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At the Home For Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico, where I live and serve, we have church services every Wednesday and Sunday.  We frequently sing a song in Spanish that says, “No hay lugar mas alto, mas grande, que estar en los pies de Cristo.”  Translated to say, “There is no place higher or greater than at the feet of Jesus.”

 Every time we sing that song I think of Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.  She always seems to be at the feet of Jesus.  The first time we meet her she is at the Masters feet listening to him teach.  The second time we encounter her she is prostrate at his feet telling him that if he had been there, her brother Lazarus would not have died. Shortly after that she is on bended knee before the Lord,  pouring expensive perfume on his feet.

I think that these three instances of Mary at the feet of Jesus can teach us something important about our relationship with Jesus.

First, we need to spend time at Jesus feet listening and learning from him.  I love the whole Bible, but when I read the words of Jesus, it’s something special.  It’s no mere human being talking, but it’s the Christ, the Son of the living God, who is talking.  Jesus, fully God and fully man, who came down from the realms of Glory to be among us and teach all humanity the Truth.  When Jesus speaks, I listen! 

To sit at Jesus feet and listen, spiritually and symbolically means that I humble myself.  I realize that I don’t have all the answers and HE does.  I do not stand before him, and look him in the eye as an equal, but I place myself at his feet, acknowledging that I, like Mary, am simply searching for the truth about God, about the world, about my life and living in right relationship with God and others.

Second, we spend time at the feet of Jesus when we are despairing, depressed, confused, frustrated; at wits end and at the end of our rope. That’s the condition Mary was in the second time we find her at the feet of Jesus. Her brother, Lazarus, was dead.

She had sent word to Jesus four days before, telling Jesus to come quickly because Lazarus was deathly sick. Jesus waited two days before leaving for Bethany. By this time Mary’s brother was dead. Mary falls at Jesus feet (when he finally arrives) and certainly, with confusion and heartache in her voice she exclaims (accuses?), “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32)

We, like Mary, can safely fall at Jesus feet when we are disappointed in him, when we are confused about his will, his plan, his purpose for our lives. When we feel he has let us down. When we thought we had the God Thing all figured out, and then life throws us for a loop. Those are times that Jesus welcomes us to bow humbly at his feet so that he can lift us up and make everything better. Like he did for Mary by raising Lazarus from the dead. He may not raise our loved ones from the dead, but he will resurrect our hopes and faith and love.

Third, we go to Jesus feet when we we are full of joy and to happily, extravagantly, worship him. The next time we see Mary at the feet of Jesus, she is adoring Jesus and giving him her best. In the chapter after Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, we encounter a joyous Mary, with awe in her eyes at the Lord, and a jar of expensive perfume in her hands. John 12:3 says that “Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume, and poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped it with her hair.”

It’s natural and fitting that we too should worship at Jesus feet, pouring out to him our best gifts, our time and talents and treasures. We do this because all that we have he has given to us. Every pleasure, good feeling and wonderful event we experience in life is from our good, good God; our Lord Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. Because of him we have the best; forgiveness, salvation, redemption, and freedom. Why wouldn’t we pour out the best of our lives in glorious worship at the feet of Jesus?

There is place in most of our hearts that wants to experience the best, go to the highest place and attain the greatest of what life has to offer. Let us learn from Mary, that the best place we can be in life, the highest place we can ascend to, the greatest joy we can acquire, is found at the feet of Jesus.

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Have you experienced complete joy lately? Full joy? Today is Memorial Day. Maybe you are hoping for a day full of happiness with a big barbecue with friends and family or a day at the lake relaxing and playing with the kids.

Jesus tells us how to get and keep complete joy in John 15. It is simple. “Keep my commands” he says. Ok, maybe not so simple, especially when Jesus elaborates and declares in verse 17, “This is my command: Love one each other.”

Well, that explains why there is so little joy in the world. There is an extreme lack of loving one another. We are so busy loving ourselves that we don’t do a lot of loving one another and so we don’t experience a whole lot of joy, not to mention complete joy.

Complete joy. We all like the sound of that. Not partial joy. Not a little taste of happiness and pleasure (which is one definition of joy), but an unending feast of complete joy. We all have different ideas about how that might be attained and how we might possibly keep it. Most of our ideas are wrong.

Jesus describes what love looks like in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Love is sometimes extreme inconvenience and interruption. Sometimes it’s costly and dirty. It is always helping someone in need. Sometimes it’s someone we don’t agree with and don’t really like. Love isn’t liking someone. Love is helping someone who really needs help.

That kinda love sounds kinda crazy. Sounds a bit difficult, or a lot difficult. It is, but it is well worth the complete joy that comes with it, or after it. What Jesus endured on the cross while suffering shame, pain and rejection, didn’t give him a lot of joy. But Hebrews tells us that he endured the cross for the joy that was set before him. Sometimes we have to endure a lot in loving others so that we can experience the complete joy that Jesus is talking about it John 15.

I came to Mexico 14 years ago to help needy children. Children that have been abused, abandoned, neglected, rejected and left to die on the roadside of life. I work with a group of like minded Christians who are cooperating with God and Foundation For His Ministry in making this world a better place by helping the poorest of the poor in Oaxaca, Mexico. It’s not always easy. We don’t always get along or agree on the best way to help the least of these in this part of the world. We fail in some way everyday, but because of the grace and mercy of God we can experience complete joy. I have never been happier in my life.

Jesus promises complete joy, full happiness, when we love each other as Jesus loves us. Sometimes it hurts. Many times it can be unpleasant, but in the end it is worth it. Take a chance on that kind of love, and see what happens.

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In the 12th chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

He said that to keep our lives for eternal life we must hate our lives in this world. That’s important. I don’t know about you, but I kinda like the idea of eternal life. So, if you are like me, we better figure out what it means to hate our life in this world if we want to enjoy eternal life in heaven.

One thing we can figure out it is that hating our lives in this world is at odds with loving our lives. Jesus said that those who love their lives will lose them.  So they are opposite. It is some kind of paradox. If I love my life I will lose it, but if I hate my life in this world then I will keep it for eternal life.

I think the key is the phrase “in this wold”. John uses the word “world” a lot, more than the other gospel writers. We all know John 3:16, “For God so loved the world….” In the context of that verse, the world seems to be something good, something worth dying for. Something worth God dying for. Let’s keep investigating.

John 1:9 says, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” That’s good. Verse 10 says, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.” That’s not so good.

It gets worse. I mentioned John 3:16, which most people know, but how ’bout John 3:19, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” So now we have gone from the world not recognizing the Light, to the world hating the Light because its deeds were evil. I think maybe we are beginning to figure out why we should hate our lives in this world.

In John eight, Jesus is talking to a crowd of Jews and he says, “You are from below; I am from above.  You are of this world; I am not of this world.  I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”

Here Jesus is saying that he is not of this world – this world that does not recognize him and this world whose deeds are evil.  Jesus is saying that he is out of this world, and in a sense he is inviting the crowd, and us, to leave this world with its evil and sins, and to join him in some other world.

John wrote in his first letter in chapter one, “Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

Here John is echoing what he wrote in his Gospel in chapter 12.  Hating our life in the world means hating the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.  If we love our lives, Jesus is saying we love lust and pride.  If we hate our lives in this world, then we are loving another world that God is inviting us into, otherwise know as the Kingdom of God.

Jesus talks a lot about this Kingdom.  His first sermon in Matthew is in chapter five, the Sermon on the Mount, and is all about this Kingdom, and how it contrasts to the world.  Jesus says that in this world, people have hate in their hearts which many times leads to murder.  In this world people have lust in their hearts, which many times leads to adultery.  In this world people have egoistic pride in their hearts and they hate their enemies. They hate people who are different from them.

Jesus invites those who hear his words to leave this world and join his Kingdom.  He tells them rather than the world’s way of hate and kill, go the Kingdom way of reconciliation.  Rather than the world’s way of sexual lust which leads to sexual immorality and sexual manipulation, go the Kingdom route and think graciously and considerately of all humans.  Rather than the world’s way of hating your enemies, consider the Kingdom way of  praying  for them and loving them.

I read about the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life everyday in the news.  Awhile back a man who hated Muslims went into a Mosque in New Zealand and killed many worshipers inside.  As retaliation, some Muslims recently went into Christian churches in Sri Lanka killing hundreds of believers. This is the worlds way, not the Kingdoms way.  I hate the worlds way.

Here are some stories in the news today:

A white supremacist who chained a black man to the back of his pickup and dragged him around for three miles until he died was executed.

A postal carrier tried to stop a fight between a mother and teenage son.  The teenager shot him.

An abusive ex husband secretly lived in a woman’s attic for weeks. 

13 year old Houston girl dies after middle school fight.

Charity workers accused of stealing money meant for homeless.

Nursing home employee recorded sex tape with 78 year old man she scammed.

This is just some of the news FOR TODAY!!!  It’s like this everyday in our world.  I hate my life in this world!  How about you?  It’s no wonder Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew chapter 6, “YOUR KINGDOM come, YOUR WILL be done, on EARTH as it is in HEAVEN.”  The more people hate their lives in this world, and love the Kingdom life of God, the more heaven on earth we will have, and the happier everyone will be.

 

 

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“Eat my flesh and drink my blood.”

“My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.”

“Eat my flesh and drink my blood. “

Who would say this kind of thing?  Who would say it over and over again?  We find it repulsive and react to the statement with revulsion.  Some mad man or raving lunatic must be be spouting off.  Best just to ignore him and get far, far away.

Until we realize Jesus said these strange words.  Wow. Now we need to take a step back and ask ourselves, “What on earth is he talking about?”

Jesus said these words to a bunch of Jews who were chasing him all over Galilee.  He had miraculously multiplied a few fish and some bread into enough food to feed a small army, and now the crowd who had stuffed themselves were after more food. They wanted another free lunch. Jesus wanted to give them much more. Food to nourish their souls and renew their spirits.

Jesus wanted change their perspective, to shake up their understanding of him, to rock their world, so he says to them in John chapter 6, ” Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life….My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink….Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them. “(verses 54-56)

If that sounds bizarre to us it would have sounded absolutely scandalous to the Jewish crowd who heard him utter those words.  Their law strictly prohibited any such thing as eating human flesh and drinking any type of blood.  It’s no wonder then that John tells us later on in the chapter that many of his disciples turned back and followed him no more. Jesus asked his 12 closest disciples if they wanted to leave him as well. Peter answers for the group saying, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

We are fast approaching Good Friday.  The evening before the crucifixion Jesus gathered with his dozen disciples to eat the Passover meal. It is at this dinner that we can better understand what Jesus was talking about – all that eating flesh and drinking blood stuff.

Jesus takes some bread and breaks it and tells the twelve that the bread represents his body, his flesh, and they are to take and eat.  He lifts a cup of wine and instructs his followers that the wine is his blood, the blood of a New Covenant, and they are all to drink it.

Two thousand years later we are still eating his flesh and drinking his blood, remembering his crucifixion and celebrating his resurrection. Living abundant, joyful, happy lives as a result.  I guess his words weren’t so crazy after all.

My mother-in-law, Josefina (Madre) with her husband and my daughters
celebrating Mexican Independence Day last year.


A month ago, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Her name is Josefina. I call her Madre. She hadn’t been able to keep any food down for awhile and went to a few doctors seeking help, both traditional and non traditional. She lives in Mitla, Mexico, which has a largely
indigenous Zapoteco population. Many of the people in this town first
seek traditional remedies to cure their ailments, and when that does not
take care of the problem, they go to see what we would call a regular
medical doctor. Madre tried both to no avail for a couple weeks. Finally she went to a doctor who told her she needed an endoscopy. This
procedure revealed a large tumor in her stomach.

Naturally this was bad news for her and for the entire family, especially
her mom, her husband, two sons, her daughter ( my wife), and me. A
variety of tests followed to diagnose the severity of the cancer. Initially it seemed the cancer was confined to the tumor and surgery was scheduled on a Sunday. She was admitted to the hospital the day before.

Medicine and doctors and hospitals are an interesting thing in Mexico. At least interesting to me, having spent most of my life in the United States. I haven’t got it all figured out, but it seems to me that there are three levels of health care in this country; one level for people who have some money and can afford private care. Another level for people who have money taken out of their wages to pay for health insurance and are treated by public doctors and nurses in public hospitals which is free. The last level is for poor people who don’t pay for health insurance. If they have a medical need they go to the local public health clinic and are usually treated for free for basic simple health problems, but if it is serious they have to go to a public hospital and pay cash or they don’t receive treatment. Public medical services are not terrible. I have two daughters who were born in a public hospital with public doctors and nurses, with no ill effects, and it was all free, because my Mexican wife has money taken out of her wages to pay for health insurance.
A couple of problems with public health care here are long waits to see a health care professional and most of the doctors and nurses are fresh out of medical school and don’t have a lot of hands on experience. Also, in public hospitals you have to share a room with two or three other patients, and family members can’t stay with the patient for the whole time, which is important in Mexico. Family comes first in Mexico, and if one family member has to go to the hospital, at least one other member of the family moves in with them, at private hospitals that is. If it is public hospital, family members stay and sleep in the waiting room or outside the hospital.

Madre stayed at a private hospital, even though the family is poor. We thank God for GoFundMe and all the people who generously donated money and allowed Madre to receive wonderful care at a beautiful little hospital in Oaxaca. All the rooms had a large couch for family members to sit on during the day and sleep on at night. My wife slept on one during her mom’s hospital stay which was six days. Sometimes Madre’s mother, husband, son and family friends were all there at once! It wasn’t as bad as it may seem because this was the most unique hospital I have ever seen. It only had eight rooms and used to be like a convent or little monestary operated by a Catholic organizations about a 100 years ago. Then it went into the hands of St. Vincent DePaul Society run by a guy named Vasconcelos, and now it is Vasconcelos hospital. It has a chapel called Sacred Heart which is open to the public on special occasions. In the middle of this hospital is a courtyard with potted bougainvilleas and patio furniture all around for family and friends to take advantage of.

The first couple weeks after the surgery was difficult, because of physical and emotional reasons. Physically she vomited what little food she was able to swallow and became dehydrated and had to go to the emergency room. Emotionally it was a difficult time because the tumor and samples of her stomach tissue that was taken out of her went to a lab and it was discovered that the cancer had spread. She found out she has stage three cancer and the prognosis isn’t that great. Chemotherapy is in her near future.
Now she is doing much better, both physically and emotionally and spiritually. She is eating a lot more and keeps it all down. Emotionally she is happier. Spiritually she has always been strong. She doesn’t understand why she has had to go through all this, none of us do. But she fully trusts in the Lord who has given her the peace that surpasses all understanding that Paul writes about in Philippians 4:7.
I have been thinking about Psalm 23 a lot lately, especially the “valley of the shadow of death” part. I think we all love the opening verses that speak of green pastures, quiet waters and refreshing souls. The “shadow of death”, not so much. But I have come to realize that for the sheep to enjoy those rich, green pastures and cool, quiet waters, they sometimes have to travel through the valley of the shadow of death. The Good Shepherd knows best. He knows where the nutritious food and refreshing drink is, and his sheep know his voice and confidently follow him into and through the scary, dark valley, to green pastures and still waters. They trust him because he is wise and strong. They have no fear because He is with them, and he wields a stout rod and sturdy staff.
That’s the faith of Madre. As she journeys through the dark valley, she fears no evil but trusts in her good, good Shepherd; her good, good Father. No one knows what she will encounter on the other side of the valley. Maybe many happy, healthy years on planet earth, or maybe eternity in heaven with the Lord. Whatever happens it’s all good. She doesn’t know what the future holds, but she knows WHO holds the future.


Today is Ash Wednesday. The one day of the year when many Christians all over the world will have ashes put on their foreheads in the shape of the cross. This marks the beginning of Lent, a time of waiting in expectation of Easter- Resurrection Sunday. A time of contemplation and inner examination. A time of anticipation and adoration. A time of waiting.

When we wait, we choose. Sometimes we choose to grumble and complain. Sometimes we choose to get frustrated or worried. At times we choose to rejoice and give thanks. Many times our choice depends on what we are waiting for. More often than not, it depends on the kind of person we are. Ultimately we wait patiently or impatiently. It all depends on what’s inside us.

I have read an article and a book recently that have greatly impacted my perspective on patience and what it means to be a patient person. The article is called Silence, Patience and Presence. It is from Fuller Studio. The book is called Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Warren. Below are some quotes from both that I hope will impact you as much as they did me.

From Silence, Patience, and Presence – Fuller Studio

Being patient means waiting for a God whose patience outdistances and outlasts our own – we only have a brief span of life to wait; God has eternity. Peter Blum

Christians believe that through cross and resurrection we have been given the time to be patient in a world of impatience I am often in a hurry and busy, but this is not the same thing as impatience. Patience does not mean “doing nothing.” Rather patience is sticking to what you’re doing because you believe that is is worthy and worthwhile. Stanley Haurwas citing John Howard Yoder

Learning to weep, learning to keep vigil, learning to wait for the dawn. Perhaps this is what it means to be human. Henri Nouwen

Ones willingness to be wronged, to absorb evil patiently without retaliating, helps to break the cycle of vengeance and opens up the possibility for healing and peace. Hence though forgiveness is a constitutive practice of peace, forgiveness is unimaginable apart from patience. Philip Kenneson.

Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life. Simone Weil

From Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Warren

When we practice the Sabbath, we not only look back to God’s rest after his work of creation but we look forward to the rest ahead, to the Sabbath to come when God will finish his work of re-creation. We recall together that we are waiting for the end of the story, for all things to be made new.

In the liturgical year there is never celebration without preparation. First we wait, we mourn, we ache, we repent. We aren’t ready to celebrate until we acknowledge, over time through ritual and worship, that we and this world are not yet right and whole. Before Easter, we have Lent. Before Christmas, we have Advent. We fast. Then we feast. We prepare. We practice waiting.

We want happiness now. Fulfillment and gratification now. I get angry when I have to wait because it reminds me that time is not at my bidding.

Our problem with time is a spiritual problem, one that runs right to the core of who we are as human beings…. Indeed, these distortions drive us into the arms of a false theology: we come to believe that we, not God, are the masters of time. (Dorothy Bass)

Time is a gift from God, a means of worship. Time revolves around God – what he has done, what he is doing, and what he will do.

We live in a waiting world, a world where time itself, along with all of creation, groans in childbirth, waiting for something to be born. We are waiting and hoping. Our present reality is fundamentally oriented toward what is to come.

Waiting is an act of faith that is oriented toward the future. Yet our assurance of hope is rooted in the past, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and in his promises and resurrection. In this way, waiting, like time itself, centers on Christ-the fulcrum of time.

Scripture tells us that when we “Hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Rom 8:25). We live each ordinary day in the light of a future reality. Our best life is still yet to come.

I have a friend who has struggled with cancer for a long time. She said to me one day,”I always felt like I was waiting for the gift. But I have come to see that the waiting is the gift.” There is more happening while we wait than just waiting. God is at work in us and through us as we wait. Our waiting is active and purposeful.

The church father Tertullian wrote –

The singular mark of patience is not endurance or fortitude, but hope. To be impatient is to live without hope. Patience is grounded in the Resurrection. It is life oriented toward a future that is God’s doing , and its sign is longing, not so much to be released from the ills of the present, but in anticipation of the good to come.

Even now as we wait, God is bringing the kingdom that will one day be fully known. We can be patient because we know there are gifts promised by a Giver who can be trusted.

May your Lent be filled with peace, the presence of God, and patience.

Valentines Day is coming up. The day of love and romance. A day where people will celebrate love – love for spouses and boyfriends and girlfriends. They will celebrate with things they love, like roses, candy and wine. At least in the United States. Here in Mexico it is also know as dia de amistad, day of friendship. People will not only do something with a romantic interest, but friends will take time out to express their love for each other in special ways.

It’s too bad English only has the one word “love”. We love our spouses or romantic partners. We love chocolates and flowers. We love our friends. We love our mother. Other languages have different words for different kinds of likes and attractions. The Bible uses that English word “love” many times, but in it’s original languages of Hebrew and Greek, it has different words to express different types of love. One main word the Old Testament uses for love is “hesed” or “chesed”. The word Hesed or Chesed/Cheset is connected with love, goodness and kindness but means more, a bit like the English word “charity” “mercy” or “grace”.

Greek uses words like “eros”, “storge”, “philea” and “agape”. Eros refers to “passionate love” or romantic love; storge or familial love; philia to friendship as a kind of love; and agape refers to “selfless love“, the kind of love God has for us and wants us to have for one another and for him. Agape love is more about Devotion to God and to our fellow human beings. The other loves are more about emotional attachments or attractions.

The Bible has a lot to say about agape love. Jesus said the two most important commandments of the Old Testament are about love –

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your

soul and with all your mind. Love your neighbor as yourself.

(Matthew 22:37-40)

Love is devotion to God and neighbor.

Jesus gave concrete examples of love in Matthew 25:35-40 when he said –

“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.

I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.

I was a stranger and you invited me in.

I needed clothes and you clothed me.

I was sick and you looked after me.

I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Then the righteous will answer him,

“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you?

When did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink?

When did we see you a stranger and invite you in?

When did you need clothes and we clothed you?

When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

The King (Jesus) will reply,

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these,

brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Lots of devotion and commitment to helping others. Not so much emotion.

Paul wrote a lot about love. Many people call chapter 13 of his first letter to the Corinthians the love chapter –

Love is patient, love is kind.

Love does not boast, it is not proud.

Love does not dishonor others,

love is not self-seeking,

it is not easily angered,

it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil

but rejoices with the truth.

Love always protects, always trusts,

always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

(1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

We can see the devotion and a little emotion.

Paul also prays for the Ephesians –

I pray to the Father, that you,

being rooted and established in love,

may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people,

to grasp how wide and long and high and deep

is the love of Christ, and to know this love

that surpasses knowledge.

(Ephesians 3:14-19)

More devotion; no emotion.

1 John tells us –

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.

Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

Whoever does not love does not know God,

because God is love. This is how God showed his love for us:

He sent his one and only son into the world

that we might live through him. (1 John 4:7-9)

Great devotion.

I like what C.S. Lewis says about loving our neighbor –

“Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor;

act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets.

When you are behaving as if you loved someone,

you will presently come to love him….Whenever

we do good to another self, just because it is a self,

made like us by God, and desiring its own happiness

as we desire ours, we shall have learned to love a little more,

or, at least, to dislike a little less.”

(Mere Christianity)

Maybe, in the end, it is all about emotion. Perhaps, when we are devoted to doing God’s will and helping those around us, we will be happier people. It could be that God loves us and wants us to be happy, and the road to emotional happiness and well being, goes through Devotion. This Valentines Day, lets try some Devotion, some good old fashioned Agape Devotion, and see what kind of emotions we have at the end of the day.


Orientation is important. Perhaps the most important part of life. Here are some definitions:

Noun – the determination of the relative position of something or someone (especially oneself)

The relative physical position or direction of something

The adjustment or alignment of oneself or one’s ideas to surrounding or circumstances

In high school and college I went to freshman orientations. These were intended to help new students orient themselves with the geography of the school. I learned where the library, cafeteria and different classrooms were. After orientation I always knew where these places were, no matter where I was. That was important. To this day I have bad dreams that I am in some large school and I am disoriented and can’t find my class, or worse yet, the bathroom, and I really need to go!

Orientation is important for everyone. Orientation is not just knowing where we are spatially, but also knowing where we are mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Many people’s lives are oriented around the wrong things. For example, some people orient their lives around money and the accumulation of wealth. Acquiring wealth makes them happy, at least for awhile. With money they have a house, a car, a savings account. They can have nice clothes and eat at the best restaurants. With wealth they have security and status. They know where they are by how much money they have.

Other people orient themselves around sex or drugs or power or education or family or work or politics. There are countless things we can orient ourselves around. Good things and bad things. I am reminded of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Verse 40 tells us that Martha was oriented around all the preparations that had to be made. Her orientation led her to be “worried and upset about many things.”

Mary on the other hand, sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. Her orientation was Jesus. Jesus told Martha that “few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

May I suggest that we choose to orient our lives around Jesus? I recently read about a comedian whose life was oriented around being a comic. He couldn’t imagine his life oriented around anything else. Then he heard about Jesus, and how he would live a happier, more complete, more contented life, if his life was oriented around this God/Man. He didn’t believe it. He fought against it. But he couldn’t get Him out of his mind. Finally he gave in. In his words, he began to orient his life around God, and discovered, quite to his surprise, he was happier, more complete and more content.

I like that he used the word “orient”. Some Christians use the words Saved, Born Again, Converted, Redeemed or Rescued. Those words indicate important aspects of what it means to be a God Follower, but not the entire package. I think the the concept behind the phrase “to orient myself around God” encapsulates the entirety of what it means to be a Christian. When I orient myself to God, my whole life, every moment becomes related to God who loves me and gave himself for me.
There are many Bible verses that refer to this kind of orientation:

Seek first the kingdom of the heavenly Father and his righteousness, and all these other things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5,6)

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. (Matthew 22:37,38)

Rejoice always, pray continually give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18


My life is oriented around God at a mission that helps needy children in Oaxaca, Mexico; a mission run by FFHM. Our mission statement states that we exist to make disciples of Christ. A disciple is one whose life is oriented around the teachings and practices of a person or organization. We aim to orient the poorest of the poor in Mexico to lives centered on Jesus. This ministry takes in children whose lives have been oriented around abuse and poverty, neglect and rejection. Showing them the love of God by meeting their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs enables them to reorient themselves toward a better life. Once they see themselves as dearly loved children of God and orient their lives around that truth, they are able to live happy, fulfilled lives.

We all want to be happy. God created us in his image; he created us to be happy. We can all be incredibly happy. It just takes the right orientation.

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. That’s what the author of Hebrews thought about when he or she began writing about the incarnation. Hebrews 2:9,14,15 says, ‘We see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone…. Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. That’s what the angel of the Lord was thinking of when he told Joseph to name Mary’s son Jesus, for he would save his people from their sins. (Mt. 1:21) It was Jesus death on the cross that accomplished salvation from sin.

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. That’s what Herod was thinking about the newborn king. “When the magi had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’ “

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. That’s what Paul was thinking about in Philippians chapter two when he wrote, “And being found in appearance as a man, Christ Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross.”

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. That’s what Paul was thinking about when he thought about his own death. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21)

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. Paul thought about Christ’s birth and death and resulting reconciliation with God. “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled shall we be saved through his life.” (Rom. 5:9,10)

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. This Christmas maybe we can change our focus a bit. Sure there are gifts, decorations and family gatherings to consider, but perhaps these last few days before December 25th, we can orient our thoughts toward something more substantial, like death – the true reason for the season. Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross. Jesus was born to die so that we can live. Let’s embrace death to self so that we can live meaningful lives in Christ. God became flesh and dwelt among us and died for us because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death, and celebrate!

Reasons Why Jesus Was Born

 

I read an insightful article from Fuller Studio entitled Silence, Patience and Presence. I especially liked what the author, Dr. David Augsburger, had to say about Silence, and want to share some with you. He begins the article recounting an experience when he was a young pastor and went to be with a man whose wife had just died. They went for a long walk in the rain. Neither man talked. When they got back to the house, the man told the pastor to go home. On the way home, the pastor, the author of the article, felt ashamed, an utter failure, because he had not give the man any advice or words of comfort. Later he realized that silent presence was probably the best pastoral care that he could have given.

He follows with some wonderful quotes about silence.

To every thing there is a season …

A time to weep and a time to laugh,

A time for mourning and a time for dancing,

A time for silence and a time for speech. (Eccles. 3:4,7)

——

Silence is the gift we give when words are untrustworthy, unnecessary, unwise.

——

Those who know do not talk; those who talk do not know.”

Chinese wisdom from the Tao Te Ching

If your speech is no better than silence, be silent.”

Dionysius the Elder

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.”

Abraham Lincoln

——

Silence precedes speech:

only the one who has learned to be silent is prepared to speak.

——

No moment of silence is a waste of time.”

Quaker Rachel Needham

It is often more effective to fast with words than with food.”

Rabbi Vilna Gaon

The deeper one’s nature, the more time is necessary for solitude.”

Soren Kierkegaard

Nothing in all creation is so like God as silence.”

Meister Eckhart

Those who hear the word of God can also hear his silence.”

St. Ignatius of Antioch

Richard Rohr’s Prayer from Psalm 46:10:

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am.

Be still and know.

Be still.

Be.”

In silence and hope shall be your strength.”

(Isa. 35:15)

—–

Silence is the language of respect.

—–

Be quick to listen, slow to speak.”

(James 1:19)

Job and friends:

seven days of silence waiting for the sufferer to speak first.

_____

Ezekiel: at the end of his journey, to be present with Judean exiles:

For seven days I sat in silence dumbfounded.”

**************

One who loves God loves silence also.

One who loves Christ loves the silence of the desert.

One who knows the Spirit knows the winds of silence.

If we root our lives in silence we grow deep into God.

Dr. Augsburger

I have been thinking a lot about the importance of silence after reading this article. I wonder if I spend enough time in silent reflection of God and his will; of Christ and his sacrifice; of the Holy Spirit and what he is saying to me. I am concerned that maybe I speak useless words without thinking that may offend or hurt a brother or sister. Perhaps I need more time alone to consider the deep things of the Father and the Word and listen to his still, small voice. I will go off by myself to a quiet place and give it a think.

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