until he has finished

We sang a new song in service last week, and repeating it again tomorrow. It's been made popular by Chris Tomlin, who is like merlin when it comes to covering other artists' stuff. But the song was created by a less well-known group. Full lyrics can be found HERE Clip below shows the Bluetree lead in an acoustic version of it.

I wrote about "hope" a few days ago, and the reason this song is growing on me is that the chorus speaks to a hope. Many behave like they think God's work was done at the cross, and after that He kicked up His feet. But God is no absentee landlord, and He is still at work bringing about His grand plan, and great things He has done, no doubt, but keep looking forward and up, because the great, it's still a comin'.


therefore there arose a discussion on

I fly often, and my usual flight is a 5-6 hr trip. Because I don't suffer fools, 9 out of 10 times I don't speak a word to the person sitting beside me beyond a casual greeting. Every now and then I'll encounter someone I'll speak to for 5-10 min snippets. Last night, however, I ended up speaking to the guy beside me for several hours. The primary topic of conversation? Video games. Last night, my conversation moved from handheld games to opinions of specific games to the game industry to the different consoles, and embedded within the conversation I discussed anecdotes about video games.

What's interesting is that I can imagine many topics around which I'd carry on long conversations (with strangers or with friends): video games, favorite sports team, politics, golf, movies, etc. And the reason people can bond around these topics is that people have their own experiences and stories that they can tell about that topic. Conversations succeed when both parties can excitedly and/or passionately take a point of view and discuss. But what I realized this morning is that -- even in conversations with other believers -- there aren't a lot of conversations I have with people about faith that don't feel like I'm teaching Sunday School or trying to convey a message.

Don't get me wrong, I've had plenty of conversations that include elements of faith. I've had arguments about theology. I've shared my testimony. I've discussed prayers. I've shared thoughts about particular scriptural passages. But these were all specific instances around specific topics. What is harder to recall is an organic conversation about faith that jumped from faith topic to faith topic where both parties shared stories about their faith. And I don't know if I'm alone in that experience or not. Thinking it would be great if I and all other Christians had similar conversations where we begin with Noah's Ark and move from there to Job to eternal security to Lazarus to election to why Joel Osteen is the antichrist, embedding our excitement and passion and personal stories about this walk, this wonderful walk we have before us at all times.


think kindly of us, longing to

Every now and then the Lord reveals things to me in flashes. Today while walking back to the office amidst a sea of people, I felt this tugging in my heart full of sadness. I felt this enormous upwelling of some mix of compassion and pity and heart, and looking from face to face to face made it more exponentially powerful. That it lasted just a few seconds is the Lord's grace to me, as any more than that, I do not know how I could've coped. I believe that what I felt was a minuscule slice of the heart of God for His people.

I don't know what He wants me to do with that glimpse. Perhaps it was an answer to an already-uttered prayer. Perhaps it was a sign pointing to some direction that is yet unclear to me. And perhaps it was just a reminder to me that He's always there, that He cares for me and others more than anyone could know or bear, and that my responsiblity is to have that heart, to not lose sight of that heart, to cling to that heart.

as for me, I will hope continually

I've written about President Obama BEFORE [Also, HERE and HERE]. Usually it's not so positive. And the reason is that he is an empty suit. He was not elected based on substance. He was elected based on hope. What Obama represents to his voters is a belief that things can be different: the hope that racism can die out; the hope that world peace can be achieved; the hope that the economy will improve; the hope that the US will be embraced on the world stage; etc etc etc. Looks like maybe that hope is running out.

It's not just Obama. People put their hope in a new coach for their sports team. In new medications to treat their health worries. In a new relationship to cure that internal loneliness. And these things eventually disillusion the masses. Because those hopes are in vain. Our hope can ONLY be in Jesus Christ; He is the only hope that will not fade away. Heb6 says that hope is "an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast". 1Pet1 says our hope is a "living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" and commands us to "fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." This idea of the hope of God is a powerful, powerful thing. We have this hole in our soul, one whose darkness seeks some light to dispel it. Our souls are wired to look for that light. And that light will not be found in the bottom of a bottle, in that attractive co-worker, in that optimistic coach, or in the Oval Office. It is only and ever found in Jesus Christ, in Him alone.

"For I hope in You, O LORD; You will answer, O Lord my God." -- Ps38:15


to save that which was lost

"Loving the World" {Acts20:24, John17:18}
* Clarification: Do not love the world -- love the people of the world {1John2:15-17}
* People matter to God {John3:16}
* Jesus loved lost people {Matt9:36, Luke19:10}
* Jesus met the needs of unbelievers {James2:14-17}
* Jesus sends us into the world w/ a strategy {Acts1:8}
* How we can love the world
- Purposely befriend & pray for those in circle of influence
- Meet practical needs in community (MOPs, AWANA, Food Bank)
- Open hearts to orphan care {Ps68:5-6a, Ps82:3-4}
- Seek to understand other cultures & their needs
- Send works to share Gospel
- Support global workers in prayer {Col4:2-4}
- Support outreach effort to Tamajaq


therefore your whole body is

I've always been in relatively healthy physical shape, despite a diet consisting of primarily beef, cheese, sugar, and mac&cheese. But the past few weeks, I've been running and working out consistently almost every day. I've also changed breakfast from eggs to Cheerios, and been eating one serving at dinner instead of two. All of this extra attention to my physical condition has had one perverse side effect: I am weighing myself constantly and looking in the mirror way too frequently.

I've noted before that the world corrupts purity -- there is a fine line between lust/love, confidence/arrogance, justice-seeking/legalism -- and I think I'm crossing that line between being aware of my health and vanity. I can make the argument I'm doing this just so that I'll live longer for my family, but half the time I'm pretty sure I'm doing this all for washboard abs. And by the way, I don't buy that argument used by believers who love working out and eating healthily that 1Cor11:19-20 commands us to do so because the Spirit dwells in us. That has got to be as flimsy an argument as believers who defend gay rights by saying that God is love. I'm certain being a believer doesn't require a gym membership.

Not sure where I was going with this. Maybe just to let you know that tickets to the gun show are this way *flexes*.


to perform the duty of

Met with a brother this morning and discussed the role of the church. One position sees the role of the church as teachers -- enabling individual believers to grow spiritually on their own. This perspective sees the role of pastors and elders and ministry leaders only as overseers of individual growth. One consequence of this perspective is that children -- who are too young to manage their own growth -- must have their paths of growth be led by their parents and not the church. The church, you see, instructs believers to do their jobs; and the duty of spiritual development of youth falls under the purview of parents. Hence, the church plays an assistance role, but only through the parents.

A second position (the current model of most churches, especially from the role of immature believers) sees the role of the church as the source of all things religious -- where ALL spiritual development is in the hands of the church. Many churches see themselves as the doer of all things, resulting in haphazard ministries, all keeping their own successes. They view themselves as the sole fount of all knowledge and growth. You must attend Sunday morning AND Bible study AND prayer night, because otherwise, how would you grow?

The third position sees the role of the church beyond instructor, but not as far as ultimate guide. The church has a more active role in addition to teaching, and that is some actual doing as well. This perspective sees the role of pastors and elders and ministry leaders as overseers of individual growth, and where necessary the responsibility to act as interventions. In this perspective, the church -- as the extended family of the immediate family -- also has a shared (albeit much smaller) responsibility for the spiritual development of youth. No question the onus lies with the parents, but the church plays a role, too.

It's not too difficult to see where I am on this spectrum. Position one vacates all spiritual responsibility from the bride of Christ. The Bible says the church is His hands and His feet; surely they must be used for more than writing on a chalkboard? The second position vacates all responsibility from the believer. Our walks are individual walks, not group walks, and pastors will answer before the throne for spiritual development, but so will each of us individually. I'm a man of extremes and blacks and whites, and I would love to embrace one of these polar positions. But methinks truth lies more to the third option, and there I will seek to lead those that wish to follow.


we behaved toward you believers

"Loving One Another" {John13:34-35}
* The church has highest possible place in God's heart
- Bride of Christ
- Christ died for His bride {Eph5:25}
- 1John3:16, Matt16:18
* Anyone who doesn't love others doesn't love God {1John4:7-8}
* Love is chief mark of authenticity
* We love by committing to His church {1Cor12, Eph3:21}
- Be involved in small group {Acts2:46-47}
- Pray for one another faithfully {Col4:2}
- Forgive one another & diligently seek unity {Eph4:3, Eph4:32, Rom16:17, 1Pet4:8, Ps133}
- Serve & encourage one another {Gal5:13, 1Thes5:11}
- Serve greater body of Christ in our community {2Cor8-9}

has filled your heart

[From last Sunday]

"Loving God" {Mark12:30-31}
* Most important thing in life is love
- Love better than legalism, ritualism, religion
* God's priorities for my life: love Him, love church, love world
* We love because God loves us (agape love, highest form) -- God source of all true love {1John4:19}
* Love is a choice & commitment {Deut30:19-20a}
* Love is an action, not just emotion
- 1John3:18
- If feeling gone, act & feeling will return {Rev2:4}
* How we love God
- Is worship directed toward Him?
- Heb13:15-16: Continually
- Our lives are joyful anthem of love


their infants and they would not survive

Oh, my mercy, how did I ever miss the video clip below? Almost five months passed between when America's Best Pastor John Piper delivered the powerful message below, and when it hit my eyes and ears. I don't like anything about the state of MN, but the more I listen to Piper speak, the more I am considering moving to be a part of his church. I guarantee, I GUARANTEE I will do everything in my power to ensure this clip is shown next January to our flock. [Note: I agreed with every part of his message except where he says some of us wept for joy at the inauguration of the antiChrist.]


opened the book and found

Not sure what I think of THIS version of the Bible. I'm on record as being against the NIV, and although I'm reading through the ESV this year, I still have my reservations. My belief is not every translation is appropriate, no matter what Warren and others say.

I do appreciate that the intent of the authors of this version of the Word is to make it more readable to attract those that aren't currently immersed in daily reading. And if you click on one of the samples you get the gist of what they did -- transformed the Bible into literature. More readable, sure, but here's the thing: the Bible isn't literature. It is a love letter from God to us. It is the manual for understanding and getting through life successfully. It is the tome of all wisdom. But it is not, nor has it ever been bedside reading. This shouldn't be an option when you're looking for a quiet activity in the evening. It should never be "Do I read the Bible or John Grisham?"

Turns out I DO know what I think of this version. I'm going to go ahead and take the position that I'll never read it. I prefer my Bible to grow me, not entertain me.


who can listen to it

Do yourself a favor and click HERE and listen to song #11, I Will Glory in My Redeemer. Better than listening to the snippet would be to get the whole song; it's worth it. The worship war played out by churches pits old school music (read: hymns) against contemporary Christian music. And one of the many ways this war is idiotic is that it defines hymns as a type of music tied to a time period (1800's) rather than what a hymn truly is: any structured song of praise or thanksgiving to God. Some of you might even remove the word "structured" from that definition.

Point being, there are some amazing hymns that have been written in the past few decades. "In Christ Alone" was written in 2001, for example. "The Power of the Cross" was written in 2005. And "I Will Glory in My Redeemer" was written in 2001. On their own, just given the lyrics and the melody, any stubborn, hymn-only stalwart would be hard-pressed to explain why these three songs somehow offend God's ears. Heck, 9 out of 10 of these stalwarts, if asked whether the line "Mine was the sin that drove the bitter nails" was written by Charles Wesley would probably answer yes, and the 1 who said no probably thought it was a Fanny Crosby lyric instead.

Full lyrics can be found HERE. Listen. Meditate. Worship.


leaving no children

I'm probably going to get excoriated for this post, but whatever. Participated in an interesting discussion Monday night with two folks who believe in having families with lots of children. My definition of lots of children is "more than 2". Their definition is the exact opposite of that -- if you can't field your own baseball team, you're depriving yourself of God's blessings. Other organizations share a similar mindset. Let's get a few things straight here:

* The fact that children are a gift doesn't mean you should hoard as many as possible. Like Christmas presents, one big gift is often the equivalent of lots of smaller gifts. And you aren't more gifted because you have seven kids, and I have three. Perhaps my three are the equal of your seven, blessingwise.

* That whole quiverfull idea -- you know if you're a good hunter/warrior, you don't need to carry more than one arrow, right? And quivers vary in size by task (hunting vs war), by Indian tribe, by size of arrow, etc. I don't know how you translate the imagery of a full quiver into being a dozen kids, and not simply two kids.

* Let's count the blessings God has already given you: forgiveness of sins and eternal life, in addition to whatever material blessings or family blessings or job blessings you enjoy alongside those two great blessings. And because God equates having children with blessings, you want to take advantage of the system and have as many children as possible for the sake of getting more blessing? Greed might not be strong enough a word for this mindset.


and wrath and anger and clamor

Still mulling over my post from yesterday about it being okay to be mad at God. I've written about SCC before. I think his response to what the Lord allowed to happen (and indeed, ordained to happen) has been a model of pure faith. Others should look at his and his family's testimony over the past year and point and say "That's real faith." A year after the tragedy, SCC's wife posts an honest, wrenching account of how she's feeling. Still clings to Christ, to be sure. Still saddened beyond measure, of course. And sometimes, yeah, she's still angry with God.

Look out, Lord. Someone with weak faith is attacking your sovereignty. Someone proud and arrogant. Better she should pretend everything is peachy in her walk, and ignore her heart. Someone should tell a grieving mother that her anger has no Biblical justification.

It just won't be me, because still to me? They're still Exhibit A in Faith v Unbelief.


and being furiously enraged at

During yesterday's sermon, a point was made that I chose to exclude from my summary because I disagree with it. The preacher remarked that it is "never okay to be angry with God"; that there is no Biblical justification for it; that it represents an "unbelievable display of pride and arrogance"; and that being angry with God is an attack on God's sovereignty.

First, there are lots of things that are attacks on God's sovereignty. When we are disobedient, we are turning from His divine plans for us. When we complain about our circumstances, we are saying that God's ways aren't so cool. When we decide to be proactive and take our lives in our own hands rather than waiting on Him to open/close doors, we are going against His sovereignty. And while we are wrong in doing all these things, we have the freedom and right to do so.

Second, there are Biblical justifications for being angry with God. The book of Jonah, for example. Throughout the Gospels, the disciples often find themselves exasperated with Jesus. A whole crew of them leave following Him at the end of John6, for instance. Doesn't Moses grumble a bunch of times in Exodus? Point being, there are plenty of Biblical heroes who get upset with the ways of God. And make no mistake, it doesn't accomplish anything, and they are certainly in the wrong every time, but that doesn't mean it isn't okay to be angry with God.

God doesn't want stepford wives for followers. God gave us free will to act and feel as we please. And even when the feeling or the action is not righteous, we have the freedom to express them. And God wants us to empty our emotions with Him. If we do find something in our lives that troubles us, He wants us to share it with him in complete honesty and truth and sincerity. Is it better to react in praiseful acceptance no matter the circumstance? Sure. But make no mistake: the Lord wants you coming to Him, crying out to Him, arguing with Him. At least you are there with Him. The alternative -- lying to Him about how we feel, or hiding how we feel -- is worse. He doesn't want our deceit, and He doesn't want us to give Satan opportunities to sow discontent. Anger is a natural human response and emotion. And the last thing God wants us to do when we are with Him is to lose our humanity.