Easy Does It?

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13 ESV

In 2005, the office supply chain, Staples, launched an ad campaign featuring the easy button. The idea was that Staples made everything customers could ever want in an office supply store easier, almost as easy as pressing a button. The commercials were funny, and featured everything from a child in class who doesn’t know the answer to his teacher’s question, to a cowboy wrangling a bucking horse, and a father changing his twin infants’ diapers. Have you ever wished for a button you could push to make life easier? Of course! It’s a tantalizing fantasy.

One of my dad’s favorite hobbies was wood working. He seemed to always have some sort of project going. His creations varied from small and practical, all the way to beautiful pieces of furniture that our family gets to cherish now in his memory. We even attached a little plaque to a curio cabinet he made our family with his name and the date it was made. I’m sure part of the enjoyment he derived from creating things was the work they involved. Making something can often be a hit and miss process of learning and improving. Even if no one else is grading your work, you are! Trying something, failing, then trying again, seems to be the way God made us. Grading our success at any endeavor gives us the kind of satisfaction any sort of participation trophy never could.

In our walk with God we often find ourselves running into walls of frustration as we try and sometimes fail to grow. God, our perfect judge, and Jesus, our perfect example, stand as measures of our progress as we live our lives. Searching God’s Word and approaching Him honestly and often are two of the best ways to know where we stand. Another important method is fellowship. Conversation with someone who is moving in the same direction, or is simply willing to listen, can help solve problems or cut them down to a more manageable size. Have you ever noticed how getting out of your head with someone’s help can give you better perspective?

Finally, one of my four favorite Beatles, George Harrison, wrote a song that includes the words, “You know it don’t come easy.” Even though I still occasionally find myself looking for that “easy button,” I guess I’m glad it doesn’t.

“… it is the greatest of all mistakes to begin life with the expectation that it is going to be easy, or with the wish to have it so.”
― Lucy Larcom, 


What to my eyes is a mountain,
might be to yours a hill.
My marathon might be
your short walk.
I’m overjoyed at successfully boiling water,
while you carefully tend your souffle.
No matter where you’re at
your work is your work;
Mostly, I’m glad
God made it that way.

Possibly off the subject:
“Women are the most wonderful beings created by God, they are easy to understand when you show them love but hard to understand when you don’t.”
― Bamigboye Olurotimi


©Joel Tipple 2/16/2020

Bringing Church

Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash


Our pastor came to visit the other day. He said that at my advanced age I should be thinking of the hereafter. I told him, “Oh, I do it all the time.” 
“No matter where I am – in the living room, upstairs, in the kitchen, or down in the basement, I am always asking myself: ‘Now, what am I here after?'”

The Bible does reveal to us quite a bit about what we should be here after. When it comes to where it is, we often assume it’s found between four particular walls. However, as they say, “It ain’t necessarily so.”

“Many come to bring their clothes to church rather than themselves.”
Thomas Fuller

Now, if you think I’m getting ready to advocate for not going to church because you don’t have to go to a church building, you’re only partially right. We absolutely should be part of a church body that regularly meets together. The Bible says, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25 NLT But that’s only part of the story, isn’t it? Although we should do all we can to strengthen our traditional church body, we need to make sure we aren’t leaving it in the building we visit on Sunday, and if we are to have any hope of bringing Christ to a world starving for Him, we have to exploit every opportunity to do that. That means bringing church with us. Whether we like it or not, we’re all in the advertising business. If God has used your local body of believers to make a positive change in your life, isn’t that worth sharing? Yes! Also, if you can bring church with you by being a positive influence where you work or having coffee with a friend and sharing their burden, shouldn’t you do that too? Expand your ideas about what church can mean in your life and all the lives of those within your sphere of influence. Recognize that while, in truth, God may not need our hands, feet, and voice, He both desires our service and has all authority to direct our path.
That includes, in all its various manifestations, “bringing church.”

“I tell people, and it’s the truth, I could sit in my garage for a week and it won’t make me a car. And you can sit in church till your bottom is flat and that won’t make you a servant of Christ.”
Joyce Meyer

Bring church, yes,
the scriptures memorized,
but more, the principals
behind them.


Bring church
when you’re tired,
it’s inconvenient,
and you’d rather
take a nap.

Bring church
when everyone
and their dog
takes one fork in the road,
and God tells you to take the other.


Bring church
when all the person in front of you
needs
is a smile, a sincere word of encouragement,
and a genuine attempt to understand.

Bring church
even when you’re discouraged
with the state of the world
and any effort you make
seems like bringing a squirt gun to a forest fire.


Bring church…
because, in the final analysis,
God told you to,
and He’s kept His promises.
So, now, it’s time to keep yours.



 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV


©Joel Tipple 2/9/2020








What Power?

  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2 NIV


When Dorothy’s house flew in from Kansas to land on the Wicked Witch of the East in the “Wizard of Oz,” Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, asked Dorothy, “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” Glinda assumed Dorothy had been the one responsible for killing the evil witch, so she wanted to know whether Dorothy’s motivation for using her house as a weapon was to rid Oz of a bad witch, or simply to replace one bad witch with another. Glinda already assumed Dorothy was powerful and using her power intentionally. She simply wanted to know what kind of power Dorothy was in the business of employing. Whose side was she on? A good thing to know, right? Here’s what I think. When houses are falling where we live, whether political, economic, or health related, the better question is, are we trusting in the power of the Lord?

We’re informed in our world daily of the push and pull of power. All kinds, good, evil, and as yet to be determined. In their personal and professional lives, people are constantly in the news for using or abusing their power. Because this is the world we live in, Christians must somehow square the moral equation of power use with how God would have us live. As we approach the dilemma of power discernment, it’s clear we must constantly seek God for wisdom. Without God’s view on the various powers at work in our lives, we run the risk of being blown about by every twist of influence and doctrine. The best shelter we can run to is the Bible, where God’s intention and ground rules for living are made clear.

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Hebrews 5:14 ESV


“There is a signature of wisdom and power impressed on the works of God, which evidently distinguishes them from the feeble imitations of men.–Not only the splendor of the sun, but the glimmering light of the glowworm, proclaims his glory.”
John Newton

The power
that formed us from dust,
and found remedy
for our rebellion
is the author of countless stories
of impossible-made-possible redemption.
Because the prayer of the pauper
is equal
to that of the king,
because no matter
how many times I give up on myself,
I know He’ll never give up on me,
I know and I trust in the power
of the all powerful God of all,
The One who redeems.


©Joel Tipple 2/1/2020






Kindness

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Colossians 3:12

It’s a contentious world, isn’t it? Although I’ve long been a news junkie, I can feel my attitude going south on me if I spend too much time reading or watching it. More and more, the prevailing political attitude from every side seems to be one of winning at all costs. Sometimes cooperation and its attending theme of kindness are swept away in the equation. For that, we all pay dearly. But then, there are those other stories. By contrast with tales of violence and political division, stories of sacrifice and generosity lift our hearts and cause us to remember what Christian ideals of behavior are. I don’t think we have to stick our heads in the sand or ignore the world around us, but finding ways to lighten the load of others has an amazing way of making your own challenges easier to bear. Smile, listen, compliment. Give to or advocate for those who need it. Remind others what God sees in them when they can’t see it in themselves.

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
Henry James

We are not alone, though at times we feel it.
In isolation, fear and failure seem to grow.
We are made for comforting voices,
helping hands from those we know.


But God finds and buoys us
whether through family, friend,
or stranger.
Jesus uses human hearts and hands,
being born himself in a manger.

Never alone.
No, you’re never alone.
Through joy and sorrow,
laughter and tears,
you’re never alone.


God made kindness
when He made sacrifice

and hearts that grow
by giving away.
If we hurry at all,
we should hurry to be kind.
The best time to be kind?
Today.


©Joel Tipple 1/19/2020









Disposable

“We live in a disposable society. It’s easier to throw things out than to fix them. We even give it a name – we call it recycling.”
Neil LaBute


Coffee cups, paper towels, plastic bags and bottles, glass, aluminum, diapers, medical waste. The list of things we use once and throw away goes on and on. The discussion over costs, both finance and health, continues as we attempt to find solutions to living well today without sacrificing tomorrow. Often, the discussion gets heated, and divides along political lines, as we try to figure out how much money is being spent or saved, and by whom.

But lost in the discussion over disposable “things” are even greater societal issues. At what point does our attitude toward the things in our lives spill over into other areas? What about ideas? What about people? What about God? Too great a leap? I don’t think so. At its core, our problems in a disposable society are both selfishness and a failure to count the cost. While it’s easy to see the link between, say, disposing of motor oil in a river or ocean, the disastrous effects on living things, and our access to clean drinking water, the consequences of our willingness to throw away relationships with each other and with God often fail to catch our attention.

 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?
Luke 14:28 ESV


Let’s face it, commitment can be a hard sell. Saving, or giving, when it would be more fun to spend, staying when it would be easier to go, waiting on God and seeking wise counsel when you’d rather go with your “feelings.” These are all hallmarks of mature Christians choosing to live for God instead of themselves in a disposable society.

“When confronted with a challenge the committed heart will search for a solution. The undecided heart searches for an escape.”
Andy Andrews


Whether they can articulate it or not, every human being, from the homeless 30-year-old looking like he’s 50 to the outwardly successful corporate executive, is looking for something real and permanent, something beyond the easy fix or shiny car. It’s easy to become jaded in a world that constantly promises a better life for easy payments but never really delivers. Jesus does not promise us an easy road, but guarantees help in this life and eternity with Him in the next. If He died to redeem us, He must have known our true value. I am who God says I am. I am redeemed.

“I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.”
Isaiah 44:22 NIV


God
the great magician
author of us all
tender musician
though we were broken
fearful
feeling only fit for disposal
you bought us
and brought us
from the brink
to redemption.


©Joel Tipple 1/12/2020











Black Holes

I’m a Jesus follower. But loving Jesus, knowing God created everything, and cultivating a better grasp of what that means in your day to day life doesn’t mean you stop asking questions about all the Lord’s made, right? If anything, greater devotion to God should cause our sense of wonder to expand as we discover more about the world we know and the corners of our universe we are still coming to know. Now, the universe we’re able to observe (observe being a relative term) is estimated to contain 200 billion to two trillion galaxies. Yeah, I struggle to wrap my head around that too. Anyway, I heard in the news recently that astronomers have now spotted a record-breaking heavyweight black hole at the center of a galaxy known as Holm 15A. This black hole is estimated to weigh 40 billion times the mass of our sun. That’s heavy. That’s the kind of heavy no post-holiday diet could ever hope to put a dent in. Time for a rough definition of a black hole.
“A black hole is a place where the laws of physics as we know them break down. Einstein taught us that gravity warps space itself, causing it to curve. So given a dense enough object, space-time can become so warped that it twists in on itself, burrowing a hole through the very fabric of reality. A massive star that has run out of fuel can produce the kind of extreme density needed to create such a mangled bit of world. As it buckles under its own weight and collapses inward, space-time caves in with it. The gravitational field becomes so strong that not even light can escape, rendering the region where the star used to be profoundly dark: a black hole. You might expect to get crushed, or maybe torn to pieces. But the reality is stranger than that. The instant you entered the black hole, reality would split in two. In one, you would be instantly incinerated, and in the other you would plunge on into the black hole utterly unharmed.”
Amanda Gefter BBC Earth 5/25/2015

Up until now we’ve discussed gravity as it relates to black holes in space. And by the way, aren’t you glad you don’t live close to one? No, your neighbor’s back yard doesn’t count, no matter how out of control it is. What about the gravity (importance, or significance) of our lives? What about the black holes we experience here on earth, where our efforts and resources so often seem to be lacking, or even missing altogether? Frustration with our situation is not wrong in itself. We can use that emotion to propel ourselves to action. The key question at those trying times when we just want to do something is whether we use the emotions we’re experiencing to move closer to God or farther away.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.
Proverbs 14:12 ESV

“I ask that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know the hope of His calling, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and the surpassing greatness of His power to us who believe. He displayed this power in the working of His mighty strength.”
Ephesians 1:18-19 ESV


Knowledge of God’s nature and investment in the hope He inspires can drive us toward His will for our lives. As you encourage your habit to seek Him, your focus will shift from short term struggles to long term goals. God can and will produce amazing results in your life as you shift from selfish to selfless thinking. Using His Holy Spirit, God will answer your prayers to be led and utilized by building you up, shaping you, and opening a way.

“Don’t bother to give God instructions, just report for duty.”
“If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.”
Corrie Ten Boom


Lord you’ve made all the worlds,
this little one,
and all those yet discovered.
You’ve filled the heavens,
surely you can fill
the black holes in our hearts.

Manufactured dreams,
focused just on me,
are short sighted and misguided.
It’s a universal problem
all we can see is our little part.

God, finish what you’ve begun
after all you sent your son
We can’t give as much as you did
you made us free.
But since in your image you made us
and paid all our sins through Jesus
I’ll follow, we’ll all follow where you lead.

© Joel Tipple 1/5/2020












Legacy

If I asked if you’d considered your legacy, you could be forgiven for launching into a discussion about your Subaru Legacy if that happens to be what you drive. However, this post isn’t about a Japanese sedan, so stop being so shallow! No, instead of the four-wheel variety, we’re going to talk about the legacy you leave on earth when you’re gone. Yes, you’re right, you can leave someone your car, but for the last time, that’s not our topic, okay? Moving on. And we’re walking, and we’re walking…

The kind of legacy you leave your loved ones can be something of monetary value, like your estate, but it can also be something difficult to put a price on, like how you lived your life. What kind of relationships did you cultivate with people? What kind of values did you emulate? Most importantly, what kind of relationship did you have with your creator? Did you give Jesus the right place in your life? Remember, Jesus said in John 14:6 that He is “the way, the truth, and the life,” not “a” way “a” truth, and “a” life. Jesus did not mince words, equivocate, or at any point present himself as only a good man or important prophet. He was and remains the Son of God, with all the authority that entails, so our relationship with Him is integral to the legacy we must leave.

Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.
2 Peter 1:11-15
ESV

Many times in life we’re presented with a crossroads, where the direction we choose ultimately has great import on the legacy we leave. It’s important to remember God is in the business of redemption though. So even if you’ve wandered from the path He would have you take at a given time in your life, it’s never too late to put Jesus front and center, where He belongs.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
3 John 1:4 ESV


Every heartbeat you give
me is loaned
to be returned with interest
when I go home.
There’s nothing of more value
I can leave behind
than the road to Heaven
and eternal life.


©Joel Tipple 12/28/2019

(Please share)




Family Christmas

Just like Jesus, when I was born I was the youngest in my family. Okay, Jesus was the oldest too, but that’s because he was the first. A mere technicality. Me? I was actually fourth, and last in line. Then, since my parents were convinced they couldn’t do any better, they quit. That’s one version. The truth is a little more pedestrian, but seriously, can you imagine that early sixties Christmas card without me holding little Santa? That’s right, I didn’t think you could. We still get a few family-photo Christmas cards from friends and family in the mail, and they’re wonderful. My sister especially is good about sending one every year. As we all have grandchildren now it’s cool to see hers as they grow. The pictures are a reminder that the clock seems to move faster as the years go by. Fewer and fewer people send any Christmas cards, let alone the family photo variety. I suppose that’s a side effect of the internet. Social media and all the other various means of electronic communication we enjoy allow us to drop in on each other instantly, so waiting for the mail carrier has largely fallen out of fashion.

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
Luke 1:35 NIV


No matter how we go about doing it, Christmas is traditionally a time when families try to get together and celebrate. However, although we hope it’s a joyous time, circumstances and idealistic expectations can conspire to make the holidays tremendously difficult for many. Some are estranged from their families or simply don’t have adequate connections in their lives to make celebrating easy. For that matter, there are those who either don’t believe in Jesus or are jaded by the abundant commercialization. So, since not everyone has the desire or is in a position to celebrate Christmas, and since it’s often a time that seems to highlight not what they have, but what they lack, how can Christians be part of the solution? How do we please God in this?

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
Matthew 2:1-2 NIV


First, although Christmas is a time of great celebration for followers of Jesus, if it’s a day by orders of magnitude so different from our everyday life that we become someone else, something is wrong. Yes, cheer for Jesus’ birth! Yes, take the time to enjoy the unique traditions we all know and get excited about! But so infuse your everyday life with Jesus’ love to the degree that Christmas is the exclamation point to the person you already are. Second, recognize that not everyone relates to your experience. It’s your responsibility to communicate why we are so excited about Jesus coming to earth in the first place. Don’t assume people know. One may have heard the Christmas story seventy times and yet it was the seventy-first that touched their heart. Third, find practical ways to express the love and hope within you. There’s a reason so many hospitals were founded by Christians. We should allow God to use us to be the light shining in the darkness and the glue that binds our communities together in times of difficulty.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV


Let this Christmas,
no matter how many I’ve seen,
be the Christmas
others see Jesus in me.
Let the joy and hope
of Jesus’ birth
infuse my walk
while I’m here on earth.


©Joel Tipple 12/21/2019



A Still Small Voice

My niece wrapped in a towel after her kitchen sink bath.

Around the time of my mid-teens my brother began his tenure with the Air Force and was subsequently stationed overseas. While he was away his wife and daughter came to live with my parents and myself. The last time a baby lived in our home the baby was me, so this was a new experience. I don’t think anyone ever expected a lot from me in the way of being responsible for my niece, and I mostly found the experience to be positive. One thing I discovered for sure though was small humans did not necessarily exercise a small voice. Although they are not born with the ability to communicate in a way we always understand, nature still gives babies a voice that gets our attention. Like a car alarm, you just want the noise to stop. If only handling an infant’s needs was always as simple as finding the right button to push.

The bible doesn’t relate to us whether Jesus was an especially calm or cranky baby. As far as we know he was typical, and automatically made it well known when he had needs. If a little cry didn’t bring satisfaction, the alarm would get louder until it did. As Jesus grew, his intellectual and spiritual understanding grew also. We see vignettes of Jesus at 12, separated from his parents and reasoning with adults regarding scripture. Later, as an adult, we find him at times angry, passionate, even sorrowful. Every volume of emotion and reason with which we are familiar, Jesus experienced in full, being fully human. He was not just some spiritual being who deigned to be for a time among us to show us the error of our ways and a right path. Becoming as we are and experiencing our every voice brought greater perspective and legitimacy to his own life and sacrifice, which would then be followed by the miracle of his resurrection.  Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.  For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:14-18 NIV So, what is this “still small voice” we speak of? The only direct reference found in scripture is in 1st Kings. Speaking to Elijah… The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. 1 Kings 19:11-13 NIV
If God wanted to, he could use any force of nature at his disposal to coerce us into submission. However, time and time again God chooses instead to use a “gentle whisper.” Is it any wonder that this is the voice that speaks most clearly to our hearts?

The still small voice
my heart in time heard
began in a makeshift cradle
in a manger with the sound of a baby’s cry.


Quite an inauspicious start
for the savior of the world.
Our eternal joy made possible
because God’s Son arrived.


Magnify
his still small voice.
Give him supremacy in your life,
make him king.
Along with every angel,
with every child of God,
lift your hands,
lift your voices,
and sing.


©Joel Tipple 12/14/2019

(Please share)

Separation Anxiety

Holding my daughter, Christmas 1986.

My childhood memories of going to the grocery store with my mom are not entirely pleasant. When we went shopping I had a tendency to get distracted by something and wander off. Sometimes I’d only be around the corner from her when I realized I was on my own and panic. Although you’d assume this is a fairly common occurrence with children, I apparently made an impression in one particular store. At an age when I could legally buy alcohol, a checker remembered me as the little boy who was always getting lost. How embarrassing! Truth is, to this day I still don’t have the best inner compass. My wife will know which door we came in. Me? I’ve got a decent shot if I can consult my phone’s GPS. How about you? Do you have a good sense of direction? There are definitely survival skills you can learn that will help you find your way home should you get lost, but all sorts of circumstances can present themselves which make that more difficult. Sometimes… we need to be rescued.

A different kind of lost is being lost spiritually. I’ll bet a lot of people are familiar with Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep, even if they didn’t learn it in Sunday school.
So he told them this parable:  “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Luke 15:3-7
ESV

There is a unique tension, an anxiety in each of our lives that will persist until its resolution by God’s only son. God values each of us so much that He sent Jesus Christ to make a way for us to come home. No matter how far you wander, no matter how many self-help or self-discovery books you consult, in the final analysis there is only one shepherd qualified to bring you home. His name is Jesus.

When morning has broken
what night tried to repair,
and the confidence I sought
turning in
disappears
in the crisp morning air,
Jesus, don’t let me be lost.
I’m treading in
waters of trepidation.
My arms and legs are tired,
and I can’t catch my breath.
Feels like I’ll die from hesitation
if I don’t reach out to you.
Don’t let fear keep me
from the right destination.
Take my hand,
guide me with your truth.


©Joel Tipple 12/9/2019