Thursday, December 31, 2020
Opening Prayer: Lord, Jesus, help us to recognize you. For if we fail to recognize you, we will never be able to receive you into our hearts and lives, believe in your unfailing love and your constant faithfulness, and become all that you desire us to be. Help us, Lord Jesus. Amen.
Scripture: John 1:10-12
Journal: What does God want you to recognize these days?
Reflection: “He was in the world, and thought 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 received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:10-12)
It all starts with recognizing. So much of the spiritual life revolves around what we recognize and what we don’t. We cannot receive someone (or something), if we do not first recognize that they are there. And the receiving is vital to the believing and the becoming.
So maybe the question we should ask, as we come to the end of one year and the beginning of the next, is “What, O Lord, do you want us to recognize?” How do we need to recognize what God has been up to over the year gone by, and how do we need to recognize what he wants to do in the year ahead? How has God been at work within and around us? What people or things or events brought us to life? And what disrupted or disturbed us? What dysfunctional patterns and habits need to be broken, and what godly habits and practices need to be cultivated?
For how can we ever hope to take God up on his constant invitation to a deeper, fuller, richer life, if we don’t stop and recognize, both the life we are currently living, and the life he longs to live in and through us? So, let’s take some time over the next days and weeks to do just that.
Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, what do you want me to recognize? Help me to stop, and to sit before you in silence today, so that I give you the time and the space to show me the answer to that question. Amen..
Monday, December 28, 2020
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that you were full of grace and truth. Help us to be the same. Amen.
Scripture: John 1:14-18
Journal: Do you tend to err on the side of grace or on the side of truth? Why? What does that look like? How was Jesus a beautiful combination of the two? How is he calling you to be the same?
grace and truth
grace and truth
are not contrary
but two parts of
a beautiful whole
they must be held
together in union
to have their full
power and efficacy
grace without truth
is only pretense
a cheap nicety
civility at the expense
of substance and depth
while truth without grace
is merely brutality
disguised as goodness
a dangerous weapon
in the hands of a child
one without the other
both are essential
in order to live life
the way it was
intended to be
Closing Prayer: Forgive me, Lord Jesus when I see grace and truth as two separate things, rather than two parts of a glorious whole. Help me to understand what it means that grace must have truth and that truth must have grace. Otherwise the picture is distorted and incomplete. Amen.
Sunday, December 27, 2020
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, forgive me when I try to set the agenda for my life and then ask you to follow along. I am called to follow you, not vice versa. Help me to do so today. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 2:41-50
Journal: Who sets the agenda for your life? What would it look like for Jesus to do that?
Reflection: If I’m totally honest, I have to admit that all too often I set the agenda and expect God to act accordingly. But that’s not how life with Jesus works, just ask Joseph and Mary. (Luke 2:41-50) He is the one who plans the itinerary, not me. I am called to follow him, not vice versa. It’s funny how often I get that backwards.
Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me, this day, to submit to your plans, your agenda, and your will. Help me learn what it means to truly follow you. Amen.
Saturday, December 26, 2020
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, you came into our world in such a way that only those who were watching and waiting even noticed. Help us to be like Simeon and Anna, who were awake and alert, longing for the day when you would come and console and redeem this dark and broken world. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 2:21-38
Journal: How is the Savior coming into your life and world these days? What helps you pay attention to his coming?
Reflection: Of all the people in the temple that day, only two noticed. What was it about Simeon and Anna that made them different? Was it their age and wisdom? Was it their experience, the fact that they had both seen a lot of life come and go? Surely there were others in the temple that day who were the same age. Or was it simply the fact that they were both watching and waiting? They were both longing to see the consolation and redemption of God’s people. They were not so wrapped up in their own needs and concerns that they failed to notice what was right before their eyes. They were paying attention, while the rest of the world was not. Somehow they were able to see the Savior wrapped in swaddling clothes.
O Lord, help us to be like Simeon and Anna. Help us to live our lives with our eyes peeled for your arrival, within and among us. Help us to not get so caught up in our own issues and agendas that we miss your coming, this day and every day. For you are ever and always the God who comes. Come, Lord Jesus!
Closing Prayer: O Lord, help us to be like Simeon and Anna. Help us to live our lives with our eyes peeled for your arrival, within and among us. Help us to not get so caught up in our own issues and agendas that we miss your coming, this day and every day. For you are ever and always the God who comes. Come, Lord Jesus!
Friday, December 25, 2020
Opening Prayer: Come, O Light of the World, come into our broken world and drive the dark night of winter away. Fill us with your life and love and hope. Amen.
Scripture: John 1:4-5
Journal: How has the light entered into your darkness? How do you still long for it to?
Closing Prayer: Our world is dark and broken, O Lord, and in need of your light and your love. Come, Lord Jesus, and fill us with your joy and your peace. Bring light to our darkness, peace to our turmoil, and wholeness to our brokenness. We are in desperate need of you! Amen.
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
Opening Prayer: Come, Lord Jesus. Come into our hearts and lives and world. Come live within and among us. May we always make room for your coming. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 2:7
Journal: How are you preparing him room in your heart?
Reflection: “Let every heart prepare him room.” The preparing of our hearts to receive our King is no easy matter; it is something that will take both thought and effort on our part. It will not just happen on its own; we will need both intention and discretion. There are things we will need to let go of and things we will need to hold on to. It will mean having to say “no” to some people and things, in order to say “yes” to the One who comes and makes his dwelling among us. It will take some decluttering and some rearranging. It will take some sitting still and some being silent. It will take the making of space and the taking of time. It will take open hands and longing hearts. After all, what good is the bringing of joy into our world, if the world is not paying attention?
Closing Prayer: Help us, Lord Jesus, to make room in our hearts and lives for your coming. Amen.
Tuesday, December 22, 2020
Opening Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you want to do a new work in me. Help me to make room for that work by letting go of the old. Please give me the strength and the grace and courage to do so. Amen.
Scripture: Ezekiel 36:26
Journal: What old do you need to let go of, in order to make room for the new God wants to do in you?
My Dear Child,
Why do you hold on so tightly to those old and familiar ways of being that stifle and limit and hinder my life within you? Why do you refuse to let go of those old patterns and habits, in order that you might finally experience the newness and the life and the freedom I so desperately want for you? You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t keep holding on to the old and expect to be able to receive the new. Receiving requires open hands. Thus, letting go is a prerequisite.
Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to let go of the old, in order to be able to receive the new you want to do in me. Amen.
Monday, December 21, 2020
Opening Prayer: Father, help us to see the new thing you are doing within and among us this day. Amen.
Scripture: Isaiah 43:18-19
Journal: What new thing is God doing in you these days? What new thing is he doing around you? Will you make time and space to perceive it?
Reflection: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 42:19) We live in a day and age when we are between the first and the second advents. Meaning, we live at a time when God has come, God is continually coming, and God will come again. The reason that’s significant is because we do not just sit idly by and wait for some distant day when God will finally arrive and make all things right and whole once again, we keep our eyes peeled and our hearts attentive to what God is doing here and now, both within us and among us. Jesus told us himself that, “My Father is always at his work.” (John 5:17) Thus, God is always coming into our lives and our world in new and beautiful ways, if only we have eyes to see it. There is already a new thing that he is doing, our job is to perceive it, embrace it, and enter in to it. This very day, God is saying, “I am here. I am at work. I am doing something new and beautiful within and among you. Join me!” God has come, God is coming, God will come—it’s the beauty of Advent.
Closing Prayer: Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.
Sunday, December 20, 2020
Opening Prayer: Thank you, O God, that you are making all things new; not just new in time, but new in quality. That is what I most deeply long for. Come, Lord Jesus! Amne.
Scripture: Revelation 21:5
Journal: What does it mean that God is making all things new? What does it mean that God is making you new? Where and how do you sense that happening?
Reflection: When God talks about “making all things new,” he is not necessarily talking about new in time (neos), although that may very well be true, but he is talking about making them new in quality (kainos). That’s why he says, “I am making all things new,” rather than, “I am making all new things.” It is a subtle, but significant difference. And one that we would do well to pay attention to.
For if we take “the old is gone and the new (kainos) has come” (2 Cor. 5:17) in the quantitative (neos) sense, we will have the wrong idea about what is really happening. But if we take it in the qualitative (kainos) sense, we are much more likely to be able to see what God is really up to. God is making us qualitatively different; not from the outside in, but from the inside out. And I, for one, am so grateful.
Closing Prayer: Make me new, O God. Make me all that you dreamt me to be. Amen.
Friday, December 18, 2020
Opening Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you came into our world to show us how deeply we are loved. Help us to recognize that love, to receive it, to believe that it’s true, and to become all that you dreamt us to be. Amen.
Scripture: John 1:10-13
Journal: How do you try to earn your sonship/daughterhood rather than simply receiving it as a gift from God? What difference would it make if you lived as though you already were a son or daughter, rather than constantly trying to become a son or daughter?
Reflection: “He was in the world, and thought 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 received 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.” (John 1:10-13)
The hardest part about becoming a child of God is that it cannot be achieved, it can only be received. My children did not become my children by trying hard; they became my children simply because they were born out of the love between my wife and I. And our deepest joy was to invite them into that relationship of love and delight that already existed between us. All they had to do was say yes. All they had to do was receive it.
Of course, first they had to recognize that they were our children, in order to receive the gift and the place that it offered them. And then they had to actually believe that it was true; the rest would take care of itself. Their becoming was a byproduct of the recognizing, receiving, and believing. In other words, they did not have to try to become what they already were. And neither do we.
We become God’s children because we are born of God, not because of anything we do. We just need to recognize that truth, receive it, and believe it. Which is easier said than done. But when we are finally able to receive his love and believe that we are, indeed, his children, our becoming is merely a result of living our lives in light of that reality.
Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that you give us the right to become sons and daughters of God. Help us to live like it. Amen.
Thursday, December 17, 2020
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to pay attention to the story of your coming, so that we might be able to recognize you in the comings and goings of this day and this season. Amen.
Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25
Journal: What do you think it would have been like to be Joseph? What do you see in him? What do you admire about him? How might God be calling you to do the same?
Reflection: As we enter into the Christmas narrative, we discover an assortment of people, each with their own particular role to play. First, we see Zechariah, the priest and prophet, who is the one on hand when God finally decides to end his 400 years of silence. And there is his wife, Elizabeth, who, in her own pregnancy, offers Mary the space and the time, the conversation and the encouragement and the companionship necessary to thrive and flourish in a difficult and uncertain, yet incredibly exciting, season. Then there is John the Baptist, still in utero, who is so excited to be the one preparing the way for the coming Savior that he leaps in the womb of his mother. And, of course, there is Mary, the one through whom the Christ will come—the theotokos, the God-bearer.
Finally, there is Joseph. Sweet, strong, silent Joseph. The most striking thing about him is that he’s not a major character in the story, yet he is, nonetheless, an important one. If it weren’t for Joseph, who knows what would have happened to Mary. In fact, he could’ve washed his hands of the whole thing early on, but he chose not to. He obviously loved Mary (and God) very deeply, and it showed. Joseph stepped up, when he very easily could’ve opted out. He cared for Mary, he guarded her reputation, he got her to Bethlehem, and he found a place for the Savior to be born. He was there for the delivery, the entry of God into his creation. And, most likely, he was one of the very first to hold the newborn king. Then Joseph did a really amazing thing. After he had done all of the dirty work, he gently faded into the background. In fact, he faded so gracefully that we hardly even noticed he was gone. Joseph ceded center stage to the One the story is really all about. He was heroic in his humility.
I admire Joseph for that. Most of us are unwilling to stay in the background. Most of us are trying so hard to be somebody that we are resistant to the idea of being only a minor character in the story, yet Joseph embraced it. Maybe during this season of Advent, we should do the same. Maybe we should practice giving center stage to those around us. Maybe we should listen more and talk less. Maybe we should look for the dirty work and do it, without any desire to be seen or acknowledged, except by the One who sees all—Jesus. After all, it is his birthday.
Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, remind us daily that this season, as well as this life, is about you and not about us. Help us to learn the lessons we can learn from Joseph, and put them into practice. Amen.
Tuesday, December 15, 2020
Opening Prayer: Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 1:5-25
Journal: In what ways are you like Zechariah and Elizabeth? What will it take for you to really believe what God says to you?
Closing Prayer: O Lord, forgive me when I allow life’s circumstances to make me doubt the goodness of your heart. Forgive me when I let the voices around me and within me determine my value and my worth, rather than your unfailing love. O Lord, what’s it going to take for me to really believe that what you say is really true? Lord, have mercy. Amen.
Sunday, December 13, 2020
Opening Prayer: “Yes, Father! Yes! And always yes!” ~Francis de Sales
Scripture: Luke 1:27-38
Journal: How is God asking you to say yes to him during this season? What does that look like?
Reflection: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38) So God came to a teenage girl and asked her to do what was unimaginable. And low and behold, she said, “Yes!” From that moment on, everything about her life was totally out of her control. She placed herself completely in God’s hands. And in the days and years that followed, that pattern would continually repeat itself; Mary’s big yes to God, would be followed by a million other yeses. Each and every day she would be asked to surrender and to trust.
That’s the way life with God works. He comes to us, asks for our yes, and then the rest of our lives is simply a matter of trust and surrender. We do not get to dictate or control what our yes means. We do not get to determine the terms and conditions of our yes. Yes simply means yes. We are his servants, not he ours.
So listen carefully. God is asking for a yes from you and me as well. What will our answer be?
Closing Prayer: O Lord, give me the strength and the grace and the courage to say yes to you today, whatever you may be asking. Amen.
Friday, December 11, 2020
Opening Prayer: As for man, his days are like the grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. (Psalm 103:15-16)
Scripture: Psalm 103:15-18
Journal: Where and how are you feeling forgotten these days? What is that doing in you? What do you think God is trying to do in you?
Reflection: “As for man, his days are like the grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” (Psalm 103:15-16) There is great spiritual value in being forgotten, in having your place “remember you no more.” It creates some rich and fertile soil for the Spirit to move and work, some wonderful space for the life of the Spirit to grow and flourish within us. For God can accomplish something in us through our being forgotten that can be accomplished in no other way. If, that is, we are willing to embrace, rather than resist or deny it. For God has not forgotten us, and he never will. In fact, “from everlasting to everlasting (which is a really long time) the Lord’s great love is with those who fear him.” Thanks be to God!
Closing Prayer: But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s great love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children. (Psalm 103:17) Thanks be to God!
Wednesday, December 9, 2020
Opening Prayer: Thank you Lord Jesus, that you were willing to go through all I go through, and more. Thank you that, because of that, you are wonderfully able to meet me in the midst of whatever suffering, sorrow, and pain I go through in this life. Do that this day. Please.
Scripture: Hebrews 2:10-18
Journal: What is God up to in your life right now? What do you think God made Jesus “perfect through suffering? What does that mean? How is he using hardship, sorrow, or suffering in your life to do the same? How can Jesus relate to what you are going through? How does Jesus want to meet you in your suffering?
Reflection: It’s amazing how much I try to avoid suffering and yet God, in some bizarre and mysterious way, actually chose to “make Jesus perfect” through suffering. That means that suffering must accomplish something, both within us and among us, that can be accomplished in no other way. In fact, if we will embrace suffering—not invite it—and step into it, rather than running away from it or avoiding it at all costs, we might actually be made more like Jesus in the process. Our suffering might actually be a place where we can experience a deep union with Jesus that only our shared suffering can bring about.
Jesus experienced all that we will ever experience, and more. So he is wonderfully able to meet us in the midst of our suffering, and even redeem it and use it to invite us into deeper intimacy with him. Rejection, exclusion, abuse, betrayal, abandonment, loneliness, and isolation, as ugly as they are, can provide fertile soil for Jesus to meet us in an incredibly intimate way, if we are willing to let him do a work deep within us as a result. These things need not have the final word; they need not define or determine us. God is so much bigger than that, he is so much greater than the very worst things this life can throw at us. He can use all things—even sadness, sorrow, and tragedy—to make us more into the people he dreamt us to be, if we will trust in him.
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, I have no idea why you chose to make Jesus perfect through suffering, I just know that you did. In fact, the idea of being made perfect through suffering is a hard and scary one. Help me, Father, to trust in you no matter what this life may bring. Help it to unite me with Jesus. Help it to create a deep intimacy with him that could be created in no other way. Give me the strength and the grace and the courage to take you up the invitation that suffering has to offer me—to make me more and more like you. Amen.
Monday, December 7, 2020
Opening Prayer: Forgive me, O Lord, when I live my life a mile wide and an inch deep. That is not the life you desire for me. Thank you that you will do whatever it takes in order for me to become the person you created me to be, even disturb or disrupt. Thank you that you love me too much to allow me to settle for less. Amen.
Scripture: Psalm 42:1-11
Journal: How is God deepening you these days? What is your response to that? What is his deepest desire for you?
the deeper work
Closing Prayer: Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls, O God; all of your waves and breakers have swept over me. You didn’t do this to destroy me, but to enlarge me; to make me more into the person you dreamt me to be. Thank you for that. Help me to trust in you. Amen.
Friday, December 4, 2020
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to live each day as if it were our last. Help us to stay awake and alert. Help us to be always waiting and watchful for your return. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.
Scripture: Mark 13:32-37
Journal: What would it look like if you lived each day as if it were the day of Christ’s return?
when i return
Closing Prayer: “Be on your guard! Be alert! Watch!” Lord Jesus, help me to do all of these today. Amen.
Thursday, December 3, 2020
Opening Prayer: Help us, Lord Jesus, to be ready for you when you come. Help us to be watching and waiting. Help us to have oil for our lamps. Help us to be awake and alert. Help us to be ready when the words are announced: “Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!” Amen.
Scripture: Matthew 25:1-13
Journal: What does it look like to live in a state of readiness? What does it mean to have oil for your lamp? How do we stay awake and alert? How might the bridegroom come to you today? Will you be ready for him?
will you be ready
when i come to you
for i am always
will you have oil
for you lamp
will you be awake
will you come
out to meet me
or will you be
by your own
issues and agendas
that you miss me
Closing Prayer: Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.
Tuesday, December 1, 2020
Opening Prayer: O Great Light of the world, come into our darkness and illumine us with your light and your love. Reveal to us the beauty we have forgotten, or have been unable to see, and expose the darkness that lies within us and keeps us from becoming all you made us to be. All for your glory. Amen.
Scripture: Ephesians 5:8-14
Journal: Where do you see the light coming into your darkness these days? What is it revealing? What is it exposing? Where do you still long for the light to come? What does it look like to live as children of light? What is God calling you to?
Reflection: Light is a wonderful and a terrible thing. It is wonderful because of what it reveals, and it is terrible because of what it exposes. When the light comes into the darkness we are finally able to see the beauty we had been unable to see, and we are also able to see the ugliness that we try to keep hidden. Everything, both good and bad, is uncovered and laid bare for all to see. But even as terrible and uncomfortable as this uncovering can be, it is ultimately a really good thing, for it leads to freedom and to life. So come, O Light of the world, and shine on our darkness, so that we might be set free from our bondage and walk in the warm of your light.
Closing Prayer: Help us, this day, O God, to live as children of light. Amen.