Archive for the ‘Guest Devotionals’ Category.

Who is Your John the Baptist this Advent Season?

Thanks to Sister Nancy Gunderson for these insightful comments. 

Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight paths for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

     John the Baptist appeared preaching in the desert of Judea.  Amy appeared in my classroom, scrawny and petite.  Out of the desert of her life, she leaned against the wall, fighting sleep.

John’s voice cried out, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.  The one who is coming after me is mightier than I.  I am not worthy to carry his sandals.” Amy’s voice cried out through penetrating silence and sullen glances.

John wore clothing of camel’s hair.  Amy wore a loose-fitting hunting jacket, bright red lipstick and disheveled hair pulled mostly back from her face.

John called for the world to repent.  Amy and her family were homeless for eight months prior to moving to this college town.  She works the night shift at Wal-Mart, unloading trucks five nights a week, then comes directly to class.  Her efforts keep her family afloat as well as allow her to pursue an education. She writes in a paper that she appreciates what she has, because she has had to work for it.

In her own silent way, Amy is my John the Baptist.  She tells me to wake up, repent of my selfishness, to be more sensitive and to reach out.  Amy, the most unlikely student in my classroom, becomes my teacher, my herald.  She cries out to me, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”  And I know deep down those are the only paths that lead to the crib, where like the shepherds, only humble and open hearts can go.

Who is your John the Baptist this Advent?  Who must you go out to the desert to find?  Can you hear their cry?

 

Sister Nancy Gunderson

http://www.candacesimar.com/

If You Are Going Through Hell, Keep Going By Wendy Alsup

Thanks to Wendy Alsup for this amazing insight.

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill

This quote showed up in my twitter feed last week. It reminds me of two Bible words with which I have a love/hate relationship – perseverance and endurance. These are two of the most precious, important instructions in the Christian vocabulary. Yet they are some of the hardest as well. My best friend talked with me about these words after her husband left her for another woman.

She had to uproot her life to begin again in a new state. She said that, day after day, her mantra was just to do the next thing. To take one step, then the next step, and then the next step in what felt like a never ending slog through a waist deep river rushing against her. Eventually (after 8 years or so), she slogged through the worst of it.

She didn’t emerge onto completely dry land with no struggles, but she certainly has emerged into a new season of life of much more peace and fewer intense struggles.  Most of all, she has seen redemption and healing in key relationships.

Persevere! it’s the best of advice. It’s the hardest of struggles. I long at times to curl up in the fetal position in bed. Yet, I have to buck it up and go volunteer in my son’s classroom. I’d rather drink myself to oblivion, but instead I need to make a lesson plan for a math class I’m teaching the next day. Some days, just getting up and taking the next step is the most profound expression of faith we can do.

Romans 5:3-4 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.

 The marathon of whatever trial you are facing will certainly one day end. In the meantime, lessons from earthly marathons are helpful. I learned some lessons about endurance while running a … cough … 5k. Ok. I know some of you are big runners who put my tiny little 5k to shame. But my two little 5k’s put to shame everything I did physically the first 40 years of my life. So there.

I trained and built up from being able to run 10 feet to being able to run 2.5 miles. But no part of those miles when training was easy, and the last mile of the 5k beyond what I had practiced before was mind-numbing. It was just the sound of my shoe hitting the pavement and letting my breath out, over and over again. Don’t stop jogging. Keep moving. Don’t stop. Keep going. Don’t stop. Keep going. I imagine that feeling is greatly intensified for those in 10k’s or true marathons.

The thing about our Christian walk is that few of us know if we are in a 5k, a 10k, or a full blown 26 mile marathon. I know I will not be disappointed when I see Jesus face to face for the first time in heaven. Whatever I had to endure on earth, I know I will not have regrets over the long term trials God allowed in my life. But that’s the marathon.

That’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer praying psalms to himself as he walks naked to his death in a Nazi concentration camp. There was no ultimate physical rescue for him in this first life, though he walked with supreme confidence of his rescue in the next. But for many of my friends, rescue does come, at least in part, in this life.

I have two friends in particular who went through brutal seasons in their marriages who have both emerged from those seasons with resolution and healing – one after a divorce not of her own choosing and one still married and serving God with her husband. Those are the shorter runs – the ones with earthly resolutions. I love to read and hear about believers who have been rescued in this life – from sin, from sickness, from death, from bankruptcy.

When I am struggling to endure as I wait for redemption in parts of my own life, I seek out stories of redemption in others’ families, churches, or ministries. To me, such stories of redemption are like the cups of cold water runners receive from the sidelines in their long distance run.

Most of all, I am able to endure because of the One who endured before me, who endured FOR me.

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

This is the thing that empowers me to keep going – that Jesus kept going for me. He endured the shame of the cross for a joy on the other side, and He’s surrounded us as we run along in our own marathon of suffering with a cloud of witnesses who have gone on before us who now stand cheering us on from the sidelines. The picture God gives us in Hebrews 12 of this marathon is beautiful!

The greatest aspect of this inspiring picture is that it moves me from seeing myself slogging alone against a swollen river to seeing myself running together in community, with Christ and with those who have gone on before me. I am cheered on by the community of believers. Those living. Those dead. We rejoice together in the redemption they have already experienced, and we endure together with those still longing for redemption to draw nigh in all aspects of their lives.

Wendy Alsup

www.theologyforwomen.org

 

Just Because You Don’t See It, Doesn’t Mean it isn’t There by Guest Contributor, Joni Ames

Thanks to Joni Ames for these insightful comments.  For more about Joni, see http://www.JoniAmes.org

 

One day recently when I was watching the kid movie, “Epic,” with my granddaughter , one of the characters said, “Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.” – Amen! – That really struck a chord with me because there are several things I had begun to feel discouraged about because I haven’t yet seen them come to pass. But we need to remember that, as The Word says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

I feel like there are some things God has promised each of us that we each are waiting for, and we need to remember to encourage each other to hold fast to His promises and not give up. Even though we can’t yet see them with our natural eyes, let’s keep our spiritual eyes fixed on the prize of the finished product. For as it says a little further into that chapter (in verse 3), “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” – It is in believing that we WILL see them!

It seems lately that I’ve come across many people that the enemy is trying to harass and discourage regarding life itself. Even to threatening them that their life will be taken before they get to see God’s promises come to pass. In that, as I was sitting in church this past Sunday morning, the Lord spoke to me to tell folks, “Stop worrying about what you might die from and get on with what you were born to LIVE for, through the power of the name, blood, and broken body of Jesus Christ!” Yes! Not by might, not by power, but by Your Spirit, oh Lord! We need to PRESS towards the mark and not listen to the lies of the enemy! Speak out loud and tell those things “NO! I refuse that discouraging thought, in Jesus name!!” Then begin to speak out thanks to God – in advance – for the fulfillment of His promises.

Prayer for a New Day

Contributed by Sister Gemma from Annunciation Monastery

Oh Holy One, with the dawn of this new day, clothe me with patience, compassion, humility and gentleness. May these be my robes to give you glory as I go forth, in faith, to embrace this day with a heart filled with gratitude.  And over all these virtues enfold me in LOVE!  You who adorn the earth with beauty, clothe me with Your image, Your love!  Amen.

 

LET IT RAIN by Marian Starrs

Lyrics to a Jesus Culture song include, “My soul longs for you, nothing else will do. .. I believe you will come like the rain. . . so let it rain, let it rain.”

While singing this song at LifeCare, I was thinking about rain.  Have you noticed how the leaves on a tree sometimes turn over when they are thirsty – and when the rain comes they turn face up again to receive its life giving sweetness.  That particular evening, I was feeling like that tree.  The winds of adversity had blown through my life and all that was left was the dust of disappointment.  I held my heart up to the Lord and asked for a refreshing shower to moisten my dryness.  As we sang, I felt the gentle rain of encouragement.

I began praying for others who need rain; my sister, who needs a healing rain; others who need a cleansing rain that washes away the debris from lies believed; and yet others who need a deep soaking rain that reaches the roots and stimulates growth and fruit.

Sometimes a heavy downpour is what is needed to wash the sidewalks clean; as the water rushes to the storm drain, it carries away the rubble of life.  I prayed for those I know, and those I don’t, who need a downpour from the Holy Spirit to wash away misplaced trust and turn their hearts to Jesus.

In Psalm 32 David talks about the weight of his un-confessed sin and that his “strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” (v. 4).  After acknowledging his sin, he was forgiven.  I prayed for those who need a rain to bring repentance.

As I was considering all the different kinds of rain, and the value of each, I thought about our natural tendency to want to stay dry.  We do this by making a mad dash from the car to the door, or by waiting for the rain to let up, or by using an umbrella.

At different times in my life, I have needed all of these kinds of rain, but I held up an umbrella against the rain of the spirit.  Wet can be uncomfortable, especially if it is the means of conviction.  Even when we are surrounded by others drinking in the rain like a dry sponge, we choose  to put up an umbrella.  It is a means of shutting down, of controlling the moment.  And it is a rebellious act of a disconnected person.

What does your soul need?  Whatever it is, the Holy Spirit can meet those needs.  So, I would encourage you if you hear the sound of rain, to put your umbrella away, open your heart and let it rain!