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Archive for March, 2013

jesusmaryresurrection

(Happy Resurrection Day! This concludes the week long devotional blog focused on the Passion of Jesus Christ. I encourage you to read the Scripture passage first before reading the devotional blog – Doug)

Sunday (John 20)

Theme: Rocking Your World

Try to read this passage as if you were Mary Magdalene. When Jesus died, your world became dark and silent. Though your heart is still beating, you are as dead as the stone rolled across His tomb. You are numb, beyond grief and zombie-like as you go through the day’s routine.

Then you notice some things. The stone is rolled away. The grave clothes are there, but the body isn’t! You conclude, “Someone has stolen the Master’s body!” You are so freaked out, you don’t know what to do. You see a couple of people who try to help you, but you really don’t notice them. Another guy tries to help you, but you’re so focused on the missing body… that voice? Then he calls you by name, and slowly you look up and you see … Jesus!

Mary, your world has just been rocked!

Do you feel it? Whenever you really see the Risen Jesus, your world gets rocked. I’m convinced that angels didn’t move the stone in front of Jesus’ tomb. The presence of the Risen Christ caused the stone to move itself. It’s amazing what comes alive when they realize that Risen Jesus is there!

Jesus wants to rock your world. He wants to bring in life, transformation, love and redemption. He wants to take away fear and smallness of heart. Sometimes we get caught up in trying to be Christians and we forget to see Christ. Look up! See the face of Christ! Fall to your knees! Let your world be rocked!

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(This week is a special 7 day [yes – Today and Sunday, too!] blog devotional that gives perspective on Holy Week. I encourage you to read the passage listed before reading the devotional blog. – Doug)

Saturday (John 19)

Theme: Sharing in His Sufferings

Yes, Good Friday was yesterday. But let’s take another look at Jesus’ march to the cross. Human nature wants us to move on and get to the resurrection, get to the wonderful Easter story! We are uncomfortable with suffering, agony and death. But it is worth at least a second look. Maybe there is more to the cross than we realize.

Earlier Jesus told the people that in order to be his disciples they must “deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Me” (Matt 16:24). And then He did it. He denied Himself. He took up the cross. He followed the Father’s command. Note how He suffered: physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. He suffered in every way possible. But that suffering led to life and redemption.

You and I will suffer in this life. It is inevitable. Sometimes we will suffer because we choose to do what is right and good. Sometimes suffering will come to us; for no apparent reason. But God has a purpose: He wants to use that suffering to bring a greater sense of His presence, His character and love into our lives. It helps tremendously to know that our God suffered all that we go through and more. When we suffer we can have the fellowship of Jesus to carry us through.

Are you suffering? Invite Jesus into your suffering and let Him “fellowship” with you. Let Him renew your mind and transform your character. That Cross will someday become a Crown if you turn your eyes upon Him.

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(This week is a special 7 day [yes – Saturday and Sunday, too!] blog devotional that gives perspective on Holy Week. I encourage you to read the passage listed before reading the devotional blog. – Doug)

Friday (John 18:33-38)

Theme: The Tale of Two Kingdoms

The Gospel of John gives us this extraordinary dialogue between two rulers: Pilate and Jesus. In a pause before what will be excruciating suffering and death, Pilate and Jesus have a heart to heart discussion about reality, truth and Kingdoms.

Both his speech and his actions demonstrate that Jesus is living in a different realm than Pilate. While Pilate questions Jesus about being a king in the worldly sense, Jesus questions Pilate on whether he understands the heavenly kingdom. Pilate’s realm consists of power by force, fear, manipulation and death. His jurisdiction is based on geography. Jesus’ realm is much more dangerous. His power is based on truth, love, sacrifice and life. His jurisdiction is the human heart. The heavenly realm, as Jesus taught, is not about clouds, harps and angels. It is the earthly and supernatural reality lived under the reign of God. In the midst of Pilate’s worry-filled earthly realm, Jesus lives in the confidence of the Kingdom of God. Jesus does not fear death because He knows He is in the hands of the God who loves Him and is the source of life. It is out of this confidence that Jesus reaches out to Pilate: “Is that (the fact that I am King of the Godly realm) your own idea? …. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

Which Kingdom do you live for? The one ruled by fear, anxiety, self-preservation and death. Or the one ruled by the One who is truth, love, self-sacrifice and life?  Jesus invites you to His Kingdom. How can you live there more fully?

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(This week is a special 7 day [yes – Saturday and Sunday, too!] blog devotional that gives perspective on Holy Week. I encourage you to read the passage listed before reading the devotional blog – Doug)

Thursday (John 13:1-17)

Theme: An Example to Follow

The time was immanent. Jesus knew that within hours he would be hanging on a cross. He knew that this was his last opportunity to give his disciples something that would remain with them forever. What does he do? He washes their feet.

Of all the lessons Jesus wants his disciples to learn, this one is the greatest: to love one another and to express that love through service. The washing of feet was a task reserved for the lowest of servants. Today it would be like the cleaning of toilets: a pretty miserable task. But Jesus did this to demonstrate the type of love his disciples need to have toward each other.

Notice that Jesus washed all of his disciples’ feet – including Judas. The love that Jesus has goes beyond who people are and what they do. This is the type of love he expects his disciples to have.

In another story Jesus said, “He who is forgiven much, loves much.” The key to growing in our love for others is to realize how much we have been loved (and forgiven) by God. This is the love that can change your world.

Jesus invites you to grow in love and service. Do you realize how much God loves and has served you? Is it enough for you to fully love and serve others? Is there someone you would hesitate to love and serve? Why? How might God want to deal with this in your life?

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(This week is a special 7 day [yes – Saturday and Sunday, too!] blog devotional that gives perspective on Holy Week. I encourage you to read the passage listed before reading the devotional blog – Doug)

Wednesday (Mark 14:3-19)

Theme: Giving and Receiving a Beautiful Thing

It was scandalous. A woman of ill-repute enters a room and approaches Jesus as he was reclining. She breaks an alabaster jar worth several months wages. The $1,000 per ounce perfume oozes out. She scoops it up and pours it over his head, massaging it into his scalp. She starts weeping and starts to wash his feet with her tears, while constantly kissing them at the same time. What was even more scandalous was that Jesus allowed her to do these things to him! In this highly conservative, Middle Eastern culture, this public act would be considered highly offensive. Not only did it seem to contradict Jesus’ attitude towards helping the poor and denouncing excessive wealth, the woman’s intimate gesture and Jesus’ acceptance of it also raised the eyebrows of everyone in the room.

But Jesus calls her act “a beautiful thing.” It was beautiful because it was a costly gift (it was probably her wedding dowry). It was her expression of her deep gratitude and total commitment to Jesus. It was beautiful because it was given unconditionally. There were no strings attached. Once it was poured, it was gone. It was beautiful because it was given at a great risk. People could (and did) misunderstand her intentions. They condemned her for it. But it didn’t matter because it was not about them or her. It was about Jesus. And Jesus knew that. As he was about to face the most lonely path to the Cross – a path filled with denial, betrayal, insults, injustice, suffering, separation and death – Jesus welcomed this tender gesture of extravagant love. It reminded him that his task would be the most ultimate gesture of extravagant love of God to a lost world. Jesus embraced this beautiful thing. It gave him strength to do the most beautiful thing.

Jesus invites you to be a part of beautiful things. When was the last time you truly did something beautiful? Notice how some reacted to the beautiful thing: judgment, resentment even betrayal (Judas).  How do you receive beautiful things? List some beautiful things that have happened to you recently.

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(This week is a special 7 day [yes – Saturday and Sunday, too!] blog devotional that gives perspective on Holy Week. I encourage you to read the passage listed before reading the devotional blog – Doug)

Tuesday (Mark 11:15-18)

Theme: Cleansing the Temple

What do you think of Jesus’ reaction to the money changers and merchants? He was pretty mad – almost out of control. Why? Because destructive elements were allowed to corrupt something very important to him – his Father’s house.

Both the money changers and the merchants exploited people. They took advantage of people’s situations for their gain. Sometimes people were kept from worshiping God because they could not afford the usury fees. In other words, they defiled the Great Commandment (loving others and worshiping God).

Today, Jesus is still very concerned about his Father’s house. Only his Father’s house is no longer located in Jerusalem. It is in your heart, your life, your being (1 Cor. 3:16).

What destructive elements are allowed to exist in the Temple of your heart? Greed, anger, revenge, lack of mercy, gossip, strife, bitterness, and blind ambition keep you from loving others. Pride, busyness, duplicity, personal agendas and love of the world keep you from worshiping God.

Jesus invites you to ruthlessly “turn over the tables” in God’s house – your heart. With the Spirit’s help, transform your heart from a robber’s den to a place where worshiping God and loving people flows freely. List any improper attitudes and/or motives that are uncovered. Ask the Spirit for help in changing.

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(This week is a special 7 day [yes – Saturday and Sunday, too!] blog devotional that gives perspective on Holy Week. I encourage you to read the passage listed before reading the devotional blog – Doug)

Monday (Luke 19:35-42)

Theme: Dying to Great Expectations

Reflect back on Palm Sunday and put yourself in Jesus’ shoes. You are going to Jerusalem in obedience to the Father. You know that if you go there you will be giving up your life as a ransom for people’s sins. You will be brutally beaten to death. Yet, your disciples and the crowds have other expectations. They believe you will set them free, not from sin and death, but from Roman oppression. They believe that you will feed them with an unlimited supply of food, heal all their diseases and raise them from the dead. They want to crown you King, not because of who you are, but because of what they expect you to do for them. And you know that within five days, their blessings of praise to you will turn into curses of condemnation. Instead of riding on a white stallion, you ride on a borrowed colt. Instead of a crown of gold, you will receive a crown of thorns. Instead of sitting on a throne, you will be hung on a cross. The irony is so thick there is nothing you can do; nothing but weep…

Yet, you continue to Jerusalem because doing what the Father wants you to do is far more important than meeting the expectations of others.

Examine your life. Which is greater: obeying God or living according to expectations (others or your own)? Jesus invites you to join him to die to great expectations in order to live for something far greater than you can imagine. Make a list of the things He reveals to you.

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Spiritual Coolant

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The weather on the West coast is crazy! Even though it is still winter, the temperatures are pushing into the 90’s. It reminds me of the days of summer, where temps really soar around here and our cars run hot. Sometimes I have to add more coolant to some of my older cars when I see the temperature gauge creeping toward the “H.” I’ve learned the hard way what happens when you don’t attend to a hot-running car – it breaks down (and becomes a money pit!)

Likewise, from time to time our emotions get hot and our tempers flare. If we don’t watch it, we end up saying or doing things that we end up regretting. And then we wrestle with guilt because we know that, as Christians, the devil got the best of us – and we hate it when that happens!

Paul says in Ephesians 4:26-27 “In your anger do not sin.” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

When our anger reaches an emotional level, it is almost too late to do anything about it. It is like a radiator that is boiling over. The only thing you can do is pull over, stop the “engine” and wait for it to cool down. However, we can do “preventative maintenance” on our emotional cooling system by adding “spiritual coolant” to our beings. Here are three Biblical tips to help be cool:

1. Be constantly filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our spiritual coolant. He is also our spiritual counselor, empowerer, cleanser and encourager. To be filled with the Holy Spirit means to yield to the Holy Spirit. It means placing God in charge of your life. God will not take charge of your life; you must willingly and deliberately give Him control. It means asking the Holy Spirit to fill you each day (see Tuesday’s blog and some of the great comments by fellow readers); perhaps several times a day. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you start bearing His fruit – including gentleness and self-control; which can keep your temper under control.

2. Regularly gauge your temper. If you know that your inner temper is rising, you can take preventative measures to deal with it. Your temper is affected by many different factors. Remember the “HALT” acronym, which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired (see the blog for 3/12/13). When I get a little edgy, I check my gauges: maybe I need a little snack or a little nap or a call a good friend. Often when I take care of the HL&T, I will be in better shape to deal with my A(nger).

3. Remind yourself who you are and Who is in control. You are a child of God. You are a follower of Jesus. You are dearly loved by the Lord of the Universe! And you are not in control. The Lord, alone, is in control. And that means your circumstances and situations. Although this is a good tool to use in an emergency – when you are in the “heat” of boiling over, it works best when we apply this as a daily spiritual discipline – in a PROACTIVE way. In your devotional time, remind yourself who you are and Who is in control. During a coffee break or lunch break, pause and pray: “Jesus I belong to You, and You are in control.” The more you do it, the more spiritual coolant will enter your life. And when the devil wants to throw an “angry” your way, it won’t affect you because you are resting on the bottom line: God is in control of your situation.

A little warning: some of you may have deep-seated anger issues, stemming from deep wounds. If you regularly wrestle with angry emotions, if little things tick you off on a regular basis, if the above recommendations do not help your anger, you may need some deep healing from the Lord through a trained spiritual and/or professional mentor.

Whole Life Worshipers stay spiritually cool in the heat of life!

What spiritual principles help you to stay cool in the heat of life?

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Jesus gave us some great gems of teaching in His Sermon on the Mount. One of these well known nuggets is what we know as the Golden Rule. It goes like this:

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matt. 7:12)

This Golden Rule reminds us to give out grace to others. I want to pass on to you a prayer that I received from my friend, Cheryl. It talks about this great application of the Golden Rule.

“Heavenly Father, help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours that day and was rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children.

Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can’t make change correctly is a worried 19 year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.

Remind us, Lord, that the scary looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day (who really out to get a job!) is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.

Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they will go shopping together.

Heavenly Father, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us, the greatest gift is love. It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts to just to those who are close to us but to all humanity. Let us be slow to judgment and quick to forgiveness and patience and empathy and love.

Help us to live by the Golden Rule and to love with all our hearts (as You have loved us). Amen.”

As the Lord has shown us grace and mercy, let us pass it on to others! Let’s be a funnel of His love to the world. It’s what Whole Life Worship is all about!

What are your thoughts and applications of the Golden Rule?

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What Are You Full Of?

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Have you ever thought about the Early Church in the book of Acts? One of the things that constantly amaze me about the 1st Century Church is the boldness, depth of character and power this early Christian community exemplified. They were willing to sell their possessions to help others in need, they prayed for more boldness to proclaim Jesus in the face of persecution, and they saw the demonstration of God’s power in their midst (healings, miracles, and even  … judgment). In Acts 7 it’s hard not to marvel at the extraordinary boldness, confidence, peace and compassion Stephen had – even as he was being slammed with stones! It’s easy to wonder: why don’t we see this in the American church of the 21st Century? Let’s take it one step further and make it uncomfortably personal: “Why don’t I see this boldness, compassion and power in my life?”

I believe the key difference between the dynamic church of the 1st century and the relatively weak church of our time can be found in the simple phrase that we see many times in Acts: “full of the Holy Spirit.” The apostles, leaders and followers of Jesus in that early community of faith were “full of the Holy Spirit.”

While I believe, theologically, all followers of Christ have the Holy Spirit, I would speculate that not very many are actually full of the Holy Spirit. And that, I believe, is one of the main differences between them and us.

Another obstacle for us is a contemporary misconception of what it means to be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” For some, that phrase conjures up images of people swooning in a worship service or speaking in an unintelligible utterance or feeling that “mountain top experience.” And while I think these describe some of the manifestations of the Spirit in believers, I don’t think this defines what being full of the Holy Spirit is. I think it has more to do with “how we live” than “what we experience.”

“Being full of the Holy Spirit” means that God is given total control of our lives: where we go, what we do, and how we respond to Him. Most of the time, this could feel rather mundane, if not antagonistic – because it goes against the grain of our human nature. Although we can experience tremendous joy and peace as we do the will of God under His control, the focus of being Spirit filled is not on how high our emotional gauge is.

I think the reason we do not see 1st Century power and impact in our time is that, though we have the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are probably too full of ourselves. We want God’s will and our personal comfort, agenda, prosperity, safety, and selfish desires. One cannot be full of the Holy Spirit and full of ourselves at the same time. And yet, do we expect miracles, power and revival from lives that barely give God a couple hours a week, a few “bless me” prayers, and “what’s in it for me?” worship.

As one who is admittedly probably not 100% of the Spirit” Christian, I have a couple of Biblical concepts that might help us become more full of the Spirit and less full of ourselves:

1. We must die to ourselves. The only way to get more of the Spirit is to start emptying ourselves. Dying to ourselves means surrendering how we do things, letting go of pride and control, releasing our agenda, plans and hopes. Jesus said that unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it will never bear the fruit it was meant to have.

2. Seek first God’s Kingdom. If you gave your life to Jesus, that means He is King (and you’re not). We don’t seek our way anymore; we seek to do the will of God. We don’t worry about the little things (provision, safety, fears) because our Jesus will take care of us.

What are some thoughts that you have to help us to become more full of the Spirit? I welcome your input!

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