Friday, December 31, 2021
Monday, December 27, 2021
|(I took this photo in Istanbul. The reflection of the man makes it look like he is eyeing the Turkish delight.)|
To "resolve" means: fixity of purpose, resoluteness. For example: His comments were intended to weaken her resolve but they only served to strengthen it. (From here.)
This week I am printing out these four resolutions, which I resolve to live out. I'll carry them with me. I will pray them, often. I want them to get inside me, and become living and active.
1. I Resolve to inquire of the Lord.
2 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Sea. It is already in Hazazon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). 3 Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4 The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him. (2 Chronicles 20:2-4)
Bring life's dissonance before the Lord. Inquire of God, regarding the chaos and incompleteness. You've tried to figure it out yourself; instead, seek God about this. Not just once in a while, but today, and every day.
Resolve to inquire of God, today and every day.
2. I Resolve that my mouth will not bring destruction.
2 May my vindication come from you;
may your eyes see what is right.
3 Though you probe my heart and examine me at night,
though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin. 4 As for the deeds of men—
by the word of your lips
I have kept myself
from the ways of the violent. (Psalm 17:2-4)
I will keep my mouth shut, unless my words serve to build up others.
I will meet, often and alone, with God. I will abide in Christ. I will dwell in his presence. God will shape and form my heart into Christlikeness. (Gal. 4:19) This Jesus-heart will produce what comes out of the space between my lips.
Resolve that your mouth will not destroy, today and every day.
3. I Resolve not to defile my soul with the enemy's "turkish delight."
7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel... (Daniel 1:7-9)
Daniel refuses to allow King Nebuchadnezzar to redefine his identity. Daniel "resolved"; i.e., Daniel "set upon his heart" not to pollute himself.
When Linda and I were in Istanbul, Turkey, we tasted their famous dessert - called "Turkish delight." Turkish delight will be familiar to fans of C.S. Lewis. In Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Edmund meets the White Witch, who seduces him with a delicious piece of candy called "turkish delight." He eats it, betraying Aslan, and his defiled heart falls under the Witch's dark spell.
Today, resolve not to compromise your allegiance to Jesus as your Lord.
4. I Resolve to know Jesus Christ and him crucified.
1 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)
Learn about Jesus.
Fix on him.
Sum all things up in Jesus.
Resolve to know Christ and him crucified. Today.
The month of January has 31 days.
My devotional book has 31 short entries.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Letter 1 - A Disciple of Jesus Takes Control of Their Schedule
Letter 2 - A Disciple of Jesus Is a Praying Person
Letter 3 - A Disciple of Jesus Learns to Hear the Voice of Jesus
Letter 4 - An Apprentice to Jesus Reads The Book
Letter 5 - A Disciple Is a Servant
Letter 6 - A Follow of Jesus Forgives Others
Letter 7 - Disciples of Jesus Meet on Sunday Mornings
Letter 8 - A Disciple of Jesus Makes Other Disciples
Letter 9 - A Disciple of Jesus Grows to Be Like Jesus
Letter 10 - A Disciple Grows in Discernment
Letter 11 - A Disciple Worships the Lord
Letter 12 - A Disciple Leaves Their Comfort Zone
Letter 13 - A Disciple Grows in Compassion
Letter 14 - A Disciple of Jesus is Interruptible
Letter 15 - A Disciple Is a Living Sacrifice
Letter 16 - A Disciple Exercises in the Spiritual Gymnasium
Letter 17 - A Disciple Experiences Union in Christ
Letter 18 - A Disciple Leaves Everything to Follow Jesus
Letter 19 - A Disciple Follows Jesus as Their Lord
Letter 20 - An Apprentice to Jesus Says “Thank You”
Letter 21 - A Disciple Lives in the Presence of God
Letter 22 - A Disciple Is a Vessel for the Power of God
Letter 23 - A Disciple of Christ Confesses Their Sins
Letter 24 - Disciples of Christ Are Humble
Letter 25 - Disciples of Jesus Love as He Loves
Letter 26 - Disciples of Jesus Experience Manifestations of the Holy Spirit
Letter 27 - Disciples Have Healthy Boundaries
Letter 28 - Disciples of Jesus Are Authentic
Letter 29 - Disciples of Christ Understand They Are in a Spiritual Battle
Letter 30 - A Disciple Gives to Others
Letter 31 - Disciples of Jesus Finish Well
Sunday, December 26, 2021
Today is December 26.
The day after Christmas is important for all who follow Jesus.
Linda and I live in the overflow of the birth of Christ. Christ is the gift that keeps on taking, and giving.
Today, Christ is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, reconciling us to our Creator.
Today, our sorrow is traded for His joy.
Today, our imprisonment is acquitted on all counts, and His freedom is bestowed.
Today, Christ takes and gives. Today is a day of taking and giving.
The Incarnation is the pivot upon which our lives turn.
Because of Christmas, we will never be the same.
As splendid as Christmas Day was, today is better. The long winter waiting has ended. The long-expected Messiah has come.
Today, He is wonderful.
Today, He is counselor.
Today, he is Mighty God.
Today, He is everlasting Father.
Today, He is Prince of Peace.
Decades ago, Linda and I met Him. And everything in our lives changed. Christmas, the day of endless taking and giving, began, in us. Christmas, with all its transcendent realities, was born.
The worship of Christ.
It's December 26. The real celebration goes on in the hearts of all who have been found by Him.
Saturday, December 25, 2021
In the first "Creed" movie there is a scene where the old boxer Rocky Balboa is training Apollo Creed's son Adonis in the gym. They are looking into a mirror (2:25 in the clip above). Rocky points to the young boxer and says,
"See this guy here? That's the toughest opponent you're ever going to have to face. I believe that's true in the ring, and I believe that's true in life."
It's not a stretch to say that my toughest battles happen in my own mind. Francis Frangipane called the human mind one of the "three battlegrounds." The apostle Paul knew about this. He instructed us to "take every thought captive," because if we don't, our thoughts will capture us.
Neil Anderson writes of this inner battle in The Bondage Breaker. Steve Backlund shows us how to do battle against false thinking with his declarations.
A few years ago KoЯn's guitarist Brian Welch wrote an autobiography called Save Me From Myself. That was the best book I read that year, echoing a prayer I've brought before God for four decades.
When I was in seminary I was introduced to psychologist Albert Ellis's Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. The goal of REBT is to change irrational beliefs to more rational ones. Ellis's work was about the power of words and thoughts to affect feelings and behaviors. The transformative power of language was at the heart of my doctoral dissertation on metaphor theory.
Today, we have Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. "CBT aims to help people become aware of when they make negative interpretations, and of behavioral patterns which reinforce the distorted thinking. Cognitive therapy helps people to develop alternative ways of thinking and behaving which aims to reduce their psychological distress."
Jesus comes to save me from my psychological distress. Thomas Merton writes:
God, "save me from myself. Save me from my own, private, poisonous urge to change everything, to act without reason, to move for movement’s sake, to unsettle everything You have ordained. Let me rest in Your will and be silent. Then the light of Your joy will warm my life. Its fire will burn in my heart and shine for your glory. This is what I live for." (Merton, A Book of Hours)
This is core to "working out my salvation with fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12) I need to be rescued and redeemed and freed from my own self every day.
It's Christmas Day. The Son of God came in human form to save us from self-inflicted psychological distress. That's why the angel told Joseph to name the baby "Jesus."
Friday, December 24, 2021
This is why C.S. Lewis referred to the birth of Christ as an act of war. Christmas, said Lewis, is about "The Great Invasion." In chapter 7 of Mere Christianity he writes:
"One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe--a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin...
Christianity agrees that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.
Enemy-occupied territory--that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage."
Christmas Eve was the night before the Great Invasion. The creatures were stirring, even the mouse. We see this upheaval in the non-happy-holiday telling of Christmas found in Revelation 12:1-7. It reads:
A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.
And there was war in heaven.
Robert Mounce says that:
- The "woman" here is not Mary, but the messianic community, the "ideal Israel"
- Out of the messianic community is born a "child," a Messiah;
- The seven-headed red dragon is Satan (Rev. 12:9; 20:2); and
- Satan is looking to devour this child; AKA Jesus the Christ.
...the old man "Simeon took him [baby Jesus] in his arms and praised God, saying: "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."
All's not calm
All's not bright
Thursday, December 23, 2021
|(Bolles Harbor, Monroe)|
"Of course," he added, "I forgot to put in my hearing aid, and didn't hear a word you said."
He was smiling as he told me this. I smiled and thanked him for the compliment.
First, your heart.
Tuesday, December 21, 2021
This is an experiment in disciple-making.
My new book is a 31-day devotional on discipleship. I invite you to do this with your church family in the month of January, or in the month of March.
- Purchase my book. ($2.99 for Kindle; $4.99 for paperback)
- Read one entry per day, in January, or in March. Take notes. When God speaks to you, write it down.
- Pastors - focus your sermons in on discipleship and disciple-making.
- Finally, join me on a Zoom call (free) to do an afterglow on the theme of discipleship.