Weekly Devotionals June 10 – June 15

What does it mean to have faith? Faith for some means to think certain things are true. Faith for Jesus is about living as if something were true. The two parables Jesus tells here revolve around the idea of seeds and growing. At first glance it may seem that Jesus is advocating for a lazy faith, but we see anything but that in the way he lived. What do you think his message in the first parable is? The second parable is probably more well-known than the first. It’s comforting in a sense. If we simply have the tiniest bit of faith, amazing things can happen. The more we allow this parable to capture our imagination though, we see how well it pairs with the first parable. Even the tiniest bit of faith can have great effects, but the way it grows and produces is always God’s work, not something we determine on our own. Where have you noticed a small amount of faithfulness bloom into something great? Parables capture our imagination. The more we sit with them, the more they grow. Read through these two parables again. What stirs in you when you read them? Bring that to God today in prayer.
How do parables help us to see heaven? We’re told that Jesus spoke in parables to the crowds, but explained their meaning to his disciples. It’s important to note here that his disciples weren’t only the twelve we know about from the gospels. At different points in his ministry Jesus had many who believed in the good news he proclaimed and became his disciples (followers or learners). These are the ones he went in depth with concerning the parables. These were the ones who had their hearts stirred by his message and wanted to give their lives to it. What do you think held back people in the crowd from becoming his disciples? The funny thing is, even though the disciples had the benefit of Jesus explaining the parable to them, we still see terrified in the boat during the storm. It’s one thing to learn something, it’s another to put it into practice. During the storm, Jesus becomes a living parable for his disciples. The storm is raging, yet Jesus is seemingly unshaken by the storm. The only thing that wakes him is his concern for his disciples well-being. Then, with a word the storm is stilled and the disciples are awed. Are there storms in your life? Where do you need to take your concern to Jesus and to hear him speak? Bring that to him now.
How can I learn to trust God more? Ezekiel is a prophet speaking to God’s people, reminding them of God’s promises and the covenant he has with them to be his people. Here, he uses a parable to explain the promises and actions of God on earth. Cedar trees grow tall and their wood was often used to construct palaces. They were valuable trees. Yet, God is chooses to make use of a small sprig from the top of the tree. God removes it from an existing tree and plants it to grow on it’s own. It’s God’s work and God’s vision that creates this great tree. It’s God’s work and God’s vision through Jesus and in your own life that produces something great out of something so small. Is there any area in your life where you lack vision (the ability to see where you’re headed in the future)? How can your relationship with God give you faith to not only see where God is leading you, but to journey with him to that place? In your prayers today, take your dreams and desires to God. Allow him to guide your next steps toward his great vision for your life.
How can my faith, no matter how small, help me to see heaven in my relationships with others? Paul is encouraging the church in Corinth to live into the work that Jesus has already accomplished. Paul reminds them that what guides those who follow Jesus isn’t what we can see, but the faith we have in God who is always present and at work even when we don’t see it. This faith leads to transformation in our life, but it also leads to transformation in other people’s lives as well. If mustard seed sized faith can produce a great work in our lives it can also produce a great work in other people’s lives as well. Even when we become frustrated or disheartened in our relationships we can remember the small seeds that God is causing to grow into new creations in others. We simply hold fast to a faith that God is working and wants to work through us to help accomplish his new creation in those we know. Who believed in the work God was doing in you when you came to know Jesus? Is there someone in your life that you need to trust to God’s work? How does God want to work through you to nurture the seeds of faith in their life? Talk with God now about this relationship.
What can I do to better see heaven on a regular basis? “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night.” To declare God’s love in the morning is to remember who God is and that God is with you from the beginning to the end of the day. To declare God’s faithfulness by night is to look back on your day to notice glimpses of God’s presence and work throughout your day. A habit of beginning and ending your day with prayer and scripture sets our mind on the presence and work of God in our lives and in our world. Here’s an example of a morning prayer: Lord, Thank you for another day. This is a day that You have made. I will rejoice and be glad in it. God, you are always present and at work in me and through me. I want to be faithful to you today. Then in the evening try this: Find a quiet place. Take 10 deep slow breathes. Think through your day and take notice of any moments where you experienced emotions of any sort. Ask God to bring one of those moments to the front of your mind. Pray to God about that moment and what he wants you to know or see.
Faithfully following Jesus requires us to stay connected to Jesus. Just as a branch dies if it becomes disconnected from a tree; our souls wither and dry when disconnected from Jesus. The following pages provide you an opportunity to reflect back on your week and take into account where you have been connected and where you have been disconnected from Jesus. It takes a holistic approach to being connected with Jesus. It isn’t just about your prayer life or scripture reading though that is included. It invites us to look at our physical wellbeing, our relationships, and our spiritual energy. This reflection will not change your life, but it can open a window to discovering areas of our life where Jesus is inviting us to grow. This is not meant to discourage you in any way, only to begin to become aware of our relationship with Jesus. Ideally, this would be shared with someone you trust. We say a corporate prayer of confession when we prepare for communion, and we may even pray private prayers of confession and forgiveness to God. It is possible to do both of these practices and remain “alone in our sin” as Dietrich Bonhoeffer once put it. Being alone in our sin never frees us from the sinful habits we have created. James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” It may be uncomfortable to practice confession because we fear feeling guilty. Confession frees us from guilt by helping us experience grace and forgiveness that comes from Jesus. There is nothing like a life free from guilt, set free to follow Jesus wherever he leads. Begin by praying this prayer and spending a moment in silence to prepare your heart. Prayer: Father God, As I look back upon my week, help me to be honest with myself and with you. I long to remain connected to Christ so that I may live in him. Guide me in these moments closer to your heart.

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