Joy Writing Challenge (Week 2, Days 9-15)

Joy Writing Challenge (Week 2, Days 9-15)

Our church is going through a daily “Joy Writing Challenge” for the month of December. It’s a reading/writing plan by “Elihu’s Corner” (click here to read his original post). Basically, there’s a couple verses to read each day that you simply reflect on and find where God promises or gives us hope or joy.

Below is my reflection on the verses from week 2. Here’s a link for week 1 if you want to check it out.

If you want to join me in it, you can start at any time. Here’s an image of the daily reading plan and below. You can download the plan and other resources at Elihu’s blog.


Day 10:

Seeing Jesus in the flesh must have been a crazy experience. Witnessing His public ministry and life would be life altering. It makes sense people laid their cloaks on the ground He rode on… do we have this much excitement and joy over Him and all He has done? They had Jesus in the flesh, but we have a risen King Who has already gone to the cross to die for our sins and risen again to give us new life. How much more joy and excitement can we have in our everyday lives?

“And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Luke 19:36–40

Day 11:

They had so much joy over finding where Jesus was born. Do you remember the joy you had when you first accepted Jesus, when you first found Him to be your Savior? Our lives were once taken from darkness into light, from death into life, and it’s easy to lose that initial joy. Let’s remember that goodness today and return to that joy He gives.

“After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”

Matthew 2:9–11

Day 12:

When we seek God with everything we are, He promises that we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13), and when we come to Him, burdened and heavy laden, He promises to give us rest (Matthew 11:28).

“And they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul, but that whoever would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman.
They swore an oath to the Lord with a loud voice and with shouting and with trumpets and with horns.
And all Judah rejoiced over the oath, for they had sworn with all their heart and had sought him with their whole desire, and he was found by them, and the Lord gave them rest all around.”

2 Chronicles 15:12–15

Day 13:

The root of our joy is revealed when problems come in life. When our joy is founded solely in God, it cannot be taken away, because He cannot be taken away.

“Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of your words. I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.”

Psalm 119:161–162

Day 14:

This passages is one of many that are pulled from when Mary says her prayer of thanksgiving at the news of her pregnancy. Not only does it encourage me to continue to look to God in thankfulness and hope, but it’s also a good reminder of the influence we might have on others to do the same (as Hannah’s prayer influenced Mary’s).

“And Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation.
“There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.”

1 Samuel 2:1–3

Day 15:

The culmination of Jesus’ birth and work to do on earth. Whenever pride may creep into our lives, we can remember how much God has done for us and in spite of everything about us.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

Romans 5:8–11
Joy Writing Challenge (Week 1, Days 1-8)

Joy Writing Challenge (Week 1, Days 1-8)

Our church is going through a daily “Joy Writing Challenge” for the month of December. It’s a reading/writing plan by “Elihu’s Corner” (click here to read his original post). Basically, there’s a couple verses to read each day that you simply reflect on and find where God promises or gives us hope or joy.

If you want to join me in it, you can start at any time. Here’s an image of the daily reading plan and below I’ve put my thoughts on the first week of verses. You can download the plan and other resources at Elihu’s blog.

Day 1:

Our inheritance is sure and worth it.

It’s a free gift from His great mercy
It’s “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading”
And it’s guarded by God’s power so we can be sure it’s safe

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

1 Peter 1:3-5

Day 2:

If we believe in Jesus that every trial we experience will be used to mold us more into His image and for His glory. We can have joy through all circumstances knowing that nothing is wasted.

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

1 Peter 1:6–7

Day 3:

Our faith in Jesus today will result in salvation and joy for eternity. Live today knowing that eternity is worth it.

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

1 Peter 1:8–9

Day 4:

“…blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Want to be blessed?
Believe what is spoken by God.

You may not be “blessed” how you see fit, but God promises to bless those who put their trust and faith in Him. (Psalm 1, Jeremiah 17:7-8, Matthew 7:24-27, John 20:29)

“And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Luke 1:41–45

Day 5:

Today’s was a great reminder to give thanks to God and glorify Him when we celebrate His blessings. It’s easy to simply be grateful without directly giving Him thanks. Giving thanks also helps remind us that it’s by God’s mercy and grace (not our own doing) that has blessed us. How great that Mary’s testimony of “all generations will call me blessed” is one that is used to point to God’s love and grace instead of herself.

“And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

Luke 1:46–49

Day 6:

Humility and the fear of God is something we cannot value enough. Such a clear example of our need to rely on Him and to stay humble before Him.

“And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.”

Luke 1:50–53

Day 7:

God helped them, not out of their goodness, or even their petitions or sacrifices… but out of His mercy. And, this same mercy is passed down to all spiritual offspring of Abraham. If you believe in Jesus, then you receive the same mercy and grace from God.

“He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Luke 1:54–55

Day 8:

Abraham, and all of those in the Old Testament desired to see God’s ultimate redemption plan unfold, but we get to actually experience it! Jesus, Emmanuel has already come, proven His love and ability to rescue us from sin. We get to live daily under this new covenant and life that He gives us!

Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”
So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

John 8:56–58

What Should I Expect When I Step Out In Faith? What Is The Result Of Stepping Out In Faith? (Hebrews 11, Part 3)

What Should I Expect When I Step Out In Faith? What Is The Result Of Stepping Out In Faith? (Hebrews 11, Part 3)

As I was recently reflecting on Hebrews 11 (the “faith chapter”), I enjoyed viewing it from 3 different angles:

  1. What Is Faith? (click here to read)
  2. What Does It Look Like To Step Out In Faith? (click here to read)
  3. What Should I Expect When I Step Out In Faith? (this post)

And so, we continue…

What Should I Expect When I Step Out In Faith?

Similar to, “It’s about the journey, not the destination” stepping out in faith isn’t about the results you get.

Instead, stepping out in faith towards God is about the relationship with God, not the results.

This is very important for us to remember.

All throughout Scripture and history, we see a mixed bag of “results” when it comes to stepping out in faith.

Because it’s not about the result, it’s about nearness to God, and transforming you more into His likeness.

Warning: Difficulties Ahead

Rather than expecting an easy path ahead, it’s necessary to recognize that putting your faith in God pretty much guarantees a difficult life ahead.

Here’s why:

  1. We’re told to expect difficult situations and trials that God will use to help make us more like Him (Romans 5:3-5, Romans 8:28, James 1:1-13, 1 Peter 4:12–13)
  2. Realize that Satan (and even your own sinful self) does not want you to put your life in active obedience and faith towards God and will do anything he can to make that more difficult and undesirable. (Luke 22:31, Romans 8:7, 1 Corinthians 7:5, 2 Corinthians 2:11, Galatians 5:16–18, Ephesians 6:11, 1 Peter 5:8, Revelation 2:10)
  3. If we are to ever experience miracles and God working in our lives in supernatural ways and in ways that we couldn’t have done on our own… that means we first have to be put in difficult and even heartbreaking situations that require us to rely on God and be at the end of our rope.

Mixed Results, And That’s Ok

I hope I’ve been clear that putting faith in God will not always result in an easy life.

Furthermore, God promises a good END, but does not promise specific results here on earth.

The examples at the end of this post from Hebrews 11 show an extremely mixed bag of God “coming through” in a dramatic way, while others suffered great difficulty, some even to the very end of their life.

But that is NOT the end.

The “end” is eternity.

And God promises a good final end for those who put their faith in Him.

He doesn’t promise good things on earth
But He does promise to work all things out for our ultimate good.

Not Everyone Gets A Miracle

I recently read a book on Miracles by Lee Strobel; and in the mist of telling stories and defending the reality of miracles, he dedicates a chapter to what happens if a miracle doesn’t come.

And in that section, he quotes from two other authors who I feel nail this issue.

Here’s what they said:

“Some claim that strong faith is defined by throwing our energies into begging God for a miracle that will take away our suffering and then believing without doubt that He will do it.  But faith is not measured by our ability to manipulate God to get what we want; it is measured by our willingness to submit to what He wants.”

Nancy Guthrie

“There’s no formula we can count on for when Jesus says yes and when He says no. That’s the catch with sovereignty: He gets to decide yes, no, if, when, and how. We can’t figure out what He’ll decide, and we can’t base our own confidence on His favor. We can, however, base our confidence on His faithfulness. Miracles are temporary, but the Word of Jesus, His teachings – they bring eternal life. Real life. Your faith in Him, your belief that He is real, even when the miracle isn’t yours, even when He doesn’t say yes to you – this is what brings eternal life.”

Tricia Williford

Part of what allows our faith to truly be faith is the fact we’re willing to continue to trust, even if it doesn’t work out.

As I mentioned in my last post, [“What Does It Look Like To Step Out In Faith?”][], faith is not a vending machine to get what we want. Faith is a relationship building experience with God.

Trusting God In The Results

Hebrews 12 begins with a call for us to stay strong in our own faith. The examples we’ve been reading in the other two posts, and the examples you’ll see below are real people who really experienced God and put their faith in Him to the very end. And if they were alive today, they would tell you to do the same. Active and daily faith in God is worth it.

Here’s how it reads:

“Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” 

Hebrews 12:1

Since we have so many examples of people who put their faith in Jesus
Since they would all agree and tell us it’s worth it
Let us also set everything else aside
Anything that is keeping us from following God in faith
And run with endurance
Live life fully devoted
And follow God
Wholly and completely
In faith in Him.

Examples of Faith In Hebrews 11

Below are the results of faith we see in Hebrews 11. Some are incredible and encouraging, while others are difficult to even read and we all secretly hope isn’t what God has for us as well.

But rest assured that all of these people would agree on one thing:

It is worth it.

Abel’s sacrifice was accepted (Hebrews 11:4)

If you’re familiar with Abel’s story, he was shortly after murdered because from his brother’s jealousy, and so although his faith led towards a close relationship with God, it caused a rift in other relationships and even a horrible end to his life.

Enoch was taken up to be with God (Hebrews 11:5)

Such an encouraging and beautiful result of faith!

Noah and his family was saved (Hebrews 11:7)

Yet another incredible blessing of faith. Though, consider the many friends they lost and difficulty having to start completely over from scratch after the flood.

Abraham was given the land he was promised (Hebrews 11:8-9)

Again, his faith required much sacrifice, but he was blessed for it, even to be eventually be given the title “the father of faith.”

Sarah received a child (Hebrews 11:11)

After a life of difficulty and wondering how God would provide what was promised, she and Abraham received the promise by continuing to trust and follow God.

Abraham received his son “back” (Hebrews 11:17-19)

Again, after much testing of their faith, God continued to show Himself faithful to His promise.

Moses got to see the Children of Israel saved from Egypt (Hebrews 11:23-29)

It was a long road: 40 years in Egypt and then 40 years as an outcast, shepherd and in the wilderness… Moses got to see God rescue the children of Israel; and he was given the blessing of being used by God in such a miraculous way.

Rahab got to join the Children of Israel, and [even became part of Jesus’ family tree (read more on that at this link)][] (Hebrews 11:31)

What an incredible honor to be part of Jesus’ family tree!

Many others… Conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight, received back those who had died  (Hebrews 11:32-35)

There are so many historical accounts of God rescuing and blessing those who put their faith in Him.

Many others… Were tortured, refused to accept release, suffered mocking and flogging, even chains and imprisonment, were stoned, sawn in two, and killed with the sword. They were destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. Wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Hebrews 11:35-38)

In comparison to the many people who saw blessings on earth when they stepped out in faith, there are arguably even more who suffered much because of their faith in God.

But as Jesus said, we ought to lay up treasures in heaven, not on earth (Matthew 6:19–20) and there is no better way to do that than to put daily and practical faith in God.

May we have the same mindset as Paul who wrote:

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:13-14

May you put aside what keeps you from putting daily and practical faith in Jesus.

And may you receive the life and nearness to God that He created you for.

What Does It Look Like To Step Out In Faith? (Hebrews 11, Part 2)

What Does It Look Like To Step Out In Faith? (Hebrews 11, Part 2)

As I was recently reflecting on Hebrews 11 (the “faith chapter”), I enjoyed viewing it from 3 different angles:

  1. What Is Faith? (click here to read)
  2. What Does It Look Like To Step Out In Faith? (this post)
  3. What Should I Expect When I Step Out In Faith? (click here to read)

And so, we continue…

What Does It Look Like To Step Out In Faith?

If you remember last week’s “What Is Faith?” we summarized that faith is essentially living right now in light of what is promised but not yet.

The standard definition from the beginning of the chapter is that faith is the “Assurance of things hoped for, the conviction (or “substance”) of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

And, so the easy way to tell if something you’re doing isn’t faith is that…

It’s not faith if…
the only reason for what you’re doing
is based off what you can see and know right now.

Faith In… What?

This brings us to something important: what, or who is your faith in?

Because you can have faith in a person to fulfill a promise…
Or faith in a thing or system to fulfill it’s “vending machine” type promise (you do “X”, you get “Y”)…
Or faith that things will just work out because of karma or good vibes…
And so on…

But these “faiths” are imperfect because they either rely on things that aren’t true, or people/situations that are imperfect and will sometimes let us down.

God, on the other hand, tells us that we can have faith in Him

A perfect God Whose track record is completely perfect since the beginning of time.

Things don’t always work out the way we expect, want or hope, but He promises that He will work out all things for good according to His purposes.

What Does It Look Like To Have Faith In God?

So, you want to have live out faith in God.

The difficulty is that there’s no specific action step you can take to make that happen.

Having faith in God isn’t a specific process to follow or actions to take, otherwise we would begin to have faith in that system instead of God Himself.

You can, and should…

  • Pray for wisdom and grace in your decisions…
  • Do your best with what is in front of you…
  • Seek godly wisdom and counsel from other Christians…
  • Sometimes even fast before a big decision…

But the overall thing we have to do is simply stay connected to God.

You can’t trust in Someone Who you don’t know. And you can’t know Someone Who you don’t spend time with.

And that reminds us of God’s ultimate goal for us: a relationship with Him.

He wants you to walk through life listening to Him, seeking His will, and desiring to follow Him in the decisions you make. To put your trust, your faith, in Him.

The Will Of God

Some things are clear. The Bible says things such as: do not sin, grow in holiness, stay sexually pure, etc, but there are many decisions in life that don’t fit in these easy categories.

And God wants you to seek His will for your life,
Accept wisdom and input from others
And to ultimately move forward in whatever way you feel glorifies Him the most,
In faith that He is with you.

What Faith Looks Like In Real Life

One of the interesting things about the times people had to step out in faith in the Bible is that there are so many different ways.

Some were simply offering the usual sacrifices to God, while others were great steps of faith against all odds and logic.

The important thing is that all of these people had an ongoing relationship with God and took these steps because they felt it was what God wanted them to do next, and it didn’t contradict something God had previously said not to do.

Below are the examples found in Hebrews 11 of people taking steps of faith to follow God. There are many more throughout scripture, but it’s interesting seeing the list that the writer has collected for us to reflect on.

Abel offered a sacrifice of his things (Hebrews 11:4)

Sometimes, simply obeying what God has told us to do is a simple act of faith. Faith in that what He has said is what we ought to do, even when it seems boring, unfruitful, or a waste of time.

Enoch walked with and pleased God (Hebrews 11:5)

Such a simple story. His relationship with God was one that God enjoyed so much that He considered it faith to live such a way.

Noah constructed an ark, in spite of never having seen or experienced rain (Hebrews 11:7)

In the face of opposition and ridicule, Noah had to have great faith, for multiple years, in order to continue the work that God had told him to do.

Abraham moved far away from family and into a new land because God told him to (Hebrews 11:8)

Abraham didn’t know where he was going, but because He trusted in God, He obeyed Him and took the difficult road away from family, friends and the security of home.

Abraham offered Isaac up to God in spite of him being his only son (Hebrews 11:17-19)

After years of desiring a son, Abraham was finally given one in His old age. But then God told Him to sacrifice him, and he showed that was willing to, by obeying until God told him to stop and that He would make another way. Through it all, Abraham showed that he was willing to give up even his most precious son for God.

Isaac proclaimed prophetic blessing on his sons (Hebrews 11:20)

He trusted the words that God gave him to speak that would predict the future of the lives and descendants of his sons.

Jacob also proclaimed prophetic blessings on his sons (Hebrews 11:21)

Just like Isaac…

Joseph prophesied the exiting of Egypt (Hebrews 11:22)

Just like Isaac and Jacob…

Moses parents rejected the order to kill their son (Hebrews 11:23)

Moses parents went against the law of Egypt in order to keep the law of God and not murder. The 10 commandments were not written yet, but it was clear from Cain and Able that murder was not right.

Moses refused to remain as Pharaoh’s grandson in order to free the Children of Israel (Hebrews 11:24-28)

Instead of enjoying the wealth, power, influence and prestige as the Pharaoh’s grandson, Moses chose to do what was right and what God had called him to do.

Moses and the Children of Israel sprinkled blood over their doors during Passover (Hebrews 11:28)

As weird of an action as it was, they chose to trust God’s at His word and do what He said.

The Children of Israel crossed the Red Sea on dry land (Hebrews 11:29)

Although they had just witnessed a miracle, I bet it was a little difficult to walk across the Red Sea with walls of water on either side. They had to trust that God was going to keep the water from crashing down on them.

Marched around enemy walls for seven days with no intention of attacking (Hebrews 11:30)

One of the oddest battle plans ever. And yet, they took God at His word and sought to bring down the wall of a massive and fortified city without a single weapon. Just imagine what days 5, 6 and 7 must have felt like.

Rahab hid the Isrealite spies in her city (Hebrews 11:31)

Had she been caught, she could have been killed as a traitor. Instead, she got to become part of Israel and even part of the bloodline of Jesus.

Enforced justice (Hebrews 11:33)

Sometimes, having faith in God is being willing to stand and do what’s right.

Refusing to accept release (by dropping their faith in God or by disobeying Him)  (Hebrews 11:35)

So often, we’re given the opportunity to be released from ridicule, contempt, or in some places, even jail or death, by simply renouncing our faith in God. But many in scripture and all around the world today have chosen to keep their faith in Him to the very end through extremely difficult circumstances.

Now What?

After reading those great steps of faith, consider what God might be calling you to do.

And be ready for next week when we cover what to expect when you step out in faith.

Praying With Friends

Praying With Friends

You may have seen my Facebook post last week about how we have begun setting aside Tuesday nights to pray. I posted about it to see if anyone had something they would like us to specifically pray for and to also invite anyone who would like to come pray with us.

It may have seemed out of the blue, but there is a backstory that led to us starting this weekly prayer night that I wanted to share.

Almost two years ago, some friends of ours initiated for a few of us to get together to pray for the new year and to keep each other in prayer throughout the year. We each shared something specific for the others to be praying about throughout the upcoming year.

During that first year, we only got together to pray about those things a couple of times, but we specifically met up near the end of the year to followup on what God had done during that past year. This also gave us a chance to update each other on our next year’s prayer requests and to pray for the year that was coming up.

Although it sounds simple, I am so thankful these friends reached out.

God’s timing was incredible as (unknowingly to us at the time), we began this two year journey with them walking into what was going to be the most difficult year of our lives… and then the second year got to be a year of celebration as we moved through that difficult year and into one of new beginnings and renewed hope.

I’m not sure what our lives would be like today if we hadn’t had that group of friends praying.

For all I know, it might have ended up exactly the same.

But, even if it would have, there is something special about reaching out to God, surrendering to His will together with friends, and leaning on Him throughout the process.

What really hit home for me was after that first year of heavy difficulty, one of our friends pulled out her notecard with all the prayer requests from the beginning of the year.

As a heavy tech user, I had immediately written the prayer requests down in my phone,
But there was something special seeing prayer requests that had been physically written down a year prior.

The edges were worn,
The words were starting to fade,
The year had taken a toll on the paper.
It showed the time that had passed,
And the prayers that had been answered.

It was such good reminder for me as we started this year reflecting on last year’s prayers and how God had worked. And it helped me be even more excited to see what God would do in this next year.

But then I realized, I want more people to experience this as well.

Which leads us to now.

Alesha and I are setting aside a weekly time to pray together about our lives, the lives of others, and whatever God puts on our hearts. We started last Tuesday opening it up to others to send in prayer requests, and we’re also happy to have others come and join us in person or wherever you may be.

I don’t know where it will go exactly,
But I hope that we (and many others) will get to experience a nearness to Jesus and each other from our weekly prayer time like the one that we got to experience with these friends.

So, if you have something you want prayer for,
Or you want to join us in praying together,
Simply reach out, we’re happy to pray for you and with you too.

Preparing For The Christian Life

Preparing For The Christian Life

I’ve been reading about and reflecting lately on how Jesus calls His followers to lay down their lives. How He calls us to give our lives to Him and to realize the “cost” of following Him before we even start down that road (Luke 14:25-34).

In the midst of this, I was given the opportunity to teach in the kids class a couple of Sundays ago at our church, and our topic was very related.

Our church is going through a series on the end times as we study through the book of Mark, because we have reached Mark 13:1-27. I got to teach the kids class as we studied Mark 13:1-13.

Here’s the over simplified breakdown of these two sections:

Mark 13:1-13 Tells us what to do UNTIL the end comes

And Mark 13:14-27 tells us what to do WHEN the end comes (and when that will be)

Mark 13 begins with two very important reminders:

  1. God values people and their hearts more than their places of worship and accomplishments.
  2. Jesus knows the future and is not wringing His hands nervously, wondering how it’s all going to play out.

In these first few verses, the disciples are admiring the grand temple in Jerusalem, to which Jesus responds that not one of its stones will remain on top of another (that the entire thing will be completely destroyed and dismantled).

It reminds me of Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well in John 4, where Jesus tells her that one day people will not worship at the mountain or the temple but in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:21-24).

It’s a great reminder of God’s priorities: people – not buildings or places of worship.

It was never the grandeur of the place that made it wonderful: it was God’s presence.

Fun fact: Jesus’ statement about the temple being destroyed must have seemed impossible. It was MASSIVE (even larger than the one Solomon built). However, when Rome unintentionally set it on fire around 70 AD (a drunk soldier set it ablaze when they were cracking down on a rebellion) all the gold of the temple melted into the cracks between the stones, and so the Roman military took the temple apart stone by stone in order to collect all of the gold.

Knowing What To “Pack”

Just like the situation with the temple, Jesus knows what will happen next.

He even goes into great detail in Mark 13:14-27 warning us of what to expect near the end of time…

But in verses 5-13, Jesus tells them of problems they (and we) will experience until the end does come… and He tells us how to handle them.

This is extremely important because Jesus is telling us how to set proper expectations for a life of following Him, and how to respond to the life problems that come our way.

And having correct expectations for life is like knowing what to pack for a vacation.

If you were going on a special trip,
but you didn’t know where you were going,
you would have a really hard time packing for the trip.

Will it be cold?
Will you be swimming?
Or will you be snowboarding?

Without knowing WHERE you’re going, you will have no idea what to pack.

Similarly, if we don’t know where following Jesus will lead us, we won’t know what to expect or how to respond.

Which is why Jesus gives us insight into what to expect from now until the end comes.

He is giving us clear expectations so that we’re not caught off guard.

And, with each warning of things to come, Jesus gives us something we can do to prepare for the life ahead.

Many will try to deceive… But do not be deceived (Mark 13:5-6)

This first warning from Jesus is the foundation.

People will give out “false gospels” and spread lies about God. Whether good intentions or not, we see people spreading half-truths about Who God is and what He wants for our lives.

And Jesus gives a clear command: “do not be deceived”. We are to know the Truth of Scripture and to not be influenced by lies.

You will hear wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines and troubles… But do not be troubled (Mark 13:7-8)

It’s easier today than ever before to be troubled by national and global events.

Because of today’s technology and social media, we’re bombarded with issues throughout the world and we’re aware of situations and problems on a greater scale than history has ever known.

And, throughout it all, Jesus tells us to “not be troubled”. For just as He knew of the temple’s upcoming destruction, He’s fully aware of the what is going on, and He’s working in the midst of all of it.

Please note that I am not saying that we should passively sit by as problems arise. Jesus said to not be troubled; He didn’t say to be passive. We can be active in helping others in small and big ways – all while not “being troubled” and trusting Him through it all.

You will be rejected by religious and political leaders… But be submissive to them and a witness to the Truth (Mark 13:9)

The Church has experienced many seasons of persecution throughout the world. Sometimes by other religions, sometimes by political groups, and sometimes by both.

Jesus makes it clear that these people are not the enemy, Satan is. And although we will go through times of persecution or having to go against what is popular, Jesus tells us to do so as a witness to the Truth.

This means that we are to be submissive to the laws and rulers, to the extent that they don’t contradict God’s Word. And if we have to disobey to stay in good conscience, then we are to fully accept the consequence laid out by the rulers of the land (consider Daniel’s example in Daniel chapter 6).

You are to share the Gospel with all nations (Mark 13:10)

This is directly connected to the verse beforehand. While following Jesus in our daily lives and being a “witness to the Truth” we are also told to proactively share the Gospel with everyone near and far.

You are to trust in, walk with, rely on, and speak from the Holy Spirit (Mark 13:11)

Again, tied back to verse 9, we are to rely on the Holy Spirit in the mist of all persecution and in general life where we are to live as a witness to the Truth.

As it’s been said: “a supernatural calling requires supernatural power.”

That’s exactly what we have here: we are called to live supernaturally powered by God’s Spirit in order to give the best witness to the Truth in all areas of our lives.

You will be hated and betrayed – even by your own family… But you are to endure until the end so that you may be saved (Mark 13:12-13)

This “heads up” capstones the rest.

Jesus already told the disciples that they would be persecuted by religious and political leaders… but now it gets real: you can expect to be hated and betrayed… even by your own family.

This is probably one of the hardest teachings of Jesus to swallow.

To be abandoned by and even turned against by your family is heartbreaking, but God promises that it will be worth it.

That even when we lose our family, friends and loved ones…
We are being brought into a new family…
Adopted into God’s family…

Make no mistake: Jesus doesn’t say these things lightly.

Counting the cost of following Him is one of His most common (yet overlooked) teachings.

He didn’t promise peace with others,
But He did promise peace with God.

He didn’t say that following Him would always be popular,
But that He would never leave you.

I encourage you to look at this list and make mental notes of which ones are most difficult for you personally, and ask Jesus for the grace to follow Him in the midst of it.

And, don’t forget, regardless of how difficult it sounds, Jesus promises to be with you every step of the way.

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Matthew 28:20

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