Day 247: Sleep and Poverty (Proverb 5-6; 1 Corinthians 14:1-20)

I’m not a fan of ants. But God seems to use them as an example often. So, today, let’s talk about ants, sleep and working from home.

“Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer and gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep?” -Proverbs 6:6-9

It’s like working for yourself (or, if you’re in college, then it’s studying). No one is there to tell you what time to wake up or what to accomplish each day. There is no manager telling you what goals to meet or how to see the big picture and plan for the future. It’s all up to you, and you alone.

At first glance, this sounds awesome (maybe that’s why 63 percent of 20-somethings aspire to start their own businesses). But ask anyone whose done it, and they’ll tell you that it takes a lot of self-discipline and motivation. Otherwise, the day passes by too quickly and it turns out you spent the entire day in your pajamas internet surfing and watching netflix while answering a few emails.

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There is absolutely nothing wrong with a day off here and there. We’ve talked often about the importance of rest. But there is a difference between rest and laziness. It’s the person who sleeps in once a week on Sunday versus the one who rarely rises before noon and even then, their days are slow and unproductive.

This passage isn’t telling you not to sleep (in fact, the Bible says that God blesses those he loves with sleep). Instead, it warns us against the dangers of laziness and too much sleep. It’s not about rising up at the crack of dawn and working yourself to the bone until long past midnight, seven days a week. But more about balance – knowing when to work, when to rest, when to make yourself get out of bed, and how to plan strategically for your present and your future so that your family is provided for and taken care of.

Is there an area of your life where you’re not exercising control over that is leading you to physical, mental or spiritual poverty?  What action steps can you take today to “sleep less” in that area of your life?

Day 243: Kindness vs. Anger (Psalm 145-147;1 Corinthians 11:1-15)

DAY 243

In today’s world it is so easy to be quick to anger and forget about compassion.  With social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, we are given immediate outlets to express our anger and many people are quick to do so.  It is strange how all of us can have anger towards random people and events that do not affect us but we suddenly feel the need to express our opinion of the matter.  Just recently I saw something about a feud between a couple of Hollywood celebrities and everyone was picking sides even though the majority of these people do not know these individuals.

When you get on social media, are you more prone to react to the posts of joy or the ones of anger?  When you look through a friend’s or stranger’s posts are you moved to compassion or anger?  Do you immediately show compassion for those in difficult situations or do you get angry at the person you believe is causing a problem instead?  My challenge to you is to follow the LORD’s example.

Instead of picking sides in an online or non–virtual battle between friends or strangers, reach out in compassion to someone who is expressing anger or hurting.  Tell them you are praying for them, offer a helping hand, or point them to Jesus.  Be slow to anger or to fuel anger.  Show compassion and loving-kindness like Jesus does.

Day 241: Constructive Criticism (Psalm 139-141; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

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If you’ve ever had a performance review at work, you know how awkward and even hurtful it can be to get negative feedback about yourself. So, to voluntarily ask for constructive critisim is seen by some as something worst than public humiliation – totally unnecessary. Yet, in today’a reading, David asks the Lord to search his heart to see if there is anything wicked in him.

None of us like to hear our faults, but if we want to grow spiritually, we need to know which areas we need to strengthen and build up. This is especially important in the good times – the times when life is going well and you feel spiritually comfortable with no great worries or needs. Those are often the most perfect times to turn to the Lord and ask for a lesson plan: for something within yourself to improve. Whether it’s a lesson on self-denial, patience, loving your neighbor, idols or whatever else is your weak spot.

God is always teaching and molding us, but sometimes, we have to be proactive and ask for his feedback on what we may need to improve or rid our life of. We may not always like the answer, but when we follow through and make the change in our life, we will flourish and grow exponentially.

Have you ever asked the Lord for constructive criticism? What happened?

Day 230: Rooted (Psalm 109-11; Romans 16)

“Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.” -Romans 16:17-18

One young woman who read a lot of online forums and comments about Biblical disputes. Specifically, she was really tempted by the arguments made by atheists. Eventually, she began questioning God’s existence.

Thanks to the Internet, you can find all sorts of stuff online about the Bible and it’s validity. If you seek for it, you will find it, because there are plenty of people willing to feed into your pain, disappointments, confusion and questions.

Don’t go there. Especially if you’re a new Christian or don’t know the Bible well. Because like a young sapling in strong winds, you’ll be pulled in a million different directions until finally your roots will be pulled out of the good soil you’re planted in.

Study the Word first. Allow the Holy Spirit to nurture you and feed you with His truth. Tune out the haters and the ones whose only goal is to cause disputes and disagreements. The kind of people who just want to win and prove their theologies right to soothe their pride and human ambition.

Believe God’s Word is Truth. Study His Word. Then, you will be deeply rooted, and no smooth-talking false preacher or atheist will be able to tempt you away from the one who sent His own son to die on a cross for you.

 

Day 229: Decisions & Permissions (Psalm 107-108; Romans 15:22-33)

“But I know that when I come to you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.” -Romans 15:29

Have you ever had to make a decision to go some place? I’m not just talking about where to go eat with your friends. But big life decisions – like whether to take a job, accept a marriage proposal, choose a college, or move to a new city. Those decisions are difficult to make as is, but then to figure out what God’s will in all of that adds even more pressure.

If we could meet for coffee sometime, I would tell you about some of these decisions I’ve had to make. Because I know how difficult it is to try to decipher God’s will when making a big decision.

Apostle Paul traveled for his ministry, but through out the book of Acts, and now Romans, we’ve seen several instances when he chose to stay or not go somewhere because the Holy Spirit told him not to. Even when the trip was planned in advance. Even when the purpose was to spread the Gospel (Acts 16:6).

Y’all, God cares about the details of our life. Like where live, work, and go to college. He would love to offer you guidance and point you in the direction of His will for your life. In the next verse of this chapter, we see Paul ask the church to pray for him so God would bless him and send him to visit them.

So, the next time you have a big decision to make, get on your knees and pray. Pray until the Holy Spirit nudges you towards the direction you should go (or maybe that you should stay right where you are). God will lead you, but only if you’re willing to be lead.

Day 228: Choosing Praise (Psalm 105-106; Romans 15:1-21)

“Then they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe His word, but complained in their tents, and did not heed the voice of the Lord.” -Psalm 106:24-25

I’m a pessimist, which naturally comes with a dose of negativity. So, I can relate to the Israelites on the whole complaining thing. Because I’ve always done that really well. If it’s not my looks, then it’s my finances or studies. There was always something.

But then God began doing His work in my heart. He began pointing out all the good in my life. And there was a lot of it.

I may not have been first in my class in law school, but I had the opportunity to get a law degree – and do well grade-wise – even though generations of my family never had the chance to obtain a higher education. My body is healthy and whole. I have a roof over my head and food in my fridge. I have a job and a loving family. The list goes on and on.

None of these things are perfect and I can find plenty of things to complain about even in all those blessings. But, that’s the thing: it’s my choice. I can choose to praise Him or I can complain as I compare my lot in life to someone else’s (because let’s be real – complaining tends to take root when we start playing the comparison game).

Let’s choose praise, friends. Because we do have so much to praise our God for. Even when life tears us down and breaks us apart, He is still good.

Day 227: For the Community (Romans 14; Psalm 103-104)

As you progress in your life as a Christian, you are bound to come across Christians with whom you disagree. We all have varying opinions about worship, clothing, food, tithes, missions, alcohol, poverty, politics…the list goes on! And it is easy to let these opinions divide us. It is easy to go into our church on Sunday morning, tightly close the door, and forget that so many others are doing the exact. same. thing. They’re loving God.

Wherever you are, however you do “church” (even if it’s just gathering with a few friends for a devotion once a week), you are setting aside that time to pursue God. And the community with whom you do that is pretty important. That’s why we have the reminders in this passage.

There are two key points that Paul has for us in Romans 14.

  1. You then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we all stand before God’s judgment seat. (vs. 10)

It is not our job to point out the flaws in our Christian community (there are exceptions: Matthew 18:15-20, 1 Corinthians 5, Titus 1:10-16, James 5:19-20). Not in the community where we worship and not the larger community of believers. Each of us, in our own way, is broken. We are trying to make our way to a life that reflects the love of Christ. There will be mistakes along the way…but these mistakes are (mostly) between us and God…BUT…

  1. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (vs. 19)

There are times when our actions aren’t going to build others up. Our actions will, instead, detract from their experience with God. If we are to build communities of love and peace, then we have to be considerate of those around us. In this specific text, Paul talks about eating habits. Today, the conversation may be focused on using foul language, drinking alcohol, or dressing a certain way. If you, as part of your small community, are not considering the spiritual walk of your brothers and sisters, then you are missing out on a key piece of being part of that community!

Consider what it looks like when you take your eyes off of your own needs and consider the spiritual needs of those around you. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul says, “Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body…Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen…Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:25-32).

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If you are struggling to find the balance between speaking the truth in love and following the example of mercy set out by Christ, I suggest seeking God’s will in prayer. There isn’t a checklist about when to confront someone about their sins…or which sins are “too distracting.” This is a matter for your heart and the heart of your community.

Could the sins in your life be negatively affecting your Christian brothers and sisters? Prayerfully consider changes that you may need to make…

Once you’ve taken time with those prayers, consider how God may be calling you to speak the truth in love to others around you.