The dog ate the communion bread (or, God is enough.)

I went to church on a Saturday morning to meet a group of folks who wanted me to offer communion to their group. The first person I saw was one of the leaders. She drove right up next to me in the parking lot, rolled down her window, and said, “The dog ate the communion bread.” I thought she was joking, but she looked at me with dead seriousness and said, “No, really. How can a miniature dachshund need that much communion bread?”

What a powerful analogy for what happens to so many people in this world. Good people, intelligent people who somewhere along the way got hurt by the church, or found such hypocrisy among Christians that they couldn’t see the point of it. It is as if the dog has eaten their communion bread. It is as if Satan or life or fallen human beings or something else in the world has stolen their right to be in communion with God. The terrible result for too many of us is that we no longer trust God. We are suspicious that maybe he does not have our best interests at heart. We secretly wonder if given an inch, God would try to make us walk a mile we don’t want to walk.

After all, if God is so good, why is life so hard?enough-pic

This question baits the enemy of our souls. If he can get us to suspect God’s motives, he can yank us right down into misery and anger. All the anger, fear and loneliness we feel has a single root cause. It grows out of a basic distrust in God — in his power to provide, in his sovereignty, in his desire to do for us.

The antidote is in the names of God. We discover in his names the character of the One worthy of our trust. Yahweh: “I Am.” Emmanuel: “God With Us.”

Figuring out who God is is fundamental to how we relate to him. Thomas Merton writes: “Whether you understand it or not, God loves you, is present in you, lives in you, dwells in you, calls you, saves you and offers you an understanding and compassion which are like nothing you have ever found in a book or heard in a sermon.”

Jeremiah Smith says there is nothing more important, no higher priority in your life, than for you to figure out who God is. Knowing God affects everything else in your life. It affects your choices, your relationships, your outlook, everything.

The name El Shaddai literally means, “God Almighty,” but the Hebrew sages often translated this name as a statement from God: “I said to the world, enough.” This name of God is a precious promise to his children: “In the face of your great need, I am enough.”

That truth ought to be life-changing. The same God who brought you out of slavery to sin, who defeated the enemy of your soul, who made hope bigger than death, is enough. The same God who broke into our world through a virgin’s birth has power enough to be in the midst of your greatest struggles, defeating your enemies, reframing and redeeming everything. Because God is enough, nothing is lost in his economy.

To know God is the great quest. I believe that quest begins with the name that assures us God is enough. Whatever our sin, brokenness, problems, whatever else in our lives vies for our attention, God is enough.

El Shaddai. Enough.

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It would have been enough (or, How Jews worship by remembering)

This evening marks the beginning of Passover. I pray blessing over my Jewish neighbors who will celebrate this high holy feast and remember together God’s faithfulness.

In the course of the Passover Seder, Jews sing a song called “Dayenu.” Translated, it literally means, “It would have been enough.” The fifteen stanzas of the song are designed to walk the singer through the story of the Exodus. Five stanzas celebrate freedom from slavery, five tell the story of the miracles God did for his people, and five sing about closeness or intimacy with God. The great treasure of the Israelites’ journey through the desert was God with them in every moment — leading, guiding, covering.

Dayenu. “It would have been enough.”

The song speaks to all the minimal ways God could have acted to accomplish his purposes; yet, he went beyond and acted lavishly out of his great love. Deeply rooted in the concept of Dayenu is the sense of God’s sufficiency — of his position for us, not against us. Of his closeness.

He is the God who sees us.

“It would have been enough.” Dayenu inspires me to sing my own worship for all the ways God has gone incomprehensibly beyond what I could have asked or imagined.

It would have been enough for God to deliver me from an addiction without me killing anyone or being killed. But then he gave me a calling, a beautiful church community and a great passion for preaching and writing.

It would have been enough for God to give me a good husband for this journey, but he has given me so much more. In Steve, I have a man who supports this call selflessly and lovingly, who provides for our family marvelously, who shows such strength and grace as a father and leader. Who has a great sense of humor.

It would have been enough for God to give me a child, and yet he has given me the incredible and humbling privilege of raising up a daughter who stuns and amazes me daily. Who has a rare gift of discernment and a boldness in speaking life into others.

It would have been enough to have a daughter, but now he has given me a remarkable and gifted man of faith for a son. Who loves Jesus wildly. Who lives his faith fearlessly. Who inspires us.

It would have been enough to have been given the sheer pleasure of life. But I have been given so much more. My Father, who knows me better than I know myself, has written a much better story for my life than I could ever have written for myself.

On this Friday of Passover, what Dayenu will you sing to the God of your life, who has given far more than you could have imagined for yourself?

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