May 18, 2024

One of the most powerful instruments that God gave me at birth was my volition.

At any moment I can choose His peace over drama; His joy over pain.

With Him in control, I don’t have any problems. Every form of adversity that comes my way is an opportunity to witness Him performing another miracle in my life.

By trusting Him instead of trying to solve it with my limited understanding, the miracle may be as simple as having patience instead of agitation; peace instead of worry; faith instead of fear or any of a myriad of other manifestations of God’s Spirit working in my life.

When I choose the illusion of thinking I can act on my own and overcome adversity by my own cleverness, I am doomed for failure.

If my competence appears to be successful, my ego is fed and that has a tendency to drive me away from the Lord’s presence.

I would much rather experience failure and abide in Christ rather than flourish and think that I did something without Him.

I pray that God will cause me to fail whenever my ego takes over and I lose the awareness of my intimacy with Him.

May 17, 2024

God immediately gave the Israelites such a difficult challenge as exiles to invest long-term in the foreign land they were taken to. A challenge that had to push back drastically against their instincts to wait for their circumstances to improve, to be delivered from those who took them as exiles, or to see their homeland experience peace once again.

It’s so easy to see my own struggle to “make camp” or invest in people, circumstances, or places that feel difficult or contrary to my plans. However, what a trust exercise in our relationships with God to invest in exactly where He has us. To fully commit to His current plans for us. To trust God daily in our relationships, jobs, neighborhoods, finances, and future plans.

We can see a promise at the end of these verses that as we invest and seek the welfare of our communities instead of just our own, their welfare will also be our welfare. Their peace, our peace. Everyone benefits from God’s people growing in quantity and ability to display His love in every circumstance and season.

When we read further in Jeremiah 29, we come across one of the most well-known verses in the Bible, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29:11). This promise anchors our ability to be faithful to God and where He has us in the day-to-day, knowing we are not doing so in vain. We know a God who has great plans for us and who always gives hope, even in the darkest seasons. Only He is able to help us endure, to invest even in difficulty, and to seek His will no matter what. Help us trust You, Lord.

May 16, 2024

I’m grateful for the way that difficult circumstances often bring out what matters most. As the weather shifted quickly last Thursday night, I watched how people rallied around others and were present either with physical needs the next day or by checking in and being present with each other.

What a strong example of what it looks like to be God’s people. The first verse in this passage makes the high calling on our lives clear. As believers, we are standing for Christ, serving on His behalf, and displaying His character in the face of the darkness in the world. What an honoring and humbling calling.

As practical needs are taken care of after the storm, I wonder what it would look like for us to be just as present with those around us, especially those we don’t usually have a relationship with. We’ve experienced plenty of moments of crisis around us in recent years (floods, a global pandemic, snowstorms, thunderstorms, etc.), and I’ve been asking myself what God has taught me through those crises that I could put into action in the day-to-day. More presence with neighbors, intentionality in relationships, relinquishing busyness and control, and staying aware daily that only God is sovereign over all things. Is there something God has taught you through difficult times that He wants you to continue in order to live as His ambassador?

May 15, 2024

More and more, I’m learning that my plans and strategies are usually so different from God’s. As we look at God’s Kingdom priorities, we can see in these verses how God wants us to begin in prayer for others, starting with our leaders. There’s a habit there that is difficult to implement consistently and yet one that has a quick and profound impact on our own hearts and others’ lives as we intercede for them. Our aim? To live in peace! For others to also be saved and know the truth that gives true peace — individually and in our communities, cities, state, country, and world. To live out godliness and holiness — qualities that are usually quiet and seen not for their volume or showiness but through their fruit.

So, Lord, we pause in this moment to pray. We pray for our leaders and the way You have individually put them in places of authority for this season. We ask for You to meet each of their needs and give them the strength they need to endure. For those who don’t already know You, we ask for them to have eyes to see and ears to hear as You reveal Your truth to them. For those that do, we ask for Your guidance on how to be light in the darkness and witnesses of Your truth. We trust You above all else and pray this in Your Name, Jesus.

May 14, 2024

This verse brings me conviction in how quickly it points to the lapse between my beliefs about God and the attitude of my heart. I can more easily say that God is in control and sovereign over all things than I can look at earthly authorities and accept that God has positioned them according to His perfect plan and timing. That shift to looking beyond our “earthly kings” and posture our hearts toward submission to the Heavenly King is how we can begin to live out our beliefs on a daily basis.

When I start there, my expectations of those in authority and of the earthly policies at work in our world are shifted as well. Neither one is designed nor able to save, complete the healing work, or meet every need in our world. And yet, by God’s grace, He gives us direction on how to operate as good stewards and citizens, mimicking God’s priorities and agendas here on earth. All because God is the one who is establishing order and authority, deserving our full submission to Him first.

May 13, 2024

Not only did I walk away from church on Sunday having learned a new expression for a difficult circumstance (“a sticky wicket”), but I also kept thinking about Jesus’ choice to use the word “render” in verse 21. It amazes me how God instills His order and design, even among such brokenness in our world. Though no earthly kingdom has ever been perfect, God gets to the heart of so many of our human struggles by teaching us about submission, honor, humility, and deference — to both imperfect kings and the only Perfect One.

When I looked up other biblical usages of the word “render” or “give up/back,” so many different examples came up — humans rendering something to each other, rendering something to God, or God rendering something to humans, positive and negative alike. As we look deeper at God’s “Kingdom Policy Priorities,” I wonder what God would have us render to Him first in order to honor those priorities well. Is there anything God wants us to give up or give back to Him today?

Lord, teach our hearts to submit to You first, trust You, and re-order our priorities based on Your priorities. We look to You as the light and hope of our world.

May 12, 2024

Evidence of God’s existence is not a secret. I see Him in other people, in nature, in natural laws and in the solar system.
When I look at the complexity of my own body and all of the different systems enclosed within it, I have all the confirmation I need to believe in Him.
The tremendous peace and joy I have as I fellowship with Him in each moment that passes through my waking hours is further proof, to me, of the reality of the Lord and His kingdom.
When I have a problem, all I have to do is withdraw myself from it and observe the predicament in fellowship with Him and it ceases to be a mystery. I don’t need to know the solution because I know Him.
I thank God for revealing Himself to me and for demonstrating His love to all mankind at Calvary.

May 11, 2024

Letting go of disappointments, heartaches and unfulfilled expectations has been difficult for me.
Having fellowship with the Lord in the present moment is always the best antidote.
When I reflect on the cross and remember what Jesus had to endure to set me free, my discouragement is short lived. Nothing I can possibly face will ever compare to His sacrifice and complete surrender to His Heavenly Father and God’s purpose for Him.
I pray that God will, in every disheartening situation, help me abide in His presence and keep looking unto Jesus who is the author and finisher of my faith.

May 10, 2024

In the book of Luke, this is the last teaching of Jesus before his betrayal and crucifixion. It occurs during the Last Supper after Jesus has broken the bread and drank from the cup. He has spoken to the disciples about the significance of the elements: the giving of his body and the shedding of his blood for them. Jesus foretold that one of the disciples would betray him. So the disciples begin to question who will be the one to do it, and at some point, the conversation turns, and the disciples start to argue about who is the greatest. Jesus, hearing the argument, begins to teach about greatness by pointing to his own life as an example. It is a fitting and important comment to notice at this juncture. This is Jesus’ farewell discourse for his disciples and occupies a place of significance in Luke’s narrative. I love the rhetorical strategy Jesus employs here. Common sense would tell you that the one who reclines at table is greater than the one who serves. Yet Jesus points to his own life to answer the question differently: he is amongst them as one who serves. The disciples have been following Jesus long enough to recognize his greatness. Jesus’ pattern of life did not take advantage of the privileges he could have expected. So, as his followers, we are to embody the same pattern of life. We are called to abandon our self-serving quests for greatness and power because they are contrary to the example of Jesus’ own life and the way power operates in the kingdom of heaven. This is a countercultural concept in a world where we are conditioned from a very young age to chase and pursue greatness. We can only do it by keeping our eyes on Jesus as the model and example for our lives.

May 9, 2024

In high school, I went on a week-long backpacking trip with a group of people from the youth group at the church I attended. I had grown up in church, knew all the correct answers to the questions, and figured I could coast my way through the spiritual part of the trip. At that point, faith was just something I did because it was a part of my family’s values. My identity was wrapped up in other things. I went on the trip just because I loved the outdoors. However, on that trip, I truly met God for the first time. Perhaps more appropriately, God met me. As I was sitting alone in the woods under a tree, my idolatry of the self became crystal clear to me. I intimately understood my deep need for God. Everything changed for me that day. As a result, I began to question how to live out this newfound faith. It became concrete for me when I saw it lived out uniquely.

It was the last night of our trip, and after five days of hiking, a group of teenagers develop a particular smell. After a full day of hiking, we got to our campsite for the evening and took off our packs. When I turned around, I saw that our guides had pulled out small wash tubs with soap and rags. They invited each of us forward as they washed our gross, smelly feet individually. I felt uncomfortable with the idea, so I went last. I even tried to argue my way out of it, but they wouldn’t take no for an answer. At that moment, I began to understand what it meant to follow Jesus. In a concrete way, I understood that to live as a disciple of Jesus meant being willing to serve selflessly. It meant that in situations where everyone else would turn and walk the other way because of the mess, disciples of Jesus were called to draw near to the mess. These guides modeled that for me in a small but significant way that day. Let us look for ways to draw near to the messiness of everyday life in small ways this week.