Posted in advent, Advent devotions, Devotions

2020 Advent devotion: Been there done that

“Live and in person” Advent devotion for December 9, 2020. Read Hebrews 4:14-16 and Psalm 51.

The author of Hebrews writes, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

In other words, “Been there. Done that.”

One of the amazing things about Jesus is that He was here, live and in person. He knows what it’s like to be loved and hated, adored and persecuted, welcomed and rejected, praised and damned, nurtured and killed. No matter what we are going through, He’s been there. He’s experienced it. He knows exactly what you are going through. He gets it. He understands.

Like a CEO who was hired for the mailroom, or an officer who started out as a private, or a concert-master violinist who played last chair third violin for years, Jesus knows exactly what it’s like to be born, grow up, be hated and die on planet earth. When we pray, we are never talking to an entity who is removed from reality. He was here, live and in person.

Are you a doctor or nurse? He was a healer. Are you a teacher? He taught so many. Are you a chef? He knows how to feed a crowd. Are you a leader? He was a king. Are you a scientist? He not only knows how the universe works, He created it! He knows how to fish, make wine, climb a mountain, ride a donkey and work with wood.

It makes such a difference to talk to someone who did the same kind of work you did. They know the lingo. They understand the disappointments. They appreciate the successes. They’ve learned from the mistakes. They have sound advice.

Jesus was born. He lived. He died. He gets it. He was here. And that leads to some great conversations that we call prayer. When you ask, “What do I say?” “What do I do?” “How do I deal with this?” He has an answer. After all, He’s been there and done it.

More importantly, He knows about temptation. He’s felt the pressure. He’s heard the lies. He’s struggled with His fears. He knows how hard it is to pray, “Not my will but Your’s be done.”

Do you know what the best part of this reality is? When we come to Him, we receive mercy and grace when we need it. No condemnation, no “You should have known better,” or “Too bad!” At the feet of our high priest, at the foot of the cross, we encounter our biggest cheerleader. We find grace, strength, and encouragement to be like Him, for He has been there and done that!

Lord, thanks for understanding. It’s hard. It’s hard to resist temptation. It’s hard to obey. It’s so hard to stay on the path. Thank you for the mercy and grace I need right now – as well as every day. Amen.

Posted in advent, Devotions, writing

What I learned writing Advent devotions

This past season of Advent, I wrote daily devotions which I sent to anyone interested in receiving them. I had about twenty-five folks subscribe, so I was committed to twenty-four devotions, beginning December 1. I chose a selection of bible passages that mentioned darkness and light as the calendar moved us slowly but surely to the winter solstice. The increasing darkness each day was a perfect backdrop for the coming of light, fuel for both physical and spiritual insights. Here are a few things I learned writing this collection of devotions.

  • From the beginning to the end, there are a lot of verses in the bible that mention dark and light. While darkness is used to describe sin, wickedness and death, light brings hope, righteousness and life.
  • Writing daily devotions is hard work. Especially when you’re working from a theme. (I wrote devotions last Lent, too, but used two chapters of a gospel.) Even though each was only three- to five-hundred words, I often struggled to find meaning or application for the passages. This is actually a good thing. It made me stop and think, dig a little deeper, and find personal application. Each one had an important lesson for me.
  • I didn’t get much feedback. Maybe that’s a good thing. My writing could probably use some work. Anyway, you never know who is or who isn’t reading your work. Apart from a few, “I’m really enjoying your devotions,” I didn’t get many comments at all.
  • When you are writing every day, you develop a rhythm. You get into a groove. The more you write, the easier it is to write. I am sure the daily routine improved my writing. It is a good discipline to commit to.
  • I think I wrote more for myself than for others. I wanted to show myself that I could do it. I felt the need to create rather than just consume ideas and insights.

I’m not sure if I’ll do this again. I felt like I could only write once a day, so I put my blog on hold. It took time, maybe ninety minutes or so every day. That’s a lot of time to devote.

But I probably will.

Posted in Devotions, writing

Five things I learned writing daily Lent devotions

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Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

A week before Ash Wednesday (February 14 this year), I cast a line via my weekly email into the congregation announcing that I would be writing daily devotions on Mark’s version of the passion of our Lord during the forty-six days of Lent (I included the Sundays). About twenty replied and received a daily early-morning email devotion. This was a new project for me, and here’s what I learned from the experience. Continue reading “Five things I learned writing daily Lent devotions”

Posted in Devotions, Life

Wait for it – Matthew 1:24-25

“When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus” (Matt. 1:24-25).

If anyone ever underestimates Joseph's part in the story of Christ's birth, they just need to read these two verses. Some honeymoon, huh? I know, I should be a little more reverent, but the whole idea of getting married is so that you can “know” your wife (and I know you know what that means!). Obedient, patient, self-controlled — if you ask me, Joseph is one heck of a husband!

Continue reading “Wait for it – Matthew 1:24-25”

Posted in Devotions

Matthew 1:22-23 Fulfillment and a sign

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I find it very interesting that Matthew draws on so much Old Testament prophecy to tell the story. Here, he quotes Isaiah 7:14 and links it to Jesus’ birth. I can’t imagine anyone at the time of Isaiah had the slightest clue what these words would later mean.

Continue reading “Matthew 1:22-23 Fulfillment and a sign”

Posted in Devotions

Matthew 1:20-21 A name

sleeping“…behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21). 

As an angel unveils what God has done, Joseph discovers he’s right in the middle of it. God’s plan includes him. He is to marry Mary, name her son and be his father. Just a few moments before, Joseph was ready to walk away. Not so fast, Joseph! You’ve got an important role. You’re the connection with David. You’ve got a wife to take care of. You get to name the Savior. Continue reading “Matthew 1:20-21 A name”

Posted in Devotions

Matther 1:18-21 Doing the right thing

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins'”(Matthew 1:18-21).

Here are a couple of people who are just trying to do the right thing. They plan to get married, have children, start their life together. God shows up and upsets their plans. (After all, his plans aren’t our plans and his ways aren’t our ways.) So, Joseph tries to do the right thing with a quiet divorce, adhering to the law while sparing his fiancee some very severe consequences. But then Joseph learns in a dream that the right thing is indeed marriage, children and a life with Mary. He received the assurance, “It’s OK. And it’s going to be OK.” Continue reading “Matther 1:18-21 Doing the right thing”

Posted in Devotions

Matthew 1:17 Fourteen?

“So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations” (Matthew 1:17).

Lot of numbers in the Bible have significance: six days of creation, twelve disciples, forty days and nights of rain. But what about fourteen? Why does Matthew make us notice the three sets of generations in the ancestry of Jesus Christ? Actually, Matthew skips a few names so that it will fit this pattern. Why? Continue reading “Matthew 1:17 Fourteen?”