Breakfast Is Served!

I’m reflecting this morning on the end of the gospel of John and a few key points seem particularly relevant to me today:

1-Jesus met the disciples where they were and in their then-present circumstances (he knew where to find them and what they’d be doing: out to sea fishing);
2-Jesus provided for them (a catch of fish too large to haul back into the boat);
3-Jesus prepared for and served them (cooked a meal of fish and bread and gave it to them).

Then, after doing so, He said, “Follow me.” The bible seems to indicate that He was just speaking to Peter, but, John got up and followed Him, too. Martin Luther, in his commentary, indicates that there are two lessons to learn here. First, even Peter, one of the greatest apostles, immediately after having been engaged in conversation with and called by Jesus, lost his focus. He took his eyes off Jesus and became concerned with what those around him were doing. Second, Jesus may have different plans for each one of us. In essence, Jesus responded to Peter’s question by letting him know that it was none of his business what His plans were for John.

So, what do I get out of this? First, I was reminded that Jesus loves me personally, where I am, right now. He knows what I’m dealing with on a daily basis. He knows what is swirling around in my head from one moment to the next. Second, He is more than capable of providing for my needs in my present circumstances. Third, what He has in mind for me is far greater than anything I can come up with on my own. I’ve never had fish for breakfast, but, if prepared and served by Jesus Himself, it would be far better than anything that I could pull out of the pantry or refrigerator to make for myself in the morning. Finally, we are not all called to live out the same story or to serve in the same mission or ministry in our lives. We shouldn’t model ourselves after other people that we think are good. We should model ourselves after Jesus. This is His story and He knows where we fit into it.

Have a great day!

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

The Countdown To BROKEN TEMPLE: 12 Days To Go Until The Latest Release From Kevin Max

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Kevin Max’s newest project, BROKEN TEMPLES, will officially be released on March 10. I’ll be counting down the remaining days to the release of the album on this page with a post each day exploring and celebrating some of his prior creative ventures.

TODAY: A clip from the dcTalk era that showcases some of his early poetry in combination with what I would have to classify as one of my personal favorite dcTalk songs, “The Hard Way.” Just as this post features a hybrid of Max’s creativity as a performer and a poet, “The Hardway” is a song that appealed to me at the time of its release specifically because of its articulate and meaningful portrayal of the dynamics of spiritual life: the grace and hope of God juxtaposed against the darkness and struggle of the world. Max’s body of work as a whole, with regard to the various vehicles he’s chosen to express himself through, but, also, in relation to the soul journey that he has continued to document honestly over the course of his career, continues to be a hybridization of pure light against the tangible backdrop of a dark world – a modern-day Caravaggio. He consistently keeps the conversation relevant for a segment of society that hears the call of the spirit, but, has been become jaded by the shortfalls of pop Christian culture. Despite the apparent odds, God can still work miracles through each of our own personal broken temples.

Read a bit about what I get out of the music and poetry of Kevin Max and check out the new project!

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Perspective: His vs. Ours

I’ve been reading through a year-long devotional written by Billy Graham on YouVersion and one notion that keeps showing up again and again in Graham’s commentary is the concept that our minds are finite while God is infinite. Our days are numbered, but, He is eternal. Our perspective and understanding of other people and events that happen all around us is limited, but, God is omniscient and, from His perspective, He sees and knows everything.

Too often in my life I’ve determined my position, in relation Jesus, in relation to my soul, and in relation to other people, based on my own personal perspective which, one moment, can be one way, but, a moment later, based on any of a number of variables out of my control, or even something as fickle as my mood,  can be completely different.

It wasn’t until I surrendered, after having everything in my life fall apart in a manner that I realized went far beyond anything I could ever repair, to the reality that my only hope begins in a God can that make sense of things that I can’t, that I truly found peace. But, to be able to surrender I had to exercise faith – a placement of trust in that which I can’t see. I had to trust that there is more to this world and this life than what I can see, hear, feel, taste, touch, and process with three pounds of gray matter in my skull.

Everybody has faith. The difference from one person to the next, though, is where each person places theirs. We either place our faith in our own understanding and ability to figure things out and make sense of the world around us or we place our faith in something bigger. For some, this might mean the ever-evolving knowledge of science in which the accepted scientific “truths” of today are turned upside down by the discoveries of tomorrow. For others, the trust that they place in something bigger might be in a form of religion or politics that places one race or group of people on a higher pedestal than another.

My faith is invested in the One who is Love (1John 4:8), the God of Jesus Christ who, while here in the flesh, taught, healed, served, and fed those in need and instructed his believers to, above all else, love God and to love others as themselves (Matthew 22:37-40). He did not come to judge and persecute. He didn’t come to mistreat those who didn’t understand or agree with Him. He came to love, serve, and save and He instructed His followers to do the same.

I am not the most articulate person when it comes to defending my faith by quoting scripture off the top of my head (I had to look up everything mentioned here for the proper scriptural references). I don’t think I posess the quick wit of a person who is apt to win a debate with somebody else they’re sitting across the table from, either. But, I realize and find comfort in the fact that I don’t have to be. My trust isn’t in my finite self, but, instead, is invested in He who is infinite.

“Father, although my finite mind cannot understand all the wonders of the Gospel, I thank You for the assurance of my salvation through Christ.”
-Billy Graham

“Whatever you think is love, whatever you think is peace, whatever you think is good, whatever you think is right, whatever you think He is, He is infinite.”
-Kevin Max

Other posts I’ve written related to the topic of God’s perspective vs. our own:

Randy Alcorn, Kevin Max, and Infinite Providence

In Our Lives: The Glorious Unfolding

Fear In The Face Of The Unknown

The View From The Valley

Here In This Moment, The Sun May Not Be Shining

A couple of great songs that celebrate God’s providence:

“Infinite” by Kevin Max – His new album, BROKEN TEMPLES, celebrates the fact that when we are broken, we are freed to find our peace in Him – the album is due 3/10 and available for pre-order through Pledge Music at http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/kevinmax

“The Glorious Unfolding” by Steven Curtis Chapman – One of my favorite albums, now, specifically because so many of the lyrics on the album, including the title track, focus on this concept of faith in our God who can see so much more than we can.

The View From The Valley

Today I read the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in the eleventh chapter of the gospel of John and gained a greater appreciation for the manner in which our schedule (as human beings with limited perspective) often fails to line up with God’s. Concerned and worried, Mary and Martha, friends of Jesus, sent word that their brother Lazarus was sick. But, when Jesus received the message, He responded in a manner that gave no sense of alarm or panic. Instead, He seemed to have a sense of peace with the situation, despite the fact that Lazarus and his sisters were close friends of his, saying instead, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it. (John 11:4). As verses five and six state, “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when He heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.”
So, not only was He not alarmed or panicking, but, he didn’t even leave for Bethany until two days after he heard that Lazarus was sick. Having heard that He was finally coming, Martha went and met Jesus, who was still on his way, and declared, “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” But, upon arriving in Bethany, Jesus, sure as He was in what was yet to happen, was emotionally shaken by the mourning and grief evident in the friends and family of Lazarus. As John states in verse thirty-three, “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled,” and it was then that Jesus asked them to take him to where Lazarus was buried and proceeded to raise him back to life.
I was struck by two main points while reading this passage this morning. First, we have a lot to gain if we can learn to trust God’s plan and His timing. We may not understand it all. It might make no sense. The dying loved one we’re praying for may not heal. The big job promotion we’re hoping for may not happen quick, or at all. But, sometimes it takes time for the growth that God knows we need to go through to happen.
But, I also learned that, while it is true that trusting Him during challenging times is, most certainly, critical, He is not unmoved by the trials that we face and the pain that we sometimes must endure in the midst of those trials. He is with us, more than ever, in the darkest moments. Whether we feel His presence or not, He knows that it is our choice to trust that He is there and that it is that choice we make, in faith, that provides the fertile soil out of which even stronger faith and the purest, eternal joy can be born, “for God’s glory.”

My Good Works

I can’t be sure if it is just the way my brain works or if it is the Holy Spirit trying to make a point, but, one thought that has been spiraling around in my brain for the past couple of days is that of giving credit where credit is due and how to give that credit because, if you know me personally, chances are that you are aware that I am not bashful when it comes to sharing the story of how my family and I have been blessed, so abundantly (if you’re not familiar, explore this thread of posts on my blog fo learn about it), since I had to pick myself up off the ground after caring for my Dad for sixteen months and then losing him to brain cancer in February of 2012. But, the truth is, I didn’t have to pick myself up off the ground. I couldn’t have. I was picked up. While reading the January 24th entry in the devotional written by the late Brennan Manning called Reflections For Ragamuffins this morning I was struck again, as I have been more than once lately, by the notion that I really and truly have nothing to brag about on my own. The day’s devotion starts with Manning noting the precious value of the direct advice Jesus gives as he speaks to those gathered, in what is commonly known as the sermon on the mount, about how they should view themselves and the world around them. But, Manning takes special interest in Matthew 5:3 when Christ said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” As Manning explained:

To be poor in spirit means to cling to your impoverished humanity and to have nothing to brag about before God. Paul writes, “What do you have that you haven’t received; and if you have received it, why do you go about boasting as if you hadn’t received it?

If there is anything that you ever associate with me as being good, I can sincerely state that it has happened because of the grace of God – despite me. I have not and could not do anything worthwhile without Him, first, opening doors wide in front of me to walk through. On the other hand, if you ever see me failing, veering off course, or causing others frustration or pain, you can be sure that it is a result of me, in my ignorance, sewn to this human condition, having taken my eyes off of the only One who knows and freely gives real and abundant life to anyone who will accept it. But in the darkest period of my life when I hurt deeply, questioned everything, and had no answers, I hit the very bottom. And when I did it became coldly apparent to me that my only hope was in something I couldn’t see, hear, or even feel. But, because it – because He – was all I had, I held on desperately (in doing so, I trusted Him to hold me)  and the growth and change that has happened in my life and in my family in the three years since is difficult to adequately articulate with words. It most certainly wasn’t anything I accomplished. I was completely broken. But, thank God, “blessed are the poor in spirit.” Through Kevin Max I learned about The Hands & Feet Project and through the compassion of Hands & Feet Project director Mark Stuart, God’s grace blossomed and I will forever be grateful.

So, if you see me wearing a Hands & Feet Project or Haiti Made clothing item or posting a picture from Haiti or you hear me talking about a mission trip I went on, please know that I am simply and gratefully celebrating and trying to support the work that the Christ-focused organization does and the manner in which my life, and the lives of so many others have been blessed. There are long-term American missionary families that have completely uprooted from the U.S. and committed to serving full-time there and they have been serving those who Jesus referred to as “the least of these” for years. Why shouldn’t I tell others about their work and support them as it most certainly is God’s work (see James 1:27)?

Galatians 6:14

Galatians 6:14

Fear In The Face Of The Unknown

I spent a few minutes this evening looking over different definitions and explanations of what fear is and the most common explanations focus on the perceived thread of danger. Danger, of course, can present itself in many forms, from imminent and extreme danger (e.g., coming face to face with a large, angry bear while hiking) to perceived danger which may or may not actually be a threat (e.g., discovering a lump on your body is may or may not be cancer).

As humans we sometimes suffer under the tremendous weight of fear. On the other hand, we also seem to be addicted to the sensations that come by entertaining a small measure of fear and allowing our attention, emotions, and imagination to be carried away by stories, movies, and sports — when we invest our interest in a particular character or team and allow our emotions to rise and fall with the limited uncertainties of either a happy ending, a sad ending, a win, or a loss.

And that’s all fine and dandy as long as we know the movie will end or the game clock will wind down to zero and the stress will be gone. But, what about in our real lives? In reality we don’t necessarily know when or if the job demands will let up. We don’t know what the biopsy results will be or if therapy will be effective. We can’t be there for every challenge that our kids will face as the grow up to support them through to a safe and happy end.

Fear grips our hearts hardest when we don’t necessarily have any input on the outcome. The weight of burden becomes too much for our finite brains to process and we break down under the weight.

In the March 21, 1944 audio clip from the BBC Series “Beyond Personality,” C.S. Lewis entertains a question that many, apparently, asked him regarding how God could possibly give appropriate attention to millions of prayers being prayed to Him simultaneously:

…I’d like to deal with a difficulty some people find about the whole idea of prayer. Somebody put it to me by saying: “I can believe in God alright, but what I can’t swallow is this idea of Him listening to several hundred million human beings who are all addressing Him at the same moment.”

And I find quite a lot of people feel that difficulty.

Well, the first thing to notice is that the whole sting of it comes in the words “at the same moment.” Most of us can imagine a God attending to any number of claimants if only they come one by one and He has an endless time to do it in. So what’s really at the back of the difficulty is this idea of God having to fit too many things into one moment of time.

Well that, of course, is what happens to us. Our life comes to us moment by moment. One moment disappears before the next comes along, and there’s room for precious little in each. That’s what Time is like. And, of course, you and I tend to take it for granted that this Time series — this arrangement of past, present and future — isn’t simply the way life comes to us but is the way all things really exist. We tend to assume that the whole universe and God Himself are always moving on from a past to a future just as we are. But many learned men don’t agree with that. I think it was the Theologians who first started the idea that some things are not in Time at all. Later, the Philosophers took it over. And now some of the scientists are doing the same.

Almost certainly God is not in Time. His life doesn’t consist of moments following one another. If a million people are praying to Him at ten-thirty tonight, He hasn’t got to listen to them all in that one little snippet which we call “ten-thirty.” Ten-thirty, and every other moment from the beginning to the end of the world, is always the Present for Him. If you like to put it that way, He has infinity in which to listen to the split second of prayer put up by a pilot as his plane crashes in flames.

That’s difficult, I know. Can I try to give something, not the same, but a bit like it. Suppose I’m writing a novel. I write “Mary laid down her book; next moment came a knock at the door.” For Mary, who’s got to live in the imaginary time of the story, there’s no interval between putting down the book and hearing the knock. But I, her creator, between writing the first part of that sentence and the second, may have gone out for an hour’s walk and spent the whole hour thinking about Mary. I know that’s not a perfect example, but it may just give a glimpse of what I mean. The point I want to drive home is that God has infinite attention, infinite leisure to spare for each one of us. He doesn’t have to take us in the line. You’re as much alone with Him as if you were the only thing He’d ever created.

When Christ died, He died for you individually just as much as if you’d been the only man in the world.

The human brain is a physical organ that is limited in it’s potential to comprehend just as much as it is limited in its mass and size. The notion of having every aspect of our lives and, particularly, our futures under control is an illusion that we will never be able to actually grasp in reality.

Consequently, the peace that we seek in security and control is also an illusion. We cannot achieve peace in our lives. We can’t know all that the future holds, but, we can know He that holds the future. We can’t acquire peace in our lives on our own accord, but, we can trust the One who, in His infinite existence, is able to attend to each one of us fully and at all times. He alone is peace. He alone is hope. He is love. He is infinite.

“Infinite” is a song from the forthcoming album Broken Temples by Kevin Max. In it Max celebrates the fact that God is so much larger than human thoughts can hope to conceive and so much greater than human words could ever hope to articulate. We must trust His word, but, should be wary in trying to limit Him to our own personal human conceptions and constructs. It is a perspective not often articulated in music, Christian or otherwise. Feel free to check out the Pledge Campaign purposed to aid in the release of his new project Broken Temples so that it, like his past projects, can serve as a beacon to those seeking peace and truth in an open manner so that we can all dig deeper and rest in the peace that can only come when we trust Him with the purpose and direction of our lives.

For The Day After Christmas

The sparkling glitter now settled
Amidst wrapping scraps here and there
Still laying – strewn across the floor
But what can we do now with these
Feelings that don’t come from a store
His birth is not an end to itself
The life Mary gave offers more

“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” Luke 2:16-18

Jesus offers, for each of us, life. But, His life is not the mundane, fear and pain-laden life that you’re used to living. Surely, his promise is not to quench the blood-thirst between nations here on earth nor is it to make our lives pleasant Sunday strolls in our own preferred time, but, He is offering us peace that rises above understanding and once you accept that peace and the directive that He gave to focus on others outside of ourselves, truly, you will experience life more abundant right here on the face of this planet. Along with all of that, you will also experience the joy of that which is yet to come: life eternal where there will be no tears and the joys yet to be experienced will surpass whatever our finite human brains can imagine here.

If you are hurting and would allow me to pray for you, please message me. If you’d prefer to just pray, please do. He’s waiting for you.