Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Job 14:18-22
"Meanwhile, mountains wear down and boulders break up, stones wear smooth and soil erodes, as you relentlessly grind down our hope. You're too much for us. As always, you get the last word. We don't like it and our faces show it, but you send us off anyway. If our children do well for themselves, we never know it; if they do badly, we're spared the hurt. Body and soul, that's it for us— a lifetime of pain, a lifetime of sorrow."

How would you answer a friend who had just spilled their guts to you like that about God?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Hearing With The Heart

Week 8 of “Life Is Too Short To Be Wasted Being Mad, Angry & Emotionally Wrecked

A pumpkin: God picks you from the patch, brings you in, and washes all the dirt off of you. Then He cuts off the top and scoops out all the yucky stuff. He removes the seeds of doubt, hate, and greed. Then He carves you a new smiling face and puts His light inside of you to shine for the entire world to see.

Notice that God is the one doing the work but the pumpkin has submitted, or surrendered to the clean up. This is our process.

Am I free to receive fully? Am I aware of the ways in which I’m not open to receive? One of the greatest disasters of the spiritual life is to be immersed in unreality.

Why did Dr. Samuel Johnson say, “Advice is seldom welcome, and those who need it most like it least.”

He that is taught only by himself has a fool for a master. Ben Johnson

Christianity became increasingly privatistic. Just ‘me and God’ often ends up as a whole lot of me and very little or no God!

God’s timing is crucial to the accomplishment of God’s purposes.

"Religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell. Spirituality is for those of us who've already been there."

In our suffering, in the wall times, we get to lose our wrong ideas about God, the church and ourselves.

Job was the Bill Gates of his time. He had amassed staggering wealth. He would be on every money magazine cover if he lived today. In Job 1:3 it says he was, ‘the most influential man in all the East!

Then one day he is tested. Enemies invade. Lightning strikes. By the end of the day the world’s richest man is poverty-stricken. He’s lost his 10 children.

Job doesn’t blame God; he grieves his losses and worships God. Then he is tested once more. This time his person is afflicted with illness. The losses finally overcome his wife and she crumbles under the pressure saying in 2:9, "Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!"

Clearly Job and his wife were hearing different messages, weren’t they?

When Queen Victoria lost her husband Albert at the age of 42, she continued to make him the focus of her life. For years she slept with his nightshirt in her arms. She kept his room the same for the rest of her life, always having the linens changed, clothes laid out, and water ready for his shaving. On every bed she herself slept, she put a picture of Albert.

What was Victoria hearing? She was abandoned, forsaken, orphaned, and widowed forevermore. She pushed her pain away, which is the easy way. One woman in a support group for losses said, “I keep thinking that if I continue going down this road of truly grieving my losses, I might die.”

Turning towards our pain is counterintuitive, but is the way of crucifixion and taking up our cross. The pain calcifies around our heart, and we no longer hear love, but get distorted images and horridly screaming sounds magnified into our already sensitive soul.

“God Damn God: A Reflection on Expressing Anger In Prayer”. Grieving isn’t possible if we don’t allow our anger and sadness to be recognized, and then released from our emotional bottle in safe ways. If we won’t do that, we become leaking Christians, releasing unpleasant and foul smelling emotional wakes.

There is an old joke about the person with ‘negative charisma’: when he or she enters a room it feels like three people just left. There are times we all have this effect, especially when we push God away in our life.

We’re not quite sure how long Job stayed with his own pain. It was at least for several months, perhaps even years. In the midst of his difficulties he paid attention to God and to himself, and we enjoy the benefits of that to this very day. He chose to enter the wall rather than to medicate himself.

That waiting is so key. Psalm 37:7 says,
Quiet down before God, be prayerful before him. Don't bother with those who climb the ladder, who elbow their way to the top.

If we won’t wait on God and hear with our heart, we will live as Abraham did, who after 11 years of waiting for God to give him the son that He had promised, took matters into his own ‘hands’, if you know what I mean. We regularly birth Ishmaels in our personal lives, and especially in church ministries. Waiting requires enormous patience, and builds humility.

We don’t wait for results, though. We wait to experience God’s interactive presence. Being with another person requires that I am aware I am with you and the things that you do and say are influencing the stream of thoughts and feelings going on inside of me.

I recognize that I can’t control God’s speaking to me. There are no formulas; I can’t force him to speak through my hard work and labor, nor through my piety or sincerity.

I cannot force God to give me the guidance or help I think I need. Those words are from John Ortberg. I had to dig out an old Ortberg book for a Job quote. There was only one page marked, and I hadn’t looked at this book for at least 6 months. The page marked said, “I must believe that God will really speak to me’.

Interactive presence is hearing with the heart.

Enter Job’s three friends.

Job 2:11-13
When Job's three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

To this day the Jewish people speak of ‘sitting shiva’, or sitting sevens, literally sitting for 7 days with a friend or relative who has suffered a loss.

Now Job’s friends did some good things and said some not so good things. They can help us become aware of our need to grow into becoming ‘Kingdom Friends’ for each other.

Philip Yancey, in his writing and research with suffering people said that there are two groups of people who make suffering worse, and they’re both made up of Christians:

1. “The reason you’re in hospital is spiritual warfare. If you were just engaging in spiritual warfare, Satan would be defeated and you would be delivered.”

2. “God promises to heal-if we have enough faith. If you just had enough faith-just prayed boldly enough-you’d be healed.”

While God hates pain, He can also redeem it, if we’ll hear with our heart. The presence of pain doesn’t mean God is absent or not speaking. Pain is usually the number one contributor to growth. No one writes a book called, Where Is God When It feels Good?

Nicholas Wolterstorff wrote a book about the death of his son called Lament For A Son. We are often told that no one can see the face of God and live.

"I always thought that meant no one can see the face of God and live. A friend suggested that perhaps it means no one can see God’s suffering and live. Or perhaps His suffering is his glory.” Nicholas Wolterstorff, one of the greatest philosophers of our time!

Discernment is like driving a car at night; the headlights cast only enough light for us to see the next small bit of road immediately in front of us. But that light is enough to get us home. Suzanne G. Farnham, Listening Hearts

“For God speaks once, yes twice, yet man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men, in slumbering upon the bed; then God opens the ears of men and seals their instruction... all these things God works often with man." Job 33:14-16, 29

Luke 13
"A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'
" 'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.' "

The fertilizer in question is manure. Remember the three-S pot? Could it be there is a little suffering needed to stimulate growth and hearing with the heart?

Matthew 13:13 – 15
Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts.”

Philippians 3:10
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." Robert Frost

Remember that turning towards our pain is counterintuitive. Job feels his pain, and then complains about it and God for chapters on end. Then God speaks…

Job 42:3-6
Job answered God: "I'm convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans.You asked, 'Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?'I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head. You told me, 'Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.'I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I'm sorry—forgive me. I'll never do that again, I promise! I'll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor."

Acknowledge the truth that you’re in over your head.

Psalm 34:8
Open your mouth and taste; open your eyes and see—how good God is. Blessed are you who run to him.

That’s hearing with the heart.

Hearing with the ear means that we hear once then live with the memory of having heard. Hearing with the heart means we keep on hearing. It’s past tense and present tense. It’s a constant hearing that brings with it God’s enabling grace and presence (abiding). Kevin Avram and Wes Boldt

Galatians 3:2-4
Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God's Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren't smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!

John 1:13, Jesus talked of 4 origins of our identity: biology, flesh (sin), our will (neither good or bad, just ours) and from God.

Hearing with our heart is learning to recognize those different voices.

John 3:34
"The One that God sent speaks God's words. And don't think he rations out the Spirit in bits and pieces. The Father loves the Son extravagantly. He turned everything over to him so he could give it away—a lavish distribution of gifts. That is why whoever accepts and trusts the Son gets in on everything, life complete and forever! And that is also why the person who avoids and distrusts the Son is in the dark and doesn't see life. All he experiences of God is darkness, and an angry darkness at that."

John 5:19
Jesus said, "The Son ... can only do what he sees the Father doing."

How then did Jesus see what the Father was doing? Jesus had an open and unobstructed relationship with the Father. He heard with His heart.

John 8:27-29
They still didn't get it, didn't realize that he was referring to the Father. So Jesus tried again. "When you raise up the Son of Man, then you will know who I am—that I'm not making this up, but speaking only what the Father taught me. The One who sent me stays with me. He doesn't abandon me. He sees how much joy I take in pleasing him."

1 Peter 5
"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
God has had it with the proud, but takes delight in just plain people.

Hearing with the heart is to hear with humility. It’s to hear through our pain. It’s to know God is with us, and that he is God, we’re not, let’s therefore live like it.

Job 42:7-9
After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, "I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has." So Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar did what the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job's prayer.

Are you beginning to hear with your heart?

What is God saying?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Jesus Is Enough

Dan Allender points out to us that we need Jesus desperately because He is enough.

He is not enough to resolve whatever crisis we face, but enough to help us courageously enter into it;

He is not enough to simplify the complexity of our life, but enough to submit to the few truths that really matter;

He is not enough to keep betrayal away from our door, but enough to enable us to suffer betrayal with dignity;

He is not enough to erase our self-absorption, but enough that we can know peace;

He is not enough to heal completely, but enough to help us find mercy and rest in the promise of a new day.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10
God told me, "My grace is enough; it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness."

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

"Which church did Jesus go to?"

Paul Vieira has written of the wonderful journey that God has led him on in the book, Jesus Has Left the Building. I've never met Paul, but I was introduced to his work by another Paul. I know that all three of us are kindred spirits...

Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God and of new wineskins. How do you bring structure to something like that? Should you even try?

Structure always serves function, and the function of the church is always relationship with God and each other.

What is the structure of the church today?

• it’s somewhere you go
• it happens on a special day of the week
• you have a professional to tell you what to do
• all it requires of you is attendance and fees paid
• there exists a hierarchical command structure
• meetings come before people
• it has committees
• it has programs
• it has a corporate vision
• it has a corporate name
• it segregates itself from other believers
• it is more concerned with structure than content
• quality is sacrificed for quantity

Is that what Jesus imagined for us, or that Paul spoke of below? Is God asking you to leave institutional church in order to live the organic way of faith?

Ephesians 2:19-22
That's plain enough, isn't it? You're no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You're no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He's using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he's using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.

"I have found the paradox,that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love." Mother Teresa

Friday, October 27, 2006

I’m Having A Moment Here God...

Mel Blackaby, recalling a time when he felt frustrated, hurt and lonesome, shares the following story:


“Yes, Lord,” I responded.

“Stop whining!”

I thought to myself, Now that’s a little insensitive! Lord, I’m having a moment here. But soon I began to understand.

It was as if the Lord was saying, “Now you know how I feel. The only time we talk is when you need something. The only time we spend together is when you’re desperate for My help. And worst of all, you’ve forgotten how much I’ve done for you.”

I began reflecting on what God had done in my life, how blessed I was, how loved I was. If all I’d received from Him was salvation, that would be far more than I deserved; but God hadn’t stopped there—He had shown me grace beyond measure.

The more I reflected on this, the more my spirit lifted and my sorrow turned to joy. He brought to mind events that had shaped my life, people who had invested in me, and so many good things I’d experienced. It was as though my life flashed before my eyes and I saw His hand in every stage. His presence throughout my life was obvious. And my awareness of this seemed to make everything all right as I continued home that night.

Clearly, Mel heard with his heart what the Lord was saying to him. It evoked a deep sense of gratitude in his spirit recalling God's abiding presence in his life.

How do you respond when things don't at first go your way?

Going The Second Mile
Chapter 1

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Discerning God In The Midst Of Life

David Benner asks us to prayerfully reflect on the following questions,

God, how have you been present to me over the course of my life?

God, give me your perspective on what has been happening more recently in my life.

How have you been addressing me God, through my thoughts, feelings, work, relationships, symptoms, longings, frustrations, dreams and failures?

What have you been attempting to teach me about you? About me?

What is your prayer for me now? What do you desire for me now?

Have I experienced anything recently in my own life that points me to you?

How can I be more sensitive to your presence with me every day of my life, and every hour of every day?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Be A Mensch

"To be a Mensch is to be the kind of person God had in mind when he arranged for human beings to evolve, someone who is honest, reliable, wise enough to no longer be naïve, but not yet cynical, a person you can trust to give you advice for your own benefit, rather than for his or her own. A Mensch acts not out of fear or out of the desire to make a good impression, but out of a strong, inner conviction of who he or she is and what he or she stands for. A Mensch is not a saint or a perfect person but a person from whom all falsehood, all selfishness, all vindictiveness have been burned away so that only a pure self remains. A Mensch is whole and is one with his or her God." Rabbi Harold Kushner

John 5:19
"I'm telling you this straight. The Son can't independently do a thing, only what he sees the Father doing. What the Father does, the Son does. The Father loves the Son and includes him in everything he is doing."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Do you believe that you have old ways of thinking that are no longer helpful to you? Do you have friends who you can ask this question of?

Can you sit in God's presence and allow Him to show you artifacts from the past in your thinking that aren't Christ-like?

Will you release them through the help of the Holy Spirit?

Romans 12:1-2
So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Wall

Week 7 of “Life Is Too Short To Be Wasted Being Mad, Angry & Emotionally Wrecked

The good times and the bad times are not always what they first appear to be.

One day, a young man’s horse ran away for no apparent reason and was subsequently taken by nomads across the border. Everyone tried to offer condolences to the young man for his bad fortune, but his father, a wise man, said, “What makes you so confident that this is not a blessing?”

Months later, his horse returned, bringing with her a magnificent stallion. This time everyone was full of congratulations for the son’s good fortune. But now the father said, “What makes you so confident that this isn’t a disaster?”

In fact, their household became richer because of this fine horse, which the son loved to ride. But one day he fell off the horse and broke his hip. Once again, everyone offered
condolences for his bad luck, but his father said, “What makes you so confident that this is not a blessing?”

A year later neighboring nomads mounted an invasion across the border, and every able-bodied man in the village was required to take up his bow and go into battle. They lost 9 out of every 10 men. Only because the son was lame did the father and son survive to take care of each other.

There are times of our life that only gain perspective in hindsight. One of the most powerful of all of them is called ‘the dark night of the soul”, or as others have called it, “The Wall”. Every Christ follower will one day come face to face with the pain of the wall.

We may arrive at the wall because we decide to go back into our past, to the depths of our pains in order that we may finally move forward. Others of us arrive at the wall because of our own self-destructive behaviors. Still others show up on its doorstep because of circumstances beyond our control, like the death of a loved one.

If we fail to come to grips with the nature of the wall, we will endure greater long-term pain and confusion. As strange as it sounds, if we can receive the wall as gift can transform our life forever.

Life is like a journey. There is movement and travel, stops and starts, detours and delays, ventures into the unknown. We see this again and again in the Bible. God called Abraham to leave his past life and to embark on a new journey to a new land, to become the father of a new people. Think of the journey that he and Sarah experienced when they had a baby at a ripe old age!

Think of Moses. Was his life a journey or what? After the adventure of his early life he begin a new venture at 80 in front of a burning bush! And then he endured a forty-year personal transformational jaunt in the desert! That’s wall stuff.

David was called by God to leave the comforts of the pastures in order to kill a giant. And then to become the king of Israel. And oh the stories along the way: seduction, murder, rape, conspiracy, flight, it sounds like soap opera.

Jeremiah was called to 40 or 50 years of difficult work on behalf of God, staying true in a rebellious and destructive time. We looked a little at his journey a few weeks back.

Jesus invited 12 men to follow him into a way of life that ultimately ended their lives. Judas become disillusioned along the way and betrayed Jesus. Betrayal often brings us face to face with the wall.

Many get stuck at the wall like a Judas and turn on God. They run and hide, or they stay hopelessly stuck. Some even become caged; failing to see the bigger picture of the transforming work that God seeks to do at their wall. The disorientation and pain of their present circumstances blind them. And one of the things that hurts deepest is the sense of failure in not being able to find other companions on the journey, especially those who are going or have gone through the wall.

We do seem to go through different stages in our faith development. There are several distinct seasons.

Stage 1: (spring) Life-changing Awareness of God. This begins our spiritual journey with Christ, either as a child or as an adult. We realize our need for mercy and begin our relationship with God.

Stage 2: Discipleship (summer). This season is characterized by learning about God and what it means to be a follower of Christ. We get rooted in a community of faith, a church.

Stage 3: The Active Life (serving- kind of fall with the harvest). We get busy with the doing, taking responsibility for our unique talents and gifts to serve others.

Stage 4 The Wall and The Journey Inward. This is winter. This is the dark night of the soul. Sometimes the wall precipitates our going inward, and for others the look into our past brings us face to face with the wall. God brings us to the wall.

Stage 5- (spring, again) The Journey Outward. We move forward to ‘do’ for God again. The difference is that this time we give out of a new, grounded center of ourselves in Christ. We have rediscovered God’s profound, deep, accepting love and grace for us. We grow into that truth in profound ways. We begin to develop a deep inner stillness that centers on God

Stage 6 (again like late summer and harvest.) Transformed By Love. Wwe continually see events, circumstances, people, and even books as helping us be sent further along on our journey. We surrender ourselves wholeheartedly to whoever and whatever comes along our path. We see every day, every interaction as an opportunity to be a conduit of God’s grace.

Seasons happen to us regardless of whether we’re ready or not. The wall is similar. It could start through a job loss, a divorce, a cancer diagnosis, death of a close friend or family member, betrayal, a shattered dream, a car accident, a wayward child, a painful church experience, a deep desire to marry that remains unfulfilled, a dryness or loss of joy with God. As we arrive at the wall we sense that our faith no longer ‘works’.

Unintentionally and unknowingly we fall back into imperfections. Bad habits are like living roots that return. These roots must be dug away and cleared from the garden of our soul. This requires the direct intervention of God. Thomas Merton

When we make it through the wall, we no longer have a need to be well known or successful, but to do God’s will. We have learned what Paul said,

Philippians 4:12
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

It’s easy to get stuck at the wall. We hide behind platitudes, fearful of the pain, of being known for who we are, and unable to trust that God will transform us through it. We sing happy songs, put on church happy face and try to keep it together for the weaker members of the body and to show to the watching world that we’re strong and victorious.

If we really believe that “Life Is Too Short To Be Wasted Being Mad, Angry & Emotionally Wrecked” we will admit,

I am bewildered.
I don’t know what God is doing right now.
I am hurt.
I am angry.
Yes, this is a mystery and I am very sad right now.
O God why have you given up on me?

Years ago St. John of the Cross articulated 3 phases in the dark night of the soul, the wall. There was the beginner phase, the progressive phase and the perfect. To move out of the beginner place requires that we receive the gift of the wall.

Some gift, hey?

How do you know you’re at the wall? Your good feelings about God evaporate. It seems like to door of heaven is shut to our prayers. We seem helpless, a failure, empty. We leave behind an emotional wake of pain and destruction.

John of the Cross wrote that God sends us “the dark night of loving fire” to free us. He wrote of the seven deadly sins of spiritual imperfection that need to be purified:

1. Pride: having a tendency to condemn others and become impatient with their faults. Are you selective in who can teach you?

2. Greed: never content with what they have materially or spiritually.

3. Luxury: taking more pleasure in spiritual blessings than God himself. Blessings are a second order experience of God. God’s presence Himself is of the first order.

4. Wrath: easily irritated, lacking sweetness, and having little patience to wait on God.

5. Spiritual gluttony: resisting the cross and choosing pleasures like children.

6. Spiritual envy: feeling unhappy when others do well spiritually. Always comparing.

7. Sloth: running from that which is hard.

When I left my previous church, there was some heartache. Coinciding with that I underwent a detached retina and then we experienced two floods. These experiences built on some earlier work that God had been doing, but I would say that on this side of things, they are different. I feel freer from opinions of others than before, more clear about who I am and the way I was made, and way more certain of God’s love than ever.

There will be other dark nights. But I’m growing in my sense of not fearing them.

As Tarzan’s first law of the jungle states, “You have to let go of the vine you’re on to grab the one that’s swinging your way.”

A corollary of that is being willing to grab the swinging vine knowing that it might break and you’ll fall; but being thankful ahead of time that the crash from the fall may be what you needed to find healing.

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered. G. K. Chesterton

Our water situation today. An inconvenience or an adventure in teamwork?

My dear God, I have no idea where I’m going. I can’t see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Thomas Merton

How long is the wall? David spent 13 years in the desert fleeing a jealous king! Abraham waited 25 years for the birth of his first child, Isaac. Job lost ten children, his health and his possessions in an instant. Moses wandered 40 years in the desert.

What’s it look like on the other side?

A greater level of brokenness. People on the other side are freed from judging others. “I can’t believe she calls herself a Christian. Mega church people are superficial. Their church is small and dead.”

If you want to measure this, ask yourself how offendable am I? A broken person when insulted says ‘it’s way worse than you thought!”

Lord Jesus have mercy on me, a sinner. Luke 18:9-14

A deeper ability to wait on God. We receive a greater capacity to wait on God. Going through the wall breaks something deep within us- the driving, grasping, fearful self will that must produce, that must make something happen, that must get it done for God (just in case God can’t get it done himself.)

Possibly the greatest sins and errors for myself over the years go back to a failure to wait on God. Especially pertinent that I have a lifelong battle with patience and am an activator!

Psalm 27:14
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.

Stay with God! Take heart. Don't quit. I’ll say it again: Stay with God.

Psalm 130:5-6
I pray to God—my life a prayer— and wait for what he'll say and do. My life's on the line before God, my Lord, waiting and watching till morning, waiting and watching till morning.

Abraham took matters into his own hands, having a child with his maid Hagar, because 11 years had transpired since God told him he’d have a son. He waited another 14 for Isaac.

Moses spent 40 years in the desert, but prepared himself, Joshua and the people during that time. What did that do to his character?

Numbers 12:3
Now the man Moses was a quietly humble man, more so than anyone living on Earth.

Do you want character like that? Be careful what you ask for.

Hannah endured years of infertility, unanswered prayers, mocking from the second wife of her husband before God answered her prayers. She became the Godly mother of Samuel, and he transformed a nation.

A greater detachment.

1 Corinthians 7:29-31
I do want to point out, friends, that time is of the essence. There is no time to waste, so don't complicate your lives unnecessarily. Keep it simple —in marriage, grief, joy, whatever. Even in ordinary things—your daily routines of shopping, and so on. Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts on you. This world as you see it is on its way out.

What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

A greater sense of mystery.

An old Rabbi crossed the village square every morning on his way to the temple to pray.
One morning, a large Russian soldier, in a vile mood, accosted him, saying, “Hey, Rabbi, where are you going?”

The old Rabbi simply said, “I don’t know.”

This comment infuriated the soldier. “What do you mean, you don’t know? Every morning for years you cross the village square and go to the temple to pray. Don’t mess with me. Why are you telling me you don’t know?”

With that he grabbed the Rabbi by the coat and dragged him off to jail. Just as he was about to push him into the cell, the rabbi turned to him, and softly said, “You see, I didn’t know.”

I wonder if there are 20 men alive in the world now who see things as they really are. That would mean that there were 20 men who were free, who were not dominated or even influenced by an attachment to any created thing or to their own selves or to any gift of God. Thomas Merton

Only You by David Crowder
Take my heart, I Lay it down
At the feet of you whose crowned
Take my life, I’m letting goI lift it up
to You who’s throned

And I will worship You, Lord
Only You, Lord
And I will bow down before You
Only You Lord

Take my fret, take my fear
All I have, I’m leaving here
Be all my hopes, be all my dreams
Be all my delights, be my everything

And It’s just you and me here now
Only you and me here now
You should see the view
When it’s only you

Only You

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Mystery Of History, Thursday Night Study, Week 3

Genesis 1:26-27
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our own likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

"Who knows what I have in me of the deaf old lady on 79th street and the young man in gray slacks and a maroon sweater who in their heyday begot me? Who knows what all of us have in us not just of our parents but of their parents before them and so on back beyond any names we know or any faces we would recognize if we came upon their portraits hanging on an antique shop wall?”

“The passage from Genesis points to a mystery greater still. It says that we come from farther away than space and longer ago than time.” Frederick Buechner

When life comes crashing down around us we come face to face with our beliefs, with ourselves, with our frail attempts at making life on the outside look better than life on the inside feels. Whether we are aware of it or not everyday we come face to face with our history, every day our history speaks itself into the present and more often than not without our consent or our being aware of. But with societal demands and impatient kids, with fiscal deadlines and ominous headlines, with the car, the mortgage, and baby in the oven who has time to pay attention, or….. even care?

We push on ourselves to fit in, keep going, get it together and make it all work, we smother the history that haunts and taunts in lieu of a life that shouts over the sound of a heart slowly dying.

We wonder why we can never connect with anyone and when we do our conversations are superficial and the void inside continues to gnaw at the edges of our sanity. But how are we supposed to connect with anyone if we are disconnected with ourselves and more than likely they are the same? We see it here in our society; we walk around with our head phones on, we keep our personal distance hoping no one gets too close. We drive with our windows up, we walk with our eyes down, we maintain the status quo and when someone else doesn’t we turn our eyes, embarrassed.

We have everything we need except access to the mystery that is us, but in our culture know one seems to think that has any place; it’s the get rich or die trying, the too good for you, the chosen and the better thans that are lifted up as our examples of who we should be. We have everything we need except our true selves.

So what is this answer we are all looking for?

Maybe a better question is “Why am I searching?” or

“Why do I need an answer when I am feeling: lost, lonely, sad, rejected, separated, pain, ________?"

Do this; take inventory of who you are. Write down in single terms words that describe you. For every word there is a root, and if the root is good it will lead you back through history and events that have shaped you, it will lead you in memories better left forgotten, past people who have changed you, it will lead you to healing, it will lead you home into the arms of the creator who formed you in a place “farther away then space and longer ago than time”.

And if the root is; no good, loser, quitter, shameful, nobody, ruin-er, wimp, _____, any of the tags our wounds put on us, we must carry them, we must carry them down into our history past the events that caused them to the Mystery that caused us into existence and lay them at his feet and allow Him to whisper healing, to rewrite what was written.

So when life comes crashing down, sit down, catch your breath, you’re allowed you know. It’s o.k. to not be o.k. sometimes. It’s o.k. to open up and cry sometimes, and if we walk forward through our history we might end up with a clearer view of life and a hope in the mystery of God and Us.“Come to Me” (Matt. 11:28a) by Ken Mc

Friday, October 20, 2006

Give Thanks?

John Donne lived an early life of treachery, rebellion and debauchery. He wrote many erotic, even lewd, poems in his youth. Later in life he became a priest in the church of England, but was struck down in his prime by a severe illness.

He thought it was the bubonic plague, (Black Death), and many thousands were dying around him as London's church bells announced every day (this is where we get the famous expression "For whom the bell tolls ... ") Donne's illness, however, was spotted fever, possibly typhoid, from which he eventually recovered.

While recuperating, Donne wrote a devotional masterpiece recording the guilt and fear and helpless faith that marked his darkest days.

They address the question: In the midst of plague times how can we give thanks?

O eternal and most gracious God, you have reserved your perfect joy and perfect glory for the future when we will possess, forever, all that can in any way conduce to our happiness. Yet here also in this world, you grant us earnests full of payment, glimpses of that stored treasure. Just as we see you through a glass darkly, so also do we receive your goodness by reflection and by your instruments.

Nature reaches out her hand and offers corn, and wine, and oil, and milk; but it was you who filled the hand of nature with such bounty. Industry reaches out her hand and gives us fruits of labor for ourselves and our prosperity; but you guided the hands that sowed and watered, and you gave the increase. Friends reach out their hands to support us; but your hand supports the hand we lean on.

Through all these, your instruments, have I received your blessing, O God, but I bless your name most for this, that I have has my portion not only in the hearing, but in the preaching of your gospel.

O most gracious God, on this sickbed I feel under your correction, and I taste of humiliation, but let me taste of consolation, too. Once this scourge has persuaded us that we are nothing of ourselves, may it also persuade us that you are all things unto us.

In a brief few hours you have shown me I am thrown beyond the help of man, so much so that the physician himself had to send for assistants. By that same light, let me see that no vehemence of sickness, no temptation of Satan, no guiltiness of sin, no prison of death—not this first, this sickbed, nor the other prison, the close and dark grave—can remove me from the determined and good purpose that you have sealed concerning me.

I can read my affliction as a correction, or as a mercy, and I confess I know not how to read it. How should I understand this illness? I cannot conclude, though death conclude me. I f it is a correction indeed, let me translate it and read it as a mercy; for though it may appear to be a correction, I can have no greater proof of your mercy than to die in you and by that death to be united in him who died for me.

Your son felt a sadness in his soul unto death, and a reluctance, even fear, as that hour approached. But he had an antidote too:"Yet not my will, but thine be done." And although you have not made us, your adopted sons, immune from infectious temptations, neither have you delivered us over to them, or withheld your mercies from us.

You, O Lord, who have imprinted medicinal virtues in all creatures, so that even the juices of plants and the venom of snakes may assist in healing, are able to transform this present sickness into everlasting health, and to make my very dejection and faintness of heart a powerful anodyne. When your Son cried out "My God, my God, why hats thou forsaken me?" you reached out your hand not to heal his sad soul, but to receive his holy soul. Neither did he desire to hold it from you, but surrendered it to you.

I see your hand upon me now, O Lord, and I ask not why it comes or what it intends. Whether you will bid my soul to stay in this body for some time, or meet you this day in paradise, I ask not. Curiosity of mind tempts me to know, but my true healing lies in silent and absolute obedience to your will, even before I know it. Preserve that obedience, O my God, and that will preserve me to you; that, when you have catechized me with affliction here, I may take a greater degree, and serve you in a higher place, in your kingdom of joy and glory. Amen. from Phil Yancey

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Can I?

I can trust God while I am feeling __________.

Do you believe that the presence of trust means the complete absence of questions, doubts, and fears?

Trusting God is more like hanging in the battle despite our questions, doubts, and fears. It means that we actively surrender to His grace and continue to believe that he is loving, that he is in control, and that he is always working for our good. This trust helps us to continue doing what is good and right, even in difficult circumstances.

1 John 3:20
My dear children, let's not just talk about love; let's practice real love. This is the only way we'll know we're living truly, living in God's reality. It's also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

NV Pt 2

1 Samuel 18:8
This made Saul very angry. ‘What’s this?’ he said. ‘They credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they’ll be making him their king!’ So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.

Look what happens next...

1 Samuel 18:9
An evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand. While David was playing the harp, Saul tried to pin him to the wall with his spear, but David eluded him as Saul drove the spear into the wall.

Now look how David responds...

1 Samuel 24:4
Now’s your opportunity! Today is the day the Lord spoke of when he said, “I will certainly put Saul into your power, to do with as you wish.” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of his robe.

David became conscience-stricken...

1 Samuel 24:5
But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe. “The Lord knows I shouldn’t have done it,” he said to his men. “It is a serious thing to attack the Lord’s anointed one, for the Lord himself has chosen him. So David sharply rebuked his men and did not let them kill Saul.

What drove David to this course of action?

1 Samuel 24:11
I have not sinned against you, even though you have been hunting for me to kill me. The Lord will decide between us. Perhaps the Lord will punish me for what you are trying to do to me, but I will never harm you.

We don't lose our joy by what happens to us, but rather by what we do to others...

1 Samuel 24:15
May the Lord judge which of us is right and punish the guilty one. He is my advocate, and He will rescue me from you power!

And Jesus said, "Bless those who persecute you."

Now, go and do likewise...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Envy makes a human heart ghastly looking.

When we envy what we perceive others possesss, we'll go to great lengths to try and take it from them.

Envy appears when we are not grateful for how God has created our world or for how He has blessed us.

Envy comes from a sense of inadequecy and emptiness that comes from our heart history of woundedness. The more a person is driven by emptiness and inadequecy, the more self-centred and violent they will become.

Gratitude and kindness are the antidotes to envy, but it often takes God's severe mercy for us to wake up and drink the medicine. Are you envious of someone? What is it that you perceive they have that you want?

Ask a friend to help you name the fear, the envy in your soul, and to help you find a deeper courage than you think you possess in order to get out of the pit.

Titus 3:3-8
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.

But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Every Heart Gets A New Family

Week six of “Life Is Too Short To Be Wasted Being Mad, Angry & Emotionally Wrecked”

Have you ever woken up to look in the mirror at a tired face and weary soul?

“Some people harm their souls... without being exposed to great temptations. They simply let their souls whither, not realizing that thoughts, which meant a great deal to them in their youth, have turned into meaningless sounds." Albert Schweitzer

God has placed within each of us an instinct for healing and renewal. Unfortunately for us what we need to realize that we have to look to God for the healing, not ourselves. Our inability to acknowledge this truth, to enter into this life-giving relationship, this fear, is at the heart of our ‘sinful’ condition. We must pierce our protective shell of self-justification.

"Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everybody gets busy on the proof." John Kenneth Galbraith

Pull the tooth!

Pop the zit! My friend’s experience with YWAM, traveling through South America popping zits for each other! We’ll pick our scab to help it heal (as if!).

Don’t give up – look up.

What is the longest amount of time that you waited for somebody to change something?

How long have you waited to change something in yourself?

How’s that going?

People who let life happen to them never get the relationships they want. Pain, denial and shame all conspire to keep us from the fullness of life that Jesus Christ promises.
Life doesn’t happen to people, people have to happen to life.

“My great concern with the call to a “deep, hard look inside” is that most people believe they are already doing so. I did for years.” Peter Scazzero

Microwave versus oven. We pace in front of a microwave! We hate ovens.

On the one hand we need to have a long and hard look inside at our past, and on the other hand we need a good long look at Jesus. These are two different lenses, and we need to get our viewing them correctly.

We always predict the future by reading the present from a frame of reference, a lens that was established in the past.

As we progress through this series, life experiences, positive and negative, will begin to coalesce around a different way of looking at your relationship with God. We unlearn certain things.

What if God wants to meet us everywhere, even in our painful past? What if God is vastly more available than I believe and is waiting for me to sync my life to his presence in every context?

“O God, give us all a vision and a plan for transformation of souls.”

We need to see the Jesus who keeps revealing Himself. In John 1 Andrew brought his brother Simon Peter to ‘see’ Jesus (as an aside, we can already see that Jesus wants us to bring our family to see him, meet him and join his family!). At the Transfiguration Jesus allows Peter, James and John to His full splendor; the risen Jesus allows Thomas to touch his wounds. God wants us to see Him, even if we find that hard to believe.

Last week we Bob helped us to look at the tension of whether the mission of Jesus was to rescue us from low self-esteem or to overcome our pride. That is a very good subject to allow to seep deep into your soul.

There is another tension to address regarding pride, and that is the precedence of pride or fear. Remember from the emotional bottle, we often have ‘fear’ and ‘anger’ simmering at the surface.

We generally say that pride begets some of the anger. Anger is just sadness with a judgment: you hurt me but I add a judgment, ‘I don’t DESERVE this!’ so you become angry.

There are those who see fear as preceding pride, and this is why I think that is significant. Fear and the incapability to trust may be the root cause and consequence of sin.

Some say pride is the root cause of sin, but I’m beginning to think fear precedes it. Pride (anger) is considered a defensive reaction, a puffing up of the ego when it feels threatened. When we feel threatened we take flight or fight. We turn into ourselves, our abilities, our past for solution, rather than facing our fears and turning to God!

Even in the Garden of Eden, we see what we usually do every day: in order to deal with this fear we grasp at godliness for ourselves, inflating our ego, reaching for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We can deal with this fear a second way, and that’s denial altogether of God. We pretend he doesn’t exist.

Every morning when we wake up and look in the mirror, we have a choice to keep grasping and hiding from God.

“Hiding is a curse. It came into being after the Fall. Hiding is motivated by shame. It involves pretending and deceiving. Hiding is the place of fear and anxiety. Every one of us pretends to be healthier and kinder than we really are; we all engage in what might be called “depravity management.” John Ortberg

I’m so afraid, you’re so afraid, we go into hiding, creating ‘masks of composure’, becoming posers, fakers and wannabe’s always fearing being found out.

Here’s where sin comes in. What if sin isn’t so much a matter of disobeying laws, but more of failing to love, failing to allow ourselves to be loved by God, and failing to make our life a gift of love to others. In this case sin is more relational than strictly behavioral. What if the deepest source of our behavioral dysfunction is the tendency to see God as a rival, sort of like Prometheus. In Greek mythology he stole fire from the gods to give to the created beings, mortals like us.

It’s easy for us to think we must steal, or seize something from a God who is reluctant to share it with us. This is a stark contrast to the whole message of the Bible, where we see that God wants to give His life to us! From beginning to the end of the Bible God wants to be gracious to us. The beginning, the middle and the end of the spiritual life if that we get to respond to that amazing grace.

God is not our rival- He is our best Friend!

Why do we think of Him as a rival? Why is it so hard to see Him as friend, parent, as our father?

Now we go back to our heart history. We all tend to grow up with a heart identity. Wes Boldt and Kevin Avram have created a framework that has helped me see this more clearly:

A great deal of who I was and am unlearning was as an ‘orphan’. That affected my ‘state of objectivity’.

Children come into this world with a need to be helpful and valued.

ORPHAN: As an orphan, based on the issues in my early life, dad was adulterous, mom had a nervous breakdown after I was born, mom remarried to an emotionally distant father when I was five, I learned to trust no one but myself (and my mom). I didn’t trust because I was afraid. The world out there was not safe. I read a lot and created a safe world for myself. And my thought life was a safe place to be.

Interestingly, I always believed in a God, but He was probably in appearance a bigger version of Stewart. He didn’t really have a name.

An orphan responds to heart truth with fear that usually morphs to pride very quickly. Kind of like a frilled lizard who when frightened, gapes its mouth showing a bright pink or yellow lining, and the frill flares out. Basically it puts on an imprssive show of power with nothing to back it up. Sounds a lot like our pride, pour posing, our hiding our true selves.

BEGGAR: Orphans search, but beggars don’t because of their victimology. We talked about a beggar in John 5 at the pool of Bethsaida, where we stand at a ‘Y’. victims won’t usually move because they are in denial.

LABORER: The older brother in thestory of the prodigal son.

SON/DAUGHTER: is to realize that God is the one who says, “I Loved You At Your Darkest.”

Get engaged in a process. The process is our path. Then give it some time to play itself out. Budget for growth. Make some space. The point is not go and ‘heal’; nor ‘get healed’ but ‘get healing’!

“What risk does my heart want me to take?”

Do I know what to do but simply not want to do it?

If fear precedes pride, we can choose another response before pride puffs itself up. What can we choose? We can choose courage.

Courage is fear that has said its prayers. Anne Lamont

Courage never takes away fear; courage simply redistributes fear in order to move forward, in order to be seen for who we are, in order to come to God as a son or daughter and to allow other brothers and sisters into our life.

If you had a ‘bad’ family, it takes a new family. That is the church. Find some people who want your best. They will help you become fully human as you follow Christ.

“Community is the place where our limitations, our fears, and our egoism are revealed to us” Jean Vanier

We gather at the Communion Table as sons and daughters, as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.


The new family!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

What's In Your Pot?

Growing up Virginia Satir was accustomed to seeing a cauldron outside of her farm house. In the summer it was full of nourishing stew for the workers, in the spring it contained soap and in the fall it was full of manure for the house plans. She later called it the 'Three S Pot: soup, soap and s__t'.

She realized that our pot is always full of something. What's in your pot today?

We can also be ' high pot' or 'low pot'. Low pot people are always wondering what others think of them. They have a hard time staying in the present when they are with high pot people, because of their self-obsession. They are regularly bringing up interactions from the past to get clarification, since they are too self absorbed to process them in the moment. In these cases, we need to learn to let God fill up our pots, not seek affirmation from unhelpful sources.

Pay attention to and appreciate grace-filled situations, events, relationships, thoughts and emotions in your life. These are all saturated in the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. They will help fill your pot with God thoughts and feelings.

We can also become more aware of the situations, events, relationships, thoughts and emotions that are negative. These may be the soap times where we experience cleansing and healing, especially becoming aware of the 's__t' pot from our past.

Hebrews 4:14-16
Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let's not let it slip through our fingers. We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let's walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Breaking Free

Break free on an entirely new level from the layers of your 'false self' that you are shedding. Do it so that your authentic self in Christ is able to emerge.

Break free by realizing that things are not as they appear. The idols of your life are smashed and the putricity of their offerings is exposed. Get your perspective on life from Jesus Christ, not from the world.

Break free from the illusion that you'll live forever. Our life is a precious and fragile thread that may be cut sending us to Eternity any day.

Break free from selfish desires that consistently move you away from God to do your own will, not His.

It is always true to some extent that we make our images of God. It is even truer that our image of God makes us. Eventually we become like the God we image. One of the most beautiful fruits of knowing the God of Jesus is a compassionate attitude towards ourselves...This is why Scripture attaches such importance to knowing God. Healing our image of God heals our image of ourselves. Brennan Manning

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

Thursday, October 12, 2006

It's Good To Be Alive

The World Series is right around the corner. There are so many stories of courage, persistence and resilience in baseball throughout the years, but perhaps none is as powerful as that of Roy Campanella.

Campy starred as a catcher for the LA Dodgers from 1948-1957. He was a three-time MVP in the National League, but in 1958 he was paralyzed in a car accident. His autobiography, “It's Good to be Alive”, contains the following quote:

I asked God for strength that I might achieve.
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do great things.
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy.
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing I asked for — but everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among men, most richly blessed.

Roy Campanella was able to live these words because he saw meaning in suffering. Whatever your circumstances, and I know that there are some of you in mighty deep waters right now, God can keep you.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10
I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan's angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn't think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it's all you need.

My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Listen to my prayer, O God,
do not ignore my plea;
hear me and answer me.
My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught...
My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death assail me.
Fear and trembling have beset me;
horror has overwhelmed me...
But I call to God,
and the Lord saves me.
Evening, morning and noon
I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice. Psalm 55

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Prayer for Serenity

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as the pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Reinhold Niebuhr

Monday, October 09, 2006

Every Heart Has a History …and some of it ain’t pretty

Week 5 of Life Is Too Short To Be Wasted Being Mad, Angry & Emotionally Wrecked

For the past four weeks Stew has been bringing us through a series looking at issues such as anger, where it comes from, and how to bring God’s healing and presence into those areas of our lives. Last week we looked at the history of the heart. Our hurts and pains, the deep wounds we may have received from life, our parents, or others that we have been in relationship with.

This week we are going to look at the other side of the coin so to speak, or the other side of the heart. This message could be entitled Every Heart has a History Part II. Because for as many hurts and offensive, if not evil, behaviours and actions that have taken place against us, there is another side of our hearts that needs to be addressed if we are to become emotionally and spiritually whole and well, and live a life of love and freedom.

As we unpack together the mysteries of God and mankind, and relate them to our day to day lives I want to suggest a set of pre-suppositions ( that’s a fancy way of saying foundational beliefs) that we need to begin with. We all have a set of presuppositions that we come with when we explore God and His Word.

As you are sitting here today I want to begin with a minimum of three pre-suppositions. We come to a church service with our own pre-suppositions and in many ways these will filter or significantly influence what we may receive in our understanding of God and ourselves. Why I am asking you to do this is that some of what I may say today may be a little uncomfortable. The three pre-suppositions that I present to you come from scripture.

1- God is Love and He loves us 1 John 4:16, John 3:16
In probably the shortest description of God that you can find in your Bible, this verse from 1 John is very clear. God is love.

2- The voice of Jesus does not condemn Romans 8:1, John 3:18
If we believe that Jesus is our saviour and Lord, what we hear and read from the living Word of God, not only does not but cannot condemn.

3- God loves us so much that He is calling us to a new life. 2 Thes 2:13, 1 Thess 5:23
This is part of what we have understood to be Journey Theology. The working out of faith in our nature, lives and decisions.

Please keep these three pre-suppositions in mind throughout the message today as we explore together what it means to examine our heart history and choose wholeness and wellness.

Terry D. Cooper is professor of psychology at St. Louis Community College-Meramec and adjunct professor of religious studies at Webster University. He is the author of Sin, Pride & Self-Acceptance.

The following dialogue forms the introduction to his book and illustrates the possibly very differing perceptions that we have when it comes to our own struggle and difficulties and the difficulties of others.

“I find it very hard to tolerate Jack.” Said Sam. “He’s extremely pompous, full of himself and conceited. Who does he think he is? He really thinks he’s better than everyone else.”

“Yes,” said Betty, “but you know that’s all a big mask to cover his real problem – Low self esteem. It may look like he’s arrogant, but the real issue is deeper than that. Down deep, I’ll bet he really doesn’t accept himself.”

“Are you kidding?” responded Sam. “That guy has too much self-esteem. I don’t think he’s insecure at all. In fact, he has something of a God-complex.”

“But can’t you see underneath all that, Sam?” asked Betty. “Jack is like everyone else – his basic problem is low self-sesteem, which he hides very well.”

Sam quickly retorted, “I can’t believe you think everyone’s problem is low self esteem! Particularly in today’s world! I think the exact opposite is true. People today think too highly of themselves. They place themselves at the center of everything. In fact, they love themselves so much that they have nothing left over to give anybody else.”

“But what makes you assume that?”

“Look around you, Betty. Self – centeredness is everywhere. And even though it seems worse today, it’s an age-old problem. ride is our number one enemy, the first and greatest sin. Both Judaism and Christianity have always taught this.”

“Yes,” said Betty, “but that was before psychotherapists really started understanding that pride is a cover-up for feelings of inadequacy. My friend, who is a psychologist, says that all her patients, down deep, have low self – esteem.”

“But that’s easy to say when you’re working in counseling.” Argued Sam. “Counselors look for low self – esteem and always find it. Then they think that it is everybody’s problem. Of course people who go to counseling are temporarily down on themselves. But as soon as their lives get back on track, pride will probably take over again.”

“But I think pride is never the bottom line issue,” said Betty. “It’s not the primary problem. Instead, it’s a symptom.”

“ see it as the primary problem,” argued Sam, “and I think this is where religion and psychology often differ. Psychology minimizes the problem of sin or excessive self-regard.”

“I disagree. I think sin is more likely to come from a failure to accept myself than exaggerated pride in myself.”

“I’m sorry but I find that view really naïve.”

“and Sam,” said Betty, “ I find your view cynical.”

I’d like you to take a moment to try to identify where your beliefs at this time may sit within the context of this dialogue.

From my own experiences, research and study, and the searching of God’s word, I came to the conclusion that the issue being discussed in this dialogue is not an either or. The condition of humankind, and the condition of our own nature is a sometimes complicated and complex mixture of both viewpoints.

We are in a series of self discovery and the process of self discovery incorporates our relationship with God through the assistance of what is known as our helper, our strengthener, The Holy Spirit.

There is an age old debate within Christian circles about the issue of salvation by works or by faith. This is what led to the Reformation or split from the Catholic Church in the 1500’s. The Bible is very clear about this issue.

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Rom 3:21 – 24.

Quite simply, we are made right with God through faith in Christ. We who have chosen to believe have at one time or another come to grips with our own nature and chosen to claim God’s mercy and forgiveness through Christ. We recognize that there is nothing that we can do from our own efforts or outward behavioural changes that can bring us closer to God or earn our right standing.

Have you ever wondered that if the issue of being justified before God is only about getting into heaven, why God just didn’t take us the moment we first believed? If Jesus has had victory over sin, suffering, and death, then why do we still sin, suffer and die?

Theologians call this tension the “Already But Not Yet” tension.

There is an Already but not yet tension in the world and in God’s Kingdom… but if we think about our own lives, there is an already but not yet tension in our own hearts. If I have been made pure and righteous before God through Jesus, then why are there still an element of self-centredness, pride, impatience and a whole host of other behaviours that I still wrestle with. Yes, through my faith I am already made right with God… but does there not seem to be something missing that would explain that I’m not quite there yet.

Every Heart Has a History… and some of it ain’t pretty. This is the other side of the heart history that we need to come face to face with and reconcile if we are to live lives of freedom and love and laughter and goodness.

Four stages of growth in faith (from Ray Ortlund):
1. Moral Apathy
2. Moral Concern
3. Moral Despair
4. Holy Delight

It’s very difficult if not impossible to jump from moral concern to holy delight because in order to really recognize the amazing gift of grace, we must first come to terms with pour moral depravity (sin nature). The genuine recognition of our sinfulness has to become personal for each one of us, and we sometimes call that ‘brokenness’. The idea of Holy Delight is what we think of as ‘gratitude’ and that is what Thanksgiving is really all about!

So when we think about the idea that every heart has a history we come to the realization that some of that history is not real pretty.

On my own journey I have come to the realization that the “Already but Not Yet” tension applies to the issue of my own heart. We have been made right with God through the blood of Jesus, but if it were to just stop there then presumably we would have churches that didn’t fight, Christians that were in a constant state of Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Gentleness, Kindness, Goodness, and self control.

But we know this is not the case. Conflicts exist, hearts get broken in the churches, marriages end, affairs begin, anger destroys, blaming and fingerpointing takes place, gossip and hurtful rumors are spread.

“Already But Not Yet” We are already made right with God, but it is sometimes very painfully apparent that the Christlikeness that He calls us to has not happened just yet.

I had a friend a few years back who I had worked closely with when I was a private investigator. In mid-life crisis he began to struggle with purpose and meaning in life. He was in a fog of prescription addiction and wanted change. After not seeing him for several months we were having a coffee and I could see something different in his eyes. I asked him how he was doing and he looked at me with this beautiful smile and said that he had accepted his saviour, Jesus Christ. I was excited for him and he spoke of how his life had been radically changed in a short period of time. Then he said something that I had to chuckle about. He said, “I accept that Jesus is my saviour and has brought me into intimate relationship with God, but I don’t buy this becoming like Him stuff."

Most of us don’t, come to think of it.

The underlying message that was prompting him to say this was this: I am not ready to die to my self just yet.

I am ready to confess Christ as my savior, but I am not ready to lay some things down with him.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was the german pastor and theologian who led the confessing church during the height of the Nazi reign of terror. He spoke radically against the Nazi’s and even plotted an assassination attempt on Hitler. Bonhoeffer coined the phrase “cheap grace.”

Shortly before being executed by the Nazis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, "Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace." According to Bonhoeffer cheap grace is "the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner." Such false grace abounds today. It appears attractive, but it ultimately has a high price tag.

Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

These are strong words but believe me they are not condemning words. I hold an understanding of our faith as that being one of a journey, a pilgrimage towards heavenly eternity, a Kingdom Living Journey that brings maturing fruit.

The Bible describes the evidence of those who are filled with the Holy Spirit as being the evidence of the mature fruit. We come to recognize also that: There is a difference between believing in Christ as savior, and following Him as Lord.

A couple of weeks ago I gave the message at the chapel at Taylor Seminary. The theme of my message was the concept of dying to self daily. I used my story and God’s story working through me to illustrate that the issue of dying to self is not a “works” oriented method of gaining favor with God. But rather it is a deepening self awareness of our own capacity for sin and self-centeredness.

We all have some level of self-centeredness lingering because this is the core of the human condition. Like the conversation I related in the opening of the message…. Yes, many of us have low self esteem, many of us have heart histories of hurt and pain and cruelty, and we recognize that if we ask God to heal us in these places that He is a merciful and gracious God who wants us to enjoy emotional and spiritual wholeness.

Here is the core of the debate between the two fictitious characters. Jesus did not voluntarily die on the cross, get beaten, spit on , ridiculed and tortured to help boost up our low self esteem. No, he died on the cross to release us and free us from the sometimes living hell that comes from our own capacity and leaning towards self-centeredness. What the Bible calls sin. That separation from God that has affected all of humankind. Our own rebellion and our own desire to control our own destiny.

I lived that way for many years until it all came crashing down. I can dare to speak boldly about sin and self centeredness only because I have been there, and recognize that the dying to self is a daily, hourly, minute by minute conscious choice. It is coming to the Y in the road that Stew spoke about several weeks back

And recognize that the choice we make as we come to the Y is often the choice between the will of God and our own will.

If we are going to move forward in love and grace. If we are going to get past the anger and emotional wreck that we may be experiencing then we need to transition from our identities as “believers” into an identity of “follower.” This transition, this examination of the other side of our heart history, requires a death.

At this point I want to remind you again about the pre-suppositions that we spoke of. I want to remind you of the understanding of God that must undergird what I am speaking on here.
1- God is Love and He loves us 1 John 4:16, John 3:16
In probably the shortest description of God that you can find in your Bible, this verse from 1 John is very clear. God is love.

2- The voice of Jesus does not condemn Romans 8:1, John 3:18
If we believe that Jesus is our saviour and Lord, what we hear and read from the living Word of God, not only does not but cannot condemn.

3- God loves us so much that He is calling us to a new life. 2 Thes 2:13, 1 Thess 5:23
This is part of what we have understood to be Journey Theology. The working out of faith in our nature, lives and decisions.

Paul writes of this idea of death to self in many of his letters to the churches that he had founded on his Missionary journeys. Don’t forget, he is writing this to believers in Christ. He is writing this to people already on the journey but very likely not yet there when it comes to living in the Spirit. When we first believe, God takes up residence in our hearts and souls and minds. The amount of room that we give him in us becomes an issue of what we are willing to die to.
Paul strongly speaks this theme in a varying of ways throughout his letters.

Romans 8:5-7
Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open , into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what He is doing.

Likewise, Jesus deals with the issue of putting to death our obsession with self with these words. Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said “if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. Mark 8: 34 – 35.

I used to really confuse this text with his words that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Wait a minute, there seems to be contradiction here. But then I discovered that the idea of taking up our cross to follow him is the idea of death to our own self.

The cross is not an instrument of burden, the cross is an instrument of liberation!

John 12:24
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The person who loves their life will lose it, while the person who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves my must follow me.

I had a conversation with a very bright young man who would say that he has been a Christian for many years. We have a healthy and honest relationship and just the other night I asked him. On a scale of one to ten., where would you say that you are at with respect to surrendering your life to Christ and dying to your self. He looked at me and asked if I wanted the honest answer and I said I did. He said, maybe less than half. I thanked him for his honesty and I know it caused him to reflect and caused me to reflect.
Where are you at with respect to surrendering your life to Christ and dying to self?

Malcolm Muggeridge is a former soldier, journalist, spy, liar, drunk and womanizer who was transformed by a very real conversion to the Christian faith He writes:
Not as I will , but as thou wilt. To be able to say these words and truly mean them is the highest point we can ever hope to attain. Then, indeed, we have broken out of time’s hard shell to breathe , not its stale air, but the fresh exhilarating atmosphere of eternity.

The terrible thing, the almost impossible thin, is to hand over your whole self – all your wishes and precautions to Christ. C. S. Lewis

Christ says, “Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half measures ane any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch her and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked – the whole outfil. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: My own will shall become yours.”

My surrender to my need for vindication with the RCMP. (by Bob Stenhouse)

Wonderful Cross
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride

See from his head, his hands, his feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did ever such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown

O the wonderful cross, O the wonderful cross
Bids me come and die and find that I may truly live
O the wonderful cross, O the wonderful cross
All who gather here by grace draw near and bless
Your name

Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were an offering far too small
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all

Sunday, October 08, 2006

This is your life...Are you who you want to be?

"Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy." Anne Frank

Don't close your eyes
Don't close your eyes
This is your life
Are you who you want to be?
This is your life
Are you who you want to be?
This is your life
Is it everything you've dreamed it would be
When the world was younger and you had everything to lose?"

This is your life...Are you who you want to be?

"Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it. And then he feels that perhaps there isn't." A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Colossians 3:1-4
"So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that's where the action is. See things from his perspective.

Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life."

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Power Of Negative Thinking

If you ever catch on fire, try to avoid looking in a mirror, because I bet that will really throw you into a panic. Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey

Never underestimate the power of doubt and pessimism. In the exodus of Israel we see how God works with His people. Israel only moved when the cloud and fire moved and Israel stopped when the cloud and fire stopped. We however run when God is not moving and stay when God is moving. When we stop watching and listening we begin to live in the negative.

Look what happened next when the Israelites reached the Promised Land. The spies are sent in, see Numbers 13-14, and despite the reports of Joshua and Caleb that they can take the land, the complaints win the day.

Until God straigthens things out. Listen to what God says about Caleb:

Numbers 14:24
"But my servant Caleb—this is a different story. He has a different spirit; he follows me passionately. I'll bring him into the land that he scouted and his children will inherit it."

Who do you align with? Those who live in fear, who dwell on the negative, who fail to see God at work?

I have to admit, I'm with Caleb.

"Taking joy in living is a woman's best cosmetic." Rosalind Russell

Friday, October 06, 2006

What Is Your Soul Purpose?

In the Old Covenant days, before Jesus Christ, our task was to have faith that the Messiah would eventually come. Here in the days of the New Covenant, our task has moved from faith in the future to the day-to-day following of Jesus Christ.

Our soul purpose is all about finding a place where we can be taught, touched and transformed by God. We call this place 'church'.

Spiritual growth is the process of fulfilling that purpose. If we will choose the truth of God at every crossroads, and act upon it with love, we will experience the beautiful freedom of following Christ, whatever may come our way.

Acts 20:24
What matters most to me is to finish what God started: the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God.