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The Need to Change

coil of black photo negative film
Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is here; repent and believe in the gospel.” {Mark 1:14-15}

There are unforgettable moments in our lives. Some are like a highlight reel, replaying some of the best days we’ve experienced. Maybe even more visceral, though, are the unforgettably difficult moments. The day you got told, “We’re letting you go.” The argument that destroyed that relationship. The time you let down people close to you. The moment you got caught red handed in sin.

In those times, we feel that life can’t get any worse, that this is the lowest of the lows, and we don’t know how to drag ourselves out of it. Honestly, we don’t even like talking about these memories, and you might be ready to quit reading, but hang with me.

It might just be that God wants us to hit rock bottom. 

More accurately, God wants us to be at a place where we will turn to Him and Him alone.

If we are honest with ourselves, life is extremely difficult, and filled with much more pain than we care to acknowledge. And we bring a good amount of it on ourselves. When Jesus began his earthly ministry, he started by sharing the Good News- “God’s reign is now! The time has finally come!” And then he said it- REPENT. 

Repent means to change your thinking, to redirect. And somehow that’s good news. Well, when we recognize we are on a trajectory for hell (or at least hell on earth), we finally are able to see the need to change. The Good News is that there is a better way, and it is God’s way. 

God is in control. God is King. Because He is our leader, God sent Jesus to conquer all our enemies- sin, death, and the devil. Jesus comes to us in the darkness of regret and shame and guilt. And as the light shines in our darkness, we see ourselves as we really are. We need to change. We need to repent and believe in the hope that comes only from Jesus. 

Do that today. Recognize your need to change. Recognize that you cannot rely on yourself. Admit that you can’t get out of this by your own power. Repent today, and believe in the Good News that Jesus saves! 

Prayer: Dear Jesus, You rescue us from the darkness. Proclaim Your saving grace to us, and help us to experience the freedom that comes from turning to You. In Your name we pray, AMEN.


Living With the Windows Open (Devotion 3)

opened brown wooden window

“That you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as light in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” Philippians 2:15-16

On Monday, I described the first evening when you left the three children alone in the house while you went on a short walk around the block. You came home, hearing them through the open windows. The hope was that they would be happy, washing and drying the dishes and even laughing with each other. Wouldn’t that be great?

Now let’s make it even better. Trust your children so much that you want to share the moment. Come up the walk with your friends. Listen to the kids talking and laughing and your friends are going to hear them also. Don’t hold your breath—just walk home knowing that you’re going to hear happy voices.

That’s Paul in our text. He wants the Philippians to be those children in faith, growing together and serving in such a way that he can be proud of them. Who would be Paul in your life? Who would say as Paul did, “Live in such a way that I may be proud.” I imagine your parents would certainly say that. Maybe your most loved teachers would say it. Your high school coach or that first boss who hired you and gave you a chance. All those and more would say, “Live so that I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” This is something we can hear and we then ask God for the strength and direction to live so that all these people have reason to rejoice. It’s all by God’s grace that we run this race of faith and by grace we have both his forgiveness and his power.

Our Heavenly Father, help us to so live together, share our lives and use our talents that those who have gone before us may be thankful for these turns in our lives. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.


Who Do You Want To Be?

silver fishes on green plastic container
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23
Who would you rather be:  Job or the disciples feeding the 5000?  Job is the model of patience.  “The patience of Job” is a common phrase. You have to hand it Job, he endured far more trouble than any of us has likely seen. And his patience, the steady bearing of trouble, is justly famous.
But that image of patience might leave you wanting more. The disciples feeding the 5000 got to do things. That is the model of our theme this week:  kindness.  Kindness is usually seen as active. Kindness is compassion that moves out of the heart and into our hands and feet. Kindness lets us do something about the world we see.
Kindness is Jesus feeding the 5000. Remember how the disciples saw the mammoth crowd of hungry people at the end of the day?  They counted the people, the distance to food and the potential cost. Adding it up, they thought there was nothing to be done. But Jesus said simply, “You give them something to eat.” (Mark 6:37)  Only five loaves and two fish?  Kindness begins with what it has and leaves the multiplying to God.  Kindness is thankful that it has something to do.
Maybe we can think of kindness then as a three step sequence. Compassion first says, “These people are hungry.”  Compassion then steps out with even the little it has, five loaves and two fish.  Finally, compassion brings these small things to God and says, “Lord, you’ll have to multiply these, but I know that is exactly what you do.”
All credit to Job and his patient endurance of trouble. But I think we would rather be the disciples given the chance. Kindness is the chance to bring even the little we have first to God and then on to others.

Our Heavenly Father, we have little in our hands and those around us need so much. Bring us first to you with whatever we have. Then multiply what we have, even though it still looks like only a handful before a crowd. But you make it more, even enough, by your grace. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.


Living With the Windows Open (Devotion 2)

brown open windowpane

“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13

Remember when you were so proud to do a job on your own?  You picked out your own clothes and got dressed. You made your own bed. You made pancakes for the family and even tried to pour the batter into shapes that your mother said she could recognize: “Oh, I see, honey, of course, that looks like a star.”

We were excited to do these jobs because doing them said we were growing up. We wanted to be taken seriously, to be more independent. We wanted to help our parents and to show that we weren’t just children.

Our text today takes some of that same excitement as God says, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” If ever there’s a job to be done, it’s the saving of our eternal lives. If ever there’s a job that should get our full interest, that’s it.  But can we do it? Isn’t working out our salvation way beyond our ability, our time, and all that we might have and promise?

It is, of course, And so Paul has this perfect balance. “Work out your salvation for God is at work in you to will and to work for his good pleasure.” You didn’t really make the pancakes on your own. Mom was there to put out the mix, the right measuring cup, and to get the griddle just the right temperature. I bolted together lots of parts on the farm but it was my dad who always found the nut and washer that I dropped and couldn’t see. So, our heavenly father lets us eagerly work on our salvation, but He is the one in the end who guides us and watches over our steps. He gives us his word and that word creates the faith in us that receives his gifts. We may appear to ourselves to be doing this, but in the end, He is the watchful parent whose protecting arm guides us.  He gives us the energy and the joy that sees our salvation has already been worked out by Him.

Our Heavenly Father, thank you that we can be lively and active in living a life of faith. But remind us that we’re the children and you’re the Father who gives us all we need and guides us each day of faith. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.


When Are We Going to Get There?

concrete road leading to green mountain
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:18-25 (ESV)

I was the kid in the backseat who asked, every 20 miles, When are we going to get there?  We drove 1,000 miles to Long Island, NY, to visit my aunt and uncle.  Do the math.  I asked that question over-and-over for two reasons:  one—the drive was long often tedious; and two—I couldn’t wait to see my aunt and uncle.

When it comes to my earthly journey, I haven’t changed much.  I often ask Jesus, When are we going to get there?  You see, there are times this journey is tedious.  Our culture is becoming more unchristian.  I see the painful results of natural disasters.  We seem to always stand on the edge of war.  My own shortcomings and failures impact me in such a negative way.

St. Paul reminds us that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  Each time I read this passage I find myself longing for the Lord’s return.  But each time I read, But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience, I am reminded that the Lord has more for me to do here.

It’s coming!  The gift of perfect life is coming!  We’re almost there!  But not quite.  While we wait—we work.  We serve the Lord by serving one another…all the while longing to get there.

O Holy Spirit, give me patience that I may stand firm in faith as I await the gift of heaven.  Be with me to give me patience.  Assist me that I may use my God-given gifts as I walk through this life.  Amen.