Offer Up

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

Romans 12:1, NIV

The Message version says “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life—and place it before God as an offering.”

According to this verse, my life is an offering. What I do is for God and who I am is placed on the altar in honor of him. Is my life worthy of this? Would I take my everyday and place it before God as a gift? Because that is exactly what this statement entails. As a Christian, my daily life ought to be pleasing to God.

When I imagine something that is pleasing to God, I think of him smiling upon me. I hear him stating “well done”. This isn’t meant to intimidate; God accepts us exactly as we are. Surely though, there is a healthy balance between a strict set of rules and living loosely, accepting all of cultures ways.

This verse has a direct correlation to the next one (which our last devotional was written on). I want to bring attention to the specific transformation God calls us to. Because sacrificing yourself is exactly what leads into true and authentic transformation. We cannot be transformed if we are clutching onto false promises, worldly culture, or our own plans.

Jesus is the ultimate example… He sacrificed his physical body in order to transform the spiritual world. He was a living sacrifice, and a perfect one at that.

We are called to sacrifice ourselves, our daily lives, that God’s name would be known. To sacrifice means to offer up. God offered up his son, Jesus Christ. Jesus offered up his divinity, coming to earth. Jesus offered up his own plans to live out his father’s will. On the cross, Jesus offered up every ounce of his being, all for the purpose of providing us with an opportunity for transformation.

In seeking transformation, we must choose to sacrifice. Without sacrifice, there is no transformation. To give our daily life to God is an act of trust. Do we trust his will? Are we pursuing transformation?

"A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For, in being what God means it to be, it is obeying [God]."

- Thomas Merton

To offer your life means to live in obedience to God, to be what he designed you to be. I encourage you to look deep within yourself. Consider your gifts, talents, passions, the things that bring you joy, and the things that break your heart. Does your life make moves toward these things? Are you making choices in your daily life to sharpen these skills, utilize these talents, experience these joys or fight for these heartbreaks? If not, why? What needs to change about your life for you to be operating within the call God has for you? This doesn’t mean your job has to change or you have to move states, unless of course that is what you believe God to be calling you to. It just means you need to think about how you spend your time and be intentional about being who God designed you to be.

Are you being yourself? Are any of us truly being ourselves? Or are we too busy trying to be who the people in our lives want us to be? Are we preoccupied holding up our pristine facades to the point where we can’t open the door to let God in?

I picture that set piece Pastor Mark spoke about that didn’t have enough brackets and was wobbling on stage. Back and forth. Do you have walls like this? Flimsy and fake, ready to fall over. You have two options when you see that wall wobble. You can drop what your doing and run to hold it up, not letting anyone see who you really are, or you can let it fall, and allow God to clean away the rubble and transform you into who he really intended you to be.

To offer your body as a living sacrifice means to know who God designed you to be and intentionally live out that call for your life. Find ways to serve other people, always love your enemies, pray for those people who bug you. It’s not easy and you can’t do this by accident. That is why the Paul urges you! You don’t have to beg people to do easy things. It’s hard to do! But spending time with God daily, burying your nose in the bible, courageously stepping into the lives of people in need are all ways to live in obedience to the call of God.

Choose transformation through sacrificing. Live everyday with the intent of offering it up to God.

Lord, I pray that our lives and our choices would be an offering unto you. I pray that our sacrifice offers a pleasing aroma to you. Help us to make the difficult choices in our everyday lives so that what we do brings glory and honor to your kingdom. Thank you for being the example of a living sacrifice, offering yourself in complete obedience. Thank you for your master plan to save us all. And thank you for giving us the opportunity to be transformed by your grace and mercy. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

   Download this image to use as a wallpaper or lockscreen on your device as a reminder of this declaration.

Download this image to use as a wallpaper or lockscreen on your device as a reminder of this declaration.

All materials written and designed by Heather & Daniel Christy.

True Transformation

 Photo by Heather Christy

Photo by Heather Christy

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Romans 12:2, ESV

Most of us remember the moment we invited Jesus to commune with us. We can describe the landscape, the atmosphere, the people around, maybe even smells and sounds. It’s such a sweet and intimate moment. At that very second, we are determined that our lives will drastically change. We will give up all for the One who gave up His life.

And we do, for awhile. And then slowly we drift back into some of our old habits. There are a few out there who this may not apply to, but there are others who will find a lot of familiarity in these words.

Our hearts start to become inward focused and we start to lose sight of who we serve.

The world is incredibly saturated by any distraction known to man, and the enemy knows our weaknesses. But there is One who knows us because He created us.

Romans 12:2 is a rich verse. In the very beginning it commands us to not be conformed by the world. In other words, don’t let the world shape who you are as a person. These are important words because the world is not Christ-centered and therefore should not be our source. The same sentence goes on to say that instead we should be transformed by the renewal of your mind. How does that work?

It’s really hard to get to know someone if you spend little time with them. You may think you know someone if you see them a lot, but knowing someone deeply takes time and commitment. It’s also hard to get to know someone if you don’t open up.

God is the same way. We expect so much from Him, we demand things left and right and accuse God of not listening when we feel He hasn’t come through. But the reality is if God never did anything for us ever again, we should be in complete awe and surrender, because of the immense love He has graced upon us through the sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ.

And call me crazy, but it’s really hard to demand something from someone you don’t really know. This is where all arguments will ensue. “I know God, I pray and read my Bible every day. I mean most days. I mean I look at an app for a couple minutes a day, when I remember.”
Don’t worry, we all make these excuses. We try and give reasons why we don’t get to really know our Father. But, if we were really serious about transforming our minds, our hearts would begin to shift from us to others. Our times with our Savior would be filled with pages and pages of what He’s doing in our lives.

When we get close to Jesus, when we devote time to spend with Him, we don’t just check something off of our checklist, we start to feel His love and presence. And then, in a blink of an eye, we start to hear His voice. It’s probably not going to be an audible thing (but if it is, that is AWESOME). When we hear His voice, He will tell us how much we are loved, and wanted, and treasured. But this will not happen if we conform to this world.

When we intimately get to know Jesus other things happen as well. The verse goes on to say “that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

It’s hard to know the will of God without knowing God. This is key, so I’m going to say it again. It’s hard to know the will of God without knowing God.

I’m going to ask a hard question, one that even makes me a little uncomfortable. Do you know Him? Do you really know Him? Are you seeking Him with your whole heart, or with the leftovers? Was there a time when you knew Him well and heard His voice?

I challenge you to take some time and grab your Bible and a notebook (and a pen), and find a quiet place and spend some time with God. It doesn’t have to be an hour, but it does have to be whole-hearted. Ask God for just a glimpse of Him, and tell Him how you feel. Be honest. Are you angry with Him? Are you struggling in a certain area? Are you ashamed? Do you feel unloved? Do you not know your purpose? All of these things He will address. But it’s hard to grow in Christ, when you don’t really know Christ.

I want to leave you with this: When the love of God is poured into you, you can pour into others. It’s hard to help others when you’re empty. And it’s hard to serve and grow when you’re not continually transforming your mind. So tackle the tough questions, pursue God daily, and allow your mind to be transformed.



 

Devo written by Lauren Williams. Graphic designed by Heather Christy.

Temple

 Photo by Heather Christy

Photo by Heather Christy

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple, and that God’s spirit dwells in your midst?” 1 Corinthians 3:16, NIV

Read through 1 Corinthians 3:1-17 for a full context of this passage.

Paul is talking about the unity of the body of believers, specifically the unity for the church in Corinth. Individuals in the church are arguing about who their leader is and whom they follow, making their faith more about who did what than about working for Christ as one body. Whatever good we do in this life is for the sake of God’s glory. This isn’t about our name, or how many churches so and so serves at. It does not matter who did what when it comes to a church accepting a life in and leading them to the cross of Christ. What matters is that Christ’s name was spoken and that person’s eternity was secured.

I think that most of us have a solid concept of the initial truths in this passage. We follow Christ, not a pastor or worship leader. Christ is the name that matters. And as a Church body (referring to all Christians everywhere), we are to be one united temple, each partaking in our different gifts for the building of the metaphorical temple we are to the world. We are a temple for God’s glory. The foundation of this temple is Christ—his perfect life, sacrificial death, and holy rising from death. Every work of ours adds to the gains of this holy temple.

But here are some things to think about. Are you building in such a way that your investments will stand the test of fire? Or are you just adding junk to the temple that’s causing confusion, mishap, or false beliefs? This applies both on an individual level as well as to the church body as a whole. Your thoughts, how you view and care for yourself, are a reflection of the temple. So as God’s temple… are you living daily with the intent of reflecting him? Is our church body adding quality to the temple we are aiding to build? And does this temple point to Christ, rather than to us?

This temple is a unified assembly, not something that can be made of competing individuals. Collectively, we are the temple. WE.

Recently in my marriage I recognized that the two of us were acting more like separate temples working on our own rather than partaking in a unified mindset for God’s glory. We have to pursue a unified, kingdom mindset in order to be the temple that withstands the fire. My prayer is that God would make every marriage into a unified temple that holds strong to the foundation of Christ so that when fire comes, these marriages will withstand. Our soul purpose as Christians is to be a reflection of Christ.

“For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” 1 Corinthians 3:9

We are God’s working ground, placed here to aid in the kingdom work. God’s got a blueprint. So we play our part in the creation of his vision. But if we each work individually without communicating and sharing responsibilities, our work will be competing, rather than unified.

God, we ask that you would remind us of our foundation in you and repair any cracks that are present. Continue to lead us in this kingdom work. Give us vision that promotes your glory, and allow us to set ourselves aside to play our role in this body of believers. Thank you for choosing us to do your work. May we honor you in all that we do. Amen.

All materials written and designed by Heather & Daniel Christy.

A Little Yeast...

“You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough. I am confident in the LORD that you will take no other view.”

Galatians 5:7-10a

Do you ever find yourself just suddenly out of it, unsure of where you lost your footing but sure that you are not moving forward as strong as you were just a little bit ago? Me too. Sometimes it’s just a single thought of insecurity that slips in and slithers its way through your mind, into your heart, taking you just ever so slightly off the life course God has planned for you. It’s a minor fear, thought, or choice that cripples you—most often without you fully realizing that you’ve been crippled.

The Galatians are confused as to what true faith is and where their freedom actually comes from. They have gotten tangled up in rules and laws, because others have convinced them one thought at a time that their salvation requires a little more work than they anticipated. This is false. Christ has already come to earth, living a perfect life, dying on a cross, and raising from the grave to give us a full salvation. He is our saving grace, the blood shed for our sin, the perfect, holy, and spotless lamb given for our sake, that we might be one with God. But the church of Galatia has allowed some false thoughts to penetrate their faith, and their mind is slipping away from the truth of Christ.

Sometimes all it takes is a single misguided sentence. One small moment of fear. One white lie you tell yourself. A single action you hesitantly took. And suddenly, your faith and soul are being uprooted. That one little thing consumes you, and now feels like an impossible thing to overcome. The tiny thoughts and tiny moments build up until there’s an entire wall of fear you’re shrinking back from. You feel off and confused and like something is a-miss, because it is. A little yeast works through a whole batch of dough. One small thing can impact the entirety of your being.

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? Satan, that’s who. He snagged you, somewhere in your hurt or confusion or whatever it is you’re currently experiencing. Know this: that kind of persuasion does NOT come from the one who calls you, it does not come from the LORD.

What comes from the LORD? The salvation he has freely given. The freedom from sin and death through faith in Jesus Christ.

A little yeast works through a whole batch of dough so allow your little yeast to stem form the truth of God’s word: You are loved, you are free, you are saved by Christ. You ARE running a good race. Come back to the truth of God’s word; take the time to re-direct any misguided thoughts or actions. He is always forgiving and waiting with open arms to embrace you. It does not matter if you took one accidental step away, or thousands. Place yourself into the presence of God and embrace his words, because they are all that is true and good. I am confident in the LORD that you will take no other view but that which is right and true.

Devotional written by Heather Christy. Graphic designed by Daniel Christy.

Nothing Less

 Photo by Heather Christy

Photo by Heather Christy

“Then Moses said to him, ‘If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.’”

Exodus 33:15, ESV

If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
Exodus 33:13-23, ESV

In this chapter, Moses is instructed to continue on with the Israelites and to keep going.  God tells Moses that he will go ahead of them and make a way for them, but Moses in this instance just wants to walk with God. From this point on, God has affirmed Moses, letting him know that He is well pleased and that Moses is highly favored but Moses desires more, He wants to know for sure that God is with him and that he is not striving in vain. He refuses to settle for the bare minimum of anything with God. 

Was there ever a time in your life when you just needed to know that you weren’t walking alone in the wilderness? Where you didn’t feel God one hundred percent and began to wonder if he was really there, if he really said what you thought he said?  Sometimes trusting God at his word and believing that he is with us the whole way means refusing to settle for anything less than all of Him and all of His presence.

There have been times in my life where I have just wanted to settle; demanding the best of the best just didn’t seem worth the effort or the hassle. In the end, when I would settle, I was never one hundred percent satisfied because I knew that it wasn’t what I wanted or needed. It hasn’t been until recently that God has begun to challenge me and has shown me that good things are worth fighting for, waiting for, and even making sacrifices for, and that includes God.

What I love about this passage, particularly in verses 15 and 16 is that Moses refuses to go anywhere that God won’t step with him. He tells God “If you aren’t going, then I am not going.” Then he takes it a step further and says to him “If you don’t go with us, how will people know you are pleased with us, and how will people tell us apart from others in the world?”

“If you aren’t with us God, how do we look different? How are we any different from anyone else?”

I love his words because they are so true and so honest. Without God, we are like everyone else. If we aren’t walking with God and communing with God daily, we begin to look like everyone else. Want to see who you are without God? Don’t pray or read your bible for a while, soon you will start to notice yourself change and eventually you change into everyone else around you. You no longer look different. You are no longer set apart…

And that is the point. When we settle for the bare minimum of what we can get out of the word, of what we can get out of our church, out of the community, even out of our own relationship with God, we live out a faith poorly fueled—one that is labeled as “good enough.”  We are like cars that run on a half a tank and no more or no less because it is just enough to get us from point A to point B.

It is easy to settle for that half a tank when times get hard. Sometimes it feels like that is all the energy you are able to muster up, and Moses felt that. He was leading a nation through a desert to a promise he could only guarantee if God was in it the whole time.  Moses only had God to rely on. Knowing that, he wanted to know God more and be close to God, because without Him, Moses would just be a man blindly leading people in the desert. But with Him, he was a man leading people to hope, freedom, and salvation.  He refused to settle for Gods mere words, he wanted all of God and wouldn’t go any further until he had it.

In our lives, there will be times when we will be called to go deeper, where we will be called to go harder, and push further. With those challenges, there will always be an option of “good enough”, “far enough”, and” this will do” but if you want to go all the way with God, if you want to go where he goes, you have to be willing to refuse to settle for anything less than all from God.

At the end of the chapter, Moses says, “Show me your glory.” To this, God says that he will put him in the cleft of the rock by his side, cover His eyes with His hand, and Moses will behold His back as He walks by. There is no hesitation or reserve in God’s response.

Requesting all of God and demanding all of God does not make God uncomfortable; he is not offended or guarded, He does not want to hold anything back. He created us to be in a relationship with Him—in full, deep, all-encompassing relationship with Him.

In Psalm 119:10-11 David declares, “With my whole heart I have sought you, oh let me not wander from your commandments. Your word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against you” (ESV).

From the beginning of the Bible to the very end, God gave us all. He gave us life. He gave us provisions. He gave us devotion. In our fall into sin, He gave us direction and provision still. He poured out love and sought out reconciliation. Through his Son, he gave salvation and freedom. God never held back, He is always all in and wants us to be as well.

God, may you give us the hunger to desire more of you. May you create a passion in us that is not willing to go wherever you are not. We know God that you desire all of us, and we ask Lord that you would ignite our hearts to desire more of you and to settle for nothing less than all of who you are, for we know that you desire to hold nothing back from those who seek you with their whole hearts.

Amen.

 

Devotional written by Courbyne Bufford. Graphic designed by Daniel Christy.

Father Knows Best

 Photo by Heather Christy

Photo by Heather Christy

“Then [Israel] believed His words [trusting in, relying on them]; they sang His praise. But they hastily forgot His works; they did not [earnestly] wait for His plans [to develop] regarding them, but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness and tempted and tried to restrain God [with their insistent desires] in the desert. And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their souls.”

Psalms 106:12-15, Classic AMP

Reading this devotional is based off of: 1 Samuel 8, Psalms 106.

Even though the Israelites believed in God, they didn’t really know Him in a deep way. God performed some pretty big miracles for them, and they forgot what He did, becoming discontent time and time again. 

Before we criticize them too harshly, we should take an internal look at ourselves. Are we any different? How often do we wait for God to move in our situations before taking matters in our own hands?

The Israelites continuously tested God’s patience, much like a strong-willed child. They just had their own ideas about the way they thought things should be. 

When my kids were small, there were times as a parent I said no to things that were not good for them, but occasionally I gave into their requests. Why? Sometimes reasoning didn’t work, and they had to learn the hard way. One such time was when there was Halloween candy in the house. I gave them freedom to eat as much as they wanted instead of the daily struggle of arguing over how much they could have. They ate way too much and then never wanted to do that again because it had made them so sick.

God gave into the Israelites at times too, and Psalms 106:15 says they had lean souls as a result. To me a lean soul means a person feels empty, dissatisfied and unfulfilled. It also makes a person feel dead inside.

In 1 Samuel 8, the Israelite leaders met with Samuel, the prophet, to ask for a king. They wanted to be like the other nations. Samuel was upset at their request and asked God what to do. God told Samuel the Israelites were not rejecting him but God, who was their king. He told Samuel to warn the people and let them know what a king would require of them. 

Despite all the warnings, the Israelites still wanted a king, so God gave them exactly what they asked for. And true to God’s word, all the things Samuel said would happen did.  The heartache and sickness they felt for getting their own way proved to be a good lesson that God really does know best.

The Israelites thought if they could just have a man rule them, like the other nations, they would be complete. It’s easy to look at what others have and desire it. However, no person, place or thing will ever be able to fill the void in us but God Himself. They can be like the icing on a cake if we have our priorities in order, but God must come first.

The Israelites said they wanted a man to fight their battles for them, forgetting it was God who had won many battles for them in the past. It is tempting to go to people to help us out when a problem arises. As important as people are to share and pray with, our first inclination should be to run to God, surrender to Him and get wisdom from His Word. 

Let’s begin today.

Father,

I surrender my life fully to you today. Show me if there are things I need to repent of and correct in my life. I don’t want anything to hinder me from hearing your voice. 

Direct my steps and give me the mind of Christ so my desires will be in line with what you want for me. Open up your Word to me today so I can gain wisdom from you. 

If I ever ask for anything you don’t think I’m ready for or should not have, please don’t answer my prayer. I trust you, your timing and your plan. 

In Jesus name, Amen. 

 Download this graphic as a reminder. Never forget what God has done for you.

Download this graphic as a reminder. Never forget what God has done for you.

Devotional written by Debbie Gray. Graphic designed by Daniel Christy.

Digging Ditches

 Photo by Heather Christy

Photo by Heather Christy

While the harp was being played, the power of the Lord came upon Elisha, and he said, “This is what the Lord says: This dry valley will be filled with pools of water! You will see neither wind nor rain, says the Lord, but this valley will be filled with water. You will have plenty for yourselves and your cattle and other animals. But this is only a simple thing for the Lord, for he will make you victorious over the army of Moab! You will conquer the best of their towns, even the fortified ones. You will cut down all their good trees, stop up all their springs, and ruin all their good land with stones.”

The next day at about the time when the morning sacrifice was offered, water suddenly appeared! It was flowing from the direction of Edom, and soon there was water everywhere.

2 Kings 3:14b-20, NLT

Here is the full passage this devotion stems from:

So King Jehoram left Samaria at that time and assembled all the fighting men of Israel. Then he went and sent word to Jehoshaphat king of Judah, saying, “The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Will you go with me to fight against Moab?” And he replied, “I will go; I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” Jehoram said, “Which way shall we go up?” Jehoshaphat answered, “The way through the Wilderness of Edom.”
So the king of Israel went with the king of Judah and the king of Edom. They made a circuit of seven days’ journey, but there was no water for the army or for the cattle that followed them. Then the king of Israel said, “We are doomed, for the Lord has called these three kings to be handed over to Moab.” But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there no prophet of the Lord here from whom we may inquire of the Lord?” One of the servants of the king of Israel answered, “Elisha the son of Shaphat is here, who used to pour water over Elijah’s hands.” Jehoshaphat said, “The word of the Lord is with him.” So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to Elisha.
Now Elisha said to the king of Israel, “What business do you have with me? Go to the prophets of your wicked father Ahab and to the prophets of your pagan mother Jezebel.” But the king of Israel said to him, “No, for the Lord has called these three kings together to be handed over to Moab.” Elisha said, “As the Lord of hosts armies lives, before whom I stand, were it not that I have regard for Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look at you nor see you [king of Israel]. But now bring me a musician.” And it came about while the musician played, that the hand power of the Lord came upon Elisha. He said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Make this valley the Arabah full of trenches.’ For thus says the Lord, ‘You will not see wind or rain, yet that valley will be filled with water, so you and your cattle and your other animals may drink. This is but a simple thing in the sight of the Lord; He will also hand over the Moabites to you. You shall strike every fortified city and every choice principal city, and cut down every good tree and stop up all sources of water, and ruin every good piece of land with stones.’” It happened in the morning, when the sacrifice was offered, that suddenly water came miraculously from the area of Edom, and the country was filled with water.
2 Kings 3:6-20, AMP

 

With an army that is dehydrated and facing sure death if they cannot find water to drink, the kings of Israel come to Elisha and see if the Lord can be of any help to them. Notice that Elisha gives the kings some attitude in regards to his discontent that God has become their last resort. They had already exhausted all of their other options before calling upon the Lord.

Now Elisha said to the king of Israel, “What business do you have with me? Go to the prophets of your wicked father Ahab and to the prophets of your pagan mother Jezebel.” 2 Kings 3:13

Nonetheless, Elisha convenes with God and gives what the kings probably saw as an unexpected response:

Elisha said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Make this valley the Arabah full of trenches.’ For thus says the Lord, ‘You will not see wind or rain, yet that valley will be filled with water, so you and your cattle and your other animals may drink” 2 Kings 3:16-17

Seriously? Dig trenches? The army was already exhausted and growing ill, and they needed water. Why would God ask them to dig a bunch of ditches? The kings probably were expecting some reassuring promise from Elisha that rain would surely come and things would be better come morning, but no. He tells them to dig ditches, and water will come despite no rain.

What struck me first in this passage is that God is not our shortcut. God does not provide the Israelite’s with the fast pass to success while expecting nothing in return. God’s miracles are not lottery tickets. This is essentially what the kings of Israel expected when they asked God to just bring the rain. Here’s the deal:

Faith that God will do what he promises and that he is who he says he is not blindly hoping that God will solve all of your problems. Faith is working hard and giving all you have to what God has commanded of you. Faith is believing that God’s promises will then come to fruition in response to your obedience.

“In the same way, faith by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17, NIV

God will not be your shortcut. He will not be your last resort. Nothing can be done but through Christ. Your faith in him should stem from dependence in Him. So when he commands you to do something that may even seem illogical… do it!

This is where the beauty of our God reveals itself. Christ has all of the power to do whatever he wants, and if he wanted to, he could make all of our problems and burdens disappear in an instant. But that isn’t how God works. He often will see how willing we are to be obedient to him despite everything looking backwards and upside down. How many times in your life can you recall feeling like you were trudging an anchor up a hill that never seemed to end? Can you remember a time when you were trying to escape darkness in your life and with every attempt you only seemed to slip deeper into it? These are the moments when God can see just how much we are willing to fight for Him. Through the darkness and the weight that we carry, God is building a strength in us that will be the foundation of our success later on. How many of those dark situations can you now look back on and be thankful for the perseverance they developed in you?

“It happened in the morning, when the sacrifice was offered, that suddenly water came miraculously from the area of Edom, and the country was filled with water.” 2 Kings 3:6-20, AMP

When the Israelites woke up in the morning, those same ditches that seemed so pointless the day before were the wells that were going to allow them to prosper and win the war ahead of them. They found strength in the ditches that they dug when they were weak. This is plan that God has for us! He wants to use our brokenness to reveal his perfection. He knows full well how prone we are to failure and falling short of his glory. Christ wants to break that chain of failure and begin to sustain in us an unrelenting string of success that relies on his strength, his knowledge, and his plan.

Just as the rain came down and provided water for all the army of Israel, if you are faithful to God and apply your actions to your faith, he will provide! You just have to take a step in the opposite direction sometimes.

 Save this graphic cause it looks nice and you enjoyed this read.

Save this graphic cause it looks nice and you enjoyed this read.

Devotional written by Kevin Balzer. Graphic designed by Heather Christy.

Cracks

 Photo by Heather Christy

Photo by Heather Christy

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

1 Peter 5:6-11, NIV

Sometimes other people give you cracks. Okay, scratch that. All the time. Other people break you. Any time you get in a relationship with any human being ever, you will be cracked. They will hurt you in some way shape or form. Pain is inevitable, especially in the human race. (Life is pain...and if anyone tells you otherwise, they're selling something--thanks The Princess Bride for wording it so well).

As humans, we are all broken. We recently finished the broken/whole series and I love the focus it had on God using us in our brokenness and meeting us where we are to make us whole. This is pertinent to the Christian faith. Jesus lived a perfect life but God knows we aren't capable of such. We are broken, and with Jesus covering us we find a way to walk in wholeness.

In your relationship with Christ Jesus, there is no scarring to your being. In fact, he took on all the scarring that you caused; the cuts that I created mark his back. And in your relationship, sonship, daughter-ship with Jesus, you are made whole and healed from the cracks. He is the ultimate healer; he is the Good Samaritan who restored you when you were half dead on the side of the road. 

We have caused Jesus more cracks and scars and deep, deep pains than we will ever cause anyone else in this lifetime. What I find incredible is his response to the hurt we have caused him… He simply took the beating. I’m the one who beat him. Have you ever stopped to think about the weight of this? It’s heavy.

I can’t stop thinking about the way that people in my life cause cracks in me. It’s mind-blowing to recognize we have that kind of leeway and power over another… We have the power in relationship with people to cause cracks. When others crack us, we are called to respond in love and grace. We respond in love because all we want is to reflect the love of Christ. But oh how difficult this is to remember when someone hurts you deeply! Yet, Christ is the ultimate healer and if he can heal us from ourselves and bring us back to life despite our own sinfulness, he can surely heal us from others’ sins!

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 5:6-11, NIV

Whatever the hurt it is that others have caused and are causing, bring it to Jesus. Kneel at his feet and hand over the pain. Be humble before Christ, recognizing him as your healer. It is Christ’s job to restore you. It is Christ’s role to bring healing to any and all cracks. Restoration is not the responsibility of the person who caused the harm. Restoration is not attainable on your own accord. Read this again: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.” The anxiety and the pain is His. When we hurt, he hurts twice as much. When we choose to humble ourselves and recognize our painful situations are more than just about ourselves, God is able to move. He is then able to restore, after we have softened our own hearts to allow his work to move forward.

Your cracks are not about you. Cast your fear and anxiety upon God, and hand it all over. When you’re able to separate it from your being, you can then assess where this is coming from. Recognize who the true and real enemy is! (Remember who the enemy is Katniss.) Because you see, Satan is the one causing the cracks. The people close to you are breaking you because they themselves are broken… Hurt people hurt people. I don’t believe that the people close to us stay awake at night wondering how to wound us… But what I do believe is that Satan takes advantage of the hurt we cause which stems from our own brokenness. Satan seeks to use our brokenness to break… Whereas God uses our brokenness to let more light in, to give a glimpse of his spirit, and to share more of his glory and testimony.  Humble yourself before Christ, that he may life you up in due time. His hand is at work; he is restoring you. Allow his light to shine through your cracks.

 Download this lockscreen because it's awesome.

Download this lockscreen because it's awesome.

Devotional written by Heather Christy. Graphic designed by Daniel Christy.

Take Courage

 Photo by Heather Christy

Photo by Heather Christy

But Jesus spoke to them at once: “Don’t be afraid. Take courage. I am here!”

Matthew 14:27, NLT

This is a passage you may be familiar with. Jesus sent his disciples ahead of him in the boat; they are to travel to the other side while he finished up with the crowd of people he had just finished teaching. Jesus took his time, dismissed the people, and then prayed on a mountaintop to God. Then he walks across the lake, walked on water, to meet up with his disciples in the boat. Just a normal evening in the life of Jesus, right?

The disciples are sure it’s a ghost (I would think so too. I have yet to see anyone walk on water). They misinterpret what is in front of them, allowing fear rule their minds, rather than trusting their teacher. Jesus tells them to take courage. Peter challenges him, if it is you LORD tell me to come to you. So Jesus calls Peter out of the boat and he starts walking on water as well (There’s two of them now). Peter takes the dive, trusting Jesus. Miraculous! But the miracle lasts only a moment, because then the wind comes. Fear fills Peter once again. He focuses on that fear, instead of Jesus, and starts sinking.

In this story, the boat serves as a place of comfort for the disciples. The wind is the circumstance that lends to Peter’s fear. What’s your boat of comfort that you’re sitting within? What winds are you afraid of?

Have you ever begun to sink in your own fear? I sure have. Sometimes it’s a daily struggle to keep fear from consuming my mind. I have to consistently set aside what everything around me seems to look like, and search for the eyes of Jesus. He’s right here, in front of me, whispering take courage, I am here. I need to trust in my teacher, and disregard the situations surrounding me.

Jesus had JUST TOLD PETER that he was there, that there was not a single reason to fear, and that he has every reason to take courage. Yet MOMENTS LATER, Peter turns ever so slightly, focusing on the circumstance surrounding him rather than the Jesus in front of him.

Ah, how often do we ourselves lose sight? How often do we look at our circumstances rather than our LORD? Not only is Jesus in front of us and leading us—he is WITHIN US. Jesus lives INSIDE OF US as believers. We know this, practically speaking. But sometimes we lose heart and allow that to slip, giving our attention elsewhere.

Jesus is here telling you there is nothing to fear, instructing you to take courage.  HE IS YOUR COURAGE, and you are never alone. Train your eyes to focus on Jesus, ignore the pestering of the wind! It is nothing but a distraction from your savior, teacher, and friend. Jesus is near, walking towards you, encouraging you to continue moving towards him.

Dear Jesus, help us to reevaluate where our comfort lies. Retrain our eyes to stay upon you. Allow us to recognize your voice apart from the distractions and lies of the enemy. Thank you for your courage. We are so grateful that you choose to make your home in our hearts. We love you. Teach us to take courage amidst our life circumstances. Amen.  

 Download this graphic to remind you of this week's devotional!

Download this graphic to remind you of this week's devotional!

Devotional written by Heather Christy. Graphic designed by Daniel Christy. 

Take Heart

 Photo by Heather Christy

Photo by Heather Christy

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33, NIV

I would like to elaborate on the context of this passage. I encourage you to read John 15:18 through 16:33 to gather the full picture. Jesus is prepping his disciples for all that is to come. He is with them, after his resurrection. They are stoked that he is alive and returned to them. What a relief to see your savior, teacher, and friend alive again after watching his brutal death on the cross! But at this time, Jesus had just shared with them how he is going to be leaving them to go to God the father. He is using this news to encourage them in the fact that the Holy Spirit is coming as their advocate. At the same time, Jesus is warning them. Hey friends, it’s going to get dark for a time, there will be difficulties, the world will reject you as it rejected me (which they witnessed in his trial, persecution, and death).

I can just imagine Jesus placing his hand on a disciples’ shoulders stating quietly, “I am leaving and you are grieving over this… I know this is hard for you. But the father has so much more in store for you! The advocate will come so that you will have clear communication with God himself! Take peace in this, in my life, death, and resurrection… Rejoice in my ascension and return to heaven because although we will not be together, you will be with the father more than you ever have before. And in anything, whether that is persecution or difficulty amidst the hatred of the world, you will still have this advocate, the Holy Spirit, who will guide you. Take peace that my death has brought about these events! Take heart, because I defeated death and this leads into so much more life for you…”

What Jesus is saying here is that he is with us, the father is near, and the Holy Spirit is present. The pain he endured allows this to even be a possibility. So take heart. Not because the troubles and struggles will end or be easy to overcome, but because HE IS PRESENT. He is near. He is at work in your life to better glorify his kingdom! Take heart because you do not struggle alone.

When we thank Jesus for the cross we are recognizing what his incredible sacrifice brings to our daily life. Jesus endured everything so that we might be made one with God, so that we might experience his presence through the Holy Spirit. Jesus wants us to take heart in the fact that through any hardship, we have communication with the father.

Take heart. We have the Holy Spirit, we are brought into God’s presence, and Jesus has paved the way for this. His pain brings us the Holy Spirit and that is our hope in any trouble. Despite the pain, rejoice in what we have! Find your heart in everything Jesus has done on your behalf. Take heart because he has overcome.

Jesus, help us to truly recognize your sacrifice… We set aside our own difficulties and struggles, we hand them over to you. We receive from you your everlasting life! You have given us life and for that we are grateful. Be with us. May we focus more on your victory over death than our own current losses. May we take heart in all that your life has brought us. Thank you. Amen.  

 Download this image! Make it your wallpaper! Remember what Christ's life has given you.

Download this image! Make it your wallpaper! Remember what Christ's life has given you.

Devotional written by Heather Christy. Graphic designed by Daniel Christy.

Hospitality

 Photo by Heather Christy

Photo by Heather Christy

"He will take you to a large room that is already set up. That is where you should prepare our meal."

Mark 14:15, NLT

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go to prepare the Passover meal with you?”
So Jesus sent two of them into Jerusalem with these instructions: “As you go into the city, a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him. At the house he enters, say to the owner, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ He will take you upstairs to a large room that is already set up. That is where you should prepare our meal.”
So the two disciples went into the city and found everything just as Jesus had said, and they prepared the Passover meal there.
Mark 14:12-16, NLT

When I think of Biblical hospitality, I always think of the story of Mary and Martha opening their home to Jesus. Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet, and Martha was concerned about making things perfect for Jesus. She was too busy running around to enjoy God's presence. 

Sometimes in our own lives we are too busy running around and cleaning up house to truly experience Jesus' presence. Spiritually, we may end up focusing so intently on cleaning up house (our hearts that is) with our own actions, that we haven't even realized we aren't in His presence. Our own actions could never fully clean up house anyways... Only His presence will truly cleanse us.

Let us reflect on this Passover preparation. As many times as I have read the scripture about Jesus' Passover meal, I’ve never wondered about the person who opened his home. This passage leaves me with a lot of questions.

Did the owner of the house know Jesus? I wonder if he followed his teachings. Did Jesus make prior arrangements to use his guest room? Was it customary to just open your home to people during the Festival of Unleavened Bread? Maybe this time of celebration encouraged an attitude of hospitality. Did the Holy Spirit prepare the owner of the house, and he set up the guest room for them as a result of this personal encounter? Was the owner perhaps just naturally hospitable? I wonder about this man's character.

The scripture says the room was prepared already. For the owner himself or for Jesus? Was the owner of the house involved in the preparation of the meal with the disciples? What an honor that would have been.

We do not know these answers. And since these questions are not answered in scripture, they must not be drastically important to the overall story. But there are still details we can draw from. 

This individual who allowed the disciples in was already prepared for a visit of some sort. Regardless of who he expected to have as guests, his table was set. He was prepared for Jesus' presence (regardless of whether he knew it would be a literal or spiritual presence). This owner was prepared. 

How prepared are we for the presence of Jesus in our hearts and homes? Are we continuously preparing to be ready when he arrives, waiting in anticipation of his arrival to invite him in? Now I know Jesus' disciples will not literally show up at our door to request a room. But daily, we have the decision in our thoughts and actions to invite Jesus' presence into our hearts and homes. Every person we invite in to our home will experience whatever we have prepared for them. So are we prepping for Jesus' presence to be experienced in our home with others? Our hearts need to be focused on Jesus and interacting with Jesus in order to invite him in. We must be in his presence to share his presence.

When I reflect on this passage, I have to wonder what would happen if someone had asked me to give my guest room to Jesus and all 12 of his disciples.

Would I go crazy like Martha, trying to make sure everything was right? Would I be prepared in advance like the owner of this house? Regardless of whether the owner knew Jesus was coming or not, he was ready. We also ought to be ready to metaphorically 'host Jesus'. May we consistently prepare in advance to invite Jesus in.

There may not be a lot we know about this story, but there is plenty to draw from. May we always be willing to invite Jesus and his disciples into our homes. May we always prepare for his presence. May we invite others into that presence.

Our society is much different than in Jesus time; however, I think we are still called to hospitality by sharing our homes and lives with others. Whether it's a planned event or last minute, I want to be as willing as this man was to open my doors widely to others. Lead us in the spirit of hospitality LORD.

 Download this lockscreen to use as the wallpaper on your device to continue reflecting on this passage, the spirit of hospitality, and the ways you can invite Jesus in.

Download this lockscreen to use as the wallpaper on your device to continue reflecting on this passage, the spirit of hospitality, and the ways you can invite Jesus in.

Devotional written by Debbie Gray and Heather Christy. Graphic designed by Daniel Christy.

A letter to Jesus on the cross

 Photograph by Heather Christy

Photograph by Heather Christy

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

Luke 22:42, NIV

Jesus, I know the pain I suffer in this life is nothing compared to the cross… But I am in so much pain. Sometimes, in the deepest of pains, it feels like I will hurt forever—like I will never stop bleeding. I wonder if these desperate emotions were part of what you felt on that cross…like the bleeding would never stop, like the open wounds would forever sting. Wounds so deep that they change everything about you.

You willingly gave yourself in to so much pain, persecution, and mistreatment. You knew it would happen in these events, and yet, you still chose to participate in God’s will for your life. You picked up your cross. You submitted to heaven’s will. I would even dare to say that you approached your death squarely in the face! (John 18:1-8)

And maybe this is an example of what I need to be amidst life’s pain… Submissive. Surrendered. Trusting. Willing. It isn’t necessarily about the fact that you were willing to walk into your death sentence, but more so in the way that you looked to God above all circumstance. You approached the situations God asked you to approach because you trusted his intention above your own intuition (Luke 22:41-44). This is an example of what we need to be as a church body. Open to God’s will and way. As God’s creation, we submit to the ebb and flow of life’s pains.

The difference is that I did not choose this pain. And yet, you chose yours.

I did not know the pain that was to come in my life. But now it’s here, and I am very aware that there will be more hurt to come.

Although I did not choose my pains, God did. God chose this, he planned it, and there is no accident in this life’s journey.

This IS the plan. This is THE PLAN.

God chose your pain on the cross just as he chose my pain in this season. God has a greater purpose for every single pain, so long as we submit to his will.

And Jesus, you may have thought you would never stop bleeding out, but God healed you and redeemed your wounds. More than that, he saved humanity through you, through those bleeding wounds. Although your body was broken, our Father made humanity whole. And if God can take the greatest pain this earth has ever known and make something so good of it, he can surely make beautiful my light and momentary troubles. 

My wounds do not compare to yours, but they are wounds just the same. Wounds that God the Father will heal and close up. Wounds that draw me nearer to rely on him.

“Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last” (Luke 23:46, NIV).

May I handle my pain the way you handled yours on the cross: in submission, holding nothing back from God our Father. May I honor God in my suffering the way you did in yours, declaring him LORD above all.

LORD, into your hands I commit my spirit. May I trust your intention above my own intuition. May I submit to heavens will, knowing very well that every pain is made complete in your Kingdom.

   Download this image to use as a wallpaper or lockscreen on your device as a reminder     to submit to God's intention above your own intuition.

Download this image to use as a wallpaper or lockscreen on your device as a reminder to submit to God's intention above your own intuition.

Devotional written by Heather Christy. Graphic designed by Daniel Christy.

broken/whole: New Life

 Graphic designed by Isaac Taleno.

Graphic designed by Isaac Taleno.

“The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.”

Romans 8:11, NLT

From the cross.

To the resurrection. 

Death has been defeated.

Nothing held Jesus Christ back. 

The world can say what it wants but the truth is that his body was not in the grave. The miracle had occurred. Yes, death had been defeated in full. Because of Christ’s resurrection, His Spirit is available to us now. When Jesus ascended to heaven, he left the Holy Spirit here on earth for our benefit. The Holy Spirit, which brought Christ back to life, is now living within us!

Jesus said that in this life we would experience troubles, hard times, and tough moments. But in the midst of these struggles, we will not be alone. His Spirit is with us! He will come alongside us and walk on this journey with us. Christ’s strength becomes our strength. This brings us comfort, knowing that in the heat of the battle Christ fights alongside us, defeating darkness as we call on His name. Jesus Christ has already overcome death, so there is no darkness or struggle in our earthly life that cannot be dominated by the Holy Spirit. Because of God’s great love for us we will not walk this life alone! All we have to do is call on His name. He breathes life into our mortal bodies.

For when we call on His name, we call on the Father of all creation. He is all knowing, all-powerful, almighty, omnipresent, the king of kings, the creator. God is the great I Am, Abba father, Jehovah, provider, Lord, maker, Yahweh and master. He is our guardian, comforter, healer, conqueror, intercessor, and friend. He is truth, love, peace, and joy. He is merciful, virtuous, courageous, honest, loyal, and faithful. Lord of all, God is our victor and restorer. Absolute and everlasting, the living God is divine, holy, infinite, supreme, and ultimate. He is unparalleled.

Yes, the unparalleled God has defeated death. But more than that—eternal and true life is made available to us through it all! We are no longer slaves to death, broken for eternity, or damned to hell without Him.

We are broken, in the same way that Christ’s body was broken. We are broken in our sin; we are broken in the sense that we cannot repair ourselves by our own accord. We are broken.

But simultaneously, we are whole, in the same way that Christ has always been whole. The Holy Spirit is available to us, allowing us to be made whole in the presence of God.  He makes us whole. We are whole.

Devotional written by Mark A. Rempel. Edited by Heather Christy.

broken /whole: The Cross

 Graphic designed by Isaac Taleno.

Graphic designed by Isaac Taleno.

Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit.

John 19:28-30 NLT

From the cross.

To the resurrection. 

It was a dark day when they crucified Jesus. The heavens felt the pain and sorrow as the Son of God gave up his life. The earth felt it too, with the creator giving up what was most precious to Him as his only son to cover the sin of mankind. Mankind felt it as well, Jesus' friends and followers weeping while watching him endure the cross. We partake in this pain when we take a moment to fully reflect on the death of our Savior. Unjustly, he was accused. Whipped, beaten, and spat on, Christ was nailed to a tree, hanging above the city for all to see like a criminal. What was his charge? What was his crime to receive such harsh a punishment? He was guilty of taking on the payment for your sins, my sins. And yet, he followed through on this action plan willed by His father God. And when he gave up his spirit, it was finished. The pain was over, the brutality complete.

His entire mission was nearly finished, the hardest part was over. He had done what he set out to do, in living a holy life and surrendering himself to God's will in death. This final step of his earthly journey was finished. It had cost him everything--his life. Everything. Loud as a crack of thunder and quick as a strike of lightning, it was over. Human beings would never be the same. If we are willing to lay down our lives to the one who paid the ultimate price, it could be finished for us too. No longer could sin hang over our heads if we asked for forgiveness and accepted redemption. Nothing we could attempt would ever be enough to make us whole, because Jesus on the cross is the only way we could be made whole. Jesus is enough to redeem the darkest place with light. He is enough to forgive the ugliest sin, if we just ask. It is enough to cover the deepest of scars with His greatest of love. No greater love is there than the cross--this cross where righteousness and wrath kiss.

John 15:13 says, "There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” (NLT). Jesus laid down his life, for us not just as friends, but as sons and daughters being adopted into to the Kingdom of God. Jesus, as God's only son, chose to allow us in as part of the family. As we stand today in the shadow of this cross, we are witness to this truth. Love is always demonstrated when it is challenged to action. No greater love can be found on this earth than the one that gives itself so you can live in freedom. So I can live in peace. So we can live forgiven. 

He can’t take it back. We can’t erase it from the history books. We can’t pull out those pages from the Bible. It happened. This story never grows old because love demonstrated its greatest definition right in front of us. He was broken...

It is finished. 

Devotional written by Mark A. Rempel. Graphics designed by Isaac Taleno

broke/whole: Surrender to God's way

 Graphic designed by Isaac Taleno

Graphic designed by Isaac Taleno

"For everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”

Romans 10:13, NLT

From the cross.

To the resurrection.

Surrender.

Surrendering your life is no easy task. In our western culture we glamorize the independent lifestyle and at times despise any sort of dependency on anything other than ourselves. In 1967, Paul Anka heard a song while vacationing in France and knew it was a hit immediately. He negotiated for the rights and re-wrote it for Frank Sinatra. "My Way" was born. The lyrics of "My Way" tell the story of a man who, having grown old, is reflecting on his life as death approaches. He is dealing with his mortality and takes responsibility for how he dealt with all the challenges of life, by doing things, "My way."

As we walk on our journey in life we all have to come face to face with our own mortality. Jesus did. You will. I will. What will be said about our lives? Will it be that we followed the "my way" creed? Or that we surrendered our lives to something greater and bigger?

Let us follow in our savior's footsteps in surrendering to God's way, just as he did in Gethsemane. It is written in Luke 22:42, "Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine," (NLT). Jesus was never interested in dong things in a selfish manner. Rather, he relentlessly pursued the will of his Father in Heaven. Christ gave way to God's way.

Christ came, lived and died among us so we would not have to face the world all alone. Nails drove through his hands and feet to save us from "us." Because even on our best days, we are still full of our own selfishness. But, as we surrender under the name of Jesus, it's a new day. Because of Christ's sacrificial journey, our lives are impacted...Forever.  When we call on His name, instead of our own, we are freed. We are saved. We are...changed. We are made...whole.

Have you called on the name of the Lord? Because what His name is so much more than just a name. Within that name is the key to life--Eternal life. All who call on His name will be saved. We will be adopted into God's way, no longer left to our own selfish ways. Call on his name, accept his way.

Jesus.

Devotional written by Mark A. Rempel. Graphics designed by Isaac Taleno.

broken/whole: Overcoming The Darkness

 Graphic designed by Isaac Taleno

Graphic designed by Isaac Taleno

 “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”

John 1:4-5, NLT

From the cross.

To the resurrection. 

He has overcome the darkness. 

C.S. Lewis once said, "Seeds grow in dark places." Considering they grow underground, this is a very true statement. But more than that, it is a metaphor for the growth that can stem from a deep, dark place. Life is created despite any physical or metaphorical darkness. Nothing could be more true, especially when it comes to the cross. It was a dark, dark day when they crucified Jesus. There was nothing pretty about the scene. As you read about it in the gospels the scene sets itself up like a movie script. Lies, false accusations, fear, hate, insecurity, jealousy, falsities and human depravity are all present in the deepest level. They took an innocent man, who was guilty of the miraculous, guilty of supernatural love, guilty of kindness...and nailed him on top of two planks of wood. Despite the darkness though, light was just about to grow. 

Things haven't changed much since that day. There is a deep canyon of sin that stands between us and Jesus. We can point out the depravity in those who crucified Christ but we must be honest enough to look at our own depravity. Even on my best day I am still full of...me. If I'm honest I can see the hate, the jealousies, the need to satisfy myself. That is the beauty of this seed, this seed of light. Christ died on the cross to overcome all of that filth so my soul could live in the light! Christ died so that even amidst the dark places, new life might sprout. Christ brings light to the darkness. This is not a light manufactured by me, but the purest light you have ever seen. Out of this dark place my shame, my debt, and my sin have been exposed; instead of receiving the repercussions of it through Christ, I have been redeemed by this powerful seed of light. 

The canyon between God and me is filled with the love and mercy of what Christ has done in his life, death, and resurrection. And this light, this seed of light, grows in my heart, overcoming the darkest part of my soul. It reaches all of the broken parts of me. Warmth is brought to my cold heart.

"Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you," (Psalm 139:12, NIV). Jesus Christ has no fear of our depravity; he is unafraid of the darkness within humanity. The darkness is as light to Him, and he sees clearly all that is hidden.

So we must rejoice that our darkest places are not dark to Him. Because He overcame through the cross! He was unafraid of the brutality of the Roman Empire and knew that the darkness He would encounter would give way to a light brighter than all else.

Take a few moments today to allow the light of Christ into the darkest, broken of places in your heart. His light can make you whole.

IMG_7611.jpeg

Devotional written by Mark A. Rempel. Graphics designed by Isaac Taleno.

broken/whole: Love Came First

 Graphic designed by Isaac Taleno

Graphic designed by Isaac Taleno

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 6:23, NLT

From the cross.

To the resurrection. 

Love came first.

In our world, love can appear to be very conditional. Many times love is based on what we can do, or achieve, or show or become. But God's love is so unique and different. He knew mankind was in need of something authentic and real, so he loved us first by sending his Son.

Our heavenly father knew there was no other way. Mankind was in trouble. Sin was rapidly growing and spreading like a disease across our souls. We were trying in our own strength and in our own power to achieve forgiveness. We were following the laws and the lists but in the end still came up empty. What we were crying out for was something beyond us. Something genuine. Something not hidden by a façade. Something that was real and genuine. God knew the only way for redemption was to send his Son to cover the sin of mankind. Your sin. My sin. And while we were born into a world of sin, the sacrifice that he made by sending Jesus would be enough to free us for eternity.

That sort of love of does not have an expiration date. That sort of love does not have an end. That sort of love does not have a final chapter. That sort of love can find you wherever you are, wrap itself around your darkest moment and love you all the way through.

Understanding ‘that’ love came first is important on our journey to understanding the cross. That sort of love connects with your story, and mine. The first step in our journey to the brokenness of the cross is to understand He reached out and loved you first.

"We love because he first loved us," (1 John 4:19, NIV). God made the first move in this love story.

Take a moment to think about this amazing love that reached out first.  This love reached out to make you whole. Love is reaching…

Devotional written by Mark A. Rempel. Graphic designed by Isaac Taleno.

Hosanna

 Photo by Heather Christy

Photo by Heather Christy

And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

Matthew 21:9, ESV

Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!!

We all sing along! We know the words; we love the melody—but do we know what we are actually singing? This is not an English word. We are singing in Greek. This word requires some backstory.

The Triumphal Entry refers to the time when Jesus entered Jerusalem during the season of Passover (this is in Spring). This event was prophesied in Zechariah 9:9, that the King would arrive soon, humbly riding on the back of a colt. This is the moment where everyone finally got it! Jesus is not just a teacher or a healer or a prophet. He is the savior of humanity! He had come to save the people. So, despite his humble entry on a young horse that had never been ridden before, the people treated him like a king! It says in Matthew 21:8 “Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road” (ESV). They covered the ground on which he walked, like a first century red carpet, exalting the King of Israel (and the universe).

Obviously Hosanna is an exclamation of highest praise, but what does this word truly mean? The people sang Hosanna to Jesus as he entered Jerusalem. “And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’” (Matthew 21:9, ESV).

By this time in history Hosanna had become just that, praise to God! It was often sung during significant Jewish festivals like Passover, so it is befitting at this time (Steck). But there’s more to it than that. The origin of Hosanna is Hebrew hôsî-âh-nā meaning “Oh save us now!” or “Please save!” (Strong & Thayer). Psalm 118:25 uses the Hebrew hôsî-âh-nā, but when it is translated into English, it reads, “Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success!” (ESV). Over time, it became more often used as an exclamation of praise in gratitude for being saved, rather than a request to be saved.

When we sing Hosanna, we are singing, God, praise you for saving me! Thank you for grace and for your Son! You deserve all of the praise, oh King! Lord of my salvation! But we are also singing, Lord, our world is desperate! Please, save this world, save these people! We are simultaneously thanking him deeply and pleading with him intensely. What other word could pack such a significant exchange with God? And it’s only seven letters long. It’s easy to spend ten, fifteen, or thirty minutes coming up with ways to thank God and plea for the salvation of the world. But here, in God’s word, he has given us a singular word to accomplish this. Sometimes we don’t quite have the words, but this here is one that we can whisper in our desperation and pain without needing further explanation. HosannaSave us.

Jesus instructs us with these words on prayer: “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words,” (Matthew 6:7, ESV). What better way is there to pray so deeply and emotionally unto God without heaping up words? Join me not only in whispering Hosanna but shouting it to the King of kings! HOSANNA IN THE HIGHEST! Lord save us! Lord you have saved us! We thank you so deeply for our salvation!! Praise to the King!!

 Download this lockscreen as a reminder of the meaning of this word.

Download this lockscreen as a reminder of the meaning of this word.

 

Resources:
Steck, J. H. (n.d.). Hosanna - Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology Online. Retrieved from http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/hosanna.html
Strong, J., & Thayer, J.H. (n.d.). Strong's Greek: 5614. σαννά (hósanna) -- save, we pray. Retrieved from http://biblehub.com/greek/5614.htm

Devotional written by Daniel Christy. Graphic designed by Heather Christy.

The Vineyard

 Graphic designed by Sam Paul

Graphic designed by Sam Paul

He said to them, “You also go and work in my vineyard.” 

Matthew 20:7b, NIV

 I’m just a worker in the vineyard. 

Jesus thank you now for the moments we share around Your word, may we encounter You in a real and genuine way. Thank you for your immediate involvement in each of our lives. Thank you for your grace, your mercy, your goodness. And Lord I thank you that we can rest in your scriptures, that we can read, cry, and laugh knowing that this love letter is meant to captivate us on every level. We love you and We give you the glory, amen.

In the last few months there have been many moments where I’ve felt a bit weary when it came to diving into the Word. I felt lost, not really knowing where to start. I spoke to a trusted mentor and spiritual leader of mine and he suggested going back to my first love, and what he meant by that was to review and refresh scriptures that had strongly affected me in crucial moments where I grew in my faith. I immediately I knew where I would start--the parables.

To give just a brief backstory on the parables, these were verbal teachings given by Jesus to anyone who was willing to listen. They were seemingly simple stories with a much deeper rooted meaning that always came back to the illogical and radical love of our Savior. The parables were spoken by Jesus as a metaphorical and visual representation of the kingdom of God. This one in particular has been called by some theologians as the single most frustrating parable that Jesus ever told. (To this day I’m frustrated by it, even as it changes my life as a man chasing after Jesus' heart.)

We’ll start reading in Matthew 20:1-8, NIV:

For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, "You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right." So they went.

He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, "Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?"

"Because no one has hired us," they answered.

He said to them, "You also go and work in my vineyard."

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, "Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first."

I read this passage and I think to myself, If the vineyard owner had paid them all the same, but had gone from the first worker to the last, the first workers would have gone on their way and what they don’t know can’t hurt them right?

Have you ever felt in your serving, loving, or even tithing as if everyone else around you is being blessed by God and you’re just standing in this space wondering when God plans on blessing you? 

I’ll admit for myself sometimes I see the lost and broken wander in the doors of our church, have a cup of cold brew, stay for a worship set and be moved by God so radically that they’re set free from bondage, addiction, shame, and any baggage they came in with. The next week they’re serving in the church in some capacity and my flesh immediately says, “Oh come on God, I’ve been serving for years, in a variety of different ways, I’m here every Saturday laboring, I even serve at other churches!”

And then I read that latter part of the scripture…

The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. "These who were hired last worked only one hour," they said, "and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day."

But he answered one of them, "I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?"

So the last will be first, and the first will be last.

Matthew 20:9-16, NIV

Even as believers we indict Jesus for his own generosity! God is gracious enough to give us all a significant role in the kingdom work, regardless of our arrival time. He is the vineyard owner friends and He has said to us, come work in my vineyard and I will pay you what is fair. We must trust the vineyard owner to what is fair and what is good. 

If you are working strictly for a reward for yourself, you will be absolutely disappointed by the outcome. 

But here is the beauty of it! Our faith is not works based, and every single one of us will experience the same incredible reward: a forever heaven worshiping our creator.  

So my question to myself and to you is which worker do you want to be?

I want to be the last worker. The one who was promised payment in the latter part of the day; this is the worker who expected very little return due to the fact that he would only be working the end of the day. I want to whistle while I work and be so captivated by this vineyard owner who has, by his own illogical generosity, agreed to pay me for such minuscule work. I will work in amazement, having been chosen to participate in the vineyard. 

I want to be able to say Jesus I trust you, whatever is fair, whatever is right I give control to You. When we live in this reality it allows us to be free to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep because our Vineyard Owner has promised payment and He will take care of his workers. 

Let us use this parable as a warning not to become complacent in our work for God and the kingdom of heaven. May we never compare our return to another's and may we never work thinking we could earn our worth. It's not about the return, the payment, the denarius. Don’t waste another day indicting God for His generosity and illogical love. Embrace it, rest in it, and live in it everyday! Look up in awe of God's generosity just as the last few workers called to the vineyard. Live in His vineyard friends; whistle while you work. Remember that He is faithful and trustworthy. He will take care of us all. Rejoice in the work load you've been handed, whether it be a single hour or a full day from sunrise to sunset. 

 

 Download this image to your phone to serve as a reminder of this parable.

Download this image to your phone to serve as a reminder of this parable.

Devotional written by Sam Paul. Soundtrack: Ólafur Arnalds | song: Þú ert sólin | spotify. Edited by Heather Christy.

Repent & Let Go

 Photo by Heather Christy

Photo by Heather Christy

"Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the LORD."

Acts 3:19

The season of Lent is upon us; this is a time of repentance. But more than a simple recounting of our sins and faults needs to be at play here. We sacrifice something, in remembrance of all that Christ sacrificed for us. 

To be honest though I think we often sacrifice to improve our own individual lives or well being (which when you think about it is actually a self-centered choice as opposed to a God-centered one) rather than to further fulfill the kingdom of God here on earth. For example: we fast from sweets because what we're really thinking about is how we want a slimmer figure. Does this bring more of heaven onto earth? No. Fasting is meant to glorify God, not to uplift or bring attention to us. 

This Lenten season is all about sackcloth and ashes. In scripture, we often witness God's people wailing and moaning. They put on sackcloth. They cry out to God. They pour out their hearts. They ugly cry; it's full of snot, tears, and choking breaths. If you ask me, that is what true repentance, intercession, and fasting look like...

Break my heart for what breaks yours LORD. May I be so broken over my own and others' sinfulness that I can't make it through my day without a bold and heartfelt time of prayer! May I be so aware of the need to intervene that tears stream down my face when I pray for my family members to return to you. May I be so moved by your sacrifice for mankind that I begin to sacrifice more of my life and time to people and ministry and praising you. 

Sacrifice is correlated to something I like to call the art of taking away. Sometimes, things are being taken away from us without our choosing. But typically in lent, we choose to sacrifice. When we sacrifice superficial things, we become more authentic. When Christ sacrificed his body in full at the beating of the cross, he took away every sin that separates us from our holy, righteous God. Sacrifice is a motion of taking something away. Sacrifice might hurt or make you feel uncomfortable, but typically leads to pleasing results in the end…Results for a greater good. 

Take a moment to think about sculptures. They started off as a slab of stone or ice, a concrete block with little form to admire. It isn't until the sculptor begins to take away that something beautiful can be created. Pieces are sacrificed, in order to shape. This is the art of taking away. 

When we fast, we are handing away the selfish parts of ourselves to allow something more beautiful to take shape. The same thing happens when we repent. We give up the dirty slab of concrete we were holding onto, and Christ uses it to better mold us for his kingdom work. Without hands full of garbage, we can take action in planting seeds. Without our fingers clutching false comforts, we can extend ourselves to others in need. When we repent and return to Jesus, he uses us in his kingdom work. 

THAT is the season of refreshment we encounter! We become a firsthand witness to heaven on earth. Through repentance and sacrifice, we are more readily used by the LORD. When we turn from our selfish ways and begin putting others first, our soul finds refreshment in playing a part of God's grand design. 

We are a masterpiece waiting to be revealed. So soften yourself up--choose to sacrifice, fast, and repent. Hand it over, turn back to Jesus, and spread your palms out wide. In turning back to Jesus we encounter grace. Fasting leads way to letting go. Repenting in full, leads to seasons of refreshment and kingdom joy. 

 Download this image to use as a wallpaper for your mobile device.

Download this image to use as a wallpaper for your mobile device.

All materials written & designed by Heather Christy.