Devotionals

Citizens of Heaven

Living here is uncomfortable. I’m not talking about my apartment or my car or my classroom. I’m talking about here. On Earth. Despite the best efforts of 21st century appliances and tech, we’re still uncomfortable. Something feels off. Wrong, even.

Pain is ubiquitous in this world. It’s inescapable. Death surrounds us. We, as a culture, have both a fascination and horror with death. It feels so final to us. So permanent. So wrong. So we consume hours of tv shows that surround death. Death of characters, characters who investigate death. We try to make sense of it. “Oh, that character had to die to advance the plot line. That makes sense.” Or “They had to find the killer to give the deceased rest.” Bizarre, isn’t it, that we vainly try to make sense of death. That we somehow think our actions here can benefit the dead.

This world feels terrible at times. War, discrimination, inequality, sex trafficking, child pornography, suicide rates, mass shootings, drunk driving, poverty. Everywhere we look this world oppresses us with its evil. And pain and fear drive the actions of humans. At times, in our sinful bodies, it drives us. It’s uncomfortable.

But we don’t belong here. We are not of the world. We are not stuck here forever. We don’t belong here. As believers, we feel this every day. We feel the horror this world has to offer and we feel that something is wrong. It is wrong. So wrong.

You see, we’ve been redeemed. Jesus has saved us from this broken, hurt, weeping, sinful world. Living here feels uncomfortable because this is not our home. In our lives on Earth, we will fulfill our God-given purpose. In addition to the pain, we will experience healing, redemption, and worship of our Creator.We even get snippets of His greatness through nature and the beauty of other people. And we crave more. And it’s uncomfortable.

Someday we will stand in the true presence of an almighty creator. The One who created beauty from literally nothing. The One who looked at a broken, sinful, terrible world and chose to love it, to cherish it, to save it. As unworthy as we are, this is where we belong: in heaven with the Alpha and the Omega. We belong in Heaven with Jesus, who paid for our sins with His body and His death. The sins that created this broken, hurting world in the first place. He was forsaken that we might be saved. He will someday fully redeem the earth, give us new bodies, and allow us to be forever with Him without the pain of this world. Discomfort and death will be gone. And we will finally be home.

“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us…Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.” -Philippians 3:14; 17-21, bold added)

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Devotionals

Relatability is Overrated

We’ve all been there: scrolling through Instagram seeing the same old posts time and time again. An artful shot of a Starbucks cup. A cart full of cute (but unnecessary) items from a Target haul. A plate full of delicious looking food with a matching caption about being stuffed beyond belief. An entire day spent binging on Netflix.

As much as I love Instagram, connecting with others, and sharing common interests, these types of posts rub me the wrong way. Obviously it’s incredibly important for human beings to form genuine connections with others and sharing common interests, habits, and struggles is totally a part of that. Real, raw social media posts are awesome. Sharing real life moments is awesome. Delving into the struggles of the Christian life is awesome.

So what’s my problem with all the Starbucks and Target posts?

I feel like at some point we confused relatability with gluttony. In my opinion, many of these posts revolve around over-indulging. This can look like buying too much, eating too much, consuming too much sugar or things that are bad for our bodies. If these posts were about having a vulnerable, honest look at these over-indulgences and calling them out for what they are, I’d be totally for it. But what I see happening is almost a celebration of gluttony.

Gluttony is one of those hidden sins that few people talk about. How many sermons have you heard about it? I literally don’t think I’ve ever heard one. Yet the Bible has some strong words to say about treating our bodies well, spending our money wisely, and avoiding over-indulgence (see verses below).

Sin should never be casual. Our sin nailed the Lord of the universe to the cross. Now, we don’t need to feel guilt or give in to self loathing. Those things are tools of the Enemy. Instead, we need to be aware of what’s going on in our hearts. God cares about how we spend our money and treat our bodies because it’s an outward sign of an inward reality.

Is the treasure of my heart God? Or do I worship the luxurious things money can buy me? All of our resources come from God. He owns them. It’s important for us to take that seriously and surrender our spending habits to Him. Now maybe that means He does want you to buy some pretty things from Target. Or have the treat of a Starbucks drink. However, it’s important to seek Him first and put the idols in our lives where they belong: underneath the authority of God.

So let’s be relate-able in a different way. Let’s share about the sin driving our over-indulgent behavior. Let’s ask God what we should be spending our money on. Let’s not compare the answer God gives us to the answer he gives someone else. Each of us is incredibly unique. God knows what each of us needs specifically. What’s good for you might not be good for her. And vise versa.

I struggle with making the treasure of my heart the Lord. I compare my home’s decor with my friends’ beautiful Instagram posts about their own home. God has not gifted me with the talent for design. And right now our money is honoring God by paying back our debts. Yet someday that might change and maybe God will want us to allocate funds for that purpose. But that’s not our season right now and that’s okay. What’s important is surrender and acceptance of God’s will. He knows what’s good for us. He loves us without measure. And He will not withhold the good things we need.

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” -1 Corinthians 3:16-23

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” -Philippians 3: 13-21

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” -Matthew 6:21

 

Devotionals

5 Thoughts on the Nebulous Topic of Quiet Time

Quiet time. You hear about it all the time in the Christian community. Everyone talks about its importance and how much it impacts their lives. Yet so many of us struggle with figuring out what it looks like on a practical level. We struggle with the discipline of sitting down, quieting our minds, and spending quality time with God.

As I’ve pursued this journey of quiet time, here are a few things I’ve discovered:

  1. Not everyone’s quiet time looks the same. Sure, sitting down, reading your Bible, and praying are standard. And we absolutely must read our Bibles and pray. Scripture is one of the most powerful tools we have against the enemy. How can we know what comes from God and what comes from the Enemy without Scripture? So it’s absolutely a must. However, your quiet time can have variety. You can read one verse and then go on a walk and meditate on that verse. You can read a book by a Christian author that helps you better worship God. You can go through a Bible study workbook. You can listen to worship music. You can get down on your knees and pray with your arms lifted to the Lord. You can dance before Him. You can paint, draw, sculpt as you pray and dwell in His presence. You can journal. You can talk to Him out loud. The list is unending- because as I’m learning from Jen Wilkin’s None Like Him, we serve an infinite God and therefore He is not bound by a single method of connection.
  2. Quiet time is a habit. Seriously, it doesn’t just become a habit on its own. You have to plan, prioritize, and repeat it daily. It takes 21 days for something to become a habit. We have to have the discipline to daily surrender our schedules and days before the Lord and commit to spending time with Him. This might sound harsh but, friend, you need to hear it: you cannot claim to have a relationship with someone you don’t spend time with. Let’s not kid ourselves. We must make tiny sacrifices to die to ourselves daily and choose God.
  3. Quiet time is not a prerequisite for God to love you. We don’t have to do anything to earn God’s love. We already have it. Jesus already died for our sins. Guilt has no power over us. If we miss a quiet time, God is not holding a grudge. He’s not mad. He’s waiting. He desires your time because He has the purest of loves for you. We must view quiet time as a beautiful gift to spend time with the one who loves us the most- and surrender our guilt when we’re not perfect.
  4. God is fun. No, really. Who do you think invented the idea? God wants to have fun with us during our quiet times. We can seriously let our imaginations run wild with Him. We can go on hikes and adventures. We can laugh with God and have private jokes. God is not serious all the time. He’s playful, delightful. He’s certainly not stuffy and boring.
  5. Our days have more joy and perspective when we spend time with Him. In reality, we are citizens of heaven, not this world. And because we’re citizens of heaven, this world can drain us and leave us feeling discouraged and empty. What if we looked at quiet time as a way to recharge and get perspective on our earthly lives? Things that loom large in daily life pale in comparison to eternity. Don’t get me wrong- pain is pain and I would never hope to diminish someone’s suffering. However, when we look to eternity with the Creator, we can realize that healing will come, this earth will be redeemed, and the battle has already been won- by Someone much bigger and more powerful than we could ever imagine.

Friends, let’s spend time with God, not out of obligation, but out of delight and joy. All good things come from Him. And when we give Him our stresses and worries, He will bring healing, refocus, and joy.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” -2 Timothy 3: 16-17

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” -Philippians 3:20-21

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” -1 Peter 1:6-7

Devotionals

Is Anyone Actually Patient?

“I’m just not really a patient person…” says the girl on my podcast this morning. I’m struck by how odd of a statement that is. It’s a common enough phrase- we describe people as patient all the time- but what does that actually mean? When we get down to it, is anyone actually patient?

I don’t think so. I’m going to get kind of philosophical here but I’m pretty sure we humans are just a mass of hugely inconsistent contradictions. When you really think about it, people rarely personify one word perfectly. I believe everyone is both patient and impatient.

For example, I am patient with teenagers when I’m trying to teach them how to write. I don’t mind them not getting it right the first time- in fact, I expect the process to be time consuming and somewhat painful. However, I lose my mind when I have to wait in a line. I just lose it. I can’t believe that someone would waste my time for no good purpose (which is why my husband and I bring books to Disneyland).

Isn’t it interesting how we humans want to label ourselves and each other. It feels organized or somehow satisfying to label things or put them into categories. We love pigeon-holing people and then pointing out when they do things out of line from our perception of them.

Is this fair? It doesn’t feel fair. However, regardless of its fairness, it is the reality of how we think about humans. And on a much broader scale, it’s a key difference between humanity and God. We can’t put our hope in people- because people aren’t consistent enough. They’re not safe enough. We think they’re one way and then they go and do something “way out of character.” But who characterized them in the first place? Who decided that they had to be that way?

Humans will fail us. God will not. He is completely unchanging. He was, is, and is to come. He is the perfect version of all the things: love, patience, kindness, peace, mercy, grace, wisdom, etc. We might be patient in one way, but God is patient in all of the ways. And He is patient as we live out this life, make mistakes, run back to Him, ignore Him, and repeat the process all over again.

Our heavenly Father is the only safety. He’s actually the only one we can count on to always be consistently who He is. How beautiful is that?

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” -Hebrews 13:8

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.” -1 Corinthians 13: 4-10

Devotionals

Self Pity Serves Nobody-Especially You

What is my weakness? This morning as I read 2 Corinthians 12:10, I asked God this question. The verse says “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” I know that in all of my weaknesses, God will use them for healing, redemption, and His purpose. Yet how can I allow Him to heal me if I’m not sure what my weaknesses are?

So today I asked God this question and He pretty much immediately brought to my mind this phrase: self pity. And you know what? He’s right. Shocker.

This week I’ve had a lot of extra duties. I run a leadership program at my school and last night I worked late to select new leaders. I’m ordering and designing the staff shirt this year so I had to stay after school for that on Tuesday. And today, I’ve got to stay late for a school wide event. In the midst of this, I’m running a business and trying to finish planning my husband’s birthday party for this weekend. So yeah-there’s a lot on my plate. No doubt.

But you know what doesn’t serve me? Self pity. Feeling sorry for myself is ridiculous if I’m being honest. As appealing as it looks to me in these challenging moments, I literally get nothing out of it but sadness, hurt, anxious thoughts, and a large waste of time.

Self pity leads me to seek affirmation from others. It leads me to be disappointed when I don’t receive praise. It drives my actions to be motivationed by fear instead of love. It feels like a suffocating pressure. It gives me self righteous thoughts and puts others down. It makes me a victim.

When I list out the consequences of indulging in self pity, it seems absurd that I’d ever even choose it. Who would want to feel that way? But the path is well worn in my brain and it feels comforting at first.

But here’s the thing: thoughts matter. They matter not only because they control my actions, but also because Jesus told us they can be sinful. The Bible teaches thought-work. It commands us to notice what’s going on in our brains. It’s not some woo-woo New Age thing to be mindful of our thoughts. It’s flat out Biblical.

So what do I do about my self pity? I start by recognizing it. I start by bringing my sin before the Lord. I start by confessing and surrendering. God finishes the process if we are faithful. He will bring healing thoughts and His truths. We soak up those truths.

The God who has healed a million people before you will not abandon you. He has deemed you worthy of healing because His Son has atoned for your sins. Let’s rest in that truth today. Let’s let go of our self pity. After all-what do we have to pity ourselves for? We have confidence in our eternal salvation and, more importantly, in a God who is faithful beyond anything we could ever imagine. Who could ask for more?

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” -2 Corinthians 10:5

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” -Hebrews 10:23

Devotionals

The Lies in Your Head Need to See the Light of Day

There I sat in my Missional Community (MC) group thinking: soon, it’ll be my turn to share. I know what I need to say. I know what’s on my heart. I know I can’t escape. But the words feel hard to say. Being raw and vulnerable with the things we’re ashamed of or fearful to share can be so hard. It feels impossible that these women will accept me after hearing about my insecurities.

And what’s worse: if I say these words out loud, they become reality. They’re true thoughts in my head and now others will hear them too. What if they don’t struggle with the same thing? What if they think I’m crying too much? What if they don’t think what I’m sharing is a big deal? Lies. Let’s just be honest. These thoughts are lies.

Why do lies exist? To warp God’s truth.

Because here’s the thing: if I don’t share, I miss out on community. And community is powerful- community is where healing, love, and grace happen. Isn’t that exactly what the enemy wants to prevent from happening? If I stay in my own mind and reject the truth and wisdom other women can share with me, I reject God’s plan for community. And I give Satan a foothold. I make myself a captive.

So I force the words out: I think God made me wrong. I think there’s something wrong with me. Why aren’t other people like this? 

And you know what happened? Loving, affirming words. Hands holding mine. Wise, gentle advice. Personal stories. Similar struggles. Compassion. Understanding. Connection.

God’s purpose for community is so much greater than we could ever imagine. When we reject community, we are seriously missing out. Vulnerability is hard and scary. Yet what happens when we’re not vulnerable is much more frightening.

Let’s not cower in the darkness- lonely and afraid. Let’s listen to the Holy Spirit and share our burdens with others. God speaks to us so powerfully through Christian community. Let’s ask God for the courage and wisdom to share. Let’s experience this great gift He has given us.

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” -Hebrews 10: 19-25

Devotionals

A Much Wider Perspective on Our Purpose

This morning as I am doing my devotional in my classroom, I look up and notice for the first time in awhile a map that I hung on my wall the first week of school. This is no ordinary map. It has a timeline of world history organized by continent and size of empire (see above photo). It’s actually really cool- and as I glance at it today, I’m struck by how small I am. The United States is such a small blip in the history of the world. And I know God is incredibly purposeful, detailed, specific.

So I know He placed me here purposefully and for specific reasons. He placed me in this location, in my family, in this time period because that’s where He knew my purpose would best be accomplished. Isn’t that insane?! We’re not here by accident. We don’t have the community and influence around us by accident. We’ve not been placed in the most globalized time period by accident.

No, God is too big for that. Nothing is an accident. Which leads me to my overarching question for today: why? What is God doing with me that could only be uniquely done now, in this time period, in this place? How is my life serving Him? How is He using me to expand His kingdom?

Let’s step out of our daily routines and frustrations. Let’s dwell on an impossibly big and wonderful and detailed God. And let’s humbly ask our role. Where do we fall in the midst of this? How can we serve and fulfill His vision for our lives? It’s easy to make our lives all about us- but in reality, it’s all about God. Let’s humble ourselves before Him today.

Because here’s the thing: He is absolutely incredible. He has seen all of human history. He has seen the rise and fall of empires. He has seen His own Son walk the Earth and submissively die for the sins of all the humans who have walked this Earth. It is mind-blowing. It is beyond our ability to understand. Let’s dwell in the mind-blowing nature of an infinite God today.

“What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.

You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen—
Even the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air,
And the fish of the sea
That pass through the paths of the seas.” -Psalm 8:4-8