and am surely distracted

Proof I'm not a perfect Christian #2,346: I admit that there are certain worship songs that just don't do it for me. Others like them, sure. But my worship is actually affected when certain songs come up in the service order. Rather than focusing on the greatness of God (the point of worship), I'm distracted by how little I care for the words and melodies of particular tunes.

Yesterday was one such moment where there were several of my least favorites being played. And as I mentally distanced myself from my surroundings, I caught sight of a brother and sister who were home for the first time after a year away in Niger, Africa as missionaries. For them, being surrounded by believers, being surrounded by songs of worship for the first time in a year, you could almost see the waves of joy and love being radiated from their beings toward Christ.

And here I was wondering why anyone would choose these particular songs. In John4, Jesus says God looks for believers who will worship Him in Spirit and in truth. Still have much to learn about what that means.


according to all its plans

"Setting Godly goals" {Isa32:8}
* Why set goals?
- We're created in God's image and He's a planner {Isa46:9-11,25:1; Ps139:16}
- To give self hope {Job6:11}
- To focus life & energy {1Cor9:24-27}
- To develop relationship w/ God {Phil3:8,12-13}
- We're commanded to live purposefully {1Tim4:7-8}
* Basic principles of Goal-setting
- Goal-writing is a matter of discovering God's will for our lives {Prov16:9}
- Writing them down is an important part of process {1Chron28:11-12,19}
- Accountability is essential to living out goals {Prov15:22,27:17}
* Application
- Get started ASAP
- Review often
- Make first 3 goals most important ones -- Bible-reading, prayer, family


as Jesus had directed them

A friend once told me a little saying that goes, "Do not lead me for I may not follow. Do not follow me for I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend." Quaint little saying. But as I listened to a story about how my fella who's not yet five showed some natural leadership in his Sunday school class, I thought about how wrong that saying is.

Some are naturally gifted leaders. Leadership is one of the spiritual gifts recognized by many churches. Others are called into positions of leadership, gifted or otherwise. And while among friends, all are equals and peers, leadership is not a thing to be excluded for the mere sake of egalitarianism.

Leaders don't always lead because of a belief that those behind will follow. Leaders should lead in order to use the gifts given them by God. And others should lead because they were called to do so and want to be obedient. Seems to be some discomfort in acknowledging that among peers there are roles to follow. That's the world's issues around obedience and authority. Don't make them your issues as well.


who stood here beside you

Many of my acquaintances have taken to signing off letters and emails "In His Grip". I've used the term on occasion. Initially, I thought of the term as being completely enveloped by His presence to the point where He doesn't let you make poor choices. That imagery to me has always been a tad bit too suffocating.

After doing well this afternoon and making good choices, thought of the term in a different light. I have this image of a friend holding another friend's hand through a difficult situation, all the time, holding that hand and whispering words of encouragement, letting them know they are not alone, that He'll always be right there, you can feel it, you know that's the truth, that grip of His, so firm.


as they had been instructed

Holiday tradition: the day after purge.

We have too much, that's the simple truth of it. We already had too much. Add to the too much, more stuff, and you get way too much. So the 26th is spent removing the XMas decorations (room by room -- we've already established I have some issues) and creating two piles: garbage and give.

The kids get in on the household sweep as well. They understand that they have way too much for the space they have, and that choices need to be made. Do we keep the brand-new, still shiny game, or keep the ripped box, played it twice this year game? They also understand that many don't have what they have, and that the still mint, rarely played toy would make some other child with far less quite happy.

It is easy to establish traditions of family fun. It is harder to establish traditions of order and charity. One will result in lasting memories. The other will result in changed characters.


Today salvation has come

". . . behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.'"


for in hope we have been saved

Kinda sad that the only Gospel presentation many unbelievers will receive this season will come from the mouth of an imaginary character. Considering how well he pulls it off, however, perhaps not so sad.


in whom you have set your hope

"The Hope of God"
* Love/hate relationship w/ Christmas
- Love the focus on birth of Christ
- Hate the wordly trappings
* Prov13:12: "Hope deferred makes the heart sick"
* Christmas is the beginning of our hope
- Hope not same as wish (e.g. "I hope I get an iPod for Christmas")
- Hope = Heb11:1 --> Faith and conviction
* Christ ushered in era of hope -- He answered people's hope for Messiah
* Rom5:1-10
- First 4 ch. establish depravity of man
- Hope through Christ the Messiah
* Suffering produces hope
- Forces us to rely on God & the hope of His salvation
- "God is in the business of redeeming suffering."
- Lord provides hope that doesn't disappoint
* Lam3:19-24; Eph1:18-19; Titus3:4-7


came to a halt

Thinking about a moment a few weeks ago where I was given the privilege of lifting up a sister in Christ before the Lord. In describing her request, this sister referenced Jer5:22 where the Lord describes how He "placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, an eternal decree, so it cannot cross over it; though the waves toss yet they cannot prevail." A beautiful imagery of the Lord drawing this line and saying, "No more. Not past this."

What I love about her prayer was that she was not praying for complete restoration; she was praying for the decline to cease. Rather than pray for a reversal, she merely prayed for the stop. Many ask for complete removal from trial; few understand their cross to bear and simply ask for a relief from time to time as they trek up that hill.


will know how you should respond

Last year I commented on an Evangelical Outpost article on the XMas controversy. Just recently learned that there is no controversy. Just like American believers to get their Christmas stockings all in a bunch over perceived insults.

On one hand, I see their rage. XMas is the last straw in a line of Christian cultural marginalization. No mangers in public places. "Happy holidays" from the lips of store employees. Primetime specials on the myths of the Christmas stories. No wonder the belief that removing "Christ" from the celebration of His birth would set off fireworks.

On the other hand, Christians will always be marginalized. Prayer was removed from school, abortion was legalized, and evolution was approved. How was XMas the last straw when much more critical straws were already torched? In John15:18-19, Jesus already warned us that this was going to happen. It's not our resistance that will say something to the world, but our reaction. Anger and malice and judgment, or love and senseless kindness and a turned cheek?


they got up that very hour and returned

I am as bad as Hitler.

That's what true repentance is, isn't it? To know that every little sin is as large as every big sin in the scheme of things, and that no matter the size of the sin in our eyes, our very human, very corrupt eyes, the size is still large enough to keep you away from that Savior who loves you. Repentance is that hurting in your heart that no matter the sin, the fact that something, anything keeps you away from that Savior who reaches for you is more than you can bear. Repentance is that piece of you that longs, that leaps to be near that Savior who paid for you, and all of those things, even some of the objectively good things, you count as loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing that Savior.

Sometimes you remember how good it is to be near that Savior who calls you friend, and every minute away from Him you rue -- but never more than He whose hand was outstretched all that time waiting.


and all flesh will see the salvation of God

Spent much of the day yesterday musing upon (and watching) the video from yesterday's post. Then spent another hour or so watching the same skit being performed by churches across the country (go to Godtube and search for "Lifehouse"). I lost track after watching the twelfth version of the performance.

One of my favorite things about the skit -- other than it touches that raw nerve of love I have for my Savior -- is that the audience for each performance reacts at the same three scenes. For the first few minutes, they watch quietly, but once the music kicks in and the young girl after having brought herself to the brink of death leaps toward the Savior, the crowd erupts.

There is great joy in repentance.

That scene reaches that part of us all have faced -- at the end of our ropes, hitting a bottom of solid granite, looking for an escape. All believers come to that point in their lives, down on their knees looking up, kneeling before Messiah Christ. And to watch that portrayed by a leaping girl looking for life rouses the crowd and destroys me. And then the second scene comes when Christ jumps into the fray to hold back liar's shadows, jumps into the fray to take the girl's beating.

There is great joy in recognizing from whence comes salvation.

That scene reaches that part of us all have faced -- finally understanding what it means to have another pay your debt. All believers comes to that point in their lives when their heart breaks at having been bought with an innocent lamb's blood, covered by Messiah Christ. And to watch that portrayed by a shielding Christ holding back the surging tide of the world rouses the crowd and destroys me. And then the third scene comes when Christ emerges victorious from the scrum.

There is great joy in the great power of God.

That scene reaches that part of us all have faced -- rejoicing in the finished work of the Cross. All believers come to that point in their lives when they see that they can do all things through Christ that strengthens them, that there is no darkness that cannot be penetrated by the light of love. And to watch that portrayed by a crowd-clearing Savior now rejoicing with His saved one rouses the crowd and destroys me.

If you're a believer, watch that skit. Then beg your church leadership for the chance to have that skit performed for all to see. Then watch that skit again and remember and muse upon and think of the great love of God made alive.


will lead to an opportunity for

Embedding videos is sometimes thought to be lazy posting. Call me what you will, but it's more important the following becomes as viral as possible. Already on Godtube are several different iterations of the skit below performed by churches across the country. Until that percentage hits 100%, more lazy posters are needed. Like wildfire that Spirit can be.


and your heart will rejoice

"Rejoice: A Christmas Praise Concert"
Winter Medley
Joy to the World
O Come, All Ye Faithful
Come & Worship {Matt2:8}
God is With Us {Matt1:23}

The First Noel
A Child is Born
Christmas is All in the Heart
Coventry Carol/What Child is This?
Not that Far from Bethlehem
Silent Night

Heaven Rejoices {Luke2:13-14}


fearfully and wonderfully made

Three proofs of the existence of God:


which are not written in this book

The Mitchell Report has been getting all the press the last two days. Columnists were looking forward to bloviating. Fans were looking forward to salacious gossip. Those on high horses were looking forward to shaking their head and saying "I told you so." And baseball players were looking forward to seeing whether or not they got away with cheating the system. The report itself is a hefty 400+ pages.

You know, whether you are columnist, fan, horserider, or player, there is a hefty tome that should be of greater interest to you: the Book of Life. That Grand Book contains names alright, only this time you want in on the mentioning. That Grand Book lists all those who have bowed their knee before Messiah Christ. And the Bible says "And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."

Unlike the Mitchell Report, your history doesn't matter. Christ doesn't base your salvation on who you are or what you've done. Christ bases your salvation on the depth of His great love for you. All you have to do to be part of the only report that matters is to ask Jesus Christ into your life. The Bible says "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."

No need for an independent panel to weigh your merits, friend. God Almighty has that pen in His hand waiting to make an addition to that Grand Book. Will you make that choice today?


how has this man become learned having never been educated

Briefly discussed the importance of attending seminary with a brother today. This follows up a conversation I had with a brother (who is in seminary) about six months ago. This follows up conversations I've had with myself for much longer periods of time. Is there any benefit to spending time, money, and effort into credentials valued only by the world?

My first answer would be no. Everything I need to know about theology can be found in one book, THE BOOK. All these commentaries and philosophies and ideas created by man and not inspired by God shed light that might be best lit by the Holy Spirit. And if the benefit of seminary is simply the book learnin' I can invest in a Barnes & Noble membership and pick up everything I need to know.

You might respond that there is a benefit to being taught by professors who've spent their lives studying this material, and interacting with peers who are studying alongside you. My retort would be these professors likely have books out I can read, and if I seek interaction on spiritual matters, why not initiate such discussions with members of my flock?

Do you know that there is a new trend where churches in the Third World are sending missionaries to America? That's how bad Western religion has become. Do you think these missionaries and third world believers and church leaders studied in seminary? Seminary is a man-made institution, a man-made barrier into full-time ministry. Its credentials are valued in the same way Ivy League diplomas are valued by greedy corporations.

My second answer would be . . . well, there is no second answer. I think seminary's a waste of time.


contrary to nature into

Still ruminating on my thoughts from yesterday regarding sin. Looking at my newborn sweet thing, and understand that while (to me) she is perfect in every way, she is a creature of sin from first breath. Would be easy to associate her crying for food as a selfish act, hence the sin, but as I pondered, we can't tie sin to action. Her condition, her worldview is one of sin.

Another thought: what if sin is like bacteria or viruses? Within her blood next to those functioning T-cells and plasma and blood cells and bacteria (both healthy and harmful) lies sin? We are born with this in us, and it is impossible to remove it with any transfusion. When we say we are full of sin, we are not being metaphysical, but literal.

If you ever wondered whether or not you bleed in Heaven, perhaps the answer is no. Perhaps that new body received upon entry into Heaven contains no blood, no bacteria, no sin. I'm all messed up theology-wise, sure. But understandingwise? Perhaps not so much.


concerning sin, because

Unsure of the actual theology here -- though if I attended seminary to learn it, it would probably only serve to confuse the issue -- but thinking about sin today in a different way. Many tie sin to a particular action: lying, stealing, killing, being impatient, et al. That's why the Ten Commandments gets so much respect methinks -- an easy checklist by which one can track one's sin.

You can see how this mindset gets extended to how one assesses one's morality. "Well, I've never done A, B, or C, so I'm not a bad person." Or how it gets misused to characterize one's week. "I had a great week. I didn't sin because I didn't X, Y, or Z." Liar likes one to confine one's thoughts on sin in this way -- defining sin as an act.

My new line of thought is that sin is a condition in the same way alcoholism is a condition. An alcoholic is an alcoholic even on that two days that week he was sober. His approach to alcohol, his love of alcohol, his inability to stop drinking, all of that characterizes his state of being.

Sin in this view is similar. Sin is the condition where you are always in sin even if you have not committed a particular letter of the alphabet. When you are in this state of sin, your approach to holiness, your love of self, your inability to overcome temptation, all of that characterizes your state of being. You are captive to this condition.

When Christ says in John8 that He sets us free from sin, He is not merely using an analogy. He is, in fact, stating the truth of one's bondage to a state of being. Not sure what applications if any there are in this worldview. Just important to continue throwing out light to counter that darkness.


I have found reason for

"Why Jesus Came"
* To give abundant life {John10:10}
- Abundant not same as fame, fortune, or fun
- Abundant as in quality of life: overflowing w/ love, hope, meaning, purpose, joy, & constant fellowship w/ God
* To adopt us into His family {Eph1:4-5}
- We get multitude of siblings in Christ
- Relationship to God is as w/ loving Father
- "Forever family"
* To set us free from sin {John8:34,36}
- Pt#3 makes Pt#1 and Pt#2 possible
- We can have abundant life because we are free from sin
- We can be part of holy family because sin debt has been paid for
- Matt1:21


waiting for the moving of

One of my favorite carols is an underrated one: "Do You Hear What I Hear?" (full lyrics can be found here). Love how the narrative passes from wind to lamb to shepherd to king to people, all to spread the good news of the coming of the Savior. The past week's posts have all been about this anticipation, this waiting, this expectation. And for as long as I've celebrated Advent, this is the first season where that looking to the coming has been so sharp.

A brother this am reminded me of a John MacArthur sermon where he reminds us that the Lord can take us at any moment. He allows us to remain to glorify Him and to spread the good news of God. Perhaps He's changing my perspective and gearing me up and reminding me that much work left to do, much work.


only to steal and kill and destroy

A new baby is supposed to change your perspective on things -- give you more heart -- so maybe the rant to come is out of place with this belief. But the new sweet thing has affirmed my desire to protect her innocent eyes from evil. And make no mistake: The Golden Compass is evil. I'd link to it, but I'd sooner watch the thing than send it any meager amount of traffic.

You can go to Beliefnet to see umpteen different commentaries and editorials on whether or not the movie preaches evil. You needn't waste your time listening to others convince you of fact or lie. The fact is that the author is on track to spend eternity in a lake of consuming fire. How his evil drips from the silver screen may or may not lead others to follow, doesn't matter. Throwing cash at him as he descends into blackness won't cheer him up much, methinks.


a place for you

New baby as analogy of Heaven: sweet thing gets to leave the hospital today. Still brand new, she actively searches with her eyes all around her when alert. She recognizes the faces by now, probably; the voices, for certain. But the hospital environs as well?

Perhaps she thinks the stiff bassinet is what will contain her every day. Perhaps she thinks the tiled ceilings her only cover, fluorescent squares her only light. Perhaps she thinks those hospital flannels her only swaddling, only warmth. Perhaps she thinks all those big faces and hands poking and prodding and measuring, all of them parts of her ongoing existence.

If she only knew.

She will soon trade stiff for downy soft; tiled heights for painted smoothness; lighted squares for glowing circle. She will soon trade standard-issue flannel for chosen coziness; investigative movement for loving embrace. She will actively search home when finally home.

All this around us? All we know? Even when familiar and comfy and safe it will pale to the reality of our eternal home in ways only our active seeking when there will make known. It is what it is, this current existence. But if only we knew.


I know that Messiah is coming

Listen, I've never steered you wrong. I was one of the first to tell you that Joel Osteen was an antichrist. I was one of the first to tell you that saddlebacking a church is not necessarily a good thing. And I was one of the first to tell you that my sweet thing? Wondrous. Check, check, and check.

So trust me when I say you need to run to the nearest Christian bookstore to purchase Third Day's album "Christmas Offerings". It is perhaps the best Christmas album ever, up there with Nat's. Buy it for the perfect blend of southern rock and familiar carol. Buy it just to hear Mac Powell hit that note on "O Holy Night". Or buy it for one of the purest hymns I've ever heard, Third Day's original "Born in Bethlehem".

There are very few songs I hear once and find it perfect, and this is one of them. Check out these lyrics:
Baby Jesus, born in a stable, humble Savior's birth.
You left your throne in Heaven above, to live here on the Earth.

Baby Jesus, lying in a manger, crying for the world.
The Angels told the Shepherds of the Good News for us all.

Hallelujah, the King is here, given for all men.
For today the Holy Son of God, is born in Bethlehem.

Come now Sinners and you Saints, all peasants and all Kings.
And bow before the Earth's Redeemer, let all voices sing.

Hallelujah, the King is here, given for all men.
For today the Holy Son of God, is born in Bethlehem.

Baby Jesus, do you know you'll die for all our sins?
Don't be afraid, for in 3 days, you will rise again.

Hallelujah, the King is here, given for all men.
For today the Holy Son of God, is born in Bethlehem.
You have the very beginning of the song that crystallizes the incarnation of Christ down to its finest elements: Savior leaving the riches of Heaven for a humble manger. You have the joyous chorus proclaiming the coming of the King. You have the call to worship in the middle, asking all to bow before Redeemer. Or you have the last verse that sadly asks an infant whether He knows His fate, the one that ends on a tree -- but that morphs into rejoicing at the victory over death.

Reading this is great in its own right, but run, don't walk, run to that nearest store and go ahead and pay that Christian markup. This one time? Worth it.


and a father his child

The Father sends His only begotten to a manger and He can't help but tell the world of how wondrous the little One is. A chorus of angels responds in loud praise and a heavenly body is so excited it lights the sky above the manger. Gabriel works overtime to spread the good news while wise men pack up their belongings and plan a trip.

My sweet thing that entered the physical world this afternoon is no Savior, no, no comparison. But she is miraculous in every way that a Divine Father blessing His children with a precious gift is. And if I could command a heavenly band, or brighten a night with a flame, or send out a powerful messenger, or invite visitors of distinction to prepare gifts, I would do all that and more to proclaim her unique and beautiful wondrousness.


and it became perfectly calm

"Filled with Peace Amidst Pressure" {Luke2}
* Much food consumed during holidays, yet many experience emptiness still -- not about being filled with food but rather filled w/ Lord
* One of best things to be filled by? Peace
- Isa9:6: Prince of Peace
- Luke2:1-14: One of reasons for incarnation of Christ? Peace on earth (not twixt nations but twixt man & God)
* I feel pressure when others' decisions affect me (v1-3)
- In Luke1:1 Caesar Augustus decision affects all his kingdom
* I feel pressure when I don't have control (v4-7)
- Mary not required to travel w/ Joseph for census; chose to
- Fulfilled prophecy
* I feel pressure when I am afraid (v8-10)
* I experience peace when I experience peace w/ God
- Rom5:1, 2Cor5:17-18
- Peace w/ God = absence of His wrath
- Only solution through gift of Christ Jesus {Rom6:23}
* I experience peace when I experience peace w/ others
- Eph2:14-17, Matt5:9, Rom12:18
- Forgiveness modeled by Christ, walls broken by cross
* I experience peace when I experience peace within
- John14:27, Phil4:6-7, Col3:15
- Calm assurance that whatever God is doing is best
* Applications
- Acceptance
- Focus {Col3:1}
- Gratitude {Phil4:6}


have patience with me and I will

Been waiting for the arrival of the newest sweet thing for months, moreso over the last few weeks as we neared the official arrival date. Anticipation doesn't work well with my personality. Usually when I want something, there is very little wait twixt desire and purchase. In this particular case, however, very little I can do to expedite matters. Leaders are supposed to take matters into their own hands sometimes. And other times, leaders need to have the wisdom to control their inner wirings when matters and hands don't go together.

Learning much this Advent season as we wait upon the celebration of His arrival. I suppose Joseph & Mary faced far greater anticipation than even I have. Not only were they waiting to see their sweet thing, but they also waited upon the coming of the Messiah. Here I am waiting for cuddle time; there they were waiting for that and the salvation of all things.


proclaim good tidings of His salvation

From something for next week in absentium:

Imagine God in the heavens ready to put into motion the plan of salvation that began in Bethlehem. The singular most important event in the history of the world – the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ – began in the manger, and God is preparing the world for this event. And the first thing He does is tell the world about it.

In Luke 1:13, the angel Gabriel comes to Zacharias and tells him of the child he and Beth were going to bear (JtheB). And in v17, the angel tells him that their child will be the one preparing the way for the Lord. The Jews had been waiting hundreds of years for the Messiah, and God the Father begins the sending of the Messiah by announcing it to an old man in a temple.

Gabe makes a return visit in v26 to Mary, and tells her "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end." God continues His preparations by announcing the coming Messiah to a young unwed girl of no distinction.

Matt1 tells us an angel appears to Joseph and instructs him to wed his now pregnant fiancée for the specific reason that the child she was carrying was the Messiah. Matt1:21 says, "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." God announces His plan to a disgraced carpenter.

And finally in Luke2, an angel of the Lord comes to those shepherds abiding in that field, and they are given the news that "unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." God is so excited by His plan of salvation that He tells old men and young women and no-name carpenters and lowly shepherds in a field.


fixing our eyes on

From something for tomorrow morning:

Thirdly, worship is God-centered. Worship doesn’t exist without a being who is worshiped. And God is the center of Christian worship. It is no wonder, then, that God takes the first two commandments to establish the importance of worship.

What’s the very first commandment? "You shall have no other gods before me." And what’s the second? "You shall not make for yourself a graven image or an idol." But that commandment continues. It’s not just the making of the idol that is forbidden. Exodus 20:5 says "You shall not worship them or serve them."

God knows that worship is actually a natural human activity. We are wired for worship. We are wired to give our focus and our attention and our priorities over to something or someone. And God wants that focus and that attention and those priorities given over to Him – not on our careers, not on our families, not on our own talents or skills. God wants our worship to be focused on Him.

Have you ever watched a sporting event on television and your wife came into the room and started talking to you, and you either didn’t hear what she said or you pretended to hear what she said but really didn’t hear? Our focus in those moments was on the game and not on our wives. In the same way, everything that we say and do will reflect the object of our focus – and either that focus is God, or that focus is something other than God. Only the former is pleasing to God.


they all gather together

"The Blessings of Praying Together"
* Prayer fascinating; still a sense of mystery
- Understood by children
- Theologians still stumped
* Blessing = gift of divine favor
- Gen32:26
- 1Chron4:10
- Gen12:2 -- blessings so we can bless others
* God's love is unconditional; but His blessings are conditional {Eph2:4-5, Jam1:22-25, Ps1:1-2}
* Praying together as a church is a basic key to experiencing God's blessing {John17:20-23}
* We tend to interpret "blessing" in worldly terms
- Phil3:7-8 -- all else worthless save intimate walk
- Ps73:25
* A great blessing of corporate prayer is a growing awareness of God's presence {Acts4:23-32, 12:5-16}
- The more aware of His presence, the more able to hear His voice {John10:4,7}
- As we become aware of His presence & He speaks to us, the more we become His friends {Isa41:8, Jam2:23, John15:14-16}
- Those who are God's friends will accomplish much {Luke1:28-31, Gen6:8, Ex33:13-16}
- Being in God's presence produces joy {Ps21:6, 16:11}
* A great blessing of praying together is more passion & boldness to reach the lost {Acts4:31-33, Eph6:19, Col4:2-3}
* Praying together as the body & bride is key to blessings {Acts1:14, 2:42, 6:4, 4:31-33}


take special note of that

In Josh3, the Israelites cross the Jordan in the same exact manner they crossed the Red Sea -- between surging walls of water, on dry land, under the miraculous power of the Lord through His servant. Except this time it's Josh instead of Moses. Then how come everyone only recalls Moses & the Red Sea and not Josh & the Jordan?

It can't be because it wasn't a unique miracle. If we ever get to the point where miracles no longer seem wondrous unless they've never been done before, Lord help us. Although I suppose we're already there, what with the lackadaisical attitude toward new believers, miraculous turns themselves.

The Lord states that He was going to be with Josh the same as He was with Moses. And the Jordan parting was a clear sign that Josh was every bit the prophet that Moses was. But when we think of the great heroes of the OT, Josh is not in the same breath as Moses and Abe and Jacob. Even after his great speech in Josh24, his death at the end of that says nothing special about Him.

My belief is that what man remembers and what the Lord remembers are vastly different things. On those fields in heaven when we greet each other in eternity and see all of His people in the presence of the Lord, we'll see Josh in his glory every bit as honored as Moses. Of course that will be true of all of us, since our colors will fade before that light in equal measure.


will not be weighted down with

Listened to a song I hadn't heard in years. The sentiment of the song is that everyone of us experiences moments in our lives where we don't matter, where we feel loneliness, where we almost don't exist. We feel invisible. It reminded me of a line spoken by Bilbo Baggins to Gandalf. He states that he's "feeling thin." Both sentiments express this lightness in us that drive us crazy.

Still listening to Rich Mullins and he seems to express the opposite sentiment. There's a sadness in his eyes that doesn't disappear. A brother remarked that Rich was so lucky -- that he didn't want to be here and he got his wish. For those of us like Rich, it is not lightness that is the problem, but a heaviness. It's a heaviness comprised of the weight of your soul. What hurts is that our desire is for us to be lighter, to not be so pulled down here, to be able to fly free from chains that ground us.


as yet they did not understand

Listening to that new release I mentioned a few days ago, and the prophet Mullins says an amazing thing: "If you want a religion that makes sense, I'd suggest something other than Christianity. But if you want a religion that makes life, then I think this is the one."

What an inspired bit of wisdom. And it hits at the heart of why so many turn away from Christ and all He has to offer. The creation of the world doesn't make sense to some. The presence of suffering in this world doesn't make sense to some. The existence of miracles doesn't make sense to some. The only door to salvation doesn't make sense to some.

But Christ never made sense. Not to the disciples. Not to the religious leaders. Not to His own family. And the entire plan of salvation said aloud makes no sense. Death of a perfect One to save all who believe. Of course that doesn't make sense.

And that is the great thing about God. Because the only way to save people who don't make sense but who think they do make sense and who think they want all things to make sense is to save them without any sense. God's love is completely senseless. And I wouldn't have it any other way.


that we, being rescued from

When folks think of Joshua, they usually think of 24:15 as some summary of his character, this man of faith declaring to all his clear choice. An earlier example would be his and Caleb's principled stand after spying. And no doubt, the record of his works deserved their own book in The Book. So faithful, yes.

Josh1 might give you another aspect of his character that is little spoken of: fear. When the Word repeats something, it's usually because the person hearing it (or reading it) need it reinforced. And here in Josh1, the Lord tells Josh 3 TIMES to be strong and courageous. And if he needed that again, the people in responding to Josh's command say the same thing to him.

Even those with strength and courage in spades will find that one moment where more is needed. And it is at that point that the Lord's promise to never leave nor forsake you makes so much sense -- which is why that promise is found in Josh1 right before the first be strong. At some point, your reserve of talent, of skill, of strength, of confidence, of ability all run out. And the Lord says at that moment, it doesn't matter whether you succeed or fail. I'll take care of that. What you need to know is that even if you do fall, it may be a long fall, but trust me. My hand? Still right there catching.


and gave thanks to God in the presence of all

* We live in a material world, a broken world
- Thanksgiving about changing our mindset from world to God
- About changing mindset from things & self to who He is and what He has done
* Who He is? Isa40
* Thanks for salvation {Ps40:2-3, Eph2:8}
* Thanks for Lord's continual presence {Heb13:5}
* Thanks for security of salvation {John10:28-29}
* Thanks for His guidance {Prov3:5-6}
* Thanks for strength {Phil4:13}
* Thanks for His fellowship/friendship {John15:13-14}
* Thanks for His provision {Phil4:19}
* Thanks for His peace {John14:1-2, Phil4:7}
* Thanks for Hope/Future in eternity (Rev21:4)


the new from the old

Over at a brother's house and saw on his bookshelf a newer release that I had somehow let escape my radar for all things Mullins. The prophet Mullins shaped my heart for God in ways nothing else outside of the Word has ever done. And to find this new collection with actual visuals of his performance was extraordinary. I imagine this is what tasting chocolate for the first time might be like, or seeing snow fall from the sky for someone born in raised in the African desert. Something marvelous, something wonderful to experience but never before known. It is rare that marvelous discoveries still exist in this world. Lord nods in agreement, no doubt, knowing marvelous discoveries still abound.


according to appearance

Back to Breakfast with the Savior.

Love Peter's headlong rush into waters to get to the Lord as fast as possible. He doesn't think of the others. He doesn't think of the water. He doesn't think of the fishcatching. He thinks of Christ beckoning, and that is enough for him.

But one little detail in John21:7 is included. That before that headlong dive, Peter grabs his shirt and puts it on. Nevermind that it might be better to have a dry shirt on at the shore, perhaps swimming with that cloth above the waters to warm himself near Christ. Peter instead figures if his pants are wet, why not also his shirt.

But why the shirt?

Reason one might have to do with our own natural instinct to cover ourselves up before the knowing eyes of the Savior. Adam & Eve do it in the garden. Don't we shuffle our feet and look down when questioned of a wrongful act? And here's Peter about to be before the eyes of the Lord, and he has this natural instinct to cover up.

I like to think it for another reason: Peter wanted to be well-dressed for his breakfast time with the Savior. Like how we want our hair combed and breath fresh on a first date. Like how we dress that extra nicely for Easter. Like how our smiles need to be wide and our eyes open for that holiday photo. Here Peter has this invitation from God to join him for a meal, and darned if his skin doesn't reek of fish, and darned if his hairy chest and flabby gut don't stick out, and darned if he'll look like this in front of the One person he most wants to look good in front of, and better grab this shirt, I need it on, I hope He likes this color, and I hope I'm presentable enough and even though He doesn't care, I better get it on then let's go


of the world, but I chose

[Until my sticky note scribblings and inner musings become themselves connected to the Internet, you'll have to settle for tardy ponderings.] Thinking today of long-lasting consequences. Law of sin already acts as the precedent -- one sin has eternal consequences. Our own legal system has another example. Felony = 5-10 in the slammer. But those are sins. What about poor choices that aren't necessarily sin?

An early divorce without due cause at the age of 35 might mean you are never qualified to be an elder of a church. An early marriage at the age of 18 to an unbeliever might mean several years of misery later on; possibly years of trauma to any little ones caught up in the long-ago choice. That last word said in anger to your friend right before he is accidentally killed? Might haunt you for the rest of your years, therapy or no.

It's the reason that listening for His voice is important. It's the reason that obedience is so closely tied to faith. All of these poor choices fall outside His path for you. Want to know why that trial is in front of you? You should ask that version of you standing behind you from years past.


the ruler of the world is coming

A minor in yesterday's reading of John19 caught my eye: Pilate. Many would not call someone who sentenced Christ to die a thief's death a minor; many see him as an archvillain too weak to stand up to the lunatic ravings of a mob. There are different accounts of whether or not he was a cruel Roman leader, or a pushover. I'm not taking either side.

I do, however, see faith in one of his actions. After raising the Messiah on Calvary's Hill, Pilate himself wrote an inscription which he affixed to the cross (v19). The inscription is a clear expression of the identity of Christ, King of the Jews. When the Jews complain that their beef was not that He was king but that He claimed to be king, Pilate replies "What I have written, I have written."

You can see in that an act of defiance to the mob for the first time possibly ever. I see in it a declaration of what he had seen when he brushed greatness. I've heard many folks talk about a time they saw a celebrity in person, and in every account, these witnesses discuss the presence of the person. Greatness is often this tangible thing.

And imagine Pilate's conversations with Christ. Imagine his asking Jesus if He was a king. Imagine this small part of him already knowing that answer. Imagine the hands on his ears as Christ suffers in the courtyard. Imagine looking up that hill and witnessing the grandest event of all time. Imagine, imagine that a sliver of fear and awe and regret and wonder resided in this little part of him -- enough to drive him to jot down an observation that was ringing in his ears: King of the Jews.


to all who are beloved

Past several weeks, flock has sung an adaptation of a beautiful hymn. Need to remember to quote from it for a message taking shape in my head. That first line especially that points to love by linking it to shed blood. Beautiful. And don't get me started on the line "Kissed a guilty world in love."

The full outline of the message has already been wrought. As it shapes itself further in my head, can continually see the contrast being painted. This? Not love. That? Not love. These? Not love.

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."


I praise You, O Father

"An Invitation to Worship"
* Intro
- We have open invitation from Lord to worship; He seeks it
- Worship is giving Lord the attention, affection, & adoration due Him (Stan Sinclair)
- Lord displeased w/ half-hearted worship {Isa29:13}
- Worship not part of life -- it is your life
- Worship has nothing to do w/ volume, speed, or style -- all manner pleasing to Him if offered from right heart
* Hebrew words of worship
- Yadah: Praise, often w/ raised hands; surrender {Ps28:7}
- Barak: Bless {Ps34:1}
- Towdah: Give thanks, often as a response {Ps100:4}
- Zamar: Sing praise, often w/ instrument {Ps71:22}
- Shakah: Bow down in worship {Ps95:6}
* There is spiritual power in worship {2Chron20:21-22, Acts16:25}
* Five ways to praise the Lord
- Sing {Ps147:1, Ps100:2}
- Lift up hands {Ps134:2}
- Speak praise, especially amidst trial {Heb13:15}
- Dancing & various instruments {Ps149:3, Ps150:3-5, 2Sam6:14}
- Praise in congregation {Heb2:12}
* How to become a worshipper
- Start by offering thanks {Ps95:2}
- Sing w/ all heart {Matt22:37, Ps138:1}
- Read examples of true worship (i.e. psalms)
- Personalize words when singing {Ps103}
- Enjoy quiet reverence {Ps95:6-7}
- Sing loudly w/ joy {Ps95:1, Ps98:1-6}
- Prepare before entering sanctuary: listen to Christian music, pray, arrive early, confess sins
- "Running late is the enemy of worship"


cannot guide a blind man

Imagine having an argument with a soccer player. He thinks he's playing soccer when he is dribbling the round object between his hands and throwing it towards the backboard. You attempt to explain to him that if he were, in fact, a soccer player, he would be using his feet and not his hands; that he would be kicking the ball towards the goal and not towards a rim. All the while, the soccer player is pointing out remotely related actions. He's using a round ball, no? He's playing a sport, no? He's wearing some kind of a sports jersey, right?

I don't know how shepherds of churches call themselves shepherds if all they can do is order the sheep around without all the loving care. If all you do is tell sheep where to go -- and don't take the time to brush out the wool, speak to their noses, run around the meadow spraying water at them -- well, you're no better than a sheep dog, no?


life, and have it abundantly

Catching up on a few posts. Thinking about the size of grace. Not blind to the enormous amount of grace poured upon me by the Lord. Haven't tried to count my blessings as has been often advised by others since the grace I've received combined with my OCD tendencies to count would trigger an infinite loop I might never recover from. But sitting on a plane last night and thinking of the term "grace upon grace" used in John1.

My math tells me that infinity plus infinity equals infinity. But that doesn't necessarily mean you can't feel the addition. Adding a billion dollars to a billion dollars, sure you might not see the difference. But you certainly feel the blessing when perfect family expands +1, no?

One of the great things about our God is that He can make you see the abundance, see this other abundance in His other hand, and when He brings those two together, you feel abundance, yes, but somehow something else, something new, some new abundance.


like a foolish man who built his house

Ps127:1 says "Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it." I'm guessing most pastors know this v. If that's so, two things must be: either they believe that everything they believe the Lord put into their head, or they believe it doesn't matter. I'm not sure which worries me more.

In scenario one, they think they can do no wrong. Staff that disagree with them aren't speaking to God. Approaches that don't mesh with the approach they have set up won't be considered. Flock who disagree or dissent are the ones in sin.

In scenario two, they think churches follow certain phases and stages naturally. Trials are not for learning; trials can be overcome by human effort. Fads can be followed, and the flock's comfort is more important than the flock's growth.

I guess that's why I despise Osteen so much and think he's an antichrist. Because he embodies both perspectives. I guess he'll find out on JDay that not preaching the gospel in favor of h&w is his own mind and not the Lord's. I guess he'll find out that it does matter whether or not the Lord is involved, and that human effort won't count for squat before the throne. And I guess he'll find out that wolves in sheep's clothing won't change the sheep/goat categorization.

Joel, keep walking to that left side.


who do not know the difference

Another week, another trip. Unlike last week's debacle, however, when the cabbie took the same first turn taken by the other, and I began having flashbacks, his shortcut actually worked and now here I am in the office in near record-breaking time. What a difference a week makes.

Musing on week's difference, and thought of how yet another cabride makes for theological point. Life before Christ is like that first ride -- twisty, turny, nauseating, tension-filled, lost. Life after Christ? Well, still all those things except the last. Now found in every way that matters. The difference twixt the two in terms of personal experience was as far as the east is from the west: one felt like the end destination was unclear, while the other one had the clear feeling that I was in good hands the entire time. Exposition unnecessary.


he had been tricked by the

Mentioned the appearance of crises a few days ago. Spent some time this morning listening and responding. Brother under attack spoke of his fantasies of the life thereafter, some of which were beyond sanity. One of these over there scenarios included volunteering for a 10-month deployment in Iraq. Another brother and I worked to debunk the lies told by liar that grass greener over there.

It struck me that liar is so good at his craft that he is able to convince a brother that potential death was better than actual life. But I shouldn't have been surprised. Liar's whole mo is to convince the world that death far better than life. Lord was pleased by the many that accepted Him this weekend, no doubt. But I'm certain He kept looking my way to make sure that potential lost ones don't stray too far, that those lost ones still so precious.


His praise shall continually be

"A Pleasing Sacrifice" {Heb13:15-16}
* Intro
- History: worship used to refer to the actual service on Sunday mornings
- More recently, with explosion of contemporary worship, better teaching on subject
- John4:23: Lord seeks true worship
* Through Jesus, therefore (v15)
- In v11-12, Christ final sacrifice
- All worship, only worship through Christ
- God looking for worship marked by the cross
- 1Tim2:5
- Size of Christ in our hearts determines size of our worship
- "Crazy in gratitude for the grace of God"
* Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise (v15)
- Worship not part of life; worship is life
- First & greatest commandment: love Lord w/ all heart, strength, mind
- Lord's fave style of worship? Lifestyle
- Aim of worship for God alone -- much of Him, not much of us
- Only Christ worthy of our complete surrender & praise
* Consumer v Consumee
- Get v give
- Buy v bought
- Style v surrender
- Fun v costly
- Feels good v hurts so good
- My choice v His will
- In good times only v sustains you in all times
* Fruit of the lips that confess His name (v15)
- Worship reflected in our words, which reflect our heart
- Ps34:1
* Do not forget to do good and share w/ others (v16)
- Not just words, but action as well
- Context: v2-3
- Rom12:1, Micah6:8, James1:27
- Style of song or Savior of that song? Or the mission of that Savior?


rejoice for awhile in this light

What does this pic represent? It represents the happy ending of a life-changing event for many round these parts. It represents changed hearts spoken to by God in response to an invitation to eternal life. It represents a moment with such a ramification that all of Heaven all of Heaven rejoices in a celebration literally unmatched by any our feeble imaginations could produce. It represents the love of God residing in people with destinations upward.

I spent my morning watching beauty that bursts your heart with an ache and lifts your spirits with the power of a million angels. It's not too late for you to witness the same scene.


but deliver us from evil

Sometimes things go well enough that you think the world is perfect, life is not meant to disturb your comfort, and bliss could be a constant rather than a variable. Then that dream state is shattered by not one, but multiple crises. Tried offering up my own wisdom but driving away, realized my efforts could only but fall short. But listened to a familiar refrain riding home and was reminded that nothing, nothing has the power to save but Christ. Even in those times when it seems like we made a difference, it was because we were well-used, not because we were well-skilled.


bringing swift destruction upon themselves

Sometimes I think the world is baiting me, trying to make me angry. Example#145,541 can be found here. I once criticized the media attack on Scientology, declaring it was part of a larger attack on religion. But that didn't mean I think it's credible; it is a cult, plain and simple. Like Paul in Gal1:5-7, "I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ."

Paul continues further in 2Pet2, "But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves."

You think the "Way to Happiness" is "easier to understand and clearer to follow" than the Word? Maybe in your congregation where the Spirit doesn't reside. And that emptiness starts at the top with you.

Pentecostal Scientologist? That's like saying "heavenly devil" or "righteous Mormon". You think combining lie with truth comes out something purer? You think serving your flock is more important than growing your flock in truth?

Ring ring ring. Hello? Oh, Satan, Lord of Lies? Hold on. Let me check. I think they're free."


they have been hidden from your eyes

Not planning on a Halloween-themed post, but something somewhat related came up while flipping through channels last night not sleeping. Criss Angel, a great performance magician (more on him here) was on Larry King Live plugging his new show on NBC. King asked him a number of random questions, but the one that caught me by surprise was "Do you have faith?"

Criss's answer? Yes.

Criss responded that he was raised Greek Orthodox; that he went to Sunday school for eleven years; and that he was an altar boy for ten years. When probed a little further about whether he believed in God, his response was something along the lines of, "I believe that every painting has an artist. This world? I believe that artist is God."

It's easy to see the black wardrobe, the staring eyes boring into you, the chains and the magic as something occult. It's obviously meant to imply that. But book covers often hide the man beneath the performance. The clear truth of knowing that the beauty of this world was not accidental would've been lost on many if they chose to focus on the external. Good thing 1Sam16:7 is so very clear.


because I have you in my heart

Today is one of my favorite days of the year. It's the time of year when John11 is my scheduled daily Bible reading. Still my fave story in my fave chapter in my fave book. Reading through it this morning made me consider what it's like to know the love of Jesus.

The saying goes that it is better to have loved and lost than to not have loved at all; it is better to know love. In the case of Christ that is particularly true, especially as it relates to eternal consequences. But even beyond the salvation, it is simply wondrous to know love in its truest form. (An earlier post remarked as much.)

If Laz doesn't know Christ, he never gets to stumble from that tomb in confusion and joy, sure. But if he doesn't know Christ, he also doesn't get that intimate supper with Him several days later. He doesn't get to hear his sisters tell him about those divine tears that fell. He doesn't get to rejoice later with the rest of them when His Savior Himself emerges from a tomb. He doesn't get to smile years later when excitedly he recounts his tale of life and death and life again, but most of all a tale of love, true love, great love.


we have all received, and grace upon grace

Gospel lesson as told by cabride from hell: Redeye cross-country. Already exhausted. 45-minute travel into the city turned into 90-minute carnival ride. Finally stopped, minutes from expulsion of bile, and normally questions about money don't teach me anything, but how much should I tip, if at all?

Part of me wanted to stiff him on the tip. Driver's every decision was a bad one. Driver's every decision to correct his bad decisions? Even worse. And after each mistake? A curse word at the traffic, the other drivers, his morning luck. His anger filled the car and anger competed inside of me with my nausea. Zero tip would teach him a lesson of better ways to drive.

The part of me that ended up paying him a tip looked back at itself. It saw a sinner who makes many mistakes. It saw a sinner make even more mistakes trying to rectify other mistakes. It saw impatience and anger compete for the soul of a man. It saw hidden curses unuttered, still expressed. It saw an opportunity for grace.

"Sorry about the rough morning, man. Thanks for the ride. God bless."

His return smile and attitude that things had to improve from here reflected grace received at grace received.


by Me in My trials

"How to Rejoice in Spite of Our Circumstances" {Rom5:1-5}
* Not about what happens to us, but about how we respond
* Joy
- One of God's primary intents for us -- thus, liar often intent on stealing it from us
- Suffering intended for all at one point
- Joy not same as happiness (internal v external, choice over responsive state)
* Rejoice does not mean to fake happiness; none expected to enjoy suffering
* Justification
- Declared righteous; legal acquittal
- Only possible via faith in Christ
* Joy comes from having peace w/ God (v1-2a)
* Joy comes from having hope in future (2b, Titus2:11-1)
* Joy comes from having hope amidst tribulation (v3-5, Jam1:12)


for the kingdom of heaven is at hand

Prepping for a class on Jonah tomorrow, and for the first time, I truly understand the book beyond the story of a man inside of a fish. The heart of the story can be found in your understanding: (1) what the true miracle of the story is, and (2) what point the Lord makes in ending Jonah as he does.

The miracle of the story has nothing to do with a man surviving inside of a larger-than-life animal. There is something truly astonishing about a creature large enough to house a man inside of it. There is something incredulous about a fish that can be where and when the Lord commands it to participate in a story. But the miracle is in a large, prosperous city en masse seeing the sin in their hearts and offering themselves up to the Lord. No matter how you estimate the population of the city, Boston or Toronto, for a city still in darkness to reach for the light is far more impossible than a regurgitating sea monster.

The Lord ends Jonah in ch.4 rather anticlimactically. It doesn't end after the fasting of a repentant city, credits rolling over an orchestral crescendo. It ends with the Lord playing with the temperature controls over a despondent prophet. But if you understand (1) above, you understand how 4 fits with 1-3. Lord never once cared for the comfort of Jonah -- not when he fled, not when he traveled, not when he longed to be tossed, not when he prayed within the slimy confines of his piscine shelter. Lord wasn't thinking of Jonah; Lord was thinking of lost Nineveh. And in 4 when Jonah pouts, the Lord reminds him of what had been at stake all along: souls in darkness needing the Word that doesn't go out in vain.

Last minute almost switched to Amos over Jonah. Lord had other plans. Lord wanted me to see (1) and (2), especially with events on the horizon.


together into one the children of God

As head of my house, I have the responsibility to shepherd my personal flock. To accomplish that goal, I am given the authority to make decisions. These spiritual guidelines, however, are in addition to those inherent in my simply being a father to a young one.

More than the power to set budgets, pick vacation spots, and weigh in on outfit choices, I have the power to break hearts and start tears. I can lift spirits and comfort souls. I can build confidence and I can intimidate otherwise. I can make one cower and I can make one flourish. I can extend a hand or remove a support. I can lead or I can rule.

I'm not making any observations here. I'm merely reminding myself of the choices at hand, and the alternatives to good shepherding.


love the LORD your God with all

Psalm 121
The LORD the Keeper of Israel. A Song of Ascents.
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper;
The LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
The LORD will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.


in the sight of God

Vision is an interesting thing. Obviously not all possess this talent else visionaries wouldn't be such unique occurrences. Should we actively seek the talent in those we choose to lead us forward? Or should leaders lead with the confidence that others can supply that vision?

What's tricky about visioning is separating true forward-thinking from other scene-building. Is it vision or is it fantasy? Is it vision or is it potential-viewing? Is it vision or is it hopeful wish? Is it vision or is it hero worship?

I confess I see forward often. Sometimes those sights are so wonderful, that wishful sigh might mark it as daydream rather than prognostication. My enemy time will reveal them for what they are.


to trip up my feet

"The Only Hurdle to Heaven"
* 7 Venial Sins {Prov6:16-19}
* 10 Commandments
* The Roman Road
- 3:23
- 6:23
- 10:9a
* "We are not called to convict but to convince."
* Trust and depend on Him


seduced them to do evil

When people think of temptation, they picture the temptation of Jesus where a corporeal Satan whispers seductive words face-to-face with the Savior. Or they picture a little angel on one shoulder and a little devil on the other. It is easy to picture temptation as these weighty choices between solidly good and clearly evil.

Sometimes temptation finds itself in the dropping of a nail or the breaking of a bowl. Or in that too loud voice asking a too loud question. Or in that one more thing going wrong. Or in that team winning against your hopes. Or in that longer line or that unhelpful service rep. Or in that one more task to add to that too long list.

Temptation finds that easier path giving you choice -- not between solidly and clearly, but between Christlike and otherwise.


this one also they wounded

Sometimes it's been so long you forget you can hurt in the ways you have hurt before. Memories tied to objects awaken that part of you joy has buried. But the quickness of the memory reminds you that healed wounds still bear scars. And hearts that have cracked even when whole have lines that allow darkness to trace pain.


when you lift up he Son of Man

Yesterday a sister prayed that we would "lift the Lord up where [He] belongs." Love this phrase that reminds us of our place in relation to God. He belongs on that pedestal, higher than everything else in our limited world. One of the negative side effects of Prots is the "Jesus is my best friend" mindset. Not arguing against intimacy; in fact, I highly encourage it. But the categorization of Christ into the same box we place stuffed animals, family pets, and imaginary friends is destructive.

In one of my fave stories (Moses in the cleft), God sends the message that the mere sight of Him will kill a man. His presence is so otherworldly that it cannot be contained by our puny eyes. And yet we should be led to believe that we can simply hang our arm around the neck of best bud Jesus and remain alive?

The immanence and transcendence of God is difficult for us to reconcile. And it is an important concept to grasp that He is both above us (where He belongs) and with us always (your truest friend). But if you aren't sure where to draw that line between worship of the Almighty and treating Him as common, friend, my suggestion is you veer toward the former whenever you aren't sure.


those who had heard the message believed

"No Other Gospel" {Gal1:1-12}
* Intro: Easy to neglect the obvious
- 1Cor1-4: All need to be centered around Gospel
- JB: "The gospel is not only the most important message in all of history; it is the only essential message in all of history."
* What is Gospel?
- Christ born; Christ died for all sins; Christ risen
- By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone
* Galatians not written to specific church, but to churches in (now) Turkey
- Not effusive in praise
- No commendation
- Message is serious & important
- Written to counteract Judaizers adding circumcision & Mosaic laws to Gospel
* Those who add to Gospel face wrath of God (v9)
* Our response?
- Embrace the Gospel
- Reject false Gospels
- Acknowledge God as your audience, not man (fear Lord not people)
* False Gospels
- Prosperity Gospel (Osteen is the antichrist -- this wasn't in the sermon, but it's important to remind ourselves of this fact every so often)
- Therapeutic gospel
- Accomplishment gospel


and yet I am not alone

Not going to get into the debate about whether remarriage is Biblical, or whether it is not. I do, however, want to wade into a subject not unrelated: loneliness. All face it during their lifetimes, many on a frequent basis. Of the many things that can drive people into shadows, loneliness is perhaps one of the stronger forces.

Loneliness will make a man drink himself into happiness. It will make a woman pursue bad relationships. It will make a child daydream revenge fantasies. It will make a person in darkness drift further towards corners of the mind never worth seeing. Loneliness will make sin seem so tempting.

That doesn't mean finding ways to battle loneliness is the proper path. Just because another chases away loneliness, that doesn't mean you take them to the altar. Perhaps you should consider whether loneliness is somehow your cross to bear. Perhaps the lesson the Lord is trying to teach you is that He is sufficient.


you can do nothing

Here's the scenario: There is a hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk in front of you. All you have to do to have it is stoop down to pick it up. Do you pick it up, or do you walk on by?

Scenario redux: The woman of your dreams wants to marry you (you are a man in this scenario, obviously). All you have to do is ask her. Do you get down on one knee and propose, or do you act all shy and bashful and miss your chance?

Scenario tres: Let me make this more clear for you, hardheart. Something wonderful is waiting for you, and all you have to do is act. Do you take that step of faith, or do you remain foolish?

While the salvation parallel is here, I'm not addressing unbelievers. I'm addressing all you believers who, given the chance to receive blessings from God by acting in faith, decide it is better to listen to the cynicism and selfishness that liar has built in that cinderblock you call a ticker and choose to watch that Savior of yours get farther and farther ahead. Apparently the label "good and faithful" doesn't mean anything to you. Enjoy getting spit out, Luke.


the gospel of all creation

A brother this weekend will be preaching on the gospel -- what it is, and what it is not. If you need to know what the gospel is, you can't get a better explanation than the one found HERE. Been also thinking about Foursquare churches. If you need to know what they believe, you can't get a better explanation than the one found HERE.

So why the two links? Another lazy post?

There is something wonderful about having clarity in what you believe about God. The rest of life is absolutely confusing. Grey areas abound. Life isn't a series of yes/no questions. Who we are and what we do changes so quickly from moment to moment that when we do get peace and quiet and a moment to ourselves, we almost don't know what to do with that time.

It is so easy to make religion -- the most important aspect of your life -- something more complicated than it is. And no doubt as you wrestle with how to shepherd and how to serve and how to love, faith can be a tad more twisty a road than you would desire. But that is why a focus on the gospel, a focus on the good news of Jesus Christ, is so important. That is why a church with a clear belief and mission is so effective. Having a clear grasp of who He is and what He has done and how you should then glorify Him makes all the difference in the world.


at a distance, seeing

Been meaning to link to an interesting profile of a believer. (Extra points for him for attending my high school.) Many have decided to mock Kitna's testimony. I don't know where I stand on the issue of prayer and religion and how that mixes in with sports. But I do know an amazing story when I read one. And in case you missed the astounding sentence in the article, let me highlight it for you:

"Since he signed a four-year, $11.5 million deal in March 2006, about 20 Lions have given their lives to Christ."

In a year and a half, Kitna has been used by the Lord to bring in 20 new brothers into the kingdom. And if those 20 go on to be spiritual leaders of Godly families, those 20 will soon be part of the beautiful kind of pyramid scheme.

It is easy for us to want to separate God from trivial things like sports entertainment. But that separation is not something the Lord wants, I'm beginning to think. Because if it's that easy for you to build that little wall between the little things in your life and the cross, how much easier will it be to craft that bigger wall twixt Him and you?


this last time it will not

In Deut31, Lord speaks to Moses and tells him his days are numbered and that though the land of M&H looms right over there and the journey is nearing its end, Moses won't be seeing that end with the rest of the flock. Lord also warns him of the flock's future straying away and gives him one final assignment: write them a song.

I like that the Lord has asked Moses to do a number of things out of the ordinary: lift up his arms and keep them up to win a battle, throw a staff against the ground and watch what happens, paint doorposts, strike a rock, follow a cloud, take off his shoes, cross a desert amidst constant whining. So I imagine this final assignment comes off as fairly easy. No physical exertion -- just come up with some rhymes here and there and hum a random medley.

But I also imagine there's some sadness in the penning of this tune. He does know his days are numbered. And he does know that this is probably his last assignment. And he remembers all those times he was used mightily by God. And he remembers how great that felt to be good and faithful. And here he is being good and faithful one more time. One last time. So I imagine this final assignment comes off maybe not so easy after all.


and the Word was God

Studying my favorite book of the Bible this year with some other brothers and sisters, and as we began looking at the author and the context in which it (John) was written, I could almost physically see the wistfulness in each written word. The disciple whom Jesus loved was nearing the end of his life, outliving the eleven other partners he no doubt missed. Having helped grow a movement, he grins while reading through the accounts penned by MM&L that document the life of Christ.

But as he sits and recalls the other moments left unpenned, as he ponders the personal miracles witnessed up close that are left undocumented, as his heart nears bursting reflecting on who that Savior of His really was when he walked those paths trod by others, John hobbles quickly to that table of his and brushes away some of the clutter and finds a space, a space just big enough for these papers, and he grabs that quill and dips and he almost can't contain his thoughts where does he begin where does he begin and he has so much to capture of this Savior of his that is beyond compare and so he just starts in any way he can and hopes that that Savior holds his trembling hand as he begins he just needs to begin with a word with some word and then and

In the beginning was the Word


but I have called you friends

"Jesus Saw Their Faith" {Mark2:1-12}
* Intro
- "If you don't live it, you don't believe it."
- What kind of people does/can God use?
* God uses people who care
- Friends of paralytic went through lots of trouble
- They won't care how much you know until they know how much you care
- Matt11:4-5
- Mark1:41
- Rom12:15
* God uses people who want to share Christ
* God uses people with faith (v5)
- Dares to do difficult
- Dares to do unorthodox
- Doesn't give up
- Doesn't worry about criticism
* Application
- Deity: Who Christ is
- Forgiveness: What Christ can do
- Bold Faith


the splendor of His great majesty

From something for tomorrow:

Lastly, the story of Mephibosheth reminds us one more thing about Communion. In just 11 verses in 2Sam9, the word "king" is used ten times. Ziba, the servant who arranges for Mephibosheth to appear before David says to him in v11, "According to all that my lord the king commands his servant so your servant will do." Neither Ziba the servant, nor Mephibosheth forgot what David’s status was – he was king over all Israel. This was not just Jonathan’s best friend inviting Mephibosheth to dinner; this was not just a little shepherd boy that played with slingshots making these arrangements; no, this was the king of the nation doing these things.

The third thing to reflect on this morning is that Communion is a reminder of the privilege we have as heirs to the King of all nations, to God Almighty. Communion represents to us an act of intimacy, the opportunity to spend time with the Lord of All Things. The word "communion" refers to the process of sharing thoughts and feelings with another. We have the ability to freely share thoughts and feelings with the One who placed the stars in the sky; we should never forget that the focus of Communion is not on who we are, but on who God is. Deut10:17 says, "For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God . . . ." The apostle Paul refers to God in 1Tim6 as "He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords." We can eat at the Lord’s table because He allows us to do so, He who is in control of all things.


the things I speak, I speak just as

In Deut29, Moses is nearly done wrapping up the presentation of laws to the Israelites. (The "choose life" summary occurs in Deut 30.) In Deut29:4, we get an interesting point of context. Moses points out that the people had seen "all that the LORD did" (referring to the miraculous plagues); that they had witnessed "great trials" and "great signs and wonders". These are people who had seen water thicken into blood. These are people who had seen dust morph into flies. These are people who had walked through a tunnel lined with surging waters. These are people following pillars in the sky, for crying out loud.

But in v4, Moses says that the people hadn't yet been given "a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear." After all the miracles they had witnessed, Moses says they were given the privilege to see all that, but hadn't been gifted with the Spirit to fully understand the nature of God. It is striking to think that understanding Who God is actually is a greater miracle than first-born children passing away en masse.

But when you stop to consider that fully, you better understand the gift we have as believers. Prepping for Communion on Sunday, and thinking about what the word "communion" means. Absent the religious connotations, "communion" refers to the process of sharing thoughts and feelings with another. Now imagine having the ability to freely share thoughts and feelings with the One who placed the stars in the sky and you realize that yes that is a far greater wonder than swarms of locusts. The gift to converse with God Almighty whenever you choose makes hailstones seem some parlor trick.


and that not of yourselves

Signs of grace:
* From a broken earth, flowers come up pushing through the dirt
* The right to make enormous mistakes
* Joy amidst grief
* Light in darkness
* Choices made of brightness
* Me still in use


he who does not obey

Been thinking a lot about obedience lately, moreso after a conversation with a brother this weekend. Faithfulness is what most believers aspire to. They pray for more faith. They look to receiving the Good and Faithful Servant label. They view their walk as a journey of faith. Unfortunately, they define faithfulness in a potentially misleading way.

Faithfulness is not merely doing what you say you will do with God. It is not about committing to daily Word-reading and doing it; committing to more prayer and doing it; committing to faithful stewardship of His resources and doing it; committing to service and doing it. That is honorable and God-pleasing, but not faithfulness.

Faithfulness is doing what God tells you to do. Faithfulness is the same thing as obedience. It is about God telling you to treasure His Word, and so you do; Him asking you to seek Him in prayer, and so you do; Him commanding you to be a faithful steward, and so you do; Him telling you to serve, and so you do.

In Matt25, the parable of the talents, the first two slaves are called good and faithful not because they promised something to God and carried it out, but because God entrusted them with a responsibility and they did what they were entrusted to do. This new definition of faithfulness seems somehow perspective-changing, as do all realizations that you are not the center of all things, but God is.


to think that he is offering

"The Blessings of Sacrificial Giving"
* Giving/tithing sermons not about nagging flock to do a chore; about obedience
* Giving faithfully moves Lord to bless our lives {Acts20:35; Ps41:1-3; Mal3:10}
- Mal3:10 -- can't even contain the outpouring of blessing
- Place to begin giving? Tithing ("Training wheels of giving" -- Alcorn) {Deut14:23; Prov3:9-10; Matt23:23}
- Goal? Giving sacrificially {Luke21:1-4; 2Cor8:1-3}
* Giving will cause us to draw closer to Him {Luke12:33-34}
* Giving sacrificially will inoculate us against worldliness {1John2:15; Luke16:13; Matt19:20-24}
* Money we give is awaiting us in Heaven in form of eternal rewards {2Cor5:10; Rom14:10-12; Matt6:19-20; 1Tim6:18-19}
* In process of giving, may discover spiritual gifting {Rom12:6-8}
* God uses giving as a test to see if He can give us greater responsibility in our service to Him {Luke16:10-11; 2Cor9:6-10}
* We can take care of ourselves, or we can trust God to take care of us {Heb13:5-6; Phil4:18-19}
* Faithfully giving to God sacrificially develops character trait of contentment {Phil4:11-13; 1Tim6:6-8}


been purchased from among men

People who grow up poor think of money in very different ways from those who grew up not poor. There is a reason I track what I spend to the penny. There's also a reason I'll attempt to buy my way out of darkness. Money touches people in deeper ways than most anything else belonging to this world. Because money satisfies our inner desires for control and selfishness.

It is no wonder so many of the flock get uncomfortable discussing money in relation to church. It is no wonder so many contain a core of cynicism when it comes to stewardship campaigns or tithing sermons. It is no wonder there are more parables and teachings related to money in the gospels than there are on Heaven or forgiveness. And it is no wonder liar uses these opportunities to confuse faithwalks.

Money can't buy happiness. Can't buy salvation either. That there is a relationship between happiness and money, there is no doubt. That there is a relationship between faith and money, liar would tell you there is doubt. Be not fooled.


so if you seek Me

If I shared with you the details of what the wondrous one and I experienced today you simply wouldn't believe it. I heard it said once that "Coincidence is when God chooses to be anonymous." The details of my story show you that the booming voice from Heaven is when God chooses to make sure you know that He answers whenever you choose to call.

The Bible says ask and it will be given to you, knock and the door will be opened. That isn't an empty challenge. All of those unbelievers and lukewarm believers who look to the heavens and ask for a sign and don't receive them are: (a) not sincere about their request, or (b) not listening for the answer. Because it's been abundantly clear to me for over twenty years that knocking leads to doors ajar.

The big issue in most signasking is that the Lord isn't going to speak to a heart unwilling to be obedient. Lord knows whether or not you are asking out of sincerity or cynicism. He's not going to waste a sign on someone who's going to ignore the first one and ask for a second for confirmation. But, brother, if your heart lifts up that call, and at the same time delivers itself up and says here I am, look to the sky. You'll see that reply like a batsignal in Gotham.


kept feeling a sense of

That knot resides there always. Sometimes I forget it's there. Other times I couldn't forget it if I tried. That knot sometimes presents itself as worry. Or sometimes as rage. Or sometimes as something close to eternal sadness. But I recognize it for what it is -- longing. We speak of human desire, and that's what it is. That knot inside you that twists. Believing is the recognition of that knot as desire, and understanding that the Loosener of that knot loves you beyond bearing.


unless someone guides me

The saying goes that if you want something done right, you do it yourself. As someone with severe trust issues, that saying couldn't be more true. So always have to remind myself that shepherding isn't a solo activity. That I am not the only one with spiritual gifts. That I am not the only one with a heart for God. That I am not the only one with that calling to grow that flock.

Do shepherds trust other shepherds with their sheep? Say they need a quick break, do they sneak off into the trees for a few minutes okay with the fact that their sheep may or may not be getting eaten by wolves? Okay with the fact that another's crooked staff isn't breaking open one of their heads?

Even if I disagree with a job being done, or feel to myself that I could have done a better job, need to remind myself that other shepherds can flockgrow. And that shepherding isn't just for growing sheep.