Needed information

“But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

It has stuck with me all through the season. Luke 2 tells the familiar story of angels proclaiming the greatest birth announcement in the universe to the shepherds. The shepherds, in turn, visit Mary and Joseph and Christ the Child. The birthday party gets turned up to 11 and then… verse 19 shows us the state of the mother, Mary:

She treasures and ponders the words of the shepherds.


Consider what she has already experienced:

Gabriel the angel comes to Mary earlier in the story. He tells her she is expecting. He tells her God is the Father.

The virgin has a Baby – she knows that this is a MIRACLE laying in the feeding trough.

Mary knows how impossible Jesus is.

So why does Mary ponder the words of the shepherds when she has heard the words of the angels?

Why treasure the words of the shepherds when she has given birth to the treasured Word of God?

The shepherds do not give advice on how to raise a Son.
They do not tell Mary how to connect with God.
They do not give directions to a place of comfort or safety.

What do they offer?

Interesting thing about these particular shepherds: They are stewards of David’s flock. The sheep that they look after are the sheep that are raised for sacrifice in Jerusalem. They know sacrificial lambs.

These shepherds know what it means to find a baby lamb, raise it, protect it, feed it, keep it warm, name it, walk with it, talk to it, teach it, discipline it, provide for it, make it lie down in green pastures, prepare for it, feed it some more, fall in love with it… then give it up for sacrifice.

Shepherds know how to prepare a life for death that saves life.

I do not believe that the shepherds knew all of the nuances of spiritual discipline. I don’t think that they could quote the pertinent information about sacrificial lambs and why God instituted an atonement system for the people of Israel. They probably could not tell you or me or Mary why God would send His Son to re-connect us with Him and restore the soul of anyone willing.

But God sent the shepherds to relay some necessary information: “This is how you raise a Lamb for sacrifice.”

This is the love of God: God sent the only people in the world who knew the difficulty of loving the Lamb for Sacrifice to a woman who would have to watch her Son bring forgiveness to the world from a cross.

Mary treasured these things, pondering them in her heart.

It breaks my heart that Mary had to hear that information; had to ponder those words. Would my heart be strong enough to ponder those words? I don’t know…

But I know that I, like the shepherds and Mary, get to fall in love with the Lamb for Sacrifice.

Just like Mary, I have to send Jesus to the cross.

If you want Life, you have to send Jesus to the cross.

(Truth be told, He went to the cross willingly for us)

This is necessary information.

To whom is God sending you with necessary information?

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Jordan’s Tomorrow

I showed up at the hospital on the day that Jordan’s mom and dad were bringing him home. We ate and told stories and got excited about life after birth. The doctor came in and released them to go home as a family. Nothing is more exciting and anxiety-initiating than taking your newborn home and being a family without nurses watching your every move.

Then came the big moment.

It was time to go home.

First, we had to secure sweet Jordan in his car seat.

His dad buckled him in.

His mom checked to make sure he was buckled in.

The nurse came and checked to see if he was buckled in.

I checked it.

They checked it again.

They invited all the parents in the hospital to check the seat.


They drove away from the hospital the same way that I drove after the birth of my firstborn: hands at 10 and 2, driving five miles per hour, checking for traffic ten times before you accelerate, and exercising every caution possible…

There is a beautiful reason they were so careful.

They desire a future for Jordan.

Jordan’s parents are not content with his birth – they want him to have a tomorrow and they will go to great lengths to provide that for him.

John 5 tells the story of a man who needed to be healed. He could not move and nobody seemed able to help.

Jesus walked up to him and asked him if he wished to get well. The man’s reply breaks my heart.

He said, “There is nobody…”. Nobody to take me to the well. Nobody to feed me dinner. Nobody to comfort me. Nobody to date. Nobody to play monopoly with. Whatever I am involved with, I am alone in it.

I am alone.

Have you felt that? Do you relate? Empathize?

Jesus responds. Jesus answers a prayer that the man did not even have the hope to pray. This broken man could not even ask for healing. Instead he told Jesus that he had no one to help. But Jesus wants more for the man.

The first thing that God in the flesh does is restore: “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” (Verse 8)

That is a miracle on so many different levels. Christ is saying, “You are healed. You are not alone. You are loved. You are whole… You are ALIVE!”

But Christ is not content wtih ALIVE. Jesus wants a tomorrow for the man.

Just a little later, Jesus finds the man in the temple. He engages again and tells the man, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” (Verse 14)

Do not sin anymore.” These are the words of a God that has plans for your tomorrow; plans to sanctify you.

Jesus desires more than today for you.

Jesus desires more than tomorrow for you.

Jesus desires sanctification for you. (1 Thessalonians 4:3)

Even when you don’t have enough hope to pray, He is not content with healing you or loving you.

Jesus goes to great lengths (even death on a cross) for your tomorrow.

God, thank You for restoring me continually. Thank You for not leaving me alone. Thank You for the tomorrow I have, even when i die, You have plans.

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The Perfect Whistle

Joshua had his first experience with losing a tooth this week.

He pulled it out himself. Then lost the tooth. Then we found it.

He was exceptionally excited… for a whistle.

"YAY! Now the tooth fairy will bring me a whistle!"

Yes… Wait. What? The tooth fairy probably cannot find a whistle at 10:00 at night kid. It is too late. The tooth fairy has a limited amount of resources. The tooth fairy probably wants to go to sleep. It was a long day for the tooth fairy. If you want a whistle, you might have to give the tooth fairy a minimum of three days. A whistle is impossible tonight.

So there I was in the store at around 11:00 hunting the perfect whistle with which to redeem a lost tooth.

I circled that store for about an hour and finally came across a camping whistle: It has a compass (totally unreliable compass) and a magnifying glass (.2X magnification maybe), and a thermometer (consistently at 80 degrees), and the decibel output = not loud).

YES! That is the one!
Joshua is totally stoked!
Best. Tooth Fairy. Ever.

I am not always a great dad, in fact I am not even in the top ten, but I will go to ANY extreme possible to try to take care of my family.

And that got me thinking about dedication.

Want to play a game with me? Fill in the blank with one of these phrases: any, almost any, some, no, occasional…

1. I will go to _______________ extreme to help my friend.
2. I will go to _______________ extreme to help a stranger.
3. I will go to _______________ extreme to help my enemy.

Do you get a glimpse of how much I love you by how I answer that question about you?

Do you see the importance of personal sacrifice in love?

Do you recognize the connection between acts and heart?

Let's look at Jesus:

"But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him." – Isaiah 53:5-6

These words, written about Christ long before He hung on the cross, remind us of God's answer to my fill in the blank questions.

How far would God go? All the way to the cross. Even when it is late and all you ask for is the impossible…

Maybe today you would ask Him to redeem that which is lost. Jesus redeemed me when I was lost. He will do it for you too.

"Jesus, I want salvation for my family. Please do not rest or slumber until You have redeemed. Amen."

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God-sized Calling

Joshua worked so hard on his backpack.  We were getting ready for a trip to see the cousins and Joshua made sure that he packed enough toys for the week (month).  

Then he came face to face with the cousins.

Joshua’s backpack rests in the back of the Jeep – unopened – forgotten – unnecessary.

Cousins trump toys.

Have you ever worked for something only to find that God has a bigger calling for you?
Would you let go of the things you think are amazing so Jesus can do something God-sized with you?

Jesus is walking by the Sea of Galilee when He comes across two brothers: James and John.
These brothers are preparing their nets. This is what fishermen do to prepare for the next day of fishing, however…
Jesus has something God-sized for them.

Matthew chapter 4, verses 21 and 22 says, “…They were mending their nets; and Jesus called them.  Immediately they left the boat…”

Nets unneeded.

I have often wondered about those nets. They sit in the boat – unopened – forgotten – unnecessary.

Calling trumps old life.

Calling trumps everything.

God is going to call to you today.  Please hear.

He will call you to a new life and, if you are anything like I used to be, you will want to hold on to your old life.
You think your toys will satisfy, but that’s just because you have not yet come face to face with the God-sized plan.  I pray you trust God enough to leave the toys in the backpack.

He will call you to adventure, danger, drama, passion, uncomfortable and unimaginable life.

Leave the nets!

“Jesus call.  Amen.”

Faith in Famine

You have to go through the desert to get to the mountains of Colorado.

Genesis 12 is the true story of Abram as he walks toward the promised land.  God tells him to go “to the land which I will show you”.   (Verse 1)

That’s faith.

“You start going and I will tell you where you are going when you get there.”  I long for that faith in my life.

Instead, I need to know where, and what direction, and how fast…

My faith feels small and ineffective when I look at all of the things I need to happen before I can believe Christ.

Then Abram meets an obstacle.  Verse 10:  “Now there was a famine in the land…”

As far as I can tell, God is calling Abram into the promised land VIA famine.

Am I willing to walk through the famine on my way to the promise?

So often, we stop traveling when we reach the famine.
   “This marriage is too difficult…”
   “My job is not satisfying any more…”
   “There is so much wear and tear in this…”
   “I am scared.” “I am tired.” “I am sore.”

I feel sorry for people like me; people that give up on the dream too soon because the famine is so dry.

Let me descibe to you the kind of faith I want to have:  I want to be a man that stands in the middle of the famine and realizes that I am at the gates of the promise.

That is the faith that is required to live as a man of God on this planet.

What famine is in front of you?  Are you frightened?  Will you turn around or keep going?

The famine is just one page in the journal once you arrive at the promise.

Jesus, call me into Your promise through the famine – I want faith!

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Faith Works Great When You Need An Umbrella

The clouds roll in and we get excited.  There is a storm coming and we need it.  We need the storm.  We need the moisture.  We need the snow.

But the storm does something else.  It surrounds us.  It presses us.  The storm covers up all that defines us.

For a moment (a long moment), while we are waiting for the picture of beauty; while we are hoping for the excitement of the snow and the promise of a great season, all we can see is the cloud.

There is no mountain.  Only storm.

There is no beauty.  Only threat.

There is no majesty.  Only fog.

Thus the necessity of faith.

The man poor in spirit looks at the surrounding storm and sees only the storm.

The man of faith looks at the cloud and sees a mountain.
A mountain full of snow.
A mountain full of life.
A mountain full of hope.

I invite you to look up today.  God is doing something amazing right in front of you!

Exodus 13:21 “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light…”. 

God, I see the storm.  I want to see the Mountain!  Help me, please.

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Christians, Politics, and Growth

I know you are bombarded during this election season with heated, one-sided political posts.  I am not going to tell you for whom you should vote.  I just want to remind you where God is during the election.

The emperor of Rome from 54 – 68 A.D. was Nero.  He did not love Christians.  In fact, Nero blamed the Christians for the burning of Rome and set out to publicly destroy them in horrible ways.  (EyeWitness to History).  (Of course, this was after he had his mother killed, and his wife, and his brother, I think, and his chief advisor; so, you know, consider the source.)

The Christian church grew during this persecution.  Yep.  Grew.  Was not defeated or squashed, but grew…  spread…


Why would a group of people grow in number and resolve in times of persecution?

During Nero’s reign, just before the great persecution (around 56 A.D.), a man named Paul wrote a letter to the Roman church.  We call that the book of Romans in the Bible.  Romans 13 says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”  (Read the rest of that chapter.  Oh wow it is good!)

I’m going to write this next section for me; if you would like to read along with me you are welcome to do that.

When you find out who wins the election tomorrow, fear not.  You might lose your job, but you probably will not.  You might lose some friends, but it is unlikely.  You might even die because you believe Christ loves the people of the world, but you will probably live to see another year.

The love this world has for you and the choosing of the president does not define your success as a man of God.

There is one authority over you:  His name is Jesus and He loved you to death.  But because His authority was from God (Matthew 28:18), His death did not stick.  Neither will yours! (1 Thessalonians 4:16)

In fact, your faith just might grow…

Jesus, grow me.  Amen.

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The cabinet door was broken.  It was out of alignment.  That had two consequences:  

1.  It was in the way when we tried to open the dishwasher.
2. It was driving my wife crazy.

So I set out to fix it…

I took a hammer and hit the front as hard as I could.  Nope.  Still broken.

I drilled three tiny holes in the front, then sealed patches on all three holes.  Still broken.

I painted both the front and the back.  Still broken.

I shut it completely, waited three minutes, opened it up again.  Works for my computer.  Did not work for cabinet.

No, I didn’t do any of this.  Why would I?  We all know that the problem with a misaligned door is not the door.  It is the hinge.  

I fixed the hinge (duh).
Seems to me as though we spend a lot of time complaining about the doors in this world but not enough time looking at the hinges.  (Just so you know, I am the hinge in this scenario.)

Or, put another way:  Everyone wants change, but nobody wants TO change.

God wants to come in to my life today and realign.  He is ready to rescue and my response is typically, “Yes, fix the door God.  Hey.  What are you doing with that hinge.  The problem is them.  Not me.”

The Bible has this verse of warning for a young pastor:  2 Timothy 4:3 says, “The time wil come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will gather around them teachers in accordance with their own desires.”

The writer, Paul, speaks of a people that refuse to listen to anyone that is out of alignment with their own beliefs.  They refuse to listen to anyone that tells them the truth.  They refuse God.

So I have this challenge for me – and for you too if you will listen.

Let God change you first – then see if the world doesn’t look different.

Jesus, I am ready for a change.  Change me.  

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Chad and Rhi

These two people are so remarkably important to me.  I had the great honor of walking with them as they were getting ready to be married but was unable to be at their wedding.  Today, they gave me the best gift:  They let me officiate their vow renewal ceremony.
Afterwords, we walked around on the mountain with friends and took pictures and had fun and chatted about where life was going.  

I took this picture because I want the world to notice two things about Chad and Rhi…

1.  It is raining on them.
2.  They are smiling.

What power love has.

Some people frown in the storm.  Some fear.  Some fall.  Some whine.

Some are so remarkably conquered by love that we just don’t care about the rain.
The rain cannot beat us.
It is too small in comparison to the all-consuming heart-stopping heart-starting passion that cannot be adequately described by a billion blogs.

When the storms come (and they will) am I conquered by the storm or by love?

Romans 8:37-39 In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord

It will rain.

I will smile.

My God’s love is that big.

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It’ll Hurt More

His knee hurt.  A bad fall and he would be limping for the rest of the week.

But when it was time to play with his best friend next door, Joshua managed to muster enough strength to run, jump, and fly to infinity and beyond!  He was healed. (Or he forgot the pain in the face of fun.)

McKayla (sorry if I butchered your name, little friend) arrived at the mountain top service with a cast on her foot.  I ran into her family the next day and they were bragging on their little girl.  “We just hiked to the waterfall.”  I asked if her foot hurt in the cast.  

“Yes.  Oh yes.”

Jesus is beaten and bloodied and placed on a cross.  He asks for something to drink and endures mocking.  Then His motive comes out:  Luke 23:34…

It is easy to smile when the blue skies abound, but not so much when standing in line at the DMV.

What will you do when it hurts?  That is where your priority lies.

If you want to know how much my son loves his best friend, bloody his knee.
If you want to know how much McKayla values time with her family, break her toe.
If you want to know how much Jesus loves you, put Him on a cross and hear His plea.

What you do when it hurts more points to where your heart is. That, I believe, is why Jesus told us to love our enemies – not because that would take the pain away, but because sacrifice is sanctifying.