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Redefining Belief: (continued)

Our first two days were a blur. Disbelief, fear, “How is this possible?”, sleeplessness and anger. We kept thinking, “This can’t be possible! We take such good care of our bodies!” On night 2 Anna tapped my arm and through tears said, “Shawn, I can’t sleep, I am so scared. I just need to be close to you.” As I held my wife a verse ran through my mind, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (Is. 26:3) I let that go through my mind over and over again as Anna calmed down.

Later that morning after walking the kids to school I listened to Pray As You Go, a daily 12 minute devotional on an App that Anna and I do each morning. The section of scripture highlighted that morning was John 14: 13, “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.” Ok, Jesus here goes. I am asking you in Your Name to heal my wife of cancer. You tell me to ask, so I am asking.” Upon arriving home I went upstairs to check on Anna. She had just finished listening to the same passage as well, and through tears had journaled the same exact “ask” in the name of Jesus.

After two days of tears and much wonder, Anna awoke early Day 3 on a mission. In our journey of health over the years we have learned ways to take good care of the body. She and I got the kids off to school and hit the local organic market to get as many fresh green veggies that we could send though our juicer, supplements, soups and essential oils. Anna began a regimen that morning that has continued. My wife is fighting, we are fighting, and many of our friends ad family are joining us in the fight.

Our scripture reading on Day 3 came from Luke 18:1-8

2-5 “Once upon a time,” he said, “there was a magistrate in a town who had neither fear of God nor respect for his fellow-men. There was a widow in the town who kept coming to him, saying, ‘Please protect me from the man who is trying to ruin me.’ And for a long time he refused. But later he said to himself, ‘Although I don’t fear God and have no respect for men, yet this woman is such a nuisance that I shall give judgment in her favour, or else her continual visits will be the death of me!’”

6-8 Then the Lord said, “Notice how this dishonest magistrate behaved. Do you suppose God, patient as he is, will not see justice done for his chosen, who appeal to him day and night? I assure you he will not delay in seeing justice done. Yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find men on earth who believe in him?”

So we have been appealing, day and night. We are on this journey, together, and many have come along to be those “on earth who believe in him.”

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An Ongoing Relationship

In my last post I pointed out that the Cross was the pinnacle battle between God and Satan. God won the battle, once for all, and the Cross is the reminder that He is the victor. So if the battle is won then what is going on in our world today!? It sure seems like a battle is still going on.

Peter, one of Jesus’ closest companions, says makes this statement years after the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) Wait, this statement came after the defeat of Satan? Why is Peter telling his audience (and us) to stay alert and watch out after Satan was defeated?

While the defeat of Satan happened through the Cross of Christ, there is, in fact, still a battle going on. In light of the great battle and God’s ultimate rescue mission to save man, the battle is now against an ongoing relationship between individual man and God. Satan’s primary desire is no longer to be God, he lost that battle. His mission now is to keep men and women from being in a growing relationship with God as Father, Son, Spirit.

Preventing this growing relationship was what Satan was interested in from the beginning. He saw the harmonious intimate relationship between God and man in the garden and he despised it. It makes sense then that Satan would attempt to prevent man from growing in this relationship with God. And, Satan will stand for almost anything else, before he will lie down and let man sit with the one and only true God. He will tolerate good works, giving, worship, church attendance, education, reading, etc, but the main thing he battles against today is each of us growing in relationship with our Creator God.

So on this Good Friday as we reflect on the Cross of Jesus, the best thing we can do to battle Satan is to commit to growing on our relationship with God. Every relationship that is important to me gets time and space. It is a priority to me and the other person and we create space for one another. You and I  get to join God in the ongoing defeat of Satan by creating space to be with God and God alone.

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Our Bodies: From Distrust to Wonder

Our physical bodies are mostly ignored. Although we see them in the mirror, put things into them for sustenance, and walk around in these bodies all day, we seldom pause to appreciate what we have. My friend Tina Sellers, PhD., who has an amazing new book coming, out says, “Our bodies are good and need to be reflected as such through the truth and light in our eyes AND we are created, (as God is demonstrated in the trinity), in relationship.”

So what is the harm in ignoring our bodies or, worse, believing lies about these incredible bodies that our creator has given us? Jesus addresses this plainly in Matthew 6:

“Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!” (Matthew 6:22-23)

According to Jesus we have two options when it comes to our bodies. We can view our bodies with wonder and belief or greed and mistrust. If we choose wonder and belief our bodies fill up with light. And not just light, but the light of the one who created us! If we choose to view our bodies with greed and mistrust our body becomes a dank cellar. This type of living out of the body leads to a dark life.

You and I have the unspeakable privilege of living in these amazing bodies that God has given us! We get to believe the truth about our bodies and move from distrust to wonder. It is a conscious decision every day to believe the truth, to take care of our bodies and to live as if what God says about us is true. As we do this, Jesus’ promise becomes a reality: our whole body fills up with light!

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From Situation Help to Constant Care

There is something about being human that causes us to reach out to God when we need help. We get into a situation at home, at work, in a relationship or crisis, and we call out to God asking him to help us. While there are plenty of instances of situational help from God throughout the Bible, the promise is that we are living in the constant care of God.

“For consider what he (God) has done—before the foundation of the world he chose us to become, in Christ, his holy and blameless children living within his constant care. He planned, in his purpose of love, that we should be adopted as his own children through Jesus Christ.” (Eph 1:4)

This teaching of Paul is a reminder of the reality that you and I living in the constant care of God. We have been adopted as his children. Think about this from the perspective of a parent. Does a parent offer situation help to a child or constant care? My friend Kent Hotaling writes this about care, “ The experience of God caring for us – even when He is not “curing” us as quickly as we choose, is necessary for us to be able to pass along this kind of care for others.”

Maybe this constant care of God is more kind and gracious than the situational help we so often think we desire. Allowing ourselves to be cared for by God is learned at a much slower pace that we would prefer. We are not accustomed to be cared for. We are taught to do life on our own and cry out for help only when we are desperate. Living today believing the truth that we are care for by the God of all things can have a dramatic impact on how we view life. The truth is that you and I are cared for.

Do we dare believe this reality?

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Two Fundamental Directions of Life

How is it already Week 4 of Lent? I recently began reading St. Ignatius Rules for Spiritual Discernment. These Rules are incredibly insightful! I spent last week looking at the First Rule:

First Rule. In the persons who go from mortal sin to mortal sin, the enemy is commonly used to propose to them apparent pleasures, making them imagine sensual delights and pleasures in order to hold them more and make them grow in their vices and sins. In these persons the good spirit uses the opposite method, pricking them and biting their consciences through the process of reason.

In his book, The Discernment of Spirits, Timothy Gallagher simplifies Ignatius’ First Rule by noting that two basic directions emerge in a person’s life. The first is a movement away from God and toward a self-indulgent life in which moral boundaries are ignored. The second is movement toward God and away from a self-indulgent life. (pg 31)

During this season of Lent, a time to consciously move away from sinful tendencies in our lives and move toward a growing relationship with God, the Rules of St Ignatius can provide needed path. It is helpful to realize or remember that we have an Enemy that is seeking to “kill, steal, and destroy” (John 10:10) our lives. It is equally important to consider St. Ignatius’ comment about the “good spirit” in the last sentence of the First Rule. The “good spirit” is understood by Ignatius as comprehensive. The “good spirit” includes God as Father, Son and Spirit, as well as the angels. You are I are drawn toward God by the “good spirit”. May the fundamental direction in our lives be movement toward God and away from a self-indulgent life.

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From Lust to Satisfaction

Lust is a buzz word in our culture. Most often it is linked to sexual desire, but lust is much broader than that. Lust is an intense longing, crazing, appetite, deep desire for something or someone. We can lust after a person, desiring to be with him or her physically or emotionally. We can also lust after money, possessions, recognition, prestige, and position. The apostle John says, this about lust, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16). Essentially, John is talking about things that in the moment can feel like life, but always end in death.

In continuing to look at Jesus’ “Your blessed..” statements in Matthew 5, we next come to this: “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.” (Matt 5:6)

Is Jesus encouraging lust in this teaching? Is there such a thing as good lust? Jesus does not use the word lust here, but instead uses two words that have similar meaning, yet lead to life. The first word Jesus uses is to hunger, peinaō – to crave ardently, to seek with eager desire. Jesus also uses the word to thirst, dipsaō– those who are said to thirst who painfully feel their want of, and eagerly long for, those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, strengthened.

I don’t love the Message interpretation of Matthew 5:6, but wanted to stick with it as we look at these blessed statements of Jesus. This interpretation leaves out the word righteousness. That is what Jesus instructs us to hunger and thirst after, righteousness. Righteousness is best understood as right relationship with God, oneself, and others. As we learn to apply true hunger and thirst to relationships, especially relationship with God, the promise is that we will be satisfied.

The thing about lust is that it never satisfies. It always leaves us wanting more. We can crave, manipulate and do everything in our power to get what we think we want, but unless our pursuit is righteousness, we will be left empty and alone. Jesus promises the deepest satisfaction possible for all who hunger and thirst after righteousness.

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Are You Content?

We are suffering from an epidemic of discontent. What we don’t have, aren’t experiencing, can’t achieve often dominates our thought life. “If only…” or “When _______ happens then…” For some reason it seems easier to focus on what isn’t happening, instead of all of the remarkable things that happen every day.

The third “blessed” of Jesus in Matthew 5, Message translation is,

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” (Matt 5:5)

Being content with just who we are-no more, no less. That sounds amazing and is a challenge. Being content with who we are involves believing the truth of what God says about us. The truth that we are loved, known, cared for, that we are his sons and daughters. Being content also involves being honest about how we feel today, right now, in the midst of joy or sadness, trusting that God is with us.

It’s pretty great being around a person who is content with who they are. We can sense it. We may not even know what it is, but we are drawn to the person. He or she puts us at ease when we are with them. The most content person to ever walk this earth was Jesus. A few days before his death Jesus washed his closest friends feet, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, 4 got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.” (John 13:3-4) Jesus did this act of a servant knowing who he was, where he had come from and where he was going.

The more time we spend with Jesus the more content we become with who we are. A content person is comfortable in his or her own skin and it shows. We can’t will ourselves to contentment. It is a bi-product of being with Jesus, allowing his opinion of us to remind us of who we are.

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Have You Lost What is Most Dear?

In continuing the look at Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5, the second “blessed” in the Message translation is,

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.” (Matthew 5:4)

What is most dear to you? I thought I lost what was most dear to me many years ago. As we know, love is a basic human need. I believe there is validity to the 5 Love Languages book that came out years ago. I took the test back then and realized that my primary love language is physical touch. I took me years after reading that book to realize that I did not receive physical touch on a daily and sometime even weekly basis. My mom left town when I was 7 and my dad remarried quickly to a lady who had a son my age. Any affection she had to give was toward her birth son, not my siblings or me. My dad had four young kids and a high-pressure job, so physical touch wasn’t on his radar.

As a young man I began to crave physical touch. I entered into a number of short-term relationships with girls trying to get my need met. Each relationship would last about three months, then I would break it off because emotional closeness was being offered along with the physical touch. That was too much for me.

When Anna and I married I thought physical touch was most dear to me. After all that was my love language. It turns out that seeking physical touch without relational vulnerability, intimacy and connection doesn’t work. Confused and hurt on why I wasn’t getting my love “need” met, I turned to God to meet the void I was feeling.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”

Did you see it. “Only then” Ofte we have to loose something in order to gain something. In my case I lost the counterfeit promise that physical touch alone could meet my longing. This allowed me to be “embraced by the One most dear.” The embrace of the One has become the primary embrace in my life. Practically, spending time each day sitting in silence with God as Father, Son and Spirit provides a mysterious embrace and meets a deeper longing than I knew I had.

What is most dear to you and have you lost it?

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From a Good Idea Toward Action

In my last post I pointed out that I noticed something new in the story of the father and two son’s in the Gospel of Luke. The statement, “He got the the point,” stood out. It happened to me again this morning as I kept reading that same story.

“Then he came to his senses and cried aloud, ‘Why, dozens of my father’s hired men have got more food than they can eat and here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go back to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have done wrong in the sight of Heaven and in your eyes. I don’t deserve to be called your son any more. Please take me on as one of your hired men.”’ (Luke 15:18)

The son had an idea, an ah ha of sorts. As I imagine the posture of this young man, desperate and out of options, feeling at the end of himself I wonder if he ran scenarios through his head the way I do. I often think, ok this isn’t working, I wonder if this would. Surely if I do this it will help the situation. Rarely does it help. Returning to this story with this son it seems like of the the things he came up with was, “Oh I’ve got it! I will get up and go back to my father… that’s what I’ll do. I’ll prepare a speech and go, that’s a great idea!”

Here is the new learning for me this morning, it’s in the following verse. Jesus, as the narrator of the story says this about the son, “So he got up and went to his father.” There it is, action. True repentence: re-evaluation that leads to action. The son didn’t just come up with the idea to go to the father, or consider it enough that he knew what would be best for him at the moment, to go to the father. No, this son actually got up and went to the father.

Chances are if you are reading this blog you know how the story ends, you know the fathers reaction. It’s remarkable to say the least. You and I have access to that same reaction, that same love as we move from time with the Father being a good idea toward physically, actually getting up and going to the Father. We are his sons and daughters after all.

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Have You Gotten To The Point?

Jesus tells a story in Luke 15 about two sons. It might be familiar to you. One of the sons decides to move away from one thing in his life and move toward another. This one decision changes the course of this son’s life.

After demanding his inheritance from his Father, something that would have been implausible in the Jewish culture, the son leaves home and spends all of his money on wild living. After his money runs out, the son eventually gets hired on with a pig farmer, possibly the most humiliating job for a Jewish son. Check out Jesus’ words as he tells the next part of the story, “He got to the point of longing to stuff himself with the food the pigs were eating and not a soul gave him anything.” (v16)

From privilege and wealth to poverty and pig slop. Young Literal Translation translates Jesus’ words this way, “And having come to himself…” I like to think that this young man comes to the end of himself and realizes something has to change. He gets to the point where life is not working the way he planned, so he decides to return to his father. He moves away from doing life on his own, and moves toward home, not knowing what is waiting for him there.

Have you gotten to the point? Is what you are doing in your life working? Are you trying to do life on your own? The son in this story  longs to stuff himself with pig slop, but he knows that, even in his deep hunger, the food will not satisfy. Only one thing curbs our longing, and it’s actually not a thing at all; it’s a return to the Father.