Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Advent Devotions – For you, for your family.

I’ve been using YouVersion for almost a year now. YouVersion is a Bible App for your smartphone that has a load of different versions, a great search function, allows you to bookmark favorite passages and even lets you post directly from the app to Facebook or Twitter.

One of the features that I like best is the different Bible reading plans that they have developed (or that others have developed and made available). Some are all year long plans, others are shorter. Some are seasonal.

It’s those seasonal plans that prompt this post. There are some great reading plans on YouVersion for the Christmas season. Even if you don’t have a phone with YouVersion, you can still go to their website and look up the daily readings on your computer.

Here are some Christmas reading plans you might want to check out:

If you are looking for some ways to focus on devotions as a family between now and Christmas, check out the Countdown to Christmas Plan. It’s a 29 day plan that includes daily activities for children that coincide with the readings. You and your kids will enjoy this! Start this one today so you can get all of the readings and activities in before Christmas.

Another plan that you’ll want to start right away is Christmas Begins with Christ. It’s a 28 day plan that focuses on bringing us back to Jesus and the light, joy, peace and hope he brings for all of us.

Another option is the Rediscovering the Christmas Season plan. This plan starts on December 1 and includes questions as well as action steps to center each day on Christ. It would work for individuals, families and small groups.

A personal favorite is a plan called Carols: A Christmas Devotional. It’s also 25 days and explores some familiar Christmas Carols born from the joy of Christ entering the world. Rediscover the reason some of these songs are classics.

Just some suggestions for how you and your Bible and your faith might intersect over the next few weeks.


P.S. – Find out more about all of these and other reading plans at www.youversion.com.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Life of Prayer – Every Day

Over four weeks, the church I pastor [First Saints Community Church] walked through a sermon series called “A Life of Prayer.” You can find the downloads here.

Each day there was a Scripture and a thought to help focus us on prayer during the week. It was a great way to carry the Sunday message into each day – at work, at school, into our homes. Many of you responded on Facebook or Twitter to those daily posts; they seemed to be well received at the time.

Since then I’ve had several requests to collect those daily prayer thoughts in one place so I have collected them here. I hope they are helpful as you continue in the relationship and conversation that is a life of prayer.

~ Godspeed


Week 1
· Monday – 1 John 5:14. Today approach God with confidence. What is happening in your life that you are hesitant to talk to God about?
· Tuesday – John 10:27. Make today’s time of prayer a time of listening only. Hear God’s voice.
· Wednesday – 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Today, take every opportunity throughout the day to lift up a short prayer to God.
· Thursday – 1 John 5:15. God hears you. What is weighing you down that you need God to take from you the most?
· Friday – Psalm 46:10. Find a quiet place and be still while you seek to bask in the presence of God in the midst of your silence.
· Saturday – James 4:8. Remember that prayer is a conversation. Draw near to God in this time of conversation.
· Sunday – Luke 11:1-4. Ask God to teach you how to pray better, more often and more effectively over the next few weeks.

Week 2
· Monday – James 5:16. Today’s prayer should be a time of confession. Is there anyone to whom you need to confess?
· Tuesday – Luke 18:1. Is there a prayer that you’re about to give up on? Today, be reminded to always pray and not give up.
· Wednesday – Hebrews 11:1. As you pray, tell God about the one thing that you hope for the most.
· Thursday – James 5:13. Make today’s prayer full of songs of praise. Make music of your own or sing along to the radio or a CD.
· Friday – Matthew 18:20. If its possible; spend time in prayer with someone else today.
· Saturday – James 5: 14. Who is on your heart that needs healing? Lift their name and need before God today.
· Sunday – Isaiah 54:17. No weapon formed against you will prosper. Claim a victory over something you’ve been struggling.

Week 3
· Monday – Matthew 6:6. Make sure that your prayer is done in a way that doesn’t call attention to yourself. Remember, this is about God!
· Tuesday – 1 Peter 5:6-7. Cast your cares on God. Let Him carry your burdens today; no matter how great or how small.
· Wednesday – 1 John 1:9. Confession is important, but so is God’s forgiveness. Remember that your sins are forgiven and be thankful.
· Thursday – Matthew 10:29-30. God even cares about the “little things.” Share even the trivial parts of your life with God as you pray.
· Friday – Matthew 6:7. Prayer is conversation. Talk to God like you would talk to a close friend. Keep it simple.
· Saturday – Psalm 27:14. Sometimes we have to wait to hear from God. Is today one of those days?
· Sunday – John 17:1-5. Go ahead. Pray for yourself first. Jesus did!

Week 4
· Monday – John 17:8-9. Pray for our church to follow its vision. “Meet people where they are. Lead them to where Christ wants them to be.”
· Tuesday – John 4:24. Pray that our church’s worship would be pleasing and acceptable to God.
· Wednesday – John 17:23. Pray that our church would experience unity so that others might see God in us.
· Thursday – John 17:13. Pray that First Saints and all of our people might experience fullness of joy.
· Friday – John 17:20. Pray for those who come to our church and need to hear and experience the Good News of Jesus Christ.
· Saturday – Ephesians 6:18. Today, this reminder to pray for all the Lord’s people is a reminder to pray for our church’s lay leadership.
· Sunday – 1 Corinthians 15:58. Pray for the Pastors of First Saints; that they give themselves fully to the work of the Lord.

Friday, November 18, 2011


[I have written this post a thousand times. And edited its content a thousand and one.]

Last weekend I went to a wake.

For a church.

My heart is aching. And I am angry.

Along with many other emotions I am feeling.


What I can say …

It was great to see everyone. [It truly was.]

God reigns. Even when my vision is clouded and I see only evidence to the contrary.

God has a plan in all of this that has yet to be revealed. [He does, most certainly.] All things do work together for good for those who love God and are called according to God’s purpose.

Nothing can change all the wonderful things that God has done at that church over the last 20 years. God’s Word does not return void.



All of those things are true. And I will cling to them.

Even if those statements do not begin to tell the depth of what I feel …

… or the weight of all that I wish to say.



Tuesday, November 15, 2011

OWS – 15 November

NO matter how you feel about OWS, the early morning raid on Zuccotti Park reveals several things.

1. Freedom of the press is a thin illusion. Thousands of reporters were barred from covering events in the park as they unfolded under the guise of “protecting” journalists from harm. [Even if you admit this were the case for journalists on the ground, under what pretext do you prohibit news helicopters from “violating the park’s airspace?”]

We deploy journalists in active warzones facing enemy combatants, but we can’t allow them into a public park across the grass from fellow Americans. If public officials are to be believed, our fellow Americans, unarmed and half-asleep at 1:00 a.m., are more dangerous to reporters than Iraqi and Afghan insurgents with automatic weapons.

2. This isn’t going away. That was clearly not the thought of Mayor Bloomberg and other NYC officials when they reversed course and allowed the OWS protesters to remain in the park a couple of weeks ago. They underestimated the resolve of the people of this movement.

The OWS movement has been widely criticized for lacking clear goals and focus, but its hard to criticize its staying power. And last night’s sweep of the park shows signs of providing focus and clarity rather than dissipating it. The web is alive with reports of smaller gatherings around the city as people plan next steps, meet with NYC civic leaders and prepare for a previously planned gathering on Thursday to mark the two months of OWS.

In fact, a NYC judge has reportedly just issued a restraining order saying that OWS protesters can return to the park immediately and has scheduled a hearing for later today. This is far from over.

In short, this is likely just the beginning of OWS. And the criticisms of lack of focus may not remain for long. Popular movements often lack focus, clarity and leadership early on; that was true of the civil rights movement in its early stages. Even unity within these movements is hard to achieve at first; that was true of the suffrage movement.

3. Be prepared for the pictures. The pictures will turn the tide. They did in the civil rights movement and in the Viet Nam War. They may very well do so here.

To date, we haven’t seen the dramatic pictures out of Oakland or New York in the mainstream media but now that reporters are being excluded and sidelined by the authorities that may evolve. If journalists begin to see themselves as outsiders looking in, their attitudes and tactics will change. Reporters can be a very agreeable bunch – but they react negatively and decisively to being pushed out and pushed aside like they were earlier this morning.

4. The line between public and private is more confusing than ever. At this point in our history, your bank account, your cell phone records and your internet activity have all been determined to be public. And a public park (Zucutti Park is technically own by Brookfield Properties) has been determined to be private.

5. This will become more polarizing the longer it goes on. That really shouldn’t come as a surprise. It has happened with every major movement in our country’s history. Whether OWS has the staying power to ultimately be classified as a “major movement” along side others is still open for debate, but this will further divide an already divided nation.

In the first two months since OWS began I’ve seen friendships erode and end. I’ve seen civil conversations erupt into shouting matches. We’ve only scratched the surface of what could be coming if our past national experience is any indication of what lies ahead. If that’s true, there is a national crisis in the making that will require healing. [And we haven’t healed from the other national crises yet!]

6. People of faith have a special responsibility. I am a Christian; and as part of that tribe I believe we have a special role and responsibility. We have the responsibility to set aside the lens of nationalism, classism and allegiance to an economic system. We have the responsibility to thoughtfully and prayerfully ask “Where is the Kingdom of God?” Our task is to seek out where God is at work … and then join God in that work.

That sounds easy and simple. It is not.  That is why I use words like “thoughtful” and “prayerful” a lot. The more confident and quick to respond you sound, the less confident I am that you know what you’re talking about.

I believe that there are places where God is at work in “Liberty Park.” And I believe that there are places where God is at work on Wall Street. I do not believe we can lionize every OWS protestor any more than we can demonize every NYPD officer. Both are far too easy.

Pray quickly. Speak slowly. Act deliberately.