Thursday, December 31, 2020

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



Saturday, October 24, 2020

taking the next step

At the very beginning of the book of Psalms, this wonderful collection of timeless prayers, we are given a bit of a roadmap for the entire spiritual journey.  And one of the main things this ancient guide tells us is that when we stop moving forward in our life with God, we are in big trouble. 

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of scoffers,” says the ancient prayer. (Psalm 1:1)  Thus, the life that is blessed—happy, prosperous, and all it was intended to be—is a life in which we are constantly moving towards God.  One in which we do not allow anything to stop, impede, or distract us.  For the world, the flesh, and the devil would love to try to make us give up on this sacred journey.  They would love for us to stop moving altogether—to go from walking to standing to sitting—because stagnation in the spiritual life always comes from a lack of movement.  When we stop moving forward, we actually end up going backwards.  There is no neutral in life with God; you are either growing or you are dying.  We can only tread water for so long before we start to sink.

The life that God blesses involves a constant movement in his direction.  It involves constantly delighting in and meditating on the words and character of God.  It involves a continual awareness of his presence and an ongoing engagement with his Spirit.  In order for our souls to prosper, we must be continually moving in his direction, taking that next step.  Thus, it is no accident that the word prosper in the Hebrew literally means to move forward.

What is the current movement of your life with God?  How are you intentionally moving towards him each day?  What is your next step in your life with him?  Will you take it?

Show us, O Lord, where and how we have stopped moving in your direction.  Show us those places in our lives where we have allowed ourselves to become complacent, stagnant, and lifeless.  Get us up on our feet, O Lord, and help us to start moving in your direction.  For only then will we be able to experience the life that you call blessed.  Amen.

Friday, October 16, 2020

sowing in tears

“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.” (Psalm 126:5) 

What is it about “sowing in tears?”  Why not sowing in joy, or sowing in comfort, or sowing in ease?  What is it about tears that makes the harvest so much more fruitful?  What is it about pain that produces more sheaves within us, among us, and around us?

The Greek tragedian, Aeschylus, once said: “He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain, which cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

Somehow, in God’s economy, tears and pain produce the most fertile soil for growth.  Our most painful seasons and experiences become the best seedbeds for future harvest.  In those times, God accomplishes things deep within us that could be accomplished in no other way—if we are open and willing.  Sowing in tears can bring about a harvest of righteousness.

So in your times of deepest sorrow and sadness, do not despair, God is up to something. He can and will bring about a harvest in due time.  One day, if you are faithful to keep on sowing, tears and all, you will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with you. One day.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

surrounded

 “The Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.” (Psalm 32:10)

What does it look like, this surrounded life?  A life where we are safe to live and to breathe and to work and to play and to rest in his loving care.  A life where there is no need to hide, nor jockey, nor posture, nor defend, nor perform.  A life where we are held safe in the strong and loving arms of the Divine Trinity and are invited into their great round dance of love.

Can you imagine the beauty and the delight of such a life?  A life in which we, as Thomas Kelly so beautifully described, are held in “a Holy Center where the breath and stillness of Eternity are heavy upon us and we are wholly yielded to Him.”

That’s the life God most wants for us. That’s the life we were created to live.  The only thing keeping us from it, is us.  We must decide that that’s the life we want, and move toward it.  We must stop trying to do it all on our own and turn to him. We must open ourselves up completely to his love and his care, and trust our entire being to him. He will do the rest.

Monday, October 12, 2020

the question

 “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36, 51)

Just leave it up to you, Lord Jesus, to ask us the one question we should be asking you.  For this life is not about us. Forgive us when we get it backwards and think that it is. Forgive us when we so consumed with our own issues and agendas that we forget we are not the point, you are.  

Help us to be the ones to ask that question today, THE question: “What do you want, Lord Jesus? What do you want us to do for you?“ For life is about your kingdom, not our own.

Friday, October 9, 2020

losing track

“Thinking he was in their company, they travelled on for a day.’ (Luke 2:44) 

It is so easy to lose track of Jesus.  And it’s not just us, even his parents did it.  You know what I’m talking about.  We get so preoccupied with our own activities and concerns and agendas that somehow they become primary and Jesus becomes secondary.  Then, before we know it, we’ve travelled a couple of days without him and haven’t even realized it.  We have gotten so wrapped up in own business that we have forgotten about him completely.

The problem is that we tend to let other things—seemingly urgent things—take up the foreground of our lives, while we, knowingly or unknowingly, move Jesus (the most important thing) to the background.  Other things become focal and Jesus becomes peripheral.  And once we lose sight of Jesus, it is hard to even notice that he’s not there.  Out of sight, out of mind.

Therefore, we must pay careful attention.  We must not allow our schedules and our hurry and our busyness to lull us to sleep.  We must stay awake and alert.  We must have eyes to see Jesus and ears to hear Jesus even in the tiniest little details of our lives.  For Jesus is not imperious or domineering.  He is not overbearing or oppressive.  He will stand and knock, but he will not bust down the door.  He waits to be noticed and invited in.  He will not compete for the time and attention that is rightfully his.  It is up to us to figure out how to keep him in the foreground of our lives.  He is always to be primary, not secondary.  And, in order for us to live the lives he created us to live, he must remain focal rather than peripheral.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

hiding

Hiding is an interesting phenomenon.  It is the art of concealing or covering oneself.  It comes about as a result of fear—a fear of danger, a fear of harm, or a fear of being exposed.

There was no hiding before the fall.  The man and the woman were with God in the garden and they were naked and unashamed. (Genesis 2:25) But only ten short verses later (Genesis 3:10), that very same man and woman find themselves hiding from the Lord their God.  “I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid.”  And, thus, hiding and covering has been a way of life ever since.

Which brings us to Psalm 32, a close companion of Psalm 51.  It is an ancient prayer of David describing what happens when we hide and cover up, and what happens when we stop hiding and turn to God.  “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer,” David says. (Psalm 32:3-4) But then he came out of hiding and “acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.” (Psalm 32:5) That’s when the life and the breath and the peace reentered his soul once again.  So much so that he then states, “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” (Psalm 32:7)  Thus, in two short verses, David is able to go from hiding from God, to hiding in God.  And if that wasn't enough, the psalm even goes on to say that "the Lord surrounds the man who trust in him." (Psalm 32:10) Absolutely remarkable!

And that is our invitation as well.  We all hide.  We hide from God, we hide from each other, and we even hide from ourselves.  Like Adam and Eve, we spend most of our lives sewing together fig leaves in order to hide our nakedness and our shame.  And it is exhausting!  We long to live lives of authenticity.  We long to live lives that are genuine and true.  We long to get back to the Garden where we can stand before God, and each other, naked and unashamed, the way we were created to be.

God offers the same invitation to us that he offered to King David: “Come on.  Come to me.  Stop hiding from me and start hiding in me.  Let me be your hiding place.  Let me be the one who loves you, provides for you, and protects you.  Let me be the one who delivers you.  Let me surround you with my unfailing love and care.  Let me be your safe place.  True safety is only possible in me.”   

O Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.  Today and every day.  Amen.