Day Thirty-Six: The Promise to Become Children of God

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”    John 1:12-13

Everyone in the world has two parents:  a mother and a father.  We all know that it takes a man and a woman to make a baby.  You were born on this earth because of two people who came together and they created you.  Now, some of you may have been raised by both your parents together in the same house.  Some of you may have been raised by both parents who lived in separate homes.  Some of you may have been raised by one of your parents because you lost a parent to death or divorce.  Some of you may not know who your birth parents are because you were adopted.  Some of you may have grown up in an orphanage or foster care and never really had parents who raised you.  Everyone on earth has parents…you just may or may not know them.

Did you know that when you give your life to Jesus and accept Him as your Savior that you become the child of God?  In the first chapter of the book of John we read that Jesus came into the world.  He is the true light (John 1:9).  He was with God in the beginning.  But even though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize that He was the Messiah, the Son of God (John 1:10).  They rejected Him.

But the good news is that when we receive and accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, God promises we will become His children!  The Bible calls this being “born again” (John 3:3, 1 Peter 1:23).  This term first pops up in John 3.  Nicodemus was a Pharisee who came to Jesus at night to tell Him that He believed in Him.  He came at night since he was a Pharisee and Pharisees did not believe Jesus was the Messiah.  Nicodemus didn’t want anyone knowing he believed in Jesus. When Nicodemus told Jesus that he believed in Him, Jesus replies back with, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3).  Then Nicodemus responds with a question because he is super confused.  “How can someone be born when they are old?  Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born again!”  (John 3:4).

Now this is where you get a little embarrassed for Nicodemus and hide your head.  What a silly question to be asking the Messiah!  Of course a person cannot enter the womb a second time to be born!  You crazy Nicodemus!

Jesus goes on to say that to be a child of God you will have been born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5).  This is how we can enter the kingdom of God which is eternal life with God.  We must be born again in order to become children of God.

Some of you may be saying, “That’s great,Vanessa, but how do I accept Jesus as my Savior?  What do I need to do?” 

Paul spells it out for us in Romans 10:9-10, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”  

That’s it, friends.  We must openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead.  When we do this then we know we are saved.  We know that we are born again.  We know that we are a child of God.

My hope is that everyone in this world will come to know Jesus as their Savior. I want to be able to call every person my brother or sister in Christ.  I want everyone to come to know their true Father…the parent who will never leave them, never turn their backs on them, never stop loving them, and will always forgive them.

I am so grateful that I can say I am a child of God.  Would you join me in helping others come to know that when they know Jesus as their Savior, they are children of God?

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Jesus so that we could know Him and become Your children.  Give us boldness and courage to share Your message with others so they can join Your family along with us.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Journal

  1. Is there someone you know that is not a part of the family of God yet?  What can you do to reach out to them?
  2. Pray and ask God to open doors for you to share Jesus with others this week.

Day Thirty-Five: The Promise of Vengeance

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written:  ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'”    Romans 12:19

Have you ever had someone hurt you so much that all you could think about was seeking vengeance?

Maybe it was a damaging word that cut deep to your heart, a broken promise, a spouse’s affair, or a rejection.  Any time someone hurts or offends us, our initial reaction is to pay them back.  Get even.  Hurt them like they hurt us.  It’s only fair, right?

God says just the opposite.

In this passage in Romans, Paul is speaking to the people of Rome about the marks of a true Christian.  In the verse above, Paul is actually quoting the Old Testament from Deuteronomy 32:35 (NIRV):  “I punish people.  I will pay them back.  The time will come when their feet will slip.  Their day of trouble is near.  Very soon they will be destroyed.”  This passage is part of the song of Moses, which he sings near the end of his time here on earth.  Moses and Paul are both telling us that God is the one who judges.  He is the one who punishes those for the wrongs they do.  It is not our job to craft a cunning revenge plot so we can make sure that the person who hurt us gets paid back.  It’s God’s job.

I have been reading the book of First Samuel these past few weeks (part of my reading that goes along with the First 5 app).  There are two chapters in this book where David was ready for vengeance.  For most of First Samuel, King Saul is in hot pursuit of David because he does not like him.  David has been anointed the next king of Israel and Saul is super jealous!  He wants David killed, but David goes on the run in order to remain alive.  In First Samuel 24, Saul enters a cave where David and his men are hiding.  It was dark so Saul could not see them hidden.  David’s men urged him to kill him.  It’s only the right thing to do since Saul was trying to kill him.  So David gets close enough to Saul, but instead of killing him, he cuts off a part of his cloak.  Right after he does that David feels guilty.  He knew the moment he cut Saul’s cloak that he should not have done that.  It wasn’t his right to seek revenge on the man who wanted him dead.  No, it was God’s job.  And David knew that God would pay Saul back for what he was doing to David.  That moment wasn’t the right time.  David just had to trust and wait for God.

The second time David was ready to seek vengeance was against a man named Nabal (1 Samuel 25).  Nabal refused to feed David and his men after they had done him the favor of protecting his shepherds and their flocks.  David was filled with rage and was ready to kill…all because Nabal refused to give him food.  Crazy, right?  Starvation can make you want to do some outrageous things!  But God sent a sweet woman named Abigail, Nabal’s wife, to talk him out of killing Nabal.  Because of her words, David backed down, kept his cool, and did not kill Nabal.  David was reminded, through Abigail, that it was not his place to seek revenge.  It was God’s job.  He had to trust and wait for God.

I love how God uses all of Scripture to teach us, to show us how He helped others, and how He reminded them of His promises.  Vengeance is not ours.  No matter what someone has done to you, don’t pay them back evil for evil.  In Romans 12, Paul goes on to tell us what we should do when we want to seek revenge:  “If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:20-21). 

Your first reaction to this passage is probably a loud, “What? I’m not being nice to my enemies!”  But I pray that you will heed these words and let God be the one to seek vengeance.  He promises that those who do harm to you will be punished.  If you have a hard time believing this promise, just read His Word.  He shows us all throughout that He does follow through with this promise.

“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Prayer:  Just and Holy God, thank You for the promise of vengeance.  Restrain us from the times when all we want to do is cause harm to someone who has hurt us.  Remind us of Your promise of vengeance and help us to love our enemies and be kind to them, even when we don’t want to.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Journal

  1. What has someone done to hurt you?  What did you do in that situation?
  2. How can you show love to your enemies?

Day Thirty-Four:  The Promise to Be Our Light

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.'”  John 8:12

I went on a new adventure the other day.  I rode in a boat on a lake in a cave! I visited the Lost Sea Adventure in Sweetwater, TN.  It is America’s largest underground lake.  It’s part of the Craighead Caverns.  On this adventure we walked deep down into the earth and saw many cool things in these caverns, including a small waterfall, and at the bottom was a beautiful lake filled with rainbow trout.  We boarded a boat and went across the lake that is a registered national landmark.

At one point on our way down they took us to a dead end and turned off the lights.  First they told us to get close to those we came with because we would not be able to see anything.  And they were right.  It was pitch black dark.  I did not like this part because it was scary!  I could not even see my own hand in front of me.  If I was not hugging my family then I would have no idea they were even next to me.  It was that dark.  When the lights came back on I was relieved. I love the light and hate the darkness!

This experience made me think about what our lives are like if we don’t know Jesus as our Savior.  We walk along in pure darkness not able to see a thing.  We make choices without His help. We don’t know that there is even any light that can guide us.  Why?  Because no one has told us.

On the Lost Sea tour they told us that if you were to sit in that cave in total darkness for 2 weeks    then you would go blind.

I am so grateful for the promise of Jesus to be our light.  In John 8:12 Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”  Jesus has promised to be our light.  He will guide our way when we cannot see.

He says that those who follow Him will never walk in darkness.  Does that mean we will never have dark times?  No.  Does that mean we will always have light and be happy all the time?  No.  He doesn’t promise that.  What He does promise is that when we know Him as our Savior, He will be our light in the darkness.  When we know Him we will be able to see Him when things are dark.  When we know Him we will never have a need to worry or fear what we cannot see. He sees for us.

Because Jesus is our light we can take His light and shine it to others.  Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  When we know Jesus as our Savior, His light will shine 

 
told us if we stayed in total blackness for 2 weeks that we would go blind becaus our retinas would not be able to find light.

Day Thirty-Three:  The Promise to Draw Near to Us

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”   James 4:8

Have you ever heard the phrase, “If you feel far away from God, guess who moved?”

I used to hate it when people would say that.  It would make me feel like a big loser…like I was a bad person who was doing bad things and had no need for the Lord.  It made me feel very guilty because I was not close to God.  That phrase would eat away at me causing me to grow bitter, which would make me feel even further from God.

But you know how it makes me feel now?  

Thankful.  

First, I am thankful for the reminder of my need to draw closer to God.  I go through periods of my life where I feel far away from God.  This phrase brings me back to reality and helps me remember that I need to focus more on God.

Second, I am thankful because this phrase reminds me that God never moves.  Ever.  Nothing I do and nothing I say can ever make God move away from me.  It’s like He is glued to my side and won’t ever leave.  

However, sometimes I seem to wiggle my way out of that bond He and I share.  And it’s not God that has moved…it’s me.  So how do I draw close to God and remember the promise that He will draw near to me?

I think this verse from Hebrews 10:22 gives us a great way to draw near to God.  The NIRV is my favorite version of this verse:  “So let us come near to God with a sincere heart. Let us come near boldly because of our faith. Our hearts have been sprinkled. Our minds have been cleansed from a sense of guilt. Our bodies have been washed with pure water.”  

First, we can draw close to God by having sincere hearts.  Do you really want to be near to God or are you just faking it? Do you want that personal relationship with Him because you know you love Him or because you think you are supposed to love Him?  What is your true, deep desire for being close to God?  God knows your heart and He knows when you are being sincere and when you are not.  We need to examine our own hearts first and make sure we are coming before Him with genuine and sincere hearts.

Second, we can draw close to God by boldly coming before Him.  We can do this because of the faith we have in Him.  We know He is faithful.  We know He is not going anywhere so we can boldly approach Him because we are confident in Him.  How do we know all these things?  Because we spend time with Him…by reading His Word and by talking with Him.  Come to the Lord each and every day. Pray to Him with boldness.  Dive deep into the Word that He wrote.  Seek Him with all that you have.

Finally, we can draw close to God by remembering that “our hearts have been sprinkled with the blood of Jesus, our minds have been cleansed of guilt, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.”  We remember the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ and how when we came to know Him as our Savior, our bodies were made new.  Why wouldn’t we want to draw close to our God who loves us so much that He had His own Son take our place?

Friends, God has not moved.  He has promised that when we draw near to Him, He will be there.  Seek Him with a sincere heart, boldly come before him because of your faith in Him, and remember the sacrifice of Jesus.  God is always near us.  

If you feel far away from God, guess who moved?

Prayer:  Holy Father, thank You for drawing near to us all the time.  I pray for each person reading this that they earnestly seek You and draw close to You.  Remind them of Your presence and help them daily practice drawing close to You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Journal

1.  How does that phrase make you feel?

2.  How can you do a better job at remaining close with God?

Day Thirty-Two:  The Promise to Set Us Free

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.”  Romans 8:2

The weight became really heavy.  It felt like I was being pulled under water and I couldn’t make my way back up to the surface.  The chains around my legs and hands were unbreakable.  I was helpless and I couldn’t do anything to save myself. 

This is what fear was doing to me.  I felt bound by all the fears I had.  I felt like there was no way to be released from them.  And it wasn’t just one fear, but many fears.  I’ll be open and honest and share with you some of my fears.  Some are silly and some are not.

I have been afraid of dogs, elevators, tight spaces, getting sick and having to take medicine, developing food allergies, tornadoes, flying on airplanes, snakes, sharks, flesh-eating bacteria in the ocean, someone breaking into my house, something happening to my kids, and my house catching on fire.  I’m also afraid of things like not doing God’s will, not pleasing God, actually listening to God and doing what He asks me to do (because sometimes those things are scary), disappointing God, and doing things I know God would not want me to do.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!  I could tell you more fears too!

One day I came to my breaking point and was able to see that I could not break those chains myself.  I could not do anything in my own power to free myself from the chains of fear.  But there was someone who came to break them for me.  His name is Jesus.  I cried out to the Lord for help and was reminded of the Romans passage above. 

I have already been set free.  When Jesus came to this earth and took on my sins, He broke the chains of sin for me and for each and everyone of us.  I was allowing fear to bind me, to chain me up and feel like I was its slave. The Enemy does a real good job at deceiving us.  He likes to make us feel like we are his prisoners.  He makes us forget about Jesus and His love for us.  We become chained up and feel like there is no way we will ever be free.

My prayer is that you will have a moment of clarity…a real moment when you will see that you do not have to be a slave to your sins.  Jesus has come so that you can be free!  Don’t you want to feel the chains broken?  Don’t you want to feel the weight of sin lifted off of you?  I rejoiced at the moment when my chains fell off.  I finally gave every fear of mine over to the Lord!  It was an amazing moment for sure.  

“My chains are gone, I’ve been set free.  My God, my Savior has ransomed me.  And like a flood, His mercy reigns.  Unending love, aamazing grace.”  Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) by Chris Tomlin

Prayer:  Merciful God, thank You for being our chain breaker.  Help us to remember that we don’t have to be a slave to sin.  Remind us that Jesus has already broken our chains and set us free.  Thank You for this!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Journal

1.  What chains are you wearing that are making you feel like a prisoner?

2.  How has God helped you to see that you are set free?

Day Thirty-One: The Promise of Love

“God’s love was revealed among us in this way:  God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.”   1 John 4:9-11

I never knew how much I could love a person until I became a mother.  Giving birth to two children totally changed me.  I love every single thing about my two daughters.  I love their beautiful faces, sweet smiles, loud laughs, the way one is more quiet and the other is quite loud, the way they play together, the way they joke around with each other, the way they play their favorite sport of soccer, and the way they love Jesus.  I truly and deeply love my children.

When I think about the depth of love I have for my children, I think about God’s love for His children.  The love I have for my children pales in comparison to the love God has for each one of us.  We can look all throughout the Bible and see the amazing love that God had for every single child of His.  It all started with Adam and Eve and it continues to all of us today.

I love the fourth chapter of 1 John as it shows us the true character of who God is.  God is love.  And it tells us how God’s love was shown for us:  “God’s love was revealed among us in this way:  God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9).  God showed us the greatest love ever by sending His Son to die for us.  If you don’t love someone you don’t sacrifice your own Son so that every one of your children can live eternally.  You just wouldn’t do it.  But we know that God loves us because He sent Jesus for us.

It’s from God that we know how to love.  God teaches us through His Word how we are to love.  It specifically says in 1 John 4:11 that “since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”  We are to continue spreading the love of our Father to everyone we meet.

This year in my Children’s Ministry on Sunday mornings, we have been learning all about the life of Jesus.  From His birth to His death, we are covering story after story from the Gospels.  Jesus’ life here on this earth was remarkable.  He was fully divine and fully human and He came to this earth not only to die for us, but to be an example for us.  

Friends, if you want to know how to love others…look at the life of Jesus.  I love the conversations He had with others (my favorite being the woman at the well).  I love the way He taught others.  I love the stories He shared (take a look at the parables).  I love how He showed compassion to others (Matthew 9:36).  I love how He wept with others (John 11:35).  I love how He did not come to condemn others (John 3:17).  I love how He came not to be served, but to serve others (Matthew 20:28).   I love how He came to save each and every one of us (John 3:17).  I love how He loved others…freely and unconditionally…including teaching us to love our enemies and those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-44).

We live in a world today where there is so much hatred, fighting, and violence.  And this is happening because we are not loving our neighbors as Jesus commanded.  Yes, we will not get along with everyone.  Yes, we will totally disagree with others and their views and opinions.  Yes, we will not see eye to eye with others.  Jesus didn’t either.  But He chose to love.  And that is what we are to do as well.

We need to be showing the love of Jesus to others each and every day of our lives. Let’s follow the perfect example of love God laid out for us.  Let’s follow Jesus and truly love one another.  Go…and be Jesus to someone today.

Prayer:  Loving Father, thank You for loving us despite our flaws and mistakes.  We are grateful for a Holy Father who showed us His love by sending His Son to die for us.  Thank You for the example Jesus set for us in showing us how to love others.  Help us to love unconditionally just as You do.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Journal

  1.  What can you do to show someone love today?
  2.  How has someone showed you love before?

Day Thirty: The Promise to Prosper Us

“For I know the plans I have for you”, says the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”   Jeremiah 29:11

How would you define the word prosper?

Most of us would say that to prosper means to be successful.  So if one is successful, what defines success?  A big corporate job?  Having a lot of money?  Having a nice house?  Driving a nice car?  Wearing only the most expensive clothes?  Dining at the fancy restaurants?

Somehow I don’t think this is what God was saying to us in this verse in Jeremiah.  God has plans for each of us. Big plans.  Plans that will prosper us.  Plans that will give us hope.  Plans that will give us a future.  Do those plans involve each of the successful things above?  Maybe.  Or maybe not.

If you look up the meaning of prosper in the Hebrew and Greek form, it has several meanings:  to favor, to render successful, to thrive, to make gain, to grow, to increase.  But I think my most favorite definition of this word is “to move forward favorably”.  God’s plan for our lives is to make us thrive and grow and to move us forward (not backward) because we are favored by Him.

We can look all throughout the Bible and see that God prospered many people.  One that I want to take a look at is Jacob.  I was reminded of God’s plan to prosper Jacob by the sermon of our Associate Pastor his past Sunday morning at church.  In Genesis 28, Jacob is on the run.  He had just deceived his brother, Esau, and stolen his birthright from him.  Esau was pretty livid and wanted to kill Jacob.  But with the help of his mother, Rebekah, Jacob was able to escape and move to another land, where he falls in love and marries both Leah and Rachel (and also has 2 concubines).  Between these four women, Jacob has 12 sons.

But if we back up a little, we will read about Jacob’s dream (the one we call Jacob’s ladder). In this dream God says to Jacob, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring.  Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you.” (v. 13-15).

God spoke to Jacob in a dream and told him that he and his offspring would be great and would be blessed.  Jacob commits this promise to memory and doesn’t forget.  If we skip forward to Genesis 32, we will see that Jacob is ready to go back to the land of Canaan because God said it was time.  But there’s one thing he’s afraid of…his brother, Esau.  When he last left Esau, many years ago, things were not good.  He was afraid that Esau would try to kill him.  So he sends his messengers ahead of him to tell Esau that Jacob is coming home and that he comes in peace and hopes to find favor with him.  Esau responds saying he is coming to meet him and bringing with him 400 of his men.

Now this is when Jacob starts to freak out a little.  He panics and is worried and he cries out to God, reminding Him of the promise to prosper him.  “And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant….But you have said, “I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.'”  (Genesis 32:9-10,12)

Jacob is one bold man to remind God of His promise to prosper him.  He’s not afraid to remind God of what He said to him years before.  And what does God do?  He prospers Jacob.  He favors Jacob and moves him forward.  Out of Jacob comes the land of Israel.  Jacob’s offspring and descendants are great.  God promised to prosper Jacob.  And God kept His promise.

Jacob could come before God boldly because He knew God and knew God well.  He had faith in the Lord, followed Him, trusted Him, and knew that God would never break the promises He made.  Never.  Because his God and our God is a faithful God.

We can learn a few things from Jacob.  First we need to be walking closely with the Lord.  And that doesn’t mean only seeking Him when we need Him.  Walking closely with the Lord means seeking Him daily, reading His Word, understanding who God is, spending time in prayer.  Because when we do these things we will know God and know Him well.

Second, we need to be bold.  God wants us to be bold.  When we know God and who He is, we can boldly approach Him.  We aren’t afraid of Him or what He will say.  We aren’t fearful that He won’t listen to us.  We can boldly go to Him in prayer and remind Him of His plans to prosper us.

But let’s remember one important thing, God’s promise to prosper us does not look like the world’s definition of prosper.  God promises to grow us.  God promises to help us be successful (in His eyes).  God promises to move us forward favorably.

Are you in a place in your life where you aren’t feeling very prosperous?  Maybe you are feeling spiritually dry and need to know what God’s plan for your life is.  I believe that if you seek God, know Him, remember His promises, and boldly go to Him in prayer then you will be able to recognize the many ways God DOES prosper you.  You will see the ways that God favorably moves you forward.

Prayer:  Faithful God, thank You for the promise to prosper us.  Forgive us when we long for the success of this world.  Help us to know that You don’t prosper us as the world would, but You prosper us by moving us forward in our faith.  Thank You for having great plans for our life.  We love You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Journal

  1.  In what ways has God prospered you.
  2.  If you are in a spiritually dry desert, what can you do to seek God and know the plans He has for you?