“Reading Joe’s devotionals has contributed to the shape of my thoughts and life.”
– Jack Hunter, Executive Director of NOBA
My name is Joe Fontenot, and I write about practical spiritual growth.
“Joe Fontenot has tackled the issue of spiritual disciplines from a fresh perspective. Easy to read. He does a great job.”
– David Crosby, PhD, author of The Care Effect
This devotional of 52 meditations on the Christian life will take you through a year of finding a deeper time with God.
Who saved a wretch like me…
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
At first, I thought that was a bit of a stretch.
A wretch. As in, wretched.
Then I learned–at least cognitively–that it was true.
That’s the verse from Isaiah: “even our best actions are filthy” (64:6).
But then, when I had kids…I began to see a new side of this.
Kids are one of those factors in life that really show you who you are. Work is challenging, and (can be) rewarding. Friends and family are important. But kids are a different thing entirely.
It’s not only that you can’t hide from them…but you can no longer hide from yourself.
I’ve come to learn, the deeper one goes, the sweeter the grace is.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
– John 1:4
The light is Jesus.
And the darkness is pain. That’s anxiety, hurt, loss, Satan, our own sin–all the things that makes life harder than it should be.
From this we know:
Life is hard. Life with Jesus is still hard. But life with Jesus wins in the end.
To me, I cannot think of a greater encouragement.
“Repent,” says Peter, “and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19-20).
The message is as simple as that.
Yet, there are loads of people that don’t get that refreshed life.
And this can be disheartening.
In the West, as best I can tell, there are two main things that keep a person from accepting the gospel.
1: Insulation. Life is good. Or, at the very least, it’s a distraction.
2: Pride. I can do it myself. Which is to say, the opposite of surrender.
Equally in its simplicity, though, is the what does draw a person in.
First, it is God’s working, moving spirit. It is, by definition, God who saves. But strangely, God is not the only player in the equation.
Second is us. Or rather, God’s spirit living in us. Without seeing the effects, the gospel is an idea that requires great sacrifice. And that’s really just bad marketing.
But when God’s spirit is seen in the lives of others, the refreshing comes.
After the strange time where Jesus had risen from the dead but not yet ascended into heaven, he told his followers: “Wait,” and I’ll send you a helper.
The great commission to go everywhere and share the good news was put on hold.
And so they waited. Day after day. But during that time, they were not idle.
Instead, they were “with one accord,” and they “devoted themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14).
In other words, they spent their time focusing on unity and direction. What’s interesting is that the two can hardly be separated.
In John 17, several weeks before this, and on the night before the crucifixion, one of the key things Jesus prayed was that his followers would have unity.
It was only then, after this conscious and focused effort that the greatest gift God has ever given to his people–that is, himself–came.
“Then go quickly and tell…”
– Matthew 28:7
These were the words of the angel to the first witnesses of Jesus’ empty tomb.
“So they departed,” it says, and went with “great joy” to find the others (Matthew 28:8).
But at the same time, another sending-out was happening. The religious leaders had assembled the council. Their guards had also reported the empty tomb to them.
And so they created a story. “Tell people,” they said, his disciples came at night and stole the body (28:13).
The interesting part of this is that, while both groups encountered the empty tomb, neither doubted it.
His followers received it with joy. And his enemies created a PR plan. But even they could not refute the facts. The best they could do was re-interpret them.
This is the nature of a true encounter with Jesus. Whether you like it or not, it’s not something you can ignore.