This Easter

I started this Thursday listening to my Easter playlist. In that, Lauren Daigle’s “How Can It Be” played. These lyrics from verse two stuck in my ears, mind, and heart.

The main reason they stuck is the contrast between the doubting of love and the exchanging of grace. Been on my mind for several weeks now, so these lyrics heard through the lens of Easter stopped me in my morning routine.

That’s what grace does. Makes you pause. Humbles your expectations. Erases your doubts. Brings you back.

May we all pause in humility to be brought back from our wandering through the erasing of our doubts of God’s love this Easter!

Looking for Book #1?

Book #1 for 2021 done. And it was a good choice to kick it off.

It’s time to let God heal you. It’s time to let God restore you. It’s time to let God do a mighty work.

Franklin takes the first half of the book to define and describe love.

Don’t speak to the fool in others; speak to the king in them.

Chapter four, “Stop Keeping Score and Start Losing Count,” by title alone moves you in the right direction. He had this to say about Jesus’ work on forgiving:

Before he could leave this earth, Jesus had to forgive those who were torturing him, those who were mocking him, those who were blaspheming him. This was important because God’s hands will not touch spirits that do not release forgiveness. Wherever you release forgiveness, you release the power of the Spirit of God.

For several chapters, Franklin focuses on the family. Why? Perhaps because it’s the place where we learn about love and also where we are most prone to be hurt by it.

You cannot be so spiritual that you neglect natural things. And you cannot be so natural that you neglect the spiritual things. God’s will is somewhere between Martha’s kitchen and Mary’s altar.

The final three chapters address one’s love relationship with God. He argues that the enemy’s goal is to create distrust. And what happens often is instead he pushes us to pray more, to run to God, and to increase our faith-particularly when we love like we’ve never been hurt.

Franklin wrote a Keeper.

What’s Left

God is still the God of what’s left. -Jentezen Franklin, Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt

This quote is in chapter 11, “Fight for Your Family.” Franklin’s point is that whatever the status of one’s family there’s still something left. Now is the time to let God be God of whatever’s left. Encouraging. Hope-filled.

How ’bout we broaden the story? Like…

  • God is still the God of what’s left of your company
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your marriage
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your friendship
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your finances
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your church
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your neighborhood
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your government
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your health
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your education
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your parenting
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your career
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your retirement
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your life

Old And Refreshing

My Christmas Eve was blessed by two worship services.  

In both, two old carols included verses new to me, refreshing like light from the manger.

This verse from “O Come All Ye Faithful”:

Child, for us sinners poor and in the manger,

We would embrace thee with love and awe;

Who would not love thee, loving us so dearly?

This verse from “In Bleak Midwinter”:

Heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;

Heav’n and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign;

In the bleak midwinter a stable sufficed

The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

May the child’s light shine on you this Christmas Day!

Bumper Sticker Disturbance

Driving home from church last Sunday, I pulled up to a red light and apparently was behind another churchgoer. Anyone driving a van adorned by a bumper sticker including a Bible reference on a Sunday after lunch, it’s a sign. Unfortunately, this sign wasn’t positive. My spirit was immediately disturbed. I took a pic so I could chew on this disturbance.

When I got home, I looked up this verse because my mind was having a hard time connecting any scripture that would support this statement. Here’s what it says:

“No harm will come to you; no plague will come near your tent.”

My disturbance made sense. The statement of choice is a personal choice that, whether you agree with it or not, doesn’t have to cause disturbance. The verse read in its context and understood by the Psalmist’s intent doesn’t have to cause disturbance. The disturbance is when they are put together as if they belong together. They do not belong together. Here are three reasons why:

1. Putting them together abuses the Bible narrative. If you could use this statement to choose to not participate in the challenges of this world, then much of the Bible narrative doesn’t make sense. Driver, is that the message you wanted to send when you chose to buy that bumper sticker? Many of the most beloved characters in the Bible endured harm and plague. Suppose Joseph had declined to participate in the famine. Or if Daniel had chosen not to participate in denying the King’s decree. Or if Paul had decided enduring prison was going too far, not a choice he was going to agree to. Or if Esther had said, “My life is too good to choose to put it at risk.” Believer, if you want to know a better understanding of Psalms 91, here’s a link to an article that does it justice. An excerpt of the article says this about the message of Psalms 91:

Psalms 91 is God’s way of telling us that whoever runs to him and seeks his divine protection will be saved from calamity and destruction. When we pray the words of this psalm it becomes a powerful shield of protection from fear. However, some people mistakenly thought the teaching is an unconditional promise and proof that life will be smooth sailing, that we won’t face hardship, illness, or any other crisis. This kind of thinking is often preached by pastors and ministers who teach the false and deceptive prosperity gospel. Nothing can be farther from the truth. God promises protection, but it doesn’t mean that we won’t suffer even in the face of this pandemic.

2. Putting them together denies God’s sovereignty. It very well could be, Driver, that people you love will test positive, be hospitalized, come close to or succumb to death during this pandemic. It could be you. What happens to faith then? Is God no longer in control? Absolutely not. When we decide to make choices that make us feel good and in control, we’ve basically kicked God off our heart’s throne. And, thankfully, he has plenty of mercy and patience to wait us out. They go on forever. And when we realize our choice was wrong, that his ways and thoughts are indeed higher and better than ours, he will do what Psalms 91 is all about-offer us comfort by reminding us he’s in control.

3. Putting them together creates division and lacks love. Division and selfishness most likely aren’t your intent. You heard a leader declare this statement of choice was truth. Unfortunately, it’s not. If we know anything from today’s culture, false messages are divisive and self-serving. Christians cannot say they love God and people while declaring a false message.

So if this message is wrong, what’s the right message? Based on these three thoughts, here are three edits of the statement:

“I have chosen to accurately know God’s word in this pandemic.”

“I have chosen to trust God in this pandemic.”

“I have chosen to pursue peace and share love in this pandemic.”

Disclaimer: In general, I’m not a bumper sticker fan. You print one of these non-disturbing three, I might become one.

    Taking Jesus Seriously

    Started this book today:

    Jethani has doodled and produced 72 devotionals based on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).

    After reading the first nine, I encourage you to check it out. If you wonder what might be troubling you about followers of Jesus, you might discover it in this book. It’s possible we haven’t taken Jesus seriously enough.


    Fear is exhausting. Well, at least misplaced fear can be. Proper fear can actually provide joy and comfort.

    Several people have commented how that in spite of being slowed down since March they still feel tired, maybe even more so. Perhaps fear is to blame.

    I started a new book this afternoon, Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn. His book contains 48 devotionals written as notes to “Self,” reminders of what you know based on Scripture. Note #3, entitled “Fear,” includes these thoughts:

    Worldly fear will lead you to toe party lines, compel you to try to live a safe life, and lead you to so prize the good gifts of God that they mutate into idols.

    Your possessions can go up in flames, but you have treasure in heaven and stand to inherit the kingdom. Your reputation may be sullied, but you are justified in Jesus. You may be rejected by those who you admire, but you are accepted by God. You may be hated, but your Father in heaven loves you with an undying love.

    The fear you need to maintain and cultivate is a fear of God, for in it you will discover wisdom and develop strength that enables you to persevere in faith to the end.

    Somewhere in those reminders may you find rest from fear, whether you’re fighting your own or burdened by other’s.

    What if you wrote your own note to self? What reminders would it include?

    Photo Credit: Unsplash/Melanie Wasser

    Questions: Three for God, Three for Us

    The media, culture, and environment in which we live has sought to define love as a feeling that lives rooted deep within our emotional character. This could not be farther from the truth when understood through the focused lens of God’s Word. God defines love not in emotional terms but in commitment and covenant. God has self-defined Himself as love and rests His identity in His intention that He will never recant that commitment to humanity nor will He break His own special covenant no matter our propensities toward sinfulness or spiritual rebellion. (-The Pastor’s Wife and The Other Woman)

    I started a new book last night. This quote is from a section discussing how our choices regarding our time indicate what is significant to us.

    What is significant is more than what feels good. What we know we can count on, what is solid, what has been tested, what has survived fire-that is significant.

    When we question our significance to God, here are three questions to ponder:

    1. What promises has He kept?
    2. How has He shown Himself to me recently?
    3. When was the last time He forgave me?

    Turning the spotlight on the other person in the relationship, here are three questions for us:

    1. What promises have I made to God?
    2. How am I looking for God each day?
    3. How do I open my heart to God?

    God of My 20’s: My “Pharis-ectomy”

    (Post #7 in a collaborative series)

    Guest Blogger Mark Stanifer

    It is July 2005. I’m 32 years old. On this hot summer day I’m disoriented, sitting in an unfamiliar church auditorium, listening to an unfamiliar dude. He’s got long hair, tattoos, a Canadian accent, and is wearing shorts and sandals. He seemed innocuous enough, but he’s just rocked my world and I didn’t see it coming. That’s when my spiritual surgery began, and it would take years to fully recover.

    To understand why this is so significant, roll the clock back 20 years to 1985. I’m 12 years old, mid-way through the usual summer church camp and God grabbed hold of my heart. Growing up a church rat—you know, the kid who is always there because his parents were always there—I knew the language and the routine. This summer I began a deeper understanding of why. I remember tears, talking with one of the camp counselors, and an intense resolve to pursue God from that point forward.

    My life has always be defined by coloring inside the lines. I like to know the rules and the right way to do things. For some, that is suffocating. For me, it is comforting. This is how I am wired. It has advantages in the right context. It can also create problems. One of those problems is a too-familiar relationship with fear. Another is an inclination toward stasis unless the way forward is clear. These two are related, for sure. They both have dogged me.

    In 1995, I graduated from college, married my high school sweetheart and began life out in the “real world.” It felt like I had waited a long time for these things to happen, so the excitement was real. As we built our life together, we invested heavily into our local church. It was part of the real world requirement for a God-follower. Nursery duty, teaching younglings, helping the teens, leading small groups, starting whole programs, serving as an elected leader. Name the church thing and I had done it. My church resume was impressive. So much so that “churchianity” had started to replace Christianity for me.

    In reality, I was becoming more like a chief priest or ruler of the law. I see that now, although at the time I didn’t. My spiritual swagger from right believing and right living was becoming arrogance. Non Christians were more like projects. Christians who weren’t in my tribe were marginalized. All the while, I lived with a strong fear, just below the surface, that unless my beliefs and actions were right God would be disappointed in me. As Wayne Jacobsen says, I was trapped in the “obligation of religious performance.”

    By the time my 20’s came to a close, I was on my way to becoming a righteous Pharisee. This wasn’t the path I intended. My desire was to follow God, to know Jesus. However, in my attempt to find that path I drifted toward religiosity. It was seductive—measurable activity, documented beliefs, outward proof of my allegiance to God. There was also my “good life”—good job, good wife, good kids, good health, good [fill-in-the-blank]. I equated good life with God’s love. The problem was, it was never about religious performance. God’s love isn’t evidenced by good circumstances. I was missing the whole point. It has always been about an intimate relationship with Jesus.

    Which brings us full circle back to 2005 and the Canadian. I had no idea that this was the first incision of the surgery. A surgery that I would eventually refer to affectionately as my “Pharis-ectomy.” It took years of incisions, healing, and recovery to get to where I am. Yet I am grateful for it all. Why? Because I have today what I didn’t have before:

    1. A deep, abiding confidence that I am loved by Father, regardless of what I do on His behalf
    2. An intimate and growing relationship with Jesus
    3. A immense freedom that I didn’t realize was possible; a freedom to live for Jesus way beyond rules; a freedom to engage others from a place of love rather than fear and judgement

    Who was God in my 20’s? The same God I know and follow today. I just better understand who He is. And I better understand who I am in Him. This is what He’s wanted for me from the beginning. It took a journey through my 20’s to be ready to embrace it. One that I will always value. One that I’m happy to have behind me.