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Making Space for the Kingdom of God

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:33 (NLT)

I’m steeped in 3rd century church history right now and learning how monasteries got started. I’ve always found this simple life of devotion appealing. Had I been Catholic, I’d have considered becoming a nun. My brother still teases that I could be Amish, and I admit being attracted to their lifestyle.

Surprisingly, this highly devoted lifestyle started because Christianity was legalized. When worshiping God was illegal, every Christian was highly devoted because identifying with Christianity was socially and physically costly. Anyone refusing to worship the plethora of cultural gods was odd and sometimes faced arrest, torture and death.

Bigger is not better

When Emperor Constantine favored Christianity over pagan religions, Christianity became popular. The increased numbers meant decreased commitment to faith. New believers often blended their old practices with Christianity. So those who wanted a deeper connection with God separated themselves from the watered down, tolerant, popularized Christianity to focus their attention on devotion and service.

Is stepping away from the hubbub of daily life necessary for deep connection? 

Is commitment greater when there’s a cost or consequence?

It’s impossible to measure the depth of spirituality in today’s world. However, I notice my own struggle to balance the pace of everyday life with my devotion to God. Sunday commitments keep me from worship. My schedule doesn’t permit space for consistent prayer and contemplation. I yearn for and recognize the benefit of spiritual retreats specifically designed to focus on faith.

How can we balance the demands of modern society and stay attuned to God?

Prioritizing concerns that are important to God ensures a day in the Kingdom. (tweet this)

#SeedsofScripture @Cathy_Chung #KingdomofGod #modernsociety #spirituality

Believing ‘In’ or Believing ‘That’

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.
1 Corinthians 15:17 (NLT)

I’ve been exploring the expansion of the church after the New Testament. All the church had to work with were oral accounts of Jesus’ teaching, the Jewish scriptures, Paul’s letters, and the Holy Spirit. From these teachings, certain universal beliefs emerged. The church was piecing together the rest.

• When and how should we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection?
• Was Jesus human or merely spiritual?
• Is Jesus the same as God or separate and subordinate?
• Is the God that Jesus represented the same wrathful God of the Jewish scriptures?

No one intended to mislead, but sometimes they incorrectly proposed doctrine that contradicted another accepted truth. They were careful to test every new idea against scripture and the teachings of those who knew Jesus personally.

Ultimately, the church denounced ideas that risked salvation.

An idea that described a Christ who could not save us must be wrong, because they knew Christ’s death and resurrection earned our salvation. An idea that described humans as not needing salvation by God must be incorrect, because humans cannot save themselves.

Why was getting it right so important?

Because the church wasn’t establishing rituals to perform routinely. It was true. They didn’t merely believe in God. They believed that God had acted in history to create the world, send His Son, die on the cross and rise to life again. It actually happened and it changed every person’s eternity.

  • How would you describe the difference between believing in God and believing that God saves us?
  • How does it impact your life?

We don’t merely believe in God. We believe that God acted in history for our salvation. (tweet this)

#SeedsofScripture @Cathy_Chung #JesusSaves #Truth

I Didn’t Think I Was Lost

For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.
Luke 19:10 (NLT)

This verse isn’t for me.

I’m not lost. I know where I’m going and what I’m doing and when I don’t, I Google it. I don’t need help – I can handle it. Sound familiar?

Nor did I feel lost before entering into a relationship with Jesus. Life was proceeding as expected. This stay-at-home mom hung out at playgrounds and playgroups, volunteered, carpooled, and managed life pretty well. Busy and sometimes stressed, yes, but lost? No way!

Until I admitted I was.

I’ve believed in Jesus my whole life, but my relationship with Him began during a Bible study class. I found a way to squeeze in (almost) daily prayer and quiet time and began to look forward to this personal time. Before opening my Bible, I opened my heart and shared thoughts I didn’t share with anyone – thoughts of guilt, grief, inadequacy, and unhappiness. Only by slowing my pace, becoming vulnerable, and allowing God to bring healing to hidden feelings, did I realize I was lost.

God’s promises of love, forgiveness, and guidance changed my life. God knew me and still loved me. Jesus was persistently seeking me but my self-sufficiency pushed away His offer to save me.

Saved from what? Saved for what?

Salvation isn’t about heaven after death. It’s about flourishing in this life, knowing our intrinsic value and security as God’s beloved, finding joy in following Jesus’ way of loving selflessly, and debunking the world’s lies about what’s important.

When we admit our need for Jesus, He makes a real difference in our lives. (tweet this)

Do you feel a little lost? Jesus can help you find your way.

#SeedsofScripture @Cathy_Chung #quiettime #Jesussaves #Iwaslost

God Answers Unspoken Prayers

And four great beasts came up out of the sea…
Daniel 7:3(ESV)

Warning: I can be one of those beasts.

The following story is evidence that God answers even unspoken prayers.

For me, Holy Week is the most meaningful of the whole year. I’ve been complaining (not praying) that I will miss Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday services due to travel. I had given up on connecting deeply with God this Holy Week. But God knew my disappointment and answered my unspoken prayer with a podcast.

It’s a long story…

Before my daughter’s wedding I was an exercise fanatic. Vanity is a great motivator. The very next day, ‘poof’ went my reason for healthy eating and toned muscles.

The upward creep of the scale pushed me onto the treadmill today, the first day of Holy Week. I often explore podcasts while walking, but I needed to make a phone call. When my call went unanswered, I searched for an interesting podcast. The paper I’m writing about Revelation drew my attention to a podcast about the book of Daniel – they are closely connected through weird dreams, visions, beasts and destruction and I need to understand Daniel 7 for my paper. Bonus! Instruction from a favorite biblical scholar and exercise simultaneously!

This was already answered prayer because I’m stressing over Revelation but the real answer came through the speaker’s fresh insight about Good Friday.

Only God could turn a weird Old Testament vision into an incredibly meaningful message about Jesus’ victory on the cross, convict me as one of Daniel’s strange beasts, and time this answer to unspoken prayer in order to connect me deeply to the message of Holy Week.

Curious? Have a listen:

We can all be beasts. Thankfully there’s Jesus. (tweet this)

#SeedsOfScripture #Jesusconquers #HolyWeek #answeredprayer #unspokenprayer

Will We Follow?

gain life by surrenderingThen he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.
Luke 9:23-24

Have you ever felt the joy and energy that results from listening to God, following His guidance, and doing something beyond your own capabilities? There’s nothing more exciting than seeing God’s indisputable work in your life! Can you remember such a time?

Why don’t we follow God’s guidance and tap into His power more often?

The Romans forced the convicted man to carry his own cross to the place of crucifixion as a symbol of complete submission. God won’t force us to submit, but rather asks us to give Him control. God has plans for our awesome, fulfilling life, but He needs our cooperation. Instead of death, (daily) submission to God yields a flourishing new life in Him!

Why don’t we let God lead even after we’ve experienced overwhelming results?

I believe we want control of our life. We’re afraid of the unknown direction God wants to take us. We don’t trust His goodness enough to risk uncertainty.

Here’s Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase in The Message:
Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self.

How might you be missing out on life by maintaining firm control?

#SeedsOfScripture #fear #takeupyourcross #followme

Three Small Words

God has saved us.
2 Timothy 1:9 (NIV)

We’ve heard it a thousand or more times. God saved us.

Or maybe the phrase we’ve heard over and over is ‘God loves us’ and it just seems like the same idea.

Let’s consider the meaning of these three small words ‘God saved us’.

This statement separates Christianity from every other religion. No other god saves. They set a standard that followers must attain in order to earn approval. Not so with God.

2 Timothy 1:9 continues: not because of anything we have done.
God did the work in Jesus. His sacrifice guaranteed our acceptance.

Christianity is unique because the one who set the standard also did the saving.

This gift is freely offered to all who acknowledge two beliefs. The first is its truth. We must believe that Jesus is God wrapped in flesh because only He has the authority to forgive sin and grant acceptance.

The second is to admit we need saving, that we are incapable of meeting God’s standard on our own. While a humble confession might feel like failure, it’s a beautiful admission because it allows for a Savior.

A humble confession might feel like failure, but the beautiful admission allows for a Savior.

Our God saves. Have you considered the uniqueness of Christianity?

#SeedsOfScripture #salvation #confession
This post first appeared on Seeds of Scripture Oct 12, 2016

The Privilege of Faith

For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for Him.
Philippians 1:29 (NLT)

Are we privileged?

No matter our position in this world, as believers we are distinctly privileged to trust Christ and claim all God’s promises. Do we forget our place in God’s family as beloved, chosen, adopted children? Do we lose sight of His promised presence? Do we appreciate the confidence, peace and joy that come from trusting that Jesus paid the price for us?

Yes, we are privileged.

In addition, we have the privilege to suffer for Him. Privilege and suffering are seldom paired, but accepting the good gifts of God entails enduring the mockery, ridicule, and disapproval of the world – sometimes even physical harm. It’s an odd privilege to claim.

After contemplating this honor for several days, I’m unable to think of one way in which I’ve suffered for Jesus. I’ve ended an unhealthy relationship and turned off an inappropriate show, but nothing close to suffering. I’m ashamed to admit this because Christians in other parts of the world suffer for their faith. Muslims converting to Christianity sometimes leave their countries due to death threats. Countries prohibiting Bibles enforce severe punishment for offenders.

We can’t know how we’ll respond until faced with a difficult situation, but it’s worth considering the possibilities. Is my trust in Christ so solid that I would defend Him against verbal assault? Would I oppose the majority to hold fast to Jesus’ teachings? Could I stand firm in my faith in the face of physical suffering?

With the privilege of trusting Christ comes the privilege of suffering for Him.

Do you know someone who has suffered for Christ? Please share.

#SeedsofScripture @Cathy_Chung #privilege #defendingthefaith

A Good Imitation

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children.
Ephesians 5:1(NLT)

I’ve been told that I’m becoming like my mother. As a teenager, this was an offensive statement, but now I consider it a compliment.

As is bound to happen in a church community, I often teach my friends’ children and find it fun to see a parent mirrored in their student. While genetics determines their physical likeness, I’m amused by their facial expressions, hand movements, ideas and their choice of words. Without realizing it, or wanting to, children imitate their parents.

Children adopt characteristics over time by observing behavior.

This is the kind of imitation mentioned in today’s verse from Ephesians. Imitate God as a child imitates a dear parent. To do this requires spending lots of time with Him – living our lives in His presence.

We need to read scripture and observe His creation, which both reveal the Father’s character. We need to study Jesus’ life since He was God in human form. We need to spend time in prayer listening to His promptings.

Just as young children intentionally copy their parents, wanting to shave or cook, initially we must work at imitating our Father. However, as time goes on, these characteristics will become part of us and our actions, desires, and words will mirror His.

By reading Seeds of Scripture, you’re already learning about God’s character and expectations. Keep reading this devotion (or any other) regularly and stay in His presence all day by contemplating His Words.

Learning to imitate God means spending a lot of time in His presence. (tweet this)

What do you know about God?
How can you imitate that?

#SeedsOfScripture #InHisPresence #imitation
This post first appeared on Seeds of Scripture on 9-22-15.

Only the Best for Our Babies

Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.
1 Peter 2:2-3 (NLT)

Think about how we feed an infant. Our goal is to provide the healthiest nutrition to help their body and brain develop to its full potential while also protecting them from harmful chemicals and unhealthy foods. The result is a nutritionally healthy child with a preference for wholesome food.

Today’s scripture compares feeding a newborn to feeding a new or developing believer.

We are usually old enough to provide our own ‘nutrition’ when we decide to follow Jesus, so what does our developing faith need to grow? Do we have strong Christian role models who care deeply for our development? Do we have a regular schedule for feeding our mind and soul? Do we select the highest quality “pure spiritual milk”?

Also, do we protect ourselves from harmful influences that prevent us from growing into our best possible selves? Is anything that we consume stunting our growth?

Position yourself for spiritual growth with strong spiritual relationships and solid Christian teaching.

Just food for thought…

#SeedsofScripture @Cathy_Chung #spiritualgrowth #babyfood

A Process of Growth

following Jesus is a processIn view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence (goodness), and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:5-8 (NLT)

This list makes my head spin. I gloss over the words, not absorbing their meaning. So let’s skip the list for now and focus on the statements on either side of it – the instruction and the goal.

In view of all this, respond to God’s promises so that your [full acquaintance with] Jesus will become productive and useful.

‘In view of all this’ summarizes verses 3-4: God has provided everything we need to resist the world and participate in God’s divine nature.

Here’s my paraphrase:
• Believe that God has provided everything we need to live out our salvation through Jesus.
• In faith, begin practicing the goodness (moral behavior) that Jesus modeled while also learning more about God (adding knowledge).
• Exhibit self-control in transforming old thought patterns and behaviors to align with this new knowledge of God’s character.
• Even if these challenging adjustments don’t yield immediate benefits, be patient and persist in godly behavior.
• Increase godly, brotherly love to be love that includes everyone like Jesus did.
• As you grow through the process, your increased awareness of God and deepening relationship with Him positions you to be truly useful and productive to spread His Kingdom.

A deepening relationship with Jesus positions us to spread His Kingdom.

#SeedsofScripture #Godprovides #relationshipwithGod #transformation

Spend a few minutes to plant a quick Seed. Or stay longer and plant a whole garden.

Each post is a brief scriptural thought that will grow as you let it take root in your thoughts.  If you have time, dig into one area of interest and plant a whole garden.
Each post is a brief scriptural thought that will grow as you let it take root in your thoughts. If you have time, dig into one area of interest and plant a whole garden.

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