“When we bless God for mercies, we usually prolong them. When we bless God for miseries, we usually end them. Praise is the honey of life which a devout heart extracts from every bloom of providence and grace.” Charles Spurgeon
Would you characterize 2020 as a year of gratitude or grumbling? Did you notice complaining rising in your heart and slipping off your tongue more than thanksgiving to God?
Continue reading Make 2021 a Year of Gratitude: Cultivating the Habit of Thanksgiving
(This devotional is day twenty-six of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)
“[Tol Proudfoot] had become an elder of the community, and had recognized his memories, the good ones anyhow, as gifts, to himself and to the rest of us.”
Maybe it’s my small-town upbringing, but I feel at home when reading Wendell Berry’s fictional stories. His characters aren’t larger-than-life heroes or villains but they capture the ordinary, beautiful, flesh-and-blood people I’ve encountered in life. His plots aren’t moved along by intense action, but in their familiarity as true to life stories you might hear at your own family gathering.
Continue reading Wendell Berry and the Gift of Remembrance: November Gratitude Reading Plan (Day 26)
(This devotion is day one of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)
Read Psalm 100
What’s the proper reaction of creation to its Creator? If God is God, and we live and breathe in His world, provided for and blessed in countless ways, what is a fitting response? And if we were under God’s righteous judgment because of our sin against Him, and yet He graciously redeemed us at the cost of His Son, what should be our posture before Him?
Continue reading Worship the King with Thanksgiving: November Gratitude Reading Plan (Day 3)
“It’s one thing to be grateful. It’s another to give thanks. Gratitude is what you feel. Thanksgiving is what you do.” Tim Keller
“I like to think of thankfulness as God’s ‘spiritual air freshener.’ It replaces the stale odor of resentment with clean, fresh-smelling air for the soul to breathe.” Gary Thomas
Gratitude is a bit like healthy eating. We all want it, and sometimes can do it for a few days, but our bad habits usually shoot us in the foot. Both take more than good intentions. They require replacing old habits with new ones. Good intentions need good habits if we want good results.
Continue reading November Thirty-Day Gratitude Reading Plan & Challenge
“Our habits incline us to act in certain ways without having to kick into a mode of reflection; for the most part we are driven by an engine that purrs under the hood with little attention from us.” James K.A. Smith
“Without planning, we’ll practice our Bible memory just once or twice and then no more. We’ll do lots of good things, but only a couple of times. One of the great strengths of good traditions in our lives is the repetition—not something done once, then something else, then another thing altogether—but good things done regularly, dependably, until they become habits.” Noel Piper
Continue reading The Power of Habits
We’ve all had something in our life that we wanted to change, or knew we needed to change, but we never pulled the trigger. Or, we gave it a shot but gave up after a couple of days. That might be eating healthy or going on a new diet, an exercise routine, wanting to stop a behavior or pattern of behaviors, curbing spending and sticking to the budget, practicing a spiritual discipline such as Bible reading or prayer, or even just wanting to respond different than we have recently, like not responding in frustration or anger to those around us.
We learn by listening, and good listeners ask good questions. While there’s no one-way to do Bible study, one thing we can do is ask questions as we’re reading to help us better observe, interpret, and apply the text. These questions should help us discover the meaning of the passage itself (“what did the author mean?) and move us to living it out? They should not only help us understand the Bible, but they should stir our love for God and neighbor because of what we discover in it.
Continue reading Bible Study Questions
“If the Word does not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us.” John Owen
Continuing the series of posts on Bible meditation, I wanted to list some practical ideas for how to do it. While meditation can be a result of reflecting on something in creation, life experiences, conversations, our future in eternity, or other things, we’ll focus on meditating on Scripture.
Continue reading Ways to Meditate on Scripture
There are things we take for granted until we really need them. Like windshield wipers. I vividly remember driving down the interstate in a downpour. Rain pounded my car. As I flipped my wipers into high-speed, they suddenly caught on one another. Not good. I pulled over to the shoulder, jumped out of the safety of my dry car, and got soaked as I separated the wipers like two fighting children. After a quick rendition of “Jesus Take the Wheel,” I returned to the road, exhaling a deep, grateful breath.
Continue reading Windshield Wipers and Confession of Sin
“Confession of sin is one of the missing ingredients in the life of today’s Christian. We feel bad all the time, but often it’s over the wrong things. And when we do feel sorry for our sin, we don’t know what to do with it. We feel like we would be cheapening the blood of Christ if we confessed again. So we hesitate to repent. We feel bad, but we don’t confess and enjoy a clean conscience.” Kevin DeYoung
“Repentance is not usually a moment wrought in high drama. It is the steady drumbeat of a life in Christ and, therefore, a day in Christ.” Tish Warren
“The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works.” Augustine
Confession is the acknowledgement to God of our sin, brokenness, and waywardness in order to be cleansed and restored to him. It’s an essential practice of the Christian, even though it’s often neglected or relegated to when we feel like we’ve really blown it. But with all the misunderstandings of confession, what is it?
Continue reading What Confession Is and Isn’t
“Lent invites us into practices where the Gospel is felt in our bodies—in hunger, in longings that go unsatisfied, in wants deferred. And these aren’t just “intellectual” realizations. My growling belly has stories to tell me about who I am and who I’m made for.” James K.A. Smith
The season of Lent (starting Wednesday 2/26/20) in the Liturgical Calendar aims to prepare our hearts for Good Friday and Easter. It can be a dedicated time of seeking the Lord through Word, prayer, and related rhythms such as fasting. This year, our church put together a six-week reading guide called Rebuilding & Resting.
Continue reading Lent 2020 Reading & Fasting Guide