Saturday, April 19, 2014

365 Days with God - Day 120: Completely New

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 120, April 19, 2014
Readings: Psalm 119:89-176, Leviticus 26, Isaiah 35, Ephesians 4:17-32

Now I say this and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! - assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.  (Ephesians 4:17-24)

What has happened to us? Why have we assumed that the world has overcome the power of Christ? Jesus is more powerful than the bondage of sin, more powerful than addictions and everything that bogs us down. We have been given freedom from the sins of our past. We have the ability to put off our old self, and to be renewed by Christ, putting on the likeness of God. That is powerful!

This means that we don't have to be slaves to our desires any more. Make no mistake, they are strong. They may even have been a lifestyle for us, something that seems to plague us. But God is more powerful, and He has given us new life, life that is righteous and holy.

So why are we so quick to give up? Why do we insist that these sins are more powerful? That the sins overcome us? Such to the point that we are no longer calling them sin - many church bodies are giving up, and becoming darkened in their understanding. Yes, Christ is graceful. Yes, Christ died for everyone and loves all.

But.

Christ came to give us new life. Christ came to free us from corruption. Christ came to release us from the bondage of sin, that through him we could be slaves no longer to it's desires. Through Christ we have the power to say no, the power to live differently, and the capability to be righteous and holy. Why are we willing to trade that for the old muck?

What sin(s) are you allowing to keep you in chains?

Friday, April 18, 2014

365 Days with God - Day 119: Trust

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 119, April 18, 2014
Readings: Psalm 119:1-88, Leviticus 25, Isaiah 33, Isaiah 34, Ephesians 4

The LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, "Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, 'When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD. For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in it's fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard.'

And if you say, "What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?" I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years. (Leviticus 25:1-4, 20-21)

How hard it is to trust for provision when times are lean. Can you imagine what it would be like to have to completely trust God for your very life every seven years? Could you quit your job every seven years and trust that everything would be okay? What would you do?

God isn't asking the Israelites to consider this, he's building it in to their law. He is purposefully ordering them to make complete, utter trust in God a regular thing in their lives - not to be mean, but because we need to be reminded this often! We need to remember God's goodness and faithfulness.

I think this is God's way of asking the Israelites to give him more than lip service. Is it really trust if you just say you trust God? Don't you have to "put your money where your mouth is?" And I think that's exactly what God is saying. If you trust Me in your heart, you can do this. You can leave it up to me. And think about what that means for the Israelites! No work for a year, every seven years. A time to focus on family, and God. A time to remember who God is and what He's doing. This is a blessing. Rest.

How is God asking you to set aside your hesitations and trust Him? It might seem crazy - but God is big! He is able, willing and ready to provide for us when we need it. And He will most likely ask us all to trust Him in big things. What are you going to do when that time comes?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

365 Days with God - Day 118: Purposeful Strength

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 118, April 17, 2014
Readings: Psalm 118, Leviticus 24, Isaiah 30:18-33, Isaiah 31, Isaiah 32:1-20, Ephesians 3

When I'm faced with something difficult, or I know someone going through something difficult, I will often pray about it. But what is the content of my prayers? Usually that my problem would be solved, my worries would go away. That my physical needs would be met. That I wouldn't have to worry about it anymore. That it would go away.

But what should my prayers look like?

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith - that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)

Paul isn't praying for his problems, or the Ephesian's problems, to be solved. He's not even praying that they would have the strength to bear the burden, or to love others, or anything related to them. No, Paul is praying that they would be filled with Christ, so that He can do the work in them. Paul knows that more important than everything else is the indwelling of Christ.

We are powerless, Christ is unlimited. What good is it to pray for someone to have strength when the strength comes from above? What good is it to pray for an outcome when God is able to do far more than we could dream of? Why should we limit our prayers to our feeble minds? God has everything at his disposal. God's plans are the best - why are we praying for our own?

I'm praying for trust and growth of Christ in me. I'm praying that I will become filled with Him, doing His work in the world. I'm praying for the work of the limitless God in my life - instead of praying for the limited me.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

365 Days with God - Day 117: Returning and Rest

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 117, April 16, 2014
Readings: Psalm 117, Leviticus 23, Isaiah 29:1-24, Isaiah 30:1-17, Ephesians 2

I am action-oriented. If you have been around me much, you know that when a problem arises I'm usually the first to ask how we're going to solve it. This also factors into what I do when faced with a crisis...I tend to do first and ask questions later.

But when I take action immediately, I am automatically assuming that I've got the answer, or it is my job to provide an answer. There's no trust involved, I've moved past the point of waiting on others and I'm now completely reliant on myself. Who's missing from that picture?

For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
"In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength."
But you were unwilling, and you said,
"No! We will flee upon horses";
therefore you shall flee away;
and, "We will ride upon swift steeds";
therefore your pursuers shall be swift.
A thousand shall flee at the threat of one;
at the threat of five you shall flee,
till you are left
like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain, like a signal on a hill. (Isaiah 30: 15-17)

Seems as if Israel had the same problem. Rather than trust God by resting (doesn't that sound like the exact opposite of a crisis?!) they choose to trust in "swift steeds." They choose to rush. To stress out. To work hard over nothing ("a thousand flee at the threat of one")! And they are left alone.

It is so easy to be stressed. To go crazy. To want to rush, provide my own answers and not trust in the Lord, but in my own abilities and resources. But God says I will be saved through returning to him and by resting. How counter-intuitive.  How unlike me to believe that "in quietness and trust shall be your strength." But God says it is so.

What a different place I would be in if I was willing to trust in God instead of stress about doing it myself. If I rested in quietness. Man. That sounds awesome. That sounds amazing. That sounds like the kind of thing I would ask of God - that He would make it possible for me to be rested and quiet during the chaos. And he delivers!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

365 Days with God - Day 116: Tangible Blessings

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 116, April 15, 2014
Readings: Psalm 116, Leviticus 22:17-33, Isaiah 28, Ephesians 1

What does God have to offer me?

True, that may sound like a pretty selfish question. Honestly, it's quite bold to even ask it. God certainly doesn't owe us anything. But we still ask. And by asking the question, we often receive answers like "happiness, eternal life, prosperity, good marriage, family, morals" and similar things.

But He offers so much more.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:3-11)

So what do we have?

Adoption as sons. We are orphans who have been given a home. We were without a father, without a place to call our own. Through Jesus, we have been adopted into God's family.

Redemption & Grace. We are united with God through Jesus, despite our sins and trespasses. We do not deserve to be united with something so clean, blameless and pure as a Holy God. But He made a way. He brought us to him. He loved us enough to give the most precious thing He had so that we could be with Him.

Inheritance. We have been given a promise of God's inheritance as sons. Not only are we adopted, but we are given an inheritance as well! We're not just provided for, we are given great gifts by an infinite and generous God.

This is our hope, this is our God! These are our spiritual blessings, blessings we cannot obtain through our own good works or efforts.

Monday, April 14, 2014

365 Days with God - Day 115: What Counts?

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 115, April 14, 2014
Readings: Psalm 115, Leviticus 21:1-24, Leviticus 22:1-16, Isaiah 26, Isaiah 27, Galatians 6

It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. (Galatians 6:12-15)

Again and again, Paul hammers on the unnecessary rules and regulations of the law. At this time, many of the Jews (who were circumcised at 8 days old) were telling new Christians (many of whom were greek) that they had to be circumcised to be saved! But Paul states cleanly - what good is it to follow one rule if you will break the others? Why are only parts of the law important? Either it all matters, or none of it matters. Either Jesus did all the work or he was irrelevant.

Jesus did it all. We do not need to follow complicated (or painful) rituals to get on God's "good side" - there is nothing we can do to get on his good side. Jesus has done all the work, and He stands as our example. Our adherence to the law has no effect on our standing with God. What's left?

A new creation.

Jesus is creating us to be new. Nothing like we were before. Free from the chains. This is not a knowledge transfer, or even a physical change. This is a heart change. And no amount of rule following or body-altering can change a heart. We cannot boast in our rule abiding because we fail at rule abiding. We cannot boast in our adherance to tradition because we will fail at following tradition. All we can boast in is Christ's mercy and grace at the cross.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

365 Days with God - Day 114: Of Flesh & Spirit

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 114, April 13, 2014
Readings: Psalm 114, Leviticus 20, Isaiah 25, Galatians 5

 We are no longer under the "law" - that is, we are no longer bound by a code of cleanliness that separates us from God. Very freeing, that is - Jesus has paid the price, and stood in place of us for the punishment we should have received for our sin.

But what do we do in light of that grace?

Daily, we are being remade by Christ and the Holy Spirit. Daily, we encounter choices about how to live. Who are we then? What choices do we make? If God has given us grace for everything through Jesus, the law is abolished, and He loves everyone just the way they are, what then is "wrong" to us? Is not the law done away with?

But we are not just creatures of a physical nature. We are physical and spiritual - our bodies in action and our spirit with intention. Our actions should be a physical reflection of the spirit within us.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we lived by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:16-25)

We live in a culture that is constantly attempting to justify sin. This and that are OK because God forgives all, because Jesus is accepting and tolerant, and what's really wrong with (insert sin found above here.)? We are no longer bound to these desires! Christ, his death and resurrection, are powerful enough to overcome them. Powerful enough to give us freedom. Powerful enough to enable us to live by His Spirit, not our own fleshly desires.

Are you letting your flesh overcome the Spirit? Or are you daily on your knees, asking the Spirit to overcome your flesh?