“Do I really have Jesus in my life?”…and other thoughts Mary and Joseph might have had during Christmas.

READ: Luke 2:1-40


Honestly…have you ever wondered this?

If so, be encouraged that you are not alone in those thoughts. Many people who had vital roles in the revelation of God’s work in this world, had doubts too. 

Mary and Joseph are examples of this. Think of it…

This is most likely the first time since the original time the angel appeared and told Mary how she was going to carry the Messiah. Imagine how she may have been feeling and the realities they were dealing with:
– Difficult travel to Bethlehem 
– No room at a hotel…crowded town
– No proper baby provisions

Maybe she might have been thinking “is all what God promised true?” But look at how God brought three different kinds of people in her life to encourage her…and others.

The Shepherds: The “Working-Class” FaithfulLuke 2:8-20

In verse 12 it says, “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

This was a sign not only to the shepherds, but to Mary and Joseph. They may have been thinking… “did we miss it, why are we having so much trouble in our lives if the Christ is in our life?”

I think that is why it says that Mary “treasured all these thing in her heart”. God brought encouragement to Mary.  

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. -Luke 2:19

Simeon – “The righteous and devout” and “Spirit-led man”Luke 2:22-35

Simeon confirmed to Mary and Joseph what was spoken to them months ago was true. When he said, “my eyes have seen your salvation”, they had to know again that God was truly there now in their life. 

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. -Luke 2:33

Anna- The ProphetLuke 2: 36-38

Think about how God used Anna to encourage everyone there. She was able to look at Mary and Joseph (and others) and say, “God has not forgotten you….God sees how you have longed for Him in your life…The King Jesus is here now!…Whatever you are going through now, He has overcome it.”

Our Encouragement Today

So if you are having doubts right now in you life or don’t sense His presence like you have in the past, take time to remember some people who God has brought into your life in the past to encourage your faith. The same God who worked in the past, is working now.  

Once we realize this, everyday is an opportunity for us to be encouragement too. Who is coming to your place…your space this Christmas? What encouragement will you find…or give this week? Will we openly share the Good news of what God has done in the world? Are we expectant of how God might encourage us?

The same God who worked in the past, is working now.  

A Small Thing That May Get You Called Out In Church

I knew I was in trouble when I saw my pastor look directly at me in the middle of his sermon.  

Trust me when I tell you your heart starts pumping pretty fast when in a church of 8000 members, the attention is on you.  But it wasn’t out of embarrassment or fear of getting exposed for something I did wrong, it was because I knew I was about ready to ball my eyes out.

You see my pastor was preaching out of John 6 where Jesus used the “five SMALL barley loaves and two SMALL fish” that a boy had, to feed over 5000 people. He shared that the small things we give to Jesus and we do in His honor to serve others, God will multiply and do great things from it.

And so when my pastor looked at me and told the congregation who he really loved and appreciated..and that it was me…my eyes started welling up tears. He mentioned the “small thing” I had done to impact his son Josh back when he was a teenager, and how even today it has impacted his son. 

You see Josh was a PK. He absolutely loved..and dare I say almost worshipped the band Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder.  We were introduced when his father first came to our church as the pastor back in 1993.  Josh was incredibly smart and generally cordial to everyone but you could tell he had some reservations about who he let into his world.  

I intentionally started trying to connect with him. We would go to the gym regularly in the mornings, grab lunch and even one time we drove to St. Louis for a concert of another favorite band of his.  We had many great conversations where we talked about his life and spiritual things.  He thought deeply about all these things and it required great discernment, love and patience to take care of what God was doing in his heart.  

As he went off to college we only saw each other every once in awhile.  I do remember a time when he was back working at the church part time on the custodial staff. He shared with me how much it meant to him and that out of all the people he knew, I showed him the love of Jesus like he had never experienced.  

And recently, 26 years later, as a husband and father himself, he reached out to me to tell me how he realizes even more the impact our time together had back then on his life.  What a treasured gift that was to have Josh share those words with me!

I share this not to call attention to myself, but rather to highlight what God taught me again that day…and when his father called me out in church as well.  It is this…

that small things matter.

Small things. That is, seemingly little, perhaps mundane or obscure things we may do, can have lasting impact well beyond their initial act.  

Getting called out and encouraged like this in such a public setting, I knew God wanted me and others to always remember that  “the small things” we do in love that honor Him, He will multiply. 

So what “small thing” do you feel God calling you to do.  Whatever it is….do it.  Do it and know He will multiply it many times over!


  • Read John‬ ‭6:1-13‬. Put yourself in the interaction. How would you feel if you were the boy or others…before and after…after the miracle?
  • Reflect if there was time you did something small for someone else.  What kind of evidence of God’s multiplication happened because of your small act.  Give thanks to God for that!
  • What small thing do you sense God might want you to do for Him and others this week?

Look!…A Human Being!

READ: Genesis 1:27Psalm 139:13-16`

Have you ever considered how amazing you are?


Granted if we consider all the species of animals and plants, types of geography, vastness of the cosmos or the complexity of the cellular world, there is much to marvel at that could last a lifetime for sure. 

But when you think about it, the human being kind of blows everything out of the water. 

For starters just think about what we as humans have created on this planet. The ingenuity is incredible. Or how about the things we have discovered?  What other species has gone to the moon and back and can tell you what kind of material is on Mars? No monkey has ever done that. Oh wait…take that back…he may have gone into space but it wasn’t his idea!

But the real, real incredible part of a human being is our humanness. What in all creation feels what we feel? Thinks like we think? Or loves like we love?  As amazing as dolphin is I don’t think he sits around and imagines what we he wants to do with his life. 

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made!

Psalm 139:14

With all our uniqueness it gets one wondering some things. For example: “Why are we like this?”…”How did we come to be?”  Did you know with all our amazingness, we humans still don’t really know.  There are theories for sure.  But no proofs.  

That is why many choose to look outside of mere human thinking or scientific logic for answers.  As Christians, we believe God, our creator, has revealed most these deep questions through the person of Jesus.  In fact, as we learn from the One who created us, we learn how to treat each other, be more creative, have more joy…basically be more human.  

So give thanks to the One who made you today.  Make a simple prayer out of Psalm 139:14 back to God. Remember you are amazing because of all the things on this planet, you are the only thing made in His image.

Use Your Reputation for God

READ: John‬ ‭1:19-23, 25-39‬

John the Baptist had a reputation.  He was very popular in certain circles.  Just like you, people knew him for certain things he did.  You maybe known as the baseball or other sport guy…or smart guy in class…or church and music guy like I was.

Even though he was known for certain things, he knew of someone greater than he:

“He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”


What did he do?  He pointed them to Jesus.

“When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.”


Why did he do this? Because he knew a secret. He knew what God was up to.  He knew God’s plan to give every man and woman what their heart was really looking for…namely Himself!

So John knew if he really cared for the people around him, the best thing he could do with his influence is point them to Jesus.  Jesus was the one they should follow most to find the life they really wanted.

You Have Followers

Believe it or not, you have followers.  Every person has someone that looks up to them and has some sort of influence with them. The question you should ask yourself is:Where are you leading them?

Will you point them to the Greatest Destination and person…the Greatest Man Jesus?

Ok, so what do we do?

First off, are you following Jesus? If not, what will you do this week to get to know Him better? And then could you invite a friend to go to church or a youth group or start reading the Bible with you?



What are your plans for this school year?  Is your vision short sighted or does it contain wisdom to see further down the road beyond what a normal high school guy walks right now?  Are your plans all about you or do they have a greater goal that transcends beyond your life?

“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.”
“May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”
“The LORD knows all human plans; he knows that they are futile.”
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”

Take Aways:
  1. God wants us to commit our plans to Him.
  2. He is the decisive factor if they succeed or fall short.
  3. We should seek and pray that our heart and plans line up with God’s purposes.

PRAY: Jesus I need your help.  What do you want for my life today…this week…this year? Lord would you order my steps?  I don’t want to make plans that are not preparing me or leading me to Your purposes for my life. So I ask that you would change my heart and my plans to match and reflect Your heart and plans for me.  I trust and believe you will do this.  Amen.

Good Guys and Jerks

“Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” John 5:23
Have you met him?  You know, the guy that everyone seems to love.  He is winsome, intelligent, articulate and just plain fun to be around.  Most people would say, “Man, he is just a really good guy.”

Then there is the “other” guy.  The guy is a jerk.  He treats everyone like dirt and because of it, his life is out of control.  Substance abuse, trouble with the law, and fights are just a normal part of his life.

So my question is: Which of these guys needs God more in their life?

Yes, as you probably guessed already, this is a trick question.  They both need God.

From a human perspective, if we line up these two guys and judge their behavior, there is no doubt that most would say that the jerk needs God and greater change in his life. However, God does not just look at the behavior…the outward life, He looks at the heart…the inward life (1 Samuel 16:7).

The greatest sin in our life is not based off one certain behavior. The greater sin is how we fail to acknowledge or honor God. This is how even the “good guy” can miss it.  John Piper says it like this:

“The true measure of the greatness of sin is not the way it ruins human life, but the way it dishonors God.”

Think about it. Don’t we as guys hate it most when other people show us disrespect?  That is why we would prefer to fight guys face to face rather than have people turn their backs on us or ignore us.

So the questions for us are:
  • Does my life honor God?
  • Have I been ignoring God?  Have I turned my back on Him?

Okay, so what do we do?

Talk to God now.  Tell Him how you are sorry for ignoring Him without really meaning to. Tell Him your sorry for turning your back on Him when you knew better. Find comfort that through the ages many guys ignored or flat out disrespected Him or people, but because they humbled themselves and turned back to God, He restored them and even used them in great ways. If this is you, He is not mad at you. He is happy to forgive you and glad to have you back home.  God welcomes all…good guys and jerks.

Don’t Fail the Growth Test

So have you ever bombed a test?

Well your not alone.  I did it just the other day.

Now the test I’m talking about isn’t a school test…God knows I have struggled a lot with those in the past.  No, the test I am referring to is the kind that helps us grow in character and our calling.

The other night, a few of my friends and I were in the kitchen talking. One of my friends saw that he had not shut the door fully behind him as we came in earlier. He, with a rather direct tone said, “Todd shut that door will ya?” Now I know that seems like a simple request, and honestly as I write this I feel like even more of a dork, but guess what I did?  Instead of fully shutting the door, I closed it only half way to where it was not fully latched.  Needless to say, he noticed as he stared me down with a look that urged obedience while at the same time wondered why I did the job only half way in the first place.

So what was I thinking?  And why did I behave like a jerk you ask?  Well, in only one second, I thought three things:  1) “I don’t like his direct tone toward me”  2) “I prefer the door partly unlatched anyway so that when you come in from the garage it is easier to just push open than turn the handle too.”  3) “I will just close it half way like I like it.”

Do you see why I know I failed my test? To state the obvious, it was about ME and what “I wanted.”  It was a test to help me overcome my own pride and selfishness.  You see that same morning in my devotion time I read the verses in Philippians chapter 2 where it talks about imitating Jesus’ humility, valuing others above yourself and not looking to your own interests but the interests of others.  God trained me up with this scripture and got me ready for the test, but I bombed it.

Retakes for Growth

The good news is that God allows you to retake the test if you want too. The bad news though is that if we don’t want to retake the test, you and I will remain where we are….in the same grade.  It doesn’t mean he doesn’t love us, it just means He can’t advance us.

You see God doesn’t want us to just know something; He wants us to become something. And by allowing challenges to come our way, He desires that those circumstances help define and build our character. And when our character grows guess what happens?  Our life grows.

When our life grows it means we have moved to another level in our journey to become all that we were created to be.
Ephesians 2:10 states that we are God’s handiwork:

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

We were created “to do”.  So that means it has to be more than just knowing some scripture. It is there for us to know so that we become it.

Plants just like people have stages of growth, we can’t skip any stages. We can’t fool ourselves to think that God’s spiritual growth design can be bypassed. We must be mature at each stage of growth before we can move onto the next.

What area in your life have you sensed you have failed to pass the test? Will you allow God to show you what you need to do to move forward to your next growth level?

Jesus is hanging out with “those people” again!

Have you ever felt like an outcast or maybe left out by a group of guys or girls you thought were your friends?  If so, do you remember how you felt?
Most likely you didn’t feel a bunch of hugs and kisses.  Neither did a guy named Levi. He knew most people didn’t like him.  So when he met Jesus, he was blown away by what Jesus asked him.  Take a look!
  • What do you think Levi was thinking when Jesus asked him to “follow me and be my disciple”?   (Why me?…amazed…but thankful…sensing love?)
  • Who are you most like in this interaction? (Crowd, Levi, other disciples, religious person, other sinners). Why?

A Life Changing Invitation

Did you notice the reaction Levi had?  He did not just say “thanks Jesus for choosing me”.  Instead he threw a dinner party and invited a bunch of people over to celebrate.   
GUT CHECK!…. Are you that excited about Jesus wanting to be in a relationship with you?

I think if we are honest, all of us can loose sight of the incredible reality that the God of the universe wants to be with us.  He is that crazy about you and me!  As amazing as this is, we must understand something though:

When Jesus calls you it is not just so you can break free of the disease of sin in your life and enjoy the love of God in your life.  It is ALSO an invitation into the Rescue Mission.  

Jesus wants us to join Him on mission in a purpose driven way that is empowered by His Spirit.

Are you living like that?
ACTION: Who might you reach out to today with the spirit of Jesus’ love that others may wonder about you: “why is he talking/hanging around him?”

PRAY:  Jesus forgive me for not celebrating your love for me like I should.  I’m amazed that you continually choose me and want to be with me.  I want my life to look like yours.  Help me.  Empower me by your Spirit so that I can join you in the Great Rescue Mission to help others know Your love.

Breaking Free of What Controls You

What is controlling your life?

If you are like me you may think at first, “Nothing!  I’m good.  No worries here.”

Certainly we can look at other people around us and see all the countless ways THEY are controlled by certain habits or people… but not US…right?

I am sure though that if we ask a trusted friend or take a “more than skin deep” examination ourself, we will quickly uncover some areas that have some negative influence over us.  It maybe that area of our life that we would be embarrassed to admit we still struggle to overcome.

Are you controlled by a:
  • Relationship with the opposite sex?
  • Outburst of anger or selfishness?
  • Habit that you know is wrong or not healthy?
  • Friendship or peer group that is steering you down a wrong life path?

If so, the questions is “Do you want to break free from it?”

Just like the man who was controlled by an impure spirit, by faith in the power of Jesus, we can get free from those impure spirits controlling our lives.

If you want to get free, then…
  • Cry out to Jesus (v.23 “the man cried out”). Believe Jesus has the power to overcome what is holding you.
  • Submit to God (James 4:7)  “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
  • Resist the attack– How?

My prayer is that you do this everyday…with bold belief!  Jesus will change you and what controls you.  One last encouragement though:  DON’T FIGHT ALONE!   God made us relational beings for a reason.  Let those who are stronger and who are seeking the same things as you encourage and fight with you.  Let someone you trust know so they can pray for you.

PRAY:  Jesus I need your help right now with ______________.  I’m tired of the control it has had in my life.  I submit and humble myself before you that I can’t take it anymore but I know You can.   I speak against __________ that has been tormenting me.  In Jesus name it is gone from my life.  God by your power I will run from any temptation that is trying to pull me down and I will resist my own fleshly desires that are not honoring to You.   Grant me the faith to know, love, obey and pursue You, Jesus as my greatest treasure!   

What is Controlling Your Life?

READ: Mark 1: 21-28

Can you imagine what would you have been thinking and feeling if you saw this scene just go down? When you think about it, this encounter could have been taken directly out of the latest paranormal movie today.   Honestly if I was there when this happened, I would be out the door in five seconds.

So this got me thinking…  Why is this recorded in the bible?  Could this or does this really happen today?  How does knowing this happened help me with anything in my life today?

Jesus Has Authority

God the Father wanted everyone to know that Jesus is ultimately in control. He spoke boldly with authority (v.22) and told a spirit “be quiet…come out of him!”  Now that is bold.  The Bible is huge on talking about Jesus’ boldness and authority.  Check this out..
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. – Colossians 1: 15-17

We Have Authority 

Jesus offers us His authority as believers. Luke tells about it:
“When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases,” Luke 9:1
So if you and I have been given that same kind of authority and power through our faith in Jesus, then you maybe wondering, “Then why don’t I sense that or see that in my own life?”.  What could be the disconnect?

Could it be that something is controlling your life and your not even aware of it?

It may not be something demonic, but could it be something you have allowed to creep in slowly that now has control over you?  Ask yourself:

  • Did I used to have a desire for the God that has slowly declined?
  • What do I now think about most of the time?  Is it all about me and what I want most of the time?
  • Is there something “impure” or that doesn’t honor God or others that you know you shouldn’t be doing, but you keep doing it anyway?
Is there something that has authority in your life above God?  Be honest about it then.  That’s the first step.

I will outline in the next devotion some ways God gives us to break free from those things in our life.  Until then, tell God about it and if your willing to post what has been controlling you, share it below or at least send me a message and I would love to encourage you as you begin to break free from it.

PRAY:  Jesus thank you that you have power and authority over everything that may come against us in life.  May I not continue to hid or be bound up inside with what is really going on in my life.  Help me to be bold enough to share what’s going on in my life with You God and with others I trust who will help me break free and fight.

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit,
but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…
God who is in you is greater
than the [evil] one who is in the world.”

~ 1 John 4:1-4