What is God up to?

The story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in John 11 is one of the most fascinating and exciting stories in all of the gospels.

But, buried within it are some of the most difficult glimpses of truth and Jesus’ purpose and interaction with His chosen that I think many people, especially in certain camps, tend to overlook.

We all know the story, right? Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Mary & Martha sent messengers to Jesus telling him that Lazarus is sick. Immediately after Jesus proclaims a purpose statement that we should probably pause and ponder. he says, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (vs.4 NKJV).

Well, first of all, we know it WAS unto death. At least temporarily. But, the end result would not be death. This entire story reveals that the people wanted things to go a certain way. They even sent messengers to Jesus, which can be equated with prayer. But Jesus had completely different plans.

Listen folks – sometimes things have to DIE. Sometimes, things we LOVE have to die. Not because it is fun, or pleasant, or even for our (natural) benefit. Rather, so that the Glory of God can be revealed.

Here is a tough verse that relates to a post I made last week: “So when He [Jesus] heard he [Lazarus] was sick – He stayed two more days in the place where He was” (vs 6).

Wait – WHAT??!! – Let me make sure I understand: Jesus heard their “prayers” and …. waited? Yep – He waited. I’m convinced that sometimes He hears our cries and He … waits. Why would He do that? Well, I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. He is up to something BIGGER.

Here’s another one: “I am glad for your sakes that I was NOT there” Why Jesus! Why would you be glad you WEREN’T there!? He goes on to say, “so that you may believe.”

Okay, here we go again. They already believed. That’s why they sent for Him in the first place. They knew he could heal. They were His close friends. They had seen it and probably even participated in it. So, what could He possibly have meant by, “so that you may believe?’

Here’s what I think. I think we need to move from believing God merely for the miraculous to TRUSTING Him as sovereign when we don’t see the miraculous. We have to learn to embrace the idea that He is God and He has a plan we may or may not be aware of. That plan may include our miracle, it may not. His plan is ALWAYS bigger than us and it will always work for our good. We CANNOT allow the reality of circumstances in the present to dictate our trust and faith for the future.

So, after a season of virtually tormenting His friends, of intentionally NOT showing up in the scene when they wanted Him to, Jesus calls for Lazarus to come out of the grave. Then He says, “did I not say to you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”

None of them, not one of them, could have dreamed of the bigger, the better plan. The only thing they had at this moment was disappointment. Often when we believe for the miraculous our viewpoint, our perspective is still focused on …. us. But, Jesus had a different perspective. His perspective was a heavenly one and it involved something completely beyond their comprehension.

Here’s the deal: Jesus did NOT do one miracle because He had a better one in mind. He did NOT show up when they wanted Him to, or even when they felt like He needed to, because He had a plan that far surpassed anything … an-y-thing … they could conceive of.

God’s plan always and continually points to Jesus as God, as sovereign over circumstances, over your life, over eternity. His proof is … RESURRECTION. His is the ultimate victory. Everything else is …. temporary.

I’m going to pause right here and say – I believe God wants to resurrect some things in your life. But, YOU have to let them die first. Death ALWAYS precedes resurrection. Death is always painful. Death brings …sorrow. But not sorrow as if we have no hope. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:24). Sometimes you have to get to the place where there seems to be no hope so that God can do what ONLY HE can do. Resurrection is always by God’s hand alone. When He resurrects something then only He can receive the glory. Until you embrace this concept and settle it in your mind you will continually struggle in your faith and with trust, you will frequently find yourself questioning the goodness of God.

For all my friends living in the valley of disappointment, in the land of doubt and fear: I believe bigger things are headed your way, better things, things you could not have conceived of. Hang on to hope, my friends.

His ultimate goal in your life and mine is that the glory of God would be revealed. And, He will use whatever means to accomplish that.


Why do people feel stuck?

Could it be due to false or unrealistic expectations?

Could it be because things did not turn out the way we thought they would?

Could it be because we didn’t anticipate all the  speed bumps, detours, and wrong turns?

For the believer, could it be because we “thought” we knew what the Lord was going to do but it didn’t work out quite that way?

Is it because we get an intuition, an inkling, a prophetic word, an insight, about what the Lord wants to do in our lives but then we fill in the blanks for ourselves about how it will come to pass or play out? Is it because we think we know what it will look like at different stages, various milestones, or at the end of the journey?

Consider this- Is it possible that our ideas were based on our singular piece of the jigsaw puzzle? Maybe our perceptions are based solely on our view from our side of the room, our one view of the proverbial elephant?

Is it possible that even though our perceptions contain truth, they are extremely limited and are actually nothing like what God intended or plans?

Reality Check: We can have a revelation but not have understanding.

“Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture!” (I Cor 13:9).

Here’s the truth: even though you may be struggling with disappointment because things didn’t play out the way you had hoped – God’s plans are far more involved than your limited perspectives, and they are always for good!

The truth is that God is doing things behind the scenes for your good that you are not aware of.

Let me explain.

Bad decisions, mistakes, failures haunt many. And often folks feel like they have not attained the place they thought they would because of them. And then they look back on their lives with regret. And as a result people feel …. stuck.

However, let me suggest something: Maybe we’ve misunderstood what God’s intention was for us to begin with. Maybe that glimpse we got, maybe that inclination, was only a small piece of a much bigger picture.

I would go so far as to say, many times we feel stuck or disappointed with where life has brought us because we have misunderstood the true purpose of why we’re there.

Some of you thought your mistakes disqualified you when really God’s plan is to rescue you. You thought your mistakes positioned you for punishment, when really they might have positioned you to more fully experience and understand the compassion, mercy, and grace of God. 

It might be that instead of your foolishness positioning you for failure, it has positioned you to experience more of His fullness.

God’s ultimate design is for you to recognize His goodness.  It is for you to realize that you still need a savior. It is for you to receive His comfort.  How can you do that unless you fall down a few times?

So here is what I think: I think when we are young, even if we don’t have a “5 year, 10 year, 25 year plan” we formulate an idea of how things are going to play out. We think we have an idea of where we will end up.  And, I think I can say with confidence – it NEVER works out that way.

So here’s what I say. Maybe you’re not actually “stuck.” Maybe, if you took a few moments to look around and see all the ways in which you are growing, changing, learning, and maturing you would realize, you are right where God wanted and needed you to be. Maybe if you would think about the people you have the opportunity to impact that you never would have had things gone according to “plan” you would understand that God was leading all along.

Maybe, maybe … you are simply at a place on the journey you did not anticipate.

Being stuck and being somewhere you did not anticipate are two different things. So I say, embrace the moment. Look for the good. Trust in the faithfulness of God to lead in and through every single step. If you can realign your perspective you may just find you are not stuck at all. You may just find passion and purpose instead of pain.

 “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.[c] All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” 1 Cor 13:12

Love is in the Air.

Love Is In The Air!

Jesus was hanging out in the temple one day sharing stories as he was prone to do. Pharisees, Sadducees, Priests and elders were systematically grilling him with difficult questions in an attempt to trip him up and catch him saying or teaching something wrong.  Jesus handily deflected the verbal arsenal as each inquiry was launched at him.  Finally, one particular Pharisee, who happened to be a lawyer, scrutinized him with yet one more question.

“Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the law?” he asked.

Jesus gave the standard answer that was often repeated by the religious leaders.  Quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, He replied, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  This was the answer the hearers would have accepted and expected.  But, did anyone really expect Jesus to just give a simple answer? As was typical with Jesus, He didn’t stop with just answering the question.  He added a statement that struck at the heart.  He followed up his first response by adding,

“And the second is like it:You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 22:36-40).

  This was a difficult thing for the religious crowd of His day.  They prided themselves on the outward appearance of their great loyalty to God and adherence to His commands.  In a single sentence Jesus challenged their devotion by adding this second component.

It has always struck me as odd that Jesus was asked one question but gave two answers.  Why did He do that?  I suspect that the reason He gave two answers was because in His mind, in the mind of God, you cannot really separate the two concepts.  The result of loving God is loving people.  Also, you cannot really love people unless you first love God.  You cannot separate the two.  If that is the case then His two answers are really just two parts of a single answer.

What that means is that church attendance, Bible reading, or even singing along with your favorite worship songs are not the truest measure of showing your love for God.  In fact, you might say that the best way to show God you love Him is  … to love people.  A better translation would have been “the second commandment is JUST LIKE the first one.”  In this passage it’s almost as if God was saying,

“If you really love God, you will love people.”

Gary Smalley one time said “Life is relationships; the rest is just details.”  Many times we mistakenly lead our lives thinking life is about our jobs, our finances, our position, our achievements or our notoriety.  We strive and contend.  We chase and pursue.  We are busy.    And there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with much of that.  But, at the end of the day, everything we do revolves around the people we do it with and the relationships we build along the way.  In fact, many times when we build relationships first, the success we desire will follow naturally.

What does it mean to “love” people?  Jesus actually gave some fairly clear instructions within the context of His response.  He said we are to love our neighbor the same way we love ourselves.  In another context He said, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Mt. 7:12 ESV).  When I jump to conclusions, make mistakes, have an angry response and say things I regret, I want others to give me grace, forgiveness, and understanding.  Sometimes I want them to overlook my shortcomings and give me the benefit of the doubt.  Mostly, I want people to treat me with value and respect.  If I’m going to treat others the way I want to be treated, if I’m going to love my neighbor as myself, then I should give them the same.  Maybe that means is lending a listening ear the next time my teenager does something wrong instead of yelling.  Maybe that means giving grace when the cashier makes a mistake or the customer service employee treats me rudely.  Maybe it means not getting an attitude or shaking my fist when I’m cut off in traffic. Maybe it means seeking understanding when my boss is acting like a jerk.

With Valentine’s Day on the 14th and the National Marriage Week leading up to it, people are focused on their love relationships in the month of February, and rightly so.  Couples are intentional in February.  They make a “date” to spend time together, they give each other gifts, they treat each other kindly, and they see the best in each other.

But, everywhere around us are people who need many of the same aspects that we bring to our closest relationships:  time spent together, a listening ear, understanding, compassion and care.  Any relationship can be strengthened, enhanced, or healed when we are intentional and put into practice many of the same things that lead to a strong marriage.  Our kids need it, our parents need it, our neighbors need it, our employees need it, and our pastors need it.  The cashier needs it, the waitress needs it, and the homeless guy on the corner needs it.  And all of them are made in the image of God.  If we love God, we will love people.

It’s February so love truly is in the air. “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other” (John 13:35).

A Profound Mystery

A Profound Mystery 

Many have used Ephesians 5:23-31 to expound on the roles and guidelines of marriages, and rightly so, but the Apostle Paul was actually pointing to something much deeper.  He said, Husbands, love your wives … and the wife must respect her husband.  He then concludes the passage with a surprising statement, This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church” (Eph 5:32).

Though he was talking about marriage, he was actually illustrating Christ’s relationship with the church.  I believe that a healthy marriage can reveal the nature of Christ to the world in three distinct ways. 

One of the amazing things about a healthy marriage is that someone can know and love the REAL you.  Not the “all-together” you that you want everyone else to see.  I’m talking about the real you, that is sometimes selfish, maybe a little pig-headed, or rude, and whose breath sometimes stinks.  Yes, they know your strengths and successes, but they also know your challenges, your weaknesses, your shortcomings, your mistakes, your issues, your fears, and even your failures.  Yet through it all, they inexplicably love you anyways.  In fact, some of those very things actually cause them to love you even more.  They love the REAL you. The best marriages are built on UNCONDITIONAL LOVE! 

This is the beauty of the love of God.  Somehow, Christ knows everything about us, including our innermost thoughts, and LOVES us regardless.  We can’t hide anything from Him. He knows everything about us – yet loves us unconditionally!

 Also, anyone married for any length of time knows that marriage has a way providing a lot of opportunities to practice UNRESTRICTED FORGIVENESS.  A wise person once said, “Marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”  Couples in strong marriages will find themselves forgiving over and over and over again. In fact, it’s required.  Otherwise, those same couples would end up critical, bitter, and unhappy.  Forgiveness is the very essence of Christ’s message.  And because of His amazing grace He forgives us over, and over, and over again. He grants us UNRESTRICTED FORGIVENESS. 

Finally, healthy marriages are built on the foundation of UNWAVERING COMMITMENT.  My wife knows that regardless what happens, I am not leaving. I’m not walking out.  It doesn’t matter what she says.  It doesn’t matter what she does.  I am completely committed to her!  Unwavering commitment provides security and confidence.  Couples will feel comfortable to be themselves.  This is why marriage is intended to be “until death do us part,” because it represents God’s unwavering commitment to us as eternal.  Jesus said, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). 

Understanding and practicing these three principles will lead to the happiest, healthiest and strongest marriages.  More importantly, it reveals the nature of Christ to our friends, our families, and the world. People will ask you, “How can you love him when he acts like that? How can you keep forgiving? Why do you stay with her?”  The answer:  “Because Christ loves me when I act like that. He forgives me when I mess up and He never leaves me no matter what I’ve done. I still see the value, the good, and the reflection of God in that person, just like Christ does with me.”  

Healthy marriages reveal Christ to the world by displaying unconditional love, unrestricted forgiveness, and unwavering commitment.  It is a profound mystery.

Do’s & Don’ts When Life Hits You Hard.

Here is a quick list of some Do’s and Don’ts for you when multiple things hit you all at once like they just did a for “a friend”:

(1) Don’t fuss and complain. It helps nothing. In fact, it usually just raises your level of anxiety, frustration, pain, or whatever (BTW – sharing with a trusted friend or loved one who can encourage, guide, pray, etc. is different to me than fussing and complaining).

(2) Don’t play the victim. Everybody has junk that happens. Look around. Sure there are folks a lot better off but, there are tons of folks worse off. Both issues are irrelevant. They’re not running your race. You are. And, you’re not running their race.  Let it go.

(3) Don’t compare and especially don’t use Facebook as the measure of people’s lives or happiness.  Neither should you use their social media produced life to measure your own happiness. It should more appropriately be called “faux-book” because it’s not real life. You only see what others want you to see. Some folks only put positive out there. Some folks do nothing but point fingers, gripe and complain. IN either case – it’s fake, folks. It’s only one small part of the story. Doesn’t matter – what they have and do has nothing to do with you. [#2 & #3 really go together].

(4) Don’t overreact.

(5) Don’t get overwhelmed. Slow down – look at your situation. Break it down into bite sized pieces if needed. Handle what you can. Look and ask for help if needed.

(6) Do pick yourself up, brush yourself off and face reality. Yes,I know it can be overwhelming at times, especially when it all comes at once but, all you can do is … deal with it.

(Click for some Good News When You Fall)

(7) Do – learn from your mistakes. You have to evaluate. How did I get here? What part did I play that brought me to this current situation – or all of these situations? Sometimes you did nothing. But, you can still learn from your current situation by asking questions like: how do I avoid landing here again?

(8) Do make the necessary adjustments to handle your junk – maybe focus on one issue and challenge at a time.

(9) Move on with life. Your life wasn’t all sunshine and roses before, and it probably wasn’t all misery either (hopefully). Nor will it be either of those things going forward. Some things will get better and you’ll have reasons to rejoice. Other junk will happen and you’ll have reasons to be frustrated, discouraged, whatever. welcome to ….life. Deal with it. Embrace it. Live it. Love it.

(10) Embrace the positive! It is there. You might have to look for it but, it’s worth it. This is what brings life, hope, and joy.

I just starting writing and it came out as 10 nicely packaged points off the top of my head.  So, there it is. This is how my “friend” deals with it when multiple “life” things hit all at once.

Finally, you all should know that for me, trusting, believing and praying to God is my greatest asset, source of strength, and peace.

Hope this helps.

(Check out why Falling might be Good News)