I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised

My father passed away two weeks ago today.

That sentence was incredibly difficult to write, as if in the writing I was somehow solidifying the fact and making it impossible to reverse. There is a profoundly deep well of sadness within me, a sorrow through whose shadows my screams find no bottom to that pit. And yet there is clear light amidst this turbulence. They say that trials in life are tests of faith, and over the past two weeks, I've grown to understand that more.

Some view the test of faith like a spelling test -- an examination with a pass/fail score. In your response to trial, do you still cling to that God of yours, or do you abandon Him? And there is that aspect to tests of faith.

Others view the test of faith like an air pressure test on your tires -- a gauge that measures some amount. In your response to trial, how big is your faith? Do you only see God when the streams of abundance flow? Or can you when in the desert, when walking through the wilderness still stay "Blessed be Your name?" And there is that aspect to tests of faith as well.

I have come to also see the test of faith like a rorschach test -- a test after which you learn something about yourself. I've said several times before that I want an unbelievable faith. And this recent test of faith for me has revealed what my faith looks like.

And while my sadness is infinite, I find myself believing more fully in the sovereignty of God than I ever had. I still see the goodness of God. I see the grace He has poured out to me over the last few years and last few months. I see His love poured out on me through His people. I see His heart for the lost, and His love for the found. I see a God whether the sun's shining down or whether the darkness is closing in whose name I can bless. I see a God who I will never be able to outlove who loves me to there and back and to whom I can run and I can run to his heart, a heart big enough for all my shadows I will not despair I will not despair. I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock in whom I take refuge.


against you, He has cleared away

"Forgive One Another" {Eph4:32}
* Lots of words/phrases easy to say -- "I forgive you" is not one of them
- Requires humility to be able to give grace to another who has wronged you
- Corrie ten Boom story
* Forgiveness is commanded; rooted in God's forgiveness of us, and in person of Jesus
- Matt6:12
* Forgiveness is at heart of Gospel {Col3:13}
* No exclusion clauses in command to forgive others
- Matt18:21-22
- Forgiveness towards someone who repeatedly wrongs you does not exclude correction, rebuke, etc
* Forgiveness a heart decision {Matt18:23-35}
* Forgiveness to be given regardless of circumstances {Acts7:51-60}
- Steve Saint story
* Forgiveness done in light of Christ's example {Luke23:34}


on Him, because He cares for you

O little one of infinite sadness, do you not know that all your cares can be given unto Me? Do you not recall that I will sustain you? that I will bear you? that I will shield you with eagles' wings? Do you not know that I derive no pleasure in death? that I long for all to come to Me? Do you not remember that I will defend you? that I will provide for you? that every hair on your precious head was numbered once by Me? O little one of infinite sadness, do you not know that I have great plans, plans for every one, every one, and no ache in you is greater than the one I have for all as well? Do you not recall that I will never leave you, nor forsake you, nor ever let you go? that what once was no longer is? that what once will be needn't burden your soul to break? O little one of infinite sadness, My heart is big enough for all your shadows, do not despair. Do not despair.


do so as one

"Live in Harmony w/ One Another" {Rom15:5-6}
* God is glorified by our unity & harmony w/ each other. People form their opinion about God by what they see in us. {Rom15:5-6,12:16}
* Unity & peace in His family is a big deal to God {Ps34:14, John17:20-23, Eph4:1-6}
* Amount of blessing/disc we receive from God is greatly determined by our harmony {Ps133, Matt5:9, 1Pet3:8-12}
- Like orchestra: diff instruments w/ diff notes/sounds that sound great when played together
- Ed note: The blessing IS the harmonious community
* It takes tremendous effort & sacrifice to maintain harmony w/ everyone {Eph4:2-3, Rom12:18}
* Our ability to influence unbelievers is determined by our unity {Phil1:27, John17:22-23, Acts2:46-47}
* God won't use a person to do His work who has unresolved conflict w/ someone else {Matt5:23-24}
* Lack of unity slows our growth {1Cor3:1-3}
* Practical steps for developing unity
- Realize unity & harmony are possible
- Christ prayed for our unity while on earth -- possibly still prays for our unity; we have supernatural help in this
- 2Cor5:17-18
- Realize unity & harmony not automatic: accept responsibility, pray for it, make every effort


nor do they pick

For some closing at a later date. All about choices.
* Would you rather game
* Football or baseball: no right or wrong
* Salad dressing type: doesn't matter
* Millions of dollars or abject poverty: one clearly better
* What to wear: not final; changes every day
* Heads or tails: not real help to you
* One choice. That has a right answer. That matters more than anything. That results in the glorious riches of heaven. That is permanent, now and forevermore. That will close that gap twixt you and eternity, square with the Almighty forever.

One choice.


he would not have allowed

The clip below is a pretty unique response to the answer of "Why does God allow suffering?" It doesn't answer the question so much as it reframes the issue. Many of the theological questions we ask are human-centric questions. The clip below reminds us that a better answer would be to understand the question from the eternal view.


His disciples were together

"Love One Another" {John13:34-35}
* Doug Nichols testimony
* Thoughts about One Anothering
- Our flesh is selfish and must be trained to put others first
- "One anothering" is a learned habit that becomes a growing skill that evolves into character {Isa1:17}
- Our relationship w/ God is affected by our "one anothering" {1John4:12}
* What does Bible teach about loving one another?
- Command to love given in context of serving
- Called a "new commandment"
- Jesus' love for His disciples the standard for our love for one another {John13:34}
- It begins w/ decision rather than emotion {1Pet1:22}
- Often mentioned in letters to early churches {Rom12:10, 1Cor13, 1John3:11, 1John3:16-18}
- Love for one another the proof we are followers of Christ and has potential to impact world {John17:20-26, 1John4:7-21}

pressed into service to bear

Struggling lately with my role as a shepherd of the flock. Headed to a retreat with other shepherds yesterday, and in the middle of my foul mood, the Lord rebuked me about my attitude. Here I am, a leader among the brethren, and my heart towards everything I am doing and want to do and need to do was either resigned to the worst or begrudging. And the Lord reminded me about three things.

* First, I serve -- and all believers serve -- at the good pleasure of God. It is in fact a supreme privilege and great honor to be able to represent Him on earth, and to do His work, and to lead others to do His work. If it feels like prison rockbreaking, it is because our attitude is out-of-whack. There are millions upon millions of believers, and not all are being used by God. To be counted among that group of those being used is a unique privilege, and one we should not forget.

* Secondly, I serve -- and all believers should serve -- as a response of gratitude to God. We owe Him eternity and our very lives, and every blessing big and small. The cattle on a thousand hills and all we own is His. We cannot earn His love or our salvation. We have been given tremendous heavenly blessings. To serve Him is the very least of what we can do in gratitude.

* Lastly, I serve -- and all believers serve -- because we are commanded to. If serving the church feels like a responsibility, well, it is. I may have unhappy moments being a father or a husband or a son or an employee, and guess what? Too bad. Suck it up. Being worn down is part of a broken creation, and an aspect of lots of different things in life. If I can persevere as a father and a husband and a son and an employee, why can't I as a shepherd of the church?

Christ doesn't want my tithe if I am unhappy giving it to Him. Christ doesn't want a song sung if my heart isn't in the words. Christ doesn't want me sitting glumly in church if I'm not there to listen. And Christ doesn't want -- nor does He need -- my service as a shepherd if I cannot do it out of loving obedience to Him. Much to think about.


began to argue with

The video below has been (or will be) making the rounds for believers. Nicely-produced video. Great arguments made by the little kid. Don't want to ruin it for you, but likely fictitious since the man the kid turns out to be has an unclear and conflicting testimony. Nevertheless, worth watching.

has been reserved forever

The wondrous one asked my thoughts on the last v of Dan12: "But as for you, go your way to the end; then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age." Specifically, she wanted to see how the phrase "allotted portion" fit into my belief that the concept of heavenly rewards is bad theology. Considering the rest of Dan12, and how God is basically commending him for his faith, it seems to lead one to believe that one's allotted portion are one's saved-up rewards.


Some digging into the phrase via Blue Letter Bible, along with some commentaries, and it's clear that the word used for "portion" is the same word as "lot". "Allotted portion" is sometimes translated as "inheritance." Similar to when Christ tells His disciples that He's prepared places for them in John14. God commends Daniel and basically tells him to keep the faith till the end of his days, where he will then enter into his eternal home with God, everything all reserved for him.

Sorry, Randy Alcorn & all your fans. Keep wishing for more than an eternal home. I'll stay away from that audacious level of greed, thank you very much.