Friday Eve (Also Known as Thursday)

It’s Friday Eve, known to most of the normal folks of the world as Thursday. For me, it’s the one day of the week where I don’t have to be anywhere or do anything.

As usual, I was very deliberate in my choice of musical accompaniment for my daily trek to and from work. I chose Miles Davis, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Van Morrison (along with WAY-FM and Mornings with Wally).

As usual, the best day of my week lasted as long as the worst (and I really didn’t have any bad days– I’m just making a point here). The very worst day you’ll ever face still only has 24 hours. As much as it may feel like it some days, the horrible no-good very bad days do not last forever.

I still need God as much on my best days when all my traffic lights are green and the commute is light as I do when I seem to hit every traffic light just as it’s turning red and everything I touch implodes. My need for Jesus hasn’t diminished with any spiritual growth or maturity. In contrast, all my growing up has shown me with increasing clarity my increasing awareness of my total and complete dependence on God.

That’s not a bad thing. As Jesus says in His beatitudes, blessed are those who know their own poverty of spirit and desperate need, for God’s Kingdom belongs to these people. Those are the ones always with open hands rather than closed fists who ask and receive in such abundance that the overflow touches the lives of those in their circle with whom they live, work, and play.

I find myself praying a lot more in traffic, especially on that one part when I have to cross over four lanes to get to my exit. I’m always relieved to get that part out of the way.

I doubt I’ll ever reach a point in my life where I’m not grateful for Friday. It’s automatically awesome for being the last day of the work week.

Oh, by the way, TGIF in advance.


Advent Thoughts from Henri Nouwen

It’s time for another guest blogger. Again, I chose Henri Nouwen for his thoughts on Advent, coming from an honesty and vulnerability that is rare and refreshing these days.

“Keep your eyes on the prince of peace, the one who doesn’t cling to his divine power; the one who refuses to turn stones into bread, jump from great heights and rule with great power; the one who says, ‘Blessed are the poor, the gentle, those who mourn, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; blessed are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness’ (see Matt. 5:3-11); the one who touches the lame, the crippled, and the blind; the one who speaks words of forgiveness and encouragement; the one who dies alone, rejected and despised. Keep your eyes on him who becomes poor with the poor, weak with the weak, and who is rejected with the rejected. He is the source of all peace.

Where is this peace to be found? The answer is clear. In weakness. First of all, in our own weakness, in those places of our hearts where we feel most broken, most insecure, most in agony, most afraid. Why there? Because there, our familiar ways of controlling our world are being stripped away; there we are called to let go from doing much, thinking much, and relying on our self-sufficiency. Right there where we are weakest the peace which is not of this world is hidden.
In Adam’s name I say to you, ‘Claim that peace that remains unknown to so many and make it your own. Because with that peace in your heart you will have new eyes to see and new ears to hear and gradually recognize that same peace in places you would have least expected.'”

What Is Your Second Mile?

“If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles” (Matthew 5:41, NIV)

The gist of the passage is that back in ye olden Bible times, a Roman soldier could conscript anyone to carry his gear for up to one mile. Many Jewish people would put a marker exactly one mile from their houses so they would know precisely how much they were required to do.

Remember Simon of Cyrene? The Roman soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross, probably based on this idea.

But pay attention to Jesus’ own words.

If anyone asks you to go one mile, go two. In other words, do above and beyond what is expected of you.

So the question that I heard today is the one I now pose to you: what is your second mile?

How can you serve where you’re planted in a way that goes beyond the minimum requirement?

It’s not necessarily about doing more, but about how you do what you’re doing. It’s all about your attitude.

Where you are, what you are doing, is your ministry, whether it’s in a church building or a seminary or a classroom or in a grocery store or in your own home.

I think the Apostle Paul nailed it when he said this: “Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work” (Colossians 3:22-25, The Message).

That goes for any sphere of life for wherever you live,work, play, and serve.

Do it all as if you were doing it directly for Jesus Himself.

See everyone you meet as possibly Jesus in disguise and treat them like you would treat Him if you knew He was standing right in front of you.

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.


Something Else Borrowed

As you know, I try to keep these blogs original and share my own thoughts from my own head written by my own hand (or more accurately, typed with my four fingers). But occasionally I read something that I know I have to share because it is so good and also because it speaks to me so loudly and powerfully that I know it will speak to some of you in the same way.

Forgive me if this is violating some kind of copyright laws. I will give credit to where credit is due and not claim any of the following as my own:

“…. so, yeah, turns out there’s absolutely nothing in those Words of Yours, God, that says it at all:

“Blessed are the rich in money & wealthy in mind & lavish in body & extravagant in stuff, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

You just quietly said:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, the needy in spirit, the weary at the end of their rope, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven — for theirs is the gift of getting to be tied close to Me.”

And You didn’t say either, “Blessed are those who live comfortable, who buy comfort, who want creature comforts, for they will be comforted.”

You just quietly said:
“Blessed are those who mourn, those who ache with grief, those who weep for losses of loved ones & dreams, for they shall be comforted– for they shall wake to being held by One who Loves them beyond their wildest dreams.”

And You didn’t mention it anywhere: “Blessed are the big shots with the big lights wearing the big names, driving the big cars, living in the big digs, for they shall inherit the earth.”

You just quietly said: “Blessed are the meek, the humble, the content-with-who-they-are, the simple and down to earth, for they will inherit the earth, they will find themselves with an inheritance as rich as the oceans, as glorious as the mountain peaks, as abundant as all the harvests of the whole earth.”

Nowhere, anywhere did You say, “Blessed are those who hunger for a bigger house, who starve for more applause, who thirst for more ease, more acceptance, more status, more convenience, for they will be satisfied.”

You just quietly said: “Blessed are those who hunger for rightness and goodness, who are famished for justice, who are starved for generous helpings of grace and truth and love, who have a wild appetite for more of God — for they will be satisfied, they will be fed the best things till they are deeply fulfilled.”

Oh. oh.

So tonight, Lord? Your ragamuffin people bow their heads… & our hearts turn upside down to everything we know — and upright to You, and to Your upside down ways, and we whisper our brave Amens to the coming of the Upside Down Kingdom here —
and in us” (Ann Voskamp, from something she posted earlier today on Facebook).

‪#‎HonestBravePrayers‬ ‪#‎SharingRealPrayerTogether‬ (also from Ann Voskamp)

Although I’d say not that the Kingdom is upside down, but that the world is upside down and the Kingdom will put it Right Side Up Again. But that’s probably po-tay-to, po-tah-to.

Simplicity of Heart

“Simplicity of heart is its own ticket of admission” (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Jesus).

Blessed are those who believe the best in others even when they get hurt. They know they will need someone to believe in them when they don’t deserve it someday.

Blessed are the ones who forgive because they know what it’s like to need and receive forgiveness. And they know what it’s like to need it and not get it.

Blessed are those who trust in the goodness of God even when things happen they didn’t expect and don’t understand. They see that God’s plan is bigger than what they can understand or feel or know.

Blessed are the ones who don’t give up on their friends, even when their friends give up on them. They know that God doesn’t give up on anyone.

Blessed are the ones who fall down and keep getting back up, who fail repeatedly and keep persevering. Theirs is the victory in Christ.

Blessed are the ones in darkness who refuse to give up on the sun that never seems to come, who keep waiting for it and hoping for it, even with weak and faltering faith, because they’ve seen it come up before and know it will again.

Blessed are the ones whose hearts are hurting from loving and losing, because they know that the only alternative to hurting is not to feel at all and to have a heart of stone. They know that weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

Blessed are you when everything and everyone tells you to give up and go home, but you won’t quit because you know that God is on your side.

Blessed are the pure in heart.

Last Thoughts on the Beatitudes

Obviously, I’ve had the Beatitudes on my mind for some time now, having blogged on each one individually for the past several days. The question that remains is how do they all fit together. And what is the purpose? Ok, so I lied about only having one question. Sue me.

How do they fit together? It seems like they are all describing one person. A believer.

What is the purpose? If it’s a to-do list, I’m sunk. I can never make myself be poor in spirit or meek or any other of these things. The same goes if it’s a list of to-be’s, as in you should be all these things if you are a believer. Then what? I heard someone say that the Beatitudes are what it looks like when the Kingdom of God breaks through in a person. When God’s reign is manifested in an individual.

Well, then. How can we seek for a Kingdom breakthrough? By seeking the Kingdom. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). And the Kingdom is nothing more than God Himself, God ruling over His creation. So seek God first, and everything else will fall into place. Make Jesus your first– your only priority– and you will have found your purpose.

Again, I like how the Message puts it: “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” Steep your life in God. Let every part of your life be filled with every part of God. Let every thought, breath, word and action be a living prayer to Jesus. Live with open hands and open minds toward all that God has for you.

Jesus, be thou my vision, as the old hymn says. So fill me with Your Spirit that all I see is You and how You are working in the world. So inhabit my senses that my heart breaks with what breaks Your heart. So enrapture me with Your love that everything else fades away.


Blessed are you when people insult you

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).

In all honesty, I don’t really like these two verses. I would much rather Jesus have said something like, “Blessed are you when people compliment you, flatter you, and tell you what great blogs you write and how spiritual you are.” I am not much for being insulted or persecuted or slandered. Probably not many people are. In fact, I would go so far as to say no one apart from the indwelling Spirit of God would count being insulted as a blessing. No one.

But if I am not ashamed of the gospel and proclaim it as the very power of God unleashed in the world, then I will face all these things. If I stand up and say that Jesus is the ONLY way, the ONLY truth and the ONLY life, I will be mocked, ridiculed, called all sorts of names, and ostracized. The sad part is that if I truly am radical about my faith, I will be insulted and persecuted and slandered by those in the Church who go by the name Christian.

I love the Message version: “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.”

When the truth is too close for comfort, people get uncomfortable. They react. Whether they are openly opposed to God or just those who want heaven, but not Jesus, they will lash out when someone threatens their pseudo-security. God also responds; God knows what you have done and will reward you. I’ve said this before, but the best possible reward is not anything God gives you, but God Himself. He is our great Reward, our great Inheritance. I think Francis Chan said that the great news of the Gospel is that you get God. All of God.

Lord, I don’t want to be a Christian who gets along with everyone and never causes trouble or stirs up dissention. I want to be a fork in the road, so that when people come up to me, they must choose to go one way or another to get by me– either toward or away from Christ. Hide me behind the cross, so that if there be anything offensive about me, it would be what the Greeks saw as foolishness and the Jews saw as a stumbling block– namely, Christ crucified. Jesus, get me out of the way so that You can get in the way of every single person I meet.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Blessed are those who are persecuted

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).

Persecution is a dirty word these days in American Christian circles. In fact, any word associated with discomfort or pain is frowned upon. We are all supposed to be happily pursuing the American dream and finding fulfillment in Christ as He grants our every wish and never puts us through anything that would remotely resemble suffering. Right?

I think not.

Jesus said that if we follow Him, truly follow Him, and do what He said, we will be persecuted. Not maybe. Not possibly. We will. Maybe the fact that we aren’t facing persecution is that we look more like the world than we do Christ. Satan doesn’t spend effort attacking something or someone who is not a threat. The world won’t either. If we are too busy trying to fit in with the world rather than showing the world how it can be saved, we won’t be persecuted. But we won’t really know what the kingdom of Heaven is like or how sweet knowing Jesus can be.

The Message says, “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.”

The key word here is commitment. Are we really committed enough to follow Jesus even if it actually costs us something? Like our popularity, success, reputations, health, and, God forbid, our lives. Too many of those who profess to believe will follow when following is easy and when it is comfortable, but not when it gets tough or when it becomes unpopular. The only ones who can see it through are those who have been redeemed, forgiven and sealed by the Holy Spirit. Only those who have the power of the resurrection inside can face death, because they know that that power that raised Jesus from the grave will also raise us up to eternal life.

The kingdom of heaven belongs to us when we are persecuted and persevere. What is the kingdom of God? God Himself. God’s rule and authority and power and majesty and glory. In the book of Revelation, John writes that they overcame by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony and by the fact that they did not love their lives even unto death. Only love could motivate anyone to do these things. Only God’s love in us.

God, captivate my heart so that I will be willing to follow You and commit myself to You, regardless of where You send me, regardless of who responds, and regardless of what it costs me. I want to give my life away so that Your kingdom can advance upon the earth and You can reign. Make me your fuel, so Your glory can burn all the more brightly.

As always, I believe. Or I should say in this case I want to believe. Help my unbelief.

Blessed are the peacemakers

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9)

Blessed are those who make peace, not those who wait for peace to fall into their laps. We have to work for peace sometimes. As crazy and contradictory as it may seem, we even have to fight for peace sometimes. We have to be willing to pray against the powers of darkness. We have to be willing to practice tough love when the easy thing to do would be to ignore the situation until it goes away. Sometimes peace making can be a bloody and brutal event. Just ask Jesus, who in order to make peace with God for us endured the cross and all the horror and shame there.

There are three types of peace: peace with God, peace with others and peace with yourself. I think that this verse is not so much about finding peace with God as it is establishing or reestablishing peace with others and with yourself.

The Message says, “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.” Jesus prayed for unity of believers above all things for His people. If there is unforgiveness or conflict, it grieves the Holy Spirit. It also is a bad witness to an unbelieving world. If we can’t love each other who we see every day, how can we claim to love a God whom we have not seen? How can anything we say be true if there’s no love to back it up?

Father, forgive me for the times when I was not brave enough to fight for peace and instead settled for truce or a cold war of lost opportunities and relationships. Help me to see that You want your children to love each other and forgive each other and bless each other. Send your Spirit to bring revival into your people so we can be the ones through whom You radically change the world.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.