Monday, January 15, 2018

Jan 16 - Isaiah 53:4

 

Surely he has

borne our infirmities

and carried our diseases;

yet we accounted him

stricken, struck down

by God, and afflicted.

Isaiah 53:4

 

The first time I ever really paid attention to this verse was when I read Lee Strobel’s excellent and accessible Case for Christ.

 

Strobel was an atheist. And when his wife converted to Christianity, it through his nice, comfortable, secular life into a tail spin. A decorated reporter, started researching the evidence for Christianity … in order to disprove it. (There’s an excellent movie about his story, available on Netflix right now.) But after interviewing scores of experts in fields like history, religion, archeology, etc., Strobel actually proved to himself that God does exist and Christ is real!

 

One of the experts that Strobel interviewed was a Jew who converted to Christianity. “Why?” asked this reporter. “Isaiah 53” was one of his answers.

 

This converted Jew had been spiritually adrift and searching for answers when a friend pointed him to Isaiah 53. The Prophet was writing hundreds of years before the crucifixion, and yet with “amazing specificity” – his words – the prophet described how the Messiah would be “5 crushed for our iniquities” and “5 by his bruises” “6 all we [who] like sheep have gone astray” would be “5 healed.”

 

And as this Jew, now a pastor, was reading Christian theology in the Old Testament – including how “the Lord … laid on him the iniquity of us all” – the seeds of conversion were taking place. (Though he had to go home and read his grandmother’s old Jewish Bible to make sure this wasn’t a Christian addition. It wasn’t, of course. This was Jewish doctrine prophesying the coming Messiah.)

 

On him the seeds of conversion were taking place. On Lee Strobel, the seeds of conversion were taking place too!

 

Christ has “borne [y]our infirmities” and “5 by his bruises [you are] healed.”

 

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who recommends

the movie and the book

The Case for Christ

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Jan 15 - 2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore,

if anyone is in Christ,

the new creation has come:

The old has gone,

the new is here!

2 Corinthians 5:17

 

In our liturgy we say this verse frequently: “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation” … or more accurately, “he (or she) is a new creation.”

 

That’s a wonderful verse that talks about the ways that Christ transforms our lives and faith animates our days. And I love this translation – not in it’s absolutely clarity, but in the way it reanimates a family phrase: “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come”!

 

“The old has gone.”  Everything that once defined us has either been forgiven or can be shed. Indeed, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ promises the wisdom, the courage, the strength to help us shed all of the old things that defined and enslaved us.

 

“The old has gone. The new is here!” What’s here? What’s new? What’s freeing? Through the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to love (rather than hate), hope (rather than despair), rejoice (rather than curse), forgive (rather than fester), and courage (rather than fear). When we “put on faith,” we discover a spirit of peace, an attitude of gratitude, a sense of blessing, and a character of humility.

 

Indeed, what’s new is that as we allow Christ to live in us, he begins to shine in us. And we are transformed more and more into his image.

 

In Christ’s Love,

a creative guy who

likes making new creations,

but would rather be one

 

 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Jan 13/14 - Matthew 6:19-20

 

Do not store up for yourselves

treasures on earth, where

moth and rust destroy, and

thieves break in and steal.

But store up for yourselves

treasures in heaven, where

moth and rust do not corrupt and

thieves do not break in and steal.

For where your treasure is,

there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:19-20

 

Where is your focus?

 

On earth?

 

In heaven?

 

A friend was about to make a huge purchase. A vacation home. He put down the offer. He was going to sign the papers in the morning. That night at dinner, he kept saying, “It’s out in the middle of nowhere. What if someone breaks in and steals all my stuff? That’d make me really mad!”

 

Steam was already coming out of his ears. Indeed, he was already worrying, fretting, agonizing about something he didn’t even own yet.

 

The next morning, he canceled the deal.

 

Thirty years later, he is so thankful. If I’d purchased that vacation home, it would have taken me away from church every weekend. And I can list now all the profound things I’ve done with that money instead.

 

His faith is strong. His family is together. Church is in the center. And his treasure is not by a lake but in the hands of God.

 

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who wants to be

a German Short-hair Pointer

(I have some German roots,

I have short hair, and

I want to spend my life

pointing up to heaven

rather worrying

about earth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Jan 12 - Acts 14:17

 

God has not left himself

without a witness in doing good

—giving you rains from heaven

and fruitful seasons, and

filling you with food and

your hearts with joy.

Acts 14:17

 

I’m talking to a group of youth soon. We’re talking about signs. All the big and little ways that God speaks to us on a daily basis.

 

With that talking up, I loved it when I saw this verse. “God has not left himself [nor you] without a witness.” No matter what else is going on in your life, all you have to do is look at the “rains.” Or the “fruitful seasons.” Or the fact that the world produces plentiful “food” – four pounds every day per person! Or that in spite of the sin and brokenness in this world, we keep getting glimpses of “joy.” Indeed, all and any “good” in the world testify to God’s constant goodness.

 

And these are all signs.

 

They witness to God.

 

When I ask people, “where have you seen God lately?” people generally talk about small – but hugely ever-present – signs that keep assuring them that God is there.

 

So where have you seen God lately? In hope? In creativity? In rainbows? In music? In a peacefilled assurance that comes in the midst of a whispered prayer? In a mother’s comforting hug? (I mean, even if your mom has been gone for a dozen years, can you still almost smell the cookies she’d make?)

 

Where have you seen God lately?

 

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who sees signs of

God in simple, courageous

acts of forgiveness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Jan 11 - Psalm 104:13

 

From your lofty abode

you water the mountains;

the earth is satisfied with

the fruit of your work.

Psalm 104:13

 

Have you ever really stopped to think much about water? Here are a few fun facts.

 

  • There is the same amount of water on Earth as there was when the Earth was formed. The water from your faucet could contain molecules that dinosaurs drank.
  • Water is used for: cooking, drinking, washing, bathing, farming, gardening, manufacturing, and recreationally.
  • Water is also used for hydropower generation.
  • Nearly 97% of the world’s water is salty or otherwise undrinkable.
  • Another 2% is locked in ice caps and glaciers.
  • Just 1% of water is drinkable – and 90% of that is found in Antarctica.
  • That also leaves mainly that same 1% to be used for all of humanity’s other needs agricultural, residential, manufacturing, community, and personal needs.
  • There is about 1.5 billion cubic kilometers of water on Earth – the equivalent of about 800 trillion Olympic swimming pools full.
  • If all that water was evenly spread over the Earth's surface it would be nearly a mile and half deep.
  • Water regulates the Earth’s temperature.
  • Water also regulates the temperature of the human body.
  • Water carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, cushions joints, protects organs and tissues, and removes wastes.
  • 75% of the human brain is water and 75% of a living tree is water.
  • A person can live about a month without food, but only about a week without water.
  • The average total home water use for each person in the U.S. is about 50 gallons a day.
  • The average cost for water supplied to a home in the U.S. equals about 5 gallons for a penny.
  • Water should be a gas – all similar molecules are gaseous at “room temperature.” But water molecules are “sticky” and their high surface tension holds them together as a liquid.
  • Water expands rather than contracts when it freezes – unlike almost every other liquid. It expands by 9%. Frozen water (ice) is lighter than water, which is why ice floats in water.
  • There are at least 16 different kinds, or "phases", of ice. Each of them has a different crystal structure.

Yes, have you ever stopped to think about how amazing water is?

 

Wait! A better question is this: Have you ever stopped to think about how amazing God the Creator is?!

 

From your lofty abode

you water the mountains;

the earth is satisfied with

the fruit of your work.

 

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who is amazed

… and thankful

 

 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Jan 10 - Psalm 146:4

 

When their

breath departs, they

return to the earth;

on that very day

their plans perish.

Psalm 146:4

 

Do you know what “futile” means?

 

I occasionally like turning to The Urban Dictionary to get a definition. Here’s one definition of futile …

 

The categorization used

to define an individual

(whether it be inanimate or not)

whose existence possesses

no purpose what so ever.

 

I love that. Being futile is being without purpose. (Makes sense. But here’s the part I love …) Being a person is being inanimate or not.

 

Well, let’s take that step by step. “When [your] breath departs,” you’re an inanimate person. And without a higher power to animate you, that’s your total future is that you will only, inevitably, and eternally “return to the earth.” (“Remember you are dust” is Ash Wednesday’s yearly wake up call.)

 

And “on that very day,” you will be futile. Without purpose. Indeed, “on that very day [your] plans will perish” with you.

 

True statement. But not very cheery, huh?

 

So what if we want to discover a purpose that lasts, it better be rooted in the One who does last and can make us last. Our hopes and plans need to be rooted in the Lord who can, will, and promises absolutely to animate believers eternally. And plans we make WITH him, do last … forever. (Not plans we make on our own – even godly plans – and just say, “I’m doing this for the Lord,” but plans which we check with him first! and listen for his leading! and do according to what he purposes. Indeed, plans we make with him leading will last … forever.

 

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who prays,

“God don’t let me

make plans and

ask you to join me;

let me look and

listen and see where

you are moving

and join you.”

 

 

 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Jan 9 - 1 Corinthians 1:28-29

 

God chose what is low

and despised in the world,

things that are not,

to reduce to nothing

things that are,

so that no one

might boast in

the presence of God.

1 Corinthians 1:28-29

 

Why do people boast?

 

Generally because we’re good at something.

 

But … good compared to who? and what?

 

I’m a very good artist … compared to many people. But not compared to Picasso. In 2010, he had a painting sell for $106.5 million. Wow. I’m a few decimal points off. Most of my art is worth $10.65 – at most.

 

Let’s say the scale of human art, then, is 0.0 to 106.5 million. How does that compare to God “artwork”? Picasso’s most expensive creation is on a canvas that’s about four feet by three feet.  God’s creation is about 46 billion light years across. Picasso can boast when compared to Ed. But not compared to God.

 

And that’s the point of today’s verse.

 

“God chose what is low and despised in the world” – average, ordinary people. Why? “So that no one might boast.” It’s not because of what we’ve done that anything great is happening. It’s because of what God is doing.

 

He does miracles. Not humans.

 

He cares for the outcasts. When too many of us turn away.

 

He builds cathedrals, not bishops or architects.

 

It is all for his glory. And if we boast, we’re really stealing from God.

 

In Christ’s Love,

a worm

(Is that a safe assessment,

or should I confess

that I’m really a germ

and that God deserves

the glory?)

 

Jan 8 - Deuteronomy 7:7-8

 

It was not because

you were more numerous

than any other people that

the Lord set his heart

on you and chose you—

for you were the fewest

of all peoples.

It was because

the Lord loved you.

Deuteronomy 7:7-8

 

Do you remember when the prophet Samuel was called to anoint Israel’s new king?

 

God directed Samuel to go to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem. When Samuel spied Jesse’s eldest son, he was certain that this young man must be the future king. Eliab was tall. And handsome. He looked like a king. And Samuel thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord” (1 Sam 16:6).

 

“’7 But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 

 

Seven sons passed before Samuel – each younger, and (from human point of view) less kingly than the first. But God, again, rejected each of these.

 

Finally Samuel asked Jesse is there were any more sons. Jesse said, “11 There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.”

 

The youngest son’s name was David. He was the one God had chosen. He was the one to be the anointed. The Lord had clearly looked not on David’s outward appearance, but on the boy’s heart.

 

In our lesson from Deuteronomy today, God is helping Israel decipher why he had chosen them. Like Eliab and the next seven sons, it was because of how “big” they were. It had nothing, indeed, to do with outward appearance. Why did God choose Israel? Apparently for the same reason he chose David: He looked on their heart and “loved [them].”

 

If you and I look at ourselves from a worldly perspective, there’s always someone taller, faster, smarter, more musical, more mechanical, better at math, and more handsome than we are. We need to quit looking at ourselves with Junior High eyes and Middle School insecurities. God loves us … because he loves us. Grace means: Without any merit or worthiness on our part. He loves us because he loves us.

 

He loves you.

 

In Christ’s Love,

a guy whose name

is beloved

 

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Jan 6/7 - Philippians 4:19

 

My God will fully

satisfy every need

of yours according

to his riches in glory

in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19

 

God will fully satisfy every need.

 

Wait. Read that again.

 

God will fully satisfy every need.

 

Every need? Really?!?!

 

Wait a minute … Is this saying that God is a genie in a lamp? Rub things the right way and you’ll get your wish?

 

No. It doesn’t say that God will fully satisfy every want. It says, he’ll satisfy every need. (And how many parents know there’s a huge difference between wants and needs. I mean, how many times have your kids come to you saying, “I need this. And I need that.” And you’ve had to correct them, saying, “No, you want this and you want that.”)

 

But take this to a different level. Generally speaking most people in the world each day have what they really need – food, water, air. Nevertheless, aren’t there are people – every day – who don’t have what they need? Aren’t there kids, for example, who go to sleep hungry? Is God falling down on his job? Is this verse incorrect?

 

No. God does provide for every need. He provides a world full of enough food, water, and air for everyone. But in a world of sin, we don’t always share our resources equitably … and as a consequence, too many children go hungry.

 

But what about famines? That can’t be from sin, can it? Well … yes … it is. Before sin, the world was a garden. Calamity is a consequence of living in a broken world, a world in which we’ve asked God to not be fully in charge of.

 

Think about it this way: Sin is rebellion. It’s humanity telling God, “We want to do it our way.” (Which all of us – in big ways and small – do every day. We constantly live our lives without consulting God.) And whenever we say, “We want to do it our way,” we’re telling God, to take his hand of protection off. And so he does. And then we blame him – instead of humanity – for the consequences of living in a broken world.

 

Nevertheless, God does provide for every need. He gives life – because apart from him, there is no life. He provides a world with enough food, water, and air – and enough resources for shelter. More than that, he provides the resources for the need of love – generally it happens in family (he’s wired us that way), but it always includes a self-giving love from him. God also provides us with the need for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control … when we abide most fully in his presence. And at the end of our days on this broken planet, he provides those who believe in him with everything we need for more life, eternal life.

 

When we deal with our kids, fulfilling needs is a matter of perspective – do we have the perspective to understand the difference between needs and wants. When we deal with our own hearts in a broken world, understanding needs is also a matter of perspective. Do you trust that God knows you, loves you, and works constantly on your behalf – not as a genie, but as a Gracious Father? Pain and want will occasionally befall us in this broken world, but with God, something better is always coming!

 

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who wants much

… but needs only God!

 

 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Jan 5 - Psalm 116:7

 

Return, O my soul,

to your rest, for

the Lord has dealt

bountifully with you.

Psalm 116:7

 

I was buying a soda a few weeks ago. Another man – about seventy – was there too. He said, “This is my second Christmas.”

 

It was a good discussion starter. (I’m sure he’s learned to use it as a way to testify!) So when I looked curious, he said, “I died eighteen months ago.”

 

His story went something like this: An internal organ burst. He was in a medically induced coma for a month. He wasn’t expected to live; in fact, at least once in his long journey, his heart stopped.

 

Can you say, “near death experience”? He says he can remember walking into a beautiful garden. The light was bright (without being harsh). The air was warm (without being remotely hot or stuffy). The grass was soft. The fragrance sweet.

 

Then a hand grabbed him from the back of his collar and he was pulled back to earth. “This is my second Christmas” … “of my second life”! It was a powerful testimony.

 

Well, that’s what today’s verse is about. In the lines preceding this verse, the Psalmist says, The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. Then I called on the name of the Lord; “O Lord, I pray, save my life!”

 

In my Bible, this Psalm is entitled “Thanksgiving for Recovery from Illness.” And the rest that the Psalmist is urging his “soul” to “return” to is to a state of peace, assurance, and tranquility, to the condition in which it was before the danger presented itself.

 

What’s your normal state … before there are any trials or infirmities? For many of us, that normal state is blind. We take “normal” for granted. I had a minor illness over the holiday, enough to make me yearn for health. It reminds me that when I’m sick, I definitely want to be restored to health. But … I don’t want to return that normal state of taking things for granted. I want to learn the title of this Psalm. I want to give thanks in all things.

 

In Christ’s Love,

a thankful man …

who apparently needs

to buy more soda and

hear more stories

(Wait … would buying

more soda make me

a more healthy man?

Maybe I just need to

loiter near soda fountains.)

 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Jan 4 - Matthew 11:28

 

Jesus said,

“Come to me, all you

that are weary and are

carrying heavy burdens,

and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28

 

In May of 2000, a forest fire destroyed about four hundred of the six thousand homes in town.

 

In May of 2001, I drew a cartoon to reflect on the past year.

 

Two guys are hiking. One hiker is overly exuberant. The other is overly exhausted. The bubbly hiker pulls some rocks out of the tired hikers backpack. To demonstrate how light they are, he starts juggling them, saying, “Why are you so tired. These are light.”

 

The tired hiker says, “Yes, but I’ve been carrying them for a full year.”

 

Sometimes our burdens are heavy. Sometimes they’re heavy because we’ve been carrying them for a long time.

 

Can you hold a cup of coffee out in front of you? Easy … if it’s only for a minute. But try holding it out – without spilling it – for an hour or two.

 

What burdens are you carrying? Some are big because of their size. Some are big because you’ve been carrying them for a long time – like chronic illness, estrangement from family members, underemployment (and the financial havoc it causes), griefs that won’t go away.

 

They’re really. They’re exhausting. The question is … Have you been carrying them alone?

 

Jesus says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens.” Why? Because his greatest desire is to help you carry them. Indeed, through his comfort, encouragement, wisdom, and power, he promises to “give you rest.” 

 

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who’s learned

that rest is not always

a physical concepted

… but a Person

(Jesus Christ)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Jan 3 - Isaiah 61:3

 

The Lord has sent me

to provide for those

who mourn in Zion—

to give them a garland

instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness

instead of mourning,

the mantle of praise

instead of a faint spirit.

Isaiah 61:3

 

Happy New Year from your Daily Devotions (and a guy who … likes to write them).

 

This devotional outreach is part of my ongoing faith enrichment. Week-after-week I have the privilege of not just stepping into the Word, but journeying in faith alongside each of you. I look at it is the privilege … of providing. Of providing what? Hopefully a living link to our Living Lord.

 

That’s how Isaiah viewed his ministry. As he says, he was called – at this stage of his journey – to a ministry of “provid[ing].” Of providing what? Hope … “for those who mourn.”  

 

A little bit of context … In the first part of Isaiah, the prophet provided warning. For about forty chapters, he said, “Repent. Repent. Turn back to God, or God will take his hand of protection off.” They didn’t turn back. God’s hand of protection came off. And by chapter 61 in Isaiah, “Zion” (Jerusalem, Judah) had been totally conquered by the Babylonians. Consequently, God’s people are defeated. Scattered. Mourning. Lost.

 

God won’t reject his people. Hear that! If and when you mess up, God won’t destroy you. He may discipline you – which was what the Babylonian exile was – but he won’t destroy you. Thus, God sends the prophet again. Once Isaiah’s job was to provide warning. Now it’s his job to “provide” hope. Isaiah points to the God who will provide “garland[s] instead of ashes,” “[anointings] of gladness instead of mourning,” “mantle[s] of praise instead of faint [weak, defeated] spirit[s].”

 

Are you mourning anything? God hasn’t abandoned you. What are the garlands, mantles, and anointings that you’re discovering, even in the midst of these trials? (And if you’re not seeing them yet, say to God, “Father, you have promised; I am trusting that they will come.”

 

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who wants

to provide … hope

 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

How Can We Pray for You - New Year's Prayers

We’re collecting prayer requests for New Years.

How can we pray for you and your family?

Email me back for publication on Sunday

Dec 22 - Matthew 2:11

 

And when [the wise men

entered] into the house, …

and when they had

opened their treasures,

they presented gifts to Him:

gold, frankincense,

and myrrh.

Matthew 2:11

 

What were the gifts that the wise men presented to Jesus?

 

You remember, right?

 

Gold was, of course, a valuable metal; it was essentially money. But do you know what frankincense and myrrh are?

 

Frankincense and myrrh are rare and valuable oils. In fact, these two balms may have been the most valuable of the gifts given to Jesus – worth more than even gold!

 

Each of these come from the natural resins in a couple species of trees … trees that you’ve probably never heard of! Frankincense comes from the boswellia tree. And myrrh comes from the commiphora tree.

 

Sometimes frankincense and myrrh were burned as incense (often in Middle Eastern religious rituals). That was one use. Often they were used for medical purposes, such as antiseptics, anti-inflammatories, and analgesics. That was the practical use for these oils. That’s probably what made these ointments valuable. But … there are two more important uses which surely made them appropriate gifts for the Messiah, the newborn Jewish King.

 

First, myrrh was often used as an anointing oil. And if you didn’t know, Messiah (in Hebrew) and Christ (in Greek) mean “the anointed one.” Thus Jesus the Messiah the anointed one received from the wise men the oil of anointing.

 

Second, frankincense may have been an almost prophetic gift – a gift that pointed to how his full kingship would eventually be reveals. Frankincense was also a perfume. And what was one common use for such perfume? It was one of the spices used when preparing a dead body for burial to cover the stench. Now, why is this an appropriate gift for Jesus? Because Jesus didn’t fully become (or become fully revealed) as the Messiah until his life-giving death upon the cross. Thus, a burial spice prefigured the ultimate trajectory of his life and was a sign of his divinity.

 

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who received

gold when he was born

– not real gold … no;

rather I was given an

inheritance of faith, and

Jesus is more valuable

than gold

 

Discussion Questions:

 

1.    What is a favorite gift you’ve even been given for Christmas or a birthday?

2.    Why is Jesus a greater gift than any physical possession?

3.    Is Jesus that kind of gift to you?