Sacrifice Is the Core of Living Sent

The life of the Apostle Paul is a remarkable demonstration of sacrifice. He left everything he knew behind to do what God called him to do, and he experienced extraordinary hardships along the way, including prison and severe persecution.

We all know how to sacrifice for the things we love and enjoy. But can we sacrifice to Live Sent and meet the needs of others — even when it’s uncomfortable and inconvenient? Paul believed his life would be worthless if he didn’t live out what God called him to do.

Imagine how the gospel would advance if we all did everything God called us to do, and we spread the good news of God’s grace on a daily basis.

Day 2: Playing Favorites

As mothers, none of us would likely admit to having a favorite child, but many of us can look at our childhood and pinpoint the sibling we believed our parents loved most. A recent study released findings that the baby of the family is usually the favored child. While we can debate the validity of these findings, the Bible shows us the ramifications of parenting with favoritism.

Rebekah and her husband, Isaac, had favorites when it came to their twin sons. Esau, the elder, was Isaac’s favorite, and Jacob, the younger, was Rebekah’s favorite. Before Isaac died, he wanted to give his blessing to his eldest son. Rebekah, remembering that God had previously promised that the younger son would rule over the older son, schemed to help Jacob deceive his father and steal his brother’s blessing. Jacob then fled, fearing for his life, and was gone for years before the two brothers reunited (Genesis 27). Knowing her family so well, Rebekah knew exactly how to coach Jacob in the deception of Isaac in order to assure that her favorite son would indeed rule over his brother.

Favoritism, Redeemed Mistakes, and God’s Plan

1. God doesn’t have favorites.

Romans 2:11 says that God shows no favoritism. As hard as it may be for us to understand, God loves each of us the same. We are all His children, and He has good gifts in store for each one of us (James 1:17). When we model our parenting after the love God shows us, we love our children equally, showing no favoritism.

2. God can use our mistakes to accomplish His plan.

Rebekah used her role as a mother to “help” make sure God’s plan happened, and her “help” ended up causing years of separation between her sons. It’s tempting to want to help God with His plans for our lives, but God doesn’t need our help. He can use our mistakes to teach us great lessons and bring us closer to Him. Even if we stumble, God will pick us back up and guide us on the specific path that He has for each of us (Psalm 37:23-24).

Being a perfect mom is something we can never attain, but we can learn from stories of the mothers in the Bible and from other moms in our lives. We can be confident that God will love us with an unchanging love, show mercy by picking us up when we stumble and give us the strength to be the best mom to our children.

Reflect:

  • Take a few minutes to thank God for your kids and how He’s carefully crafted them.
  • Does favoritism keep you from loving each of your children just as God loves you?
  • Is there an area of parenting you need help surrendering to the Lord? Take some time to talk it through and ask God for help.

Article courtesy of NewSpring Church

Four Ways to Battle Fear and Worry

Every Christian has to decide: Am I trusting that Jesus is for me always, or am I believing His care for me diminishes based on my performance? Is Jesus my king, provider, and comforter? Or, is He a distant authority figure watching me weather storms alone?

In Matthew 14:22-33, the disciples found themselves at this crossroads. They were in the middle of a storm, frightened and hopeless. Jesus approaches them and says, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

Apprehensive and uncertain, Peter calls out to Jesus, “Lord, if it’s you tell me to come to you on the water.”

Full of faith and full of trust, Peter walks on water with Jesus. But the moment is broken as soon as the wind kicks up and Peter lets fear creep back in.

Like Peter, when we trust that Jesus really does want the best for us, everything changes. We can stop worrying. We can embrace change. But inevitably, the wind will kick up again.

The alarm doesn’t go off.

You get news from your boss you weren’t expecting.

A friend betrays you.

In those moments when the worry creeps back in, we can look to Jesus or start looking for ways to keep ourselves afloat.

4 Ways To Focus on Jesus Today

1. Spend time in the Bible.

When I’m not looking for Jesus daily, my perception of Him goes from good King to enemy. His plans look terrifying and my way looks better.

Keeping our perspective in check starts with us knowing who we’re putting our trust in. Reading the Bible shows us more about Jesus and builds trust in our hearts.

2. Serve someone else for a change.

When I focus more on myself than the people around me, I give more of my attention to my own doubt and fear. Serving others allows me to remember that life is not all about me.

Serving also allows me to come face to face with situations I can’t fix or control. So as I reach out to serve others I find myself reaching up to Jesus more and more.

3. Pray.

Prayer doesn’t have to be super religious, lengthy, and eloquent. God also loves raw, honest prayers. When Peter was afraid and sinking he didn’t say, “Jesus, Holy Messiah, save me if it is your will.” He said, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30)

Most of us avoid prayer because we think we have to impress someone. Prayer isn’t for me to impress Jesus. He knows my heart. Prayer allows me to grow by being open and honest with Jesus and myself.

4.  Hang out with other people who are trying to follow Jesus.

There’s power in numbers. We’re more likely to have faith and be less fearful when we’re surrounded by people who point us back to Jesus (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Jesus’ love, provision, and sovereignty are always present. But I can see those things more clearly through the love and support of Christian friends. Celebrating God’s miracles in each others’ lives helps to make those moments real and gives us touchstones to go back to when fear creeps in.

Peter was only able to walk on water when he kept his eyes on Jesus. The miracle of change, the ability to do the impossible, comes when we do the same — putting our eyes on Jesus rather than storms that surround us.

Day 5: Does Parenting Ever Really End?

Read: Ruth 1Ruth 2Ruth 3Ruth 4

  • Are your children grown and out of the house?
  • Married with their own families?
  • Are you an empty nester and wondering what’s next?

Whatever our stage in life, our ministry is never over, and there is no better example than the life of Naomi.

Naomi lost everything, even her husband (Ruth 1:3) and both of her sons (Ruth 1:5). A devout Jewish woman, Naomi was left with two Moabite women in her charge. Heading back home she encouraged them to also go back home. She had nothing for them. One left and returned to her people. The other, Ruth, “clung” to her, pleaded with her to let her stay, and at that moment, accepted her God.

A mother’s work is never done, and even when your kids are grown and gone […] God still has a plan for the wisdom and care He’s built in you.

What a witness Naomi’s life must have been. Ruth refused the opportunity to return home. She turned from her religion and accepted the God of Israel. This must have brought joy to Naomi, through her grief, as she made a bold move and continued to disciple this young woman.

Neither knew their future as they set out to Judah. But, Naomi knew it was her calling to shepherd Ruth toward three keys of wisdom:

  1. Wisdom for protection by instructing her how to work the field (Ruth 2:22).
  2. Wisdom about how to secure her future by “flirting” with Boaz (Ruth 3:1-4).
  3. Wisdom to have patience and wait for Boaz to do the right thing (Ruth 3:18).

A mother’s work is never done, and even when your kids are grown and gone, or perhaps you’ve outlived one or more of them, God still has a plan for the wisdom and care He’s built in you. Naomi received Ruth as her own daughter and eventually became the great-grandmother to King David.

Naomi pushed through the pain and the emptiness that often accompanies outliving loved ones to continue what God called her to do, and He blessed her beyond what could be imagined. Ruth and Boaz married and had a son named Obed. Naomi’s role wasn’t over. She took the baby and became his nanny (Ruth 4:16). The wisdom from her life with the Lord could now be shared with her grandchild.

Because Naomi remained a witness in her home …
… an unlikely woman, whose country represented temptation and trouble for Israel, believed and followed God.
… this unlikely woman, Ruth, married again and birthed a son.
… she became the great-grandmother to King David whose lineage eventually birthed Jesus.

Reflect:

  • How can Naomi’s story encourage you in your season of life?
  • Have you ever considered that there are other “children” that may need your wisdom to navigate a life lived in Christ?
  • What is one thing you can do today to start a journey to share wisdom with a new believer?

Article courtesy of NewSpring Church

Day 1: Do You See What I See?

Wouldn’t it have been great if Eve had been the ideal role model for the modern woman? She was the first woman, first wife, and first mom, and yet she struggled with contentment. She lived in paradise with her husband, had direct access to God, and Satan still tricked her into believing that she needed more. God gives us everything we need and tells us not to worry (Matthew 6:25-26), yet we spend most of our lives fighting for contentment.

Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). He doesn’t always come as the obvious deceptor, but often as the snake in the grass that slithers into our circumstances planning to destroy our perspective. He wants us to see the way we fall short in comparison to those around us, stealing our joy, killing our contentment, and destroying our view of ourselves.

Eve knew what God told her about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but Satan convinced her that God was holding out on her. When Eve “saw that the fruit of the tree was good … she took some and ate it” (Genesis 3:6).

Remember who God says you are. 

Satan wants us to “see” our world differently than the way God designed it. He wants to attack our families as he did Eve’s. He wants us to compare ourselves to others and forget we are wonderfully made. He wants us to snap at our children instead of being slow to speak. He wants us distant from godly women that can hold us accountable as mothers and wives. Satan wants us to forget God’s truth. He wants us so focused on other things that we forget we are gifted, beloved, and adored children of the living God. It is the last thing he wants us to “see.”

Reflect:

  • Is there any part of your life you need help “seeing” God’s way?
  • Take a few minutes to encourage a mom today by reminding her of her true identity in Christ.

Article courtesy of NewSpring Church

Day 8: A Mother of Faith

Have you ever wanted something so bad that it was all you thought about, talked about, and prayed for? Hannah knew that feeling, and she chose to respond with an attitude of humility and a heart full of faith. Hannah was a homemaker, wife, and believer in the Lord. But most of all, Hannah wanted to be a mother.

For years Hannah was not able to have children while her husband’s second wife, Peninnah, was able to have many. To make matters worse, Peninnah knew how badly Hannah wanted to have a child. She would taunt Hannah cruelly, rubbing it in, and never letting her forget that God had not given her what she wanted. Instead of lashing out or giving up, Hannah would pray fervently for the Lord to give her a son. She continued to worship God and pour out her heart to Him year after year as her family visited the house of the Lord at Shiloh.

One day, as Hannah was weeping and praying, she told God that if He would allow her to conceive a son, she would give him fully back to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:11). As she prayed and wept, Eli, the priest at the temple, noticed how distraught she was. After speaking with Hannah, Eli asked the Lord to grant her the desire of her heart.

This encouragement fueled Hannah’s faith, and soon after she and her husband returned home, she conceived and gave birth to a baby boy named Samuel. Hannah knew that this child was a gift from the Lord, and in faith, she kept her promise to Him. She took Samuel to the house of the Lord at Shiloh and gave him to Eli so that he could serve the Lord for the rest of his days. There, he grew up in the temple, learning to serve God, hear His voice, and eventually become Israel’s greatest judge. Samuel was the very one that God had prepared from the beginning to lead His people at this time in history.

What can we learn from Hannah as a mother?

God cares about your feelings, too.

Hannah knew that while she was infertile, her lack of self-worth could get the best of her, so she always made sure to confess her feelings to God. No matter what you’re waiting for, you can do the same. God loves you and wants you to know that you can come to Him with any need or desire. Like Hannah, we can pour our hearts out to God and have faith that He will give us His best at just the right time.

Your kids are on “loan.”

Hannah knew from the very beginning, even before Samuel was conceived, that he belonged to God. She understood that her bearing a son meant that she was being “loaned” a child from God to love. This is a game changer as a mom. If we could look at our children through the lens of this truth, it would help us see them for who they truly are: God’s child first, on loan for us to love and train to serve the Lord.

We can see that Samuel’s faith grew to reflect Hannah’s when we read his words in 1 Samuel 12:24, “Be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.” (1 Samuel 12:24)

Reflect:

  • What great things has God done for you that you can thank Him for while you wait?
  • Part of God’s plan for Hannah was waiting for child-bearing years. It is easy to look at our outward circumstances, not realizing God needs it to happen this way.
  • What are you struggling to wait for? Pour your heart out to God and tell Him.
  • When Hannah faced opposition in her waiting, she chose a humble response. How will you respond as you wait?

Article courtesy of NewSpring Church

Day 7: Is Teaching My Kids about Jesus Really Worth It?

Read: 2 Timothy 1:52 Timothy 3:15

Let’s be honest, teaching our kids about Jesus may feel more awkward or scary than it feels natural. Questions like, “What if they ask me something I don’t know the answer to?” or “Who am I to teach them about Jesus?” can creep in and create fear in our hearts. But God wants us to know that we have more influence in shaping the hearts of our children than we realize, and it’s worth it!

In Acts 16:1, we first hear about a mom named Eunice and a son named Timothy. Despite her circumstances, Eunice taught Timothy about God and His Word. 2 Timothy 3:15 tells us that Timothy knew the scripture from infancy, which means that Eunice shared what she knew of the Old Testament with him as he grew from a baby to a young man.

Our job is not to save our children, but to share with them the truth about Jesus, the only One who can save.

As she raised her little boy, Eunice had no idea that Timothy would become an evangelist with the Apostle Paul, or if he would even share the beliefs she held dear. She knew that God was good, and she shared her love for Him because she knew that God loved her son and had a special plan for him.

Like Eunice, we don’t need to have a perfect past in order to tell our kids about Jesus. All we need is a heart that loves Him, loves His Word, and loves our kids. Our job is not to save our children, but to share with them the truth about Jesus, the only One who can save. God loves our kids even more than we do, and He has a special plan for them. The way we share and teach our kids about Jesus will help shape their hearts for all that God has in store for them.

Mamas, it’s worth it. It’s worth figuring out how we can spend intentional time with Jesus to develop our relationship with Him. It’s worth pausing in the moment to pray with your child or turning up the worship music in the car to sing praises as you drive. Teaching our kids about Jesus doesn’t have to be formal or scary, but instead, daily conversations and teachable moments as life happens. Eunice is proof that being intentional about teaching our kids about Jesus at home makes a difference!

Reflect:

  • How is your relationship with Jesus? Is there time in your schedule where you can carve out ten minutes a day to spend intentional time with Him?
  • What is one thing you can do this week to be intentional about teaching your kids about Jesus? (Examples could be: talking about what they learned in Kids Ministry, singing and dancing to kids’ worship and praise music, memorizing a verse together, praying together, etc.)

Article courtesy of NewSpring Church

Day 11: You Are a New Family Who Can Make New Traditions

One love story, one ceremony, one brand-new life starting from two totally different families.

When you marry, you are gaining a spouse and a new family. One that has its own routines, habits, and traditions that will be undeniably different from your own. Much of the pressure we face in marriage comes from the task of merging two separate lives into one.

That’s why it’s important to remember that when we marry, we form a new family with new traditions (Genesis 2:24). We don’t have to do everything the way either of our parents did. Our love for our parents is not measured by how much of our childhoods we replicate in our own families.

You don’t have to do everything the way either of your parents did.

In marriage and in parenting, God entrusts you with a responsibility — to love Him and love others. In Deuteronomy 6:5-7, God calls us to love Him with all our heart, soul, and strength, and to pass His commandments on to our kids. God’s Word is to be the focus of our hearts, not where we spend the holidays or how we celebrate with our kids.

If we’ll seek to please God, rather than trying to appease our in-laws, we’ll set up our marriages and our families for success. This might mean building a life that looks totally different than the families you came from — one where you study the Bible and pray together, where church is a priority and your closest relationships are with your spiritual family rather than your biological family.

Through our everyday life, we are to build our family values on loving God with everything we have. When we do, we give our kids a greater gift than the traditions we grew up with. We show them a God who loves them and we pass our faith to the next generation (Proverbs 13:22).

If we set our sights on something more important than the pressures of extended families and focus on Jesus, our marriage will be fertile soil and our faith will grow into a strong tree. Our children will play in that tree, and our grandchildren will be able to swing from the branches.

Questions for him:

  • What do you want to keep or change from your upbringing?

Questions for her:

  • What do you want to keep or change from your upbringing?

Questions to talk about together:

  • What are your dreams for your family?
  • What is the legacy you want to leave your kids?

Article courtesy of NewSpring Church

Day 4: You Are Not Worthless

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).

Not all, but much of the anxiety we experience comes from feeling like we’ll never be enough. Smart enough to accomplish the dream in our hearts. Charismatic enough for other people to listen to us. Holy enough for God to like us.

Those thoughts are not from the Lord. We may feel unworthy at times, but we were never worthless. God loved us so much He sent His Son to pay for our sin so we could have a relationship with Him. Jesus gave His life to be at the table with us. That’s how valuable we are.

When we lose sight of God’s love for us, we begin to live like we are responsible for everything. We forget that God is waiting for us at the table, ready to provide for our physical and emotional needs. Instead of settling our hearts in His presence, we strive to be better and achieve more.

If we’re living each day full of worry and apprehension, it’s time to slow down and ask, “Why?” Follow up the answer to “Why?” with “Who told us that?”

The enemy is crafty, and he will feed anxiety every chance he gets. Instead, allow Jesus to calm your anxious heart.


Article courtesy of NewSpring Church

Day 5: Who’s really out to get you?

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:31-32).

Does it ever feel like the whole world is out to get you? 

While that feeling is real, it’s probably not true. Not everyone is out to get us. It’s more likely that one person is out to get us, and his name is Satan.

Satan is our real enemy, and he will exploit any hostility he finds to shift our focus away from God. If we get in a dispute with a neighbor, his is the voice telling us that everyone knows and they’re all on the neighbor’s side. Soon, we’re convinced the whole neighborhood is against us.

Bitterness builds resentment and makes it harder and harder to hear from God. This is why forgiveness is such a powerful weapon against our enemy. Where the enemy tells us to watch our backs and defend ourselves, God says, “That’s my job. You get to forgive. Leave everything else to me.”

Imagine that for a second. No more looking over our shoulders or plotting how we’ll get back at everyone. Instead of waking up exhausted, we can finally rest our mind and enjoy the day.

Bitterness never hurts the person we’re mad at. In fact, the person most affected by our bitterness is probably us. Allow forgiveness to set you free.


Article courtesy of NewSpring Church

Day 2: Where you get the ability to love

Read: 1 John 4:7-21

What if I get hurt?

What if they take advantage of me?

I’ve tried helping before, and it didn’t do any good.

For all of the reasons we avoid letting people into our lives or getting involved in theirs, John gives us one good reason we should. It’s what God did for each of us.

When we were uninterested in God, He pursued us. God sent His only Son into the world so our sin could be removed and our relationship could be restored (1 John 4:10-12).

When we realize the depth of God’s love, it changes us. We want to spend time with Him, to know Him. We find joy in bringing Him joy. And after a while, we become so familiar with His character that we know what He would say or have us do. Like a couple that’s been together for decades, we begin to move in sync with one another (1 John 4:13-15).

That’s why the real test of our love for God is how we treat the people right in front of us. God is love. When we are living in step with God, love is what comes out of us. When we love one another, the invisible God reveals Himself to others through us, and His love is made complete.

God knows better than anyone that love can be costly. We might get hurt, and people might take advantage of us. But the way to quiet those fears is not by retreating. We get past the fear of putting ourselves out there by remembering God’s love and choosing to treat others the way He treated us.

Reflect:

  • Who were you when you asked Jesus into your life? How has your life changed since then?
  • How would you describe the way God has loved you?
  • When it comes to loving others that way, are you retreating in fear or reaching out in faith?

Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 3: This kind of love cannot be overlooked

When you think of “standing out,” what comes to mind? Perhaps it’s the Insta-famous person with thousands of followers. Maybe it’s the colleague who hits every goal or the girl every guy seems to like. How about the star athlete who plays each game while your kid sits on the bench? There’s also the gigantic house that towers over its neighbors, or the teenager whose bright pink hair and wild fashion that make people look twice.

To most of us, standing out means having to be bigger or bolder. But Jesus describes a different way to get others attention — through the way we love one another.

We don’t have to push the boundaries with what we wear or climb the corporate ladder to stand out. As Jesus followers, we are called to love like Jesus loves us (John 13:35). That kind of love can’t be hidden. Like a light breaking into a dark room, Jesus’ love shining through us breaks through the mundane of our day to day (Matthew 5:14-16).

Anyone can profess love verbally. But the selfless, unconditional love Jesus demonstrates is more than just words (James 2:17). Jesus proved His love for us through action. He left heaven and came to Earth to live among us. He traveled from town to town healing and helping those who were hurting. And, in His greatest act of love, Jesus gave His life so we could experience forever with Him.

These days, love that proves itself through action is scarce. Many people don’t even know such a love exists, nor do they recognize their need for it. That is why Jesus put so much emphasis on freely and consistently loving those around us.

Real love is more than surface level. It is not fickle, and it does not demand anything in return. When we’ve been loved well, we know it. It causes us to do a double take, to feel deeply, and to tell others about it. A tangible love that reflects Jesus’ heart shines too brightly for people to ignore.

Reflect:

  • Do your actions match what you say about love? Why or why not?
  • What’s one way you can love someone intentionally and actively today?

Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 4: Get Ready for Battle

Read: Nehemiah 4

Nehemiah realized his opposition posed a real and menacing threat. In order to stay ready, Nehemiah had the people keep their swords close by at all times. He took his enemy seriously and prepared people to defend themselves at a moment’s notice. This level of vigilance is difficult to maintain when the work is so demanding.

Like those rebuilding the wall, we have a real enemy who wants to destroy God’s work in us. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The good news is we haven’t been left defenseless. We have the armor of God, and our sword is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:10-17Hebrews 4:12).

Armed with the truth of the Bible, we can withstand Satan’s lies and the self-doubt that plagues our minds. With God’s Word hidden in our hearts, we can avoid giving into sin and step confidently into the future.

Like those building the wall, we must take our enemy seriously and have our sword at the ready. The truth of God’s Word is a sword in the hand of a difference maker. Every day, difference  makers ask, “What truth from the Bible can I apply in my life right now?”

Consider This:

Do you view God’s Word as a weapon?

Pray:

Jesus, help me as I commit to reading the Bible. Help me understand. Help me apply what I read to my life.


Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 5: Integrity Makes A Difference

Read: Nehemiah 5

Nehemiah faced a difficult choice. The people’s vineyards, lands, and houses were at risk because of outrageous taxes imposed by the king. Now, the people suffered doubly as their own Jewish leaders extended loans with enormous interest rates. Their leaders behaved like loan sharks! Nehemiah could’ve taken the easy way out and kept quiet. Instead, he chose integrity.

When we face a difficult decision, remember Nehemiah’s example. Nehemiah didn’t make assumptions based on one person’s story. He heard several people’s accounts and saw their sufferings (Nehemiah 5:1-5). Nehemiah heard the people’s outcry and pondered them in his mind (Nehemiah 5:7). He didn’t say the first thing that came to mind. He thought carefully about what he was hearing and how to respond. Then, Nehemiah confronted those in authority. His integrity and obedience blessed the people of Israel.

In light of all Jesus has done, how can we respond with integrity and obedience? It’s not that we behave or perform to attain some kind of acceptance with God or others. If you want to know if you’re living with integrity, ask yourself:

  • Do I behave differently based on who is watching?
  • Am I striving to achieve some level of acceptance?

Our integrity matters. We do not have to cave to peer pressure. We can devote ourselves fully to the work God has placed before us. We make a difference with integrity because Jesus already made a difference in us.

Consider This:

When was the last time you were forced to choose between easy and integrity?

Pray:

Help me obey even when it’s tough. Help me to do what’s right even when my reputation is on the line.


Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 6: The Critics Are Coming

Read: Nehemiah 6

Anytime you want to make a difference, there will be critics. Every difference maker faces opposition. Nehemiah experienced resistance first hand. The critics showed up in Nehemiah 4 as the wall started going up. They continued taunting Nehemiah and his crew throughout the process.

To the critic, rebuilding the wall seemed impossible. They rooted for the Jews to fail. Anytime we take a next step, we experience criticism just as Nehemiah did.

When a friend or relative suddenly becomes our biggest critic, it’s often because the change we are experiencing challenges and convicts them of their own lack of action. For a critic, our success draws attention to their personal failures.

The critics are going to come. We can follow Nehemiah’s example and focus on what God is calling us to do. Or, we can be distracted by the critics who are rooting for us to fail. But, we can’t do both.

Overcoming opposition is about realizing who we are and what we’ve been called by God to do. When we seek God’s voice above all others, we’ll find the confidence to do the work. Just as Nehemiah refused to come off the wall, we must not be distracted from the work God has called us to do.

Consider This:

What’s one step you can take this week to prepare your heart for the criticism that’s sure to come?

Pray:

Jesus, help me stay on course regardless of the criticism I face.


Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 1: What Breaks Your Heart?

Read: Nehemiah 1

Nehemiah’s story started with a burden. He saw the condition of Jerusalem’s wall and knew the situation was desperate. Without a wall, people returning to Jerusalem after years in captivity would be unprotected and vulnerable to attack.

Nehemiah was brokenhearted, but he didn’t tackle the problem immediately. Why? He first needed to bring his burden before the Lord.

The state of Jerusalem’s wall reflected the condition of the Jewish people’s relationship with God. Disobedience had left their city and their lives in disarray. So before Nehemiah could fix the brokenness surrounding the city, he asked God to fix the brokenness inside the people of the city. Forgiveness was the foundation everything else would be built on.

Once the people were right with God, Nehemiah began to pray about what was next. All the while, God positioned Nehemiah so he’d have influence with the king and with the people. God had arranged it so a foreign king provided resources to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.

Imagine what God is arranging behind the scenes, so you can do more than you ever thought possible.

Look around. What breaks your heart? What has God put in front of you that you can’t ignore? Until our hearts are broken for the situations and people around us, we’ll maintain the status quo.

Once you know what your burden is, go to Jesus in prayer. Ask Him what to do next.

Consider This:

What are you burdened about?

Pray:

Jesus, I am burdened about ___________________________. What should I do next? I want to make a difference. Help me make a difference.


Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 2: What Are You Doing About It?

Read: Nehemiah 2

Nehemiah prayed and waited. Then it happened. At just the right moment, Nehemiah was able to speak with the king. The king opened doors and provided the resources Nehemiah desperately needed.

God had perfectly positioned Nehemiah to make a difference. It was God who gave Nehemiah influence with the king as his cupbearer. It was the perfect set up.

Nehemiah could have said, “I’ve prayed, now God will do it.” And while God can handle His work, He chooses to work through obedient people. Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.”

God establishes the plans of doers. Nehemiah did more than complain about a problem. Nehemiah acted. He did more than pray. With courage Nehemiah spoke to the king. Not satisfied with, “Someone else will do it,” Nehemiah boldly made his request to the king.

While we all doubt our own capabilities at times, it is usually a lack of action that keeps us stuck, not a lack of faith in God’s abilities. Just because our hearts are broken doesn’t mean we’re willing to do something about a problem. We can be sad about what’s happening in us or around us and do absolutely nothing about it.

Faith without works is dead (James 2:20). We’ve got to respond to the opportunities God gives us. Is your heart broken for something? Do you know what to do?

Consider This:

What keeps you from acting?

Pray:

Jesus, I have a burden. I know what to do next. Will you give me the courage to act?


Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 7: Are You Doing Enough?

You’re serving at church, volunteering with local charities, and helping at school. Every second of the day is accounted for, yet so much is left undone. Your days are long, and your body is exhausted. At the end of the day, you wonder, “When will it be enough?”

It’s overwhelming to look at a hurt and broken world. Too often, we see all the needs at once. We want to love others, but in our striving, we leave ourselves burned out and too busy to hear from God.

In Matthew 22, Jesus reminds the religious elite (and all those listening) to make the main thing the main thing. If we’ll focus on loving God and loving our neighbors, it will result in us fulfilling God’s commands.

We don’t have to end world hunger in an afternoon or heal every broken heart in one day. Instead, Jesus says the most important thing we can do is to love Him and love others. That’s our charge.

So rather than getting overwhelmed by all that we can’t do, we start with what we can do. Loving our neighbors can be as simple as cooking an extra lasagna to bring to the new mom next door or the widow across the street.

When we are loving God with our heart, soul, and mind, we are more in tune with His Spirit in us. The Holy Spirit is a helper and a guide. We can trust the Holy Spirit to show us opportunities to love people one at a time.

That’s how we make a difference — not by running down a list or striving to hold everything together. We change the world by loving God and showing visible love where He tells us to.

Reflect:

  • Why do you think Jesus put the emphasis on loving God and others instead of following all the laws? 
  • Is there a big need you feel overwhelmed by? 
  • What is one thing small thing you could do to meet that need today?

Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 3: Every Little Bit Matters

Read: Nehemiah 3

We were not designed to bear burdens alone. When we see the brokenness in the world, the solutions seem overwhelming. A God-sized vision is simply too big for any one of us. We need help.

God gave Nehemiah a desire to see Jerusalem’s wall rebuilt, but Nehemiah did not complete the task on his own. Nehemiah 3 lists 43 different groups of people who helped to bring the wall to completion. The historian Josephus recorded the circumference of Jerusalem’s walls at about 4.5 miles. Other sources tell us the wall was 15 feet thick and perhaps 12 feet high. Rebuilding the wall was a big job.

The way the people came together to rebuild the wall is a great example of how the church was designed to function. The church’s mission—to go into all the world and make disciples—is too big for one person. Some completed large sections of the wall while others made small repairs. But, everyone shared the burden in some way. Everyone worked hard on a specific task, and together they finished the job. These people were not professional builders; they were ordinary people willing to follow an extraordinary vision.

We all have a role in the church (Romans 12:4-8). When you’re tempted to wonder whether your little bit matters, remember: You make a huge difference! We are all ordinary people with unique gifts. But when we’re using our gifts and working together, we can make a bigger difference than any one of us would alone.

Consider This:

How can you use your unique gifts and talents to build the church?

Pray:

Jesus, I am ready to make a deeper commitment to helping complete the mission of the church. Show me where my gifts and talents fit in.


Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 3: Accepting God’s Will for Your Child

Most parents think we know what our children should be when they grow up, but our plans are not always the same as God’s plan for them. We’re not the first parents to have to let our children become what God created them to be. Even Mary, the mother of Jesus, had to let her Son follow God’s purpose for His life, whether she liked it or not.

Mary was an ordinary girl who said yes to God’s call on her life (Luke 1:38). She knew Jesus was destined to be great and reign over Israel (Luke 1:32-33), but aside from Simeon’s warning in the temple (Luke 2:35), she probably didn’t expect her beloved firstborn son to die a criminal’s death at the age of 33.

Ground your children in God’s Word so when God speaks, they’ll recognize His voice.

God may be calling your child to a job in a far-off city, or maybe it’s to a mission field in a dangerous country. As parents, we want our children to be happy and fulfilled, and if they can do that while living less than a mile away, all the better. We often want to protect them from all harm and encourage them to do what is going to keep them safe. But God loves our children even more than we do, and He has a purpose for them that is better than anything we could dream up (Jeremiah 29:11).

We all love to give our children gifts, but there are two things we can give them that will help them receive one of the best gifts of all, knowing God and following His will for their lives.

Two of the Best Gifts Money Can’t Buy

1. Roots

Ground your children in God’s Word so when God speaks, they’ll recognize His voice. Mary knew scripture and taught it to her Son. We can also take our children to church so they can learn more about Jesus on their level, just as Mary made sure that Jesus participated in Jewish religious traditions (Luke 2:41-42).

2. Wings

Love your children selflessly enough to let them go wherever God guides them. Mary wanted to see Jesus, but His world was expanding to include everyone willing to listen to Him (Luke 8:19-21). She had to allow Him to fulfill the purpose God had sent Him for.

Parenthood is a lifelong journey of bittersweet moments and putting aside what we want for our children in order to pick up what God wants for them. When we trust God enough to say “yes” to His call, as a mom who gives her children roots and wings, we’ll be able to, like Mary, be blessed among women (Luke 1:42).

Reflect:

  • How are you “rooting” your children in the Word of God?
  • Are you willing to give up your dreams to let God use them in the way He wants to?

Article courtesy of NewSpring Church

Day 4: Hope for Single Moms

Why am I walking this journey? All the other moms seem to have it all together, and I am struggling to put food on the table. Why did God even choose me to be a mother?

If you are having similar thoughts, rest assured that you are not alone. Grab a Kleenex, a comfy reading spot, and let’s dive into Hagar’s story.

Abraham and Sarah grew weary and impatient waiting on God’s promise of children to come true. Taking matters into her own hands, Sarah ordered Hagar, an Egyptian slave in their household, to sleep with her husband in an attempt to build a family.

Hagar became pregnant and began to despise her master, and Sarah likely grew jealous of Hagar’s ability to bear her husband a child. Sarah tells Abraham that it is his fault she is miserable, and he basically gives Sarah permission to do whatever she wants to Hagar. Sarah begins to mistreat Hagar, and Hagar runs away.

God always comes through on his promises; He feels our hurts and hears our cries for help.

Have you found yourself in a difficult predicament, with children, and wonder just where God is leading you? Has your heart cried out for hope, wholeness, and healing?

An angel of the Lord visits Hagar in the wilderness and orders her to return and submit to her mistress, promising her she will give birth to a son named Ishmael and countless more descendants. Hagar was running away from a difficult situation, but God stayed with her and gave her the courage to face the brokenness. Hagar gave birth to a son named Ishmael, translating to “God hears”.

Even when we have doubts and fears, God always comes through on His promises; He feels our hurts and hears our cries for help. Hagar’s story is one of hope. God listened to her cries and felt her brokenness; He stayed with her, pursued her, and delivered her.

God sees your struggle and will guide you through it.

Parenting is hard work in the best of situations. Single mom, God’s grace and mercy fills in all the gaps and crevices in motherhood that you possibly could not. His grace is sufficient for you (2 Corinthians 12:9). God sees your struggle and will guide you through it. Hagar thought she could escape her misery but God not only returned her to it, He blessed her through it. Let Hagar’s story provide the hope you need when you feel the most alone.

Reflect:

  • Are you in a less-than-ideal parenting situation? Meditate on 1 Peter 5:10. Don’t give up hope! God will restore you if you just trust Him!
  • Have you ever tried to escape your problems only to learn that escape is a temporary solution? God wants to help you. Read Philippians 4:13 and 1 Peter 5:7 and stand renewed in your faith that God is a promise maker and a promise keeper.

Article courtesy of NewSpring Church

Day 7: But I’m Not Qualified

Read: Nehemiah 7

Have you ever had an opportunity that in the moment—or perhaps even in hindsight—didn’t seem deserved? The skills you had didn’t seem like enough, especially when compared with the others around you. When Nehemiah set off to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, he did so with a burdened heart.

The people of the city were broken and disorganized, in need of a leader who could show them what to do. During the reconstruction, Nehemiah became the leader who brought out their strengths. He organized the people, protected them, and pooled their resources so they could see each others’ strengths.

But once the walls had been rebuilt, Jerusalem needed new leaders—proper, permanent, capable leaders. And given what the Jewish people had gone through, their new leaders had to be strong. You would think Jerusalem’s next leader would be someone with a lengthy resume and accolades of all kinds. But instead, Nehemiah gave responsibility for the city to Hanani and Hananiah.

These men had no visible qualifications for leadership, but they were perfect for the job. Hanani and Hananiah were virtuous, faithful, God-fearing men who could be trusted to carry out God’s work. Their agenda was God’s will, and that’s what it takes to be a difference maker. Leadership techniques change, and popularity can diminish, but integrity and reverence never go out of style.

Consider This:

What does it mean to fear God?

Pray:

Jesus, help me to live a life of integrity, so that I will be ready to take on new responsibilities.


Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 8: It’s Time To Move Past Your Shame

Read: Nehemiah 8

The people wept over how far they had walked away from God. Then Ezra, a teacher of the law, and Nehemiah, the governor, told them to move past their guilt and shame. Nehemiah and Ezra weren’t giving the people permission to sin. Instead, they were redirecting the people’s attention: Stop focusing on how bad we are, and start focusing on how great God is. Nothing could undo the past. The people’s hearts were repentant, and it was time to move on.

Realizing we’ve sinned causes a specific kind of sorrow called conviction. The good news for every believer is that Jesus made it possible to move past this grief. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Once we’ve confessed our sin to Jesus and repented, it’s time to stop grieving. We may not feel forgiven immediately, but we are. When Jesus forgives us, we are truly forgiven.

General feelings of worthlessness and shame are not the same as conviction, and these feelings are not from God. Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” When we trust that Jesus’ payment was enough, we receive abundant and everlasting grace.

Jesus really does love and forgive us. To be a difference maker, we must operate in Jesus’ strength, choosing His grace over our shame.

Consider This:

How would it change your week to focus on God’s goodness rather than your past?

Pray:

Jesus, show me anything that displeases you. Help me realize I am no longer condemned.


Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 9: God’s Not Scared Of Your Mess

Read: Nehemiah 9

How do you picture God? Is He angry, vengefully looking to punish your next mistake?

That’s a different god than the God Nehemiah describes. God rescued the Israelites from slavery by parting the Red Sea and leading them to the promised land. When they were hungry, God rained down bread from heaven. When they were thirsty, water flowed from a rock. God provided for Israel at every turn.

You would think Israel would be forever grateful. But instead, Nehemiah describes them as entitled and arrogant. They failed to obey commands and forgot the miracles God performed among them. God had every right to punish Israel, but instead, He showed them grace. Though there were consequences for their sin, God never abandoned them. He relentlessly pursued them with compassion, love, and protection. That’s the kind of father God is.

Israel’s story is our story. Even when we are sinful, God pursues us, acting justly and faithfully, even when we do wrong. God is not scared of our mess. He meets us right in the middle of it.

Nehemiah thanks God for His mercy despite the Israelites’ sin. And hundreds of years later, God sends the greatest difference maker of all in Jesus. God chose these people with their messy past to introduce the Savior of the world to the world. He truly is a gracious God! In light of all God has done, the only response is gratitude.

Consider This:

How does looking at your current situation through the lens of God’s grace change your perspective?

Pray:

Jesus, here’s how You’ve been good to me… (List the ways.)


Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 10: Making A Difference As A Church

Read: Nehemiah 10

When the people in Jerusalem said, “We will not neglect the house of our God,” they committed to observe the sacrifices and offerings required by God’s law. They acknowledged they were regaining a special bond that had been lost. In that declaration, they renewed their commitment to obey God. In Christ, we are all part of the house of God. 1 Peter 2:5 says, “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house…” The church is not a building. The church is made up of people (Acts 7:48).

When we say, “We will not neglect the house of God,” it’s an acknowledgement that God has filled our hearts, and our behavior should reflect His love. Living for Jesus is more than showing up to church every week or giving money. When our heart has been truly changed, every area of our lives is affected. And sometimes, like Israel, we need to be reminded of our commitment.

Something special happens when we commit to advancing the church together. The church is made up of individuals changed by Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, making a difference. There is synergy as we pull together with common purpose. We are unstoppable because God is unstoppable in us. Together, we can make a difference in our neighborhoods, cities, and state.

Consider This:

What kind of commitment have you made to the church? Do you need to recommit?

Pray:

Jesus, help me not to forget my commitment.


Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 11: You Are Not A Number

Read: Nehemiah 11

Why do you suppose Nehemiah records so many names in his account of those returning to settle in Jerusalem? The names serve to focus our attention on the promises God made to His people. They remind the workers they are part of one special family of purpose. Perhaps most importantly, the names remind us that these were real people with real stories who made a real difference.

If we were to list all the difference makers who helped build 12Stone, the list would be long. Hundreds and thousands of people have served and sacrificed in order to reach people far from God.

We believe every number has a name, every name has a story, and every story matters to God. God really does care about the people we are trying to reach. But, God also cares about the people already here.

The mission to reach the world with the gospel is a huge undertaking. We can never forget that the church’s mission is fulfilled by individuals. Individuals who matter to God come together to fight and build and make a difference. God hasn’t forgotten you. God is with us in the late nights and early mornings, the long phone calls, and the prayers spoken through tears. He knows and cares about our personal circumstances. Jesus knows us by name.

Consider This:

Who in your life needs to hear about Jesus?

Pray:

Jesus, give me the courage to share my faith.


Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 13: Obeying When It’s Hard

Read: Nehemiah 13

After celebrating the completion of Jerusalem’s wall, Nehemiah finds and excludes all people who are of foreign descent. What is going on here? Why did they do this? Why does the book end this way?

Nehemiah’s decision was not about preserving Israel’s racial heritage. It was about obedience to God. Foreign spouses brought false gods with them and turned the hearts of the people. Nehemiah explains in verses 26-27: “Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned? Among the many nations, there was no king like him. He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women. Must we hear now that you too are doing all this terrible wickedness and are being unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women?”

This exclusion, though drastic, was a way of saying, “Sin led us to captivity. We can’t go back into captivity again. We can’t ever experience the consequences of disobedience again.”

Sin keeps us from experiencing God’s best in our lives. Only through Jesus can we overcome sin and live in freedom. When we live in freedom, we can point others to the freedom Jesus brings. Jesus made a difference in us so we can make a difference to others.

Consider This:

Is there anything holding you back that needs to be excluded from your life?

Pray:

Jesus, help me do whatever it takes to walk closer to you.


Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 6: Is Waiting Worthwhile or a Waste?

Read: Luke 1:5-80

What do you do when you feel called to be a mom, but it just isn’t happening? You probably hear a lot of:
“When are y’all having a baby?”
“Well, have you tried ____?”
“It’ll happen when you stop thinking about it.”

If only.

Elizabeth was not unaware of these expectations of others. As the wife of a priest, and during that time, many viewed infertility as evidence of sin. Still today, infertility can feel like a punishment—especially when everyone else seems to be getting the exact thing you are praying for. Thoughts like “maybe if I read the Bible and prayed more …” are pervasive, but this wasn’t true for Zechariah and Elizabeth. The Bible says that “both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly” (Luke 1:6). Elizabeth was barren, and both she and Zechariah were advanced in age, so it would be easy to feel hopeless and that their prayers for a child would go unanswered.

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished (Luke 1:45)

In her years of waiting, Elizabeth likely didn’t always feel “blessed,” or that her suffering would end. But, feelings are fleeting, and they are no indication of how God is working behind the scenes on our behalf. God has a purpose and a plan that is greater than ours. Elizabeth was faithful, and her prayers were heard. Motherhood, which seemed like a distant dream, would eventually become reality.

Feelings are fleeting, and they are no indication of how God is working behind the scenes on our behalf.

Though we can read Elizabeth’s full story in a matter of minutes, it’s important to remember that it took many years of waiting. It is easy to celebrate alongside Elizabeth when we know how her story ends, but our story is still being written. During the waiting, we can find comfort in these lessons from Elizabeth’s story:

  • God has a purpose and a plan that is greater than ours.
  • The best predictor of God’s future faithfulness is His past provision.
  • God’s timing is always best.
  • God is a promise maker and a promise keeper.

Reflect:

  • What are you praying for that feels impossible? (Luke 1:37)
  • In what ways has God proven faithful to you in the past?

Article courtesy of NewSpring Church

Day 12: Celebration Makes A Difference

Read: Nehemiah 12

Jerusalem’s wall was finished in 52 days. Amazing! Nehemiah made plans to celebrate. Nehemiah passed out assignments, organized the people, and oversaw every aspect of the celebration. Nehemiah took the celebration as seriously as he took the building of the wall because he knew celebration was the final step of the project.

Romans 11:36 says, “For from him and through him and for him are all things.” Nehemiah realized the building project started with God, was sustained by God, and was for God. Celebration reminds us that every success happens by the grace of God.

No matter what we are doing, thankfulness is not an add-on activity. Gratitude to God for all that He has done removes pride and opens the door to future blessings. Without thanksgiving, we would forget what is truly important. When we stop remembering God, we allow an unhealthy and false independence to grow. We begin to think we did it. And before we know it, we have removed God from our decision-making process.

Our ability to make a difference is a direct result of Jesus’ work in us. All of our success is from Him, through Him, and for Him. So, why wouldn’t we approach our victories with celebration and thanksgiving?

Consider This:

When was the last time you planned a celebration?

Pray:

Jesus, thank you for…


Article courtesy of NewSpring

Ridiculously Life Changing – Jeff Foxworthy & Wayne Cook’s Story

Famous comedian, actor, and author Jeff Foxworthy credits Wayne Cook, who he met at the Atlanta Mission, for changing his life forever.

“I was experiencing homelessness but I was living hopelessness, which is something that is way more severe and required a lot more attention than I realized,” says Cook. After trying to intimidate his small group leaders to get them to stop showing up, he finally accepted their love and attention… and snacks!