Saturday, February 28, 2009

Do you have a Shack? Mine is in Edmonton

My friend Randal Rauser, theology professor from Taylor Seminary has a new book out on The Shack called Finding God in the Shack. He will be at Blessings Christian Marketplace (9058 51 Avenue NW) today from 10:30-4:30- so drop by, have a look and say hello.

Here is Eugene Peterson’s kind thoughts on Finding God in the Shack:

‘Before you have read a dozen pages you will know why we need to keep company with theologians. They help us keep our conversations on God intelligent, informed and irenic.’ Eugene Peterson

I love The Shack. God has used it in my own life & in many others that I know. Papa shows up in unexpected places & unexpected ways, especially in our pain (our own shack). Jesus once said to Nicodemus the Pharisee- "You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it's headed next. That's the way it is with everyone 'born from above' by the wind of God, the Spirit of God."

Randal's book will be the second this year with the title Finding God in the Shack (Roger Olson having the other one). Both books are sympathetic with Paul Young's writings and spiritual journey.

There is on the other hand a whole group of folks who are writing more along the lines of Protecting God From The Shack!, having been outraged & offended by what Paul Young has penned. Seems to me that was what the Pharisaical experience was with Jesus.

Paul Young was recently in Edmonton for Breakforth & is actually back for three days in March so make sure to check out one of these opportunities:

The Shack in Edmonton

March 10,2009
*The Park Church, Sherwood Park: Pastors and Leaders Breakfast
*Chapters Book Store, West Edmonton Mall: Book signing
*Taylor University/College/Seminary: Faculty/Student Forum at Beulah Alliance (inviting educational institutions from Edmonton area)

March 11,2009
*West End Prison for Women
*Fantasyland Hotel : Men and Women’s Event

March 12,2009
*Lunch for staff/volunteers within the inner-city and the homeless
*School Assembly: host SCA in Sherwood Park inviting schools in area
*Festival Place: Women’s Dessert Evening

Here’s a quick personal story from Karen Braun about The Shack.

While I lived in Mission I had a hairdresser for years in Abbotsford. I lived to be Jesus with skin on for her and had numerous opportunities to shared God’s love in a variety of way –even prayed with her a couple of occasions. One of the last times I saw her before moving she asked me if I had read the book The Shack and she went on to say how someone gave it to her and this was the first time it was beginning to make sense how God could love her even though I had been telling her this all along. You see, she had a complicated life, six children many fathers a few husbands and new boyfriends. Paul Young’s book unpacked the gospel for her in a unique way that met her where she was at!

SO… if you have friends in the area who need Christ – it is worth taking them! Please feel free to pass this on to others in the Edmonton area!
Karen Braun

John 16:21-28
"When a woman gives birth, she has a hard time, there's no getting around it. But when the baby is born, there is joy in the birth. This new life in the world wipes out memory of the pain. The sadness you have right now is similar to that pain, but the coming joy is also similar. When I see you again, you'll be full of joy, and it will be a joy no one can rob from you. You'll no longer be so full of questions.

"This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I've revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he'll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks!

"I've used figures of speech in telling you these things. Soon I'll drop the figures and tell you about the Father in plain language. Then you can make your requests directly to him in relation to this life I've revealed to you. I won't continue making requests of the Father on your behalf. I won't need to. Because you've gone out on a limb, committed yourselves to love and trust in me, believing I came directly from the Father, the Father loves you directly. First, I left the Father and arrived in the world; now I leave the world and travel to the Father."

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Message for today...

Jesus came full of Grace and Truth and it literally means He came full of unfailing love and faithfulness.

That is a reality we can experience daily and know personally. Live there...

Psalm 26:3
So I never lose sight of your love, But keep in step with you, never missing a beat.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Surprised by hope...

What Is Hell Like? Does It Even Exist?

"The word hell has had a checkered career in the history of the church. And it wasn't hugely important in the early days. It was important, but not nearly as important as it became in the middle ages. And the in the middle ages, you get this polarization of heaven over here and hell over there, and you have to go to one place or the other eventually. So you have the Sistine Chapel, with that great thing behind the altar. This enormous great judgment seat, with the souls going off into these different directions.

Very interestingly, I was sitting in the Sistine chapel just a few weeks ago. I was sitting for a service, and I was sitting next to a Greek Orthodox...who said to me, looking at the pictures of Jesus on one wall. He said, these I can understand. The pictures of Moses on the other wall, he said, those I can understand. Then he pointed at the end wall of judgment, and said, that I cannot understand. That's how you in the west have talked about judgment and heaven and hell.
He said, we have never done it that way before, because the Bible doesn't do it that way. I thought, whoops. I think hes right actually. And whether you're Catholic or Protestant, that scenario which is etched into the consciousness of Western Christianity really has to be shaken about a bit. Because if heaven and earth are to join together.

Its not a matter of leaving earth and going to heaven. Its heaven and earth joined together. And hell is what happens when human beings say, the God in whose image they were made, we don't want to worship you. We don't want our human life to be shaped by you. We don't want, who we are as humans to be transformed by the love of Jesus dying and rising for us. We don't want any of that. We want to stay as we are and do our own thing.

And if you do that, what you're saying is, you want to stop being image bearing human being within this good world that God has made. And you are colluding with your own progressive dehumanization. And that is such a shocking and horrible thing, that its not surprising that the biblical writers and others have used very vivid and terrifying language about it. But, people have picked that up and said, this is a literal description of reality.

Somewhere down there, there is a lake of fire, and its got worms in it and its got serpents and demons and there coming to get you. But I think actually, the reality is more sober and sad than that, which is this progressive shrinking of human life. And that happens during this life, but it seems to be that if someone resolutely says to God, I'm not going to worship you...its not just 'I'll not come to church'.

Its a matter of deep down somewhere, there is a rejection of the good creator God, then that it the choice humans make. In other words, I think the human choices in this life really matter. Were not just playing a game of chess, where tomorrow morning God will put the pieces back on the board and say, OK that was just a game. Now were doing something different. The choices we make here really do matter. There's part of me that would love to be a universalist, and say, it'll be alright. Everyone will get there in the end. I actually think the choices you make in the present are more important than that." NT Wright

Our biggest choice is to believe that God loves us and invites us into His family, starting now & stretching into all eternity. Step into the love...

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. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you'll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Is this why Jesus came...?

To give us a cosmic 'Get Out of Hell Free' card?

Are we not instead surprised by hope that we now have full access to a relationship with the Father? and

That He will never leave or abandon us?

"The great danger facing all of that some day we may wake up and find that we have been busy with husks and trappings of life and have really missed life itself. That is what one prays one’s friends may be spared—satisfaction with a life that…has in it no tingle or thrill that comes from a friendship with the Father." Phillips Brooks

Ephesians 1:3-12
How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He's the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we're a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.

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.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Joy is the serious business of heaven!

I love this commercial, & not just because I drive a Subaru. As followers of Christ we are enfused with an infectious joy into all of our lives & into every thing we do. Indeed our even coming to Christ can be likened to being, 'surprised by joy'!

Whether we be at a disco, Taco Bell, Tim Horton's or wherever we go and serve- high voltage is sure to follow!

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Give up on self-sufficiency

...and take up, 'an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.'

Does God really help those who help themselves? Or does he help those who wait patiently trusting Him?

Ephesians 4:17-19
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Amazin' grace

Cheer up; you are a lot worse than you think you are. Cheer up; God's grace is a lot bigger than you think it is. Jack Miller

Luke 7:36-50
One of the Pharisees asked him over for a meal. He went to the Pharisee's house and sat down at the dinner table. Just then a woman of the village, the town harlot, having learned that Jesus was a guest in the home of the Pharisee, came with a bottle of very expensive perfume and stood at his feet, weeping, raining tears on his feet. Letting down her hair, she dried his feet, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man was the prophet I thought he was, he would have known what kind of woman this is who is falling all over him."

Jesus said to him, "Simon, I have something to tell you."

"Oh? Tell me."

"Two men were in debt to a banker. One owed five hundred silver pieces, the other fifty. Neither of them could pay up, and so the banker canceled both debts. Which of the two would be more grateful?"

Simon answered, "I suppose the one who was forgiven the most."

"That's right," said Jesus. Then turning to the woman, but speaking to Simon, he said, "Do you see this woman? I came to your home; you provided no water for my feet, but she rained tears on my feet and dried them with her hair. You gave me no greeting, but from the time I arrived she hasn't quit kissing my feet. You provided nothing for freshening up, but she has soothed my feet with perfume. Impressive, isn't it? She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal."

Then he spoke to her: "I forgive your sins."

That set the dinner guests talking behind his back: "Who does he think he is, forgiving sins!"

He ignored them and said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Wheels of life (cont)...

Are you tired of endless, pointless suffering with no apparent growth in character, faith or hope?

Have you ever wanted to get of the hamster wheel & climb onto the potter's wheeel?

How do we even know the difference between the two?

There is a difference between what Kim Engelmann calls 'redemptive suffering' and 'destructive suffering'.

Redemptive suffering is “Potter’s-wheel suffering” while destructive suffering is also known as “Hamster-wheel suffering.”

Hamster-wheel suffering is...
Goes nowhere.
It doesn't feel good.

Potter’s-wheel suffering knows...
God’s hand is involved.
The Potter, not the clay is in charge of moving the wheel.
We get off a different shape than when we got on.
There is a purpose to what we're going through.

Isn't it time to get off of your hamster wheel and onto the potter's wheel?

Luke 4:17-21
God's Spirit is on me;
he's chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,
Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind,
To set the burdened and battered free,
to announce,

"This is God's year to act! You've just heard Scripture make history. It came true just now in this place."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Wheels of life...

Have you ever felt that you've been stuck running on a hamster wheel?

Spinning your wheel, going around and around, with no end in sight and getting more and more exhausted?

Do you feel like you're Running In Circles?

"Much of the secret of life is learning to get off the hamster wheel of fruitless suffering while remaining on the Potter's wheel." John Ortberg

Kim Engelmann grew up in a highly dysfunctional home, she lived a tense and lonely life, enduring verbal and spiritual abuse from her mother while her father denied the existence of any problems. Her earnest prayers combined with efforts to be a better daughter brought no relief from the emotional and spiritual suffering. Later, the negative thought and behavior patterns were repeated in her marriage. She was stuck on a "hamster wheel" - running in endless circles that led nowhere.

Is there hope? Come back tomorrow...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Potluck this Sunday after the service...

Remember it's only as good as what we all bring...

John 4:31-34
Meanwhile his disciples urged him, "Rabbi, eat something."

But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about."

Then his disciples said to each other, "Could someone have brought him food?"

"My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What does the Father look like to you?

Brennan Manning once said that if you heal your image of God inner healing usually follows. There are many folks who have stayed away from God simply because they didn't trust His character.

Jesus may have seemed kind and compassionate but the Father was seen as angry, vengeful, perhaps even psychotic at times. Nothing could be further from the truth.

What images of the Father come from these scriptures?

Romans 1:7
To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.

Ephesians 5:1
Be imitators of God therefore, as dearly loved children.

Colossians 3:12
Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, cloth yourselves with ......

1 Thessalonians 1:4,6
For we know brothers & sisters, loved by God, that he has chosen you ... you became imitators of us and of the Lord.

2 Thessalonians 2:13
Brothers & sisters loved by the Lord, because from the beginning He chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.

Jude 1
To those who are called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Christ.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Be yourself

We forfeit three fourths of ourselves in order to be like other people. Arthur Schopenhauer

Why do we do that?

Fear of being truly known for who we are.
Fear of rejection.
Fear of finding out what's going on inside of us.

Think it only happens to you?

Look what Brennan Manning writes plagued him for so long...

For twenty-one years, I tried desperately to become Mother Theresa. I lived around the world in griming poverty and depersonalizing squalor. I lived voluntarily for six months in the garbage dump in Juarez, Mexico, garbage as high as your ceilings. It was a place filled with everyone from four- and five-year-old children to senior citizens in their eighties, all crawling over broken whiskey bottles and dead animals, just to find something to eat or possibly sell to hawkers on the side of the road. I've lived voluntarily as a prisoner in the prison in Pueblo, Switzerland; the warden there believed priests shouldn't be chaplains but actual prisoners. Only the warden knew my identity. I've lived on the streets of New York City with eleven-, twelve-, and thirteen-year-old prostitutes, both boys and girls, and ministered to them through Covenant House. I just knew if I could become a replica of Mother Theresa, then God would love me.

Pretty impressive, right? Yeah, right.
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!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Being in Christ is beautiful music to the soul...

Pat sent me this video- what a great truth that guides our life!

Colossians 1:27-29
The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God's glory. It's that simple. That is the substance of our Message. We preach Christ, warning people not to add to the Message. We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. That's what I'm working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

How did I ever get here, and how the heck am I gonna get home?

As I look back on my own pilgrimage, marked by wanderings, detours, and dead ends, I see now that what pulled me along was my search for grace ... I have barely tasted of grace myself, have rendered less than I have received, and I am in no wise, an 'expert' on grace. These are, in fact, the very reasons that impel me to write. I want to know more, to understand more, to experience more grace ... Accept then, here at the beginning, that I write as a pilgrim qualified only by my craving for grace. Philip Yancey

Now is a time to pay more attention to my own heart, to deepen my own friendship with God and to walk with others who want to do the same. Leighton Ford

That's the path to find our way back to the Father... go ahead & follow the grace crumbs home.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Lord heal the broken hearts...

(Thanks to Mike for the cartoon)

When we make ourselves vulnerable, we do open ourselves to pain, sometimes excruciating pain. The more people we love, the more we are liable to be hurt, and not only by the people we love, but for the people we love. Madeleine L'Engle

When I was a child
my heart was new
clay in the hands of the potter
as I grew, my heart became firm
the clay grew harder
easily broken, easily hurt
many have held my heart of clay
many have shattered it
unaware of just how fragile it was
sometimes it is hard to trust
knowing that when I do,
my heart may break again
God, mold my heart of stone
teach me how to trust
I know now that only you can. Robin Gabriel

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, February 13, 2009

'If I wanted your opinion I'd give it to you...'

Sadly many relationships operate the same way- no real listening, no real connection & then either a very real divorce, a messy break-up, or a case of 'frozen tundra' communication.

"He Said...She Said"
Another marriage is shattered, Lord, the divorce will be final next week.
He said it was the breakdown of communication and the subtle infiltration of boredom.
She said it was an accumulation of things.
He said she was unnecessarily preoccupied with home, children and activities.
She said he stifled her dreams and ignored her achievements.
He said he felt in prison, restricted; that night- after-night he got the old pushaway.
She said he was harsh and brutal and often embarrassed her in public.
He said her critical attitude contributed to his sense of inadequacy.
She said she felt lonely and unappreciated with no claim to personal identity.
He said she wallowed in self-pity and refused to acknowledge her benefits.
She said he was shiftless and irresponsible.
He said she didn't understand.
She said he didn't care. Lord, how tragic that through all the wasted years, neither of them asked what YOU'VE said.
Ruth Harmes Catkins

What has God said about relationships?

Ephesians 5:1-5, 21-28
Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

Don't allow love to turn into lust, setting off a downhill slide into sexual promiscuity, filthy practices, or bullying greed. Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, those who follow Jesus have better uses for language than that. Don't talk dirty or silly. That kind of talk doesn't fit our style. Thanksgiving is our dialect.

You can be sure that using people or religion or things just for what you can get out of them—the usual variations on idolatry—will get you nowhere, and certainly nowhere near the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of God.

Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another.

Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.

Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ's love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They're really doing themselves a favor—since they're already "one" in marriage.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The way of Jesus is amazing grace

Transforming the broken-hearted into Hope-filled followers of Jesus. That's what we're about- let's stay the course. (Thanks to Deadly Viper for this great reminder)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Chronological Study Bible

I just got my new Chronological Study Bible & I have to say that I love it. I have accumulated many Bibles over the years & this has quickly become one of my favorites.

The website itself is really great explaining all about the CS Bible & has many sample readings & other useful information. It even comes with its own One-Year Bible Reading Plan!

I love the flow of the narrative, the great pictures, the information boxes that tell of why they picked the order of books that they did (they spell out the alternatives as well), & the layout is eye-catching. Even for me, a guy who used to avoid New King James versions in favor of NIV, I like it!

As a tool for helping people understand the flow of history of God's Word I recommend it. I think even my kids will benfit flipping through the pages. My only regret is I would pick the leather over the hard cover next time.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Love is the first, the last & all that's in between

The wild, unrestricted love of God is not simply an inspiring idea. When it imposes itself on mind and heart with the stark reality of ontological truth, it determines why and at what time you get up in the morning, how you pass your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read and who you hang with; it affects what breaks your heart, what amazes you, and what makes your heart happy. Brennan Manning

2 Corinthians 5:14
If I acted crazy, I did it for God; if I acted overly serious, I did it for you. Christ's love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do.

Monday, February 09, 2009

My prayers and hopes have deep roots in reality...

Is your own reality one where God's love enables you to experience love and to love others, or that of a jaded & cynical heart?

It’s possible to love a human being if you don’t know them too well. Charles Bukowski

Philippians 1:9-11
So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover's life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

A little love check-up -

1 Corinthians 13:4-8
__ Love never gives up.
__ Love cares more for others than for self.
__ Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
__ Love doesn't strut,
__ Doesn't have a swelled head,
__ Doesn't force itself on others,
__ Isn't always "me first,"
__ Doesn't fly off the handle,
__ Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
__ Doesn't revel when others grovel,
__ Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
__ Puts up with anything,
__ Trusts God always,
__ Always looks for the best,
__ Never looks back,
__ But keeps going to the end.
__ Love never dies...

Which areas need the most work in your life?

Saturday, February 07, 2009

What do you say as a Christian...

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not shouting "I'm clean livin'."
I'm whispering "I was lost,
Now I'm found and forgiven."

When I say.. "I am a Christian"
I don't speak of this with pride.
I'm confessing that I stumble
And need Christ to be my guide.

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not trying to be strong.
I'm professing that I'm weak
And need His strength to carry on.

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not bragging of success.
I'm admitting I have failed
And need God to clean my mess.

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not claiming to be perfect,
My flaws are far too visible
But, God believes I am worth it.

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I still feel the sting of pain.
I have my share of heartaches
So I call upon His name.

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not holier than thou,
I'm just a simple sinner
Who received God's good grace, somehow! Carol Wimmer

Friday, February 06, 2009

Goody Two-Shoes....

God does not love you because you are good; you are good because God loves you. C. S. Lewis

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Surrender & see...

Commitment says, 'I am still in charge'.

Surrender says, 'I am letting God be in control'.

The world says, 'seeing is believing' but God says, 'believing is seeing!'

Acts 7:51-60
"You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it."

When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."

At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.

Is the miracle that Stephen should have been delivered alive from his captors?

Or is the miracle that he was so bold through the Holy Spirit & not at all afraid of death because he saw Jesus & the Father?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Everybody needs a little MMA- Monk Martial Arts!

These guys were probably enamored with GSP's beatdown of BJ Penn & wanted to show their stuff. Maybe they had a seminary course called, 'MMA- Crusading in the Modern Era'.

Sadly it highlights the reality of Sunday's post about wanting control, about needing to get our own way.

That never happens to you or I, or in our churches, does it?!

What's the the antidote you ask?

1 Peter 4:8-11
Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God's words; if help, let it be God's hearty help. That way, God's bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he'll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

What I'd leave under my pillow...

This song by Michael Card says it all for me.

Jesus loves me, I know it's true
Because He died for me and He died for you
When I think of all the pain that He went through
I want the world to know and I
want to shout the news

Jesus loves me, this I know
It's not just the Bible that tells me so
I can feel it, feel it in my soul
Jesus loves me, this I know

Jesus loves me, how can it be
That the only Son of God should care for me
To take away my sin and set me free
To take my life and make it all it's meant to be

Jesus loves me, he loves you too
You can't understand it all
just believe it's true
He'll take away your old heart
give you one that's new
You'll feel the walls come down
As His love comes breaking through

1 John 4:16-19
Everyone who confesses that Jesus is God's Son participates continuously in an intimate relationship with God. We know it so well, we've embraced it heart and soul, this love that comes from God.

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we're free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ's. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.

We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Even more letters & papers from prison...

As we work through Ephesians, one of Paul's amazing letters from prsion, we are letting other profound works written while in prison speak into our lives. Watchman Nee provides such material.

Nee was a leader in the Chinese church & chose to remain despite the threat of Communism.

“If a mother discovered that her house was on fire, and she herself was outside the house doing the laundry, what would she do? Although she realized the danger, would she not rush into the house? Although I know that my return is fraught with dangers, I know that many brothers and sisters are still inside. How can I not return?” Watchman Nee

He spent the last 20 years of his life in a Chinese prison & had his tongue cut out at one point because he kept speaking of God & his jailers kept coming to faith! He died alone in 1972 in his cell. In his final letter dated the day of his death he wrote,

"In my sickness, I still remain joyful at heart."

A piece of paper was discovered under his pillow with 'several lines of big words written in a shaking hand',

"Christ is the Son of God who died for the redemption of sinners and resurrected after three days. This is the greatest truth in the universe. I die because of my belief in Christ."

Nee believed in holding things with an open hand. Our own agenda's & ambitions are some of the very things we need to surrender in order to fully experience who God is & what He has in store for us.

What truth of God would you write & place under your pillow?

What is God asking you to release right now? Might it be a fear you currently have or even fear itself?!

Ephesians 3:12-20
When we trust in him, we're free to say whatever needs to be said, bold to go wherever we need to go. So don't let my present trouble on your behalf get you down. Be proud!

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you'll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

It's time to get serious...

James 4:1-10
Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don't have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn't yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.

You wouldn't think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you'd be asking for what you have no right to. You're spoiled children, each wanting your own way.

You're cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn't care? The proverb has it that "he's a fiercely jealous lover." And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you'll find. It's common knowledge that "God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble."

So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he'll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get on your feet.