Friday, February 28, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 28

It is the last day of February and the 28th day of the Retreat with Jesus. This month sure has flown by!

Today's focus:
1 John 2:15-17
Don’t fall in love with this corrupt world or worship the things it can offer. Those who love its corrupt ways don’t have the Father’s love living within them. 16 All the things the world can offer to you—the allure of pleasure, the passion to have things, and the pompous sense of superiority—do not come from the Father. These are the rotten fruits of this world. This corrupt world is already wasting away, as are its selfish desires. But the person really doing God’s will—that person will never cease to be.
It is so easy to be tempted by all of the worldly pleasures I encounter every day, I really have to work at saying "no" to these temptations and remembering where my treasure *really* is! Earthly things are temporary, but building up our kingdom in Heaven is very much permanent.
While slightly off-topic, my husband and I got in to a discussion today about how many young people are concerned with doing things that "feel" good or "feel" right. While I love feelings and like to have them validated, it concerns me for this next generation that is just now growing up and being released in to the world. I hope that the faith-minded youth keep this passage in mind when pursuing anything in life, whether it be their life partner or their career or whatever pursuit they've set their minds to. Does it glorify God and build up the kingdom of Heaven?
Thursday, February 27, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 27

Today's focus:
1 John 2:7-11
My loved ones, in one sense, I am not writing a new command for you. I am only reminding you of the old command. It’s a word you already know, a word that has existed from the beginning. However, in another sense, I am writing a new command for you. The new command is the truth that He lived; and now you are living it, too, because the darkness is fading and the true light is already shining among you. Anyone who says, “I live in the light,” but hates his brother or sister is still living in the shadows. Anyone who loves his brother or sister lives in the light and will not trip because his conscience is clear. But anyone who hates his brother is in the darkness, stumbling around with no idea where he is going, blinded by the darkness.
We're supposed to love. That's been the message all along-love one another. We cannot hate someone and still "live in the light". We are called for a complete re-working of our attitude, our thoughts, and our deeds. We cannot have both, we cannot live in the light and be holy while continuing to sin.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 26


Today's focus:
1 John 2:1-6
You are my little children, so I am writing these things to help you avoid sin. If, however, any believer does sin, we have a high-powered defense lawyer—Jesus the Anointed, the righteous—arguing on our behalf before the Father. It was through His sacrificial death that our sins were atoned. But He did not stop there—He died for the sins of the whole world. We know we have joined Him in an intimate relationship because we live out His commands. If someone claims, “I am in an intimate relationship with Him,” but this big talker doesn’t live out His commands, then this individual is a liar and a stranger to the truth. But if someone responds to and obeys His word, then God’s love has truly taken root and filled him. This is how we know we are in an intimate relationship with Him: anyone who says, “I live in intimacy with Him,” should walk the path Jesus walked.
My compass study Bible has an excellent addition to this, so I'll share that and leave it at that :)
The word “sin” has virtually disappeared from modern conversation. Afraid of sounding judgmental, we call sin something else—a mistake, an addiction, a tendency, a bad decision—and ignore it as normal and natural behavior. But John is calling the church to a radical holiness where those in the church will regularly remember their sins and seek God’s forgiveness. Each sin, small and large, injures us or someone else; it imprints on our soul, makes us imperfect, and separates us from the perfect God. If we confess our sins to God each day, then He will purify our hearts and draw us closer to Him.John is affectionately addressing this letter to his “little children,” and he is writing to help them avoid sin and the pain and guilt that come with it. The glamour of decadent lifestyles devoid of God is often advertised as the epitome of joy and freedom. But what are often conveniently left out of these portrayals are the agonizing consequences of such destructive lifestyles. Meaningful pleasure comes not when we are enslaved by the empty promises of the world, but when we are living in loving obedience to God. 
Tuesday, February 25, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 25

25 days in to the retreat with Jesus and I'm learning a lot about myself and God's word. I'm convinced to keep going despite the fact that challenges arise and I may not be able to devote as much time to the blog as I'd like. 

Since this is another long one, I'll leave it up to you to read for yourself in your Bible.

Today's focus:
John 8:1-19

This is one of the most powerful parables in the Bible, the message is unbelievably simple to understand...it is the parable about the adulteress. The pharisees come to Jesus asking what they should do with her, with every intention of "getting" Jesus for violating Moses' law. However, Jesus responds with the challenge that "let the one of you who hasn't sinned cast the first stone." The message? We're all sinners...who are we to judge? To condemn? Even Jesus doesn't judge, that's not His job ;)

The second part of the selection pertained to when the Pharisees were trying to call him out, say that he wasn't who he said he was. This is also very profound because the end message is that in order to know God, you MUST know Jesus. There is only one way TO God, and that's through Jesus. 
Monday, February 24, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 24

Today's passage is another lengthy one, one that I won't post here because, as usual, it's a lot of typing. So...here goes ;)
 
Today's focus: 
Acts 13:42-52

Many a leader has been upset by the turnouts and crowds of people who wanted to hear God's word and learn about Him...this particular incident is no different. The "leaders" were upset by this and tried to cause hate and discontent. Eventually Paul and Barnabas were driven out of the region, and instead of getting upset and not continuing with their work, they adopted a "Fine, I'll go find my own sandbox" mentality and left the area full of joy. They were not deterred or intimidated by these people, they were trying to do them a favor by spreading God's word to them first, but when they were not welcome, they simply turned their focus elsewhere. I wish I could do that when I get my beliefs held under a microscope!
 
Sunday, February 23, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 23

Today's focus: 
2 Peter 1:5-11
To achieve this, you will need to add virtue to your faith, and then knowledge to your virtue; to knowledge, add discipline; to discipline, add endurance; to endurance, add godliness; to godliness, add affection for others as sisters and brothers; and to affection, at last, add love. For if you possess these traits and multiply them, then you will never be ineffective or unproductive in your relationship with our Lord Jesus the Anointed; but if you don’t have these qualities, then you will be nearsighted and blind, forgetting that your past sins have been washed away. Therefore, brothers and sisters, work that much harder to confirm that God has called you and claimed you. If you do this, then you will never fall along the way; and you can be sure that you will be richly welcomed into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King.
This passage is interesting because it provides the how, the what, and the why. It explains how we attain holiness, as well as the consequences of that achievement. Because we are saved, we are called to live a holy life...not doing so makes us ineffective and unproductive. If you work to claim these traits, then we're assured that we're not going to fall along the way and be richly welcomed in to Heaven. 
I have always felt and noticed that saved people, for the most part, feel different than those who have yet to experience the gift of eternal life from our Heavenly Father. It is important to take all of our good traits, gifts, and attitude and share that with the world. You can more ants with honey than vinegar, after all!
Saturday, February 22, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 22

Today we're in the book of Luke. Remember, I'm using the Compass study Bible that uses The Voice translation! Once again, this is a rather long selection today so I will not be including it.

Today's focus: 
Luke 11:29-36

This requires some context. Jesus is doing his thing, performing miracles and doing good works, and yet the people still demanded some sort of sign that he was "the guy". He knew that a million signs wouldn't change the minds of these people...

In doing this post and some additional study, I came across a magnificent resource from Bible.com that breaks up this section and discusses it piece by piece. It's amazing work and you can find it here.  I highly recommend checking out this study as I believe it describes the church today and adds so much understanding to this passage!


Friday, February 21, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 21

So yesterday marked the halfway point in the 40 day retreat with Jesus. I've had my hiccups along the way, getting behind in posting as well as reading. I've been sick, things have come up, I just can't focus. I truly believe that when we try to do God's work, Satan uses whatever means necessary to deter us from our path. However, here I am persevering!

Today's focus: 
Colossians 3:12-17
Since you are all set apart by God, made holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a holy way of life: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Put up with one another. Forgive. Pardon any offenses against one another, as the Lord has pardoned you, because you should act in kind. But above all these, put on love! Love is the perfect tie to bind these together. Let your hearts fall under the rule of the Anointed’s peace (the peace you were called to as one body), and be thankful.
Let the word of the Anointed One richly inhabit your lives. With all wisdom teach, counsel, and instruct one another. Sing the psalms, compose hymns and songs inspired by the Spirit, and keep on singing—sing to God from hearts full and spilling over with thankfulness. Surely, no matter what you are doing (speaking, writing, or working), do it all in the name of Jesus our Master, sending thanks through Him to God our Father.
We have been forgiven. Jesus died on the cross for our sins. We are called to pay that forgiveness, kindness, and selfless love forward...even in situations when we don't want to. Whether it be a person who doesn't share our beliefs, our values, or a person that we don't get along with, we are called to always extend the love and forgiveness we have received.
Thursday, February 20, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 20

As I mentioned yesterday, that particular passage is one that I center my beliefs around. I think it represents a modern day truth. Today we are also in Colossians.

Today's focus:
Colossians 3:1-11
So it comes down to this: since you have been raised with the Anointed One, the Liberating King, set your mind on heaven above. The Anointed is there, seated at God’s right hand. Stay focused on what’s above, not on earthly things,  because your old life is dead and gone. Your new life is now hidden, enmeshed with the Anointed who is in God. On that day when the Anointed One—who is our very life—is revealed, you will be revealed with Him in glory! So kill your earthly impulses: loose sex, impure actions, unbridled sensuality, wicked thoughts, and greed (which is essentially idolatry). It’s because of these that God’s wrath is coming [upon the sons and daughters of disobedience], so avoid them at all costs. These are the same things you once pursued, and together you spawned a life of evil. But now make sure you shed such things: anger, rage, spite, slander, and abusive language. And don’t go on lying to each other since you have sloughed away your old skin along with its evil practices  for a fresh new you, which is continually renewed in knowledge according to the image of the One who created you. In this re-creation there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian and conqueror, or slave and free because the Anointed is the whole and dwells in us all.
It is a constant message in the Bible that we need to cast the ways of the world away and focus on God. But it's not only the ways of the world, we also need to focus on our emotions. Emotions are a funny thing, but we cannot let them run our lives. 
Wednesday, February 19, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 19

Today we are in Colossians, which is again, a book I'm not overly familiar with. However, I am VERY familiar with this verse because it's so very much part of my core beliefs! I normally don't post passages this long, but this one is important...

Today's focus:
Colossians 2:16-23
So don’t let anyone stand in judgment over you and dictate what you should eat or drink, what festivals you should celebrate, or how you should observe a new moon or Sabbath days— all these are only a shadow of what shall come. The reality, the core, the import, is found in the Anointed One. Don’t be cheated out of the prize by others who are peddling the worship of heavenly beings and false humility. People like this run about telling whoever will listen what they claim to have seen; but in reality they testify only to an inflated mind, saturated in conceit—not in the Spirit. They are detached from the very head that nourishes and connects the whole body with all of its nerves and ligaments, a body that grows by the kind of growth that can only come from God.
Listen, if you have died with the Anointed One to the elemental spirits of the cosmos, then why are you submitting yourselves to its rules as if you still belonged to this world? You hear, “Don’t handle this! Don’t taste that! Don’t even touch it!” but everything they are obsessed about will eventually decay with use. These rules are just human commands and teachings. Here’s what they are promoting: fabricated religion, self-humiliation, and bodily abuse. No matter which way they try to tether their bodies, they cannot harness their desires.
It is *so* easy to get discouraged and give up when it seems like we're told that in order to achieve salvation, there are a million and one rules to follow. It feels a bit like the cards are stacked against us, that we can't win. Why even try if we can't win. Well, Jesus came and wiped our slates clean-we no longer needed to concern ourselves with overly restrictive rules and regulations to achieve salvation-ANYONE could achieve salvation. This verse is actually part of the very core of my beliefs, that we do not have to focus on human rules to achieve salvation. 
Tuesday, February 18, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 18

Okay, well apparently I love Philippians...because the last two days of entries have really provoked some thinking in me. Today we go back to Revelations!

Today's focus:
Revelations 3:8-11
I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door, which no one can shut. I have done this because you have limited strength, yet you have obeyed My word and have not denied My name. Watch, and I will make those of the congregation of Satan—those who call themselves ‘Jews’ but are not because they lie—come before you penitent, falling at your feet. Then they will know how much I have loved you. Because you have obeyed My instructions to endure and be patient, I will protect you from the time of trial which will come upon the whole earth and put everyone in it to the test. I will soon return. Hold tight to what you have so that no one can take away your victor’s wreath.
Jesus is coming. We don't know when, how, or any of the details, but He promises that He will be coming back for us. He also assures us that those who call themselves believers but who are not, will be called out in the end. Jesus also promises that those of us who have remained true to him will be saved in the end. 
Monday, February 17, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 17

Yesterday's verse was really powerful and inspirational. Let's see if we can get the same message today :)

Today's focus:
Philippians 4:4-9
Most of all, friends, always rejoice in the Lord! I never tire of saying it: Rejoice! Keep your gentle nature so that all people will know what it looks like to walk in His footsteps. The Lord is ever present with us. Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray. Pray about everything. He longs to hear your requests, so talk to God about your needs and be thankful for what has come. And know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One.
Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy. Keep to the script: whatever you learned and received and heard and saw in me—do it—and the God of peace will walk with you.
Okay, so this is hands down probably one of my favorite verses because to me, it illustrates the ideal relationship we have with Jesus, but also the fact that he *wants* to be involved, he *wants* to hear our requests! We are to live in prayer, literally praying all the time. We shouldn't be afraid to come to Jesus with our requests, our problems, or to pray for our friends, family, or others. This is just how it works, it's what we're supposed to do. I make it a habit to pray throughout the day...my kids see me do it, my husband sees me do it, and I hope that I'm instilling in them a sense that it's *always* okay to talk to God ;)

This also explains that we are supposed to keep a gentle nature. This is so important. Have you ever met someone that just exudes faith, grace, and love? Don't you just gravitate toward that person? That's the person I'd love to be someday, but I have lots of work to do!
Sunday, February 16, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 16

I really liked yesterday's study, so I'm really excited to do a more in-depth study of Revelations! However, today we are in Philippians. As a reminder, I'm using my Compass study Bible that is written in The Voice translation. Feel free to have whatever you have on hand. 

Today's focus: 
Philippians 3:12-16
I’m not there yet, nor have I become perfect; but I am charging on to gain anything and everything the Anointed One, Jesus, has in store for me—and nothing will stand in my way because He has grabbed me and won’t let me go. Brothers and sisters, as I said, I know I have not arrived; but there’s one thing I am doing: I’m leaving my old life behind, putting everything on the line for this mission. I am sprinting toward the only goal that counts: to cross the line, to win the prize, and to hear God’s call to resurrection life found exclusively in Jesus the Anointed. All of us who are mature ought to think the same way about these matters. If you have a different attitude, then God will reveal this to you as well. For now, let’s hold on to what we have been shown and keep in step with these teachings.
My study Bible says that Paul desires to be like the crucified and risen Jesus. Here he obviously admits that he's not there yet, but he's leaving his old life behind and doing whatever it takes to "hear God's call to resurrection life found exclusively in Jesus the Anointed". Don't we all want faith like that? To be so committed to the end of our journey and where we're going that nothing can stop us. I truly admire Paul's faith and dedication TO his faith here. I definitely feel he is an inspiration. 
Saturday, February 15, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 15

Today's verse has us looking at the book of revelations. I have a lot of friends who view this book differently but I personally have never actually studied it. I never got that far in my reading plan, sadly, but I hope to change that this year!

Today's focus: 
Revelations 3:2-5
 Wake up from your death-sleep, and strengthen what remains of the life you have been given that is in danger of death. I have judged your deeds as far from complete in the sight of My God. Therefore, remember what you have received and heard; it’s time to keep these instructions and turn back from your ways. If you do not wake up from this sleep, I will come in judgment. I will creep up on you like a thief—you will have no way of knowing when I will come. But there are a few in Sardis who don’t have the stain of evil works on their clothes. They will walk alongside Me in white, spotless garments because they have been proven worthy.“The one who conquers through faithfulness even unto death will be clothed in white garments, and I will certainly not erase that person’s name from the book of life. I will acknowledge this person’s name before My Father and before His heavenly messengers.
Well, this is certainly a warning of all warnings, isn't it?! "Wake up, or else"! We have been given clear instructions on how to live, to live a life bringing light to the world and bringing Glory to God! This is a warning-we need to turn from our old ways, if we haven't already, and repent, we need to ask for forgiveness and start living by the laws set forth in the Bible, or else we won't inherit the kingdom of Heaven. We will all be judged accordingly...
Friday, February 14, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 14

Today's study brings us to the book of Luke, which happens to be one of my favorite books because it's filled with parables and, well, I'm a sucker for parables. 

Today's Focus: Luke 15:11-32

Once again, since this parable is on the longer side, I will write up what the Compass Bible summarizes here!
The parable ends. Jesus never reveals how it came out. Did the older brother join the party and reconcile with his younger, wayward brother? Or did he stay outside, fuming over the seeming injustice of his father's extravagant love? The story remains unresolved because it is, in fact, an invitation-an invitation to th Pharisees and other opponents of Jesus to join Him in welcoming sinners and other outsiders into the joyful party of the Kingdom. 
Of all the parables, this was the one I did not understand. I thought it was about being grateful and eventually being rewarded for your work, I did not get the Pharisees angle. Oh well, I'm still learning. So I'm curious of others receive a different message from these parables??
Thursday, February 13, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 13

Today we are still in Ephesians. I have to admit I'm not overly familiar with this particular part of the Bible but I am enjoying this book ;)

Today's focus: Ephesians 5:6-20

Since this is a lot of typing, open your Bible and read it yourself, and I'll post the commentary as a summary from my Compass study Bible :)

Wisdom is a rare commodity. Paul urges believers, then and now, to walk wisely. It involves living well every day. Time itself seems to be co-opted by dark forces. But when believers understand God's will, avoid drunkenness, and allow God to fill them with His Spirit, they are able to walk wisely and live well. The Spirit-filled life is not just for a special few; it is the normal Christian life, and it affects everything, including how we live in community and how we treat others at home.
I notice when I'm not living the word...I don't know about anyone else, but I can tell that it doesn't seem like God's light is shining on my activity. Sometimes I do things without even really thinking about them and only after do I realize the err of my ways. This has prompted me to pray throughout the day for God's guidance in the decisions that I have to make every single day. I desperately want to live a spirit-filled life, but it is so much easier said than done, especially for me!
Wednesday, February 12, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus- Day 12

Still hanging in there with our 40 day retreat with Jesus. Today we are in the Compass study Bible looking at Ephesians.

Today's focus:
Ephesians 5:1-5
So imitate God. Follow Him like adored children, and live in love as the Anointed One loved you-so much that he gave Himself as a fragrant sacrifice, pleasing God. Listen, don't let any kind of immorality be breathed among you. Any demoralizing behaviors (perverse sexual acts, uncleanliness, greediness, and the like) are inappropriate topics of conversation for those set apart as God's people. Don't swear or spurt nonsense. Don't make harsh jokes or clown around. Make proper use of your words and offer them thankfully in praise. This is what we know for certain: no one who engages in loose sex, impure actions, and greed-which is just a form of idolatry-has any inheritance in the kingdom of God and His Anointed.

I think this passage is pretty self-explanatory..."Hey, don't do these things...they're bad juju and you won't inherit the kingdom of Heaven if you let these consume you." It specifically mentions greed as a form of idolatry, but I personally believe that sexual sin can *also* be a form of idolatry. If you put it up on a pedestal, worship it, let it consume you...isn't that just like being greedy or lusting after money? I don't know, food for though I suppose. 
Tuesday, February 11, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 11

Today has us looking again at Ephesians. Again, I'm in my Compass study Bible using The Voice translation. I'll be posting a review of my copy of this Bible in the very near future, so be sure to look for that.

Today's focus:
Ephesians 2:4-10
But God, with the unfathomable richness of His love and mercy focused on us, united us with the Anointed One and infused our lifeless souls with life—even though we were buried under mountains of sin—and saved us by His grace. He raised us up with Him and seated us in the heavenly realms with our beloved Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King. He did this for a reason: so that for all eternity we will stand as a living testimony to the incredible riches of His grace and kindness that He freely gives to us by uniting us with Jesus the Anointed. For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift, pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing. For we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago.
 Salvation. What an amazing gift to be given! It is by faith and grace that we are saved, not by works. It isn't something that we do, it's something that we live. We are to be a testimony, a sanctuary to God. You can't do faith, you live in faith. It's also important to note that anyone is capable of receiving this gift of salvation...no one is "unsaveable". What a wonderful message for today.
Monday, February 10, 2014

40 Day retreat with Jesus: Day 10

Today is day 10 in the 40 day retreat. Remember I'm studying from my Compass study Bible that uses The Voice translation so if the wording is different in your Bible, that's okay. Today we are looking at Ephesians

Today's focus:
Ephesians 1:15-19
This is why, when I heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus that is present in your community and of your great love for all God’s people, I haven’t stopped thanking Him for you. I am continually speaking to Him on your behalf in my prayers. Here’s what I say:
God of our Lord Jesus the Anointed, Father of Glory: I call out to You on behalf of Your people. Give them minds ready to receive wisdom and revelation so they will truly know You. Open the eyes of their hearts, and let the light of Your truth flood in. Shine Your light on the hope You are calling them to embrace. Reveal to them the glorious riches You are preparing as their inheritance. Let them see the full extent of Your power that is at work in those of us who believe, and may it be done according to Your might and power.
A note from my study Bible about this passage:
This letter begins with praise and thanksgiving offered to God. Paul celebrates all the spiritual “blessings” available to all believers in Jesus, the Anointed One. This means that He is the one through whom God has acted to rescue the world. But more than that, He is the Lord to whom we belong and the spiritual place where all believers are presently located. In God’s purpose, heaven has come down to where we live so that we now occupy this wonderful realm where salvation is at work, where God’s truth and beauty are a reality, and where we wait as the rest of His plan is worked out.
Sunday, February 9, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 9

So yesterday was one of my favorite parables, partly because I cannot stand it when people say "I did x, y, and z and I'm *so* 'in' with Jesus". It bugs me to no end. Just stop with the salvation wars!

Anyway...

Today is day 9 of the retreat and we are in 1 Corinthians.

Today's focus:
1 Corinthians 12:12-27

Just as a body is one whole made up of many different parts, and all the different parts comprise the one body, so it is with the Anointed One. We were all ceremonially washed through baptism together into one body by one Spirit. No matter our heritage—Jew or Greek, insider or outsider—no matter our status—oppressed or free—we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Here’s what I mean: the body is not made of one large part but of many different parts. Would it seem right for the foot to cry, “I am not a hand, so I couldn’t be part of this body”? Even if it did, it wouldn’t be any less joined to the body. And what about an ear? If an ear started to whine, “I am not an eye; I shouldn’t be attached to this body,” in all its pouting, it is still part of the body. Imagine the entire body as an eye. How would a giant eye be able to hear? And if the entire body were an ear, how would an ear be able to smell? This is where God comes in. God has meticulously put this body together; He placed each part in the exact place to perform the exact function He wanted. If all members were a single part, where would the body be? So now, many members function within the one body. The eye cannot wail at the hand, “I have no need for you,” nor could the head bellow at the feet, “I won’t go one more step with you.” It’s actually the opposite. The members who seem to have the weaker functions are necessary to keep the body moving; the body parts that seem less important we treat as some of the most valuable; and those unfit, untamed, unpresentable members we treat with an even greater modesty. That’s something the more presentable members don’t need. But God designed the body in such a way that greater significance is given to the seemingly insignificant part. That way there should be no division in the body; instead, all the parts mutually depend on and care for one another. If one part is suffering, then all the members suffer alongside it. If one member is honored, then all the members celebrate alongside it. You are the body of the Anointed, the Liberating King; each and every one of you is a vital member.
Everyone is important. Everyone has a special place and a special purpose. We are united, we are to work with unity in mind, and together we make up the body of Christ. 
Saturday, February 8, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 8

So my first full week of the 40 day retreat is finished and although I've fallen behind, I'm doing my best to stay the course and see this through. Today is day 8 and we are in the book of Luke.

Today's focus:
Luke 18:10-14
Jesus: Imagine two men walking up a road, going to the temple to pray. One of them is a Pharisee and the other is a despised tax collector. Once inside the temple, the Pharisee stands up and prays this prayer in honor of himself: “God, how I thank You that I am not on the same level as other people—crooks, cheaters, the sexually immoral—like this tax collector over here. Just look at me! I fast not once but twice a week, and I faithfully pay my tithes on every penny of income.” Over in the corner, the tax collector begins to pray, but he won’t even lift his eyes to heaven. He pounds on his chest in sorrow and says, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
Now imagine these two men walking back down the road to their homes. Listen, it’s the tax collector who walks home clean before God, and not the Pharisee, because whoever lifts himself up will be put down and whoever takes a humble place will be lifted up.
Prior to this parable, Jesus is essentially telling us how important it is to pray. Prayer is very important-it keeps us connected and I like having a line to Jesus. I pray throughout the day, my kids see (and hear) me pray, and when I'm in prayer I can physically feel the burden lift from my shoulders. We're called to pray constantly. This parable about the tax collector and the pharisee illustrates that our attitude while in prayer is just as important. Remember yesterday's verse, about how God gives grace to the humble? Well this expands on that a bit, saying that those who come to the Lord humbly are "cleaner" than those who boast about all of their good works. We're not supposed to pray or to be kind or act "nice" to get recognition...that gets you nowhere with God, and He will see right through that. This also illustrates how dangerous the "one-upper" is...our faith is our own with God, I believe it's our business. We need not make others' faith or convictions with God our business. This also leads back to yesterday's verse about how we are not to judge another...interesting how things all tie together :)
Friday, February 7, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 7

It's really interesting because usually when I start these things, Satan tends to get in the way...things come up and I end up giving up after a few days because I just can't seem to get the posts done. I'm determined to see this through, even if posts end up being late. I've dealt with visits to a surgeon's office, dental appointments for all the kids, my regular wound care regime, and some excruciating pain, but what better way to glorify God than to do it when we are at our weakest, most vulnerable moments? So, day 7...

James 4: 6-12

You may think that the situation is hopeless, but God gives us more grace when we turn away from our own interests. That’s why Scripture says, God opposes the proud but He pours out grace on the humble. So submit yourselves to the one true God and fight against the devil and his schemes. If you do, he will run away in failure. Come close to the one true God, and He will draw close to you. Wash your hands; you have dirtied them in sin. Cleanse your heart, because your mind is split down the middle, your love for God on one side and selfish pursuits on the other. Now is the time to lament, to grieve, and to cry. Dissolve your laughter into sobbing, and exchange your joy for depression. Lay yourself bare, facedown to the ground, in humility before the Lord; and He will lift your head so you can stand tall. My brothers and sisters, do not assault each other with criticism. If you decide your job is to accuse and judge another believer, then you are a self-appointed critic and judge of the law; if so, then you are no longer a doer of the law and subject to its rule; you stand over it as a judge. Know this—there is One who stands supreme as Judge and Lawgiver. He alone is able to save and to destroy, so who are you to step in and try to judge another?
The world is full of temptations and it is often hard to turn ourselves away from them. However, when we do, God gives us the grace to do so. That is illustrated here in this particular passage and that he "pours out grace on the humble". However, we get a big, fat reality check when we turn our back on God and fall in to the "ways of the world"...it always comes back and bites us at some point. I've written before about what's happened to me when I've allowed the world to consume me and how God has brought me back to where I need to be, but this passage cements my beliefs, that when you submit yourself to the Lord, ask for forgiveness and direction, He will put you back where you need to be.

This also talks about judgement, and how we are not supposed to be judgmental of others, particularly other Christians. I firmly believe there is a difference between judging someone and convicting someone of something, or gently pulling them aside and pointing something out. This needs to be done with careful consideration and lots of prayerful thought. I'm sure I'll at some point elaborate on the practice of conviction at some point, but not today. 
Thursday, February 6, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus- Day 6

Still in the book of James, today we are reading James 3:13-18. I'm reading in my compass study Bible and The Voice translation. 

James 3:13-18
 Who in your community is understanding and wise? Let his example, which is marked by wisdom and gentleness, blaze a trail for others. If your heart is one that bleeds dark streams of jealousy and selfishness, do not be so proud that you ignore your depraved state. The wisdom of this world should never be mistaken for heavenly wisdom; it originates below in the earthly realms, with the demons. Any place where you find jealousy and selfish ambition, you will discover chaos and evil thriving under its rule. Heavenly wisdom centers on purity, peace, gentleness, deference, mercy, and other good fruits untainted by hypocrisy. The seed that flowers into righteousness will always be planted in peace by those who embrace peace.
In this passage, James is explaining wisdom, what it is to be wise, and the difference between worldy wisdom and Godly wisdom. For additional understanding of this passage, I viewed some study notes here: http://rondaniel.com/library/59-James/James0313.html

Many people think that someone is wise simply because they're well-spoken, educated, and maybe even older. However, James explains that worldy wisdom looks like Godliness, and wise people are not arrogant or defensive about their knowledge, as that wisdom is likely not from God, but from the Earth. In the study mentioned above, it is explained that when looking to make a decision, understanding which kind of wisdom being applied is essential. We all want to apply Godly wisdom in our lives, and as such, a decision made out of Godly wisdom won't be contentious or self-seeking, but it will be peaceful and sure. 

I believe this falls in line with praying for God's guidance in making decisions and living a God-led life. My husband and I have made many decisions and we've always turned to God and prayer when we've been at a crossroads. I believe this is using Godly wisdom, and I believe that decisions made with God in mind are rarely, if ever, a wrong decision. 
Wednesday, February 5, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 5

Today we are still in the book of James. Today's verse is James 2:14-20 in the Compass Bible, using The Voice translation. 

Brothers and sisters, it doesn’t make any sense to say you have faith and act in a way that denies that faith. Mere talk never gets you very far, and a commitment to Jesus only in words will not save you.  It would be like seeing a brother or sister without any clothes out in the cold and begging for food, and saying, “Shalom, friend, you should get inside where it’s warm and eat something,” but doing nothing about his needs—leaving him cold and alone on the street. What good would your words alone do? The same is true with faith. Without actions, faith is useless. By itself, it’s as good as dead.  I know what you’re thinking: “OK, you have faith. And I have actions. Now let’s see your faith without works, and I’ll show you a faith that works.” Do you think that just believing there’s one God is going to get you anywhere? The demons believe that, too, and it terrifies them! The fact is, faith has to show itself through works performed in faith. If you don’t recognize that, then you’re an empty soul.
James here is saying that faith without works is an empty faith, and some believe that it contradicts messages in earlier books that you cannot achieve salvation through works. That's not what this passage is about...the message here is that faith without works is an empty faith-we are called by Jesus to care for others, to love our neighbors, and to bring Glory to Him. One of the ways we can do that is by doing works driven by our faith and love for one another. Faith is how we get saved, but I believe that works is how we show our faith. 

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 3 and 4

Monday and Tuesday are actually my husband's weekend, so instead of interrupting our family time for blogging, I opted to do this assignment wrapped in to one today, my husband's Monday. The passages for today are:

James 1:13-18
James 1:19-27

Rather than typing word-for-word the verses out of the compass Bible (Using The Voice translation), I chose to just delve in to the discussion portion and my reflections.

In the book of James, the Compass Bible explains that the following letter is just a note to Christians to "practice what they preach". James speaks of temptation and that God Himself is not capable of being tempted nor tempting us...God doesn't want to see us fail. He wants to see us succeed and live in his light, but by nature we are sinners, so we are easily tempted and at times deceived by our temptation (where it comes from). James also warns that we allow sin enter in to our lives when we follow a temptation or indulge in it...it starts almost like a tiny seed and then the temptation breeds sin (1:15). What is the best way to avoid temptation? Clearly to live in the Word and understand God and the way temptation and sin go hand-in-hand. 

James follows this by giving the Christian on how to overcome temptation, by being slow to anger and to hold our tongues, as well as be mindful of who and what we surround ourselves with. 

I believe that there are certain people and activities that are not conducive to the lifestyle one wants to live. There is so much truth in what James is saying about being careful about your surroundings and your activities, as it only takes one small idea implanted in one's head, that eventually sprouts and grows, that can lead the way to some serious sin. It's scary to think how easily influenced I have been in the past based on what the people around me believe or do. On a greater level, how many Christians condone sin because it's the cultural norm?
Sunday, February 2, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus- Day 2

The 40 Day Retreat with Jesus is on day two, and today we are in James 1! Remember, I am using my Compass study Bible and The Voice translation.
 
Day 2: James 1: 1-12
James, a servant of God and the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, to the twelve tribes of Israel who are spread across the earth: I send you my warmest welcome! Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line—mature, complete, and wanting nothing.  If you don’t have all the wisdom needed for this journey, then all you have to do is ask God for it; and God will grant all that you need. He gives lavishly and never scolds you for asking. The key is that your request be anchored by your single-minded commitment to God. Those who depend only on their own judgment are like those lost on the seas, carried away by any wave or picked up by any wind.  Those adrift on their own wisdom shouldn’t assume the Lord will rescue them or bring them anything. The splinter of divided loyalty shatters your compass and leaves you dizzy and confused. If you are a brother of humble means, celebrate the fact that God has raised you up.  If you are rich and seemingly invincible, savor the humble reality that you are a mere mortal who will vanish like a flower that withers in the field. The sun rises with a blazing heat that dries the earth and causes the flower to wither and fall to the ground and its beauty to fade and die. In the same way, the rich will fall and die in the midst of their busy lives. Happy is the person who can hold up under the trials of life. At the right time, he’ll know God’s sweet approval and will be crowned with life. As God has promised, the crown awaits all who love Him.
One thing the pastor at my church told me when I was first baptized was that a Christian life is not an easy path, it's not devoid of challenges and trials. I have personally found that in the trials I tend to lean on God more, grow more. Perhaps this is why we are to embrace challenge and trials?
Saturday, February 1, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus- Day 1

Yesterday I received a copy of the Compass Bible from Booksneeze for review (review to come...) and I was very excited to see this 40 Day Retreat with Jesus in there! I've always wanted to feature a reading plan on my blog not only for accountability purposes, but because I believe it's important to spread the word of God in any way possible. This is a journey through the New Testament using The Voice translation in my Compass Bible.

Day 1 feature passage: Romans 12:1-2

Brother and sisters, in light of all I have shared with you about God's mercies, I urge you to offer your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God, a sacred offering that brings Him pleasure; this is your reasonable, essential worship. Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete. 

The Compass Bible states that Paul was urging believers to offer their whole bodies including their hands, eyes, and hearts, as a living sacrifice. 

While reading and meditating on this passage, I focused on what I believe a living sacrifice should be, and I believe that we are called to bring glory to God in every way possible...using our hands, hearts, and bodies to glorify Him. What are some ways we can do that? We are called to change our hearts and our minds, to not lust after Earthly things...to me, living that transformation and that mindset is a living sacrifice. If we want to change our thinking, I believe the only way to do that is through the Word.