Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Don't Look Back

Philippians 3:12-15

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

As this year draws to a close, if you are like me, you have that introspective self-diagnostic inventory thing going on. A state of the Onion of sorts. I tend to look back and grade my life's journey for the previous twelve months. I'm sort of linear like that - a left -to-right timeline kind of guy that sees a calendar in my head with a list of successes and failures and wins and losses along the way. Where was I when the year started? What kind of growth, if any, has taken place? What kind of dynamics have changed in my life? Am I a better person than I was when 2008 started?

Many things have changed in my life since last January. In fact, "change" has been the theme of '08 for me and it had little to do with an empty politcal slogan. One of my very best friends lost a daughter, another lost his mother, and I lost one of my favorite Aunts. I nearly lost a friend, and I just learned today that one of my uncle's had a heart cath and some stints put in. My youngest daughter turned 18 and just started driving this year. She promptly wrecked our car. No harm to her - thank God. I changed jobs within my company and am now working a different shift. My biology is still recovering to it's discombobulated sleep pattern. A close friend lost his job, found another, sold his house, and is moving soon. We started attending a different church.

So this is the time when we now look ahead to the coming year with hope and expectation and a disquieting resolve to face whatever comes our way with God's help, especially that coming diet. I have had a yearly resolution for the past few years that went something like "Purpose to thrive not just survive." I've not had much luck with it - at least as it appears on the surface if I were doing the grading. Each year seems to descend into simple survival at some point. If I can just make it through the day, or make it to the weekend, or make it to the next payday, etc. Do you ever feel like that? Just survive.

Is that really what we were created for - just survival? I have an "easy button" on my desk at work that when you push it, it says, "That was easy!" I push it every night when I leave work just to remind me that things could be so much worse so I should count my blessings. Blessed I am with good health, a great family, great friends, a good job, and a close friend in the Creator of the Universe.

I was talking with my bride about this today, and we know a number of people who are complacent survivors. For whatever reason, the fight isn't there unless thrust upon them, and even then sometimes it is AWOL. There seems to be this tendency to just take life as it comes rather than a proactive pursuit of it. Without intentionality, all that is left is the hope of the hitting the pick six lottery of happenstance. If we aren't intent on the mission then the mission fails.

One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-discipline, so why don't we more readily embrace it and appropriate it? Is it fear of failure? Is it the fear of what it will cost in emotional capital? Maybe it's the physical capital? Whatever it is, it robs us of our inheritances and blessings. So below I have listed a few of my favorite quotes, quips, and nuggets of wisdom I have learned over the years. They are not all original to me, but there is no way I could provide an accurate listing of their original sources, so my apologies in advance for that.

  • You get what you tolerate.
  • You can't see what's ahead while you're looking back.
  • Ground gained must be maintained
  • Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
  • If it were easy everyone would do it.
  • "Life is hard. It's harder if you're stupid." John Wayne
  • Kindness pays eternal dividends.
  • Live passionately, give generously, love unconditionally.
  • Stick to your guns as long as they are loaded.
  • The degree to which one is offended by something will usually be directly proportional to the size of the chip on their shoulder.
  • Own who you are and what you do - even when you're wrong.
  • Change is inevitable. Don't fear it - Faith it (face it).
  • Seek God's face.

Happy New Year.

May you thrive in the coming year as you purpose to move beyond survival.

Don't look back.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

From Manger to Mirror

"Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Luke 2:10-14

This Christmas season has been a weird one for me. I didn’t hang lights, haven’t done much shopping, and I haven’t watched my favorite movies of the season yet (Elf, Christmas Vacation, and A Christmas Story). This is mostly due to my new work schedule and the company’s need for their all-star talent to be there 6-7 days a week to oversee our respective areas of responsibility. A bunch of Scrooges I say! Ba-HUM-bug back at ‘em!

On my commute into work the other afternoon I was praying, and meditating on “Emmanuel” God with Us. Every time I consider the magnitude of that simple truth I am again blown away - The Creator of the Universe taking a road trip from Glory to grace. What a concept; the King becomes a servant. The Good Shepherd starts off in the stable laying in a feed trough. What a perfect symbol with the food for our soul (The Bread of Life) being born in Bethlehem (The House of Bread).

I want so much to go beyond ingestion to digestion and assimilation. I keep eating. I am hungry for His Presence. The promise of Emmanuel is once again stirring in me beyond the season and the song and onto the sojourn. I think I needed to have the glitz of the holiday set aside so I could refocus of the babe in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Not exactly like this…

I’m so glad there is no naughty and nice list with Him. Quite simply the family gets the benefits of the inheritance, behavior aside. I love that we can be adopted as heirs and sit at His side. Talk about a GIFT! Try and top THAT one Santa!

What gift can I bring? Gold? Frankincense? Myrrh? How about my heart?

My prayer is that I bring a yielding heart that continues to surrender to His rod and staff. My desire is that when I look in the mirror and take inventory that I can see a little bit more of him each time. My hope is found in Him. He began something in me that turned me into a babe and a bride. If I’m honest, neither of those roles are ones I like to embrace. Regardless, I know He will bring me past all of that into the fullness of His Grace at work in me.

What a plan – God WITH us. I rejoice and I blush thinking of the comfort when I need Him and the disappointment when I fail Him. God with us. Something to consider. Something to treasure. Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh for a Father, a Son, a Holy Spirit. Three for He. Three for Thee. Three for me.

Merry Christmas


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Lone Ranger and Tonto

My friend Cody preached this sermon recently…great Word my brother!

Mark 2 :1-5 Jesus Heals a Paralytic
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

I remember when we first met. I had been “set up” by a murderous clan that wanted me to be the fall guy. You came along and with words of wisdom helped me see a clear path out of that cave of frustration. Mining for silver, I found trouble, and a friend. In your youth and vigor you were fearless and selfless (mostly). You showed a propensity of the love for Justice driven by mercy. Where did you go?

In pursuit of righteousness with a gang of brothers you were ambushed by the enemy shot in the back by cowards. Wounded you bled and then I, Tonto, came along and nursed your wounds. You saw your friends and brother die in that ambush, yet something in you willed yourself to carry on and live the pursuit.

You used your brother’s vest to fashion a mask to hide your identity. Motivated by portions of fear and justice, you went about righting wrongs for others and that became your way to deal with the wrongs done to you. The concept of justice is worth fighting for and worth the risk of losing everything, including your soul. Salvation is not found in surrender – it can’t be because evil wins when we do nothing.

So many times you rode off into the sunset a winner, and a loser. Your pride intact, your cause defended, yet your soul was fragmented. You justified your actions because of the greater good. Eventually the fight became too much and you surrendered. Salvation was lost. No cause, no justice, no peace, just the stark reality that your mask and guns only provided a temporary medicinal rush for the bitter pain within.

You walked away. The cause seemed hopeless, the people were plastic, the posse indifferent, the life a myth. You checked out and rode off into the sunset because people were, well, people, and full of themselves, masked by the cause, driven by “purpose” yet void of virtue.

“F_ck it! F_ck it all!” you said. The badge has no honor only the self-serving agendas of the few. The pursuit is not worth the trouble. Too many dusty roads, too many broken lives, too many fights with outlaws, too many cold rainy days without shelter, too many sleepless nights, too many heavy bags, it’s just too…damn…hard.

Tonto shows up again; the faithful friend. The faithful one who fights the fights with you, nurses your wounds, travels dusty roads, rides through the rain, stays up with you through sleepless nights, and helps carries your baggage. He loves his Keemosabe.

He says little, but when he speaks you know it is truth. He is the trusted friend that finds you in your time of need. He is the scout that helps you get pointed in the right direction. He is the rear guard that has your flank when you stumble or get off course. His clothing and skin may look like the same material, but inside He is gold.

Your relationship was forged from times of hard work and the search for the precious metals found deep in earth and rock – our earth – HIS Rock. Now you need him. What you may not understand is He still needs you too sometimes. There should be no a-Lone Rangers or Tontos. We cannot go it alone; we weren’t built for that.

Call me.


John 14: 16-20 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Scent of Puppy-Breath

Proverbs 19:11 A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.

This week our family was blessed to get a new GoldenDoodle puppy named Barnabas which means “Son of Encouragement.” Yes we had ours on order long before President-elect Obama thought of getting one. We like to think we're "trend-setters" now. It has been a long time since we've had a puppy in the home, but it doesn't take long to be reminded why. It's like having a toddler and infant all rolled up into one cute fuzzy energetic package.

This precious little toot is in constant expeditionary mode, seeking that which he can destroy or "mark" as his very own territory. But of course he does so in a very gangly-but-cute gait-then-squat sort of way. Only puppies and babies can bring the “Oh, isn’t that cute?” observation to excretory exclamation. When he’s older it won’t be so cute. “Wait! That’s my rug!” Visions of Toby come to mind.

Some of our friends came over to see him the day after we picked him up. We sat him in 4 year old Jack's lap only to witness young lad Barnabas excitedly “bladder baptize” poor Jackson. I'm pretty sure Jack doesn't share the same high opinion of Mr. Barnabas as we do now.

So we have to be ever mindful of such things as electrical cords, shoes, and even our steps as puppy is ever-present beneath our feet.
What a wonderful picture of how we should be in our pursuit of the Father. (Suffer the little children unto me, for such is the Kingdom of Heaven. Luke 18:16)

One phenomenon that I have yet to grasp though is this notion that “puppy breath” is a pleasing experience. My wife, one of my daughters, and one of my sisters all proudly proclaim the virtues of puppy-breath. I don’t get it. It has the aroma of dog food and feces, and for good reason!

I am currently working the 2:30 pm-to-somewhere in-the-middle-of-the-night-shift. When I get home, Barnabas and I do the dark-thirty test-of-the-wills dance in the backyard to ensure his crate training is up to date. Most nights, he’s pretty compliant, but some nights it can be a real challenge.

Our current ritual is that the rest of the family take care of his needs in the morning and then most days they put him in bed with me when they leave. So guess who gets to experience the puppy breath blessing up close and personal? Ed Zachary. Mois. I still don’t get it totally, but there is an odor of innocence about it.

When Barnabas crawls up on my pillow and snuggles up next to me, I am again reminded of the need to protect the innocent, watch out for the naïve, reach out to the fragile, and be patient with each “mistake” they make. God brings me puppies periodically to continue MY crate training.

When I feel “boxed-in” and I want to howl and whine and be all about me, I can rest assured it is for my benefit. The waiting, then anxiety, the restlessness is washed away when I realize “playtime” is (He) is coming. I can also exhale in His face with the understanding He loves me and embraces my temporary halitosis.

Philippians 3:12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

So who among you all likes puppy breath?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Valley of Decision

Joel 3:14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.

I have wrestled with sharing this “politically” flavored subject in this space as I really want to use this blog to encourage build the Body of Christ, yet today I find there must be a voice added to the outcry against the deception taking place in both the church and society as a whole.

As I sit here typing away on my laptop, millions of people are voting today to determine who will be the next leader of the United States of America. I chuckle and mourn at the term "united" as we are anything but. Such is the climate of a very diverse society. We have traded the notion of E Pluribus Unum for E Unum Pluribus.

We have "diversity councils" and "affirmative action" and "minority initiatives" all trumpeting the virtues of our differences. We can't even decide on what official language to speak. Does the tower of Babel come to mind? Who is the author of confusion today? So as we plummet headlong into the extreme whole makeover of our government, I have a few things to say to my brothers and sisters in Christ.

We are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of God, and our allegence should be to our King above all else. How anyone could choose a "party" over our principals is beyond my ability to comprehend. You are hereby given notice our God does not sleep but watches closely his children and the citizens of His government.

Many of you who call yourselves “Christians” seem poised to cast your vote for a candidate that stands in direct opposition to the scriptural principals you profess to uphold. I know of many “brothers” who are gleeful at the prospect of an Obama presidency, and the messianic message and aura he has tried to project.

It indeed appears that Barack Obama will be our next "president." I put that in quotes because of his many stated positions that are patently anti-American and decidedly "unconstitutional." I have been following politics since 1968 (I was 8 years old). Since that time the cultural war has been in full engagement, and many of his ideas that were once deemed radical, are now being sold by the media as “mainstream.”

Being the political junkie that I am, I have never seen a more hateful and bitter candidate than Obama. He is prone to arrogance and incitement of the worst within his followers even encouraging them to"...sharpen your elbows and get in their faces." So Barack Obama - henceforth will be referred to simply as B.O. because I think his ideas and persona have the rotten odor of the flesh.

Consider the following truths and comments that were glossed over by the "arbiters of truth" as you witness the masses standing in the valley of decision:

So given the dynamics of the political landscape, and the propensity of mankind to look to the flesh for comfort and provision, it is no doubt a foregone conclusion that we are about to embark on a tumultuous journey with dire consequences.

Proverbs 6:16-19
16 There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him:
17 haughty eyes,a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19 a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

He who sows to the flesh reaps from it destruction. Our country is poised to choose one who seems bent toward all of these qualities; the things that Proverbs tells us that God hates. Our job as sons and daughters of the Kingdom is to intercede for our nation that it will repent and have the spiritual awakening it so desperately needs. We will be the hospital to pick up the pieces as the civilian and spiritual war rages.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

All Things

Romans 8: 28-31 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this?

Some of you may have noticed that it's been a couple of weeks since I have posted anything. Some of you have my incoming email notifications set on "delete." Ouch. I have taken a while off just to decompress, get adjusted to my new work schedule, and exhale. It's been a tough transition for me, and frankly I haven't been at my best the last month or so. I'm so thankful that my status as a "son" is not based on behavior, but rather the grace of my Savior. As the Apostle Paul said, "Oh wretched man that I am."

I'm pretty sure the season I'm in is the "off-season" for my walk of faith. For those of you unfamiliar with that sports term, that is the time of year when there is training and preparation. It's the time when you get up early and run and lift weights and sweat.

Sweeeeet. It's also the time of the year when you learn discipline and measure yourself and take inventory. As I have been searching myself and taking inventory I have found a depleted will, a discouraged soul, and a tired body. Can you relate?

Yet, I'm so challlenged by the concept and promise found in "all things." The Truth is true whether I feel it or know it. My condition may be weak, my strength my be depleted, yet my Father continues to work things for my benefit even if I can't see it or perceive it. What a gracious Dad.

2 Corinthians 4:8-10 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

I have lived a 21st century version of this the past few weeks. I have been hard stressed but not institutionalized, frustrated and in some despair, persecuted seemingly at random, flipped off and threatened and responded in like manner forgetting at least at that moment I was being "blessed." Yet the echo remains, "All things..."

Matthew 6:10-13 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

A few months ago I had a friend who was treated unfairly by his superiors. I happened to be invited to the meeting of his resignation announcement. He called me for a thermometer check to ensure my conduct would be virtuous and respectful at the meeting. He knew the temperature was high and the barometer was falling with storm clouds rolling into the area. I asked him if he didn't trust the Jesus in me. He said, "It's not the Jesus in you I'm worried about, it's the Tim in you that concerns me." We had a great laugh about that. "All things..."

It's so true, the Tim in me can leave the tracks when I see injustice. I want to set things straight and leave no room for the "vengeance" of God (whatever that is). So I attended this meeting having given my word I would behave, only to sit silently as my friend, and those in attendance were manipulated and ultimately insulted by unrighteous authority. Supposed men of God with an agenda of their own. I seethed with anger as one pronounced an incantation to mitigate any adverse effect to his paycheck and idol. "All things..."

I watched in dumbfounded horror as others sat silent, thinking at any moment those without the verbal agreement would grow some nads and speak up. I eventually came to understand many saw that his loss was their gain - an enhanced stature as his was diminished. We all like to be needed, and with his void the need would be great. Virtue be damned, it's MY season now. I struggled to love many of these people over the next few weeks. "All things..."

Trust is not my strong suit. My Father knows this. Time and again my trust has been broken, first by an earthly father I hardly knew, then by many a friend as a child, many a grilfriend as a young man, and by coworkers and "Christians" as an adult. Trust is hard because it involves vulnerability which often involves pain. "All things..."

Many of you are concerned, frustrated, scared or just down right angry about the current political environment and how things look for the upcoming election. As we plummet into unabated socialism because of media manipulation, evil incantations, and lack of virtuous opposition, remember the Truth. Even if we lose this great Republic, no government, no ideology, no stake we claim is worth anything outside the bounds of His great love.

Sometimes His Light shines brightest in the darkness of adversity. His grace reaches deeply in the lowest of valleys. His seasons include the death of winter to bring the Life of Spring. Be instant in season and out of it, and remember He causes all things to work to our benefit. I like the way The Message paraphrases some of this Romans 8 passage including a couple of other verses.

Romans 8:15-17 This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what's coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him!

28-31 God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun. So, what do you think?

I think that "if God is FOR us, who can be against us?" If we will allow the Jesus in us to overtake the (fill in the blank) in us, we might actually be salt and light and allow "All things" to work for our benefit.

Editorial note: This passage is often misapplied to interpret tragedy as being "God's will." Do not misunderstand that as "truth" or misapply this verse to everything that happens to you as God-ordained. He is big enough to take things that the enemy means for evil and turn them for our good, but rest assured, the enemy means evil for us that is not God-ordained.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Corrective Lenses

I Corinthians 2:6-11 6We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"[b]— 10but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him?

As I continue my journey through the aging process I have noticed my eyesight has deteriorated at a more rapid pace the past couple of years. I spend more time looking through the lower part of my eye glasses than I do the uppers. Vision trouble just seems to be part of the natural aging process. I’m reminded of the Apostle Paul’s seemingly random insertion of “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!” in
Galatians. So we can assume that even the great visionary of the New Testament apparently had trouble with his eyesight.

So how is your vision? I’m not referring to the natural eyesight but the one the Father placed in your spirit so many years ago? Is the dream still alive? Has it been diminished by compromise? Have you “outgrown” your child-like faith that once allowed for the truth that “with God all things are possible”?

Jesus said, “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Mark 9:23

I know many a brother and sister that once had a vision and somewhere along the way it faded into “reality.” The idea that it must not have been God’s will crept in from the enemy and sucked the hope out along with the faith and energy to tend that garden. Just like Adam and Eve, many have eaten the fruit of “knowledge” instead of Life. Common sense told them they were being unrealistic.

Can I speak some “home on the range” truth here? The lie of being “realistic” is just bullshit. It’s the fertilizer that feeds the tree of “knowledge” and allows it to grow and crowd out the Tree of Life. Some of you have told yourself you are too old to start now. Some of you have told yourself that the obstacles are too great, be it geography, finances, or other resources. Some of you have forgotten our God reigns.

" 'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams”. Acts 2:17
This speaks of two types of men - young and old. Young men are idealistic full of energy and naïve enough to believe “it could happen.” I often wonder if the old men here are dreaming dreams about what might have been. I don’t think that is the totality of truth in that passage, but I think it could apply.

No longer having the energy for the pursuit of their passion they slumber and let those thoughts float “sleepishly” with regret. (Sleepish = Timism contraction of sheepish and sleepy) May I encourage each of you to never accept the premise of “unqualified” or “unworthy”? If the Father gave His most precious resource as an offering for our redemption, then there is no other resource that He would withhold from us to see His purposes fulfilled in our lives.

The impetus for this blog came from surfing Valencia Hills on YouTube. I was so encouraged by this Pastor’s obedience to shepherd the vision God gave him for their community. If Jehovah Jireh can take
4 lepers and feed a city, he can take us to places beyond what we can imagine.

Ephesians 3:14-20 14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15from whom his whole family[
a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I'm a Sole Man

James 3:2 We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.

I know the first part of this verse through repeated practice. Sometimes success is only found through repeated failure. This gives me hope for the second part of that verse as I am one well-oiled machine when it comes to eating shoe leather, or FIMS (Foot-in-Mouth Syndrome). "Hey bro! that toe-jam in your teeth?" A daily regimen of scriptural floss and spiritual mouthwash can help prevent, or at least help mitigate the effects of such soleful sucking.

Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Matt 12:34).

So just like in "
Resistance Training" we find that our spiritual muscles need to be developed through disciplined exercise. When lifting weights to tone we are taught to do several repititions of smaller weights to the point of failure. There are some great spiritual truths here (I actually heard a sermon on this once), so don't miss the opportunity to be challenged and encouraged in the missing of the mark.

I really felt the past couple of days the Lord wanted me to share this simple message:

Many of you have stumbled. Many of you fallen prey to that sin that so easily besets you. Many of you are discouraged because things don't look like what you had imagined they would at this point in your life. Be encouraged. You are never out of his sight or his reach.

His plans for us are not subject to our ability to screw up. He is perfectly content to operate in us and through us in spite of, and in conjunction with, our - dare I say it? - HUMANITY. Don't forget HE created us in His image and in OUR humanity. He loves you and is proud to call you His own.

Something has become increasingly clear to me about our journey(s): We have permission to be human but no right to try to be God.

The wonderful thing is He loves to make deposits of His Divine nature in us and calls us to be like Him. Cool. He also understands "we all stumble in many ways." Cool. He's not afraid of our weaknesses, but loves it when we bring them to Him and surrender them again on His altar of grace. I'm thinking a few "deep knee bends" might help. And if your neighbor is hurting a bit, maybe a couple of "chin-ups" are in order.

Your comments and feed back are always desired and welcome. TM

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ibidum Ad Nauseum

Sub-titled: Common Courtesy and the Couch-Potato Cruise-Control Kingdom of Christ

James 2:18-22 But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[d]? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.

I had an e(mail) discussion the other day with a friend of mine; it was apparent he hasn’t been reading my Blog. In MYPOD’s Ears Are Itching I discussed the disconnect of the body from the Head – namely Christ, and how our comfort and self satisfaction has become our primary focus in this world. It is as if we have been lulled to sleep by the fatted golden calves of our time which feed our flesh, and feed on our spirits.

Our schedules are full and our wallets empty, so the resources of grace that God has blessed us with are depleted. We’ve checked out in deference to our right to spiritual slumber. It’s time for an awakening thunder.

Back to my friend…we were discussing and debating our rights versus our responsibilities as Christian brothers (one to another). His contention is that a direct request for help neither requires action or response on his part.


I pointed out the obvious error of that statement that to date the only response is from the crickets. He’s not alone. There have been a number of occasions in which I was coordinating different efforts to raise money, or help meet the various needs of brothers and sisters in Christ, some of which were close friends or relatives of those we were soliciting, only to be met with the Sin of Indifference.

My brothers and sisters this ought not be. If you are tempted to stake claim to your “right of refusal,” take that thought captive and submit it to the obedience of Christ - who for the joy set before Him endured the cross scorning it’s shame. Please don’t lecture me about being are “under grace not works”; copping that plea is simply copping out.
Show me your faith by what you say, and I will show you my faith by what I do. (ibid)

And spare me the notion that we have no “requirement” to respond to a direct request for help. To simply ignore such a request is the stuff of darkness. Even the non-Christian people I know understand and practice the principle of common courtesy. In this case silence is not golden, unless we’re talking about that golden calf of self-interest. Even if the answer is “I can’t at this time” it is at least a response.

So, what could be the argument that would support the “right” to ignore? We have so many examples in scripture that directly refute this model. The Good Samaritan is a perfect one, yet somehow there are people that I personally know that take the way of the Priest or the Levite, suggesting that they are somehow “above it all.” “That’s not my ‘ministry’” or “I don’t have the ‘grace’ for that right now.” Excuse me?!!!

We are called to be salt and light.

Sometimes the salt is found in the sweat. If we never break one – how can we be tasted? It is also found in the tears of the cheek, but if we aren't available to "mourn with those that mourn" then our spiritual diet is bland or bitter.

“Light-bearers” are also burden-bearers, which often requires us to be our own pallbearers to get our flesh out of the way of the Spirit. If we fight against the weight of our sloth and nail to the cross, interestingly it becomes easier to take up and follow. Yokes become easier and burdens lighter in obedience.

We are good about giving lip-service to the concept of “community.” For many that simply means parties, going out to dinner, or maybe even a small home group provided the night and time-slot is convenient. The Truth is - it ain’t always about the goodies.

Sometimes it’s about the grunt work that brings the grace: the hospital visits, the late night phone chats, painting a few walls, working on vehicles, mowing a lawn, buying a lunch, and sometimes it is simply the cold hard cash.

Knowing what is right to do and not doing it is sin. (James 4:17) That James fella is a
tough hombre!

We need to understand we are not our own, we are bought with a price, a very high precious price. That means our resources are no our own either, which will often include encroachments on our time and space. I once saw a quote that said, “Any problem that can be fixed by writing a check is not a problem, it’s an expense.” We’ve embraced the ledger mindset that sees writing a check as a valid alternative to investing ourselves.

I have served on a worship team at a local church for about the last three years. It is time consuming and at times financially burdomesome. I know others who serve their churches in similar fashion whether through music or teaching etc. The temptation is to have the "gave at the office" mentality and shrink back from service of other kinds. I know some who think that fills their "requirement." As long as we see good works as "works" we will miss the moment and the blessing.

One of our favorite charities is Habitat for Humanity (
Jimmy Carter notwithstanding). It is one thing to send them money and quite another to put on the work gloves and boots and show up to help build a house. Another of our favorite charities is The Salvation Army. A few years back we loaded up the kids on Thanksgiving morning and went and helped serve lunch. Wow. No check or envelope of cash could ever replace what we received in serving that day. Our Father knows this.

Serving others doesn’t just meet their need in that moment; it brings life to the servant as well. It has nothing to do with spiritual pride, or some religious merit badge, it has to do with being intimate with others and in so doing being partakers of the Divine Nature of Christ. I am still incredulous at the apathy I have seen from some of my brothers and sisters who profess their faith yet cry foul when challenged by it, or ignore it altogether.

Well Wah! Just Wah!

Get off your couch-potato butts, on your knees, and over yourselves, and thank God somebody thought enough of you to help you in your times of need. Freedom in Christ is not about the credit account to self, but dying to it. Its’ about recognizing and responding to “the
least of these my brethren.”

It’s funny how we are good at resisting this kind of challenge to serve, yet so poor at resisting sin which always, always, always points to self. It's time we disengage the cruise control devices and exercise some self-control for the Kingdom of God.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual[a] act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:1,2

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Void the Void

Hebrews 12:1-2

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

I still find myself to be broken in so many ways; frustrated that I don't seem to walk in grace and faith and victory at all times. I mean really c'mon! How can I lose? How can I stumble or fall?! I have the Holy Spirit of God with me, Jesus in my heart, and His Word implanted in me. Obviously I haven't allowed it to be engrafted to the point of saving my "soul" (renewing my mind to the extent of walking in perpetual righteousness). I'm not saying I'm not saved - just incomplete in him

I often think of all of the Psalms and Proverbs that speak of walking "upright" before the Lord. I find that my gaze often darts from Him, or my countenance is humbled in shame. How can I walk upright before Him when I feel so inadequate in my failings and humanity? Oh that I could understand the treasure in the clay and walking in His way in lieu of my own.

As my flesh cries out for it's desires to be filled, be it Mcdonald's fries or the sloth of the sheets, I find I am as likely to walk in disobedience as not. I need some spiritual steroids, performance enhancers if you will. Now don't get me wrong, its' not about works to earn right-standing, but having my feet follow my confession of faith. I desire to have clean hands and a pure heart.

I believe two those things can be divorced. We can have the desire to walk in righteousness with our hearts in love with our Savior while finding that we do that that thing we wish not to, or not doing the thing we wish to as Paul says in Romans; or as the Hebrews author puts it, that "sin that so easily besets us." When we fall prey to such devices of the devil, or to our own selfish interests, we diminish ourselves with self. The Spirit seeks to sit where sin and/or self reigns. What is your sin(s) that so easily beset you?

The lust of the eye?
The lust of the flesh?
The pride of life?

Yep. That's me - all of the above. At some point or another, I will still fall prey to one of these implements of the enemy. I may see something to make my mind stray from Him and His purpose in me, or I will desire something that is contrary to His will and/or my benefit, or I will demand my right for MY way over his. Why is that?

I conclude there is still a void in me that needs to be filled with more of Him. So I am proactively seeking to submit more to Him today than I did yesterday, and then pursue Him with greater intensity tomorrow. Intentionality is a word I keep hearing over and over again. My prayer for you as that you will intentionally inquire of the Lord what you need to submit to Him this day so you can take that next step in your journey to Him and to wholeness.

I crave His Presence to fill the holes of my heart, for in His Presence is fullness of Joy. I have asked Him to illumine the spaces in me that are playrooms of darkness and let His Light dispel it. I continue to invite Him to come, stay, and occupy, instead of temporal visitations and manifestations of grace. Lord that you would live in and work through me.

May I walk upright before you looking into your face for strength rather than downcast in defeat. In You is found purpose so I sing your praise that you may inhabit it and me - a tent of your dwelling. Fill me up with your mercy and grace that I can walk as a son. May you too be refilled, renewed, restored.

Psalm 51:10-13
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence

or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation

and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,

and sinners will turn back to you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Six Sigma...Sorta

Eph 4:16-19 (NIV) From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

In the manufacturing world there is a point-of-focus tool used for efficiency and organization known as Six Sigma or commonly referred to as “6S.” These alliterative “best practice” categories (with slight variations from company to company) are listed as: Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, Safety, and Sustain. This is simply an easy way to remind people on how to order their work-life environs.

In the last few weeks I’ve been exposed to a couple of Bros who have had that same simplistic sensible yet spiritual sigma sound in their exegesis (see Jesus.exe).

My new friend Ty preached a sermon on the passage above. In it he spoke of our need to renew our minds so we could present our bodies (Romans 12:1-2). He talked about meditating on God’s word to allow the life therein to crowd out the crap (my word - not his) that has taken up residence. There is deliverance there. When we submit to the will of the Spirit, “works” can become a place of life-giving experiences born out of His grace and our Faith.

He spoke of the illegitimate ways we obtain Security, Significance, and Satisfaction. Those three “S’s” are found in the sensitivity of the Spirit yet we search for it in the scents of the flesh. Sensuality is never satisfied because it is driven by that flesh and its 5 senses. This is why the renewed mind is so vital. It understands that whole “Love is a verb” principle and willingly presents the vessel to be conformed into the Potters image.

Additionally, my buddy Paul was studying the parable of the Sower. As he digested this passage, he began to sense and see some savory spiritual Sigma morsels himself.

Matthew 13: 1Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water's edge. 2He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3"Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.

5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times."

My bro Paul noted the “birds of the air” coming to steal or snatch the seed sown is shown to be Satan. The rocky ground that doesn’t seem to support the seed sown because it is shallow he says is “Self.” And finally, the thorns that strangle the seed sown because of the cares of this world and pursuit of riches is this world’s “System.”

I can certainly see that this seed-sowing story says more than what we see on the surface. Jesus himself had to sit the disciples down and show them the truth of what He said. Seeds are sown daily. Good seed and bad. We can let the bad wither and die while becoming fertile soil for the good, or vice verse.

Our enemy prowls seeking to steal, kill and destroy; our selfish pride and lust of our own fleshly desires won't sustain the life of Christ in us; and our pursuit of happiness in any source but our Savior will choke out the destiny He has set in our sights. If we could apply the simplicity of secular Six Sigma to our spiritual sojourn then something savory and succulent might manifest in our journey.

Sort - put things in their proper perspective seeing with His eyes.
Straighten - as my friend Byron says, "make the first thing the first thing." Give stuff and Him their proper priority.
Shine - Let your light shine as a reflection of His.
Standardize - remember the fundamentals and your first love - Jesus. He is our standard by which we live, and our standard bearer and banner of victory.
Safety - When feeling vulnerable or weak, run to Him. Dwell in the secret place of the Most High beneath the shadow of the Almighty.
Sustain - He is the Bread of Life - our sustenance.

In Him we find we are secure, significant, and truly satisfied like no other. Through Him we have the power to resist satan, self, and senseless systems. So sing songs of deliverance, and celebrate being salt and seasoning in your surroundings. Sow, say, and share the salve of serindipitous service to others. See the glorious appearing of the Son in their lives. Savour the sound of sons and daughters sprouting as shoots of Saints, or as sand on the shore of His chrystal sea of love. Say, that sounds like the roar of rushing waters. Slurp.

The Revelation 19:6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) 9 Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!' " And he added, "These are the true words of God."

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Love is a VERB

James 2:18-20 (NIV) But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-- and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?

Zealot Tim the Younger was sitting at his desk one day at lunch reading his bible. The quietness of lunchtime in that particular place was an incredibly serene setting compared to most offices. As the prophet sat feasting on the bread of Life, a Catholic acquaintance of his came skipping by and noticed Tim lost in the Word.

Wanting to impress the studious man of God with his scriptural prowess, "skippy" pierced the tranquility like the first cannon shot in a volley of artillery. He fired off a quick quote of John 3:16 as he passed by Timmy's desk. To this the prophet stood and responded with equal self-righteous vigor, a line from the above verse, “Well, even the demons believe and they shudder!”

You would have thought “the Rev” (as he was known by many back then) had just set off a tactical nuke! The gophering that took place in that cube farm was nothing short of well, biblical proportions. Heads popped up with the ensuing interrogation from a few that went something sort of like this:

Faceless crowd member: “So you are saying it takes more than faith to be a Christian?”
Man Of God: No. I’m saying if you have real faith, your feet will follow what your mouth professes.
Insignificant sojourner: “What you’re really saying is that we are justified by works?”
M-O-G: No greasy grace guy, I’m saying if you believe what you say, then your faith will be on display in your actions.
Carnal "Christian Wannabe": “That sounds a lot like works to me.”
M-O-G: Um – do you use a black “highlighter” on the parts of scripture you don’t like? What I quoted was as much scripture as your beloved Baptist once-saved-always-saved so set the cruise control and onto heaven we go John 3:16 passage. If you don’t like James as much as John, just tear out that part of your bible and be done with it, otherwise take it up with the Holy Spirit, He wrote it not me. I’m just trying to walk it out. Any one else?

Heads slowly disappeared behind fabric of beige and crickets began their chorus of chirping once again. I returned to my bible study of one, unfazed by the spiritual wounds I had inflicted. Tim – 0, Others – 0. That exchange happened about 16 years ago. My oh my, how time flies when you’re slaying demons…and Christians.

Since that time I have gone more charismaniac, got burned out and left the church completely, embraced ooey-gooey-greasy-grace, returned to church, and finally discovered some modicum of spiritual balance while noting I am still in this tremendous glorious incredible and frustrating journey. Thank you Jesus.

I find that through it all there is still this battle between faith and works, and where one ends and the other begins. What I often discover is that others are okay with someone else doing “works” but are rarely okay in being challenged to engage themselves.

“That’s not my calling.” Newsflash: It doesn’t take a “calling” to recognize a need in someone. Insert primal scream here. I can see the “anyone can yell the truth” rebuke coming. Yep – and anyone can whisper “fire!” too.

If God is Love, and Jesus is the full expression of the Father, and Jesus is the Word, and the Word of God is living and active, then what in the wide world of sports are we “doing” in a proactive way to further God’s Kingdom?

It’s like we’ve become the Cousin Eddie character in Christmas Vacation who has been waiting for a “management position” for about 7 years. Hey Lord, I’ll just hang our here until someone in need falls in my lap, then I’ll call someone else who I know can help them.

My bride called her “Women’s Ministry Pastor” at a church we used to go to and asked for her to gather a few ladies to come with her to minister to a friend whose husband had left her. The agreed upon plan was to get two or three women to meet her at this lady’s house and just love on her and pray with her while my wife Ally cleaned her house.

A week or so later, at the appointed time, and as she was on the way to meet them, she got a call from the “women’s pastor” saying that no one would be meeting her and they felt like since it was her friend, she would be better equipped to minister to her (and clean too I guess). I’ve seen this type of nonsense in “the church” repeatedly, and we wonder why congregations dwindle and the world thinks us hypocrites?

Our Christian cliché of "Jesus is the answer" is really not enough to the world anymore – or even the hurting in the church for that matter. While that statement is truth it is not the whole Truth. The “Truth” is that the Jesus IN us may be the answer that responds to someone's pain or meets another’s need. If there was ever an example of Love as a verb it was Jesus and his relentless walk through this life meeting needs along the way, and ultimately submitting to a torturous death.

He spoke of examples like: the rich man and Lazarus, the Good Samaritan, and "the least of these." He taught us how in the sending out of the 72. He became the ultimate verb on the Cross, out of the grave, and on the throne. What's not to understand here? Pardon my passion but its time to get off your butts and love someone like He loves you, because this is how we know you are His disciples.

I am no longer impressed by the confession that rings hollow from the couch. Don't hear what I'm not saying. I know “good works” don't save you, but they are a pretty good yardstick for where you are in your journey. Some of you set up camp when you got saved and never broke it.

In the grace and blessings we all have received, how is it we still struggle with sharing our time, talents, and energy outside the Sunday morning church service? I love the local church, it does great things, but we can’t use that as our excuse to insulate us from where the rubber truly meets the road.

Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

We have had 12 straight days over 100 degrees here in DFW. I bet there were some homeless people that have died of dehydration. How difficult would it be for us to just load up a cooler of Gatorade, or even bottles of water, and take it to the streets and hand them out? Just giving someone a bottle of water and telling them that Jesus hasn't forgotten them might change their life. Jesus is our and their only hope-eternal and we need to share that with them.

Do the thing that is next, saith the proverb, And a nobler shall yet succeed: 'Tis the motive exalts the action; 'Tis the doing, not the deed. Margaret Junkin Preston

My friend Byron, a father in the faith, does some marriage counseling. One of the most important principles he teaches a young lady is to not pay as much attention to what a guy says, but pay close attention to what he does instead. As the bride of Christ, that is valuable information to have right there. Jesus’ actions matched his words. Does ours? Activity void of love is a clanging cymbal. Faith without works is dead. Marry those two up and it’s life. Let’s live it and move it!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

MYPOD's Ears are Itching

Mark 4:23-29 “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear. Consider carefully what you hear," he continued. "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you-- and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him."

He also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain-- first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come."

It occurred to me recently that we have a whole generation of people that have the “buffet” mentality. Sometimes my son will gripe and moan about what is put before him at dinner lamenting the choice as if it were some sort of Guantanamo gumbo or something. He gets the usual comparisons to starving children in China, the brow-beating, and the reminder that it is God’s perfect provision for today.

The microwave generations have not been served well with their pre-packaged instant gratification in all things. Who could argue in favor of microwave popcorn over stove top pop with real melted butter except for some lazy ass? That’s right I didn’t stutter.

One of the things I find frustrating these days is that technology has driven us indoors and away from others. Thank God for TIVO – it’s the one invention that actually allows the opposite. Nowadays we have Cell phones, IPODs, and
MYSPACE to secure our perimeter and chain us to ourselves.

We rarely buy CD’s anymore, we just pick and choose and download to our “selections” on ITunes and create our own online playlists. Guilty. Now this kind of freedom may seem harmless and desirable, yet I find it difficult to engage when one has their “Skullcandy” ricocheting tunes at 100 decibels through their, well, skull.

I’ve approached coworkers desks only to get the stink-faced “What?!” as if I had interrupted their honeymoon. What follows is the slow disassembly of the ear-wired connection, followed by the sigh while they press the pause function, and finally the “yeah what’s-up?”

“Oh nothing, I just wanted see if you wanted any donuts, but they're gone now. A dozen were eaten in the time it took you to undock from your IPOD. Sorry to have bothered you.”

And the only wave we might get from a neighbor driving down the street these days is if they can muster the strength to raise their pinky (it might as well be “tall man”) from the edge of their Razor as the pass by engrossed in whatever conversation that couldn’t wait to have on a

When I checked out that term on Wikipedia I felt nostalgic. Give me a dialer and we’ll be down right retro! I know a number of people who don’t even have home phones anymore. God forbid they ever need 9-1-1. “I’m sorry sir – you’re breaking up. Did you say you had a burger or a burglar? Call us back from a landline please.”

How do we as a church reach a generation of techno-geeks that are more interested in being fed information and entertainment than gleaning information from a soft-covered collection of 66 incredible books? I suspect the E-version won’t make their podcast. My son can be up in his room with his door shut and August Burns Red burning through his brain and never hear me when I call.

It seems metaphoric to where society is today. God is still calling yet we’ve drowned Him out with the noise of our narcissism. We’ve used every piece of technology invented to fill up our schedules with activity and have forgotten how to rest in Him. We’ve made His world about us and we have become our own worst obstacle to intimacy with the Father and others.

How do we fulfill the two greatest commandments to love Him and others if we only hear what we pick and choose that our itching ears deem acceptable? The perimeter is secure, the personal space cordoned off, and the Do Not Disturb sign hangs conspicuously from the wires or phone stuck to our ears. We have caller I.D. and only those in our “Top 5” circle of friends can penetrate the “network,” otherwise you’ll just have to leave a message and I’ll hit you back later when it’s convenient.

Let me challenge the beloved to look outward again. Be accessible. We’ve been told that it’s important to have “unencroachable” family time, and we should, but I suspect that has become an easy excuse to get slothful and neglectful of communitus industria (community on purpose).

It is our call to “Go into all the world…” so how do we make a difference in it if we consume it for ourselves? How can we have “ears to hear” if they're plugged with the noise of our appetites. May we hunger again for His Word and His will. If you want to know if something is an “Idol,” lay it down for a week and see.

I want
MYSPACE to be His. I want my Facebook to be conformed into His image and likeness. I want my playlist to glorify Him and further His purpose in me. The passage above is tucked neatly in the middle of three parables about “seed.” First is the familiar parable of the sower, then it directly precedes the example of the grain, and finally the illustration of the mustard seed.

What goes into our ears is seed. It is interesting to note that the seed is growing whether we sleep or are awake because it is the soil that makes it grow. We can be fertile soil for bad seed and it can grow in our slumber. Consider carefully what you hear – it may not be what was said.

What kind of earth are you?
What kind of seed is growing in you?
What kind of fruit will be harvested from you?


Monday, July 28, 2008

Embracing Gethsemane

Matt 26:36-39 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."

I often pray in the mornings on my commute to work. I started this particular day off with a T-G-I-T(hursday) because I get every other Friday off – which means it is really the “Friday” of my work week. As I was approaching the gate to enter the plant I heard one word, “
Gethsemane.” Bitter sorrow for my sins began to well up within me such that I was almost too overcome with emotion to enter the plant. I slowed my pace toward the building to allow tears and emotion to subside. I’m such a woman sometimes.

I am blessed/cursed with hyper-sensitivity - my whole family is. It has taken me almost 5 decades to understand that and walk in it in a mature way. I’m still not completely there yet, but I know he wired me this way for a reason which I am sure is not intended for an inward focus but an outward empathy. It is disconcerting to me that grace is not a strong suit of mine; so rarely in my vocabulary I had to look up its spelling. Grace. It has a sweet sound. I’m pretty sure it has a sweet taste too.

As I continued toward the building I noticed a dove drinking from a puddle. The Lord has been putting dove in my path lately to remind me of His abiding presence. I know they are native to Texas and we have an abundance of them, but every time I see one I sense He is near. I need Him here. As I walked past this dove it seemed content with my close proximity and didn’t fly away. I know He is with me to stay. I suddenly felt Him wrap His arms around me. I thought for a moment, “Maybe I should leave my sunglasses on as I walk through the plant.”

2 Tim 1:4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.

Again I heard Him whisper in my spirit “Gethsemane. Go to Gethsemane.” My mind immediately went to Jesus weeping bitterly in the garden. He was frustrated with his disciples slumbering flesh and troubled about his impending torture and death. His faithful prayer of “Father, not my will but Yours…” rings throughout the annals of Christendom, and haunts us still today. Not my flesh but your purpose. Not my appetite but your bread of life. Not the wine of drunkenness, but the blood of the Lamb. Not me! THEE! I wanted to turn around and go home where I could weep openly because of my sin, my flesh, my will, which is often not His.

That word “Gethsemane” means “oil press.” Taken in its fullness back to the root word (sort of an “exegenesis”:) it translates to something really close to this: “the place where the richness of aromatic oil is pressed out so it can grow, enter, be set in place, come, bring, and/or accompany.” As Jesus wrestled with death and sin that he had never known, but was about to know in it’s fullest vilest form, the pressure of that inevitability brought forth (pressed) blood sweated through his pores. The olive was squeezed and the richness of His innermost being manifested in the selfless resignation of surrender. Three times he found his way to that place of “not my will but yours.” I’ve been in that place where I have to keep going surrendering something back to the Father – namely my will. I am there again.

I am in a place of repentance and surrender and it sucks, and…it is amazing. I can smell the scent of a garden where the night’s dew has fallen, and where crickets chirp, and where their song is interrupted only by the weeping of a broken spirit. The sound of snoring flesh tries to drown out the cry of my heart and the profession of my faith. I am troubled that I haven’t been here more often seeking the Father’s will and purpose in a proactive intentional way. An angry mob of fleshly minions led by selfish pride and a weak will seek to arrest my redemption. I confess I have no part with them. I’m a citizen of a different Kingdom where the oil of gladness and the anointing of the Holy Spirit reigns supreme; a place where His will becomes my pursuit.

What is His will? Simple – That I love Him first and that I love others like I do myself (Matt 22:37-40). Simple – that no one perish but all come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:9). Simple – that I be conformed into His image and likeness (Rom 12:2). Simple – That I listen and obey (John 10:-16). Simple – Give thanks in all circumstances. (I Thessalonians 5:18) Impossible when all I hear is me and not Him. He walked with us in the Garden of Eden. He walked FOR us in the Garden of Gethsemane. Meet Him there to walk with Him again. It is there He showed, and shows us now, how to do all the “simple” stuff I just mentioned.

Now if you will excuse me I have some weeping to do to cleanse the soul. I have to make a deposit where my Father awaits with his trusty little bottle to catch my tears.

1 Pet 4:1-2 “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Journey on Back Roads

Matt 7:13-14 "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Every now and then I see something in scripture that intrigues me. Recently I heard a sermon by
Cody that got me thinking about “roads,” and then I stumbled across an entry I had made in January 2007 that seems to fit. There are so many encounters that take place on “roads” in scripture. A few that come to mind are: Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch on the road to Gaza, the two disciples and magic Jesus on the road to Emmaus, Jesus’ encounter with the fig tree, and who could forget Paul’s encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus?

Sometimes God is found on the back roads instead of the front pews. Do we ever dare to take it "off road" with God or do we just try to keep it safe? Where is the sense of discovery when it comes to our relationship with Him? I remember being giddy when I was a young bachelor striking up a new romance with a young lady. Every thought was related to or consumed by my newfound passion, and I was Ponce De Leon set on exploration of every facet of their existence.

I should be like that in pursuing the Creator of the universe. It’s not like I’ll run out of things to discover. What is truly amazing about this experience is His ability to reveal things to me about me in the process (see “journey”).

This is a lot like marriage. I find that my innermost thoughts and issues are often revealed in how I relate to my wife in certain situations. Said another way, when the stress of life and marriage begin to tighten their grip, a good barometer of my spiritual health is how many of my own personal demons manifest. These guardians of all things self-absorbed are sure to challenge the slightest encroachment of their territory, hell-bent on preserving the flesh and the Kingdom of Clay.

So is my experience with my Jesus one that reflects a sterilized, predictable, safe walk in the park? Or am I willing to hike through some wilderness in order to find Eden? My Beloved stalks me, teases me, thrills me, and scares the hell out of me. The Comforter makes me uncomfortable. He stretches my heart to be big enough for what He wants to deposit there. Betrothed to His will, I submit to the tearing of my flesh that I may in the end be joined to Him in the penetration of my spirit; deeply touched, passionately embraced, profoundly changed.

This place is not found at the park, but in the secret place of the Most High, beneath the shadow of the Almighty. Gabriel told Mary that the power of the Most High would “over-shadow” her. I have recently begun to understand the mysterious power of that event. While it involved flesh and spirit back then, today He still wants a similar encounter with each of us to deposit His seed of love in us according to His Word.

We are meant to be partakers of the Divine nature and partners with the Heavenly Husband to reach a world struck down by separation from God and rejection from each other. With our marriage to Him, we can minister life to the lonely and direction to the lost. In being saved from the safety of ourselves, our lives can become a down payment of hope for a life of meaning and mission. Some missions take us down lonely dusty trails, so it’s nice if we’ve explored a few first.

Sidebar: I know the analogies here have not escaped the reader. What I find interesting is that much of the spiritual journey is related to the tearing and breaking of flesh. First we have circumcision. Then we have consummation (broken hymen) and the initial “deposit” of the seed or word becoming flesh. And finally we have birth, or the product of that communion, which again “tears” the flesh. Don’t lose the beauty of these analogous events in how the world has perverted them. There are genuinely some deep spiritual truths here.

P.S. Editor’s note: The greatness of Steve Perry was he could sing as well live as mixed in a studio. Wow.