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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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}


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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?


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?