Spend The Morning With Jesus in 2022

 Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning,  for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk,  for I give myself to you….Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love,
so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.“ –
Psalm 143:8, Psalm 90:14. 

Do you start your mornings with Jesus?  There are people who believe it more prudent to read their Bible or devotional at night when they are awake and least hurried. But if that is the case with you, you may want to rethink your strategy. There are no “rules” when spending time with Jesus.  Anytime you spend with Him is good, but there are distinct advantages for you to start your day with Him.

Spending your mornings with Jesus, even if it was just a quick devotional, gives you something to ponder, pray for, and work on throughout your day. Would you rather make your own plans, work through mishaps, and put out fires on your own?  Or should you spend a bit of time talking to Him about your day, and asking Him for the correct path to take and the strength you need? It’s a great reminder that we can trust and count on Him each minute of the day. It also can serve as a springboard for the brief consultation and prayers with Him during the day.  

When you spend time with God in the morning or another time, it needs to be a heartfelt and engaging time. Spending time with the Lord Jesus each morning isn’t to fulfill some kind of religious duty or perform a ritual. If we just “clock in” and “clock out” without our heart being in it or our spirit engaged, we may develop a habit, but it won’t be an enjoyable one nor will it help us know the Lord more or grow in Him. God doesn’t want empty rhetoric or someone just going through the motions. He wants it to be relationship-building. 

Spend quiet time with God on a regular basis, if not daily, and your life will change. God takes pleasure when we spend time in the Word and fellowship with Him in prayer. When we do, our trust in God grows. We can’t trust God unless we know Him. The only way to truly know Him is by spending time in the Word and really basking in who God is. The more time you spend with someone, the more like them you will become. The same is true of God. As we spend time reading the word and in prayer, we will become more Christ-like. 

Forming this time into your daily schedule will not be easy. Nothing of value is ever easy. The main objective for any of us is disciplining ourselves to have a quiet time every day. Over time, it becomes a habit that is easily repeated. Even better, it will soon become the best and most productive part of your day.

Discussion Question:

  1. Do you have a regular quiet time? Why or why not?
  2. What different ways have you tried to intentionally connect with God?  
  3. What would it take for you to make this a priority in your life in 2022?

Think Like Jesus

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 2:5. 

Years ago, a Fortune 500 company was looking for a mission statement to help employees understand the importance of the customer. They came up with “Think Like a Customer.” It was an attempt to get into the mindset of the customer. Many salespeople tend to lead with their product – that is, to push hard on what they perceive to be the distinguishing characteristics of their product.  Think like a customer helps salespeople focus on what the product can do for the prospect and how they can use the product to achieve a goal or solve a problem.  

This applies to our one word or one phrase for 2022. What if we think like Jesus? When you first read that you probably immediately think about WWJD—what would Jesus do: what would Jesus do is a popular motto for many Christians who strive to live by Jesus’ example in daily life. But what if we wanted to be more basic than that by asking how we can think like Jesus. 

The fundamental thing that separates Christians from everyone else in the world is first and foremost how we think and, only second, what we do. The mind is where we perceive, reason, think, and understand. When we think like Jesus, when we have the mind of Christ, we have His views, His feelings, His temperament, and we are influenced by His Spirit. Although we have been given the mind of Christ, we still have the capability of not thinking like Jesus. We can set our minds on things of this earth rather than heavenly things (Colossians 3:1–3). Our mind regulates what words and actions we express. We think first, then decide, then do. Our minds must be changed and renewed (Romans 12:2) so that we can do God’s will. 

Thinking like Jesus means we don’t think the way we used to think. We don’t have to see people the way we used to see them. And we don’t have to approach life the way we have always approached life. Think about what would happen to our relationships if we think like Jesus.

To be a Jesus thinker: (a) Start with prayer – this is foundational in our attempts to become Jesus thinkers. (b) Examine your life – constantly asking, “Am I thinking like Jesus would?” (c) Read the Bible – looking for new insights that you haven’t noticed before. (d) Set goals on how to grow closer to God.

What can you change today about the way you think? Again, the way we think affects how we behave. Think about how you can serve others. When we’re committed to serving others, then God will work on changing us.

What would Jesus think? Let’s aspire to think like Him.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. How could thinking like Jesus apply to your life? 
  2. How can you think like Jesus in 2022? 

The Power Of One Word

Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will. ” –  Jonathan Edwards 

Most New Year’s resolutions are short-lived. Statistically, 50 percent of resolution-makers fail by the end of January and that number jumps to 90 percent by March. So what if, instead of resolutions we decide on one word for the year: seek God for one word this year and then put one verse with it and trust God’s power to make it happen. 

The premise is simple: lose the long list of resolutions―all your sweeping promises to change―and do something about one thing this year instead of nothing about everything. Choose just one word that represents what you most hope God will do in you, and focus on it for an entire year. Allow that word to direct your life and focus your decisions. This single act will force clarity and concentrate your efforts. As you focus on your word over an extended period of time, you position yourself for God to form your character at a deep, sustainable level. Growth and change will result. 

Spend some time thinking about who you want to be. What kind of person do you want to become? Do you want to have the faith of Abraham? The patience of Job?  The courage of Daniel? The Grace of Esther? The Surrender of Mary? The Joy of Paul? The bible is full of people of whose character, for the most part, can be summed up in a single word. What one word do we want to exhibit in our own life?

What is God saying to you this past year?  What area does God want to take hold of in your life and use for His glory? How does God want to position you for the upcoming year? So what will your word be? It may be a word that The Lord has laid in your heart and mind. Maybe that word is bolder as an example; you want to live and speak more boldly for Jesus Christ. 

How badly do you want to be bolder in 2022? Do we want it enough to ask, seek, and knock until God answers? But for that to happen, we cannot be content simply wishing we were bolder all the while staying where we feel safe and relatively comfortable. Boldness is not constant or taken for granted. We need to focus on being bolder. We must keep praying for it whenever we need it. Even the apostle Paul experienced this. “I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.” (Ephesians 6:20). If we want to be bolder we need to incorporate boldness into our daily life. So when opportunities come our way to be bold we are ready to seize that opportunity.  

The one-word exercise brings simplicity and focus. It cuts through the distractions and keeps us focused on what really matters. It has stretched us in all areas: spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and financially. God will transform you through this exercise. 

Discussion Questions: 

  1. What’s one thing you would like to change about yourself or accomplish this year?
  2. What’s your one word? How will this word help bring focus to your life?
  3. What verse have you chosen to go with your one word? How does this verse apply to your one word?

Small Things, Big Differences

“Then another message came to me from the Lord: Zerubbabel is the one who laid the foundation of this Temple, and he will complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has sent me. Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” ― Zechariah 4:8-10.

John Wooden, the famous basketball coach, said, “It’s the little things that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” Change doesn’t happen on its own. It has to be intentional. You can’t lose weight just by thinking about it. You can’t stop bad habits by writing them down on a piece of paper and drawing a line through them. It takes more.

The same thing is true of spiritual growth. Life change is always a process of focusing on one small thing and then making incremental steps in the right direction that lead us to where we want and need to be. Big things in life have an impact on us, to be sure, yet when you stop to think about it, the little things often carry an even greater impact.

Jesus understood that. Jesus always placed great emphasis on little things. Just look at His parables. Every one of His stories dealt with some big spiritual issue, but have you noticed that in the telling of the story, He always focused on the little things of life—like the hairs on a person’s head or birds, or flowers of the field or seeds or weeds or lost coins. He noticed the little things; like the slightest touching of His garment by a woman who had been ill for years, like the tax collector perched on the branch of a tree, like a widow dropping her little coins into the offering plate.  

That is good news for each one of us because our life is not typically an ongoing series of large events spiritually. Very few people are going to have an impact on tens of thousands of people. Most of us tend to sweat the small stuff. But sometimes in our walk with the Lord, we neglect what we might perceive as “the little things” due to our hectic schedules. We forget that daily time with God in His Word, prayer, and serving others all help us learn to be faithful. Luke 16:10 tells us, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.” In other words, how we handle small stuff makes a huge difference in how we’ll handle the big stuff.

The little things may end up being more important than we realize. Conversations with a friend, listening to someone who is hurting, thank-you cards, phone calls, buying groceries, cutting somebody’s grass, or just treating a stranger with respect can have a greater impact than we realize.  Little things do matter. Unfortunately, we cannot predict which little thing will make a big difference in someone’s life. But that should not stop us from doing them because little things matter and only God knows how much.

If little things can make a big difference to Jesus, then little things can make a big difference for us.  

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Think about your past attempts to change. Have you made resolutions or sweeping promises to change? How well did it work?
  2. How can little things make a difference in our walk with God?

Becoming More Like Jesus This Christmas

 “May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.” – Romans 15:5-7

What if this Christmas brought us closer to the very heart of Jesus, and to help us have a more intimate knowledge of how His grace and love flow through us? What if during this Christmas season our hearts took the day off, and our life was governed by the heart of Christ? What if this season, His priorities govern our actions and drive our decisions and His love directs our behavior?

That scenario is what God wants. God wants you to be just like Jesus. “Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.  Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” (Ephesians 4:23-24). Every honest Christian knows the need for change. But how to get there? How do you move forward from struggles both big and small to become more like Him?   

The Bible teaches us that the goal of the Christian life is to become like Jesus. If you want to be a person that God can use, a person who is becoming more like Jesus, then it will take time. It is going to take time spent with God. It is going to take days and weeks and months of journeying with other Christ-followers. It is going to take time to participate in God’s mission, pray for God’s heart, and obey God’s word. It takes time, but with time comes progress.

God’s desire is for you to think like Jesus so you can act like Jesus and ultimately have the heart of Jesus so you can be more like Jesus. As a Christian, we should yearn to not only know more about the Bible but to become more Christ-like to our family, friends, and people we meet. We want to see Jesus in us.  

So what needs to change in your life? God has put you on earth for a purpose, but have you discovered it yet? William Barkley said, “There are two great days in a person’s life, the day we are born and the day we discover why.”

If you are a Christian you know why and how. The question is are you open to change and transformation? We all have obstacles in life; they can be stepping stones to new heights or they can seem impossible to climb. The good news is, you can change. Jesus is in the business of changing lives.  We have heard the stories of people whose lives have been radically changed by Jesus. Their stories are about normal people, from normal backgrounds, who have decided to serve an extraordinary Jesus and developed a heart like His.  

My prayer is that you will challenge yourself in 2022 to be committed to becoming more like Jesus.  

Discussion Question:

  1. Who do your actions say you belong to?
  2. How do I judge my progress at becoming more Christ like?
  3. Pray and ask God to help you in becoming more like Him.

Wonder Of Wonders

“Once in our world, a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.” – C.S. Lewis

No other time of the year captures our imagination as much as Christmas: God coming into the world on a dark winter’s night; a baby that would change the course of human history; the heavens bursting into song; the certain hope that God will have the last word over our sin and brokenness. This season fills our hearts with the wonder that anything is possible. The Christmas story is the story of stories.

There are mysteries that will never truly be solved. Christmas is one of those mysteries because it causes us to reflect and ponder the idea of Immanuel: God with Us. God entered the world as a baby. God entered our little corner of the universe. How do we make sense of that? 

But does the Christmas story still create wonder, or has familiarity with the story dampened our sense of wonder. It is human nature to quit examining things when we become familiar with them. We quit noticing them. We don’t get excited as we once did. The story does not create an emotional response as it once did. Our wonder starts to dissipate. 

Try something different this year. Take a time out, and intentionally spend time reflecting in reverence and wonder at the miracle of the real Christmas story.  In the midst of the hustle and bustle, set aside a half-hour to slowly and intentionally read through one of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth. Do your best to clear your mind and read it like you would for the first time. Flip over to Luke 2 and imagine the scene where there were too many angels to count, filling the sky singing praise to God. Or think about the Magi from the East following a star — to kneel down to a baby.

These events only happened once in human history, and they will never happen again. The love of God for humanity is painted all over Christmas.  Why would God do this for us?  God loves the unlovable, extends mercy to the undeserved, and gives the gift of grace to the unworthy.  This is truly the wonder of Christmas. How can we not be taken back by the stunningly magnificent events and truths of the birth of Jesus? How can we not be moved by the wonder of the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus? How can we not be humbled by the love God has lavished on each of us?

This Christmas season is as good a time as ever to renew our sense of awe and astonishment at the miracle of the incarnation.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What aspects of Christmas brings wonder, awe and worship to your heart? 
  2. In what ways has Christmas lost some of its awe and wonder for you? What things distract you from the powerful, true story of Christmas? 
  3. What can you do this week to restore the awe and wonder of God coming to earth?  

Overcoming Obstacles

“Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him…they entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” – Matthew 2:1-2,11.

Everybody loves the story of the wise men. We’re told there were three wise men, that they were kings, that they came from the East, and that they found Jesus in the manger. They were true Jesus seekers who traveled long and far, overcoming obstacles and distractions, to follow God’s call on them and see the young Messiah. Though we don’t have a lot of specific information about them, there are many things they can teach us.

First, consider the journey. Traveling at that time was far different than it is today. They couldn’t just jump into a car or hop on a plane and set out and arrive later that day. Traveling was lengthy, wearying, and dangerous. We don’t know how they traveled, but the fastest way at that time was camels. Even if they took camels it would have been a lengthy trip of perhaps months. Riding on a camel is not comfortable. Desert weather often varies greatly between the heat of the day and the cold of the night. There would be storms. Towns would be few and far between.  Roads were not developed. And there were bandits lurking. The journey alone was a major obstacle.

Second, there was no guarantee of success. The wise men didn’t have a lot of data to draw from. There were no guarantees that they would find the King they were looking for. But they believed. We see evidence of this in their journey and also in verse 2 when they ask Herod “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” They were willing to sacrifice comfort and security to see and worship Him. Why? Because of faith, they overcame the second obstacle. The third obstacle was staying focused. Their journey took them to the palace, but then in the end they followed the star again and that led them to Jesus.

The three wise men overcome all obstacles to find their way to Jesus. This baby Boy born in a manger grows into a Man giving food to the hungry, health to the sick, life to the dead. He eventually dies upon a cross taking every wrong thing upon Himself that you ever could do, ever might do so you can enjoy life in all of its fullness now and life in all of its fullness for eternity. This Jesus gives us the opportunity for a personal relationship with the living God. If we persevere even when it’s hard we can make it to Jesus. God’s with us in the middle of the storms we are facing. It is so easy to miss the star and miss the way to Jesus because our focus is in the wrong place, we are looking in the wrong location or the obstacles are too much for us.

There are no obstacles that should keep us from an intimate relationship with the risen Savior. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are some obstacles in your life? Are they different during Christmas?  
  2. How can the story of the wise men help us deal with these obstacles? 

Learning From The Wise Men

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” ― Matthew 7:7. 

Matthew is the only gospel that includes the story of the wise men. The wise men’s journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem is described in Matthew 2:9-10: “They went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” Matthew wanted to make sure people knew how happy the wise men were to find the Christ Child so he used some superlatives. “They rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”

In verse 11, we see the worship of the wise men: “They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”  

Many lessons can be learned from the actions of the wise men. For example, they made it a priority to pursue the Lord. These men came from a great distance to encounter the Savior. They were committed to having a personal encounter with the newborn King. In the same way, shouldn’t we make it a priority to pursue the Lord and spend time in His presence? Secondly, they came to worship Him. Matthew 2:2 says, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” The purpose of their journey was clear; they came to worship Him.  Hopefully, we will take some time away from the trappings of Christmas to worship the reason for the season. 

Thirdly. nothing could divert them from their mission (vs. 3-8). When God gives us a dream to pursue, we often have to deal with our own “King Herod” that attempts to keep us from pursuing our mission. The magi truly proved to be “wise men,” able to discern that King Herod had no intention of furthering their mission. May we be able to determine the obstacles that would prohibit us from fulfilling our spiritual mission as well. Fourth, the Bible tells us that these men “… returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod” (vs. 12). If you read the story again, it’s easy to see why. They were supposed to let Herod know where he could find Jesus. They knew what Herod wanted and they knew that their failure to honor his request would mean death for them. But I’d like to also think that the wise men’s lives, just like our lives, were changed after they met Jesus. Often we are desperate to go in a direction that was far more comfortable than paths God would have us follow. But genuine worship will transform us and cause us to walk on a different path after we found the life-changing, life-saving power of Jesus Christ. 

The wise man sought and found Jesus as a young child. When we seek Him today, we find Him today as the living Christ, clothed with glory and honor and seated at the right hand of His Father in heaven.

This Christmas, may the Lord give you a fresh revelation of His love for you—love that took Him from the glories of Heaven to a dusty stable in Bethlehem…to a Cross on a Jerusalem hillside…to the right hand of God’s throne in Heaven…so that you might spend eternity with Him.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Does it surprise you the sacrifices the wise men made to see the child Jesus? What do you think motivated the wise men to journey so far from home and their refusal to be diverted from their mission?

Finding Peace This Advent Season

“For a child is born to us,  a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6.  

The race has begun to get everything done. Just 8 more days until Christmas. Many of us are already stressing over how we are going to get it all done in such a short time. Tree trimming, present buying, gift wrapping, card writing, cookie baking, and on and on. Peace doesn’t seem to be part of the equation.  

You’ll hear the word “peace” used all the time during the Christmas season. It’s a powerful word, in part because it’s something all of us want. We long for peace — peace with God, peace within, and peace with others. And here’s the good news of Christmas: Jesus came to Earth to give us peace. It starts with Jesus.

During advent we need to remember the words of Jesus: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Peace is not something to take for granted. Peace isn’t a place, Peace is a Person. Peace is not a place you escape to out of your everyday life, but a Person you walk with every day.

Finding peace is more than closing a door and turning on some soothing music or setting on the beach looking at the blue tranquil waters of the Gulf.  If you find doing those things to find peace, you need to connect with the only true source of peace who shows us the way to live Christlike lives.  

You are invited to know Him, the Prince of Peace. You are invited to lay down your cares for the present, regrets of the past, and fears for the future and live as a forgiven, born-again child of God. You are invited to come to Him and become an heir to His promises of hope, love, joy, and peace. “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Isaiah 26:3)

Finding some peace is about living a life you don’t need to run from, but living a life you want to run into. You can have peace for this holiday season if you’ll turn wholly to God. You can have peace for the upcoming year if you’ll trust wholly in Him. You can know that God goes before you to prepare the way. All you need to do is listen to Him, trust Him, and obey Him.  “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”- Colossians 3:15

 True peace can only come from knowing Jesus Christ because He is peace.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why do you think peace is talked about so much during the Christmas season but rarely achieved?
  2. How can we find peace this Advent season?  

The Real Meaning of Christmas

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.” – Luke 2:15-17

Each Christmas there are people who miss out on the real meaning of Christmas; the first Christmas was no different. The Innkeeper was too busy with too many customers’ needs to have any time or place for Jesus at Christmas. King Herod tried to eliminate Christmas before it got off the ground by eliminating Jesus from Christmas. But there were people who understood the message of Christmas; the shepherds for example. 

In the Luke 2 passage, the angels appeared praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 

The shepherds could have sat back and thought, “Wow, we just saw angels…we will have a story to tell our grandchildren in our old age.” They could have debated over the meaning of what happened or felt pride in being the ones who got to see the heavens open up. They could have been practical and stayed with the sheep. But for them, the news was a call to action. “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 

 When the shepherds witnessed the Lamb of God, who came to save people from sin, they were dramatically changed. As they left, they no longer acted like outcast shepherds. They were changed, excited, and bold. They wanted everybody to know about the Lamb of God. It was not just the people they knew but everybody who would listen. So powerful was their testimony that people were amazed. Even after the shepherds left Bethlehem, they were praising God and glorifying His name.

We can understand the real meaning of Christmas in this one story. Christmas is about the birth of the Lamb of God. He came by the will of God, with the backing and joy of heaven. He came to be the once and for all sacrifice. He was approved by the keepers of the sacrificial lambs as being worthy of a perfect sacrifice.  You see, Christmas is the beginning of the story, which is completed at the cross.  The angels proclaimed it, and the shepherds understood the message.

So, what about you? With Christmas just around the corner, will you miss Christmas, as well?  Take some time amidst the busyness and festivities of the holiday season to slow down and really reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.  The Christmas story is the most revolutionary story in the history of the world. It’s a story of God not just interacting with history or directing it, but entering into history. It’s a story of God made flesh, setting aside all His divine rights to become a helpless baby and ultimately the perfect sacrifice for our sins.  

 Discussion Questions: 

  1. We can know the story of Christmas, but completely miss the message behind it. Why does this happen? What puts us in the position of missing it? 
  2. How does the Christmas story influence the way you see God?
  3. Christmas was never meant to be an event or a season, it was meant to be a gift. Agree or disagree and why?