so my goal to write devotions about "Desiderata" was pre-empted by a missions journal I was asked to help write. it was a big challenge (30 days) but I really appreciated it. I know many of these may not directly apply to you, but consider your life your mission and enjoy!
A few quiet moments during the day. Resting thoughts to focus your mind. Come face to face with the One who loves you. Be embraced. Cherished. Loved.
Friday, May 2, 2008
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen,
but on what is unseen.
For what is seen is temporary,
but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:18
It’s almost time to go. Stop for a moment and think about what made you make the decision to go on this trip. Were you looking for adventure? Excitement? A new experience? Or was it something more? If you’ve never been on a mission trip before, you may not know exactly why you are going, but have faith – the unseen hand working behind the scenes will reveal it to you in time!
The people you will encounter along this journey will probably look at you with those same questions in their eyes. What are you seeing? Are they asking where you came from? What you are doing here? And, most importantly, what will you do to help answer those questions?
Take a moment to think about how you will spend this time on the mission field. How will your actions be perceived? How will they see Jesus in you? Are you ready to look at the world with God’s eyes? Instead of looking at the people you will encounter through your eyes, look at them with the eyes of Christ. What does He want you to see that is ‘unseen?’ Is there a hidden need He is asking you to fill or a person He wants you to touch? Ask God to show you the eternal, unseen parts of this trip and this experience so that you can more fully help His mission be realized.
God is asking you to look with wider eyes at a world that may be unfamiliar or scary to you and see what He sees.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Can you believe this trip is here? For some, this is just one of many mission trips you have done throughout your life; for others, it is a new experience. Either way, this is a powerful moment in your life. You are stepping out on faith and making a quiet promise to God that you are willing to do whatever He asks you to do. As you prepare your heart and your mind for the upcoming trip, spend some time thanking Him for setting you apart for this trip. You will learn more, feel more, and experience more in the few days you are on the mission field than many other times in your life—if you are willing to be an empty vessel for Him.
The time before you leave on a trip like this is often hectic. As you figure out what to pack, make travel arrangements to drop-off locations, and spend time with the family and friends that you are not going to see for a few days, are you remembering to be in prayer for this trip?
Take a few moments now to answer these questions:
What do you most want to accomplish while you are on the field?
What lead you to this trip?
What do you feel like God is saying to you?
What are your fears about going?
What makes you the most excited?
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Did you receive an itinerary for your mission trip? You probably did. Feel free to not worry too much about it. The only real constant in mission trips is their inconsistency. The people you were originally asked to serve with have moved, the roads are closed, or there is political turmoil in the country you were supposed to visit…the list could go on and on. Mission trips are notorious for changing on the proverbial turn of a dime, so be prepared for that experience now.
If you are one of those people who likes things to happen on time and have order, your mission trip may be stressful at first. Concepts of time vary around the world, and there is a very real chance you will be more at ease if you choose now to leave your watch at home. No matter how stressful and different your experience is, it is important to remember one thing – it is okay.
Do not stress and worry about how things will turn out – instead follow the advice of Matthew 6:33-34 and seek God’s kingdom first. React to schedule deviations and other variables as God would react to them – and accept now that you will not be in control of your days for the duration of your trip. In reality, you are never really in control of your days anyway.
Each day of your upcoming mission trip will present unique challenges and difficulties. Each day will be a little stressful and frustrating. Each day something will go wrong. Just remember to always seek God first and you will do more than survive – you will thrive on the mission field.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
How many times have you heard the last will be first and the first will be last? Probably more times than you care to count. You know mission trips are not about you, but you have probably found yourself thinking a lot about yourself as you prepare. How will you handle the climate? Where will you sleep? What will you eat? Who will you talk to? Who will miss you?
Those are all normal questions, but for every “you” question, there needs to be a “them” question. How do they handle the climate? Where will they sleep? What do they eat? Who will they talk to? Who will miss them? Those are the questions a true servant asks. A servant does not think about how circumstances affect them, but instead how circumstances affect those they go to serve. It is a simple theory and a hard practice. We want so much to serve and love the “thems” of the world, but our culture does a good job of training us to be a little selfish and worry about us first.
For the next few days, every time a “you” question pops into your head – or, for that matter, every time someone asks you a question about how you are preparing – replace the “you” with the “they” and see what kind of difference it makes in your heart as you prepare.
This trip is a chance for you to serve God to the fullest of your ability – to be His hands, His feet, His heart to people who may never have heard of Him before.
Commit yourself to being last, to thinking less of yourself, and be open to experiencing the true joy of living for “them” instead.
Monday, April 28, 2008
See, I am sending an angel ahead of you
to guard you along the way and
to bring you to the place I have prepared.
There is a lot that goes into preparing for a mission trip for the mission team. There are passports and visas to get, languages to familiarize yourself with, plane tickets to confirm and arrangements to be made while you’re gone. A mission team has to prepare for the mission by learning skills and the needs of the community in which they will serve.
But, have you ever stopped in the midst of your preparations to think about what God is preparing for you, as well? While you are hard at work getting everything in place to be gone from your home for the trip, God is hard at work preparing your destination to receive you – and the message of God’s love you will bring. The place and time of your mission has been specifically planned by God for a purpose. There is a reason your trip is happening right now – and a reason you felt called to go here instead of any other place in the world.
If we could pull back the curtain on the supernatural and see the work God puts into preparing a mission destination for His missionaries, I am convinced we would be astounded and humbled by His work. No person is left untouched and unprepared; no building is put up haphazardly, no road leads to nowhere. The fingerprint of God is everywhere, and most of the time we are completely unaware of what He does on our behalf just to get the mission destination ready.
It is never too early to start thinking about the people that God is preparing and the journey that He is establishing for you on this trip. What do you expect to happen? What do you think God is doing right now to “prepare the way?”
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid or terrified because of them,
for the LORD your God goes with you;
he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Going on a mission trip can be a scary thing. You willingly chose to leave everything you know and are comfortable with to spend a long period of time doing something for someone else. You chose to give up your time and your resources to serve those that are underserved in our world. You chose to not know what the trip would entail for sure and go anyway. And, God will bless your choice!
The promise of Deuteronomy 31:6 is that no matter how unfamiliar you are with the language or culture, He will be there. The promise is that it might be scary and uncomfortable, but God will not leave you alone in the wilderness to fend for yourself. The promise is that your strength and courage to go on this mission trip comes not from you, but from God working through you to impact His world.
When you find yourself on the mission field in an uncomfortable situation (which will happen), remember this verse and seek God in the midst of your discomfort. Take a moment to commit Deuteronomy 31:6 to memory so when you are tempted to be afraid and feel alone, you can remember that the God that called you on this trip is right there beside you and He will never be far from you.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
All the believers were together and had everything in common.
Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
Being a part of mission team is a unique experience. After all, people from all walks of life and corners of the globe come together to serve in the same place. There is a good chance that you do not know all, if any, of the people you will be serving with in just a few days. If you do know them, they may not be close friends or anything more than people you met at a meeting about this very trip.
Luckily, you are already bonded with your fellow teammates by virtue of wanting to be part of the same experience. No matter how different your everyday life is, you are all preparing to serve in the same part of the world for the same amount of time for the same purpose. That is not that different from the churches that grew and grew in the book of Acts. The members of these first churches did not all know each other, but they were all united by a common thread – the cross of Christ.
That same passion for the global church is probably what leads you to the mission field. Is there a part of you that longs for the community described in the book of Acts, where all the believers were as one mind and purpose? That can happen during your trip! All you have to do is put the purpose of the mission and the glorification of Christ before your own desires and needs. You have to be willing to submit to your teammates, your mission hosts, and the cultural norms of your chosen mission field.
The most successful mission trips are trips where the team is unite together under the leadership of God. For these next few days, consider how you can be a true mission-team player – what you’re willing to sacrifice and what you’re willing to do to make sure the people you are going to meet see your team as a unified group that loves them, not as a bunch of people with nothing apparent in common. Pray for team unity now and pray for team unity every day until you return from your mission experience.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves,
For tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”
Do you really understand the promise of this scripture? It says something very simple and very deep. Whatever is happening in your life today, your tomorrow is up to God. He will continue to work in your life and do amazing things among you. Your response is to consecrate yourself, which means to “dedicate to a sacred purpose.”
This mission trip is just that—you dedicating yourself to a sacred purpose for the duration of this trip. What is that purpose? Your purpose is to do exactly what God would like you to do with every minute and hour. You are to be exactly what God would like you to be for this trip, and to be ready for anything.
But what about the second part of that verse? “For tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” Do you really believe that He is capable of doing something amazing in the midst of this trip? Believe it, because He has already planned it and set each person here apart for something special! You are going to be the amazing thing in someone’s life...and someone will be the amazing thing in yours.
So commit yourself to this sacred purpose and be prepared to be changed!
Thursday, April 24, 2008
He changes times and seasons;
he sets up kings and deposes them.
He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.
The mission experience was designed by God to leave participants different. From the beginning, God has called those who love Him and believe in His promises to be set apart – to be different - and to impact the world in ways that everyone else just doesn’t understand. The mission experience is one that will leave your life changed, if you are willing to give yourself completely over to the experience.
Whether this is the first time you have stepped on the mission field or the hundredth, you have to be willing to give yourself over, even for a short time, to the experience of being away from home, away from friends, maybe even away from family. Prepare your heart now, today, to be changed. Prepare to see life differently, to see people differently, to see God differently. The God that has called you to this trip in is the same God who commands the stars to shine and the moon to rise. The God that has asked you to set apart this week for Him is the same God who breathes life into the wind and reveals Himself on mountaintops. The God of all has asked you to be His vessel this week – to go where He has been waiting and to love those He has created.
The changes will be small at first. A little more patience with others, a little more love to give strangers. And, as the week goes on, you will notice bigger changes…your heart will feel bigger, your body will continue to work long after you think you cannot swing that hammer again. If you are willing to be totally His for the next few days, He will make you a little more like Him. And, that change will last long after you pack up camp and head back to what was once your “normal” life.
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD,
"plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.
If you think you’re going to be in control for the few days you’re on the mission field, you may want to ask God to get rid of those feelings right now. The truth is the only person in control is God and He has things planned that you haven’t even dreamed of yet. Let that sink in for a moment…
He has things planned you haven’t even dreamed of yet.
In your ‘wildest’ dreams about this trip, what do you see happening? Now take that and multiply it by about a million—that is what God sees happening. He knows that something amazing is going to happen, all you have to do is put Him first and let Him have complete control over what is going to happen.
This week, you will be asked to do more, to love more, to believe more, to trust more, to be more patient and understanding and challenge yourself more than any other time in your life. And, in return, you will be loved more, trusted more, blessed more, and changed more than you know.
There is a phrase often used when faced with challenges and opposition: Let Go and Let God. May that be the cry of your heart during this trip. Let go...of your fears, insecurities and impatience... and let God be God.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
The next several devotions are going to be based off one of my favorite poems, "Desiderata." Here it is:
If you compare yourself with others,
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
Therefore be at peace with God,
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
Monday, March 24, 2008
People see God every day, they just don't recognize him. ~Pearl Bailey
Did you see God today? Whether you chose to acknowledge him or not, he was there. He was there in the morning sunrise. He was there in the thunderstorms and the rain. He was there when you daughter woke up cranky or your son woke up smiling. He was there when you spouse slipped out of bed long before you awoke, and He was there in the angry driver that cut you off in traffic.
He was there when your boss dropped a last-minute project on your plate. He was there when you had to work late. He was there when you got a promotion. He was there when you were unexpectedly let go. He was there when you said goodbye.
He was there when you came home, exhausted. He was there through dinner and a night off. He was there when you relaxed, when you laughed, when you cried. He was in your phone calls and in your nightly prayers.
He was there.
Did you feel him?
Sunday, March 23, 2008
I know, it's been awhile since Easter, and I actually do have several posts to type up, but I haven't been on this site this week...still, here is my Easter morning post...a little late...
"He is not here. He has risen, just as he said he would."
I'm not sure there have ever been more beautiful words to read. I can only imagine what it would have been like to experience. The worse moment in history is over and, like all friends and family mourning the death of a loved one, Jesus' family and friends are struggling to get on with their lives. It's a Sunday morning and two women are on the way to the tomb. When they get there, the stone is rolled away. Looking inside, the body is gone! Where did they take Jesus? Why would they take him?
Can you see it? The fear, the frustration, the sadness...they didn't even allow him a proper burial, did not allow His family and friends to mourn. All they want to do is say goodbye, and now it seems they cannot even do that.
Then, those words...
He is not here.
He has risen.
Just as he said he would.
God's promise fulfilled through tragedy and triumph. Death conquered. Peace will reign again.
The world kept spinning, the disciples kept living their lives, all the time the truth ringing in their ears, hearts, and lives. He is risen. He is risen.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Today is one of the few days in the last weeks of Jesus that we don't have a lot to talk about. He has been crucified - Jesus is dead. The hope that was there seems to be gone. It seems like Jesus could have been a fraud - after all, how could God die?
Although the Jews had read the prophesies and were waiting for the Messiah, they didn't believe it was Jesus. Was he a good man? Sure. Did he live a holy life? Yes. Was he the Son of God? For some reason they doubted his claims. After seeing the miracles and hearing the words, they still refused to believe that Jesus was exactly who He claimed to be. And because of that refusal, there was silence as he died, and silence on that Saturday, as life seemed to go back to 'normal.'
A quiet Saturday was between a horrific death of a cross and an empty tomb. Every one of us experience a day just like that in our relationship with God. First, there is a death - your sin. Then there is a moment when you have to wrestle with the sin in your life and decide what to do next. Then, there is the Sunday - the promise that you have been forgiven now and forever.
On this Saturday, think about what happened yesterday - the sins, the falls, the moments where God seemed so far away. Then think about tomorrow - the joy, the hope, the promise that this is not there is all to life.
And may your tomorrow dawn full of kindness, grace, and the love of Christ now and forever. Amen.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Eternity hangs in the balance.
Jesus has accepted His fate.
Beaten and bloody, He begins the long walk to Calvary.
A rough cross.
Hands and feet pierced.
Hanging between life and death.
Last night at our communion service we were reminded that Jesus had the choice to live or die, to call heaven to his aid or to follow the path in front of Him. Sometimes I think that what happened on the cross was just destiny, it was what Jesus was born to do, so why would He not end up on the cross. And then I remember the sweating blood, the tears, the question - if it is possible, let this cup pass from me - and I remember that Jesus, as a man, had to choose to obey His father.
His choice saved you.
His choice saved me.
His choice opened the door of eternity for all humanity.
It wasn't long ago, just a blink of the eye in God's timing, that He turned away from His Son and the sin of the world from yesterday, today and tomorrow fell on Jesus all at once - and the darkest moment in history was upon Him. As God turned His eyes from His Son, He saw you and me and knew that anything was worth having us with Him forever.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them. "I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God." Mark 14:22-25
Today is the day. As Jesus looks at the world, He has to know that everything is about to change. All of eternity has been holding its breath, wondering if it would really happen. Would God really demand that sacrifice? Would Jesus really obey? Would the world really change tonight?
The pieces had already been put in motion and the earth was revolving toward resolution. As Jesus looked at his friends, his disciples, even his betrayer, he felt love. He knew the time was right, so when the hour was upon him, he broke the bread, offered the cup, and began a tradition which we hold tight to even today. The Lord's Supper was begun - a time to remember the broken body and the spilled blood that would serve as penance for all our sin.
Take a moment to think about your life. The times you've made mistakes, fallen down, and sinned against your God. The times everything has gone wrong and you've felt alone and isolated in the middle of your own pain. While you can't change the past, you can change the focus of your future.
- Next time you fall down, remember He fell on the road to Calvary, and He fell for you.
- Next time you can't see the sunlight through the pain, remember He was beaten for you.
- Next time you feel alone, remember He experienced something you never have to - complete isolation from God.
- Next time your life doesn't follow your plan, remember God's plan put His only son on a cross. For you. Forever.
Prayer: Father, help me to remember the sacrifice in the body and blood. Help me to remember what You did, You did for me. Not because you had to, but because you chose to. Not because You didn't know how much it would hurt, but because You wanted me close to you. Help me to remember that Your sacrifice renews my life. Forever. Amen.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees. ~Victor Hugo
Everyone has those moments when they feel far from God - they feel isolated and lonely in their own struggles and their own world. At those times, it's so easy to stop praying, to stop thinking about God and to focus on the worldly battle being fought around you. But, even during those darkest moments, God is still there - He is just as close as He was on the days you feel Him as He is on the days you cannot seem to find Him.
What's more, your soul is still in communion with God, even when your body seems far away. Once you have found Him, it is impossible to leave Him. Once you have accepted Him, you are unable to completely separate yourself from Him. It is on the dark days when you heart speaks the words your mind cannot create - and your heart speaks directly to the Creator on your behalf, urging patience, kindness, love and openness with Him.
So, when you are having a day when you feel like God is impossible to find, remember that your heart is speaking a language that you don't understand - a language, in fact, that the world does not understand. But, the Lover of your soul understands. And He hears your prayers.
Prayer: Abba, Father, Listen to the words my heart is speaking to You today. They are words I cannot create, yet they are filling a void I did not even know was there. Accept the prayers of my heart. Amen.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
In essence, there is only one thing God asks of us--that we be men and women of prayer, people who live close to God, people for whom God is everything and for whom God is enough. ~ Brennan Manning, the Ragamuffin Gospel
The Ragamuffin Gospel changed my life and completely changed how I view God. There is a lot about being a Christian and living a Christian life that I find hard to understand and confusing. There is a lot about following Christ that I never feel like I will be able to do enough of - helping the poor, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked. There are so many ways in which I fail at living up to the expectation I have for myself when it comes to my faith. And, in the midst of all of that, I read The Ragamuffin Gospel and felt peace.
There are a lot of commands, a lot of things that are good for Christians to do and a lot of ways we are called to be set apart, different, and unique. The foundation of that 'being different' is prayer - reaching out to an unseen hand and asking for His guidance in all we say and do.
It's easy to get caught up in the do's and don'ts of religion - it's easy to dwell on the ways we fail, the ways we fall short, and the ways we do not make a difference. When the essence of our call as a Christian is boiled down to the above quote - be a people of prayer - live close to God - God is everything - God is enough - those are things I think I can handle, goals I think I can meet, expectations I think I can exceed.
Choose today to be a person for whom God is enough and God is everything. Choose today to be a people of prayer. Choose today to live close to God. In doing those things, the rest of your Christian walk may become easier to see, even if the 'doing' part still seems almost impossible!
Prayer: Help me today to focus on the reality of what You expect of me - that I am a person of prayer - that I live close to You and that I rest in the fact that You are enough for me. Amen.
Friday, March 7, 2008
Joshua told the people, 'Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.' (Joshua 3:5)
This is one of my favorite scriptures. In just a few words, it says something deep and meaningful to my heart. Consecrate literally means "dedicated to a sacred purpose."
In what ways is your life consecrated? How are you dedicating yourself to a sacred purpose in what you say, what you do, how you react to trials and tribulations? The reality is that your sacred purpose does not change from day to day. Your purpose is to be open to God's will and leading in your life. You are set apart to be exactly the person God created you to be, regardless of how far away from 'sacred' you feel sometimes.
The second part of this verse deals with expectation - the promise that God has something amazing in store for your life. For tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you. A promise that He is always at work in your life, never ceasing, never resting.
The challenge today is to believe this! God has already planned something amazing for your tomorrow (and the tomorrow after that). You work on the consecrated part - the being dedicated to a sacred purpose part - and God will work on the amazing things He has in store for those who love Him.
Prayer: Father, help me to be set apart today. Help me to be different, to be challenged, to be, as the verse in Joshua says, dedicated to a sacred purpose. Help me to focus on You and the amazing things You will do in all my tomorrow's. Amen
Thursday, March 6, 2008
In life's uncertain voyage, I will some kindness do them. ~William Shakespeare
"If there is one thing that is certain about life, it is that nothing is certain." We've all heard those words and in our hearts know them to be true. Think for a moment about your life - how one minute everything seems to be moving along splendidly, only to come crashing down the next. How health can turn to disease in one doctor's visit - how loved ones can be taken from us in an instant. While we can't be certain of what life is going to throw at us from one day to the next, we can do our best to react with kindness and love.
There are often no words that seem to fit when someone is facing a tragedy in their life. Words of comfort fall on deaf ears when all they can hear is the pain, loss and frustration that has befallen them. Instead of using just words to comfort the broken and hurting, consider Shakespeare's words and "some kindness do them."
Do you know someone who has recently lost someone they love? Instead of just bringing food (which is still a good thing, don't get me wrong), take a moment to discover a need that needs to be filled - whether it's lining up someone to mow the lawn or shovel the snow, or someone to just take the car and get it washed. Do some kindness to them.
Is someone you love just having a horrible day, week, or year? Find a way to do some kindness to them - and in doing so, you will reveal the love and compassion of God Himself! Don't be afraid to ask what you can do, what need you can meet, how your kindness can be best manifested in their life.
Prayer: Father, help me to be kind today. Help me to reach out with kindness to a world that can be cruel and unfair so much of the time. Put people in my path that need to experience some kindness, with no strings attached. Amen.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. (Deut. 3:19-20)
Ipods. Personal televisions. Blackberry's. 24/7 access. Cable. DVR.
If your life is anything like mine, my guess is that it is pretty full of noise. I have a hard time just sitting in silence. I used to enjoy the quiet, but now I find I can barely sit at a desk without a podcast playing or music on. Why do I fill my life with so much noise? What am I drowning out? I avoid silence, but then wonder why I don't seem to hear God's voice.
You're hearing a lot. I know you are. I am, too. You're hearing, but are you listening to the voice on the breeze, the voice in the silence, the voice in the static?
His voice spoke the world into existence. His voice spoke your life into His world. His voice spoke redemption on a hill in Jerusalem. And, more than that, His voice still speaks today. He calls out through creation, through your family, through your enemies...He calls out in any way he can to get your attention.
So, listen carefully to the sounds around you - you will hear Him in children laughing, in people embracing, in the everyday small things you do that make a difference for eternity. In the space between the noises of your life, listen for the something more that God is saying to you. Turn off the music a little more each day. Check out of the noise and into the silence, and find the voice of the One who will continue speaking to you forever.
Prayer: Father God, give me the strength to find you in the silence. Open my ears and my heart to your voice today. Help me to hear your plan for my life, and rejoice as you sing your blessings over my life.