Pray for peace people everywhere

In 2003 I was online and blogging my support for the Iraqi invasion. I thought it would be a lot easier than it turned out to be, that a lot less people on both sides would die, and I had absolutely zero expectation that America’s various wars on terror would still be going on seventeen years later.

In 2004 one of my friends died in Iraq, in the Battle of Faluja.

We now find ourselves in an escalating situation with Iran.

I don’t have confidence anymore in my ability to predict what is going to happen, and I am far more cynical, world-weary, de-partied, and regretful than I was seventeen years ago.

Lord, have mercy. Bring peace.

Come soon Lord Jesus. We have proven over and over again that we can’t fix our problems or ourselves. The innocent die and the guilty live.

Only You can fix us and fix this.

(364)

This is lovely

I was never a fan of Jimmy Eat World (nothing against them, I’m just a just a few generations too far back to be a fan) but I love this beautiful rendition of The Middle by Audrey Assad.

Everything will be alright.

(365)

Happy New Year

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” – Revelation 19:9 ESV

Happy new year. I have been feasting these past few weeks. Feasting on family time, rest, and, well, feasts.

2019 was a trying year. I pray that those of you who have been lonely will feast on fellowship in 2020. May those of you who are depressed feast upon joy. If you have had a year of strife, may you feast on peace this upcoming year. For those frustrated and haunted by failure at work or ministry, may you feast upon effectiveness.

For those of you far away from God, may you feast on his love and salvation.

If you know him, there is a wedding feast in your future. And it will be the best thing, ever.

Happy new year!

(366)

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.