Sunday, April 30, 2017

Journey to the Cross



***UPDATE (4-24-17): Hello friends.  Lent is over and I hope Journey to the Cross was a good companion for you.  If it was, please feel free to leave a review on Amazon.  It will help people to be able to find it next year.  Blessings.***

HOT OFF THE PRESSES!!!
Exciting News!  My new Lenten devotional guide Journey to the Cross was released today on Amazon.  Spread the word.  Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, March 1st.

Monday, April 24, 2017

peace

john 20:24-28


your wounds
lord jesus
offer healing
your blood
gives life
your life
casts out
fear and doubt
so that
we might believe
and exclaim
my lord
and my god
and know
your peace


Sunday, April 23, 2017

sent

john 20:19-22


into the midst of their fear
jesus came
and stood among them
offering his peace
and sending them
as he was sent
breathing his spirit
into them as they
embarked on their journey

they were now the god-breathed
sent to offer the life and peace
they had received
by the breath of his spirit

and now it is us
we are the presence of Christ
to a broken world
we are to offer
our risen wounds
as sources of healing and life

we are bearers and sharers
of his peace
we are the mouths
through which he breathes
his life-giving spirit

we are sent as he was sent
on the winds of his breath
to speak love into fear

Saturday, April 22, 2017

unity

How good and pleasant it is when brothers 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 upon 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


What does living together in unity really mean?  And what does that even look like?  Does it mean that everyone agrees with each other all the time?  Probably not.  If that were the case, unity would only be about managing outcomes and controlling decisions, and I think it is much deeper and much more beautiful than that.

If I am really honest, I have to admit that all too often my definition of unity has more to do with everyone finally sharing my opinion about something.  As long as it's going my way everything is great, but as soon as it heads a different direction I can get pretty defensive and insecure.  That is definitely not unity.  In fact, it seems like the direct opposite of it. 

I think unity has more to do with who we are to each other and how we are loving than it does with who is right and who is wrong.  It is a spirit among us, a spirit of love.  It is a determination to be for each other regardless of the circumstances, and to stand with each other even when things are difficult.  It is a commitment to love and serve each other, rather than a demand to be loved and served.  It is a determination to operate out of love, rather than fear.  It is about being compassionate, rather than contentious.  It is about a desire to listen, rather than a need to tell.  It is about having open hands, rather than clenched fists.

The image of precious oil being poured on the head is a great one.  Each of us is a container of precious oil that was given to us--breathed into us at creation--to be poured out on those around us.  Unity, therefore, is about each of us bringing that precious oil--our truest and best selves--to the body, without demand or manipulation (no forcing and no holding back in the words of Rilke) and pouring it out on the heads of those brothers and sisters we are living in community with.  For it is then and there that God will bestow his blessing, even life forevermore.

So maybe the question we should be asking ourselves is, "What does it mean to bring our best and truest selves to the body and pour it out for love?"  Maybe the answer to that question will help us to figure out what it means to live together in unity.



Thursday, April 20, 2017

wait and listen

I wait for the Lord, my soul 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, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.  ~Psalm 130:5-7


If I did actually put my hope in the Lord, and more specifically in his word, I would do a lot more waiting, it seems.  I would train my soul to sit still and wait and listen until the word of the Lord had revealed itself to me.  Then, and only then, would I move, or act, or speak.  Unfortunately, I don't do that very often; which makes me think that I don't really put my hope in the word of the Lord at all, but in my own.  I tend to talk a lot.  I tend to fill all of the space and give him no room to get a word in edge-wise.  I tend to make myself so busy telling and speaking and acting that it shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that my trust is not in his word, but my own.  Which makes me want to stop altogether.  It makes me want to shut up.  It makes me want to sit still.  It makes me want to listen.  It makes me want to be like the watchmen and simply wait for the Lord.  Maybe I'll give that a try.


I think I will do nothing for a long time but listen, and accrue what I hear into myself. . . .and let sounds contribute toward me. ~Walt Whitman

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

empowered

Sing to God, O kingdoms of earth, sing praise to the Lord, to him who rides the ancient skies above, who thunders with mighty voice.  Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power is in the skies.  You are awesome, O God, in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.  Praise be to God! (Psalm 68:32-35)


How do I miss it?  It is there, it is available, but somehow I rarely seem to experience it.  Is it just me?

I tend to live my life with a constant sense that I am at the mercy of my circumstances.  At times I live in reaction to them, and at others I live in spite of them. But there is more.  There is something that I am missing.  Something that I am rarely in touch with--God's power.  But here it is, right in Psalm 68: "The God of Israel gives power and strength to his people." (v. 35)  God wants me to live my life empowered by him.  The same power by which he rides the ancient skies above and the same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead is available to me.  That's a lot of power. 

Why then, do I not experience it more often?  Could it be that in order to live an empowered life, you must be aware of, and in touch with, the Source of that power on a regular basis?  Or could it be that somewhere deep inside, I don't really believe that his power is available to someone like me?  Who knows?   I do know that it is something I am going to reflect upon in the days ahead.  It is something I am going to ask God about.  It is something I am going to pray for.  I am tired of getting my ass kicked by my fears, anxieties, and insecurities.  It is time that I take a stand and use the power that is available to me--resurrection power--to live the victorious (and I do not use that word often) life that God wants to live in and through me.  What that looks like, I have no idea.  But I am excited about the possibilities.  Praise be to God!

O great and awesome God, you give power and strength to your people.  May we live empowered, victorious lives in you this day.  Amen.

Monday, April 17, 2017

resurrection

you let men ride over our heads;
we went through the fire and water,
but you brought us to a place of
abundance. ~psalm 66:12


sometimes
we can only see it
in hindsight
this place of abundance
to which we have
been brought

we could never
have recognized it
while our heads
were being ridden over
or as we were
walking through
the fire and water

yet here we are
on the other side
of it all
in a spacious
and fruitful land

who could have imagined
that such a rugged road
would lead to
such a beautiful place

this too is resurrection

Friday, April 14, 2017

good friday

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
     When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”
     Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
     And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
     At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
     When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:45-54)


In that day,” declares the Sovereign Lord,
“I will make the sun go down at noon
    and darken the earth in broad daylight.
I will turn your religious festivals into mourning
    and all your singing into weeping.
I will make all of you wear sackcloth
    and shave your heads.
I will make that time like mourning for an only son
    and the end of it like a bitter day. (Amos 8:9-10)


O Jesus, how can we possibly say "thank you" enough for what you endured for us?  It is overwhelming.  Your love for us in incomprehensible.  And, on Good Friday, I can't help but wonder, as well, what this day was like for your mother and your Father.  How awful it must have been for Mary, to have watched your agony and not be able to do anything about it.  But how much worse it must have been for your Father, who could have intervened, but knew, for love's sake, that he must not.

Thank you, Jesus!  Thank you, Father!  Thank you, Spirit!  For by your wounds we are healed.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

maundy thursday

today is maundy thursday
today you wash our feet
today you offer us your body as food
and your blood as drink
today you give a new command
to love each other as we have been loved by you
today you speak to us about your departing
about your dying and about your being raised to new life
today you tell us of the place you have prepared for us
and the spirit that has been given to lead us there
today you invite us to abide in your love
as a branch abides in a vine
today you pray for us
that as the father is in you
so you will be in us
and we in you.
tonight you ask us to watch with you and pray
because your time has come
o jesus, you have been such a friend and companion to us
may we be the same to you
as you journey to the cross


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

the unseen value of brokenness

I've been thinking a lot about the idea of brokenness for the past few weeks, and its value and necessity in the life of faith.  None of us wants it, few if any would ever invite it, but no one can deny the unseen value of brokenness when it comes to the process of transformation.  I know that personally the most broken times in my life have been the times when God has done some of his best and deepest and most lasting work within me.  Brokenness simply does something in us (and then through us) that nothing else can do.  In fact, 2 Corinthians 4:17 tells us that brokenness is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory that is beyond all comparison

Brokenness shatters our sense of independence.  It strips us of our need for control.  It empties us of all pride and arrogance and agenda.  And it makes us more and more like Jesus, who although he was a son, learned obedience through what he suffered. (Hebrews 5:8)  But one of the main things that brokenness does is that it makes us into people who can be humbly and fruitfully given.  We are not broken just for the sake of being broken.  We are broken to be grown and then given.  As my friend Robert once said, "We can not be multiplied enough to be given, we can only be broken enough to be given."  So brokenness has both a purpose and an intent.  So if you are in the midst of being broken during this season where brokenness plays a prominent role, don't run away from it.  Embrace it.  God is making you into the one he dreamt you to be.  Brokenness is not the end, just a means to a glorious end.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ~2 Corinthians 4:18