Kill Joy

The word “Joy” has always fascinated me. It’s so rich and larger than life. Paul’s book of Philippians drips with it, as honey from a comb, yet it was written while he was in a Roman prison cell. Peter speaks of glorious, inexpressible joy, when referring to the salvation of our souls, despite the earthly trials that come our way.[1]

From a Biblical stand point, joy has a captivating sweetness about it which seems to transcend our worldly experience. How else could prison and trials be associated with joy? Yet joy can be elusive?
Joy is one of the qualities of the Spirit of God, but how is it expressed in our earthly experience?

When I think of times I have experienced what I would call joy, I feel as if my soul has been lifted up, far above the cares of this world. The problems and concerns don’t go away, but they seem no larger than specs of dust beneath my feet.

During these moments, I’m overwhelmed with gladness and gratitude. I’m filled with a desire to be with God, to see Jesus. For brief moments, I seem to be looking at life through eternity, seeing only what really matters. For me, joy is more than just a feeling, it’s a perspective, an eternal viewpoint, flowing from the nearness of God.

But alas, what I am recognizing as joy, can be rare in my life. I have learned many ways to kill it:

When I dwell too intently on the problem at hand, fretting, as I tackle life’s problems in my own strength, I have not joy.

When I become overwhelmed with busyness, embracing the tasks, without setting priorities and doing what’s really important, I have not joy.

When I’m overcome with the heartbreaks of life and lose sight of the fact that God’s nearness is my good, I have not joy.

When I am fooled into thinking the world will satisfy my inner longings, I have not joy.

When I hold onto an offense and let anger and resentment fester, I have not joy.

Making  heavenly choices in the midst of a physical world can be hard.  However, when I realize the mystery of Christ in me is more than just an idea, and yield to his strength, he empowers my walk.

Where is my joy? God freely gives it in His Indwelling Presence. God Himself is fullness of joy.[2] Joy is readily available to me, but I must continue to answer one burning question.

Do I choose to live for me or do I choose to live for my Lord?  This is not just a one-time decision, but one that must be made over and over again each moment of every day. When I choose rightly, joy awaits me.

You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. Hebrews 9:1

[1] I Peter 1:8

[2] Psalm 16:11b

Can Joy be a Choice?

“Joy does not simple happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep on choosing it every day.”  Henri Nouwen


A few months ago I crowded in a chapel attending the funeral of a little girl named Violet. Violet died during her birth, the first child of Joseph and Judy.

Many wore violet articles of clothes to the service, honoring her life and her parent’s courage. Though Violet’s life was short, she impacted us all.

After the service, we were all given violet helium balloons to release on cue. When we did, the sky was filled with floating circles of purple, growing smaller and smaller as they drifted to the heavens; a salute to violet’s life and a message of love to her from us all.

As inspirational as the balloons were, what hit me most was Violet’s parent’s response. We learned from the eulogy that in the midst of incalculable sadness and grief, Joseph and Judy were choosing joy.

 Choosing Joy?

As I ponder Joseph and Judy’s resolve, I wonder how it’s possible to choose joy just days after her death.

How could this really be true? Isn’t joy supposed to be something good? Seeing the pain on Judy and Joseph’s face, I’m conflicted.

Paul’s command in I Thessalonians 5:16 comes to mind, one of the shortest verses in the Bible: “Rejoice always;”

The word ‘rejoice’ is from the old French word ‘rejoiur’, which means full of joy.

I’m to be full of joy even when my circumstances are difficult. I’m to rejoice always. But this is extreme. An only child is dead. Are we to be full of joy even then? My heart fights this notion.

What makes choosing joy possible?

In another place I read “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

Be full of joy in the Lord.

God is joy. He is the source of joy, it exudes from Him. “In your presence is fullness of Joy.” Psalm 16:11b

Choosing joy is choosing God in the midst of anything and everything I’m going through.

As children of God, we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing, including being sealed in Christ with the promised Holy Spirit. [1]

We are in Christ and He is in us. See also Galatians 2:20a  “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me;”

Joy, true joy, is found in our nearness to Christ and His nearness to us.

Joy is eternal, unaffected by the circumstances of our lives. Joy is God himself.

Judy and Joseph love Violet so much. Their whole world was flipped upside down on the day she was born. Months of anticipation and excitement were at once turned to horror and indescribable sadness. Yet through it all, when hearts were crumbling, they clung to each other and choose God’s nearness. They choose to find their comfort in God. They choose joy.

“In your presence is fullness of joy.” 

Challenge:  What circumstance is zapping your joy right now? No matter how difficult your situation is, choose at this moment to rejoice in God’s nearness. In spite of all, choose God, choose joy.

Lord, thank you that in all I go through, you never leave me. Indeed you are closer than breath. You are my joy. Help me continually choose you. Amen

[1] Ephesians 1:3-13


Love is All You Need

Watchmen Nee wrote that his mentor, Margaret Barber, cared more about life than work. She focused on loving the people God brought her way rather than the work she needed to get done.

What a beautiful focus.This is my desire as well, but too often loving people gets lost behind the pressure to get things done.

A few months ago, I needed to get the name of diabetic test strips which would be covered under our new insurance plan. My pharmacy told me to call my doctor. My doctor told me to call my insurance company. My insurance company referred me to a third party, which handled pharmacy issues.

After navigating a labyrinth of computer generated voices, I finally spoke to a person. His name was John. His voice was slow and shaky. I had the call on speaker and my wife and I could tell John was elderly, probably in his seventies.

John didn’t know the answer to my question and suggested I call my pharmacy. When I told I had,  he suggested I call my insurance company. I tried to calmly explain that my insurance company was who told me to call him.

By this point, I had no compassion for John. I really just wanted to mark this nagging to-do off my list. I didn’t care what John might have been going through.  I’d lost sight of any opportunity to love him.

John put me on hold so he could try and get an answer. While we waited, my wife helped me see the situation differently. She could tell he was having a difficult time.  She felt bad for him.

When John got back on the line, he had an answer. As he explained it, my wife made a signal for me to pray with him. This wasn’t on my radar, but when he was done, I said, “John, is there anything I could pray for you about?”

“Yes,” John answered quickly. Then a silence.

“What can I pray for you about?” I repeated.

“My salvation,” John cried out.


I prayed with John right there on the phone, though I’m sure the call was monitored. I prayed he would recognize God’s tremendous love for him. I let him know God was willing to allow His Son, Jesus, to die in his place to rescue him and to give him eternal life.

When I finished and said goodbye, we could hear what seemed to be sobs from John before we hung up.

What a wonderful interaction. But I almost  missed it. I was so focused on getting things done, loving John had dropped from consideration. I’d lost sight of the most important thing.

Jesus, on the night before his crucifixion, gave his disciples a single great command. He told them that as they followed this one thing, they would stay connected to his love and their joy would be made complete.[1]

“This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” John 15:12

Earlier in the evening, in John 13, he’d washed their stinky, dirty feet. The next day, he would endure a cruel death on a cross to save them.

This is how he’d loved them. This is how he’s loved us.

His one charge to them, and to us, is to love others in the same sacrificial way he has loved us.

It’s not the work. It’s the people. The things we do are not an end but a means to bring us to the people God wants us to love.

As we yield to God’s Indwelling Spirit, he will accomplish the work he wants done through us. The work will get done as we focus on loving people.

Our job is to love first. It’s really all we need. Maybe the Beatles had it right after all. (8^>

Prayer: Most gracious, heavenly Father. I’m sorry I so easily get caught up in the swirl of duties that love becomes secondary. I see you all around me in your creation and in the people you bring my way. Please help me trust you that the work will get done. I’m asking you to change the paradigm of my day to care less about accomplishments and more about loving every person you bring my way.


[1] John 15:9-12

Season of Joy or of Stress? We Have a Choice.

Holiday stress is real, just Google the term. Most of us are adding additional spending, shopping, decorating, cleaning and traveling to lives which already lack the margin.

Add over eating, under exercising and family dysfunctions and you understand the following exchange in the movie “Christmas Vacation.”

To his father, Clark Griswold asks, “How did you get through it?”

“I had a lot of help from Jack Daniels,” his dad replied.

Compare Grandpa Griswold’s  response to that of the magi when they saw the star above where the baby Jesus  lay.

And when they saw the star they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. Matthew 2:10

Debilitating stress, numbed with alcohol compared with having great joy?

We have gotten way off track.

The wise men’s  joy was a  reaction to the coming of  Emmanuel – God with us. They got it.  God coming to earth in human form is a reason to rejoice exceedingly with great joy.

“In your presence is fullness of joy.” Psalm 16:11b

If we want to experience true joy in a society fighting to keep Christ out of Christmas, we must fight to keep Christ in the center of every aspect of our lives.

The Magi’s joy preceded the timeless sacrifice Jesus would make for the sins of men.

Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears My words, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” John 5:34

The word “believe”  above means  to commit to, trust in and rely upon.

If you have believed in Jesus in this way, the following facts are true about you:

  • You are not an orphan, but are a true child of God
  • You have been given an inheritance which includes the Indwelling Holy Spirit and an Eternal home
  • You have been made into a new creations, freed from the penalty of the law
  • You have been given supernatural peace, hope and joy which transcends all earthly circumstances
  • Your purpose is now clear. You are to love others as Christ has loved you
  • You don’t need anything other than passionately loving Jesus to give you the same joy the magi experienced

Pause: Don’t rush past these glorious facts. The tremendous significance of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf is a reason for even greater joy than the wise men experienced.

No matter how stressed we feel in this busy season, we must fight to find our joy in Jesus and what he’s done for us.

No matter how disappointed we feel when expectations aren’t met, we must fight to remember the significance of God coming to earth as a man to die a death in our place and to grant us lasting peace.

No matter what devastating circumstance we may face, we must fight to  guard our hearts and bring our pain to Jesus, asking him to lighten us with the joy of His presence.

And no matter how magical the season becomes with family and gifts and celebration, we must fight to keep Jesus in the center of our affections.

No matter how society tries to take Christ out of Christmas, we must never forget the significance of  Emmanuel.  The calendars we use are based on His coming.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are our true Joy. This world is filled with grief and loss, but You’re always the answer. I’m sorry for when I’ve allowed other ‘joys’ to compete with you in the deep affections of my heart. Please help me guard my heart. Show me quickly when I care too much about the world around me that I forget about you. And when pain threatens to steal my joy, keep me delighting in you all the day.

Thank you that if I had nothing on earth but your love and the hope of my eternal home with you, these facts alone would be reasons for exceeding great joy.

We celebrate You.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Philippians 4:4

Hope Remains, latest novel by the author



The Idol of Opinions 

“You know that when you were still pagans, you were led astray and swept along in worshiping speechless idols.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭12:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Have you ever been worried about what people think of you? Done something simply because you wanted somebody else to think well of you? How about doing something you know you shouldn’t have just to please another person?

Desiring others to think well of us is not a bad thing, but when we look to them to gauge our value, we’ve crossed the line.

Peter stopped eating with the gentiles when James and certain influential Jews were around. Afraid of what they would think, he acted like a racist. Paul sternly rebuked him.  (See Galatians 2:11-14)

Personally, I can relate with Peter. I’ve struggled with being concerned about what people think about me. Rather than loving selflessly, as Jesus commanded, I sometimes look for something in return from others. It’s like I “need” their approval.  This stems from a misplaced understanding of where my value comes from. I’m loved by the Creator of the universe with a love which surpasses knowledge. God’s love gives me my complete value.

But sometimes I lose sight of God’s love for me. Caught up in the swirl of life, I look to other relationships to give me what only He can. This is sin.  Using other’s to validate me is giving too much worth to their opinion. In essence I’m worshiping their opinion as an idol, making me an idolater.


The word Idol literally means “an image for worship.” A stark reality is that when I do anything to enhance another person’s opinion of me, I’m bowing down in worship to that person in my heart.

In quite spicy language, Paul puts our trying to please others this way:  “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” ‭Galatians: ‬ ‭1:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Paul’s words add gravity to this sin of idolatry. But, praise be to God, Jesus Christ died to set us free from all sin. God wants us free.  There’s tremendous power in the cross of Christ to bring death to every sin.

“For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:13 ESV

Though I’ve known about my struggles with pleasing others for a long time, dealing with it as sin and bringing it to the cross of Christ for mortification has brought tremendous freedom and lightness to my heart. I’m becoming more and more secure in Father God’s love for me. This frees me to love other’s as Christ has loved me, without expecting or needing anything back in return.

Prayer:  Lord, thank you so much for revealing this sin to me. When my flesh wants to walk in the old ways of gaining value from the opinion of others, please show me quickly that I might bring this idolatry to the cross and walk in your Spirit. “Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

I know you want to show me more and more so that I can walk in the full freedom You’ve designed for me.  You are impressing upon me that my completeness is in Christ Jesus alone. I love the lightness of heart that the confession of sin brings. Please continue Your work in me. I love You and thank You for loving me so much.


Fools Gold

Hope Remains, latest novel by the author

Fools Gold – a brassy yellow mineral, especially pyrite, that can be mistaken for gold

“There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only  by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.” Blaise Pascal French Mathematician 1623-1662

Wasn’t it the Rolling Stones who could get no satisfaction after trying and trying and trying?

King Solomon tried all manner of worldly delights to satisfy his emptiness.[1] Denying himself nothing he saw around him, he concluded that it was all “vanity and striving after the wind.”  Ecclesiastes 2:11b (NASB)

Trying everything, but failing to find joy, Solomon was left hopeless and despondent. “I hated life, for the work which has been done under the sun was grievous to me, because everything is futility and striving after wind.”  Ecclesiastes 2:17 (NASB)

He would later conclude, that God has set eternity in the hearts of men.[2] Solomon had the means to attempt to fill his deep need for satisfaction and joy with all the world has  to offer. None of it worked. At the end of his search, he hated life because he recognized the utter futility of trying to fill the eternal hole in his hearts with anything around him.

God designed our hearts for joy. We were intended to be fulfilled by God  Himself, the fullness of all joy.[3]

Until we realize that true joy and fulfillment comes from God himself, our lives will be endless pursuits of fleeting, temporal, pleasure which only lead to idols and addictions.

If temporal pursuits could fulfill us, wouldn’t those in society who have gained all the success, money and fame possible be the happiest among us? Are they?

Challenging Questions to Ponder: Is there something you’re looking forward to, or hoping for, which you believe will finally bring you fulfillment and happiness? Moving out on you own? Completing college? Getting married? Buying your own house? Getting out of debt? Getting promoted at work? Having children? Starting your own business? Publishing a book? Having good health? Having grandchildren? Retiring? Winning the lottery?

These can be good things, but will they provide lasting fulfillment?

What is the overall goal of your life? Happiness or a growing relationship with the Creator of the Universe?  Desiring happiness is not a bad thing, but true joy is a by product of our relationship with God through Jesus the Christ. It’s how He made us.

Prayer:  Lord, help us not to fall into Solomon’s trap. The glitter of riches, fame, success and pleasure can keep us in a boundless pursuit of fool’s gold. If we could carry this quest to the ends that Solomon did, we too would find it a vain pursuit, a chasing after the wind. Lord, may we seek you, the pearl of great value, worthy of our all.[4] 

 What is the chief end of man?  Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.   (From The Westminster Shorter Catechism,completed in 1647 by the Westminster Assembly)

[1] Ecclesiastes 2:1-10

[2] Ecclesiastes 3:11

[3] Psalm 16:11b

[4] Matthew 13:46

Death, the Path to Life

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24

Picture this: You and a couple of your closest friends are on a journey together. I mean these are close friends. In fact you’ve pretty much spent all of the last three years with them in one long adventure. One of these friends, the leader and mentor to all, opens up and tells you he’s about to be captured, that he will endure tremendous suffering and eventually be killed.

What would your reaction be? I’d imagine you would object and assure your leader that as long as you have something to say about it, this wouldn’t happen. Maybe you resolve to fight for your friend. After all, having the man you look up to suffer and be taken away from you is not acceptable. It’s not the way life’s supposed to work. Right?

Bringing this story home, see yourself as Peter in the following scene:

First Jesus asks you, “But who do you say that I am?”  And you say, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

At your response, Jesus blesses you and tells you that God has revealed this to you. He tells you that upon the truth of your saying his church will be built and that the gates of Hades will not overpower it. On top of that, he gives you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the ability to handcuff or bind the activities of Satan and release or loose those held captive.

About now you’re feeling pretty good. But then Jesus begins to talk to you all about  his  pending suffering and death.

This rocks your world and you argue, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall not happen to you.”[1]

Jesus’ response is stark and jolting,  “Get behind Me Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”[2]

Jesus was talking to Peter, but he spoke to Satan, exposing his desire to keep us thinking about our own welfare.

So evidently Satan’s strategy is deeper than just getting us to do evil deeds. All he really has to do is keep us thinking about what’s best for us. What he doesn’t want is for us to think about God.

If we focus only on our desires for comfort, smooth circumstances, and a life free of pain, we’re not free to seek God’s desire for our lives.

Days later, it would happen to Peter again. Mindful of his own safety, he would deny even knowing his Lord on the day of his crucifixion.

But Peter would eventually get it.  See what he wrote decades later concerning our life in Christ,  In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;  and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” I Peter 1:6-9

What changed Peter?

Only a few verses after Jesus let Peter know he was speaking the words of Satan, he said  “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses His life for my sake will find it.”[3]

After Peter’s encounter with the Risen Lord, the above words would guide his life. History tells us he was crucified upside down for his faith, not considering himself worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.

“Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”[4]

 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.[5]

The path of following Jesus is the path of dying to what we want and embracing what Jesus wants for us.

Challenge: In what ways are you embracing the ‘things of man’? It could be an obvious besetting sin, or more subtle sins of living only for comfort and ease of circumstances.

Bring these things to the cross of Christ where Jesus died for you and all that needs to die in you. Out of each death to self, you will experience his life.

Lord, may we respond as Peter with great rejoicing and joy inexpressible and full of glory to your work in our lives, knowing your purposes are for our ultimate good. Teach us to die to what we want and live our lives fully mindful of what you want. Amen

[1] Matthew 16:15-22 (NASB unless otherwise noted)

[2] Matthew 16:23 NKJV

[3] Matthew 16:24-25

[4] Romans 6:11

[5] Galatians 2:20

Stay Present my Friends

And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?  My hope is in you. Psalm  39:7

“What do you think?” a voice interrupts your thoughts.

Suddenly you’re brought back to the present. Your spouse, your child, your friend has been sharing something important, but you were thinking about what was next on your never ending to-do list. You have no idea what they just said.  Busted!

On another occasion you miss a magical moment on your family vacation because you’re dwelling on a regret from your past.

God has given us five sense to bring awareness of His creation around us.  These senses are available now, not yesterday, not tomorrow,  but now.

What are some of your favorites when it comes to your senses?

For me:

Sight:  Sunset or sunrise over water or mountains

Sound:  Water rushing past rocks in a mountain stream

Smell:  Tea olive, gardenias

Touch:  Sea breeze, fall wind in my face, soft sheets

Taste:  Chocolate pie, dark coffee

When we savor now, we’re enjoying  a gift from God. A lady on a plane once told me that’s why now is called the present.

There’s an old movie entitled “Our Town” which drives this point home.

One of the characters named, Emily, dies while giving birth to a child. However, she is permitted by the stage manager to revisit the past and to step back into the morning of her twentieth birthday as an observer.

From her vantage point, she has a profoundly nostalgic appreciation of the transient beauty of life’s little moments. However, she is struck by how the people, including her younger self, don’t have a clue how precious the moments of life really are. She is stunned that nobody savors and fully appreciates “now”. They all seem so disengaged. Later she would say of the living, “They don’t understand.”

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,”[1] Paul

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”[2] Jesus

God doesn’t want us to be imprisoned by the regrets of our past nor fears of our future. He wants us to be present with Him moment by moment.

Jesus tells us in John 15 to “abide” in Him. Other meanings of this word are to “tarry” or “stay present with.” Jesus goes on to say in the same chapter that there is complete joy found in “staying present” in His love and loving others as He has loved us.

Staying present with Jesus is essential to our Spiritual lives and it leads to experiencing and savoring life’s moments. Otherwise, life quickly passes us by.

Challenge:  Take notice of what you see and hear right this moment. Do you smell anything? Perhaps you’re drinking a cup of coffee and feel a gentle breeze upon your face like I’m experiencing as I write.

What tends to call you away from being fully present? Is it a looming duty, a past regret, a worry about the future? Whatever it is robs you of fully embracing the gift of now. Give these things to God and don’t take them back.

The people in our lives are loved and cared for during life’s “nows”. In an instant our present moments become memories. When we savor our times with the people God places in our path there’s a richness which touches our hearts and slows the swirl of life.

But what’s most important is being present with God. We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of Jesus and we are never alone. God is in us and around us. We are in Him and He is in us.

Tarry, remain, abide in Jesus. His presence is experienced now.

In your presence is fullness of joy. Psalm 16:11 b


[1] Philippians 3:13

[2] Matthew 6:34

Loved by God – It’s Who you Are

Note: If you’ve heard about or desired God’s love for you, but never thought it possible because of how you’ve lived your life, I have a message for you in blue below. Read on.

Last fall, at a men’s retreat at Camp Kanuga in the mountains of North Carolina, we sang the song Good Good Father.[1] It’s about God being a good Father and the fact that His love for us is our identity. I liked the song, but  had no idea how the Lord would use it later that weekend.

The weather was perfect when I ventured out during our alone time Sunday morning. A cool, musky breeze gently brushing my face as I tread on newly fallen leaves toward the labyrinth. I’d seen the circular maze the day before and at the recommendation of a cabin mate, wanted to experience it.


A labyrinth is a walking path used as a tool for contemplative prayer. As I stepped onto the serpentine paths leading to the center, I did what the sign said and set aside my worries, asking God to make me aware of His presence, listening for His impressions on my heart.


As I walked to and fro, back and forth, I was progressing to the center, which represents the presence of God. The  center has semicircles resembling a six leaf clover. When I reached it, I paused, stilling my thoughts and breathed in the cool autumn air. I was impressed with the words “It’s who you are.” Was this because we just sang the song? I thought. But “It’s who you are” remained steady in my heart.

I moved and stood within one of the half circles and completed the thought, “Being loved by God is who I am.”

Being loved by God is who I am. No other identity needed. I could have told you that intellectually before that moment, but God wanted this truth to travel past layers of protection and false identities to my very core.

My roles of being a devout Christian, loving husband and father, successful businessman, adequate provider, faithful friend,  or encouraging brother are not the core of who I am. THE ONLY IDENTITY I NEED IS BEING A LOVED CHILD OF GOD. My other roles and identities flow out of this most important fact about me. I’m loved by God.

How many times have I felt like a failure and doubted my worth because of inadequacies in my different roles?

In the center of the labyrinth, past failures and future fears seemed to be swept away in an instant, buried deep in a sea of God’s love.

As I made my way out of the labyrinth, I knew I was different.

I thought – if this is true

 quickly a correction came to mind –  because this is true, how I live my life outside the labyrinth will never be the same.

I’m still processing the impact, but I’m seeing  I don’t need any of those other identities I’ve been fighting for. I’m at peace in who I am as God’s loved child and free to love others without needing anything in return for my validation and identity.

Challenge: Think of your biggest failure or inadequacy. How do you feel about yourself in this area? Do you ever find you identify more with what you say about yourself than what God says about you?

Now think of the thing that tends to cause you the most worry, that fear which seems to follow you around.

Being loved by God is the most important thing about you and overshadows by a million miles those things you had in mind. God’s love for you is eternal and everlasting.

Being loved by God is who you are, a fact which towers above and washes away, all failures, all inadequacies and all fears.

And when you know, truly know, God loves you, you can yield to His Spirit within to love the folks He puts in your way.

Prayer:  Lord, I know Your love for me is far beyond my knowledge. Nothing imaginable can snatch me from your great love. Open the eyes of my heart that I might continue to grow more and more aware of how very much You love me.

May the fact of Your love be the definition of who I am and the overflowing purpose for the rest of my moments. Amen.

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. I John 3:1a

What if you’ve never really known God’s love for you?  If you’ve heard about God’s love but never embraced it, you can now.  Cross over. There’s a great chasm between all humans and God because of our sin. If it weren’t so, the pureness of God would be spoiled. 

That chasm cannot be crossed except by living a completely sinless life. Jesus lived this life and by the spilling of His blood a way has been forged across the chasm.

If you’re experiencing  a realization that what I’m saying is true, embrace it. Cross over from death to life by realizing your great dilemma and acting on God’s invitation to surrender your efforts to save yourself and resting in His arms as your Lord and Father.

If you decide to cross over by the bridge of the cross of Christ into eternal life and would like some ideas of some next steps, please send me an email. Thank you for reading this.

[1] Good Good Father by the Housefires


Turning Weariness into Rest and Joy

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. (Mathew 11:28)

 Have you ever noticed how the same workload can seem easy one day and insurmountably overwhelming the next?

A few days ago, work seemed effortless, as I cruised along in the Rivers of Living Water, experiencing the joy of the Lord’s nearness.

However, only a day later, I  trudged through a dry dusty riverbed, pulling an overloaded donkey cart of work. Everything was difficult, stress mounted, people faded from focus.

I sit wondering what happened, Why the drastic change?

Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28 come to mind: Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

Weary and heavy-laden, fatigued and over-burdened. That’s how I feel. But the work load hasn’t changed. Why has my heart shifted from delight to drudgery?

I pore over the words again, stopping at the first phrase.

Come to Me.

But I’m already with you, I thought. You’re in me and I’m in You.[1] [2]  You hold the universe together.[3] How can I be any closer to you than I already am?

I pull up my Strongs concordance app and dig into the word – “Come”

In the original Greek the word  “come” means “come hither” or “come this way”.

Jesus is always with me, but He’s asking me for a deeper “withness”.

I think of being with people in an elevator. They are with me, but unless we engage, there’s no connection.

One of my earliest memories comes to mind. I remember being woken up and seeing someone enter the room through the bars of a crib. I’m not sure who the person was, probably my mother, but they picked me up and took care of me.

Next I remember a little later being led by the hand by my great grandmother,  whom I called”Mommie,”  We were walking very slowly around a small a body of water.

I don’t know how I know it was Mommie, but I do. We must have been at my grandparent’s place in Pompano Beach, Florida. And it must have been the garden pool in the midst of their nursery she was leading me around. I was so small, so dependent on her guiding hand.

I was a mere toddler, but to this day I feel the love of those moments. Mommie led me with such tender care.

As I think back to that event in light of my current situation, clarity emerges.  

Mommie was not giving me directions from far away, expecting me to walk on my own. Her soft hand, firmly embracing my little fingers, communicated, “walk this way child. I’ll guide you and show you where to go. And I’ll support your feeble legs every step of the way.”

Wow. I’d let go of the Lord’s hand. I’d lost the joy of His presence. I’d begun to look at work as just work, instead of the adventure He wanted us to have together.

“I’m sorry, Lord,” I confess.

I feel no condemnation, no displeasure, just an invitation.

I lift my hand and hear Him say, “Come this way.”

Resttake ease, refresh, refrain, come to an end.

[1] Galatians 2:20

[2] Ephesians 2:4-6

[3] Colossians 1:17

Experiencing God in the moments of our lives