And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6-7
Although I have been a Christian for most of my life and have been very involved in Christian ministry for many years, I have never found it easy to practice the daily presence of God or to have a disciplined daily routine of prayer. In the past this used to cause me deep despondency, but God’s hold on me is much deeper and I have learned to trust His faithfulness more than my attempts to be ‘spiritual’!
The following truths are some that have helped me through what I would describe as the journey of a prodigal Christian – the journey of one who is prone to wander. I pass them on in this devotional in the hope and prayer that they might be equally of benefit to you in your journey.
Let us practice the foundation truths of life by:
Decades ago when I was in grade school, all the children would gave a simple valentine card to each boy and girl in the class. I remember feeling stupid giving them to other boys and scared giving them to girls! They all had cute little sayings:
In today’s world as an adult, I only participate in Valentine’s Day with a gift to my wife… and as nice as that is, I think I have lost something along the way. As stupid or fearful as I felt giving those cards out, I always treasured getting a pile of these little gifts every year with my name on each and every one.
In a very real way this is in keeping with what Jesus shared as the center of life. During the last meal that he shared with his disciples, Jesus spoke with profound clarity: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” [John 13:34] We benefit when love is shared the way Jesus loved – with genuine, care and interest in those around us. We all love being loved! So …
I have a Valentine’s Day challenge for you. Take a few minutes to send a greeting to someone to say they are special. Tell them that they are “out of this world.” Let them know they are special to you. What you send will be treasured!
Here’s mine …
Randy my friend, I miss you being in Hong Kong and hanging out with you. I’d love to go to a movie with you this weekend. I love you man, Rick
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:20-21
Although everyone loves the cool Hong Kong winters, they should come with such a caution: “Warning! Your rings, which normally grip your bloated sweaty fingers, will suddenly slip off easily without a trace!” That’s what happened to me. Thirteen months after my wedding, what I feared would happen, happened. I lost my wedding ring.
I have a history of losing expensive stuff, which has made me more careful, or paranoid rather. I looked it up to see if there was a genetic predisposition: some German researchers found that most people surveyed for forgetfulness and distraction had a variation in a Dopamine receptor – I forget which – that made them more prone to losing things. I might have that gene.
After I noticed my ring was gone from my hand, I thought it must be in the house, but couldn’t find it anywhere. I commiserated to my friend. (Tip: Next time your friend says she lost something, try to fight the very natural urge to ask: “Have you looked everywhere?”) I thought I might have left it in the office. I told my husband once he came home, and asked if he could drive me back to my office so I could check and have peace of mind. He had the perfect response, “OK. But even if it’s not there, it’s ok.” I was glad he was so calm; if he was upset too it would’ve compounded my distress. The ring wasn’t there either.
I searched “losing wedding ring” on the internet, hoping to find some stories that would make me feel better. Most of the results, funnily enough, were husbands posting questions like, “I lost my wedding ring! How should I tell my wife?” Most of the responses were, “Come clean to your wife right away. Make a move to get a replacement so she knows that you care.” There were stories of renting metal detectors, crawling on the river bed to look between rocks, rallying other passengers on a flight to get on their hands and knees. Stories of miraculous recoveries, stories of forever loss...
The ring, while on the expensive side of the jewellery I own, was more than anything for sentimental value – it was the ring he put on my hand at the altar. But I refused to let the loss of an item steal my joy. When my husband said we should go get it replaced, I half-jokingly said, “I should just get the cheapest thing there.” Part of me didn’t think I deserved more nice stuff. But he looked at me slightly puzzled and said, “You should just get the same one.” He didn’t correlate my carelessness to what he wanted me to have.
It was that moment I realised I didn’t need to be so upset about losing the symbol, when I had the real thing. And the lost ring episode brought it home more than anything. The replacement ring, I realised, can be of even greater significance than the first one. After all, the first ring represented the leap of faith into a new journey. The second one would represent how much, after a year of marriage, my husband had gotten to know me and love me; a reminder of God’s faithfulness in giving me His best.
You can have a beautiful cross necklace. You would be upset if you lost it. But what the necklace symbolises should be your ultimate comfort. The cross represents God’s sacrifice of His Son. And it was at a great cost to Himself. No amount of diamond carat could approximate its value, no amount of money could buy it, no amount of good deeds could earn it.
Where is your treasure? This year, may we truly appreciate the real Cross, wear it upon our hearts daily, display it joyfully, guard it carefully, and cherish it eternally.
Let us practice seeking God first by:
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10: 38-42
Are you in the habit of making New Year resolutions? Personally, I’ve never been that way inclined – not because improvement was unnecessary, but more because it was optional, and/or through defeatism about the likely (lack of) long-term results. But somehow New Year 2019 felt a bit different.
Spending the holidays peacefully in Hong Kong, without rushing off stressfully somewhere else, was a big factor in that change. Too often, we are “worried and upset about many things” like Martha and don’t even realise that they are robbing us of the ability to reflect on the present, and envision a better future: even when I do get a break, I often just focus on recovery rather than growth or contemplation.
We know we are called to become better versions of ourselves, and we likely know at least some specific areas where we should be devoting less or more of our attention. But it’s optional: like Mary and Martha, we are given the choice of what we will prioritise. What will it take for us to step outside our habitual patterns and take a fresh look? If we don’t make a start today, we may be in the same place this time next year.
So for me a peaceful Christmas and New Year break served as a reminder to reorganise some wrong and complacent priorities, “making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16).
How about you? Are you “worried and upset about many things,” and which of them are really needed? In the end, only one “thing” is needed, and it will not be taken away from us. In what areas of your life do you need to “choose what is better” as 2019 is starting?
Let us choose a better future by:
We are a few days into the new year. As a new tradition, I have asked my whole family to gather around the dining table to do a countdown just before noon on January 1st because our three boys are still too young to welcome the new year the night before. Also as a family tradition though, I’ve asked the family to write down ten things they are grateful for in 2018 and three things they would like to accomplish in 2019. We had a great time of sharing.
As I read the book of Mark today, I really want to add one more resolution on my list for 2019! In Mark 10:46-52, Jesus heals a blind beggar by the roadside as He and His disciples were leaving Jericho. I was fascinated by this healing miracle based on a few observations:
Quite often you want to know and do the will of God, and spend a lot of time just asking… Today, as 2019 begins, I would like you to stop and reach into your soul to search for the deep longing that you have for God. Like the blind beggar, what is it that you need to cry out to God for? In what area are you desperate for God’s presence? What is that most important healing that needs to take place in your heart today?
Pause, reflect, search your soul, and cry out to Jesus, the true healer and perfecter of our faith and then take heart and get up, for He is calling you.