Monday, August 12 – “In that day the remnant of Israel, the survivors of Jacob, will no longer rely on him who struck them down but will truly rely on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 10:20) Faith and reliance go hand in hand. When you have faith in something it simply means that you rely on that something. That something is the very basis for your life, the support you lean on and the comfort that you seek. You have two choices when it comes to reliance, you either rely on the Lord or you rely on the ways of this world. Using our text for today, the ways of this world are represented by the “him who struck you down” reference. The world is sin-stained, imperfect, full of deceivers and deceitful ways. The world teaches every man and woman for themselves. The world requires blood, sweat and tears and relegates everything to the arbitrary natural choice of it all. The Lord, offers grace, forgiveness, salvation and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Today, will you put your faith, your trust and your reliance into the ways of the world or the Lord, the Holy one of Israel?
Tuesday, August 13 – “They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” (Psalm 112:7) Crazy weather, mass shootings, politics, flesh eating viruses, internet privacy issues, corporate greed, rising health care costs, immigration, seaweed invasions, shark attacks and ethnic genocide. (And that is just today’s headlines!) Everywhere you look there is bad news. Some say the end must be near because things are so bad in our world. I don’t know about all that because you can make the argument that things are exactly the same as they have always been, we just know more about it all because of technology and 24-hour news sources. All of that aside, I have one question for you today: In what do you trust? Do you trust in the bad news or do you trust in the Lord? Not that you ignore or deny what is happening in our world, this is a question of trust and where your trust rests. Let me put it another way, do you spend more time during your day watching the news or growing in your relationship with Jesus?
Wednesday, August 14 – “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23) The only thing that you can control in this life is yourself. You can’t control the weather. You can’t control the government. You can’t control other people. You can’t control the economy. And you can’t control the headlines. Our world teaches us the exact opposite. If someone prevents you from controlling any aspect of your life you need to fight back as hard as you can. I agree that there are cases that require our action, such as bigotry, hatred and other forms of injustice, but as followers of Jesus we are called to get good at allowing God to be judge and jury in our lives. What would that look like in your life today? Are you seeking revenge? Are you harboring a grudge that is consuming your life? Are you holding onto unforgiveness? How is that going for you? Why don’t you try letting it go and use all of that time and energy to focus on growing in your relationship with Jesus, the very one for whom today’s verse speaks?
Thursday, August 15 – “Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.” (Luke 23:46) Jesus’ final words remind me of all of those conversations about death bed conversions. Do any of us believe that Jesus never committed his spirit to God before the moment of his death? Of course not. All Jesus was doing was stating that which was already. He was affirming that his life is, was and will always be in God’s hands. Taking this into account, then a death bed conversion is nothing more than are restatement of that which is already true in someone’s life. Just like you always find that which is lost in the last place that you look; what is on your heart, mind and lips at the time of death is that which you truly are. The point? Why will you wait until the moment of death to proclaim with your lips the truth of your trust? Shout it from the mountain tops for all to hear today, right here, right now!
Friday, August 16 – “You turn things upside down. As if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘You did not make me’?” (Isaiah 29:16) Isn’t this just like us? Turning things upside down and trying to make God in our image as opposed to the other way around. Into what box are you currently putting God? Do you find your relationship with God is more about what you want and need as opposed to what God wills? Do you find your relationship with God is more about you talking as opposed to you listening? Do you approach God looking for affirmation or do you approach God looking for guidance? I invite you this weekend to be mindful of your relationship with God. Pay attention to your prayer life. Pay attention to what you read about God and how what you read makes you feel. Pay attention to how you approach worship this Sunday and what you focus on during worship. Are you turning things upside down?
Monday, August 19 – “Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.” (1 Corinthians 7:17) Wherever you are, there you will be. Sounds simple, yet how many of us live every single day as if we were somewhere else or someone else. We get good at pretending to be someone that we aren’t so that we can fit in with our surroundings. We become like chameleons, changing our color in order to match our surroundings. We get good at acting, putting on masks and living secret lives. The cost of discipleship is the fact that you are a follower of Jesus, regardless of your surroundings. It takes a strong person to be who they are, regardless of what anyone else thinks or expects. Today I invite you to pay attention to who you are in different situations, with different people. Are you you regardless of where you are or who you are with? Or do you pretend to be someone that you aren’t in order to fit in?
Tuesday, August 20 – “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51) Jesus came to die on the cross for our sins. This was his “cross” or his purpose. He couldn’t avoid it, put it off or deny it because dying on the cross for our sins was his purpose for living. Most people would plead for Jesus to stay away from Jerusalem, because going to Jerusalem meant he was going to his death. Yet, his death was his purpose, it was the very reason that he had come to earth in the first place. Thus, trying to avoid Jerusalem would be like trying to avoid his very being, his reason for living. You are exactly the same as Jesus. You have been created for a specific purpose, to carry out God’s will here on earth. This purpose, this God given being, is your “cross”. If you deny it, you deny yourself, you deny who God has created you to be. Your calling in this life isn’t to deny your God given purpose, but to live it, regardless of what that might mean. This is the cost of discipleship.
Wednesday, August 21 – “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8) I bring this verse up this week because we have been looking at the cost of discipleship. Jesus gives an example in the Gospel of Luke about hating your father and mother (Luke 14:25-33). Looking at today’s verse there is either a massive contradiction in scripture or we are missing something in translation. Jesus doesn’t want you to hate your family, but Jesus does want you to love him more than you love your family. When push comes to shove, Jesus expects that his followers will follow him and not leave him. Jesus expects our dedication, above everything else in life, even family. So, love your family and provide for them, but if they force you to decide between them and Jesus, pick Jesus! This is the cost of discipleship.
Thursday, August 22 – “Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’” (Luke 9:23) What is this “cross” that Jesus speaks of? Are each one of us destined to die by crucifixion? Are you and I called to sacrifice our lives for the salvation of the world? No, for Jesus has already taken care of the salvation piece. Thus, the “cross” that Jesus refers to must mean something different. Jesus came to die on the cross for our sins, it was his purpose. So, the “cross” that Jesus refers to today is your purpose. Why have you been created? Why are you alive in this place and at this time? This is your “cross”. So, what Jesus is teaching you is that you must pick up your purpose and follow him. This is the cost of discipleship.
Friday, August 23 – And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 9:29) Not that you need motivation to follow Jesus regardless of the cost, but it is good to know that God has got your back. It is all a matter of perspective. When you are a follower of Jesus, what you used to value becomes tarnished and what is truly of value becomes the life you live as a follower. When you are living a life that you truly value you become the richest person in the world. Your richness doesn’t come from your bottom line, it comes from your peace in the midst of your bottom line. One can be filthy rich and lack peace and they will be poor. Conversely, one can be poor and live in peace and be the richest person in the world. God will take care of your needs, just look around and see how God cares for all of creation. Your purpose in life isn’t to provide for all of your needs. Your purpose is to be the person that God has created you to be, regardless of the cost. Your peace comes from the fact that you can leave the rest up to God. This the cost of discipleship.