Daily Devotional

The Kairos Has Come

 “The time (kairos) has come,” Jesus said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15

Jesus starts his ministry with a clear articulation of how spiritual growth happens. First he invites us to recognize the kairos moment. The other Greek word for time, chronos, means the measurable ticking of elapsed time; the Greek word for time Jesus uses in Mark 1:15 is kairos, which means the kind of time that is pregnant with meaning and that gives purpose to life. Jesus wants us to see life through the lens of kairos - that each day is an opportunity to perceive God at work and to join him in the renewal of this world.

Notice the invitation to step into kairos: to repent and believe. Repenting essentially means to change your perspective - to reflect on a circumstance and to start to see it God's way instead of your way. 'Believe' in the Gospel of Mark is ALWAYS an active verb, meaning to step into following Jesus with your mind, heart, soul, and body. 

City Church uses the Learning Circle (below) to represent this process of recognizing the kairos moments in our lives and then growing through them by reflecting on what God is saying and responding to him. Is there a kairos moment in your life from the past week you could take around the Learning Circle in order to move forward in your spiritual life?

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Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this. 2 Timothy 2:7

Paul writes these words to Timothy, encouraging Timothy to ponder the insights that Paul is giving him about what it looks like to follow Jesus. I suspect these are the sorts of words that Jesus would say to each of us regularly, probably every day. Listen for what I'm saying to you... ponder, reflect, and discern what it is that I want for you!

On Sunday we talked about the Learning Circle (below) as a way to symbolize the two questions that help us grow spiritually: 1) What is God saying to me? 2) How am I going to respond?

In the verse today, Paul's leaning on Timothy to do the first half of the learning circle: to really listen, discern, and reflect on God's word to him so that he can answer that first question clearly. So how about you - what is God trying to get through to you? If you had to put it into words, what would you say that God is saying to you these days?

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Always At Work

Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working... Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does." John 5:17, 19

Jesus walked through this world holding in his heart the baseline assumption that his Heavenly Father was at work, always and everywhere. Jesus practiced a life of full awareness, attuned to his Father's presence and activity. He was so well-versed at it that he could say that he literally did nothing without first sensing what his Father was up to and then joining in with Him.

The goal of the Christian is "to live as Jesus did" (1 John 2:6) - which means cultivating that awareness of the Father's presence and activity all day long. Take some time this day to ask God to open your eyes and to open your ears to what the Father is saying to you and to where the Father is leading you. And pray for the courage to join him in what he's up to.

How Aware Are You?

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” - Genesis 28:16

Jacob woke up a different man than he was when he went to bed. In the night God spoke to him and in the morning Jacob had a stunning realization. Namely, that he was on holy ground. That God wasn’t just out there somewhere but was right up close and personal. 

That’s the difference of being aware. How aware are you of God's closeness? Ponder these two questions - and what the answers point to in regards to your relationship with God:

  1. When are the times you are most aware of Gods presence?
  2. When are the times when you are least aware of God’s presence?
It's Not About You

So many times we can only think about ourselves, but Jesus sees that true life is so much bigger. As you read the following passage today, let Jesus’s words sink in. What stands out to you? How is he speaking to you in this passage? How might you respond?

Jesus told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

       - Luke 12:15-21

Freely, Freely

Freely you have received, freely give. 
 - Jesus, in Matthew 10:8

Jesus gives this nice, neat summary of how to live the Christian life, and it's all grace. It's grace to receive God's favor without having to earn it or prove yourself. Then you pass it on to others. 

Henri Nouwen, the wonderful monk and author, put it this way:

Ministry is the least important thing. You cannot not minister if you are in communion with God and live in community.  A lot of people are always concerned about: "How can I help people? Or help the youth come to Christ? Or preach well?"  But these are all basically non-issues.  If you are burning with the love of Jesus, don't worry; everyone will know.  They will say, "I want to get so close to this person who is so full of God."  

Take some time today and ponder whether you're trying to do all these good religious things out of your own strength or as an overflow of the grace that's been given you.

Those To Whom Much Is Given...

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Luke 12:48

We didn't ask our newborn babies to do household chores. But as the kids grew, well, so did their responsibilities. As they grew they graduated from picking up their toys to cleaning the kitchen and even making dinner sometimes. Now we call it adulting - doing things that adults do. That's because we want our kids to grow up to be responsible adults.

Jesus knows that you won't keep growing into maturity if you don't give back. It's just how life works. All that blessing he's poured into you, all that personal growth you've gone through - it will stall out and you'll plateau if you don't start giving it away to others. 

What are the barriers you see inside yourself to giving away your time, your money, your heart? Why do you think Jesus keeps asking for more?

Blessed To Be a Blessing

May God be gracious to us and bless us
    and make his face shine on us—
so that your ways may be known on earth,
    your salvation among all nations.  Psalm 67:1-2

The Psalms are the prayers of God's people, written down for us to pray ourselves and to use as guidelines for prayer.  Isn't interesting that the scripture tell us here to freely ask God for blessing? I find it helpful to read in the bible that it's not just ok, but it's encouraged to ask God for his blessing.

Of course, that's not where the blessing stops. The prayer continues on with a 'so that' - which is a purpose statement. The prayer is so that our blessing would overflow into blessings for all nations (just like God said to Jacob in the vision in Genesis 28:10-15).

Take some time today to ask God to bless you. Take some time to ask God to pour his blessing through you to others today.

Sometimes God Shows Up...

"Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord."

Genesis 28:10-13

Sometimes God shows up in the least expected of places. As Jacob is fleeing for his life, running away from his dysfunctional family, God shows up and gives him an enormous vision for his future and the future of the world. Jacob was probably more interested in God providing some food for the next day or safe passage through the desert - after all, he didn’t have even enough clothes with him to roll up into a pillow. But God told him about his offspring covering the earth and being a blessing to every nation.

This is not unlike how God showed up in a cow barn two thousand years ago, but this time not in a vision but in person. When Mary and Joseph probably just wanted God to provide them with a bed, instead they got God’s own Son, in the flesh… and a flock of angels, some shepherds, and a few foreigners who were the ’spiritual seeker' type. 

Perhaps God is interested in showing up in your life today - your ordinary life, your crisis-filled life, your dysfunctional family life, your “I need a new job” life. And, instead of giving immediate answers to those situations, perhaps God is more interested in reminding you that you are part of his enormous story and that you have an important part to play in it regardless of present circumstances. Take some time to listen for him today.

Passing on the Blessing

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! Philippians 4:1

You are my joy and my crown. 

This week in our devotions we've been talking about receiving God‘s blessing and favor which is given to us solely because he delights in us. Today let’s think about how to pass that on to someone else.

It can sound a little bit strange to hear how Paul talks to his friends. He calls them his 'joy and crown.' He’s obviously very happy with them and very proud of them. 

Are there people that you could speak to with such words of affirmation, affection and kindness? Take a few minutes today to think about God‘s care for you and how you might share that with others.

The Father's Blessing

Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” - Mark 1:10-11 

This is the blessing that God the Father gave to Jesus the Son. It's all about love and delight (the phrase "with you I am well-pleased" is translated elsewhere in the bible as "I delight in you").The Father gave it to Jesus before Jesus had done any ministry, healed the masses, or taught any great sermons. The Father gave it to Jesus simply because he loved him and delighted in him.

Did you know that you are the recipient of this blessing from the Father? Yes, YOU! When we invite Christ into our lives, the bible refers to us as being 'in Christ,' which means that everything that belongs to him is now ours. That includes the divine favor and delight contained in the blessing above. 

Would you take a few minutes and open yourself up to God's love and delight? It can actually take a lot of effort to receive a blessing. Do that now! Say that that verse above to yourself several times until it starts to sink in.


Who Smiles On You?

The Lord bless you
    and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.

       - Numbers 6:23-25

Every time I give my youngest Goddaughter (Zoe) a goodnight hug I whisper in her ear, "Do you know what God does when he looks at you?" By now she's figured out the proper response, so she whispers it back: "He smiles!"

That's what this verse is saying. It's a prayer of blessing, inviting God to smile on people. Isn't that what "make his face shine on you" means? 

Smiling on you means that God is not just putting up with you, not just okay with you, but positively delighting in you! Just like Jesus pronouncing blessings on the little children who came to him, delighting in them.

So do you experience God's smile? Take some time today to ponder God smiling on you.

Giving The Blessing

This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

‘“The Lord bless you
    and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.”’

        - Numbers 6:23-26

This passage from the Old Testament is the blessing that God taught his people to pronounce over each other. We're going to look at this blessing a couple of different ways the rest of this week.

There are three different pairs of lines - what does each mean to you? Take a few minutes and write down your thoughts.

Think about what would it mean to you to have someone bless you like that with earnestness and love.

Think about what it would mean to someone else to have you bless them like that with earnestness and love.

What is God saying for you to do with these reflections today?

(Note: at the Ash Wednesday reflection time on Wed Feb 14th from 6-8pm at Bill and Katy's house there will be a time of blessing)


God's Economy

Isaac answered Esau, “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?” Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud. - Genesis 37:37-38

After Jacob snuck in an got Isaac's final blessing, Esau goes to his father and asks to be blessed. But Isaac's understanding of blessing limits him. From the vantage point of his culture, he only has ONE blessing to give - clearly not enough to bless his TWO children. Esau gets left out.

Like Isaac, so many times the ways our family has treated us limit our ability to encourage, bless, and build up others. We feel we have such limited resources or in our misdirected ways try to make others live up to a certain standard in order to earn our encouragement. 

If there's one thing the bible is clear about, it's that God's generous, unending love has no limits and cannot be earned. That's why it uses the word grace so much - it's without condition and without limit. 

Where do you need to experience grace for yourself today? Who in your life needs to experience grace from you? (now step into the reality that the answers to those two questions invites you into!).

A New Kind of Family Tradition

While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:46-50

As we've seen all week, families pass down blessings and curses to the generations that follow them. As we looked at yesterday in 1 Peter 1:18-19, Jesus redeems us from the sin that gets passed to us. But he does so much more. He makes us his own family.

Jesus is radically welcoming of those who are looking for a place to belong and who want to receive the blessing and not to live under the curse. Regardless of your moral history, your family background, your weaknesses, sins, and brokenness, Jesus says this about you: I am not ashamed to call you my brother; I am not ashamed to call you my sister (see Hebrews 2:11)

So take a moment today and imagine him speaking to YOU as you sit with him - imagine him calling you mother, sister, brother, friend, child. 


Rescued from the Generational Curse

You were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, with the precious blood of Christ. 1 Peter 1:18-19

All week we've been looking at how the Bible teaches that a lot of the garbage in our lives is there because it has been passed down to us from our families. It also teaches that it's still our responsibility to deal with it.

Today's verse shows why people say that Jesus brought good news. When we feel stuck in the bad habits, hang ups, and hurts of our past, there is a way out. That's why he's called The Way after all! (see John 14:6

Go to Jesus, the one who is The Way Out of feeling trapped, the one who is The Way Towards healing, the one who is The Way Back to your heavenly Father's open arms. Invite Jesus into those areas of your life where you cannot seem to break away from the sin passed down to you. He promises that he will rescue you!

Explanation, Not Excuse

The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. Ezekiel 18:20

Our Passage today is really interesting compared to yesterday’s in Exodus 20:5-6. In that passage God talked about how blessings and curses flow down family lines. Today, the emphasis is on how we are each responsible for our own choices. 

What if those two passages are not a contrast, but a complement? Together, they give an explanation but not an excuse. Think of it this way: in Exodus God is helping explain why we have so many impulses towards bad behavior and in Ezekiel he's reminding us that we're able to choose what is good (and responsible to do so!).

While it would be really nice to be able to blame your parents for your faults, but that helps no one. The only way to grow is to take responsibility for your own actions.

Take some time today to confess your responsibility in how you have acted poorly and resolve, with God’s help, to make a change for good.

The Power of Family

I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousandgenerations of those who love me and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:5-6

I've always felt uneasy about this passage. Is it really fair that kids get punished for the sin of their parents? 

We can debate whether God's approach here is right or wrong, but what we can't debate is whether it's reality or not. Families have power. Parents shape kids; we've all experienced this. And even when we try not to be like our parents in some way that irritated us as children, as adults we often find ourselves drawn back into the same patterns of behavior they modeled for us.

Back in Genesis 12 God promised to use Abraham's family to be a blessing to the entire world. That meant that God needed to empower the family for such a huge task. I suspect that's why families are so powerful, because God designed them to carry so much blessing. But the flip side is that they can also bring a lot of damage. Talk with God today about the ways you've seen the older generation in your family bring hurt and/or blessing to the younger generation.

Facing the Generational Curse

When the men of that place asked Isaac about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.” Genesis 26:17

This is not a pretty moment for Isaac. As we heard in the message yesterday, Isaac cares more for his own safety than for his wife, but he comes by that disposition naturally. His father, Abraham, did the exact same thing... twice! (see Genesis 12:10-16 and also Genesis 20:1-2). Isaac treated his wife just as poorly as his dad treated his mom.

Whether you use the religious word 'sin' or the psychological word 'dysfunction' or the common word 'brokenness,' the issues are the same: we inherit a lot of bad stuff from our families. So take some time and see if you can you draw some connections between some of your poor choices to similar bad patterns in your family. As you ponder these things, hold them before the Lord. 

In the devotions this week we'll be looking at other scriptures that will help us know what to do with those 'generational curses' that have been passed down to us.

Maybe Being Satisfied Isn't What's Best

When I fed them, they were satisfied;
    when they were satisfied, they became proud;
    then they forgot me.
            - Hosea 13:6

This week we've been looking at how, like Jacob and Esau (Gen 25), we can miss seeing our place in God's big story. They got caught up in sibling rivalry and family drama. Other times, it's simple distractions or busyness. Today's verse reminds us that sometimes getting what we want is a recipe for disaster by diminishing our reliance on God.

Israel often cycled through seasons of hardship, then calling out to God for help, then deliverance, then forgetting God, then back to a season of hardship - and on and on and on. Do you see this cycle in your own life (if so, at which point are you right now?)? What happens when you get what you pray for - does it diminish your desire to pray? How often, when things are going well, do you forget God? Talk with God about these things today, remembering that Jesus wants to be with you always - whether circumstances are good or bad!