March 14 – James 1:2-4

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

James 1: 2-4

Fact: Each and every one of us have faced and are going to continue to face difficult things. We cannot escape the tragedy of losing a loved one, the disappointment of failing to achieve a goal, letting down a family member, being let down by a family member… The list could go on and all of us are well acquainted with difficult things. They come in many different shapes and sizes. You could have a fortune, a family, a great job, and still—you will have difficult things come.

When we start to look at the Bible, we learn a lot from how God ordered things in Genesis. He created the heavens and earth, placed humankind on it, and gave them responsibility. We knew no difficulties. No death. No disappointment. Then, sin came. When we disobeyed God’s direction and failed to trust His hand to take care of us, things spiraled out of control quickly. Thankfully, God began a journey in redeeming His people.

But sin is like a rock hitting a sheet of ice. You can see the moment of impact and how it leaves a divot, but it’s effect spider webs out from that place. Here we find ourselves in a world that has spider webs of sin from all of us and its evidence is seen all over. Often times, we hurt ourselves by our own volition to disobey God. But we also can face difficulties as a result of living in a sinful world.

Here’s where God is yet again, ridiculously good to us. While we know we have hope of future and total restoration, He brings meaning and purpose to our current difficulties. James writes that our current trials can be faced with joy. That trials now are a test of our faith that creates perseverance in us—a resolve to continually trust the Lord— and when we persevere, God uses it to shape us and mold us in maturity.

When hard things come, can we switch our mind from complaining, questioning, and being defeated to joy? Joy is found in trusting the Lord, and knowing trials are temporary and used for our good. Is there a trial in your life where you need to be reminded of this promise?

March 13 – 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 12 – 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 hijinks. 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 11 – 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 10 – 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?

March 9 – Proverbs 22:6

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

Proverbs 22:6

Parenting is hard. When children are infants, they sleep day and nights and it’s hard to decipher their screaming cry. When they are toddlers, it takes thirty minutes to leave the house for a five-minute errand. When they are in grade school, the intensity of their emotions really cranks up and you’re back to trying to decipher tears. When they are teenagers, they would rather spend time with their 2,000 friends on Instagram than they would with you. When they are adults, you worry about their finances, their career or who they chose as their partner. Even on good days, you still find yourself asking “could I have done better?” Parenting is one of the most challenging and rewarding things you will ever do.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Is this a promise? Does this mean our kids will never turn away from Jesus? Pastor and author, Max Lucado, teaches that we have to be careful with this verse. That we shouldn’t interpret it to mean “If I put my kids on the right path, they’ll never leave it.” Can we show them the path? Yes. Can we force them to take it? No. This proverb doesn’t make that promise. Salvation is a work of God. It is the job of Christian parents to prepare the soil and sow the seed (pray with them, read the Bible with them, take them to church, speak God’s truth to them), but it is God who gives the growth (1 Cor 3:6).

I have only been a parent for nine years, but God has shown me over and over again that, despite my best efforts, worrying and controlling gets me nowhere. I HAVE to rely on God in all things. We have to surrender our kids’ futures over to God. He encourages us to persevere (Galatians 6:9). He brings peace (Isaiah 26:3). He makes all things work together for good (Romans 8:28). He has good things in store (Jeremiah 29:11).

Parenting is hard, but God promises to graciously equip us with what we need.

March 8 – Deuteronomy 31:8

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Deuteronomy 31:8

Moses had come to the end of his journey with the people of Israel. He had been their leader in the wilderness for 40 years and was now 120 years old. But because of his disobedience, striking the rock for water instead of speaking to it, God had told him he would not cross over the Jordan into the Promised Land with the people. He stood before the people to charge them with confidently continuing their journey. How would they be able to do that without the only leader some of them had ever known? Moses reminded them they had the only leader that they needed; God Himself. Have you been here before? Have you lost something, and it felt like the floor fell out? A job, a family member, a plan? Maybe you weren’t sure where to go from there.

What a comfort it is to know that the Lord Himself goes before us. Difficult moments will still come, but we can face them without fear or being discouraged by focusing on the promises of God. Where in your life do you need to be reminded of the promise that He is with you and with never forsake you?

March 7 – 2 Corinthians 12:9

“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 12:9a

Remember the feeling as a child on a hot 90-degree day in July? You are at the park and the playground equipment is hot to the touch. You know the one with an old school metal slide that gives double the thrill—the slide and the burning sensation. You’ve played and ran to the point where your mouth feels full of cotton. Then it hits you, there was a water fountain at the edge of the park. You trot over to it, lean, push the button, and nothing. Your mouth, all of a sudden, doubles in its need for a drink.

You get home and finally get a large glass of ice water. That first sip is EXACTLY what you needed. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God’s grace is the cold glass of water to a dry cotton mouth. It is exactly what we need.

Paul writes that His grace is sufficient or in other words, enough. Sometimes we are looking for more. We wander around looking for a water fountain to give us what we need only to be found wanting. While it’s not bad to ask God for anything, we can hold onto this promise of scripture that His grace is sufficient. His grace, by itself, is enough.

Ice water to a cottoned mouth is what grace is to our souls. It’s exactly what we need. It is enough. What does this promise of grace mean to you? Where in your life do you need grace?

March 6 – 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 (Revelation 5:12-13). 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 (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). 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 (1 John 1:9). 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 (Hebrews 4:16). Take a few minutes to ask God for specific things. Then, ask God to show you how to bless someone in your life today.

March 5 – James 4:7

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

James 4:7

God’s promise in this scripture is fairly straight-forward. He promises the devil will flee from us. That sounds like a good deal – sign me up! However, James is clear that we must play an active role in resisting the devil. He doesn’t just flee from us when we ask him to leave. We have to make a choice each day to continue obeying God – this is what causes the devil to flee.

Submitting ourselves to God, obeying Him and following His way instead of our own means we don’t always get what we want. It often means the world will be unimpressed with us. Submitting ourselves to God requires sacrifice. The good news is, when we choose God’s way, it’s game over – the devil will surely flee. That’s how big God is.

I think the 2021 USA translation of this verse would read “Just tell the devil you’re with God and he’ll skedaddle.” But are we actually WITH God? It helps me to think of a path. Are we on His path with Him or do we wander around seeing what the world has to offer, only coming to God when life gets too hard? All kinds of things cause us to wander: money, comfort, status, approval, the list goes on. Straying from God’s path for these things is just what the devil wants us to do. We are a much easier target when we are only actually with God for a fraction of our time. He flees from the people who faithfully walk with God no matter what. But those of us who constantly wander because we don’t want to fully submit ourselves to God’s ways are the ones who will find the devil lingering. What’s causing you to wander? Are you willing to give it up so you can stick with the one who makes the devil flee?