Monday, April 1, 2019

Thankfulness and Bluebonnets

This week our devotional readings are from the book of Acts, chapters 9 to 12. But my devotional thought this morning is drawn not so much from a particular passage in Acts as it is from my observation of God's power, creativity, and beauty this morning.

As I was walking through the church sanctuary this morning, I was admiring the beauty of the wildflowers and agave plants on the hill behind the church. And birds were among the flowers, coming to the fountain for an early morning drink. There were mockingbirds and pheobes, Carolina chickadees and cardinals. And sitting on a tall stem of grass among the field of bluebonnets were two lesser goldfinches with their bright yellow chests.

And in that moment, my heart just welled up with a sense of thanksgiving. I was thankful for the beauty of God's creation. I was thankful for the Divine creativity. I was thankful for the Divine power and foresight that made these things possible - wildflowers of blue and yellow and red; the green of the grass; the song of the birds; the brightness of the avian colors. I was thankful.

And I realized that with this thankfulness came a sense of peace. There is a wholeness of spirit that is available to us when we are thankful for in our thanksgiving we are humble before the greater powers of God. "If God will so clothe the grass of the field that is here today and gone and tomorrow, will he not much more clothe you? O you of little faith!" (Matthew 6:30)

I pray that wholeness of spirit and that profound sense of thanksgiving will be yours today!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Resurrection Focus

Our reading this week is in Acts 1 through 4. I pray you will read along with me as we begin the
second part of Luke's account of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

After reading these chapters, my mind kept going back to something that Peter said in Acts 1. He is talking about filling the "office" of Judas Iscariot who "turned aside" from the way of truth. What interested me most about Peter's speech is his qualifications for the position and his understanding of the responsibilities of the position.

As to the qualifications, the person must have been a follower of Jesus from the beginning of Jesus' public ministry (the baptism by John). As to the responsibilities, the person "must become a witness with us of His resurrection." (1:22)

I think what amazed me most about this verse is what is not included in the responsibilities. Peter does not understand apostleship to be an organizer of any institution, a ministry of service or helps or healing, the leader of a worship service, the composer of songs, or the solver of the world's problems. His focus is clearly upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This person must be a witness of the resurrection!

The resurrection changes everything!

It is the key to everything!

The Apostle Paul will say in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Christ has not been raised, then our faith is worthless, we are still in our sins, we are enemies of God, and we are of all men most be to be pitied. But Christ has been raised, and that changes everything!

Twice in last week I have had conversations with people about how to share their faith with friends who prefer to be "spiritual but not religious." These friends admire the morality of Jesus, but they have no interest in giving him their allegiance. "How do I help my friends?" I answered, focus on the resurrection. That's the key. We can get bogged down in moral dilemmas. We can get lost in comparative religious studies. But the resurrection is a very clear historical event. If it did not happen, then the Christian faith is worthless. The Bible says so! But if it did happen, then it doesn't matter what you or I think about Jesus' morality. This is no longer a matter of personal preference or opinion. If the resurrection has happened, then Jesus has a historical claim that no one else can make. If Christ has been raised, then "he has been declared the Son of God with power." (Romans 1:4) And if he has been declared the Son of God, then he demands our allegiance, our loyalty, and our obedience.

As we draw closer to Resurrection Sunday, keep your eyes on he resurrected Jesus!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Preparations We Do Not Know

This week I am reading Luke 21 to 24. I hope you will join me in reading slowly and prayerfully.

It was a portion of Luke 22 that caught my eye this morning as I was reading. The Feast of the Passover is near, and Jesus and his disciples will be in Jerusalem for the Feast. His disciples ask about where Jesus wants to eat the Seder meal. Not surprisingly, Jesus has a plan. The disciples don't know it, yet, but Jesus has already thought about it. Even more, he has put events in motion that will make the meal possible for the whole group of them.

Both Matthew and Mark also report this seemingly simple event (Matt 26; Mark 14). The instructions are clear:
When you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house he enters. And you shall say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher says to you, "Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?"' And he will show you a large, furnished upper room. . . (Luke 22:10 - 12) 
Luke implies that Jesus has already made an arrangement with the owner of this house. The disciples do not know it. It has not been reported when or where Jesus made these arrangements. But Jesus clearly has a plan. He has done work that his disciples do not know or see. Jesus had made preparations that his disciples do not appreciate until just the right moment.

And I find this to be a comforting thought. Jesus is at work in ways that I do not see. I do not know or appreciate all that he is doing. But he is making preparations for me (and you). He is making arrangements to meet my needs and to further his work. And when the right time comes, he will reveal all that he has done.

My prayer this morning is that I will trust in the Providence of Jesus this week. I pray that I will trust in his preparations and his arrangements. And I pray that I will have eyes to see those preparations at the appropriate time. Christ is up to something! And that fills me with a sense of anticipation!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Ready to Receive

This week, I'm reading in the Gospel of Luke chapters 17 to 20, and I'd invite you to read along with me.

Reading through these chapters yesterday, there was so much that jumped out at me that I didn't know where to dig in! Eventually, though I settled on the first eight verses of chapter 20. It is a curious exchange with Jesus. I say "curious" because we see a case where Jesus refuses to answer a question - a very straightforward question that had a very straightforward answer, and yet Jesus refused to answer it.

A little while after reading this passage, it occurred to me that God has refused to answer some of my questions. And then I wondered if Luke 20:1 - 8 might give me some insight into why that was. After all, I thought, some of my questions were pretty straightforward and relatively simple. Why did no answer come?

In Luke 20, Jesus meets the question about his authority (verse 2) with a question for his questioners (verse 4). Jesus wants to know about John the Baptizer - was his baptism from heaven or from men? In other words, who authorized John?

We then get to see the chief priests, scribes, and elders reason among themselves. Like their own question to Jesus, this question is straightforward with a simple answer. But they worry over it. They look at it from all of its angles. "If we say. . . then he will say. . ."

And so we receive a profound insight into the minds and hearts of these men. They are not interested in the truth. They have a preconceived outcome for this encounter. They are willing to play loosely with the facts as long as their answers produce the outcome they desire.

Jesus' question reveals this about them. His question to them lays bare their hearts. They will say "I don't know" to a question that the rest of the population had already answered (verse 6), and in their unwillingness to commit to the truth and their further unwillingness to submit to the revealed will of God, they will reveal their own selfishness.

Jesus refuses to answer their question because they have already proved that they will not respond with either faith or obedience.

And I have to wonder if the times God has refused to answer my questions was it because he already knew that in my heart I would not respond with faith? Perhaps my mind was already made up. Perhaps my intentions were already fixed. Perhaps I was asking more out of curiosity than out of any real desire to be more faithful in my service.

God is not interested in answering our curiosity. Nor does God waste his time giving more information or counsel to those whose hearts are hardened. If we would know the will and way of God, we must come in humility and with every intention of honoring his authority rather than seeking to judge him and his ways. We've got to be ready to receive direction!

As you come to God today, are you ready to receive - or are you more interested in telling God how he should conduct himself? The position of our heart before him will make an enormous difference!

Monday, February 25, 2019


My focal passage this week is Luke 13 to 16. I hope you will read it along with me.

As I read through this morning, one phrase of one verse really stopped me. I was reading this morning out of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, and the first part of Luke 14:18 just stopped me as I read it:
But without exception they all began to make excuses. . .
Without exception. The attempt to "get out" of the invitation of the Lord was not a statistical anomaly, not a fluke, not a one-in-a-million response. Rather than the exception to the rule, this was the rule - Lord, I've got something I'd rather do. . .

Without exception. It speaks to the brokenness and rebellion within the human heart. It speaks to how wrapped up we are in our own desires that we would be blind to the as-yet-untasted blessings that God has planned for us.

The Apostle Paul will echo this sentiment in Romans 3:23:
For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
C.S. Lewis will strike at the same vein in his sermon The Weight of Glory:
Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. 
Without exception.

We make excuses. Certainly none of us want to paint ourselves in a bad light - the light of rebellion, or ignorance, or sin. We have our reasons for wanting what we want. We consider them good reasons. We just never consider that when placed beside the wisdom of God, our good reasons pale in comparison to his best.

I pray that this week would not be a week of excuses, but a week of saying "yes" to the promises an the commands of Christ Jesus. I hope you will join me in praying for just such an attitude and response.

Monday, February 18, 2019


Our focal passage this week is Luke 9 to 12, and it was in Luke 10 that a verse jumped out and grabbed hold of me this morning. Luke 10:2
And [Jesus] was saying to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."
This verse jumped out at me immediately because I was already thinking along similar lines. . . I was thinking about how much good could be done in our world today if people of influence and means would do it. I was thinking of the advances that could be made in education in impoverished areas of the world, particularly if education was paired with industry or job opportunities for the newly educated. I was thinking of the importance of just laws justly enforced. I was thinking about how businesses might bless more people if "the common good" was an equal goal with profit. And I was thinking most of all how all these kinds of "good" and many more were possible for people of good will.

But Jesus is speaking about more than doing good in the world here. He is speaking about that essential foundation out of which eternal and abundant life grows: allegiance to a faithful God. Apart from a heartfelt loyalty to God, there is no foundation upon which to build lasting good. Apart from the faithfulness of God, there is no soil to plant seeds of hope for the future. Apart from a God who creates and loves human beings, there are no inalienable human rights to respect and nurture.

And Jesus know this. But he also knows that people in the world are hungry for just such a hope-filled relationship with just such a faithful God. The fields are white unto harvest! But the laborers are few - men and women who will do the relational work necessary to communicate the hope, the faithfulness, and the goodness of God to those who are hungry for it.

So we are commanded to pray. Pray that the Lord will send out harvesters. Pray that the Lord will raise them up, equip them, empower them, encourage them, and send them out! If you've ever wanted to know what Jesus might pray, here is one answer. He would pray for harvesters in the fields of God.

Will you join Jesus in praying for harvesters this week?
Will you be such a harvester?

Monday, February 11, 2019

A Fishy Testimony

We are in the books of Luke and Acts through April, and this week, I'm reading slowly through Luke 5 to 8.

I was immediately struck this morning with the confession of Peter at the beginning of Luke 5. It is really a rather remarkable story, and it demonstrates that we may have a life-changing encounter with Jesus anywhere - even in a boat filled with wet, flopping fish!

Jesus used Peter's boat for a pulpit that morning - gaining some distance from the crowd that was pressing around him on the beach. Peter got to "sit on the platform" with the preacher since it was his boat and he was doing the rowing.

After the sermon, though, Jesus went to meddlin' as we say. He had some job advice for the career fisherman - Let's go fishing! Peter had fished all night without success. He was tired, and this was out of the ordinary. Imagine, a carpenter telling a fisherman how to fish! But Peter, out of respect for Jesus, does what he says.

And the results are staggering! Immediately the net was filled with such huge quantity of fish that the nets were breaking and the boat would not hold all the catch! Desperately, they signaled their partners on the shore to bring the other boat, and they loaded both boats with fish.

When the last bit of net was drawn in, and the last fish that could fit in the boat was aboard, Peter turned and looked at Jesus. And he saw Jesus with new eyes. No longer was he just a carpenter or even just a popular teacher. He saw the power of God at work in Jesus, and he knew that he was a man unworthy of God's blessing. Here was greatness in his boat!

And he fell on his knees in the midst of those wet, flopping fish, and he called Jesus "Lord."

And his Lord, who had already shown him grace, now gave a further grace - he gave him a place and a purpose in the eternal Kingdom of God! "From now on, you will be catching men."

What has caused you to see Jesus with "new eyes?"

And have you received the further grace of a place and a purpose in the eternal Kingdom?

Live out your identity in Christ this week! You are His!

Thankfulness and Bluebonnets

This week our devotional readings are from the book of Acts, chapters 9 to 12. But my devotional thought this morning is drawn not so much f...