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John's Blog

Apr 06,2014

A number of folks I know and love are chasing hard after God these days.

I think the times are demanding it. The draining nature of the pace of life combined with the spiritual battles that seem to be hitting everyone are creating in us a deeper need and hunger for more of God. Just this week a dear friend said to me, "I just need more of God." I sure need more of God. I bet you do, too. 

How do we find "more of God"? Where do we look?

Folks seem to be looking to the latest cool conference, the new worship CD, the prophetic teacher, churches and experiences promising "encounters." Some of it delivers. But it doesn't seem to last. So you've got to find the next new conference, the next breakthrough worship CD, the next "encounter."

I don't think love works like that. I don't think God plays hide and seek, bait and switch, running from this city to that speaker to this next promise of an encounter. That doesn't sound like love to me.

How do we find fullness in you, Father???

I re-read Ephesians 3 this week, which climaxes in this promise: "that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." What??!! That's it—that's it! How do we find that?

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (vs 14-19).

There it is—that we might be filled to all the fullness of God! That's what we yearn for, what we are chasing, what we so desperately need! Wouldn't it be incredible to be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God???!!!! And God is showing us the way to that fullness. Pay careful attention to the progression Paul walks us through, prays us through:

1. That God our Father would strengthen us with power through his Spirit in our inmost being. That's Step 1. I think that alone would change my life. But it is only the beginning of this incredible progression. Having that, we are able to move to Step 2...

2. That Jesus might really fill and dwell in our hearts. Wonderful. Yes! If our hearts were really filled with the presence of Jesus??! From there we can move into Step 3...

3. That we might be rooted and grounded in love. Wouldn't that be incredible? Who do you even know that is rooted and grounded in love? It is the widespread weariness and unsettledness that is causing us to need more of God. We can be rooted and grounded in love?! Step 4 builds on this...

4. That we might have power to grasp the full height, depth, length, and breadth of Jesus's love. Oh yes, Father—we need this! I know it would transform our lives. But there's more... 

5. Paul prays that we would KNOW this love (experience it—deep, personal "knowing"). And from this place we get to the goal, Step 6...

6. That we might be filled to all the fullness of God!

Oh, friends—there is a treasure here for us. There is a rescue here for us. A path is laid out for us. I think great conferences, CDs, and "encounters" are all good and have their place. But the truth is, they don't last, and honestly, much of them don't really deliver on the promises being made. Here is a far deeper, truer, and sure-er path—one given to us by God himself. He wants us to find fullness in him.

Try this—pray through this progression for yourself. Chase this. Stay in this for awhile. You don't even have to leave your house. I bet the fruit will be wonderful, just what we are looking for. There is a way to fullness in God, but it's different than what most people are chasing.

Yes, yes, yes to more of God! And here is the path he has given to find it. I think this is going to be revolutionary, and an incredible relief.

Jan 20,2014

Stasi and I were having dinner last night with some dear friends, leaders of a ministry and seminary. At one point in the conversation the husband said something to the effect of, "I am praying daily for the return of Jesus." And it stopped me in my tracks - because I can't recall the last time I heard anyone say that. Can  you? I stopped the conversation to ask him, "Is that common in your circles? Do you know a number of Christians who are praying for the return of Jesus?"

He paused, and then said, "Actually, no. No one."

His wife added, "No one talks about it. Our church has never preached on it that I can remember."

That's my experience, too, and it feels very revealing to me.

The return of Christ to the earth, and his ushering in the Kingdom of God feels like a pretty central part of our faith. Kind of crucial, really. But as I have attempted in various conversations with Christians to bring up the imminent return of Jesus, the mood turned awkward - like I wanted to talk about UFOs. Pushing into the subject, that I believe the return of Jesus is very near at hand, their mood turns foreboding, like I wanted to talk about their likelihood of getting cancer. I don't get it.

Are we afraid of the second coming?

Is this not something we are looking forward to?!

Two ideas are absolutely basic to a Christian understanding of this world: First, that you are created for happiness and second, that you will not truly be happy until Jesus returns and brings into fullness the Kingdom of God. So what's with the awkwardness of Christians taking about his return, and, more fascinating (and troubling) what's with no none really praying for it?

I want to venture an observation: If you are not personally longing for and praying for the return of Jesus, you are still committed to making life work here and now. Our prayers reveal what we are after. So if you are not praying for the return of Jesus, you are not banking on it or looking forward to it much.

But...you are created for happiness, and you are not going to truly find it until the kingdom is yours.

At the end of the book of Revelation, which is the end of the entire Bible narrative, the church is longing for and praying for the return of Jesus: "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!'" Note the exclamation point. As in, "Please come! Come now! We want you to come!" This isn't UFOs or a fear of dying. This is hopeful, eager expectation of every dream you ever had coming true. This is the expectation of life coming to you in all its fullness. Not to mention your Jesus coming to you. And never ever losing it again.

Of course my friend is praying for it daily! Let's join him!

 

 

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Craig's Blog

Mar 05,2014

About a year ago at a post-chemo appointment I raised the issue of a few aggravating side effects I was experiencing. The aftermath of my treatment had left me with a couple of ongoing physical issues and the odious “Chemo Brain”—a processing problem that diminishes one’s short-term memory, focus, and multi-tasking abilities.

The “Chemo Brain” plays out with me in mid-conversation as I rifle through my mental files trying to remember the name that goes with the face I’m melting down before… the name I’ve asked for seven times in the first five sentences of our interaction. I can lose the topic of conversation, the story line of a movie, a measurement cutting 2x4s, why I’m in the produce department, what I’m searching for on the internet…the other day I forgot the continent I’m on!

My condition goes beyond the affable amnesia age brings on and way beyond the delayed impact of a misspent fascination with hallucinogenics in the late '60s.

I try to “work around it” by making lists, only to lose the list! The crazy-maker is that I eventually find all prodigal lists and then bog down determining whether it’s a current actionable list or a relic of a past time. The “helpful” suggestion to simply place your keys, wallet, list, and phone in the bowl by the back door doesn’t work, nor does the memo on fridge to “Put Keys, Wallet, and Phone in the Bowl by the Back Door.” I loaded up a project-organizing app thinking, This is the answer, and forgot the link (it took me a week to remember I had the app and another week to find it).  

And so, my oncologist says, “The struggles you’re experiencing are common and may disappear or decrease…for some it becomes their New Normal. Let’s give it a year and we’ll see.”

New Normal?!” I hadn’t heard the term before, and my immediate response was that it was an oxymoron...like “Jumbo Shrimp,” “Hot Water Heater,” or “Political Leadership.” “New” “Normal”? I want a normal normal. My normal normal.

He never said it, but what I heard was, “It WILL disappear.”  Of course it’ll all work out without repercussions; it always does, right? Bad things don’t last, right? Over and over I’ve consoled myself… It’s no more than a bad cold that vanishes within ten to fourteen days. We are all capable of suffering well knowing it’ll only be short term.

It’s been a long year of monitoring chemo’s slag.

I thought I could beat cancer and life would go on without consequence. I did, it didn’t. I’m not the person I was when I began my six months of chemo.

And so the year passes, and the only change is the volume of my concealed barking at God over my new normal.

And then God came.

He came to me with a few questions.

First, like a father who’s decided it’s time to have a loving face-to-face “Come to Jesus” conversation with his son, he says,  “You’ve made if clear how you feel about the story you’re living in. How do you feel about the author?"

All I could do was gulp. It was deeper than the gulp I had in 1970 when the Texas sheriff told me he was going to tear apart my van until he found the contraband he strongly (correctly) suspected I was carrying.

How do I feel about the author? The elephant in my heart had been flushed: my problem wasn’t with the story, it was with the author. I’m living someone else’s story, he’s got it all wrong, it’s a crappy plot with dated themes, gratuitous pain, and an uninspiring direction…it’s a two-bit novel penned by a misguided author.

I sat in all of that blasphemous laver for a while, trying to sort out whether or not I was the humbled prodigal (an un-fathered son yet to know the depths of God’s true heart for me), under the spell of the Liar and Thief, or just a garden-variety scumbag sinner.

I was silent. Owning my sin and repenting, I broke all agreements regarding the character of God, groaned with longing to know God more deeply, and wept.

In no rush, and with warmth and kindness, God the Father, though knowing, still asked, “What is it about this story you so dislike?"

My mind was instant in response:

  • Are all my unrealized hopes and dreams lost?  Does “the restoration of all things” really include ALL the missed, cut short, and cherished moments and longings of my heart?
  • Must a noble, true life be so very hard?
  • I doubt my ability to suffer, to endure, and live well in my circumstances. I’m not sure I have the will to survive that seems so necessary…so godly.
  • I’m terrified of “finishing” poorly. I don’t want to end with a whimper, an embarrassment, less independent, more dependent upon others…like some I know. (I’ve assumed a more triumphant on-top-of-my-game finish with most of the unreached world having been nudged toward God because of my life. :-))

 

Rather quickly Christ asked with a curious drawl, “And...you’re the only one who’s faced such struggles?”

Shit! A deeper cut, exposed yet again.

I was suddenly the Spoiled Brat, the Trust Fund Kid…"that guy" who assumes he is the center of the universe. Of course, I knew—or more accurately, remembered—I was neither the first nor the only man whose life has been uncomfortably disrupted. The themes of the story I battle with are the themes of every man’s story at some point.

New normals are normal.

Everyone gets New Normals; some are wonderful, others not so. No one escapes change, disruption, the twists and turns of circumstances, the altering tides of relationships, and the turbulence of soul. No one.

The issue is, who’s writing the story, and do you trust him with how it will unfold?

My circumstances haven’t changed; I’ve got some physical issues, legit losses, I forget stuff, I can’t find the Manhattan I was sipping on when I started this blog. How do people tolerate my being so easily distracted?  What meetings, emails, and deadlines did I miss today? AND I’m finding a peace with my story. It’s the tale of a man finding himself in a much larger story, a sacred romance where his grief and laughter are all embraced, known and cherished by a Father who has nothing but unimaginably wonderful surprises up his sleeve.

New normals” are a grace. 

 

- Craig McConnell

Joy
Aug 11,2013

 

Sometimes it’s hard to put words to the deepest longings of our soul—this picture captures one of mine.

I see intimacy, ecstasy...the absolute, total joy of my grandson, Jameson, surfing with his father, Jared.

For Jameson there is no sin, no brokenness, no settling, or portioning, no holding back or muting of his desire. He is with his father, experiencing his father's love, sharing in his adventure, safe, alive, free and knowing the fullness of everything a two-year-old young boy can possibly experience. Jameson is in the presence of his father and his God.

I so long for the same! You?

Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” — Pierre Tielhard de Chardin

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Stasi's Blog

Apr 08,2014

Self-judgment can feel to me, well, justified.  But that hard kernel of shame does not yield a fruit of self-control or change or any other good thing in my life.  Instead, it turns into a shield that affects my capacity to receive Love.  It becomes the foggy, warped lens through which I view my every relationship and myself.  I simply don't believe I am loved or lovable. It couldn't possibly be true.

 

In fact, left alone, the little hard kernel of self-judgment grows like an aggressive cancer, wreaking havoc in my life.  The small stone becomes a massive rock that is too large for me to move.  But God (still two of my favorite words), but God is in the business of moving stones.  There is no grave-sealing, heavy, love-blocking weight that he cannot overcome.

 

And I have a part to play.  God has asked me to renounce self-judgment and as valid as it feels, I am obeying. I am finding that renouncing judgment breaks up the painful claim of hatred imposed upon myself and allows Love to come in.  It allows grace to come in.  I give up my position of judge and give it over to the One who is the rightful Judge, Jesus Christ. 

 

The core of my being is aligning with the Truth that judging myself harshly is not my right, nor even remotely godly.  It can feel justified.  But it bleeds into every aspect of my heart and life.  It leaks out towards others.  I become prickly and defensive.  It prevents me from being able to receive and offer grace.  It blocks my ability to believe that I am actually loved, right now, even in this weak place.

 

I choose again in this moment to renounce self-hatred and self-judgment, and I surrender to God.  I choose to believe him and all the incredibly marvelous things he says about and feels toward me.

 

I know I'm blowing it.  But "Judged" is not the banner over my life.  "Loved" is.  

 

And that banner is flying high over yours, too.

Mar 26,2014

I am not a morning person.

 

Some of my favorite words to wake to are, “Your coffee is ready.”  To me that means, “I love you!”  Also, I have broken more than my share of carafes in the morning because, like I said, I am not a morning person.  I’m actually kind of dangerous before 9:00 a.m.

 

So this morning, with my husband out of town and a meeting to go to at 10:00, the first thing I did was make myself some coffee.

 

When it should have been ready, I went to get some but found I had not poured the water into the machine.  I had put the coffee in there, measured it and everything!  So I tried again.

 

While I waited for it to brew, I got the fifty-pound bag of dog food out of the car, pulled the container it goes into out of the pantry, and poured it in.  Well, most of it went in, anyway. Let’s just say Oban was happy.

 

Once the container was out of the closet, I couldn’t get it back in because of the disaster that happened in there.  Little gnomes had been busy in our pantry behind closed doors and caused disarray.  Bags everywhere.  Stray potatoes, onions, mystery what-may-have-once-been-food items and, yes, dog food littered the floor.

 

I got a bee in my bonnet.

 

Out it all came!

 

I swept.  I picked up my too many aprons for one woman and rehung them on the hook.  It fell off the wall.  Not to worry!  I have time!  I went into the garage and found John’s drill and some screws and attacked the hangy thingy.  Before coffee.  In my jammies.  Okay, it did not go well.  But after six tries, in went the hook, up went the aprons (except for two because now seemed like the perfect time to go through and remove the ones torn up and never to see the light of day again).

 

I still had the power drill.  What else could I hang?  I had another hook I had recently taken down from the wall in my son’s room, so into the wall of the closet it went!  YAY!  I was going to hang up all the cloth bags that every self-respecting grocery shopper uses nowadays.  (And which I constantly forget to bring when I go grocery shopping.)

 

I’m organized!  I’m a woman with a drill! 

 

The bags were too wide to go onto the hook. 

 

I need to recognize my weaknesses.  I’m not a morning person.  I’m a "cut first, then measure" kind of gal.

 

Case in point: I painted a room yesterday.  Totally wrong color.  I’m repainting a room today with the help of a couple of more careful friends, because I’ve got nothing but time.  Oy.

 

They say necessity is the mother of invention.  Think crock pots, spackle, white out, and caller ID.  I needed to replenish the dog food.  The room needed paining.  I needed to ask for help.  And someone else to make me coffee. 

Tomorrow, I’ll have tea.

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Your Stories

Mar 07,2012

Dear Friends, Dallas Willard once described the Kingdom of God as “The Effective Range of the Will of God.” In other words, where what God wants to be done is being done. There is no doubt that what happened this weekend at Timber Lakes Camp was the expansion of God’s Kingdom! After this weekend’s retreat, the hearts and trajectories of the lives of many man were changed because of the Gospel going forth to them with clarity and power!

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Feb 24,2012

Men all over the world are leading Wild at Heart Boot Camps, and countless men are being set free.  Wildmen Kansas recently hosted a weekend Boot Camp and shared with Ransomed Heart how God came that weekend, through a company of men, and how he is still moving in the men who attended. 

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