Day 15: The Humbled Heart

READ: Deuteronomy 8.2 (NRSV)  

God is patient. We are blessed by God’s patience, and hopefully inspired by God’s ability to have more perspective than we have. God waits forty years for these complaining children turn their hearts around and place their trust in God’s plan and God’s timing.

This patience is God process of giving the gift of hope. Not only does God want their minds, hearts, and actions change, God longs for their choices to be a witness to others of relying on God’s strength.

God leads people. God is much more involved that we might see or understand. What a wonder blessing when we see prayers answered, and difficult struggles in the review mirror and see how God was preparing us for the new opportunities in our future.

God is with us and continues to be with us. The wilderness journey is our spiritual journey, these very days that we are living right now. We look back and wish the Hebrews could have not taken forty years to learn faithfulness in such harsh conditions, and yet our individual journey show our ebb and flow of spiritual trust journey.

God’s time matches God’s plans and is resourced by God’s gifts, strengths, and grace. The sooner ‘see the light’ and ‘walk in God’s ways’ our journey become celebration, joy, and faith. If your current situation is not yet in a place of milk and honey, then look at our own spiritual gages of obedience, surrender, and spiritual relationship building. My grand father used to tell us that he would take us to the pool if we would first learn to swim. God does set us up like that. God says, the water is deep, but I am taller, jump in and let’s get going.   

Action Plan: The next time you find a person’s behavior annoying you, remember what it is like to be a child. Like that person our attitudes and behaviors need the attention that the annoying part reveals. Our heavenly father is ready to walk, talk, and send us one step closer today.  

Prayer: Lord, give me patience; even it takes my whole lifetime. Amen. 

frozen wave against sunlight
Finding God’s Heart and presence everywhere. Photo Pexels.com

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Day 14 I Shall Not Want

  

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Photo by Kelly Lacy on Pexels.com

Read: Deuteronomy 2.7 (NRSV)  

Here the long wilderness journey comes to an end for Moses. He looks back forty years and remembers the plagues and the exodus, the grumbling, and the manna. Joshua looks ahead and prepares to enter the Promised Land. Long before I turned forty, I could not imagine looking back more than a month or two. Further along the path, it is now easy to look back to see most clearly points of failure and success on my part, and the abiding presence of God throughout the journey.

The clarity of hindsight carries a powerful perspective for affirmation and for assurance in the presence. Whatever your current age, the point in our journey is vital to stop and learn from our past. It is certain that when we fail to learn from the past, we will indeed repeat our former ills. The current effort to clean-up our history will temporarily give those who rewrite the past power and sense of accomplishment, but our past is one of our greatest teachers. With all the dirty and sin, we must know what we have come through to see the value of what we have and where we are heading.

Before us is a world that is less likely to listen to the church’s message of righteousness and spiritual course correction. Therefore, we must make certain to know how God has guided, blessed, corrected, and empowered the People of God through great trials and suffering. The days ahead are no easier and the call of discipleship is no less important. Seek God in scripture, the fellowship of the believers, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Action Plan: Look at family photos and count your blessings. Find past photos of your church family and learn from our past. What are some of the hopes and dreams that you once had? Are they still attainable? Will you work to their fulfillment? Have new and better dreams come to fulfillment in their place?  

Prayer: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall want for nothing! Amen. 

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Day 13 Levites are Hosts of Grace

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Entering Our Promised Land. Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

Read: Numbers 35.6 (NRSV)  

All except one of the twelve tribes of God’s people, the Levites, were given lands and regions of their own. The Levites were the family of priests. They assignment was the responsibility of the sanctuary, worship, sacrifices, and over forty cities in which to live. In addition, the Levites were to govern the cities of refuge. A good name of a city of refuge would be Grace City. This system service as a spiritual relocation protection system that allows for those who committed non-premeditated crimes against others to move to another city and have a fresh start. It is likely we see the evidence of this practice in the favorite 23rd Psalm where we read about sitting at the banquet in the presence of our enemies. It is God’s plan of grace that makes from for us even though we are guilty of sin.

A remarkable story of the extension of grace in the Old Testament is the cities of refuge. Imagine God at work in your life and witness, calling you to be a host of grace. Bringing together people who are divided, the blamer and the blame-e, the guilty and the innocent, the victim, and the abuser. Part of your journey of spiritual grow may be to sit with someone you need to forgive or listen to someone who needs to forgive and release you.

How can we make our house of worship a place that welcomes sinners and a place of healing? The exceedingly difficult key is to be honest. Honest that some ideas, behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs are not those of God, even though we might consider them kind, nice, and loving. God calls us to be faithfulness. God welcomes us all as broken sinners in need of healing and wholeness. The Levites were not charged to gather the largest crowd, they were to open God’s grace for those who know they need instruction, healing, and correction. There are those who find it easier to practice church hopping to find a body who will agree with them. The Levites answer the call to open the does to all who want to find God’s righteousness and not just affirm our own sin and division.

Action Plan: Identify someone you could extend grace and forgiveness toward and go do it. Reach out in the tradition of the Levites and call others to join you in repentance and healing. You will be giving one of the greatest gifts you could possibly share.  

Prayer: God, send me to find your grace and to offer it to others; Oh Lord, be my strength and hope. Amen. 

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Day 12 Entering with No Reservations

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Making Reservations. Don’t miss the fun! Photo by Juany Jimenez Torres on Pexels.com

Read: Numbers 32.7-17 (NRSV)  

Some restaurants require reservations. One way to always avoid needing a reservation is never eat at a place that requires them. That is a drastic choice that will also require us to miss out on some special occasions and experiences. Maybe those who choose to take an easier route don’t like to wait or think the practice is not fair, or they just have a poor attitude and fell out of control. Make the reservation and enjoy the fellowship.

In our spiritual journey, neither should we avoid making time to experience spiritual growth opportunities before having tasted it. The passage from Numbers 32 recounts a time that some of the family of God were discouraging others from entering the promised land because it would involve further difficulty, inconvenience, and struggle. This leading of others away from the mission of God is like those who discourage our faithfulness in doing what is necessary to experience God’s promises and ministries. God was angry when they were discouraging the faithfulness of others then and is now with us when we become barriers to change, sticks-in-the-mud, and those who encourage others to take spiritual short-cuts thinking we have a better plan than God’s.

It is Caleb and Joshua who are the exception to God’s judgment. Unlike the majority, these two, can enter the land promised by God because they had trusted God, without reservations. When we listen to the fears and pressures of others that call us away from God, and yet we stay close to God, we find God with us, and that is the reward of the Promised Land for us.

Today is your opportunity to make certain this day is a day lived for Christ and a day filled with the Holy Spirit. Go out of your way to encourage others and when you hear someone holding someone back from growing in spirit, call them out. Remind them they are missing a visit to God’s Promised presence.

Action Plan: List the relationships, emotions, and attitudes that might be keeping us from knowing Christ’s joy. Make a reservation with a friend to share your list and listen to their feedback.  Break bread as you are able and enjoy the fellowship with the People of God and a little milk and honey!

Prayer: Today, O God, I give you my life anew. Put me to doing or lay me aside. Allow me to be with you always, no matter what you and I do today. 

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Lent: Day 11 What Have the Children Seen Us Doing?

Read: Numbers 14.33 (NRSV)

Where did he learn to do that?

God expresses frustration over the Hebrews lack of faith in the wilderness. God pronounces a taste of their own words and actions. The punishment given by God is that none of the first generation that left Egypt would enter the Promised Land. Their children would be shepherded in the dessert to give them time and perspective to learn how to trust God in all things. God provides and calls for faithfulness.

The generation leaving Egypt complained and struggled for years and years and the children heard only the regret, fears, and problems. Who will tell them the stories of salvation? Who will teach them God’s promises? Who will show by example the life God hopes for the people?

Whenever we have children in our lives they watch carefully our actions and listen to our words. This is more true when they see our social media posts and we think we are only speaking to like minded adults.

Don’t miss out on God’s promises and don’t lead others into sin or temptation. We are more of a witness than we would like to admit in what we say and don’t say, and eat or drink. Be a witness of Christ.

Action Plan: By our actions, emotions and attitudes, what are we teaching the children of this generation about the love, power and grace of God? Take time to teach a child this week what God is calling you to make sure the next generation will remember.

Prayer: Yes, Lord, I receive your charge to keep the faith by sharing it with others. I will no longer be silent; you can count on me to be your witness. Amen.

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Romans 4:13-25 “Keeping Promises”

For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. For this reason, it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore, his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification. [NRSA: Romans 4:13-25]

God’s covenant with Abraham and the family of God to follow, was the God would multiply the family’s numbers to be a numerous as the stars.

With “B”illion stars in the Milky Way, and 1022 to 1024 in the viewable universe would be billions of billions [100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000] of stars. God works with exceptionally large numbers. God’s perspective is greater than our lifetime and even greater than our time on earth. God is about the business of making and keeping promises.

The fulfillment of a promise is not designed to be fulfilled at our demand, and yet, God desires to be present with us through the Holy Spirit, as close as the breath in our lungs and the wind in our face.

A promise is experiment in faith. God is not a contractual god who operates on fairness,

  • God’s core-denominator is love.
  • God so loves the world that God is revealed in the context of the human family, as our brother.
  • The relation of Jesus is our brother, offering equal access to the father as a joint heir,
  • reveals God does not show up to boss us around.
  • God shows up with us, to show us how to love, how to love requires sacrifice, love is a promise, tested in a relationship.

Abraham receives from God, a promise that will be fulfilled beyond Abraham’s lifetime. Does that mean that God has not kept God’s promise? No, it means that God is concerned about us individually and collectively, in God’s perspective.

Paul is sharing this lesson about promises to people he would meet to weave together the promise of through Abraham and the promises revealed in Jesus and promise that extends to the church, which all three are the same promise of God.

The old hymn, standing on the promises of Christ my

Standing On The Promises by Russell Kelso Carter

Standing on the promises of Christ my king, through eternal ages let his praises ring; Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing, standing on the promises of God. Refrain: Standing, standing, standing on the promises of God my Savior; standing, standing, I’m standing on the promises of God. 2 Standing on the promises that cannot fail, when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, by the living Word of God I shall prevail, standing on the promises of God. [Refrain] 3 Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord, bound to him eternally by love’s strong cord, overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword, standing on the promises of God. [Refrain] 4 Standing on the promises I cannot fall, listening every moment to the Spirit’s call, resting in my Savior as my all in all, standing on the promises of God. [Refrain]

Russell Kelso Carter (1849-1928) https://healingandrevival.com/BioRKCarter.htm

Russell grew up in the church and moved from his parent’s church when he was inspired by a Methodist youth camp, and from this point, he became focused on Divine Healing. As a young adult began writing hymns including his most famous, “Standing on the Promises” shortly after he had two bad health events that were not cured through prayer. Like Job’s friends, they told him he must have some unforgiven sin or shortcoming. He moved to the west coast, divorce his wife who was declared insane, and became a ‘quack’ healer, and basically renounces his faith. Some years later he remarried, and his second wife encouraged him to write about his struggle. In the process, he was diagnosed with Tuberculosis and was given a revolutionary new medicine that cured him in months in what was expected to a death sentence. In his reflections of God’s work in his own life, he realized that God was to be trusted in “prayer AND medicine”, saying both are necessary and God-filled healing.

Carter’s story is a witness to the struggle of having faith that God is willing to work through all things to redeem God’s people. His faith was restored and lived for many years as a trained physician and writer.

“Standing on the Promises” was composed in 1886 while Carter taught at the military academy. He was a member of the first graduating class in 1867 and had a powerful affection for the school. Author Phil Kerr makes a correlation between the music and the military academy in his book, Music in Evangelism, saying that Carter’s military experience was reflected in the martial musical style of the hymn.

Promise and Fulfillment: Believing the Promises of God, Victor Knowles, of Pepperdine University, writes:  

https://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1769&context=leaven#:~:text=reading%20of%20the%20Bible%2C,made%20by%20God%20to%20humankind).

“Herbert Lockyer, in his volume All the Promises of the Bible,’ tells the story of Everett R. Storms, a schoolteacher in Canada, who made a detailed study of promises. According to Time,’ Storms, of Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, reckoned the figure of 30,000 to be too high (since it is roughly the number of verses making up the Bible31,173). During his twenty-seventh reading of the Bible, a task which took him a year and a half, Storms came up with a grand total of 8,810 promises (7,487 of them being promises made by God to humankind).

Of the 31,173 verses in the Bible, 7,487 about promises God makes to humanity. The 24%, one quarter of the bible is about promises.

The Dad who would not give up.

 (1989), an 8.2 earthquake almost flattened Armenia, killing over 30,000 people in less than four minutes. During chaos and destruction, a father rushed to his son’s school, whom he had promised to pick up from school. But instead of a school, he found a heap of rubble. He ran to the back corner of the building where his son’s classroom used to be and began to dig.

As he began to dig, well-meaning parents tried to pull him out of the rubble saying: “It’s too late!” “They’re dead!” “You can’t help!” “Go home!” “There’s nothing you can do!” The fire chief tried to pull him off the rubble by saying, “Fires and explosions are happening everywhere. You’re in danger. Go home!” Finally, the police came and said, “You’re angry, distraught, but it’s over. Go home.” But this father had made a promise, and he was going to keep it!

This father had in his heart that he would search for his son no matter how he found his son, He kept digging for 8, 12, 24, 36 hours. Then, in the 38th hour, he pulled back a boulder and heard his sons’ voice crying for help. Immediately, he screamed, “ARMAND!” Back came the words, “Dad!? I told them! I told the other kids that if you were still alive, you’d save me.

This is the love of a father who rolls away the stone, to save us.

So what is it that God has promised each of us?

  • God promises to give us life, eternal life, to be nurtured, blessed, and lived, now and forever.
  • God promises to prepare a place for us in heaven.
  • God promises to love us even though we are not worthy, because of our sin, doubts, fears, failures.
  • God promises to guide us through the Holy Spirit. He will not forsake us.
  • God promises to present in us, as Christ’s body for the world to experience.
  • God promises to forgive us if we will trust his way for our lives.
  • God promises to return to fulfill our lives IN God’s purposes.
  • And there are others that are individual and personal to each of our lives…

So why do we question? Doubt? Fear? Sin?

We are surrounded by those who have based every part of their lives on themselves, on the world, on society, on wealth, earthly power, all that is temporary and founded in all that is not God’s will, not in relationship to God.

This spiritual journey is our wake-up call to review where we place our trust? Whose promises are we seeking to fulfill?

So, understand and experience God’s promises being kept, requires us to seek God’s perspective. The heart of the Abraham experiment, that Paul is highlighting, reveals God is willing to trust when we do not have the perspective to trust. God is, therefore, as the author of love, able to extend love, trust, grace, to those who “have faith” in God’s time, love, and perspective.

We are living in a season of human history, and a culture that uses faith, trust, and love to serve social and political ends. This is not loving, this is not trustworthy; this is not the truth, and it is not God’s perspective.

Let us step back and look at what a promise from God is:

  • God is promising Abraham to trust God to provide what Abram cannot fulfill.
  • God is promising what Abram cannot prove.
  • God is promising What Abram cannot fully explain, and yet.
  • Abraham knows ‘by faith’ God is able, based on who God is.

The modern views of God as a made-up creation of a human’s need for meaning and a way to explain what has not yet been otherwise explained. The implied nature of that God is that we can shape God to answer anything or nothing. In that vacuum, others will say they have the greater promise of freedom FROM God, freedom to be our FULL SELF, freedom to be SELF DETERMINED. Each of these goes against the very nature of our being and the nature of God’s vision for us.

God, having created us in love, already knows how we struggle, fear, fail, as well as explore, expand, and experience our current reality.

  • Abraham has seen God of the universe desire a personal relationship and extends a covenant relationship between them.
  • A Covenant is a promise from God, that God promises to keep even when we do not.

Covenant: A God Promise.

A Covenant is a bad business model. Businesses, power, finance, and control operate on contracts, fairness, and a twisting of what is good, and therefore, Godly.

The Covenant with Abram is not only to become numerous people but to inherit the earth. God is entrusting the future of the earth into the hands of those who have faith, but that also means if the faithful become unfaithful, God is willing to risk the sacrifice. This is the proof of love, this is the meaning of the crucifixion, this is the hope of the Resurrection, this is the Good News of a God that operates on love and faith.

Abraham meets God one-on-one and is stepping out as one person, standing face-to-face with God and offers his faith. God is not looking for contacts satisfied, God is looking for those who will trust God’s plan and perspective.

So for us, at this point in the journey: We are ourselves and one another,

  • who do I trust with my life? My past, my present, and future?  
  • Who can save me?
  • Who loves me?
  • Who has claimed me?
  • Who will forgive me? God.
  • This is the story we retell, sing, shout, teach, and give witness to each other to the world.
  • So let us not be quiet until God has fulfilled God’s purposes in our lives.

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Lent: 2nd Sun. Sabbath Rest – A Jubilee

Read: Leviticus 25.8 (NRSV)  

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‘Balloons Released’, Photo Pexels.com

The year of Jubilee is the year after seven sets of seven years. It is a celebration of grace and forgiveness.

Today we lift this aspect of Sabbath as we prepare for a time of Jubilee at Easter. Think of the books, tools, and serving dishes you have been meaning to return and take them back to their owner.  Even more weighted is the opportunity to forgive debts, grudges, and hurts that you have carried for years and years. 

The 50-year anniversary is golden because it is a time of grace and forgiveness. Couples who celebrate Jubilee anniversary highlight the occasion with a renewal of their wedding vows. Most this it is a celebration of insurance or persistence, instead it is a time of letting go of what is best forgotten for the sake of the relationship and reclaiming the union in Christ that keeps them strong.  

What items might you return, forget, forgive, or let go to heal a broken relationship? What grudges could you forgive that will make way for reconciliation? Try to see the opportunity that each Sabbath as a mini time of Jubilee. Do all in your power to make right the relationships that make up the community faith.  

Prayer: God, give me the courage to forgive to the degree I desire to be forgiven.  

Active Rest: Rest. Just rest with God. And ask God to heal our spirit and set us free to live in faith.  

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Day 7 Time in the Mountains

 

sunset sky over mountainous valley covered with lush vegetation
Photo by Vanessa Garcia on Pexels.com

Read: Exodus 24 (NRSV) 

My friends in the advertising world plan everything with Monday as the first day of every week. Many other businesses start the work week on Monday. There is an unspoken message at the starting point. It is a small decision that shapes our perspective for each week. In making plans we say, “I will have that ready at the first of the week.” Do we mean, Sunday, Monday, or sometimes before a week from now? We are then justified by saying, “I didn’t promise to have it Sunday, you said first of the week would be fine.” And we try to squeak by our words. 

More than calendar details, the Sabbath, literally Saturday, is a day of resting from our labors and relying on God’s labors. Sunday is our day of worship and celebration of the resurrection of Christ. Our modern weekend was first used in 18 79. The two-day break from the workweek was a combination of recognizing religious traditions and intended to forgive workers a rest. In 2021 we live in a twenty-four-hour, seven-day a week, and digitally available at all times. Finding Sabbath Rest is as difficult even when have legal days off; we just do not choose to rest. Keep in mind that the commandment is to “keep the Sabbath” which is resting from ‘our’ labor and not a request to do nothing or just sleep. 

We are called to be resting in the arms and heart of God. When we sing, study, serve, forgive, and celebrate the God-with-us in the Spirit we are usually more active; it is not a day for sleeping. It is a day for God.  Moses had many troubles and had many reasons not to go up to the mountaintop away from people’s demands. He travels up the mountain to be with God and not just away from his responsibilities in the valley.

Like Moses, if we do not spent time with God and time apart from the rest of our responsibilities we would not find the strength to lead the lives we are called to lead. 

Action Plan: Take the calendar you use and schedule the time you will give to God in the weeks ahead. 

Prayer: Give me the strength to entrust others with my work for a time, that I might give myself to you most fully.  Amen.

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Day 10 Spies Like Us

Read: Numbers 13:25 (NRSV)

Moses sends a reconnaissance party to spy on those who are living in the Promised Land. Most likely the Hebrews assumed that the land flowing with milk and honey would be uninhabited and ready for them to walk into without effort. This is not the case. We see the fruit of this struggle in the region today.

It is notable that it takes forty days for them to check out the situation and return with a report concerning the land of promise. Our spiritual health requires more effort than we give to it.

Imagine someone trailing you for these forty days, watching the things you said and did, and making notes of the places you go, and recording your every choice, what would be their report at the end of the forty days? The tech giant’s algorithms do a great job of this and we don’t seem to mind. But what is in our record?

If our faithfulness were to be measured by one twenty-four hour day? Is there one day in the past month and a half that we would rest our salvation? We have work to do. It is persist work.

In the spirit-focused season we are our own spies. This journey is for our benefit. Take seriously the opportunity to review the status of your spiritual health and see the areas that are tired, empty, or lifeless. This Lenten journey is that kind of reflection and report on your life, if you will allow it to be.

Action Plan: Try journal writing as an instrument in accountability for your thoughts and actions throughout the day. Use it to look back and hold your self accountable.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, thank you for knowing my thoughts, fears, sins, and rekindling my salvation and assurance. Help me remember and trust your loving me that I might grow, share, and live in you most fully. Amen.

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Day 9 How Fast is Fasting?

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Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com

Read: Exodus 34.28 (NRSV) 

Fasting is doing without one important thing in order to give more time, attention, and intention to another important one.

Moses chooses to not eat as an opportunity to trust God’s providing presence. In only a matter of hours after breaking our routine of eating our body’s system begins to make noises and share its discomfort.

Part of becoming more spiritually active is sometimes seen through our physical experiences. Jesus fasted in the wilderness and after his time of retreat, he was hungry.

When we fast for a day, we can easily begin to feel a lack of energy and fatigue. Try to make note of the feeling, attitudes, and perceptions when we are not eating spiritual food regularly.

Spiritual fasting becomes a spiritual discipline, not just from depriving the body but when we also shift our attention to the time and energy needed to grow in God.

As a contrast, imaging the reverse of spiritual fasting for a moment, what if you spent forty days growing in spirit, could you tell the difference in your life? Why not give it a try?

Would you feel closer to God for having done so? When we lay aside our physical necessities do, we feel closer to God’s work and witness in our daily living? Moses gives a radical act of spending forty days with God.

Imagine going on a spiritual retreat from your family, work, duties, and responsibility and entrusting someone else with all those demands, and giving your full attention to God.

Action Plan: Pick a set time to be with God. Set a timer for an hour or two.  No watches, no Weather Channel, and no Facebook. No texts, posts, No coffee, no soda. No news channels, no distractions. One you, or you and your household, and God. Take the time to be complete with God. Some moments in silence, some singing, some reading scripture, always listening for God. When Moses fasts he comes down the mountain with the Ten Commandments. 

Prayer: Jesus, take my life and let it be consecrated Lord, to thee. Amen.

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