More About Blessed

If you turn on TBN, you might hear some old preacher talking about how God wants to bless you. By that, he probably means that God wants to shower you with riches and mansions and luxury cars and yachts and so forth.

But when I read my Bible, I get a different version of what it means for God to bless someone. What Jesus calls blessed in the Beatitudes is far better than what any health-and-wealth preacher might call it.

Not that God doesn’t grant wealth as a blessing, but I think the idea of blessing is so much more than that. After all, doesn’t the Bible say not to store your treasures on earth where thieves break in and steal and rust corrodes? Will you be able to take any of your wealth with you? Of course not.

The older I get, the more I see that the best blessing God gives is God. More than any gift God gives, God giving Himself to anyone is the best gift of all. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving, because you will never in any lifetime get to the bottom of Who God is or how much He loves you.

To be blessed is to know God and to know Jesus, who is God with a human face. All of us take that privilege for granted all the time, but have you ever stopped to think that the Creator and King of Everything has sought you out for a relationship? That should boggle our minds.

At the end of the day, I’m blessed. I know that God will supply all my needs through Jesus because ultimately my greatest need is Jesus. And He will take care of all my other needs, too.

You can have everything your heart desires and not have God and you will be miserable. You can have nothing but God and you will find that He is enough.

That’s another reminder to myself.




Blog #1,796 (or What I Took Away from Another Good Night at Kairos)

Tonight’s guest speaker was Tyler McKenzie, who spoke from the Beatitudes about what it meant to be blessed.

American culture has a decidedly different take on what being blessed looks like than Jesus. Unfortunately, too many believers (including me at times) have fallen into their idea that wealth, success, power, popularity, and recognition are what it looks like when you’re blessed.

Jesus had a very different idea. He said that you were blessed if you were poor in spirit, mourning, meek, righteous, merciful, pure in heart, and persecuted. Those are not concepts that you’ll find in the self-help section of the bookstore or in any motivational speeches. At least not in 99% of them.

Blessing involves foregoing the immediate and temporary pleasures of the now for a greater and lasting joy that’s partly now but mostly later. It means following the path of Jesus, who for the future joy set before Him endured the present pain and suffering of the cross.

Pain and suffering aren’t words we normally associate with blessing. I’d much rather have comfort and convenience (and chocolate as often as possible). I’d rather choose the easy over the hard path. Sometimes, I’m content to hunker down in my safe haven and pray to be able to coast into heaven. But that’s not the gateway to joy.

As I remember, the Greek word for blessed is a very interesting word. Before Jesus used it in this context, it wasn’t ever used to refer to people but rather to the gods. But here Jesus is saying that if you’re poor in spirit, you have the joy that God has. You can experience (or come as close to experiencing as any fallen human can) the state of blessedness that God lives in. You can have joy overflowing and life abundant.

I don’t want this to turn into another burden of “you and I really need to add this to the list of things we need to work on.” It’s not something I need to work on, but something Jesus is already working on in me. Ultimately, I’m not blessed because I have it all together but because I know that Jesus has it all together and He has me.


Four Gardens

I heard something new today, so I can’t take credit for any of what follows. It all involves four gardens.

The first garden was the Garden of Eden where it all went horribly wrong for all of us. Adam and Eve both ate of that dratted fruit. It doesn’t matter what kind of fruit it was or who ate first. The simple fact that out of every tree in that garden (and there must have been plenty), they chose the one tree God asked them not to eat from.

We’ve been like that ever since. Ever see a “Don’t step on the grass” sign? What’s the first impulse you have when you see that? I rest my case.

The second garden was the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus chose the cross. I know it was His destiny from the beginning and He knew all along that Calvary was His destination, but here is where the temptation to bail was strongest and here is where Jesus prevailed against such a temptation.

The third garden was the Garden of the Tomb. When Mary first saw Jesus, she thought He was the gardener. So it follows there was a garden. Here is where everything wrong was made right. Here is where Jesus’ victory was confirmed and forever validated.

The final garden is in Revelation 22. There you find a very familiar tree, the tree of life, planted by a river and located in the City of God. Here instead of a forbidding commandment is an invitation to come and partake.

Oh, and there’s the whole fruit of the Spirit thing, too.

I love how God doesn’t miss any details. Everything that was lost in the first garden gets found in the last one. Nothing that is good and pure and true is ever truly lost, but God finds a way to redeem it back.

Who Is This Jesus?

That’s the question of the night from speaker Tyler McKenzie.

Who else’s birthday do we still celebrate nearly 2,000 years later? Who else do we gather together– some risking their lives to do so–to honor, to celebrate, to sing songs about, to worship?

Who else has changed the way we look at history? Literally, there is a before and after centered around this Man.

Some want Jesus to be a nice guy, a great teacher, a grand example. But Jesus’ own words don’t allow that. The best explanation of Jesus comes from the pen of one Mr. C. S. Lewis, who said that Jesus was either crazy enough to be committed to an asylum, a pathological liar on a grand scale, or He was who He said He was. In other words, Jesus was either a lunatic, a liar, or He’s Lord.

I bet I got a chorus of “Amen”s on that, but how many of us actually live like Jesus is Lord? Like what He did and Who He was (and still is) matters more than anything or anyone else in history?

Jesus is not a board member in your life whose advice you take under consideration. He’s boss of your life. He’s in control. To use a very non-pc term, He’s your Master.

I heard it somewhere and thought it was worth sharing– if someone rejects Christianity, the question to ask is “What version of Jesus was presented to you?”

Was it meek-and-mild Jesus who seemed bored most of the time? Was it the Jesus who just wanted us to all get along and was completely passive? Was it the Jesus who was a white, middle-class Republican who lived in the suburbs and drove a minivan?

Or was it the Ultimate God-Man who beat death on its own terms and emerged from the grave victorious? Was it that Jesus who went through it all for love of you and me?

It’s not about sin management. It’s not about having your doctrines line up like ducks in a row. It’s not about being a good Christian who fastidiously keeps the list of things not to do. It’s about once being dead in sin and now being alive because Jesus died for me and gave me His life so that I could really and truly and finally live.

That’s it.


Do Not Seek the Treasure!


 “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being” (Matthew 6:19).

I went to dinner with some friends and the topic of discussion turned to internet security and hackers. There was much that I did not understand and that made my brain hurt, but the gist of the conversation is this– if someone wants your stuff bad enough, they’re probably going to find a way to get it.

There’s no such thing as security when it comes to the internet. Someone (or maybe several someones) out there is smart enough, patient enough, wily enough to crack any encryption and figure out any password.

Besides, even if you manage to fend off every thief, swindler, and hacker out there, you still can’t take it with you when you die. Case in point: have you ever seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul? Me neither.

Jesus told us that true treasures aren’t the kind behind bank vaults or in walnut frames behind your desk or the initials before and after your name. True treasures aren’t things; they’re people.

I heard a pastor say once that the reason the streets in heaven are paved with gold is that gold isn’t the real currency there. It’s like asphalt is here. The true currency in heaven is L-O-V-E. Not the syrupy, romantic kind in all those power ballads, but the kind that gives up its rights and lays down its life for the beloved. Like Jesus.

What’s the point to all this? I’m not saying to withdraw all your money and put it under your mattress. I’m telling you to remember that your worth isn’t found in your bank account or your job title or your degrees. Your true worth is in how much you love and how much you are loved.

The best treasure of all is knowing that the King of the Universe loves you truly, madly, deeply, and that love will never change.

The end.

PS I just remembered a great line from It’s a Wonderful Life that seems appropriate here– you can only take with you that which you’ve given away.

House Hunters International: Narnia


I recently watched an episode of House Hunters International on HGTV, where a couple was looking to move to Scotland. I was sold after hearing the real estate agent’s accent, as I am a sucker for a good Scottish accent.

It got me thinking. What if they did an episode of House Hunters International set in Narnia? I do know that Narnia isn’t real in the same sense as Scotland or Germany or any of the other countries that you can actually find on a world atlas.

But just the thought of choosing a home in Narnia would be a cool concept. Maybe Mr. Tumnus could be the real estate agent. And the biggest selling point? A chance to meet Aslan.

In case you’ve ever wondered who Aslan really is, C.S. Lewis once received such a letter from a young fan. He responded thus:

“As to Aslan’s other name, well I want you to guess. Has there never been anyone in this world who (1.) Arrived at the same time as Father Christmas. (2.) Said he was the son of the great Emperor. (3.) gave himself up for someone else’s fault to be jeered at and killed by wicked people. (4.) Came to life again. (5.) Is sometimes spoken of as a Lamb…. Don’t you really know His name in this world. Think it over and let me know your answer!”

I’ve said it before, but I really believe Heaven will be a lot like Narnia. Or maybe I should say that Narnia is the best representation of what Heaven will be like that I’ve seen (or read). And the idea of it being like the first day of summer after the school term has ended perfectly captures that overwhelming feeling of joy.

So I think House Hunters International: Narnia is a winner, followed possibly by House Hunters International: Hobbiton.


My Salvation Story


I’m sitting here on this gorgeous Fall Sunday, watching the embarrassing end to an embarrassing footfall game. By that, I mean my beloved Tennessee Titans losing to the previously winless Jacksonville Jaguars. Can we say, “Bye-bye, playoffs?”

In much happier news, I’ve been reflecting on my own salvation experience.

I can tell you what my salvation is not:

It is not based on me walking an aisle or signing a card 30 years ago. If my salvation is fire insurance from hell and nothing more, then it’s not legit. If all I did was pray a prayer and recite some words, then I’m just as lost as I was then.

It’s not knowing facts about Jesus or attending church or being born to Christian parents or being American or Republican or knowing all the Christian buzzwords. None of that.

It’s about when I gave up control of my life to Jesus. It’s when I said YES to everything Jesus has for me.

I was saved (justification) once and for all the day I opened my heart to Jesus and let Him begin His work in me.

I am being saved (sanctification) daily by putting off my old sinful self and putting on Jesus. Or you could say, I’m being saved by Jesus finishing what He started in me like He said He would.

I will be saved (glorification) when Jesus comes back for good and all those annoying sin habits and destructive thought patterns go away forever. When I become what God has already declared me to be– a perfect replica of His Son Jesus.

As Pastor Mike Glenn says, if I don’t live it, I don’t believe it. No matter how eloquent my words are, they mean nothing if I don’t live what I preach.

I’m so glad it’s not up to me being good enough or smart enough or strong enough. I’d never make it. Thankfully, it was and is and always will be about how Jesus found me and rescued me and did for me what I could never to for myself.

That calls for a celebration, don’t you think?

Cruise-liner Christianity?


I have another confession. I’ve spent way too much of my life seeking out comfort and convenience. I’ve avoided any possibility of suffering and some places because they were “less than safe.”

I know I’m not alone. So many go to their comfortable, air-conditioned churches and then to comfortable, air-conditioned restaurants and then on to comfortable, air-conditioned lives. We want to feel good and look good, but I think God is calling us more to do good and be good.

So many will use rain as an excuse for staying away from worship services. But the same will sit in the rain for hours at a Titans or Vols game.


I’ve used just about every excuse to not pick up my Bible and actually read it. I’ll tell myself I’m too tired to pray. I will say that I can’t afford to tithe this week, but I’ll start back next week.

Jesus promised us there would be suffering. But He also promised that the reward at the other side would be more than worth it. Like when a mother forgets her delivery pains when she holds her newborn baby in her arms.

The problem with Cruise-line Christianity isn’t so much that it’s disobedience (which it is), but that you miss so many blessings and rewards and joys that only come with taking that narrow path, the road less travelled, the trail marked with suffering.

I don’t mean to intentionally seek out suffering. Just not to seek first and foremost to avoid it. I do mean saying YES to Jesus, whatever Jesus asks of you and wherever He calls you to go, whether it’s next door or across the world or even to the unsafe part of time.


For me, it might mean getting up earlier in the morning and making time for God. Maybe it means going without Starbucks for a whole week. Egads.

All I know is that I want God more than I want to stay comfortable and safe and vaguely dissatisfied. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and wonder what I could have done for God if I’d only been more trusting and more faithful. I want to find out now.

I’ll keep you posted on how the whole waking up earlier thing goes. But for now, it means waking up at 5:30 instead of 6 am. Yikes.

Falling into Autumn


Officially, today, September 22, is the first day of autumn. Thus commences yet again my very favorite season, filled with colorful leaves, cool breezes, hot cider, hayrides, bonfires, and crisp nights.

For some reason, autumn makes me most nostalgic. Something about the combinations of smells peculiar to fall triggers happy childhood memories of places and people long since gone.

Most of my favorite movies are set during autumn, or at least have memorable scenes set amidst the riot of changing leaves (think When Harry Met Sally or A Beautiful Mind).


Some friends and I took lunches out to Granny White Park. I took my ever-so-yummy burrito from Chipotle’s and drank water like a healthy boss. We threw the frisbee around and had a great time. Later, we played sand volleyball on the courts at Fellowship Bible Church. It was picturesque.

The part of living in Tennessee that is both good and bad is the unpredictability of the weather. In other words, I can’t count on every day until December 21 being this postcard perfect. I’ve learned to appreciate these idyllic days and enjoy each one.


I’m learning to appreciate each day as a blessing from God. Too many people I know who are my age and younger won’t get to see their tomorrows (at least not on this side of eternity). Truly the old saying is true: today is a gift– that’s why they call it the present.

I’m also learning to see God in each and every day. That comes with seeing through eyes of gratitude and thanksgiving and joy. Even those blessings that come disguised in suffering and hardship.

I believe the weather will be hot and muggy later in the week, but I’ll still have the treasure of remembering this day when I’m sweating like the turkey that’s about to be Thanksgiving dinner.

That’s truly enough for me.

More Adventures From the Magical Land of McKay’s


I went back to McKay’s Used Bookstore, or as I like to call it, The Place Where Multimedia Nerds Like Me Go When We Die.

I traded in enough movies to stock a small movie rental store and got enough credit to purchase an iPad 3 with 64 GB and a Hank Williams CD box set. It was a good day.

I still go warm and fuzzy inside when I step inside that amazing place. It’s simply ginormous. It’s huge. And it’s big, too.

I didn’t find everything I looked for, but I did come away with a few gems. And in the process, I got my happy fix for at least a month.

There’s no real spiritual segue way, other than to point out that most of us have been guilty of treating God like a giant department store.

It’s like we pray, “God, I’d like a pint of patience, two helpings of humility, a small dose of suffering (to keep me from getting too worldly), and a couple of giant crates of blessing.

What we fail to realize is that what God offers to us here and now isn’t so much gifts or blessings but Himself.

That is, God offers to transform us into the image of Jesus. We get Jesus’ righteousness, perfection, wisdom, and best of all– that power that raised Him from the dead. We get EVERYTHING we need in Jesus for life and godliness.

Sure, we get a few things thrown in that we’d like to return. But those things help more than anything to conform our character and mind into one just like that of Jesus.

So yes, I highly recommend McKays. And I recommend maybe not asking for stuff from God’s hand as much as the gift of having His heartbeat inside you and seeing with His eyes and being filled with His Spirit.

That’s all I got for now.