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



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!

Friday, September 20, 2019

occupied

“O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.” (Psalm 131:1)

There are no two ways about it, the occupied soul is one that has no room for God.  And it doesn’t even matter how great and marvelous the things are which occupy it.  They are taking up space that was designed for God, space that was created to be filled by him alone.  These things are consuming precious time and energy and attention that needs to be given to the life of the Spirit within and around us.

Thus, an emptying is necessary.  Or, at the very least, a stilling and a quieting must take place.  If we want to dwell with God, if we want to enjoy his presence and hear his voice and be aware of his activity in our lives, we must begin the process of calming our souls.  This is likely to involve some silence and solitude and prayer.  It is likely to require a place that is out of the normal traffic flow of our lives, one without noise and frenzy and activity.  We must allow the turbulent waters of the soul to become still and quiet, so we might be able to see what is underneath.  So we might be able to hear the still, small voice of the Spirit as it speaks to us in our depths.

The only question is: Will we make the time and the space necessary for this to happen?  If not, we should never expect that our souls would be anything other than occupied

O Lord, forgive us when we become occupied; when we get too full of ourselves that we get a little too big for our britches.  Forgive us when we fall in love with our own observations and opinions and begin to take ourselves far too seriously.  Forgive us when we begin to think that we can handle things on our own, or make things happen for ourselves.  For when we do these things, we take up all the space and leave no room for you to move and to act.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

word

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he mediates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers.” (Psalm 1:2-3)

The scriptures are not merely an ancient book of wisdom, or a self-help guide, or a proof-text for a certain brand of theology; they are the very words of God himself.  They are not a text book, but a love letter.  Therefore, they must be read in a different way than what we are used to.

They are one of the most tangible places we encounter the Living God.  They are living and active, they are powerful and authoritative, they are God-breathed and God-saturated.  They are the most audible and reliable voice of God that we’ve got.  They guide, they correct, they encourage, and (by the power of the Spirit) they transform.

The words of the scriptures are deeply relevant and personal, they speak to each life specifically and to each community corporately.  They tell us what God is like and show us how to live like him.  They are like a javelin aimed at the target of the human heart, always hitting their mark with their life-giving power.

When we delight in the words of the scriptures, and meditate on them day and night, they produce the fruit of life and love and freedom within us.  They plant us in solid soil and keep us from being blown around by the winds of mood and whim and circumstance.  They make us more into the people God intended us to be.  They make us more able to love the way God intended for us to love.

Thus, when we ignore or dismiss or belittle the words of the scriptures—when we make them less than they were intended to be—we do so at our own expense.  If we untether ourselves from their power and their authority, and become the authority ourselves, we drift aimlessly into our own version of the truth, which is not really truth at all.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

the fourth watch

“During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.” (Matthew 14:25)

Why the fourth watch?  Why did Jesus wait so long to go out to them?  After all, they had been out on the lake, buffeted by the wind and the waves for as many as twelve hours.  Why not go out to them sooner?  Why wait until they had been bruised and battered and beaten?

Do you ever ask that question?  Do you ever wonder why God seems to let the storms of life go on for so long before he eventually shows up in the midst of them?  Is he testing our belief?  Is he trying to see if we really believe that he is able to calm the storm?  Or is he trying to see if we really believe that he is willing to?  I know that I have little trouble believing that he can, but much more difficulty believing that he will. 

Regardless of the reason, I have found that Jesus is a fourth-watch-kind-of-a-God.  He tends to wait a while before he comes out to us.  And even when he does, sometimes our circumstances are so chaotic that we still cannot recognize him.

The fourth watch is the point where we just cannot do it anymore.  It is the place in time when we can row no more.  The fourth watch is the time when we finally cry, "Uncle!"  When we say, “I just cannot do this anymore.  I’ve got nothing left.”  It is the time when we have finally been brought to the point of total desperation and absolute dependence.  It is the time when we have finally come to the end of ourselves.  And unfortunately, for most of us, that is a long, long journey.  For there is something God is trying to do deep within us and bringing us to the end of ourselves is the only way to make it happen.  Otherwise we would just keep on rowing and rowing and rowing.

It’s like God finally says: “I want you to trust me.  Not me and your own gifts and efforts, not me and your circumstances, not even me and your friends and family; but me alone.  And you will never trust me alone until all of the other things have been stripped away.  Until you have come to the end of yourself and there is nothing else, and no one else, left to cling to but me.  That’s when I’ve finally got you where I want you.  That’s when true growth and transformation can take place.  That’s when you finally reach the point where you can become all that I dreamt you to be.”

So if it takes until the fourth watch to get me there, then I suppose it’s worth it, huh?

Lord Jesus, help me to know that when you wait until the fourth watch to come out to me, you are not just being difficult.  You are trying to accomplish something very good in me.  Help me to never let the storms of this life, or the timing of your coming, make me doubt the goodness of your heart.

Monday, July 29, 2019

pursued

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,” say the words of the ancient prayer.  And even as I utter those words something within me comes alive.  For somehow, throughout the course of my days and my years, I have convinced myself otherwise.  Somehow I have convinced myself that it is I who am constantly in pursuit of him, the elusive God, rather than he being in pursuit of me.

And a careful examination of these words show just how wonderful this pursuit really is.  Goodness is a hallmark of our God, as well as a hallmark of his very good creation.  Thus, the goodness that pursues me is the very good-ness (Genesis 1:31) of his creation intent for me.  Not only is the One who pursues me very good, but the one he intended and designed me to be is also very good.  His very good desire is that he restore me to my very good-ness.  To remake me into the fearful and wonderful creation that he intended me to be.

The other thing that is a hallmark of our God is his unfailing love.  The Hebrew word is hesed.  It is the word for love that highlights the eternal nature of God’s love.  It is forever, it is unchanging, it is not going anywhere.  Nothing can stop it.  It is a pursuit that will not rest until it captures completely heart of the one being pursued. 

And finally, there is the word follow, which is not nearly strong enough to describe the picture being painted here.  The Hebrew word is radaph, which is most often translated pursue.  It is used 143 times in the Old Testament, mostly in reference to armies pursuing their enemies.  And on one occasion (1 Samuel 26:20) it is even translated hunt, as a hunter would stalk his prey.  That is the kind of following we are talking about.  It is not a casual, haphazard type of thing, but a relentless pursuit.  God relentlessly pursues me with his goodness and his unfailing love “all the days of my life.”  Thus, my relationship with him is not dependent on my feeble pursuit of him, but on his relentless pursuit of me.  It is not so much about finding him, as it is about being found by him.  It is dependent on him, not on me.  Thanks be to God!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

stubborn

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
     Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
     He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
     “No,” they answered.
      He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. (John 21:1-6, NIV)

I can be pretty stubborn at times.  I can keep my head down and plod right along without even noticing that I might have been toiling all night and still have empty nets.  I guess I figure that if I keep doing the same old things, the way I have always done them, that eventually it will work out.  It might never occur to me that I need to do something different, to change my ways.  It seems like I remember someone very wise once saying something about the definition of insanity being to continue to do the same old things over and over and expect to get a different outcome.  Well, call me crazy I suppose, because I tend to do that a lot.  I fail to recognize—or refuse to acknowledge—that my way just isn’t working.  After all, who is a better expert on my life than me?

I guess that’s why this passage haunts me a little bit.  The disciples did the exact same thing.  They worked and worked and worked, all night long, and caught absolutely nothing. The only difference is that when someone made a suggestion that they might want to try another way, at least they listened.  They didn’t even recognize it was Jesus until after they had taken his advice and caught a massive amount of fish.  And it wasn’t the first time this had happened.  But give them some credit.  They weren’t so hard-headed that they refused to acknowledge that their way just wasn’t working, and were willing to embrace a new way of doing things.

I need to follow their example.  For it is quite possible that I get so busy toiling all night long that I, like the disciples, fail to recognize that Jesus is standing on the shore.  It is quite possible that when someone brings up the possibility of doing things in a new and different way, that it might actually be Jesus trying to open me up to the possibility of new ways of seeing or being or doing.

The beautiful thing is that even if I do not always recognize Jesus, he always recognizes me.  Thanks be to God!