a great country where we experience freedoms – freedom of speech, press, and religion. But, Jesus Christ will ‘free’ you from your sin – no longer holding you bound to your wrongdoings! Do you deserve it? No! But, that is why God is pure love! And, Jesus Christ paid the price for your freedom.
Let us pray…Gracious God, we don’t deserve to be forgiven and loved the way that you love us. Help us to recognize how you protect us from our own selves – our own sin. We are your children and you care for us so deeply that you sent your Son, Jesus Christ to pay the price for our freedom. Gracious God, we give you thanks and praise – Amen.
Day 113: Moses’ Faith
The meaning of faith, “Is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen…By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible” (Hebrews 11:1-3).
‘Faith’ is one of the hardest things for us to understand and grasp. I believe that ‘faith’ must be experienced and once experienced, faith grows and we gain more faith. Faith is the work of the Holy Spirit that stirs within us – giving us the strength to ‘let go’ of the things that we can see and can understand – but, does not hold the power of the Spirit.
Unfortunately, faith often happens when one has reached the end his or her rope – there are no other alternatives – no other means in which to reach the assurance of our hope. For example, Moses was placed in the Nile River by his mother because all the firstborn boys were being slaughtered. His mother put her faith in the Lord to take care of him. And, God did! If she had not done that – then most likely Moses would have been found and killed.
Many people who have found they have cancer, or lose their jobs – cannot pay their bills, or suffer a tragedy – who have become afraid for whatever reason, and have lost control of their lives and their situation, have a choice…One can turn to God and have faith that God will take care of them or they hate God because of their situation.
Faith is making the choice to give God the glory in your desperate time of need, or taking matters into your own hands. Faith is recognizing that you cannot do this ‘thing’ on your own. Faith is believing that no matter what the outcome of a situation is the will of God. Faith is knowing that you are ‘safe and secure’ in the hands of God, no matter what happens.
Here is the thing…Our faith in God and God’s power, will give you the opportunity to witness to our Risen Lord in a profound way.
Faith is the ‘tangible ability to put our hands on what is promised by God! Faith in God is the experience of God providing something better than we can ever imagine – apart from us, be made perfect! (Hebrews 11:40)
Let us pray…Gracious God, faith is difficult for us when we are suffering and feel so lost and alone. Help us to remember that you are the one in control and that we are ‘safe and secure’ in your hands. Open our hearts to all your possibilities that you have in store for us. We love you so much, Amen.
Day 114: Wilderness Food
In 2011, the civil wars in Syria has resulted in the displacement of more than 11 million people within and beyond the country’s borders. This means that these people have no money, no jobs, no food, and no shelter.
In our county, we have approximately 108 children who go to school each day only then to leave the school and go sleep in a car or a tent at night. Families who are on the street for whatever reason – loss of job, divorce, domestic abuse, and reasons beyond my comprehension live on the streets.
Does God hear their cries?
In Exodus 16:2-26, Moses, Aaron, and the congregation of the Israelites have been freed as slaves from Egypt. They are now in the wilderness and no means of fulfilling their needs of hunger. They begin to complain to Moses saying that perhaps they should have stayed slaves – At least, they were fed and had plenty to eat!
God hears their complaining and understands their needs. So, God provides by raining ‘manna,’ – a bread like substance, on the earth in the mornings and sending quail in the evenings. On the sixth day, God sends double what they need so that they can rest on the seventh day – the Sabbath.
God heard the cries of the Israelites to be freed from the Egyptians. God heard their cries when they get into the wilderness and they are hungry. God provides for them! He frees them and gets them out of Egypt and God rains manna and provides quail – enough for all to be fed!
But, does hear the cries of those who are crying for their basic needs to be met today? I believe that God does! He uses you and I as a means in which, to reach those who are crying out to God for food and shelter!
However, like the Israelites, we don’t listen. And, even if we are listening, we don’t obey! Those who have their hearts open to the Lord will hear how they are to respond to help others who are in need. We are the hands and feet of Jesus!
Ask God today how you can help someone who is hungry? You may be amazed when you are presented with someone who comes in your path who needs your help.
Let us pray…Gracious God, open our hearts to hear the cries of your people who need food and shelter. Give us the means and the ability to reach out to those who need our help. We pray this in your name, Amen
Day 115: Jethro’s Advice
We can get so caught up in the mundane things in life, that before you know it, we are sitting in the same place – morning to evening – and not doing what we are passionate about and that bring us joy.
Passion is an emotion that drives us to do something ‘really’ well. We do it well because it is something that we enjoy doing. Passion can be seen in the person’s actions, their facial expressions, and their attitude when doing that ‘thing’ that they love to do. Passion brings ‘joy’ to the one who is sharing their passion with others and to those who are on the receiving end of that passion.
For example, I have a friend who was a dental hygienist before she retired. She now cleans teeth for the homeless as her vocation for God! Just to hear her story, her passion for what she is doing is ‘catchy.’ Her passion wants ‘you’- the one she is telling her story to – to be a part of her ministry! Her passion is evident and alive in what she does for the Lord! Her passion brings her joy!
Moses has brought the people out of slavery with the Egyptians and they are now in the wilderness, searching for the land that God has promised them. The people have complained of hunger and thirst. In each case, God has provided. Moses is passionate about helping the people. He is passionate about obeying God and doing what is right in the eyes of God. Today, he is sitting as the judge before the people to settle their grievances. He sits there from morning until evening. Jethro, his father-in-law sees the good things that Moses is doing, but quickly realizes that he will not be able to sustain the journey if he continues to work at his current rate of speed.
Jethro says, “What you are doing is not good. You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone” (Exodus 18:1-23).
What Jethro then suggests to Moses is to enlist others to come and help him. Keep the major and difficult cases, but then let others who are capable, make decisions on the minor cases. And, so Moses does so. Can you imagine Moses’ relief when he no longer will just sit there and hear the complaints of the people all day long?
I think life can be this way…We can get so caught up in the mundane things in life, that before you know it, we are sitting in the same place – morning to evening – and not doing the things that we are passionate about and that bring us joy.
What are you passionate about? Is there a ministry for God that would bring you joy, but you cannot do that ‘thing’ because of the mundane responsibilities in your everyday life? How can you begin today to delegate to others so that your time, energy, and passion for God can shine before others?
Let us pray…Gracious God, help us to find our passion for you and what will bring us joy in serving you. Help us to delegate to others so that we have the time for the joy in our lives. We love you so much, Amen.
Day 116: Ten Commandments
Life is about priorities. We do the things that we do every day because it’s what is important to us. We go to work because it is a priority that we earn a living to pay our bills. We send our children to school because it is a priority that our kids get a good education. We exercise because it is a priority that we stay healthy. We make choices every day and rate our choices by what is most important to us. Our actions demonstrate our priorities and what is most important to us.
While Moses and the Israelites are in the wilderness after escaping Egypt, Moses met with God on Mount Sinai. The mountain was wrapped in smoke and shook. When Moses would speak to God, God would answer in thunder (Exodus 19:17-19). The people waited at the bottom of the mountain and were forbid to even touch the mountain. God then summoned Moses to the top of the mountain. It is on this mountain that God gave Moses the Ten Commandments.
God gave us the Ten Commandments – that not even one of us – have the ability or the capability to follow. Why did God do that? Why did God give us rules that we cannot live by or keep? We fail on all accounts!
Here is what I think…I believe that there is ‘really’ only one commandment that matters the most. With this one commandment, all the other commandments fall into place. It is the first commandment: “Love the Lord your God – you shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:1-3).
What are other gods? Well, it’s all those other priorities in life that we put before God! Instead of worshipping on Sunday morning, we may sleep in. Sleep or laziness becomes a priority before God – it becomes our god. Instead of making sure our children know Jesus and are educated in a Christ environment, our children attend soccer, baseball, or other activities. Sports becomes a priority before God – another god. Instead of tithing and building the Kingdom of God, we spend our money on things that we don’t need, but want. Materialism is a god and we may have the tendency to worship our money. Any time we put other things before our relationship with our Lord, God then – is not our priority.
What are your priorities in your life today? Are you making your relationship with God your priority? How can you begin today to put God first – to put away other gods. God first in your life has the potential to change your life! It’s about priorities! Life is about making God your priority!
Let us pray…Gracious God, we are guilty of having other gods that have gotten in the way of our relationship with you. Help us to recognize that we do not put you first. Help us to see the other gods as imposters to what brings us joy. This we pray in your name, Amen.
Day 117: The Golden Calf
Every New Year that rolls around, I begin to make my list of my resolutions. I’m almost certain that it is about the same each year: Exercise, eat healthy, spend more time with God, and on and on. Every year, I do well the first week. However, by the second and third week come around, I am already back to my old habits and nothing has changed. Why is this so difficult? Why can’t I just do what I need to do – and do ii?
Moses is on the mountain with God. God gives Moses the two tablets with the Ten Commandments. However, while Moses is on the mountain, the Israelites are getting impatient for his return. So, they go to Aaron – Moses’ brother, and say, “We need a leader! Make gods for us to lead us.” Aaron instructs them to take off their gold earrings. He then throws the gold into the fire and out comes this Golden Calf. The Israelites begin to worship the Golden Calf.
God knows this is going on while Him and Moses are on the mountain. God is very angry and wants to destroy the whole camp – because already they have broken the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me.” But, Moses convinces God to change his mind. But, when Moses goes down the mountain and see what the Israelites are doing, he becomes so angry that he throws the Tablets and breaks them in into pieces, melted the Golden Calf in the fire, scattered it on the water, and made the Israelites drink it.
What does God give Commandments that we cannot follow?
I believe that we make our New Year’s resolutions because we know we need to change – to be transformed into the people we want to be – healthy, educated, better moms and dads, or whatever the case may be. God gave us the Ten Commandments because God wants us to be transformed into a better person and do the Christ-like thing in any given situation. However, not only do we make our resolutions almost impossible to follow, but also, God gave us Commandments that are impossible to follow! It’s too hard! We are sinful people by nature! We have the word, FAIL across our foreheads before we even get get out of bed in the morning!
God knew we would not be able to follow those Commandments! The Israelites proved that before they even saw the Tablets! I believe the only chance we have is to not only make God a priority in our life, but to make God our LIFE! In other words, I don’t believe that God wants us to fail. I believe God wants us to love Him as much as He loves us! It’s why God sent His Son into the world – to break that barrier of sin so that you and I can have a relationship with Him!
I promise you that you cannot follow those Ten Commandments. The only chance you have is to ask God into your life – where God becomes your LIFE! God’s amazing grace will engulf you – transforming you into the person that He intended you to be on this earth.
Let us pray…Gracious God, every day we try to do the right thing and follow your rules; however, we continually mess up and do the very thing we don’t want to do. Help us to turn to you where you offer us your amazing grace. We love you so much, Amen.
Day 118: Tables of the Law
I’ll never forget the day when I was dreading my husband coming home from work. I had made a decision, but, I didn’t know how he was going to react. So, when he walked into the house that evening, I just came straight out with it – no beating around the bush, no hints, just right out it came – “I want to go to seminary.” He says, “You want to do what?” I told him, “It’s what I want and it is the only thing that will make me happy.”
When Moses got angry with the people for worshiping the Golden Calf, he smashed the Tablets that God gave him with the Ten Commandments. Now Moses is having another conversation with God just before God tells Moses to cut out two tablets like the ones he smashed, and God will write on them again. However, Moses is frustrated. In his conversation with God, Moses is very blunt and to the point. He just comes right out with it – this is what I want!
Moses says, “Look, you tell me, ‘Lead your people,’ but you don’t let me know who you are even going to send with me. You say you know me well and I am special – but you don’t let me in on the plan! And, don’t forget, this is your people, your responsibility.” (Exodus 33:12-13)
Moses let God know what was going to make him happy! He was blunt and to the point.
And, God answers Moses and tells him, I will go with you. I will be with you. God renews his covenant with Moses – performing marvels that have not been performed in all the earth or in any nation…for it is an awesome thing I will do with you (Exodus 34:10).
I wonder if sometimes we need to just come out with it! Say what we want. Tell God what will make us happy. I don’t think God is going to give us material things, but I do think God will give us what we need – and most likely something much greater than we could dream up on our own.
What is it that you want? What will make you happy? Tell God! Let God dream your dream for you!
Let us pray…Gracious God, sometimes we just say what we think you want to hear. But sometimes, we need to just say it – tell you what will make us happy – what it is we want. Help us to be bold when we speak with you. Help us to let you dream our dreams for us. In your name we pray, Amen.