In his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell mentions a marriage counselor who can predict, with better than ninety percent accuracy, if a marriage will succeed or if it will end.  He films a couple interacting for about ten minutes or so, then combs through the video, second by second, looking for four things – defensiveness, being critical, stonewalling and contempt. The most important of these predictors, he says, is contempt because it, more than the others, crosses gender lines.  It is the most destructive and divisive.  It is beyond anger, for it is heiarchical.  Anger says, “I can’t stand you!” or “I am so mad at you!”  But contempt says, “You a**hole!”  It places the other person on a lower level of humanity.


Upon hearing this, my mind went to Jesus’ so called Sermon on the Mount.  In it He stated that anyone who says to someone, “You fool!” is in danger of or liable to the fires of Gehenna [Matt. 5:22].  Growing up, I never really understood this at all.  It seemed overly harsh in a shallow sort of way for Jesus’ teaching.  I’ve heard that some preachers say that this was Jesus’ way of telling us not say “GD.”  But Dallas Willard wrote that here, the Master Teacher is actually dealing with contempt, and Gladwell’s section about the marriage counselor brought it all together for me.


This is the brilliance of Jesus.  Who knows the human heart better than the One who made it?  He knew what goes on inside the human heart for the words “You fool” to escape the mouth.  He knew that these word were motivated by contempt and He knew the depths of its destructive and dividing power long before we figured it out.  It wasn’t about just calling people names or saying bad words. In our modern society of busyness and traffic, it’s usually, “You a**hole!”  But it’s not just saying that, it’s the contempt in our hearts that evokes this tonal manifestation of destruction.  In essence, I am placing that person beneath me, and doing so is evil.


How do we deal with preventing contempt from polluting our hearts?  Meditate on Jesus’ teachings.  Contemplate them and we will find them to be much deeper than what we can take in from a quick reading, or rote memorization.  His words are the truth of life, and words with that much substance require much chewing before they can be properly ingested.  May we accept and feed the inner transformational healing of Jesus so that contempt is nowhere to be found in the hidden depths of our inner self, but only love for all.  Only then will the words “You fool”  not even enter our mind.

Philippians 2:3☩Romans 12:3

December 24 / Proverbs 24 / John 17

Proverbs 24:3

It takes wisdom to have a good family, and it takes understanding to make it strong.

Nothing great comes without great effort. Great effort must be made in understanding others if your goal is to have peaceful relationships, a loving family, or shalom. Ministry is loving and even studying people so as to better care for and serve them. We bring awareness to one another in order to strengthen our intentionality. That, I believe, is the point and power of awareness. Once you recognize a pattern or habit, you can then be more intentional in addressing and healing the brokeness that will now be clearly visible to you. Here lies the immense value of being that mirror to each other. “Hey, did you notice that whenever you talk about ‘So and So’, that your demeanor changes and you show anger?” If someone is a good enough friend to detect, as well as challenge us in this way, we should embrace it! Thank you! Now I can be much more intentional in growing in this area you brought awareness to. “Also, did you know you have basil in your teeth?” Thank you!

John 17:24

“Father, I want the ones you’ve given me to be with me where I am. I want them to see my glory, the glory which you’ve given me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”

This chapter gives us the longest and most intimate prayer by Jesus we have recorded for us. For some reason, this chapter in particular always hearkens me to the last verse of John’s gospel where he states that if everything Jesus did was written down, the world could not hold the amount of books that would be required for this monumental task. Therefore, the tiny fraction of what Jesus did that is contained in these canonical gospel accounts is of the highest importance to us. It deserves our utmost attention. And in all four accounts, we have just one personal prayer of any considerable length by Jesus to His Father. So every part of it is of vital importance.

What then did He pray for?

Throughout the prayer He prays that we experience God’s love and Presence. Jesus desires that we be where He is-in the loving and constant Presence of YHWH. That is to say, the manifest Presence of God. Yes, He is omnipresent, but Jesus wants us to live into the divine, comforting Presence by experiencing it, acknowledging it. That is the manifest Presence as opposed to the mere omnipresence. It is not just the cold fact that God is everywhere, but rather He is for us, loving us at every moment, ready to walk with you every moment. This is where Jesus lived while on earth and it is where He desires that we would live.

I like how Greg Boyd reminds himself of this by often proclaiming, “I have never been more loved than I am right now at this very moment.” And you can say that at any given moment of your life. God is for you right now.

Jesus says to each of us, “I want you to be with Me. I desire for us to experience life together in the Divine Embrace.” How comforting is that? There is no better place to be. God’s part is just being there, always ready and willing to walk with us through any and all nuances of our life. Our part is simply to acknowledge it and live into what He is offering every moment.

Focus On Self

A clever and extremely effective strategy of the enemy is tempting us to keep focus on one’s self- our own problems, struggles, physical ailments, insecurities, shortcomings and failures.  When our thoughts are with these circumstances, they are not with God.  “You’re such a hypocrite; you can’t be of any help to anybody else.”  “You need to fix yourself before you can even think of a life of prayer and helping others.”  “Who do you think you are?”  These are the lies and accusations we hear in our head as our attention is turned toward our circumstances.   The name Satan translates to “Accuser.”


In my last year working with homeless youth, I experienced one of those nights that had such an impact on me that it left a permanent imprint on my life.  I took a call from a guy and his girlfriend who needed to get into a shelter for the night.  It was late and very rainy, and I was ready for bed.  Rarely did I need to physically respond to hotline calls as most situations could be handled over the phone.  But this call required my going out.  Frustration started to set in as the couple was late meeting me at the agreed-upon rendezvous point even after giving them more than enough time to walk there.  Here I was focusing on myself, as God was most likely chuckling at me knowing the whole while exactly what He was doing, and what His purpose was for this evening.  Right before I decided to forget it and head back home to bed, they showed up.  After dropping the young lady off at the women’s shelter, I had some time alone with this young man on the way to the men’s shelter.  During our conversation, he told me, “I’ve read the Satanic Bible.  Most people think it’s about worshiping the devil.  But it’s not.  It’s all about the worship of self.”  That last phrase has never left me.  That’s why God took me out of the house that night- not just to give a couple of homeless youth a ride to a shelter, but to impress upon me a truth in such a way that would always stay with me, with the visual imprint of a rainy night, a tattooed and pierced young man, and a quiet car ride to a homeless shelter when I would rather have been sleeping.  Merely reading those words in print or hearing them from some speaker may very well have been easily forgotten.  But not so with God’s method.  He knows best how to help you remember something.  And to think that I almost missed it by focusing more on my own frustration than what God may have been up to that night.


We grow through adversity, yet it is in this state when we tend to be our most selfish.  The enemy scores a huge victory when our minds are set on what is not going well or how we have messed something up.  We operate in a mode of scarcity when we focus on the obstacles at our feet [head down], instead of operating in a mode of abundance through focusing on the beautiful mountain ahead of us [head up], which represents the power of God and what He is able to do.  This is where the deep understanding of the mind as written in Romans 8:1-8 and Colossians 3:1-17 comes in, and why these two passages should be memorized, ingested and assimilated into the core of our being.  You see this daily, the pervasive weak-minded focus on what I can’t do, or how awful my circumstances are.  Rarely do you witness the strength-minded focus on the almighty power of God, what He is capable of, what He has done, and what He wants to do.  The Bible is filled with unqualified people doing supernatural things because their focus is on the Creator of the universe, and not their circumstances and shortcomings.  It’s difficult to even imagine the apostle Paul expending vast amounts of energy making excuses why he could not minister due to the trauma he no doubt experienced from shipwreck and floggings.  What if he was always thinking about his past and what heinous things he inflicted upon Jesus’ followers?  What if he had allowed himself to be paralyzed by focusing on all the negatives in his life?  Lord knows he would not have been nearly as effective as he was.  He did not dwell on what he couldn’t do, but chose to set his mind upon God Himself and what He could empower him to do.  Do we really believe that Yahweh created all of the galaxies, yet my situation is beyond His abilities?  Or beyond His care?



Our Master Teacher was no doubt focused on His heavenly Father every moment of His life.  No matter who or how many turned away from Him and would not follow, He kept moving forward on His Daddy’s mission for which He had a clear vision.  Jesus Christ Himself did not have a 100% success rate in ministry and evangelism.  He did not sulk in wondering why those who did not believe Him chose the path of this world.  “Oh if only I had said this.  Maybe I should have taken a different approach with that rich young ruler and not offended him.  Maybe I’m not cut out for this sort of vocation.”  Even while being tortured to death He was conversing with God.  His very asking of why God had forsaken Him shows He was thinking of…Him!  And He prayed for those killing Him.  Here I sit and fret over wondering if someone thinks well of me.  Pathetic.



It should also be understood that the enemy will just as well push us to focus on good things more than God Himself.  Ironically, one of the great hindrances to an intimate relationship with God, can be service to God.  Again, as long as I am concentrating on my work for God, I am not necessarily thinking about Him.  This can be subtle.  It may take the form of talking about and planning on doing good things, because as long as we are talking about doing good things, we are not doing them.  “Jesus went around doing good”, Dr. Luke tells us in Acts 10:38.  This, of course, flowed out of His constant abiding in the Father.  Good things being more important to us than God Himself can also take the form of Bible study for the sake of study and not transformation of the heart.  Study is an important spiritual discipline, seeing we are commanded to love God with all our mind, but as long as I only remain on picking apart the meaning of a word, I am not living it.  As Thomas á Kempis appropriately said, “I would rather feel contrition than know its definition.”



What a brilliant temptation, to inflict us where we are all so easily prone to stumble- thinking about ourselves too much.  The enemy is more powerful than us, and very smart.  After all, he’s an angel, with millennia of experience.  But remember, that makes him the opposite of Gabriel, not God.  So, thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice, we have access to much more power, the enemy’s creator.  But on our own we will fail.  Every time.  By partnering with other Christ followers, focusing on our heavenly Father and wielding the power of the Holy Spirit, we can win.  Every time.

The Devil Is In The Distractions

The Devil Is In The Distractions


We are a very distracted people.  We have enough forms of technological communication available to us, that we can quite literally amuse ourselves to death, that is, until we die.  It is easily and ridiculously possible to go through our whole life, deflecting every present moment, so that we actually miss the point of it all.  The more tasks we assign ourselves, the more errands we run, the more internet we surf, the more people we meet with, the more problems we give energy to (our own as well as other’s), the faster our days seem to slip by us.  Our life is but a vapor, yes, here one minute and gone the next, but we can enjoy and live fully into every second of that God-given vapor.  Yet we allow ourselves to be distracted from the means of doing so.


The enemy wants to keep us from intimacy with the Father.  Could this be his main objective, to keep us from the only true source of power and joy?  To keep each of us little branches cut off from the Vine?  Why would it not be?  I can scarcely think of a more effective strategy for victory if I were in his shoes.  The devil knows he cannot touch our soul or our salvation, so what he does seem to focus so much on is distracting us away from connecting to what will make us effective in the lives of others, and away from living the life of victory and joy promised and available to us, if only we believe and take hold of it.  This he does by tempting us to keep busy with hurrying and worrying and not connecting.  Satan, an angel turned devil, has no fear of mere human natural power, for he is supernatural.  But he knows he is no match for God, who created him, or for totally surrendered Christ followers through whom flow Yahweh’s power.  Therefore, he does what he can (and is allowed) to keep us away from pursuing what is life giving to us, and Kryptonite to him-the Word of God.


We can picture here interrogation 101 techniques.  What is the first thing you do when questioning two or more people?  You separate them. You isolate them, therefore weakening them.  Then you talk to them on their level as though you understand them and their actions.  Next you tell them that their friend is in the other room throwing them under the bus.  Isn’t this what happens to us?  Through distraction, we allow ourselves to be kept from quality time with God, His people and His Word.  We then become isolated and weak, giving in much more easily to believing lies about God and ourself.  Separation on the spiritual level is of course much more subtle than the obvious placing of people in different rooms.  The goal is for you to be unaware that you’re even losing connection, or that there is great power readily available to you at any given moment.


It should be noted that we are not talking here of interruptions.  Interruptions are different.  They are part of life and better viewed as divine appointments, for they are those things over which we have no control.  I’ve read that the average person is interrupted seventy-two times a day.  Jesus was often interrupted in the gospel accounts, and some great things came as a result (Jairus’ daughter for instance).  These do not necessarily pose a threat to taking our mind off God, unless we allow it.  We are talking here of those things which we entertain and allow to rob us of our focus on what really matters.


This all became an intense reality to me in December 2011.  In November of that year, while meditatively listening to God, I received an extremely clear directive that I was to embark on a thirty day fast from all social communication.  I was only to talk with God, family or work.  It even meant abstaining from the Sunday gatherings as well as all house church meetings during that period.  The directive was even clear as to the day it would commence and the day it would end.  The message itself to go on the fast was beautiful in that it came so vividly, due to my distraction-free, silent listening to God for approximately forty minutes.  That, in and of itself, showed me that God still speaks to His children if only we will take the time and make the effort to listen.  As far as the fast itself?  Let me tell you something, I sort of now look at my life in two sections- there’s before that fast, and there’s after.  God spoke to me, changed me, and taught me great things during that period because I purposely shut out the things competing for my attention to Him.  It is hands down one of the very best things I have ever done, the reason being not so much my efforts as much as it was the mere placing of myself where I could more easily focus on Him, hear Him, and be led by Him.  My big take-away from it was the real life discovery that this is how we were meant to live- in the constant gaze of our soul upon our beautiful and loving Maker.  The fulfillment and satisfaction I experienced during that month and since, is beyond measure.  My insight and ability to speak into others was off the charts.  I missed nothing.  In fact, I just craved more and more time alone with Him, as I still do today.  The clarity of thought during that time was so intense that it energized me to the point of what felt like clairvoyance.  He brought peace and calm to my inner most being.  I saw the distractions of life for what they are- worthless distortions keeping me from what really matters.  Once you actually move away from yourself, you can then see self for what it actually is- vain, empty and weak when disconnected from its power Source.  I saw plainly all the things I would fill my day with that were either keeping me away from intimacy with my true Father, or driving me away from it.  And the clear vision has stayed with me, seeing things for what they really are, both the meaningful and the meaningless.


To sum up, I have found nothing to be more satisfying than sitting in the presence of God, to just be still and know that He is God.  To listen to Him with all my heart, free of distraction, is the sweetest of all my experiences.  Connected to Him, I find extreme clarity of thought, a million opportunities to serve those around me, and joy in all circumstances.  But in allowing myself to be distracted by the less important things (and what is more important than your relationship with God?), I find I am disconnected from the only real Source of power and happiness in life.  It is in this place that I am critical, discontent, unfocused and much less effective.  “Apart from me you can do nothing.”

December 22-23 / Proverbs 22-23 / John 15-16

Proverbs 22:3

“A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”

” Watch and pray so that you do not enter into temptation,” Jesus said.  Plan ahead on facing temptation but not entering into it. Off- the-spot training is crucial in this life so that when we are on the spot, we are not taken by surprise. C.S. Lewis wrote that prudence is taking the trouble to think out what you are doing and what is likely to come of it.

Proverbs 23:9

Don’t waste your breath on fools, for they will despise the wisest advice.”

Some people are not willing to listen. Some people are not ready to hear truth. It is not our job to convince and convict. That is up to Holy Spirit. We do not cast our pearls before swine, but rather give truth when prompted by the Spirit and trust and rest in that divine work. There is nothing to argue or stress about because we cannot change someone’s heart ourselves anyway.

John 15:22

“If I hadn’t come and spoken to them, they wouldn’t be guilty of sin. But now they have no excuse for their sin.”

Revelation increases moral responsibility. Those to whom Jesus revealed Himself and yet still rejected Him were no longer guilty of a sin of ignorance. Now they were without excuse. The light of revelation had revealed their own sin, and they did not want to face it or do anything about it. What truth have you heard and not acted upon?

John 16:33

“Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

This morning, while in solitude at St. Meinrad Monastery,  I asked God what  this actually meant. What I heard Him say was, “I never lived for the world for one minute. Every moment I lived for my Heavenly Father.” In this sense He conquered the world by living in it but never for it. This is at least one aspect of what His overcoming of the world means to us. We too overcome when we have that change of vision and see this world and its ways for what it is. Then we are free to live for what is higher, for what ultimately matters and brings abundance and capacity to be a healing agent for those in front of us.