Monday, August 16, 2010


in my thinking. .

About things—not what I can get, but how simply I can live.

About leisure—not escape from something, but entering into something.

About food—not what I have to give up, but what is good for my health.

About tithe—not what I lose, but what God's Kingdom gains.

About vacation—not doing whatever I want, but changing my pace.

About time—not immediate and urgent, but restful and trusting.

About God—not far away, but up close; not condemning, but loving; not emotionally distant, but relational.

About salvation—not my doing, but His.

About being loved—not getting hugs, but giving them.

About church—not what I get out of it, but what I put into it.

About life—not down here and short, but up there and eternal.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Something Went Terribly Wrong Here

The view from below:

Mark 15:1-15 (around 30 AD)

Early the next morning the chief priests, the nation's leaders, and the teachers of the Law of Moses met together with the whole Jewish council. They tied up Jesus and led him off to Pilate.

He asked Jesus, "Are you the king of the Jews?"

"Those are your words," Jesus answered.

The chief priests brought many charges against Jesus. Then Pilate questioned him again, "Don't you have anything to say? Don't you hear what crimes they say you have done?" But Jesus did not answer, and Pilate was amazed.

During Passover, Pilate always freed one prisoner chosen by the people. And at that time there was a prisoner named Barabbas. He and some others had been arrested for murder during a riot. The crowd now came and asked Pilate to set a prisoner free, just as he usually did.

Pilate asked them, "Do you want me to free the king of the Jews?"

Pilate knew that the chief priests had brought Jesus to him because they were jealous.

But the chief priests told the crowd to ask Pilate to free Barabbas.

Then Pilate asked the crowd, "What do you want me to do with this man you say is the king of the Jews?"

They yelled, "Nail him to a cross!"

Pilate asked, "But what crime has he done?"

"Nail him to a cross!" they yelled even louder.

Pilate wanted to please the crowd. So he set Barabbas free. Then he ordered his soldiers to beat Jesus with a whip and nail him to a cross.

Something went terribly wrong here.

The view from above:

Isaiah 53:5-12 (800 years before Christ was born)

He was wounded and crushed because of our sins; by taking our punishment, he made us completely well.

All of us were like sheep that had wandered off. We had each gone our own way, but the LORD gave him the punishment we deserved.

He was painfully abused, but he did not complain. He was silent like a lamb being led to the butcher, as quiet as a sheep having its wool cut off.

He was condemned to death without a fair trial. Who could have imagined what would happen to him? His life was taken away because of the sinful things my people had done.

He wasn't dishonest or violent, but he was buried in a tomb of cruel and rich people.

The LORD decided his servant would suffer as a sacrifice to take away the sin and guilt of others. Now the servant will live to see his own descendants. He did everything the LORD had planned. By suffering, the servant will learn the true meaning of obeying the LORD.

Although he is innocent, he will take the punishment for the sins of others, so that many of them will no longer be guilty.

The LORD will reward him with honor and power for sacrificing his life. Others thought he was a sinner, but he suffered for our sins and asked God to forgive us.

Lord, remind me, when things go terribly wrong in my life, to ask for the view from above.

Scriptures taken from the Contemporary English Version of the Bible

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Always Temporary

Belonging to Jesus doesn't mean nothing terrible will ever happen to you. It just means terrible things are temporary.

That's enough.

Revelation 21:4

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Not Jonathan Livingston

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment. Isaiah 64:6

I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. Romans 7:18

You were washed. . .you were sanctified. . .you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God. I Corinthians 6:11

Perfect because of My splendor which I bestowed on you, declares the Lord God. Ezekiel 16:14

I'm so proud of this photo, even if it was an accident. I just wanted a picture of a sea gull, and I grabbed it, not knowing if the bird was even in my sights at the time.

I love what was caught by my camera lens in that fraction of a second.

Yes, it is just a seagull. That unimpressive, annoying bird who struts awkwardly up and down the beach, looking at you out of the corner of his eye with that half defiant, half apologetic expression, as if he knows you don't like him and are about to shoo him away.

The one who scuttles up to steal from your chip bag when you aren't looking, then scurries off, leaving his dirty germs behind.

But in the air, soaring toward the light, against the blue, blue sky, he's beautiful.

I think it's a metaphor.

Disclaimer: This bird is not related to Jonathan Livingston Seagull, who was created to explain (and does so very aptly) the christological doctrine of the Mormon faith.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Simple Cure

Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. . . (Psalm 37:3-7)

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (1 Timothy 6:17)

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destry; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (Jesus, in John 10:9-10)

I hate when people tell me what's wrong with my life but don't tell me how to fix it. Yesterday I talked about what was wrong. Today I want to suggest a way to fix it. It may not be difficult. Most of our idols, at least as Christians, are not intrisically bad things. They're just good things in the wrong place.

“God gives us, richly, all things to enjoy.” This is a glorious truth we can embrace wholeheartedly. We can embrace His gifts as well. We just have to make sure we don't squeeze too tightly, and, even more importantly, we have to remember where the gifts come from. Repenting from idolatry may be as simple as rearranging our priorities. We need to make sure the gifts come below the Giver in the hierarchy that governs our lives.

Too often, in our lives as broken human beings, the gift slips into the place of the Giver. The means to joy becomes the end instead of just a stepping stone to the real destination. Jesus is the “end” of all true joy—the apex, the final resting place. That's why, when our focus slips down to the gift, we live with the vague uneasiness that something is wrong. It is wrong. It's not the gift that's wrong, it's just that the gift is out of place.

When I spend time on my computer, it needs to be for the right purpose. When Jesus is looking over my shoulder, participating in my activity, it's holy, whether it's writing a blog post, or editing my novel, or playing Spider Solitaire. But when any of those activities becomes the focus, rather than the presence of Jesus in them, they become idols.

Does the presence of Jesus always have to be conscious? I don't think so. But I find when I stray too far from that conscious awareness, I begin to feel antsy. That's when my life seems formless and void. It's then I need to take some time to be still before Him.

It happens at least once a day for me.

Life worshipping the One True God is gloriously exciting. When He fills my vision, I am on top of the world. It doesn't take much to give me that joy, but it also doesn't take much to spoil it.

My prayer is that I will be so sensitive to His presence in my life, and so eager for His blessing, that I can't stray a millimeter away without recognizing the presence of a thief in the sheepfold.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Jeremiah Was Not a Bullfrog

Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, all you clans of the house of Israel. This is what the Lord says: “What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves. They did not ask, 'Where is the Lord, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness. . .' The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols.” (Jeremiah 2:4-6, 8)

Lately I've been wondering if Jeremiah's prophecy against the children of Israel might also be for me—for us as Christians in North America especially. I don't want to think so. How can it be? We love Jesus; We cry out to Him every day; We want Him to be our only God.

But so did the Israelites. God said, “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert.” (Jeremiah 2:2) This describes me. If this prophecy is still in the Bible, and the Bible describes the human condition, and human beings are still human, maybe I need to consider if this book of Jeremiah has something to say to me today.

I often feel lost, spiritually. I feel like the culture around me has absorbed my spirit, has robbed me of my confidence in God's victory over evil, has immobilized me. So much of the time I don't feel on top of my life, free and full of the joy of the Lord. I wonder if the idolatry Jeremiah speaks of might be my affliction as well?

An idol is anything I trust in other than the Lord. What I worship is the thing that captivates me, that occupies most of my thought and my time. It's what I spend the most money on. It's the screen saver, or the desktop background of my mind. Is that, for me, the One True God, the God of Israel, or is it something else?

I'm not sure. It's so easy for me to trust in my own ability or power or inclinations. So hard to relinquish that control, turn it over to God.

What occupies most of my thought and time? These days, it's the computer, and not always the kind of soul searching I'm doing on it at the moment.

What do I spend the most money on? I use money to buy “things” that will make life more comfortable, more interesting—things to distract me from the vague sense that there might be something missing in my life.

Where does my mind wander when the mental demands of living relax a little bit? Usually to the next thing I should be “doing,” which leads to my “to do” list. It's on my desktop, and it lists everything except the most important thing.

The most important thing is spending time with the One True God. Time reading the Bible, not just a verse snatched here and there but a chapter, or even a book now and then without interruption. Time sitting and meditating on what I read. Time quietly listening, in case there's a specific application the Holy Spirit wants to make to my life. It's important that I pray with a focus on the One who is listening instead of on the tangled messes I'm bringing before Him to unravel. I need to take time to be still.

I don't like Jeremiah. I'd rather read the Psalms. Or the Gospels, though even they are sometimes a little unsettling; Jesus sounded a lot like Jeremiah in some places. I really only want to hear things that make me comfortable. But Jeremiah was not a bullfrog. He was a bull horn. He shouted God's message loud and clear. I think I need to listen, whether I want to or not.