Day 120: Your Mess = Your Message (2 Samuel 23-24; Luke 22:31-53)

And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

When you first read this verse, did you notice what Jesus said: “Satan has asked for you”?! Satan had to ask God for permission to test Simon Peter. This left me in awe as much as it disturbed me. On the one hand it portrays that God is the Highest One (even the devil didn’t dare to tempt Peter without letting God know beforehand), on the other hand it shows us that God gave Satan permission for his devilish plans. Say what now?!

But stick with me for a moment, because Jesus stated more in this verse than the devil’s request. Jesus continues: “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail.” Now we start seeing the bigger picture: Jesus warns Peter that trials are coming. Then He says that He already prayed for Peter, as to say: “Dearest, danger is on its way, but I prayed for you, so you don’t have to worry.” And it gets even better: “and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” Mind that Jesus didn’t say ‘if you return to Me.’ He said when! At last, He tells Peter: “strengthen your brethren.” In the end, Peter’s mess will become his message!

Now, I want you to imagine God saying this to you: “Dear daughter! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

Yes, you will face temptations. Maybe you’re facing them at this very moment. And, at times, you will fail. But know that Jesus already prayed for you; know that He will not expose you to battles you cannot conquer; and know that His ultimate goal is always to strengthen you (and, through your faith, the people around you).

He wants our mess (read: trials, temptations, battles) to become our message!

What battles do you see coming in your life?

What battles are you facing at the moment? Can you still see that God is good?What mess of yours has become your message?

If you’re having a hard time dealing with your battles, let us know, so we can “strengthen our sisters.” We love you and, most importantly, God loves you! I already thank God for your victory. Your mess WILL become your message!

Day 119: Write Your Own Song (2 Samuel 21-22; Luke 22:1-30)

“You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your gentleness has made me great. You enlarged my path under me; so my feet did not slip.” -2 Samuel 22:36-37

Y’all, chapter 22 of 2 Samuel has to be one of my most favorite passages in the Bible. I am strengthened and filled with joy just reading it, so I can’t even imagine the joy David felt when he was writing and singing this song.

So, today we’re going to make this more of a writing exercise than a devotional.

First, if you haven’t already, read 2 Samuel 22.

Second, using David’s song as an example, write your own song to praise God for His deliverance. Think back to yesterday, to the last week, the last year, and as far back as you can remember – where did the Lord rescue you from? What has He done for you? How did He show His gentleness and greatness in your life? Who is God to you? What characteristics of God strengthen you the most?

You don’t have to be a musician, a song writer, or frankly, even a writer to do this. Your words don’t have to rhyme. Just write from the heart – put on paper what the Lord means to you and what He has done for you.

If you’re so inclined, share a stanza or two in the comments to inspire others! 

Day 118: The Cares of This Life (2 Samuel 19-20; Luke 21:20-38)

“But take heed to yourselves, lest you hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.” -Luke 21:34

I think the combination of this warning is so interesting. On one hand, you have the “fun:” drinking and partying. On the other hand, are the concerns of this life. Although these two may be on opposite spectrums, they both have one thing in common: they distract us from focusing on eternity.

A friend recently shared with me that what helps her stay focused on God is to take a step back throughout her day and think eternity. As in, does the worry of this minute really matter in the face of eternity? Usually, the answer is no. Because we work so hard to build some kind of life on this earth – to start a family, design a pretty home, make a career, or just simply pay the bills and survive one day at a time. As we pursue these things though, they weigh us down. And if you disagree with that, try letting go of some of those responsibilities that you spend so much of your brain and time on – the freedom you’ll feel as a result, shows just how much all those responsibilities weigh on us.

As my law school graduation draws near (only 2.5 weeks away!), my life has become all sorts of busy. The stress is enough to make me feel like I’m suffocating most days. So I had to sit down and make a list of the distractions – the things in my life that are distracting me from seeking God first. There were the obvious culprits – entertainment and social media. But there were less subtle ones, like the importance I put on worldly ambitions that were quickly gaining priority over God.

So, today, I challenge you to make your own list: what is distracting you from seeking His Kingdom fist? 

Day 117: What To Say? (2 Samuel 17-18; Luke 21:1-19)

“Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.” -Luke 21:14-15

Although this passage is speaking of the last days and how we should react to persecution, the message holds true in our daily lives. For example, there are a lot of times when I am afraid to start a conversation with someone about Jesus because I’m afraid I won’t have the right answers. People today are so skeptical of religion and if you broach the subject, most people are quick to pepper you with incredibly difficult theological questions on all the hot button topics: the death penalty, homosexuality, divorce, hardships, illnesses, the scientific proof behind God’s existence, evolution, etc…

Just writing those out intimidates me, because I am still so young in my knowledge and study of the Bible. And so, too often, I remain silent. I avoid the topics. Gloss over the questions. But then the Lord pointed out a critical flaw in my thinking: I was relying on myself to have the answers, not on the One who is all knowing and the source of all wisdom.

I guess this is one of the things law school has been good for: not to memorize all the laws, but to know where to look and who to ask when you’re seeking answers. I will never know everything. But I do know someone who literally wrote the answers and He is only a prayer away. His Holy Spirit lives in me and guides me in the way I should go.

So, in the moments when I’m speaking to someone about Christ and I don’t have the words, I pray for His wisdom and His words. If He wants me to speak to that person, then He fills my mind and my mouth with His words. And those words are always so much better than anything I could ever plan in advance, even with the help of the best resources on this earth.

Day 116: World vs. God (2 Samuel 15-16; Luke 20:27-47)

And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” -Luke 20:25

Jesus’s point in this passage is that He wasn’t there to start a revolution against the rulers of this world. He was there to save people’s souls. And then He called us to do the same thing.

As such, this message is just as applicable to us today as it was when Jesus first said it. Because we must live in this world – with all of its material demands. We need to make a living to support ourselves and our families (1 Thessalonians 4:11; Ephesians 4:28, 2 Thessalonians 3:10). For most of us, that includes jobs that don’t fall into traditional boundaries of ministry.

So, I imagine Jesus’s advice would be similar: do what you must, but separate this world from Me. Just because we live in this world, does not mean we must be like it. Just because we may work in a non-secular environment doesn’t mean that we extinguish our light or forget that God comes first, always.

Render to this world what belongs to this world: paying the bills, putting food on the table, climbing up the corporate ladder, etc…, but don’t let those things replace the things that are God’s: your heart, soul, and mind.

Day 115: Are You Rejecting Christ? (2 Samuel 13-14; Luke 20:1-26)

The parable of the wicked vinedressers in Luke 20:9-16 is like something out of an action film: the bad guys just won’t give up. Reading it, we may not fully understand the depth of what Jesus is saying here, so today, I want to dig a little deeper into how this parable still relates to us today.

A reader once emailed me and asked if I believed the stories of the people who went to heaven. But her next question is what I focus on today: “If they truly were in the presence of God and saw heaven, how could they come back to earth and remain unchanged? How could they go back to their old lives of sin and vanity after such an encounter?”

But technically, we all encounter Jesus at some point in our lives – usually the moment we say that we accept Jesus as our savior. At that point, our lives are transformed – our sins are cast away and we receive white, pure, holy new clothes. Yet, all of us at one point or another get those clothes dirty – we go back to our wayward ways.

Now, we may defensively say that this is different. That if we had truly seen Jesus in person – if we had a real heaven experience or lived while Jesus walked the earth, then things would be different. But that is not a true justification. Peter walked with Jesus for years and in His moment of need, he betrayed Jesus.

A few days ago we read about the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). In that story, a man asked Abraham to send a dead man to his brothers so they may be saved. Surely, he said, if they see a dead man come to life, then they would believe. But Abraham replied: “if they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

Aren’t we like that man some days? We say that if only we saw “real” miracles – people healed, arms growing back, dead people coming back to life – then we would believe and never turn back to our old ways. If only we could see Jesus in the flesh or actually really feel Him.

But like the parable with the vinedressers, God has already done those things for us and most days, it’s still not enough to hold our attention and to sustain an unwavering faith in Him. We reject everything He gives us, even when He sent His own son, in order to somehow selfishly fit into this world and satisfy ourselves.

Day 114: Choices (2 Samuel 10-12; Luke 19:29-48)

Coffee or tea? Hit the gym or head straight to work? Go to church or not? We are bombarded by constant choices. For the most part, they may seem fairly easy, and perhaps all of them are winning situations for us. But what happens when those choices become not so easy?

In 2 Samuel 10-12 we get a glimpse of what free will looks like. Each person had an opportunity for good or for evil. Hanun of the Ammonites listened to bad advice, and consequently made enemies. David ignored the law of the Lord and ended up setting off a chain reaction of evil. Uriah the Hittite chose honor for the king and his fellow men, even though it cost him his life.

We all make good and bad decisions. David made huge mistakes, like murder and adultery, and yet was called a man after God’s own heart. God understands we will make mistakes, but He also sees our potential.

In Luke 19:41, Jesus weeps over the city of Jerusalem and the choices they will make. He knows they will betray and kill him. And yet He shows unwarranted compassion. His compassion and grace extends to them and to us. He longs to love us, and we mean so much to Him that we can choose. Choose to accept Him or not, to seek peace or strife, encourage or tear down.

We have the power to decide who we will worship and how we will live. Do we sit with the new girl? Do we take opportunities to pray for others? Are we willing to be the one who stands for the right thing, even if we stand alone? Everyone has choices. As we go about our days, let’s pause and reflect on what we are really saying yes and no to.

How can we honor our Lord with our free will?