New Year’s Resolution: Focus on God’s Kingdom

NY resolution

Luke 12:22-34

22And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

32“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.


Tomorrow marks the start of a new year. Are you worried about anything? There are so many variables to think about. If we’re honest, we don’t have a lot of control over anything.

That’s what this passage is about. Jesus is saying: “yes, there is a lot to worry about, but is that going to change anything?” Instead, Jesus asks us to put our faith in God: “Seek first His Kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” Every day, we can either worry about the things of this world or we can trust God, who is in control of everything.

Thought for Today: The antidote for worry is to focus on to the Kingdom of God. To do that, we invest in other people. We tell others about the hope we’ve found in Jesus and we provide for the needs we see in our community. When we do that, fear is dispelled, God provides what we need, and we store up a spiritual significance that will last for eternity.

What are you going to do in 2018 to focus on God’s kingdom?

Today’s Prayer: Jesus, may we be all about advancing Your kingdom. Help us to rest in You as we invest in others and may You be glorified above all else. Amen!

What Area of Your Life Needs Resurrection?

resurrection
Luke 8:49–56
49While he was still speaking, someone from the ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” 50But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” 51And when he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. 52And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” 53And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” 55And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat. 56And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.

At some point in time, we’ve all felt a feeling of hopelessness. Whether it’s struggles in a relationship, a life-changing diagnosis, financial fallout, or any of life’s other curveballs, we’ve had moments where we felt like there was nothing we could do to change or fix our situation.
As the new year approaches, it’s common to focus our efforts on developing resolutions. From fitness and finances, to bucket lists and career changes, we make goals based on areas of our lives that we desire change. However, there are things in our lives that we view as impossible to change.
  • How can we resurrect our marriage?
  • How can I find victory over this habit or addiction?
  • How can I get over the hurts of my past?
The passage from today is incredibly powerful and encouraging. In the verses leading up to this part of the story, Jesus had already been made aware that the little girl was ill. On His way to see her, He was met with others who had needs. In the time that Jesus stopped to care for those on His way, the little girl passed away.
Imagine the heartbreak and frustration that the father, Jairus, must have felt! If Jesus would have simply headed directly to his house, and not stopped to serve others, the little girl might have had a chance at living.
When the news broke of her death, Jairus was understandably devastated. How could God let this happen? Behind the scenes, Jesus had a plan—and through it, not only would the girl receive healing, but her father would also learn a valuable lesson about God’s plan, love, and control.
When hope feels lost, and it’s hard to believe anything can get better, we have to remember that all things are possible with Jesus. There’s no physical ailment, financial blunder, or failure too big for Him. The answer might not come in the form or time we expect it, but God has a powerful plan for all of us—for our good, and His glory.
Thought for Today: Is there an area of your life that needs a resurrection in 2018?
What do you feel like Jesus is teaching you through the pain and fear caused by that situation? What steps can you take to fully trust Jesus with that situation?
Today’s Prayer: Lord, thanks for loving me in spite of the areas of my life that need work. With a new year approaching, help me experience new life in the areas I need it the most. Give me the wisdom and grit to take the necessary steps to give you the most room to work in my life. May 2018 be the year that I experience life to the full. Amen.

Are You Connecting With God?

connecting

Luke 8:4-8

4While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: 5“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. 6Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”

When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”


Finding yourself in an area with little or no cell phone coverage can be super frustrating. Desperate to connect, we stretch our phones to the sky, move around the room, and resort to holding our phones against the car roof. We’ll try just about anything if there’s a chance of getting just one bar!  

When it comes to connecting with and hearing from God, are we as desperate? In the above parable, there are four types of soil described that represent the four ways a person receives and hears God’s word. At times, any one of us can fall into one of these four categories:

The Hardened Path

If you find yourself in a place where you feel like God’s word goes in one ear and out other, ask yourself this question: Are you more open or resistant to hearing God’s word in every area of your life? If you’re resistant, what’s holding you back from trusting in God and His word?

Rocky/Shallow Ground

When your relationship with God becomes more about how you “feel” rather than trusting in who God is, His unfailing love, and His faithfulness, your faith is in jeopardy of being swept away by the winds of emotion. It’s difficult to hear good news when you’re overwhelmed with anger, sadness, infatuation, selfishness, or fear. If you find that your emotions are getting in the way of hearing God, meditate often on this scripture until you believe and receive it to be true:

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments” (Deuteronomy 7:9).

The Weeds

Life has a tendency to produce a crop of distractions that act a lot like thorny weeds. Work, hobbies, social media, people pleasing, success, or coffee are not inherently bad or evil things, but when we value them as more important than God, these distractions will choke out our ability to fully see God’s plan and purpose for our life. Try asking yourself the these two questions:

  • When you need comfort, who or what do you turn to first? (Coffee, drugs, a friend or spouse?)
  • Where do you derive your value and worth from? (Work, affirmation from people, perceived success?)

If your answer to the above questions was anything other than God, there is a good chance that there is a distraction in your life that needs to plucked out like a weed.

The Good Soil

When we are open to hearing God’s word in every area of our lives, full of faith and void of distractions, we will deepen our relationship with Jesus in a way that yields amazing results beyond our wildest imagination.

Today’s Prayer: God, thank you for your word that guides me to know you more. Jesus, help me to limit the things that distract me from you. Give me ears to hear as I choose to open my heart and mind to your voice. Amen.

How Jesus Can Calm Your Storms

storms

Luke 8:22-25

22One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, 23and as they sailed, he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. 24And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was calm. 25He said to them, “Where is your faith?”And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”


 Jesus calms storms! Isn’t that amazing? Not only does Jesus have control over the natural elements, the wind and water, but Jesus can also quiet the storms in our lives.  Sometimes Jesus calms the storms before they get too big, but other times He guides us through the storms.  But no matter the storms, He is right there with us.

For many people, the Christmas season is filled with joy, laughter, and other positive feelings. For others, this season is filled with loss, pain, and storms. Look at Jesus’ words found in John 16:33: “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.”

 Jesus is more significant than our storms and the troubles we go through in this life, and because of this, we can “fear not.”

Today’s Prayer: Jesus, please help me see you in the midst of my storms and help me reach out to you. I also pray that I will still see you when things are going well so I don’t think I can do everything on my own. Thank you that you are with me, no matter what.

Why Jesus’ Birth is More Than a Celebration

celebration

Luke 2:1-7

1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to their own town to register.

4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.


Today we celebrate the day that divided history. Thousands of years of planning, preparing, and proclaiming the coming Savior had come to fruition. You would think with so much planning the day would be full of ceremonies, parades, and fanfare. But that’s not what Christmas is about.

Christmas has always been about humility. No matter how much we dress up the day, nothing would do justice to the majesty that God deserves. In great humility, God took on flesh. Being placed in a manger was just the exclamation point! But then God took it even further, providing an example to all who would follow Him.

Take a moment to reflect on Paul’s words in Philippians 2:

5In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Today’s Prayer: Jesus, thank you for your incredible humility. Thank you for giving up so much that I might gain so much. Help me to follow your example of humility so that others might be drawn to you through me. I love you. Amen.

What Life Challenges Are You Pushing Through Today?

challenges

Luke 1:76-79

76And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;

   for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,

77to give his people the knowledge of salvation

   through the forgiveness of their sins,

78because of the tender mercy of our God,

   by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven

79to shine on those living in darkness

   and in the shadow of death,

to guide our feet into the path of peace.


As Zechariah concludes his prophecy regarding the coming Messiah, he turns his attention in these verses towards his son, John the Baptist. John had been called by God from his birth to pave the way for the arrival of Jesus the Messiah.

When John the Baptist shared the good news about the coming Christ, it was not popular with the the religious leaders of the day and his message was met much opposition. Despite being constantly challenged, John the Baptist’s faith in Jesus did not waver as he pushed past that challenges that were put before him.

Some of the most exciting moments in life don’t come without a challenge. For a married couple, perhaps it was nerve-racking to share their true feelings for one another when they first met, but it was certainly worth it!

Want to run a marathon? Maybe not today, but over time, all of that training will be well worth it when you cross finish line.

Helping people meet, know, and follow Jesus can feel a bit nerve-racking. Perhaps it even feels like something you need to train for! In reality, when you push past your nerves, the best and easiest thing you can do as a follower of Jesus is to invite someone to church.

You don’t have to be an expert Bible teacher or a smooth talker, you just need to be you! Once a person visits church, the rest is up to God and the various spiritual giftings that He has placed in the church.

John the Baptist reminds us that following Jesus isn’t always easy nor is it convenient. Making the time to invite someone to church might be inconvenient, and you may have to push past your nerves, but helping people meet, know, and follow Jesus is always worth it!  

Thought for Today: Who could you invite to Sun Valley’s upcoming Christmas services? Don’t just think about it—go do it! It will be worth it! Many will say yes, others might say maybe, and a few might say no, but one thing is for sure: Whoever you invite, they will feel thought of and cared for through your simple invitation.

Today’s Prayer: God, help me to help others meet, know, and follow you. I pray that you would intentionally put people in my path who I could invite to church. I pray that you would give me the courage to move past my anxious thoughts because I know that inviting people to meet you is so worth it!

 

Love God, Love People

love god

Luke 10:38-42

38As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”


One of the great challenges of being human is that we often lose sight of what matters most. Like a cat chasing a laser pointer, we get completely enthralled in vain pursuits. We get so focused on our plans, our agendas, and our expectations that we miss out on the things that truly matter.

100 years from now, the only things in your life that will matter are God and people. Same for 1,000 years and 10,000 years from now. In the above account, Jesus gently reminds Martha of this reality. You can almost hear the love and compassion in his voice when Jesus addresses his friend, “Martha, Martha…” Oh, sweet Martha. Don’t miss what life is all about: God and people.

In fact, eternal life according to Jesus is about knowing God. It’s all about relationships.

Christmas is here. This week will be full of plans, agendas, and expectations. But don’t lose sight of what truly matters. This week is about the gift of relationships. Relationship with God and relationships with others. Don’t miss it.

Thought for Today: Is there somebody in your life who would benefit from spending some time with Jesus this weekend? If you haven’t already, invite them to join you at one of our Christmas Eve services.

Today’s Prayer: Jesus, thank you for the gift of a restored relationship with you. Help me to not get so caught up in tasks that I forget about people. As I am reminded of your love this week help me to follow your example in how I love those you have placed in my life. Amen.