Category Archives: by weekly theme

Reading for a week at a time on the same theme.

All Things New

weekly theme #5 All Things New*  

week containing the first Sunday after Christmas

Jesus changed everything, but through my eyes, some things look unchanged.  I still see the fruit of false beliefs.  I still see sin.  Looking to the future is the only place I see all things new, and I long for that time.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  (2 Corinthians 5:17 New International Version)  The old doesn’t always seem gone, and the new doesn’t always seem to have come.  This conflict between scripture and my life has troubled me for yours, but the New Living Translation helped me in just five words.  Instead of “…the new has come!” it says “…a new life has begun.”  The new me is in process; it is not completed.  I will not always make steady, straight-line progress, but I will progress.  My new life is well underway, and I can propel it by intentionally making small, righteous choices.

Many small choices make a life direction, and this new direction as an ambassador of Jesus is heading toward great honor and responsibility.  Too often, I forget my duty as an ambassador and start to operate as a rogue agent.  By my negligence, I deny my duty, allegiance, and even my King.  Despite my wanderings, the King, this perfect King, continues to mold me and trust me.  He lets me remain his ambassador.  How can I help but love him?

“And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making all things new!…It is finished!  I am the Alpha and the Omega – the Beginning and the End.”  (Revelations 21:5a & 6a)  It seems to me that humanity is not destined for continually generating new spiritual ideas but to come full circle and realize the end is actually the beginning.  We come up with a new buzzword or idea, but we soon replace it with another one.  (seeker-sensitive, emergent, missional, etc.)  All these words have sincere followers, and all of them carry elements of truth.  So it is easy for us, the Church, to allow our methods and terms to become distractions from our message, the Good News of Jesus the Christ.  I must guard myself from begin so zealous for an aspect of my faith that I forget that the end is also the beginning.  I’m going back to the Garden.  The Omega is the Alpha.

*A Guide To Prayer For Ministers And Other Servants by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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God Is With Us

weekly theme #4 God Is With Us*  

week containing the fourth Sunday of Advent

Immanuel, is a name that means “God with us”.  Immanuel, Jesus, stands near to me, wanting me to accept his love and desiring mine in return.  I would best show my love by going beyond sentiment to worship and obedience.  However, I am overwhelmed with material goods: a house with heat, cooling, running water, clothing, vehicles, books, electronics, and the list goes on.  All these things more firmly plant my feet in loving this world.  Those like me call those who have few possessions “the poor”, but I know in my heart they are not poor.  I am the poor one.  My happiness rises and falls by my possessions and comforts.  When I step back and examine my life, by what standards should I use to measure my riches – comforts or kindness?  Yes, I’m afraid that I am the poor one.

I can’t give what I don’t have.  That appears to be sound reasoning, and I’m sure I’ve used that line myself although I can’t remember when.  (I’m having trouble with my memory becoming slower and less organized, and that leads me to my point.)  Sometimes I can’t give even what I have.  When I consider myself the storehouse for what I can give, it limits my giving by capacity, access, and current relevance.  It seems better for me to connect to the perfect Source, Model, and Provider and let him provide through me.  Remaining a tool connected to the LORD, through the Holy Spirit, allows me to give two things I can never give from myself – everything and anything.

Sometimes I catch myself at the bottom of a page in a book and I don’t remember anything I’ve read.  Sometimes I realize that I have driven for miles and I don’t remember any of it.  I’ve been so engaged in a conversation (or TV show!) that I don’t notice what is going on around me.  Focus.  My focus determines what I sense.  What I sense impacts my feelings and thoughts, which produce actions (or paralysis), and determines my future.  God is with me, but do I sense him?  He has a prepared a pathway for me, but unless I sense him, I will not follow his path because his path is unknown and impassable unless he is with me. (Ephesians 2:10 & Psalm 77:19)

God has been with us since the beginning of human life, but Jesus’ sacrificial birth began a path for me to receive even more.  Through no merit of my own, God is in me.

*A Guide To Prayer For Ministers And Other Servants by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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The Coming Of Christ

weekly theme #3 The Coming Of Christ*  

week containing the third Sunday in Advent

I have met people so focused on Jesus’ second coming that they fail to sense him right now.  Jesus’ first coming brought flesh and blood to prophesies in the Old Testament, and the invisible God became tangible.  Yes, I am supposed to look forward to his return to earth, but I must also live as he so clearly taught and exemplified.  Giving my attention to what is around me, as well as to the sky, actually hastens the answer to his prayer of “your Kingdom come, your will be done – on earth as it is in heaven”.

As soon as I sat down this morning for my Time With Father, I told him, “God, I’m having real trouble with this idea of watching for your second coming.”  I had this image of sitting in the rocking chair on the front porch staring at the sky – watching for his return, but when I read Ezekiel 34:1-10 and Luke 12:42-48 things started falling into place.  I “watch” for his return by doing his work.  I remembered Jesus’ parable about the owner of land turning it over to his servants’ care.  The owner did not want them standing around every day waiting for his return; he wanted them to care for what he had entrusted to them.  However, in truth, my work is most often a distraction from my watching.  It is when my “watching” wanes the most.

For years, I have longed to have better communication with God.  In church language, I wanted to “be constantly in prayer”.  (I wrote about this situation just last week – #2 Preparing The Way.)  Words from Brother Lawrence (he served in a Paris monastery in the 17th century) added some guidance to solving this dilemma.  As I understand it, he intentionally set up reminders for prayer so that his day was repeatedly “interrupted” by prayer.  Over time, each “interruption” became an anticipated oasis through the day.  Gradually he found himself conversing with God between these “assigned” times, making prayer a majority of his day.  And when he entered a task that might take his full concentration, he asked for his work to be an acceptable prayer.  This makes “constantly in prayer” and “always watching” seem reachable to me.

*A Guide To Prayer For Ministers And Other Servants by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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Preparing The Way

weekly theme #2 Preparing The Way*      

week containing the second Sunday of Advent

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”  (Shakespeare –  As You Like It)  The life of John the Baptist would certainly bear evidence to that concept.  John’s destiny was foretold before his birth, and his place on the stage confirmed.  I think John’s introduction, preparation, and purpose were all unique, but the concept can also apply to me.  I am called to my part in God’s story, a part designed for me, or me for it. My cooperation with the Director’s instructions can have broad and deep impact on many others in the story.

Twice Satan called for proof from Jesus that he was the Son of God. (Matthew 4)  He challenged Jesus and showed doubt about Jesus’ position as Lord of creation.  Then, in the third confrontation, Satan portrayed himself as the owner/ruler of all earth.  He offered Jesus power on earth in exchange for Jesus worship to him, but Jesus did not lose his focus.  He kept his eye on the way prepared by his Father, and he ignored the way prepared by the enemy.

Decades ago I heard a message about Isaiah 40:3 whose theme still remains with me.  Between God and each human lies a path to salvation.  The path is littered with memories, attitudes, excuses, and beliefs that hinder them from making progress toward redemption.  My role is to add no new obstacles and remove as many obstacles already present as possible.  I save no one, God does that, but I can help prepare the path.

Part of my preparation for preparing the way is to become instinctively prayerful.  At this time in my life, I need visual cues (prayer lists) and audible reminders (an alarm on my phone) to prompt my prayers, but I desire to make praying an innate part of my living – like blinking or breathing.  This opens me to the Holy Spirit working through me to speak wisely, live holy, and to sense what I am unable to sense on my own.  I can be used to make the path exactly what a person needs in order to take their next step to Jesus.

I do not have the ability to woo a soul.  I can manipulate superficially for a desired response, but heart change comes from the Lord.  He must prepare and call the soul of the person.  Consider the preparation for Jesus’ first coming:

  1. sacred scripture foretold his coming
  2. he was the creator of the creation he entered
  3. John the Baptist served as his advance man
  4. Angels appeared at his birth

Despite all that, he was not widely accepted as the Messiah.  I should not beat myself up if not all those I try to “prepare” do not accept him.  I may sow and water, but the Lord gives the increase.

*A Guide To Prayer For Ministers And Other Servants by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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The Lord is Coming

weekly theme #1 The Lord Is Coming*    

the first Sunday of Advent

Sometimes I wish I had been with Jesus while he was on earth, but I know I’m in a better spot now.  I am privileged to have written accounts of his arrival, life, and departure.  Most importantly, I have the Holy Spirit with me constantly to comfort, convict, and guide.  Then I would have just been with Jesus, but now the Lord is in me.

Paul says that Jesus the Christ has made peace between God and all creation through his willingness to sacrifice himself.  (Colossians 3)  His coming was a response of God’s love for his creation.  Even now God comes to me because of his love – not my works, virtue, or sacrifice.  He comes to me, not because of my beauty or value but because of his.

Jesus entry as a babe had a purpose of grand and eternal significance.  He came to complete his work, to be the Lord and the Truth.  My work is not nearly so grand.  In fact, I may be here only to exemplify love and faithfulness to others.  Perhaps I can be the Jesus they see in an ordinary situation that, unknown to me, has eternal results.

In the times of the Old Testament, priests offered blood sacrifices for sins, and only at certain times could a certain Priest enter the Holy of Holies – the presence of God.  Jesus changed everything.  His sacrifice erases sins forever, so no further blood sacrifices are needed.  Additionally, Jesus, as High Priest, has opened the Holy of Holies to me so I may enter God’s presence.  Jesus continues to change everything.  He is the change.  All the things I think change the world are actually tools he may use for change: education, prayer, generosity, humility, military power, science, creativity, religious organizations, and more.  The Lord changes everything.

*A Guide To Prayer For Ministers And Other Servants by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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