Dec 18 – Made New

This time of year seems to invite people to consider where they are spiritually.  There is more quiet time than usual (or maybe the quiet just seems louder because everyone gets so busy) and that quiet sometimes gets us to thinking.  What does it mean to invite God to be a part of my life?  Is that something I’m ready to do?  What might change about my life if I did that?  Lots of questions come to our minds.  Paul, the guy who wrote today’s scripture was praying for some specific things for people as they began their relationship with God.  One thing Paul alludes to that really can change our lives when we ask God to be a part of them is the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is part of God.  It is His unseen presence in our lives that allows for God to speak to us in ways we don’t understand and His power in us that can change our lives for the better.

The other thing Paul prays for is that we would be able to grasp the vastness of God’s love and that we would be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”  That is one intense request!  He prays that we might do this by being “rooted and established in love.”  What do you think that means?  I’m not even too sure but here’s how I think of it – Think about a plant.  If you pour water into the soil where its roots are, what’s going to flow throughout the plant?  Water.  If you put soda into the soil instead, what is (presumably) going to flow through the plant?  Soda.  So…if we are rooted in love, what is going to flow through our lives?  Love.  When that is our foundation, it affects every part of us.  What else do roots do?  They hold the plant in place.  When the plant has been “established” – been planted long enough for it to have a chance to grow – the roots keep the plant from moving around too much and from collapsing.  And so it is with us…

Have you been rooted and established in love?  What would it look like in your life if you started planting those roots now?  In this Christmas season, I encourage you to spend some time thinking about where you are in your relationship with God.  Consider taking another step closer to Him and allowing Him to be an even greater part of your life.  Spend a little more time with Him and start giving Him control over some of the things in your life.  Then you really will begin to see the power of God living inside of you…

Dec 17 – No Doubt

All right.  I’m going to ask a lot of you today – if you would, read 1 Corinthians 12.  Go ahead.  Read all of it.  It’s not THAT long.  🙂

The heart of the matter as I see it is found in verse 27 which says “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”  It sounds so brilliantly simple – God has blessed each one of us with different gifts and we are meant to use those gifts together.  What’s so hard about that?  Here’s my struggle with that whole thing – I fully admit my weaknesses in the body of the Church (all the believers everywhere together) but I don’t admit it within my own ministry.  Let’s look at an example –

Let’s say that someone is born and raised as an athlete.  Eventually, they find out that they are much better at football than baseball so they let go of playing baseball and concentrate on playing football – the thing they are really gifted in.  But what if that person, now designated a “football player” expected himself to be good at every single position on the team?  He played quarterback and did it well but then thought that he should be able to stay on the field as a defensive lineman and then stay on the field as a kicker and then trade off with someone to be a running back – and then he got mad at himself when he wasn’t good at everything.

That’s what I did.  I expected myself to single-handedly meet every need the youth group had.  I had the title “youth director” and I thought that meant I was supposed to do it all.  But no.  I am one part of the body.  Still.  Even in a specific field of ministry.  I am Keri and Keri has strengths and weaknesses that work with other people to accomplish goals for the kingdom of God.  My strengths will help build weaker people up and my weaknesses need support and supplementing from other people’s strengths.  Just like always.

(I want to offer a caution in this as well – Often, when I discover a weakness, I will acknowledge it and then assume that God wants me to just trust Him to provide.  Sometimes, that is the case and I will be the first person to point out that God LOVES using our areas of weakness to show His strength.  That being said, however, my recent discovery was realizing that I expected God to provide to the exclusion of wisely asking others for help.  Try not to make my mistake.) 

What about you?  What are your gifts?  What are your weaknesses?  In what areas do you expect too much of yourself unfairly?  Where in your life do you see people filling in the gaps for your weaknesses – and where do you see your strengths helping other people as well?

Interdependence is so much harder than we think.  Praise God we are created to work together.

When It’s Tempting to Numb

December 14, 2007

Dec 14 – Retail Therapy

When someone hurts us or something in life happens that’s painful, it is so tempting to numb it.  Some people drink alcohol, some people eat chocolate, some people dance, or run away, or buy things – or if you’re me, you go to sleep.  What stinks about all of those things is that none of them actually help the situation.  They just postpone what we’re feeling.  We take the easy way out because trying to forget or replace our feelings is certainly easier than actually experiencing and working through the difficult emotions.

Pain (obviously) hurts but in order to experience the full measure of joy, we have to experience some pain.  I’ll stick with the question DevoZine asks – where do you look for happiness?  If it’s in any of the things I mentioned above or if it’s in any earthly relationship, it’s not going to cut it.  If you’re fighting through something hard right now, like so many people are at Christmas time, I’m sorry.  Know, though, that you are not alone.  I hope that you will find an outlet – talking, writing, drawing, painting – and really acknowledge what you’re feeling.  And then I encourage you to look to God to be the source of your joy.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  – Matthew 6:19-21

The things we try to fill our lives with will fade away in time, but eternal things are just that – eternal.  They last forever.  Instead of numbing yourself with things that will fade or hiding behind quick fixes for your emotions, give your time and energy to the God who has always been and who will always be.  Store up treasures for yourself in heaven by building up your relationship with Him instead of your relationship with your television.

“The joy of the Lord is my strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10

Does It Really Matter?

December 13, 2007

Finally.  Finally finally FINALLY, the DevoZines for November/December arrived!  Woohoo!  I’m starting on the entry for today, December 13th.

Dec 13 – What Really Matters?

It’s a sobering thought to me that so much of what I spend my time thinking about and worrying about and wanting will not matter at the end of my life.

The verse for today is a great one.  Mark 8:36 from the Message says this: “What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?  What could you ever trade your soul for?”  Solomon experienced this very thing because he did get everything he wanted.  Check out Ecclesiastes 2:4-11.  It’s pretty crazy.  He has everything he could want at his fingertips and then says that it’s all meaningless.

This Christmas season, I’ve been trying to think outside myself a little bit more.  I’ve been working on letting go of some of the things I wanted and instead help provide for some people’s needs.  Because those people WILL matter in 10 years and they will matter at the end of my life, even if I don’t see them ever again or ever at all.

Regardless of your age, what matters to you now?  What mattered to you 5 years ago?  What will matter in 10 years?  And if it won’t matter to you at the end of your life, is it really worth spending time and energy on?  That’s a hard one.

Lord, help me to spend my life thinking about things that concern You.  Help me to pursue You first and always, the one thing I know matters at my life’s end. 

God With Us

December 11, 2007

Dec 11 – Isaiah 7:14

 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 

I have mentioned before that I believe familiarity to be a dangerous thing.  It destroys the sense of wonder and awe that can be found in so many things.  This verse is one of those familiar things to me.  I have heard it so many times but one things stands out as amazing this season – “Immanuel.”That one word changed everything.  Immanuel means “God with us.”  Imagine the perspective of the Israelites.  They had this unbelievably powerful and other-worldly perception of God – He had parted the Red Sea for them, shown up as a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire, kept them alive through miracle food for 40 years in the desert, and given them strict laws of sacrifice that would still honor His holiness – to disobey could mean death.  And THAT God would be with them???Yes, THAT God.  The God who created man and woman.  Born to a virgin.  The God who shaped mountains and spoke oceans into existence.  Spent His first night in a small-town feeding trough.  If I try even for a minute to remove the familiarity, the story sounds stranger and stranger.  But that God wanted to be WITH US, and not only to be with us, but to be LIKE US.  Why?…With Jesus, God unleashed the power of His presence into the world.  May we live knowing that His presence is with us still. 

Resurrection Living

December 7, 2007

Dec 7 – John 11:25

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies…”

Another “I am” statement.  I AM the resurrection.

Resurrection.  I’m going to be honest with you – there is so much power in that word, but I do not even begin to understand it.  I know that somehow “resurrection” means hope for me and hope for this world of ours.  I know that somehow, it speaks of a loving God who exists above and beyond death and who gives us the opportunity to experience part of his nature in that way.

“He who believes in me will live, even though he dies…”  What if it’s true that we don’t live until we die?  Not in the literal sense (though I think that may be true as well) but in the figurative sense.  Until I am willing to give up the things I want in order to pursue the things of God, I haven’t lived.  Maybe people from other religions who try so hard to live without wanting anything, who push away their senses to attain some different level of reality – I think maybe they missed the point.  The point of our lives is not be devoid of emotion or of desire but to surrender both of those things to God.  2 Corthinthians 5:17 says that “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.”  New emotions, new desires come!  THAT is the abundant life Jesus talks about.

What better “alternate reality” to live in than a world where we experience only the things of God.  Our desires die, not in a way that removes our humanity but in such a way that what we want is replaced with stronger and purer desires of the One who created us.  That is when we begin to experience life – once we have put aside the desires we are born with that we can often sense are not of God and allow them to be upstaged by the glorious passion of a Father and a risen Savior who wants to live in and through us.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20

Don’t Lead – Follow!

December 4, 2007

Dec 4 – John 8:12 

 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Here’s another one of those “I am” statements from Jesus.  He makes a bunch of them, all of them pointing toward His identity as God since “I AM” is the name God gives Himself in the Old Testament (see Exodus 3:13-14).  They tell us a lot and very little at the same time.

Something stood out to me in this verse that I hadn’t noticed/thought about before.  Imagine yourself walking along a dark path with Jesus.  We’re talking DARK here, so much so that you can barely see to take your next step.  Where would you want your light to come from?  If it came from behind you, you would block your own line of sight.  YOU would get in the way of the light you so desperately need to see.  But, if it came from in front of you, you could easily see to walk.  Light radiates out.  And since Jesus Himself IS the light, He won’t block the light at all like He would if He were one of us carrying a flashlight.  Jesus doesn’t say that whoever walks with Him will not walk in darkness.  He doesn’t say that those who walk in front of Him will not walk in darkness.  He says the ones who will be able to see are those who follow Him.

Following is a difficult thing for a lot of people.  We want to be in control.  We want to make decisions.  We want to do things our way and follow our own path.  But Jesus wants us to follow Him, to give up that control we crave so much and instead, trust Him to lead us.

Where is Jesus walking in your life?  Is He in front helping you to see or is He behind you so that you get in the way of His light?  If you want to be able to see in the dark, let Him lead you just like He has always wanted to do. 

Jesus is like food…

December 3, 2007

Dec 3 – John 6:35

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Ok – quick background.  The day before Jesus enters into this conversation, He fed 5000 men (not including women and children) until they were full with baskets of extras leftover, all using only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.  He left the crowd but needless to say, after being fed like that, they went looking for Him.  (Shoot – free food?  and free food that just appears from almost nothing?  I’d be looking for Him too!)  But Jesus flips the perspective a little bit…

If you were to think of the most basic things you need in life to live, I’m willing to bet that food and water would be pretty darn close to the top.  It doesn’t get much more simple than that, does it?  You would say that those were the things you most needed and probably the things you would work the hardest to get if you had to.  But Jesus says that HE is the bread of life and that it’s with HIM that you won’t be thirsty again.

Spiritual food, spiritual drink – these are the things our soul craves that we may not even recognize until we encounter Jesus.  Think about how you feel when you’re really hungry.  Initially, your mind wants food and your body wants food and you’re trying to figure out how you can shape your life so you can get it.  If you wait too long past that initial hunger attack though, I find that the hunger passes.  I don’t think about being hungry anymore.  Does that happen to you?  But then, once you’re so hungry that you’re not hungry anymore (haha), when you actually get to eat, you devour it.  Your hunger returns and you can’t get enough.

That’s how it is with God.  When we encounter Him initially, it fills us and sustains us.  Then, if we go awhile without talking to Him, experiencing Him, spending time with Him, etc. we may crave it so badly…but eventually, that hunger passes if we wait too long.  We don’t crave God’s word anymore – we don’t crave Jesus and we might even forget about Him for quite awhile.  But then, somewhere, somehow, Jesus shows up again.  Maybe He gives us just a small bite of His words or shows just a glimpse of His love but when that happens, we try to get all we can because we remember just how empty we felt before He came along.

As we move into this busy Christmas season, allow Jesus to be the bread of life that fills and sustains you.  Experience Him slowly and steadily so that you will neither famine nor fill yourselves so full that you do not have time to digest. 

Even If He Does Not…

November 29, 2007

Nov 29 – Psalm 136:1,26

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.

Are we noticing a thankfulness theme here in the Bible Gateway verses of the day?  Yes, I think so.  But that’s good.  It’s certainly worth remembering  🙂

Looking at the Shane and Shane journal on their website (which is an AMAZING piece of computer graphics if you ask me – check it out: www.shaneandshane.com), I was reminded of a particularly powerful verse in the book of Daniel.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are standing in front of King Nebuchadnezzar.  At this exact time, they are charged with the federal crime of not bowing down to the statue Nebuchadnezzar made of himself, and they are threatened with being thrown into a furnace.  This is what they say to the king in Daniel 3:17-18 –

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. [emphasis mine]

Did you catch that?  Those are some crazy significant words – “even if He does not.”  Our God is able to save us but even if he does not, we will not dishonor him.  We believe God is going to protect us, but even if he does not, even if we die, we will obey the things he has commanded us.  

What brought this verse to mind is the first line from today’s scripture – “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.”  I think, as humans, we so often judge the goodness of God based on our own standards of what we think is good.  We think of God as being good if a child is born healthy – but what if she isn’t?  We think of God being good if He allows an injured friend to live – but what if he doesn’t?  Will we still obey Him?  Will we still thank Him?

Praise God for the examples of faith and obedience He has given us in His word.  I pray that I can live my life to glorify God with an “even if He does not” mindset and thank Him even when my human eyes can’t quite see His goodness. 

When Thanks Makes God Known

November 28, 2007

Nov 28 – 1 Chronicles 16:8

Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.

You know what struck me about this verse when I first read it?  Oftentimes in the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament), poets and other authors will repeat themselves as a way of strengthening the meaning in their words.  This kind of writing is all over Psalms.  For example, Psalm 3:1 says “O LORD, how many are my foes!  How many rise up against me!”  That’s saying the same thing, right?  Ok.  So keep that mindset and read today’s verse again, making a mental break at the semicolon.  What if the first part of the verse means the same thing as the second part of the verse?

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name” = “Make known among the nations what he has done.”

It gives a different perspective, doesn’t it?  One of my favorite authors, Brennan Manning, points out that the defining characteristic of a person who genuinely trusts God is an attitude of thankfulness in all things.  This makes sense to me because if you can thank God for your circumstances even in the most difficult times, then you are trusting God – He is in control with His best for all of us in mind.  So if we have that kind of gratitude when other people around us don’t, it becomes a testimony to the strength and goodness we find in our God.  Now, of course, it is another matter entirely to develop the kind of trust that can be thankful in all circumstances…but that takes a lifetime so we’ll save it for another day.  🙂

How do you make God known among the nations?  Perhaps being thankful is one way you’ve never thought of.  I know I hadn’t.  Think about the ways your thankfulness might open a door for others to be introduced to God.  And then try to live that way.