Summer Devotional Series: The Anguish of Necessity

What I’m Listening to: Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue by Crystal Gayle

Before we start discussing this week’s message, it’s important to get one thing out of the way immediately: we are not saved by our works. We’re not. We’re saved by God’s infinite grace:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–

~Ephesians 2:8 (NIV)

However, knowing that because of our belief we are saved, in spite of anything we could possibly do, should not lull us into a state of complacency. It should not make us shrug our shoulders and think we are doing good enough. Because while we can’t save ourselves or anyone else, our actions can influence others, can help others.

if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

~ Romans 12:8 (NIV)

I’m not saying this in order to make anyone feel like nothing short of quitting their job and becoming a full time missionary is good enough, but rather that it’s important to be open to opportunities to help those in need. To do make the difference we are being called to make.

Prayer Prompt: Ask the Lord to show you places where you can make an impact, not for your own glory, but for God’s.

Peace,

KJ

Summer Devotional Series: The Importance of Consistency

What I’m listening to: Write This Down by George Strait

Somehow it seems easier to get to church in the winter. I think that as a culture we are more scheduled outside of the summer months. School is in session, people are saving up their vacation days, and there’s a sense of regulation that seems to dog us all.

In the summer it is easier to cast off our responsibilities and “have fun”, going out on the weekends, going on vacation, and just generally hanging out and relaxing. Now far from it for me to say that any of these activities are inherently “bad” or disloyal to the Lord. Many verses in the Bible discuss the importance of rest, with the beginning of Psalm 23 perhaps being one of the most iconic:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

~ Psalm 23:1-3 (NIV)

However, it is important to note that, as seen above, God wants us to find rest in Him. When He talks about rest, He doesn’t just mean for our physical bodies, He wants us to experience the spiritual rest one can only find through spending dedicated time with Him. Meaning we shouldn’t prioritize our summer fun over our relationship with God. That we don’t skip church to sleep off our Saturday night, or forget to read our Bible when we go on vacation, or make extra excuses to do things we know we shouldn’t do. We must remember that being a Christian is not a hobby, it’s our life. We’re running a race, and Jesus is waiting for us at the finish line.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

~ 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV)

God made the seasons, but it’s our responsibility to keep our eyes on the Kingdom without distraction, no matter the weather.

Prayer prompt: Ask that God would give you the conviction to stay consistent in your relationship with Him, and not to get caught up in the fleeting fun of summer to the extent that you lose sight of what is truly important.

Peace,

KJ

Frustrations and Forgiveness

What I’m listening to: God Will by Johnny Cash

Do you ever work really hard on something that then doesn’t end up the way you want it to? You spend hours working on some project or craft and at the end you just look at it with despair and shove it in the back of a closet so you don’t have to be reminded of our own failure?

It can be easy to see no worth in something that doesn’t measure up to our highest expectations, to want to give up on it and move on.

It can be even easier to feel like God sees us this way, that this time we’ve been such a failure and disappointment that He is finally going to throw up his hands and throw us away.

Luckily for us this overwhelming frustration at something not being exactly the way we wanted it to turn out is a fully human view, and not one that God, in His limitless wisdom, shares.

Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.

~ Joel 2:13 (ESV)

He always sees the good in us, the worthiness in our worthlessness, and the potential, even at our worst, to be His very best.

Everything happens for a reason, it might not be our reason, but it’s always His. He has promised to always look out for us, always care for us, and to always be patient with us. As we head into this Easter season, isn’t that a wonderfully reassuring thought?

If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you–you of little faith?

~ Matthew 6:30 (NIV)

Prayer Prompt: Pray that God might cleanse you of your own focus on your feelings of failure or worthlessness, that you might focus on working for God and His kingdom instead.

God’s in the Details

What I’m Listening to: He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands by Randy Travis

Have you ever looked up at the sky and marveled at how large the world that God created is? Sometimes it feels like you can see millions of miles in every direction, to the edges of the earth. In moments like that, it’s easy to feel insignificant. To feel as if in this whole galaxy, God can’t really care about one person. Maybe in a fleeting sense, but not in a personal, share everything, die for you kind of way.

People say that “the devil’s in the details” but I beg to differ. The devil is in the broad expanse, reassuring you that in such a great wide open there’s no way God actually cares about you. However, we must remember that doubt is the devil’s game. All he has to do is make us turn away from God, make us doubt the Lord’s total sovereignty, to win. It can be hard not to feel our insignificance at times, to wonder if there is really a loving God out there, watching over us and caring about the minutia of each of our daily lives, and yet, as much as the sky can inspire doubt, it inspires faith.

The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.

~ Psalm 19:1 NASB

We must remember that it is not about what makes sense to us, what we can show ourselves, but what we will hand over to God. It’s God who shows you the details, how he illustrated this whole world just for us. Yes, the sky is millions of miles wide, but look closer. Every square inch is constantly changing but always uniquely designed, always part of his plan. Every storm cloud, every sunset, every momentary shadow was designed by our Creator. If he took the time to create such an intricate sky; something so fleeting that we hardly ever take notice of it, don’t you think he put even more care into you?

“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!

~ Luke 12:27-28 NIV

Prayer Prompt: Ask God to help you see the marvelous detail that He has put into this world, and to help remove any doubt in your heart of His caring for you.

Prodigal Progenies

What I’m Listening to: (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding

We are, truly, God’s worst creation. Nothing else on the planet rebels against Him. The trees grow and die as he beckons them to. The animals, the birds and the fish and the mountain lions, all of them obey their innate directions given to them by God. And yet, God loves us most. He put us in charge, He sent His own Son to die for us. Us. His biggest mistake, His worst creation. We reject and rebel against Him at every turn. He should have long ago stripped our responsibilities away, reduced us to nothingness and let something more worthy step into our place. Something more obedient. But He didn’t. He knew we would fail, but He gave us the job anyway. Because we’re not supposed to do it on our own. We are not in charge of the planet; we do not have to rule over ourselves and the other beings. We are apprentices. Servants. The infants that He is raising to be something greater than our genus species. He is shaping us, we are His children and He would never abandon or replace us.

“And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.

– 2 Corinthians 6:18 (NIV)

Lean on His understanding, for He is teaching us His way, not our way. When you don’t want to, look up at the sky. See the way He paints each cloud, formed each bird, see the care, love and patience.

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

– Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV)

He is our Father, our protector who will never fail or abandon us. He trusts us, despite every failing, with a deep and unworthy devotion. He does not limit our responsibilities, He increases them, because He knows He will be right alongside us, to help us take our wobbly first steps on the path He designed. God is not looking for our fear or sacrifices. He does not want the things that our earthly leaders do.

Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.

– Mark 12:17 (NIV)

All He asks is that we don’t try to solve things on our own, that we turn to Him and let Him show us the way. He does not wish to watch us struggle on our own when He can instead help us succeed.

Prayer Prompt: Ask God to show you the way to tackle a struggle or issue you are facing right now, even if you think you know how to solve it. He always has a better way.

Mark 11 [Part Two]

What I’m Listening to: God Will by Johnny Cash

I couldn’t fit everything I wanted to talk about into one post, so here is part two to wrap up this mini-series. 

Now, I want to talk about the two stages we see in Mark 11. We talked before about how we have this emotional “downswing” from the jubilation of Palm Sunday. This is because after Jesus is essentially lauded as a king, He makes some judgements, He points out the failures that the Jewish community has. In a way this is a real life parable. 

When we learn of God, it is an awesome day! We celebrate, we cry out with joy. But after that initial happiness comes one of the hardest periods that every Christian faces. When we invite God into our lives, He starts to look around and point out where we need to improve. And in a lot of cases, that can make us angry, make us plot to make Him go away, much like the Pharisees. This is because now that we are being called to make difficult changes and choices we begin to think it might not have been so bad without Him. That’s our sinful, evil nature of course, to seek our old, threadbare comfort rather than letting God guide us to a new, better, eternal comfort. Now, this is most pronounced when we first know God, but we feel this rebellion all the time; in fact I would even go so far as to say most of us believers feel this discomfort almost all the time, we just push it into a corner of our mind so we don’t have to think about it too much. We live most days trying not to think too hard, we look at our Bibles and our religious Facebook posts and we reassure ourselves that that’s what God wants from us. 

Is it? Because I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t tell the disciples to go to church and only half-listen for fear they might feel called out or to exchange uncomfortable conversations with God for buying a pun-based Christian shirt. God is not a nanny, our immediate comfort is not His only concern. He cares about our forever, He wants us to spend it with Him. So yes, He is going to push us outside our comfort zone, He is going to point out the sin that clouds our life but He is also going to rebuild us so much better and stronger than we ever were before (if we will just put ourselves aside for literally two minutes). 

So, today, just take a moment to ask God what He actually wants you to do. Don’t shy away when you start to feel uncomfortable, realize you can’t live for yourself and recognize what God’s calling you to do. Don’t face this conversation or the  next steps He’s going to have for you with fear, because He’s right there with you and He is so excited to help you. He literally has the best of intentions for us. 

“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

            ~ 2 Corinthians 12:10 (KJV)

Peace, 

Kathleen-June