Read with Real Life
MARCH 18TH: ACTS 23-24
Kristie: In Acts 23-24 we read about a plot to kill Paul because the religious leaders were so enraged over Paul’s teachings about the Gospel. The commander learns of this plot and removes Paul from the fortress in the dark of night and takes him to Caesarea. The work that God had for Paul was not done yet and God protected Paul from those waiting in the shadows to kill him. Even though Paul remains in prison for quite a while after this, he continues to speak the truth of the Gospel to all who will listen. Think about a time in your life when you had to move or someone moved away from you, were you mad at God in those moments for what happened? What if your moving away or someone moving away from you was in order to protect you from something? What if losing a job was actually God working to protect your marriage, your integrity, your relationships with your children, your finances, or something else? I have witnessed this first hand, I have seen God move things around and make things happen that don’t make sense at the time. It doesn’t mean that we are moved into a perfect situation, it might just mean we were moved out of an imperfect one! At one point in our marriage, God moved Jeremy and I almost 1,400 miles to a place where we did not know anyone or even live close to anyone we knew. It was not perfect there, but it was a place of healing and blessings in our life like no other! Whatever your situation, whether it is or was a move, a job change, a loss of a friendship, take a moment to consider how God might actually be at work in the midst of that! Sometimes we find ourselves in places that we don’t understand but God can, and will, use us even in those places if we allow Him!
MARCH 17TH: ACTS 21
Jeremy: “I am ready not only to be jailed at Jerusalem but even to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 21:13 NLT) They didn’t know what to do with Paul. Paul had persecuted the Way (what they called those who followed Jesus … this name was not term of endearment) and now he was one of the greatest leaders of it. He didn’t make sense to them. It should be mentioned that we are seeing in the crowds the same kind of confused rage we saw when Jesus walked the earth. They would praise him in one place and they would call for his death in the next. Paul had to be on the look out for those who would want to silence him by killing him. I would have thought that the religious leaders and the people who followed them would have gotten a clue with Jesus. Here this Jesus was who they had effectively gotten killed. He shows up after three days very much alive yet they still didn’t believe. Side Note … while Jesus appeared to many after his resurrection, he didn’t appear to everyone. This is probably why many still didn’t get it. Put yourself in the first century. How in the world would you have not come to believe after everything that had happened to Jesus? The answer … you hadn’t witnessed it first hand. When we become convinced of something we tend to be all in. We build our lives around those things that mean a lot to us. Depending on the “thing” we may also be willing to build our deaths around them as well. This is what we read in Acts 21:13. Paul, the great persecuted of those who followed Jesus had so encountered Jesus that it completely turned his life around. His encounter with Jesus on the road changed everything. Even his name changed. He was no longer Saul the Persecutor. He was now Paul the Evangelist. He was no willing to be jailed instead of jailing others. He was now willing to die for the very same thing he had been willing to arrest and kill others for. That is a sanctified life. That word is an odd one for many. “Sanctified.” To be completely set apart for a purpose. In this case, sanctified for whatever it was that Jesus wanted to do. Jesus wanted to transform Saul and give him a new name. Sanctified. Jesus wanted to use Saul, now Paul to spread the Good News. Sanctified. Jesus wanted to use everything that Paul was and would be for the sake of the Kingdom. Sanctified. And Paul consecrated or surrendered everything he had and was for everything Jesus wanted to do in and through him. If you know the rest of the story, Paul lived a rough life all for the sake of Jesus. Paul spent time in prison. Paul traveled all over the area when travel was far less than glamorous. He worked his tail off to support himself so he wouldn’t be a burden to those he was sharing the Good News. He was sick. He was shipwrecked. He lived a hard life. And in the midst of all of it he said, “I am ready … to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus.” There is a key word in there that you can’t skip over. “Lord.” When Jesus is “Lord” of your life, you find yourself willing, and even eager, to surrender your life to that Lord for you recognize that the “Lord” can do far more with you for a far greater purpose than you could ever conjure up on your own. Let me just say, this kind of life seems to be falling by the wayside. Today we are looking for convenience. We want a faith that makes a difference in our lives but only if there is nothing else on the calendar. We aren’t willing to make Jesus “Lord” because what if that means we have to give up something over here that is more popular? Casual Christianity has replaced Christianity that costs us our lives. I don’t want you to aspire to be like Paul. Paul wouldn’t want that either. He would call us to follow him as he follows Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1) but it was never about Paul. It was always about Jesus. Jesus wants you to surrender your life to him so that you can have the kind of life that changes everything. Until you are willing to make Jesus the Lord of your life, you are going to read Paul as a nice idea … for someone else. You might even argue, Jesus wouldn’t ask me to surrender everything would he? Jesus just doesn’t do that anymore. Actually, let me correct you there. Jesus still calls you to surrender everything. The problem is that we have bought into the lie that the most important thing is for us to get what ever we want. We are told it is better for us to be lord of our lives rather than the one who created the heavens and the earth and among so many other things on his resume, died for us and then conquered death some how. Why would we trust our feeble and fickle selves when Jesus, the selfless servant died and rose again. We need to get our priorities and our thinking straight. What will you do today? Which life will you surrender to today? Will you give up everything and let Jesus become Lord? I’d love to help you on this journey. Reach out!
MARCH 8TH: ACTS 3
Jeremy: As our journey enters the fifth book of the New Testament we begin to see the followers of Jesus coming together in a unique and particular way. What may be considered the roots of the Church, these followers of Jesus began to develop a name for themselves. They began to be known for certain things. One of those things was power. Uneducated and ordinary people were living life with a new found boldness. They were saying things about Jesus and about life that resonated with the people. These things they were saying appears to be the continuation of the ministry of Jesus. In the early chapters of Acts we already see a forty year old man who had been lame since birth find healing in the name of Jesus. These people are part of our heritage. They began laying the groundwork of what followers of Jesus would come to be known for. It was said of them that they were part of “The Way.” They purposefully gathered together daily. They ate together in their homes. They had glad and generous hearts. They praised God. They had the goodwill of the people. They had all things in common. They would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all as they needed. These were some of the most fundamental things that marked those who were part of “The Way.” As we look at these early rhythms we begin to recognize something very important. All of these things were done because their whole existence had shifted. They were a people who were following in the footsteps of Jesus in every conceivable way. While this was also true of the followers of Jesus before his death and resurrection, there is a very important difference that we can’t miss. These people had received the gift that Jesus had promised … they had been and were continuing to be empowered by the Holy Spirit. They were not living life in their own strength. They were living life in the power of God. Self-preservation and promotion were no longer the driving force. Now they were driven by selfless generosity for the sake of anyone and everyone who had not encountered the power of God. Self-promotion had been replaced by Kingdom-promotion. They all understood that what God wanted to do among humanity was more important than what any one person felt they deserved. This shift in those who were being added to their numbers by the hundreds came, in part, through one of the most selfless steps a person could take. Every one of the people who were encountering this new way of being took the first step in the direction of God by doing what we know as “repenting.” Whenever someone encountered the followers of Jesus and wanted to know what they must do to become part of them, the answer was clear … Repent. Always on the heals of repentance was baptism but that is for another post. Repentance is the turning in a new direction. It’s a complete kind of turn. It isn’t partial or half-hearted. It is total. It is what happens when someone is headed one direction in life and they make a turn to a different way of life. It is what happens when self-centered people realize the life of God is a self-surrendered way of life and they take personal responsibility for the destructive ways of life that have defined their lives. Repentance isn’t very popular in our day. It requires we admit we are wrong about something. People want to be right today. People don’t want to humble themselves before others and admit they dropped the ball. We create Kingdoms where we sit on the throne and we work hard to keep that Kingdom going even though it is headed to destruction. In the end, the kingdoms of our own making crumble. Saying I’m sorry to someone else has become difficult. Paying someone back for the ways we cheated them requires admitting to them that it was us. It requires vulnerability. It requires being willing making amends. It becomes impossible to live the kind of life marked by those who are part of “The Way” if we are unwilling to surrender our pride and repent. This looks like people being honest even when it will cost them something. It looks like charging someone the right price even though you aren’t going to make as much on the deal. It looks like husbands and wives admitting they were wrong to each other. It looks like children saying sorry for being disrespectful. It looks like people taking time to help someone even though doing so won’t benefit themselves. It looks like a lot of things but the common thread through it all is desiring to be a follower of Jesus and “The Way” his life initiated. If someone who did not know you were to encounter you today, would they see a surrendered follower of Jesus who lives as part of “The Way?” Would the rhythms of your life set you apart as oddly different than the norm for the day? I hope and pray that there would be a holy desire that wells up in you to become part of the earth-shattering movement Jesus is leading and the Holy Spirit is empowering. If you have questions about what this looks like in your life, we’d love to have the conversation. We’d love to pray with you. We’d love to journey with you. Reach out to us and let’s do this together.
FEBRUARY 25TH: JOHN 12
Kristie: Have you ever heard the term exegesis? I had not until Jeremy was in college and even then I wasn’t really sure what it was all about. When I returned to college in 2016, I realized I would soon understand that term well. An exegesis, simply put, is an intense look at a passage of Scripture in an effort to better understand the who, what, where, when, and why. Our reading today for Real Life is John 12. Verses one through eight were the verses I did my first exegesis on. I was wowed as I did the research on those 8 verses at all the things I learned. While I don’t expect everyone to read the Bible and write a 15 page paper on everything they read, I will say that having a basic understanding of what is going on around that passage helps us to better understand what we are reading. If you question something you read or think it seems strange, ask that question of someone. Jeremy and I may not have an immediate answer but if you come to us, we would be happy to research and learn with you. Let’s be a people who don’t just read to check it off the list but who read to grow and to be transformed. The next time you read, ask who, what, where, when, and why and see what you can learn.
FEBRUARY 24TH: JOHN 11
Jeremy: Resurrection wasn’t a new thing in the day of Jesus. As we follow the thread through the Gospels we find several people who were raised from their “sleep.” There was Jairus’ daughter, a young man in the midst of a funeral procession, and Lazarus to name three. We do need to notice a couple things about these resurrection accounts. First Jesus was involved in everyone of them. None of these people were raised from death without the intervention of Jesus. While each of these miracles is unbelievable, we need to remember that each of these people ended up dying again. As if one death was enough, can you imagine going through it a second time? Jesus was the only person in the Gospels who was raised to life and never died again. Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this Martha?” What is resurrection? In the Scripture resurrection seems to be reserved for what happened to Jesus. With the others, Jesus seems to treat them as though something temporary was taking place. Temporary. That is an interesting word to use when we speak about death. For so many, death is quite final. They have no sense of anything happening after that last breath. That is, in part, because many in society have little to no connection to a way of life that opens up the possibilities beyond the last breath. Jesus says that he came to give life that puts death in its place and understands it as quite temporary. Throughout the New Testament, the various authors all deal with resurrection as that which happens after life after death. Follow what I just said. Resurrection happens to those who have died. Resurrection doesn’t happen after someone dies. Scripture speaks about a time when all those who have died will be raised. There is not as much said about what happens after the final breath as we think. We have filled in a lot of the blanks because we don’t like things to be open ended. We write songs and poems about what happens after the final breath but the one thing we know for certain is that after that final breath, we are with Jesus. That should probably be enough but many want more. When I think about being with Jesus, I really don’t think there is much that I am going to be too worried about because I WILL BE WITH JESUS. Why isn’t that enough? Resurrection will happen at some point in the future. When it happens, the graves will be opened and the dead in Christ (those who have lived into a resurrection way of living) will be raised from their “slumber” and will be given new bodies much like the one that Jesus has. (Philippians 3) And here is the kicker, death will have been completely overcome and it will not be something we will have to go through again. Jesus says that he “is the resurrection and the life.” He also says that “no one comes to the Father except through him.” Some people don’t like these stipulations. They want things to be a bit more open. I’d like to make a point here. Why are people willing to invest their lives chasing after things that promise eternal life but have never proven their ability to follow through on the promise. Jesus promises it, Jesus lived through it, and Jesus never died a second time. As we think about the promises of God, let us not forget the promise of life after life after death that begins with resurrection. Let us live into that life now. Let us not put off any longer stepping into this eternal life that has already begun in Jesus. Let us follow Jesus today, tomorrow, and for the rest of our lives; this one and the next one.
FEBRUARY 23RD: JOHN 10
Kristie: If I sit quietly and listen, I can hear the sound of the whistle in my memory. I never could whistle like that myself, there was only one person who could…my dad. There was no dinner bell and no phone call telling me to come home. Cell phones did not really exist at that time so there was no texting me to come home. The sign or sound to come home was a whistle. No matter where I was in our neighborhood, I could hear him whistle. When I heard that whistle I knew it was my dad calling me home. Just like his whistle, I knew my dad’s voice. I began hearing it before I was even born and his was a voice I turned to from a very young age. His voice held authority, his voice conveyed love, his voice sometimes showed anger, his voice was often loud, but his voice guided for me for 42 years. I remember hearing his voice cheering my brothers and I at sporting events, I can almost hear his voice broadcasting football games on the radio, I remember his voice counting to three as he led children’s ministry when it was time to be quiet, I remember his voice singing “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” to me. I loved his voice so much that we recorded him talking months before he passed away, just be able to listen to him in years to come. I kept the last voicemail he ever left me so I could replay it in moments when I need to hear his voice again. For 42 years of my life, there was one voice that spoke loud and clear. I knew that voice well. As I ponder this I wonder, how well do I know another voice? How well do I know the voice of my Savior? But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice. ~John 10:2-5 When I fall into step behind my Shepherd, I can hear his voice ahead of me, leading me and guiding me. If I try to get ahead of my Shepherd and try to forge ahead on my own, I lose my way. I get tired and confused and I trudge through the muck because the path has not been forged for me by the Shepherd. Sometimes, I wonder where His voice is in my life and then I realize that I have allowed so much “noise” in that I have clouded His voice out. Sometimes I get distracted and follow another voice or my own voice over the Shepherd and find myself missing, “The call to come home.” I knew the voice of my earthly father and could identify it in a crowd. I had followed him for years which meant knowing my dad’s voice came naturally. I want to know the voice of my Heavenly Father just as clearly. I want to follow Him so closely that I hear His voice in every area of my life. I want to be aware each time He calls me to “come home.” I want to push away the static and tune in to the voice of the Shepherd who will guide each and every one of my steps.
FEBRUARY 22ND: JOHN 9
Jeremy: John’s Gospel revisits the issue of Sabbath. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, it refers to the practice of taking a day of the week off to rest. It originates from the rhythm of work and rest that we see in the creation account in Genesis. God worked 6 days and rested on the seventh. Different faith traditions observe this in different ways. Some observe the day of rest on Saturday where others observe it on Sundays. There used to be a time when most every business in town was closed on Sundays. We still see this practiced by various businesses. The greatest debate regarding the Sabbath is what one is allowed to do on that day. This argument goes back to the days of Jesus when the religious leaders were adamant in remaining faithful to the Law of Moses that clearly articulated that people weren’t allow to do anything on the Sabbath. Jesus comes along and heals people on the Sabbath. He is lambasted for this. His actions on the Sabbath were one of the points of contention that contributed to the case against him that lead to his execution. Jesus didn’t hold back any punches. He called the religious hypocrites because they would have “worked” to rescue one of their animals that was in harms way on the Sabbath but they didn’t want Jesus to bring life to someone who was dying. The religious leaders went as far as to say, “This man Jesus is not from God, for he is working on the Sabbath.” (John 9:16) It is amazing that we can get so far away from our desire for life that we miss the opportunities for it and even choose the opposite at times. We still argue about the Sabbath today but it is a different kind of argument. As a society it seems that closing a business on the Sabbath is a practice of days long gone; unless you are Chick-fil-a and then its all the rage. Our arguments sound more like, “There is no way I can take a day off, I have too much to do.” Someone once counseled me saying, “You are to busy not to take a day off.” The point that we see in all of Jesus’s responses throughout the Gospels to the accusation of his working on the Sabbath is that the Sabbath was made for humanity rather than humanity for the Sabbath. The Sabbath was intended to be a day of recreation for people. It was the day when they were released from their expectation of production. It is a day when we are reminded that our worth is not wrapped up in our production. A great example of this was the Israelites who were held captive in Egypt. They had come to be defined by their production of bricks. The more bricks they made the more valuable they were. If you couldn’t make bricks, you weren’t worth anything. God wanted to lead them out of this culture. God wanted Moses to lead them out into the wilderness so they could worship God and through that worship they would be reminded that their identity is in God not bricks. Today, we may right in the middle of the same issue the Israelites found themselves in. We spend 7 days a week (and if we could squeeze another day or two into that week we would fill those as well) producing so we can live. We work more jobs. Sometimes this is in order to pay the bills while at other times we do this to avoid other things in our lives. Our kids play sports seven days a week because if they don’t we are afraid they will miss out. We fill every moment of the day for all sorts of reasons and all the while we are producing so we have an identity. What if, you took a day off. Not a day off of work to take care of things at home but a true day off where we can rest. Not because there is some religious ritual that we are being forced to observe (not the hint of religious production) but because we recognize that we need to be refilled and refueled: we need to be revived at the core of our existence. What if we spent a day letting God be God? What if we let God take care of us instead of thinking we know better how to take care of ourselves? Jesus kept “working” on the Sabbath, doing things that brought life. Let’s be a people who let God “work” in our lives at least one day a week rather than trying to keep treading water just to survive. Let’s not just survive … let’s let God revive us. It’s going to require we completely reframe our understandings and practices. It might take some baby steps in the right direction or it might just be a good idea to let God break us out of Egypt. Whichever case it might be. May you find the life giving rhythms of sabbath.
FEBRUARY 17TH: JOHN 4
Jeremy: Jesus said to his disciples, “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work.” (John 4:34) They had gone to town to get some food while Jesus set up shop next to a well. In the verses leading up to this we read about Jesus encounter with the Samaritan woman who was out gathering water in the middle of the day. (This would suggest that there was something going on in her life that made her unwelcome at the well in the morning when all the others would have come to gather water.) Jesus changes this woman’s life by offering her water that was better than the water she was drawing from Jacob’s Well. In the afterglow of the encounter, the disciples return from their food run and offer him food to eat. While he doesn’t outright refuse the food he does mention something about food the disciples knew nothing about. In this interaction we see two different kinds of food mentioned. First is the food we normally think about. This is the kind of food we go to the grocery to pick up or go out to a restaurant to eat. Then there is this other food that seems to have nothing to do with actual food yet is able to nourish us. What is this food? Jesus says that this nourishment comes from “doing the will of God.” Have you ever consider how you can be satisfied by doing something? To be nourished is to be satisfied. It is to have your needs met. It is to be sustained in life with the things that we need to exist. As a society we are always on the lookout for things to satisfy our needs and our desires. One of the problems we have created is that we have so many things to meet those needs and desires yet we don’t seem to be “nourished” by any of them. It’s like fast food. It’s all around us. It might fill our body but it doesn’t “nourish” us like a well prepared meal with all the things our body needs. Fast food is convenient but it isn’t usually the best option. Our time and energy and resources are consumed by trying to fill a void in us. It is like a hunger pain that we through all sorts of things at but never the one thing that really “nourishes” us. When was the last time you were “nourished” because you did what God wanted you to do? You engaged in the mission of God and found yourself more satisfied than you’d been in a long while. It was a satisfaction that came from deep within. It emanated from some place inside that you weren’t aware was there. Today we enter the season of Lent. This is a time of preparation for Easter. It is about 40 days not including Sundays. The tradition for the people of God has been to spend this season fasting. Fasting has always been part of the way we practice our faith. You can read about this throughout the Gospels. There was tension between those who were fasting because that is what a faithful person did and those who were found feasting at the same time. The difference was in why. Some fasted because the had to while others feasted because Jesus was with them. When people think about fasting they are normally consumed with thoughts of all that they will have to give up. They are distracted by what they are going to have to do without. Fasting is a time when we are reminded that our true nourishment comes, not from a grocery run, but from doing the will of God. Sometimes it is good to go without to be reminded that it is easy to think that our true nourishment, our true satisfaction comes from everything but God. What do you think you can’t do without? Make a list. Now, circle those things that are directly connected to doing the will of God. Jesus has made it clear. He can do without food from time to time. What he can’t do without is doing the will of God. When was the last time you were consumed by thoughts of, “I can’t do anything else right now but engage with God, engage with the people of God, engage in the things of God.” During this season of Lent, let us recalibrate our Nourishment Meter. Let’s make sure we know how to read it. Let’s make sure we know what keeps that meter full in our lives. There was a girl in our youth ministry once who gave up her bed for Lent. She slept on her bedroom floor in a sleeping bag for 40 days. You better believe there were times when she lie there on the floor thinking, “Why in the world did I let Pastor Jeremy talk me into this fasting thing and why did I think it was a good idea to give up my bed?” It was my prayer for her and it is my prayer for you that as you find yourself engaged in that debate in your head that you would answer yourself in the following way …God, I want you more than anything else in my life. In the midst of my fasting, draw near to me and remind me of all that you want for me. God, nourish me with those things I know nothing about and may I be satisfied beyond my wildest hopes and dreams. May the Lord be with you on this journey!
FEBRUARY 16TH: JOHN 3
Kristie: Today my “revelation” from my reading is not necessarily profound but it struck me as interesting in a way that it never has before. Jeremy and I have both shared how we can read the same passage of Scripture time and time again and we can glean something different each time. In John 3, the followers of John are talking to him about the fact that people are going to Jesus instead of John to be baptized. In verses 27-30 John has this to say, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from Heaven. You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah, I am only here to prepare the way for Him.’ It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the bridegrooms friend is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success.” Maybe I am in a sappy mood, recalling my own wedding lately but I got to thinking about this. Our best man, Kevin and our maid of honor, Sari stood by our side, along with the rest of our bridesmaids and groomsmen as we said our vows. They helped us prepare for that day, they helped us on that day to make sure everything we just as it should be. They were there to celebrate with us and to be witness to the event happening on that day in May. These friends were an essential part of our day. What struck me in my reading was that John was the friend of the Bridegroom. He helped prepare the way for the Messiah. His whole purpose was to celebrate the coming of the Savior and to prepare people’s hearts. As John said, he was filled with joy at the success of Christ. Many of us have stood in wedding a to bear witness to the union of a couple. Most of us can attest to being a guest at a wedding to bear witness to the same. On those days, we often bear witness with joy at the success of the union. I am left pondering this, as followers of Jesus Christ do we bear witness to what Christ has done with joy? I wonder if we live as John, with the purpose of pointing others to Christ!
FEBRUARY 15TH: JOHN 2
Jeremy: Signs are interesting. They are all around us even though we don’t always see them for what they are. Sometimes we are set in our heart and mind about what needs to happen in order for God to be involved. We often pray expecting God to do something specific. We don’t consider that maybe God has another plan that is better suited for us in our situation. Let’s remember that God can do “exceedingly more than we could ever hope for or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20). God has more resources than we can comprehend. God’s perspective surpasses ours. God is more invested in our lives than even we have the capacity to be. So, let us celebrate the signs that are all around us. Let us look for signs but let us not be hindered by a need for God to prove anything to us. God has already done that. How? Jesus. Do we really need more proof than that? What does it take for you to believe? This is an important question to answer. Our answer reveals much about us. When we talk about signs, are we talking about proof? Throughout the Gospels we find the religious leaders looking for Jesus to prove who he was. They would ask things like, “By what authority do you … ?” And Jesus would answer and it still wasn’t good enough for them. They weren’t going to be happy until they had it their way. By signs, do we mean evidence. Evidence and proof are closely related. Both are used to build a case. In a court of law a lawyer presents evidence why someone is guilty or not guilty. Are we looking for a resume? Are we looking for Jesus to make his case for why we should surrender our lives and submit them to a God who has intentions for us? In John’s second chapter, we find the mention of three signs. First is the “miraculous sign” in Cana of Galilee when Jesus turned a lot of water into wine at a wedding. Second, the Jewish leaders want a “miraculous sign” to prove Jesus’s authority. Third, John says, that “because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him.” It would seem that signs can be good thing things. It also seems like they can stand in the way of us getting to the heart of faith. It seems that the heart within the person looking for the sign is an important factor in this. Ask yourself, why do you want a sign? Why do you want God to offer proof to you? Why do you need evidence? And here is the ultimate question we need to ask. If we don’t receive the sign we are looking for, does that mean we have permission not to put our faith in God?
FEBRUARY 11TH: LUKE 23
Kristie: Do you remember when you were a kid and you desperately wanted that “thing” for Christmas? Maybe it was the hottest toy of the year or something else. I remember desperately wanting a Cabbage Patch Kid for Christmas in 1984. I thought about that thing daily. I wrote it on my wishlist and I told everyone I could about it and I am pretty sure I prayed for that doll. I fervently wished for it. Do you remember day dreaming about “Mr. or Mrs. Right?” I do. I had a list of qualities that I hoped to see in a man one day. My older brother made me an application for potential dates. It was an application to date my sister. It included asking the definition of Chivalry! I spent a lot of time and energy thinking about, wishing for, and praying for Mr. Right. I questioned each relationship I had to see if it lined up with what I wanted and what God wanted for me…sometimes that questioning required a break-up. I was fervent in my pursuit of Mr. Right. Have you ever been consumed by the well being of your child? Having three kids now, I can say that at times I have been consumed with each of their well beings. Busted up faces, eyelids, throats, and foreheads have required vigilance to make sure the injury wasn’t worse than it actually was. Those moments required patience as we waited for healing and the “all clear” that they were ok. Those moments required putting on my big girl pants to sit by and watch as my kiddos hurt knowing I could not always fix it. Or how about being consumed by their mental well being? Bullies, set-backs, fights among friends, broken hearts, let downs from others, and loss are a sampling of the things that consume us for their mental well being. We wipe tears, say encouraging words from our meager understanding of life ourselves, step in from time to time, and pick them back up when we can. Through all of our consuming moments we have prayed over each of our kids and will do so as long as we have breath in our lungs. We are fervent in our care and concern of those God entrusted to us. Have you ever been consumed by the health of a parent? I will never forget the moment I got the call that my dad had just had his first heart attack. We had just found out we were expecting our first child and we were actually getting ready to tell my parents. We drove as quickly as possible to get to the hospital and after hugging on my dad, we told him to get better so that he could be a part of his grandchild’s life. That was the beginning of a 17-year health battle for my dad. His health, and my mom’s, consumed a lot of my thoughts and prayers. Fast forward to my pregnancy with our youngest, we received a call that my mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer and would have to undergo surgery and chemo. Her well being consumed my thoughts and mind. My dad’s heart got weaker and weaker over the years and then came the moment that the doctors told us we had “6 months left” with my dad. I hated those three words. That moment brought about a myriad of thoughts. We could fight it but what if it was just 6 months. What did we need to prepare for, should we talk about a funeral, was insurance lined up, what did I want to talk to him about before he died, what would I wish I had said or done once he was gone. I did not want to face the fact that he might really be dying, but I needed to be realistic and make the most of our moments together. I was consumed with details, and trips home, and trying to linger with my dad to savor every single moment. We have recordings from the year before he died of him telling us random stories. Those recordings are a treasure today and I am so glad that in our consumption, that we took time to record them. I could write a book on this last part alone, but suffice it to say I was consumed with my dad’s health. Many hours have gone into praying for my parent’s health. Jesus was fervent in his prayer too. “He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.’ Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.” Luke 23:41-44 Jesus was so fervent in his prayer that he sweat blood. In my life, like I mentioned above, I have prayed for a lot of things, but I have NEVER sweat a drop of blood when in prayer. While things in life threaten to consume me daily, I am reminded from this passage that NOTHING in my life is as bad as knowing I am going to die a sinners death on a cross and then to go through that. I am also reminded that with all the things that consume me, take my thoughts and energies, and sometimes almost make me physically ill that the greatest thing I can do is to commit them to prayer and be to pray with fervency.
FEBRUARY 8TH: LUKE 17
Jeremy: As we begin Luke 17 we find Jesus teaching on forgiveness. In the second paragraph, Jesus focuses his attention on forgiving a believer. If a believer sins, we are to rebuke them and if this is met by repentance, then we are to forgive that believer. Here is where the passage gets to be rather challenging. Even if that believer wrongs us seven times a day and each time turns to ask for forgiveness, we must (doesn’t sound like we are given much of an option here) forgive that person. There is much more that can be said about forgiveness. What about that person who never asks for forgiveness? Is there a place for us to forgive them? What is the point of forgiveness? Is it to let someone off the hook for the consequences to their actions? Are we really teaching someone anything by continually forgiving them? Shouldn’t we put our foot down, draw a line in the sand, and stand our ground? All of these questions are valid questions that need answered. In Luke 17 Jesus is calling us to forgive believers who repent of their sins. It is that simple. Jesus doesn’t make it very complicated. Sin, Rebuke, Repent, Forgive. And repeat as often as necessary. What’s at the heart of this never ending cycle? Could it be that God wants us to understand the lengths to which God will go to forgive us even after so many times of us returning to those things that drive a chasm of separation between us and God? The people of God have been consistent in their love for and worship of God only to find themselves pulled away too many times. This is the story we read in the Exodus, the second book of the Bible, the narrative of God’s people leaving the bondage in Egypt and journeying towards the promised freedom of God. It was a rough road between the two. This can be our story as well. From our bondage to sin to the freedom of God in our lives, our journey can look quite like a roller coaster. And God is always there with us and for us at the peaks and the valleys of our journey. God wants us to experience the fullness of his promised future for us and God will offer forgiveness every time. The question we must ask ourselves is, “Why do I seem to take advantage of God’s graciousness towards me?” Why do we bank on God’s grace without fully surrendering to the holiness of God that brings the kind of life that finds itself repulsed by sin? Do we want to slide into heaven by doing and being just enough or do we want to ride into the promise of God boldly because we have been so transformed by God that we can identify with Paul when it writes in Galatians 2:20, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Have we taken for granted God’s grace? I am sure we have. And we may be tempted to do it again. We know that God forgives the one who is truly repentant of their sin. Let us stop depending on our own strength and allow God to fill us with power to live the life God is calling us to live. In the mean time, let us forgive those on this journey with Christ every time they repent and ask for it. And as we are tempted to say no let us think about what it would be like for us to hear from God, “No” the next time we asked for forgiveness. I will never forget the time someone in the church hurt me deeply. It might be better to say that this person said and acted in a way that devastated me. I remember it being so bad that I said to God, “If this is ministry, I don’t want anything to do with ministry.” If you know me you know I didn’t walk away from ministry but that encounter taught me a lot about forgiveness. In all actuality, it is still teaching me a lot about forgiveness. God led me to forgive that person even though they have never asked for it, don’t see that what they did was wrong, and have ignored multiple attempts at reconciliation. Among the many things I have learned because of this there is something that continually comes back to my attention. Forgiveness is not always about someone deserving it. Forgiveness is necessary for the kind of community God intends for us all to realize in our lives. Unforgiveness is like a cancer that eats away at us leaving us a shallow example of a human. If we will follow the way of Jesus, we can trust him to be faithful with the results. After all, do you and I really want to step into the role of the Savior of the world? I don’t. So, let’s forgive each other on this journey with Jesus. Let’s do it as often as possible. I often end the messages I give with the words, “Be blessed and be a blessing.” In the context of the words in this post let me rephrase. As you have been forgiven … forgive others until we meet again.
FEBRUARY 2ND: LUKE 6
Kristie: It was May of 1997, just days before Jeremy and I said, “I do!” We were gathered at a buffet restaurant to celebrate the fact that I had finished my associates degree that week. We had two friends in attendance that night that had NEVER been to a buffet before. They had never been to a restaurant that gave free refills AND gave you ice in your drink. I vividly remember how amazed they were that you got to go back as many times as you wanted and you got a clean plate each time. They ate so much food that night. At one point they were shaking up and down telling us they were shaking the food down to make room for more. We have been talking about giving of our time, talent, treasure, and testimonies at Church. When we become generous givers, the blessings in our life (the returns on our investment) are like this image of our two friends…shaken down to make room for more, to bless us in abundance. Those blessings take on a lot of different forms but our lives will be fuller when we are generous with the four T’s. Our friends gave a little bit of money to eat at that buffet. They got endless plates of food, endless drinks, and even endless ice. They could eat until they were filled. Malachi 3 says to test God, that’s not something God invites us to do very much in the Scripture. Like our friends who gave a little in exchange for the buffet of food, what if we gave a little in exchange for an abundance of blessings? “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full-pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” Luke 6:38
JANUARY 28TH: MARK 14
Kristie: Are you in denial? As I read Mark 14 today, I was reminded of our series on the book of Mark last year. It is crazy to think that it began less than a year ago near the beginning of the quarantine. It feels like forever ago. However, as I read this morning I was reminded of our message on Peter’s denial of Jesus. Peter told Jesus that he would NEVER deny or desert him. That very same night, Peter denied Jesus 3 times (just as Jesus said he would do). It’s easy to read this passage and ask ourselves how he could and how the rest of the disciples could deny Jesus. I have been there, I have thought those thoughts and then in the same moments I realize that I too, deny Christ. I deny Him when I try to do ministry out of my own strength. I deny Him when I try to raise and guide my kids in my own strength. I deny Him when I try to love Jeremy out of my human love. I deny Him when I refuse to open the doors to the dark corners of my heart that I just don’t want to deal with. I deny him when I am too upset to allow His wisdom and truth to weave their way into me. I deny Him when I put limits on His abilities and possibilities. So, as I think about it, if I am not careful…I can live in denial! The opposite of denial is to accept or to yield. I would much rather be a person who is known to yield to Christ than to deny Him. Yielding is not always easy and it is not always our first instinct! I believe that yielding happens first in the little things and then becomes more natural in the big ones.
JANUARY 28TH: MARK 13TH
Jeremy: In chapter 13 we hear Jesus talking about future events. Many times today we read these verses looking for the signs of what is to come for us. He mentions wars, signs, wonders, celestial occurrences, great persecution, and other such things. I have always struggled with the way we have interpreted these passages. Books have been written about the end times and people have devoured them in hopes that it will make sense for them of all the veiled allusions in Scripture. Something just doesn’t seem to make sense to me. Predictions are made with definitely certainty and then the predictions seem get it wrong. We shrug it off and decide that maybe we just didn’t dig through the clues well enough. We keep looking for the key to unlock the code and it would seem that all the keys we’ve tried must not be the right one. So we try the next. There is something that we often overlook as we try to understand what Jesus is saying about our future end. That thing is context. We overlook the fact that Jesus is saying these things to a first century audience for whom things were about to fall apart. Their end was about to happen. Mark’s Gospel is believed to have been written around 60 – 70 AD. If you are familiar with first century history (and if you aren’t there is one date and event that you really need to pay attention to, especially if you want to understand Scripture) you will know that from 66-70 AD the area was embroiled in the Roman-Jewish War. Hear what NT Wright says about it in his commentary on Mark. “But the climax of it all – the destruction of the Temple itself – can only be spoken of through prophetic words, summoning up the image of cosmic catastrophe. Consider what was happening. In the year 69 AD one Roman emperor succeeded another – four in all, Nero, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian – each time with violence, murder and civil war. And as Vespasian made his way to Rome to receive the crown, his adopted son Titus entered Jerusalem, burnt the Temple, destroyed the city and crucified thousands of Jews.” So when we read about catastrophe and the end of things, let us not first think about our future. That should be secondary. However, we can take note because trials and hardships are going to come, in fact, they already are in many ways. The first century audience were told they should “Be on guard! Stay alert! Watch for him!” We can apply that truth to us today. Each of us should come to terms with what it means to “Be on guard! Stay alert! Watch for Him!” In our day, we may deal with difficult things in our faith. We may deal with persecution (Let’s keep our “persecution” in perspective with that of our brothers and sisters in world areas where their life is truly on the line for their faith.) but God is always faithful to lead us in these times. Our waiting, being alert, and staying on guard shouldn’t look like passive hanging out and watching from a distance. It should look like active living into our relationship with God that will provide our strength and hope no matter what comes. So may we be thankful that our God has helped us weather the storms of our faith like God did through the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD and so many other cataclysmic moments since. Let us be ready for whatever comes our way.
JANUARY 25TH: MARK 11
Jeremy: Things are escalating in Mark’s Gospel as we draw closer to Jesus ultimate confrontation with the religious leaders. Early in this chapter we find some people questioning the disciples about why they were untying a young donkey. A simple answer was given and the questioners didn’t think twice about escalating the situation. It was as if they knew that what Jesus was up to was important enough for them to release the young donkey into his care. However, the religious leaders didn’t respond so favorably. In this chapter they are plotting on how to kill Jesus. I find this interesting. The religious leaders were all about the Law. One part of that law is very clear about murder. You shall not murder. Why would religious leaders, who are all about the Law that tells them not to murder be conspiring to murder? Why are some so willing to become part of what Jesus is doing while others are reading to put an end to it? Let me ask you this question. Why are there times when you have no problem being part of what Jesus is doing while at others times you try to distance yourself, ignore, overlook, refuse, or fight against it? We can find ourselves in a struggle between agendas. One agenda is centered around us and our interests while the other is centered around Jesus and the interests of agenda. One leads to destruction while the other leads to life. We can try to rationalize away the struggle and make our agenda seem less at odds with the agenda of Jesus but if we are honest with ourselves we know the struggle is real and we know that we aren’t quite ready to yield everything in our life to Jesus. Sometimes, like the religious leaders, we just can’t see past our agenda. So, let’s lay chapter 11 over our lives and honestly ask ourselves who we identify with more. If we need to take care of some business in our lives to relinquish our agenda to the agenda of Jesus, let’s do whatever is necessary. The life of holiness is a life yielded to the things of Jesus. Around here we call that.. the sanctified life. May that life be your life.
JANUARY 20TH: MARK 6
Jeremy: Jesus gives instruction to his disciples about how they are to carry themselves while out on the road. Jesus sent them out two by two and gave them authority to cast out evil spirits. The importance of that ministry is significant. Jesus recognizes the root of the issue of the day. People were being deeply affected by evil spirits. You would think that Jesus would tell them to stay at it until the “job” was done. Be persistent. Don’t let up. Don’t appear to be weak. But that isn’t what Jesus said. Jesus recognized that there will be times that those who need the Gospel to transform their lives the most will be the ones who want it the least. For some, their struggle is worth holding onto because at least they know what to do with it. Jesus says to the disciples, “If any place refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.” Wait a minute … move on? Evidently Jesus understand there are times when we need to consider where we are pouring our time and energy. This is not an excuse to choose to engage only where it is easy to engage. Jesus sends them out to the corners of the area to do what needs to be done. But Jesus also recognizes that these groups can’t get bogged down by those who want to reject it more than they want to accept it. Hear me carefully. This is not excuse to not even put forth an effort. This is cause to consider how much we drain our personal and ministry resources in areas that are draining more than responding. Hospitality has always been a mark of the people of God. Welcoming and serving strangers as though they were Jesus himself has been a hallmark of who we have always been. This should continue even though hospitality can be difficult at times. Through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us, we are capable of being bearers of God’s grace to those around us. We must do our part to consider what God wants to do through us. Will there be times when we have done all we can? Sure. I’m guessing we have more grace to offer than we would like to admit. It is one thing to find ourselves in a difficult situation. It is quite another a keep banging our head and heart against closed doors. So … in the midst of the world we live in … let us err on the side of trying too hard rather than giving up too easily. So as we go … may we be a people who depend deeply on what God has in store for the world around us.
JANUARY 19TH: MARK 5
Kristie: In Mark 5 we read the passage of the woman who pushed through the crowd just to touch the robe of Christ. As a woman, this passage has intrigued me for a long time. I have known women over the years who have had problems with bleeding. It is one thing to have a monthly cycle but to bleed for 12 YEARS…I cannot imagine. In this day and age a woman was considered unclean when she had her monthly cycle. So picture it with me, this woman was likely exhausted from constant blood loss, she was looked down upon as unclean, she may have been in constant pain, and any other number of issues that go along with a cycle for 12 YEARS! She hears word of this man who is healing people just by a simple touch and having exhausted every other avenue in search of healing and relief, she pushes through a crowd to touch Jesus. Instantly she is healed, she can feel the healing take place and Jesus can feel the healing power. After finding out who touched him, Christ says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.” What joy, what instant relief she must feel. What a burden must be lifted and what that feeling of freedom must have felt like for her. In spite of our long standing illness, our age old bitterness, our deep hurt, or our struggles, are we this desperate? Will we push through the crowds, through the crazy activities of our daily routines, through our busy schedule just to seek the face of the one who can free us, heal us, and redeem us? This woman had lost all hope, and she turned to the one who could restore it! Friend, which way will you turn today? How desperate are you for the goodness of our God?
JANUARY 18TH: MARK 4
Jeremy: In Mark we visit the story of Jesus in the boat during a storm. We’ve encountered this story in Matthew’s account of the life and ministry of Jesus and we will revisit it in Luke’s account. These three Gospels appear to have some significant similarities that John’s account doesn’t have. SIDENOTE: Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as the “Synoptic Gospels.” Without going into too much detail here let me say a few words. First of all, normal reading of the Bible probably won’t be affected too much by whether you understand why these three Gospels seem to be connected. They seem to share most of the same stories and they seem to put them in about the same order. Biblical scholars generally hold to Mark being the primary Gospel account of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. Matthew and Luke seem to draw some of their perspective from Mark as well as another source that we don’t have access to except through the writings of these three Gospel writers. This is not to discount John. John seems to come at Jesus from a different perspective, one that is unique from the other three while still very much up close and personal to the story of Jesus. So what? So … as you read you may wonder why John seems to be really different than the first three. That’s okay. It isn’t that he is wrong … just different. It would be somewhat like my three kids telling us the story of their mother and then me telling you about her. Obviously, they have a different perspective than I do. It’s not about who is right and who is wrong. It’s about understand the context that informs the narrative. As we look back at the storm story, the disciples are very much afraid even with Jesus right there with them. Their surroundings were affecting them much more than the perspective they had lying in the boat with them. Actually, this is a common problem with the disciples. They, of anyone, should get it. But time and again, they don’t. They miss the mark. That’s really good news for you and I. God’s not looking for perfect. God is looking for people who will follow him with everything they’ve got and when they fall down, they get back up and keep heading in the right direction … the Jesus direction. In Jesus words to the disciples he places faith and fear in opposition to each other. It would seem that fear is a lack of faith while faith is a lack of fear. That may not be completely accurate. The issue I’d like to raise here for us is this … is your understanding of Jesus such that who he is and what he is capable of transforms every response you have to what life throws at you? Have you surrendered to the reality that Jesus can actually do something about everything? Have you surrendered to the reality that what Jesus may want to do makes no sense to you and may not even be in your realm of possibility? Are you able to get your heart and life around the reality that even a Jesus who seems to be sleeping can do more in your life than you could at your most awake moment. Faith really is about who is going to be in charge of your life? Who will you trust with the outcome?
JANUARY 14TH: MATTHEW 27
Kristie: A thought that I have been pondering today and that we talked about at during dinner tonight with the boys. In Matthew 27 we read about Judas and his betrayal of Jesus. “When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse…’I have sinned,’ he declared, ‘for I have betrayed an innocent man.'” Have you ever put yourself in Judas’ shoes? Why would he turn Jesus in to the authorities to begin with? What did he think would happen to Jesus? Was he hoping that Jesus being arrested would force his hand to show everyone once and for all that he was the Messiah? What must he have felt like when he realized that Jesus was condemned to die in part because of him?
JANUARY 13TH: Matthew 25
Jeremy: Matthew Chapter 25 | In the eyes of Jesus, what we do to others is what we do to him. Love others…love Jesus. Hate others…hate Jesus. The disciples didn’t understand this. Let’s not treat them to harshly because of this because how often do we show that we don’t get this by the way we live our lives in the direction of others? Jesus was clear that when we feed others, give something to quench the thirst of someone, show hospitality, clothe someone, or visit someone in jail, we are doing those things to him. Do we see the connections that our actions, attitudes, comments, and behaviors have to the way we worship God? We live in a day that is quite contentious. It seems as though we are losing the ability as a society to love others … even those we don’t agree with. I understand that we are to be a people of conviction who stand up for what we believe but we are dangerously close to cross the line of forgetting that our faith in Jesus causes us to interact with others in the ways that Jesus would. As we follow the Gospels, Jesus shared his life with people he didn’t agree with. There were those who lived a life of sin that Jesus lovingly offered grace and forgiveness. There were those who took advantage of others and participated in a system that took advantage of others and Jesus invited himself over for dinner. There were those who lived a life of going from one partner to the next looking for wholeness and Jesus went out of his way to show them they were worth everything to him. The only people Jesus really had a hard time with and got pretty upset with where those who dressed up their treatment of others in religiosity while condemning them for their lives. These were people who knew all the right religious answers but knew nothing of the transformative love of God that goes out of his way to live among those who needed transformation. If you go back to yesterday’s reading you will read Jesus stern words to these people. “Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!” Those are fighting words. They are fighting words because the way of Jesus is all about living life among people (even those we disagree with) in such a way that people find faith, hope and love for this life and the next. So…on this Wednesday, let’s check our attitudes, our actions, and the words we speak. Would you have those attitudes, would you do those actions, would you speak those those words to Jesus? I hope so. If they aren’t, Matthew 25 seems to be an important reminder that whether positive or negative, the way we live life with others says everything about how we live life with Jesus. So…do we need to go to someone and ask for forgiveness today? It’s a humbling thing to say we are wrong. Doing so is the mark of those who are part of the Way of Jesus. And if you think you are the only one who has made a mistake in this area, look around you…you are not alone. The good news today is that no matter where you have been, and no matter what you have done…there is redemption and forgiveness for all of it.
JANUARY 12TH: Matthew 23
Kristie: “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy – full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.” Matthew 23:25-26 I am reminded today of how we can be so focused on the outside and what people see or think they see that we neglect our insides that really matter. In Matthew 23, Jesus is pretty blunt with the religious leaders about their actions. Here he reminds them to start with what’s on the inside then the outside will come clean too. There is a passage in Luke that says, “From the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” I am guilty of this and I have others say…”I didn’t mean to say that!” I have to stop and realize though that something in me made me say that thing I wish I had not. Something in us makes us talk about the things we do, react the way we do, behave the way we do. It’s a new year and a great chance to look inside and ask ourselves why? Why do we do what we do, speak what we do, react the way we do? Friends, don’t worry about what others think of you. Deal with the issues of your heart, deal with the things you try to hide. The reality is…they creep to the surface and break through the clean façade and manage to show anyway, so why not deal with what’s on the inside. Real Life is a great place to “clean out your cup!”
JANUARY 7TH: Matthew 12-13
Kristie: I thought about writing on Matthew 13:18-23 but that will come in a blog on our web page soon! A couple of other things stood out to me in these two chapters. Matthew 13:31-32 is the parable of a mustard seed. I have been enamored with this parable since I was a young girl. How could something so small become so big? From another passage…how could my faith…though small as a mustard seed…move mountains? I am reminded again today, that a small thing can yield big. My small efforts…if God is in guiding them…can yield larger than I can imagine results! Your efforts can do the same!
Jeremy: I love how Matthew gives us perspective on what Jesus had to say about the Kingdom of Heaven. Two of the ways Jesus describes it is as yeast that is used for baking and mustard seeds. Both of these create an effective disproportionate to its small size. How many times do we look for the big ways that God can change our lives while overlooking the small things that have a huge impact potential. It would be like a person going to pick apples and putting a lot of effort in getting to the apples on the top of the tree while ignoring all the apples that can be gathered while standing on the ground. Maybe we need to open our hearts and minds to the most basic of things that God wants to do in our lives and allow them to make the kind of difference they are capable of. For example, earlier in Matthew we read that we need to repent of our sins and turn to God. What might you need to repent of today? What things have you allowed to gain a foothold in your life that do more to distract you from God rather than draw you to God? And what would it look like for you to turn to God today? What do you need to go to God with rather than try and figure out on your own? May God be with us on this journey.
JANUARY 6TH: Matthew 11-12
Kristie: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-29 This verse makes it sound so easy right? We just have to give God our burdens and he will help us carry them. For some reason though, we try to carry those burdens on our own. We try to shoulder the load determining that our own issue is not “big enough” for God to bother with. We think that the issue or burden is really something that we can take care of on our own. I looked up the definition of a burden…it is A LOAD! Anything in our life is a load on us. Any issue we struggle with whether big or small is what God considers a burden that he wants us to give cast on Him. What are the burdens on you today? Give them to the Lord!!!