Devotion to Christ

The following is an entry from my journal a couple of years ago. I came across it today and wanted to pass along this reminder of what is most important.

It always amazes me how little I’ve studied 2 Corinthians, yet how full it is of some of the most foundational truths. Whenever I read this book (not often enough) I’m struck with surprise when I get to familiar verses that I’ve heard my whole Christian life but forgot they were here. Today’s jewel:

“But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 11:3

Normally I focus on the second half of that verse. It’s a great statement of our #1 priority: simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

But today I’m aware of the first half. There is a war going on. And according to this passage the war is not just there to get us to fall into sexual temptation or conflicts with each other (although there is a battle in those areas as well). The enemy wants to lead our minds astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

What does this mean? If he wants to lead us away from simplicity of devotion I suppose he will try to complicate things. How do you fight simplicity? Make it elaborate. Confusing. Get our heads spinning. Get us thinking about all sorts of things besides Jesus.

What about war on purity of devotion? Devotion gets corrupted. Perhaps I get too enthralled with things near Jesus and I miss Jesus. Maybe the accusations come so that I feel dirty when approaching Him, forgetting that I am holy in His eyes.

And all this because the enemy would attack not just my devotion to Christ but the quality of my devotion to Christ. Why? Because my devotion to Christ is foundational to everything else in the Christian life. If he can get to the root he can affect all the growth from there.

God, help me take the most important things seriously. Help me to fix my eyes on Jesus and not look away. Help me to not be distracted by lesser things. Let my devotion to Christ be simple and pure.

Well Done

I’ve been thinking lately about the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30, specifically verse 21 where the master says to the slave, “Well done, good and faithful servant … enter into the joy of your master.”

Most of us who have been believers for awhile long to hear Jesus speak those words to us:  “Well done, good and faithful servant … enter into the joy of your Master.”  Although there are no tears in heaven, I have trouble imagining hearing those words and not welling up.  To know that He sees us, and that our actions have influenced eternity and brought pleasure to Him … is there anything more satisfying?

But I’m rethinking that scene in heaven just a bit.  Oh, I still believe that God wants us to be good stewards of what He’s given us, and I believe that He will reward those who follow Him faithfully.  But I’ve also been thinking about the reality of heaven.  And I wonder …

… when my eyes are open to see an explosion of colors that I had never imagined before, and I am in view of the throne that is surrounded by a rainbow like an emerald in appearance, and I am faced with creatures unlike any I ever encountered on earth, and

… when the silence of death gives way to the sounds and peals of thunder at the throne of God, and I hear elders, living creatures, and myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands of angels saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing,” and

… when I see that the response of all who have been in the presence of the Mighty One before me is to fall on their faces in extravagant and passionate worship, and

… when my mind is opened to understand life’s mysteries, and I see how many times I was protected from calamity, how my “good days” were divine shielding from the raging forces of hell, how what I thought were unanswered prayers were actually the most merciful blessings of God, and how God intricately wove His plan for my life among the threads of billions of others whom He loved uniquely and fervently, and

… when my heart feels it will burst with gratitude, awe, and wonder because of the selfless love of the One who rescued me so that I could have eternal life,

I wonder,

… what will I say?

… will I be waiting for words of affirmation from my Master?

I think it is possible, instead, that I will follow the example of the elders, the creatures, and the myriads of myriads of people, and I will fall on my face.  And when I see the intricacies of His plan, after I have shouted “Holy!” and “Worthy!”, perhaps I will look at my Savior, as wondrous praise erupts from my heart, and say,

 

… “Well done, Jesus!  Well done, You faithful servant of the Most High God!”

 

And I will gladly take my place among the heavenly throng and offer Father, Son, and Holy Spirit my wholehearted devotion for all eternity.

 

“He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” – Mark 7:37

 

One Word

“What’s your word for the year?”  I have a number of friends who, instead of making New Year’s resolutions, faithfully choose one word to characterize their year.   Perhaps the word is something true about them that they want to be reminded of, like “chosen” or “clean”.  Maybe the word is an area they would like to grow in, such as “forgiveness” or “dependability”.   As they go through the year they can see God do work in their lives in that specific area.

I’ve never done this.

I’m not against the idea.  I believe it’s a worthy pursuit.  I just have never had a word captivate me enough to want to focus on it for the whole year.  It could be because I see so many areas of my life that require growth and attention that I can’t narrow it down to one.  Or it could be that I know myself well enough to know that the thing that seems pressing in early January may be long forgotten by May.  Regardless, I’ve never felt compelled to join in the exercise.

Until now.

I was recently reading an article by Ann Voskamp that caught my attention.  (It was reposted by my friend Pamela Haddix on her blog Worship and the Word which you should definitely check out!)  Ann brilliantly presented a word that was so compelling that I am inclined to make it my word for the year.

  • … it’s a word that captivates my attention like no other
  • … it’s a word that reminds me who I am and where I stand in this world
  • … it’s a word that brings attention to where my priorities are and where they should be
  • … it’s a word that causes the chaos in my life to hush
  • … it’s a word that commands attention where it is due
  • … it’s a word that silences storms and moves mountains
  • … it’s a word that makes demons tremble and sends them cowering

I’m not sure how I’ll do having a “word for the year”.  But anything that will keep me coming back to the name of Jesus has got to be worth trying.

Tidewind Holiday Schedule

Wanted you to be aware of some schedule changes as we approach the holidays:

Thursday, November 23: Thanksgiving Day, no Thursday Tidewind

Thursday, November 30: Tidewind Worship and Prayer
9:00 am to noon
6338 Hythe Road, Indianapolis

Friday, December 1: Christmas Worship Circle
7:00 to 9:00 pm
Message me at questions@tidewind.org for location/details

Thursday, December 7: Tidewind Christmas Worship
9:00 – 11:00 am
Message me at questions@tidewind.org for location/details

Friday, December 8: Christmas Worship Circle
7:00 to 9:00 pm
Message me at questions@tidewind.org for location/details

Tuesday, December 12: Worship at the Y
5:00 – 8:00 pm, Fishers YMCA
9012 E 126th St, Fishers

There will be no Thursday Tidewind from December 14 – January 4. We’ll start up Thursdays again at 9am on January 11 at 6338 Hythe Road, Indianapolis.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas!

 

O Holy Child

On Christmas Eve, Andorra and I sang a duet at our church service. I had written the song O Holy Child as I was thinking about the incredible truth that the Jesus in the manger was the same Jesus who went to the cross, rose from the dead, and reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords.  Our friend Elise shared a really encouraging story with us about what God was doing in her life and what the song meant to her.  It all started when she was teaching preschool Sunday school one morning …

“One of the things on their curriculum for the morning was to practice O Come Let Us Adore Him for the kids’ program.  It was pretty quickly apparent that most of them weren’t familiar with (or not that interested in) the song, and when I asked if they knew what it meant to adore someone there were blank stares.

“Then I asked, ‘What do you do if you go to someone’s house to meet a brand new baby for the first time?’  That was something they had authority to speak on, apparently, because everyone launched in with great enthusiasm: ‘We hold the baby!  We snuggle it! We smell the baby! I want to rub its head!  We kiss it and snuggle it…’  So we talked about what we would do if we were in the stable meeting baby Jesus – same kinds of answers, of course, and suddenly adore was a thing in their minds.

“I was undone. I have sung that song and even imagined being at the manger-side for years…always with a fairly formal, distant, serious attitute of worship. Suddenly these children had shown me another (I think better) way.  Snuggle in. Kiss Him.  Smell Him. Hold Him.  Even as He comes and draws near to us in ways most unimaginable.

“So all that has been tumbling through my head and heart as we prepared for Chistmas this year.  And Christmas Eve your song tied it all together.  Surprising, unexpected Jesus.  Dirt and Hay and Holiness mingled together in that unassuming place.  And we come to adore and praise and worship God-With-Us. And suddenly the ‘program’ was worship and I didn’t want the song to end.  Even now it brings me to tears. Thanks friends, for being vessels of worship and ushering us into His presence!”

O Holy Child, O Sovereign King
Son of the Most High God, Lord of everything
O let our praises rise to You as angels sing
O Holy Child, O Sovereign King

Excuses or Progress?

I have a friend who was in a serious car accident about a year and a half ago.  Injuries from the accident left him unable to work for quite awhile, so as the bills and the stress rose, the bank account progressively fell.  Fortunately, there was one provision that was available to him that could at least ease the pressure: an insurance settlement.  He submitted all the required paperwork and waited for one additional item: written proof from his doctor of his diagnosis and treatment.

The doctor, who works alone in a private medical practice, agreed to get him what he needed.  My friend waited.  And waited.  He contacted the doctor again.  “I’ll have it for you Tuesday.”  “I’m almost done.” “I just need a little more time.”  Weeks turned into many months but still nothing came from the doctor.

My friend continued to follow up and received regular email updates from the doctor.  These emails were paragraphs upon paragraphs long, detailing his own hardships, how he works long days, and how he is struggling with his own medical issues.  Often the doctor went into great (and uncomfortable to read) detail describing his various illnesses.  This situation has gone on for the better part of a year: long excuses, no progress or relief for my friend.  Everyone who hears the story comes to the same conclusion: “If he just spent half the time working on the medical records that he did writing up the excuses, he would have been done by now!”


Not long ago I went out for a long run and spent some time with God as I ran.  Often my time running is like an oasis for me as I can be alone with my thoughts and with the Lord.  But this particular day I was a little down.  I was thinking about times in my life when I felt incredibly close to the Lord, closer than I feel right now.  The thoughts were consuming: What changed?  Why am I not where I need to be?  What is wrong with me?  Will I ever really be transformed into the image of Christ?  My head was spinning and my heart was growing increasingly discouraged.

Then I remembered my friend’s story.  And in that moment, I felt like God was speaking to me: “If you spent half as much time and energy on your relationship with Me as you do complaining about why it’s not where you want it to be, you would be in a much different place!”  How gracious the Lord is to tell us what we really need!  That moment was a reminder to take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)  I had a fresh opportunity to stop my thought in its tracks and dwell and the things that are “good and true and right.” (Philippians 4:8)

Perhaps you, like so many of us, wish you had a closer relationship with God.  You have heard that you should love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, but your life doesn’t seem to reflect that priority.  Maybe instead of feeling discouraged and spending time and energy lamenting what isn’t true, you can take that same time and energy to begin to cultivate the relationship with God that you long for.  You might be surprised by how quickly things begin to turn around!

The Hard Work of Being Still

I love the ocean.  I always have, ever since I was a boy growing up in Southern California.  My kids have often asked me about my favorite things: favorite color, favorite food, favorite character from Lost.  I never know how to answer them.  I like lots of colors, especially when there are many hues in close proximity, like a multicolored bouquet of flowers, or a view of the Grand Canyon at sunset.  And don’t get me started on food.  How on earth do you choose between lobster and tiramisu?  I’d rather have both.  Twice.  And do I really need a favorite character from Lost?

Not so with the ocean.  It’s easy to say that is my favorite place to be.  Our family spent some time in California last summer and I savored every second we were at the beach.  Anna and I spent hours boogie boarding.  Of course, she reminds me that she did it the longest since I “took a break” (the 5 minutes I went to check on Andorra and the others).  But that’s beside the point.

Version 2

One of the other things I like to do in the ocean is to simply stand, about chest deep in the water, and let the waves come at me.  I can feel them pushing, pulling, crashing against me.  There is something remarkably satisfying about standing still when everything around you is in motion.  Of course, it’s not easy to do.  I’ve been knocked over, pulled under, and had my respiratory system assaulted by salt water.  (Sometimes the best puns are unintended.)  It takes great effort to stand in the midst of the waves.

This morning I had a lot on  my mind and I thought of Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.”  Being still seemed so elusive to me.  Today it wasn’t even stress.  I have good things to do, things in my life that I am genuinely excited about, things that bring me great joy.  But they are noise.  Waves.  They come at me from all directions and push and pull and threaten to knock me over.  And in the midst of the crashing waves, God invites me to stand.

So I took some time this morning – in spite of the voices demanding my attention, the waves knocking me off balance – to be still.  It wasn’t easy – it takes great effort to stand in the midst of the waves.  I stand, sway, stand, go under, stand, fall … it is hard work to leave the other voices behind for awhile and listen to the One whose voice really matters.  But there is something remarkably satisfying about standing still when everything around you is in motion.  It is hard work to be still, but it is unquestionably worth the effort.