Friday, May 30, 2014

DEVO: May 31, June 1 - Not Abiding

Whoever does not abide in me is

thrown away like a branch and withers;

such branches are gathered,

thrown into the fire, and burned.

John 15:6


Yesterday, we defined the word “abide.” Today, we define the cost of “not abiding.”


“Abide” is the verb form of the word “abode.” And if an abode is the place you live, then “abiding” is actively making our home somewhere. Thus, Jesus is really asking … Where is your heart’s true home? Where does the river of your thoughts flow from? What is the foundation of your values and ethics?


This is important (because we’re going to turn it around in just a second). Think about this … If Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life,” he is saying that he wants to be our home, our truth, our life, and the way we go. We wants our hearts to live in him, our desires to be shaped by him, our thoughts to flow from him, and our actions to be grounded on him. Indeed, by using a living image, of a vine and branches, Jesus wants our entire life to come from him. (Got that?)


Now turn that around! “Not abiding” means deriving our life and meaning and purpose from a source other than God and his word. For example …


·         If it’s not in Jesus, where is your heart’s true home? In our world today, it’s often in human relationships – which are always temporary since we change, move, and inevitably die. Family, for example, can be glorious and should be important. But people will inevitably let us down. So don’t live there.


·         Where does the river of your thoughts flow from? If it doesn’t flow from Jesus and his Word, then it flows from you, yourself, and your own opinions. You are your own God. “Well, this is what I think!” is usually a declaration of self-idolatry. I don’t know about you, but I’m flawed. My opinions change. And I’ve been known to be very wrong. If the river of my thoughts flow from me, then the canoe of my life is bound to run aground and fall far short of the glory of God.


·         What is the foundation of your values and ethics? If my thoughts and ethics don’t come directly from God, then both my thoughts and ethics will come from one of two places – me … or my culture. Yes, it’s inevitable that culture shapes us. But it’s incredibly dangerous to let culture define our values and opinions. Society changes. Morays shift. Culture tends to be a consensus of a society’s opinions, and if some of that consensus does not honor Christ, then we as individuals will inevitably fall down the slippery slope of not honoring God. So don’t crawl in bed with culture. Don’t live there.


These are traps. And our human nature constantly trips us up and causes us fall down there. By nature, we rely on fluctuating feelings, changing minds, and the opinions of others. And don’t think that Satan doesn’t know this! He doesn’t have to nudge us very hard to have us stumble into a deer trap.


But the consequences are real. Putting yourself or culture above God and his Word is self-mutilation. We are the branch which cuts itself off from the true vine. Grafting ourselves to culture may make us temporarily more popular, but it’s a disconnect that leads to “destruction.” Read the fiery consequences of this verse again, and repent of wrong desires, wrong opinions, and wrong motives.   


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who wants to trade in

me, myself, my opinions, and my culture

for Jesus, Himself, His Word, His Truth

and his judgments of culture

Thursday, May 29, 2014

DEVO: May 30 - Abide in me

I am the vine, you are the branches.

Those who abide in me and I in them

bear much fruit, because

apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:5


Today, I’m priming the pump, getting us ready for our next topic in our journey toward joy and jubilee – fruitfulness.


“Bear[ing] much fruit” is the goal of today’s verse. It’s God’s goal, indeed, for your entire life.


The practical question is, “How?” And Jesus answers this in today’s verse. “I am the vine. You are the branches. Therefore, abide in me.”


Now, as I said, I’m only priming the pump today. Today, I simply want to define one term: “abide.” Indeed, if abiding is the source of fruitfulness and God’s purpose in your life, shouldn’t we be passionate about knowing exactly what this word means?!


“Abide” is the verb form of the word “abode.” And an “abode” is home; it’s the place you live in. “Abide,” therefore, is action of making our home somewhere.


So … where do you actively make your home?


Now, I could give you my street address … but it’s much deeper than that. (After all, my street address has changed many times in my life.) What Jesus is saying, where is your heart’s home? What is the primary source that the river of your thoughts flows from? What is the foundation of your values and ethics. Indeed, wherever your heart and your desires live, that’s your home. Wherever your thoughts reside, that’s your abode. Whenever you step out into the day, wherever your actions derive from, that’s where you abide.


And Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” He is to be our home. Our heart are to live in him. Our desires are to be shaped by him. Our thoughts are to flow from him. Our actions are to be grounded on him.


Indeed, by using a living image – of a vine and branches – Jesus says, “Life comes from me.” All of life. True life.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who’s address is

316 Vine Street, Jesusville

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

DEVO: May 29 - #1 Jesus

For I resolved to know nothing

while I was with you except

Jesus Christ and him crucified.

1 Corinthians 2:2


What’s Jesus’ place in your home?


Is he …


·         a guest?

·         a neighbor?

·         a fixture? (like a lamp?)

·         a beautiful principle … like a beautiful picture? (he brightens the room … whenever you remember to look at him)

·         a once a week tradition? (like pizza and movie night?)

·         a centerpiece (like the family Bible – it’s in a prominent place in the room, but it’s a little dusty)


The way to spell J.O.Y. for our family is make Jesus more than just a welcome guest in our home.


The question is this … Is he the Lord of your house? Is Jesus the center of your home? Is the Messiah the foundation of your family?


Is he the glue? Does he hold all things together? Or not?


I know … I know … that sounds like a question that a pastor is supposed to ask. But it’s more cliché. And much more than trivial.


The voices of this world are so loud and persistent that any compromise in today’s world is more than just a chink in the armor. It’s like throwing a baby naked into a pack of wolves.


Today’s lies are loud and persuasive and constant. Our children are vulnerable. Previous generations could pretend that there was a middle ground … and seem to get away with it. But today no compromises will do. Is Jesus your family’s foundation? Or are you literally on sinking sand?


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who wants

his life (and family) to

always quote St. Patrick

“Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.”


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

DEVO: May 28 - #2 Speaking

If I speak in the tongues

of men and of angels,

but have not love,

I am only a resounding gong

or a clanging cymbal

1 Corinthians 13:1


Communication is obviously a powerful key to successful families. We need to talk. We need to listen. We need to be honest. We need to care.


What’s that famous phrase from that famous prayer from St. Francis of Assissi? ““Lord, grant that I may seek more to understand than to be understood.”


Yes, communication has obviously been key for hundreds of years! (Thousands of years when you look at all the admonishments toward kind words and communication in the scriptures.) But there’s a form of speaking that’s even more important than basic communication. It’s expressing love verbally.


The greatest thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother. This powerfully instills a security in kids like nothing else. Husbands need to say, “I love you.” Wives need to whisper sweet nothings.


Parents also need to speak love to their children. They need to say they love them. Even silly terms of endearment are more than just silly. They bind families together!


Many people think they can get away with giving gifts or acts of service. Those are nice. Everyone has different love languages. But … because sometimes the actions of one are missed – or misread by the other – we need to speak our love too. Verbally. Frequently. Genuinely.


And while speaking love is important, there’s still one more form of speaking that’s more important.


It’s prayer.


Prayer – a form of communication – makes God a part of the family. And the closer we grow to God, the closer we grow to one another.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who was slow but persistent –

it took a lot of years to get

even somewhat proficient

with love languages


Monday, May 26, 2014

DEVO: May 27 - #3 Time

Keep these words that I am

commanding you today in your heart.

Recite them to your children and

talk about them when you are at home

and when you are away,

when you lie down and when you rise.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7


How do you spell love?


I’d suggest you start spelling it this way: “T-I-M-E.”


Sometimes words are empty. But spouses and children understand attentiveness.


So … this message is simple …


·         Make memories (rather than focus on material things).


·         Take trips (I've heard that the family that camps together stays together. Why? Camping is all about surviving challenges together. The tent leaks. You forget things. It takes perseverance. In the wilderness, you have to get creative to survive.)


·         And most of all, eat together. (It's a day-to-day discipline of togetherness. It’s time daily to talk daily.)


In Christ’s Love,

a dad who’s taken his kids

to forty-nine states

… but somehow we missed North Dakota

(Ahh … but Jay’s in a

wedding there in June)


Sunday, May 25, 2014

DEVO: May 26 - #4 Forgiveness

Jesus said,

It is impossible that

no offenses should come

Luke 17:1


The longer I live, the more convinced I am that the purpose of families is to teach us forgiveness.




Think about it. What was the whole purpose of Jesus coming to earth? Forgiveness.


Forgiveness is the most important thing in the universe. Indeed, how dare we call ourselves Christians if we don't do the one greatest thing that defines Christ.


Indeed, Jesus once said, "It is impossible that no offenses should come." Or to put that another way, we are going to step on each other's toes living in small houses. We are going to occasionally hurt each other when we are family.


It’s a given. So … we have two options …


1.    We can be Christ-like and Christ-ian, and we can forgive.

2.    Or we can be hold grudges. We can choose to remain offended.


Yes, we will occasionally be hurt. I know that. I’m not denying that. And family wounds are deeper than all others. Indeed, we’re hurt infinitely more when wounded by those who are supposed to love us most.


But Christ was wounded by those whom he loved most. They nailed him to a cross, and he still cried, “Father, forgive them.”


Yes, I know you’ve been hurt. But even when you feel nailed to a cross, being Christ-like and Christ-ian and family means that it’s time to forgive.



In Christ’s Love,

a guy who’s too puny

to carry too grudges

(I’d be crushed

under their weight!)


Friday, May 23, 2014

DEVO: May 24/25 - #5 Respect

A wise son makes a glad father, but

a foolish man has no respect for his mother.

Proverbs 15:20


Families thrive on respect. People thrive on honor, appreciation, courtesy, and favor. For men, it’s one of our highest values. Even for women, it’s one of the ways in which we spell, “love.”


If you want a simple set of goals and rules for your home, try these …


·         Kindness is king.

·         Sarcasm is scorned.

·         Courtesy must become common.

·         Thankfulness trumps complaint.

·         Helpfulness is celebrated.


If you’ve ever dealt 24/7 with a two-year-old, you know that these traits are not natural. “We are by nature,” as the old confession says, “sinful and unclean.” Selfish – that’s who we really are at heart.


So if we want peace and joy in our heart, we must actively train our children in respect. AND we must marshal the selfishness in our hearts.


One of Mary Louise’ and my favorite takeaways from the great book “Love and Respect,” was the line, “Start assuming the best of each other.”


When I’m at my worst, I tend to assume the worst in my spouse and in others. We all do. But when I start assuming the best, I hear their heart (and their fears and frustrations) rather than any kind of intent to disrespect.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who wants to sing

like Aretha Franklin …



Thursday, May 22, 2014

DEVO: May 23 - #6 Laughter

A cheerful heart

is good medicine

Proverbs 17:22


Seriousness creates morbidity.


But laughter breathes life.


What does humor do? It helps us overlook faults. It lightens up tense situations. Scripture tells us that cheerfulness is healing – good medicine.


Here’s a good question to ask: “Do you laugh enough?”


Yes, I know that there are seasons in which there seems to be not much to laugh about. But as we said yesterday, “Life is 10% what happens and 90% what we do with it.”


Do you laugh enough?


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who laughs more

when he looks up

than when he looks down



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

DEVO: May 22 - #7 Perseverance

Dear friends, don't be surprised about the fiery trials

that have come among you to test you.

These are not strange happenings.

Instead, rejoice as you share Christ's suffering.

You share his suffering now so that you may also

have overwhelming joy when his glory is revealed.

1 Peter 4:12-13


I heard someone say recently that …


·         life is 10% what happens

·         and 90% how we react to it.


Trials WILL come in this life. In our verse for today, Peter told us not to be surprised by this.


Another apostle, James, put it like this, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith  develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature  and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4).


Yet another apostle, Paul, made this point too, talks about it in this way: “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).


Trials WILL come in your life. The only question is how you and I will deal with it.


Paul talked about armor that allows us to withstand life’s trials – whether they’re internal temptations, external oppression, or inevitable happenstances of life in a broken world. The part of this armor that guards our thoughts is the helmet.


Paul tells us that when we focus upward on heaven – rather than downward on this broken earth – that 90% of us that determines how we react will be lifted up.


In Christ’s Love,

a person who wants to rejoice always

not worry about anything and

have the peace of God which

passes all understanding that

keeps my heart and mind

in Christ Jesus my Lord


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

DEVO: May 20 - #9 Money

The wicked borrow,

and do not pay back,

but the righteous are

generous and keep giving;

Psalm 37:21


What do families fight over most?




Throughout the history of the world, economies always go up and down. A few are rich. Most are poor.


There are plenty of resources available in our world – food, for example. So we shouldn’t be asking God why there are hungry people. He should be asking us! It’s greed. It’s a lack of compassion. It’s the myth of scarcity. It’s sin.


So … being in financial crisis may be new to you, but it’s a very old reality. Therefore, if we want to quit the squabbling in our house and make sense of our finances, we need some OLD advice. Indeed, we need God’s ancient and eternal wisdom.


Here’s the new advice that governs our culture. Here are the ways that most people are encouraged to use their money:


1.    Spend

2.    Borrow

3.    Repay

4.    Save

5.    Give


Does the sound familiar?


Well, watch how God’s wisdom almost flips those priorities on their head …


1.    Give

2.    Repay

3.    Save

4.    Spend (and only on necessities, not niceties)

5.    Borrow (never … or almost never)


Which person are you in the family. It seems like in every family, one wants to spend and the other wants to save.


And what about our kids? Until our children understand the theology of money, they'll always ask for more and newer and certain brands.


Let me conclude with an example …


My brother-in-law is a pastor. One day as my nephew, his son, climbed into their old car at school, he looked around. Surrounded by all his friend’s family's fancy SUVs, he said, "Dad, I wish we could get a new car."


His dad said, "We could go get one tomorrow."




"Sure. All we'd have to do is quit giving to missions and ministry." And my brother-in-law started listing all the good things that giving and church and ministry provided.


My nephew got it. "I kind of like this old car," he said. And never brought it up again.


Give, first. (It's not "her money" or "his money" or the kids priorities. (Do you ever see families play that game?) It's God's money. So give first. Repay, second. (Debt is to be avoided.) Save before spending. And refuse to borrow.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who’s constantly tempted

to ignore God’s wisdom

and be upside down



DEVO: May 21 - #8 Responsibility

Just as the church is subject to Christ,

so also wives ought to be, in everything,

to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives,

just as Christ loved the church

and gave himself up for her

Ephesians 5:24-25


Have you ever heard anyone say, “Our marriage is 50-50”?


What a shame?


Do you really want your spouse to give 50% effort?


Marriage should be 100-100. We should all share in the chores and responsibilities, including the kids. Many of the old traditional roles don't matter – who cooks, who cleans, who earns, who fixes, who stays home – as long as all agree together and responsibility is shared … and as soon as start agreeing with God’s priorities in the home.


Sometimes when spelling J.O.Y. people often envision that they have three options for priority. Jesus … others … or themselves. But realistically there are only two priorities. It's either all about Jesus. Or all about You.


Because even if we try and make it about O and others and serving the other person, things are never going to seem fair. (Which is where 50-50 breaks down)


But if we make it about Jesus … when we yoke ourselves with him … when we grow to look like him and assume his character, his ability to love others empowers our service. And we move from 50-50 to 60-60 to 80-80 to 100-100.)


In Christ’s Love,

A guy who’s 50% on his own,

but through Christ who strengthens me

Mary Louise gets a better husband

than just plain mediocre