A Great Read

Do you have a Bible? If so, how many? Do you have a favorite? Is it a thin-line Bible? A daily devotional Bible? A chronological Bible? A study Bible? A pocket Bible? Or possibly an on-line Bible?

What version do you prefer? Do you like the NIV? The New Living Translation? The Message? Or do you lean more toward the New King James? The New American Standard? The New Revised Standard?

It’s amazing how endless the possibilities are for us to access scripture. We have it on our phones. We have readings sent to our e-mail accounts. We have them in our cars, in our bedrooms, in our living rooms and even in our hotel rooms when we travel. We have literally come to the place where we could have constant access to the word of God.

And so I ask, “What’s your relationship with the Word?”

Early on, I knew the Bible to be God’s book. That he inspired over 40 different men to write his words down for us. That it is divided into two major sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament. That it has 66 books, 39 in the Old and 27 in the New. That the Old Testament has stories about God and his people – Israel. And the New Testament has stories about Jesus and the church. I was a student of the word. I took notes in church and worked to connect all the dots. I was definitely in pursuit of more information. I wanted to know more about God, more about the church and more about what this meant for me.

Then, there was a time when I stopped reading the Bible altogether. I struggled with what appeared to be inconsistencies in scripture. And with inconsistencies in my personal experience. I stopped my pursuit of God and did my best to numb my heart.

But still he spoke to me. In the midst of my struggle, he reminded me of his love and his desire for me to be free. I heard is voice through the gentle challenges of other believers. And finally, he broke through with a word spoken deep into my heart, saying, “You have no life without me!”

When I came back home to him, I entered with a new desire. I wanted to know this God who would not give up on me. I longed to discover his heart. I wanted a real relationship with him, not predetermined religious answers. And so I searched, I questioned, I discovered and I let go.

In my pursuit of God through his word, I found Jesus. I was introduced to the Word who was God and has been with God from the beginning. Who participated in creating us for relationship with himself. Who ached as we continually choose to love ourselves more than him. Who has relentlessly chased humanity from the beginning of time. Who established the nation of Israel to represent God to the world. Who refused to give up on people. Who punished and rebuked but always followed it up with hope and provision. Who willingly gave up his place to become like us. Who came to once and for all rescue us from the enemy, from this world and from ourselves. Who stood in our place, taking our penalty…dying so we could live! Who promised that his presence will always be with us, leading us and reminding us of his way. Who will one day take us home!

When you look at your Bible, do you see him? Do you encounter his heart? Do you invite him to break through and have his way with you?

What’s your relationship with the Word?

You Know I’m Right

You know the feeling. We’ve all experienced it countless times. You’re in a conversation with someone and it has begun to elevate. Emotions are now invested and you can feel the tension rising. Your heart begins to pound. Your face turns a little flush. Your voice raises and maybe even cracks a bit. And you’re there, right in the middle of a personal conflict.

Question: What do you do? How do you proceed?

Does it depend on who the person is? Whether it is a friend or a family member or just some guy you bumped into at the store?

Does it depend on the issue? If it’s something personal or religious or political?

Or does it depend on how convinced you are about your argument? What if this particular conflict hits really close to home? What if it directly touches your life? And what if you KNOW that you’re right? What then? Does this change the game for you? Are you all in, no questions asked? Do you attack until you have conquered?

As Jesus followers, these interactions really matter. It is these moments that will come to define us – possibly more than anything else. It is from these conflicts that we will be remembered. These are the conversations that will be retold about us. This is how our Jesus will be judged by the world.

You see, it is possible to be 100% right and yet 100% wrong at the same time. If we are right with the truth that we carry but we speak it with anger and rage and even hate, we could not be more wrong. We have lost our way as badly as if we had no truth to share.

Ours is a message of love. It is what we are to be known by. It is what we have been rescued by and it is what we have to offer.

What if we spent every moment of every day trying to discover how we could best love the person in front of us? What if we were more concerned with that than winning an argument or defending our rights or making a point?

What if love was our point? What if the person was more important to us than the issue? How would they leave their experience with you? What would they think about you? About Jesus?

When you’re after love, you can always say, “You know I’m right!”

It’s More than Mario!

This summer I have watched some amazing people put down their pride in order to love on children. Some of them have transformed themselves into imaginary people. Some have given a weekend to kids from another part of town. And some have traveled to another country – just to share their love and increase the joy of children.

Do you remember what it was like to be a child? The imagination you had? The capacity for play? Take for instance, your first experience with a gaming system. Do you remember the fascination you had with the images on the screen? And the new addiction that was created as you became determined to conquer the game or at least better your latest score?

My first exposure to this world that effortlessly combines imagination and competition was at a friend’s house. As soon as I walked in, he told me he had just gotten an Atari and asked if I wanted to play. I said, “Sure!” – not really knowing what I was getting into. And then, for the next few hours, I was introduced to the now classic games of “Pong,” “Pitfall,” and “Centipede.” I have to admit, I wasn’t that good but it didn’t matter. It was an amazing experience and I couldn’t wait until I got to play again.

A couple of years later, I got my own system, but it wasn’t an Atari. It was the next generation…the new and improved system…you know, the one that was going to put Atari to shame with its updated graphics and more expansive game options. You know…Colecovision! I was so impressed with my parents for getting me such an advanced system. My brother and I dove in. We were totally consumed with all the newness and wonder of games like “Donkey Kong Jr.,” “Lady Bug,” and a game we affectionately came to call “Bomb & Burn” – simply because the only way we could get through the maze of obstacles was to go guns blazing as fast as we could.

But then, it happened. My family was invited over for dinner to a young couple’s house. They had become good friends with my parents and my brother and I thought they were pretty cool too. They were in their late twenties, didn’t have any kids and always made time for us.

We had dinner, talked for a bit and then Bobby, the cool family friend, invited us over to see his new toy. He turned on the TV, plugged in a few wires and up comes a screen unlike anything I had seen before. The images were amazing! “This is the latest thing,” Bobby said. “This is a Nintendo!”

That was the first time I ever saw Mario. The first time I ever imagined jumping over a mushroom or intentionally hitting my head against a brick to gain more points. And to this day, if I hear the Mario Brothers theme song – there’s a little bit of joy that comes over my heart.

Childhood is such a magical time. It’s experiences shape us deeply. Both its joy and it’s struggles have a way of hanging on and working their way into the fabric of our hearts as adults. The love we experience. The lessons we learn. The time spent with family. The loving adults who gave selflessly to us – it all impacts us in ways we can’t explain but are forever grateful for.

Question: Who introduced you as a child to little but unbelievable moments of joy? Who is that person who loved you enough to invite you into their world? Who in your past deserves a really big, “THANK YOU FOR LOVING ME LIKE THAT!”

And possibly more important than that…Who are you offering yourself to as an adult? Is there a child in your life that you are pouring yourself into? That you are intentionally working to increase his/her joy?

Believe me, even if it’s just sharing a video game, it could impact a heart forever!

The Big Catch

Last month my family took a trip to Creede, CO for a relaxing week in one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. It was a terrific week. Lot’s of sleeping in, playing games, long walks and of course…fishing. For me, fishing is much like golf. I am constantly amazed at people who seem to master the sport. At the same time, I constantly try not to get frustrated with my consistent lack of ability. This scenario is only magnified when I am out with my dad. He regularly out performs all other fishermen in our cabin combined. On this trip, I believe the count was something like: Dad: 20 and Landon: 0!

Although he does like to tell his stories of victory, Dad is a good sport about it. He doesn’t rub it in  or make me feel like a bigger loser than I am. However, there are those rare moments that have to be shared. Moments of sheer excitement and joy.

I had the pleasure of experiencing one of those moments with my Dad on my last day of the trip. We had driven out to a remote lake where it was obvious that few fishermen had been lately. We unloaded and I ventured off with my kids to see if I might be able to help the two younger ones actually catch something. As usual, my dad took his time picking out the right lure and watching the lake for signs of life. He picked a spot and moved in.

About 5 minutes later it happened! The usual calm, collected fishermen became extremely animated. He yelled, “Fish on!” At first, I was a little surprised. He is rarely verbal when catching a fish – I’m guessing because he doesn’t want to scare the next one off. But this one was different. This one was special and he didn’t care about the future impact of his excitement. As he landed the fish, he continued yelling, telling us to come take a look.

I hurriedly rushed my kids over to him and saw him holding a 16″ trout. At first glance, it appeared to be a nice fish. Nobody is going to scoff at a 16″ trout but it’s not that uncommon. In fact, about 15 years ago, I saw him catch a rainbow trout that was almost twice this size. But that’s what made this fish so special…it wasn’t a rainbow, it was a brookie!

Brook trout are usually about 7-8 inches long and this one was 16″! Although it’s not going to set any world records, it is truly a special moment for a trout fisherman. And so we celebrated. We oohed and aahed. We took pictures. And all the kids took turns holding the treasure. The big catch!

As I retell this story and consider my dad’s joy, I can’t help but think about my God (click here to be taken to http://www.recklesspursuitbook.com). That he gave us these experiences. These emotions. These gifts.

But there is more here than my gratitude to the Father for these things. There is a glimpse into his heart. A heart that longs for celebration and joy. A heart that will not rest until it is fully experienced.

The drive that the most avid fisherman has to land that big catch is nothing compared to our Father’s pursuit of us. He is constantly chasing us. Watching for signs of life. Luring us with his love. Inviting us to take the bait, to allow ourselves to be caught by him and to be completely transformed. There is truly nothing else that matters to him. Nothing!

We are his prize, his conquest and his joy! We are the love of his life and he can’t get enough. He wants to empty the lake with us. A few great catches are not enough. He wants us all!

For those of us who would join him in this amazing pursuit, a word of warning: he is not after trophies to be displayed. It’s not about showing off or winning some imaginary contest. People are not projects to finish for our God. He simply loves us desperately and he will not rest until he has us. And oh, the party that erupts with every catch!

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?