The Hope of Later//Heather

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrew 12:11

I love the contrast in this verse—in the moment BUT later.

We so often forget about later and just focus on this moment. It’s not surprising though, is it? We’re surrounded with Carpe Diem, eat drink and be merry, and of course YOLO.

But living for the moment leaves little room

for the difficulties and experiences that seem unpleasant. And discipline? No thank you.

This verse so eloquently and concisely explains why read the Bible more, spend time in prayer, exercise, finally share with that friend, and so many more are on our New Year’s Resolution list every single year. It’s because these things are painful.

You might be thinking, okay obviously exercise is painful (at least when I do it) or maybe even sharing the Gospel with a friend can be painful in a socially awkward kind of way but praying or reading my Bible more? I don’t know about that.

Here’s the thing though, for these things to actually happen we have to give up something else. Something in our lives has to change if we want to change. Maybe it’s more sleep—getting up earlier so you can have time to read and pray before class. Maybe it’s time you usually spend relaxing and watching the Flash (okay or your TV show of choice). Maybe it’s the long trek to the gym when it’s ten degrees outside and all your roommates are still warm in their beds. Discipline is painful because it costs us something. You and I will not change and grow by continuing in the same habits as before.

BUT later.

Discipline is unpleasant at the time but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. As Christians, even though it is easy to forget, we are living for so much more than this moment. We have the hope of eternity. We have the hope of later. This has the power to shift our eyes from just this moment to the grand scope of God’s plan. With the Holy Spirit, this has the power to move us from who we wish we were to more of who God has called us to be.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

How is God calling you today to look past this moment and live for later? How will you let discipline yield its peaceful fruit of righteousness in your life today?

Don’t Fight The Plan//Steph//Day seven

How sweet to read this week of advent posts! I’m so thankful Christmas is more than giving or getting the “right gift”. More than pretty lights on houses and yes, even more than spending time with loved ones. My sisters have done a great job writing out their thoughts on advent. What has struck me this year is how many of us can relate to Mary for different reasons. I was discussing her situation with some friends recently. We realized how much Mary had to let go of control. She didn’t get to choose when to have a child or even pick her baby’s name. Isn’t that something we love?  Being in control. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to obey God at times.

Mary was just a teenager (so young!) when she was told she would a have a baby who would be the “Son of the Most High”. Wouldn’t you have been a bit intimidated? But Mary’s response is striking. She could have asked, “Why me?” She could have made excuses. She could have grown prideful (as I’m sure I would have). But she simply asks how this is possible since she is a virgin (fair question, right?). She then says, “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.” 
“I am the Lord’s servant.” Her reply is simple and we have much to learn from it. What a beautiful example of humble obedience. She doesn’t fight the plan as if she can’t do it. She doesn’t say, “Of course God chose me. I’m perfect for this role.” She simply obeys out of a humble heart. Not because she wasn’t scared. She must have understood God is good and He would provide for her if He called her. She must have actually trusted God.
What would it mean for us to let go of control and obey God humbly? Let’s ask God today for the gift of humble obedience in whatever He calls us to whether the call comes this week or years from now. I can only imagine how that might impact the broken world around us that needs to be pointed to Jesus our loving Savior. Jesus who humbly obeyed and came to earth as a baby, to live the sinless life we cannot live, and to die the death we deserve. In doing this He brought us real life. Better than gifts and lights and anything this world could ever offer us. 
I pray you are blessed by knowing Jesus more this Christmas season.

The Christmas Struggle//Brooke//Day One

I always feel a little twinge of disappointment about this time every December.  You see when the calendar flips to December 1. I am 100% all in on this Christmas thing. I dream and plan!  I can’t wait to settle into my daily advent devotional, bake and serve cookies to my neighbors, and be extra kind and Christmas cheery.  Well, it’s already 12/14.  I’ve done 3 days of an advent devo and zero baking for neighbors, and probably zero extra Christmas cheer.  The days fly. One after another, so fast.  and here we are 11 days til Christmas.  ahh.

But I can’t escape the reminder that this season brings. God came near. God is near. He is with us. at all times. Even in our non-advent devotional reading times and non-baking time and all the other things that life brings. He is near and wants to be near to us.    
He entered this life to be with us(through a girl named Mary).  He came to heal, mend, and restore us. He came to weep with us and walk with us.  He came to Save.  He is Incredible. Truly.
And yet this December I feel so distracted.  I want to be available to His nearness, His presence. But I keep myself too “busy”. 
So this Monday I am re-surrendering my December.  I am praying God would help me be WAY MORE aware of His presence.  
Here are three ways that I am going to try to be more aware of His presence over the next 11 days[and prayerfully onward]:
1.Be Still, s l o w down.  This will be a fight–but the very best best thing!  It is essential to let the Word wash over your heart and mind each day.  It will really change our perspectives.  Praise God.
2. Actively remember that He is here. With me.  “And surely I am with you always til the end of the Age.” Matthew 28:20. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ–the Spirit of Christ lives in you.  Isn’t that a miracle in and of itself.  God in us.  He softens our hearts and prompts us to love and good deeds. He is the best best best part about us.  You can go nowhere over the next 11 days (and beyond) where you can escape Him.  He is with you always. I want to remember He is with me and invite Him into all the parts of my day. If I did this I would live with much more courage, bravery, and purpose.
3. Respond quickly to His promptings.  Since Christ lives in us and is with us, He whispers gently to our spirit to do things, to remember things.  I am praying to respond quickly to those whispers. What a wonderful, more fulfilling life that would be. “Spiritual maturity is when you hear God and respond quickly.  Spiritual immaturity is hearing from God and making excuses.” –Steve Carter, pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago.  I couldn’t agree more.  
God,
Thank you for sending Jesus.  It’s truly made all the difference in my life.  Please forgive me for not valuing stillness and for filling my days with a lot of extra busyness and idleness.  I desperately want to slow down over these next two weeks and remember you.  Help me to delight in stillness and delight in your Word.  I pray I would remember that you are indeed with me no matter what joy or heartache or mundane moment happens. And God speak to my heart. I want to obey your promptings and walk in the power of your Spirit, full of faith.  You are good and kind and full of grace.  Thanks for wanting to be with us.  Thanks for being constant.                              In your Sons name, Amen
[for more thoughts on this listen to this talk by Steve Carter, so good]