from The Christian Journal: How to receive… find… uncover

For years, I wrestled with the idea of what to ask for, what to seek, and where to knock in response to jesus’ words:

“‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.'” Matthew 7:7,8

The cause and effect in these phrases takes my breath away…

Read the rest of it by clicking here…

My eyes get in the way…


I play piano. I learned from my mom, who tried her best to get me to learn music theory. But third kid stubbornness won out. I just wanted to play. I didn’t care about theory and couldn’t see it’s relevance to just playing that song I really liked. I didn’t want to bother with plodding out the rhythm, so I would ask her to play the music first. I would listen to her rhythm and watch which notes her fingers started on so that I could get started without figuring it out first.

She eventually responded to my requests with “you figure it out”, I suspect realizing that I wasn’t learning to play so much as I was learning to mimic.

All these years later, I still don’t know theory. I couldn’t tell you what key a song is in or how to change keys. But I am learning. I have recently taken up scales. These musical exercises that seemed so booooring as a kid, are actually pretty relaxing now. As I increase my hand strength and finger placement ability, I realize yet another thing.

Reading the music is getting in my way. The more I look at the music, I realize I am not actually looking at it. I use the first note of a string to indicate where that first not should be, but I ignore the rest of it. Now, my progressions are moving at a quicker speed where I simply close my eyes and focus on the sound. I know I hit a wrong note because it sounds wrong.

But here’s the kicker: this eye closing is an extension of the prior issue. Yes, I might be learning theory now and practicing scales now, but I am not also reading music. I can read music. I am just choosing to rely on my ear and my finger muscle memory instead. This works for scales. It does very little for increasing my ability to sight read a new piece.

And such is the life of faith. your go to might be your gut check reaction. And most of the time, it might be right. But what happens when your gut is wrong, or worse, quiet? Have you built other skills, other approaches to faith that can fill in when the gut fails? Or maybe you fixate on studying the scripture to the point where you’ve drown out the Spirit. What do you do in that moment when you haven’t a scripture memorized that will assist?

Using the music example, here is what happens. I play piano. But I cannot play piano for church. One, because I do not believe it is my calling. But secondly, I simply can’t. My nerves at not being able to sight-read, my need to practice so much that ear and muscle memory can be relied upon, and my inability to ad-lib- fill in if the song leader take too long to come in result in panic disaster for a church piano player. The same is true in faith. If you only build or rely on one set of skills, you will only have those available to you when the situation shifts. God gives us many methods of seeing, hearing, approaching, and engaging with Him.

I still love music, and I still play piano. And I do so relying on my natural inclinations toward it. You can still approach the Father in your natural inclination. But remember we are at war. And sometimes the enemy purposely wages the battle in such a way that you need to use a different set of fighting to attack. Don’t be caught with only one tool of warfare. Use them all. Practice them all. And you’ll find yourself ready when a new battle arises.

It’s amazing what silence will do…


I didn’t mean to go radio silent on you. Life offers some interesting turns–nothing spectacular, nothing really all that new. But burblings emerging, breaking the surface, and popping in a way that old ideas shine in a new light.

Quietly, surprising in a whispering oh-look-at-that kind of way, confirmation after confirmation emerges. I wondered for many years if I walked the right path. And yet, in all the reflection that an over-analyzer can offer, I cannot see a different way. These confirmations, showing how the circuitous way I arrived here was instead setting a foundation from which to build.

I went into a hiding of sorts that last few months. Hired to achieve a particular goal and knowing it could take three years to do, I hid from the numbers–numbers only I reviewed regularly. The numbers I was brought in to fix, I hid from them. Reason combined with even my own I-can-do-anything approach said it would take three years. And three years was still an optimistic goal. But what I was seeing in the early numbers for the fiscal year had me wondering.

But the come-to-Jesus moment came. In preparing for a team retreat, I knew I had to bring the numbers out onto the table. I prepared for spending three days brainstorming how to keep fixing the numbers. Oh, those numbers. As I built the projections for the end of fiscal year, I had to stop. At first, the potential deficit looked bigger than I had hoped for the first of three years. But there was that big fish at the bottom of the list. And oh how I needed that big fish. I didn’t wait to get that far, I jumped to the bottom, ran some quick calculations, and dumped that fish into the barrel. It provided just a little more hope. I continued on, and not long later, I had to stop. I went back and double-checked, triple-checked everything to that point. I couldn’t believe it.

I took a lap around my office. How could this be? I dove back in and finished the report. Not only did we stop the hemorrhaging, we climbed out of the hole and were already building a new structure for the future. How could things turn in just a couple months? Well, when 70% of your business comes in during those months and each individual account saw growth, hiding from the numbers quickly becomes shouting them from the rooftop.

And inside, quietly all I could repeat was, “it worked.” And all the while, Jesus smiled. We have killed ourselves individually and as a team trying to start scratching back. And the news met with varied reactions. One, who is in the midst of closing his final accounts for the year, took a step back, leaned over on a chair, shook his head, and commented, “I really needed to hear that.” Another got teary-eyed. And a third laughed because neither she nor I believed she would be able to see it before she retires in a couple years.

I wonder how the reaction would have changed had I not avoided the numbers for those couple months. And I have spent (wasted?) much time wondering the same about my life choices. What if…what if…what if…

But the truth of the matter is this: had I seen the numbers creeping up, oh so slowly, I wouldn’t have felt the relief I felt when it broke through this week. The end result is the same–nothing I could have done would have changed that. But the relief, oh the relief. And I see my life in similar terms now. I can question and second-guess, but I keep coming back to the reality that regardless of my choices, I would have ended up right where I am. And any other path I would have chosen would have only brought heartache.

Regardless of where you are in life and what decisions you’re questioning in hindsight, remember this massive promise–post is on your wall, your screen saver, and every social media page if you need to:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” –Romans 8:28, ESV

But wait, there’s more! Yes, the cheesy infomercial tagline is true here too. Often overlooked, the prior verses take Romans 8:28 from a lovely sentiment to a battle cry:

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” –Romans 8:26-28, ESV

You’re not alone in the battle. The working together for good is not because of you. In fact, it is predicated on your weakness and the Spirit’s prayers. Your weakness plus the Spirit’s prayers for you means that everything will work out.

Peace unlike anything in this world…

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There are 351 references in scripture to peace. 351. That is nearly one for every day in the calendar. 351 is more than the number of games in a pro baseball season (doesn’t it seem like there are a zillion of those? no?). 351.

Here’s the obvious question: do you think God knew peace would be important to us? Necessary for us?

“(Jesus speaking) Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” –John 14:27, ESV

The world offers peace right now. Yet if we’re really honest, we will admit that the world’s peace, if we can even call it that, is fleeting and ever-changing. What will bring you the world’s peace today will be out of date and out of style tomorrow. And that is a beautiful thing.

(Wait, what?)

Yes, I meant it. It is beautiful that the world offers us nothing lasting. Why? Because it compares so starkly with what Jesus offers.

You see, Jesus didn’t come to bring peace to this world. He came to bring peace to our souls. The world is not the basis for enjoyment. It is the basis for trouble. Jesus did not proclaim that He overcame the world because it was easy to do–the world threw everything at Him, and He triumphed. Not because He relied on the world to make Him feel okay, but because He relied on eternal peace.

And He offers that same eternal peace to you. Let’s take a quick look-see again at John 14:27:

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. not as the world gives do I give to you…”

He’s not the little kid hogging the toys at the playground who hasn’t yet learned to share. He is the Almighty Creator, come to earth to pay for your sins, so that He can give you peace.

It is yours for the taking. He has it in outstretched hand. Will you take it?

Joy’s brotherhood…

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In pondering joy, one thing comes repeatedly to mind. When I feel joy, I feel triumphant. When joy is working, my day looks brighter, my outlook more positive, and my energy to endure patiently increases dramatically. And when I don’t have joy, all the opposite things happen.

I drag through the day.
I see challenges everywhere.
I don’t want to endure.

When I am missing joy, I am missing victory.

Joy and victory are tied together through much of the Old Testament.

“As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments.” –1 Samuel 18:6, ESV

Joy erupts from victory. I can’t help but think that one feeds the other, back and forth. When victory comes, soon after is joy. When you carry through life with joy, you do not doubt that victory will soon follow.

Missing joy? Maybe you’re missing victory.

But wait, there’s more…

Victory doesn’t come alone. Victory brings the party.

“…their relatives, from as far as Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, came bringing food on donkeys and on camels and on mules and on oxen, abundant provisions of flour, cakes of figs, clusters of raisins, and wine and oil, oxen and sheep, for there was joy in Israel.” –1 Chronicles 12:40, ESV

Victory doesn’t pack a sack lunch. Victory brings so much to the table, it needs a variegated heard to carry it all! After the victory, the feast is enjoyed.

Maybe you have victory, but it is so fleeting that you’re back to joyless int he blink of an eye. Take a cue from the Israelites. Through yourself a feast–literal or figurative–and embrace the victory. Take a few moments to savor the accomplishment. And relax a bit to honor the One who provides it all.

Do not rush from one accomplishment to the next. Embrace the joy, the victory, and the feasting. That feasting rest will keep your perspective strong, will allow the joy to endure, and will carry you to the next victory. Do you know where the next victory is?

“Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and joy are in His place.” –1 Chronicles 16:27, ESV

“In His place” here does not mean that strength and joy replace God. It means that they are in the very presence of God. But look at their brothers in that house! Splendor. Majesty. Strength. Joy.

Joy is nothing to monkey around with. His brotherhood is mighty. His brotherhood cannot be ignored. And his brotherhood hangs out with the God of the universe. Joy is not wimpy looking on the bright side. Joy runs deep. And joy holds on through the tough times.

“…and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” –Nehemiah 8:10, ESV

Do not be grieved. Why? Because the Lord’s joy is your strength. Not “will be” your strength. Not “can be” your strength. Not “on Tuesdays if you’re good, you might get a dose of strength.” The joy of the Lord *is* your strength. Present tense. All the time.

Missing joy? Check out his brotherhood of victory, splendor, majesty, and strength. Then seek them all from the One in Whose presence they exist.