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Devotions that matter

Devotions that matter

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Do you ever find yourself rushing through devotions, your mind focusing elsewhere? You read the words, but don’t really hear what they’re saying. It can be embarrassing for pastors to admit this. People seem to assume that we have some kind of special access to personal spirituality. I find myself wrestling with focus far too regularly. When my devotions seem to stall, my temptation is to write it off and keep moving with the day. But I find that taking an extra two minutes to reread sometimes strikes gold.

It happened to me today while reading 2 Corinthians 5:20. “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us” (NIV).

At the end of this verse, I realized my mind was calculating how early I needed to leave for the office because I had to stop for gasoline. Not very spiritual.

So, feeling a bit guilty, I decided to bite the bullet and read the verse again. For me at least, there’s usually something important that I need to injest.

This time one word stuck: Ambassador.

Ambassador. What does that mean, we are Christ’s ambassadors? Jesus was an ambassador, God’s ambassador to us. He said so repeatedly, especially in John 14. “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father… If you really know me, you will know the Father as well.” As you know, Jesus is not a second rate fill-in for God. He is the Word of God made flesh, the living expression of God Almighty. Likewise, when you say “Yes” to Jesus, he places himself in you, his Spirit alive in you. We’re not figurative hands and feet. We’ve been made a part of his Body. So when he calls us Ambassadors, we don’t merely represent him. We move forth in this world as part of him, carrying his power, his authority.

That’s an ambassador of Christ.

That’s empowering! And that is frightening.

It’s empowering because Jesus is all powerful. Through his Spirit, he indwells us—every cell, every fiber of our being. We can do it!

And it’s frightening because I know me. What about when I blow it? What if I misrepresent him? The people I’m trying to reach, what do they see? I know I could extend more of Jesus’ love, joy, compassion, peace, strength and wisdom. So does that mean that when he chose me, he made a mistake? Of course not. In his perfect plan he sends me. And he sends you.

So my response? “Oh Lord, help me better represent you. Help clear out the ME in me that gets in the way or distracts. Have your way in me.”

And sometimes I know he does. You know those moments when you realize that Jesus himself reached out through you to touched someone. Whatever that was, big or small, someone experienced Jesus’ love through you. Received from Jesus. Felt his mercy. Heard his wisdom. Answered his call. Embraced him. Those moments are highlights. They build the crown that we lay at Jesus’ feet through all eternity. Aren’t those moments worth the world?

So as Jesus’ ambassadors, what is our role as citizens?

On a national level, right now everything seems political. It’s like every person in authority or who wants to be in authority, they take up some cause. They call it “Identity Politics.” Sexuality. Gun rights. Climate change. Abortion. Immigration. Economics. And whatever cause a person takes up, it establishes that person’s identity, it sets how they view the world, what they hear, what they refuse to see. It determines where they place their faith and how they evaluate right and wrong. That person becomes the ambassador for that cause.

So if we, the Church, you, me, if we’re ambassadors of Jesus, should we remove ourselves from the world, avoid causes? Jesus didn’t. He jumped into the middle of the fray, religious, political, social. He was on the cutting edge. But he never forgot who he was and he never forgot his role as the Father’s ambassador.

An ambassador must know the one who sends him. Jesus knew the Father. The Bible says that Jesus is the only one to have seen the Father fully and that They were together as one in the beginning. Because Jesus knew the Father intimately, he could be His ambassador. Likewise, we have to know Jesus. Who he is, what he does, what matters to him.

As we lead our congregations and explore what the Father is saying to each of us, isn’t it worth asking Him how He would have us better represent Him? Isn’t that a significant part of clinging to Him, to declare, “Not what I will, but what You will.”

It leads me to ask, “Lord, what do you want in each of us, how do you want to transform me today so that I become one step more conformed to the likeness of Jesus? How can I take part in Your joy? Who will you send me to?”

These questions transformed my day. They increased my awareness and helped me make the most of a busy, busy schedule. And to think that I almost missed them because of my own demanding sense of urgency to get on with the day and fill that tank with gas.

Perhaps when you find yourself wandering during devotions, it may be worth pausing momentarily for a quick refocus. Reread. Just one word. You may find that your own helpful questions make the difference between a busy day full of activity and a day full of deliberate effect. Which kind of day would you rather have?

Pause. Reread.

 

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About the author:

Timothy J Miller has served as a worship pastor and technician for over 30 years in small, medium, large, and multi-site churches. In addition to being the WSC campus technology director at Bayside Community Church (an 8-campus, 12k+ congregation along Florida’s Gulf Coast), he writes for church leadership and worship-related publications. His recent book, Born For Worship: The Best You Can Be In Worship Arts Ministry, uses mini-chapters to help teams and individuals explore the biblical foundations that result in growth and effective service. Find him at htworship.com or drop a note to grow@htworship.com!