man has seen or can see

Heard a brother yesterday describe worship as "giving back to God the value of His worth to us." Great reminder that we are not the center of worship. That's easier to recall during praise and song, but far harder to recall in other acts of worship. And if what He desires is the living sacrifice of your life, if worship is the giving of your life to Christ in all areas, that center can't be about what you want, or what makes you feel good, or even what you are really, really good at.

In praise and song, can see myself small before vast light. How that translates to something I can see during those every other decisions and acts that constitute the living sacrifice, I don't know. But perhaps greater spiritual maturity, spiritual vision is being able to retain that focus 24/7.


because He has fixed

"How God Heals Your Hidden Wounds"
* Intro
- Not all have had severe physical wounds, but almost all have suffered inner wounds
- Deepest cuts from those we love
- Jehovah Rophe -- the God who heals
* Six Steps in God's Healing Process
* Reveal hurts {Jam5:16}
- "Pain left to itself usually festers"
- Society answers pain w/ escapes (food, alcohol, sex) -- won't heal
- Be honest w/ God, self, others
* Release those who have hurt you {Rom12:17,19}
* Replace old lies w/ God's truths {Rom12:2}
- Reminder: Satan = Accuser
* Refocus on future {Phil3:13-14}
- "Don't make the mistake of letting yesterday use too much of today."
- Regression therapy from liar -- digs up past rather than deal w/ future
* Receive support from small groups {Eccl4:10,12}
* Reach out to help others {2Cor1:4}


eyes of the blind man

Been wondering all year where this thing is going. Title not only accurately describes my thoughts on the show, however, but also my overall sense of things. Been making lots of progress in some areas, especially as it applies to others. But can feel my focus waning outside of Sundays. Not sensing any overtaking by shadows, fairly certain of that. Just an overall sense of unease leading to paralysis of action. Certain I'll figure the self out before the show.


were not far from

I can feel my body breaking down in two places. Hobbling along as if years older, and meditating constantly on pain, I was reminded of a time when pain was not a surprise to me. I suppose you can measure your level of happiness by the amount of system shock you undergo when pain or sorrow descends upon you. Those in shadows barely flinch at the presence of additional misery. Those in happy times have a hard time reconciling these new and decidedly unhappy twinges of emotion. It was a good reminder of how far I have been brought, though looking back to see where I came from, that distance shimmered in waves of gloom, sympathy twinges pulsated in return.


the darkness does not know where he goes

This post is worth reading. And in answer to the headline, obviously, it isn't news. Like the author of the post, I believe there is much to question in the interpretation of the data, and whether or not the survey reflects a new trend, or an old truth. My guess is that it is more truth than trend.

It is not surprising in the least that nearly half of surveyed church-hoppers do so to find a more appealing set of doctrines, Christians being sinners and all. So much easier to find a religion that suits your selfishness and doesn't cause you to re-examine long-held views. It is wonderfully convenient to live in a society with a fast-food mentality that can be extended to religion. It means that Christ can be who you want Him to be, and you can be who you want to be rather than who He wants you to be.

Unfortunately, these false Christians will find out at the throne that the sheep and the goats can be identified by how often their tracks were spotted departing one altar for another in search of individual gain. Good luck, "brother".


and calculate the cost to see

Meditating on Ps49 this morn. v7-8 caught my eye. Word states clearly that "no man by any means can redeem his brother." In fact, those that try are counseled in v8 to "cease trying forever". In my new favorite show, one of the characters can pop back and forth into time, and in one ep, he grabs on to a friend and drags him into the future with him. But Word says such dragging along can't occur into eternity. It's a lost cause.

The reason is stated clearly in v8 -- "the redemption of his soul is costly". I can imagine God the Father inspiring David to pen this psalm, can see Him reflecting on the costliness of that redemption, can see Him pausing in sorrow, and can see Him directing David to press these words to paper in grim resignation.


have you not just now called to me

Still musing on what I want to be when I grow up. Not just who I want to be and who He wants me to be, but also who I am shaped to be.

This afternoon, trying to instruct the sweet things on how to catch a baseball with a mitt. Tried to show them how the mitt is shaped to catch, formed to catch, made to catch. It can be used as a shield or a projectile or even a hat. But it is shaped to catch.

I am shaped for something (and no, I don't mean this lame acronym or this cliche song). There's been this building unease and tension between what I want and what I can do and what I think I can do and what I think I should do and what I think I want to do -- I suppose at some point I need to pick up the wet/dry fleece and take my 10,000 down to the water's edge and listen to His test.


you are already clean because of

"How Can I Forgive Others?"
* Material based on Charles Stanley's stuff
* Intro: Doesn't take national tragedy to bring to our attention issues about forgiveness
- All deal with forgiveness throughout lives
- Misconceptions about forgiveness are biggest stumbling blocks
* Forgiving others is NOT:
- Justifying their behavior
- Trusting that time heals all wounds
- Denying you have been hurt
- Contingent upon confronting them personally
* Biblical process of forgiveness:
- Remember how much you have been forgiven by God {Matt18:21-35}
- Release other person completely [holding grudge like drinking poison hoping other gets sick]
- Recognize God's purpose in the process {Rom8:28, Gen50:19-20}
- Re-establish relationships if appropriate {Rom12:18,21}
- Repeat the process
* Matt5:23-24; Matt6:14-15; Eph4:26-27


you do not realize now, but

Reading up on Gideon's exploits in Judges for a lesson tomorrow and picked up on the process of awareness which he undergoes in Judg6:11-24. Thought it would be nice to outline here:
* Encounters God, unbeknownst to him (v11). Important to note that Lord reached out to Him first, as is always the process
* Gideon calls him lord, little l (v13). We often see God as a god, one of many.
* Gideon recognizes something different about Him and acknowledges His authority with a Lord, capital L (v15). Our first exposure to Christ might move us to pay tribute to a great teacher and spiritual leader.
* Gideon recognizes the deity of Christ, visible in the Thees and Thys (v17). That first realization that Jesus is in fact the way, the truth, and the life is something otherworldly.
* Gideon bows down to Jehovah Shalom (v24). Only through Christ can true peace and rest be found.


shall be shaped like

Speaking with a brother today about tragedy. The common question is always "Where is God in all this?" or "How can God exist in a world where suffering exists?" There are many answers to this common question. Not answering those questions here, but wanted to explore how we search for God in places that hurt us.

IKings19:9-14 is one of my fave stories in the Word, especially v11-12. What I noted today is that although the Lord was found in the gentle breeze, He could very well have been found in the gust, quake, or fire. It was not that He couldn't be found in the more destructive expressions; it was that He chose the gentler one with Elijah. But it indicates that He could very well have been found in the forces that destroyed.

Finding the Lord in the more recent tragedy is not something that can't be reconciled. We can not understand the reasoning why during those times He chooses the gust, quake, or fire. But if we accept the Lord in the breeze, we must also accept Him in the quake. And the thing to remember in both is that the love and the grace and the mercy don't exist in only one of those forms, but in all.


and His disciples asked Him

Faith for me has always been an individual experience. Much of that due to being called alone when younger, without a family to share a faith with. Then developing that lone faith through Cath services rather than Prot ones, the only social part being a sharing of the peace. Understand the Lord encourages a brotherhood to exist among believers, a body greater than one. Simply sharing my initial experience, as I've certainly grown toward a faith that recognizes power in numbers.

Never made more aware of that power and those bonds than today. Shared a request with the body, and then flooded all day with notes expressing lifted prayers in a united effort. And there is something so touching to imagine believers around the country assisting me in asking for the Lord's grace.

Heard it taught that prayer changes you not Lord. In this particular case, prayer apparently can change more than just you; others' prayer changed me. Clear example of love being expressed by hands and knees and closed eyes.


would not shine for

Two friends over dinner discussed a story, and both tripped over each other's words, as if the need to speak could no longer be pent up. I understand what that's like. And yet heading back to my room after dinner, I couldn't help but be shamed that the Good News of God rarely seems fit to bursting. It's certainly not for lack of internal joy. And when given the opportunity to do so, willingly do so. Part of me believes that moments to share aren't created by us. Given 100 instances created by us and not Spirit, we will go 0fer. Given 100 instances created by Him and obediently followed by us, and that average will soar.

But part of me wonders why I'm not fit to bursting. Lepers leap for joy, and demons disobey in the Word. Plenty of examples of those fit to bursting. All should ponder gifting and calling and arranged moments, sure. But all should also ponder whether or not that fire has been extinguished, and if that has anything to do with a reluctance to burst.


and search carefully until

My iPod's been locked on a particular song today. A line from the chorus stuck out to me: "right here at your feet, where I want to be". Spoke recently about Christian ambition. Spoke less recently about mediocrity. How do all these things tie together, you might ask. Make me a sandwich, I might answer. And bring me some chips. Maybe ruffles?

Some folks like to dream where they'll be in five or ten years. I try never to think beyond tomorrow. And yet I wonder whether or not I shouldn't be asking where it is I want to be, who it is I want to be. My fear is that is the wrong question -- not who I want to be, but who He wants me to be.

But what if those two questions aren't disparate? What if He gives you choices (since He does)? And what if aligned hearts have similar end goals (which they do)? And what if what I want to be is something pleasing to Him (which it is)? But what if that pleasing thing He wants me to be happens also to be what I want to be -- and if I don't ask, I'm not ever reaching that pleasing thing (which may or may not be)?


going up to worship at

"I Stand in Awe" is a great worship classic by Mark Altrogge. Until yesterday, I didn't realize there was a second verse. No additional comments -- you just need to see this second verse, which given its beauty, deserves to be lifted up like its counterpart.
You are beautiful beyond description,
Yet God crushed You for my sin.
In agony and deep affliction,
Cut off that I might enter in.
Who can grasp such tender compassion?
Who can fathom this mercy so free?
You are beautiful beyond description,
Lamb of God who died for me.


after these things were finished

"How Can I Experience Forgiveness?"
* Intro: Commonly heard laments -- "How can I forgive him/her?" "How can God forgive me after what I've done?" "How can I ever forgive myself?"
* Word discusses forgiveness w/ God and w/ others, but not w/ self
* 3 Elements of forgiveness: 1. Injury 2. Debt 3. Cancellation of debt
* Make sure faith is genuine {2Cor13:5a}
- Saving faith involves trust & repentance {Acts20:21}
* Understand immensity of God's forgiveness {Mic7:19, Isa43:25, Isa44:22}
- God forgives completely {Col2:13-14}
- God forgives freely {Rom3:22-24, Rom6:23}
- God forgives joyfully {Luke15 parables}
- God forgives graciously {Ps103}
* Rom8:1-2
* Focus on living new life in Christ {Phil3:13b-14}

Any service that ends with nails and a large cross lifted to remind you of what was left on that tree, brother, that's a good service.


shall give us his life in exchange

Theological question I've been pondering, which may or may not have an "official" answer, I don't know. A quick google of the question offered nothing. But did Christ know the resurrection was coming when He offered Himself up to the cross? Did He know it was going to be a quick death, or did He head to Calvary believing it was a permanent solution?

Argument 1: Christ, fully God while fully man, was omnipotent. He and the Father spoke often and at length. He was God and He knew the mind of God. He tells the thief that he was going to be in Paradise with Him, indicating some foreknowledge of coming events. He tells His disciples that they will see Him again. Jesus cites Jonah as an example of a miracle occurring after three days. Thus, it is clear that Christ knew that He'd be returning to life soon after death.

Argument 2: The Abraham/Isaac story is supposed to be a foreshadowing of God giving up His own Son, and Isaac had no clue what was going on. Christ wept tears of blood in the garden thinking about the punishment He was going to undergo. Would it have been so intense if He had known that Sunday was coming? If Christ endured death as mortals endure death, then the permanence and despair that accompanies death is part of that -- a part that would be removed had Christ known that He was going to be resurrected. It would be like donating all your money to charity knowing you were winning the lottery the next day -- not really a sacrifice.

My guess is that argument one is likely the victor with the response to argument two that separation from God even for a millisecond is such agony and punishment that enduring it for three seconds much less three days is indeed a sacrifice regardless of whether or not the outcome was known ahead of time. While that is the likely correct position, I will cling to argument two and the beauty of a sacrifice where Christ was willing to be eternally separated from God for His enemies. That to me seems like the depth of the love of God I've been pondering for the last few weeks.


for this reason also

Met with some brothers this morning and discussed the same things been discussing in the last few posts. Unsure why this arranged focus recently. These thoughts are always with me, and made more sharply concrete with recent holidays, so perhaps for others and not for me. And not claiming as some might believe that this is the only perspective in which faith should be considered. Just claiming this is my way.

But for me, the raison d'etre for my walk has to be love. You can take your rewards and live with them. As I've expressed before, those riches are beyond me and I'm ecstatic to have them. But they cannot be the reason for my reaching out for His hem. That would be too self-focused. And you can take your fears and live with them. As I've expressed before, the fear of the Lord is an underfocused theme, and I know wisdom's roots begin there. But they, too, cannot be the reason my eyes look for His leading footprints. That would be too self-focused as well.

Love says I'm not worthy. Love says Christ is the only one that matters. Love says I don't want those disappointed eyes at the throne. Love says my sacrifice and trial-filled walk are insignificant compared to His. And love says, if you love Me, you will follow and so I do.


glory far beyond all

Conversation with the wondrous one today has me reflecting on my thoughts from the other day. Not arguing that my choice of Good Friday is the only choice or the best choice. Only that it is as good a choice as the other two.

I think many hold the opinion that there are two types of believers: those who accept the faith because of stark terror of the afterlife apart from God, and those who accept because of an attraction to the riches of Heaven. I submit to you that I -- and others like me -- comprise a third category: those who accept because of a keen awareness of the darkness within us, and how personally significant the sacrifice of a spotless Lamb for the complete cleansing of that darkness truly is.

I view the stark terror of eternal separation as something I deserve and have earned. I fear it, but if I were headed there, I'd say to myself that it's where I belong. I know the evil I have done, am capable of doing, desire to do even now, and that eternal destination is more than merited.

I view the riches of Heaven as the most magnificent of bonuses, the greatest of side benefits. Eternity is not something I grasp greedily for because it is far too wonderful a place for me. Even thinking I could or should be there is beyond my comprehension. All it causes is a never-ending cycle of shame and guilt.

But I view the death of an innocent one for me, for my wealth of darkness, for my slate-cleaning, for my east-west separation, for my blotting out, for my all-covering purity that is beyond even the depths of my shadows, I view that as something altogether precious and worth giving up your all for. Religions that have you emptying yourself or being born into the chosen ones or working toward some better you don't understand the depth of the wickedness that I am keenly aware of. Only the faith that says I know you, I know you to your lowest parts I love you to your lowest parts I will cleanse you to your lowest parts you can't do it but I can and I want to and I will -- only that faith is one worth bowing to for eternity.


for this we labor and strive

The lead shepherd of my flock is a big believer in the importance of having and tracking and pressing on toward spiritual goals. Another brother today made the point that a year-long sermon schedule should be tied to a church's set of goals.

We live in a society that is goal-oriented. Some of that can be traced back to a pretty famous book. Modern resumes now contain career objectives. Personnel plans and annual reviews are focused on goals and goal accomplishments. Annual resolutions on the first of the year revolve around goals.

It is weird for me to see the societal focus on goals brought into the faith. This idea of Christian ambition fills me with mixed emotions. On one hand, if setting goals helps me to be a better employee or a healthier individual, shouldn't I use that same process and mindset to be a better child of God or a more spiritually healthy person? Paul makes it clear in Phil3 that we have only one goal -- "the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." All other goals should be stepping stone pieces of this larger one.

On the other hand, ambition is an ugly thing. Its deepest roots feed in the pool of pride. Its focus is self-improvement. The goal of becoming a better Christian (as I stated in my most recent message before the flock) is losing the self and gaining Christ. Christian ambition to me seems like an oxymoron.

I think this whole post is an exercise in dwelling in semantics, but I can't be sure.


the memory of Your abundant goodness

A lost one posed a question many would concede already has an answer -- and not only an answer, but a decidedly clear alternate for differing opinions. "What is the most important holiday for a believer?"

Already know the clear majority of my kind of believer would reply without hesitation Easter. Paul states in 1Cor15 that without the resurrection, the faith is in vain and we are to be pitied. Easter brings the victory and the hope of eternity. No question that without Easter, this is not a living faith.

Already know that those who don't answer with the above would mostly take the position that Christmas is the only other legitimate answer. That on that wondrous day, the angels of Heaven sang a chorus. That on that day, the good news of God descended in the form of a present wrapped in swaddling clothes. That the ministry that ended on Calvary began in that manger.

Not underestimating the significance of either of the preceding two. But I'd like to make the argument that Good Friday will not for me be restrained to one day of solemnity. If the love of Christ is the difference-maker, if the love of God is the central force behind both Christmas and Easter, if as Jesus says, the whole of the Law rests in love (of God and of neighbor), if all of these things are true, then Good Friday, the day He loved us most, the day THE atoning sacrifice was made, the day His actions spoke louder than His words, the day when the plan of God culminated on a cross on a Hill, the day our slates were wiped clean by the blood of the Lamb of God, then that day, my friend, that day holds second place to no other.


she has pain, because

Fractured, shattered
Unseen breaks concealing
Shards of time memorialized
Broken, pieced
Soldered leaks not revealing
Cracks of memories untimed
Blotted, covered
Filled fissures completing
Scars of hearts delivered
Rested, Rescued
Lone submissions competing
Bends of knees uplifted


I AM the resurrection and the life

"He is not here, for He is risen, just as He said." {Matt28:6}

He is risen, indeed.


here is an amazing thing

Check these guys out. They're hip, young, and different. But unlike other folks who fit that description, they don't hide their love for God behind lyrics in shades of gray that might be making a point, maybe, maybe not.

Love this song from one of their more recent releases (if you consider a year and a half recent). Been flowing through my head for a week. But as we move from darkness into light, meditating on incredible, impossible, indelible, unthinkable love is the only thing I can do. And declaring my location at His feet for eternity the only thing I can want.


see how He loved

When you fall head over heels in love, your world turns upside down and things are seen in a light that distorts your perspective. But human love only changes the perspective and not the underlying thing. But the love of God in Christ Jesus does both -- changes your perspective and the underlying reality. And only the love of Christ can make things be something they otherwise would not be.

Today He loved us most. He turned mangled flesh into a thing of beauty. He turned thorns into the most wondrous of head ornaments. He turned pieces of wood into the most sacred of objects. He turned pain into bliss, darkness into light, death into life.

Today He loved us most.

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." {Rom5:8}


the Passover Lamb had to be

Catholics celebrate something called the adoration of the cross. Part of Good Friday services, it gives believers the opportunity to look up at the cross, ponder its meaning in the depth of their heart, and in that pondering to love that very painful act, to adore that tree, to take to heart the symbol of the day He loved us most. How do you adore something that hurts you so much? It hurts because you love. Same reason Lord endured it for you; it hurt Him because He loved. I love you, O Lord, my strength.


not ashamed to be called

Surprised to see this piece on CNN at all. Although it is Holy Week and the focus of MSM will be on Christianity all week. And I don't suspect it will stay on the front page for long. And I anticipate the responding comments will be fairly negative. And I anticipate a counterpoint commentary as a rebuttal.

But kudos to Dr. Collins for placing his faith at the forefront and risking his career. But sometimes that step of faith calls for one to be in front of others. And being scared of being caught holding on to the back hem of the robe is no way to live.


and the sheep follow Him

Love the story of Christ catching Simon the fishcatcher in Luke5. He enters Simon's boat and asks Him to push off and from the start, Simon obeys. And after teaching the masses from the stern (or bow, whatever), He instructs Simon on the finer points of his own career. Rather than react negatively to a stranger who may or may not know what advice to even give, Simon recognizes Christ's authority and power and identity from His teaching, and immediately, immediately responds with a confession of sinfulness and a confession of unworthiness. A perfect model of obedience and response to who Christ is.


the things we have need of

Off the plane, and strolled through the airport headed for cab line and had that feeling again -- that feeling like all around me these lives existed and given the time and energy I could feel and see and experience and understand every one of them.

What if this: there is individual maturity and role maturity -- and what if role maturity as shepherd allowed one to sense this very thing? This ability to be attuned to others and understand them to such a degree that needmeeting not so much a burden as a gift? Not sure where I'm headed with this. Still struggling with that tagging-along sadness that accompanies the life-recognition.


leading to the knowledge of

"Reflections on Sabbatical"
* Intro
- Sabbatical healthy for all
- Learn to Sabbath better and to trust God more
- Be ready for surprises {Prov16:9}
- Make plans to increase impact on next gen
* Prayer must expand to include wrestling with God
* We need more prayer backing for the preaching of the Word
- Saturate pastor & my sermon in prayer
- Pastor’s Prayer Band
- Concerts of prayer
- Email prayer chain
- 24/7 prayer team
- Prayer focus groups
- Increased prayer in our small groups
- 7 for Heaven lists
* We need to pray for Revival
- Others
- Ourselves