Monday, January 29, 2018

February Prayers - How Can We Pray?

I’m putting together February’s

congregational prayer list.

How can we pray for you

and people and situations

on your heart?

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Jan 29 - James 4:10


Humble yourselves

before the Lord, and

he will lift you up.

James 4:10


On the day I write this, my son Jay is starting his first day on his first aircraft carrier. Modern carriers are massive. They’re a small city. Thousands of sailors.


Most of what I know about aircraft carriers are from television and movies. On the show, a new sailor gets lost on the massive ship and asks a fellow sailor, “How do I get to to the flight deck from here?” The other sailor jokes, “You can’t get there from here!” It’s not funny to the lost sailor, so his guide says, “This path leads to a dead end. If you want to go up, you have to go down first (then over a few corridors, then you can go up).”


“This path leads to a dead end.” What is that path in your life? You know what that path is for you.  


If you want freedom, if you want to get where you’re really supposed to go, today’s verse tells us the wisdom of the sailor: “You can’t get there on the route you’re going. You need to go down before you go up.” 


Or in other words: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who wants

to get down

(and that doesn’t mean

I want to learn to dance)



Saturday, January 27, 2018

Jan 27-28 Philippians 4:8


Whatever is true,

whatever is noble,

whatever is right,

whatever is pure,

whatever is lovely,

whatever is admirable —

if anything is excellent

or praiseworthy —

think about such things.

Philippians 4:8


What do you tend to think about? Your day? Your job? Your kids? Do you obsess over headlines and politics? Do you escape into television shows or celebrity drama? Do you get lost in hobbies - from knitting to fishing to playing Candy Crush? Does your mind wander - especially when you're tired - to unwholesome things? Do you marinate on unforgiveness over wrongs done unto you?


What tends to captures much of your attention?  


And what keeps you from focusing about "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable"?


Distraction is a poison. It's also a coping mechanism! The world is overwhelming. We're busy and exhausted. Sometimes we need a mental break. We just want to escape. But how many of these things that we focus on a like fast food? They're temporarily filling, but ultimately empty calories. They leave us fat and lethargic. 

The antidote? Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.

In Christ's Love,

a guy who is aiming

for holier distractions


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Jan 26 - James 1:5


If any of you lacks wisdom,

he should ask God, who

gives generously to all

without finding fault, and

it will be given to him.

James 1:5


God offers us two ways to make a better life. One is through wisdom. The other is through power.


Wait! There’s actually three ways. The third way is by “crossing the streams” – and living with wisdom and power.


When God created, he established concepts like wisdom and logic. And generally speaking, if we live the way God intended, our life will be better than if we didn’t. The Book of Proverbs and Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount are two examples of the ways in which God conveys his truth.


People don’t have even have to know Jesus or have read God’s Word to live wisely – to be moral, to be kind, to not gossip, to refuse to cheat, to word hard instead of steal, to help our neighbors, to bless our children, etc. Therefore, we see lots of successful people – who don’t know God – who live wisely anyway. They’re living according to God’s plan whether they know it or not.


The second stream is living by God’s power. When we believe, God comes to us in supernatural ways. The fruits of the Spirit – Galatians 5 – are a perfect example.


·         What allows us to LOVE and forgive those who’ve hurt and betrayed us? A power from God!  

·         What helps us find JOY even in the face of trials? A presence of God that points us higher.

·         What helps us discover a PEACE that passes all understanding? A God who transcends circumstances.

·         Who helps us impatient, self-centered souls learn PATIENCE? God.

·         Have you noticed anyone with a supernatural KINDNESS, GENEROSITY, FAITHFULNESS, or GENTLENESS? Chances are that it came from God!

·         And how about SELF –CONTROL? Do you want more of it? Go to God!


Now, he’s the problem. Too many people live with one or the other.


·         Too many (honorable non-believers) live wisely but without God’s power. (Which works well … until there’s a major crisis – like a major illness and death – and they have no hope but themselves.)

·         Too many others (messy Christians) talk a lot about God’s power and provision, but constantly undermine their lives by living unwisely and often sinfully.


The power comes when we cross the streams.


And it’s at this point that I often use a Ghostbusters metaphor. These ghost hunters operated under the consensus that crossing the streams (as they shot proton ray guns at ghosts) was bad. But at their key showdown in life, their only hope was to cross the streams.


God wants you to cross the streams. To live wisely … and to live with power (which includes the life-transforming blessing of discovering the fruits that come from the Spirit, putting on the full armor of God, etc.). And for today, here’s this day’s scriptural advice: If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him (James 1:5).


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who watched

Ghostbusters too many

times as a young man










Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Jan 25 - Matthew 7:7


Ask and it will

be given to you;

seek and you will find;

knock and the door

will be opened to you.

Matthew 7:7


Once upon a time, Jesus told a story. He wanted to show that it was necessary for people to pray consistently and never quit. So he said, “There was once a judge who never gave God a thought. And he cared nothing for people!


“Now, in that same city, there was a widow. She had a need, and she kept after this judge. Demanding justice, she cried, ‘My rights are being violated. Protect me!’


“Now,” said Jesus, “The judge never gave her the time of day. But after this went on … and on … and on … he finally said to himself, ‘I care nothing about what God thinks. I care even less about what people think. But because this widow won’t quit badgering me, I’ve got to do something. I guess I’ll see that she gets justice. (Otherwise, I’m going to end up being beaten black-and-blue by her pounding!)’”


Then Jesus said, “Do you hear what that judge, corrupt as he is, is saying?”


That – more or less – is the Message paraphrase of Jesus’ parable in Matthew 7. And the question is: Do you hear what the judge is saying? Actually, the question really is: Do you hear what Jesus is saying?


There are two types of parables – especially when Jesus is speaking about God. One type of parable is, “God is like …” This is not a “God is like” parable!!! God is not like an unjust judge. He loves you. He cares for you. He desires to answer your questions. He desires to bless your life.


Therefore, this is a “how much more” type of parable. If an unjust judge will finally relent and answer if you pester him, how much more will a loving Father desire to answer your prayers! Therefore – and here’s the Greek sense of today’s verse – Ask (and keep on asking) and it will be given to you; seek (and keep on seeking) and you will find; knock (and keep on knocking) and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who had a

sixth-grade teacher

who had us work

hundreds of

seek and finds;

I guess she was

trying to prepare

me for prayer


Would you be willing to write a Lenten Devotional?!?!?!?

Devotional Group …


Would you be willing to write a Lenten Devotional?!?!?!?

I have twenty more slots!!!


Writing instructions …


·        I’ll give you a verse.


·        Before writing: Read your passage in context! Perhaps the paragraph before and after.

·        You can switch and use any translation of this verse (if you’d rather).


·        General advice

o   In a few sentences tell what the passage means in context.

o   Spend more time telling what it means to you.

o   And for best results, tell a story that connects this passage to your life – this is what people will connect to!!!!

o   Do these in any order!!!


·        Write about 200-300 words.

·        To make it easy for me to assemble, put the verse on the top and commentary below … and sign it with your name!


·        Due: Monday, February 1




Tuesday, January 23, 2018


Dear Devotional Group …


Lent is coming.

Would you be willing to

write one of our devotions?


I think we’d all benefit from

hearing one another’s stories!!


If you email me a “yes,”

I’ll send you a verse!



Here’s today’s devotion …


12 I am writing to you,

little children, because your sins

are forgiven on account of his name.
13 I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him

who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young people,
because you have conquered the evil one.
14 I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.

I write to you, young people,
because you are strong
and the word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.

21 I write to you, not because you

do not know the truth, but because

you know it, and you know that

no lie comes from the truth.

1 John 2


Why does John write? It’s the same reason I write a couple of hundred times a year.


It’s “not because you do not know the truth, but because you [DO] know it, and you know that no lie comes from the truth.”


I write to focus you [and me] again and again on the truth. Again and again. Day after day. Truth after truth. Focus after focus.


Hopefully each day has one helpful insight. But when you start adding up insights, you start to carve a canyon – deeper and deeper.


I’d like to give you the privilege of writing – because you learn a dozen times more writing than reading. Will you join me in this invitation?!


In Christ’s Love,

a writer

(I’d say I’m

a left-handed writer

but I usually type these

with both hands)


Monday, January 22, 2018

Jan 23 - Revelation 2:8-9


These are the words

of the first and the last,

who was dead and

came to life: I know your

affliction and your poverty ...

Revelation 2:8-9

There's a problem with this verse. 


When writing these devotions, I have several sources for "the verse of the day." Writing on a Monday, this verse popped up ... just like this.

Just like this, this is both a social justice verse (God cares deeply about those in "poverty" and "affliction") and a comforting verse (much like Jesus said in Luke 12:24, "Look at the birds. They don’t plant, harvest, or save food in houses or barns, but God feeds them. How much more valuable are you than birds!"). 

Those are both powerful truths. But there are five more words to this verse. Important words. 

The context? At the beginning of Revelation, Jesus narrates seven letters to seven churches. Some he confronts. Some he comforts. And without those five missing words, this sounds like a comforting passage. But here are those five words: 


These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life: I know your affliction and your poverty even though you are rich. 


Again, it is tempting to jump to conclusions without taking the context into account. This now sounds like a passage that is warning people about being financially rich but spiritually poor. And too many people fit that description. But really, this passage is about those who suffering "affliction" (persecution) even in the midst of a "rich" (comfortable) environment. There's a "poverty" in this. We're externally comfortable, but we're impoverished ... of peace. 


"Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison," says Jesus in verse 10. But "do not fear"; rather "be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life."


This is not social justice. And it is not comforting - at least in the earthly sense. It is a call to be strong, courageous, steadfast, and faithful in the midst of persecution, and God will reward you (rescue you from your persecuted "poverty" and "affliction") in the end ("crown of life"). 

In Christ's Love,

a guy who is rich

and experiences

affliction, a guy

who is poor and

wears a crown



Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Jan 17 - Psalm 118:4-5


I prayed to the Lord

in my distress,
and He answered me

by setting me free.
The Lord is for me,

so I will have no fear.

Psalm 118:4-5


“God’s got this.”


Have you heard anyone say this?


It’s more than a cliché. If “the Lord is for me,” I truly can have “no fear.”


And yet we worry and fear too often, don’t we?


Anxiety is one of the biggest reasons that people come in for counseling. I tell them, in part, that anxiety is largely excessive adrenaline flowing through you, and adrenaline is normal. It’s good. If a bear jumps out in front of you on a forest path, you want adrenaline! But why does it flow so freely and so inconveniently when life gets stressful?


I’m not going to give a whole counseling session in a short devotional, but one of things I recommend is working to move our thoughts from the feeling part of our brain to the thinking part of our brain. And we need to start thinking the truths of the faith, until we begin feel the reality of God’s protection.


For example, we’re encouraged to put on the helmet of salvation. Helmets guard our heads and the thinking part of our brains. And when our minds are focused on the permanence of heaven … we’re less concerned with the temporary things of earth.


The Apostle Paul puts it like this. Read it like a blessing: “[May] the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, … guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who is not

a scarecrow …

I have a thinking brain






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


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