Devotionals + Inspiration
The Gospel of the Broken
It started as a typical Thursday morning in the office—coffee in hand, sitting down to finalize my message for the upcoming weekend—when two police officers showed up with the worst news a parent can ever receive.Our oldest son, Chase, had died in a one-car accident on his way to work that morning. Our world immediately turned upside-down. Even now, more than a year later, as I write this devotional, my heart breaks, and I yearn to see my son again. As pastors and leaders, we often run from the pain and uncertainty in our lives and in the lives of others. We put on a strong face, not letting our churches know how broken we actually are. We keep a safe distance from others to shield them from seeing our wounds or to keep their burdens from becoming our own. But I could not run from this pain or try to turn it off when I was in front of our congregation. Pretending everything was OK was not an option. Jesus incarnated Himself in our brokenness. Isaiah, the prophet, reminds us that Jesus was acquainted with our grief (Isa. 53). Somehow the Son of God entered into our pain, our questions and our misunderstandings. We see it in His interactions with the woman at the well, the adulteress in the dirt about to be stoned to death, the little guy up in the tree and the denying disciple. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19, NKJV). My district supervisor, Gabe Barreiro, recently said: “I continually marvel at the life Jesus modeled in the public domain. The Scriptures show us His transformative interactions with people along the broken road of life.” I’ve realized something since my son went to be with Jesus: The gospel stands as much in humility and brokenness as it does in power and victory. The gospel is as much “I was blind” as it is “I can see.” The gospel is embodied by you and me in the public domain as we live authentic lives before our God, ourselves and others. The culture doesn’t need our pious, religious sayings, such as, “God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good.” What the world needs to see is that God is good in our brokenness, and that He even works through our brokenness. God is good, not just on the other side of our pain: He’s good in it. We don’t have to hide our pain until it has been remedied. Every great story has conflict and tension. We must stop hiding ours from the people in our churches and communities. You are good news. Your story and your journey, in all its rawness, is good news to a world without answers and without hope. Without Jesus. The gospel, as we embody it, is not devoid of our own struggle; it is birthed from it. Prayer Points Ask the Lord for a trusted relationship or two in which you can share all your brokenness and hurt. Be selective. Choose someone of the same gender who has your back and whom you are confident will keep what you share confidential. In your next message or leadership talk, pray about sharing a current struggle in your personal life, asking the Lord for discernment on how much to share. Allow God to give you fresh eyes to see the hurt and brokenness around you—in your own family, in your congregation and in your city. Ask Him for the heart to respond with compassion and mercy. Share your thoughts. See comments below, and add your own.
In the Spotlight
“Wow! I never saw that before!” How many times have you said those words to yourself when you’re reading the Word? I highly suspect that you’re like me. It happens all the time to all of us, doesn’t it?It doesn’t matter how long we’ve walked with the Lord or how many times we’ve read through the Bible; it’ll still happen. God throws a 20,000-lumen spotlight on a truth and illuminates it in such a way that we wonder why we never saw it before. When I was translating the Bible into the Choco language of Central and South America, I could hardly wait till the next time that bright light would shine down. I always found myself praying: “Give me light, Lord. Give me light! Illuminate the truth of this passage to my heart so I can make it clear in their language.” Then I would always ask myself, “If Jesus were saying this in Choco, how would He say it?” Not long ago, I had another one of those “I never saw that before” moments. I was teaching about communion at our Prime Timers senior retreat. The cup, of course, represents Jesus’ shed blood. There are so many verses about what God does for us through that blood. Here’s truth from just a few of them: He forgives us. He purchases us. He paid the price for our sins. He justifies us—declares us to be holy. He reconciles us. He makes us holy. In fact, there’s so much to say about what the blood does for us, I had to limit it and reduce my focus to only 10 quick points. Well, maybe I can use the other verses at next year’s retreat. Then it was time to teach about the bread. I always had rather limited myself to the truth in the bread that we are healed by His stripes. And that is a great truth, for sure. But I wasn’t quite ready for the spotlight that was coming my way. Listen to what the book of Hebrews says: “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body … let us draw near to God …” (Heb. 10:19-22, NIV, emphasis added). If you combine those italicized words into a stand-alone sentence, you have: "The curtain into God’s presence is His body." When Jesus died, that thick curtain was ripped apart from top to bottom. Without doubt, it was God Himself who was doing the ripping. And what He was doing was providing a fresh, new, life-giving way for all of us to draw near to God. There I was, holding this little piece of bread in my hand and reading, “This bread is my body,” when that truth spotlight hit me. It was another one of those “I never saw that before!” moments. This bread is His body. The opened curtain is His body. Put those two together and you have the big “A” word—what God is putting in the spotlight is His incredible gift to us: “access.” The door is forever open for us to come before His throne. And the little piece of bread in my hand was to always remind us of that. Wow! Oh how we love it, Lord, when You keep brilliantly illuminating the truths that You left for us in Your Word. When we hold this bread (curtain) in our hands, we will be diligent to follow Your command, “Remember me.” Prayer Points Pray for freshly illuminated truth in your heart each time you are in the Word. Ask God for clear direction in the way that He will use you in your ministry as a restorer of broken lives. Be tenacious in asking God for wisdom, insight and clear direction in all your endeavors to see people set free from bondage. Share your thoughts. See comments below, and add your own.
Sometimes Miracles Hide
Jesus was invited to a wedding where the wine ran short. At a Jewish wedding, that would have dishonored the family of the bride and groom because they had not provided for the guests as a good family should have. That is when Jesus’s mother pleaded with Him to do something.Jesus gave instruction to the servants to fill water jars. It wasn’t the most plausible resolution attempt, but Jesus’s mother told the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it” (John 2:5, NKJV). So, that’s exactly what they did. They filled the buckets to the brim. The water jars held 180 gallons, so the number of trips to the city well with their gallon-or-so buckets would have taken them a while. There were no water faucets to turn on and no hoses. It was a bucket brigade to fill the voluminous water pots. Then Jesus asked them to take a ladleful from the newly filled water pots to the master of the banquet. I’m certain these servants felt foolish doing what they were asked to do. I would have! But when the master of the banquet tried the liquid (that had been turned to wine), he became ecstatic. The flavor! The bouquet! The palate! “Why,” he exclaimed, “this wedding has saved the very best for last!” (John 2:5-10, NKJV, paraphrased). When did the water actually turn into wine? Where—along the line of fetching the buckets, walking to the well, scooping the water, over several trips—did this transformative miracle take place; when did the common become the miraculous? Do you know? Does it say? Maybe it was when they drew the water. Or when it touched the master of the banquet’s lips. We are not told explicitly, but it must have happened somewhere in between. It took place somewhere in that process of obedience. While working through the doubts, they put one foot in front of the other in willing compliance to the Master Himself. It was the forward motion of obeying what they heard instead of slipping out the back door in embarrassment. I think God designed it to happen that way. Miracles often hide in the day-to-day steps of obedience. In the oftentimes common, and sometimes monotonous, tasks where we are simply following Jesus, they happen. Listening to Him, learning what He wants us to be doing each moment, each morning, each day—somewhere in our following, we turn around and the water has turned to wine. We don’t know exactly when or where that miraculous alchemy takes place. We can’t point to a certain service or to that certain moment. All we know is that somewhere along the line, old thoughts become new, our family becomes more content, our work more fulfilling and our influence richer. Miracles hide in day-to-day obedience. We love the grand services and the roar of the concerts, but the greatest miracles often hide. They hide in simple moments of devotion. They hide when we struggle with doubts when we don’t see wine yet. Miracles may hide, but they are not absent. They are present and will soon be revealed. True servants will find that out. The others will be left by the back door. Prayer Points Pray that the Lord will help leaders to have the courage necessary not only to be in a position of leadership, but also to do the work of a leader (Joshua 1:8-9). Pray for the leaders of our Foursquare family, that God will continue to give us vision for our future. Pray for men and women in spiritual leadership to be men and women of great virtue and character. Share your thoughts. See comments below, and add your own.
A Job Well Done
“Don’t forget to go to the store!” When my wife sends me to the local market, she has a very clear list of what I am supposed to purchase.Sometimes, my wife will even send pictures of the items to my phone to make sure I don’t make any mistakes. When I arrive at home after shopping, she opens the bags, makes sure I got everything, thanks me for the help and puts the groceries in their proper places. I was sent on a mission that I accomplished, and I was thanked. Earlier this year, the Lord felt like He needed to remind me of the clear mission He has sent me on—the one we have all been sent on—to “go and makes disciples” (Matt. 28:19-20, NIV). It sounds basic. Simple. Like something we are all doing. But God’s reminder caused me to contemplate the question, “Who am I discipling?” Immediately, I thought of the people attending my services, the team I was working with and the outreach ministries I was leading. In my Spirit, though, I knew this question was referring to something more than that, something deeper. It was challenging me to be honest with whether I had new people whom I was consistently meeting with, intentionally investing in and personally making into disciples. Like Jesus did. Jesus chose 12 people to meet with on a regular basis. He was very intentional with their spiritual development. He was making disciples personally through relationship. Three things strike me when I think about the way Jesus discipled: Their discipleship relationship started before they had a full understanding of who Jesus was. Their discipleship relationship was short-term; it was only about three years in length. Their discipleship relationship resulted in those disciples making disciples, who made disciples, who made disciples … So, who am I getting to know, teaching Scripture to, listening to, spending time with, caring for, answering their questions, praying for, investing in, guiding and releasing to do the same? Just like coming home from the store and giving my wife what she asked for, I want to get to the end of my life on Earth and give Jesus what He asked for! I want to give Him the disciples that I personally made. We have all been sent on a clear mission to make disciples. Let’s accomplish that mission and position ourselves to hear Jesus say, “Well done.” Let’s start by asking ourselves the question: “Who am I discipling?” Prayer Points Ask the Lord to open your eyes to how you can be more effective at personally making disciples. Ask the Lord to bring to your mind at least one person who doesn’t know Jesus, with whom you can start cultivating a personal discipleship relationship. Prayerfully consider a strategic plan to intentionally connect with and begin a true discipleship relationship with this person. Share your thoughts. See comments below, and add your own.
The Liberating Power of Faith
This year saw two historic commemorations in October. The first was the centennial of the Russian Revolution, October 24-25, 1917, the anniversary of atheistic communism prevailing in Russia. The second followed a week later on October 31: the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Both the Revolution and Reformation promised liberty.Unless you are a devout communist, the Bolshevik revolution led by Vladimir Lenin has proved to be anything but liberating. It is estimated that more than 94 million people perished under various communist regimes in the 20th century. I visited one of the “killing fields” in Cambodia and saw just one location among many where more than a million people were killed between 1975-1979 by the Khmer Rouge. This was not a “holy” purifying rite, but a barbaric, born-in-hell demonstration of our deep depravity. Communism’s man-made, utopian vision of perfect economic, political and social equality has its own eschatology of hope. It has its own “heaven”—the worker’s paradise—and its own judgments upon those who resist its self-ordained march through history. Its morality is based on human power. While it is unlikely that most of us reading this devotion paused to remember the Bolshevik Revolution, many of us likely remembered the Reformation that began with Martin Luther. Some may have even gathered in Wittenberg, Germany, to commemorate the nailing of Luther’s 95 Theses on the church door. Luther’s story is one of personal courage. His courage came from conviction of the eternal Word of God. Prior to 1517, this unknown Augustinian monk had buried himself in the Psalms, Romans and Galatians. Luther’s personal prayer life opened his heart to the power of the Spirit in understanding the Word. For Luther, prayer was the communication through which he learned how to lead a world-transforming movement. Through the Bible, he discovered the liberating power of faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ. Through preaching, teaching and writing about this liberating truth, Luther unleashed spiritual dynamics that impact us to this day. Admittedly not everything is rosy in the Reformation story. There was violence in the German Peasants’ War (1524-1525). Later, the divisions between Protestants and Roman Catholics, and even within various branches of Protestantism, led to violence and wars. And sadly, in our day, spiritual renewal and political power are difficult to separate, and we often ponder who are the wheat and who are the tares (Matt. 13:25). But Luther’s Reformation, for its flaws and divisions, nonetheless had its future hopes centered in Jesus Christ. Regardless of the details of eschatology, the primary eschatology was rooted in Christ’s victory over the sin that is so destructive to all humanity. In reflecting on the Spirit’s call for us to be engaged in liberating ministry, I am reminded that it was Jesus Himself who recognized the Spirit’s prophetic anointing upon Himself as He began His public ministry (Luke 4:18-19; Isa. 61:1-2). His liberating ministry was manifested in human suffering and, finally, His own suffering on the cross. As we ponder our ministry, may we avoid the worldly temptations of power, of utopias, and willingly stand in the gap for the lost and suffering. Our prayer remains “Thy kingdom come,” not “our kingdom come.” Prayer Points Pray that the Holy Spirit will enable us to learn from history. Pray that the Holy Spirit will enable us to discern what is truly God’s redeeming work in our world and not to be deceived by false utopias. Pray that our ministry efforts at liberation will be in the Spirit and heart of Jesus. Share your thoughts. See comments below, and add your own.