Preparing for What?

We have just entered into the season of Advent. This marks the beginning of a new Christian church year. Advent is one of my favorite times because we have the opportunity to focus on the actions God took by becoming man, Jesus Christ. We are invited, once again, to deepen our faith and allow the message of the Christmas Story – the birth of Jesus Christ to change our hearts so we can work with God to change the world. Let’s make this season come alive with deeper meaning and joy.

As we begin this journey, we begin with a scripture passage of Jesus talking about the end times and the return of the Son of Man in glory. We will be asked some questions this week that I pray will cause us to really think about who Christ is to us and how His birth turned the world upside down.

You can read the scripture for this week here.

Today, we begin our journey by asking the question,”what are we preparing for?” It may seem a little strange to start the season of Advent with a passage about the end times and the Son of Man returning; but this is an ancient tradition that has helped Christians through the centuries to prepare their hearts and lives to fully celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

We are preparing our hearts, our lives, our eyes for God’s actions in the world. Think about it, when we talk to God (pray), do we expect God to act? Another way to put it, when we pray for rain, do we pray with an umbrella in our hand or simply wish for it to rain without trusting that it will? God is acting in our world. Jesus said, “let those with eyes see and those with ear hear.” Do we notice all God is doing, even in the midst of turmoil?

We are also preparing for the birth of a Savior. This Savior is different. We do not have a Savior that will make our lives easier; but a Savior that will be with us every step of our life journey. When we need strength and endurance to endure hardships or difficulties in our life, Christ is with us.

We prepare for something new. Births of children are always the reminder of new life. This Advent, I hope we experience the new life God gives us each year, each day. We can trust that, even in the darkest times, Christ is with us in glory. Are we ready to celebrate His birth? Are we ready for His return?

How will we prepare for the birth of Christ in our hearts and lives this year so it’s not something we go through, but rather something we live for.

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

“Prayer and Praise” Week 3

This is our third week of intentionally taking time to give God thanks in all situations in our life, especially those times we may not see his grace and his active presence. God is always with us. Jesus said in Matthew 28, “remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

There are times we feel anxious, we don’t feel valued, we don’t have what we want. Jesus is with us in every situation. As 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray continuously.”

Each day this week, we are reminded to give thanks in all things.

Day 1: Praising God for his presence in all situations

Day 2: Giving thanks for opportunities to worship

Day 3: Giving thanks for people in our life who encourage us

Day 4: Thanking God for the opportunities to encourage others

Day 5: Praising God for the opportunities to see him in all aspects of our life when we look

Day 6: Praising God for listening to us and the chance to pray

Day 7: Praising God for answered prayers (even when it’s not the answer we asked for

I invite you to take time to read the scripture this week from 1 Samuel 1. See where you may fit in and see what God may be speaking to you this week.

1 Samuel 1:3-20

Every year this man would leave his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lordof heavenly forces in Shiloh, where Eli’s two sons Hophni and Phinehas were the Lord’s priests. Whenever he sacrificed, Elkanah would give parts of the sacrifice to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But he would give only one part of it to Hannah, though he loved her, because the Lord had kept her from conceiving.[b] And because the Lord had kept Hannah from conceiving, her rival would make fun of her mercilessly, just to bother her. So that is what took place year after year. Whenever Hannah went to the Lord’s house, Peninnah would make fun of her. Then she would cry and wouldn’t eat anything. “Hannah, why are you crying?” her husband Elkanah would say to her. “Why won’t you eat? Why are you[c] so sad? Aren’t I worth more to you than ten sons?” One time, after eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah got up and presented herself before the Lord.[d] (Now Eli the priest was sitting in the chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s temple.) 10 Hannah was very upset and couldn’t stop crying as she prayed to the Lord. 11 Then she made this promise: “Lord of heavenly forces, just look at your servant’s pain and remember me! Don’t forget your servant! Give her a boy! Then I’ll give him to the Lord for his entire life. No razor will ever touch his head.” 12 As she kept praying before the Lord, Eli watched her mouth. 13 Now Hannah was praying in her heart; her lips were moving, but her voice was silent, so Eli thought she was drunk. 14 “How long will you act like a drunk? Sober up!” Eli told her. 15 “No sir!” Hannah replied. “I’m just a very sad woman. I haven’t had any wine or beer but have been pouring out my heart to the Lord. 16 Don’t think your servant is some good-for-nothing woman. This whole time I’ve been praying out of my great worry and trouble!” 17 Eli responded, “Then go in peace. And may the God of Israel give you what you’ve asked from him.” 18 “Please think well of me, your servant,” Hannah said. Then the woman went on her way, ate some food, and wasn’t sad any longer. 19 They got up early the next morning and worshipped the Lord. Then they went back home to Ramah. Elkanah had sex with his wife Hannah, and the Lordremembered her. 20 So in the course of time, Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, which means “I asked the Lord for him.”

“Prayer and Praise Week 1”

Give thanks to the Lord because he is good, because his faithful love endures forever.” ~1 Chronicles 16:34 CEB

November is the time that giving thanks, or at least these words, are at the forefront of our conscience. We tend to be thankful for all we have, all we have been blessed with, and the people in our life that we like. These are all great things to be thankful for. God’s presence in our lives is another thing we give thanks for.

This year, we should challenge ourselves to giving thanks for what have have and what we experience beyond our preferences. The season of Advent begins in 29 days. Advent is the time we prepare our hearts for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, God in flesh, in our lives and within us. To help with this, let’s have 28 days of “Giving Thanks.”

This will be a different way of giving thanks. Instead of pausing each day to say thanks to another person, or to God, we get to give thanks for how we are able to be present in the lives of those around us, even “those people” we don’t like, or think are not good enough. When we do this, we have great opportunities to show the world God working through people. We never know, exactly, how what we do impacts another person.

So this week, we challenged to do the following:

  1. Ask your restaurant server, or cashier, what you can pray for them. Then pray then and there.
  2. When shopping, tell the cashier “thank you for your work.”
  3. Tell a family member how much you appreciate them and what you appreciate about them.
  4. Tell a friend what you appreciate about them.
  5. Write and mail a handwritten note to someone you haven’t seen in awhile.
  6. Invite a friend, or someone you talk to while running errands or at work, to join you in worship to have a chance to experience God through Jesus Christ.
  7. Take time to thank God for being in your life, through the joy, sorrows, frustration, times of plenty and times of lacking

These are much more than simply random acts of kindness. After each day, spend some time thanking God for giving you the opportunities to help and be present in another person’s life. We give God glory and praise when we are present and helping the last, the least, and the lost in the world and thank Him for the blessing in our life, which involves the opportunities to show God in the world.

Will you take this challenge? I pray you do.

Prayer Walk (Mark 10:46-52)

Jesus and his disciples are walking from Jericho. Sometime today, tomorrow and the next day, I invite you to take a walk. Place yourself within this passage. It may be helpful to have a time limit, if you’re not used to doing an exercise like this.

I used to not enjoy reading when I was younger. So in my early twenties, I picked up some audio books and listened to them. This was something I enjoyed and found when I heard the story, I was able to remember it better and place myself within the story to picture it. One day I decided to pick up some books and read them. I began to picture the story line and the books began to come alive to me. This is one of the reasons I love to read the Bible: many stories in there that can actually tell our story.

So, this is an exercise to try and make the scripture come even more alive, in our imagination. I have found it is too easy to sit and read and not let the Word take root in us; but if we move like the people in the Bible, we’ll be able to experience more.

The exercise:

Read. Read the passage a couple times before heading out for a walk. (passage is below). If you have an audio version you can take with you on the walk, awesome.

Pray. Pray before heading out asking God to reveal himself to you in a new or different way.

Walk. This is one of my favorite parts. Walk and reflect on the passage. As you find yourself walking, picture the story happening right where you are. Imagine Jesus, the disciples, a crowd, a shouting person asking for help. Do you keep walking? Do you stop and just watch? Do you call someone else? Is it time to make fun of or chastise the person? Do we pray and ask God to send someone else so they can help?

Imagining the story like this helps me to be able to see God working in our day to day life. This also helps to remind me to look for opportunities to be present and see God, his people and his mission wherever I am.

Journal. I recommend journaling what you experienced, what God showed you on your walk. This way, it is easy to remember and we have a record we can go back and read later.

Pray. Pray again. This is a simple prayer of thanks. Thanking God for the opportunity to see the world as he sees it. Also, asking God to help us see the world and his people this way in all aspects of life.

Prayer walks are enjoyable to me. I hope God reveals himself to you as you try this exercise.

Next week, we begin a new series on “Giving Thanks.” We’ll have one devotional each week for the month of November, but there will be 7 things to pray for (one for each day of the week). I’m excited about this upcoming series and seeing what will happen when we take intentional time to thank and praise God, even the trials we experience.


Mark 10:46-52 (CEB)
Healing of blind Bartimaeus
Jesus and his followers came into Jericho. As Jesus was leaving Jericho, together with his disciples and a sizable crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, Timaeus’ son, was sitting beside the road. When he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was there, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, show me mercy!” Many scolded him, telling him to be quiet, but he shouted even louder, “Son of David, show me mercy!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him forward.” They called the blind man, “Be encouraged! Get up! He’s calling you.” Throwing his coat to the side, he jumped up and came to Jesus. Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said, “Teacher, I want to see.” Jesus said, “Go, your faith has healed you.” At once he was able to see, and he began to follow Jesus on the way.

“Gaining Sight: Praying the Scripture”

We have been on this journey through Mark chapter 10 this month. Now, we are in the final verses of this chapter. To recap, we have encountered Jesus Christ in several different ways. Hopefully we have all grown closer in our faith in Christ.

This week, we’re going to do something different in our devotional time. We will be praying the scripture (the same scripture) daily and see what God speaks to our hearts. Praying the scriptures is something that helps us see and hear from God in fresh ways.

Today, and tomorrow, we’ll do something called lectio divina. To practice this, find a quiet place without any distractions. If this is your first time to do this exercise, it may be helpful to set a time limit (maybe 15-20 minutes). It may also be helpful to have a journal so you can write down your experience and anything you sense God speaking to your spirit.

The scripture (Mark 10:46-52) is below these four steps to this exercise.

Step 1) READ the passage

Simply read the passage. Don’t try to figure out what it’s saying, yet. Think about the passage for a minute or so, then read it again slowly.

Step 2) MEDITATE on the passage

What do you see in the passage? How do you picture yourself? Do you see yourself as the crowd? on the sidelines watching? as someone like Jesus trying to help? as the blind man crying for help and being ignored? Read the passage again, this time place yourself, intentionally, in the story and see what emotions come up.

Step 3) PRAY.

This is a time to seek God. Take time to ask Him what He is speaking to you. Ask Him to help you understand.

Step 4) CONTEMPLATE on the prayer and passage.

Thank God for this time together. What do you think God may be calling you to do? What are your emotions regarding this? How do you plan to accomplish what God may be leading you to?

Challenge yourself through this exercise. See how God is speaking to you through the scriptures. Read. Meditate. Pray. Respond. Do this for two days, and then we’ll try another exercise with this same scripture.


Mark 10:46-52 (CEB)
Healing of blind Bartimaeus
46 Jesus and his followers came into Jericho. As Jesus was leaving Jericho, together with his disciples and a sizable crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, Timaeus’ son, was sitting beside the road. 47 When he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was there, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, show me mercy!” 48 Many scolded him, telling him to be quiet, but he shouted even louder, “Son of David, show me mercy!” 49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him forward.” They called the blind man, “Be encouraged! Get up! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his coat to the side, he jumped up and came to Jesus. 51 Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said, “Teacher, I want to see.” 52 Jesus said, “Go, your faith has healed you.” At once he was able to see, and he began to follow Jesus on the way.

“The Example”

Mark 10:44-45 Whoever wants to be first among you will be the slave of all, for the Son of Man didn’t come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people.

True greatness does not lie in the position one has in life. True greatness lies in the attitude and character of the person. Jesus is a great reminder how we should live our lives and sets the example. His priority was to move people into a relationship with God the Father. This was not done by force or even all talk. He lived what he preached.

There were times He got on to people (like the Pharisees and Sadducees) when they were using their position and power for their own good instead of the good of the Kingdom of God. Everywhere Jesus went He would heal and serve.

Imagine the incredible God we serve, coming down in human flesh and serving Hie creations. We may not always want to serve other people; but God does. It is awesome to see His work throughout the world.

Who can you serve this week?

Next week, we’ll conclude Mark 10 with the healing of the blind man. The sermon is “Gaining Sight.”

“Becoming Great”

Mark 10:41-43  Now when the other ten disciples heard about this, they became angry with James and John. Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the ones who are considered the rulers by the Gentiles show off their authority over them and their high-ranking officials order them around. But that’s not the way it will be with you. Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant.

There have been may times that something I have said has made another person, or even a group of people, angry or upset. I have gotten upset over words from another person (hearing a voice or via written message). We can easily allow what people say to upset us and let our emotions determine how we act.

This is how I imagine the disciples mindset at this point in time. I cannot blame them for feeling the way do at this point. It is easy to understand what might be going through their minds at this point. If they would have taken time to talk with James and John, would they have gotten angry? Would they be able to understand the brothers’ background and meet them where they were? Did the other ten disciples want to have the same position of greatness and were angry because they did not ask first?

I wonder if James and John understood why the other disciples were angry.

Jesus teaches his disciples about true greatness. He tells them that earthly position and authority are fragile. We should not strive to gain earthly recognition, but to strive for the glory of God.

To live for the glory of God means we live our life for something bigger than we are. When we do this, we become more humble. Becoming more humble means we begin to be a servant rather than a master. It seems backwards. Becoming a servant to become great. I think this makes good sense when we think about it. We cannot just jump to becoming an owner, we have to work for it. We have to be able to do the lowliest tasks in order to become ready for the bigger tasks.

“Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant.”

Are You Able?

Mark 10:38-40 Jesus replied, “You don’t know what you’re asking! Can you drink the cup I drink or receive the baptism I receive?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said, “You will drink the cup I drink and receive the baptism I receive, but to sit at my right or left hand isn’t mine to give. It belongs to those for whom it has been prepared.”

Ever have a moment when you feel you present your best case to someone and they just shut you down? I have. We can try to think through all the angles and the other person shows another angle we missed.

Jesus does this for James and John. It is very possible they asked Jesus to agree and grant their request before they ask they question because they figured Jesus may not respond favorably. They were right.

I love Jesus’ response here. “Can you…” Well, of course the disciples were going to say YES to whatever Jesus mentioned because they were trying to show they had what it takes to have the positions they were asking for. Jesus is trying to show them they really don’t know what they’re asking for; but they will one day.

Jesus talks about drinking the cup (living the destined purpose) and receiving the baptism (final cleaning of sin). Do you think if the disciples were not understanding the prediction of Jesus’ death that they really understood what Jesus was asking them? To me, this seems like a typical guy response. “Of course I can do that. If you can, I can.”

Jesus looks right through their response here and simply says they will drink the cup and receive the baptism. He was trying to tell them something about their future. James was the first disciple martyred and John was exiled to the island of Patmos. They lived as Jesus predicted they would live.

Jesus lived His earthly life always pointing people to God, God’s Kingdom, heaven; something bigger than His human life. It is difficult to explain the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit); but Jesus reminds the disciples and us that what we think we want in heaven while here on earth, there is something greater than we can imagine ahead.

Are you able to handle what Jesus gives? Are you able to handle the life Jesus calls you to?

With Christ, you can!

Yes They Said That

Mark 10:35-37 “James and John, Zebedee’s sons, came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. They said, “Allow one of us to sit on your right and the other on your left when you enter your glory.”

So. Jesus just plainly told His disciples what is going to happen to Him when they make it to Jerusalem. Then comes this request. We first have to wonder why they had the audacity to ask this and then wonder why they did ask.

James and John were two brothers who left their father’s fishing business, along with the hire help, to follow Jesus. These were the only disciples to really have come from a background of having a decent amount of income/money. It is possible they thought higher of themselves then the others. Maybe they did have a sense of entitlement based upon their background and who they were in society.

It is also easy to forget that many Jewish people back then , and today, had a different concept of who the Messiah would be and what He would do. Many thought the Messiah would be a conquering war hero who would kick the Romans out of power and usher in a new age of prosperity for Israel. They did not expect God in flesh to be the Messiah.

It does seem odd that Jesus would talk about His dying and they would come up with a request to have special positions and authority. This shows they were not really paying attention. But the truth is, none of the disciples were paying close attention when Jesus talked about His death. Are we any different?

When someone talks to us about the incredible God we serve, what is our response? “That’s cool. What’s for lunch?” We can become so engrossed in our own thinking, or even become apathetic toward the message, we miss the significance about what is going on.

It is easier, at times, to think about what we want and go for it than it is to be present in the moment and pay attention. Jesus was telling about something important that was about to happen and the disciples wanted to have a place at the table.

We will see this week that Jesus offers grace. Grace is something that is available if we accept it and apply it to our daily lives.

Setting the Stage

Mark 10:32-34 “Jesus and his disciples were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, with Jesus in the lead. The disciples were amazed while the others following behind were afraid. Taking the Twelve aside again, he told them what was about to happen to him. “Look!” he said. “We’re going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the legal experts. They will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles. They will ridicule him, spit on him, torture him, and kill him. After three days, he will rise up.”

This week, we are looking at a passage that, once again, may hit home. This week, we’re looking at James and John asking for a place of glory and position alongside Jesus in the Kingdom that will be coming. We should start here to see what was happening before the favor of the two disciples.

Jesus is now giving the third prediction of His death and resurrection. This prediction seems more blunt to me, mostly because it is. Each time Jesus predicted what is going to happen to Him, He started to just come out and say it. After He spoke about divorce and remarriage, blessing the children and encountering a rich man, Jesus tells his disciples what is going to happen to him. This time he goes into more details.

We read the disciples were amazed and the others following were afraid. Why the difference? I think it’s interesting how the terms “disciples” and “the others” is used. It shows a comparison to those following. The disciples were those eager to learn from Jesus, so they went with Him along the way. The others may have been there for selfish reasons or did not trust they would be taken care of or Jesus just scared them after teaching what He did. I bet there are a lot of reasons for the different types of people there.

Which category do you fall in? Eager to learn about everything Christ is teaching? Or, following and becoming nervous or afraid because Jesus seems to be expecting something too difficult or scary?

Jesus doesn’t draw attention to the different people there. He plainly states, to His disciples, “Look!…We’re going up to Jerusalem.” Then He goes on to say what will happen when they get there. Jesus is determined to keep going, and bring His followers with Him so they can see what will happen.

What would you be feeling if you were in this situation?