Tuesday, December 31, 2019

the blue book is now available on amazon

Exciting news!  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.


Saturday, January 12, 2019

repent and believe

Opening Prayer:  Lord Jesus, help me to repent and believe in the good news, for the kingdom of God is near.  Amen.

Scripture: Mark 1:14-18

Journal: What do the words repent and believe stir up in you?  How are they related?  How are they present in your life these days?  Which one is harder for you?  Why?

Reflection: The kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)  I love that Jesus reminds us that repent and believe are a package deal.  One really does no good apart from the other.  All too often I forget that.
     I get repentance.  I really do.  In fact, during the course of a day I usually turn (or return) to Jesus over and over and over again.  My problem typically comes with the belief part.  It is the belief part that gives the repent part its power and its substance.
     If I repent and then fail to really believe that repentance makes all things new again, then it does little good.  I am still trying to earn my way back to Jesus.  If I repent and fail to really believe that God sees me the way he says he sees me, then I will continue to perform and try to make myself worthy of his love and forgiveness.  If I repent and fail to believe that what God says about me is really true, I will continue to be at the mercy of my own (false) inner narratives.
     Repent and believe means that the narrative of Jesus is the one that determines my life and my actions.  The narrative that says, “I love you.  You are mine.  Nothing in this world can ever change that.  You are valuable because I made you, because I dreamt you into being, because I created you fearfully and wonderfully.  You are my masterpiece, my poem, my work of art.  I imaged you before the foundations of the world and I breathed you into being with the breath of my mouth.  When I think of you it brings a smile to my face and joy to my heart.  Live your life out of that love and affection.”  
     Now THAT is good news! 

Prayer

Closing Prayer:  Help me to see, Lord Jesus, that repent and believe are a package deal.  Show me the places in my life where one, or both, are missing.  And help me to hold the two in harmony, that I might live the life you created me to live.  Amen.

Friday, January 4, 2019

done

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that we are clean and righteous and holy in you.  Now help us to live like it.  Help us to live our lives in loving response to the amazing gift that has already been given.  Help us to rest in the completed work that has already been done.  It is enough, nothing need be added.  Thank you!

Scripture: Hebrews 1:1-4

Journal: Is God’s purification for your sins enough for you?  How do you try to add to it?

Reflection: After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high… (Hebrews 1:3).  
     No High Priest ever sits down; mostly because his work is never done.  There is a constant need for sacrifice, because of the continual presence of sin.  Yet Jesus sat down.  After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down.  Mission accomplished.  Work done.  It is finished.    
     Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was enough; nothing else needs to be added.  But the question is: Do we let it be enough?  Do we allow his sacrifice be enough for us?  And do we let it be enough for those in our lives?  Or do we constantly feel the need to add to it?  
     It seems like we are always tempted to try and add something.  In addition to his sacrifice, we somehow feel the need to add our own efforts, in order to work our way back into his good graces.  The problem is that we are already there.  All we need to do is repent—to turn back to Jesus—and let his finished work be enough.  Allow his work on the cross to be complete, and to receive it and rest in it.  To also sit down, if you will.
     I guess we do this because that is typically how human relationships work.  We might apologize to someone for how we have hurt them or let them down, and they might even offer us their forgiveness, but we are not na├»ve enough to believe that it ends there.  We are also going to have to work our way back into their good graces.  Which is a funny expression, because grace is not something that can be worked for.  But we—subtly, and not so subtly— demand it of each other.  We know the truth.  We know that we aren’t really going to be forgiven until we have earned it.  And even if it is ever truly forgiven, it will likely never be forgotten.
     Yet God tells us a completely different story.  He tells us that he will remember our sins no more. (Jer. 31:34, Heb. 8:12, and Heb. 10:17)  There is no need to work our way back into his good graces for we—because of the finished work of Christ—are already there.  There is nothing else to add.  We can rest in the completed work of Christ.
     So let me ask you a question: Is God’s completed work on the cross enough for you?  Is it really done?  Or are you constantly trying to add to it?  Are you constantly trying to work or earn your way back to him?  And is the completed work of Christ enough for those in your life who constantly disappoint you and let you down?  What would it look like in those relationships if you chose to do what God does—to say it is finished, the work is done?  How different would our lives and relationships be?

Prayer

Closing Prayer:  Lord Jesus, thank you that you sat down.  Thank you that your purification of us is done.  Help us to rest in your completed work on the cross, and sit down ourselves.  Amen.


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

new year's day 2019

Opening Prayer: Dear Lord, as I close the door on this old year, I ponder on the things I’ve done…on the things I’ve said and the joys I’ve had…then I wonder, have I lost or won?  I’ve thought of the new friends I have made, and of the old ones staunch and true…the path of the old year was made easier Lord, because I have walked it with You.

I think of all the many times, when my burdens were so heavy to bear, and how my faith slipped away from me…but somehow You were always standing there.  Now as I open the door to this New Year, and carefully peep inside, I wonder what it holds for me…but I’ll throw the door open wide.  And whatever it brings to me and mine, I’ll meet it with a heart so true…I know that, Lord whate’er it may be, You’ll be there to carry me through. ~Merrel Thompson

Scripture: Psalm 96:1-13

Journal: What new song will you sing to the Lord in the coming year?  What song is he singing in and through you?

Reflection:

I believe in all that has never been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me.
so that what no one has dared to wish for

may for once spring clear
without my contriving.

If it is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,

streaming through the widening channels
into the open sea.
(The Book of Hours, I 12, by Rainer Maria Rilke)

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, in the year ahead: help me to live more like you lived, help me to care more like you cared, help me to serve more like you served, and help me to love more like you loved.  May I be more like you at the end of the year than I was at the beginning.  By your grace and power.  Amen.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

why have you treated us like this?

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, when I am tempted to allow my circumstances to determine how I see and interact with the world, please stop me.  Help me to never view my life and my relationship with you through the lenses of demandingness and entitlement, but help me, instead, to see all of life through the lenses of grace and gratitude.  I can do this only through you.  Lord, help me.  Amen.

Scripture: Luke 2:41-50

Journal: What does the question, “Why have you treated us this way?” do within you right now?  How have you asked Jesus that question lately?

Reflection: We are not so different, it seems, from Mary and Joseph.  For when we can’t seem to find Jesus—when he is not where we think he ought to be—we also tend to ask the questions: “Where are you?  Why have you treated us this way?”  As if our idea of where Jesus should be and what he should do were somehow more accurate than his own.

     But luckily Jesus doesn’t cater to us.  He doesn’t always behave quite the way we want him to.  He operates on a whole different wavelength.  He sees things from a larger, more eternal perspective, and he acts accordingly.  Therefore, he doesn’t always give us what we want, or what we think we need.  But he is always present; just maybe not in the ways we are demanding and expecting at the moment.  He is always right where he is supposed to be.  “Why were you looking all over for me?” he says.  “I’m right where I’m supposed to be, in my Father’s house.  I am also in my word and in my creation and even in your heart, as well as the hearts of those you are in community with.  So don’t run around anxiously looking for me, you know right where to find me.  I am, and always will be, Emmanuel, God with us.

     So when we find ourselves asking Jesus, as Mary and Joseph did, “Why have you treated us this way?” we need to ask ourselves what is behind that question.  For there are two different ways of looking at it.  One way is through the lenses of demand and entitlement, as if saying, “Jesus, why are you not where I think you should be and why are you not doing what I think you should do?”  But the other way of seeing this question is much different, and much more life-giving.  It is looking at it through the lenses of grace and gratitude.  It is when we come to Jesus, not demanding that he show up in some preconceived way, but grateful that he has made us his own when he did not have to, and when we did not deserve it.  It is coming to him with a spirit that says, “God, I do not deserve you.  I do not deserve your grace and I do not deserve your blessings.  But even still, you, because of your great love, have made me your own.  You have blessed me with life and salvation and family and community that I do not deserve.  Thank you!”  The question is, what lenses will I choose to look through today?  How will I ask that question?  Because how I ask that question makes all the difference.

Pray

Closing Prayer: Why, Lord Jesus, would you choose to pour out your grace upon me?  Why in the world would you choose me and make me your own?  Allow your grace and your mercy to overwhelm me this day, and to fill me with a deep sense of joy and gratitude.  Thank you, Lord Jesus.  Thank you.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

my soul in silence waits

Opening Prayer: For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2, ESV)

Scripture: Psalm 62:1-8

Journal: How are you waiting on God these days?  What does that look like?  What is it doing within you?  How might God be waiting on you?

Reflection: He works in tranquility and tranquility seldom goes in partnership with speed.  God breaks few records but he always arrives in the end.  One of the best things we can do for our souls is to wait and one of the worst things is to force the issue.  God lets the plant grow at its own pace. (The Fruits of the Spirit by Evelyn Underhill)

Prayer

Closing Prayer: For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. (Psalm 62:5-8, ESV)

Thursday, December 27, 2018

simeon

Opening Prayer: “Lord, now you are letting your servant[e] depart in peace, according to your word;  for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

Scripture: Luke 2:22-35

Journal: What does the life of Simeon have to teach you today?  How is God calling you to be like him?

Reflection: We do not know exactly how old Simeon was, or how long it had been since the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not see death until he had seen the Christ, but suffice it to say that it had probably been a while.  His “shift” standing on the wall, keeping watch more than a watchman waits for the morning, had most likely been a long one.  He was old and tired and eager for the day when the sun would finally come up again and he would see the coming of the King, so that he could finally leave his role as watchman of Israel and depart in peace and enter the eternal rest offer to all God’s people.  
     And on this particular day, his dreams finally came true.  You can hear it in his voice as Joseph and Mary bring the newborn King into the temple to present him to the Lord. “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”  
     Finally, O Lord, my work is done.  My long shift as watchman has come to an end.  For with my own eyes I have seen the Savior.  The One who has come to redeem his people.  For with the Lord is unfailing love, and with him is full redemption.  He will redeem Israel from all their sins.  Thanks be to God!  
     How easy it would have been not to notice.  I mean, hundreds, if not thousands, of babies had come through the temple during his time.  What made this one different?  How did this one stand out from the rest?  Or was it the subtle nudging of the Spirit that let him know, the quiet whisper of the voice of God?  It would surely have taken a keen eye and an attentive soul to spot the One who finally came to free the world from its slavery to sin and death.  And this was him.  This was the One they had all been waiting for.  So call out from the top of the wall, “He is here!  The King has arrived to save his people!  Everyone take note!  This is the One we have all been waiting for!”  After all, isn’t that what a watchman is supposed to do?

Prayer

Closing Prayer: God, you can now release your servant; release me in peace as you promised. With my own eyes I’ve seen your salvation; it’s now out in the open for everyone to see: A God-revealing light to the non-Jewish nations, and of glory for your people Israel. (Luke 2:29-32)