Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Who are you living for?

Galatians 2:20 - I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

If you turn on the television and spend five minutes watching a show or commercials, you will notice one general theme: we are expected to cater to ourselves. Society thrives on humanism. Commercials solicit our wants and desires. Situation comedies revolve around a character's pursuit of career, love, or money. Even Christian authors are writing books on how to "Become a Better You" and "Live in Abundance." However, the central message of the cross is anti-humanism. It is a call to deny yourself and to be crucified with Christ.

In Galatians 2:20, Paul writes that we have been crucified with Christ. He uses the perfect tense, indicating that, though the event was completed in the past, it has a lasting effect. As believers, we share in both Christ's death and resurrection. The life we now live is not a result of anything that we have done on our own, but rather it is a result of the workings of Christ. Since we are now united with Christ, there is no more "I" in the sense that we are an individualistic, self-centered person. Christ's selfless sacrifice united us to him and calls us to do the same: to die to our selfish nature and live in fellowship with him. Therefore, we should no longer live according to our own desires, but we should allow Christ to live in and through us. We should do this because he was faithful in showing his love for us through his sacrifice. As a result, we ought to do the same.

Instead of focusing on ourselves, and what feeds our selfish desires, we should instead, focus on how we might serve the kingdom of God. Will this build our wealth, popularity, or status? Probably not. But it will build our character and obedience. If we do not of focus on how we might increase our own status, but place our minds on how we might display God's glory, we will show the world that we are different.

Tomorrow, we will look more in depth as to what this principle looks like practically. For today, I pose the question: who are you living for and who does the world see when they look at you?

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Words We Speak

Ephesians 4:29 - Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

The cliche "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all," might hold true in social settings. However, as believers in Christ, we are called to do even more. We are to be intentional with our words. In Ephesians 4:29, Paul first gives the mandate that no corrupt speech come forth from the believers mouths. The adjective for corrupt is a Greek term that is also used of fish that had been left out in the market too long (cf. Matthew 12:33-34; BDAG). Therefore,if ingested by others, our words can have the same damaging affect as stinky, rotten, fish. Paul makes no room for concession as to which words are included in the mandate. No word coming from the mouth should have any ill characteristic whether it is vulgar language or slanderous talk. Often times, we think that if we telling something in jest or speaking sarcastically, our words are exempt. However, this verse states otherwise.

After giving the command of how the Ephesians are to guard their speech, Paul directs them in the way in which they should exhort one another. Their speech should be wholesome and beneficial in order to build up or strengthen the Christian community. Not only are believers to be beneficial in what we say, but we are to be intentional in how, when, and to whom to say it. Paul instructs the Ephesians to speak that which is beneficial of the need, therefore showing a prudence to the words spoken. Often times we can speak wholesome words, but if they are to the wrong person, in the wrong situation, or at the wrong time, they fall on deaf ears. The purpose for our good speech is so that we might give grace to those who hear our words. As image-bearers of God and followers of Christ, we are to be administrators of grace. One way in which to do that is through our words.

If we actually begin to think intentionally about being administrators of grace before we begin our conversation with both believers and non-believers, think about the impact our words would have on society. It would be much easier to hold back the words that have rude meaning and speak words of truth, love, and encouragement.

The challenge in this verse is to think before you speak. Not only should we think about WHAT we say, but think about WHY we are saying it. When we do, we will make a greater impact for the kingdom of God.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Trusting in the Name of the Lord

Psalm 9:10 - And those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.

There is an element of trust that requires a knowledge of who God is. In Scripture, the name of the Lord represents His character and nature. Therefore, in order for us to completely entrust ourselves into Him, it is important that we know who we are giving ourselves to. Otherwise, there is no depth to the relationship and when hard times fall, our faith may waiver.

Imagine a young couple who fell in love "at first sight" and decided to get married that same day. They knew little about each other, nothing of their background, or how they would handle different situations. After the initial "buzz" wore off, what do you think would happen to the couple? Chances are, they would find out that their relationship was not what they thought it was.

In the same way, if we think that we have faith without having a knowledge of who God is, we carry the risk of having wrong perceptions about God. We then might carry with that wrong expectations. Then, when God does not meet our wrong expectations of Him, we blame Him.

However, when we know the character of God, the natural result is trust, because in His nature is faithfulness, trustworthiness, truth, honor, etc. By knowing God's character, represented by His name, we are given reassurance in times of trouble.

The challenge today is to look through Scripture at some of the names of God and see how He is that name in your life.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dealing with Disappointments

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 - Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

We all go through times of disappointment. They could be due to circumstances or they could be because of a consequence of sin. The question is,"how do we deal with disappointment?" We have several options: 1. we could rationalize it 2. we could project our disappointment onto someone else 3. we can repress it and can just pretend to forget about it 4. we can do a series of other unhealthy defense mechanisms or 5. we can turn to Scripture and see what to do.

The Apostle Paul went through many disappointments within his lifetime. In 1 Thessalonians, we see that one of his great disappointments was not being able to visit the church in Thessalonica. In chapter 2, he discusses his great desire to see his beloved followers in whom he had invested so much time. However, in Acts 17, it shows that his visit had to be cut short due to opposition. It is for this reason that he still has not been able to return to the church there. Instead of sulking about his disappointment, Paul sends Timothy to check on the congregation while he remained in Athens (1 Thess. 3:1-2).

We can learn several things from the way Paul responded to disappointment through the exhortation he gave in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

1. Express joy in all things. Paul consistently expressed the joy he had in Christ. He saw the faith of the Thessalonians to be a source of joy. This was unswayed by circumstances because he saw God at work in them. He therefore did not have an ownership over them, but saw them as belonging to God. We often struggle with expressing joy in our lives when we lay claim over things that ultimately belong to God. This could include our plans, our loved ones, our jobs, etc.

2. Remain thankful no matter the circumstance. Paul continues to thank God throughout the letter, though God's plans might not have matched up to his own. (1 Thess. 1:2; 2:13; 3:9; 5:18). We often struggle with thankfulness when we let the disappointing situation distract us from our relationship with God. However, having a spirit of thankfulness helps us keep a proper perspective of the situation and the God in charge.

3. Continue in prayer. Prayer is a pervasive element in Paul's ministry. He prays for the people he ministers to and continues to pray for an opportunity to see them again. His persistence in prayer shows his reliance upon God in all circumstances. It also shows that no matter the circumstance, God is the priority. (1 Thess 1:2; 3:10; 5:17). When faced with disappointment, we should continue to express our trust in God through prayer. It helps us keep hope in God's plan for our lives.

God's ultimate will for our lives is our sanctification. He desires for us to develop Christ-like character by walking in the Spirit. By doing these three things, we keep ourselves from blocking the Spirit's work in our life.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Using Your Giftedness

Romans 12:3-6 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as one body, we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.

The Body of Christ can be a beautiful testimony of what Christianity has to offer. However, it also has the potential to keep people from ever turning to Christ. If someone sees the Church not functioning in unity and harmony, they begin to call Christians hypocrites and begin to discredit the gospel message in its entirety. Romans 12:3-6 gives us instruction as to how to serve within the Body.

The first step is to have an appropriate view of ourselves. We are not to think of each other more highly than we ought, but instead to think of yourself with a sound mind. I cannot help but thinking of those poor fools on American Idol who go up to the judges with pride covering their faces. They talk the talk, and wear the starlet outfit. And then they open their mouths to sing. I sit there thinking, "did no one love them enough to tell them that they were TERRIBLE?" Then, when the judges tell them that it was the worst audition that they have ever heard, the pseudo-singer doesn't believe it. They have not thought of themselves with sober judgement and therefore their attitude of themselves is to high. Their pride makes them not coachable and not useful for any good purpose. We have these same personalities in our churches. Those who are confident that they are the best at one certain area of ministry or another. Paul tells us to instead of getting caught up with thinking too highly of ourselves, we are to be sensible in how we view ourselves which comes from our faith.

The second step is to find your function and serve faithfully. Paul tells us that we are all members of one body and that we all do not have the same function. By having a sound judgment of ourselves, we are better able to serve as the member that God has called us to be with the giftedness He has given us. If we think too highly of ourselves, our role in the Body will seem insignificant or not good enough. We will vie for another position. We will try to manipulate and politicize to be in an area of service that might not be within our giftedness, simply because we see it as more desirable. However, God gives us spiritual gifts for the reason of building up the Body of Christ and for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7). We are therefore not competing against each other. Rather, we are serving one another as we serve Christ.

First Corinthians 12:24 states, "But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another."

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Love of the Father

John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

If you asked anyone if they knew any Bible verse, if they could quote one, it would most likely be John 3:16. You see it plastered on banners at baseball games, written on billboard, and screened on tee-shirts. I often wonder though how many people take time to actually meditate on how profound this verse actually is.

On one hand was a disobedient world; a creation that had rioted against God for generations and generations. On the other, was the Second Person if the Trinity, the Son, perfect in obedience and fellowship with the Father. Yet, because of love, the Father actively gives the Son as a sacrifice. He does this so that whoever simply believes in the Son will not perish, which is what everyone deserves, but would rather have eternal life.

My two children were sick this past weekend. On Saturday, I watched as my daughter tried to crawl, only to collapse on the floor in exhaustion. I thought to myself that I would do anything to trade places with her. I would gladly endure the pain to take hers away. I then immediately thought about what God the Father had to endure in watching Christ on the cross. I thought about the love that had to compel Him to make such a sacrifice. I then thought about my own selfishness. I certainly would not give either of my children for anyone. I simply do not have enough love in me. Yet, God not only endured temporary separation of fellowship with the Son, but He also had to see Him mocked, scorned, beaten, broken, and crucified. As a parent, I am too selfish in my love. However, it makes me love and revere God all the more. He would love me so much that He would be willing to endure that kind of heartbreak, willingly, so that I might have the opportunity to have a relationship with Him. If I do not believe and take advantage of that relationship and embrace that love, then, shame on me. I deserved none of it, but the Father was gracious enough to see that I should gain access to Him. The Son loved the Father and loved those whom the Father gave Him to be obedient to the cross. If I cannot live my life out of gratefulness, then shame on me.

It is such a simple message, but it cost so much. Please let it not just be something that you place on a poster or a shirt, but let it be a message you embrace with your whole heart.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Shepherd and Sheep Part 2

1 Peter 2:24-25 - He himself (Jesus) bore our sins in his body on a tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds, you were healed. For you were straying like sheep, but you have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Sheep are known for their propensity to stray. Sheep have been known to wander from the herd and lead themselves to the edge of a cliff or to be found dead alone in the middle of nowhere. This is the state in which we were in without Christ. We were wandering around, lost and without hope. It was for this reason that Christ died on the cross. Our response is that we should get rid of our old and sinful way of living and turn and live in obedience to Christ.We are no longer characterized by our old sinful selves. Rather, by the wounding of Christ on the cross, we are spiritually, healed. It is because of this healing relationship that we have been brought back to God, the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.

The text says that we were straying like sheep. That no longer characterizes the believer. However, God continues to Shepherd us. He continues to guide and lead us. Unfortunately, we sometimes desire to revert back to "sheep mentality". We like to think of ourselves as wandering, without hope instead of realizing the change that Christ made for us on the cross. We have been healed. The effects of our sins have been healed. Our relationship with God has been healed. Our response is to get ride of the old way of thinking and living and to accept and practice the new that has been established in Christ. We to rely on God as our Shepherd and allow Him to be Overseer of our souls. When we do, we do not have to worry about straying.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Shepherd and Sheep part 1

Psalm 23:1 - The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.

God is often compared with a shepherd in Scripture, with man being His sheep in need of His care. Psalm 23 is one of the most famous passages of Scripture. It discusses how God cares for us by using pastoral imagery. The more you understand the relationship between a shepherd and sheep, the better you are able to grasp the depth of the Psalm. throughout the Psalm, God is seen as Provider and Protector. The first verse declares that the Lord is the writer's shepherd. As a result of the personal relationship, David will not have a lack of provision. The author then states how as the Shepherd, God makes him lie down in green pastures. Sheep are known to be skittish animals and will not lie down unless certain conditions are met. First, their environment must be void of any fear. Second, the flock must not have any friction amongst them. Next, there must not be any parasites plaguing the sheep. Finally, they must have plenty of food. The fact that the shepherd provides to the extent that the sheep can lie down, means that he has gone to great lengths in order that the sheep may rest. The sheep's tendency to fear carries over to how they drink water. A sheep might thirst to death even in the presence of water, if the water is a running river. Therefore, a sheep must have still water to drink from in order to survive. It is up to the shepherd to seek out these pools in order to provide for his flock. Therefore, he leads them to quiet waters. David declares that God does not provide merely physical rest and renewal to him, but also spiritual.

Not only does the Shepherd lead His sheep in order to provide. He also leads them in order to protect. Verse three states that He leads him into the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. A shepherd's reputation was based on the condition of the sheep. In the same way, the Lord's reputation on earth is often based on how we represent Him. While He leads us on the paths of righteousness, it is also up to us to follow. Sheep are not known for their obedience and often wander (Isaiah 53:6). Even in the darkest times, the writer has no need to fear because he knows that the Lord is with him. A shepherd would normally carry two pieces of equipment in the field: a rod and a staff. The rod was the defensive weapon to fend off predators while the staff is what the shepherd used to guide and control the sheep. Therefore, David knows that God's protection consists of both defending him against evil as well as restraining him from going astray.

As we see through the metaphor, God's love for us is extensive. His commitment to provide and protect is vast. All we are asked to do is follow.

What are some ways in which you see God differently as Shepherd than you did before?

How can you trust God more to be your Shepherd?

Why is it that we sometimes like to take the staff into our own hands and lead ourselves?

In what ways are you similar to a sheep?

What is keeping you from lying down and enjoying the green pasture God has for you?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Being Christ-like: The Priority of Compassion

Matthew 9:35-37 - And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest."

Matthew 9:35 gives a great summary of the work that Christ did while he ministered on earth. He met people's needs both spiritually and physically. In verse 35, I like how it says that he healed EVERY disease and EVERY affliction. This shows the extent of both his love and his power. In verse 36, we see the motivation behind his ministry: he had compassion on the people. The Greek verb refers to being greatly moved by a sympathetic love. Often times this emotion solicits involvement (Matt. 14:14; Mk 1:41; Mk 6:34; Lk 7:13; Lk 10:33).

Having compassion requires recognizing the needs of others around us and rather than scoffing at their condition, thus taking heart to where they are at and showing them mercy. Compassion requires humility, in that we must look beyond our own comforts to meet the needs of those hurting. Jesus was moved and motivated by the harassed and helpless because he saw that they were the ones with a need. In Matthew 9:12 Jesus says, "those who are well have no need for a physician, but those who are sick." Jesus did not spend his time with the spiritual elite. Rather he spent the limited amount of time that God gave him on earth with the "sinners" and "tax collectors." He taught those that society ignored. He helped the broken-hearted. He healed the wounded.

Jesus recognized the need for workers for this hurting world. In response, he told his disciples to pray in a specific way. They were to petition to God and ask that he send people to help with this great task. In this prayer they were making a plea to God, whuch was not far from begging. Therefore, this shows that the need is great. Could you be part of that answer?

We are all given a small amount of time on earth. How much time have you committed to showing compassion to others? Who are some people that need to be shown some of God's love? If you say you do not know of anyone, there are hurting people all around. All you have to do is pray and ask God to show you who. It is easier to stay around healthy happy people who love Jesus just like us. But Christ has called us to reap His harvest. In doing so, we must go out, being motivated by compassion, and reach out to a world in need. God does not call the equipped, He equips the called.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Being Christ-like - The Priority of Forgiveness

Luke 5:20 - And when he saw their faith, he said to him, "Man, your sins are forgiven."

Over the last several posts, we have looked at how we can be more Christ-like by examining how Christ lived his life on earth. We have looked at how he set his priority on his devotion to the Father, to his mission, and to the message. Today we are going to look at Jesus' priority of forgiveness.

In Luke 5:17-25 is the story of Jesus healing the paralytic. This passage takes place during one of Jesus' teaching sessions. Some of the people in crowd were Pharisees and teachers of the law, all who were known to be opponents of Jesus' ministry, though this is their first mention with Jesus in Luke's gospel. However, while he was teaching, some men brought in a paralytic. Normal access to Jesus was blocked due to the crowd, so the men went and made a hole through the roof top and lowered the man down right where Jesus was teaching. Immediately, Jesus recognizes the faith of the friends and he responds. He addresses the paralytic and tells him that his sins are forgiven. At this point, the man remains paralyzed. Therefore, I am sure there are several people in the room who are looking at Jesus with a curious expression on their faces: the man, his friends, the witnesses. The Pharisees and scribes begin to believe that Jesus is speaking blaspheme because only God alone can forgive sin. Jesus answers their thoughts with a riddle. He asks them, which is easier to say, "your sins are forgiven" or "get up and walk". The answer would be, "your sins are forgiven" because that is something that cannot be proven. He then gives them the reason for what he is about to do next. In verse 24 he states, "But that you may know that the Son of Man has the power on earth to forgive sins." Jesus then looks that the paralytic man and tells him to arise, take up his mat, and go to his house, to which the man immediately responds.

This episode gives illustration that Jesus' priority is on forgiveness of sins. The reason why the people brought the man to Jesus was not because of his sins. However, Jesus saw sin to be his most important need and addressed it first. The man, by faith, came to Jesus, and as a result, his sins were forgiven, an act that only God can do. This act showed Jesus' authority as God.

Jesus also teaches us about the priority of forgiveness in Christian fellowship. He gives us the command to forgive others (Colossians 3:13). He also gives us the responsibility that if we are in need of forgiveness, we are to seek that from the person we have harmed (Matthew 5:22-24).

How does forgiveness rank in your list of priorities? Do you tend to hold grudges and stay embittered? Or, are you on the other side, where you cause hurt without ever recognizing the consequences? Part of forgiveness is both asking of it when you offend others and giving it to those who offend you.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Being Christlike - The Priority of the Message

Luke 4:43 - but he (Jesus) said to them, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to other towns as well, for I was sent for this purpose."

Throughout the last couple of posts, I have been looking at the life of Christ and examining how he lived here on earth. People state that we are to be like Christ, but what exactly does that mean? So far, we have looked at Jesus' priority to the Father, his priority to the ministry, and today, we are going to look at his priority to the message.

Jesus was out in a deserted place and a crowd came and found him. They tried to keep him from leaving them. I can imagine this as a scene of the people repeatedly trying to hold him back by making up continued excuses or asking more and more questions of him, doing everything they could to try to keep Jesus to stay in their presence. However, Jesus finally tells them that it is absolutely necessary for him to go to other cities in order to preach the good news. Jesus knew that it he was to be the one to go, with no substitute and he did not allow the flattery of the crowd to keep him from going where he knew God was leading him.

Jesus knew that part of his purpose was to proclaim the kingdom of God. As believers, Christ has handed over that commission to us. However, do we make it the same priority that Jesus did? Do we claim our sense of purpose to preach the good news every day?

Jesus could have surrendered to the crowd and delayed the message. However, he held the message in priority. It was held in such high esteem because he knew that he was personally called to carry it out. God sent Jesus to proclaim the message of the Kingdom of God. In the same way, Christ sends you (Matthew 28:19-20). The challenge today is to make the message of God a priority in our lives. Let us stop letting others dictate our plans about whether we tell them about Christ. Yes, sometimes it may be intimidating, but hearing God say, "Well done faithful servant," is much more rewarding than a little bit of whisperings amongst the crowd.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Being Christlike - The Priority to Mission

Luke 4:18-19 (Isaiah 61:1-2) - "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty for those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

In this setting, Jesus is in Nazareth at the synagogue. He gets in front of the people and reads this portion of the scroll. As soon as he finishes, he hand the scroll back to the attendant and declares that today, the Scripture has been fulfilled in their hearing.

Jesus was sent by God to preach the orientation of the kingdom of God. As the Messiah, he was the one who would ultimately be the Good News to a lost and dying world. He would bring spiritual liberty to captives bound by sin (Proverbs 5:22). He would bring light to those in spiritual darkness (John 1:4). Jesus embraced his mission wholeheartedly (John 10:10). He recognized that God had called him for a specific purpose. He realized that his purpose was to preach the kingdom of God and not glorify himself. Therefore, his ultimate mission was based on humility. He was sent to the poor, not to the rich. He was sent to those in need. He was sent to bring hope to a dying world.

The Lord has also appointed us with a mission. We are to make disciples as we go about our lives (Matthew 28:19-20). We are to be ambassadors of Christ to the world (2 Corinthians 5:20). God enables us to accomplish these tasks through the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; Luke 12:12.

What is God calling you to do for Him? Have you made His mission a priority? Who are the ones in your life who need to hear the good news? Who are the poor that need helping? How can you help those who are experiencing some sort of spiritual bondage? How can you proclaim God's favor to someone who desperately needs to hear it?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Being Christlike - Priority of Devotion

Luke 2:49 - And he (Jesus) said to them (Mary and Joseph), "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"

Many people know the story where young Jesus was in the temple in Jerusalem listening to the teachers and asking them questions. Mary and Joseph thought that Jesus had travelled back with them, but while they were on their way home, they realized he was missing. They searched for three days for him. Finally, they found him with the religious leaders in the temple. I am sure a mixture of panic, relief, and anger filled the mother and father when they saw Jesus calmly sitting down chatting alongside his elders. The word Luke used to describe their emotional state is astonished, or better yet, dumbfounded (BDAG). Can you imagine losing the Son of God?
They approach him and, in essence, ask how Jesus could put them through so much turmoil and distress. Jesus' answers them with a simple question that demands the following answer: they should have known that his devotion belonged to his Heavenly Father and he would act accordingly. There are several reasons why we know this as the interpretation. First, the questions use the Greek negative that demands a positive answer in questions. Second, when Jesus asks them the second question, he uses the Greek verb that means "it is necessary" or "it must happen that." This gives emphasis to the fact that this is the logical progression of what should happen because of the closeness of his relationship with God. Therefore, his response to be where he was is completely appropriate.

There are many times throughout the Gospels in which Jesus' closeness to the Father is made explicit. (Luke 10:22; John 1:1, 18; 3:35; 5:19-20; 10:30; 14:7,11, 31; 15:9). His devotion was his profound dedication to his Father played out on earth. He did the work of his Father and what the Father authorized him to do (John 5:17-22, 36; 10:25; 14:31). Jesus came in the name of his Father in order to represent Him (John 5:43). He spoke the message the Father told him to speak (John 12:49-50; 14:10, 24). In Luke 22:42 (Mark 14:36), Jesus surrendered his own will over to the Father to show his complete obedience with the cross.

What are we to learn from Jesus' example? First, as believers, we have been given the right to be called children of God (John 1:12). Therefore, we are given the ability to have an intimate and personal relationship with God. It is fitting for us to take advantage of this great privilege. By making our relationship with God a priority, some might not understand. We might offend others. Jesus offended many people because of his commitment to God. People were angry with him because he refused to back down on the message and the ministry God gave him. His relationship with the Father was the focal point to his life. Everything else he did stemmed from that relationship.

So how do we spend time with God? The first is through prayer. Jesus had a lifestyle of prayer (Luke 5:16; 6:12; 9:18; 9:28; 11:1; 22:41; 22:44). The second way we spend time with God is through the study of his Word. Jesus placed a high priority on Scripture, with the gospels recording him quoting from the Old Testament 78 times. Therefore, it is obvious that he had a high view of Scripture.

The challenge today is to ask yourself how you can improve your devotion to God. As we will continue to look at the life of Christ, we are going to see that he was not some fundamentalist Bible thumper. Rather, because of his devotion to God, he lived a radical, exciting, and fruitful life that was anything but mundane. When our lives consist of such passion and dedication, it is hard first, for us not to be changed, and second, for those we encounter to to be impacted.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Challenge to Discipleship

1 John 2:5-6 - By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says that he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walks.

It is a lot easier to say that we are in Christ than it is to show it. True discipleship consists of not simply stating that you love Jesus. That is easy to do for most. Rather, it is living as he lived. It is loving as he loved. It is serving as he served. These two verses seem simple enough at first glance: the proof that we abide in him is that we live like Jesus did. The word abide generally means to remain or stay, but here it is referring to an intimate, committed relationship with Jesus that is both personal and continuous (Smalley, 51). Logically, if there is a relationship that is that close and personal, then one would begin to take on those traits, especially when the nature of the relationship is to be one of mentor. Therefore, if someone claims to have this type of extensive fellowship with Jesus, but does not exemplify the traits that Jesus had, there is evidence that something is wrong with the claim.

If you are currently thinking to yourself that it is impossible to walk as Jesus did because he turned water into wine and walked on water and healed diseases and forgave sins, then you have not studied Jesus enough. We must get beyond our Sunday School knowledge of the stories of Jesus and see HOW he lived life, not simply what he did. Then, we are to do the same. When we abide in him, we are able to do much for the kingdom of God.

Over the next while, I am going to be posting about the life of Christ. I am very excited about studying who Jesus was on earth and falling more in love with him. I hope that in return I will love more like him. I hope you will join the journey with me and allow God to transform you as you become more like His Son.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Daily Challenge - July 19 - How Much is He Worth?

Matthew 13:44 - The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again and then in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys the field.

Kenny Chesney has a hit song entitled "Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven." This song has always grated on my nerves to an extent. However, it holds an element of truth. The chorus of the song repeats the phrase, "everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to go now." The essence of the song is that eventually, after we have lived a long, full life, it would be nice to have a mansion in heaven, but there are other things that are more worthwhile right now. Similarly, I one time had a dream that Jesus came back for His Church, and everyone was disappointed because they had to stop doing what they were in the middle of.

This small parable in Matthew talks about the priority that should be given to Christ and His Kingdom. A man stumbles upon a treasure in a field and hides it again so that no one will find it before he has a chance to claim it for himself. Then he goes and sells all that he has in order to buy the entire field in which the treasure lies. This shows the great extent to which he labors in order to possess the treasure. He recognized that the treasure might not always be there, and thus he hurried in order to secure the transaction. Though he was not expecting to find the treasure, he immediately placed it in priority, showing how much the man values the treasure. The treasure is greater than anything else than the man owns and therefore he is willing to forsake all else. Likewise, we should recognize the great value of the kingdom of heaven and prioritize our lives accordingly.

Unfortunately, we sometimes take the approach that Christ will always be there and that heaven can wait. We are therefore in no hurry. However, in the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), Jesus makes it clear that his return is inevitable and we must be ready.

What value are you currently place on Christ? Discipleship requires more than simply using Jesus as a ticket out of hell. It requires us to place Him above all else and make the necessary changes in our lives in order to do so.

The Challenge today is to ask yourself in what area of your life do you need to place Christ first. What are you still holding onto in this life that you need to "sell out" to Christ.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Daily Challenge - July 09 - Worship with Your Tongue

James 1:26 - If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.

Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:6-9 - These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.

Over the past several posts, we have been talking about worship. One important way in which we serve God is through our mouth. The Bible has a lot to say when it comes to how we should control what comes out of our mouth. The Book of Isaiah noted God's displeasure with the the people's vain praise because their hearts were adulterous. Jesus then quotes this passage in his teaching on how the tongue defiles.

The book of James specifically does not mince words when it comes to controlling our speech. In essence what he is saying is that if someone considers himself to be religious, but they do not actively hold their tongue in check, they are in essence deceiving themselves by thinking that their "religion" is real when, in actuality, it serves no purpose. The word for "worthless" is an adjective that describes something that has no use at all.

So why is this principle so harsh? James goes on to explain more on the subject. In James 3:9-10, he states that "with the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God." He states how blessing and cursing should not come from the same mouth. He further expands on this idea through rhetorical questions to which the obvious answer is, "no". The first illustration is that a fresh water spring does not produce both fresh water and salt water. He then states that a fig tree cannot bear olives and a grapevine cannot bear figs. He ends the framing by returning to the illustration that a salt spring cannot flow forth fresh water. The point the author is making is that you cannot have two things of contrary natures coming from one source. This applies in the Christian life as well.

Jesus' teachings in Matthew 15:18 says that, "the things that come out of a person's mouth, come from the heart." Luke 6:45 states, "a good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of." Therefore, our words are a reflection of our heart. If our words are full of hate, rage, malice, slander, gossip, etc., then that is what our heart is full of. These are not the things of Christ. These are not honoring to God and certainly not be considered acceptable acts of worship to Him.

So practically, what does this look like? As Americans, we have the freedom of speech, but as Christians we are called to exercise restraint. We do this because the words we speak are to represent the change Christ has made in our lives. If we utter words of disgust and deceit, that is not representative of Christ. This also applies to the words we write. Thanks to technology, it is quite simple to "voice our opinions" on a global platform. Facebook, Twitter, blogging, etc. can be a great tool to encourage and edify one another. Yet, it can also be an outlet for slander, hurt, and gossip.

The Challenge today is to examine your words. Are they indicative of the differnence Christ has made in your life or are you simply fooling yourself by acting religious when in reality, your words give evidence that there is no change in your heart? It may be time to ask for forgiveness, take some postings off the internet, and start anew by actively controlling what you say. Then, you will be valuable to the kingdom of God, spreading his message of love. The result is that your life will be an act of worship that is well-pleasing to God.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Daily Challenge - July 08 - What is Worship?

Romans 12:1 - I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice, living, holy, and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

In my last post, I posed the question, "are we serving (worshipping) God in the manner of reverence and admiration to which we should or are we merely pleasing him in the manner in which we are comfortable?" Today, I want to begin to look at what it means to serve God.

In the Old Testament, worship and service revolved around the sacrificial system. Offerings were made to God at various times for various reasons. However, Jesus brought an end to the sacrificial system by becoming the ultimate sacrifice and the great High Priest and ultimate mediator between God and man, making the system of the Old Testament obsolete. Therefore, in light of the fact that worship and service to God no longer revolved around the sacrificial system, how is the New Testament Church to serve God. I believe that the first part of the answer is found in Romans 12:1.

The first verse of Romans reflects back on the salvation God has bestowed upon both the Gentiles and Jews. In light of all that believers have received, and because of God's mercies, we are to offer back to God our bodies. The word bodies, in this context, refers to the whole person, therefore indicating that genuine commitment to God involves every aspect of a believer's life (Schreiner, 650). You cannot dedicate your spirit to God and not your body, nor can you dedicate your body to God and not your spirit. Our bodies, as sacrifices, that we are to offer to God are described as living, holy, and acceptable to God. By living, Paul is referring to a person's new spiritual state. However, this quality also contrasts with the Old Testament sacrifice in that now, the sacrifice consists of a quality of constant commitment (Dunn,710). Therefore, the quality of the sacrifice to which we offer God is one of constant dedication. We, as a sacrifice to God, are also to be holy, or set apart. This quality refers to the singular devotion to God, forsaking any other. The third attribute of our sacrifice is that we are to be pleasing to God. This quality represents the element of enjoyment that God receives through our sacrifice. He is well-pleased to have our constant and consistent commitment that is given to Him alone. It is this that God sees as our act of service to Him that is thought out and dedicated explicitly to Him (BDAG).

So what does that look like in 2011: To offer our entire lives to God in a way that we are consistently committed, constantly dedicated, and well-pleasing to God? How does that practically play out in our home life, in the workplace, and in our social life? How does that play out within the church?

The Challenge today is to think about how this applies within your own life. How do you show consistent devotion in each of your realms of influence so that God might be well-pleased with your worship?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Daily Challenge - July 06 - Have We No Reverence?

Hebrews 12:28-29 - Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

The book of Hebrews delicately balances how Christians should approach God, given their new status in Christ. The author understood the Old Testament well and quoted it often throughout the book. Throughout the OT, God was seen as a God of justice and holiness, who must be approached at certain times and under certain conditions. As the author so eloquently states, Jesus Christ makes our relationship with God more approachable (Hebrews 4:16; 5:9; 6:20; 7:25; 9:14-15). In the Old Testament, man's status with God was one that was under the law, marked by its obligatory and repetitious sacrifices for forgiveness and fellowship. Now, through Christ, our relationship status has changed. We are granted access to God and have become acceptable to Him through the one time sacrifice of Christ. While our status has changed from one that was under the Old Testament law, there are still the elements of faith, obedience, and reverence, in how we approach God because the nature of God is unchanging and He is still deserving all of this because of who He is.

In the immediate context of Hebrews 11:28-29, , the author explains that God will have a final judgment on the earth and that it will ultimately crumble. However, as believers, our promise is that is that we will receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken. It is because of this promise that we should respond to God with gratitude. We do this through worship. The term for worship involves more than simply praising God for what He has done. The Greek term actually refers more to an act of service. The manner in which we are to serve God is one of reverence and awe. The first Greek word for "reverence" is a rare word, only used twice in the New Testament, both times being in the book of Hebrews. It is used to indicate a reverent awe that is intended for God alone (BDAG). The second word used of "awe" is a rare Greek word only used in this instance throughout the entire New Testament. The nuance of it is an"emotion of profound respect and reverence for deity" (BDAG). Therefore, the author uses two rare, but similar words, thus emphasizing the profound respect and adoration in which believers are to serve God. This is the type of worship that is pleasing and acceptable to God because by our attitudes, our service to Him service illustrates His uniqueness and divinity. We do this out of gratefulness for what we have been given.

I want to stop here today and simply pose this question: is today's Church meeting this exhortation? Are we serving God in the manner of reverence and admiration to which we should or are we merely praising Him in the manner in which we are comfortable? Are we worshipping God to please Him or rather to please ourselves? Are our actions and attitudes soliciting a response that show that we serve the One True God? Have we embraced the "approachability" of God through Christ so much that we have neglected His holiness?

I plan to examine over the next several posts what serving God in this manner of reverence and awe should look like played out in real life as well as some other discussions relating to the issue.

The Challenge today is to ask yourself: How am I serving God with reverence and awe in a way that glorifies Him alone?

Daily Challenge - July 12 - Honor and Respect

1 Peter 3:15 - But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

There seems to have been a shift in the last generation or so in how people think of and relate to Jesus Christ. A common view is to see him as our brother and our friend. Some look to him as our mediator and savior, but neglect to recognize him as Lord. I have often heard people begin their prayers with "Hey Jesus, it's me." or "What's up Jesus." Perhaps this is an attempt to display intimate fellowship with Jesus, but I believe that intimate fellowship needs to be approached a different way. Intimacy and respect are not mutually exclusive. If you look at the way in which Christ addressed God the Father, it was always with the utmost respect and reverence. In the same way, we are to not only revere God the Father, but also God the Son.

In 1 Peter 3:15, Jesus is addressed in two different ways. First, he is addressed as Christ. This refers to his title as the Anointed Messiah, or the expected Jewish deliverer. The second title given to him is Lord. Here it is used definitively, therefore, indicating him as the Lord God. Our response to him is to therefore regard and declare him as holy. The place where this is to occur is in our hearts. Peter is writing this to help the believers at a time fear of persecution. Therefore, the believers' response is that they should recognize who Jesus is and regard him with holy fear in order to drive out their current fears and give response to those who question them about their faith (Peters, 187).

We can apply this verse in how we approach Christ in our own lives. We must acknowledge who he is. We cannot simply see him as a tool by which to get to heaven and use him accordingly. When we recognize Jesus for who he is, we cannot help but be humbled by his majesty.

The Challenge today is to spend some time reflecting on who Jesus is. For a listing of all the names and attributes of Jesus click here. Take some time to revere him as holy and give him the honor that he deserves.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Daily Challenge - July 03 - Do Not Be Anxious

Philippians 4:6-7 - Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

What is it that makes us so unduly concerned about everything? I try to think of myself as a laid back person, but still I fall into the trap of playing the "what if" game. It is amazing what people become anxious over: make up and hair looking perfect, the way pair of jeans fit, whether they will be accepted by the right crowd, whether their child will make it home by curfew, whether their husband will come home on time, whether their friend will make it through the illness, whether their son will come home from war. The reason for our anxiety can go from being completely trivial in nature to seemingly overwhelming. Yet, Paul had a specific teaching on how to deal with all kinds of worrisome situations.

In Philippians 4:6, Paul simply gives the command to not be anxious. This means to not have an unduly amount of concern over a certain matter. Paul is not stating that you cannot care about what is going on around you, but rather to maintain a proper outlook and not obsess over it. Fortunately, Paul does not simply tell us not to be anxious, but he also tells us how to deal with our tendency to get caught up with our concern. He tells us that in everything, by prayer and petitions, we are to present our requests to God. This means that there is no detail too minute and no problem too formidable for God.

Paul also states how we are to present our requests to God. We are to bring our requests to God in prayer with thanksgiving. This seems to be contrary to the present situation. However, when we begin to praise God, that in essence, solicits the end of our anxiety because we begin to recognize God in the present situation (Barth, Philippians, 120). We begin to give God the glory in what we are going through. We begin to place God in the center of our circumstance. The result that comes from the presentation of petition with praise is God's peace. It is not a peace that we can understand by our own understanding. It far surpasses and exceeds what we can expect, plan, or anticipate. This peace will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. The verb to guard was used as a military term, which referenced a soldier standing guard over a city in order to keep it from being attacked (Hawthorne, Philippians, 247). Therefore, the word picture is of God's peace standing guard over our thoughts and our emotions, protecting them from anxiety.

We can therefore surmise that God does not want us to be anxious and gives us the tools not to be. However, it is up to us to utilize those resources by looking to God in all times, not just in situations that might cause unduly concern. We must make it a practice to praise God in every situation and pray continually to Him regarding everything. When we have this upward perspective, the result is God's peace that guards our thoughts and emotions.

The challenge today is to look at what area of your life is causing you anxiety. Is it a particular relationship? Is it how others perceive you? Is it your job performance? The list is endless. Spend some time in prayer with your focus being on THANKSGIVING regarding the situation. Make God the center of the petition and the concern. Trust in His character and His nature regarding the situation.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

June 30 - Daily Challenge - Be Still

Psalm 46:10 - "Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted among the earth."

This morning I awoke to a quiet house. Due to my love of sleep, this rarely happens, as it is one of my children who normally serves as my alarm clock. As I began to pray over the day, Psalm 46 came to mind.

This is a psalm that illustrates God's sovereign protection over all times of misfortune. The first verse declares the nature of God. He is our strong refuge and helper in trouble. The psalmist describes both destruction caused by natural catastrophes as well as by human wars, the two leading causes for mass casualties. Throughout the psalm, he then describes God's involvement of protection within these different environments. The focus of the psalm is that even though the earth and kingdoms may pass away, the kingdom of God will not fall. Therefore, in light of this knowledge, we should be still and recognize God for who He is. God is present with us and is our Fortress.

Being still is the last thing people want to do in times of chaos. Our survival instincts kick in and unfortunately, we often do not surrender our trust to God. We do not recognize that while He is in ultimate control over this earth, there also awaits for us an unshakable kingdom. As believers, we have nothing to fear. Instead, we rally behind fear and react accordingly. However, our focus should be resolute on the Creator and Sustainer.

Being still does not mean having a laissez-faire attitude and passively giving up the battles that come to life. Rather, it is taking time out in the midst of those battles to gain perspective and as a result maintaining a sense of peace throughout the course, no matter the result. Therefore, we can exalt God, in every circumstance.

The greatest illustration I can give of our tendency to respond verses how we ought to respond comes from the movie "Titanic." After the ship began to sink and everyone knew there were not enough lifeboats, chaos erupted. People were filled with fear, despair, anger, hopelessness, etc. Yet, there is a touching scene of stillness. When most all have either refused to recognize or resigned to their fate, a single violinist begins to play, "Nearer My God to Thee," thus illustrating his resolve. His colleagues join him. Amidst the disorder, rage, and seeming injustice, there is recognition that God is still in control. You can sense the stillness in the recognition of God's sovereignty. Though there are images of death, destruction, and despair, in the background is the sweet music, acknowledging that in that moment, a believer is choosing to draw nearer to God. He is not playing out of resignation, but rather out of comfort and peace.

It does not have to be catastrophic events in which we exercise this practice of stillness. We experience "minor catastrophes" everyday and have the choice how we are going to respond.The children begin to misbehave and we turn to anger rather than grace. Traffic is terrible on the way home and we react in road rage. The car breaks down, the phone rings one too many times, the basement floods, you have one too many deadlines, a storm takes out the car, a person asks one too many favors. The list goes on and on. There are constantly misgivings that tempt us to react to chaos rather than to respond to God.

The Challenge today is to look at what areas are you tempted react to the chaos instead of responding to God by being still and recognizing, in each moment, that He is God. This requires us being intentional about taking the time to be still and using that time to recognize and exalt God for who He is.

To see a video clip of the Titanic scene mentioned above, click here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Daily Challenge: Learning to Be Content Part 4

2 Corinthians 12:10 - For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

So far on our journey to contentment, we have discovered several things. First, contentment is learned. Contentment is a commitment of the mind. It is demonstrated through actions and it requires preparation. I was tempted to not write on the topic today in fear that it was getting monotonous, but then I realized, no one has to read this and I am still learning. :)

This particular verse I write on stuck out to me today during my personal Bible study. It struck me, not because Paul states that he is content in such wretched situations. No, what caught my attention was the verb Paul uses in order to state his contentment. He does not declare that he is simply self-sufficient. Rather, he uses the verb that indicates that he is well-pleased that these circumstances are happening. This is the same verb that God uses to refer to Jesus at his baptism when he says, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased." (Matt. 3:17)

The reason why I find this so remarkable is because Paul takes contentment to the next level. It is not simply enduring or acting in light of circumstances, but rather it is taking DELIGHT in those circumstances. The reason for this is for the sake of Christ. Never once in Paul's discussion of calamity or contentment does his focus waver from Jesus. That is the reason why Paul has the hope that he has. It is the reason why he has the attitude he has. He realizes that it is through his own weakness that God's power is able to shine through and therefore he triumphs under pressure.

The challenge now is to turn our attitudes and our actions from merely treading water to triumphing where God has placed us. We do this by realizing that God's grace is sufficient and His power is perfect (2 Cor. 12:9). The reason why we do this is for the sake of Christ.

For more information on this passage, please see my post "The Gift of the Thorn and the Gift of Grace."

Monday, June 27, 2011

Daily Post - June 28 - Learning to be Content Part 3

Proverbs 19:21 - Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.

In my last post, we discussed that in order to find contentment, we must first make a commitment to change our attitudes from the old ones we had as unbelievers, which were focused on the things of the world, to a new one which is focused on the plan God has for our life. This is much easier said than done.

Committing to contentment means more than simply proclaiming that we are content. It is more than resigning ourselves to the fact that God has placed us wherever we are at so we might as well make the most of us. Rather, contentment is embracing that God is sovereign and authoritative over our lives and has ultimately placed us where we are for a purpose.

The best biblical illustration of someone who learned contentment was Queen Esther. Esther was the Jewish girl who became queen to the Persian King Xerxes, all while hiding her identity. Due to a plan by the King's right-hand man, Haman, Esther's cousin Mordecai requests that she reveal her identity in hopes to save the Jews. Many regard Esther 4:16 as Esther's declaration of commitment. Mordecai had declared the potential purpose of her placement in verse 14. However, after looking at the text and context, I believe that her reply to him is the desperate plea of an insecure young woman who had been virtually ignored by her royal king rather than a declaration of confidence. She, in essence, has declared her resignation to her fate. I'm sure Esther would have been just fine living in the royal palace, being pampered for the rest of her life, if plans could have gone her way. The realization of her purpose does not comes until AFTER the three days of preparation, where she acts with resolution, by bodly approaching the king, ultimately saving her people.

We can learn several lessons from this young queen. First, we learn that contentment does not consist of merely declaring ourselves to God's initiative, while ultimately feeling the pangs of resignation. It instead involves embracing where God has us and recognizing his purpose for that setting. Second, we can learn that preparation is involved in learning contentment. Esther gathered up her maidens and prepared for her encounter with the king. This consisted of spiritual, emotional, and physical preparations. In the same way, we can prepare for the plans God has for us. We can do this in many ways, including gathering others for support, prayer, etc. Finally, we learn that resolved contentment is shown through action. Queen Esther went boldly before the king and made her request not once, but twice. God honored her obedience.

The Challenge today is to look at where God has placed you (home, job, family, church, etc.). In what ways have you been discontent? What are some of your plans that might be causing discontentment? What are some possible plans God could have for you in those situations? What are some ways in which you can begin to act out your resolved contentment?

Daily Challenge - June 27 - Learning to Be Content Part Two

Ephesians 4:22-24 - You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

It would be so great to have a boat, or a bigger house, or a better car, or a higher paying job, or a more luxurious vacation, or, or, or, or, or, or, or, ...... Why can't my life be more like so and so's?

The quest for contentment can seem laborious, but the first step starts with the mind and the heart.

Since we have been raised with Christ, we are changed. We are a new creation and therefore our thoughts should be transformed as well. Colossians 3:2 says, "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." I have written on this passage before in my post, "A Matter of Affection and Perspective". This passage also applies to contentment. When we set our minds on the plan of God rather than the things of earth, we begin to see things differently. So how do we do this?

I believe that the first step is to realize that contentment is a learning process and make the decision to begin the process. When we realize this, we are able to recognize each step of our progress. However, as this Ephesians passage states, there is an element of commitment involved. As believers, we are taught to put off our old selves. The Greek word gives the image of laying aside and ridding oneself of something (BDAG). Paul recognizes that the old way in which we used to live is being corrupted by the earthy desires that we have. These desires eat away at us and consume our thoughts, attitudes, and lives. That is why Paul reminds the Ephesians not just to stop thinking about those things, but to throw them aside and make them no longer a part of their lives. We are then to replace our old selves with our newly created selves, redeemed by Christ. The Greek for "to put on" literally has the meaning to put on clothes. Therefore, like putting on a brand new outfit, we are to clothe ourselves with the newness of life that God has created for us, displaying righteousness and holiness. This is a change of attitude and heart. No longer is our affection on what the world has to offer, but rather on displaying the characteristics of God.

The picture I get in my mind is one of an event that occurred while working as a counselor at a Christian camp. It had rained and several of the counselors released some pent up energy through a huge mud fight. By the time it was over, I was covered from head to toe in mud and everything I touched left evidence of my escapade. However, once I got rid of the filthy clothes and put on a new outfit, it was as if I had never been tainted by the mud and was able to continue ministering to students. In the same way, when we have our minds set on the old way of life, which is clouded by earthly desires, discontentment will often stay festered within us. That discontentment leaves a trail of bitterness that affects everyone we encounter. We as believers must make the decision to take off that old way of life, with its accompanying desires and clothe ourselves with our new Christ-centered approach to life.

The Challenge today is to ask yourself if you have taken off your old self, meaning you have let go of the desires of the world and have instead taken on an attitude that is focused on Christ.
The first step to contentment is a change of attitude and heart. As a believer, Christ has already done a work in you to make you a new creation. Now it is time to make the commitment to make the change of heart needed to be a disciple, useful for displaying his righteousness and holiness. In doing this, you will find the first step to contentment.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Daily Challenge - June 25 - Learning to Be Content

Philippians 4:10b-13 - For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to be in plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Contentment is not something to which we naturally excel. The Best Buy "Buy Back" commercial brilliantly illustrates the point. We cannot be happy with one piece of technology before something else becomes available and then we simply MUST HAVE IT! For those of us who are not technologically savvy, it applies in many other cases: clothes, purses, shoes, houses, jobs, etc. The "dream job" that you once had now seems like a prison. The "prince charming" you married has turned into the repulsive frog. And you wonder, who is doing all of this transforming?!? A lot of the responsibility might belong to you.

The Apostle Paul knew a lot about living in the not most welcome situations. 2 Corinthians 11:23b-28 gives a list of his perils:
1. Has Been in prison
2. Has Been flogged
3. Has Been exposed to death again and again
4. Five times he received the forty lashes minus one (what Christ received before the crucifixion)
5. Three times beaten with rods
6. Once stoned
7. Three times shipwreck, spending one night in the open sea
8. Constantly on the move
9. Danger from rivers
10. Danger from bandits
11. Danger from fellow Jews
12. Danger from Gentiles
13. Danger in the city
14. Danger in the country
15. Danger at sea
16. Danger from false believers
17. Has Labored and Toiled
18. Has Often Gone without Sleep
19. Has known Hunger and Thirst
20. Has Gone without Food
21. Has Been Cold and Naked
22. Pressure of His Concern for the Churches

While these calamities would crush most people, Paul remained steadfast. He recognized that it was through his human weakness that Christ was able to be seen. The word used for "content" was a word used to describe someone who, through personal discipline, did not rely on circumstances for their comfort, but used personal resources in order to survive whatever situations they encountered (Hawthorne, Philippians, 266). However, Paul declares that it is not self-sufficiency that brings him contentment. Verse 13 gives the sources of his resolve. He states, "I am able to accomplish all things through the one who empowers me." (Cortney Standard Version). The means in which Paul is able to endure the bad and stay humble in the good is Christ. Therefore Christ is the source of ability and ultimately the source of contentment.

Throughout the next several posts, we are going to look at contentment. The Challenge today is to look at where you are at as far as being content. Are you relying on your circumstances to feed how comfortable you feel about life, or does your satisfaction depend on your relationship with Christ? Paul stated that he learned to be content, recognizing that it was a process. We will take some time to examine what that process might look like. Begin to pray that God will continue to stretch you as you trust him more.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Daily Challenge June 22 - The Charge of Forgiveness

Colossians 3:13 - Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

In my last post, I discussed the picture of forgiveness, which was Christ requesting forgiveness of his enemies up on the cross. Today, we will discuss the charge of forgiveness.

Colossians 3:12 gives us our status in Christ. We are chosen by God, holy and dearly loved. As a result, we ourselves should take on the characteristics of: compassionate hearts, mercy, humility, kindness, gentleness, and patience. The actions of verse 13 are actually results of what happens in verse 12. Because of our status in Christ, once we have put on His characteristics, the result that follows is that we bear with one another and forgive one another. When looking at the Greek definition of the word "to bear", some the English equivalents are, "to regard with tolerance", "to endure", and "to put up with" (BDAG). The word picture that comes to mind is of a horse that has a fly buzzing all around him and all the horse does is wiggle his ears a little, never swashing the fly with its tail!

I think that sometimes, we as Christians, think that every moment together is to be a campfire "kumbaya" moment. However, the Apostle Paul knew better and warned us for those other times. As the Body of Christ, we are still imperfect people, redeemed by the blood of Christ. We still possess qualities of our sinful nature and we sometimes allow them to get the better of us. However, when others mistreat us, we are first to bear with one another.

The second thing we are to do as a result of the characteristics of Christ we have taken on in our lives is we are to forgive one another freely. The Greek word used here gives the picture of graciously forgiving a wrongdoing (BDAG). In other words, it is not a half-hearted spoken, "I forgive you," but a full extension of grace and love made by the person who had been wronged. This is hard for many because our nature desires to sulk, gossip, and stay wounded. For, in that state, there is attention. However, the attention should not be on us, but on Christ. Therefore, the longer we wallow in unforgiveness, the longer we misrepresent Jesus. Verse 13 ends with the picture of Christ. Just as Jesus willingly and freely forgave you, so you also willingly and freely forgive.

The Challenge today is to examine the characteristics listed in Colossians 3:12-13. What characteristics do you need to "put on?" Ask God to help you in these areas. Also, list the people in your life that you need to bear with and freely forgive. Think about how Jesus forgave you and use that as a stepping stone in your journey.

Daily Challenge- June 23 - The Cycle of Forgiveness

Matthew 6:14-15 - "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

In my last post, I discussed the charge of forgiveness. Today, we will discuss the cycle of forgiveness. These words of Jesus seem a bit harsh, yet show the serious nature of his command. Forgiveness happens as a result of what has been done for you by the Father. Since you have been forgiven, so you have the responsibility to forgive.

The parable of the Unforgiving Servant gives the perfect illustration of how we often respond to God's grace. This story can be found in Matthew 18. The story begins with a king who asks his servant to pay back a debt, which was equal to about 10,000 bags of gold. When the servant declared that he did not have the money, the king ordered that his wife and children be sold in order to repay the debt. The servant begs for mercy and the king had pity on him and thus cancelled the debt in its entirety. As the servant leaves, he sees a fellow servant who owes him 100 silver coins. When he sees his colleague, he grabs him by the neck and threatens, "Give me back what you owe me!" The fellow servant falls on his knees and asks for more time, promising to pay it all back. Instead of showing mercy, the first servant refuses. Instead he goes off and has his colleague thrown in jail for not paying back the little money owed to him. When the other servants saw what happened, they told the king. The king called the servant in and told him he was wicked because he had not shown mercy after he had been given mercy. The servant was then handed over to be tortured until he could pay back his great debt.

Our tendency is to be like the wicked servant. We beg for God's mercy and forgiveness. Then, once we have it, we immediately forget about the great act of love which had been shown to us. Instead of being humbled by His mercy, we think of ourselves as superior. Then, when someone asks forgiveness from us, we, like the wicked servant, we cannot simply cancel the debt, but make them work and strive towards our forgiveness. This is not what Christ asks us to do. He asks us to simply cancel the debt. In essence, we are to make the offense disappear. We are to let it go and to never bring it up again, not to that person nor to anyone else. If we do not do that, we can expect severe consequences from God because we are not living out the forgiveness that He has given us and we are therefore not being genuine disciples of Christ.

The challenge today is to examine yourself. Who have you said to yourself that you have forgiven, but you know in your heart you haven't? Who are you keeping tethered to unforgiveness? Let go and by God's mercy give them the forgiveness they deserve. When we forgive others, we are truly able to enjoy God's forgiveness in our own lives.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Daily Challenge - Picturing Forgiveness

Luke 23:34 - Jesus said, "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

For me, Luke 23:34 is the greatest picture of forgiveness. Jesus is up on the cross. Luke has just described the people doing the following:
1. The crowd accused Jesus of subverting the nation (23:1)
2. The crowd accused Jesus of opposing paying taxes to Caesar (23:1)
3. The crowd twisted Jesus' claim of Messiah to make it sound as a threat against Caesar (23:1)
4. The crowd accused him of being one who stirs up dissension through his teaching (23:5)
5. Herod mockingly questioned Jesus for his own entertainment (23:9)
6. The chief priests and teachers vehemently accused him (23:10)
7. Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him (23:11)
8. Pilate punished him for no reason (23:14-16)
9. Pilate ordered Jesus to be crucified in order to please the crowd (23:23-24)
10. The people crucified Jesus alongside of criminals (23:33)

The sins of the people were numerous and atrocious. In Matthew's account of the crucifixion, the soldiers strip Jesus, place a scarlet robe around him and a crown of thorns upon his head. They then give him a staff and mock him. Afterwards, they spit on him, take the staff and strike him with it. (Matthew 27:27-31). Reading the grievances is hard enough, let alone imagining having them done to you. Yet, Jesus not only endured them without retaliation, but He forgave those who were tormenting him while they were in the midst of their brutality. This exemplifies his lifestyle of forgiveness. One of the most important things to notice is that the sinners did not ask Him for forgiveness before it was granted. He forgave while they were in the midst of their horrific behavior.

Jesus' request to the Father is made in the Greek aorist imperative. In essence, this gives the force of the command as a whole and complete action, rather than focusing on duration or repetition (Wallace. Exegetical Syntax, 485). This means that Jesus is asking for complete and total forgiveness of everyone involved in the process of his crucifixion. His request has lasting effects for us as well, for Jesus is the Suffering Servant for all transgressors (Isaiah 53). Therefore, we can enjoy the abiding effects of complete forgiveness that was put into effect on the cross.

In His darkest hours where the entire world had turned against him, Jesus did not respond in bitterness, anger, or hate. Rather he responded with love. Our greatest tendency is to throw up walls of defense when people hurt us. Our desire is to at least guard against further hurt or to allow those who have hurt us to feel a portion of our pain until they cry for mercy. Yet this is not a portrayal of our Savior.

The Challenge for today is to recognize the need for forgiveness. In what areas of you life do you need to be forgiven? In what areas of you life do you need to forgive? Who is on your list?

We will continue the discussion on forgiveness....it's a great and freeing lifestyle!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Heavenly Hope

Written on the evening of June 17, 2011: This post is dedicated in honor and memory to Paul Garrison. I love you Papa.

As I sit here right now, I am weary and weak. After a wonderful week of ministry at Vacation Bible School, it has closed with a visit to the pediatrician for my daughter, a fever and migraine for myself, and a long journey of seeing my husband's grandfather prepare to go home to his Heavenly Father for our family. As I take a moment to ponder all that has happened in the day, the Spirit of the Lord whispers to me, "Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint" (Isaiah 40:30).

The last three months have been a battle ground for me spiritually and physically. However, I have felt the Spirit of the Lord upon me as He has molded me and has carried me through this time. He has been my shelter and my strength.

I will not analyze this verse, because that is not the intention of this post. However, let me say this: weariness is a part of life. It is a result of living in a fallen world. Yet, we have the choice of hope. We have the choice to hope and in whom to place that hope. We can choose to lose hope and give up the fight of shining our light for Christ, succuming to the patterns of the world. We can also place our hope in false "gods", be it our own efforts, others, substances, habits, false philosophies, etc. However, those who hope in the Lord will unltimately find their renewal. Not because of some hocus pocus power, but because they know that there is more than these present trials. If we persevere, one day we will stand victorious with Christ in glory because He overcame the grave. This truth has given me the strength to endure and to continue to proclaim, "Blessed be the name of the Lord."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Daily Challenge - June 15, 2011 - Faith Like a Child

Matthew 18:2-4 - He (Jesus) called a little child to him and placed the child among them. And he said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

Imagine you were the child who Jesus summoned. Here is this man of whom you had heard your parents speak. You had heard of the wonders he had performed and might of perhaps witnessed one yourself. When you arrive to where he will be teaching, you hope that you might be able to get a glimpse of the great Teacher that some proclaim to be the Messiah. All of a sudden, you hear the sound of a calm baritone voice calling for a child. Before you can realize what is going on you are met face to face with Jesus. He places you in his lap and smiles a gentle smile at you. He then tells the crowd the words of Matthew 18:3-4." You think to yourself, "He is using me as an example, he must be mistaken! No one even acknowledges me. I have no say in decisions. I must trust in my Father's plan for me and follow in obedience." Jesus looked down at you with a warm smile, kisses your forehead and leads you back to your parents. You know your life will never be the same.

Jesus calls us to be like children, in that we are to have the humble attitudes of the heart of a child. A child is utterly dependant upon their caregiver and understands that need. Therefore, they recognize that their greatness is reliant upon someone greater than themselves. Small children innately understand the concept of respect because they are physically smaller and weaker than others, thus making humility an easier concept to grasp.

As we grow into adulthood, we inevitably become more independent. That independence usually leads to pride. Pride is the antithesis to the kingdom of God. To admit we are sinners that need God's grace and forgiveness (that is brought through Christ) takes humility. It takes humility to abandon our own wants and desires of this world and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Yet, when we are able to recognize what our true position is as humans compared to the glorious nature of God, humility can be found.

The challenge today is to evaluate where you are spiritually. While we were created in God's image (Gen. 1:27) and we were able to have a relationship with Him, once sin entered into the world, that relationship was broken (Isa. 59:2). However, because God loved us so much, He sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to die for our sins, even while we were still sinning against God (John 3:16, Romans 5:8). Jesus lived a perfect and holy life in order to be a proper sacrifice (Romans 5:12). We must therefore, humbly admit that we are sinners and that we need Jesus to intervene for us and mediate our relationship with God. We must then turn from our life of sin and turn to God. (Luke 13:5) It is by our faith that we are saved. (Ephesians 2:8-9). God guarantees that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13).

Where are you spiritually? Do you have a personal relationship with God? Christianity is not about going to church or placing money in an offering plate or following a bunch of rules. It is about having a relationship with Jesus Christ. Once you trust in Christ as Savior, you receive the Holy Spirit as a Helper to guide you in your walk with the Lord. Repenting and believing are the first two steps to a lifestyle of discipleship.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at cortney.whiting@gmail.com

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Daily Challenge - June 14, 2011 - Impossible Not to Witness???

Acts 4:20 - "For it is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard."

These words were spoken by Peter and John to the Jewish rulers, elders, and experts of the law. They had been imprisoned by those in charge because they were proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus and had healed a man in Jesus' name. By Peter and John's testimony, it was evident that they had been with Jesus, though they were ordinary men. This made the Jewish leaders intimidated and they wanted to quiet the disciples. Therefore, they asked them to stop proclaiming the gospel.

Acts 4:20 was the second portion of their response. The Greek uses the double negative for emphasis, literally giving the translation, "For we are not able to not speak about what we have seen and heard." This emphasis implies that their encounter with Christ had welled up enough response within them that they had to act upon it. The message was so compelling it had to be carried out through works. This is the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) lived out in real life. As Jesus' disciples continued about their lives, Jesus was their focal point. This was a result of the impact he had made on their lives.

The picture I think of relating to their enthusiasm is a woman who just got engaged. She just cannot help but talk about her new fiance. It glows out of her like the diamond that is on her finger. You cannot ask her fast enough how it happened before she beats you to the story. She does this because she is so in love with her soon to be husband. He has made a great impact on her life. In the same way, as the Bride of Christ, the Church should have that same kind of enthusiasm for the Gospel message. Unfortunately, when looking across the pews it looks like we are at a funeral rather than a wedding. Moreover, for many, one of our biggest fears would be to have to tell a coworker or friend about Jesus because of the fear that they might judge or reject us. Our response to Jesus should come from what we know about Him. If we have the relationship with Him, it should be natural to testify and act accordingly. Peter and John were uneducated and ordinary men (Acts 4:13). It was the power of the Holy Spirit that allowed them to testify about Christ (Acts 4:8). When the time comes for us to stand up for Christ, the same Spirit who empowered Peter will empower us to boldly proclaim who it is that we cannot help but speak about because we have seen and heard about what He has done in our own lives and in the lives of others.

The challenge today is to think of one person with whom you need to be more open about your relationship with Jesus. Begin to pray for the words to say. Ask God to empower you through His Spirit. Begin to pray for that person and that the Spirit will begin to draw him/her.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Daily Challenge - June 13, 2011 - Be Subject to All Authority?

Romans 13:1-2 - Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

For many, these two small verses seem to be hard to swallow. Some of the most politically outspoken people in the United States today are Christians. While this is not and will continue to not be a political blog, for some reason, this was the verse that I felt upon which I need to write.

Paul wrote the book of Romans from Corinth during the close of his third missionary journey. Rome at that time was the capital of the Empire and it was by far the most important city in the world. Though Paul had never been the the Church in Rome, there was already a group of believers established and he wrote to them in order to inform them of correct doctrine and practice.

In chapter 13, Paul bluntly exhorts the Romans to be subject to the human authorities above them. The Greek grammar implies that they should place themselves willfully as subjects under the Roman authority. At the time, Rome was ruled by pagans who were unsympathetic to the cause of Christ. Yet, believers were to place themselves under their authority and abide by the laws made. The reason for this was that God is the ultimate authority who has allowed all those in power to maintain their position. Therefore, if someone resists the authority on earth, they are ultimately rejecting God's sovereign placement and will be judged for their disobedience.

The only exception to this exhortation that can be found in Scripture is when an authority figure asks the subject to do something that is in direct violation to the Word of God (Ex. 1:17; Dan. 3:16-18; 6:7,10; Acts 4:19-20; 5:28-29). It is in these times you see God's hand of protection around those who disobey the human ruler in order to obey God.

If we are willingly to be subject to those with power over us, how should our attitudes be towards them? If we simply obey the laws, but show no respect for the office or the person, are we truly abiding by Romans 13:1-2? Though we might not always agree with those who have authority over us, we still must willingly place ourselves under their leadership. By doing so, we must learn to be good followers.

The challenge today is to think about who in your life has God place in authority over you, whether it is at home, at work, or in government. How can you better submit yourself to their authority? What can you do today to show them that you respect them and that you are willing to follow their leadership?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Daily Challenge - June 9, 2011 - Love One Another

John 13:34-35 - "A new command I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

In some of Jesus' final teachings to his disciples, he gives them the command of John 13:34-35. The command to love one another was not in and of itself new, for the Old Testament had dictated to love one's neighbor's as themselves. However, the standard had changed. First, the manner by which the disciples are to love one another is with Christ's love. If you look at the way in which Christ loved on earth, you notice a couple of things. First, he loved with humility. His relationships with others did not consist of what he could gain from them or the recognition he could earn, but he rather what he could give. A great example of this is seen when Jesus washes his disciples' feet (John 13:1-20). The second way in which Christ loved is that He loved sacrificially. He placed the needs of others above the needs of himself. Ultimately, he made the greatest sacrifice for mankind by giving his life on the cross.

The second difference between the new command to love and the old is that in the new command, Jesus calls his disciples to a love within the community of believers. Earlier, the command was given to love your neighbors and your enemies. Now, this is a command within the community of believers. It is a call to a lifestyle of love that is unmatched by anything that had been seen before that time. The result of their love for one another is that the world will know that they are Christ's disciples.

The charge is given with a condition. The world will know Christ's disciples if they love one another. While there might be exceptions to the case, this is to be the standard that is likely to happen in the future. This principle seems easy enough to attain. Yet, how often is it that arguments arise within the body of believers? Most often the battles the Church wages are within itself. If we truly loved one another the way Christ loved, the impact on the world could be remarkable.

The challenge for today is that: think about the areas in which you are not loving your fellow disciples the way in which Christ loved. Is there another believer that you have a grudge against and you have let your pride get in the way of the relationship? Is there someone who you are taking advantage of that you could be serving instead? Our testimony comes from our love for each other as the body of believers? How can you better love your fellow disciples and therefore show the world that you are a follower of Christ? What is one step you can take to better love your fellow believer? You may never know the impact of your love.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Daily Challenge - June 8, 2011 - Sovereignty is Strength

Habakkuk 3:19 - The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of the deer, He enables me to tread on the heights.

This is the final verse of the book of Habakkuk. This small book in the Old Testament is about a righteous man wrestling with the unrighteousness in the world. The book is filled with the prophet Habakkuk's struggle with how God was working in the world. At the beginning of the book, the prophet cried out to God because the people of Judah (the southern nation of Israel after they split) were wicked; yet they remain unjudged by the Lord. When God answered that He would send the pagan Chaldeans to judge the nation, Habakkuk still did not understand how God could seemingly bless a nation who were worse than the ones God was judging. However, God explains they will receive their due judgment. The book ends with the prophet realizing that his trust in and worship of the Lord must come, not from the temporal blessings He bestows, but on His character and nature that has been proven throughout the ages.

The Sovereign Lord is our strength. It is His ultimate control over all going on that allows us to continue on when we feel like we have nothing left to go on or give. The Lord operates on a plan that is grander than our own. Our temporal minds cannot comprehend it. Yet, He is just. He is righteous. He is good. He is in control. Once we stop arguing with Him and trust in His sovereignty, it will be our strength. Knowing that the Lord has a plan and purpose for all that is going on will enable us to do things we never thought possible. Habakkuk did not see resolution at the end of the book. Yet, he worshipped God because God was God.

The challenge today is to think about what area of life you are struggling in trusting in the Lord's Sovereignty. Perhaps it is a prolonged illness, something that seems unjust in your eyes, a prayer that you have not received the answer you desired. Ask God to help you see His sovereignty in that situation and help you look at it through a perspective greater than your own. Then ask Him to give you the strength that comes from Him to help you faithfully worship Him daily.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Daily Challenge - June 7, 2011 - Trusting Daily

Matthew 6:11 - Give us today our daily bread.

So many times in our prayer life, we concern ourselves with matters of the future: a future job, relationship, aspiration, wealth, goal, etc. Yet, in Jesus' exemplar prayer, he prays about the concern for the day, on that day. This shows a constant dependency and trust upon God for our provision.

While in the wilderness, God miraculously provided the Israelites with manna, or bread from heaven, for each day. However, if they tried to store it, they would awake to a jar full of maggots (Exodus 16). God did this to show Israel that He could provide for their daily need in a world where all hope seemed lost. However, they had to trust in Him daily. Their lack of trust was shown by their hoarding up His provision for the future.

How often we are like the Israelites! We hoard up God's provision for the future instead of trusting in Him to supply us with what we need for the day and therefore forfeit living generously for His kingdom. While we should be wise with what God has given us, when we begin to trust in our own means of storing rather than openly laying out all we have before God as a daily offering in order to ask Him to provide for us again the following day, we act in disobedience.

The challenge for to day is to look at your own life and evaluate whether you are truly trusting God to provide for today. Are you going to him daily, asking Him to meet you needs? Are you praying more about future concerns or matters of the present? If we focus our prayer life on how God is going to provide for us in the future, we miss out on how He is presently at work. Today, if you no longer are trusting in Him, how can you get back to the point of reliance?