Recognizing Jesus

On the heals of Easter, it’s tempting to move on to what’s next.  Stuff such as Spring cleaning, Mother’s Day, graduation prep, etc can require our attention so much that Easter could quickly be forgotten.  But let’s keep in mind that after Jesus’ resurrection, He appeared to folk unexpectedly.  And maybe it was difficult to recognize Jesus because there was lots of emotional intensity that made recognition more difficult.  Here are a few emotions that maybe cause us to struggle to recognize Jesus:

  • fear:  the disciples huddled together in fear after Jesus’ death.  Jesus appeared to them despite their fear
  • grief:  maybe it was difficult for Mary Magdalene to recognize Jesus in the Garden after His resurrection because grief was so overwhelming.  Jesus appeared to her, nonetheless
  • uncertainty:  on the road to Emmaus, some of Jesus followers were trying to figure out what had just happened after His crucifixion and “disappearance.”  Jesus walked with them on their journey and helped them understand what just happened
  • doubt:  Thomas was missing when Jesus made His first appearance to the disciples after His resurrection.  Jesus came back to untangle Thomas’ doubt.

Let’s keep looking for Jesus because we can find and experience Him everyday because He’s alive!

Not Done

Time is an interesting ingredient. I say this because my kids took me to my bus stop today so I could catch the bus to the airport. It felt a bit surreal to get dropped off by my daughter at my bus stop. And there’s lots to be said for the taste improvement that can happen when meat gets some time to be marinated. The same is true for a cake baking in the oven – take it out too early & it’s more like thick soup. 

The common denominator for these experiences is time. Time is very interesting. We can often have very strong opinions about time when we don’t have enough, when it moves too fast, when we have uncertainty about the future or when it seems to age us in ways we don’t appreciate. 

With that said, I can appreciate that in God’s time, we are improved, we grow, learn, get wise and see things from different perspectives. I’m grateful that God isn’t done with me & uses time to make me better 🙂

Holy Goats

I’m in Israel today & we just visited the pagan temple of Pan, where they sacrificed holy goats, a very long time ago before Jesus was alive. The local people were very sincere & committed to their worship. 

And I think that today we have our own versions of holy goat worship. Indeed, whatever we allow to consistently capture  our attention & affection could be considered a holy goat. 

Let’s be open for Holy Ghost to expose whatever may be “goats” in our lives where we should have the Lamb of God as our first & essential affection & worship!

Timeless

I’m in Israel & just visited the house of Simon the Tanner where Peter had a vision & learned that God is including the Gentiles for redemption (Acts 9-10). It’s mind blowing to visit such an historical site & consider the ramifications of Peters experience but even more so God’s character, which is timeless.  

When I get to visit these kinds of historical sites, it refreshes my gratitude that God is loving, inclusive, patient & forgiving. And no matter where you are today, what is happening in your life & regardless of your feelings / emotions, God is never changing & God’s character is genuine love, full stop. 

House of Simon the Tanner

Watching Wrestling

In high school, I never watched wrestling so I’m entirely clueless on this sport, except that I have an offspring who’s doing this sport now 🙂

So I’m learning things that are important & useful for daily living. 

Here’s some things I’m learning from watching wrestling:

Preparation is important: if you want to succeed, it’s helpful to more than show up

Mistakes foster learning: it takes lots of learning to win & mistakes can be helpful ingredients for learning 

Be willing to change: a flexible strategy can facilitate winning

Let’s not forget that Jacob wrestled with an angel of God all through the night in Genesis 32. He acquired.permanent limp & he was changed in both name & character. Sometimes we need to wrestle to grow & gain!

Enjoying People

Over the last week, it’s been fun to be around LOADS of sexworkers in Bangledesh, nice church folk in America, random & fascinating travel peeps & best of all, my family. And I enjoyed each exchange & interaction. 

Were some people cranky?  Yes

Were some people strange? Yes

Were some people brilliant? Definitely 

Were some people hurting? Absolutely 

Were some people broken? Everyone 

And I’m so grateful that God is teaching & helping me to both enjoy & love people, full stop. Sometimes I do this better than others, to be sure. And it’s immensely helpful just to relax, smile & enjoy people no matter what!

Daily Living

I’m in Bangledesh with Saving Moses. I love to watch the people here & reflect on their daily living. I see shopkeepers, garment factory workers, kids walking to school, brick makers, farmers, etc. There are lots of differences here in the daily living with what is familiar to us in America. 

As humans, however, there’s lots of commonality that we’d be wise to acknowledge. No matter the differences, let’s remember some helpful things:

  • Respect: being respectful of differences helps us learn & know people
  • Compassion: the road each person travels has unique struggles
  • Learning: new experiences can facilitate some incredible insights

At the core of these three things is an internal perspective that we can cultivate. When we lack these things, then it’s helpful to take an internal inventory to consider why something is missing. Selah 🙂

Messing Up

I’ve definitely had my share of flops, failures and screwups!  When I was younger, I’d get massively embarrassed & it would take me awhile to recover.  Now that I’m “older”, it’s easier to laugh at myself & put mistakes in the “practice” column ,)

I’m in the middle of a youtube series about people in the Bible who messed up.  Feel free to watch this really short video about a Bible character & I’m inviting you to subscribe to my youtube channel as well!  Happy viewing!

What is Wisdom?

There’s lots of stuff in the Bible about wisdom, even a whole book, Proverbs, that’s devoted to the topic.  It’s also mentioned in the NT a fair amount, like in James 1, where it says that we should ask for wisdom.  So given the frequency of this topic, perhaps it would be helpful to think about what it is, along with what it is not.

In the “wisdom is not” column, here are some things to remember.  Wisdom is not:

  • merely information;  facts, formulas, information and details
  • advanced degrees, memorization or books read

In the other column that defines wisdom, based on the Bible, here’s what we can say.  Wisdom is:

  • grounded in “fearing God”;  this means that having a healthy and robust respect for God in our lives is the pathway to facilitating wisdom
  • discerning the times and seasons in our lives
  • appreciating what is appropriate and helpful in various situations and events
  • recognizing when to speak and when to listen

Lets always be ready to get more wisdom & let wisdom be active in our daily living!

Who Is Different?

When I was growing up, my dad would take me to garage sales, art galleries, museums, estate sales, hospital visits, nursing homes, etc with an occassional stop at Arby’s for a jamocha shake & potatoe cakes – yum!!  So during my childhood, I was around lots of people who were very different than me.  It helped me a lot that my dad was very personable & never knew a stranger because I was realtively quiet & reflective.

As an adult, I also have the privilege of getting to meet lots of people from all walks of life.  I meet poor folk & prosperous folk, educated & uneducated people, polite & rude folk, insightful & obtuse . . . . Some people are alot like me & we see life from a similar perspective.  In contrast, I’m also around alot of people who are very different from me & I love this!!  What is wonderful about each person that I meet, is that they are deeply valuable, highly esteemed and massively loved by our Heavenly Father.  Let’s be intentional that we cultivate connections with people are different from us & make the committment to express genuine love regardless of our commonalities or differences!

Time Is Love

I was getting fuel this morning & there was an employee standing by to help or answer questions a customer might have.  Since most of us could put fuel in our cars with our eyes closed, this employee didn’t have much to do other than circulate & be friendly.  So we engaged in trivial chit chat:  where are you from, nice weather we’re having, etc.  We had a lovely chat & I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him better so the next time I get fuel there, he won’t just be the “gas dude.”  Additionally, we prayed together for our health with working out and making better eating decisions.

All of this happened while I was pumping fuel & a few minutes longer.  The extra few minutes we give, can be an invaluable expression of love, since everyone is so “busy”.  Let’s be lavish with our love by giving an extra few minutes to listen, affirm, engage and acknowledge people & not just functions 🙂

Divine Interruptions

  • “We interrupt this program for this important message . . . . “
  • Amber Alert
  • Notification Settings

All of these examples remind us of things that arrest our attention to focus & tell us to focus on something different, even if just for a few minutes.  In general, I don’t need any help to interrupt my focus because I can be easily distracted.  Consequently, I do as much as I can to eliminate distractions and interruptions.  While this strategy can be helpful in being productive, it is also possible that God might be trying to get my attention and I’m dismissing the “divine interruption” because I perceive it as a distraction.

In the Bible, there are some great examples of God interrupting a person’s daily living to grab their attention & invite them to make a course correction.  Such examples include:  Moses & the burning bush, Samuel as a little boy with Eli, Gideon hiding in the winepress with the angelic visit, the Samaritan woman at the well with Jesus  & Saul on the road to Damascus.

We would be wise to pause at what could be a distraction or interruption and reflect for a few moments to listen and watch for God to speak with us.  Sometimes God interrupts our daily living to help us make some important decisions & course corrections 🙂

Selah

Beyond the Surface

“Her eyes were empty” 

I’m in Cambodia & have met women here in the sex industry & their eyes are vacant. On the surface, our initial reaction could be one of shame, disinterest, judgment, revulsion or not even seeing her. When a persons eyes seem empty or vacant, it can be easy to overlook them. But we need to see past the surface & we need to look beyond our initial reactions to see a human for whom Jesus died & deeply loves. 

No one, including you & me, wants to be ignored, overlooked, shamed, judged nor rejected. With genuine love there is never a scarcity, so this helps us to see beyond the surface. In contrast, there’s always a shortage with transactional love. 

Let’s let Holy Spirit Help is to see beyond the surface!

Doing More

I’m making my way back to Denver from Angola Africa, where I’ve been for a week working with our baby malnutrition initiative with Saving Moses. I think this is my 6th trip to Angola & it never fails to bring me to my knees, almost literally. 

On this trip, I’ve never seen, held or experienced so many malnourished babies possibly combined in my whole life – over the course of close to 5days. And I’m coming home with all of these experiences swirling in my heart, thoughts & emotions. Clearly, this will be a journey for processing, literally. And at the same time, I’m compelled to do more. 

It seems to me like we all want to do more. But I wonder if we want to do more of the right stuff?  Sometimes maybe we should think about what it means to “do more” prayerfully considering if our more is being directed by God. 

Wrong Place, Maybe

When I go to the grocery store, I expect to find groceries & when I go to my health club, I expect to find weight machines & workout stuff.  So people come to church & expect to find Jesus, but here’s an interesting exception for you to consider:

In the Middle

Do you like Easter?  I thoroughly enjoy celebrating Jesus’ resurrection & His defeat over death!  The next big celebration on the church calendar happens with Pentecost, the outpouring of Holy Spirit, & what a massive demonstration that was!!!  So what about the middle time between Easter & Pentecost?  What should we do in the middle, between these noteworthy events?

It seems to me that there’s a lot of our walk with God that happens in the middle. For example, we pray for something & then there’s often a middle time before we receive an answer. Or think about a time when God led you to start something & maybe you’ve done the beginning but you’re in the middle now, before you see the full culmination of what God has spoken to you. 

In between Jesus’ resurrection & Pentecost, Jesus told His disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they’re clothed with power from Holy Spirit. I’m really confident that when Jesus told His disciples this, they didn’t know what to expect – they didn’t know what Pentecost would look like for them. They just knew there was something more on the horizon. 

And I would encourage you, in the middle seasons, to anticipate & earnestly desire more of Holy Spirit in your daily living. More Holy Spirit can look lots of different ways for each of us, so let’s be careful not to specifically define what more is. Let’s just be open to having more of Holy Spirit in our lives!

In the Middle

Death is the pre-requisite for resurrection & today is that middle ground. Death happened on Good Friday & resurrection happens tomorrow. But the disciples didn’t know that Jesus would raise tomorrow, no matter how much He told them. And they knew He was dead with lots of uncertainty on the horizon. This is often how the middle feels – uncertain & tenuous.
I don’t think there’s anyone who is reading this now who isn’t in some middle place in life. We can find ourselves in the middle of: schooling, fighting a disease, a financial crisis, a relationship challenge, a difficult decision & heaps more.
So what do we do in the middle? Here are some suggestions that could be helpful:
1 – community: the disciples held together when they found themselves in the middle & waiting for what was next
2 – faith focus: let’s keep our attention on God who works all things together for our good, as we stay in love with Him
3 – purposeful farming: be sure to plant healthy seeds like patience, gratitude, diligence & others since we will reap what we sow 🙂

What Is Sacrifice?

I’m making my way back home from speaking at a pastor’s conference in Bangledesh. This has been a “quick trip”, considering that getting to Bangledesh can be a 30hour journey with a 12 hour time change – so no travel to Bangledesh is a in reality a “quick trip.” When I was deciding about this trip, I was weighing the cost of the trip, not only financially, but the cost of time, impact to my family & Spring Break time together – sacrifices.
With all these considerations, I felt in my heart that I needed to join this conference – a very unique opportunity to meet Christian leaders in a Muslim country & hopefully encourage & minister to them. And in light of our new nightcare in Bangledesh, I felt that this opportunity would also be strategic & a great way to begin some important relationships for the future.
Before I left for this trip, most of what I felt was a mix of hope, anticipation & sacrifice. Now that I’m returning home, I recognize the sacrifice to be sure. But getting to team up with Holy Spirit to minister to such incredible leaders has left me astounded. Additionally, I experienced some progress on some questions in my heart. And I sense a significant green light from God about Saving Moses growing in our nightcare work throughout this region of the world. Yes this trip was a sacrifice & I’m physically very tired. I’m also very awestruck with God’s generosity that counteracts the sacrifices that we make. I’m very thankful.

Nail Biting

“Jehoshaphat was afraid & turned his attention to see the Lord & proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.”  2Chron 20:3

Being afraid is a universal experience to every human & maybe there are times when we have more or less fear.  But fear is not a rare emotion in our human living.  What we do with fear is more important, in my opinion, than the actual fear.  So when I read about Jehoshaphat being afraid & turning his attention to the Lord, it gives me some good input on what to do with fear.  I’m thinking also that this could be helpful for you too!

Rather than biting your nails, fretting, getting jittery, nervous eating, etc, when we have times or experiences with fear, let’s be certain that our default instinct is to turn our attention to God, remembering that nothing causes God to “bite His nails.”

Back to School :)

I’m sitting in an English class of one of my kids & learning about gerunds, infinitives & participles. Maybe I’ll learn about these sentence parts this time around, possibly. It’s fun to watch a teacher who is excited not only about their content but also about their students!
In a similar way, I think that God gets excited about teaching us!!  It seems to me that God takes us through various classes to help us grow & do better.  Such classes include patience, endurance, truth with love & discretion to name a few. As much as I want to think that I’ll graduate & never need these classes, that will likely only happen in heaven. So today, I’m learning & growing one decision at a time, leaning into the Holy Spirit for supernatural help!