Archive for February, 2009

Latte Machines

February 28, 2009

In the last two weeks I’ve noticed a decidedly odd taste coming out of my latte machine.  It’s sort of like old coffee or bath water being thrown in the mix.  I checked the inside where the fresh water goes and it smells okay, then the underside where the steam goes through the grounds, it was a little dirty but nothing untoward (it’s been worse).  

This morning I made my latte, let all the steam out as usual, then sent fresh water with no coffee grounds in the carafe to flush out the metal screen.  This done, I wiped the screen as clean as a bachelor is want to do with a paper towel in hopes I wouldn’t have to do any more.  We’ll see tomorrow.

Paul calls the gifts the Philippians sent him a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.

What happens when our gifts to God begin to have an odor to them?  What do we do about it when our attitudes begin to stink?

I know from my own life it’s sometimes fairly impossible to pinpoint the cause of all that moldy, mildewy odiferousness, because the problem lies under piles of garbage in my life.  There are places in my apartment that smell like a cat sprayed somewhere, but I can’t find the exact spot where it happened.  I’ve killed most of those spots, but there’s one in my office I can’t find–picture me on my hands and knees going around the floor and lower part of all my recording equipment sniffing to find the source–not once but several times.  I do this many times with my relationship with God.

I believe as we grow accustomed to clean living and right standing before God, our insensitivity to our own bad spiritual hygiene grows less and less, so we’re able to smell something ugly in our souls.  I don’t know what your problems are, but I’m guessing they are just as stinky as mine because both of us need Jesus.  Yet He came precisely to wash us with water from the River of Life, to put a clean robe on us washed in His blood, and baptized us with His Holy Spirit inside so that we learn to know through this what it feels and smells like to be clean.

No one is exempt from being aware of their own smelly condition once they bath in the water of life.  It comes naturally to know the difference between someone who smells clean and one who hasn’t bathed in a while.  I believe the more mature we grow in the Lord, the more sensitive our spiritual olfactories grow.  It’s probably one of the main reasons “mature” Christians become so critical of younger Christians.

Yet it shouldn’t be this way at all.  As older brothers and sisters, we should remember all of us begin as babes in Christ.  If we take that analogy far enough, we see that someone had to change our spiritual diapers many times before we were able to keep clean on our own through Christ.  The point of discipleship is for those able to teach the Word to discipline those too young to grasp it all yet.  True maturity in Christ or any other walk of life realizes the stages of growth we all must go through, accepts the responsibility with joy and teaches the young not only through playing and words but example.  A truly mature follower of Jesus grows merciful, gracious and gentle with others because their Master treats them this way.  Maturity critiques without being merely negative; troubleshoots without causing undue trouble.  A mature believer doesn’t need to shout to get a point across because they’ve learned the quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of fools.  Love accomplishes far more effective change in the lives of humans than force or criticism.  When a person knows they matter, they grow far more willing to adjust their attitudes and behaviors.  In other words, once they know what it’s like to be clean, they begin to recognize their own state more readily.

My latte machine might just be tired of dealing with Gladstone (a suburb of Portland) water, which has a lot of minerals in it and leaves rings around my tub.  It might also be that the poor workhorse has seen its better days–it is, after all, over ten years old.  Whatever the case, I’ll continue to care for it since we’re friends.  I don’t throw out familiar stuff just because it gets a little worn out, instead I become even more careful to care for it and preserve it.  Plus, I don’t have the extra money to go buy a new one.

I want to grow like this in my witness, discipline of others and teaching.  I pray that when I smell something bad in a younger believer’s spiritual underwear, I won’t treat it like a witch hunt to crucify them for being too young to realize they just soiled themselves.  I would much rather gently clean them up, work with them to be aware of the spiritual potty over there in the bathroom and reward them every time they do the right thing.

As to my latte machine, here’s hoping my efforts this morning worked.

The Way to Understanding

February 27, 2009

“Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.  Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate; rebuke a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.”  Proverbs 9:7-9

I am always amazed by the lack of teaching on this principle of wisdom.  The sheer belligerence in the Christian church has garnered as much persecution as our stance for Christ in recent years, I wager, for obnoxious presentation, pride and condescension result in division not wisdom.  In keeping with Proverbs’ stance on these last methods we must conclude that anything which smacks of arrogance, pride or obnoxiousness steps outside the character of Jesus and therefore opposes His message in practice if not opinion.

In our modern world mocking the gospel, Jesus, religion and those who practice it seems to be the norm for our society at large.  I see debates arranged between prominent religions leaders in the Christian faith and those who oppose it and wonder what the justification is for such displays.  Since there is no scientific proof or conclusive evidence for Jesus being the Way, Truth and Life, I see these debates as totally futile bordering on imbecilic for they accomplish very little, if the goal is to convince the world to believe in Him.

How can we practice a method which derives its methods from scorn and ridicule.  Mocking another person’s belief takes a sense of superiority and complete disregard for them as people.  It shows a lack of concern for their feelings as individuals and wholesale disrespect of their beliefs, which translates into looking at them personally as complete idiots.  Yet I’ve also know many a Christian who practiced this same attitude and method towards those who disagreed with them.  Since these practices are outside the mandate of Christian love, I cannot see how being like the world is any advantage.

Sure, I’ve met many an agnostic and atheist who looked down on anyone who believes in God or gods period.  I’ve argued with them over such stringent views as they present only to be derided and ridiculed for my pains.

Jesus told us how to handle such rejection:  Leave without fanfare, go outside the town and wipe the dust off our feet as a testimony against them.  This will be seen by them as silly and idiotic, but in God’s view we are testifying to their judgment.  The Christian ethic forbids wars on behalf of Christ for we aren’t to resist one who is evil but move on from them; if we can’t move on because they imprison us, we are not to let them close us down or destroy our open natures in Christ.  However, we can be quietly godly.

Some believe we must preach even to those who will not hear, Paul calls this beating the air to no purpose.  We cannot teach anything to anyone who will not start at the basic premise in our next passage:

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.  For through me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.  If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.”  Proverbs 9:10-12.

Fearing God is the starting point for wisdom.  Learning to know Him intimately is the only means to understanding Him.

The place where wisdom begins is right where many fall off.  We can’t even begin a discussion with people who reject God as supreme or ridicule any belief in Him.  In these cases our best argument is our very life–how we live and handle relationships.  The growth in us because of Christ will speak louder than all the preaching or pressure of argument.  Yet we also cannot conclude a person is a fool just because they happen to reject the idea of a God or gods.  Why?  Simply because we don’t know them.  We have no idea what brought them to the place they now stand because we have no information until we listen to their journey.

Arrogance leaves no room for humility.  If we remain arrogant as followers of Jesus, we will be broken down.  At first, just a little, then if we remain stiff-necked, completely with no repair.  (See Proverbs 29:1.)

One of the lessons I learned from experience is that rebuke is easy but useless when applied to someone who does not practice wisdom or respect for views different from their own.  A person so engrossed in their own opinion is not interested or open to any viewpoint outside their own.  Proverbs claims these fools are only interested in airing their own opinions.  I wonder how many Christians fall into this category, for we many times listen less than we push our sales pitch for Christ down the throats of others.

There is a need in our education of the church to teach careful instruction, wise presentation and a sense of respect for other people’s right to believe what they will.  We must follow our Golden Rule, which our own Master commanded us to practice, to do to others what we would have done to us.  This means in an argument or debate we remain respectful though our opponent may not, we remain careful of their person though they might refuse, we remain understanding of the truth of our walk by faith though they ridicule or scorn our stance.  And we do all this without becoming scornful, derisive or any way condescending.

That’s what it means to follow our Master and our greatest weapon against the darkness.

Being Rich Toward God

February 26, 2009

“This how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”  Luke 12:21.

The parable speaks to the subject of greed.  Now this dude wasn’t being greedy by anyone’s estimation but God’s, for most of us would simply think him being prudent by saving up for a rainy day.  His reasoning made sense, except for one thing he said which gave his heart intentions away,  “This is what I’ll do.  I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  And I’ll say to myself,  ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years.  Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ ”  (Luke 12:18, 19).

His mistake?  He decided to horde his wealth instead of spreading it around to those who had need.  Being rich toward God is taking care of the orphan, the widow and the stranger in God’s eyes.  The man decided to spend his extra wealth that, by the way, he didn’t need since he was already wealthy enough, on himself and his own pleasures rather than share his good fortune.

Do you see the meaning of greed through the parable of Christ?  He’s making sure we have an illustration to go along with the warning he gave in Luke 12:15.  The easiest way to understand Jesus’ instructions or commands is to look at the illustrations He gives to expand the subject.  Here Luke takes us from arbitration between brothers to a rich fool who didn’t know God’s blessing was to be used for the good of all not just himself.

Instead he decided to waste God’s blessing on himself alone.  To Jesus this equalled greed and an eternal waste of time, since the man would not be able to enjoy his wealth.  Just a few verses down, Jesus speaks to the rich man’s dilemma quite poignantly,  “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”  Luke 12:25, 26.  For us, though, this reasoning only makes sense in the light of eternity.  If we merely look at out existence from a human standpoint without taking the gospel into consideration, getting it all now makes sense because what else is there hope for after this?  But the moment we enter into the promises of God through Jesus Christ, our entire outlook must change, for we are new creatures, with new prospects and a different future.  Our present light and momentary troubles equal nothing in the light of eternal life without these troubling problems to deal with or even take into consideration.

So what is our wealth for once we submit to the gospel of salvation?  I think David explains it better without actually addressing the subject directly through Psalm 23,  “My cup overflows.”  Would that we grasped the truth of those words.  If our cups overflow with the blessing of God, why does the cup spill over and where do the contents go?   

Our cups overflow because God pours into us from His eternal supply.  

Where does it overflow to?  To empty cups below us.  

The point of our blessings is not to horde them or save them for ourselves alone but for the sake of the church and those in need.  Picture our hearts as cups.  God pours into our lives as much as we can hold then it begins to run over the side and spill onto what’s below that, which then fills up whatever is below us to overflow to what’s below that…and so on.  Big rivers start as many little streams all converging.  If the church called by the name of Christ worked in this fashion to share the blessings God sends them with others, there would never be need for government programs to meet the needs of the unprivileged or disadvantaged.

Greed is about grabbing as much as one can get or keeping all the one is blessed with to oneself.  Jesus came to change this paradigm, to create in us a sense of eternal wealth which worries less about the gains or losses experienced in this season of our eternal existence, in exchange for the peace of being rich toward God.

Watch Out!

February 25, 2009

Then He said to them,  “Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  Luke 12:15.

(For further input on this subject go to:  Grace Point Fellowship’s site.)

As Jerome read this passage again Saturday night, I found the thought provocative and inspiring.  “A man’s life doesn’t consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  A person’s life is not interpreted or defined by what they own or the position in life they hold.

God is not defined merely by His what He owns for He owns it all, naturally.  So what does define a person?

Well, if we listen to Captain Jack Sparrow, it’s all about what man can or cannot do.  That might sound good in one way but I would take a step further to who a person is.

I’m tired of greed.  I see this trait in myself–a need to hoard, take advantage of others for my own gain, a desire to get security at all costs, and it makes me sick to my stomach.  I don’t want to be defined by what I have or don’t have, in fact it turns me off to people who analyze others based on their status or wealth.  What has greed done for people right now?  We’re in one of the biggest messes in the history of America financially simply because people were greedy and now are still acting on that greed, selfish ambition and sense of self-preservation at the expense of others and their own country.

I don’t want to turn this devotional into a rant about America or any other institution because they aren’t worth the emotional energy.  What is worth my time, however, is to say that no matter what we do, we must judge people on their own merits not their money.  Yet a person’s happiness or fulfillment can’t be judged by their position or wealth status either.  Plenty of examples in history demonstrate that people’s happiness or sense of well-being has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with their ability to make money.  Those who chase fame or fortune find out pretty quickly that it is just a physical state without any fulfillment except what we put into it.  Nothing fills the soul like knowing we really matter to others.

Contentment starts as an internal thing not a place to which we arrive one day or buy, for it grows out of a mindset, the way a person thinks of themselves and others.  Jesus’ warning to watch out for greed in all its forms is as poignant to the poor man as it is to the wealthy.  There are those who are as poor as church mice yet are greedy for what’s within their grasp.  We must see that it’s a state of mind, a habit of thought not just a lust that will be satiated once we arrive at the place where we possess what we lusted after so obsessively.

If we judge our state of being by the condition of our bank accounts, we’re in for a seesaw ride that will never end, for the markets are always in flux since humans base more of the decisions on fear than on true investment–not to mention dishonesty, which causes a lot of those fears.  To define who we are by what we possess comes off as shallow to even the most jaded people, yet it is exactly what we do.  A person’s worth should be based on their character, their ability to handle life in general not just their current financial state.

“Sure,”  someone might retort,  “it’s easy to say this since you don’t have anything and you’re just trying to convince everyone you’re worth something.”

That’s just it!  We don’t need to prove anything when our hearts learn the secret (a well documented “secret” in Scripture) of being content with what’s in front of us.  Just a few verses before this, Jesus made it clear that we are worth more to Him than we know, then He laid down on the cross and proved it later.  Our worth is already paid for, our ability to matter to not only God but others as well as ourselves becomes inherent once we understand the cross.  What we possess is immaterial in comparison t the worth God gives us through His Son.

He owns  the cattle on a thousand hills, nothing is beyond His grasp.  We are His children, His offspring and He loves us with an everlasting love.  We may not get all the toys we want or an easy ride, but we know we matter, we know what we’re worth:  God’s all.  If He can rain manna from heaven, make an earth which sustains itself with or without our interference, and create a meal for thousands out of a few small ingredients, He can sustain our lives without breaking sweat.

There’s no need to be greedy, God gives enough for everybody.

Verse for the Day

February 20, 2009

I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.

And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4: 13, 19.

Waiting for Life to get Started

February 19, 2009

Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.

As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the maker of all things.

Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do well.  Ecclesiastes 11:4-6.

What I get out of this passage is the need for us to invest ourselves in life, work,  discipline and love.  Some of us wait for life to begin at a clear starting line–like a race, we want permission to live.  God already gave us all the “go ahead” we need to live, and some of us are just waiting for life to get started.  Yet without our proactive faith, we can never move forward, he who hesitates, loses.  The need to be invested cannot be emphasized enough because sometimes we ignore the consequences of our choices and find ourselves somewhere we didn’t want to be.  

I’m there.

So what do we do about it?

Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.  Give portions to seven, yes to eight, for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.  Ecclesiastes 11:1, 2.

Our existence isn’t based on a predictive text.  I mean, God knows the future, but man cannot fathom what He has done from beginning to end.  However, there are things that He’s spelled out to us which we can take as a principle for daily life.

Proverbs 27:23-27:  Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations.  When the hay is removed and new growth appears and the grass from the hills is gathered in, the lambs will provide you with clothing, and the goats with the price of a field.  You will have plenty of goats milk to feed you and your family and to nourish your servant girls.

Quite a statement, wouldn’t you say?  

I have observed something about my own methods in the lives of others.  Those who get overwhelmed with life might be the type of people who hate responsibility, or they could come from those who are best suited for simplicity.  Whatever the case, we need to grow our children as well as help our brothers and sisters in the Lord find out the truth of these things through fellowship and prayer.  But many of us will freeze up when too many things hit us at once.  This fact might have bad results but the action itself is a natural response for those not disciplined in crisis management or educated to deal with multiple subjects.  The reaction itself is not wrong per se, because shock is a natural response to pain, catastrophe and being inundated with too much information.

Years ago I picked a path for myself which worked well with the way I operate as a person.  Twelve years ago, I began to doubt my own path because many told me it was unrealistic.  Yet I had very little debt, worked very hard at any job I got and served the Lord with little to hinder me.  It’s only when I began to doubt my choice for simple structure that I got into trouble.  As I told Susan, I am not good with clutter at all.  I don’t deal well with the many of the day to day things most people take for granted as normal because they overwhelm me, unless I keep it simple.

I wanted my life free from clutter so I could concentrate on serving God through music and writing.  When I got married, my wife considered my choice selfish and harped on the fact that I needed to become realistic.  The truth is I am realistic about who I am and what I’m capable of handling.  I knew the condition of my flocks, though they were few in number; I knew the condition of my fields, though my property wasn’t large; I knew how to care for my house, though I lived mostly out of my van or small apartment.  I have no need for God to enlarge my holdings, unless it equals more involvement for His kingdom.

Why am I talking about my experience here in a public forum?

I want those who know their hearts to stop feeling guilty about operating on a different plane than average.  Not in order that I won’t feel guilty about my own modus operandi, but so that they will find the freedom to fulfill God’s purpose for their own lives and focus their abilities on the what they can manage.  It’s always good to know ourselves in this way.

Fear of the future is not a good reason to not do the work we have in front of us.  Watching the way the financial world is going is not wise when making personal decisions about investing in our own lives because those things are as unpredictable as the clouds–which many times look like they hold rain but don’t.  Wasting a day worrying about the future is just as foolish as being a lazy bum–in end both accomplish nothing.

Through my mistakes with these things, I’ve learned my limits.  This is not a bad thing at all.  Paul told the Corinthians,  “Because of the present crisis, I think it is good for you to remain as you are.  1 Corinthians 7:26.  Sometimes we need to first maintain what we have before we can actually deal with more.  The Corinthian church was dealing with a pronounced sin crisis as well as spiked persecution, so Paul was telling them not to overwhelm themselves with more responsibility than they could manage.

George MacDonald wrote that he would never allow a man to become a pastor until that man was around 40 years old and had dealt with the struggles of the common man.  I agree totally, for I know I am better equipped now to advise those in confusion and pain precisely because I’ve shared in it.  I don’t regret the last 12 years at all anymore nor do I regret where I am now, for I can use my experience to help others avoid the pitfalls.  That is not to say I don’t wish I had made better choices in these last few years, that’s a given, rather, I will use my experience to teach my son and all within my influence the truths I have learned.

I remember being kind of cocky about a life of faith.  I would grow eloquent on the need for it in any and all circumstances not realizing how harsh this rhetoric sounded to those in pain.  Though I quoted the Bible and what I said was incredibly true, the spirit with which I held these views was a little condescending.  I felt superior because I had chosen a life of almost ascetic existence.  Those who chose other than full throttle service to the Lord I thought of as compromising with the world.  These last twelve years have chipped away at my hardness and softened me to the realities of life–seeing more clearly the God who made it and what sin has done to distort his creation.  I am more able to see how faith works in the face of overwhelming debt, job losses or gains (both can be struggles), raising children, divorce, marriage, love, friendship and community (the list could go on, I just abbreviated it).

Being able to sympathize with the weakness of others allows us to demonstrate the Savior.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.  Hebrews 4:15.  Everything we are, whether we are failures, successful or somewhere in between, can be used to glorify God.  Yet this also points us to become more disciplined in our way of living so that we can be free to work for the His kingdom.

Growing up in Christ means going through the trials and coming out the other end more mature and able to operate faith in the real world.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  1 Peter 1:6, 7.

The Puzzle of Me

February 18, 2009

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.  I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  Romans 7:14-16.

It’s been a long time since I first read this passage.  I’ve heard sermons with take after take on the subject of what Paul set out to convey, each of with a preference affected by their own personal struggle with our human nature.  Self-help people would criticize this as defeatist rhetoric; conservatives bring up the argument that Paul couldn’t have been talking about actual sin but the problem of original sin in his thought life or temptation.  The liberals reason this whole chapter gives them freedom to not worry about being righteous at all as long as they are loving and nice to everybody.

Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle.

I believe Paul is doing his level best to convey the need for righteousness, yet at the same time empathizing with our total lack of ability to even get our “want-to” to work.  Instead telling me I have a license to go out and just let it all hang out, this passage tells me that our battle with our sin is not easy nor something we even want to win a lot of the time.  What’s nice about Paul’s rant here is that he explains why.

Verse 17:  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.

I don’t think Paul ever abdicates responsibility for his sin, instead he explains how his sinful nature has a will of its own–one in rebellion against God.  There are two natures at war with each other fighting for control.  This epic struggle is universally ours as human beings.  When I hear preachers say that we are more than conquerers sometimes, I cringe, because I see them leveling their anti-sin lasers at their sheep in a way that is both unrealistic and unhelpful.  We are more than conquerors through whom, guys?  Jesus alone.

For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!  Romans 7:22-25.

Those two natures don’t ever give up either.  Some of us will have more trouble with the old man than others, but this should never give rise to disdain, condescension or a feeling of superiority from those who don’t, for the moment we move in those directions, we are held by the sin of comparison pride.  Our pride should be in our progress as measured against our past and Word of God, nobody and nothing else (see Galatians 6:4, 5).  When we see a weaker brother or sister struggling with sin in their lives, falling back into it and constantly getting back up to stagger on, we should give them an arm or shoulder to lean on.  As St. Francis said,  “We are His hands, we are His feet…”  Jesus will give them the will and the way just like He does us, but I wager most of the time He’s waiting on His sons and daughters to step up to the plate and encourage the weak.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Ephesians 6:12.

Our biggest enemy is denial, which grows out of the pride of comparison.  We hate being weak so we work out some other explanation for our failure to be like Christ.  We hate falling but love our sinful pleasures, so we work out a theology which either allows us to go on like this indefinitely or we live tragic Christian lives.  I’m sure there are other ways to deny our sinful natures existence, but I want to focus on our need to be honest with ourselves.  Let’s look this thing square in its ugly face and call it what it is:  knowledgeable or unwitting rebellion against God.

This means the man who struggles with porn must confess that he’s looking for his own way to sexual pleasure rather than God’s.  It also means that a woman who seeks any security outside of the Word of God and His promises must confess her lack of faith and lust for control over her circumstances.  These examples are not gender specific but general examples of our common war.  We have a need more than ever of honesty with ourselves and our fellowships.  It’s the only way to healing in Christ.  A sickness which is not acknowledged eventually kills its host, for where no intervention takes place, the disease spreads unchecked.

Sometimes I can’t figure out the closest person to me:  Myself.  I want to serve God with a zeal and will, though at the same time I feel timid, weak and ineffective.  All of God’s servants went through similar feelings.  Samuel felt sorrow for Saul’s rebellion, Elijah felt like he was alone in his service to God, etc.  Instead of believing the world’s mistaken POV on Christianity, I say we discover our true heritage in the fact that everyone struggles.  It’s one of the most encouraging things about God’s Word to me:  these heroes of Scripture weren’t infallible and definitely didn’t have it all together, but they accomplished impossible things for God by simply being His instrument in the right place at the right time.

The gospel encourages us to keep getting back up on our feet after we dive or trip into the mud.

O, that last phrase “trip into the mud” probably put some of our hackles up, huh?  I understand why, because so many use their weakness as an excuse to continue jumping into the mud, like the little boy who came home from the pond all wet after his mother told him to stay out of it.  She said,  “Didn’t I tell you to tell the devil, ‘get behind me, Satan!’?”  He replied,  “I did, Ma, but then he pushed me in!”

Jesus did say there were those who could cause His children to sin (see Matthew 18:1-9; Luke 17).  The truth is we are all weak towards something, so we are to be on our guard against it by constantly submitting to Christ.  This means focusing on our relationship with Him in every context imaginable.  Though this is the goal, it is not what we do.  The encouraging truth is:  Though we love sin, God is willing to work with us and steadily wean us from our addiction to it.  He does not treat us as our sins deserve but shows mercy and grace.

Our response to this?

Well, it should be gratitude which results in a greater love and desire to obey.  For some this attitude grows more slowly than others, depending on the willfulness of the character, but the progress can be seen clearly if we stick around long enough.  It took Paul thirteen years or more to grow into the dynamo Christ planned him to be.

I must say, though I understand all of this in my mind, snapping out of the desire to get my own way right now is something I admit isn’t a part of my force of habit all the time.  In some areas, yes, I automatically turn to God, but other areas I have to actually turn my eyes to God with a force of the will He has instilled in me by His Spirit.  For it is God who works you to will and to act according to His good purpose…

The secret to conquering sin?  Submission to God.  The reality of our ability to do this?  For some it will be easier than others, depending on the amount of time spent in slavery to sin, but it doesn’t depend on our strength of character or our purity, but His Spirit filling our hearts and minds with the atmosphere of heaven. 

Never be deceived into thinking the war mentioned in the Bible is more about governments than it is for men’s hearts.  Politics definitely plays a part but is mostly merely a distraction to the main event playing out in the hearts and minds of humanity.  We are the battlefront, we are the war zone, nowhere else is there more of a struggle than for our attention and loyalty.

Do not be misled:  “Bad company corrupts good character.”  Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God–I say this to your shame.  1 Corinthians 15:33, 34.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.  Philippians 4:8, 9.

I don’t understand myself.  In my inner being where God renewed my sense of person, I want Him more than anything, but in my flesh I want what I want when and where I want it.  Please let’s not fool ourselves into believing the humanistic argument that if we just think good thoughts, concentrate on good things and become good people we will be able to conquer this nature of ours.  Our only hope was and still is the cross, therefore I am determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

After thought:  Isn’t ironic our greatest place of victory is the place of our death?

The Importance of Women

February 18, 2009

 

This article was sent to me from John Fischer, 
who writes a daily devotion of sorts.  
To access his email and or get this daily thoughts, 
go to:  www.fischtank.com

Catch of the Day

 

The value of women 
by John Fischer 

This morning, I attended a Women of Vision breakfast where Dean Hirsch, President of World Vision International, addressed an audience of concerned women and their husbands about the needs of the world today. 

It was amazing how he was able to give us a better picture of the world in 30 minutes than you could get by reading the newspaper every day for a year. Because he travels in influential circles with heads of state and heads of corporations, he has a firsthand sense of what is really going on especially in the troubled spots around the globe. 

Of course politics plays a huge role in most of the impoverished areas of the world where men and tribes struggle for power. One thing he pointed out was that apart from U.S. involvement in the Middle East, all wars currently being fought are within the borders of countries. They are all internal struggles for power, depleting resources with weapons and war, and the ones who suffer most are the children. 

Then he let us in on a very significant observation: loans made to women in impoverished countries stand a far greater chance of being used for humanitarian, useful purposes than loans to states and governments. And in areas of the world where this has been practiced, the entire economy of the country has benefited, lessening the desperate state of affairs that fuels so much unrest. 

As I listened to this man talk, I realized in a deeper way than ever before, that what happens to women is crucial to the way the world works. Where women are being degraded and abused, society as a whole suffers. Where women are given respect and the opportunity to influence the outcome of their efforts, the whole society benefits—especially the children, and healthy children are the hope of any age. 

So here’s the Catch… returning respect to women is vital to a healthy society. Are you a woman? Then realize the importance of your place in the world, and seek to use your influence to affect the causes you value. Are you a man? Hold the women you know in high esteem and value their perspective. 

The woman in Proverbs 31 was a landowner and a merchant. She had her own business, and there were influential women who were disciples of Christ who later helped add to the church with their contributions of time and money. 

Remember, when it comes to important issues, men have their egos to contend with; women have the children in mind. 

To Worship

February 16, 2009

From Vine’s Expository Dictionary p. 295:

Sahah  “To worship, prostrate oneself, bow down.”  

The act of bowing down in homage is generally done before a superior or a ruler.  Thus, David “bowed” himself before Saul (1 Samuel 24:8).  Sometimes it is a social or economic superior to whom one bows, as when Ruth “bowed to the ground” before Boaz (Ruth 2:10).  In a dream, Joseph saw the sheaves of his brothers “bowing down” before his sheaf (Genesis 37:5, 9, 10).  Sahah is used as the common term for coming before God in worship, as in 1 Samuel 15:25 and Jeremiah 7:2.  

What I get out of this is that worship is showing respect, difference to and a sense of our place before a superior.  It’s one of the reasons we bow to kings and princes but give none of them the supreme worship or “bowing down before” that we give to God.  When in the OT people like Daniel tried to give to an angel honor due to God alone, the angel would forbid them to do so.  It wasn’t that the angel wasn’t worthy of “worship” in a sense, but the intent of the heart for the human being was usually to attribute to the angel what was only to be given to God.  So bowing to a ruler is not wrong in context of the fact that they are the authority, but to attribute worship to them as a god or God.

Today, I realized I didn’t really know what the word “worship” meant in the context of Scripture and decided to look it up again.  I read these things and sometimes the details fade into the haze of popular expressions and perspectives.  I want the Bible’s version of everything to define my understanding not pop Christian culture or catch phrases done by advertising.

Our popular use of the word “worship” in Christian Evangelical circles is to apply it to music rather than an attitude of the heart.  It is like we have made an alter of sound rather than what it actually is:  to bow down to a superior.

I have come to dislike people’s misuse of this term.  I’ve always had a sense that the word meant something other than music and dancing, but I forgot this dictionary definition, which I read more than three years ago, sadly enough.  I know, I know, it’s like looking in the mirror and forgetting what your face looks like, but that’s the way it is.

For years I’ve felt that worship was both more simple and yet deeper in meaning than mere music.  I believed that it was the entire way we lived–and in a sense, it works that way.  But my mistake was thinking that it had to do with actions and words rather than understanding my place before God.

I am the creature, He is the Creator; I am the servant, He is the Master; I am the subject, He is the King of Kings.

Songs are a small piece of worship.  Our ability to give God His due is not based on how cool our song service is but on the totality of our bowed hearts and bodies before Him in repentance, service and celebration of His great love and grace.  This means that the sermon is worship, our offerings are worship, our service to the saints is worship, our faithfulness to our spouse is worship, our honest hard work in our daily routine and public dealings are worship.  I could go on, but I think we get the idea.

Why?  Because in all these things we bow to the superiority of God who tells us how we should not only behave in general but demonstrated what our lives should be like on the cross:  We die to self that we might live to God.  This makes Him the superior in wisdom, knowledge and spiritual insight.  Our submission to His superiority is the bowing down of the inferior before the superior.

As John the Baptist said to his own disciples,  “He must increase and I must decrease.”  In all things I am the lesser in this equation, the servant and child to the Master and Father, the student in complete submission to the teacher.  The position of my body, therefore, speaks volumes about the attitude of my heart.  Yet, the attitude of heart may be proud and unyielding no matter what the body’s position or the mouth speaks.  So it is up to every individual to assess before God what the attitude of their hearts will be.

Who can discern his errors?  Forgive my hidden faults.  Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.  Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.  Psalm 19:12-14.

Song Mix

February 15, 2009

I just finished mixing Too Wonderful and uploading it to MySpace. The only thing left is to put live drums on it. I sequenced the piano, drums and added background vocals. It’s labeled Too Wonderful 2 so it contrasts from the original down lower on the playlist.

Tears for the Children is still in process because I have a vision for the BGVs (background vocals) which means I have to wait on other people’s schedules for the recording sessions.