At the Wedding

John 2

John 2 5

Good morning everyone!  (Or afternoon, or evening, depending on when you get to this!)  Let’s take a look at John 2, a much easier chapter to dig into compared to yesterday’s in my opinion…

Thought #1 – Vs. 1-12:  The author here writes about Jesus’ first miracle; turning water into wine at a wedding.  We’re all probably relatively familiar with this passage, and most are probably aware that when Jesus answers his mother with “Woman” it does not mean disrespect in Greek like it might in today’s world (and if not, now you know!).  There is so much in this little story that we don’t know, such as who was getting married, why Jesus and his mother were attending, what the reactions were of the people who saw Jesus perform his first miracle, etc.  Despite reading this multiple times, I did find something new to think about this time through.  This time I saw that Mary already had faith in Jesus’ abilities before he had proven anything to her.  While we also don’t know much about Mary, we can pick up a few characteristics or insights into her life from the little we read.  For example, Mary’s faith has always relied on the idea about not needing to see to believe.  She has always had a deep trust in God, and in His power, and isn’t afraid to boldly ask for a miracle, at least according to what we can read in the Bible.  She has probably experienced God’s power in the most personal way of any human on earth, and I think it shows.  In this story, she doesn’t even really acknowledge Jesus’ response, but simply tells the servants to obey him.  What a mom thing to do… give a direction and not listen for any ifs, ands, or buts about it!  Mary knew what Jesus could accomplish before even seeing it happen, she had no doubts in God’s power that was within Jesus.  We are lucky enough to live in the present day where we have very easy access to a Bible that lays out all the miraculous things done in the past by Jesus.  I think we take that for granted!  I know in my own life I do not always fully trust in God or in His power to work in my life, yet I have 66 books’ worth of examples of how He has already done amazing things with that power!  How can you shape your faith to be a bit more like Mary’s – trusting God’s power to do the work needed even if we can’t see the outcome yet?

Thought #2 – Vs. 13-23:  I love this story about Jesus clearing out the Temple.  Maybe it’s because I’m a fan of people getting in trouble when I know they are doing wrong… I was definitely that kid in elementary school that ratted out any misbehavior immediately.  But beyond that, I think this story also makes for some great analogies and comes up with a lot of good thoughts!  In this story we see Jesus experiencing what can be termed a “righteous anger” towards the people who have dirtied the Temple.  He wasn’t just freaking out, or getting angry with people for messing up, he was upset that they were tarnishing the Temple of God in such a public way.  They knew very well what that Temple was for, and yet they chose to set up shop for a personal gain that did nothing for them in the long-run.  So Jesus clears them out in a very active way!  Later on we see Jesus compare this Temple to himself (vs. 21) and that got me thinking about how our bodies as temples for God sometimes need a good clearing out.  I’m not talking about a juice cleanse or anything like that, but I’m talking about an active removal of the things that aren’t supposed to be there.  This can be a wide variety of things… fear, sin, poisonous habits or relationships, you name it.  Sometimes we need to experience that same righteous anger in order to be motivated to clear out our life and get back on track with God.  Do you see any areas of your life that you feel need to be cleared out so you can be back on track with God?  What are you doing, or what can you do, to actively clean yourself out?

I hope our questions for today bring about some quality reflection time!  I know they got me thinking!

~Sarah

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Delayed Gratification

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MATTHEW 7

One of the most famous experiments ever done to understand the human psyche is the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment.  In this study, a marshmallow and a bell were placed in front of a preschool child. The instructions were as follows: if the child wanted to eat the marshmallow in front of them after the adult left the room, they only need to ring the bell to gain permission; however, if they waited for the adult to return to the room on his/her own, about fifteen minutes later, then they would receive an additional marshmallow for their wait, essentially doubling their pleasure.  A seemingly simple experiment became a tortuous endeavor for these children. Initially, almost all the children tried to wait, but the longer they watched the door and thought about the marshmallow, disbelief and displeasure began to fill their minds. The ones who were ultimately successful looked in a different direction, sang a song, or reframed their desires, all of which helped to ultimately endure to receive their reward in full. Conversely, some were overcome with their desire or doubt; they rang the bell and received a lesser reward.

 

Matthew Chapter 7, our reading for today, contains a handful of verses we will most likely wrestle with at some point in our lives when our metaphorical marshmallow is placed in front of us.  Yesterday’s devotion showed us God’s provision, but there is a distinction here that appears in times where we appeal to God for greater things, beyond bread or fish (Matt 7:9): the search for a spouse, selection of a college or career, the growth of a church or ministry, the health of a loved one, the birth of a child or wisdom in a difficult situation.  All of these have a biblical basis as blessings from God, the giver of “good gifts to those who ask” (Matt 7:11), so we might suspect for these to move up God’s priority list. The only requirements are we ask, seek, and knock (Matt 7:7). Initially, these three actions seems the same, but through my own appeals, I have come to realize these in fact may be steps of a larger process.

ASK

First, you must ask.   While our action and efforts show our faith, if we bring God in, we are no longer in control (or under the illusion that we are in control).  By making our request known to our Heavenly Father, we begin to have peace with the “marshmallow” that passes our comprehension of the situation (Phil 4:6-7).  We are settled knowing that if we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Heavenly Father will not only hear our request, but has already placed our desire within the scope of his will and eternal plan (John 14:12-14). You will receive it.

SEEK

Next, you must seek. We are to search for God’s will in our lives which is much larger than a single request.  It is so easy to be consumed with a single desire and measure your faith and relationship with God by it. He rewards those who earnestly seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), so we must look away from the “marshmallow”, and look towards God’s kingdom as the first priority for our lives.  By daily searching for God and His perfect and pleasing will, we will ultimately collide with the desire of our heart at the single most opportune moment which is mutually benefiting God’s kingdom and us. You will find it.

KNOCK

Finally, knock, which is by far the most difficult of the three.  You must patiently wait and trust God. As we wait, the rain will come down, maybe harder than ever, the floods will come up, maybe higher than ever, and the wind beat against the house, maybe stronger than ever, and the foundation of our lives will be exposed (Matt 7:24-29).  These are the moments that make or break a faith. To endure the storm, we must be persistent in our prayer lives, even when we are frustrated. We are to be fervent in our discipleship, even when our will is depleted. We must share our faith, even if we have moments of doubt.  We will not “earn” our reward, but they give us the strength to continue to stand at the door knocking, waiting for God’s perfect timing, the delayed gratification, the moment when faith becomes sight. And soon enough, He will open the door.

 

The children who participated in the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment were later studied as teens and adults.  There were some startling correlations with the group that found their way to endure to the end, delaying their reward until a more pleasing moment.  They were better able to cope with stress, more likely to be fulfilled in the work, less likely to be impulsive or aggressive, and less likely to be addicted or become divorced.  As we wait for our good and perfect gift from above, God may be moving heaven and earth to bless us (2 Kings 20:1-11). The problem is He is on the other side of the door, and all we can see is the marshmallow.  It is so easy to become focused on this one thing and forget about the promise. There is so much blessing waiting in the waiting. Our focus changes, we become disciplined, we find ways to sing while stressed, we become fulfilled in God – blessing or not.  We are focused by and consumed with God, not the marshmallow. Then the door opens and we remember the promise, and we see our reward and how His plan was so good.  God delays our gratification, not to experiment or simply because He can but to show us He truly is the giver of the greatest gifts to those who ask, and he will double or exponentially multiply the reward.  Don’t give in and ring the bell – Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find it. Knock, and the door will be opened.

-Aaron Winner

When Our Plan is Failing

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Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

We all have times when it feels like nothing is going right. School is hard, and you think maybe you should take a break. Your job is going nowhere, and it seems like your boss doesn’t like you. We’ve all been there! These are difficult times to trust God has a plan for all of us and even those times we feel like all our plans are for nothing. Take some time to reflect on the people you have contact with, could they be the people you need to share the message of Jesus and the salvation He offers. Sometimes when our plans seem to be failing, it is really God’s plan coming together!

-Susan Johnson

Children of God – TRUST

matt 6 28,29

Today I am going to focus on trusting God. I have talked about this topic before, most likely because this is something that I personally struggle with. That being said, I am going to focus more on trying to have trust like a child, since this week I am focusing on having faith like a child, and each of the components that go along with that. In many different places in the Bible Christians are referred to as children of God, I believe that this is incredibly intentional (as is most things that can be found in the Bible), but even more so with this phrase. God could have said, that we are his people, which he does, but this is not what we are referred to as in every instance in the Bible. We are children of God, he loves us and cares for us, and calls us to have a child-like faith. Matthew 18:3 says, “ Truly, I tell you, unless you change and become like the little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

In my classroom, I have about 8 kids every single day, and they rely on me to make sure that they get breakfast, lunch, and a snack. They rely on me to take them outside, or on a walk. Some of them are working on being potty-trained, so they rely on me to change their diapers. They rely on me to facilitate discussion between them and their friends about whose turn it is with the babydoll in the classroom. There is more than just this “reliance” though. These children simply trust that what I say is true, that what I am telling them is the right thing to do. They trust that the food I am giving to them is good for them and will fuel their bodies. They trust that I am going to braid their hair if they ask, give them hugs if they need them, or pick them up when they fall down. They trust that I am going to be excited about them trying something new, or climbing across the tires on the playground, but they also trust that when they fall and scrape their knee, I am going to comfort them and get them a bandaid. These children trust that I am going to meet their every need while they are at daycare with me. They do not expect that I am going to meet every want, but they do trust that I am going to take care of their every need.

Do we do that in our daily lives as Christians? Do you truly believe that God has your back and is going to provide for your every need? Do you trust that he hears your every want and every prayer? Because God tells us he hears us, and that he will make sure that our every need is met. He doesn’t promise us an easy life without any hiccups, but he does promise to meet our needs. We should be looking to the children in our lives that may rely on us, and trust us to take care of them, and see that example in them. That reliance and trust they have in us, is something that we need to try to emulate in our relationship with God.

Philippians 4:19 “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence”

Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

Matthew 6:28-34 “28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Today, I am going to challenge you to trust God. Trust him like a child would. Lean on him, rely on him and truly work on believing that what he says and what his word says is true. God comes through for us on our promises, and he makes sure that we have what we absolutely need. It may not always seem like that to us, but Jesus’ words in Matthew, tell us that God even clothes the flowers and the grass, and they do no work. If we believe in him, have faith in him, and trust him (like a child) would he not care for us at least as much as the grass of the field, if not more?

A song that I have for you today actually comes from Aaron Winner. “You Make The Flowers Grow” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yE8xGez3AOY

~Jana Swanson

Submit Your Ways to God

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Do you ever find yourself thinking “I’ll believe it when I see it?”  It’s easy to slip into the mindset of doubt. We live in a broken world, and we may have gone through painful experiences that cause us to lose our trust in others.  For this reason, faithfulness, a fruit of the Spirit, can be a challenging trait to possess. Faithfulness comes from a place of trust and loyalty. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is a confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  As a Christian, it is important to be faithful to God. It is one thing to simply believe in Him, but another to be faithful to Him. When we are truly faithful to God, this shapes the way we live. Faithfulness requires us to submit our ways to God.

Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” We are to be faithful to God, because He is faithful to us.  In the Bible, the story of Abraham demonstrates the importance of faithfulness. Abraham and his wife Sarah struggled to trust God, but learned the value of faithfulness when they submitted to Him.  For example, Abraham and Sarah waited many years for God to fulfill His promise of giving them a son. Because of her lack of faith, Sarah insisted upon Hagar, her maid, giving birth to her son. This resulted in pain and conflict. However, when Abraham and Sarah put their faith in God, Sarah was able to give birth to Isaac despite being past childbearing age.  Ultimately, the story of Abraham shows how God blesses those who are faithful and trust in His plans.

So, how do we grow in our faithfulness?  We can grow in our faithfulness by having a personal relationship with God. If we are truly faithful to Him and obey His commands, this will be evident in our lives.  My challenge to you is this: Think about the ways you show your faithfulness to God. Are there things that are getting in the way of your faithfulness? What areas of your life have you not given over to Him? Through spending time in prayer, ask God to make these things clear to you, so that He can grow you in your faithfulness.

-Katie-Beth Fletcher

Happiness vs. Joy

Joy

Joy is the foundation for a positive life.  Our world lacks joy and has way too much fear, worry, discouragement, and depression these days.  We need to fully trust God and have joy even in the hard moments and seasons of life. It we are not fully trusting our Father, then we will never be able to experience pure joy.

Biblical joy, the true joy, comes from filling the spiritual void with good relationships, mostly the intimate relationship with the One who is pure joy.  Jesus put it this way: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit” (John 15:5). That fruit includes much joy!

The Bible speaks much more often of joy than of being happy. “Hap” means chance and is the root of several words— happen, happening, haphazard (dependent on mere chance), hapless, happenstance (a chance circumstance) and happy.

Happiness is a glad feeling that depends on something good happening. God wants you to experience happy times (as long as God approves of what is happening). But His greater desire is that you have unconditional joy. Jesus said His joy would “remain in you” and “your joy no one will take from you” (John 15:11; John 16:22).

Think of joy as a strong foundation that supports a variety of healthy emotions, including happiness. The long-range evidence of joy is general gratitude, contentment, optimism, a sense of freedom and other positive attitudes.

-Katie-Beth Fletcher

Unknown Endgame

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“Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” (Gen 12:1). This is what the LORD said to a man called Abram, later known as Abraham. He was promised to be the father of many nations, while also told to adventure out unto the great unknown to a land that God would show him. Not tell him. In this verse, the word used is raah which in Hebrew means “to show”. It’s important to note here that God would not tell Abram where to go, but show. This means that at the time Abram decided to leave, he didn’t have an endgame. Only God did, and God promised to reveal it to him at the correct time.

Abram was not the first and most certainly not the last to be called by God to travel to unknown territory. I can testify to this.

In January of this year, at a college gathering for a Christian group, I was extremely convicted by the speaker’s message to reexamine my life, specifically my future plans. At the time, I had narrowed down three graduate school fellowships I was going to apply. Eventually, the goal was to settle down somewhere as a college professor and teach Literature. This had been my plan for a couple of years now, though in the back of my mind, something always felt a bit unsettling. As important as I thought Shakespeare may be, I wanted to do more with my life then teach Hamlet. Deep down, ever since I was a young girl, I knew I would end up going to Atlanta Bible College. As I sat in that seat during the sermon, it became clear to me that the time was now. While he was still speaking, I pulled out my phone and applied right then and there. I knew that if I waited till I got back to my dorm, I would have chickened out. That night was the start of my unknown.

I did a lot of praying, a lot of back and forth with God, but all along, I knew the answer was to move to Georgia and attend ABC. I don’t have an endgame, only possibilities, but I’m trusting God that he will show me my path when I get there.

When I started to tell people about my decision, I got more support than I thought I would. I was worried about the stigma that came with going to a Bible College, but as it turned out, many of my peers and professors respected and were excited about my decision. Not all of them, though. I won’t ever forget the way one of my English professor’s face fell in disappointment when he asked about my future plans. It was right after I presented my honors project and he was encouraging me to pursue graduate school. He looked at me as if I was wasting my potential.

My mother and step-father were not supportive and are still getting used to the idea. I know that deep down, their concern is out of love, but it still hurts and strains our relationship. Their biggest issue is that I don’t have an end goal. They want to know why I’m going down to ABC, what it is exactly I hope to gain from another bachelor’s degree. Unfortunately for them, and for many others in the world, “God will show me when I get there” doesn’t work. But right here with Abram, we’ve got proof that it does. We know the end of his story. We know that God did follow through, that God did show him the way. As a result, when we are called out unto the great unknown, because we know Abram’s story, we know the end of our stories, too.

-Emilee Ross