Archive for category Devotional
The gentleman who drew this is Joe Castillo. He went to Asbury Theological Seminary.He did this during a chapel service. It was fascinating – he told the Gospel story – each part of Jesus’ life – and he was drawing the story as he told it.The longer you look at this picture, the more you see. Look closely.
Each of the last four days there have been news accounts of a few more funerals held for the killed children from Newtown, CT. It is hard to watch those stories as the short lives of 6 year olds are remembered. ”She loved to pick dandelions.” ”He was an avid Patriots fan.” ”He loved to play with his little sister.”
Unfortunately, these kinds of tragedies involving young people are taking place on a regular basis. Just in Minnesota in the last weeks there have been a number of tragic killings. This past summer a father in River Falls, near where I live, murdered his three children. The loss of young lives is seems so much more painful.
And then there is suicide. It is the third leading cause of death for teens in our country. I attended a funeral on Tuesday of a life that was cut short. A young man of seventeen who had many friends and was loved by his family…for some reason took his own life. It has been a painful week for my friends, the young man’s family and all of his friends. Read the rest of this entry »
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”Isaiah 40:28-31
As I read the newspaper and listen to the nightly news and keep track of status updates one common theme seems to be weariness. People are tired.
Tired of political ineptitude and fiscal cliffs.
Tired of busy-ness.
Tired of working without time off.
Tired of being unemployed and too much time off.
Tired of gossip.
Tired of bullying.
Tired of the expense of everything.
Tired of others making them tired.
In some cases, tired of life itself.
We are a weary people.
Followers of Jesus however, know the truth of the Isaiah passage. In the midst of weariness…God is God. And he is the One to renew our strength. In him alone is our hope.
May the hope of Life in Jesus today and forever be yours!
This is a lengthy post but I do hope you will take time to read it. And before you do, go back and read yesterday’s post. I received the following story from a long-time friend who serves the Kingdom with an organization called Wycliffe. Their purpose is to go to the people groups in the world who do not know Jesus, while ministering with them, put their language in writing and thus share the gospel with them. Colin and his wife Dee served Wycliffe in the bush of Papua New Guinea for a number of years, learning the language of the Nahu people. They have been serving stateside now in the organizational/technical part of Wycliffe. Colin sent me the following story which is an affirmation of the power of God’s word and the truth of John 1:12-13 that I quoted yesterday. Read on.
For Wycliffe magazine, by John Hamilton
As a student at Trinity College Dublin, I used to pop into The Old Library to look at the current page of the Book of Kells which was always on display. I may have seen Matthew’s Genealogy of Christ. I may have admired the beauty of the lavish calligraphy of the 9th century manuscript. But I would never have dreamed that this passage of the Bible would lead anyone to faith in Jesus Christ. But it has … (in the jungles of Papua New Guinea)…
When Des (the Wycliffe missionary) told Jenny, ‘We finished the last of Matthew today,’ she replied, ‘What about the first seventeen verses.’
Oh yes. Those uninteresting verses that told of Jesus’ ancestry back to Abraham. They had to be tackled before he had really finished the book.
Surprisingly, Sisia [his language helper] sailed through the long genealogy without a trace of boredom. He made no comment on the translation as he often did. But when he rose to go, he said with some deliberation, ‘There’s going to be an important meeting in Nameepi’s house tonight. I want you to come and bring what we’ve done today.’
Des wondered, What’s he up to? Why a meeting tonight? Perhaps he wants to celebrate finishing Matthew. But why does he particularly want me to bring what we’ve translated today?
That night, Des took the lantern and walked the short distance to Nameepi’s house, just above his own.
He walked into the central room to find it already filled to capacity. All Sisia’s family were there around the fire. Two other rooms, off to either side, were also packed with people. Des had never seen so many packed into a house before. There was also an odd sense of tension in the air that made him nervous. Read the rest of this entry »
“I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12
To follow Jesus is to be content.
I think that many of us feel that Christmas has become a season of economic gluttony and indulgence.
During the political campaigns of October and November we were receiving up to 8 mailings a day from candidates. I was so glad to be done with that…but now those have been replaced by daily special ads in the newspaper and more than weekly catalogs wanting me to participate in the latest, greatest pre-Christmas sale at post-Christmas prices.
A new “trick” of the advertisers on television this year seems to be using hallowed Christmas carols and sacred songs to sell their stores and products. The biggest abuser so far of this clash of values is Target Corporation putting their own words to Handel’s great “Hallelujah Chorus” from The Messiah.
This is a clear example of the state of our spiritual lives. Worship and adoration and the mystery of the Living God has been replaced by the empty idols of accumulation and consumption. Advent and Christmas are a time to sacrifice our wealth on the altar of consumerism. We are never to be content with what we have and the life we live. Read the rest of this entry »
John 5:1-15 “Jesus went…to a pool (in Jerusalem) where a great number of disabled people used to lie-the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’…..at once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.”
Following Jesus is extremely personal.
One of the things that we have been taught about Advent is that it is a time of waiting. Unfortunately, our modern day waiting has been connected to all that goes in to Christmas Day celebrations…so our waiting is for presents, we wait for our son’s family (or uncle or some relative) to arrive from Connecticut, we wait for chocolate pecan pie. The original intention of Advent was a time of waiting not for Christmas, really, but as a reminder that we are waiting for Jesus’ return. We are waiting for the full inauguration of His Kingdom (as we pray) “on earth as it is in heaven.”
Jesus brought the Kingdom initially and showed his disciples and us how it is breaking out in the world. Jesus’ cousin John was in prison and wondering if Jesus really was the One who the whole nation of Israel had been waiting for. He sent some disciples to Jesus to ask. Jesus replied: “Tell him the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”
An example of that is found in the passage above from John 5. Of all the poor, sick, hurting people at the pool of Bethesda, Jesus chose one, one who had been waiting for 38 years for some miracle. Jesus spoke a word and the man got up and walked!
Two things strike me about this. One is that the invalid had been waiting a long, long time for healing. Thirty-eight years. That is a long time to be broken…a long time to be abused…a long time to be disappointed. 38 years is a long time to wait. A long, long time.
The other is that Jesus chose him. One out of a crowd of many. The Kingdom of God broke in for a moment at the pool of Bethesda. And the miracle that took place is still an example for us today.
As I read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) I see that Jesus’ approach is extremely personal. The stories are about individuals affected by Jesus and the Kingdom he is bringing. Read the rest of this entry »
Luke 5:27-29: “…Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. ‘Follow me’, Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.
Following Jesus requires decisive, concrete action.
Levi, also known as Matthew, does four things.
He got up from his comfortable chair at the tax booth.
He left everything (money, documents, lunch)
He followed Jesus (doesn’t say where)
He had a party to introduce his friends to Jesus.
Many scholars think that the disciples Jesus called are people he had known as he lived his first 30 years in and around the province north of Jerusalem called Galilee. Most likely they were more than casual acquaintances. They may have been people with whom Jesus spent time in the coffee shop, talking about life, family, faith. No doubt they knew something of Jesus’ life and thoughts and ambitions. If they hadn’t seen his recent miracles, they surely had heard about them. They had a relationship with Jesus and when he called they were ready. They were prepared. Maybe that is why he called these particular people. Out of all the people around, these were the ones Jesus knew would respond. These were the ones Jesus knew would act.
So when he showed up and said “let’s go”, they were more than ready.
Ready to leave the comfort of their homes.
Ready to leave the security of their possessions.
Ready to leave what they knew so well to go on an adventure. Read the rest of this entry »
Advent is a word that means “coming” or “visit”. This Christian season we prepare for the “advent of Jesus”.
Our preparations take on many forms.
We prepare for Christmas by planning and plotting our course of action on Thanksgiving weekend from pre-Black Friday on Thanksgiving day to Small Business Saturday ultimately yielding to Cyber Monday, buying for others and even ourselves, the deals too good to pass up of the things we have recently wanted.
We prepare with decorations for our homes and dorm rooms, the lights and ornaments and creche scenes recalling days of wonder from our childhood and helping many of us to remember warm feelings of being loved.
We prepare special foods; cookies and breads, pies and cakes (if from India), turkeys and ducks and lutefisk to celebrate our families with a feast.
I wonder if anyone anymore makes preparing their hearts a priority, a necessity in this world of darkness and sin? The murder/suicide of an NFL player and his girlfriend on the first day of Advent 2012 reminds me of the brokenness, hurt, pain and yes, sin, that is dormant (or even active) in each of our hearts.
Jesus said that when we choose to follow him we will never walk in darkness, but have the light of life.
In these days of misplaced priorities, increasing violence and fiscal cliffs, it seems to me that the buying and the memories and the feasts are not nearly as important as the preparation of our own heart to receive Jesus, who, in the words of the hymn writer, “casts out our sin and enters in” and is born in us today.
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light. Help us to walk in the fullness of Life that Jesus offers. We prepare our hearts for your great work of healing, restoration, forgiveness…and Jesus. Amen.
Once there was a newly wed couple who only weeks after their wedding day inherited their grandfather’s beautiful old house in the country. Overflowing joy filled the old house on the day they moved in to begin their new life together. To their great surprise, they discovered in the attic left a magnificent hand carved old grandfather clock of enormous value and beauty. They were certain that this clock was to be a treasure they would cherish together forever.
What they did not yet realize was that this grandfather clock was a very complex machine comprised of endless knobs and switches and levers and other finely tuned mechanisms that all needed to be in working order for the clock to perform as designed.
It wasn’t more than a couple weeks until they were rudely awakened in the middle of the night to the sound of uncontrollable gonging and clanging and ringing. The newly weds grow impatient with the situation, began yelling and screaming, and pushing every button and pulling every lever trying anything to get the clock to be quiet and work properly. Eventually the noise stopped and all was calm again.
After a few similar episodes with the malfunctioning clock, the newlyweds asked grandma if she could help figure the old grandfather clock out. “Oh, yes,” grandma answered, “The original instruction manual for the clock is hidden inside the back of the clock and will help you get it working properly.” Read the rest of this entry »
Jesus lived his entire life completely swept up in the rhythms of The Father’s Song. Remember that in the very beginning, before the creation of the world, all that existed was the eternal dance of the Trinity. Father, Son and Holy Spirit enjoying pure, self-giving, mutual joy and love between their three eternally distinct persons.
This is a mystery for sure. But when “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14) we were given a glimpse of what it looks like when a human being lives in perfect oneness with the Triune Godhead. This is the One who said: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does” (John 5:19).
Before Jesus left this earth to return to the Father he prayed a most majestic prayer on behalf of his followers. His famous prayer is recorded in John 17: Read the rest of this entry »