A Different Kind of Christmas

By Peter Lundell –

On my first Christmas back in the U.S.A. after years of being a missionary in Japan, I got so absorbed into the warm, fuzzy feelings of carols, activities, and atmosphere that even after the new year, I was lost in a daze of holiday bliss, and I had become almost useless for anything else. After I snapped out of it, I toned myself down to simply enjoy Christmas.

As years passed, I grew increasingly tired of activities and expectations: buy gifts, practice for the Christmas pageant, write the annual family info letter/card/whatever was less work, buy more gifts, prepare for guests, clean up after guests, drop dead. By December 26th, I was just glad to be done with the Christmas hassle.

In that Grinch-minded time, I realized that tragedies at home and around the world never took a day off. They cruelly invaded life anywhere, anytime, even on the holidays.

So why did Jesus come in the first place? I doubt it was for parties, presents, and programs. One of my favorite verses for Christmas is 1 John 3:8: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” Spiritual warfare! Not very warm and fuzzy. And while Jesus walked around on earth, His mission was to “preach good news to the poor,” and to “proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:8).

In God’s eyes, Jesus’ coming—and thus Christmas—is less about holiday cheer and more about relieving oppression and overcoming spiritual darkness. We see that good work happening through believers, especially the church, when we rise to be what we’re meant to be.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, this year, and in the years to come, I will celebrate Your incarnation by doing more of what You did and called me to do—and less of what the hyperactive, self-centered, money-and entertainment-obsessed world around me does. As I do,
I will have joy and purpose in the season in ways I never have before.

BIBLE VERSE: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8, NIV).

A Giant has Died

April 16, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Life Topics

By Peter Lundell –

Steve Jobs revolutionized computer use so totally and pervasively that he changed the world. And all before his mid fifties. I lose my breath just thinking about the man’s prowess and accomplishments. And I write this on an iMac. I feel almost a personal loss.

He clawed his way up, was knocked down, and came back stronger. People with this combination of genius, creative innovation, and
relentless pursuit come along once in a generation.

Given all that, I’m deeply thoughtful at his early death and what it means. He was the creative computing titan. He had all the money one could imagine; he had all the technology one could imagine. But neither could
save him.

This leader and changer of the world was felled by cancer in his pancreas that couldn’t be fixed or upgraded. Before his diagnosis he didn’t even know what a pancreas did. I didn’t either.

I think of how little I’ve accomplished by comparison. I know I’ve done a lot that has eternal value—and that’s what God looks at, so I rejoice. Still it’s hard not to feel small, but that’s okay. Yet I have one thing that Jobs didn’t. One thing that all the money and technology in the world couldn’t buy for him or me: good health.

What a gift to have a healthy body. And I see so many people not taking care of the only one they have. Jobs would have given anything to be healed, yet he didn’t seem to have faith or anyone to pray with him.

So I’m left with the gravity of it all. And I think:

Be thankful for the gift others are to us—they could soon be

We are fragile, frighteningly fragile.

Whatever we accomplish or don’t accomplish, make sure to be in
God’s hands.

PRAYER: “Lord, I sometimes feel so small, and at times I wonder what my life is, or has been, worth. In truth I am more fragile than I am aware; others have been taken from me, and someday I will be taken. Lead me
to live each day in Your hands. . . .”

BIBLE VERSE: “As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’S love is with those who fear him.”(Psalm 103:15–17 NIV).

A Thankful Perspective

By Peter Lundell –

I often think of how in their first year the Pilgrims lost 50 percent of their group to starvation and disease. They suffered unimaginably (partly by their own bad timing of arriving in the fall), but none wanted to go back to England. A year later they celebrated a time of thanksgiving.

The folks in Jamestown, thirteen years before them, also suffered unimaginably, and they all wanted to go back to England. They never once observed a time of thanksgiving.

There’s a reason for this. Beyond all the details of each settlement’s history, Jamestown was settled for economic reasons. Their eyes were on wealth, and the survivors found little of it. Who would be thankful? In contrast, Plymouth was settled by people who wanted freedom of worship. Their eyes were on heaven, and the survivors experienced God’s deliverance. They found much to thank God for.

Thankfulness and a right perspective on life do not go together by accident.

When I’m thankful I tend to have an honest view of my life and what I have, and when I’m not thankful I only think of what I don’t have.

When I’m thankful I tend to see God at work, and when I’m not thankful I see myself struggling.

When I’m thankful I think of others, and when I’m not thankful I think only of me.

When I’m thankful I worry less than when I’m not. Simply choosing to be thankful leads me to find things to be thankful about.

If for no other reason, it’s worth being thankful just to get a right perspective in life. Thankfulness nurtures a healthy heart and mind.

BIBLE VERSE: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:4–5 NIV).

PRAYER: My Father in Heaven, lead my heart to feel with thankfulness. Lead my mind to think with thankfulness. Open my eyes to see beyond myself—to what You are doing and how I am a part of it.

The Bouncing Spider

March 19, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Life Topics

By Peter Lundell

Under the front eaves of my house, a spider web stretches seven feet from the roof gutter to the bushes below. At the center of this engineering marvel hunches the spider. The little bugger is about the size of my fingernail—and it bounces.

If I blow on the spider or reach close, the thing jiggles itself violently up and down. The whole web vibrates. On one hand, it seems to be a natural defense mechanism designed to scare off a predator. On the other hand, the jiggling web is more likely to catch something.

The spider doesn’t skitter away. It doesn’t hide. Even after the web was destroyed, the next day the spider was rebuilding.

This bouncing spider inspires me. Despite the fact that I am 10,000 times bigger than it is, it still defies me. And it takes a stand (or bounce). Sure, it’s acting on instinct rather than rational thought, but even that’s part of the inspiration.

I think of all the things that threaten or scare me. What threatens or scares you?

Too often we freak out because we think so much about the threat that we don’t instinctively take a stand based on who we are and what God has promised us.

He has promised to provide for us, protect us, and strengthen us. And when God’s plan really is for us to suffer, He is there with us, guiding us in His purpose.

Some of God’s greatest truths are seen in the natural world and its creatures—great or small. Take a lesson from the bouncing spider. When you feel threatened or scared, don’t skitter and hide. Take your stand (or bounce if you like). The Bible is full of promises, many of which we haven’t experienced as we could, perhaps because we’ve skittered and hid.

How might you take a stand today?

BIBLE VERSE: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”
(Psalm 46:1-3 NIV).

PRAYER: “Lord, You are the foundation of my strength and courage. I commit to make my stand (and bounce if need be) on this issue: ____________________ . . . .”

Battles of the Earth and Spirit

February 29, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Life Topics

By Peter Lundell –

The battles of this world often depict what goes on in the spiritual battles we cannot see.

For six months, the opposition movement in Libya has struggled against Kaddafi. For decades people in Libya endured his regime, which glorified him, benefitted the people just enough to keep most quiet, and executed those who dared oppose him. When people saw hope in the overthrow of neighboring Tunisia’s dictator, then Egypt’s, they rebelled.

Similarly, people often find hope for personal transformation when they see the victories of others.

The Libyan struggle was harder than most people expected. Early on, the Libyan rebels didn’t know how to fight, but learned as they went. NATO helped by bombing Kaddafi’s instillations, but didn’t send troops. For a long time the battle stood at a stalemate. Breakthroughs started in the unlikely corners of the mountains to the south. The war brought blood and grief, freedom and jubilation.

Similarly, unseen spiritual battles go on around us. Some are simple; others are long and agonizing. We may not know what to do, but learn as we go. God intervenes, but maybe not as much as we’d like—He makes us fight. Battles may stalemate. Breakthroughs sometimes come from unlikely places. We experience both grief and jubilation.

Some battles are disguised behind personalities and conflicts, beliefs and mindsets, maybe sicknesses or addictions, accidents or events. Some people imagine spiritual battles that really aren’t; others don’t acknowledge battles that really are.

If you or a loved one faces a spiritual battle, take heart from those rebels who didn’t give up against the oppressor of Libya. And take heart from God’s promise in 2 Thessalonians. 3:3, discussing our battles against the oppressor of the human race: “The Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”

PRAYER: Lord, You are my hope and victory, even when days are dark or heavy. I choose to trust You and be faithful in my battles. Strengthen me and uphold me.

BIBLE VERSE: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10 NIV).

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