Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Heart of the Father

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

Ephesians 1:11
It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pray, listen and GO!

I appreciated these prayers from The Democratic National Convention this past week. I have edited them slightly as they may apply to those of us who aren't from the US:

"Father God,
We need you, God, as individuals and also as a nation.We need you to protect us from our enemies, but also from ourselves, because we are easily tempted toward apathy. Give us a passion to advance opportunities for the least of these, for widows and orphans, for single moms and children whose fathers have left. Give us the eyes to see them, and the ears to hear them, and hands willing to serve them. Help us serve people, not just causes. And stand up to specific injustices rather than vague notions. Give those who have power the courage to work together to finally provide health care to those who don’t have any, and a living wage so families can thrive rather than struggle.

Help us figure out the balance between economic opportunity and corporate gluttony. We have tried to solve these problems ourselves but they are still there. We need your help.

Lastly, father, unify us. Even in our diversity help us see how much we have in common. And unify us not just in our ideas and in our sentiments — but in our actions, as we look around and figure out something we can do to help create an even greater nataion than the one we have come to cherish.

God we know that you are good.

I make these requests in the name of your son, Jesus, who gave his own life against the forces of injustice. Let Him be our example. Amen.” Donald Miller

"Almighty God, let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us a reverence for all life. Give us a compassion for the most vulnerable among us - the babies, the children, the poor, the sick, the enslaved, the persecuted. For all of those who have been left out of the advantaged world. Give us a zeal to clean the environment we have polluted while we create an economy where everyone who can work can have a job. Help us to honor those who defend our country by working harder and smarter for peace. Help us to counter those that incite fear and hatred by becoming people who are informed and respectful and are known for principles and projects that aim higher than our own group's benefit. And grant that all of us citizens will continually do our part to contribute to the common good by loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. Amen! Let's go out and change the world for good!" Joel Hunter

Friday, August 29, 2008

Our Master

Over the past while God has been teaching me that the Psalm 23 life can be my reality- that I truly can know the Father as my Shepherd and not be in need of anything; His presence is enough no matter what is happening.

Yesterday I read David Powlison's antipsalm 23, & it so powerfully sets the other path that we choose when the Lord is not our shepherd:

Antipsalm 23
I'm on my own.
No one looks out for me or protects me.
I experience a continual sense of need. Nothing's quite right.
I'm always restless. I'm easily frustrated and often disappointed.
It's a jungle — I feel overwhelmed. It's a desert — I'm thirsty.
My soul feels broken, twisted, and stuck. I can't fix myself.
I stumble down some dark paths.
Still, I insist: I want to do what I want, when I want, how I want.
But life's confusing. Why don't things ever really work out?
I'm haunted by emptiness and futility — shadows of death.
I fear the big hurt and final loss.
Death is waiting for me at the end of every road,
...but I'd rather not think about that.

I spend my life protecting myself. Bad things can happen.
I find no lasting comfort.
I'm alone ... facing everything that could hurt me.
Are my friends really friends?
Other people use me for their own ends.
I can't really trust anyone. No one has my back.
No one is really for me — except me.
And I'm so much all about ME, sometimes it's sickening.
I belong to no one except myself.
My cup is never quite full enough. I'm left empty.
Disappointment follows me all the days of my life.
Will I just be obliterated into nothingness?
Will I be alone forever, homeless, free-falling into void?
Sartre said, "Hell is other people."
I have to add, "Hell is also myself."
It's a living death,
... and then I die.

If we'll surrender our wounds and independence, listen to what the Master will do:

Psalm 23
A psalm of you and I.
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Which reality are you currently living in?
Surrender to the good shepherd today.
Allow Him to lead your heart and your mind in the Way of Life.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Oh, how many lives are wasted by people who believe that the Christian life means simply avoiding badness and providing for the family. So there is no adultery, no stealing, no killing, no embezzlement, no frauds – just lots of hard work during the day and lots of TV and PG-13 videos in the evening (during quality family time) and lots of fun stuff on the weekend – woven around church (mostly). This is life for millions of people. Wasted life. We were created for more, far more. …. We need to add this: No one will ever want to say to the Lord of the universe five minutes after death, I spent every night playing games and watching clean TV with my family because I loved them so much. I think the Lord will say, “that did not make me look like a treasure in your own town. You should have done something besides provide for yourself and your family.” John Piper

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Grace will win...

'What sound does rain make?' Japanese Proverb

"... it doesn’t make any sound until it hits something, an umbrella, a hat, a puddle. What sound does grace make? It doesn’t make any sound until it hits something, a weakness, our sin, our failure, our rationalizations and our cover-ups." Ann Lamont

Jesus Christ is the Grace of God in Action! So Come Lord Jesus Come.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Walking with God

What messages are coming your way from God?

See you tomorrow night @ 730 PM. Wait until you here what Kevin B. has to say!!

Monday, August 25, 2008

A revolution of love

The revolution of Jesus is in the first place and continuously a revolution of the human heart or spirit. It did not and does not proceed by means of the formation of social institutions and laws, the outer forms of our existence, intending that these would then impose a good order of life upon people who come under their power. Rather, his is a revolution of character, which proceeds by changing people from the inside through ongoing personal relationship to God in Christ and to one another. Dallas Willard

Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. God's love for you and His choice of you constitute your worth. Accept that and let it become the most important thing in your life. Brennan Manning

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The seven deadly sins...

... and the seven life-giving virtues.

Where are you on the continuum of each?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

How are you defining success?

Psalm 131:2
I have calmed myself and quieted my ambitions. I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.

Friday, August 22, 2008

God asks us if we are willing...

... to be stirred as a pot of paint
... to be the legs of a galloping horse
... to be the third side of a triangle between Him and others
... to be whittled as an arrow

God is the hub of our wheel and we are the spokes reaching out to the rim of the world. Helen Roseveare

Thursday, August 21, 2008

... got to kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight.

So many terrible things happen every day that we start wondering whether the few things we do ourselves make any sense. When people are starving only a few thousand miles away, when wars are raging close to our borders, when countless people in our cities have no homes to live in, our own activities look futile. Such considerations, however, can paralyze and depress us. Here the word call becomes important. We are not called to save the world, solve all the problems, and help all people. But each of us has our own unique call, in our families, in our work, in our world. We have to keep asking God to help us see clearly what our call is and to give us the strength to live out that call with trust. Then we will discover that our faithfulness to a small task is the most healing response to the illness of our time. Henri Nouwen

John 8:12
I am the world's Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Importance of Being Foolish

"How long have you been a Christian? How long have you been living in the Spirit? Do you know what it is to love Jesus Christ? Do you know what it is to have your love unsatisfied, endured in loneliness, and ready to burst your restless, ravenous heart? Do you know what it is to have the pain taken away, the hole filled up, to reach out and embrace this sacred Man and say sincerely, "I cannot let you go. In good times and bad, victory and defeat, my life has no meaning without you." If this experience has not illuminated your life with its brilliance, then regardless of age, disposition, or state in life, you do not understand what it means to be a Christian.

This and this alone is authentic Christianity. Not a list of dos an don'ts, not a tedious moralizing, not a list of forbidding commandments, and certainly not the necessary minimum requirement for avoiding the pains of hell. Life in the Spirit is the thrill and the excitement of being loved by and falling in love with Jesus Christ. If the Spirit is not fire, it does not exist. The prayer that rises from my heart is this - if you haven't already, may you come to know in surpassing measure the incredible, passionate joy that I have known in the love of Jesus Christ crucified, the power of God, and the wisdom of God." Brennan Manning

2 Corinthians 6:11-13
Dear, dear people, I can't tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn't fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren't small, but you're living them in a small way. I'm speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My own little Gulag

A couple of weeks back God brought my attention to a lie that I was believing- I had been exiled, sent to suffer in obscurity in my own little Gulag. Shortly thereafter Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the author of the classic, The Gulag Archipelago died.

God had liberated Alexander Solzhenitsyn while he was exiled in the gulag:

"It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts. … That is why I turn back to the years of my imprisonment and say, sometimes to the astonishment of those about me: "Bless you, prison!" I … have served enough time there. I nourished my soul there, and I say without hesitation: "Bless you, prison, for having been in my life!”

The Lord pointed me to 1 Peter 1 and to the fact that I had been scattered, chosen by God, through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit for obedience. God wanted my, 'Yes!' to that reality. The only other choice we usually have when faced wiht trials is to become cynical, disillusioned and bitter.

I was reminded of just a person like that on our holidays. He was a service station attendant who gave anything but service clearly because of hurts in his life. I imagined pumping gas in rural BC was not satisfying what he wanted and he was going to let the world know it.

Peter goes on to write that 'grace & peace be ours in abundance'. The Father, 'in His great mercy,' knows what He's doing and has given us 'a living hope.' All that we have comes from Him. I believe that God wants not only me but all of us to give up on self-sufficiency.

We can live that reality because through faith we are 'shielded by God's power'. There is no gulag that God is not Lord of!

We may suffer grief for a short time, yet we can rejoice greatly. I read this after fresh reflections on Peter being delivered from prison in Acts 12. He knew a thing or two about suffering, about being delivered, about messing up and ultimately giving up any self-sufficiency that he might have had. Jesus himself had told Peter,

"I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go."
"Delightfully dependant" is how Fred Smith put it in his later years.

God helped me to see that I needed to repent of my old attitude and echo what Alexander Solzhenitsyn had discovered- 'Bless you, prison, for having been in my life!'

Is there a gulag you are currently trying to escape from?

1 Peter 1:1-9
To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered about, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 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. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, or you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Give me your eyes...

Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity
Give me your arms for the broken hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me you heart for the ones forgotten
Give me your eyes so I can see Brandon Heath

Please, Lord, make that my reality. Cleanse me from judgmentalism and allow me greater visions of love. Amen.

Matthew 13:15
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, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Is God annoying you?

More from Yac,

"You know, my son is in a band. And, of course, he’s not supposed to be in a band because he’s supposed to be having a job and working and making money, and it just happens to be what makes him happy. And he’s with a guy there who is a Christian. And his parents were really super-conservative Christians from the mid-west. And he was living with his girlfriend for like three years. And they were very disappointed in him. He called up one day and said, mom and dad, we’ve decided to get married, which they were happy about. Not excited, but okay, we’d rather have them married than unmarried.

The next day he finds out his girlfriend’s pregnant. So he calls up and says we’re not coming. She’ll be pregnant, she’ll be big, and it’ll be embarrassing to you and we don’t want to embarrass you and all the church friends, so we’re not going. We’re going to go to a justice of the peace. So they went and got married in San Francisco to a justice of the peace. My son went with his girlfriend.

As my son and girlfriend are leaving they looked at each other and said, 'that was the worst wedding I have ever seen in my life.' You know what we need to do?

We need to give them the wedding they never had.

So for the next three months they prepared. They invited all their friends, they actually called the parents and said, we know you’re unhappy with the choices they made but we want to give them a wedding. Would you come? They said, yeah, we’ll come. We’ll bring all the family. They brought 30 people. There were 90 people hiding in this house when this couple showed up thinking they were going to a lunch.

When they got there, the two vans showed up and stole off the girl and the guy and they had the bachelor and the bachelorette party they never had, gave them a picture and said write down all the reasons you love each other. They came back. They thought that was the end. They walked in the backyard. 100 people stood up and said, happy wedding.

They cried for an hour.

It took them an hour to get their composure. Then they had the wedding ceremony. And, you know--and I know this couple, I’ve met them now--it’s been two years since this. They say, every week we call up your son and tell him thank you for this unbelievable gift that you gave us.

Now, people say to me, well, what are you doing? Condoning couples living together? No. That’s not what this is about. It’s about redeeming what these couples-they realized, wow, this is what we missed. This is what this is all about. We now have a wedding we can look back at and remember.

The church is not about pointing the finger at people and tell them what they’re doing wrong. Our goal is to show them this incredible lavish love of God and the result will be, yeah, I’ll be a mess, but I’m so attracted to this God. And I’ll be honest with you, there have been times when I haven’t been attracted to Jesus. And it’s kind of like when my grandson sees me. He grabs onto my shirt and he won’t let go. I go around and he’s just hanging on and I go, you know, Noah, let go. And he goes, okay.

And he doesn’t let go.

To be honest with you, that’s the way Jesus has been in my life. There have been times where I’ve said, Jesus, I don’t believe in you anymore, get out of here. I don’t know. I don’t even trust you. And it’s like, okay.

And he’s still hanging on."

Hebrews 13:5
Since God assured us, "I'll never let you down, never walk off and leave you," we can boldly quote, "God is there, ready to help; I'm fearless no matter what. Who or what can get to me?"

Saturday, August 16, 2008

God's annoying love...

Mike Yaconelli was a giant of the faith for many. His book, 'Messy Spirituality' and his life story were used by God to encourage me many, many times. The following is an excerpt from an interview he did with Dick Staub a year before his death.

He subtitled his book, "God's Annoying Love For Imperfect People". I love that because so often we're so busy trying to prove ourselves to God & others that when He constantly reminds us of that truth we actually get irritated! We'll say things like, "Just let me get on with my life"; or "We've got to do something, not just sit around and experience God's love."

Listen to how Yac describes it,

"When I was 50 I read a book by Henry Nouwen called In the Name of Jesus. And I’m one of these guys that when I read a book by somebody that really impresses me I call them up and ask them if I can come see them. Most of them tell me no. Nouwen said sure, come on. He pastored a group of 140 mentally challenged people.

So I went and spent a week with him. At the end of the week I discovered a word I had never know in all of my years as being a Christian, and that was the word “intimacy.” I had no clue that you could be intimate with God. And the person that taught me the real meaning of intimacy was not Henry Nouwen, this great teacher at Harvard and Yale and Notre Dame and all that. It was a little guy by the name of John Bloss, who was 40 years old, who had a hundred word vocabulary.

And after a small group meeting where I had said I was too busy—because, you know, busy-ness is the biggest sin in America. It’s not pornography, it’s not abortion. It’s busy-ness. And I was wiped out and burned out and I told everybody that. And after it was over John comes up to me--and when you’re mentally challenged you have no sense of space. He’s right in my face and he goes, busy.

And I go, well, yeah, John. Yeah, I am. I’m being very patronizing. I don’t expect anything from John, you know. He’s got a hundred word vocabulary. What can he teach me? And-and he goes, too busy. And I said well, John, you’re absolutely right. I am too busy. Again, I’m being very patronizing. And he got right up next to my face and he went, why?

And I started crying.

Because for the first time in my life I realized why. John was the only guy who could ask me that question. He wasn’t afraid to ask me the one question I couldn’t ask. And the reason I was busy is because I believed if I kept busy then God would love me. And it was at that point that the grace of God became so real to me and I began to realize that this isn’t about me following Jesus.

You know, I mention in my book that I always have this dream that I’m going to be with a bunch of people following Jesus and he’s going to turn around and he’s-he’s going to look straight at me and he’s going to wave his hand to come up to him. And I’m going to start walking toward him and he goes, no, no, no, not you. The guy behind you. I’ve always had this sense that, you know, I just don’t make it. I don’t measure up.

And John Bloss taught me that the grace of God is what this is all about. And it’s extravagant. It’s wild, it’s dangerous, it’s unpredictable, it’s—you can’t put it in a category and that began this kind of wild ride with God."

Friday, August 15, 2008

From an empty way of life to real love...

Marian Jordan has recently written a book called 'Sex and the City Uncovered.' In it she chronicles her own life and spiritual journey, from idolizing Madonna as a 12-year-old to having been set free by the Jesus Christ.

Jordan writes, "In one episode from season three of SATC Charlotte memorably comments, 'Women just really want to be rescued. I'm sorry but it's true. I've been dating since I was 15. I'm exhausted. Where is he?'"

Look past the glamor and all you see is four women looking for love in all the wrong places, hiding their scarred hearts with designer clothes and desperately attempting to fill a void in their lives. Marian Jordan

Are you finding the life you're living empty? What might God be whispering to you?

1 Peter 1:18-25
Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ's sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no afterthought. Even though it has only lately—at the end of the ages—become public knowledge, God always knew he was going to do this for you. It's because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God.

Now that you've cleaned up your lives by following the truth, love one another as if your lives depended on it. Your new life is not like your old life. Your old birth came from mortal sperm; your new birth comes from God's living Word. Just think: a life conceived by God himself! That's why the prophet said,
The old life is a grass life, its beauty as short-lived as wildflowers; Grass dries up, flowers droop, God's Word goes on and on forever. This is the Word that conceived the new life in you. (Isaiah 40:6-8)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

We are 'in Him'

I've often found myself talking about my relationship with Christ but somehow that seems to sell it way too short. If all we have is a 'relationship', perhaps we’re missing out on the real life that Jesus wants to give us- especially as revealed in Acts. What if we could ask a baby in its mother’s womb, “Do you have a relationship with your mom?”

This is how Vince Antonucci sees the conversation going:

“…I can’t believe that you would ask that. How do I answer? I mean, yes, we do have a relationship, but c’mon it’s way beyond that. I mean, I live inside of her. I can’t live without her. I am totally dependent on her for everything that keeps me alive. I can’t do anything without her. So yes, I guess we have a relationship, but that’s a colossal understatement.”

What would the Lord say to us asking the question about having a relationship with Him?

“…relationship? You can call it what you want, but I’m inviting you into much more than a relationship. I’m offering to be the womb you exist within, and the blood that flows through your veins. I want to be the umbilical cord that brings you the fluids that sustain you, and I want to be those fluids that sustain you. I want to be the breath that enters your lungs when you’re born, and I want to be your lungs. What I want is for you to get lost inside of Me, and I want to be lost inside of you. My desire is for us to be one.”

Luke 6:36
Be compassionate as God is compassionate.

The meaning of compassion is suggested in part by its linguistic association in both Hebrew and Aramaic with a word for "womb". To be compassionate is to be like a womb. God is womb-like. Marcus Borg

John 14:20
On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.

John 10:27
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

Acts 17:28
For in him we live and move and have our being.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Our lives are in God's hands

It is clear from Acts 12 that the early church was learning & relearning daily this deep truth. James, the brother of John had been killed by Herod, Peter was in prison, likely going to be killed, and yet the Lord miraculousely saves him!

Peter didn't think he was going to be rescued judging from his reaction the the angel sent to help. Even though the church was praying for his release, they apparently didn't believe that it was going to happen, judging from Rhoda's reception at the news Peter had shown up!

Peter goes on to tell everyone that his rescue was all about what the Lord had done - not his sharp intellect, great courage, physical smarts or anything else for that matter.

Then Peter abrubptly disappears from the book of Acts. Wow.

The chapter closes with Herod being struck down by the Lord, too, showing that ultimately everyone is in God's hands. It only depends at what age we find that truth out!

But the word of God continued to increase and spread.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

God is love

Tomorrow night @ 730 PM is our bi-weekly Men's Group. Below is a message from our fearless leader Chris that he gave on Sunday, July 20.

God Is Love

This morning I would like to talk to you about the very nature and character of God, as the bible declares Him and how I have experienced Him. Throughout the bible we find many words used to describe God in an active way. God is a Holy God, He is a merciful God, He is a God full of compassion. God is a redeeming God, God is a just God, and He is a gracious God. Our God is a faithful God.

C.S. Lewis writes, "God is the one who loves us; not because we are lovable, but because He is love; not because He needs to receive but because He delights to give."

There are many other words used to describe Him as well, but there is one word that is not only used as a descriptive word, but a word that declares a state of being; that word is Love.

Probably the simplest example of what I mean that I can share is a description of ice. When water freezes it becomes ice and we can than say its state of being has changed from being fluid (water) to solid. We are also able to say that ice is solid, as in it now has an inherent strength to it, or will not break easily. So than the word solid when used to describe ice, not only becomes a describing word but it also becomes a word used to declare a state of being.

When I first began my journey towards the Lord, He imparted that truth to me simply, yet powerfully. Going through some of my old things I came across a bookmark I received after my first communion in the Catholic Church. On that bookmark was a scripture, "1 John 4:8 - God Is Love"

The impact of reading that scripture on that day still resonates within me powerfully. It has become part of the bedrock of my belief system, and one of the foundational truths of my faith.

God Is Love

Not just another word used to describe an action God has towards us, but a word that declares a state of being. God is not simply just a loving God - God is Love. Most Christians start off believing this truth joyfully, but than as time goes by, and misunderstanding and hurt arise, they often forget and start to believe differently.

So if God is love, what does that mean? In our world many times our definition of love can be skewed because of how he have experienced it or how we have been shown it. For some love is nothing more than a sexual act, and so that is what they seek after. For others the idea of loving someone means being the ultimate nice guy. One who never rocks the boat, someone who always wants to please others, even to the point of disregarding truth for the sake of peace.

In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 the apostle Paul gives us the true meaning of the word love.

"Love endures long and is patient and kind, love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, and does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited arrogant or inflated with pride; it is not rude and does not act unmannerly. Love does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking. It is not touchy, fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it. It does not rejoice at injustice or un-righteousness, but rejoices when truth and justice prevail. Love bears all things, hopes all things, believes all things, and endures all things. LOVE NEVER FAILS."

God Is Love

Now some of you may be wondering, "So if God is love, why is the world so full of pain and suffering, why is there unanswered prayer, why do bad things happen to good people?" Though none of us have perfect understanding for these and other unanswered questions, I can share with you what the bible declares and what my own experience has taught me.

God is love, and because He is love He does not force His ways upon us. Instead because of His great love towards us, He gave us free will to live our lives as we see fit. We are free to love, but we are also free to hate. We are free to forgive, and we are free to be vengeful. We are free to be peacemakers, and we are free to cause wars. We are free to create, but we are also free to destroy.

Because we live in a world still corrupted by sin and free to do as we will with our lives, pain and suffering do abound. The good news is though, that God in His inestimable wisdom and love already knew this would happen and has acted accordingly. He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die on our behalf, thus redeeming us and the world in which we live. The fullness of His death and resurrection and the impact it has had is yet to be revealed though.

In the book of Isaiah 55:8-9 the Lord says, "My thoughts are not you thoughts, and My ways are not your ways, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." We as limited human beings have a very limited understanding of how one event may impact another, and as such pray and ask for many things we think are good for us, and from our vantage point they may very well be. God on the other hand is not only omnipotent, but also omniscient, and omnipresent, and has perfect understanding of how one thing will affect another. Science has shown that the whole world is interconnected to an unbelievable degree, and yet we want what we want most times without so much as glancing at the impact our wants may have on everything around us.

As a loving God He is also vastly more interested in the state of our hearts than in our circumstances. He understands that troubling circumstances are often the very tools needed to bring us growth and change. Romans 5:3 says, "Tribulations worketh patience, and patience experience, experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us."

When a child asks their parent for some candy right before bedtime, typically the parent says no. The child’s response typically would be to get angry because they do not understand why the parent says no. All the child understands is that something has been withheld form them. Now the parent has the greater understanding and is indeed showing love to their child by saying no. If the child were to eat candy right before bed, blood sugar levels would rise, energy would increase, and the child would be unable to go to sleep in a timely manner. This is just a small idea of what our understanding can look like next to God's in any given circumstance.

If we take a look at the story of Job in the bible we have an extreme picture of grueling, almost tortuous circumstances of a man who was fully devoted to God in every way. In fact it appears as though God even brags a little about him to Satan. Now God is not the one who brings about the circumstances that assault Job in this story, but He does allow them to happen. God knew everything about Job and the state of his heart and knew there was a problem with it, and He loved Job enough to want to deal with that problem.

You see Job was amazing in how he served God, and how he loved God, and God was with him in all things and blessed him greatly. Unbeknownst to Job though something had crept into his heart unawares that if left unchecked would have been devastating to his relationship to God and his life in general. Job was starting to become self-righteous, and relying on his own works to get favor from God, rather than allowing his blessing to come from God's grace and divine favor. He came to a place where he justified himself through his own actions rather than looking to God for his justification.

So our loving God takes a step back from Job's life and allows Satan to have his way with him. Job ends up losing everything in the ensuing ordeal, his wealth, his honor, even his children are not spared. His body becomes wracked with boils and hives; all that he is left with is his life. Than to top that all off his last three friends come to see him, and instead of offering words of consolation for his time of trial and grief, they further chastise him with their words and are of no comfort whatsoever. By the end of their long conversation back and forth what is hidden in Job's heart comes out and is finally revealed, his self-righteousness. Though he justifies himself, he still does not clue into what he has just said though.

Another man who is younger than Job's three friends and Job than speaks up after listening to all their words quietly, and he speaks on God's behalf. He declares to all of them what he has seen and heard and the error of all their words, he even pinpoints Job's error to him, still Job does not clue in. Finally the Lord himself shows up in a whirlwind, and basically asks Job who in the heck he thinks he is to demand things or an answer from the Creator of all things, and chastises Job for believing that his own works have anything at all to do with his receiving from God.

Ultimately, Job realizes once and for all that he had become self-righteous and repents of it, and the Lord forgives him. In the end God does bless Job once more, with wealth, honor, health, children, and a life long enough to see his grandchildren's grandchildren. In fact he is given twice as much as he had before the whole event took place.

Every time God is faced with us praying for our circumstances to change, as well as us asking Him to change or heal our hearts, He will always go for the heart. He knows that our hearts health is vastly more important than any circumstance we may be in or facing.

God Is Love

In my own personal journey with God I have found that He is not only interested in removing any bad things that have entered my heart, but He is also very interested in healing it of past hurts and pain. Whether our wounds have been buried so deep we have forgotten them or they have just scarred over and we have become numb to the pain, it seems to me He is always far more willing to heal us than we are to be healed.

There was a time in my life when emotional pain was more than I could bear, and instead of choosing life or healing I chose death. My great plan to rid myself of my pain consisted of smoking enough crack cocaine to overdose and die and therefore be pain free, and if I didn't die than at least I was too stoned to remember my pain anymore. During that period of my life is when God found me. He called me by name, said He loved me more than I could ever imagine, and that He would heal my heart, and I would hurt no more.

I than began an amazing journey towards Him and freedom from the lifestyle I had chosen. He called me his son, and revealed Himself to me through various means, and I came to believe that I was healed of my former hurt; but I was wrong. In His great wisdom God knew that I was not prepared for Him to touch the deepest places of my pain, and instead He set to work on growing me up. He taught me some wisdom and understanding, He put people around me who loved on me and encouraged me, and He dealt with less painful things in my heart.

Seven years I walked with Him, seven years of what I would call blissful blessing, where His peace lay upon me as a blanket. He became my closest friend and confidant, my trusted ally through this walk of life. Not in my wildest dreams did I ever expect my old pain to still be there, lurking in the darkest recesses of my heart. When the fullness of time came for my healing to begin, I was taken completely unawares. Things started to go dreadfully wrong as I saw it, my blessings seemed to dry up, my prayers seemed to bounce off the walls, and before I knew it all I had been given was stripped away. Stripped away so that once again I could see what was hidden in my heart, my old pain. Once again when faced with that pain I made the same choice I did so many years ago, I chose death instead of life, once again drugs became my place of refuge, once again I was a broken shattered shell of a man.

There was one difference this time around, God was with me and I knew who He was, and I knew He loved me. He walked alongside me through my pain, ignoring my pleas for my circumstances to change. Instead He showed me grace like I could not imagine, as my life was spared again and again, no matter how many times I passed out from smoking too much crack cocaine. He listened to my cries, He understood my frustration and my actions, and He kept on loving me through it all never abandoning me. Always His goal being to show me that I could choose life when faced with that pain, that death was not my only option. Facing me with a grace that would not quit, a love that never stopped. He even went so far one day as to continue to allow me to do what I wanted and remove His protection He had given me. Very clearly one day I heard Him say "Ok my son, though it grieves me deeply, if death is truly what you want, I will let you go." in an instant I knew if I took another hit I would die. That's when I finally clued in that death was not truly what I wanted, healing was. I wanted to live, but I needed to be healed, and that day is where the healing of my heart truly began.

It has been almost seven years again now, and to be honest I am still not finished dealing with the consequences of my actions during that time, but other things have been given to me that far outweigh what was lost. I know my God loves me, I know my God always has my best interests at heart, and I know my God will never abandon me.

So why do I believe some of my bad experiences have happened to me? Why do I think God doesn't seem to answer some of my prayers? Why do I think bad things happen to good people?

I believe it is because He knows what it is going to take to heal the human heart.

I believe He knows what needs to be gone through if we are serious about being truly healed.

I believe that He is such a loving God, that if we are as serious about our hearts as He is, than He will take us down the road that we need to go down, He will walk with us through the dark places of our hearts, exposing the darkness and pain within.

I believe He will stand with us as we face it and He will lead us to the other side where true healing can be found.

God Is Love

God is love, and we are His children. He has declared His love for us not only through the beauty of creation, but irrefutably by the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. He calls us righteous because of His Son, and has made us to be joint-heirs with Christ. He has plans to prosper us and give us hope, His thoughts towards us daily outnumber the grains of sand by the sea, and the word says He dances over us with joy.

God Is Love

God is love, He will not forsake us nor leave us, he collects all of the tears we cry, and our prayers are a sweet smelling incense to Him. He is perfect in all His ways; His judgments are always tempered with mercy and grace. He is the author and finisher of our faith, and neither life nor death, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things to come can separate us from His love that is given to us through His Son. Daily He stands at the door to our hearts, calling us to come sit, and reason together with Him. His mercies are new everyday, and as far as the east is from the west has He removed our sin from us. His grace is from everlasting to everlasting and more than sufficient to see us through any and all trials we will face. His truth will set us free and His Son has given us life.

If we ever mange to truly believe this, if we can ever grasp that God is for us and not against us, if we can ever come to the place where we are able to accept His forgiveness and live lives free from condemnation and guilt, than I believe we too will have come to the place where from prison Paul the apostle says " For I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content, I know how to be abased and how to abound, everywhere and in all things, I am instructed both to abound and suffer need. I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME."

Our God is Love, and His mercy endures forever. (by Chris Eisenkrein)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Every bird should get to fly...

I saw this ad on Friday night while watching the Seahawk & Vikings game. It gripped my heart & the Lord began to stir Isaiah 40:31 in a way I had never experienced before.

I could see myself as that little penguin, so eager to fly yet so incapable on my own. I was following the Master & He took me up; at some point I was flapping my own little wings thinking I was actually doing it - yet I really knew it was God providing the lift. He has such a desire to take us all up - if we'll only let Him do it.

It seems that we first have to tire of trying to get up in our own power. Some of us have gifts and at times it seeems like we are actually flying in our own power. In reality it's the difference between being in a simulator & actually going up in real life!

The world will tell you that money, power & sex are the way to acheive flight. Peter reminds us in 1 Peter that we have been 'redeemed from an empty way of life.'(1:18)

Our only option is to surrender and allow God to be our strength & the wind beneath our wings.

Stop being such a chicken, just scratching the surface- take flight!

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

This is only a test -

...then again all of life might be a test!

Matthew 6:24
You can't worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you'll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can't worship God and Money both.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

What kind of ego do you have?

Ken Blanchard is fond of saying that, "Ego usually means Edging God Out."

A far more accurate rendering for a follower of Christ is "Exalting God Only."

Which acronym fits where you currently are?

Galatians 2:19-21
What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn't work. So I quit being a "law man" so that I could be God's man. Christ's life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not "mine," but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Eternal life starts now...

Eternal life. Where is it? When is it? For a long time I have thought about eternal life as life after all my birthdays run out. For most of my years I have spoken about the eternal life as the ‘afterlife,’ as ‘life after death.’ But the older I become, the less interest my ‘afterlife’ holds for me. Worrying not only about tomorrow, next year, and the next decade, but even about the next life seems like a false preoccupation. Wondering how things will be better for me after I die seems, for the most part, a distraction. When my clear goal is the eternal life, that life must be reachable right now, where I am, because eternal life is life in and with God, and God is where I am here and now. Henri Nouwen

Philippians 1:21
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

the price of admission...

Luke 18:15-17
People brought babies to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. When the disciples saw it, they shooed them off. Jesus called them back. "Let these children alone. Don't get between them and me. These children are the kingdom's pride and joy. Mark this: Unless you accept God's kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you'll never get in."

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

You're all I need...

All I need is Your love
To come and fill this heart of mine
My heart is a desert that has gone dry
And I need Your love to carry me by
Shawn McDonald - All I Need

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

God wants you to become the kind of person whom He can trust to do whatever you want.

What do you want?

To do what He wants.

My new company is called Jellyfish Labs because jellyfish cannot choose their own course; their direction is derived from currents. As a Christian I should be thinking of myself more as a jellyfish than as a big studly tuna. I have a wall full of new ideas. But the moment I pick one and call it my dream—my big, hairy, audacious goal—I'm holding onto it too tightly. And that's a big change. God is now my dream, my deep desire, not what I can do for him. Phil Vischer

Monday, August 04, 2008

1 Timothy 4:11-14
Get the word out. Teach all these things. And don't let anyone put you down because you're young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. And that special gift of ministry you were given when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed—keep that dusted off and in use.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Grace is receiving God's goodness into an undeserving life... mine. Or yours.

Luke 15:18-24
...I'm going back to my father. I'll say to him, Father, I've sinned against God, I've sinned before you; I don't deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.' He got right up and went home to his father.

"When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: 'Father, I've sinned against God, I've sinned before you; I don't deserve to be called your son ever again.'

"But the father wasn't listening. He was calling to the servants, 'Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We're going to feast! We're going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!' And they began to have a wonderful time.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Come and listen...

John 12:24
Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you'll have it forever, real and eternal.

Friday, August 01, 2008

One life at a time...

When asked why she worked with people one at a time rather than caring more about having an impact on a larger scale Mother Theresa replied,

I was called by faith, not by results.

There is within me a tendency to play it safe. I want to stay friends with everyone. I do not like conflict or controversy. Often I think that what we are living (here Nouwen is referring to his world of quiet friendships) is very similar to what St. Paul and the apostles lived during the early years of Christianity- intimate celebrations in people's homes, prayers, conversations and mutual support. Simple but very nurturing. Henri Nouwen