Monday, December 31, 2012

His Plans Have Become My Plans

Jeremiah 29:11-13 says "For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

Tomorrow is the beginning of a new year, and this is the time when people traditionally make resolutions for the upcoming year. I have never been big on making resolutions because I often didn't follow through on them. Two years ago, I made one to cut back on the amount of soda I was drinking and I did follow through on that for the whole year; but I didn't make that a priority last year and I started to drink soda more often again. A few months ago, I did cut back on it again to just one a day because I decided to get serious about losing weight. As you may have guessed, my #1 New Year's Resolution for 2013 is to lose weight. Yes, I know that is usually at the top of almost everyone's list. I've said I wanted to lose weight before, but I never followed through. This year is going to be different. This is not going to be easy for me to say, but I want to be totally honest. For all I know, God may use what I say in this blog to help someone else decide to make a change too.

As I read verse 11 in Jeremiah, I saw that the Lord has plans for ME. His plans are for me to prosper, and not to be harmed. His plans give me hope and a future. I am overweight. There I said it. Being overweight harms me. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure this last year. I am not diabetic, but it runs in my family so I am at risk for developing it. The thing that made me realize that I really needed to lose weight was taking the kids on a field trip to Crystal Cave. We had to walk up this hill to get to the entrance of the cave and I was extremely out of breath when I got to the top. It actually scared me because I had to sit down and it took several minutes before I could breathe normally. Being overweight shortens a person's life, and therefore it is cutting short my future. This is NOT God's plan for my life!! I then did what it said in verse 12, I called upon God. I went to Him and prayed about what His plan was for my life. He listened to me, and He answered me!! I sought His will for me and I found it.

I've decided this is the year I take God's plan for my life and make it my plan! In September 2012, I was 240 lbs. I know I had been over that a few times, but that's what I weighed when I decided it was time for me to start doing something. I began walking every day with my two kids and enjoyed it, but then the weather got cold and I stopped walking. I know I will resume walking again when the weather warms up, but I need to now make some goals for what I need to do every day so that I'm getting in some much needed exercise. As of today, my weight is 231 lbs., so I lost 9 lbs since September. My long-term goal is to lose a total of 100 lbs. (from my starting weight of 240 lbs) and get down to 140 lbs. I am realistic and know that this is not going to happen in just one year. If it does, I will be thrilled and know it is because God truly helped me; but I am not going to give up if I don't lose all that this year. My goal for this year is to lose 50 lbs. In my mind, that number seems high to me; but this is the amount that came to my mind as I was writing down my goals during devotions. To be honest, I know this is God's plan and not my own because when I originally thought about what I wanted to lose this year, I had a lower number in mind. It was exciting to write down that number and know that my plan was really God's plan for my life.

The pastor at our church gave us a sheet to fill out with various goals for this year and the steps we'd take to reach that goal. At the bottom of the front page is said My weight on Jan. 1, 2013:  and below that was My weight on March 1, 2012. As I thought of what I wanted my weight to be on March 1, I felt God telling me that my goal should be to lose 15 lbs. by that date. I wanted to yell "That's not possible, God! I've only lost 9 lbs in the last 4 months. You want me to lose 15 lbs in 2 months?! Are you crazy?!" Yet, I didn't say anything to Him. I simply wrote down "lose 15 lbs by March 1, 2013". I sort of shook my head as I wrote that down, but I was excited at the same time because I want God's plan for my life to be my plan.

So, the steps I will be taking in order to lose weight this year are the following:

1. Exercise at least 30 min. every day.

2. Resume walking when weather warms up. My goal: walk 3 miles every day and increase speed so I can walk 3 miles in 30 min. I honestly don't know how long that will take to reach that goal, but it is an awesome goal nonetheless! LOL! My walk could count for my 30 min. of exercise, but the goal in my mind is to do 30 min. of exercise in the morning and then do my walk in the afternoon. That would mean I'm actually getting an hour of exercise a day once I'm able to resume walking!

3. Increase water consumption. Drink at least 5 glasses every day. There have been many days I was lucky if I drank 1 glass of water. I mostly drink skim milk, soda, or sweet tea. So, I know I should probably be drinking more than 5 glasses of water a day, but I wanted my goal to be something I felt I could do. If I drink more than 5, I'll be thrilled; but I'll be just as happy if I consistently drink 5 glasses of water because that's a huge improvement on what I'm currently doing.

4. Drink no more than 1 can of soda a day. I also wrote "It is OK to NOT drink a can of soda!" because there were days I didn't drink my soda at all until the evening when I would be watching TV and think "Hey! I didn't drink my soda yet!" Is that crazy or what?! So, maybe by the end of the year, I'll be drinking 1 can of soda a week!

5. Make better snacking choices. I did write down to not eat past 8 pm, and I will definitely try to not eat past that time; but what I really feel I need to focus on is making better choices for what I pick to eat. Eating candy, cake, or ice cream late at night (or anytime of day) is not the best choice! One snack food I've been reaching for lately is pretzels. I know they have salt and that's not good for my blood pressure, but they are a better choice than the candy I was reaching for. I need to get use to reaching for a banana or an apple too.

So there you have it! Now you know my goals for this year and how I plan on reaching my goal, which is also His goal. If you need to lose weight or you have any other resolution that you want to make, I encourage you to write down your goal and then write down the steps you need to make in order to reach your goal. By writing it down, you can see it and remember what you need to do. It becomes more real. Pray about it first. Seek God's will and what His plan for your life is. He will let you know what it is. You just need to be willing to say "OK, Lord. I'll do it! Your plans are now my plans!" Good luck and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Day 21 of 21 Day Challenge

John 21 begins with Peter doing what he use to do: fishing. After denying Jesus three times, Peter went back to doing what he had done before he met Jesus. It was comfortable for him. He didn't think Jesus would forgive him for what he had done. Jesus came to Peter. He met Peter right where he was. Once Peter realized Jesus came to him, he went to Him as quickly as he could. Jesus then asked Peter three times "Do you love me?" By asking Peter the question three times, it was showing that He had forgiven Peter for the three times he had denied Jesus; but there was also much more to His questions. Jesus wanted to know if Peter really loved Him more than anything else. He needed to know if Peter would do anything for Him. Peter wound up dying for his faith. He was crucified, but he did so upside down because he didn't feel worthy to die the same way Jesus had. Are you willing to do anything for the Lord? If not, then you don't truly love Jesus more than anything. He wants to be #1 in your life. He deserves first place because He gave everything for you! We can't just stay where we are comfortable. We need to step out and that may mean being uncomfortable, but it is worth it when we show Jesus how much we truly love Him.

Proverbs 30:5 says "Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him." We can trust that whatever God has said is true. He doesn't lie. He can't lie! When God makes a promise, He will keep it. He will never let you down! When you are weary or sad, you can go to Him and find rest, peace, and comfort. You can be assured that He will always be with you and watch over you. Isn't it amazing to know that we serve a God who cares about us, loves us, is always dependable, trustworthy, and will never leave us? In the upcoming year, make a resolution to always remember to go to God first and trust that He will be with you every step of the way. I bet you will see how much easier it is to deal with the situations that come your way when you put God first.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Day 20 of 21 Day Challenge

John 20 begins with Mary Magdalene discovering the empty tomb. When she saw that the stone had been rolled away, she didn't enter the tomb. She ran to tell others about it. The first disciple to reach the tomb didn't enter the tomb either. Simon Peter arrived second and he was the first to enter it. I would have thought the disciples would have been excited and realized that all Jesus had told them was true, but they were confused and didn't seem to understand what had happened. They left, but Mary stayed there. She continued to think that someone had stolen Jesus' body even after she looked in the tomb and saw two angels. Then she turned around and saw Jesus, but she didn't recognize Him. It wasn't until He said her name that she realized who He was. She again ran to tell others about it. When you know Jesus, you shouldn't keep it to yourself. You should go and tell others about Him!

I gained a new appreciation for verse 19 today which says, "On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said 'Peace be with you!'" First, I realized that the disciples were still afraid of the Jews. They probably didn't know if the Jews would still try to kill them because they had been followers of Jesus. I'm sure the fact that Jesus' body was "missing" added to their fear because the Jews thought the disciples had stolen Jesus' body. When Jesus prayed for the disciples right before His arrest, He prayed for them to have peace. Now Jesus appears to them for the first time since His death and resurrection and the first words He says to them are "Peace be with you!" He says it a second time in verse 21. Jesus knew that His disciples were afraid and He didn't want them to be afraid anymore. He wanted them to be at peace. He knew that they needed to be bold so that they could be effective witnesses, and they can't be bold if they are afraid. When you know Jesus, don't be afraid to tell others about Him.

As I read Proverbs 29, I had to smile when I read verse 25. It says, "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe." I immediately thought back to what God had been showing me in John. The disciples were afraid of the Jews and this would have proven to be a snare to their witness. They couldn't be effective witnesses if they were afraid of speaking the truth to others. The good news about Jesus wouldn't have spread like it did had the disciples continued to be afraid, so Jesus came to the disciples and told them "Peace be with you!" What are you afraid of? Failure? What others will think of you? Not being able to say things clearly? Fear usually leads to inaction. It stops you from doing what you should. What we need to do is simply to put our trust in the Lord. When He tells you to do something, have faith that He is going to help you and then go do it!

I have really loved doing this 21 Day Challenge and seeing how often God would reaffirm that I was learning exactly what He wanted me to. I always began by reading a chapter in John. I would then journal my thoughts on that passage before moving on to Proverbs. Many times, God would show me a verse in Proverbs that went along perfectly with what I had just learned in John. I received a lot of confirmation that I really was seeing or learning what He wanted me to see and learn. Our God is so awesome!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Day 19 of 21 Day Challenge

John 19:38-39 says "Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds." Both Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were followers or disciples of Jesus, but they didn't let others know. They were "secret" disciples because they were afraid of what others would think and what the consequences might be for being a follower of Jesus. When Jesus died, they realized that Jesus really was the Son of God. It moved them to finally act. Are you not doing something God has asked you to do because you are afraid of what others will think or whether you will succeed or not? We need to be bold and not afraid. We need to do what we are called to do without being worried about what others will think. We will succeed if God calls us to do something because He is always there to help us.

Proverbs 28:1 says "The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion." I loved that this was the first verse I read after I had written what I did about Joseph and Nicodemus. God was obviously letting me know that I had definitely heard him correctly and He was reminding me to be bold and unafraid. When we run away from what we should be doing, Satan isn't going to pursue you because you are doing exactly what he wanted you to do! We need to stand firm and fight him! God is on our side and He has already given us the victory if we rely on His power and strength! I don't know what I'll be faced with this coming year, but I have the assurance that God will be with me. You can have that same assurance! You do not need to be afraid. Be bold and unafraid. Stand firm and fight the devil, and he will be the one who flees! 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Day 18 of 21 Day Challenge

John 18 tells about Jesus' arrest. Jesus had to endure not only Judas' betrayal, but also Peter's denial that he knew Jesus. The other disciples abandoned Jesus. They are nowhere around in Jesus' hour of need. When we are faced with taking a stand on what is right or wrong, do we abandon Jesus and refuse to do what is right? Lord, help me to never abandon you! Help me to always choose to do what is right! You DIED for me. The least I can do is LIVE for you each and every day of my life.

The other thing that really stood out to me as I read this chapter was verse 28 which says, "Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover." These men who were filled with hatred toward Jesus, who were involved in treachery and lies, and were willing to do anything to have Him murdered, were concerned with making sure they were ceremonially clean so they could partake of Passover?! This just seemed so unbelievable to me. These Jews were more concerned with the outward appearance. What would people think of them if they couldn't eat the Passover? They certainly wouldn't appear to be righteous. The problem with their thinking is easy to see. It doesn't matter what people see on the outside, because God looks on a person's heart. We can say and do the right things so that people THINK we are good Christians, but God knows the truth. He knows our motives, as well as our thoughts and attitudes. We can't fool God! We need to make sure that our motives, thoughts, and attitudes are always pure and clean. Then we can be assured that we are totally clean: inside and out.

I found a verse in Proverbs 27 that also went along very nicely with what I had learned in John. Proverbs 27:19 says "As water reflects a face, so a man's heart reflects the man." When you look at someone's heart, you truly see who that person is. The chief priests and Pharisees knew all about the laws and how to follow them perfectly, but their hearts revealed that they were unclean because they were more concerned with outward appearances and not on doing what was right. Lord, create in me a clean heart! I want everything I do to be pleasing to you, Lord!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Day 17 of 21 Day Challenge

John 17 is all about what Jesus prayed right before He was betrayed by Judas, arrested, beaten, and crucified. He knew what was about to happen, yet He was mostly thinking about others. The first 5 verses is His prayer for Himself, the next 14 verses covers His prayer for His disciples, and the last 7 verses is His prayer for all believers. Did you notice He spent the least amount of time praying for Himself? Only 5 out of 26 verses is spent praying for Himself. That's less than 20% of His prayer was spent thinking about Himself and His needs. Are my prayers similar to His, or do I focus more on myself? This chapter definitely helped me to see that I should try to focus more on others in my prayers.

Another thing I learned in this chapter was that Jesus had protected His disciples. In verse 12, Jesus said, "While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled." The one "doomed to destruction" is Judas. When I read this verse, I realized that if the chief priests had been plotting to kill Jesus as well as Lazarus (because he was a living witness to the power of Jesus), then they probably weren't too happy with the disciples and may very well have wanted them dead too. Jesus also knew that it was going to be very hard for His disciples to stay true to Him in the days leading up to and following His death. In verse 11, Jesus said, "I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name - the name you gave me - so that they may be one as we are one." Jesus was asking God to protect the disciples so that they could be strong and unified, not be fearful and separate. Do you turn to God when things get hard, or do you turn away from Him and try to do things on your own? We are stronger when we stay true to God and lean on Him for strength.

Proverbs 26 is full of warnings concerning fools and sluggards. The chapter starts out with saying "Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, honor is not fitting for a fool." The words snow and summer just don't go together. They could almost be considered opposites since the temperature is cold when it snows, but the temperatures are hot in the summer. Rain is not a welcome sight when a farmer wants to harvest his crops. Rain is needed when the crop is growing, but it is not needed or wanted when it is time to harvest. Rain can not only delay the harvest, but it can also ruin it! Honor and fool are two words that should never go together. Giving honor to a fool is a waste and can hurt other people. This verse makes me realize how important it is to make sure any honor I give is going to a deserving person!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Day 16 of 21 Day Challenge

Proverbs 25: 13 says "Like the coolness of snow at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the spirit of his masters." When I read this verse, I thought of how I long to be that kind of person. Someone who refreshes the spirit of those you speak to. Someone who people want to be around because they know they will feel renewed after you leave. Lord, help me to be that kind of person!

John 16:20 says "I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy."  What a difference between the disciples and the world! When Jesus was crucified, most of the world was joyful. They thought they had won by killing Jesus. The disciples, on the other hand, wept and mourned the loss of their friend, teacher, and Savior. Jesus was letting them know though that their grief would turn to joy because He was going to rise again! When the world tries to discourage you, all you need to do is focus on the fact that no one who goes against God will win. We will be victorious when we are on God's side.

I also wanted to point out that in verse 23b, Jesus again tells the disciples "I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name." He adds in verse 24, "Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." I love how Jesus kept repeating the fact to his disciples that they could go to God and ask Him for anything in Jesus' name. Back in their time, people talked to a priest who then talked to God for them. When Jesus died, that all changed. People could now go directly to God! What a wonderful privilege to be able to talk directly to the creator of the world! How exciting to know that we can ask Him to meet our needs, and He cares enough to do it! Keep that in mind today. As we celebrate Christmas, be thankful that God loved us so much that He sent His Son to earth. Jesus was willing to die so we could live. Praise the Lord!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Day 15 of 21 Day Challenge

Jesus continued to encourage His disciples in John 15. In verse 7, Jesus says, "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you."  In verse 16b, He said, "Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name." Jesus obviously wanted His disciples to know that all they had to do was ask for something, and they would receive what they asked for. Jesus said practically the same thing three times in a short amount of time! The first time He said this was in John 14:14, "You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." What an amazing promise to the disciples, and to us! Jesus obviously was letting them (and us) know how important it is to remember that He would and will give anything to anyone who ASKS Him for it. Yes, it has to be in His will, but He is always listening to those who call on Him and He wants to give us the desires of our heart. Don't be afraid to ask Jesus for what you need!

Proverbs 24:10 says "If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!" Wow. This seems harsh, doesn't it? Actually, it isn't harsh at all. What do you do when you are faced with troubles? Do you try to handle everything yourself? If so, you may not realize that you are doing things the hard way! Relying on your own strength to do things can cause you to worry and make the whole situation harder than it needs to be. We are weak compared to God. He will give us strength is we just ask Him for it. When we falter in times of trouble, it is a clear indicator that we are not relying on God's strength to see us through. It also shows how small our strength is, in other words, it shows how weak we are! When faced with trouble, we need to immediately turn to God and ask Him to help us. That makes us strong! We are able to get through the difficulties quicker when we put everything in God's hands and allow Him to help us. Don't show people how weak you are. Show them how strong you are when you team up with God!

Day 14 of 21 Day Challenge

This is a day late. I realized late last night that I never wrote on my blog about what I learned, but I was too tired to write then. I figured it wouldn't make much sense so I waited until this morning. I apologize to anyone who might be reading my daily blog that I didn't get this written yesterday.

John 14 was filled with many promises. Jesus knew that He would be dying soon. He wasn't concerned with how He was feeling. He wanted to encourage His disciples. He told them to not let their hearts be troubled and to trust in God and in Him (verse 1). He told them He would come back and take them to be with Him (verse 3). He told them they could ask Him for anything in His name, and He would do it (verse 14). He told them He was leaving them with His peace, and He told them again to not let their hearts be troubled and to not be afraid (verse 27). Did you notice He told them twice to not let hearts be troubled? He knew they would soon be facing their worst fear: Jesus would be crucified and die. I'm sure their hearts were troubled! We know how it all turns out though....Jesus rose from the grave! They didn't know that was going to happen, even though He had told them. They didn't understand His words until after He rose from the dead. How often do we focus on the situation instead of relying on what we already know. God is always with us. There is nothing we need to fear! Don't let your hearts be troubled when you are in a difficult situation. Trust in God!

Proverbs 23:23 says "Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline, and understanding." When you ask someone a question, do you want that person to lie to you? Do you expect to be lied to? Of course not! You want the truth. Now for the hard question: Do you always tell the truth? What happens when you think the truth will hurt someone's feelings? Do you still tell the truth? This verse shows us how important the truth is. We should always have it, along with wisdom, discipline, and understanding. These other three help to show us how they all work together with the truth, and why it's important to have all four. Wisdom helps us know whether or not we need to say something. Discipline helps us to not say say things we shouldn't because we know the consequences. Understanding helps us to see how our words could affect the other person and how they would feel if they hear us say certain things. Yes, we always need to tell the truth, but we need to use wisdom, discipline, and understanding to help us know how to say things in a way that isn't hurtful.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Day 13 of 21 Day Challenge

Peter didn't want Jesus to wash his feet. That should be a task that is beneath the Messiah! He didn't want to think of Jesus stooping to such a humble position. When Jesus said "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."  in verse 8b, we can clearly see Peter's desire to follow Jesus by his response: "Then, Lord, not just my feet, but my hands and my head as well!" (verse 9). For someone who doesn't know the story of Peter, it wouldn't be surprising to hear Peter tell Jesus "I will lay down my life for you." in verse 37, but it would come as a complete shock to hear Jesus' response in verse 38, "Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!" I'm sure Jesus' response shocked Peter too. Peter loved Jesus. He didn't intend to fail Jesus, yet we know that he did.

Proverbs 22:6 says "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." As a mom, this verse gives me hope. I have made many parenting mistakes, yet I can have faith that my kids will turn out fine. I hope and pray they never stray from the Lord; but I know that they will have a firm foundation and I trust they would return to the Lord if they do stray. I know their parents would never stop praying for them until they did return. :) This verse also made me think of Peter. Peter wasn't a child when he first met Jesus, but he became a child of God. He was trained by Jesus. Peter failed Jesus and strayed from the Lord, but he didn't let his failure stop him. He asked Jesus for forgiveness, got back on the right path, and became a powerful witness to others. Many people became followers of Jesus because of Peter's preaching.

Don't let past failures prevent you from being all you can be for God! Jesus can use those failures in a real and powerful way!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Day 12 of 21 Day Challenge

John 12:10-11 says "So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in Him." The chief priests were already plotting to kill Jesus; but they were so blinded of their hatred toward Jesus, that they were willing to sink further into sin by wanting to murder Lazarus too. Why would they want to murder Lazarus? They wanted to murder him because he was a living, breathing example of the power of Jesus! They even began to exaggerate things just to try and justify their desire to kill Jesus. In verse 19, the Pharisees said to each other, "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after Him!" Really? The WHOLE WORLD is following Jesus? Hmm...considering most of the people were afraid to believe in Jesus because the Pharisees had said they'd throw anyone who believed in Him out of the synagogue, I highly doubt that they truly believed the crowd that was following Jesus was large enough to compare it to "the whole world". They simply wanted to find excuses that would help justify their intentions. In verse 42-43, we read that many among the leaders believed in Jesus, but they would not confess their faith for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God. How sad that these people were so afraid of what others would say or do to them if they confessed their belief in Jesus. They chose temporary praise from men over eternal life and praise from God. Bad decision guys!! We need to take a stand and not be afraid of what others think or do. We are only on this earth for a short time. We need to realize that we have all eternity ahead of us and decide where we want to spend it. Are we going to choose to be comfortable here and uncomfortable in the hereafter, or are we going to choose the opposite? Life here on earth may not always be comfortable when we have others criticizing us for our beliefs, but oh the rewards we will reap if we endure the trials here on earth and live for Jesus!

Proverbs 21:3 says "To do what is just and right is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice." This verse made me think about how often we try to act as if we are better than others if we give of our time or money. Some people don't have the money to give. Does that mean God isn't as pleased with them? No! A person lives a life that is pleasing to God simply by placing their faith in Him, obeying His will, and living their life as upright and honest as possible. We don't get to heaven simply by doing good works. We need to keep in mind what is truly acceptable to God, and not worry about trying to outdo or out-give others.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Day 11 of 21 Day Challenge

In John 11:21, Martha tells Jesus "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." Mary says the exact same thing to Jesus in verse 32. In verse 37, some of the Jews said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" All of these people had faith that Jesus could have healed Lazarus when he was sick so he wouldn't have died, but the thought of Jesus being able to raise Lazarus from the dead never entered their mind. Martha's faith seemed to be the strongest. In verse 22, she told Jesus "I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask." In verse 27, she confessed her belief that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. So why did her faith falter when Jesus told them to take away the stone that was in front of Lazarus' tomb? Her first thought was to tell Jesus that "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there for four days" (verse 39). In verse 40, Jesus reminded her that he had told her "If you believe, you would see the glory of God?" Martha's faith was restored and the stone was rolled away. She received an amazing reward for her faith: her brother was raised from the dead!

Have you ever gotten into a situation and felt that Jesus wasn't there? Have you ever doubted that He could help you? Have you ever felt that you couldn't possibly handle what Jesus wanted you to do? Remember that Jesus is always with you. He will always be there to help you in each and every situation. If God tells you to do something, He won't abandon you. He knows you can handle whatever comes your way because He never gives us more than we can handle.Never give up on believing in what Jesus said and promised! Don't allow your faith to falter and possibly miss receiving a blessing. Also remember that you may not always receive a reward for your faith here on earth, but the Bible does promise that you will be rewarded once you get to heaven. Keep your faith strong and believe that God will do what He promised.

Proverbs 20:9 says, "Who can say, "I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin"?" I know I can't say I'm without sin! Everyone has sinned! So, how could I ever say I'm without sin? Well, I know that all I have to do is ask Jesus to forgive me for my sins and He will do it. He takes away those sins and it is as if we never committed those sins. We may still remember what we did, but He doesn't and He won't hold it against us. Since I know I struggle with certain things, I need to make sure I ask for His forgiveness on a daily basis and strive each day to keep my heart pure. I do that by staying away from things I know are not pleasing to Him. He knows my heart's desire is to do His will. He will always forgive me when I mess up, as long as I ask for forgiveness and try to improve on the areas I struggle in. Don't get discouraged when you mess up. Keep trusting in Him. Ask Him to forgive you when you mess up, and keep moving forward!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Day 10 of 21 Day Challenge

John 10:3b says "He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out." When I read this, I automatically thought of the fact that Jesus calls Himself the good shepherd (which He does in verse 11). What a cool thought: Jesus knows my name! It's so comforting to know that when I'm in a difficult situation, I can go to Him and He will lead me to safety. Then I thought of how it doesn't do any good if He knows my name if I don't know His voice. Satan is always there trying to lead us astray.  How can I be led to safety if I don't know the right voice to listen to? I need to know God's voice so I can stay on the right path! Do you know what God's voice sounds like?

Proverbs 19:13b says "a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping." Proverbs 14b says "a prudent wife is from the Lord." Wow. I certainly don't want to be thought of like a constant dripping. Anyone who has had to listen to a faucet that won't stop dripping knows how annoying it is, especially if you are trying to go to sleep. It's almost enough to drive a person insane. Do I want my husband to think of me as so annoying that it is almost driving him insane to listen to me? OUCH! No, I love my husband and want him to feel that his wife is a gift from God, a wonderful blessing that is all his. Will he feel that way if I am disrespecting him by the things I say or do? No. I realized that I have not been doing a good job of keeping the house clean. I get busy doing school with the kids and then just want to relax when I'm done with that. Last week, he mentioned how dirty the floor was. I knew the carpet needed to be vacuumed, but I had kept putting it off. He said to make our daughter do it the next day, but I chose to do it myself. When he came home, I told him I had vacuumed for him. He looked at the floor and then gave me a kiss. It made me realize that there are things I should be doing, like making sure the house is clean before my husband comes home, simply because it makes my husband happy. It shows him how much I love and respect him, and it will help him to think of me as a blessing instead of an annoyance. Which would you rather be thought of?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Day 9 of the 21 Day Challenge

In John 9, we read about a man who had been blind since birth. Jesus spit on the ground, made mud, put it on the man's eyes, and told him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. The man obeyed Jesus and when he washed the mud from his eyes, he was able to see for the first time in his life. The Pharisees questioned the man about what happened. He told them, but they didn't believe that he had been born blind; so they sent for his parents. His parents were afraid of being thrown out of the synagogue if they acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ, so they admitted he was their son and that he had been blind since birth, but they refused to tell them how he could see or who had opened his eyes. Instead, they told the Pharisees: "Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself." (verse 21b) The Pharisees summoned the man again. He was getting tired of answering the same questions. He was not afraid to tell the truth. In verses 30-33, it is clear that this man could see both physically and spiritually! He plainly answered the Pharisees, "Now that is remarkable! You don't know where He comes from, yet He opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does His will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." Instead of seeing the error in their way of thinking, the Pharisees got angry at the man. They said to him, "You were steeped in sin since birth; how dare you lecture us!" and they threw him out of the synagogue (verse 34). These men didn't know the man. They accused him of being steeped in sin since birth because they believed that people who were blind or lame had either sinned themselves or their parents had sinned. When Jesus heard what had happened, He looked for the man and found him. Once the man realized he was speaking to Jesus, the man who had healed him, he replied "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped Him (verse 38).

This story really made me think. Do I ever act like the Pharisees? Do I refuse to listen to what someone is saying? Do I get angry or defensive if someone doesn't believe the way I do? The words of a song says it perfectly: "Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. I want to see you!" We need to be willing to listen to what others are saying. We need to ask God to help us determine whether what they are saying is true or not. If we are wrong about something, we need to be willing to admit it and seek forgiveness if we need to. I don't want to act like the Pharisees who were so blinded by their pride that they couldn't see the truth when it was right in front of them. Do you?

I thought Proverbs 18:2 really described the Pharisees perfectly as well. It says "A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinion." The Pharisees were definitely fools! They heard the blind man tell them what had happened. They knew he was blind since birth because not only did the man himself and many others who saw him over the years tell them that, but the man's own parents admitted that this was the truth. They could see that this man could now see, but they did not want to believe that Jesus had healed him. They kept insisting that Jesus was a sinner and refused to admit they were wrong even after the man proved that their beliefs didn't make sense. I don't want to be a fool who refuses to see the truth. I don't want to be a fool who refuses to listen to what others are saying in an effort to truly understand what they think. I don't want to be a fool who goes around stating my opinion but refuses to hear what anyone else has to say. Lord, help me to be the kind of person who listens to what others have to say and who isn't quick to state my own opinion. Help me to be wise, not foolish.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Day 8 of the 21 Day Challenge

In John 8:31-47, Jesus started out by addressing some Jews who had believed Him. He said to them, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." They questioned how He could say they would be set free when they were descendants of Abraham and had never been slave to anyone. In verse 39, they say Abraham is their father. In verse 41, they say the only Father they have is God himself. Jesus then tells that if God was their Father, they would love Him (Jesus) because He came from God. Jesus then said something that I'm sure the people found quite harsh. In verse 44, Jesus tells them that they belong to their father, the devil. OUCH! These Jews prided themselves on who their ancestors were. They seemed to believe that because their ancestor was Abraham, they were automatically Christians. It made me think about my own family. My grandparents lived right down the road from us and were wonderful Christian examples to all who knew them. My parents as well are Christians. Did the fact that my grandparents, parents, and many of my aunts and uncles were Christians automatically make me a Christian? No! I had to ask Jesus to forgive my sins just like everyone else! I needed to seek His will for my life and not just assume that I knew what being a Christian meant and go through the motions without really getting to know Christ. We need to be careful to not become complacent and think we've "done enough" to make it into heaven. We can't rely on who our ancestors were or even things we've done in the past. We need to live each and every day for Him!

Proverbs 17:27-28 says, "A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue." It is evident from reading my blog that God has been dealing with me about watching what I say and how I say it. Verse 28 made me realize that I don't want people to THINK I'm wise or discerning. I want to actually BE wise. I don't want to be a fool and am only thought of as wise if I keep silent about something. I want to make sure I am always thinking first before I speak so that I truly am displaying wisdom and discernment. I also realized that when I need to correct my children about something, I often use too many words and "go on and on" about the issue. I guess in my brain, I think my kids aren't listening so I keep talking in hopes that they'll hear what I'm saying. I need to learn to get to the point immediately and then let it go. I think that would make a bigger impact and wouldn't cause my kids to tune me out so much. I don't need to bring up all the previous times they did the same thing. I can tell them point blank what they did wrong and what the punishment is. If adults tend to tune people out when they drone on and on, why do I think my own kids won't tune me out when I am the one talking too much?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Day 7 of 21 Day Challenge

John 7:41-42 says, "Others said, 'He is the Christ.' Still others asked, 'How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David's family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?'" People had seen Jesus perform miracles and had listened to Him speak. In verse 15, it says that the Jews were amazed and wondered "How did this man get such learning without having studied?" The things they had seen and heard caused some to believe Jesus was the Christ, but others thought He couldn't be the Christ because He was from Galilee. Oh how foolish they were! If they had only asked Jesus if he had always lived in Nazareth or asked Him where He was born, they would have discovered that He was born in Bethlehem...the very place they knew the Christ would come from! This made me think about how easy it can be to judge people based solely on what we see or hear. Do we go to the person and find out the entire truth? Do we really know everything there is to know about them? Don't make the same mistake these people in Jesus' day did! Don't make a snap decision because you think you know everything about the person. Get to know that person personally and don't be afraid to ask questions.

Proverbs 16:31 says "Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life." I guess this verse stuck out at me today because lately I've been noticing how much gray hair I have, and I haven't been thrilled about it! I loved the thought of my gray hair being a crown of splendor, but the second part of the verse made me contemplate how I couldn't say I've always lived a righteous life. It was then that I realized that a person with gray hair is one who a young person should turn to if they want wise advice. Teenagers may think they know more than their parents and every other "old" person, but hopefully they are taught to respect their elders and listen to them. Teenagers can learn a lot from people who are older than themselves and could save themselves a lot of trouble if they listened to the wisdom of those who have "been there, done that". Have we made sure our kids know that older people deserve our respect? Do they know to not just dismiss what they have to say as "old fashioned" or "out of date"? I was blessed to have godly grandparents and parents, and I learned a lot from listening to what they had to say. I have a renewed determination to make sure my kids know to respect their elders by listening to them and taking to heart what they are told by them.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Day 6 of 21 Day Challenge

Today as I read John 6, I noticed that it mentioned a couple of times that people were following Him because they wanted something. In verse 2, it says " and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick." The next day, this crowd went to search for Jesus. When they find Him on the other side of the lake, Jesus says to them "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill." In case you don't know, this chapter is where it tells how Jesus sees this huge crowd of people coming toward Him and decides to feed them. Of course, He and His disciples know that they don't have enough money to buy food to feed all these people, but one of the disciples finds a boy who has 5 small loaves of bread and 2 small fish. There were 5000 men in the crowd, but the women and children weren't counted. It's very possible that this crowd was closer to 10,000 in size, maybe more! Can you imagine what the people must have been thinking when they see just 5 SMALL loaves of bread and 2 SMALL fish and are told they are going to eat? These people didn't just get one small piece of food. They all ate until they were FULL! Then Jesus tells the disciples to collect what was left and they FILLED 12 baskets! Jesus took such a small meal, that which was enough for just that one boy, and fed THOUSANDS of people with it and there was plenty left over! You'd think that would be enough to cause these people to believe in Jesus, but it wasn't.

The very next day, these people go in search of Jesus and finally find Him. They ask Jesus in verse 28, "What must we do to do the work God requires?" Jesus answered them in verse 29 by saying, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." I thought to myself, that should be easy for these people! Their response in verse 30 is almost ridiculous: "What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?" I think they all needed a good Gibbs' slap! First, these people followed Him because they saw the miraculous signs He had performed on the sick. Then, they witnessed Him perform the miracle of feeding thousands of people with a very small amount of food. It should have been easy for them to believe in Him, but they wanted MORE! It made me stop and think, "Am I ever like that? Have I ever asked you for something when I should have been content with what you already have given to me? Do I ever sound like a greedy child asking for more when you have already given me so much?"

I already had quite a few verses underlined in Proverbs 15, but the very first verse is the one that I felt I needed to write about. Verse 1 says "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." If you've been reading my blog, you know I've been working on watching what I say and how I say it. I have a teenager who loves to argue, and a younger son who seems to be following in his sister's footsteps. I've realized that I can't get upset with my daughter's bad attitude if I am not responding properly. How can I expect her to learn if I'm not setting a good example? I've been trying hard to take that deep breath and think about what I want to say before I say it so that my response can be one that is said gently instead of harshly. I have noticed that if my daughter gives a harsh response to me and I respond just as harshly, the volume that our words are being said gets louder and louder. If I respond quietly and gently, she is more likely to also respond quieter and is more likely to admit that she was wrong. Such a simple thing, yet it can be so hard to do! I'm determined though to keep trying and really seeking God's help to strengthen me and remind me to take that breath and respond in a more appropriate manner. I encourage you to try this too, especially with those in your life that you may find it hard to talk to. Don't give up either if you fail the first time. Keep trying. It will eventually get easier. Even if they never start talking nicer to you, you won't be as stressed or frustrated at them if you allow yourself to remain calm and continue to talk in that calm, peaceful, and gentle way.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Day 5 of 21 Day Challenge

What an amazing devotional time I had this morning! I spent almost an hour today between reading the two chapters in my Bible, writing in my journal, and praying. I had a few different verses that stuck out at me in Proverbs and it was really cool how God tied them all together. Our God is an awesome God! I'm so thankful for His faithfulness in showing me at least one new thing every day during my devotional time in this 21 Day Challenge.

John 5:44 says, "How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?" It feels good when someone praises you or gives you a compliment, doesn't it? I sing on the worship team at our church and I love to hear people say we sang well or they really enjoyed the music. I like to hear people tell me I look nice. It makes me feel good or loved when I get those kinds of compliments, but I should not be craving the praise of other people. What I should be striving for is praise from God. Isn't it amazing to think that the almighty God could give you praise?! I long for the day to hear Him say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant!" Everything we do should be striving toward that goal.

As I mentioned earlier, I got a lot out of my reading of Proverbs 14 today! The very first verse was the first one to jump out at me. Verse 1 says, "The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish ones tears hers down." This made me start thinking again about my words. Are my words building others up? Are they loving, encouraging, and wise? Or are my words angry, hurtful, and demeaning? If my words are negative, they are tearing down the person I am speaking to. I don't want my words to tear down anyone, especially those in my family. I need to make sure that my words are always said in love and are helpful in building up those I love.

In verse 8a, I read "The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways" and in verse 15 it says, "A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps." When I think first before I speak or do something, I am being wise. I'm sure how you can see how this goes along with what I read in verse one. If I think before I speak, then I wouldn't allow myself to say words that tear someone down. If I think before I act, I wouldn't do things that could be hurtful to myself or to others. I need to choose to be wise (prudent) and think before I speak or act.

Verses 26 and 27 says "He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death." Did verse 27 sound familiar to you? It does if you read my blog yesterday! That verse is very similar to Proverbs 13:14, which I talked about yesterday. Again, these verses got me to thinking about how I say things and the way I react. I want my kids to feel that their home is a refuge. I want them to always feel loved, accepted, and safe. I want them to know that no matter what happens, their parents will always love them. I want them to know they can come to us and get Godly advice, not criticism. My kids are still young and at home, and it hurts me to know that I'm not very good at this yet. Thankfully, I'm working on it and I'm confident that God will continue to help me so that I can become the mom I want to be and should be.

Finally, verse 30 says "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones." What a wonderful way to wrap up the verses that really stuck out to me. It summarized them all beautifully! If I am making sure that everything I say builds others up and does not tears them down, I will be at peace knowing that I didn't say anything that was hurtful. If I am being wise and always think before I say or do something, I can be at peace knowing that my actions probably won't have negative consequences. If our home is a fortress and refuge, where my kids feel loved and safe and know that they can come to us with anything, then I can be at peace knowing that my kids have a place to come to for Godly advice whenever they need it. If my kids see Jesus in us and accept Him as their own personally Lord and Savior, I can be at peace knowing that they have been saved from the snares of death and won't spend eternity in Hell. If I don't envy what others have and am content with what I do have, I can be at peace knowing that God has given me all I need and He will continue to provide what we need when we need it. When I am at peace, I will be happier and healthier than if I am filled with envy or worry. Worrying causes all sorts of health problems, so why worry? God will bless us with everything we need if we just put our faith in Him and do our best to live the way He wants us to. When we live according to His laws, we will obtain His praise us and He will say to us, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant!" Yes, all these verses in Proverbs went together, and then it led me right back to that verse in John I focused on. I told you God is awesome!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Day 4 of 21 Day Challenge

Proverbs 13:14 says "The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death."  As many of you know, I use a cyber school to teach my kids at home. As a result, this verse made me think about the words I say when I'm trying to teach my kids something. Are they "a fountain of life"? Are they enticing, beautiful, encouraging, and loving? Do they draw my kids toward the light or do they push them toward the darkness? My words have the ability to save my kids from the snares of death! How powerful is that thought?! I definitely want to make sure I think about the words I say and how I say them so that I am showing my kids the right way to go and encouraging them to follow so they don't go down the wrong path.

In John 4, I noticed twice in this chapter that people believed in Jesus based solely on the word of someone else or what He said to them. John 4:39 says, "Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him (Jesus) because of the woman's testimony, 'He told me everything I ever did.'" The fact that Jesus, a Jewish man, would even speak to a Samaritan woman was amazing to many people, including His disciples! He proved to her how much He knew about her and then He told her who He really was: "I who speak to you am He." (verse 26). She didn't keep this to herself. She left immediately and went and told people about Jesus. Many went to see Him, but many others didn't even need to come see this man and talk to them. They simply believed in Him because of her testimony.

Then, I read about a royal official whose son was very ill and near death. When he heard Jesus was in Cana in Galilee, he went to Him and begged Him to come and heal his son. In verse 50, it says "Jesus replied, 'You may go. Your son will live.' The man took Jesus at His word and departed." This man could have kept begging Jesus to come, thinking He needed to touch his son; but he didn't. He believed in what Jesus had said and left. As he was on his way home, he received the news that his son was alive. When he asked and was told what time his son had gotten better, he realized it was the exact time that Jesus had told him "Your son will live." As a result, he and his entire household believed. Would this man's son have been healed had the man not taken Jesus at His word? There are many times Jesus healed someone because of the person's faith. This man displayed faith when he simply took Jesus at His word and left.

Are there times that you read a promise in the Bible and think it doesn't apply to you? Have you felt God speaking to you while reading your Bible or praying and you doubt whether you really heard Him? Are there things you don't bring to God because you don't believe that what you are hoping for will happen? We need to remember that if we just bring our needs to Jesus and believe what He says, He will do it! It WILL happen! Don't allow yourself to doubt and risk the chance of not receiving what He has promised!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Day 3 of 21 Day Challenge

Yesterday, I wondered why the disciples needed to see a miracle before they put their faith in Him and why Jesus had to die before they believed in the Scripture and what He said. I realized that in current times, people don't get to physically see Jesus so it is hard for them to put their faith in Him. However, Jesus does still perform miracles and I wondered how people could witness a miracle, yet not believe in Him. I found it really cool that today's reading answered those questions in a really neat way.

When I read John 3:19-20, I smiled as I realized that God was answering the questions that I had yesterday!   John 3:19-20 says, "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." It all became so clear to me after I read those verses! When people choose to live in sin, they don't want to be exposed to the light. The light is Jesus. The light is truth. Many people want to do whatever they feel like doing. They don't want to be told that something is wrong. When they are confronted with the truth, they will flee because they realize that what they are doing is wrong and they don't want to admit that and turn from their ways. They realize if they step into the light, others will see their sin; so they turn the other way rather than step into the light. What is truly sad is that they don't realize that Jesus would forgive all of their sins and they'd be made clean if they would just step into the light, admit their sins, and ask for forgiveness.There are people who are very verbal in telling others what they believe. I'm sure we've all heard people say "Jesus doesn't exist!", "He's a myth!", "It's all a fairy tale!" (referring to the Bible), and "There is no heaven or hell!" When these people witness a miracle, they are confronted with the fact that what they believe is not true. Rather than admit they were wrong, they find excuses for what happened because they don't want to admit that they've been believing in a lie. How sad that these people choose to continue to live in darkness rather than admit they were wrong and ask for forgiveness. God would freely forgive them and they could live a much better life in the light. We need to be willing to let our light shine so that others are drawn to that light. Even though some may turn away from it, others will grow tired of running away. They will see how much better life is for those living in the light, and they will crave that  kind of life and eventually run TO the light instead of away from it.

Proverbs 12:3 says "A wife of noble character is her husband's crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay to his bones." I'm not sure I'm as wonderful as a crown, but I sure hope I'm not as bad as decay! Oh how I desire to always be the kind of wife my husband can be proud of! I know there are things I need to work on,  but I am so thankful to know that my husband loves me in spite of my faults. Neither one of us is perfect, but we love each other. We also both love Jesus and desire to serve Him, and we are trying our best to raise our kids to know, love, and serve Him too.

Proverbs 12:26 says "A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray." When I was in school, I never had many friends. I was called names because my lips were big, and the constant name calling led me to believe I was ugly. My parents of course told me I was pretty, but I figured "They are my parents, so they are suppose to think I'm pretty!" LOL. The first person I remember, or maybe it was just the person who hearing him say it made the most impact, was also the man I happened to marry, my husband Bob. I can count on one hand the number of men I dated. I wanted so much to get married and be a wife and mother, but I was shy and didn't go out of my way to talk to people. I guess my low self-esteem had made me feel like no one would want to be my friend so I waited for people to come to me. I was a very loyal friend to those who got to know me, but I usually only had one really close friend at a time. Eventually, I slowly began to reach out to get to know others, but I think this verse helped me to see that maybe God was protecting me from being led astray. I had been raised in a Christian home and knew right from wrong, but it may have been easy for me to be led astray if I had strongly desired to be popular and wanted lots of friends. I was actually content as long as I had one close friend that I knew I could trust. I've seen Christians be led astray by hanging out with friends who were not Christians. They allowed themselves to do things with their friends that they knew was wrong, but they did it anyway because they didn't want to lose their friends. I'm not saying we shouldn't be friends with unbelievers, but we need to be careful that we do not become so absorbed into those friendships that we get pulled away from our relationship with Jesus. I think Christians need to make sure to have at least a few close Christian friends, preferably ones who won't be afraid to step in if they start to see a problem with your actions.

So today I learned a few things: People don't believe in Jesus, even when they see a miracle, because they are living in darkness and don't want to have their sins revealed. I need to be a light to all of my friends and acquaintances. I need to do what I can to help them be drawn to the light instead of fleeing from it. I should be cautious with my friendships so that I don't get led astray. I need to be a wife of noble character (kind, loving, trustworthy, honest, and yes...submissive) so I can build my husband up (so he can wear that crown proudly!) and not tear him down (like a decay to his bones would do). I hope this blog helped you too. Maybe you learned something new or maybe it challenged you to make a change. I love to hear that people are reading my blog and getting something out of it, so feel free to share your opinion on whatever I share. If you have experiences of your own to share, feel free to do that too. God bless you and I hope you have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Day 2 of the 21 Day Challenge

Today's two devotional readings were John 2 and Proverbs 11. I was raised in a Christian home, have gone to church my entire life, and have been a Christian from a very young age. I'm looking forward to reading through the book of John because I've read and heard these stories and passages many times, but I want to read them this time with a new attitude and really look to see what God wants to teach me this time through. He has been faithful the first two days to point things out to me and I'm confident He will continue to show me new things as long as I continue to read with an open heart and mind.

I have a study Bible so I can just look at the bottom of the page and read what is written about the verses I read if I have a question about something or just want more information. I didn't read very far when a few verses caused me to start thinking. I decided to read what my study bible had to say about the verses, but I  couldn't shake MY interpretation of what those verses had to say and I figured it had to be God speaking to me. Verse 3-5 says "When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine". "Dear woman, why do you bring me into this?" Jesus replied. "My time has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do what he tells you."" What I got from these three verses was this: Mary went to Jesus because she knew who He was and she knew He could solve the problem that had arisen. Jesus knew her heart and told her that it wasn't time for Him to reveal Himself yet, but Mary still had hope that Jesus would do something so she told the servants to do whatever Jesus told them to do. Even though Jesus said it wasn't His time, He obeyed His mom and performed a miracle by turning the water into wine. Besides Jesus and Mary, only the servants who He spoke to and His disciples knew what had happened. I have to believe that it was Mary's faith that caused Jesus to go ahead and perform this miracle.

I also was struck by two other verses. In verse 11, it says "This, the first of His miraculous signs, Jesus performed in at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed His glory, and His disciples put their faith in Him." Yesterday, I read that John the Baptist told people who Jesus was. Two of his own disciples immediately followed Jesus after John told them directly who Jesus was. WHY did it take them witnessing a miracle before they put their faith in Him? I found it interesting, and also sad, that Jesus' disciples had to witness a miracle before they put their faith in Him. Later, I read verse 22 and was surprised to notice what it says: "After He was raised from the dead, His disciples recalled what He had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. This is referring to what Jesus said in verse 19: "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days."  Jesus DIED before the disciples believed the Scripture and what Jesus had spoken?! They had followed Him and listened to Him for 3 YEARS! They had witnessed MANY miracles! HOW could they have not believed the Scripture and His words until after He was no longer with them?! I sadly realized that there are many people like that still today. There are still people who need to first see a miracle happen before they put their faith in God. Others may read the Bible or hear it preached, but they don't believe what it says until they experience something that reveals to them that what is in the Bible is real and true. I didn't need to see a miracle happen before I put my faith in Jesus. I have been blessed to have witnessed a few miracles, and those experiences just strengthened and affirmed my faith in God. I guess these verses today helped me to realize that I can't judge people who don't believe in Jesus. If the disciples walked and talked with Jesus and didn't put their faith in Him until He performed a miracle, then how much more do people today need to be told about Jesus. They don't have the opportunity to personally see and hear Him, so we need to be sure to tell them about all He has done for us so they can start to see Jesus through us!

Proverbs 11: 12b caught my attention today. It says "a man of understanding holds his tongue." Since I have been honest and have already written in my blog about the struggle I have with controlling my tongue when I get upset, I guess it is easy to see why this verse stood out to me. I want to be the type of person who is kind and understanding and doesn't blurt things out in anger or without thinking. I want to get better at holding my tongue and thinking before I speak. I have good days where I find it easy to control my tongue, and other days when I really struggle. As I continue to pray for His guidance and turn it over to Him, I know it will become easier for me to have more good days and fewer bad days. I'm so glad God is patient with me, and with all of us!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Day 1 of the 21 Day Challenge

Pastor Jen, the assistant pastor at my church, encouraged the congregation to take part in the 21 day challenge. This challenge is to read a chapter of John each day, as well as a chapter in Proverbs that corresponds to that day's date (There are 31 chapters in Proverbs, one for each day of most months. Today is Dec. 10th, so I read Proverbs 10). Before reading, we were told to pray that God would open our minds so we could see what He wanted to show or teach us. Then we read the passages and wrote down what we learned in a journal. After that, we are to list something we are thankful for as well as a prayer request. I decided to take up the challenge even though I normally read a daily devotional in "Our Daily Bread". I do journal as well, but not every day. 

John 1 is mostly about John the Baptist. As I read the chapter, I realized how amazing it must have been for him to KNOW that he was called by God to point other to Jesus, who hadn't started His ministry yet. The verses that stuck out to me the most were verses 32-34 which say "Then John told them, “I saw the Holy Spirit come down from heaven like a dove. The Spirit remained on Jesus. I would not have known him. But the One who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘You will see the Spirit come down and remain on someone. He is the One who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’  I have seen it happen. I give witness that this is the Son of God.” What an awesome thing for John to experience! God TOLD John that He would show Him who His Son was! When John saw the dove, he KNEW that Jesus was the Son of God! There was not a doubt in his mind and he was able to boldly point others to Jesus. How thrilling it must have been to see two of his own disciples decide to immediately follow Jesus when John pointed to Jesus and told them "Look! The Lamb of God!" (verses 35-37). 

As I read Proverbs 10, I couldn't help but think of my teenage daughter. We've been struggling a lot with her attitude. I'm sure anyone who has or has had a teenager knows, this is a common problem/complaint of parents who have a teenager! My daughter seems to think she needs to argue about every little thing. She doesn't like to be told that she did something wrong or she certainly doesn't like to be told no. She wants things HER way...ALL the time. As I read Proverbs, the first part of verse 11 jumped out at me. It says "the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life". I thought of what comes out of MY mouth when I'm struggling to get my daughter to listen to me instead of arguing with me. Are my words a fountain of life? Sadly, I had to answer no. My temper is quick to show itself as I struggle to stop my daughter from arguing with me, and my words become quite harsh...and loud. I think of a fountain as something with quiet beauty. Obviously, I haven't been a good example to my kids, so I asked for forgiveness and asked God to help me be the light in this house. I want all who are within these walls to see Jesus and be drawn to Him. 

Day 1 of the 21 Day Challenge is complete, and I have already learned a lot. I'm looking forward to the rest of this challenge and all that God is going to teach me. I know once this challenge is over, I will continue to read and journal. I don't know whether I'll continue to do the daily devotionals in "Our Daily Bread" or choose to work through a different book of the Bible. I do know I'm willing to do whatever God tells me to do and I will follow His leading.