Thursday, October 22nd, 2020 - My Top 5
Today, I wanted to invite you into the 5 Bible passages that have, over the years, proven to be some of the more influential in my life. I’m not trying to suggest that these are the most important verses, nor am I implying a hierarchy of sorts in the scriptures, but let’s be real – not every verse hits the same way. “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16) lands a little differently than “The Nile shall swarm with frogs” (Exodus 8:3). Maybe it’s just me, but I haven’t seen that bumper sticker yet. Different verses at different times in our lives speak to us in different ways, but there are also those passages we come back to again and again and again. These are 5 of those verses for me:
For me, Genesis 1-3 explains so much of our world. Our loves, our joys, our fears, our hate, our anger, our capacity for beauty and for brokenness – it’s all summed up here. One day, we’ll have to take a deep dive into these chapters, but for me, when I need to make sense of the ‘why’ behind what happens in life, Genesis 1-3 is incredibly helpful.
This section of scripture has always challenged me to see challenges and hardships and difficulty through the lens of opportunity and responsibility. Here are God’s people, exiled into a foreign land, dejected and defeated, wanting nothing more than to go home and God says, “Nope, not yet. It’s not time to leave here, it’s time to be all here.” Love, live, bless, pray, serve, work here among these people and in this place. Whenever I want to pack up and call it quits, Jeremiah 29 reminds me that God does some of his best work through his people when his people are in the last places they’d prefer to be.
The calling of Peter and the fishing trip that went wrong in the best sort of way has just become a scripture that I enjoy reading. There’s something about it that feels new every time I read it. Can’t put my finger on why this happens, it’s just become a passage of scripture that God seems to enjoy surprising me with again and again.
“For God has not given us a Spirit of fear but of power, love and self-control/discipline.” I come back to this verse again and again because it reminds me that everything I lack and need, God promises. Power, love, self-control; these are the things I need each and every day and they are the very things God promises us through the presence of the Holy Spirit. I so often forget that and so, 2 Timothy 1:7 has become a much-needed reminder of God’s promise in my life.
When John sees Jesus in all his fullness and glory, John falls down like a dead man. It’s the only time this happens in the whole book of Revelation. In a book filled with terrifying imagery, it is this vision of Jesus and nothing else that causes John this kind of fear. Remarkably, Jesus doesn’t want it. The only one worthy of John’s fear does not want it. Seeing Jesus like this gave John the courage to face everything else that was about to come his way, because when the only one worthy of your fear doesn’t want it, there’s nothing left to be afraid of.
Fear has often kept me from stepping out in faith, taking risks, asking questions, and making the decisions that I sensed God calling me to make. When I realized this about Jesus, I found a freedom and courage I hadn’t yet experienced. The fear of the Lord may indeed be the beginning of wisdom, but it is just that – the beginning. Because of Jesus, what begins in fear, culminates in love. When fear no longer dictates your decision making, you are freed for joyful obedience to Jesus.
So that’s 5 of the more influential verses in my life but as I wrap this up, I’ll give you a 6th bonus verse. Variations of this verse show up all over the Old Testament, but the verse I’ll leave you with comes from Joshua 1:8 (NIV). It says, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night.” There’s a lot to love about these words, but here’s what God has used to absolutely capture my heart: it’s the word meditate. The Hebrew meaning of this word is applied to the way lions will prowl over their prey. If you’ve ever seen a lion hunt, stalk, acquire, and defend their meal, the last thing I’d ever want to do is come between a lion and its dinner.
That’s the word the Bible uses to encourage us to meditate on the scriptures – to go after God’s word like a lion after its prey.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading up on my five – what are yours?
Tuesday, October 20th, 2020 - Devoted
This week my family has been blessed with a little time away to celebrate my wife and daughter’s birthdays, so I thought I’d use this as an opportunity to approach this week’s blogs a little differently. This week, I want to invite you into the books, music, podcasts, and other resources that have been sustaining me through some of our current challenges, as well as shaping me as a leader, dad, husband, pastor, and most importantly, follower of Jesus. There’s no particular order here, so let’s just jump in:
Here’s what I’ve been reading lately:
- Beautiful Resistance by Jon Tyson - If you’re looking to be inspired, challenged, pushed, and encouraged to live a life of deep commitment to Jesus for the sake of the world, I can’t think of a better place to start right now.
- A Glorious Dark by A.J. Swoboda - If you’ve got questions or found yourself detaching from or deconstructing your faith in God, this would be an excellent book to consider reading. Honest, inquisitive, and raw, this book looks at the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of Jesus’ death on the cross, burial, and resurrection as a way of helping us process our experiences of doubt, darkness, and questions.
- The Unseen Realm by Michael Heiser - OK – this is a wild card. The Unseen Realm is a deep, deep dive into some of the more difficult Old Testament passages, and it aims to help us see the Bible the way our ancient siblings in the faith would have seen the Bible. This is not for the faint of heart or those looking for just a casual read, but personally, I’ve found it fascinating and compelling.
Here’s the podcasts I’ve been listening to a lot lately:
- The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast - This podcast invites leaders in and out of the church to share their knowledge, successes, failures, and experiences in a super informal interview format. Nieuwhof is a former lead pastor of a large church and, for me, is one of the leading voices helping churches, leaders, and pastors navigate our current complexities. (Some episodes I really enjoyed: Episode 336 with Mike Todd, 366 with Gordon MacDonald, 356 with Darius Daniels, and 340 with Annie F. Downs)
- Theology in the Raw - Preston Sprinkle is a seminary professor willing to tackle any and every theological challenge today. The Podcast is deep, but accessible, includes a diverse array of guests, and often addresses complex and controversial issues our culture is facing. (Some episodes I really enjoyed: Episode 714 with Sandy Richter, 721 with A.J. Swoboda, and 709 with Michael Heiser)
Here’s some music I’ve been enjoying recently:
- Brandon Lake’s new album House of Miracles has been on repeat – a lot.
- Kari Jobe has an upcoming album that is not yet fully released, but the song Your Nature is amazing.
- Bless the One by Mac Brock and Matt Maher
is a new favorite of mine. If you
haven’t heard it yet, you should.
Other random things that have been encouraging, sustaining, and life giving to me:
- Going to bed earlier in order to wake up earlier in the morning. Our lives are a little crazy with two kids in digital academy and a toddler who is determined to open every, single drawer in the house, so sacrificing a bit of time in the evening to start the day with a workout, scripture, and coffee has been incredibly helpful.
- Walking. I’ve been taking daily walks with our 1 year old while listening to the podcasts, sermons, and music online. I’ve found that walking while listening to these things actually helps me focus more attentively on the material being discussed.
- Structure. Our family is diligently working through sleep training for our 1 year old and to make this possible, my wife created a daily rhythm we follow from dinner on. This has actually proved really helpful to all of us. Took a little while to adjust, but now that it’s becoming habitual, we’re beginning to really inhabit the process, and find life in it.
Acts 2 says that the apostles devoted themselves to prayer, learning, shared meals, and doing life together. Those are four beautiful commitments, but did you hear what they did? They devoted themselves to these rhythms. As wonderful and self-evident as these practices are, they had to devote themselves to them. They weren’t automatic. They had to make the willful decision that these things would not be negotiable in their lives.
We’re all in this together. We’ve got to willfully devote ourselves to the practices and rhythms that will help us more fully realize the life God has called us to. Devotion takes time, practice, sacrifice, and commitment. It means there will be plenty of times where you don’t feel like doing what you know you need to do, but here’s the good news I heard Leonard Sweet drop in a podcast the other day: It’s easier to act your way into new feelings, than to feel your way into actions. Habitual action is like a trail of breadcrumbs for your feelings; over time, they find a way of finding you.
I hope some of what’s been encouraging me will encourage you as well. Let’s get to doing, so our hearts can catch up!