and you will have praise from

Every so often, I read a passage in the Word and can feel the excitement of the writer behind it. I imagine someone with quill to scroll infused with the Spirit and scribbling madly to contain his excitement long enough to capture the divine inspiration. Some of Paul's letters, for instance, begin with or end with this flourish of praise for the Lord.

This morning's reading for me was Ps103, and you can almost sense the same growing rush of love. David begins with a simple command to all to bless, but then as he starts running through the list of the great deeds done by God, I imagine him getting louder and beginning to stand up and raise hands and look to the heavens until by v17, it's a full-throated scream.

I don't know anything about the transliteration from Hebrew to Greek to English, and whether exclamation points are meant to be included or not. In my NAS, Ps103 ends with a few of them. But no matter the version and the inclusion or not of marks, if you can go through Ps103 and not end with David in effusive gushing of love, I don't know what to tell you. Oh, wait. I do. Too bad for you, Luke.


then learned that He was there

Guest speaker yesterday connected Matt14 to Mark6 and highlighted the stunning verses of Mark6:51-52: ". . . and they were utterly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened." The verses occur right after Peter's waterwalk and the calming of the storm. What Mark6 makes clear is that their lack of faith had everything to do with their failure to learn about Christ through their interactions with Him and His miracles.

About 8 years ago, a friend's mother survived a brain aneurysm, defeating long odds to have survived beyond statistical norms. The friend related a statement made by his mother describing the miracle: "I don't know if I'm born again, but I'm certainly live-every-moment-to-its-fullest again." That is, unfortunately, the words of someone who didn't gain any insight from a loaf incident.

What most believers fail to realize every day of their lives is that there is no shortage of miracles, no shortage of evidence of the daily working of God in our lives. And when we fail to recognize that, fail to learn more about the God who numbers the hairs on our heads and who orchestrates the details of our lives, He lets that cement block we call a ticker set and harden further. Many long for a less distant connection twixt God and us. Like the disciples in the boat, however, perhaps that connection would be improved if we didn't keep chalking up Christ on the water as some frightening apparition bent on seducing us into sinking, rather than the truth of the matter -- a greatest friend wishing to show you the wonders of stepping across the deep.


moved in spirit and was

"The Compassion of Christ" {Matt14:14-21}
* Compassion not just feeling sorry for another; compassion moves spirit to action
* Unexpected burden
- Disciples alone with Christ dealing with news of JtheB's death (v13)
- Disciples not necessarily being mean or heartless when desirous of sending away masses -- was the best solution from human standpoint
* Christ's response
- Do not send them away (compassion)
- "You feed them" (v16) (compassion moved to action)
- Disciples begin to trust God
* The missed message {Mark6:51-52}
- "The Lord knows our loaves & fishes."
- Lord doesn't call us to solve everything -- only to give our everything
- The Lord can work great things through our little things
- Never underestimate the Lord's power despite our weakness
* Pray for the servants of the Lord


as your authority for doing

With some other shepherds this morning discussing the nomination of other potential shepherds for the flock. For most of the names raised, there was no question whether or not the nominee was a Godly man and possessed the qualities outlined in 1Tim and Titus. Then why the hesitations creeping in?

Can we work with him? Will he have his own agenda? Will it take him away from that ministry? Is he too morose? Has he been around long enough? Does the congregation know who he is? Hasn't he already turned us down enough times? Are we nominating too many? Perhaps he can wait for a few more years?

I understand the warning in 1Tim5 about rushing to lay hands on people and pushing them to do work of the Lord. But I also don't want to impose false barriers not laid out by God through Paul. We may not like them, or know them, but the Lord likes them and knows them. How about we go by His opinion, how about that?


of the leaven of the Pharisees

Just a thought: Lord says beware of misleading His little ones, that it would be far better for a millstone to be around your neck and you thrown into the depths than for you to mislead a single one of them. I am prepared to take my message to them -- the Gospel of peace, filled with grace and mercy and overwhelming kindness. I am prepared to answer before the throne for that message.

Your message is one filled with discipline and rigidness and lacking compassion. You're worried about what kind of message we're sending them through your policies? You should be.


the knowledge of salvation by

Read an article on ESPN about a potential NFL draft pick (the article isn't important), and the article framed the story as the draft being this athlete's possibility for redemption after some run-ins with the law. Which got me thinking of the word "redemption". I think it's a powerful word, with a significance we often lose sight of.

When we think of redemption stories or moments of redemption, we think of people who have gone from the worst situations to the top of the mountain. In the ESPN article's case, from having a troubled past with little hope to a future with the potential to make millions. In this view of the word redemption, we think of the term as a reversal of fortune. Redemption in this light is no more than a U-turn of fate. Often, this U-turn is a direct result of the specific person's will or strength of character or persistence. The moment of redemption comes as a person has picked himself up by his bootstraps and done something to counter past actions.

When thinking of your redemption through Christ, do not use this definition of redemption.

The eternal redemption you have in Christ is far more glorious. Redemption in this case is salvation by the hands of another. Those bootstraps you're pulling snap in your hands, friend, but in the hands of God, they raised you from Hell to eternity. Redemption through Christ is like the redemption of a pawned object. Typically, folks hock their personal items for cash amounts well below the value of the actual item. Redemption of that item usually requires payment of far more than what it was initially hocked for.

That soul of yours? So precious. Sold to the devil and unending darkness for the price of a few sins. Just one would do it, in fact. And the cost of redemption? Raised to the payment of a life. Christ paid that amount for you. Christ redeemed your soul for you. It cost you nothing, Him everything. In this case, the meaning of redemption takes on its full beauty and meaning. Don't undersell the word by diluting it to comparisons to recovered addicts, athletes on the straight and narrow, or cowards now turned brave. Glad for their 180s, but my redemption is something far greater than that.


in more than all of them

If you watch interviews of friends or family of famous people, a lot of them say they knew so-and-so was going to be a star even when they were young -- that they had this quality about them. A colleague once told me what it was like to be in a room filled with senators and congressmen, all of them famous in their own right, but what it was like to see Arnold Schwarzenegger walk into the room and command attention. A sportswriter once noted that time seemed to stand still when Michael Jordan walked into this casino one night, and how in a city like Vegas filled with noise and lights and celebrities everywhere, MJ's presence was palpable.

When Jesus walked all over Israel teaching and preaching that the kingdom of God was at hand, the multitudes swarmed Him. So there was certainly a quality about Him that was engaging like nothing else. But I like how in Matt12, no matter how much attention was being shown Him by the crowds, it still wasn't enough; they still didn't know the magnitude of who He was. In v6, He says something greater than the temple was there. In v41, He says that something greater than Jonah was there. In v42, it's Solomon that He's greater than.

One of the things I love most about God is that, like an athlete with unlimited potential, He has no ceiling. Only in God's case the unlimited ceiling is fact and not hyperbole. In Christ, you see love like no other. In Christ, you see power like no other. In Christ, you see mercy like no other. In Christ, you see truth like no other. And the good news for folks who have been Christians for a long time, there is still so much more to learn about God -- that even in those faithful, decades-long walks, that something even greater than that is still there.


to whom the Son wills to reveal Him

Lazy post today -- suffering from strep throat. The hypochondriac in me knows it could've been worse. If you have the full 8 minutes for the clip below, great. If not, skip to the 2:35 mark and watch through the 7-minute mark. I'm sure you can see where it's going. That doesn't stop it from being kinda cool.


the true riches to you

"Wise Up About Money"
* Intro: Jesus spoke more often about money than about Heaven or Hell
* We live in culture of debt & love of money
* Money can destroy you
- Prov22:7; 15:6; 11:4
- Avg. American has $9K in credit card debt; 40% of American families spend more each year than they make
- Borrower is a slave to lender
* Money - Gain it honestly
- Prov13:11; 28:6; 19:22
- Not just avoiding lying on taxes or cheating boss, but living a life that puts God above money every time
- No gambling, lottery
* Money - esteem it accurately
- Prov18:11; 21:20; 23:4-5; 28:22
- Lord is strong tower, not wealth
- Save for future rather than spend it wastefully
- Don't work tirelessly for it
* 5 wrong views about money
- It will make you happy
- It will make you content ("Mr. Rockefeller, how much money is enough? Just a little more")
- It will make your family appreciate you
- It will make you feel better about yourself
- It will give you acceptance among peers
* Money - share it generously
- Prov11:25; 13:22; 22:9; 3:9-10; Mal3:10
- Generous to whom? Lord first, needy and family
- Your Money Counts


there is disorder, and every evil thing

Today was one of my favorite days of the year -- scheduled spring cleaning. We cleaned every room of the house, managed to give away four trash bags of stuff, and filled the garbage can with another five bags of trash. And we didn't even get to the garage which deserves its own whole day of organization.

There are three types of people: preternatural slobs, neat-freaks, and the in-between. 2 of those 3 groups feel great after a day of cleaning. And I bet you that third group of slobs would admit that forced under pain of death to change their ways, they would be relieved to dig out from underneath all that chaos. We have in us this innate sense of joy achieved by going from disorder to order.

Why then do the percentages of people in the three groups above change drastically when applied to spiritual cleaning? Imagine a few days of the year that you have dedicated to cleaning out the junk of your souls. You don't think people feel elated to go from the slovenliness of sinful lives to the order of Spirit-filled lives? And yet, so very, very many of us are content to sit on that metaphysical couch covered with oreo crumbs and empty pizza boxes while the cobwebs grow. You think apathy in your physical surroundings leads to some disgusting situations; you haven't seen what that looks like on the spiritual plane. All the more revolting.


confronted me in the day

Who would've thought that the boring teacher from Ferris Bueller's Day Off would become the voice of religion against culture? I've written about Ben Stein on another occasion or two. But it's one thing to blog about religion, and something altogether different to film a movie taking on culture's biggest issue with religion (evolution) and release it in theaters. Watch the trailer. Then watch the movie in theaters in droves.


those who did the harvesting has reached

First, there's this clip that shows Christians serving and helping the homeless. Then, Evangelical Outpost pointed to this article about a gay man's experience. Internet Monk has a whole piece on the Christian messaging to homosexuals.

In my reading today in Matt10, Christ is giving instructions to His disciples on where and how they should be spreading the news that the kingdom of God was at hand. In v5-6, He tells them not to follow the regular path, but rather to "go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Willow Creek and Saddleback tell you that small groups are the way to go, and that the most effective way to witness is to first build relationships, and then utilize those relationships to invite them to church. Jesus, however, tells His followers to focus on the lost sheep.

Not sure where I'm going with this, except to say that churches need to be examining their ministry energy outlay more carefully. And if that lost sheep percentage isn't trying to approach 100, I don't know what to tell you.


able to raise up children

* Prov often not placed on same pedestal as other books like Rom
- Inclusion of Prov in Word meant to use God's wisdom to affect all areas of life
* Prov possibly only book written with kids in mind
- Written by Sol to pass along to kids
- Fathers mentioned 27 times; mothers 13
* Prov22:6 -- train up a child to do what?
* To be diligent {Prov 12:24; 13:4; 21:5}
- Accept own responsibility
- Do chores
- Suffer own consequences
* To guard own heart
- Like sheep, left to its own, hearts will wander
- "Every heart needs a shepherd."
- Prov4:23; Mark7:21-23
- Medication of children ignores heart issue
- Watch external influences
- Control TV watching
- Monitor computer usage
- Watch own hearts (model)
* To serve {Prov11:24-25; 28:27}
- Serve on own
- Acknowledge help received
- Teach manners
- Sponsor kids/missionaries/poor
- Attend missionary events
- Family missions trip
* To love Gospel
- Prov1:7; 14:26-27; Rom5
* Application
- Review material & Prov
- Eval self
- Make changes slowly
- Pray


to You I lift up my soul

Sang a great song at church last Sunday. I knew it from somewhere, though we hadn't sung it as a flock before. Either it's an old forgotten favorite, or it's one of those songs whose lyrics ring with some truth that you can't help but awaken that part of you that will spend all eternity in praise.
When I see the beauty of a sunset's glory,
amazing artistry across the evening sky,
When I feel the mystery of a distant galaxy,
It awes and humbles me to be loved
by a God so high.

When I hear the story of a God of mercy
Who shared humanity and suffered by our side,
Of the cross they nailed You to, that could not hold You
Now You're making all things new by the power
of Your risen life,

What can I do but thank You,
what can I do but give my life to You
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
What can I do but praise You,
everyday make everything I do a Hallelujah
A Hallelujah, Hallelujah


made empty in this case

Oh my word, what to think, what to think. The clip below was shown on America's most watched show:

The wondrous one and I discussed it last night. It is rather creepy for a worship song to be used by a money-making commercial enterprise. But isn't this the Willow Creek method? Use popular culture to throw out the seeds and hope some of the listeners get affected by the message? (That it seems to have been subsequently cut from the West Coast airing offers support to it having an effect, enough to require later-aired edits.)

On the other hand, only half of the final 8 are professed believers that I know of. It's likely at least one of the singers was required to sing a worship staple no differently than he would a lewd ballad. It is the height of hypocrisy for 8 singers simply to go through the motions. But as the wondrous one keenly noticed, is that radically different from your average Sunday morning congregation in American evangelical churches? Sadly, no.


to succeed by his influence

Wondrous one and I had a discussion about the concept of self-control. Some friends had created a contest meant to encourage self-discipline, and the wondrous one wasn't faring well. This led to a discussion of why self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit. My response is that self-control is about denying your natural urges; that as we seek to be more like Christ, the way to do that is to be less like the self. She responded that shouldn't the term be God-control rather than self-control?

On one hand, that makes perfect sense. Christ is clear in John15 that apart from Him, we can do nothing. The new creation spoken about in 2Cor5:17 is only available from God (v18). We are told to live by the Spirit rather than the flesh. We grow in Christ-likeness only when we do what Christ did, which was submit Himself to God. So self-control really is God-control, allowing Him to make us into something different.

On the other hand, God isn't interested in puppets. He doesn't seek submission so that He can make you say and move the way He wants to in the way we play with action figures. John14 makes it clear that the Spirit's role is as a Helper, not a controller. The Spirit assists you in being a better person; He doesn't possess you and shove you aside. The Lord wants our active participation in growing to be one of His children.

Net opinion? Former and latter. Punt. For someone who sees things in B&W, sure sounds like I make do with lots of shades of gray.


a growth which is from God

Finished an interesting read today. At a minimum, this should be required reading for every pastor, ministry head, deacon, and elder of a church. Beyond that, I can see a benefit for every believer to read it. Trust me -- I ain't doing it because I want Willow Creek to sell more books. I've been as hard on them as anybody. But Reveal contains many things I've been working on doing at my own church for a while now.

First, it discusses transparency. Many have praised Willow Creek's honesty and openness in its admission of failure in helping all believers grow, and they should be praised for that. Few churches would openly admit to failure for fear of pew-fleeing. But all pastors and staff and other shepherds should be as willing to be vulnerable before their flock as they seek to improve themselves.

Second, it discusses the use of data. I look at and analyze numbers every day for my job, so perhaps the number geek in me admires WC's approach more than it should. But it's high time churches make decisions based on actual data rather than sporadic anecdotes. They obsess over other numbers (Sunday attendance and building campaign contributions), but they can't find ways to gather numbers for something that matters, like the percentage of their flock getting closer to God?

Lastly, it discusses the role of the church in shepherding believers. Reveal discusses how some of the most dissatisfied people in a church are some of the most spiritually mature people in a church. The reason? They don't know how to grow on their own, and their seeker-focused church can't focus long enough on growing those that are spiritually mature. Interesting point it raises -- are churches for seeking the lost, or for feeding the saved? Ideally both, yes, but how to accomplish one without sacrificing the other?

I once criticized WC for slacking on Christmas. To me, their heart wasn't in it. Reveal is a great first step in proving to me that, no, it really is in it. Just looking for how to show it.


and discover the knowledge of God

[Continued from yesterday.]

1Cor11:27 warns us that those who take Communion in an unworthy manner shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. So perhaps I was wrong to allow my son to be at the Lord's Table before he was fully ready. At the same time, in Matt18:3, Lord tells us we can't enter the kingdom unless we're like little ones.

Sometimes I think that seminary and the study of theology and simply growing older takes away one of the great beauties of faith: a sense of wonder. Those first few weeks and months after one bends the knee to Messiah Christ are wondrous and filled with joy and gratitude and this fire. One hears new worship songs and closes ones eyes as they tear up at lyrics that now mean something wonderful. And all that happens during this grin-making phase of discovery.

Twenty-plus years of being a believer, and sometimes when I'm at the Lord's Table, it's as if I see the Lord for the first time, and I don't remember Christian jargon or understand the differences between sanctification, justification, and glorification, and I haven't argued one theological position over another, and instead I take that bread and drink that cup, and it's new and beautiful and something I will never fully and completely understand.

And I want that for my children. And I think the Lord does, too. And where modern Christians argue over levels of understanding and see faith as this on/off switch where there is a right way to start and have faith and a wrong way to be a believer, I think the Lord wants us to stumble into our faith and take His hand and let Him lead us to levels of understanding by spending time with Him and asking Him questions and sometimes making mistakes and watching Him smile at us when we do.

shines in the darkness, and

Make sure to catch this sports article before ESPN takes it down. An incredible game last night, and even more incredible is that MSM left in the religious references in this article. If you don't want to skim the whole thing, here's the relevant part about what the Most Outstanding Player (and the shooter of the shot to be seen time and again in replay) did as the game was slipping away.
But the situation was dire enough that when Memphis' Robert Dozier went to the foul line with 2:12 left and the Tigers up seven, Ronnie Chalmers reached into his pocket for some divine guidance.

On a piece of paper, he'd written two verses from Psalms: 46:10 and 46:1. He pulled them out and read them to himself.

"Be still, and know that I am God," reads 46:10.

"God is a refuge and strength. A very present help in trouble," reads 46:1.

"We were in trouble at that time," Ronnie said.
Beautiful. Others being interviewed might take all the credit, or boast of their confidence in their own skill. The game's hero had time to relate how he'd pulled out some Bible verses and admitted his own dire situation. You can cross yourself after you enter the endzone, or point to the skies when the whistle blows, but those are small displays; big faiths require big testimonies. Well done, faithful servant.


we worship what we know

Two-part post. I'll relate the funny incident today; lesson from it tomorrow.

No one, but no one loves the Lord's Table more than me. More than preaching, more than tithing, more than serving, more than singing, more than any other action, Communion to me is more than any other religious action an opportunity for you to find intimacy with God. And I understand Paul's warning at the end of 1Cor11 as well as anybody.

All that to preface my still allowing my 5-yr-old son to participate in his first Communion a few weeks ago. Many prefer waiting till children are older and better able to understand the significance of the rite. Despite my great reverence for the Lord's Table, however, I also think it important to allow young ones to experience it as soon as possible -- not because I care little for their grasp of the rite's importance, but because like worship in song and prayer and reading the Word, it is important for young ones to participate in acts of faith sooner rather than later. [Note: I also found it a nice symbolism to have my son experience his first Communion at a Good Friday Communion.]

Stage set. Massive cross in the sanctuary. Lights down. Music set to quiet reflection rather than riotous praise.

I place the cup of juice and square of bread in his little hands. I pray for us and indicate for us to consume the bread. My son puts it into his mouth, chews, and then begins picking out pieces of it from his mouth with his hands as he states, "Tastes terrible."

I hold in a smile and pray again and indicate the time for us to consume the juice. Rather than down the whole thing at once, my son takes a sip, smiles, and utters a "Yum!" before finishing off the symbolic blood of Christ.


was he who built us our

"Worshiping the Creator"
* Church's one foundation -- Jesus Christ, our Lord
* Who is Jesus?
- John1:1-3, Col1:16-18, Eph3:9, Heb1:1-2 -- Christ is the Creator
- God appointed Son to create all things in Gen1
* Christian doctrine built on NT ref; NT ref on OT basis; all on concept of Christ as Creator
* Worship = "worth-ship" = "workman-ship"
- Amount of work determines value of worth
- Work of Redemption {Rev5:9}
- Work of Creation {John1:3}
- No greater work than that done by Christ; ergo, no greater value; no greater worth.
* Eternal Gospel {Rev14:6-7}
* John 3:16 not the full Gospel -- only half
- John3:14-15 first part
- God's judgment against sin
- God merciful
- By grace through faith, salvation
* Gospel
- Began in Gen1 w/ Christ Creator
- Moves through Matt w/ Christ Savior
- Ends in Rev w/ Christ Lord of all

More from a fantastic speaker can be found at www.evidenceweb.net or www.creationresearch.net.


and it became perfectly calm

Quiet week on the blog, in the heart, at the ocean...


as a witness, to testify about the Light

On American Idol tonight, FOX had the winners of their Next Great American Band contest playing. Rather than playing some pop number or hiding their faith, the Clark Brothers used the opportunity to sing to the world a classic Christian song. They certainly did not hide under a bushel basket. Well done, faithful servants. Check it out.