12.31.2006

and I spoke nothing

Suppose I should have put up a Christmas Break disclaimer. Either that, or a General Sloth disclaimer. When you are spending more than 50% of your waking hours in your pajamas without the motivation to even dress yourself properly, do you think you can find the motivation to post a coherent thought of some sort?

Answer: No.

Combine the apathy and sloth with the general lack of thought and you have the recipe for emptiness. You might think that the end of a year places one's thoughts automatically into reflective mode, and you might be right half the time. More than that. Let's say 87% of the time because I like the number. But that other 13% is in empty tank mode. You've spent all your mental energy on that first 360 days. That remaining 5 days is one long zombie state of blankness.

Not a bad thing. Just no thing.

2007 here before the clock strikes twelve. We'll see if that tank runs back to full.

12.25.2006

will save His people from their sins

"Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?'" {Matt2:1-2}

12.24.2006

or will he spend the night at your manger

"The Love of God" {Luke2:1-7}
* Stable in Bethlehem tells of love of God
- Humble surroundings of Christ's birth no accident
- Phil2:5-8 clear that Lord "humbled" self and purposely chose manger
* Why stable in Bethlehem?
- Born in Bethlehem to fulfill Messianic prophecy
- Herod killed all who threatened his power -- more visible city like Jerusalem far too dangerous
- Lord made statement that Christ came for all people, from every station of life

Heard the perhaps cheesy statement that the only Christmas tree Christ saw was the Cross, and that God hung His gift to the world on it. Warrants mentioning.

12.22.2006

joyfully with a loud voice

Wonderful story behind the carol "O Holy Night" can be found here. Recent poll at Beliefnet has the carol as the current favorite one among respondents, with slightly more than a healthy 1 in 3 declaring their partiality for it. All with the chops add this one to their Christmas releases for the towering and chill-inducing top notes; those chills no doubt the reason behind the 1 in 3. For my part, I am partial to it because the melody commands the fullness of your lungs in much the same way Heaven's worship choruses will draw that out of us. It is a good seasonal reminder that even those of us without the chops are still called to use all within us to make a joyful noise.

12.21.2006

shall I not drink it

Rev16:19 makes a mention of "the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath". It is interesting to me to think that anger can be measured discretely and even portioned out in a tangible object like a chalice. I can certainly imagine anger being measured comparatively. For instance, it is two different quantities of anger between getting annoyed because of the slow people in line in front of you at the checkout counter, and the anger that drives a soul to carry out a Columbine or a 9/11. But I find it hard to imagine that that anger when solidified could fit into a container of some sort.

The way I can work it out in my mind is to imagine the depth of anger not in size but in potency. A goblet of grain alcohol is far different in potency than a goblet of water. Thus, a wine cup of my anger over the long delay between new episodes of Lost and Heroes can not begin to compare to the potency of that cup of the Lord's anger over sin. There's a connection here that one can make about bitterness (of actual taste) and a cup of anger, but I'll leave that to you.

12.20.2006

you must become like the youngest

Listened to little ones sing carols this am. Wonderful to hear young ones wail Emmanuel and yon virgin and laying down sweet head. A thought of sadness entered my head: the contrast to this was the sterilized public school version performed sans meaning -- the wailing of Santas and snowmen and reindeer.

Lord calls fathers to raise their children in the instruction of the Lord. Lord calls shepherds to do the same thing across families. The question then is whether or not one of the primary missions of the church shouldn't be not just Sunday school, but school altogether. I have some principles around public/private, but perhaps those principles need to be passed through a believer's lens. All I know is that there really isn't a good reason why all instruction for believing (or hopefully soon-to-believing) little ones isn't delivered next to the A and the B and the C.

12.19.2006

also came, following him

Tonight showed that fervent prayer and a follow-willing heart can accomplish much. Especially when one is willing to put clamps on the self despite the potential for wisdom-sharing. Reminder that sometimes obedience means a willingness to not impart the truth that has been shared to you. Lord never seeks for us to share what we know. Some times He does want us to share what He knows that He has shown. And other times, like tonight, that finger on the lips is the universal sign for "Listen. Just follow me."

12.18.2006

there has been born for you

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: if you are a believer serious about your faith, you should be reading Evangelical Outpost every day as a matter of course. Replace ESPN.com or CNN.com (if you're still reading that tripe) and replace it with a site that is thoughtful about issues important to your faithwalk. Today's musing on the Christmas/XMas war is particularly worth reading, the last few lines especially:
When the ACLU sues to remove the Christmas tree let's give them the nativity scene as well. When the secularists fight to stop the Christmas pageant let's let them have the caroling too. Let's let them have X-mas. Because maybe then we can finally show them Christ.
XMas is about maxed-out credit cards and stressful trips to the mall; it's about ornament-shopping and family visit-planning; it's about holiday card picture-taking and holiday music; it's about claymation specials and wreaths. All of that decoration and family time and present buying/giving? All of that has been XMas all along, whether or not the mass of believers chooses to accept that. Christmas has always been about the manger and the heavenly hosts and the what child is this and the sadness of a Father laying His Son in straw to set the course of history on its ear. And none of that gets lost in a "Happy Holidays" or a missing scene in front of City Hall.

12.17.2006

that I may smile again

I listened to this morning's Christmas program intently. I listened and watched this morning's Christmas program intently. The watching was the far more valuable lesson than the listening (no reflection on the sound being listened to). What did eyes see that topped ears' hearing?

The contrast between dutiful obedience and (en)joying the obedience.

Seeing siblings worship with and without drooping mouths and that lesson brought to life. Prodigal son contrasts that no less clearly. Older brother serves sans love of serving and the quickrising bitterness clear. Sermon for another time on the overlooked virtue of joy. That virtue does, in fact, outline the clear diff twixt love and love.

12.16.2006

swept and put in order

40 hours without power reveals a man to be what he is in all his ugly glory. In my case, uglier than most. The only good change in my opinion is the one where the coins you get back exactly equal the bills you proffered. All other change? A grand conspiracy out to examine the (shallow) depths of my patience reserves. I handle change with the same skill I imagine I would handle two large tarantulas in my hand. Wondrous one makes everything a measure of one's faithwalk. My walk is clear: it is far better sans hairy critters.

12.15.2006

which comes down out of Heaven

Daniel is known for his ability to divine the truth from dreams. As one whose night visions speak with clarity on many occasions, and as one whose interpretations of others' come immediately as if from other sources, I take that subconscious speech seriously. Rare to find myself struggling between explanations, torn between equally likely explications. Either I haven't been graced with the discernment to choose between the two yet, or discernment won't be forthcoming, and the test is in the choice.

Either way, the upcoming decision is simply not something I want to face.

12.14.2006

and went out, they followed

Been working through the Hall of Faith with other believers this year. Back-to-back lessons on obedience despite the tough calling: Noah and the insanity of building in preparation for weather that had never been seen, with animals in a scheme that still today seems unreasonable; Abe and the cross-country move to dryness and the unknown.

Can I then complain about a potential call to something I find personally disagreeable? Perhaps the Heb11 lessons all preparation for my own trek across dryness from safe haven. Still praying for firmness of resolve and strength of faith. Reminding myself that obedience looks only at the next step and trusts that the one after that is still on solid ground.

12.13.2006

do you listen to Him

I have mentioned before that wading through some of the OT throughout the summer is rough on the Spirit. This year, tried focusing on Psalms and the NT, hoping that the focus would benefit from the respite from the prophs. Not so. Past month or so been rough passage through epistles. Proof positive that it is actually not the book but the Spirit that matters. And finding yourself far from Him means you are deciphering His still level voice across a greater distance. Doesn't matter whether He is speaking Old English or something contemporary. You're not going to be hearing anything from that far back.

12.12.2006

not themselves they spite

Discussed a situation yesterday with wondrous one: one friend trying to deal with another friend, and both not connecting (though one is clearly trying better than the other). Situation is fraught w/ frustration. Only counsel that came to me was the word understanding. And this word follows the following premise:

Do not mistake ignorance and immaturity with willfulness.

Intent matters. I can curse your name sans profanity with a thought. I can wish you ill with a hug. I can be unfaithful with a glance. Lord sees through all of that nonsense because He can see the heart and He will judge intentions. And despite our lack of perspective, despite our mortal status, judging intent is practically a sport for us. Quick response is that should we deem any action a personal affront, that action must have come from malice aforethought. Often, the true answer lies in simple lack of knowledge, and lack of a close walk, two of the main causes of all sin, really.

You might infer that I am trying to set a low bar for future insensitivity. That would be a side benefit. Merely proclaiming to all the level of base stupidity and immaturity of us all, something far too evident to the naked eye.

12.11.2006

inquire who is worthy in it

Studied 1Cor2 yesterday am. Paul uses a unique word in v14-15: appraise. The word is combined with the spiritual and makes the preceding discussion on wisdom and foolishness more understandable.

"Appraise" means to assess the value of something. Paul indicates that when we become more like Him, we not only better understand what He is thinking, but that we also come to value what He values. I think that is where believers fall short. Many better understand His line of thought. And we understand what He values. But we don't actually value what He values.

I thought this was going somewhere. But I was wrong. These can't be all up for a Pulitzer.

12.10.2006

His mother, and the disciple whom He loved

"The Faith of Mary" {Luke1:26-38}
* Intro: Something about Mary -- chosen by God based on faith and internal characteristics
* Mary teenaged believer
- Faith mature for one her age (likely 13-15 yrs old, customary age of engagement then)
- Many of heroes of faith young (ex: Samuel, David, Daniel)
- Mary's faith was personal relationship w/ God; not faith in religion but relationship
* Mary honored believer
- "Favored one", "found favor w/ God" (v28, 30)
- Lord reassures her w/ sign w/o her asking for sign
* Mary courageous believer
- Had to face family, fiance, friends, & community w/ news of pregnancy
- Faced likely divorce; didn't know Lord would also speak to Joseph
- Mary's response to Gabe not astonishment but incomprehension
- Mary responds to God in faith
* Application
- Faith not dependent on age (but on Word & Spirit)
- Faith positions us to be used by God mightily
- Faith means you obey God regardless of cost

12.09.2006

of time it has never been

Almost a year ago, I wrote this. And like other intentions that don't survive the 365, this has been struggling of late. At least a month since I even considered advancing a slowly-eroding base. And not for lack of desire, nor intention. Simply a lack of minutes in the day. No doubt that everyone makes the minutes for the priorities. And that's the issue. Even when the priorities stack up the right way, you're competing between faithful obediences. The Godly worker? The Godly father? The Godly husband? The Godly brother in the faith? The Godly Shepherd? If it were a matter of choosing between light and dark, that'd be a relatively easy choice. But the choice between light and light and light and rest, I can't keep giving up rest. And can't give up the light, can I? Don't know what the solution is except to find ways these things can somehow overlap.

12.08.2006

and it became calm

Everyone has a different definition of peace. Google for quotes about peace and everyone from Mother Teresa to Presidents to authors to musicians offer up their personal take. You can try a Concordance search, and the Word gives you some 350 citations. So obviously a term of importance.

My definition need only make sense to me. It is a state where there is no soul reaction to a thought no matter the howling of the shadows. It is a state of composure and thin-lipped smiles knowing that the arguments and fears being thrown at you seem to bounce off this protective layer. That protective layer, that shield from the reaction is peace.

Others will tell you to "give it up to God" and you will obtain that shield. That giving up is not a concept that makes sense to my world -- not because I am unwilling to "give up"; only that that "giving up" concept seems too vague. In my protected world, I needn't give anything up in imaginary surrender in shoulder-shrugging ways. It is instead a realization that His hand is there, His hand is moving, and no amount of anything can slip past that hand holding you securely in that cleft.

12.07.2006

stands firm in his heart

Curious thing, strength. Asked for it tonight, strength to not sin. That desire and strength of will lasted for not too small a period of time. Then distracted, and once distracted, it was all over and no amount of time delay would bring me back to focus. Now in my mind, only one of two possible reasons can be true. It could have been that prayers for strength are on time delays like an MI note. Perhaps not being vigilant caused the downfall. Or, the magnitude of the strength asked was not enough to cover a faulty will. It could have been that prayers for strength are leveled like measuring cups. I take small comfort that intention and the knowledge of where the solution lay were clear in my mind.

12.06.2006

who are considered worthy

Like a reverse jinx, you might think this post a reverse post. Or you might think it false. But neither, cynic. Neither.

Praised all day today, left and right. Many would envy the position. Many might read into it as me having deserved or merited something. Many might think it false humility to act as if accepting praise were a chore. Many might think the praise is what I am seeking. Many would take pride and bask.

Those many are wrong.

And those many have no understanding of Paul's words at the beginning of Phil3: "More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith".

Praise makes it harder for me to remember the nothingness I am; praise makes it harder for the many to see the nothingness that I am. Fortunately, the Lord knows the nothingness that I am; knows that I know the nothingness that I am; and knows that the many are being distracted by the nothingness all their own.

12.05.2006

so I ask for what reason

Taught on 1Cor1 this past Sabbath and spent some time reacting to Paul's claim that Jews seek signs, while Greeks seek wisdom -- specifically the sign-seeking characteristic. In and of itself, that is not a characteristic reserved solely for Jews. Paul mentions that as a way to cite the Israelites' long history of testing God.

In any case, it is certainly a characteristic of modern seekers as well. God, if you exist, show me a sign. God, I'll believe in you if you cure my cancer. God, if you really want me to go to church every Sunday, make this chair move. And this isn't reserved solely for unbelievers either. God, if you want me to take on that new ministry, make it clear to me somehow. Is that discernment-seeking or sign-seeking? It depends on the believer and their closeness of walk, doesn't it?

Sometimes I wonder if, at the end of the day, sign-seeking and discernment-seeking isn't really just a system of checks and balances. Really easy to delude oneself on a myrid of issues. It is easy to mistake personal desire and personal belief with Godly leading. It's the reason we have blue states and red states, for example. Personal conviction is mistaken for religious calling in far too many instances. Perhaps this sign-seeking is the same thing as pinching oneself to ensure things aren't some enormous dream.

12.04.2006

the joy that a child has been

Heard a beautiful song by Selah -- the track of the same name as the album. Lyrics in there that broke me, specifically one in the chorus. It goes:
Oh, Rose of Bethlehem
How lovely, pure and sweet
Born to glorify the Father
Born to wear the thorns for me
That last line hurts me to no end.

Fathers watch their children grow and can only think of their futures unseen. They think of the joys that await them, but also the trials that equally bide their time. They think about the ultimate end of their little ones, and in the darkest of nights, the direst imaginings are the ones that distract the mind the most.

And can you imagine Joseph? Can you imagine the shadowed imagining of his little one's unseen? And if he'd known that His destiny was to wear a wrong kind of crown, I imagine he would have picked up the little one from the manger and run for as long and as hard as his legs could have borne him. And longed to have run even further away. And Joseph's imaginings were all hypothetical.

But not God the Father's. Those futures were seen, and here He is laying His precious one in straw and knowing that wrong kind of crown was fitted already just for Him. And to lay Him still amidst that knowledge is the definition of senseless love, of love we will never understand. Love we will never deserve. Love we can only futilely attempt to repay in kind.

12.03.2006

when you were younger, you

"The Courage of Joseph" {Matt1:18-25}
* Intro:
- Easy to miss this hero of faith
- Plays a secondary role in manger story
- After temple incident when Christ 12, disappears in print
- Joseph's courage critical to life of Jesus
* Joseph a man of moral courage
- Was an ordinary man used by God to do extraordinary things {1Cor1:26-31}
- Christianity is a faith of ordinary people
* Joseph lived a morally upright life
- Not perfect, but "courageous enough to stand up to corrupt culture & inherent sin"
* Joseph a man of manly courage
- Restrained anger & chose to treat Mary w/ love
- Godly character compelled him to love
- Love covers multitude of sin {1Pet4:8}; empowered by Spirit
- Joseph full of grace in situation many would have considered him w/o blame in divorcing Mary; pursued righteousness rather than societal approval
* Joseph obeyed God
- Took Mary as bride
- Took on shame of Mary
- Accepted responsibility to provide for and raise a child not his own
* Joseph courageously protected Jesus whenever life in danger {Matt2:13-21}
* Application
- Courage cultivated in daily walk
- Courage strengthened through daily trusting of Him
- Courage convinced that Lord stronger than any threat

12.01.2006

friend, move up higher

Posed a facetiously rhetorical question to the wondrous one yesterday. "Why can't we be mediocre?" Why do we have to try so hard to be better? Why must we desire to be something more? Why must we have that wanting in us to reach some potential? Why must we reject relativity, especially when that relativity could stop all this reaching?

Wondrous one always answers that question by referring to the endlessness of eternity and the short supply of crowns and rewards. Since I somewhat chalk both up to mythical notions wrought from a human perspective, I only half buy that response.

I buy that mediocrity to me is the difference between knowing Him and knowing Him. I buy that mediocrity is the difference between me following close enough to reach out and touch the hem of His robe and getting lost in a circle amid trees that look so familiar. I buy that mediocrity is the difference between no hesitation between His concerned hand lifting my chin when I fall and wondering why no one can hear my tears falling. I buy that mediocrity is the difference between me being who I want to be and a who whose pockets are empty but lined with regrets.

And those differences are neither facetious nor rhetorical.

11.30.2006

his innermost being will

3John1:2 uses a curious phrase that caught my eye. That v discusses how a "soul prospers". When we think of prosperity, we think of wealth and fortune. When we think of souls, we think of something invisible, intangible. How tangible prosperity intersects with invisibility, I don't know. I understand that that reflects both our poor understanding of what true prosperity really is, and also what the true soul really is.

I'm certain that a soul prospering is the opposite of a soul dying. Oh yes, souls can die. Most believe that souls are eternal. That is, after all, why we believe in an afterlife. But then why does Jam5:20 talk about saving a "soul from death"? Why does the Lord say in Ezek18:4 that "the soul who sins will die"? Do we believe that the word "soul" in both cases is referring generically to a person? That's a different word in the Greek or Hebrew, questioning one. Or do we take the Word at His Word and perhaps revisit our beliefs on the eternality of the soul?

Added to the list of wonders to ask the Lord during that wonderful, wondering walk on the other side.

11.29.2006

when they heard that

Marvelling at the Lord's timing today. Mulling over as much as marvelling. Several thoughts that have run through concurrent listeners currently giving clear indication of certain paths the Lord wishes I take. Coincidence doesn't exist in my world. Not when brick-to-skull is the only method that has any success in the thickness I call a thinker.

It is easy to imagine Lord whispering into each individual ear a similar message, then watching to see the people connect and then connect the dots. Nice image, but as all know who play the game "Telephone", going ear-to-ear not 100% effective. Hence the seeming disagreements among believers. But that analogy places equal blame on the whisperer as well as the listener.

I rather tend to imagine a different speaking scenario. Imagine a man with a megaphone blaring one conversation at a crowd. Only, some of the crowd is daydreaming; some of the crowd is actively plugging their ears; and only some of the crowd can hear the message over the din of others trying to drown out the message with their own loudness. Less personal, sure. But in this image, the blame of the lost message falls truly where it belongs.

11.28.2006

and in the same way

Found myself among unknown believers this evening. "Unknown" because I wouldn't have guessed based on the language and stories being bantered about. Much of the language directed toward a common enemy, some harridan. Then the magic words came out, "And the rest of the church are just as furious with her."

I'll be the first to admit that I am as sinful a believer as any that exist, that has ever existed. Have admitted as much on multiple occasions round these parts. So I'm not shocked that believers are full of shadows and darkness. It's not the presence of sin in believers that shocks me. It's that there is as much sin in the believer as the non that will ever surprise me. That, and the fact that the believer doesn't care that there is no discernible difference twixt them and the non. The disinterest in the difference will always dropjaw me as well.

Not judging. Just reporting the sadness.

11.27.2006

each tree is known by

I've learned that Bible study preparation is as much (if not more) for the teacher as the students. So I'll trust that His cancelling class yesterday meant the students had nothing to learn, and that the preparation and point emphases were all for me.

In that case, lesson learned for 1Cor1:18-31. The focus of this set of v's deals less with the obvious notion that the Lord's wisdom is far better than human wisdom -- you would expect nothing less from the Creator of all things -- and more on the emphasis on the Cross.

v18 speaks about the message of the Cross. v23 speaks about Christ crucified. Business speak contains the term "value-added", a term referring to the differentiating aspect of a business. Value-added research examines the difference made by some product or service or program. In 1Cor1, Paul makes the very clear statement that the differentiating aspect of Christianity is the Cross, end of story.

The Cross is the message of God. The Cross is the power of God. The Cross is His means of salvation. The Cross is the foolishness to the world that is greater than the wisdom and strength of man. Preached here all along about the Cross being the single most important question for all eternity. Paul confirms it in 1Cor1. Your stance on it, on the Cross, determines your eternal destination.

How a church can be called a church without a visible Cross, the value-add, I will never understand.

11.26.2006

to lift up his eyes to heaven

Aside -- actually not an aside, since that would imply this was meant for a select few, when in actuality, meant for all: you get up when you utter "Alleluia", doggone it. You get up.

"Angels & Prayer"
* God's servants who do His work on earth
- Created by Jesus {Col1:16}
- One of main tasks is worship {Rev5:11-14}
- Also to gather believers on that Day {Matt24:31}
- Also to serve believers {Heb1:14}
- Also to protect little ones {Matt18:10}
- Messengers {Luke1,2}
* Demons resist/fight Lord and believers
- Fallen angels
- Nations assigned angels/demons in constant spiritual battle
* Liar & demons have great deal of influence & power in this world
- Liar has authority here, not disputed by Jesus in wilderness {Matt4}
- Liar can bind hearts/minds {2Cor4:4}
- Prayer only weapon {Eph6:18}
* When we pray, Lord commissions, sends, & energizes angels to accomplish His will
- Prayer doesn't influence Lord, but does influence angels
- Gabe visits Daniel after prayer {Dan9:21-23}
- Peter released after prayer {Acts12:5}
* When we pray, holy angels are empowered to bind & destroy liarsons
- Prayer life would increase if we could glimpse spiritual realm for even one moment
- Faith sees the invisible; Lord wants us walking by faith not sight
- Elisha & the chariots of fire {2Kings6:17}
- MI missionary story and 26 armed guards
- "The accuser is going to be beaten" -- Liar loses to a lesser extent every time we pray
- "Unrestrained freedom of the Gospel" when we pray
* Failure to pray creates spiritual energy crisis allowing evil to prevail
- Prayer not convenience but commitment
- Prayer not religious duty but exercise of authority & power

11.25.2006

on Him, because He cares for you

O little one of infinite sadness, do you not know that all your cares can be given unto Me? Do you not recall that I will sustain you? that I will bear you? that I will shield you with eagles' wings? Do you not know that I derive no pleasure in death? that I long for all to come to Me? Do you not remember that I will defend you? that I will provide for you? that every hair on your precious head was numbered once by Me? O little one of infinite sadness, do you not know that I have great plans, plans for every one, every one, and no ache in you is greater than the one I have for all as well? Do you not recall that I will never leave you, nor forsake you, nor ever let you go? that what once was no longer is? that what once will be needn't burden your soul to break? O little one of infinite sadness, My heart is big enough for all your shadows, do not despair. Do not despair.

11.24.2006

hurt, you are no longer walking

From the first, noted that this season is tough for me. Actually have noted this in various other forums. Day one, and I can feel my heart being torn between two temporal extremes of past and future.

Can I give to forget? Can I provide what I wasn't provided? Is it all a waste since others cannot do what I can do? What all can a man give when all he has ever done is give? When does that sacrifice stop? And if all a man wants to do is sacrifice but can't, is there any greater sadness than that? And does this hurtful empathy ever stop? Do I know that hollowness of inability too well?

Frodo heads to the Grey Havens with this ache in his shoulder that no amount of magic or anything can heal. And I feel that way often each winter -- only this year comes with shard-pains from in front as well as in back. And that ache. That ache.

11.23.2006

he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of all

". . . the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever" {Rev4:9}

"and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, 'Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.'" {Rev7:12}

"And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, 'We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign.'" {Rev11:17}

11.22.2006

upon all those who dwell

The second half of 1John3:14 presents an interesting paradox. "He who does not love abides in death." Exactly how does one abide in death? If we take "abide" to equate to "live", we have one living in death. However, if we take "abide" and "live" to be the same as "dwell" we get closer to the truth.

Non-believers would lead you to believe that death is the same as nothingness. You live, you are something; you die, you are nothing -- you cease to be. Their picture of death is the same as an on/off switch.

Death is altogether something different for the believer. In death, you do not case to be. You are still very much something. Death is not a state of nothingness. Death is a location -- a location eternally separated from God. Hence, this v. One can abide in death in the same way that one can abide in South Dakota.

The choice to accept or deny Christ is not flicking some switch that turns on some character trait. It is making a choice the same way you would choose the location of a house or vacation. Where is it that you want to be? Careful. This move is permanent.

11.21.2006

creature was like a lion

1John2 raises some creepy thoughts toward the end. It is the introduction to the word "anitchrist". I expected it to come out of the far darker Rev chapters, but it is not so. Concordance shows only 4 instances of the word, all in 1John and 2John. Surprising. Skimming through Rev, and I find mentions of "the false prophet", which I'm sure theologians have tied to antichrist for centuries. Even the term "false prophet" occurs only 4 times, with only 3 of them being relevant to this discussion, and all 3 of them in Rev.

Not a lot of the Word dedicated to a being we are to be on the watch for. And not a lot of the Word dedicated to a being Jenkins and LeHaye have made their millions exploiting. Maybe that's because we need to be on the lookout for our own sins (the context of 1John2) rather than some other grand being whose rise will be seen as far more malevolent.

1John2 speaks not of the antichrist, but antichrists, make note of that plural. Add an s to "false prophet", brother. There will come many preaching lies, not just the singular. Thus, it is not some scrum being fought by Osteen, Campolo, Richard Dawkins, and fill-in-the-blank-with-your-scrub-of-the-day. They all have won/lost that fray.

11.20.2006

take pity on us and help

Been desirous for twenty years of an end where my earthly life-givers find a saving knowledge of Christ. Sweet thing broke me yesterday in her anxiety at the same desire. "They have no chance, do they?" she asked, because they're older and have less time. Even at six, she realizes that time is never on our side.

2Peter3:9 says "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance."

This v is of some comfort. It is a reminder that my desire for that end is certainly small compared to His desire for the same end. He loves far more than I love. But still little comfort, because that ticking clock still lacks the heart to desire that which the rest of us do.

11.19.2006

but if not, it will return to you

Missed the relaying of the Word this am. Wondrous one under the weather, needed to return home. Don't get me started on a choosing fam over Lord voice. Glimpsed five ending minutes in conjunction with the stated title of "Hope that Does Not Disappoint" and realized I'd miss a grand thing.

In any case, interesting prop used: bungie cord. Love that imagery of walk as yo-yoing distance. Appropriate analogies very clear: letting go, holding on, bouncing closer, tension in the relationship.

Almost a complete analogy, except I'd make it clear that the ends of the cords are attached, always. Believer or otherwise, that cord still there. Lord desires a relationship where you respond to the cord tension, sure. But since He is ever chasing you, is that cord really in our hands to let go? Doesn't it start attached to your waist, with active disobedience a sawing at the cord? It is no letting go as much a cutting off in my perspective.

11.18.2006

then a voice came out of

Unbelievers call it coincidence. Mathematicians call it convergence. New age spiritualists might call it kismet. Believers understand it to be the grand design He has in store for us when His will is made known to multiple people at the same time. This labeling occurs at the moment of realization when believers see His hand moving behind the scenes and speaking the same message in different ways, all to bring about some happening whose purpose is not readily apparent.

But that recognition of His voice whispered to His children and herding them to their destination is such a comforting image, despite whatever terrors those words might bring. That knowledge of His speaking to us in the first place is worth the eventual outcome, whatever it might be.

11.17.2006

the message which you have heard

This story reveals much of what is wrong with society. Swept up in PC brainwashing, organizations fear offense and imaginary sent messages. There's a sent message in a Jesus doll, but not one in a disproportionately-shaped Barbie doll wearing tiny Prada clothes? Toys for Tots is concerned about a child's emotional need for toys but not his spiritual need for the Lord? And all this from a charity run by the Marines, no less? What is this world coming to? My grand hope is a return of Christ, and a just and righteous end for the wicked of the world behind this nonsense.

11.16.2006

and search carefully for

Listening to a secular favorite on the flight home this evening. One of my faves came whispering in my ears. The lyrics of note that resonated go as follows:
I’m just out to find
The better part of me

I’m only a man in a silly red sheet
Digging for kryptonite on this one way street
Only a man in a funny red sheet
Looking for special things inside of me
I think because I'm such a confident, forceful person it would be easy to believe I have an enormous ego. That is so far from the truth, it's laughable. Rather, I understand Paul when he calls himself the least of the apostles.

Mature faiths will create in you something of a paradox. It will make you understand that you are nothing, that all your gains are losses to your faith. It will make you understand the zero part you have in everything, the zero part that you are. But it will also make you understand why that makes you the perfect candidate for usage by God. Because then all credit goes to Him for success through such an imperfect tool.

Knowing you can be used and knowing where and how you will be used is the heart of your following Him on that walk. Where you are going is not meant for you, but for others. Catalyst? Follower? Shepherd? Flock? There is a special thing inside of you. Ask Him to let you know what that is.

11.15.2006

to kindle afresh

Scientists use the word "catalyst" to describe chemicals that facilitate the reaction between other chemicals. The catalyst is important to the reaction only in accelerating the genesis of the action. Once it does its job, it is not central to the reaction other than in its role in facilitation. It is not the actual fire, but the spark. I'm overgeneralizing the science on purpose, so scratch whatever snarky comment moved to your email fingers.

Lord calls shepherds to be catalysts for the church. They are to act as facilitators twixt Lord and the flock. Their role is in sparking something in the body to enable it to react to the Lord's Spirit.

Been wrestling with this issue for a bit now. Ideas for accelerated sparking coming to mind. Can't separate desire from calling from random thought. Perhaps some catalyst out there can make that all the clearer for me.

11.14.2006

save me from this hour

I work best under pressure. Not sure that's a strength as much as a necessity. If not disciplined enough to ensure that the last-minute build-up doesn't occur, success during these late stages is not so much a skill as it is a survival mechanism. In any case, overwhelming tasks + little time + little hope = success.

It is no small wonder that these late stages are filled with immense amounts of prayer. All success is directed upward, that's clear. What's unclear is why He would even honor such late-stage pleadings. Lisa Simpson once intoned that prayer was the "last refuge of a scoundrel". Another formula for you: scoundrel = me.

I see these late-stage rescues as indicative of all of God's answers, really. Driven to knees for whatever reason, when little hope, Lord abounds. It is not a surprise, nor unusual pattern, but well laid out plan.

11.13.2006

things to them, and give up

Wondrous one spoke yesterday about her faithwalk and discussed a recent (to her) thought on surrender. No coincidence, me thinks, that the word has been in my thoughts lately. She discussed the notion that surrender is not done as an on/off switch, but rather in phases and stages.

I think that's right. Faithwalk is active as we have discussed before. It is continuous. We serve a living God. No wonder, then, that our following is not static; no wonder, then, that as we walk behind Him, head down, hands lifted, we change positions often. Mark of maturity is finding that posing to be easier and easier. And easier.

11.12.2006

hears the words of God

"Words You Never Want to Hear" {Matt7:21-29}
* Intro: Plenty of words you can imagine you wish never to hear (tragedy, police, et al). Worst is "Depart from me; I never knew you"
- Prior to this, Lord presented audience w/ choice: destruction or salvation
- Cannot choose both destruction and Lord concurrently
* Avoid a mere verbal profession
- Verbal or outward show of religiosity provides false sense of security; not about religion but heart
- Satan can provide power to his believers to do counterfeit acts of supernatural (Acts8 and Simon, for example)
- Not about what seems like great religious works; must be in His will
* Avoid a mere intellectual knowledge of Christ
- v21 about say v do; v24-27 about hear v believe/do
- Crisis often reveals foundation of our trust
- Lord says only He as foundation will survive storm
* Response of crowd
- Amazement at authority
- Pharisees spoke about religiosity; Lord spoke as Savior & God
- Obedience needed more than amazement
* Our response today
- Choice before all at the throne: wide road of destruction (no Christ), or narrow road of life (salvation in Jesus)
- Make a choice this very day

11.10.2006

I will stay with you

It is no small wonder that I never joined the US military. The armed forces stress every quality that represents my core beliefs: discipline, self-discipline, order, loyalty, self-service, nationalism. It is saddening to think that fear of death somehow trumped other qualities I deem important. I will instead hide behind the truth that it simply wasn't His calling for me.

Today is the 231st birthday of the US Marine Corps. Of all the branches of the military, this would have been the one I would have considered joining -- for its history, and for its central creed: semper fi or more fully, semper fidelis, always faithful.

It is the heart of Christianity. Recently heard that faithfulness was the attribute of God most-represented throughout Scripture. It is the bedrock of the faith: that if we are faithful to Him, He is faithful to us. Lord asks us as brothers and sisters to be faithful to each other. And in the Marines, you have a unit instructed to and trained to always have that sense of loyalty to one another and to country and to God. If you've ever witnessed Marines greeting each other with that magnificent motto, a knowing look of brotherhood and faithfulness exchanged in look as well as word, you'll know that today's birthday is something of more importance than just a token celebration.

11.09.2006

prepare beforehand to defend

Experienced something out of the ordinary this afternoon. Driving oceanward with the wondrous one and the sweet things, and passed through a few torrential minutes of the Lord's tears. Gripped the wheel more fiercely, yes, and gripped His hand in prayer more fervently, yes.

In moments of need and fear, the reaction is usually panic. At least it is for me on most occasions. And yet, there was this return grip of extreme peace and comfort, of surety in His protection. Nice to realize that my faith is growing in ways I may not readily see.

11.08.2006

do you not recognize this about yourselves

Spoke with others tonight about moral outrage, and I seemingly couldn't muster as much as others on an issue. And not because the offense being spoken of didn't deserve such outrage; rather, I wasn't sure that such "outrage" was indeed the appropriate response.

"His sin is no greater than my sin," I responded. His act no different in Lord's eyes than any number of sins I commit each day.

There is a paradox at play here. On one hand, I want to be kept apart from outrage at specific sin, lest I fall into the trap of self-righteousness or blindness to my own faults. All sins are equivalent; all keep you from perfection; all will be answered for at the throne. On the other hand, I never want to be desensitized to sin, lest I fall into the trap of apathy or tolerance to wickedness. Word doesn't condemn righteous anger or indignation.

There is some balance, some thin line where one can feel sick by wickedness, while at the same time recognizing that that sickening shadow is not so far away, always at your elbow.

11.07.2006

I surrender my body to be

Follow up to yesterday's pre-emptive praise for Smitty. Turns out that song is actually the chorus of a praise hymn sung by some folks known for their worldwide impact on worship. No matter the credit, all still goes to the One who inspired it. The lyrics go:
You stood before creation,
Eternity in Your hand;
You spoke the earth into motion,
My soul now to stand.

You stood before my failure,
Carried the Cross for my shame.
My sin went upon Your shoulders,
My soul now to stand.

So what can I say?
What can I do?
But offer this heart, O God,
Completely to You.

I walk upon salvation,
Your Spirit alive in me.
This life to declare Your promise,
My soul now to stand.

Chorus:
So I'll stand
With arms high and heart abandoned,
In awe of the One who gave it all.

So I'll stand
My soul, Lord, to You surrendered.
All I am is Yours.

11.06.2006

approached the house, he heard music

Searched through way back to 10.04 and could not find one word penned by me about Michael W Smith. You'd think I'd have weighed in on something related to him these past two years, but not the case. Going to remedy that right now.

In one second, a single from his latest entered me and hasn't let go of my thoughts. Listen to "Stand" from the same-named album, and see if it doesn't do the same to you. Not even secular music can do that to me, and you'd think liar and howlers would make that so to distract.

One can blame the melody, call it a Smithian pop cliche bound for the airwaves. One can blame the simplicity of the lyrics, call it religious ear pap. Or one can realize that the Lord speaks through folks in different ways. Sometimes it's through the pen; sometimes it's through the pulpit; and sometimes it's through piano keys and catchy drumbeats. No matter the method, it is the soul that matters. And when the Lord uses the soul to reach a soul, all credit is heavenward. The vessel would be the first to admit that, too.

11.05.2006

is the man who said to you pick

"You Have a Choice" {Matt7:13-20}
* Intro
- SotM one large sermon contrasting religion to authentic faith
- SotM winds down in Ch7, and Lord tells us we have choice: be religious or serve Lord
* Which road are you on?
- Enter through narrow gate
- Context: most cities then had walls (to keep out enemies) w/ wide gates. Imagery of gates and roads familiar to all
- Road to destruction wide: easy to follow others
* "Narrow" refers to difficulty to navigate, constricted
- Those w/ humble hearts will find road to life; those who choose to submit & be obedient
- Truth is narrow; narrow not inherently negative despite modern connotations
* Road doesn't matter -- roads are defined by their destination. Do not let others choose your destination for you.
* Who are you following?
* Watch out for false teachers
- Lots of voices in world -- tell me about it -- and not all speak the truth
- Modern prophets speak not future but rather translate Word -- not from God
* Evaluate teaching by what it produces
- Test of truth: does it align w/ rest of Word (thus, important to know and be in Word)
- Second test: what is outcome of teaching? Do teachers have matching lifestyles?
* Deut30:15-20

11.04.2006

so much that he promised with an oath

Read Ps89 this morning, and a word in v1 made me wish I had blogged sermon notes years ago. Heard a sermon a while back on the meaning and importance of one word -- the word "lovingkindness". This word exists in the NASB, the only real translation (we have covered this) outside of KJV for aesthetics. KJV uses "mercies" and the abominable NIV uses "great love". Both don't get to the heart of the Hebrew word "checed".

The only point I recall from the years-ago sermon is that "checed" is this contractual promise kind of love from God similar to the Abrahamic covenant. It is a covenant love, an eternal truth that He has guaranteed to love you, and act on that love by always ensuring He has a great plan for you, plans for your welfare.

"Lovingkindness" appears 182 times in the NASB. Not an uncommon word for a word that seems to be a made-up word brought about by the collision of two separate words. But that's the great thing about God, no? That no single word can describe Him, and so you end up having to throw multiple words together into a singular description. The wonder is that the word is lovingkindness rather than something like lovingkindnessgraciousmercifulalmightygloriouswonder.

11.03.2006

sure that your character

Counseled some coworkers tonight on how to deal with having to beat your head against a a wall at work, how to deal with frustrations before the onset of burnout. It boiled down to attitude, I said. I told them if you believe that you are talented, and that you have other opportunities, why do you do what you do? And if you can find the reasons behind why you stay where you are, that will change your perspective on all things.

There is not a religion corollary to the above thought. The above thought is the corollary to the religious belief. When you know who you are, when you understand basic character facts about your life, you are freed from having to deal with the basic frustrations that want to overwhelm you each and every day. When you know who you are, your perspective changes on everything.

That is why becoming a Christian has to be lifechanging. Why it so often is. When you realize that you are a child of the kingdom, when you understand that you are His beloved one, when you know that you are wept over by the Messiah of all things, well those phone bills are less important, aren't they? That little fight with your loved one not so life-crushing, right? That promotion you didn't get not the end of the world.

You are who you are. You are the Lord's. All else? All else is nothing.

11.02.2006

when Jesus heard this

If you didn't catch this story, you need to. The human soul has a need to pour itself out. CNN takes the persepctive that these letters bobbing in the surf represents some sort of waste -- all these souls pouring themselves out to no one.

So not true.

The sadness here is not the "wasted" letters. The sadness here is that hundreds of folks didn't realize that paper and pencil and pen and envelope need never be used. Lord is always waiting to receive that poured soul. In surf or otherwise, Lord heard every one of those confessions. The bigger point is not only that he heard those confessions, but that He also died for and forgiven those confessions.

Friend, your pouring shall never be in vain if you lift it up to Jesus. Will you make that choice this very day?

11.01.2006

but they all alike

The account of the resurrection of Jesus differs in small details across the four gospels -- to be expected during a time of great wonder and angelic presence and confusion and joy. One detail that has always stuck out to me is a detail included in John (of course it would be John). In John20:7, John details how Simon Peter enters the tomb and finds the empty linen wrappings, but v7 specifically mentions that the head wrappings were rolled up by themselves and sitting apart from the other wrappings.

I have expressed on several occasions that I suffer from OCD. Suffer is a strong word since I don't really mind it. And this little detail, and this vision of the Lord rising from the dead in glory and pushing Himself through these wrappings as they all fall to the grounds. And He rubs His eyes and smiles and then thinks of the wonderful day before Him and how joyous that reunion will be with His disciples and family and friends. And angels come to bow down before His majesty.

And in all this light, the Lord picks up His head wrappings and takes the time to neatly roll them up in a tight little bundle and places it neatly in a corner. Of all the images in this grand rising, the one that grabs my heart the most is this image of Jesus perhaps having a little OCD in Him.

It is the nature of man to make God into His own image. This obviously creates problems when we box the Lord in; we cannot compehend His character in its fullness and always fall short of the truth of His being. But I think some things the Lord doesn't mind; I don't think He much minds when we relate to aspects of His character, or find ground that is common between us. Is that not the relationship God wants with us? One where we walk with each other, find out about each other, get excited when we find that, hey! You and I have this thing in common! Isn't it wonderful?

10.31.2006

but if rightly, why

Halloween gives churches philosophical fits. Halloween is one of the days where the "world" hits the church square in its face. And how the church responds says a lot about the discomfort churches have about pressing the message about being different for God. This Beliefnet piece mentions a few of the ways churches can respond.

* Those which make a church-version of Halloween complete with the gore hug the world and don't let go. These churches are likely the ones that distort the truth and accept relativity. These aren't churches but glorified social clubs.

* Those that take the reverse tack and rail against Halloween as the devil's day and forbid costumes and trick-or-treaters and even handing out candy at the door shove the world aside self-righteously and look to the skies. These churches are likely the ones that preach against contemporary Christian music. These churches shun the Lord's humanity and compassion for His judgment.

* Those that hold harvest carnivals -- basically a sanitized euphemism for Halloween -- will walk the line between the above two polar extremes. Some will go all out with costumes and candy and head toward the huggers. Others will try to tone down the satanic and move toward the judgment.

Codified religion that doesn't seek His will or seek to have purposes behind their actions don't make sense to me. Lord is black-and-white about many things, yes. But even in those instances, Lord wants us to seek His will and seek His Spirit rather than give in to obligatory action one way or the other. Lord isn't about law; Lord is about learning to walk.

10.29.2006

for you weigh men

"Jury Duty (Is it Okay to Judge?)" {Matt7:1-12}
* Intro: Matt7:1 one of most quoted, but also one of most misused & misunderstood
* What mean to "judge"?
- Judge in court: not prohibited
- Discern or distinguish: commanded to do so
- Condemn/have critical spirit {Luke6:37}: bingo
- "Forgiven person is one who will be a forgiving person."
* What Lord is not condemning
- Judging doctrine {Acts17:11}
- Judging teachers {Matt7:15-16}
- Judging sinful behavior {1Cor5:1-3}
* Caution: judge not motives -- only Lord can see heart of sinner
* How to avoid being judgmental
- Evaluate own standards: concern or condemnation? Limited knowledge limits judgment
- Evaluate own life {Gal6:1}
- Peanuts comic (knack for finding fault, overlooking own)
- "We can't fix anyone; only Lord Jesus can fix someone."
- Tearjerker story (Teddy & dead mom & teacher)
* Be discerning
- Prov 9:8: Judging others not effective use of time
* How to discern
- Need divine assistance
- God willing & desirous to give good things to askers
- Legalism is pharisees' line of thought
* Golden rule
- No self-righteousness & exclusion
- Realize own sin & treat others w/ love
- Love & sin recognition better than judgment

10.28.2006

since you are seeking for proof

Prepping for a study of Heb11 beginning tomorrow. Always wonderful to have my eyes opened as I am prepping to open the eyes of others. In this first discussion, looking at Abel & Enoch as the first of the exemplars of faith. Not going to comment on those two; just a quick thought on the Biblical definition made famous in Heb11:1.

I never fully understood the connection made by author of Heb in v1. Faith is not driven by evidence (or conviction). Faith is the evidence. And the extent of this statement is that faith is the undergirding of all other actions. All other actions are driven by faith in Lord. Just as faith in the existence of a city like London would lead you to buy tickets and book a hotel without question, faith in existence of Christ leads you to a particular set of actions.

Faith is no mere on/off switch. Christian faith is more than just the answer to the question "Have you asked Jesus into your heart?" Faith is the walking on the water, the rising from the tomb, the breakfast on the beach. All of them evidence of this Creator who longs for your hand, your cast-off wrappings, your time upon the shore.

10.27.2006

of the house and family

Usually, my references to pop culture are part of long-winded ranting and raving on the decay of our culture and their antagonism toward God. Today's mention is not a rant because it is relevant only in its having spurred the thoughts.

Saw a movie on the flight home. Am not recommending this for general viewing as apparently, the non-plane version includes a lot of questionable content. What is not questionable is that the movie attempts to reinforce the point that career over family is never a good choice. There is a powerful scene or two that makes the point very clear.

Culture tells you that the choice should be easy; family should win every time. In reality, outside those cliches, it isn't easy. Those choices are not mutually exclusive, but overlapping. Sometimes the choice for family means choosing career. Fatherhood and husbandhood (I'm coining this word, I know) are all about sacrifice. And often, sacrificing self for the sake of provision is a necessary sacrifice. Now, working 120 hr weeks to get that senior attached to your VP on top of a six-figure income is not what I am talking about here. There's really no excuse for that, in my opinion. But bring this down to a man working two jobs to provide for a family of six, and that family over career question not so easy, is it?

Never boil down complexities such as the entirety of what a man would do for his family into cliche suggestions. Rarely does life neatly wrap itself up in dream sequences over 120 minutes.

10.26.2006

and they will level you to

Lots of consecutive posts about what I'm getting from the Word. Either a good sign of a return, or not focusing on the external, or not being creative. Not like I care actually. In any case, John 16:12. That's what I came here to talk about. In John16:12 Lord says, "I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now."

I'm reminded of Nicholson's famous truth uttering. There is this idea that you can only take so much of a concept (truth, Spirit, et al). I teach against the idea of a Spirit tap, and in this particular instance, the analogy is even more inappropriate.

The idea that you cannot bear the Lord's uttering is not due to some topped off container completely brimming with Spirit. That is exactly what is NOT happening here. It is rather like the martial arts belt system where each color has prior color prerequisites. Certain spiritually mature truths (and perhaps powers) do not lend themselves to infants; Pauline letters acknowledge as much. Walk of faith can be seen as perpetual training toward better belts and accompanying truths and Spirit.

10.25.2006

did not answer her a word

Mentioned two days ago that the Lord makes many definitive statements. Jesus does not reside in grey areas, which is why the question of who He is is the singular defining question that all must answer, either now or before the throne. In John15:23, Lord makes another definitive statement.

"He who hates Me, hates My Father also."

There is no lack of clarity in this statement. One either accepts the Lord or not. But not accepting the Lord means not accepting the Father. Many who state a general belief in the Almighty will take issue with this statement. But taking an issue with the statement is, in and of itself, an answer to the question. It doesn't matter whether or not you accept the question as legitimate.

The reason for the directness is clear. He doesn't want any lawyers before the throne trying to argue over the definition of the word "is". Lord looks you square in the eyes and asks you the simple question. And answering the question with a debate fares no better than a "no".

10.24.2006

close attention to yourself

I'll ignore the ridiculousness of the use of the Lord's name in merchandise in this famous saying. I've covered that enough before. Those T-shirts capture the Prot focus on the Lord being your friend, an intimate connection that may or may not be too intimate with a being that can breathe the world into existence.

John15:15 is a striking v, however. I pored over John15, and the next morning friendly lyrics filled my waking thoughts, as if a reminder that He wants that level of intimacy. He is offering that level of intimacy. I don't think He means for you to disrespect Him with your overly friendly terms of endearment. Then again, His heart breaks for me in ways I cannot understand, and that love might very well be accompanied by an intimate arm across my shoulders.

10.23.2006

a sincere heart in full assurance

It's like I don't remember this exists, I'm sure is the prevailing thought. Simply not the case. Sometimes that ten minutes to craft out a post really doesn't exist or exists against the choice of another activity deemed of more importance. Sometimes all that exists is the three-second scrawl of a thought or theme.

Today I look at a scrawl that reads "no leave orph v18". If it weren't for the steel-trap I call a mind, I wouldn't remember that John14:18 struck me as something worth examining.

It's odd that believers today quibble over the Lord's words as if He wasn't clear on a topic. You go through John and you can see all of the definitive statements He made; they were never maybe statements. And in v18, He makes two tender promises: not only that He would never leave or forsake us, but also that He will come again.

v18 seems to me one of the many singular v's in the Word that boils down what faith is. Faith in this v is a belief that God is always with us, and that God is returning. All between and around that is a complication of the truth. Lord promises companionship in ways other companions can only overpromise. This waterwalking can be made all the easier when we remember His promise to be before you, reaching out to you, hands extended, walking toward you, hands extended.

10.22.2006

waiting anxiously for the mercy

"First Things First" {Matt6:25-34}
* Intro: Worry affects all, threatens all.
* Context: In those days, many literally lived day-by-day. Daily worry a very clear reality
* Don't worry about essentials (v25-32)
- Lord feeds birds, and we are more valuable
- Worry doesn't lengthen your life (won't change the situation)
- Lord clothes flowers, and you last longer
- Lord knows your needs -- why think He would ignore them then?
- Worry indicates we have forgotten He who has promised to care for us
- "Worry intrudes on God's compassionate reality to provide for us."
- Worry indicates we trust our provision over Lord's
* Make God's kingdom your priority (v33)
- "seek ye first": pursue, focus on
* Don't worry about your future (v34)
- Live by faith
- Analogy: driving in fog and outrunning headlights
- Phil4:6-7

10.21.2006

to all, taking up the shield

A brother and sister are under attack right now. Their biggest strength (family) is the focal point of liar's claws. It is no coincidence that the attacks come as both are seeking to further the Lord's reach in their lives and in the lives of those close to them. Prayed for them this morning and tried to encourage him afterwards.

"You guys know the devil only attacks those being used by God, right?" I asked.

"We know," he replied. "We just didn't think it would come so fast."

Clear warning for all believers. All know the attack is coming. Few prepare for it. Few know how quickly liar will respond to kill the movement of the Spirit among His people.

It reminds of a scene in a recent movie where someone senses a disturbance immediately as events unfold. If you don't think liar knows right away when your Spirit increases, you are underestimating the power of darkness. Reminder that before you take that step of faith, pray not just for the faith for that first step, but also for protection on every step thereafter.

10.20.2006

because your faith is greatly enlarged

Society's celebrity obsession extends even unto churches. Warren, Osteen, Jakes -- the list is long of churches and movements and beliefs represented by individuals rather than by flocks. The success of those churches, however, aren't what we may think them to be. They are not successes because of who represents the flock.

Congregations don't multiply in size via the force of a pastor's personality, charisma, or book-writing skills. In many cases, these personalities have been selected after a church has reached a particular size. What seems as a pastoral effect in those cases where a leader enters a church and the flock grows is merely coincidence.

Churches are not top-down organizations. A person's force of will cannot drive growth in a church the same way it does in a Fortune 500 company. Only the movement at the grass-roots -- the Spirit working simultaneously in individual hearts, the Spirit using individuals powerfully -- can grow a church from zero to several thousand in a few years; can cause a revival in a local community. Churches should think about that when they implement programs designed to grow a flock. They'd be better served focusing on the Spirit of God.

10.19.2006

me without a cause

Still thinking about the thoughts that led to yesterday's post. Sent off a note today about a particular issue common to many churches and church leaders: being ministry-focused rather than people-focused. You must know right off the bat that this issue doesn't come from a bad heart. Intent and passion might be residing in those recesses, I don't doubt that at all. I'm sure it comes from a desire to model the love of Christ, which He wants you to model actively. Action in ministry is in and of itself not the issue.

The issue comes when you think having ministries is enough. The issue comes when your focus becomes having many active ministries. The issue comes when you no longer see the ones for whom these ministries only touch the surface. The issue comes when those you serve become consumers of some service, a blur beyond recognition.

Lord calls us to serve the needy, love the widow, minister to the sick. But He doesn't ask us to do it out of obligation, but rather out of love. He calls for our service to come via a changed heart. Without that change, the action is completely useless to the Lord. That service is meant to serve you as well.

10.18.2006

and leads them out

Spoke up a few days ago and discussed the need for heart change. Spoke to a brother and discussed Josh7 and the sin of Achan. For those who don't want to spend the time recalling the story, Achan hid some loot from the rest of the tribe, but could not hide it from the Lord. The result of the hidden sin was the defeat of Israel in battle. The sin and sinner were rooted out. Israel atoned for its sin by stoning Achan and his family.

You might call this excessive punishment. What did the family have to do with the sin? Obviously, you can't hide the amount of loot that Achan had taken without the entire family also knowing of the sin and abetting him with their silence. At the same time, I'll proffer an additional reason: because leaders of tribes lead with their whole families and not themselves.

Churches these days survive and function on the energy and spirit of a committed 10%. That 10% often spreads across the branches of several families. It is rare that a single member of a family participates completely without the whole serving together. That is the Biblical ideal: families that model the familial aspects of the Trinity and our role as children of the Father. It highlights all the more the importance of the shepherding father. The poor shepherd can not only adversely affect a tribe/congregation, but also the consequences for said infraction will also be paid family-wide.

This didn't head where I was expecting it to head. Expected to discuss the sins of leaders affecting a flock. Turned out to be geared toward fathers and families. I'll take that as divine lesson and discuss leadership failings another time. My guess is that topic will, unfortunately, not go away.

10.17.2006

in the center of the court

This is an example of why I dislike sites like Beliefnet. They think they do a service to faith and religion by bringing up the discussion of faith in areas where faith is generally not seen. But to use small examples of faith to hock a television show is ridiculous.

Faith sites should be hyping series where faith is the central theme. The Ten Commandments remake. Easter specials, even those produced with a bias. A Charlie Brown Christmas. Even a Mel Gibson interview. There, discussions of faith are the central component.

Shows like Friday Night Lights where they tangentially mention faith only serves to marginalize faith even more. The faith is the backdrop and character story, not the wholly important issue. Isn't that the whole problem with society's treatment of religion? That God is an afterthought to be fitted into our lives where we have room? Shouldn't faith sites be refraining from contributing to the trivialization of faith?

10.16.2006

relief for your breakdown

Thinking lately of the brokenness of people, and the use the Lord has for them. Many have pointed out the fact that the Lord only uses broken people, because His power is evident through their brokenness. And yet churches today seek only those without clear faults, don't they?

John9:34 has an interesting v. Pharisees criticize the reasoning and logic of a man born blind made well. Their reasoning and logic is that sinners can't possibly teach anything, can they?

Churches see reformed sinners as good testimonies of the saving power. They see them as good role models of what not to do. They'll listen to their histories as cautionary tales. But why not see them as something more than lessons not to be repeated? Why not see them as the broken through which His power is revealed? We look for the perfect resumes and the model homes. Why not seek out the broken, knowing His power will be made perfect in their weakness?

10.15.2006

gifts to your children, how

"What Kids Need from Caring Adults pt3"
* Affection
- "Encouragement is the words, affection is the action"
- Barcelona Olympics story
* Responsibility
- Biblical mandate to instill responsibility in young ones
- Will protect them from apathy
- Will protect them from blame mentality
- Will protect them from victim mentality
* Fun
- Prov17:22
- Lighten up and schedule fun
* Peaceful home
- Their sanctuary and refuge
- A place where they can be imperfect and thus grow into perfection
* Application
- Starts w/ peace in own hearts via relationship with Lord {Col1:20, Rom12:10}
- Be biggest advocate for own children

10.14.2006

who also follow in the steps of the faith

From tomorrow's musings on faithwalks:

"Psalm 128:1 says, 'How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways.'"

"The world is busy distracting you with its drama, and God wants you to remember that you can come to Him with your problems and He will take you to a grassy meadow, and He will take you to that quiet river, and He will protect you from all that drama. And He will do all that if you focus on God. Your life, your walk with God is meant to be one of peace."

"Sometimes you will be gripped by utter terror in trusting God on where He is leading you. But God says I am here for you and my hand is here for you and will you walk to me, will you walk to me? Your life, your walk with God is meant to be one of trust."

"Sometimes the walk of faith is up a pebbly slope with a heavy burden across your shoulders. And even being beside God Himself doesn't reduce the heaviness of that burden. In addition to the walk of peace, and the walk of trust, is the walk of trial. God doesn’t promise sunny days all the time. Part of following God involves enduring trial, even when you feel that all you’ve done is stand there like an innocent bystander. God says that where He’s leading you will sometimes be difficult to get through. Even in Psalm 23 it describes the Shepherd leading the sheep 'through the valley of the shadow of death'."

"Something in all these walks is the same: it is not the path that is important, nor is it the effort or the journey. How and where and how quickly we walk – none of that is the central point. What is important about the walk is the One we are following. God promises only our best interests in leading us on our particular trail, on our individual walks of faith. He promises to be there with us on that walk. He promises that His love for you is the reason for all this walking. And He is waiting to take you to a grand destination."

10.13.2006

if you forgive the sins of any

It is no small wonder that, not only is this wonderful story about forgiveness not getting the attention it deserves, but also that MSM would find ways to disparage it altogether. Mel spouts his mouth while drunk? Front page news. Pat calling for assassinations? Front page news. Sex scandals and altar boys? Front page news for months.

An act of forgiveness bred out of realization of the forgiveness offered us by the death of the Son of God on Calvary? Let's make sure this gets buried under news of midterm elections. Another clear example that the world is not looking for ways to bring themselves to cross the bridge. They are instead looking for reasons to justify continuing to live the way they want to live in their current meaningless existence.

10.12.2006

heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him

Heard said that true prayer involves Lord doing far more talking than you. Listening is such an important asset in everyday matters, and why would you think that not true in your relationship to God? Plugged in on the flight home listening to the melodies and tunes that draw me near the throne, and there is an indescribable joy soothing the recesses of my heart, and that, my friend, is prayer. Lord doesn't ask you to always think and form points and outline your thoughts. Often, He asks you simply to allow yourself to be soothed, to follow His leading you to still waters.

Your time with Him needn't be in a special corner with your notebook and pen and highlighted Word and prayer list. It can be any place that allows you to hear that calling, that tugging, that voice that says, "That green pasture over there? Feel that cool breeze? Because you and I have a few minutes scheduled to wander through its soothing."

10.11.2006

you know nothing at all

Clarity isn't always what you think it is. It isn't always knowing the right answer. Often, clarity is merely knowing that how you approached answering the question was clearly done to His liking. Clarity can still be present in choices that seem uncertain.

If you see four branching roads and ask for clarity and discernment, and all you get is the removal of a branch, that doesn't meen clarity isn't in knowing which branch needed to be lopped; clarity doesn't have to be the arrow sign down one lane. Clarity at that time might simply be the clear-headed awareness that you needn't take that first step down any lane just yet.

10.10.2006

and has given all things

My father turns seventy today, one of the factor's contributing to yesterday's thoughts. A few weeks back, I spoke on the topic of men and shepherding. I posited that men needed to do more for their family than provide and win bread; that, in fact, merely providing without shepherding is failure. Thinking about that today and I think differently.

If all you can do is give your all, if all you can do is sacrifice -- your aspirations, your visions, your own self -- for your loved ones, how can anyone ask for more? Lord only asks for you to give your all for the sake of others, it is the definition of Christ-like sacrifice. And if you do that, can it still be called failure?

The measure of a man is what he has to show for his sacrifice. And yes, what you want is a family brought closer to God. But if in the end, all you have are lives still worth living, lives enabled to live, I won't be the one disparaging that at all. I could not ask much more of myself.

10.09.2006

and it is enough for us

Getz is the one who posits What is the measure of a man?. He answers that question via character traits as that is how he believes the Lord will answer that question. The question is a profound one, and one that reflection upon what one has, what one has accomplished, what one has not accomplished, what one is over the course of a life will cause the highest of highs and lowest of lows.

Word says that eternity is placed on the heart of all men. Don't know whether or not it also states that measuring oneself over a lifetime also resides there as well. But that's as true a statement as any in my mind. As provider, man can only wipe his brow and catch his breath and look back at the fullness of what was and wonder whether it was enough; wonder what he has to show for all the sweating and breath-losing. And apart from a Godly perspective, that will certainly never be enough. And even in a Godly perspective, the temptation to feel it lacking surely stands strong.

The sadness rests in measuring another man; wondering whether or not he is measuring the self in ways you expect he might. And you want to tell him that the scale he is using is all wrong. That the measurement is faulty. And that the final calculation will be far more wonderful than he can perhaps see on his own.

10.08.2006

is able to raise up children to

"What Kids Need from Caring Adults pt2"
* Intro: All have messed up. Goal of parenting not to be ideal, but to have ideals.
* Role Models
- #1 influence on kids is parent(s)
- You are always being watched
- Model integrity: Kids know we are not perfect; desire for us to admit as much
- Model growing faith
- Deut6:5-8: Pass on faith in action (hands); pass on knowledge of His ways and words (forehead)
* Encouragement
- "We live in a world where kids are force-fed a diet of discouragement."
- Encourage kids to be Christ-like {Titus2:11-15}
- Important to build them up {Rom14:19, 1Thess5:11}
- Catch your kids doing right
- Praise beyond performance: who they are, not what they have done
- Say it perpetually
* Discipline
- For guidance, not punishment {Heb12}
- Love must accompany discipline
- Be delicate -- spirits more fragile than body
- Be wise
* Strength to accomplish all these things is through Him alone

10.07.2006

continued to grow and become strong

The other day marked the passing of the second year of this virtual exploration of the walk of faith, of trying to see the heart of God in all I am and do and become. The first twelve were a surprise; the second twelve were an astonishment. I expect the next twelve to be something of a miracle.

I know I can never predict the ending of the searching. Not just because the end can't be predicted, but because the heart of God never ceases to be something with more layers than we have time for unraveling. The great beauty of knowing God, of knowing Jesus is that He allows us to experience Him and find Him in the same personal and tangible way that we find out who our soulmate is by spending a lifetime by her side.

Jesus called. I called back. At the end of that conversation, He said I'll catch you later...

10.06.2006

another steps down before me

An idea for perhaps a larger sermon, another unfinished work, or simply preparation for the day before the young ones: types of faithwalks. Three very different passages came to mind describing the kinds of walks we are called to make when we turn over the heart to Heaven.

First faithwalk comes in the form of Ps23. It is the one envisioned by all who bow the knee. Lord says He will lead you beside the still waters. Lord says He will take you through liar's house without harm. Lord says He will take you to this house where you will dwell in the midst of love and mercy and goodness. This vision, however, sometimes ends in disappointment and shock when the trials come a-calling. But this walk of peace is significant.

Second faithwalk comes in the form of Matt14 and Peter on the waves. It is the one encountered by all who bow the knee. Lord says He will call you and you need to follow. And sometimes you won't know where you are headed. And sometimes you will feel completely unprepared. And sometimes you will be gripped by utter terror in the going. But Lord says I am here for you and my hand is here for you and will you walk to me walk to me walk to me. This walk of trust is significant.

Last faithwalk comes in the form of Luke23 and Simon of Cyrene. It is experienced by all who bow the knee. Lord promises trial and tribulation and undrossing fire to all. And the walk of faith is often up pebbly slopes with a heavy burden across our shoulders. And even being beside the Lord doesn't reduce the burden. And the end of the road of that steep walk is sometimes a horrible place. This walk of pain is significant.

Something in all these walks is the same: it is not the path that is central, nor is it the effort or journey. It is, in fact, the One we are following. He promises only our best interests in leading us on our particular trail. He promises to be there with us on that trail. He promises that His love is the reason for this walking. Something in all these walks, indeed.

10.05.2006

He applied clay to

A brother and I discussed an upcoming class on the nature of our shape (according to Saddleback, for what that's worth) and gifts, and the usage of the two in the service of God. I took the possibly contrary position that our shape can be defined by the service, rather than the other way around.

The other way around seems to me as if the Lord ends the molding and allows us to find where we fit. Lord hasn't shaped us; He shapes us. And that one-letter difference reflects a growing faith, a continuous walk. The other tells us the work is all done in us so we may as well get used.

The whole waterwalking is about taking the step first regardless of the shape and gifts. You trust in taking that step that the leading is towards those areas where we fit. And if we don't fit, perhaps He'll do the molding necessary to have us fit, or at the very least, lead us somewhere else. But assuming the shape will do the leading rather than the Shaper doing the leading seems to me completely out of order.

10.04.2006

foolish men and slow of heart

Where Harvard goes, there goes the world. As Harvard has listened more and more to liar and gone from pastors' college to representative of all things secular and evil, the world has followed. Now a bastion of humanism and secularism, it will lead the shadows before the throne of God one day before their trek to the shores of the lake.

You might think this means I am delighted by the recent turn of events. No, my friend, that is simply a mask for more delightful evil ahead. The recommendation will simply mean more will be introduced to a greater variety of untruths. It will mean more will be given liars' lenses from which to view the truth. It will mean more discussion of tolerance and relativity, rather than a saving knowledge of the Son of God.

Harvard stands as the ultimate symbol for the world turning its back on God. It will end its days having the roles reversed on that great day.

10.03.2006

into the fire and they are burned

Try to ignore MSM as much as possible. Know that the news will never report the Lord or His believers in a positive light. Usually their evil ways are accomplished via slanted headlines, liberal asides, or a biased perspective. Rarely do they out and out lie. Or perhaps not so rarely. But when they do so and attempt to slander one of His beloved ones? The whole article engendering the rage today can be read here.

The crux of the piece lies in Newsweek's reporter trying to lead readers to believe that Billy has softened and changed his viewpoint on the singular nature of salvation in Christ alone by grace alone through faith alone. The biased character portrait from Newsweek places some doubt into Billy's words. It takes Billy having to write in to the editors to remind readers that only Christ can save.

Here's some info for you, media. Lord says that it would be better for you to tie a millstone around your wretched neck and cast yourself into the water than to lead one of His little ones astray. And trying to use one of His saints in the leading astray? That's just asking for a larger millstone. And the water on that grand day when you receive your just rewards? That water there be fire, yo. Fire fire fire.

10.02.2006

seeking rest, and not finding any

Two days later and still thinking about a counter-intuitive v. Check out Ps77, specifically v3: "When I remember God, then I am disturbed."

The psalm starts off as your typical psalm crying out to God. But usually when you get to the remembering God part, you move to praise and strength and rescue. But this one moves to a disturbance.

In context, this all makes sense of course. The psalmist is speaking about sleeping, and so the disturbance isn't some moral disturbance or worry, but actual awakening from sleep. That's confirmed a v later when it says in v4 that He "held my eyelids open." The psalm then goes on to remember all the great things the Lord has done for the psalmist, proof that He has not abandoned Asaph, that Asaph can return to peaceful rest.

As one who struggles with consistent and restful sleep, this v troubles me. Always assumed, and knew, really, that liar and the shadows have been the ones responsible for rest deprivation. Perhaps some of those have instead been from the light. Perhaps in all my wanderings to find rest, I needn't run away from darkness, but rather flee towards the light.

10.01.2006

though they bring up their children

"What Kids Need from Caring Adults"
* Intro: Culture negatively influences raising of children in this world -- how to go against that influence
* Begin w/ end in mind; define "good kid"
- Confidence: they "know who they are because they know whose they are"
- Character: have integrity and moral compass
- Conviction: beliefs rooted in Christ
- Compassion: heart for others; mercy
- Competence: know own gifts/skills; see selves as difference-makers
* Belief in value of being parent {Ps127:3,5a}
- Children are gifts
* Presence (time)
- Not quantity over quality but vv
- Guilt deserved if putting own priorities over those of little ones
- Personal sacrifice
- Career sacrifice
- Ditch cellphones when w/ kids
- Focus, face them, & give feedback
* Memories
- Create traditions -- "add to flavor of memories"
- Capture memories
- Prioritize vacations
- Create adventures (i.e. missions trip as family)

9.30.2006

no longer remembers the anguish

Going to be on time for a change.

Speaking to a brother this morning, and the notion of liar's memory came up. Liar has photographic memory. You think it's you with the great memory, when in reality it is liar.

Thinking about those ill words spoken to you? Thinking about that time that you were hurt? Thinking about those conversations, thinking about every spoken word and every unspoken word? Thinking about the nuances that may or may not have occurred? Thinking about that sin? Thinking about that person?

All from liar.

It is clear why it is so easy to remember scenes of greatest hurt down to the tiniest detail -- the words, the facial expressions, et al -- with clarity beyond anything created by Sony. Lord says He places sin as far as east is from west and yet we feel we cannot approach Him in the states that we are in. Lord says He wants to use us, and yet we cannot be used by Him in the heart conditions that we are in. Lord says He wants that walk with us and yet we cannot step upon that sea because of the memories that fill our hearts.

Spiritual amnesia. Coining that phrase this morning for possible development at a later date.