What Love Does


What did you see in me?  How did you know?

I have been waiting for this day for many years.  A milestone, my own personal Ebenezer, for you surely have been good to me.

20 years ago you broke my heart.  You showed me who I was, what I had done, and most importantly that you loved me despite and not because.  How did you know how much I needed that?  It exposed everything, meant everything, and changed everything in my life.

Acts 2:38-3938 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

How is it, that of all your miracles, we seldom talk about the greatest one of all – that you can change a man’s heart?

Anyone’s heart.  No exceptions. Not one.

There was one catch though, I had to die. Not physically, but in every other way that I knew.  It has not been easy Lord, in fact I struggle with it every day.

But you knew what this would do to me, and you began to let me see with new eyes.  Sometimes when I look at people, you are all I see.  I love that.  I know I am close to you when I can sense you as you pass by.

The hunger to be near you has not gone away over the years, if anything it has grown stronger.

I will die again tomorrow and the next day, hoping for another chance to sense when you are near.

Another chance to see you working in my wife, in my kids, in my family, in my friends, and in your children.

Another chance for you to let them see YOU in me, in my eyes – if only for a moment.  To know that you are near to them.  That is what I have gained.  You.

Thank you Lord, for sticking with me, for using me, for loving me these past 20 years.  I need you.  But you already knew that.

Philippians 2: 1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Posted in Devotional, Grace | 5 Comments

Shall We Dance?


Lord, where are you – just when I needed you most?


I have been praying, I have been pleading and I can’t seem to draw you out of your hidden places.  Have I done something to displease you, do the sins of my past still separate me from you?

And so goes the questioning, and God remains silent.  So I turn to scripture, and I see familiar stories, familiar characters, but nothing that helps me today.  Lord, have you turned your face from me?  Did I really receive your Spirit?

As painful as these first few paragraphs are to read, and write, this progression seems familiar.  We struggle, we cry out to God, and silence.  There is no clear reply, no arms around our shoulders, no comfort to be found.  This goes directly against the promises of scripture.  We are promised a loving, present, personal God.  Yet, we seldom experience Him.  We feel abandoned, lied to, foolish.

I think silence is the problem.  We withhold conversation from our relationships when we are angry or hurt.  We clam up, in doing so we let the other half of our relationship know they better come groveling.  Should we expect the same from God?  Doubt it…

But silence is still the problem.  I need to be silent.  Listening to the one I love even though no words are spoken.  Watching them do the things they love, and learning what pleases them.  I need to sit still… and watch… and see the world as they do… and love.

When things aren’t going the way I think they should, I feel like I need to roll up my sleeves and get to work.  There must be a way for me to fix this.  There must be a recipe I can follow that will bring success.

Maybe I need to quit Shall we dance, friend of my heart?doing and start being.  Maybe it is time that I quit looking and start seeing.  My God is alive and working all around me.  No matter how hard I try control Him, I cannot.

It’s time to sit in silence and see Him at work.  Yep, silence is the problem.  There is not enough of it in my life.  I believe that is what Love would require.

Shall we dance, friend of my heart?

Posted in Silence | 4 Comments

What Do You Want From Me?

I thought I would share another nugget from Ruth Haley Barton’s Sacred Rhythms.

Sometimes we overlook the most obvious things.  You think you know, you think you have thought these things through, but really you have spent no real time considering them.  That was the case with the following exercise.  I thought I knew, but after a couple of months of self-examination, peeling away the layers, I found something that gets to the very foundation of who I am, or want to be, in Christ.

I thought I would share the following, not in hope that you might agree with me, but in hope that you might search out your own answers.  I only provide my insight so that you might see the level of turmoil this exercise generated for me.

Consider the following scripture:

Mark 10:46-52 – 46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth,  he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David,  have mercy on me!”

48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

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

The blind man said, “Rabbi,  I want to see.”

52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed  Jesus along the road.

Barton’s exercise is this:

Imagine yourself in the historical setting of the story of Bartimeaus as it unfolds in Mark 10:46-52, or imagine yourself in your own place of need. Read the story slowly, seeing yourself as the person needing something from Christ and calling out to him from the noisy crowd. How do you approach him or try to get his attention? What words do you use? What emotions do you feel?

Imagine that in response to your cry, Jesus turns to you. Now you are face to face with one another. Allow yourself the full realization that you have Jesus’ complete attention and hear his question addressed to you: “What do you want me to do for you?”

Do not be afraid of emotion; it is important that you let yourself feel how deep your desire goes. You may need to sit with the question and your response for quite some time before you have fully gotten into touch with your heart’s desire or have fully expressed it. Give this question and its answer all the time it needs.

While the question that was given was “What do you want me to do for you?”, the question that bore into my soul was “What do you want from me?”  it was staggering.  Do you want heaven?  Do you want to be saved from your sins?  Do you want a relationship?  Do you want forgiveness?  The answers were yes, yes, yes, and yes!  In fact, this is a very short list of what I want.

I began to peel away my wants to try to get to my most basic needs from God.  What is it that I most want?  Upon what will I base my love for others, my acts of service, my time in study?  What am I searching for?  Can I name it in simple enough terms that I won’t forget it?

The answers for me finally came in the lyrics of a song by 4 Him.

Your servant of choice in whom
You found favor
A man who heard Your voice 

If Jesus ever turns to me and says: “What do you want from me?” This is the answer I hope to give…

  1. I want to be your servant.
  2. I want to be someone in whom you find favor.
  3. I want to be able to hear your voice when you speak to me.

You may read my list and scoff.  Aren’t these things I want from myself?  I would argue that I could have none of them unless they are given to me.

Is this the correct answer to the question?  Probably not…

Do I think my answer will change over time?  Most likely…

Is it a truthful answer from me at this time?  Most certainly and I have found peace in that.

Matthew 22:37-40 – 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Posted in Book Review, Devotional, Prayer | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A Discerning Heart

I keep Ruth Haley Barton’s Sacred Rhythms on my nightstand. I don’t read from it every night, in fact I may not pick it up for weeks. There is only so much “growth” that I can handle at any given time. You see, even though it is a relatively short book, it has taken me over a year to get though 7 chapters. I will pick it up and read a chapter then I may stew over it for weeks, even months. Great book… Challenging book…

Last night, I picked it up again and this is what I read:

The habit of discernment is a quality of attentiveness to God that is so intimate that, over time we develop an intuitive sense of God’s heart and purpose in any given moment. We become familiar with God’s voice—the tone, quality, and content—just like we become familiar with the voice of someone we know well. – Ruth Haley Barton

For years I have prayed for discernment and the funny thing is, I am not even sure I even knew what I was asking for. I have been looking for answers. Answers to my problems, answers to other people’s problems. Hoping for a divine revelation from God on whatever was on my heart. I would ask and then mystically I might know the answer because I had found favor from God.

It seems that I must develop an intuitive sense of God’s heart, much like the way I know my wife. While I cannot predict how she will react in every situation or understand how she feels about certain things, I do know her well enough to have a good idea of what she would say to me or what her passions are. After 20+ years of marriage, as knuckle-headed as I am, I have caught onto a few things. I have learned a few things about God over the years too, and that is why I believe there is some truth in this chapter I have not really considered before. Here are just a couple of things from this chapter I will churn on.

Love is our primary calling – This rings true to me and is core to what I believe a Christ follower should be.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-40

There are certainly other factors to consider, but one of the first questions we should ask is “What does love call for in this situation? What would love have me do?” Subliminally, I believe I would consider this, but I believe Ms Barton is correct when she says that this should be at the forefront of our considerations.

Prayer for indifference – Another point that she makes in this chapter that sticks with me is that discernment should begin with a prayer for indifference. She is not talking about a negative attitude of apathy or not caring, but a positive term that means “I am indifferent to anything but God’s will.” I believe I enter into prayer with certain biases or expectations of what God would or should do. These biases prevent me from being wide-opened to God and tie me to a list of possible outcomes. My own experience has proven that God does not work within my expectations. There are many factors that prevent me from choosing for love which are not issues for God. My ego, my time, my family, my…. It is true, I choose “my” things over what God would have me do way too often to claim I have any sort of discernment. I am much more likely to rationalize than discern. By far, this indifference may be the most important characteristic of a person with a gift of discernment and one which requires a great deal of humility to attain.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” – Luke 1:38

At the surface level, these things seem simple. In practice, they are not simple at all. So, Sacred Rhythms will go back on my nightstand for a while as I consider these things. After all, I can only handle so much…

Posted in Book Review, Prayer | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Harry Potter And The Christian Themes

Well, at long last the final Harry Potter movie has finally come and I must say it is bittersweet.  It has been almost 14 years since Harry made his way into our family.  I admit that I originally started reading them because I had heard so much negative about witchcraft but my wife and daughter were insisting that the books were wonderful, so I decided to find out for myself.  Needless to say, I fell in love with the books and the three of us greatly enjoyed introducing my son to Harry as soon as we could.

As I made my way through the books trying to catch up to my wife and daughter, they would quiz me each night during dinner to get my thoughts and determine which clues I was onto and what I was thinking about the books.  It became a family past time to discuss theories and answer trivia each night at dinner.  Great times!

The release of the final movie in the series has been emotional for all of us.  The four of us have realized how much Harry, Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore, Snape, and most definitely Fred & George have been a part of our lives.  I am not sure we are ready to let them go.  I find myself asking why?  True, J.K. Rowling weaves a masterful story.  True, the
characters are well-developed and we are emotionally attached.  True, the cannon of material contains 7 very large books of exquisite detail.

I think it is the themes, more than anything, we resonate with.  Who wouldn’t want to discover that our very ordinary self is truly very extraordinary?  Who hasn’t felt they are not understood?  Who could live with the Dursleys??  Who isn’t afraid to be alone or felt like they can’t go on after they lost someone they loved?  Harry has certainly had his share of loss. In fact, many of the characters have experienced major losses in their lives. You
could say that this is one of the central themes in the books.

While the movies have glossed over it, J.K. Rowling says that the two verses that appear on the gravestones in the cemetery at Godric’s Hollow summarize the entire series. The first is the inscription found on the tombstone of Albus Dumbledore’s mother and sister:

Hermione was two rows of tombstones away; he had to wade back to her, his heart positively banging in his chest. “Is it – ?”

“No, but look!”

She pointed to the dark stone. Harry stooped down and saw , upon the frozen granite, the words Kendra Dumbledore and, a short way down her dates of birth and death, and Her Daughter Ariana. There was also a quotation: Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:21)

The second was inscribed on Harry’s parents’ tombstone: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:26)

I loved the way this video marries the movie to the book.  If you look closely, you can see the scripture on the bottom of the tombstone.

Why would J.K. Rowling say that these two scriptures sum up the entire series?

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mt. 6:19-20a, 21)

Why would Dumbledore chose this for their tombstone?

We learned in Deathly Hallows that a youthful Albus Dumbledore was more concerned with fame, glory, and pursuit of his dreams than he was about his family and disabled sister Arianna who needed taken care of after Albus’ mother passed away.  In a tragic series of events, Arianna was accidentally killed during a disagreement between Albus and his dangerous friend Grindelwald.

The devastating grief over the loss of his mother and sister as well as the realization of the choices he made, caused Dumbledore to become the man who Harry eventually met.  A very powerful man who was both wise and humble and whose priority was in nuturing and protecting his students.  Even those who would do him harm.

By the end of Dumbledore’s life, Albus Dumbledore had stored up the kinds of treasures that do not die with him, but remain to help Harry and the rest continue the fight against the Dark Lord Voldemort.  Treasures such as wisdom, courage, light, and love.

C.S. Lewis once wrote “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse  a deaf world.” I believe that the grief and pain Dumbledore endured, brought about remorse and change.  We commonly refer to this as repentance.  Voldemort, on the other hand, has chosen a different path, ferreting away his very soul into valuable objects, of power and of influence, to escape his fear of death.

Here is an excerpt from the final battle between Harry and Voldemort:

Dumbledore’s last plan went wrong, Harry Potter!” “Yeah, it did.” said Harry. “You’re right. But before you try to kill me, I’d advise you think what you’ve done . . . . Think, and try for some remorse, Riddle. . . .” “It’s your one last chance, … it’s all you’ve got left. . . . I’ve seen what you’ll be otherwise. . . . Be a man. . . try. . . Try for some remorse. . .”

Rowling’s second scripture reference marks a shift in the story’s focus from the treasures of this world to the mysteries of the next: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” At first Harry was offended by the inscription on his parents’ grave:

“Isn’t that a Death Eater idea? Why is that there?” Hermione gently helps interpret: “It means… you know… living beyond death. Living after death.”

Sirius Black does a great job of trying to explain this concept to Harry near the end of this video.

In the end, all the Horcruxes have been destroyed and Tom Riddle and Harry Potter square off in a battle between power and humility, fear and love, murder and self-sacrifice, death and life. “For as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ… The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Cor. 15: 22, 26)

In the end, Harry will discover exactly what this passage means. Death has pursued Harry since he was a baby, but no more; Harry takes off his invisibility cloak and willingly gives himself over by laying down his own life.  Harry, with his wand in his pocket to prevent self-defense, offers his life freely in love.  Instead of living in fear of death, Harry has made death his moment of glory.  It is the last enemy.

Much as we find in the story of Jesus, we learn that after Harry’s willing sacrifice, Voldemort’s spells against the gathered crowd don’t seem to hold, recalling another passage : “O Death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55) Finally, like Christ, Harry destroys death by disarming it.

Like This!

(1) – ‘Harry Potter’ Author J.K. Rowling Opens Up About Books’ Christian Imagery
(2) – Harry Potter and The Last Enemy – Univ Dayton News
Posted in Book Review | Tagged , | 6 Comments

5th Grade Blessing

Several people have asked me about the prayer that I led for the 5th graders in our church who are transitioning to middle school this summer.  These were very trying times for most of us, my children included.  Below is most of the prayer and, as you will see, God placed The Beatitudes heavily upon my heart for them.  Upon further reflection, I hope you will see that this interpretation was as much for me as it was for them and, I hope also, for you.  May you find blessing in the Word of God that so many before us have. 

Lord, your name is power, and although no name can truly describe you, this morning we call upon you as Immanuel and we plead that you will be “with” these young people as they make the major transition from Elementary school to Middle school.   Much in their lives will change over the next few years and we ask that during this time you wrap your arms around them and help them through the many new adventures ahead.

So…  (adapted from Matthew 5:1-16)

  • When they find themselves at the end of their rope, remind them that with less of themselves there will be more room for you.
  • When they are sad and feel they have lost all that is dear to them, remind them that you are the comforter and this is, most often, the time they will sense your presence.
  • When they fight for their own independence and struggle with their own identity, remind them to be content with who they are, no more and no less.  Blessed children of God.
  • When they search for answers or for friends who will accept them, remind them to be hungry for you and for your ways and they will be filled.
  • When their friends and family are hurting, remind them to put their own needs aside and to care for them and they will in turn find themselves being cared for.
  • When they find themselves tempted, remind them to look for ways to fill their minds and hearts with you and they will begin to see you in the world around them instead of temptations.
  • When there is tension and hostility around them, remind them to show others how to cooperate instead of compete or fight and they will discover who they really are and their place in your family.
  • And when they feel like they just don’t fit in, remind them that persecution or isolation will drive them to you and they will be blessed.

We call upon you as Immanuel because they can only achieve these things if you are with them.   May they be a light to the world and may they continue to let that light shine before all they come in contact with so that, because of all the good they do, people will praise you in Heaven. – Amen

Posted in Prayer | Tagged , | Leave a comment


In PhilipYancey’s book “What’s So Amazing About Grace?”  Yancey addresses a loophole to grace that is all to often exploited.  I think the excerpt below explains it pretty well.

There is one “catch” to grace that I must now mention. In the words of C. S. Lewis, “St. Augustine says ‘God gives where He finds empty hands.’ A man whose hands are full of parcels can’t receive a gift.” Grace, in other words, must be received. Lewis explains that what I have termed “grace abuse” stems from a confusion of condoning and forgiving: “To condone an evil is simply to ignore it, to treat it as if it were good. But forgiveness needs to be accepted as well as offered if it is to be complete: and a man who admits no guilt can accept no forgiveness.”

Maybe an example might also help, he offers up a story.

Late one night I sat in a restaurant and listened as Daniel confided to me that he had decided to leave his wife after fifteen years of marriage. He had found someone younger and prettier, someone who “makes me feel alive, like I haven’t felt in years.” He and his wife had no strong incompatibilities. He simply wanted a change, like a man who gets an itch for a newer model car.

A Christian, Daniel knew well the personal and moral consequences of what he was about to do. His decision to leave would inflict permanent damage on his wife and three children. Even so, he said, the force pulling him toward the younger woman, like a powerful magnet, was too strong to resist.

I listened to Daniel’s story with sadness and grief, saying little as I tried to absorb the news. Then, during the dessert course, he dropped the bombshell: “Actually, Philip, I have an agenda. The reason I wanted to see you tonight was to ask you a question that’s been bothering me. You study the Bible. Do you think God can forgive something as awful as I am about to do?”

Daniel’s question lay on the table like a live snake, and I went through three cups of coffee before I dared attempt an answer. In that interval I thought long and hard about the repercussions of grace. How can I dissuade my friend from committing a terrible mistake if he knows forgiveness lies just around the corner? Or, as in Robert Hughes’s grim story from Australia, what’s to keep a convict from murdering if he knows in advance he’ll be forgiven?

Starting to sound a little more familiar?  The road gets treacherous now.  If forgiveness lies just around the corner, what stops us from doing whatever we want, then begging for forgiveness.  I don’t claim to be able to answer that question.  It is way to difficult for me and there are way too many circumstances that only God can understand, but I certainly understand the problem.  I face it everyday in my own life with my own sin.  Can I be forgiven without repentance?

Like you, I was hanging on to my seat waiting for Yancey’s reply.

Here is what I told my friend Daniel, in a nutshell. “Can God forgive you? Of course. You know the Bible. God uses murderers and adulterers. For goodness’ sake, a couple of scoundrels named Peter and Paul led the New Testament church. Forgiveness is our problem, not God’s. What we have to go through to commit sin distances us from God—we change in the very act of rebellion—and there is no guarantee we will ever come back. You ask me about forgiveness now, but will you even want it later, especially if it involves repentance?”

Several months after our conversation, Daniel made his choice and left his family. I have yet to see evidence of repentance. Now he tends to rationalize his decision as a way of escaping an unhappy marriage. He has branded most of his former friends “too narrow-minded and judgmental,” and looks instead for people who celebrate his newfound liberation. To me, though, Daniel does not seem very liberated. The price of “freedom” has meant turning his back on those who cared about him most. He also tells me God is not a part of his life right now. “Maybe later,” he says.

While our own stories may not be like Daniel’s, I suspect we have all rationalized our sins away and expect a loving God to make good on His promise of forgiveness.

May God help me brush aside my selfishness and my arrogance that knowingly relies on His grace to forgive my unrepented sins.   May God look into my hands and find them empty, may I freely admit my own guilt, and may I accept his gift and be changed because of it.

Romans 6:1-2 – What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

Like This!

Posted in Grace | Tagged , , | 3 Comments