crying out with a loud voice to Him

"The Privilege of Prayer"
* Reasons for Prayer
- It brings us into deeper relationship w/ God
- It expresses our trust in God, and helps our trust deepen {Luke11:9-12, Matt21:22, Mark11:24, Jam1:6-8, Jam5:14-15}
- In prayer God allows us to be involved in activities that are eternally significant {Matt6:10}
- In praying we give glory to God {Matt26:36-42}
* Effectiveness of prayer
- It often changes the way God acts {Luke11:9-10, Ex32:11-14, 2Chron7:14}
- Effective prayer is made possible by our mediator, Jesus Christ {1Tim2:5, John16:23, Heb4:14-15, Heb10:19}
- We are to pray in Jesus' name (in His authority & power) {John14:13-14, John16:23-24, Acts3:6, Acts4:7-10, Acts16:18}
- Possibly okay to pray to Christ and Spirit directly {Acts1:24, Acts7:59, 2Cor12:8}
* Important considerations in effective prayer
- Pray according to His will {1John5:14-15, Matt6:10}
- Pray w/ faith {Mark11:24, Heb11:1,6}
- Disobedience is hindrance {Prov15:29, Prov28:9, 1John3:21-22}
- Confession of sin important {Matt6:12, Isa59:2}
- Forgiving others important {Matt6:14-15, Mark11:25}
* Praying for lost
- Praying for lost a passion of Paul {Rom10:1}
- Necessary because Gospel foolishness to world {1Cor1:18, 2:14}
- Pray for God to open their minds {2Cor4:4}
- Pray for Him to work in them so they can believe {John6:44, 65}
- Intercession for lost to be a priority in our lives {Rom10:1, 1Tim2:1-4, Luke18:1}
- Write down names & make commitment to pray for lost {Isa49:16}
- When we pray daily, God gives us courage & boldness {Acts4:31, Ex4:10-12}
- Corporate prayer important {Acts1:14, 4:23-24, 16:25-26, 6:4, 12:5, 12:12}


Want to know something sad? I have absolutely zero heart for the world. Sure, I have a theoretical desire to see all the world evangelized to, and I'm a firm supporter of missions work, but I lack a HEART for the world -- and isn't that more important than some conceptual belief?

Case in point: I have spent exactly zero minutes reading a single CNN.com or newspaper article about the recent attacks in India. In fact, finding the CNN hyperlink was my first time clicking on a single article. Death toll of 125, injury total north of 300, and I have spent zero time thinking about the situation. I have, however, spent literally hours reading about different potential college football BCS pairings.

Pope JPII used to spend several HOURS a day praying over a globe. He would turn the globe, focus on a single country, and then literally groan in prayer for that country, before moving on to the next. Hours daily. One of us is a real shepherd with a heart that truly reflects the love of God. I'll give you two guesses as to who's the fraud, and it isn't the man in the funny hat.


your leaders and all the saints

Go read up on the history of the country again, and the biographies of the men who led us early on, and the things they've said and written and tell us we should be banning God from government. And then tell me why I should listen to the emergent pastors telling us to separate culture and politics from God. The day we accept those arguments that God is apolitical is the day we concede defeat to the world and stop fighting the good faith. Separation of church and state, my aunt edna.

And a happy Thanksgiving to you, too.


in it the toughness of iron

Thanksgiving makes people reflect on all of the great things they have in their lives. In past years I've always felt rather guilty because of the plenty that I have: materially I have more than most; my family is literally perfect; great job; no real stresses or problems in my life. Others around me face far more difficult situations than I do. And in past years, that contrast has made me squirm a little; almost make me wish I had some problems, any problems so that I'd seem more normal.

Now this may border on the arrogant, but here's the thing. I understand that God is behind every detail of every person's life, and the blessings and trials given to people are completely due to His greater plan and His will and His working. I understand that I am nothing and have no part in anything. But I also know that faith is a walk of obedience and that the reward for obedience is blessing (both material and other). And I know that the great things I have in my life -- while all from God -- can be tied back to my obedience.

I am not crowing here. I am not saying that my kids are great because I'm great, or my job is great because I'm so skilled, or what have you. What I'm saying is I don't have to feel guilty about what I have, and I am comfortable giving testimony that when we walk in obedience and have faith in Him, He will be faithful in return. And I am comfortable saying that obedience is HARD. Part of the reason my kids are great is because I pour enormous amounts of energy trying to be a Godly father. Part of the reason my wife is great is because I spend enormous amounts of time being a Godly husband. Part of the reason I enjoy success at work is because I spend sleepless nights and long days being a diligent and Godly worker. Part of the reason I have whatever I have at church is because I strive to be a Godly leader.

And these efforts aren't because I already have great things; rather, the great things are results of the efforts I have put in to be who I'm supposed to be. And it is ENORMOUSLY hard work; faith is not easy. The world paints faith as some blind, happy-go-lucky road of smiles and rainbows. It is hard to fight against culture. It is hard to stand up against evolution. It is hard to not swear, not waste money, not buy into societal beliefs. It is hard to pray daily and stay caught up in daily Bible reading. It is hard to tithe faithfully. And I've had those times in my life when the blessings were few and the walk was rough. Faith is hard. And I know how hard it has been to be faithful.

So this Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for everything I have. And I'm thankful the Lord has given me the will to desire obedience and the strength of will to carry out obedience as much as I can. And I don't feel guilty about that, I really don't.


every obstacle out of the way of

I'm kinda schizophrenic when discussing hymn-singing in churches. On one hand, I think that churches that believe in hymn-only liturgies are ridiculous. Their complete dismissal of contemporary worship songs means they miss out on some amazing works of art whose only purpose is to draw you closer to the throne (translation: Tomlin songs). Their criticisms of modern structure and instrumentation and production belie a stubbornness against change and a clinging to tradition for the sake of tradition rather than intent of heart.

On the other hand, sometimes I completely agree with their criticisms. The U2 experience that accompanies contemporary worship threatens to overshadow the heart. Or the songs focus on something other than God (looking at you "Heart of Worship"). Or the songs are just plain bad (looking at you "Famous One"). And there is this beauty in simplicity of melody and poetic lyric found in many hymns that can't be matched by contemporary arrangement. Sang a simple but great hymn yesterday, and I found myself thinking, "Yeah, maybe hymn-only IS the way to go."

Two days after the purging, and maybe some part of me thinks there's still a lot of clutter to get rid of. Still a lot blocking that walk twixt me and God. And maybe getting down to the bare minimum is the only way to remove those weeds that make that walk so much harder.


I give thanks, but also

"From Prayer to Praise" {Ps40:1-5}
* Thanksgiving holiday least encumbered by silliness/commercialism
* Psalms contain 20 diff words for praise
- "Hallelujah" most well-known of those 20
- "hallel" = to boast loudly
* Ps40:1
- "patiently" a phantom word
- Actually more like "Waiting, I waited" -- emphasis on "waiting" rather than on "patiently"
- Waiting on YHWH rather than turning to false god (v4)
* Praise:prayer as root:flower
- No Hebrew word for "thank you"
- Thanks done via telling others about what someone has done
* Ps40:2
- King of Creation stooped down to listen to me (what God did in v2)
- Leads immediately to v3, where praise becomes prayer
* Ps40:3
- "new song" = both new music AND new sense of joy in relationship w/ God, new connection
- Result of public praise is others see Lord working, revere Him, and trust in Him
* Sometimes best praises are from long-simmering prayers


and offer for your cleansing what

I've written before about a holiday tradition. There's actually a new tradition that I'm hoping we continue -- the pre-holiday purge. Spent hours trashing and restacking and reordering. It's literally like the best way I can think of to spend a Saturday. And afterwards, I actually had to wait in line to donate bags of stuff. Apparently, the weekend before Thanksgiving is everyone's tradition to clean & purge.

Unfortunately, I know that most are purging simply to prepare for the coming re-accumulation. The purging is enough to bring joy to my soul; others purge in order to find space, like a man starving himself before the competitive eating event. We are a nation of plenty, even for those who might feel otherwise. I was going to make some connection between purging and confession, but the re-accumulation thing would make the analogy state that we confess in readiness to sin even more.

Wait, that actually makes sense, unfortunately.


been speaking to them about the Father

Three times today I heard colleagues use the term "come to Jesus meeting" to describe meetings where one person has to set another person straight. I've got conflicting views about the usage of the term. On one hand, it's an appropriate descriptive phrase and not really blasphemous in the sense that they are not saying something untrue about God. The term is used in the context to describe someone being set on the right path, someone getting the truth handed to them. This subtle phrase declares that Christ is the right way/the truth. Can't really argue with that.

On the other hand, obviously the phrase is not used in a religious context. Using Christ as you would use any other adjective is in fact using the Lord's name in vain, no? And the people using the phrase aren't reading into the meaning of the phrase, aren't stopping to consider the comparison they are making. I've written before about the danger of faith that is too casual. And certainly this is one perfect example.

Some would argue that we really need the faith to be clearly demarcated from the larger culture (to be out of the world). Others would argue that we really need faith to be part of the larger culture. I'll rest on the knowledge that God can make use of good and bad for His purposes, and leave it at that.


and strife and disputes about

Peaceniks point to the SotM and the blessing on makers of peace as some central theme. The diluters of Christ present this all-love Jesus, and claim all hate and strife is from the devil. They forget that God hates His enemies. Eccl3:8 also tells us that there is an appointed time -- "A time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace." Not sure where I was headed with this. Except maybe to mention I don't care for peaceniks.


and He eluded their grasp

Have to comment about yesterday's message. First, I didn't listen to it since I was flying home, so can't vouch for the notes I posted, which were second-hand. Second, my guess is that even had I listened to it live, it wouldn't make anymore sense to me than reading secondhand notes, or reading the various pages I've read today through a google search. Third, still can't decide whether seminary would've been useful or useless in better understanding this topic (part of me believes seminaries are responsible FOR this confusing doctrine).

Most importantly, however, I don't care. I don't care if I don't understand the doctrine of election. I believe it is NOT critical to my faith. Here is what is critical to my faith:
- God is a just and holy and loving God.
- God so loved the world.
- Jesus loves me to the point of death, even death on a cross

People who are unbelievers are lying when they say they aren't sure they can be a Christian because of confusing topics like election. There are deeper underlying reasons why such unbelievers reject God, so they are using a confusing topic to confuse your evangelism. Let them suffer in eternity for their choice is my thinking (not the most grace-filled perspective, I know). People who are believers who don't know how election fits into their faith and therefore struggle have small faiths, plain and simple. They are the same believers who struggle with faithful tithing, who struggle with serving others, who struggle with having a Godly marriage and a Godly family, et al other lukewarm acts.

See, my faith is bigger than mysteries. My faith is bigger than unknowables. My faith is bigger than the scope of my thinking. My faith is bigger than the ego within me that says I must know everything. My faith is bigger than my ability to comprehend. I didn't understand why my father pushed me so hard in school, until I had graduated from the finest college in the land and finally got that he was looking out for my future. See, my faith is in a great big God who loves me even more than an earthly father I didn't understand, and if that Father says something about election that my pea-brain can't grasp, well, I think I'll give Him the benefit of the doubt and say I don't understand, but I'm sure you were thinking of me all the while.


and the one who picks

"What is Election?"
* "Election is an act of God before creation in which He chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because of His sovereign good pleasure." (Wayne Grudem, Christian Beliefs)
- Election there to encourage us
- Election one part of God's sovereign plan for salvation
- Election not same as predestination
- Matt24:31, Acts13:48, Eph1:5-6, 1Thes1:4, Titus1:1, 1Pet1:1
* Misunderstandings about doctrine of election
- Election not fatalistic or mechanistic {Eph1:4}
- Election not based on God's foreknowledge of faith (conditional election) {Rom8:29a, Rom9}
* Objections to doctrine of election
- We are really not free: we're not forced to make choices; God works through our choices no matter what
- Unbelievers never had a chance to believe: Bible never says this (always goes back to rejection of God); Rom9:19-20
- God is unfair: It would be unfair for God to save anyone; do not take His grace & mercy for granted {Rom9:15-16}
- God doesn't want everyone to be saved: Untrue {1Tim23-4, 2Pet3:9}
* How does NT present election?
- As comfort to believers: nothing random, and once chosen, always chosen {Rom8:28-30}
- As reason for praise {Eph1:5-6, 2Thes2:13}
- As encouragement in evangelism {2Tim2:10}


and the birds of the air have

A falcon (or hawk, whatever) on the balcony railing outside my room. . .

lights in the expanse of the

Same view, same window, different light. . .


you appear as lights in the world

The view from my hotel room in CA. . .


are speaking plainly and

Random pieces of conversation I've heard today while killing time at the airport:

Woman: I want a breakfast sandwich of some kind.
Man: Well, there's lots of places in this food court. You could have a donut, or a croissant, or a . . .
Woman: I want a breakfast sandwich.
Man: I think that place has fresh fruit.
Woman: A breakfast sandwich. Bread. Eggs. Meat.
Man: I think I want some coffee. Care for any?
Woman: Did you hear me ask for a breakfast sandwich?!

Woman on cellphone: . . . well, I'm sitting at Newark Airport right now. You won't believe what happened.
Unknown on cellphone: (too quiet to hear)
Woman on cellphone: No. I got arrested getting back into Turkey!
Unknown on cellphone: (too quiet to hear)
Woman on cellphone: I'm going to take care of it today. But Caesar's out of country. What should I do?
Unknown on cellphone: (too quiet to hear)
Woman on cellphone: I think I left everything in the black briefcase...


in unity, so that the world

Um...what to make of this article about Christian monks fighting during a religious ceremony. Hmmm. How shall I put it? Oh, yeah. You all are a bunch of morons. WWJD? Not fight each other, that's for sure. Nice witness, luke.

the world has been crucified to me

"The Cross and the Atonement"
* What is Atonement?
- Definition: reconciliation; restoration of friendly relations; amends between offended party and offender
- Rom3:10-12, Rom3:23 -- God offended, we offenders
* Atonement in OT
- Christ's death central theme of OT and NT
- Christ's death the death of death
- Sacrificial system of OT developed by God as (imperfect) means to appease His wrath
- Lev17:11, Heb9:22 -- only blood sacrifice an atonement for sin against God
* The Cross
- Penal substitution
- Christ is our substitute; Christ has paid the penalty for our sin
- Isa53:3-12
- Jesus perfect fulfillment of prophecy
- God can't forgive everyone sans penalty because it against His nature (justice)
* How cross changes us
- Once enslaved, now free
- Once alienated, now intimate fellowship w/ God
- Once condemned, now pardoned
- Once under His wrath, now He is satisfied
- Once guilty, now forgiven
* What to do with atonement
- God judges all sin: I must let my conscience agree
- My sins merit ultimate penal suffering: I must admit nothing can blot them out
- Only real hope I have in front of holy God is Christ's death
- My faith in Christ is a gift
- Christ's death is the surest declaration of love ever given
- Christ's death constrains me to: trust, worship, serve, love


I suffered greatly in a dream because of

I had a dream last night, the kind where you wake up wondering why your emotions feel so real after something obviously so fake. I dreamed I lost a son I've never seen or held. Is it possible to want something unreal? To chase after phantoms? To long for illusions? Two realities compete for our attention: the real world reality, and the reality you've nurtured in your mind, one filled with better outcomes and happier ends. And when your dream-mind weaves the two like a fine braid, your heart just goes along for the ride, unsure why fantasy hurts so much like reality.


what will occur at the final period

The clip below has been making the rounds among good believers reminding us that the Lord is sovereign, especially during elections. I've wondered before whether or not Obama is the antichrist (for the record, I don't believe he is). But part of me sorta hopes he is. So that when JDay appears soon and we appear behind the pearly gates, I can turn to the bad believers and say, "Just wanted to thank you for helping to bring about the end of days."


those who constantly record unjust decisions

I'm so glad elections only come every four years. That means I only have to get angry at Christians sporadically. [Note: Untrue. Christians generally anger me at least once a day.] Four years ago, I lamented the bride's voting record, and predicted certain defeat. Was glad for the victory.

Tonight's predicament is far more dire. At least that was a coin toss four years ago. This is going to be a massacre. And tomorrow all the people who are Democrats first and Christians second will jump for joy. Please don't try and rationalize it, goats. Everyone makes bad decisions. Some of us just try not to do it on election day.


am who I am

"Who is Jesus?"
* Matt16:13-17: Doesn't matter what others say about who Christ is -- what do you say?
* Jesus: Fully God (Deity of Christ)
- Attributes (omniscient, omnipresent, eternal, etc)
- Works (gives eternal life, resurrection, forgives sin, will judge, etc)
- Names (Son of God, YHWH, King of Kings, etc)
- Scripture {Col2:9, Luke2:11}
- Jesus' claims {Mark14:61-64, John8:58-59, John10:30-33}
* Jesus Seminar evil and run by future denizens of a fiery lake (see also: THIS, THIS, and THIS )

*Jesus: Fully man (Humanity of Christ)
- Human birth {Matt1:18}
- Human body (grew physically, grew tired, was hungry, was thirsty, etc.)
- Characteristics (had a family, obeyed parents, loved His friends, worked as a carpenter, wept, etc.)
- 100% human except SANS SIN {2Cor5:21, Heb4:15}
* Why important for Jesus to be human?
- To be perfect representative of obedience {Rom5:19}
- To be perfect substitution/propitiation {Heb2:17}
- To be example in life {1John2:6}
* Jesus: Fully God & Fully Man (Hypostatic Union)
- Council of Chalcedon
- Phil2:5-8: Christ stripped of status not divinity
- Most amazing miracle: Almighty God becomes human for our sake