Daily Lenten devotional 2.29.16

clay potDay 20, Week 3:  God’s Will (Clay Pot)

Today’s scripture passage:

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.  Ephesians 1:11-12 NIV

Today’s verse shows us the ultimate purpose of God’s will – that we might glorify him.  God receives glory when I follow him in ways that make no sense to the world, or even to people I love.  God receives glory when I discipline my children rather than letting things slide, because his will is for my children to be respectful and productive.  God receives glory when I keep writing in addition to working full-time, because I use the talents he’s given me.  As long as I conform my life to his purposes, I bring him glory.

Today’s reflection:  

How can you give God glory by conforming to his purposes?

Reforming the Spheres

A range of emotions swept over me as I watched the video clips before the sermon.  Shock, since I don’t meet face-to-face with such secular worldviews in my job at a Christian school.  A mix of fear and overwhelm and doubt, since I try so hard to prepare my children to be lights in this dark world, but will my work be enough?  Then I felt thankful, realizing God has given me faith since early childhood.  If it wasn’t for His claim on my life, I could easily have the same vague, inaccurate picture of Him and His Word like the people on the video.  Finally I felt compassion, remembering that Jesus wants me to care for and reach out to those people who don’t yet know him.

In my two years at a Christian college, I learned that relativism is one of the greatest challenges believers face in a post-Christian culture.  Relativism is the lack of belief in ultimate truth; anyone can create their own definition of what is true.  One woman in the video said, “I pray every day, but spiritually I do my own thing.” A man said he finds spiritual answers in science.  Another man said perhaps there is a “spiritual force” that rules the universe, but we cannot understand it.

These views stand in stark contrast to the Christian worldview of one God in three persons who we can know through his Word, which is holy, without error, and inspired by the Holy Spirit.  I am excited about this sermon series, because studying the Bible’s themes will strengthen our worldview as believers and help us discern between falsehood and truth.

Another truth I remember from college is that we can reform our spheres of influence.  Our extended family is a sphere, our workplace is a sphere, the gym, the coffee shop, and so on.  If we see these spheres as our personal mission fields and pray for God’s guidance, we will develop compassion and notice opportunities to fan a spark of faith.

I don’t want to live with a spirit of fear or judgment toward unbelievers; I want to see them as thirsty people who need the living water of Jesus.  When I study the Bible regularly, I become more aware of opportunities and I am less fearful and judgmental.  When I fall off track, my awareness plummets and my fear and judgment rise.  I am looking forward to regularly studying the Bible in the coming weeks and seeing what opportunities God presents in my spheres.

Which people in your spheres need your influence this week?

Christmas Comfort Zones

Certain elements of the Christmas season bring me warm, fuzzy feelings every year.  Colorful light displays.  Children’s Christmas programs.  Hot cocoa and family recipe cookies. My tree decorated with treasured ornaments.  I look forward to these traditions because they are tickets to temporary happiness in what is often a stressful time of social interaction.

As parties approach, I tend to fret about dealing with difficult people, especially ones who have deliberately hurt me in the past.  I have worked hard to forgive them and let the past be the past, but I don’t trust them not to hurt me again.  I’m tired of the Christmas battleground.  Part of me wants to retreat to my couch with my plush blanket and admire the tree lights in my quiet, peaceful living room.  That’s my Christmas comfort zone.

The problem is, my comfort zone doesn’t include people in my life who desperately need to see a living example of God’s grace.  Jesus wants me to get off the couch and rely on Him as my Prince of Peace while doing my best to showcase his grace, even to people who feel like my enemies at times.  Romans 12:18 says that as far as it depends on me, I must work hard to live in peace with others.  Especially at Christmastime, when all of us can use an extra measure of peace.

In his book “Vanishing Grace,” Philip Yancey writes about a meeting he had with Henri Nouwen, a priest who ministered to AIDS patients in the 1980’s.  As Nouwen stepped out of his comfort zone and listened to their stories, his viewpoint changed.  He prayed, “God, help me to see others not as my enemies…but rather as thirsty people.  And give me the courage and compassion to offer your Living Water, which alone quenches deep thirst.”

This Christmas, my desire is to step out of my comfort zone to give God’s grace and peace to thirsty people in my circles.  How is God calling you to step out of your comfort zone this Christmas?  Who are the thirsty people in your life?