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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 worki...

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



a question for the new year

“He was in the world, and thought the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:10-12)  

It all starts with recognizing.  So much of the spiritual life revolves around what we recognize and what we don’t.  We cannot receive someone (or something), if we do not first recognize that they are there.  And the receiving is vital to the believing and the becoming.

So maybe the question we should ask, as we come to the end of one year and the beginning of the next, is “What, O Lord, do you want us to recognize?”  How do we need to recognize what God has been up to over the year gone by, and how do we need to recognize what he wants to do in the year ahead?  How has God been at work within and around us?  What people or things or events brought us to life?  And what disrupted or disturbed us?  What dysfunctional patterns and habits need to be broken, and what godly habits and practices need to be cultivated?

For how can we ever hope to take God up on his constant invitation to a deeper, fuller, richer life, if we don’t stop and recognize, both the life we are currently living, and the life he longs to live in and through us?  So, let’s take some time over the next days and weeks to do just that.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

grace and truth

grace and truth
are not contrary
but complimentary
not opposites
but two parts of
a beautiful whole
 
they must be held
together in union
to have their full
power and efficacy
 
grace without truth
is only pretense
a cheap nicety
civility at the expense
of substance and depth
 
while truth without grace
is merely brutality
disguised as goodness
a dangerous weapon
in the hands of a child
 
one without the other
is incomplete
both are essential
in order to live
the way we were
intended to

Sunday, December 27, 2020

submission

If I’m totally honest, I have to admit that all too often I set the agenda and expect God to act accordingly.  But that’s not how life with Jesus works, just ask Joseph and Mary. (Luke 2:41-50) He is the one who plans the itinerary, not me.  I am called to follow him, not vice versa.  It’s funny how often I get that backwards.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

simeon and anna

Of all the people in the temple that day, only two noticed.  What was it about Simeon and Anna that made them different?  Was it their age and wisdom?  Was it their experience, the fact that they had both seen a lot of life come and go?  Surely there were others in the temple that day who were the same age.  Or was it simply the fact that they were both watching and waiting?  They were both longing to see the consolation and redemption of God’s people.  They were not so wrapped up in their own needs and concerns that they failed to notice what was right before their eyes.  They were paying attention, while the rest of the world was not.  Somehow they were able to see the Savior wrapped in swaddling clothes.

O Lord, help us to be like Simeon and Anna.  Help us to live our lives with our eyes peeled for your arrival, within and among us.  Help us to not get so caught up in our own issues and agendas that we miss your coming, this day and every day.  For you are ever and always the God who comes.  Come, Lord Jesus!

Friday, December 25, 2020

light

the light shines
in the darkness
and the darkness
has not overcome it

has not
cannot
will not

do not be surprised
however
when darkness
puts up
a hell of a fight

just remember
that light wins

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

joy to the world

let every heart
prepare him room 

easier said than done

slow down
declutter
let go
make space
take time
prepare a place
pay attention
open the door
welcome him in
receive your king

joy to the world



“Let every heart prepare him room.”  The preparing of our hearts to receive our King is no easy matter; it is something that will take both thought and effort on our part.  It will not just happen on its own; we will need both intention and discretion.  There are things we will need to let go of and things we will need to hold on to.  It will mean having to say “no” to some people and things, in order to say “yes” to the One who comes and makes his dwelling among us.  It will take some decluttering and some rearranging.  It will take some sitting still and some being silent.  It will take the making of space and the taking of time.  It will take open hands and longing hearts.  After all, what good is the bringing of joy into our world, if the world is not paying attention?


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

out with the old

My Dear Child,

Why do you hold on so tightly to those old and familiar ways of being that stifle and limit and hinder my life within you?  Why do you refuse to let go of those old patterns and habits, in order that you might finally experience the newness and the life and the freedom I so desperately want for you?  You can’t have your cake and eat it too.  You can’t keep holding on to the old and expect to be able to receive the new.  Receiving requires open hands.  Thus, letting go is a prerequisite.

I know the old is warm and comfortable, but it has such a low ceiling.  Every attempt at life and growth and freedom will lead to you hitting your head on that which you are unwilling to part with.  I want so much more for you than that.  What are you so afraid of?  Just trust me.


Love,
Abba

Monday, December 21, 2020

a new thing

“See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 42:19) 

We live in a day and age when we are between the first and the second advents.  Meaning, we live at a time when God has come, God is continually coming, and God will come again.  The reason that’s significant is because we do not just sit idly by and wait for some distant day when God will finally arrive and make all things right and whole once again, we keep our eyes peeled and our hearts attentive to what God is doing here and now, both within us and among us.  Jesus told us himself that, “My Father is always at his work.” (John 5:17)  Thus, God is always coming into our lives and our world in new and beautiful ways, if only we have eyes to see it.  There is already a new thing that he is doing, our job is to perceive it, embrace it, and enter in to it.  This very day, God is saying, “I am here.  I am at work.  I am doing something new and beautiful within and among you.  Join me!”  God has come, God is coming, God will come—it’s the beauty of Advent.  

Sunday, December 20, 2020

new things

When God talks about “making all things new,” (Rev. 21:5) he is not necessarily talking about new in time (neos), although that may be true as well, but new in quality (kainos).  That’s why he says, “I am making all things new,” rather than, “I am making all new things.”  It is a subtle, but significant difference.  And one that we would do well to pay attention to. 

For if we take “the old is gone and the new (kainos) has come” (2 Cor. 5:17) in the quantitative (neos) sense, we will have the wrong idea about what is really happening.  We will be looking outside ourselves, rather than looking within.  We will be expecting something to come out of the blue, rather than something to grow deep in the soil of our soul.  

But if we take this newness in the qualitative (kainos) sense, we are much more likely to be able to see what God is really up to, and embrace it.  God is making us qualitatively different; not from the outside in, but from the inside out.  That's how the life of the Spirit works.  And I, for one, am so grateful.  There is something really beautiful about a God who cares about the quality of my life.  A God who is constantly forming new things in me that are more beautiful than I could ever imagine or dream about.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

zechariah's prayer

luke 1:67-79

my son

my dear one
how long i have waited
for the day of your arrival

and even now
on the very day 
of your birth
i must already
begin to learn
how to let you go

for you do not belong to me
but to the one who formed
and made you
the one who
dreamt you into being
the one for whom
you must
even now
begin to prepare the way

so my job
as your dad
is not to hold onto you
but to let you go
and to allow you to become
all that he made you to be

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

what's it going to take

luke 1:18-19

what’s it going to take
for you to fully believe
that what I say about you
is really true

i sent angels
i performed miracles
i spoke through prophets
i even sent my son

what more can i do


O Lord, forgive me when I allow life’s circumstances to make me doubt the goodness of your heart.  Forgive me when I let the voices around me and within me determine my value and my worth, rather than your unfailing love.  O Lord, what’s it going to take for me to really believe that what you say is really true?  Lord, have mercy.  Amen.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

she said yes

“I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)  

So God came to a teenage girl and asked her to do what was unimaginable.  And low and behold, she said, “Yes!”  From that moment on, everything about her life was totally out of her control.  She placed herself completely in God’s hands.  And in the days and years that followed, that pattern would continually repeat itself; Mary’s big yes to God, would be followed by a million other yeses.  Each and every day she would be asked to surrender and to trust.

That’s the way life with God works.  He comes to us, asks for our yes, and then the rest of our lives is simply a matter of trust and surrender.  We do not get to dictate or control what our yes means.  We do not get to determine the terms and conditions of our yes.  Yes simply means yes.  We are his servants, not he ours.

So listen carefully.  God is asking for a yes from you and me as well.  What will our answer be?

O Lord, give me the strength and the grace and the courage to say yes to you today, whatever you may be asking.  Amen.

Friday, December 11, 2020

emmanuel

most often you come
in ways few would notice
not high and holy
but meek and lowly

a stable
a manger
a star
a teenage girl

small and quiet
hidden and lowly
humble and obscure

as if you wanted
to slip into your world
unnoticed

except by those
paying careful
attention

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

made perfect

heb. 2:10

what was it
about suffering
that made you perfect
for they seem
such odd bedfellows
yet in you the two
became one

was there something
in the lowering
and the emptying
and the taking on
of our flesh
that was necessary
for your becoming
or was it merely
the truest expression
of who you really are

was it something
about the sharing
of our humanity
that made you perfect
a desired union that
only shared suffering
could accomplish

whatever the case
if you were made
perfect through suffering
how could we expect it
to be any different
for each of  us

help us to accept
your invitation
to allow suffering
to do its work
in our hearts
and souls as well

Friday, December 4, 2020

return

mark 13:32-37

when i return
what condition
will my house be in

will you be
running around
picking clothes
up off the floor

quickly trying
to do the dishes
or fix the broken
shutters

frantically stuffing things
into closets
and underneath
the beds

or will you be ready
for my return
because all along
you lived as if 
today were the day

Thursday, December 3, 2020

bridegroom

     matt. 25:6


will you be ready
when i come to you
today

for i am always
coming

will you have oil
for you lamp

will you be awake
and alert

will you come
out to meet me

or will you be
so consumed
by your own
issues and agendas
that you miss me
completely

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

light

you come
into our darkness
and we are finally
able to see

you illumine
and you uncover
you reveal
and you expose

by you we see
all that is beautiful
and all that is terrible

and we are invited
to become like you

Monday, November 30, 2020

coming

God has come.
God is continually coming.
God will come again.
This is the beauty of Advent.
Rejoice!

Sunday, November 29, 2020

ready

stay on your toes
sit on the edge of your seat
keep your lamp burning

keep an eye on the horizon
keep your ears open
for the knock at the door

live in a state
of perpetual readiness
for advent has begun

Saturday, November 28, 2020

rooted and established in love

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:17-18)

Rooted and established in love?  I have my moments, I suppose.  One minute I am able to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is his great love for me, and the next I lose track of it altogether, becoming just as convinced that I am totally and completely unlovable.  One minute I’m living my life so that I will be loved, and the next I’m living it because I already am.  It can be a bit of rollercoaster at times.

It all comes back to identity.  As long as I live as if my worth and value are up to me, I am in for a hell of a ride.  But when I can finally become convinced that my worth and value are set in stone by the unfailing love of God, it creates a rootedness.  My life becomes more durable and less at the mercy of mood and whim and circumstance.

Oh to be convinced of your great love for us.  Oh to grasp its heights and depths and breadth.  Oh to live a life that is rooted and established in that love.  That’s the life I truly long to live.  Help me, O Lord, to believe that it’s possible.

Thank you, O Lord, for your great love.  Thank you that it is wider and longer and higher and deeper than I could ever imagine.  Help me to sink my roots deep down into that unfailing love and care this day, so that I will not be moved by mood or whim or circumstance, but moved only by the power of your great affection.  Amen.

Friday, November 27, 2020

knowing his love

“And to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” (Ephesians 3:19)  

How is it possible to know a love that surpasses knowledge?  That is unless this type of knowing is different from the knowing we usually talk about.  Maybe the kind of knowing Paul is praying for goes far beyond mere cognition.  Maybe the kind of knowing he is talking about cannot be done with the head, but only with the heart.  Maybe it is the kind of knowing Moses wrote about when he said, “Adam knew Eve, and she conceived a son.” (Genesis 4:1) It is the most intimate kind of knowing possible.  It is like the silent embrace of two lovers.  It is a type of knowing that says, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine.” (Song of Songs 1:2) It is a knowing that can only be described by the intimacy and passion and union of husband and wife.  Maybe that’s the kind of knowing that surpasses knowledge.  Maybe that’s the kind of knowing that God wants for each of us—intimate union.  Maybe what God really wants is not merely for us to “know” he loves us, but for us to be seized by the power of his great affection.  Maybe he wants us to be so captured by the passionate torrent of his love that it changes everything about us.  Maybe this kind of knowing leads to an ecstasy that is beyond explanation.  If that’s the case, then you can sign me up!

O Lord, I want to know the love that surpasses knowledge.  Because I have a feeling that when I finally do know that love, it will turn me into a totally different person.  It will fill me so full of you that I simply won’t be able to contain myself, but will overflow with your life and your love onto everyone who crosses my path.  That’s the life I want, O God.  That’s the love I want.  Thank you that that’s the kind of life and love you want for me.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

keeping it real

“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’—and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5) 

It is amazing what living openly and honestly with ourselves, our God, and one another will do for us, if we are courageous enough to do it.  That’s why confession is so important; it does not lead to guilt and shame, but to freedom and joy.

But still we hide.  We hide our sin, we fail to acknowledge our weakness, and we cover up our flaws and our failures.  And, thus, we end up alone.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it so well: “Pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner.  So everyone must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship.  We dare not be sinners.  Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous.  So we remain alone in our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy.  The fact is that we are sinners!”  We live as prisoners in our own lives, not as those who have been redeemed and set free.  As one of my good friends once said: “God can’t help fake people, only real ones.”

So we must somehow learn to live real lives before ourselves, before one another, and before our God.  We must be willing to live from the truth of our inner being, whatever it may be.  We must be brave enough to put our real selves out there on a regular basis, and let our God and our friends get their hands, and their hearts, involved in our mess.  That is the only way it can ever be redeemed and transformed.  We must learn to keep it real.  That’s what confession is all about.  It is meant to help redeem and restore us.  It is meant to lead us to joy and freedom:  Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!”  So let’s start today! 

Help me, O Lord, to live a real life today, not a fake one.  Give me the strength and the grace and the courage to come out of hiding and live openly and honestly with you, with myself, and with my community.  For only then can I live in the joy and the freedom you created me for.  Amen.

Monday, November 16, 2020

a prayer to care

Forgive me, O Lord, for the things I care too much about—and the things I don’t.  Forgive me that I’m more concerned with being right than I am with being loving, I’m more concerned with being comfortable than I am with being compassionate, I’m more concerned with being liked than I am with being genuine, and I’m more concerned with my kingdom than I am with yours.  Lord, have mercy!

Help me to totally surrender myself to you, so that I will not be consumed with the petty and the passing, but will only care about the things that matter most to you.  

“Show me you ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.  Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from old.  Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord.” (Psalm 25:4-7)

Saturday, November 14, 2020

i am making

rev. 21:5

i am making
all things new 

not
have made

or even
will make

but am making

therefore
look for the new
i am making
both within
and around you

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

when you pass through the waters

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 despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”  Sounds like Aeschylus read Isaiah 43.

God never promised that we would not have to pass through the waters or walk through the fires of this life. (Isaiah 43:1-7) In fact, he promised just the opposite; he promised that we would.  But he did say that when the waters rise and the flames blaze, he would be with us.  He promised that the waters would not sweep over us and that the flames would not set us ablaze because we are precious and honored in his sight and he loves us.  Therefore, we do not have to live in fear.  God is trustworthy.  He is accomplishing something very good in us as a result of the waters and the flames; something that could be accomplished in no other way.  We might not be able to see it right now, but one day all of our pain and all of our sorrow and all of our suffering and struggling will be redeemed.  Thanks be to God!

Where are you passing through the waters or walking through the fires these days?  Where is God in the midst of it all?  Do you sense his presence?  What do you think he’s up to?

Thank you, O Lord, that when we pass through the waters, you will be with us.  Thank you that when we pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over us.  Thank you that when we walk through the fire, we will not be burned; the flames will not set us ablaze, because you are with us.  Give us the strength and the courage and the grace to believe that.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Watch and Wait


Don't forget Watch and Wait if you are looking for a good companion for yourself, your friends, your church, your staff, your small group, etc. for Advent and Christmas.  Advent begins on Sunday, November 29.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

wild abandon

There is a love that is filled with wild abandon.  It is the kind of love that throws caution to the wind.  The kind of love that holds nothing back.  The kind of love that takes a jar of costly perfume, breaks it, and pours every drop upon the head of Jesus. (Mark 14:1-9) It is a love that has no regard for self, a love that does not ask, “What’s in it for me?”  It is a love that cannot contain itself.  The kind of love that fills the heart to overflowing in such a way that it has no choice but to pour itself out on the One who is both the source and the object of that affection.

It is also a love that evokes a strong reaction from those looking on.  Those who wish they had the courage and the passion to do that very thing themselves, but were unwilling to do so.  Instead, they stand at a distance, they rebuke and hurl insults.  They comment and criticize.  If they cannot bring themselves up to a love that is so demanding and so complete, then they will just bring the lovers down.  These rebukers are the ones who are unwilling to let go, unwilling to abandon all, unwilling to love and be loved so fully and completely.  

The contrast is stark, and meant to invite each of us to consider our own love.  Do we love Jesus that way?  Are we willing to let go of all, no matter what the cost?  Are we willing to pour everything out, every single drop?  Are we so completely seized by the power of his great affection that we hold nothing back?  And is anything less really love at all?

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

God alone

It is no accident that, in the Hebrew, Psalm 62 begins with the words: “Only for God.”  Those words set the tone and the theme for the rest of the psalm—God alone.  For God alone, my soul waits in silence.  My soul finds rest in God alone.  He alone is my rock and my salvation.  Find rest, O my soul, in God alone.  Only when we are trusting in God alone will we be living the life God most wants us to live.

Unfortunately, most often we tend to live for God and, rather than God alone.  God and comfort, God and ease, God and work, God and success, God and my own tastes and preferences; the list is endless.  It is the and that causes many, if not most, of our problems.  In the words of A. W. Tozer: “In the and is our great woe.  If we omit the and we shall soon find God.”  For it is impossible to seek God and something else; it is impossible to follow Jesus and someone else.  We must eliminate the and.  Most of the spiritual journey involves moving from God and to God alone.  In fact, that is the definition of true freedom—moving from God and to God alone.  

So why do we keep holding on to the and?

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.

Friday, October 2, 2020

fear and love

“But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him. . . .” (Psalm 103:17)  

What an odd combination: love and fear.  Normally, we think about fear as the enemy of love (see 1 John 4:18), but that must not always be true.  For, time after time, particularly in the Old Testament, we are encouraged to fear the Lord.  In fact, we are told in the Proverbs that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Proverbs 9:10)  And here, in Psalm 103, we are actually told that the Lord’s great love is with those who fear him.  So there must be a type of fear that is not the enemy of love, but an intimate friend.  A fear that doesn’t drive love away, but actually increases and deepens it.

It is the kind of fear that John (the disciple whom Jesus loved) exhibited when he encountered the Living, Glorified, Eternal Jesus, whose face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance, in Revelation 1:16.  John’s response to seeing that Jesus was to fall down at his feet as though dead. (Revelation 1:17)  It is the kind of fear that Simon Peter voiced in the middle of a boat full of fish in Luke 5:8, when he said “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”  If is the kind of fear that sees the glory and the power and the bigness of our God.  It is the kind of fear that Job was overcome by after God showed up in power (in Job 40 and 41), asking Job a series of questions that he could not answer.  Job’s only response was: “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.  I therefore repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5) It is the kind of fear that actually makes love increase.  The kind of fear that shows us just how big and wonderful and powerful and glorious our God really is.

I am afraid that, all too often, we miss that kind of fear because we remove it from the picture.  We focus on the immanence of God, at the expense of his transcendence.  We focus only on the God who is with us, rather than also on the God who is high and lifted up.  We try to reduce God to our image, instead of remembering that we were made in his.  We get so comfortable with God that we tame him.  We remove the qualities and characteristics of God that scare us, or make us uncomfortable, in an effort to make him manageable and understandable.  We try to bring him down to our size, rather than allowing him to be the big and wild and free and holy and powerful and untamable God that he is.

Somehow we need to realize that fear and love are not an either or proposition, but a both and.  Somehow we need to recapture the glory and the awe and the magnificence of God’s transcendence, without sacrificing the beauty of his immanence.  Because this kind of fear is not the enemy of love, but its friend.

O Lord our God, high and holy, yet near and present, help us to honor both your transcendence and your immanence, as we come before you this day.  Thank you that somehow they are not enemies, but intimate friends; not opposites, but compliments.  Both of them help us to see a part of you that must always be seen, experienced, and acknowledged.  Give us the wisdom to know how to hold them together.  Amen.