Archive for the ‘Delighting in God’ Category



November 27, 2020

"First Thanksgiving at Plymouth," Jeannie Brownscombe, 1914

“We give thanks this day for the abundance that we have been given” is a prayer many will have spoken this Thanksgiving.

On Thanksgiving, many feelings will be expressed of heartfelt gratitude for friends and family, provision and providence, wellness and well-being.  Yet, there is no distinction between the warm feelings of gratitude when the thankful have abundance filling every corner of the treasure room of their hearts.

All can know appreciation when plates are full and seats are all filled.

Yet, what is the basis for thankfulness when all is not sufficient?  Do we fake it? Do we pretend to be thankful even when we are inwardly dissatisfied?  Do we rationalize the sufficiency of the insufficient based upon a relative scale with others?

I read of Jesus’ thankfulness for five loaves and two fishes.  Was he really thankful for what was clearly insufficient?  Jesus thanked God for a meal to feed one or maybe two, which left 4,998 (plus families).  Jesus was thankful when all the whole was missing.

This year, many will have a portion but the whole will be missing.

At my family’s table, a chair will be empty and the family missing a father.
At my Wife’s table, a chair will be empty and the family missing a mother.
At my Cousin’s table, a chair will be empty and the family missing an uncle.
At Brother’s table, the chair of my Sister-in-Law will be filled but the grief of cancer’s curse colors all with feelings of finality.
Our table will be divided. Family members isolated in smaller groups amongst various homes.  Our tables will not be whole.  They will be portions.

How are we to be thankful in a year such as this?

Jesus was thankful for what was insufficient for the need.  He was not thankful for a couple fish and several loaves.  He was thankful for a God that was sufficient for all needs regardless of the portions.  This year the portions are not sufficient for many.  This year most are not celebrating with the whole.

Gratitude in the whole is not an act of righteousness.  Anyone can be thankful in abundance.  This year we have an opportunity to practice the thankfulness of Jesus.  We can be truly thankful, because God can either make the insufficient sufficient or He can make us content under the wing of our sovereign, all-sufficient, savior.

Thankfulness is an act of Faith.  Our thankfulness should not rest upon the visible but on the invisible and what is to come.  Our thankfulness should reside upon the truth that there will be a day when all are together, and the table is full with our Lord at its head.


“Say Ah” – Nov. 3

November 3, 2015

“Ah, Lord God!  It is you who has made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm!  Nothing is too hard for you.”  Jeremiah 32:17

IMG_20151026_155920Upon September’s conclusion, I knew October’s difficulties.  The nature of my employment had conspired against me by scheduling five business trips in the span of four weeks.  I realize that, for some, this may have been business as usual.  However, six business trips constituted my annual total in years past.  I am not accustomed to this level of business travel.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should reveal the locations of my business travel before you commiserate too much with me.  I was working in the following National Parks:

Mount Rainer National Park
Death Valley National Park
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Muir Woods National Monument
Olympic National Park
Yosemite National Park

IMG_20151017_092150I can just feel the sympathy evaporating as this list is read.  It was rough duty but someone has to do it.  My only appeal for sympathy is that while I was traveling to beautiful locations it was for work.  My typical trip was a three day affair; flying to the Park on day one, conducting the project meeting on the following, and then returning on the third day.  These trips contained a lot of time in airports, planes, rental cars and hotels, albeit, in the context of a spectacular National Park.

IMG_20151017_092445I have found that it takes purposefulness to truly combat the busyness of business.  I endeavor to purposefully carve out time in each business trip to appreciate the particular locale of my trip, especially on trips to national parks, otherwise I will miss the spectacular.  It is easy to fly in, do the work, and fly out without ever looking up.  We can miss a lot of wonder in our diligent toil.

Therefore, I try to find a moment or two on each business trip to set aside my labor, look around me and say, “Ah, this is spectacular!”

I have realized my need to be purposeful in looking past myself so that I can appreciate the wonder of the world I live in, otherwise it doesn’t happen.  Beholding the glorious is one of the unique characteristics of being human.  There is no other creature who has this unique ability to appreciate the spectacular.  It is what we were made to do.

However, I often fail to regularly do what I was uniquely created for.  I get so consumed by my daily toils that I fail to look up and appreciate the world around me.

If I am failing to appreciate the world in which I am placed,
how can I truly appreciate the Creator of that world?

If I am failing to appreciate my Creator,
how can I truly trust him?

If I don’t truly trust Him,
how can I say that I have faith in Him?

Consider how Jeremiah may have come to his declaration of faith, “nothing is too hard for God”.

He beheld the heavens and the earth;
He praises the Creator, “Ah, Lord”;
He reasons that creation must have required great power through the outstretched arm of God;
He concludes in faith that if God can create the world around him then there is nothing too hard for him.

I don’t know if this is exactly how Jeremiah thought.  Although, this is how my faith often works.

My soul is most refreshed when I lay aside my preoccupations and simply behold His glory.
My faith is renewed through each exclamation of “Ah, Lord”.
My resolve is strengthened when reminded of my God who can do anything.

I believe that we all can grow in our trust that “nothing is too hard for God”, which means that we all can use more “Ah, Lord” moments.  Maybe, rather than trying to do more, we simply need to carve out 15 minutes a day to merely relax and enjoy the spectacular nature of our Creator.IMG_20151028_155019

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for the spectacular world that we live in.   Thank you for putting on display your glory.  Thank you for creating me with the ability to praise you.  Forgive me for often failing to do what I have been uniquely created to do.  Lord, remind me, today, to look up.  Remind me to behold your glory, today.  Father, inform my theology through the appreciation of your creation.  Build my faith through all the “Ah” moments that you grant me.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen



February 20, 2014

“And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”  Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God.  For all things are possible with God.”  Mark 10:26-27

English: Ambulance 5

Imagine  you are in your home and start to feel light-headed and nauseous.  The concern in your spouse’s eye is evident as she picks up the telephone to call for an ambulance.  As you ride in the ambulance to the hospital, you hear the muted words of a paramedic saying to the driver, “You had better step on it,” as your eyelids descend over your consciousness amidst the sensation of increasing speed and the noise of a distant siren.

When you open your eyes, you find yourself lying in a hospital bed within a body that has been transformed into something weak and foreign.  Tubes and wires tug at tender skin with the slightest movement.  Nurses scurry in and out of the room interrupted only by periods when they poke and prod away your dignity as quickly as it emerges from a groggy past.

You strain to focus on the faces of those assembled around your bed.  The recognition of those whom you love slowly seeps through an unexplainable confusion.  They are smiling joyfully with faces that bear the fleeting remnants of tears and fatigue.  You have no idea as to why they are so joyful.

Five days have passed since your last memories.  You are told that you nearly died.  You are told  you have been through something impossible.  You are told that you have experienced a miracle.  Yet, you don’t remember anything.  All you know is that you are uncomfortable and want to go home.  You have no idea how far you have come but you are aware of how far you have to go to get back to the person you last remembered yourself being.

Discouragement descends like a wave despite all those celebrating around you.

This has been my Dad’s experience over the last couple days.  I posted in “PRAYER REQUEST – My Dad” and “MY DAD – An Update / Answered Prayers” regarding my Dad’s brush with death.  My Dad has been recovering remarkable well.  He is out of the hospital and currently at a rehabilitation center to continue his recovery.  I know that he is discouraged because he is not where he wants to be.  When I first heard that he was discouraged and grumpy about being in the hospital it irritated me.  His response seemed so ungrateful given what I know he had been through.

I asked him what was the last thing  he remembered.  His last memories are of the ambulance ride to the hospital.  His negative response was not that surprising when I realized that he did not know what he had been through.  He does not remember any of it.  Therefore, we have been explaining to him everything that has happened over the last week but I know  it all feels so surreal to him.  On Sunday, I read to my Mom and Dad the blog posts and many of the prayer-filled comments that were posted.  I think that helped.  They are deeply appreciative of all the prayers that were offered on behalf of my Dad.

Discouragement is going to be a struggle for my Dad in the coming months as he continues to recover and your continued prayers for him are appreciated.  We will continue to remind him of how far he has come rather than the distance he has to go.

I am reminded of our salvation.

Why do we lack joy when Christ has saved us?
Why do we grumble when we are a new creation in Christ?

abcdz2000 / Foter / CC BY-SA

I think  we often fail to live a life of gratitude because we don’t realize how far we have come.  Like my Dad, we don’t have a memory of how bad our condition truly was without Christ.  Even those who have walked an overtly sinful life before coming to Christ probably don’t have a perfect or complete understanding of the vileness of sin.

I have never seen the glory of God.
I have never physically felt the burning holiness of the great “I AM”.
I have never physically stood in the throne room of God Almighty and seen the pure righteousness of Christ.

I can become discouraged by the persistence of my own sin and the long road of sanctification I know I have ahead of me.  I can become impatient and irritated when my life does not work out the way I want it.  I can be pessimistic about the circumstances of today.

Fotografik33 / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

I fall into these un-joyful traps when I fail to appreciate the gift of my salvation.  I was dead in my sin.  I was justly condemned to eternal punishment.  I don’t have a distinct memory of being spiritually dead, but I believe what the Bible tells me about my fallen sinful condition.  My attitude turns to gratitude when I am reminded of how far the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ has brought me.

I have been brought from death to life in Christ Jesus.
I am a new creation in Christ. 
The old has passed away and the new has come.

The new is even more miraculous when you are reminded of the old.  I cannot help but be joyful when I focus on what God has done for me.  I cannot help but be grateful when I consider what my Lord has saved me from.

May we as children of God live in the glorious revelation of the miracle of salvation.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for saving me.  Thank you for giving me eternal life.  Thank you for opening my eyes.  Forgive me for not appreciating the miracle of my salvation.  Forgive me of my ungrateful attitude.  Lord, give me the joy of my salvation that washes over my entire life.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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October 8, 2013

“Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul.  I cry to you, O Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”  Psalm 142:4-5

Cumulus clouds in fair weather

I spent the weekend building fence, trimming trees, and cleaning up the garden.  The beautiful fall skies of southern Idaho enticed me out from the confines of the indoors and the fresh air propelled me into puttering exhaustion without scarcely breaking a sweat.  These wonderful fall days can make one forget about the winter that is a few flips of the calendar away.

English: Blowing snow at Voesgarth Looking acr...

I remember standing before our front window, warm cup of coffee in hand, marveling at the biting wind driving snow across the landscape that I am now manicuring.  I am always so thankful for the refuge of a warm home when the storms are raging outside.

It is easy to diminish the value of our refuge when the weather is fair. 

Equally, we can forget about our refuge while we walk through a fair weather season in our lives.  Those time when we feel valued and honored; when we are loved and nurtured; when the future appears secure and our health robust; when our souls abound in the joy of a new day.

I typically ask, “why God”, as I seek his refuge when a storm is raging in my life.  I often do not ask that same question when I am enjoying a period of fair weather.  I have a mindless concept that a refuge is needed only in times when the elements are raging.

English: Refuge Tower of the castle of Porrent...

English: Refuge Tower of the castle of Porrentruy, canton of Jura, Switzerland Esperanto: Rifuĝturo de Porrentruy, Kantono Ĵuraso, Svislando Deutsch: Fluchtturms des Schlosses von Pruntrut, Kanton Jura, Schweiz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, when don’t I need refuge?

A perpetual tempest rages all around us.  Someday, the unknown grace and mercy of our Father will astound us when we realize the unseen storms that He has sheltered us from.  The reality that the seasons of fair weather are actually blooming from the grace of refuge that is continually being shown to those who are His.

Someday, our praise and worship will be heightened when we understand how He protected us through the most painful of storms.  We are not washed from the sure foundation of Christ by our own clinging efforts.  It is the refuge of our Lord that holds us firmly against the enemies of our soul.

He is our refuge while the storm rages.
He is our refuge while the sun shines.
He is our refuge in all seasons.

May our hearts rejoice in all seasons, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”

PRAYER: Lord, I will praise You in the storm.  I will praise You on the sunny days.  I will praise You during the labors of work and I will praise You in the joys of harvest.  Father, forgive my fickle nature of seeking You in times of trouble and relying upon my strength in times of ease.  Open my eyes to the grace and mercy that You are showing me today and every day.  Thank you for being my faithful refuge in all of the seasons of my life.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.



June 27, 2013

“For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten.  How the wise dies just like the fool!  So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind.” Ecclesiastes 2:16-17

Civil War Veterans

Civil War Veterans (Photo credit: Tipton Genealogy)

Old black and white photographs have a way of capturing my imagination beyond any portrait painting.  Gazing into images of real people with stern and dower expressions cause me to wonder about by-gone ages.  I am easily entertained speculating about what their thoughts and dreams might have been; hypothesizing as to their adventures or romances.  Had they been respected or despised?  Were they a hero or a coward?  Did they have a sense of humor?  What did their laugh sound like?  Were they kind?  Did they love?  Were they loved?

Unfortunately, one cannot deduce much about who a person really was from a photograph.

My parents have many such photographs hanging on their wall.  Their hallway has a gallery documenting my family lineage.  The characters in those images have names, many of which I cannot remember.  They have titles such as great-great-grandfather, great-grandmother, cousins, uncles and aunts who passed decades ago.  They represent a vast network of expanding branches emanating from what is my family tree.

However, these images don’t connect with me beyond a fascination that I contain some of their genetic composition…which is not very comforting considering the general unattractiveness of many of my fore-fathers.

Any connection to these images only begins towards the end of the hallway with the images of my Grandparents.  I knew them.  I played games and laughed with them.  I worked with them.  I listened to the stories that they told.  I knew of their thoughts and dreams.  I was told of their adventures and romances.  I knew that they loved me.

They were so much more to me than an image in a photograph.

Yet, I realize that they are but another image in a long line of images to my children.  My children never knew my grandparents.  Their connection to my grandparents mirrors my own connection to the portrait of my great-great-grandfather.  I am saddened to know that the memories of people who I loved are being lost to unrelenting pressure of time’s passage.

The speed at which we are lost to history is astonishing.  The majority of us will be consumed into the fog bank of the past within a generation or two.  The knowledge of who we really were will simply fade away as age catches up with those who actually knew us.  The brevity of our lives in the span of history might be depressing if this world was all there was.

Fortunately, a life span on planet earth is not all that there is for those who are in Christ.

MSO warm up

MSO warm up (Photo credit: vigilant20)

I have heard this life described as the warm-up for the symphony.   As we move along the narrow road, we are fine tuning our walk; we play our part of the score on our own or maybe with a few others; we might strike the wrong note; we might play with poor timing; we might play with near perfection.  However, no musician has ever laid down his instrument and walked from the stage after a perfect performance in the warm-up.  They don’t take a bow after tuning-up because they have not come for the warm-up.  They are there for the symphony. For those in Christ, our symphony gets its full voice when we take our place among the redeemed.  The beautiful sound of the redeemed praising their redeemer will be a performance beyond what this world can even contain.  Paul tells us that nothing is this world, not even his suffering, is worth comparing to the glories that will be revealed to us.  Those are the glories that we are currently warming-up for.  It is for those glories that we continue to diligently and obediently follow our Lord through this life.

The full symphony is coming. 

The time when we will be freed from this sinful flesh to fully glorify our Lord and Savior is not far way.  I don’t believe that there will be any of the redeemed who will be disappointed that their warm-up was forgotten when they raise their voice before the King of kings.

In glory, they will know that the Most High never forgot their warm-up.  They will know that their Shepherd will have brought them to that moment for that purpose; the purpose for which we were created and will finally and fully fulfill.

When compared to the glories that we are being called to, the value of being remembered by this world is but a trinket.

So, let us keep this world in perspective.  Let us not mourn over its brevity or our insignificance.  Let us warm-up well.  Let us set our hope on what is coming.  Let’s enjoy this life and the works that we have been given but may we never forget:

 the best is yet to come.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for giving me so much to look forward to.  I can’t wait.  Lord, come quickly.  Help me to make the most of the time that you have given me here.  Help to warm-up well.  Help me to make the most of all the opportunities that you provide.  Help me to glorify you in all that I do in anticipation of the glories that are coming.  I long for the day that you bring me to my place among the redeemed.  You truly have blessed me in abundance.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.



May 1, 2013

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9

VastI spent the other day traveling by road through beautiful and extraordinary country.  My family and I trekked through the rolling expanses of the high desert.  The hills are green and colorful with a mind-boggling variety of grasses and wildflowers.  A buffet of colors feeding the appetite of color-starved eyes, an enjoyment that must be relished as they will soon be turned into a uniform brown under the heat of June.  We bisected large fields of fertile soil that had been reclaimed to productivity by the miracle of water.  Fields prepared and planted in hopes of future harvest.

We crossed geologic ranges that had been cut deep to allow us to pass at a grade that eases our fears and hurried my passing. These fascinating cuts dissect the bones of mountains; bones that had been twisted, uplifted, pressed, and layered.  I desired to spend more time marveling their mysteries than a fleeting glance at 60 mph could provide.  The triumph of each range yielded a new treasure to behold; wide valleys surprisingly tucked under the protective guardianship of imposing peaks.  The descent into the valleys presented splendid foothills arrayed with vineyards and orchards; fruit trees white blossoms and vines full of fresh new green leaves.

As we traveled further to the Northwest, the trees changed from a preponderance of aspens, maples, and elms into realm of the fir and pines.  We sped through mountains covered with the splendor of eminence timber still covered with a dusting of white snow.  We skirted the edge of high mountain lakes.  We shared the gorges of rushing rivers beginning to surge with the first fruits of the coming spring run-off.

Our road followed the rivers along a meandering route to our destination.  The closer our travels came to ending, the more my senses recoiled under the transition from natural magnificence into the construct of man.  Our route took us from wide open blues skies with billowing clouds begging for interpretation into stop-and-go traffic and high-rise structures of steel and glass.

The majority of our day was consumed in the awe of great and diverse expanses.

I always feel small in the presence of the grand.  I feel stretched thin against a limitless horizon.  I am weak and powerless against the crushing weight of the massive.  The greater the magnificence the more minuscule I am.  My weak and fleeting existence cannot be denied when confronted by the greatness of this beautiful world that we have been given.  I cannot constrain my soul from worshipping my Lord when my weakness is so profoundly demonstrated to my mind.

Traffic jam

Traffic jam (Photo credit: buzrael)

I was startled by how quickly this worshipful attitude evaporated upon entering the constrained environment of the populated.  By necessity, my eyes were drawn away from vast expanses and onto the bumper of the car in front of me.  I was snapped from a thinness imposed by the limitlessness of God and into the bloated claustrophobia of men’s creations.  I found it so easy to be consumed by thoughts of our tasks ahead and harder to be lost in worship.

I often wonder why God made the world the way He did.  Why did He make mountains with rugged peaks?  Why did He make oceans with horizons that do not end?  Why did He make weather of such immense power?

Maybe, it is in part to make us feel small.

I can easily deceive myself of fleeting importance when I am not contrasted against divine permanence.  Maybe, God made the world the way that He did in order to remind us that we are weak.  We so often seek to avoid our weakness.  We try to hide our powerlessness.  We work to convince our minds that we are not dust.  However, we are fading flowers.  We are here today and gone tomorrow.  We must be reminded of this reality.  We will rarely come to this conclusion on our own.  We must be forced to look upon our weakness.

Our weakness is a gift of surpassing worth that should be embraced.  It is a gift that reminds us that we will always be under His mighty hand.  Our weakness is the correct assessment of our condition.   It is when we acknowledge that we are weak that we will be made strong through the power of our Creator.

It is in our weakness when we are most readily led into worship.  It is the embracing of our powerlessness that opens our hearts to honor our Creator God.  It is in the weakness of the children of God, on their fallen knees, that the power of the King is poured out and overflows His people.


Fly (Photo credit: ~FreeBirD®~)

Let your eyes return to the horizon; let your soul be spread thin against its expanse.  Embrace your miniscule condition.  You are small and weak; praise God!  You have not been abandoned to indifferent forces.  You have God.  He loves and cares for you; the powerless and the weak.  He is mighty and great!  He made this world to proclaim His Holy Name.

Let our heart rise in praise of his mighty name!

PRAYER: Lord, show me my weakness.  Remind me of the swiftness of my days.  Grant me a deep understanding of just how powerless I am in the seeming chaos of this indifferent world.  Father, grant in me a need for you that is beyond the reasoning of my eyes.  Help me to embrace the fullness and fruitfulness of my weakness.  Remind me of my reliance upon you.  May my heart rise above the business of my daily life to become lost in the limitlessness of you, to your praise and glory.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.


“VALUE OF SLEEP” – Mar. 26

March 26, 2013

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Psalm 103:2-5

67/365: Sleeping InMy mortal body is often one of my most stringent usurpers of my soul’s control.  Unfortunately, the whims of my flesh greatly influence my mindfulness of God’s benefits; how He has forgiven my iniquity, how he has healed me from sickness, how He has redeemed my life, how He has crowned me with steadfast love and mercy, how He completely satisfies me with His goodness.

Sleep is a precious commodity.  Ask any parent of young children and they will tell you that their one wish is for a complete night’s rest.  I no longer have young children who disturb my slumber.  As of late, I have a misguided internal clock that is more effective than any wailing infant.   I have taken to awaking at 2:30 in the morning, tossing and turning until 4:30, only to have my alarm disrupt my dreams at 5:30.  I realize that there are many who struggle with insomnia to a far greater degree than I.  I am thankful not to face their struggle.

This morning, I arose not very mindful of the benefits of my Lord.  I was far more mindful of the benefits of sleep.  It was a prolonged battle between soul and flesh, to drag my reluctant bones to my desk and open the precious words of God.

I know that if I had remained in bed that God would not have loved me any less.  I know that I would not have been punished if I had missed this time of meditating on His words.  I know that God’s blessings are not contingent upon fulfilling my allotted time of reading my Bible, journaling and prayer.  I know that sometimes it might be best to just get the rest.

I also know that this is the most peaceful, refreshing, and renewing part of my day.  I set aside this part of my day because I want to.  I do not do it because I have to.  I do it because as a child of God, I get to.

The battle then is most often with my mortal body.  I am very easily inclined to become focused on the condition of my body and allow it to dictate my day.  I am reminded of Paul’s admonition, “But I discipline my body and keep it under control….” (1 Cor. 9:27a)

It is when I allow my body undo control that I begin to forget the benefits of my Lord.  I begin to think that the comforts that I feel are equal to the benefits of the glory of God.  It is a sad state when a discomfort as minor as a little sleeplessness (I cannot even bear to call that suffering) is counted as worth some of the glory that is revealed through God’s word and by His Spirit (Romans 8:18).

So, I arose this morning and was incredibly blessed by the Lord.  I have been reminded of His benefits:

How he has forgiven all my iniquity;

How I get to celebrate His mercy and grace this Easter;

How He has blessed me and my family with health;

How He has redeemed my life when I was without a redeemer;

How He has filled my cup to overflowing with His steadfast love and mercy;

How His goodness has made me content with where He has placed me.

My Lord has renewed my soul this morning more than any sleep could do. 

The slight glimpse of His spectacular glory was so worth the two hours of sleep that I lost.  I look forward to what He has for me tomorrow.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for your faithfulness.  Thank you for that day in the future when you will fully reveal your glory and it will make the sufferings of the world, great and small, so very worth it.  Thank you for renewing my soul.  Amen


“ANNOYING JOY” – Mar. 21

March 21, 2013

“With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!” Psalm 98:6

My son had a long night last night. As a result, I had a long night last night.  For most people, that may not be a problem.  It is a problem for me since I am an early person.  I rise early and I go to bed early.  Yesterday, I rose early but got to bed late.

My son had gone with our church youth group to participate in an evening of bouncing at an amusement center that has various themed rooms with trampoline floors.  They then went to a Pizza Hut for food and fellowship, which I think was a wise decision for the order of the evening’s events.  Unfortunately, one of the van drivers made a miscalculation in the Pizza Hut parking lot and wrapped a fender around a concrete appurtenant of a light pole.  The result, from my perspective, was a significant delay.

It did not hinder my son’s excitement for the evening.  He was joyful.  I immediately went to bed upon returning home after retrieving my son.  His excitement from the evening prevented him from ending the day.  I lay in bed desperately coaxing the blanket of sleep over my consciousness only to have it chased away by my son’s enthusiasm.  I was jostled by the sound of his teenage feet pounding down the stairs and then moments later back up.  I was poked by the slap of a cabinet door as he was in search of yet more food.  I was provoked to raise an elicit a “sssshhhhhhhh” to my son’s outdoor voice explaining the evening to my wife, who graciously listened in her sleeplessness.  I need to apologize to my son for not appreciating his joy.

JOYJoyfulness can be noisy.  The noise that comes from joy may not be appreciated by all who hear it.  There may be some who are annoyed, irritated, or even offended by the noise associated with joy.

We are told that we are to make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.   A joyful noise to the King is something that those around us will perceive with their senses.  The sounds, commotion, and activities associated with joy in our King should be obvious.

Joy is obvious.  We all know when someone is joyful.  Not everyone is going to appreciate our joy in our King.  There may be some folks who “sshhh” us.  We should never act in a way to purposefully irritate anyone.  However, we should never hide our joy in an attempt to please men.

Our joy comes from the great God we serve.

“…for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.  The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.” (Psalm 98:1b-2)

“Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” (Psalm 100:3)

Let’s be known for the joy that comes from a people, who serve with gladness, and are enamored by their wonderful, good, and faithful God.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for being the greatest source of joy.  Thank you for reminding me that not everyone will be joining in, understanding, or appreciating my joy in You.  Father, I pray that my joy in You may be a witness to them.  I pray that my serving You in gladness and love will so obvious that all around me will know how and why I follow You.  You are great and awesome, O Lord.  Thank you for your right hand and holy arm that have worked your salvation for me.  May my joy in You reveal your righteousness to the sight of all those who see me.   Amen



January 23, 2013

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:14-15

Convenience store

Convenience store (Photo credit: wilhelmja)

There are three convenience stores along my route to work.  Their name fits them very well.  They are convenient.  However, I do not want to work at a convenience store.  Convenience stores get robbed.  Convenience store robberies account for approximately 7% of all robberies.  Job-related homicides in the retail trade account for approximately 48% of all workplace homicides.  The highest shares of those homicides are in convenience stores.  The problem is that convenience stores are convenient for robbers also.  That makes it a dangerous occupation for employees.

The US Department of LaborOccupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a bulletin, “Recommendations for Workplace Violence Prevention Programs in Late-Night Retail Establishments”.  This bulletin gives a lot of recommendations on hazard prevention and control.  However, there is no recommendation for employees to be trained to lay down their lives.  The recommendations are actually the opposite.  Employees are to cooperate during a robbery such as turning over money or valuables without resistance.

There is an unspoken assumption in these recommendations.  The life of the employee is worth more than the cash in the register.  The life of a person is worth more than a case of beer and a couple of packets of jerky.  No one should sacrifice their life to protect a tank of gas and a couple cartons of cigarettes.

OSHA would have a significant problem with any company employee handbook policy that says:

You shall lay your life down for the store.

You shall lay your life down for the cab.

You shall lay your life down for the tools.

You shall lay your life down for the truck.

You shall lay your life down for the kiosk.

That sort of policy makes no sense.  Can you imagine a sheep rancher instructing his shepherds, “if anything bad goes down, thieves or wild animals, I want to you do everything you can, even give your own life if necessary.  I want you to bring all of those sheep back or don’t come back yourself”?


Sheep (Photo credit: James Good)

That sounds so unreasonable because they are sheep.  You do not sacrifice a human life for a sheep’s life.  We eat sheep.  We don’t give our lives for sheep.  Those of us who have grown up in the Church have heard this verse many times, “…and I lay down my life for the sheep.”   We may be prone to think that this is what a good shepherd does.

No, they don’t.

There is no shepherd willing to sacrifice his own life for sheep.  If you spent any time around sheep, you would understand that they are not worth that sort of sacrifice.

Jesus is No Regular Shepherd.

Likewise, we are regular sheep.  Another tendency is to think that we are so valuable that we warrant the sacrifice of the shepherd.  We don’t.  The distinction between the Son of God and us, sheep, is greater than the distinction between a human shepherd and real sheep.  Jesus’ sacrifice as the good shepherd for us rebellious sheep makes no sense .

This fact should astound us.

Jesus’ sacrifice is a treasure – particularly for us sheep.  However, there is so much more.  Jesus is fulfilling 500-year-old prophecies from Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah.  Jesus’ sacrifice is in obedience to a covenant keeping God.  Jesus’ sacrifice is for those who are His – fellow heirs of God, children of the most high.  Jesus is the good shepherd that became like the sheep; laying his life down for those sheep because that was the only way to save them.

Jesus is the incredible shepherd of an incredible God.  Our Father showed us mercy and grace beyond imagination.  The words, “I lay down my life for the sheep,” should boggle our minds.  Jesus’ sacrifice raised us from mere sheep to heirs.  How can that be?  It is an act that cannot be  based on our worth.  It is an act that can only be based on the abounding grace and mercy of our glorious God.

May we live in a way that the joy and astonishment of our salvation never diminishes.  There is nothing in this world greater than our “good shepherd.”

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for saving me.  Thank you for being my good shepherd.  Forgive me for so often living in a way that takes your sacrifice for granted.  Forgive me for not being in awe of you.  Thank you!  You are truly wonderful and abounding in love and mercy.  Amen


GOD IS (NOT) MY BUDDY – Nov. 22th

November 22, 2012

“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! Psalm 33:4

It seems like most people have a very similar tendency.  If we are shown an image enough times we begin to accept it as real even when we know it is a caricature. Caricatures are used all the time to help communicate a point. I have seen characteristics exaggerated to highlight what can be overlooked. I have also seen caricatures used to simplify that which is hard to fathom.  The problem is when the caricature becomes so engrained that we begin to believe the distortion.

Most of us are familiar with maps of the United States like this one:

What is the largest US state?  Most of us know that Alaska is the largest state, followed by Texas. However, I think many people fail to grasp the true size of Alaska. We become so familiar with this common map of the United States that our perception of Alaska is that it is just a little bit bigger than Texas. The reason Alaska has to be shown at the scale it is on the map is in order to get it to fit. This map puts Alaska into scale for us.

Alaska is big. It is really, really big.  I mean no offence to my friends in Texas but y’all need to come up with a new slogan.

Our God is like this. God is so big that we have to use caricatures to simplify Him, so that we can explain and understand Him. The scale of God is indescribable. Louie Giglio does a great job in this video, giving us a perspective of the indescribable-ness of God.  It is so important to occasionally take our eyes off of our God caricatures and behold the true scale of the Almighty.

This is the Milky Way. Just consider that God made this with the breath of his mouth; our small, little, insignificant, backwater of the Universe that still contains billions of stars just like our own.  God not only created that but the entire Universe, with a word.  Let that sink in – with a word!

We get so familiar with the caricatures of Jesus holding us, carrying us, comforting us, defending us; all of which are very true and demonstrate wonderful characteristics of our God. However, there is a gigantic scale distortion in those images. We may begin to think that we are on God’s scale if those images are all that we behold. We can default into thinking that our glory is almost as important as God’s glory. It is so very important to take our eyes off our caricature aids and behold the grandeur of our God.  Behold the scale of the universe…that is just a word of God Almighty.

How does your glory stack up against that?

PRAYER: Lord, … wow … you truly are awesome. You know that I have a hard time even understanding your grandeur. Thank you for helping me grasp just a small portion of it. Thank you for showing me how absurd it is to worship myself or anything else on this small little planet that you have given us. Lord, give me perspective to live my in awe of you. You are great beyond my understanding. I give you all the praise and glory that I am capable of giving.   Amen

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