September 17 – It’s All About Relationships

John 18:19-38; 2 Chronicles 27-28; Psalm 84

The “trial” of Jesus was chaotic. People were shouting accusations from all around Him. He saw first one “High Priest” and then a second one. (The understanding is that the son in law was the official high priest, but everyone knew who ran the show.) People struck out at Him. He was shuttled from place to place because everyone wanted a piece of this man who would be Messiah. In the midst of the chaos, though, his accusers maintained their decorum:  “Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover.” (John 18:28) They brought Jesus to the civil authority, Pilate, but didn’t go so far as to do anything to get their hands spiritually dirty. They wanted to be able to participate in their religious feast. They could arrange the death of an innocent man who had become inconvenient to their political aspirations and still keep their religious obligations. When our religion becomes more a system of obligations and meetings instead of a life changing relationship, we can do whatever we want, just so long as we make the next church service or pay our pledge to the church. If God has really made a difference in our lives, we can’t contain our beliefs to obligations and services; they should permeate our whole being. Our beliefs, really our relationship with God should cause us to deal with all people in a godly fashion seeking to restore relationships between ourselves and others and between those people and God. If we really believe that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, then our relationship with Him means that we will be fulfilling that call also. We should never be able to stab someone in the back with a smile. We should never be able to rush to stab someone in the back so we can make our church service. God wants us to work to restore relationships between God and man.

Lord, remind me that each person that I have wronged is someone that You love. Remind me that You want to develop a relationship with them as You draw them into Your kingdom. Let me always see people as You see them and seek to restore relationships, not break them.

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September 16 – Doing the Job God has Called Me to Do

John 18:1-18; 2 Chronicles 26; Psalm 83

We all know someone who is “too big for their britches.” They’ve done some good things so they begin to think that there are no limits to what they can do. Hollywood stars and starlets become experts on the areas that they’ve thought about playing a role in. Athletes become role models for anything from healthy living to developing relationships. And then, then everything implodes. King Uzziah was a great king. Judah was expanding its influence. He became famous as a king and a military leader and before long, he must have started thinking that God needed him to do everything. And so, having established his reputation as king, he decided to become a priest as well. “But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the Lord his God by entering the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.” (2 Chronicles 26:16) He obviously didn’t learn his lesson from Saul. The result of his pridefulness was that he became afflicted with leprosy and lived in isolation the rest of his years. His son took over active leadership of the country, but we can only wonder how much more Uzziah could have accomplished if he had stayed focused on what God had called him to do. How often do we begin to think that we need to add extra work for God to our schedule? Especially when it’s in an area that we don’t know a whole lot about? We begin to think that God is lucky to have us serving Him so we can take over all kinds of jobs and, because we’re in good with God and God will protect us, we should be ok. While we should always be open to God’s leadership, we should be very careful when we are making decisions that will change the way we do things. If someone else is already doing God’s will, He may not be calling us to work in that area. We may be responding more to our ego than to God. We live in a world with many needs. We should always be true to God’s desire in our lives. We should always be open to His leadership. At the same time, we should be careful to avoid letting our egos direct us rather than God.

Lord, I am grateful that You called me to serve You. Keep me so focused on You that I won’t even think about letting my ego guide me. Give me wisdom so that I won’t make decisions that take me out of Your will for me and into the responsibility of others.

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September 15 – Kept From Evil for a Purpose

John 17; 2 Chronicles 25; Psalm 82

Many followers of Christ look forward to the time when we will be taken out of this world in an event we call the Rapture. According to this belief, Christians will be taken to heaven and the world will be left to those who don’t know God. The resulting chaos caused by the lack of order and the wrath of God coming down on all those left behind will be horrendous. That is not, however, what Christians should look forward to based on the prayer of Jesus in John 17. As Jesus prayed for the disciples, and for us, we see these words: “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:14-15) Jesus notes the truth that because our citizenship is in heaven, we are not tied to this world. Our joys, our relationships are not built on those things that society values; they are built on God’s ideals. Because we are different, the world hates us. In some cases that hatred reveals itself in persecution. In others, it’s shown in the contempt of those who would mock our beliefs and our relationship with God. It’s only natural to seek retribution, or even simple withdrawal from such situations. The call of God, though, is not that we should leave the world. The call of God is to be active in our world while not falling into the clutches of the evil one. It doesn’t take too much to fall into those clutches either. We fall into the clutches of the evil one when we respond to troublesome situations the same way that those who are not followers of Christ do. We have fallen into the clutches of the evil one when we resolve not to get mad, but to get even. The command of Jesus is to be salt and light in our society – revealing the truth of God to a society reluctant to receive it. The prayer of Jesus is that we not be taken out of society, but that we stay in the world unswayed by the influences of the evil one. Just as Jesus came into the world to sacrifice His life to restore our relationship with God, so we must be willing to make the sacrifices necessary to restore relationships between those under the spell of the evil one and God. We are to be in the world to make a difference. Do that today.

Oh Lord, how often do my reactions to situations reveal my sinful nature? I seek my own good and resent when I am inconvenienced. Remind me that I am on this earth as Your servant and that I am responsible for being Your hands and feet in this evil world. Keep me from evil while using me to reveal Your love.

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September 14 – Mentors

John 16:4-33; 2 Chronicles 24; Psalm 81

A 7 year old king seems like an impossible situation. Yet Joash was crowned king at the age of 7. It was Jehoida the Priest who protected him from those who sought to extinguish the line of kings. It was Jehoida who decided that it was time to proclaim Joash king after 6 years in hiding. It was Jehoida who counseled and advised the king. The result of this mentorship was a strong kingdom. “Joash did what was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest.” (2 Chronicles 24:2)  He was faithful to the call of God and Judah flourished. As we read the story, though, things changed once Jehoida died. Jehoida received great honor at his death, but it wasn’t much later that his legacy was trashed. Other leaders came forth and led Joash astray. Zechariah, Jehoida’s son, spoke for God attempting to draw Joash back to God’s way and Joash ordered Zechariah stoned. After defeat in battle, a wounded Joash was killed by his servants. Today so many folks have no guidance. Whether it’s because they don’t seek guidance, they don’t attend church where others will guide them, they have no idea that they need guidance, or they’ve grown “too smart” for anyone to mentor them, we have left the ideal that we are to help our young people grow up in the Lord. We need Jehoidas. We need a constant stream of Jehoidas who are willing to invest their time and energy into building up men and women of God who will stay true to the faith. Our world has many troubles and snares ahead and those who are seasoned in the faith need to build up and mentor those in the younger generation. Today would be a good day to ask God to lead you to one person that you can help. If all of God’s people did that, we would see a much different world.

Dear Lord, the world is full of troubles. You have taught me much. Lead me to someone that I can share with and guide in Your way. At the same time, keep sending me leaders who will continue to lead me in the right direction and keep me from straying from You.

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September 13 – Loving Like Christ

John 15:1-16:4; 2 Chronicles 23; Psalm 80

There is an amazing freedom in life the minute we realize that Jesus loves us in the midst of our imperfections. We spend so much time either consciously or unconsciously seeking to gain God’s pleasure; seeking His love as if something we could do would make Him love us. The reality, though, is that God loved us long before we ever knew we needed His love and He loves us even with our faults – our sins. As Jesus spoke to the disciples, He reminded them of that. “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (John 15:12-14) Jesus put it on the line for this bickering, selfish group where members continually sought ways to elevate themselves in the group. He loved them and they should love each other. Rather than seek the higher positions of honor, they ought to seek out opportunities to sacrifice for each other to elevate the other brother. Jesus put it simply here. We are not just servants; we are friends if we do what He commands us. In this passage, His command is to love one another, to lay down our lives for each other. Such simple words; such a simple concept; and yet how difficult it is to live according to those words. Our sinful nature, the nature we were in when God first loved us, keeps coming to the fore and we put ourselves before our brothers and sisters in Christ. We set up barriers among ourselves so that we accept some who claim the name of Christ but disregard or belittle others because they don’t fit our cookie cutter mold of what a Christian should be like. Where we should be humbled by the fact that God loves us in spite of our sin, we begin to think that God’s love is vindication of our lifestyles and beliefs which makes it easy to look down on others who might have different beliefs on non-essential issues. The essential issue, according to Jesus is love for God and love for our brothers and sisters. We aren’t to judge their orthodoxy, God can do that. We aren’t to give them tests of Biblical understanding to make sure that they fit our mold. We are to love the brethren as Jesus, who went to the cross, did. A friend used to ask people a question designed to stimulate thought about their relationship with God. He would ask them, “What flavor are you?” The idea was that he had his “flavor” as a child of God and he wanted them to think about how they fit into the plan of God’s kingdom. There are many flavors in the Kingdom of God. Some may not be exactly to our liking; but all who love Jesus and love others as Jesus did are part of the family of God.

Lord, forgive me when I put up barriers to fellowship. Many of Your children have different experiences with You and their faith shows in different ways. May I always love Your people like You do. May I always be willing to lay down my life for my brothers and sisters.

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September 12 – Peace

John 14:15-31; 2 Chronicles 21:2-22:12; Psalm 79

We live in a troubled world. The Middle East is in a major conflict because of the threat of a murderous group inspired by their Muslim faith. The threat of Russia is looming over Eastern Europe. In the United States violence seems to have replaced conversation in many parts of the country. Yet as we read God’s word, we see the audacious offer of peace from Jesus. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27) How can we have peace in such a troubled world? Isn’t peace a luxury we can’t afford as we deal with the issues ahead of us? We can have peace in the midst of any and all troubles because we are in a strong relationship with God. We stay true to God’s Word, we obey Jesus and the Holy Spirit empowers us to have peace. Peace is not a luxury for the Christian; it is a natural outgrowth of our developing relationship with God. It is not the peace of the world which only implies that there is no conflict. It is a peace that comes from harmony with God no matter what the situation surrounding us may be. As we keep our eyes and our hearts focused on our relationship with God; as we are obedient to the commands of Christ – especially to love one another – peace reigns in our hearts. We don’t look at outside situations and run to God; we look to God first and know that He can handle any situation. Peace is a precious commodity. True peace can only come about in a relationship with God.

Lord, how often do I take over and prevent You from giving me peace? I worry and I fret over situations that You have under control. Give me the strength not to depend on my own strength in difficult times. Let me learn to depend on You in any and every situation.

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September 11 – Our Battle Cry

John 14:1-14; 2 Chronicles 20:1-21:1; Psalm 78:56-72

Today is no longer a normal day in the United States. We approach this day as a day of remembrance, tinged with a bit of fear. We ask ourselves “Will another attack come today?” The answer, of course, is the same answer we would get every day. We don’t know. That being said we need to pray with attitude and a sense of action. The attitude we should have as we come before God is echoed in the words of Jesus in John 14:1 “Let not your heart be troubled.” The action is to come before God in prayer as Jehoshaphat did facing an imminent threat. Armies had been arrayed against Judah and were headed his way. His first impulse was to seek God. The response from God through his prophet was amazing. “And he said, ‘Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: “Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”’” (2 Chronicles 20:15) We don’t know what the future holds. Will there be war? Will there be peace? Will I be successful? Will I fail? We ask ourselves these and other questions quite often. Perhaps the best course is to lay these questions out before God, rather than asking ourselves. If we remember that the battle is God’s, we can face any future with confidence. The battle cry of Jehoshaphat and the people who went out to see God’s handiwork in this battle was “Praise the Lord for His mercy endures forever.”As we face the trials and fears of this life, let this be our battle cry as we give the battle to God.

Oh Lord, on this unsettling day, let me not turn to thoughts of fear; instead, let me seek You. As I face the issues of today, tomorrow and the future, let my battle cry be “Praise the Lord for His mercy endures forever.”

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September 10 – Seeking Daily Guidance

John 13:21-38; 2 Chronicles 19; Psalm 78:38-55

Jehoshaphat escaped his foreign excursion with his life, and returned home to a rebuke from God. “Then Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned safely to his house in Jerusalem. And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to King Jehoshaphat, ‘Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Therefore the wrath of the Lord is upon you. Nevertheless good things are found in you, in that you have removed the wooden images from the land, and have prepared your heart to seek God.’ So Jehoshaphat dwelt at Jerusalem; and he went out again among the people from Beersheba to the mountains of Ephraim, and brought them back to the Lord God of their fathers.” (2 Chronicles 19:1-4) He was wrong to have gone to war with Ahab. He should have known – still he did. He survived and in the midst of the rebuke, God’s message was that he did a few good things as well, so it wasn’t all bad. It’s interesting that every king that was considered good worked to destroy the idols in the land. Why did those idols keep springing up? In large part, the people recognized God in the very important things of life, but thought that they needed some extra help in the day to day parts of life. Jehoshaphat recognized that education was part of the problem and in 2 Chronicles 17 we saw him send out teachers so that people could know the truth of God. Even after his rebuke from Jehu, Jehoshaphat didn’t sit around and mope, he continued the process of teaching and sending judges who would rule uprightly on issues under the leadership of God. In our society today we still have people who claim to follow Christ on the big things in life – and yet, they seek signs or go to practices of other religions to gain daily guidance. (For example, how many Christians consult their daily horoscope?) In truth, the guidance we need from God can be found in a daily practice of reading His word, hence these thoughts with the Bible verses that will help you read through the Bible daily; prayer, and fellowship with His people.  God will give us His guidance when we seek Him. If He really is the Creator God who rules over the entire universe and still cares about our everyday life, though, why would we search any other source for guidance?

Lord, I need help for my daily life. I get upset. I get frustrated. I get confused. Guide me daily as I read Your word. Teach me as I seek You in prayer. Let me see Your presence in the teaching I get from those who seek to follow You and explain Your ways.

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September 9 – Being the Heart of God

John 13:1-20; 2 Chronicles 18; Psalm 78:21-37

Political matchmaking doesn’t always end up with the best decisions. Jehoshaphat had married someone in Ahab’s family. Jehoshaphat had been a pretty good king, following the Lord. Ahab, on the other hand, followed the apostate ways of the kings of Israel. Jehoshaphat went down for a visit and at the party Ahab suggested a good old fashioned battle. What else did kings do those days? Jehoshaphat agreed and then asked about a prophet of the Lord. Ahab brought out his gaggle of prophets who all followed the party line and encouraged Ahab. Jehoshaphat wasn’t impressed. “But Jehoshaphat said, ‘Is there not still a prophet of the Lord here, that we may inquire of Him?’ So the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘There is still one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord; but I hate him, because he never prophesies good concerning me, but always evil. He is Micaiah the son of Imla.’ And Jehoshaphat said, ‘Let not the king say such things!’” (2 Chronicles 18:6-7) Ahab didn’t want to hear from Micaiah because he might have a different viewpoint. Jehoshaphat wouldn’t budge and so the prophet of the Lord came out. As he spoke the truth of God and predicted Ahab’s death, Ahab was naturally enraged and ordered Micaiah to prison until he returned. Ahab convinced Jehoshaphat to wear royal robes while Ahab would be in disguise. Why Jehoshaphat agreed to be a target is incomprehensible. He drew the attention of the Syrians, but was able to escape, but the cowardly Ahab was killed by a random arrow shot. Ok, long story. We deal with people like Ahab all the time. These are the people who are in rebellion against God. They don’t want to hear from Him. They have their reasons – that’s not important. What’s important is how we react to them. We can’t shut them off and ignore them. We may find ourselves in uncomfortable positions as we relate to them – but relate we must. Developing a relationship with them may be the first step to bringing them back to a relationship with God. We stay true to the word of God – not in a judgmental way, though. We listen to their viewpoint and we share our viewpoint in an even exchange. “I understand that this is how and why you do things your way, this is why I do things my way.” We have to be willing to be sacrificial. Jehoshaphat allowed himself to become a target. The end for Ahab was bad, but it wasn’t any worse than it would have been without Jehoshaphat making the effort. In fact, Ahab might have spent some time while he was dying thinking about Micaiah and his message. As we work to develop and restore relationships with our friends who reject God, though, we give them lots of opportunities to develop their own relationship to God. Some will turn back to Him; some won’t. Some we may know about; some we won’t. The whole idea is to open doors and give God a chance to work.

Lord, I have friends who need You. They have rejected You and don’t want to hear from You. Let me be the kind of person who shows them the joy that comes from a relationship with You.

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September 8 – Keep Going

John 12:27-50; 2 Chronicles 16-17; Psalm 78:1-20

There are times at work where you just know that the job is going to get difficult. You dread the day as you see it coming. You dread the moment as it’s about to happen. Jesus was headed to Calvary. As He taught the crowds in Jerusalem He told them a parable that would have made His journey clear to any who understood. He would die and be resurrected. That death part, though. That was the tough part of the job. ‘”Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save Me from this hour”? But for this purpose I came to this hour.’”(John 12:27) Later we know that Jesus would pray that the cup of death be removed even while submitting to the will of the Father. His upcoming death was the reason that Jesus came to the earth. He had been sent to die for the sin of all mankind and restore relationships between God and men. As the reality sunk in, the human Jesus could easily have begun to falter, but God the Son stayed true to His task. Very few of us have a cross in our future. Some may suffer real persecution, but most of us have a life in front of us where we have the ability to live for the Lord in our daily lives. We may not have the cross, but we have those tasks and people that we would rather not deal with. They make the job difficult. They make life uncomfortable. They may be the reason that we were called to that particular job or responsibility. Pray not that God would save you from that time, but that He would give you strength to endure, overcome and be victorious for Him. Pray that the outcome would be that your faith would be strengthened and that other people would be restored in their relationship to God because of that struggle. This is why God put you there.

Dear Lord, today there are struggles ahead that I don’t really want to deal with: bosses that don’t understand; clients who are difficult; and tough decisions to be made. While I would rather not face them, remind me that I am here for a purpose and that You have prepared me for this time. Give me the strength to overcome with grace and let others see Your love and grace during this time.

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