When Life Loses Its Taste

There are seasons, it seems, when life loses its taste. By that I mean that the things that once tasted savory or sweet no longer taste like anything, like sand.

I don’t believe, I don’t want or choose to believe, that these seasons are healthy, normal, nor helpful. I don’t believe they are indicative of reality – meaning a loss of taste does not mean a loss of an ability to taste. When life loses its taste, it is more likely a symptom of a deeper problem.

It could very well be that the issue is that one has had an appetite for the worthless. Like cheap chewing gum, worthless things lose their taste quickly and just become a chore to chew. The often-attempted solution is to get more gum, only to repeat the above cycle of disappointment.

Or, perhaps the things that should be joyful and rewarding don’t feel that way. I say, “don’t feel that way” because it is a feeling, not a reality. Relationships, family, hard work, achievement and improvement – those are all time-tested, God-ordained tasty morsels. They are gifts that meet the nutritional needs of our soul. So, what makes them taste bland?

If life loses its taste, it is because a lie has numbed our tongue. We tasted a lie. Some deceitful, discouraging accusation about God, ourselves, or the circumstances around us has been offered to us like the proverbial apple-in-the-garden and “chomp!” we’ve lost our taste. Things feel sad. The music of hope isn’t heard. The anticipation of good (joy) is flat. “What’s the use?” “I don’t care.” Passion disappears. Then comes cynicism, accompanied by criticism. If I can’t taste it, I don’t believe others can either; “who are they kidding?” Of course, this is quietly accompanied by deep jealousy over the apparent taste others are enjoying, but to acknowledge that someone else is experiencing a genuinely joyful moment is to acknowledge it is possible, and that the problem may not be “out there” as much as it is “in here.” Life hasn’t lost its taste, I have.

So, how do we recover? If a lie has displaced our taste, then the lie must be replaced. It isn’t easy to go lie-hunting; that too often leads to tail-chasing, introspective, too-much-like-Freud behavior. Instead of trying to look for the lie (which has already hidden itself into the landscape of your life), turn to truth. Just turn your eyes, your heart, your will, toward what is true. This seems to be what the Psalmist so often did, “I will…”

Consider Psalm 9:

  • I will give thanks to you Lord, with all my heart
    • Deliberate gratitude, fervently and deeply expressed gratitude is one of the most powerful and proven means of increasing our joy. It re-calibrates our thinking and speaking away from “woe is me” and forces a focus on the good we have received, and the good-will behind it.
  • I will tell of your wonderful deeds,
    • Rehearsing testimony and repeating good news strengthens our faith and repaints the canvass of our imagination with the truth of what the Lord has done.
  • I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your Name, O most high.
    • It is possible, it is prescribed, and it is powerful – to rejoice on purpose. Yes, literally just get-your-joy-on. It is like deciding to get out of bed. You just get up. And it isn’t a joy that is superficial or based on a mood or whim; it is a joy that is rooted in the person, nature – the Name of the Lord. Rejoicing in Him and because of Him is like slipping a long straw into the refreshing waters of eternal joy. We taste and see that the Lord is good. We rejoice in Him: His word, His ways, His will, His works, and then hope rises. Our perspective changes. Our countenance and conversation changes. Our taste-buds return.

When truth regains its rightful place, the power of the lie atrophies and dies. In fact, only when we first and most satisfy ourselves with gratitude, trust, and praise toward the Lord will we be able to enjoy the taste of all the things He graciously provides for our pleasure.

May you enjoy the feast available to you today – with thanksgiving.


Tidings of Comfort and Joy




The words to the carol begin, “God rest you merry, gentlemen.” The comma goes after merry. The word “rest” is a verb and in the oldest use it means “make.” It is saying, “God make you merry, gentlemen (the general audience). God make you joyful, and let nothing you dismay – let nothing frighten or trouble you.

And then the narrator explains how God has had provided for their merriment and quieted their anxious souls. Remember, says the caroler, that Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day. To save us all from Satan’s power while we were gone astray. So, Christ has saved us from a fierce enemy, and from the fruit of our own folly.  The oldest versions then say, “this brings” or “which brings tidings of comfort of Joy.” Remembering what Christ has done for us brings news of comfort and joy.

The actual origins of this song are not known, and I can’t find anywhere that says if the writer developed it from scripture. But the main refrain of the song is extracted directly from Jeremiah 31:13, “Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” Young women (same word in Hebrew as virgins) will dance and be glad. Why this? It is a symbol of hope – it’s why the “young” dance – because they represent anticipation of the future – anticipation dances when there is hope. Why hope? Because of what the Lord has done and promises to do. God says, “I will turn their mourning into gladness.” I will turn their sad song into a happy song. HOW? I will give them comfort and joy.

The first thing he gives is comfort. This is not just a hug and a “there, there.” The word carries the connotations of deep empathy – it sounds like the low-toned sigh of a caring adult quieting a troubled child. God says, “I will comfort you.” How? Immanuel. God with us. God saving us. Earlier, in v. 11, the prophet says the Lord will deliver Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they. God will comfort us by being bigger and truer and stronger than the things that trouble us, even and especially the things that are stronger than we are. He will be present: bringing down the noise, quieting the alarms, the voices, the pressures, the threats, the fears, anxieties, and un-ending expectations. He comforts us by confronting these things. Christ comforts us by His own victory over them.

The term Christus Victor refers to a Christian understanding of the atonement which views Christ’s death as the means by which the powers of evil, which held humankind under their dominion, were defeated. The idea is this: Christ is victor. Christ in his death and resurrection overcame the hostile powers that hold humanity in subjection, those powers variously understood as the devil, sin, the law and its condemnation, and fear and anxiety and even death.”

Christus Victor is rooted in the Incarnation and how Christ entered into human misery and wickedness and thus redeemed it. The Christus Victor view of the Atonement is a drama, a passion story of God triumphing over the powers of darkness and liberating humanity from the bondage of sin. He redeems us from everything that was stronger than we were. He comforts us by His victory over all our fears.

His comfort precedes and produces joy. Comfort comes first because it is the voice of truth. It displaces lie and shadow and threat. Comfort settles the soul. It prepares the way for joy. Joy cannot long abide in the troubled soul. Without comfort, joy is temporary, elusive – crowded out. So, He comforts us – that He may cause us to have joy.

He would comfort your soul – that he may cause your joy. Where are you troubled? “Benign” things: Life? Work, family, finances? Or does fear, unrest, regret, or pain trouble your soul? Christ has overcome. He is truth. He is love. He is power and grace. He is stronger. He Is Immanuel.  God rest you merry, dear friend. Let nothing you dismay. He wants you to dance again. Tidings of comfort and joy indeed.

Thanks for reading; Merry Christmas,



Whosoever Has the Most Joy Wins


A merry heart has a continual feast.

I am fan of joy. I have mentioned joy a couple of times, here and there, on this blog. I readily admit that joy is one my favorite themes. I have also found that it is one of the most helpful disciplines in living-out-my-faith. There are a host of solid reasons that scripture invites, implores and enjoins us time and again to rejoice in the Lord – always. And Proverbs 15:15 provides a second-to-none good reason: “a merry heart has a continual feast”. Today’s paraphrase thereof: Whosoever has the most joy, wins.

Joy is the Finish Line

I think that it is reasonable to say that, both in terms of short and long term goals, people want joy. We were made for it. A great deal of the things we do and accumulate are means to enlarge or secure our joy. Trouble is, a great many of those things fall short. Or, in order to sustain the “joy” they give us – we need more or better or new means to joy. However, if I am able to decide to derive joy from and in The Lord – His presence, His promise, His faithfulness, His truth, etc. – then I have a direct, immediate source and reason for joy. I can literally feast on joy now, and not wait until circumstances, people, conditions or assets change. I win!

Joy is Winning

Furthermore, joy precludes and displaces the junk that keeps me from winning. There are a host of loser-attitudes that joy squeezes out of the room like light does shadow. I cannot rejoice and complain at the same time. I cannot rejoice and be bitter. I can’t rejoice and blame others. I can’t rejoice and criticize others. I can’t rejoice and be negative. I can’t rejoice and be greedy. I can’t rejoice and be afraid. I can’t rejoice and be bored. I can’t rejoice and be impatient. I can’t rejoice and lust. I can’t rejoice and lose my temper. I can’t rejoice and despair. I can’t rejoice and give up. But I can rejoice and be grateful, hopeful, patient, positive, kind, gentle, faithful, grateful, optimistic, bold, fearless, encouraging, generous, grateful, content, forgiving, innocent and grateful. With joy I can persevere. With joy I can stand. With joy I can hope. With joy I can rise. With joy I am strong. Really, really strong. I win!

So, no need to wait until the Holiday Season to start feasting. Dig in! The merry heart has a continual feast. Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I will say it – rejoice.

Be a winner. Rejoice.

Thanks for reading,


Fresh Hope from Former Promises


Isaiah 43:18-19,  “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Isaiah 44:2-3, “Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing upon your descendants.”

There are a handful of approaches to interpreting and applying ancient prophesies like these.

One way is to read these words and seize upon them as if they were written freshly to the reader. The words are, or have become, God’s specific word to the reader at and for the time of their reading. It is not uncommon to hear that someone has read or remembered these words and re-presented them as the “right now” word of the Lord to the immediate audience and circumstance. One problem with this approach is that it requires a suspension of a great many other facts, including that these words were written to a specific people at a specific time and place and with a specific purpose. If these words were aimed at ancient Israel and their circumstances, did they miss? Have they hovered like Noah’s second dove only to finally descend on the contemporary reader? And if so, which reader? Who gains the right to claim the great promises from these passages?

Another approach is to view these prophetic passages through the long lens of history – and leave them there. It is to assert that Yahweh said this to them, and only them. This approach makes these words interesting, but only as inspiring as reading historical narratives. Having studied them, we might then just place these words on the appropriate shelf in the library – codified accordingly. Tidy, but empty.

I think a better option exists. The contemporary reader can read and re-read these words and find in them revelation and affirmation of the nature of God. We may draw from these passages fresh hope from the same God who breathed these words through His prophets. We can take courage and be inspired by the way God spoke to and about people like us who also blew it – sometimes big time. People who also found themselves thinking things used to better than now, or looking desperately for hope in troubling times. Or people that find themselves in places that seem dry. Or people whose concern for their children, for the next generation, weighs heavily upon them.

What did God say to these people? What does what He said affirm about Who He is and how we can trust Him? What hope can we draw from these words?

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Hey friends, do not live in the past. It takes no faith to live there. Don’t daydream in the rear view mirror. God isn’t out of ideas; He’s the most creative and optimistic Being in the cosmos. He has more up His sleeve than left-overs. Anticipate something fresh, new and life-giving from Heaven. Even if there seems to be no natural way forward, nor any probable means of provision – what God will do will result in you and me declaring His praise. So, lean forward! Look up! Anticipate the goodness of God, right now.

Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant…whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams upon the dry ground; I will pour Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing upon your descendants.

Listen carefully to the Lord who gave you life – He is the One who will give you help.  Do not be afraid. Really: banish fear. Have no company with it. It is not an adviser, but an accuser. Don’t be overwhelmed by what appears to be desperate circumstances. God’s solution for dry and desert places isn’t incremental change, but rather an outpouring of His Spirit. His solution for your poverty is His generosity. In a moment He can change the landscape and climate of your circumstances. So, open up wide and stir your thirst – He will meet you there. But not only you. Know this: He has no interest in single-generation visitation. What God does in and for you and in your midst – He intends to continue. He promises to remain present and powerful with your descendants. What God starts, He sustains. So, have the same attitude as heaven and pray and plan in the same portion as He promises – with an eye on your descendants continuing to benefit from the blessing of the Lord.

There is fresh hope to be extracted from former promises. Indeed, every promise of God is “yes” in Jesus; He fulfills every good thing God has promised to us. And because of that, we may say “amen” to His promises – no matter when they were promised.

Thanks for reading; I hope you’re encouraged today




He’s the God of the Hilltops and the God of the Valleys

Fog in the Connecticut River Valley as seen from a hilltop farm in Stewartstown, New Hampshire.

1 Kings 20:23-30

I would like to caution against asserting a theology that declares God is more willing to be present or loving or powerful in one place over another place.  Not in a building, nor “out on the streets” – neither is relevant. There is nothing sacred about geography, buildings, etc. I have heard it repeated time and again that God is more willing to act in third world/overseas vs. North America, or “the market place” vs. in the gathering of believers. It suggests favoritism and smacks of insinuation against the nature of God. He acts according to His Nature and in response to faith – He is no respecter of persons or places, and He does not change like the shifting shadows.

It is pagan, in fact, to think in terms of “out there” or “in here.” It was pagan for the Arameans (1 Kings 20:23-30) to think Yahweh was restricted to a certain jurisdiction or region (hills, but not valleys). The pagan king thought that since he lost a battle in the hills, that perhaps he’d be more successful in the valleys.  However, The Lord displayed his power without locational restraint or preference. Yahweh is “I am” – He is fully present in the moment, in the spot.

(I can’t help but pause to allegorize here a bit – this pagan king’s plan to “get Israel down in the valley” in order to defeat them – sounds all too familiar, right? The enemy often seeks to drag us into valleys of discouragement, depression or distraction – places where we might well be vulnerable or weak – and do his worst to wound us there. But dear friend – the same God who is present in the highest point of our lives is present in the low places as well. He will never leave us nor forsake us; He is faithful; His love endures forever. Yea – even though you sludge through the valley of the shadow of death – fear not! He IS WITH YOU.)

The same glory on the mount of transfiguration was powerfully present to deliver the young boy from the harassing evil spirit (Mark 9). The same authority to drive out devils in synagogue was present to rebuke a fever (Luke 4). We need not worry about when or if the water is troubled (John 5), but determine that we are willing to be made well. Jesus didn’t care about the Jacuzzi; he was after the man’s will.

So, don’t be superstitious about locations or timing or even the right song… Just practice His presence and power and love – all the time. The battlefield is in our thoughts, in our attitudes, in our readiness, in the ruling superstitions that still determine when, how, or IF we experience God’s presence and power. He is not fickle, we are. He is not moody; we are. He is not easily distracted; we are. He isn’t even easily offended; we are.

Now, there is more to locations, at times, than I fully grasp. I know that angels attend us, and appear certain places or guard places or etc. I am aware of the inexplicable episodes of divine presence and eruption in certain places and seasons. I am convinced there is more to those stories than we really know. What we DO know is what is important. The emphasis in the Kingdom is the presence of God in/on/among people. You are the temple. Location is irrelevant to God’s presence and power. Faith is relevant. Worship is relevant. Humility is relevant. Hope is relevant. Joyful anticipation is relevant. Obedience and even risk are relevant.

Our mind-set, our confidence, our faith-anticipation often is often influenced (negatively or positively) by location. This habit is at the root of a great deal of our boredom, our dissatisfaction, our lack of fruitfulness, etc. Too often believers contextualize the potential and potency of the Dynamic Presence of God. But the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. His desire is to cover the earth with the knowledge (personal intimate experience) of His glory (Hab. 2:14). Wherever you are – He is fully present and invites your readiness, your anticipation of His Glory, your embrace of His Lavish Loving Presence, and your participation with His power.

  • In your seat at worship service, or in your seat behind the wheel of your car
  • While you’re singing your favorite song, or selling your featured product
  • While you’re standing in the prayer line or the check-out line
  • At summer camp, or at the school dance
  • Prophesying by the fire pit, or small-talking at the water cooler.
  • If it is any other way, it is just religion, superstition.

So – remember He is the God of the Hills and the God of the valleys.  He does not change; He is fully present. The rest is up to us.

Leaders Pray for Those in Their Care

prayer hands


Of all I have read about how to be a super-ninja-hip Christian leader, one of the fewest emphases I’ve seen is this: Leaders are intercessors. Or, at least they should be.

1 Samuel 7:8, “And the people of Israel said to Samuel, ‘Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.’”

The people of Israel urged Samuel not to cease to make intercession for them that the Lord would intervene, saving them from their oppressors / attackers.

I fully understand that we do not live under the same dynamic as Israel, that the nature of the Kingdom is less hierarchical and that every believer is a priest. In Christ, each of us can and should come to the Lord in prayer on our own, for our own concerns, and have gratitude and confidence that our prayers matter to heaven.

However, there remains a leadership principle here.

Samuel was their leader. They trusted him; he served them. And what they asked of him was to pray for them. Specifically – to “not cease to cry out to the Lord for them.” Regardless of the differences between contemporary settings and the religious system of ancient Israel, this remains true: part of our calling and responsibility as Christian leaders is to pray for those we have the responsibility to serve. They need us to; we need us to.

The examples are blazon. Jesus, our Lord, Savior, High Priest and King interceded for His followers, and for those that would follow them. He prayed so much and so often in secret that we don’t know what and how He prayed. But what is recorded for us in John 17 is sufficient to know that He interceded for us before the cross. And Hebrews 7:25 affirms that Jesus is still interceding for us – in whatever mystical manner that implies.

Paul interceded much for his churches. Each letter from him contains includes the contents of just some of his prayers. A casual reading of his letters leaves no question that the Apostle understood it was his apostolic responsibility to “not cease” crying out the Lord for those he led.

Furthermore, with Samuel, Jesus and Paul – those for whom they prayed were aware that their leaders were praying for them, and (at least somewhat) aware of what their leaders were praying for them. The same should be true for those we serve. They should know we are praying for them and even what we are praying.

Consider how important this is and what effect it has.

First, there is the effect that prayer has – period. Prayer matters. It makes a difference. Heaven partners with praying leaders. Samuel’s prayers mattered – they helped secure the Hand of the Lord to save Israel from the Philistines. Jesus’ prayers matter (nuff said). Paul’s prayers mattered – and have for 2000 years. Our prayers matter. No, not necessarily more than the prayers of those we serve. But they DO MATTER. Our prayer – our intercession – over the lives of those entrusted to our leadership is sacred currency to heaven. Our prayers matter over our children, our friends, our staff, our students, our teams, our churches and our organizations. The first and greatest responsibility for any and every Christian leader is pray over and for everything and everyone under their responsibility.

Further, there is the effect that knowing they’re being prayed for has on people. How do you suppose the readers of the epistles felt when they read Paul’s prayers for them? How were they encouraged? How was their faith informed? What did knowing the content and passion of Paul’s prayers for them do to help them feel the love and commitment Paul had toward them? People really appreciate knowing that their leaders are praying for them (obviously this is truer in organizations where there is a shared, corporate faith. In secular contexts, it may not be plausible or even proper for people to know leaders are praying for them. But we should pray none-the-less). Sometimes I have observed that the more specifically people know what we are praying for them, the greater the impact it has on them. They appreciate it more deeply and more encouraged. People want and need to know we’re praying for them.

Finally, there is the effect that praying for those we lead has on us. When leaders intercede for those in their care, they tend to care more. Praying for those we lead keeps the heart of the leader connected to the perspective and passion of heaven. It protects our perspective from the influences of carnality, competition, and conflict. Praying for those I lead keeps Heaven’s purposes for them in my heart and on my mind. And Heaven’s purpose must be my singular goal. I cannot lead well anyone for whom I have not prayed well.

Therefore, leaders of whomever and whatever you lead – do not cease to cry out to the Lord for whatever and whomever is in your care. It matters.

Thanks for reading (and for leading, and for praying)

Come, Holy Spirit


“Come, Holy Spirit!”

What does this mean?

When I pray, “Come, Holy Spirit” I offer no erroneous assertion. I recognize He is already present – I could never go somewhere where He isn’t. Nor am I capable of summoning the Sovereign of the Cosmos.

For me to pray, “Come, Holy Spirit” is to ask that He manifest His presence and influence in my life – in my person and circumstances. There is little question that there is a difference between the acquiescent (omnipresent) presence of the Spirit and the dynamic, manifest presence. Even if that difference is often (or mostly) only realized by faith (and not necessarily the senses), it is in fact faith that I exercise with the words, “come, Holy Spirit.” By faith I embrace and make myself aware of His presence. Often this results in some form of sensory awareness, ranging from a mild, personal, subjective sensation to a shared, powerful experience with others.

For me to say, “Come, Holy Spirit” is an expression of my own submission to Him. I consciously yield my cognitions, my affections and my actions to His immediate influence and infilling. With gratitude I patiently reflect on my circumstances, surroundings, and concerns and visualize all things surrendered to Him.

For me to say, “Come, Holy Spirit” is to honor Him, to reverence Him, and to welcome Him. I am expressing a sacred awareness of the Presence of the Holy One in my heart and life. I am deeply humbled and pristinely happy to host His Presence.

For me to say, “Come, Holy Spirit” is to value Him above the pressing matters and urgent concerns of the moment. It is to give my attention to Him first and most. It is to magnify Him in my perspective so that He eclipses all other things. Only in this light do I see clearly.

So I quite often, throughout the day, quiet myself and focus with joy uttering the phrase, “Come, Holy Spirit.” And to my immense awe and wonder, He always does; He always “is.”

Blessed Holy Spirit, Come!

*Come, O Creator Spirit, blest, and in our souls take up Thy rest;

Come, with Thy grace and heavenly aid, to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

Great Paraclete, to Thee we cry: O highest gift of God Most High; O Fount of life! O Fire of love!  The sweet Anointing from above!

The sacred sevenfold grace is Thine, Dread Finger of the hand Divine: The promise of the Father Thou, Who dost the tongue with power endow.

Our senses touch with light and fire; our hearts with charity inspire; And with endurance from on high the weakness of our flesh supply.

Far back our enemy repel, and let Thy peace within us dwell; so may we, having Thee for Guide, Turn from each hurtful thing aside.

O may Thy grace on us bestow The Father and the Son to know, and ever more to hold confessed Thyself of each the Spirit blest.

Thanks for reading! Share if you like.

*The Hymnal: Published by the authority of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., 1895

Get A Big Tree


When I was a kid, for a few years I remember going to the Christmas tree “farm” and our family wandering around looking for the perfect tree to saw down and haul home. I remember the exhilarating desire to search for and select not only the most perfectly shaped tree, but a really big one. Without fail, my mom would decline my first few suggested trees, not because they were unattractive, but always for this one reason: they were just too big. She’d say that by the time we put it in a stand it would be taller than the ceiling.

But a big tree is what I wanted. A big tree it had to be. Why? Well, obviously because the bigger the tree the more presents, and bigger presents, would be under the tree. Clearly, the size of the tree determined the magnitude of gifts there-under. Clearly. So, we had to get a big tree.

Now, as I reflect upon my preadolescent reasoning, I know that my hope wasn’t really in the size of the tree. It was really about my confidence in the nature of my parents. I knew the size of their affection, and the joy of their generosity. Those great qualities inspired my hope for the good times wrapped under the tree. So, we had to get a big tree.

And, my friends, it is that same confidence in the profound goodness of God that inspired the Apostle Paul to pen one of the pinnacle promises in scripture, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28). If this promise is true, we had better get a big tree.

If God is causing all things to work together for our good, then there is going to be A LOT of good things under the tree. In fact, somehow, ALL THINGS will be under there: the good, the bad, the ugly, the bright, the dark, the sweet and the bitter, the calm and the storm, ups and downs, laughter and sorrows. All things. We better get a big tree.

All things are pressed into the service of God and packaged for our good. If all things are being worked out, worked together for my good by a loving and gracious God, then I had better get a big tree. Psalm 31:19, “Your goodness is so great! You have stored up great blessings for those who honor you!”

John Piper writes, “If you live inside this massive promise, your life is more solid and stable than Mount Everest. Nothing can blow you over when you are inside the walls of Romans 8:28.”

This promise assures us that it is not just going to be okay, it is going to be good. There never has been and never will be a circumstance in your life where this promise is irrelevant. It is particularly powerful in times of challenge, heartache, setback or despair. It is NOT a proof-text to tell us “why bad things happen.” It does not suggest God is the author of calamity or hardship. It promises that God is too good to be overcome by any of it. It may not provide answers to our questions, but  it assures us of peace. Nothing will ever enter your experience as God’s child that, by God’s profound goodness, will not turn out to be a benefit for you. Get a big tree.

This promise assures you that God is FOR you. If we will believe this deeply, we will not only survive, but will thrive in the pressures and temptations of modern life. We can believe deeply that God almighty is taking every set back and and every discouragement and pressure and pain and stripping it of its destructive power and making it work for our good. Get a big tree.

We can know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. All things. All of them. Wow.

We better get a very big tree.

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to share.
~ Dav



The Fallow Ground of Abandoned Hope

fallow ground

Every acre of your life should glisten with the dew of hope. Hope, in fact, is one of the chief characteristics of our calling (Eph. 1:18). But sometimes the gap between promise and possession becomes fallow.

The fallow ground of abandoned hope.

Fallow ground is soil that has at one point been prepared, but then left inactive – abandoned – until it becomes resistant to seed and moisture. This is ground where we’ve ceased to expect results. These are places where disappointment has led to discouragement and even disbelief. Fallow ground is where you have stopped hoping things will be different. This is the fallow ground of abandoned hope.

The Path toward Fallow Ground

Have you ever been disappointed? Hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12). Disappointment is tiring, wearying and can even be devastating – like a wound in our soul. Over time, disappointment leads to discouragement; the wound in the soul becomes inflamed or infected. Discouragement can be too painful or frustrating to face or fight, and eventually the scar of disbelief covers the wound in our soul. Fallow ground is left. We no longer bother with hope in that place.

After all, isn’t it easier to acquiesce to status quo than to anticipate change? Isn’t easier, less painful, less frustrating to cope than to confront? Because, after a while, it feels like it has been after a while. This is the fallow ground of abandoned hope.

This is the ground, I believe, of a father’s heart in Mark 9:14-24.  The story pivots on  Jesus’ statement to this desperate father that “all things are possible to him who believes.” The daddy responds with “I believe (I want to believe, I know I should believe, I am trying to believe); help my unbelief.” Help my unbelief? This was no willful rejection of faith. No, I believe the father was saying something much more like this:

I’ve been disappointed so often. The heartache of watching this boy’s life being destroyed has been overwhelming for me. I have tried everything – twice. It has been like this for too long. What hope I had ran out a long time ago. I brought him to your disciples, and not even they could help. And now… now YOU are standing in front me, asking me to believe?

Yes. Yes He is. He stands as the single greatest hope on the planet, as the savior of the world, God-become-man, the anointed One, and asks you to trust Him. And if you will permit me to project my view upon the story, I believe the father’s confession of faith, but request for help reveals that He heard something in voice of Jesus, that he saw something in face of the son of God that began to break up the hardened soil in his soul. There is something about Jesus and His perfect, pristine radiance of God’s glory and expression of His Nature (Hebrews 1:3) that breaks through the dark clouds of fear and pain and draws us to risk, to trust, to hope again. From the blazing love behind his piercing gaze, Jesus says, “all things are possible.” There is nothing that is not possible. His words beckon hope’s return.

How to Restore Hope to Fallow Ground

If the gap between possession and promise has dried and hardened, it needs be broken up. We can till the ground with truth: God’s person (who He is), His promise (what He has said), His Providence (what He has done), and His power (what He can do).

We strike the dry soil in our soul, reminding it of who God is, that He is Good, profoundly and exceedingly Good, and that his loving-kindness endures forever. We declare that He is faithful and He is Holy. (Pardon the grammar that follows) He is gooder, wiser, kinder, and better than I’ll ever know or can measure. We then remind our soul of all that this great-big-good-God has said, of His promises – and that each one is “yes” in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20). Further, we use the tool of God’s providence – we recall and recite what God has done for us and for others. We can be very generous in the application of providence; the testimony of the Lord is a powerful and practical tool to restore hope. Finally, we recall that what whatever God has done, and what He has said He will do, He has the power to perform. Like Abraham we stand in the place of barrenness and believe in “God who raises the dead and calls the things that are not as though they already were. Against all hope, with hope he believed…that what God had promised He was able to perform” (Romans 4:17-18, 21).

And we fasten hope to the soil of our hearts with the chords of perseverance (Heb. 10:36-39). Perseverance means we will not give up this ground again to hopelessness. We will not cease to till our soul with the truth of God’s person, promise, providence and power. We will not shrink back. Believing deeply, we hope boldly. And we persevere, because something has got to change, something has got to give, and it’s not going to be us: dry bones will rattle with life, springs will rise up in the desert places, light will break through the clouds; blind eyes will open; deaf ears will see; the lame will walk. Hope will rise and rest upon the landscape of our life as fresh as the morning dew.

Thanks for reading. I pray you are encouraged. Consider using the social media buttons below to share this post with others.
~ Dav



Don’t Lose Heart Doing Good



What’s the use? Is there anything more deflating than the sense that what you are doing doesn’t matter? Have you ever felt that way? Or perhaps more accurately, how often do you feel that way? You’re trying to do what is right. You are trying to help. You are making things right. You are making things better – for a friend, a family member, for the whole family, for someone in need, for lots of people in need, for the church, for a stranger. You’re doing what feels like what should be done. You’re making sure, the best you can, things can keep going. You may even be doing what will only get done if you are the one doing it. And you keep doing it. You are doing what is good. And quite possibly, even probably, you get weary.

You are the person the Apostle Paul has in mind when he writes, “…do not grow weary in doing good” (2 Thess. 3:13). It isn’t unusual for Paul to say something like this (Gal. 6:10). He must have known a little something about doing what is good, and a little something about why sometimes we might get weary doing it. I think it might help to look at why we can get weary, and then to consider some rejuvenating truths about our well-doing.

Don’t Lose Heart

First, it might help to look more closely at Paul’s words in the text. He isn’t saying, “don’t get tired,” rather he saying, “don’t lose heart; don’t lose courage.” Paul is not just telling his audience to pound down an energy drink and get back to work. He is not telling us never to rest; he is urging us never to give up. He is speaking to our inner person, to our hearts, because that is the place where we get weary.

Why We Get Weary

We can run out of steam when doing good for several reasons. First, because we may not feel that we’re doing really matters – that it is making a difference. Is anyone or anything changing? Have we made any real progress? The dance of taking two steps forward and three back will wear you out in short order.

Second, we may get weary because we do not feel appreciated. It’s tough to feel like we’re doing what is right, and doing it with all our might, and have it go unnoticed or under-recognized. Right about then we often feel a bit resentful. Or we might wonder if no one is noticing because maybe it doesn’t matter after all. Maybe someone else could or should do this, and maybe do it better, if at all.

Third, we may get weary because we fear running out: out of energy, of resources, of ideas, of money, of time… that there just won’t be enough of what it takes to get it done. Fear of lack can squeeze the courage right out of our hearts.

Weariness, here, is a matter of the heart. Time-outs and time-off won’t help this, but truth will.

How to Overcome Weariness

Let me say that there is nothing wrong – at all – with a good nap. Without sleep the drama-factor increases by a bazillion. Everything feels worse without rest. Rest happens to God’s most natural means of assuaging weariness. So, when you’re tempted to give up, sleep on it and take a fresh look when you wake up.

Second, it is absolutely essential that we do everything unto and for the Lord. Whatever we do, we do it all our might as unto the Lord, and for His glory. There is joy in that. There is strength in that. There is even an assurance that regardless of what I can measure (or cannot measure) what I am doing for (and with) the Lord matters. It matters because He makes it matter. It matters because He is the master architect, builder and artist. He always makes things work out for good. He always uses the most apparently insignificant things to make the biggest difference. He wastes nothing: no person, no resource, no opportunity. There is no way anything we do for the Lord can “not matter.” Hear Paul tell the Corinthian church, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58). The message bible says it this way, “being confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.” Don’t get weary – because everything you do for and with Him matters.

Third, let us rest in the deep assurance of Heaven’s praise. It is normal and healthy to enjoy affirmation from others. Positive feedback, appreciation and sincere compliments are morale boosters and courage-builders. God made us this way. It’s one of the reasons that it is urgent that we constantly encourage others. However, people’s praise is often passing. Further, praise from men is hardly the gold-standard of well-doing. Depending on the situation, you could just as easily be despised for doing good. We must do good because we love people, not because we love their praise. All the honor, praise, and reward only matters when heaven says so. We must set our hope on heaven’s praise (2 Cor. 5:9-10), and do good.

So, dear friend, don’t get weary. Don’t lose heart. What you’re doing matters. The Lord sees, records and rewards. Keep up the good work.