Advice from a mountain

During Christmas break some dear friends of ours let us use their cabin in Winter Park.  This was a tremendous blessing to our family.  It was a joy to spend mornings in our “jammies”, afternoons walking and sledding, and evenings gathered around hot soup and fun family games.  On our last day we stopped by one of the many tourist trap shops in downtown and found this wall hanging that caught my eye.Image

As you and I look to this next year with anticipation, there is much truth and wisdom found in this cheesy-chic decoration.

Reach New HeightsThe LORD came down on the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses climbed the mountain. Exodus 19:20 NLT

God is calling each of us to greater and newer heights of faith, sacrifice, joy and service.  I love Moses’ simple response.  He climbed.  He didn’t second-guess.  He didn’t argue.  He didn’t put it off until it better suited his timing.  He started climbing.  Will you and I do the same?

Rise Above It AllDon’t let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.   Romans 12:21 NLT

Dysfunction is all around.  From personal, family relationships to natural disasters to the evil men do to one another.  The way of the Cross is to rise above.  The best response, the best way to soar is to overwhelm evil’s machinations with the transforming Good of the Kingdom of Heaven.

There Is Beauty As Far As The Eye Can SeeHonor and majesty surround him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. Psalm 96:6

All of creation points to the grandeur and wonder of God.  The psalmist is overcome when considering the loveliness of the LORD.  When was the last time you were cognizant of the beauty of God?  Have you acknowledged His signature in the sunset?  Or His authorship in the sweeping vistas of nature?  In 2013 intentionally choose to sink deep into the beauty of God.

Be UpliftingI’m eager to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. In this way, each of us will be a blessing to the other. Romans 1:12 NLT

How might your relationships change if by the end of this year people would say of you, “He(she) is the most encouraging person I know.”?  Lifting other’s up is one of the best ways to root out the sickness of selfishness in our hearts.  Sharing an encouraging word costs you nothing but becomes an investment with unlimited returns in others.

Patience, Patience, PatienceFinishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride. Ecclesiastes 7:8 NLT

Most of us give up before we see the blessing.  We grow weary, distracted and disillusioned often just before the breakthrough comes.  Training for, and running a marathon has helped hammer this idea into me.  Patience is about faithfully putting one foot in front of the next in anticipation of a “finish line” that cannot yet be seen.  Have the resiliency, and patience to pray through whatever lies ahead of you.

Get To The PointFor the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 NLT

Too often I have depended on the “Osmosis Method of Evangelism”.  Trusting that the simple presence of my faith will somehow ooze its way across the membranes of doubt and unbelief of those I meet.  When was the last time you clearly articulated the Truth of the Gospel to someone?  Do not trust in actions alone; get to the point of salvation.

Enjoy the view!I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:11 NIV

Scripture is clear…a grumpy Christian is an oxymoron.  Joy is one of the best evangelism tools we have.  We must choose it and use it, daily.  Christ does not offer us partial joy.  It is not a 50% option.  His joy in us equals our joy topping out and flowing to others.

I encourage you to take these seven simple exhortations and doggedly apply them to your daily life.  So that 2013 will usher in a new season of Kingdom living for you and those you love.

Joel Thomas

My favorite gift

ImageOne of my most vivid Christmas memories is getting a used car stereo from the junkyard.  Strange, right?  Not if you were the particular kind of strange like me.  From a very early age, I so enjoyed taking things apart.  It began with my toys and quickly graduated to electronics.  Investigating the inner workings of radios, TVs, speakers and VCRs fascinated me.  How were they able to do all the wondrous things that they could do?  I assumed that if I took them apart, their secrets would come pouring out.  Unfortunately—for me and for the poor blighted piece of equipment I set upon—it never worked out that way.

As gifted as I was at disassembling and destruction—and I must say it truly was a gift—I was thoroughly inept at putting the pieces back together.  I could pull the most complicated device apart in seconds, but I was at a total loss at returning said pieces to anything resembling a working condition.  This deeply frustrated me.

I would stare bewilderedly at the pile of rubble before me; never able to fully restore what I had so deftly demolished.  Finally, my last option was to petition my father to sit with me and help.  He had ran a local Radio Shack, was the Audio Visual Director at our local high school and had as much affinity for repairing electronics as I had for dismantling them.  It didn’t matter how badly I had wrecked things.  He knew exactly where everything should be placed.

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I can remember one time in particular when he sat down beside me, “Wow.  That’s quite a mess you have there.  What say I give you a hand with that?”

It didn’t happen often, but when he had the time, putting things back together with him was some of the sweetest times of my childhood.

This is the story that came to mind when I was reflecting on the gift of Jesus.  Like my “gift” with electronics, humanity has an innate ability to wreck things.  Our sin nature gums up the works and makes it impossible to repair all the beautiful broken things in and around us.  Like a dejected child, we all huddle over the piles of our destruction wishing desperately to reassemble, that which was rent.

Into this despair, steps the Father.  He understands our nature, our ability to ravage, but never to redeem.  The God of creation compassionately enters into our plight and whispers, “Wow.  That’s quite a mess you have.  How about I give you a hand?”ImageThat is the message this year of Christmas for me.  Immanuel…God with us.  He enters into our mess.  Pulls up a chair and begins the beautiful heart surgery of restoration and redemption.

What is broken in your life?

What have you been trying in vain to repair?

Have you sought the Father’s help?

Have you swallowed your pride, confessed your inadequacy and opened yourself up to God’s restorative plan?

That is the gift that is most important.  Accept it.  Unwrap it.  And share it with others.

May you have a merry, merry, Christmas!

Joel Thomas

More and more and more

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“More and more and more.”  Seems like it should be the title song for today’s modern Christmas.  As the father of four I struggle mightily with shifting my children’s focus away from “getting” to “giving”.  It is no easy task.  The relentless barrage of ads, jingles, coupons and “for a limited time only” sales overwhelms me.   When I get the mail at the end of the day, I no longer really look through it.  It nauseates me.  All the “Black Friday Deals”, “Limited Holiday Savings”, and “Extended Cyber Monday” junk goes straight to the circular file.

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Before you categorize me as one of those, “Holy roller, anti-fun, anti-Santa” Christians, ease up.  I love giving and getting presents at Christmas.  I love filling my kid’s stockings on Christmas Eve and I love staying up late with my lovely wife to put together that ridiculous toy that always seems to be missing one critical piece.  It is all wonderfully aggravating…and worth it come that sweet Christmas morning.

What I cannot stand is our ability as modern Christians to celebrate Christmas without Christ.  More and more I sense that He has been relegated to the role of tiny Caucasian plastic figurine.  He is less and less the prophesied Messiah that all of creation has groaned and yearned for.

One response was given by the innkeeper when Mary and Joseph wanted to find a room where the Child could be born. The innkeeper was not hostile; he was not opposed to them, but his inn was crowded; his hands were full; his mind was preoccupied. This is the answer that millions are giving today. Like a Bethlehem innkeeper, they cannot find room for Christ. All the accommodations in their hearts are already taken up by other crowding interests. Their response is not atheism. It is not defiance. It is preoccupation and the feeling of being able to get on reasonably well without Christianity.

Billy Graham

Have all the accommodations in your heart been taken up by crowding interests?  Have your schedule, your pace of life and your family become so full of Christmas that there is nothing left for Christ?  If you and I were to peal away the decorating, presents, parties, pageants and often-awkward family gatherings, would what is left be enough to elicit our devotion, rejoicing and worship?  I wonder.

Last night our family gathered around our Advent candle and read Isaiah 9:6

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What an amazing passage.  So clear, so mysterious and so powerful.  Yet it is the first three words that mean the most, “For unto us.”  It wasn’t for a worldwide holiday filled with tinsel, ribbons and presents that Jesus came.  It was for us.  You, me, our wives, children, family and friends.  The Incarnation, God humbling Himself on our behalf, is the point.  So rejoice mightily!  Celebrate without limits!!  And love overwhelmingly!!!  For unto YOU a Child is born, unto YOU a Son is given.  Enjoy your traditions.  Enjoy the gift giving.  Enjoy the silly toys that bring simple joy to your children’s faces.  But guard your heart and your family from allowing any of that to become the point of Christmas.

Joel Thomas

I hate home repairs.

Last summer I woke early and began cleaning up the kid’s toys when I walked into the “toy room” from the kitchen.  The floor around the threshold was soaking wet.  At first I assumed that one of my little angels had spilled water from the night before.  Yet when I asked my wife about it she said she had tried cleaning up water from the same spot days before.  Yikes.  We soon discovered that the water line behind our refrigerator had been leaking for some time.  It had damaged a sizable portion of the kitchen floor, dining room floor, basement ceiling, carpet and drywall.

I hate home repairs.  Whenever anything breaks around my house I feel incredibly inadequate.  Though my dad taught me a powerful work ethic, he was not particularly handy.  Therefore I never learned any of typical home repair skills.  Plumbing, electrical, woodworking, flooring, etc.; all are mostly mysteries to me.  So when confronted with the reality of major water damage I not only have to deal with the inherent frustration of an impending repair, but my latent father and personal insufficiency issues.  Joy.

The culmination of this is that it wasn’t until two weeks ago that I actually began to repair the damaged floor.  In defense of my stalling I should point out that it took my dad took roughly seven years to hook up a second faucet in my brother and sister’s bathroom.  So postponing this repair was practically a genetic certainty.  My wife had patiently put up with my procrastination, but stated, “everything must be finished” by Thanksgiving.  It was therefore at approximately 1:45am on Wednesday morning that I finished installing the new tile floors.

I learned a couple of lessons from this experience.

  1. I have wonderful friends who were willing and able to help.
  2. Installing tile is hard, frustrating work, but totally doable.
  3. Blessings often masquerade as hardships on the front end.

Our linoleum floors were reaching the end of their life.  They were stained, yellowing and curling up as the glue had dried out over time.  As much as we knew we needed to replace them, we also knew we didn’t have money in our budget to put down the tile we hoped to replace them with.  Funny how God works these things out.  As I write this, I’m sitting in my kitchen looking over the freshly installed tile floors that God perfectly provided for.  Not only did insurance provide the needed funds, but several dear friends provided tools, time, guidance and the encouragement needed to make the Thanksgiving deadline.

I am humbled how God so faithfully takes difficult situations that are initially painful and redeems them into something beautiful.  Julie and I spent time last night listing out a few of God’s bigger “masqueraded” blessings over the past twelve years.

  • A heartbreaking miscarriage that was redeemed through a “surprise” redheaded blessing years later.
  • A long drawn out adoption process that resulted in a second adoption and  a family of six that I can’t imagine any other way.
  • My dad’s excruciating battle with cancer that was used to bring him to a destiny changing relationship with Jesus.
  • Eleven months of unemployment that allowed for me to be near my family during my dad’s illness.

This Thanksgiving, take a few minutes and thank God for His masqueraded blessings.  The real trick though, is in choosing to thank Him before the blessing is revealed.  I am hopeful that an obnoxious home repair job will result in a powerful lesson learned and a deepening ability to choose a posture of thanksgiving before the blessing is revealed.

What a stack of blessing you have piled up for those who worship you, Ready and waiting for all who run to you to escape an unkind world. Psalm 31:19 The Message

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!!

Joel Thomas

How to vote.

Tomorrow is the day when Americans will decide who will become our next President.  It is an important choice and one that should not be made flippantly.  Here are six points to consider when voting for president.  Once I scraped away all the bias and punditry, these six issues formed the core of how I made my choice.  I hope they are helpful to you.

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1.  The character of the candidate.  This may be the most important and yet difficult issue to nail down.  A person’s character is the map they use to navigate every decision-making intersection they will encounter.  Here is a question that may hit home the weight of this issue, “Which candidate would you feel most comfortable entrusting the raising of your children in the event of your death?”  As extreme as this question may seem, it cuts to the heart of the issue of character.  I do not agree with every decision my brother makes, but my wife and I trust his character enough to place the future well being of our children in his hands if we die.  Which candidate gives you greater peace regarding this question?  Most likely then, his is the character you trust.

2.  Global awareness.  We live in an unbelievably connected world.  Whomever we choose as president can no longer afford to place the wants of America singularly atop the pedestal of decision-making.  America casts an enormous shadow across the world and is therefore more responsible than ever for the choices it makes.  Incredible, persistent and wise leadership will be needed in the years to come.  In many instances, the right choice may not be the choice that is best for America in the short term.  Those sort of hard decisions must be weighed beyond the scales of national politics and rather be made with the understanding of America’s enormous potential for redemptive leadership within a global context.

3.  The sanctity of life.  Whether that life is enveloped in a woman’s uterus or clothed in the fatigues of a soldier on the battlefield, all human life is sacred.  The President of the United States is charged with protecting both.  This is not an either or issue.  Too often those who stand against abortion are all too ready to see military engagement as a first option.  Like wise, those opposed to war and its inherent loss of life seem capable of enormous philosophical backflips when accepting the obvious loss of life at the hands of abortion.  Life is sacred, whether in the womb or on the front lines.  A President can ill afford to consider one as more important than another.

4. The responsibility of government.  At the core, the difference between our current two-party system is whether or not the national government is charged with protecting you from yourself.  You must decide if personal responsibility trumps government decision making, or if federal oversight is needed to protect us from ourselves.  Certainly it is not an easy decision.  It is not as cut and dried as the pundits would have us believe.  Are our circumstances most often the result of our personal choices?  Yes.  Are there however many people living in situations not of their own choosing?  Yes.  How you meet the needs of those situations reveals your view on the responsibility of government.

5.  Personal faith. Our faith is the filter by which we determine our worldviews.  Life, death, love, sacrifice, service and our views of family all turn on the fulcrum of our individual faith journeys.  To choose a President without considering their personal faith is like ordering Escargot without knowing you’ll be eating snails.

6. Leadership.  This is the ability to translate a vision into reality.  Anyone can have a vision for the future, but unless that person can lead well, such a vision will never be realized.  Unrealized visions are dreams and we need a president that will do more than dream.  A leader will be able to work backward from the vision and create specific strategies for implementation.  The President must be able to lead people from differing ideologies toward the realization and implementation of specific goals.  If he cannot, then he has no business holding that position.

Though this election season has been contentious and stressful, let us not forget that true power lies in the hands of the King.  We must not place our trust and peace of mind in the hands of a fallible earthly candidate.  Our peace, our joy, our future and hope rest in the nail scarred hands of the One alone who is worthy.

I offer you then this beautiful hymn written in the early 1800s by Edward Mote.

“On Christ the Solid Rock I stand”

Overwhelmed

It was early and dark when my alarm crashed into my subconscious.  Today was the day.  Eight years in the making, and it was here.  I slid quietly out of bed, pulled on some socks and walked gingerly out of my room and down the hall to my daughter’s door.  As I walked up I could see her wrapped snuggly in the mounds of covers that she loves.  Tiptoeing up beside her, I rubbed her back and said, “Happy birthday sweetheart.  Let’s get up and go.”

My beautiful ‘Bella turned eight today, and the one thing she asked from me was that we would go out to breakfast together.  “Of course!” was my reply.

After we had dressed and climbed into the car we discussed the various breakfast options: Steamers, Denny’s, Starbucks or Village Inn.  She chose the Inn.  As we sat across from each other slicing and dicing our pancakes, I certainly couldn’t argue with her choice.

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‘Bella is adopted and one of her favorite requests is to hear the story of when my wife and I first met her at the hospital just five hours after she was born.  It is a great story and one that always makes both of us smile.  Today though, it made me do more than smile, it made me tear up.  Not for any sense of sadness, quite the opposite.  Sitting across from my “very grown up eight-year-old” girl flooded me with overwhelming pride, humility and joy.  Ultimately it was the “joy” that overwhelmed me.

True Joy has a way of doing that.  You can’t prepare for it.  It is as different from happiness as sticking a glass under the water dispenser in my refrigerator versus stepping into the raging torrent of a 100 foot aquamarine waterfall.  The waterfall will take your breath away every time.

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My wife has begun a new series on Joy on her site: www.womenwhobelieve.wordpress.com beginning with the story of our beautiful ‘Bella.  I encourage you to click through and read it.  She offers some penetrating questions that all of us should wrestle through.

My parents taught me a great lesson about the difference between happiness and joy.  Happiness is fleeting, temporary and based solely on earthly things.  Joy is a choice that is empowering, ongoing and rooted in the eternal heart of the Father.

I hope today that you will choose to step into the whelming flood of God’s eternal Joy.

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” – Jesus, John 15:11

Joel Thomas

Things I won’t change

It is not the things you cannot change that hold you back.  It is the things you won’t.

This phrase popped into my head as I charged up a beautiful autumn hillside outside Santa Fe, New Mexico.  A close friend of mine had invited me to come and spend a few days of rest and renewal.  It was in the midst of this much-needed “r and r” that the Holy Spirit dropped these two lines in my head.

Since that trail run two weeks ago, I have returned to these sentences often; asking God to reveal the truth and depth of them in my life.  Here is what I have learned thus far.

1. I am not a victim.

We live in a culture that would have us believe that the difficulties in our lives are the result of forces leveraged against us.  Whatever the pain in your life, you are not the cause of it.  You are a simple and innocent bystander in the story of your life.  If you’re overweight, it’s a glandular problem—not your fault.  If you’ve been passed over for promotion, it’s because someone else is keeping you down, and you’ve been taken advantage of—not your fault.  If your marriage has fallen apart, it’s your spouse’s responsibility.  She just won’t take the time to communicate better—not your fault.  Your sex life with your wife is unfulfilling, if only she understood your needs better—not your fault.  If your children are bitter and distant, it’s because of their rebellious natures, not because of your parenting skills—not your fault.  Too often our culture tells us to take a pill, read another “self help” book, or move on if the going gets tough.  That is so rarely true it’s laughable.  Nine times out of ten, I am responsible for the circumstances in my life.  If I want things to change, I need to get on my knees, seek the Father and get busy becoming the Man of God He calls me to be.

2.  I have made some unhealthy agreements.

I have become such a masterful liar, that I can even lie to myself.  I’m sure you can relate.  There are so many things that I’ve “agreed” not to change or address about my life.  See if any of these ring true for you.  “I’m too busy to have a daily time with Jesus.”—baloney.  “My kids will understand that I can’t play with them right now.”—phooey.  “My wife knows I need this promotion.  She’ll understand if I can’t be there.”—bogus.  “I have to lie a little if I’m going to get ahead.”—wrong.  There is much more that each of us control than we like to admit.  Unhealthy agreements delay self-actualization and holy redemption.  They must be avoided at all costs.

This past weekend I attended an event titled, “The Rising – men rising to meet the challenges of tomorrow.”  If any of us are to truly rise, we must wholeheartedly embrace points one and two.  I am always the largest obstacle in the way of becoming all that God has called me to be.

Questions:

What are the things in your life that are “holding you back”?

Be painfully honest and evaluate if rather than being something you “cannot” control, its something you won’t.

List out some unintentional unhealthy agreements that have been shaping your attitudes.

Take each on that list and offer them as a prayer to God.

Example:

Dear Father I have unintentionally agreed that I cannot change my circumstances.  Give me the sight to see beyond that lie.  Help me to own my mistakes and help me to move beyond them.  Give me the courage and the strength to change.  In Jesus name, amen.

Joel Thomas

Liar, liar, pants on fire!

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Occasionally when my four year old doesn’t want to acknowledge the truth of a certain situation, he will cover his ears while loudly proclaiming his “rightness”.  Its a solid tactic.  Even a successful one on some occasions.  Though it “protects” him from disagreeable ideas, it also delays his development.  His bias toward his own viewpoint ends up limiting his growth.  That is why when I watched the debate this week I was so disappointed to see each campaign had adopted a modified version of my four year old’s strategy. The best minds on both sides of the aisle agreed that the strategy for the evening would be five simple words.

“Liar, liar, pants on fire.”

The loudest pundits in America would have us believe that this is the strategy that will unite us.  Baloney. We all know that we are biased toward our own opinions.  What is wrong with admitting it?

Yesterday I had two intense and polarizing conversations regarding the upcoming presidential election that illustrate this idea.  What follows is a quick synopsis of each conversation with a little “food for thought” thrown in at the end.

Conversation One

At lunch yesterday I had the opportunity to chat with a gentleman who has been involved in Middle-Eastern and Muslim affairs for over 20 years.  You also need to know that this person is widely recognized theologically as an Evangelical Christian.  During his time connected with the State Department he has been present during several White House sanctioned prayer breakfasts.  He explained that these breakfasts were very ecumenical; with Hindus, Muslims, Jews, and Christians all present.  They would not appear particularly “evangelical” in any overt way.  Yet the organizers behind the events were primarily evangelical Christians.

At these events this person has heard Bush Sr., W., and Obama each speak regarding their personal faith.  What continues to be interesting to him is that neither Bush Sr. nor W. ever mentioned the name of Jesus in relation to their personal faith experiences, while Obama has been (from this person’s perspective) open and forthright about Jesus residing at the center of his faith.  My friend wasn’t sharing this as a way of possibly manipulating my vote.  He shared it as an example of “personal bias”.  Based on his personal experience–what pundits now label “bias”–he gives the edge to Obama on the issue of a personal Christian faith.

Conversation Two

A family friend of ours came charging into my house, and without saying, “Hi” or “How is everyone?”, shoves a DVD in my face and proclaims, “You have to watch this!”  “Obama is a Muslim!  They caught him on tape saying it!”  To which I tried calmly to reply, “What are you talking about?”  “Who caught him?”  “Where did you get this?”  My questions seemed to physically unsettle this individual.  With a scrunched up face they replied, “I got it in the mail.”  “Did you order it?”, I asked.  “No, it just came in my mailbox.”  To which I responded, “So, you don’t know who sent it, why they sent it, or what their reputation may be, but you are ready to believe what they told you?”  As my seventh grade teach would have said, “That went over like a pregnant pole-vaulter.”  This dear family friend of mine looked at me with a pained expression, shook their head and said, “Well, whatever.  They still caught him saying it.”, then they walked back out of my house without saying another word.

Bottom Line

You and I form our beliefs and opinions from personal bias.  We can not help it.  We are all subjective creatures.  My experience with a person, place or thing could be (and most likely is) entirely different from yours.  And yet the differing conclusions we make are not inherently right or wrong.  What is important is that we recognize and acknowledge our biases from the beginning.  Then we have a chance at true dialogue.  Let’s be honest with ourselves and others.  Only then can any of us finally get on the path toward objective truth.

To be clear, putting our fingers in our ears while shouting, “Liar, liar, pants on fire!!” doesn’t make us right.  It makes us ridiculous.

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  Ephesians 4:1-3

uncommon water

Water is the most common substance on the planet.  It is ubiquitous in its prevalence in our lives.  Oceans, lakes, streams, creeks, ponds and puddles.  For many of us, water is around the next corner, or a turn of the nearest faucet.  Scientists tell us that more than 70% of the earth’s surface is slathered in it.  We drink it, bathe in it, walk through it and complain when there is too much or too little of it.  Water is entirely ordinary.

Except, of course, when it is not.

Combine water with a sharp descent from an aspen covered mountain grove and you get one of nature’s most extra-ordinary sights, a waterfall.  Mix a salty flow with one part coastal shore and two parts lunar pull to witness the relentless might and thunder of the ocean waves.  Again, extra-ordinary.  Or observe stratospheric droplets from a cool summer shower refracting late-day sun into the glorious display of an afternoon rainbow.  Decidedly not ordinary. 

This past weekend I was blessed to participate in another of water’s exceptional transformations.  My family met two other families in Estes Park, Colorado for one last gasp of summer camping.  It was wonderful.  The kids ran, played and generally terrorized the other campers.  While us adults, ate, drank and laughed lots.  It was exactly what was needed.

On Saturday we loaded everyone up and headed into Rocky Mountain National Park.  The Aspen were turning, the air was crisp and the kids were behaving.  It was truly glorious.  Our little three-car-caravan traveled through the park gates and eventually to the East Alluvial Fan parking lot.  After a quick snack of cinnamon covered almonds we led the troops on a short ramble to the base of the waterfall.  As some of the older kids crested the hill you could hear audible gasps and giggles as they responded to the beauty before them. 

“Wow!  Mommy, Daddy, come and see!”, was heard over and over.

For the next thirty minutes we clambered, climbed and splashed in the cool autumn spray.  Time slowed down a bit as we soaked in the pure joy of the moment.  One of the dads, Jason, then pulled me aside and asked if he and his wife could get baptized.  “Of course you can!” I said.  After taking a few minutes to find a good spot, and to allow my wife time to get just the right camera angle, I had the amazing honor of baptizing Jason and Jodi in the presence of all our families.

Combine two public confessions of Christ with the most ordinary substance on earth and you get the extra-ordinary sacrament of baptism.  Basic, simple, common water is transformed into the symbolic grace, mercy and restoration offered to all who have accepted Jesus’ invitation of salvation.  As Watchman Nee so plainly stated, “Baptism is an outward expression of an inward faith.”  Baptism then is a powerful mechanism transforming the most common substance into an uncommon symbol of man’s acceptance of God’s glorious gift.  Extraordinary.

If you believe in me, come and drink! For the Scriptures declare that rivers of living water will flow out from within.  John 7:38 NLT

If you never have, I challenge you to embrace the act of baptism.  Experience firsthand the uncommon waters of renewal and rebirth.

chasing gold

The Olympics have been ridiculously exciting to watch.  My DVR is about to burn out with all that we are trying to record.  Volleyball, Gymnastics, Swimming, Diving, Track & Field, Cycling, Rowing, it never ends.  The stories are powerful and the finishes have been climactic.  Never before have I seen a photo finish at the end of a Triathlon, or crowds come completely unglued at the end of the men’s 10k.  It has been thrilling and exhausting as a spectator.

During one night’s report, the broadcaster mentioned how one of the athletes was “still chasing after more gold medals.”  One of my sons turned to me and asked, “Why is he still chasing gold if he already has one?”  Great question.  Why keep chasing after something you already have?

This morning as I was spending time with Jesus, a particular verse from Romans stood out to me.

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.  Romans 5:1 NLT

There is much that could be said about this verse, but this morning, the detail that leaped out at me was the tense that Paul writes in.  From a literary standpoint, Paul is writing in “Present Perfect Continuous” tense.  Present perfect continuous.  What a terrific phrase.  It means that the thing Paul is describing is already ours—and will continue to be ours indefinitely and irrevocably.

We have been “made right” and we “have peace”.  Done deal.  No more striving or chasing required.  Righteousness and peace are ours, now.  Author Sarah Young in her wonderful devotional, Jesus Calling shares the following,

My Peace is not an elusive goal, hidden at the center of some complicated maze.  Actually, you are always enveloped in Peace, which is inherent in my Presence.  As you look to Me, you gain awareness of this precious Peace.

Rather than chasing after more, lets stop and look to the One who has already wrapped us in His Peace.

Joel Thomas