Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Getting the Whole Picture

I remember attending a hockey game in a very old rink that had support posts quite close to the ice.  Although these posts gave you a comforting sense of being a part of something much older than yourself, they were annoying because you constantly had to look around them to see the game.

Sometimes it's like this for Christians too--many do not see the whole picture because there is something in the way obscuring the view.

David G. Benner, in his book The Gift of Being Yourself writes to us about Christians who are not seeing the big picture because their view is captured by only one part of the whole story.  This is what he said: "Some Christians base their identity on being a sinner.  I think they have it wrong--or only half right.  You are not simply a sinner, you are a deeply loved sinner.  And there is all the difference in the world between the two."

Do you agree?  Does it really make a difference if we are sinners or sinners who are loved?  At the end of the day we are still sinners right?

In 1 John 3:1 we read something pretty amazing: "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!"

The Heavenly Father looks at you and decides to pour His blessings lavishly on you.  You!  The one who is a sinner, one who still sins.  One who is identified by the sin that is in your DNA.  And yet. . . .yet, there is more.  There is One who looks upon you with compassion;  sees the dignity of your humanness clear as day, even though it's buried under layers of sinfulness.  He really sees you--and with all that reality glaring Him in the face He genuinely loves you just as you are.  And it doesn't stop there--He not only loves you but He decides to get involved in your life, intimately, wanting to spend time with you,  even desiring to be identified with you by living a life just like you:  walking the earth, breathing your air, experiencing the same things you experience.  Why?

Because He sees the whole picture and knows that the fundamental thing that you need is love.  It is His love that not only created you but also finds you again when you walk away.  His love is a pursuing love that never gives up on you.

Yes, I think it makes quite a difference to not only know that we are sinners, but that we are sinners that are loved.

Father, thank you for the hope that you bring into our lives by lavishing your love on us.  We have difficulty seeing the whole picture and sometimes we get bogged down by our sin that blocks our vision.  We praise You today knowing that You genuinely love us just as we are, and that Your love is sufficient to lead us to a place of wholeness.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Little Giants

This post is a continuing thought from my last one where I touched on what God did through the 'centering praise' that Israel lifted up to God when facing powerful enemies.

I remember watching a silly show, years ago, called the Sandlot.  It was about a group of young kids who would play baseball in an empty lot next to a junk yard that had a horribly mean guard dog.  Every time a ball would be hit into that neighbouring yard it was just assumed that the ball was lost because nobody was going to mess with that dog!  In the minds of those kids that dog was 10 feet tall and meaner than a junkyard. . . . .well, you get my point.

It wasn't till circumstances caused one of the boys to face up to the dog one day, and he discovered that it was not at all mean.  The fear that had paralyzed the boys was nothing but a mirage, it had no basis in reality, and when challenged it dissipated like a mist.
When Israel faced their enemies God told them to take courage and lift up praise to Him and He would take care of the rest.  And He did.  In spades!  The enemy that had consumed Israel's horizon had been blown away like so much chaff--and all the people had to do was praise Him.

Today, I want to remind you of the importance of keeping Jesus right in the center of your vision.  There you will find the strength, direction and victory that you are desperately seeking for. . . . .and the Giants that look as though they are indestructable will become little in your sight.

I want to give you four practical things you can do when facing your giants.  The question before us is how to let God fight for us just like He fought for the Israelites:
1.  Realize the battle is not ours, but God's.  We face life circumstances, but the battles are spiritual in nature and God is the only one who has what it takes to fight these.
2.  Recognize your human limitations and allow God's strength to work through your weaknesses and fears.  God wants us to courageously face our giants, but He wants us to do it with humility and that means that we must accept that we are weak, do not always do what is right, fail, etc, but that He is our hope and our answer.  We live in Him alone.
3.  Make sure we are pursuing God's interests and just our own.  Be honest with yourself: sometimes we can talk a good game and though we might be saying we want spiritual things, we may just be masking some selfish desire.  Let God teach you His ways.
4.  Ask Him.  If you are unsure of how to move forward in 1-3, ask Him.  He wants to show you.  It may take time, and it might look like He isn't bringing you to victory all the time, that's because we don't always know how He is working in us, but He is.

He really is.

So today, I pray, that your giants become little as you face them in the strength of your God.  Jesus, be our victory.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Centering Praise

Last night I was blessed.

A few of us gathered for a praise band practise--many had experienced a week of some frustration and our spirits were a bit ragged.  We started out by looking at 2 Chronicles 20: 15-17 which explained to us the words of God that came to Israel as they faced an enemy that far outnumbered them.  This is what the Lord told them: "Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jeruslaem!  This is what the Lord says to you:  'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.  For the battle is not yours, but God's.  Tomorrow march down against them.  They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel.  you will not have to fight this battle.  Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you."

So they did.  And do you know what the King told the people to do as they stood there facing an impossibly large enemy?  He told them to sing praises to their God who would fight on their behalf.  As they sang, right before their eyes, the Lord began to defeat their enemies!

You have to imagine the scenario:  a real army, with real people, in a real life and death situation, facing an army of real soldiers with real weapons that could take your life.

And they sang.

In a small way this is what happened to us at praise band practise.  As we sang praises to our Lord, our hearts became centered on Him and our frustrations, the enemies in our minds, began to melt away.  In His presence our spirits found peace.

My wife and I drove home with wonder in our hearts--we were so blessed.

As I write this today, I want to encourage you who are reading this:  no matter what enemy you face, the Lord desires for you to trust Him in such a way that you rely on His resources to fight your battle for you.  All He asks is that you would stand, with courage, in the face of whatever you are challenged with and do this:  praise Him.  You don't have to sing, but take it from me, there is something about singing to the Lord that takes us to a place of worship where our focus is on Him alone.

Jesus, we praise you, and we sing our worship to you today.  Vanquish our foes and let us see your power manifest in our midst.

The power of centering praise--there's nothing like it.


Thursday, February 16, 2012


The title of this blog is a strange word indeed.  It's strange but it comes with a purpose:  to make us take note--to notice something that is out of the ordinary and I'll explain why.

Endunamoo is the Greek word that is used in Phil. 4:13 to describe the 'strength' that God provides for us to be able to 'do all things'.  Kind of an amazing statement isn't it?  One that, when you stop and take it seriously, makes you question a lot of the status quo in our lives.  I can do all things in the strength that God provides?

To put it simply:  yes.

But our circumstances seem to convince us that this is not true--there are so many times, places and events that seem to oppose this statement from God.  And I have to admit, it is difficult for me to understand, but at the end of the day, I believe that my understanding and my experience is simply not developed enough; my heart is not yet able to fully comprehend what this promise means and how it plays out.  But I don't despair, because I am convinced that Jesus' love for me will continue to lead me to deeper and deeper awareness of what this really means. 

Endunamoo:  The strength God provides.  It literally means 'to empower', 'to enable', 'to make strong'.  This is the center of my thoughts today:  I expend a lot of energy trying to live in the way that is pleasing to God, and in the frenzy of my efforts, I forget that it is God's strength that makes this life possible.  I need endunamoo in order to do this.

Today, take note of your need of God's endunamoo.  Make the intentional choice to not live in your own strength, and when you don't know how to live in His--just ask, He'll help you to understand and how to do it. 

May you be distracted enough to take note of the endunamoo you really need.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Religion Without Substance

"Religion".  This is dirty word in church circles today.  When it is spoken it is used to describe a way of living out a system of empty regulations in the name of a god who is always at a distance.  There is no relationship in religion.

But James has a different take on religion.  "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

God sees true religion as people who hear His voice, and worship Him by taking care of other people--expressing love to them as He loves them.  Protecting those who are helpless; providing for those who cannot provide for themselves.  It is genuine because it reflects His heart.

But as Followers of Jesus we need to be very mindful of falling into the trap of being lukewarm and not living out true religion.  In Matthew 21 we see Jesus walking along a road, when he sees a fig tree.  In verse 18 it says 'he was hungry', which might not seem important until we get an idea of the bigger picture.  From a distance the tree held much promise for nourishment and refreshment, but when He got close, it offered nothing of substance.  He then cursed it and the tree withered immediately.

So what does this cryptic passage mean for us?  If we take it in the context of surrounding passages, Jesus is dealing with religious leaders and how they have forgotten what it meant to be followers of God that reflect His heart.  What Jesus was essentially saying by cursing the tree is that, the true followers of God (in our case, the Church) should not present a good front so that people who are hungry will look at them and think there is really hope to be found there (see nourishment, refreshment), and then when they come close they realize that there is no fruit there to be found.

It is incredible to imagine what the church which genuinely follows Jesus could do.  It is a place where people come to find the living God who meets their deep needs; a place where they are refreshed and nourished; a place where what they see from a distance is consistent with what they experience up close.  We cannot afford to soft-peddle Jesus' example in Matthew 21--it is meant to be a word for those who consider themselves followers of Jesus Christ. 

Religion without substance:  Jesus hates it.  But those who live out true religion are those who receive the life of Jesus, and then live it out in the lives of others.

There are many hungry people in the world today.  Are you one that is reflecting a religion of substance?


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Mists of Time

Chances are pretty good that you have heard about the untimely death of Whitney Houston.  She was very close to the same age as myself, and in terms of length of life, hers ended much sooner than it should have.

It was another sad tale of popularity, and the pressure that comes with that lifestyle, that eventually became her undoing.

I was not surprised to hear the amount of stories related to her life and death in the media, but my thoughts went to pondering the reasons for such widespread coverage.  It is not unusual for media to put so much emphasis on the passing of someone like Whitney because so many people were aware of her.  In this, her death is 'news worthy'.  But I had to wonder what people were trying to glean for themselves by talking about her as they did--were they trying to alleviate the pain of loss?  This seemed evident when one prominent friend expressed that 'the party should go on' because Whitney would have wanted it that way.  But I think it is also true that death has the ability to interupt people's lives in a way that makes them pause, even if it is for a minute, and think about things that go a lot deeper.

It's really important that we have a view of our lives from the perspective of the One who made them in the first place.  God values life--He valued Whitney's, and He took great care in making her in His image.  But her stardom and power was deceiving:  it did nothing to protect her from her human frailty.

James 4:13,14 helps us to see our lives with healthy perspective when it says: "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.'  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."

We saw a pretty good 'vanishing act' when Whitney left the scene.  But we must ask ourselves, 'where does that leave us?'  How do we view our lives?  Do we live as though we have everything all planned out and have set aside enough to make provision for whatever contingencies may arise?  Do we find our rest and our safety in our own abilities or do we really understand that we are little more than a mist.

Seeing ourselves like this does not belittle our value, but it does help us to understand where we should be placing our hope.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Love Wins

I'm sure you have heard how the continuous crashing of water on shoreline rocks will eventually wear the rocks down.  Every time the waves come rushing in it looks as though the rocks vanquish the oncoming tides as they are repelled in dramatic fashion.  But looks can be deceiving.  Imperceptably, the rocks diminish ever-so-slightly and what looks like loss, eventually turns out to be winning after all.

Love is like that.  It can seem that when you face the horrors of this world, simply offering love to someone who is broken, hurt, angry, full of rage, despair and contempt can seem a waste of time because it looks as though nothing is being accomplished.  Those who have been abused and beaten by people, choices and world systems seem to be beyond any real impact that love could have.

A few days ago I rode on a bus called love lives here and we travelled down 20th street in Saskatoon.  We would drive a bit and then just park on the side of the street and wait.  People who live in the area would come in and warm up, we would give them a cup of coffee, a sandwich and donut, and then just talk.  Often times we would pray with them too, and share some practical and spiritual love.

The name of the bus was appropriate because love really was there.  You could sense that Jesus was present and it was an amazing feeling to know, without a doubt, that what we were doing there was making a difference.  We may not have been able to change every circumstance in their lives, but we were giving to them something that has the power to shatter the rocks of their hearts--love does that.

I John 3:18 says "Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."  I believe that very deeply in my heart:  actions are assoicated with truth, not just words.  When we were in that bus and showing love to the people that really needed it, I was absolutely certain that these actions were truth and love in motion.

Jesus, take our hearts and make them receptive to your love.  Break down the rock barriers that try to prevent your fullness resting in us.  And help us to understand that when we actually follow your example by loving other people, real change is happening in them and in us.

Your love wins.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Humbling Thought

Humanity has the ability for self-evaluation and thought.  We are the only creatures that walk the face of the earth that can say to themselves "I think about this. . ., but do I really agree with what I'm thinking?"  This is quite an amazing reality:  that we have the capacity to think, but then also remove ourselves enough to think about those thoughts as well!  Do you follow what I mean?  We don't just think, but we think about thinking!  I am thoroughly confusing you yet?  Just pause for a second and realize that even confusion is an expression of thought, just jumbled up thoughts.

So why am I talking about this?  Because we tend to forget that as "thinking animals" we see ourselves as the top of the food chain; we perceive that we are at the pinnacle of the created order and as such we find it appropriate for us to think that our abilities to reason are the means through which we must find our guidance.  We too often look to ourselves for our own direction.

Incredible, isn't it, that God would take the risk of creating something that has the ability for self-evaluation, and independant thought, and that that capacity could be used to deny the very existence of the One who created them in the first place.  Sad but true.

We need to be reminded of something here:  Though we think, and we need to utilize the rational faculties that reside within us, we also need to remember our limitations.  There needs to be a healthy injection of humility into us, and the way we begin is to find ourselves listening to God's perspective on us.

In Job 38 the Lord is speaking to a man who had forgotten his place and was thinking in ways that were not humbly acknowledging his limitations.  This is a snippet of what God said to him:  "Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?  Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.  Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?  Tell me, if you understand.  Who marked off its dimensions?  Surely you know!  Who stretched a measuring line across it?  On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone--while the morning star sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?"  God concludes His thoughts at the end of chapter 39 when He says: "Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom and spread his wings toward the south?  Does the eagle soar at your command and build his nest on high?"

The man the Lord was addressing was Job, and Job's response to God's scathing commentary should be our example as well: "I am unworthy--how can I reply to you?  I put my hand over my mouth. . .I will say no more."

It is a humbling thought to realize that with all our great ability to think, we do not even begin to understand the depths of wisdom in our God.  The fact that we do not even begin to know makes it difficult because we naturally wrestle with things we do know.  But Job realized that his wisdom was just not cutting it, and that He needed to shut up and listen and be taught by One who knew much better than he.

Maybe we need to stop, shut up, and listen to the One who knows much better too.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

All You Need is Love

Remember that Beatle's song All You Need is Love?  If you said all the words to the chorus out loud it would sound kind of simplistic:  "All you need is love.   All you need is love.  All you need is love, love.  Love is all you need."

Silly when you hear it really.

And yet sometimes the most silly things carry with them a weight and a power that moves with a force greater than a locomotive.

I just had a conversation with a dear friend on the phone and she was telling me about the time she spends with a ministry that focuses on young kids.  I don't want to get into too many details, but it became crystal clear to me that the only thing that makes an impact on hearts that have been abused, beaten, and drained of hope--is. . . .love.

All you need is love.

But not just any kind of love.  The kind of love that I'm talking about here is the kind that comes from a heart that is able to span the universe; the kind that considers the depth of human despair and decides to partake of that very same darkness in order to overcome it.  This is the heart of Jesus, and His love literally moves mountains, oh, and human hearts too.

Listen to the words that talk of this kind of genuine love and let them bring life to your questioning soul:  "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. . . .This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us."

Completion.  Our hearts long to feel complete--filled with a peace that overcomes our striving and longings for more.  That unnameable 'more' that lingers and simmers deep inside us but that we have a nearly impossible time defining.

The thing that addresses this unameable desire is nothing more than love.  Simple isn't it?  Too simple for people to accept and think that this could really meet the deep needs that are so very real and pressing.

It always seems this way until you actually experience it, and then everything changes.

All you need is love--God's love.  And He is offering it to you.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Journey of Discovery

I'm reading a book called The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery by David G. Benner and it is a timely read for this part of my journey.  It is timely because the Lord seems to be making more and more clear to me the importance of knowing myself, and really to be at peace with who God made me.

I am unique.  There is no one on this good green earth that is exactly like me.  I have been told, at different times, that to them I look like Wayne Gretzky (I really don't see that!), and also the actor who plays Boramir from Lord of the Rings (this is a little easier to handle).  Anyway, my point is this, even if I resemble someone else, no one is exactly me.

That distinction is mine alone.

But it is one thing to be aware that you are unique, and an entirely different thing to really know who you are.  Jesus wants us to know Him and to know ourselves in a true and meaningful way, and to get there requires relationship.  Brenner says: "Truly transformational knowledge is always personal, never merely objective.  It involves knowing of, not merely knowing about.  And it is always relational.  It grows out of a relationship to the object that is known."  And for us, that 'object' is Jesus!

We find all the answers we are looking for in Jesus:  He says he is "the way".  He offers to help us navigate through our lives; He says he is 'the truth'.  He gives us an anchor of understanding through which all other ideas, formulas, perceptions and interpretations can be evaluated through.  And he says he is 'the life'.  He gives us a way of living that brings hope for now and the future.  Jesus opens the door for us to curiously engage the wide-wonder of the world he has placed us in. Saying that we find everything in Jesus is not to imply that we need become narrow-minded and closed off to the deep discussions that surround us in our modern societies.  In fact, a real relationship with Jesus should motivate us to be the voices that really engage in all spheres of life because we recognize the fingerprints of our Creator in every and all areas of human existence.

Jesus also knows us better than we know ourselves, and I believe that he longs for us to become fully alive.  And by that I mean, that we become open to the journey of self-discovery.  Jesus formed us, and he wants us to find our peace in Him--in every aspect of who we are. 

I think many people think they really know themselves, and I also think that many people are deceived.  Because when Jesus brings truly transformational understanding of themselves and of Him, there is one overriding character that rises--peace.  And there are a lot of people out there that do not live with peace inside.

Today, I offer you what Jesus offers:  an invitation to a journey of self-discovery and genuine transformation that leads to inner peace.  And it starts with us saying to Jesus "I'm ready".

It could be quite a ride. . . .


Monday, February 6, 2012

What You See Is What You Get

As I was sitting at lunch with a dear friend today I saw something that really caught my eye. Well actually, it caught my friend's eye and the image kind of stuck with me.
At the table right beside us was what looked like a family and the wife was sitting with her wheelchair bound husband, reclined on her lap. He was still in his chair and they had tipped it backwards and put on the brakes so that his head was resting on her lap.
It was a picture of love-in-the-real-world. An expression of creative care that brought life to a very challenging circumstance. And I think it was especially appealing because it was public and it shone around the restaurant for everyone to see.
Jesus did stuff like this too- run out of wine at your wedding celebration? I'll just create more for you. Demon-possessed man? I'll just release you from them so you will be free. Entire world suffering from the back-breaking agony of sin? I'll just break myself on your behalf so your suffering may come to an end.
Our Saviour is really something else.
But Jesus is not around the same way any more. Its sometimes hard for us to see how God is at work in our world today--even though we know He is here.
But it must be possible to see him isn't it?
In John 5:19 we hear Jesus saying: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself, he can only do what he sees his father doing."
Jesus must have had a way of discerning what the Father was up to so that he could imitate him.
Do you think that's possible for us too? I do--and the reason I do is because I saw the Father at work in Fuddruckers when he used a wife's hands to hold the head of her husband lovingly on her lap.
His light shone brightly there today--and it looked good!

Father--help us to see what you are up to all around us, and then remind us by your Spirit to imitate what we see you doing.

Have a good one...


Brian M Tysdal
Lead Pastor
Rock of Ages Church
Saskatoon Sask.
374-1707 (Church)
291-3308 (Cel)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Just More Jesus

I think Jesus is trying to get something across to me.

Yesterday I wrote that it seems to me that He is communicating that it's OK to just want Him, to let that be a driving motivation, or, better yet, a passion that guides my thinking and doing in a singular direction toward the Son.

And it happened again this morning.

At our elder's prayer meeting a message was shared from 1 Cor. 2:1-2 where Paul says, "You'll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God's master stroke, I didn't try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy.  I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did--Jesus crucified."

To Paul, the most important thing he could communicate to the Corinthian people was Jesus, the man, and what he did.  This is the core of everything about being a follower of Christ.

I have been reading Brennan Manning's All Is Grace, and in it he talks about his spiritual journey.  At one point he joined a Catholic group called the "Little Brothers" and they were about following Jesus' call through prayer and through working among those in need. At one point Manning wrote "One of my realizations in such an earthy atmosphere was that many of the burning theological issues in the church were neither burning nor theological.  It was not more rhetoric that Jesus demanded but personal renewal, fidelity to the gospel, and creative conduct."

I like this: it helps me to remember what Paul was saying as well--where it was not with fancy words that people's lives would change, but with the clear presentation of this Man who could change everything.  This is thee theological issue that churches should never forget.

I need to be reminded again and again, it seems, that Jesus is really wanting to lead me through this journey.  I try to lead far too often, and it never works well.  It's good for my soul to know that He cares for me in this way. Maybe that's something that is good for you to remember today as well:  that the most important thing for you to do is to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, and trust that He will lead you--that is His desire.

That is His desire--to care for you and lead you to where life happens.

We all want more, you fill in the blank of what that 'more' means to you, and I will remind you of what God wants to put in that blank--Just More Jesus.

Have a good one. . . .


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Just Jesus

We all go through seasons.  Sometimes we are bent on discovering things, our minds racing and excited about new discoveries and the possibilities that arise out of them.  Sometimes we are searching after rest, and feel in our bones that simple need for a break--whatever that may look like.  And then there are times when we are in a place where we sense a preparation for something that is coming next--it might not be described as an 'adventure' but nevertheless, we feel that anticiapation for what's coming.

There is another place we can find ourselves and it is a little more difficult to describe but it is real nonetheless.  This one is not for those who have not experienced very many moons yet, and those that don't have much 'frosting' around the ears are not as privy to this either.

The best I can say is that after one has wrestled with important life issues, problems, challenges; joys, victories and accomplishment, there is a sense of questioning that can arise.  It is not necessarily debilitating (though it can be), but maybe is more like another 'right of passage' to the next, inevitable stage of life.

I suppose that's where I am or else I wouldn't be writing about this.

I have found myself engaging in stimulating disccusions about theological understandings, movements, historical events and their effects on the movement of human thought, I have some degrees hanging on my wall that show how serious I was in pursuing these topics.  As I have journeyed I have been exposed to opposing views on important issues related to God; who He is, what He is about, what is the reason for the way things are around us given that this great God is supposed to be who we think He is.

There have been premodern opinions, modern thoughts, and postmodern perspectives that all shape the flow of engagement, and I have found myself in and around these 'windows' of understanding and perception, and as I write this I am circumspect.

Though I greatly value my journey, and believe that we all must find ourselves with an opinion or a perspective, there is one overriding thought that consumes me right now and that is this:  what is the most important thing?  What is that which makes things make sense and gives purpose?

And I have to say that my only answer is this:  just Jesus.

Through it all He has been the constant.  With everyone's opinions about the Bible and history and the church and on and on, Jesus stands as the anchor through which all things hold together.  Using a Christmas theme, 'Jesus is the reason for the season'.  He is the reason that I have these thoughts at this time in my life--and it is good.

I believe that Jesus is more than sufficient to bring the healing, motivation and direction for all things important in life.  He has proven to me that no matter what deep thoughts or wrestlings humanity may engage, Jesus is more than enough to not only engage in it, but has the ability and desire to lead us through.  I believe that Jesus wants to bring our cultures, our creativity and our best reasoning to life and He is patient enough to make it happen. 

Again, I just have to look at myself and realize how many years He has been walking with me to get me to the point where I am able to say that what I really want is just Him.

This blog entry is one that is pretty much about'me so whoever is reading this one, I hope you understand that I don't want it to be about me, but about the One who made me.  He is looking for you, in every nook and cranny of your existence and He wants to bring it all to life in you.  No matter if you are twenty or a hundred and twenty, He is walking with you and offering you life.

So, today, remember this:  it's OK to just want Jesus.  In fact, He will show you the wonder of what real life is about, and all the things that seem to preoccuppy us will find a place.  All your questions won't immediately be addressed, but the one thing that does seem to come is peace.

May the peace that passes all understanding be yours today--the name of that peace is Jesus.

Just Jesus.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Bushel and a Peck and a Hug Around the Neck. . .

There is an old nursery rhyme that I used to sing to my very young children and it went something like this:  "I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.  A hug around the neck and a barrel and a heap, a barrel and a heap and I'm talking in my sleep about youuuuuuuuu."  And when I would sing 'youuuuuuuu' I would tickle the pants off them and we would laugh and laugh.

Sometimes the most impacting and profound teachings come to us in the simplest of packages.  For example, we can talk about love, and being loved all we want--we can explicate its intricacies and extrapolate implications, but you really don't understand love until your little bundle of joy, your small son or daughter, comes running at you with reckless abandon and they jump up, wrapping their arms around your neck and say 'I love you daddy!'

Yeah, that kind of blows theology right out of the water. . . .

Don't get me wrong, God gave us minds to use wisely and it is appropriate that we wrestle hard with the deep truths of God.  But it is also true that we do come to the end of our understanding, and sometimes we would do well to simply admit that there is more going on than we can fully explain.  And that's ok.

God knows this about us, and I believe He goes to great lengths to show us this is true.  No where is this more clearly seen than in the story of the Prodigal Son.

In Luke 15:20 we read a stirring account of a Father's love for his son: 'But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.'

This father loved his son so much that he was willing to throw out convention and protocol, his pride and position, and simply ran.  He ran toward his son, even when the son was a ways off.  And, get this, when he got to his son the very first thing he did was throw his arms around him!  No dialogue, no explanations, no evaluation of motives or decisions made--just plain love.

It reminds me of a nursery rhyme I once heard, and experienced with my kids. . . .

Do you know that this parable is meant to show you that this is exactly the way that God the Father feels about you?  It may be hard to imagine GOD running after you, to think of HIM as desiring you, to imagine the FATHER as one who would see fit to run straight past all the maneoverings of language and throw his arms around you simply because of His love for you.

Maybe that's the most profound statment that could ever be made.

God loves you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.  I like this in that it gives us a sense of God's playfulness and His desire to express a love that does not get bogged down in rationality's fortresses.  Instead, it seeps into our bones when you feel those arms actually there and you begin to really know that it's true--God loves me.  ME!

In reality, God loves you much more than a bushel and a peck, but saying that He is hugging you around the neck--well, that's right on the mark as far as I'm concerned.

Maybe you need to hear that today. We probably need to hear that every day, because we get too easily caught up in our own sin and it prevents us from seeing our Father running to us from a distance--but He is running, running to us.

Isn't that a wonderful thing?