“To experience the richness of life in God’s kingdom, we must reorder our lives. We need to see through the shallow promises of our culture, and we need rhythms, signposts, and practices that reorient us to another world.” Mike Cosper
My wife (Melissa) is an excellent cook. I’d much rather find myself in front of a home cooked meal from Café Crowe than any other restaurant—and not just because I’m
cheap frugal. But, there was one time when her cooking didn’t sit so well with my stomach. It was eggplant parmesan. I’m still not sure what it was, but something about this eggplant made me very sick to my stomach (to say it nicely). If you’ve ever gotten nauseous after eating a particular food, you know how it scars you…maybe forever. Even today, several years after “the meal,” the very mention of eggplant sends a shiver down my spine. It’s now “it which shall not be named” in our house.
For some people in the church, the language of “spiritual disciplines” can hit them with similar effects. Maybe those words brings on guilt or disappointment, or maybe they bring on joy and excitement. If you and “spiritual disciplines” have a long, baggage-filled history that leaves a sour taste in your mouth when you hear about them, then you might have any number of reactions to a class on spiritual disciplines.
Continue reading Spiritual Disciplines: Grace or Guilt?
“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.
“Each year the season of Lent asks us to embrace a spiritual gravity, a downward movement of soul, a turning from our soul-sufficiency and sinfulness. In such quiet turning, we are humbled and thus made ready to receive from God a fresh and joyous grace.” Bobby Gross
Lent, not to be confused with lint (that fluffy stuff in your dryer vent or jean pockets), is a season within the Church calendar preparing our hearts for Easter. Similar to how Advent each December allows us to meditate on the incarnation leading up to Christmas Day, Lent gives us six weeks to consider Christ’s humility in the wilderness temptation and his human trials as we move towards Good Friday and Easter. During this season, the Christian follows Jesus by pursuing humility in our own life, believing he must come before us. As John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Continue reading What is Lent?
“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: 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
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