Saturday, September 6, 2014

Rebuilding after Babylon

After coming out of the Babylonian captivity to rebuild the house of The Lord there was a mixed response to the work that was being done. Apparently there were some who rejoiced at the work that was being done and there were others whose expectations were not being met and they grieved over the work they perceived as not good enough.

See for yourself-

>>>But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers' houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, Ezra 3:12<<<

When I read this passage this morning it struck me. It reminds me of a lot of the talk recently about how much today's church lacks when compared to the first century church. It's as if today's foundation is smaller compared to the foundation laid by the apostles immediately following the resurrection. Some people say "be glad and shout for joy that *some* work is being done to build the house of The Lord". Others weep because the work that is being done just doesn't seem to be good enough. After all, they say, a building cannot outgrow its foundations.

It's a fascinating narrative of mixed emotions.

And then there is this passage where God speaks directly to the rebuilders of the house of The Lord.

>>>Haggai 2:3-5
'Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the LORD. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the LORD. Work, for I am with you, declares the LORD of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.<<<

God agrees that what they are building isn't as good as the former house, and yet, He doesn't tell them to cease the work. No. God wants the builders to be strong and courageous and keep building. He offers them strength for the building by pointing to the true foundation and the deeper meaning of having a house of God. Namely, "I am with you...my Spirit remains in your midst". Do you see that???? The purpose for the house is so that God can dwell with his people and God says He *already* dwells with his people. There is no better foundation that "God with us". 

The goal of having God dwell with us is already accomplished...but that doesn't mean we stop building. We keep building because we know that we will succeed. We keep building because we know that there is no such thing as too small of a beginning. We keep building because the end has been declared from the beginning.

Don't give up and don't lose hope. When you find yourself measuring your spiritual foundations with the spiritual giants around you remember, your foundation may be smaller than another's but The Lord is with you too. He doesn't despise the spiritual house you are building for Him in your heart. He's moved in already. Be strong.
Be courageous.
Keep working.

Monday, June 30, 2014

I saw you and I'm sorry

I saw you today.

I saw you and I didn't speak to you.  I'm sorry.  Hopefully I'm not as sorry as I could be, as sorry as I should be.  I'm afraid to watch the news and find out if my sorrows are multiplied and my inaction had fatal results.

I saw you today.  I saw you park your motorcycle.  I saw you realize there were several police inside, make a phone call and run across the highway.  I saw you meet with someone.  I saw you.

I saw you come back across the highway.  I saw you avoid line of sight with the officers exiting the building.  I saw your strange mannerisms.  I saw you jerk your arm in strange ways.  I saw you twist your face and contort it unnaturally.  I know you were high and I suspect I know what altered your state of mind.  I saw you.

I saw you get some jumper cables and attach them to the battery of your bike.  I saw you get it cranked.  I saw you approach the motorcycle, twitching and contorting and jerking your body in uncontrollable movements.  I sat and I watched.

I saw you ride away on a motorcycle, high as a kite and exhibiting very low levels of self-control.  I saw you and looking back I think I should have said something.  Maybe I could have stepped up and changed everything but I was afraid.  I was afraid of how you would have reacted.  I was afraid of heightened emotions and wasted energies of disappointment.   I was afraid.

I saw you and I was afraid.  Now I'm sorry.  Hopefully not as sorry as I could be, as I should be.  Not as sorry as I'll be if there is a news report of a motorcycle accident.  I know I can't change your mind so I kinda wish I could make better choices for you.  And then I realize how weak I am to make hard decisions myself.

I saw you today.  I saw you today and I didn't speak to you.  I'm sorry.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

No such thing as homosexual food

Apparently World Vision (one of the top grossing Christian charities) has publicly announced that they will not exclude homosexuals from their workforce and has sparked a frenzy of interest.  [shocked face]

Here is one of those "my two cents" posts that can be put in the "for what it's worth department".

All the big wig conservative evangelical church leaders need to stop fronting and be honest.  This was a wise business decision made by seasoned and successful businessmen.  The disagreements over homosexuality are splitting churches and dividing one believer from another all around the world.  Passions are at an all time high and self control at an all time low.

World Vision is an organization that receives over a billion dollars a year in funds to distribute to the poor.  That is a very large system which requires a lot of workers to maintain its efficiency.  To pick a side on this doctrinal disagreement would be detrimental to its survival.

Of course the larger, most prominent biblically conservative leaders and organizations want to give the impression that World Vision HAS picked a side because it trivializes a grievous sin.  What these leaders fail to recognize is that the reason World Vision has chosen to stay out of this fight is because the conservative perspective only represents one side of the disagreement. The denominations that recognize homosexual marriage as biblically legitimate would disagree with the conservative theology that led to their conclusion.

In making this decision the leaders of World Vision have left the debate over homosexuality where it belongs- in the conscience of the individuals who are directly affected by the issue.  They haven't taken a loose view of sin beyond the views of the collective of the individuals they employ.  They have not taken a grandstanding conservative posture and declared who is worthy to join with them in feeding the poor.  They left the grandstanding up to the denominational talking heads.

Since when is it acceptable to require one to sign off on a doctrinal statement before allowing someone to help feed the poor anyway?  The very fact that World Vision's announcement is such a big issue to some evangelicals is deplorable to me.  They made a wise business decision because they would like to continue thriving as one of the largest institutions and continue employing scores of individuals who don't mind setting aside their theological, doctrinal, and yes even sexual disagreements in order to work together at feeding hungry people.

When it all boils down I think it is all about control.  The leaders of World Vision made a decision that would ensure that they would remain in control of a large share of funds being dedicated to charity.  Church leaders are upset that they don't have the level of control over World Visions leaders as they'd like to have.  Perhaps these church leaders will refrain from delegating the control of those charitable funds to World Vision.  Okay fine.  Just make sure that the same monies are going toward feeding poor and needy children and not toward funding the "war against the LGBT's".

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The New Normal

My family and I have moved into a different house this month.  That has come with its own large set of challenges.  One of the things that has been on my heart and mind the most has been the question of how The Lord wants to use my family and I in this new setting.  I've prayed often that He would reveal to me the ways in which he would have us represent Him as His ambassadors in this new land.

Just the other day while on an hour long drive I was listening to a podcast from a church planting conference.  I remember feeling so inadequate that I wasn't doing more to advance the kingdom.  So I turned the volume off and told God about how I felt.  All of the sudden my memories filled with many of the ways I could discern myself being conformed to Christ.  Several of those memories included some of the ways I have interacted with our new neighbors in the last two weeks.  Then I experienced the strangest sort of running dialog in my mind such as I never had before:  

"can you see the work I am doing in you? 

Yes

Do you believe I am satisfied with you seeing as though I am changing you according to my own timing and will?

Yes

If I desire to make you into a faithful servant who lives a relatively quiet life without the game and fanfare can you be satisfied with that?

Yes, I can be satisfied with myself as long as you're satisfied with me.  But I thought you wanted us to do great things for you and step out with a radical sort of faith.  I want to be one of the servants who brings you a return of a hundred fold of what you've invested in me.

Just don't bury what I give you and I'll bring the increase I desire out of you.  As long as you remain a faithful servant you'll be rewarded as a faithful servant.
________________________

I'm wondering now just how much of my desires for greatness grew out of my American upbringing and the presuppositions I have carried to the scriptures because of that.

I know that God is satisfied with me on the grounds of what Christ has done.  In the measure He is satisfied with Jesus, that is the measure with which He is satisfied with me.  That means God is infinitely and joyfully satisfied with me.  Yet, I recognize that my responsibility to serve in space and time is of the utmost importance.  Not because it increases the measure of God's satisfaction with me but because He has made me a worthy vessel to convey His love and power to those who need Him.

We are made perfectly new and it is perfectly satisfactory to be perfectly normal in a renewed sense as we live and move and have our being.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

People you may want to "add" as a friend...yeah, right.

Yesterday as I scrolled down my Facebook newsfeed, a name caught my eye among the typically random people that the network suggests as "people you may know". I won't name the name and some of you who have known me for a long time might even catch on to who I'm talking about. 

There he was, much older looking than I remember him, with a cigarette pursed between his lips. My mind flooded with the memory of a day during my high school years when I was riding with my boys. A couple of fellas we had heard were talking trash about us were walking down the street, this guy was one of them. As we approached them they threw their hands in the air as if to invite us to settle it. Another afternoon of throwing blows in the street. We had nothing we thought was worth living for but even the most petty things were worth fighting for.

We whipped our rides onto the shoulder of the road and piled out into the street. I came nose to nose with the fella in the picture. I was told later that at the time he held his knife firmly near my back. I had no idea how close I was to death in the moment. To this day I don't know why he didn't stab me. The adrenaline took over and I don't remember our fight at all. All I remember is there was a lot of blood, one of my boys had a tire iron, another guy had a chain and the two guys we had pulled over to scuffle with had gotten the short end of the stick. We drove away with some torn and dirty clothes but other than that we were unharmed.

I came close to death in that street and I also came close to taking another life. To make matters worse, I didn't care. I thought that making a name for myself in the streets is what life was all about and I wasn't the only one who thought this way. We were legion and we all thought we had to be hard just to stay alive. Truth is, we had no idea what life was. We were slaves serving death as our master.
As I look at that picture and remember those days I wonder if we could ever be "friends". Even the shallow social-media-only type. I figure its probably not worth clicking the icon that invites him to be my friend and make myself vulnerable to rejection. I mean, we tried to beat each other to death in the streets. Why should I be his friend? What should he be my friend?

Then I remember that Christ calls me friend. I figure if there is room in heaven for a guy like me then there is room in heaven for anyone, even someone who literally put a knife to my back.

So I click the "add friend" icon. A little "plus" sign that resembles a cross. It's fitting because without a cross there would be no hope for such a friendship. We stand a much better chance of being friends now because the old me died on a cross 2000 years ago with my savior. Maybe he will accept, maybe he won't. Either way I'm thankful because he reminded me of who I am and who I once was. I hope that The Lord would grant him to be able to say the same.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Under the sun

For the first time in a long time I'm scared. It's silly really, a few tests sent off to pathology, two weeks before I get any results. The waiting is the hardest part.
I've always been a polka dotted little fella. It attracted a lot of ridicule while I was in grade school, who knew they could potentially kill me. I thought being picked on and called names was bad. Having spots that are the target of immature bullying were nothing compared to facing the reality that they are now the source of my greatest fear.

Therefore today...I'm having one of those "why" days. When all rationalizations fail and theology seems empty. When circumstances seem to be trying to crush the very life outta me and all that come out are tears. Life remains and I have to face it. The problem is, all I seem to be able to face is the ground beneath my feet or my shirt sleeve to hide the wetness falling down my face I so desperately want to raise up.

I know that this too shall pass but knowing that doesn't make it any easier right now. So I continue on about my daily grind, focusing on my work and drowning out my sorrows with mathematics. Nothing better for man than to enjoy his work under the sun, right? Well, tell that to the guy with the spots who suspects that too much time "under the sun" may have put him six feet closer to six feet under.

Hello, my name is Bobby. I'm not even 34 and my skin is in the mail for biopsy testing. Silly thing to be worried about.

It sucks.

That's all.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Faith triumphs over loneliness


After my previous post of doom and gloom I think it's profitable to balance that out with the reminder that our feelings of loneliness are very real yet... bogus according to our faith.  The reaction from all over the internet revealed a resonance with my sentiments that I did not expect.  It is my hope that this post will aid many who feel themselves to be in the middle of a dry and empty wilderness to praise God for the manna and continue to look forward to the promised land.

For starters, and most importantly, even when we "feel" all alone we would do well to remember that we cannot trust our feelings.  We are never alone, I am never alone, you are never alone.  We may not be able to trust our feelings but we can certainly trust the promises of our Lord.  He promises "I will NEVER leave you or forsake you".

Never

Loneliness is a lie.

Building upon that truth, knowing that Christ is always with us, implies that He is everywhere.  Since Christ is everywhere and He is always working, then everywhere we go there are places and ways that He desires us to join Him in His work.  Which brings me to my second point:  wherever we are, there are opportunities for ministry.  For instance, Christ is at work in the hearts and minds of our spouses, our children, our co-workers, our checkout cashiers, our next door neighbors, our relatives, our twitter followers and Facebook friends.  Jesus was at the party we attended last week, he was waiting in line with us for doorbuster deals, he sat around the table with us as we passed the turkey, he sips coffee with us at Starbucks.  Wherever we are, Christ is there and He is working his way to the center of our affections and the affections of those around us.

The possibilities are endless when you think of it.  Now would be a good place to recognize that when Jesus was in a body of flesh there were many around Him that He did not minister to.  This calls for some discernment in the way of prayerfully seeking where God is at work and obediently joining Him in that work without occupying ourselves with work that is outside of His will.  Intimacy with The Lord must precede our movement toward reconciling others to Him.  These truths build on one another.  When our focus is not on doing the work but on joining with Christ who is already working, the power of God will be conveyed in all that we say, everything we touch, and everywhere we go.

So we are in constant need of the reminder that Christ is near and He is active.  Loneliness becomes fellowship when we remember to share our time, resources, and selves with our Lord and our neighbor.  After all, we are never, really, alone.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Breaking the silence

It's been a while since I have done any writing here. Not because I haven't had any good ideas for writing or reasons to do so. My absence from the blogosphere is mostly because I haven't made it a priority. There is also the issue of my not feeling worthy of talking about things in an intellectual frame that I am not experiencing. Here is my effort toward putting a foot forward in that direction.

In much of my most recent soul searching I have come to realize the dangers in being somewhat of a loner in my walk with Christ. Aside from the most obvious feelings of loneliness and isolation as I have yet to commit myself to a body of believers who meet regularly, there has also been a void in my progression of spiritual growth. All my dreams of belonging to a family of believers who are devoted to learning to live by the indwelling life of Christ together remain in the dreamworlds. Maybe my dream is too big. Maybe I'm just growing impatient. Maybe my dreams are toxic to others and The Lord is protecting everyone from me. Maybe I'm about to round a corner and see some light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe I should just give up.

The stillness is unsettling

The darkness is unnerving

The uncertainty is uncomfortable

The doubts are overwhelming

The temptations seem inescapable

What do I do? Where do I go? How do I respond? Who else has had this experience? When will it end? I'm full of questions without answers. So my pen remains horizontal and my pages empty. Hopefully, that will change...soon. As I attempt to overcome all that I lack and share what it's like to be inside my own head, be prepared, I suggest you be on guard. They say that an isolated Christian is a dangerous Christian and

I

Am

Isolated.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Building the Mystery

Before time, before creation, before anything was made that was made, You saw me O Lord.

You formed me.

Before I came into the world, you built me and put my parts together.

You set me apart for your purpose even before my parts were placed together.

A body you prepared for me to display your nature and character to the world.

For I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Behold, I tell you a mystery hidden through the ages. This mystery is Christ and the church.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Is Christ on my desk or my heart?

After an unscheduled break from writing, I welcome you all back to get a glimpse of the places I have followed Christ. I'm exceedingly glad to have the time to release some of these thoughts that burn within me. On that note lets dive right into the subject at hand. Today I want to talk about the Word, both written and Living, and how the body of Christ is built up in the spirit.

In recent times I have been involved in numerous discussion groups and face to face discussions about the importance of scripture. It's a bit of a convoluted subject because I have experienced and fallen into the pitfalls that come when the written word is elevated to a position that is higher in importance than a living relationship and practice of listening to the spirit of God. I know how we so often subject the scripture to our own interpretations and can make it say what we want it to say. I've heard it said before and find it to be very true that "every heretic has his prooftext". I say all that to make the point that while I still firmly believe that scripture is both hihgly valuable and valid for the body of Christ today, understanding what it is that the Holy Spirit is conveying through the words of the text is of the highest value. In fact, without the guidance and illumination of the Spirit, the Bible has no value to transform us by revealing Christ.

While having a ear to hear what the Spirit is saying through the scripture is important it is also important to recognize that He speaks to us in numerous ways and is not confined to a book. Christ is alive, Christ is all, all things were made by Him, through Him, and to Him and all of creation puts on display His divine attributes. This is a truth and a way that was unknown to me until I was led out of the confines of a system where the Word of God was spoon fed to me like an infant and I became a hunter for the word of truth in the wild. Now that I have entered into this place where there is freedom and I am surounded by others who are in the wild like me, I have noticed a trend that makes me, well...concerned. There are many who are shouting and sharing about the importance of listening to the spirit and abiding in the Living Word but at the same time they are degrading and disregarding the value and validity of the written word.

The way I experience it, deception works in both ways. One day I discover I have been decieved into believing that the scriptures say something that they don't and another day I realize I have been decieved into believing that the spirit I have been obeying is the spirit of God when it's demonic and clothed in light. Now, maybe there are are some who have been walking and listening to the Lord long enough to be able to easily discern between the two, but I'm not at that level of maturity and I get the feeling that I am not alone. I need both the written word and the indwelling word of Spirit to agree with one another before I can be sure of anything. This is why I say things get so convoluted.

We have all heard it said, and many of us have repeated, that the Bible is the word of God and is the only objective standard we have. But is that always true if the scriptures themselves are necessarily subjected to our interpretation and understanding of them? Then there are some who would say that the indwelling Spirit is the only objective source of truth but we are taught from scripture to test the spirits...and we know that the Living Word will not disagree with the written word so what do we do? We make sure they agree, thereby subjecting one to another no matter which direction it is the truth is coming at us.

If you are expecting me to wrap this all up and tie a nice neat little bow on it you are going to be very disappointed. All I can say with confidence is that we reap what we sow. If we sow doubt, whether in the validity and value of the written word or the voice of our indwelling Lord we reap, a house that is destroyed by every wind and wave that comes its way because it has no foundation. My advice to myself and to anyone else who is facing the same issues and questions is don't abandon the search for truth. Dig deeper until you're confident that you are building on a rock. Dialogue and discuss with other believers who are as intent on submitting to the Headship of Christ as you and are learning to dilligently search the scriptures for Him and live by His indwelling life.

We don't understand all truth therefore as we search together there will be disagreement. As long as we all admit that we could have possibly been decieved into believing a lie, there is room for the truth to transform our minds. Disagreement doesn't mean disunity, in fact, unity through disagreement with humility will eventually lead to a knowledge of the truth so solid it will stand against any storm that blows our way.

How are you learning to discern truth through God's Word?