10,000 Reasons

This ongoing list is intended to chronicle the many different ways that I see God’s grace, faithfulness, and rich blessings. It began as a practice following the form of One Thousand Gifts, but I felt convicted to go beyond. The song “10,000 Reasons” reminded me clearly that even such a number is not enough ways or times to give thanks to God.

909) Hearing from a friend
908) Trust
907) Meeting new people
906) Encouraging words
905) Finding Edith
904) Desires to help
903) Rearranged schedules
902) Wireless keyboard
901) Spirit-led conversation
900) Brilliant moonlight on a clear night



10,000 Reasons

This ongoing list is intended to chronicle the many different ways that I see God’s grace, faithfulness, and rich blessings. It began as a practice following the form of One Thousand Gifts, but I felt convicted to go beyond. The song “10,000 Reasons” reminded me clearly that even such a number is not enough ways or times to give thanks to God.

899) Learning the power of words
898) Unexpected time with my sons
897) Reading the Bible out loud in Spanish
896) Rearranged schedules
895) The offers to help
894) A meal given as a gift
893) Reading and writing in the sunshine


What is the Point of Purity? Avoiding Destruction

Spring has finally arrived in my city. At least, I hope it has. And now, all around there will be the trucks and workers of the long-dormant landscaping companies as they jump back into action. I have a question for you about that.
Let’s say, as I walk on a warm day, I go past a truck that has brought wood chips to place in a home owner’s landscape bedding. If I took one out of the back of the truck as I walked, have I stolen? You might say yes, you might say no, but either way I find it unlikely that a worker would chase me down to demand that I put it back.
What if I took a handful? Again, maybe I have stolen, but the worker will probably not chase me and I am willing to wager they would not notify law enforcement. What if I stop by the truck and grab as much as I can with my arms? At this point, you would probably say that I am stealing. I also suspect that, if spotted, I would hear a “Hey! What are you doing?” Whether the company’s worker does anything beyond that I don’t know.
What if I walk up to the truck with a wheelbarrow? The point I am driving at is this: when is taking something too much? At the first chip of wood? At the handful? Or not until I am clearly taking to fulfill my own need?
The way that you answer those questions will, I believe, also play into your rationale for purity. If you are a husband and you stare at the body of a celebrity on the magazine cover, have you taken too much? What if you purchase the swimsuit issue? What if you bring home a video to watch, one you know is filled with scenes of intense physical intimacy? Or what about when you continue talking to a female friend or colleague and use her attention to fill your emotional needs?
Ladies, what about for you? What if you sit in church where you can look at the man in front of you rather than where you will best hear the Word? What if you text someone that you used to date even though he is dating someone else? What about when start to not just receive someone’s compliments of you, but go about your day in such a way that you are seeking more of that from him?
Simply put, that which seems innocent, or even well-intended, can quickly become a source of destruction. After much obedience and much sacrifice and many victories for the Lord, Gideon brushes off the Israelites desire for him to rule. In a verse I would love to have my sons memorize, he responds this way:
I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you, The Lord will rule over you.” Judges 8:23
Kudos. Well done. That is the way it should be! But there is another verse, just four verses later, that I also want my sons to memorize. Judges 8:27
Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.”
How did that happen? Well, in the verses in-between, Gideon asked for a share of the plunder. Just one earring from each person. Sounds innocent, right? That’s not too much. Well, either the earrings were really, really heavy or there were a lot of them, because the Bible tells us that their weight was about 43 pounds. That’s a lot! And that did not include the “ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels’ necks.” (Judges 8:26b)
Gideon was a mighty man of God. He is one who is often celebrated for his faith and dependence on God. When God said to him, “You don’t need that,” Gideon obeyed. And God rewarded. But somewhere along that journey, Gideon took a proverbial wood chip. Then he took a handful. Then an arm full. Eventually, he backed the truck right up to his own door.
So it is with purity. Sending the text seems fine. Watching that movie won’t kill you. Talking to that lady after church isn’t hurting anyone, so what’s the fuss? If you read those last three sentences over again, you may find that they sound a lot like the first whisper of the enemy: “Did God really say…?”
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:8
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28
There is a reason the phrase is “to steal a glance.” You are taking without permission. Or we jokingly ask someone if we can “steal some of your time.” Be careful what you take.
You cannot unsee.
You cannot unsay.
You cannot undo.
As I write this, my car sits in an auto repair shop. Everything on the outside looks wonderful. When I drove it, it performed well. Yet something, unknown to me, was destroying the inside. The destruction on the inside eventually showed itself on the outside in the form of leaking fluid and steam from under the hood.
After much puzzling and testing, the evidence pointed to one thing: the engine oil was leaking into the coolant. Now, right away, this was not evident. I have had this car for nearly four full months, and there was no visible sign of the problem. But now there is. The hoses connecting the engine’s systems are spongy because for an undetermined amount of time, the wrong combination of fluid has been passing through them. They were designed for coolant, not oil. One hose is visibly swollen. And, eventually, either one by one or altogether, they would fall apart – as would the engine – as would the car.
You cannot unsee.
You cannot unsay.
You cannot undo.
You could put a wood chip back, I suppose. But you cannot extract oil from coolant very easily. A week ago the cooling system was flushed, and flushed, and flushed. Still the oil appeared. An agent was placed in the fluid to continue flushing out the oil which did not belong. But now that the problem is clear, so is the solution. Surgery. Overhaul. New systems.
Some of you may be at that point now. You are so far past stealing a glance. Your text exchanges are not innocent, and you know it. And maybe you don’t even care. All I can tell you is that, eventually, it will show up on the outside. It could result in the destruction of your marriage, or never being able to marry, or a career that implodes, or broken relationships with your children or parents. It shows up.
My car is a gift from my father. Your body, as a temple, is a gift from your Heavenly Father. They both have a particular design, and both designs require purity to function as they should. (If you don’t believe me, there is a repair bill I’m happy to show you – and let you pay.)
Gideon walked with God and had great success. But eventually, it would appear, that he listened to the whisper: “Did God really say you have to stay pure? Did he really say you can’t have some of what you want? Aren’t you tired of just being given only what you need?”
Be careful, brothers and sisters.
If you know that you have not been functioning as you should, there is hope. God does surgery. You see, I could have continued to drive my car. For the week in-between trips to the shop, it operated just as it had before. But, on the inside, the problem was only growing worse. And I don’t know where that problem would have overwhelmed my car – on the highway? on the back roads? when I needed to stop? or go? So my car is having surgery. You can do the same with your heart.
David, when confronted by the prophet Nathan about his adultery with Bathsheba, penned these words, words that you can say out loud even right now:
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:10-12)


10,000 Reasons

*This ongoing list is intended to chronicle the many different ways that I see God’s grace, faithfulness, and rich blessings. It began as a practice following the form of One Thousand Gifts, but I felt convicted to go beyond. The song “10,000 Reasons” reminded me clearly that even such a number is not enough ways or times to give thanks to God.

893) Learning dance to God’s heartbeat
892) The testimony of the saints who join the church
891) Children making birthday cards for the church
890) “Still waters run deep”
889) Tears from men who don’t cry
888) Hugs from men who don’t hug
887) Rob, who faithfully serves for church
886) Laughing deeply in Bible study
885) Recognizing that God knows what I can handle
884) Men who sacrifice to study the Word early in the morning
883) God’s timing even with auto repairs
882) The first clothesline use of the season
881) Waking up in time to hear a friend’s need
880) Worship with 2nd and 3rd graders
879) Devotions with 2nd and 3rd graders
878) The privilege of praying for the church
877) Being prayed for by the church
876) Worship with my parents
875) “Have a blessed day” as I walked
874) The bird choir
873) Flying ants


What’s the Point of Purity? Rhythm

My father is predictable.
Or, put another way, he has rhythm. Now that may not be the way my father would describe it, the man who I have seen dance one time, but it is accurate. For the duration of my childhood in his home, I saw his rhythm. He woke up early, often without the use of an alarm. Shortly after waking, he could be found at the head of the table with a bowl of cereal (almost always Wheaties), a slice of toast (with butter, peanut butter and honey), and a devotional. Even if it was only him at the table, he prayed before his breakfast and after. Doubtless he had learned such a rhythm from his father.
And then, for the years of working as a farmer and then electrician, he went off to work with his cooler full of sandwiches, milk, and kool-aid. His life has a rhythm.
I know his rhythm; I have watched it for years. In fact, I predicted his rhythm yesterday. He and my mother came to attend church with us, a solid 100 miles away. As I approached the church with my sons in the car, I asked Joshua, “Who will be at church first? Us, or grandma and grandpa?” Joshua, seeing that we would be at least 30 minutes early, declared that we would. I told him that I expected to arrive at the same time as my mom and dad. Then I broke it down this way, “Grandpa was up early and got ready. Then he waited for grandma to be ready. He left early because he doesn’t want to arrive right at the time church starts. There would be little traffic on the road this morning, and so he should be there about 9:30, which is when we will be there.” As I pulled into the parking lot, there was my father, walking away from his car.
How did I know that? How did I know the schedule of the man who never told me when he would leave nor promised when he would arrive? How did I know the arrival time of the man who was traveling 100 miles and has not worn a watch for as long as I can remember? Because my father has rhythm.
Unfortunately today, we focus more on the interruption than on the rhythm. Get a text? Well, stop what you’re doing and reply. Urgent email? Stop your conversation and excuse yourself so that you can reply. See something funny? Capture it and post it. (And by the way, on all three examples, I find myself guilty, guilty, guilty.) It is now commonplace, and accepted as polite to say, “Excuse me, I have to take this.”
Do you?
Is there no value to rhythm anymore? And what does my father’s “routine” have to do with purity? Well, I’m glad that you asked. Imagine that you have a dance partner, and you are attempting to learn a new dance. Whether you normally lead while dancing or not, this is a dance where you don’t know the steps. So, if you want to learn this dance, you must follow your partner’s lead. You may think that I am referring to your love partner, and I am. But it may not be the love partner that you are picturing.
Your Father – your Heavenly Father – has a rhythm. He has a heartbeat. We speak and sing often of the heart of God. We have a heartbeat. You can feel it. But in order to live as you were designed, you need to find the place where your heartbeat beats as God’s heartbeat. We act like it should be the other way around. “God, why can’t you learn these steps? Why won’t you dance like I dance?” Because our Father has the lead.
During my trip to Honduras, one of the leaders shared with me one of her favorite quotes. Paraphrasing her words, I heard her say, “Everyone has a pull to the earth, but it might not be to the place where they are right now.” Those words framed my whole experience there. God’s heart beats throughout creation. In each place, that beat will have a unique sound. And there is a place where the rhythm of my heart beat matches exactly the beat of God’s heart. If you and I sing the same song, but with different notes, it is called harmony. If you and I sing the same song and the same notes, it is called unison. To dance with God, our rhythm must be in unison with his. When it is, we will know the dance. When we find the place where God’s beat is just like ours – because ours is just like his – dancing becomes easy. We will know the next step. We will know to go left, right, forward, or back. It is the rhythm that we have heard all of our lives.
But what do we do instead? We try to dance our dance. And, when a better-looking, or new, dance partner enters the floor, we say, “I’ll be right back. I have to try this.” And we lose our rhythm.
And if that is how we treat our Heavenly Father, the one who gave us a heartbeat, what does that say about how we will treat our helpmate? When you find a person that you love and want to serve, your only hope for staying in rhythm is if you have first learned to dance in unison with God. If God has not so captivated you that you will not leave his dance, your helpmate has no chance. Because when you engage someone in a dance, you are not leaving your dance with God. Your dance with God has added a new partner. Now the dance requires even more of your focus, more of your attention. When you avert your eyes, when you step away, when you turn to talk to another, your rhythm is gone.
And so is your purity.
You may think that Jesus is the classic counterpoint to this illustration – he responded to “interruptions” all the time. He did, but he never lost his rhythm.
Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Luke 2:49, emphasis added.
Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” John 6:39
When Jesus said, “I have to take this,” it was in reference to his dance with God. He never left the dance. He never found something more attractive nor more interesting than to dance with his father. There were no interruptions to the dance, but there were those who learned to dance along with him.
Brothers and sisters, we have to become better at our rhythm. We must learn to listen to the beat of the Father and therefore, learn the dance. And when you do that, you will learn how to dance with another – with God. In order to say “yes” to the dance, you will have to say “no” to many other things. But, if you do so, you will never lose your stride, never jilt your dance partner, and never stumble.
My father developed a rhythm. It is a rhythm that allows for interruptions much in the way that Jesus did. With a background in farming and electrical work, there were many requests by others for his time. My father did not have to leave his dance in order to respond, because that was part of his dance. His heartbeat, in line with his Father’s, was to serve and to help. In other words, my father dances to a live jazz performance, though he may not ever say it exactly that way.
Finding your rhythm is not the same as knowing the next note. It’s not the same as knowing how the song will go. It is knowing where the leader of the dance wants you to go. That is how you dance.
Everything that can is stated here about learning the dance of your Heavenly Father can and should be applied to the one he gives you to love. Read it back through if you would like, and evaluate how you are doing at learning the dance of your partner. When God includes a dance partner in your life, it is not for you to teach them how to dance. You are still following God’s lead. But now you must submit your steps to their rhythm as well. In order to learn how God wants the dance to be, you must learn the steps of your new partner. Learn their rhythm, not the other way around.
It’s a lot like jazz. The notes are unscripted, but there is an underlying rhythm. It’s a dance that can include a new partner, but only after you have learned how to follow.
It’s a dance my father knows well.
It’s a dance with your Father.
It’s a dance you just have to take.


Immanuel: Our Protector

This piece came to mind in light of today’s events. I pray that the outstretched hands of God find you wherever you are in processing those things today.


I was never prepared for how to discuss such a tragedy with my own children. No one ever is. But no matter how dark the darkness, there is always light. I still see truth even in the darkness of horrible loss. Every name in the story has meaning. Every name listed in the middle is a name of someone who died in the shooting of Newton, Connecticut. No one is immune to death, and no one is beyond the reach of God’s love. If this helps you to talk about this with your children, then I am glad that I can help. But what I really hope is that you read this, learn how the story ends, and read it again. It will have deeper meaning the second time, once you are reminded what Joshua (Jesus) has done for YOU. You may share this story if you would like.


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Finding God In: Broken Hoses

I do not rest well, but I am learning. At some point in my life I will learn the lesson that there is nowhere else that I can be but exactly where I am. The point was made most clearly when I traveled to Nicaragua in 2009 and had a layover overnight in Atlanta. Everything was out of my hands. All that I could do was receive the warm hospitality that was offered and just be where I was. Yet, much like Geometry, this is a lesson that needs repeating.
The other day I had a fairly light agenda. I had no work obligations, so I was going to run a few errands before picking up my sons from school. My plan was then to take them to see the movie “42” about Jackie Robinson, come home, make pizza, and relax. God had a different design.
After filling up the car with gas, I had noticed a particular scent. Being that it was at a gas station, I just shrugged it off as a “gas station smell.” At the next stop light, I picked it up again. “Hope that’s not me,” I thought. I made a stop to pick up razors and toothpaste (two of the more vital needs in a home), and I noticed the scent again. By now I was pretty sure it was me, and that wasn’t a great feeling. As I pulled into my next stop, the steam rolling out of the hood left me no doubt – it was definitely me. I opened the hood and gazed at a change of plans, for the steam was prominent and the leak was flowing. Awesome.
At this point I was forced to change plans. I called my sons mother and she was able to do the school pick-up. I called the repair shop, but they were unable to fit me in until the next day. With the equivalent of a tail between my legs, I headed home with my eye on the temperature gauge. Every stop light became more irritating because it was a delay and a threat to the overall well-being of my car. “Please just let me get home,” I prayed more than a few times. And that is what happened.
With nothing to do but wait for my sons, I sat on the couch with a long list of unvoiced complaints. I had already struggled with the adjustment to Michigan after a week in Honduras. It had been raining every day. The sun had not come out – at all – and I was physically feeling pretty rotten.
God picked up the conversation from there with the equivalent of, “You got something to say? Well, let me have it.” Feeling as though I had been given permission, I whined like an Israelite sick of manna every day. “Why can’t I do this?…Why not that?…Why can’t I talk to?…Why did this have to happen?” At the end of my rant, God responded with, “That’s it?” And it became very clear to me that my complaint boiled down to this: “I’m sick of being given what I need, why can’t I get what I want?” Hopefully God shows mercy to me and doesn’t promise me quail until it comes out of my nose as he did for the Israelites.
You see, God had all of it worked out. He always does. I just didn’t especially like it. But, with hindsight, I began to see. Once again, the breakdown had come at a time when I could rest. My sons were picked up from school. There was no pressing need for the evening, nor on the next day. And church is only a mile away, so I can easily walk there and back. But what really convicted me in my complaint was when I began to share with someone about Edith, the woman who runs an orphanage in Honduras.
Edith stepped into her calling with nothing. She could not work because she was the only one who could care for the children. When she had an apartment full of ten children, the mayor kicked her out and gave her an abandoned high school. No running water, no consistent food nor income, just faith and love. And God has provided for her every step of the way. She now has some help and more people are aware of her ministry. And, not far down the road, a beautiful, brand-new building is being constructed for her. God is rewarding her faithfulness and obedience. As I shared about her, the insignificance of my complaints was driven home. Did I really have room to complain? Of course not.
In fact, my daily list of gratitude, my “10,000 Reasons,” has grown shorter once again as I am surrounded by all that I have. My list was long and easy to come by when I did not have my “wants,” because then it became so clear that God was giving me what I needed – and more. No, surrounding myself with comforts is not the answer. Having what I want is definitely not the answer. I must trust God to supply all of my needs.
I was recently asked to pray for someone who was feeling physically awful. Not only was he feeling awful, but he had a rather significant obligation to meet. So I prayed for him. Not more than ten minutes after I finished, I realized that I had never prayed for his physical healing. I had simply asked God to give him what he needed. God did, in fact, give him physical healing, but not in the manner we might have hoped. This brother became more sick, threw it all up, and then felt better.
We sometimes think that the blessing that we need is to experience the removal of those things that ail us, bother us, and become a thorn in our flesh. But God knows better. Shall we accept good from him, and not the bad? Of course not, because a sovereign God sees far beyond our human eye.
A couple of weeks ago I was invited to share at my sons’ school about my Honduras experience. I was given two dates to choose from – last Friday or today. For no particular reason, I chose today. That’s not entirely true, I felt prompted to choose today. At the very time that I would have been at the school on Friday, I was instead looking at an engine full of steam. And, Lord willing, that same engine will be repaired shortly and I will be able to drive to my sons’ school to share. We think that certain details are insignificant, that God does not care, but clearly, God cares even about broken hoses.
One final thought: this experience was yet another reminder to me of the life of words. Time and time again I have been given real-life challenges of words I have spoken as truth or encouragement. I recently said of someone recovering from hip surgery, “God has a way of making us be still.” Less than 48 hours later, I was living my words. We should not take our words lightly because God clearly does not treat them lightly. When I have shared words of truth or encouragement, they have all been coming back to me to live out. It’s as if God tells me, “If you are going to say that, you are going to live that so that you can know that to be true.” So my words coming away from this, what I know to be true: “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19