Friday, December 26, 2008

A New Hallelujah

Love Lakewood, love the African Children's Choir, and Michael W. Smith is pretty okay too. :-)

enjoy this Friday's video...

Friday, December 19, 2008

sealing

Dec. 17 – Streams in the Desert (Cowman)
“All at once I felt as though a hand—not feeble, but omnipotent; not of wrath, but of love—was laid on my brow. I felt it not outwardly but inwardly. It seemed to press upon my whole being, and to diffuse all through me a holy, sin-consuming energy. As it passed downward, my heart as well as my head was conscious of the presence of this soul-cleansing energy, under the influence of which I fell to the floor, and in the joyful surprise of the moment, cried out in a loud voice. Still the hand of power wrought without and within; and wherever it moved, it seemed to leave the glorious influence of the Saviour’s image. For a few minutes the deep ocean of God’s love swallowed me up; all its waves and billows rolled over me.” —Bishop Hamline

I had an experience like this on Wednesday night, March 26, 2008. Reading through selected Psalms... Psalm after Psalm and wave after wave of a baptism of God's love. It's a night I will never forget!

Hallelujah Chorus

As far as I'm concerned one of THE classic contemporary arrangements of "Hallelujah Chorus" performed by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Emmanuel

Friday video for the Christmas Season

"Emmanuel" (with "Your Name is Great") from Lakewood Church



and the "official" Hillsong version (thanks to iWorship videos)

Friday, December 05, 2008

Healer

Great song this Friday!

First the original version, sung by the writer...



and a rendition from Israel Houghton...



IMHO, the story of Mike Guglielmucci's (the songwriter of this song) struggle is best summed up in this article by J. Lee Grady (Charisma Magazine).

Saturday, November 29, 2008

hope

Hope means to keep living
amid desperation
and to keep humming
in the darkness.
Hoping is knowing that there is love,
it is trust in tomorrow
it is falling asleep
and waking again
when the sun rises.
In the midst of a gale at sea,
it is to discover land.
In the eyes of another
It is to see that he understands you.
. . . .
As long as there is still hope
There will also be prayer.
. . . .
And God will be holding you
in his hands.
- p.85, With Open Hands (Henri J.M. Nouwen)

compassion

At precisely this point, compassion is born. This compassion is not covered by the word “pity,” nor by the word “sympathy.” Pity has the connotation of too much distance. Sympathy gives the impression of an exclusive nearness. Compassion has nothing of distance and nothing of exclusiveness about it.

Compassion includes various moments. In the first place, it shows you that your neighbor is a man who shares his humanity with you. This partnership cuts through all walls which might have kept you separate. Across all barriers of land and language, wealth and poverty, knowledge and ignorance, we are still one, created from the same dust, subject to the same laws and destined for the same end. With this compassion you can say, “In the expression of the oppressed I recognize my own face and in the hands of the oppressed, I recognize my own hands which speak of powerlessness and helplessness. His flesh is my flesh, his blood is my blood, his pain is my pain and his smile is my smile. There is nothing in me that he would find strange, and there is nothing in him that I would not recognize. In my heart, I know his yearning for love, and down to my entrails I can feel his cruelty. In his eyes, I see my plea for forgiveness and in his hardened frown, I see my refusal. When he murders, I know that I too could have done that, and when he gives birth, I know that I am capable of that as well. In the depths of my being, I have met my fellowman for whom nothing is strange, neither love nor hate, nor life, nor death.”
- p.104, With Open Hands (Henri J.M. Nouwen)

revolutionaries

But it is also plain that a revolutionary man not only draws men to him, he repels them as well. The offense he provokes is just as great a reality as the attractiveness he displays. Precisely because he is so free from things which many men hold sacred, he is a threat to them. His manner of speaking and living constantly relativizes the values which many men have built their lives upon. They feel the penetrating depth of his message and see the consequences for themselves if they should grant that he is right. Again and again when he is among them, they know that the world he lives in is also the world they are longing for, but it demands too much of them to actually let them strive toward it. His criticism of their lives is so insistent and unmasking that the only way for them to escape it is to get rid of him. In order to uphold their tranquility of mind and to no longer be disturbed in their secure way of life, they find it necessary to silence the one who fights against their phony and artificial happiness.
- p.135, With Open Hands (Henri J.M. Nouwen)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Oh Give Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!



This girl can sang!!!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!


But enough about the relatives!!

Thanks to my good friend, David D, for the card from which this was scanned. It has been great to have my family here the last few days. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 24, 2008

sin, repentance, grace & forgiveness

Since I am already found guilty,
why should I struggle in vain?
Even if I washed myself with soap
and my hands with washing soda,
[God] would plunge me into a slimy pit
so that even my clothes would detest me.
(Job 9:29-31)

Obviously Job was under no delusions concerning the utter depravity of his fallen nature. He had looked sin squarely in the eye. And listen: to see sin in that way is already to have repented of it. To advise such a person that the answer to all his problems is further or deeper self-recrimination is to take the part of Satan as an accuser and provocateur. It is to deny the power of the grace of God and the effectiveness of divine forgiveness.
- The Gospel According to Job (Mason), p.357-358

depression

This is not to say there is no reason for believers ever to be downcast or depressed. But the route through depression is not the shallow, self-accusation recommended by Job’s friends. Rather, the route through is. . . What? Well, read the story of Job and see for yourself. There is no better answer anywhere. Be rigorously honest, both about your sinfulness and about your righteousness; wrestle with God; and then cling for all you are worth to the sheer grace of God poured out at the cross. (emphasis mine) “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). Job’s answer to Elihu’s accusations might well have taken the form of a familiar stanza from the hymn “Rock of Ages”:

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;

Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly,
Wash me, Savior, or I die!
- The Gospel According to Job (Mason), p.358

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thou, Oh Lord

This week's Friday video from The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.



Great song! Great choir!

Monday, November 17, 2008

solitude

Our primary task in solitude, therefore, is not to pay undue attention to the many faces which assail us, but to keep the eyes of our mind and heart on Him who is our divine savior. Only in the context of grace can we face our sin; only in the place of healing do we dare to show our wounds; only with a single-minded attention to Christ can we give up our clinging fears and face our own true nature. As we come to realize that it is not we who live, but Christ who lives in us, that He is our true self, we can slowly let our compulsions melt away and begin to experience the freedom of the children of God.
- The Way of The Heart (Nouwen), p.30

Saturday, November 15, 2008

blameless

How can we expect to be blameless before God if we persist in clinging to personal guilt? The very word blameless signifies that God no longer blames us for our sin, and if He does not blame us, who are we to blame ourselves? More precisely, the word blameless implies that someone else has taken the blame for us, and that Someone is God Himself in the person of His Son Jesus Christ. On the cross, God judged Christ instead of you and me. Jesus literally became guilty of our sins. Since He is now the guilty one, the blame belongs to him. The guilt of our sin is no longer our guilt, but His. Wasn’t this the hidden meaning behind the entire sacrificial system in the Old Testament? The slaying of animals was a way of symbolically shifting the blame—not onto the animals, but onto God Himself. God takes the rap for all of our weakness and sin, and faith is that attitude which humbly allows Him to do this.
- The Gospel According to Job (Mason), p.353

Friday, November 14, 2008

Encourage Yourself

Another Friday Video. You have to click on the link below to go to this video, but it's worth it!

Encourage Yourself (Donald Lawrence)

This lady (Sheri Jones-Moffett) can SING!!

Have a great weekend!!

Here's a pretty cool mime interpretation of the song.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

human being (repost)

I am a human being, not a human doing. My worth lies in who I am, not what I can do or how I am seen by others. This is the truth of my existence.
- David G. Benner, The Gift of Being Yourself (p.86)

One of my new favorite quotes, and I couldn't resist reposting it with this pic from a card my son received a while back... (just got around to scanning it)

So, how ya bean?

Monday, November 10, 2008

2/3 Trinity = Baptist Hymns

Found this interesting article in my inbox this morning. Sad but true!
You Ought to be Ashamed of Yourselves! Baptist Hymns Only 2/3 Trinity

Originally published on Monday, November 10, 2008 at 7:53 AM

by Todd Rhoades

Hymns sung in most Baptist churches historically have been “More About Jesus” than about either God the Father or the Holy Spirit, several church music experts agree.

“From a Baptist perspective, I don’t think the hymnody has ever been Trinitarian,” said Clell Wright, director of choral activities and Logsdon professor of church music at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene.

When it comes to Baptist understanding of the Godhead as reflected in congregational song, “Our Trinity is more two-point-something rather than three,” said Terry York, associate professor of Christian ministry and church music at Baylor University’s School of Music and Truett Theological Seminary in Waco. “One way to gauge that is by looking at the index in the back of the hymnal under ‘Holy Spirit.’ Looking at the 1991 Baptist Hymnal, for instance, there’s not much there. And I was on the committee that put that one together, for crying out loud.”

A quick glance at the recently released 2008 Baptist Hymnal reveals similar results, noted Lee Hinson, coordinator of church music studies at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Okla.

“It has not changed much,” Hinson said. “We struggle with singing Trinitarian doctrine. There are several categories of things we free-churchers don’t do well in worship. … Dealing with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is one of them.”

York agreed, noting lack of emphasis on the Holy Spirit may reveal—in part—lack of clarity among Baptists about the Spirit’s role and about the doctrine of the Trinity in general.

“Baptist churches divide themselves in worship according to which Person of the Trinity gets the most emphasis,” he noted. Baptists who say they want to “worship the Father in the beauty of holiness” generally favor more formal, liturgical worship. Baptist who want to “praise Jesus for who he is and what he has done” may tend toward a more revivalist and evangelistic worship style. Baptists who say they want “the Spirit to come down and bless us” often follow a less structured worship format.

“Generally, we are less than balanced,” York commented. “Few churches stand in the middle.”

Observers differ about whether the rising popularity of praise and worship music translates into increased attention directed toward the Holy Spirit.
Wright sees a shift toward greater “recognition of the work of the Holy Spirit” in praise music.

“So much of it in the last 15 to 20 years seems very pietistic, with a strong emphasis on personal worship,” he noted.

You can read more of this over at the Baptist Standard...

What do you think?


Here's the Baptist Standard article...


Baptist hymnody largely settles for two out of three in Trinity

By Ken Camp, Managing Editor, Baptist Standard

Published: October 30, 2008

Hymns sung in most Baptist churches historically have been “More About Jesus” than about either God the Father or the Holy Spirit, several church music experts agree.

“From a Baptist perspective, I don’t think the hymnody has ever been Trinitarian,” said Clell Wright, director of choral activities and Logsdon professor of church music at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene.

Baptist worship has been shaped to a large degree by the revivalist movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries, he noted.

“By nature, the focus is on Jesus and his redeeming work,” Wright said.

Consequently, when it comes to Baptist understanding of the Godhead as reflected in congregational song, “Our Trinity is more two-point-something rather than three,” said Terry York, associate professor of Christian ministry and church music at Baylor University’s School of Music and Truett Theological Seminary in Waco.

“One way to gauge that is by looking at the index in the back of the hymnal under ‘Holy Spirit.’ Looking at the 1991 Baptist Hymnal, for instance, there’s not much there. And I was on the committee that put that one together, for crying out loud.”

A quick glance at the recently released 2008 Baptist Hymnal reveals similar results, noted Lee Hinson, coordinator of church music studies at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Okla.

“It has not changed much,” Hinson said. “We struggle with singing Trinitarian doctrine. There are several categories of things we free-churchers don’t do well in worship. … Dealing with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is one of them.”

York agreed, noting lack of emphasis on the Holy Spirit may reveal—in part—lack of clarity among Baptists about the Spirit’s role and about the doctrine of the Trinity in general.

“Baptist churches divide themselves in worship according to which Person of the Trinity gets the most emphasis,” he noted. Baptists who say they want to “worship the Father in the beauty of holiness” generally favor more formal, liturgical worship. Baptist who want to “praise Jesus for who he is and what he has done” may tend toward a more revivalist and evangelistic worship style. Baptists who say they want “the Spirit to come down and bless us” often follow a less structured worship format.

“Generally, we are less than balanced,” York commented. “Few churches stand in the middle.”

Observers differ about whether the rising popularity of praise and worship music translates into increased attention directed toward the Holy Spirit.

Wright sees a shift toward greater “recognition of the work of the Holy Spirit” in praise music.

“So much of it in the last 15 to 20 years seems very pietistic, with a strong emphasis on personal worship,” he noted.

That emphasis represents a departure from the evangelistic and revivalist tradition that has marked Baptist worship, he noted.

“Our Baptist heritage of music in the gospel tradition has defined who we are for a couple of hundred years,” Wright noted.

Hinson sees a greater emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit in Baptist worship, but he believes it is restricted to the youngest worship leaders.

“Millennials (roughly defined as the generation born in the 1980s and 1990s) want their worship to be free,” he said. Lyrics that stress the Holy Spirit exist, “but they’re not sung where the Boomers are in charge. They’re in the Wednesday night services where students lead worship.”

York, on the other hand, sees praise and worship lyrics focused primarily on Jesus, but worship leaders stressing the role of the Holy Spirit in leading them.

“They attribute being caught up in worship to the work of the Holy Spirit, who helps lead in the worship of Jesus,” he said.


Friday, November 07, 2008

affliction

From "Streams in the Desert" (November 6 reading)
GOD takes the most eminent and choicest of His servants for the choicest and most eminent afflictions. They who have received most grace from God are able to bear most afflictions from God. Affliction does not hit the saint by chance, but by direction. God does not draw His bow at a venture. Every one of His arrows goes upon a special errand and touches no breast but his against whom it is sent. It is not only the grace, but the glory of a believer when we can stand and take affliction quietly.
—Joseph Caryl.

You've Been So Faithful

Okay, we were practicing this song last night at choir rehearsal and I remembered seeing this on youtube... so it got me thinking, how about videos on Friday? We'll see how it goes. Here's the first. Two versions of the same song.

You've Been So Faithful (Eddie James)



And then there's this "little" choir in Knoxville...



Not bad for mostly white folk!! :-) You can certainly feel the Spirit!
(They do suffer a bit from white man's disease, though = speeding up all the way to the end. If their drummer had played with a drum loop I'm sure that wouldn't have been a problem.) HA!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Tired of Trying to Be Good

Did I get your attention? :-) Have you ever felt tired of trying to be good? This morning's reading from "The Gospel According to Job" is too good not to post in its entirety.

Tired of Trying to Be Good

“[Job] keeps company with evildoers;
he associates with wicked men.
For he says, ‘It profits a man nothing
when he tries to please God.’” (34:8-9)

When a righteous believer has his back against the wall, he will sometimes react with behavior that is deliberately “unrighteous.” He may be rude to guests; he may throw a temper tantrum; he may give his wife the cold shoulder; he may go out and buy something expensive; he may slough off work and go to the pool hall. What is going on here? Often what is happening is that the godly person has gotten sick and tired of trying to be good, and so for a little while he adopts the opposite strategy of being “bad.” It is as if some profound instinct inside him had suddenly remembered that being good is, after all, not what godliness is all about. Godliness begins with faith, not with goodness, and that is why we need to be very careful about passing casual judgments on the visible actions of other believers (or, for that matter, on ourselves). When the righteous engage in behavior that appears questionable, it is possible that they are really involved in a subtle form of spiritual warfare, the real object of which is to pull the wool over the Devil’s eyes. In the final analysis, there is no spiritual weapon more powerful than simply being human.

This is what Elihu, just as much as the other friends, fails to appreciate about Job. He sees this fellow full of anger and wild talk, “who drinks scorn like water” (34:7), and he thinks, “This is not the conduct of a godly man. It is the conduct of a man whose heart is rebellious and cold towards God.” Yet one of the great secrets of the spiritual life is that there is a legitimate place for coldness of heart. For example, when the church of Laodicea was reprimanded, it was because their faith had become so lukewarm as to be insipid, and so Jesus told them, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!” (Rev. 3:15). Evidently in the Lord’s view it is better to be stone-cold than to be lukewarm; it is better to rebel against conventional faith than to practice that faith halfheartedly. When we are spiritually turned off, then God can revive us. But when we pretend to be turned on when really we are not, then our faith is like the emperor’s new clothes and we make a laughingstock of the gospel. For this reason a boring, lifeless church service can be more sinful than drunkenness or adultery.

In a real lover of God, surface rebellion may at heart be an expression of hunger for righteousness, and in the Beatitudes Jesus taught that such hunger would be blessed and satisfied. For the true disciple it is not enough to believe that God is good and to try to lead a good life. No; what true disciples want is to have God’s own goodness for themselves, to have God’s goodness inside them to such an extent that it literally makes them good. Otherwise the practice of religion becomes merely moral effort, and to a person of integrity such effort grows unbearable. An honest soul gets fed up with it. He says, “What’s the use? If I cannot be good, then why pretend to the world, or to myself, that I am? No, I want the real thing. I’m hungry for the living God."

What is the difference between the behavior of Christians and non-Christians? Are Christians any better? No, quite often they are not. There are many nonbelievers and followers of other faiths whose outward moral conduct surpasses that of the average Christian. Secular saints may be so energetic in doing good that their record of public service puts many a church to shame. What difference does it make, then, to be a believer? The difference is that as Christians we need no longer pretend to be better than anyone else. We don’t have to put on any show of being good, for we know we are not. We are not good—we are forgiven; and so we are free to be honest before God and before others. We are free to be ourselves. We have given up trying to be good little boys and girls, and whenever we catch ourselves striving to please either God or others by dint of moral effort, we are the sort of people who react to this danger signal by falling on our faces before the Lord. For one of the secret privileges of being His child is knowing that it is all right to fail. It is all right to get tired, to throw in the towel, to give up. Did not even Jesus stumble while carrying His cross? As His followers we know that if we are ever truly to reflect His goodness or His power, it will not be by human effort but only by grace.

- Mike Mason, The Gospel According to Job, p.351-352

A Ministry of Healing and Reconciliation

How does the Church witness to Christ in the world? First and foremost by giving visibility to Jesus' love for the poor and the weak. In a world so hungry for healing, forgiveness, reconciliation, and most of all unconditional love, the Church must alleviate that hunger through its ministry. Wherever we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the lonely, listen to those who are rejected, and bring unity and peace to those who are divided, we proclaim the living Christ, whether we speak about him or not.

It is important that whatever we do and wherever we go, we remain in the Name of Jesus, who sent us. Outside his Name our ministry will lose its divine energy.
- Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

the true self / false self

Great snapshot of our identity in Christ... the true self and false self. Finished "The Gift of Being Yourself" (Benner) yesterday, and this was in the last chapter.

Friday, October 24, 2008

brrr!

Brrr! 47 and rainy today.
My favorite song for the fall and winter seasons... enjoy!!


...and yes, I know it's not even really cold yet!

revival

Revival does not come just because people get very spiritual, or because they tear out their hair, or even because they pour out their hearts as Job did.

Revival comes in the time and manner that God wills it to come.
- The Gospel According to Job (Mason), p.344

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

test your internet speed

Want to test your internet connection speed?



This was my home speed this morning. Not bad for home service.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

human being

I am a human being, not a human doing. My worth lies in who I am, not what I can do or how I am seen by others. This is the truth of my existence.
- David G. Benner, The Gift of Being Yourself (p.86)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

become like a child

Jesus tells us that "anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it" (Luke 18:17). Ironically, in the family of God to become a little child is to have attained maturity. Spiritual growth means growth in childlikeness. To grow up is to grow down.

The Gospel According to Job, p. 338

confidence

I sometimes think that the very essence of the whole Christian position and the secret of a successful spiritual life is just to realize two things…I must have complete, absolute confidence in God and no confidence in myself.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

great lunch today


Had a great lunch today (coupon in hand, of course) with my sweet wife at Paizanos in Norcross. Excellent food, nice atmosphere. We had the Fried Zucchini appetizer, Paizanos Stromboli, and Meat Ravioli w/marinara sauce. The marinara sauce was scrumptious! Only negative - we were too full for dessert! Nice find in Old Historic Norcross.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Never Would Have Made It (Marvin Sapp)

Great song. Be encouraged!



Watch the high quality version at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnAIgyPVxew

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

hymn funny

You know you attend a church that uses mostly contemporary music (whatever that means) when in your son's evening devotional about singing to the Lord the question is asked...

Q: What other hymns do you know?

and your 7 year old son's answer is to Mom is...

A: I only know Daddy and you, but you're not a him.

My wife and I almost fell off his bed laughing! Rather than go into some long explanation, we just said "that's a good answer, son!"

quote of the day

"Christianity is a faith for people who, having lost all faith in themselves, never tire of hearing the name Jesus." (p.320, The Gospel According to Job)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

isolation

As Christians most of us are surprised and alarmed when we find ourselves going through times of profound isolation. We might feel alienated not only from our community and from the larger society, but even from our own church or from our closest friends and family. When this happens, it could be because we are being called apart to participate in the loneliness of God. If we do not realize this, then we will chafe and rebel against our loneliness as if it were something strange and un-Christian, as if the Bible had nothing to say about it. But wasn't this one of the trials of Job? Here was a gregarious, community-minded person who was called upon to share in the loneliness of God.

This journey into lonely desolation necessarily involves us in a crisis of identity. For that is what loneliness is: an identity crisis. We are meant to be in close relationship with other people, and when for any reason that sense of community breaks down, then essentially we are cut off from ourselves. The enigma for the Christian is that while isolation is not a good thing in itself, yet there are times when it is essential for the growth of our spirits. Since at present we do not know how to relate to others in an entirely healthy way, our old ways must die in order to make way for the new.

The Gospel According to Job (p.313-14)

true prayer

There is no true prayer without agony. Perhaps this is the problem in many of our churches. What little prayer we have is shallow, timid, carefully censored, and full of oratorical flourishes and hot air. There is little agony in it, and therefore little honesty or humility. We seem to think that the Lord is like everyone else we know, and the he cannot handle real honesty. So we put on our Sunday best to visit Him, and when we return home and take off our fancy duds we are left alone with what is underneath: the dirty underwear of hypocrisy.

Why do we flatly refuse to bring real emotions to our prayer meetings? Do we think that the public humbling of ourselves before the Lord should always be a pretty and an enjoyable thing? Do we think the Lord is only honored so long as our own public image and personal dignity are in no way compromised? But the truth is just the opposite: only when we ourselves are prepared to lose face can the Lord's face begin to shine through. It is for Him to exalt us; our part is to humble ourselves. (2 Chron. 7:14)

Even in our private prayers, let alone in our public ones, we Christians have a way of tiptoeing around the throne of God as if He were an invalid or a doddering old man. But who do we think we are kidding? The Lord always knows exactly what we are feeling. He knows all there is to know about us. There is not a shadow of doubt or anger or hate in our hearts but God sees it. So why not just lay all our cards on the table? Real prayer is playing straight with God. If we have never cried out to the Lord, perhaps it is because we have not realized the true horror of our situation. We need to be careful that we do not grow so preoccupied with maintaining our spiritual equilibrium that we regard it as unseemly to cry out to God.

The Gospel According to Job (p.309-10)


If you're interested in a more detailed explanation of "crying out", see The Power of Crying Out (Gothard). A great, informative, and quick read. If you grew up Baptist, it will challenge your ideas of what a "prayer meeting" might look or sound like!! One visit to Brooklyn Tabernacle's Tuesday night prayer meeting would cure any misconceptions you might have.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Manly Revolution (Jesus for Real Men)

Actually saw a church billboard that advertised "A Manly Revolution" and pictured a blue jean & ball cap man standing with his arms folded. Wondered what it meant, so I checked, but not any mention of it on the website the billboard referenced. And [side note] I thought it interesting that my 15 y.o. MD (middle daughter) mentioned she didn't care for it as we passed by one day. But, anyway...

I ran across this magazine article in a waiting room earlier this week. Can you believe actually reading printed media? (It has actually been a wonderful re-discovery over the last few months to take a book in hand and step away from the computer!) However, thanks to the electronic age in which we live, it is also online. A thought provoking piece on the "masculinity" movement in churches.

A Jesus for Real Men
Christianity Today
April 2008, Vol. 52, No. 4

between solitude and ministry

Between Solitude and Effective Ministry
from Christianity Today

sinlessness

I'm not sure sinlessness is possible this side of eternity, but this could be a good start, or at least a step in the right direction.
"...flee, be silent, pray always, for these are the sources of sinlessness."
Benedicta Ward, trans., The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, p.8
as quoted in The Way of the Heart, Henri Nouwen, p.15

Thursday, September 11, 2008

disgrace

This is lengthy, but worth the read. I couldn't help but include the entire article for today's quote of the day!
Disgrace

"[People] do not hesitate to spit in my face.
Now that God has unstrung my bow and afflicted me,
they cast off restraint in my presence." (Job 30:10-11)

In this passage Job's lament once again foreshadows the crucifixion: like Christ he is mocked, spat upon, afflicted by God. In the Old Testament as in the New, it seems, both God and men have to find somewhere to unload their wrath. If a good person is chosen as the whipping boy, it is only because a good person can take it. A good person, like a good God, can absorb all the hatred and abuse you may care to throw at him, without being crushed by it. That is just the way goodness is: it has the power to absorb or swallow up evil. In fact before evil can be conquered, it must be personally absorbed. We must take it into ourselves, like poison, with all its dirt and shame, and then let the world watch as it passes through us without harm. This notion is completely abhorrent to natural religion. And yet it is the true Spirit of Christ, of whom Paul taught that "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us" (2 Cor. 5:21). Because the God-Man was disgraced, because He publicly suffered loss of grace, He became the channel through which grace and goodness could flow back into the world.

This is exactly what is missing from most of our western churches: the public disgrace of Christians. It is fine for Jesus to have been disgraced, we feel, and it is fine when superstar charlatans get their comeuppance. But the average faithful disciple cannot imagine how any good might come from his own public humiliation. On the contrary, how could God possibly be glorified if we ourselves should appear in a bad light? But really the opposite is true: if we ourselves are busy occupying the limelight, what light can fall on God?

Did not Jesus teach us to deny ourselves and to take up our cross? By denial He did not mean suppression; that kind of denial leads only to neurotic disorder. No, to Jesus denial meant annihilation. It meant a violent public execution in which the weakness and corruptibility of our flesh were to be put on display. How conveniently Christians today have forgotten that the carrying of a cross is not a private but a public act. Aren't most of us caught up in projecting to others an outer image of ourselves that is better then the inner truth? Instead of glorifying in our weaknesses as Paul did, we like to hide them. We would far sooner busy ourselves with cultivating a saintly exterior, than be forced to live with the pain and disgrace that inevitably accompany interior sanctification. In the long run, this hypocritical playacting causes us more pain than ever, eating up enormous reserves of our energy and keeping us tied in knots. That is why we need people like Job, or like Jacob or Jeremiah, people who can help us relax by showing that God is most glorified when we are simply ourselves, warts and all. The Lord is infinitely patient and loving with a messy exterior, but an insincere heart He cannot abide.

No one can be a Christian without acquiring a pure heart, whatever the consequences might be for one's exterior life. And the consequences are bound to be catastrophic. People who are preoccupied with putting on a nice Christian veneer will die in their sins. But those who give up the pride that pours all its energy into maintaining appearances, and who openly scorn those appearances by submitting them to public disgrace, will inherit eternal life. There can be no sanctification or spiritual maturity without crucifixion with Christ, and there can be no crucifixion with Christ without some measure of public shame and scandal. Certainly disgrace is not something to be recklessly sought out; but neither is it to be frantically avoided. Denying the self, far from hiding the self, means being unafraid of having the self exposed for what it is.

Is the weakness of our flesh on display for all to see? Or do we think that being spiritual means exuding a radiant glow of saintliness? Many of us, unlike Job, have grown so terrified of appearing unspiritual in the eyes of other Christians that we no longer dare to open up our hearts, either to one another or to God. We are too afraid of what is inside. We cannot bear to confront our flesh as it really is, let alone crucify it. What we need to realize is that only as sinners can we be disciples of Jesus. A saint cannot pick up a cross; only a sinner can pick up a cross. This is a profound mystery; but with our saintly selves, with that part of ourselves that has been sanctified and devoted to God, we cannot touch the cross. Only a sinful nature can touch the cross. It has to be bare flesh against bare wood. Mere spirit will not hold a nail.

- The Gospel According to Job (p.305-6)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

restoration

Today's quote of the day is from "The Gift of Being Yourself" by David Benner.
A complete knowing of our self in relation to God includes knowing three things: our self as deeply loved, our self as deeply sinful, and our self as in a process of being redeemed and restored. Facing these deep truths about ourselves makes it possible for us to accept and know ourselves as we are accepted and known by God. (p.72)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

double standard

Came across a great article from the Marriage Connection email I received today. Here's a link to the full article at Christianity Today.

Why You Need A Double Standard
http://www.christianitytoday.com/mp/7m1/7m1008.html

A few of my favorite quotes from the article - some of them not applying just to marriage.
"The person who understands the evil in his own heart is the only person who is useful, fruitful and solid in his beliefs and obedience. Others only delude themselves and thus upset families, churches and all other relationships. In their self-pride and judgment of others, they show great inconsistency." (John Owen, puritan scholar)

"No one is of the Spirit of Christ but he that has the utmost compassion for sinners. Nor is there any greater sign of your own perfection than you find yourself all love and compassion toward them that are very weak and defective. And on the other hand, you have never less reason to be pleased with yourself than when you find yourself most angry and offended at the behavior of others." (William Law, eighteenth-century Anglican)

That was the holy double standard I needed. As I become more unyielding and aggressive in attacking my own sins and weaknesses, I must extend more and more grace and gentleness toward others in theirs.

If each of us assumes our spouse has it the hardest and that we miss the mark most frequently—and act accordingly—we'll find a mix that's just about right. When we adopt this double standard, we find that encouragement replaces accusation, appreciation replaces resentfulness and understanding replaces judgment. And isn't that the type of marriage we're all looking for? (Gary Thomas)

lost self

I admit it, I am now an unabashed Henri Nouwen fanatic! His writing touches me in very deep places. You'll be seeing more and more of his quotes here, as I devour his books.
I am beginning now to see how radically the character of my spiritual journey will change when I no longer think of God as hiding out and making it as difficult as possible for me to find him, but, instead, as the one who is looking for me while I am doing the hiding. When I look through God's eyes at my lost self and discover God's joy at my coming home, then my life may become less anguished and more trusting.

Wouldn't it be good to increase God's joy by letting God find me and carry me home and celebrate my return with the angels? Wouldn't it be wonderful to make God smile by giving God the chance to find me and love me lavishly? Questions like these raise a real issue: that of my own self-concept. Can I accept that I am worth looking for? Do I believe that there is a real desire in God to simply be with me?

I understand the whole concept of God looking for us, desiring us, may stretch some, but don't forget the garden... from Genesis 3

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" 10 He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid." 21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
I always think of verse 21 as a special love note from God! He wants to be with us, to spend time with us, to walk with us, and to cover us with His unconditional love!

When Tempted, Seek Support

Great devotion today from Rick Warren...

When Tempted, Seek Support
by Rick Warren

You are better off to have a friend than to be all alone . . . . If you fall, your friend can help you up. But if you fall without having a friend nearby, you are really in trouble. Ecclesiastes 4:9–10 (CEV)

*** *** *** ***

When you’re tempted, reveal your struggle to a godly friend or support group. You don’t have to broadcast it to the whole world, but you need at least one person you can honestly share your struggles with.

The Bible says, “You are better off to have a friend than to be all alone . . . . If you fall, your friend can help you up. But if you fall without having a friend nearby, you are really in trouble” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10 CEV).

Let me be clear: If you’re losing the battle against a persistent bad habit, an addiction, or a temptation, and you’re stuck in a repeating cycle of good intention–failure–guilt, you will not get better on your own! You need the help of other people.

Some temptations are only overcome with the help of a partner who prays for you, encourages you, and holds you accountable.

God’s plan for your growth and freedom includes other Christians. Authentic, honest fellowship is the antidote to your lonely struggle against those sins that won’t budge. God says it is the only way you’re going to break free: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16, NIV).

Do you really want to be healed of that persistent temptation that keeps defeating you over and over? God’s solution is plain: Don’t repress it; confess it! Don’t conceal it; reveal it. Revealing your feeling is the beginning of healing.

Hiding your hurt only intensifies it. Problems grow in the dark and become bigger and bigger, but when exposed to the light of truth, they shrink. You’re only as sick as your secrets. So take off your mask, stop pretending you’re perfect, and walk into freedom.

© 2008 Purpose Driven Life. All rights reserved.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and best-known churches. In addition, Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church, which was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th Century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for ministers.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

addiction

Now Matt Tullos is getting way too personal. Check out his thoughts on the flesh and addiction. It's his journal, so I guess he can get as personal as he wants to, huh? Don't want to lose this one, so I'm also gonna cut/paste it below.

flesh is our great superpower adversary-used by satan- caused by the fall.

flesh seeks to seduce us into doing things that will kill the pain and fill the void. Flesh is the producer of those private, personal "tv commercials" that will play until you buy into the temptation. commericals include flashbacks of feeling good in the flesh, remembrances of times when flesh saved the day, and emotionally charged reasons you deserve to feel good momentarily. (all lies ofcourse...flesh is the original sick freak)

flesh will tell any lie to feed itself. flesh is amoral- in other words, it doesn't understand the concept of moral reasoning. it doesn't understand faith, it doesn't understand God. That's why it's so dang hard and/or miserable to be a fleshy disciple. All flesh knows is that it wants to use drugs, sex, food, accomplishments as pain killing and feel better stuff. Usually things that make us feel better have some use in the proper context: food is necessary, sex causes procreation, drugs can sometimes heal, and accomplishments- well- they accomplish. But alas, once flesh learns about how chemicals and experiences can push the feel-good buttons in the brain, it is incapable of seeing why we shouldn't just push those buttons all of the time.

Flesh will carry on a conversation throughout the day as you go to lunch, as you watch tv, as you stand before powerful minds and speak, as you drive down the road. "If only we could shut that dirty son-of-a-....gun up!"

Fortunately we have a Brother who has the power to shut that son of a gun up. That's not to say that flesh goes away when we walk the "cross road." It simply means that we have hope.

Why God Shouldn't Use You

Why God Shouldn't Use You

by Matt Tullos

You may say, There are many reasons God shouldn’t use me. You’re right! But don’t worry, you’re in good company.
Moses stuttered.
David’s armor didn’t fit.
John Mark was rejected by Paul.
Timothy had ulcers.
Hosea’s wife was a prostitute.
Amos’ only training was in the school of fig-tree pruning.
Jacob was a liar.
David had an affair.
Solomon was too rich.
Jesus was too poor.
Abraham was too old.
David was too young.
Peter was afraid of death.
Lazarus was dead.
John was self-righteous.
Naomi was a widow.
Paul was a murderer.
So was Moses.
Jonah ran from God.
Miriam was a gossip.
Gideon and Thomas both doubted.
Jeremiah was depressed and suicidal.
Elijah was burned out.
John the Baptist was a loudmouth.
Martha was a worrywart.
Mary was lazy.
Samson had long hair.
Noah got drunk.
Did I mention that Moses had a short fuse?
So did Peter, Paul—well, lots of folks did.

But God doesn’t require a job interview. He doesn’t hire and fire like most bosses, because He’s more our Dad than our Boss. He doesn’t look at financial gain or loss. He’s not prejudiced or partial, not judging, grudging, sassy, or brassy, not deaf to our cry, not blind to our need. As much as we try, God’s gifts are free. We could do wonderful things for wonderful people and still not be wonderful. Satan says, You’re not worthy. Jesus says, So what? I am. Satan looks back and sees our mistakes. God looks back and sees the cross. He doesn’t calculate what you did in ’98. It’s not even on the record. Sure. There are lots of reasons God can’t use me or you. But if you are magically in love with Him; if you hunger for Him more than your next breath, He’ll use you in spite of who you are, where you’ve been, or what you look like. I pray that we will step out of our limitations into the unlimitable nature of who God is. Then our passion for God and our passion to communicate Him will make mincemeat of our limitations.

Reprinted from Actors Not Included: 303 Scripts for Church Drama, © Copyright 1999 LifeWay Press.

Between "Failure" and "Fraud"

I ran across the following great article at:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2008/001/14.106.html

Between "Failure" and "Fraud"
I hear two voices—assessing, accusing. Which will I listen to?
by Mark Labberton

Pastors have always been Sunday fare, but performance expectations can arrive by special delivery any day of the week. On one such day, a congregant arrived in my office to tell me just what she made of my performance as a pastor. In summary, not much.

She was expansive in the adjectives she used to describe my deficiencies. As I listened, I recognized some truth in what she said. But she wanted more than my agreement, she wanted my resignation. Her logic was simple: "If you are not who you should be, you shouldn't be a pastor." By grace, I realized there was another logic worth considering. It says, "You are not who you should be, and God wants to use you anyway."

God's mysterious strategy is to use fallen people to witness to a gospel of hope and transformation. That means underperformance is built into the paradigm. It means those who do not live up to expectations are the very people God uses to call others who don't measure up either. This approach is completely counterintuitive, but then so is grace.

Grace is not an excuse to hide our deficiencies or deny our failures, and it's not a heat shield to protect us from getting burned. But grace does mean our failures don't have to paint us into a corner where the only way out is to abandon our call. Grace sets our lives in what the psalmist calls "the broad place," off the knife-edge of judgment, and nowhere near the winner-takes-all option some may offer us.

I tried to respond gently to the outspoken critic in my office. "You are more right than you know," I told her. "I don't have many of the qualities of a gifted pastor. But you have the wrong list of deficiencies. The real list is far worse. God knows the real list, and God, by his grace, has still called me to be a pastor."

I believe what I said, but living it is far more difficult. The temptation in ministry is always to focus on expectations rather than grace.

In a very difficult season when finances were tight, I was driving a dilapidated car that had been donated to the church. It had lots of problems, including a ceiling lining that drooped down and grazed my head every time the broken shock absorbers launched me from the seat toward the roof. The car began to speak to me. It said, "Failure." Why couldn't I get my life together? I was getting older every year, I had a family, this car was humiliating, and I felt like a failure.

This continued for months until the day I took the car to the airport to pick up my nieces. It was a very hot day, the air-conditioning in the car didn't work (surprise), so all four windows were down. Only later did I realize vinyl flakes from the sun-scorched dashboard were being blown into the backseat and covering my sweet nieces.

That day, still without the funds to buy a second car, we leased a new car. It was wonderful! No flakes, no droopy ceiling lining, no broken shocks. I was thrilled until the day this car also began to talk. Its message was also just one word: "Fraud." I was no more put together, no more successful with this new car than with the scuzzy borrowed one. It just looked better. I was a fake.

My life swings between voices calling "failure" and "fraud." The key is not listening to either. I'm not as bad as my critics accuse me of being, but I'm not as good as I've led some to believe. And right there, in the truth somewhere in between, is where we hear the voice of God. He still says to me, and to everyone called to follow Jesus, "I want you and I will use you."

In ministry performance matters, but grace matters more.

Mark Labberton is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, California.

Copyright © 2008 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal. Winter 2008, Vol. XXIX, No. 1, Page 106

Monday, August 25, 2008

Let it go, Louie!

I use this phrase from time to time, and seems like many have not heard it, or don't remember these commercials... so here it is...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Authentic Friendships

from The Purpose Driven Life Daily Devotional...

Authentic Friendships
by Rick Warren

But if we live in the light, as God is in the light, we can share fellowship with each other. Then the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from every sin. If we say we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:7–8 (NCV)

*** *** *** ***

In Christian fellowship people should experience authenticity.

Authentic fellowship is not superficial, surface-level chit-chat. It’s genuine, heart-to-heart, sometimes gut-level, sharing.

It happens when people get honest about who they are and what is happening in their lives. They share their hurts, reveal their feelings, confess their failures, disclose their doubts, admit their fears, acknowledge their weaknesses, and ask for help and prayer.

Authenticity is the exact opposite of what you find in many churches. Instead of an atmosphere of honesty and humility, there is pretending, role-playing, politicking, superficial politeness, and shallow conversation.

People wear masks, keep their guard up, and act as if everything is rosy in their lives. These attitudes are the death of real friendship.

It’s only as we become open about our lives that we experience authentic fellowship. The Bible says, “If we live in the light, as God is in the light, we can share fellowship with each other. . . . If we say we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves” (1 John 1:7–8 NCV).

The world thinks intimacy occurs in the dark, but God says it happens in the light. We tend to use darkness to hide our hurts, faults, fears, failures, and flaws. But in the light, we bring them all out into the open and admit who we really are.

Of course, being authentic requires both courage and humility. It means facing our fear of exposure, rejection, and being hurt again.

Why would anyone take such a risk?

Because it’s the only way to grow spiritually and be emotionally healthy. The Bible says, “Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed” (James 5:16 MSG).

© 2008 Purpose Driven Life. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Come Home

There are two realities to which you must cling. First, God has promised that you will receive the love you have been searching for. And second, God is faithful to that promise.

So stop wandering around. Instead, come home and trust that God will bring you what you need. Your whole life you have been running about, seeking the love you desire. Now it is time to end that search. Trust that God will give you that all-fulfilling love and will give it in a human way. Before you die, God will offer you the deepest satisfaction you can desire. Just stop running and start trusting and receiving.

Home is where you are truly safe. It is where you can receive what you desire. You need human hands to hold you there so you don’t run away again. But when you come home and stay home, you will find the love that will bring rest to your heart.

- Henri Nouwen

The Inner Voice of Love (p.12)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Shack revisited (i.e., finished)

My "quote of the day" is from The Shack.
"The trouble with living by priorities... is that it sees everything as a hierarchy, a pyramid... If you put God at the top, what does that really mean and how much is enough?"

"I don't just want a piece of you and a piece of your life. Even if you were able, which you are not, to give me the biggest piece, that is not what I want. I want all of you and all of every part of you and your day."
I just finished (finally) The Shack by William P. Young. Evidently it's pretty controversial, although the back of the book clearly reads "FICTION". ;-)

I won't labor the controversy, but if you're interested you can google and come up with plenty of banter. I mentioned this before in an earlier post, where Christianity Today states, "a tale of tragedy redeemed, not a theological treatise." If you want an exhaustive theological analysis, I'd suggest clicking here or here. If you want to hear Al Mohler rail against it, click here [skip ahead to the 11:21 mark].

Since I'm not a theologian, I won't argue with any of these reviews. The book and the reviewers do a fine job of speaking for themselves. Honestly, I did wince several times during my read. But as mom used to say, "eat the meat and spit out the bones", and I think that's pretty good advice for this book, which again, is clearly listed as a work of FICTION.

So, what do I think? I think it's a good book, maybe even a great one. I enjoyed the read, and I had tears in my eyes several times during the last few weeks as I read it. The author touches the theme of grace more than once, and drives home the point that God is "especially fond" of you... (no matter how dark or far away from God you might feel) ...something that I don't think gets said in most churches nearly often enough. I'm not big on fiction so this is a real stretch, but I'd recommend this book, and I may even read it again myself. (After I finish devouring all the Henri Nouwen that I've checked out from the library.)

If you're uncertain or don't feel like you're strong enough to discern some of the shaky theological concerns, read or listen to the analysis' I referenced above, then dive in to a work of FICTION, and try to allow yourself to hear the author's heart of encouragement for those who are hurt, wounded, broken, grieving or have other great sadness in their lives. I think you will be blessed.

(Did you notice I kept capitalizing the word FICTION?)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

the BIG 4 - 0

Happy Birthday to my wonderful wife, whose birthday is today!

solitude

Solitude is the garden of our hearts which yearn for love. It is the place where our aloneness can bear fruit. It is the home for our restless bodies and anxious minds. Solitude, whether it is connected with a physical space or not, is essential for our spiritual lives. It is not an easy place to be, since we are so insecure and fearful that we are easily distracted by whatever promises immediate satisfaction. Solitude is not immediately satisfying, because in solitude we meet our demons, our addictions, our feelings of lust and anger, and our immense need for recognition and approval. But if we do not run away, we will meet there also the One who says: "Do not be afraid. I am with you, and I will guide you through the valley of darkness."

Let's keep returning to our solitude.

- Henri J.M. Nouwen (from "Bread for the Journey")
as quoted in "The Dance of Life", p.72-73

systematic theology - 2

A scientist can explain the universe in which common-sense men live, but the scientific explanation is not first; life is first. The same with theology: theology is the systematizing of the intellectual expression of life from God; it is a mighty thing, but it is second, not first. . . . If we put it first, we will do what Job's friends did, refusing to look at facts and remaining consistent to certain ideas which pervert the character of God.
- Oswald Chambers
(as quoted in "The Gospel According to Job", p.257)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

quote of the day

We don't need to grasp the divine. We need the divine to grasp us - just as we are.
- Michael Andrew Ford (from The Dance of Life, p.31)

peregrinatio est tacere

To be on pilgrimage is to be silent.
- Abba Tithoes

Monday, July 28, 2008

sterile stoicism

isn't that a great expression? sterile stoicism... comes from the "quote of the day" in my reading of "The Gospel According to Job" (Mason).
Even today the concept of a feeling, suffering God is almost impossible for most people to grasp. Particularly where the influence of Eastern religions has been felt, God is often seen to be beyond suffering, and consequently so is love itself. In this view the whole purpose of religion is to wean people from their messy emotional lives so as to lift them up onto the higher plane of divinely dispassionate existence. Such sterile stoicism has no divine Person behind it, no real God at all. Certainly it cannot begin to embrace the God who loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son to be murdered for its sake. (p.239)

Friday, July 25, 2008

How To Read "The Shack"



I have just started (seriously only completing the first few pages) but I can't wait to dig into the book. I ran across this article yesterday and thought I'd post the link here!





See "Reading in Good Faith"

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/august/5.44.html

Good advice, IMHO, if you have concerns about the book!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Safety

My MD (middle daughter - age 15) wrote this paraphrase of Jonah 2 this morning. Too powerful not to share. (with her permission, of course!)

7.24.08 - Jonah 2

1. Jonah was inside his provided safety... a huge fish... and he prayed to the Lord, the giver of his safety.
2. "In terrible misery I called out to You. And You answered my call. I was so close to death I was in my grave, but you listened to me.
3. I was in the very heart... the very middle of the seas... and all of your waves and currents swept about me. All of your waves and water took me over.
4. I was so focused on myself. And I had been taken away from your sight. But I looked toward You.
5. The deep surrounded me. The deep... oh how it surrounded my being. The waters were a threat, and the seaweed clung to my head.
6. I was so deep that the roots of the mountains met me, and the earth beneath held me forever. But my Safety... He brought my life up from the deep.
7. (Ebb = the flowing of the tide back toward the sea; a passing away; weakening or lessening; decline) My life was weakening and flowing back toward the sea. But I remembered my Safety, and my prayers rose to You.
8. I was my own worthless idol. I clung to my own, and look where it brought me. Until I came to my senses I could have forfeited the grace that was mine all along.
9. But again, my Safety saved me. You gave me my salvation. So now I have a sacrifice of praise to offer You. What I have promised to You thus far will not be worthless. I choose this once forfeited grace."
10. Jonah's Safety heard him. He remembered Jonah. He commanded the huge fish that had kept Jonah to put him onto dry land. And once again, Jonah was saved.

only 153 shopping days left until...

You guessed it, Christmas is just around the corner. I read this from C.S. Lewis', "The Joyful Christian" this morning during my quiet time. I found it humorous, so I thought I'd post it here. If you're honest I bet you've felt this way a time or two... I know I have. Don't forget there are only 153 shopping days left until Christmas! Bah Humbug??
Christmas and Xmas
C. S. Lewis

Christmas cards in general and the whole vast commercial drive called "Xmas" are one of my pet abominations; I wish they could die away and leave the Christian feast unentangled. Not of course that even secular festivities are, on their own level, an evil; but the labored and organized jollity of this - the spurious childlikeness - the half-hearted and sometimes rather profane attempts to keep up some superficial connection with the Nativity - are disgusting.

* * *

Three things go by the name of Christmas. One is a religious festival. This is important and obligatory for Christians; but as it can be of no interest to anyone else, I shall naturally say no more about it here. The second (it has complex historical connections with the first, but we needn't go into them) is a popular holiday, an occasion for merry-making and hospitality. If it were my business to have a 'view' on this, I should say that I much approve of merry-making. But what I approve of much more is everybody minding his own business. I see no reason why I should volunteer views as to how other people should spend their own money in their own leisure among their own friends. It is highly probable that they want my advice on such matters as little as I want theirs. But the third thing called Christmas is unfortunately everyone's business.

I mean of course the commercial racket. The interchange of presents was a very small ingredient in the older English festivity. Mr. Pickwick took a cod with him to Dingley Dell; the reformed Scrooge ordered a turkey for his clerk; lovers sent love gifts; toys and fruit were given to children. But the idea that not only all friends but even all acquaintances should give one another presents, or at least send one another cards, is quite modern and has been forced upon us by the shopkeepers. Neither of these circumstances is in itself a reason for condemning it. I condemn it on the following grounds.

1. It gives on the whole much more pain than pleasure. You have only to stay over Christmas with a family who seriously try to 'keep' it (in its third, or commercial, aspect) in order to see that the thing is a nightmare. Long before December 25th everyone is worn out -- physically worn out by weeks of daily struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think out suitable gifts for them. They are in no trim for merry-making; much less (if they should want to) to take part in a religious act. They look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house.

2. Most of it is involuntary. The modern rule is that anyone can force you to give him a present by sending you a quite unprovoked present of his own. It is almost a blackmail. Who has not heard the wail of despair, and indeed of resentment, when, at the last moment, just as everyone hoped that the nuisance was over for one more year, the unwanted gift from Mrs. Busy (whom we hardly remember) flops unwelcomed through the letter-box, and back to the dreadful shops one of us has to go?

3. Things are given as presents which no mortal every bought for himself -- gaudy and useless gadgets, 'novelties' because no one was ever fool enough to make their like before. Have we really no better use for materials and for human skill and time than to spend them on all this rubbish?

4. The nuisance. For after all, during the racket we still have all our ordinary and necessary shopping to do, and the racket trebles the labour of it.

We are told that the whole dreary business must go on because it is good for trade. It is in fact merely one annual symptom of that lunatic condition of our country, and indeed of the world, in which everyone lives by persuading everyone else to buy things. I don't know the way out. But can it really be my duty to buy and receive masses of junk every winter just to help the shopkeepers? If the worst comes to the worst I'd sooner give them money for nothing and write if off as a charity. For nothing? Why, better for nothing than for a nuisance.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

systematic theology

I've been wrestling a bit lately with the concept of systematic theology - specifically our attempts to put God and how He works in our lives into some neat and tidy form. I've not come up with any profound answer as of yet. The longer I live the more I think God is way too "messy" to be put into a nice systematic configuration. With that said, my reading today from "The Gospel According to Job" summed up some of my recent thoughts fairly nicely.
To Job's friends, theology is a lens through which to examine reality, and for this reason they tend to see only the way things ought to be. But Job refuses to surrender his instinctive grasp of the way things actually are, and so he emerges as the greater theologian. His view of life is, in Lenin's famous phrase, "as radical as reality itself." Job's immediate predicament is one that rips away all religious pretensions, forcing theology to come out of the clouds and down to earth where life is lived. By Job's standards any faith that cannot actually be lived day in and day out, under all circumstances, is absolutely worthless. If it is the real thing, it must cover every conceivable eventuality. When any system of theology comes up against even one exception to its rules and theories, the system must be reevaluated. The scandalous suffering of the righteous Job is the Old Testament's grand exception to the rule of blessing for the faithful, the spectacular exception to that ultimately guards against God (or Satan, for that matter) being turned into an abstraction. By persevering in faith under conditions of chaos, Job preserves faith from being reduced to fantasy.

Does all this sound reasonable? Really it is not. The story of Job defeats reason. It is impossible to read or to think about this book without getting tangled up and stymied. It is all so messy, this business of suffering. It boggles the mind. It is so big, so monstrous, so untheological. Against the systematic tidiness that Job's friends try to impose upon the chaos, Job asserts a healthy belief in the present reign of anarchy. (p.232)

Monday, July 21, 2008

loneliness

"...even in a good church people experience a certain measure of isolation, a certain poverty of human fellowship, and this is not without purpose. For this loneliness, this place in our hearts that no other human being can touch, is the place reserved for God alone, the place that only He can fill. No human being can love us as God does. No other person can speak to us from the bottom of our own hearts as the Holy Spirit does. No one else can plumb the mystery of our character and discern our peculiar needs and gifts as clearly as we ourselves can, by the Spirit's light. Accordingly, all of us must discover what it means to have no other comfort except the comfort that we ourselves can draw from our God in the lonely privacy of our own prayers." (The Gospel According to Job, p.229-30)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

quote of the day

...we completely miss the message of the gospel, which is that we who believe in Christ are under no compulsion whatsoever to keep on obeying the incessant promptings of the world and the flesh. If we feel such a compulsion, it has nothing to do with God. Rather, we have one godly compulsion and only one, which is the compulsion to comply with the gracious movement of the Holy Spirit as He pours His new life into our hearts. In fact, if we neglect this "one thing . . . needed" (Luke 10:42), striving instead to keep up with the interminable pressures of a worldly life, then we will lose the grace to follow Christ. "For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God" (Rom. 8:13-14). In a few words Paul gives a seldom-heard definition of the Christian: someone whose life is controlled by the Holy Spirit. We might almost say that a Christian is someone whose only obligation is to live without any obligations - or at least, with only one, which is the obligation to the One who says, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:30). Which is easier, to live with a thousand responsibilities or with just one? As one writer expressed it, "Hold fast to Christ, and for the rest, be totally uncommitted."

To live this way is perfect freedom. Perfect freedom does not mean freedom from all responsibilities, but rather freedom from every inhuman responsibility. (The Gospel According to Job, p.222)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

quote of the day

Job is in the hands of Satan, not to be punished, but in order that his "faith... may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (I Peter 1:7)."

The Lord is looking for people who can, by faith alone, stand in the midst of the fray, resisting not only the Devil but the world and their own flesh, and come out winning. Though the cost of this victory, like the cost of the cross, may from a worldly point of view be appalling, God wants people who know that by grace they are rich enough to afford such a cost. (p.203, The Gospel According to Job)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Hold On

quote of the day from "The Gospel According To Job" (Mason)
What is it we are to hold to so tightly? We are to hold on to whatever it was that first saved us, that first washed away our sins and ushered us clean and new into the Kingdom of God. We are to hold on to our very first experience of the gospel, to the word of truth as it first came to us in all its grace and power. After all, if this simple message was good enough to set us free in the first place, then surely it is good enough to continue setting us free. Therefore we are to keep going back to it. We are to keep on returning to this one, initial, earth-shattering event of our salvation, when Jesus first took all of our burdens and rolled them into the sea, and to this we are to cling for dear life.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Why Can't I Shake My Sins?

Did I get your attention?!? When I come across an article like this, I just can't pass up reading it. Here is a thought provoking (i.e., I may not agree with every word) read for those with struggles. (Isn't that everyone? Don't kid yourself, it's everyone!)
http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2008/002/16.65.html

I especially like the line - "
Could it be that our frustratingly persistent sins, which abound, lead us to a greater awareness of God's grace, which so much more abounds?"

Do we continue in our sin that grace abound? As the scripture says, "God forbid". (Rom. 6:1) But the struggle and battle we face daily with our flesh, does give us a great awareness of God's grace. I know that was my experience in battling my persistent sin, and overcoming and walking out of its grip. "Were it not for grace", as the song says, I shudder to think where I would be today. Thank God for a greater awareness of Him, His unconditional love, and boundless grace toward us.

If you haven't yet had victory over your persistent sin(s), hold on to the hope that victory (however that may be defined) is available, but in the meantime, God may be using your struggle as a way to give you a greater awareness of His grace.

I'm going to cut/paste the article here, just in case the link "dies" one day.

Why Can't I Shake My Sins?
A surprising answer to a stubborn problem.

by Kevin A. Miller

A man came to see me. It was the beginning of Lent, the original "40 Days of Purposeful Repentance."

"Pastor," he said, "I want to confess my sins." And in tears, he spoke honestly and openly about the sin in his life—nothing illegal, most known only to him, yet serious, and he wanted to turn away from it. We talked and prayed together, and he left.

Forty days later, he came back.

"How are you doing?" I asked.

"I haven't made much progress," he admitted, his eyes unable to meet mine.

In his agony was a question I've often asked: "Why does sin so stubbornly remain in our lives?" He and I both want to change more than we have and more than we do.

I've heard many answers, ranging from "You just haven't gotten serious enough about turning away from your sin" to "You need an experience of greater or entire sanctification" to "You need an accountability partner" to "You need to let go and let God." All helpful, to a point, but they didn't seem to fit this man hunched over in front of me.

So I read several classic books of spiritual devotion. Their answer was not what I expected; in fact, it was the opposite.

In the first book, Francois Fenelon, a Christian spiritual adviser in the 1600s, wrote a letter that included a phrase that stopped me: "Sometimes [God] leaves people with certain unconquerable imperfections …" Really? God does this? What good end could God possibly have in mind for leaving unconquered areas in our lives? Fenelon continued, "… in order to deprive them of all inward self-satisfaction … Self-reliance, even in the matter of curing one's faults, fosters a hidden conceit."

In other words, we are most concerned about our "unconquerable imperfections." God is more concerned about our pride. And in order to stab our pride, he may leave those imperfections in our life, for a time, to make us humble, to cause us to throw ourselves, in frustration with ourselves, upon God.

Even faults that stubbornly remain can be used by God for our good, says Fenelon: "Let us profit by the faults we have committed, through the humble consciousness of our weakness, without discouragement."

I swelled with hope. Could it be that our frustratingly persistent sins, which abound, lead us to a greater awareness of God's grace, which so much more abounds?

In a second spiritual classic, Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales concurs: "For the furtherance of humility, it is needful that we sometimes find ourselves worsted in this spiritual battle." Needful. Necessary for us. But "we shall never be conquered until we lose either life or courage. … we are certain to vanquish so long as we are willing to fight."

Our persistent failings bring us "abjection" (humility), and that's spiritually beneficial as long as we persevere.

While striving for holiness, we must not underestimate the value of humility. As Peter of Damaskos wrote in the Philokalia: If "you sin out of habit even when you do not want to, show humility like the Publican (Lk. 18:13); this is enough to ensure your salvation."

So when struggling with persistent sin, take heart. God is at work, and even your persistent failings may work to your good and his glory. Let yourself be humbled by your falls.

Fenelon concludes: "Bear with yourself in your involuntary frailties as God bears, wait patiently for His appointed time of complete deliverance, and meanwhile go on quietly and according to your strength in the path before you, without losing time in looking back; sorrowing over [your sins] with humility, but putting them aside to press onwards; not looking upon God as a spy watching to surprise you, or an enemy laying snares for you, but as a Father who loves you. … Such you will find to be the path toward true liberty."

Kevin A. Miller is executive vice president of Christianity Today International and assistant pastor at Church of the Resurrection in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.

Copyright © 2008 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal.
Spring 2008, Vol. XXIX, No. 2, Page 65