Monday, January 26, 2015

Simply Go

Monday // Read
Jonah 3:1-5,10 (MSG)
Maybe God Will Change His Mind

1-2 Next, God spoke to Jonah a second time: “Up on your feet and on your way to the big city of Nineveh! Preach to them. They’re in a bad way and I can’t ignore it any longer.”
This time Jonah started off straight for Nineveh, obeying God’s orders to the letter.
Nineveh was a big city, very big—it took three days to walk across it.
Jonah entered the city, went one day’s walk and preached, “In forty days Nineveh will be smashed.”
The people of Nineveh listened, and trusted God. They proclaimed a citywide fast and dressed in burlap to show their repentance. Everyone did it—rich and poor, famous and obscure, leaders and followers.
10 God saw what they had done, that they had turned away from their evil lives. He did change his mind about them. What he said he would do to them he didn’t do.

Tuesday//Simply Go

The thing about this passage that strikes me is how the people of Nineveh just changed. They listened and they trusted God; that was it. It didn’t matter who lived there, everyone repented and gave their lives over to God. We look at that and wonder: that’s it? Jonah went (eventually) and all he did was tell them of who God is? No light show, no mega million dollar building, no programs, no temperamental sound boardsJ just listening to where to go and who to go to. It can’t be that easy, can it? To that I think God says, “Why can’t it be?”

Now we can focus on the mind of God and how He changes it from time to time but whew, let’s save that for another time. For now, let’s focus on how simple this was for Jonah to do once he went and obeyed what God had asked of him.  We can be like Jonah at times and disobey God or conveniently not listen to Him. The task usually seems huge but in the end turns out easier than the way we would have done it and in the end the people listen and transformation happens. Only God’s plan can do that. Sure, what God calls us to is terrifying at times; it pushes us outside of our comfort zone but once we go through with it (often begrudgingly) we find that God did most of the work.

God had a specific place, with a specific group of people, to send His message to. He also had a specific person to deliver that message. I mean God could have easily said, “Well, there goes Jonah in the opposite direction, guess I’ll have to find someone else to send to Nineveh.” No He chased him down. He had it all mapped out- a certain people and place with a specific person to go to them and tell them.

So, the question is not what should we do next but how can we go to God, who has the next thing ready to go, trying to get our attention so we can step on board!

Wednesday // Challenge

Are there plans or things that you need to let go of?
How do you practice putting your trust in God?

Thursday // Reflect

Dear God,
In this moment, I let go of all thoughts and concerns.
When I let go, I am able to receive.
When my hands are formed into tight fists, I cannot open my hands to receive anything.
When I hang onto tight control,
When I close off my heart and my spirit,
I cannot receive your blessings for me.
I let go to receive your blessings. 
Letting go in this moment, I receive your loving presence around me and within me.
Help me to let go when I am feeling overwhelmed, so that I may receive your peace.
Help me to let go when I feel fear so that in fear’s place I may receive love and courage.
I let go of problems and challenges in order to receive your guidance and clarity.
I let go and trust you.
I will not fall.
You will catch me.
I let go and trust in the still, small voice inside of me.
Help me not to struggle but to surrender my struggle to you.
I gladly receive this gift of letting go and letting you lead me and guide me.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Jesus... The Connector

John 1:35-51

Come, See for Yourself

 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John’s witness and followed Jesus. The first thing he did after finding where Jesus lived was find his own brother, Simon, telling him, “We’ve found the Messiah” (that is, “Christ”). He immediately led him to Jesus.
Jesus took one look up and said, “You’re John’s son, Simon? From now on your name is Cephas” (or Peter, which means “Rock”).
43-44 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. When he got there, he ran across Philip and said, “Come, follow me.” (Philip’s hometown was Bethsaida, the same as Andrew and Peter.)
45-46 Philip went and found Nathanael and told him, “We’ve found the One Moses wrote of in the Law, the One preached by the prophets. It’s Jesus, Joseph’s son, the one from Nazareth!” Nathanael said, “Nazareth? You’ve got to be kidding.”
But Philip said, “Come, see for yourself.”…(when Nathaniel met Jesus)
49 Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi! You are the Son of God, the King of Israel!”
(Read the entire passage verses 35-51)

TUESDAY // Jesus... The Connector

As you read the passage in John there is one thing that stands out….Jesus is the connecting point between the disciples.  You might think that is an obvious point.  And if we were to only look at it in terms of who they followed then you would be right, it is very obvious.   Who they came to follow is obvious, but what if we think of it in terms of how they all came to follow. 

When I was a little girl I would hear this story and I would envision Jesus walking along the shore of the lake and men dropping their nets and following him almost as if they were in a zombie trance.  Jesus said, “Follow me…” and they just robotically obeyed.  How else would grown men who did not know Jesus just decide to leave their lives and follow him.  It had to be some type of trance.  But as I read the story now it seems to me that Jesus was not some stranger to these followers.  He was who they had been waiting for, even though they did not know it.  Something about Jesus stirred them at a deep level and they knew who he was. 

Not only were they stirred at a deep level but they were also invited into following by someone else’s testimony.  John told the first two disciples that the man approaching was indeed the  Son of God.  Would they have known that without John’s testimony...perhaps.  But John did not hesitate to share who Jesus was with his friends and that may have possibly confirmed for them that following Jesus was a valid choice.  Then brothers sought out brothers.  Everyone wanted to share with others who Jesus actually was.  They invited them to “come and see” for themselves.  Jesus wasn't perhaps something they could really explain.  But they knew once their friends and family saw Jesus they would know for sure who he was.  Those who chose to follow were invited by friends and family to experience who Jesus was for themselves.

Jesus, and the desire to know him and follow him, was what connected these early followers together.  Jesus was the connector.  So it is today for us.  Could we know Jesus without others telling us where/how  they have experienced Jesus for themselves….perhaps.  But the power of an invitation to “come and see” is a not only a sure way for us to connect to Jesus, but to also connect to each other.  We will be journeying along as we follow Jesus, we might as well do it with friends.


How does understanding Jesus’ identity draw/connect you to him?

How does your connection to Jesus connect you to others?

When you come to realize that Jesus is your Savior and the Son of God, and when that begins to have an influence over how you live your everyday life, then there comes a point where you want to share that with others.  When something really life-changing occurs you don’t keep it to yourself.  If you are becoming a parent or a grandparent, you let everyone know.  If you are becoming a bride or a groom you share that news with all.  If you are heading to college and are charting your course for the future, you share that with others.  If your baby takes its first step...if your parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer's...if your son comes home after years of estrangement….you tell people.  These are things that impact your life and you can’t help but share them with others.  That is how spontaneous and natural sharing who Jesus is to you can be.

Sharing Jesus with your friends, family, even strangers should create a unique bond between you.  Jesus is a connector of people.  The bond you feel with other followers is immediate and strong.  And the bond that will develop between yourself and someone you invite to “come and see” is close.

You may think it totally impossible for you to ‘evangelize,” share Jesus with others.  But don’t think of it in terms of something you are doing to other people.  Instead, live your life in Christ as an open invitation for others to join you.  Remember you are inviting them into a way of life that really matters.  It matters not because of who you are, it matters because of who Jesus is.  You are inviting them to find out for themselves how Jesus will change their life forever.

If you feel drawn to Jesus and the pull to follow him is great, how does that make your life look different?

How can you encourage others to “come and see” Jesus for themselves.



When life gets hard — when life gets real — how do you transition out of the slumber party into holding the story of another before God? Into holding another, before God, with His eyes and His perspective on them?
What does friendship look like when coffee and casual prayer requests and late-night chocolate aren’t enough to cushion another’s deep life-ache? What does it look like to let yourself bleed a little, in front of another?
How do you find the kind of friendship that fuels hunger for God without losing the deep belly laughter so necessary to life and love of Him, in the meantime?

Various friends taught me, with their lives, that the convergence of their own messy loss and their own unkempt (but burgeoning) hunger for God weren’t so awkward that it would disrupt friendship — but that it instead would cause friendship to grow. (And they still split their sides in laughter at themselves and at life and ate chocolate and planned coffee dates.)
Hunger for God is the undercurrent of deep friendship. And true friendship fuels new hunger for God.
Excerpts from blog; “Every bitter thing is sweet.”

Dear Merciful God,
As we contemplate what Following Jesus and Finding Friends looks like lived out, may we always remember that our undeniable attraction to you can cause a deep connection with others if we are willing to share life honestly.  Thank you for putting those people in our lives who will love us, pray for us, and help us experience you more deeply.  May our desire always be to long for you deeply and share life openly so you might be glorified.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Suspense of Jesus

Mark 1:4-11
And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Philippians 4:6-13
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

TUESDAY // Suspense of Jesus
Suspense is a curious thing. Our culture thrives on suspense—marketing is built on it, entertainment is driven by it and we all lay at its every whim. Each movie in a trilogy leaves off at the most inopportune moment, compelling us to return a year later to find out what happens. Stores and businesses hold secret sales, limited-time special offers and members-only rewards. Television shows show us just enough throughout the week to guarantee we will be planted firmly in front of that screen at such and such a time on whatever night of the week. Our days in and out are determined by what we are made to think we need to know—the secrets we will have to know to be contemporary, accepted, modern and current.  We’ve built a cultural empire on suspense, secrecy and anticipation of what is next.

Suspense has a vastly different meaning to God. We find John, nestled in the wilderness, with his camel-hair clothing and locusts and honey, drawing one after another to hear his message. He doesn’t hide what he’s saying—he doesn’t cover anything up. He shows up, he preaches, people come, and they are baptized. And his message is forward-looking, building anticipation for the introduction of the Son of God. He has no games or ploys.

“This is me, this is what I do. But there is another who is far greater, and he is coming.”

And he comes. Jesus goes to John to be baptized and, upon the outward expression of his devotion to God, is introduced as the Son of God. We don’t see God playing games. We don’t see veils of secrecy or clever marketing. We don’t see Jesus in hiding, or building suspense through fear or carefully placed hints and allusions. We see Jesus openly, clearly and adamantly wearing his heart on his sleeve.   

So often we hide the difficulties occurring in our lives—our troubles, our fears and our challenges—and we amplify those things going right. We have a horrible vacation but post the one happy picture of our children on Facebook, with a caption that alludes to a perfect trip. We tell everyone about the good times and cover up the bad. We throw up fronts and defenses, continually striving to cover up our perceived shortcomings. As a result, we live in a society where we perceive everyone’s lives to be better, more kept, neater and less stressful than our own.

This is a disservice to ourselves, to our neighbors and to God. When we only paint those things that are good, or the situations we want everyone to see, we create a stumbling block for those around us and a false sense of reality for ourselves. We exhaust ourselves trying to maintain the image and we become anxious if we fall behind. God never intends our lives to be easy and neat; he says the opposite, in fact.

This is not to say, however, that we need to passionately lament all of our struggles and difficulties to anyone who will listen. Our words should be intentional—they should paint the reality of our lives, not the perception we want people to see. Our expressions should reflect the good and the bad both, each in moderation, and each for the purpose of learning and growing together. Think about those interactions with someone who has everything together and experiences no struggle. And think about those interactions with someone who has nothing together and experiences nothing good. We don’t enjoy either, and both are false—there is no half-full or half-empty in our walk with God. There is a measure of us and the remainder of Christ. To present anything likewise is errant and destructive. We need to wear our hearts on our sleeves, being careful to wear God’s love over it.

What are you presenting to your neighbors—is it realistic and demonstrative of God’s grace?




Monday, January 5, 2015


John 1:1-18
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

TUESDAY // Forward
We cannot presume life to be unidirectional—it is not a static, linear movement of time and space and chance, where we happen to find ourselves accidentally tossed into the fray. Life is delicate and fragile creation, like the work of a potter not yet fired in the kiln. There is no yesterday and tomorrow—not really. We measure time in this manner so we can comprehend it, but that is all it is. When we concern ourselves with Christ, when we contemplate and reflect upon God and what he is doing in and with us, we cannot measure that work in time.

We must not assume that because something was, it is, and will be. We are fluid and dynamic creatures. We learn from our past and project expectations of our future, but we live in the present—in the now. It is good to reflect upon where we’ve been, but only to learn and improve where we are. And it is good to dream about where we are going, but only to grant direction to our feet. Our concern must be in the now, the beautiful, fractured, broken, mysterious now.

We cannot see where we are, like a single chess piece among the board. We have little discernment for the big picture. We don’t fully understand the past and we cannot predict the future—we can only wrestle with our present circumstances. Consider John’s words: “He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.” Time is non-existent to God, who gave us his son in both mortal and immortal forms, that we might better understand how to live this life. Should we dwell on the past, we are lost in it; should we anticipate the future, we can’t perceive the present. Instead, we reflect and we dream, living the now for all we can and striving to fix our eyes on Jesus.

Consider the last time you wanted to change something in your life or about yourself. What was the motivation? What drove you to make that decision? What obstacles did you encounter? We often require exigent circumstances and outside influences to affect change. We need accountability, we need responsibility, and we need a good reason. When we lack these things, we struggle and often fail. We set our expectations too high and our safety nets too low. We raise the stakes so high we cannot succeed, and upon falling, lack the strength to rise back up. We bind ourselves to rules and standards and perceived expectations, then toss in doubt, stress, anxiety and fear.

John wrote that Moses brought the law, but Christ brought grace and truth. We don’t leave room for grace and truth—we make decisions and try to influence change under the letter of the law, consequently punishing ourselves for falling short, or quitting altogether.

In this season of resolution, this season of epiphany, we must not bind ourselves to expectations and rules and standards. We must bind ourselves to grace and truth. If we recognize the need and desire to change something, we should make it happen. But we can’t do so in the same way we’ve always tried. We have to create accountability, responsibility and reason. We shouldn’t narrow our focus so far we can’t see the big picture, or trap ourselves in a prison of rules and expectations.

Try to define the change you want to see with one to three words: brave, intentional, gracious, thankful, healthy, strong, peaceful. Whatever you need, pray about it. Create for yourself and theme and surround yourself with it. Diversify your efforts into the eclectic pursuit of your need through God. Learn from where you’ve been and dream about where you’re going. If there’s no standard of failure, you can’t fail. And God doesn’t possess a standard of failure.


Have you ever “gone out” in this way? If so, there is no logical answer possible when anyone asks you what you are doing. One of the most difficult questions to answer in Christian work is, “What do you expect to do?” You don’t know what you are going to do. The only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing. Continually examine your attitude toward God to see if you are willing to “go out” in every area of your life, trusting in God entirely. It is this attitude that keeps you in constant wonder, because you don’t know what God is going to do next. Each morning as you wake, there is a new opportunity to “go out,” building your confidence in God. “…do not worry about your life…nor about the body…” (Luke 12:22). In other words, don’t worry about the things that concerned you before you did “go out.”

Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do— He reveals to you who He is. Do you believe in a miracle-working God, and will you “go out” in complete surrender to Him until you are not surprised one iota by anything He does?

Believe God is always the God you know Him to be when you are nearest to Him. Then think how unnecessary and disrespectful worry is! Let the attitude of your life be a continual willingness to “go out” in dependence upon God, and your life will have a sacred and inexpressible charm about it that is very satisfying to Jesus. You must learn to “go out” through your convictions, creeds, or experiences until you come to the point in your faith where there is nothing between yourself and God. --Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest


Father, give us the strength to go forward, reveling in your love and your grace now. Help us to learn from where we’ve been and dream about where you’re sending us. Instill in us the patience, courage and peace to find you in everything around us, that we might not allow ourselves to fail again—not because we won’t fall, but because you cannot fathom our failure. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Fire to the Seed

Luke 2:22-40
When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
    which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

TUESDAY // Fire to the Seed
We are entranced by singular perspective—up is up, because it is not down; hot is hot, because it is not cold. Perspective is a progression, bearing one single idea built upon another, and another. It coalesces into a powerful force designed to guide our decision-making, tint our beliefs and give shape to the onslaught of information we receive each day. Our thoughts, beliefs, opinions—the very definition of who we are and what we think—these are formed and molded by our perspective, which changes with our experiences. What once was bad may now be good; what once was painful may now be comforting; what once was hard may now be easy, not because the idea or object or person has changed, but because we have changed.

It is for this reason we can take solace in the destruction of Christ—not the death of Christ, as that is a different conversation, but the destruction Christ brings upon us. Destruction is defined as the process of causing so much damage to something it no longer exists. The Church is entrenched in the belief that Christ restores, repairs, heals and redeems—a young man with perfect complexion and spotless robes, offering free hugs to everyone who seemingly “believes” in him. Conversely, the world is entrenched in the belief that Christ either came and went with some good ideas, or is a vindictive and malicious deity, because no “loving” God would condemn someone to suffering. To assume either position is to rob Christ of who he is—to confine the brilliance of Jesus by a singular and short-sighted perspective.

Simeon looks at this young child and provides a new perspective on the Messiah: he will cause the falling and rising of many. This is significant—the perspective of Israel expected the Messiah to charge into the fray and rescue his people by sword and might. Instead, they are given a child, who will cause the falling of many. Perspective must be destroyed, must fall, to give rise to new life. Christ sought to destroy singularity and offer instead a pluralistic approach to life, where thoughts are not confined to one dimension or direction. Anna then addresses the child, offering the perspective of redemption, wherein we now find this child to be both destruction and redemption.

Our perspectives drive everything we do, and the ways in which we perceive the world. Jesus turned that around—challenging us to assume a new position. Christ never intended us to adopt a singular approach to life, nor did he offer us one. He never bound us to a particular belief construct or ideology. Christ perpetuated a pluralistic approach to life—rather than one way to believe, he provided roots to many different perspectives.

Consider how roots branch out in all directions from the central point—the singular tree. We tend to move along a single root, digging deeper into the earth and entrenching ourselves in a single perspective and worldview. Christ doesn’t fit that theory, wherein he exists within all of the roots, because he is the tree. The tree is not connected to but one root, rather it is all of the roots, and serves and is served by each. The only perspective Christ offers us is this: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”

Christ is the tree—both the culmination and the origination of all the roots. There is no deciphering where the tree stops and the roots begin, or where the roots stop and the tree begins. The tree is one being, complex and intentional. Christ offers a pluralistic perspective of the world. The last will be first. The meek will inherit the earth. The weak will become strong. We all interact together, work together, to form the root structure that gives strength and life to the tree, likewise the tree feeds and gives life to the roots.  One root cannot support the life of the tree, and no one is more important than another. The perspective of Christ is composed of all the roots.

Destroy your perspective.

Consider: what is?


Life without war is impossible in the natural or the supernatural realm. It is a fact that there is a continuing struggle in the physical, mental, moral, and spiritual areas of life.

Health is the balance between the physical parts of my body and all the things and forces surrounding me. To maintain good health I must have sufficient internal strength to fight off the things that are external. Everything outside my physical life is designed to cause my death. The very elements that sustain me while I am alive work to decay and disintegrate my body once it is dead. If I have enough inner strength to fight, I help to produce the balance needed for health. The same is true of the mental life. If I want to maintain a strong and active mental life, I have to fight. This struggle produces the mental balance called thought.

Morally it is the same. Anything that does not strengthen me morally is the enemy of virtue within me. Whether I overcome, thereby producing virtue, depends on the level of moral excellence in my life. But we must fight to be moral. Morality does not happen by accident; moral virtue is acquired.

And spiritually it is also the same. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation…” (John 16:33). This means that anything which is not spiritual leads to my downfall. Jesus went on to say, “…but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” I must learn to fight against and overcome the things that come against me, and in that way produce the balance of holiness. Then it becomes a delight to meet opposition.

Holiness is the balance between my nature and the law of God as expressed in Jesus Christ.
--Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (Dec 4)


Lord, grant us the openness of mind to see the world as you intend.