Friday, June 27, 2014

365 Days with God - Day 175: What are you praying for?


I'm giving myself a challenge. Read the Bible each day for a whole year, following the ESV Study Guide 1-year plan. Each day, I will post whatever God has revealed to me in His Word, and how it is changing me. A friend of mine once said that nothing has changed her life as much as reading the bible each day - and I'm excited for how this will change me. Join me on an adventure into the heart of God - and day by day, we can learn more about who He is and what that means to us!

- Andy Catts

Day 175, June 27, 2014
Readings: Proverbs 27, Proverbs 28, Deuteronomy 27, Micah 3, Matthew 6:1-18

Ask my wife and she'll tell you - I'm not much of a public prayer person. Or even semi-public prayer in front of other people. 

I wish it was because I was doing my best to obey Matthew 6, where it says to pray in a closet so that you aren't using prayer to try and convince others of your holiness. But really, I just don't want to embarrass myself by saying something foolish in front of others. I'm worried that I won't have the right things to say. But Jesus says to pray this way: 

 And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:7-8)

Pray for what you need. God's not impressed by our quantity or quality of words. He knows what we're going to ask for, and he knows if we need it, before we even ask. He wants us to be sincere. He wants us to be honest and forthcoming. He wants us to ask for things that we need from him - not just provisions, but the ability to live out a godly life. Because a little later, He tells us to pray that our sins would be forgiven - as we have forgiven others.

I don't know about you, but I need help to forgive. And I need to be forgiven. God wants to provide both of those things for me - and he wants me to ask for them. God, I am broken, I am in need of your love and forgiveness. Please help me so that I can show your love and forgiveness to others as well, just as you have shown it to me.

365 Days with God - Day 174: Hope for a Fool


I'm giving myself a challenge. Read the Bible each day for a whole year, following the ESV Study Guide 1-year plan. Each day, I will post whatever God has revealed to me in His Word, and how it is changing me. A friend of mine once said that nothing has changed her life as much as reading the bible each day - and I'm excited for how this will change me. Join me on an adventure into the heart of God - and day by day, we can learn more about who He is and what that means to us!

- Andy Catts

Day 174, June 26, 2014
Readings: Proverbs 25, Proverbs 26, Deuteronomy 26, Micah 1, Micah 2,  Matthew 5:17-48

Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Proverbs 26:12)

Am I trusting in myself, or am I trusting in God?

Because if I think I've got all the answers, if I'm sure that I have figured things out, that I provide for myself, that I do everything right...I'm hopeless. God has provided everything I need, and any knowledge that I have, He has given me. Who am I to say that I've done anything? How can I give myself credit, how can I count myself valuable, when I brought nothing into this world, and can take nothing out of it? How can I think myself important when I cannot control even my own life?

I pray that I am not wise in my own eyes. I pray that God is the one who provides for me and my perspectives. Because if I am providing everything for myself, what need do I have of God? If everything was my own, why would I need him? And if I am without God, I am nothing.

365 Days with God - Day 173: Hide it under a bushel...NO!


I'm giving myself a challenge. Read the Bible each day for a whole year, following the ESV Study Guide 1-year plan. Each day, I will post whatever God has revealed to me in His Word, and how it is changing me. A friend of mine once said that nothing has changed her life as much as reading the bible each day - and I'm excited for how this will change me. Join me on an adventure into the heart of God - and day by day, we can learn more about who He is and what that means to us!

- Andy Catts

Day 172, June 25, 2014
Readings: Proverbs 23, Proverbs 24, Deuteronomy 23:15-25, Deuteronomy 24, Deuteronomy 25:1-19, Amos 9, Matthew 5:1-16

I wish I had time to cover all of the beatitudes, but it'd take weeks. So I'm just going to pick one.

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

A lamp under a basket does one of two things:

1) It is burning so hot that it lights the basket on fire, and thus burns brightly anyway
or
2) It is snuffed out by the basket.

Which do you want your faith to be like? I'd rather the first one. I'd rather it be unable to be hidden. So bright, so prominent, so on fire that encountering it was unavoidable.

But where have we ended up as a nation? All too often we are trying to put our faith under a basket. Telling others to tone it down, to not share so much. Personally, I'm tired of hearing this stuff. Our fire is to burn brightly. Note that these verses don't say to ramrod our faith down other people's throats. It should be unmistakeable. Visible, no matter what.

So rather than trying to hide it, rather than continually making our faith personal only to ourselves, we should be making sure it's prominent. Constantly in front of those who look at us - so that Jesus would be known by our word and deed. That encountering the same saving grace and love that we experience would say all that needs to be said. Do you burn brightly?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

365 Days with God - Day 172: Elevating the Poor

I'm giving myself a challenge. Read the Bible each day for a whole year, following the ESV Study Guide 1-year plan. Each day, I will post whatever God has revealed to me in His Word, and how it is changing me. A friend of mine once said that nothing has changed her life as much as reading the bible each day - and I'm excited for how this will change me. Join me on an adventure into the heart of God - and day by day, we can learn more about who He is and what that means to us!

- Andy Catts

Day 171, June 23, 2014
Readings: Proverbs 21, Proverbs 22, Deuteronomy 23:1-14, Amos 7, Amos 8, Matthew 4:12-25

Hear this, you who trample on the needy
and bring the poor of the land to an end,
saying, "When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain?
And the Sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale,
that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great
and deal deceitfully with false balances,
that we may buy the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals
and sell the chaff of the wheat?" (Amos 8:4-6)

Do we love our fellow man? Do we care about them the way Jesus does? Are we eager to see their best realized? (Note, their best does not necessarily equal their most profitable...)

Time and time again, throughout the scriptures, it is evident that God cares about those in need. Every prophet testifying against Israel mentions their abandoning of the poor, their lack of concern for those in need, and their selfishness. But God is not talking about mere social justice here. The prophets cry out against the exploitation of the poor. And I think we see a lot of that today, thinly veiled in "good deeds."

I don't want this post to become terribly political. But I do want to encourage God's heart for humanity. And through the prophet Amos, he is challenging us to take stock of how we care for those in need. Do we treat them as second class citizens? Do we take advantage of them to further our own agenda? Are the "solutions" we put forth really for their best, or does it just sound good so that we get more votes?

I believe our nation is in a place where we must examine our principles, our purpose as we move forward. What are we motivated by? Where will this end up? Does it just sound good, or will it actually result in the needy being elevated, educated, and free? The challenge of being poor is not lacking wealth. The challenge of being poor is lacking options. Money, knowledge and connections give you options when you are in trouble. When we talk about helping the needy, we need to give them options. Give them freedom. Give them Jesus.
 

365 Days with God - Day 171: The Crucible of Christ

I'm giving myself a challenge. Read the Bible each day for a whole year, following the ESV Study Guide 1-year plan. Each day, I will post whatever God has revealed to me in His Word, and how it is changing me. A friend of mine once said that nothing has changed her life as much as reading the bible each day - and I'm excited for how this will change me. Join me on an adventure into the heart of God - and day by day, we can learn more about who He is and what that means to us!

- Andy Catts

Day 171, June 23, 2014
Readings: Proverbs 19, Proverbs 20, Deuteronomy 22:13-20, Amos 6, Matthew 4:1-11

Even Jesus was not exempt from the testing of the heart. If you read yesterday's post, I spoke of Proverbs, in which we learned that God seeks to refine us through testing of our hearts. Bringing us closer to Him. Making us more like the image of God he created us to be.

And Jesus was not exempt from this.

Both at the beginning and end of his ministry, he faced severe tests of his heart, his character. But unlike me, he didn't respond with consternation, frustration with God, questioning God's goodness. Instead, he returned to the Word of God, relying on God's promises about who He is.

Jesus responded to Satan's temptations in three different ways, always coming back to who God is.  Try this next time you are tempted. I'm going to try and do the same.

"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4) - God is our provider and he sustains us in the midst of trials. We do not need to break His commandments to provide for ourselves - God will provide everything we need!

"Again it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test." (Matthew 4:7) We are not greater than God! Who are we to question His goodness, His faithfulness? So often when I am struggling, I want to doubt God, I want to demand that He do things my way. But when I do that, I am asserting that I know better. That I have a smarter plan than the God of the universe. When I put it that way...I sound a little ridiculous.

"You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve." (Matthew 4:10) Nothing is greater than God. No prize we could earn, no possessions we could have, no prestige, no honor, is higher than God. But so often the test on me is whether or not I will choose Him. Whether or not I will give him the highest honor. He alone deserves the glory.

365 Days with God - Day 170: A Test of Hearts

I'm giving myself a challenge. Read the Bible each day for a whole year, following the ESV Study Guide 1-year plan. Each day, I will post whatever God has revealed to me in His Word, and how it is changing me. A friend of mine once said that nothing has changed her life as much as reading the bible each day - and I'm excited for how this will change me. Join me on an adventure into the heart of God - and day by day, we can learn more about who He is and what that means to us!

- Andy Catts

Day 170, June 22, 2014
Readings: Proverbs 17, Proverbs 18, Deuteronomy 21:1-23, Deuteronomy 22:1-12, Amos 5, Matthew 3

Have you ever been angry at God for allowing you to struggle through something? Most of the time when I'm in this situation, I asking God why. Why allow me to suffer? What good is my suffering? How does this benefit (me)? And, usually, "God, if you're so powerful, couldn't you just take this away?"

The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,
and the LORD tests hearts. (Proverbs 17:3)

Note the analogy here. Crucibles and furnaces were used to heat silver and gold to extremely high temperatures, which would remove the impurities to make them pure, taking out all that was not gold or silver, so that it would be the way God made it. And this is an intense process.

When our hearts are tested, it is like a crucible or furnace. It's not meant to be low-key. It's not meant to be like skipping through a field of daisies. Because of sin, we have polluted ourselves with foreign material. God wants us to return to the person he made us to be. He wants us to be pure. We think of a test being like an exam - proving that we have the knowledge. But God isn't testing our knowledge. God is testing our hearts, our purity to him. Refining us to be more like him, for we were made in his image.

The next time I'm tested, I know it will be hard to remember this. It will be easy to shake my fist at God, to ask, "Why me!?" and question His goodness. But every test I go through, He is making me more like Him. He is refining me. I'm not sure how, but I'm going to do my best to thank God the next time this happens. Because it's what I need.

Monday, June 23, 2014

365 Days with God - Day 169: Who is Your Work For?

I'm giving myself a challenge. Read the Bible each day for a whole year, following the ESV Study Guide 1-year plan. Each day, I will post whatever God has revealed to me in His Word, and how it is changing me. A friend of mine once said that nothing has changed her life as much as reading the bible each day - and I'm excited for how this will change me. Join me on an adventure into the heart of God - and day by day, we can learn more about who He is and what that means to us!

- Andy Catts

Day 169, June 21, 2014
Readings: Proverbs 15, Proverbs 16, Deuteronomy 20, Amos 4, Matthew 2:13-23

Commit your work to the LORD,
and your plans will be established. (Proverbs 16:3) 

Is your work (not your employment) committed to the LORD? Is everything that you set to task to His? Do you look at whatever work you have before you, and ask if it's serving God?

If it sounds like a challenging task, that's because it is.

But the second portion speaks of something I think we all long for - established plans. Would we not take so much more joy in our work if we could guarantee success? If the doing of the work would always produce results? If we knew our time was not wasted, if we could see the rewards and experience the joy?

When our work is committed to the LORD, we are guaranteed success.

But committed to the LORD doesn't just mean saying, "I'm doing this for God." Nor does it mean to just do whatever it is you do well. No, it means to ensure that the work we set our hands to, the things we spend our time on, need to be committed to God. Because you can be3 sure that He wants you to work with Him. That He has things for you to commit to.

Because we have a finite amount of time. We can't do something without turning down another. And it's so easy to turn down God things for things we want for ourselves. God promises that if we offer all of our time to him, placing every commitment in His hands, evaluating if what we do each day can be focused on Him, He will provide.

Practically, this might look like turning down something fun to do something...less fun. Or, it might mean letting your lawn get long, and your weeds tall, so you can serve others. It might mean evaluating your hobbies...because if all of them involve isolating yourself from others, it's awfully hard to show and share the gospel with someone.

I challenge you to put the things you do before the Almighty God - give Him a chance to show you His plan, His schedule, His passion for your life - and see what comes. I think you might be surprised.