Wednesday, September 30, 2020

My Newest Book


JUST RELEASED!!!  Been working on this book for a number of years and glad it is finally available on Amazon.  Schola Caritatis: Learning the Rhythms of God's Amazing Love
It contains the stories, practices, and content of the Spiritual Formation class I've been teaching for the last 10+ years.  Spread the word!!!

Monday, September 28, 2020

afraid to be loved

What if the main reason we fail to love God as we ought is because we are afraid to be fully loved by him?  The scriptures make it clear that we love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19), so our love for him can only be a reflection of and response to our own first-hand knowledge of his divine love for us.  Thus, if we fail to encounter and experience God’s love fully, then we will fail to love him fully in return.

But why on earth would we be afraid to experience the passion, depths, and delight of God’s extravagant love?  Who knows?  Maybe it’s too intense.  Maybe we are afraid it will be too much for us.  As a dear friend of mine once said, “If God was any more intimate with me, I don’t think I could stand it.”  Or maybe it’s too demanding.  Maybe it requires something of us that we are not sure we will be able to give.  That kind of love can only be experienced through total surrender and wild abandon.  Unfortunately, surrender and abandon have never been our strong suit.  Or maybe it’s all about control.  Maybe our hesitation to be fully loved by God has more to do with the fact that his love just puts us so out of control.  As a friend and mentor used to pray, “O Lord, I want to know the depths of your delight and affection, but please promise to be gentle with me.”    

We want passionate intimacy with God, but it also kind of scares us.  We are drawn to it and hesitant of it at the same time.  Yet, our only hope of ever being able to love God as we ought, lies in us opening ourselves up to being fully loved by him.  It will come only when we are able to truly pray, “Here I am, O Lord, have your way with me.”

O Lord, unless I let you fully love me, I will never be able to fully love you.  Give me the courage and the grace and the strength to let you have your way with me.  Amen.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

the refusal to rest

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

I have a sneaking suspicion that the reason we do not experience the rest that Jesus offers is because we simply refuse to do so.  I don’t know, maybe it’s pride, maybe it’s fear, maybe it’s need, maybe it’s control, or maybe it’s all of the above, but for some reason we consistently refuse the rest that God calls us to. 

Just look at the scriptures.  “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.’” (Isaiah 30:15) Or, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’ But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’” (Jeremiah 6:16) Or, “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.  Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:11)

But why on earth would we refuse to enter into God’s rest?  I think Matthew 11:28-30 holds a bit of a clue.  In order to enter into God’s rest we must first come to him, which few of us seem to have a problem with, and then we must take his yoke upon us, which is much more difficult.  That’s because we can’t take on his yoke, until we have taken off our own, whatever it may be.  That seems to be where the refusal comes in, we are simply unwilling to take off our own yoke in order to take on the light and free and well-fitting yoke of Jesus.  Therefore, we are forever burdened and weary and exhausted from continually trying to do it ourselves.

Basically it all comes down to trust.  Do we really trust that God is enough for us, and that he will give us everything we need?  Love, affirmation, significance, security, etc.  And do we really believe that God is wise enough and loving enough and powerful enough to take care of things without us?  Or maybe that’s the issue, maybe we are terrified that he will.  Who knows?

Whatever the case, each of us must face our own resistance to God’s rest, as well as our refusal to enter into it.  And after we face it, we must name it.  Then we must repent of it.  We must be willing to take off our own yoke and take on his.  Otherwise, we will never experience the rest and the peace and the wholeness he created us for.

Lord Jesus, why on earth would I every refuse to enter into your rest?  Yet I do.  Maybe it is because I’m so afraid of what will happen if I stop.  But my real fear, I suppose, should be what will happen if I don’t.  Lord, have mercy.  Amen.

 

Saturday, September 26, 2020

and yet another new book



My latest book is now out on Amazon.  It is a twenty-one day contemplative journey through the Gospel of John.  Would be great for a group of folks to go through together.  Here's the link: Into the Heart of God

Friday, September 18, 2020

be free

Don’t give fear, anxiety, and insecurity the power to steal your joy, your laughter, and your freedom today.  “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” 

Fear, anxiety, and insecurity are some of the main predators of the spiritual life.  They will eat up all of your joy and your life and your freedom if you let them.  Don’t let them; that’s the key.  It’s why Paul tells the Galatians to “Stand firm.”  You are not powerless in this struggle.  You have the Spirit of God living within you. 

Lord Jesus, give me the strength and the grace and the courage to stand firm whenever something, or someone, tries to rob me of my joy and laughter and freedom.  You desire me to live freely, and you give me the power to do so.  Help me to live in that truth.  Amen.       

Thursday, September 17, 2020

it is finished

If “It is finished” the way Jesus says it is (John 19:30), then why do I tend to live as if it is not?  Why do I continue to live with the feeling that somehow I still have to earn God’s favor?  Why do I still live as if my value and my worth were still up for grabs?  Why do I continue to live my life desperately trying to prove that I am worth loving?  Why do I continue to allow fear and insecurity and anxiety to control me and rob me of joy and freedom?  Why do I still live so much of my life out of need, rather than out of love?

If “It is finished,” then all of this has already been settled.  Everything is just grace and gratitude.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that it really is finished.  Help me to live in the joy and freedom of that truth today.  Amen.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

say yes to love

In biblical times, marriages were basically arranged.  But the participants did have some say in the final outcome.  If the groom-to-be was on board with the arrangement, he would go to his future bride’s house and offer her a cup of wine.  It was his way of saying, “I choose you.”  And if the bride was also in agreement with the arrangement, she would then drink the wine, basically saying, “And I choose you.”

After that, the groom would then go back to his father’s house and begin to build a room onto it, where he and his new bride would live.  When all the work was finally completed, the father of the groom would give the okay and the groom-to-be would then make his way back to his future bride’s house.  At that time the bridesmaids, who had been watching and waiting for the groom’s return, would announce his coming.  Then the bride-to-be would go out to meet her groom and everyone would process back to the groom’s house where the wedding feast would begin.

One of the really beautiful parts of this whole process was what the groom would say at his proposal, after the wine had been offered and accepted.  He would say, “Bride to be, in my Father’s house there are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am.”

These are the very words Jesus chose to use in order to tell his followers what one day awaited them—a celebration.  A wedding feast.  You see, God wants intimate union with us.  Union so deep that only the delights of marriage can begin to capture it.  He wants more than just a dutiful, distant relationship.  He wants passion.  He wants longing.  He wants unbridled affection.  That is the kind of life God wants both for and with each of us.  All we have to do is say, “I do.”  All you have to do is say yes to love.  

(from my new book Into the Heart of God: A Journey with Jesus through the Gospel of John, which will hopefully be out in the next few weeks.) 

Friday, September 11, 2020

what is your why

What is your why?  Have you ever stopped to think about that?  Have you ever stopped to consider why it is that you do the things you do?  Whys matter.  They really matter.

Just look at Jesus. (John 13:1-17)  He was getting ready to leave this world.  He was staring at loneliness, abandonment, betrayal, sorrow, suffering, torture, and even crucifixion.  Of all the times when it might seem appropriate, or at least understandable, to do something for yourself, to be motivated by need, he was still thinking of others.  He still chose to be motivated by love. 

All power and all authority had been given to him by the Father, so he set it aside.  He chose to put a towel around his waist, pour water into a basin, and stoop down to wash the disciples’ feet.  Why on earth would he do such a thing?  How on earth could he do such a thing?  The answer to the first question is because of love.  And the answer to the second is because he didn’t need anything from them.  Therefore, he was totally free to love and to serve. 

And the scary thing is that he calls each of us to do the same.  Oh, not merely to wash feet, although that very well may be part of it, but to be free from need in order to love, whatever form that may take.  You see, freedom is not just the ability to do whatever we want to do, it is the ability to become all that we were meant to be—to live and to love the way God intended.

So let’s begin to pray to that end.  Let’s pray that God would give us the strength and the grace and the courage to let our why be love, instead of need.  After all, if it was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for us.  Right?

Lord Jesus, help me to be like you.  Help my why always to be love.  Amen.

 

Sunday, September 6, 2020

it all starts with abiding

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32, ESV)

Believe it or not, the first step towards freedom is abiding.  If we ever have any hope of living a life that is whole and free, it will be because we have learned to abide in Jesus and in his truth.  If it is, in fact, the truth that sets us free, then we better get so familiar with the truth that it simply becomes a part of who we are.  Otherwise, we will constantly be blown around by every wind of opinion and agenda that comes along—and, believe me, there are a lot of that these days.

You see, truth is not relative, it is absolute.  If it were relative, then there would be no truth at all, only anarchy.  Jesus knew that.  And he knew the connection between truth and freedom.  Contrary to popular opinion, freedom does not come from determining our own truth—which is not truth at all—but by living in line with the truth from which, and for which, we were made. 

Thus, Jesus is the truth (see John 14:6), and as we abide in him, and abide in his word, we get to know what the Truth really is.  And then that truth sets us free.  But it all starts with abiding.  If I do not abide in him, and in his word, then I will never know the truth of his divine love and care and delight, and I will never experience the freedom for which I was made.