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Monday, January 30, 2006

Treat #18

Nehemiah 4:13-16 (New International Version)

"13. Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. 14. After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, "Don't be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes."

I'll be damned if I let my family go down in flames in the wake of "so-called" success. There is no metaphor that explains life any better than that of battle. As John Eldredge says, "Life is a love story set within a great battle." Bullseye! I just makes sense of so much I experience. From the tactical preparation, to the reconnaissance, to the need for little platoons, to the life and death nature of decisions, to the missing in action feeling, to the overcrowded infirmary, to the thrill of victory and the agony of all just makes sense.

I love how in this story, families were posted at the walls together each armed with swords, spears and bows. In so many homes, the mom is the one holding down the fort. She is the watchman on the wall. The men are off doing their "thing" and the home is at best a hotel. The scariest part of acknowledging these cultural traits is that I find myself at times sucked into the vacuum. I can give the best of me to work and the rest of me to family. But verses like this wake me up.

"Fight for your sons and daughters..." That is a battle cry that makes me wanna cry. I don't want to become a household name for everyone else but my kids. I don't want to save the world and lose my girls. I don't them to be put on "standby" while I crank out product in the real world. I want to fight tooth and nail for their hearts. I want to say timely words, but that takes time. I want to give that tender touch, but I have to be in touch with their world. I want to be the bastion of security and serenity that calms them. I want them to see the fire in my eyes as I fight for holiness in the home. I remember well the night I was talking to my firstborn, Kami, and she asked me if I would fight for her if someone was trying to hurt her. I assured her that I would cripple or kill anyone who even so much as breathed a threat against her. She turned to me and said, "You're my big daddy warrior!" I don't want her to grow out of that expression. I hope that she always sees me fighting for her and her sisters with every ounce of my being. I want there to be some fight left in me when I get home from kids futures depend on it.

It then talks about fighting for your wife and your home. Not fighting with your wife, but for her. I've come to learn that fighting for my wife has little to do with earning a living. She doesn't feel fought for just because I'm the provider of her home, she wants me to the the protector of her heart. She needs me to seek her out, to call her out of hiding. She needs me to see things in her that she doesn't see in herself. She needs me to value her contributions at home. She needs me to shield her from Satan's attack on her insecurities. She needs me to breath validation into her doubting heart. She needs me to listen when I would rather list the solutions. She needs me to draw out her dreams and desires over a romantic meal. She needs me to set aside important things for the most important thing, her. She needs to know she is above the children in priority. She needs to know that I think she is beautiful beyond compare. She needs me to stay away from pornography, masturbation, and inappropriate situations with other women. She needs me to clean the house and do the dishes. She needs me to hug her from behind in the kitchen and whisper sweet nothings into her ear. She needs to see my rage against sin and my resolve to remove it from our home. She needs to see me cry when I'm hurt and apologize when I'm wrong. She needs to see me give up on my rights without giving up on my dreams. To this end I will strive, so help me, God.

The home is where you hang your heart or your heart gets hanged. I want people to accuse me of spending too much time with my family or to scoff the idea of a weekly date night with my wife or to wonder at the absurdity of regular "daddy dates" with my daughters. I don't want to be known for my ecclesiastical exploits nearly as much as my affinity to family. Homeland security is urgent to this "Home"boy.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Inkling #17

1 Corinthians 13:1-5 (New International Version)

"1. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing."

Sometimes I lose track of love. I get so wrapped up in showmanship that I forget the primal purpose of living. Nothing matters if it is not drenched in love.

There are four hollow acts that can be performed devoid of love:

1. Elequent Speaking - This particular point touches a nerve with me since I spend alot of time in my line of work with my mouth open. It is easy to want to impress people with your dazzling illustrations and spellbinding revelations. I could easily get absorbed in sculpting lectures and homilies and speeches and leave behind the heart of love. The mastery of language falls short of God's deepest desire. There is no place for Big Talkers or Big Mouths in the kingdom. If my words don't first soak themselves in the wellspring of my heart, I best keep my mouth shut.

2. Sharp Intellect - Knowledge is power. It grants us the sick ability to live above the unfortunate plight of the common man. As the Bible says, "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up." There is something so repugnant about a heady, high minded intellectual that lords his smarts over those less versed and educated. What good is it to fathom mysteries if you're always trying to talk over every one elses heads? Have you ever heard a preacher convey his research and thought to yourself, "I hope he knows what he's talking about, cause I sure as heck can't make heads or tails of what he's getting at." You sit there feeling stupid. It's like this person vacummes the very last bit of life you had in you and leaves you limp. This is what happens when the brain trumps the heart.

3. Robust Faith - This is where this verse gets a little unnerving to me. You mean to tell me that you can have the kind of faith that moves mountains and in God's eyes it's not worth a hill of beans? This means that on the outside things are still going gangbusters, breaking records, and turning heads. Churches are building bigger buildings, hiring more staff, and writing books to pass on their power principles for success. It is staggering to imagine that such apparent favor could be a vapor, a chasing after the wind. I wonder how many get lost in robust activities of faith and abort the love train. I wonder if this isn't talking about ministries that become ingrown with thier own self-serving programs and forget about the broken world outside their walls. They pray together, sing together, and sit together in the safety of their little faith flock. "If you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours." becomes their mantra. They are moving mountains and losing love. And the lump sum of their busy faith-filled gatherings is a gigantic goose egg. Notta. Diddly squat.

4. Self-Sacrifice - This strikes at the deepest demonstrations of devotion. Charitable denotions to the poor and even martyrdom are assessed as meaningless without love. It is obvious that Paul is leaving no stone unturned as he addresses the urgency of a love-driven life. If I have one problem with the "Purpose-driven life" it is that it is quite possible to fullfill a purpose without love. It just takes discipline, duty and determination. A little mind over matter. This passage says that you can even put yourself in harms way without being moved there by love. It's amazing the length that some will go just because of being pressured or guilted into it. I remember riding in a car with someone and they were not paying attention to the car stopping in front of them. They were barreling down the highway going 55 mph and it was obvious that we were going to drill this car. I actually sat in the back seat and decided that I would rather get into an accident than yell out and possibly offend the driver of the car. This just shows that nature can be overridden by nurture given the right circumstances. You can't always judge a book by it's cover. There are people who lovelessly carry on with Christianity hitting the bullseye in every conceivable spiritual discipline and yet will stand before God as naked as a newborn without so much a loinclothe of love to cover their messed up motives. Note to self, clothe yourself with love here and now.

This passage just pierces me time and again. I want to be reminded of the hollow nature of performance in the eyes of God. I never want to get caught up in the game of impressing myself with my own spectacular feats of strength. The spectacular is a spectacle.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Remnant #16

New International Version

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” – Galatians 5:1

It seems a little redundant, I know. But repetition aids learning as they say, and there’s hardly a truth that needs to be learned and lived more. People have lists of reasons for why Christ came and died. When I hear some of them, I can’t help but beg to differ. He didn’t come to just die for my sins; he came to release me from their talons. He didn’t just die so that I could go to heaven; he died so that I could get there with some quality of life. He wasn’t just born to die, he was born to free. That was the point of his death, the liberation of mankind.

I love telling people about freedom in Christ. It is in those conversations that I actually feel like I’m sharing good news. The kind of news that is convincing and compelling. The kind of news you’re not embarrassed to pass along.

For a good many years, I found myself sheepish to share my faith. It seemed like an invitation to be incarcerated for some reason. I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out why anyone in their right mind would want to strap any more restrictions, rules, regulations or requirements on their already burdened back. It felt like a bait and switch. You tell someone that Christ will release them from their burdens and when they take the bait you set the hook and drag them into the boat with the rest of the paranoid pack of believers living under heaps of stifling stipulations. I remember starting conversations with the disclaimer, “I know what you’ve heard, but I’m here to tell you a different story.” Man, does the world need to hear a different story.

Jesus was a hero for those oppressed living under the tyranny of lawyers, men memorizing lists of laws to keep people in line. Jesus’ harshest words were reserved for the religious right binding heavy burdens upon people’s backs without so much as lifting a finger to help them find relief. He spent the better part of his life reversing the curse of “condemnation” theology. His message was “redemption” theology, God breaking into prisons and setting the captives free. And when he set them free, they were free indeed!
I never want people to be able to use my life as an argument for conservative, restrained Christianity. Any interpretation of God that leaves people tight and tentative, spooked with fear that their next step could anger the sleeping giant in the sky, does not see God rightly. He has our best interests at heart and lives to usher in the freedom that we ignorantly forfeited in the Garden of Eden. The first words spoken to man by God seem fitting as I wrap us this mini commentary. “You are free.” And when we used that freedom to imprison ourselves, our God sent his Son to get it back for us. As foolish as it grammatically sounds, he set us free so that we would actually be free. There’s no catch. There’s no hitch. There’s no bait and switch. I know…it seems too good to be true. Welcome to Freedom, my friend.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Element #15

New International Version

“Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:21

There are many responses to evil. Some flirt with it. Some flee it. Some fight it. But one thing that the church mustn’t do is avoid it. Denial has never made anything go away. Pretending like it’s not there and isolating yourself behind walls of worship only fuels it in my opinion. You can’t stand on the other side of the glass enveloped in sterility and soaked in disinfectant until the rapture. I have a hunch that God’s going to look deep into your eyes and ask you what you were saved for in the first place. To live in hermitages of health or hospitals of hurt? Jesus himself stated, “I did not come for the healthy, but the sick.” You can’t influence people without brushing up against the bad or stirring up the stink. You have to come down from the ivory tower and get your hands dirty by encountering death and disease and destruction and depression. The sure way to eradicate evil is by spreading goodness. It’s no help to hide.

“Well, what you’re talking about is a social gospel!” Come to think of it, you’re right. But what is the gospel (REMEMBER…it mean good news) if it doesn’t affect society? A group of stuck up cover-ups hiding in holy huddles praying for God to bless them and bless them and bless them. For what? In my humble opinion, God blesses us so that we can be a blessing. And the blessing is needed most deeply in the trenches of evil. If we don’t push back the darkness, it will overcome us. Our only hope is to overcome it first with the gift of goodness. Think about what could be reversed…

Do not be overcome with poverty,
but overcome poverty with generosity.

Do not be overcome with prejudice,
but overcome prejudice with hospitality.

Do not be overcome with anger,
but overcome anger with peace.

Do not be overcome with addictions,
but overcome addictions with liberation.

Do not be overcome with hatred,
but overcome hatred with love.

Do not be overcome with bitterness,
but overcome bitterness with forgiveness.

Do not be overcome with inequality,
but overcome inequality with unity.

Do not be overcome with pessimism,
but overcome pessimism with hope.

Do not be overcome with disease,
but overcome disease with healing.

Do not be overcome with orphans,
but overcome orphans with adoption.

Do not be overcome with revenge,
but overcome revenge with mercy.

Do not be overcome with pain,
but overcome pain with comfort.

Do not be overcome with racism,
but overcome racism with friendship.

Do not be overcome with consumerism,
but overcome consumerism with giving.

Do not be overcome with perversion,
but overcome perversion with purity.

Do not be overcome with depression,
but overcome depression with refreshment.

Do not be overcome with debt,
but overcome debt with freedom.

Do not be overcome with Satan,
but overcome Satan with Jesus.

It does no good speaking eloquently about the badness of the world if you’re not willing to lift a finger to demonstrate the beauty of the good. I want to be known for my promotion of good, not my bellyaching about the bad. We don’t need any more troubleshooters, we need beautyshooters.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Splinter #14

Matthew 11:12 (New International Version)

12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.

I want to be a part of a movement, not a settlement.

A movement looks toward the future.
A settlement lives in the past.
A movement constantly changes location.
A settlement constantly changes the furniture of its location.
A movement doesn't wait until things are perfect.
A settlement doesn't move until things are perfect.
A movement needs people to keep moving.
A settlement needs policies to keep from moving.
A movement assumes failure as the cost of trying.
A settlement avoids failure at all costs.
A movement refuses to settle down.
A settlement refuses to move out.

Since the days of John the Baptist until NOW, the kingdom of God is on the move. I made up this German word, "gödizmüvin", a while back. I've come to learn that this belief is a driving force in what keeps me moving. I'm not a part of a faith that is static and stationary. A mark of maturity is not settling down, slowing down or simmering down. Anyone who grafts themself into the kingdom has heard the voice of God a time or two say, "Lead, Follow, or get out of the way." The kingdom is forcefully advancing, and only those who are forceful enough to grab it and hang on get to ride this freight train.

I have a deep burden for the bride of Christ. I ache for the unchurched, but quite honestly I'm even more broken for the mischurched. By that I mean those who have attended church their whole life and haven't the foggiest clue what in the world they are a part of. I feel like they have more hurdles to get over to encounter the living God. They work feverishly to get to the point where they are faithful (same time, same place, same person). "You can count on me! I won't let you down!" They pride themselves in being an immovable fixture in the church. They do whatever they must to tame their wild urges, calm their deepest desires, and curb their pesky dreams. They are godly because they never rock the boat, speak out of turn or disturb the peace. But to me, faithful doesn't translate into immovable. Faithful means stepping out against popular opinion. Faith is more closely associated with Risk. Faith doesn't always have the insurance of moves forward without the gaurantee of anything but God's presence along the way.

I'm glad the kingdom of God is moving ahead forcefully. I love being a part of something that is advancing. You can almost hear God saying, "Stay on your toes, people. This is no place for nailbiters." We are invited into something that is already going...with or without us I might add. We don't get it going, we only jump on and hang on for dear life. The stamina of the kingdom of God has pulled it through some difficult seasons throughout history. It is the unstoppable force as Erwin McManus calls it. It is the undaunted movement of a sweating mob trying to keep up with God.

I serve a God who has been advancing like a Rhyno since John the Baptist had his head lopped off...and I only see him picking up speed as his coming draws near. If you're looking to settle down, check out your local retirement home. If you're looking for a speed induced nose bleed, I think I just saw the kingdom race by at the speed of God. That's faster than the speed of light for you scientists. I'll catch you at the end of this wild ride.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Shard #13

John 5:39-40 (New International Version)

39 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

This might sound heretical, but it must be said. One of the most creative cults spearheaded by the enemy is found in the company of people who idolize the Bible. Instead of being a road to Jesus, it becomes a roadblock. Cross-referencing. Greek word studies. Doing "devotions". Debates over doctinal disagreements. Systematic theology. Bible memorization. Reading through the Bible in a year. Crafting creative sermons. The list goes on and on. I fear this world most because I'm in ministry and have come to understand the difference between the God of the Word and the Word of God. You can easily get lost in the latter and lose the former. I'm not trying to divorce them from each other, but I think it's vital to make the distinction every now and then.

Just like anyone, I love what I can get my hands on and my mind around. Since God can be somewhat illusive and mysterious, it's easy to sink your teeth into the Scriptures and forget to feed on God Himself. You can take a verse and play around with it like a hacky sack. You can sculpt an idea and develop a line of thought that gives you a distracting sense of pleasure in and of itself. You want to know how I know this? Because I'm running the risk of doing it this very moment. I'm taking a verse and expounding on it with clever little spins of spice. I can put together sermons for weeks on end without encountering Jesus. I can use the Word as a pacifier to give me a false sense of security that I'm close to God.

Remember, in this passage, Jesus is talking to professional Bible quizzers. They sat on those little electronic pads and prided themselves in being the first to stand and speak of the fine print, what was written between the lines, the infinitesimal nuances of every jot and tittle recorded in the text. They were the masters of Theology. And Jesus told them off.

I wonder how many get lost in the maze of Scripture and never find their way to Jesus. I wonder how many pride themselves in knowledge without knowing. I wonder if the Bible has become my little lump of playdough to shape and craft and squeeze and hold. It's just too easy to let it become the end all. In fact, I think the flesh would rather interact with literature than bother itself with the messy ups and downs of unpredictable relationship with an living being. You can open it, shut it, leave it home, carry it around, put it in your pocket, download it onto your ipod, or just plain forget about it. You won't hurt it's feelings because "its" don't have feelings.

But Jesus, he's a different story. He doesn't like to be carried around in our pockets and played around with like a lucky rabbit's foot. He pursues us when we forget about him and is rarely ever found in the place where we thought we left him. He can't be opened and shut at our command and he won't be relegated to a slot in our schedule. He's not black and white, He's alive and well.

If we stop at the Scriptures, we will have missed the point. For the Bible is only the fork, Jesus is the feast.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Wisp #12

Psalm 45 (New International Version)

For the director of music. To the tune of "Lilies." Of the Sons of Korah. A maskil. A wedding song.

1 My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. 2 You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever. 3 Gird your sword upon your side, O mighty one; clothe yourself with splendor and majesty. 4 In your majesty ride forth victoriously in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness; let your right hand display awesome deeds. 5 Let your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of the king's enemies; let the nations fall beneath your feet...

10 Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear: Forget your people and your father's house. 11 The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord. 12 The Daughter of Tyre will come with a gift, men of wealth will seek your favor. 13 All glorious is the princess within her chamber; her gown is interwoven with gold. 14 In embroidered garments she is led to the king; her virgin companions follow her and are brought to you. 15 They are led in with joy and gladness;they enter the palace of the king.

Of all of my favorite verses, this may be the most unique. This is a Psalm, but it isn't a worship's a wedding song. I was first drawn to this piece of literature when I was teaching a series on masculinity and femininity and the heart's desire of both genders. The more I looked at this passage, the more I fell in love with it's transcendent themes of love expressed through the valiant strength of a man and the radiant beauty of the woman.

"My heart is stirred by a noble theme..." There is something powerful about a man who has a heart that is deeply affected by noble ventures. A man who allows himself to feel the rapture of a piece of art or the impression left by a conversation or the aftertaste of a good movie. A man who is an unabashed romantic. A man who knows the value of language and the power of poetry. A man who carries himself with humble strength and isn't afraid to shed a tear in the face of danger or delight. Men whose hearts are stirred by noble themes are becoming extinct. Men who are moved inside at the mention of finer things. Men who are taken by the beauty of their brides. The man in this section of Scripture fascinates me with his penchant for the deeper things.

" tongue is the pen of a skillful writer." I'm becoming somewhat annoyed with the base level of communication in our age. We are cultural clods rarely challenged to ascend to a higher plain of language. When you read old books you get the sense that they still held words in high regard. They treated vocabulary with respect and uttered precisely what they wanted to say. So much of what fills the mouths of the masses these days is nothing but slang-filled rubbish. I admire how this lover was a writer, a poet. I've been moved in the last year to make more time for poetry. It's not easy to labor over words and wrestle with thoughts to say something just so. It's easy to blurt out something relatively close to your heart's stirrings. But I'm finding more joy in the toil of crafting words to represent my truest feelings. I feel like this is the lost art of the masculine heart.

He then goes on to describe the duty of every warm-blooded man: To gird up sword and fight for the things that matter...1. Truth 2. Humility 3. Righteousness. As I look at myself and take an inventory of my time, I want these themes to be the anthem of my life. I want to search for and stand for the truth no matter what that costs me along the way. I want have a humble heart as seek to encourage and impassion others around me. I want to pursue purity zealously fighting for my heart, my family and my friends. And as I approach the end of my life, nothing would please me more than to say I "rode forth victoriously on behalf" of these virtues.

Then it gets to the juicy center speaking of the woman's heart and her glory. "The king is enthralled by your beauty..." It is my desire to be enthralled with my wife. As it says in Pride and Prejudice I would have her "bewitch me body, soul and spirit." I know that my wives greatest desire and fear orbits around this question of beauty. She wants to know that I want her and that I would look deeper than the skin that envolopes her to find the crowed jewel within. She wants to render me thunderstruck with her tender touch and her airy whisper. She wants to leave me weak in the knees and faint with desire. Every day I wake to make a vow of trust between me and the wife of my youth. I desire to herald her beauty wherever I go holding her high. I want to answer her question of beauty with affirmation and validation.

"All glorious is the princess within her chamber..." Every young girl dreams of being a princess. I have three; I assure you, they are captivated by this thought every moment of the day. There is something God has woven into the fabric of the feminine heart that cries out to be treated like a princess. They long to be fought for, pursued and carried away into an adventure. They love to be spoken to softy in the late hours and carried upon the wind of our loving words. I so desire to free my wife with this kind of affection. I want to adorn her heart with my love. I want her to feel like a princess in my presence.

There is something amazing about the Word of God. It speaks to all manner of subjects. It leaves no stone unturned in its declaration of truth. This passage shows me that romance and worship aren't mutually exclusive. Sometimes the greatest Psalm you could ever sing is to your wife. My heart is stirred by a noble wife.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Fragment #11

New International Version

Acts 4:13 – “When they saw the courage of Peter and John, and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”

This was the text of my first sermon for homiletics class in college. I was a wet behind the ears wanna be Luther. There were about 15 other guys sitting there with a pencil in hand and a critique sheet lying face up waiting to be marked up with mark downs for anything from forced hand gestures to poor hygiene. I was a nervous, green arm-pitted rookie staring down a VHS camera waiting to record my homily for further scrutiny and hyper-evaluation. I waited for the professor to announce my name and before I blacked out, I heard the obligatory clapping of my fellow preacher boys signaling that it was time for me to stand, move toward the makeshift pulpit, and start saying something that was worth listening to. I will never forget that morning. This passage has been burned into my memory ever since.

There’s just something hopeful about passages that unveil the glory of the underdog. The ones voted least likely to succeed in high school. The ones banished to the end of the bench. The ones picked last in dodge ball. The ones who didn’t have the golden sash of honor draped around their neck at graduation. I’ve always loved rooting for the underdog, the Cinderella team. It speaks a little to my background.

I grew up in a small town in upstate New York. My parents were first generation Christians handling the Scriptures like a hot potato due to their novice stature in Christendom. We grew up in less than average homes on, what I know now to be, a poverty income. (it’s funny, I never thought about that until I got older and realized what poverty income was…we were always well taken care of) I went to a Christian School and my graduating class was a whopping 3. I was the valedictorian of my class and I had a C+ average throughout high school. One of the guys got his GED so that narrowed down the competition for that coveted place of honor. I got an 18 on my SAT, which can be ascertained by simply filling in your name legibly. I was good at sports, but even that was suspect since boys were playing on the varsity in basketball and soccer at age 13. (I was one of them, I know.) I remember someone saying to me my senior year, “You might be able to play sports, but you’re not going to amount to anything in the real world once that’s over.” It’s funny how people know just what to say to confirm your worst fears at times.

I remember reading this passage and feeling like it was talking to me. I was pretty ordinary and highly uneducated. The Greek word for unschooled here is “idiotas”…I think you can figure out what that means. At times, I felt like an idiot. Especially as it related to intellect and public relations. I was a hermit my first year of college. I remember taking speech class and almost passing out during my first stab at a personal testimony. I was embarrassed and humiliated and vowed never to go into ministry. I just knew that I would never be able to speak in front of people without going into convulsions and retching on the floor. I remember the specific night God moved in my heart and confirmed to me that he would take care of that phobia if I would but lean into his plan for my life. The rest is history.

This passage has to be an anthem for the ordinary. Those who don’t feel like that have much to offer. But I’m struck with the reason for these guys transformation from cowardice to courage. “They noted that these men had been with Jesus.” This is why I fear so much for the state of the current church. People aren’t spending time with Jesus. They aren’t drawing away with him and letting his truth transform their phobias, hang-ups, and limitations. They aren’t putting their ear on his chest and listening for his heartbeat amidst the clamor and chaos of the daily grind. We can’t even hope for miracles lest we seek his face and soak in his heart. We will stay nervous idiots until we get with him in secret and let him wash away our will and replace it with his.

I’ve always wanted to model this verse for people who have given up hope that they could make a difference. Sometimes I don’t think people know where I came from and so they see me now and just assume I’ve always been like this. It’s not true. I was a shy, scared boy who hid behind sports to cover up my insecurity in other areas. It wasn’t until I started hanging out with Jesus that I saw my life undergo an overhaul for the better.

Aren’t you glad that God roots for the underdog?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Special News Flash...

I interupt the regularly scheduled program for a Special News Alert...

"My daughter Aly asked Jesus to come into her heart this past weekend."

There a few things that matter more to me than my children coming to know and love Jesus. Though I realize at age four she has but a small understanding of the greatness of God's love, there is also a coveted simplicity that she possesses that makes her prayer of salvation a thing of beauty. My prayer is that she grows to deeply love the heart of Jesus. She will know no greater joy than letting him consume the whole of her. I love you, Aly Grace.

Portion #10

New International Version

Ecclesiastes 3:11 – “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

The moon was full last night casting long slender shadows through the living room as I turned out the lights before heading upstairs to bed. For one moment, I paused and allowed a thought to impede my progress toward my pillow. “Man, life is big.” That thought followed me up the stairs and pestered me as I brushed my teeth. Something about the luminous nature of that orb in the sky just pierced me to the core. It left me stunned with a feeling of my own smallness. It also tugged me like a string was attached to my insides speaking something of my inherent glory. I could feel inklings of something unspeakable trying to charm me. These wordless notions pulsated below trying to rouse the body to agree with the spirit.

“He has set eternity in the hearts of men…” We were hardwired with the vastness of the infinite planted in our breast. Even when I was younger I would retreat into the woods to give in to the invitations of this mystery. I was mystically drawn to envelope myself in creation and let it swallow me into itself. Mind you, I was an athletic jock, but surreptitiously I was an in-the-closet mystic. The aesthetic over the years has trumped the athletic in me and I’m much more forthcoming with my dreams and desires. This nameless, faceless nudge has always fascinated me and drawn me to explore its source.

Again, the heart is central to the story. It holds the coveted key; it houses the inconsolable secret. It contains the account of our whereabouts and whatnots, voicelessly leading us toward our history and destiny all at the same time. And it’s not the possession of Christianity alone. It is shared by the whole of humankind binding us together as one. Every heart is pregnant with eternity from the vilest offender to the purest of souls. Hearts don’t tap into this upon conversion, they are prepackaged with this amenity from conception leaving all men responsible to steward that which the heart incrementally reveals over ones lifetime. I’m convinced these disclosures of the heart are experienced by everyone throughout their days leaving them with the option of shutting it out, but never with the choice of shutting it off.

“yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to the end.” Yet…that word says a lot about the heart. With all that we know about the heart of God and the God of the heart, we might as well get used to being suspended in unfathomable wonder. If your goal is to figure God out or to master the heart, you might as well throw in the towel cause you have a better chance of spitting a loogie across the Grand Canyon. I feel like the heart was given to us by God to keep us from arriving, settling, and answering. It always keeps us moving into the more, wrestling with us when we settle for less. It is just that very thing that draws me into God…his beyond-tracing-out features that keep me guessing.

So, there you have it. “Have what?” you ask. “I don’t know. Maybe a peek through the keyhole of the heart into fathomless expanse of eternity.” I respond.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Speck #9

New International Version

Psalm 18:6-19 – “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry. Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. He made the darkness his covering, his canopy around him—the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning. The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. He shot his arrows and scattered the enemies, great bolts of lightning and routed them. The valleys of the seas were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of breath from your nostrils. He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of the deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out in to a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”

How many people have this vision of prayer? Furthermore, how many people have this vision of God? It seems to me that over the years, we’ve downplayed these kinds of passages as symbolic gibberish. Because these images don’t fit the mold we have of God, we dismiss them as imaginative word pictures shared by sleep deprived prophets. Were they given permission to take creative license and make things up about God? Are the prophets throwing us a bone of make believe stories to keep us brainwashed enough to believe that God’s actually an animated character playing an active role in the narrative of our lives? Or do you suppose that these were hallowed visions given to a select few to share with the people of God to let them know that he gets worked up over our lives and that he isn’t as domesticated and civilized as we make him out to be.

Could it be that prayer looks a lot more like this and a lot less like an exchange at the Department of Motor Vehicles? Is it possible that he would go to these lengths to answer our cries in the middle of the night? Does God get fired up when I’m hurting and does it affect him so much that he explodes with fiery passion? Would he really rip open the heavens and advance to this meek and lowly place I’m dwelling in to let me know he’s got my back? Are you kidding me that God actually would mount an angel and fly to my rescue? (It sounds like the Lord of the Rings trilogy) Are you telling me that God would go to war on by behalf with flaming arrows and bolts of lightning? What kind of a God is this? Where has this God been my whole life? Why is this vision not being communicated to the masses of desperate people that think God is a pacifist pansy that never engages in the hellish realities of human existence? Why do we want to tame God so badly? What scares us so? Don’t you want to believe that this could actually be true when you’re having a bad day? Don’t you wish that your theology allowed for this kind of God to show up?

Get the picture of the God who never breaks a sweat out of your mind. You know, the image that has him perched on a pedestal “above it all”. The God who doesn’t get his hands dirty for fear of breaking a nail. The God who wields a magic wand and zaps all those who defy his Lordship. An immovable force; motionless and emotionless. Remove that image and replace it with a God who is out of breath in his battle against the forces of evil. Imagine hearing the violent voice of God that levels mountains and strips forests bare. Visualize the coals, fire and smoke exploding from his nostrils and mouth lighting up the sky. Picture God wearing an armor with a huge quiver on his back filled with arrows. Why is this so hard to picture? Probably because it doesn’t fit our “Grandpa” image of him. It could be that we have a spineless, toothless, lifeless God that occupies the Nursing home of Heaven awaiting our noisy arrival. Anyone with this image of God cannot find reconciliation with Psalm 18. It just doesn’t make sense.

After routing our assailants, this God reaches down and takes a hold of us. He hoists us up on the cherubim and whisks us away to a spacious place where we can heal in Him and He can delight in us. “He rescued me because he delighted in me”. Most of us cannot wrap our hearts around this kind of God. We have so detached ourselves from the idea that we have worth, that it’s beyond us that God’s affections could be stirred for the likes of us. We can’t fathom that we matter to God that much. To us, he has bigger fish to fry. He couldn’t possibly care about my little pet peeves and nagging dreams. But we couldn’t be more sadly mistaken. He doesn’t rescue us to show off his power, but to show us his love. His motivation is his head over heels love for us. The question is, “Will we let that be enough?”

Here’s to the God that has the pluck of Wallace. Cheers.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Scrap #8

New International Version

2 Corinthians 5:13 - “If we are out of my mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.”

There is nothing that stops you dead in your tracks like the accusation of being out of your mind. Nothing prohibits good causes with greater success. A quick journey into history would validate this fact. Nothing was ever accomplished without formidable opposition from reputable men. Paul was used to being the odd man out. It had become somewhat of a badge of honor. He spoke of being a Fool for Christ, the Scum of the Earth, and the Refuse of the world like it was his job. Appearing crazy seemed to be a sign of salvation in his theology. He spoke of it often and without apology.

If God hasn’t driven you nuts, it’s no good saying you’re his disciple. If his invitations haven’t taken you to the brink of a breakdown, you’re not really listening. There just have to be times when you’re bewitched by the mere mention of a statement like “eat my flesh and drink my blood”. There is no way to dress those kinds of statements up into fancy Easter attire. I remember a time when I broke into a hot sweat laying in my bed one night thinking of how bizarre the gospel is and how batty I must be to lay hold of it like I have. How do you explain the patterns of this inane life? How do you make sense of the mystery of it all? How do you vouch for a God who, at times, seems so contradictory? I’ve come to the conclusion that you don’t have to.

Sometimes the best antidote for all these questions is to assume the label “crazy”. It’s interesting to me that Paul’s reason/excuse for being out of his mind was God. Furthermore, he polished off the sentence by acknowledging the fact that any clear thinking or logical living would probably be the result of people pleasing. This isn’t a wild card to allow for a life lived without attentive discernment, thoughtful preparation or common sense, it’s just a verse tucked in the text to argue for something other than human composure and logical closure. It’s so easy to interpret God’s will through the grid of human philosophy or conventional wisdom.

I fear that in recent years I’ve become easier to explain. I’m more socially conscious and politically correct. I fear coming across as extreme or narrow-minded. I’m more tolerant and flexible, amiable and gregarious. What began as a healthy movement toward love has turned into a movement of “live and let live”. I don’t want to appear dogmatic or fanatical. I don’t want to offend anyone, God forbid. I don’t want to be ostracized and labeled legalistic. So, like many, I back peddle into a corner and twiddle my thumbs in pathetic paralysis. Here’s the some level, I have to clothe myself with Christ and contrary to popular opinion, he wasn’t the most level-headed guy to walk the planet. He was accused of being out of his mind in Mark 3 and anyone who follows him closely won’t escape the same criticism at times. He said that all men will hate us because of him and that if we think we can slip through life unscathed we’re living a pipe dream because “no servant is greater than his master”. We can’t outwit Jesus in figuring out how to make this message palatable to the masses. There’s bound to be occasions when, despite our best efforts, we won’t be able to keep people from sizing us up and coming to the conclusion that we’ve lost our minds. It wouldn’t be the first time in church history.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Snipit #7

New International Version

Proverbs 4:23 - “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

This is a short verse that packs a big punch. The only thing that keeps me from stating it more in public is its abusive overuse by religious zealots wanting to promote their rigid and dogmatic agenda of sin management. I remember hating this verse I heard it so much. The only verse I loathed more was “…flee from all appearance of evil”. It’s hard for humans to let verses speak for themselves, especially when we desperately need them to speak for us. These verses never seemed to get proper justice in interpretation. For some reason they induced an attitude of isolation and elitism. People started to erect walls around their lives that were uncalled for, and over time, verses like this got swallowed up in legalistic dogma.

“Above all else…” There is no ambiguity about what kind of right of way the heart has in the pecking order of priorities. The reason the heart has this kind of preeminence is because it’s a person, the real you. One thing I’ve learned is that it can’t be treated like a thing, it has to take on a persona, a life of its own. The Psalmist was even so bold as to speak to his own heart and soul as if there was another person under there. He called it his inner being. Paul called it his inner man. But whatever you call it, you have to treat it as “person”al. The minute the heart turns into a sort of mother board, engine, or cockpit, you start treating it like a mechanic would a motor or an electrician would a circuit board. The relationship goes utilitarian in a hurry no matter how hard you try to prevent it from happening.

There is nothing more important. There is no issue worth more discussion. In our fight to maintain purity of doctrine, the doctrine of the heart has to hit the top of the charts. There are books, debates and even denominations that have emphasized every other thing imaginable in the Scriptures, but I find it disappointing that the heart hasn’t gotten the same air time. We can say it’s above all else, but our seminaries and sermons often tell a different story. So much time is spent on almost every other issue and the doctrine of the heart is often tacked on the back side like a pretty prayer after a hostile business meeting. I guess I’m trying to make a case for the heart again. After all, it’s supposedly above all else in matter of importance.

“Guard your heart…” This doesn’t mean hide your heart, isolate your heart, minimize your heart, legislate your heart, or police your heart. The word guard carries the idea of protecting or nurturing. I’ve found over the years that nothing is attacked as much as the heart. I find myself defending it against the most unlikely things. I always thought that I would have to protect my heart from the “big, bad world out there”. Though this is true, I’ve found the greatest battles to be inside the bubble of religion. Friendly fire is the cause of the most Christian casualties. I heard it said once that the church is the only place where we “shoot our wounded”. It’s sad, but often true. This is not to say that church cannot provide a haven for the heart, but it has been the source of much damage as well. I think the reason for this is because people let their “guard down” in the church figuring it to be a safe place to lick their wounds. But I’ve witnessed more assaults on the heart within the church than without over the years. When the heart is offended, it must be defended. When we let it take hits without a fight, we have already signed our own death warrant.

“It is the wellspring of life…” It is the life of the party. It is where the action is. You can’t live without it. I mean, you can live, but you can’t be alive. (Just like about two minutes ago. I received a phone call that tightened my heart. I could, honest to goodness, feel my heart constrict inside my chest with every word the other person shared. My quality of life took a hit. Even now I’m trying to nurture it back to health.) The heart is central to the story of anyone’s life. One of my greatest fears in life is to eventually become heartless. To merely exist and cohabit the planet with others, but to move about lifelessly, heartlessly. God, teach me to give proper attention to my heart and the hearts of others. The greatest way to redeem the time is to honor your heart.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Tidbit #6

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (New International Version)

"16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

Loss of heart goes way back. It happened to the best and brightest. It happened to people who had astounding conversions, brilliant minds and fruitful ministries. I happened to people who had theophanies, were swept away into the seventh heaven, and survived venomous snakebites. It happened to Paul and he wasn’t afraid to admit it. Paul talks often of the heart, but mostly in regard to his desire to not lose it. I don’t have to wonder what his fear is in losing it. When you lose your heart, you lose everything.

The heart dies unless we become more spiritual people. I don’t mean religious or devout. I mean spiritual in the sense that we track with the other world. Maybe that’s where the term otherworldly had its origins. Try telling someone that though outwardly you’re wasting away, inwardly you’re feeling like a million bucks. Disregard their blank stare and continue on by telling them that every trouble you’re experiencing is going to pay off when you kick the bucket. If that doesn’t induce a crooked smirk with a rolling of the eyes, they’ve already blown you off and you might as well stop there. However, if they shake their head in disgust and accuse you of lunacy, share with them that the reason you have this perspective is none other than your fascination with fixing your eyes on the things that can’t be seen. Then piggyback on that thought by informing them that everything you experience everyday with your senses is a rip off and that what really lasts into eternity is everything that is out of sight. Gosh, I love the Christian life! It’s so simple to explain to people. I especially like it when people wrap this mystery into little pamphlets and distribute them to perfect strangers on the street.

The loss of heart occurs when Christianity doesn’t allow for mystery anymore. Loss of heart occurs when believers no longer believe that the unseen is the deepest reality. In this world, we don’t need blinders for better focus; we need blindfolds to shroud the alluring and seductive temptations to sell out to pragmatic Christianity (a system of safe substitutes for the risky real thing).

I don’t lean into the darkness very well. I’m just as hell-bent on knowing and seeing and feeling and touching as the next guy. But there is a desperate need in our world for spiritual Christians. Christians who close their eyes to see and shut their mouths to speak.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Scobby Snack #5

Isaiah 64:1-3 (New International Version)

"1 Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! 2 As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! 3 For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you."

Some people don't believe it is necessary to ask God to come. Their argument is that He's already here. And you know what...I can't argue with that. But the Bible is replete with examples of people begging God to show up or come down or break through. That seems pretty stupid if He's already here. I have to believe that though God is always present, we don't always see his presence. People hungered for the manifest presence of God somethin' fierce.

"Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down..." I love how the verse starts, with that Holy inspired word, "OH". That word isn't necessary. It's not like it adds any logic to the passage that wouldn't be there without it. It is to many superfluous. But to me, that is the reason I'm a Christian. I love that my walk with God isn't filled with just living out the subject-verb-noun-sentence with an occasional adjective or adverb. I love that it is about "OH's and Ah's and Awe's and Holy Shnikee's". The prophets of old knew that throwing little words like this into the prayer didn't necessarily make them sound astute and reputable, but that's what is so cool about O.T. prophets...nothing about their life spoke of a pedantic performance for the elitist jury of professional peers. They were interested in pouring out their hearts and when their hearts screamed, they did. When their hearts yawned, they did. When their hearts broke, they did. When their hearts yearned, they did. And Isaiah felt like bellowing a robust OHHHHH before diving into the content of what he wanted. It adds passion and pathos to an otherwise straight-forward request. Well, borderline straightforward.

"Rend the heavens and come when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil..." I would have loved to be in this prayer circle on Wed. night. The prayer is moving around the circle counter-clockwise finally making its way to Isaiah. He groans out an "Oh" and then proceeds to ask God to come in such a way that the wildfire of his presence bursts forth and causes a boiling affect in the hearts of people. At that point I would crack my eyes open (the unpardonable sin of Sunday School) and while squinting, sneek a peek at Isaiah while he spoke to God in all these crazy metaphors and illustrative gestures. It is crazy talk...mountains tembling, sticks burning, water boiling...someone needs to teach him how to talk to God in a way that sounds less like a fairy tale rabbit trail and more like a benediction. But I wonder if God isn't getting bored with how we pray nowadays. This is how people used to talk to him. Now we're so polished and premeditated in our lingo. Prayer is about as exciting as watching paint dry.

"For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, You came down..." Is anyone else tired about hearing about all the things that God used to do? Is anyone else tired of seeing God move in prescribed ways that we've mapped out for Him. Everywhere you turn in Christianity, you know what to expect. Nothing about God or His people is unpredictable anymore it seems. But the awesome thing about this passage is that God shows up and when he does, he doesn't abide by the rules; he goes off limits. He breaks codes and ruins plans.

Where are the unexpected awesome things? This is the question that hunts me down and haunts me through the watches of the night. I can't shake this desire to live in the midst of this kind of movement. I don't want to look back at my life and be able to explain the whole of it. I can only hope that along the way, God does things that defy expectation and explanation. If asked for a definition of the Christian life, I want to say it's this: "God doing awesome things that we could never expect." Oh, that YOU would rip open the heavens and do awesome stuff that blows us away. God forbid that I live without experiencing this very thing.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Nibble #4

New International Version

Zephaniah 3:17 - “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

I distinctly remember the first time I heard God described as Romantic. It seemed blasphemous at the time. Somehow, it just didn’t seem very reverent to be romantic. Initially, it felt like I was reducing God to a very weak and mushy place, like I was making him to be like me. What I’ve found is that romance stems from God and when we are romantic it makes us like Him.

This verse is one of the most romantic verses in the Bible. It speaks of God’s passion for His people. He makes some pretty candid admissions regarding his feelings for us. You see God putting his heart out on the table hoping that his crush won’t be crushed. There’s nothing as scary as letting someone know your deepest feelings and waiting for them to respond. But here, God does the unthinkable. He gets emotional.

“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.” I can’t tell you how many times in my life that God has saved the day. Without his presence, I’m a goner, a loner, a loser. I’ve been around the block enough times now to know that anything I’ve done is because He’s been with me.

“He will take great delight in you…” For so many years of my life, this attribute of God was unheard of. I couldn’t have imagined that God not only loved me, but that he liked me. He didn’t just endure me, he enjoyed me. A simple way of interpreting this verse is that “God looks at us and smiles.” For so many, they can’t imagine a God who laughs or smiles. I can’t see how you could go on without knowing that God felt this way about you. There are certain days when this truth alone sustains me. Nothing transforms the human heart like the delight of God.

“He will quiet you with his love…” God is moving closer with every phrase. His smile becomes a soothing whisper, a gentle lullaby. Like a mother rubbing the head of her little one after a terrible nightmare, God quiets the storms that rage inside with the reassurance of His love. Love is a quieting and curing agent. I wonder how many let God get this close to them? This verse speaks of a God that gets so close that you not only hear his voice, you feel his breath. When God comes, he calms.

“He will rejoice over you with singing.” Here it is again…God rejoicing. He’s not only holy, he’s happy! He has fun. He has a life. He gets excited about stuff, namely, us. We give him exceeding joy, so much so that he bursts into song. Wouldn’t you love to hear God sing? This word singing can also be translated, dancing. For many, God doesn’t move from “the throne”. He’s merely a fixture perched in a high and lofty place stationary and stoic. But not only does God move; He’s got moves. And the source of his euphoria is us. I know this sounds so humanistic, but God isn’t just about Himself. He takes joy in us. I love to imagine God singing and dancing over me. Anyone who gets that worked up over me deserves my love in return.
I can’t tell you how thankful I am to know “this” God. “This” God takes my breath away. I love to tell people about “this” God. I’m proud to know and be known by “this” God. All you can say to “this” God is, “I love you, too!” We love Him because He first loved us. Period.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Crumb #3

Jeremiah 20:9 (New International Version)

9 But if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot."

Growing up, I read the Bible for myself a total of 2 times. That is not counting the cohersed Bible memorization forced upon me by the Christian school I attented. (I'm glad for this now.) Nor is this taking into account the church services where I would mindlessly flip through the Bible passing the time. What I'm saying is that I can remember only two times when I, of my own accord, opened the Bible in my bedroom and "had devotions". The one time, I just came home from a revival meeting and something the evangelist said made me feel like Jesus was returning that night and I better "get caught" with my Bible in my hand. I read feverishly that evening hoping that I could make up for lost time. I think I made it through the better part of the New Testament before I collapsed on my bed spent.

Come to think of it, I don't remember the other time...I think I just said that because there had to be another time somewhere along the line that I can't recollect. It's sad really, but I can honestly say the Bible didn't take my breath away. (this could have something to do with the Old English King Jimmy Version verbage)

I remember hearing this verse for the first time at a conference. I don't ever remember hearing it before that moment. It felt like I memorized it the first time the speaker voiced it. It made sense to me and drew me in. I loved the word picture...probably because I'm a Pyro-at-heart. The intensity and the passion of the verse resonated with my spirit and I began the journey of developing that kind of relationship with the Scriptures...firey, expansive, explosive.

"His word is in my heart like a fire..." What a metaphor! It's like this wildfire inside that once ignited can't be contained or explained, confined or defined. Just like an out of control fire that surges across dry plains, the Word goes where it wills. It doesn't come to take sides, it comes to take over. There is this abiding sense of heat from just below the surface that's going to blow at any moment. Those who have been consumed by it know what I'm talking about.

"A fire shut up in my bones..." It sounds like the earliest mention of that modern day pipe bomb. It is a highly explosive substance bound up in a tight space wanting out. There is nothing as exhilerating as the anticipation. Sometimes I watch my daughters awaiting something that they are jacked up about and they can't stand it. Maybe this is where the bones thing comes into play. He's pacing back and forth with restless leg syndrome pregnant with the Word feeling the contractions of the Spirit. He's gotta give birth.

"I am weary of holding it in...indeed, I cannot." He comes to the conclusion that despite his best efforts, he cannot tame this firey Word from God. What must it be like to give in to the passion instead of domesticating it. Where have all the zealots gone who spoke with fire and fury. Who has extinguished the wildfire? I have witnessed precious few in my lifetime who shared the Word of God from this place. What would it be like to be so taken with the Word that by the time you open your mouth to share it you burst like a dam holding back a resevoir of pent of living water. It comes gushing forth. When people let God's Word have this kind of place inside of them, it can't help but breed an army of firey worshippers who love God's Word with a burning passion.

I so desire to have this kind of relationship with the Scriptures. And I want to speak from a place of dam-breaking, pipe-bomb-exploding passion that can't be stopped. The Unquenchable, Unstoppable fire of God's Word won't die until it's consumed the whole of me. I hereby give God access to plant his Word in my heart like a stick of dynamite. As the old preacher said, "When I preach, I just light myself on fire and let people watch me burn!" That's what I'm talking about!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Giblet #2

Acts 20:22-24 (New International Version)

22"And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace."

As I read through all these Scriptures that I love so much, I'm stuck with how far I am from actualizing them in my own life. I memorized this one in college as a cute little launching pad to catapult me into my future. The more I read this verse, the more I realize how scary it is to utter something this bizarre.

What a mysterious and delerious life it is to live under the compulsion of the Spirit. There's no telling what's coming next. The adventure of the Spirit-compelled life is unpredictable indeed. I love that the Spirit compelled Paul to go somewhere without giving him foggiest clue as to what was coming next. The only known fact in the transition was that there would be some hardships awaiting him. Sounds inviting and exciting. "Wow, God wants me to go over there and he's not telling me why. The only thing He is telling me is that it's not going to be easy. Thanks God. You're the best!"

I love this phrase..."not knowing what will happen to me there." It seems to me that God loves to put people into situations that force these words to come off the tips of their tongues. If you aren't moving toward the "unknown" in your life as a follower of Jesus, you probably aren't following Him. He loves to compell us to do things that are beyond our knowing. It is then and it is there that we have full assurance that we aren't following ourselves.

"I consider my life worth nothing to me..." This boils down the sap of Paul's ministry to a thick, dark syrup. It ties in with the compelling calling of God's Spirit on his life. You will never move into the unnatural and the abnormal unless you understand your calling. Paul knew that nothing mattered to him more than accomplishing God's dream for his life. That dream was articulated at the end of verse 24..."the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." He would rather die than be deprived of this desire.

I frequent this verse all the time. I want to be compelled by the Spirit. I want to move into the unknown. I want to consider my life worth nothing to me compared to the task of letting people know about the graceful God. I hope my "I wants" soon turn into "I wills".

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Morsel #1

1 Thessalonians 2:8 (New International Version)

"We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us."
I have this verse hanging on the wall in my office. I look at it nearly every day. It is something of a tuning fork for me. I want to be in ministry because I love people so much. Not because I'm good at it. I wonder sometimes if pastors just keep doing ministry cause they don't know if they can do anything else, not because they don't want to do anything else. There's a difference. The beginning of this verse sounds a little something like John 3:16...sounds like Paul ripped it off from John. "For God so loved the world..." That is what drove him in ministry. I want that to be the compelling cause for me as well.
I sometimes struggle with being "de-lighted" (snuffed out) by people instead of delighted by people. My fire goes out and I get dutiful in my relationship with others. I want to stay delightful and resist the dutiful ministry model (safe, but sorry).
" not only the gospel, but our lives as well..." I'm convinced that there is nothing as precious as our story. Sharing the story of God without sharing your own story can be an impotent transfer of life. The Scriptures bear witness to this fact. We recieve God's truth through narrative or letters. It keeps the gospel alive. God didn't share himself with us with a document like the Constitution or an Encyclopedia...he shared thousands of stories and somehow it's really one Big Story of God. And make no mistake, if you say you're going to share your does no good lest you share the whole of it, not just the comely facets that will impress people. People need to see the raw places exposed and the deepest questions posed. I don't want to share God and hide myself. I want to share the gospel and my life...a potent combination.
"because you had become so dear to us." People rarely have dear friends anymore. Kindred spirits are few and far between. I want to share so much of myself and gleen so much from others that I can hardly bear the thought of living without them. I want to shed tears like Paul did in Acts 20 when he embraced the church on the shores before boarding the ship. I think it said something like, "what hurt them the most was his statement that they would never see his face again..." What would it be like to have that kind of relationship with your congregation? I want to find out.
This verse serves as a bedrock for me in ministry.

Jason's Top 25 Scriptures...

I decided to take a respite from the tomfoolery for a while. With all this talk of clothing and hairdo's, I'm in need of some structure...something, pardon the expression, SYSTEMATIC. That word scares me, but I feel the need to tether myself to it for a little while. I intend to set out to share the Top 25 pieces of Scripture that I cling to for my life. It took a while to narrow them down, but I think I came up with a good sampling of tasty morsels for you to suck on, nibble, chew, swallow, regurgitate, etc.

Further up and Further in...

stay tuned.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

by the way...

I got my hair cut. Not only did I get it cut, I got it cut exactly the way I've gotten it cut the last 7 years of my predictable hairy life. I came to the fork in the road and when haunted by the quote to "take the road less traveled by...", I simply took the broad road of certainty. In the wake of that decision, I feel somewhat stunned. I'm not the iconoclastic trailblazer I used to be. I'm steady and stable. Oh no. Oh me. Oh my. Lord Jesus, come quickly.

I've decided to shift my desire to stay stylish and trendy to my wardrobe. I wear Converse low top All-stars (the ones that Pistol Pete wore in the 70's) and I have red Puma's (the ones that David Crowder wears currently). I wear most of my shirts untucked much to the chigrin of my mother. I just bought two fleeces from places like Aeropostale and Gap. I wear jeans that have a horizonal white washed look in the creases that emerge from the zipper region of the pants. They flare outward from the crotch widening with a worn, whitened flare. My pants are frayed where the heal of my shoe grinds them ever so angrily into the ground. I have a t-shirt that has the 7-up logo on the front as well as a long-sleeve shirt with the Atari logo stamped over the top of my manly sternum. Regularly I recieve comments about how hip those shirts are.

On one of my shirts, I leave the collar up against all conventional wisdom. I love to wear long john underwear long sleeve shirts under my short sleeve t-shirts...I look sorta punk when I do that, it makes me look 6 years younger and feel 15 years younger. I wear a leather bracelet sometimes just to keep up with my metrosexual brother, but it leaves a rash when I sweat profusely.

And here's the cherry on top...I have a soul patch under my bottom lip. I haven't touched that baby for over three years now. Along with my alternative clothing, it adds that hollywood touch so many people are going for these days.

What I'm trying to say is that even though I chickened out on the hair deal, I'm making up for it with a sweet clothing makeover. I'm feeling pretty good about that trade off. If you have any fashion suggestions for this 31 year old going through a 3/7 life crisis, I'm all ears.

Brad got nothing.