Month: July 2019

Everything is Beautiful…In Its Time

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 11
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

He has made everything beautiful in its time.

Written by: Nathan Smith

Have you ever thought about how agriculture got started? It’s really fascinating when you stop and think about it. Anyone who has made it through early elementary school has a basic understanding of how a seed grows into a plant. We have the benefit of years of research and development to shape how we understand the process of planting, growing, and harvesting. Imagine you didn’t know any of that. Who was the first person to figure out that you could put a seed in the ground and eventually, with enough sunlight and water, it would turn into a plant that you could eat? What was that process like? How did they even come up with the idea?

Obviously if you’re a Jesus follower and a Bible believer you know that God probably helped Adam and Eve along with the idea. We know that Cain and Abel had a pretty healthy understanding of how agriculture worked. But even with God telling them about it, can you imagine Adam just staring at the ground every day and wondering what would happen? They may have failed in their other more well-known big test of faith, but I don’t think we give them enough credit for passing that one.

Sometimes our spiritual life can feel like we’re just staring at the ground and wondering if anything will ever grow. We invite our neighbor to church, but they never say yes. We get a chance to share the gospel with the barista at our coffee shop, but they just kind of politely smile and say thanks and move on without ever talking about it again. We faithfully serve in kids or student ministry, but we wonder if they actually hear anything we say and we feel like nothing ever changes in their lives. We pray for our family members that don’t know Jesus, but they keep running far from Him. Even in our own lives we pray for more evidence of the fruit of the Spirit, but it doesn’t feel like we’re growing. 

But just like a real plant, things are happening even if we can’t see them. In Ecclesiastes 3, the writer talks about everything having a season. It’s a pretty famous passage and if you’re old enough you know that it was turned into a popular song in the 60s. A few verses after the famous part, there’s another verse that says, “God has made everything beautiful in its time.” It’s important to remind ourselves that we don’t always control the time. We can’t magically produce fruit overnight. Our job is to plant seeds and do our best to provide our version of water and sunlight and trust God to do the rest. 

More Devo 7.11Prayer: God grant me the patience to wait for Your timing and to trust You. Give me the strength not to grow weary and the courage to continue planting. Please continue to show me opportunities where I can plant seeds for You. I thank You in advance for the harvest that You will reap in your time. 

A Well-Rested Army

Psalm 46:10
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Written by: Shannon Swenson

Isn’t it a relief that we aren’t God? We don’t have to be in control, because He is. We can trust that His will is going to be done and that He wants to use a well-rested army of Jesus followers to execute His plan. 

I can grow weary of “doing good” if I am not intentional about my priorities. I have a healthy FOMO (fear of missing out) and love getting to see what He does next. I have to be intentional that I am serving well, by serving from a place of relationship with Him and not getting caught up in the trap of serving with a grumpy heart or incorrect motive. 

It is difficult to serve Him well—and experience the fruits of our labor in our own lives and hearts—if we are not choosing to rest and abide. Sometimes the greatest act of obedience and service to Him and others is to take a timeout and be still. 

The word “no” is a complete sentence. No isn’t a bad thing when it means I am choosing to spend quiet time with God above all else. Faith comes first. The relationship with Jesus comes first. Allowing Him to fill my cup comes first. Otherwise, I am pouring out from an empty cup. Does this sound familiar?

I miss out on the blessing of receiving what He has for me when I am exhausted and disconnected from Him. I get to choose margin and I get to choose rest. He gives me permission to do that. He reminds me that it’s not only okay, but necessary.

Guess what? His plan still happens. I get to let Him be God and I can rest in the fact that His will is going to be done whether I am doing or whether I am resting so that I don’t grow weary. God has to remind me that His army of people winning lives for Christ do their best warfare when they are rested, well-fed through His word, and allowing Him to be the Savior that He is. 

The reality is that there’s an enemy that wants our attention and he will use everything he can to distract us from being a useful weapon for Jesus if we aren’t battle-ready. Sometimes the best ambush is to be quiet and still so that we are best prepared for the ongoing mission to bring people to meet, know, and follow Jesus. 

More Devo 7.10Thought of the day: Are you weary? Are you making your time with Him your first priority? If you are not actively pursuing serving God and others, what is keeping you on the sidelines?

Prayer: Father God, thank You that You are who You are and that I can rest and trust that You are in control. Help me to see where I am tired and worn out. If I am trying to take the reins of control, please forgive me. Help me to love and serve from a well-rested place of connection to You above all things. In Jesus’ name, amen.

The Only Rule

John 15
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.

Written by: Robert Watson

Jesus didn’t come to start some new kind of religion. In fact, Jesus was quite opposed to religion. Religion is all about checklists and rules. Those who can keep the most rules are filled with pride and those who fall short are filled with despair. Jesus came to replace religion with something far more powerful and personal. Jesus came to restore relationships. 

The only “rule” Jesus instituted was the rule of love. Now that we can be called friends of God (see verse 15), Jesus tells us how His friends should behave. We are to love others the same way that Jesus has loved us. This command to love is not about us earning brownie points with God—we are already completely loved and accepted by God through faith in Jesus. This command to love is so that others might come to know their loving Father in Heaven. As we love others with the grace and servanthood of Jesus, our relationships are restored and strengthened and, as a result, we experience a little bit of Heaven on earth.

More Devo 7.9Thought of the day: It is difficult to love as Jesus loves us if we don’t take the time to reflect on His example. How has Jesus loved you? Think about His grace, forgiveness, patience, suffering, and humility. 

Prayer: Pray, thanking Jesus for His example of love. Ask Him for opportunities today to love others with this same kind of love.

Uncommon Peace

Luke 6:35
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.

Written by: Jimmy Leaf

We have all heard the adage “life is what you make of it.” This is only partially true, but there’s still a good lesson in there. “Life is what you focus on” would probably be a better way to put it. Jesus understood this human concept and urged us to focus on “doing good and expecting nothing in return.” He wants us to turn our gaze toward Him and focus our intentions on glorifying Him. If we follow through on these actions, our lives will change.

This is counterintuitive to what our culture tells us, but so was Jesus! When we focus on glorifying Jesus, our world changes—the grass is greener, the sunrises are prettier, and we begin to judge situations based on the eternal versus the temporal.

As Paul was in prison, he wrote Philippians 1:9-18:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.  

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.  As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.  And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

We know that Jesus is completing His good work in us so that our faith may mature and be complete. This is when faith becomes a verb and our actions leave a legacy that glorifies God through generations.

More Devo 7.8Thought of the day: Focusing on Jesus begins with practice. Today, I encourage you to selflessly make at least one person feel loved.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank You for the many blessings You have given me! I pray You focus my gaze upon You so that my actions bring blessings to those I am around. Grant me peace and wisdom today. Amen.

God Things

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Written by: Sarah Gauer

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and found yourself talking about God things? God things are those moments when God knocks our socks off at how He tangibly, personally shows up in our lives.

Sometimes though, we mix up the big God moments with simply being satisfied with our circumstances. While there is nothing wrong with celebrating the blessings of things like a home, a job, or a vacation, it’s important to remember that these things are not the primary way God shows up for us. These are just extras. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control—those are God things. The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, evidenced through the display of these virtues, is a God moment worth celebrating!

When I respond with gentleness, when on my own I would want to rage, that’s a God thing. When I am equipped to love a person who is difficult to love, that’s a God thing. When my circumstances point not necessarily in the direction I want but toward an opportunity to apply my faith, that’s a God thing. The God things that have the power to change my life are not really “things” at all; they are the outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s presence and leading in my life.

7.5Thought of the day: What God things can you see and celebrate in your life today?

Prayer: Holy Spirit, Lead me today. Help me to have more of You and less of me. Help me to recognize Your leading when I see the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Help me to celebrate these moments as joyfully as I celebrate all of the stuff that is just stuff. In Jesus’ name, amen.