Something I Read Lately

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I’ve prayed this prayer many times on many different occasions. Never once has God answered my prayer by changing my circumstances, i.e. making my life easier, taking away my difficulties, instantly transporting me to the other side of my trials. What He has done is reminded me ever so subtly that He will be with me as He always has during my dark road.

Peace isn’t always  a feeling of contentment. Sometimes, the butterflies remain but so does the promise that God won’t forsake me. For me, a feeling of peace doesn’t always mean peace, nor does a lack of it indicate its absence. Try and work that one out and see if it makes sense.

After all, it is a peace that is beyond my utmost understanding. I don’t need a god who I can figure out and manage and understand. I need a God who is bigger than me, stronger than me, wiser than me. I need a God who is completely Other than me (not a bigger, stronger, wiser version of me).

My advice to you? Keep praying for that peace that passes all understanding and keep claiming it, whether you feel it or not. Keep trusting that the God of peace is walking with you through your dark road.

Sometimes the absence of peace means there is something in your life that needs to change. You’ll generally have an idea of what that something is and how to go about making the changes. You can’t have peace if you’re consistently making choices that go against God’s Word and refuse to submit to His will for your life.

Even then, peace comes with repentance. Peace comes to those whose hearts are broken, like King David’s, over their sin. Peace comes to those who admit once again their total and complete dependence on God.

That’s all for tonight. Come back for something completely different. Or maybe more of the same. You never can tell with me.

 

 

 

This Extraordinary Message

“It’s news I’m most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God’s powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him, starting with Jews and then right on to everyone else! God’s way of putting people right shows up in the acts of faith, confirming what Scripture has said all along: ‘The person in right standing before God by trusting him really lives'” (Romans 1:16, The Message).

Yes. Just yes.

The just shall live by faith. That’s how the old-school version of this verse goes.

But I really like “The person in right standing before God by trusting him really lives.”

Who is really living?

Is it the ones with the most money, the most awards, the most prestige?

Is it the ones you read about in Forbes or Time or GQ?

Or maybe is it the ones you never hear about on the mainstream media outlets?

Maybe it’s the ones who are living simply out of a pure joy that comes from being forgiven.

Maybe it’s the ones who have quit trying to be beautiful and are instead choosing to boast in a brokenness through which the light of Christ shines most brightly.

Maybe it’s the ones who don’t give up, don’t give in, don’t compromise, don’t ever stop trusting that in the end everything will be fine.

Maybe those are the ones really living.

Lord, help me to really live and really love and really experience all that You have for me in this life.

Keep my eyes open to all that You are doing in and around me.

Keep my faith childlike so that I never cease to be amazed at what you can do in someone who says the most hesitant yes to You.

Keep my gaze straight ahead on the cross and what lies beyond instead of temporal pleasures that turn sour in the mouth and that rust in the hand.

Keep me holding onto You and let me know that You’ll always be holding on to me.

Amen.

 

#1,400!!

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Teach us to number our days so that we may truly live and achieve wisdom” (Psalm 90:12)

I thought of a movie I hadn’t thought about in a while. The movie in question was Dead Poets Society and the part of the movie was where Robin Williams’ character tells his students to seize the day.

Then there’s the line from the movie Braveheart that goes something like this: every man dies but not every man truly lives.

That’s all good and great, but what does that look like? I mean, how can I tell if I’m truly living or just existing?

I think it has something to do with being in the moment. That means not looking back with regret or looking forward with anticipation while forgetting to see what’s around you now. That sounds vague and shadowy, but it’s true.

Too many times in the past, I’ve wasted a week looking to Friday and the weekends that never lived up to my expectations. Too many times, I didn’t really see my surroundings because I was waiting to get to the next place. Too often, I missed out on one part of my life because I was so eager to get to the next part.

True wisdom comes from being fully present to where God has you and cultivating the habit of gratitude, learning how to see the blessings around you instead of always seeing what’s wrong with the picture.

I can’t say that I’m always very good at this. Mostly, I suck. But I’m better than I used to be.

I also read something that stuck with me: always celebrate those who are always making forward progress, no matter how slow. I like that, because usually, that’s me– Mister Slow and Steady.

So yay for all of us slow and steady folks out there because we’re the ones who truly win the race.

A Reminder of Whose You are

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“Yahweh your God is there with you, the warrior-Saviour. He will rejoice over you with happy song, he will renew you by his love, he will dance with shouts of joy for you” (Zephaniah 3:17)

That’s my favorite Bible verse. If I to choose one life verse, this one would be #1 with a bullet. Why?

It’s a reminder that what matters isn’t what you’ve done or even who you are but whose you are.

You are not your past or your failures or your bad choices.

You are not even your past glories and successes and your trophy case from yesterwhen.

You are not what you do for a living or your paycheck stubs or your net worth.

You are not the names people call you or even the names you call yourself when you think no one else is listening.

You are the beloved.

You are the one that Yahweh rejoices over, the one He sings over in the night, the one He dances with joy over, the one in whom He is well pleased.

That’s you.

That’s all that matters.

 

Happy Birthday Eve to Me!

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Everyone knows about Christmas Eve. Apparently, Thursdays are now being referred to as Friday Eve. So why can’t the day before my birthday be birthday eve?

Birthdays are always a good time to reflect and look back. Sure, I’m not where I thought I’d be at this point, but I am alive. I survived another year. I woke up this morning. That has to count for something.

The fact that you and I are here means that God isn’t through with us just yet. He still has a purpose for you and me.

I believe God has already told us what our purpose is: for Him to shape us into the spitting image of Jesus. I also think that we do that when we savor life and relationships and moments. We do that when we show gratitude in everything and find joy everywhere.

Jesus lived life to the utmost and has called us to do the same. Through His power, we can. I’m not saying all our days will be perfect and sunny and bright, but even on the darkest of days there will still be joy to be found and a multitude of reasons to give thanks.

So I’m happy to be here and thankful for another day of life. And if I wake up tomorrow, I’ll celebrate another year of being alive and loved and blessed.

Stewardship

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In ye olden castle days, stewards were the ones who took care of the finances and property management of the castle and surrounding village. The stewards didn’t own any of it, but they took care of it as though it were their own.

Most people, when they hear a preacher bring up the word “steward” or “stewardship,” automatically think, “Uh-oh. Here comes another sermon on tithing.”

Stewardship is about money. But it is so much more than that.

The truth is that nothing you have really belongs to you. The earth and everything in it, including you, belong to the Lord.

Your money? It really belongs to God.

Your career? Also God’s.

Your spouse? Ditto.

Your children? Not yours.

When you make Jesus Lord of your life, He takes over ownership of all that you call yours. But when you think about it, everything you have is really a gift from God anyway.

Your money and your ability to earn it come from God. He created you with unique talents and gifts to be able to start a career and earn a living.

Your spouse and your children? They belong to God, not you. God has entrusted them to your care and expects that you will present them back better than when He gave them to you.

It’s humbling when you realize you’re not the king of your castle. Even more so when you realize you don’t even own your own castle.

May we all remember that we are stewards of what really belongs to God. May we take good care of what– and who– He has entrusted into our care so that when He comes, He can say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

When You Grow Up

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I’m sure you’ve been asked this inevitable question at some point in your formative years. At some point in grade school or high school or college, someone asked you this:

“So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

There’s a few things wrong with that question.

First, some people take longer than others to find that supreme calling. Some are well past grown up and still haven’t decided what they want to be yet.

Second, the likelihood these days is that you won’t spend 30-40 years in one job at one place. You’ll more than likely have several jobs and more than a few careers. Anymore, people change jobs every 2 years and most will change careers at least once.

You are not defined by what you do for a living or how much you make at your job. No matter what society or your friends or your family tells you.

You are defined not by what you do or who you are but by Whose you are. If you belong to Jesus, that’s how you’re defined from now on.

Your identity doesn’t crumble when you get laid off or (perish the thought) fired. Your identity rests securely in the person of Jesus.

You are Forgiven, Paid For, Forgiven, Child of God, and (my personal favorite) Beloved. You could probably think of a few more names associated with being in Christ.

So on those nights when you don’t feel particularly special or like you matter, remember Jesus paid the ultimate price for you because He believed that you were worth it.

Early Autumn Breezes

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Today was perfect. It was like God sent a sneak preview of fall about two months early and gave us Nashvillians (and lots of other folks) a break from the usual heat and humidity that’s the norm for this time of year.

I actually ate lunch outside and went for my usual walk and for once didn’t sweat like that pig that’s about to become Sunday dinner. It was lovely. And I managed not to get hit by any cars, which is always a plus.

I think it’s amazing what little surprises come your way when you let go of expectations and assumptions of other people and live in a kind of anticipation of what God will do next. When you have those rare moments when you’re totally unaware of self and focused on being the kind of person to others that you’ve always wanted them to be to you. You can’t control other people or how they’ll respond, but you can control you. You can choose Christlikeness in each moment and leave the results to God.

I’ve long ago stopped trying to figure out Tennessee weather and enjoy the mild sunny days, whether those come in January or May or August. Who knows? The next day could be hot. Or rainy.

As my old boss used to say, any day without a toe tag is a good day. That is, any day you’re alive is a day worth living. I know most of us are always eagerly awaiting the next Friday so the all-too-short weekend can begin. But there’s a lot of good things happening during the week if you’re not too busy looking ahead to see them.

On a side note, it’s amazing how a certain smell in the air or the way a breeze hits me can trigger memories of what I was feeling when I was 15. It’s as if for a brief moment I’ve time-travelled back 26 years and am reliving a single good moment. For some reason, autumn does that to me more than any of the other seasons.

I digress. Go enjoy the weather. Go for an evening stroll or lay out in the hammock. Sit on the back porch or lay out in the grass under the stars. Even if it’s for 15 minutes. You won’t regret it. I promise.

Talitha koum

“After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” ). Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished” (Mark 5:40-42).

First of all, I’d like to preface this by quoting a Derek Webb song that pretty much sums up all my blogs: “I am like a mockingbird, I’ve got no new song to sing. And I am like am amplifier, I just tell you what I’ve heard, oh I’m like a mockingbird.” There’s nothing really new or original here, but hopefully there’s truth here and God can speak through what I’ve written.

When Jesus spoke the words “Talitha koum” to the dead little girl, she came to life. She didn’t think about choosing to come to life. She was dead, which pretty much means she wasn’t thinking about anything. But Jesus spoke life into her and she had no choice but to live.

What does that say to me here in 21st century America? It says to me that no matter what the situation, there is never such a thing in God’s mind as a lost cause or a hopeless situation. It means there is no part of my life– no struggle, no relationship, no stronghold, no lie– that Jesus cannot redeem. There is never anything or anyone beyond hope that Jesus can’t step in and speak life into. I have never lost anything or anyone that Jesus can’t either bring back to me or give me something 1,000 times better.

There is nothing broken that Jesus can’t make whole. There is nothing defiled that Jesus can’t make clean. There is nothing forsaken that Jesus can’t find and bring back. There is nothing dead that Jesus can’t make alive. To that broken friendship, Jesus says, Talitha koum, be restored! To that wayward loved one, Jesus says, Talitha koum, arise and come home. To that shattered dream, Jesus says, Talitha koum, I have a better dream for you. To that shameful past, Jesus says, Talitha koum, I have born the shame so you can have healing and freedom.

To those who have lost their path, Jesus says, Talitha koum, I am the Way. To that lie that has gripped your soul, Jesus says, Talitha koum, I am the Truth. To that part of your faith that has died, Jesus says, Talitha koum, I am the Life.

What should we do with this? I think for me it means I should never ever give up on anyone, because God never gave up on me (and never will!) It means I should be faithful and follow, because nothing I do for God is ever in vain. It means that every day, every second and every breath is a second chance and that no failure is ever final. It means that if God is for us, then no one or nothing can ever be against us.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.

My kind of protest

You’ve probably heard of the pastor in Florida who was planning to burn Korans on 9/11. Or the Afghans who are burning tires in protest of our protests. On any given day, you can pick up a newspaper and read of a protest or a picket or a rally against for for any number of things. Here’s my idea of a protest: love.

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you” (Matthew 5:43-48).

I’m not talking about feel-good warm and fuzzy love, or flowers and candy romantic love. I am talking about Love that changed the world. Love that caused Jesus to lay down His life for His enemies. I’m talking about turning the other cheek when someone strikes you. By the way, I learned from someone that in Roman culture, it was considered shameful to strike someone with either your left hand or the back of your right hand. So, turning your cheek is saying in fact, “You will either have to shame yourself or back down.” It is a non-violent protest. It means that my love is stronger than your hate.

I’m talking about when someone asks for your shirt, you give him your coat as well. When some forces you to do something you don’t like, not only do that thing, but go beyond what he is asking and go the extra mile. I’m talking a lifestyle of generosity. Giving your life away every single day. Dying to your rights and coming alive to the Kingdom of God. So love your enemies and pray for them. Pray that God’s love would change them into allies. Remember that God’s blessings falls on us all, regardless of whether we are good or bad or ugly. And without the grace of God, we are all ugly and wicked. All of us.

Lord, show me one practical way I can live out Your love toward my enemy. Let Your love conquer my hate, and Your grace overwhelm my pettiness. May I be Jesus not just toward those I think deserve it, but to everyone, especially the undeserving, because I was once undeserving, too.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.