Learning to Love God

This past Sunday was a very moving message for many people in the church congregation. The message was titled “Learning to Love God” and was taught by a man named Jim Nelson.

Jim is a respected man and an elder in our church. He and his family have been members for over a decade. Jim and his wife Liz answered the call to become missionaries and had been a year and a half in the process of pairing down, selling their stuff, and preparing to go to another country, when his wife was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. For another year they battled with the disease until she passed away in July of 2013.

The title of his message wasn’t his story of how it was hard for him to love God in spite of all of their pain and difficulty, it was the opposite. It was the story of how his love for God stayed strong in spite of the difficulty, and how God wants us all to love him, and be loved by him.

The message was such a glorification of the goodness of God, in spite of circumstances that are difficult to say the least. I’ve gotten to know Jim over the last several months with him, and I couldn’t be prouder of the message he shared. This message is truly a form of worship.

Liz Nelson would be so proud of him too, and I truly believe it is what she wanted for everyone she came in contact with in her life.

Because of His grace, and your small measure of faith, God is adamant and passionate about revealing himself to you.

There is a story in the new testament about a woman who approaches Jesus to be healed. She has a problem, and has been menstrauting for 12 years. At first glance this story doesn’t stand out as anything extraordinary, but when you simply illuminate 2 things, it becomes a totally different story.

  • Women on their periods were considered “unclean” under levitical law. Under the law, a man was not allowed to touch a woman, or sit where a woman sat when she was menstrauting. They were seen as unclean, and were, to some degree, outcast.
  • Jesus doesn’t actively heal the woman, she sneaks through the crowd thinking “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” (Mark 5: 28). When she touches him, she’s immediately healed. But he doesn’t leave it there. Jesus wants to find her in the massive crowd of people.

So, she was unclean, for 12 years. She had spent all she had trying to get a cure. Both to find relief from her suffering and to no longer be unclean. She had been on the margins of society for 12 years; Untouched, and possibly seen as a cursed individual. She was most definitely single by default (no man would’ve taken her as his wife), I’d imagine all the little girls she grew up with were having children and families, and this affliction was literally ruining her life.

In desperation she snuck through the crowd and touched Jesus’ clothes. Immediately she was healed.

Jesus stops immediately and tries to find her, when she does come forward, she’s trembling with fear. Jesus, with a smile on his face he tells her to be glad that she is now free from suffering, that her faith has made her well.

Jesus finds her, to redeem her. To redeem all the thoughts she had about herself as unclean, as less than, as a problem, a burden, an outcast. He wanted to find her, not because he needed to, but because she needed him to.

I think that Jesus found her because to him it wasn’t enough for her to be healed, she needed redemption. She needed to know that he not only authorized it, he blessed it. And he blessed her.

How often are we like this? We might think God loves us because he has to, when in fact, he has affection for us.

The title of this post is a quote from Judah Smith of City Church when he talks about this story. I felt like that quote sums it up so well.

Because of His grace, and your small measure of faith, God is adamant and passionate about revealing his acceptance and approval to you.
-Judah Smith 

God loves you with a love you can’t comprehend, and he is passionate about you understanding that. He turns around to find you in the crowd, trembling with fear and says “Go in peace child, your faith has made you well.”

Below is the track from City Church’s record “Jesus Is ______.”

Perspective Adjustment, or How We Lost Our Van

Having three kids is hard.

Actually, having two kids under 5, and an infant is hard. My daughters are now pretty easy to handle. When they’re obedient, they’re tons of fun. After the arrival of our new son though, it has been a struggle to keep the right perspective. Then something kinda crazy happened.

Three weeks ago, on memorial day, I was at a friend’s daughter’s third birthday party. They live in my neighborhood, but on a corner lot, at the elbow of a sharp curve.

We arrived at the party, fashionably late as usual, and made our way around to the back yard where there were kids enjoying kiddie pools and a couple of pet chickens roaming around in the yard. We were having a nice time visiting with friends when we heard a screech and a horrific crash.

In moments like that your heart is in your throat because you just don’t know what you’re about to see, what awfulness you’re about to encounter.

The men all rushed around the corner while pieces of glass, metal, and other debris rolled by. Then there was the shrill sound of a young woman in the car screaming for help. In moments like that your heart is in your throat because you just don’t know what you’re about to see, what awfulness you’re about to encounter. There was a black car flipped upside down where my friend’s Honda Pilot used to be, and my other friend’s Toyota Corolla had been knocked 180 degrees into a pole on the other side of the driveway. I immediately dialed 911 and gave all of the information we were quickly gathering. 1 person in the vehicle, a fire was burning in the engine, but was quickly being distinguished. She was trapped in the vehicle, suspended by her seat belt, I looked over and read off the street numbers, the closest intersection and everything else I knew to be pertinent information.

People quickly flooded the area and we had enough good samaritans to lift the car off the ground if we needed to. A man ran in his house and grabbed a sharp knife, cut the seat belt and freed the trapped teenager inside. They then worked together and lifted her out of the car. With the guidance of two paramedics on the scene (one of which was my friend whose daughter’s birthday was today), they laid the young woman on the ground and immediately took her vitals and checked for life threatening injuries. They found none.

This young woman, while scared to death, terrified and asking for her mother, was not seriously injured. No one was hurt.

We all breathed an enormous sigh of relief. It wasn’t until then that I looked over and noticed that the rear of her vehicle had caved in the gate and part of the roof of my van.

Oh well. No one was hurt.

All the wifes/mothers in the back yard hadn’t been in the midst of helping to distinguish the fire, help the girl out of the car, and looking on helplessly, instead they gathered their chicks and held them dearly. They thought about how very badly this could’ve gone, how everyone was alive, and ok, and how it could have been so much worse.

There could’ve been people in the front yard.

There could’ve been children in the front yard.

If it had been 10-20 minutes earlier, people could’ve been killed. The driver later reported to the police officer that she was going 80mph when she rounded the curve and crashed into our vehicles. It was likely that she survived the crash because she hit our cars, and not a tree. Her accelerator had stuck. The police officer verified that she had put the car in neutral and pulled the emergency break, which is why she spun out of control into my friend’s yard, and into our cars. At the speed she was going, no one would have been able to move out of the way if they had been in the front yard. She could’ve hit a tree instead of our cars. Trees don’t have suspension, trees don’t move, trees don’t dent and cave in like cars do. She could’ve died.


After our cars were towed away, we all figured out transportation to get home. All of us having kids didn’t make that easy, but again, no one was hurt, and we were all grateful for that, and figured insurance would take care of the car situation.

I spent the majority of the next day on the phone with various parties trying to sort out the situation, getting a rental etc. Geico was a disaster. For the first week they tried to pass the buck to Toyota, and told me they weren’t accepting liability. I called my insurance agency to file a claim under my collision coverage, only to find that the policy had been written in error, and my ’95 Volvo was the car with collision and my 2009 Grand Caravan only had comprehensive. So, that was frustrating. I spent the next two weeks waiting until finally Geico said that the driver’s insurance didn’t have enough in her property damage to cover all the expenses, which meant my insurance retroactively took over from the beginning. The third week was spent negotiating the total cost of the car, and settling to move forward and replace it.

After all of the frustration this situation caused, it’s all very minor considering everyone was ok, no one was hurt.

My wife and I spent some time the other day talking about how we wanted to slow down and just enjoy our kids, instead of always being so caught up in parenting them, and disciplining their behavior. Thinking of moments like we had at that birthday party, when we were so close to such an awful disaster, where so many things could’ve gone wrong, but didn’t. It makes you realize just how precious life is, and just how fast things can change.

Last year we had another incident that caused us to look at the world with renewed appreciation. I will say, I will take this situation over that one every time. In those moments when you realize just how fragile life is, material posessions don’t even rank. I remember so specifically when my daughter was comatose last year, when she was turning blue and staring off into space, how I would mortgage my house and give everything I owned to ensure her well-being … whatever it took.

The past 3 weeks have been incredibly frustrating. There are other things I won’t even waste my time explaining here that added to the difficulty…but in the end, it pales in comparison to worrying about the health and well-being of your children. What matters most is what lives in these four walls, and is transported by the vehicles we own, not the home, or vehicles themselves. And three weeks ago, we were fortunate enough to be clearly reminded of that.

New and Wonderful Life

I wrote a little while ago about how I tend to struggle with anxiety, especially during the dark, cold, wet winter. That has especially been true this past year. But spring has sprung…and it took long enough, we had snow in April this year (which is crazy). I digress.

My son was born on April 23rd. He’s a beautiful, adorable, healthy baby boy.

He’s a little less wrinkly now and much more alert, but you get the picture.

Anyway, so we’re rounding the corner, spring has sprung, and finances are looking much more manageable. We’re reaching the light at the end of the tunnel. One of my clients and friends Garret Kramer writes a lot about your thoughts affecting your state of mind, and how it’s often best to ignore them. I’ve found this useful, taking what he calls “The path of no resistance” when it comes to anxious thoughts.

At this moment, right now, I’m on top of the world.

But it won’t always be that way. Undulating between depression and exhilaration is no way to live. Instead, realizing that life is actually pretty good all the time, and there are moments that are challenging…remember in those moments that acting out of that depression/frustration/anxiety/fear is not the reality, it’s simply your perception of reality.

So, that’s what I’m trying to do all the time. Keep calm, and carry on.

Life is, in fact, good.

Relinquishing Control

Fear takes many forms.

For me lately it’s been in the form of anxiety and depression. A few things have to do with this, there’s a significant degree of change going on in my home. My wife is 30 weeks pregnant with our third child. It’s winter time, which means the days are shorter, and it’s cold. Our time outside is minimal. Bills are piling up, and while we’re able to eek by, the prenatal care is no small ticket. And my insurance sucks.

I believe I have what’s referred to as “Seasonal Affect Disorder”, which is surprisingly common, but I also have some physical manifestations of this.

I have a pain in my side. Literally.

I have a pain in my right side…it’s dull and annoying, but it never progresses past that. I went to a doctor about it 4 years ago when I was dealing with this same thing, I had a CT scan which produced no results and only cost me a lot. The trouble with the pain in my side is not the physical discomfort, because that is at a minimum. It’s that it causes me a lot of worry.  And the not knowing causes me to immediately catastrophize the situation. My mind goes to the worst case scenario almost instantly. Which causes me a great deal of anxiety, which I believe contributes to the pain.

In an attempt to minimize the anxiety, I immediately begin trying to take control. I should see a doctor, I should research these symptoms on the internet (don’t do that by the way…it never looks good from there), I should eat better, exercise more etc. I end up trying to busy myself with things that will keep my mind off of it. While all the while the anxiety, the fear, the depression are gaining steam. Next thing I know I’ve lost my appetite, am feeling very lethargic, and have an overall desperate outlook.

Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?

Over the past few weeks, my outlook has changed. Instead of immediately trying to fix my problems, I’ve seen this anxiety and pain as a way to practice trusting in God through this process. My anxiety is a symptom of a greater problem. If I say I trust my God, but when the going gets tough, I don’t rely on him and his care through it, do I really have faith?

23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

~ Matthew 8

In the story above, Jesus’ disciples feared for their lives. Their mortality was realized, their deaths seemed imminent. They woke him up, to get a hand helping, in Mark 4:39, the story is retold having them say “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?“. Implying that they didn’t wake him so he could calm the waves, they woke him so hey could help. At the forefront of their minds was their mortality. “Don’t you care?!”

They were trying to control the situation, to right the ship, to save their own lives.

When they awoke Him, he calmly asked them, “Where is your faith?”, and calmed the storm. This passage is different from any other in the new testament because the disciples immediately recognized that Jesus was God’s son.

Note that they had lived with him, spent every day together, seen him heal countless people, perform many very impressive miracles, but it was when he calmed the storm that they believed.

What does that mean for me?

I’m not trying to immediately control this situation, I’m using my control as a symptom of a problem. I’m trusting God to guide me through this process. If there’s something wrong with me, I’m asking him to confirm it so that I will see a physician.

How has this changed my outlook?

I now see the pain in my side, and my anxiety in general, as an opportunity, even a blessing. It’s a reminder for me to turn to him, a reminder that God is not the author of fear. Apart from him, the world is a very scary place, but Jesus is in the boat, and he’s asleep. He’s not worried, he’s still in control, and I find great comfort in that.

I don’t know what’s going on with me, why I’m experiencing this stuff…but I’m not living in fear, I’m learning how to live in peace in spite of fear.

This morning, in streams in the desert, I read something I’d like to share with anyone who might be struggling with a similar fear:

He will silently plan for you,
His object of omniscient care;
God Himself undertakes to be
Your Pilot through each subtle snare.

He WILL silently plan for you,
So certainly, He cannot fail!
Rest on the faithfulness of God,
In Him you will surely prevail.

He will SILENTLY plan for you
Some wonderful surprise of love.
No eye has seen, nor ear has heard,
But it is kept for you above.

He will silently PLAN for you,
His purposes will all unfold;
Your tangled life will shine at last,
A masterpiece of skill untold.

He will silently plan FOR YOU,
Happy child of a Father’s care,
As if no other claimed His love,
But you alone to Him were dear.

~ E. Mary Grimes

Hail to the king.

It’s the Christmas season. Everyone around the country celebrates this season by decorating, singing songs, gathering with their loved ones and giving gifts.

As Christians, we celebrate this season in rememberance and celebration of the birth of our savior and king Jesus.

This season, we celebrate his birth, we celebrate his coming and the hope that lies with Him. We celebrate that we have been redeemed, and the fact that every human being, no matter how desolate or depraved, can been redeemed by the blood of an innocent man. A man who taught us by his life what God the father was really like. He didn’t just teach us a set of rules, but gave us the ability to become better, by walking with us. He transforms into a different kind of human being…a type of person that really does bring change to the world; A person more like Him.

Through the baby that was born 2000 years ago, the world has forever been changed.

Hail to the king.

Hallelujah! What a Savior

I was dealing with some anxiety last week, when as I lay restless I closed my eyes and met with God. I asked God to cover me with his presence and protection. To protect my heart from the darkness of my fear and envelop me with his love. I immediately felt relief. I immediately remembered his closeness. I smiled as I realized how great it is to be able to come to him, how we can lean on the God of the universe, and how great it is that the God of the universe allowed his son to pay it all to bridge that gap. Because of his great love for us…

Man of Sorrows! what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die;
“It is finished!” was His cry;
Now in Heav’n exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew His song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

~ by Phil­ip P. Bliss, 1875

The one you need.

I have two beautiful daughters. I love them so dearly that I’m sometimes saddened by the fact that they have to grow up. About a year ago I really wrestled with my views of God and to be honest, my mistrust of God. I was afraid to trust and follow him completely because I was afraid of what that would mean for my family. I was afraid that he would send us some place to suffer. For some reason, the narrative I had of God was that if I let him, he would make me suffer to grow in my knowledge of him.

That was, of course, untrue. Over the last year it’s been a really incredible journey for me of discovering the God Jesus loves. There are still a lot of things I don’t understand, but one thing I know for sure is that he is trustworthy.

A few months ago I heard this song for the first time. It choked me up because my sentiments are now so similar. I love my daughters so much, but I know I can never love them with a perfect love. But Jesus can.

Shane and Shane are incredible, and this song is amazing. It still chokes me up a bit when I picture my little girls.


Hey hey sweet daughter
I am so proud to be your father
Each day is like a gift from God

Hey hey sweet daughter
There’s no music like your laughter
And your smile is like a rising sun

You know I loved you from the start
So come in close
Take my hand while
Daddy shares his heart

I wish that I could be your everything
Be the one to give you all the things you need
Sometimes I’m gonna let you down
But there’s Someone if you just believe
He’ll be your hero like He’s always been for me
Darling, Jesus is the one you need

No matter what you walk through
He will always love you
Just the way you are
For there’s nothing in this world
That I want for my baby girl
That she’ll be happy ever after

The story of your life is still untold
I pray the King of all the Universe
Would make your heart His home

I wish that I could be your everything
Be the one to give you all the things you need
Sometimes I’m gonna let you down
But there’s Someone if you just believe
He’ll be your hero like He’s always been for me
Darling, Jesus is the one

He will never leave
He’s been there all along
Already You can find true love

I wish that I could be your everything
Be the one to give you all the things you need
Sometimes I’m gonna let you down
But there’s Someone if you just believe
He’ll be your hero like He’s always been for me
Darling, Jesus is the one you need

Oh God

I have been listening to a band called Citizens. They are so incredible that I’m sad they only have 4 songs out.

After reading and meditating on these words by Oswald Chambers, I’m desperately trying to live in the peace and presence of Jesus. This song helps me to remember that he is always close by. Listen to this song, and take these words with you through the week.

In the valley, oh God You’re near
In the quiet, oh God You’re near
In the shadow, oh God You’re near
At my breaking, oh God You’re near

Oh God, You never leave my side
Your love, will stand firm for all my life

In my searching, oh God You’re near
In my wandering, oh God You’re near
When I feel alone, oh God You’re near
At my lowest, oh God You’re near

Height nor depth nor anything else,
Could pull us apart
We are joined as one, by Your blood
Hope will rise, as we become more,
Than conquerors through,
The one who loved the world