684

684 Sundays.

That’s roughly how many Sundays there are until the beginning of the year in which I turn 65, and probably retire.

I know, that’s a long ways off.

But it’s not that far off.

And I won’t get to preach every one of those Sundays. I will be on vacation for some of those Sundays; I will have staff members who will want to speak for some of those Sundays; and I will have special speakers for some of those Sundays for things like Missions Conference or other special events. Over the course of those 13+ years, a conservative estimate would be that I would not preach 8 Sundays per year. That’s at least 104 Sundays I won’t be preaching, and that doesn’t account for emergencies or unexpected opportunities to have special speakers. So that cuts me down to 579 Sundays.

579 Sundays. That’s about 100 more sermon series, with a length of 5 – 6 messages. To those of you who have to sit and listen to me preach, it sounds like a lot of sermons.

But to me? That number is the number of grains of sand left in an hourglass, and they’re slipping through steadily.

Every week, that number decreases.

So for the time I have left, I want to be sure that every message counts,

The truth is that I’ve lived a significant part of my life in fear and anxiety. I’ve thought and worried too much about what other people think. I’ve tried too hard to please people, and tried to hard to avoid offending people so they wouldn’t leave the church.

But that kind of living is foolishness.

The truth is that no matter how hard I try, or how careful I am, I will always offend someone, somehow. I will always let people down and I will always disappoint some people.

So I’ve got to live my life according to what I think God wants from me.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a license to offend, to alienate, to be inconsiderate, or to just be a jerk.

But I can’t let my leadership of others be governed by fear or by their expectations.

Leadership can be selfish and controlling – manipulative. But it can also be motivational – unselfishly leading people to a difficult place, on a difficult journey, that will ultimately be for their benefit.

684 Sundays. That’s my number. I’ve got to make the most of it. I’ve got to lead differently, invest myself more in young leaders, take more risks, take bigger risks, push other leaders to go where they may not want to go but desperately need to go.

My challenge, my mission, is to fundamentally change the culture and direction of our church so that we are fulfilling Christ’s call. Because right now, while we’re doing some very good things, the hard and honest truth is that we’re failing. And if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll keep getting what we’re getting.

We have to change. I have to lead change. And I know what it will cost, because I’ve gone there before.

684 Sundays.

That’s my number.

What’s your number?

What are you going to do about it?

Book Review – Mansions of the Heart

A few years ago, one of my closest friends gave me a hardback copy of the book Mansions of the Heart by R. Thomas Ashbrook.  He told me it was a life-changing book.  I looked at it, began it, and set it aside because I had so many other books stacked up to read.  A few months later, I was dealing with some life issues that led me to pick it back up again and to read it through.  My friend had been right – it was a life-changer that helped me understand my own life’s journey, my spiritual growth, and where I needed to head on my journey.  Just a few weeks ago, I finished reading through the book for the second time after deciding late this summer that I needed a refresher.

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R. Thomas Ashbrook, the author, who also wrote the novel Presence – What if Jesus Were Really Here?, is the Director of Spiritual Formation for Church Resource Ministries, and he leads Imago Dei, which is CRM’s international spiritual formation ministry.  A Lutheran pastor with twenty-six years of experience in ministry, Tom has degrees in aeronautical engineering, management systems, pastoral ministry, and spiritual formation.  He lives in Centennial, Colorado with his wife Charlotte.

Mansions of the Heart is patterned after St. Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle, a picture of spiritual formation that has helped many followers of Jesus in the five plus centuries since she wrote it.  It’s a picture that helps us understand the journey that we are taking and the process that God uses to transform us throughout our lives.

The book begins by dealing with four of the dead-ends that believers have tried time and time again, to no avail – pursuing personal holiness; service to God; spiritual wholeness; and enlightened study and understanding.  Ashbrook points out that while all of these are good and important, they rely upon our effort rather than abiding in Christ, which is the only real way to experience personal transformation.  Ashbrook uses the seven interior rooms that Teresa described as a road map to help us understand our pasts, our journey with Christ, and how He takes us deeper in our walk with Him along our life’s journey.

Here is a brief summary of each mansion (or room) – each stage of our process:

  • The First Mansion – a new beginning.  This is salvation – the place where we recognize our need for salvation, believe on Jesus, and place our trust in Him and in His work on the cross for our eternal life.
  • The Second Mansion – between a rock and hard place.  This is a place where our faith is deepening, and yet we struggle with temptation and are still engaged somewhat in earthly pursuits.  There is tension between what we want and what the Holy Spirit is revealing to us as we grow.
  • The Third Mansion – following Jesus.  It may take us years to get to this place, but this is the place where we are living consistent lives as disciples.  Scripture, prayer, church attendance, fellowship, a desire to please God – these are all consistent parts of our life at this place.
  • The Fourth Mansion – discovering the love of Jesus – a place of new depth in our walk with Jesus, where we experience a growing intimacy with Him.
  • The Fifth Mansion – longing for oneness with God.  Ashbrook describes it this way:  “The fifth mansion is a time of transition where our focus moves even further from doing to being, from serving to loving. God is calling us to begin to live according to the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus in John 17, the call to union with God. Our one desire is for God, Himself.”
  • The Sixth Mansion – the passion of God’s love.  This is where we have fully “fallen in love” with God, and are experiencing deep times in God’s Presence.  When it seems that God is absent, it is deeply painful.  This is where we are learning what it means to truly and fully live “in Christ.”
  • The Seventh Mansion – a life of love in the Trinity.  Ashbrook writes, “The seventh mansion represents the ultimate degree of intimacy with God that one can experience in this life: spiritual union with the Trinity. As is true with each of the prior mansions, this is still a season of our journey, not a milestone or destination. But in this season, we come to experience a complete integration of mind, body, and spirit in the life of Christ. At its fullest, it is the realization of the apostle Paul’s statement, ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me’ (cf. Gal. 2:20).”

Ashbrook also devotes a chapter to the experience that John of the Cross called “The Dark Night of the Soul” – a season of loss, of dryness, of feeling that God is absent and that His voice cannot be heard.  That chapter alone is powerful and helpful.

For each mansion/season, the author walks through several important issues for that season, including our heart’s desire, key activities, what ministry will look like to us, how our prayer lives will change, how the enemy will most often attack us, and finally, keys for growth in that time.

You can purchase the Kindle edition here.  If you are serious about spiritual formation and about your journey with Jesus, this book is a great addition to your library.

Walking The Shadowlands

As I trudge along the damp dirt path, tendrils of smoke wisp out in front of me.  I squint as I walk, trying to see through the dark shadows that surround me.  On both sides of me, the high canyon walls cut off the light; above me, a thick canopy of leaves keeps the sky hidden from my sight.

I have been traveling through this valley for some time.  I didn’t enter it by choice, and likely wouldn’t have chosen it; the path I follow brought me here.

There are others walking this same path.  At times, we meet one another; occasionally, we will walk the path together, at least for a while.  Other times, we will spot one another from a distance.  Some of us help one another on this journey; some avoid all help and all contact with others, preferring solitude.

Yeshua, my guide, has assured me that I will not always be in this valley.  He is always with me, although I cannot always see Him.  Nor can I always hear Him.  But as long as I keep my mind on Him, my eyes on Him when I can see Him, and my ears tuned to Him when He speaks, I am not afraid.  Even in this, the darkest of valleys.

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I live in the Shadowlands.  All of us do, actually.  Despite the name, all is not dark in this world, because Elyon created this world.  And when He created it, He created it full of light and beauty and adventure and mystery.  And he pronounced it good.  He poured all of His love into this creation.  Back then, it was known as Eden, not as the Shadowlands.

That came later, after the Cataclysm.  After the Man and the Woman choose to listen to the dark whisperings of the serpent rather than the true words of Elyon.  They reached for knowledge rather than intimacy, not understanding that relationship with Elyon would have opened the door to true knowledge.  In that moment, with that choice, they broke what Elyon had created as good.

Since then, I am told, this good world has changed dramatically.

It is still filled with light and beauty and adventure and mystery. 

But the light – the light does not shine as brightly as it did in the beginning.  The colors are muted; the beauty has been marred.  There is adventure and mystery, but there is great danger – the serpent and his cohorts roam the Shadowlands, seeking to destroy and devour the sons and daughters of Elyon.  And sadly, they often succeed.  Many choose to listen to the whisperings of the serpent.  Many choose to blaze their own trail, not understanding that in reality, they are deceived and only follow the serpent’s trail.

After the Cataclysm, millennia later, Elyon sent Yeshua, His Firstborn, to rescue us.  It’s a long story – perhaps I will tell more of it another time.  Yeshua came to the Shadowlands and with His own blood, blazed a trail through the Shadowlands.  He has told all of us who follow Him that He will lead us along this trail – to Elyon.  To Home.

That’s where I’m heading.  That’s where many of my friends and family are heading – Home to Elyon.

It’s a long journey.  There are times it’s very difficult; times the path is hard to see.  Times too, though, of great joy and bountiful blessing.  And there are times like this – times when we walk through the darkest of valleys.

But valleys are not forever, and shadows are cast only because something tries to hide Elyon’s light from us.  And nothing can hide Elyon’s light completely – not even the final valley that I’ve heard is at the end of this journey.  That valley is called the Shadow of Death.  I’m not sure where it is, but I think it is a long ways off from here.  The thing is, I’m learning to trust Yeshua in this valley, as I have in other valleys that He has brought me through. 

And if He can get me through this valley, I know He will get me through whatever other valley I might face.

He can do the same for you.

Remember – these Shadowlands are wonderful and terrible and wild and beautiful and mysterious.  But they are only a shadow of what Elyon has for us – what we will one day see with our own eyes.

Home.

No Pain, No Gain

“No pain, no gain” is something I’ve heard repeated by gym teachers, coaches, fitness trainers, and leaders (and all manner of sadists!) throughout my life.

As trite as it sounds, there is truth to it.  In physical exercise and activity, and in sports training, there is a breaking down that has to occur before growth and building up takes place.  In life, we often have to learn from painful experiences and failures before we experience growth and then success.

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And the same often holds true in our spiritual lives.  Dying to self daily is not a pleasant experience.  The journey to soul health, sanctification, and deep intimacy with God and with others is a difficult journey.  It involves the pain of exposing our wounds, our hearts, our failures and shortcomings; it means being vulnerable and exposing ourselves to the pain of rejection and judgment by others; and it involves the pain of losing false identities and excuses and other things that we use to cover our true selves…all so that we can experience the transformation of stepping into the freedom of walking in the light as our true selves, with God and with others.

As with so many things in life, our attitude in approaching this can make a huge difference.  Many – perhaps most – approach these opportunities for growth and transformation and allow fear to turn them back.  As a pastor and a leader, I have watched countless times as people have processed truth, a spark in their eyes lights as they get a glimpse of the freedom that’s available to them – and then the realization of what it will cost them sinks in.  Vulnerability.  Honesty.  Letting down the walls that they have erected so carefully over their lifetimes.  Repentance.  Change.  Fear then takes hold.  And then, sadly, like the rich young ruler, they turn away.

I know.  I’ve done the same thing, many times.

But I’ve had to realize that my attitude is my choice.

I can choose to face hard things that I don’t want to face with fear, and back away, and lose the opportunity for transformation.

Or I can choose trust in God’s love and belief in the love of my family and friends, and push ahead through the pain to the long-term gain.

I’ve had this lesson reinforced over the past several months.

As many of you know, I’ve been dealing with anemia and other related physical problems during this time.  I’ve been through a battery of tests, procedures, IV’s and blood draws that have left me just tired of the whole thing.  I’m ready to be done.  (I know, I know.  I’ve dealt with this for 6 months.  Some of you reading this have been dealing with far more painful and debilitating issues for far longer than I have.  But I can’t speak to your journey or your thoughts – just my own.)

I gained some ground for a couple of months, but over the last month, my hemoglobin has been dropping and my symptoms have been getting worse.  I was feeling worse and worse and getting more and more tired trying to hide it from everyone.  And I ran out of simple options.

This Wednesday, I met with a surgeon.  First time for me.  Oh, I had tubes in my ears 5 times as a kid, but that hardly counts.  This was a real-life, honest-to-goodness surgeon.  He talked about what he needed to do, and then used words like “staples” and “stitches” that my wife Jewel has had to deal with but that I’ve never had to deal with myself.  A part of me was glad – hopefully, my issue will be corrected and I can begin the slow process of getting my blood counts back up to where they should be.  But a part of me was filled with fear.  After all, surgery = pain.  And I’m not really that into pain of any kind.

But no pain, no gain.  And I had to have a conversation with myself about my attitude. 

I can face this with fear, or I can face it with trust and positivity.  It’s my choice.

But really, there’s no choice.  I need to deal with the pain so I can experience the gain.  And I can’t afford to live in fear.

Neither can you.

What opportunities for growth are you avoiding because of fear?

To quote my buddy Bernie, “think about it.”


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.  The paperback version is NOW AVAILABLE for $6.99 plus postage!  For ordering information, contact me at don@donwhunter.com

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.

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.

The Potter and the Clay

I grew up in churches that sang hymns, with an occasional “chorus” sprinkled in.  One of the old hymns that we often sang, usually as an “invitation hymn” at the end of the service, was “Have Thine Own Way”:

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!

Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.

Mold me and make me after Thy will,

While I am waiting, yielded and still.

It comes from a passage in Isaiah 64 – “We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”

The hymn and the verse clearly carry the message that God is sovereign and that we cannot tell Him what to do or even what He should do for us.  Like the clay, we can do nothing but allow Him to shape us.

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Throughout my life, that verse and the hymn have both comforted me and discomforted me.  The comfort was in the fact that God had a plan and a unique destiny for me, and that He was shaping and forming me for His purposes.  The discomfort?  While I knew that God loved me, it just sounded…cold.  Like God would have His will and His way with me, no matter what I wanted.  Like what I wanted didn’t really matter.  I knew that wasn’t true, but that was the message I received.

But today, I actually read the verse.  It turns out that there is more to the verse than the potter and clay scenario.  Here’s what the verse actually says:  “Yet you, LORD, are our Father.  We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”

Wow!  What a difference a few words make.  “Yet you, Lord, are our Father.”  What a compelling image that is.  How different a picture it presents – as opposed to a (perhaps) cold and calculating potter, one whose only aim is to shape the clay to his will; instead, a loving Father, gently and compassionately molding each one of us into the person He created us to be.  As opposed to a craftsman trying to get the best out of the material which he has at hand, instead, a loving Father who shapes us into the image of His Son, but who loves us completely despite any imperfections that we have.

It’s all about how we view God.  In times of testing and trials, problems and pain, separation and silence, if we see Him as distant and aloof, it’s easy to take offense at Him.  It’s easy to let offense grow into anger, which can become bitterness and can motivate us to cut ourselves off from the One who is our Strength and our Hope.

But if we view God as our Abba – our Father – our Daddy – then in times of testing and trials, problems and pain, separation and silence, we will choose to trust Him for what we cannot understand.  We will choose to lean into Him rather than run away from Him.

If we view the Potter as the Father Potter, then we understand that He doesn’t cause the evil that enters our lives, but instead, He takes what was intended for evil and works it out for our good.

Each of us are facing different challenges today – different problems; different struggles; different disappointments; different pain.  That’s part of life, and we cannot change it. 

One thing we can change, however, is how we view God as we go through difficulties.  And how we view Him will determine whether we trust Him.

So…how do you see God today?  Is He the Potter?  Or is He the Father and Potter?


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.

In the Waiting

When it comes to feeling forgotten by God, to dealing with painful situations, to seeking answers to nagging questions and doubts, to suffering, and to other difficult life issues, waiting is no fun.  In fact, it can often feel like waiting increases the anxiety, the stress, and the pain of the situation.  Our minds tend to go places when we have to wait – worst-case scenarios, imaginary conversations, the most scary of “what-if’s.”  But there is a better way.

As I’ve dealt with my current physical issues, I’ve tried to walk a line in this blog between being vulnerable about some of the things I’m going through while avoiding either making it all about me or turning this into a “woe is me” kind of emotional purge.  (Hopefully I’ve been somewhat successful in that.  It’s a little hard sometimes to be objective about your own stuff!)

Yesterday, I underwent some procedures/testing that I had been waiting on for a couple of weeks, hoping for some simple, obvious answers to my problems.  But it didn’t work out that way.  Instead, some fairly serious things were ruled out; some new possibilities were introduced; and some other potential serious issues were left unanswered, pending biopsy results.  So here I am – a little further on the journey, but still waiting.

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What do you do when you’re in a place like that?  There’s nothing you can do to control it; nothing you can do to change it.  You just have to wait.

Here’s the thing about waiting – it’s not optional.  It’s a part of life.  Sometimes it’s harder than at other times, but it is unavoidable.

We often cannot choose whether or not we have to wait.  But we can always choose HOW we wait.  No matter the circumstances.

My perspective on waiting has changed as I’ve observed friends who have had to wait for some very hard things.  Friends who have waited for medical diagnosis after attempted solution after trips to the ER after more diagnoses after more attempted solutions after more trips to the ER in what has seemed like an endless cycle.  Friends who have waited for God’s direct healing intervention.  Other friends who have endured most of their family battling debilitating illnesses over a period of several years.  Friends who have cried out to God for healing in their marriages, done everything they could to fight for reconciliation, only to see their lifelong partner walk away without a backwards glance.  Friends who have suffered great financial losses, who have lost jobs, who have had their worlds turned upside down in one way or another.  All of them people who were asking God to change their circumstances; all of them people who waited and waited and waited.  And as I prayed with them and prayed for them, I watched almost every single one of them wait with grace, with gratitude for what they DID have rather than bitterness over what they did NOT have.  And I learned from their example.

As I am forced to wait, I remember my friends and they spur me on to wait with gratitude, to trust God no matter what.

I’ve also learned from the psalms.  I love the example of David as a person who faced many disappointments and challenges in life.  Here was a man who was anointed king of Israel and then spent fifteen years running for his life before he was recognized as king by his own tribe.  It was another seven years – twenty-two years total – before he was actually crowned king of all Israel.  Talk about waiting!  And not just waiting, but waiting while on the run.  Waiting and choosing to honor the man who wanted him dead, the man whose position he had been promised by God.  Waiting for years and years and years with unfulfilled promises from God – and in all that time, he never took offense at God. 

When you read the psalms that David wrote during that time, you find that David cried out to God; he prayed for deliverance; he prayed for vengeance on his enemies; he asked God “why”; he was honest – even brutally honest – with God.  But he never took offense at God.  He never turned away from God.  He kept trusting God and believing the best of God.  He kept finding his rest, his strength, his security, and his hope in God.

That’s the choice we face.  You’ve no doubt heard it said that suffering can make us better or it can make us bitter.  In David’s case, it prepared him to become king.  That’s because of the way in which David waited on the Lord through all of his trials.

I don’t know about you, but that’s how I want to learn to wait. 

The good news is that it’s never too late to start.  Whatever we may be enduring, however difficult, however uncertain, however long we’ve had to wait – God is always waiting on us to turn to Him, to trust in Him.

And so this morning, as I wait, I pray words that David wrote somewhere around 3000 years ago.  If you are waiting today, I encourage you to join me:  “I stand silently to listen for the One I love, waiting as long as it takes for the Lord to rescue me.  For God alone has become my Savior.  He alone is my Safe Place; His wrap-around presence always protects me.  For he is my Champion Defender; there’s no risk of failure with God.  So why would I let worry paralyze me, even when troubles multiply around me?   Psalms 62:1-2 (Psalms:The Passion Translation)


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.

Blessed Are The Broken

Nobody really wants to be described as broken.  It just sounds…well, bad.  To be broken sounds like you are ready to be discarded like an old toy, in need of being repaired, shattered to pieces, even useless.

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But the Bible actually places a high value on brokenness.  Consider these verses:

  • The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves  those who are crushed in spirit.   (Psalm 34:18, NIV)
  • You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.  My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.  (Psalm 51:16-17)
  • He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.  (Psalm 147:3, NIV)

And then you have the fact that Jesus came to minister healing to the broken-hearted:

  • The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners… (Isaiah 61:1, NIV)

So God views the broken as fertile ground for His Spirit to began deep work.  In fact, in the New Testament, Jesus actually points out the importance of brokenness on a couple of occasions, both modeling it and teaching it:

  • Whenever Jesus feeds His disciples or a group of people (the 5000, the 4000, the two disciples he met on the road to Emmaus), He always both blesses the bread and breaks it.  There seems to be an important principle at work there – if we desire to be used by God, to nourish others in their walk with Jesus, we need both the blessing of God’s Presence and a sense of brokenness in ourselves – the knowledge that without Him, we can do nothing.
  • Jesus Himself in instituting the Lord’s Supper as a memorial to Himself and to His work on the cross refers to His body as “broken for you.”  Without the broken body of Christ, we have no sacrifice on our behalf, and no hope of salvation.
  • On another occasion, Jesus taught something intriguing to His disciples:  Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  (John 12:24-24, NIV)

Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  Here’s the truth about brokenness – while it appears painful, harmful, weak, distasteful, repugnant, to be avoided at all costs, the truth is that in the Kingdom, brokenness sets you up to receive the life of Jesus within yourself, the healing hand of Jesus upon yourself, and the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through you to others.

As counter-intuitive as it seems, brokenness is the key to entering the Kingdom (the poor in spirit, remember Matthew 5:3?), brokenness is the key to living in the Kingdom, and brokenness is the key to bearing fruit in the Kingdom.

The point?  Feeling broken sucks.  But the truth is that brokenness opens the door for God to do the miraculous – both IN you and THROUGH you.  The very thing that you are wishing away and praying away may be the very thing that God is about to use to prepare you for your destiny.

Remember – if we belong to God, then He is in the business of causing all things – even the things that may break us – to work together for our good.

He truly is a good, good Father.


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.