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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 ...

Sunday, October 23, 2022

sometimes it takes a storm

Sometimes it takes a storm.  Maybe that’s why Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him. (Mt.14:22) It was eerily similar to the last time (Mt. 8:23-27), except this time he was not asleep in the bow of the boat but was nowhere to be found.  Could they still trust him, even if they could not see him?  The fact is that Jesus knew exactly what he was doing; he was about to grow their faith exponentially.  Unfortunately, faith rarely grows without chaos.

Jesus knew full well the intensity of the storm he was sending them into, but he also knew full well how profoundly he was going to meet them in the midst of it.  He did not cause the storm; it was simply the result of living in a fallen and broken world.  In this life, storms are going to come.  It’s inevitable.  But it was not the storm he was interested in, but the coming to them in the midst of it part.  He wanted them to know his grace and his power and his love and his provision in ways they could only know by having gone through it.

The only question was, would they really trust him, even when all hell broke loose?  Will you?

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

from rock to stumbling block

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23)

In a matter of seconds, Simon Peter went from rock to stumbling block—from helping people find the way, to being in the way.  Can you relate?  I certainly can.  There is a definite art to staying out of the way, an art that requires a good bit of wisdom, some silence and reflection, and a ton of humility.  And rule number one about staying out of the way is: it’s not about you.  When it becomes about me, I have moved, like Peter, from rock to stumbling block.

The problem is that sometimes it’s really hard for us to tell the difference between the two, because we are always a crazy combination of pure and impure motives.  There is a desire within us to see God’s kingdom advance, but there is also a desire to be the ones who are given the credit or recognition for advancing it.  And the ugly truth is that sometimes our own impure motives (to be needed, to be impressive, to be significant, etc.) are veiled underneath the guise of it all being about Him. 

There is a really fine line between helping people find the way and actually being in the way.  Which makes me wonder how often I actually become a stumbling block by asserting myself in a situation, or conversation, in such a way that I actually hinder what God is trying to do, rather than helping it.  When is it all about Him and when has it become far too much about me?

Here are a few signs I typically look for.  Yours may be a bit different, but these are pretty strong indicators for me: when I become too invested or start caring too much.  When I become too attached, too consumed, too possessive, or too tied to a certain outcome.  When I get too defensive, too opinionated, too certain, too sure, or too needy, those are always good indicators that it has become more about me than about God. Just like Peter, my agendas and opinions and insecurities can definitely get in the way of what God is up to.

What about you?  When can you tell you have moved from rock to stumbling block?

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

trying too hard

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

O Lord, give me the courage and the strength and the grace to:
Let go of the ways I try to feel significant or important
Stop doing things that are just a veiled attempt at climbing or jockeying
Stop trying to manipulate reactions, responses, or compliments out of people
Stop trying to make people think that I’m better than I am
Stop trying to win people’s attention or affection
Resist the desire to impress
Stop taking up all the space
Leave room for you

Friday, October 14, 2022

i am

The woman said, "I know that the Messiah is coming.  When he comes, he will explain everything to us."

Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:25-26)

One of the things you hear a lot from people is, “The first thing I’m going to do when I get to heaven is to ask God___________.”  I suppose we think that God somehow owes us some sort of explanation for the way things have happened in this life. 

But I think the conversation with the woman at the well, shows us that God is a lot more interested in offering us his presence than he is in offering us a bunch of explanations.  We ask for answers, and he gives us himself.  We say, “Well, what about___________?”  And he says, “I am.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

his eyes

“You are right when you say you have no husband.  The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you have right now is not your husband.  What you have said is quite true.” (John 4:17-18)

What do you think was the look in the eyes of the Savior as he uttered these words to this lost and thirsty woman?  Was it a look of disdain and judgment and disgust?  Or was it a look of compassion and longing and tenderness?  How you answer that question tells you so much about what you really believe to be true about God.  And that is significant. 

If we are consistent with the Jesus we see in the rest of the Gospels, I think it had to be a look of love.  Rarely did Jesus ever look at the lost and broken with a look of disdain, so I think it had to be a look of desire and of invitation and of delight.  Because I do not think he said these words to shame her, but to awaken her.  It was his way of saying to her, “You have not yet found your beloved, and he is the one standing right in front of you.”  Because more than anything else, the story of God is the story of a lover in constant pursuit of his beloved.  Do you believe that?  Do you believe it for this woman?  And do you believe it for yourself?  

What do you think the eyes of Jesus hold as they look at you?  How could it not be love?

Monday, October 10, 2022

just do it

“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

In the midst of chaos—evil men advancing and enemies attacking and armies besieging and war breaking out—David asks for one thing, and it’s probably not the one thing you would expect.  Instead of asking God to intervene, or make it all go away, he asks that he might “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”  He does not ask for his circumstances to change; he asks for his perspective to change.  He asks for his practice to change.  For he knows that if he can learn to dwell in God’s house and gaze upon God’s beauty and seek God in his temple, then everything else will take care of itself.  What a beautiful prayer! 

The only problem is that it’s really easy to talk about doing those things, and to write about them, and maybe even to pray them, without actually doing them.  Take it from me, I’ve become an expert.  There are many days when I pray this very prayer and think about its beauty and write about its wisdom and its depths, without actually taking the time to stop and dwell and gaze and seek.  And if I fail to actually do these things, they cannot bear fruit in my life.

G. K. Chesterton once said, “The difference between talking about prayer and praying, is the same as the difference between blowing a kiss and kissing.”  If we don’t actually do it, we never reap the benefits or taste the pleasures and treasures of intimacy with God.  Which is so sad for us, but even sadder for God.  God longs for us to know the depths and breadth and heights and passion and intimacy and pleasures of his unfailing love.

It’s almost like God is waiting for us to bask in his love and express our love for him in return, but all we do is talk about it or think about it or write about it.  We never really enter into it, so that he’s left saying, “Are you going to kiss me or what?  Are you going to dwell and gaze and seek, or are you just going to sit there?  Are you just going to think about it, or are you actually going to do it?  Don’t just talk about loving me, love me!  Just do it!