“I Think, Therefore I Am”

French philosopher Rene Descartes posited the idea that thought, even doubt of one’s existence, was enough to prove existence.  Thought, he thought, was proof of life, among other things.

If thought is an important element of existence, then thought is intimately involved in “being.”  What we think, how we think, the things that we think about, taking time to just think – these are all a part of “being.”

I want to focus in on one biblical concept of thinking, though – meditating on God’s Word.  Remember, we are considering some practical ways to help ourselves make space to “be.”

There are a number of passages in Scripture that speak of meditating on God’s Word, but this is one of my favorites:  Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”  (Joshua 1:8, NIV)

What does it mean to meditate on God’s word?  How do you do that, exactly?

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Fortunately, the word meditate itself gives us a couple of pictures that can help us understand:

  1. To meditate is to ruminate, to think deeply about.  It literally means “to chew the cud.”  We talk sometimes about “chewing on something.”  It comes from the picture of a cow chewing on its cud.  So to meditate is to take a thought – in this case, a phrase or verse of Scripture – and to ponder it, chewing it over.  Thinking about it intently.  Perhaps thinking about it, moving on to other things, and then coming back to it, just as a cow would regurgitate its cud and chew on it again.  (Wonderful picture, isn’t it???!!!)  So a practical way to “be” with God is to pick a verse or a phrase of Scripture in the morning, write it on an index card so you can carry it with you, and take a few moments at the beginning of the day to sit with God and meditate on the verse.  Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you through that verse.  Then throughout the day, pull out the card again several times and read the verse again.  Take a moment again to consider it.  Finally, end your day by taking a few moments to again meditate on the verse.  Since the Bible is God’s inspired word to us, by spending time meditating on His Word, you are considering His thoughts and words, and “being” with Him!
  2. To meditate also means to mumble or to murmur.  This picture is that of someone muttering under their breath – like an actor, rehearsing his or her lines in the process of memorizing them.  So to meditate on God’s Word is also to rehearse it, to repeat it quietly to yourself – declaring God’s Word over yourself, in other words.  This is also a simple thing to do throughout the day.  Let me give you an example, using a phrase from 1 John 4:8 – “God is love.”  It’s a simple thing to remind yourself throughout the day, “God is love.  So therefore God loves me.  And God loves everyone around me.”  You can also make declarations about it:  “God is love.  And Jesus is in my heart, and the Holy Spirit fills me.  So I am full of love today.”  Or, you can simply repeat the phrase or verse, emphasizing different words:  “GOD is love.  He is the source of love, the definition of love.  God cannot not love!  God IS love.  He exists as love – no one can change that about Him.  God is LOVE.  Whatever I or anyone else thinks about love, God is true love.  The truth about love and what it looks like is revealed by God, and in God.”

So those are a couple of ways to meditate on God’s Word, which is another simple way to “be.”  Why not try it for the next couple days?  In fact, imagine what your experience of worship could be on Sunday if you take time to “be” with God, meditating on His Word, for just a few moments before going to church?


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.

I’m So Tired!

“I’m tired.”

Every day, I begin my day with my Bible, prayer, and my journal.  I start each journal with the date, the time, where I am, and how I feel.  And I’ve realized how often over the past few months the “how I feel” part begins with “I’m tired.”

It’s not just me, though.  I know a lot of tired people.  In fact, as I think about it, I’m amazed at the number of people who respond, “I’m doing okay, just tired” when I ask them how they are.

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We live in a time when it’s easy to be tired.  We’ve learned to be more and more efficient, to cram more and more into our days, to be busier and busier at all that we do.  Companies preach efficiency because it benefits the bottom line.  Our families have to be efficient because our kids are involved in so many activities at so many different places.  We live in a world full of opportunities, and we love to take advantage of all those good things.

But we may be killing our souls in the process.

We were created to need rest.  God Himself, in whose image we are created, rested for a whole day after creation:  By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.  Genesis 2:2-3 (NIV)

Now I know, some people take that to an extreme.  There are some who object and say, “that’s Old Testament; in fact, it’s one of the Ten Commandments.  I don’t have to do that.”  But before the Law was given, God rested.  God, in whose image we are created.  Rest isn’t a Law or commandment issue; it’s an identity issue.  Part of learning to “be” is taking care of ourselves by resting.

Other people take it to the other extreme – a religious extreme.  They make “the Sabbath” about legalistic “rest” rather than peaceful rest, forgetting that Jesus stated that “the Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”  There are whole segments of Christianity in which legalistic rules govern the Sabbath – no yard work, no building a deck, no gardening, etc.  And it’s all in the name of “the Sabbath.”  Might I suggest that when you work that hard at making sure people are keeping the “Sabbath” properly that it’s not really about rest at all?????

We were created in God’s image, and we need rest.  Scientific studies – I could quote a ton of them if I had the time – show that we need almost 8 hours of sleep to function optimally.  Think about that.  God created us to need rest for of each day – for of our lifetimes, if you think about it.

You were created in the image of the One who rested one day out of seven.  You were also created in such a way that to be healthy, you will sleep for of your life.

Rest restores our bodies and our souls.  Rest forces us to just “be.”

God knows that.  He often meets with us in our times of rest.  In fact, once He told Israel that if they would stop striving and rest in Him, they would be saved from their enemies – but instead, their frenetic fleeing meant that they would instead be conquered:  This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:  “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”  Isaiah 30:15 (NIV)

How about you?  Do you rest one day of the week?  Do you rest enough each night (or day, depending on your shift)?

If you want a simple way to grow in just learning to “be” then learn to stop and rest.

Stop and rest.

Why?

Because God did.

And He’s stronger, wiser, better, healthier, bigger, and abler than you or me.


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.

Being Silent

On Friday, I promised to begin sharing some simple but practical ways to “be” – to just spend time with God and to enjoy Him, without having to be busy “doing” for Him or serving Him.

In Friday’s blog, I shared with you how to “soak.” Today, I want to share a similar practice – just without the music!  It’s the spiritual discipline of silence.

We live in a noise-filled world – probably noisier than at any time in history.  Thanks to Pandora, Sirius XM, Amazon Prime, Apple Music, YouTube, and a host of other online services, for very little money any of us can enjoy basically any kind of music we want at any time – a situation that is unprecedented in history.  (I can remember growing up when you had to listen to either what was on the radio or what tapes you could carry to listen to in your Walkman.  How the world has changed!)

And it’s not just music that’s available to us. 

If you want to learn how to do almost anything, you can look it up on YouTube.  If you want to grow as a person, there are TED talks.  If you want to grow in your walk with Jesus, you have podcasts at your fingertips.  If I had the time, I could listen to sermons by Bill Johnson, Mark Batterson, Danny Silk, Andy Stanley, Ed Stetzer, Mark Driscoll, my brother Dave, Tim Keller, and a ton of others every week.  The problem isn’t that I don’t have choices – it’s that I have too many choices and not enough time.

Then there are audio books, the radio, and the list goes on and on and on.

If that’s not enough to intrude on your thoughts, there’s that wonderful thing that we cannot do without – our cell phones.  Now, you can’t get away from noise and from people, no matter where you go! 

I used to look forward to trips, partly because when I was in the car, I was “out of the office.”  No one could bother me, and I had a lot of time to think and to process.  But no more.  With our wonderful cellular technology, we are reachable all the time, almost everywhere.

Our society, our culture, and our lifestyles have almost completely eliminated silence from our lives.  In fact, many of us can’t even go to sleep in silence – we need to have music on or the TV on or a sound machine going in order to fall asleep.

So why silence?

Silence is simply one way of obeying the biblical command to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

In sitting in silence, we are deliberately quieting all the voices that shout for our attention.  We are sitting, waiting on God.

And when we wait on God, in the stillness and silence, that is where we hear His voice the most often.

(If you struggle to hear God’s voice and know His will, one place to start looking for answers is this place of silence.  Do you ever sit still and deliberately take time to just be quiet?  For more than, oh, say, 45 seconds???)

I promised you practicality, so here’s how to practice silence:

  1. Find somewhere quiet where you will be undisturbed.  (You CAN do this, even if you are a mother with young children.  Sit in the garage in your car for 15 minutes.  Find a closet.  Go to the basement or the attic.  Susanna Wesley, who had 10 children and lived in a one-room home, promised God she would spend one hour with Him for every hour she spent on entertainment.  In order to do it, she had to sit in the corner with her apron over her head while her children played.  But she was committed to being with God and hearing God, so she did what she had to do.  You and I CAN do this.)
  2. Put your phone on “Airplane Mode.”  (Seriously.  And yes, you can do this.  If someone needs to get in touch with you, they will leave a message.  You can survive without being connected for 30 minutes.  We used to do it all the time before cell phones.)  Don’t put on any music or background noise.  Turn everything off, and prepare to be silent.
  3. Close your eyes.  (I know, this sounds a lot like soaking.  It is.  But being silent gives you space to be attentive to God.  Listen quietly.  Just sit in the silence, and wait on God.)
  4. Have a pad of paper nearby.  If things start coming to mind – “I have to remember to call this person…I have to do this…I can’t forget that…” then just write it down, set the pen down, and go back to being still.
  5. If you want, pray a simple prayer of declaration.  Similar, again, to soaking, pray something like “Come, Holy Spirit.”  Or “Father, I just want to be with you.”  Or Samuel’s prayer is pretty powerful – “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
  6. Now just be with the Lord.  Just sit with Him.  Let Him love you.  If He speaks, listen and welcome His voice, but the point isn’t active listening.  The point is to sit (or recline, or whatever you’re comfortable with) and just be with Him.  Be still and let Him love you, and if He desires, speak to you.

That’s it!  Not that difficult at all, really.  It’s just a matter of stopping, removing distractions, and choosing to be silent.  As with soaking, I recommend “small bites.”  Start with 2-5 minutes.  (You could even do that a couple of times during the day – right after each meal, for example.)  Work towards 15-30 minutes, 3-4 times per week.

And here’s what you can expect – when God has your attention, He will speak in the silence.  He will encourage you.  He will challenge you.  He will respond if you ask Him questions.

In other words, in the silence, you will encounter Him.

Why not begin today?


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.

Learning to “Be”

“To be is to do.” – Socrates

“To do is to be.” – Jean-Paul Sartre

“Do be do be do.” – Frank Sinatra

You didn’t realize there was such a long-term discussion in the world of philosophy on being and doing, did you???!!!

Well, bad humor aside, the truth is that most of us are much better at doing than at being.  In fact, as I wrote on Wednesday, it’s what we are trained to do, it’s what our society encourages and rewards, and it’s what is most familiar to us.  So if “doing” is so deeply ingrained in our society and in each of us, then the truth is that in order for us to learn to “be” we will have to be intentional about it.  It will take a willingness to learn new skills, it will take a commitment to understanding ourselves and our identity on a deeper level, it will take a commitment of time, and it will take self-discipline to regularly “do” the things that will help us to “be.”

Yep, you read that right.  It’s counter-intuitive, but there is some “doing” involved in “being.”

So what I would like to do over the next several blogs is just share some simple, practical ways to “be.”  Some of these are things that I’ve written about and spoken about in relation to spiritual formation and hearing God’s voice.  Some of these are things that I’m great at; some are things that I’m really struggling to incorporate into my life and to make a part of my walk with Jesus.  To be honest, not everyone will connect with all of these.  I’m learning that one of the keys to making progress in our walk with Jesus is to learn how best we connect with Jesus and lean into those ways.  Don’t judge yourself against someone else, or by comparing yourself to what works for someone else.  Find what works for you, and go for it, and then if it begins to become stale, switch it up as you learn to spend time just “being” with Jesus.

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Today, I want to begin with a simple practice.  A lot of people who do this call it “soaking.”  Just as you would soak in a bathtub, so in this way of “being” you just spend time “soaking” in God’s presence – sitting with Him, being with Him.  Not doing anything.  Not reading your Bible, not journaling, not praying, not worshiping (although worship music can be helpful in this).  Just sitting with God and soaking up His presence.

Here’s how you soak:

  1. Find somewhere quiet where you will be undisturbed.
  2. Put your phone on “Airplane Mode.”  (Seriously.  And yes, you can do this.  If someone needs to get in touch with you, they will leave a message.  You can survive without being connected for 30 minutes.  We used to do it all the time before cell phones.)
  3. Put some soft worship music on.  I prefer instrumental worship music, but use whatever works best for you.  The point of the music is to cut out other distractions, to create a “space” for God’s presence (remember, He inhabits the praises of His people), and to help you focus on just being with God.  The point of the music is not to draw you into worship, although worship is good.  But this is soaking, not worship.
  4. Close your eyes.  (This helps you avoid distractions.  And if you’re afraid you’ll fall asleep, well, maybe you need some sleep.  Guess what?  God can be with you in your sleep.  He’s powerful like that.)
  5. If you want, pray a simple prayer of declaration.  Something like “Come, Holy Spirit.”  Or “Father, I just want to sit with You right now.”  Or “Jesus, I want to soak in Your presence.”
  6. Now just be with the Lord.  Just sit with Him.  Let Him love you.  If He speaks, listen and welcome His voice, but the point isn’t active listening.  The point is to sit (or recline, or whatever you’re comfortable with) and just be with Him.  Just soak up His Presence.

That’s it!  My suggestion is that you set a time period – half an hour, or an hour.  If the thought of this is intimidating, then start with fifteen minutes.  But try it 3-4 times a week for a month and see how you are able to develop the skill of just soaking in His Presence.  It can be difficult – for some of us, it’s hard enough to slow down, let alone slow down and just “be” with God.  But soaking is an amazing, simple, practical way to just “be.”

Try it this weekend – and let me know how it goes!


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.

Being or Doing?

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a little time in a message I preached on “Why Am I Here?” talking about the importance of being versus doing.  Here’s a quick summary of a couple of important points:

  • We are human beings, not human doings.  (This quote is not original with me.  I’ve heard and read it a couple of different places, although most recently on a DVD teaching on Soul Care by Dr. Rob Reiner.)
  • In the creation story of Genesis 2:7-10, God created Adam and put him in the garden to enjoy the beauty and to fellowship with God (to BE) before God instructed Adam to DO anything else.
  • In Mark 3:13-15, (NIV) Jesus calls the Twelve.  Mark tells the story like this:  “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.  He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.”  The interesting this is that Jesus called them to BE with Him, and then what would follow out of their being with Him would be their being sent out on mission.  We often put mission – doing – ahead of being with Jesus.  But as Jesus pointed out in John 15, unless we learn to abide/remain in Him – to BE with Him – we can DO nothing of any eternal significance.  So again, doing must come before being.

As I’ve thought about this more over the past few weeks, and had opportunities to have conversations with people about it, I’ve realized that while this is good truth, it’s difficult truth.  And it’s difficult for a couple of reasons.

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First, most of us just don’t know how to “be.”  It sounds cool to say we are “human beings not human doings” but the truth is that most of us are so busy and live life at such a hectic pace that there’s no room in our lives to simply “be.”  And if there were room, and if there were time, I’m not sure that most of us would know how to “be.” 

(A personal example:  a few years ago, I was taking a course on Spiritual Formation in Redding, California.  On the first morning of the retreat, we were sent out to find a place by ourselves on the campus where we were.  We were not allowed to take anything with us – no Bible, no journal, no phone, no notebooks, no nothing at all.  We were given a few phrases to meditate on:  “God loves me,” “God is with me,” and “God is for me.”  That’s all.  Then we were left alone for an hour and a half.  It was one of the longest hour and a half time periods of my life!  I wasn’t used to just “being” with God.)

For many of us, to “be” is just something that has never been defined, that has never been modeled, that we’ve never been taught how to do, that no one ever felt was an important part of helping us grow as disciples, and that doesn’t come naturally.

Second, “doing” is much easier than “being” when we’ve spent our lives “doing.”  We live in a culture in which achievement is rewarded.  We live in a time when smartphones make to-do lists and organization accessible to all of us.  In school, we’re graded on what we achieve – how well we do.  (Well, we used to be…it seems to be more about participation trophies and standardized testing prep than actually achieving anything, but that’s another blog post.)

So…how exactly do you “be”?  And what should the balance be between being and doing, when we’ve spent most of our lives being taught how to do and being rewarded for doing?

What do you think?  For my answers, stay tuned!  🙂


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.

The Day After Easter

Today is the day after Easter – what used to be known as “Easter Monday.” 

For the first Christ-followers, the day after the first Easter was a day full of wonder and expectancy.  The women at the tomb on Easter Sunday morning had seen the empty tomb, and had even seen the resurrected Jesus.  Some of the disciples had seen Jesus on that first Easter Sunday evening.  For those who had seen Him, there was the excited anticipation of possibly seeing Him again, of wondering when He might show up and what His plan would be.  For those who had not seen Him yet after the resurrection, there was a mixture of excitement, doubt, wondering if it could be true, and much more.

For the Pharisees and other religious leaders, and for Pilate, there was scrambling.  It was time to go into cover-up mode.  Time to start spreading lies about the disciples stealing the body, trying to discredit witnesses, trying to preserve their own positions and authority.

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And for many in Jerusalem and throughout Israel, that first Easter Monday was no different than any other day.  Some hadn’t heard that Jesus had died; many had heard that He had, but didn’t know He had risen.  Some had heard that He had risen, but didn’t believe.

It’s interesting to consider the perspectives of people at the time.  But here’s a more important question – what does the day after Easter mean to you?

As you begin your Monday morning, what difference did Easter make for you?

Was Easter Sunday simply a reason to attend church for the first time in a very great while?  Was it an excuse to dress up for a rare occasion?  Was it an excuse to get the family to come along to church?  Was it a feel-good opportunity for you to ease your conscience in some way?

Or was Easter Sunday more than that?

Was it a reminder of the fact that you were bought with a price?  Was it reminder of your value to God?  Did it emphasize for you the lengths to which God would go to pursue a relationship with you?  Did Easter Sunday remind you of how much have to be grateful for?  Was it reminder of the incredible truth of the empty tomb, and all that the empty tomb means?

As you begin your week today, what difference did yesterday make in your life?

If you examine yourself honestly, the answer could tell you a lot.  Food for thought as we begin a new week.


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.

Seize the Day

Every once in a while, I would tell myself, “I’m going to call my Uncle Tim next week.”  But the weeks turned into months, and it didn’t happen nearly often enough.  Then he passed away a couple of weeks ago.  I missed my opportunity.

When I was in high school, the band Alabama hit the country music scene nationally and quickly became my favorite band.  I loved that they were way more southern rock in concert than they could be on the radio.  In 2003, they retired; then a few years ago, got back together and began touring again.  I kept telling myself “I want to see them in concert again.  Maybe they’ll come to Pittsburgh…”  I passed on Lancaster and Buffalo and Cleveland because it wasn’t convenient, or too expensive.  This week, I found out that their lead guitarist has Parkinson’s and won’t be touring with them anymore.  It won’t be same.  I missed my opportunity.

In 2013, the Pirates made the playoffs for the first time in 20 years.  I thought about going down for a playoff game, but decided it was too expensive and I didn’t have time.  Same thing the next two years.  Then in 2016, they didn’t make the playoffs.  I missed my opportunity.

I could go on and list a hundred other things.  Some important, some not so important.  Some involving people, some involving places, some involving events.  Missed opportunities.

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To be fair, life happens.  We all have to make choices.  Money spent on concert tickets or sports events is money that could be spent on Oreo Blizzards or debt retirement.  Time spent with one person means time you cannot spend with another person.  Traveling to one place means you don’t have time to spend going to another place.

But here’s the thing – every day, we are presented with opportunities.  Every day, we have choices to make.  And every day, some opportunities pass us by.

We cannot take advantage of every opportunity.  So we have to make intentional choices about what we will do and what we will not do, who we will spend time with and who we will not spend time with, what we will spend money on and what we will not spend money on.

If we don’t make intentional choices, life will pass us by.  Opportunities will be missed without us realizing it at the time.

So seize the day.  Make your choices.  Don’t let inconvenience or busyness keep you from calling that person, making that memory, chasing that dream.

Seize the day.  Because one day, our opportunities will be lost.

Something Happened On The Way to Jerusalem

(Note – this blog was first preached as a devotional at the Ridgway High Rise on April 9, 2017)

Yesterday was Palm Sunday.  Almost everyone who reads this, whether Christian or not, is at least vaguely familiar with the story of Palm Sunday – of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey to the praises of his disciples and the crowd, who shouted “Hosanna” and waived palm branches in worship.

Sometimes, with a popular story like Palm Sunday, we miss an event immediately preceding or following it that can also be transformative.  I think that’s the case with Palm Sunday.  In Mark’s gospel, Mark tells us the story of a blind man named Bartimaeus who encountered Jesus while Jesus was traveling towards Jerusalem in preparation for the Triumphal Entry.  Here’s the story, from Mark 10:

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Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road.  {Note:  Jericho is about 21 miles from Jerusalem.} When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

“Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him.  {Blind beggars were considered not worthy of attention.  They were insignificant to most people – either an annoyance, or people to be avoided.  The blind were excluded from worship in the temple.  The name Bartimaeus means “son of Timaeus” or literally, son of impurity.  We know from an encounter that Jesus and the disciples had in John 9 that the common assumption that most Jews made was the blind were being judged by God – that either the blind person or their parents were sinners.} 

But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.” 

So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!”  Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked. 

“My Rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”

And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.”  Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.  As Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead.  Mark 10:46-11:1 (NLT)

What I love about this story is that Bartimaeus was blind, ignored by others, judged by others, an outcast, someone who was cast aside and forgotten.  Most people either looked past him or, if they saw him, considered him to be insignificant and unworthy of their time and attention.

But not Jesus.

Jesus looked at Bartimaeus and saw a man created in God’s image – a man worth loving, a man worth noticing, a man worth investing His time in.

Have you ever felt like you were forgotten; overlooked; ignored; alone?

Here’s the good news:

Jesus has not forgotten you.

Jesus has not overlooked you.

Jesus has not ignored you.

You are not alone.  Jesus is with you.  He will never leave you and will never forsake you. 

In fact, Jesus desires to meet you in the midst of your need, as He did for Bartimaeus, and bring healing to you – physical, emotional, and spiritual healing.

“Was blind, but now I see.”

Amazing grace!


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.

What WOULDN’T Jesus Do?

For a long time, “WWJD” was a major Christian cultural theme.  What Would Jesus Do?  You could find it on bracelets, T-shirts, bumper stickers, cards, stickers, necklaces, coffee mugs, Bible covers, children’s toys, stuffed animals, jewelry boxes – basically any of the little trinkets that the aisles and end-caps of Christian bookstores are always filled with.

Despite the over-commercialization of “WWJD” it’s a pretty thought-provoking slogan.  It can be a very helpful question to ask yourself in a situation – “What would Jesus do?”  (Although I think it’s probably more helpful to ask Jesus, “What do you want me to do?” and wait and listen to Him!  But that’s for another post!)

However, on the flip side of “WWJD” is an interesting question – “What WOULDN’T Jesus Do?”  Because that question can also add some layers to our understanding and to our insight.

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Here are a few examples, based on the story of Jesus dealing with the woman caught in adultery in John 8:

  • Based on the story of the woman caught in adultery, I think it’s safe to say that Jesus WOULDN’T join with religious, pharisaical-type people who judge or condemn someone for his/her sin without caring for that individual as a person.  (Jesus ignored the Pharisees, until finally, he called them out on their own sins by calling for the person without sin to cast the first stone.)
  • Based on the story of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus WOULDN’T publicly shame someone for his/her sin.  (The woman was naked and ashamed.  Jesus treated her with dignity and love.  He protected her from the accusations and judgments of others.  How quick are we to jump on the bandwagon of accusations?)
  • Based on the story of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus WOULDN’T put rules above relationships.  (The Pharisees were right; but Jesus was more interested in restoring the woman’s relationship to her Father than in judging her for her sin.)
  • Based on the story of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus WOULDN’T dismiss the woman without ministering to her soul.  (She was full of shame, wounded, embarrassed, exposed, judged – and He didn’t avoid the issue.  He asked her where her accusers where, and then freed her from her guilt and shame by declaring “Neither do I condemn you.”  He was the only one who was sinless, who could have cast the first stone – and He set her free.  How often do we feel justified in casting stones when we should be setting people free?)
  • Based on the story of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus WOULDN’T ignore the hard issue of her sin.  He did tell her “go and sin no more.”  That was courageous and significant – in loving her, He didn’t ignore the fact that she needed to make changes in her life.  And loving someone means that on the one hand, we don’t judge them; but on the other hand, if we are in relationship with someone, we cannot ignore obvious sin issues in their lives – we need to be courageous and lovingly call them out on those issues.  (Here’s the issue for most of us, though – we generally tend to skip the first several things Jesus did, and we tend to go straight to the “go and sin no more.”  Based on what Jesus did and didn’t do, I don’t think we have any right to tell someone “go and sin no more” if we haven’t first loved them, entered relationship with them, protected them from shame and abuse by others, extended them grace and forgiveness, and demonstrated that we don’t condemn them.)

So when you’re faced with a person or situation that creates difficulty in knowing what to do, go ahead and ask yourself “what would Jesus do?”

But consider also asking yourself “what WOULDN’T Jesus do?”  It may just open your eyes to a different angle of response.

The Power of Waiting

Waiting is hard.  It is a rare person who actually enjoys waiting.  (The lone exception I can think of is Brad Paisley, according to his song “Waitin’ On A Woman.”)

Waiting seems to be especially hard when we have received a word or calling from the Lord, giving us some direction and vision for our lives.  We tend to want to just dive in and begin.  But what we often miss is that God reveals something to us so that we will begin to pray and journey towards it.  He is giving us what some call a “preferred prophetic future” – but that’s no guarantee that we will arrive there.  There is effort required on our part, and change and growth that we need to experience.  Almost always, when God calls us to something, it requires a journey of transformation on our part, and often, that journey can take us years.

waiting

This is where impatience can get us into trouble.  In our excitement, we can jump the gun on God.  We can try to force something to happen – something that we’re not spiritually or emotionally ready for yet.

Joseph is a great example of this in Scripture, as is Moses.  Joseph received dreams from God of being a leader, but he unwisely shared those dreams and tried to lord it over his brothers.  He wasn’t ready to lead, and it took years of humbling experiences for him to get to the place where he was ready to actually lead.  God had work to do in him.  In Moses’ case, he wanted to see his people set free from Egypt, but instead of waiting on God’s plan, he took matters into his own hands and murdered an Egyptian.  It took 40 years in the desert for him to be prepared to be the leader that he needed to be.

There are some positive examples in Scripture of the power of patience.  Consider these two:

  • David was anointed to be the future king of Israel, and spent years serving Saul and then running from Saul for his life before he actually walked into God’s calling as king.
  • Jesus spent 29 years of His life in obscurity before He stepped into public ministry.  He then spent 3 years in the public eye before His death and resurrection.

In Anonymous…Jesus’ Hidden Years…And Yours, Alicia Britt Chole points out that most of Jesus’s life was unseen – anonymous to us.  Only 4 of the gospels’ 89 chapters offer any details on Jesus’ childhood and life before ministry, and those details are scant.

She puts it this way:  “Our enthusiastic declarations that we want to ‘be like Jesus’ reference Jesus’ visible years . . . with a few notable exceptions. In these statements we are not saying, ‘I want to subject my body, spirit, and mind to an extended wilderness experience,’ or, ‘I want to be brutally beaten, suffer excruciating pain, and be murdered at the hands of mocking sinners.’ No. Our desire to ‘be like Jesus’ contains several exemption clauses, not the least of which are Jesus’ hidden years, desert experiences, temptations, tortures, and crucifixion. We will pass on those, thank you. What we are most definitely interested in, however, is Jesus’ character and authority. How we long to see his character and authority transform this broken world through our lives! But Jesus’ character and authority are not isolated entities. They are not disconnected commodities we can purchase at a discount. Jesus’ character and authority come with Jesus’ life, 90 percent of which was lived in quiet anonymity. ‘What would Jesus do?’ we ask sincerely (in word and song, on T-shirts and in bracelets). Well, for starters, he embraced a life of hiddenness. As we will soon see, Jesus’ hidden years empowered him to live an eternally fruitful life.” (- Chole, Alicia Britt. Anonymous: Jesus’ hidden years…and yours (Kindle Locations 239-241). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.)

Waiting is so difficult.  And yet…God can use our times of waiting to do deep work in us, to prepare us, to transform us.  As I go through this season of waiting myself, I am reminded that my past seasons of waiting prepared me for life and ministry opportunities in ways that I had never imagined.

Are you waiting?  If so, be patient.  Don’t be in a hurry.  Don’t try to force God’s hand.  Trust Him, and while you’re waiting, pursue Him with all that you are.

You will be amazed one day at what He has accomplished in you while you were patient.