Thees and Thous

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As pastors go, I’m a fairly casual guy.

I hardly ever robe.  I’ll wear a jacket but seldom a tie.

I’ve been known to read the scripture straight off of my iPhone in worship.

Heck, I even play the drums in our praise band.

So it might surprise you to know where I go when I’m looking for devotional material.

Time and time again I turn to a book, written in 1936, by a Professor of Theology at the University of Edinburgh.

His name is John Baillie, and the book is “A Diary of Private Prayer”.

It’s organized into prayers for morning and evening of each day of the month.  Let me give you a short sample from this morning’s prayer:

O God my Creator and Redeemer, I may not go forth to-day except Thou dost accompany me with Thy blessing.  Let not the vigour and freshness of the morning, or the glow of good health, or the present prosperity of my own undertakings, deceive me into a false reliance upon my own strength.  All these good gifts have come to me from Thee.  They were Thine to give and they are Thine also to curtail.  They are not mine to keep; I do but hold them in trust; and only in continued dependence upon Thee, the Giver, can they be worthily enjoyed.

I’m not the only one who seeks out this book filled with thees and thous.  It’s been reprinted many times — I actually have three copies of it.

So what is it about this 80 year book, written in antiquated English, that stirs my soul?

The more formal language is beautiful, written at a time when a single sentence could be a work of art.  It sounds like how I sometimes wish my plain prayers could sound, if only I could muster the words.

And the prayers that Baillie wrote seem to capture deep thoughts and simple ideas in a way that conveys the stirrings of my soul.

Here’s the Amazon link if you’d like to explore this book: https://www.amazon.com/Diary-Private-Prayer-John-Baillie/dp/0684824981

More importantly, I wonder if you have a special book you turn to in your spiritual reading, time and again?

It may be relatively new, like “Jesus Calling” or by an ancient writer like St. Augustine.

I encourage Thee to share in the comments!

Happy reading and have a good week,

Mitch

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Will we ever be free of evil?

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You’ll never get to read the devotion I just wrote about evil.

Because I erased it.

I called out Isis.

I lamented the 939 hate groups in the U.S.

And the 747,000 registered sex offenders.

I listed all the evil I could think of, and then thought of more.

I made such a convincing case for the prevalence of evil in this world, that my insides turned cold.

I seized up, recognizing that there is evil, too, in my own heart.

And I held all of that evil in the palm of one hand,

and in the other hand, I held the Lord’s prayer.

Remember, the prayer Jesus taught us to say?

Phrases like, “Deliver us from evil”

and “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done”

and then I stopped writing.

3 questions entered my mind, at that point:

1.  Are we humans powerless over evil?
2.  Will this world ever truly be free from evil?
3.  What is God waiting for?

And I had a moment of doubt.

* * *

But not anymore.

That devotion you’ll never read?  It was missing something entirely crucial in a devotion.

Namely:  DEVOTION!

Once I realized that, everything inside me changed.

My devotion to Christ points to all the ways I have been “delivered from evil”.
My devotion to God reveals the promise of God’s Kingdom come, and God’s will being done.
My devotion to the Holy Spirit helps me respond to God’s invitation to put Love into action.

Devotion is not just a heady spiritual response.

It is a lived, passionate response.

And so, here’s my mine:

I do not doubt the presence of evil in this world, but I am a child of God.
I am tapped into a power greater than any evil could ever touch.
And I testify to that power, and rejoice over it, and strive to wield it on behalf of the God of Love who is coming into this world.

There. Yes.

That’s much better.

Now, my writing for this week is concluded…

but my devotion continues on.

Have a great week,

 

Mitch

 

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The History of My Devotion

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They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
-Act 2:42

Today, a history lesson, of sorts.

The history of my devotion.

I started writing this weekly devotion in 2001, when I was serving as the campus minister at Kansas State University.

We had about 120 students regularly involved, although I sent the devotion out to about 700 students and faculty and Manhattan First Church members.

Many of those folks still read this.  Hi!

And then in 2006  I moved to Topeka, where I served as head pastor at University United Methodist Church.

Preaching, Teaching, Marrying, Burying.  Mission trips and Visioning.  You know, Pastor Stuff.

Many of those congregants still read this.  Hi!

In 2010 I moved back to Lawrence, where I had previously served as the youth director.  I was the associate pastor.

More pastor stuff.  Lots of teaching and preaching.  (Plus I earned my chops as a legitimate drummer for the praise bands!)

I just moved from there.  Lots of folks still reading this.  Hi!

Along the way I’ve worked on conference committees and youth camps.  Making lots of connections with great people.  Hi!

And of course, there are bunches who read this whom I’ve never even met.  Allow me to say:  Hi!

And today, I send out this devotion to new friends in my new church.  Mulvane UMC, just south of Wichita.

Everywhere I go, my ministry seems a little different, and I’m excited to see what comes of my time with these wonderful people.

Hi!

If you’re reading this, then in some way, big or small, you play a part in the history of my devotion.

I don’t mean just the mid-week spiritual reminder I send out through my weeklydevotion.com blog.

I mean the day to day rhythm of faithfulness with which I try to lead my life.  My devotion to God.

You are part of my devotion, and I hope I’m part of yours.

Let’s be devoted together

as we move into the future.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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