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

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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.

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

Mark 11 [Part One]

What I’m Listening to: Are All the Children In by Johnny Cash

This is part one of a two part series covering Mark Chapter 11.

This last week in my church’s bible study we covered Mark 11, which starts with the story of Palm Sunday. 

 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 

        ~ Mark 11:7-10 (NIV)

Then, the next day (still in Mark 11) the narrative takes a bit of a downswing from the parade we see above, mainly through three events that round out the chapter. The first is that Jesus is walking and He sees a fig tree. 

 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

       ~ Mark 11:12-14 (NIV)

The next event that happens is that Jesus arrives at the temple courts. 

 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.

         ~ Mark 11:15-16 (NIV)

Finally, some chief priests, scribes and elders of the Jewish religion come and talk to Him. 

 They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?”
 Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!”
 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’ …” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)
So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

         ~ Mark 11:27-33 (NIV)

Now, if I leave the story there, it sounds not great doesn’t it? Jesus sounds kind of fickle, spiteful and out for His own gain, like a selfish, fallen human. But the truth is, there is important context missing from each of those stories. In the first, it’s important to know that fig trees bring forth leaves and fruit at the same time, so there should have been plenty of fruit on the tree, (if perhaps hard and underripe), not only leaves. In this way, we are shown that God does not hunger for us to have “perfectly ripe fruit”, only that we have some, perhaps very imperfect fruit; that we try to grow and serve and fulfill our heavenly purpose. To have only leaves is to live only for ourselves, to be selfish and unwilling to aim for the prize of Heaven. 

The second story is important because Jesus was not walking into a place of Holy worship and turning out the faithful, He was casting out people who were perverting God’s laws for their own selfish gain. The money changers would charge exorbitant fees to exchange money for tithing. As for those selling sacrifical animals, they would force people to buy their wares by warning travelers that the animals they had brought were not clean enough to be sacrificed. 

The final story is all about intentions, when the Pharisees ask Jesus what authority He has, they did not want to get a real answer, they wanted to trick Him into saying something they could decry as blasphemy. 

The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

            ~ Mark 11:18 (NIV)

Mark 11 is such a powerful passage, and one of the reasons for that is because when you skim it you’re a little taken aback because some of the things that Jesus does seem uncharacteristic. However, when you read deeper into the passages, you begin to understand that they are actually perfectly in the character of a, if you will, perfect character. 

Peace, 

Kathleen-June

(P.S. I’m not apologizing for closing my devotional with a pun.)