The Year of The Lord’s Favor – Isaiah 61

The Year of The Lord’s Favor – Isaiah 61

Read Isaiah 61

This is a beautiful picture of redemption and what happens when we let Jesus into our life or specific situations.  Jesus actually quotes this verse when He starts His ministry, which is beautiful because He is saying I am the fulfillment of this prophecy.  I have come to comfort those who mourn, I have come to take ashes and turn them into something beautiful.  He is proclaiming the gospel and the power of God.  He is telling us that He alone can take the parts of our lives, the ruins if you will, and makes them strong.  He takes the weaknesses, the fears we have, and He turns them into strength and faith.  This is the power of the Holy Spirit in us.  What was meant to destroy us actually begins to make us strong, what we or others might have thought made us unworthy is now the very thing that God is using to show the power of His gospel.

So what is it today that looks dead, looks weak, or looks too dark for God to ever do anything with in our lives?  Give it to God, ask Him to take it and use it for His glory.  Don’t allow shame to make you hide it anymore.  Bring it out into the open and let the light of God’s amazing love shine to make it a light for others.  This is the gospel.  This is the power of God and His love.

— Luke Lauber

A Bruised Reed He Will Not Break – Psalm 31

A Bruised Reed He Will Not Break – Psalm 31

Read Psalm 31

Psalm 31:9-14

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; My eye is wasted away from grief, my soul and my body also. 10 For my life is spent with sorrow And my years with sighing; My strength has failed because of my iniquity, And my body has wasted away. 11 Because of all my adversaries, I have become a reproach, Especially to my neighbors, And an object of dread to my acquaintances; Those who see me in the street flee from me. 12 I am forgotten as a dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel. 13 For I have heard the slander of many, Terror is on every side; While they took counsel together against me, They schemed to take away my life. 14 But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord, I say, “You are my God.”

The Take Away

David went before God with legitimate physical and emotional pain, threats and fears.  How many of us would go to God with these complaints? Or would we hide in shame and fear that we did something wrong, therefore God is punishing us!  David, boldly brought his issues to God, but he didn’t wallow in his situations.  BUT he declared TRUTH over his circumstances.  This is the most powerful thing you can say over your situations, “As for me, I trust in You, O Lord, I say, “You are my God.”

— James Adams

Obedience Isn’t Always Easy – John 6

Obedience Isn’t Always Easy – John 6

Read John 6

Jesus regularly put his disciples in circumstances where their faith would be tested. In verses 15 and 16, he went off by himself to pray, and the disciples hopped in a boat to cross the sea. Matthew’s account is a bit more descriptive. He states Jesus instructed the disciples to go ahead of him in the boat, and the boat was tossed by the waves, because the wind was contrary.

The disciples were doing what Jesus instructed, but their efforts were met with considerable resistance.  As they were struggling, they caught sight of Jesus walking toward them on the water. He reassured them. His voice and his presence awed and calmed them.

We can be walking the path Jesus has instructed us to take and encounter some significant obstacles. There are times we question his love and his presence. When life throws a disaster at us – a death of a loved one, loss of a career – we think we’ve done something wrong, or Jesus doesn’t care. This simply isn’t true. You can be right where Jesus wants you and face all sorts of trials. We live in a fallen world with an enemy who wants us defeated.

Rather than give in to the doubts when circumstances are difficult, ask these questions: “What can I learn from this?” and “Whom can I help with what I’ve learned?” These questions turn us toward Jesus, who will reassure us with his voice and his presence just as he did the disciples.

— Jeannie Siefken

Revolutionary Thinking – Matthew 4

Revolutionary Thinking – Matthew 4

Read Matthew 4

Some of the most dramatic changes the world has ever seen have come from people who turned ideas on their head. People with “upside down” or “revolutionary” ideas tend to gather followers and begin changing the world around them with their ideas, pushing forward despite the fact that revolutionary ideas often go against the grain of culture. If anyone ever presented revolutionary ideas that changed the world, it was certainly Jesus! He presented ideas that were culturally opposite, gained followers (and is still gaining them today), and weren’t generally well received by culture.

In Matthew 5, Jesus is at it again! He retired to a mountainside and explained to his friends that they were to live against the grain of both culture and human nature and would be rewarded for it. He also made clear that culture taught them wrong, saying things like, “You have heard that” followed by “But I say to you.” These ideas of Jesus’ obviously weren’t popular at the time, nor are they popular today. I’ll be the first to say that it’s HARD to love my enemy and turn the other cheek but each of the things that he mentions are steps to a world changed in the Spirit. Jesus explains that we’re the salt and light of the world (v. 13-16), indicating that we’re the preservation of Jesus’ actions and teachings as well as the example of them. We are the followers that Jesus recruited to help propel his revolutionary ideas. What a privilege!

— Brittany Bowman

Accomplish Something – Isaiah 55

Accomplish Something – Isaiah 55

Read Isaiah 55

I remember being a young mom with a toddler by my side all day long.  Let me make sure you heard the ALL DAY LONG part.  I had prayed for a snuggly baby. Well that snuggly baby became a clingy 2-year old.  There were days I would call my husband when he was having a “grown up lunch”, and I was having peanut butter and jelly with Cheetos…again…because that was her favorite.  In those moments, I wondered do all the “mom” things really even matter?  As a “list maker”, there were many days I found myself beyond frustrated with what I had not accomplished.

Verse 11 of Isaiah 55 gives hope and reminds us that if we live out God’s Word, it will not return empty.  God accomplishes what He desires.

My “task list”, while essential for daily living, is nothing in comparison to God accomplishing what He desires with my life.  And God’s ways and thoughts are not like ours.

If we truly believe the Word of God will not return empty, as we fill our minds with it, His ways and thoughts will become our own. Maybe then we would live our life with a lot more faith and a little less need to feel like “we” accomplished something.  For He says His word will accomplish what He desires.  

No matter where you find yourself today, having a grown up lunch or surrounded by Cheetos, remember to live your life by getting into the Word and living it out.  You can then be a part of God’s work by trusting Him to work through you.

— Sheila Konitzer

Thirsty – Psalm 63

Thirsty – Psalm 63

Read Psalm 63

One of our daughters recently moved to Temecula, California.  On my first visit, I quickly noticed that my skin, lips and mouth felt as if I was turning into a raisin.  It is so dry and hot out there!  It didn’t take long until I was thirsty.  Have you ever been so thirsty all you can think about is quenching that thirst?  Where a cold glass of water begins to consume your thoughts?

This is how we find David in Psalm 63. David is in the wilderness of Judah, yet instead of having a drink of water consume his thoughts, David’s desire for God is all-consuming.  I love how David says his lips will praise God, and his hands are lifted up in the Lord’s name.

It’s refreshing.  This thirst David has for the Lord is beautiful.

Then in verse 9, he informs us that people are out to kill him. Wait, what?  What?  I am sorry, but I’m pretty sure if someone was out to kill me, the first words out of my mouth to the Lord would be protect me, help me – something along those lines.  Yet, David says my lips will praise you and my soul thirsts for you.

Reflect for a moment today on your thirst for the Lord.  Does it consume you as if you were in a dry land? With all of the stress of your day, do you praise the Lord regardless of your circumstances?

Lord, make us thirsty.  Give us an unquenchable thirst for your Word.

— Sheila Konitzer

Renew Your Mind – Romans 12

Renew Your Mind – Romans 12

Read Romans 12

In Romans 12:2 notice the word renewing is continuous. It doesn’t say renew, like a once and done.  Renewing is a daily and lifelong process.  To renew our mind means we are going to think differently than the world. Then the world will tell us, we are wrong, so we will try to blend back in.  Therefore, we must renew daily.  It’s human nature to want to fit in, to be a part of the world around us.

I remember being invited to a gathering of parents from our daughter’s school.  From the moment I walked in, I knew it was a place I would not fit in.  Ever feel that way?  Like you know that either you should not be there, or everyone else is looking at you and thinking that very same thing?  They knew I was different.  I wanted to fit in, to be accepted. Often we can fall into changing how we act or what we say to try and impress others, so they will like us.

So what does a transformed life look like?  In Romans 12, Paul gives us a great outline for such living.

Sacrifice your body—live in a way that glorifies God

Separate from the world—renew your mind daily

Serve in love—use and share your gifts

Respond to evil with good—love unconditionally

So often today we see a consumer Christianity – a “what’s in it for me” mentality.  Romans 12 challenges us, not out of performance or religious rules, but from a relationship with Jesus, to stand out because it’s not about us.  Today let your words and actions show the transforming love and power of Jesus.

— Sheila Konitzer

From Rejoicing to Trust – Psalm 138

From Rejoicing to Trust – Psalm 138

Read Psalm 138

How often do you take time to focus on how great God is? When is the last time you thanked God for what He has done for you? Take a moment before you read any further, to think on how great God is.

I hope that in that moment you were able to think of several great things that God is and does. That is exactly what we see David doing in Psalm 138. He spends the first three verses just praising the greatness and unending love of God. David is unabashedly praising the name of God saying that he will sing praises to God before the gods of this world. I feel conviction in that line. How willing am I to take time to praise God before the things of this world?

Then, David goes on to say that even the kings of earth, or the highest people on earth, will still sing the praises of the Lord. No earthly standing or title makes you above praising the Lord. In the final two verses, David turns his rejoicing to trust. David knows from spending his time rejoicing in the Lord that he has a Protector, and someone who promises to be there with him in the tough times of his life. How refreshing would it be if we were able to rejoice in the Lord so fully that we could turn that rejoicing into trust as well?

— Ryan Burrow

Why Do I Sing? – Psalm 98

Why Do I Sing? – Psalm 98

Read Psalm 98

Growing up in a small, southern church it seemed that the men, including my Pops, would not even crack a smile during worship music (the only exception being for one of the classics like “How Great Thou Art”). As a kid I was perplexed by this because I was the one jamming out in the tenth pew from back where my family sat. Looking back, I am sure that this was the norm for those men, maintaining their stern faces because they needed to work hard, be the rock for their families, and stay strong. Though this confused me as a boy, I can see how God has used several of these hard-as-nails men to shape me.

Despite our efforts to be big and strong the toughest man already lived. More than that, he chose to die for us, the ones who oftentimes literally do not give him the time of day. I rejoice in a Savior that is greater than me, He refreshes my soul. The marvelous work of salvation is that I don’t have to be tough and I don’t have to earn it. It is not based on me. That is the hope that I hold on to, and that is why I sing. In spite of my shortcomings, I rejoice and I sing a new song because salvation has come. Are you letting your toughness keep you from rejoicing?

— Jared Lupo

Abiding in Christ’s Presence – Psalm 16

Abiding in Christ’s Presence – Psalm 16

Read Psalm 16

Once we have placed our faith in Christ, we have the assurance that he will always be with us, and that he will never leave or forsake us. Furthermore, Jesus assures us that no one will ever be able to snatch us out of the Father’s hand. We don’t need to be concerned about our standing with God, because we can rest assured that he is always with us. In Psalm 16, David speaks of the delight of this assurance and the joy that comes from abiding in God’s presence. His presence is a place of preservation, and we can put our absolute dependence on God. The presence of God is a place of instruction and counsel, joy and rest. “At your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

God is faithful, and he will never allow those who abide in Him to see corruption or decay. Not only that, but he promises to provide for us, protect us, and sustain us. The greatest gift of all is the gift of his presence, which we are granted by the power of the Holy Spirit, through faith in Jesus Christ. Abide in Christ today, and thank Him for the gift of his presence. Through abiding in him, we can come to know and understand the fullness of grace, love, peace, and joy that God intends for us to experience in our everyday lives.

— Alex De Zeeuw

 

God Deserves Your Praise – 1 Chronicles 16

God Deserves Your Praise – 1 Chronicles 16

Read 1 Chronicles 16

In this passage, we read about people worshipping God with all their might, singing praises to him and telling of his wonderful acts. They rejoice as they seek the Lord, and they rejoice as a natural response to remembering what he has done. When do you find it difficult to rejoice? How do you remind yourself of God’s wonderful works in your life?

Take a moment and reflect on what God has done for you and is doing in your life and your family’s life right now. Our God is faithful and remembers his promises, and so he is worthy of our praise. The worldly things in which we put our faith (wealth, popularity, power, etc.) will always fail us, but God never will! He is the Creator and Sustainer of the whole world, and all of creation praises God.

The song ends with this phrase: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” If for nothing else, here is your reason to praise God. He is good and his love never fails or falls short or lets you down. Rejoice in worshipping him today, the Creator God who loves you and sent his Son to die for you, even in spite of your sin, so that he could have the chance to know you. He is good indeed!

— Megan Elmer

Be My Guide – Deuteronomy 33

Be My Guide – Deuteronomy 33

Read Deuteronomy 33

In the final chapters of Deuteronomy, Moses concludes his sermons as he is about to die. In chapter 33, we read Moses’ blessings to the tribes of Israel. God appeared on Mount Sinai in awesome majesty and power, and yet he loves his people. In verse 3, God’s love is confessed to humanity. Maybe today you need to remember that our great God loves you and comes down from Heaven to meet with you on your Mount Sinai. 

Many of the blessings that Moses gives to the people are blessings God later gives to us. “Indeed, he loves his people; all his holy ones are in his hands. They follow in his steps and accept his teaching” (Deut. 33:3). “There is no one like the God of Israel. He rides across the heavens to help you, across the skies in majestic splendor. The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you” (Deut. 33:26-27). 

Just as Moses blessed Israel in this chapter, let your soul find rest and peace in our faithful God. He will guide you and steer the direction of your life. No matter how far you fall, God’s hands are always underneath you; you can never fall out of his reach. When we rejoice in this promise, we can be refreshed by the blessings of God.

Father, be my guide. Direct my steps so I may walk in your way, knowing that there are blessings to come. Show me my very next step. I pray that I will cling to you as I walk in your blessings. Amen.

— Kyler Koch

Embracing God’s Correction – Hebrews 12

Embracing God’s Correction – Hebrews 12

Read Hebrews 12

Years ago I worked for a major telecommunications company.  I recall a decision I made that was looked upon by management as the wrong thing to do. Without the boring details, I found myself in a position of having to defend a decision I felt was the right and only thing I could do. After being reprimanded, I recall driving home that day so angry at the injustice done by my superiors. In hopes of comfort, I grabbed my bible, decided I would just flip it open and point to a scripture to see what God would give me. When I flipped it open, closed my eyes and pointed down… I landed on this:

Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” (Proverbs 12:1)

Ouch. God was teaching me about humility and discipline. Accepting correction and understanding, that God, as my father, desires growth. My attitude was wrong. In fact, in hindsight, I was wrong about the issue I was being reprimanded for.

Hebrews 12:7 – As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father?

Hebrews 12:8 – If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all.

Embrace God’s correction and be thankful it confirms his love for you as your father.

— Ben Abu Saada

Intentional Inclusion – Luke 14

Intentional Inclusion – Luke 14

Read Luke 14

In Luke 14:12-14, we see Jesus introduce “intentional inclusion” to us. Jesus gives instructions that we should include people from outside our comfort zones, maybe even ones who we consider to be lowly, to be a routine part of our everyday lives. Jesus goes further and gives clear instruction that we need to intentionally embrace those with disabilities both in our personal lives and our church.

Jesus immediately shares the Parable of the Great Feast. After trying to invite all of the rich and prominent friends to only be turned down, the master then invited “the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame” to enjoy the feast. Once again we see intentional inclusion! God is also giving us as Christians clear instructions as to what we are to do. We are to “go quickly” (v. 21) and bring those with disabilities to the Church.

The Church needs those with disabilities just as much as those with disabilities need the Church! This is also why we see this passage say that if you do this you will be blessed. God intends for individuals with special needs to be fully engaged in the Church, and He expects His Church to actively include everyone. This mandate requires churches to be flexible, which is good. Every individual with special needs is created in God’s image and deserves a seat at God’s banquet table.

Will you join me in inviting them to the Church and showing them God’s love? Let’s be an intentionally inclusive Church!

— Doc Hunsley

Heads Up for Help – Psalm 121

Heads Up for Help – Psalm 121

Read Psalm 121

This is a Psalm of Ascent, which scholars believe could mean several things:

1) Psalms sung by Jewish worshippers as they ascended the road to Jerusalem for one of the annual feasts

2) Psalms sung by Levite priests as they ascended the stairs of the temple to minister before the Lord

3) Psalms sung by Jews ascending out of exile in the days of Nehemiah. The theme of this particular psalm is that the Lord is our help. “From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord…”

The reality is, we are all constantly in need of help. I need help handling success as well as failure. I need help navigating relationships. I need help discovering my God-given identity. I need help to live out my God-given destiny. I need help so I can be a help to others. I need help with the daily pressures of life. I need help overcoming temptation. I need help with the spiritual warfare continually raging about me. I need help!

Where does my help come from? I need only lift up my eyes to the hills…the hill of Calvary where my victory was won, and the heavenly hill of Zion where my Savior reigns. As I ascend the holy mount of God in worship….as my praise and prayer ascend into his throne room, his help descends into my heart. He is the keeper of my soul and guardian of my life. My help comes from the Lord.

— Kent Liles

Go! – Matthew 28

Go! – Matthew 28

Read Matthew 28

Many people would say they have a competitive nature. More often than not, people want to win instead of lose. What if you were 100% guaranteed to win? How would you live if you knew there was no possibility that you could fail? Take a few minutes now to read chapter 28 of Matthew.

Here we see that Jesus was victorious by conquering death and rising from the dead. Satan tried to defeat him, people rejected him, his closest friends doubted him, even his family did not believe him, but Jesus would not be defeated. Jesus overcame and because of that we can overcome any fears, failures or obstacles that come our way when we put our trust in the risen savior Jesus Christ. This truth should change the way we approach life! We can live each day like we are winning because Jesus is alive! The power that raised Him from the dead is the same power that is in those who believe in Jesus!

The story doesn’t end at Jesus’ resurrection, but continues with His command for us to GO and make disciples of all nations! He died and rose again so that we could live and tell others about this truth! Many times, sharing Christ with our friends and family can seem like an impossible task, but we have His power within us to help us share the good news with others!

Who in your life needs to hear this transforming truth?

— Christopher Fetters

Who Do I Please? – Matthew 6

Who Do I Please? – Matthew 6

Read Matthew 6

It’s easy to lose focus.

Experiment – Set a one-minute timer on your phone and focus on one spot for 60 seconds. Go.

It’s hard. If you’re like me, you became aware of your peripheral vision, your eyes wanted to stray, blur, etc.

Focus is hard.

In Matthew 6, Jesus calls us to focus on pleasing God.

In verses 1-18, Jesus calls us to focus on pleasing God, not people. Social pressure is powerful. How powerful? Next time there’s a standing ovation, stay seated. If no one stands, be the only one to stand and cheer. You’ll feel the pressure to please people.

Question – What would you do for God if you knew no one would criticize? Are you focused on pleasing people instead of God?

In verses 19-34, Jesus calls us to focus on pleasing God, not ourselves. Our money is connected to our hearts. How closely? Hold your wallet/checkbook and ask, “How much would I have to donate to make it hurt?” You’ll feel the pressure to please yourself. Imagine your neighbor asks, “Would you give my money till it hurts?” It’s easier to give someone else’s money.

Question – How easy is it to be generous to God first (before expenses/savings)? Do you view money as God’s or yours? Are you focused on pleasing yourself instead of God?

Prayer – God, I want focus on pleasing You. May I follow You when others don’t approve. May I give to you when I don’t feel it. May You be my focus.

— Tim Howey

Rest and Solitude – Mark 6

Rest and Solitude – Mark 6

Read Mark 6

Despite all the action contained in Mark 6, there are two specific instances in this chapter that mention rest and solitude. The first is found in v. 31-32. The disciples were obviously famished and exhausted from the journey itself, as well as all the preaching and healing they had been doing while on their journey! Because of this, Jesus instructed them to “go to a desolate place and rest a while.” The second is found in v. 46. Jesus sought solitude on a mountain so that he could spend time praying to the Father.

Both of these instances preceded/followed times of “doing” (healing, casting out demons, feeding thousands of people) and teaching. These were all assignments given by God, yet they required times of rest and solitude. Yes, even Jesus needed time alone on a mountain to pray.

How is this important for us in our daily lives? In doing the things God has called us to do, we must remember to take time to simply rest and be alone in His presence. It is in rest and solitude that we allow God to refresh us!

— Samantha Rasch

A Time for Silence – Ecclesiastes 3

A Time for Silence – Ecclesiastes 3

Read Ecclesiastes 3

Here in the United States it seems that many of us have the need to always be productive. We often feel that a moment not used for betterment or pursuit of our goals is a wasted moment. What is so awe inspiring is how different the book of Ecclesiastes is to this thought. It is all based in the balance of working and resting in the Lord.

The part of Ecc. 3 that gets me is where Solomon writes, “A time to keep silence, And a time to speak” (Ecc 3:7b). I, and many of us do not do this well. Personally, I had felt like silence and stillness were a waste of time. Like if I could not make the most out of a moment, I was being a poor steward of my time. God chooses to do things so different from what makes sense to us. I had to learn that I could get more done by resting with God once, than by the entirety of my life’s “productive” time separate from Him combined. Learning to be still and silent with the Lord is just as important as refining our ability to communicate with others.

We’ve got the working down, now take some time this week to slow down and be silent. Trust that the time spent just chilling in the Lord’s presence is fruitful enough to be worth it.

 

— Mitchell Ressell

Refreshed by the River – Psalms 46

Refreshed by the River – Psalms 46

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High”. Ps. 46:4

In the Bible, rivers are often used as a metaphor for peace or solitude. The river spoken of here may be an allusion to a river near Jerusalem, but more likely it is figurative speech for the presence of God. It’s in contrast to the roaring seas and trembling mountains…those external things of life that bring trouble and stress.

Having lived in the southern Rockies for several years, I’ve experience few things as serene as sitting next to a mountain stream. The sound of water gently pouring over rocks and small water falls, the smell of forest the river is providing life to, the light of the sun glistening off of the water…ahh, just writing about it brings peace to my soul!

Spiritually, we must learn to find our way to the banks of the river that flows from God’s presence. The point the Psalmist is trying to make is that God is in our midst. If we can learn to be present with Him, we will find peace and joy in spite of the circumstances of life…He becomes our fortress and rest. Just as my heart finds gladness in the mental image of sitting next to a mountain stream, my soul finds rest as I learn to sit in the holy presence of God. When I employ spiritual practices that bring me to that place, my soul is refreshed and restored.

— Kent Liles