Monday, August 10, 2009

What if...

What if you could at one point speak, sing, see, feel, move, dance, hear, and then it was no more? Would you praise Him then - would it be enough to sing songs in your head that no one could hear? To speak to God with tones of love and praise, though no one could hear you? If all you had was up here [points to head] would that be enough? Could you worship still? Would that be enough for Him? For you?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

justice and compassion

Merry Christmas.  I’m going to sound a bit grinch’ish on the front end here, so I figured I’d start out with the ol’ happy holiday greeting.

Much of the Bible makes me uncomfortable – but not for the reason you might expect (well, maybe).  I was posting something in regard to a project helping with the poor and adjustable eyeglasses, and thinking about Christmas and it’s place in my little world.  Like many things, this is how the world works – how does it fit within my sphere of life.  How does it affect me, make me feel, what is the chief end of time as a whole in regard to me?  Christmas is a great time for family (we’ve already had one great Christmas in our household this year, with another two coming this week), and when set together with Advent, you get a real sense that there is a streak of hope that isn’t to be denied.  I’m not trying to do that here.  I get uncomfortable because as I read more of it, meditate on more of it, pray over more of it, I get the sinking sensation that I am missing the point over and over and over again. That above posting did that to me today.  I’ll try to explain.


What I’m thinking about is why Jesus was sent in the first place.  After 400 years of silence to the Jewish people, I’m sure the hope was palatable.  They were prisoners, in a sense, in their own homeland, ruled over by and empire that had little regard for them on the top level (see Herod and the genocide of babies to refuse a coming King). Just below that, a corrupt political and religious mid-level that claimed to hope with their lips, but the practice of these white-washed tombs said something entirely different.  They were content with the current system in many ways (in a sense, they were the ultimate sell-outs, but that’s another story).  In the end, even they saw the coming redeemer as a conqueror – one that would replace the current empire and put them at the right hand, helping bring in a new kingdom of power and peace.  For them, the proverbial Christmas or Advent was one about them – a redeemer from political oppression.  But, if you are familiar with anything with the tradition of Christmas, you know that wasn’t the point.  Instead, we have shifted our thoughts to the other end of spectrum – Jesus as the precious baby in the manager, adored by the visiting people – truly a specimen of happiness and joy.  So, Christmas tradition today is largely about that portion – the hope, the coming, and the giving.


This is what is bothering me.  Christmas is great for so many reasons.  But it is incredibly tragic for the One who was sent.  Incredibly, indescribably, and if we were in His place for even a moment, we’d see this part even more clearly, tragic.  Imagine just for a second about the loss for our gain.  Not just on the cross – in the manger. There are a myriad of analogies that could be used here, none even getting close to doing this moment justice.  There was never another plan – this was not a contingency.  When He created, He knew.  This small baby in manger is destined for nothing else on this earth. Talk to me if you will about your anger with God – how He is unjust for letting the weak suffer, for the poor to perish, and the hungry to starve and I will point you here.  He who breathed life into flesh, to do with whatever He might will, chooses to become flesh to save condemned flesh.  The just became unjust, for the righteousness of God was destined even in birth to bearing of unrighteousness outside the camp He created.  It was this righteousness alone that allowed Him pay the price.  He took His own rules and played by them. There is joy in that, in obedience, but I think there is much sadness too.  If we had not sinned, there would be no need for Christmas. 


In the end, you may feel bombarded by various causes and charities seeking some of your hard earned and often meager cash in this season.  But before you turn from them, I think it should be understood that we do so often because we have no concept of the poor like His concept.  We have no compassion for the needy and dirty like He has.  We have no knowledge of justice like His – we fear the consequences of our sin so much that we lie, cover up or blame with barely a second thought. He sees the wage of our sin and offers Himself, who had done no wrong, to provide justice, to provide payment.  This coming to earth wasn’t some sort of goodwill tour, spreading cheer and joy to the 4 corners of Israel.  He was sent for justice, a price to paid on His own back.  This baby in a manger is the Holy God in flesh, the One whom no man could see prior for fear of complete destruction.  Isaiah was left on his face, trembling.  Moses could only bear to see His backside glory, and that alone left him aglow.  John falls down before the angels who served in His presence, for even they are beyond him.  And now He is dwelling not in the creation of Genesis 1-2 that He Himself wrought, but in the Genesis 3 fallen creation.  This is the ultimate in compassion. He is left with the shepherds and later the magi come to worship Him, a small solace for the legions of worshipers He left in heaven. This is our manger, like it or not.


In the end, Paul says it best in his letters to the Corinthians - He made Him who knew no sin became sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.


What if you and your family were to take that on in this season – to become something for someone that they themselves cannot become? 


So, somehow, we need to mix this manger with sorrow.  There is great joy in the coming of the Redeemer.  But let’s not forget why they call Him the Redeemer.


That’ll keep my head buzzing for the rest of the week I think.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Roles, Goals, Scheduling

Currently lists 90,864 books under the topic of "time management." Titles range from Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen, a helpful book I recommend, to Time Management for Dummies, a book I have not read, although it appears I represent the target audience.

"Time management" books are hot and it's obvious why—we all want to discover some previously unknown secret that will enable us to become more productive. Yet in this series we have discovered that getting more things done does not mean we are getting the right things done.

Or to put this in a little triad: busyness does not mean I am diligent; busyness does not mean I am faithful; busyness does not mean I am fruitful.

In the past several posts in this series, we looked at procrastination: putting off until the last moment tasks that are important (and presumably most difficult), and instead devoting ourselves to what is easy and urgent, but not as important.

My busyness may be procrastination in disguise.

But today we transition in this series from discussing the hindrances to biblical productivity (procrastination, laziness, and the tendencies of the sluggard) to looking at how we can effectively plan and prioritize.

From my study of this topic and my observation of those I admire (and desire to emulate), it appears to me that being faithful, productive, and fruitful for the glory of God requires that I accomplish three things:

1. define my present God-given roles,
2. determine specific, theologically informed goals, and
3. transfer these goals into my schedule.

Over the next several posts we will develop these three in some detail.

But you may be thinking to yourself, why go through the trouble of determining these roles, creating goals, and fitting all this into my schedule? Why not take life as it comes?

Perhaps you dislike—or even despise—all things related to planning. Perhaps you, like me, can identify with my friend Michael McKinley when he recently wrote: "I would rather stick a fork in my eye than sit in a planning meeting." Mike has painfully and creatively captured my tendency to postpone planning, and if possible, avoid planning altogether. But while I think of myself as an all-about-the-moment guy, my avoidance of planning is to the detriment of my schedule and (more importantly) to the detriment of my service to my family and church.

Here's why.

The problem for those of us with this fork-in-the-eye approach to planning is that during each day the most urgent requests will compete with and distract from the most important goals and priorities of our lives. Each day the number of requests we receive normally outnumber the time allotted for the day. My experience confirms that if I fail to attack my week with theologically informed planning, my week attacks me with an onslaught of the urgent. And I end up devoting more time to the urgent than the important.

And at the end of the week there is a low-grade guilt and dissatisfaction in my soul, because I've neglected to do the truly important stuff. I want to have as few weeks like this as possible in whatever time remains for me to serve the Savior. I'm thinking you do as well.


Posted by C.J. Mahaney

Roles (Part 1)


It's not hard for us to imagine that pastors and church planters are called by God. This is clear to us throughout Scripture. So when we come across the first verse in Romans, where Paul says he was "called to be an apostle" (ESV), we have no problem with this.

But what about the rest of us?

What about a stay-at-home mom with two kids? What about an auto mechanic? How about a real estate agent and a business owner? Has God called them?

What about you? Are you aware of being called by God to a particular task?

Theology of Work

Disagreements over a "theology of work" are common throughout church history. In fact (I was just told) the Middle Ages was marked by a stiff distinction between sacred and secular work. Pastors and church leaders were considered called; laborers were not so called. One is sacred; one is secular.

Then along came a Reformation.

Not only did the Reformers make a giant stride by viewing "secular" work as a calling from God, they took a second step and broadened this calling to include not only work but also vocation.

Leland Ryken writes in his book Redeeming the Time (Baker, 1995), "The early Protestants rightly conceived of our callings as being much broader than our job. All of our roles in life are callings. Being a spouse, a parent, a church member, a neighbor, and a Christian are all callings" (p. 151).

By this, the Reformers introduced an understanding of God's sovereignty that included all of life—every vocation, every detail, every moment.

Today it appears that many Christians aren't clear on their work as calling. Christians are normally clear that we should live out the Christian ethic in the workplace. But the Reformers were calling for something bigger.

Ryken writes:
Most Christians believe they can be a Christian at work. To do so involves being a diligent worker, being honest in one's dealings with an employer, and witnessing to fellow workers. But this still leaves the work itself untouched by one's Christian faith. The original Protestants were right in going beyond this and claiming that the work itself is a spiritual issue and a means of glorifying God. We can be Christian not only in our work but through our work if we view our work as an obedient response to God's calling. (p. 148)
This perspective will transform your attitude as you proceed to work, wait in traffic, and arrive to work for yet another day!

Determining Roles

But how can I be certain of my own calling? How can I know I am in the right job? Am I in the proper career path? What about where God wants me in the future? How do I determine God's intended vocation(s) for my life?

In his book The Spirituality of the Cross (Concordia, 1999), Gene Veith provides two insightful questions.

First, where has God placed me?
How do we know our vocation? Strictly speaking—and contrary to the way we pressure young people to "decide" what they are going to do when they grow up—a vocation is not something we choose for ourselves. Rather, it is given by God, who "calls" us to a particular work or station. God gives each individual unique talents, skills, and inclinations. He also puts each individual in a unique set of external circumstances, which are understood as having been providentially arranged by God. Since vocation is not self-chosen, it can be known too through the actions of others. Getting offered a job, being elected to an office, finding someone who wants to marry you, are all clues to vocation…

Perhaps later, another vocation will present itself. But vocation is to be found not simply in future career decisions, but in the here and now. Nor can a person use the excuse of "not having a vocation for marriage" for getting a divorce, or claim "not having a vocation for parenthood" as a way to dump childrearing responsibilities. If you are married, that's your vocation. If you have children, they are your vocation. (p. 80)
Second, where am I positioned to serve others?
The purpose of one's vocation, whatever it might be, is serving others. It has to do with fulfilling Christ's injunction to love one's neighbor…Our relationship to God is not determined by our good works (since those with a sinful nature can never have enough of them to earn anything before God)—what we need rather, is forgiveness for our sins and the perfect good works of Jesus Christ. But our relationship to our neighbors is determined by our good works, which themselves are only made possible by God working through us. (pp. 77, 78)

Essentially, your vocation is to be found in the place you occupy in the present. A person stuck in a dead-end job may have higher ambitions, but for the moment, that job, however humble, is his vocation. Flipping hamburgers, cleaning hotel rooms, emptying bedpans all have dignity as vocations, spheres of expressing love of neighbor through selfless service, in which God is masked. (p. 80)

It may be that our vocation is not clear because we have not started with these two questions.

  • Where has God placed me?
  • Where am I positioned to serve others?
Take a moment to look down at your feet. Go ahead, look. For most of us, our feet are currently resting within the geographic circle of God's calling on our lives. In the future God may call you outside that circle. But that is for another time.

I fear too many Christians are so distracted by thoughts of the future that they cannot discern with clarity how God has called them to serve in their present vocations. Though they show up for work each day, they don't work with passion and joy each day.


As you ask yourself these questions, pray that God will help his specific call on your life become clear. Look down, and write down what you discover.
Keep the list handy, because next time we will look at that list and get into the specifics.

Posted by C.J. Mahaney

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

art for art's sake

Listening to Tim Smith's latest sermon in Jonah, he mentions, almost as an aside, the above phrase.  Not completely clear why it sticks, but it is a interesting statement none-the-less. Phraseology, lately, has struck me as rather important. That right there is a a "oh yeah genius?" moment on the surface, so I'll explain.  Art for art's sake is, on the surface, a correct phrase, even a generally accepted one.  But Tim was referencing something specific in regard to it - that it was an idol, in inherently, sin.  He quickly moved on, but truth be told, the implications are wide ranging.  As part of the last year and a half plus, I have been broken down on how much of my normal life, and accepted standards and thoughts (and words) are so close to or living subtly in sin.  1 Corinthians 10.31 teaches, "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God".  That means that all things are His - our life, breath, art, music, words - they are all to be focused on the glory of God - in a term, they are to be worship.  

Psalm 2.11 continues that thought  - "Worship the Lord with reverence (fear), and rejoice with trembling".  Think about that for a second in light of the above.  When we do "things", they are not to done lightly, for we are called to be in fear, and to rejoice in trembling.  This is a good God who speaks in anger (Ps 2.4-6), who created us to do good works (Eph 2.10), drinking deeply from the living water of life (Ps 1), that we might glorify Him in all things (1 Peter 4.10-11).  We are so close to sin, and anything that is good can be perverted so quickly.  It is a scary place to be.  But there is hope in Psalm 119.9-16, in the Word of the Lord.  

So, the question is whether my _____ is for ______'s sake (insert your own terms accordingly).  The results will continue to be rather damning, I would guess.

But that seems to be the right place to be - the writer of Psalm 119, just a few verses later, finds himself in the proverbial dust, as follows:
  25My soul cleaves to the dust;
        Revive me according to Your word. 
    26I have told of my ways, and You have answered me;
         Teach me Your statutes. 
    27Make me understand the way of Your precepts,
         So I will meditate on Your wonders. 
    28My soul weeps because of grief;
         Strengthen me according to Your word. 
    29Remove the false way from me,
         And graciously grant me Your law. 
    30I have chosen the faithful way;
         I have placed Your ordinances before me. 
    31I cling to Your testimonies;
         O LORD, do not put me to shame! 
    32I shall run the way of Your commandments,
         For You will enlarge my heart
    33Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes,
         And I shall observe it to the end. 
    34Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law
         And keep it with all my heart. 
    35Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
         For I delight in it. 
    36Incline my heart to Your testimonies
         And not to dishonest gain. 
    37Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity,
         And revive me in Your ways. 
    38Establish Your word to Your servant,
         As that which produces reverence for You. 
    39Turn away my reproach which I dread,
         For Your ordinances are good. 
    40Behold, I long for Your precepts;
         Revive me through Your righteousness.

Enlarge my heart. 
Make me walk. 
Incline my heart. 
Turn away my eyes. 
Establish Your Word. 
Turn away my reproach. 

There are many things the writer does in this Psalm - he repents (v.26), he weeps (v.28), he chooses a way and places the word before himself (v.30 - but doesn't yet run or walk in them - see v.32 & 35), he clings (v.31),  he delights in the law (v.35 - see Psalm 1), and he longs (v.40).  In the end, his heart is present and desperate, but needs to be enlarged, so that he can run (v.32).  Most of the work in the Psalm is the Lord's, as the writer is mostly offering open hands.  

I know that my heart is desperately evil (Jeremiah 17.9), and it is only in weakness the power is perfected (2 Corinthians 12.9).  Paul is very clear in the latter half of that verse, "...Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."   We are all ok with that - we all admit (at least if we are lucid) that we suck.  But here the writer couples that with purpose -  he repents, he weeps, but he also sets a path before him, and delights in the law of the Lord (the only thing he has of value - and it really isn't even his).  Then he looks back to the Lord, desperate for Him to make something out of nothing.  It is almost as if the Lord is waking a paralyzed man, reviving his very body to do good works.

I guess that's the point - if _______ is for ________'s sake, then if for no other reason than the great Creator's ability to make all things good, right, and new, it should be a default - we purpose, plan, and dedicate all things back to Him.  For He is the only being that can make (or has ever made) something out of nothing.  And if it is an idol, it is nothing (see Isaiah 44.9-10).  There is most likely a lot of idols not in our closet, but right out there in the open - things that owe more to us than to Him, things that own us more than Him.  But, if everything above is true, then if we offer these things up to Him, the hope is clear (Revelation 21.1-7).  

But the difficulty lies in our willingness (as always) to seek out, recognize, and offer them up - for destruction or renewal.  To make them, or us (or both) new again.  Maybe, just maybe, we are still not at the bottom yet.  And though we may complain when we hit it, it often is the only way get us into the desperate, dusty place where no idol seems like anything but the perishing treasure of earth that it is - the very dirt on which we then lay.  And then it can be replaced by the new, the treasure that is only found in the place where we are finally and fully new.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Of Fire and Water

The whole dance, or drama, or pattern of this three-Personal life is to be played out in each one of us: or (putting it the other way round) each one of us has got to enter that pattern, take his place in that dance. There is no other way to the happiness for which we were made. Good things as well as bad, you know, are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to get warm you must stand by the fire: if you want to get wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. They are not a sort of prize which God could, if He chose, just hand out to anyone. They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you: if you are not, you will remain dry. Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever? Once a man is separated from God, what can he do but wither and die? - C.S. Lewis

If you want to be warm, you must stand by the fire; if you want to be wet, you must get in the water.   We would all agree that it is good to be clean, and good to be warm - but it is hard not to think that we might too be burned or drowned.  As in previous posts, it has been mentioned, by Luther perhaps, that Christ is not valued at all unless he be valued above all.  I worry that there are two dances here - one that means life, and another, though life-like, is to death.  What I love about the above quote is that it divided clearly - that to be cold while in the fold we call "grace" is to question how close we are to the work He has ordained in our life.

Have you ever seriously considered that to be in the cold means that we might not have seen the Holy Fire of Hebrews at all?  To not be wet means the Living Water of the Gospels has never covered us over - regardless of the acts of our life.  Man is drawn to moral ends, even so-called good end.  But they, according to Paul, can be without love, and without love they are nothing - false warmth and false water.  

Two examples.   Alcohol and central heating.  Both provide the terms laid out above - one is liquid and the other is heat.  But alcohol is actually a dehydrator (hence the hangover when too much has been consumed).  I own a wood stove, and we use it as our primary heating source. The interesting thing about wood heat is that it resembles only one other thing in the universe in terms of the radiant heat it provides (almost dense in texture), so that anyone who walks into our home almost immediately remarks about it.  The Sun.  And I heard recently a interesting explanation to that ends recently from our midwife's husband, an arborist by trade, and worshipper of God in creation quite unlike anyone I have met before.  One might say that he exudes the stuff that would make the rocks cry out.  Anyway, he told us that wood heat is like the sun in that it uses the sun's energy as the tree grows.  It is the primary source of life outside the soil that anchors it to the earth.  As the tree grows, it stores that energy deep within it's core, and upon burning (they too use a wood stove as their primary heat), it releases that energy.  Or better said - it radiates it.  It warms you to the bone like a sunny day (rare around here lately - which makes it appreciated even more).  Central heat (gas, oil, etc.) is consistent, and is heat by every real definition, but lacks every radiant characteristic.  It lacks heart.  It lacks soul.

There are times that are difficult - and even ones that we could claim as seasons in our life which allow us to forsake the core needs of our faith - to be close to Him.  But in our core, we should radiate that hope that has been planted in us regardless.  If we don't, or can't, then perhaps there was never any sun to start with.  We lack soul.  We are a image of the thing, but being a image is what we were given at creation.  And that alone is not a pass into grace, and in fact is what condemns us.

So, as part of this great dance, this great work of hope and grace that is both worship and testimony of His glory - we must be willing to get close enough to the fire to be refined, and deep enough in the water to be washed.  But really, to take that on, we have to not just want it, but need it, because without it, we would whither and die.   

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Bow & The Archer

This post begins like most, with an encouraging word from some wise person (whether actually or perceptively) this word comes from Nikos Kazantzakis (a 20th century Greek philosopher) enveloped in a prayer he wrote, saying "I am a bow on Your hands, Lord. Draw me lest I rot. Do not overdraw me, Lord, I shall break. Overdraw me, Lord, and who cares if I break." It seems to me that there are many ways we could include ourselves in this analogy. We could be the bow that is willing to rot, we could be unsatisfied with rotting but also afraid of breaking,or we could offer ourselves with reckless abandon (clearly there are other ways eg; we reject the existence of archers, but for the sake of time I'll stick with these). To make a long explanation short, let me just offer you the idea that if an Archer exists that deserves the respect Nikos affords, then why would we do any less than offer ourselves as a bow that would break, trusting that we break for no other reason than to glorify said Archer...Do you have bigger plans?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Nunc Dimittis - 2

Another good post on the subject below here - Snow on Roses

I like the fact that the first was from a Catholic point-of-view and this from a Episcopal one.

Nunc Dimittis - Three Priests walk into a bar

I'm working/prepping for preaching this coming sunday, and came upon this - Waiter Rant - Nunc Dimittis - Three Priests Walk into a Bar (No, it's not a joke) while studying the nunc dimittis - or as it is known in non-latin-type circles, the song of simeon from Luke 2. Language is not kid friendly, but apt and appropriate, as far as that goes.



Thursday, December 06, 2007


"When early Christianity spoke of the return of the Lord Jesus, they thought of a great day of judgment. Even though this thought may appear to us to be so unlike Christmas, it is original Christianity and to be taken extremely seriously. When we hear Jesus knocking, our conscience first of all pricks us: Are we rightly prepared? Is our heart capable of becoming God's dwelling place? Thus Advent becomes a time of self-examination. "Put the desires of your heart in order, O human beings!" (Valentin Thilo), as the old song sings. It is very remarkable that we face the thought that God is coming so calmly, whereas previously peoples trembled at the day of God, whereas the world fell into trembling when Jesus Christ walked over the earth.

That is why we find it so strange when we see the marks of God in the world so often together with the marks of human suffering, with the marks of the cross on Golgotha. We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God's coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God's coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for everyone who has a conscience.

Only when we have felt the terror of the matter, can we recognize the incomparable kindness. God comes into the very midst of evil and of death, and judges the evil in us and in the world. And by judging us, God cleanses and sanctifies us, comes to us with grace and love. God makes us happy as only children can be happy. God wants to always be with us, wherever we may be--in our sin, in our suffering and death. We are no longer alone; God is with us. We are no longer homeless; a bit of the eternal home itself has moved unto us.

Therefore we adults can rejoice deeply within our hearts under the Christmas tree, perhaps much more than the children are able. We know that God's goodness will once again draw near. We think of all of God's goodness that came our way last year and sense something of this marvelous home. Jesus comes in judgment and grace: "Behold I stand at the door . . . Open wide the gates!" (Psalm 24:7)."

Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Unintended Influences

PostFrom the One Church One Village Blog here

(Written by Aaron Ruud, manager at the cottages at Injisuthi.)

I am regularly taken aback by the unintended influence we have in other people’s lives. A recent example is our security guard. We hired a quiet, very shy, man in his 30’s from church who walks the grounds 12 hours a night, seven days a week. Recently he came in to be paid. We ask everyone to sign a receipt for their pay. I watched him painfully print his name in block letters. It took nearly a minute to accomplish the task.

Later I found out that just 3 days earlier Pastor Welcome had taught him to write his name, that he has probably never held a steady job, that his family has been telling him for years he will never amount to anything. Now he has a decent job, earning regular money, he is interacting more with the kids, his self esteem is rising and he wants to learn to read — so he can read his Bible.

I never intended for any of this to happen. All I wanted was for someone to protect my stuff at night.

Aaron Ruud

A realization of idols - link to a post

Good post - especially in light of the idea of idols and such that was put forth this last week at the Continuos Worship Conference (

Blood Thirsty Sinner

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Joseph Hart

Tis' thine to cleanse the heart,
To sanctify the soul,
To pour fresh life in every part
and new create the whole

Monday, July 23, 2007

1 Timothy 2:8

This little part of my blog is about the application of this verse here:

I Timothy 2:8
I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. (NIV)

Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. (NASB)

Although there are many ways in which to worship God, to worship God in a way other than the way which He has established as acceptable is not necessarily recommended.

To "worship" God in a way contrary to the way which He has established has been condemned and is still dangerous. E.g. Leviticus 10

In the application of the scriptural text which is above, these two ways of worship are mutually exclusive (although I suppose that worship of God that is an afront to God may not really be worship of Him at all, but only something else, i.e. an afront to God)
  1. Acceptable: Raising your hands in worship to Jesus while trusting God to restore all things and also bring His judgment with speed and finality
  2. Condemned: Raising your hands in "worship" to Jesus while dissatisfied because of His foreign and/or domestic policy (think about Jonah)
This was pointed out to me by Pastor Dale Swanson of Reaching Men Ministries and other such things who was once an interim pastor at Sky Valley Bible Church which I attended immediately prior to moving myself to Pullman Washington. I remember that on more than one occasion he indicated from the pulpit that during worship services some of us acted even more uptightly than a bunch of baptists [in a bar]. There were a number of people there who likely would have been members of the frozen chosen society had there been a local chapter. But in pointing out an application of the above passage, he asserted that the reason that so few people in that congregation raised their hands during worship services was that the majority of the people there were angry with other people and didn't want God's mercy for those other people.

When I heard this, I thought to myself, "that sounds about right." Because of this warning (coupled with my anger towards some people) and the fact that I had grown up in that particular church, I never raised my hands during a worship service before December 6th of 2005.

I find the above scripture to be inconvenient because there is much aggravation to be had in the church and I have noticed that I have to do spiritual discipline if I am going to be able to get along with the people with whom I minister. So I have found that I can go to church and waste my time by not worshiping Jesus appropriately because of my anger, or I can trust God to take care of the things that I am angry about.

This can be difficult because I have a tendency to invent things to be angry about when there is nothing to make me angry. I forget that God is more interested in changing me to become more like Him than He is changing the whole rest of the world so that I will like it (--Danielle Deniet). On the other hand, this has nothing to do with failing to resist evil in its various forms.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Good blog link

Take a look see - I've put her blog into my reader just because it really is a honest way to look at life. Well worth and enjoyable reading.


Saturday, June 23, 2007


I have a daughter, some of you know this because you've participated in the process; she doesn't live with me, but I do stand in her room, both my wife and I...and we weep, not because of our work and aspirations...but because we don't understand...and I hate trusting God, and I hate that there is no other viable option.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Being single on Saturdays

Please realize that I know that I am not authorized to judge you with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration, or a Sabbath day (Col 2:16).

Even so, I want to point out to you these verses which seem to be helpful to me, so perhaps they will seem to be helpful for other unmarried people at Seaside Church (like Zach).

Isaiah 56:3-5
For thus says the LORD,
"To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant, to them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off."

Isaiah 58:13-14
"If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and honor it, desisting from your own ways, from seeking your own pleasure and speaking your own word, then you will take delight in the LORD and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has Spoken."

I have utilized the New American Standard version of the Bible

Sunday, May 20, 2007


“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money."

"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. "
-Matthew 6.19-23

We judge of man's wisdom by his hope. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Heaven. Our personal thoughts of this place so often mentioned in sermons and common spiritual discussion are varied and subjective. Our first thoughts are often of streets of gold and great palatial mansions of glory, of joy and crowns of gold as a reward for the work we have done here. In many ways the description of heaven reflects our ideals for what we would like here on earth – praise, possessions, ease and comfort. The world around us looks in through the glass doors of our communities and sees us gazing heavenward, and we find that their thoughts of heaven are not much different. The nouns may change, but in essence we have a view that sticks to the same norms and such.

Jesus, sitting there, teaching the masses, knows that this truth, to lay up your treasures in heaven, much like the parables, will be misunderstood. Let me throw a curveball on this idea, take it or leave it.

The very thought of mansions and crowns and all of that, is sin. We find that often our very understanding of these verses, to store up you treasures in heaven, is so misunderstood that affects every other connected thought. The world asks us why they should take this hope on, and we have to spin it like it’s a value-based idea - If you give me this, you’ll get this, and if you offer enough before the throne of grace, He will return it ten-fold to you. But the story of grace is not one of returns on investments for us, rather it is for Him. We give because we know that we are at best poor stewards, afraid that giving back to Him, we might not make it through to the next thing, to the treasures of this earth. So, we have transposed this even to heaven – a place that no thought of self will emerge. This is a place where we will finally be free of the torment of thoughts of self, and of minds that only calculate the cost as a prosperity-based equation.

In the end, often the idea and focus on prosperity of man becomes death to the world around us. We offer nothing different to them, there is no light, only darkness masquerading as light, which the blind can see as no different, as we lead them (and ourselves) into a ditch, we are destroyed. To become like the world is not to act as they do, seeking the things that rust and the moth destroys. This is the core of sin - to seek self.

But it is hard.

It is hard because as Luther says, “Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God.”

Or Jenny Lewis would say, “You are what you love.”

It is hard because we, in keeping up with the proverbial Jones family, we are convinced somehow that what they have is somehow better than we have – so we play and endless game of catch-up. They provide for us our next thing, our desire, and in the end our hope. We may not even know the Jones’ – they may be a character made up in our mind of where we would like to be, how we would like our story to work out, how we would hope that our short years on earth would end up leaving us legacy-wise.

There are a couple stories to look at in regard to this,

In Hosea, we see a prophet standing on the edge of the nation of harlotry, suddenly called to go in and marry a harlot. His reputation before men is about to be broken, his testimony of “righteousness” about to be slandered, and the world around him will no longer want to listen – at least from our perspective.

(To be sure, Hosea is worried about his reputation, and everything that he might have worked for to this point is about to take a shot, at least in the eyes of the community at large. But we should fear this – that our worries of the reputation within the space around us comes before the obedience. The obedience that shows the actual worth of the reputation to the throne of the One who has the power to condemn or redeem. And redeem He will.)

But he is obedient.

And though man looks on and is ashamed, Hosea understands that he has laid up his treasure in that moment to heaven. The passing desires of man, of self, are put aside for the greater glorification of God. He, through this work, points to another work (in Christ) and calls the people of the Lord to come home. She then leaves him to play the harlot once again, and he goes and pays the price to buy her back. He bears the shame so that the greater hope may be set forward. He clings to hope, not understanding, but hope.

You can be sure this is not how he thought the story would go, in fact, I am pretty sure that she didn’t exactly think things would go this way either.

I’m sure she was looking for a hope, any hope, as much as the next, but when Hosea came along, and said – come marry me, you can be sure that she blinked. Me? You? Married? But much as Christ comes to his soiled bride and offers Himself up, giving us hope, Hosea through obedience offers her redemption – hope of what was to come. She stumbled somewhere out of the gate, but he came back around, and offered hope once again – because hope was the only thing he really had left; his life plan, like many of the prophets, left by the wayside.

Ezekiel 24:15-27 “and the word of God came to me saying, ‘Son of man, behold, I am about to take from you the desire of your eyes with a blow; but you shall not mourn, and you shall not weep, and your tears shall not come. Groan silently; make no mourning for the dead. Bind your turban, and put your shoes on your feet, and do not cover your mustache, and do not eat the bread of men.’ So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died. And I did as I was commanded.”

Now this story, out of context is hard – if not difficult. It is hard because Ezekiel is one of seemingly few who get it – who understand that the Lord is God, and that He is One, and that He loves the nation with a love that is furious and divine. If we desired standards, his would be a high mark to stand against. It is hard because on the value scale, marriage is seen as a sacred institution, much as family is, and to take that from the obedient, from those who are faithful even, is one more stack against our idea of the fairness scale. But his reputation (much like Hosa), even in a world that is seemingly against his message in every way, is seen and held closely under the scope. This reputation, laid bare, tested by fire, presented as an offering before the throne of God, is invaluable in terms of showing what love is.

Does this scare us? Does the possibility that God might call us to such a thing?

If we head quite a few chapters back, we see that this was not out of the norm for Ezekiel. He had started his work of ministry by binding himself up in his own home, tongue stuck to the top of his mouth by God so that his would refrain from rebuking the nation on his own before the proper time. He then follows that up by laying on his left side for 390 days, representing a siege of Jerusalem, bearing the iniquity of Israel, then flipping over on his right side for 40 days, bearing the iniquity of Judah, being bound by the Lord so that he cannot turn over. It goes on, spectacle upon spectacle, to prophesy against Jerusalem and the greater nation of Israel for the way they chased every wooden, golden, and iron god but the One.

All of this was to call people home through the example of unabashed obedience, through a life of a man desperately clinging to a hope that this all is passing away, that we are but grass, and the only thing we have is that eternal place where all we know is Him.

This goes on and on, shame upon shame, reputation dismantled in ever growing ways, eventually the story leads us to see the coming death of his wife, the very desire of his eyes. But the story is one of grace, as this will lead to at least some of the nation coming back to knowing that He is the LORD. And that really is the point of it all here on Earth anyway, if we believe everything that we might say we do.

This nation, Israel, was chasing every earthly desire, everything in which they could take part. Ezekiel says that they play the harlot in such a way that they pay others to let them be a harlot. They, instead of earning the wages of their labor, offer wages as an enticement for others. They were so perverse in their living that the pagan nations around them were disgusted with the level of debauchery in which they lived. The very people God called His children were lessening the judgment on other nations who had not ever even known this God. And the sweetness that might lead them to Him was gone. The joy they had was joy spoiled - and they were so turned over to their sin that they forgot the very purpose for which He had called them out. And the punishment, the destruction of the nation, was the only way to see hope returned.

To keep our hope close, either by fear, or shame, or laziness, or plain misunderstanding of the hope itself; to see heaven as anything but a fulfillment of the hope set before us in I Peter, in Philippians, in the threads of the Old and New Testaments, again, is sin.

So, what if the prosperity of man (of ourselves even) could mean the death of the world? What if the hope we cling to of heaven is no different than the hope of reincarnation, or another shot at the same go around with a slighted tilted set of rules. What if selfishness strapped itself to the back of hope and hope itself became a dream of a man unsatisfied with the good gifts the Lord has given him according to James? What if the light of life was the death of self and to fully know Him we had to lose track of the numbers and demands – what if hope was the restoring of everything that was in the garden? What if the mansions of gold were shacks of straw, tents of canvas, camped out before the throne of God? What if gold was pavement, so plentiful that we would cast it aside as waste? What if the only king in heaven was the only one worthy of a crown, so that all other must be put before Him in perfect and final submission?

Would it still be a place any of us would want to go?

Hope must be stripped of our sin, and laid again before the Lord. We must believe that without a hope that is from Him that we have no light, and that those in darkness, without hope, can no more see us then any other thing that catches their eye. But they are looking, and I dare say that everything they do is but a search for hope.

Any hope.

So, we come back to the Word, and I’ll offer this to close out:

"But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit." -I Peter 3.14-18

Thursday, May 03, 2007

coming to real terms with your reputation...

It seems we're often ready to allow our lives to be used as a witness for God's love to His people, but what happens when the message is more severe than we anticipated...Hosea was a man who offered himself a servant of The Almighty, and functioned in that role seemingly well, until the day God wanted to use him to speak powerfully to His people; it wasn't as though Hosea was against God's love, but he surely wasn't to hot on how God wanted to show it. Marry a prostitute, along with all the problems that ensue, so that your love life can be the public fodder of the redemption story including your wife's betrayal of you, and your buying her back in the final act of humiliating, public, sacrificial love. (yes this was B.C.).

Tall order, and while it is tough to imagine the circumstance that would have to be in place in order for history to repeat itself in this way, I cannot help but feel overwhelmed by the implicit challenge that Hosea's obedience offers.


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Thou Shalt Kill

I just finished watching a video called, Death by Love: Reflections on the Cross (audio, video) for the second time ever. I was caused to decide to read the whole Bible directly after watching it for the first time, and I have managed to read all of the Old Testament since then. This last time, I was reminded of a particular memory that was made at Everett Comedy College in Everett Washington.

Before I recount the details of this memory, let me type something similar to what I typed into a previous posting about my parents, but with increased specificity: Junior colleges are very good for people who want to learn science in an effective and economical manner.

I was walking along the upper level of Baker Hall when I heard one lady talking to another about how bad some particular war was. I don't think that it even had anything to do with Iraq, she was unhappy about this war just because it was a war. I heard her say that God said in the ten commandments, "Thou shalt not kill" and I thought to myself, "how stupid. If God actually said, 'Thou shalt not kill,' then God must have a really short memory because I am sure that God has decided people should be killed since then." During my last reading of the old testament, I noticed that just about the first thing that God commanded after giving the ten commandments and the other accompanying laws with them, can be found in Exodus 32:26 when God responded to the idolatry of the people who had just been redeemed and brought out of Egypt:

He said to them, "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.'"

And the sons of Levi (vs. 26) were blessed for so doing, vs 29:

Then Moses said, "Dedicate yourselves today to the Lord--for every man has been against his son and against his brother--in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today.

This brings me to another Bible story that I have wanted to share since my last reading of the old testament, but I have not had the pleasure of writing it out before now. In this story, King Jehu decides to kill a bunch of idolaters and is duly rewarded by God.

18 Then Jehu brought all the people together and said to them, "Ahab served Baal a little; Jehu will serve him much.

19 Now summon all the prophets of Baal, all his ministers and all his priests. See that no one is missing, because I am going to hold a great sacrifice for Baal. Anyone who fails to come will no longer live." But Jehu was acting deceptively in order to destroy the ministers of Baal.

20 Jehu said, "Call an assembly in honor of Baal." So they proclaimed it.

21 Then he sent word throughout Israel, and all the ministers of Baal came; not one stayed away. They crowded into the temple of Baal until it was full from one end to the other.

22 And Jehu said to the keeper of the wardrobe, "Bring robes for all the ministers of Baal." So he brought out robes for them.

23 Then Jehu and Jehonadab son of Recab went into the temple of Baal. Jehu said to the ministers of Baal, "Look around and see that no servants of the LORD are here with you—only ministers of Baal."

24 So they went in to make sacrifices and burnt offerings. Now Jehu had posted eighty men outside with this warning: "If one of you lets any of the men I am placing in your hands escape, it will be your life for his life."

25 As soon as Jehu had finished making the burnt offering, he ordered the guards and officers: "Go in and kill them; let no one escape." So they cut them down with the sword. The guards and officers threw the bodies out and then entered the inner shrine of the temple of Baal.

26 They brought the sacred stone out of the temple of Baal and burned it.

27 They demolished the sacred stone of Baal and tore down the temple of Baal, and people have used it for a latrine to this day.

28 So Jehu destroyed Baal worship in Israel.

29 However, he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit—the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan.

30 The LORD said to Jehu, "Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation."

So all of that is just to warn you against removing excerpts of the old King James version of the ten commandments from their context as this one lady did.

Oh, I believe that I have copied from the New International Version of the Bible.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Old Man and Suicide

It dawned on me recently, during one of my frequent contemplations of suicide, that there is an ironic link to the big picture of life (being the understanding of the inevitable ending and the lack of philosophical reason for the rigmarole that ensues and fills) and the responsibility that big picture thought processes produce...meaning that in the grand scope of things, my killing myself produces very little ripple effect in real life, but if I follow the logic of my faith out to it's legitimate end, my life is not my own, so therein suicide becomes the swansong of my hypocrisy, or my poor understanding of theology in general...neither is palatable, which concludes in the strange statement that death to self has very little in common with suicide...Ironic yeah?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

blink spark and type

I think what comes of all my wiring (yes, that's what is there, correct spelling and all) is the fact I am indeed just pushing pieces of thought together, hoping that one my catch and repair the light that worked (usually while driving home, but nowhere near an actual pen and/or paper type instrument) for a bit. A flicker of a thought that seemed good and bright, but wasn't long for my mind with the busy, joyful life of family and this work here at Seaside.

I say that to warn that one of the reasons this is a collaborative blog is that the wires don't always spark like I would hope - and in that I find extended spots where nothing I think is of note, and not daring to speak/write for nothing, this page will remain a bit blank.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sometimes we don't need another chance to express how we feel or to ask someone to understand our situation. Sometimes we just need a firm kick in the pants. An unsmiling expectation that if we mean all these wonderful things we talk about and sing about, then lets see something to prove it.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ain't No Reason - Brett Dennen

There aint no reason things are this way
Its how they always been and it tends to stay
I can't explain why we live this way, we do it everyday

Preachers on the podeum speaking of saints
Prophets on the sidewalk begging for change
old ladies laughing from the fire escape cursing my name
I got a basket full of lemons and they all taste the same
A window and a pigeon with a broken wing
You can spend you whole life working for something,
Just to have it taken away

People walk around pushing back their debts
Wearing pay checks like necklaces and braceltes
Talking bout nothing, not thinking bout' death
Every little hearbeat, every little breath

People walk a tight rope
On a razors edge
Carrying their hurt and hatred and weapons
It could be a bomb or a bullet or a pen
Or a thought or a word or a sentence

There ain't no reason
Things are this way
It's how they've always been
and its tends to stay
I dont know why I say
The things that I say
But I say them anyway

But love will come set me free
Love will come set me free, I do believe
Love will come set me free, I know it will
Love will come set my free yes.

Prison walls still standing tall
Some things never change at all
Keep on building prisons, gonna fill them all
Keep building bombs, gonna drop them all
Working young fingers bare to the bone
Breaking your back make you sell your soul
Like a lung its filled with cold, sufficating slow

The wind blows wild and I may move
The politions lie and i am not fooled
you don't need no reason or a three piece suit
To argue the truth

The air on my skin and the world under my toes
Labor is stiched into the fabric of my clothes
Chaos and comotion wherever I go
Love I try to follow

Love will come set me free
Love will come set me free, I do believe
Love will come set me free, I know it will
Love will come set my free yes.

There ain't no reason things are this way
Its how its always been and it tends to stay
I can't explain why we live this way,
We do it everyday.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Life is a Song

-Patrick Park-

You say life is a dream where we can't say what we mean
Maybe just some roadside scene that we're driving past
There's no telling where we'll be in a day or in a week
And there's no promises of peace or of happiness

Well is this why you cling to every little thing
And polverize and derrange all your senses
Maybe life is a song but you're scared to song along
Until the very ending

Oh, it's time to let go of everything we used to know
Ideas that strengthen who we've been
It's time to cut ties that won't ever free our minds
From the chains and shackles that they're in

Oh, tell me what good is saying that you're free
In a dark and storming sea
You're chained to your history, you're surely sinking fast
You say that you know that the good Lord's in control
He's gonna bless and keep your tired and oh so restless soul
But at the end of the day when every price has been paid
You're gonna rise and sit beside him on some old seat of gold
And won't you tell me why you live like you're afraid to die
You'll die like you're afraid to go

Oh, it's time to let go of everything we used to know
Ideas that strengthen who we've been
It's time to cut ties that won't ever free our minds
From chains and shackles that they're in
From the chains and shackles that they're in

Well life is a dream 'cause we're all walking in our sleep
You could see us stand in lines like we're dead upon our feet
And we build our house of cards and then we wait for it to fall
Always forget how strange it is just to be alive at all

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Obedience, I cannot get my mind wrapped completely around what that would look like if put into practice....I mean radically put into practice (like you just had the biggest haul of fish and the most profitable day of your life, but I'm going to call you to follow Me, and none of what you've gained is going to matter to you anymore and eventually I will be the cause of your death, radical). Let's not forget that whole scenario began with a favor to a prophet, and some fishing advice. What if God called me to give up not just everything I had, but everything I thought I was, all that defined me, to take care of orphans....would I do it? Of course I would! (he says sitting in his warm house, typing on a computer, dressed in clothes he picked out, sitting in furniture he bought with the money earned from a job he uses as a supplemental identity)....But would I really?...Would you?

Smell that?.....change is in the air.

-- Love

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Pithy Terseness

During the meeting of my community group on Tuesday, the topic of God's specific will came up and I managed to get a word in edgewise which met with some resistance. I didn't back down and transmitted an aggressive little electronic message to the group about it the next day.

It sort of sums up a bit of what I learned from the Discovering God book by Henry Blackaby, but the references were pointed out to me by David Andrews who was the "leader" of the house at which I once lived in Pullman. These references were pointed out to him by someone else, but I pulled them out of the house meeting documents that I had built so that I could include them in the electronic message about which I am typing.

I have received so much good feedback about this electronic message that I have decided to include its text below:

Subject: Getting started on God's will

God's will for your life is God's will applied to your life.

1 Thess 4:1-12
Romans 12:2
Ephesians 5:17
1 Thess 5:16-18

I am Joshua

Monday, February 05, 2007

Innoculated to the Power of God

We are created by God.


We are created, by, God.

And he signed us, like a masterpiece. With his image.

Today I was thinking that the ravages of experiencial, man-centered worship in the modern church are saddest when looking at what worship should be with lament, community, joy, reverance, sacrifice, and creativity.

The question of our life is not whether we are happy, but whether our life pleases God. That is what will give us the joy over any circumstance. He is all powerful, but I seldom act like it. How can we engage God on His terms? How can we avoid being anesthetized to Him.

I was also thinking about the all of the different kinds of work my team does here. I was making the next two months calendar today and it is full of some really different and cool stuff. We’ll go to tel aviv, tiberius and nazareth, we’ll do soup kitchen work, and youth work with two conferences, we’ll talk to people on the beach and at the mall and on the street, we’ll tract and do drama, we’ll clean homes and fix gardens, we’ll give out thousands of books, and we will study and learn and eat together.

Sometimes my schedule feels like the blessing of a big burden that isn’t mostly fun, but in both foresight and retrospect, and in special moments along the way, the calender carries a certain priceless freight because I know that living this way seems to match eternal value the most. As a struggling slow disciple, im learning to choose a fear of a great big awfully wonderous God. There sure is a lot of power in our creator.

-David Wheeler (contributor to this blog - posted by jefro for him)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The weight of Emptiness

What we see in the modern day is that the more that we have, the more that we see our small containers of life filling up. Whether it be this or that, things or thoughts, we find that the crannys of our very persons are slowly disappearing. There is something to having. And to not.

I’m working around the premise that what is full cannot be empty. (Naturally, this is not rocket science, but is something we blindly ignore in order to keep on doing what we have found important). And if what is empty needs to be full, what then? This seems to be a central problem of my life – I will endlessly find things to fill my time – and when push comes a shoving, the spaces left are so small that they show their worth.

I’ll break it down just a little further. Let’s say that we have a glass full of water. I mean literally to the brim. In order for more to fit we either need a bigger glass or something has to come out. Let’s say we want to add air. This can be done via CO2 by injection, which will cause some sort of displacement. Or just by taking out water. But something must be done.

We want to be more Christ-like, but our lives are so full that something must be taken out in order to add something. It has to give. Naturally, as believers, we have Christ already – but often we feel like we need an injection of something. But it falls apart in that we know we have everything necessary for life and righteousness. So we are left with the working out. We need to not only expand our understanding of Christ – but also start to exclude the things that fill up this glass in place of the space that Christ should take up.. But if we refuse to empty, then we can hardly be filled. Sometimes things are taken out by natural evaporation, others by the complete tipping over of the glass. But Christ must have this space one way or another – otherwise we have shown that what we really desire – the water of the world. For our space defines us in spite of our grandest dreams.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


The funny thing about the way a girl gets destroyed, about the way that deal goes down – is that everyone pretty much sees it coming up the system from all the way across town. And she isn’t always blinded, she isn’t always far astray – she just might not be thinking, she might be having a bad day.

But when you chose you chose.
And when you drown, you drown.

18 Bullet Holes - Waterdeep

Monday, January 15, 2007

Reflection on the Blind Man

In reflection on yesterday’s sermon on John 9, I could not help but think about what many people today would have done had they been the blind man.

You see, in this story Jesus uses spit, mud, and a pool of water to heal a man who had been blind from birth. There is then a great debate then ensues between the Pharisees and the blind man over who this Jesus is.

The part that really caught me the most, however, is how the man who was healed, and who did not even know really who it was that had healed him, was so adamant about defending the actions of his healer. I could not help but wonder what this man would have done in today’s world.

Here is my guess, and again, this is just a guess. When the Pharisees found out that this man had been healed they would have gone out and gotten a copyright on the spit, mud, and water and then created a business which sold this special type of mud and water. They then would have run an infomercial claiming that they had invented a special type of mud that when combined with their healing spit and washed in this special water would lead to the curing of illnesses and diseases. They would have used this man who everyone knew use to be blind, and would have made a fortune out of all of this. Then, when they had sold all they could sell they would wrap the man up in some sort of litigation and leave him to die a poor broke man who could only get his money by paying millions of dollars in legal fees and waiting a couple of decades to get his settlement.

Sound crazy? Is it really though? Have you been healed? If you are a Christian then the answer is a resounding yes.

If you claim to be a Christian you are claiming to have been given spiritual sight, even though you were born spiritually blind.

But is that what you claim? Do you claim that you were completely blind and Jesus came out of nowhere and healed you? Or do you claim that you followed a method, did a few key steps, said a few key words, and then all of a sudden you could see?

Ezekiel 37 tells a story of the prophet after whom the book is titled being told by God to go and prophesy to a valley of dry bones. He is told to prophesy to them so that they will come back together and live again. When Ezekiel goes to prophesy, he knows that there is no way he can do or say anything to make these bones come back to life. That is, unless God shows up in a big way.

Do you claim that God is the reason your scattered spiritual bones are alive? Or do you claim it was because of what someone said?

John 8:58
Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am."

Who are we to think that we have done anything to deserve this free gift of grace? Who are we to do anything but give praise to our Lord and Saviour. We were once blind, but now we see.

I pray that as I go forward and live out the gospel in my life, I would do so in such a way as to acknowledge that it is not of anything we do that people are given spiritual life, it truly is all because of Jesus.

1Co 1:18
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

born blind - Jn 9

What was it like to be free of blindness from birth? Imagine that you had had never known the face of your mother, the shape of a tree that you knew shaded you from the sun. What if the sun and moon had never passed into our sight? How about the way water looks at sunset, what if that too had never entered into our minds? Everything was images of blackness and even your very imagination had no basis outside sound. What if what you thought you saw was all along nothing but pictures painted-by-number by someone before you –as if the stories you heard and the lessons you learned were mere reflections, whitewashed and kept from the light of truth. You had lived for so long looking at these paintings that you convinced yourself that they were indeed the sunset, the water, the moon. Then you are presented with the real thing – the light shines forth into the world around you and the thing you imagined was just that, a dream, a half-glazed drawing in colors that could hardly be called true. For this man healed of his blindness, once the light had been revealed, there was no going back. There was no desire to sit once again in a world that was dark and full of noise, but without color or face. But for the Pharisees, there was only one way – for they had been born blind too, and must but brought under the flood of grace, to be born again, much as the blind man’s eyes experienced birth once again, but this time to everything – all came clear. Each are born blind. But then Jesus comes upon the story of our lives – and what then?

This division is why the cross bears no power in the lives of the religious leaders. The decision has been made – the lines drawn. All they know is what they can see, and that is darkness – pictures without light, stories without hope, and life without its Maker. For deliberate rejection of light means that the “light within…is darkness” (Matt 6.23). In the end, this is equivalent of receiving clay on the eyes and then sitting down, refusing to go to Siloam.

The division becomes more clearly outlined as the man stands before the religious leaders. For with Him the seeds have already been planted. The experience of the restoration of his sight has already bled him from the veins of the body of Jews. For with sight comes a whole new picture – no longer is his heart held in sway by the passing hope that today there might be enough to make bread and take on a new cloak. The hope that cannot be called that, because we at best cannot imagine hope lasting as long as this man had spent alone in the dark. And for the religious leaders, they see that there is a clearly a break from their law and the law of Jesus. Much as Jesus calls men to follow Him – these religious leaders understood what it meant to cast their hearts after a cause, no matter what it may be. They were nothing if not committed – even unto their own condemnation.

And that really is the story here – there is more than one person blind in this story. Because the physical needs can never surpass the deep darkness in our very souls. When he is finally cast out from the assembly, For he had practically confessed that the highest claims which Jesus had ever made about Himself were true. This was far more than many of the disciples would ever do before the time of Pentecost. Jesus hears of it, and finds him. For the spiritual need was still there – it was still greater than any fleshly need. If this man had never been born blind – what then? Would this story have come into life for him? Much as the story of Lazarus was for the glory of God, this too was a story of redemption long planned. Think of the story being written out before this man was even born (Ps 139.16) – with a sole purpose of using this suffering to lead to the glorification of God – and for this man, the salvation of his very soul. Now that this man has been excluded from Club Israel, he is now invited to become a member of the Body of Christ. This forever remains as startling vindication of our Lord’s own word – that He was the light of the world, and it eyesight too. He was able to supply the objective condition and subjective change by which the nature of man could alone receive the light of life. (pulpit) We need God to not only help us see the light of His salvation, but to also be able to read and understand correctly His word to us, and His guidance to do His works that He has established for us. Otherwise, we are just looking at pictures, stories, and ideas that are no more true and real than any other.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Titus 3:3-7
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

How did you feel about being born?




How then must the new Christian feel when they have been born of the Spirit?

Don’t think it happens?

John 3:3
Jesus answered [Nicodemus], "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."

Do you remember this time in your walk? Is it ok if you do not?

I don’t.

I know from my mother that it happened when I was still young in the flesh.

I also know by the fact that I have matured spiritually, and this is not possible without an initial birth.

But who grants us this birthing?

If an act by a man and woman yields physical birth than what is it that results in the spiritual birth of someone?

Is it truly an act of God? Or is there something we can do to birth ourselves in the spirit?

Or should I phrase it this way…

Can a dead man make himself alive again?

Eph 2:1
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved--

The Bible is very clear that we were made alive in Christ while we were still dead. No man can do this on his own, no matter how hard he tries. It truly takes the work of a Saviour.

Now that the thanksgiving and Christmas season is over how long will it be before you stop again to thank the God who not only created you, but birthed you in the Spirit?

Or, if you are not a Christian, how long will it be before you lean into your Maker and realize how deep of a need you have for a Saviour?

I challenge you not to wait until next November to thank the Lord for what He has done in you, and continues to do to this very day.

“By grace you have been saved”

Thank you Jesus.

Sunday, December 31, 2006


I just read through John chapter 12. Jesus walks into Bethany to have dinner with Lazarus, raised from the dead. I can’t help but think about when Jesus last came upon the home of Lazarus. This happens just a chapter back in John 11. He hears the Lazarus is sick, and in v.4, Jesus says to the disciples, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it. Now Jesus loved Martha, her sister [Mary], and Lazarus.”

Then, with this in mind, He sits. Stays another 2 days. I know that many people wanted a piece of that healing - and the evidence of the scripture seems to point to it contributing to Him being worn out. But this was someone He loved. Not much sense in that. But remember that He doesn’t leave those around Him without an explanation. Re-read v.4 .

What strikes me is that we know the rest of the story – and I am not suggesting that we’ve missed v.4 . It’s naturally one of the keys to the telling and re-telling of the story. But for me, what keeps me eyes on the text is the fact of these things:

He let them know what was going on.

He knew what was going on.

But the story seems to go on as if this wasn't necessarily the case. I'm not saying that Jesus forgot anything - but knowing doesn't always make living through this stuff easy.

Starting in v. 11, Jesus seems to change His story – now Lazarus has fallen asleep –

This He said, and after that He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep."

The disciples then said to Him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover."

Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep.

And then Jesus says something particular – "Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you [the disciples] may believe; but let us go to him.

Jesus and the disciples arrive, and Lazarus has been dead for 4 days.

Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died."

When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to Him, "Lord, come and see."

Jesus wept.

And I can’t really help but wonder.

In the times that I think that everything is crashing down – that I think that somehow if these pieces that I so hope would finally fall together – if it isn’t some sort of dirty trick. I don’t mean that in a way that would be anti-Him, so much as a dirty trick I’m playing on myself, on my very conscience. Jesus knows that Lazarus is dead, and that the sickness in v.4 is not unto death (at least with any permanence). But He weeps.

This person, this Savior, was also man, but a mere baby in a womb, born into a filthy stable. Over the next years He would eat on beaches, flee mountaintops, be confronted with wild men, careless keepers of His sheep, and the very people He chose betraying Him. When it speaks in Hebrews about Him not being an un-sympathetic High Priest, we should be ashamed that we have made the Savior shine without the dirty clothes and label of Nazareth and being a carpenter’s son. He will wrestle with the very meaning of submitting to a higher will, to a justice that He made, but we broke. He had to bear the responsibility of every filthy thing I have ever thought, dreamed, or schemed. Lazarus, even within the words of v.14-15 (check it out), was dead, and sorrow was part of this man dealing with all the measure and weight of this loss – even though He knows what is to come. **

I’m a fairly emotional guy, but much is bound up in being what we would call strong. I figure that is the relief I feel at weeping. It is really relief – and exhausting at it’s core – as if the wrestling of these things has finally come forth and imprinted itself on my flesh and bones. It is as if everything comes loose and is washed clean.

My grandmother once told me a story along those lines. My grandfather passed away quite a while ago, and she told of how, for a long time she felt nothing in regards to that. It was as if the slate had been wiped clean and it had never happened. Then one day, and this mental picture sticks with me, she was sitting in the basement and she prayed and asked God why – and plead with Him that she just wanted to feel something.

And then it came.

Like a flood.

It overwhelmed her, the weeping, the emotion, the loss. It was beyond any sorrow she had ever known.

And then she realized just what He, this High Priest, had kept from her – what He Himself was bearing for her.

And somehow we must too bring ourselves before this throne of grace in this season of Joy, and think on the flesh, the humanity of Christ. The OT has the some of the best description of this coming Savior -

Is 53.3,7b – “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and like one from whom men hide their face. He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”

“…in humiliation His judgment was taken away…”

I have never felt this. I have never felt this. I will never feel this.

It was borne for me.

I have tricked myself into thinking I understand sorrow.

Really, that sickens me. It makes me tired.

So what I come to in all this is my need to know Him more over this next year. Lately I have been working on practicing the presence of Christ, and in that God. This involves leaving a lot at the table in terms of experiential gospel. Simply, this means, knowing God outside the works of my hands, outside the filter of my understanding. It means strengthening my understanding of Him, of His flesh, of His suffering, of His joys. It is to know Him in my rising, in my laying down, in my eating and sleeping, in my daily bread and breath; hoping to, in all things, see Him at work and look closely on how He would desire to be lifted up. To see how His name is not only lived out, but how it is understood and imprinted on my being. I know I will suck at this, make a mockery of Him – but mostly I hope to continue to make a mockery of this flesh, of me, so that I might place it side by side with my redemption to see where it is keeping the light out.

For what would happen if I didn’t have the Word here with me? Could I still hear Him?
What if I could not use this body - could I serve Him?
If I could not speak – would I worship Him?
I could not see - would I still declare the wonders of His creation?

There must be something more then these things to drive my faith.

So I must look back to Him – for even though He knew ever story that would be ever told, every rock that would ever move, and every man that would ever die and be raised again He will sit before Jerusalem and weep.

And I want, no, I must, somehow know how to do the same.


**(Let’s not play this off as some sort of, “He had to be born in a stable – He had to be a carpenter – He had to break down their expectations.” He could have come as a king’s son, and they still would have killed him – don’t fool yourself. We can no more claim Him as blue collar as put Him against the white and grey collars. But there is something to all the dirt, the eye level with the poor, the tired, the widow and the orphan. It is as if the layers keep peeling off as I read – the causes are multiplied and proved out till you begin to understand the statement that they would fill the very world if all were told around the campfires and creeks of our life.)