Tuesday, December 31, 2019
The Blue Book is now available on Amazon! And not only that, but it also has a bunch of new content! I've been working for the past year or so to write an opening reflection for each chapter and I'm really excited about the end result. I hope you will be too. So please spread the word. Tell your friends that the strange blue devotional book that has always been so hard to find, is hard to find no more.
Friday, May 31, 2019
Sunday, May 19, 2019
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, what do you want our lives to look like? What is progress to you? Please show us, or else we will never really know. Define spiritual progress for us, so that we will always be on the same page with you. Amen.
Scripture: 1 Timothy 4:15
Journal: How are you progressing in your spiritual journey? How do you define progress? How do you think God defines progress?
Reflection: “Be diligent in these matters; give yourselves wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.” (1 Timothy 4:15) How do you define progress in your spiritual life? And more importantly, how do you think Jesus would define it? Think about that for a moment. In fact, make a list of both and see how similar—and how different—they are.
Were the words poor in spirit or meek or merciful on your list? How about hungry and thirsty or pure in heart or persecuted? How about least or last or selfless or humble? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control make your list? The fact of the matter is that Jesus’ definition of progress in the spiritual life is often much different from our own, so it is probably a good idea for us to try and get on the same page. That way we can actually look at our lives and determine whether we are, in fact, becoming more like Jesus or not.
The older I get, the more I am coming to believe that when I think about myself less, I am actually just beginning to make some progress. When I care less about what other people think and care more about what God thinks. When I begin to let go of what I know and begin to embrace the fact that I really don’t know much of anything. When I am more content with being unseen and unnoticed—because I am fully seen and fully noticed by Jesus—rather than always trying to be the center of attention. When I finally start to listen more than I speak. When being loving becomes more important than being right. When I stop climbing up and allow Jesus to lead me down. When I stop wondering so much about who I am, and become more concerned with whose I am.
These are the types of things I’m trying to pay attention to these days. What about you?
Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us never to define progress as the world around us—even the Christian world—defines it. Show us who and what you want us to be, and help us to be that. Amen.
Friday, May 17, 2019
Opening Prayer: My heart is not proud, O Lord, and my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have stilled and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore. Amen.
Scripture: Psalm 131:1-3
Journal: Where and how does pride manifest itself most in your life? What is at the root of it? How do you fight it?
Reflection: “My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty,” say the words of the ancient prayer. Which lets us know, in no uncertain terms, that pride is one of the biggest enemies of the spiritual life. That’s because pride, when present within and among us, occupies a significant amount of our inner space. Thus, when we are filled with pride, we are so full of ourselves that there is no room for God’s Spirit to move and to act. Our eyes become so consumed with ourselves that we can’t really see him. There is no way for our souls to be still and quiet like a weaned child with its mother because we are so busy trying to prove to ourselves and our world that we are worth loving.
There are several words translated pride in the scriptures. Here in Psalm 131:1, the word is gabahh. It means to be high or exalted. In the book of Proverbs, the word most often used is ga'own, which means elevation, arrogance, or exaltation. And in the New Testament, the main word is hyperēphanos (James 4:6), meaning showing oneself above others, or overestimating one’s importance. It literally means to outshine others. Wow, that sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?
The truth is that pride is just fear in a clever disguise. Fear is what lies beneath. In fact, the older I get, the more I realize that underneath every episode of pride in our lives, there is just a frightened little boy or girl looking for approval and acceptance.
Closing Prayer: My heart is not proud, O Lord…My heart is not proud, O Lord…My heart is not proud, O Lord…O Lord, help my heart to not be proud. Amen.
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, if we ever hope to be anything like you, we must learn to be meek. Unfortunately, that is so much against our nature that we can never hope to do it on our own. You must grow it in us. Have mercy on us, Lord Jesus! Make us more and more like you each day. Amen.
Scripture: Matthew 5:5
Journal: What does it mean to be meek? Why are the meek blessed? How do they inherit the earth?
Reflection: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) We live in a day and age, it seems, where the things this world values the most are in direct opposition to the life Jesus describes as blessed. That would be especially true when it comes to being meek.
The word meek is a hard one to define. In essence, it means to be gentle or kind. It is generally associated with a spirit of kindness, humility, and submission. The word Jesus used in Matthew 5:5 is prays, which means gentleness of spirit or mildness of disposition. Thus, meekness is the opposite of self-assertiveness or self-interest. The meek are those who are not occupied with self at all, but totally reliant on God. Meek people don’t stomp around, but tread lightly. They don’t feel the need to continually air their opinions, but listen carefully. They do not see people as threats or competition, but look tenderly. They do not fight and grab and push their way to the front, but they touch with reverence. Meek people know that true growth requires nurture, not force. In our rough and tumble world, meekness can be a vivid, tangible reminder of the presence of God among us. The meek do not posture nor promote, they do not campaign nor draw attention to themselves, but they offer their contributions to the world in quiet tenderness. Therefore, the meek are able to inherit the earth because they are not trying to control, conquer, manipulate, or impress it. They are blessed because they are a blessing.
Jesus, meek and lowly,
Savior, pure and holy,
On Thy love relying,
Hear me humble crying.
~Henry Collins, 1854
Monday, May 13, 2019
Opening Prayer: Lord God, I am still so full, it seems, of everything but you. Help me to let go of all that occupies my heart and soul, and help me to take hold of—or be taken hold of—by you alone. Make me lie down in green pastures and lead me beside still waters, that my soul may be restored to its creation intent. Amen.
Scripture: Psalm 23:1-3
Journal: What is occupying you most these days? What would it look like to make space and time –inside and out—for God to occupy you?
Reflection: Occupied: to be filled up (space, time, etc.). I find that I am often occupied. And at times even preoccupied. The problem is that I am not usually occupied with the right things; or at least not the things that lead to life and freedom. I am all too often occupied with my own worries and insecurities and fears—which makes me a really bad version of myself. And at times I am occupied with my own opinions and plans and agendas—which leaves me oblivious to anything other than my little corner of this great big world. But the bigger problem is that when I am occupied, I have no room. I have no room for God and I have no room for anyone else. I am far too full of myself.
I think that’s where Psalm 23 comes in. It comes in and tries to reorient me. It tries to shift my focus from being occupied with self—which wears me down and burns me out—to being occupied with God—who longs to renew my soul and make my cup overflow. Which can sound self-centered in and of itself unless we realize how the spiritual life is designed to work. It is the overflow of the life of God within me that is supposed to pour out on those around me. True ministry is always designed to happen as a result of this overflow.
Psalm 23 is God’s attempt to say, “How I long for your attention and your affection. And the things that occupy you only distract you from what is most important—me. So stop. Just stop. Let go of all of the things that fill your space, and make time and space for me. Here is what I want you to do today: lay down, be still, be mine. Everything else will take care of itself.”
Closing Prayer: Occupy me, O God, until I am full of nothing but you. Amen.
Sunday, May 12, 2019
Opening Prayer: Leave it to you, Lord Jesus, to turn everything upside down. It seems like that’s what you were constantly doing, so it should come as no surprise. Help me to embrace that turning, rather than resist it. Help me to see things the way you see them and to live life the way you intended it to be lived. Help me to become more and more like you each day. Amen.
Scripture: Matthew 5:1-12
Journal: What is your response to the Beatitudes? Where do you see them taking shape in your life? What is Jesus asking of you today?
Reflection: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus certainly turns everything upside down, doesn’t he? The poor and the mourners and the meek and the hungry and the merciful and the peacemakers and the persecuted are the ones who are blessed? Most of us would normally think the opposite was true.
If he is right, however, that the ones on the bottom are the ones who are really blessed, then why do I keep trying to get to the top? If it is true that the nobodies are the ones who are living in line with his will and his desire, then why do I keep desperately trying to be somebody? If it is, in fact, accurate that the poor are the ones who are better off, then why do I keep trying to get rich? If being hidden and unnoticed and lowly and small is the path to true blessing, then why do I keep trying to be visible and noticed and well thought of and important?
Blessed is the man who is not constantly consumed with himself, but is consumed with the things of God. Apparently Jesus needs to turn me upside down as well.
Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, give me the grace and the strength and the courage to truly become one of the “blessed.” Amen.