Sunday, January 31, 2010

No Room For Middle Ground . . .

Josh McDowell’s book More Than a Carpenter makes the case that Jesus was either Lord, liar, or lunatic. There is no middle ground for calling Him a “good man” or a “good teacher.” His claims about Himself were to extreme. Either He told the truth about who He was—God—or He was a liar or a lunatic, and we wouldn’t call a liar a “good teacher” or a “good man.” In fact, a man who knowingly lied would not be a good man and we’d be fools to call him such.

This morning I taught on why we can trust that the Bible is the literal Word of God, and I made a similar statement about the Bible. It doesn’t give us a middle ground to just call it a “good book.” It claims that the commandments upon which it is written and based were written in stone by the literal finger of God, and it claims very clearly that it is the inspired, breathed Word of God, directly from God through men, profitable for instruction and Godliness. A mistake-laden book would not be a book profitable for instruction! Either the Bible is what it claims to be—the literal Word of God—or it is a book that lies, which would not make it a good book at all. There is, again, no middle ground. Either embrace it as the foundational revelation of God and build your life upon it, or get rid of it.

It is amazing that even atheists sometimes get the line in the sand claims of our faith better than many “Christians” do. So many Christians try and water it down, and meet in the middle, and blend the secular teaching with God to arrive at some lukewarm mesh that allows them to feel good remaining right where they are, but is actually a mockery to both sides. This is made so “case in point” clear by an interview of atheist Christopher Hitchens by Unitarian minister Marilyn Sewell in the Portland Monthly Magazine. (I have not read the entire interview, but if you want to you can read it by clicking here.)

In this interview Marilyn asks: The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make and distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?

In an amazing example of how atheists get the defining, distinctive core of our religion better than even some people professing our religion, Christopher replies: I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.

A little farther in to the interview Marilyn says: . . . I still consider myself a Christian and a person of faith.

Christopher, again with keen insight, says: Do you mind if I ask you a question? Faith in what? Faith in the resurrection?

Marilyn answers: The way I believe in the resurrection is I believe that one can go from a death in this life, in the sense of being dead to the world and dead to other people, and can be resurrected to new life. When I preach about Easter and the resurrection, it’s in a metaphorical sense.

Wow! I’d say that while Christopher openly rejects our Christian faith, he truly gets the “fall on your sword” defining tenets of it better than Marilyn does, who claims to be of it. Boy, are things upside down, or what?

FYI: Facebook and Blog . . .

Hello! Because I occasionally put a link to a blog post on my Facebook page, at least one reader thought that I put them all. Just to clarify, I only put a selected number of them on Facebook (actually only 26 of the 82 posts to date). The best way to read all the posts remains either signing up for email notifications (you can do that in the right column), or checking the page regularly. Thanks, again, to all of you who read. I truly treasure being able to share my heart and life with you, and I find my heart fill with happiness when I hear that something I shared touched or blessed you as well. God bless, and have a great week. Please keep our family in your prayers this week—we have some great, restful, fun time planned and we are really looking forward to it!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Intellectual, or Childlike?

The other day Mary Ann and I are out enjoying a little sun, sitting on our deck having a cup of coffee and visiting together. Mary Ann sets up the easel for Abigail to paint while we are having our cup. She puts a smock on her, lays out the paints, and lets Abigail go to town. A short while later we are admiring her picture and she matter of factly tells us it is of flames of fire swooping down to lift her up to heaven!

Wow! It is so awesome to hear kids talk about, and see them draw or paint, things of the Spirit and of the Kingdom of God. What is so natural to them in their simple faith and acceptance of the things of God is so beautiful. They haven’t been “taught” that God doesn’t do miracles, or send His Spirit on tongues of fire, or heal people, or talk to us. Instead, they have dreams from God, they see angels, they hear God’s voice, they pray with expectancy, and they believe His deeds. It is pure, innocent, trusting—and it is huge—it is the faith of a child and I can’t wait until I “undo” all the teaching I’ve heard about everything He doesn’t do anymore, and live in the Biblical expectancy of all the great things He does and will do!

Throughout the Bible “Heaven” interjects itself in to earth for those who will see it. Jacob’s vision of the ladder from heaven, Joseph’s dreams, Daniel’s interpretations of dreams and his visions and his encounter with an angel, the horses and chariots of fire that surrounded Elisha and his servant, the angel encounters, the coming of Jesus, the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Peter’s vision, John’s revelation . . . I could fill page upon page of “invasions” of our earth from heaven and spiritual beings. The veil between our physical earth and the working of the spiritual realm is very thin, and I wonder what would happen if we spent more time looking for, and expecting, that veil to tear and the spiritual to break in to the physical.

Our God is huge and awesome and mighty, and He so loves us and desires interactive relationship and communication with us that He sent His own Son to die to purchase us back from the devil himself. It makes sense that He would then be active in our life, and that the spiritual realm would frequently interact with ours. I wonder what we miss—or what we dismiss—simply because we aren’t looking or listening for it, or expecting it. In many countries and cultures the supernatural is “normal” and accepted, but in our intellectual culture where science is “god”, we have, I believe, relegated much of what the Bible says our life should look like to, at best, intellectual acknowledgment only, or, at worst, total rejection. It is no wonder to me that the Holy Spirit stays back when we fear His coming, or tell Him what He can and can’t do in our services, or restrict His movement to a “Believer’s Night,” or even mock or disbelieve His actions all together.

I know that we need to be wise as serpents, and to be discerning, and to be on our guard—but I also know that Mark 16:14 tells me: Afterward He [Jesus] appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and He rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw Him after He had risen. Is it possible that our hearts are hardened and our unbelief stronger than we would care to admit, or that we are more comfortable with religious ritual than we are with God actually “showing up”?

I wonder if there is a lesson in expectancy for us in Acts 12 which says: (1–3) About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also . . . (5) So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. (7–8) And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands.

Verses 8–11 recount the angel leading him out to freedom and his recognition of what the angel had done. It then continues: (12–16) When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary . . . where many were gathered together and were praying. And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed.

There they were, praying away for Peter’s freedom—but when they were told he was actually free, they didn’t believe it and tried to explain it away as something else. I wonder what that says about their true expectancy in prayer. I wonder what expectancy there is in my prayer . . . maybe I need to become that child that paints things of the Spirit and earth interacting, and who believes in Daddy and His goodness and His capability with all of his heart . . . I wonder—would God rebuke me for believing in Him too much?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Science, or Opinion?

I recently received the daily email from The Berean Call and it had some excerpts from an Institute of Creation Research (ICR) article about scientists who are criticizing a Montana museum for its portrayal of dinosaurs having been wiped out in the global flood of Noah. The entire article is well worth reading (it is found at:, but I will post the first three paragraphs here, and then share about a part of personal history I share with the story, which is probably why it attracted my attention.
Paleontologists Target Montana Dinosaur Museum
by Brian Thomas, M.S. *

The Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum, which opened its doors earlier this year, boasts Montana’s second-largest set of displayed dinosaur remains. The record is still held by the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman. Both are located in Montana near a rich cache of world-famous fossils. The Glendive Museum stands apart, however, in that it presents dinosaurs as having been drowned and their remains preserved in the massive worldwide flood described in the Bible. This view has prompted reactionary comments from mainstream scientists.

Widely known dinosaur expert Jack Horner told the Billings Gazette, “It's not a science museum at all. It's not a pseudo-science museum. It's just not science…There's nothing scientific about it.” He also stated, “You can't have a debate about science and opinion.” Horner did not specify which artifacts in the museum were not scientific, nor what was unscientific about them.

The museum’s founder and director Otis E. Kline, Jr., presented two rationally testable models to the Gazette for how certain marine fossils were transported inland: “There's two ways these fossils could get to Kansas….The evolutionary way says there was an inland sea that came from the Gulf of Mexico. But the biblical creation way says it was the flood of Noah's day.”
This article attracted my attention more than most other Creation/evolution articles because, in the early 1990s, Mary Ann and I spent about five weeks living in a tepee on the Montana badlands outside of Choteau, leading tours for the Museum of the Rockies (mentioned in the article) at a dinosaur dig site led by Jack Horner (quoted in the article). This famous site is the home of Egg Mountain as well a fossil-laden “badlands” and a massive band of dinosaur bones found in incredible density over a large swath of land. If you watch any modern dinosaur specials you will probably find them quoting, or at least mentioning, Jack Horner, Egg Mountain, and this region. (Interestingly—and I can’t swear on its truth—we were told while there that Michael Creighton’s idea for Jurassic Park supposedly began one night around a fire pit at the sight during a casual discussion of how DNA from a dinosaur might be preserved.) The four pictures posted with this blog entry are two different ones of a bearded "me" leading tours there; some carnivore dinosaur teeth still in matrix (rock) which we found; and Art, a friend of ours who came to visit us, with Mary Ann and I in front of the tepees we lived in at the camp.

While living and working at the site Mary Ann and I were privileged to meet Jack Horner as well as many other wonderful men and women working there who sincerely loved what they were doing and believed the current teaching of Paleontology’s leaders wholeheartedly. They were a special group of people and our hearts will always hold a tender spot for them and for our time spent there.

At the time we worked at the site I was not a Christian, but I was well into my journey through the apologetics and trying to come to my conclusions about evolution, Creation, the Bible, Jesus, etc. Interestingly, it was Jack Horner who unwittingly played a part in my eventually coming down on the side of Creation and a young earth, leading to a belief in the Bible.

One day Mary Ann and I were privileged to take a walk through the badlands on a tour led by Jack for the staff. We got to hear him talk about a paper he was publishing and to ask him questions. One of the things he talked about was his theory of how species X (my name) transitioned into species Z (also my name). If my memory serves me correctly, they had many articulated skeletons (the bones were found together, in the animal’s shape) of both species X and Z. Struggling to understand the whole evolution versus creation thing, I asked him if we had any articulated fossil skeletons of species “Y,” which would have been the transitional species between the two.

As I remember it (understand, I am going back almost 20 years in my memory here and could well have some things wrong), he said that we really didn’t. “Why not?,” I asked. He surmised that an interior seaway which paleontologists believe covered much of the central United States back then expanded and contracted over millions of years. He theorized that species X lived on the plains when the sea was small, and was pushed into the pockets of the Rockies when the sea expanded. In those compressed pockets, he theorized, evolution was accelerated, and when the sea later receded it was species Z that emerged onto the plains. In my recollection, he thought that the reason we don’t have articulated fossils of species Y was because of both the upheaval of the mountains which would have disrupted them, and the washes down from the mountains that would have disrupted and scattered any skeletons found there.

I remember hearing that and really struggling to accept it as I began to see just how many leaps of faith (and “theories”) were required to believe the concept of evolution. I know that Jack was sincere in his ideas and fully committed to them. He hungered for truth like I did. I truly like Jack Horner (though he wouldn’t remember me from anyone else), and I truly was honored to be a part of the camp and the work. I’d welcome him to my screen porch for a cup of coffee in a heartbeat! But, it strikes me that what he shared with me in those hills was, simply, opinion—an opinion he had given a lot of thought to, and believed in, but still an opinion. Which is why, I guess, I was so struck the other day with the quote above which is attributed to him about the museum, “You can't have a debate about science and opinion.” I have now, years later, come to believe that there is more evidence for a global flood of Noah’s day, and for a young earth, then there is against it—and I can see that even then God’s Spirit was at work in me as I struggled to embrace what I would later come to believe was not true.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sit Long, Talk Much . . .

Note: Thanks so much to all of you for your comments/feedback on my last post, "What's a Preacher's Job?". It was wonderful, and what I have desired from the start with this blog, to have the sharing of prayerful thoughts. If you haven't read the comments on it, I encourage you to. You can still add your own, as well.

So, Abigail (age 4, shown in the picture) comes in to our room two nights ago and tells Mary Ann that she had a dream that it was the Sunday of the resurrection and the Roman guards left the tomb to get a soda and they came to our house for it. While they were here, she said, Jesus rose from the dead.

So, in our two daughters’ dreams (click here to read about Bethany’s), Jesus and the disciples have come to our house for coffee (which I got to make!), and now the Roman guards have come here for a soda break. Are we just the social fellowship spot, or what!

It has, actually, been our hope and prayer that our home would always be a place of rest and refreshment and revival for anyone visiting. While it is never as picked up as we like, we have made the (often difficult) decision to put people over pride and keep its door open. We have been blessed by the number of people who have said that they find peace here and feel God’s Spirit. We couldn’t ask for a higher compliment for our place.

We have a sign from my folks in our screen porch which says, “Sit long. Talk much.” For me, as long as I can remember, my parents have ended the work day with a cup of coffee together and it has become, in my heart and association, and important time of sharing and connecting. Mary Ann and I try to have a cup of coffee together each day and just connect, and we truly treasure sitting in our screen porch in the summer (or by our wood stove in the winter) and just fellowshipping and talking with each other and/or others.

God made us all to need each other, and I believe that it is important in this busy day and age to make time to sit and fellowship with other believers, as well as to be a person that the unsaved know as someone who will listen to them and care. Time is such a precious commodity today that one of the greatest ways we can show love is with the gift of our time, and taking time to listen and get together says “I care” in a powerful way.

So, sit long and talk much. It may require some tradeoffs, but I believe that they are well worth it. Mary Ann and I are far from perfect in showing others love and in wisely using our time—and we often have trouble discerning what is God’s will for our time or our own desires—but, with all that said, we have found that the investment of time is one well worth making.

Heb 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Ac 2:42-47 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

What's a Preacher's Job?

I receive the daily news summary email from the Christian Post called CP Today, and in today’s email there was a link to an article by Christian Today reporter Charles Boyd entitled: Survey: Sermons Fail to Inspire Change in Believers (see below for a link to the article). In that article he writes about a survey of 193 Anglicans, Catholics, Methodists and Baptists commissioned by the College of Preachers to commemorate its 50th anniversary. (The survey was conducted by the CODEC research center at St. John’s College in the U.K. so I assume it was not taken in America, but I don’t know that for sure.)

According to the survey, “Sixty-two percent of those questioned said sermons frequently gave them a sense of God’s love and helped them to understand Jesus; two thirds said they ‘frequently’ looked forward to the sermon; and 84 percent said the sermons should be rooted in the Bible.” But, and this seemed to be the main thrust of the article, the survey also found that of those surveyed, “. . . only 17 percent said sermons frequently changed their attitudes towards others or helped them look afresh at controversial or topical issues.” In fact, the article begins, “Congregations may look forward to the pastor’s sermon, but when it comes to bringing about a change in their attitudes or lifestyle, preaching appears to have little impact.” According to the research team, people want sermons that are biblical and relevant to contemporary life/issues, and over one quarter of the respondents indicated they wanted them to be entertaining, too.

If you know me at all you probably know that, if anything, I am too introspective—I spend a lot of time examining myself, what I am doing, what I am supposed to be doing, what it is all about, etc. So, it is fair to say, I am very willing to look at what a pastor/preacher is supposed to be. In fact, I do not want my job description to be formed by cultural expectations or traditions, but rather solely by what God has ordained it to be.

So, comes the natural question—what is a pastor’s job from the pulpit? Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,” and Ephesians 4:11–12 says, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” So, there is a Biblical role for “stirring up” others to action, and for equipping and building up the body of Christ.

But, I wonder, where does the ultimate responsibility for change in a person come from? I really wonder, in this day and age, if we are too dependent on preachers and teachers to entertain and grow us, when we are the ones who should be diligently studying God’s Word and investing in our relationship with God all week long. I have met many, many Christians who can, without a problem, spend hours watching a movie or sports and think nothing of it—but who will complain or question when the sermon goes 45 minutes—and who would never go to a mid-week study. I wonder, where does the true responsibility/problem lie in that equation when we can acknowledge a Creator who gave us life and sent His Son to die for us, but we resent having to listen to His Word being taught for an hour and yet we can watch a movie or TV for 3–4 hours without thinking twice?

As a pastor, yes, I want to inspire people to change. And, yes, as a human loving other’s approval, I’d love to be thought of as a “good” preacher. But, too often, it seems “good” really means entertaining or evoking emotion, and I believe that the real, deep change will not come from a sermon that fires up the emotions but from the repentant, deep meeting with God that comes in our quiet place. The College of Preachers concluded from the survey that sermons, as they stand now, “are better at helping people to reflect than challenging them to act.” I wonder, is that all bad?

I think, if I am honest, while it is exciting to see someone catch a fire during a sermon, that I would prefer, as a whole, to have people quietly leaving having been brought to that place of reflection where they can, in the coming days, meet at a deep level with God and transact a deep, true change that is fueled by love and relationship and not an emotional moment. I have, in countless trips with youth, seen the quickly fading effects of emotional decisions—even decisions accompanied by genuine tears and sorrow. Those decisions rarely have endurance. But, I have also seen the tremendous fruit of someone who has wrestled and struggled and fought their way in to a sacrificial decision to embrace God and live with Him as Lord. And while those decisions are rarely quick in happening, they usually carry with them great endurance.

So, in conclusion, yes I want to inspire people. Yes, I want to motivate people to look at things differently and to live differently. Yes, I want to teach people and equip people. But, I also know that it is truly only in that deeply considered and strongly weighed transaction between and individual and God, fueled by the Holy Spirit, that true, enduring change will occur. When Jesus is lifted up it is He that draws people to Him, and even Jesus says we are to count the cost before following Him—and that usually doesn’t happen in 40 minutes, it usually happens in the weeks that follow the 40 minutes. At least that’s what I think, but I’d love to hear what you think if you’d care to comment.

Note: If you would like to read the entire article, click here. You can also subscribe to the daily emails at that link.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Great and Mighty God!

I am sitting here studying, looking out at the rain going sideways and almost obscuring the near hills, and I am struck by how huge our God is. During the summer, spring, and fall I get really comfortable in my house and its security, and, then, in storms like these, I realize, again, just how frail the things of man are.

This morning we had lightning filling the sky, and the crack and rumbling roar of thunder drive the girls to our bed and fill our ears with a sound that is truly mighty to hear and experience. The wind, pounding our house and yard and trees with mighty gusts that could uproot trees and rip shingles off of roofs, reminds me that my house and roof and fences are really so very, very frail in the face of nature's ferocity (is that a word?). The hurricanes and tornadoes and earthquakes and tsunamis and volcanoes that all make up nature's arsenal remind me that there is truly, nothing, that man can make that can withstand what God has made.

It is in moments like this that I realize just how vulnerable I am, and how truly tiny I am in the face of God and who He is and what He has made. I find myself so very, very glad that He is my God, and I am His child, and that He is my refuge and my strength and my eternal shelter.

As Mary Ann and I had a cup of coffee in front of our fire this morning the girls watched a video in their play area about God's Creation and, even in the little bit I heard during quiet moments in our conversation, I was again reminded how truly amazing and awesome God is. (Did you ever stop to think that if ice sank instead of floated that our lakes and rivers and eventually oceans would become a pure block of ice and the earth would be uninhabitable?)

I am amazed, truly amazed, that I once could look at all of this Creation around me—all of its intricate, perfect detail and interaction; and all of its amazing complexity and systems that had to exist all at once or not at all—and have believed so strongly that it was all the product of accidental happenings that I even mocked those who believed in Creation. My, how that veil does blind! I thank the Lord that the veil has been removed and I know have seen the truth.

We are truly tiny. We are truly, even at our most intelligent and creative, so small and proud and rebellious against God. It is all the more reason to be amazed, and eternally grateful, that He could love us so much He would die for us and then hold us so tight that all the powers of Hell can't keep us from spending forever with Him. I am so glad I can trust in Him and rest in Him and find strength and peace and understanding in Him—He is truly awesome and mighty and worthy of all honor and praise and love and glory. He is a great, great, mighty God!

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Devotional on Loving God . . .

Mary Ann and I are big fans of quality Christian movies. As such we have really valued the ministry of Dave Christiano who produces Christian movies, and also sells Christian films through his ministry Christian

This week he sent out an email newsletter and in it he reprints a devotional from a friend of his, Jimmy D. Brown ( In light of what I have been studying this week, and I have asked both you and the fellowship I pastor to meditate on (what it means to love God), I found this to be more than coincidence. I contacted Jimmy D. Brown and received his permission to reprint the devotional here:
I was reading this week and just one of the most basic verses of Scripture there is just really resonated with me: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength".

That's it. That's everything. That's the whole entire thing we're supposed to do here on earth all rolled up in one simple statement. Love the Lord with everything we have.

Oh how our families and other relationships would be blessed if everyone did it. There would be no more Tiger Wood headlines. Nor wars in the middle east. Nor thievery or murders or hatred. No more broken homes and cheaters and selfishness and pride.

If every one of us just loved the Lord with everything we have, what a different world we'd live in.

Just love Him. More than anything else. With all your heart, soul, mind and strength.

Or, said another way...

Keep Christ First!

It is truly something to stop on for awhile and meditate about. What does it look like to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength? What would it look like if more did it? I think we might be truly shocked at what God stands ready to do through one person who would simply love Him with everything he or she has.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Studying and Honoring the Word

I received and email today from Derek Prince Ministries in which the president of its USA division, Dick Leggatt, talked of the foundational importance of God's Word to us and said of Derek, "One of my fondest recollections of my early contact with Derek Prince had to do with his love for the Word of God, and his priority of studying and honoring it."

He then went on to tell of a time in 1972 when he visited Derek's home and, while Derek was out of the room, sneaked a peak at Derek's open Bible to find out what he was studying and found he couldn't read it because it was all in Greek. He says, "Derek was studying his New Testament in the original Greek. My very next thought was, 'What kind of a man is this?' " Dick then wrote, "I'll tell you the answer to that question. Derek was a man who knew and loved the Word of God. It was the foundation of his life. It was his rock."

As I read the email I was struck with a distinction Dick made early in it when he talked of Derek's priority of studying and honoring the Word. I thought, that is a very wise distinction. We are told to study God's Word, to meditate on it, to immerse our self in it, to rightly divide it. But that alone won't be a foundation for us. I knew a man who could quote the Bible inside and out—far better than I ever will. He had even, if my memory serves me correctly, chosen his college because it was the only one at the time offering a New Testament study course. The man was brilliant—with a memory seemingly without holes and with an IQ that led him to shatter test records. He also thought the Bible yielded some good history but was basically a good story book. In fact, his lifestyle was in open rejection of what God says is pleasing to Him, and he held no belief in God, especially as a personal Lord and Savior. The last time I met him, years later, that hadn't changed.

You see, it is not enough to simply study the Word of God. We are almost, in seems in so many cases in America, taught way past our point of obedience. We know far more than we are ever obeying. We must not only study the Word of God, but we must honor it. When we honor someone we put them up higher, we call them to the front, we give them a place of esteem and recognition. We must honor the Word of God. It must be something we esteem, we put to the front of our life, we anchor our hopes and expectations and choices in, we live worthy of. Our lives must bear out our esteem for the Word by honoring it with our choices to live by it—not just saying it is important to us, but our lives being a testimony by which someone could tell the Word is important to us even if we never said it.

I like that distinction—studying and honoring. Those two, together, make for a powerful foundation for a Christian's life! When we know God's Word, and then we make a decision to esteem it and hold it high in our life, we will find ourselves living a life of holiness, and also a life of faith. Holiness because God's Word calls us to it and we honor that. Faith because we make His Word important enough to us that we believe it even when what we see around us contradicts it.

Holiness and Faith. Wow! When those mark our life there is no telling how He might "turn the world upside down" (Acts 17:6) through us. Couple that with a decision to sacrificially love God and others above all else and I can't imagine what a life might look like . . . but I am hopefully moving toward finding out because I want those to be the marks of my life, and the witness and strength and inheritance I give/show to Mary Ann and Bethany and Abigail and others.

Note: Please prayerfully consider commenting on my "I Gots to Know!" post (1/12/2010) on what it means to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. I really believe both you, and we the audience, will be blessed by your prayerful searching out that subject and then sharing what you find.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I Gots to Know!

Email Subscribers: I have changed the automatic delivery time of email notifications of new posts within the last 24 hours from 3–5 pm (Pacific) to 3–5 am (Pacific). My hope is that you will see any post from the day before to start the day and not half way through it, but I don’t want them to be buried in a block of overnight email either. Please let me know how this works for you. Thanks for reading!

Today's Post: Over the recent months God has been impressing more and more on me the core essential nature of two commands which Jesus emphasized and left us with found in Mark 12:30–31 and other places. These are, from Mark, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

According to Jesus, all other commandments, and in fact the whole law, hang on these. In fact, it is safe to say from the Bible, that love should be the very fragrance of the Christian—the defining mark by which the world will judge both our Christianity, and even Jesus Himself.

So, I have shared with our fellowship that we will be beginning a period of looking at these two commandments, starting with loving the Lord, our God, with all of our heart and soul and mind and strength, and at some point moving in to loving our neighbor as ourself—loving others as Christ loved us. While there is nothing I will be able to teach that will “make”anyone love God with their all (that is a transaction each person must choose to make with God), we can look at what God means by that, what it should look like, and what our role in it is.

In our society, love has been reduced to a feeling that comes and goes, and a word we all use way to casually and easily, when, in reality, I believe that love is probably more costly, and more of a choice, than many of us, including myself, realize—both in our love for God and our love for others. I have asked our fellowship to meditate on this first commandment. I really look forward to hearing what God shares with us on what He means by loving Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

So, as the bank robber said to Dirty Harry when Clint Eastwood made his famous, “So, do you feel lucky, punk?” line, “I gots to know!”—I “gots” to know what YOU think God means by loving Him with all of our heart, soul, mind/understanding, and strength. What is He asking? What does it really look like? Does He really mean ALL, and if so how can that be? What is our role in it? What might our life look like if we really did that? Your prayerful comments on this will, I believe, bless both me and others. Please consider meditating on this most important commandment (it is a command, by the way) of all, and don't shy away from the depth of choice and cost you may come to realize it means.

Note: In keeping in the vein of the Clint Eastwood theme of this post, what follows is a fun piece of useless trivia about me for any of you interested in not just my thoughts and reflections, but also in me as a person (ignore it if not—no hard feelings).

When I was at West Point in the mid-80s I was a huge Clint Eastwood fan (especially of his westerns). My roommate, from Puerto Rico, was as well, and to hear him recite lines from Eastwood’s movies in a Puerto Rican, twirled r accent, was really quite fun! (The picture is of him and me in front of the Clint Eastwood poster on the back of our room’s door.) We memorized many of Eastwood's classic lines (“When you have to shoot, shoot, don’t talk,” plus, “I know what you're thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth...,” and, “Dyin' ain't much of a living, boy,” plus more). When Clint was elected mayor of my hometown of Carmel, California, it warranted a special late night phone call from my folks with the election news, and when I made the varsity pistol team my dad had a friend of his who was also a friend of Clint’s get me an autographed still from the movie The Outlaw Josey Wales, with a note written on it from Clint Eastwood congratulating me. Now, all of that is probably way more than most of you would ever want to know, but a few of you may enjoy it. God bless (and, no, I don’t still memorize his lines—now I memorize God’s lines—smile).

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Robbed, or Given Away?

Today was the 10th anniversary of my first Sunday as a pastor. When I realized that last week I got really excited about spending this morning sharing with my fellowship the things I have learned in that time. Then, last night (Saturday), two things hit at once.

First, I hit eleven typed pages of things and realized I had hardly begun to capture the different things God has taught me in that time, which caused me to start to doubt the whole message idea, and feel suddenly overwhelmed at realizing that what I had intended for this morning wasn’t going to work. Second, some things happened in my personal life which, for some reason, hit me hard and in a vulnerable place and I found it difficult to pull out of it.

It is almost shocking to me how quickly I hit a place where I found the heavy situation of my heart standing as a mockery of all I had written about the strength and worship and joy, etc. which I had “supposedly” learned. I, in deep pain in my heart, cast to the side all I had written and in amazing speed was saying to myself, “Who are you kidding? You want to seem like some mature, sagely, aged pastor imparting years of wisdom when you are really so weak and shallow.” I became acutely aware of both the pride, and the insecurity, at work in me. It is amazing how those seemingly contradictory things can both work in you at the same time!

As I shared with some people, it was like I was surrounded by a black storm cloud that, thirty minutes before, hadn’t even been on the horizon! As a result I shared none of what I had written down about things God has shown me.

Here is the thing, though, and that which we must be acutely aware of. The devil, just as when he tempted Jesus, wraps just enough truth around his lies to get you to swallow the whole thing. Yes, some pride had slipped in. And, yes, there was some insecurity in wanting to be seen as wise and mature. But, I let those truths cause me to swallow the whole lie which said I had nothing to offer. I let the reality that I still struggle invalidate the fact that while I have a long way to go, I have also come a long way and learned a lot. I have, in these last ten years, gained a great amount of what I call “seasoning”—the depth of experience that accompanies the knowledge in the head about God, and has not only believed something to be true, but has also experienced its truth.

I have, through countless conversations and counseling sessions, involvements in people’s lives, funerals, watching lives and marriages both blossom and self-destruct, disappointments, hurts, heart wrenching fire calls, personal tests, etc., gained a depth of faith that is tremendously deeper than that which I had ten years ago when most of my faith was based more on Bible verses than the experience of living in faith based on those verses and seeing God back up His Word.

Did the devil rob me last night and this morning, or did I gift wrap it and give it to him? I’m not sure. But I do know that whatever happened he got one in. I tasted the truth coating and swallowed the whole poisoned pill. It is a tactic he has used time and again—since the Garden, in fact—and one we all need to be aware of and on guard against. And, it is usually true, that when he robs one person, he robs many more at the same time.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Adoration Night

On the Saturday before Christmas I was preparing our church’s announcement master for making copies, and thinking about the coming Christmas week and what it was all about, and the word "adore" kept coming to me. I wasn’t sure what it was supposed to look like—I actually get afraid of so "adoring" Jesus as a baby that we forget He is also the fierce Lion of the Tribe of Judah—but I felt we were to simply adore Him.

So, we invited anyone in the fellowship who wanted to and could to come to our home that Wednesday evening before Christmas for an evening of adoring Him and praising Him. While I wanted to end the night with asking His blessing over our fellowship, community, and nation for 2010, I felt strongly that it was to simply be a night about Him, not about us.

It ended up that Wednesday that nine of us sat in our living room, around the wood stove, with the Christmas lights on the tree, and began by sharing what Christmas meant to us in our hearts. It was beautiful to hear how the different facets of the Christmas message touched and sustained people differently. After a time we began singing to Him, hymns and carols, and then we entered a time of simply praying out loud, as each was led who wanted to—to Him, about Him. We simply thanked Him and praised Him and “adored” Him. Finally, at the end, we asked His blessing over the things I already mentioned. One lady sang a cappella that night a song declaring there to be a “sweet, sweet presence in the place,” and she was so right. Another shared with me later in the week that the presence of the Spirit was strong there that night—almost as if we should have been laying hands on one another.

I shared a little about this in passing on Facebook the week after Christmas, and a friend mentioned that she was going to a New Year’s Eve “Praying in the New Year” gathering and hoped it would be as sweet as our Adoration night which I had described. I quickly typed back an answer to her, “I find that often that sweet sense doesn't happen without intention. I really worked to keep the focus on simply praising and talking about Him, and not about our individual needs. There is absolutely a place for personal prayer needs, but sometimes I just long for the corporate focus on Him alone.”

In thinking afterwards about that quick response, I find in it a deep core of truth for all of us. While God will show up (in some way beyond simply the indwelling) almost anywhere, at any time, unexpectedly—and, while there is a time and place and need for our personal prayers and petitions—there is something about an intentional decision to simply focus on and worship Him that draws His presence. Maybe it is found in that verse that says wherever two or more are gathered in His name He is there—even when we know that He is already in us as a believer. Maybe it is a multiplication issue in some way we don’t understand. But, I find that even intentional focus and worship as an individual seems to also draw His sweet presence.

Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! . . .” I take this as a reference to the temple, and to get to His presence in the Holy of Holies in the center of the temple one had to pass through gates and courts. So, it would seem, that thanksgiving and praise are the "gates" and "courts" that draw us closer to the center of His heart and magnified presence.

I really believe He was strongly among us that night, and I really believe it was so strong because, while we each had personal issues in our lives, I made an intentional decision to keep the focus on Him and not on us, and to steer it back to Him alone each time it wandered from that focus. I share this as an encouragement to you, that maybe you will find in it a seed of something you would like to do in your own life if you aren’t already. God bless you, and Happy New Year!


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