Giving: No Strings Attached

I started seeing it everywhere.  Different words, but a similar melody. If you give…you get. If you give to my campaign, I will give you a hat. If you give to this school, I will put your name in the program. If you sponsor this child, we will give you a calendar. I am sad to say I have even heard, if you give to the Lord, you get more. While this sounds true if I hold my head just right, and I hang some verses on it to shine it up, it still doesn’t sound like true giving.

It sounds like negotiating, a barter system. Trade and commerce. I need this from you, so I am willing to give you this in order get what I need in return. For sure we live in an exchange system, which is a good and noble means of human interaction. However it still doesn’t sound like giving.

Compare this mentality to the bridal shower I just went to. I didn’t expect the bride-to-be to give me a gift.  I bought something and I freely chose to give it to her. My gift was one way. I didn’t expect anything back unless we count the snacks I ate.  Why would I give like this?

She invited me into her story.  I gave my resources to bless her story. No strings attached.

Giving by its very nature is a one-way phenomena. When I see a need, or desire, or vision, I want to invest or be part of it. It’s my willing sacrifice. I don’t need to be bribed to give.

Why am I hammering this? It is a heart check in a self-serving generation.


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God’s Idea of Perfect…

I was typing an email yesterday and God just laid this in my lap.  We live in a culture of pseudo perfection. We attempt the perfect body, marriage, family, church, country. We  spend countless hours trying to achieve some shifting notion of “just right.” And, frankly, it’s killing us.

Yes, we are spiritually wired for perfection, but it is one of those “not yet” scenarios. When we are fully with the Perfect One, we will enjoy our perfect reality.

But in the meantime. What is God working on?


“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:2

This jumped off the page for me! God has his own goals of perfection. He is not focused on six-pack abs, or 401K totals, or world issues, although He intimately knows and cares about those things. In fact, He graciously “gives us all things” and uses those things to shape us and reveal His love and nature.

But God is working daily to perfect our faith that we might believe in who He is.
All His love. All His power. All His availability. His Kingdom come, His will be done.

Is it possible that our greatest achievement in this life is how well we believed Him?

Perfect in Faith.

Is it possible that the goal is to become and accomplish all that He promised us only because we believed Him more and more with each passing year and circumstance?

Fixing our eyes. Focusing our attention, but also repairing our vision. We are learning to see with Heaven’s eyes, looking through His lens of truth and love.

On Jesus. The only One truly worthy of our trust and adoration. All other ground is sinking sand.

The author. He is in all and over all. “All the earth beneath you, all my life before you.”

And perfecter. His intention, goal and plan is that we would be made perfect in the knowledge of him. Who can thwart the plans of God? Job asked.

Of our faith. “Help my unbelief” the man cried to Jesus.  What a blessing. What a gift. What a relief to know He is actively working to perfect our faith to believe Him more.

I am so struck by this glimmer of God.  I want to respond to what He is actively working on. My faith. I want my heart to be so steadfast, so held by His perfect love, that when I see Him face to face, we won’t be talking about what I did for Him but what I believed about Him.

Pay attention to your life. All of it. And know that Jesus is actively, wonderfully perfecting your faith. Because when you believe Him well, everything else changes too.










Is God Working The “I Quit” Out Of You?

God always plants a seed bigger than you can handle at the time. The dream, the adventure He is inviting you on is way bigger than you would “think or imagine” and is way, way outside your comfort zone. That is why it takes God to pull off a God-sized dream, life, or impact. The good news is He moves in small deliberate steps to prepare the soil of your heart and spirit. Over time, you grow in capacity to handle the harvest of the seed He planted.

You already witness this in the physical world.

Think about pregnancy. The seed is far smaller in the beginning than can be seen. But as it enlarges, a woman’s body must grow, must change to accommodate the fullness of the seed-now-become-human.

Think about compound interest. It is a modest sum at first, but as it rolls over and over in multiplication, it becomes far bigger than the original investment.

Think about drops of water. These seemingly inconsequential, isolated beings of water congregate and become raging rivers and deafening waterfalls that literally move mountains.


Think about about your dreams and callings. They are smaller than can be seen in the beginning, nearly inconsequential and easily dismissed. But in the course of time, God is stretching you out of your comfort zones. He is changing your shape and capacity to be able to carry His calling. He is investing and adding penny after penny, drop of water to drop of water. In time, He will move the mountains in your own mind and soul to make room for His plans.

One of my biggest mountains was called, “I quit.”

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Why Say Yes to God?

I am just looking at the date of my last post.  No wonder I am spilling over with God stories. I have some much to brag on God about. It is hard to walk day by day with God and not be overwhelmed by His kindness. His goodness. His abundance. Don’t you agree?

As to my absence, I have been in the throes of a move.  I continue to unpack boxes of STUFF, and I paint, and purge, and muse on God’s promise now realized. I am overcome with the word that started the whole endeavor of a new home.

Saying Yes to God.

It is a great story and I will certainly share it in due time. But for now, I wanted pique your interest in the new class I am teaching beginning Thursday, June 19. Of the same name, it is an exploration of what happens when people say Yes to the Living God. As is my custom, there will be worship, God stories, Bible study, hands on activities, and  hard questions (wink).  But more than anything, there is this worthy question: Why say Yes to God?

Who is more trustworthy? Who more dependable? Who truly knows best?

But equally important, how do we Hold On to our Yes in the middle of uncertainty?

I just want to share one often repeated prayer that got me through the whole ordeal of closing on our house of promise:

“Jesus, I just want to love you well through this whole process.”

That phrase was a great protection against unbelief, fear, doubt.  More later.

I hope you will join me Thursday night. And, if you can’t come, please let your friends know who may need a little spiritual refreshment this summer.

Location: Claris Networks Conference Room, 6100 Lonas Rd, Knoxville 37909

Very conveniently located off Papermill exit. 6:30- 8:30  First Class, Thursday June 19. No homework. All are welcome. Saved, unsaved, churched, unchurched.

Finally—just for fun—because He is so hilarious, look at the two signs I saw after I decided on the topic.  Be Blessed. Janaphoto


yes photo




Where is your face?

I am not always a big fan of the book of Job. He had some pretty lousy friends who gave really crappy counsel. But as is the way of God, tucked in every messy relationship is a revelation of God, and a revelation of ourselves. Don’t even ask how I ended up at this passage. But it really hit me. I went back and read it in several translations.

Here is my take on it:

When we try to do it our way, then what we grasp and strive for is meaningless. Our impact on the world is very small. But when we do life God’s way, with Him as the source, the reward, the goal, the pleasure, then all of life is changed, not only our lives, but the lives of those around us.

“Give in to God, come to terms with him
and everything will turn out just fine.
Let him tell you what to do;
take his words to heart.
Come back to God Almighty
and he’ll rebuild your life.
Clean house of everything evil.
Relax your grip on your money
and abandon your gold-plated luxury.
God Almighty will be your treasure,
more wealth than you can imagine.
You’ll take delight in God, the Mighty One,
and look to him joyfully, boldly.

Job 22:21-26 The Message

Look at the actions required. Give in. Let Him tell you. Come back and He will rebuild. Clean house. Relax your grip and abandon. Take delight. And look to him.

Do you ever find yourself stuck in those Not Yet seasons? You know something in on the horizon but it’s not here yet?

Or you are poised in one of those Ready to Launch phases?

Or, perhaps, God has already Released you but you are not doing what He said?

Be faithful. Do what He tells you. Clean house. Let go of your notions about money and treasure. Delight in the Lord first and foremost. Turn your face toward Him. Not toward yourself. Not your pride or problems. Not someone else to “rescue” you. Just face him.

In one of the translations, the word God is Shaddai. How funny. That means All Sufficient. Lacking nothing. Looking to God is more than passive Jesus talk. It is intently listening and doing whatever He says.  There you find delight. And so does He.

 21 “Yield now and be at peace with Him;
Thereby good will come to you.
22 “Please receive instruction from His mouth
And establish His words in your heart.
23 “If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored;
If you remove unrighteousness far from your tent,
24 And place your gold in the dust,
And the gold of Ophir among the stones of the brooks,
25 Then the Almighty will be your gold
And choice silver to you.
26 “For then you will delight in the Almighty
And lift up your face to God. NASB



What a Difference a Year Makes

One couple, believe it or not, was divorced when they came. Another couple was moving toward divorce.  In fact the only reason the wife stayed was because there were two beds in their room.

Where are they now, a year later?  The divorced couple is remarried! Not perfect but willing to try marriage God’s way. The other couple has had radical life changes as they begin to see how God changes everything. Again, they are not perfect, but they are still together and willing to try life with God as the center.

Other couples came to get refreshed, or reconnected, or catch their breaths.

What are we talking about? The Marriage Retreat of 2010.  And with the deposit deadline approaching for the Marriage Retreat of 2011, I want to challenge you to get off the fence.  Trust God for the money. Take the time to invest in your marriage.

Your marriage affects EVERY area of your life. Don’t think for a moment that this time isn’t well spent, the money isn’t well invested.

Deadline to register is THIS Friday. It’s only $50 to reserve your suite. Renew your hearts with God and with each other.

Register Here