Day 348: Warning Signs (Amos 1-3, Revelation 5)

“Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets. A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord has spoken! Who can but prophesy?” -Amos 3:7-8

As we read the book of Amos this week, you’ll notice a lot of foreshadowing as God warns the people of Israel of the judgement their future holds for the iniquities they committed.

We often get the same warnings. They’re not always out of the mouth of a prophet, but God is faithful in giving us a chance to fix our ways before the consequences rain down upon us. It’s the moment after you said something you wish you could take back in a heated argument, but your pride holds you back. And then things begin to fall apart in that relationship and you wish you had taken that moment to say you’re sorry and to mend the broken fences before it was too late. It’s the red flags in a new relationship that warn of danger ahead.

In our spiritual lives, the Holy Spirit also gives us warning signs when we’re about to wander off His path. But we only hear the warnings if we’re listening. And the warnings are only effective if we obey.

So, how do you hear or see these warnings? First, you must be on the same wave length to be able to hear. That means regular Bible study and prayer. Second, when you know the word of God, you can more easily spot when something is a fraud. Third, be open to the input of people in your life – often times our friends and family can spot red flags in our relationships, careers, friendships, and health. Overall though, it’s about having a pliable heart that is wiling to listen and obey.

Are there warning signs in your life that you may be missing or ignoring? 

Day 347: What Is On the Inside? (Joel, Revelation 4)

“So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful.” -Joel 2:13

At the time this passage was written, there was a tradition where people would surrender their clothes – privately or publicly – as an outward expression of grief. As such, there were people who would do the act of surrendering their clothes to show their sorrow, but their hearts did not mirror their actions.

Don’t we all do the same thing today? We dress modestly but in our minds we hope our feminine attributes still attract male attention. We can go to church and look like good Christian girls, but in our minds reign envy, lust, despair, hatred, or a lack of faith. We may say that we love God, but our mind is filled with the concerns of this world with only fleeting thoughts on Him.

Because we can all be good actors, but God sees our hearts and intentions and He calls us to not only outward repentance, but an inward transformation.

Check yourself today. What are the intentions behind your actions? Are your daily thoughts and actions founded in a deep love for the Lord or are they more focused on appearances and pleasing other people? Are you building up a facade or is your faith deeply rooted in your soul?

If you find yourself disappointed with your answers, take some time today to journal through what may be causing the disconnect between your actions and the state of your heart. A few common reasons include peer pressure, envy, sin, a mistake in your past you can’t forgive yourself for, a lack of faith/knowledge of God, etc…

Day 345: Good Works (Hosea 9-11; Revelation 2)

These letters to the seven churches have a common theme: good works. After looking at each church’s weakness and considering their works, God calls them to do something. From one church, he asks for repentance and to return to their first love. From another He tells them that who keep His works until the end, will receive power over the nations.

In a world so focused on the concept of grace, works are often shoved on the same shelf where we keep our disdain for legalistic religion – out of date and better left in the Old Testament. We know our good works won’t save us, and so we discount their worth. But its a lot like saying that eating healthy won’t stop you from dying – although its true, if you eat healthy, you improve the quality of your life. Because what we eat determines our energy levels and our physical appearance.

Similarly, our works determine how God and the world perceive us. Jesus said that by our love, the world will know that we are His children. Love is not a verb though – it’s an action. Love is works. And it pleases our God to look down on this earth and see His children doing His good works. Because although grace covers a multitude of sins, He still gives each of according to our works (v.23). Not because we earn blessings, but because like any parent who is pleased by their children’s good behavior, He wants to bless us for our obedience.

As John wrote to the church at Ephesus: “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil…and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary” (v.2).

God sees your works – they either please Him or they don’t. So, out of our great love for Him, let us do our best to make sure that the good works outweigh the bad works.

Day 344: Empty Pursuits (Hosea 5-8; Revelation 1)

“They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind. The stalk has no bud; it shall never produce meal. If it should produce, aliens would swallow it up. Israel is swallowed up; now they are among the Gentiles like a vessel in which is no pleasure.” -Hosea 8:7

Have you ever worked really hard for something but when you achieved your desired goal, the accomplishment or victory was hallow?

When I was in college, I got over-involved in extra curricular activities – which combined with two part-time jobs and a full course load meant that I didn’t sleep, have a social life or frankly, rarely ever saw my family or my church. I thought that by adding activities to my resume and networking I would launch a successful career and have a better chance at grad school. I let everything else suffer in my life at the expense of pursuing a successful career.

That was until God showed me that He is the only one to depend on and only the work that He has called me to do is worthwhile. Trying to make things happen on my own and by the world’s standards wasn’t getting me anywhere. That packed resume left me exhausted, overweight, alone, spiritually lost, and without any real job offers senior year. Everything I had worked so hard to achieve didn’t come to fruition and instead left me feeling empty and tired.

It was not until I let God lead me in what to do that I slowly became a healthier and happier person. A career I never even dreamed of suddenly opened up to me. When I began saying no to things of the world that promised me success, beauty or happiness, it is as if my faith had room to grow and blossom all of a sudden. Saying no to the empty pursuits of the world changed me, and as a byproduct gave me a career and a degree that I could never have personally planned for or achieved by my own human efforts.

What empty pursuits can you say no to you in your life? 

Day 343: Harlotry (Hosea 1-4; Jude)

The book of Hosea is all about recognizing the depth and severity of our sin and how much of it God has forgiven us and covered in grace. We studied the metaphor of the harlot in our Proverbs 7 study, but it’s hard for many of us to accept the analogy because, well, no young woman wants to be called a harlot.

“For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water. My wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.’ Therefore, behold, I will hedge up your way with thorns, and wall her in, so that she cannot find her paths. She will chase her lovers, but not overtake them; Yes, she will seek them, but not find them.” -Hosea 1:5-7

I will be the first to admit that like the people of Israel, I’ve tried to find lovers other that Christ. It’s the foods I turn to for comfort when I’m sad or insecure. It’s the social media and media I turn to for entertainment when I’m bored or don’t want to work on my to-do list. It’s the worth and beauty I find in the love of a man. It’s the job I rely on to provide for my wants and needs. It’s all things that I go to in order to define my worth, success, beauty, and my place in the world.

Yet, God should be the only one who fills each of those spaces in my heart and my life. He should be the one who comforts me when I’m sad; the one who fills my schedule and my every thought; the one in whom I find my worth, beauty, and by whom I am unconditionally loved. He is my provider and it is only by His mercy that I have all the blessings that I do.

Maybe that’s why God hedges us in and lines our paths with thorns when we start to wander down the paths towards our other lovers. He puts up obstacles and even hardships and suffering with the sole intention to bring us back to Him. So that no matter how much we seek the pleasures of this world, we won’t find them or be satisfied in them. Because He is the only one for us. Always was and always will be.

Day 342: See God (Daniel 11-12; 3 John)

“He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.” -3 John 11

I have always struggled with verses like this. The message is similar to James 3:11, which says that fresh and bitter water can’t flow from the same spring. So, you’re either with God or against Him. There is no middle ground. Unfortunately, somehow, modern Christianity seems to have found the comfortable place in the middle though that is part the world, part Christianity. No longer is it evident when you walk down the street or go to work who is a believer and who is not.

We all sin. And sin is evil. So, how can it be said that we have not seen God? I mean we call ourselves the children of God and claim to have found Christ… and yet, here John writes that if you do evil, you have not seen God.

Sin is a choice and when I look at my life, when I sin, I make the decision – whether consciously or subconsciously – to look away from Christ. I turn my thoughts and my spiritual gaze from the cross and from His throne and turn my attention to the things of this world that steal my attention and cause me to stumble. This is easy to do after you skip Bibles study and prayer for a few days. After a few weeks, it gets even easier until you hardly even think what God would think about your actions and thoughts.

Keep your gaze on Jesus. Set check points through out your day to read your Bible and pray. Don’t start your day without a heart check to see where your priorities are for the coming day. Because when you’re constantly seeing God, your life will overflow with goodness. There is no middle ground – you’re either with God or not. Choose to be with Him, always.

Day 341: You Are Greatly Beloved (Daniel 9-10; 2 John)

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“Suddenly, a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands. And he said to me, ‘O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright for I have now been sent to you…Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words.'” -Daniel 10:10-12

If you ever wanted a formula for how to find favor in God’s eyes when you come before Him with a request, Daniel’s story is it. This young man stayed faithful to His Lord through slavery and power, wealth and persecution. He was humble and as we’ve talked about it before, he prayed – all the time and for everything. This pleased the Lord.

Because as Daniel spoke, prayed, and confessed his sin and the sin of his people, an angel came to him with a message:

“O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand. At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter and understand the vision.” -Daniel 9:22-23

There were many times in my life when I prayed for skill to understand – from an economics exam to matters of the heart. Like Daniel, I learned that when I humbled my whole heart and all my soul, God always gave me the wisdom on how to proceed and answers to my questions.

Because we are the daughters of the King of Kings. When we come before our Father with a humble heart and a contrite Spirit and acknowledge His power, we find favor in His eyes. When we repent and confess our sins and speak to Him – asking Him for His counsel, He provides in abundance. If needed, He will even send an angel to teach you one on one.

So, if you have questions, go to the keeper of all the answers. If you have a prayer request, seek His favor with a humble heart. For you are greatly beloved and the moment you asked, He commanded His angels to see to your needs.