Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Plans are good.  They are a necessary part of life.  Without them we are unable to have a sense of direction and purpose--to know which way to turn as the days and events of life roll by. 

Of course, the diversity of the kinds of plans that people make are as varied as the personalities that each person possesses:  to someone who is highly administrative they are quite comfortable in creating the 'list' that directs much of what life looks like for them.  And for the one who is more of a 'free-spirit', the plans will look much less rigid, but they are still necessary.

The challenge with making plans that affect the directions of our lives is to know what kinds of values that must be honored that will shape the forming of the plan itself.  We need to ask things like:  'are my plans primarily self-centered or are they inclusive enough to make room for the well-being of others?'  Or maybe: 'how do I value the time I have been given and how do I make use of that time?'

The list of potential questions are endless, but there is one thing that must be at the very foundation of the plan-making process for followers of Jesus and that one thing revolves around Jeremiah 10:23 that says "I know, O Lord, that a man's life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps.  Correct me, Lord, but only with justice--not in your anger, lest you reduce me to nothing."

So what can I take from this?  First of all, and probably most important is to realize that my life is not my own, therefore, it makes little sense to make plans without consulting the Lord regarding them!  If my life belongs to Jesus, then it is critical that I ask Him what He desires for it.  Sounds easy, but is much harder than you might imagine.  One of the reasons for this is that it is really hard to trust Jesus for the very practical things that come along with daily life.  This just seems to be something that is not what we usually imagine is part of 'spiritual life'.  But I believe that this is what God is calling us to--to intentionally engage Him in offering ourselves up to Him and asking for Him to lead us in the plan building that is necessary.

The second thing is this:  God knows that I will struggle with trusting Him to direct my steps, and I will fight against Him in this because of sin in me.  That's why the passage above asks that the Lord would correct me.  I need to be brought back again and again to that place of surrender to Him.  Don't despair, this can be done, but it will take time.  And don't forget, God is very patient with His children!

The last thing to note here is this:  We need to remember Who it is that is directing our steps--a Mighty God who has the power to reduce us to nothing!  In reverence we approach our God who is loving and kind, but we need to show respect to Him as He is worthy of this.  We need not be paralyzed in fear of approaching Him, because Jesus has now made it possible for us to boldly approach the throne of grace.  But our hearts should still reflect an understanding of this Universe-creating God who is power incarnate!  What a wonderful thing it is that He is 'for us and not against us'.

So let's not avoid the benefits of taking time to make plans that help to bring stability to our lives.  But let's not forget that the best plans start by submitting our whole life to the One who desires to direct it.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Hearing The Light

I'm pretty sure that most of you would understand that light is something we see and sound is something we hear, but have you ever thought about hearing light?

I was just talking with a friend of mine and we were discussing how a long winter season, a season with many less sunlight hours, can really affect our attitudes, thinking and emotions.  But there is a procedure available that will transmit light into one's ear canal and it is supposed to help to alleviate some of the problems associated with light deprivation. 

So, in essence, the help in this case comes from 'hearing light'.

In a spiritual way this makes a lot of sense.  Light has come into this world and is constantly speaking to us.  The One who is Light speaks a message of hope, life and healing to those who are in desperate need.  John 1:4 says "In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it."

I guess hearing light is not so far off the mark after all.  And that it might be hard to understand is also explained in the above passage:  we always stuggle with sin and sin is darkness.  Sometimes we can be so focussed on the darkness that it is very hard to understand the light in a meaningful way.

But the light keeps shining. . . .that's what God tells us--'the light shines in the darkness', not 'it used to shine' or 'it shone for a little while', but 'it is shining right now'.

I thank Jesus that He desires that we would hear His light--live in it, trust in it, trust in Him.  Your darkness may seem overwhelming and you may not be able to make sense of this light, but rest assured that Jesus is right there with you and He will never stop shining.

Can we hear the light?  Absolutely.  Does it make a difference?  Without a doubt.  Do you have to make it happen?  All Jesus expects of us is that we fall into His arms and ask Him to lead us through.

Enjoy the sound of the light today.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

All The Kings Horses. . . . .

Do you remember this line from the children's story:  'All the king's horses and all the king's men, couldn't put Humpty together again'?

It's a silly story about an Egg.  Not much depth there really!  But it is still a profound statement about our inability to put back together someone that is broken.  Horses, and kings are powerful and have within them the strength to move mountains and men, and yet all their power is frustrated when it comes to mending a person who is shattered.

That requires power that is simply beyond us.

If you want to see power that really makes a difference take a look at Daniel 3:16-17.  Three young men who were at the mercy of a king.  They were facing their death sentence for not worshiping this king and they were unafraid to tell him, straight-up to his face, that they would not do so because they served the true King.

Standing there, with their immanent death blazing directly behind them, they proclaimed a faith that boggles my mind.  They said: "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

Can you just picture this?  This really happened!  And they really said this!  What a statement of faith:  that they believed that God is more powerful, more relevant to this situation than the king and his men and the furnace that was right behind them.  The God they couldn't see had gained more trust than all that they were seeing around them.  And trust they did.

What did their faith get them?  Thrown into the fire--a seemingly cruel reward for their valiant stand.  But, against all rational odds, the story doesn't end there.  Jesus came and saved them and restored them to health and life right before the king's eyes.  No wonder it says that this king 'leaped to his feet in amazement"!

The king had the power to destroy three lives, but as powerful as he was, he didn't have the power to save them.  That took another King--the One that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had already put their trust in.

Isn't that just the way our world works?  It seems that there is all kinds of power to destroy things--we can even destroy ourselves if we choose, but to find someone who can put us back together again?  Well, there is only One that I have found so far.

If all the king's horses and all the king's men can't fix someone who is broken, then maybe it's time to place our trust in the Unseen God who likes to hang out with those who find themselves in blazing furnaces.

Any takers?


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

One For The Road

We have all heard this phrase 'one for the road', and to most it means to take one more drink before exiting one's favorite watering hole.

But I want to share with you a glimpse into someone's life that shines so clearly the reality of what a 'hard-knock life' can look like and still shine the love and grace of God so clearly it is almost blinding.  Maybe the light shines so bright because the soul that bears it is so beat up and burdened.

This is an extended exerpt from Brennan Manning's book entitled All is Grace:

"I have written about experiences with the straight-no-chaser grace of God, battered by wave upon wave of His tender fury.  I have also experieced just as many, if not more, moments where Abba's love was mediated, grace via the cloud of witnesses who have cast shadows on my bedraggled, beat-up, and burnt-out life.  I have tried to honor those lives in this book.  But either way all is well, grace is grace. The book's subtitle has a qualifier--A Ragamuffin Memoir.  It's best you know that going in.  I fear that word has lost some of its original grit.  Ragamuffins have a singular prayer: 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner.'  Any additonal flourishes to make that cry more palatable are pharisaical leaven.  Warning: Mine has been anything but a straight shot, more like a crooked path filled with thorns and crows and vodka.  Prone to wander?  You bet.  I've been a priest, then an ex-priest.  Husband, then ex-husband.  Amazed crowds one night and lied to friends the next.  Drunk for years, sober for a season, then drunk again.  I've been John the beloved, Peter the coward, and Thomas the doubter all before the waitress brought the check.  I've shattered every one of the Ten Commandments six times Tuesday.  And if you believe that last sentence was for dramatic effect, it wasn't."  Manning reflects a little about the weight of his words then adds this concluding thought: "I am living in a different emotional direction.  I am steering toward home, hardly a poster child for anything. . .anything, that is, but grace. . .Grace is everything."

Brennan Manning had many "one's for the road" and his life was a portrait of despair, brokenness, frustration and loss because of it.  But what he discovered was that Jesus' love for him was so intense, so undeterred, that He overcame Manning's challenges.  Not that the addictions were ever conquered, but that his heart finally was.

It is all grace.

And here is your 'one for the road' today:  know that God's love for you is far stronger, richer and enduring than any of your addictions, self-abuse or pain.  Just like Manning was able to say this for himself, let it be true for you as well "God is very fond of me."

It's true.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Being Light

What would it be like to be a part of a church that you would describe as a "light"? 

Now I am not talking about just a dim 40 watt bulb here, I am talking about those lights that you see shining up into the sky as celebrities walk down the red carpet, or the lights that point up from some of the casinos in Las Vegas.  There is some serious candle power going on here.  These are lights that are noticed!

What kind of light would be shining out of a church that was really following Jesus?  Would it be the kind that grabs everyone's attention?  Would it be the kind that causes people to stop in their tracks and gaze in wonder?  Or might it be different than that?

There are many kinds of light that shine around us all the time, and much it we are oblivious to.  For example, our eyes are not able to see ultra-violet light unless they are aided by external equipment.  I wonder if there is something here that is important for followers of Jesus to consider?

In Isaiah 58 we are shown what God considers necessary for the shining of 'light'.  He describes followers who are willing share food with people who are hungry; providing shelter for people who have no place to go; people who are in need of clothing being provided with these basic necessities; basically, God is saying to His church "take care of people in need", and then He says, "and if you do this, your 'light will break forth like the dawn.'" (verse 8).

Do we have the eyes to see this light?

It seems to me that people or organizations who make it their business to help the poor and needy are not really the ones that make the news at 6.  Sure, they may get some airplay around Christmas time, but normally these are not the kinds of 'lights' that get noticed, and they are certainly not the kinds of lights that make people stop in their tracks!  Those lights are reserved for the superstars, the wealthy, those that are 'connected', the ones who know how to network and get their message out; the influential, the powerful--all the things that make our culture tick.  And usually not things that we associate with church.

Do we have the eyes to see the light God is telling us will shine if we do the things He asks of us? 

I think we struggle to see.  And because of that, we also struggle to value what God sees as 'light'.  Certainly, no one in the Family of God would say that it is wrong to care for the poor and hungry, but we are probably guilty of sometimes thinking that these are the things that we do on the side--they are not central to our mandate.  And I would agree to some extent--I too think that doing these things is not everything the church should be about, but if we look closely, I think what is being talked about in Is. 58 is not primarily about giving us a specific checklist of 'to do's' here, but is instead a blueprint of where our hearts and attitidues should be.  If we have hearts that care about what God cares about, then His light will shine through us in amazing ways.

I need help to adjust my 'spiritual Ray-Bans' so I can see God's light for what it really is--beautiful, and maybe subtle; life-changing, but maybe not so news-worthy; magnificent, but in the sense of following the example of a Servant-King.

Jesus, our eyes need help.  Show us the way, but then also help us to walk in this way.  We want to see your light shine through us.  Retrain us to think according to what you value, not what we value.  Show us the very center of your heart, but do so in such a way that it breaks through all the layers of our self-deception.

Cause our hearts to long for the break of day. . .


Friday, January 20, 2012

Quite a Journey--But a Great God!

Anyone who knows what a "dark night of the soul" really means has had to walk through some deep waters in their life.

A dark night of the soul is a time (could be a week, could be 25 years) when God seems so distant and the light is simply not shining inside you.  It seems dark and cold and lonely.  Not a pleasant place to be sure.  But it is something that God uses to help to shape us and develop character in us.  It sounds a bit harsh to imagine this loving God allowing such times of pain and suffering, but if you think about it, the development of character in us is something that is extremely valuable. 

We just want to have the character without the work.

Romans 5 talks about this character development: "And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us."

Love this!  It begins with rejoicing, moves into the suffering times, then ends with hope!  Take note of this:  if you are in a good place spiritually then you are either just entering a time of struggle, or you have just come out of a time of struggle.  Either way you are blessed because the pay-off of rejoicing and hope is clear, you are living on the mountaintop!  And if you are in the suffering time--then you are blessed as well because God is building you into a strong person of character!  The pay-off here is not so clear because it's dark, but it's still good. 

God doesn't expect you to be bouncing around trying to act like everything is OK if you are really struggling--it's OK to hurt and a struggle is just that, a struggle!  But take heart.  Good is coming from this and you will see it one day too.

God is taking me through a struggling time, but He has not left me alone.  I walked into the Bible book store the other day and the first thing I saw when I walked through the door was a Leadership magazine that was all about stories of people going through the 'dark night of the soul'. 

Later, as I read it, it was like my parched soul was drinking cool refreshing water.  . . . . .

It was not an accident that this magazine was the only thing I saw.  It was not an accident that this was the only copy left in the store, and that it was still there when I walked in.  God wanted me to read it, because he really does love me.

And he loves you too.

So if you are struggling today, remember that God is at work in your life--He has not abandoned you. In fact he is building something in you that is a wonder to behold!

This is quite a journey--but what a great God!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Change Me


To a baby with a dirty diaper it is a sweet and comforting thought.  But to a lot of other people it can be a frightening, frustrating and confusing consideration.

Sometimes we know we need to change something in us, or have something changed for us.  We can get that sense that we have bumped up against the wall and can't get any further until a change happens.

But this can be a tough thing to do for a number of reasons.  We can avoid change if we are filled with fear of the unknown.  Change means something new, something that hasn't been before, or at least not for a long time.  It means that what we once knew will no longer suffice as a guide or roadmap because we are now in new territory.  That can be a disconcerting feeling, one that is strong enough to prevent ourselves going down that road.

Another reason we can avoid change is that it can be frustrating.  We don't always know how to make the changes happen.  Sometimes the very things that need to change are the same things that prevent us from embracing it.  We don't know how to think brand new thoughts because our old ones are so entrenched that we simply don't have the answers on our own.  This can feel so disempowering that any motivation to move into the change fades away into the background.  Unfortunately, this only adds to the frustration, at least until one becomes numb to it and that is a dark place indeed.

The last challenge I will mention is confusion.  We might have an idea of what change needs to happen in our lives, but then as you consider the options more and more possibilities come into view.  So many, in fact, that it becomes nearly impossible to navigate all the different scenarios.  It becomes a matter of choice then, and who is to say that one is better than any of the others?  This can lead to paralysis and no movement happens at all.

If this represents you, then I want to suggest a way through.  Instead of saying "I need to change" try saying "Change me."  The difference is that the first is all on you to accomplish it.  You have to figure it out; you have to have the motivation and the will to follow through;  it's all on you!

But to say "change me" is to have a heart that cries out to someone else to help with the process.  This is an acknowledgement of the need to change and the admission that you can't do it on your own.  It's too frustrating, too frightening, too confusing.

But there is a way--a great way!

Jesus understands us so very well.  He loves us, cherishes us, is really meaning it when he says that he is for us and not against us.  He is not indifferent, doesn't desire to stand at a distance from us, and is ready and waiting for us to simply ask!

Matthew 18:3-4 says "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

I want to enter the kingdom of heaven again and again.  This means more than just a salvation message, though it means that too.  Jesus wants us to walk in the "light, as he is in the light", and that means daily, hourly--again and again.  He wants us to live in such a way that we become lights that shine in the darkness and the only way I can do that is if I humble myself.

Are you wondering how to change?  Do what Jesus says and make the only right decision that is available to you to make:  say "I need you".  Become like a little child who doesn't know much beyond the immediacy of the parent who stands in front of them saying  "Just hold my hand and I will be OK", that's about as deep as a very young child thinks and it is enough.

We are to do the same.  Hold Jesus' hand--let him lead.  He really wants to.

So today, as you face all the turmoil in your spirit, knowing that a change needs to happen but not knowing what to do, or how to move forward, just humble yourself and say to Jesus "change me the way you want to see--I trust you."

You will see the kingdom of heaven.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Being Real

When I look at Jesus I see a man who was real.  He was a guy who was genuine, knew who he was, was confident in that, and lived based on his understanding of who he really was.

On good days I look at Jesus' life and become excited about the possibilities.  On not so good days, I look at Jesus' and can become frustrated because that is certainly not where I am!

I think we all want to be real, with ourselves, with others and with God, but it can be a scary thing because it means owning who we currently are, and being honest with ourselves.

A little less than two years ago I heard a presentation by a man named Warren Gerehty.  Here was a guy that was real and honest.  The topic he spoke on was:  5 Keys to Crash and Burn Well.  He relayed important life lessons that helped him to learn to live a life of authenticity and I offer them to you today.
1.  Let Fear Rule You
2.  Work at Daily Pushing Away Loss
3.  Work Hard at Being Someone That You're Not
4.  Do Not Deal with People Conflict
5.  Ignore Your Basic Human Needs

Of course Gerehty used these titles as tongue-in-cheek and the reverse meaning came through loud and clear. And as I write this, I am reminded of just how clearly all these principles are at work in Jesus' life.  He was not ruled by fear as he lived in the power of the Holy Spirit which brings boldness, power and love.  He did not avoid loss as he was willing to embrace the loss of relationship with His heavenly Father when he died on the cross.  He knew well who he was and stated that he not only knew His Father's business but that he was committed to living out the mandate of that business as well.  He didn't avoid conflict as he would again and again address the religious leadership of his day.  And he allowed himself to enjoy his life by entertaining and being entertained at parties, feasts, weddings etc; he would take time alone to pray and be refreshed; he loved being with his family and was overjoyed to be in the presence of children.

Too often we talk about Jesus being real in the sense of trying to prove that he existed, but I think the real important issue is that Jesus was real in that he was absolutely genuine.

Pure authenticity walked the earth in the form of a man.

I think the really great thing is that he still lives, and that he is concerned about my well-being, your well-being, and is wanting us to walk in the same kind of authenticity that he did.

It's a journey, and sometimes one fraught with danger and dark clouds, but Jesus told us that he is the way, the truth and the life--and you know what. . . .

I believe Him.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Good Life

Have you ever asked yourself the question: "I wonder what the good life would be like?"

Usually we would be thinking about how we could make more money, travel more, have a more freed up daily schedule, etc., etc.

Yeah, that sounds like the good life doesn't it?  This sounds especially good when it is -33 outside (which is what it is as I write this!), and we are dreaming of escaping to somewhere with palm trees.

But have you also noticed that sometimes we can long for things that really aren't the most important for our lives?  Our longings can lead us astray, and it's true that what we long for will define what we think is the good life.

The Bible can help us here, because we can find an example of someone who had discovered what the good life is really about.  In Philippians 1:21 Paul writes "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."

For Paul, everything in his life was centered around Jesus.  This was his core, his foundation.  Everything seemed to rise from his relationship with Him.  Jesus was so central to Paul's life that even when Paul thought about dying, he was encouraged because he knew that he would be with Jesus then too!

But there is something else that is worthy of note here:  Paul didn't see his relationship with Jesus as some kind of negative sacrifice or that he was "missing out" on something better.  No.  In fact, Paul couldn't think of a better way to live--he saw it all as gain!

Do you think it's possible that this could be true for us as well?  Is it possible that the good life is the one where Jesus is the absolute center of everything in our daily lives? 

This might be hard for some of us to understand how this would look.  But for now, suffice it to say that I believe Jesus just wants to be invited into everything we do, so that He has an opportunity to teach us His ways in the midst of it all. 

Jesus wants to teach us what the good life is all about.  And He is a good teacher! 

For each one that reads this my prayer is simply this:  Jesus---bring it on!


Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Heart of Jesus

There is nothing so powerful as being in the presence of the heart of Jesus.

That might sound strange to many people--what on earth does that mean?

Well, it means that when Jesus captures your attention and he begins to fill you with a sense of his overwhelming goodness that the things that were once big issues in your life now become far smaller.

It means that the anxieties that were tearing you apart from the inside out, are now covered over by the soothing balm of the presence of Jesus.

It means that when there were nothing but clouds and darkness in your soul, when Jesus walks into the rooms of your heart, there is a palpable and tangible 'shift' toward hope and light.

It means that where you might have been preoccupied with anger and frustration, there is now peace and love.

It means that where your mind was filled with confusion there is now focus and meaningful thought.

There is a huge difference between knowing about Jesus and being in the presence of his heart.  That is when there is a willingness to humble yourself and allow him to speak, lead, heal, receive and live.  That's when this whole 'Christian thing' begins to take on whole new dimensions and if we're honest, where it begins to make sense.

My prayer today is this:  that the Holy Spirit would prevent us from being complacent with our 'norm' and that he would begin a new work in us today by bringing us face to face with the heart of Jesus.

Father, may your glory shine in us today--may we not be able to hide from you any longer.  And may the perfect presence of your Son shine in us through and through.

What a day!  What a life!  What a God!


Friday, January 13, 2012

"Do" vs "Done"

Here is a consistent question that rattles around my head:  Is following Jesus about "doing" things for him, or is it about recognizing that he has already "done" everything needed?

This is a very important question becuase it impacts everything about being his disciples.

There are dangers on the "do" side:  we can become so action oriented that we begin to imagine that we are almost doing God a favor.  We start new programs, we put on evangelistic crusades, we develop great praise and worship bands, we begin more and more prayer groups, etc.  The key here is "we".  It begins and ends with everything starting with us, with a remote thought about Jesus that we are sure he would be proud of us for working so hard on his behalf. 

There can be a lot of distance between us and Jesus if we aren't careful.

But that's not the whole story:  there is also a lot of danger in imagining that the "done" perspective (that Jesus has done it all and we can add nothing to what he has accomplished) doesn't leave room for us to be actively responding to Jesus' call to reach out to others with his love.  Jesus didn't experience a brutal death on a cross just so that his followers could sit around like bumps on logs saying that everything is done already.  After all, Jesus says that we are to pray that workers should be sent out into the harvest fields.  The workers are us and workers are not really workers if they sit around all day.

So where does that leave us?

I would like to suggest that there are two different messages being spoken of that need clarifying.  The camp that says that everything is 'done' is usually talking about justification--that is our salvation.  There is nothing that we can do to add to the salvation that Jesus bought for us.  This is done.  But too often this message of 'done' is used as the only message for Christians all the time.  Well, that is simply not being honest with the whole of the Bible that God has given us.  There are appropriate times for the 'done' message but we need more.

The 'more' includes the other camp--those who talk about 'doing'.  These are the people who are trying to understand what it means to grow in sanctification.  This is talking about how we live out our Christian lives on a daily basis.  It doesn't mean that our actions make us more acceptable to Jesus, that part, the relational part is done.  But it does mean that we are called to action as his disciples--and that means doing.  Faith without deeds is a dead faith. 

It's a whole package that gets confused again and again.  Unfortunately some churches emphasize one over the other so much that Christianity, and relationship with Jesus begins to look and feel entirely one-dimensional.  We take the beautiful gift of justification life and then sit like stones on pews, or we are given the gift of living a growing sanctification life and make it so legalistic and selfish that it creates far more burdens than blessing.

Let's grow up and realize that God is speaking to us about both.  I think wisdom should tell us that messages to predominantly Christian audiences should have more "doing" content (sanctification and 'how do we live this life?") and periodic messages of "done" content (justification and a reminder that Jesus' sacrifice is all we need for relationship with him).  People who don't yet know Jesus should be given a lion's share of salvation messages, because that is what they need most, and just a taste of Christian living messages, so they can get a glimpse of what life looks like after.

Doesn't this make sense?

Any good craftsman will look at his toolbox and realize that certain tools work best for certain jobs.  He never looks at them as in opposition to each other.  They all have a place.

Let's be intentionally good craftsmen as well.  Let's give the appropriate messages to those who most need that tool and get past this idea that one is better than the other.

God 'did' so we can 'do'.

Love it.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

From Wander to Wonder

Pretty amazing our God is (wow that sounded a lot like Yoda!)

But he is.  Just yesterday I was getting ready for a college and career event at church.  I had the video set-up, I had my talk prepared, and I had a few minutes before it started so I took the time to pray.  I prayed for 5 minutes, then 10 and after a bit I realized that I was going to be spending some time alone as nobody showed up (until twenty minutes later when two dear friends popped in and we had a great time together!)

But it was all good!  God spoke to me as I was praying and He impressed on me this thought:  Brian, don't worry if no one shows up.  I have in mind for you a special one-on-one time with Me as your host--Just enjoy!  And did I ever.

I haven't prayed like that for a long time:  it was open and heartfelt; uplifting and honest.  My heart soared and I was blessed.  Then the words came to me for this blog: 'from wander to wonder', and what that meant to me was that even though my heart tends to wander into places of despair, God is faithful to bring it back to a place of wonder in Him.  That's exactly what happened last night:  I could have been frustrated that no one showed up (wandering) but God stepped in and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit I was really blessed (wondering).

Isn't that something?

Jeremiah 14:10 talks about the hearts of God's people and our tendency to forget our focus on Him.  It says that we "love to wander"--which means that sometimes we are so off-track that we pursue wandering away.  I know that's true for me.

But then we read Mark 9:15 that says "As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him."

That's what happens when Jesus comes into view in our daily lives:  we forget about the things that can cause our hearts to wander (like no one showing up) and He fills us with desire and wonder (when Jesus says to you: "How about you and I spend some quality time together?")

There's nothing like when Jesus captures our attention and our hearts.

I hope that today your hearts are moved from wandering to wondering with the One who loves you more than you could imagine.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Don't Believe Everything You Hear

We've all done it.  Sometimes we use them to get ourselves out of a jam; to avoid embarassment; to get our way.  Sometimes we are the victims of them and they can cut us to the bone.  Yes, we've all done it; we've all participated; we've all experienced the results--and they aren't pretty.

Lies.  They are the things that once spoken can take on a life all their own and take us to places we couldn't imagine possible.  They grow and over time and they can overwhelm us with their complexity and their heinous disregard for our well-being.

That shouldn't surprise us because the Bible tells us that the Original Liar is at work planting the seeds of lies in us whenever and wherever he can.  John 8:44 says that the devil "is a liar and the father of lies."  I've never thought this before, but when it says that he is the 'father of lies' that means that he 'sires' them; he inseminates us with lies; he nurtures them and does all he can to help them to grow in us.  An incredibly horrible thought, and one that makes me sit up and take notice of just how evil and uncaring Satan really is.

This morning, as I drove to work, a thought came to me totally from out-of-the-blue.  I won't give you the details of what it was, but suffice it to say that its purpose was to undermine the core of my identity.  I tried to argue with him for a bit, but that proved useless--he is the master of lies after all.

But then I was reminded of James 4:7 where it says "submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you."  Certainly the devil doesn't flee from me in my own strength, and my clever retorts obviously didn't impress him, so submitting to God is critically important here.  To do this is to say to God "I can't, but I thank you that you want to on my behalf!"  It is to live in His strength.  The benefit of this is that we are able, then and only then, to take our stand against our Enemy and say to him "your lies are exposed and God's word about me is true.  I know who I am in Him and I take authority over you in Jesus' name--now leave!!"

And he will--he does--he did! 

That's how God's promises work.  That's how his love for us plays out.  He replaces lies with truth and where there was death, now there is life.

I can't say that when the devil flees that all the damage done by the lies is completely removed.  Sometimes God's redemption takes time to grow in us.  But He is faithful to put our hearts in a place of peace and tell us that we are in His hands now, and we can rest there.

It's good to catch our breath isn't it?

So, today, don't believe everything you hear.  If you are despairing, there's a good chance that the Enemy is hard at work trying to 'father' lies in you.  Submit to God, and cry out to him to bring his truth and life into you.  Take your authority in Jesus seriously and command the devil to flee from you in the name of the Son of God, and he will.



Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Old is New Again

If you pay attention to cultural trends it seems that what was fashionable twenty years ago becomes the new "it" thing today.  Much of the music that was the 'latest and greatest' of the 80's is hot now, but I'm still waiting to see if 'mullets' will make a comeback (not that I want one again!)

Yes, what is old can become new again. 

Yesterday I blogged about how we can know the great path of being a follower of Jesus, but not only know about how to become a follower of Jesus--that much we are very familiar with.  We can also know what the path is to walk on after we enter relationship with Him--the things we should be about, and the things we should do.

Not to be redundant, but I came across another passage of scripture this morning that highlights this so clearly.  It is found in Jeremiah 6:16 and it says this:  "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls."

What God is telling us is to "pay attention".  We find ourselves at crossroads all the time, but sometimes we don't want to spend our time or energy really thinking about our lives because it seems like so much work for so little reward (at least that's how we justify our lack of engagement).

God encourages us to stop and really evaluate:  what do we see?  Where is my life?  How does it reflect what I read in scripture?  Am I really open to following where the Lord leads?  Do you notice all the questions I just asked?  There, I just asked another one!  Sometimes we are so filled with questions that we wonder if there are any answers--and what can happen is that we start to 'shut down' in frustration.

Well, God addresses that here:  he says "ask".  Ask for the 'ancient paths', those tried and true directions that are good for us to follow.  There are answers, and God wants us to know them, he is just wanting us to ask.

Then he encourages us to 'walk in them'.  This is a clear revelation that we will be shown practical and tangible ways in which we can follow Jesus.  And the payoff is that our souls will find 'rest' as we do.

I am so encouraged to know that the old can become new again.  To know that my life can line up with those who have gone before me and have done well.  I love that Jesus doesn't leave me to fend for myself, or that I have to find my own way:  He is telling me clearly that He will lead and reveal what I need to know.

Today, I pray that our souls will find crazy rest!  'Crazy' and 'rest' don't seem to go together very well, but that's exactly what I'm praying for:  that as you ask for God's leading in your life, and as you step into what He desires for you, that you will be amazed at how true He is, that He really does the things he promises to do!

Be blessed today as rest overtakes your soul. . . .


Monday, January 9, 2012

I Can See Clearly Now. . .

Do you remember these famous lyrics from the song written and performed by Johnny Nash--"I can see clearly now the rain is gone, I can see all obstacles in my way". . . .and then the chorus: "It's gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day."

It's one of those timeless songs that helps us to see past our short-term challenges.  It says to us that when we get prespective we can see through the rain and get our bearings again.  When we have a sense of what is going on and what to do about it, then hope rises in us.  And when there is hope our spirits sing and the sun starts to shine again.

"I can see clearly now. . ."  I wonder if this is something that most Christians can say about their own lives?  I wonder if there is a sense of awareness of where they are at and if they understand a clear path to walk through their "rain" and live in hope and life?  I know this is God's desire for His children, to be sure, but sometimes it's hard to get there.

Yesterday we had some dear friends over to our house and during the stimulating conversation a comment was made to this effect: "If God is wanting us to live in the greatness of his kingdom, if he wants me to step out into the deep waters of faith then I need to be shown what that looks like.  I need someone to show me the way."

What a profound statement.    We really do need to be shown the way for many reasons and most of them originate from the presence of sin.  Fear was mentioned as a major hindrance in us stepping into participation in the greatness of God's kingdom, along with many other smaller yet important challenges.

Can we see through the rain into the 'sunshiny day?'

Yes!  Without question, and the reason I say this is not based on our abilities or strength but on God's and his clear desire for us.

We have been given an invitation from Jesus himself, to step into a manifest kingdom that breaks through the darkness in people's lives.  There are many examples of this in scripture but I will mention only one here and it comes from John 14:12 where Jesus tells his disciples that 'anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing."  That's the beginning of the way right there.  God explains that those in his kingdom will have a desire and the ability to emulate what he did while he was here on earth.  This also means that he has given us an example to follow.  We should be asking ourselves "well then, what exactly were the things that Jesus did while he was here?"  And a follow-up question should arise: "What should we expect to be doing?"

There are two things I want to show here: 1. We should expect that doing the things Jesus did should bring about a fresh and radical expression of God's kingdom here on earth.  This will include the small but significant things but also grand and transformative things.  Why do I say that?  Because Jesus also says that the person who has faith in him will not only do the things that he did, but that "he will do even greater things than these."  Quite a statement.  2. It's fine to be invited into a grand and powerful kingdom but what kind of examples can I look to that will help me to actually live this way?  Again, we should look at Jesus' examples in scripture, and we should look at how his disciples lived in the power of the Holy Spirit who followed Jesus' examples.

One last thing:  if we really want to know, deep knowing in our spirit, what it means to be living and thriving in the Kingdom of God here on earth, then we need to have humble and willing hearts.  Ask Jesus to show you things in your heart that are preventing you from trusting Him fully;  ask Him to fill you with His Spirit to empower you to follow him; to learn the spiritual authority you have been given as a child of God; ask for practical opportunities to exercise what you see Jesus doing.

I think that there is much that is clearly shown to us.  And I believe that God is offering to all of us not only blueprints to follow, but also opportunities to experience His love and power.

I ask that Jesus would forgive me for my fear and unwillingness to believe and follow.  I ask the same for you.  And I believe that our good God will show us the way and we will see things that will awe and amaze us.  Our hearts will be filled with peace and power.

We can see clearly now Lord, take us where you want us to go. . .


Friday, January 6, 2012

The Dusty Road

Here is a quote from a minister who experienced the despair of forgetting what relationship with Jesus is all about--relationship with him and resting in him--this is the line:  "God made us from dust.  We're never too far from our origins."

Doesn't sound like much on the surface, but if you think about it a bit it is really quite true.  We are weak vessels that too often think we are bullet-proof.  Paul talks about us being 'clay pots', another vessel that, as Mark Buchanan says are "hard. . .but brittle too."

Our roads can be long ones.  They come with pot holes and road kill.  Sometimes we are the ones that do the killing through harsh words or hard hearts and sometimes we are the ones who get run over.  Either way, we can find our ourselves breaking because we are so brittle.

But this is not what the Lord has in mind for his children.  This is not the kind of road that he abandons us to.  There. . . .is. . . .hope. . . .

Our hope starts by recognizing what God has designed for our lives to thrive.  In Psalm 51 we read about David who had just had sex with another man's wife and was broken before God.  He was pouring out his grief and his guilt to God and found forgiveness and life there.  In verse 17 God tells us that He so deeply accepts hearts that are honest with him.  That's the beginning of hope, recognizing our sin and pouring our hearts out to God.  He rescues us from ourselves again and again.  There is no limit to his forgiveness.

I remember the dusty roads on the farm in the middle of August.  On some days it was so dry and so calm that when you drove on those roads, the dust would rise up behind you in clouds and just hang there forever.  Huge curtains of dust covering everything in your wake.  Often you could find yourself driving in someone else's dust-cloud and the visibility wasn't very good--it got hard to know where the road was or if there was traffic coming your way.

That's the way it can seem sometimes in our lives:  because we are 'dusty vessels' we can kick up a lot mess behind and around us that can start to blur our vision of what is good and right about life, and how God views us.

There is much I could say about this but I will end with this one thought that has been coming back to me day after day for the last while:  God loves you.  There is no limit to his love for you.  He offers it freely and extravagantly to you.  All he asks is that you will stop driving on that dusty road and allow him the opportunity to settle things in your heart.  He wants to fill in your 'pot-holes' and remove the 'road-kill'.  He will bring clear vision and a healing to your soul.

You just have to ask.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sign of Life

When spring comes along and temperatures start to rise, there is anticipation for those soon coming signs of life when buds start to form on trees and the grass begins to turn green again.  This morning, on the way to work, I didn't see signs of life like this, but I did see a sign of life.

As I was waiting to turn left onto Taylor Street there was a yellow sign that showed a meridian that divided two arrows, one turning left and one turning right.  In the middle of it someone had spray-painted the word "Life" on it.  But the word was not done in a vulgar fashion, it was beautiful in its rounded letters, and the placement was perfect--right under the meridian with the arrows going by in their respective directions.  I thought to myself that this person had captured well some of the essence of real life:  that there are choices to be made, different directions that can be taken, and that these are not curses but part of the beauty of what life is all about.

It was a sign of life.

But I recognize that a brief encounter with an interesting object like this sign, though interesting and thought provoking, is not enough to chart one's course in life.  I need much more than that.  I need something that will address the deep and ongoing needs in my soul.  I need something that has staying-power.  I need something that will help me to understand who I am, and what the meaning or purpose of life is. 

I need a Saviour.

But there is even something else:  I seem to need to know that this Saviour actually loves me, and doesn't look at me as another item on His divine "to do list."

In Deuteronomy 26:18 I hear the voice of God who tells me a little bit about what He thinks of me.  This is what he says: "And the Lord has today declared you to be His people, a treasured possession, as He promised you."

God looks at me, one of his children, as someone of great value.  He sees my warts, and shortcomings, and all my own self-denial and self-hate, and is uninfluenced by my own opinion of myself.  How great it is to have someone who is loving enough to desire you, strong enough to stay, and wise enough to see what is really true!

God's children are his prized possessions!  Jesus looks at us with eyes that simply scream "I love you, and I like you!" 

How amazing, and how elusive.  It's as though we are standing at the corner of Circle and Taylor, looking at a sign with two directions pointing, and the word "life" written on it.  Jesus is calling us to choose to accept his love for us, to accept his opinion of us, but we so often decide to take the other way.

When God tells us that he treasures us he means it.  This is a powerful sign of life because it is there that we will experience life as it should be, as it could be.

So here is my advice:  give up.  Give up trying to go at life on your own.  Give up trying to fight against what God has put in place.  Give up trying to forge your own path, your own mission, your own meaning, your own life, because to take that turn in the road always leads to frustration.  Give up and receive.  Receive God's opinion of you as his child.  Let his word about you--treasure--guide you toward him.

Enjoy being his treasure today.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

No Matter What

It's been a few days over Christmas break since I've consistently blogged--it's kind of funny how quickly we can lose our rythmn.  To do something with discipline is maybe one of the hardest things to accomplish, and because we see everything through the lenses of our experiences, it's easy to doubt that there is really someone out there who promises to be faithful to us no matter what.

But that's exactly what God says to us, that he has made up his mind that he will always be with us, and he will never forsake us!  Do you know what 'forsake' means?  My dictionary explains that 'forsake' means, 'give up; break off from; renounce; withdraw one's help, friendship or companionship; desert or abandon.'

Think about that for a minute:  God says to his children that he won't ever give up on us.  He will not break up with us.  He will never renounce his relationship with us.  He has chosen to never withdraw his help from us.  He promises that he will always be our friend.  His desire is to be a companion to us.  He declares that he will never desert us, and He finally states that we don't have to worry about him ever abandoning us.

Isn't that kind of hard to believe?  Especially when, as I said before, we interpret everything through the lenses of our own experience?  After all, God might desire to be these things to us, which is great to know that he has a good heart and all. . .but to imagine that he not only desires this, but is willing and able to actually do it?  That's something else.

Imagine Joshua for a second.  Moses was one of the greatest leaders in Israel's history.  God did mighty things through him and the people respected him immensely.  Joshua was the 'leader in training' who watched and learned from Moses.  The day eventually came when Joshua was to take over the leadership.  What would you be feeling when that day came?

Joshua was scared and filled with doubt about himself to be sure.  That's why we read God's words to him in Deuteronomy 31:7-8: "Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, 'Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the LORD swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance.  The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.'

'He will never leave you nor forsake you.'  Don't worry Josh, God has your back. . .trust him--he won't let you down even though you will stumble and fall.

The promise made to Joshua is a promise that God makes to you today--He never abandons his kids.

No matter what.

Take heart today knowing that God's 'no matter what' is far greater than your 'no matter what'.  No matter what you have said or done, His promises to stay with you remain true no matter what.