Thursday, November 29, 2007

"Glory" of Christmas

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We are now full speed into the Christmas season (not just "holiday" season!). Everything around seems to be gearing up for all that goes on during this time; and it seems that the more we "advance" in society, the more challenging it becomes to keep the main thing the main thing - that Jesus is the reason for the season.

Isaiah 40:1-5 talks about a time for preparing the way of the Lord, that "voice" in John the Baptist that would announce and prepare the way for the Christ to be revealed. Isaiah 40:5 says that "the glory of the Lord will be revealed..."

What is the glory of Christmas to us? What do we glory in during Christmas? What is our main focus as we come into God's house of worship each Advent Sunday?

Do we yearn and work to prepare our hearts to celebrate for Christ's birth the same or more than working to decorate our homes for the Christmas season? Do we stop each day to reflect on Scripture more than we stop to consider our Christmas shopping list?

The point is clear - the tendency of our human nature pulls us to "glory" in the material aspect of Christmas (which is not evil, by the way!) which will take away from our preparation and celebration of Christ's birth if we don't balance it with the true and only glory of Advent and Christmas which is that moment when Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity, became flesh, and lived among us!

Join us next Sunday as begin our Advent and Christmas journey by preparing our hearts to receive Jesus, the glory of Christmas!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for the glory of Christmas. Help me during this Advent and Christmas keep the main thing the main thing. Help me each day to focus and re-focus on preparing my heart to celebrate your birth in a fresh and new way. In your name I pray. Amen.

By grace alone,
Pastor David

Monday, October 22, 2007

"Popular" Discipleship

Many blessings to all of you today as you start your week! I hope and pray that everyone enjoyed a good time in worship yesterday and look forward to becoming "doers of the Word" as well.

When I go to bookstores or department stores, I am easily drawn to the book section and perhaps 75% of the time I end up in the "religious" section. I am intrigued by the way many best selling religious books have taken on a "popular" discipleship approach; that is, there are 3, 5, 7, ways to do live this way or that way, or 10 principles to gain this or that, or the "secrets" of securing God's best blessings for me, etc. Don't get me wrong, there are principles we can live by through which we will experience true discipleship; however, I just don't think they're popular nor do they appear on the national best-selling lists. [By the way, many of these best selling and "popular" discipleship approaches focus on my benefits and what I can receive as I follow Christ]

In my devotional reading today I came across two phrases that reminded me of true discipleship. It was said of a discipleship community group in Scotland that "they are changing society because they have been changed." It sounds so simple and yet so distant in our Christian discipleship experience. Do I want my church to change? Well, then maybe I have to change! Do I want my community to change? Maybe I need to be part of that change. Do I want my marriage, family, and life to change? Well, maybe somewhere in the process I have to change! Change what? Well, that is between you and God in sincere prayer and reflection.

Secondly, Thomas Merton wrote, "It has never been either practical or useful to leave all things and follow Christ. And yet it is spiritually prudent." The spirit of this phrase is that "all things" should not govern my spiritual life but rather Christ should. When "things" begin to determine and shape my walk with Christ then it becomes a distorted faith because Christ is not at the center of it all.

We all know that God's blessings and goodness come to us whether we deserve them or not (Matthew 5:45). But when what "I will receive" overshadows the committment to the cross, then we are missing a key ingredient of true discipleship because the cross calls us to a discipleship that is denial of "self" as center for acceptance of Christ as Master.

It's interesting that of all of the graphic symbols and language that Jesus used in his life and ministry (i.e. good shepherd, bread of life, lamb of God, etc.), the one symbol that became the universal sign of Christianity was the cross. The message of the empty cross reminds us of both the suffering and victory of Christ.

As we journey as disciples of Christ, let us be reminded that the cross we bear is not easy nor "popular", but the one who walks along side us has already carried the cross and is here to empower us to live as his disciples.

Prayer: Lord, I praise you for your love for me. It is my desire to walk closely with you and to be a faithful disciple. Help me change so that I may be an instrument of change in my family relationships, church, friendships, community, and world. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

By grace alone,
Pastor David

Monday, October 01, 2007

Good Reflection Questions for a Disciple

I hope and pray everyone has gotten off to a good start this week!

Our "team" theme for Sunday paid off since the Cowboys scored yet another win!

No doubt that part of the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ involves being a good team player in sharing, giving, participating, and cooperating in the life of the church. A good team effort will take us a long way, especially when we follow the right game plan - God's plan for us as a church and as individuals.

In today's devotional time, I was reminded, through a series of questions, that a team's effort can be impacted positively, or negatively, by the commitment of each player or member. That is, if the whole team is on the same page regarding our mission and purpose, and I am on another page, then I will be hindering the team's success and progress. Therefore, our individual progress in the Christian journey is essential to the overall team's effectiveness. How can we measure or evaluate our individual progress? How can I know where I need to grow? How can I know what I need to do to be a better team player?

In A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie we find the following reflection questions which I will simply highlight:

"Have I today done anything to fulfill the purpose for which You did cause me to be born?
Have I accepted such opportunities of service as You in your wisdom has set before my feet?

Give me grace to answer honestly, O God.

Have I done anything today to tarnish (to stain or blemish) my Christian [character]? Have I been lazy in body or languid (lacking vigor or vitality) in spirit? Have I wrongfully indulged my bodily appetites? Have I kept my imagination pure and healthy? Have I been scrupulously honorable in all my business dealings?

Give me grace to answer honestly, O God.

Have I made more excuses for myself than I have been willing to make for others?
Have I, in my own home, been a peacemaker or have I stirred up strife?
Have I, while professing noble sentiments for great causes and distant objects, failed even in common charity (love) and courtesy towards those nearest me?

Give me grace to answer honestly, O God."

And he closes with the following prayer; I invite you to make it ours today:

"O Thou who infinite love, made manifest in Jesus Christ, alone has the power to destroy the empire of evil in my soul, grant that with each day that passes I may more and more be delivered from my besetting sins."

By grace alone,
Pastor David

Monday, August 13, 2007

Are You Ready?

I pray that your week has gotten off to a good start! May God give you the strength to do all you have to accomplish today and the rest of this week.

It's been a while since I've posted on this blogspot but now that summer is winding down I'd like to share more devotional thoughts more often.

Yesterday's sermon was "Ready or Not", and we heard from God's word that Jesus expects of us a waiting with a notion of readiness to serve. In fact, in the Luke passage (12:32-40) Jesus reminded us that it would be good for the master to return and to find us "serving".

When we think of waiting for the coming of Christ, sometimes we can get caught up in the "waiting" part and become overwhelmed with the hows and the whens. And indeed, we can see the signs of the times and see some reasons to be concerned as the direction our world has taken.

On the other hand, a closer reading of the passage will challenge us to an "active waiting" of that day with a committment and desire to be "dressed" and ready to serve Christ in all we are and do (especially as part of his body). The question is: Are we ready? Are we "dressed" for service? Are we prepared? Are we prepared to make that committment?

The opportunities to serve are there, are we ready...or not?

Prayer: Lord, thank you for your loving care. Help me this day to seize those opportunities to serve you in all I am and do, for your honor and glory. Amen.

By grace alone,
Pastor David

Monday, June 25, 2007

Staying Close to Christ

Blessings to you this day! I hope and pray that this week has gotten off the "right" foot for each of you. God indeed is good...all the time!

Today I'd like to share the closing prayer of my daily devotional:

"My Lord, I come to this moment knowing altogether too well that my feet are prone to wander and my heart prone to coldness. Go with me, my Lord. Keep my feet to your path and my heart aflame with your Spirit. Amen."

I don't think that I need to ask how challenging it is to keep our "feet on the path" of Christ and to keep our "hearts aflame" with God's Spirit. Everyday there are so many preoccupations that make us prone to "wander" from God's path of devotion, service, justice, and worship. It's not easy to accept but, our focus tends to wander away easier from God (and the things of God) than it does, say, from sports, favorite TV show, shopping, working, "chatting", text messaging, etc. As I've said before, not that any of these is evil, but when we realize our tendency to wander and accept the challenge, it may become easier for us to become more intentional in re-focusing our attention and priority to sensitize our spirits to God.

Some time ago someone circulated an email (you may have read it somewhere) that raised some questions along these lines: Why does an hour and a half in a church service seem so long to us and yet we're willing to sit and watch a program(s) for 2, 3, or 4 hours on TV? Why does $20 seem like too much during offering time in worship service yet when it comes to shopping it may not be nearly enough? And so on and so forth - the idea of course is that our tendency is to lose focus on the priorities that God has for us.

We are prone to wander - our priorities, focus, devotion, and "feet" are prone to wander. With God's help, we can keep our feet on the path. Let's make this our closing prayer as well:

"My Lord, I come to this moment knowing altogether too well that my feet are prone to wander and my heart prone to coldness. Go with me, my Lord. Keep my feet to your path and my heart aflame with your Spirit. Amen."

Solo por gracia,
Pastor David