March 24 – Proverbs 3:5-6

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Proverbs 3: 5-6

I remember when I graduated from Urbana high school back in 1978 (go Tigers!), I had a graduation party. All my family and friends came. I remember getting a card which read: “This verse will guide you throughout your life. It has guided me, and never let me down. Proverbs 3:5-6.”  

Do you remember back when we used folding paper maps? My job on our family vacations was to sit in the front middle seat, hold the roadmap, and try to find where we were, where we were going, and most important, where the next McDonald’s was. I think if we had a roadmap for our life, Proverbs 3:5-6 would be it. How are we going to reach our goals? How will we find victory through every circumstance? How will we be able to keep the faith all the way to our last breath? 

Check out this roadmap for life. 

“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart.” There are a lot of things we can trust in, but most of them will fade away, rust, get stolen, become lost, leave us, or lose their value in time. But the Lord will never do that. It is no wonder the Bible calls Him the immovable rock, our Fortress and our Shield. 

“Lean not on your own understanding.”

As a high school student, there were a lot of things I couldn’t figure out. The one thing I could never understand was algebra. It just didn’t make sense to me. I think when we try to figure out life, to make it seem logical, we end up with a big zero! When we lean on our own minds and our own calculations, we come up short.  Life can feel a lot like algebra.

“In all of your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

What’s our answer to all the terrible problems of life?  Submitting our lives, our hopes, our minds, to the Lord. I’ll just submit it to the Lord and trust that He can figure it out. Proverbs 3:5-6 is a promise that still guides us today, like it has for so many. The Lord will never let you down. Happy trails! 

March 23 – Psalms 32:8

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go.”

Psalm 32:8

Imagine the apostles as they watched Jesus ascend up into Heaven. They were probably scared out of their minds, hopeless, anxious, wondering what their future would hold. They weren’t exactly sure what to do, so they prayed, and prayed, and prayed some more. Then God sent His spirit to them to comfort them and lead them. From then on, we see the Holy Spirit leading the Apostles and giving them the strength and confidence to start the early church. In John 16, before Jesus goes to the cross, He told His disciples that He was sending His spirit to guide us into all truth. This is the promise in Psalm 32:8. God will not only be with us, but He will instruct us and teach us in the way we should go. The choice here depends on us, God has given us His Spirit, but will we choose to pray, to wait, and to yield to His Leading and guidance in our lives. We don’t have to fear our future.  When we are open to being lead, God will lead us through His spirit.

March 22 – James 1:5

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God,
who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

James 1:5

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you didn’t know what to do? When we start our day, we are faced with many decisions throughout the entirety of it. Some of these decisions may be small, like what we eat for lunch or how we do our hair today, but what happens when our decisions get bigger? How do we decide in choices that can have an impact on our life months, years, or even decades into the future? “Which school should I go to?” Or “Which job should I take?” Or “Should I marry this person?” Have you ever had to make a decision that big? 

Let’s take a step further. Have you ever had an idea on what you wanted to do, but didn’t know how to go about it? Maybe you decided that you wanted to be a better friend or parent, but you don’t exactly know what that entails. Or you feel called to do that thing, but you’re not sure how to do it. Whether it’s making a decision or taking action, you just know you want to do it right.

The comforting thing about our God when it comes to deciding, is that he wants to be in our decisions! Yes, the almighty God who created the Earth and the space that it hangs in, and the birds and the trees that they live in, wants to be a part of creating your life too. Now if you’re like me, so often we let things get in the way of letting Him into our decisions and how we live our life. Sometimes it’s the fact that we think we have it figured out and we don’t necessarily need to ask God. Other times shame or feeling like God doesn’t want to hear from us stops us from confiding in His wisdom. Whatever the roadblock, here James gives us confidence in coming to the Lord. He promises that God gives “generously and without reproach”, meaning that He wants us to ask Him things, He wants to give us his knowledge and understanding, and he won’t shame us for doing so. We have such a good God that he doesn’t expect or require us to know everything or even anything, but invites us to ask Him because He does know everything and He desires to give his wisdom to us. Whatever we’re facing today or in the future, whether its decisions we need to make or the path to take, we have the temptation do to it alone and in our own understanding. But God’s promise here in James 1 is that we don’t have to lean on our own knowledge and we can come to Him for what we lack, so I encourage you to ask God for his wisdom, and it will be given to you.

March 21 – Exodus 14:14

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Exodus 14:14

I love sports. The ups and downs, the wins and the losses, the comebacks and the disasters. The unpredictable roller coaster is what makes it so great! Each sport has its greatest – Tom Brady, Babe Ruth, Serena Williams, Tiger Woods, Lionel Messi, LeBron James ….. Each who have worked and strived to be the greatest. But sometimes it feels like this pressure of greatness spills out of sports or entertainment and into my own personal life. 

Have you ever felt that pressure? Whether in work, school, friendships, family? I must be the one to deliver on this project, on this assignment, I must have all the right answers for friends who are hurting, I must come up with the best ways to raise my kids… PRESSURE. Moses felt the same way, constantly! How am I supposed to handle this crisis? How am I supposed to deliver these people? How am I supposed to lead them well? 

In Exodus 14, Moses repeats a promise to the Israelites that God had declared to him each time the moment became too overwhelming – “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.” It’s still true to this day. Sometimes I begin striving and stirring and pressing and freaking out that I need to be the one to fix this, I need to be the one to solve it, I need to be the one to overcome it, I need to be the one to resolve it, I HAVE TO BE THE ONE TO DELIVER! And sometimes God is just telling me to STOP! Take a deep breath and turn my focus to Him. This isn’t God telling his people to completely quit, and I think that’s important. This isn’t a promise based upon laziness or apathy. It’s a promise predicated on where your focus, desire, and heart lie. Am I completely focused on the task or the outcome, or am I completely focused on the goodness and steadiness of my God and His love for me? At the end of the day, what Jesus did on the cross has already finished what my heart ultimately desires. A relationship with Him. And there is nothing I can do to strive to earn it or lose it, God has completed the work and desires for me to now rest in the knowledge of His love and salvation. And allow the rest to fall where it may.

March 20 – Ezekiel 36:26-27

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

Ezekiel 36: 26-27

What could turn a heart to stone? Sin, pain, broken promises, selfishness, shattered dreams. Things that are not in God’s nature, things that came when sin entered the world; these things turn a heart to stone. They turn a heart into a place where the Holy Spirit cannot dwell. But the new covenant, the promise that God made with those who believe in Him, offers a new heart. A heart that can feel, enjoy, change, grow, and can love God and love people. It becomes a place where the Holy Spirit can enter and transform. This new heart can go after the very nature of Jesus. This transformation leads us to obedience in becoming who God created us to be.

And all this is possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus. His sacrifice broke the chains of sin. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Today, thank Jesus for His sacrifice on the Cross making a way for a new heart in you.

March 19 – Hosea 13:14

“I will ransom them from the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?”

Hosea 13:14

I hate the ocean. Don’t get me wrong, I like to look out at the ocean, to listen to the ocean at night, to smell the ocean air from an overlooking balcony, to get a nice candlelit dinner on the pier and feel the breeze. But to go into the ocean? Whether by swimming or boat, negative ghost rider. Do you know how many things in the ocean, besides the ocean itself, that can kill me? No, you don’t. Because even the world’s greatest scientists don’t know! We’ve only explored 5% of our earth’s ocean… So yeah, I’m good. I don’t know how I’ll die, but I know it won’t be in the ocean. 

The unknown is a scary thing. The greatest unknown for us as humans is the experience of death. It doesn’t matter how we live, how much money we have, what experiences we’ve lived, the amount of people in our corner; the same end reaches us all. And that can be terrifying! Death has conquered just about everything it has put its hands on, all except One. Jesus seized the grave and in His ultimate knowledge He desires to encourage, strengthen and inspire each of us. Not with a false hope, but with a promise of what Jesus has done. He reached into the pain and despair of death and defeated it, spurred on by His love for you! The Bible tells us that Jesus rescued you and me from the power of death because He desires to spend eternity with each of us. Tim Keller says, “Jesus didn’t rescue us because we are lovely, but to make us lovely.” 

You can walk in confidence, because even though a lot of life is still unknown, the biggest unknown has been conquered, redeemed, and turned into your blessing. For all time in the ultimate presence of the One who designed you, purposed you, strengthened you, saved you, and desired you.

March 18 – Prayer

God calls us to take part in His transforming work and promises that we will be transformed in the process.  As a praying church, we believe the Gospel changes our lives.  Spend some time today in prayer and use the following as a guide. 

Praise God for who He is: Prayers of praise are focused entirely on God.  It is our expression of adoration for all that God is – His holiness, greatness, love, and majesty (Psalm 103:1). Take a few minutes to focus on God and praise Him for who He is.

Thanksgiving for what He has done: Prayers of thanksgiving acknowledge what God has done and is doing in our lives, homes, job, community, bodies, and the church (Ephesians 1:16-18).  Spend some time thanking God for what He has done in your life. 

Confession of our sins: An awareness of God’s presence reveals our own unworthiness.  In confession we acknowledge our sin and ask God for forgiveness (2 Peter 3:9). Take a few minutes to confess your sin to God. 

Ask (Life, Community, Campus, Church): Prayers of petition include asking God specific things for our lives, our community, our campuses, and the local and global church (Deuteronomy 31:6). Pray for someone specifically by name and ask the Lord how you can bless them today. 

March 17 – Philippians 4:13

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me the strength.”

Philippians 4:13

I think a lot of times we take Bible verses and twist them to create the best finished product we can. It’s our human default.  Growing up, I used to watch the TV show,  I Dream of Jeannie.  It was fun watching a normal, goofy guy being granted wishes from his own personal genie through all kinds of crazy hi-jinks.  Sometimes, I think we like to look at God as a genie in a bottle, waiting around to grant our wishes. That would be nice, but it’s not who God is.

Philippians 4:13 is NOT saying that if we are Christians, then all our problems will be solved. All our bills will be paid. Everyone will be healed, every golf shot goes in the hole, and every prayer is answered just the way we want.  To understand what Paul meant, we have to go back two verses. See verse 11 -12:

“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am in. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.”

This gives us a hint to the true meaning of our verse. Paul is saying, because of his hope in Jesus Christ, he has learned to be content in times of great joy or times of pain, times of victory or in times of loss. He says, “I can do ALL things.”  I can go through anything. I can walk through any season of my life. I can face any trial, test, or storm, because of the promise that Christ gives me the strength to do it.

Somebody once said, “Jesus doesn’t always take the storms of life away from us, but He does give us the strength to walk through them.”  That kind of strength my friends, is so much better than having a genie in a bottle. 

March 16 – John 10:7-9

“Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come be- fore me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out and find pasture.”

John 10: 7-9

We don’t live in a world where we encounter many shepherds. If we see a sheep, we are probably taking our kids to a petting zoo. In the first century, shepherds played an important role when it came to protecting their flock. They were the protectors and providers. Often times at night a shepherd would form pens with large rocks and they themselves would lay across the entrance of the pen. So, if a predator tried to come in, they were met by the shepherd. If a sheep tried to get away, the shepherd was right there to keep them in the pen. Jesus here is proclaiming that He is the Gate. The one who stands at the entrance. It’s through Jesus that we are able to enter into relationship with God. Which ultimately leads to eternal life. Have you entered the gate?  Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior? 

March 15 – Joshua 1:9

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

In Joshua 1:9, we see Joshua is given this promise after Moses, the servant of the Lord, had died. He was about to lead the people of Israel into the promised land. Joshua was to saturate himself in the word of God; to meditate on the promises of God; to trust in the truth of God’s Word and follow the demands of God that had been given to Israel – in the knowledge that God was with Him and the Lord was his strength.

Just like Joshua, we, too, are to immerse ourselves in the Word of God; to meditate on the promises of God; to trust in the truth of God’s Word – to follow the demands of God, that have been given to the Church – in the knowledge that Christ is with us and His strength is made perfect in our weakness. The promise that the all-powerful God is our only strength and stay, is no less true today than it was in the days of Joshua. God has promised to be with us in every difficulty we face and every problem that comes our way.

Joshua simply had to trust the Word of the Lord and act upon it. And we, too, are to know the truth of God’s Word and to meditate on the promises of God; to trust in the truth of God’s Word and to follow the instructions that have been laid out in Scripture – we are to trust the Lord; believe in His word and stand firm in the faith – so that we too can be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.  For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go – and His grace IS sufficient.  Knowing that God is with you wherever you go.  Are there courageous conversations or tasks that need to take place? How will you be obedient to God’s command today?