For Christmas, my beautiful and thoughtful wife gave me a “Daily Verse” calendar in which each day lists a short line from the Bible. Since I find searching online overwhelming to begin with, it would be difficult for me to find a ‘daily devotional’ that I could settle on, to be the one to follow out of what I’m sure are thousands. Plus, I wouldn’t have the discipline to get onto the site each and every day, without being distracted or more likely, falling behind. Finally, while I already own a few books of daily devotionals, again, I lack the discipline to open them up on a regular basis in order to use them to their full benefit.
So, I loved the idea of a calendar that can keep me on track! I have a daily verse to read and reflect on and I know right away if I’m falling behind. I keep this calendar hung right above my computer at my desk and I vow to keep up with its passages. I may not use them all for this blog, but with a goal of reflecting weekly, I’m sure there will be two or three each week worth emphasizing.
At the same time, as a brand new blogger, I was starting to get concerned that I may run out of material eventually. I’m now confident that won’t be the case, as with this calendar in hand and the Bible in my back pocket, I know there are endless subjects with which to reflect on. I hope this is the first of 52 posts, for starters!
Now, I am no pastor. I have no formal religious education. So, I encourage you: Take my reflections with a grain of salt and if anything feels “a bit off” in your mind, run it by your own pastor, please. I’ll start with Thursday the 5th, which is from Philippians 4:13.
I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.
Wow, could this be more appropriate for the six weeks my family has just endured? I was three weeks in the hospital and three weeks of recovery at home. My wife kept working her teaching job, getting the kids up extra early in order to get them to daycare, which is usually my job. Then, picks them up after school and gets them home for dinner and the whole bath-time, brush-your-teeth, get-to-bed routine…for two kids, aged four and one. My wife has been so strong through this ordeal and I know she owes it to the strength she gets from our Lord. She, unlike me, does follow a daily devotional online, and often leaves me notes before work with her favorite verses. I really appreciate that she takes the few minutes to do that once in a while. She knows me, and knows the verses that I will connect with.
Thankfully, my parents arrived from Florida shortly after my surgery, to help Sybil with the kids’ morning routine and be with us. As devout Catholics, I know for sure that my parents’ strength comes from the Lord as well. I’ve witnessed it my entire life. As for myself, two separate visitors of mine at the hospital had brought me “comfort crosses.” These are small, usually hand-made wooden crosses, meant to be held in your hand to feel close to Jesus. I literally cried when the first one was handed to me, because it was exactly what I needed. For the rest of my three week stay, I had that cross in hand around every turn. I endured a lot of pain, a lot of anxiety and thus, I prayed a lot. And to me, the cross in hand seemed to multiply the effectiveness of my prayers and certainly did its job of comforting me. The more I worried, the more I grinned, the harder I squeezed that cross. I know He was there with me. I could feel Him.
Most importantly, where do you garner your strength? If we set the Bible aside, there are a limited number of answers: The support of my family; my physical strength; the depths of my passion or enthusiasm; the breadth of my intellect. Are there more? Maybe a few. When we allow the Bible to direct and inspire our hearts and minds, the scope and scale of our strength becomes absolutely limitless! We can do all things in Him! There are no challenges that aren’t addressed at some level in Scripture.
So, Friday the 6th is the Epiphany: In Christianity, the Epiphany refers to the realization that Christ is the son of God. Western churches generally celebrate the Adoration of the Magi (the Three Kings) as the Incarnation of the infant Christ. Today, the calendar reads, from 1 Peter 1:3.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy, He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
This is not a verse that needs much explanation. This is one of the most basic ideas of Hope that comes from the Bible: Through the resurrection of Jesus, we are reborn into a world with renewed Hope. I haven’t yet published them, but I have many a blog post written already about my struggles with depression, and all of my healing can be traced back to Hope. I pray that you have Hope in your life and that you recognize that our Hope comes from Him. Stay tuned for much more on this subject.
Finally, one of my favorite Bible quotes. Saturday the 7th comes from John 13:34.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
The first part of this verse, “A new command I give you:,” I didn’t know how to reflect on. I was unsure of its meaning. As I said, I am not a Bible scholar. My wife, however, has a significantly more amount of training than I do. As she read my post, she taught me about this phrase. Why is this a “new” command? She explained that this is a reference to the Old Testament versus the New Testament. In the Old, there is the notion of an “eye for an eye and tooth for tooth,” which this New Testament phrase is often compared to. It represents the somewhat harshness, or matter-of-fact, crime-and-equal-punishment sentiment found in the Old Testament. Sybil said that the prophets often spoke of the ‘Mighty King’ and ‘Rule Enforcer’ to come, whereas the Savior who arrived was in contrast, a humble, gentle, forgiving soul. So, the fact that loving your neighbor as yourself or as the Lord loves you is referred to as a ‘new command,’ speaks to the hard and fast rule of law depicted by the Old Testament versus what in fact, was to manifest into the true Grace of God.
Then, certainly love is one of the most talked about themes in Scripture. This one speaks specifically about loving your neighbor, even to the extent that Jesus loves us. Is that possible? Can we possibly love another to the depth that Jesus loves us? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But what he does is raises the bar extremely high. He gives us something to reach for, which He thinks is possible. Can you imagine the type of world we could live in, if our love for each other approached the level of love that Jesus has for each of us? Something to shoot for!
So, this has been my first week of devotional reflections. My hope is that by following my blog – and if you’re so inclined to appreciate the love of Christ in your life – that you’ll find that following a weekly devotional easier to stick to than a daily one. Remember, I’m no religious authority, but I think as a Christian community, if we can share our own personal thoughts on how Scripture reaches us, then there’s value in that. I hope that you’ll comment and share your thoughts on the idea of helping each other understand the Bible.