Feb 6 2013

“find your joy”

Here is my contribution to kick off C!C’s Devotional Journal entitled “find your joy”:

I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.
John 10:10

As the idea for this devotional journal began to take shape, I knew that I would need to “practice what I preach” and thus began asking myself: “Jason, where do you find your joy?” In response I decided to start a list and pay attention to when I found myself joyful at the little things in my days. My search became a catalogue of surprise joys, and seemed to deepen the saturation of enjoyment that these little moments brought. Allow me to share the highlights:

  • The “Daddy’s home” rush and outpouring of affection
  • Stealing kisses with “the wife of my youth” in the kitchen
  • Spontaneous laughter, five throats strong, at the dinner table . . . or the hallway . . . or the restaurant . . . or in the car . . . or . . .
  • Reading Ps. 16:9 > “Therefore my heart is glad and my spirit rejoices; my body also rests securely,” and knowing that it is true in me.
  • Realizing that my back isn’t hurting
  • Realizing that my back is hurting but that it won’t hurt in heaven
  • Sudden moments of conviction reminding me that God has called me to such important tasks that I cannot succeed on my own . . . in order that He can succeed through me.
  • Watching family and friends learn to value and apply courage
  • Each new word that my kids learn which make me anticipate future conversations
  • Being pierced by the Word of God via fresh encouragement OR conviction from a passage as familiar as my “work jeans”
  • Finding the beauty in the dance of shepherding my wife AND being shepherded by her

Where do you find your joy?


Oct 26 2012

Rejoicing Over Glorious Things

One of the verses from the sermon passage this week is Luke 13:17 > When [Jesus] said this, all his adversaries were ashamed; and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.

Though the work is often long and hard — this work of being a disciple, husband, father, pastor in a world straining its back against the leadership of Jesus — I have seen Jesus do glorious things.  He constantly renews my heart and my strength to face each new day and each new task.  He fills my house with joyful laughter, and I see the way He loves and provides for my family.  He continues to build His church in C!C, strengthening His disciples and growing their influence.  He gives me hope for the day when He calls all of His people to our final home in heaven.  In that day we’ll step away from whatever work is left to be done and we’ll finally surrender all before the Author of our Salvation, the Glorious One.  And we will rejoice like we’ve never done before.

I came across this great set of songs of praise in Isaiah 12; they are hearty songs of rejoicing in light of a great deliverance:

In that day you will say:
“I will praise you, O Lord.  Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me.  Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.  The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation .”
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

In that day you will say:
“Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.  Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world.  Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”

Amen.  Spend some time today remembering and rejoicing over some “glorious things” that Jesus has done for you.  Offer some hope-full praises for the glorious things that are yet to come.


Oct 19 2012

Getting Better At Looking Forward

I believe one of my deepest and profoundest callings as a man and as a father is to be a visionary.  I need to cultivate the ability to rise above the melee of my day to day and scan the landscape “up ahead”.  I need to have a sense of where I and my family are headed … and how that relates to where we want to be headed, where God desires us to be.  I need to scout out potential dangers and also look for life-giving oases, to help build each of us up in life, health and faith.

I had an idea as to one such oasis this past week in conjunction with Hannah’s first birthday.  I have hopes of starting a tradition to write a letter to each child on their birthday, recapping some highlights of the prior year of life and affirming my love and hopes for them.  I plan on saving these letters and will begin “delivering” them, one a year, starting with their 10th birthday.  Admittedly it would have been nice to think of this three years ago when Caleb turned one, but better late than never, right?

In an effort to maybe encourage and inspire some of you, and to kick off my new tradition, here’s my first letter. Shhhh, don’t tell Hannah.

Dearest Hannah,
Today is your 1 year birthday. One year of life with your snuggles. One year of life with giggles, your soft brown eyes, and your snot on my shoulder. For a while, my dear, we called you our little mouse, because you seemed so preciously small, quiet and observant. Now, you are everyday growing and showing us just how big your personality can be. And we love it. I love it.
I love you, and have loved you ever since we found out that God was giving us another child. We were surprised, and we were intimidated, but we knew that God had something special in store for you and our family. We knew this because the miracle of life is such a wonderful, mysterious blessing. And we knew you were going to be special because the Bible tells us that our Heavenly Father knows how to give good gifts to His children.
I have a few very special memories of your first few days on earth, now one year ago.
1) Standing in front of our hospital room window, with you bundled up in my arms – so small, so vulnerable, so practically perfect.  I looked down at you, prayed for wisdom, for protection, and for grace upon grace, and then it hit me … my nickname for you: peanut. My Peanut.
2) Your Gigi and Grandad drove up to Ottawa from Atlanta to be with our family during you birth and first week. I remember with particular joy when they came to the hospital to meet you for the first time, with your brother and sister in tow. My heart swelled to see you in the arms of MY parents … and also to see our entire family together for the first time.
3) That same hospital visit was your brother and sister’s first glimpse at their brand new sibling. Lillie was a little too young to be interested much beyond a kiss on the forehead before getting back to running around the lounge. Caleb on the other hand seemed awed by this little new addition and would often come by your side to watch you, ask questions, and give you little kisses on your hands. Ever since he’s been watching you, helping to take care of you, loving on you … and still likes kissing your hand.
The past year has been full of adventures and ups and downs as your mom and I have worked to find our “new normal” as a family of five.  God has again and again proven Himself faithful to guide, encourage and sustain all of us through every turn, every battleground, and every milestone.
I have found intense joy in seeing you grow, dear Hannah.  Walking at 11 months … your first words: “up” … your laughter … your eagerness to join in on what everyone else is doing … your uncanny ability to soften the heaets of strangers.  You are special and always will be.  Happy Birthday.

Love always,

Dad


Mar 2 2012

what I’m listening to

Music is a powerful influence.  I’ve heard it said that music is the only thing that can enter a persons soul without getting permission from the mind (or something like that, anyway.)  Regardless, music has a tremendous ability to illicit deep seated emotions and move us in profound ways.

An album that I’ve been particularly fond of and moved by lately is “The One You Need” by Shane and Shane .  Songs about Liberty, celebrating our freedom in Christ.  Songs proclaiming the sufficiency of God’s grace, even (or especially) in the midst of hard times.  The title track is a moving description of a father’s prayer over his daughter.  It’s totally worth looking up the music video.

Last night, we put in the album after our family dinner and turned it up.  After a good romp around the room to “Liberty” the upbeat opener, the second number, a melodious song entitled, “Your Love,” began to play.  The flowing tune and powerfully descriptive lyrics drew out some of the old ballerina in Carrie.  I stood holding our youngest and watched in awe as my beautiful bride graciously spun across the floor with my two older children captivated.  As the dancing continued, my heart continually grew fuller as I marveled at the goodness that the Lord has lavished on my family.  As Lillie twirled like her mom, I saw there, also in the deep parts of my heart, a yearning for my children to follow us in knowing the love of the Lord as much as they mimic our movements.

God’s love often comes in the form of rebuke, discipline, and conviction, of which I’ve had plenty.  And thankfully, His love also comes in the form of twirls, giggles, and tender moments that fill the heart.  I love my God, and I love my family.

I did manage to snag a few precious moments of the “show”, so I hope you enjoy a sliver of what I did.

Family Dance (click to view)


Nov 1 2011

Growing in Grace

2Cor. 12:9 > “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (italics added)

Eph. 1:7-8 > “In him we have redemption through is blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished on us…” (italics added)

In a few short parenting moments last night, I turned a new corner in my understanding of grace.  What’s more, I’ve come to greater treasure the Lord for His lavish grace, and I’ve been convicted of how far I am from emulating Him as I ought.

The scene was fairly routine as the night began to wind down.  Bed time.  Long day.  Everybody is tired.  As we round the final corner and head towards lights out, Caleb asks, “Dad, do we have time to read a book?”  Now, I don’t have anything against reading books, but sometimes I just want the bed-time-routine to be over.  So selfishly, I just want to say, “No.”  But the fact that there is time to read a book together with the fact that he asked so nicely, it’s really hard to decline.  So here’s what I said:

Well buddy, I’ll tell you what.  If you can go finish your milk and have a good attitude through your bathroom chores, we’ll check the time and maybe read a book.

Seems like a pretty good response, huh?  Well, allow me to let you in on what what going on in my heart.

As Caleb headed to get started on that list of contingencies, I grabbed the Bible story book knowing full well that “there would be time.”  While grabbing the book and considering its contents the Holy Spirit split me wide open:

Don’t kid yourself, Jason.  You are not showing your son grace.  You’re making him work for your “favour.”  You’re making the expression of your love and generosity dependent on him conforming his behaviour.  Do you want him to have a good attitude because it makes your life easier or because you want him to know and do the right thing?  Aren’t you glad God doesn’t work that way with His grace and you?

Wow.  I sure am glad that God’s grace — the lavish grace that is sufficient for all that I lack and the grace that is greater than all my sin — isn’t couched in a list of qualifications.  God offers His favour to me unmerited, undeserving as I am, though I’ve done nothing to earn it.  Jesus is the one who earned His grace . . . I get it just by my faith-filled association in Christ.  What a privilege.

Now back to parenting, I don’t think the answer is to spoil my kids.  God has given me a responsibility to teach them right and wrong and the consequences of their actions.  But what I don’t want to do is to teach them that they need to work for my affection.  I don’t want them to learn love as a works-based privilege.  I want to be stern in discipline, teaching them what is right and wrong.  And at the same time, I want to be able to show them that I love them like God loves: freely, without manipulation, without qualification.  They are mine, I love them . . . just like I am His and He loves me.

Caleb and Hannah

Caleb and Hannah


Aug 12 2011

“Right the first time”

“Do it right the first time.”

This is one of the many phrases/lessons that I heard from my dad countless times growing up.  And while I’ll admit an occasional roll-of-the-eyes upon the faithful reminder, I deeply appreciated my dad’s guidance and perspective.

This morning, during a sweet time in the Word, I came across a story that spoke to the truth in my dad’s statement as clear as the ring of a bell.  In 1Chronicles chapter 15, King David is finally bringing the Ark of the Lord into Jerusalem.  In verse 2, David proclaims, “No one but the Levites may carry the ark of God, because the Lord has chosen them to carry the ark of the Lord and to minister before Him forever.”  Then verse 15 records, “Then the Levites carried the ark of God the way Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord: on their shoulders with poles.”

Why is this significant?

Well, back in the books of the Law (specifically Exodus 25:10-15) God gave very specific instructions regarding the Ark and its transport.  Then only a few chapters before our story above, David first decides to bring the Ark into the city (1Chron. 13).  The problem is that David decides to put the Ark on a cart to be pulled by oxen.  You know the story from here: an ox stumbles, Uzzah reaches out to steady the Ark, but as Uzzah was not permitted to touch the Holy object, the Lord struck him dead.  David, out of emotional anger and fear of the Lord, leaves the Ark under the care of a Levite instead of bringing it into the city, and the Lord blesses the caretaker greatly.

I see significant lessons in that

- David learned from his mistake and ended up doing the right thing,

– David’s lesson came at a high price, the life of Uzzah and the blessing associated with obedience,

– David could have done the right thing the first time.

 

As I consider how I respond to my to-do list items, to my call to obedience before the Lord, and also to my leadership/example as a father, I see the need to heed the advice of my father:  do it right the first time.  What tasks lay before you today that you are trying to cut corners on?  What responsibilities do you have where you insist on just doing it “your way”?  Consider what you think God would have before you as the “right way,” seek some spiritual counsel from a trusted friend if need be, and decide to trust the Lord with process and the outcome.  I think we’ll all be better off for it!

 


Jun 15 2011

Appetites

Here is the “weekly wisdom” article that I wrote for our church e-newsletter this week:

—–

Lately I’ve been reflecting on the reality of “appetites,” and how natural it is for us to desire the satisfying of our various appetites — food, genuine relationships, sexuality, accomplishment, etc.  I’ve been saddened by the lengths to which we will go to appease our appetites, sometimes spending great time, money, and emotion to satisfy the hunger.  And in the process, too often satisfaction comes at the cost of losing self-control,resulting in (to borrow a term from this past week’s sermon) us sowing to the flesh.  We sometimes end up making choices that could hurt our bodies, our testimony, our relationships with God and with each other.

The sermon this upcoming week is entitled “Healthy Dad/Righteous Dad” and will in part look at the benefits of managing our various appetites . . . a message applicable to everybody.  To “prime the pump” a little, though, I’m including an excerpt from the introduction on John Piper’s book “A Hunger For God.”  Though it is a book on fasting, the bigger picture of “appetites” receives some great treatment.  I pray that the Holy Spirit would cultivate in us all a deep hunger for God . . . the one appetite worthy of giving our all to satisfy.  Be blessed:

Beware of books on fasting. The Bible is very careful to warn us about people who “advocate abstaining from foods, which God created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:1-3). The apostle Paul asks with dismay, “Why . . . do you submit yourself to decrees, such as ‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch’?” (Colossians 2:20-21). He is jealous for the full enjoyment of Christian liberty. Like a great declaration of freedom over every book on fasting flies the banner, “Food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat” (1 Corinthians 8:8).
There once were two men. One said, “I fast twice a week”; the other said, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Only one went down to his house justified (Luke 18:12-14).

The discipline of self-denial is fraught with dangers — perhaps only surpassed by the dangers of indulgence. These also we are warned about: “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). What masters us has become our god; and Paul warns us about those “whose god is their appetite” (Philippians 3:19). Appetite dictates the direction of their lives. The stomach is sovereign. This has a religious expression and an irreligious one. Religiously “persons . . . turn the grace of our God into licentiousness” (Jude 4) and tout the slogan, “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food” (1 Corinthians 6:13). Irreligiously, with no pretext of pardoning grace, persons simply yield to “the desires for other things [that] enter in and choke the word” (Mark 4:19).

“Desires for other things” — there’s the enemy. And the only weapon that will triumph is a deeper hunger for God. The weakness of our hunger for God is not because he is unsavory, but because we keep ourselves stuffed with “other things.” Perhaps, then, the denial of our stomach’s appetite for food might express, or even increase, our soul’s appetite for God.

What is at stake here is not just the good of our souls, but also the glory of God. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. The fight of faith is a fight to feast on all that God is for us in Christ. What we hunger for most, we worship.

His goodness shines with brightest rays When we delight in all his ways.

His glory overflows its rim

When we are satisfied in him.

His radiance will fill the earth

When people revel in his worth.

The beauty of God’s holy fire

Burns brightest in the heart’s desire.

Between the dangers of self-denial and self-indulgence there
is a path of pleasant pain. It is not the pathological pleasure of a
masochist, but the passion of a lover’s quest: “I have suffered the
loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may
gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).

– – – – – – – – – -

Long live the appetite for more of God.  And may we drink long and deep of His Spirit as we “taste and see that the Lord is good.”


Jun 10 2011

my routine pick-me-up

Spring 2011

The Lord is good to give me little reminders during the day that do two things:

1.  Make me feel loved, wanted, respected and generally good about myself,

2. Make me humbled at realizing the significance of my influence in others’ lives.

One such reminder which happens most mornings, typically when I’ve run up to the kitchen from the basement office to top off a cup of coffee.

Caleb, my three year old, will usually look at me and say, “Dad, are you going back to work now?”

Yes, sir.  I’ll see you later.”

[pause, wait for it . . . ]

You’re my best buddy, dad.  And I love you and I like playing with you.  Okay, see you later.”

Then, though no one really sees it, I descend back to the basement with coffee in hand, grinning from ear to ear.

I am amazed at the opportunity adults have to influence the lives of children.  But not only children, anyone who gives us permission to step beyond the metaphorical “front porch” of our lives.

Some people will just wave from their porch as we walk by in life, some will invite us up to the porch swing for some lemonade (can you tell I’m from the South?), and many others will invite us in to “stay a while.”  Those relationships are the ones where we have such an incredible chance to bless one another.

I’ve been greatly encouraged these past few weeks as I’ve read through Galatians 6 in preparation for Sunday messages.  The truth there has left me with a deep prayer and desire to see our “household of faith” make significant investments in each others’ lives.  Whether it is the example we put before the children in our church, the effort we put forth in small groups, or general tenor of how we speak and relate to one another, I sincerely pray that

we [will] not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those to belong to the household of faith. (Gal. 6:9-10)

So to my friends and church family:

You are my dear buddies.  And I love you and I love spending time with you.  Okay, see you later.”