A test of your relationship with God

Do you have the kind of relationship with God that is like a married couple, including fights and spats? That’s the biblical, Jewish picture of a person who really knows God.  At a certain point in life when I was dealing with some major disappointments, I came to the conclusion that it would be better to yell all my frustrations at God than go through a separation and live apart from him. That’s why I love this quote from Lois Tverberg and her quote of Peter Kreeft so much. Trust me, you’ll want to read to the bottom of this discussion of Job.  “Job’s friends were making the mistake that Western Christians do today when we don’t have a Hebraic understanding of the ‘knowledge of God’—da’at Elohim. A Westerner opens the Bible and wants to prove God’s existence and construct a theology to explain God’s nature. We would call that ‘knowledge of God.’ But in Hebrew, to ‘know’ someone was to be familiar with him through experience and relationship, as a wife knows her husband... “While Job’s

Simplifying life with God down to its essence

Simplicity is about setting aside extraneous concerns and reducing things down to their essence. What if you could ask a great spiritual master to reduce things down to their essence? Let's hear how one such person would answer that question. There's nothing like a crisis in life to give you an urgent need to simplify things. Henri Nouwen was known as one of the great Christian spiritual masters of the twentieth century. At one point, he went through a period of intense personal and relational upheaval. During that period, he had to reduce his life with God down to its essence. It was a matter of inner survival.  If we could have sat down with him on an early spring day in 1988 and asked him to simplify the Christian life for us, he would have had a clear answer, born of his own crisis. Here he is talking to himself in his personal journal from that time... Your main question should always be whether something is lived with or without God. You have your own inner kn

It's simple: say the good thing you are thinking... a true story

The Simple Way of Jesus is made up of many small decisions to bless people. Here's a story from last week of how one blessing led to another, and two of us walked away marveling over how delicious God's kingdom is. My friend Dave Pabalate and I had a lunch appointment last Friday, and we decided to eat at the Chick-fil-A on Madison by the 80 freeway. (I'm telling you which Chick-Fil-A so you can bless the Mason family, who owns the place, with some business.) As we ordered our sandwiches, the young woman behind the counter asked what the name was for the order. "David," I replied. She was courteous, looked us in the eye and smiled. In today's customer service world, those qualities are not to be taken for granted. One of the habits I have gotten into as a way of living out Jesus' Simple Way is to find out the name of a server and try to use it at least once. So I looked at her name tag. "Emma." As we walked away to get our drinks, I made

What is the Simple Way of Jesus?

In January 2015, after a PhD in theology and a decade of being a full-time pastor, I began a concentrated study of the person of Jesus. This study has been a complete game changer for me. I have read numerous books about Jesus and preached dozens of messages out of the book of Matthew. I feel like I have been completely reintroduced to Jesus. And the more I know Jesus, the more I want to know him. He's that captivating a person! Along the way as I preached for week after week out of Jesus' great Sermon on the Mount, one observation kept popping up. It's one of the most important things I've learned about Jesus. He promotes a connection with God and a way of life that is stunningly simple. He cuts through red tape like he was born with a machete in his hand. Here's an example. In the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those wh

Justice, political correctness and offending people -- what would Jesus do?

Justice, political correctness and offending people -- what would Jesus do? In this week's news, it was reported that ESPN has removed Asian-American broadcaster Robert Lee from the Virginia football telecast because his name happens to be Robert Lee... you know, the same as the Confederate General Robert Lee. Defending their action, ESPN says they wanted to protect broadcaster Lee from all the "Robert Lee is marching into Virginia" jokes and memes he might suffer. Hmm. Methinks it has more to do with getting caught up in a culture where wanting to avoid offending people reaches the point of hysteria. As the Washington Post put it, "ESPN proves it is the worldwide leader in silliness." The American gospel desperately urges us to avoid offending people. What would Jesus do? Last week I spoke at Sanctuary about doing justice Jesus-style. Fact: Jesus did not desperately avoid offending people.  Fact: Jesus was constantly saying things that offended peo

Connecting with God when it feels like nothing special is happening

I read recently that Facebook has been known to lead to depression. This person just enjoyed a vacation to Hawaii. That person's kids are cuter and apparently don't act up like yours. And that friend over there just won another award. If you're feeling sassy about your life, you join in on the bragging parade. If that little gray cloud is hovering over you reminding you of how things just aren't turning out, Facebook makes it worse. Today I decided to raise my fist in protest by writing a post about the morning my walk with God was less like leaping forward and more like shuffling along. It's like getting on Facebook and posting, "Nothing special happened in my world this morning. You feel me?" This morning I got up and made tea like usual. I sat in my chair like usual. I began my prayer time, like usual, with these words: "You were [God’s] enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself

Cultivating contentment

Wherever you are, there are two ways to be there: discontent or grateful. For instance, when I work from home, there are two ways to be here. 1. I notice what's wrong. ("These carpets look horrible." "We need to gut the bathroom." "When am I going to fix the kitchen floor so we can have a fridge inside our house?") --- OR --- 2. I notice what's right. ("There's a mockingbird that sits in the top of our tree and sings all day." "It's calming just to look at the pool." "I'm really digging our new couch.") It takes no effort to notice what's wrong. It takes intentionality to notice what's right. There is discontentment and misery in noticing what's wrong. There is gratitude and joy in noticing what's right. Wherever you are and will be today, simply do this: "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anythi