A Peanut Update for January 2023

It’s been a while since I gave an update on my cat Peanut, who is 5 going on 6 and still a whole lot of fun.

She still loves her naps early and often. She prefers to be awake as little as possible and views those rare times of consciousness as very annoying, as you can see by the above picture.

She also prefers to be underneath a blanket or covers of some kind. If you ever find a cat-shaped lump in the bed, most likely it’s Peanut doing her undercover thing. I really think since it’s winter, she’s doing her best to hibernate until it gets warmer.

She also still loves her belly rubs. There are not many felines that will allow you to touch the sacred tummy without getting attacked, but she actually likes it. She will roll over as a kind of invitation for the belly rubs and gets a little put out when you stop prematurely.

Her name is Peanut, and she’s definitely living her best life now.

Eden in the Everyday

It’s easy to spot God in the spectacular moments that feel like the pages of Scripture coming to life in real time, but it’s harder to keep your focus in the middle of dishes and diapers and the daily grind.

It’s not the crises that derail us as much as the monotony of the mundane and the clamor of a multitude of things that vie for our attention and affection.

But if you want to see God in your everyday, look in the small details. Learn to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Make your worship as much about doing dishes and taking out the trash as singing praise choruses.

While in once sense Eden was lost when Adam and Eve fell, in another Eden is wherever and whenever we meet God and hear Him speaking life to us. Eden is where God never stops looking for us as much as we sometimes want to hide from Him.

Lord, help me to practice the art of remaining in Your presence no matter where I am. Help me to remember that you are never far from those who seek You in faith.

Don’t Forget Your Blessings

I remember seeing a picture of someone from an impoverished part of the world who had plastic soft drink bottles tied to their feet for shoes. That image blew my mind and broke my heart at the same time. There I was probably wishing I had newer more comfortable shoes and so many around the world would give anything to have my old worn-out shoes. Or any shoes for that matter.

I also remember reading a post that also wrecked my world in the best possible way. It said that someone out there would give absolutely anything to have one of your bad days. I keep forgetting that if I had a meal today, if I had access to clean water, if I had more than one change of clothing, if I had a roof over my head, then I am considered rich by global standards.

The culture we live in thrives on forcing people into comparison and envy. The idea is that your neighbor put in a pool, so now you need to put in a bigger pool. Your friend bought a truck, so now you need a truck with a bigger engine. You need to keep up with those enigmatic Joneses if you want to be successful.

But if you woke up today, you’re blessed. If you took a deep breath unassisted by machines, you’re blessed. If you could dress and feed yourself, you’re blessed. If you have a place to live, a job, a car that works semi-regularly, and people who love you, you’re rich in blessings.

Don’t let comparison be the thief of your joy. Don’t let envy blind you to your blessings. The key to seeing more of God in your world is thanksgiving. The way to experience more of your blessings is gratitude for the ones you already have.

A Benediction for the Week

Where you are in life is not a mistake. God has you there for a reason.

It’s easy to complain and look for a way out of what you feel is a bad situation. It’s easy to want to quit.

But it’s better to look for how God is using this present circumstance to refine you and mold you and shape you and make you more like Jesus.

It’s easy to blame everyone else for your current predicament.

But it’s better to look for the people God has placed in your path as those who need to see God’s love exhibited through you. They need to see what you profess to believe lived out in real time.

The best part is that God never asks you to be anywhere or do anything unless He first empowers you to be there and do it. That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in. That’s where your willingness and availability meet God’s opportunity and a blessing is born.

Cultivating and Waiting

“Cultivate the greatest confidence that, though you cannot see into your heart, God is working there by His Holy Spirit. Let the heart wait at times in perfect silence and quiet; in its hidden depths God will work. Be sure of this, and just wait on Him. Give your whole heart, with its secret workings, into God’s hands continually. He wants the heart, and takes it” (Andrew Murray).

It takes discipline to wait well. To wait in God’s way is not to do nothing, like sitting idly by the phone waiting for it to ring with a job offer or a proposal. It’s living your life, looking for how God is working in the world, and obeying what you already know. It’s preparing yourself to be ready with no hesitations or hindrances for when God’s call does come.

Above all, waiting is a continual act of surrender. The old joke about living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off of the altar. You have to keep putting your heart back on the altar, in God’s hands, to do with what He wants and wills. In no other place is it safe or secure.

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you” (Romans 12:1-2, The Message).

Stay Our Mind

“If we wait till we have clear enough vision to see the expected end before we stay our mind upon Him who is our Strength, we shall miss an opportunity that will never come again: we shall never know the blessing of the unoffended. Now is the time to say, ‘My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed. I will sing and give praise,’ even though as we say the words there is no sense of exultation” (Amy Carmichael).

Faith means not knowing and trusting anyway. It’s being certain in the midst of uncertainty without knowing how everything will resolve. It’s knowing the end result but not how you will get there.

I love the idea of staying your mind on God. To me, it means you cease striving and working out every possible scenario in your head. To stay your mind is to release the illusion of control and have the simple faith of a child, knowing everything will work out for good.

May we choose every day to stay our minds on God and not on our circumstances or our problems.

Something Cool from C. S. Lewis

“When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory, or rather that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch. For you must not think that I am putting forward any heathen fancy of being absorbed into Nature. Nature is mortal; we shall outlive her. When all the suns and nebulae have passed away, each one of you will still be alive. Nature is only the image, the symbol; but it is the symbol Scripture invites me to use. We are summoned to pass in through Nature, beyond her, into that splendour which she fitfully reflects.

And in there, in beyond Nature, we shall eat of the tree of life. At present, if we are reborn in Christ, the spirit in us lives directly on God; but the mind and, still more, the body receives life from Him at a thousand removes—through our ancestors, through our food, through the elements. The faint, far-off results of those energies which God’s creative rapture implanted in matter when He made the worlds are what we now call physical pleasures; and even thus filtered, they are too much for our present management. What would it be to taste at the fountainhead that stream of which even these lower reaches prove so intoxicating? Yet that, I believe, is what lies before us. The whole man is to drink joy from the fountain of joy. As St. Augustine said, the rapture of the saved soul will ‘flow over’ into the glorified body” (C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory).

In other words, the best is yet to come.

Here I am, Lord

“Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord” (Acts 9:10, ESV).

A lot more people are probably familiar with the Apostle Paul than they are with Ananias. If anything, when they hear the name Ananias, they immediately think of Sapphira and both of them falling down dead after lying to the church and to the Holy Spirit. I’m guessing that Ananias was a fairly common name, because this ain’t him.

This Ananias is the one that God chose to go and find Saul, also known as Paul, and be the one God used to heal Paul’s blindness. If you know the story, you know he had objections. This was the man who was doing everything he could to stop the early church, up to arresting them and having them killed. Now he was going to be one of the new leaders in the church?

Ananias could have said no. He could have been disobedient and gone about his normal life. He might have had a very ordinary and comfortable existence. But he said, “Here I am, Lord.”

I think of two other places where people said something very similar. I think of Samuel, a young boy living with the high priest Eli, hearing God’s call for the first time. I think about Isaiah, God’s prophet, called to testify to God’s people and to call them to repentance.

It’s a short prayer. It’s also a dangerous prayer. It means I give up my own plans and desires to do whatever God asks and go wherever God asks. It means total and complete surrender up to and possibly including laying down my life for the sake of the gospel.

It’s also the most freeing prayer. It means that I am making myself available to see God at work in and through me. It means that I get a front row seat at what God will do to move mountains with my simple mustard seed faith.

May that be our prayer.

Here I am, Lord. Send me.

Praying for Harvest Church

“It is with extremely heavy hearts that we share the news of the passing of Bill Garner, Steve Tucker, Tyler Patterson and Tyler Springer.

All were beloved members of Harvest Church and their loss currently leaves us without the proper words to articulate our grief.

As of our last report, Kennon Vaughan is in stable condition in a Texas hospital.

We ask for your prayers and kindly request that the families of all involved are given the proper space to grieve at this time.

We will provide more information as it is received.

We covet your prayers.

The worship center will be open from 6:30 to 8:30pm to gather for a time of prayer and mourning with Harvest elders, staff and fellow members.

‘But we do not want you to be uniformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others who have no hope.’ – 1 Thessalonians 4:13″

I saw this post earlier today and ever since then my heart has been heavy. I can’t begin to comprehend what these church members are experiencing and feeling right now, especially those family members. It’s just too much.

I know that one of them was the lead pastor, one was an executive pastor, and I believe the other two were elders. I know that all of them died except the pastor, who is currently in critical but stable condition.

I also know that this kind of grief would be completely overwhelming if I didn’t have the hope of the resurrection that Jesus offers to all who love Him and serve Him and follow Him. If this world is all there is, then these deaths are a tragic waste and nothing more. But if there’s a heaven awaiting us, then these men are already in the presence of Almighty God, hearing the words “Well done, good and faithful servants.”

They know in full what we only know in part. They see with their own eyes what we long for and hope for in faith. Their faith has been made sight.

But still those left behind still grieve. They still have an ache and a void that nothing on this side of eternity can ever fill or take away. Even Jesus, knowing full well how He was about to raise Lazarus shortly from death to life, still wept over his friend being dead in the tomb. Grief and loss and tears are part of life in this beautiful but broken world.

So I join in with so many others and pray God’s perfect peace over the families, friends, and fellow church members of these men taken so suddenly. We pray that God can take this tragedy and turn it into something good and glorious, that many eyes would be open to the frailty of life and the need for a Savior.

One day, everything broken will be made whole, all that is wrong will be made right, and all that has been lost will be restored sevenfold. One day, we’ll see the big picture and understand how God was able to weave the darker threads of tragedy into the final beautiful tapestry of God’s eternal plan.