Out Wandering

Everything was created through him; nothing—not one thing!—came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.
(John 1:3-5, MSG)

Yesterday afternoon I went for a walk to get my body moving and clear my head. I’d spent five or six hours writing and needed to be outside in the air. I would never want to waste a moment, though, and so I scrolled through available podcasts to find a 30-minute talk. This way I could learn something along the way. Thirty minutes would amount to four laps around the neighborhood pond at a good pace.

About three minutes into my walk I did something I’d never done. I veered off the paved path into the damp grace and down to the reeds lining the water. From a distance, the pond seemed choked by dull browns and harbingers of winter—my least favorite season. But as I got closer, I discovered movement and breath and life. My eyes could not hold it all in a single glance. Every little detail demanded my attention—cottony puffs sprouted out of large seed pockets, tiny flowers peaked from seemingly dead stalks, golden grasses bent in the wind, a pocked beetle tiptoed across a tree stump, and wispy snowflake blossoms bathed in sunlight.

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I couldn’t help but touch these fall textures and as I kneeled to run my fingers along a prickly shoot, a grasshopper leaped across my hand, startling me to laughter. In that moment I realized how long it had been since I’d been out wandering, without a plan or stopwatch. I’d forgotten to be a stroller, or as the French would say, a flâneur—someone who wanders to notice the small and hidden wonders. Instead, I’d been walking on the path, trying not to get my shoes muddy. I’d been on a schedule, accomplishing things. I started to consider what else I might have missed, in my daughter’s eyes, a friend’s voice, or within my soul.

Oh, may we not forget to go out wandering to delight in the small and hidden wonders. Not one of them came into being apart from the divine hand. And may we not fail to notice His whispers within and between us for all the big things we are accomplishing.

New Command — January 13, 2014 (Monday)

Today’s Verses:

John 13:34-35

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

“Love your neighbor as yourself” was a command God gave Moses, as recorded in Leviticus. (Leviticus 19:18). The word “new” in this passage is the Greek word “kainos,” meaning “unprecedented,” “unheard of,” or “of a new kind.”

Today’s Questions:

Why do you think Jesus refers to his command to “love one another” as new (“unheard of”) given God’s similar command in Leviticus?

Is there anyone in your life who you love as Jesus loves you? What does that love look like?

What do you think Jesus meant by “love”?

Would someone you don’t know guess that you are a follower of Jesus based on the way you love?

Today’s Prayer:

Oh, Lord, how you have loved us! It is hard for me to totally comprehend. Even when I don’t feel loved, Father, because I don’t feel lovable, I know what you did. You left the riches of heaven, entered into a human, fallible, breaking body, suffered physical and emotional agony beyond my grasp, and then took nails drilled through your wrists so that I could be made new. And all this, because you are love and act love. Continue showing me, Lord, what it means to love in this way here in my life. I want to love like you.

Go A Little Deeper:

Review 1 John 4:16-21 to understand what loving like Jesus looks like in this world.

All Things New!

Introduction

The author of the book of Revelation, John (the Apostle and Gospel writer), records these words from God: “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev. 21:5) Knowing what we know and seeing what we see in our world – death, disease, suffering, tsunamis and hurricanes, broken relationships, aging bodies, and lonely, longing hearts – the idea that God is making all things new resonates deeply in all of us. We want to yell, “Yes! Please do! And do it soon!”

For the month of January, and using this passage in Revelation as a jumping-off point, we will study many of the references in Scripture to all the new things that God has promised or already provided, including a new heavens and earth, a new covenant, a new command, a new teaching, a new way, a new creation, a new life, a new humanity, a new spirit, a new heart, a new body, a new name, new mercies, and a new song. What is amazing among these passages is that the word for “new” in almost all of them doesn’t mean “freshly made” or “first created” but rather, “unprecedented,” “unheard of,” or “of a new kind.”

So, for example, when Jesus said this is the “new covenant,” he was saying that the new agreement—that his sacrifice was good for all – was unprecedented and unheard of. When Jesus’ teaching and authority were called “new,” this meant they were “unprecedented” and “unheard of.” And, when God promises, “I am making all things new,” he is saying, “I am making all things unprecedented, unheard of!” Amazing. Not just new the way we think about it, but never before seen!

All Things New – January 6, 2014 (Monday)

Today’s Verses:

Revelation 21:1-2

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there is no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

In this passage, the word “new” each time it is used is from the Greek word “kainos,” which means “unprecedented” or “unheard of” or “of a new kind.”

Today’s Questions:

If you allow your imagination to wander, what do you picture a “new,” never-before-seen earth would look like? What physical attributes, what people, animals?

Imagine the last bride you saw walking down the aisle toward her soon-to-be husband. What words come to mind?

Are any emotions stirred in you when you read John’s revelation that there will be a new heaven, a new earth, and a new Holy City? What are they?

Today’s Prayer:

Father, maker of all things, thank you for revealing to John, and through your Word, what is to come. Thank you, Father, that you are making a new heaven and a new earth. I cannot possibly comprehend what this will look like, how it will feel, or what the reality of it will be, but I long for this unprecedented place. Father, there is so much hurt and suffering here. Thank you that the pain of this world is only for a short time. See me, Father, clothed in the righteousness of Christ alone, faithful until my last breath, on the day when the old passes away.

Go A Little Deeper:

Review Revelation 21:9-21 to read about the new Jerusalem, the Holy City.

Daily December Devotional — Day 20

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Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:76-80

And you, my child, will be called a
prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to
prepare the way for him,

to give his people the knowledge of
salvation
through forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us
from heaven

to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.

And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.

Today’s Questions:

Why do you think it was necessary for John to prepare the way for the Lord by giving people knowledge of salvation through forgiveness of sins?

When did you first hear about salvation through the forgiveness of sins? What was your initial response?

Are there areas in your life in which you have resisted the light that Jesus brings?

Why do you think John lived in the wilderness before appearing to share the message of salvation?

Today’s Prayer:

Father, thank you for saving me, for forgiving me, for shining your light on me! Help me to share the message of your salvation through forgiveness with my family and friends. Help me to reflect your love by infusing me with your tender mercy. In times of sadness or temptation, Lord, I long for your light. I pray that you would invade every area of my heart, every grudge, resentment, and hurt. Shine your light in my darkness and transform my heart so that it reflects your love and peace.

Life This Week

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My daughter, Jamie, went on a serving trip to St. Louis last week with a small group of other kids and leaders that repainted and repaired two houses of families in need.  I heard about different aspects of the trip from Jamie – what the families were like, making new friendships, allergies, experiencing God through serving, and the long drive home.  What struck me most, though, was something one of the leaders said about her:  “Jamie was there to serve.  She constantly asked what more she could do, how she could help.”  I learn so much from this 13-year old.  I want to model this servant spirit in my life and so, here’s what I’m doing this week:

I’m entering into John 13:1-17.  In this passage, we are told of Jesus washing his disciples feet.  When he finished, he said: “Do you understand what I have done for you?  You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should also wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”  I want to enter into this passage, picturing Jesus on his knees, his robe brushing the floor, one hand picking up a dirty, dust-covered, calloused foot, and the other hand rubbing off the grime with the water.  What intimacy and humility these moments must have held as the creator of all things knelt and washed those he came to save.

I’m serving from bent knees.  So often, I serve from a position of power.  I have something that the person I am serving does not have.  I give food to someone who has no food.  I give legal advice to a person who is not a lawyer.  These are not bad things to provide, of course, but how often do I serve from a position of humility?  I’m noticing this week if there are ways of service I shy away from because they require too much intimacy or humility and then I’m praying for strength to serve in those ways.

I’m asking: “What is needed here?”  I think I ask: “What am I good at?” much more than “What is needed here?”  I think I look for serving opportunities in which I can be at my best instead of looking at the need and serving even when I am at my least.  I must miss opportunities to serve this way.  Jesus’ gifts were more aligned with teaching and healing.  But he kneeled and washed other men’s feet because that was what was needed and he was not too proud to serve in the way that was needed.

What does your week look like?

Do you serve from bent knees?