Archive for the ‘Devotional Thoughts’ Category

Christmas Characters Part 3

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Only three of the four gospels tell the Christmas story. We’ve looked at two of them so far in this series, Matthew and Luke. In this final post in the Christmas Characters series we’re going to look the Christmas story as presented in the Gospel of John. Matthew told the story from Joseph’s perspective. Luke from Mary’s. John tells the story from Jesus’ perspective. The story is in John 1:1-18.

John focuses on the story from Jesus’ perspective. Jesus, the Word, as the second person of the Trinity who is God and through whom all creation was made left heaven and made is home, built his tent among people. He came on Christmas morning as a child to provide a way for the people he created to become “the children of God.”

On Christmas, God revealed himself and opened his arms wide to receive his people back into his family. It costs us nothing. It cost Jesus his life. This Christmas as you are thanking your friends and family for the wonderful gifts, don’t forget to thank Jesus for giving us Christmas and don’t forget to share his story with those around you that need to hear it again.

Christmas Characters Part 2

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

In the last post we looked at Christmas from Joseph’s perspective. Today, we will look at Christmas through the eyes of Mary, Jesus’ mother. Her story is found in Luke 1:26-56

This is a pretty crazy story. A teenaged girl about to be married encounters a messenger from God. This messenger tells her that she’s favored by God and going to have a kid. Like any bright young woman in her position her immediate answer is, “huh?” This is a young girl of a conquered disenfranchised people. How in the world can this messenger say God favors her? On top of that, he tells her she’s going to get pregnant! This doesn’t sound like favor at all. How is she going to explain this to her husband-to-be?

“No, I haven’t cheated this is God’s baby. I’m favored by God and the son I’m carrying is going to be a great king.”

Today we have very comfortable padded rooms for people who make such claims.
Yet, Mary trusted the messenger and submitted to God. Submitting to God doesn’t always seem to make sense. On the outside, it can often look foolish or ridiculous. But then, the Christmas story looks foolish and ridiculous until you read the sequel, Easter.

God doesn’t always make sense to me. But he always comes through. As you get ready for Christmas next week, think about what God’s asking you to do. Does it sound ridiculous? Maybe, but remember there once was a girl who had this ridiculous encounter with someone who said they he was from God and told her that though she was a virgin she was going to have a son. And through her, God brought his Son to earth and changed the world. On this side of the story it doesn’t sound so ridiculous. What will your story look like on the other side?

Christmas Characters Part 1

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

As we head into Christmas, I thought we should spend a little time talking about the Christmas event. So for the next two weeks of posts, we’re going to look at some of the people that experienced that first Christmas and try to learn from them. Today let’s look at Jesus’ adopted father, Joseph.
Not much is known about Joseph. His story takes up very little space in Scripture. Mathew is the only New Testament author that tells his story. (Luke tells the story from Mary’s perspective. Mark starts his gospel when Jesus is older. John doesn’t discuss Jesus’ human parents.)

Joseph, Matthew says, was a righteous man. That, by the way, is probably the best commentary possible of one’s life. Joseph, the righteous man, chooses to endure the scorn and ridicule of marrying a woman that everyone suspected was unfaithful to him because God said so.

Can you imagine how difficult that had to be for Joseph? That certainly wasn’t at all what he expected. This was not the life that Joseph planned. Yet, Joseph was a righteous man. He obeyed God and endured the hardship and embarrassment of marrying a woman that people would always suspect had cheated on him, for the sake of God’s plan.

We all have to endure things that don’t fit in our plan. It could be the loss of a job, the loss of a marriage, the loss of a child the loss of a friend. I don’t know what you’re enduring right now. But, Joseph, the righteous man, shows us that we can endure it. Joseph’s endurance allowed him to be the man that raised God’s Son. As you prepare for Christmas, think about that. Think about what God might be doing through the experience that you’re enduring. And, lean on him.

Letting Go is Hard to Do Part 4

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

In this last post in the series I want to talk about the importance of moving in a direction. For me, the thing that keeps me from acting is I’m afraid of the result. I don’t want to move in a direction that may not take me to the right destination. I don’t want to take even a small step.

Yet, when it comes to following God, I’m finding that movement is important. God is interested more in the process than in the product. Think about it. He doesn’t need us to accomplish anything. He can do that all on his own. He’s looking to build a relationship with us. That takes time and commitment. He’s looking for us to commit ourselves to him. That means going in the direction he points without too much concern at the result.

God wants you to get in the game. He’s already got plenty of breathing seat warmers, look in any church. Don’t wait until you know the play perfectly. It’s OK to make mistakes. But, get out there and do something. I find when I am consistent in prayer and consistently read the Bible God gives me enough information to take the next step. But, if I don’t take the next step I’m not letting God be in charge and he won’t tell me the second or third step until I prove to him that I’m willing to take the first. Even if I don’t know where it leads.

What’s the next step that God’s leading you to take?

Letting Go Is Hard to Do Part 3

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

It is impossible to let someone else be in control if we’re not listening to what they say. It is impossible to let God be in control if you’re not listening to what he says. If you’re not reading Scripture you’re not letting God be in control. You’re merely saying that you are.

Now, you’re probably thinking. Doesn’t God speak to us in other ways such as through prayer, circumstances, and other people?

Yes, he does. But that is not his primary mode of communication. Since Moses, God has chosen the written word as his primary vehicle of communicating with his people. Read through Scripture if you don’t believe me. When God chose to speak directly to or through people, that was something different from the norm. That was something unexpected. God’s primary vehicle for communicating to us is through Scripture. If you want to give control over to God, you need to consistently read the Bible.

For me, I find morning is the best time, either before everyone else gets up of after everyone else has left the house. I need time alone with God. I need all distractions away from me.

I’ve also found that You Version is a great tool for this time. I open my computer and log on to You Version. It opens the Bible to the last passage I read in the last translation I had open. You Version also has a journal application in the program that allows me to journal online and take my journal wherever I have wifi access.

That’s what works for me. I don’t know what works for you but whatever it is; it won’t work if you’re not reading His Word. You need to be in Scripture if you want to give control over to God.

Letting Go is Hard to Do Part 2

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Prayer is vital to letting go of control and giving it to God. Prayer is a physical activity that reminds us of our dependence on God and opens us to hear from him.

For many people prayer comes naturally. They pray all the time. I’m not one of those people. Prayer, for me, is a discipline. I have to schedule it or I won’t do it. I’ve scheduled in my day three times of consistent prayer. They’re not marathon prayer sessions. Just specific times that I consciously acknowledge God and talk to him. I’ve found that since I’ve been disciplining myself pray regularly spontaneous prayer has become more natural and I pray more often. When I get out of my routine, the spontaneous prayer becomes less common as well.

As I pray more consistently, my attitude shifts and I rely on God more consistently and work harder at being connected to him and less hard at being in control.

Letting Go is Hard to Do

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

If you’ve spent any time in church or around Christ-followers, you’ve heard that we need to give God control of our lives. “Let go and let God.” I’ve heard that over and over again and often wondered, what does that mean and how do I do it? I’m certainly no expert but I’ll share a few thoughts.

Letting go is more of an attitude than an action. God does not call us to be passive, to sit back and wait. God provides us everything we need to become the tool he is going to use. We, however, need to have an attitude of submission and obedience. We need to allow God to guide our actions rather than act and ask God to bless our actions.
Here are a couple of tips that help me submit to God’s control:

1. Pray. I know it’s the obvious answer, but it’s vital. Prayer is a physical activity that helps remind us of our dependence on God.

2. Read Scripture. Another, obvious answer. Yet, God has given us his Word to guide us.

3. Act. God isn’t looking for people to warm the bench. He’s looking for people to get in the game.

Letting go is hard. Trying to control things you can’t is harder. Listen to God. Take that next step. He’ll guide you to where you need to be.

How Twitter is Helping Me Grow Closer to God

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Yes, you read that right. Twitter is having a significant positive impact on my spiritual journey. No one is more surprised by that than me. I kind of got dragged into Twitter. I checked it out a couple of months ago and thought it was a complete waste of time. No one cares what I’m doing right now and I really don’t care what they’re doing either. Well… that was how I felt then. I opened the account and ignored it. I was following one person who never posted a tweet. Then a couple of my friends started following me. I felt pressure to start putting something up for them to follow.

Then I discovered that there are people in Twitterworld that actually had something worth saying. I started following more an more people. Then I found this little application called Alert Thingy. Now everyone’s tweets and facebook statuses pop up almost as soon as they’re posted. That made Twitter much more accessible. Throughout the day I started seeing people post prayer reqests or not even requests but information that was worth praying over. The I started following @StJohnChrysostum. I’m still not sure why a dead guy needs Twitter. Okay, actually @StJohnChrysostum is a ministry that tweets one line prayers originally attributed to John Chrysostum every hour. A nice little reminder throughout the day. Then I started following ministries like International Justice Mission or the Not For Sale Campaign among others. They tweet different things both praise worthy and in need of intercession. I found myself praying for them as well. I’d like to say that I’ve gotten to the point that I “pray continually” (1 Thess. 5:17 TNIV), thanks to Twitter. I’m not there, but I do pray more now. It’s cool how God works when you pray. The more you pray, the more you believe that God is there and actually listening to your prayers. The more you believe God is there and listening to your prayers the more you pray. It’s an awesome vicious circle.

If you’re not on Twitter, you should check it out. If you are on Twitter, let me know about your experience and try following:

God can’t help it

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

I’ve been reading Revelation over the past couple of weeks and I can’t get past how much God’s love is revealed in it. I guess I shoudn’t be surprised. It’s just that it’s counter to my presuppositions about the book. I’ve read it before but never seen how much his love explodes off the pages. God just can’t help himself. He loves his children too much to not try to save them. This hit me particularly hard this morning as I read chapter nine. As all of these horrible calamaties are being poored out in judgment of sin one two little sentences grabbed me.

“The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.”(NIV)

In the midst of judging the world for sin, God is still looking for people to turn to him. He still wants to save people. He loves them too much. He can’t help it.

This really encourages me. God is looking for chances to draw people into a relationship with him. All I have to do is show up and be available, God is going ot work to draw people to him.

This also makes me love God even more. By this time I would have given up on all these people. Let ’em go to hell. They’ve chosen it. I’d never give someone that many chances. But he’s God, I’m not. He’s infinite in love.

On my worst days, I’m a selfish jerk. On my best days, I love so much it hurts and despeartely want to see people experience God’s love. The fact that God loves this much makes me love him more and love the people that he loves more. It makes me embarassed of my selfish jerk days. It makes me want to grow closer to God so that I’ll have more love so much it hurts days.

I challenge you to pick up a Bible and read the book of Revelation. Look for God’s love in there. I bet you’ll love him more for it too.

Christmas is over

Friday, December 26th, 2008

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is attending Midnight Mass. I’m not Roman Catholic. I think that’s one of the reasons that Midnight Mass is such a great experience fro me. It takes me out of my comfort zone (although I only missed on step in the dance this year). It forces me to think about God in new ways. Since Roman Catholic Mass is so different from the church in which I serve, it keeps me from playing the comparison game too. It allows me to focus on worshipping God without any distractions. Every year it recharges me. It refocuses me. It is one of the most important Christmas triaditions for me spiritually.

This year in particular was a great experience. The focus of the Mass was on Jesus being born in our hearts. That is beautiful language and a beautiful metaphor for Christmas. Birth is a beginning. It’s a start. It’s a genesis. That is what Christmas should be for us. Too often I feel like Christmas is an event. We read Luke chapter 2. We exchange gifts. We give a special offering to the church or our favorite charity. Then it’s over. The event has ended. For a lot of people this leads to a post Christmas low. A friend of mine on Facebook called it post-partum “Christmas blues.”

But Christmas shouldn’t be an event. It should be a starting point. It should be a chance for Jesus to be reborn in our hearts. (Don’t give me a hard time on the theology there, it’s a metaphor!) That is what Midnight Mass did for me. It was the beginning of the next season of life and of ministry for me. Christmas isn’t over. It isn’t an event that ends. It’s a starting point that leads us to a deeper relationship with God. It leads us to grow closer to him. It leads us to follow him more completely. Don’t let Christmas end for you. Make it a new beginning where you commit your life more fully to following Jesus as God and King.