All Creation Sings…Literally!

To state the obvious, it is spring.  And yet— it is so much more.  We are witnessing the natural world sing “Hosanna!” to the Risen King.  Every year, no matter when Easter Sunday falls, early in March, or late in April, the trees and flowers come to life to celebrate, to declare, to remember Jesus. They welcome Him as much as we do. It is good for me to remember that He is not just our Savior but  all of creation’s hope too.

I am simply star-struck this year. The beauty that will not be denied.  The buds that winter cannot hold back. The praise that can not be silenced.  Even this morning reading Isaiah, I see it again and again.  We dare not we miss this obvious awakening.

Remember these things, O Jacob,
and Israel, for you are my servant;
I formed you; you are my servant;
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.
22 I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud
and your sins like mist;
return to me, for I have redeemed you.

23 Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done it;
shout, O depths of the earth;
break forth into singing, O mountains,
O forest, and every tree in it!
For the Lord has redeemed Jacob,
and will be glorified in Israel.  Isaiah 44 ESV


And what of us?  Do we see it? Do we regard the displays of beauty as a Holy Conversation? Does this grateful Creation song of worship move us to worship as well?  I don’t mean, “oh that tree is beautiful.”


I mean.  “I see your praise for the  Resurrected King and I join you. Thank you Jesus for coming!”

Maybe I have been reading too much Narnia. Or maybe we are lulled to a sleep by selfishness.  But if the trees sing, and the rocks  cry out, how can we stay silent?

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.

Let us glorify the Lord of Lords.


To save, not to condemn

IMG_0475The intersection of our social upheavals with Easter could not be more pertinent—more unsettling or perhaps even more hopeful?  I have considered both sides. I have listened to the barbs thrown at human beings from both political stances. And I keep coming back to some simple truths. Jesus came to save the world, not condemn it. There is no condemnation because of Christ. But—we are also not in charge.

Jesus came to restore us to the original intent of the Master Designer. He came that we would have true intimate fullness with God.  And in the same way that He came that Crucifixion day long ago, people rejected Him. They scorned His way, His blood, His promise. But He died and was raised again — anyway. Despite their protests to defend their sin, He shed His blood and was raised again to make them new creations, to give them more than they dreamed possible.

The same is true today. Despite our arrogant attempts at determining the “way things should be” and doing “what is right in our own eyes” there is a Holy Agenda being fulfilled.  It is hope and life open to all. There is just one hitch – we are not in charge. We can choose ultimate love, or not. We can have mercy and peace, or not. We can have all His provision and true satisfaction, or not. He always lets us choose life or death.

Yet it remains that God himself is the one who creates definition, truth and identity. The law doesn’t. The lobbyist with money doesn’t. The person with the most vehement Facebook posts doesn’t (regardless of the mathematical symbol). “In his image he created them male and female.”

I have had, and do have, homosexual friends. I also have friends who are addicts, liars, and gossips, and who cheat on their heterosexual spouses.  I love them all.  More importantly, God loves them all.

But this is not the sum total of who they are—or who they could be.  And He has a better plan than each of these counterfeit identities.  We don’t concede to our personal preferences, or even our supposed rights. We begin and end with God’s image. I used to think that sleeping with a guy to get love was “the way things work.” But then I met Real Love, and my preferences changed, my idea of Truth changed. My political stances changed. Mercy does that. Resurrection power does that.

Years ago, with the emergence of gay rights, the buzz from the medical field was not positive. They would say (and still do say) that anal sex is one of the most high risk sexual encounters ever. Why? Because this body part, the original intent of its design, is being distorted.
This is not brain surgery. Talk to a child about our great political issues: abortion, slavery, homosexuality. Killing babies, owning other humans and same sex couples do not add up to them. You don’t have to persuade them. It is simple math. I have taught thousands of middle and high schools students. I’ve seen the results over and over.

Tell them the bare facts: how abortion is performed, how slaves are forced by threat of death to trade their bodies for sex or labor, and how the human body is wired for sex, male and female, and they can come to simple revelations—

I was once a baby, I needed someone to allow me to be born.
Humans don’t own other humans, regardless of skin color, or value as a commodity.
Simple biological plumbing suggests that male and female coupling is in our DNA.

Is any of this popular? accepted? comfortable? No.
But I don’t make the rules. I also don’t set the standard for life to the full.

Just like the Roman empire did not, could not, dictate Jesus’s mission of love, neither can Apple, Amazon, or Starbucks defer ours. I heard two men from opposing sides use the phrase “embrace without endorsing.”  I can live with that. I can live with disagreement. What I can’t live with is trying to legalize same sex marriage to make it socially normal or right. The law of God is written on our hearts. The supreme court isn’t. There is a higher law we are to governed by.

How then shall we live?  With a heart of Christ that seeks to save, from a heart that loves the world without condemnation but with absolute resolve to stand with Him. There is a great line from the movie Mulan. The enemy Hun invader demanded the Emperor bow before him.  His response?  “No matter how much the wind howls, the mountain cannot bow.”

God is still on the throne, whether we like it or not. His heart is still for restoration and salvation, whether we receive it or not. The choice is ours, but the earth is His. We are His children, His creation after all. When it is all said and done, mercy triumphs over judgement.  We wait for the sons and daughers of God to be revealed.

When New Life Arises


I almost pulled up the plant last weekend out of disappointment. I  thought it was dead. After I put it  in the ground last fall, I expected it to be one of the first things to bloom this spring. Forsythias are budding all over town and yet mine was only woody sticks. But yesterday, though still looking “mostly dead” there is one small branch of yellow life.

It prompted me to go look at other plants and trees I thought were dead. Sure enough, tiny buds or slightest shades of green were pushing up from the ground or out of brown bark.  Just like the Lord said last week, “Spring is coming.” Hope indeed is pushing tender buds out of cold winter earth once more.

As I pulled dead stalks of  flowers and scraped away mulch and leaves where buds should be, the Lord prompted me to consider the difference between New Life and Life from the Dead.

We love to say that Easter is about New Life. (Don’t even get me started on the Easter Bunny.) But New Life is looking for growth where I planted bulbs last year, or hoping for a positive pregnancy test. That is, we look for new life to come from seed that we have planted.

But Life from the Dead is altogether different. Death leads to decay.  Dust to dust. No one goes to a cemetery and expects to see a living person. No one goes to ashes or corpses and expects flesh or breath. And here rises a much more powerful hope.

We love, and are loved by, the God of the Resurrection.  He is the One who brought life and breath back into the dear, mangled  body of Jesus.  This is the true miracle of Easter. There was no hope left hanging on the empty cross. But when God called His Son back to life, then True Life began. A life beyond the curse, a life full of  truly living hope became ours through Him.

Life after death. Life instead of death. Life over death.

When Jesus came out of that grave, it wasn’t just about forgiveness of sin. It was about the Life that is now possible to us. In us. Through us.

Jeremy Caris said in church yesterday that God’s principle of “what you sow you will reap” is an eternal spiritual law.  And God in His goodness and mercy, “sowed Jesus” on our behalf so that we might reap a life that  is far more than we dreamed possible.

It is a wondrous thing to consider the meaning of Resurrection Sunday. It is a life-changing thing to consider where does my hope come from? And what do I believe God can do in me? Bring New Life? or Life back from the Dead?



Let’s risk the ocean…there’s only grace.

We have all green lights from God.  All the promises of God are “yes and amen” in Jesus Christ, therefore we can move with ease and confidence in God.  Why does this matter?

So many people are paralyzed about what to do with their lives, what God’s will is, how then should they live, or how are they going to make this work?  They are not paralyzed out of the prospect of handling God’s blessing, they are paralyzed by the fear of losing something, or doing something wrong. But we have green lights from God.

Does that mean that we can do anything sinful that we want? God forbid. However, It does mean that when our hearts are “tuned to sing his praise” and  we are motivated out of love for Him, then we can run full out expecting his favor. And just like in traffic, when danger is present,  a red light appears. God  protects us with a red light when he wants us to stop or sit still.

I have three friends who have stopped dead in their tracks. Not because God has given them a red light, but because they are terrified of just running in His grace. They really don’t trust God to direct and guide and provide, so they are constantly trying to calculate their every action. “I just don’t know what God wants.” they complain.

We can trust  the Holy Spirit to lead us. He uses our aches, groans, hunches and desires to reveal our path. As we mature He leads through the Word  or speaks to us directly. But always He is responsible for getting us to and through our lives.  Therefore we can run in confidence believing our good God will direct our paths.

Listen to the song Sometimes by Dave Crowder. I love the line, “let’s risk the ocean, there’s only grace.”  God stirred that in my heart about four days ago and it is literally haunting me.

What am I willing to risk to follow God? What do I think I will encounter that God won’t handle? How much will I throw myself into His grace? No matter if I choose wrong…there’s only grace.

Check your heart, your plans, your relationships. Are you paralyzed by fear, or are you running in His favor? Your job is to love Him with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength. His job is to take care of everything else. He’s got you.



A New Spin on Forgiveness

I love it when the Holy Spirit blows me up. He keeps bringing revelation about love and forgiveness. At Yes and Amen  the Lord  called for us to fall in love with Him.  How do we love Him more? At WGR class last Tuesday, we looked at the parable Jesus told about the two debtors.

“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. (Luke 7:41)

Jesus used this parable to challenge the hard-hearted homeowner who scorned the woman washing Jesus’s feet with her tears.  The bottom line is he who has been forgiven much, loves much. Jesus directly equates our ability to love with our willingness to receive forgiveness from God. But there’s more.

Sunday morning, I was in a wad  before church and  journaled out some confusion and frustrations in relationships. The Lord spoke that forgiveness was the key. So I wrote out the names of the strained relationships and asked the Lord to bring forgiveness to bear in the hearts involved. Then, what was the topic at church on Sunday morning?

Yes, a message on forgiveness. There were  new pieces revealed in this conversation with the Lord even as the pastor was speaking.

The pastor, Scott Hughes,  taught out of Luke 9 where Jesus said that if we are to follow him, we must take up our cross daily. I began to groan under the hint of “work it up” theology, but  Scott quickly commented how misunderstood this verse is. He broke down the meaning. The cross is a symbol of God’s love, the sacrifice of Jesus, the total forgiveness of our sin, but also the sin of every person in the world.  The cross means I’m forgiven, but so is the person I have conflict with.

So when we take up our cross daily, we take up, we carry around with us, the weight, the meaning, the reality, of God’s love and his total forgiveness. We carry the cross so we think rightly about our relationship with God and our total acceptance by Him. But we also carry the cross as a reminder that the others in our lives, even the ones we want to punch in the face, are also dearly loved and forgiven by God.

Then the Lord added His beautiful touch of revelation and the pieces starting connecting together like magnets pulling pins together.

He brought back a memory from another sermon from a few Easter’s ago. Greg Pinkner had fish tank on the stage and illustrated the story of the ax head being raised up out of the river. He said it was a picture of the resurrection of Christ. Greg had a blooming dogwood branch in his hand. As as he taught — about things begin buried, out of reach, and should not be able to be raised up, things like an ax head, like our sin, like  the crucified man named Jesus—he would push the dogwood branch down to the bottom of the water and hold it there.

But as he talked about the power of God, the power of His word, the heart of God to restore all things, Pinkner would release the branch and it would spring back to the surface of the water. The branch could not stay submerged. It had to come to the surface. He did this three or four times. By the third time, I wanted to stand up and yell HALLELUJAH!!! God has taken our sin and our separation and by His own Hand, He buried it in Jesus, once and for all. And then by His own mercy, He called Jesus back out of the grave and us with Him! Jesus could not stay in the grave!

So the cross isn’t just a sign of death. It is a sign of Life. New Life. Resurrected Life. When we pick up our cross daily we can take our offenses and hurts and “bury them” in the Cross of Jesus. He will bring new life where there was only death and separation before. And part of His new life, is an increased love for Him and for others because of this beautiful forgiven and resurrected life.

Oh the beauty of the Forgiving Father! The power of the Resurrected Christ! The promise of the Wonderful Counselor who leads us into increasing freedom with others, and from others.

Could we love others more if we forgave more? Could we love others more if we embraced how much we have been forgiven by God? May God grant us eyes to see and ears to hear all that He has in store for us through His love.

But for the Joy. . . .

The night before Easter, our family watched the movie “The Gospel of John.”  And as is often the case with God, we saw and heard nuances that we hadn’t seen before in the story.  Jesus was so emphatic about what He was going to do. He wanted His followers to be prepared, to believe, to keep on believing, no matter what happened.  And yet, though He knew the “rest of the story,” still He was in great anguish about what He must go through. What was His motivator? What kept Him going? Just obedience? I don’t think so.

Easter Sunday morning we were reminded about all that Jesus did for us. Suffered, sacrificed, raised from the dead.

It is truly an “unbelievable” story unless the Spirit breathes on a person so that they might see and believe and be saved. But here is the ah-ha moment:

“But for the joy set before him he endured the cross.” Hebrews 12:2.  The pastor passed over this verse but the Spirit connected that verse with scenes from the movie the night before. The joy. What joy? What joy could be so great that it could carry Him through His last hours on this planet?

Paying for the sins of the world? Yes, but there’s more.

Jesus was the only person on planet earth who knew what it was to be filled with the Spirit of God and to walk in complete connection with the Father. And He knew, if He endured the cross, that we would be able to experience what He already enjoyed all the time. Talk about a motivation.

His joy was completely based on the benefit for others. For me and you. He was willing to die purely for the purpose that we might have our true lives back with our Father.  Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11 ) But for the joy set before Him… He had a long view of the journey and His goal was the the blessing of others.

I don’t think I suffer very long or very often just so that others might come to fullness of life. How about you? But here is the hope. He did it. He went through it all and now we do have the Spirit. We do have fellowship with the Father, the Son and the Spirit. We are restored. We are children of God with His joy inside us. So let us run truly out of His joy for the benefit of others. Allow me to expand this beautiful passage…

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
       (People just like you and me who had to walk through hard life circumstances)
 let us throw off everything that hinders
       (So release the counterfeits and coping and quitting)
and the sin that so easily entangles.
       (and silence the enemy’s lies about being unloved and unworthy)
And let us run with perseverance
       (Everyday believe anew, try again without grumbling )
the race marked out for us,
       (the journey of living out His plans)
fixing our eyes on Jesus,
       (allowing Him to adjust our vision to see what He sees)
the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
       (He has done it, He is doing it, He will do it.)
For the joy set before him
       (With a heart full of confidence for our good)
he endured the cross,
       (he made the blood payment that settles every debt)
scorning its shame,
       (shutting up the accuser once and for all)
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
       (He showed us our rightful inheritance.)
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners,
       (The Spirit leads you through the maze of living)
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
       (so you can experience that He is everything you need for life and joy.)

Hebrews 12: 1-3 (expanded)

Women Getting Real Weekly Class

This  is a great place to go deeper into relationship with Jesus and  other  women. Both seem scary we know. But this is a place where we talk  about  real life topics and look for God to show up in the middle of  our lives.

The class is for all ages and does not require perfect attendance. Or homework.

Join us in person at Fellowship Church on Middlebrook Pike,  Knoxville,TN every Tuesday night from 7:00pm – 9:00pm (childcare is  provided for those who register).

For specific details around the class please feel free to email us at

We meet three weeks on and one week off. Dates of class are listed below. We are planning to Livestream at least once month. So stay tuned for those details. Be sure to sign up for RSS or Facebook alerts so you don’t miss out on “Monday Snack Time with Jana”, its a weekly vlog.

Class Dates for Spring Semester 2011: April 5, 19, 26; May 3, 17, 24, 31
(new class location coming soon, stay tuned for details)

To hear audio from classes up until now check out our archived classes

Now That He Is Risen…

Have you read the Day After story lately? Of just what happened after Jesus rose from the dead. (Do you ever just get startled when you read words like that?  It is really mind blowing…)

The soldiers see an angel. They faint. The women see Jesus. They weep and then run to the other followers. Then Jesus begins a series of appearances. From the Emmaus road download to two lucky listeners to the amazing 500 witnesses, He was out and and about.  Seeing and being seen. And I was pondering something.  Even when Jesus appeared to them, He was instructing and teaching of more to come. What else could there be after the dead being raised to life?

Fasten your seat belts. This could get sticky….

Lent has always nettled me a little. The idea of fasting and “denying” oneself as  a way to prepare for the death of Jesus always has seemed out of whack. I didn’t know why until this week. Of course it is a beautiful tradition. Of course fasting is a beautiful discipline. Of course we prepare our hearts each year to remember the suffering of our Lord.

But. Let’s look at what Jesus said. Even He rebuked the religious leaders of His day who wondered why His followers were not fasting. Jesus replied that you don’t fast when you are at the party. You fast when the party is over.  Or perhaps when the next party is getting ready to come. While we talk a lot about fasting and somberness prior to the Resurrection, it is only AFTER the Resurrection that Jesus instructed His followers to pray, and fast and watch.  What were they told to get ready for?

The Coming of the Holy Spirit.  The Third Person of the Trinity. Father, Son and Spirit.

Makes me wonder why we don’t throw a party celebrating Pentecost like we do Easter and Christmas. The Spirit is worthy of receiving, worthy of a party, worthy of preparing our hearts for. Makes me wonder about fasting now, after Easter, in anticipation of Pentecost. Fasting is, after all, a way to make room for more of God. It is a way to weed out those little affections that crowd out the Real love.

Think about it. There is more to come on Living in Third Person.

The Power of Posthumous

I have been pondering the similarities of the Nativity and Resurrection. So I looked up the definition of the word, “Nativity.” Funny how I have never known what that meant. Here is a shocker. It is Latin for “birth.” In particular it talks about the Holy birth of Jesus Christ. Resurrection speaks of rising from the dead. And even Webster doesn’t mention any other person’s name in this definition but Jesus. Funny that.

But then when I started looking at death, I stumbled upon the word, “Posthumous.”

Check out the definition:

  1. Occurring or continuing after one’s death: a posthumous award

WORD HISTORY   The word posthumous is associated with death, both in meaning and in form. Our word goes back to the Latin word postumus, meaning “last born, born after the death of one’s father, born after the making of a will,” and “last, final.”

Postumus was largely used with respect to events occurring after death… Because of its use in connection with death, however, later Latin writers decided that the last part of the word must have to do with humus, “earth,” or humāre, “to bury,” and began spelling the word posthumus.

This makes me laugh.  Think about Jesus. He is the last Adam. His Life is a work that continues on after His death. He was buried and His work continues on. It continues not because someone discovered His worth and value after His death, like some remote artist. No. His work continues because He lives again. His Life lives in us and He continues to work out His plan through us. Truly, He is Risen indeed.

What kind of Posthumous Award could we give Jesus?  Our lovesick hearts is all that He desires.

Blood and Water

Let’s stretch a little shall we? Here are two words to consider: consecrate and purify. Or in other words, set apart and cleansed.

There are a lot of parallels between the birth and death of our Lord. I have never thought it before. Ever. But now I am seeing them everywhere. Let’s look at the blood and the water.

Jesus came to this earth through blood and water. In childbirth, Mary’s water broke, and she delivered her Son in the same way we all arrived, by pain and blood. And when we look at Jesus’ death, we shudder at the blood and pain. But when they pierced His side, blood and water also flowed out.

Why does this matter? Because all through the Old and New Testaments you see the same thing. Blood and water. In the Holy of Holies there was blood on the altar and a laver of water for washing. With Elijah there was a blood sacrifice and 12 jars of water. Even Jesus was baptized before He was crucified.

At the Last Supper, Jesus used water to wash the disciples feet and gave them wine as a symbol of His blood.  Think God is trying to tell us something? Blood and water. Consecrated and purified.

It is the blood that pays for sin; it is the water that washes us. We are not only paid for, we are cleansed, forever. He is trying to tell us, “Everything you need, I have. Everything it takes to live this life, from birth through blood and water, to the resurrected life, through blood and water, I have accomplished this in you, for you.”

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled [with blood] to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22)

Consider today what it means to be set apart and cleansed by God.  When Jesus uttered, “It is finished,” it was not the end of His life He was referring to, but rather the beginning. . . . The beginning of our lives made holy, and wholly new.