Happy New Year – 2018

As we begin a new year, many folks make New Year’s resolutions to be a better person by doing certain things (lose weight, eat healthier, exercise more, have a positive attitude, you get the idea).  Often, the resolution lasts about a week (two at the most), and then it’s gone, with the winter blues coming to replace them.

For the past several years, as I explained last year, my thought process is a bit different, with the results being both rewarding and fruitful.  Instead of making “resolutions”, I ask the Lord for a “theme” for the year.  What is the common thread that should weave its way throughout my life in the next twelve months?

I also ask the Lord for a Bible verse to go along with the theme.  Sometimes the verse comes first, sometimes the theme comes first, but they eventually come together as a cohesive unit.

This process of discerning a theme and verse takes time.  It’s not a “sit down and knock it out in twenty minutes” exercise.  Often, it’s intentionally carving out time to remove distractions, quiet my heart, read Scriptures, and pray.  Only then can I sense what the Lord is speaking to my heart – not audibly, but in His quiet way, when you just know.

For 2016, the phrase was “pay attention“, both in my external world as well as my internal world.  Here is the verse that went with last year’s theme:

Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
(Galatians 5:25 NLT)

For 2018, the theme is not a phrase, but a single word:


This theme actually started out of my Advent study and prayer, with Jesus’ name of Emmanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

The focus in 2018 is on my internal world, on the “be” part of my life more than the “do” part.  There will be plenty of “do’s”, but those are not the center or focus.

Here’s this year’s Scripture passage to accompany the “With” theme:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
(Colossians 3:1-4 NIV, underlines mine)

Our life – hidden with Christ (v. 3).

Not only is He with us, but we are with Him!

A wise man once told his young friend, “The most important thing in your life is not what you do; it’s who you become.  That’s what you will take into eternity.  You are an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.”
(Dallas Willard to John Ortberg, recorded in John’s book, Soul Keeping, p. 23).

I have no idea how 2018 will work itself out, or what the year holds.  I do sense that prayer will be an important factor, as will carving out time to just be with the Lord, reading His word, and interacting with other like-minded Christ followers.  The rest is mystery and adventure waiting to unfold.

All I know is that He holds the present and the future, and I can rest and work in Him.

With Him,

Beginning the New Year

As we launch into a new year, many people make a New Year’s resolution to be or do a certain thing.  Often, the resolution lasts about a week or two, and then it’s broken, never to be picked up again until the following year.

My thought process is a bit different.  Instead of making a “resolution”, I ask the Lord for a “theme” for the year.  What is the common thread that should weave its way throughout my life in the next twelve months?

I also ask the Lord for a Bible verse to go along with the theme.  Sometimes the verse comes first, sometimes the theme comes first, but they eventually come together as a cohesive unit.

This process of discerning a theme and verse takes time.  It’s not a “sit down and hammer it out in twenty minutes” exercise.  Often, it’s intentionally carving out time to remove distractions, quiet my heart, read Scriptures, and pray.  Only then can I sense what the Lord is laying on my heart.

This year, the phrase that continues to pop up is “pay attention“.  This comes in two parts:

  • Pay attention to what’s going on around me – the external.  As an analytical, that’s the easy part – taking in all the events and people and emotions that go with them.  Sometimes the fire hose of external information coming in can be a bit overwhelming, but I still get the “big picture” of what’s going on.
  • Pay attention to what’s going on within me – the internal.  This assignment is tougher.  It’s not so much that I am a guy, and like most guys, tend to ignore my feelings.  The Lord has shown me that I need to listen to what’s going on in my heart and soul.  The challenge this year is deeper – to pay attention to what’s happening in my mind, my heart, and my soul as I observe and process the events of the world around me.
    • Do I “take every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5) as I process the events of the day or moment?
    • When something good happens, do I stop and thank the Lord for His goodness and Providence in my life?  Or do I forget the Lord is the source of all good and claim the victory as “good luck”, or worse, of my own doing in my own power?
    • When something not-so-good (aka “bad”) happens, what does that do to my “abiding” in Christ (John 15:1-17)?  Do I remain steadfast in His love, or do I let the event or person temporarily derail my walk with the Lord?

Here’s the verse that goes along with this theme of “pay attention”:

25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
(Galatians 5:25 NIV)

Here’s another version that expresses Paul’s thought well:

25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
(Galatians 5:25 NLT)

Abiding in Christ means learning to walk in step with His Holy Spirit that lives inside me – not running ahead, not lagging behind.  As a follower of Jesus, I am as close as I will ever be (or can be) to Him this side of eternity.  My challenge is to listen to His “still, small voice” as I walk along life’s road each day and each moment of every day.

That’s my theme and verse for 2017.

What about you?  Have you taken the time to hear what the Lord is laying on your heart?  Feel free to share if you’re so inclined.  Not sure yet?  That’s OK as well – will be my privilege to pray for you.


Walking with God – in Practice

But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.
(Joshua 22:5 NIV)

Similar to the Micah 6:8 passage, Joshua reminds the Israelites as they settle into the Promised Land to continue walking with the Lord.

As I continue to ponder, study, and consider what it means to walk with God, here are some practical thoughts that come to mind:

  • We are called to walk with God – God is not a dream, fable, idea, thought, concept, nor a myth.  God is real, and is a being that wants to have a relationship with us, as a friend.
  • We are called to walk with God – that means that He leads, and not us.  This takes humility on our part to listen and obey Him, not running ahead, and not lagging behind.
  • We are called to walk with God – walking is a common thing, not some mystical experience, and is something that nearly every one (except for medical / physical conditions) can do.  Walking is something that we can do regularly, as an active habit, and can be carried out with a normal pace over the course of a day.
  • Walking with God is an internal practice, manifested outwardly in how we interact with others.
  • Walking takes time.  It is not as fast an an airplane, a car, or even a bicycle.  But it builds character in the process.
  • In our microwave pace of society, walking slows us down and allows us to think.
  • Walking also allows dialogue and interaction.  Running does not lend itself to such conversation.

So how is your walk with the Lord?  He loves hearing from us, and speaking truth and encouragement into our lives each day.  May you enjoy your walk with Him today.


Walking Humbly with God

Walking Humbly with God

With what shall I come before the Lord
    and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

(Micah 6:6-8 NIV)

In Micah chapter 6, the Lord tells Micah the prophet to plead His case against Israel (vv. 1-2).  He tells Micah to remind Israel of all the Lord had done for them (vv. 3-5).

In verses 6 – 7, the Lord (through Micah) asks Israel what they think will please Him.  Israel was quick to offer sacrifices to the Lord, but they thought their dedication to Him was satisfied and ended there.  They thought that after their obligatory sacrifices were made, they were free to do as they pleased.

In verse 8, Micah speaks on behalf of God, and reminds them of what God desires:

  • act justly
  • love mercy
  • walk humbly with God

Based on Israel’s history and the track record of other nations at the time, justice and mercy were not the norm.  The norm was that every person looked out for themselves, and God was to be appeased, not related to.  In non-Jewish cultures, gods were self-absorbed and angry, and required sacrifice to appease them.

God showed Himself different from the other gods, in that He desired a relationship with His people first and foremost. God was more interested in a relationship with Him, than in their sacrifices.  Moses made that clear to Israel in Deuteronomy 10:12-13.  Jesus also spoke about sacrifice vs. worship in Matthew 23:23, where He called out the Pharisees for dutifully sacrificing one tenth of even the herbs in their gardens, but missing the heart of compassion that God desired.

When we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:34-40), our relationship with Him comes first, before anything else, including sacrifices to Him.  Out of that relationship comes love for others as God works in and through us to care for others.

Micah reminds us that we cannot act justly and love mercy without walking with God.  We may try (on human terms) to provide justice and show mercy from our own power and will, but it will ultimately fail without the right heart attitude.

May we walk humbly with the Lord today, showing love and mercy as He has shown us through the example of Jesus, His Son as He lived and loved and sacrificed for us.


God’s Presence

God’s Presence

33 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”

12 Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
(Exodus 33:1-3, 12-16 NIV)

Moses and God were incredibly frustrated with the Israelites.  God was holding up His commitment to let the Israelites go to the promised land, but said He was not going to go with them (v. 3).

Moses was not willing to lead the Israelites from their present location unless God went with them (v. 15).  Moses knew that to go without God’s Presence would end badly for all concerned.

Moses had a deep relationship with God, and they conversed often.  Exodus 33:11 says that “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.”  While the Ten Commandments were given to the Israelites, they were meant to call the people into relationship with God, and not to be a checklist to be followed in place of a relationship.

Verse 16 captures the heart of Moses’ impassioned plea to the Lord.  He knew that God’s Presence with himself, and with each person of Israel was what separated each of them from everyone else on the earth.  The difference was their relationship with God and His presence with them, and not their culture, nor their customs, their race, religious practices, nor anything else.

And so it is with us who are Christ-followers today… God’s Presence living in us is what makes the difference in our lives.  Christ living in and through us is also what attracts others to the Lord.  When we live out our relationship with Him, and more importantly, as we allow Him to live out His purpose in us, others see that and say, “You have something I don’t have – what is it?”

Paul captures this idea well:

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
(Colossians 1:27 NIV)

May you experience God’s Presence, your hope of glory today, as you go about your day.