“Make it Plain”: Don’t hide what shouldn’t be hidden

“From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.” Matthew 16:21 (NLT)

My morning scriptures took me to Matthew 16. I don’t stick to just one translation but lately I’ve been hanging out in the NLT (New Living Translation). And today the words, “began to tell his disciples plainly…” jumped off the page to me.

I sat back, took a sip of coffee, and asked myself, “Do I make it a goal to say important things ‘plainly’?”

Or… “Do I complicate things that should be so crystal clear?”

Does my spouse know that I love her?
Do my kids know I am proud of them?
Does the person I’ve forgiven know that I’ve forgiven them?
Does the person I’ve offended know that I’m contrite and apologetic?
Can those in a coffee shop tell that I’m a Christ-follower?
Do the people in my life know that I am for them?

I believe today’s scripture is reaching into the depths of me to challenge me to “tell them plainly.”

Not everything needs to be complicated; You may not even need words. Stop making other work for what God has richly and freely given you. I’m not saying that making it “plain” makes all of your problems go away, but it does position you (and others) to know what you’re working with in order to get healthier.

Receive the love, grace, and blessings of God today.

Then make it plain. Make it understandable. Make it attainable.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Devotionally Frustrated: 5 Habits That Helped Me with “Devotions”

I grew up in church having heard (and used) the phrasing, “doing my devotions.” This was the terminology we (my youth group) used to describe a dedicated time that included reading our bibles and spending time in prayer.

Perhaps this is just my own experience, but in the 4 decades of attending church, “devos” has been both a source of blessing and issue of guilt; a place to be fed and the cause of frustration.

Congrats. You’re not the only one to feel that way.

Like many of you, I would hear stories from the pulpit about the preacher’s devo-moments that rivaled what happened on the Mount of Transifiguration. I would get inspired from the testimonies of leadership and friends. My mind would be filled with high aspirations as I decided, “Monday, everything is going to change” as I, one more time, was going to begin a new “devotional habit.”

Perhaps we’ve approached devotions wrong. I feel we may have treated this necessary, on-going, spiritually healthy routine into nothing more than a diet fad. I see blogs and post saying something to the fact,

“If you need help, follow my prescription for spiritual health for a guaranteed outpouring of personal spiritual revival.”

Don’t get me wrong, I like reading plans and strategies (here’s a great place to get some reading plans). I utilize them both and they can be very effective. But I’m afraid we’ve turned devotional methods into the South Beach Diet and Atkins as the plug-and-play solution for all of our spiritual woes instead of embracing the simplicity of communion with God.  That’s what devotions are about. And when that is realized, you’ll see “devotional time” lived out in two ways.

  1. A Momentary Discipline.
    • Developing the daily habit of having time in the Word, seeking the Lord in worship and prayer, and listening to the Holy Spirit.
  2. An Experiential Devotion.
    • “Devos” will be shallow at best if they are left in the moment and never manifested in our daily lives. We must have a dedication to living out our devotion to Christ. I struggle when people profess to know the scriptures but fail to model Christ through love, mercy, and compassion. When I read scripture, Jesus definitely spent plenty of time in personal prayer. But most of His life was engaging the world around him with the Kingdom of God.

So I thought I’d help you work through some frustrations by making this as simple as possible. As we say at Kfirst, “simple doesn’t mean easy.” Like any human relationship, your relationship with God will rise and fall on communication. You were wired that way because God created you that way. And I want to take some of the confusion out of devos by giving you, what I hope are, simple and practical steps to developing a healthy devotional life.

Find your sweet spot.
So many people are devotionally frustrated at the method, time of day, and manner for which they’re doing (or have done) devos. Find that “fit” that brings both challenge and growth without having to jam into someone else’s model. From the time of day to the translations you use, find not necessarily what’s easiest, but what facilitates spiritual health. I’m a morning person with my scriptures. When I pray, I head outside and walk the neighborhood. Periodically, I change translations. I’ll even hook up with a reading plan to guide me down a thought (topic). BUT…just because a method/location works for someone (even your spouse) doesn’t mean it’s a right fit for you.

Quality over quantity.
I love reading through books of the bible. But I found that just because I read a lot, it didn’t necessarily equate to understanding or practical living. Don’t treat your bible reading like a buffet where you gorge yourself and say, “I don’t know what I ate but I am full.” If you don’t know what you read because of the “quantity,” then have a smaller “meal.” Read a few verses a day. You’ll digest it better and exercise it in your daily life. Some preachers need to understand that principle for their sermons. 😉

Set some attainable goals.
Start small and build momentum. Set goals that will require some stretching but not so lofty that one missed day doesn’t make you call it quits. It takes time to build healthy habits. And the more you put into the habit, the deeper and wider the habit will grow. I’ve been amazed at watching people who gave God 5 devoted minutes a day developed a habit that has grown into something astronomically deeper and wider than they ever imagined.

Make time to live and listen.
When spending time in prayer, I believe one of the most missed opportunities is time in silence listening for the voice of God. But there’s a whole other side to the voice of God. When you are engaged in the Word, look and listen to God throughout the day on when/how to exercise what you read. For example: If I read John 1:14 today on how Jesus was full of grace and truth, I need to look and listen for opportunities to show grace and truth. It sounds so simple, but it’s the most pragmatic way to get our devos out of our prayer closet and into the real world.

Journal. 
I used to be intimidated by journaling and frustrated with people who excelled in it as I was envious about their writing abilities. But when I stopped comparing myself to others and decided to be my own person, it’s sparked a major passion in me. My daily entry might be just 3-4 sentences (nothing more than what I read in scripture to what God was challenging me to do). Other days, 6 pages will pour out of my heart (had a rough, emotional day yesterday). Find your “sweet spot” in your journaling. It’s become a great reference point to help me look back and be encouraged in how God has grown me as well as what He has worked through me.

I wanted to keep this simple and clean. “Devos” are not as complicated as you may have seen. Remember, they’re isn’t about getting checklist done and doing your duty for God. The goal is to meet with God, hear His heart, and letting him do something IN you and THROUGH you. “Devotions” must be more then a description of a moment but the evidence of our love for Jesus Christ.

I love you all. I belive in ya. Get into your devotions and live them out “for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

 

2-Minute Devo: Day 40 of Our 40-Day Journey #Undone40

Thanks for joining us on our 40-day journey of prayer. We’re asking you to get your journals out and do 3 things:

  1. Read.
    • Read the Psalm of the day. Enjoy the 2-minute devo.
  2. Reflect.
    • Journal a few thoughts.  Put into words what the Holy Spirit is speaking to you.
  3. Respond.
    • Spend time in prayer.  Respond to what God is speaking to you through his Spirit and his word.

“Everything that a person can possibly feel, experience, and say is brought into expression before God in the Psalms.” Eugene Peterson

Today’s reading: Psalm 67

May God be merciful and bless us.
    May his face smile with favor on us. Interlude

May your ways be known throughout the earth,
    your saving power among people everywhere.
May the nations praise you, O God.
    Yes, may all the nations praise you.
Let the whole world sing for joy,
    because you govern the nations with justice
    and guide the people of the whole world. Interlude

May the nations praise you, O God.
    Yes, may all the nations praise you.
Then the earth will yield its harvests,
    and God, our God, will richly bless us.
Yes, God will bless us,
    and people all over the world will fear him.

 

2-Minute Devo: Day 39 of Our 40-Day Journey #Undone40

Thanks for joining us on our 40-day journey of prayer. We’re asking you to get your journals out and do 3 things:

  1. Read.
    • Read the Psalm of the day. Enjoy the 2-minute devo.
  2. Reflect.
    • Journal a few thoughts.  Put into words what the Holy Spirit is speaking to you.
  3. Respond.
    • Spend time in prayer.  Respond to what God is speaking to you through his Spirit and his word.

“Everything that a person can possibly feel, experience, and say is brought into expression before God in the Psalms.” Eugene Peterson

Today’s reading: Psalm 26

Declare me innocent, O Lord,
    for I have acted with integrity;
    I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me.
    Test my motives and my heart.
For I am always aware of your unfailing love,
    and I have lived according to your truth.
I do not spend time with liars
    or go along with hypocrites.
I hate the gatherings of those who do evil,
    and I refuse to join in with the wicked.
I wash my hands to declare my innocence.
    I come to your altar, O Lord,
singing a song of thanksgiving
    and telling of all your wonders.
I love your sanctuary, Lord,
    the place where your glorious presence dwells.

Don’t let me suffer the fate of sinners.
    Don’t condemn me along with murderers.
10 Their hands are dirty with evil schemes,
    and they constantly take bribes.
11 But I am not like that; I live with integrity.
    So redeem me and show me mercy.
12 Now I stand on solid ground,
    and I will publicly praise the Lord.

2-Minute Devo: Day 38 of Our 40-Day Journey #Undone40

Thanks for joining us on our 40-day journey of prayer. We’re asking you to get your journals out and do 3 things:

  1. Read.
    • Read the Psalm of the day. Enjoy the 2-minute devo.
  2. Reflect.
    • Journal a few thoughts.  Put into words what the Holy Spirit is speaking to you.
  3. Respond.
    • Spend time in prayer.  Respond to what God is speaking to you through his Spirit and his word.

“Everything that a person can possibly feel, experience, and say is brought into expression before God in the Psalms.” Eugene Peterson

Today’s reading: Psalm 141

O Lord, I am calling to you. Please hurry!
    Listen when I cry to you for help!
Accept my prayer as incense offered to you,
    and my upraised hands as an evening offering.

Take control of what I say, O Lord,
    and guard my lips.
Don’t let me drift toward evil
    or take part in acts of wickedness.
Don’t let me share in the delicacies
    of those who do wrong.

Let the godly strike me!
    It will be a kindness!
If they correct me, it is soothing medicine.
    Don’t let me refuse it.

But I pray constantly
    against the wicked and their deeds.
When their leaders are thrown down from a cliff,
    the wicked will listen to my words and find them true.
Like rocks brought up by a plow,
    the bones of the wicked will lie scattered without burial.[a]

I look to you for help, O Sovereign Lord.
    You are my refuge; don’t let them kill me.
Keep me from the traps they have set for me,
    from the snares of those who do wrong.
10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
    but let me escape.

 

2-Minute Devo: Day 37 of Our 40-Day Journey #Undone40

Thanks for joining us on our 40-day journey of prayer. We’re asking you to get your journals out and do 3 things:

  1. Read.
    • Read the Psalm of the day. Enjoy the 2-minute devo.
  2. Reflect.
    • Journal a few thoughts.  Put into words what the Holy Spirit is speaking to you.
  3. Respond.
    • Spend time in prayer.  Respond to what God is speaking to you through his Spirit and his word.

“Everything that a person can possibly feel, experience, and say is brought into expression before God in the Psalms.” Eugene Peterson

Today’s reading: Psalm 22:11-22

Do not stay so far from me,
    for trouble is near,
    and no one else can help me.
12 My enemies surround me like a herd of bulls;
    fierce bulls of Bashan have hemmed me in!
13 Like lions they open their jaws against me,
    roaring and tearing into their prey.
14 My life is poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart is like wax,
    melting within me.
15 My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay.
    My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
    You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead.
16 My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs;
    an evil gang closes in on me.
    They have pierced[a] my hands and feet.
17 I can count all my bones.
    My enemies stare at me and gloat.
18 They divide my garments among themselves
    and throw dice[b] for my clothing.

19 O Lord, do not stay far away!
    You are my strength; come quickly to my aid!
20 Save me from the sword;
    spare my precious life from these dogs.
21 Snatch me from the lion’s jaws
    and from the horns of these wild oxen.

22 I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters.[c]
    I will praise you among your assembled people.

2-Minute Devo: Day 36 of Our 40-Day Journey #Undone40

Thanks for joining us on our 40-day journey of prayer. We’re asking you to get your journals out and do 3 things:

  1. Read.
    • Read the Psalm of the day. Enjoy the 2-minute devo.
  2. Reflect.
    • Journal a few thoughts.  Put into words what the Holy Spirit is speaking to you.
  3. Respond.
    • Spend time in prayer.  Respond to what God is speaking to you through his Spirit and his word.

“Everything that a person can possibly feel, experience, and say is brought into expression before God in the Psalms.” Eugene Peterson

Today’s reading: Psalm 126

When the Lord brought back his exiles to Jerusalem,[a]
    it was like a dream!
We were filled with laughter,
    and we sang for joy.
And the other nations said,
    “What amazing things the Lord has done for them.”
Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us!
    What joy!

Restore our fortunes, Lord,
    as streams renew the desert.
Those who plant in tears
    will harvest with shouts of joy.
They weep as they go to plant their seed,
    but they sing as they return with the harvest.