He wants to be found.

“When your world is rocked, you don’t want philosophy or theology as much as you want the reality of Christ.” – Lee Strobel

If you’ve ever lost track of a young child, your concern moves to panic pretty quickly as you search for him.

When I read about Joseph and Mary trekking back to Nazareth with their neighbors and extended family after celebrating the Passover in Jerusalem, I think of that sense of panic. They had walked for an entire day before they realized 12-year-old Jesus wasn’t with them. They apparently assumed he was part of the Nazareth group, hanging out with friends or cousins as they walked.

Of course, the story ends well. They go back to Jerusalem, then spend a day in the city searching for him before they find him in the Temple discussing theology with the religious leaders.

What struck me, though, is that Jesus was missing and they didn’t know it. If Jesus went missing on us, how long would it be before we noticed? That won’t happen, of course, because Jesus has promised never to leave us, but too often we live as though he has walked away. We forget to talk to him, to ask him for guidance, or to thank him for his goodness to us.

The reality is that sometimes his presence is so real we feel we can reach out and touch him. At other times, we’re not sure he even hears our prayers. The life of faith enables us to believe his promise never to leave us and, when it feels like he’s far away, he can be found.

Jesus has not gone missing. He’s here. He’s close. He’s waiting for us to reach out to him. He wants to be found.

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” – 1 Chronicles 16:11

It’s infectious.

“He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life he has—by what I call ‘good infection’.” – C. S. Lewis

I recently read the story of a woman now known as “Typhoid Mary”. She lived in the early 1900’s and was blamed for several typhoid outbreaks in New York City over a few years’ time. Medical professionals determined she was a carrier of typhoid though she never showed symptoms and never came down with the disease herself.

In some way we are all infecting people with something. Some people enter a room and, suddenly the atmosphere becomes brighter, lighter, more interesting. That’s a good kind of contagious. Others come like Eeyore, and they spread an infection of gloom. Which would you rather be?

The writer of Psalm 139 asks God to “. . . see if there be any grievous way in me . . .” I’m told that a “grievous way” is any aspect of character that can lead to grief. This psalmist knew there could be something deep in his heart that would cause pain, and he might not even be aware of it. We don’t always know what is hiding inside us. “Typhoid Mary” certainly didn’t!

While we live, we’re going to be infecting people around us. Maybe we, too, should invite God to search us and make us aware of anything we’re carrying that could cause grief to ourselves or someone we love. By God’s grace, we pray that, since we’re contagious, it will be with what C. S. Lewis calls a “good infection.”

“Be it ours today . . . to be ruled and governed by Thy divine authority, so that nothing false or sinful may reign in our hearts, lest it extend its malignant influence to our daily walk among men.” – Charles Spurgeon

50 Things

“Being joyful isn’t what makes you grateful. Being grateful is what makes you joyful.” – Ann Voskamp

One Thanksgiving morning a few years ago, I got up early, made a big mug of coffee, and sat down with pen in hand to make a list – a list of fifty things for which I was thankful.

The first ten were easy, the kind of standard stuff that all of us tend to give thanks for regularly – family, home, food, friends, health and so on. But as I continued, there were longer pauses between pen and paper. By the time I got to fifty, I was thinking in whole new gratefulness territory. This was taking longer than I thought it would. I was on my second cup of coffee by then.

It may seem trite to do an exercise like this, but it wasn’t. I discovered it was more than a list. Doing this changed me for that day and, maybe, beyond. Of course, there was a new realization of all that I had to be thankful for. But there also was a new understanding of the graciousness of God in my life by providing for things I didn’t even know I needed. And, then a sense of joy in cherishing all that I had been given. And a new light-heartedness that began to affect the way I treated others. That’s a lot of transformation just for making a list!

You might want to try making your own list this Thanksgiving weekend. You might be surprised at what happens in your heart when you do!

Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” – Psalm 100:3-4

The Horse and I

“Let God have your life; he can do more with it than you can.” – Dwight L. Moody

I don’t know much about horses. But, here I was at a ranch for a weekend with my daughter and granddaughter. Because my granddaughter loves horses and wanted me to experience them, too, we all signed up for the trail ride. And I learned something.

We were shown how to use the reins and told not to let our horse get too close to the horse in front of him and not to let him eat foliage along the way. So, determined to do it right, we set out. I pulled on Cairo’s reins when he got too close to Hoss, and I steered him away from the plants along the trail. Eventually, though, he got tired of being micromanaged. He tossed his head and snorted a couple of times. He was not happy!

So, I decided to quit fighting him (he’s bigger than I am!), and I let the reins go slack. He settled into a pattern he was comfortable with, and we finished the ride better friends than we were when we started.

Are you a little bit like me? Wanting to hang on tight to the reins, to steer, to be in control? Sometimes, I think everyone around us would be better off if we stop trying so hard to be safe, right, and in charge. It would be good for us, too, just to realize that God is the only one who can change people or protect us.

And, best of all, when we yield to him, we can enjoy the ride!


“I do not occupy myself with things
    too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
    like a weaned child with its mother;”
– Psalm 131:1b-2a

Feeling loved?

“How would my life change if I truly believed the Bible’s astounding words about God’s love for me, if I looked in the mirror and saw what God sees?” – Philip Yancey

Do you remember the feeling of euphoria when you first fell in love?

I think being in love is a picture of what God feels about us every day. He loves us just as we are, not just on our good days, but every single day. He loved us before we were born and will never stop.

The prophet Daniel, a Judean captive serving the Babylonian king, was praying for his people, pleading for God act on their behalf. While he prayed, the angel Gabriel appeared telling Daniel he had come to give him insight into the things he was praying about. And he gave the reason: “. . . I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved” (Daniel 9:23a). Can you imagine an angel saying to you that he showed up because you were greatly loved – by God?

Maybe we don’t hear it from an angel, but, if I’m reading my Bible correctly, we are as greatly loved as Daniel was. John tells how Jesus loved his disciples. Jesus declares his love for them, too, and for the whole world. Even before Jesus’ time, God said many times how much he loves his own people.

So why don’t we feel the “in love” euphoria every day? Maybe because we don’t really believe it. Think about that. The one who says he loves us is the eternal truth, the God who loved us into being. We can trust him. We can love him back. He will never turn us away. Never.

 “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.”. – 1 John 4:16a

Insight

“A moment of insight from God is worth a lifetime of experience.” – Anonymous

There’s a lot we cannot see with our eyes.

The story in the Bible that gives dramatic evidence of this is when the King of Syria sent a whole army to capture Elisha, and Elisha is calm, but his servant is terrified. So Elisha asks God to open his servant’s eyes so he can see what Elisha already knows: There are heavenly chariots of fire all around them! The servant had been afraid because he couldn’t see the protection God had already provided.

God can help us see the things we cannot see on our own. And praying for him to help us see is biblical, “Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18).

Those might be insights to understand the messages in God’s Word, yes, but I have found there are more ways God helps us to see.

He can give insight . . .

. . . to sense when someone says they’re fine when they’re not.

. . . to clearly discern the direction we are to take.

. . . to know when to instruct and when to confront.

. . . to understand today’s events in light of eternity.

. . . to ‘see’ the heavenly help we receive when the battle seems overwhelming.

I believe God wants us to live in the light of his revelation every day. Commitment to constant walking with him allows us to see the things only he can reveal, and our decisions, understanding, and relationships take on new and richer dimensions. Open my eyes, Lord!

“. . . that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you . . .” – Ephesians 1:17-18a

Old Friends

“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit.” -Aristotle

I had a best friend in the 5th grade. She and I both liked to write – we wrote stories and poems (hers were better than mine!). We rode bikes, and we were involved together in kids clubs and, later, the youth group at our church. We had spiritual and philosophical conversations that grew in quality through the years.

We remained friends through high school, then our paths diverged (including moving from our hometown), as they often do, though we kept in touch somewhat through social media.

Recently we’ve had the opportunity to reconnect. We scheduled a time to meet and talked for two hours. That wasn’t enough, so we met a few days later and talked for 2 1/2 hours. So many parallel stories and a multitude of memories and revelations; so much common ground in our families – parents, children, grandchildren; our education and career experiences; and, best of all, our commitment to a step-by-step, year-by-year walk with God.

At some point we realized the value of what we had in each other. Growing a friendship takes time. Not just activity time, or conversation time, but years of time. We both have newer friends we value very much, but neither of us has the time to develop a half-century long friendship with another person.

Do you have a friend like that? Maybe it’s time to reconnect and to recognize the value in such a relationship.

Do you need a friend like that? Maybe you don’t have decades to build it, but use the time you have. Be a friend, find a friend. Spiritual friendship is one of the greatest gifts we can give or receive.

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” – Proverbs 27:17, (NLT)

Just ask.

Let your cares drive you to God. I shall not mind if you have many of them if each one leads you to prayer. If every fret makes you lean more on the Beloved, it will be a benefit.” – Charles Spurgeon

Do you find it hard to ask for help? A lot of us do. We want to think we can figure things out on our own, we can tackle any problem. And we don’t want to be a bother to anyone else.

That independent attitude might be admired by some, but not by God.

He wants us to express our needs to him. He wants us to look at every life situation as an invitation to turn to him. In fact, James tells us that sometimes he is just waiting for us to ask: “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2b). So, I have been asking, and he welcomes my requests every single time.

I’ve figured something else out, too. It has become clear to me that God uses our requests as ways to respond to us at the point of our deepest needs. Do we need patience? He might make us wait a while before he answers. Do we need humility? He might remind us to submit to his will. Do we need comfort? That’s the Holy Spirit’s specialty, and prayer opens our hearts to receive.

Do you understand? God’s greatest desire is to be connected to us, to provide for us, to comfort and lead us. Praying, asking, and just talking to him opens the doors for his love to flow back to us. Just ask. That’s the way he wants it.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6

The Happiest Being in the Universe

“If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. – C. S. Lewis

Author John Ortberg tells us that “God is the happiest being in the universe.” Our joyful, creative, energetic, and passionate Father wants us to be happy, too.

In fact, joy is part of the Fruit of the Spirit described in Ephesians 5. When God uses agricultural images like fruit, I think he’s reminding us of what farmers already know: Growing anything takes patience. We sometimes want to hurry the process by using earthly pleasures to manufacture joy, but what we get then is a poor substitute for the real thing.

True joy grows over time. I think the Holy Spirit plants the seeds and then, with our cooperation, helps those seeds grow into full, ripe, abundant fruit.

What might our cooperation in growing this fruit look like? Here are three assessment questions that help me when I’ve lost my joy:

Who am I trying to please? If it’s another person or even people in general, we’ll be frustrated. If it’s God alone, we will experience his pleasure. And that makes us happy.

Is my focus on the temporary or the eternal? Having a long view helps us forego an immediate pleasure for a future reward. That brings peaceful confidence.

How close am I to the Happiest Being in the Universe? God’s effusive joy will overflow to us if we consciously engage with him all day long.

If our focus is on knowing and pleasing God more than anything else, joy will come. Guaranteed smiles.

“Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous.” Psalm 33:1

Getting Ready to Hear from God

“. . . in the liturgy from the past, I am reminded that wisdom from God has been around a long time. My words aren’t revolutionary. I can be helped by my brothers and sisters from the past. . . the words penetrate. They break away the hardness of my morning heart and get spiritual warmth pumping through my veins, showing once again it’s worth persevering in this liturgical pursuit, this routine.”* – Matthew Molesky

It’s a chilly morning. For the first time in weeks I reached for a sweatshirt before I sat in the chair with my Bible, pen, and fresh cup of coffee. Then, with my body warm and comfortable, I began to address my heart.

Do you, too, sometimes find you need to warm your heart before you’re ready to hear from God?

My heart gets ready when I read from the writings of Christians in ages past who had a longing to know God, feel his presence, and follow his direction. Some have written memoirs or left diaries or devotionals that give us windows into their hearts. The spiritual journeys of others can inspire our own desire to grow.

Here are a few of my favorites (would love to see yours in comments!):

Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer

The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence

The Normal Christian Life, Watchman Nee

Morning and Evening, Charles Spurgeon

My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers

After I read a short passage from one of these authors (or others like them), my heart is ready to turn to the Bible and to respond to its Spirit-guided message for today. The warm-up time is worth the effort!

Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” – Jeremiah 6:16a