Tuesday, December 19, 2017


Psalm 118:24
    This is the day the Lord has made;
        let us rejoice and be glad in it.

                Today begins a stretch of family time for me. My parents arrive today for a three week visit. By the end of the week, my family will arrive for the week of Christmas. This is a time we have been looking forward to and anticipating for a long time. And we all know what will happen; it will be over all too quickly. We spend months anticipating a special time and, when it comes, it flies by.

                Have you ever been in a hurry to get somewhere, and when you got there, you missed your turn because you didn’t slow down? I think that is the way we often live our lives. We are in such a hurry to get to the next thing that we fly by the present. We miss the joy of the moment because we don’t know how to slow down.

                Mary and Martha were good friends of Jesus. Although we don’t have many details, it seems that Jesus visited their home often. On one particular occasion, Martha got so caught up preparing for Jesus’ visit that she missed it.

                 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"
                "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:38-42

                Although we would like to think that we are like Mary, we are much more like Martha. We tend to get caught up in the details of life, only to miss the joy of life. We spend much time preparing and little time enjoying. That is especially true during the Christmas season.

                In a broader sense, Jesus addressed our frantic lives in Matthew 6:31-34. So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

                The challenge that we all face is to prepare for the future, but to live in the moment. Even as we prepare for some big event, we can slow down and enjoy the process of getting ready. When the event comes, we can slow down and savor the joy of the moment. And in everything, we can praise God for the gift He is giving to us right then.

                There will be many amazing moments in the weeks ahead. Don’t be in such a hurry that you miss them. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Ephesians 6:10-13
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

                I have been rereading Dallas Willard’s book, The Spirit of the Disciplines. Candidly, I have been struggling with it. As Willard has laid out the significance and the importance of the spiritual disciplines, I have found myself resisting. All the residue of a “works righteousness” faith has come to the surface. I fully understand the principles, but I am struggling with the proper application. What does it really mean to practice spiritual disciplines in the “real world”?

                Ephesians 6 gives us the answer in a nut shell. We practice the spiritual disciplines in order to perform well when the battle is on. Let’s look at this from the perspective of a professional football player, a concert pianist, and a soldier. Although each of these individuals are engaged in very different activities, they all fallow a similar pattern. Each of them spends hours and hours practicing certain drills. These drills may seem tiresome and repetitive, but they are essential to the individual being able to perform. These drills develop what is called muscle memory. The body is trained to respond in a certain way without having to really think about it. This is essential for the athlete, the concert pianist, and the soldier. In the heat of battle, there is no time to stop and think about what to do. In those moments when everything is on the line, a person needs to be able to respond quickly. This can happen only if the person has been trained well.

                I read about a concert pianist who was asked why he still practiced 8 hours a day. His response was telling. “If I do not practice for a day or two, I notice the difference. If I do not practice for a week, you will notice the difference.” Football players do some amazing things during the game, only because they have practiced those skills for hours and hours. Soldiers are able to overcome amazing obstacles, only because they have been thoroughly trained.  A concert pianist can make a grand piano sing, only because he or she has spent hours and hours practicing.

                So what does this have to do with spiritual disciplines? Everything! Paul tells us that we are engaged in a spiritual battle with the dark forces of our world. If we are going to be able to stand in the face of those forces, we need to be trained in godliness. When Paul tells us to put on the armor of God, he is talking about practicing spiritual disciplines. This is not a passive endeavor, but an active pursuit. Like the athlete, the soldier, and the concert pianist, we need to be practicing our spiritual skills regularly so that, in the heat of battle, we can respond in God-honoring ways. Great athletes, great pianists, great soldiers don’t just show up for the big moment. They have trained tirelessly to be ready to perform at their highest level. Spiritually we cannot just show up. We need to train faithfully to be ready to be used by God in the heat of battle.

                Practicing the spiritual disciplines is not easy, but it is rewarding. If we want to make a difference in our world for Christ, then we need to train for battle.

Hebrews 12:11
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


Psalm 46:10
"Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."

                Let’s be honest. At this time of the year, with all of the holiday hype, it is very easy to get distracted and lose our focus on what is important. We can spend too much time preparing for holiday events and not enough time enjoying them when they come. We can get focused on meeting expectations, real or perceived, and miss the experience. We can focus on the stress of the season and miss the meaning of the season. This time of the year highlights how easy it is for us to substitute the urgent for the important in our lives. We face this challenge throughout the year, but at the holidays, it is amplified.

                The Psalmist challenges us to take time to stop, quiet our hearts, and get focused. For all of the debate about the commercialization and secularization of Christmas, this season of the year still makes people think about Jesus. God is exalted in the displays of lights and the music playing over the shopping fray. Many people will miss the message, but for those who will stop long enough to listen, it is still there, loud and clear. Prominently displayed alongside of Santa and his reindeer is the nativity scene. As I drive to and from church each day, I see a simple nativity scene, displayed by a local business. It seems to me that the more some people try to drive Christ out of Christmas, the more they put the focus on Him.

                We can get discouraged about the mission of the church. As we look at our world, we can begin to believe that we are losing the spiritual war. At these times, we need to stop and refocus our minds on the power of Christ to prevail. Paul addressed this when he wrote to his protégé Timothy.
    In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction.  For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. 2 Timothy  4:1-5

                As followers of Christ, we need to take the time to be still and rest in the reality that God is God. He cannot be dethroned, no matter how hard the world tries. The light of Christ may seem dim at times, but it can never be extinguished. In fact, the light of Christ is shining as brightly, or even brighter, than it ever has. For example, our ministry partners at Call Of Love have begun an on-line TV station on YouTube. Their target audience is Arabic speaking people around the world. The station has been available for just over one month, and already they have had hundreds of requests for more information and many people have placed their faith in Christ.

                As we go through the holiday season, let us make the most of every opportunity that God gives to us. Let us enjoy and rejoice in our families. Let us celebrate the greatest gift; a Savior has been born to us! Let us shine the light of Christ brightly into our world.