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."