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Posts in Tony Cowans
Practically Thanksgiving

” 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” - Philippians 4:8-9

 

 

All week I have been telling you to change your filters. Changing your filters requires us to do something tangible. Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done. Also unfortunate is that Paul doesn’t give us straightforward instructions for doing this in these verses. He just says to put it into practice. However, the answer is here if we look closely.

Paul tells us to think about true, noble, right, and pure things. This is the answer! It has to do with how our minds work. On Monday we learned that negative things are sticky in our minds, while positive things are slippery. To change our filter, we must constantly flood our minds with the positive things, since they slip away so easy.

The best way to do this is to recognize gratitude. Being positive requires tangible practices of recognizing gratitude. In other words, we can change our filter by being thankful.

There is something about being thankful that sets our mind on a different course. It alters the filter in which we view the world and allows us to see the positive where we may have not been noticed. The more we practice gratitude to work on our filters, the more it fuels and transforms us so that we can give good things to the world and to each other.

Take a minute and think of three things that you are thankful for right now. For the rest of the day, every time you check the time, take just one second and remember one of the things you are thankful for. I bet you’ll find a big perspective shift as the day goes on.

Spend a few moments in prayer asking Jesus to help you be thankful. Ask Jesus to let those positive things gain some grip in your mind. Pray that your filters can change and be and encouragement and a benefit to those around you.

Looking in the Mirror

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

- Philippians 4:8 NIV

 

 

So we’ve talked about holding both the good and the bad in things and other people, but what about in yourself?

I think it is easy for us to go to either extremes with ourselves. We sometimes can feel like we are really great, while we suppress the bad parts about ourselves, or pretend they don’t exist. In the same way, we can look at too much of the bad within us, and forget all the good that is inside as well. I think this is, unfortunately, the more common issue. After all, we are our own harshest critics.

In fact, I think it may be easier to have good filters in which to view others than it is to have good filters for viewing ourselves. To see ourselves with balanced filters, we need to consider our identity. Each one of us is made in God’s image. That is a good thing that we should hold onto. Yet, we all have our “stuff.” You know what I’m talking about. It’s the stuff that we don’t want to address or even look at in ourselves. The good news is that this stuff doesn’t take away from the fact that we are in the image of God! So we hold our stuff, yet hold onto the good that is being made in God’s image.

So, here’s what I want you to do. Assess how you view yourself. Do you see yourself in a good light, or a bad light? Are you ignoring the bad stuff in you, or are you only identifying yourself based on your stuff? What would it look like to balance that out a little bit? To view the reality that there is a mix of good and bad in yourself, just like everyone else? How does Jesus play into your view of yourself?

Spend a few minutes in prayer, asking God to help shift your lens in how you view yourself. Pray that in your spiritual journey the good and the bad won’t dissuade you from seeking Jesus. Pray that Jesus will remind you of who He is, and what He did for you on the cross.

The Good, The Bad, and The Both

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

- Philippians 4:8 NIV

 

 

Same verse as yesterday, but a different angle. Yesterday we talked about seeing the good in bad in things. What about seeing the good and bad in people?

We sometimes have the tendency to let one aspect of a person, define that whole person. It is all too easy to take one action someone committed and stick them in a box that defines their whole being. Let’s say someone blatantly cuts you off in traffic. As you step on your brakes, you look ahead to them through your windshield and don’t even see a wave of apology or anything. What’s the deal?! What an awful person! So, we stick them in the “bad box” within our minds. That person is now considered to be bad.

Yet, are they really bad? So they cut you off. Perhaps it was a mistake, or maybe they were actually being a jerk. What we don’t get to see is all of the good things that person may do. They could be really nice. They could be kind, and smart, and lovely, and admirable, but do we give them a chance to show it?

In the same way, we can put people in our “good” box. We may see the good enough in someone that we idolize them in a way in which we ignore what faults they may have.

Either of these extremes can be dangerous. What Paul seems to be telling us to do is hold both the good and the bad of people, to not put people in either box. In some sense we are being called to take people where they are at.

Take a minute and think about people in your life that you may be placing into a “good” box or a “bad” box. What do you think it might look like for you to hold both the good and bad of that person?

Spend a few minutes in prayer asking God to help shift your filters. Pray that He will help us stay open to seeing many sides of people.

Do You See in Greyscale?

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” - Philippians 4:8 NIV

 

 

Are you viewing things in just black or just white?

In this passage, Paul is reminding us to look at the good aspects of things. Often times, it is easy for us to look at only the bad parts. In fact, these bad parts act sticky in our brains. The bad aspects of things stick and they are easier to think about and recall. The good aspects of things are slippery, like they have a non-stick coating. This is why we just naturally seem to remember the bad better.

However, Paul is telling us that we need to keep our minds constantly thinking of the good things. Since they don’t stick, we must habitually remind us of the good. We see that Paul is casting a pretty wide net here, using many different ways to describe “good.” Right, pure, lovely. These are all various angles in which to feel that something is good.

But… this does not mean we get to ignore the bad. In some cases,seeing the good means addressing the bad head on. If we isolate ourselves from seeing both the good AND bad of things, we miss out on the true picture.

Take a minute and think about something you feel you may be viewing only the black or the white of; only the good or the bad. What would it look like for you to hold onto both the good and bad at the same time?

Spend a few minutes in prayer asking God to help reveal areas in which you might be seeing only good or only the bad. Pray that the Spirit would guide you in opening your eyes to the varying good and bad aspects of the thing or things you are thinking about.

 

The R Word

“For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.” Galatians 5:6 - The Message

 

 

Are we letting our religion, or lack of religion, get in the way of Jesus?

In the stories about Jesus, we constantly see how the Pharisees let religion get in the way. All this week we have looked at the fact that our faith should be based on a relationship with Christ, not on a set of rules. This is hard for some of us that have had a church background in which following the rules was a main focus. Letting go of that has its challenges.

On the other hand, there are some of us that don’t care much for religion at all. We maybe spent some time with it and think its a load of… dirty diapers.

Well, in this passage, Paul is saying that either view of religion doesn’t matter. Whether you love rules, or hate religious systems, it does not matter. Our faith comes down to love. Paul says what matters is that our faith is expressed in love.

So, are you the type of person that loves the neat and clear cut structure of rules? Maybe it’s time to look where you are at and reorient yourself towards Christ as the center.

Maybe you are the type of person that doesn’t care for religion. That’s fine. But, is it keeping you from seeking Christ at all?

Wherever you are at in this, set all of that aside. Your religiousness is nothing. Jesus wants you to see Him. Jesus wants to be at the center of your heart and mind. Jesus doesn’t care what you think of religion. Jesus cares what you think of Him.

 

Take a few minutes and think about whether you feel you are leaning towards religiousness or a lack of it. What brought you to this point? How would it make you feel to let it go?

 

Now, take some time in prayer asking Jesus to help you reorient yourself so that He is at the center. Ask for strength and guidance as you seek Him today.

The Greatest Commandments: Part 2

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:28-31 NIV

 

 

How is your relationship with other people? Do you love your neighbor as yourself?

Loving others is definitely not always easy. As humans, we constantly fall short of treating each other well. You only have to turn on the news to see how true this is. Sure, we may find it easy to love our friends and family, but what about those people we always seem to clash with?

Jesus wants us to love those that are hard to love. In fact, this is one of the features that Scripture says should define us and followers of Jesus: that we would be known by our love. Everybody finds it easy to love people they like. Loving the difficult ones is where Jesus steps in.

We can too quickly treat loving people as another box to check on our list of “good things.” Loving people is about having a relationship with them, and Jesus can empower us to do this. It’s not our own strength that carries us, but the strength of Jesus that helps us to love people we don’t want to love.

This isn’t a guilt trip. I don’t want you to feel like a failure if you struggle with loving people. Recognizing the difficulty is the first step towards orienting yourself better towards Christ in this area of your life.

 

Think about some of the people you have trouble with loving like you love yourself.

Now spend some time in prayer with Jesus, asking him to help you love these people well. Pray that you will be further oriented towards Jesus, and that, as a result, you would imitate Him better. Pray those people you have difficulty with. Praying for them is an act of love in itself.

 

The Greatest Commandments: Part 1

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:28-31 NIV

 

Over the past couple of days, we saw that following Jesus is not about living by a set of rules, but about having a relationship with him. In the passage for today, we see the religious leaders trying to trap Jesus in his disregard for following the rules. Jesus knew exactly what they were doing, so He was prepared. He told them two commandments that are above all the other commandments: Love God and love your neighbor.

What is funny about these two commandments, or rules, is that they aren’t really rules. Both are forms of relationships. Jesus is saying what is most important is a relationship with God and a relationship with your neighbor. It all comes back to relationships and not rules!

So how are those two relationships doing in your life? How is your relationship with God? How is your relationship with people?

A relationship with God can be tough. It’s not like having a friendship with your good friend or a relative. You can’t just sit down across from Jesus at a table at Starbucks. Well… not exactly. You can certainly have a coffee at Starbucks and be with Jesus in that moment. In fact, any moment can be time spent with Jesus. That is the beauty of it! So what does a relationship with Jesus look like? Prayer, reading the Bible, and just sitting in silence and thinking about Jesus are all examples of having a relationship with Him.

As for loving others… let’s save that for tomorrow.

So, spend some time thinking about your relationship with God. What does is look like? How would you like it to improve?

Then, take a few minutes to pray to Jesus about your concerns and ask Him to draw you deeper into relationship with Him.

Law Person or God Person?

“What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man.” Galatians 2:19 - The Message

 

Who or what is at the center of your life?

I love the way Paul phrases his transformation in this passage. He quit being a law man so that he could be God’s man. I seems to me that Paul is admitting that following the rules used to be at the center of his life. In some ways, the rules became his god. Paul is saying, “enough with that.” Enough with having the rules as a god. The true God became his focus.

There is a unique blindness that Paul had, prior to his relationship in Christ. He says that he worked his head off at the rules in order to please God. What should have been his focus, God, was right in front of him, yet he made it hard for himself and tried to reach God through rules. He tried to please God, as if that was the only way he could have a relationship with God. Those rules were supposed to point us toward God, yet we enslave ourselves with them.

Do you ever feel like you need to please God in order to come to Him? I think it is in our nature to feel that way. We do it with people all the time. We sometimes feel like we need to please others in order for them to like us. Well, God is not like that. He wants people after His heart, not people after His rules.

Take a few moments and think about what things have been keeping you from reaching out to Jesus. Are any of your thoughts or actions telling you that you can’t come to Him?

Talk to Jesus about those things right now. Ask Him to free your minds from those imprisoning thoughts. Pray that nothing will keep you from your relationship with Jesus.

 

 

Jesus Rules Over the Rules

I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness. - Philippians 3:9 (The Message)

 

Do you ever get caught up in following rules? There is something in our nature that seems to draw us towards rules and regulations, especially when it comes to trying to be a “good person.”

In this passage for today, Paul is telling us there is a better way to be “good.” Paul didn’t want to be good, to be righteous, by completing some checklist. He found a better way in Jesus. Paul calls this God’s righteousness. See, Paul knows what it was like to try to follow rules and jump through hoops to be “good.” That was what his life was focused on before he knew Jesus. As a religious elite, following the rules became like a God to him. With Jesus, he knew all that effort was worthless.

Paul suggests for us to trust Christ. Well… trust Christ in what? It seems Paul is talking about trusting that Jesus and what He did for us on the cross. It was that act of love that makes God’s righteousness available to us all.

So it’s not about the rules. The rules that Paul is ditching were supposed to point people toward God, but the rules themselves became an idol. If Jesus is our focus, we don’t have to worry about earning our goodness. We inherit the goodness of Christ.

Take a few minutes and think about some ways you try to be “good” by your own effort. How has that worked out for you?

What would it look like for you to trust in Jesus, that His righteousness is extended to you?

Finally, spend a couple moments in prayer with Jesus to help reveal how you might be trying to follow rules in areas where you should be trusting in Jesus.

 

 

Jesus is Seeking You

9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” - Luke 19:9-10

 

Yesterday we saw that Zacchaeus offered to repair the damage he had done as a tax collector by repaying what he stole and giving his possessions to the poor. Today’s passage is Jesus response to the shock of the crowd and to Zacchaeus’ new generosity.

This response was that salvation has come to Zacchaeus’ house, but not for his works. Jesus said it has come because Zacchaeus is a son of Abraham. Jesus is adopting Zacchaeus into the family.

Then Jesus adds that He came to seek and save the lost. This defied some of the expectations people had for the messiah. The Jewish thought at the time was that the messiah would come and overthrow the government and take back the world by force. Yet, here Jesus is saying He came for those that are lost, those that would have been considered to be outside of God’s Kingdom. Jesus is here for people like Zacchaeus, who think they are on the outside and must earn their way to God.

Have you ever felt beyond God’s reach, like you are too far on the outside? Jesus came for you. Whether you are a religious person, or someone who feels too messed up, He came for you. He is seeking you and wants to know you.

Take a few moments and think about how it makes you feel to know that Jesus is seeking you, no matter where you are.

Then, spend some time in prayer, asking God to help break down whatever mental barriers are keeping you from deeper relationship with Him.

Just As We Are

8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

- Luke 19:8

 

We are going to continue on with the story of Zacchaeus today. Zacchaeus, a disliked tax collector, climbed a tree to get a better look at Jesus. Jesus called him down from the tree and said he would be over for dinner that night. The crowd around them was shocked at this. Jesus was Jewish and Zacchaeus was a disgusting tax collector! They shouldn’t be associating with each other. Zacchaeus responded with what we find in our passage for today. He decided to give to the poor and to repay people that he cheated in collecting taxes.

What Zacchaeus did was a great thing. He sought to repair the damage he had done to people. Yet, it seems like he might have been hoping that by doing these good works, that is what would make him worthy to be with Jesus. Looking to Zacchaeus though, Jesus responded to his seeking before Zacchaeus decided to do good works. Jesus didn’t need Zacchaeus’ works to connect with him. Jesus just wanted Zacchaeus how he was right then and there.

Jesus doesn’t need us to fix ourselves up or repair the damage we have done to others before seeking Him. We don’t need our ducks in a row to connect with Jesus. He wants us to seek Him just as we are right now!

Spend a few moments in reflection thinking on how you might be trying to earn your relationship with Jesus.

Now pray for a bit, asking God to remind you throughout your day to seek Him first, and not to worry about earning His love. Pray that further areas where you are trying to earn Jesus’ love would be revealed to you.

The Carpenter That Tears Down Walls

5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

-Luke 19:5-7

We're continuing on with our story of Zacchaeus. When Jesus got to the tree Zacchaeus was in, he called him down and told him that he was staying it Zacchaeus' house. All the people saw this and were shocked that Jesus was going to be the guest of a sinner.

In this first century culture, this would be absolutely outrageous. Jewish people didn’t associate with sinners. In this situation, there was judgment from the crowd on both Jesus and Zacchaeus. Jesus was judged because he was not only associating with a sinner, but staying in the house of one. Zacchaeus was judged because of who he was, a tax collector. Tax collectors were known for overcharging people for taxes and pocketing the money.

From the outside, Jesus and Zacchaeus were judged and looked down upon. However, between Jesus and Zacchaeus there was something interesting happening. The barriers that were supposed to keep them apart didn’t matter. Zacchaeus was having a Jewish person as a guest and Jesus was associating with a tax collector. When it comes to Jesus some of the barriers we have put up between ourselves and others become unimportant.

We all put up barriers against people that are different than us. Most of the time we feel like it is to protect ourselves. The Jewish people stayed away from those they considered to be sinners in an effort to keep them pure from sin. They were trying to protect themselves. What Jesus is showing us here is that the time for barriers is over. Jesus is calling us to reach out to those we like, those that make us comfortable, those that make us uncomfortable, and even those that we don’t like.

Take a few moments of quiet reflection to examine if you have been putting up barriers between you and others. What would it look like to imitate Jesus and start to lower those barriers?

Spend some time in prayer, asking God to reveal some of those barriers and for help in tearing them down. Pray for the Spirit to guide you in the ways of Jesus.

It's You in That Tree

1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. - Luke 19:1-4

Yes, this is the same Scripture passage from yesterday’s devotion. However, yesterday we were looking from the perspective of someone watching Zacchaeus. Today, were going to look at this passage as if we are Zacchaeus.

In our passage, Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus so bad that he ran ahead of the crowd and climbed a tree so that he could see Him. Zacchaeus had a desire to see Jesus, and didn’t let himself get in the way. He knew that people did not like him because he was a tax collector. Yesterday we learned that most people hated tax collectors because they basically stole from people through overcharging on taxes. Despite knowing that he was hated, Zacchaeus wanted to connect with Jesus. What he has done did not stop him from seeking Jesus.

Are you holding yourself back from seeking Jesus? Have you done things that you think make you unworthy to seek Christ?

Read through the passage again and imagine yourself in Zacchaeus’ sandals. Despite what you have done in the past, you are worthy to seek Jesus. Now pray that God will remind you throughout the day that you are worthy to seek Him. Sit with God for a minute in this time of prayer with the knowledge that He desires you to find Him.

So, who is in that tree?

1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. - Luke 19:1-4

At church yesterday, we heard this story about Zacchaeus climbing the tree to see Jesus. Scripture describes him as a wealthy tax collector. Alright... so what? Well, in the time of Jesus,  outing Zacchaeus as a tax collector was marking him as someone people didn't like. The people who first read Luke's gospel probably made a face of disgust when they saw Zacchaeus was a tax collector. In those times people like him would collect taxes, but often add on a little more than necessary to line their own pockets. They stole from the people.

So here we see this person that is viewed as disgusting climbing up a tree to see Jesus. Since tax collectors don't anger us so much, let's imagine it is someone else. Let's imagine it is someone you don't like. Perhaps you are a liberal. Then, imagine a conservative has climbed a tree to seek Jesus. How do you feel about that? Maybe you feel like they don't deserve to be seeking Jesus. Or maybe climbing up that tree is someone who has borrowed money and never paid you back. Do you feel like they are out of place trying to seek Jesus?

What I want us to think about today is who we are putting boundaries on when it comes to Jesus. Do we have people that we think are disgusting or undeserving who we want to place outside of seeking Jesus? Are we taking people we disagree with and categorizing them as outsiders, while we are insiders?

Spend a few minutes in prayer today asking God to reveal where you might be placing people outside of His grace. As you go through the day, try to think how Jesus would interact with people that we struggle with.

Source of Rest

Psalm 23:2-3 - He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

What is your source of rest?

Some people like fishing, maybe golfing, or even just taking a nap. When rest comes to mind, I’m sure you have some sort of activity, or lack of one, in mind. These are great physical manifestations of rest that can help recharge us and give us peace. Deeper than that, there is a source where our rest is grounded.

This passage shows the rest that is found in God. God can be our deep rooted source of rest, providing something that physical activites cannot give. So what does that even mean? We should focus on God instead of doing things that we find relaxing? No, of course not. While we do our restful activities, we seek God in them. God is there in the quiet of the golf course in the early morning. God is there in the walk around the block. God is there in the peace of a good nap.

Spend some time in prayer today, asking God to reveal himself in your restful activities. Be on the lookout today for how you might find Him throughout what you do today.

Seeking Lonely Places

Luke 5:16 - But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

As we go forward in our journey of faith, we can look to Jesus for guidance on how to live out our lives. The same is true when it comes to rest. In today’s passage, we find Jesus taking an opportunity for some rest. While Jesus was God, He was also fully human and did human things such as taking a break. This is something we find Him doing throughout the Gospel stories. It became a habit for Him.

Now every time we rest, we don’t necessarily have to enter solitude and pray alone. However, it is one of the many things we can do to rest. Unfortunately, there is a lot of distractions that can keep up from praying. We see Jesus go to lonely places. These are places of solitude and quietness. While they may be difficult for us to find, we have some place we may be able to escape to: a walk, in the car, on the bus, maybe even in a bathroom. These are places we can set our mind aside from the business of life to talk with Jesus.

Try to see if you can find a quiet place today where you can talk with Jesus. Whether or not you do find one, spend some time with Jesus today. He’s always ready to hear from you.

Business and Calm

Mark 6:31 - The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Do you see yourself in this passage?

Perhaps you are so busy with your life, you can’t even catch a break to eat. The disciples were telling Jesus of the many, many things they had done. There were so many people around that that the apostles didn’t even get a break to eat. Jesus then tells them to come with Him to get some rest.

Do you have someone to tell you to rest? If not, Jesus is telling you right here. When life gets hectic, and it will, sometimes some rest is just what we need to recharge.

Read the passage again and feel the contrast between the business of the disciples and the calmness that Jesus is presenting to them. Then, spend some time in prayer asking Jesus to reveal how you might rest today. Remember, Jesus is encouraging you to rest. It’s a good thing.

Rest

Mark 2:27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

How do you rest? Do you rest at all?

In yesterday’s sermon, Bill talked about the importance of rest. Unfortunately, we are often encouraged not to rest. Our American work culture looks down on vacation and time off. We get obsessed with productivity.

Maybe you resist the urge to rest. You fight it and power through life. Just like a car engine without oil, you can only go on for a certain period of time. Eventually, you will burn out.  You might even try to distract yourself. Like putting tape over the “check engine” light on the dash of the car. You can cover it up all you want, but the burnout it coming.

In the Scripture for today, Jesus is reminding us that the day of Sabbath, the day of rest, was made for our benefit. It isn’t another rule to follow. It’s supposed to be a blessing. God wants us to be blessed through rest.

This means we have to face the music. We need rest for our own well-being, and God wants us to be rested. This is a tough thing to face. When we are overloaded with work, kids, school, bills, and all of life, facing the reality of needing rest is hard to swallow. Once we can recognize this need for rest, we turn towards quietness and trust in God’s hand in our life. From this quietness, we turn toward Jesus for rest, renewal, and transformation of ourselves.

Take a few minutes in prayer and talk with God about some areas he might be calling you to rest. Perhaps this is work, or your kid’s activities, or even your studies. Pray for quiet in your mind so that you can turn away from business and turn toward Jesus in leading you. As you go through your day, find time for rest. Maybe it’s five minutes with a cup of coffee, or a simple walk outside. Keep your eyes open for the rest that God may be placing in front of you.

The incompleteness of the Kingdom

Matthew 8:11 - I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.

This week we have taken a look at different ways the Kingdom of God is present now. Let’s not forget that while this Kingdom has been established, it is not yet completed. Even though it is here, we can still look forward to a completed Kingdom in the future.

The fact that the Kingdom is here doesn’t change the reality that there is hurt and suffering still happening in the world. We can see it every day, and it may feel like these things shouldn’t be here if the Kingdom is also here. It’s messed up. It doesn’t feel right. That’s all true, but there is hope. There is hope that when Jesus comes back and the Kingdom of God is fully completed, this hurt and suffering will be gone.

This means we have to hold onto the Kingdom of God two different ways. We hold to the Kingdom in the now. We keep our eyes peeled for the Kingdom in the ordinary things in life. It’s in the meals with friends. It’s in customers at work. It’s in the traffic-jammed freeway. We also have to hold the finished Kingdom of the future. It will be completed. It will be the renewal of all things, in which sin and suffering are abolished. It is our hope.

Are you clinging to the incompleteness of the Kingdom that has been established? Or are you only hanging on to the hope of the completed Kingdom of the future? Spend a few minutes in prayer with God today and ask for Him to show you how you might hold both aspects of His Kingdom in your own life. Keep your eyes open to how God is showing you the hope of the completed kingdom, yet calling you to action in the current one.

Be like the children

Matthew 19:14-15 (The Message) - One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus intervened: “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.” After laying hands on them, he left.

Jesus was always full of surprises. In the passage for today, he tells the disciples that the Kingdom of God is made of people like children. Children? This was far from the expectations of the disciples. Most Jews thought of the Kingdom of God as the kingdom which the Messiah would come and establish, uprooting all of the evil people and oppressors of Israel. Yet, here Jesus tells them the Kingdom belongs to those like children.

Let’s think about how children behave to see why Jesus said this. Children are dependent. They need their parents' support. They don’t necessarily understand how their parents take care of them or why they do certain things. There is a level of trust that children give their parents.

Jesus wants us to be like the children. Jesus wants us to trust Him like a child trusts their parents. We come to Jesus, not knowing how He loves us, or why He does certain things. We have faith that we can depend on Him, as the child depends on the parent.

Easier said than done. With the complications of life, it may feel like it makes no sense to trust in Jesus for the everyday struggles that seem so far removed from Him. Coming to Jesus as a child requires that we accept His love, without having the details.

How do you approach Jesus? Spend some time in prayer with Christ today and ask Him to reveal where in your life you might begin to approach Jesus as a child.