God Sends Reminders {5 Minute Devo}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in 5 Minute Devotions, Blog, Challenging, Christmas, Family Devotions

(Click here for the download of this devotional:  English, French, and Spanish)

 

God comes through for us, but we are often in need of reminders.

 

Read Matthew 2:9-11

 

Why do you think the timing was perfect for the wise men to visit Mary and Joseph? Do you remember what they had been through?

 

They probably needed confirmation of what God was calling them to.

 

• Mary became pregnant before she was married to Joseph.

• They fled the country in fear their son would be killed.

• They had to spend the night in a stable and gave birth to their Son, who was foretold to be the Savior of the world. His crib was a manger (the feeding trough for animals).

 

At this point, they must have needed a reminder of who this Baby was and that God was really watching over them! I don’t know about you, but I might have had my doubts that this really was the Son of God to be the Savior of the world, too!

 

Can you think of other people from the Bible who God reminded He was still in charge?

 

• Daniel in the lion’s den. (Daniel 6)

• The Israelites trapped at the edge of the Red Sea and God splits the water, so they can walk on dry ground. (Exodus 14)

• Jesus rose on the third day. (Luke 24)

• Healing the guard whose ear was cut off by Peter. (Luke 22:49-51)

 

Life isn’t always going to be easy, but God will come through! God’s plan is perfect. God’s timing is perfect. Our response has to be to trust him, just as Mary and Joseph did.

 

Questions for children:

• How do you think God reminds us He is here?

Through other people, especially your parents. The Bible. The Holy Spirit.

 

• Has there been a time that you know God reminded you? How?

 

• How will you respond to God the next time things are going your way? (Someone doesn’t treat you fairly or even lies about you?)

 

Questions for teens:

• Do you ever wonder about the things God does that you didn’t notice?

 

• When has God reminded you He is helping you?

 

• Do you expect God to come through for you?

 

• What is the worst that can happen to you?

Ultimately…Death.

 

• For the Christian, how is God victorious even in death?

Even in losing our own life, it means we will be with Him in heaven.

 

Since you are reading this, you aren’t dead. Look for God’s encouragement. Look for God working. Look for His reminders that He is still in charge. Mary and Joseph had no one else to turn to. They were completely dependent and desperate for God. This is usually when God shows up. When we know it can be no one else but Him who rescues us!

 

Prayer:

“God, help us see You at work. Help us to trust in You more. I believe You can help us, but help me really believe it! Help me to really trust You. Thanks for Your Word and how it shows us we can rely on You!”

 

The Power to Not Turn the Other Cheek {Encouragement for Young Men}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Teen Boys, Teen Guys

Somebody shared an interesting thought with me the other day. When we think of turning the other cheek, we, as young guys find that hard to accept. We think of it as weakness, and want to fight back. That’s just a passion within us that makes sense. But what if turning the other cheek shows more strength than it does weakness? What if it’s not as meaningful if the person who turns the other cheek IS weak?

Think about it. If a person doesn’t fight someone because they physically aren’t strong enough, is that any big deal? No, they don’t really have a choice. There’s no respect there. Picture however a tough, strong guy who is able to fight back, and someone slaps him on the cheek. Now he is able to fight back and could probably win against the jerk who is picking a fight. But instead he chooses not to. That demands more respect. That’s meaningful. He’s strong enough to fight back and win, and yet, he still chooses to hold himself back.

This is the very example Jesus gives us. When the soldiers were taking Him away to be crucified, we notice a couple things right off the bat. First of all, Jesus tells His disciples to go buy a sword. Don’t believe me? Look it up! (Luke 22:36) Why then a few hours later does He admonish Peter to put the sword back in his sheath when he cuts off Malchus’s ear? (John 18:10-11) The disciples ask Jesus if they should smite (Luke 22:49) with one of the two swords He told them was enough (Luke 22:38) and when Peter in an impassioned frenzy goes for the closest guy’s head (who ducks left, so that Peter accidentally lops off his right ear), Jesus tells him to put his sword back in his place, for all who take the sword will perish with the sword (Matthew 26:52). Then, to add incense to injury, Jesus touches the guy’s ear, and heals it! (Luke 22:51) Why wouldn’t Jesus let His disciples, who had a small ability to defend Him with their two swords use it? It was partially for their own safety (John 18:8-9), but there was also a deeper reason. He chose not to defend Himself. Look what He tells Peter after telling him to put away his sword: “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53) He then turns to the soldiers and upbraids them for their cowardice but says it must be this way to fulfill the scriptures (Mark 14:48-49). Jesus was communicating that if He wanted to, He could stop what was happening. We know He had power because when all He did was say “I am after the soldiers said they were looking for Jesus, they all fell backwards (John 18:4-6). He could have stopped them if He wanted to. He had the ability to defend Himself. What we see here is that nobody took His life from Him…He laid it down willingly (John 10:18). I’m glad for that. It means the Jesus I serve isn’t the weak, sissified Jesus some would make Him out to be. He is strong and mighty and powerful. So strong that He was able to lay down His life to save us.

So when you see the command to turn the other cheek, know that it doesn’t mean you’re supposed to keep yourself weak and not get strong enough to defend righteousness, your family, the weak, the underprivileged and helpless. It’s not a command for the weak. It takes strength to do what Jesus did and not hot headedly defend your own pride. It means so much more when you willingly turn the other cheek when you have the ability not to.

 

How does this change the way that you think about Jesus and His life on earth?

How can you apply this concept in your own life?  

Have you ever found yourself going between the two extremes of hotheadedness and irresponsibility?

What are ways that you can strengthen yourself, spiritually and physically?

Can you think of a time in which you showed greater strength in holding back rather than exacting vengeance?

Plant that Seedling TODAY! {Encouragement for Moms}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Moms

When we moved into our home, almost thirteen years ago, the landscaping was slight to say the least. Our neighbor across the street had planted an oak tree in honor of their son who was born a year prior. As I glanced across the way and saw the fledgling little tree, the thought occurred to me that we should plant a tree in our vacant front yard. After all, I love trees. As I child, I spent long hours climbing trees and lingering in their limbs daydreaming and enjoying the glorious outdoors. But, I never got around to it. No one would be able to climb in it for years and the thought was just too depressing. I wanted a big climbing tree NOW!
Over a decade later, our neighbors have a beautiful oak tree offering shade and lofty limbs to climb. Our house, however, still has just grass. What a missed opportunity! As it turns out, we moved into a home surrounded by climbing trees, but we don’t always get that second chance, especially when it comes to growing mature Christ followers.

As parents, we desire to impress the Word on our children. We see the value of developing character and appreciate grown children who were trained, equipped and strengthened spiritually, emotionally, physically and intellectually. They make great company! We want that product, but do we have the patience to plant the seed, water it, tend to it, prune it, etc. until it is fully mature? Life gets in the way. We put off the training, discussing and reading of the Word for another day. Before you know it, time has slipped away and despairingly we reaped what we sowed. Don’t delay! Don’t let the business of life prevent you from having meaningful conversations with your children about faith matters. Take the time and invest the energy today! Someday, when you are resting in the arms of that fully mature child, you can relish the children and grandchildren as they call you blessed!

“She shall rejoice in time to come….Her children rise up and call her blessed. Her husband also, and he praises her.” (Proverbs 31:25b , Proverbs 31:28)

What have you been putting off doing with your children to develop them spiritually?
What can you commit to doing consistently to nurture the growth of your child’s faith?
When will you start, what time? Tell someone else about your plan and ask them to hold you accountable. Don’t wait another day! Every day is a day of potential growth!

Kingdom of God: What and Where? {Encouragement for Young Men}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Teen Boys

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word “kingdom”?

 

Maybe you imagine a fairy-tale kingdom…a castle with a long drawbridge, and turrets all around.  With a princess high up in a tower (because they always seem to hang around in those things for some reason), a king and queen seated on their thrones with courtiers and jesters attending to them, and knights just outside trotting around on horses.  Or maybe you’re into a little more ancient historical events and picture cruel Assyria, advancing their kingdom by whatever means necessary, piling up the skulls of their enemies by their gates.  Or perhaps Babylon or Persia, with its funny-looking towers with tear-dropped shaped tops.  Or maybe you see Alexander the Great weeping because there’s nothing left to conquer, or see Augustus Caesar ascending to the throne after Julius Caesar was murdered.  Or maybe you see something from Lord of the Rings or Star Wars or imagine the current United Kingdom, I don’t know.

 

In light of all these kingdoms, let me give you my own definition for kingdom.

KINGDOM – Wherever a king has domain.  The place where a king’s authority is in place and the people are subject to him and his laws.

 

In light of all that, did you know the Bible speaks of a kingdom not ruled by man…but God.  The kingdom of God.  In fact, in the book of Daniel, the king of Babylon has a dream of the kingdoms I mentioned above, and when the prophet Daniel interprets it, he explains about another kingdom…the kingdom of God…that will supersede all of these kingdoms!

Daniel 2:44  And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. 

 

That sound pretty sweet!  The God of heaven sets up a kingdom that will NEVER be destroyed!  I kind of want to be on His side!  So when does this kingdom come about?  Let’s fast forward in time to when the Romans were ruling, and Jesus has been born.  In the midst of all this chaos of the Roman empire ruling the Jews, all of a sudden, a carpenter from Nazareth shows up on the scene and begins to preach about a kingdom.

Mark 1:14-15 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, (15) And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel. KJV

The Bible says He came in preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand!

Whaaaa?  What is he talking about?  Is it about to come?  Where is it?  Is He leading it?  That’s the exact question some of the Pharisees had.

Luke 17:20-21  And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: (21) Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. KJV

 

Jesus was saying the kingdom of God was already here, and that it did not come with observation, where you can just point to a central location, because it is WITHIN you.  Now before you get all disappointed with what may sound like a cop-out answer, think of how brilliant this is.  God doesn’t just conquer lands and forcefully subject people to His rule at this time.  Instead, He has set up a kingdom that can never be destroyed and has been spread out throughout the entire world already as I’m writing this, filled with pockets of people who are subject to Him!

Remember my definition of a kingdom?  It’s wherever a king has authority and people subject to Him.

We choose whether or not we are going to be a part of this kingdom right now.  Jesus told us how:  Repent and believe the gospel.  That makes perfect sense.  Repentance is changing our mindset about how we live.  It’s acknowledging that my way isn’t right, so I’m going to submit to God’s way.  It’s acknowledging Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, meaning that WHATEVER HE says, goes.  No matter what earthly government we are under at the time, are chief loyalty is to our Highest King!

 

What about you?  Are you part of the kingdom of God as is described here, with the King of Kings having ultimate rule in your heart?

Is there anything in your life that is NOT subject to your King?

Discuss Biblically how we become part of the kingdom and how we can tell others to join the kingdom.

 

Waiting {Encouragement for Teen Girls}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Teen Girls

Waiting is so hard.  It could be be waiting for that adorable dress to go on sale, it could be waiting for that avocado to ripen (guacamole, anyone?),  it could be waiting for that phone call, a difficult relationship that you’ve been working hard to reconcile, it could be a dream you’ve held forever…whatever it is, no level of waiting is easier than another.

 

I’m stubborn.  I’m a hard nose.  I’m willing to work hard for what I want–even if it kills me.  I don’t care.  I want it, I’m willing to do what it takes to get it.  I don’t care about the pain.  The blood.  The sweat.  The tears.  Bring it on–as long as I get what I want in the end.

 

But that’s not the way that God always works.

 

He does not ask me to practically kill myself for what I want.  He doesn’t want sacrifice, it doesn’t matter how much blood, sweat, or tears I shed–trying to show Him how badly I want something.  He wants obedience.


“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,”

~from 1 Samuel 15:22

 

Sometimes I forget that what want is not necessarily what God wants for me.  Or, if it is something that I believe is within His will, I forget that He is not always working within the time schedule that I want things to occur.

 

“Come on, God!  It’s time for this to happen now!”  I point to my watch, tap my toe.

 

Amy, are you being faithful where I have you right now? 


But Lord, I have been!  And I keep trying, isn’t it time that everything pays off now???

 

Amy, trust Me.  Wait.  Wait upon the Lord.  Remain faithful.


I am reminded of the scene in the movie Fireproof.  Even now, as I write this post, I am blasting the song “While I’m Waiting” by John Waller through ear buds.  So good.

 

Anyway, the scene with the montage showing Caleb, how while he is waiting for the Lord to work he is simply being obedient.  No matter what the outcome appears to be, he does not waver in that which he believes the Lord has called him to.  He just waits.  He keeps pressing in on the commands of the Lord.  He waits.  He remains faithful.  Even if it means forever.

 

Even if it means waiting for eternity.

 

“Let us not become weary in doing good,

 for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

~Galatians 6:9

 

“At the proper time”–in God’s time.  Even if it means til eternity.

 

God’s timing is always best.  He is omniscient.  He knows the desires of your heart, He will not withhold good things from you, but He will protect you.  And because He is supreme, His will comes before yours.  Is His will first and foremost in your heart?

 

“Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him,

On those who hope for His lovingkindness,

To deliver their soul from death

And to keep them alive in famine.

Our soul waits for the Lord;

He is our help and our shield.

For our heart rejoices in Him,

Because we trust in His holy name.

Let Your lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us,

According as we have hoped in You.

~Psalm 33:18-22

 

What are you waiting for?  

How can you serve the Lord while you wait?  

Talk to God about the things on your heart that you are waiting for.  Are they from Him?  Give them up to Him, trust in His holy name, and bask in His peace as He carries them for you–and be faithful wherever He calls you in the meantime.

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