August 21 – God’s Will

John 4:43-54; 1 Chronicles 17; Zechariah 6

It would be nice if it were easy to know what God wanted us to do. So often we pray and seek God’s will wondering if we should go one way or another; do one thing or another. We seek counsel from friends, relatives, and other godly people. Then, we finally believe that we know what God wants – and the opportunity falls through. Our faith is shaken and we wonder what else we can do to understand what God wants. Don’t feel all alone. David was described by God as a man after His own heart. David loved God and as he realized that he lived in a magnificent house and the ark of God was in a tent he wanted to rectify that disparity and build a magnificent Temple to honor God. David had all the resources to build the Temple. Still, he sought godly advice and asked Nathan. Nathan responded without even thinking – knowing that this was a good thing. “Then Nathan said to David, ‘Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you.’” (1 Chronicles 17:2) David went to sleep knowing that the next day he would begin building the Temple. Only God spoke to Nathan that night and stopped that effort. God had other plans. If David and Nathan had such trouble discerning the will of God, why should we be any different? There’s no cut and dried formula. David desired to do something good. David desired to do something that would honor God. Still, that privilege was denied him by God. Finding God’s will is often a process of deep prayer, gaining counsel from others and still going through a series of steps that seem to be nothing but trial and error. Perhaps, though, even going through those steps is a part of the will of God. Too often we have this idea that God’s will is a final outcome. Perhaps we need to recognize God’s will as seeking His presence each step of the way along the journey of life. Perhaps we need to see God’s will not so much as an outcome of some work, but as His presence with us in a building relationship as we live each day. When we are walking with God each step of our lives, we can be obedient in following His direction. If you want to do what God wants you to do, it begins by being who God wants you to be. If you want to be who God wants you to be, it means spending time with Him in a restored relationship.

Lord, I want to do great things for You. Yet You want me to focus on spending time with You. Remind me that doing Your will begins with walking with You each day in celebration of our restored relationship. Remind me that great things are done, when we focus on building a great relationship with You first.

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August 20 – I’m So Excited!

John 4:27-42; 1 Chronicles 16:7-43; Zechariah 5

As the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman continued, she realized that Jesus could be the Messiah! She rushed into the city to tell the people of Samaria. “’Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’ Then they went out of the city and came to Him.” (John 4:29-30) It’s interesting how she put this. She talked about Jesus knowledge, but never talked about Jesus judging her past action. Perhaps she had run-ins with others who knew her or her reputation in the past – meetings that left her feeling shamed or dirty. Now however, she was excited and refreshed. The Samaritans, even though they were hated by the Jews, still understood the coming of the Messiah. When she talked about Jesus, the people of the town, many who still scorned her, were compelled to listen and actually went out to the well in hopes that Jesus would still be there. They were so excited about what they heard that they invited Jesus to stay with them. The disciples were most likely appalled – not only did they walk through Samaria, not only did Jesus talk with a woman and then with the people of the city, but they were going to stay there for the night? Two nights as it turned out? They might have seen it as the equivalent of spending two nights in the finest accommodations on Skid Row. Jesus knew what He was doing though. As the Samaritans heard the teachings of Jesus, they responded. “Then they said to the woman, ‘Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.’” (John 4:42) This is the essence of evangelism! One person has an encounter with Jesus. They get so excited that they take the message of Jesus to friends and acquaintances. They may believe because of the change in the original person or they may be skeptical and willing to listen. Once they encounter Jesus, though, they are ready to follow also. Sometimes those of us who have followed Jesus for a long while forget that excitement we had when we first believed. Sharing our faith has become more of a chore than an explosion of excitement. Perhaps we need a fresh encounter with Jesus to recapture that joy and excitement of when we first met Jesus. Maybe then sharing with others would become so natural and exciting that we would realize that it’s a privilege to talk about our relationship with Jesus and not just a spiritual chore.

Oh Lord, restore to me the joy of Your salvation. Remind me of the excitement I had when I first began to follow You and let me share that joy and excitement with others.

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August 19 – A Shocking Side Trip

John 4:1-26; 1 Chronicles 15:1-16:6; Zechariah 4

There are many things that Jesus did that shocked the sensibilities of the Pharisees. Their understanding of the Law was ripped to pieces as Jesus opened it up and revealed new meaning and understanding. Sometimes, though, He shocked everyone, including His disciples. “He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. But He needed to go through Samaria.” (John 4:3-4) That doesn’t seem shocking at first. Read it again: Jesus NEEDED to go through Samaria? No good Jew needed to go through Samaria. No bad Jew would go through Samaria. A Jewish mother looking at her child could always say, “At least you’re not a Samaritan.” A Jew walking through Samaria would be like an Aggie walking through Austin; like a member of the Crimson Tide traveling through Auburn; like a Yale Bulldog traveling to Boston. Samaria was to be avoided at all costs! Jews, even not so good ones, would cross the Jordan, walk on the east side of the Jordan until they got past Samaria and then cross back over the Jordan to avoid going through Samaria – yet the Bible says that Jesus needed to go through Samaria. Take a deep breath and think about that. Jesus needed to go through Samaria – but it wasn’t for traveling ease or expediency. Jesus needed to go through Samaria because there was a woman who needed His touch. His disciples not only needed to go through Samaria with Him, but they also had to go into the city to buy food while Jesus sat on the outskirts of town to meet this woman. She was not the queen of Samaria, she was of such a low reputation that she had to go and get water in the heat of the day when no one else was around. There are times in our lives when we need to go through our own Samaria. God sends us on detours that we would never take. Often we fret and complain. We look around nervously as we leave our comfort zone and go through those areas we would prefer to avoid. How often do we fail to see the people that God sent us through Samaria for? What would happen if, instead of worrying and fretting about where God sent us, we opened our hearts and our spirits to see who God wanted us to meet – to minister to. If the story were written today, it might have been put like this: “I don’t always travel through Samaria; but when I do, I find the person My Father wants me to minister to. I’m the most interesting Savior of the World.”

Oh Lord, how easy it is to stay in my comfort zone, in my ruts that have become so familiar. Take me out of my comfort zone and send me to Samaria. Help me to see the person who needs Your love and minister to them in Your name. Let me be obedient to Your call.

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August 18 – The Power Shift

John 3:22-36; 1 Chronicles 13-14; Zechariah 3

John the Baptist had a job. He was to prepare the way for people to accept the coming Messiah. His message of repentance struck a nerve among the common people – who believed John and among the religious leaders – who may have been slightly amused by his message except that it lessened their control over the common people. Then, some of John’s disciples noted that the crowds were beginning to thin out a bit because this newcomer was preaching and baptizing – someone that John himself had baptized! They went to John and warned him that his fame was being threatened. In a corporate world, a warning like that would lead to strategies to regain lost market share. Ad agencies would be encouraged, hired and/or fired. John’s message would be refurbished and rebranded to draw the people back to him. John, however, understood the situation better. He told his disciples that this was good. This was why he had come. If he had come to prepare the way for the Messiah, and the Messiah’s popularity was growing, he had been successful. In short, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) John’s words speaking of his own popularity among the people still ring true today. As followers of Christ His leadership in our lives must grow more and more predominant. We don’t understand all of that when we first commit to following Jesus. Growth in Christ, though, means that our personal desires become less important while our desires to follow Christ drive more of our life. We begin our walk with Christ knowing that God has forgiven us and will forgive us when we fail; as we seek to let Jesus increase in our lives we seek to be so obedient that we do the right things before needing forgiveness. While we will never attain perfection, growing in Christ means that we show our obedience more quickly. John’s words here are the story of Christian growth in on brief epithet. May the power and leadership of Jesus increase in our lives while our own stubborn will decreases. That change in us will change the world!

Oh God, how often I want You to sit back while I show You how things should be. I place my desires for recognition ahead of my obedience to You. Remind me today that Your control must increase in every part of my life and that my control should decrease as I become obedient to You. Give me Your grace to live under Your leadership every day.

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August 17 – Pardons for the Condemned

John 3:1-21; 1 Chronicles 12; Zechariah 2

Imagine, if you will, death row in a prison. The condemned are without any real hope. Sure, there are appeals that might help them, but they don’t really believe that they will prevail. Then, sitting there in their cells, someone starts knocking on their cell doors. It’s a lawyer. He explains to each prisoner that he is there to offer a pardon from the governor. All that they need to do is walk out of the cell and be free. Some, willing to grasp at any straw, take the lawyer up on the offer and walk out. Others, “knowing” that the governor doesn’t work that way smell a trick and refuse. If they’re going to get out of jail it would have to be by an old fashioned prison riot – not some smooth talking lawyer. Perhaps that’s the picture Jesus had in mind when He was talking to Nicodemus. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:17-18) We are sinners in a world of sin. We will be facing a perfect God. God sent Jesus to earth to bring forgiveness to those, like us, who are already condemned. We, as followers of Christ, don’t condemn people. Perhaps we are overzealous in pointing out that those who don’t follow Christ are already condemned at times, but our responsibility is to show people the pardon that comes from Christ. Some wait for their appeals in court or a final judgment hoping that when the Judge weighs all the evidence, they will be ok. Some have given up hope of forgiveness and restoration of the relationship with God. When God sent Jesus into the world He sent Him not to destroy hope. He sent Him to restore hope. Jesus didn’t come to sever relationships with God; He came to restore our relationship with God. Today, Jesus is knocking on the door of your cell. He offers you a choice. You can believe in Him and accept God’s pardon or you can refuse to believe in Him and hope that your appeal, which has never worked for anyone before, gains you freedom. In short, Jesus offers all of us the chance to have eternal life. Would you believe Him and enjoy this pardon or will you stubbornly refuse this gift that our God has offered? The choice is yours.

Father, I stand before You not as a condemned man, but as a forgiven man. It is only by Your grace that I can come to You. Thank You that Jesus paid the price for my sin. Help me be effective in helping others to receive Your pardon.

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August 16 – Lead? Follow? Get in His Way.

John 2; 1 Chronicles 10-11; Zechariah1

Something about David inspired loyalty in those who were with him. Even though his most trusted advisors could have overthrown David and taken his place politically, they not only continued to follow him – they were willing to sacrifice their lives for him. As he battled the Philistines they came close to his hometown of Bethlehem. David remembered the well there and perhaps thought of more peaceful times. “And David said with longing, ‘Oh, that someone would give me a drink of water from the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!’ So the three broke through the camp of the Philistines, drew water from the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate, and took it and brought it to David. Nevertheless David would not drink it, but poured it out to the Lord. And he said, ‘Far be it from me, O my God, that I should do this! Shall I drink the blood of these men who have put their lives in jeopardy? For at the risk of their lives they brought it.’ Therefore he would not drink it. These things were done by the three mighty men.” (1 Chronicles 11:17-19) A longing expressed by their leader became a command to these mighty men and they risked life and limb to get him a drink of water. David wouldn’t drink it. It became, instead, an offering to the Lord. Far more important than the gift of water was the gift of loyalty these three mighty men gave to David. David gave the gift of the water and thus the loyalty, courage and sacrifice of these men to the Lord. In life, we should be so connected to the Lord that we inspire loyalty in others as we lead. At the same time, when we are following a leader who is in a right relationship with God – we need to be willing to sacrifice everything to support them. The key to understanding, as always, is our relationship with God. The closer we are to Him, the more likely we are to lead according to His guidance or follow the right leader in His will.

Dear Lord – sometimes you call me to lead. May I be so in tune with You that others who follow You will accept my leadership. Sometimes You will call me to follow. May I be so in tune with You that I will find and follow a leader who is obedient to You. Whether I am leading or following let me glorify Your name.

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August 15 – First Things First

John 1:35-51; 1 Chronicles 9; Haggai 1:1-2:23

You probably hear people complain about this often. “I can’t seem to save any money. Everything I make seems to disappear.” At times, there seems to be a futility in life that we can’t understand because no matter what we do, it’s not enough. Haggai, one of those prophets that we remember when people mention the name, dealt with this problem. “’You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, Earns wages to put into a bag with holes.’ Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Consider your ways!’” (Haggai 1:6-7) Haggai was dealing with the Jews who had come back from the exile who were now living in relative comfort while the Temple of God had not been rebuilt. Even in their comfort, there wasn’t enough. Nothing satisfied. Haggai’s solution was that they needed to put God first in their lives and show that by rebuilding the Temple. As followers of Christ we don’t focus on the outward buildings, but too often we see ourselves and other followers who just can’t get no satisfaction in life no matter what they do. The question that Haggai would ask us is, “Where are your priorities?” Putting God first in life will not solve all of our problems. Remember that. Putting God first in life means that we are trusting God in the midst of our problems. Putting God first in our lives means that we are more likely to find satisfaction in life because things become less important and our restored relationship with God becomes our source of satisfaction. In a consumer driven world where the number one goal is to make sure that we have at least the same amount of stuff as our neighbors, dare I say “keeping up with the Joneses,” our call is not to accumulate wealth and things but to find our rest, our hope, our peace in God. The Joneses may have all of the material stuff, but we should live such a life of satisfaction in God that the Joneses want to keep up with us.

Lord, it’s so simple to say that I put You first. Words are cheap. How often do I show that by my actions? Today, let me not be envious or covetous about the material things my neighbor has. Instead, Lord, let me be so focused on You that others would see my joy in following You. Let my attitudes and my actions show the world that You are first in my life and that mere stuff doesn’t really matter.

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August 14 – Changing the World

John 1:19-34; 1 Chronicles 7-8; Zephaniah 3

There are turning points in history that we look back on and wonder what would have happened if these had not occurred. How would the world be different? Some we look at through the lens of history such as the sinking of the Lusitania, the bombing of Pearl Harbor or the dropping of the atomic bomb. Some we have experienced such as the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. Usually the events that we see as world changing are great tragedies that force us to respond in ways that accentuate our baser instincts that we wish we didn’t have to show. John describes a world changing event that has the ability to bring out our best:  “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29)While the execution of Jesus would reveal the worst instincts in man, His death would be the source of life for all who turn to Him. It was the death of the Lamb of God that brought forgiveness for our sin and took away our eternal punishment. It was the death of the Lamb of God that allowed us to have a restored relationship with God. It was the death of the Lamb of God that allowed us to rise above our sin and become gracious, loving and caring towards all people – whether or not they agreed with us. The arrival of the Lamb of God in the world changed history for the better and keeps on changing it for the better. That is an amazing gift from God – and an amazing responsibility. So keep on changing the world, one person at a time, by living and loving as if your sin was taken away.

Lord, Thank You for Jesus! Thank You that Jesus came to earth and suffered and died so that my relationship with You could be restored – and not only mine, but that also of each and every person. Let my life and my words be so in tune with You that they will want to see their world changed too.

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August 13 – “Who’s Yer Daddy?”

John 1:1-18; 1 Chronicles 5-6; Zephaniah 2

Let’s face it. Part of the reading we are in right now includes 1 Chronicles. If you are following the readings daily, and are like most people, your eyes begin to glaze over as you struggle to read unfamiliar names…nothing but unfamiliar names! It was important to the Jews who wrote the book and to Jews who read because such lineages showed their relationship among God’s chosen people. Family was very important and so we read those connections. So, when we read John’s words here, the teaching is a bit shocking. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John1:12-13) How does one enter into the family of God in the world that has come into being since Jesus walked this earth? We receive Him. No longer is our ability to have a relationship with God dependent on an accident of our own birth; now we can have a restored relationship with God by receiving Jesus Christ. This is the miracle of the second birth. This is the miracle of God’s new family. It isn’t our desires that bring us into God’s family. It isn’t something that we can do or achieve by our efforts. It isn’t something that we inherit from our parents. Our restored relationship with God happens when we recognize who Jesus is, what He did for us and then receive Him. From that time on we are welcomed into God’s family. Obviously, we need to grow. Obviously, changes will happen. Any child that is adopted will soon begin to follow the values of the family. For some their lives may change overnight. For others, it may take a while for their lives to change to be conformed to the image of God. Nevertheless, the process now begins when we receive Him. In an age when people demand and exercise their rights it’s time that we begin to exercise this right: the right to become children of God.

Oh Lord, how often I seek to do things my own way. Whether I am living in rebellion or trying to live for You, I try to do things my way instead of following You. Give me the strength to receive You daily, to grow in Your love and grace, and to be an example of Your love and grace to others.

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August 12 – When Will There Be an End?

2 Corinthians 13; 1 Chronicles 3-4; Zephaniah 1

There seems to be a universal sentiment among all peoples and all religions that believe that there will be an end of time. That sentiment is that somehow the end will be a time when “they” are vindicated and upheld while the other folks will get the punishment they deserve. Sometimes, that belief was not just an end of times belief, but any intervention of God. The Israelites, especially as their society devolved from their faith and commitment towards God into a secular society that paid God lip service, saw God as the one who would deliver them from all their troubles and set things right again – because, after all, they were God’s people. They probably didn’t like Zephaniah’s message! “Be silent in the presence of the Lord God; For the day of the Lord is at hand, For the Lord has prepared a sacrifice; He has invited His guests.” (Zephaniah 1:7) As Zephaniah expounded on the word that God gave him, the day of the Lord was not what they had imagined. It was not to be a day of vindication but a day of ultimate judgment. Zephaniah refers to the judgment on Judah that took place not long after Josiah died. Those who claimed to be God’s people were to be judged and found guilty because they had failed to live lives that reflected their claim of a relationship with God. The judgment was especially harsh upon the upper crust of society. Even today as followers of Christ we look forward to the Second Coming of Christ. We expect a final judgment that vindicates us and destroys the other guys. Are we really ready for the day of the Lord, though? Do our lives reflect a restored relationship with God as shown by our obedience to Him in our purity, our compassion and our grace or do they reflect a lifestyle that acknowledges God’s existence without letting Him get too involved in our lives. The certainty of an end of days and of a final judgment of God should remind us that a relationship with God should change us so that our lives make a difference for others. Instead of looking forward to that eventual end, though, perhaps we should seek a life that is changed by God and live obediently for Him each day.

Lord, how easily I justify myself and my actions. I know that there is a day when You will come back. Let me live each day until that time in such a way that others will see and experience Your grace. Help me not to think of my own needs, but find ways to care for the people You love and died for.

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