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What Will You Receive This Year?

What Will You Receive This Year?

Happy New Year, friends. If you’re anything like me, every last Christmas tree needle has been swept from the house, the gnarls of Christmas lights are tucked away in boxes, and you just found a stray ornament, one that will possibly sit on your dresser until next year because you’re just not walking that thing down into your unfinished basement when it’s six degrees outside. Or maybe no one is like me. At any rate, here we sit at the beginning of a new year. A fresh slate, prime for dreams and ambitions to be etched into its stone. Another chance to strive for what might not have been accomplished last year. A new beginning.

As I sit atop the New Year, I will tell you something. I am less about dreams and ambitions this year and more about listening and receiving from Jesus. My personality hasn’t gone through a sudden transformation, nor have I finally figured out a newfound secret to this journey we call the Christian life. It’s more that the Lord has stopped me in a sense. Oh, yes, I am still doing all the things I feel very much called to–teaching, writing, studying, investing in family and friends and my local church, but how I go about these things is somewhat in question for me for a few reasons.

For starters, and maybe you can identify, a few of the doors I’ve tried to jar open aren’t budging, while some other ones I’d never considered before, appear wide open but I’m not sure how to walk through them. I don’t mean to be vague, except I’m trying to make sense of it all myself, and maybe you’re in a similar position. Maybe I can best frame it the way the Gospel writer Luke did.

Do you remember the story in Luke 10:38-42 where Jesus comes to Mary and Martha’s house for a meal? I talk about it in my latest podcast episode. Martha is frustrated because she’s “serving alone.” The person closest to her isn’t doing for her what she is sure needs to be done, and she’s distracted by many necessary tasks (anyone?). Jesus goes further when He describes Martha as worried and upset about many things. Meanwhile, Mary is taking the position of a disciple. She’s sitting at Jesus’s feet and listening to what He says—a once in a lifetime moment for her. She’s not so concerned about what she can serve Jesus in this moment but rather what He can serve her. The good portion, or the right part, as some translations read, is what Mary has chosen, and Jesus says, “It can never be taken from her.”  

I believe Jesus was inviting Martha to come sit alongside Mary, not because what Martha was doing didn’t matter, but because He was offering her something better. To listen. To receive. Oh, yes, we all have much serving and many things we need to do this year. And that is not wrong. As Christ-followers we are called to reach out, invite in, love others in tangible ways. But we’re also called to sit. To commune with Christ. To partake of the Bread of Life. To let Him fill us up. And that is what I want to do more of this year. And this is what I hope you will choose this year. 

One of the primary ways we sit at Jesus’s feet and listen to Him is through Bible study*, prayer, and our fellowship with others. If you haven’t decided on a Bible study at the top of this year, I hope you will choose one today. Or maybe you’ll start a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan. There are many free ones to choose from. One wonderful place to start is seeing what your local church has to offer in the way of studies. Just know I’m cheering you on in 2023 as you look to not only see what you can do for Jesus, but as you first invest in quality time with Him. That which can never be taken away!

*If I can be of any help to your Bible study journey, you can find all the studies I’ve written here. I’m also thrilled that on February 7th, I’ll be releasing my first devotional called: The Blessed Life: A 90-Day Journey Through the Teachings and Miracles Of Jesus. Every day for 90 days, we’ll walk through Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount as well as 10 of His most notable miracles and healings.

*Download the graphics below to share on your socials. Don’t forget to tag @kelly_minter on Instagram and @KellyMinterAuthor on Facebook! Click the button below to open in a new tab, then right-click on the image to download.

Savior and Friend

Savior and Friend

The Christmas season is fully upon us. I have no idea how this happened, since it feels like only a few days ago I had 31 people at my house for Thanksgiving. I love hosting, but this was the longest day of my life. I am not at all opposed to going back to my growing...

Seeing God in Every Season

Seeing God in Every Season

It’s November, one of my favorite months of the year. I don’t know if you love all-things homelike I do, but I have my autumn décor and colors out, and I’m about to slash open somepumpkins for pumpkin pie. The leaves have mostly fallen, and with the crunch of them...

A Case for Grace

A Case for Grace

I baked bread yesterday. I milled my grain, used a digital scale my brother bought me for my birthday, and converted everything from ounces to grams. It was a disaster. I’m not sure where I erred but one loaf looks like it’s trying to throw up and the other like a...

Savior and Friend

Savior and Friend

The Christmas season is fully upon us. I have no idea how this happened, since it feels like only a few days ago I had 31 people at my house for Thanksgiving. I love hosting, but this was the longest day of my life. I am not at all opposed to going back to my growing up years, where I did absolutely nothing on Thanksgiving except show up with all my relatives at my grandparents’ house and proceed to plow through turkey and mashed potatoes until I was tipsy on tryptophan. Those were some good days. 

Christmas is here whether we’re ready or not, and I pray it’s your best yet–not because your circumstances are the best they’ve ever been, but because you’re leaning into our Savior more than ever before (For some encouragement, check out this month’s special Christmas Cultivate Podcast). We have a choice this Christmas: to set our expectations on the inability of people and presents to meet our deepest longings, or to cast ourselves on Christ who is the fulfillment of our souls. I’m choosing Christ, and I hope you will, too. 

As we prepare our hearts, I’m reminded of Gabriel’s words to Joseph in Matthew 1:21-23. “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel,’ which means ‘God with us’” (emphases mine). 

Notice these two bookends regarding the name of Jesus.

The first is that He will save us from our sins (v. 21), and the second is that He will be with us (v. 23).  I’ve read this account many times, but never noticed the marriage of God’s power to save and His intimate nearness. If He was only mighty to save but not mercifully with us, we would have a Deliverer but not a Friend. And if Jesus had merely drawn near to us apart from any power to save, we would have a Friend but not a Savior.

This time of year accentuates whatever place in which we find ourselves. If all is right in our world, the season is extra celebratory. How can eggnog, Christmas lights, and a month-long dose of sentimental music not make us feel extra hopeful? But if we’re walking through grief, loss or pain, these very same things only amplify our sorrow. So we take great comfort in our Savior, who is both strong enough to save and loving enough to have made His home with us. He is both Savior and Friend. I pray you are experiencing Him as both this year. 

As we end this year together, I want to say thank you for all your encouragement and support. That you would go through my Bible studies, listen to my podcasts, and come visit me on the road is truly a gift to me. 

Merry Christmas,

Kelly

 

*Download the graphics below to share on your socials. Don’t forget to tag @kelly_minter on Instagram and @KellyMinterAuthor on Facebook! Click the button below to open in a new tab, then right-click on the image to download.

Savior and Friend

Savior and Friend

The Christmas season is fully upon us. I have no idea how this happened, since it feels like only a few days ago I had 31 people at my house for Thanksgiving. I love hosting, but this was the longest day of my life. I am not at all opposed to going back to my growing...

Seeing God in Every Season

Seeing God in Every Season

It’s November, one of my favorite months of the year. I don’t know if you love all-things homelike I do, but I have my autumn décor and colors out, and I’m about to slash open somepumpkins for pumpkin pie. The leaves have mostly fallen, and with the crunch of them...

A Case for Grace

A Case for Grace

I baked bread yesterday. I milled my grain, used a digital scale my brother bought me for my birthday, and converted everything from ounces to grams. It was a disaster. I’m not sure where I erred but one loaf looks like it’s trying to throw up and the other like a...

Seeing God in Every Season

Seeing God in Every Season

It’s November, one of my favorite months of the year. I don’t know if you love all-things home
like I do, but I have my autumn décor and colors out, and I’m about to slash open some
pumpkins for pumpkin pie. The leaves have mostly fallen, and with the crunch of them under
foot, I’m reminded of the fresh change the rhythm of seasons brings about. And this is to say
nothing about the uses of butternut squash, apples, and things like cinnamon, cloves, and
ginger in all manner of recipes.
I wonder if you’re in a happy season or a sorrowful one, if you’re looking forward to the holiday
season or approaching it with dread, if spring and summer are your months to shine, while fall
and winter feel like one long crawl under the covers? No matter how the current season finds
you, it feels like a good time to talk about three benefits to seasons that I hope will be
encouraging.
1. Seasons bring newness, even when they’re hard. Can we all agree we’re happy that it’s
not 95 degrees with 100,000% humidity every day of the year? (unless you live in the
Amazon jungle, one of my favorite places…whoops!) Reflected in God’s creation are the
rhythms of life that bring forth both blossoms and dying leaves, fallow ground and
freshly plowed soil, dormant seeds and prolific crops, freshly fallen snow and
shimmering summer’s dew.
The changing of seasons reminds us that God is always doing a new thing, even when
we find ourselves in a long season of what feels like interminable death to self, pruning,
and cutting back of comforts. No season lasts forever. Let the good Master Gardener
(John 15:1-5) have His way with you. He will never waste a painful season.
2. Seasons make us grateful. Last year was a challenging year for me on many fronts. I had
work challenges I couldn’t resolve, despite throwing every cell of energy and thought
into fixing them. My house was being renovated, and though this does not qualify in the
least as “suffering,” I was displaced for much longer than I anticipated, and being
without my home was hard on my daily rhythms and sense of well-being. (If you’re
about to do a house project, add eight months and a zillion dollars to your current
expectations.) And I was dealing with the pain of a loved one.
God used that time to sanctify me (purify me and make me more like His Son, Jesus),
even though it was a difficult season. In fact, I would say it was precisely the difficulty
that God used to lovingly prune away my reliance on my own resources and abilities.
But it wasn’t just a taking away, it was an adding. I learned more gentleness, patience,
prayer, and more of resting in His presence with me. Now that I’m in a new season,
where many of the things I was facing have been resolved, I’m more grateful for a
peaceful and joyful season than I would have been.

3. God works in every season, but He doesn’t change with them. One of the things I’ve
been studying in seminary is God’s immutability, meaning His unchanging nature.
Though the literal seasons change, and the seasons we walk through continually give
way to the next, our God remains the same (Heb. 13:8). We can count on His
faithfulness, goodness, and presence to remain unshakable and steady.
I was recently on a panel at a Fresh Grounded Faith event with my friend Jennifer
Rothschild. Someone asked her what we’re to do when we don’t feel like God is near.
Jennifer pointed out the word “feel” and how important it is that we don’t base our
perception of His nearness on our feelings. She wasn’t dismissing our feelings or
diminishing their importance, rather she was turning our attention to God’s attributes
and nature—His love for us doesn’t change even when our seasons do.
So, just a word of encouragement however this November finds you. If you’re in a challenging
season, surrender to God’s work in your life. The pruning will only mean a greater harvest when
the spring showers come and the sun’s summer rays shine down. And if you’re in a season of
joy and tangible blessings, rejoice in your heavenly Father who gives good gifts to His children
(Matt. 7:11).
**Kelly would also like to include this fun, fall ginger snap recipe for the holidays with the
devo: https://women.lifeway.com/2016/10/13/minter-kitchen-recipes-homelife/

Savior and Friend

Savior and Friend

The Christmas season is fully upon us. I have no idea how this happened, since it feels like only a few days ago I had 31 people at my house for Thanksgiving. I love hosting, but this was the longest day of my life. I am not at all opposed to going back to my growing...

Seeing God in Every Season

Seeing God in Every Season

It’s November, one of my favorite months of the year. I don’t know if you love all-things homelike I do, but I have my autumn décor and colors out, and I’m about to slash open somepumpkins for pumpkin pie. The leaves have mostly fallen, and with the crunch of them...

A Case for Grace

A Case for Grace

I baked bread yesterday. I milled my grain, used a digital scale my brother bought me for my birthday, and converted everything from ounces to grams. It was a disaster. I’m not sure where I erred but one loaf looks like it’s trying to throw up and the other like a...

A Case for Grace

A Case for Grace

I baked bread yesterday. I milled my grain, used a digital scale my brother bought me for my birthday, and converted everything from ounces to grams. It was a disaster. I’m not sure where I erred but one loaf looks like it’s trying to throw up and the other like a sagging hotdog. On the upside, both still taste delicious and are unbeatably fresh. Even in the worst scenarios you can’t outshine bread out of the oven.

This freshness is what I’m hoping for in these monthly Cultivate devotionals. Some monthly offerings might be better than others, but at least each one will be newly milled grains of thoughts I’m pondering, questions I’m chewing on, truths I’m thinking about. This month, I’ve been considering grace. I’m a dyed-in-the wool do-gooder whose core fear is being morally corrupt (according to Enneagram #1 wisdom). This doesn’t mean I am good, or even that I do good when I’m supposed to, it just means that checking religious boxes tends to feel good to me. I rather like earning things.

This has risen to the forefront of my awareness in recent weeks. I’m in a peaceful season without major business upheavals due to pandemics. My home is calm in the absence of a 14-month renovation that was supposed to be 6, but who’s keeping track. I’ve had a lot more time to be still with the Lord. And I’ve been feeling a tinge of guilt. Or maybe a sense of not pushing myself hard enough. It seems the more time I have in God’s presence, unharried and unhurried, the more I realize how easy it is to substitute busyness for godliness. Being busy for God makes me feel like a better Christian. In this quieter season, this distorted thinking has become more obvious to me.

This is where grace comes in.

I don’t know how you grew up but I was raised in a Christian environment where the term grace was deeply associated with salvation. To paraphrase the Apostle Paul, a person is saved by grace through faith, not from any works we add to the mix, it’s a free gift from God that none of us can take any credit for (Eph. 2:8-9). My whole life is founded upon this truth. The problem for me—and maybe for you—is that we tend to confine grace to that single aspect of our future lives. Grace is for salvation when you die but it’s kind of up to us to figure it out until then, or so the thinking goes. But when we follow the concept of grace throughout the New Testament we also see that another major function of grace is to compel us toward good works now, it’s to change our hearts now, it’s to fuel us to Christlikeness now. Being busy doesn’t accomplish this for us, being dependent on God’s grace does.

Take in these words from Dallas Willard: “We consume the most grace by leading a holy life, in which we must be constantly upheld by grace, not by continuing to sin and being repeatedly forgiven. The interpretation of grace as having only to do with guilt is utterly false to biblical teaching and renders spiritual life in Christ unintelligible.” In other words, we tend to think that the people who need the most grace are the ones who keep messing up, who keep draining God’s forgiveness. But in some ways it’s the polar opposite of this. As Dallas points out, those who look the most like Jesus on the inside and outside are actually the ones consuming the most grace because holiness runs on grace. Earlier I referenced Ephesians 2:8-9. Now consider verse 10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.” Notice the good works God has for us to do are based on the grace Paul begins talking about in verses 5-9.

If I can sum up my thoughts for you it’s this: Busyness doesn’t equal godliness. Yes, we as Christ-followers should be passionate about good, concrete actions of love for others—Paul says we were created for this. But as you work steadily for the Lord (at work, in your home, running carpool and errands) be sure you’re being fueled by grace simply because we can’t fuel our own holiness. And if you find yourself in a quieter season like myself, don’t believe the lie that being busy will make you a better Christian. It will only make you a busier Christian. So let His grace fill you and fuel you in times of quiet. Because we know how this goes. The crazy seasons are usually just around the corner. And we’ll need all the grace we can get.

Savior and Friend

Savior and Friend

The Christmas season is fully upon us. I have no idea how this happened, since it feels like only a few days ago I had 31 people at my house for Thanksgiving. I love hosting, but this was the longest day of my life. I am not at all opposed to going back to my growing...

Seeing God in Every Season

Seeing God in Every Season

It’s November, one of my favorite months of the year. I don’t know if you love all-things homelike I do, but I have my autumn décor and colors out, and I’m about to slash open somepumpkins for pumpkin pie. The leaves have mostly fallen, and with the crunch of them...

A Case for Grace

A Case for Grace

I baked bread yesterday. I milled my grain, used a digital scale my brother bought me for my birthday, and converted everything from ounces to grams. It was a disaster. I’m not sure where I erred but one loaf looks like it’s trying to throw up and the other like a...

A Reminder From Jesus That God Is Good

A Reminder From Jesus That God Is Good

Happy First Day of September! I love this month because it’s the back-to-routine month where we settle into the swing of rhythms. Some of my favorite times of the year lay close ahead: turning leaves, football, deep bowls of chili, turkeys on our tables, and eventually the Christmas season… but we won’t get ahead of ourselves. We’ll enjoy the present moment (but did you see how I slipped in the word present?).

As I promised, this monthly devotional will be a fresh slice of whatever is on my heart. So here goes…

Have you ever wondered if God is really good? Our belief about God’s nature has a dramatic effect on our prayer lives. I’ve been reflecting on this and hope you’ll reflect with me. Consider what Jesus says about prayer in Matthew 7:7-8: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” In some ways this is the “how” of prayer, but I’ve recently realized how closely it’s tied to the “who” of prayer. In other words, when Jesus tells us to approach our heavenly Father by asking, seeking, and knocking, He grounds this instruction in the good nature of God. He does this through a short parable:

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matt. 7:9-11). What is Jesus revealing about our heavenly Father here? That He can be trusted. That He delights to give to His children. Most importantly, that He is good!

Why is Jesus going out of His way to reveal to us that His Father is good? I think for at least two reasons. Perhaps the first is that given our broken world, the hardship, injustices, and trials we face, Jesus knew we would be prone to think that God is precisely not good. The people listening to Him tell this story were under Roman oppression themselves, many struggling to have their basic needs met. Sometimes when we go through pain and darkness God’s goodness isn’t always obvious to us. I wonder what might be causing you to question God’s goodness right now? No matter what you’re going through Jesus says, I promise you, God’s good. Don’t stop trusting Him.

I think the second reason Jesus tells us about God’s good nature is because He knows how much this affects our prayer life. Why would we ask, seek, or knock in pursuit of someone who is not good? I think about the relationship I have with my young nieces and nephews. They ask me for ice cream and movies, seek me out when I’m in the other room, knock on my front door. They pursue me in these ways because they believe I will give to them, be found by them, and open the door for their little personalities. They wouldn’t do this if they didn’t trust me, were afraid of me, or didn’t believe me to be good. And when I have to tell them “no,” or when I correct them, they trust my heart (even if they also complain because we’re pretty human at my house).

Whether you have a pretty fabulous aunt or a mom or dad who gives you good gifts, Jesus says, “how much more” does your heavenly Father delight to give you good things? Something I recently discovered about Matthew is that he refers to God as Father 44 times in his gospel! The personal nature of God is a huge theme for him. Interestingly, it was uncommon in ancient Jewish culture for God to be referred to as our Father (Abba or Daddy). While the idea became more common during Second Temple Judaism, Jesus sheds new light on this truth and reality. He clearly wants us to understand what a good, trustworthy, and personally-involved Father we have (see Matt. 6:5-8 and 7:7-11).

So here’s my encouragement to you: When you can’t make sense of what you or a loved one is going through, when you’ve asked and nothing seems to be happening, when your heart is broken, keep pursuing your Father in prayer because His nature is good. Ask, seek, and knock, not because you’re trying to wrangle something from His hands but because this is your privilege as His child. And when you doubt God’s goodness, tell Him. A good Father will understand.

Savior and Friend

Savior and Friend

The Christmas season is fully upon us. I have no idea how this happened, since it feels like only a few days ago I had 31 people at my house for Thanksgiving. I love hosting, but this was the longest day of my life. I am not at all opposed to going back to my growing...

Seeing God in Every Season

Seeing God in Every Season

It’s November, one of my favorite months of the year. I don’t know if you love all-things homelike I do, but I have my autumn décor and colors out, and I’m about to slash open somepumpkins for pumpkin pie. The leaves have mostly fallen, and with the crunch of them...

A Case for Grace

A Case for Grace

I baked bread yesterday. I milled my grain, used a digital scale my brother bought me for my birthday, and converted everything from ounces to grams. It was a disaster. I’m not sure where I erred but one loaf looks like it’s trying to throw up and the other like a...

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