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“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.
For speaking, writing requests, or other questions:
The moment of Jesus’ death, just after he called out ‘it is finished’ for all to hear, strange things happened.
One of which: the penal system that ran society (and to some degree, the economy) was no longer needed.
Its symbol—the 60 foot high curtain—was found torn from top to bottom. Previously, its job was to separate holy things (a single, annual emissary) from unholy things (all the rest of society, us).
Dying, Jesus created a way to preserve justice without the curtain. And then by coming back to life, he allowed a place for love and mercy to win.
When I think about my problems, work or home or wherever, it’s easy to get distracted. And it’s hard to be truly thankful, even for the good things.
Until, that is, I remember, because of someone else: I have full access to the king, the creator of the universe.
“And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him”
– Matthew 27:44
It’s understandable that the soldiers would mock. They were hardened and did this for a living.
The same too for the religious leaders, but, of course, for different reasons.
However, what would draw the others—who, at the same time are themselves being crucified–to use the last bits of their energy to lob in a few insults?
Speaking hypothetically, if my last minutes were being tortured out of me,
I’m not sure I’d care about someone else.
Yet, we see a picture here of Jesus being reviled by everyone, save just a few. Even as he’s hanging on the cross.
Simply put, that was Jesus’ ministry in a nutshell. To love him is to change all. Your course, your priorities, even the people you choose to love.
And to hate him is absolute. Even in their misery, they reach out to make his worse.
Today, there’s a big swath of people that pick Jesus to sit on their mantle, along with all their other stuff.
It’s a happy medium. A have your cake and eat it too, kind of solution.
But it’s just not true.
When we interact with Jesus, everything is different.
“May my words and my thoughts be acceptable to you”
– Psalms 19:14
Have you ever considered the answer to this? What exactly is acceptable to God?
Well, besides of course the obvious…like, not sinning.
Since that’s off the table. And since the above passage was written for sinful people—what exactly does God find acceptable?
I know my wife better than I know anyone else. Which is a no-brainer. I spend more time with her than I do anyone else.
The time’s not always good, though.
Sometimes the kids are being difficult. Sometimes there are way too many bills and far too few paychecks. And, sometimes, one (or both) of us are just having a bad day.
But that’s okay. What makes it work is the want. We want to be married to each other.
The simple answer to the above is this: God wants to spend time with us.
He created us—not because he needed us; not because he didn’t know we’d make a mess of of it all; and certainly not because he thought we’d play nicely—no, he created us because he wanted us. Each of us.
On to it. My two pieces of advice, forged from mountains of failure:
One, there are really only two times a day that you can count on being uninterrupted. Before everyone gets up. Or after they go to sleep. No pain, no gain. Sorry.
And two, consistency is the silver bullet you’re looking for. It’s tricky, because at first it feels a bit benign. And one day it hits you, how far you’ve come.
Continuing my continuation…
I | Love is easy to spot, but hard to understand. This is part of the reason, I believe, for the proliferation of religions. Everyone recognizes the need for love. But without some help, we often misunderstand what it really is.
J | People who’ve make the biggest impression on me are the ones who, for some reason, want to pour into me. These are the people I try to emulate whenever I help someone else.
K | There are really only three questions in life that matter. Who are you? Why are you here? And are you doing what you’re supposed to? Much can (and has) be expounded on each of these. But the most interesting thing is that they’re sequential. Until you figure out who you are (and I don’t just mean your personality; it’s just as much about whose you are), the rest won’t make sense.
L | I steal all of my good ideas. I like to think it’s a sign of respect. But, I suppose…that’s what they all say.
Now then, back to regular programming tomorrow.
Continuation from yesterday’s…
E | There’s nothing I’ve done and that I’m proud of, that didn’t first scare me enough to seriously consider not doing it. I notice this starkly when someone congratulates me on something that may have been a lot of work, but wasn’t at first intimidating. Those things are good. But I’m not proud of them.
F | Dressing up is almost always overrated. In serious times, like funerals, nobody’s looking at your pants. And at happy times, it’s usually just the unhappy people that care. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy worrying about this.
G | Anything that upsets you that you cannot influence is, by definition, a distraction. Most reasonable people agree with me here. Until I start giving examples. Like politics. Or the news. Or Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte. Then come the emails…
H | Once you figure out your place in life, 99% of existential questions disappear. (Unless you just like those sorts of things, in which case, that’s a different issue.) Corollary to this, as best I can tell: this is an experience thing. To find your place, you just have to keep stabbing until something turns up.
Ideas change everything. Or, rather, the ideas we believe in change everything.
The logic here is simple: what we really believe to be true, we act on.
And, I know, in advance, some of these ideas will generate angry emails (because they’ve generated angry conversations). But, well, that’s sort of what the first one below is about:
A | We should care about others’ wellbeing, but not their opinions. Or mostly so. If we’re divvying up attention, I put the ratio somewhere around 10:1. It’s not that opinions are bad. Or even unimportant. But they’re subjective. And because there are too many variables to account for, it’s usually not helpful dwelling on the unknown.
B | We should try really hard on the work we love…and then just enough to get by on everything else. To some, this is a terrible work ethic. But this doesn’t mean waiting until we find something we love before working hard, it means leaning into what we’re really supposed to be doing. When we find that, everything else is just a stepping stone.
C | If you’re a Christian, you’re a disciple of Jesus. And if you’re a disciple of Jesus, then you’re called to ministry. I see a lot of people confusing a vocation (getting a paycheck from a church, which can come and go, depending on the economy) with the spiritual call of God to do the work of his kingdom (which is a constant for all times). The first isn’t bad. Not at all. But it’s also very much not equal to the second.
D | Everything is spiritual. Not as in, everything is a god (pantheism) or God is in everything (panentheism). But rather, everything we do and think is influenced by (and has a real impact on) the spiritual part of us. And that matters for all eternity. This is basically why Paul kept writing letters.
There’s more tomorrow. Not to tease you, I’m not a tease.
It’s because—another idea I’ve been learning—is I have to choose between deep and wide: the first does a better job of compensating for the latter than does the latter for the former.