Posts Tagged ‘devotional’

I think most of us have had days where God feels distant. I am also a firm believer in that old saying that says when God feels far away, it’s not Him who moved, so I was more than a little intrigued when this was offered for review from FaithWords. I have had these times here and there, usually in the midst of busyness and some of the disappointments that have happened all the years. I decided to request the book.

First off let me say I wasn’t sure I would like the book. While the overriding theme was one I knew hit home, I also knew there would be difficulties. First of all, it’s a devotional style book. I don’t usually do devotionals. I don’t have a problem with devotionals, but my usual devotional reading is straight from the Scriptures so this would be a stretch. Secondly, I knew I would not have 40 days to devote to this reading. I usually try to post my reviews within two weeks of receiving a review copy. The most telling reason I thought I might struggle was because of how little I have in common with the author. She is a young woman, I am an old(er man). She is a fairly new parent, my kids are grown and I’m a fairly new grandparent, so we’re at vastly different stages of life, lastly while we are both Christian, her Anglican faith tradition is far different than mine. Even with all these differences (I’m probably nowhere near her target market), I have to say, I really enjoyed this book.

The idea behind Attend, is pretty well summed up in the sub-title of the book: Forty Soul Stretches Toward God. You’ve no doubt at one time or another asked someone to pay attention. That’s what it means to attend and Davis-Werezak approach here is to help us give God our attention through a series of 40 disciplines and practices designed to redirect our focus. While many of these are obvious, she takes them beyond surface level and helps the reader to go deep. As you read this book, it becomes really clear that these “stretches” were born out of a real-life struggle to come into a stronger, better relationship with God. Her faith perspective and frequent references to the Book of Common Prayers, really intrigued me and made me think perhaps there is something to a more contemplative approach to faith and devotion.

This book was a strong effort that I really enjoyed. I think I am going to keep this on on my shelf for a slower time when I can do the “stretches” day by day. It’s clear this book could help a lot of people in this world where a million things are constantly competing for our attention. This is a well-written book that I really recommend.

oidodoiSomething new happened on March 17. I’ve awakened with things to create before. They usually end up being some of my best work. I’m guessing that’s because they’ve been laid on my heart by God, or at least that’s how I feel. To my recollection, it’s never been a book idea before now, and if there was one before it was never this clear. I had to get up at once and start writing.

The clarity was amazing. I saw the cover, not just a faint image, but the exact technique I would use to create it, even the font. I tend to make my covers a lot more involved, but for some reason this very understated cover resonates with me. I was even reading it in my dream. It’s also a genre, I’d never really imagined myself doing before, a straight up devotional. I awoke with a pretty well formed plan and a lot of clarity, not to mention 35 ideas for individual topics and I’m more than a little excited to see where it goes.

It’s called O, I Do, Do I? 100 Things God Says About You.

Now here’s the thing. I may have dreamed it, but there is a lot of work to be done between here and the book’s completion. To dream it is not enough. If this book is ever to be more than a cover illustration, I have to do the work. Your dreams can be reality too (at least some of them. I have some weird ones too.) but to get them from dream to reality, there is no substitute for doing the work.

My goal is to finish this book in 100 days or less. This is not an iron clad deadline, but it gives me something to shoot for. This implies that I will write a page a day until the book is complete. That should be realistic expectation given the rest of my schedule. This is also an important part of bringing your dreams to reality, setting deadlines and manageable goals and then doing what it takes to reach them. Many people dream of being their own boss, but the thing about being your own boss is you have to actually be the boss and assign the work that needs to be done.

I used to say “A dream is but reality waiting for its time.” That’s still as true as it has ever been, and sometimes the distance between your dream and seeing it come true depends on a lot of factors, one of which is timing. There is another reality to consider. Most of the time the things your dream waits most for is you. You need to determine to do what it takes. Part of this is changing our perspective. It’s not so much about getting to the dream as it is about living the dream, doing the day by day steps to get you from here to there.

What step(s) can you make today to bring your dream to reality?

Your art technique is stellar.
You are a master story teller.
You’re a poet beyond compare,
a film maker extraordinaire.
You have a creative gift that the whole world flatters,
but you might still be lacking all that matters.
Because while all the above you may have heard,
is your work and life rooted in God’s Word?

Please forgive my little foray into poetry, but I was trying to find a creative way to redirect us back to the main thing. When we are creating, especially when we are really on a roll, it can be really easy to let matters of faith move to the back burner. Please don’t. When Jesus spoke of the vine and the branches, He said (in John 15:5), “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” We remain in Jesus, by staying connected to Him and we do this through His Word and through prayer. Both aspects are extremely important. Prayer and regular Scripture reading help us to stay connected to Him and keep us on track. Without these two things we will start to do what seems right and, as Scripture says in Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Why is that? Because as it says in Isaiah 55:8,9 ““For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

To live out God’s purposes for our lives and our creativity, we must be connected to Christ and we stay connected through prayer and the Word. As we start this new year, make Scripture reading a part of your plan. There are a couple ways to go.

Find a devotional and follow it. These devotionals give you a portion of Scripture each day along with some thoughts. Among the most famous of these is Our Daily Bread, which is available at many churches for free. There are also many great devotional books available.
Get a journaling Bible. These Bibles have space in the margins for taking notes or creative expression. There are whole online communities springing up around this topic. It’s a great way to connect your faith and creativity.

Follow a Bible Reading Plan. The One-Year Bible has some excellent plans for reading the Bible in a year, the New Testament in a year, etc. Reading through the Bible is a great way to capture the context of the story. What I like about One Year Bible’s reading plans is the way it gives you portions of the Old and New Testament, as well as Psalms and Proverbs every day. People who start off with the intent of starting at Genesis 1 and plowing through to Revelation will often bog down in Leviticus or Numbers, so having the variety, helps you to keep going.

Plowing through. Last year I did the math. If you read 3 and a half chapters a day, you can read the whole Bible in a year. I did this last year and it was great. As mentioned earlier, there are portions of the Scripture that require some discipline to get through, but as Paul wrote, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

Topical study. Find a topic that interests you and study it. I did a one year study on the Parables and it was amazing. It also spawned a few presentations for me and even a sketch devotional.

There are a multitude of ways to get into God’s Word. Pick the one that will work best for you and dive in.

story posterThere is a trend in the Christian world these days that both excites and troubles me. Bible Art Journaling. I love that people are digging into the Word and letting the Word inspire their creativity. It’s a wonderful thing. What’s slightly (and it is only slightly) troubling is that they are doing this work in their Bibles. I see tons of beautiful work online but much of it seems to obscure the text as the work flows past the margins. In Scripture, needless to say the text is hugely important.

I think I may have come up with a workable solution. Themed Bible Journals where the Scripture is present along with plenty of room for creating. In this way the art and the Scripture that inspired it are side by side. What a great way to do devotions. I have two coming out in the next few weeks, these will be based on two of my favorite presentations: Story: Parables of Jesus and Pictures of Jesus. Watch this site for more details.

Read Luke 14:25-35
Sometimes Jesus is perplexing. The one who tells us to love friends, neighbors, even enemies, the one who says “they will know you are my disciples if you love one another” all of the sudden starts saying we have to hate those closest to us, and even our own lives, if we want to follow Him. It’s so out of character, it’s almost baffling. Why would Jesus say such a thing?

This isn’t really about hatred, it’s about priorities and it’s about idolatry. He doesn’t really want us to hate these people, He simply wants us to love God more, and He’s right. Anything we put before God, anything we love more than God becomes an idol. Idols tear us away from God. Being away from God draws us away from the source of our love. Being disconnected from the source of our love forces us to love from our own strength. Our own strength is pretty fickle and weak compared to the all-surpassing love of God. Therefore to really love the people we have been given with a wonderful perfect love, we have to love and remain connected to God more. When we love God first, then we can truly love.

We love because He first loves us.

So what do we do with that love? We must each carry our cross. Probably not literally but what Jesus is saying is there is a cost to following Him. It’s not money, it’s sacrifice, self-sacrifice. It only makes sense. He sacrificed Himself for those He loves and so must we. No we won’t be nailed to a cross, or even die, instead we die to self for the good of others. We put others first. We love others more than we love ourselves and still we love Him most. He is our source—the source of our love.

Jesus then goes on and gives two examples of what it means to count the cost. What does it cost to follow Jesus? Everything and yet nothing or maybe nothing and yet everything. He gave Himself freely and yet to receive His gift is to put Him first, to make Him, knowing Him, serving Him, following Him, our number one priority. Salvation is a free gift. Following Him will cost you everything. The cost is high and yet nothing compared to the great gift He gave for us. Yet to receive Him is to receive the Kingdom, becoming joint heirs of everything, leaving the slavery of sin to become sons and daughters of God forever. We are here not just to receive eternity but to point others to eternity. To point others to the ultimate free gift that will cost them everything. It requires sacrifice to draw others to sacrifice. Jesus modeled that and we must too, giving of ourselves so that others might live, the ultimate act of love. Carrying the cross, not dying but living, really living with a greater purpose than ourselves—an eternal purpose.

Creative reflections: (Do as many as you like or create your own response.)
1. Illustrate a key point in this passage, something that really speaks to you.
2. Write a story to show how this passage might be lived out in your life.
3. Make a list of the cost of being disciple. Then for each cost, write the benefit that comes with it.
4. Create a piece of art that will remind you to count the cost, carry your cross or any other take away you get from this passage.

I am working on a devotional for artists. Here is a sample piece.
I’d love to get your feedback.

Read Genesis 3:1-7
It didn’t take long. God had only one requirement. One tree in the middle of the garden that they were to stay away from. Why is forbidden fruit so enticing? They went after the only thing God withheld from them and they fell away. Of course this brings up more questions. Why did God place that tree in the garden? I believe it is pretty simple. Love requires choice. In order for them to truly love God, there had to be the choice not to. In order to choose to love God there had to be something they could choose over God. That’s what sin is you know. It’s choosing to disobey Him. Choosing to chose the temptation over your creator.

The other question asked is the one the serpent proposed. The serpent proposed that the reason God didn’t want them to eat from the tree was because He was withholding from them. It’s still the same tactic our enemy uses. He tries to get us to believe that God is withholding good and therefore God is not good. You be the judge. The Bible tells us that the tree was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It can hardly be argued that they knew good. God took His “very good” creation (He called it that Himself, remember?) and gave it to them. What’s left? Had they not eaten from the tree they would not have known evil. God was withholding evil from them. Why? Because He is a good God who loves us. Sin was our downfall and it still is. What does this passage bring to your mind?

For my devotional reading this morning, I read the first 10 chapters of Jeremiah. (OKay I typoed in the first edition, there are not 100 chapters in Jeremiah) Don’t think me over spiritual, I was playing catchup after a busy week. In those chapters God is instructing Jeremiah what to say to the already captive Israel and the soon to be captive Judah. As you read you can hear the angry and hurting Father mourning over his chosen nation as they fall away from him and into idolatry. My first thoughts went to our own nation but I kept feeling God drawing me back to me. Is there anything in my lifethat is drawing me away from Him? How about you?

I was listening to Craig Groschel yesterday. In his message he brought up a great point. He said what you worry about most is what you value most. What is it you worry about most? Could that be becoming an idol for you? The next point Groschel made was what you worry about most is the area where you trust God the least. This could be another symptom of an idol manifesting itself.

So what’s the challenge. Search your heart and pray, then create something that expresses your idol or something in danger of becoming an idol in your life. Yes I know it may sound ludicrous to create an image of your idol, but I’m not done. The next thing I want you to do is either ruin it or paint the no sign over it and keep it as a reminder for you not to go there.

Idolatry breaks the heart of God. Let’s live to please Him instead. Keep Him first.
w=267, mw=2, mr=2

Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples. Basically the word disciple means followers. I believe making disciple is the end purpose of most of the work that we do for the Lord. Of course in order to make a disciple you sort of have to be a disciple, so how do we become fully devoted followers of Christ? Well of course a lot of that is dependent on the Holy Spirit but it is no coincidence that the word disciple and the word discipline are so closely related. There is a lot of discipline involved in being a disciple.

Probably the most important of these disciplines is prayer. The Bible commands us to pray without ceasing. You might say how can I possibly do that? Well that doesn’t mean we spend all day every day on our knees before the Lord. What it does mean is we keep the line of communication open. We go to Him, to praise Him, thank Him, as well as to present our requests and our desires. It also means we take the time to listen to what He has to say. Prayer is a conversation. We need to make sure we are taking the time to listen. If we are not disciplined about prayer, eventually it will get pushed to the side by a multitude of things that seem more pressing. Don’t you believe that. Prayer may well be the most important thing we do. If we want the things we do in this world not to mention our lives to be meaningful and anointed, we really need to bathe them in prayer.

Prayer also helps us keep our priorities straight. It helps us find the right things to do, remember why we’re doing them and Who we’re ultimately doing them for. It helps us to keep Jesus number one. If Jesus isn’t first in our lives and in our churches we’re out of order. I’m not saying this is the problem but I am saying whether it’s personal faith, a church, or a denomination it’s the first thing we need to check. If your car stops working you don’t start tearing the engine apart before you check the gas gauge. If your computer doesn’t work, before you call tech support, you check to make sure it’s plugged in. And if your life and your faith and your church aren’t working, and the fire and the excitement just aren’t quite there, the first thing you need to check is your connection to the source of your power. Is Jesus first in your life and are you connecting to Him on a daily basis?

Jesus is the source of our power. We need Him to get through each day. Are you connecting to Him or are you living life Unplugged?

Bible Reading Guide
An important part of following God is knowing what He wants and a great way to know what He wants is to read His Word. Follow this plan and you will finish reading the Bible in a year.
Leviticus 5,6; John 2; Psalm 100
You can also download your own chart here.

I’m posting Genesis 3 from the Abstract Bible this morning. Satan tempts Eve and throws humanity for a loop for all time. I want to focus this morning on how Satan made it happen. Essentially Satan got Eve to question whether or not God meant what He said and then question God’s motivations and goodness. See for yourself.

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

I did a piece of art earlier on the week about the tree of knowledge. You can see that below. The point is simple. God didn’t want them too eat from the tree not because He is bad but because they would never have had to know evil. He wanted them to live in paradise forever.

Questioning what God meant has become almost a spectator sport in our world, even in the church. This is part of the reason I started doing the Abstract Bible project. It’s a time of personal devotion. It’s not my only time of devotion, but it is something I do to dwell on the scripture and take it to heart. The reason I post it on video and share it is because I want to give you another chance to hear the unfiltered Word of God and share an idea you can use for drawing closer to God through His Word. This is also the reason I post the daily one year Bible reading.

I also posted it because I needed it myself. As a pastor, I spend time in the Bible for part of my living, but there was a problem with that. I found that I was getting into the Word mostly for research, so I’d have something to preach. That’s not really enough. There needed to be some more time where it was just me and God for no other reason than for Him to speak into my life. There were times where I genuinely missed that.

We all need to be in the Word of God. It is our God given weapon against the attacks of the enemy. It is the resource we can use when outside forces try to get us to question God’s Word and His love, whether He means what He says and whether or not He loves us. The Bible is His answer, it’s His love letter to you. A closed Bible is useless, to reap it’s power and wisdom, it has to be opened. Find a devotional practice that works for you and do it every day.This Lord’s day (and every day), get in the Word.

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil

Bible Reading Guide
An important part of following God is knowing what He wants and a great way to know what He wants is to read His Word. Follow this plan and you will finish reading the Bible in a year.
Genesis 45, Job 21-23, Psalm 13
You can also download your own chart here.

How are you doing with your Bible reading this year? Are you following the chart below? You don’t have to follow the chart but you do need to read and study the Word of God.
Here’s a devotional project you may want to try. I call it The Abstract Bible. The idea is simple, I read a chapter from the Bible, pray about it and create a quick sketch painting based on the passage.

This is going to be helpful to me in a couple of areas. One is I want to get better at creating abstract art. I also want to spend more time in the Word.

Please understand this is not my sole devotional time. I don’t know how many of these I will get done because they take a decent amount of time to put together, but that’s okay, there is no pressure. It’s based off this idea I heard a long time ago, What I hear I forget. What I see I remember. What I do I understand. Doing these paintings gives me more time to dwell on a text and I have a lasting reminder of the passage.

You don’t have to paint, you could draw, sketch, paint or journal, do whatever works for you, just spend time in the Word and in prayer. Speaking of spending time in the Word…

Bible Reading Guide
An important part of following God is knowing what He wants and a great way to know what He wants is to read His Word. Follow this plan and you will finish reading the Bible in a year.
Genesis 20-22, Galatians 2
You can also download your own chart here.