Really Ready for Christmas?

This week, we have asked some tough questions, hopefully preparing us and challenging us to embrace the real Christmas event so our lives reflect Christ in this world.

Once more, I invite you to read the scripture focus for this week. Take some time to ponder what we have talked about this week. Most importantly, see what God may be speaking to you through this passage. You can read the scripture for this week here.

The questions we asked this week are:

  • What are we preparing for?
  • Do we take Jesus Christ seriously enough?
  • How different do our lives look?
  • Are we ready to share our faith in urgency?

There are many more questions to ask, and we will ask, that help prepare us for the coming of the Christ child and the return of the Son of Man.

Our challenge is to make the birth of Jesus Christ more real for us, so He is born anew in our hearts this year. This event should deepen our faith and allow God to transform us into new creations.

Are we ready for Christmas?

Christ coming into the world changes everything!

A baby born and laying  in an animal feeding trough is to become King of kings. A Savior is born to live just to die so that we can truly live. His life is not what we would expect someone from the riches of heaven to look or be like. God, Himself, is here with us in human flesh to live the same life we live and experience everything we experience. The Creator of the universe becomes one of the creations. This changes everything!

Are you ready to continue this journey to the cradle which leads us to the cross?

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Urgency

Today, we again look at the passage in Luke 21 of Jesus speaking about the end and the glorious return of the Son of Man. This time, I invite us to look at verses 34-36.

“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

You can read the entire scripture for this week here.

Jesus says to “be on guard,” “be alert at all times.” Other places in the Gospels, Jesus says that we will not know the time when all this will happen. This event is referred to come like a thief in the night. There is urgency to make sure we are ready for the return of Jesus Christ.

Many people become skeptical about the “end times” or the “end of the world,” thinking that this is too much for us to try and understand or it is still in the future. The truth of the matter is the end of the world comes for some people everyday.

Isn’t it heartbreaking when people live in fear and without hope. People around the world, especially in our communities and own homes, need to hear about the Gospel of Jesus Christ that brings good news to all people. We should not think we have plenty of time because we do not know when that person will pass on.

For me, these passages do not really cause me to be worried about the future; but they do help me realize how important it is to share our faith every opportunity we have (in actions and in words).

I invite you today to pray for someone who needs to hear about Jesus Christ and then trust that God is with you as you share your faith. If you find it challenging, there are people who can help: pastors, church, friends, Bible study groups, etc.

Are you ready to give the gift of Christ to another person this Christmas?

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Do We Take Christ Seriously Enough?

This may seem like a strange question as we begin Advent, but I believe it is an important question we should ask ourselves. This is a questions I ponder most days. How we think about Christ changes our to do list and what we do day to day. What we believe about Christ changes our lives from the inside out.

You can read the scripture for this week here. I am inviting us to read the same passage each day this week (as will be the invitation for the other weeks in Advent). The reason for this is to see how the scripture speaks to us throughout the week.

So, the question for today is “do we take Christ seriously?” Jesus speaks of the end times and the Son of Man coming in glory and that we need to be on guard and be prepared for that time. We will not know when it is coming, for it will happening suddenly.

Many people like to skip these kind of passages because they find it scary or don’t think the end will happen like this. Even though these passages may seem kind of harsh, they do point to a Christ that is not all feel good and every thing will be just fine if we have enough faith. He shows us there is more to Jesus than just offering peace. He shows us more depth into who God is. If we take Christ serious, we’ll love all the messages He brings because they are God’s word to us. We should always take serious Christ and His word. This doesn’t mean we understand everything, but we trust that God knows what He is talking about.

I challenge each of us to think about how serious we take Christ and His word today and this week. I hope we are more serious about the faith we have in Him more and more each day.

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

“Prayer and Praise” Week 2

This week, we look at the passage in Mark 12. In this, we can see several things; but the biggest concept I think we can take out of it for this week, is the concept of giving thanks in our lack and being thankful for the opportunity to give.

Mark 12:38-44 “As he was teaching, he said, “Watch out for the legal experts. They like to walk around in long robes. They want to be greeted with honor in the markets. They long for places of honor in the synagogues and at banquets. They are the ones who cheat widows out of their homes, and to show off they say long prayers. They will be judged most harshly.” Jesus sat across from the collection box for the temple treasury and observed how the crowd gave their money. Many rich people were throwing in lots of money.  One poor widow came forward and put in two small copper coins worth a penny.  Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I assure you that this poor widow has put in more than everyone who’s been putting money in the treasury. All of them are giving out of their spare change. But she from her hopeless poverty has given everything she had, even what she needed to live on.”

There is so much going on in this passage, that I invite each of us to take time and study what s being said and what is being done. It can be too easy to look at this and gloss over what Jesus is saying and the situation of the widow.

We are invited to spend some time in prayer daily this week, thanking God. Each day, we have an opportunity to be thankful for something different (and most likely something we would not give thanks for).

Day 1: Praise God for the opportunities to give

Day 2: Praise God for the position you are placed in and ask for guidance to use it to His glory

Day 3: Praise God for noticing situations that are wrong and ask for guidance, and the people, to work with you to fix it

Day 4: Give thanks for Jesus’ words that give life and challenge to us as we keep growing in our faith and relationship with others

Day 5: Give Jesus praise for His active presence in your life

Day 6: Praise God for His provision even in times of lack. Also give thanks for the opportunity to give even when we perceive a time of lack.

Day 7: Give God glory for this past week. Praise Him for everything He has done and praise Him, in advance, for everything He will do.

“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.