Tuesday, December 31, 2019

the blue book is now available on amazon


Exciting News!  The Blue Book is now available on Amazon!  And not only that, but it also has a bunch of new content!  I've been working for the past year or so to write an opening reflection for each chapter and I'm really excited about the end result.  I hope you will be too.  So please spread the word.  Tell your friends that the strange blue devotional book that has always been so hard to find, is hard to find no more.

*Update: Thanks for the great response!  Glad to see the book still seems to be helpful to so many in making space to hear God's voice and know of his great affection.  Since the book has been released on Amazon I do, however, find that I miss the contact with many of you.  I miss hearing the stories of how God has used the book in your life or ministry.  So, if you have the time, I would love it if you would just leave your comments here, or drop by Amazon and give a review.  And, as always, feel free to email me with your Blue Book story if you'd like.  I love hearing them. Blessings, Jim



Sunday, March 31, 2019

Just Released





















Hi friends.  Thought you would want to know that my new book Teach Us to Pray has just been released on Amazon.  Tell your friends!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

the how of unity

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.  It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robes.  It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.  For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. (Psalm 133:1-3)

I love the description of what life is like when God’s people live together in unity.  It is so rich and beautiful and inviting.  It is so vibrant and healthy and life-giving.  Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a community like that?  The problem is that the psalm never tells us how to do that.  And the how seems to be the elusive part, especially in this broken and chaotic world.  How do we live together in such a way that it causes God to bestow his blessing, even life forevermore?

Maybe it has something to do with who we are to be to each other.  Maybe it has something to do with consistently showing up with each other—listening, being truly present, paying attention, really seeing and hearing each other.  And maybe it has something to do with creating a place and a space of belonging and acceptance, a safe space where each of us can come out of hiding and be real and vulnerable with one another, without the fear of being judged or fixed or attacked or criticized.  Maybe it involves a commitment to speak love into each other’s deepest fears.  Maybe true community is to be a place that creates in each of us a desire to become more. 

But I think that living in community also involves a refusal to act out of the old self and its practices (Col. 3:9).  It involves a refusal to attack and criticize and judge.  It involves a refusal to protect and rationalize and defend.  It involves a refusal to blame and disparage and belittle.  It involves a refusal to hide and to cover and to posture.  It involves a refusal to create a narrative for (or about) someone else.  It means that we give each other the benefit of the doubt and refuse to assign motives or intent to someone else.  It involves a willingness and a commitment to take off our old self and its practices, while refusing to try and rip the old self off of others.  

True community is a place and a space where we are all invited into the beauty and the life and the abundance of the new.  It is a place where we become—and help others become—our best (truest) selves.  Now that really is good and pleasant!

Show us how, O God, to live together in unity.  Otherwise we will only be able to read about the benefits of doing so, without ever experiencing its reality.  Help us, O Lord.  Have mercy on us.  Amen.

Friday, March 22, 2019

old and new


“You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Colossians 3:9-10, NIV) 

If we truly want to live life in Jesus, we must be willing to take off the old before we can put on the new.  It’s not rocket science.  It’s kind of how clothing is supposed to work.  You can’t put something new on, until you are willing to take the old off.  If you do not, you will just end up with layers upon layers upon layers of old buried beneath the “new.” I wonder if this isn’t the cause of so many of our problems in our spiritual lives.

But it even goes a little further than that.  We are not only supposed to take off the old self, we are also supposed to take off its practices—all of the ways and the patterns associated with how the old self continues to reveal itself in our lives.  All of the patterns and practices of control and manipulation and self-protection.  All of the ways our anxieties and insecurities and fear take shape in our lives and in our relationships.  All of the ways our needy souls grasp for attention and affirmation and significance and belonging.  We are to take off everything that tends to make us the worst (false) version of ourselves.  All of that must be taken off, lest it get covered over and hidden underneath the shiny covering that we tend to show to the world.

I think Eugene Peterson said it well when he wrote: “You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete.” (The Message)

Lord Jesus, thank you that you long to make me new.  Help me to have the courage and the strength to take off the old, in order to make that possible.  Amen.


Thursday, March 21, 2019

wait for the Lord

I wait for the Lord, my souls waits, and in his word I put my hope.  My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.  O Israel, put your hope in the Lord. (Psalm 130:5-7, NIV)

I’m beginning to wonder if I have any idea what it really means to wait for the Lord.  Oh sure, I can start out just fine, but after a while I start to get antsy and impatient, as if everything depended on me rather than him.  Then I start to take hold of things and start to initiate things, trying to form or shape or manufacture them into what I think they should be.  Sorry, but that is definitely not waiting for the Lord!

Waiting for the Lord means just that—waiting.  It means that God is the initiator and I am the responder—even in prayer.  My job is to wait for him to move and to stir, and then to ask him what it looks like to join that moving and stirring, rather than trying to control or manipulate it.  After all, it is his work, not mine.  Heaven forbid that in my zeal to do something—anything—I would actually get in the way of what he was trying to do.  Which I’m sure I have done more often that I’d care to admit.

Waiting is not like that at all.  Waiting for the Lord means that I must pay careful attention to what is going on around me and within me, so that I can recognize his voice and his movement when it arises.  My job is not to make it happen, my job is to notice when it is happening, and then to join into that happening in whatever way he directs me to. 

Can you imagine what our lives would look like if we didn’t do anything until he told us to?  Can you imagine what a different world that would be?  Could you imagine all of the wasted motion and energy that might be saved and harnessed and used for the building of his kingdom rather than our own?

O Lord, help us to learn what it means to truly wait for you, and then help us to do it.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

many seeds

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:23-24)

In God’s economy death is not the end, it merely makes room for new life. And ultimately God is always about bringing new life—it’s simply who he is.  Unfortunately, in those seasons of dying it is often hard to recognize the seeds of new life that are being sewn.  Sometimes we can only see and come to appreciate them in retrospect.

What is God trying to put to death in you these days, in order to make room for new life?  What is the kernel that must fall to the ground and die, in order that it might produce many seeds?

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

must

Must.  Jesus used that word a lot.  “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected.  He must be killed and after three days rise again.  If anyone would come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:31, 34)

Yet in spite of how many times Jesus used the word must, we still try to take it out of the conversation, or at the very least try to soften it and water it down.  We have never been real big on musts.  In fact, we like to turn must into may whenever possible; taking away its necessity and replacing it with more of an optional quality.  But there is no option in must.  There is no space left for preference or discretion.  With must we are given no latitude or leeway.  Must means must.  It doesn’t offer any wiggle room.

We want to be the ones to determine our musts and not have someone determine them for us, which is the essence of sin itself.  We prefer to call the shots.  We, like Simon Peter, prefer to determine what and how and when things should happen.  Yet when we do that we receive the same rebuke: “Get behind me Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of man.” (Mark 8:33)

O Lord Jesus, have mercy on us.  It seems like we are always getting in the way of what you are trying to do.  Forgive us when we produce gray areas where no gray exists.  Forgive us when we try to soften or water down the things you tell us we must do in order to truly follow you.  Give us the grace and the strength and the courage to embrace them instead.  Help us, Lord Jesus, to let you determine the musts in our lives.  You are much better at it than we are.