Why aren’t We United?

I grew up around people who would be offended by this video (video at bottom of post). It has people of ‘incorrect’ belief systems in it singing together. They would not laud the accomplishment of unity, they would tear down the value through hypocrisy and division.

Jesus prayed for unity (John 17:21). In this moment He did not pray for tolerance or acceptance or inclusiveness, or even equality. He prayed for unity. He asked that we be united in the same way that He was united with God. That we be one. “One”. When the disciples saw other men casting out demons they complained to Jesus. Those other men weren’t part of the Jesus clique.

Jesus responded by saying, “For the one who is not against us is for us.” (Mark 9:40). But with scripture in hand we look aside and pass judgement.

Unity is quite simple. One person stands and points to Jesus. Others join, also pointing to Jesus. When we stop and point at each other, we are committing multiple sins.

What a powerful song. Join in. Sing it. Point to Jesus. The world needs Jesus. The world does not need hypocrisy, judgement, condemnation, or division. (Romans 8:1).

Mark 9:40 works both ways. “For the one who is not against us is for us”. It would then also be true that the one who is NOT for us… is against us. The call is not to join a church who doesn’t line up with your understanding of scripture. It’s simply to point to Jesus. To not oppose the Savior.

I think there is grave importance in the 3 cord analogy (where 2 or more are gathered). Matthew 18:20. God created power in unity. He puts Himself in the midst of harmony. He sets it as an example for prayer and worship.

Some of us truly believe that we can speak out of hatred and direct the gaze of the world away from Christ and still bear His name. May we hear the words of the Messiah fresh today. The greatest command is love and the one who defines love seeks unity among His believers. Sing Amen! Lift those eyes and voices and fingers up and be about the Father’s business ONLY.

Check out other versions of the blessing, sang in unity across the globe by searching “The blessing over”… on Youtube and other places. Hear from the U.S., Pakistan, Canada, Africa, France, Japan, and many other.

Live IN the Future, Not for it

We spend our lives trying to get to the good moments. When bad things happen we strive to overcome and repair. It’s often about getting back to our happy places.

Pain is not just inevitable, it’s a guarantee. It’s a promise wrought on by a fallen world desperate to take it all. Where is the hope? There are glimpses here and there, but in its fullness we won’t see it until we have nothing left. Death, for instance, doesn’t cost different things for different people… it’s the same price for all and it simply costs everything. This can be difficult to understand whether we fear our own or lose others we care so much about.

We take nothing with us. Jesus knew this and yet stayed on mission. His task was not to find Joy only to lose it in the end when all is left behind. He didn’t amass wealth or accolades that would be stripped from Him as He passed on. His death was how He returned to the Father and it’s also how He saved us. And so He locked on to that moment and bee-lined straight to it.

No time to waste, no distractions, ‘I’ve got a death to get to’. Why me? Nope he never said those words, ‘why me?’. How silly would it have sounded for the only person equipped to live out his life and death for us to ponder if someone else not capable could take His place… and how ironic as His task was exactly that… to take our place.

You are expertly equipped and placed into your life circumstances unlike any other. Others know pain, but no one knows YOUR pain. Why you? You are the only one who can. You can wallow in regret and pity or you can embrace the inevitable and bee-line through destiny knowing the truth of Jesus.

Life isn’t the relationships we make in this world. It’s not about getting back to the good moments or experiencing the peace and calm… it’s about that mission that takes us from one rocky moment to the next… the ones we were trained for… the ones we have been made and prepared for. And when our mission is complete, it’s not about what we leave behind or are left without… it’s about what is ahead.

Whether we lose children or parents or struggle with illness and debt and loneliness and many other things… it’s never, why me? Why NOT me? Who else could do this? Getting through this moment with eyes on God, thinking eternally… that is exactly what Jesus came and showed us how to do.

COVID, school, jobs, sickness, death, despair, heartache… we have the tools to look up. It’s not about getting back, it’s about getting up. We can stand up and face any day that we give to God. Not through our strength, but with His.

The enemy offers consolation in grief and utter loss. His cure is stagnation. His goal is doubt and confusion. He will whisper that you deserve more, he will dangle sad memories and terrible challenges through your anxiety and frustration. He wins when we give in to ‘why me?’.

It means we have lost sight of the Savior who constantly chanted, ‘it HAS to be me’ while He sacrificed beyond all understanding. You have the power to do the same. His name is Jesus and He gave it to you. You can look the doubt and fears and turmoil square in the eyes and giggle with the faith of being created to be led directly through the storms and into the hope that awaits you.

You can do this. You were made for this. It’s not about the people around you or the weakness within you. It’s not for the stuff or the memories. It’s certainly not for posting and sharing… It’s about getting through while looking up. Eyes on the Father. That is how Jesus did it. That is what we have been prepared for.

We get to live in the future. IN the future. Normally that isn’t possible. You might think I meant to say, “FOR” the future. No. For the future is planning ahead. You exercise today to be buff tomorrow. You study today to be smart tomorrow. That is living “FOR” the future.

Living “IN” the future is being aware of when eternity begins. It’s knowing God who is omniscient (all knowing). It’s doing things today BECAUSE of tomorrow. Crazy things that don’t build you up at all. Sacrificing money and food, or even just being kind to someone that will still hate you after. That is living IN the future. It doesn’t better yours, it betters theirs.

Living IN the future knows the score. It knows how things have already turned out thanks to the death of Jesus Christ. It exclaims, “I’m there!”. I want in on that! I receive the gift of Jesus. And everything I do will be with that gift in mind. It’s not building a better tomorrow, you already have the best tomorrow! It’s accepting and knowing what your tomorrow will be no matter how terrible today seems.

You will be tempted to look out on life and try to get back to some point, some moment, or maybe even some feeling. This is where despair comes from. Trying to get to something that you were never meant for. Try living each moment as though God is leading you through to something fantastic… because if you let Him, He will. The confusion comes from temporary fantastic and eternal awe and amazement. Living IN the future will help discern between the two.

Is Your Christianity Out of Style?

How many of us are still trying the same things we learned to do 5 years ago? Perhaps even 10 years? 20? Even longer? Consider the picture of the handsome young boy trying to put on a shoe that barely goes over his big toe.

How silly is that? His laugh is genuine. At 6 years old, he knows how unbelievably ridiculous it is to try on a shoe meant for a new born. His body is growing and he is constantly trying on new clothes to fit into. He can’t even wear clothes from last year, let alone 5 years ago.

What he knows to be true of his clothes, should be similar with our faith. Are you still wearing last year’s faith? Is your relationship with God sustained over holidays and rare needs you just have to ask for?

We can hardly keep up with technology. Our phones keep changing, our internet keeps growing, the apps keep multiplying. Medicine is ever growing, changing, and educating us in new ways of health, exercise and diet. Our fashions change, not only in trendiness, but fabrics and colors go in and out of season.

Everything around us follows this flow of renewal, refreshing, upgrading, growing, advancing, empowering…. where does your faith stand in the midst?

Is it growing? Is your faith busting at the seams, demanding a new, larger space to hold it? Are we constantly throwing out the old and small because we keep getting bigger and better where it matters most?

Stop trying to squeeze into yesterday’s faith… it shouldn’t fit anymore. Faith is putting on baggy clothes knowing we will grow into them. My mom taught me that growing up. She grew so tired of buying new shoes, I never had a pair that fit. I grew accustomed to walking around in shoes so big that my feet slid around in them.

Guess what happened when my feet grew? Did the shoes finally fit? NO! She bought bigger shoes. It’s time for those safe, comfy shoes that wrap around our toes and gently hug our heals to get tossed. We need bigger shoes to fill! We need uncomfortable room to grow into.

Peter was used to walking on dry ground. When Jesus called him into the water, he had to step into much bigger shoes to be able to stand on the water. And he stood! Even if only momentarily, he stood. Then he raced back to his smaller shoes out of fear and he began to sink. With bigger shoes comes bigger potential and bigger opportunity, but also a requirement to step faithfully in them no matter how they feel.

The biggest shoes of all were worn by Jesus. They went through poverty, wilderness, wedding feasts, celebrations, resurrections, the cross and they finally made it home to the Father in heaven… we are meant to follow in those mammoth footsteps. Did you catch that? It wasn’t all easy. There was some pain in His path. But it lead to the Father.

You can’t get to God in small shoes of faith. Jesus will take us, but only if we follow in His big steps. Jesus constantly praised those with faith. The roman centurion who knew Jesus could command the sickness to leave without entering his home, the men who lowered the paralytic through the roof on a mat, the woman who touched his robe, the other woman who gave her last two mites (all of her money)… faith, faith, faith, faith.

From what I can gather, Jesus will bring us to the Father if we bring the big faith.

What can you do to grow a size today?

Roads Vs. Oceans

I feel like many of us have been living in a certain sort of turmoil. The picture that comes to my mind is trying to turn out of a parking lot onto a busy street. You pull up with your blinker on and wait your turn. But the cars keep coming. Not just one or two, or perfectly spaced apart… but as you look in each direction you see an endless line of headlights slowly dimming over the horizon. And the words exasperatedly enter both your mind and your soul… “I’m never getting out of here”

A terrible feeling for sure, but an easy problem structure to have… at least for most. The problems are many… seemingly infinite, but as you likely have experienced, they still only come one or two at a time. And, if we end up patient enough, they pass us by and we can eventually pull out of our ruts and struggles and make our way to the road of our journey.

Some now have a different kind of pain. The picture that comes to my mind is an ocean. Far out into the massive expanse of water, you are treading over unexplored depths. It’s dark, it’s cold, and you can’t see anything in any direction that you look, save the waves that keep bouncing past your face reminding you that your small world just became a tiny piece of hay hidden in a massive needle-stack.

Sharks don’t attack in single file lines, they swarm and circle. There are jelly fish too, and sting rays, eels, piranha’s, whales, and all sorts of other deadly creatures. There are currents, undertows, and storms. But even if nothing actually and physically attacks you… you are getting tired and as you gasp for breath, each time a little more salt water finds it way into your mouth.

Where before, our problems seemed huge and life altering… we can look back now and sense that those were the good ole days. Single file problems in the highway of life that would mildly detour us, but eventually gave way and let us back in our lane. Now we have been dropped in the ocean.

Whizzing though our minds are thoughts of loved ones, travel plans, jobs, bills, food, shelter, civil issues, panic, and the uncertainty of how everyone else’s behavior could change. The store shelves are empty, the news won’t stop with scare tactics and dramatics… and we might just think exasperatedly… “I’m never getting out of this”. We might even long for the days when our terrible problems seem so much simpler now.

What strikes me is how differently Paul prayed. “get me out of this!”… nope. Not him. He said “to live is Christ, to die is gain”. He explained that if he was allowed to keep on living that he would just use his life to continue sharing Jesus with others, and if He died, that He would be with Jesus and his mission would be accomplished.

While I think this would be a great, albeit morbid application here, that isn’t the point I want to make. For Paul, it wasn’t about living or dying because he always lived his life in such a way that it didn’t matter what happened next.

When the roads backed up and he couldn’t make progress… he would, effectively, minister in the parking lot he was stuck in. When the ocean swelled around him and the sharks closed in, He prepared his mind for the eternity he had been living for all along.

There was no, “why me?” or “how come”… it was always, “Lord, I serve you”… even in situations much worse than we see today. And at the crux of it all was what He kept His eyes on. He didn’t see the road, or the cars, or the water, or the fear, or the panic… He just saw Jesus. When eyes are locked on the Savior, you get saved. That doesn’t mean yanked out of problems, but it does mean eternal life with a Savior that defines love and peace.

I’ve always been perplexed by the phrase, “meet your maker”. To most that means death. Paul lived his life every day with his maker… and it was wonderful. David sang in caves while in hiding for his life… he sang about his wonderful, magnificent maker. Jesus, when sacrificing himself for us, was in constant communion with His maker.

What I have learned is that if we meet our maker now… we aren’t afraid to meet him in the end. A relationship with God now, means we understand and even appreciate the end. Forfeiting that relationship now, is what gives so much fear and panic to such a phrase and possibility.

That relationship is hope. It is light in the middle of the struggle. It is peace in the storms of life. It brings balance, courage, and sense into the chaos.

This isn’t about having morbid thoughts of despair today, tomorrow, or even the next few months or years… It’s about acknowledging that men and women who faced such situations didn’t know fear when they knew their maker. This is true for pandemics and it’s true for surgeries and marriages and relationships and jobs. When you know Jesus, you live for Him… and that may not pull you out of the water, but it makes you fearless, content, and able to live strong, proud, and for Him in every situation.

Paul knew, he would either look back one day and see how God lead Him through, or He with be with God soon… either way was a victory for him. And that is how he lived out every day. Every wonderful, God created, Spirit-filled day where he communed with His creator no matter what the Devil came up with for that day. Today we can dread the unknown, or we can meet our Maker. He answers to God, Father, Lord, and many other titles. He wants to know you, He wants to fellowship with you. He wants to restore those who used to know Him…

Speak those words… ‘God, I want to know you!’ Perhaps speak them again if you don’t know Him well. And find where the bravery of Paul came from. Learn what hope means and why fear is trivial in the most extreme circumstances.


Image by Pexels from Pixabay

I want God’s Bed Time

Our 5 year old wanted to know why we had different bed times. He often forgets his responsibilities (things like turning off a light, brushing teeth, being nice, his middle name, etc), but he has an epic, razor sharp, iron clad memory when it comes to the rules for others.

Oh, how he can spot a discrepancy. “What do you mean you don’t have to go to bed also?!!!?! That’s not fair!!!!”. He fully expects the same food portions as adults, the same allowance, the same… everything. In his mind, fair is fair… there are no exceptions.

So after the first 3 hundred or so times of me explaining that he would get a newer bed time when he got older, he turned 6. Well, that is getting ahead of ourselves… he almost turned 6. With the birthday still 3 days off, he was already a 6 year old in his mind.

And out came the logic. “You said I could stay up later when I got older… well, now I’m older!”. And this isn’t something that can be explained to him. Not yet anyway. He isn’t ready. His mind can’t process that even though he is a year older from the first time we had this conversation, he is only a day older from the last time we had it.

He doesn’t understand that we also told him that he could drive when he was older too. But that hasn’t stopped him from asking for a car of his own. A real one. And I’ve yet to find adult words that will pacify a child who feels like he is ready.

And I wonder if this is how we sound to God?

I’m ready for that next step. I’m ready for more gifts. I’m ready for that relationship. I’m ready for that promotion. I’m ready for more favor. I’m ready!

And the God who really knows us and loves us sees this infant asking for a car to drive… but we aren’t pacified with the wisdom of a God who loves us too much to allow us to destroy ourselves with ignorance and ego.

I know that in the last year, I’ve used the phrase, “when you’re older”, about 365 times. And I think I’m being generous, because I know it’s often said more than once per day.

I wonder how many time God uses that phrase, or perhaps a variation of it? Waiting on the Lord is a common theme in the Psalms. Patience is a form of love and a fruit of the Spirit.

I love my son… but I’m not about to let him behind the wheel of the car just because he cries tears of unfairness. I’m not going to let him stay up late when it isn’t good for him and I’m not going to let him eat the portions of a grown man just because his brain hasn’t developed enough to understand.

Shouldn’t God do the same for us? What that means to us is… we need more patience, more understanding, and more reality that we aren’t equal with God. We don’t share His bed time. We aren’t privy to all the knowledge and wisdom of the creator of the universe.

Sometimes His answer to us might simply be, “because I said so”. And we need to faithfully learn that that is an excellent answer. The creator of the world, including our small part in it, deemed us as perfect, right where we are, for now. And if, as parents, we want our children to appreciate that safety and protection that we provide in those moments, we should thrive there as well.

But we also teach our son to ask. It’s OK to ask. We love him and want him to be happy. So, as frustrating as it gets, he is allowed, and even encouraged, to ask for a later bedtime. And someday, he will get it. And it will most certainly be on a day that he asks for it. But not yet. Not today. He isn’t ready. His little body needs sleep.

Part of what he doesn’t understand is that I’m happy to give him things that he enjoys once is ready for them. And if, in my sinful nature, I can manage to be that for him… imagine what God is prepared to do for us… when we are ready.


Image by Pexels from Pixabay

10 Things I Have Learned From Samson (aka, Will You Push?)

  1. Samson knew his gifts.  He wasn’t out trying to sing or put on shows.  He smashed stuff. His accomplishments are legendary because he acted in faith with the tools God provided him.  Bare hands, donkey jaw, pillars, etc.

  2. Samson was pretty smart.  He loved riddles. He did stupid things but he wasn’t stupid.

  3. Samson put himself in temptation’s path.  Look at how obvious Delilah was and how each time she tried the very thing he suggested.  He knew… but he didn’t want to know.

  4. Samson believed that even though God had left, he would return when asked.  

  5. Samson prayed for a mighty miracle.  Something supernatural that could not be confused for something a mere human could do.  

  6. Delilah is never mentioned in the Bible again after she is paid for her betrayal.  We do not know her fate. In other words, when you serve the enemy, your story is over the second he is done with you.  She was given an ENORMOUS sum of money and lived free… yet we never hear of her again, however, Samson, who was blinded and imprisoned still had amazing moments left to tell about as he served God.

  7. The more we fall away from God’s plan for us, the more difficult it will be to carry out the tasks assigned to us.  Ponder how different life would be for Pharaoh if when Moses said, “let my people go!” the very first time, Pharaoh said, “sure, you may leave, have a safe trip!”.  God’s plan was to set the Israelites free, but Pharaoh had to adjust to his own disobedience before it happened. Samson did something similar. He was set aside to free God’s people from the Philistines.  Due to his disobedience, God still used him to accomplish this task, but at a much greater cost. When God was with him, he freely conquered on the battlefields. When He left God, he had to operate within prison walls and with no sight. Disobedience reduces our own options to work within God’s plan.

  8. Samson’s prayer aligned with God’s plans and gifts to him.  It wasn’t selfish, it wasn’t a deviation from the path. It was exactly what God called him to do.  It was almost like Samson said, “I accept and I’m ready”. It’s difficult to think through this at times, but we aren’t the only ones God is working with.  Asking for something that someone else is set aside for, might yield more ‘no’s’ than we would like. Knowing our calling and asking for opportunities within God’s plan yields holy and unbelievable results.  

  9. Samson did not know that God’s powers had left him.  This plays into point 10 quite a bit, but it also makes me wonder… how many of us are functioning off a call that we received years ago, yet we do not live the life called out of or into? How many of us think God is with us when He has no reason to be? How many of us think He is just sitting back, watching us play Nintendo, when He is really waiting for repentance and renewal before He will work within us?

  10. Samson, now knowing that God’s powers had left him, prayed for a mighty miracle and then pushed on the pillars.  This is faith. Praying and then pushing. Believing that there is power within a faithful God. If he did not feel God leave, did he feel Him come back? How did He know God returned? Because a called man asked a faithful God to fulfill His will through faith, mercy, and obedience. He prayed… and then he pushed.


Photo by Macu ic on Unsplash

Any Given Sunday you can Worship. Do you?

Do you go to church to sing pretty songs, or do you go to make war against the enemies of God?  You can dress that question up semantically however you like, but war has found you.  And while the end may be determined, the inhabitants of that end have not.  War is about more than staying alive… its about dragging the wounded off the battle field with you.  It’s letting that heroes’ heart take over and determining that counting is in increments of 1.  That life matters.  Every life matters.  Each soul is precious.  The call to worship is a battle cry.
If my throat is not sore, if my eyes are dry, if my feet aren’t tired, if my knees aren’t worn, if my heart is not moved, if my mind wanders.  If I am not shaken into the embrace of God… then I have NOT worshipped.
Read 1 Chronicles 16:23-31.  I’m going to list just some of the words from those verses that describe worship: (if the words repeat, they did so in the passage).
“Sing to the Lord (not to each other).  Proclaim.  Declare.  Glory.  Marvelous.  Great.  Worthy of praise.  Feared.  Splendor.  Majesty.  Strength.  Joy.  Ascribe to the Lord.  Ascribe to the Lord.  Glory.  Strength.  Ascribe to the Lord.  Glory due His name.  Bring an offering.  Come before Him.  Worship.  Splendor.  Holiness.  Tremble.”
Tremble.
“Tremble before Him.”
Who should tremble before Him?  The disciples?  no.  The Pharisees?  no.  Just the old testament?  no.  Who should Tremble?  “all the earth!”.  (exclamation mark included).
“Let the heaven’s rejoice, let the earth be glad, let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
Read it again.  Read it every day.  Read it right before worship.  Read it during.  Have you ever worshipped in such a way?
Stand face to face before the Lord your God and tremble (“come before Him”), ascribe, declare, and worship.
We can sing pretty songs anytime we want.  When we join in worship,  we are worshipping a mighty and living God that will approach us as we approach Him.
He responds in kind.  And our offering?  An attempt to sing quieter than the person next to me so no one can hear how bad I sing.  Or a trip to the cry room so I can stretch my legs.  Perhaps “meditation” when I don’t like the next song?  Even the jubilant singers… if that isn’t for Him… if the jolly isn’t for the Savior, then it isn’t worship.
We just don’t always stop and think that when we ask God to join us… He will actually come.  Some of us need to share our loving Savior with others.  Peacefully and gracefully.  Some of us need to refine our worship.  We need to remove the volume cap and let the praise flow out.  We need a reminder that our scripture isn’t as complex or cryptic as we are made to think.  A sacrifice of worship isn’t simply singing on key.
Some of us need to worship for the first time in our lives.  Some of us know people who go to church every single Sunday and they haven’t yet put one foot over the battle line.  Ask yourself… please… sincerely ask yourself.  Why are you going to church?  To stretch out your new dress shoes?  To get a good spot in the ‘singles’ section?  Or is it to let go of ourselves so God can take hold and lead us to greatness for His name?
This Sunday millions of Christians will go to church and sit on their hands expecting God to make the first move.  Or they will sing under their breath.  Or, they will share scripture in monotone drudgery.
Listen to just the verbs in the passage above:
Sing. Proclaim.  Declare.  Fear.  Ascribe.  Bring an offering.  Come before Him.  Worship.  Tremble.
God may be where the power is at, but we have a responsibility to take action.  Look at the woman who sought Jesus out for healing.  First she carried her sick person directly to Him.  Then she had faith that Jesus had supernatural powers.  Finally she reached out to Him and touched Him.  (Matthew 9:20-22)
Had she not combined 3 key elements ( her faith, her action, and God’s willing power) she would not have been healed.
She was bold to reach out and touch someone who she already believed was who He claimed to be…. God.  Did she do it with fear and trembling?  Most likely… that is worship!  She went to be face to face with the Savior and made the choice to give all she had (faith and action) and to involve Him in the moment.
Worship is… If and only IF… you are face to face with the savior, reaching out and being ready to grab hold of what He has in store for you!
You can win this Sunday.  You can choose to step onto the spiritual battlefield and accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Savior.  You can introduce others to Him and give them a fighting chance as well.  The enemy, literally, wants you and everyone you love to go to hell.  Don’t just sing a pretty song in response…. go to war!