Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ordering the Privates Around

Luke 3:1-2 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar-- when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene--during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert.

In his book Ordering Your Private World Gordon MacDonald points out an amazingly obvious reality from this passage that probably escaped every one of us as we read it. In these two verses, there are seven men of worldly prominence listed, yet the Word of the Lord came to whom?

John the Baptist, preacher’s kid and quite an odd character to boot. His sense of fashion was a bit askew, and his diet was, well, organic to say the least. Yet regardless of his peculiar ways, The Father chose him above the others to announce the Kingdom’s arrival.

Isn’t it interesting that in an election year (here in the United States) as we discuss all things “change” and “war” and “gas,” we have people of stature, celebrity, fame, and influence telling us what is best for us regarding our lives and who should govern us? It gives me gas just thinking about it.

Even with the most gracious look at any number of these people’s private affairs, one should wonder why anyone would listen to anything they have to say. The culture in which most of them thrive is one of vulgar, vague, or at the very least, fluid values and selfish ambition.

So here are a couple of real Einsteins that have taken their politics and values public and think themselves worthy of emulation.

Most of these philosophical and social “messiahs” are in a position of influence because of their ability to pretend to be something or someone they’re not. Several of them still haven’t discovered who they really are, or to whom they truly belong.

Sadly many of them deny the very existence of the One who gave them their great skin, or thick hair, or amazing voice that gives them said influence in the first place. The irony is rich. It is appropriate that the term hypocrite comes from the Greek word that describes “play actors.”

With their private lives being perpetually splashed across the internet or TMZ TV, you would think the public would know better, but there seems to be this twisted transference that takes place in the secular mind that says, “if I vote for this or that person because famous Jane or John Celeb tell me to, then I can be identified with them and be cool just like they are (at least when they’re not in jail, or throwing up and sobbing on Doctor Drew’s rehab show). Yeah that makes sense.

But…lest we Christians become too self-righteous, our brothers and sisters have had and still have their share of carnal issues. We suffer from a divorce rate that by some estimates outpace the even the secular world; National Church Leaders caught in well publicized sin, and there are an estimated 50% (or more) of men in the church (including pastors) addicted to, or who regularly view internet porn (some estimates are higher) - look folks I know this temptation; been there done that. It’s hard – pun intended.

And unfortunately it’s no longer just a “guy” thing. So what in the wide, wide world of sports is going on here? Is our gospel that neutered? Is our life in Christ that ineffective? Has prestige and influence subverted the message of The Master? Instead of circumcised hearts we’ve spayed our parts and become God’s geldings. If our lot is with the world’s then maybe it’s better if we don’t reproduce. This is not the Father’s intent so I say let’s repent (See
Psalm 51).

Beloved, it is so important for us to grab onto a friend to which we can be accountable who can encourage and rebuke and call us to purity. It’s time to be healed and be
pure. If we want to see the active manifestational Presence of God in our lives, we must be pure.

Sin diminishes us. It feeds on our soul like worms on the dead. It heaps condemnation and silences the gospel. It turns the Blood and our testimony into mud and acrimony while our Savior desires matrimony.

I read this in Psalms 18 (v. 36, 37) this morning: You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great. You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn. Keep your paths straight and level and your limp minimal. Implement boundaries and give no room for the enemy.

Pray. Obey. Strip yourself of your “self.” Stand naked and void of the agenda of the flesh and embrace His Spirit. Breathe. Have communion beyond union. Put your privates in place and order your private world whether the windows of your soul or the tongue that brings forth salt and fresh water. This is not about performance but fruit – fruit that will last.

The Word of the Lord came to John in the desert. The Creator of the Universe spoke to little ol common John doing his thing in the place void of prestige and comfort. He was just being obedient preaching the timeless message of repentance. How could such a man submit to such a role in such a place at such a time? He was chosen because his privates were in place. He had his proverbial stuff together secure in the knowledge he was being obedient to his calling.

His personal relationship with God ruled his private life such that his public persona was of no regard to himself. I’m sure he declared, “Let them laugh. Let them point and whisper. Let them come, because in their coming to see the reed in the wind, the Holy Spirit will fall on many and they will be saved. I must decrease. He must increase.” His private world was in order – in order that the Kingdom might come. Let His Kingdom come in you.

Let’s quit judging people based on the world’s standards and start seeing with the God-filter (this is true of church leadership as well). While the world is watching to see who “the next leader of the free world” is going to be, I suspect Papa has His eye on someone doing His thing in the wilderness somewhere just being obedient reaching out to the hurting, lost, and rejected.

How awesome to know that though the world rejects us, the Creator continues to call to us with His love. Now - can someone pass me the honey? I’m going to see if I can muscle down a locust. Mmmm. Tastes like repentance.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Morsel of a Heath Bar

Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of His body, which is the church. Col 1:24

"I’m Not Who I Was..."

I was worshipping this morning while eating a bacon and egg sandwich and listening to the “Contemporary Christian Music Channel” on my cable TV network. Brandon Heath’s Don’t get Comfortable was playing in the background and at the end I thought I heard him say “I’m not who I am.”

That sparked an internet search of his vids and lyrics. So I decided to go junkin around in You tube and just check out the giant rummage sale of ideas and postings there. I stumbled across BH’s I’m Not Who I Was which I don’t remember ever hearing (but is probably what I heard him saying on TV). Like a Rolex laying hidden in a twisted mound of jewelry at said yard sale – I decided on a closer inspection.

What a beautiful message. But the words I thought I heard earlier “I’m not who I am” still haunted me a bit. I’m not everything I should be, nor am I everything I was. I mourn the former and rejoice the latter. I had listened to Chris Tomlin’s More Than Enough earlier this morning and was already challenged by it’s message too.

Is He more than enough for me? Am I not what I was? Am I what I profess to be? Am I the I Am’s or am I the My Am’s? Check out Brandon’s video and then in the spirit of that video answer the questions below:

Whose are you?
Is He, or are they/you enough?
What were you?
What are you?

I’ll start:

My Beloved’s.
I confess again - YES! More than Enough.
Messed up.
Fessed up.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pretty Woman: More than a Whore

Hosea 3:1-3 (NIV) The LORD said to me, "Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes." So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Then I told her, "You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you."

I watched the movie Pretty Woman again with my daughter the other day. I know, I know, turn in my man card AND Christian awards pins? Can we dispense with the self-righteousness for just a few minutes and review a couple of redeeming qualities of that movie?

One is the redemptive overtone that is on display throughout. Edward (Richard Gere) shows a grace toward Vivian (Julia Roberts) the prostitute that is not unlike our Savior challenging the stone-bearers as to who is worthy to launch first? An interesting footnote: Edward means “rich or wealthy guard” and Vivian means “alive.”

For those who maybe unfamiliar with this film, Edward is a high-rolling business man in LA for a week who happens to get lost while looking for his hotel. He stops and asks Vivian for directions and she offers to show him to his destination (among other things) for twenty bucks.

They end up having real chemistry, intellectual discourse as it were, and he hires her for the week to be his beckon call escort for a number of events. Over the course of that week, Edward falls in love with Vivian and vice verse.

I want to share with you a few scenes that stand out for me, and really tugged at my heart. The first is where Vivian comes in “the morning after” their first night together and Edward has ordered breakfast – everything on the menu because he was unsure what she might want and didn’t want to disturb her sleep.

She sheepishly grabs a croissant while he is preoccupied, and turns away in shame and embarrassment (unworthy) while she eats it. All the while Edward, lacking nothing, doesn’t think twice about the cost of any of this, and his demeanor seems to put her at ease. Eventually she sits and talks and eats and eats and eats. Maybe not a perfect picture of our Lord, but some type and shadow there nonetheless.

Another poignant moment is when Phillip (Edward's Lawyer – played by Jason Alexander) discovers Vivan is a prostitute and is dogging her for her "ill affect" on Edward. He reminds her what she really is – “a whore” and then tries to rape her. Edward shows up and punches him out and then throws him out. A vivid picture of what the “accuser” tries to do with us, and how our Savior responds in our behalf.

And then there is my favorite scene.

When I was naked you clothed me. Edward sees she needs clothes and he clothes her – the least of these. What wonderful rights we have as a bride. The movie goes on to suggest they get married and live happily ever after, but Edward had paid the price for Vivian long before they were “married.” I know some of you see this as heresy, but you must admit, these are parallels to the process of our redemption in Christ.

Here are a few great quotes from the movie with some of my commentary added (source is IMDB):

Edward: You make $100 an hour and you have a safety pin holding your boot up?


Edward: You can't charge me for directions!
Vivian: I can do anything I want to baby, I ain't lost

It occurred to me that when we feel like we’re operating from a position of power (our element) we can sometimes fail to see our true condition (lost).

Edward: I think we both know she's not my niece.
Barney: Of course.
Edward: And the reason I know that is that I'm an only child.

I thought of the Kinsman Redeemer here. God’s Only Son covering the prostitute with his prestige and influence and expressing his value of her to the manager in a way that acknowledges her condition (what she is), but in no way affects her value as a human being (who she is).

Vivian: I appreciate this whole seduction thing you've got going on here, but let me give you a tip: I'm a sure thing.

How many of us will readily sacrifice our virtue for the place of provision? Little did she know how much Edward valued her outside her self-imposed “role.”

Vivian: I'm gonna treat you so nice, you're never gonna let me go.

As we fall in love with our Savior we begin to think we must perform in a way that will keep us from being rejected. While Edward in this scene is not a great picture of Christ, our true Savior didn’t choose us because of behavior, but because we’re his beloved.

Vivian: People put you down enough, you start to believe it.
Edward: I think you are a very bright, very special woman.
Vivian: The bad stuff is easier to believe. You ever notice that?

Wow. Been there. I know many of you have too. It’s easier to believe the lies the world keeps shoving down our throat over the truth of scripture.

And then there is this exchange:

Edward: Impossible relationships. My special gift is impossible relationships.

Vivian: When I was a little girl, my mama used to lock me in the attic when I was bad, which was pretty often. And I would- I would pretend I was a princess... trapped in a tower by a wicked queen. And then suddenly this knight... on a white horse with these colors flying would come charging up and draw his sword. And I would wave. And he would climb up the tower and rescue me. But never in all the time... that I had this dream did the knight say to me, "Come on, baby, I'll put you up in a great condo."

Vivian: What would it be like?
Edward: It would get you off of the street.
Vivian: That's just geography.

The last line haunts me. The Journey is never about geography. Relationship is never about aesthetics or appearance. It's always about covenant and promise.

Vivian: I want the fairy tale.

Edward: I never treated you like a prostitute. [Walks away]
Vivian: You just did.

How many times has the one we loved treated us like a cheap whore in their self-righteousness and then just walked away? Jesus would never, ever, ever do this.

Vivian: what's going on?
Edward: I don't know, you left and suddenly I'm in the middle of The West Side Story.

Edward eventually came to his senses and realized he loved Vivian and saw she was much more than what the world saw on the outside.

We often think of practical ways to help people without really considering their dignity or their value in the Father’s eyes. It’s important to remember we all have our designs on the Fairy Tale which is often born out of the pain of our past. The world will judge us based on our behavior and experiences, but the lover sees well beyond the coal to the diamond.

How many of you were whores and prostitutes just trying to survive when one day the Prince of Peace came charging in on His White horse and saved you? If we’re not careful, we can default to treating people like the whores they were, or are. Maybe we can consider the alternative to redeem them with the love of our Lord. Again, it's not about the behavior; it's about the Savior.

I'm so thankful He refused to throw rocks at me. Instead, he allowed himself to be beaten after a long sleepless night, and then He carried my cross and bore it like a dad rescuing his daughter from walking the streets. How amazing to see a prostitute become a bride.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Least of These

This week I was going to write about an ugly pretty woman, but I felt compelled to post this one, so we'll love on her in a few days. TM

Matt 25:35-45 (NIV) For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

When I see scenes on television of Tsunamis and Earthquakes in faraway places, I shake my head in a moment of empathy and turn the channel to a sitcom. I've got my own problems to deal with like how am I going to pay for all of the crap I've collected on credit? How am I going to fit this or that in my schedule between going to work and going to church and going to the mall or just going? Thank God for TIVO! Wait! Which God? My god.

It's easier to change the channel than it is to figure out how we can be a part of the redemptive process of helping the least of these. I know that some of what comes at us is manipulation, but I do find it interesting that the biggest response of support for such efforts tend to come from the elderly and lower income families. Just ask Bob. No doubt part of the reason is their ability to identify with the hurting and rejected.

My prayer over the past couple of years is that I would recognize and respond to the wooing and call of God in whatever way He desires. I long to discern the Body properly and partake - communion beyond union. In my fastidiousness I find I can be unapproachable and unavailable. I repent.

In my hunger to know and be known I see the sparrows and I know their nest is near the altar of God, and I more precious to Him than they. If I, then they are too. Who? The Hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, and those in the prisons of their own making. But our Jesus came to give life more abundantly to all.

"Do you feel their pain? Has it touched your life? Can you taste the salt in the tears they cry? Do you love them more than the hate that's been? Can you love them back to life again?"

If He can do that for us, then we can certainly find a way to buy a burger for a hungry homeless one, or roll down our car window at a stoplight and hand a crack addict some cash knowing they will use it for their next fix.

Yeah – let that one challenge you a while and see where it takes you. What if that next purchase lands them in jail and they get sober and some righteous child of God visits them in prison and they get saved? Just obey. Just obey.

Listen, recognize, and respond to the "least of these." You might just be rewarded with the virtue of knowing obedience and nothing more. May we decrease and He increase. I’m so glad He rescued me – the least of these.

Stay tuned - next post we're gonna explore the whores so leave the rocks at home.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Daily Grind

1 Cor 7:17, 23 17 Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.

Do you ever feel like a peppercorn in Emeril’s peppermill just waiting to be shredded to little bits of yourself and then thrown into some hot skillet while Father Chef yells “BAM!” and the crowd roars with delight? Or maybe it’s seems more like a dark roasted coffee bean waiting its turn at the local Starbucks to be ground to perfection.

As the brew master tosses you and your friends into the grinder you’re reminded of your previous thought that “it can’t get any worse than this” as you roasted in some hot oven weeks earlier. Now you find yourself being ground to dust and rinsed with boiling lava just for the delight of being served up to others.

Nice lot in life eh? I’ve got to admit, it doesn’t sound like an appealing proposition as I consider the cost of laying my life down for others. It can feel a lot like a food processor on pulse – crush – off – crunch – off – crash – off – frappe – hey!

I’ve worked for the same company for 27 years now. I’m tired. I’ve served faithfully and received a really good paycheck for it with my pension on the horizon. It’s a fair contract I have with my employer and I have no complaints except – I’m tired and depleted.

Vacations don’t seem to restore anymore. Time off is spent doing stuff that I couldn’t get done while at work, or accomplishing on the weekends what the grind had simply stolen. Time off is rarely time down. Time down is tormented by thoughts of lost productivity. Where’s the balance? I struggle to find it like a puzzle piece that just doesn’t quite fit, so I pitch one.

I feel like I want to do something else, something with more umph, impact, or flair. I’m like most people who, I believe deep down, want to make a difference in this world. Unfortunately, “most people” don’t realize just how hard that truly is. It takes work, discipline, intentional effort.

With the advent of the T.V. remote, microwave oven, and cordless or cell phones, sitting on ones duff has become our natural posture. It seems the couch or bed has this magnetic force stronger than gravity itself, sucking us from feet to butt in less time than it takes to kick off our shoes.

My natural state is lazy. Emotionally depleted by the end of an easy days work, I have little energy to open mail or talk to my wife or kids. If I’m honest, I just want to escape to Dance with the Stars, or worship the American Idol. Maybe you sit and visit with The Simpson’s or take another trip to The Office.

Whatever the flavor, it is so much easier to feed my soul trash than it is to buffet my body and make my clay conform. I can sometimes find my way to the laptop and be creative in verb and verse, but often the weight of the sin of sloth is more than I can bear.

In a moment of annoyance, and sometimes clarity I write. I collect thoughts electronically and spew frustration across seven lanes of the internet superhighway. I pray. I seek wisdom on what to do and where to go next. Crickets. So I cry. I bitch and moan and flail my arms about like a Joe Pesci wise guy. I work in the yard. I sing. I nap. Then, at some point, like a bolt of lightning and clap of thunder I’m jolted from my slumber.

I offer up the sacrifice of my praise. I consider it all
joy and rubbish once again. I take inventory and find the pack rats have been at work, so its time for the holy exterminator to clear the nest of the R.O.U.S. I reach for the promise of new life from His Spirit breathed into me when I am cold, distant, and lost. I inhale and get high on the narcotic of His Good News.

I witness miracles daily. Small ones like a beautiful sunrise where He welcomes me to a new day. Or the sparrows that dart to and fro in my trees; He reminds me his eye is on them, and me. I see the trees dancing in adoration of Him as the wind blows their sways of praise. A child laughs and I am reminded of childlike faith that stresses not. I want that joy back!

I begin to count my blessings and I am encouraged by the thought of legs that work, eyes that see, ears that hear, a tongue that speaks, and a mind that thinks. I give thanks for arms that can hold my wife and kids, and be raised in honor, joy, and adoration of the One and only. I count those blessings over and over and over. I realize for the most part I suck. Then I set that mind on Him like a boundary stone in ancient Israel. I take opposing thoughts captive and punish their disobedience into submission of the reality of the Savior.

The breath of the life of His Presence that makes all things new courses through my lungs and oxygenates my spirit with his “ZoĆ«.” Why can’t I get this right yet? I praise and He inhabits. In His Presence is fullness of Joy. His joy is my strength. Feeble knees strengthened to bow and humbled to rise with the demise of my pride.

So I take hold of that for which He took hold of me and I welcome it – the cross. I hold it in my arms and dance as if it were my lover slow dancing in a warm embrace. I’m reminded why I love to worship: He is worthy.

Instead of letting life turning me into ground salt of the earth, I’m trusting in Him to help build me up in my most holy faith. I look again to Him when melancholy comes calling. She’s a hateful and unforgiving wench but justice and mercy meet with me at the cross.

I take another bite of life knowing the seasoning is perfect. I’m satisfied because it tastes great and is more filling when I walk with Him. Though I’m not excited about the place I am today, I know it’s a season and I know He is teaching me to be content in Him; it is great gain.

Phil 4:12-13 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Anatomy of a Song

You who dwell in the gardens with friends in attendance, let me hear your voice! Song of Songs 8:13

Most of you that know me know I love to write song lyrics. I am a verbose individual with much to say. That is why I started this blog. However, sometimes it seems I suffer from "Hometown Syndrome." A prophet is not accepted in his "home town." Why is that?

It's pretty simple - people in close proximity see your warts and moles and want to know why the heck someone so flawed has the audacity to "instruct" or speak into the lives others. Speck and plank come to mind. Who is without sin that they should ever do this? Preachers, politicians, and people of all stripes find themselves in this quandary. On his best day, Billy Graham still had a sinful nature that need the attention of the Holy Spirit. I suspect there were days he fell woefully short.

In my quest to communicate the message(s) I feel the Lord would have me share, I start with communion with Him. Lately He has had me in the Song of Solomon. Wow. What a beautiful love story. How awesome it is to be pursued by the Bridegroom in such a way that I blush at His insistence of my beauty.

The description of Him coming to His bride in the middle of the night and knocking on the door, even to the point of breaking and entering (thrust his hand through the latch opening 5:4) is a picture of a lovesick husband longing to be intimate with the one He adores. How awful to be that man without the reciprocal response?

His bride sleeps yet her heart was awake. By the time she rose from her slumber He was gone. She frantically searches for Him throwing all caution to the wind to the point of being beaten by the night watchmen. Still she searches until she finds Him in the garden - the place of rest, of beauty, of communion.

They exchange tender mercies as only captivated lovers can do. His pursuit paid off in the love they share together which transforms to a life shared together. This is where so many relationships stumble. Taking that passion of pursuit and applying it to the daily grind.

This is true in the natural and the spiritual. In the natural, life has a way of beating us up and taking a toll on our passion. We find ourselves just wanting to withdraw to a place of solitude and selfishness if only for a season. I am there. I have been beaten up spiritually by the watchmen of the walls and I just want to lick my wounds. I find that I am angry at them, those that stand with them, and those who don't oppose them. Their damnable "damage control" has damaged me.

I fight the fire hose of bitterness that would extinguish the passionate pursuit of my King. I am saddened by those who know truth yet find a way to capitulate to compromise. They don't like what I say because it holds them accountable. They think it selfish of me to require their response so their silence speaks volumes of their accomplice to sin. They again cry "judge not!" while judging my words and motivations. The irony is rich. They ask "who are you?" Maybe I'm a hometown prophet. Maybe just a guy who cares too much about wolves and sheep.

I have many friends who have been beaten up by the so-called watchmen, yet I am challenged by their response of grace. I vacillate between the desire to rebuke and the need to sing. I will sing. I will sing a song of renewal and hope. I will sing a song of desperation and forgiveness. I will sing a song that demands of me my response to Him - my brother and my friend forever - the Prince of Peace. I want that love-sick passion fanned back into flame - today - right now.

May fire fall down again on the soul of this one who loves passionately, speaks freely, and mourns openly. May the rain of the Holy Spirit reign in my heart as I search for Him in the garden - that place of rest, of beauty, of communion. I journey on. I sing.

My Heart Seeks (REV A.)
Tim Michael 6/1/2008

When darkness falls,
when the sun shines,
I sing to you
forever mine.

In fields of green
where rivers flow
I declare my love
always you know

That I love you
and I need you
I will pursue you
to renew – me.

My hearts seeks to
commune with you

forever Jesus
will follow You.

When I fall down
like pouring rain
I look to you
to heal my pain

When trouble finds
me once again
I cry to you
forgive my sin

And I know you will
make my heart still
You carry me
so I can see

That I love you
and I need you
I will pursue you
to renew – me.

My hearts seeks to
commune with you

forever Jesus I…
will follow You.

(sing out/resolve)

I will follow after you.
Like pouring rain
Wash away my pain,
Renew me here

once again.
I run to You
My heart renewed
Fears melt away
In your Presence I will stay,
and follow after you.
forever Jesus I…
will follow after You.