Monday, December 21, 2009

It's been a year now...

A year ago I found myself in the midst of a busy week. Parties and events kept me busy long after 7pm each day. The problem: dinner, the solution: fast food. I ate it every night that week, and maybe for lunch once or twice. That Friday, I watched the movie "Supersize Me", and I decided to make a change. No more fast food.
It started as just a month, then two, and then I pushed it to the end of Lent. After that, I just kept pushing it back month by month. I realized that the cravings I had stopped after the first month. I found that what I really liked was the quick, convenient meal. There have been a few times that I've had to eat at a fast food place- on trips. But I opted for the grilled chicken wraps or salads.
Like I said, I really loved the convenience. I was too busy to stop and plan out what to eat...well, truthfully it was just easier not to plan out.
I live in a fast-paced society. One that values productivity, ease, and quick fixes. It seems I hear more commercials pushing the latest energy drink/pill instead of addressing the real problem: lack of rest. Fast food is much the same: an option for an overworked and underthought lifestyle that many have come to know all too well.

Ok. Enough of that. My challenge to you is this: quit or cut down on fast food. Go "cold turkey" or cut in half the fast food you eat per week. Make it a resolution. I promise you'll feel better & notice a difference. You don't have to give up fried food completely, but do try to cut down. Especially on the times you eat on the run. Eating could become enjoyable if you let it. So could sleep. Welcome the pause in productivity.
PS- yes, I do still have cravings. But they are few & usually come when I don't feel I have time for a sit-down meal.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Community Part 3: Return

This is the third part in a series on community, to read part 1 click here, and to read part 2 click here.

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34-35

Last week I had the opportunity to "uphold" (see post 1 of series) some of my fellow classmates. For many of us, the semester was full of doubts, frustrations, realizations, and everything between. Needless to say, it takes its toll on a person. I was glad to have the opportunity to encourage some of my peers and grateful for the chance to return the kindness and support that others have shown me this semester.

The previous two posts in this series have been about the self- how others help us and the importance of letting them do so. But how do we respond? At the risk of being cliche, how do we pay it forward? Do we give more than we recieve?

I don't have solid answers for you, but rather an encouragement to look for opportunities to do so. Look for times when people are struggling- both those you know and those you don't know. Then, be bold and quick to help. I think you'll find that "returning" the support and love you've been shown is incredibly fulfilling.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Community Part 2: Open

This is the second part of a series on community. To read the first part, click here.

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10: 24-25

It's now starting to get cold and stay that way. On top of that, we seem to be getting more rain with this cold weather! This comes right in the middle of the end of the semester crunch time for me. Between the amount of studying I need to do and the weather, it's easy to get "bundled up" in oneself.

Ever notice when you go outside on a cold day that your body seems to instinctively tighten up? Ever turn your back to a cold northern wind? These are ways we try to stay warm, we become focused on ourselves and our own lack of warmth. So we try to conserve our own body heat. Maybe if you're less inclined to your personal space than I am, you might seek out someone else to help keep you warm... but as for me, I like my "bubble" so I'm usually left to fend for my own comfort!

I've always approached exam weeks the same way- all by myself. I hole up in my room or in the library and try my best to keep my nose in a book or in my notes and break my habit of compulsively checking email, twitter, and facebook. The problem is, it becomes all about me. I'm focused on me and my studies. I don't let anyone help or lend a hand.

Sometimes it's necessary to "go it alone," but usually it's nice to have someone along with you. The people we find community with support us, encourage us, and need us. Don't "bundle up" so much during the storm that you can't find help. Open up and let others in. Be in community.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Community Part 1: Uphold

Again, I ask for your pardon on the lack of posting last week. It has been especially hectic lately, this is both the reason for the lack of a post last week and also an inspiration for this post.

"I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure." Psalm 40: 1-2

Growing up I remember testing the limits with my neighborhood friends. We created an attempted many stunts within the security of our own neighborhood and back yards. One particular challenge I remember was riding down the hill in our neighborhood on our bikes without using brakes and trying to make the turn at the bottom of the hill onto the street that ran perpendicular (90 degree angle). We measured the difficulty of this feat in "houses"... you could only go three houses up and still be able to make the turn onto the street that the one on the hill T-ed into. Any farther up and we would always "chicken" out and use the brakes.

Well one day, I convinced myself that I was going to conquer... very Evel Knievel of me, I know. So, I walked my bike up the (insanely steep) hill: 1, 2, 3, 4 houses! I turned the bike around, had a friend check to make sure no traffic was coming, let off the break and began my descent. I felt the wind in my hair, took my feet off the pedals and gripped the handlebars tight. I reached the bottom of the hill and began making the turn, it was working, I was going to make it! And then, I hit a mailbox. Most people would describe it as a clothesline. I don't remember much after that, aside from tears. But I do remember my older brother coming out of the house, gathering me up, taking me inside, then going to fetch my bike. I remember my brother's help.

The past few weeks have been crazy for me. I've been filled with doubts, anxiety, get the idea. But I've been blessed by a great community and support system. So many people reached out and helped to "gather" me. So to all of you, I say thank you.

Community is crucial. As Christians, even just as people, we must look out for one another and pick each other up when someone falls, or maybe even try to anticipate it and keep them from falling. We have to stay in community with each other. And as believers, we desperately need to remain in community with God. Call out like the Psalmist and trust that there will be someone to draw you from the mire.

Monday, November 9, 2009


"Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to theLord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns." Exodus 20: 8-10

Last week I was going through my normal routine in the morning: coffee, devotion, Bible reading, quiet time, and ESPN. I usually wake up watching Mike and Mike in the Morning (a sports radio show that airs on television). It was the day after the Yankees won the series and I caught the tail end of the discussion. "Greeny" as one of the Mikes is called, was expressing his surprise that there was already talk about how to improve for next year. He wondered out loud if maybe they could take just one day to enjoy the fruits of their labors and celebrate being world champs.
Golic, the other host named Mike, played college and professional football and argued that there was no time to take even the day after such a victory off - arguing that all the other teams were working to get better. In his opinion, if the Yankees (or any team that wins a championship) bask in their pleasure too long, the competition will leave them behind.
I thought this was an interesting caricature of the American culture. Sometimes it feels like the message we receive is that if you ever sit down to rest, someone else will pass you by and achieve more than you. To draw a parallel to a well-known story, many Americans seem to have the competitiveness of the Hare and the incessant drive of the Tortoise. The problem is that we, as limited beings, aren't meant to be constantly sprinting. We need rest.
Mike "Greeny" Greenberg comes from a Jewish heritage. He is familiar with this need for rest. The Hebrew word "שבת" is pronounced "Shab-bat." You may be more familiar with the pronunciation "Sabbath" which translates as "to cease; to stop." I believe that it is because of his being aware of this call for rest that "Greeny" thinks it's important to stop and just enjoy.
Don't let to do lists or ambition get in the way of your Sabbath this week. Relax a while and take stock of all that God has provided for you.

Monday, November 2, 2009


"She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say,
'I will go back to my husband as at first,
for then I was better off than now.' She has not acknowledged that I was the one who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold— which they used for Baal." Hosea 2:7-8

Last week I accompanied a youth group on a trip to a corn maze. I had never done one of these things before and was curious to see what it was like - how difficult it was, how entertaining I found 'being lost,' and how the youth would behave during the maze. When it came time to go through the maze, I was partnered with a group of junior high guys. They seemed eager to get started.

They walked the first few steps, then started jogging. I reluctantly quickened my step and tried to post on twitter about the maze as I tried to keep up with the group that kept disappearing around the next bend. It wasn't long before the conversation started, "We've already been here." "No, remember..." We were lost. In a hurry to finish the maze, there was little though going into turns and navigation...most of us really weren't sure if we had "been there" before- it's hard to take mental notes on the run, especially when all the corn stalks look alike!

How often to we get so excited about something that we cannot contain ourselves and "sprint" after it? I am so guilty of this. I find something interesting, pursue it with all my abilities, and then wonder why it wasn't everything I expected. I often find myself way off track and wondering how I got there.

I guess what I'm saying is that I think the cliche "walk with God" is appropriate terminology. Going slowly allows us to be familiar with how we got there. Slow down, take note of the ways that God is working in your life and stop and look around.

Monday, October 26, 2009


"I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." 1 Cor. 9: 22b

"Relevant" has become somewhat of a buzzword for many churches today. I know I've heard a fair amount of statements about how the church needs to do this or that in order to be relevant (or perhaps 'more appealing'). While I'm no expert, I think that the verse above (which I've taken out of context on purpose) can serve as a battle cry for wanting a "relevant" church. I do think it's important for the church's teaching to be relevant, but I think that the interpretation of how exactly the church is to become relevant can be the point of danger.

We are the church. We are called by Christ to be different. I fear that too many moves to be "relevant" may result in a loss of identity. And this concern spills over into the individual lives of Christians too (myself included). I fear that in trying to fit in, we may forget that we are not intended to fit in. Evaluating the life experiences of Christ and the apostles with society will show just how much those who follow God stick out sometimes. We are called to righteousness.

Remember your calling. Minister to all people.

" 'Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites." Exodus 19: 5-6
(If the Old Testament seems irrelevant, this same language is repeated in 1 Peter 2:9-12)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Don't just sit there...

(forgive me for taking last week off... I've been sick and things have been crazy)

"The Lord's hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts." Acts 11: 21-23

Yesterday I had the honor of witnessing the baptism of an infant. The parents of the child brought him up to be baptized, promising to raise him up in faith and love. The pastor finished the questions for the parents and them moved on to the actual act with the water. You could have heard a pin drop it was so quiet. But then, out of nowhere his brother began shouting,
"Come on, you can do it!"
Laughter (probably most of it nervous) broke out in the congregation as everyone noticed the 3-to-4-year-old brother sitting unattended in the pew, away from the action. I guess it seemed comical to most. But to me, it seemed profound.

The whole congregation sat, as all good congregations do at such a time: quiet, smiling, and taking in the moment. But this young boy, unaware of the "social norm" for that time, recognized the importance of the occasion and he cheered his brother on. I was amazed.

This week, try to notice something that may seem commonplace in the life of a fellow believer in Christ. Instead of reacting the way we normally do, try making a big deal of it. Encourage them. You don't have to praise them or physically cheer them on, but maybe give them a compliment, or lift them up in a prayer of thanksgiving and praise.

Notice the small things, and consider them blessings.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Easy to forget

"The word of the LORD came to me: "Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem:
" 'I remember the devotion of your youth,
how as a bride you loved me
and followed me through the desert,
through a land not sown."
Jeremiah 2: 1-2

Do you "remember the devotion of your youth"? When you were passionate and chased after things without tiring or asking questions? Remember the times before you learned to doubt? Or maybe before you learned what it meant to be discouraged?

The trouble with growing up is in learning to think too muc. The people of Israel experienced this when they trusted in God as they were released from captivity in Egypt, only to complain against Moses and God when things became difficult. It's easy to give up- easier to go back to what was familiar. It's easier...but not better.

How might your week be changed by making an effort to "remember the devotion of your youth"? Maybe you'd be a witness to Christ in the world... Don't let every day events take away your zest for life and devotion to God this week.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A donkey and an ox

"If you come across your enemy's ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it." Exodus 23: 4-5

In some of my recent studies, this passage was a focus. The passage is one that gives the people of Israel rules for living in community. A huge part of living in community involves helping others. The interesting part of this passage is that it is "your enemy's ox"...not your friend's ox. It is assumed that people will help people that they like (which I hope is still true today more than it's not), but not help someone they dislike. This command is one of many important in developing Israel as a people set apart to bring about God's intentions in the world.

The passage made me think of another passage that we all may be a little more familiar with:
"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.But someone will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder." James 2: 14-19

The words in Exodus inspire me to live to a higher standard- one that witnesses through the way I treat everyone. The words of James remind me that my faith should spur me on to action.

This week, seek opportunities to live out your faith and God's intentions for the world.

Monday, September 21, 2009

How to mend.

"His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. "We are your slaves," they said.

But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children." And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them." Genesis 50:18-21

After my recent theft experience, I was left to reflect and try to gain some understanding as to why it happened. I addressed this in last week's devotional. The other thing I thought about was how to deal with this... Genesis 50:20 is an easy verse to look at when one feel's victimized. But I don't want to talk about verse 20. I want to talk about Joseph's perspective, and his statement in verse 19: "Am I in the place of God?"

Joseph had every reason to be angry and every reason to seize an opportunity to get even. But instead, he was able to see and understand that it wasn't his place to get even. Instead of using his powerful position against his brothers (they sold him into slavery), he used his position to help them, thus repairing the family relationship. Maybe Joseph knew that he hadn't always been easy to get along with (see Gen. 37:1-10)... whatever happened, Joseph realized that there was no sense in repaying evil with evil. Instead, he worked for the good of all, and looked for a way to be the solution to the problem rather than adding to the bitterness and hatred.

We all need to take a lesson from Joseph's life. Use your opportunities and positions to mend relationships and bring healing in a wounded world.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


(First off, let me apologize for this being late. Please forgive my tardiness.)

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal." Matthew 6: 19

Last Monday night/Tuesday morning my car was broken into. I foolishly left my wallet in my car (I thought it was out of sight, but apparently not), and someone smashed the window took the wallet, a book of CDs, a cell phone charger, and some random other things. Of course, the biggest loss was my wallet- all of the cards that were in there, my driver's license... basically most of the ways that I can be identified as being me. I spent the rest of the day calling credit card companies, speaking with people at my bank, and talking to police... trying to figure out how to put things back to the way they had been. It was definitely a day to forget.

During all of the phone calls and waiting around, I tried to see the positive: maybe someone really needed that cash more than me. Maybe someone will actually get more play out of those CDs... but everything seemed to be about the other person. I didn't want to be selfish, but really 'What was in it for me?' Answer:

All of these things can be taken in a matter of moments. All of these things can be replaced in a few hours (or through some phone calls). Many of the things that we value so much really aren't worth as much as we make them out to be.

I take comfort in knowing that the one truly invaluable thing I have cannot be taken from me.

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21

Monday, September 7, 2009

Share alike

Have you ever caught yourself mumbling under your breath, or maybe even complaining loudly, "They don't deserve that! They didn't do anything to earn it!" It's pretty common- from an early age we learn what is fair and what is unfair...and we are usually pretty quick to point out any "unfairness" toward us. It's just the way we are, we like things to be even, deserved...especially when it comes to other people's earnings. Here is a great example from the Old Testament:

"Then all the corrupt and worthless fellows among the men who had gone with David said, 'Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except that each man may take his wife and children and leave.' But David said, 'You shall not do so my brothers, with what the Lord has given us; he has preserved us and handed over to us the raiding party that attacked us. Who would listen to you in this matter? For the share of the one who goes down into the battle shall be the same as the share of the one who stays by the baggage; they shall share alike.' " 1 Samuel 30: 22-24

This story takes place toward the end of David's time in the wilderness, hiding from Saul. He and his men had been out and the town that they were calling home had been raided. The Amalekites had stolen their possessions and taken their wives and children hostage. Upon discovering this, David and his men pursue the Amalekites, defeat them and reclaim their families and possessions. But during the pursuit, many men had grown tired and could not continue, so they were left behind. The men that finished the mission weren't willing to share their spoils of war with the men that did not fight. Fair enough, right? Yes, but David understood that fairness could be divisive- he would be showing favoritism to the men that helped and morale could be ruined because of jealousy.

I'm all too familiar with this kind of scenario. As a young child, I'm sure I let my parents know "That's not fair" on many occasions. And I can still find myself wanting to say those words again. Whether it involves work, grades, competition, or even worse: religion!

It can be quite unsettling to think that we who go to church every week and put money in the offering plate, volunteer with the church, and even go on mission trips are going to receive the exact same reward as those who have merely professed a faith and trust in Christ. Honestly, it's not fair. And I am very thankful that it's not about fairness, earnings, or deserving because if it were, I wouldn't be expecting what I hope for.

As you think of what it means to not complain about unfairness, read what Jesus has to say on the subject by reading Matthew 20: 1-16.

Monday, August 31, 2009

More than we realize

"But Moses said to God, 'Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?' " Exodus 3: 11

How serious do you take being called by God? Or have you ever thought about how you are called by God? It's a big deal to realize it and conduct yourself in an intentional way...let me explain.

During an American history course in college, we talked about the explorers that "discovered" things on the continent. Many of these men brought with them their religious beliefs. Some of them brought symbols- crosses and displayed them proudly: having someone process with a cross in the front of their expedition. They encountered native people, introduced them to their religion and their crosses. Then they introduced other things- disease, war, violence, greed.... Soon the native people began fleeing at the sight of a cross- it was no longer a symbol of grace but one of hate, death, and destruction.

Now, the details are a bit foggy for me and I can't seem to find my notes to double check, so forgive me if that's not a complete, accurate description. But it seems to me that the explorers hadn't taken seriously what it meant to be a follower and bear the mark of Christ... or maybe they had gotten swept up in the things of this world. But sometimes, we're not all that much different from them. We wear crosses as jewelery, we openly profess Christ as our savior and model for life...and then we lie, hurt, cheat, steal,... the list goes on.

I've often poked fun at Moses for questioning God. After all, who is he to think he knows better than God? But maybe he was just realizing what a huge responsibility it is to be a part of carrying out the will of God, of freeing humanity from their helpless state. I wonder if we approached being a part of the body of Christ in the world more carefully if we could avoid giving the wrong impression of what Christianity is about? What if instead of asking WWJD, we asked "How is this going to help or hinder the message that God is trying to speak to others through me?"

Just some thoughts. Thanks for reading. Go. Serve. Love.

Monday, August 24, 2009

What are you building?

"Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness." Matthew 9:35

Christ understood the challenges of his mission to make it known exactly how God planned on drawing all of humanity back to Himself. Because of this understanding, Jesus knew that the most effective way to spread the message and make God's love known is through interaction with people. God in flesh came to earth to live among us as an equal, experiencing the joy that comes in serving others and seeing their elation when they realize someone cares.

Over a month ago I had the privilege to speak with 8th and 9th graders at a church camp. During one of the messages I shared this quote with them:

"We build too many walls and not enough bridges." -Isaac Newton

I talked about how it was tempting to build walls for protection, to make us feel safe. Walls give us a place to call our own and help us to make sense of the world by compartmentalizing things...making sure everything has it's own space set apart (think an elementary school cafeteria tray). But, as a someone that is convinced that there is no hope but in Christ, we are called to spread the word, and as mentioned before- the best way to do that is to interact with people. But in putting up walls we prevent the forming of relationships based in Christ in the world outside the church walls. I feel like we're called to do the exact opposite: take what we know into the world and let it bleed... let it be (through us) a transforming power everywhere we go.

When I find something exciting, I want to share it with others so that they will enjoy it as well. How great is the news that we've been given the gift of grace...that God desires to be in a relationship no matter what. I can't speak for you, but it's hard to think about that and not feel somewhat excited.

This week, make an effort to build fewer walls, allow your faith to bleed into every part of your life. Build relationships with others so that you can help them build bridges to understanding God's wonderful news in Christ!

PS- Next week's devotion will mark the 100th post to I am working hard on it and I'm very excited about it. I hope you'll check in again next Monday!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Against all hope

Times are tough. Things seem to be getting better in the least that's what we keep hearing on the news. During times of struggle it is easy to start worrying about being self-sufficient, independent, and safe. When the going gets tough, it seems like second nature to draw all our belongings and trust only ourselves. However, we are called to something different. Trust in God's providence.

We are called to put our trust in a God that we believe is able to provide for and sustain us. Could it be that our "safety nets" are actually keeping us from furthering our trust and faith in the God that takes care of even the birds and lilies? Could our independence be inhibiting our dependence on God? But then again I see the other side: it would also be foolish to not use the power of reason that we were given in order to avoid hardships.

I don't want to tell you how to deal with the current economic situation, but I do find comfort in the fact that I worship a God that has promised some crazy things (or at least it seems crazy to us) ...and made good on them:

"Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be."
Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God," Acts 4: 18-20

May you hope in the God that created you and sustains you and perhaps your belief will also be "credited to [you] as righteousness." (Genesis 15: 6)

Monday, August 10, 2009

All in how you look at it.

Sitting on the back porch after dark a few days ago, something caught my eye in my peripheral. I saw movement in the dark corner of the yard. So I took a closer look, staring hard at the area where I saw movement....Nothing, couldn't see what it was. It was at this time that I remembered something from a psychology of perception course I took during college: "rods and cones"- look slightly away from the object, and.... a toad.
(Now for the technical explanation:There are basically two types of receptors in the eye that allow us to see- rods and cones. Cone receptors help us to see details and colors- cones are mostly located in the "macula" or focal point on the back of the eye. Rods capture big things, and things in peripheral, don't see color...thus making them more useful than cones as far as night vision. Rods are almost completely absent from the forementioned "macula" which is contains mostly cones... which explains why looking right at something in the dark actually inhibits your ability to see the object.) The picture above is a simple illustration I created, for more information and a detailed explanation about rods and cones, click here.

This got me thinking though. When we encounter problems in life, when things don't go our way or frustrate us, we seem to focus directly on that problem. We become determined to "figure it out" and "fix it." It can become an obsession until the problem is solved, all othere things take a back seat to the problem at hand. I'm speaking from experience. I am guilty of being encouraged to leave something alone, only to reply, "No, it's personal now."

What if instead of trying to fix every problem that comes along, we learn to roll with things- we learn to wait and see if the problem is really that bad, or maybe it wouldn't seem so bad if we changed how we looked at it? This week, when a problem comes along... try not to let it become the focus, and trying viewing it from different perspective. Take time and enjoy.

"Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves." Psalm 127:1-2

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Crazy Thought

"Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish." Jonah 3: 9 (NIV)

The king of Nineveh suggests that the people of the great city may not be beyond saving... he calls for confession and for them to repent from their sinful ways. Maybe Nineveh won't "be overturned" (v. 4b) as the prophet Jonah had declared to the people of the city.

The thought of a merciful God is not exactly what most people picture when they think of the 'God of the Old Testament.' Usually, people think of a wrathful, warrior God in the Old Testament stories... so the king's hopes could easily be called overly optimistic. But then again, "Who knows?"

Trying to walk the path that Jesus walked can be an incredibly frustrating task, and frustrations can easily turn to guilt or hopelessness. We can start beating ourselves up over stumbles and struggles, and at these times it's easy to think that we are unforgivable. However, we must learn from the king: recognize your faults, repent, and ask for God's grace and forgiveness... for we know that we worship a God who freely gives grace to all that ask. We must stop limiting God by believing we know the limits of God's grace.

Trust in God's steadfast love, and let God be your provider.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Purpose and a Goal

"Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us." 1 Peter 2: 12

The Tour de France is over and to the delight of some and the disappointment of others, Lance Armstrong did not win. But he did finish 3rd, trailing the leader by just over five minutes. In a race in which the top riders logged more than 88 hours on a bicycle, the 5-minute margin is still quite impressive considering he's been retired for 3+ years.

Have you seen this ad for Nike?

Lance brings up all the criticisms that have been spoken and echoed since before he became a household name. I'm not much of a cycling fan, but I'll admit I'm a homer and I will root for someone from my home state.

At the end of the commercial Lance says, "They can say whatever they want. I'm not back on my bike for them." Obviously, there is an unspoken end to that thought- he rides to inspire those that need inspiration and hope.

This made me wonder about why I do the things I do- do I seek approval from others, praise for my works? Or do I seek to glorify God in all that I do? Opinions will be plentiful, critics will come and go, but the person that works for the glory of God and the good of God's people will find peace.

Why are you on your "bike"? Who are you working for? There is a world full of people in need of inspiration, grasping for some morsel of hope... how is what you will do today going to bring hope to someone?

Monday, July 20, 2009

A righteous challenge

"Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God." Romans 15: 17

It's easy to get caught in the current of the times- to constantly seek contentment in the things made by man. But true happiness comes from serving God and serving God's people. It is when we serve God and God's people that we truly glorify God by loving others as God loves us.

Have you been feeling empty lately? Felt like things that used to bring you joy are less than fulfulling? Maybe it's time for a dose of service and time of seeking good. Now, I'm not saying that doing things to improve your own lifestyle is evil, but I am saying that I've experienced the empty feeling of compiling things that bring only temporary happiness. I wonder where God is and why I'm not feeling God's presence... And then I take the time to serve someone and I am reminded of the sense of accomplishment that comes with something as simple as helping someone in need.

This week, do not seek happiness in the things you do for yourself, but serve others to the glory of God.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Do you ever feel worn out, beat down, discouraged, or even confused about where this is going and what's the point? I think to some extent this is perfectly natural. A buzzword most of us are familiar with is "progress." We like to see progress, and when we don't it can be easy to experience a mixture if not all of the forementioned feelings.

The one solution that I've found for this problem is to refresh- get away for a while. Go somewhere or do something that refreshes you by allowing you to "recharge." Maybe it's a vacation, maybe it's a day off, ... for me it's being around people that offer encouragement, are enjoyable to be around, and share my interests and many of my goals.

This week I have the privilege of being at church camp. Some might be confused as to why I consider it a privilege- it's not that I particuarly enjoy eating camp food, being outside in the heat of the day, or sleeping on a sub-par mattress.... it's that there are people here that share my goal to see youth grow in their faith, they love to laugh, they love to just enjoy the company of other believers.

How long has it been since you allowed yourself to be refreshed by being in the presence of those that renew you? Seek them out this week, spend some time in their presence and be encouraged.

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10: 24-25

Saturday, July 11, 2009

New Growth

There's a plant that's been on my office desk for at least two years. I've never claimed to have a green thumb, in fact I think I remember telling the person who gave it to me, "If you want it to die that's a great place for it," as it was placed on my desk.

However, despite my inability to keep plants alive, this one has persevered and even grown a little bit. But my friend did observe that the plant has very little new growth since it was placed in my care. I blame the lack of sunlight- my office has no exterior windows. Other theories include the occasional week or two without water....The point is that most plants require water, the right temperature, sunlight, and fertile soil to grow...maybe some other things- like I said, I'm not a gardening expert.

Growing faith is much the same. We need more than one avenue to help grow our faith: individual prayer time, reflection, corporate worship, personal devotional, Bible study... all of these help us grow our knowledge and faith. Unfortunately, our culture doesn't usually lend itself to spending hours and hours focused on God. Truthfully, it's very hard to devote even an hour to any kind or combination of disciplines in our society.

Sometimes I get frustrated when I feel I'm stuck in a rut of some sort with my faith. I wonder if I've made any progress at all in the past year? In these times, it's easy to lash out and blame God for "not being there when I needed You." But, usually I have to face the truth and admit that I've let life get between myself and my God. Sure I go to church, and maybe even to the weekly Bible study, but I haven't truly sought God on a personal level. Or maybe when I showed up at church, I was more concerned with the people than the worship....

So maybe I wasn't preparing the soil or getting any sunlight- that would explain the lack of growth. Today, seek God and ask that your faith be increased. See if you don't notice a difference.

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Hebrews 11: 6

Friday, July 10, 2009

Dressing up

"Its very first words are Our Father. Do you see what those words mean? They mean quite frankly, that you are putting yourself in the place of a son of God. To put it bluntly, you are dressing up as Christ. If you like, you are pretending... you are a bundle of self-centered fears hopes, greeds, jealousies, and self-conceit, all doomed to death. So that, in a way, this is dressing up as Christ is a piece of outrageous cheek. But the odd thing is that He has ordered us to do it."
-C. S. Lewis Mere Christianity

Mere Christianity is one of my favorite books. Lewis creates such wonderful ways of illustrating what it means to have faith and exercise that faith. In this section, Lewis is explaining how we become more like Christ- through practice. He likens our prayers (specifically The Lord's Prayer) and how we mimic the way Jesus addressed God...thus making us sons and daughters of God.

Lewis then goes on to describe how humorous it must seem for such flawed people to put on such a front... claiming to be children of God. However, he then draws a parallel to young children playing house: they are essentially practicing roles and what it means to be an adult- so it is as much an exercise as it is play. Sooner than you think, Lewis explains, that pretend will become reality... and our front will become more of our real being.

Today, practice being a child of God. Compose yourself as Jesus would (I know that's bordering on a cliche from the mid 90s), but maybe try to pretend a little today and maybe it will rub off on your "true" self so that you become more like Christ.

"He destined us for adoption as His children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will," Ephesians 1: 5

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


"Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Luke 23: 34

Lately I've been on a kick of watching documentaries. I'd wanted to see two for quite a while and finally sat down to watch them... "The King of Kong" and "Confessions of a Superhero"

I would give both of them 4 of 5 stars, but I wanted to share a quote from the latter.

"It's only the bad people that I get mad at. Everybody else has no problem with me." -Maxwell Allen on "Confessions of a Superhero"

The film follows four people that dress up as superheros and take pictures with tourists on Los Angeles' Hollywood Boulevard. Each individual shares their story - how they got to Hollywood and why they do what they do. During many of his interviews, Batman (aka Maxwell Allen), talks about his dark past and the fact that he has a temper...even admitting to seriously people.

The quote is interesting because it's a self-fulfilling prophecy: I get mad at people because they're bad, and they're bad because they make me mad... When he said those words, he was obviously struggling to express himself and explain why he lashes out.

The other thing that it reminded me of was the fact that pain breeds pain. Maxwell had many painful memories and couldn't seem to get past them- guilt and frustration added to his anger, which caused others pain. It's a sad trickle-down effect that seems to have no end. Unless...

We learn to forgive. Forgive others. Forgive ourselves. Forgive and move on. Be the end of that cycle of pain.

That is the question

This passage was recently brought to my attention. I found it interesting and wanted to share.

"Here 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?' " John 5:3-5 (NIV)

It seems like an odd question, doesn't it? Why wouldn't someone in this man's condition want to "get well." Greeting card companies have made money from our desire for others to 'get well soon.' And our complaint when we're sick is usually something to the effect of 'I am just ready to get out of this room/house/hospital.'

I cannot imagine having an affliction for 38 years...but it could be that one would forget how to live without it... forget what it would be like to live a "normal" life. So maybe the question isn't so bizzare afterall. Jesus had the ability to heal the man with or without his permission, but Christ wanted to know if the man desired a change in his life- because things were about to change for the man and Jesus wanted to make sure he was prepared for that change.

We all have afflictions - things that keep us from living the life we are called to live. And if you're like me, you ask over and over for them to be removed. But I wonder, am I really ready to leave that affliction behind? Am I prepared to "get well"? Or do I still want to have that reason for not living like I should?

Next time you feel like addressing a problem in your life, ask yourself Jesus' question, "Do you want to get well?"

Just passing through

I recently returned from an amazing mission trip to Alaska with 28 other youth and adults. I don't recall ever having seen so much beauty in creation. We flew into Anchorage, drove to Fairbanks, and boared a boat in Seward... at any given moment there were incredible sights to see.

However, I noticed that much of our group slept through or found some other way of entertaining themselves as we passed by scenic view after scenic view. Now I don't fault them too much because we were all tired, and riding in cars and planes gets old pretty fast, but I wonder what this says about the way we live our lives.

How often do I "just get through" certain parts of life? I feel like if that is ever the case, then it is far too often. Each daily experience holds some beauty in it...and when I just try to get through to the next day, I'm missing out on what the day has to offer. Perhaps approaching every day with renewed enthusiasm about that specific day is truly what it means to "Carpe diem," or 'sieze the day.'

On the flight home I found myself watching a movie shortly after takeoff. Being in a window seat, I wanted to be sure to watch the sunset (something we hadn't seen during our stay because it doesn't get dark in Alaska during this time of year), so when I noticed the light becoming an orange tint, I pulled up the window shade and stared in awe as the sun set over the clouds and snow covered mountains. During most of our red-eye flight, I watched the window as dusk gave way to darkness and stars appeared...and shortly before we landed I was treated to sunrise over a Texas sky.

Are you in one of those "in between" stages in life? Are you just trying to "get through" today so that you can reach your destination/goal? Instead of waiting it out, what if you tried to glean something from your time of waiting? Look up and open your eyes, maybe with a little effort you can discover something awesome about today.

"God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning - the sixth day." Genesis 1: 31 (NIV)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Full week of devos coming

I apologize for the lack of devotionals the past two weeks- I've been gone on a mission trip. But I'll make it up to you: every day this week I'll post something new. So check back daily this week for devotionals and I'll do my best not to let many more Mondays pass without sharing something.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Judgement Call

Last week I had the privilege of attending a senior high youth mission trip in a rural area of Texas. Our youth group has gone on trips like this with the same organization for the past three summers. Each trip is in a different place, with different participants, ....

This time, instead of being out in the heat swinging hammers, weilding a 3-inch paintbrush, and dusting off the circular saw; I was leading worship, helping plan games, setting up for events for everyone after the day was over. Part of my job was to go offer encouragement to the work teams at their different locations, take pictures, and maybe talk to the owners of the house they are working on.

One of these locations has been burned into my memory. But it doesn't stand out because of the "client's" situation... it was because I assumed. As I walked up to the site the team was sitting with the client and discussing over sack lunches. There was a man sitting on a four-wheeler about 30 feet away. It was obvious that he was there checking on the elderly owner of the house. His body language said "I'm watching you," his arms were folded and he had a very removed disposition about him. I decided that he wasn't friendly and probably didn't like us being there.

After a while at the site I noticed one of the other guys from our group talking with him. I thought maybe he needed to be rescued from an unpleasant conversation. So I went over and was amazed to hear about the struggles this man had been through. He had lost many loved ones, he was there because it was his mother's house we were working on...and the reason he didn't get off the four-wheeler had to do with a disease that had made breathing difficult when walking. I felt ashamed that I had judged this man, who turned out to be one of the nicest clients I've ever met... lesson learned.

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you too will be judged, and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you." Matthew 7:1-2

I hope that others look beyond my body language (which was misleading in this case), and actually get to know me before they decide what kind of person I am.

This week, strive to let people be themselves before you decide who they are. I'll try to do better.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Increasing Returns

There's a word that's been on nearly every mind lately. Very few things have been able to bump it from the spotlight of conversations and news broadcasts. "Recession" It seems that this word has us all spooked. Afraid to take risks we would have called "investments" just two years ago. We've gathered up all those investments, worried about the job market, struggled to pay bills... and maybe even worse. It is as these times that I begin to think of two stories from the Bible: 1- the parable of the talents (Matthew 25: 14-30), and 2- Jesus' advice about worrying (Matthew 6: 25-34).

But there's a lesser-known passage I'd rather share with you:
"Begin by being honest. Do honest people rob God? But you rob me day after day.
You ask, 'How have we robbed you?'
'The tithe and offering- that's how! And now you're under a curse - the whole lot of you - because you're robbing me. Bring your full tithe to the Temple treasury so there will be ample provisions in my Temple. Test me in this and see if I don't open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams...' " Malachi 3: 8-10 (The Message)

The passage seems focused on monetary offerings to God. Sure, there may be churches that are really struggling financially because their members are struggling.

But when I read this, I thought about a different kind of offering. One that many churches have been in desperate need for years- volunteers. I read this passage and thought about what's most important to me, what do I "hoard"? The answer of course is my time- I'm very protective of it. I cherish my time off, I guard against things that cut into my free time, I pass up opportunities because "I'm too busy."

Are you anything like that? One of the highlights of the past year for me was volunteering to read with a 1st grader for 30 minutes every week. I found that it was often the best part of my week. Last month, I looked at my volunteer sign in sheet and counted the hours from September to May, expecting the sum of the hours I'd volunteered to be huge... twelve. 12 hours over about 250 days.

Do you think you're busy? Try taking a little time out every week to volunteer. When it's over you may be suprised with how little time it actually took to make a big difference. Give your time, and see if God doesn't "pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams."

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lye and Truth

I don't know about you, but when I first started this journey of faith, I believed that everything was going to be happy, fun...sunshine and lemonade. Don't let the rest fool you, I've had more fun than I expected, but the challenges along the way were much more than I expected.

Malachi, with God's help, understood just how intense this whole process of redemption and reconciliation was going to be... long before the physical arrival of Christ in our world. Here, the prophet describes what is to come in our cleansing:

"He'll be like white-hot fire from the smelter's furnace. He'll be like the strongest lye soap at the laundry. He'll take his place as a refiner of silver, as a cleanser of dirty clothes. He'll scrub the Levite priests clean, refine them like gold and silver, until they're fit for God, fit to present offerings of righteousness. Then and only then, will Judah and Jerusalem fit and pleasing to God, as they used to be in the years long ago." Malachi 3:2-4 (MSG)

I'll admit, I don't use lye soap. I use the smelly soft soap from a pump bottle. But I do remember using bar soap. I don't know much about lye soap. So I did a little research. Here's a quick video you should watch to understand just how powerful lye soap can be-

As you can see. Lye is powerful stuff- the chemical reaction heated the water to nearly 200 degrees! She even said if you add water to lye (instead of lye to water) bad things can happen. It's no joke- it has to be done carefully, intentionally.

In other translations, more emphasis is put on the image of a furnace and refining metal- which is a process of exposing metals to extreme heat in order to make them stronger and pure.

Honestly, there are times when things seem so tough that I'm ready to give up on this. Times when I see no way out. Times when this thing called faith seems way too dangerous for me. However, I've realized that those are the times that will refine me, make me stronger, into something better. A certain muscle-bound governor coined the phrase, "No pain, no gain." Unfortunately, this is true more often than it is not.

Faith is dangerous, faith is scary, faith is unsettling...and yet, we trust that in the end we are being made clean by what God did for us through Christ. I could go on about lye soap and how cool that image is, but i'd rather let you read what I've learned from. Here is another link about this ancient way of making soap. You know... before there were ten different scents!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Finding Your Stride

"One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong,and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done." Psalm 62:11-12 (NIV)

I saw this story on E:60- an ESPN show that features more human-interest sports stories. Take a minute to watch a clip on youtube

or watch the watch the full story

The first thing I thought of was Forrest Gump's run. "The Raven" has been called "...a real Gump," but Kraft is real, true, and dedicated. 

I'll admit to you. For the majority of the time I've served as a spiritual leader, my personal spiritual life has been lacking. It's easy to let it slip. I convince myself that I've got more important things to do...plan this trip, write this curriculum, go to this event... I don't have any problem coming up with excuses not to spend time allowing God to tend to my soul. Sure, I'd start a new devotional book and be really into it until something threw me out of my rhythm- and again I'd put time with God on the back burner. 

However, in the past 5+ months, I've managed to stay on a regular schedule of reading and spending time diving into God's word. And I've noticed results. I feel incomplete without that time now. I feel more patient, and more importantly- I feel open to what God may have to say to me through scriptures and the thoughts of others. But now I know there's something else I've neglected- my prayer life. Soon I'll start setting aside more time with God... I hope that God will assist me in allowing this time to transform my life to be more like Christ daily. 

This week. I challenge you to find your stride- dedicate 10 minutes to God. Read, pray, or maybe just sit in silence.... Strive to make it a part of your lifestyle...who knows, maybe 30 years from now you'll be as dedicated to God as "The Raven" is to running. 

Monday, May 18, 2009

Was that for Me?

Do you ever read the preface to books? I usually don't. I've never completely understood them- the book starts at Chapter 1, right? So why should I read anything before that?

"God-of-the-Angel-Armies gave me this Message for them, for all the people and for the priests: "When you held  fasting every fifth and seventh month all these seventy years, were you doing it for me? And when you held feasts, was that for me? Hardly. You're interested in religion, I'm interested in people." Zechariah 7: 4-6 (The Message)

Often times we flip right past the Old Testament. We skip by the books with the names we can't pronounce and the odd stories that we struggle to understand. We get to the "good stuff"- the stories about Jesus and the teachings of Peter and Paul. But we've ignored the preface- the reason for those stories....the explanations that help us understand what Jesus and Paul are talking about. 

Zechariah's words are put into action by Christ. Jesus annoyed the Pharisees of his day because he cared about people more than he cared about religion. He dismissed rules so that he could help people. That was extremely irritating for the class of people that knew the law (religion) well, and expected Jesus to abide by it....even to the point of ignoring people to follow the rules. Of course, Jesus attended to people, and suffered the consequences.

I think sometimes we get too swept up in our own religion- we think we know what's right and expect others to know as well. So when they mess up, we lack compassion. I know I often get caught up in what "needs" to be done for church...and I wonder how many people I've not cared for because I'm worried about the tasks of church & religion.

Care more about people than you do about religion. 

Monday, May 11, 2009

Confront and Confess

In recent conversations and some of the reading I've been doing, I've 
been encouraged to be more bold with my faith, and more transparent about my life. So I'd like to share this: 

Last week I was playing a softball game with some of the men from our 
church. During the last few games, I had grown tired of hearing my teammates complain about bad calls. It had eaten at me for a while. So when a few of our players 
began pleading a case to an umpire, I rolled my eyes and stated (loud 
enough to be heard over the banter), "Just Shut up."

I went on to state that I was tired of our complaining. It made the 
game less enjoyable. It made us look like whiners. I wondered how we 
were being Christ to the umpires as we questioned every close call. I 
wondered what image of Christ we were presenting to those within earshot.

However, I failed to be Christ-like to my own teammates. I 
unneccessarily scolded them, spoke to them in a very un-Christian way. 
Sure, my intentions may have been good- to get the guys to glorify God 
through their actions (even on the softball field), but I did it all 
wrong. After the game, I did take time to apologize and explain my frustrations. I hope that the team can, 1) forgive me, and 2) begin to make an effort to live as we are called, even on the field of competition.

I think sometimes I take this whole Christianity thing too lightly. I 
struggle to let it direct my entire life. I know i've been the one 
complaining and arguing before, but I showed little patience for my teammates. And, as evidenced in the story, I've definitely lost my temper once in a while.

What kind of life do we lead when we aren't at church? What do our actions say about Christ when we are competing, stressed, irritated...? Are we encouraging each other to live the gospel daily?

God wants to change every part of your life, not just the parts you're 
comfortable being Christ-like in...all of it. What are you holding on 
to? Where in your life do you need to be transformed? Be unashamedly Christ-like.

"In everything, set them an example by doing what is good. IN your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us." Titus 2: 7

Monday, May 4, 2009

Alone, Together

Have you ever had that feeling? The one where something doesn't feel right, there's something missing, maybe a sinking feeling and you're not sure how to get rid of it? It's not unusual.

We're called to a life set apart from the rest of the world. As Christians, we've set our eyes on a prize that's bigger than any that this world can offer. But doing this can often lead us to feel alone- like we're missing something right in front of us... because we are.

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are n the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)

The writer of Hebrews understood just how lonely it can be living a life in this world, but set apart from this world. It can be difficult, and as we realize that we're missing things that others aren't, it can be lonely. But we're not alone. We have each other for encouragement. Our separation from the world makes our attachment to a church body all the more important. The Christian community helps us to keep focused on our goal - living a life according to our calling. It also offers a place where we don't feel so out of place.

This week, seek community. Seek to be in the presence of others. If you're feeling drained and alone, find encouragement by being with those who are also set apart.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Where Am I?

Last week I used a GPS navigator for the first time (when I really needed it). I was in a town I didn't know and looking for specific places, but had no clue how to get there from where I was. Amazingly, I was still able to make a few wrong turns and got frustrated...but instead asking the question I usually do- "Where is this place?" I asked, "Where am I?"

"But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul." Deuteronomy 4:29

Sometimes we feel lost- we don't know what is going on in life, we have a pretty good notion of where we need to be, but don't understand how we can get there from where we are. Irritation builds, and soon we're ready to lash out. At these times, it's easy to blame others or blame God...but what we really need is a little guidance.

Take time to re-evaluate the situation. Look to scripture, spiritual companions, and consult with God in prayer. Seek God, trust that the rest will be taken care of by the One that cares for you more than you can ever comprehend.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Crying Foul

"Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?" Habakuk 1: 13

We live in a world that isn't fair. From an early age we learn...

"That's not fair."
"Life's not fair, get over it."

That's usually how the conversation goes. Habakuk was willing and bold to complain. He told God exactly how he felt about unrighteous, ungodly people conquering Israel. In some ways, he was basically telling God, 'you're perfect, but you're wrong for allowing this to happen... how could you?' 

I believe God delights in you. God loves to see you moved. Apathy is impossible to work with. But if you're upset or angry about something, there's something to work with because you actually care. 

God desires a relationship with you. A major part of any successful relationship is communication. Let God know how you're feeling. Even if it means expressing your displeasure. God delights in hearing your voice and seeing that you really care. 

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fast Food Poll

Four months ago I stopped eating fast food. I'm going to start eating it on occaision. Which of my faves should break the fast? free polls

Monday, April 13, 2009

Now What?

Christ is risen! Now what?

All of the eggs are found, the candy has been partially or mostly consumed, and the new clothes are no longer new. So now we're on a break until next year, right? Not at all. In fact our work has just begun. Christ has done his part- he's paid the price and conquered death. Now it's time for us to start letting others know. This is usually the part that I struggle with.

The miracle of Easter should spur us on to do something great. We should be doing the unexpected- loving those who don't deserve it, helping those who can't return the favor, caring more about people and less about rules or what people think... living like Jesus.  But I usually don't, because I know that what Christ said is true,

"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also."
John 15: 18-20

The resurrection changed everything. I hope that it will change your perception- that you'll see things differently. I pray that you will have your eyes opened in the coming days to what God can achieve through you. 

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16: 33

Monday, April 6, 2009

Breaking Traditions

This week, take time to observe the ridiculous love that God has for you. Too often we get caught up in the business of life, and the traditions of this week and this weekend...we go through the motions, tend to traditions...but I fear that we (myself included) overlook the enormity of Easter. God came to earth, died willingly although undeservedly, and conquered death... all so that we may live. Take a moment to let that sink in.  

"Where is the god who can compare with you— 
   wiping the slate clean of guilt,
Turning a blind eye, a deaf ear, 
   to the past sins of your purged and precious people?
You don't nurse your anger and don't stay angry long, 
   for mercy is your specialty. That's what you love most.
And compassion is on its way to us. 
   You'll stamp out our wrongdoing.
You'll sink our sins 
   to the bottom of the ocean."  Micah 7: 18-19 (The Message)

Monday, March 30, 2009

No Big Deal

We seem to have recently remastered the art of worry. With our lives speeding up, it seems we have more and more to think about...which translates to a lot more to worry about. Worry can be helpful- it can motivate us to get something done...but all too often it's unproductive and causes stress. Christ understood this and spoke about it during his sermon on the mount 

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Matthew 6:27

How much do you worry? Is it about things that you can actually control? Is your worrying getting anything done? Stop worrying. Control what you can and trust that the rest will be taken care of...I know it may seem to be easier said than done, but making an effort not to worry can help relieve some of your stress.

This week, trust that God will not give you more than you can handle.

Monday, March 23, 2009


I was out of town last week on a trip. I returned to a car covered in a greenish/yellow dust. I wasn't all that surprised, so I wasn't all that annoyed. The trees, flowers and everything else budding and spreading their dust in hopes of creating new life seem to cover everything this time of year.

So what's this got to do with God and devotion? 

I think that we can learn a lot about evangelism from this green dust that causes so many allergy problems this time of year. Evangelism has always been something I've struggled with- it's difficult to do and not come across as overly pious or even worse, cheesy. We are called to "go and make disciples," but I don't think I'm the only one that struggles with exactly how to do this. And here is what we can learn from the budding life and dust:

"Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king." 1 Peter 2:16-17

Live your life in such a way that others cannot help but to wonder why you behave the way you do. Live in such a way that your love covers all that you come into contact with. I wonder how the world would be different if we could all live according to the requirements of God as described in Micah 6:8?

Strive to leave the mark of Christ's love and the promise of new life in your world this week.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Not knowing

We live in a time when we seldom have to wait to find answers to questions. Therefore, we've become well aware of how to get those answers- we call it 'the information age.' But this has left us unable to be satisfied with not knowing something. 

This week I'm on a mystery trip wit some of the youth from our church. This morning we loaded up in vehicles- and they had no idea where we were headed. Some of them seemed fine with not knowing the details, but others were genuinely upset about the lack of information sharing. The only thing they were told was, "It'll be fun." How irritating is that?

Much of the frustration we experience in our walk with God is not having access to all of God's knowledge. We worship and desire to be with a God that knows everything. So we want to know everything- "Why, where, who, what..." But we always have to wait for answers to those questions. That is faith.

I am grateful for all of the youth that stepped out in faith this week, trusting that it would be fun. They've got some great surprises and fun coming their way- a much deserved reward. I wonder if God feels the same way I do right now- biting my lip, wanting to tell them what's going to happen...but having to wait until the moment is right and we 'figure it out'...then rejoicing in our realization and observing our elation. 

This week, trust God. Maybe there's something that you're tired of waiting for or anxious about. Relax, answers will come. Trust in your God.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8: 28

Monday, March 9, 2009

Handling the Truth

Sometimes it's difficult to face the truth. Sometimes it's easier to believe a lie or a half-truth. It's not that we don't desire to know the truth...we usually do- it's just that sometimes we have a hard time accepting the truth because it's not what we hoped for. A memorable movie quote comes to mind- "You can't handle the truth!" 

"...Raw truth is never popular. But here it is, bluntly spoken: Because you run roughshod over the poor and take teh bread right out of their mouths, you're never going to move into the luxury homes you have built." Amos 5: 10-11a (MSG)

The truth is that we're flawed...beyond our own repair. We've fallen short in numerous ways. In fact, sometimes we lose hope- thinking we're never going to be good enough to deserve God's love. That's hard to admit, it's hard to handle. But it is quite necessary to admit the fact that we are too helpless to help ourselves. For only when we do this do we allow ourselves to seek help from someone else- God. 

Amos told the "raw truth" to a people who had strayed from God and were not willing to admit fault or seek to change their ways. Reading Amos is challenging and tough, but it's a great read during this season of Lent- a season to renew our devotion to the God that loves that we need a Savior. Amos was not popular among his peers- he was too honest for their liking. But he was absolutely necessary.

How can you be honest with yourself? Maybe there's a difficult truth that you've been ignoring or denying. It may be difficult to confess, but it is only by showing our wounds that we allow God to begin to heal us. Seek God this week, be brutally honest with yourself and with God. Allow the healing process to begin.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Mediocre Expectations

One of my favorite authors is C. S. Lewis. I've only read a few of his books, but he is an incredible writer and is able to present the gospel message in a very logical way. During a recent devotional time, I read this passage that I'd like to share with you (I'm leaving the original British spellings) :

"I am only trying to call attention to a fact; the fact that this year, or this month, or more likely, this very day, we have failed to practise ourselves the kind of behaviour that we expect from other people."

We are all familiar with this idea. Perhaps a good example comes from one of the many times we find ourselves waiting at a stoplight. A driver runs a red light and our response is usually to criticize the other person, "Idiot." But, if we should be the ones to try to 'sneak through the intersection' a bit late...then it's because "I'm going to be late." or "I couldn't stop in time." However, we place expectations on the behaviors of others in a number of situations. Then, as Lewis observes, we fail to live up to those expectations- essentially, we lower the bar for our own self. Friends, how is this acceptable?

Your challenge for this week- live up to your own expectations for others, including friends and complete strangers.

"Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else," Galatians 6: 4

Monday, February 23, 2009

All things point to...

Spring is almost here. I've noticed a few trees budding and flowering. Spring seems to rejuvenate us- we want to be outside to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air, no longer are we cooped up in our homes for warmth.

"The fields and meadows are greening up. The trees are bearing fruit again: a bumper crop of fig trees and vines! Children of Zion, celebrate! Be glad in your God. He's giving you a teacher to train you how to live right - Teaching, like rain out of heaven, showers of words to refresh and nourish your soul, just as he used to do." Joel 2: 22-23 (The Message)

This scripture just seems to fit with this time of year- Joel speaks of fields and meadows, trees and vines...all becoming lively and vibrant. These are visual representations of a new hope. Most importantly, the prophet speaks of a coming teacher: one to teach us "how to live right". This teacher, Joel promises, will restore the intimacy with God that the people of Israel (and all people) yearn for. Joel foretells the coming of Christ- a great teacher, a new hope for all mankind.

This Wednesday begins the season of Lent. We anticipate Easter- the observation of Christ's triumph over sin and death. Right now, flowers are blooming, trees are budding, and the grass is beginning to green up- all of this points to a new hope and adds to our excitement as we rejoice that we know this teacher. His name is Jesus.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

changing my thoughts on Lent

Lent is one of the seasons that always seems difficult to observe. If you don't observe Lent, the tradition is to give something up during the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Common things to give up include: soda, chocolate, meat, tv, etc. But sometimes it feels like we are just depriving ourselves if we do that- the only thing we get out of it is having to explain to our friends why we "can't have that." So, do we get anything out of it besides feeling deprived of something we love? Hopefully the answer is yes. But I think many times, we fail to see what good we're doing, or what kind of impact our 40-day "fast" is making.

As with most every year, I've been trying to figure out what to do for Lent. I've done the soda and chocolate fasts in the past and have been successful. I've even tried adding on something- a devotion/quiet time every day during lent, and have been less successful. A few days ago it finally hit me. I need to change my thoughts on Lent. Sorry, this is just a clever play on words. This year, I'm giving up change for Lent. Yes, pocket change.

If you're like me you rarely pay cash for expenses...and even less frequently carry change to pay for things. Over the past few years, I have compiled quite the coin collection rather unintentionally. I have a change bowl, lots of change in my car, change at my office, pennies in a bag, and even sorted change... So, after Ash Wednesday, I'm going to start a new change bowl. Any change I get from paying in cash will go in that bowl and after Easter I will donate it to a charity of my choice. It may not be much, but I feel like I am sacrificing something, and that sacrifice will hopefully benefit more than me.

Anyone else want to join me? Let me know. Oh, and if you do- consider carrying cash and paying with cash more often...instead of avoiding it so you don't have to give it away.

Monday, February 16, 2009

No thanks, I'm full.

One day while flipping through channels on the TV, I stumbled upon a program about men surviving extreme situations. One of the stories was about a man whose ship had sunk and he was lost at sea in a life raft. He lived off of fish he was able to catch (don't ask how...I don't remember). He was able to do this for a few days before he began feeling the effects of not having a balanced diet. He found himself craving parts of the fish that may seem inedible: eyes, fins, intestines...but they all contained minerals and vitamins that the man's body needed.

"He who is full loathes honey, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet." Proverbs 27: 7

Have you ever felt that God is just not working in your life? Maybe church just doesn't seem to be uplifting? Or perhaps your quiet time/devotional time isn't producing as much knowledge and encouragement as you hope for? And you finally find yourself wondering where is God in all this?

God is not absent, you're probably just feeling satisfied...but that doesn't seem to make sense, because you're far from satisfied. Perhaps a better term is that you've lost the hunger. You no longer seek God. You go through the motions, perhaps out of habit or obligation, and you no longer crave that intimate moment with the One who sustains you. If you're "loathing honey", try something different- change your 'diet' up a little...look for nourishment in places you never thought could offer anything spiritual.

This week: ask someone else how they encounter God when they're feeling down and disconnected...then try it!

Monday, February 9, 2009

That Depends...

"Oh, never, never lose that sense of simple dependence on the presence of Jesus in your life because sometimes that is all you will have." -Peter Storey With God in the Crucible (from his sermon "Easter's Gift of Peace" delivered on Easter Sunday 1983)

We are constantly hoping for independence. It's one of the goals that many of us spend our lives working toward. There are numerous types of independence, so the word can mean different things to different people. But often we feel that a successful person is one that has lots of support, but doesn't need any of it. But we do need support. We're not meant to be completely independent. God created us to be in a relationship with our Creator. It is impossible to feel whole unless we have a relationship with God, and this relationship is through Christ.

Perhaps a more universal goal is happiness. Independence, at least the complete kind, is not possible if we hope to maintain happiness. We are sustained and encouraged by the Spirit. The sooner we learn to depend on God, the sooner we will find that we are content and truly happy. I pray that you will come to understand this as the psalmist did:

"We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name." Psalm 33: 20-21 NIV

Monday, February 2, 2009

Gravity does not forgive

Last night I was having fun on a Ripstik. I had finally become comfortable on the unstable toy, and was cruising around the youth center. I started feeling bold and decided it would be a fun to try a wheelie. Not a great idea. I rode the wheelie for a second (and that's being generous) before gravity took over and the one wheel I was riding on (the size of a roller blade wheel on a swivel) slipped out from under me... sending me to the floor. Now I have a sore elbow and my pride is still recovering.

"'Everything is permissible'—but not everything is beneficial. 'Everything is permissible'—but not everything is constructive." 1 Corinthians 10: 23

Paul writes this to the church in Corinth, addressing their concerns over eating food that was considered unclean because it had been offered to idols. Yesterday's sermon was about this same topic. However, I just want to use Paul's words as advice for wise-living.

We live in a world that offers us a lot of fun. Thanks to free will, we are able to do whatever we want. However, we learn early in life that for every decision there is a consequence. It's easy to get comfortable with the things of the world that seem fun, but ultimately Paul's words ring true: just because we're allowed to do something fun, doesn't mean it's good, or that it's not going to cause harm to us or to someone else.

This week, strive to do only things that are beneficial. Don't be like me- I didn't think about the physics of what I thought would be fun and I paid for it. Think ahead, ask God to give you the foresight to see things that could be physically, emotionally, or spiritually damaging.