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Book of the Month: Schola Caritatis: Learning the Rhythms of God's Amazing Love

  Starting a new feature for the next several months called Book of the Month.  I will present one of my books and tell you a little of the ...

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

messengers

If you had an incredibly important message that you needed to share with the world, how would you go about it?  My guess is that you would start with the most credible, powerful, influential, and well-connected people you could find, right?  Well, that’s not at all what God did.  He did not start with the “influencers” of the world, but with just the opposite.  God chose shepherds (Luke 2:15-20): lowly, uneducated, irrelevant shepherds.  God chose the most ordinary, humble, lowly, outcast group he could find.  Which shouldn’t be surprising at all since God seems to always start with the fringe, rather than the popular crowd.  I wonder why?

Maybe he chose shepherds because they were the most open and willing and eager ones he could find.  Maybe because they would be the ones most likely to drop everything—including the sheep—at a moment’s notice and leave it all behind, in order hurry off and find the Newborn King.  I mean, Herod would not even leave the palace, right? 

Maybe God chose the shepherds because he knew they would not get in the way of what he was trying to do; they were to ones least likely to try and hijack, manipulate, control, or profit from what God was up to.  They had no agenda, no need to make an impact, no need to try and spin it or use it for their own gain.

Maybe the reason God chose shepherds was because they were the ones who were the most free: free to receive, free to respond, free to share the news in a way that it was not about them, but about God.  And that’s exactly what they did.  They found their friends and their families and their co-workers—not exactly the who’s who of Bethlehem—and told them exactly what they had seen and heard.  And the people were amazed.  God had entered human history in the most random, unassuming, covert way possible, and these would be the perfect ones to tell the world about it.

Monday, December 27, 2021

today

today in the town of david
a savior has been born to you
luke 2:11

there is a gift
in the present moment
if you are willing
and able to receive it

if the grip of
current demands
or past regrets
of future concerns
do not rob you of
the gift of today

today there is
good news
of great joy
for all people

so don’t miss it

Sunday, December 26, 2021

what lies within

The contrast is stark (Matthew 2:1-11).  On the one hand you have King Herod and “all Jerusalem with him” who were apparently troubled (ESV), disturbed (NIV), deeply perturbed (JBP), or terrified (MSG) by the birth of Jesus, depending on which translation you use.  The Greek word (tarassō) means to agitate, which gives the impression that, at the very least, they were threatened and disrupted somehow.  I wonder why?  Why would the birth of a baby bring about such a negative and insecure reaction?  Unless of course that baby was not just any ordinary baby.  Unless that baby, in fact, was the King of kings and Lord of lords.  If that’s who that baby was, then it might well have been something to turn their lives upside down.

On the other hand, you have the Magi, foreigners who had traveled a great distance, seeking the One the star was meant to lead them to.  The star was only a sign.  Thus, when they saw the star, let alone the child, they “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”  Their journey was almost over.  They had reached their destination.  They were finally about to find the One their hearts had been looking for and longing for and hoping for.  Thus, one word was not enough to capture the emotion of seeing that star in the night sky, so Matthew used four different words: they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

But surely others had seen the star as well, right?  Did they just not know what the star meant?  Or did they just not care?  Were they so busy spinning around in their own little lives that they didn’t take the trouble to venture a measly five-and-a-half miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to see from themselves?

But the Magi did.  In fact, they had traveled hundreds of miles, seeking whatever, or whoever, the star was leading them to.  Thus, the joy they were filled with when they finally arrived at their destination.  Then, upon seeing the child, another reaction took place—worship.  Worship happens when you stand in the presence of someone, or something, much bigger than yourself.  It is a feeling of awestruck wonder that fills your heart with awe and brings you to your knees.  And the “someone” they found when they arrived was the One who held the waters of the earth in the hollow of his hand, spoke the mountains into place, and called the stars by name.  So they fell down on their knees and worshiped the Newborn King.  They opened their treasures to him and offered him gifts of gratitude and affection and honor and praise.

There are many ways we can react to the birth of Christ, and Christmastide gives us the time and the space to do just that.  Not to pretend or fabricate or manufacture a response, but to reflect and to recognize and to discover what is honestly there—no guilt, no shame, no ought or should.  It’s just where you are.  And where you are is exactly where God wants to meet you, it’s what the incarnation is about in the first place.  If you are full of joy and gratitude, thanks be to God.  But if you are agitated or disrupted or troubled or disturbed, don’t deny it or try to hide it, just ask him why.  If you lack joy, don’t beat yourself up over it, tell him about it.  It’s not like he doesn’t already know that anyway.  Ask him for the strength and the grace and the courage to choose joy.  Ask him to give you his joy.  Ask him to fill your heart with life and love and hope and peace and joy.  He is the source of all of those—just ask the Magi.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

he came

“And the Word became flesh 
and made his dwelling among us.  
We have seen his glory, 
the glory of the One and Only, 
who came from the Father, 
full of grace and truth. 
(John 1:14)

He came! 
He really came! 
In spite of the darkness
and in spite of the lostness
and in spite of the brokenness,
He came! 

Can you imagine 
what your life
would be like 
if he had not?

Friday, December 24, 2021

setting the stage

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem, the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was great with child.  While they were there the time was fulfilled for the baby to be born.” (Luke 2:1-6)

Random events are almost never random; they often have God’s fingerprints all over them.  I mean, a census?  Really?  But then why else would a man drag his nine-month-pregnant wife, who is great with child, on a four-day, ninety-mile journey when she was about to pop?   

Probably because it wasn’t random at all; the stage was being set for a glorious unfolding.  All of the characters were being set in place for a script that had been written hundreds of years in advance (Isaiah 7:14) and had existed in the heart of God before the foundations of the world.  And now everyone was in place and just awaiting that one little word from the Master Director: “Action!”

How is God setting the stage in and around you, on this Christmas Eve, for his coming?  He is, you know!

Thursday, December 23, 2021

zechariah's gift

Can you imagine being Zechariah?  All of those years, all of those prayers, all of those hopes and dreams, and finally God answers and gives him the son he has been waiting for and longing for and hoping for. 

And now, as we stand with Zechariah as he sings this song over his newborn son (Luke 1:67-79), we know the end of the story.  We know what lies ahead.  We know the pain and the heartbreak that awaits him.  Zechariah’s sweet son, the one he sings this song of hope and redemption over, will be a lonely outcast, who lives in the desert, and is eventually beheaded.  Can you imagine?

I guess it is a little glimpse into what must’ve gone on in the Father’s heart as he sent his beloved Son to earth.  You see, God never asks us to do something that he, himself, is unwilling to do.  His heart is so full of love for us that there were no lengths that he would not go to—including sending his beloved Son into this dark and broken world as a newborn baby—in order to show us how fully and deeply and extravagantly we are loved.  

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

obedience

“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:20) 

You’ve got to admire Joseph.  He was put in such a tough spot.  Even though everything that was going on with Mary sounded absolutely preposterous, he was asked by God to trust and obey—and he did.  He was asked to believe that what was conceived in Mary was the work of God, whether he understood it or not; whether he agreed with it or not; whether the people around him thought he was doing the right thing or not.  He was asked to choose obedience over ease and popularity.

I get the sense that I should strive to do the same.  More and more, I find that I need to let God be God in people’s lives and just trust what he is up to, rather than trying to meddle, manipulate, or control it.  After all, he is God, and I am not.  He knows what he is doing and I need to honor that and trust in that.

Honestly, it is not an easy place to be, just ask Joseph.  I must be watchful, attentive, and prayerful as I venture in.  I must be careful to discern when and where and how he wants me to share my thoughts and opinions, and when and where and how he would rather me just keep my big mouth shut.; which can be both incredibly freeing and terribly frustrating, depending on whether it is all about me, or all about God and what he is up to in the life of the other.

Luckily, Joseph figured it out.  I need to learn how to follow his lead.    

 

Saturday, December 18, 2021

no room

“Because there was no room for him.”  (Luke 2:7)

Is that not one of the saddest lines in all of the Scriptures?  And, unfortunately, not much has changed in the last two thousand years.  We are still too full; and I don’t mean that in a good way.  Mostly, we are full of ourselves.  So full of ourselves, in fact, that there is no room for Jesus.

Thus, there is a making room that is necessary.  And making room for him does not happen automatically, it must be done intentionally.  Choices must be made.  We cannot say “yes” to everyone and everything.  We must say "no" to the things that keep us from being able to say "yes" to him.

Forgive us, Lord Jesus, when we allow our lives to get so full of our own plans and agendas and pursuits and distractions that we leave no room for you.  Help us to arrange our lives in such a way that busyness and hurry and rushing around are not our default mode of operation.  During this time and this season, teach us how to stop and be silent and make space for you to move and speak and act.  Amen.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

immaculate conception

whenever we encounter God
something is conceived in us

ours is but to receive it
and then to carry it within

to allow it the space
and the nurture
to grow into
what it is to become

Friday, December 10, 2021

when rest isn't rest

We live in a culture that has lost the ability to rest.  At best, we are oblivious to our need for it, and at worst, we are downright resistant to it.  In fact, in our culture there even seems to be a significant amount of shame attached to the concept of rest, which has huge implications for the quality and fruitfulness of our lives, as well as our work.  We are made in the image of the One who rested and calls us to do the same.  Thus, when we fail—or downright refuse—to rest, we tear away at the very image of God planted deeply within us.  We become far less than people he created us to be.

Part of the problem, it seems, comes from the fact that we have a flawed definition of rest in the first place.  How we define rest greatly affects how we practice rest.  Far too often the things we do in the name of rest are not really restful at all.  This is most likely the result of us defining rest as anything that is not defined as work.  Thus, travel and hobbies and recreational activity (and even yard work) are often defined as rest, when they are really nothing more than distraction or escape.  The things we do in the name of rest are as comical as they are tragic.  They are merely our own misguided attempts to do whatever we want to do, all in the name of getting some rest.  Sadly, this will never give our souls what they most desperately need.

Luckily, God comes to the rescue.  He gives us some great hints of what rest is, and what practicing rest looks like.  He uses two words to do that: šāa (stop) and nûa (settle in).  Thus, in order to rest the way God intended, we must learn how to stop and we must learn how to settle in. 

First of all, in order to really rest, we must stop.  Which is a huge problem because we don’t really know how to do that.  We are great at “go,” but we are terrible at “stop.”  Thus, any attempt to rest, while continuing to go, is doomed to failure.  And yet we do it all the time.  We have to learn how to stop.  In fact, we must start by stopping.  And this stopping doesn’t just involve our legs, but also our hearts and minds and souls.  Physical silence and stillness is the first step, because once we still our bodies, our hearts and minds and souls will eventually follow, but it takes some time and space. 

That’s where the second word comes in.  We don’t just have learn how to stop, but we also have to learn how to settle in to that stopping.  We have to learn how to remain stopped.  True rest takes a while, it cannot be done in a hurry.  There is no express lane or drive thru.  The only way for the soul to find rest is to learn how to remain stopped for a significant period of time.  It is in this settling in that we learn how to engage God and allow him to engage us.  It is the space where we learn how to turn our souls toward him, listen to him, and allow him to breathe the life-giving breath of his Spirit into us.

Once we are able to do those two things, God tends to do the rest: he moves, he speaks, he acts, he draws, he breaths, he renews, and he restores.  He is wonderfully faithful to do all of those things if we will just give him the room.  As Annie Dillard once said: “You don’t have to sit outside in the dark.  If however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary.  But the stars neither require nor demand it.”  Likewise, you don’t have to stop and settle into silence.  If however, you want to find rest for your soul, you will find that stopping and settling in are necessary.  But God neither requires nor demands it.  Or, as King David once said (sort of), “You don’t have to lie down in green pastures and sit beside still waters.  If however, you want to have your soul restored, you will find that they are necessary.”  It’s really up to us.   

Thursday, December 9, 2021

servants and stewards

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time?  It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.” (Matthew 24:45-46)

How easy it is in this life to forget the fact that we are not the owners of the “house” in which we live, but merely its servants and stewards.  And, as such, we have been given the responsibility to care for it until the real owner returns.  Once we recognize and acknowledge that fact, it should change the way we see (and do) everything.  Let us, therefore, live in such a way that we take good care of all that has been given to our care.

Help us to always remember, O Lord, that we are just servants and stewards.  We do not own this “house” we live in; we are merely given the responsibility of caring for it until you return.  Help us to do so diligently, tenderly, and faithfully.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

coming

“Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come.’” (Isaiah 35:4)

It is easy to lose hope in His coming if we have ignored, or been distracted from, the smaller ways He is constantly coming into our lives on a daily basis.  The hope of Him coming in fullness is nurtured and sustained by our recognition and experience of His coming into our everyday existence.  For He is always coming in some way, shape, or form; it's just who he is.  Our job is simply to pay attention.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

shine

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5, ESV)

I don’t know about you, but oftentimes the darkness within and around me feels pretty dadgum dark.  In fact, at times it is completely overwhelming.  But the beauty of the incarnation is that the Light has come into that darkness.  And no matter how dark the darkness is, or how dark the darkness becomes, it cannot and will not overcome the Light.

So shine, O Light, into our darkness, and give us the life and the joy and the hope and the peace that only you can give.

Monday, December 6, 2021

ripening

“Be on guard!  Be alert!  You do not know when that time will come.” (Mark 13:33)

What an interesting word choice.  Instead of the word chronos, which refers to time in terms of days or hours or minutes, Mark uses the word kairos, which refers to time in terms of fullness, rightness, or readiness.  Kairos is not a time that can be specifically determined by a clock, but a time that can only be determined by a thing’s ripeness.

Thus, during this season, when we are instructed to wait for the Lord, we are not doing nothing; we are actually doing the most important something that we can do.  We are making time and space for whatever God is doing within or around us to come to fruition.  We are ripening.  We are becoming all that we were intended to be.

So wait, Dear Ones, with patience and confidence, with courage and hope.  For God is at work in and through and around you, producing a harvest that is beautiful and bountiful.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

ludicrous

Ludicrous: causing laughter because of absurdity; ridiculous; laughable.

It’s impossible to read the story of the nativity without realizing how wonderfully bizarre the whole thing is.  I mean, who in their right mind would do it this way?  The answer?  God would.  Only God would come in such a way that it would leave us laughing in disbelief, just ask Sarah (Gen. 18:12). 

So when God chose to bypass Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip, Lysanias, Anna, and Caiaphas, to send his word to John, son of Zechariah, in the desert (Luke 3:1-3), there’s only one word for it—ludicrous.  God often acts in such a way, it seems, that the only appropriate response is to laugh and shake our heads in awestruck amazement.  God is not like man; he has a wild and wonderful imagination.  He is just as likely to sneak into his world as he is to make a grand entrance.  We just never know how or where or when—or through whom or to whom—he might show up, so we have to pay careful attention.  It certainly keeps us on our toes, if not on the edge of our seats.

So, during this season, we might do well to look for God in the ludicrous.  After all, that seems to be where he shows up more often than not.

O Lord, help us to look for you in the ludicrous.  For if we do not, we are likely to miss your coming.

 

Saturday, December 4, 2021

savor

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.” (Psalm 130:5)    

It seems to me that there are two ways of looking at waiting for the Lord.  We can either look at it as an opportunity to savor, or as an obstacle to endure.  We can believe that God is present and active and at work in the midst our waiting, or we can believe that he is not.  One feels really hopeful and one does not.  One leads to trusting the Lord and the other leads to trusting ourselves.  So which will it be?

During this season, where we are asked to embrace this posture of waiting, let’s not miss what God is up to in us and around us as a result.  Let’s choose to savor Him in everyone and everything.

Friday, December 3, 2021

oil

“Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.” (Matthew 25:8)

No one else can live your spiritual life for you.  No one else can read your Scriptures, no one else can offer your prayers, and no one else can engage with God in the silence and stillness of your own heart.  You must do it, or it will not be done.  

Those around you can encourage you to have oil of your own, but, ultimately, whether or not you have any when the time comes is completely up to you.  No one else can give you their oil; you are responsible for that yourself.  So make sure you have enough, even if the bridegroom is a long time in coming.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

prepare

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” (Luke 3:4)

Prepare is an interesting word.  It usually conjures up images of running around in a million directions, trying to get all of your ducks in a row.  But if you break it down, the word prepare might just mean something different than what we think.  The first part, pre, obviously means beforehand.  And then pare means to remove or reduce by cutting; to diminish or decrease.  So rather than creating a long list of what needs to be done, it’s actually more about reducing things to what is most important.  It involves being focused on the one thing, rather than being distracted by the many things.  It involves living life in a certain way, rather than doing a whole bunch of random things.  It involves living in a state of perpetual preparedness in which the things that we do naturally and organically flow out of what God is doing within us.   

That definitely seems to be the kind of preparedness that’s called for during the season of Advent.  A preparedness that involves cutting more things out, rather than adding more things on.  A preparedness that involves sitting at his feet and listening to what he has to say, instead of running around like a crazy person, trying to get things done.  A preparedness that involves doing less, rather than doing more.  A preparedness that is more about subtraction, than it is addition.

Which begs the question: What do I need to cut out in order to be prepared for His coming?

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

burn

luke12:35

keep your lamp burning
tend and nurture the flame
of the Spirit that dwells
deep within you

it will light the way
for you and for others

don’t ignore it
don’t neglect it
don’t let it wane
don’t let it go out

don’t allow the cares
of this life to extinguish
the light and life within you

pray continually
make space and time
pay careful attention
watch and wait

this is how
we stay ready
for his coming


O Lord, help me to never neglect or ignore the flame within.  It is your very life within me.  Help me, by your grace, to keep my lamp burning, so that your light illuminates my heart, as well as your world.  Amen.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

gratitude

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Gratitude is not a feeling, it is a choice.  It is a way of seeing, and then a way of being.  It is a way of looking at life that recognizes that everything is a gift.  It is a way of trusting that even in the most challenging of circumstances there is something to be grateful for.  God is still at work.  That’s why Paul reminds us to “give thanks in all circumstances.”  In fact, that is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus.  God’s will is not for us to complain and ask “why” and get frustrated and angry about the things in this life that we can’t control, it is an invitation to find him and his goodness in the midst of them.

Unfortunately, that is not always easy to do.  Sometimes we let our circumstances get the best of us.  Sometimes we let our circumstances turn us into the worst possible version of ourselves: frustrated, angry, and entitled.  In fact, one of the biggest enemies of gratitude is entitlement.  Entitlement does not see everything as a gift that should be received, but as a right that must be possessed and defended, which, seemingly, makes loving each other an impossibility.

So let’s choose gratitude instead of entitlement.  Let’s make each day an opportunity for joy and thanksgiving, because joy is the fruit of gratitude.  As a wise saint once said, “Gratitude makes the heart great.”  So let’s make each day great.

Give us, O Lord, a heart of gratitude, rather than a spirit of entitlement.  Help us to see that all of life is a gift to be received and not a right to be possessed and defended.  Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 13, 2021

keep watch

My guess is that one of the main reasons the angels came to the lowly shepherds was because they were the ones “keeping watch.” (Luke 2:8-15) It was an art they were well-practiced in; such an integral part of their everyday lives.

Keeping watch is so important in the spiritual life.  Yet, it is not as easy as it seems.  Oftentimes, our expectations of what we will see, or how, where, or when we will see it, get in the way.  We are busy looking for one thing, when God is doing another.  We are expecting him to make a grand entrance, when he is trying to sneak in the back door.  He is often more quiet and hidden and subtle than we give him credit for.

I mean, who in their right mind would expect God to come into his world as a baby?  Yet that’s exactly what he did.  So if we are trying to “keep watch” over these next days or weeks or months, we might do well to look for God to come in the ways we least expect.

Teach us, O Lord, to keep watch for your coming.  For you are likely to come in a way that we least suspect.  Amen.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

the fruit of humility

oh humility
do your
good work
in me

set me free
from self
and teach me
how to love

Friday, November 5, 2021

below

rise above

is not the
way of jesus
but stoop below

freedom comes
from forgetting
about self
completely

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

not shaken

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 62:5-6)

I am continually amazed at how fragile my sense of well-being and identity can be.  The least little comment, or lack thereof, can throw me into a bit of a spin.  How I long for a greater durability, a rootedness that is not dependent on mood, whim, or circumstance.

That’s where the words of this ancient prayer are such a great companion.  They remind me that if I am easily shaken, it is most likely because my soul is not resting in God alone.  And, thus, they re-center me and allow me to set my feet, once again, on the rock of his unfailing love.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

listening

“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.  Therefore consider carefully how you listen.” (Luke 8:17-18)

Listening is so important in the spiritual life.  But, unfortunately, it is a bit of a lost art.  That’s probably because, in our day and age, silence and solitude have been replaced by noise and hurry and busyness.  Listening requires time and space.  It requires stillness and silence and solitude.  How can we ever hope to hear anything from God if we never stop, shut up, and pay attention to him? 

The reason listening is so important is because how we listen and what we hear have so much bearing on what we believe and how we live.  What we truly believe determines how we act; and who and what we listen to almost always determines what we really believe.  Living falsely is almost always the result of believing things that are not true.

Thus, if we are really listening, then things will be disclosed, made know, and brought out into the open, no matter how hard we try to deny or escape them.  No matter how hard we try to hide and conceal them.  Listening is the place where we open ourselves up to the voice of God—the voice of truth.  And abiding in his truth is how we are set free.

So many voices, Lord, so many voices—both around and within.  It gets really confusing.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell who is really telling me the truth; and even harder to tell where I have come to believe things that are just not true.  Help me, O Lord, to listen to your voice.  Help me to pay careful attention to how I listen to you, so that I can know the truth that will set me free.  Amen.

Friday, October 29, 2021

false ways

“Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate very false way.” (Psalm 119:104, ESV) 

The ability to see falseness, in whatever form it takes—particularly within ourselves—is so important in the spiritual journey.  Because it is easy for us to live falsely and not even recognize it.  And, as with most things, the best way to be able to recognize the false is to mediate on the true.  When we are constantly mediating on the truth, it increases our capacity and ability to recognize the false.

O Lord, help me to see my false ways today.  And help me to walk, instead, in your truth.

 

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

autonomy and authority

“When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests and Levites.  It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left.” (Deuteronomy 17:19-20)

Autonomy [aw-ton-uh-mee] – independence, as of the will or one’s actions; self-government; subject only to its own laws.

Authority [uh-thawr-i-tee] – a power or right delegated or given.

All too often I think we equate freedom with autonomy, when that is really not the case at all.  Freedom is not about total autonomy; freedom is the ability to thrive and flourish under the proper authority. 

Even the king of Israel was not given total autonomy, he was God’s servant to his people.  That’s why he was instructed to put himself under the authority of God’s word and God’s law by keeping it with him, by reading it constantly, and by following it carefully all of the days of his life.  For when a leader is not under authority, he has a tendency to go astray, either to the right or to the left.  He starts to look after his own interests, rather than those of the people under his care.  He puts himself above the law and, thus, above all of those who are under that law.  He becomes full of himself, impressed his own observations, enamored by his own wisdom, inspired by his own voice, and seduced by his own power.  He becomes his own authority, which is never good.

Leadership in God’s kingdom, however, is meant to be much different than that.  It is a life under authority.  Leadership in God’s kingdom is not a life of isolation, but of community.  It is not a life of power, but of humility.  Not a life of taking, but of giving.  Not a life of becoming more, but of becoming less.  It is not a life of independence, but of dependence. 

So be very careful of the seduction of autonomy, it is a dangerous thing.  It is one of the surest ways to get lost in this life, without not even knowing it.

Monday, October 25, 2021

deceit

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man whose iniquity the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. (Psalm 32:1-2, NIV) 

We are indeed blessed when we come to realize that our transgression are forgiven, our sins are covered, and the Lord no longer counts our iniquity against us.  The cross has taken care of all of that once and for all—past, present, and future.  But what about the part that says we are blessed when we have no more deceit in our spirits?  That’s a little more difficult.  I mean, how in the world do we rid our spirits of deceit?  That seems like a tall order. 

The essence of deceit (rmîyâ) is living falsely.  It isn’t just about telling a lie; it’s about living one.  It’s about presenting a false front.  It’s about trying to make people believe we are better, or different, than we really are.  It is about manufacturing an appearance that is not true.  We do it all the time; every minute of every day.  We do it when we posture and pose.  We do it when we hide and conceal.  We do it when we conform and camouflage.  And we do it when we masquerade and pretend.  We do it when we jockey and perform.  Trying to create ourselves, rather than become ourselves is a great temptation.  And it can become so subtle, so second-nature to us, that we do not even notice it.

That’s why the words to this ancient prayer are so helpful.  Only God can rid our hearts and lives of deceit.  Only God can show us when we are being false rather than true, fake rather than real.  Only God can help us to become who he made us to be, but it takes a relentless openness and attentiveness to his word and his Spirit in the silence and solitude of our won hearts and souls.  It takes constant prayer and reflection and confession and repentance.  It is an ongoing battle, but one that is worth the time and effort, because at the end of it all lies a life that he calls blessed.

What bliss belongs to the one whose rebellion has been forgiven, those whose sins are covered by blood.  What bliss belongs to those who have confessed their corruption to God! For he wipes their slates clean and removes hypocrisy from their hearts. (Psalm 32:1-2, TPT)

Saturday, October 23, 2021

taking possession of the land

A large part of the spiritual journey, it seems, is learning what it means to take possession of that which we have already been promised. God promised a land to the people of Israel.  It was a land that was beautiful and abundant and fruitful.  It was a land that represented his goodness and his peace and his presence.  It was a land where they could grow and flourish and prosper.  And yet, for so many years, and for so many reasons, they simply failed to take possession of it.

So God spoke to Joshua and encouraged him to lead the people of God into the land he had promised them. (Joshua 1:1-9) He told him three separate times to “be strong and courageous” and not let anything, or anyone, deter or dissuade him.  Because taking possession of this land, even though God had promised it to them, would be no easy matter.  In fact, it would not happen without a fight.

Which sounds a little odd to me, that they would have to fight in order to take possession of something God had promised them.  But that’s just the way life with God is.  As Richard Foster so beautifully reminded us, “It will not just fall on our heads.”  We will have to arrange our lives in certain ways, if we ever hope to experience the depth and the fullness and the richness and the wholeness of the life God made us for. 

The question is, are we up for it?  Are we willing to fight for that life?  Are we willing to do whatever it takes to experience the love and the joy and the peace and the presence God made us for?  It will not come easy, but it will definitely be worth it.

Lord God, give us the courage and the strength and the grace to fight for the life you want for us.  Help us to never, out of fear or discouragement or apathy, settle for less than the life and the love you made us for.  Amen.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Advent 2021 is coming

 


Advent 2021 begins on Sunday, November 29.  If you are looking for a good companion for yourself, your family, your small group, your staff, your church, your volunteers, or your friends then Watch and Wait might be just what you are looking for.  Don't wait till the last minute.  

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

real

when people are buying
what you’re selling
it’s easy to get seduced
into believing that all is well
when it’s really not

pretense always makes  you
the worst version of yourself
because it’s not really you at all
but merely a fabrication and an illusion
someone who does  not actually exist

at some point real has become
nothing more than a growing
proficiency in image management
and manipulation




Continue to make me, O Lord, into the person you want me to be.  Forgive me for trying to make people believe I’m better than I am.  The only good in me is because of you.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

divergence and convergence

Divergence and convergence.  Two important, and really underrated, concepts as far as the life of the Spirit is concerned.  One involves a growing apart, while the other involves a coming together.  One consists of differing paths, while the other consists of adjoining ones.  One involves dissonance, and the other consonance; one harmony, and the other disharmony.  One often requires a letting go, while the other requires a taking hold.  I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

It is often with these subtle, almost imperceptible movements, that the Spirit of God attempts to lead and guide and direct us.  Which means we must be in constant prayer.  We must pay careful attention to the very ebb and flow of his currents, both within and around us.  If not, we might miss what he’s up to; for God’s nudge is ever so gentle at times. 

Thus, it is imperative that we keep a lookout for the ways and the people and the places where life and love and growth and fruitfulness and freedom are bubbling up within and around us, so that we may join with him in those.  And it also means that we must pay careful attention to those ways and people and places where just the opposite is happening.  The places where there seems to be a growing distance, either spiritual, emotional, or physical.  The places where differing goals or desires or passions or paths are trying to communicate a need for a reorientation of some sort.  Or maybe even a letting go (even if it's just a letting go of expectations and demands), if that is what God is calling us to.

So let me ask you, where are you noticing divergence and convergence within or around you?  And what is God trying to say to you through that?  Are there ways he is asking you to let go?  And are there ways he is inviting you to take hold?  These questions can be a great help as you seek to know his will and his ways.

Friday, October 8, 2021

prayer is the first thing

Sometimes we forget, in the midst of the pain and chaos and need of the world around us, that our primary role is to pray—to stand in the gap between God and men, and beg for his mercy. (Genesis 22:16-33) Sadly, all too often prayer is the last thing we do, instead of the first.  I guess that’s pretty telling.

If the lives of the saints have taught us anything, it’s that the first movement of ministry is always toward God, not toward man.  He alone can save, we cannot.

O Lord, apart from you, we can do nothing.  And apart from you, this world has no hope.  Help us to be willing to stand in the gap and beg for your mercy.  Amen.