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DAY 02


Welcome to 40 Days to a Healthier Life! This is an exciting season for our church as we journey together in a time of spiritual renewal and awakening that will bring us closer to God and each other than ever before. This book is a key part of that journey. In it, you will find a 30 day personal devotional, followed by a guide for embarking on a 10 day period of fasting and prayer. This 40 day journey will lead us into Easter week, as we join together with thousands to celebrate Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection! I’ve never been more excited about what God is doing, and will do through you. Now let’s start our 40 day journey together! ~ Pastor Clark

DAY 02


FiRST Words “In the beginning God ….” Four simple words that communicate a profound truth. In the beginning—before anything or anyone else existed—God was there. He was and will always be first. There is no time before God. He always has been and always will be. God is

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the central character. He commands center stage in everything— existence, creation, time, life, history, redemption and eternity. There’s a story that’s been going on long before you arrived on this earth and one that will go on long after you’re gone (i am not but i know I AM, Louie Giglio, pp. 12–13). From the moment we take our first breath, we act and think like the universe revolves around us. History is replete with examples of our insatiable quest to make our names, fortunes, fame and kingdoms as vast and enduring as possible. Our founding fathers proclaimed that every single person has the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We’ve bought into that

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sense of entitlement and embraced a mindset of “it’s all about me.” We live as though life is our own epic movie and history is our story—as though earth is our dwelling place alone, life our playground and God our servant (that is, if we decide we need

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Him at all). In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

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In his book, It’s Not About Me, Max Lucado says, “God does not

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Zach Neese

Incense is interesting for another reason: unless you light it,

Before my wife, Jen, and I got married, I was hunting for a gift for

incense is just a pile of smelly dirt. But when you put fire under

her birthday. I had taken a female friend along to help me make a

it, it burns and changes the environment. Prayer is also like that.

gender-appropriate selection. As we were browsing, she handed

Heartless, lukewarm prayer is dry and dusty. It blows around

me a little vial of perfume and asked, “What do you think of this?” I

aimlessly and doesn’t fulfill its purpose. Prayer, like incense, is

removed the top and inhaled deeply. I’d never experienced anything

designed for fire. It only rises if it burns, and when it burns, it

like it! When that fragrance hit my nose, it was like too much wine to

changes the atmosphere.

my senses: my knees turned to water, my vision blurred, and my lips went numb. The people around me seemed to grow fuzz like chia

A life lived in open and passionate communication with God

pets, and my heart was pounding like a kettle drum. My friend had to

does the same thing—it burns and changes the atmosphere of

scoop me up off the floor.

the world it lives in.

I think that David was convinced that his prayers could have a similar

Today you can have confidence in this: your Father is eager

effect on God. In Psalm 141:2 (niv), he says, “May my prayer be set

to hear from you, He won’t miss a word of your conversation,

before You like incense.” It’s funny to me that David compares prayer

and the sweet sound of your voice compels Him to action.

to incense, something that smells good. It’s like David is saying,

So let your incense rise. Don’t miss the opportunity for the

“God, I hope this prayer is like perfume that’s so pleasing to You that

conversation of a lifetime. It’ll change your world.

it compels You to action.” ______________________________________________________ Did you ever think that your prayers could be like that to God? David didn’t pray as a religious exercise; he prayed to make his God swoon—to move His heart. In 1 Samuel 13:14, God called David a man

exist to make a big deal out of us. We exist to make a big deal out of Him. It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s all about Him.” Acknowledging that fact and embracing it frees us to experience life, and life more abundantly—the way that God originally intended

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It’s so much more than just putting God above every area of our

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lives; it’s about putting Him first in every area of our lives. Modernday believers can fall into the trap of compartmentalizing all the areas of their lives into two nice, neat little boxes: the sacred (which

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contains everything related to church) and the secular (which contains everything else). But our relationship with God isn’t ethereal or abstract, it is deeply practical and profound. God desires to be a part of every aspect of our lives—not just the “religious” or just the “sacred.” The Bible never makes a distinction between the sacred and the secular. Paul says, “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17, NIV;

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Placing God first and foremost in every area of our lives—where He rightfully belongs—brings us the assurance and peace that

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correspondence of a passionate relationship—love letters to God. and hearing the story of their day. Do retellings of Star Wars battles, Polly Pocket adventures and wrestling mishaps put me to sleep? No.

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I’m certain that our heavenly Father feels the same way about us. One of the reasons God breathed into Adam’s nostrils is that He

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with Him in the cool of the day. We were designed for a life-long conversation with God. Prayer encompasses many things: supplication, praise, submission, But let’s not forget what Jesus taught His disciples when they asked Him how they should pray. He said, “Start like this, ‘Our Father who is

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in heaven ….’” The prayer God loves doesn’t start with a complaint or a Christmas list; it always starts by aligning our hearts with His desire for relationship. The conversation could go something like this:

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Fathers delight in listening to their children.

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our lives truly have meaning and purpose in something so much larger and grander than we could ever imagine.

heart. That’s why David’s psalms are so passionate. They are the

intercession, repentance, declaration, binding, loosing and listening. ___________________________________________________________

emphasis added). Not only do we need to put God first in our faith, but also in our relationships, stewardship and time.

to follow in hot pursuit. When David prayed, he was pursuing God’s

wanted to hear His creation’s voice. He made Adam to walk and talk ___________________________________________________________

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after His own heart. The Hebrew word for after isachar, which means

One of my greatest pleasures is pulling my children up into my lap

for it to be.

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“Hi, Dad. I love You. You’re the greatest.” “Hi, Zach. I love you, too. What’s going on in your life?”

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It’s as simple as inhaling and exhaling. Which brings us back to incense. 01 DAY 02

DAY 02


Bondservice Zach Neese I got saved when I was 23 years old, lying on my back in the grass at an art museum in Austin, Texas. Just a few months before, I had destroyed the heart of the woman I “loved” by pressuring her to get an abortion. As she lay on the clinic table in silent tears, I realized that the life of the only innocent person in this situation was being extinguished because of my selfishness. That’s when I saw just how small, vile and unlovable I was. Somewhere deep inside I knew there really was a God. He was holy, perfect and just. And I had just made an enemy of Him. I had sinned. I deserved hell, and it deserved me. That day God did something miraculous. He visited the art museum. God came to me where I was, in the grass, and spoke to me in a voice that could be felt as much as heard. As I shielded my eyes from His brilliance, God explained His love for me. As He spoke, the Gospel was instantly downloaded into my heart. I understood the cross for the first time. I understood real love for the first time. And it was astounding. I told Him I couldn’t spit in the face of that kind of love. I would do anything He asked of me for the rest of my life. One of the words in Hebrew most often translated as worshipper

Stop, Look, Listen _Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual (or acceptable) act of worship.” At the cross, I view the mercy of God as love without equal. Worship is what happens when I decide to love God back. I offer my body, every part of it, as a living sacrifice, to express the posture of my heart towards my Lord. Worshippers will love God with their songs, but more importantly they will love Him with their lives. Every use of their hands, every path their feet fall upon, every thought, every affection, every glance of the eye, every ounce of their strength expresses love louder than words. Worship is not a grudging service, but the grateful response of a heart that has been wooed by the cross. Today, let your praises be heard, but let them be seen as well. Our voices are only one of the instruments the Lord has given us to use for His glory. Let your life be an expression of the posture of your heart towards God, and may people love Jesus more because they have been around you. ___________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________

is a bad. It means a bondservant. Deuteronomy 15:12–18 (also see Galatians 1:10) explains that when a slave was released from his time of servitude, if he loved his master, he could choose to remain with his master and serve him as a bondservant. That day in Austin, I became an a bad worshipper—a bondservant. Today,

Him because He loves me. And I love Him so much that there is nothing I would rather do for the rest of my life, with every faculty of my being, than serve Him. That is worship. I attended my first church service about four months later and saw

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expression of the posture of their hearts towards God—Surrender.” Many were clapping. It occurred to me, “Their applause is a physical expression of the posture of their hearts towards God—Praise.” Here

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their hearts towards God—Honor.” Then I looked up at the platform. There, against the back wall of the church, stood a cross where Jesus served His Father by pouring His life out for an unlovable world. The cross is the

02 DAY 03

to each of us today if we’ll only listen for His voice. As God

live, streets I used to play on (this was back in the ’60s when kids still

says through the words of the psalmist, “Be still and know

played in the street) and special memories I had of the carefree days

that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). In other words, God is saying,

of childhood. During our tour, I took my daughter on the two-mile

“Shhhhhhhhhhh. Be silent and listen for the words I have for

walk I made each afternoon as a kindergartener from school to my

you—words that can transform your life.”

home. As we retraced the path I had taken so many years ago, my mind raced back to a time when the school year was just beginning

In many ways, at many times and through many means, God is

and my mother would tell me over and over again: “John, remember

intimately interested in pouring His wisdom into our lives. And

to stop, look and listen for traffic before you cross the street.” Stop …

the primary method of communication He chooses to use is

Look … Listen … That was sound advice for a five-year-old trying to

His written Word. As we make the Bible our first and primary

navigate his way across a busy avenue.

source for guidance and wisdom, its timeless truth has the power to comfort and correct us; guide and judge us; inspire

Much has changed over the years as I’ve grown to adulthood. Gone

and humble us (Hebrews 4:12). Be sure to stop, look and listen

are the innocent and uncomplicated days filled with the “three Rs”

and by making His Word the first priority in your life today.

and the adventures of creative play. Life is now more complex, and my carefree days have been replaced with a hectic schedule of

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those three simple words still serve to guide me as I seek to navigate this path of life and make my way, day by day, towards my eternal home. They remind me of my commitment to make the study of

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path” (Psalm 119:105). If we desire to truly hear from God, we must be ruthless in to stop and remove ourselves from the hurried pace of life and invest in God’s Word. Starting each day by first putting God and His Word

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in our hearts, on our minds and into our actions not only helps us make better decisions, it also aligns our lives with the purposes and priorities of God for that day.

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he explains that we all face the challenge to consistently stop and “look carefully into the perfect law [God’s Word] that sets you free, and if you do what it says … then God will bless you for doing it” (James 1:25, NLT). As I stop and look intently into the Word of God, faith and stand up to the challenges I face with wisdom from heaven.

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When Jesus was teaching the multitudes, He would often communicate spiritual truth in the form of a short story or “parable.” At the end of these teaching times, He frequently concluded with the phrase, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15; 13:9; 13:43). By using this statement to

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again that His Word “is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my

I always come away more enriched and inspired to stand firm in my __________________________________________________________

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important matters that constantly make demands on my time. But

In James’ letter to the Jews that were scattered among the nations, ___________________________________________________________

physical expression of the posture of God’s heart towards me. He loved me … to death.

change us from the inside out. The truth is that God is speaking

some historic landmarks from my childhood—places where I used to

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and there, a few were on their knees, bowing low upon the ground. And I realized, “This is also the physical expression of the posture of

receive the Word of the Lord and then allow that Word to

had the opportunity to take my teenage daughter on a little tour of

maintaining a consistent schedule that includes opportunities for us

more ways that I could love God. About half of the congregation had their arms raised in the air. And I thought, “This must be the physical

close His parables, Jesus was challenging us to really listen,

On a recent trip home with my family to visit my aging parents, I

God’s Word a deep priority in my life; having learned time and time ___________________________________________________________

I do not serve God because of some religious requirement. I don’t serve Him because of the threat of hell. I choose to serve

John Spurling

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The Family of God John Spurling Not long ago, my parents celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary. As one of seven children, it was great to have everyone back together again. It was a grand celebration with my parents, all of my brothers and sisters and our families. The place where we held the reception was filled to capacity. We sat around for hours sharing stories and fond memories from the times we’ve spent together. But what I cherish the most from that day was once again experiencing the joys of being part of a big family and knowing there are people I can count on who truly love me unconditionally. Growing up in a large family definitely had its ups and downs. We had to learn to share almost everything and look out for one another. Hand-me-downs, eating leftovers, sharing a bedroom with your brothers and having your parents forget your name from time to time were all part of life in a big family. None of us minded though; we simply enjoyed being together and being there for each other. This reminds me a little of how it feels to be a part of God’s family and how much I enjoy getting together each week with my spiritual brothers and sisters. Spending time together with my Christian friends, whether at church, in a small group or just a social evening together, is a real priority in my life. I know that God has blessed me with friends who, just like my natural family, care deeply for me and help keep me accountable in my Christian walk. They unconditionally accept me for who I am: fears, failures, flaws and all. Therefore, taking the time and making the effort to attend church regularly and establish strong friendships with other Christians is a very worthwhile pursuit. From the moment God created Adam, He realized it wasn’t good for us to be alone. So He formed Eve from Adam’s side as a helpmate through life (Genesis 2:18–22). The benefits derived from building loving relationships

We are the Champions One of the reasons why companies like Starbucks have experienced a meteoric rise in revenues and cultural impact is because they have successfully tapped into the craving we have for community. In their sales pitch to prospective employees, they write, “When you work at Starbucks, you can make a difference in someone’s day by creating an environment where neighbors and friends can get together and reconnect while enjoying a great coffee experience.” Sounds like they expect people to stop, sip and stay when they visit their local Starbucks. And it sounds like a worthwhile goal for believers and the Church to pursue. The book of Acts shows us that the first-century church placed a supreme value on nurturing real community: “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:46–47, NIV). Something dynamic was happening, and people wanted to be a part of it. Their commitment to meet regularly provided the opportunity to care for each other’s needs and to bear each other’s burdens. It was a visible demonstration of the kind of community Jesus spoke of prior to His death, resurrection and ascension to heaven. Take some time today and examine your level of commitment to church attendance and involvement with other Christians. Then ask yourself, “Over the past six months how have I been doing? Is my consistency and commitment where it needs to be?” God will help you find the answer. Then, once He does, act on it! ______________________________________________________

and spiritual well-being in dramatic ways. It’s simply the way God made us.

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Perhaps those are some of the reasons why the author of Hebrews warns his audience against giving up meeting together as some were in the habit of doing (Hebrews 10:25). It is dangerous, on many fronts, to try and go through life in isolation, distancing yourself from church and others. Whether it’s due to hurts from the past or a hurried life in the present, failure to be part of the church (through regular attendance and involvement in Christian

spiritual leader, I’m sure some must have wondered, “No way

those who come out on top, who take first place in whatever arena of

… there’s absolutely no way we can do that … how is it possible

life captivates their energy and commitment. We say, “To the victor

for us to look to the needs of others first, before even our own

goes the spoil … that’s the American way!” Rarely do we celebrate

needs are met?

those who fail to capture first place and finish second, somewhere in the middle or perhaps, dead last. I learned this lesson early in my

That’s just insane!” But Paul went on to explain how we can

life. I was a football jock in high school and fortunate enough to play

fulfill such a culturally radical mission. He said, “Your attitude

on some really good teams. My junior year, we made it all the way

should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very

to the state championship game. But our excitement turned to the

nature God, did not consider equality with God something to

“agony of defeat” as we lost the game in the closing minutes, 15–13.

be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature

We had won almost every game that season, yet in the end we were

of a servant” (Philippians 2:5–7, NIV).

losers. But the story has a happy ending. The next season, my senior year, we made it back to the title game, and this time we came out

When it comes to putting others first and caring for their needs,

on top. To this day, people still speak fondly of that memorable 1979

how consistent have you been in following the instructions of

state championship team. We had reached the goal so many young

Jesus? Are you willing to champion the interests of others, or

men only dream of experiencing. For at least one year, we were #1

do you find yourself investing more of your time and effort

and everyone else was a loser.

on getting your own needs met? The message that echoes through the words of Jesus and the apostles is clear. The true

Such thinking was also prevalent in the days of Jesus—even within

pathway to the heart of God requires us to live selfless lives

the inner circle of His closest friends. One day, two of them came to

and care for those who are hurting and in need. As Jesus once

Him demanding that He grant their special request: “Arrange it,” they

said, “When you did it to one of the least of these My brothers

said, “so that we get the prime seats in heaven—one of us at your

and sisters, you were doing it to Me!” (Matthew 25:40, NLT).

right, the other at your left.” In other words, “We want to go to the

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front of the class! We want to be first” (Mark 10:35–39). When the other disciples heard of their demands for special treatment, let’s just say that things became more than a little tense. Accusations flew and tempers began to rise until finally Jesus spoke

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great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all” (Mark 10:43–44, NIV). Then He added this final comment, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be

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10:45,NIV). Wow! Jesus’ words rocked their world and stood in direct opposition to everything they had learned about what it means to be successful in life. For Jesus, serving others wasn’t something He did when it was convenient, and He certainly wasn’t interested in personal recognition. Serving others, especially those in need, was the heartbeat of His life—the motivation behind His life mission. He

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holding them back (Luke 4:18). _________________________________________________________ Perhaps no one captures the essence of Jesus’ passionate priority on selfless living better than the apostle Paul in his letter to the church in the city of Philippi. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or

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up and set them straight by saying, “Whoever wants to become

came to serve others and to set people free from whatever was _____________________________________________________

community) will lead to damaging effects in the future.

02 DAY 05

church read these words of instruction from their friend and

People love winners! As a culture, we celebrate and even idolize

served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark

and nurturing friendships are well-documented. Having strong, healthy relationships positively impacts our emotional, physical

John Spurling

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vain conceit,” he said, “but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests,

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but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3–4, NIV). As the DAY 06


The “Dark Side” of Faith S. George Thomas I have a confession to make. I am a total sucker for flawed and conflicted characters in stories. Slightly bizarre, I know, but it’s true— I’ve always had a difficult time relating to characters who have it all together, who have all the answers. Sure, I want to be like the heroic characters I see on the big screen or read about in the pages of books. But if I’m being totally and brutally honest with myself, the characters I identify with most aren’t the heroes. Perhaps that’s why, when I read through the Bible, the people I connect with most are those who struggle with questions and doubt: Job, Jeremiah and, of course, Doubting Thomas. The Bible is chockfull of people asking questions. The mighty “heroes of the faith” aren’t exempt from it. Abraham, Moses and David—the “man after God’s own heart”—have their share of questions and doubts. Just flip through the Bible; it’s full of stories about the heroes of our faith who doubted and questioned. Even Jesus, while hanging on the cross, cries out, “Why?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). For most of our lives, we suppress our doubts and questions— both from others and ourselves—at all costs. We don’t like to think about them, talk about them, and we definitely don’t ever want to experience them. It’s the shadow side of our faith—the “dark side.” But then we come face to face with an event that rocks us to our core and forces us to confront this dark side. Tragic, mind-numbing events, like 9/11, the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, all lead us to ask … “Why?” Have you ever looked at a piece of negative film? Before it’s developed, it isn’t exposed to light. The light areas appear dark and vice versa—everything is inverted and backwards. That’s how our doubts are—they’re confusing, so we rarely bring them out in the open, exposing them to light. But here’s what’s fascinating: negative images are actually the master images, from which all positive images are made. A developer can’t produce beautiful photographs without first having a negative. And those negatives can’t be developed without first being carefully treated and then passing light through

Why not about having a complete absence of uncertainty, it’s about steadfastly believing that God is real, present and good, even in the face of doubt. Now lest I be misunderstood, let me be perfectly clear. You can’t perpetually live in doubt. If you don’t press through your honest doubts on to full faith, your doubt becomes sin, because “everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23, NIV). You have to move on and acknowledge that even when you cannot see His hand, you can always trust His heart (Job 1:20–22; Job 13:15). Also, there’s a marked difference between asking God honest questions and questioning Him, who He is or His goodness. Don’t make the mistake of confusing knowing God with understanding God. While He invites us to know Him, it’s total presumption to assume we can completely understand or figure Him out (Jeremiah 24:7; John 10:14). God is a mystery. His ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9). If, when and how He chooses to answer our questions is completely up to Him (Job 38–41). But here’s what absolutely amazes me—even though God doesn’t have any obligation to hear my questions, my fears and my doubts, He chooses to do so (Job 41:11; Psalm 143:1). And even more mind-boggling, He doesn’t turn away from me, reject me or chastise me for them. God isn’t intimidated by my questions. With infinite love and patience, He guides me through the valley of the shadow. He answers my questions in ways I could never dream (Psalm 34:4). God never rejects those who seek Him but still struggle. Matthew 12:20 (niv) says, “A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out.” Because when we honestly confront our doubts, we find ourselves growing into a faith that transcends doubt. The very act of asking God questions indicates that we don’t have all the answers and we solely depend on Him. God wants us to ask, because asking puts us back on track with Him (Matthew 7:7–8). ___________________________________________________________

Marcus Brecheen A few summers ago, I learned how to fly fish. Our family was on vacation in Colorado, and as a gift, my family hired a fishing guide to teach me this intricate sport. The weather was beautiful. The fish were plentiful. It was one of the greatest days of my life. To say that I love fly fishing now would be an understatement. I love the feeling the rods are made, studying how to “match the hatch” and how different kinds of trout feed in different environments. But most of all, I love wading through a mountain stream, fly rod in hand.

He takes your “negatives,” treats them and exposes them to His light, thus producing beautiful and enduring faith in you.

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Mark tells of a father with a demon-possessed son who comes to Jesus at the end of his rope desperately crying, “Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief!” (Mark 9:17–27). This may seem like a contradictory statement, but it’s not. Here’s why: faith is

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is usually a day spent out in the middle of nowhere where just about anything can happen. Like the many times I’ve eaten a sandwich in a rainstorm—soggy bread and all. Or the kazillion times I’ve had to untangle my line, straining my fortysomething eyes through the frustration of undoing hopeless knots. Then there was the time I hiked miles to a deserted stream and not long afterward a high-

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country storm moved through. It rained for over an hour and hailed for half of that, but I couldn’t get under a tree because lightning was striking all around. I wasn’t at all sure I’d make it out alive. It would have taken weeks for me to be found. But even though I was completely soaked and shivering from cold, I chose to finish my day

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fly fishing in the middle of a river. Why? Because I love it so much. All of us have things we love to do. And with time our desire often grows, so we expend both emotional and intellectual energy pursuing it. We spend time thinking about how we’d like to be better at it. We study new techniques. We invest our money and ourselves in it. And we’re willing to endure whatever work is necessary. Why?

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Because we love it so much.

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God didn’t create us to only relate to Him with the spiritual part of our

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lives. He created us to relate to Him and express His likeness through all of life—body, will, mind and emotions. God made us like Himself so that we could worship, love and enjoy Him with every part of who

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we are. Our intellect and emotions are gifts from Him designed for His pleasure and glory. Sadly though, most religious people separate it all down to behavior. Lists. Dos and don’ts. Discipline. Yawn! In Mark 12:30, Jesus commands you to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all

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your strength.” What would happen if you began to fully invest your intellect and emotions—your thoughts and your feelings—in pursuing more exciting and satisfying than using your mental and emotional capabilities to honor Him. And since God created our intellect and

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emotions, it only makes sense that our greatest investment of these should be in the Lord Himself. Why? Because He loves you so much.

DAY 07

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God? The possibilities are endless! Ultimately, there is nothing ___________________________________________________________

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But I have to be truthful: it’s not always a lot of fun. A day of fly fishing

the negative onto light-sensitive paper. Likewise, when you bring your honest doubts and questions to God—the Master Developer—

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I get when I’m in the old fly shop. I love buying gear, learning where

their intellect and emotions from their relationship with God, dialing __________________________________________________________

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Choosing Honor Bethani Funderburk Chances are, if you attended church at any point in time as a child, you heard this verse: “Honor your father and your mother” (Deuteronomy 5:16). It’s the one printed on bulletin boards in church classrooms all over the country, and it runs a close second to the ever- popular, “Children obey your parents” (Ephesians 6:1). This fifth commandment given to Moses has the distinction of being the first commandment given with a promise. While both of these verses are valuable and necessary staples throughout our childhood and adolescence, little seems to be said about the ongoing importance of honoring our parental relationships as we move into adulthood. For the sake of clarity, let’s explore the difference between “obeying”

Sibling Revelry Four ways to accomplish this are: Praying before any interaction. Checking your heart’s motivation. Choosing your words wisely. Planning potential responses. Above all, remember that the Bible tells us: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18, NIV). As you put God first in your relationship with your parents, keep in mind that your ultimate goal isn’t to receive approval or agreement but to honor their God-ordained position as your parents.

and “honoring.”

S. George Thomas

The Bible is full of instructions you can apply in your

Siblings—can’t live with them; can’t live without them. Whether you

relationships with your siblings—both natural and spiritual. Just

like it or not, through thick and thin, they’re yours and yours alone

as it’s sometimes difficult to get along with our natural siblings,

… for life. They’re your earliest playmates, your closest allies, your

at times, it’s also difficult to get along with your spiritual

first friends. Our sibling relationships are often the most unique and

brothers and sisters. Recently, my five- year-old nephew, Cole,

lasting relationship we’ll ever have. We know our parents for perhaps

heard about the story of Hannah and Samuel in his Sunday

50–70 years, our spouses for maybe 40–60 years, but we may know

School class. Later that day, as Cole was talking to his mom, his

our siblings for 80–90 years. While friends come and go, siblings are

two-year old sister, Ava, began to irritate him. Remembering

always there.

the story, Cole came up with a bright idea and asked his mom, “Momma, why don’t we give Ava back to Jesus like Hannah did

Viewed from God’s perspective, placement in our family isn’t an

with Samuel?” Do you ever feel that way about your brothers

accident; it’s by divine appointment. We can’t choose our brothers

and sisters in God’s family? Where all you want to do is “send

and sisters; we have no say in the matter. God had something specific

them back”?

in mind when He put us in our families, and He uses our brothers and Obedience is about your actions — doing what you’re told to do

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sisters to shape and define who we are.

when you’re told to do it. __________________________________________________________ Honoring is about your attitude—doing what you’re told to do with the right attitude.

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Unfortunately, just as there are no age, time or geographical parameters to the command “honor your parents,” neither is there an empty blank at the end which disqualifies those parents who seem less than worthy of honor. If there were, I might have made use of such an option when I was 19 and my parents divorced. The pain and disappointment from their divorce left me confused, hurt and angry. Understanding was hard, but acceptance was even harder. My father

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my pain and disappointment before I could begin to learn the value of respecting his position as my father. However, although it was initially difficult, I eventually learned to separate my father from his

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actions. In time, with prayer and godly counsel, my heart has healed. Today, my father and I have a great relationship that we both enjoy. Whether through difficult life circumstances or the natural development of independence, our relationships with our parents inevitably change. With a little effort, however, we can begin to relate to our parents, not just as friends, but as friends with a special bond. For some people, this change may be difficult, so be prepared to give

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with decisions you’ve made as an adult. Even if this is the case, I

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relationships teach us what not to do, the Bible does offer some

relationships with our brothers and sisters. Look out for each

significant examples of healthy sibling relationships.

other’s best interests. Prefer one another above ourselves. Forgive each other. Strive for unity. But, above all, love one

Martha, Mary and Lazarus are three siblings who lived over 2,000

another (John 17:20–23).

years ago who were quite close and deeply loved each other. These

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siblings didn’t have a perfect relationship; however, there’s much we character. When Martha became angry with Mary for not helping her in the kitchen, she didn’t yell, call Mary lazy or disrespect her in front of others. While she was frustrated with Mary’s behavior,

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she didn’t attack or criticize Mary’s character. Instead, she came to Jesus, their dinner guest for the evening, asking Him to help her get Mary back into the kitchen. And when Jesus rebuked Martha and with Him, Mary didn’t tell Martha, “I told you so” or “Mind your own

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business”; instead, she stayed silent. These two sisters who were very different—one was a perfectionist, the other a dreamer—discovered that both had something to learn from each other. Martha learned to

Lazarus, their brother, also teaches us something valuable— responsibility for each other. Here was a brother who probably was

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at an age where he could be married, yet he didn’t desert his sisters; he provided for them. He loved his sisters deeply enough to protect them and be there when they needed him. The lives of Martha, Mary and Lazarus show us the importance of being there for our brothers

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DAY 09

judging and tearing each other down. We must celebrate our

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believe it’s possible to respectfully share differing opinions while still maintaining a healthy relationship.

of Christ, we should build each other up instead of criticizing,

Moses, Miriam and Aaron; the list is long. While most of these sibling

be more relaxed in life; Mary learned to be more industrious.

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type of friendship with your parents. Maybe your parents disagree

siblings—Cain and Abel; Jacob and Esau; Joseph and his brothers;

told her that Mary had made the better choice by spending time

grace while the necessary adjustments are made. Perhaps your present circumstances won’t allow you to develop any

them as our own (1 Timothy 5:1–2). As members of the Body

can learn from them. To start with, they didn’t attack each other’s

had always been larger than life to me, but as my parents’ marriage died, so did his hero status in my eyes. It took time to work through

our own natural biological siblings; we need to accept and love The Bible is peppered with stories about relationships between

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Yet the Bible teaches us to treat our spiritual siblings as we do

and sisters, supporting them and loving them.

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In Good Company Cheri Cochran During high school, many people are so wrapped up with their friends they get to the point where they are defined by their friends (or lack of them). By the time we reach adulthood, the busyness of life or wounds from our past often crowd out any time or desire we have for meaningful friendships. It becomes easy to underestimate and undervalue the power and purpose of meaningful friendships. But what are we really missing when we choose not to engage in friendships? Is it even possible to fulfill God’s purpose in our lives without giving godly friendships a place of priority? God deeply values friendship. He created the world out of a desire for companionship, designing each person for His pleasure and for a personal relationship with Him. Although there certainly wasn’t much the disciples could off er Jesus by way of enlightenment or intellect, He called the disciples His friends (John 15:13–15). He valued the exchange of affection and loyalty their friendship provided as they walked through the “stuff ” of life together. We are created in God’s image. If He finds friendship valuable, so should we. To put God first in our friendships, we must

R.E.S.P.E.C.T Their pursuit of God prompted me to seek Him more wholeheartedly. Hebrews 10:24–25 (NIV) encourages us to purposefully seek this kind of relationship with others, to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds [and] not give up meeting together ….” The people whose lives and words inspire us to be more like Jesus and pursue His purpose for our lives are the ones that God intends for us to embrace as our closest friends. While this certainly doesn’t mean that we should exclude unbelievers from our lives, putting God first in our friendships means seeking His will and employing wisdom when choosing those who form our inner circle of friends. Your life is designed to be lived with others by your side. Maybe you need to step out and join a small group. Maybe you need to re-evaluate who you’re spending the bulk of your time with. Or maybe you just need to invest a little more time and energy into the godly friendships you already have. Whatever your “maybe” is, don’t miss out on God’s amazing gift of friendship.

value relationships as He does. We must step out of our comfort zones and towards others, because friendships nourish our spirits, feed our minds and draw out our natural gifts. This is all part of God’s

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purpose for our lives. We learn about friendship from God, and we learn about God from our friendships.When I was in my late 20s, my husband and I moved across the country with our one-year-old son and became involved in a wonderful, large church. We only knew one couple when we arrived, and I soon realized I was at risk of becoming

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a hermit if I didn’t get out and meet some people. Although I’m very outgoing by nature, I had become internally isolated over the past several years. The hurts of past friendships combined with my unhealthy efforts to hide my shortcomings had made me wary of allowing others close to my heart. I had grown content with my mostly “surface-y” friendships. However, I made a deliberate decision to join a small group for the first time, although it was primarily so my

my internal cave — flaws and all. I began to understand the grace and acceptance of God in a very tangible way, and I started reaching out to others in ways I previously wouldn’t have been comfortable with.

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nor become all God wants me to be without the exchange of truth and grace that comes through godly friendships. . Our relationships either help or hinder us in our pursuit of God. Whether we like it or not, our friends shape who we are. 1 Corinthians 15:33 (NLT) cautions, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’ ” The Bible also warns

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that is actively pursuing God and seeking His will can’t help but be a positive influence, just as my friends in my small group were to me DAY 11

the bad and the ugly going on in their lives (regardless

which is rewarded by promotion and financial gain. This kind of

of how it impacts your own personal advancement), then

mindset often causes us to view our co-workers as people who

trusting,supportive relationships are built and understanding

can either help or hinder our professional advancement, often

and respect is bred in the workplace. As Christians, our goal

creating unhealthy relational practices and an unsupportive work

is to become more Christlike and to imitate Him in every area

environment. Unlike friendships, we generally don’t get to choose

of our lives. Philippians 2 goes on to reveal the one underlying

the people we work with. However, we do have to spend most

force for all relationships: “In your lives you must think and act

of our time with them — sometimes even more so than with our

like Christ Jesus. Christ Himself was like God in everything. But

own family and friends. So, how would God have us relate to our

He did not think that being equal with God was something to

co-workers? The Bible, especially the book of Proverbs, is full of

be used for His own benefit. … He gave up His place with God

principles about how to have positive interpersonal relationships.

and made Himself nothing” (Philippians 2:5–7, NCV). Only on

Two standouts related to developing healthy working relationships

the foundation of genuine humility will we be able to develop

are the principles of respect and care. Choosing to respect and value

positive, life-giving relationships with our co-workers. Being

the views, experience and gifts of others is critical to building God-

respectful towards others and genuinely caring for them are

honoring relationships in the workplace. One of my friends is a coach

acts of humility that cause us to become less self-focused in

in theNFL, and he coaches and leads some of the most talented

our workplace. Think for a moment about your workplace.

athletes in America. While talking with him one night, I asked, “How

Would your co-workers say you’re a respectful person? Would

do you coach a truly great athlete? Do you discuss the fundamentals

you be characterized as someone who genuinely cares about

of the game? Do you tell him to, ‘Take three steps this way, and hold

others? Do you add value to their lives? Consider what steps

the ball that way?’ What’s required to help a great athlete succeed?”

you can take to better reflect Christ to your co-workers.

Without hesitation, he replied, “Respect. You must respect each other’s experience, skills and approach.” Respecting our co-workers is easy when they’re likeable or we agree with them. But what about the really difficult people we work with? How do we respect those that don’t seem to deserve it? Ultimately, respecting others has very of time to honor God by honoring others. Philippians 2:3 (NCV) says, “When you do things, do not let selfishness or pride be your

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yourselves.” This verse speaks of going beyond respecting others God’s creation. Even with those we see as difficult or undeserving, we must make the effort to view them as God views them and value

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them accordingly, because respecting others is honoring to Him. Taking it a step further, the Bible also tells us to care for those around us— including those we work with. Philippians 2:4 (NKJV) says, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the well enough to know what’s going on in their lives — professionally and personally — and to really care. God wants you to live unselfishly

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with those around you and be concerned with their well-being. So take time to follow up with people. Ask how things are going with their house hunting or whether their sick child is feeling better. Let

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guide. Instead, be humble and give more honor to others than to

interests of others.” We need to take the time to get to know people __________________________________________________________

us not to “throw our pearls before swine.” In other words, don’t entrust the pearls of our hearts to unfaithful people. On the other hand, a friend

The typical American workplace is driven by high performance

for what they do and choosing to value them for who they are — __________________________________________________________

God taught me to be a better friend, and my friendships taught me a lot about God. Most importantly, I realized that I can’t live life to the fullest

hen others see that you’re concerned about the good,

little to do with agreement and much to do with deciding ahead __________________________________________________________

son could meet some new kids to play with. In spite of my motivation for joining the group, my new friends unknowingly coaxed me out of

Randy Cochran

them know you thought their last project or presentation was welldone. Simply offering your ear and heartfelt encouragement shows

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those around you that you care and value them. This in turn, creates an environment of trust. W

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God’s Family Business Cheri Cochran When you became a believer, God adopted you into His family and made you a co-heir with His Son Jesus. In addition, you also became a co-worker with Jesus in God’s family business. God’s family business? Maybe you never really thought of it that way, yet when He was a child, Jesus told His parents that He “must be about [His] Father’s business” (Luke 2:49, nkjv). Now this business isn’t like the ones we encounter on earth — focused on profit margins and market shares — but there are similarities between God’s business and those we might be more familiar with. So what exactly is God’s business? By sending Jesus to become the perfect sacrifice for us, God clearly defined His business — reconciling people to Himself. Jesus came to make a way for people to be made right with God and then passed the torch on to us to continue the work He began while on earth. It’s your responsibility now to reach unbelievers with the Good News. Just like Jesus, you

Hidden Gifts who were already saved. He looked past their sin and saw their worth. Jesus accepted people exactly as they were, but He didn’t leave them like that. The Bible tells us that Jesus repeatedly helped people because He was “moved with compassion.” He didn’t view people as projects or ways to earn brownie points with God. Jesus earned people’s trust by listening to them without judgment or condemnation. He earned their respect by treating them with respect, even when they didn’t deserve it. He spoke the truth, but always clothed it in love. Jesus paid close attention to the lost. In fact, He actively sought them out. If you’re a child of God, then you’re already representing Him whether you realize it or not. When others interact with you, do they want to be involved with your Father’s business? God has given you a sphere of influence — a territory so to speak — for you to work within on His behalf. How have you been doing at representing Him lately?

Amie Streater

the pick and mines our hearts, what He uncovers is always

God has made each of us unique. We all have special gifts and

flawless and eternal. Regardless of how long it takes you to

talents as well as weaknesses and insecurities. But when we’re in the

find them, rest assured that the gifts and talents God gives are

presence of really talented people, it’s easy to feel less than special.

forever. Ask Him to reveal them to you today.Ask Him to hone

Just look around: You may have a sibling who you think is better

and refine your talents. Then, give thanks to Him who makes

looking or one who seems smarter. Maybe you have co-workers who

you shine.

earn more than you do, or those who make difficult jobs look easy. If you’re not gifted with an immediately apparent talent, you might be tempted to wonder, “What am I good at?” If you struggle with identifying your gifts and talents, who better to take that question to than the One who knows us even better than we know ourselves? Psalm 139 says that God searches us and knows us. He knows our thoughts and our words. He is the One who knows which gifts and talents He’s given to us. I was raised by my wonderful Christian she talked to me about going to college some day, she always made it sound like it was a certainty, even though we both knew we didn’t

— His representative in the family business. How, then, do we go

have the money. However, as an insecure, 15-year-old, high school ___________________________________________________________

It all starts by aligning our lives with God’s purpose. In essence, our purpose as believers is to know God and make Him known. Our relationships with others either help or hinder our worship of God. In the same way, what we do impacts others’ interaction with God. Just like a single encounter with a poor or pushy salesperson

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determines whether or not an individual will ever do business with their company, the way we engage with unbelievers as God’s representatives either influences them towards the Lord or away from Him. But we’re not mere salespeople in a heavenly sales force. God isn’t asking us to “sell” Christianity or convince people to become saved. The power of the Gospel message is inherent. Our job is to simply share the message of Jesus and represent Him

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Not only is what they do important, how they go about doing it is also important. For example, Chick-fi l-A, founded by Truett Cathy, was built upon the principle of putting faith and family first. That’s

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why Chick-fi l-A is never open on Sundays. Though Truett Cathy’s children have since taken over the business, the foundational principles upon which Chick-fi l-A was built still remain. They have stayed true to the how, not just the what. We know that what we are to do in God’s business is share the message of the Gospel with those who do not yet believe. But how should we go about doing that? To discover the answer, we need to look no further

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business in the forefront of His mind and didn’t allow Himself to become distracted with less important things. He purposefully

wasn’t a math whiz or a computer geek. And I sure couldn’t sing. In fact, the director of our church’s youth choir politely asked me to play the handbells! And athletics? Forget about it.With every passing someday soon I’d have to take care of her and support us both. So

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could do really well that would allow me to take care of myself and support my grandmother. God, in His goodness, already knew what that I try out for the high school newspaper. She told me I was a

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good writer, something I’d never heard before. I landed a spot on the newspaper and in no time was made an editor. My junior year in high school, I tried out for one of only 20 spots in a summer journalism workshop program. Not only did I get a spot, but at the end of the program, I was awarded one of only three college scholarships to reporter for more than a decade, until God called me into full-time

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ministry. Now I get to experience the amazing blessings of giving the gifts He’s given to me back to His people every day. Are you frustrated because you don’t recognize the gifts within you? Some for someone to come along and pick us up. Our talents are there, on

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display, for the whole world to see and enjoy. Others are like amazing geodes you have to chip away and crack at to get to all of the beauty inside. But once you do, their capabilities are simply remarkable. Still others have talents that have to be mined like diamonds. Their gifts

pursued relationships with unbelievers. He wasn’t repelled by their

are buried deep inside, and it takes years of work to bring their true

sinfulness nor did He expect heathen people to behave like those

beauty to the surface. But when God, our loving Father, wields

DAY 13

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one night, I got on my knees and asked God to give me something I

of us are like gleaming chunks of gold lying in a stream just waiting

than Jesus. He’s our operational model. So start by asking, “What was His approach?” Jesus always kept the purpose of His Father’s

grades, I certainly wasn’t in the running for class valedictorian. I

study journalism — it was a full scholarship! I excelled as a newspaper __________________________________________________________

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prettiest or most popular girl in school. And although I made good

that thing was. A few weeks later, my English teacher suggested

well. Truly great businesses don’t just have valuable products or services, they also run based on certain foundational principles.

student, I found myself beginning to doubt her words. I wasn’t the

day, I watched my grandmother growing older, and I knew that __________________________________________________________

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grandmother who always told me I could do anything. Whenever

are here “to seek and save the lost.” You are Christ’s ambassador about putting God first in our relationship with those who are lost?

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Work Matters John Spurling I was raised in a family with a strong work ethic. You were expected to work long and hard. You earned your income by being on time, doing your job and staying out of trouble. Great value was placed on being honest and above reproach. It was the way to get ahead in life. Through the example he set, my father taught us those principles. He worked for the same company for over 40 years. In that time, he made his way up through the ranks from a part-time night janitor to the general superintendent in charge of all operations for a large meat processing plant that employed over three thousand people. As I was making my way through college and then graduate school, I spent my summer and winter breaks working as a clerk in the beef cooler department at the slaughterhouse where my dad worked. Not a very glamorous job to be sure, but it paid well. Each morning during the summer, I made my way into work at 3:30 am to start my day. It was a cold -10°f in the beef coolers, so staying awake wasn’t really much of a problem. But what I learned through those work experiences has helped shape my views on the value of work. I’ve also come to better understand the call of God to apply myself to whatever

The Toothpaste Principle The Apostle Paul writes, “Whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17, NLT). Therefore, we need to strive for excellence in the workplace regardless of the specific nature or pay scale associated with our jobs. For Christians, there’s no such thing as a truly secular job. If God is our ultimate employer and if we’re given unique opportunities in the marketplace to be an example and witness for the Lord, then we must conclude that through our daily work there is a true sense of calling behind our vocation. Because we’re called to honor God in all things, how we approach our current job situations or vocations has deep spiritual significance. We need to examine how we’re preparing ourselves for each new workday. Be sure to take time on your way to work this week to remind yourself who you ultimately work for and look for opportunities to represent the Lord in your dealings with others. ___________________________________________________________

reality of life in the slaughterhouse has taught me a great deal about how each of us should approach the work we do each day. As we reflect on our everyday jobs, there are several scriptural

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principles we need to remind ourselves of from time to time that serve as the fundamental motivation behind the work we do. First, and most importantly, we need to remember who it is we really work for. As the Apostle Paul shared with the church at Colossae: “Work from the heart for your real Master …. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ” (Colossians 3:23– 24, MSG). There is an intrinsic value that God applies to work, and

Through our work, we are able to care for the needs of our family as well as the needs of others (Ephesians 4:28). Actually, the Bible even goes so far as to say, “If anyone does not provide for his

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strong words reflect just how serious the Lord is when it comes to the importance of working and caring for our family. The work we do must also have a greater purpose behind it than simply making money and paying bills. It’s important for each of us to not only understand that who we ultimately work for matters, but also that

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the work we do (Proverbs 12:14; Colossians 1:10). We are called to approach our work with the awareness that we’re representatives and witnesses for the Lord wherever we go. DAY 15

says, “All that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head over all.” As part of the study, my husband and I signed a deed acknowledging that everything we “owned,” from the house, kids and cars down to the dog, cats and Cheetos in the pantry, really belonged to God, and we were just the caretakers. Having engaged for the first time in a study of

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good about ourselves. However, in spite of the confidence I had in my ability to grasp this simple principle, God (as He so often does) began to reveal areas where I wasn’t honoring Him first as owner of all. When we moved into our new home, we set aside a space

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to do volunteer financial counseling and we designed the layout of our living room with the intention of hosting Bible study groups. Whenever I saw a need, I would give someone a ride in the car God had entrusted to us. We were doing great at all the big stuff . It home to me one day as I was tossing a tube of toothpaste that was still a quarter full into the trash can. As I watched the tube fall

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and began to turn away, something stirred in my spirit. Suddenly, God reminded me of another scripture I had dutifully memorized yet failed to live: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will

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handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?” (Luke 16:10–12, NIV). Those who know me best know that I love the latest and greatest. I love a toothpaste that promises to make my teeth so white you’ll need sunglasses when I smile. That quarter full tube of toothpaste still had

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value. By throwing it away so I could use the new stuff , I was tossing out something God had provided for me — I was being wasteful. So I fi shed the tube out of the trash and finished it, down to the very last dab. And then I kept the empty, crumpled package in my bathroom

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“The Toothpaste Principle.” It is simply this: God wants us to squeeze every bit of goodness out of everything He blesses us with. Then, and only then, will He move us onto the next great thing. Being a good steward means so much more than just being careful with your money. It involves living your life in a way that squeezes every bit of

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what the Bible says about money and possessions, we felt pretty

drawer for more than a year as a daily reminder of what I now call ___________________________________________________________

how we work matters. God has determined that there is a deeper, inherent value in the honest, hard-working eff ort we apply to

God has given you.

stewardship, I made the effort to memorize 1 Chronicles 29:11, which

trying new things, whether it’s a hot new restaurant, a cool car or ___________________________________________________________

relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8, niv). Those

Several years ago, while going through a small group study on

also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in ___________________________________________________________

the Bible is replete with challenges to be diligent in the work we do and not be lazy (Proverbs 12:27; 13:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:10).

stuff . Commit today to squeeze every blessing out of the life

was the little things that were tripping us up. God drove this point __________________________________________________________

work I do with integrity and a deep commitment to do my work with excellence. In my preparation for vocational ministry, the

Amie Streater

goodness possible from every single moment. Only then can you fully experience all of the joy God has for you and fully share the love

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of Christ with others. The latest and greatest usually isn’t any better than what’s in front of us right now. Are there ways in which you’re violating The Toothpaste Principle? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you areas in which you’re throwing away some of the good

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Act Your Wage Amie Streater Part of my job involves teaching about financial stewardship, and I often hear Christians who are experiencing financial distress lament, “Why did God let this happen to us?” It’s a question I fully

Phys Ed ___________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________

understand asking, because it’s one I’ve asked myself. And while it’s not easy, the answer is simple: God has promised to meet all of our needs, not our greeds. He promises us food, not the ability to eat out in restaurants ten times a week. He promises us shelter, not a fancy house in a prestigious neighborhood. He promises us

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symptom of something else. For most of us, financial problems are symptomatic of a life spent following the world’s standard and succumbing to the notion that we “deserve” to have the latest and greatest, and we deserve it now! Like spoiled little children, we waste prayer time pleading for a larger house, a nicer car or whatever is

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the next bigger and better thing. Then, when the money doesn’t come, we run ahead of God and fund lifestyle improvements with credit that sinks us into a painful financial hole. Credit card in hand, we thank God for His provision. When the bills come, we drop to our knees and ask, “Why, God, why?” Good stewardship sure isn’t

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easy, but it is simple: Give first. Save second. Live on the rest. That’s a biblical financial plan that will always yield good results. But it’s not one you’ll find most of your friends, neighbors and co-workers following. When the temptation to make a purchase strikes, pause and practice contentment and thankfulness. Ask yourself if you really need the item or if you already have something that will do. Is this thing going to bless your family or cause more stress? Lastly,

money? You know,the green paper stuff . God has given us a good gauge by which to plan the lifestyle He wants us to have. It’s called our income. If our spending exceeds our income, it’s not a lack

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God does want us to have nice things, and He does admonish us to care for our families. But we have to honor Him first. We have to save for the future, and we have to live within our means on what ever’s left over. If this is an area where you struggle, ask the Holy Spirit to begin working in your heart today. Ask Him for the

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remember to act your wage!

often-overlooked area is our physical bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19 (nlt)

downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your

says, “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you

hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God!”

and was given to you by God. You do not belong to yourself.”

(Psalm 42:5–6, niv).

It’s important to see your body as a temple — a sanctuary — for God’s presence to dwell. Are you being diligent to take care of

Live a life of purity. The most important key to managing your

His sanctuary?

body is living a life of purity. Your thoughts, how you view others and how you live out your life are all important factors

There are a number of ways we can become better stewards of our

to living this life of purity. In fact, Paul says that “no other sin so

bodies: Eat right. What are you eating? Too much? Not enough?

clearly affects the body as [sexual sin]. For sexual immorality

If so, are you eating enough of the right types of food? Because

is a sin against your own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18, nlt). Submit

so many diets are on the market now, finding answers to these

your thoughts, your desires and your actions to the Lord. Pray

questions can be perplexing. One of the easiest ways to eat right

for purity in the deepest parts of your life. God has given us

is by simply listening to your body. How do you feel after you eat?

His Spirit to live in us (John 14:17). Our bodies are His temple,

Are you too full? Do you feel sick? Let your body be your gauge.

and we’re called to be diligent in stewarding our bodies for His

Exercise. Do you have a physically active lifestyle? How often do

glory. May He receive greater honor in our lives as we continue

you exercise? Do you have a hobby that involves a healthy level of

to build a temple in which His glory can dwell.

physical activity? Incorporating physical activity into your life is very

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important. The Bible even tells us that “physical training is good” (1 Timothy 4:8, NLT). Not only does it help strengthen your heart and stress. As you exercise, your endorphin levels rise, thus giving you a greater sense of calm and relaxation in your life. When I exercise

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often long for days of simpler times — the good ol’ days when we days can be here again. We can’t just wait for these days to come; we must proactively simplify our lives. Are you giving yourself enough to-day work and activities so consuming that you don’t have time to enjoy life? You are the manager of your life, your very own CEO. How does God want you to manage your personal life? Are you driving rest and reflect? Stress is an often-overlooked enemy to our physical health. It’s a major cause of heart disease, stroke and other physical

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Build margins into your day-to-day schedule by making sure to

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Take a Sabbath day once a week. This will recharge you, give you

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some much-needed down time and get you ready for the week ahead. God made the Sabbath for you (Mark 2:27).

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Get enough sleep. Most people need around eight hours of sleep a night in order to function properly throughout the day. Make

DAY 17

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schedule times of rest and reflection.

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ailments. I can’t overstate just how much stress has an effect on your physical health.Here are some simple steps:

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down time? Have you built margins into your life? Or are your day-

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regularly, I’m better able to handle stressful situations. Simplify. We

yourself to the point of exhaustion, or do you allow yourself time to __________________________________________________________

courage to model a lifestyle of honesty and integrity, in keeping with the income He has blessed you with. And last but not least …

God for help. David said it best when he said, “Why are you

had time to enjoy the small things in life. The truth is the good ol’ __________________________________________________________

of provision; it’s a lack of good stewardship. If you’re repeatedly battling with financial difficulties, have a talk with God about why.

God calls us to be good stewards over every aspect of our lives. One

burn fat, exercise builds energy levels while diminishing emotional __________________________________________________________

look at your bank balance. Do you have the money? I’m not talking about room to charge more on your credit card; do you have the

Take your stress to God. When stressful times come, look to

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clothing, not the latest fashions. At its core, a financial problem is never just inherently a financial problem. Rather, it’s always a

Thomas Miller

sure you go to bed early enough to get the sleep you need. Stress becomes more amplified when you don’t get enough sleep.

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Creation Care John Spurling The year was 1970, and I was in the third grade at Holy Ghost Catholic School. I remember sitting in Sister Gerelda’s art class one day on the second floor of that old school building. As a class, we were busy making artwork for the first ever Earth Day in America. In fact, we had been busy throughout the entire school year with projects and programs all focused around cleaning up America and conserving our natural resources. I even went door to door that summer collecting old newspapers in my red wagon for the recycling drive. There was also a very popular public service announcement (psa) airing during that time on every television station (40 years ago it was a grand total of four or five stations). It showed a Native American in a canoe paddling his way across a trash-contaminated river to a trash-filled shore. Then, at the end of the psa, he was standing next to a busy freeway as someone threw trash out their window and it landed at his feet. As he turned

The Signicance of the Small Even though we as humans are at the top of God’s creative order, our dominion over the earth and all living things implies that our existence is supported within a fragile dependency on all of God’s creation to nurture and sustain us. Therefore, we must learn to place appropriate priority on our care and conservation of the earth and its resources. At the same time, our stewardship of the earth should never be a higher concern than providing for human life and our compassion for other human beings. God’s creation has been given to us for our use and to benefit us in building healthy, productive lives. Part of our responsibility is to find the balance between conservation and human expansion; between protection of the environment and the proper usage of it. Remember, God looked over the beauty of His creation and declared it was good. It is up to each of us to be good stewards of all He has created. And as we do, perhaps we will bring a tear of joy to God’s eye.

toward the camera, you noticed a single tear falling down the side of his weather-worn face. Then the announcer said, “People start pollution; people can stop it.” Over the years, that simple psa consistently ranks as one of the most memorable public service

thirty or forty years? Have we become a less wasteful nation? Are we more mindful of our environment? And do Christians possess some moral responsibility to care for the earth God created?

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humans are making on the earth. Global warming, conservation, air pollution and urban expansion represent only a few of the environmental concerns making headlines today. We’re called by God to be good stewards of the finances, talents, gifts, resources and physical bodies He’s given us. But what about our stewardship

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earth? The answer, of course, is yes! In the creation story told in the book of Genesis, we see that God gave man and woman dominion over all the earth and the animals when He created them. Not only

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of the creative hand of God, and as He looked over the results of His handiwork, He declared that it was good (Genesis 1:31). Then He instructed Adam to care for the land and to cultivate it (Genesis 2:15). But does that give us the freedom to use the earth for whatever purpose we choose? Or is there something more to

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dominate and destroy for one’s own pleasure; rather, it’s expressed as something God has entrusted to us. As the psalmist writes, “The

wedding there the night before, but the cleaning crew had forgotten to sweep the sidewalks. He went into his office to prepare for worship when there was a knock at his door. The senior pastor, holding a broom, asked him to sweep the sidewalks before everyone arrived. Not wanting to be openly rebellious, he took the broom and went outside to sweep, but he did so in a huff . As he swept, he began to angrily remind God that he was called to influence the nations.

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the sidewalks! Before he finished sweeping, God spoke to him and said,“How can I trust you with the nations if I can’t trust you with the sidewalks?” God often orchestrates beautiful opportunities for us to see our own hearts. In fact, whatever you’re doing right now has

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been orchestrated by God with two things in mind. First, He wants to much (to you). Secondly, He wants to prepare you for something teaching us to “not despise the day of small beginnings”(Zechariah 4:10). When we think about the issue of stewardship, we don’t automatically realize that part of what God calls us to steward is

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our scope of influence, and many of us would like a broader scope of people to influence. In and of itself, that’s not a bad thing. It’s part of being made in God’s image and likeness. But what happens to convinced that God has forgotten us. Joseph was in prison while

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God was preparing him to rule over the entire Egyptian kingdom. David was watching sheep while God was developing him into a king. I’m sure it didn’t feel like kingly preparation for both of them to. In his book, Can You Stand To Be Blessed?, T.D. Jakes writes that the ability to walk in the blessings of the Lord and our full potential is tied to our ability to discern the prerequisites for success. If we’re

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not fully prepared for the influence God desires to give us, we may well find ourselves promoted to a place we cannot maintain. Our preparation for greater influence,while difficult, is a gift from God, out demons and healing the sick. That came much later in His life.

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He fi rst had to learn obedience through the things that caused Him to suffer (Hebrews 5:8). Many of those things were so small they weren’t even recorded in Scripture. But they were extremely significant, because they prepared Jesus for great things later. What

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Surely somebody with “less of a call” should be asked to sweep

just as much as the promotion will be later. Jesus wasn’t born casting

understanding what God intended when He gave us dominion over all the earth? Our authority as caretakers isn’t a license to

prepared for greater influence than you can ever imagine!

at the time. But God always has purpose in everything He calls us

was this charge given to Adam and Eve, but to all the descendants that followed them (Genesis 1:26–28). The earth is an expression

— especially the small things — as unto the Lord. You’re being

a Sunday morning to fi nd the sidewalks a mess. There had been a

most of us is that, during the day of small beginnings, we become

of the earth He created? Should we give conscious consideration to our responsibility to steward the resources that exist here on

Years ago, the youth pastor of a large church arrived for church on

greater. Through Scripture and our circumstances, God is constantly

Across the landscape of America, heated debates rage around topics related to the environment and the adverse impact we as

that seemed small to him but was great to God. Do everything

see if you’ll be faithful with things that may not seem to matter very

announcements in television history. But that raises a series of important questions: Has anything really changed over the past

Marcus Brecheen

are the things in your life that seem small? Regardless of what it is, you have influence there. Remember the youth pastor who swept the sidewalks? He learned a great lesson that Sunday morning, and

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today he preaches to thousands of people around the world. His education that morning was in the classroom of humility, in a thing

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earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1, NLT). DAY 19

DAY 20


Parenting by The Book As parents, there is very little we can call our own. Our time is not our own—“Mommy I need you to come here!” Our sleep is not our own—“Mom, are you awake?” Our food is not our own—“Can I have a bite of that?” The demands of parenting require us to sacrifice our possessions, our dreams and yes, even our relationships. When it comes to raising children, we have to make the choice to die to ourselves each and every day. Even as I sit here writing, my 18-month-old daughter has just ground a half-eaten plum into the carpet with her dainty (and now slimy) foot and is tracking it across the floor.

He Said, She Said Don’t settle for just being an occasional companion to your children; become one of their most trusted advisers and closest friends. Walk by their sides through every season and stage of life. Take the time to influence and mold your child’s heart for eternity—share secrets, make life decisions together, discuss spiritual lessons learned and show them God’s power in everything so that He becomes real and alive to them. Then rejoice in what God is doing in both them and in you. ___________________________________________________________

Ed and Bethani Funderburk

I encourage him as he shares with me what he has accomplished

On our wedding day, Ed’s stepdad was overheard saying, “They’re

at work. I offer positive feedback when I have the privilege of

like two little banty roosters. I’m not sure they’re both going to come

hearing him preach. In short, I am his cheerleader—his #1 fan.

out of this alive!” Unlike Ed, I’m not, by nature, a neatnik. Over time, however, I’ve The newness of our love for one another blinded us to the keen

learned the value of putting things back where they belong

observation he was making at the time, but about six months into

and having a plan for my day. Although there are still times

our marriage, the feathers began to fly! We were both headstrong,

when I release my inner slob for my own sanity, as much as life

stubborn and emotionally immature. However, God’s grace and

allows, I try to make our home a place of order and peace so

compassion, coupled with a lot of hard work, has helped us redeem

that he can relax after a long day at work.

those qualities. We’ve become passionate people with strong My husband, Marcus, and I literally have hundreds of books on

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our bookshelves, and one of our most-used books is Parenting Isn’t For Cowards by James Dobson. The very title points to the enormous tasks and numerous trials we as parents encounter on a daily basis, and time and time again this book has brought us great comfort. But as great of a resource as this book has been to

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Marcus and me, nothing compares to the wisdom, encouragement and instruction we receive from “The Book”—God’s Word. In John 12:24–25 (msg), Jesus said, “Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone

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Although you may not see it now, the sacrifices you make day in and day out are like tiny seeds that will one day produce great fruit. Learn to look past the dirty diapers to the lives your little ones will

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reach for God’s glory. Look beyond the hours spent carpooling towards the faith in God they will inspire in others. Look over the horizon and catch a glimpse of how their actions will influence eternity. Whenever it feels difficult, tell the Holy Spirit, “I can’t do one minute of this day without You. I need You to come in, and I need You to take over. Put me behind Your cross, Lord Jesus, and let me be You to my children.” I am absolutely convinced that in the midst of all the things you do each day with your children—whether it’s boring, burdensome or brimming with hope—you have a choice to make. Will you choose to allow Jesus to birth something beautiful in you, or will

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In his book, The Influence of a Father, Tom Lane says, “The first work of God in your life is to guide you to discover your uniqueness in Him. Therefore, your first responsibility as a parent is to help your children find their significance.”

makes me giggle when I think of him checking his email between meetings and finding a surprise that just might make

HE SAID …

him blush!

Bethani and I are complete opposites. I’m conservative and rather

Ed loves Major League Baseball. He always arranges to be

bland. She’s spontaneous and creative. I like things neat and orderly.

home on Opening Day to watch several games. To make that

I organize my socks by color … I even organize my M&M’s by color

day special for him, I create a concession stand filled with his

before I eat them. But being wired differently doesn’t mandate

favorite snack foods. I decorate with baseball-themed plates,

conflict; rather, it gently forces you to think about life differently.

make signs with prices for the snacks and have plenty of play money on hand for him to spend. I arrange his favorite chair,

I choose to value Bethani’s contribution to our family and marriage

hat and newspapers, then allow him to have the entire day as

as equal to my own. When my desk is full of tasks that need to be

free from interruption as possible.

completed, yet I know that dinner will be ready at 6:30 pm, I make sure I’m home in time to eat dinner with my family. This simple act

f you’re experiencing less than you desire in your marriage,

shows honor and respect for her work at home.

we want you to know it’s truly possible to be more than just roommates. God has so much more for you and your

When our boys were young, the time I spent with them following

marriage. Preferring one another will do wonders for your

dinner gave Bethani a break from the exhausting full-time job of

relationship (Romans 12:9–10).

mothering. She enjoyed being able to clean up after dinner in a quiet kitchen without little ones underfoot. Now that they’re older, one

If you aren’t sure where to start, here’s a helpful mental

of the most romantic things I can do is wash the dishes while we

exercise. On the way home from the office, make the

discuss the happenings of our days.

deliberate decision to take off your “work hat” and replace it with your “spouse and parent hat.” Above all, remember

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you choose to just exist for another 24 hours and start over again tomorrow?

One of my favorite things to do is send Ed “flirty emails.” It

ways to strengthen our marriage by preferring one another.

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who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.”

convictions and teachable hearts. We’ve also learned some practical

Time together is often hard to find.I make it a priority to take my

the triple A’s: Affirm, Admire, Appreciate. Do so verbally, in

wife on a date at least two times a month. Although we may end up

written communication and through your actions, then see

discussing life issues, I try to make it an intentional time to reconnect

the marriage you desire come to be!

with her romantically. Bethani really enjoys spending time with close girlfriends, and I love giving her that opportunity. Several times a year, she and a friend

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go out of town to shop for an entire day while I spend the day with

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our boys. _________________________________________________________ SHE SAID … One of the most important things I learned early in our marriage was to express my love for Ed in ways that he receives it. I regularly tell Ed how grateful I am for all he does to

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provide for our family. DAY 21

DAY 22


Rest Easy

Genesis Marcus Brecheen

goes on around you today — things you can see and things

One of the greatest delights of my life is that my hometown of

you cannot. Off er yourself as an extension of heaven into a

Abilene, Texas, is the exact geographical center of the world. This

world desperately in need of God’s love. You’ll be surprised

is a true but little-known fact that I’m proud of. From Abilene,

what God will build into a day that begins well.

the center of the world, you can go exactly anywhere around the globe and the maximum distance wouldn’t be more than twelve thousand miles. We all begin life thinking we’re the center of the

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universe. Ronald Reagan once compared government to a little baby. They have an insatiable hunger at one end, and absolutely no responsibility at the other. And when you’re a baby, everybody thinks that’s cute. But it’s not so cute if it’s still true twenty years later. For all of us, life begins with a profound belief that we’re the center of all things. But at some point, by the grace of God, we figure out the truth … it’s not about you. Here’s why it’s not

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the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” Before we were formed in our mother’s womb, God knew us inside and out. The beginning — the genesis — of

God gives light to us. And just as a day without the sun would be dark, more so would a day be without Jesus. This is illustrated in Michael Card’s song “Morning Prayer”: We wanted to give You this morning, Lord. We wanted to give You this

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You, It’s exciting to think what it means. That You would choose us, and use us, and call us Your own. That You would love us, and give us a new song to sing. In order to give You the whole of the day,

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to give You this morning, Lord,We wanted to give You this day. My wife, Lexa, sings this song to our little ones in the morning while

to become less busy. You know the time I didn’t have to slow

pace. And it’s been that way for almost as long as I can remember.

down, to rest? Well, now I’m making the time. I’ve realized that

However, I do remember a time when I would take a day of rest.

part of becoming more like Christ involves taking time to rest.

Growing up, my parents instilled in me the value of going to church

It was an effort at first, but it’s a necessary part of life. It’s the

and dedicating the first day of the week to the Lord — they instilled

only way I can exist. It’s the only way I can truly experience

in me the importance of a Sabbath. In our home, Sunday was “rest

peace and calm in my life. Are you ready to rest in the loving

day.” Every Sunday we’d go to church, come home, eat lunch, and

arms of your heavenly Father? Are you ready to receive the

then each of us would retreat to our own rooms for a nap — a time of

blessings that only come from resting in Him? I know I am!

rest. Our Sunday nights were filled with family time, going to church or just spending a relaxing evening at home. I always seemed to start

Where it all got mixed up and crazy, I don’t know. Everywhere I look, I’m noticing just how busy people are. Yet, I’ve also been hearing a lot about the importance of rest … Sabbath rest, to be specific.

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but it seems like everything I’ve read lately talks about how we magazine, and half the magazine was dedicated to showing women how to slow down their lives, take time for themselves and simply

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and just“be.” It’s like everyone, everywhere just needs one bigSTOP existence. In Genesis 2:2–3 (NLT), we read, “On the seventh day God had finished His work of creation, so He rested from all His work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when He rested from all His work of creation.” Why would

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an omnipotent God — who never sleeps, nor slumbers — rest? Is it possible that God our Father knows we need to rest, and therefore, us? God, our heavenly Father, took time to rest after creating the world. Did you hear me? The world! So why on earth can’t we take

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time out of our busy lives to stop, spend time with Him and honor

they’re waking up. They sit in a rocking chair, cuddling and enjoying

Him on the Sabbath? Just as God entered into rest on the seventh

one another’s complete and undivided attention. This is a picture

day, we too are supposed to enter into rest. He doesn’t just ask us

of how God wants to be with you. Do you see yourself sitting in

to do it; He commands us to do it(Hebrews 4:1–11). How many of us

your heavenly Father’s lap, being delighted in? That’s what He

are missing the opportunity to rest with God? Now understand that

does; He delights in you! How you begin each day is important,

it’s not as important when you take your day of Sabbath, but that

because the rest of your day is affected by it. The genesis of each

you actually do take a day of rest and dedicate it to the Lord. We

day — the morning — will bring you word of God’s unfailing love

must take a day out of the week to be still, worship God and rest.

when you cast all of your cares on Him. You may not know how the

Our souls are crying out for this. We need rest. We are made in the

rest of this day will go, but the one thing you do know is that you’ll

image of God. God rested. And the Bible tells us that even Jesus,

never be alone. The same holds true for this week, this month and

God’s Son, rested: “The apostles then rendezvoused with Jesus and

this year: how it begins can determine how it goes. Today, all the

reported on all that they had done and taught. Jesus said, ‘Come off

fullness of God is being off ered and made available to you. Ask

by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest.’ For there was

God to give you a holy awareness of all that

constant coming and

DAY 23

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… relax. Even the world knows how important it is to take a day

out of His love for us, He literally lies down one day a week beside __________________________________________________________

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Not only are more and more pastors teaching about this subject,

sign! There are important reasons why Sabbath rest is crucial to our ___________________________________________________________

We must give You this fi rst special part. The sun as it rises reminds us of You, A day without You is like a day in the dark. We wanted

to slow down, to just rest. My life is constantly moving at a fast

need to “slow down and rest.” In fact, I just read a popular woman’s __________________________________________________________

day. Thanks for the Son, and the light in our hearts. There are so many things we need to say. As we look to a new day to spend with

MSG). I’ve decided to make a change in my life. I’ve decided

out my week the right way — honoring the Lord through Sabbath.

something always determines its future. That’s why beginnings are so important. Just as the sun gives light to the earth, the Son of

going. They didn’t even have time to eat” (Mark 6:30–31,

I am always busy. Always in a hurry. It seems like there’s never time

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about you — you did not begin with you. You began with God. Psalm 139:16 (niv) says, “Your eyes saw my unformed body. All

Stacy Burnett

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DAY 24


The Unnamed Song

Hammock Time Zach Neese

It doesn’t strengthen our marriages. It doesn’t enhance

Do you know what hammocks are for?

our communities. It doesn’t protect our children.

When I was a kid, we had a hammock down by the woods. The

Busyness only devours our souls.

neighborhood kids would take turns trying to swing each other all the way around. My mom would call down from the house, “If you

That is why God created mankind in a garden, not on

keep doing that, somebody’s gonna get hurt!” But everyone knows

a hamster wheel. One of the best-loved passages in

that mothers are limited by their misunderstanding of mortality.

the Bible is Psalm 23. In it, I’ve found the antidote for a

We children were enlightened. We were invincible. We’d lay down

frantic, withered life. It begins, “The Lord is my shepherd,

in the hammock and hold the sides closed, cocooned in our hemp

I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green

rope space capsule, and take off . We didn’t want to swing; we

pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores

wanted to fl y! We wanted to go around the world! Finally, one day,

my soul” (Psalm 23:1–3, NIV). The balm for my anxious,

one of our hammock-ronauts saw his dreams fulfilled. Four of us

hurried heart lies in answering my Father’s invitation to

were pushing Billy with grim determination, and the boosters fired.

be quiet, trust Him to be God and rest. I have a feeling

Both ropes broke at once with a crisp snap, and Billy was flicked

that God is waiting for you in a hammock somewhere.

like a rubber band into the woods and swallowed up by a wall of

You won’t need a computer or a television. Don’t take

Missouri jungle. History was made. Pants were split with laughter.

a book or an iPod. Leave your work at the door. In fact,

But Billy wasn’t laughing. He was hurt! Many of us have misused

don’t bring anything with you that would compete with

our hammock time with similar results. No one is invincible. If you

God for your attention — nothing that speaks louder than

don’t use your hammock to do what it was created to do, you

a whisper. You don’t have to be afraid of the quiet. Your

will eventually get hurt.Hammocks are not for activity; they’re for

Father is waiting for you there.

Thomas Miller

So why should we be creative? What’s the point? Romans

It’s always fun being creative. Well, almost always. I actually hate

1:20 says that God’s “invisible attributes are clearly seen, being

love the creative process. Sometimes, I feel my creative efforts come

understood by the things that are made, even His eternal

together;other times, I’m afraid they come across as clumsy and

power and Godhead.” When we’re creative, we allow the Lord

presumptuous. I remember the first worship song I wrote at Gateway

to show His power, His splendor, His glory and His personality

Church back in the summer of 2002. It had been a few years since I had

through the things that we make. By getting out of the rut

written a song. Gateway was young and exploding, and all of my extra

of the same-ol’, same-ol’ and allowing God to use us in new

energies — creative and otherwise — were devoted to helping build the

and creative ways, His power can break through our everyday

church and expand God’s kingdom. Finally, I decided to carve out some

lives and He can display His greatness in fresh ways. Do you

good quality time to craft a song that spoke of my amazement of God’s

have a business decision to make where you could use some

love. I wrote the song — which will remain unnamed — and introduced it

creative energy? Do you have a desire to show God’s creativity

to the congregation in worship. You know what? It flopped! The meter

in the arts? Do you want to convey a message in a new and

was all over the place, the words were hard to sing, and on top of it all,

engaging way? Do you need a solution to a relational, personal

it was boring. Yes,there were cobwebs on my creativity. Have you ever

or managerial situation? Whoever you are and whatever it is,

done something über-creative, only to discover that your creativity:

God can shine through you. He has created you with a creative ability and has invited you into the creative process. When you

Was misunderstood?

exercise your God given creativity, He validates your creativity

Wasn’t widely received?

by showing His glory! I still love writing songs. Although some

Was treated as common?

songs “work” and some songs don’t, that’s okay. I’ve learned

Wasn’t that good?

that through it all God loves it when I exercise my creativity

inactivity. The musical term used in Psalms for inactivity is selah. Most scholars agree that selah means “to pause.” Why would you want to pause right in the middle of a song? Because no one can really appreciate the beauty and power of a big ending without

and He loves to show me more of Himself through the creative _________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________

first experiencing a pregnant stillness. Without the pause, or still moment, a song would just be a monotonous cacophony. Maybe you can relate. For many of us, our daily lives have become like songs without a selah. And the cacophony is killing us. There is always something on TV, on the radio, on our iPods or the Internet. There’s always something to do at the office, in the kitchen, in the

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alarm clock to lights out, there is no pause, no stillness. It can feel like being spun around the world in a hammock. At first the pace is exhilarating. The thrill is even addictive. But eventually all that

Why do we let ourselves become overly busy? We’re not saved by our own activity. Isaiah 30:15 says, “In repentance and rest is your salvation.”Jesus did all the work for us on the cross. All we have to do is repent and believe. We don’t develop faith through

of doing anything creative because you don’t think you have what failure or you fear what others will think? One of the greatest things about being a Christian is that we are indelibly linked to the ultimate Creative Genius. As you begin to read the Bible, it doesn’t take more than fi ve words to discover that God is a creative mastermind: “In the

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likeness (Genesis 1:27) and now lives in us (John 17:23), we’re given an inherent supernatural creative ability that comes from God. Not only are you born with this creative ability, you have the Master Creator living in you! God started Adam’s creative juices flowing when He had him

than struggling to control our own lives. In fact, there’s not a single aspect of our lives that is enhanced by busyness.

Thus, God invited Adam into the creative process. “He brought [the animals] to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever

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the man called each living creature, that was its name” (Genesis 2:19, niv). Did you notice what happened when Adam used his creativity to name each animal? Look at it again. “ … Whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.” Talk about some major validation

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from God! It was as if God was saying, “You want to call that animal a _________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________

DAY 25

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name all the animals. God created the animals; Adam named them.

‘giraffe?’ Great. ‘Giraffe’ it is.”Notice the progression?

our own activity. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Only by being still do we learn to trust Him to be God rather

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beginning God created ….” And seeing that God created us in His own

spinning makes you dizzy. Finally the ropes fray,and someone gets hurt. I’ve done it, and everyone I loved got “flicked into the woods.”

process … even on the unnamed songs.

ever be “good enough”? Have you ever been hesitant or even afraid it takes? Have you stopped being creative because you’re afraid of

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yard, at school or at church. The voices of our lives are so loud and insistent, we become deaf to the still,small voice of God. From

I’ve been there … a lot. Have you ever wondered if your creativity will

God creates Adam with creative ability. God invites Adam into the creative process.

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Adam exercises his creativity. God validates Adam’s creativity.

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DAY 26


Carpe Diem

Fun-O-Meter Tom Lane

childhood — trust, humility, simplicity, innocence, wonder —

As a grandfather, I’m gaining a new appreciation for childhood.

are not separate from a life of playfulness, but the fruit of it:

When I observe my grandchildren’s energy for life, I’m reminded

that apart from cartwheels and kite flying, leapfrog and hide-

that there is an untainted desire for fun and entertainment

and-seek, snakes and ladders and digging for buried treasure,

hardwired into our psyche from the time we’re born. Recently,

all those other things wither.” The virtues God desires to form

my entire family went to the hospital to visit some friends who

in us were never intended to be developed in an environment

had just had a baby. We were all quietly sitting in the reception

devoid of fun. If your life seems stale, withered and mundane,

room when, suddenly, my grandson turned to the other two

ask yourself these questions: Is your fun-ometer broken or

grandkids and said, “Let’s play Thomas the Train!” So each one

disengaged? Have you forgotten what it’s like to enjoy life

lined up behind the other and began taking turns going around

by simply having fun? Why not give yourself permission to

the room pretending to be Thomas the Train loudly exclaiming,

enjoy life; to find and participate in fun activities. Sit down

“Choo! Choo!” I saw how much fun they were having, so I joined

today and make a list of things you like to do, activities that

in by forming a crossing rail with my legs. However, when my legs

are fun and pleasurable. If you can’t list any, then a change

got tired, I’d put them down. But then they’d say, “Poppa, put your

needs to take place in your life. As followers of Christ, we

legs up again!” My grandchildren will go to great lengths just to

ought to understand celebration, joy and peace more than

experience the sheer pleasure that comes from having fun. Children

those without Him. We can find pleasure and demonstrate

are the ultimate experts on pleasure and fun. No matter where

fun that the world doesn’t understand. Fun that reflects the

they are, their vocation is to fi nd, create and enjoy fun activities.

nature of God doesn’t hurt us and others or involve illegal or

They have the ability to instantly register their enjoyment or

immoral activities — it rejuvenates, refreshes and ignites life.

dissatisfaction with the activities they participate in by using their

At least one day a week, let’s start up our fun-o-meter and

built-in “fun-o-meter.” If the enjoyment level of an activity registers

renew God’s life in us!

low on their fun-o-meter, their mind tells them to disengage. This mental warning doesn’t go away until they either quit the activity or it’s changed into something fun. Sadness comes over their

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little lives whenever they have to ignore their fun-o-meter and do things that are boring, make no sense, are too confining and, as a result, suck the life right out of them. As we move into adulthood, somehow we ignore and disable our fun-o-meter. There are many who hold to the notion that adult responsibilities leave no room for fun. But by starving ourselves of fun, we end up trying to fi ll our innate desire for it through an escape into sports and hobbies

frustration, we refl ect on the simple days of fun we had when we were younger and long for them to return. We want the peace and joythat fun produces but struggle to find it, so we replace it with

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We need a fun-o-meter to monitor the activities we participate in so that we can identify those activities which recreate our soul and spirit, provide joy and give us life. Paul told the Ephesian believers that it was God’s work in them to cause them to will and to do His good pleasure! Wait, you mean

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maybe, He was suggesting that they incorporate playfulness into their daily lives. I know that’s a bit of a revolutionary idea for some, but what if that’s what He meant? In his book, The Rest of God,

evening before Christmas Eve. It was down to the final hours before

However, we can bear witness to the power of God at work in

Christmas, and I was frantically looking for those last-minute items. As I

our lives as God prepares us for divine opportunities to share

entered the toy department, I accidentally bumped into several people

His love and His Word with those who may be lost or confused

who were just standing in a line that had formed in the middle of an

by the complexities of life. Are you ready? These moments in

aisle. After waiting there a few minutes, I finally asked a lady, “Why are

time are more than mere coincidence. It’s essential for you to

you standing in this line to nowhere?” She replied in a very quiet voice,

make the most of every day. The Bible tells us “we are God’s

almost a whisper, “A shipment just arrived and there are some Tickle

workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which

Me Elmo dolls on the truck.” As I slipped into the line just behind my

God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). Today,

new friend, I thought to myself, “What luck! I’ve been searching for this

you have the opportunity to share God’s truth and His love.

elusive must-have toy of the season for weeks! My children will be so

You may not stand before thousands of people and share a

happy on Christmas morning when they open the package and find

message, yet you are the message that others will read. God

the red muppet with tickling sensitivity.” I was mere moments away

has prepared His work assignment for you. Seize today, walk in

from my memorable holiday prize … or so I thought. Ten minutes went

the quiet assurance that you’re on a mission from God, and be

by, then twenty. Word about the pending arrival spread like wildfire

ready to impact a life for His glory!

throughout the store, and the line quickly grew. Finally, after standing

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in line for well over an hour, at just before one o’clock in the morning, a voice came over the loud speaker, “We have no Tickle Me Elmos. Please go home.” That was it. No explanation … no apology … just, “Go home.” And so I did. Have you ever had to wait for something yet didn’t quite know what you were waiting for or even when the waiting would end?

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isolated in an upper room somewhere in Jerusalem after they had to them by the Lord. But then, ushered in with the sound of a rushing wind, the moment finally arrived and the Spirit of God descended on

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all who had gathered. Doctor Luke describes the scene in the second chapter of Acts: “Suddenly, a sound like the blowing of a mighty wind finally, the promise was being fulfilled. Their waiting was over, and they were ready. Each of them experienced the power of God that day and were baptized in the Holy Spirit. What a grand scene! What an incredible day! But that isn’t the end of the story. In fact, we haven’t

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even reached the climax. It’s what happens next that really provides us with a window into the heart of God. As much as we enjoy the a deeper purpose attached to them. At that time, Jews from all parts of the known world had gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost.

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When they heard mere Galileans speaking in various foreign languages, they were astonished. As they pondered just exactly what it was they were witnessing, the apostle Peter seized the moment by standing and

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Just imagine how the followers of Jesus felt as they waited for ten days

manifestation of God’s power, the truth is, such displays always have __________________________________________________________

God is into pleasure? Yes! Think about this for a minute. When Jesus told His disciples they should be childlike, maybe, just

euphoria that swirled around the Upper Room that day.

filled the house where they were meeting” (Acts 2:1). In that moment,

cheap knockoffs. I’m convinced that as adults we need an active functioning fun-o-meter in our lives just as much as children do.

In your life and mine, we may never experience the kind of

Several years ago I found myself shopping at Wal-Mart very late on the

received instructions to stay together and wait for the promise given __________________________________________________________

and sometimes even drugs and alcohol — anything we can use to fi ll the void of fun in our life. During times of stress, worry and

John Spurling

delivering a Spirit-anointed message that testified to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. On that day, Peter recognized that God had prepared him for that moment, and he was ready (Proverbs 15:23). The results speak for themselves — over 3,000 people were saved!

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Mark Buchanan puts it like this: “Maybe all the other virtues of DAY 27

DAY 28


Last Words

Kairos Marcus Brecheen

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that maybe

Paul tells us in Ephesians to make the very most of our time, but

we’re obsessing about the wrong thing here. What possible

how are we supposed to do that? Rod Stewart sang “Forever

difference does it make that my clock will still be counting

Young,” but I saw him at the Los Angeles International Airport

time accurately in ten billion years if my life doesn’t count

recently, and I have to tell you that it is not working for him. No

for something today? Regardless of what day of the week

amount of face lifts, hair dye or tanning creams can hide his age. On

this is, today you have 1,440 minutes. The chronos of this

the other hand, the Rolling Stones sang “Time Waits for No One,”

day will tick by regardless of what else happens. But the

and I’m going to have to side with them: those three rock stars are

kairos is up to you. At the end of the day, it all comes down

grandpas now.Even cute little Opie Taylor has been bald for years!

to this: did you kairos during the chronos? Did you notice

Time marches on. I remember being in high school and wondering,

the sacred things in the midst of the common? God will

“What will I be like when I’m 40?” At the time, being 40 seemed

make sure they are all around you. Ask Him to show you.

like three hundred years away. Now I’m past 40 and high school doesn’t seem really that far gone. When as much time passes again, I’ll be in my 70s! But that’s only one kind of time — chronos

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time. The other kind — kairos time — has to do with right-now time. The present. It’s hard to grab the present time when it flies by so fast that I can’t even remember where I had lunch last Tuesday. Moses prayed in Psalm 90:12, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” That’s only difficult when we number our days by the wrong calendar. Moses isn’t telling us to number our days by counting up all the days we’ve been alive — a

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It’s about asking, “What is this time for?” In other words, how many days you live isn’t nearly as important as how much life there is in your days. David said the same thing this way: “Better is one day in

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[God’s] courts, than a thousand elsewhere” (Psalm 84:10). Are you kidding me? How could one day be better than a thousand? That is an absolutely crazy statement … unless you understand kairos. Kairos is what makes chronos memorable. If it wasn’t for kairos, we wouldn’t remember most of our lives. Years ago, I was called to conduct a funeral for a woman I didn’t know. She had lived an impressive 91 years. I met with her family to inquire about her life.

new gate, shrugged and said, “Knitting!” relieved to have come up with an answer. “Oh, and the Dallas Cowboys,” they said. As much as I’d like to give her extra credit for being a Cowboys fan, she

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us by God. It is a gift. We talk about “keeping” time, “saving” time and “managing” time, but in reality, we can’t do any of these. All we can do with time is count it, and we’ve become pretty good at that. The National Institute of Standards and Technology had an atomic clock, which they said wouldn’t lose a second in one million

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called an ion trap, which will not lose a second in ten billion years.

DAY 29

ends with Him. Just as there was no time before Him, there

day. Or it might have been after you received the job promotion you

is no time after Him. In the last chapter of the Bible, He says,

were fasting and praying about. It could have been a time when you

“I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the

were hanging out with close friends and having fun. Or maybe it was

First and the Last” (Revelation 22:13). God has always been

simply a quiet evening spent at home with your family and loved ones.

and will always be. Ultimately, whatever you choose to do for

No matter how wonderful that moment was, it doesn’t even begin to

your glory will fade away like a vapor; only the things you do

compare to what God has in store for us. The fi nal book of the Bible

for God’s glory will endure. Colossians 3:1–4 (NLT) says, “Since

gives us a tiny peek into what He has planned: “Look! Look! God has

you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on

moved into the neighborhood, making His home with men and women!

the realities of heaven …. Think about the things of heaven, not

They’re His people, He’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes.

the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life

Death is gone for good — tears gone, crying gone, pain gone — all

is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life,

the first order of things gone. … Look! I’m making everything new”

is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all His glory.”

(Revelation 21:3–5, msg). Think about it: no more tears, no more fear,

Are you putting God first in every area of your life, every single

no more pain or suffering. Everything brand new. How amazing is that!

day? Are you living your life in light of eternity?

Your life on earth is just preparation for greater things to come. It’s only

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the mere prologue to an incredible story that will continue for eternity. In his book, The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis paints a beautiful picture that “Farewell to Shadowlands,” where the lion Aslan (who symbolizes Christ) is reassuring his beloved friends that he will never send them

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“Have you not guessed? The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.” As [Aslan] spoke … things began

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For them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world had only been the cover and title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the for you, your life will never be the same again. Because how much you have — money, cars, houses — doesn’t matter in God’s greater scheme

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of things. What really matters is how you live, how you spend each and every day — from the moment you’re born until the moment you die. What matters is whether you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and whether you love others as yourself. Are you

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We need to stop living with a temporal perspective — that this present world is all there is — and begin living with an eternal perspective. David said, “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before You. Each

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away again:

letting His love have “the fi rst and last word in everything” you do? __________________________________________________________

years. Then came the cesium fountain clock which wouldn’t lose a second in fifteen million years. Scientists are now building a clock

said, “It doesn’t get any better than this!” Maybe it was your wedding

one before. Once you catch a true glimpse of what God has waiting

was all chronos and no kairos. Her life lasted for a long time, but there was no real life in her time. What we call time was given to

Because just as everything begins with God, so everything

to happen that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. __________________________________________________________

Who was she? What had she done? What were her interests? What were her significant pursuits? They looked at me like a calf at a

In the end, all that matters is whether or not you put God first.

wonderful you wouldn’t change a single thing about it. A time when you

wonderfully illustrates this. The scene takes place in the final chapter,

chronos perspective. He’s urging us to make the most of our days — a kairos perspective. Kairos isn’t about asking, “What time is it?”

Picture that perfect moment in your life. That time in your life so

man’s life is but a breath” (Psalm 39:4–5, NIV).

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DAY 30


DAY 31-40: FASTING AND PRAYER

WHAT SHOULD I DO WHILE FASTING?

Now that we’ve experienced this personal devotional together, we will begin a 10 day journey of fasting and prayer. Like Bible study, fasting and prayer are important spiritual disciplines as followers of Jesus. The following paragraphs are to be used as tools to facilitate your understanding about fasting and how to begin your 10 day journey.

Drink lots of water. Have a daily quiet time. Listen to worship music. Think. It’s also a great idea to journal about what you are learning during your fast.

WHAT IS FASTING?

DISTRACTION FASTS

Biblical fasting is, quite simply, denying oneself food for the sake of seeking and honoring God. Pastor Stovall Weems says that “Prayer is connecting with God; fasting is disconnecting ourselves from the world.” That’s a great way to describe the feeling. You can fast from other things that connect you to the world, too. Things like TV, video games, social networking, and more.

WHY SHOULD I FAST? Over time, it’s very easy for our souls to get “gunked up”. Fasting is a way to give our bodies and our souls a deep cleaning. When we do, we find that not only do we feel better, but as we draw closer to God, we are more in tune with His voice.

HOW DO I FAST? There are several different types of fasts. In this guide, we offer suggestions that will help you detach from some of the distractions of everyday life. You may choose to fast from distractions such as facebook or TV, or you may choose to fast from certain types of food. Refer to the last page of this guide for a helpful list of fasting options. The ideas in this guide are just that - ideas. Feel free to mix it up and do a different type of fast for each day. But don’t make this time all about what you eat or don’t eat, or about the things you can’t do. This is all about drawing closer to God and replacing some of our common distractions with time to pray, read our Bibles, and seek God like never before. On days where you decide to fast from distractions, give them up for the whole day. On days where you are fasting from food, or specific food items, do what you feel challenges you spiritually. Don’t hesitate to get out of your comfort zone. If you have fasted before, mix in a few days of fasting from food and go all liquids. Go for it! You’ll be glad you did. NOTE: Fasting requires reasonable precautions. If you have any health concerns, please consult your physician prior to beginning your fast, especially if you are taking medications, have a chronic condition, or are pregnant or nursing a baby.

HOW SHOULD I PREPARE TO FAST? For a 1-day fast it doesn’t take much preparation. It’s best to slow down your eating before the fast, then pick it back up slowly by eating small, simple foods. For a longer fast, DEFINITELY prepare this way. It’s smart to plan ahead and make sure you’ll have plenty of the fruits, vegetables, juices, etc. on hand. It’s not, you’re likely to overeat at your next meal, and that’s never a good choice.

DAY 31

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40

FASTING OPTIONS • • • • •

TV Video Games Texting Social Media Internet Browsing

FOOD FASTS • • • •

Daniel Fast ( Eat fruits and vegetables only ) Refraining from “fast foods” Refraining from sweets Liquids only ( Drink water, juices, and smoothies )FASTING OPTIONS

HOW TO HAVE A DAILY QUIET TIME. Very simply, carve out a block of time each day to spend with God. It’s best to do this in the morning. Why? Because once your day begins, there will be a million distractions. Learn to put God first in your day, and he will multiply your time. You’ll find that you get more done in less time. During your quiet time, go through the daily devotional this way:

1. Scripture: Read the scripture passage listed for that day. ( Daily Scripture passages are listed on the next page. )

2. Observation: Think about what you see that clicks with you. What do you think it means? Are you going through a similar situation?

3. Application: How do you think this scripture applies to you personally?

4. Prayer: Pray and ask Jesus to make those applications real. Is there something you need to change? Someone you need to speak to? Apologize to? A different way you need to act? Is there something God is asking you to do that you’ve never done before?

You may have noticed that the pattern spells “SOAP.” Wash your brain with the Word of God. Easy to remember. You can continue this practice in your daily time with Jesus.

DAY 31

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40


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DAY 02

DAY 02


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DAY 02

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40 Days to a Healthier Life Devotional