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January 5, 2009

Devotional Journey--Day 1

Welcome, everybody! I hope you're excited about this 14-day devotional journey together. It's not too late to join us. If you'd like to download the free GFL devotional, just click here and follow the prompts!

Okay, so Day 1: "Spirituality vs. Jesus." I don't know about you, but this one hit me. While I've never been the sort to describe myself as "spiritual" when describing my faith, I certainly have fallen prey to this "consumer" mentality of practicing religion that Frederica writes about: "What appears to be very intentional involvement with spiritual things can actually be simply
the taking up of a new beauty regimen." And I'm just about as good as sticking to the practicing of spiritual things as I am about sticking to new beauty regimens. Which - since most of you don't know me all that well - is not very good.

But I love her antidote to this ugly self-centered spirituality - focusing on the "compelling beauty of our Lord." Now that's something that's easy to stick with. Because once you really seek - and then see - the face of Jesus, once you see how he interacted with people, how he loved (and loves!), it IS hard to look away.

One of today's "Reflect" questions asks, "How have times of intense focus on Jesus - his life and his teachings - been meaningful in your own life?" I'd love to hear from you on this. For me, the most meaningful encounters I've had with Jesus have come from studying the way he "handled" outcasts. The story of Jesus and Zacchaeus - when Jesus invites himself over to this scoundrel's house for dinner, presumably to hang out and chat and get to know someone society scorned - blows me away. The story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman - where Jesus approaches this woman (bad enough, in that day) of ill-repute and sits down with her for a sip of water (totally NOT DONE!), again to chat and get to know someone society shunned - reaches deep nooks in my heart. To know that Jesus loves and wants to get to know those of us who might live on some edges, who struggle with deep sins (and who of us doesn't!), makes me never want to look away from that face.

Now you go. What touches and moves your heart when you focus on the life and teachings of Jesus?


Good morning! When I focus on Jesus, I am reminded about His compassion for the everyday person. He wasn't impressed by wealth or material possessions. He was interested in the heart. The passage from the gospels that I chose was when Jesus was having dinner with the Pharisee and the woman comes and annoints his feet. Jesus didn't care what she had done in the past, He could see her heart and know that she was sincere in her actions.

I find that it is easier to focus on Jesus when I read His words, not someone's interpretations of His words. It is important to go to the gospels often to read what Jesus had to say to us.

I have been meditating on Hebrews 12: 1&2 for about 18 months, so perhaps it is time to start including verse three. :)

The thinng that touches me most this morning is that Jesus constantly invites us to turn or return to Him. Even when we become weary or fainthearted, He still invites us to come.

When I think about the life of Jesus, I think about how humble and reserved He was. After I read today's devotion, I turned to the gospels and came to Mark 1:35-45 where Jesus healed the leper. After changing this man's life completely, Jesus tells him not to tell anyone. He didn't want to blog about it, He didn't want a press release sent on it, or his agent to get Him on Oprah. He only wanted to heal the leper. His only desire was to see a life changed.

This devotional hit home. When I was a new Christian, I read a little book called We Would See Jesus. It talked about something similar - keeping our eyes focused on Christ. I also memorized today's text in Hebrews 12 to get me through a particularly tough time in my life. I find I need to be reminded all the time of the simplicity of the Christian life.

John 11:22 When Martha went to meet Jesus after Lazarus had died...she said to Jesus" but I know that EVEN NOW, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee"... Her faith in our Lord...the faith of assurance...that God will provide for us though his son who intercesses for us to him...she saw Jesus and she just knew, eventhough her brother had been dead for four days...and Jesus had just arrived...she said Even Now...this was not the anticipations of something, this was the assurance of what had already happened...Jesus was able to go to the Father, because he is the resurrection and the life...(our Lord)...what if all Christian had this type of go to Jesus and say Even Now...I know God will...It helps me to understand how have the mind of Christ

Loved this beginning to the devotional journey--isn't this the place we MUST begin? I admit to aiming just beside Jesus for most of my life--aiming for all kinds of very good things. But none of them as good as Jesus. The simplicity of loving, wanting, asking for, looking to JESUS is life-changing. I love Jesus' constant call in his ministry, miracles, and teachings to just "come to me." It's all about him--He's EVERYTHING, and more than we can understand or imagine. He's truly that "better" thing Mary went for, and when we desire and love and take hold of him, He'll never be taken away. I pray that's true for us as we begin the New Year--may we take hold of him.

Hi Caryn, thx for the reflection for the 14-day devotional journey... i do want to join you all for the journey, but i don't have a credit card here, thus unable to proceed to download the materials... :) but what is happening 2 my life is exactly what the Jesus said abt "seek and u shall find, ask n u will receive, knock n the door will b opened to u". God bless all sisters who r joining this devotional journey. Amen!

FYI, CindyC and others, this devotional download is available for free, so you don't need to worry about having your credit card handy.

One of the forces at work in the struggle between spirituality and Jesus is that age-old temptation to believe we can do everything ourselves, through our own works and in our own power, so that we can boast.

My own efforts at spirituality might produce something I can be proud of; on the other hand, welcoming Jesus' work in my life--and experiencing it--produces something I must acknowledge comes only from God.

Even though I know all righteousness comes from God through Christ, I still tend to think my own efforts at spirituality are so important. But isn't it freeing to remember that the work is God's?

First, let me say what a great idea this devotional and blogging is!

My thought about the word "spirituality" is that it is a word that the world has taken and changed to mean mystical/higher power -- whatever an individual wants it to mean. We as Christians must hold fast to our belief and our testimony that real, true, genuine spirituality comes only from Jesus. The only way that I can become truly spiritual is to allow the transforming power of Jesus to change me, mold me, make me like Him. And to do that I must keep my eyes on Him by praying, reading His word, and serving Him by ministering to others.

Hello! I'm excited to journey along with my sisters as we "Reflect," "Refresh" and "Renew" into 2009.

To me, spirituality speaks of my attempts to outwardly display what ought to spill naturally out of my inner-being in response to God's work in me. When I reduce my relationship with God through Jesus Christ to spiritual practices, I become preoccupied with doing rather than being. It's a temptation to believe works have more significance than faith.

When asked to consider my focus on Jesus, I realize my focus tends to be on God the Father (fully aware Jesus has opened the way). I know Jesus as my Savior, my mediator, and, yes, certainly as my example.

It is Jesus' life examples that lead me back to the Father. He taught me to pray, "Our Father...," in His name. His ministry to us was salvation, but Jesus also came to reveal God to us (John 1:18). Indeed, Jesus is God Himself - so can I really separate my focus? As I look to God the Father, am I not looking also to His Son? Hmmm, the mystery of the Trinity.

What a great way to begin the New Year! I've been challenged to think by the devotional, and I love hearing all your responses! I'll be here again tomorrow; I hope you will be, too!

I have always been touched by how Jesus handled his relationship with Peter. Even after Peter's denials, Jesus still took the time before he ascended to heaven to make sure Peter was OK - with himself. Such a kind thing to do for a disciple who was so much like me - quick to speak and act, even cutting off a soldier's ear to protect his Lord. So often I also ACT just to show how much I love God rather than just to love God with my actions flowing from that love.

And then, there's the spiritual disciplines. They really confused me for a while. With all I read (note - not the Bible, others' words!), it seemed that I just needed to check the boxes and things would just flow outta me - peace and love and kindness and mercy...and all the rest. But I found myself often 'cutting off the soldier's ear' rather than loving the soldier, just to show that I was disciplined spiritually. And the cutting so often takes the form of narcissistic judgements and boasting of my 'beauty regimen' for prayer and fasting - rather than just talking about Jesus!!!

I love the hebrews verses - 'throw off everything', 'fix our eyes on Jesus', 'consider him who endured...' How come we complicate things???

Good Evening, I am so thankful for this opportunity to join with a group outside of my local body, simply to get a fresh perspective. As I read Matthew 15:32-39, I completely adore the compassion that Jesus had on the people. He was not only feeding the spiritual food but was concerned about their natural food as well. Too ofter as Christians we want to force the bible down the throats of people, but sometimes we have to make sure that natural hunger pains are not hindering them from receiveing spiritual food. We we bring a balance of both natural and spiritual food it can potentially bring a better reward. He took seven loaves a few fish and fed over four thousand, adn they were ALL filled and had left over!

I was challenged by the quote from Frederica:

"Focusing on spirituality instead of on the Lord makes you stop halfway down the hallway and think about yourself."

I believe this describes what happens in my heart in a milli-second. This change of focus happens so quickly, it is mostly undetected...until someone makes a statement like the above.

Frederica's antidote to this sort of "selfishness" is to not seek a "result" but to seek the Lord...plain and simple.

The same is true in all the roles that I play. I don't seek to be a better wife, a better mother, a better friend, or a better leader. I seek the Lord; I choose to ABIDE FIRST! With abiding as my priority, I am given the graces I need to be everything else.

This devotional came at a perfect time for me. Right now I have an awareness of the blessing that comes from having God know our hearts and minds.

This devotional has articulated something I have been feeling and thinking for the past week. I'm helping prepare a program for young leaders, and I have been wondering how we can get them to look first to the life of Jesus, and not to their own giftedness or talents, however great they may be. I had decided that in bible study and personal devotion time, we would simply go through the book of Mark. No agenda, no topical bible studies. Simply looking at Jesus.

After reading this devotion and examining my own heart, my own behaviours, and the spiritual acts I am tempted to adorn my life with out of pride, I suspect I will get just as much out of this program as the young women and men that I will lead! It's great to learn together.

When I read the word "spiritual", I tend to think of the people I know who say "I don't believe in that religious stuff, but I'm a spiritual person." It's had its meaning skewed a bit by our culture at the moment. However, it's something I want very badly, but I need to stop and think of why. I'm a part of a group of friends that are very spiritual people, and I have to be careful that I'm not trying to do it to impress others.

Taking the focus off of myself and my wants and needs is harder than it seems.....

When I think of Jesus' life -- 2 things immediately come to mind:

1. He took every opportunity when it arose to focus on those the "spiritual" community discounted.....

2. Even though He could "fix it all", he chose to recognize His human limitations and to live within them......and guess what? I'm human too!

Interesting...for decades I have been trying to understand what the word "spritual" means outside the context of faith in Christ. I first ran into that use after I graduated from college (I guess I was pretty sheltered until 1969!) and have never really been able to get a grasp of it. Thank you Mary for a concise definition. A recent email I received that built a "spiritual" lesson from The Lord's Prayer remided me that as a Christian educator I need to help even young kids learn to discern the differences between that vauge spirituality and Christian faith, because other groups use our vocabulary and suck believers into unhealthy (spiritually!) ways of thinking.

This is just what I need to refresh my walk with Christ. I had gotten closer to Jesus, and I did experience some of the selfishness rear its ugly head in my spirtuality, but I did my best to show other Jesus and not myself. I got greedy and wanted my husband's season of growth in Christ to be here now and that has caused me to stumble and fall very far away from the relationship I had developed with my Lord. I have removed the blinders from my eyes and realize he will hear God's calling when the time is right for him. I have to refocus my sight on Jesus and not my husband. I need to re-engulf myself in His Word and in His presence. I have felt Him close to me and I miss that joy and energy.
For others that have not experienced it, there are no words to explain it. And each one of us will feel something different. But the one resounding theme I hear is that what we are taught we HAVE to do or that is DEMANDED for us to do in our walk with Christ, becomes something we want and enjoy doing. It is not the chore it sounds like in the beginning to someone of little faith and understanding.

The story of the Samaritan woman was the one I chose to read about the life of Christ. There is something about the way He interacted with people that no one else wanted to be around that draws me in. He never cared about the approval of others, ever. Even His disciples were uncomfortable in this scene, and it didn't matter. And because of that, the Samaritans responded to Him, as well. They invited Him to stay and teach with them for a few days, and readily accpeted HIm as Christ when His own home town would not.

@Sharon - Thank you for posting this: "He could see her heart and know that she was sincere in her actions" - it really touched me this morning.

@GFL blog - It looks like my earlier post here didn't make it through??

I was challenged by the statement, “So my advice is: don’t seek an improved spirituality, or even a better prayer life. Just seek the Lord Jesus Christ, and keep your eyes on him.” I believe Hebrews 12:1-3 will be my New Year’s resolution for the year! I am convicted that I can easily turn my relationship with Jesus into a “to-do” list of spiritual tasks and by doing so I am actually focusing on me instead of Jesus. Yikes, that is repugnant to me! I am so thankful for this insight to have been revealed to me.

So how will I fix my eyes on Jesus? I am using a great book called, The Greatest Words Ever Spoken: Everything Jesus said about you, your life and everything else, by Steven K. Scott, to focus only on the words of Jesus. My first insight: In his greatest simplicity, Jesus is an agent of God’s love for me, his desire for me to be reconciled to him, and to live eternally with him. [See John 3:16]. Jesus’ nature is to give. Just as God gave His Son, Jesus himself gave his life. John 6:51: “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world.” Wow! Just to ponder that single thought…Jesus gave himself for the life of the world…what love for Jesus wells up in my heart. Seeking Jesus…mission accomplished!

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