Day 1  // Putting God First 

Pastor Jason Burns

Matthew 6:33 //  “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

2023 can be the best year of your life if it is your best year spiritually.

I say this every year, and I’ll continue to say it because it is true. 

When Lis and I were first dating, I knew pretty quickly that there was something different about this relationship. People always said “you’ll know when you know” and as a young person, that advice sounded so dumb – until it wasn’t. I knew quickly.

Maybe a month into our relationship, I was with her dad and I asked him for his best piece of advice for a young person. I’ll never forget what he said. “Put God first, and everything else will line up.” That has been true over and over in my life. When God is first, everything falls into alignment.

As we begin this “Dream Year” as a church, I want to ask you to be honest with yourself. Is God actually first in every part of your life? Does He get the first of your time, energy, resources, thoughts, and focus? 

This year is devoted to us chasing wholeheartedly after the dream God has for us. We can only do that when He is in his rightful spot – first.

Day 2  //  Dreaming Again

Pastor Lis Burns

Isaiah 43:19 NIV //  See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

The year was 1991. I was a 9-year-old living in Orlando, Florida, singing the performance of my lifetime. As I belted out the final note of Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All,” I panted with my vocal exertion and waited for the deafening applause to follow. And it did…in my mind. 

Singing into an unconnected mic for an audience of stuffed animals, you could not convince me I wouldn’t make it big as a singing superstar. If the world could only hear me they’d know I was the voice they’d been waiting for!

Have you heard of me and my songs? 

Yeah, it didn’t work out. 

When I realized I would never be a singing superstar, I felt directionless. Moreso, I realized that I had stopped dreaming and that was, perhaps, the far scarier occurrence. All I had hoped for myself was tied to one thing–music–and now I felt bereft of a space to dream in safely. But then one day I heard a message that changed me. The line I’ll never forget was:

Man desires fame, but God desires greatness.

We often make the well-intentioned mistake of telling young people that God has a “great plan” for their life. I heard that so often in my childhood that I grew to believe it. The only problem there was that I heard “great plan” as something to mean “a plan for my fame.” Fame was never God’s plan, however. Greatness in God’s economy can look nothing like fame and a whole lot like pain.

When I realized that what God really had for me in His “great plan” was making Him and not me famous, I began to dream again. In fact, I began to realize that God is doing things all the time and He’s often just needing willing participants who will get out of their own way enough to let Him shine. 

Isaiah 43 speaks of a God doing new things but a people who can’t see it. That was me. God has always been readying opportunities for me to make a difference, but am I listening and obeying? Sadly, too often, I realized that I was, instead, disobeying by staying focused on the ways I believed God should use me. What arrogance!

Maybe today, you are in the wake of a broken dream. Maybe today you’re unsure of your life’s direction. Maybe today you realize you haven’t dreamed in ages. Guess what? God is doing a new thing. Will you realize it? He’s waiting for you.

 

Questions to Ponder: 

  1. When was the last time I dreamed? What was the focus – me or others?
  2. Have I confused fame and greatness?

 

Prayer Focus:

Lord, forgive me for confusing Your greatness for my own. I am ready, willing, and able to be used by You in the ways You see fit. Help me to dream Your dreams. Your ways are greater than my own.  

Day 3  //  Even Though

Pastor Isaiah Board

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

If given the choice between good news first and bad news first, what do you choose? I have to be honest, I, more often than not, choose the bad news first. 

I feel like it allows me to have that out of my way as I get to the good news. I, like you, like good news more than bad news! Our verse today gives us some good news! There is so much hope in today’s Scripture verse! 

That is why this verse can be found everywhere. From paintings to bracelets, to cards, this verse is widely known. There is a good reason for this. However, it’s the context in which it is written that gives it such a deeper meaning. 

The Israelites had just been told that they would be in captivity for seventy long years. That is a very long time! However, in the midst of that news, Jeremiah speaks to the people the words found in chapter 29 verse 11. Jeremiah lets them know that even though they were going to be in captivity for a long time, God had good plans in store for them. God knew the plans He had for them.  

So what about us? 

I believe the principle found in this verse is the same for us. God knows the plans He has for us. They are good plans. They are plans not to harm us! 

I am thankful for a God who has our best in mind. Even though we may not be facing seventy years of captivity, we will face the difficulties of life. It is in those moments that we should focus our attention on God’s dream for our lives. 

His dream for us is not a harmful or hurtful dream. It is a good dream, full of hope. He longs for His dream for us to come to fruition, no matter what we fight or face. 

Even though times get hard. Even though tough days will come. Even though heartache happens. We can trust and know that God’s dream and plan for us are good and so much better than what we can dream for ourselves.

 

Questions to Ponder:

  1. Do I actually believe God’s dream for my life is good? 
  2. What is a difficult “even though” situation in your life right now?
  3. How can you focus more on God’s dream and plan for your life than your difficult “even though” situation?

 

Prayer Focus:

Lord, I believe that you know the plans you have for me. I believe that you have a dream for my life that is far greater than I could dream for myself. I recognize I will face tough and challenging “even though” times. However, those moments, remind me of your great love and dream for my life. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

Day 4  //  The Folly of Dreams

Tyler Hilgers

Colossians 3:1-4  //  If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Have you ever had an audacious dream? I remember dreaming about playing in the NFL one day, and I was certain that if it was what I wanted the most and if I was willing to give everything to achieve it, it must be what God wanted most for me too, right? What about a dream relationship?

Maybe you thought you met your soulmate, but it just didn’t pan out. At one time or another, I’d guess that most of us have tried to force a wrong relationship, or have chased after the wrong dream.

My wife Sierra and I have recently been trying to do fun but simple things together like puzzles. Sometimes, we find two pieces that seem all but certain to be a match, only to realize that they just don’t fit together. In my desperation, I’ve even considered gluing the wrong pieces together.

I believe that dreams can be the same way. 

When we chase the wrong ones, it doesn’t matter how hard we try, we’ll always be grasping for a fickle sense of fulfillment. Through trial & (a lot of) error, I’ve learned that ‘superglued’ dreams rob us of the beauty of what our artist has designed.

The folly of dreams is when we hyper-fixate on things that aren’t best for us.

Now don’t get me wrong, I believe that God wants you to dream! In fact, the Bible is full of underdog stories and really big dreams being realized. I mean, where would we be without the audacious dreams of God’s people? 

Take someone like Joseph for example. He’s introduced in Genesis 37, has a dream of someday being a great ruler in Egypt, and many hardships later – he becomes second in command to Pharaoh himself. Without His God-sized dream, the Bible would look a LOT different.

Practically, I believe that dreaming God’s best for our lives looks a lot like dreaming the best for others. I’ve heard it said that living with humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, but it’s thinking about yourself less.

Like Paul writes in his letter to the Collasian church–we’ve been charged to think on heavenly things, and when we do this we’re promised to share

in the glory of Christ. How much better is this than the pursuit of dead-end dreams the world tries to offer us?

 

Questions to Ponder:

  1. Are there any God-sized dreams that you’ve been too indecisive to start?
  2. Are you chasing any dream(s) that you know don’t align with the new life God’s given you–with His kingdom in mind?
  3. What kind of dream(s) might God be trying to realize through you to create an impact for others?

 

Prayer Focus:

Today, give God your wildest dreams. Don’t be afraid to tell him everything big and small in your heart. Whether it’s an old or a new dream, ask God to give you the wisdom to know if it’s a dream that will bring Him glory & change the world through your pursuit of it. And if it’s a dream that doesn’t align with God’s best for you, pray that He would give you peace and understanding enough to pursue new God-given dreams.

Day 5  //  Expectation

Pastor Andy Forman

God is with us always. He is everywhere. He holds all things together. 

Colossians 1:17 says that “He holds all things together by the power of His Word.” His presence also changes our identity, it changes our desires, and it changes our passions. It is the greatest change agent on the face of the earth. 

But, if we are honest with ourselves, how aware are we of God’s presence in our everyday lives? Maybe we aren’t aware of the presence of God because we don’t have an expectation of engaging with Him.

An expectation is a strong belief that something will happen. We come into his presence with hope. Hope is the confident expectation of good. When we come into God’s presence, we should do so with anticipation! 

To anticipate is to look forward to the coming of something or someone, or the occurrence of something. It is being aware of what will happen and taking action to prepare for it. 

God desires active relationship and communion with us: Adam and Eve walked in the garden with God, Moses chose the Presence of God over everything else, and David was called a man after God’s own heart because of his relationship with God. The Scriptures are filled with stories of people who were actively engaged with an active God.

Hebrews 4:16 tells us to “approach the throne of grace with confidence!” Not just confidence that I’m allowed to be there in the first place, but confidence that He wants me there and He’s looking forward to meeting with me! 

Jacob said in Genesis 28:16, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” I want to be aware of when God is moving and speaking. I want to actively engage with Him, worship Him wholeheartedly, and expect him to give me new dreams and new vision. 

So, as we are moving into 2023, a new year, a new season in our church, a new season in our own lives, and our own walk with Jesus let’s encounter Him, engage His presence, and dream with Him.

 

Questions to Ponder:

  1. What are some things in your life that distract you from God’s presence?
  2. What are some ways you can practically bring your focus back to anticipating the presence of God?

 

Prayer Focus:

Lord, help me anticipate and experience your good presence today and every day. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Day 6  //  Courage to Dream

Pastor Jason Burns

Joshua 1:5-9 // 5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. 7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

If we’re not careful, we’ll take a cursory reading of scripture and miss the fact that the heroes and legends of our faith struggled with the same things we struggle with.

When an angel of the Lord showed up to Joshua to let him know that Moses had died and that God wanted him to lead, what was the first thing the angel had to say? “Fear not.” Why would he have to say that? Because Joshua was afraid. 

Then, if it wasn’t enough, three separate times, he was told to be strong and courageous. Why? Because he wasn’t strong and courageous. 

William Shakespeare said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” 

This was Joshua’s life. It is a formidable task to follow a great leader. He lived in the shadow of Moses for years, but now greatness was thrust upon him.

If you are going to chase the dreams in your life, it will require indescribable courage. I know that as a pastor and leader, there have been so many moments in my life that required courage – courage that honestly I didn’t feel I had.

Here’s the secret – courage comes from humility. Why? Because serving others isn’t about us. We live in a fame-seeking world. Fame is about you, greatness is about others. God never called us to fame, but He does invite us to live a great life. 

Today as you pray, invite God to give you the courage to face the challenges in your life, and the humility to realize that what you’re doing matters because your life isn’t just about you – it exists for others!

 

Questions to Ponder:

  1. Where in your life do you need courage? 
  2. Who in your life can you serve today?

 

Prayer Focus:

Lord, help give me the courage to face the challenges in my life today. Grant me the humility to serve those around me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Day 7  //  Obeying His Leadership

Pastor Isaiah Board

Jonah 1:1-3 //The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

German theologian, Deitrich Bonhoeffer, once said: “One act of obedience is better than one hundred sermons.” If you were to ask anyone in the United States what the most important part of a Sunday morning church service is, no doubt most people would say the sermon. Sure, it’s with good reason! 

Any time God’s Word is communicated, something special can and does happen. However, according to Deitrich, obedience to God is even more important than that. 

The principle of obedience is woven powerfully throughout Scripture. It’s clear that God’s desire for us is that we obey Him. This is something that Jonah in our verses struggled with. 

God’s dream was that the people of Ninevah be reached with the Word of the Lord. God is the leader in this plan. Jonah was to be used by God to accomplish God’s dream for the people. 

Instead, Jonah ran away from the Lord. Jonah disobeyed God’s leadership in his life. God would give Jonah the message to speak, but it wouldn’t matter because Jonah lacked obedience to the leadership of the Lord. 

As we read the rest of the story, we learn that Jonah accomplishes what God had him do. Ninevah was saved by the Lord through Jonah’s obedience to God. The key to this was Jonah’s obedience. 

When Jonah obeyed God’s leadership in his life, God did miraculous things through Him. I believe one key for us to live God’s dream for us, is obeying God’s leadership. Though not easy, it is always worth it. 

Jesus says in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commands.” We demonstrate our love to God by obeying the things God has said. If we call Him Lord, we have to obey his leadership in our lives. 

 

Questions to Ponder:

  1. What is something that hinders you from obeying God’s leadership?
  2. What steps can you take today to be like Christ in your obedience?

 

Prayer Focus:

Lord, I accept that you are the true leader of my life. Help me to follow your dream for my life by obeying the things you have asked of me. Though it is not always easy, guide me when obedience is hard. I thank you that you will work powerfully through me as I obey you. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

Day 8  //  The Great Invitation

Pastor Shawn Mahannah

A couple of months ago I had the privilege and the honor to be on the mission trip team to Chiapas. I feel in love with the people, the Chiapas mountains, and the work that the Lord is doing. 

I have been on a lot of mission trips but it has honestly been a while since my last one. It has been a while since I have flown multiple hours on a plane. It has been a while since have had to navigate a different language at an airport. 

It has been a while since having to exchange money and wondering if you got everything due to you not doing the math in advance. It has been a while since sitting in a worship service, knowing they are glorifying Jesus and worshiping Jesus but you only catching every seventh word. 

It has been a while. 

While sitting in that worship service and seeing a different style of worship with all the different worship elements the Lord once again showed me the bigness of our God. Thousands of miles from home, in a different land, in a different language and culture the Lord sits on his throne and people are worshiping him! 

Psalm 24:1 came to mind while I was standing there, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, he world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the river.” 

In that moment, I got a glimpse of this big, big God! I was in awe of Him and His Glory! 

Have you been there? Have you found yourself in a situation or doing something and your heart and mind align and you think and feel about God’s grandness? Those are unforgettable moments in our lives. 

The truth that I came to share with you today is that this God, in all of his glory, in all of his splendor is wanting a personal, intimate relationship with us. To think that God is this really big God that has established and founded the earth and yet he cares and wants to have this moment-by-moment relationship with us! 

Jesus gives us the invitation to this relationship in John 15:4(a) “Abide in me, and I in you…”

He wants us to Abide in Him. Other translations use the word remain in me and I in you. This big God wants to have a personal, knows every single detail personal, intimate relationship. 

I pray today that you will feel the significance of this invitation to abide. I pray that you will see the value that God has placed on you by Him wanting a life-giving, fruitful relationship with you! His desire is that we learn how to abide in him while living out our days. 

Will you take a second and pray this prayer? 

Dear God, thank you for establishing the earth and everything in it. Thank you for being a big God that still wants to have an intimate personal relationship with me. Help me to learn how to abide in you. Even when life is busy and things get difficult, I pray that you will give me a sense that you are with me and that I would continue to be mindful of you! 

 

Questions to Ponder:

  1. When was the last time that you were caught up by God’s bigness? 
  2. In John 15:7 Jesus commands us to abide in his word. How might our lives be different this week if we really spent time in his word? 
  3. In John 15:10 Jesus commands us to abide in his love. How might our lives be different this month or year if we abide in his love? 

Day 9  //  The Gap Between the Dream and Fulfillment 

Pastor Ida Mundell

Psalm 105:19 (NLT) // “Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the LORD tested Joseph’s character.”

If we open our Bibles back to the beginning, all the way back to the book of Genesis, we find a story about a kid named Joseph. 

Joseph was a dreamer and long before his dreams were ever fulfilling and fulfilled they launched him into a world of trouble. They actually launched him right into a pit.

Joseph the dreamer had big, crazy dreams from God, and they wouldn’t be realized until after he endured what most would call nightmares. Thrown in a pit by his brothers, left for dead, enslaved, lied about, forgotten, betrayed, humiliated…all before his God dreams were fulfilled.

Maybe you’ve been there? You see a bright and beautiful future. You believe God’s good and true promises over your life and for your life. And then? Life happens. Instead of living into the fullness of God’s dream for your life you feel like you’ve been assigned to live life in a pit, forgotten and abandoned.

What do we do when we find ourselves in the gap between the promise and the fulfillment of our dreams? 

When we look at Joseph’s story we see God moving in the gap. In the gap of time between dreams & fulfillment, God isn’t ignoring our prayers. He hasn’t forgotten about us. It’s in the gap where He tests our character.

Until the time comes for our dreams to be fulfilled the Lord comes close & asks us to be fulfilled in Him. Isn’t this the ultimate dream?

Another translation says it like this:

“God’s promise to Joseph purged his character until it was time for his dreams to come true” (Psalm 105:19, TPT).

While it’s easy to curse the pit or the “fulfillment gap”, we have another option. We can thank our good and loving God for the refinement that readies us to live in the reality of His plans for our life.

We can learn what it means to find fulfillment in Him and live fully in the promise of His presence. Just like Joseph, God doesn’t leave us in the pit. He loves us, restores us, and readies us for what is to come.

 

Questions to Ponder:

1. How does remembering that refinement is a loving action from God change how we view “the fulfillment gap”, or the pit.

2. How can we find fulfillment in God and not just what He gives?

 

Prayer Focus: 

God, teach me how to find fulfillment in You.

Day 10  //  Chosen Faithfulness in The Waiting

Tara Campbell

Hebrews 11: 1 //  Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

If you had asked me when I graduated from high school if I was prepared for how hard my 20s would be I wouldn’t have believed you. 

A new college graduate, in an economic recession, trying to figure out how to be an adult, and I was single way longer than most of my friends. At the time, that felt like the biggest burden of all. 

During this time I picked up a book called “A Million Miles In A Thousand Years” by Donald Miller and he talked about working through a lot of the same things I was working through. 

In this book, he shared a revelation that God gave to him on a kayaking trip with a friend. At one point, they got delayed and had to kayak across a lake in the middle of the night. As he kayaked through the dark he realized he couldn’t see the shore at all–the one behind him was gone and the one before him never seemed to appear. 

Between the panic of that moment, and his exhaustion it made him want to give up, but he couldn’t stay in the middle of the lake. It didn’t make sense to turn around and he had to keep paddling forward to get to the other side even though he couldn’t see his destination.

Seasons of life feel that way at times, don’t they? We get into the middle of them and we know where we started but we have no idea where or when they end. 

When will I finally be able to quit my job and pursue my passion? 

When will I finally meet someone? 

When will I finally heal? 

When will I finally get recognition or a promotion? 

In Matthew 25 Jesus tells the story of the Master giving his servants talents. All the servants are given some money that they’re asked to steward while the Master is away. When he returns the servants that invested their money, whether it be a little or a lot, were praised. 

In Matthew 23 the master in the story says: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little. I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”

Our seasons are just seasons, but God’s blessing on your next season depends on how well you honor God and are faithful in the season you’re currently in. 

You might feel like your season is insignificant and can choose to stop paddling your kayak because it feels difficult or worthless. Or you can choose to keep moving forward until you reach the other side of this season. God sees your choices though, and God’s blessing in your next season depends on it. 

 

Questions to Ponder:

  1. Have you ever been in a season that felt like you were stuck? 
  2. Where are some places where you can see God’s faithfulness in your current season? 

 

Prayer Focus:

Heavenly Father, I thank you for the season that you’ve put me in. Even though sometimes seasons are hard I trust that you have what’s best for me in mind. Help me have the faith to push through the hard seasons and help me to stay strong on the path you’ve put me on. I trust your blessing on my life. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen. 

Day 11  // The Strength to Dream Again

Pastor Andy Forman

As we enter a new year, not knowing what will come our way, we must learn to strengthen ourselves in the Lord. 

In the book of 1 Samuel, we read a story about David, the giant slayer, who had his back against a wall. The town that he lived in had been ransacked by the enemy while he and his army had been away fighting. They lost everything: their supplies, their homes, their livestock, and even their families were taken away from them. 

They blamed David and were ready to kill him for it. Yet in spite of all this, we read that David summons his strength, rallies his troops, and goes on to win an unbelievable victory and take back all the enemy had stolen. How did David do it? 

1 Samuel 30:6 says, “But David strengthened himself in the Lord.” 

We all face tough times. Some of us may face tough times in 2023. How can we learn to strengthen ourselves in the Lord as David did? I believe there are practical ways to do this: give thanks, sing praise, and find joy. 

David understood the power of gratitude and thanks. 

Psalm 138, a psalm that David wrote, opens with a statement of immense gratitude: “I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart!” 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

God doesn’t set us up to fail…He sets us up to grow. 

He will use the circumstances we are in to help us become more like him: more kind, more loving, and more patient. Giving thanks in the midst of everything (good or bad) helps me to keep my focus where it belongs…on Jesus!

Thanksgiving should naturally lead to praise.

Offering praise not only brings us further into his presence…it reminds us of his goodness. Praise is powerful. When we sing praise to God, we invite His power and presence to move among us. 

When Paul and Silas sang praise in their jail cell, the entire prison was shaken and all were set free. Praising God creates an atmosphere for Him to work on our behalf. Just as giving thanks takes our focus off of our circumstances and puts it on God, praise transcends our human weakness and acknowledges God’s power!

Finally, David said in Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life;  you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” 

David knew that the joy that comes in His presence truly satisfies; it is joy in who God is and it is joy in what he does.

David knew where he needed to find his strength: giving thanks to God, praising God, and finding joy in God. In 2023, let’s do the same. Trying to work up joy and strength just doesn’t work; only God can give us the supernatural strength we need to live this life and only God can fill our hearts with new dreams and new vision. 

Today, surrender everything to Jesus. Thank Him in every circumstance, praise him whether you’re on the mountain or in the valley, and come into his presence and receive the joy of the Lord. There you will find your strength. 

 

Questions to Ponder:

  1. What current circumstances in your life are helping you grow to be more like God?
  2. How can you practice giving thanks, singing praise, and finding joy today?

 

Prayer Focus:

God, thank you so much for you who are and how you love me. You are a good and loving Father. Help me become more aware of your presence today and every day. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

Day 12  //  A Life of Fruit

Brandon Premo

Galatians 5:22 //But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.

Take a second and think about this question: 

Who is one person you admire how they lived their life? Someone who lived their life in a way you think was remarkable. 

It could be a famous person from history who stood up for something. It could be a teacher who used their knowledge and influence to inspire and help others. Or maybe a family member who was extremely generous with their time and resources. 

Who is someone who left a mark on you because of how they decide to live their life? 

The people that come to all of our minds are the people that lived a life that was full of fruit. Fruit, things that nourished and helped others and that continue to go on even after their time. 

That’s the kind of life that I want to live and I believe it’s the life that Jesus calls all of us to live. See all of these things that are in Galatians 5:22-23 are things that we are given from the Holy Spirit to live with and to give to others. 

That means where we don’t see love in our lives, we get to bring the love that Jesus gave to us, to others. When things are difficult and heavy, we get to bring joy, fun, and laughter to lift people up. 

To anxiety and hopelessness, we can bring peace to those who have none.

Patience to chaos.

Kindness to hostility.

Goodness to bad news.

Faithfulness instead of faithlessness.

Gentleness and self-control to a world that feels out of control.

These are the fruits that Jesus has called us to live by. The ones that we get to receive and give away, that leave a mark on the world! It may seem too simple but Jesus tells us in Matthew 7 that people will know we follow Him, “by their FRUITS.”

So today, know that you need these. Your family needs these.  Your co-worker needs an act of kindness today. Your friends need peace to be prayed over them. A stranger needs patience from you today. Your community needs love and joy.

The world needs these things and they have been given to you so that you would give them away. 

 

Questions to ponder:

  1. Take a minute and ask the Holy Spirit, “What fruit of the spirit do I need to receive for myself today?”
  2. Now ask “What fruit of the spirit do I need to give away to others today?”

 

Prayer Focus:

Jesus, thank you for your spirit that you have given to me. Today I receive your love, your joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I pray that today you would open up my eyes to see who I need to show you through the fruit of the spirit.

Day 13  //  Better Together

Pastor Shawn Mahannah

I had an opportunity a couple of months ago to sit down with one of our more mature members of the church. Honestly, it has been a while since I have taken time to just sit and hear stories about the past, seizing the opportunity to learn from someone who has “been there and done that.” 

I left the meeting feeling grateful for the time spent learning about the foundations of family and faith. I also left that meeting concerned about the days that we live in. 

The world that I had just heard about was not the same world that I see when I look around today. Can we all agree that there are so many uncertainties? If you struggle with worry like I do, life can be flat-out hard to navigate through this dark world! 

While sitting in my car about to go down the rabbit hole of worry, I had to activate my faith. 

I declared that God is a good God and He is not absent in this day and age. I declared that I believe that God has not left us nor forsaken us to our own ways. I also believe that God has given us tools and resources to help us while navigating this world. 

So what has God given us to thrive in this life?  

Are you ready? 

One thing that God has already given us is…each other. 

If you have been around Access for any point of time you will hear us say, “Life is better together!” I am here to say that I wholeheartedly believe this and am so grateful for my community, my Access Group. 

Groups provide benefits that help us throughout our days. They are a place to connect with other like-minded believers that share values and beliefs. 

Groups are a safe place for us to be fully known so that we can be fully loved! They’re a place to protect. 

In this world, we are going to have to have people in our corner! People who have our back and who will be on their knees praying for us. Do you have people like this in your life? 

1 John 3:16 // “We know what real love is because Christ gave up His life for us. And so we also ought to give up our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters.”

Groups are a place to continue to grow! When we are fully known we can truly let our guard down and be vulnerable. It is ok for us to not have all the answers and for us to learn from other people. 

Proverbs 27:17 //  “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

After that meeting, I drove home super grateful for my people, my Access Group. Yes, this life is uncertain and dark, but God has given me so many good, funny, wise people. I honestly don’t know where I and my family would be without them! 

 

Questions to Ponder

  1. Do you see community as a benefit in your Christian faith? How so or why not?
  2. How has your Group encouraged you in the past? 
  3. Who do you need to reach out to and encourage today? 

 

Prayer Focus: 

Dear God, thank you for never leaving us or abandoning us! Thank you for giving us relationships and Access groups. {Take a second and thank God for the Access group that you are a part of or have been in in the past}. {Pray for your group by name}. Thank you, God, that Life change happens in groups! I pray that we all will believe that we truly are better together. 

 

Day 14  //  Not My Will but Yours Be Done

Pastor Lis Burns

Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV) // “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one”

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” 

From the moment our kids are born, we start dreaming up their grand futures. When they can string together sentences, we ask them what they want to be when they grow up. 

The answers are bold: the President, a firefighter, a doctor, or an NFL player. The answers can also be hilarious: a dinosaur (real answer I heard once). 

There’s nothing wrong with hoping for dreams and working toward goals. The problem, however, comes when we earnestly seek a life that puts us at the center. If our dreams (which, let’s face it, wind up shaping a large portion of our prayer life) are only about us, then our dreams are empty. 

Jesus taught us to pray in the hugely famous “Lord’s Prayer.” Notice His important wording and distinction. He prays to His Father God and says–Your Kingdom come and Your will be done. 

Even Jesus Himself had moments where His own desires (to not die a brutal death on the Cross, for example) were fighting to be first. He gave us the ultimate example, however, when, despite those desires, He ended it all with a “…nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39 NKJV). 

Do we stop dreaming altogether? No way! We simply change the way we dream. We can have desires and pray in their direction. Ultimately, though, we end all our prayers like Jesus did – bowing our wills to His and giving Him the ultimate say in our lives.

The great news about this for people who, like me, tend to stress and strive over plans, is knowing that our lives are ultimately upheld by the hand of God and our desires come secondary to His plans.

 

Questions to ponder:

  1. Do I tend to lead my prayer life from my own desires or from a place of surrender to God’s will?
  2. How would adding a “nevertheless” clause to my prayers change me?

 

Prayer Focus:

Lord, you said it best when You prayed – “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.” That is my heart’s prayer today, too. I want to do what you desire. My plans and dreams come secondary to living in obedience to You. I love You and give You reign over my heart and mind. Order my steps even in the face of my sometimes self-intentioned desires. 

Day 14  //  Get to Steppin!

Pastor Ryan Jordan

Psalm 37:23  //  The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way.

The average person in the United States takes about 4,700 steps a day.

Over a lifetime, that’s a lot of steps. For the Christian, each of those steps God orders. The word “ordered” means to “make firm and to establish.” This means that God is firming up your steps every day to keep you from falling.

Let’s think about two essential truths to remember about God’s will and how He orders your steps.

First, God HAS an order for your steps.

As we read in Jeremiah 29:11, God has a plan for your life, and that plan is good. God directs your steps so you can fulfill His plan for you. As you allow, He will show you the right choices and lead you down the best path. He will show you which step to take to keep you going the right way. In fact, John 14:26 says it like this, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things.” If the Holy Spirit is in us, then He is with us as our helper during the decision process. Picture an internal compass to help guide you through your daily decision-making. 

Second, God is ordering your steps by securing your footing.

Sometimes life can feel like you are walking up a mountain of gravel. You take a step, and it seems like you slide back two. Progress is slow, treacherous, and exhausting. Sometimes it feels like we won’t make it to the top of the mountain. 

He keeps you from falling by making sure you are standing on solid ground.

In Psalm 40:2, the psalmist says God has placed his feet on a rock and makes his footsteps firm. God is doing that for you today. While others are sliding backward or stumbling, God keeps your steps firm and secure. He plants your feet on the path and shows you where you should step. As you seek to follow Christ today, your steps will be directed and confirmed by God.

Let’s look at that promise one more time:

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way. – Psalm 37:23

The second part of this verse is a promise that when you allow God to order your steps, He delights in you. Like a proud father who rejoices in his child’s first steps, God rejoices over you. He takes great joy and delight as you allow Him to order your steps. And as you take your first steps, then walk, then run, God will be with you as you take off in life. He is with you and will keep your footing as you discover His will and then walk it out. So again, let’s get to steppin in God’s will and plan for our lives. 

 

Confess this with me.

Today, God is ordering my steps

 I am walking in the way He leads me

 He has placed me on a firm rock

 My every step is directed and secured by Him

In Jesus’ Name, Amen

 

Questions to Ponder:

  1. In what area of my life do I need God’s peace?  
  2. Identify an area in your life you need to release control over to God and give it to Him. 

 

Day 16  //  Dreaming by Faith

Brandon Premo

Hebrews 11: 1 // Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible… 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Have you ever watched the show Fixer Upper? If you haven’t, it’s a show where a couple named Chip and Joanna Gaines go around Waco TX, and help people buy a house that is in dire need of an upgrade. Chip does all of the repairs and does incredible wonders to the house and Joanna furnishes it and makes it feel like a home. 

It’s incredible! 

They make it look so easy and fun and like it’s something you should totally try…

Well, I did. 

And I found out why HGTV was not sponsoring or choosing to film the “Fixer Upper” Lakeland edition of the house my wife and I bought this year. 

Not only is the process of fixing up an old home SO much work, SO expensive, SO time-consuming and SO daunting, it’s something you have to have a DREAM for. 

You have to see past the blue carpet, blue wallpaper, blue furniture, and the blue stinky bathroom and see a home. 

You can’t settle with the way the last person lived in it, you have to see your future in it. You can’t just move in and it be perfect, you have to see the end before you get to enjoy it. 

Just like this verse describes to us that faith is what we hope for and assurance about what isn’t here yet. For me, that can be really defeating to keep dreaming and pressing on toward the things that God is doing in my life.

Just like our house, trials come and things take longer than you thought they would. Complications come and you have to learn how to do something new you never thought you’d have to do. Things break and it feels impossible to repair or replace. 

All of those things are so real, but verse 6 is the most important part of our reading today. “Without faith it is impossible to please God….” 

This verse does not mean we have to do something to please God, it ACTUALLY means God doesn’t want you to stay where you are, he wants you to move forward!

Forward for your life, for your marriage, for your job, your finances, your family, and even your blue house.

He wants you to follow him and dream with him about your life and where you are going! Believing he has something better for you and it’s with Him. He knows the plans that he has for you and wants to build it together! He wants to be the Chip to your Joanna and go on a journey together.

So today, by faith: DREAM

 

Question to Ponder:

  1. Take two to three minutes of your day and just dream! What does he want to do together today, this week, and this month? Write them down and remember them.
  2. Take a moment and ask the Holy Spirit, what are some dreams that I have let go of that you want to restore in my life?

 

Prayer Focus:

Jesus, thank you that you want to give me the desires of my heart. Thank you for loving me and calling me to dream with you by faith. As I go through my day would you speak to me and show me things you want to dream for in my life? Would you continue to lead me and guide me as I go on a journey with you by faith?

Day 17  //  Trusting God’s Purpose

Kayla Reichard

Ruth 1:1, 3-5, 7 (ESV) // In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons…3 But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, 5 and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband…7 So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah.

In ancient Hebrew culture, to be a woman with no husband or sons was one of the worst situations to find yourself. In a patriarchal society where men served as the head of the family, a woman’s livelihood could only come from her husband or sons. 

Imagine Naomi, a foreigner in a land she ran to in desperation to flee famine, widowed. She may have thought to herself, “At least I have my sons,” only then to lose both and all sense of security. 

Naomi encourages her two daughters-in-law to return to their own families to hopefully remarry. She explains to them, “…it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me” (Ruth 1:13b, ESV). 

Eugene Peterson paraphrases these same words beautifully, “…this is a bitter pill for me to swallow—more bitter for me than for you. God has dealt me a hard blow.”

Maybe you’re in a similar place. Perhaps you’ve lost your security or your direction, and your life doesn’t look anything like what you thought it would. It feels like God has dealt you a hard blow. 

If that’s you, I want to invite you to trust that the Lord has a good purpose in store for you. We serve a God who is in the business of taking our pain, our disappointments, and our grief and writing a narrative more beautiful than we could have imagined.

Naomi returned to her homeland with a daughter-in-law too loyal to leave her behind. There, this daughter, Ruth, met a distant relative of Naomi’s family. Ruth married this relative, a man named Boaz, and carried on a family lineage that would eventually lead to a Nazarene carpenter named Jesus.

Naomi and Ruth’s story reminds us that even when we are tempted to believe that God isn’t working, He has a greater dream in mind. Whatever loss, boredom, or setback we’re walking through is often not stopping His plans or hiding His goodness, but rather propelling them forward.

 

Questions

  1. Where in your life are you tempted to think, “God couldn’t possibly use this for good?”
  2. How have you previously seen God use pain or disappointments in your life for a greater purpose?

 

Prayer Focus

Be honest with God about where you feel like He’s not showing up in your life. He can handle it. Share your hurt and then give space to listen. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you trust God’s greater purpose.

Day 18  //  Dreaming for Your Family

Pastor Ida Mundell

If I were to ask you to name some dreams you have for your family you might list some really amazing things like epic family vacations, to live in your dream house, to have kids who excel in school or sports, and to live financially comfortable. While those things aren’t bad, if we’re not careful we can idolize those good things and miss out on the great things God has for us.  

So how do we dream with God for our families? What is God’s dream for our families? While these questions could prompt many different answers from each of us, I’d like to share with you how our family has answered these questions. As nerdy as it may sound we developed a family mission statement. 

The Mundell Family Mission Statement is simply: 

  • Love God
  • Love People
  • With all of our hearts
  • With all of our time
  • With all of our resources 

With inspiration from the Greatest Commandment and the Great Commission, our mission statement was born. It has served us well as we’ve navigated financial decisions, how we spend our time, how we show up in the world around us, and how we treat each other. 

In Matthew 22:36-40 we read the Greatest Commandment: 

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

In Matthew 28:16-20 we read the Great Commission:

“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

When these “greatest and great” passages of scripture guide our way of being, our family culture comes in agreement with God’s biggest dream for our family: that we would fully love Him, live in His love, and extend an invitation to everyone we encounter to also know His great love.

 

Questions to Ponder:

  1. Do you have goals for your family? If yes, do your goals include God, His love for you, and His love for the world? If no, write down some goals today. 
  2. Is your current family culture life-giving? What changes can you make today that will make your family come alive to God’s great love?

 

Prayer Focus: 

God, let our family be a testament to Your loving-kindness toward us, not just our own “good works” or aspirations. 

Day 19  //  What God Sees

Pastor Isaiah Board

Exodus 3:9-10 // “And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

One of the greatest things a coach can do is call out the best in their players. This isn’t always easy, or comfortable. I remember certain times during basketball practices or games where my coach would pull me aside and speak to me about the player he saw in me. 

One hundred percent of the time, he would call things out in me that I didn’t see myself. This is oftentimes how God works with us. He sees more in us than we see for ourselves. 

Moses is a very well-known man in the Bible. He lived quite an interesting life. He was born a Hebrew, but because of a violent order from Pharaoh, he didn’t have a regular upbringing with his family. 

His mother put an escape plan in place for him and he was saved by Pharaoh’s daughter. He was raised as an Egyptian but was a Hebrew. One day, after seeing an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, he kills the Egyptian for beating one of his own people. 

Pharaoh tries to kill Moses, but Moses flees to Midian. He starts a new life and gets married! He has a job as a shepherd, working for his father-in-law. One day he encounters a burning bush and God begins to tell him what He would have Moses do–free his people from slavery. 

Our verses today share God’s commission to Moses. Moses then gives God some excuses as to why he can’t do what it is God is calling him to do. Moses eventually follows God’s plan and the people of God go free. God saw a mighty leader in Moses. What God was calling Moses to do was not going to be easy or comfortable, but it would be God’s dream for Moses’ life.

What about us? We all see someone when we look in the mirror. 

Ultimately, it is what God sees that is most important. It is His dream for us that we should lean into. Moses in himself saw someone who was not worthy and full of shortcomings. God saw a strong leader fit for the task of rescuing His people. 

Today, make the decision to look at yourself how God sees you. His dream for you will not always be easy or comfortable, but it is calling out the best in you!

 

Questions to ponder:

  1. When you look in the mirror, what are three adjectives you would use to describe what you see? 
  2. What now are three adjectives you believe God would use when He sees you? 

 

Prayer Focus:

Lord, I believe that you are the ultimate coach. You see more in me than I see for myself. Help me to follow your dream for my life as it is calling the best out of me. When difficulties and uneasiness come, allow me to see myself as you see me. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

Day 20  //  Joy in Change

Tara Campbell

We have a cat named Nibbler that lives up to his name and his favorite thing to nibble are our house plants. A few months after we got him we came home to one of our plants shattered on our living room carpet and the plants torn to shreds. 

I love our cat but I was so mad. He can sometimes be a very bad cat. 

After Nibbler chews our plants I have to go through the process of cutting the leaves off that have been ruined, pruning away the bad in the hopes that my plant can still live. 

On occasion, I’ve been able to take some of the pieces that he has chewed off and reroot them and create brand-new plants. I always hate pruning my plants but they end up growing back so much richer and fuller. 

Good or bad, the process of change can be difficult. I know very few people that like change. In the process of change, we have to get rid of some things, and they can very often mean getting rid of things that we love. 

We don’t always get to choose what comes and goes either. Friends move away. Relationships end. Jobs change. It can be hard dealing with things that are out of control. 

The same thing happens every time we prune things from our life though–we make room for something new and fresh. 

In your dream year, you may have to choose to walk away from things or end something that is safe. You might have to take a big step out of your comfort zone and walk away from something that has felt right in the past but is no longer right for you. 

We see God reroute people many times in the Bible. In Isaiah 43 the author is reminding Israel that God has brought them through trials time and time again. He prophesied to them that something new is coming and in Verses 18-19 he says: 

“18 Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

God always promises to bring us through. He always has brought us through, and we have so much proof of that in the Bible and in our own lives. Sometimes it’s easier to dwell on the hard thing because it’s what we see in the present but we can choose to focus on the promises of God. 

It might be as easy keeping a gratitude journal, or when you pray thank God for the things that he’s done for you before you pray for the things that you need. Gratitude and joy are a practice. A muscle we can work out that gets easier to flex as time goes on. 

 

Questions to Ponder:

  1. What are some things that you might need to leave behind to live your dream year? 
  2. What are some things that God has brought you through? 
  3. What are some things that you need to thank God for? 

 

Prayer Focus:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for changing and shaping my life. Thank you for the examples you provide in the Bible for the way you love and care for your people and thank you for loving and caring for me now. I trust that you have what’s best for me and I won’t fear the future you have for me. Help me choose joy in all situations, especially the ones that I don’t see the ending of. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

Day 21  //  Where Do I Start?

Ethan Saglimbene

Matthew 19:26 //   Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

When it comes to dreams, sometimes they can feel distant, unattainable, childish, or at the very worst… impossible. Now, we have all heard “nothing is impossible with God,” but when you are staring right at your dream in the face and it seems to be this immovable object, there is a question that has to be asked. Where do I start? 

The answer to that question is found in a few different places in scripture, but we are just going to talk about one today. 

In 2 Kings 4, there is a story of a woman that has two sons but has lost everything and only has a little bit of food left to feed her family one last time. To make a long story short, the woman reached out to the prophet Elisha for help and his response to her need was a question, “Tell me, what do you have in your house?”

I believe that this question is the answer to the question we asked at the beginning of this devotional. I know that might sound weird, that the answer is a question, but let’s unpack this a little. 

When the woman seemed to be at the end of her rope and had nothing left other than a little oil to be able to make one last meal, she turned to Elisha for help. Instead of Elisha giving her something or going out and grabbing supplies for her, his first response was to ask her what she had in her house. 

Well, from her point of view, she had nothing, but from Elisha’s perspective, she had everything she needed to accomplish the goal of providing for her family. 

At that moment, that was her dream. Providing for her family and making sure they were truly taken care of. Because Elisha was looking through the eyes of what God had already given her, she now saw the next step that needed to be taken to ensure her family was taken care of. 

In the end, the Lord did an incredible miracle in her and her family’s lives by taking the oil she had and multiplying it beyond what she could have ever dreamed possible. That miracle happened though when she began to recognize that the Lord had already given her something in her house to work with. She already had what she needed to accomplish her dream. 

This story is a perfect representation of what God does with us when we ask the question, “Where do I start?”

When we ask, he responds with a question. For us, let’s rephrase a little bit to be more applicable:

“What’s in your hands?”

A well-known worship pastor named Joel Houston once said “If I’m faithful with what’s in my hands, God will be faithful with what’s in my heart.”

This means when I choose to steward what he has already given me and placed in my hands, he will honor what he ultimately placed in my heart. 

YOUR dream. The GOD-inspired dream. Where do you start? Well, what is in your hands? 

 

Questions to Ponder:

  1. What has God already given to you to steward, even if it doesn’t look like what you want it to look like?
  2. Is the dream you have a God-inspired dream or a you-inspired dream?

 

Prayer Focus: 

Dear God, thank you for who you are. Thank you for the fact that you are a good and honoring God. A God that sees the innermost part of me and chooses to honor the dreams and gifts you have given me. Help me to see the things in front of me that I need to steward because you have entrusted them to me. Help me to trust that you can see the end result and how to get there when I can’t. I love you and I believe you are a God of the impossible.