Jacob’s Dream…Our Reality!

A few years ago, Abilene Christian University commissioned this sculpture to be constructed just outside of their School of Theology building, called “Jacob’s Dream.” It depicts the dream Jacob (Abraham’s grandson) had in Genesis 28, where he saw a stairway reaching from earth to heaven and angels climbing up and down on it. It was in this moment that God reconfirmed the promises he made to Abraham…to give his descendants the land he was on…to multiply his descendants like the dust on the earth…that all the peoples of the earth will be blessed through him…and that God will not leave him.

What an incredible story! What would it do to someone to see a glimpse of the eternal so clearly? And to hear the voice of God, loving you and promising to use you to bless the entire world! How would it change the way you would think of God? See the world? See people? Could you ever go back to the way things were?

The two girls standing underneath the ladder are my daughter, Reagan, and her friend, Sidney. They were just finishing their week of camp at ACU and had to have one more look at the sculpture. They had an amazing time and shared their experiences with — well — enthusiasm. They told us about their friends and all the fun they had. Then they talked to us about God, his promise to come back and that he will recreate a place for us to live with him forever. As they talked, I couldn’t help thinking that we were, in that moment, experiencing some of God’s promises spoken during Jacob’s dream. That these two beautiful little girls have received a taste of the kingdom of God!

In the camp’s closing ceremony, they showed a camp video for the parents to enjoy. Then, in their final act of camp, they asked all the students to stand and repeat a pledge that grew out of their week. It was a tremendous site, seeing a couple hundred elementary students declaring who they intend to be as they participate in the Father’s kingdom.

Here is that pledge. As you read it, consider how different our experience in this life would be if we commit to living this way with every breath we take. If we declare that we have encountered the God of Jacob, been invited into his kingdom and there is no turning back!

Kingdom of God Pledge

Because I have been invited into the throne room of God

Because I have been adopted into the family of God

Because I want to be a citizen of the Kingdom of heaven forever

I hereby renounce any allegiance to the kingdom of earth

and any other god other than the One True God who created me and loves me.

I hereby declare that it is my heart’s desire to do God’s will on earth

just as it is done in heaven

So I will work to heal those who need healing

I will seek to know God’s will and obey it

And I will seek to fight injustice wherever I encounter it

Until God calls me home or Jesus returns to take us all home to heaven.

To the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Do You Have Time To Be Interrupted?

A phone call from a friend, when you feel like you are all alone. A meal delivered the moment you realize there is nothing in the house to eat and you are out of money. A text from someone you haven’t heard from in years, asking how she can pray for you on a day that you don’t have the strength to talk to God. Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever had someone step into your life at exactly the right time? Have you ever been cared for in extraordinary ways when you hadn’t mentioned your need to anyone?

I can’t tell you how many times this has happened in my life. Every time, I am taken back. Humbled. Honored. And reminded that I am deeply loved!

This is what happens when Jesus followers say, “Yes!” to God. Indescribable love is expressed and the Father’s heart is extended. In a very real way, we become the hands and feet of Jesus.

What is amazing is that most times, the people who offer this love have no idea how important their little expression is. They just were thinking about someone and followed through. It happens in all kinds of ways. Sometimes they’ll have a dream about someone or wake up thinking about them. Sometimes a person’s face will come to mind while they’re driving down the road. Sometimes, a difficult situation will come up in conversation and there is a pressing feeling that a phone call needs to be made.

I am embarrassed to think about how many times I have missed these opportunities. When God prodded me and I excused it and continued on my day. When I have been too consumed with my agenda to stop and represent the Father. Wow! The incredible life transforming moments I have arrogantly walked right by.

But…those days when I have listened – those are days I will never forget. Days when people open their hearts. Days when freedom erupts, as much for me as it does the people I am caring for. Days that I can’t get enough of.

In the past couple of months, I have been loved by God through his people like this over and over. It has been amazing. And I want more of it. Yes, for myself but mostly, I want to offer it. To live a life, completely interruptible by God. Completely available to the movement of his Spirit. I truly can’t imagine a better way of life!

How different could today have been for us with this was our goal when we got up this morning?

American Christian

I can’t wait for the Olympics to start in 3 1/2 weeks. To sit on the couch next to my kids and cheer on the good ol’ US of A! It is a special treat that so many of us take in every 4 years.

I am extremely grateful for the country we live in. For the unequaled freedoms we get to enjoy. And for the amazing opportunities to dream the impossible dreams and know that they can actually come true.

However, these blessings are not free. Yes, there is a tremendous price for our freedom that our military men and women defend  every day. And for that, I am humbled and honored. But there is another cost that we pay, without even noticing most times.

Because of the riches we enjoy, the independence we exercise and the freedoms we take for granted – we are so very often left with an Americanized viewpoint to our relationship with God. We assume that being blessed by God means that we will be financially affluent and never have to worry about our retirement. We function as if God’s greatest goal for us is our individual pursuit of happiness. So much so that if these things are threatened, we wonder if we have somehow stepped outside of God’s will or if he even exists at all! The end result of this is that for us – American Christians – following Jesus places God in the role of serving us, rather than us serving him and the picture of authentic Christianity is greatly distorted.

In addition to this, we have often tied our patriotism to our Christianity. This is done so much that the two are inseparable for most people. We tend to function as if standing for Christ is standing for America. This is so large that for some, America is often viewed as God’s chosen nation, even the “new Israel.”

We need to be really challenged here. We need to step back and ask some hard questions, questions that could make us uncomfortable. Consider for a moment: What does it really mean for this to not be our home? For us to be citizens of a kingdom of God more than citizens of America? What do we do when they are in conflict? When our political issues and stances are not God-honoring? When our international policies go directly against the heart of God?

Should we be surprised when this happens? Is our country really a Christian nation? Or are we a secular, worldly country that has the Kingdom of God growing inside it?

What would our advice be to our Christian brothers and sisters in China – where Christianity is illegal? Would we encourage them to declare their allegiance to their country or our God? How about our brothers and sisters who come to Christ in Muslim countries? Where they literally have to choose between country/family and Christ. We hear these stories about the persecuted church, pause for a moment and then continue on our day. But what about us? What are we choosing between? Do we consciously put ourselves in a position to choose Christ or do we simply accept the standards and values of our country – assuming that everything is fine?

What would happen inside us if we realized that every nation on this earth is deeply damaged and broken without Christ? Including America! What if we expected the heart of God that is growing inside us to be challenged by our culture? What if we turned on the TV, ready for battle? What if we measured everything on the scale of God’s heart instead of whether or not it is a normal American experience?

I’m not surprised or even threatened when prayer is removed from the schools or the 10 commandments are taken out of the courthouse. I have actually come to expect it. My goal is not to get our country’s policies to reflect Christ but to lead our people in this country to become his followers. If this happens, then even if our country declares Christianity illegal, his Kingdom will reign, his church will thrive and his people will be transformed.

The Perfect Life

How often have you seen it happen? The no-hitter. The 158.3 quarterback rating. The 300 bowling game. The elusive 10 in the Olympics. So many shoot for it but nearly everyone fails. Even the elite of the elite miss the mark over and over – most going their entire careers without ever achieving that one moment of perfection.

But still it’s chased. We hold the standard up and dare anyone to try to reach it. And when it does occur, the world stops for a moment. The athlete is raised up as the conquering hero. Adults and children alike begin to dream again imagining that the unimaginable is really possible. The sun shines brighter and everything is right in the world, at least for a day.

Moments of greatness. Deep down, we know they are fleeting. We know they won’t last but that’s part of the glory in them. Every once in a while we are witness to someone rising so far above mediocrity that they seem untouchable. We realize they don’t perform like this every day…that they are human, like us, and it gives us hope for the future for ourselves. It sets a goal for us, yes even us “normal” people, to shoot for.

Have you ever known an athlete who went the other direction with this? Who, instead of becoming a dreamer shooting for perfection, becomes defeated when watching someone else hit the mark? Their language becomes full of negativity and failure, speaking things like, “I can’t” or “I’ll never” or “I quit!” There is nothing more frustrating for a coach or a parent than watching this spirit take hold of an athlete. When it does, we push and challenge and encourage. We do anything possible to motivate and recast the dream.

But how about us? Do we still dream? Do we still chase perfection or have we been surrounded by failure so long that it is no longer even a thought for us?

Consider for a moment the perfect life. Not a life without financial struggles or the fairy tale existence but a life that is defined by peace in our hearts. A life that is so right that joy remains, even in the midst of heartache. A life overflowing with love.

Is it possible to really live this way? To live perfectly on this earth? To never step outside of God’s desire for us?

Before you answer, sit on this for a moment. Jesus told those of us who would follow his to “be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.” And the Jesus followers in Ephesus were told to “be imitators of God.” So there’s the target but our goal is not the perfect game but the perfect life!

Before you start objecting, consider for a moment that as a follower of Jesus, you are already accepted. God adores you and your pursuit of this goal has nothing to do with you earning his approval! It is completely about you claiming the blessings of the King. He wants so much for you. He has saved you to bless you and for you to be a blessing. He doesn’t want you to just play the game – he wants you to conquer it!

The crazy thing about this is there is only one thing you need to do to accomplish this incredible feet. Love! That’s it, just love.

What would life look like if every thought and every action was done in complete and total love? What if you always chose to put someone else first? What would happen to our pride, anger and greed? How about our lust, envy and selfish goals?

Imagine a life so full of love that there is no longer anything in us to make us stumble!

Loving Life

It’s amazing watching children live life together. They encounter each day with so much passion and freedom. Every moment is completely consumed.

When they bump their heads, it’s the end of the world. They don’t understand why that table attacked them and they need to be rescued. But, wow! How quickly they recover. And back, marching headlong into the fray they go.

When they are given a new toy, it’s as if they just won the Superbowl! They dive into their play with overwhelming joy. And anyone who threatens to deter this playtime needs to be cautioned: “Enter At Your Own Risk.” You will become a fierce enemy if you take away this new treasure.

But this is what I enjoy the most about children. No, not the fighting, arguing and constant need for parenting but their ability to recover from all of this. Their ability to love.

They can be found squaring off, ready to destroy each other, one moment and then hugging and running around holding hands the next. They often, very literally, kiss and make up. Forgiveness is a daily and sometimes hourly part of their relationships. It is the way they love each other.

What a tremendous example for those of us who call ourselves “Jesus Followers.” To live this freely. To love this purely. To forgive without any thought of past or future offenses. Could there possibly be any better way of life?

The Dream House

It’s something we all dream about at some point, isn’t it? Where we will live when we finally arrive at the life we are working toward. You know, the white picket fence — the American Dream.

For some it’s small and quaint. For others is expansive and out-of-the-way. For my daughter, at least at this point, the only requirement would be that it is pink!

For us, this is the ultimate dream house. We love the color variations in the rock, the tin roof and how the paint connects it all together. And then there are the dormer windows and the columns on the porch that break up the lines and draw your eye in. There’s just not much wrong with this house, other than…it’s not a house! It’s a bank in Cameron, TX.

Kristen and I drive by this beautiful structure every time we head south to visit her parents in Round Top. We love looking at it and dreaming of what could be in the future. It’s a constant reminder of the life we’d like to have.

It’s amazing how tied we are to houses in our culture. We go into unbelievable debt for them. We work two jobs and make double payments so we can afford them. And we USED to agree to ridiculous mortgage schemes in order to get into a house that we really had no business buying in the first place. We do all of this working toward that perfect dream, just knowing that when we get there all will be right in the world.

Question: What if we put that much effort in building a different house? A house of peace? A house that constantly carried the presence of Jesus. A house that became a blessing to everyone who entered it. What if instead of working two jobs for brick and mortar we actually quit a job to build a house that lasts? What would our homes be like if we were OK to live in half the square footage in order to have more time investing in our children? What if the “American Dream” is actually the greatest threat to the greatest desires of our hearts?

Kristen and I still love that house and we may or may not ever build it. But one thing I know, if we do build it, it will be done in freedom, not bondage. It will be a blessing and not a curse. Because that’s not the house that I really dream about when I close my eyes at night.