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












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



Out of Control

I was driving the family car. I had been a passenger many times, but never the driver, and I was terrified that at any moment I would do something wrong. The sun was on its way down, and I was on the edge of losing control when I crested the top of a short hill just outside of town and woke up. I’m not sure how I managed to drive, since, at age eight, there was no way my legs could have reached the pedals, but hey, it was my “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” dream, and in a situation like that, rules are made to be broken. It was a recurring nightmare when I was a child. It could have meant something or nothing at the time. I don’t know.

Have you ever found yourself at a point in life where you felt, like in my dream, that you were barely holding on? Since we can’t be certain when the circumstances of our lives will take a wild and crazy turn, it’s worth considering what and where our place of hope and security is. You may feel, as an adult, that you’re better prepared to be behind the wheel of your life than I was to be driving our Oldsmobile, but just what is waiting for you beyond that hill’s crest? When you get there, will money keep you safe? Your own strength? Your family and friends? No matter how well you’ve managed your finances, no matter how well you eat and how much you exercise, no matter the quality of your personal relationships, the reality of the human condition is that stuff happens. So what, then? Is it a waste of effort to be right and responsible? Or rather, given what many view as the uncertainty and ultimate futility of life, should we teach the virtues of selfishness and hedonism?

Over 2,000 years ago a man came along claiming to be the Son of God. At first those in power viewed him as simply another in a long line of self-aggrandizing trouble makers. But the politically sanctioned murder of Jesus Christ was not the end, instead, it was just the beginning. In dying, then defeating death by rising from the grave, our Lord made available eternal life to those who would turn to Him. Not only did the teachings of Jesus show us how to live life here on earth, his actions secured our access to eternal life in the place God has prepared for those who ask for forgiveness and turn from their sins.

   Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
John 14:6-7 ESV


  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
John 10:27-29 ESV


Your tears and blood
Lord
have won
But for your tears
and blood
Jesus
we’d be forever done
the end would be the end
but for the one who calls me friend
now darkness and death
turn to light and life
eternal joy instead of strife
because of the Son


© Joel Tipple 11/2/2019




Not Too Far From Grace


I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:5 ESV


For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
John 1:17-18 NIV


If you think your sin’s too great
and God can’t look you in the face
all he sees is Jesus
you’re not too far from grace


Works alone won’t take you home
to stand before his throne
Changing power’s God’s to give
if you’ll claim it


You’ve never been too far from the Father
the cross has followed you all these years
Not a moment’s been wasted
searching for his presence
God would never
let you drown in your tears


The more we cling to each promise
you have given
and surrender to your loving face
the more unified and sanctified
you make us
and this all due

to your astounding grace

“If people do not like the doctrine of grace, give them all the more of it.”
Charles Spurgeon

©Joel Tipple 9/7/2019

Conversation Signs

…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,…
1st Peter 3:15 ESV

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Colossians 4:6 ESV

In this day of instant communication, the irony is that in many ways there is less of it now than there has ever been. Within seconds I can tell thousands of people any old thing that enters my head, and as a result you would think that communication, since it’s seemingly so easy to do, would not be the minefield it is. So what’s standing in the way of our being able to relate to each other in meaningful ways, especially as Christians who wish to engage with and affect our world? The issue, as I see it, is twofold, what we bring on board, and what we share.

1) Input
Consider the funnel effect. If you picture all the information we’re exposed to on a regular basis trying to make its way into our minds through a funnel, you can understand that it doesn’t matter how big the top of the funnel is, there’s still a limit on the amount of information we can process at any given time. Because there is so much, it’s probably more important than ever to be discerning in selecting what gets in. Despite our boasts of being able to multi-task, there really is only so much information we can or should give our attention to. At some point you’ll have to decide between the on-base percentage of your favorite infielder from 1997-’98, the relative nutritional benefits of broccoli vs chocolate cream pastry, and how we should pray for the person we just met. Maybe you have more brain cells at your disposal. Me? Something’s getting pushed out. God desires to direct our thoughts and words always. But you can’t share what you don’t know or have a personal interest in.

2) Output
Have you heard the expression, “Garbage in, garbage out?” It relates to the information and instructions programmed into computers. There used to be a joke product you could buy. It was a series of cards attached to a handle, and on the cards were supposedly clever/funny comments you could select to show people in other cars as you made your way down the road. They ranged from somewhat cute to outright offensive. I guess anything that takes your mind off the road AND possibly contributes to road rage is a bad idea. If our focus for relating to the world is more about entertaining people or attracting their attention by showing them how clever or important we are, we’ve lost any handle we ever had on fulfilling the Great Commission.

Christ-centered or self-centered?
I guess there was a time when politics weren’t so acrimonious, but it’s getting harder and harder to recall. Thing is, you can find the same sort of vitriol in newspapers from colonial times. I think it’s just easier to lash out at people we think represent the opposite view from ours when we have ready access to the bullhorn of the internet. Who needs to take the time to consider the ramifications of what they say when it’s so easy to spew, point, and click? Those same attitudes can carry on to our everyday conversations. How does it glorify Jesus when we allow personality based comments, like the ones that use the names of well known politicians, to show our disdain for a particular party or political philosophy? Should we have no opinions? Of course not. Just consider the content of your speech and who or what it emphasizes.

Am I leading myself
to where I think you should go?
Does it vary with the winds of opinion?
Do I lift God’s influence to a high level of importance
only after judging the temperature of the room?
God, direct the content and quality of what I say,
so that it best advances your kingdom.


© Joel Tipple 8/31/2019

Really, God?

I’ve wondered sometimes whether God has ever had occasion to think we all just might be a bad dream. That maybe if he hit the snooze button one more time he might have a better one. A dream where his creation didn’t waste so much time fighting with each other and indulging in ever more imaginative sinful selfishness. But no, God is awake, aware of his creation, including all its flaws, and it’s clear he loves us infinitely, since he sent Jesus to open our way to eternity. We have the freedom, with all the responsibility that freedom entails, to choose a relationship with God on his terms, or to go our own way. I’m convinced the overwhelming crush of evidence supports the argument that God is real, and rewards those who seek him. However, this is a fallen world we live in, where terrible things happen, and not just to people who haven’t chosen to accept eternal life and pursue a closer relationship with God. Although I’m just as susceptible to grief and outrage when bad things happen to good people, I’ve never accepted the premise that being good buys us out of awful stuff. As God’s creation, I believe we never shine more brightly than when we turn to God in the midst of tragedy instead of away.

For the sake of this ministry, we toil tirelessly and are criticized continually, simply because our hope is in the living God. He is the wonderful life-giver of all the children of men, and even more so to those who believe.
1st Timothy 4:10 TPT


For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
Romans 1:20 ESV


Some Say

I’ve heard some say, “God is dead.”
How could they be so led?
Look around,
at all he’s breathed to life.

I’ve heard some say, “God can’t see.”
But he’s painted so much majesty,
he must know what delights our eyes.


I’ve heard some say, “God can’t hear.”
But I know he counts our words dear,
and responds,
though we judge his sense of time.

I’ve heard some say, “God can’t feel.”
But he knows our burdens
and we’re not left to deal alone.
Because he lives,
we needn’t fear to be alive.


©Joel Tipple 8/24/2019

What Love Requires

 So I kneel humbly in awe before the Father of our Lord Jesus, the Messiah, the perfect Father of every father and child in heaven and on the earth.  And I pray that he would unveil within you the unlimited riches of his glory and favor until supernatural strength floods your innermost being with his divine might and explosive power. Then, by constantly using your faith, the life of Christ will be released deep inside you, and the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life.
Ephesians 3:14-19 The Passion Translation (TPT)

Earlier this week I was helping a gentleman at work who is one of our regular customers. He’s one of those folks it’s just a pleasure to be around, always encouraging and friendly. No matter what kind of day you’re having, people like this have a way of making it better. On this day in particular I noticed he was wearing a unique cross. It had a sort of steampunk metal look to it, and I told him I liked it. In reply, he said it was a gift from a friend when he moved years ago. Here’s the story. My friend worked for one of those laundry delivery companies that serve businesses. One day, as he was making his rounds, he came to one shop in particular where he had established a friendly rapport with a lady who worked there who happened to be African American. He told her he was leaving the area and this would be his last time delivering to them. She said, “Wait, I have something for you.” She disappeared into the back, and when she came out she had the cross in her hand and asked him to take it. He was surprised, and when he told her as much, she said the reason she was giving him the cross was he was the first white man who had ever called her, “ma’am.” I was both moved and taken aback by the story. Thinking this must have been a very long time ago, not that racism should have ever been the norm, I asked him what year this happened. He said it was 1995. It seems to me our relationships with people of different colors and cultures have been moving forward at a snail’s pace, that is, when they are moving forward at all. I’m concerned that not enough attitudes have shifted since my friend was given his cross.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit . . . Next to the blessed sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.
C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (New York; Harper-Collins, 2001, first paperback edition).

Jesus said to love God
with everything you have
and love your neighbor as yourself.
How many days have I begun,
leaving those words on the shelf?
It’s easy to treat well
those who do the same.
It’s easy to not fear
those with similar skin
and names.
Let me be the bridge
to Jesus’ love
even when it’s not natural
or easy.

© Joel Tipple 8/10/2019

Don’t Wait

The first funeral I remember is one I didn’t go to. I don’t know if my parents decided I was too young or if I was given the choice of going and decided to opt out. I do remember what I spent the service’s time doing while I was waiting at my aunt’s house: I read a book called, “Rascal,” by Sterling North. Wonderful book, but I digress.
For as long as we have records to tell us what humans have been up to on earth, we’ve had rituals associated with death. Christians believe a person’s afterlife experience has everything to do with whether the man or woman asked for forgiveness of their sins and committed to a relationship with Jesus Christ. But even within the Christian faith, funerals and memorial services vary greatly in style and tone. What’s true of an Irish Catholic service is not for an Irish Protestant. What’s true of Greek Orthodox is not for the Southern Baptist, and so on and so on. Any way you slice it, these celebrations of life can be tricky affairs for our emotions to handle. The grieving process involves pain, even when the person we’re saying goodbye to left a long and fulfilling life. If we’re not ready for them to go, or if the hole left in our life seems impossible to fill, the trauma can take a lifetime to resolve, if it’s ever resolved at all.
It may sound trite, but I’m convinced how we handle death has a lot to do with how we handle life. What I mean by that is, if you had told your loved one all the ways they had contributed to and enriched your life, if you had told them not just that you loved them, but why, would it make dealing with their passing much, much better? Beyond that, and beyond whether it would be a good thing to do, isn’t it absolutely the essential thing to do? I believe it is.

If I didn’t say, loved one, how much I love you,
if I didn’t say how much and all the whys,
if I put it off till all of our todays ran out,
would there be too much pain to say goodbye?


If I didn’t lift you up
when you were discouraged,
feed you when you were too weak,
If I didn’t give you the words
Jesus said were most important,
when the time came to say goodbye,
how could I speak?


Sometimes in life we see death coming,
but too often it comes
and we didn’t know.
Since we might not see tomorrow
the people we care for today,
let’s not put off the loving words
that we owe.


“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going. Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
John 14:1-7 ESV

©Joel Tipple 7/6/2019

Stubborn Joy

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Romans 16:13 ESV

…and those the Lord has rescued will return, they will enter Zion with singing, everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Isaiah 35:10 NIV

Dandelions are one of the most persistent and stubborn of all common garden weeds. They’re also known as swine’s snout, yellow gowan, Irish daisy, priest’s crown, peasant’s cloak and wet-a-bed (possibly for its diuretic effect). The common dandelion was introduced to North America by European settlers in the 1600s. Settlers grew it in their gardens for food and medicine.
Although common garden weeds like the dandelion may make our lives difficult if they aren’t part of our landscape plans, our difficulty in eradicating them points to a natural strength we might choose to emulate, especially when it comes to joy. Weeds stubbornly cling to life and proliferation, though rare is the gardener who invites them into their garden or seeks to nourish them. As is the case with the useful dandelion, joy in its proper context, righteous joy that encourages our spirit and binds us to God, should be sought by every believer. Though certainly not every circumstance we experience is joyful, God invites us to inhabit his joy in the midst of every circumstance anyway.

Joy, you have always found me when I called,
though the times at times were desperate.
When fears and doubts filled my mind,
your stubborn light still calmed it.

No matter the matter with me,
or standard attacks from the enemy,
when I sought you out within
the treasure of God’s word
you became for me a lifeline to victory.

Though joy impostors
spawned by a lost world
may seem right for a time,
Their empty promises
and false flags unfurled
will always be revealed as lies.

True joy does not compete with God,
but draws us to him instead.
A diet rich and uplifting
filled with his love
should always be our bread.

©Joel Tipple 06/29/2019





The House of Worship

worship (1)

O Lord, you are my God;
I will exalt you; I will praise your name,
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
Isaiah 25:1 ESV

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Psalm 103:1 ESV

I recently learned that some churchgoers actually skip the worship portion of their service. I was incredulous. Seriously? Don’t get me wrong, I love the sermon too. A message that moves or convicts you can change your life, but it’s part of a service, not THE service. There has always been something about the musical portion of a church service that transports me to a place where I feel closer to God. I’ve felt that way for as long as I remember feeling anything about going to church at all. But even though my strongest emotions about music find their home in a church worship service, music has always impacted most aspects of my life. My feelings of nostalgia for different waypoints in my life are strongest when combined with the music I was listening to at the time, whether secular or spiritual.

In the same way that we know music doesn’t have the same strong effect on everyone, we also know that singing and playing instruments aren’t the only way to worship God. It’s important that we understand there are many ways to worship God like prayer and serving others. How do you worship?

One Summer night
as I was walking
around dinner time
and it was cool.
There came a sound
of children singing
all joyful and out of school.
They were singing
their hearts out to Jesus
like they’d mostly burst
if they could.
I thought angels were singing with them,
but it was youth worshiping
like they should.

Looking for the house of worship,
looking for the heart of praise.
There doesn’t have to be a steeple
or even a particular age.
If your aim is to lift Jesus higher
and to leave all your burdens behind,
any place can be your place of worship
and any folks can worship God in that place.

Lift your hands, lift your voice,
if there’s a drummer, give him time.
Be careful of claptastrophies.
Music opens hearts
and can help them soften too
when we just let Jesus lead.

The sound can be country, rock,
or rhythm and blues.
Style’s less important than substance.
Jesus is more about
the shape of your heart
than your circumstance.
So take a chance.

Your house of worship
may be any shape at all,
the seats be pews, bleachers,
or even beanbags.
Just find some human beings
who want to be redeemed,
and some music
that can start some healing.
The house is less important
than the Holy Spirit’s lead.

© Joel Tipple 6/15/2019