Anyone But God, Please Give Me Atta Boy!


I have committed to reading the gospels over the next four months; basically a gospel a month it's not an exact science. I know I will finish each gospel before the month is out, but each I wanted to leave myself some cushion at the end of each month to allow for my procrastination, and for other things that might disrupt my reading plan.

The reason why I embarked on this journey was to just take time and dwell *in* Jesus, I do believe he is with me on this reading adventure, and I didn't want anything else to get in the way. I am easily distracted and know that the less I am reading, the more it is possible that I will accomplish this (I am also reading Eugene Peterson's book, "A Memoir: The Pastor").

I started with the gospel of John; I know it's a little out of order, but it's where I started. Sometimes I do things that don't make sense... Any ways, I have been hit in the face several times in my reading of John's gospel, but this one verse hit me so hard it felt like I broke my nose.

Here it is...

"For they loved praise from men more than praise from God" - John 12:43

I am not going to lie. More times than not, I seek and desire approval from men more than I do God. I think if all of us were to be honest, we would agree that this would be true to some extent (Except for you Pharisees who have this spirituallity stuff all figured out... I joke, I joke. Well kind of...).

To be frank. I know I shouldn't seek the praise of men more than I do praise from God. You know what though? Sometimes, immediate praise of men feel better than praise from God. Maybe it's because of daddy issues I might have or maybe it's because of some narcissim that I struggle through, I don't know forsure. What I do know is that there are times when I want people to like me and I want them to tell me how good I am.

Think about it. Search your heart.

I am and there are times I find things that are ugly, dark, and messed up. I am not proud of this, infact I am a bit disgusted with it. Much like the religious rulers that John made that comment about; I do believe in Jesus, but fear grips my heart and I get apprehensive that I could get "thrown out of the synagogue" so to speak (Insert whatever your afraid of losing or what your sinful desires grave and lust after).

When I lose my head and my focus on what really matters, my courage to stand up for truth and to love like Jesus quavers a bit.

I think that is why Hebrews 12:1-3 was written. The Father knows that we are weak and need to be reminded that there is a very good chance all of us will get tired and lose heart.

I really don't have any magic words or a silver bullet to bestow about this subject other than to day don't give up. Don't quit! Keep moving forward, and have laser focused eyes on Jesus. Know that God's grace and praise is more valuable and significant and last forever. Man's praise while meaningful is fickle and near-sighted.

Romans 8:15 is a great reminder of our need to only seek God's praise, because of our relationship with Him...

"The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

Just read the gospels more...

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How often do we think about the last advice or the last words we would mouth to the people we love? To be honest, I don't really think about it that much. On the occasion when I do think about it, I have a tendency to think about the words I would speak to my wife, my kids, their spouses, and grandkids if it was appropriate to assume my kids had them.

So much should be said—like our last "I love you's" or admonishes about the wiles of this world. Maybe I would want to share with them my favorite things about each of them; the shape and color of their eyes, their scent, their dimples when they smile, the contagious sound of their laugh, or maybe some favorite moment we shared together.

While I am sure I would have some talk of these things with them, I feel there would need to be more...

Look At Jesus

These words are the words I would want to utter and recite to my family and friends if I had the opportunity to share with them if I were on my death bed.

Look At Jesus

N.T. Wright, when asked the question about what he'd say to his children on his death bed—commented that he would tell them to read the gospels more, "to look at Jesus."

I find it fascinating when I read the gospels, I find this drive and passion in Jesus to make sure we see that he and the Father are one—there is this completeness, a wholeness between them. The clarity and power in their unity is what drives, transforms, restores, and secures all things.

Jesus said,

"My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one." - John 10:29-30

In essence, Jesus is saying his dad is the biggest, baddest (Used in the American colloquialism—meaning good), and toughest dad in the neighborhood. Yet, he is also saying "my" dad is the most loving, caring, forgiving, and rescuing dad in the neighborhood.

You want to see God, look at Jesus—he is God who came to earth in the form of a man to reveal and demonstrate all the aspects of the Godhead to us. God loves, He cares, He forgives, and He rescues.

I would want my family and friends to know these things about Jesus.

I would tell them to read the gospels more, to look at Jesus, trust him, and then go do what he does.

A Tribute to Brennan Manning

brennanOne of the people who have heavily shaped and influenced my life and Christian walk passed away yesterday. Brennan Manning showed me that the God of the universe was more than some distant authoritarian being, but a Father who wanted me to call Him Abba which distinguishes me as His child, a part of His family. Now you got to understand I never met Brennan Manning. I never heard him speak at a conference or sat in a lecture by him, and I never attempted to meet him. His influence on me was through his writing. I first started reading his books while I was in Bible college. One of my professors made a couple of Brennan’s books required reading, and once I cracked open the pages of his books, it was no longer required reading for me... Brennan Manning also taught me to depend on God’s grace day by day and moment by moment. He purposed me to live a life defined by having an awareness that I am deeply loved by Jesus. My true identity is found in Jesus and that it was a gift, not anything I deserved or could buy, but it was offered to me for free - The Father’s grace...

Brennan Manning’s influence profoundly molded my view the reconciliation of my old life to the new life I have in Jesus. Even to this day when I struggle with the demons of my past, I reflect on not only the words of Jesus, but also on thoughts written by Manning, such as...

“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” - Brennan Manning, Ragamuffin Gospel

“To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God's grace means.” - Brennan Manning

Becoming aware of my need for redemption from the dark shadows of my life, one that is given not earned, reminds me that it is through this painful life that we find love and acceptance from Abba, Father. In turn, Manning spoke of this grace being something that is not selfishly kept, but desperately shared. In his book The Wisdom of Tenderness, Manning speaks of the true measure of our love for God is seen in our love for our neighbor. Our understanding of God’s love for us is when we seek to have our heart broken and concerned for the things that God cares about. Grace is something to be shared not something to keep. Manning wrote that The Father’s grace is for the hurting and not for the well. Manning states in his book Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging, “Our hearts of stone become hearts of flesh when we learn where the outcast weeps.”  May we all have a heart like The Father’s and take life moment by moment like Brennan Manning.

Thank you Brennan Manning you have shaped my life through your writing! You have shown me I am loved by my Abba, Father and the need to live gracefully.