I need joy

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:7–11 ESV)

So many things are going on. So many of them are good. Actually, biblically speaking, all of them are good (because I think that’s how all things work out in the end). I’m blessed to be able to do ministry at the local community college, to be working at an interesting (albeit stressful) job that provides a good, regular paycheck, to be married to a wonderful (and getting younger-looking and fitter every year, somehow) woman, to have four children, five grandchildren. I belong to a great church, have great friends, I get to teach at church, I am attending seminary, and I have so many etceteras to add to all that.

But I need joy. This need has become acute.

I need joy. This is not a circumstantial problem: there is so much in my life that offers joy. I have no excuse. This is a me-problem. I find it hard to receive joy, to give up anxiety, to live in the moment. A thought hit me the other day: failure dogs my steps. I think about failing all the time. Failing at my job, failing in ministry – and by that I don’t mean disqualifying myself somehow, but just flat failing. Not being good enough. I fear failure in providing for my family, Failing socially. Failing spiritually. Failing physically (because this old body is starting to break down a bit). I ran-walked a half marathon a week ago and I still feel this way.

So, it’s been established. I’m kind of a mess. None of what I wrote above makes rational sense. On paper, I’m doing very well. My internal landscape is darker, though.

Failure dogs my steps.

Yet Jesus writes “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” I think that ultimately what’s going on in me stems from a seeming inability to really believe Jesus loves me. Yet he writes here that He loves me in the same way God loves Him. How does God love Jesus, the sinless Son with whom He is well pleased? Beyond my comprehension.

Jesus loves me.

There’s great joy in believing that. May I learn to believe it without effort.

The result of believing it, I think, is deeper obedience to Jesus. There is a beautiful feedback loop here: “Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

As I obey, I abide, which leads to more obedience and more abiding. Which leads to joy. Fullness of joy!

Kept from stumbling

Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her. – Genesis 20:6 NASB

There is something astounding about this statement of the Lord to Abimilech: “I also kept you from sinning against Me.”

When I look back on my life, I can recount a lot of instances when I sinned. Heck, when I look back on today I can recount a lot of instances, and I haven’t even had my morning coffee yet.

But what takes my breath away is the remembrance of all the instances in the past when I had opportunity to sin and somehow God made the way of escape. This includes times even before I came to Christ.

It wasn’t me not wanting to sin. It was God keeping me from tremendous future trouble and regret.

He didn’t have to do that. I would have deserved the consequences of my actions. But he loves me and he knows my name and he cares for the glory and honor of his Name.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Jude 1:24‭-‬25 ESV

Doings

I’ve been away for a while; went on a cruise with the family and extended family. It was great!

While on the cruise I read a new treasure I recently bought: The Hobbit facimile first edition. This is the original 1937 version with the original Riddles in the Dark and Tolkien artwork. I forgot how good that book is.

In other news, I’m going to seminary. I start my first class in a couple of weeks.

And, as always, I’m a sinner saved by grace.

Jesus saw their faith

And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Mark 2:4‭-‬5 ESV

I love this passage of Scripture.

Did you notice this? “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.'”

Does it seem a little incongruous? It seems that Jesus saw the faith of the friends and so rewarded the paralytic with forgiveness and healing. How did “their” faith benefit the paralytic? Is faith transferable?

I think their are a few answers. In one way, yes, it is (stick with me here). But before I get into that, I think it’s likely that “their” refers to all five of the guys, including the four vertical guys and the one horizontal guy.

But the sense in the passage is that the faith of the friends was marvelous to Jesus. They had lifted their buddy up to the top of the roof and broke through to get him in front of the Lord. Forget the property damage, I think it’s clear Jesus absolutely loved seeing faith in action.

In the gospels Jesus always honors faith. In this one sense, their faith was transferable to their friend: think about what it was that these four guys wanted? More than anything they wanted their friend to be physically healed. They wanted it so bad and they also believed so thoroughly that Jesus would provide that healing that they ripped open a roof and caused a spectacle. Jesus saw their faith, honored it, and went further even than they expected. He healed their friend spiritually first. Then physically.

Too often when I think of “faith” my mind’s eye pictures a person who is stationary, but who internally, devotionals believes in the Lord. But faith is something that is not stationary.  It moves, it breathes, it lugs a fellow up onto a roof and digs a hole to lower him down (and the implication is these four guys didn’t expect to have to lift him back up because that brother was going to walk out).

People shouldn’t have to have mind-reading capabilities to see our faith.

Jesus saw their faith.

Weight

I tend towards depression and anxiety, naturally. Not clinical levels of it, but enough to keep me awake at night sometimes. I’m not proud of this – I know with surety that it is a time-waster and a joy-stealer. And it doesn’t do a thing to help a person resolve the issue that is causing the depression and anxiety.

I’ve recently been hit with multiple circumstances that involve me waiting on other people to do what they need to do. This has stretched me and I’ve failed those tests of kindness multiple times.

So many people deal with so much more than I do in my relatively easy, comfortable life. But this is weighing on me today.

I don’t know how to end this post.

Knowing and being known

But now thus says the Lord , he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” – Isaiah 43:1‭-‬7 ESV

We are not accidents. We were created and formed. Because of this, we can know and be known by our Creator. And it is a very good kind of knowing; redeemed and called by name, a precious possession of the Creator.

Not called to a life of ease, but called to a life of intimacy, of knowing and being known as we walk through floods and flame with the One who promises never to leave or forsake.

The One who calls us precious and honored and loved. Us!

He promises to restore, to bring it all back, to make all things new and as they were meant to be at first, for his glory and for those who call his name and are called by his name.

Praise be to God.

“He wants Jesus to be the main character”

This is a good story of someone discovering what really matters: Why Jake Locker Walked Away From Football

An excerpt:

With a nudge from his mentor, Locker started to explore his relationship with Jesus. Hasselbeck could sense Locker’s angst over his hero status, and he told the rookie that trusting in Jesus could help him cope. Locker still drank at that point, but not as heavily as in college. Alcohol wasn’t his problem; it was a symptom of his problem, how he masked his problem.

Hasselbeck invited Locker—who had attended Catholic services growing up but who didn’t yet consider himself religious—to team chapel. Eventually the two men came to play a game that Hasselbeck called the Daily Bread, in which they competed to compliment at least one person each day. Later that first winter, after Locker appeared in five games, Titans players were packing up for the offseason when Hasselbeck invited Jake to fly to Orlando with him for a Pro Athletes Outreach conference—“just a weekend retreat looking at God’s design for your life,” Hasselbeck explains.

Locker had no preconceptions as he listened at one symposium to hip-hop artist Lecrae, but instantly the QB felt connected to this rapper who grew up surrounded by drugs and gang violence. After becoming successful, Lecrae explained, the pressure to “keep it real” overwhelmed him, until finally he chose to end the double life. He’d prioritize Jesus and his family above all else. The internal conflicts that Lecrae described seemed to mirror Locker’s inner turbulence.

Lauren had joined him on the trip, and she was pregnant with Colbie. Their life appeared to be perfect—millions in the bank, daughter on the way—but that’s not how Locker felt. “I was pretending with everybody,” he says, “because I wasn’t authentic with anybody.” (Says Lecrae of the notion that his Orlando talk in any way led to Locker’s retirement: “I hope his fans aren’t mad at me.”)

As the conference wound down, Jake and Lauren decided to be baptized, and with Hasselbeck standing in the water beside them, they dedicated their lives to Jesus. That moment, Locker says, is why “I can sit here today and say that I’m an extremely happy man.” It marked the first day of Locker’s new life—and the first time he asked himself, Do I want to play football anymore?

I have to include this as well, from earlier in the article:

He talks for most of the next two hours, answering every question. And yet when he departs that afternoon with a bro hug, he says he’s still not sure he wants to fully cooperate. I worry that he might have just bared his soul to an audience of one. If he’s to participate in any story, he says, he wants Jesus to be the main character.

Yes.

One-lane bridge

“At the one-lane bridge I leave the giants stranded at the riverside. Race back to the farm . . .” – Rush, Red Barchetta

I’ve loved that song since the first time I heard it. Heck, my tagline is a lyric from that song.

I love it because it tracks very well with a constant struggle in me; the quest for simplicity and for the solidity of tangible, non-digital life. Odd and ironic that I’m blogging about this, no?

I feel like God has put that longing in me; a longing for single mindedness and focus, to understand priorities from His point of view. It’s a  longing to work toward what’s truly important. That way lies joy.

I’m miles away. “I spin around with screeching tires…”

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:31‭-‬33 ESV

All together

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
1 Corinthians 12:26 ESV

I had a meeting with the Core officers on Tuesday. One of them pointed out this verse while we were talking about themes and values for the club.

I love it. That’s a Body.