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



Saturday, December 7, 2019

Get Ready for Advent

Watch and Wait: A Guide for Advent and Christmas

Just wanted to remind you that if you (or any of your friends, family, or coworkers) are looking for a companion to journey with you through the seasons of Advent and Christmas, you might want to try Watch and Wait.  It is available on Amazon.

Sunday, December 1, 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!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

i see you


i see you

there you go again
down that old familiar road
listening to the voices
telling you you’re not enough

lost inside yourself again
unable to find your way out
of the lies that you believe
about who you really are

when will you let me show you
when will you let me tell you
when will you finally believe the truth
that there’s nothing in my heart but love
when i see you

i see you when you’re hiding
i see you when you’re fighting
i see you when you’re doubting
i see the mess inside

i see you when you’re playing a part 
i see you when you’re trying so hard
to make everyone believe 
that there’s something in you
worth loving

when will you let me show you
when will you let me tell you
when will you finally believe the truth
that there’s nothing in my heart but love
when i see you

i see you when you’re tired
i see you when you’re worn out
from trying to be everything to everyone
i see the you that i made you to be
a beautiful expression of my own heart
and i’m just wanting for the chance
to remind you of who that is

when will you let me show you
when will you let me tell you
when will you finally believe the truth
that there’s nothing in my heart but love
when i see you

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

as he went along

“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.” (John 9:1)

Most of us, it seems, like to imagine that following Jesus means we are called to go to exotic places and do heroic things.  And while that might be true for some, it is more likely that our call contains more humble beginnings.  In fact, it starts right where we are, with whoever is in front of us at the moment.

The truth is that you and I will go places today, and we will see people as we go.  The question is: Will we really see them?  Or will we merely pass them by in our haste to get to the next thing?  Jesus saw people.  And he saw them as he went.  It didn’t take an exotic location or an important person to get his attention.  He wasn’t, it seems, out to do heroic things.  He was more concerned with simply showing up and loving whoever was in front of him at the moment.  

We would be wise to do the same.  For all of ministry starts where we are.  We are sent first to Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria, and then to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)  So let us pay great attention, not to our “to do” list, but to where we are going and to who will be there as we go.  Stop.  Look.  Listen.  Engage.  Ask God what he is up to and join in to that.

“As you go, see people.  Really see them.  They are dying for that.  And as you see them, look for what I am doing within and around them.  Be aware of where I am already at work and join me.  What could be more heroic than that?”

Help me, Lord Jesus to see those who are in my path as I go about my day today.  They desperately need to be seen and loved.  Help me to do just that.  Help me to enter in to what you are doing within and around me today.  Amen.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

nothing

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing. . . ." (Philippians 2:5-7, NIV)

When I try to make myself something, I am no longer following the Jesus who "made himself nothing" and calls me to do the same.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

do you see this woman?

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?” (Luke 7:44)

Okay, I get it.  Seeing is always a two way street.  How we see things is always determined by our own inner dynamics at the time.  In order to be able to see things, and people, the way they really are, we must first be truly seen by the One who made us, the One who knows us, and the One who loves us.  Without first being seen, known, and loved by Him, we will always be far too consumed and concerned with the way we are seen by others.  We will always live in order to prove our worthiness, rather than living because the One who made us has pronounced us worthy.  We will always live in order to achieve an identity, rather than living because he has already bestowed an identity (as his beloved) upon us.

That was certainly the case with Simon the Pharisee.  He was so consumed with himself that he was unable to see who and what was right there in front of him.  He was so full of his own fears and insecurities that he had no room to see the beauty of what had just taken place between Jesus and this sinful woman.  He was so busy criticizing and comparing and trying to convince himself and his world that he was more worthy of love, that he was unable to see the passion and the affection and the beauty of her gesture.  Because when you are consumed with yourself, you can never see others for who and what they really are; they become threats and competitors rather than fellow travelers and pilgrims in this amazingly complex journey.

Simon could see nothing but himself, so Jesus had to take a moment to help him see the situation for what it really was.  He pointed out the beauty of the woman’s act of love, as well as the contrast of Simon’s lack thereof.  In helping Simon see the woman, Jesus had also helped Simon see himself.  For only after we have been seen do we having any hope of seeing others the way God intended for us to.

You see me, Lord Jesus.  Wherever I am, and whatever I am doing, and whatever is going on in my life, help me to always realize that you see me, you know me, and you love me. And because of that I have the freedom to see, know and love others.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.


Friday, October 11, 2019

let us

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Let us.  Did you get that?  It’s not let me, or let you, or let him, or let her, but let us.  Such a small, subtle change, but an incredibly powerful one.  I mean, with one tiny little phrase there comes a complete change in perspective.  With two little words we are able to make a major paradigm shift.  A shift from “I am all on my own” to “We are in this together.”  Let us takes us from isolation to community, from loneliness to togetherness, and from scarcity to abundance.  Maybe that’s why the author of Hebrews uses the phrase so often, he realizes that the power of us is way stronger than the power of just you or just me.


Let us run together, with perseverance, the race marked out for us,” is a whole lot different than “Let me run by myself, with as much perseverance as I can muster on my own, the race marked out for me.”  There is strength in numbers.  That’s probably why Ecclesiastes reminds us that “Two are better than one because if one falls there is someone there to help him up.  But pity the man who falls alone.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10) There is just something about the throwing off of everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles that was always meant to be done in the context of community.  I mean, we can continue try on our own if we want to, but we will always end up right back in the same old place.  It’s like trying to pull yourself up from the bottom of a hundred-foot well. 

There is just something beautiful and life-giving about living life in community.  There is something good and right about doing whatever we do with the great cloud of witnesses, not to mention our closest friends and fellow pilgrims.  It is easier to actually run the race with perseverance when you have your nearest and dearest running right beside you; at times your faith will sustain them and at times their faith will sustain you.  Four (or more) eyes fixed on Jesus are far more attentive and accurate than two.

So let us begin to ask ourselves what running the race together—as opposed to alone—is supposed to look like.  Let us dream a little and talk a little and make some commitments to each other.  And then let us start to actually do it.  At every given opportunity, let us choose communion over isolation.  I think you will find that you are able to journey together to places in life and faith where you could never journey alone.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

who's waiting on who?

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. (Psalm 130:5-6)


I have a suspicion that waiting for the Lord is not as cut and dried as it seems to be.  For while we are waiting for God to move or to speak or to act, he is also waiting for us.  He is waiting for us to finally come to the end of ourselves and fully depend on him.  He is waiting for us to stop trusting in our own gifts and abilities and efforts, and, instead, trust fully in him.  He is waiting for us to stop trying so hard to manage and manipulate and control everything, so that space can be made for him to move and to act.  He is waiting for us to finally let go of our self-sufficiency and prayerlessness and cry out to him in desperation and surrender.


How long, O Lord, how long?  How long will it take for us to finally realize that we cannot do it on our own, and fully turn to you?  Lord, have mercy! 

Forgive us, O Lord, for our self-sufficiency and prayerlessness.  Humble us, and help us to pray and to seek your face and turn from our wicked ways, that you might hear our prayers and forgive our sins and heal our land.  Amen.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

help

“The Lord is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1, NIV)  

As long as we keep trying to do it ourselves—even just a little bit—we will continue to get in the way of what God wants to do in and through us.  It’s not until we come to the end of ourselves, until we get to the point of total surrender, that we are out of the way enough to offer him the time and space he requires to move and to act.  Finally waving the white flag is a necessary act if we ever want God to be the one to lead and guide—and help.  He typically doesn’t step in while we are still trying to help ourselves. 


I guess that’s why Eugene Peterson translates the first Beatitude (in Matthew 5:3) as: “You are blessed when you get to the end of your rope.  With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” (The Message) Or as a wise saint said many, many years ago: “So long as you hold on to even a little hope of achieving something by your own powers, the Lord does not interfere.  It is as though he says: ‘You hope to succeed by yourself—Very well, go on trying!  But however long you try you will achieve nothing.’”  


There is no such thing as letting go half way.  When will we ever learn?

Forgive me, O Lord, for continually trying to do it on my own.  Forgive me for my refusal to fully let go of control—as if I ever had it to begin with—and totally surrender to your love and care.  Help me to fully trust in you, no matter how scary that might be.  Lord, help!  Amen.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

God is enough

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether I am well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:11-12, NIV)

God is enough.  He is everything we need.  Evidently Paul learned this, although it probably didn’t come easy.  Paul knew that circumstances didn’t determine his life, but God did.  And if God determines everything about our lives, then we don’t need circumstances to be pleasant, convenient, comfortable, or favorable.  That’s how Paul could write, “I have learned the secret of being content whatever the circumstances.”  The Greek word used here (in Phil. 4:11) is autark─ôs, which means sufficient or enough.  Thus, we are only able to be truly content when we really believe that God is enough.

Unfortunately, we don’t always fully believe that.  In fact, sometimes we don’t even believe it a little bit.  And it has an enormous impact on how we live our lives.  If we do not really believe that God is enough, then we have to turn to ourselves, or to others, to fill in the gaps.  That’s where it gets really ugly.  We become anxious and angry and frustrated, or depressed and driven and demanding.  We become the very worst version of ourselves.

But if we can ever get to the point where we truly believe that God is enough, then we can rest in his enough-ness.  His enough-ness, and not that of ourselves or our circumstances, allows us to truly trust in him.  If God is really enough, then we don’t have to be.  And we do not have to demand that others be enough for us.  In fact, it frees us up to be able to love them, rather than manipulate love out of them.  If God is enough, then whatever others have to offer us—if anything—is enough because we are not depending on them for our sense of well-being.  If God is enough, then we have enough—however much or little that may be.  And if God is enough, then we are enough in him.  It is his love alone that determines our value and our worth.  We do not have to jockey and posture and perform for everyone.  Our identity is securely rooted in him; it is not tied to what we do, what we have, or how we look. 

So I pray that, this day, we would all get to know the enough-ness of our God.  For until we get to know him, really know him, we will never know how enough he really is.

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!

Saturday, July 20, 2019

weakness


“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

I don’t know about you, but I go to great lengths to try and hide my weaknesses.  I even go so far as to try and never operate outside my areas of strength.  I do this, I suppose, because my goal in life is for everyone to think the best of me.  The problem is that when I live my life trying to make everyone think the best of me, I leave one significant thing out—God!  I forget that this life is not about me at all, but about him.

Paul got that.  I guess that’s why he could make this outlandish statement about gladly boasting about his weaknesses.  I mean, who does that?  Someone who cares more about God’s glory that his own, that’s who.  Someone who realizes that God’s power is on full display when we are completely out of the way.  Someone who understands that we actually block people’s view of God when we are trying to get them to look at us.  Someone who realizes that when he is operating out of his own strength, he is actually keeping God’s power from being made perfect.

O Lord, help me to be more like Paul.  Help me to embrace and celebrate my weaknesses, because they are opportunities for you to show your power.  For when I try to hide my weaknesses, I am actually hiding—or denying—the sufficiency of your grace.  Lord Jesus, give me the power to be weak.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

my grace


My grace is sufficient for you.  No, really, it is!  So stop trying to earn my love and favor.  Stop trying to make it on your own.  Stop beating yourself up and wearing yourself out.  Stop trying to arrange your life in such a way that you won’t need me quite so much.  My grace really is sufficient for you.  It is all you need.

Help me to let your grace be enough for me today, Lord Jesus.  For if I really believe your grace is enough, it changes everything.  It totally changes the way I live my life.

Friday, July 5, 2019

the tale of two men

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14, ESV)


Once upon a time there were two men; one who thought he had it all together, and the other who was painfully aware that he did not.  One who was pretty sure that he was God’s gift to humanity, and the other who was pretty sure humanity didn’t even know his name.  One who was constantly seeking the spotlight, and the other who was content in the shadows.  One who was ever climbing upward, and the other who was well acquainted with the downward path.  One who was so in love with his own observations and opinions that he couldn’t wait to share his "wisdom" with anyone and everyone in his path, and the other who was fully aware that the only thing he really knew was that he did not know.  One who thought he knew how to pray, and the other who realized he didn’t even know what prayer really was.  One who was so full of himself that there was not any room for anyone or anything else, and the other who was so empty that there was plenty of room for God and others.  One who was destined to be humbled, and the other who humbled himself.  Which one would you rather be, one or the other?


He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’  Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.'" 
     Jesus commented, “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” (Luke 18:9-14, The Message)

Thursday, July 4, 2019

freedom

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14, NIV)

How would you define freedom?  What does it look like to be truly free?  How we answer both of those questions has a whole lot to do with whether or not we will ever experience true freedom in our lives.

Freedom is not about personal rights and privileges, it is not a license to be self-consumed.  Freedom is about us collectively living the lives we were intended to live—being the people we were created to be.  Loving and serving one another the way we were intended to love and serve.  It is not about doing whatever we want to do, whenever we want to do it.  It is much bigger than that.  It is about living a life of love.  Freedom is not about being consumed with self, but about not having to be consumed with self.  It is so easy to be held hostage in the prison of self without even realizing we are in bondage.

Jesus came to show us a different way.  He came to show us what freedom really is—and what it is not.  True freedom is about living a life of love.  It says, “I do not need you to tell me who I am and why I am valuable, therefore I can actually love and serve you without trying to squeeze or manipulate love out of you."  That’s true freedom.

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. (Galatians 5:13-15, The Message)

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

rest and unrest


We were made for rest, not unrest.  Our hearts were designed to find their rest in God.  Thus, deep soul rest was intended to be our natural state.  But for most of us, true rest is an anomaly rather than a normality.  The rest our souls so deeply long for—the rest our souls were actually created for—is far from our daily reality.  That is why Jesus comes to each of us and says: “Come to me and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, for it fits you perfectly.  I made it just for you and it is the only thing that can make you your truest and best self.  In fact, I am the only one—including you—who even knows who that really is.  So come to me and know the rest and the peace and the wholeness of being who and what you were created to be.  Then you can stop trying so hard and can be free to be your true self.”

Monday, June 24, 2019

still

God works in subtlety
he does not tend to wave his arms
in big sudden movements
but comes in a whisper
like a gentle breeze
that is easy to miss
if we aren't paying attention

Thursday, June 20, 2019

God and or God alone

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2, ESV)

The Hebrew version of Psalm 62 starts with the word only:  “Only for God does my soul wait in silence.”  It then repeats that word numerous times over the next eight verses.  Needless to say, it is the major theme of the psalm.  God is the only one who is worthy of our trust, and we are only trusting in him when we trust in him alone.  A. W. Tozer says it this way: “When religion has said its last word, there is little that we need other than God himself.  The evil habit of God-and effectively prevents us from finding God in full revelation.  In the “and” lies our great woe.  If we omit the “and” we shall soon find God, and in him we shall find that for which we have all our lives been secretly longing.”

Unfortunately, it is a very short trip from God alone to God and.  It is a very subtle shift in thinking and in being that is very hard to recognize.  We start out trusting in God alone, and then, before we know it, we begin to trust in God and our own comfort, God and our own opinion, God and our own agenda, God and our own desired outcome.  Somewhere along the line our desires have shifted from God alone to God and, and we didn’t even recognize it.

So how are we to know when we are trusting in God and rather than God alone?  The psalm, once again, gives us a clue.  Whenever we trust in God alone, we are not shaken (v. 2, 6), whatever that may look like.  It is our reaction to circumstances and situations that will let us know where I real trust lies.  If I am too attached to a certain outcome or opinion, if I am consumed with a certain situation, if I am frustrated or defensive or argumentative—all of those are signs that I might be trusting in God and rather than God alone.  Which means that I must recognize it, confess it, and repent (turn around).  I need to turn from God and, and return to God alone.  For trusting in God alone takes a good healthy detachment from my own desires, preferences, and opinions.  It requires us to be indifferent to anything but the will of God.  God become the end, not merely a means to an end.

O Lord, help us to recognize all of the ways and all of the places where we are trusting in you and something (or someone) else.  Help us to let go of those things—whoever or whatever they may be—and return to you alone.  For you alone are my rock, my refuge, and my fortress.  My salvation and my honor depend on you—alone.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

with you


"Don’t try to fix it, just be still.  Don’t start running around like a crazy person trying to manage and manipulate and control things, just know that I am God.  Whether you believe it or not right now—whether it looks like it or not—I will be exalted.  Do not allow fear and anxiety and disappointment to get the best of you.  Nothing has changed, I am still the Lord God Almighty.  And I am still with you."

Saturday, June 8, 2019

low

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


     The Water Song

Come, oh come!  Let us away
Lower, lower every day.
Oh, what joy it is to race
Down to the lowest place.
This the deepest law we know—
“It is happy to go low.”
Sweetest urge and sweetest will,
“Let us go down lower still.”
Hear the summons night and day
Calling us to come away.
From the heights we leap and flow
To the valleys down below.
Always answering the call,
To the lowest place of all.
Sweetest urge and sweetest pain,
To go low and rise again.
~Hannah Hurnard

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

find rest

My soul finds rest in God alone, my salvation comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.  (Psalm 62:1-2)

The only place your soul will truly find rest is in my unfailing love.  You will not find it in circumstances.  You will not find it in your own efforts.  You will not find it in the praise and admiration of others.  You will not find it in achievements and success.  You will not find it in what others think or say about you.  You will only find it in me…alone.  And only when your soul finds rest in my unfailing love alone, will you be able to love others the way I love you.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

becoming together

“How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity.” (Psalm 133:1)

“We are never more ourselves than when we pray.  But if we remain only ourselves, then we are less than ourselves.” ~Eugene Peterson

We can only become our truest selves together.  It can never fully happen alone.  Only together will we ever have the courage and the strength and the wisdom it takes to stop listening to the lies of the world—and our insecure hearts—and listen to the Voice of the One who whispered us into being.  Only together will we ever be able to let go of the false self and become who and what we were really intended to be.  Alone we will always either cave in or chicken out.  Alone we will always be at the mercy of mood and whim and circumstance.  But together there is strength.  Together we are able to call each other to more—to being all that God desires us to be.  Now that really is good and pleasant!


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

and know

Be still and know that I am God...(Psalm 46:10)

The words of this ancient prayer teach us a great spiritual truth: It’s not just “be still,” but “be still and know that I am God.”  Both are required.

It is being still that makes it possible for us to know that he is God.  It helps us to make space and time for that knowing to take place.  But being still on its own is not enough.  In fact, the being still part doesn’t do a whole lot of good without the knowing he is God part.

It is a beautiful thing that God longs to be known.  In fact, that’s where we get it from.  He made us for the purpose of knowing he is God.  Not just intellectually knowing him (that’s part of it), but spiritually, emotionally, and relationally knowing him as well.  God wants us to know him intimately.  And when we do—when we know to the core of our being that he is God—it changes everything.  Everything else comes into perspective.  Everything else falls into its proper place.

So let us take the words of this ancient prayer to heart today.  Let us be still and let us know that he is God.  For being still is of some value, but being still and knowing that he is God is of value for this life and the life to come.