for the love of bread

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

I love bread.
I grew up on a street that had an Italian bakery that made the most amazing bread.
On Sundays my dad would send one of us there to buy a dozen warm dinner rolls.

My mouth waters at that memory.
This is the context that I have when I think about bread.
Even so, consider this response to the word of God from Psalm 119:
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Sometimes I think that we are what we love and desire.
As I said before, I love bread.
My waistline shows it.

Yet I am not sure that I love God's bread as much.

My love of bread has caused me to sometimes eat it too much.
Yet I am not sure that I am fat on spiritual bread.
Honestly, my mouth does not water for it like it does for that stuffed cooked in ovens.

Lord, cause my mouth to hunger and thirst for the Bread of Life.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

the light of the new heart

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. [Matthew 5:14-16 NIV]

Again Jesus makes an amazing declaration about his followers. He does not say that He is the light that shines from within us. He says that we are the light. A few thoughts:
  • God created that light within us. He gave us a new shining regenerated heart (i.e. innermost being) when we were born again.
  • Jesus says that we are not to hide this light. We are not to suppress the workings of our heart. We are to live from our new heart and not from our head (i.e. flesh).
  • People notice when we live from our heart because we act differently. Love emanates from our new heart and God is glorified as we love others.
Lord, help me to shine. Help me to love from my heart today.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

spiritual salt shakers

You are the salt of the earth. If salt loses its taste, how can it be made to taste like salt again? It is no good. It is thrown away and people walk on it. -Matthew 5:13 NLV

These verses cause me to remember that we are salt shakers in the Lord's service.
In a sense, the Holy Spirit turns us upside down when he lives through us.
He shakes us and releases beautiful seasoning into the lives of those around us.

In that sense, the releasing ofsalt defies all that we find comfortable.
Being turned upside down, like a salt shaker, is really uncomfortable.
Uncomfortable, but necessary if we want to help those around us.

When I think about this idea, the word encouragement comes to me.
And how salt often looks like comforting and strengthening those around us.
This kind of loving seasoning will add such flavor to the world.

Turn me upside down Lord and shake the salt out of me.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

religious hatred

Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. [Luke 6:22-23 NIV]

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. [Matthew 5:10-11 NIV]

I have to admit that I cannot relate to being persecuted.
I am not really sure that I know what it means to be hated.
Much less hated or persecuted for my faith in God.

Still, the attacks of 9/11 brought home the idea that some religious folks do hate.
Honestly, I cannot relate to this sort of hate.
Yet I do remember the arrogant way that I once viewed non-Christians.

In reality, we often believe that our religion(s) are better than others.
Sometimes theology can be the greatest stumbling block to loving humility.
Sadly, our prideful behavior does not endear us to those of other religions.

Perhaps our greatest challenge is to love those religious folks who hate us.
To pray for those who persecute and torture those who God loves.
Interceding in prayer that those who hate would be won over by love.

Lastly, these verses remind us of our need to endure the hatred of others.
To pray for those who speak ill of us and wish us harm.
To bless those who are blind to the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Lord Jesus, help us to show your love to those who are held captive by hate.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

the uncomfortable call of making peace

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. -Matthew 5:9 NIV

Methodist theologian Adam Clarke once wrote:
"the Gospel is called the Gospel of peace,
because it tends to reconcile men to God and to each other"
I think that reconciliation is the operative word.
Peacemakers are reconcilers who bring folks together.
Healing folks that are alienated and often hostile to each other.

An old friend died a few years ago.
I was sad because we had not talked in a long time.
It caused me to contact another old friend that I had not seen in a while.

I shared a meal with my old friend.
As we dined together we shared our lives.
Life is too short to allow any sort of alienation in our lives.

Being a peacemaker sometimes involves making contact when it is uncomfortable.
Being a peacemaker is a divine call to reconcile and be reconciled.
Small wonder that folks who make peace are called children of God.

Lord, help me to be at peace and to make peace. Even when it is uncomfortable.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

when I see with my heart

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. [Matthew 5:8 NIV]

I think that this verse can be a very intimidating one because we are all very aware of the lack of purity in our thoughts and motives. Even so, I think that Jesus is speaking to us of the wonder of the new creation that Paul teaches in his writings. Consider what Jesus said to Nicodemus in John's gospel:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."
Again Jesus speaks of seeing. Seeing God. Seeing His kingdom. Perhaps it was because of their unregenerate and impure hearts that the religious leaders of Jesus' day could not see God standing before them. Could not see the works of God's kingdom done before their eyes?

This speaks to my need to live from this pure heart that was born in me so many years ago. It instructs me to see not with my head but with my heart. It challenges me to move beyond the natural and physical aspects of life and press into the invisible and eternal life of God.

This all helps me to know that when I see with my heart I will see God and His kingdom.

Lord, help me to live from, and see with, my heart.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

the nature of mercy

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. [Matthew 5:7 NIV]

Is there a quality in life more divine than mercy?
Is there anything like showing mercy to one who does not deserve it?
I guess that is the heart of mercy isn't it?

It reminds me of the Lord's prayer where Jesus instructs us to pray:
"forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors"
Have you ever considered that forgiving others is an expression of mercy?
Especially when forgiveness is not requested or accompanied by repentance.
In reality anyone can be merciful when there are strings attached.

Yet that is not really mercy. Is it?
Mercy is forgiving without the promise of being forgiven.

Interesting how Jesus ties the giving and receiving of mercy in this verse.
Perhaps that is the nature of mercy and forgiveness?
These things flow into our lives when we simply exercise them.
In that sense our mercy muscles gets stronger and we are in turn blessed.

I need mercy Lord. Help me to be merciful.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

righteous hunger

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. [Matt 5:6]
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. [Luke 6:21]

What do you think it means to be hungry for righteousness?
What does a thirst for it look like?
How does such a person live?

The answer, I think, lies in the most righteous man that ever lived.
In reality, the goal of every believer is to be like Jesus Christ.
We must hunger and thirst to be incarnate righteousness.

Our hunger to be a person of love must trump all other hungers.
Our thirst to embody his goodness must overshadow every thirst.
Anything less will never satisfy the one who follows the Lord.

When I consider Jesus, I understand how much the world needs righteousness.
When he came, everyone rejected the very thing they most needed.
We need Jesus and the righteous love and goodness that he embodied.

I need you Lord. I need righteousness. Help me to hunger and thirst for it.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

meekness and our need to be patient

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. [Matthew 5:5 NIV]

Albert Barnes defines meekness as a "patience in the reception of injuries".
Oh my, that really sheds a different light on the word for me.
I find that I can often be quickly offended when I am hurting and in pain.

This idea speaks to me of my need to be patient with others.
And quick to forgive those who have injured and offended me.
Patience and forgiveness seem to really go hand in hand.

I wonder if meekness is what happens when we really love someone.
Possibly the earth that we inherit is of a relational nature?
Maybe those who are patient and forgiving are those who gain influence on the earth?

Possibly patience and forgiveness are the only ways we can be meek?

Lord, help me to be meek. Help me to be patient and quick to forgive.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

people who grieve

God blesses those people who grieve. They will find comfort! [Matthew 5:4 CEV]

I wish that I did not know what it was like to grieve.
Grieving seems to be all about pain.
Who needs more pain?

It hurts to lose someone who is close to us.
It is painful to lose an ability you once had.
All negative change seems to be an exercise in grief.

I heard a counselor once say that we circle around our grief until we step into our pain.
It is a scary thing to grieve because we are not in control of it.
Yet it is the release of control that often brings us comfort.

It blesses me that Jesus speaks directly to this issue.
He speaks to us not of the blessing of grief but of the blessing of being comforted.
I have really needed the comfort of God and of friends in my life.

I remember the time when my friends mourned with me when my first wife died.
I remember comforting friends who suffered great losses.
We all need the blessing of comfort in our lives.

I am thank for this blessing.

Thank you Lord for the promise of comfort.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

blessed are the poor

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. [Luke 6-20 NIV]
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 5:3 NIV]

Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount by speaking of being poor.
Matthew thought him to mean spiritually poor.
Luke does not make that differentiation.

This verse speaks to me of humility.
I think that we are blessed when we are humble.
Our lives reflect the kingdom of heaven when we are humble.

Humility is rooted in the idea that we are poor and in need of help.
Help from God to make it spiritually.
Help from people to make it physically.

In a sense, all blessings begin with humility.
In truth humility is acknowledging our poverty.
We are blessed when we walk humbly with God.

Lord, help me to be recognize my poverty. And to walk humbly.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

red letters

On January 1, 2011, I began writing about the Red Letters. The things Jesus said in the gospels that are often printed in red. Today I begin revisiting those posts and making a few changes to them. Below is an index to these devotions as I republish them. Click on on titled link to read each post.

  1. blessed are the poor: Humility is rooted in the idea that we are poor and in need of help.
  2. people who grieve: We circle around our grief until we step into our pain.
  3. meekness and our need to be patient: Meekness is manifested as patience when we are injured.
  4. righteous hunger: We must hunger and thirst to be incarnate righteousness.
  5. the nature of mercy: Mercy flows into our lives when we exercise our mercy muscles.
  6. when I see with my heart: I see God and His kingdom when I see with my heart.
  7. the uncomfortable call of making peace: Life is too short to allow any sort of alienation in it.
  8. religious hatred: Sometimes theology can be the greatest stumbling block to loving humility.
  9. spiritual salt shakers: Being turned upside down, like a salt shaker, is really uncomfortable.
  10. the light of the new heart: The regenerated heart is one that is filled with light.
  11. for the love of bread: More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold.
  12. testing vs trusting: To test God is to not trust him.
  13. the prophetic fulfillment of the law: Every legal obligation and all Messianic prophecies.
  14. if someone calls you an idiot: Our reactions to name calling are important.
  15. the heart of divorce: A marriage can be destroyed by the hard heart of one party.
  16. the simplicity of yes: Wisdom is all about simplifying complex issues.
  17. spiritual justice: We would all be blind and toothless if we followed the letter of the law.
  18. unconditional enemy love: You cannot love your enemy if you have conditions.
  19. the power of pain: Will we allow pain to have power over us? Or will we transform it?
  20. the perfection that is love: We are perfect, as our heavenly father is perfect, when we love.
  21. the desire to be seen: Good things can become bad when done with the wrong motive.
  22. nondeductible donations: Real charity is all about the things that you cannot deduct on your taxes.
  23. praying like a hypocrite: An admonition to not pray to be seen and heard by others.
  24. divine will: Manifested in things that are small, priceless, hidden and eternal.
  25. food and forgiveness: We need both physical and spiritual bread to live.
  26. praying for deliverance: Life is a spiritual battle and we need God to fight the evil in our lives.
  27. his kingdom. eternal. amen.: I always end with these words when I pray the Lord's prayer.
  28. invisible treasure: When we love unconditionally we lay up treasure in heaven.
  29. spiritual cataracts: If left untreated spiritual cataracts can form and obscure the light.
  30. misplaced love: How we use money is often representative of how we serve God.
  31. an antidote for worry: We cannot think our way out of worry.
  32. seek first to love: Walking in love is evidence that we are seeking his kingdom.
  33. the toxic paralysis of worry: Worry is a toxic state of despair, unbelief and hopelessness.
  34. the reflection of judgment: Judging others can be a reflection of the way that we see ourselves?
  35. cataract surgery: We cannot perform spiritual surgery on ourselves.
  36. discerning a fool: Sharing our hearts with foolish people will often break our hearts.
  37. transforming prayer: Prayer is not about getting things but getting to know God better.
  38. he only gives us good things: It is always best to simply lean into the character of God.
  39. the essence of the bible: How we treat people reveals the influence of God in our lives.
  40. the narrow way of love: The Sermon on the Mount and walking the narrow road.
  41. character vs charisma: Dogmatic answers or humble words that cause you to seek.
  42. doing vs knowing: Why we do things religious things is more important than actually doing them.
  43. bedrock faith: Faith does not keep us from the storms but it does keep us in the storms.
  44. reader vs author: Jesus spoke as the author of holy writ.
  45. healing touch: Jesus' response to this leper teaches me about the heart of God and ministry.
  46. the heart of intercession: A great example of what it means to be an intercessor.
  47. pain magnets: There is something therapeutic about releasing the things that cause us to suffer.
  48. letting go of security: Following Jesus requires us to let go of earthly security.
  49. gripped with fear: Storms come into our lives to give us an opportunity to exercise our faith.
  50. going and knowing: The simplicity of Jesus' reaction to the demons is mind boggling.
  51. religious callousness: Religious folks judge with callous disregard for the suffering of others.
  52. outcasts: It is so amazing that so many outcasts wrote the scriptures.
  53. mourning, grief and facebook: Loss can create a judgmental attitude in us towards others.
  54. old clothes. sour wine.: The new covenant is not a patch for the old but a replacement of it.
  55. the miracle maker: We can only come in humility, bowing and asking God for help.
  56. spiritual not cerebral: Believing that God has the power to help me is not really about my theology.
  57. unholy spirits: Human history indicates that evil has existed from the beginning.
  58. spiritual farmers and shepherds: Genuine spiritual leaders have a heart for individuals.
  59. the untouchables: Like lepers, many are shunned today because of things in their lives.
  60. carry-on baggage: I do not need extra baggage to be complete. I am already complete.
  61. the wisdom of lambs: To be "innocent as doves" a person must have no personal agenda.
  62. spiritual words: God will supply the words if we will patiently wait for his voice.
  63. spiritual survival: Senator John McCain died yesterday leaving us with a clear vision of survival.
  64. a response to malignment: Faith is having an inner strength that endures bad treatment.
  65. going public: Being transparent about life, failures, mistakes and sins can be a risky business.
  66. the-life-of-sparrows: To know God is to trust him.
  67. phony godliness: Jesus is the yardstick and plumb line by which all godliness is measured.
  68. agents of grace: Grace is something that we receive so that we can give it away.
  69. divine apprenticeship: The very nature of apprenticeship is to create an atmosphere of humility.
  70. the offence of unanswered prayers: Faith is all about our reactions to unanswered prayers.
  71. when less is more: Our lives are greater as they testify to the reality of heaven's kingdom.
  72. religious bullies: The Pharisees are a compelling reminder to us of the dark side of religion.
  73. positive repentance: Repentance is not so much what you turn from but Who you turn to.
  74. spiritual children: Children are believing because they have not been taught to be unbelieving.
  75. the root of peace: Peace will accompany humility because it calls us to release control.
  76. the Lord of the Law: Why follow the Law when you can follow the Lord of the Law?
  77. callous indifference: Can you imagine coming to the ER and it is closed because it is Sunday?
  78. religious divisions: Divisions embrace an unhealthy inward focus that ignores hurting people.
  79. spiritual slander: If one confuses right with wrong, they will continue to slander what is right.
  80. evil hearts: The truth is that we all need a new heart that is not desperately wicked.
  81. seeking proof: I have learned that seeking signs and seeking God are polar opposites.
  82. worse than the first: When a person continually rejects the Holy Spirit they harden their heart.
  83. spiritual family: Our spiritual family is far greater than the people we see on Sunday morning.
  84. spiritual seeds: We have no control over how a person will hear what we say.
  85. hidden messages: Ever heard a joke and just didn't get it even when it was explained to you?
  86. spiritual eyes and ears: My life changed as I began to see and hear life through God's eyes.
  87. the four hearts: Hard hearts. Shallow hearts. Strangled hearts. Persevering hearts.
  88. human weeds: It is not always so easy to identify the human kind of weed.
  89. small seeds: Lives have been changed just because a solitary seed was sown in the ground.
  90. spiritual expansion: These words remind me that a life that is spiritual is not a stagnant life.
  91. the hidden reign of the heavens: A beautiful way to visualize the kingdom of heaven.
  92. the last curtain call: At the end of our lives we will be like those fish Jesus speaks of.
  93. spiritual understanding: Our heads understand literally. Our hearts understand spiritually.
  94. spiritual familiarity: Familiarity can sometimes obscure the image of God.
  95. compassion, miracles and grief: Letting go of our fishes and loaves.
  96. the fourth watch: Maybe we have to exhaust all of our options before God shows up?
  97. uncomfort zones: Peter's story gives us a pathway out of our comfort zone.
  98. awestruck: How do you react to something amazing that you cannot understand?
  99. hypocritical-rules: Often religious people elevate their own rules to the level of scripture.
  100. spiritual defilement: Religious folks often focus on the externals rather than the essentials.
  101. the wisdom of ignoring leaders: Following a blind leader will cause you to fall.
  102. healing tears: What image do you see when read about the compassion of Christ?
  103. tenacious faith: The story inspires me to press in and pray when answers seem so far away.
  104. divine fingerprints: In every sunrise and sunset and baby's face. I see evidence of God.
  105. religious influencers: We must watch and beware of who we allow to influence our lives.
  106. messianic revelation: Jesus Christ, the most controversial person who ever lived.
  107. on this bedrock: The church is built on the bedrock of Jesus.
  108. eternal focus: In focusing on the visible we lose sight of things eternal and invisible.
  109. the ecstacy of self-sacrifice: Self-sacrifice is all about the embracing of pain and suffering.
  110. comfort in scary times: They were flat on their faces, scared to death, when he touched them.
  111. religious blindness: Who could ever imagine that we ourselves might reject God in the flesh?
  112. seed-like faith: I love how Jesus is speaks hyperbolically in his teaching about prayer.
  113. a greatly distressing message: The gospel is a greatly distressing message.
  114. blessed taxes: Perhaps our attitude should be one of thankfulness for those who serve us?
  115. kingdom humility: Unless you become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
  116. overcoming sin: Perhaps heaven can be described as a place that is absent of sin?
  117. angelic emulation: When one of us strays our heart should demonstrate heavenly compassion.
  118. the one percent: Our call is seek out and help those who have gotten lost in our culture.
  119. the heart of reconciliation: Each of us can relate to the idea of complaining when we are offended.
  120. seventy times seven: One who keeps an account of forgiveness does not understand it.
  121. divine concessions: Why not overcome a concession than merely live into it?
  122. growing into the largeness of marriage: Marriage provides us with opportunities for growth.
  123. childlike hearts: Heaven belongs to those who are like children.
  124. possessive possessions: Materialistic people often appear very moral.
  125. fat cat camels: I laughed when I was reminded of the context of this verse.
  126. when unfair is made fair: In that new day the pecking order of this age will expire.
  127. divine philanthropy: Life is all about the generosity of God.
  128. walking towards suffering: Jesus did not back down from pain but headed straight for it.
  129. into your hands: The Son of God was not a victim of circumstances
  130. Jonah and Jesus: Both were missing - deemed dead and gone.
  131. the first message after the resurrection: The message is both timeless and universal.
  132. willful ignorance: Skeptics think that it is 'intellectual' to dismiss eye witness accounts.
  133. power suits: The bravest of them lacked the ability to continue Jesus' mission
  134. breakfast with friends: This is such a beautiful story of friendship and discipleship.
  135. seeing past our shame: Peter so needed the Lord to drag him out of his shame.
  136. where you do not want to go: Following Jesus requires us to look up and not look around.
  137. divine discipleship: Most of Jesus' own mission on earth was spent discipling uneducated people.
  138. spiritual baptism: Christians have an ongoing need for forgiveness and spiritual empowering.
  139. a witness to spiritual influence: Our lives witness to the Holy Spirit's influence in our lives.
  140. the seduction of power: For years my ambition for position created a dissatisfaction in my life.
  141. blindness, desperateness and healing: I was shocked when Ellen passed the eye test.
  142. an invitation into our pain: Come into my pain Lord Jesus.
  143. a hangout for thieves: Unfortunately religious thieves still mislead and manipulate.
  144. they were angry: How blind must a person be to not see divinity in a worker of miracles?
  145. an evidence of faith: It takes a belief in someone greater than ourselves to pray.
  146. the authority of love: Our authority is heavenly when we love.
  147. loving the unlovable: The challenge is to be the embodiment of a different sort of person.
  148. few are chosen: I so wish that Jesus said 'many' instead of 'few'.
  149. a taxing perspective: Often questions tell us quite a bit about the one who is asking them.
  150. things illogical and invisible: What if his words disagreed with our ideology and theology?
  151. the ministry of amateurs: God's working through fisherman and plumbers is often discounted.
  152. in the midst of wolves: Sometimes life is a bit scary and so out of control
  153. the source of fear: In reality, our fears evidence a trust in things seen rather than things unseen
  154. a personal resurrection: Life is all about letting go and embracing new plans.
  155. humble presence: Jesus is a king who comes in absolute humility.
  156. taking on immortality: In this passage the words 'life' and 'soul' are the same word.
  157. eternal consequences: Things that seem temporal may have eternal consequences.
  158. few are chosen: I so wish that Jesus said 'many' instead of 'few'.
  159. theological assumptions: I have been blinded to biblical truth because of assumptions.
  160. all encompassing and all consuming: Jesus made it clear that loving God is not enough.
  161. inconspicuous ministry: Sadly, some minister to attract attention to themselves.
  162. call no one pastor: We are all equal as brothers and sisters.
  163. be content to be yourself: Better to serve with no motive other than just being yourself.
  164. open to interpretation: Some see the bible as a closed book rather than an unfolding mystery.
  165. our word should be sacred: Our character and our word should reflect that of Christ.
  166. on tithing and tipping: Genuine faith causes one go past what they owe God.
  167. the spiritual dead: Bad behavior often evidences the absence of inner spiritual life.
  168. hypocrites and heretics: Prophets are not accepted because they challenge the status quo.
  169. the invitation to bow: A day is coming when every knee will bow.
  170. temporal captivations: What is it about stuff that so garners our attention?
  171. birth-pains: It is so easy to get distracted by predictions of future events.
  172. the end will come: Maranatha. Come Lord Jesus.
  173. for our sake: Reminds me that God is sovereign and reigns even in the darkest of times.
  174. like swift lightning: Can you imagine that day when the Son of God comes again?
  175. eternal words: The words that Jesus spoke are timeless and powerful.
  176. an unexpected hour: Jesus' message in this passage is all about staying awake spiritually.
  177. always be ready: Living in wisdom is how we prepare ourselves for things to come.
  178. spiritual investing: I sometimes think that faithfulness is the currency of the kingdom.
  179. from a throne of splendor: He who laid down his life now sits in judgment.
  180. my religious ego: We sometimes do good things for the wrongs reasons.
  181. intentions: People with good intentions often make mistakes and err in judgment.
  182. spiritual darkness: This passage is a stark contrast between light and darkness.
  183. extravagant giving: This passage is one of Jesus' great teaching on generosity.
  184. the dark path of disappointment: No one had a clue what what betrayal would look like.
  185. an intimate table: One of Jesus' last desires was to spend an intimate meal with his friends.
  186. spiritual impotence: Following God has never been about fleshly power or weaponry.
  187. courage to trust: In times of great pain and struggle it takes courage to trust the Lord.
  188. when friends desert you: All I can see is Jesus standing all alone and with a broken heart.
  189. a quick stop to the revolution: Spiritual battles never are won with swords.
  190. the influence of darkness: He who came in peace was treated like a criminal.
  191. the seduction of earthly religion: Court is in session and the religion of humankind is on trial.
  192. spiritual boldness: Spirituality marked by boldness rather than boasting.
  193. the divine king: He is the King of kings and Lord of lords.
  194. he is more: He is more than a great teacher or a great prophet.
  195. the friendship gospel: Jesus is a virtual unknown and people are bringing their friends him.
  196. the word became flesh: Who could have grasped that God Almighty was taking on human flesh?
  197. manifestations of glory: Perhaps all miracles are manifestations of the glory of God?
  198. zealous for our hearts: Do not make my Father's house a house of trade.
  199. spiritual understanding: Mental rationalizations often trump inner understandings.
  200. the inner wind of the heart: One might argue that being born again was part of Jewish teaching.
  201. the gift of immortality: All creation is born mortal and do not survive death.
  202. the dark side: Christ mostly confronted the darkness of religious people.
  203. spiritual influence: Humility tells us that God's influence must increase in our lives.
  204. spiritual thirst: Simple conversations can become so profound.
  205. worship is spiritual not geographical: it is not about where we worship or the church building
  206. spiritual food: Apart from love all ministry is void of anything spiritual.
  207. exercising trust in a crisis: God is at work even when things seem out of control.
  208. the loneliness of suffering: Those in pain should not have to suffer alone.
  209. religious vs spiritual people: Commentary on Jesus' conflicts with religious leaders
  210. spiritual-intimacy: Teresa of Calcutta was a witness to such an intimacy.
  211. the only one qualified to judge: he was tempted as we are yet did not sin
  212. being open to hear: Comprehension is more than simply hearing what someone says.
  213. humanity on trial: from one of the crosses, a man speaks and light enters the darkness
  214. two men dying: One is transformed as he waits to die.
  215. the human on the cross: The message is greater than a fulfillment of prophecy.
  216. feeling alone and forsaken: knowing that he experienced forsakenness gives me courage
  217. the human debt: our debt of love was paid in full by redeeming love.

... click on this tag to see all of my Red Letter postings.

Don't Confuse God With Life

In October, 2009 I copied, with permission from my blogging friend Danny Simms, this beautiful post about disappointment. Enjoy the read. I will add a few comments after his thoughts.

When Phillip Yancey was writing his book Disappointment with God he interviewed a friend of his named Douglas. Douglas was a family man, a Christian leader and a trained psychotherapist. He had a lucrative practice but left it to work among the poorest of the poor in a large American city.

Sounds like a great guy, right? Surely everything will work out well for a guy like this!

Several years ago at a Pastor’s conference I heard Yancey tell about Douglas and how his life was going. As I recall the story, Douglas' wife had been diagnosed with breast cancer. The cancer spread into her lungs. Her life was seriously threatened and a new series of treatment had started.

As this developed a drunken driver smashed into their family car head-on. Douglas's twelve-year-old daughter went through the windshield and was badly lacerated in the face.

At this same time Douglas was serving on the leadership board of his church. The group made a difficult decision to change the direction of a long standing ministry. Though the move was preceded by much prayer and deliberation, one of the deacons and a close friend of Douglas blamed him personally, angrily left the church, and told as many who would listen that it was all because of Douglas.

Yancey thought it was a natural fit to ask Douglas about being disappointed with God. "You know, Philip,” he said, “I don't think I've ever been disappointed with God." Yancey asked, "How can this be?"

His answer went something like this: "I learned a long time ago not to confuse God with life. Is life unfair? You bet. My life has been unfair. What has happened to my wife, what has happened to my daughter, the accusations within our church... it's all unfair. But I think God feels exactly the same way. I think He is grieved and hurt by the cancer, by what that drunk driver did, and by the breakdown of personal relationships as much as I am. But don't confuse God with life.”

Don't confuse God with life. That is a great insight.

There is a verse in Ezekiel where God tells us to consider three of His much loved people: Daniel, Noah and Job. They are specifically pointed out as being righteous. One of them spent the night with a bunch of lions. One of them lived through a huge flood that killed thousands of people. And then, of course, there's Job. He is the greatest example of unfairness in the Bible. Yet when God looks at those people, He says these are three of my favorites.

All three of them—Daniel, Noah, Job—and many others, including many of the people who wrote the Psalms—learned to have a relationship with God that didn't depend on how healthy they were or how many people applauded them and how well their lives were going.

As for me, when I focus on how life is going I can easily come down with a bad case of “woe as me.” I am much better off when I focus on how God is going.

I have struggled with enduring hardship several times in my life.. my first wife was blind for three years in my early 20s and was was healed of that blindness in 1975.. my heart broke when she passed away at age 43 in 1994. My second wife Ann has struggled with a crippling neurological disease since 2002 and I deal with painful arthritic wrists and ankles.

In all this I have discovered that Douglas' perspective is the only one that helps me live a productive life. When hard stuff comes I have not found it helpful to blame God for the difficulties. I have found that having that kind of attitude only makes me bitter. What Douglas says is true.. God is right along side of us in our pain.. He is touched by our sadness.. and our tears do not go unnoticed.

So when bad times come take Douglas' advice - don't confuse God with life.