Reordering Joy


Have you ever said no, I’m not having it. I won’t be hurt that way anymore. Or, no, I’m never going to be subjected to this kind of stress and strain again. I know I certainly have.

Growing up always involves some mix of pain and life lessons that sets the stage for how we manage and function in the world.  We may have drawn lines in the sand declaring we would not experience certain feelings ever again (such as pain, anxiety, sorrow, and so on), and, on the unseen, spiritual level, these declarations were put into effect.

Resolving to not feel pain or sorrow or be duped — yet again — can actually harm us because these kinds of vows have unintended consequences. When we block our negative senses, we also block our positive senses. Our capacity to experience joy and beauty then mirrors our capacity to experience pain.

By making these kinds of inner vows, we give the enemy the legal right to mess with our emotions. The enemy has power but no authority unless we give it to him. Jesus had joy as his goal while he endured the cross. He was able to see joy ahead because there was no legal place in him for unhealthy, sinful emotions to land.

For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

To experience this kind of freedom and joy, we must:

  1. Admit we have been wrong to make willful declarations about our emotions and what we will or will not feel.
  2. Erase the lines we’ve drawn in the sand and give God permission to guide our emotional lives.
  3. Tell the enemy to vacate the premises because he no longer has the legal right to mess with us in these areas.
  4. Stand firm in the truth and word of God. Christ has the power and authority to forgive us. He cleanses, redeems, and restores our emotions.
  5. Receive God’s forgiveness and welcome his loving kindness and mercy.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

We can experience the freedom of feeling all our emotions, including joy and pain, and know that God is good.

This has been my experience. I have been taking my authority in Christ and have found the most unexpected joy and tenderness in my spirit to beauty and sorrow. It is the Lord reordering and restoring me emotionally as he aligns me with his truth.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.(Psalm 34:8)

Keep Calm & Steady On


These days I move under the weight of information—of stories of injustice, fearful visions of societal doom, and accounts of addiction—and this just from my Facebook news feed.

I wrestle too with the information of self-awareness. God continues to prune and strip away buffers I’ve cultivated over a lifetime—even really good things like community and relationship have been in reduction mode here in the Arizona heat. The desert does not offer many places to hide. In this bare landscape under the bright sun, God reveals my choices. There are only two: choose him or do not choose him.

God’s word is full of stories of human struggle, failure, and faithfulness.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

These words from the book of Hebrews encourage me as follows:

  1. We may feel alone, but we are not alone in our struggle. We are “surrounded” by those who have remained faithful (Heb. 11). They line the course, cheering on those of us still in the race.
  2. The struggle to persevere in the face of injustice, pain, and sin is real. Every weight and sin threatens to smother us and suck the hope of God’s mercy and justice out of us. We are required to act, to “lay aside” the things that sidetrack us in fruitlessness.
  3. Life is not a sprint. It requires steady pacing. The early years of life are fast and focused on each next benchmark. Around mid-life, the terrain gets a bit more tedious, and the prospect of running the rest of the race can seem daunting. We are told to look to Jesus, to take our eyes off of the peddler of fear and death and fix them on the One who has overcome.
  4. Our faith hangs on the One who endured under the weight of the world’s sin. He bore it all on the cross — all the injustice, evil, failure, and deceitfulness of the world. He did not break or give up. He held steady to God’s goodness. His life-embrace frees us from the death-embrace of this world.

Earlier this evening I had the chorus to Bill Gaither’s song “Because He Lives” running through my head. I will end here:

Because he lives
I can face tomorrow
Because he lives
All fear is gone
Because I know he holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because he lives.

Broken for You


Gilbert AM 11Jesus’s death by crucifixion might be described as a cruel, premeditated, communal act of bullying with fatal consequence. How does Jesus respond? Does the experience of oppression define him and his identity going forward?

Evil is real and pain is valid, so I marvel at his redemption of the painful, horrific experience. Shortly after rising up from the dead, Jesus appears to the disciples early in the morning. Does he call up his pain and remind them of the offense? No. He makes them breakfast. He focuses on their well-being and thriving!

Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. John 21:12-14

In contrast to the last supper, the first breakfast introduces the redemptive dynamic of Jesus Christ. He pours himself out. He is broken for them (for you and me). He turns oppression upside down. His very life and being call forth and empower a revolutionary response to evil.

Into the Light

June was a month of light. I followed the sun’s rising and setting on several days. I thought a lot about where the sun’s rays fell and what came into the light as the sun passed through the sky.

The sun is always a unifying symbol for me because I remember that people all over the world see the exact same sun. We are connected and bound together as earth dwellers. In a similar vein, allow me to describe a portion of David’s Psalm 24 in my own words.

Wherever people are, God is there. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. He is present. He is present in brothels, city halls, corporate boardrooms, jail cells, gay bars, churches, classrooms, mosques, hospital rooms, country clubs, military zones, temples, police stations, airplanes, homes, grocery stores, city streets, farming communities, and parking lots. He is present. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. Nothing escapes him.

All the people are his, the world and those who dwell therein. Human traffickers, suicide bombers, magistrates, terrorists, teachers, moms, dads, little kiddos, big kiddos, victims of abuse, drug addicts, people of all colors and from every walk of life — all are his, the world and those who dwell therein.

One can perhaps accept this and God’s goodness. One can embrace the truth that God is holy and good and purposeful in all things. But who can enter into the presence of God? He is present everywhere, but we don’t (or perhaps don’t even desire to) enter his presence. What does he ask of us? Who can approach this glorious King? Those with clean hands and a pure heart. Those who do not embrace falsehood or speak with lying lips and heart.

In this I am humbled because I know that I am not always who I say that I am or even think that I am. So, in this at least let me be honest. I am part of a world that thrives on falsehood and lying lips and hearts. It is a difficult thing to trust that the honest answer is the best one.

But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. John 3:21