A blog post about blessing- but maybe not what you had in mind when coming to read this. Jesus opened the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) with a series of blessings (Matthew 5:3-12). They have been named the Beatitudes. Blessed are you if this is yours or if you come to have this. Accompanied is how to receive that blessing. I believe these are things we need to pay very close attention to. Jesus purposefully reveals them to us. He closes the Sermon on the Mount by saying that if you put into practice “these words of mine”, what he just got through saying, you will be like a wise man that built his house on the rock. Here is how he began “these words of mine”:

You are blessed if the kingdom of heaven is yours.
You are blessed if you are comforted.
You are blessed if you inherit the earth.
You are blessed if you are filled with righteousness.
You are blessed if you are shown mercy.
You are blessed if you see God.
You are blessed if you are called a son of God.
Again, you are blessed if the kingdom of heaven in yours.
You are blessed if great is your reward in heaven. As a matter of fact, you can rejoice and be glad.

When you think of being blessed, do you think of these kind of things? We should. Maybe, just maybe, these are the blessings that are greatest of all. After all, beatitude does mean supreme blessedness. The reason they are called the supreme blessedness throughout church history is because they are the blessings that cause and are the lasting things of all. And how do we receive these blessings?

The kingdom of heaven is yours if you are poor in spirit.
You will be comforted if you mourn.
You will inherit the earth if you are meek.
You will be filled with righteousness if you hunger and thirst after it.
You will be shown mercy if you are merciful.
You will see God if you are pure in heart.
You will be called a son of God if you are a peacemaker.
The kingdom of heaven will be yours if you are persecuted because of righteousness.
Great is your reward in heaven if you are insulted, persecuted, and have false evil things said about you because of Jesus. The same was done to the prophets before you.

Again, how do we receive these blessings? What do these words and phrases mean? That’s found in the searching and the Holy Spirit’s leading. I won’t try to explain them all. But to a point, take them at straight value in what Jesus said, not using the ‘yeah, but’ add ons. Let them mean what they mean.

I want to be blessed, as you do. I want the things that are lasting. I want my house built on the rock. And according to these words of Jesus, I have some things to work on…

Hope: a short

There is hope for this world.
There is hope for mankind.
There is hope for you.

Or Jesus wouldn’t have come.

Are you crazy enough, like an old poetic prophet, to believe that?

There is hope in the midst of weighty despair.
There is hope in the midst of deep gloom.
There is hope in the dark, long valley.
There is hope for the shackled in sin.
There is hope for the bound and lame.
There is hope for the suffocation of poverty.
There is hope for dehumanizing hatred.
There is hope for the ravages of violence.
There is hope for ear and eye turning indifference.
There is hope- even after you watch the news.

Or Jesus wouldn’t have come.

Are you crazy enough, like an old poetic prophet, to believe that?

There is hope in the restoration of salvation.
There is hope in a new way of living.
There is the great hope of the return of the King; resurrection, all things made new.

Or Jesus wouldn’t have come.

Are you crazy enough, like an old poetic prophet, the believe that?

So, there is hope for me.
There is hope for you.
There is hope for all people.
There is hope for a new future.

You haven’t given up, have you?

The most wonderful time of the year

It is once again the Christmas season. The Christmas season full of songs, trees, presents, family, movies, eggnog, and all that. As the song says, maybe truly so, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. I’m all for all that. My wife has a yearly struggle with me to keep the ‘Christmas all that’ under wraps until Thanksgiving is officially over. She’s some sort of Thanksgiving purist or something. Now that Thanksgiving is over, we are into the ‘Christmas all that.’ But in the middle of all that, let’s not lose our soul.

So, more appropriately, this season is Advent. The focus, the daily thinking, the heart moved to worship…Immanuel, God with us. The heavens did rend, God did come down (Isaiah 64), just not as they thought. God, the Word, broke into this world, broke into darkness and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory (John 1:14). The lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world has come (John 1:29). A baby, born in a stable of sorts, placed in a manger. The wonder of parents, angels, shepherds, and Magi to come. The King, the Lord of Lords. The Messiah. A cross in his future.

So let’s focus, in the middle of ‘Christmas all that’, let’s meditate on words and phrases found in some of the scriptures about the birth of Jesus. What do they mean to you? What do they move in your heart? What do they tell us about the most wonderful time of the year? Of course, there is a lot more, but below is a little sampling…read the passage, then take time, real time, throughout the days of the season to meditate on some of the highlights of each passage.

Read Isaiah 9:1-7.
no more gloom
a great light
increased their joy
shattered the yoke that burdens them
For to us a child is born
the government will be on his shoulders
Wonderful Counselor
Mighty God
Everlasting Father
Prince of Peace

Read Matthew 1:18-25
conceived from the Holy Spirit
the name Jesus
he will save his people from their sins
the virgin will be with child
they will call him Immanuel -which means “God with us”

Read Luke 2:1-20
good news of great joy
for all the people
a Savior has been born to you
he is Christ the Lord
Glory to God in the highest
on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests
glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen

Let’s enjoy the Christmas season. Sing the songs, hang the lights, shop till you drop, hug your family, and drink too much eggnog. But let’s have our hearts set on Advent. Let’s be moved in wonder and awe, joy and gladness- the good news has come!


Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author an perfecter of our faith…

The race is marked out for you. Run the race with perseverance. All the while, keep your eyes on Jesus.

The race is marked out for you. You cannot make it up as we go along. Lose your life in order to gain it. The Kingdom, a harvest, growing within you. Not being shallow, casual, and loose spiritually. But being serious, purposeful…living life in such a way that you need God. Not just knowing you need His forgiveness, but a life of faith that depends on Him. Not a legalistic points earning way of living, but literally rethinking, with conviction, your life based on Jesus Christ. All of your life, not just parts of it. In that, willing to lose what you need to lose in order to have true life- abundant life. Even if that is not a fallen society’s idea of success or happiness. Even if it surprises you at times. And with this, the great legacy of passing along The Faith as you have received it.

Run the race with perseverance. It is not always easy. Don’t give up. Keep going. Keep grinding. Throw off sin. Stay strong in the face of persecution. Work through your doubt. Get up when you fall. As Eugene Cho posted on Twitter:

Don’t be overwhelmed.
Stay the course.
Be encouraged.
Be tenacious.
Do not quit.
Take heart.
Have faith.
Press on.

All the while, keep your eyes on Jesus. He is the author and perfecter of your faith. He is what you hold to when it seems there is nothing else to hold on to. He is your savior. He is always there. He is the beacon in your darkness, in your struggle, in the midst of your trial.

Hebrews 10:36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

When you persevere, when you have done the will of God, the reward promised is great. It’s wonderful. It is life in its fullness. It is everlasting life.

Valleys: A Short

We all want the mountain top. The experience. The feeling. We search for it, chase it. Even, at times, try to force it (and dangerously I might add).

In search of the mountain top you may find yourself continually in the valley. A walk there that is lasting much too long. 

Perplexed. Frustrated. Hurt. Lost. Feeling alone.

But, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. David wrote that. He must have experienced it.

In the valley, He is there. Even in the valley that may come to be named the Shadow of Death. Even that valley does not cancel God out. He is in the valley as much as He is on the mountain top. 

Since God is there, fear no evil. Keep walking, even if you’re limping. And learn. Grow. Be shaped. Become. Learn patience. Be content with Him and Him alone. He wants you to walk with Him there- in that valley-, consciously, deliberately. Trust Him.

You will find yourself on the mountain top again at some point. He is there too. But even though you don’t search for the valleys- you don’t chase them, you certainly never try to force them-, the lessons of the valley are as important as the experience of the mountain top. 

Live For A Living

Live for a living. This line is part of the advertising for the History Channel’s Mountain Men, a show I unashamedly love (spending a couple weeks with Marty running his trap lines in the snow and cold in Alaska while occasionally shooting a moose would be incredible- my wife thinks I’m nuts). The show probably hits my desire for adventure. To do more than the everyday ho-hums. To get out, to explore, to enjoy life.

Live for a living. Don’t just live. Don’t just breath. Don’t just make it through the everyday routines. But actually live. Enjoy. Experience. Smile. Laugh. Be risky. Have a bucket list. But don’t be bored. Don’t be stressed. Don’t be depressed. Don’t be trapped. Don’t live in fear.

I’m not advocating cutting loose of all sensible responsibility and run free. What I’m advocating is this: God created us to enjoy life. He gave us life. He gave us this good earth. He made it all and said it was good, very good. In this, humanity is to be celebrated. Our talents and giftings, our diversity. The things we like to do. The earth that God made for us is to be enjoyed. To be out in it. To experience it. None of this to be worshipped in any manner, but to be delighted in.

What God has made, humanity and our world, is fallen. So while we work through life in a fallen world, a world of hurts and pains and tragedy (the great equalizer among all men), we have the ability to smile and laugh and live in joy. A joy that is found in God and in salvation and will fully be found in the resurrection. All of the caverns dug inside of us by the hurts and pains and tragedies we experience give us a greater place to be filled by the joy imparted by God and found in the things He gives us. The Kingdom of God, because of what it is and what it is about, is a celebration. It is a celebration because God is renewing what He has made. Humanity- the world.  

This is where we need to start: God, who gave us life, defines what life is and what it means to enjoy life. We find true life in Him, a life that learns to turn away from the instant gratification of our sinful self to understand true life is found in the freedom from the traps of sin and the fallen ways of the world. In this we find abundant life (John 10:10)- Christ-likeness growing in the details of our lives. Becoming something. Along with this, God defines what the good life is as proclaimed by the prophet Micah (6:8). Justice (doing what is right to others), mercy (give it to others as you have been given), walking humbly with God. In other words, as Jesus said, loving God with everything you are coupled with loving your neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39). The greatest commandment and the second one like it. These define and bring a life that is good and is enjoyable. Anyone, no matter their circumstance or situation, can live the good life as it is defined in this way. We learn to be content when we see life through this lens (Paul writes of contentment in Philippians 4:10-13). Enjoying life is not found in success and achievement, but found in God and in others. Don’t fall into the trap of the enjoyment of life as defined by the rat race of society and so have it defined by a way of a fallen world.

The joy of your salvation. The peace that passes all understanding. The hope of what is to come. Live with these things. They allow you to enjoy life in the midst of a messed up, hyper-busy, stress producing world. Mourn when you need to. That is important. But joy comes in the morning. You are free to enjoy life and the Creator wants you to. You can enjoy the things of life as long as they do not become idols. As long as you do not become entrapped by them. As long as you do not become a pleasure seeker. As long as the things God has blessed you with stay subservient to you. And what of those who struggle in life? What of those who are not free in their religious expression and are persecuted for their faith? What of those battling a life threatening disease? In the midst of their struggle, in the midst of their beatings and imprisonment, in the midst of their fight, God is with them and will inwardly strengthen them and will bring a peace that passes all understanding. This is not cliche and at times is not easy. They can love God. They can love others. They can live abundantly as they continue to grow into the likeness of their Savior. When their journey is complete, they will be able to look back and see how through it all their journey was beautiful.

So, walk with God. Let Him lead you and surprise you and cause you to become His intention.

And enjoy a good book.

Enjoy a sunrise.

Enjoy a sunset.

Enjoy good music.

Enjoy your marriage.

Enjoy the moments of God’s presence.

Enjoy a good laugh.

Enjoy planting a garden.

Enjoy a ballgame.

Enjoy helping another.

Enjoy a bonfire and s’mores.

Enjoy a good movie.

Do the next thing on your bucket list.

Enjoy a swim in a pond.

Enjoy a good musical.

Enjoy a night at the symphony.

Enjoy your friendships.

Enjoy a long hike.

Enjoy a table game.

Enjoy traveling to a new place.

Enjoy exercise.

Enjoy the things your purpose leads you to do.

Enjoy a bike ride.

Enjoy an adventure.

Enjoy a quiet moment.

Even begin to enjoy the everyday routines that you must do.

As John Eldridge quotes Gil Bailie in Wild at Heart, “Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Live life for a living.