None of us really enjoy chores. There were many that I didn’t enjoy growing up that were very specific to me; one of those was mowing the yard. Since my grandfather had shown me how to take care of the grass at the age of eight, I was the one in charge of making sure it was cut every week. Now to be fair, I did prefer this chore over folding laundry or vacuuming (and I still do), but on our four-acre property growing up, it was a whole-day ordeal to finish. However, although I didn’t necessarily like it, and some days I protested (like all kids do), I made sure the yard was cut so that bugs and rodents were kept away from the house.
In Matthew 21, we find two sons who were supposed to go out and take care of their family vineyard. The first protested, but later regretted it and did as his father said. The second son initially said that he would go out, but wound up avoiding his chores. Jesus tells us in this story that the one who, at first, grumbled and complained about it, but still followed through, was the one who “did the father’s will”. This may seem obvious to us, but that’s the point Jesus is making; talk is cheap. Very few things are as disappointing as when someone doesn’t follow through on what they say.
This is true of our lives as Christians; we need to “walk the walk”, not just “talk the talk”. The book of James tells us that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17). If we are not willing to do something with what we believe, it is useless. We can say that we “believe in God”, or even that we are a “Christian”, but unless that translates into action, we are only fooling ourselves. Jesus says that those who will inherit God’s Kingdom are those who “produce the fruit of it” (Matthew 21:43). Does your faith stir you and make you move? Or are you just all talk?
The Christian life isn’t always exciting and can seem boring at times; there are weeks where we don’t want to go to church or read our Bibles yet again. But just like cutting the grass, unless we are willing to go out and put the work in, even if we don’t “want to”, it will get out of control. Our lives need constant, consistent maintenance, just like a garden or a lawn. Every week is not going to be exciting, but it’s still necessary; fight past your initial protest and do what you’re supposed to do anyway. It will be better for you in the long run.
Which of the two sons are you more often like? In what area(s), do you need more “walk the walk” (perhaps even without protesting first) in order to do the will of the Father?
What is the danger in not producing fruit? What fruit does God want to see you producing now?
What do we learn about God from the teachings of His Son? What does God want us to learn about His Son?
Where is the darkest place you have been? So dark, you were scared to take a step? The most difficult place you’ve been? So difficult, you doubted? When have your dark, difficult, trying circumstances caused you to doubt what you previously knew to be true?
You are not alone. John has been there, too. Sometimes referred to as John the Baptist or the Baptizer for his message of repentance and baptism, John had faithfully worked for years. Known for his simple lifestyle, his ministry was not about him – but about the one who was to come – the Messiah. He had prepared the way for Jesus’ entrance. He had not taken the easy road. He had not backed down from authority. He continually stood for what was right and true – even when it landed him in prison. The ruling Herod and his wife didn’t appreciate John speaking out against their unlawful marriage.
With his ministry and freedom taken from him, and his future in question, John had a lot of time to think in the darkness of his circumstances. Why? What if…? Was it worth it? Was this supposed to happen? Had he been right? Or wrong? We don’t know all the questions John asked in his prison cell. But, we do know the most important one. The one he needed an answer to. He sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3)
And Jesus answered. Restating the truth that John needed to hear again. Pulling up Old Testament scripture from Isaiah and giving evidence of how his own ministry lined up with what had been foretold: the blind see, the lame walk, the leper is cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the GOOD NEWS is preached to the poor (Matthew 11:5).
In our dark days and when we question what we knew to be true, we would do well to return to Jesus. Tell me again, Jesus. Give me proof of who you are. Read again who he is, what he has done, what he taught, what he did for me. The story of Jesus never gets old, but we do need to be reminded of what we know. And then we have the beautiful opportunity and mandate to tell others of what we have seen and heard.
In the rest of this chapter (as well as the previous one) Jesus demonstrates that following him can be hard. People will criticize everything – our job is not to make people happy. There will be many unrepentant people (and cities) who do not accept the work that Jesus has done for them or the path that Jesus has laid out. Don’t be swayed, know that judgement will come and make sure you are on the right side. Stay close to the one who knows and reveals the Father. Jesus, the Son of God, is the only way. Work with him. Stay attached to Jesus. Take his yoke upon you (Matthew 11:29).
Who is Jesus? Do you know that he is the one who was to come? How do you know this? What is the value in reading the Old Testament? What is the value in reading the New Testament?
What is repentance? Why is it important? Without it, what will happen? (Matthew 11:20-24)
What do you learn about God in today’s reading? What do you learn of His Son?
While it might seem that Christmas is far behind us in the rear view mirror, technically we are on the tenth day of Christmas, when the lords are leaping. Today’s reading crosses paths with the humble, yet noble beginning of our Savior that we have been well-seasoned in. The genealogy presents Jesus as the rightful heir to the kingship of Israel. What is peculiar about Matthew’s opening, our first reading of the gospels, is the line which he chooses. Jesus is presented as heir to the throne through his adopted earthly father, Joseph. Unfortunately, during our advent season, the role of the Son of Man’s early father is often downplayed, as the screen time is often given to Mary, the shepherds, the wise man, John the Baptist, even Simeon, yet the story of Joseph is often skipped or scrapped as much as the the genealogies. I think there is much we can learn from his story.
The first lesson we can learn from the narrative of Joseph is God wanted Jesus to have an earthly Father. It is sad to see and say, but that the role of the father in our present day and age has been reduced to the punchline of a sitcom. Dads are important. The statistics show that when a mother alone attends church with her children, the chances that her children will grow to be a regular attender is a one in fifty chance. However, when the father attends, the effect is fiftyfold. The statistics are baffling but speak to the point of the subtle, yet intentional role of the father’s influence on the family. From the scriptures we can see that Joseph took his family to synagogue. From the intentionality in God’s plan, I don’t think it would be farfetched to say that Joseph did even more for the spiritual upbringing of Jesus, going beyond giving him a ride to church and providing a model and example of a life dedicated to God.
Next, in the face of disgrace, Joseph showed compassion. Joseph didn’t need to take a paternity test to know he wasn’t the father. By His measure, he had not done anything dishonorable. It was well within his right to expose Mary, and not only break their engagement, but to have her stoned to death. While there isn’t much to this part of the narrative, so we don’t know all the nitty-gritty details, we can see that Joseph made it a point not to disgrace Mary. We can empathize with Joseph because he didn’t have all the facts or at least was confronted with a moment which required great faith. It is likely that he doubted and refused to believe, but he didn’t give into his anger, instead choosing a merciful course of action to deal with what he thought was sin. As people who experience mistakes, either done to us or by us, let us show grace.
“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” – Matthew 1:24
Finally, God spoke directly to Joseph, and he immediately took action. When an angel of the Lord delivers the life-changing message to Joseph, he changes his course to follow the Lord’s direction. He takes Mary as his wife. He waits to consummate the marriage. He names his son, Jesus. In tomorrow’s reading we’ll see he moves on direct instructions in the middle of the night in order to protect his wife and newborn child. He then again waits and listens for the voice of God before he returns home. I am positive that Joseph continued to listen for the voice of God long after the toddler stage of Jesus. Joseph became closely aligned to his Heavenly Father by listening for His voice. We too, have the same opportunity. The Word of God has been delivered to us. We simply need to open our Bible, click on a link, and the words are as clear as an angel’s voice in the midst of our dreams. If we are seeking God, we must allow ourselves to be convicted: to change course and take action. While we may not be rearing the adopted Son of God, we all have an opportunity to speak with our lives to those adopted through Jesus Christ, as mothers and fathers of faith.
What do you think Jesus may have learned from Joseph, his earthly father?
To whom, and how, can you be a mother or father of faith?
In my Bible reading today, I found God to be________________.
And, as an extra little bonus, in preparation for adding in our Old Testament Bible Reading tomorrow, beginning with Genesis 1&2 – here is the…
Introduction to the Book of Genesis
The book of Genesis is probably the most important book ever written. The word Genesis means “origin.” The book of Genesis contains the history of the origin of:
the solar system
evil and death
God’s chosen people
No other book of the Bible is quoted or referred to as often as Genesis – in other books of the Bible. I have read that there are at least 200 quotations or allusions to Genesis in the New Testament.
If Genesis were eliminated from the Bible, the rest of the Bible would be impossible to understand. For example, look at these comparisons between the first few chapters of Genesis and the last few chapters of Revelation:
Division of light and darkness (1:4) — No night there (21:25)
Division of land and sea (1:10) — No more sea (21:1)
Rule of sun and moon (1:16) — No need of sun or moon (21:23)
Man in a prepared garden (2:8, 9) — Man in prepared city (21:2)
River flowing out of Eden (2:10) — River flowing from God’s throne (22:1)
Gold in the land (2:12) — Gold in the city (21:21)
Tree of life in the midst of garden (2:9) — Tree of life throughout city (22:2)
Precious stones (2:12) — All manner of precious stones (21:19)
God walking in garden (3:8) — God dwelling with HIS people (21:3)
Cursed World (Genesis) Eternal World (Revelation)
Cursed ground (3:17) — No more curse (22:3)
Daily sorrow (3:17) — No more sorrow (21:4)
Thorns and thistles (3:18) — No more pain (21:4)
Sweat on face (3:19) — Tears wiped away (21:4)
Returning to dust (3:19) — No more death (21:4)
Evil continually (6:5) — Nothing that defiles (21:27)
Coats of skins (3:21) — Fine linen, white and clean (19:14)
Satan opposing (3:15) — Satan banished (20:10)
Kept from tree of life (3:24) — Access to tree of life (22:14)
Banished from garden (3:23) — Free to enter city (22:14)
Some suggest that Genesis (at least the first 11 chapters) are an allegory, and not historically accurate.
If Genesis were not historically trustworthy, then neither is the rest of the Bible, including what it says about Jesus. If Adam is only an allegory, then by all logic, so is Christ. Genesis is not a collection of myths and legends, but a factual record of real events and real people, possibly even diaries of those people at the beginning of history.
The book of Genesis is written in the form of narrative records of historical events. Biblical parallels to Genesis are found in such books as Kings, Chronicles, Luke, and Acts. In all of these, the writer either collected previous documents and edited them (e.g. I and II Kings, I and II Chronicles), or else recorded the events which he had either seen himself or had collected from others who were witnesses (e.g. Luke, Acts).
Moses actually wrote Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Moses likely compiled and possibly edited the material in the book of Genesis, with the Holy Spirit guiding him in this process. The original material may have been passed down, from father to son, via the line of the patriarchs listed in Genesis. It may be that Adam, Noah, Shem, Terah, and others each wrote down an individual account of the events which had occurred during his own lifetime. These records presumably were kept in such a way that they would be preserved until they finally came into Moses’ possession.
It is probable that these original documents can still be recognized by the key phrase: “These are the generations of…” The word “generations” is a translation of the Hebrew word “toledoth,” and means “origins” or “records of the origins.”
“These are the generations of the heavens and the earth” Gen 2:4
“This is the written account of the generations of Adam” Gen 5:1 (This suggests these were written)
“These are the generations of Noah” Gen 6:9
“Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah” Gen 10:1
“These are the generations of Shem” Gen 11:10
“Now these are the generations of Terah” Gen 11:27
“Now these are the generations of Ishmael” Gen 25:12
“And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son” Gen 25:19
“Now these are the generations of Esau” Gen 36:1
“And these are the generations of Esau” Gen 36:9
“These are the generations of Jacob” Gen 37:2
An understanding of Genesis is vital to an understanding of the eternal plan of GOD. Strap yourselves in as we prepare to read through God’s word again this year.
Welcome to the first post of our 2023 SeekGrowLove Bible reading plan! We are beginning the year with a little time in Psalm 119, and in the next couple days will add in the other Old Testament and New Testament readings. You can download and print the whole plan found at the end of today’s post. Every time we begin a new book of the Bible, we will include a little introduction written by Steve Mattison.
Introducing the Book – Psalm
The book of Psalms was Israel’s songbook. It contains a collection of psalms (or songs) that primarily focus on praising God for who he is and for what he has done. The Hebrew title is, “the book of praises.” Most of these psalms are prayers to God written by King David, although other authors, ranging from Moses, to Solomon, to the sons of Korah also contributed.
The book of Psalms teaches us to seek God with our whole heart, to tell Him the truth and to tell Him everything, and to worship Him because of who He is, not just because of what He has done. It contains a range of topics, from people crying out to God from the depths of their despair, to those praising God with jubilation from the depths of their hearts.
The book of Psalms has spoken to me in my lowest lows as well as in my highest highs. May the inspired words in this book resonate well with you as you read these psalms this year.
Psalm 119 Devotion
Who in their right mind is thinking about the end right now? Really? Terrible title. TERRIBLE. This is the time of fresh starts! New beginnings! Redos! Our mind focused on the brief novelty of this moment’s pants kicking; the annual motivation for improvements we have put off for weeks, months, or even years. While we might commit to a dream today, I would say there is little thought given to the realities of December 31st, 2023: 365 calendar days away. Whether it’s gym memberships, nicotine patches, cauliflower pizzas, saving accounts, or even bible reading plans, have we bought into the idea that we are preparing ourselves for a full year of commitment in our resolutions? Look at your Google Calendar or your bank statement: what have you planned and paid for in a full-year upfront knowing that it will change your life by the end? Or is your resolve more like the free 7-day trial, leaving one foot in 2022 in case you want to make a getaway?
“How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:9-11
I will go ahead and say, it is not fiscally responsible, or even logically feasible, to pile up a year’s worth of cauliflower pizza into a deep freeze, but our commitment level to any life-changing resolution, should count the cost of sacrifice with the end in mind. This is an echo of what our Heavenly Father has done through Jesus Christ. Paul speaks to this in Colossians 1:16 when he states “For through [Jesus] were all things created, things that are in heaven, and things that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.” Our eternal God has dictated to us the rules, plans, and ordinations of his personal and universal will that will lead us to a relationship with Him, which has ended the penalty of sin with the blood of Jesus Christ and leads to the big finale, the Kingdom of God. Knowing the end, it is much easier to keep to and dictate the decrees of each day. Without the end in mind, we are just tragic creatures of toil, mindlessly moving from one task to the next.
“Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end.” – Psalm 119:33
Our God is not a God of chaos (1 Cor 14:33). He works in logic and rules that are shared with us because WE as heirs according to the promise are included in the end. We don’t have to feel out the way, make up the path, or bump down the lane. God has made his moral law clear. It is not just a list of “thou shalt nots” but enhancements and boundaries provided for our own physical safety, societal responsibility, psychological well-being, and the eternal enhancement of the connection and relationship between the Heavenly Father and his children. He is not a part-time parent, nor can we be part-time children. You can’t periodically pause your subscription or ghost your way out of the membership. Our life is better lived, today and eternally, when we are resolute to learning and practicing His ways that are forged in the ultimate love and truths. We become devoted.
That devotion begins with finding a way to be connected to the Word of God every single day. It could be found in this blog. It could be found in personal study, podcast, prayer time, or all the above. What I propose, if we truly are wanting to grow in the word of God this year, to engage and act upon His message that is delivered through His word, you and I must set alarms, write in on our mirrors, put it in our checklist and calendars, and make it priority. Being here to read every day provides an opportunity to do that alongside others who are also seeking out a devoted life to Christ. If our end of life is found in 2023, if Jesus returns, or the Lord tarries for another year and He still gives us life, how much more abundant will December 31st, 2023 be if we have committed ourselves fully to understanding the precepts, the statutes, the laws, the understanding, and the wisdom of your heavenly Father? Let’s be committed to the end, even if we are at a loss of where to begin our year.
“May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees. May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous. May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts. I long for your salvation, Lord, and your law gives me delight. Let me live so that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me.” -Psalm 119:171-175
In reading through Psalm 119 what do you see of God’s character – how does He show who He is through His inspired word? This is a question we will be asking regularly this year (sometimes phrased differently). We think you will find great benefit in journaling, or making notes in your Bible margin, on how you see and what you learn of God and His character from His written word every day this year.
What are your favorite verses of Psalm 119? What words are used in Psalm 119 to name God’s law or directions for life? What are the benefits given for knowing, following, loving these words of God? What do you find about the results of neglecting these words of God? How would you rate your knowledge of and then, love for, the words of God?
Where do you want to be at the end of 2023? What steps will help you get there? Spend some time in prayer to the God of Psalm 119.
What an exciting time of year! Who is ready for 2023 and a NEW SeekGrowLove Bible reading plan?
At the bottom of this post you will find the new schedule! Wouldn’t it be great if 2023 was the year you daily read the Bible more than ever before?
What does God want to reveal about himself to you – every day of 2023? Come along on the journey with Seek Grow Love to find out!
This year the Seek Grow Love reading plan includes 3 daily readings. Choose 1, 2 or 3 of the readings to complete each day – if you do all three everyday (or get caught up if needed) you will read through the whole Bible in 2023.
– The Old Testament reading is 2-3 chapters a day and takes you through the entire Old Testament, with the exception of Psalms and Proverbs.
– In the second column, one Psalm or Proverb is assigned to each day and through the year each will be repeated.
– The New Testament column is typically one chapter of the New Testament each day. The gospels are spread out throughout the year, Matthew is at the start and end of the year, and Acts will be read after Luke in the spring, the rest of the New Testament is mostly in order. A few weeks will be devoted to a theme related to a holiday season, FUEL theme, or a doctrinal topic.
You may find benefit in spreading out the readings through your day and praying through the Psalm. Perhaps one or more of the readings will work well to do together with your family. You may also find it helpful having an accountability partner, or even creating a small group to share what you have been reading and learning.
Visit SeekGrowLove.com to read daily devotions based on this reading plan, and on the website you can sign up to have the devotions emailed to you every morning. Each devotion will include reflection questions. This year, we specifically challenge you to search everyday for what God is revealing about himself throughout His Scriptures. It would be a great year to start a little journal (or note in your Bible margins or online Bible notes) and record daily what you have read and what you learn about God, His character, His power, His love, His Son, etc… in that passage.
You can also follow on our Facebook page (Seek Grow Love) and Instagram (seekgrowlove).
God bless you as you seek the LORD and read His words this year!
You may have noticed there is a huge culture war going on within our country. There is no shortage of issues that are dividing people such as politics, abortion, LGBTQ issues, gun control, removing names from buildings, taking down statues, and climate change to name a few. It is very easy to demonize the “other side”, and both sides do it to each other every day. However, as Christians, we shouldn’t be demonizing anyone. God created all the people on both sides of the issues, and we are told to love everyone.
I have some pretty strong opinions about many issues. I strongly believe that your mother should not have had the right to end your life, and I believe you became you at conception. I will go to my grave standing up for unborn babies that deserve a chance to live because they are alive. However, I will still love those that disagree with me. I will actually like them, want to hang out with them, and would even call them a friend as well.
Some of you may think I shouldn’t be chummy with the other side, especially if it is an issue of Christians versus non-Christians. I can understand why you would feel that way, but it wouldn’t stop me. It also didn’t stop Jesus from going to Zacchaeus’ house. The people grumbled that Jesus had gone to be the guest of a sinner. How dare he get chummy with the other side. Was he not concerned about his reputation? Did he not understand how bad a person Zacchaeus was? He knew exactly what he was doing and stated it in Luke 19:10: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” And it worked; Zacchaeus was saved during that visit.
Jesus knew there were people that lived immoral lives and didn’t agree with him about much of anything. They were lost. He didn’t ignore them or dislike them because of their disagreements; he made a point of getting to know them, showed sincere concern for them, and eventually died for them if they would accept him. He wanted to make a difference in their lives, and it is nearly impossible to do that if you take a side against them and demonize them. He took sides against issues, but he did not take sides against the individuals on the other side of those issues. He wanted everyone to be saved. Did some people fluster him at times? For sure, but he never stopped loving them.
Time to ponder:
Are there any individuals or groups of people on “the other side of an issue” that you look down on because of their beliefs or actions? If so, you should forgive them for whatever wrong they have done.
Is it possible to strongly disagree with someone’s beliefs, but still love them as your neighbor?
Is it ok to still support a business that has publicly fought for an issue that you vehemently oppose?
As life grows busier by the day, holidays grow nearer, preparations for travel are made, deadlines for school are due, or you find yourself putting in those time and a half hours at work, it is so easy to become all consumed in your own day to day life. The same was true in the parable told by Jesus in Luke 14, The Parable of The Great Banquet. As Jesus gathered around the table with the Pharisees and experts in the law, he spoke to them on humbling themselves and serving in the here and now, even when they are giving all and receiving none. He says that their payment will be paid at the resurrection of the righteous. At the mention of the resurrection, one man calls out, blessed is the one who will eat at the feast at the Kingdom of God. Jesus replies with a parable, explaining that a great feast has been prepared for many guests. When word spread that the feast had come, and that it was time to join, many of the guests were found to be caught up in their own world and did not attend with urgency. Excuses were made and the banquet was pushed off. “I just bought a field that I must go and see.” “I bought five yokes of oxen, I must go try them out.” “I just got married, I can’t come.” As a result, each of these guests lost their place in the banquet as they were not ready, not prepared, and were not willing to attend at the call of the host.
This parable serves as a wake up call to many as it is important to work hard each day and do your best with what has been bestowed upon you, however this life is temporary and our focus should always be on what is yet to come. In the meantime, we need to make sure that we are pursuing our faith, building a relationship with our heavenly father, and implementing spiritual disciplines daily so that when the banquet, otherwise known as the Kingdom of God draws nearer, our hearts will be prepared and our focus will be set on the right priorities.
As we enter into a busy holiday season, may we be present in the why. Why we celebrate, why we serve, why intentionality matters. Let’s not be a people who become so caught up in each day that we do not humble ourselves before the Lord and serve His great name, no matter the cost.
“For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
– Kayla Elwell
What does it mean to you that the invitation to the banquet in the Kingdom of God has been extended to everyone in the roads and country side? Who had been included in the original invitation – did it include you?
What excuses have you used when you were neglecting the most important things of God?
I think that Martha gets a bit of a bad rap. Today she might even be what we call a “Karen.” It’s easy to read this last little portion of Luke 10 and think, “Well, better not be her,” and move on. But the thing is, most of us do have a little bit of Martha in us. We all have tasks that need accomplishing, people to take care of, and work to do. And all these things, while completely worthy of our time and dedication, can all too easily become a distraction from a relationship with Christ.
I don’t know about you, but different days I find myself relating to different sisters from this story. Fortunately for us, either way works out, because you either have the affirmation to keep being a Mary, or a gentle nudge that you’re being too Martha. Jesus broke cultural expectations in this story, encouraging his followers to stop and be present, rather than allowing work and responsibilities, however noble, to be a distraction from what really matters. The Bible tells us that we are to be anxious for nothing.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7
Even when our anxieties are totally justified, we are not to become anxious, but instead find rest in God’s overwhelming peace. He is here for us, always, all we need to do is be with Him.
Is your approach to a relationship with God and His son more like Mary’s, or Martha’s?
Do you ever find yourself getting so caught up in working for Christ that you forget to just be with him?
On days when you feel yourself drowning in work and overwhelmed with tasks, what can you do to remind yourself to pause, and refocus your day on God? How can you do this during the Christmas season?
“Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” – Luke 9:23-26
What does the cross mean to you? Today, it is often seen around us as a symbol of Christianity, a beacon of hope, and a reminder of God’s love. Sometimes in our culture, it is even used in fashion and design outside the church for its aesthetic appeal. It’s “cool.”
But in ancient times, under the Roman Empire, it was feared. The cross was a means of torture and death. To hear their Lord say, “Take up your cross daily” was a terrifying concept. Early Christians died for the cross; for what it meant. Sometimes they even took up their cross literally. They denied themselves at all costs to take up their cross and be a true disciple.
To take up your cross is the noblest thing you can do. Jesus was a cross-bearer, leading the way for all who wish to follow him. He took up the ultimate cross, and denied himself in the ultimate way, giving up his entire life for a world of undeserving people. Following in his footsteps doesn’t mean giving oneself up for crucifixion, but being willing to deny your own wants and desires and follow God’s calling for your life daily, no matter what that is.
What cross are you being called to bear? Will you make the decision to answer that call today?
Even if you are in a season of unknowns, what is the universal cross we are all called to bear?
Bearing a cross, while unimaginably fulfilling, can definitely come with difficulty and be a huge burden. In what ways can you find joy in taking up your cross, even when the endeavor you’ve been charged with is a challenging one?
The words we see Jesus speaking in the Bible aren’t simply a set of rules for a better life on this earth. They are an invitation to accept adoption into the family of God. We see him referring to this family and clearly opening its doors to us in Luke 8:21.
“Then His mother and brothers came to Him, and could not approach Him because of the crowd. And it was told Him by some, who said, ‘Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” ’ – Luke 8:19-21
Under the New Covenant, Christ opened up who a relationship with the God of Abraham is available to. To be part of the Family of God is no longer simply to be a Jew; it is free to be accepted by both Jew and Gentile. In this text Jesus is not dissing his earthly mother in any way, in contrast, his words flow from a place that embraces all and desires every person to take part in the family of God. At the time, the disciples assumed that Jesus would put his own family in a higher position than all the other people to whom he had no obligation. But in the following verse, he reveals that every human being can become a member of his family. Closeness to Jesus depends only upon “hearing the word and doing it.”
Those who hear the word of God and do it are disciples; disciples are followers of Christ; followers of Christ are Christians. Christianity is not something you must be – or even can be – born into. Even if one is born into a Christian family, to become a part of the family of God is something different. It’s a choice to be part of something bigger than yourself and this life. To become a true Christian is to embrace your identity as a child of God and follower of Christ. It does not require a specific gene or to be part of a familial bloodline. It does not require anything, in fact, other than total commitment to the Gospel and a relationship with God.
Do you think that a relationship with our heavenly Father requires effort and nurturing, in the same way that your relationship with your mother, brother, or sister requires nurturing to grow and thrive?
What must you do to accept a place in the family of God? Once accepted, what steps can be taken in order to keep your faith and relationship with God growing stronger and stronger? What about to strengthen your relationship with your brothers and sisters in Christ?
What might “hearing the word and doing it” entail? How will you make the conscious, deliberate decision to “hear the word and do it” as we approach a new year?