Category Archives: Devotional

Quotable re: work

Said in my sermon on Sunday…

“If your work is not your passion, your satisfaction will not be in completing your work but in escaping your work. What a tragic way to spend your life. Do what you are passionate about, or change jobs.”

“I don’t work to pay the mortgage, I work to fulfill my purpose.”

Click here to watch the whole sermon.

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Invisible Armies: The Military Mission of Christmas, Part 2

The message of the angel is “good news of great joy.” It is important to put this phrase into biblical context. The angel starts out by saying: “Fear not.” He tells them this for two reasons: first, his appearance is frightening and startling; second, in a greater sense he is speaking to generations of us who because of the sentence of death, live in fear. Is there any human alive who has not at some point thought of their own death, and fearfully pushed it aside. The older you get, every pain, new itch, discoloration or twitch becomes a Fred Sanford moment. “It’s the big one, Elizabeth.”

The message to the angels is a universal message of the gospel, not a message about temporal anxiety, the fears of life that God can help us cope with and overcome. It is about the certainty of the military campaign he wages in the coming of Christ, but won in the bowels of eternity past.

The good news is not…
sale at Walmart
You got the job!
Gas prices drop!
The boys are coming home from Iraq!

Fear not, the good news is… Continue reading Invisible Armies: The Military Mission of Christmas, Part 2

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Invisible Armies: The Military Mission of Christmas

The Christmas story as recorded in Luke includes the following:

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:13-14, KJV).

Our tendency at Christmas is to focus on the “niceness” of the event. And our Christmas celebration is “nice.” The verse above needs some adjusting to accurately reflect the Greek text underneath this English translation. We have traditionally “kept” the language of Luke 2:13-14 and other passages archaic, even though the result is misunderstanding or unnecessary clouding of the original meaning.

A more appropriate translation would be: Continue reading Invisible Armies: The Military Mission of Christmas

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Batter My Heart

Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

-John Donne

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Disturb us, Lord

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves,
when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little,
when we arrive safely because we have sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly to venture on wider seas
where storms will show your mastery; where losing sight of land,
we shall find the stars. We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes;
and to push in the future in strength, courage, hope and love.

-Sir Francis Drake

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Isaac Watts: Hymn 8

Another post stolen from my sister Ellen

Hello all you busy people,

Here is an Isaac Watts (1674-1748) hymn to start your day…

Hymn 8, C.M.

Hosannah, with a cheerful sound,
To God’s upholding hand;
Ten thousand snares attend us round,
And yet secure we stand.

That was a most amazing power
That raised us with a word,
And every day and every hour
We lean upon the Lord.

The evening rests our weary head,
And angels guard the room
We wake, and we admire the bed
That was not made our tomb.

The rising morning can’t assure
That we shall end the day;
For death stands ready at the door
To seize our lives away.

Our breath is forfeited by sin
To God’s avenging law;
We own thy grace, immortal King,
In every gasp we draw.

God is our sun, whose daily light
Our joy and safety brings;’
Our feeble flesh lies safe at night
Beneath his shady wings.

From “The Psalms & Hymns of Isaac Watts. Hymns and Spiritual Songs. Book II: Composed on Divine Subjects..

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Henry Vaughan: Christ's Nativity

My sister Ellen sends me wonderful stuff from all over the place…

From the pen of Henry Vaughan (1621-95). Hope you can work through this classical piece and “awake” to the glory of our God and Savior!

Christ’s Nativity

AWAKE, glad heart! Get up, and sing!
It is the birthday of thy King.
Awake! Awake!
The sun doth shake
Light from his locks, and all the way
Breathing perfumes, doth spice the day.

Awake, awake! hark how th’ wood rings
Winds whisper, and the busy springs
A consort make;
Awake! awake!
Man is their high-priest, and should rise
To offer up the sacrifice.

I would I were some bird, or star,
Flutt’ring in woods, or lifted far
Above this inn
And road of sin!
Then either star, or bird, should be
Shining, or singing still, to Thee.

I would I had in my best part
Fit rooms for Thee! or that my heart
Were so clean as
Thy manger was!
But I am all filth, and obscene;
Yet if Thou wilt, Thou canst make clean.

Sweet Jesu! will then; let no more
This leper haunt, and soil thy door!
Cure him, ease him,
or release him!
And let once more, by mystic birth,
The Lord of life be borne in Earth.

II.

How kind is Heav’n to man! If here
One sinner doth amend,
Straight there is joy, and ev’ry sphere
In music doth contend;
And shall we then no voices lift?
Are mercy, and salvation
Not worth our thanks? Is life a gift
Of no more acceptation?
Shall He that did come down from thence,
And here for us was slain,
Shall He be now cast off? no sense
Of all His woes remain?

Can neither love, nor suff’rings bind?
Are we all stone, and earth?
Neither His bloody passions mind,
Nor one day bless His birth?
Alas, my God! Thy birth now here
Must not be number’d in the year.

– Henry Vaughan

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This is Who I Am

“This is who I am”

I hear this all the time. Often times it is an excuse for poor behavior.

“I can’t help it, this is just who I am …”

We are all stuck with “who we are.” And we have varied ways of dealing with this problem. Some of us deal with it in “healthy” ways. We have learned to cope, adjust, focus on our strengths and compensate for our weaknesses. We have followed the rules, applied ourselves, become moderately or adequately successful.

Others of us have dealt with it in unhealthy ways. We have anesthetized who we are with a distraction, – any entertainment that provokes pleased interest and distracts you from worries and vexations, in other words losing ourselves in the oblivion of a bottle or drug, entertainment, sex. We have found diversions that distract us from our ego.

Our culture has addressed this issue by classifying and categorizing. So, we either have a healthy self-esteem or we are lacking in self-esteem. We are either functional or dysfunctional.

The Bible addresses these issues with the gospel.

You are stuck with who you are.
You are stuck with your heritage and upbringing – your history.
You are limited in your capacity to change.
Your “health” is not good enough.

The Bible addresses both groups.

There are a myriad of stories of people who don’t do well – who stumble and fall – most recently politician Mark Foley and pastor Ted Haggard. The two extremes (healthy and unhealthy, functional and dysfunctional) have a certain kind of rejoicing over this public display of sin.

The dysfunctional breath a sigh of relief and say -“ there are people worse than me. At least I didn’t’t get up and pretend to be good. And off they continue in their life of futility saying, “this is who I am, I can’t do anything different, so I might as well enjoy my misery…”

The functional worry about the right response, the balance of strong moralizing coupled with appropriate finger wagging. All the while rejoicing that we have been successful at maintaining our own helpless facade, knowing that we are no better, but feeling that we have made an appropriate effort to “be good” ultimately leading to the judgmentalism we bristled at in the first place with regards to politicians and pastors.

The gospel addresses both groups.

You are not good, you never will be apart from God.
The depth of your disease is not beyond the scope and power of the cross.
The height of your health is not accomplished enough to match the cross, but that is OK, grace is given, not earned.

Some of us are hiding in our sin.
Some of us are hiding our sin.

We are both needy.

When you get this…Ted Haggard, Mark Foley, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, Bill Clinton, OJ Simpson, Steve Bagdanov…none of their short-comings surprises you, nor horrifies you. You understand and respond not with the glee of misery-company or piling-on-relief, rather you marvel at the depth of the destructive power of sin in light of the tremendous healing and transforming power of the gospel.

It is the human condition that is addressed in the gospel. The gospel are the words of life that transform us into the image and likeness of Christ. You are not left to your own devices and strategies and strengths to bring about change in your life – it won’t get you far enough. We have been given grace that forgives and changes. So surrender.

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