Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2008: Realizations

These are just some things that come to mind when I ponder the year that is almost past...

I realized more this year than most, I think, that while God can certainly use me, my words, actions, etc., that ultimately I myself cannot change others, make something happen the way "I" want it to, etc. The key words in there being "I", "me", "myself"... It seems like when I've had strong goals and purposes to something or for someone...well, it tends to not turn out like I expect/hope, even if there are some good reasons for those hopes, goals, and purposes. Instead, I've realized more this year than most (or, it at least seems so right now) that when I can look back and see where God has been visibly at work in others through something that involved me in some way (whether it was my idea or even just "me being me"), it was not planned. In some ways, the "thing" that happened didn't even necessarily occur in 2008, it was just realized or expressed to me in 2008. So, while I might have planned certain events at church with high hopes, or had planned conversations (with planned results of change in the other person), or taught lessons that I thought would rock the youth group to it's core...well, often none of that happened. Oh sure, I bet God still did things through it all...but I just didn't always see it using "my criteria". But oh, the cool things I DID see that were unplanned...the kids that were effected by something that weren't the ones I thought would be so moved...the ways things often just "lined up well" when I was getting discouraged and impatient (and why do we seem to conveniently forget those times??? They ALWAYS happen...)...the random conversations and meetings that resulted in some really cool stuff...etc...

I realized this year more than before that being a father is bringing me closer to God. Old stories from scripture that involve fathers (Abraham and Issac...Prodigal Son...etc.) have really hit me like never before and not only show me my love for Jackson, but also God's love for me. And while I certainly think people can be single or child-less and still be as "whole" as anyone else...some experiences in life (like being called "Daddy") can just change everything and shake your faith at the foundations, making it even deeper...if you let it...

I also realized more than ever this year how my love for my wife, Missy, needs to reflect Jesus' love for us, his church. I've had realizations of that in past years, sure, but this year for some reason I really started taking it more to heart, choosing to love her more deeply, and asking God to humble me so I could better love and serve her like Jesus does us... So, what has that meant to me? Well, it means sacrifice, first and foremost. Jesus sacrificed for me. I need to sacrifice "my wants" for Missy. It also means serving her and making choices that are meant to bless her, help her grow, etc., even if they may not make "sense" to everyone. And it means that even if I don't get something back in return, I still do these things. I mean, sure, it would be great if every time I served or sacrificed for Missy's sake, that I got all kinds of attention, return sacrifice, etc., and usually she does, but my attitude and action need not depend on what she does or doesn't do. That's the biggie. My wife sometimes has struggles health-wise for example, or handles things differently than I due to our personality make-up and upbringing, and sometimes I know that results in lack-of-understanding form others...but I will serve and sacrifice for her nonetheless. Or, at least that's the hope and prayer, as I'm certainly NOT perfect in it. Why be that way? Ask yourself: how many times am I selfish, want "my" way, feel entitled to stuff, or just flat out SIN...and Jesus is still there? Answer: ALWAYS. No matter what. I need the same attitude, and in 2008, for some reason, I've felt compelled to be more proactive about it...

I realized that pizza is still good. After 34 years, nothing has changed there :-)

I also realized (to stay on food) that one's "taste" actually does change with age. Or maybe it's just me realizing the need to try and eat somewhat healthier...or just broaden horizons...haha. Whatever. All I know is that if you would have told me 10 years ago that I would not only choose to eat, but ENJOY things like spinach, green beans, peas, and even normal faves of mine that just have more of a "veggie" presence (like soups, for example...I actually am known to eat a minestrone soup and EAT IT ALL...that was unheard of...), I would have called you out as a big fat liar...

I realized that another example that I am getting old is that I have quit listening (at least as much as I used to) "new music", or specifically, music from newer artists. Oh sure, I'll gobble up the newest Coldplay or grab the new Robert Plant/Allison Krauss or look expectantly to the new U2 cd coming out in March 2009 (woohoo!), but those are just older artists' "new work". I am officially THAT GUY who tries desperately to listen to the radio occasionally (usually the "modern rock station") hoping to find something of worth...and come away sighing, "Oh wow, all of this STINKS." You know, teens will proclaim how "Band X is the best, most talented, EVER!!!!!", and when I listen, I'm like, "You must be joking...all they do is sound like 593 other bands out there, trying to sound moody, or edgy, or shocking, etc..." Sad thing is that I was just like them...haha. I am getting old...

I realized that there are few things in life that can give me joy like watching my son have the time of his life. I mean, seriously, I could just be sitting in a chair observing, and if Jax is having a ball, so am I. The example from 2008 was Sea World in August. That may have been the most fun he's ever had (well, our few "snow days" have been up there too...). I always look back at pics from that time, or remember what we did and saw, and just smile...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

...captive Israel... aka, us (aka me)

In the song, "O Come Emmanuel", one of the lines is talking about Emmanuel (aka "God With Us", aka Jesus...), where he is said to, "...ransom captive Israel". That resonates with me right now. Throughout scripture, "Israel" is used to mean more than just a small sliver of land on a map east of the Mediterranean Sea. In the Old Testament, it represents a people, God's people, and beyond that time, I believe it is meant to continue representing God's people.

Why should I pay attention to being compared with "Israel"? Well, I don't know how many times I've read or heard various Old Testament stories about the folks back then, and gone, "Come on, Israel! Why the whining? Why the complaining? You just saw the power of God! I wish I could see it as plain as you did, and there you go, following other 'gods', how stupid! How selfish! How weak! How..."


See, whether I choose the label Christian, or disciple, or Follower of Jesus... I'm still just like Israel. And God, while allowing some hard times, having to endure his people basically ditching him a myriad times, is always there for them. ALWAYS THERE. He promises redemption. He saves them. And yes, ultimately, he pays a ransom for their captivity. This is also what he does for me. I was captive to sin until age 16, when I realized (not through my own mind being convinced...I truly believe only the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart could save me...) that God loves me enough, even in my captivity and allegiance to everything besides him, to pay a ransom for me through the Cross. And while I have been ransomed...oh, how quick I can run. Forget. Shrug-off. Follow "other gods". Even when I've seen God's power and might on personal (and amazing) levels, I still can do all these things just a few days later. I am Israel. But I have been ransomed nonetheless, and thus need to shout with joy!

Some things I am asking and reminding myself today and throughout this season we call Advent/Christmas:

How am I “captive”? What is holding me captive?

Lord, give me a desire to want you to be in control of my life…

Lord, help me rejoice! Show me where you have given me things to praise you for…

Lord, expose my faults, my selfishness, my struggles…and let me feel your forgiveness…


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Not Just for Weddings // 1 Corinthians 13

1If I speak in the tongues[a] of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,[b] but have not love, I gain nothing.
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.


1 Corinthians 13:1 Or languages
1 Corinthians 13:3 Some early manuscripts body that I may boast

Words, phrases that stuck out:

Well, before going into the words and phrases, some quick commentary on this chapter as a whole... When we think of love, too often we equate it with that fluffy, fluttering feeling of romantic love. Now sure, romantic love must have the qualities expressed here, too, but that kind of love is so dependent on feeling, emotion, etc. The love Paul expresses here is timeless, reckless, risky, and above all, a glimpse of how God loves. But we use this passage so often at times where romantic love is celebrated...while, I even think it was a part of Missy and my wedding over seven years ago! That isn't all a bad thing per se, and I think Missy and I weren't using this passage solely for lovey-dovey reasons, but the temptation is/was there. So, I am seeking to look deeper at what this says to me today...and to truly see the depth that this high calling of Love is...

*** ...the most excellent way.; verse 1: This beginning to chapter 13 is in response to 12 (duh), that talks about how believers fit together (via gifts, talents, callings, and passions). It challenges us all to serve Christ alongside one another, and let's be honest: that get rough sometimes. Different gifts, while complimentary and necessary, sometimes create a mishmash of opinions, personalities, and agendas that may not always be God-infused (due to our human sides "shining through" at times). But how do we make it all work? By "the most excellent way..."

*** ...but have not love, I am nothing.; verse 2: Paul goes through a list of various God-given gifts and abilities, but reminds us that we can, say, be the best preacher on the planet, but if we don't have Love behind it all...it really doesn't matter. DANG. I mean, sure, Christ can shine through if I use my gifts, but if I am a complete jerk, or arrogant, or prejudiced, won't my influence (for God's sake) be negatively seen by others, and by default, their view of God could be messed up, too? Not sure if that's something I want on my conscience... I'm not perfect, but the last thing I want is for my lack-of-love to cloud how one sees God. If I don't have love, I don't have squat...no matter what I think of myself...

*** ...it is not self seeking...; verse 5: True love does not think of "me first". When I approach others, whether they are family, friends, or strangers, I need to allow the Holy Spirit to show me how God's love can be shown to them first...NOT me first.

*** ...it keeps no record of wrongs.; verse 5: I think this along with "not self seeking" stood out to me because, well, they may be the hardest parts of real Love for me to attain. As much as I (or others) "think" I don't keep score...well, we are all wrong. I do keep score. Sure, it may appear that others keep score more than I, but it doesn't mean that I never do. And this bothers me. I may even be able to convince myself that, say, I don't keep score with my wife...and for a time, I may not...but usually at some point, I start feeling like I "deserve" things, and yes, start holding it against her. Or, I'll conveniently bring back past (even years past) events that were dividing points between us (that I should have, and even may have appeared to, "let go"...when maybe I hadn't) and use them against her. That, according to this, ain't love...and if I am God's, redeemed by Christ and surrendered to him...he keeps no wrongs, either...I should prayerfully seek the same heart.

*** ...always...always...always...always...; verse 7: Real, godly love is an always thing, not a sometimes thing. Big shocker, this is hard for me! But how encouraging to know that God is "always"...?

*** Love never fails.; verse 8: I love some of the "short and sweet" sentences in the scriptures. They are always so powerful, and I need to pay special attention. Love never fails. Never. The power behind something that can never fail MUST be infinite. We humans can do many things; some of us are truly excellent at those things. But even the smartest, nicest, and yes, most "loving" person...will fail at some point. Only God can have the might and power to never fail. And Love, capital "L", from God alone, doesn't fail. Won't fail. Has NEVER failed...

*** When I became a man, I put my childish ways behind me.; verse 11: This is a verse for me right now. Will I always be playful, fun-loving, and "young at heart"? I sure hope so. But I've had a motivation for some time now (and, in my opinion, and probably others, "it was about time!" haha) to move from being childish and selfish in many ways...to being a man. A grown-up. I know, novel idea (I'm 34...). There are just things that I continually need to let God grow in me, like new passions and desires, and ultimately a renewed call to "man up" in various responsibilities that I've avoided/put on others over the years...

Questions for me:

What parts of "me" am I not allowing love to permeate? What grudges do I hold on to? Where do I need to stop taking score?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Making Thunder...

As I've said recently (http://haphazardangus.blogspot.com/2008/12/great-song.html), I have been blessed by discovering the music of an old 80s band, The Call. Another of their songs has been flying through my head lately (even when I cannot help it!), called "The Morning". The part that specifically is awesome to me is what I suppose you'd call the "bridge" or "tag" (you know...that part about 2/3 through some songs that is structured differently than the rest of the song...musicians know what I mean):

I wanna run, I wanna shout, I wanna make thunder
Wanna know what kind of spell I've fallen under
Show me, show me
I wanna live, I wanna breathe, I wanna love hard
Wanna give my life to you
Lose me in you

I just love this cry to God. I hear complete, reckless desire to be God's. I especially love the lines about making thunder and loving hard. To love hard...implies truly choosing to love, being proactive in it, purposeful in it. To look for where God's love can shine through you and going for it... And making thunder? Not sure, but the wild man in me just thinks it sounds cool. Sounds William Wallace-esque. Maximus-sque. Aragorn-esque. You get the picture. While I am not always "wired" like those famous movie characters...I cannot deny that when I watch Braveheart, Gladiator, or The Lord of the Rings series, a part of my soul wants to "have what they're having", so to speak...a passion to do whatever it takes...to "make thunder" in this world in the name of Jesus...

My Dirty Feet // John 13:1-17

Jesus Washes His Disciples' Feet 1It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.[a]
2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"

7Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."

8"No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet."
Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."

9"Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!"

10Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." 11For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. 13"You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.


John 13:1 Or he loved them to the last

Words, phrases that stuck out to me:

*** ...the full extent of his love.; verse 1: I can't even fathom what the extent of the Savior's love is. But just the fact he would give us a taste is simply amazing. Jesus was truly willing (no, more than willing...he wanted to!)show the love of God himself to us... I need to realize that God's love is something that I may never be able to truly grasp (as all I can compare to is earthly versions of love that, while amazing in their own right, are flawed and imperfect), but that it is there...and the phrase that keeps coming to me is that, "God is bonkers about us". If I'm bonkers for someone or something...I will go to all ends to be with them...to love them...to serve them...no matter what...

*** "No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."; verse 8: Peter's response to Jesus wishing to stoop so low to wash his feet is a microcosm to the pride we all have. We think too easily that we are "above" things, that we can handle stuff on our own, that while we "think" we need God...we really don't believe it too often. Jesus' response is one we all need to take to heart: if you don't let me cleanse you, let me do this...then you aren't really with me. That's hard for all of us to hear. I know I struggle with the concept of really giving up all my crud to Jesus so he can clean me. I want to hold on. I want to try and take care of business myself, in my own strength. But I will never get it done... I need to daily submit my failings, my concerns, my struggles to Christ, and LET him deal with them...let him clean me.

*** "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean."; verse 10: When I first read this during my morning reading, it stuck out to me but I was thinking, "What on EARTH does that mean?" I figured I'd just put it here and say that I had no idea... But, as I sit here and revisit this passage, something came to me. Not sure if it's right or not, but here goes...

When we first truly surrender to Christ, truly realize the depth of our fallen nature, we are washed clean from head-to-toe. White as snow, pure in God's eyes, etc. But sometimes we need to seek cleaning again...but Jesus says, "My cleansing of you is sufficient once-and-for-all, but I know there are times you feel the need to be hosed off again...let me serve you again, wash your feet, as you feet are what lead you down various paths, some that may make things muddy...but remember that I have already cleaned your whole being!"

That's just what it's saying to me right now I suppose...

*** "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you."; verse 15: While I certainly believe that Jesus is IMMEASURABLY more than just an "example for us" (how about savior, redeemer, God-in-the-flesh, etc.?), but still, if we want to know more about God himself, want to know how to approach life in his ways, etc...we need to look no further than Jesus' own example, and apply it. Easy? Nope...but aspire we must!

Questions for me...

Am I even realizing a taste of how bonkers God is for me, especially in light of Jesus?

Do I let Christ cleanse my soul? Do I know he's done it? That he's willing?

How am I seeking to live Christ's example today? What ways do I need to humble myself, remove my pride, etc., to better live for Jesus?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Our First Encounter With Bullying **UPDATED**

So at the age of 4 1/2, in pre-school, my son officially has a bully in his life.

Missy and I have been concerned about this relationship for awhile (he has been in the same class with this boy for about three years now), but today it came to a head, literally.

According to Jax's teacher, he was punched in the head by this kid. Hard. Apparently unprovoked. Jax started screaming and was unconsolable. He has a HUGE knot on his head (think between temple and eyebrow), bruising, and it even looks like his skin has been broken. As the day went on he seemed his happy old self again, but my wife just called concerned that he fell asleep and complained of his head hurting, so it could be a concussion.

Really, 4 year olds just walking up and POUNDING other kids?

This child apparently "rules" the classroom and has already (in my opinion) caused one teacher to quit (or at least made the decision easier...other factors were at play), and his current one has had more than one day resulting in her own tears because of this boy.

What to do? I don't want to be "that parent" that simply does not allow his kids to learn to deal with any hard relationships, and thus moving him out, and I also don't want to be "that parent" that never thinks it's his own kids' fault.

But dang.

I'm trying to sense how I can pray for this kid, how I can (or, if I should?) approach his parents, the school, etc. Ultimately, I feel for this kid. His parents at least seem to be nice folks, and I can imagine they "know" their kid is "that kid", and that has to be hard...

Thoughts? Would LOVE 'em!


Well, we had a meeting with the head of the school this morning. It was a good one, and Missy and I feel much better about how the situation is being handled. Apparently, conversations have been ongoing between teacher, school-heads, the board, and the parents of the kid causing the trouble, and it has been decided (before we even met, by the way) that the child causing class struggles will not return the rest of this semester and will be moved to another, less-structured (but with more observation) classroom starting in 2009.

I wish to let it be known, that we are not trying to pile on this kid...we truly care about him as well as his family, and simply want what's best for the group, for Jax, and for this boy. My prayer is that he will be able to reach a great potential that he surely has!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

We Don't Get What We Deserve...We Get What We Don't Deserve// Luke 15:11-32

The Parable of the Lost Son
11Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them.
13"Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17"When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' 20So he got up and went to his father.
"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.[a]'

22"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.

25"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'

28"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'

31" 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' "


Luke 15:21 Some early manuscripts son. Make me like one of your hired men.

Words, phrases that stuck out:

*** "...squandered..."; verse 13: When I think of the word "squander", I can't help but think of when I take something completely for granted and waste it...and then later feel bad about it. That's what the son here was doing with his inheritance that dad gave him. He wanted all the glory and provision NOW, and all he did was completlely take it for granted and waste it all. I know that's how myself and others too often view God's love, his provision, his promises, and ultimately his grace. We are all guilty (at one time or another...and sometimes we choose to "live" in this place...) of taking the fact that, "God loves me, forgives me, saves me, etc., no matter what...so I think I'm just gonna run off and do whatever I want, fulfill selfish wants and desires, no matter how harmful it may be to me or others in my wake..."

*** "...he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him."; verse 20: If it were up to me, while I may still be glad to see my wayward son, I'd probably have a list of things to tell him right off the bad that I didn't like... But if we are to look at the "father" as God, we need to realize that the list never materializes...all he cares about is that you came home. How powerful! How humbling! I know I should look at God's amazing love and grace (shown in this parable), and weep with joy...and be compelled to walk every step for him.

*** "I am no longer worthy to be called your son."; verse 21: This is a point we ALL have to come to before we can truly surrender to Christ, if you ask me. Many times I "think" I'm broken, contrite, or "sorry", but in reality, I'm still not at the point of humility I need to truly realize God's amazing love for me. The son here realizes his unworthiness...

*** "Let's...celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again."; verse 24-24: And yet, despite the fact that the son squandered everything, took advantage of grace and love, and knows he is unworthy to be called one of his father's own...the father plans a party. Wow. The son deserved to be cast out, shunned, or punished, but he got what he didn't deserve: a party, love, and utter joy from his father. That is how God views us! I mess up like crazy, take grace and love for granted...and God loves me like BONKERS all the same. THAT should make me surrender everything to the Lord!

*** "All these years I've been slaving for you..."; verse 29: but, you see, there is another character in this story I've neglected so far: the older brother. The one who has been striving to live "right" under his father's leadership. One who feels like he deserves favor as a result. One who, if honest, may not be living for his "dad" for all the right reasons... He may be really just trying to gain "points" so he gets perks, blessings, etc. I too often allow such thinking to cloud my mind (and ultimately, my soul). I think that I deserve God's tangible blessings because, well, I've been "slaving" for him: doing works to gain favor and spiritual gold stars on some cosmic behavior chart. The big brother's attitude needs to be a reminder to me that it isn't about all my good works and behavior, and it certainly doesn't need to be all done with a motivation of "getting blessed". God blesses. In his way and timing. End of story. I should instead be crazy-grateful that he blesses at all, even when I run like crazy at times and squander...

*** "...'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours."; verse 31: Here is what God says to us with the attitude of the brother: I haven't forgotten you! The blessings are as available to you as they are to your brother (who ran off). And if you run off sometime...I'll embrace your return all the same.

Questions for me:

Am I the lost son, or the older brother? Have I been "both" at various times?

Does God's welcoming back of "lost sons" make me jealous (If I feel like I "deserve" his favor due to my efforts), or am I grateful that's how I can approach him, too?

How do I take God's grace for granted?

Do I really believe that I don't deserve any of God's favor? How do I react when I realize he gives it despite me?

How can I be forgiving (without taking score, having a list of complaints) to others more like the father?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Be God's // 1 Timothy 4

The title I wrote is in honor of Rich Mullins, a Christian songwriter who passed away in 1997 whom I've always respected...I am currently reading his biography, An Arrow Pointing to Heaven, and in that I learned that Rich signed all notes/letters/autographs with the phrase, "Be God's". I think that applies as a theme to the passage that follows as well...

Instructions to Timothy
1The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
6If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. 7Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

9This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance 10(and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.

11Command and teach these things. 12Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 13Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

15Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Words, phrases that stuck out:

*** For everything God created is good...; verse 4: While this sounds nice, it is actually tough thing to comprehend for me. I mean, if all of God's creation is Good...what about stuff that is harmful (like drugs, etc.)? Or, is it that originally the plants, elements, etc., that go into creating a dangerous thing, are Good? Or is it that we use them for the wrong things? Or just when stuff becomes abused, or consumes us? Good questions there...and mystery.

*** Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly...; verse 7: Sadly, I know too many people who label themselves "Christian" that seem to let ideas that are not born in scripture guide them. I mean, sure, there is some good "worldly wisdom" out there, but some of it, while seeming good in theory, isn't necessarily accurate as to God's character and how we are to approach life as his follower. I am always a bit disappointed in some of the books, sayings, etc., that get such support from some Christians...when if you really dig into what they are saying, aren't very biblical. I know this is easy for me to say as I've been spending so many posts lately expunging my thoughts on certain scriptures I've encountered during the day...but who is to say that this "season" I'm in won't hit a big dry spell, as it has in the past? That said, I am often a bit dismayed by the am mount of Christians who have little knowledge about basic Christian doctrine, theology, etc., and thus are too easily swayed by what they hear, read, see...

Paul says we are instead to train ourselves to be godly. I suppose that's why I am seeking to be proactive and encounter the scriptures daily, pray and ponder over them, and later journal thoughts (via this blog). I feel a re-conviction in my heart of the need to seek godliness. But, part of "training", just like physical exercise, means that there are days when we still don't "feel it"...but choose to run anyway. I am seeking that same attitude toward my spiritual training, hopefully...

Why should I do this? Paul explains below...

*** ...godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. ; verse 8: God has purpose for me not just in eternity, but right now as well. I could, I suppose, just kick back, say, "Oh well, I've got my ticket 'punched' since I've accepted Jesus's sacrifice for my sin (although this attitude would make me wonder how real it is/was...)", and ride out life until my body quits working, but I instead should be so grateful to the Lord for saving me (despite my best efforts otherwise) and thus release my control to him, letting myself be molded accordingly so God can use me for his purpose.

*** Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.; verse 12: This verse is a staple in youth ministries, but it rings so true to anyone I suppose, despite your age. For teens, though, it really is a challenge that may be tough... Research indicates that a teen's "decision making center" in their brain is not too well developed...so they tend to do things that are, well, not too-well thought out...and my guess is that it was the same back in Timothy's day. Older generations likely saw most young people as "impulsive, stupid, reckless", and as Timothy was apparently in that demographic age-wise, found it difficult to be taken seriously as he shared his message of Christ. So, his mentor, Paul, told him how to be more "heard": set a godly example by how you talk, live, treat folks, exhibit faith, and treat yourself...all that right there is good for ANY believer seeking to share God's love and message to those around them...regardless of age...

*** Do not neglect your gift...; verse 14: Timothy's gift apparently was preaching/teaching. God has given each of us gifts to be used for his glory...some are more "up front" (like preaching, singing, etc.), and some more behind-the-scenes. No matter what it is, we need to always be seeking to offer the gifts and talents God has blessed us with be used by him. So for me, if I'm gifted in being merciful (because, let's be honest, some folks aren't...and on the flip-side, I am not as "bold" as others, and I do believe a boldness for Jesus is a gift...), then I need to let God shine through a merciful heart that seems to just come more "naturally" to me. So, if one is artistic, they should seek to use their artistry to bring folks in contact with their creator... And in the midst of all this, I need to make sure I am pointing folks to Christ, NOT me...as the temptation (using my "mercy" gift) is for me to be merciful and hope that folks go, "Wow, Ben is so nice and caring...what a guy!", instead of seeking for others to give glory to God through the mercy I may show...

*** Watch your life and doctrine closely.; verse 16: Ultimately, what we believe ends up coming out in how we live. If we believe that Jesus is who he says he is...and trust in the cross for salvation...then it affects our motivations, etc. If we think none of it matters...well, ditto. I always to try and avoid being too much of a "theology policeman" (because I do acknowledge that ultimately, God is a mystery and my human mind can't possibly explain it all), but I do think we need to brush up on the essentials (my list includes God as creator, humans as fallen, Jesus as our only savior and redeemer, Bible as God's word, the Trinity as true, etc.... There's a good basic list. Other issues may be good for discussion, but some differences are sure to be out there...).

Questions for me:

Am I seeking to be God's? Does my life, who I am, etc., flow out of my beliefs? Are they good beliefs?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Making God Everything in Life, and Passing It On // Deuteronomy 6

Love the LORD Your God
1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you.
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. [a] 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

10 When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

13 Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. 14 Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; 15 for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. 16 Do not test the LORD your God as you did at Massah. 17 Be sure to keep the commands of the LORD your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. 18 Do what is right and good in the LORD's sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers, 19 thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the LORD said.

20 In the future, when your son asks you, "What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?" 21 tell him: "We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the LORD sent miraculous signs and wonders—great and terrible—upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23 But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers. 24 The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness."


Deuteronomy 6:4 Or The LORD our God is one LORD; or The LORD is our God, the LORD is one ; or The LORD is our God, the LORD alone

Words, phrases that stuck out:

*** ...be careful to obey so that it may go well with you..."; verse 3: Although this is just an English translation of an ancient language, I first of all noticed the may in there...not a will. I think that is important. Regardless, this entire passage is a statement telling us that, "God isn't stupid, and knows the best way to tackle life." And while following God and his commands certainly doesn't promise and easy life, it does make things go better in general. I mean, think about if you never lied. Sure, you may get out of some nice "perks" in life, but wouldn't you be seen as a trustworthy person? Wouldn't relationships be less strained in general? By seeking to follow the commands of God, there is now way that it can't improve our lives (and lives of others around us) on so many levels...

*** Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.; verse 7: If we truly love God with our every being, seeking to obey him at all times, doesn't it make sense that we'd want to impress this upon our children, training them to do the same? I need to remember that everything is an opportunity to speak about the Lord to my son...and thus I need to look for opportunities to talk to him about God, about my motivations, my reasons to sacrifice, etc., hoping and praying that one day he will trust in Christ's saving grace for himself.

*** ...be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.; verse 12: Oh, how easily I forget... The Lord has done so much for me, has shown me his might in awesome ways, has changed my very being...so how come I just mindlessly walk through life as often as I do? Each of us need to ask God to show us the times we easily/conveniently forget all he's done, forget who he is, and repent. Because...

*** ...the Lord your God...is a jealous God...; verse 15: This is a quality of god we don't usually think about. I mean, if god is so Good, so Loving, so "Other" and Holy...how on earth could he have an emotion like jealousy? Well, while those attributes I listed (and countless others) are so true of our Lord, jealousy is an emotion he has. Why? Well, he created us...loves us, and all he asks is for love in return. But what do we do? We flee. We lie. We worship other gods and idols. If my wife were to say she loved me (and, in reality, did love me), but seemed to be more interested in shopping, in a hobby, or in other friends than me, well, I'd have to admit, I'd be a bit jealous. I think our struggle is that since God is, well, God, he could never have a "human" emotion like jealousy...could he? According to this passage...yes...and honestly, if I am humble and selfless, given all he's done for me, he has every right to be...

Questions for me:

Do I truly realize that, "God knows best", and that while some commands may be tough, or "no fun", or could be risky...that he knows what's up and by following them, life will improve?

How am I passing on a godly legacy to my child? Is it something I even think about? Are there areas of my life I (still) need to give up in surrender for the sake of my kid and his spiritual growth?

How quickly and easily do I forget about all God has done? Are there steps I can take, with God's help and prompting, that can help me remember him all the more?

Great Song

I have liked this song for some time...but lately the lyrics are so "me", so encouraging, etc. It is by the (mostly) 80s band The Call. Their style is what I'd call "Simple Minds-meets-80s/version of U2, from an American standpoint" (as those other bands are Scottish and Irish, respectively). At any rate, I have recently discovered much more of their catalog...and man, I dig it. Powerful, poetic, honest lyrics (by lead vocalist Michael Been) from a spiritual, Christian perspective. Not lots (if any) direct "Jesus" quotes, but you don't have to go far to realize the Truth Been writes from... If you go hunting for The Call's music (out of curiosity), I recommend the Restored album most of all, but selections from Into the Woods and Let the Day Begin are also great. There are other albums (both earlier and later) that I have yet to discover...but I hope to.

I will let the lyrics speak for themselves...

The Call I Still Believe (Great Design) Lyrics (by Michael Been):

I been in a cave
For forty days
Only a spark
To light my way
I wanna give out
I wanna give in
This is our crime
This is our sin

But I still believe
I still believe
Through the pain
And the grief
Through the lives
Through the storms
Through the cries
And through the wars
Oh, I still believe

Flat on my back
Out at sea
Hopin' these waves
Don't cover me
I'm turned and tossed
Upon the waves
When the darkness comes
I feel the grave

But I still believe
I still believe
Through the cold
And through heat
Through the rain
And through the tears
Through the crowds
And through the cheers
Oh, I still believe

I'll march this road
I'll climb this hill
Upon on my knees
if I have to
I'll take my place
Up on this stage
I'll wait 'til the
end of time
for you like
everybody else

I'm out on my own
Walkin' the streets
Look at the faces
That I meet
I feel like I
Like I want to go
What do I feel
What do I know

But I still believe
I still believe
Through the shame
And through the grief
Through the heartache
Through the tears
Through the waiting
Through the years

For people like us
In places like this
We need all the hope
That we can get
Oh, I still believe

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Responsibilities//Titus 2:1-15

A quick note: I have been publishing what could best be described as my "scriptural journaling" lately, just titling each post based on the "Pondering _______ _:_-_"-model. For some reason, in my random nature, I feel like giving each a title from now on (and I may even go back and re-title old ones) to just preface a theme I see in the passage...

Titus 2
What Must Be Taught to Various Groups
1You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. 2Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
3Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

6Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

9Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

15These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

Words/phrases that stuck out:

*** All the "self-control" statements (various verses): I think so much of our problem with sin is that we too easily allow it to creep in. We say, "I just couldn't help it!" I believe the quest for true self-control is a journey that lasts our entire life (just see how even older folks are encouraged to have it in this passage), but how often is it something we don't even seek? We just go, "Oh well, I'm a sinner, I can't help it, I'm just going to do it again later sometime so what's the point in stopping?" What a cop out. And I cop out all the time... But, I hope that at least in my life, I realize the need and importance of self-control, and how many struggles flow out of our inability to have restraint.

*** ...sound doctrine.; verse 1: People argue day-and-night as to what doctrine is truly "sound", or is good, right, and essential for those who belong to Jesus. We humans just struggle with thinking we have it all figured out, and draw lots of lines in the sand. Are "lines" important, is sound doctrine/right theology important? With great humility, YES. Lots of slippery slopes, heresies, etc., have resulted from people seeking to figure out God and how he works (or the flip-side: letting it all be such a "free-for-all" that there is NO doctrine at all...), but I still think all followers of Christ need to seek some "essentials". One recommendation is to explore some of the historic creeds, like the Apostle's (http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe=http://www.reformed.org/documents/apostles_creed.html) or Nicene (http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe=http://www.reformed.org/documents/nicene.html). Basically, I think at the very least, the statements in credal documents like these are essential to Christian belief. Beyond that, however, we need to tread with care. Are there doctrines that even need to be explored further (and even some from these creeds that go deeper?)? Absolutely! But, we need to tread with humility, admitting that various -ologies and -isms, no matter how godly the writers, are still from human hands...and thus we have to be at peace with the mystery that ultimately is God...

*** ...worthy of respect...; verse 2: Talking specifically of the responsibilities older men have in being an example to younger generations, being one that is respected by others is huge. Many factors surely go into deciding if respect is truly "worthy" or not, and good lists of qualities can be found throughout the Bible. This is a trait I need to prayerfully seek, though, despite some of it's abstract-ness. We all know people from older generations that feel like they are "deserved" respect...but their lives and legacies certainly make giving respect difficult.

*** ...train...; verse 4: As in, "training others". We all need to look at our example, legacy, character, etc., from a training of younger generations standpoint. Sadly, many do not have this focus. As I walk among those younger than I (and I spend most of my time with teens and my son, a preschooler), I need to prayerfully consider my actions and attitudes in a proactive light, always asking, "How can who I am in action, attitude, etc., train others so they can be closer to their creator?"

*** ...soundness of speech that cannot be condemned...; verse 8: This one is tough. I know that too often I, "speak before thinking", and as comedian Brian Regan once said, my thoughts are sadly, "Oh no, words are coming out!" And you can't take words back. I am grateful that an answered prayer of mine has been an increased awareness of the words I say (and even the tone sometimes when the actual words may be "ok", but how I say them is not beneficial...), but I certainly have much to learn. Ask my wife, family, or friends (especially "old friends"), and they'll certainly tell you that one trait of mine that is often unfortunate is a history of speaking without thinking... Sometimes it has resulted in humorous stories (at my expense), but it has certainly hurt others as well. And speech like that is worthy of being condemned by others. I need to continually seek to let my words be thoughtful, encouraging, loving, and above all worthy of one calling himself a Christian...as the last thing I want is my words to play a role in someone not having faith...

*** ...in every way they will make the teaching about God our savior attractive.; verse 10: Our attitudes, actions, speech, etc., all boil down to this: Is who I am pointing others to Christ? That should both encourage me (and give me great purpose)...and at the same time, scare me to death...

*** Do not let anyone despise you.; verse 15: By now, I don't think I have much else to write about this. Essentially, if I can be a person that holistically "bleeds Christ" in all things I do, this should result in not being despised...now, I know that the Gospel can be offensive to some (aka the notion that we are sinners/not inherently "good"; that our actions mean squat when it comes to God's ultimate favor, that Jesus' death was an atonement for all that, and that unless we realize/accept that and thus commit ourselves to Him, we are lost...), but if I can still "be" someone that strives to be more like Jesus (as both a response of gratitude to him saving me, and as God continues the process known as sanctification in my life), loving people as they are, serving them, etc... hopefully being despised wouldn't occur.

Questions for me:

Am I seeking to have self-control? Am I making excuses for not having self-control?

Do I know what I believe, and what I need to believe? Am I allowing my life to flow from these beliefs? Are these beliefs rooted in sound doctrine?

Am I a person worthy of respect? Is who I am, how I act, how I talk, how I treat others, etc., drawing people toward Christ...or repelling them from him?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Hmmmm (aka, wondering "why")

I'm not going to go into detail here, but if you read this, would you pray for my family right now? Prayers for patience, clarity, peace, wisdom, etc. all sound about right.

Sometimes it is so tough to deal with hardships/testing (haha, I recently wrote this: http://haphazardangus.blogspot.com/2008/12/pondering-hebrews-121-13.html, need to really remember it now). Right now, we just found something out that isn't what we had hoped. Frustration, questioning has ensued. Past issues and emotions resulting from them have come back. Peace and forgiveness is needed. But it's hard...

So, I am going to read my "pondering Hebrews" post again...pray for strength, etc. I also need to find ways to ecourage Missy (wife) in all this. I'm not fired up, but she is REALLY struggling with it...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Pondering Genesis 22:1-19

Abraham Tested 1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!"
"Here I am," he replied.
2 Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about."

3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you."

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, "Father?"
"Yes, my son?" Abraham replied.
"The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"

8 Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together.

9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!"
"Here I am," he replied.

12 "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son."

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram [a] caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided."

15 The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, "I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring [b] all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."

19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.


Genesis 22:13 Many manuscripts of the Masoretic Text, Samaritan Pentateuch, Septuagint and Syriac; most manuscripts of the Masoretic Text a ram behind him
Genesis 22:18 Or seed

Words, phrases that stuck out:

*** "only son" (verse 2) and "third day" (verse 4): It is so cool how God foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus, his only son, and on the third day, no less, hundreds of years before it actually happened. To me, this is just one of MANY examples from the Old Testament where the Cross is described, where God used similar circumstances surrounding Christ to make covenants, to bring salvation, etc. Amazing.

*** Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.; verse 10: Dang. First, this sentence is so powerful, it is it's own entire verse. It also makes me think of a discussion from my high school youth group (yes, I can remember those days on occasion), where the adult leading our discussion group talked about this passage, and how if God asked him to kill one of his kids, he'd basically say, "Hell no, God! I won't do it!" While I appreciated his honesty (and forcefulness...sorry if the "hell no" offends...), I always thought it was, while honest, an amazing lack of faith. Then I had a kid...and understood his initial thoughts all the more...

Honestly, I don't know what I would do. Oh, sure, I "hope" I would do whatever God would ask...but dang. I do think this passage has more to say to us than just "killing our kid" though. I believe at the core it is a test to see how far I would be willing to sacrifice for the sake of God's glory...I selfishly hope it would never be the sacrifice of my son, but now I can at least appreciate a smidgen of what God the Father went through when Jesus was killed... But, let's continue to ponder the concept of being "willing". Am I willing to sacrifice things, whether material or abstract, should God ask? I know a story, for example, of a couple (that will remain anonymous...and they aren't who told me...they have no idea) who felt so called by God to be able to give more generously to their church and mission...that they decided to sell their "dream home" (that had only been lived in for like 6 months) and downsize so they could give more to their church. What an example of obedience! Can you imagine the war going on in their hearts? "But, we just moved in! It's our dream house! We already give a lot!" You also need to know, their church isn't one of those kinda freaky, televangelist-led, "give us/me more money so God can move (and pastor can get a sweet home(s))"-type places. No, it is a missional, not-self-seeking, impactful, progressive community of faith. Could I do the same? Would you?

*** "Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.";
verse 12: See above for commentary on this one...I underlined it this morning, then after writing about verse 10, realize that I already explained my thoughts...

*** ...The LORD Will Provide.;
verse 14: First, what a great statement of faith, not that God might provide, but will provide. But, this was actually a place, almost a signpost for Abraham and others to remember how God provided, and would again. It is very similar to the concept of the Ebenezer, something built to remember the Lord, his ways, promises, etc., that one can look back on and be encouraged and have hope (aka, certainty).

Questions for me:

How far is the limit of what I'm willing to sacrifice for God? What holds me back? Fear? Possible ridicule? Risks (even if only "possible")?

Are there "monuments", images, etc., in my life that I can return to and be reminded of God's promises, provision, etc.?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pondering Hebrews 12:1-13

God Disciplines His Sons
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
4In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
"My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."[a]

7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

12Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13"Make level paths for your feet,"[b] so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.


Hebrews 12:6 Prov. 3:11,12
Hebrews 12:13 Prov. 4:26

Words, phrases that stuck out to me:

*** ...sin that so easily entangles,; verse 1: I especially am drawn to the word entangle. When I get tangled up in something, I am stuck. I will probably fall, may even get injured. Do I view sin as something that has that effect on me? I hope so, but surely not enough. Sin so easily and readily creeps in to our lives when we aren't in constant focus on our savior...usually without us realizing it. Oh sure, we can go out and boldly do stupid things, but often in those cases there were "little entanglements" that led to an attitude where we could so easily rationalize the destructive, splitting-from-God behavior. The tough thing to do is truly be aware of the little vines that seem inconsequential, but as they creep up our legs, get stronger, slow us down, and ultimately, make us fall on our face...

*** Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,; verse 2: This, while seeming to be a typical "church answer" (you know, "read the bible! pray more! JESUS!"), is how we don't get entangled. But how? First, by KNOWING that Jesus is the author of our faith. Think about that... He wrote it. Not just a "part of the story, one of many stories"...he is who birthed it. Christ has been involved intimately from the beginning of all things. HOLY COW! Also, the word perfecter. Jesus is who does the perfecting, NOT us. We struggle soooooo mightily with that one, relying on our own experience, intellect, personality, etc. We think, "If I just grit my teeth and fight through this, I will get better..." No. That will always fail. But by seeking and allowing Jesus to perfect us, praying for help, change, etc., and releasing it to him, it happens. I know from experience. I know it is hard for others to realize someone else's experience of knowing God, but there have been times I truly asked God to change me...and then allowed him to by remembering my prayer, by reminding myself, and ultimately, by "releasing" it, trusting that God would do it...and I could look back later and see how my heart was different.

*** "...the Lord disciplines those he loves..."; verse 6: That word, discipline, shows up a lot in this passage. And I suspect none of us like it one bit, haha. No really, how many "like" the notion that we can be disciplined by God? That things are allowed to occur in our life, so we can grow stronger from them (despite the pain involved)?

*** Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.; verse 7: First, when things aren't going our ways, we need to not wonder, "Where are you, God? Why are you doing this to me?", and instead ponder how God may "tweak" us during that time, all for HIS glory (and oh, to have his glory be our primary purpose in ALL things...so hard to do...). Also, I am encouraged by knowing that he is doing it because he views me as his son. This has such new meaning as I am now a parent. I HATE having to discipline Jackson, and I'm not talking about just the inconvenience; I hate the fact that I have to "get on him", or give a swat (yes, on occasion), or send to time-out. But, I also know that I am trying to train him in God's ways...and while it is no fun, for either of us, it is because I am bonkers about my boy and want him to be the best man he can. To know that God thinks the same of me, in the midst of hardship and discipline...wow.

*** ...god disciplines us for good, that we may share in his holiness.; verse 10: Much like the above "pondering", our discipline is Good (notice the capital "G") and is so we may share in his holiness. That is huge. God actually wants us to experience HIS holiness...

*** ...strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet..."; verse 12, spilling into 13: Because of all just read and pondered...I need to allow for strengthening and healing. LET God do those things. Be willing to take the necessary steps. For when I am weak, that is when God really shines through... http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=54&chapter=12&verse=10&version=31&context=verse

Where am I getting all tangled up? Are there some little, annoying things creeping in that I may miss, and need to deal with? Are there some big things that need to get CHOPPED? Am I allowing Jesus to perfect me? Do I look to him in all things?

Do I blame God for hardship? If I am...how is that affecting how I approach my life, others, and God himself?

Where am I being disciplined? Where have I been disciplined by God in the past? Do I seek God, seek change, etc., in the midst of discipline and hardship, or am I bitter?

Monday, December 1, 2008


Wow. December 2008 is upon us. One part of life that I've noticed that is a BIG change from my younger years is that life simply "moves" faster. I remember back in my school years that time seemed to drag. A school year seemed like an eternity. Christmas always seemed like eons ago. Going over to a friend's house after school, from say 3:30-5 pm, seemed like plenty of time to play, explore, etc. Visiting grandparents from Friday night (always arriving during the news) until Sunday lunch, with only one "real day" (Saturday) to play, run around town, etc., still seemed like a decently long trip.

No more.

Holidays from multiple years run together, and I often place my memories from them in the wrong year. Along those lines, instead of, say, Christmas seeming so long ago, it is more like, "My goodness...it's time again? Seems like it just happened!" As far as trips go, I just got back from a Tuesday-Saturday visit with my family in Kingwood, and when Saturday arrived, I was shocked it was already time to drive back to Weatherford. And we had been there parts of five days! When we do visit someone for just a couple days, it seems like a flash, almost "not worth" such a short trip...why? It didn't use to be that way...

Have I really been out of college for ELEVEN years? Those memories are still so vivid... And I can't believe I've been married over seven years. I vividly remember Missy and I just dating...and now seven years!? Wow. I can't believe we've been in Weatherford 4 1/2 years. We were in Houston only three, but for some reason, that time seemed to take longer. How come? And maybe most shocking of all, I can't believe we've had Jackson for 4 1/2 years... Forget the fact that I still can't believe he's FOUR (when he's closing in on FIVE), It's just amazing to see pics of him as a baby and go, "My goodness...that really doesn't seem that long ago." And, listening to parents of older kids, it doesn't get any slower. The old adage of, "One day, you wake up and they are leaving home," is surely true. And I'm not always looking forward to that fact...not due to fear, but more selfishly wanting more "time"!

It isn't all bad. Life moving fast does have it's perks. Holidays DO come quicker, and I love this time of year, even if it gets hectic. And I can't wait to see what our little family will become as the years go by...and I know the wait won't seem as long. Being patient also becomes easier, as having to wait for things that may be a year down the road doesn't seem like such an eternity...

So here's to life going by, in all it's excitement, wonder, unknown, joy, hope...