Devotional for Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Brother Lawrence  was converted at the age of eighteen. He recalls, during that first  year after coming to God,  seeing a tree in winter stripped of its leaves. He recognized that in a little while leaves would appear, then flowers and finally fruit. God provides all of that. The tree does nothing but exist as a tree. From its very nature comes the leaves that provide it’s nourishment, flowers that attract the insects which propagate it and finally fruit from which other trees are produced.

Later in life when injured in battle and suffering a chronic painful condition, Brother Lawrence remembered God as provider. Rather than consider himself a victim; he became, even in his injured condition, a servant to others. 

What excuses prevent us from living the life God calls us to? Are we too busy making a living or raising our kids, or building up wealth? God provides all that we need to do all that we are called to do. He produces the fruit; it is ours to be aware of His presence and bounty and to grow where we are planted.

I remember some years ago we shared our home overnight with two missionaries from California. They marveled at how green our area was. They talked of the many shades of green which God provides for our enjoyment. Having lived ourselves in California for several years, we were familiar with how brown and barren it can be much of the year. But we had become so accustomed to the beauty that surrounds us that we had lost that sense of wonder that it should produce.

God conveys His presence through the beauty of His creation. Spend some time today considering the beauty of His creation and thank Him for these reminders of His love and omnipresence.

Be blessed.

Nick

Brother Lawrence – Devotional for Monday, June 20, 2011

 Brother Lawrence was born Nicholas Herman around 1610 in Herimenil, Lorraine, a Duchy of France. His birth records were destroyed in a fire at his parish church during the Thirty Years War, a war in which he fought as a young soldier. It was also the war in which he sustained a near fatal injury to his sciatic nerve. The injury left him quite crippled and in chronic pain for the rest of his life.

    He was educated both at home and by his parish priest whose first name was Lawrence and who was greatly admired by the young Nicholas. He was well read and, from an early age, drawn to a spiritual life of faith and love for God.

    In the years between the abrupt end of his duties as a soldier and his entry into monastic life, he spent a period of time in the wilderness living like one of the early desert fathers. Also, prior to entering the monastery, he spent some time in private service. In his characteristic, self deprecating way, he mentions that he was a “footman who was clumsy and broke everything”.

     At mid-life he entered a newly established monastery in Paris where he became the cook for the community which grew to over one hundred members. After fifteen years, his duties were shifted to the sandal repair shop but, even then, he often returned to the busy kitchen to help out.

    In times as troubled as today, Brother Lawrence, discovered, then followed, a pure and uncomplicated way to walk continually in God’s presence. For some forty years, he lived and walked with Our Father at his side. Yet, through his own words, we learn that Brother Lawrence’s first ten years were full of severe trials and challenges.

    A gentle man of joyful spirit, Brother Lawrence shunned attention and the limelight, knowing that outside distraction “spoils all”. It was not until after his death that a few of his letters were collected. Joseph de Beaufort, counsel to the Paris archbishop, first published the letters in a small pamphlet. The following year, in a second publication which he titled, ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’, de Beaufort included, as introductory material, the content of four conversations he had with Brother Lawrence.

    In this small book, through letters and conversations, Brother Lawrence simply and beautifully explains how to continually walk with God – not from the head but from the heart. Brother Lawrence left the gift of a way of life available to anyone who seeks to know God’s peace and presence; that anyone, regardless of age or circumstance, can practice -anywhere, anytime. Brother Lawrence also left the gift of a direct approach to living in God’s presence that is as practical today as it was three hundred years ago.

    Brother Lawrence died in 1691, having practiced God’s presence for over forty years. His quiet death was much like his monastic life where each day and each hour was a new beginning and a fresh commitment to love God with all his heart.


You can get a copy of the Practice of the Presence of God here. You can download and print a personal copy free of charge. http://www.practicegodspresence.com/brotherlawrence/practicegodspresence09.html
You can also get a copy at Amana.


We will be considering some of Brother Lawrence’s thoughts in the days ahead. Please join us. 
  Nick

Father’s Day 2011

To be honest, I’m not a great fan of Father’s Day. First off it’s one of those Hallmark holidays, created by the greeting card companies to sell more cards.
Further, when I was a young father, it always seemed to me that on Mother’s Day the preacher would honor all the great moms and on Father’s Day he would lecture all the less-than-perfect dads. Maybe I was too sensitive.

But it must be said that in 2011, Fatherhood as an institution is not in great shape. According to the U. S. Census Bureau there are approximately 13.7 million single parents in the United States today who are raising approximately 26% of the children and 84% of those are women. So there are fewer fathers today than ever before. Many of the fathers who are physically present or emotionally absent.

Plus our image of fathers is more negative than ever before. Consider for a moment and try to think of a single television or movie father who is portrayed positively. Even those who are old enough to remember Father Knows Best, will remember that the title was a bit tongue in cheek. Mom ran that household not Father. Father didn’t know best; he didn’t know much. It is the rare American family that has a strong man as it’s head. Women run families. Whether that’s because that’s the way they like it or because they are filling in for guys who are not stepping up, the result is the same.

I think all of this is a very successful attack of Satan. By negatively portraying fathers, it is difficult for us to understand just how wonderful or Heavenly Father is. If “father” doesn’t bring up positive images, then how can we describe the wonder of our Father above?

So in light of all this how should we “celebrate” Fathers Day? Well forget the card that proclaims you father, “World’s Greatest Dad.” It’s a lie and he knows it. My suggestion is to pray for and thank God for you father, if he’s around. And if he in any small way by his life makes it easier for you to appreciate your heavenly Father then thank him for that.

And thank God that He is there to fill in for all the ways we as earthly fathers fall short. I guess I’ve turned out to be like that preacher that used to irritate me, lecturing the dads on Fathers Day. Ain’t it weird how things work out.

Happy Fathers Day.

Nick

Being Rather than Doing – Devotional for Sunday, June 19, 2011

“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”
John 15:2

I have heard it said that men get their sense of value  from what they do; women derive a sense of value from who they are. Maybe that’s why men struggle so much with Christianity. Religion is doing with the hope it will lead to spiritual being. Life in Christ is being that leads to doing. 
When you think about it, a branch doesn’t “do” very much. It bears fruit completely as a function of its attachment to the vine. We so misrepresent Christianity when we focus on “do’s” and “don’t.” What we have to offer is a relationship to Christ from which good things spout; yet we insist on conveying the idea that we must do good things to deserve Christ.  We “know” we could never do enough; but that doesn’t stop us from preaching it. By focusing on works, we detract from the relationship that makes it possible.
Consider being afraid of God instead of having a fear of God. If we are afraid of God we want to run from Him to avoid being in His presence. Our fear arises from our observation that next to Him we are completely unholy and unworthy.
Fear of God, instead, recognizes the greatness and awesomeness of God, including His marvelous love and provision for us. That fear draws us to Him. We want to be connected to such a marvelous being although we approach with awe and humility.

It’s a great thing to be a branch. It’s not based on what we do; but on what He did and, by His action, who we are.

Nick

Delivered from the Power of Darkness – Devotional for Saturday, June 18, 2011

Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.  He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love. Colossians 1:12-13

As Christians we are citizens of a new kingdom, but we often act as if we were still under the power of the Prince of Darkness. God has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love. We seem to have trouble becoming acclimated to our  environment. There is a new king in town. We aren’t subject to the old devil any more. But he still “appears” to exercise power over us. Like a roaring lion he makes noises designed to keep us frightened and enslaved. He convinces us that life was great in the old kingdom. We believe we will miss the old life of sin. He’s a deceiver and he’s really good at it. 


It’s important that we renew our minds to the new kingdom and the new life we’ve been blessed with. Focus on the Word is crucial. It serves as a reminder of all that Jesus has done, the power of the promises He makes and joy following Him brings.

Praying as Jesus taught us help as well. Thy Kingdom Come. Deliver us from evil. 

Satan is defeated.  It is a happy day when we realize it. We have power over Satan; it’s a good day when we tap into it.

Nick