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.