Week Two: Rebellion & the World

What I’m Listening To: Forever and Ever, Amen by Randy Travis

Welcome back to week two of my month long weekly devotional series! As always, if you’re new, be sure to check out my previous posts in the series. The intro post has some additional information about our September of Peace devotionals. 

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 

                   ~ 1 John 2:15 (NIV)

That can be a tough pill to swallow, that even loving the world just a little means that we don’t love God. That’s not to say that we can’t like, or enjoy the things of the world; rather that we should be wary to not let them consume us and become our idols. This is made much easier if we remember two things that God tells us. One, that the world hates us because we are not like it. Yes, God makes it explicitly clear in John that the world is not merely unfeeling, but actually despises us. 

If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 

                      ~ John 15:19 (NIV)

Two, that not only has God chosen us out of the world, but that we are actually not of the world the same that He is not. 

They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 

                     ~ John 17:16 (ESV)

It is because of our likeness to God that the world does not like us. Why should we love anything that hates us for being like our Saviour? Therefore, we should rebel against the world, and turn to God, that the world might be pushed away from us through the love of Christ. 

Prayer Prompt: That we might be granted the strength to turn away from the Faustian offers the world attempts to bribe us with, and instead turn our face toward our Redeemer and the promise of Heaven. 

Week One: Sin & Mercy

What I’m Listening to: Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line by Waylon Jennings

Welcome to week one of my September of Peace! (And a happy Labor Day Weekend as well). 

It can be easy to think of ourselves as “good people”. We donate to charity, we try to be nice, hey, we even paid for the person behind us at Starbucks one time. This is dangerous thinking. In Romans, the Bible teaches us that

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

                            – Romans 3:23

Now I hear you, you’re saying that you thought yourself a good person, but not like God-level good. Just, you know, better than average maybe. Definitely better than some. This is the heart of that dangerous territory. We can never save ourselves; Isaiah reminds us of this in this passage. 

All of us have become like one that is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. 

                   – Isaiah 64:6

Think about that. Not only are we all horribly unrighteous, but our good deeds are useless in the face of our immeasurable sin. What should we do in the face of these (rather harsh) facts? Well, thankfully the Lord has the answer to that too. 

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

                         – Proverbs 28:13

The truth is, we are all innately sinful, but God’s not asking us to fix ourselves, He’s just asking us to be honest. Like a tinker, he can fix anything; but only if we give it to Him to patch and heal. We will always be sinful, but if we allow the Lord into our life we will also be sinless. 

Prayer: May the Lord help me to not attempt to fix my sin myself, but instead be honest about it in the face of His immeasurable mercy. 

September of Peace

What I’m Listening To: Daddy Sang Bass by Johnny Cash

Your suspicions are correct. Every Sunday for the month of September I’ll be doing a short devotional. Each will tie in with the larger message of why the world, and the trials that we face during our time in it, present us with the opportunity to become better Christians, not worse. As for the name? I’m calling it ‘September of Peace’ because September is a month of relative quiet, a sanctuary between the end of summer and the beginning of the holidays. I hope that you will follow along with me on this journey as we attempt to find peace in the Lord this (pre) holiday season.

Peace (literally)

KJ

Advent Day 24

What I’m listening to: The Twelve Days Of Christmas by Ray Conniff

Welcome to Day 24 our Advent series! I can’t believe today is our last day!!If you’re up to speed, congrats(!), if not, be sure to check out the previous posts. The first one explains a little more about the series. Now for today’s verses from Luke. 

“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.”

                     Luke 2:34-35 (NIV)

It can be easy to feel like nobody, even God, understands us. However, here in Luke we are shown that the Lord does know our hearts, and can fufill the desires within them. Everyone, deep down, has similar true desires; love, acceptance and success are all common. Jesus came to Earth to fufill two of those needs. We have a Savior who both loves us without end and accepts us even though we are sinners. What could be a better present? I certainly can’t think of one. Merry Christmas and praise the Lord. 

Prayer Prompt: This Christmas take a moment to thank the Lord for all that He’s done, but especially for sending His Son to Earth all those years ago to fufill your heart’s hopes.  

Advent Day 23

What I’m listening to: The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late) by The Chipmunks 

We are on day 23 of our advent series!! As always, if you’re new, be sure to check out my previous posts in the series. The first post also has some additional information about our Advent devotionals. Now let’s dive back into Matthew!

 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

                 Matthew 2:19-20 (NIV)

Do you ever feel like God is never going to give you something you want? Whether it be a job, a date or something else entirely, most of us have wondered when or even if God was going to come through. As illustrated here in Matthew though, we are reminded that not only does the Lord have a time for everything, He also has a reason. We should not become discouraged simply because something isn’t happening on our time schedule. Just because it’s not lining up with your plan doesn’t mean God is ignoring you. He wants and knows best for us, and He will bring about great things in His time.

Prayer Prompt: Pray for patience so that you may be grateful instead of exasperated when God gives you what you wanted. 

Advent Day 22

What I’m listening to: Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer by Elmo and Patsy

We are on day 22 of our advent series!! As always, if you’re new, be sure to check out my previous posts in the series. The first post also has some additional information about our Advent devotionals. Now let’s dive back into Matthew!

 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 

 “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

                  Matthew 2:16-18 (NIV)

Today’s verses come from one of the darkest moments in the Christmas story. Perhaps the slaughter of innocents was a symbol of the struggle the Lord’s children would face in the coming years, and in many cases continue to fight today. For the last two days we’ve been talking about the first two gifts from the Magi. Today we’ll be talking about the final gift: myrrh. Myrrh was used as a  anointing oil, a symbol of Jesus’s future death for us. It may have also served as a sign of the massacre described here in Matthew that the baby Jesus would narrowly escape. While it can be hard sometimes to understand why God lets bad things happen, we must always remember that there is a reason. We may not understand that reason, but we do not have to. We only have to trust that our loving God understands the rationale behind it. 

Prayer Prompt: Pray for Christians facing persecution this Christmas season, that the Lord will protect them as well as guide them in the new year. 

Advent Day 21

What I’m listening to: Sleigh Ride by The Ronettes

Welcome to Day 21 of our Advent series! If you’re up to speed, congrats(!), if not, be sure to check out the previous posts. The first one explains a little more about the series. Now for today’s verses from Matthew. 

 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

                     Matthew 2:13-15 (NIV)

We often think of Jesus as a savior, a king, and a teacher. However, one of His main roles here on Earth was as a priest of the new church. Yesterday we talked about what the first of the three gifts the Magi gave Jesus represented. The second gift was frankincense, which represented Jesus’s priestly role. Jesus was feared by Herod, and eventually by the Pharisees because He posed a threat. The Pharisees did not want a new church with a new priesthood because then they would be stripped of the power they enjoyed. Next time you feel powerless remember your Savior has been feared by the corrupt and powerful since He was born. 

Prayer Prompt: Pray for reassurance in Jesus’s ability to conquer all people and things. 

Advent Day 20

What I’m listening to: Skating by Vince Guaraldi Trio

We are on day 20 of our advent series!! As always, if you’re new, be sure to check out my previous posts in the series. The first post also has some additional information about our Advent devotionals. Now let’s dive back into Matthew!

 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

                       Matthew 2:9-12 (NIV) 

Do you ever wonder about the three gifts that were given to baby Jesus? Each of the, perhaps unusual seeming, gifts has a meaning behind it. Today we’ll be focusing on the first gift of the three, gold. Here in Matthew no real explanation is given, however, through historical reference we know that gold was given to kings as a symbol of their kingship. Although it may be hard as modern Christians to see the gift as anything other than a statement of fact, it was a bold move at the time. By giving this gift to the child of a carpenter it meant that they truly believed He was God’s Son. They believed a newborn was the Son of God, just as we believe that the story of Jesus is true. Remember that faith in the Lord has always been easy for those who seek it; even if faith is the only basis for the belief that you have. 

Prayer Prompt: Ask God to help you seek and believe in Him the way that the Magi sought and had faith in the Christ child. 

Advent Day 19

What I’m listening to: Angels We Have Heard on High by The Combined Choirs of Luther College & Symphony Orchestra

Welcome to Day 19 of our Advent series! If you’re up to date, awesome, if not, be sure to check out the previous posts. The first one explains a little more about the series. Now, let’s go back to where we last left off in Matthew.

 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
                         Matthew 2:7-8 (NIV)

God calls us to have trust, but that doesn’t mean we have to trust everyone, only the Lord. Here in Matthew, Herod claimed that he wished to worship the baby Jesus, when he actually meant the Christ child harm. We are not called to be naïve in order to be “good” Christians. In fact, since we trust the Lord, we do not have to rely on putting our trust in anyone else. Trust the Lord to guide your trust in others. 

Prayer Prompt: Ask God to show you who is and is not trustworthy in your life. 

Advent Day 18

What I’m listening to: You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch by Thurl Ravenscroft 

We are on day 18 of our advent series!! As always, if you’re new, be sure to check out my previous posts in the series. The first post also has some additional information about our Advent devotionals. Now let’s dive back into Matthew!

 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for out of you will come a ruler

    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Great things can happen to ordinary places or people. It can be easy to think that nothing extraordinary will happen to you because you are “ordinary”. Here in Matthew, Bethlehem was a regular place that was transformed when the Savior was born there. I’m sure that most, if not all of us, have wished something amazing would happen to us at some point or another. The crazy thing is, something amazing already has! Jesus Christ was born onto this earth to die for us, saving us from the death we deserve, and offering us the salvation we need. Remember that we are made to do incredible things for Jesus because Jesus did incredible things for us. 

Prayer Prompt: Ask God to replace your feelings of self doubt with feelings of motivation to serve Him.