Thursday, July 26, 2012

questions


You are so young, so before all beginning, and I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient with all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue.  Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is, to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps you will gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. (Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke)


For some reason I've been paying attention to questions recently: questions that I heard someone ask, or questions a friend might have told me were asked of them, or questions woven into the content of something I'm reading.  Anyway, I've been amazed by the depth and quality of these questions, as well as what these questions have stirred up within me.  So I thought I'd pass a few of them along...

Who (or what) derermines the content of your life? 
The way you spend your minutes and your days?
What directs your steps each day?
What does your life revolve around? 

What is your center right now?
Busy?  Too busy?  Why?
Why can't you stop?
What are you chasing?
What are you so afraid of?
Do you know how much I love you?


Monday, July 23, 2012

voices

     Then Jesus was led by the Spirit up into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. After a fast of forty days and nights he was very hungry.
      “If you really are the Son of God,” said the tempter, coming to him, “tell these stones to turn into loaves.”
     Jesus answered, “The scripture says ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’.” Matthew 4:1-3 (JBP)

I don't know about you, but I can tell you from experience that the voices within and around me that try to convince me of things other than the truth of who I am in Christ are loud indeed.  And, no doubt, they were loud for Jesus as well.  I mean just look at these verses.  Right after that amazing moment in the Jordan when the heavens open up, and the Spirit of God comes upon Jesus like a dove, and THE voice from heaven says to him, "You are my Son, whom I dearly love, with you I am well pleased," he is quickly attacked by the voice of the enemy trying to convince him that it just isn't true. 
     "If you really are God's Son..." says the voice of temptation.  It is an attack directed at his core, trying to get Jesus to either question, or think he has to prove, his identity.  And it is an attack aimed at his place of greatest hunger.  Should it be any surprise that the enemy would seek to attack us in much the same way; in the very place we are most vulnerable, most hungry? Should it be any surprise that the enemy would try to convince us that God is either not willing or not able to meet us in our deepest places, so that we might take matters into our own hands and try to feed ourselves?  It seems that the most successful attacks on my heart and soul and spirit are those aimed at my identity, trying to make me doubt my worth and value in the eyes my God.  Trying to convince me that I need to take matters into my own hands, to feed myself in any way that I can.  Trying to make me believe that I can find satisfaction for my deepest hunger outside of God, which leads me on a wild goose chase in search of someone or something that might satisfy the deepest longings of my heart.  These voices are loud, I must admit.  Therefore I must turn my ear to THE true voice, the voice of the God who made me uniquely and loves me dearly.  The one who says to me, as he did to Jesus, "You are my beloved son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased.  That is THE only voice that can give me the fullness and life I was made for.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

calling or compulsion

     Late that evening, after sunset, they kept bringing to him all who were sick or troubled by evil spirits. The whole population of the town gathered round the doorway. And he healed great numbers of people who were suffering from various forms of disease. In many cases he expelled evil spirits; but he would not allow them to say a word, for they knew perfectly well who he was.
     Then, in the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a deserted place, and there he prayed. Simon and his companions went in search of him, and when they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.
     “Then we will go somewhere else, to the neighbouring towns,” he replied, “so that I may give my message there too—that is why I have come.”
     So he continued preaching in their synagogues and expelling evil spirits throughout the whole of Galilee. (Mark 1:32-39 JBP)

The whole town gathered at His doorway.  He healed great numbers of people who were suffering with all kinds of issues and disorders.  God in the flesh had come to a sleepy little town filled with people in desperate need.  And I'm sure when the last person left the house it was significantly late in the evening, if not well into the early morning hours.  And you just have to love the next verse...very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a deserted place, and there he prayed.  I'm not exactly sure what this looked like, but maybe he prayed the words of Psalm 23..."He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul...my cup overflows...and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."  Or maybe it was the words of Psalm 37..."Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.  Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart."  Or perhaps even Psalm 131...I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me."  Whatever he prayed, it gave him life and sustenance and renewal...and direction for the day ahead. 

While he was off by himself spending this intimate time with His Father, much was going on back in town.  People had heard; they had caught wind of the happenings of the night before and were already knocking on the door again, probably before it was even light outside.  Maybe they had brought a neighbor or a family friend, or a relative from a few miles away.  But the words the disciples meet Jesus with when they finally do find him tell the whole story.  "Where are you?  Don't you know that everyone is looking for you?  There are more needy people at our doorstep, come on, get with it, we have to go do something about this."

But the answer Jesus gives them shows us something very telling about the time he had just spent with his Father.  It was that time and space that guided and determined his life and his steps; not demands, not needs, not expectations...there will always be those, just as there will always be needy and broken and hurting people.  Jesus' life and direction was determined by something much deeper and bigger than that, it was determined by the voice of God.  He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake say the beautiful words of the ancient prayer (Psalm 23:3).  And indeed it's true.  Prayer determined Jesus' direction.  What determines mine?

It is our life (and time and space) with God that must determine everything, if it is ever to be of any eternal value or significance.  He must determine my steps, the details of my day, and more importantly my mission and my purpose.  Too often, if I don't have a very clear picture of who God wants me to be and what he wants me to be about, I can get distracted or derailed by the thousand-and-one details, expectations, demands, and voices of the external world and lose track of that eternal must he has placed deep within me.  I must be led by something larger than events, expectations, demands, or circumstances.  I must be guided by something with substance, with true rootedness.  I guess the question becomes: Unless I consistently make time and space for God, and for prayer, how will I ever know if the things that have found their way onto my plate are really the things that are mine (the things He has in mind for me) to do?  There is a very thin, and sometimes almost indiscernible, line between calling and compulsion; between what God is truly calling me to be about versus what I think I need to be about due to my own deepest fears and insecurities. Sometimes it's really hard to tell the difference between the two.  Therefore, let us be like Jesus, and let us early in the morning, while it is still dark, get up, leave the house and go off to a deserted place, and pray.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

overwhelmed


     For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land —a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.
     When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.  Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day.  Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.  He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock.      
     He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. (Deuteronomy 8:7-16)

What is this amazingly good land I find myself in these days?  A land teeming with life and fruitfulness and abundance.  A land of flowing streams, pools, and bubbling wells; of lush fields, fertile soil, and plentiful vines...abounding, rich, fragrant...so good.  Who could've imagined the incredible beauty of this place, the place in which we currently have the privilege of residing?  Only the One who made it all, the One who brings beauty out of ashes, the One who knew that He was bringing us into this land all along.  And as I sit and look around at the beauty of it all, I am overwhelmed.

The desert land was indeed vast and dreadful, thirsty and waterless, with plenty of bite and sting, but even there you were wonderfully and tenderly present.  Even there you brought water from the hard rock and rained down manna on our tired and weary heads.  Even there you were mysteriously at work, up to something that in the end would go well with us.  Who could've imagined?  What a God!  And I am overwhelmed.

Friday, July 6, 2012

hiding

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” Exodus 3:4

There is so much about the calling of Moses in Exodus 3 that I really love.  I love that Moses was on the far side of the desert: alone, away, silent...attentive.   I love that he was tending sheep for his father-in-law; a humble task, nothing big or flashy or heroic.  I love the creativity of God appearing in a burning bush, enough to get your attention but not enough to make it obvious that something (or Someone) extraordinary was behind (or within) it.   And I absolutely LOVE the fact that God waited until Moses "turned aside" and came over to the bush before he actually called to him.  It just gives me the impression that God is almost hiding, eagerly waiting and hoping and longing to be found by us; much the same way my kids did when we played Hide and Seek when they were young.  The whole experience is only fun if someone is searching diligently, high and low, trying desperately to find you.  I wonder if that's how God felt as He hid?  And how much must His heart have leapt for joy when he was finally found?  Don't you just love thinking about that?

But I think the thing I am enjoying most about this story these days is that God called to Moses from within the bush.  God calls, speaks to Moses, from within a created thing.  How fun is that?  It makes me wonder, "Where else might He be?  What things this day, or this moment, is He hiding in, just waiting to call out to me the minute I turn aside and go over to find Him?"  Could it be that everything in all of creation holds the possibility of such an encounter?  Could it be that if I pay careful attention, I might find Him within most all of the places and the conversations and the tasks and the circumstances I find myself in the midst of today?  And could it be that I might find Him hiding even in the midst of the hard things of life.  Perhaps God even (and maybe especially) calls to me...to us...from within our sorrow and pain?  All we need to do is look for Him, and as soon as we do, it will bring a huge smile to His face and deep joy to His heart.  

fyi

In case you (or someone you know and love) might be interested, I started a second blog http://jb-coreleadership.blogspot.com/ in order to offer folks who might be looking for it, a little offering of daily time and space to be with God.  It is really just pieces of the Blue Book that I am trying to post each day to see if they might be helpful to folks in their time with Jesus.  So for now I'm going to give it a go and see both how helpful it is...and how much work it is to keep up with:)  It really fits so well with all that I want and hope for Core Leadership to be about.

His Peace to you,
JB

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

days

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.

                                                                           ~Annie Dillard



If we are not careful, we will miss it.  One day after another will simply slip past, almost without our even noticing it.  Whether it be busyness, or chaos, or mundane routine, somehow days can have the tendency to lull us to sleep if we are not careful, if we are not attentive to the fact that each day, and each moment of each day, is itself a holy invitation.  It is no accident that the first thing in Scripture that God calls holy is...a day (Genesis 2:3).  It is almost as if God himself, from the very beginning, had to remind us that days are significant.  In fact, they are the time and the space where we meet Him and know Him.  Days are themselves invitations, opportunities, doorways into holiness.  Therefore, let us not let one more of them slip by unnoticed, but let us engage each little day, and each little moment of that day, with all the life and zeal and attention and expectation we can muster.  Because before we know it, one day will have turned into another...and another...and a lifetime will have passed us by. 



Prayer for the Day: Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)