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.