Hand in the Cookie Jar

I sat on a friend’s couch, listening to her share about her week. We’ll call her Jane (get it, like Jane Doe). She is a woman overcoming a life of the slavery of pleasing others. I say it like this because it really is bondage when our lives are plagued with the feeling that the opinions of others defines us, or that we must live in such a way that wins everyone’s approval. It’s a violent octopus whose tentacles are conflict-avoiding, shame, dishonesty, insecurity, and behavior-modification (and maybe a few more that aren’t coming to mind right this second). I love to listen to her because I used to be her. I understand, and can offer wisdom I learned the hard way.

She tells me about a time recently, when she found herself lying to people (in minor ways, but lying none-the-less), simply so she wouldn’t say something she didn’t think they wanted to hear. This story ends well, though, because upon realizing it, she confessed it to God, and rose up without shame, knowing that conviction is not the same thing as condemnation in the Kingdom of heaven. She is learning that you can see your sin for what it is, and see His forgiveness shining brighter. My friend even had the courage to call and confess to the recipients of her “white” lies. This is monumental growth for a woman who has felt crippled by shame in the past.

I smiled from ear to ear! This is the exact reason we have been getting together. Because I want to see the same victories in Jane’s life that I’ve experienced in my own, as I navigated very similar struggles when I was her age, and have found the victory that comes from full acceptance of my identity as one whose sin was abolished at the cross, and who was made intentionally, purposefully, and perfectly (in His estimation) by the Master Craftsman.

She looked at me, with joy gleaming, recognizing the liberty that has just come to her, through being able to both acknowledge her sin, and also to do it without berating herself with shame… “Does this just keep getting easier?” she asked. “I remembered your analogy of God still loving me, even when I have my hand in the cookie jar,” she continued, “and how God was still smiling at me, and delighting in me, even in the moment I was sinning.”

I smiled at her, too. “Yes! It does keep getting easier! A lot of stuff does. It gets easier to confess and forgive yourself. It gets easier not to focus so much on yourself, so you can love the world around you better, by turning your attention to others. It gets easier to teach others about grace and humility. Like my kids, when I’ve sinned against them, and can easily apologize, they see a woman who has the humility to acknowledge my wrong, but also one who understands grace and has forgiven herself, as well. And it’s easier to forgive others, for all the same reasons. This newfound freedom is a leaf growing off the root of all we’ve been working through. The root is your performance-based understanding of Christianity. As you overcome that, you overcome all the things attached to it. When we realize we are fully approved by God, whether we get it right or wrong, it changes everything…

I often think of David, after sleeping with Bathsheba and killing Uriah. His bastard child dies, and he immediately gets up from his prostrated position. He washes up and gets some food. He was laying on the ground, begging for mercy, when his child was sick and dying. But when the child dies, he was able to get up and move on because he had already forgiven himself. Because he understood God’s grace, so he was able to show himself grace, as well.”

(For those who don’t know the story, you can find it in 2 Samuel 11 and 12).

Our conversation continued, but out of all the things we talked about, that was the real reason I came, and keep coming (though it’s more often at my house than her’s). I showed up because her and I need each other. We are connected at the roots. She needs me to keep pointing the lamppost down the path for her. And I need her to cheer me on, as the finish line of this book-writing endeavor seems so close, yet so far, at the same time. She is reminding me why I’ve spent the last half-decade of my life typing words until my hands feel arthritic… because I can only sit in so many living rooms, but a book can sit on a million shelves, or bedside tables in a million houses, and the same story of grace and forgiveness that is helping Jane overcome, the one that I lived out as God taught me about grace, could bring the same joy and freedom and grace-embracing to many more souls who are trying to navigate the chaos of this side of eternity, in bodies bent towards rebellion against the God who loves and created them.

So I continue to fight. I read once that “writing a book is war”. I agree. Jane’s story mingled with my story keeps my fingers dancing on keys, and my soul from atrophy and surrender. Because if I could just leave this one legacy, long after they throw a stone monument over my burial plot, it’d be a legacy of Grace. I just want people to know Jesus and His magnificent Grace. Grace changes everything!

Space 2/6/21

Ascribing Motives

A friend was just beginning to vent about a situation in her life, that I knew she had to get off her chest. She had invisible steam pouring out of her ears, and her brow was furrowed. “I know it’s because they think…” “Wait!” I interrupted. “Don’t ascribe motives”. Her face softened and she caught her words, because this friend of mine is also humble, and willing to hear the correction from a friend. She quickly apologized for her short rant.

Maybe I noticed where her heart was leading her because I’ve taken quite the tongue-lashing lately, for things I’ve said and done. Things that were coming from a place of love and care for neighbor, but the opposite motives were ascribed. The part that hurts worse is not that folks are offended at my choice of action. It’s that they’ve decided my motives for me. They’ve decided that, contrary to everything they actually know about me, or anything I was saying about why I behave like I do, I obviously must be a hateful, uncaring brute, since I don’t react the way they want me to.

It also hurts because these are folks I deeply care about, and I know their judgment of me is causing them harm, as well. I know that, when I have believed someone’s actions meant that they didn’t love me, it’s hurt far worse than if I had only disliked their actions. I’ve done this to my wonderful husband a million times over. I’ve translated insensitive, or ignorant behavior into “I don’t love you,” and all of the sudden, I wasn’t reacting to him, I was reacting to a perceived, invisible enemy which didn’t actually exist, and seemed to be wearing my husband’s face.

I’m also grieved because this whole thing about ascribing motives seems to be happening on a larger scale than ever before. I keep hearing the word “unity” recited like a refrain, launching from the highest political chambers, raining down like an order… but at a micro level, this is where it breaks down. No one can unify if everyone is the enemy.

For years, we’ve talked of tolerance, but in a deceitful way. Tolerance has meant “never disagreeing”. But tolerance, by definition, means we have to tolerate those we disagree with. Toleration requires differences. We must be willing to listen to those who think differently than we do… but we must, must, MUST do it without deciding what the other person’s motives are, even and especially when they say otherwise. If we want to have unity, we have to start giving one another the benefit of the doubt, and we have to honestly tolerate one another. We have to listen to one another. If someone reacts differently to the state of the world, we can humbly, graciously ask them “why”, instead of slamming their character and stuffing our fingers our ears when they try to tell us their reasoning. Or if we are going to make assumptions, we should assume the best in others… because maybe then WE will be able to love our neighbor. Because, honestly, it’s up to each of us to seek to love our neighbor, not for our neighbor to demand that we love them. If I am genuinely loving my neighbor, not only will I accept them for who they are and how they behave, but I will also be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, listen to what they say about their own motivation for their actions, and assume that they are also navigating hard times and simply doing the best that they can. That’s called showing one another grace. And grace makes the world go round!

Space 2/4/21

Making Coffee Together.

Chuckling, I thanked my husband for pouring the water into the French Press, after I had accomplished all the other steps leading up to it. Making coffee in a French Press happens in stages. I told him if I was ever a widow, I’d be so grieved to have to make coffee entirely by myself. We bantered back and forth a little, but while I was pouring coffee from Press to cup, he made a sincere comment about how grateful he was that we actually ponder what it would be like to be widowed, because it helps us to appreciate these present moments even more. He is right. Pondering death has brought depth to each moment of this momentary life.

I hiked back up the stairs, to my rocking chair, to the Book that beckons my soul. I wanted to read Hebrews 11. It’s been on my mind for days, weeks, months, maybe this whole year. I refer to it often, but it’s been awhile since I laid eyes on the ink. I pulled the Bible onto my lap, flipping pages, and started at the beginning of the chapter. Around verse 8, the author begins to summarize Abraham’s life. “By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise.”

My mind began to wander towards my own life. I’ve lived rather alternatively, in my lifetime. A few years back, our family of five was crowded into a stationary school bus. We lived without running water, electricity, or really much space, for over three years. I’ve lived in various tents, a motorhome, a VW bus or two, and simply hitch-hiking the country. To be plain, I’ve been a nomad for a good chunk of my life. Really about a third of my grown-up years.

As I reflect on my life, I realize how very purposeful it has been. But my mind also wandered forward. This year, this pandemic of a year, has really made me ponder my freedom and how tight-fistedly I carry it. It’s made me pry my palm into an open position before the Lord, knowing that, at any given moment, all the comforts of this world might be stripped. It’s made me ponder the death of my freedom, just like I ponder what it would be like to lose my husband.

These musings have helped to detach me from the things, comforts, pleasures, and blessings of this world, and attach my heart to the next. I, like Abraham, “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.” (vs. 16). But they have also made my heart voluminous with gratitude for this moment. I’m so thankful for the freedoms I know have, and the husband I now enjoy. I’m so thankful to get to co-make coffee in the mornings, and enjoy the friendship of the one I live with. I’m so thankful to be able to walk into a grocery store and buy what’s needed. I’m so thankful no one has stripped me of my home and sent me clamoring into the woods for refuge, though that might happen in the future.

But even if I was “wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground” (vs. 38), there would be a heavenly purpose in this. My heart being set on pilgrimage to Zion (Ps. 84:5) makes it so that even if I live as an exile on earth, I realize that I am only here for a short while anyways, and that what matters most to me is that the name of Christ is exalted, and that my love for Him is contagious. The rest is all superficial stuff. If I can see the face of Jesus, and bring others with me along the way, so that they also get to see His face, then any and all suffering down here will be more than worth it.

For now, I will enjoy making coffee with Smiles, and living under a roof while the snow falls, and being able to buy what I need at the store. But even if that is someday stripped, I rejoice that God has been in the process of teaching me to pry my fingers off of this life, and look forward to the next!

Space 1/31/21

2 Chronicles 7:14

Most mornings its a battle to get out of bed, because I see things on the horizon that make my knees knock a little. I oscillate between fear and faith, and contend to get my head facing the right direction before I face the day. I know that every fear that rattles itself in my face is also an opportunity to increase my trust and surrender to Jesus. So I pick up my sword and start swinging, recognizing that this battle for the mind is part of my refining.

For a long, long time, I think we’ve been reading 2 Chronicles 7:14 like Americans rather than Christians. We, Americans, tend to think we’re entitled to having things our way. So, we read the command to humble ourselves, pray, seek His face, and repent in order that God will turn back to us in grace. But what if He allows suffering, and it’s also grace? And what if we prayed, repented and sought to honor God, and the Church’s purification was the actual healing of the land, rather than us just getting to live out our days in comfort?

I really think the Church needs to be prepared to suffer. I am not looking forward to it, by any means or measure, but I have seen it coming for quite some time. I have prayed long and hard for revival, forgetting that revival usually comes by fire. I see us standing on the edge of the Promised Land, and remember that we are promised us a place of rest and joy, but we walk through battle to arrive. Still, the Lord never leaves or forsakes His Church, and He always has good reasons for allowing suffering. Sometimes He does give amazing victory, which He just might do today… but it won’t be because we manipulated Him with our selfishly-motivated facade of humility and contrition, or our warped version of 2 Chronicles 7:14.

For years, the Church in America has let her voice be silenced by the opinions of men. We’ve let others define love and truth, rather than staying faithful to the Word of God, which is always righteous, true, and loving. We’ve tacked God onto our own agenda, rather than making Him central to all. And, for one final, blasphemous blow, we’ve neglected and dusted Bibles, and hauled them to thrift shops like they were clutter! No wonder God seems to have turned His back to us, in so many ways, and we may not have seen anything yet.

Yet I am also reminded of the book of Judges. If you’ve ever simply read through Judges, you might have picked up on the cyclical theme. Israel turns away from God, gets enslaved by other nations, then turns to God with humble pleading, and He graciously sends deliverance. Then they get fat and lazy and the cycle starts over.

I just feel like it’s time to encourage and strengthen the Church. If He doesn’t give speedy deliverance, I hope you have cherished the Word of God, and memorized chunks of it. It will hold you fast in oppression. Suffer well, my friends. “Those who look to Him are radiant and their faces will never be ashamed.” (Psalm 34:5) “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever for in God the Lord we have an everlasting Rock.” (Isaiah 26:3). Remember that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glories that will be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18). If it is our time to suffer, may we suffer with the humility and courage of those three Jewish boys getting tossed into a furnace while professing that their God was able to deliver, but even if He chose not to, they were resolved to remain faithful to the end (Daniel 3).

Then, Church, lets also remember that the Bible is LOADED with stories of uncanny, impossible deliverance. Though things look bleak on these shores, and the whole world feels like it’s just about to implode, things may not be as they seem. I hope you have been reading that Old Testament. If not, it’s time to repent and look at all those crazy victory stories in Judges, Kings, Chronicles, Joshua, etc. They will stun you into awe!

Finally, beloved ones, lets truly humble ourselves and confess. Let’s repent of all that’s holding us back from full surrender and trust. Let’s take our concerns, frustrations, and fears to the One who always listens and loves us. Let’s trust that He is worthy of all our affections, and can give us radiant joy in any circumstances.

I think the greatest thing that’s come from this past year is the stripping of idols. Some of the idols we cling most tightly to are our comfort, our reputation, our safety, and our avoidance of suffering. It may be that we are soon to show the world how glorious and worthy Christ is by how we suffer. If that happens, rejoice! “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). We have a Kingdom waiting that far surpasses any hardship we could ever experience here. Even the worst of it is nothing but a “momentary, light affliction” (2 Cor. 4:17), and God has never relinquished His authority over all things. And really, we have nothing to fear, because perfect love casts out fear, and He, my friends, is Perfect Love. Besides, do you know how many times the Bible tells us not to fear… 365 times? That’s no coincidence.

On one final note, to encourage your souls…
“Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret, it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land. Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more. And you will look carefully for his place, and he will not be there. But the humble will inherit the land, And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity. The wicked plots against the righteous, And gnashes at him with his teeth. The Lord laughs at him; For He sees his day is coming. The wicked have drawn the sword and bent their bow, To cast down the afflicted and the needy, To slay those who are upright in conduct. Their sword will enter their own heart, And their bows will be broken. Better is the little of the righteous than the abundance of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked will be broken; But the Lord sustains the righteous. The Lord knows the days of the blameless; And their inheritance will be forever. They will not be ashamed in the time of evil, And in the days of famine they will have abundance.” (Psalm 37:7-19)

I am not sure how this will turn out in the momentary, but the eternal is nothing but delight for the saints of God! Look beyond the temporal, and into Glory-land! “How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion!” (Psalm 84:5)

Space 1/29/21

Wrapping Paper

Last night the power went out. I hope you walked outside. It was brighter outside than it was in my house. I hope you drove through town and marveled. We sure did. I hope you thoroughly enjoyed it.

Every day we have a chance to open our hands and receive whatever comes our way. Sometimes it’s pain and sometimes it’s inconvenience. But for the Christian, it’s always promised to be transformed into good. And thanksgiving really opens our eyes to see the good in all things.

I think we, Americans especially, tend to only like things when they meet our expectations. I also think this past year was intended to make us more pliable. Nothing really went according to expectation. In fact, the entire year felt a little like being hit with a tornado. Tornados don’t leave things in the same shape they were in before, nor do they fit tidily into our carefully-crafted agenda. When a tornado hits, everything is upheaved, upended, and wildly out-of-sorts, at least according to our understanding.

Once upon a time, a friend of mine’s car got pummeled by a taxi cab driver that nodded off on some sort of substance that earned him a prison sentence. Their car then crashed into the backside of our motorhome (destroying the back wall and the frame. The same back wall our infant son had been lying against, moments earlier, and would have still been, had we not listened to the Spirit of God against our earthly logic). Just before the wreck, our friends were trying to figure out what to do with the car, whether to sell it, donate it, or dump it, and we were praying for a more stationary house. In one fell swoop, God answered both our prayers… though not in the way we would have chosen. This solution left Smiles and I, with two little kids, homeless for 6 months.

I tell you (a very condensed very of) this story, because I am making a point that just because things don’t go the way we want or expect doesn’t mean our hard circumstances aren’t like wrapping paper surrounding a blessing. In the destruction of our beloved house, we have seen a trillion blessings unfold. For one thing, we recognize the sovereign grace (and importance of immediate obedience) that saved one, and maybe even two, of our sons at a very young age. It would take me 10 minutes to go into all the details, providence, and blessings of the story.

Last night, none of us knew when the power would turn back on, or whether or not we’d be able to open our refrigerator for days. We may have worried about a generator and/or enough gas to power it, or whether or not we had enough gas in the tank to make it home. Many went to bed fretting, I’m sure.

Then there were those of us who wandered outside and gave thanks. Those of us who realized that sometimes living without a convenience can be the peephole into seeing something far more wonderful.

As I sat in a candlelit living room last night, knowing that no one would be able to turn on a computer and let the world’s bad news invade our conversation, I gave thanks. Because even though I had to squint a little harder to see the faces of my family (oh, my aging eyes!), none of us were distracted from one another by the silly things that accommodate us when we have electricity. We made a fun memory with our youngest son, by driving to the top of the Ridges, then Court St., then State St., marveling at what places look like when the light goes out, laughing about the line at Steak-N-Shake (one of the only two restaurants we saw open) and how it looked like a line at Disneyland. Last night would have been so ordinary, had the power not gone out.

I say all of this, not to shame anyone that didn’t appreciate the power outage last night, but to encourage us all to open the hand and give thanks for all things. We will always be enduring circumstances we don’t particularly like or choose for ourselves, some far less lovely than a power outages. We want to build up the muscle-memory to give thanks, so when a tsunami hits, we’ve already learned to surf in kinder waves.

Blessings to all.

Space 1/23/21

To the Church on the Edge of the Jordan

Dear Church,

I keep feeling this overwhelming sense of hopefulness that we are standing on the edge of the Promised Land, spiritually speaking. I keep accidentally opening my Bible to the beginning of Joshua, where the Lord repeatedly tells him to “be strong and (very) courageous”. But there’s more He tells him, as well. He also tells Joshua that He is going with him to give him victory. He tells him not to let the Bible depart from his mouth, and to mediate on it day and night, and to fully obey it in order that he may prosper and have success. He tells him not to tremble or be dismayed for God is with him wherever he goes, that no man will be able to stand before him all the days of his life. And God tells him to go through the camp and command everyone to prepare provisions, because in three days they’re going in.

Church, there’s no denying that we have been walking in the wilderness for awhile. Just look around and see the weariness and atrophy of our spiritual muscles. I’m not just talking about the past year. I’m talking about the apathy, the division, the spiritual oppression from without and within. I’m talking about the deception and sexual immorality and confusion that’s been steadily consuming the nation, our communities, and even the Church. I’m talking about the theological debates and denominational divides which have taken a greater seat at the table than our unity as one Body in Christ. I’m talking about the show-up-at-church-on-Sunday people who stab others in the back Monday-through-Saturday. I’m talking about the people-pleasing churches who have voted to set those who are knowingly practicing sin, and in direct opposition to the Bible, in authority over church congregations. I’m talking about the folks that wait for a pastor to tell them what the Bible says, when they’ve got ten of them at home, collecting dust. I’m talking about all the ways we have not been preparing for the coming of Christ.

But if you put your ear to the ground, you will hear the sound of praise. It’s getting louder and louder, like a war cry, marching over the horizon and into sight. It sounds like angels and saints, in unison crying out, “How long, O Lord?” harmonized with “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”

Get ready, Church. The command reiterated in Ephesians 6 is “Stand firm”. In Joshua, it’s “Be strong and very courageous”. Brace yourselves, Bride.

No longer cower in corners, hoping not to offend anyone. This world is perishing, and for us to hide behind “political correctness” while those who are desperately in need of eternal hope are dying of spiritual starvation and literal death, is absolutely hateful of us. There is no shame in the Truth. There is no shame in proclaiming from rooftops that Jesus is the only true and living God, the Alpha and Omega, and the One who loves His Bride all the way to the cross and back! There is no shame in saying that He is greater than all earthly treasures and pleasures, and worthy of all surrender and praise! There is no shame in calling prodigals home, because every prodigal needs to know the door is still open, and their Father still loves them!

If you’re His, you’re free, and your life down here is chump-change compared to what’s laid up for you in heaven. Live like the world’s on fire (because it kind of is, and it really will be soon enough) and you’re suspended above it, waving wildly for others to join you in the freedom of grace. Be strong and very courageous. He is coming soon! Our short lives on earth are meant to bear eternal weight. Hope like you jumped right off the pages of Hebrews 11. The King of Glory is returning soon, and we are standing on the edge of the Jordan waiting to cross into the Promised Land.

Space 1/19/21

Sovereign in the Spirit Realm

I’ve been reading Ephesians a lot lately (I’m assuming a lot of Christians have been, especially the last chapter). In chapter 6 (the grand finale) it tells the Believer to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength o His might. Put on the full armor of God so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers and against the powers, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness, in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:10-12).

Sitting at church last night, we were flipping pages back and forth between Ephesians and Colossians. Sometimes you miss stuff in the Bible until you read it out loud with others, especially those who read out of a different translation than you. So, there I am, snuggled into a padded pew, with one finger in Ephesians and one in Colossians, and we began reading about “principalities and powers” (you know the forces we are told in Ephesians 6 that we are fighting against). Well, in Colossians 2, it says two things about these principalities and powers that I have simply missed up until this point, partly because I never read it in the NKJV, which calls them “principalities and powers” rather than “rulers and authorities” (which sounds like it could be talking about the physical realm). Partly because we were made to function within a Body of believers and sometimes we just won’t see things unless another Christians sees them first. It’s God’s glorious design for Church unity. And partly because the Bible is so deep and wide that a person could read it for 800 years and still see new things. So, here’s what I saw…

The same principalities and powers that we are at war with, are the same that “He made a public display of” when “He triumphed over them” at the cross. In fact, it says “He had disarmed the rulers and authorities” (“principalities and powers”). So, basically, according to Colossians 2:15, the same demonic forces we battle with now, Jesus has already disarmed and beaten.

And the other thing we scavenged out of Colossians 2, last night, was in verse 10. which says “He (Jesus) is the head over all rule and authority (or principalities and powers).” Jesus has entire authority over those we are at war against (and let me just tell you, they HATE it!).

Folks, we are fighting the wrong war when we think we are fighting a virus, or differing opinions (even those we think affect our lives), or economic collapse, or the socialist-media giants who censor everything that doesn’t fit their rhetoric, or the corrupt politicians selling us into slavery. There are a whole lot of pawns on the battlefield. But the truest truth is that this is a spiritual war, between the impeccably good and glorious King of kings vs. the wicked, vindictive, and cruel principalities and powers.

But here’s the glorious part. God already won! He has ALL authority. When Jesus was being lifted back to heaven, to His throne, He told His disciples “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18). Then He told them to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the triune names of God (Father, Son and Spirit). His final, parting words were “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”.

Now guys, this world isn’t promised to get any prettier. This war might look like the nastiest, filthiest, ugliest battlefield, and a lot of human lives might be lost. I will not even pretend to think it won’t. I won’t even tell you what my predictions are, because I don’t want you to lose sight of what is even more true than the darkness and suffering we will likely experience. And that is that King Jesus, the One true God, who reigns forever, has ALL AUTHORITY under His feet! There is not a wicked force in this colossal universe that can undermine or undo what He intends. He might permit evil for a season, but for a well-seasoned believer, we can always look back on our lives and proclaim like Joseph did to his brothers “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:20). TO PRESERVE MANY PEOPLE ALIVE. And for some reason, I think this time around, He is using the suffering to save people from a spiritual famine that ends in hell, rather than a physical famine as was the case in Joseph’s day.

So, let’s get to work with being bold about the greatness of God! If Jesus’ parting words were that He had complete authority, and would never leave us, and that He wanted us to be about making disciples, then the ugliness in the world around us ought not terrify us, but rather remind us that we’re running out of time down here. People need to know that Jesus is the triumphant one (not all those other idols that people call “gods”). They need to know that He is lovely and worthy and righteous and true, and that He is the one and only hope for this generation, as well as every other generation that’s ever been… and I’d say ever will be, but I’m not very confident that we aren’t the last.

Remember, those demons you are wrestling against (because that’s really what this is), they are fighting against God. If Jesus is your God, and I sure do hope He is (or else you’re on the wrong side of this battlefield), then your Papa who loves you all the way to the cross and back, is more than capable of a rescue. He’s also capable of keeping you alive in the fire, like He did for those three Jewish boys in Nebuchanezzar’s day. And if He doesn’t keep you alive, you are headed somewhere incomprehensibly better, so why fret over saying “good-bye” to this broken world?

And one more treasure from Ephesians and Colossians… Colossians 2:9 says that in Jesus “the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form”, immediately followed by “in Him you have been made complete (or full)”! And in Ephesians 3:19, it speaks of us being rooted, grounded, comprehending and knowing the love of God “that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” Did you follow that? Jesus, who is the fullness of God, makes us full of Him by filling us to overflowing with His love for us.

It is so easy when we are in a battle to get weary and worn. It is easy to feel like our function of evangelists is coming from a place of stale obedience or fear of hell, when it ought to be an overflow of affection. We love others and care about their souls, because we’re been lavishly loved by God Himself. We have strength for the battle because we know the God who loves us strengthens us and gives us endurance. And we know that the God who we fight for and with has all authority, and loves us enough that He has been preparing a palace for us for these past couple thousand years. None of the sufferings we may have to endure can carry water, when our souls are cupping glory and everlasting hope!

So, a toast, to King Jesus! “To Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or thing, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

Space 1/14/2021

Jesus Died for Bandits

I used to hitch-hike the country. I smelled like I hadn’t bathed in a month, well, because I probably hadn’t. Showers aren’t easy to come by when your sleeping in ditches and under bridges. But I loved Jesus. And that part really messed with people’s heads. We didn’t look like their preconceived ideas of what a Christian should look (or smell) like.

Jesus also happened to be homeless. He didn’t look all that much like a suit-and-tie wearing Christian. In fact, He often ticked off the religious leaders of His day, by not taking “their” Sabbath as seriously as they expected any God-fearing Jew to do. They honestly missed the point and purpose of the Sabbath, because they viewed rest through a humanistic lens.

Then there was the eliteness of the Jews. It made sense. God had chosen Abraham and his descendants as His people. He had lived among the Jews since long before He stepped into Skin (the cloud and fire, the Mercy Seat in Tabernacle and Temple, the prophets, the Scriptures). He had inserted Himself (and promised to insert Himself) in their bloodline. They were His people.

There are a whole lot of things about Jesus that were miraculous. He healed every sick or demon possessed person He encountered. He raised folks from the dead. He raised Himself from the dead. He surrendered to a gruesome death to save humanity. But there is one miracle that is often overlooked…

He opened the Kingdom of heaven to the outcast!

Jesus didn’t just come to save Jews. He came to save Gentiles. He didn’t just come to reach those who wore a suit-and-tie, faithfully attended church, and always gave their 10%. He came to save the prostitutes.

I write all of this because I think there are still some of you who see Christians and think they are too polished and perfect for you to ever become one. You think the Kingdom of heaven is only open AFTER you’ve got your life together. If I told you how much of a mess I was when Jesus saved my soul, you might think otherwise. I will scratch the surface and tell you that I was addicted to crystal meth when I fell in-love with Jesus. And Mary Magdelene was full of demons (7 of them, actually), when she got saved. Matthew was a traitor to His people when He started following Christ. Paul was murdering Christians. Need I go on?

Let me just cup your cheeks (as much as I’m able), turn your head up to heaven, and tell you, one of the greatest miracles of Christ’s life is that He opened the Kingdom of heaven for everyone… the polished and the misfit, the law-abider and the death-row-dwelling inmate, the Jew and every other nation. For God so loved the world!

If you’re hesitant to follow Jesus because you’re afraid you won’t make a very good Christian, remember Jesus absolutely loves the outcast! He chose to be homeless and live among folks of no reputation. Gaze at the lives of His followers. The guy that wrote about half the New Testament was en route to kill Christians when he became one. Jesus has a way of turning broken, bleeding, hopeless lives into Glory-stories! All you have to do is accept it! There’s not even some magic word to get you through the gate. Simply believe Jesus loves you enough that He died. And then preach it to yourself again and again, whenever your tempted to resurrect old shame- Jesus died to abolish your shame. This is a Kingdom of redeemed bandits, where the criminal becomes a poster-child for Grace!?!

Vision #2

Awhile back I posted a vision I’d had, and said I would post more. Yet until now, I haven’t done so. For the past week or more I’ve been feeling that I needed to share this particular one, so here it is. I saw this on 2/27/16.

I was reading Chapter 4 in Tozer’s “The Pursuit of God”.   Just as I was finishing the chapter, the Lord told me, clear as day, “Close your eyes” and here is what I saw.

I saw the invisible war taking place all around me.  Angels and demons fighting.  The angels were sleek, shimmering, golden and light-filled.  The demons looked like monsters, but I was not afraid at all.  The angels were winning.  In fact, not a single angel fell.  The demons were dying off.  As the demons brought in replacement troops, there were less and less of them (Two times they replaced the troops.  The first replacement was significantly less, and the second only had one giant), still the replacements were bigger in size.  At the beginning of the scene, no humans were dying, than as time went on, an angel might allow a demon to kill one here or there, but at the end, the humans were falling like flies, because the angels knew the time was rapidly approaching and the wanted to speed up the process.  When the demons would kill any human beings the angels would allow, if the human was not of God’s Kingdom, they would fall, but if they were of the Kingdom, their fallen body would rise up as a new golden creature of the Light.  It was as if many of the creatures were birthed out of the fallen, slain bodies of the saints… as though they were finally released.  They joined the angelic army, which rapidly became far more numerous than the demons, until there were no more humans and one giant demon, and the whole earth was brimming with angelic creatures.  In unison, they loosed all their arrows onto the one giant, who evidently had no foresight to understand that he had no hope of winning.  Just as the giant fell, the earth swallowed him and all of the bodies of the fallen who were not the Church, and all of the angelic creatures began to fly up to the Celestial City, but the Lord stopped me from entering the gates of the City and told me I didn’t get to see it yet.  That it’s a surprise and then He told me that it was the place where He was going to give me a crown and I was going to give it back to Him because I am lovely and He is lovelier.  I am lovely and He is worthy!  

The Wonder of Tree Bark

I have a confession. I am enraptured with tree bark.

I suppose you might be scratching your head, confused as to why I am so wild about tree bark, of all things. It all comes down to wonder… and the majesty of details. Tree bark is kind-of like the finger prints of the tree, each and every strand and fiber different from the next, just like every finger print was uniquely designed for each individual person (what glory!). It’s how you can tell trees apart, even in the winter time, when it’s leaves lay docile, littering and nourishing the earth at it’s roots. The bark is the skin clinging faithfully, letting those that amble by know the tree’s identity.

But here is the crux of why I love tree bark… because something about it makes me want to lean into the tree and look closely, to run my fingers along it’s ridges, and fill up with wonder.

When Jesus was meandering the Palestinian deserts and towns, He told His followers if they wanted to enter the Kingdom of heaven, they needed to become like kids. For years I have pondered this, and how this plays out in my life. One of the greatest marvels of children is that they easily default to wonder. Kids are so present in the moment, so prone to letting the details accost them with amazement. I aspire to spend my life like a child, in this way… letting the wonders of the world around me accost me. Letting things like tree bark, a hefty breeze, the wafting of children’s laughter, or the feel of pine needles on the soles of my feet take my breath away, and cause me to pause, notice and savor.

So now I’ve said it. I hope you remember it. When you’re walking by some tree you’ve always taken for granted, I hope it makes you stop, lean in, maybe even wrap your arms around the trunk giving it a good hug, and then remember to run your fingers along the spines of the tree bark. And I hope it fills you brim-full of wonder!