The 90 Day Challenge Day 79 – Assisting The Stone Mason

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“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” -Ezekiel 36:26

A heart of stone; a hard heart is (sadly) something I have experienced – more than once. Each time things changed; every time the softening came it was a work of God’s love, grace and presence, not me. I cannot fully express my gratitude for God’s work in my heart…

And yet, when I see or sense the stone in others, I hope for a change. I hope they will see, wake up. However, if only God can turn a stone heart to flesh; if only God can transform a hardened heart to a pliable one to His Spirit, then my only course of action for such people is pleading for them in prayer. My charge is to plead until God answers. Spiritually hardened hearts take God, not their suddenly “getting it.” So, I have some pleading to do. What about you?

Father, You know those on my mind who need the heart transplant only You can provide. Please take from them the stone and give the heart of flesh for Your sake, and theirs.
JT

Readings for Day 80 – Acts 2, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, 2 Corinthians 4:7-18, Acts 16:10-15, 2 Samuel 10-12

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The 90 Day Challenge Day 78 – Hearing & Being His Voice

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“As they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work I have called them to.” – Acts 13:2

How trusting are we, of the leading of the Holy Spirit? A group of men are gathered to worship and fast and pray. These men are all “prophets and teachers.” In the course of their time together these spiritual leaders are told by the Spirit to set apart Paul and Barnabas. Who did the Spirit speak to? All of them at once? One person speaks up and the Spirit confirms it in the others? We really do not know. My best guess is God spoke to these men about Paul and Barnabas. Certainly the lives of these two men were already headed in this direction. But other men became the affirmation of the Spirit.

Which leaves me thinking, How comfortable am I with the Spirit speaking through others about the direction and course of my life? Am I willing to trust the Spirit to speak through others? Like Paul and Barnabas, when the Spirit speaks through others on the course of my life, it is most often an affirmation of what the Spirit is already doing and speaking into my life.

On the flip side, I must also be willing for the Spirit to speak to and through me to others about what He wants to do in and through their lives. My words can be God’s means of affirming the direction of the life of another.

Papa, keep me open to receive from Your Spirit through others, and to be Your voice into the lives of others for Your glory.
JT

Readings for Day 79 – Joel 2:18-32, Ezekiel 36:22-30, John 16:5-15, Psalm 131, 2 Samuel 7-9

The 90 Day Challenge Day 76 – Choosing Gentleness

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“Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted.” -Galatians 6:1

When someone is caught in any wrongdoing our reaction is often quite different than what is said here. If the wrongdoing is “serious” enough the typical response is anger, in word and/or action. At the height of spiritual pride we may even assume our “righteous anger” is what God would do. Or we might just cut them off. When we do so we forget the goal is restoration, not punishment. The goal is restoration not the waging of a purity war. After all, is not the cross gentleness on full display? Jesus remained on the cross by choice to save us from our sins. Yes, that is grace and mercy. It is also being gentle. Jesus was gentle with the woman caught in adultery. He was gentle with Peter’s denial of Him.

Being gentle does not me we excuse or overlook sin in our lives, or the lives of fellow believers. It means our goal is to restore them to a deeper relationship with Christ. God’s call on me is not to be angry with the sinful choices of others, but to be loving and gentle in helping them to see their wrongdoing, to give room for the Spirit to convict them and lead them to repentance (Notice I said it is the Spirit’s role to convict), and a renewed relationship with Christ. After all, the fruit of the Spirit is gentleness…

Papa, please use me as a gentle persuader in the hands of Your Spirit.
JT

Readings for Day 77 – CATCH UP DAY
Readings for Day 78 – Acts 13, Psalm 130, Acts 15, 2 Samuel 4-6

The 90 Day Challenge Day 75 – The Right Stuff

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“Serve the Lord with gladness” -Psalm 100:2

It really is amazing what we, or others, can talk ourselves into. We can talk ourselves into giving up, or taking a trip. Someone else might talk us into doing something we would never have come up with on our own. What have I talked myself into regarding serving the Lord? What have others talked me into about serving the Lord?

Serving the Lord can be a great joy. But all who have served know what is is to be hurt, or wronged. Some carry battle scars, and for others the would has not been treated or healed. So, how do we “serve the Lord with gladness?” The Psalm speaks of singing and worship as a key to gladness. Such singing is really meant to alter our thinking; how we look at serving. If we were to be honest, sometimes we serve the Lord with obligation. Sometimes we serve the Lord with guilt. Sometimes we serve the Lord with paranoia. Sometimes we serve the Lord with irritation. Sometimes we serve the Lord with a thirst for recognition. Sometimes we serve the Lord with fear. Sometimes…

But I am called to serve the Lord with gladness. Gladness comes from God. Gladness comes from singing and worship. Gladness comes from a faith that trusts God to work it all out. Gladness comes from choosing gladness rather than taking offense or being hurt. Every person I have ever served with, or served is a sinner who does sinful things, including myself. So, let’s shatter the notion of serving in ideal conditions, situations, or people. Gladness does not rest on everything being perfect. It rests on Him who takes all the imperfections and still fulfills His purposes in this world.

Father, where gladness has been leaking out of my serving, please heal the fissure and overflow my cup afresh with Your gladness.
JT

Readings for Day 76 – Galatians 6:1-5, John 16:7-11, Isaiah 42:1-17, Ephesians 2:11-22, 2 Samuel 1-3

The 90 Day Challenge Day 74 – Selfless Love

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“Love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, DOES NOT ACT IMPROPERLY, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs.” -1 Corinthians 13:4-5

These words about love seem so far removed from our cultural practice. Much of what is claimed to be love today is so self-absorbed that it justifies impatience; thinks getting angry is reasonable; that wanting what others has is noble; that bragging is just confidence; and conceit is only looking out for number one (because no one else will)!

I zeroed in on the phrase “does not act improperly.” I think it captured my attention because it is so broad in scope. Love, true love as defined by God, is never improper. This word is so broad it encompasses anything that can be seen as improper. Love, doesn’t even want to come close to the line, let alone cross it. It is similar to Ephesians 5:3, “But among you there MUST NOT BE EVEN A HINT of sexual immorality, OR OF ANY KIND OF IMPURITY, or of greed, BECAUSE THESE ARE IMPROPER for God’s holy people.” Love refuses to do anything that would be improper from God’s point of view.

My love must not be improper. Loving others leaves no room for using people for my own advantage. It means loving others leads to refusing to look on anyone else in a condescending way. It means loving others will never manipulate, play mind games, or coerce. It means being selfless, kind, and unconditionally forgiving.

Papa, only You can love this way perfectly, but continue to grow my love for others to look more and more like Your love for them!
JT

Readings for Day 75 – Psalm 100, Luke 15:11-32, Ezekiel 34:11-16, Psalm 128, 1 Samuel 28-31

The 90 Day Challenge Day 73 – More Than Going To The Store

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“As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” -John 17:18

When a person receives Christ as Savior there are numerous things that we get. We get a personal relationship, forgiveness, hope, peace, power, The Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts, encouragement… the list could go on and on. It really is wonderful all we have when we have Jesus. The danger is we can view our faith only as “getting” from Him. In essence, we treat Jesus like a store. We get what we want and go home.

In this prayer, Jesus makes it clear that our faith in Christ is more than a store. It is also a mission outpost. It is a sending community. We are sent as Jesus was sent. When we choose Jesus we are sent like Him. Like Jesus, I/we are sent to seek and to save that which was lost. Like Jesus, I am sent not to call the righteous but sinners. Like Jesus, I am sent to make disciples who in turn make disciples. The question is, am I living a “sent” life?

Father, open wide the doors of living a greater “sent” life.
JT

Readings for Day 74 – Psalm 123, Mark 12:28-31, 1 Corinthians 13, 1 John 4:7-19, 1 Samuel 25-27

The 90 Day Challenge Day 72 – I Am A River

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“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him SO THAT YOU MAY OVERFLOW with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” -Romans 15:13

Some days I do not like narrowing down my focus to only one thing God speaks to me about in my daily readings (though it is necessary). This is one of those days…

It should be no surprise that the God of hope seeks to instill hope in those who believe in Him. It should come at no surprise that God infuses hope into my spirit through the work of the Holy Spirit. He, after all, lives in me and all who choose to believe in Christ for salvation. Furthermore, it is logical to me that God’s method of giving me hope is to fill me with joy and peace. How else can one have hope that transcends any and all circumstances without joy or peace?

The astounding concept to me is “overflow(ing).” As God fills me with joy and peace overflow happens. We lived on a river for a number of years. It would flood, i.e. overflow, a couple of times a year. It would overflow its banks. I get overflow. It is something beyond containment. It affects so many other things. As a follower of Jesus my life is to overflow. And overflow will affect others. It will be visible to others. A life filled with joy and peace, and overflowing with hope changes everything around him/her. A life overflowing with hope handles adversity differently. A life overflowing worships differently.

So, what is the problem? Why is it my/our life isn’t recognized as overflowing? Why is all my worship staying within the banks of the river? God’s plan is to fill us with joy. We need not beg for it. God’s plan is to fill us with His peace. We have peace with God (Romans 5:1). His purpose is to make our lives overflowing. What gives? Me! Scripture tells us we have “been given everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him” (1 Peter 1:3). I give. I give in to my own thoughts and recriminations. I give in to thinking that living a life of overflow is rare, or for someone else, or I don’t deserve it, or… A life of overflowing hope rests on our hope of who God is and the keeping of His Word. A life of overflowing hope demands I/we take a step of faith in claiming the joy and peace already given us in Christ. A life overflowing calls me to control my thoughts and not yield to settling for less. It means I live a life overflowing by choice (whether I feel it or not), by faith, by joy, by peace, by hope. The world around me/you is desperate for our overflow because in it is Jesus.

Papa, forgive me for building a dam that has kept Your presence in me contained. Let Your rivers of joy and peace combine afresh to make my life overflow afresh with Your hope.
JT

Readings for Day 73 – Psalm 121, Matthew 18:21-35, Acts 2:1-37, John 17:9-18, 1 Samuel 22-24