Thursday, March 31, 2005

Doing what you gotta do

"The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don't like to do. They don't like doing them either necessarily. But their disliking is subordinated to the strength of their purpose."

"Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint." Proverbs 29:18 (ESV)

You just got to do what you gotta do.

Prayer: The First Lesson to Learn

I believe the Tozer email list is going to be covering prayer this month. I am going to try to post the emails regularly. Its a reminder to myself as it is to you.

I was talking to a brother today about the topic of prayer. We both agreed that prayer is hard, in fact, chances are...if you're looking forward to prayer, there's a good chance it'll be difficult to pray. THE DEVIL WILL FIGHT YOU EVERY INCH OF THE WAY TO THE PLACE OF PRAYER. The question is, are you going to fight back?

Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
--Matthew 26:41

To pray successfully is the first lesson the preacher must learn if he is to preach fruitfully; yet prayer is the hardest thing he will ever be called upon to do and, being human, it is the one act he will be tempted to do less frequently than any other. He must set his heart to conquer by prayer, and that will mean that he must first conquer his own flesh, for it is the flesh that hinders prayer always.

Almost anything associated with the ministry may be learned with an average amount of intelligent application. It is not hard topreach or manage church affairs or pay a social call; weddings and funerals may be conducted smoothly with a little help from Emily Post and the Minister's Manual. Sermon making can be learned as easily as shoemaking--introduction, conclusion and all. And so with the whole work of the ministry as it is carried on in the average church today.

But prayer--that is another matter. There Mrs. Post is helpless and the Minister's Manual can offer no assistance. There the lonely man of God must wrestle it out alone, sometimes in fasting and tears and weariness untold. There every man must be an original, for true prayer cannot be imitated nor can it be learned from someone else. God Tells the Man Who Cares, 69.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Six days, and on the seventh

Moses prized the presence of God in his life. And this determined the intensity of God's touch on his life. Note how the Lord singled out Moses from the other Israelites, to approach him: "The people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was" (Exodus 20:21).

Moses represents the blessed man spoken of by David: "Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts" (Psalm 65:4). The word for "causeth" here means to be moved upon, to be urged by God to come up.

Many Christians have experienced this call, this divine urge to commune with the Lord. The Holy Spirit calls them to the mount of intimacy often, saying, "I desire to change you, to give you a greater anointing. I want to take you deeper and further in me. I want to reveal my ways to you as never before."

Yet, not all who are called respond. As a result, God doesn't touch them with his fire and unction. At first they may have answered, "Lord, I won't let you down. I'll seek your face continually." And for a season, they shut themselves up in prayer. But they didn'tset their hearts to go all the way in prayer. After a while, they ignored God's voice and went their own way. They cut short his call to come up to where he is.

Most who are called and chosen stop halfway up the mount.

Halfway is where many believers end up. The Bible tells us, "He said unto Moses, Come up unto the Lord, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off. And Moses alone shall come near the Lord: but they shall not come nigh; neither shall the people go up with him" (Exodus 24:1-2).

God had chosen a handful of men he wanted to touch. He had wonderful plans for these men, especially for Aaron and his sons. They were to be Israel's priestly leaders. The Lord had told Moses, "I will sanctify the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar; I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons, to minister to me in the priest's office" (29:44). Likewise, the Lord had told the elders, "Ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" (19:6).

So, why did God tell these men to their faces, "Worship me afar off. Don't come near to me. Only Moses shall come up to me at the top of the mount" (see 24:1-2) The fact is, God knew the sins brewing in these men's hearts. And they had to be dealt with. He wanted to touch their lives. But he couldn't do that as long as they were hiding sin.

So, God allowed them to come only halfway up the mount. Yet, even so, he appeared to them supernaturally, as a cloud of darkness: "They saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness" (Exodus 24:10). These men now stood in the incredible, revelatory presence of God. They even ate and drank there, at a table in his presence. But they were still "afar off" from him.

Israel's elders were being exposed to the utter, shattering holiness of God. It was as if he were saying, "Sin has a hold on your heart. And it's keeping you from the full revelation I want to give you. Your besetting lust is robbing you of close communion with me. You can't be intimate with me as long as you have hidden sin."

Try to picture these men as they heard this word:

* Aaron had been told by God, "I'm going to sanctify you as high priest. I'll clothe you in purple and gold. And I'll set you before Israel as an example." Yet Aaron's heart was tainted by jealousy over Moses. He also had a sensual streak, and he feared man more than God.

* God had told Nadab and Abihu he would reveal his holiness to them. Yet these two men were hardened in an addiction to adultery. They didn't possess an ounce of the fear of God. Now the Lord was telling them, "I'm a merciful God. My desire is that when you come into my presence, you'll allow yourselves to be broken."

* God had told the seventy elders he wanted to exalt them before the world. Yet these same men refused to be under anyone's authority. They considered themselves to be as gifted and holy as Moses. (This would later manifest itself in a rebellious uprising.) But God was urging them into his presence. He wanted to deal with their deadly pride.

God was warning these chosen men, giving them a mercy call.

The Lord so desired to use all these men. He wanted them to be broken, so he could bring them higher. So he gave them an incredible mercy call, to come up.

Saul received the same kind of mercy call. This man's heart was bound by demonic strongholds. He had marched into Ramah seeking to kill David. But the Holy Spirit moved on Saul. All night long, the king lay in God's presence, smitten. Yet even this merciful, supernatural intervention didn't change Saul's heart.

Now Israel's leaders were at a similar crossroads. They were halfway up the mount, halfway to God's touch, halfway to his consuming presence. "Then went up Moses, and Aaron, and Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel...And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand" (Exodus 24:9-11). Note the last verse: the Lord didn't judge them. In truth, these men deserved to be slain, because of their sin. But God's only desire was to redeem.

Next we read, "Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God. And he said unto the elders, Tarry ye here for us, until we come again unto you" (24:13-14). The elders were to stay and wait for Moses' return. But almost immediately, their hearts were pulled by the Israelite camp below.

Soon they weren't willing to wait on the Lord anymore.

I picture Nadab and Abihu as the first to leave this halfway camp. They itched to get back to the restless crowd and their own lustful ways. So they followed the tug of their flesh. Despite God's appearance to them in the dark cloud, despite being allowed to eat and drink in his presence, they left that place untouched.

These two men represent Christian leaders today who freely indulge in lust, pornography, adultery. They're so hardened by their sin, nothing can reach them. They reject every mercy call from the Holy Spirit, every convicting message from his prophets, every encounter with the Lord himself. They abort all his attempts to deliver them.

The next men to be tempted were Aaron and the other pious leaders. One after another, they whispered, "We don't know what's happened to Moses. He may have abandoned us." Soon the whole body of elders repeated this faithless chant. These were men who had been called by God to a life of prayer and communion. But now, one by one, they left his presence untouched. They didn't repent or yield to his holiness. Instead, they turned back to a religion of abominable flesh.

Yet, further up on the mount, Moses experienced God's touch in full. How? He was obedient to the Lord's voice. He had followed his call to come up: "The Lord said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there" (Exodus 24:12). God was saying, in other words, "Come into my presence. Just be there for me."

For six days, Moses waited outside the glory cloud. I believe it was during these six days that the elders left the halfway camp. They were convinced God had nothing more to say to them. But Moses obeyed the Lord by waiting. Then we read, "The seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud...and Moses went into the midst of the cloud...and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights" (24:16-18).

Moses received an incredible revelation of the Lord during those forty days. And just as God called Moses then, he's calling his servants to the mount today. His Spirit is urging us to come up to a place higher and deeper in him than we've ever known. He's calling us to communion, to intimacy, to talk with him face to face, as Moses did.

Indeed, the Lord has given us the same commandment to wait on him: "On thee do I wait all the day" (Psalm 25:5). "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength" (Isaiah 40:31). "They shall not be ashamed that wait for me" (Isaiah 49:23). Passage after passage calls us to wait on God. Yet, how many of us quickly turn back to our old ways? How many of us are pulled back by our flesh, to a dead form of religion?

The Holy Spirit spoke this to my heart: "David, those who wait in my presence feed me. Their quiet worship, their waiting to hear my voice, are my food." Such God-touched servants have determined, "I'm going to wait on the Lord. I won't settle for anything less than face-to-face communion with him. It doesn't matter what others do in their walk. I want God to take me places in him where others refuse to go."

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Thursday, March 24, 2005

Faith, the Mind, & the Holy Spirit

"Faith is born of the Spirit in the hearts of mankind. Faith is neither intellectual nor anti-intellectual. It is superior to the intellect. The Bible does not say, with the mind man believes! Through faith, man is able to come into agreement with the mind of God.
When submit the things of God to the mind of man, unbelief and religion (meaning, form w/o power) are the results. When we submit the mind of man to the things of God, we end up with faith and a renewed mind. The mind makes a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.
Much of the opposition to revival comes from soul-driven Christians (soul meaning the mind, will, emotions). The apostle Paul calls them carnal. They have not learned how to be led by the Spirit. Anything that does not make sense to their rational mind is automatically in conflict with Scripture. This way of thinking is accepted all throughout the Church in Western civilization, which should explain why our God so ofte looks just like us.
Most of the goals of the modern church can be accomplished without God. All we need is people, money, and a common objective. Determination can achieve great things. But success is not necessarily a sign that the goal was from God."

Its interesting the Holy Spirit:
1. moves like wind -- apart from our control. (John 3:8)
2. has thoughts that are very different from ours. The scripture states that our logic and His are not just different, they are opposed to each other. (Romans 8:7, Isaiah 55:8-9)
3. refuses to be restricted by OUR understanding of the Word. (not to be confused with contradicting the Word)

Sounds more disruptive than orderly to me...boxed, well-defined and contained Christianity is much more preferable. NOT.

Ah God, grace to follow.
David was a man skilled in war. From his days as a shepherd boy to the days of serving in Saul's army to leading his own army, David learned to be a skillful warrior. How does one become a skillful warrior?

The only way one can become a skillful warrior is to be trained and placed in the middle of the battle. It is only when we are placed in the furnace of battle that we truly learn to fight the real battles. Practice doesn't make you battle ready. War games won't prepare you for facing your real enemy in the battlefield. The stark reality of being in the midst of the battle makes us effective warriors.

Simply reading your Bible will not make you a warrior for the Kingdom. Knowledge without experience is mere folly. Only when you are placed in situations where there is nothing or no one who can save you but God will you learn the lessons of warrior faith. This is the training ground of God, which will make you into a soldier for Christ in the workplace. Consider it to be suicidal faith - faith that says I want to be dead to anything that keeps me from fulfilling God's purposes for my life. It is when your efforts can do nothing to change your circumstance and you are at the mercy of God. These are the real training grounds of God. Do not shrink back from the battle that God may be leading you to today. It may be a training ground that is necessary for the calling He has on your life.

If you can trust Him in these times, you'll know that you have gained a faith that will move mountains and will sustain you in the most difficult of circumstances. "Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle."

Thursday, March 17, 2005

You, yourself being the judge

Some interesting quotes from today...The grammar might be off because it was transcribed from audio.
"Devotion means at any time you're ready, willing and able to do anything for God. Even if it doesn't look spiritual to the world.

For whatever cannot be done in the spirit of devotion is unlawful, if you feel the inconsistency of performing it as an act of devotion to God it is unlawful. You, yourself being the judge. Anything not right or wrong in itself may be either right or wrong according to whether or not it is done in the spirit of devotion.

Therefore, a selfish mind may condemn a godly man for doing something that would be sinful if he himself did it, because the motives of his heart are all wrong. The selfish man assumes the other person's behavior is also wrongly motivated." -- Keith Green, Devotion or Devotions?

And then RIGHT afterwards, this:
"Does the same thing, when its done outside of the focus of intimacy and partnership with God, it creates in us outrageous pride and judgmental-ness towards other people. Giving does that, when its not done in the right paradigm. Prayer has just as damaging results as the other ones. What was happening in Isaiah's day is that a number of them were fasting regularly, they were reaching out, they were saying yes to prayer, but they doing in a way outside the boundaries of the grace of God. They ended up creating dead ritualism and formalism and they became twice dead what they were before they started and the Spirit of God could barely penetrate and open their hearts again.

The most glorious privilege people in the body of Christ are those who say yes to these activates. But, we must say yes in a right way.

I'm talking about lifestyles….10-15 years of pursuing these things outside of what I call the romance of the gospel of delighting in the Lord, the call to intimacy. Because we don't end up the same, we end up bruised broken, and angry while doing these ministries.

Some of the most cruel people in the body of Christ are holiness preachers. Its true. Some of the most broken and cruel people are intercessors, people who work and touch the poor in the inner city because they're doing it in a way that Isaiah 58 outlines very clearly, don't do it this way.

So I'm talking about the heart of the fasted lifestyle." -- Mike Bickle, Lovesick Heart of the Fasted Lifestyle

I've been thinking about this idea a lot...because there's been times where my conscience/the Holy Spirit has checked me in a middle of the activity. I know I often struggle judging people based on that standard. (Do not judge others, or you will be judged.) Allow me to preach to myself a bit...

It's important that we engage in lifestyles consecrated to God not in a manner of legalism but out of a love for God. The reason why I posted the "Other's May, You Cannot" bit was because God's got a calling on your life. And some of you, some of us, have stepped away from the standard that God has put in your life because others don't have to live up to the standard.

At the end of the day, I'm accountable to the Holy Spirit. There are things that are perfectly LAWFUL for me to do, but I cannot do them, because my conscience says no. That standard is not to be applied to others...and at the same time, you shouldn't feel pressured into a standard that you are not convicted of. I'm talking about things that aren't necessarily right/wrong in and of themselves. Our recreational time, things that are relatively "neutral."

But the reality is that if you are a soldier, you have been given a mission. You do not concern yourself with civilian affairs. Civilian affairs are things that aren't wrong in and out themselves, but BECAUSE YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN A MISSION AND TASK, YOU NEED TO STAY AWAY FROM IT. Others may have the luxury of doing watching TV. But God has clearly laid it on your heart to abstain from that. TV in and of itself is not wrong. Don't go judging people who watch TV. But you BEST ABSTAIN FROM WATCHING THE TELLY, BOY!

David was called by God as a warrior. "Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all ISrael, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem." 2 Samuel 11:1 For a civilian, it would have been fine to stay at home...but David is a king and he has a task. But he chooses to stay at home, and one sin leads to the other with drastic consequences.

...ahhh, that was a good brainfart.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Others May, You Cannot

This was one of my first posts that I put on this blog. How it increasingly has significance in my life.

G. D. Watson, 1845-1924, was a Wesleyan Methodist minister and evangelist based in Los Angeles, California. His evangelistic campaigns took him to England, the West Indies, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, and Korea. He also wrote several books. This article was originally published in pamphlet form.

If God has called you to be really like Jesus, He will draw you to a life of crucifixion and humility, and put upon you such demands of obedience, that you will not be able to follow other people, or measure yourself by other Christians, and in many ways He will seem to let other good people do things which He will not let you do.

Other Christians and ministers who seem very religious and useful may push themselves, pull wires, and work schemes to carry out their plans, but you cannot do it; and if you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.

Others may boast of themselves, of their work, of their success, of their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you begin it, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.

Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, or may have a legacy left to them, but it is likely God will keep you poor, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence on Him, that He may have the privilege of supplying your needs day by day out of an unseen treasury.

The Lord may let others be honored and put forward, and keep you hidden in obscurity, because He wants you to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade. He may let others be great, but keep you small. He may let others do a work for Him and get the credit of it, but He will make you work and toil on without knowing how much you are doing; and then to make your work still more precious, He may let others get the credit for the work which you have done, and thus make your reward ten times greater when Jesus comes.

The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch over you, with a jealous love, and will rebuke you for little words and feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem distressed over. So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign, and has a right to do as He pleases with His own.

He may not explain to you a thousand things which puzzle your reason in His dealings with you. But if you absolutely sell yourself to be His...slave, He will wrap you up in a jealous love, and bestow upon you many blessings which come only to those who are in the inner circle.

Settle it forever, then, that you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, and that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hand, or closing your eyes, in ways that He does not seem to use with others. Now when you are so possessed with the living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of Heaven.

WHEN YOU ARE forgotten, neglected, or purposefully set at naught, and you smile inwardly, glorying in the insult or the oversight, because thereby you are counted worthy to suffer with Christ, THAT IS VICTORY.

WHEN YOUR GOOD is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, when your taste is offended, when your advise is disregarded, when your opinions are ridiculed, and you take it all in patient, loving silence, THAT IS VICTORY.

WHEN YOU ARE content with any food, raiment, climate, society, solitude, or any interruption by the will of God, THAT IS VICTORY.

LORD JESUS, make Thyself to me
A Living Bright Reality;
More present to faith's vision keen
Than any earthly object seen;
More dear, more intimately nigh:
Than even the dearest earthly tie.

Monday, March 14, 2005

What is not my own

"For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power;" 2 Timothy 3:2-5

This verse hit me square in the face this morning...I'm still contemplating its implications, but one thing that has come up is that even in religious activity, we can be lovers of self and pleasure rather than lovers of God.

It's pretty crazy huh? That even in the place of prayer, worship, fellowship, we can be seeking more OUR own desire than God's. I see so clearly that sometime I cling to a "form of godliness," often in the place of religious activity...but I wholely deny its power. How often have I prayed because I'm supposed to, and not because its enjoyable to talk and listen to God. How often have I fasted and I have pointed the finger at everyone but myself. Its such a fine line isn't it? We must live lives that are filled by the Holy Spirit, for apart that, we are merely religious men and women doing religious activity.

Friday, March 11, 2005


-by Doug Perry.

For too long we've ignored what was going on in the church. For too
long we've sat out or even denied there was a war. We've been
infiltrated. We've been co-opted. We've been dumbed down. We’ve
had our greatest weapons ridiculed and demeaned until nobody
wants them anymore. This is no kind of way to fight a war.

We've allowed ourselves to be fattened up and we've planted roots.
We've been herded together in big groups like cattle and we bump
around against each other making useless noises. Wolves have
come in and we’ve welcomed them. We've accepted aid from the
enemies of God. We've taken the enemy's advice about how to
make war. We’ve hired consultants to show us how to be more
like the world.

We've ignored our own King's plan. We've sent a pitiful few
skirmishing parties out to do the work of missions for us and
patronized them when they come home wounded and hungry.
We've given all the ammunition to the supply clerks back home
and deprived the infantry of what they needed to push back the
darkness. Everything about what we’re doing is upside down.

No more will we take on the names and philosophies of men to
define and identify us. No more will we allow factions over
secondary issues to divide us. We are to be OF Jesus and Him
alone. Only He gets to put His brand on us. Only He gets to
direct us. Only He is truth. This is war! Nothing else can be
trusted. His is the unbreakable cypher. Pure, full, uncut Truth
cannot be spoken by the enemy. Truth and Love are our uniform,
our code, our defining characteristic. Only Truth and Love will
suffice for battle against principalities and forces of darkness.

No more will we waste time on our own vain pleasures and
indulgences. No more will we allow the egos and pride and
traditions and philosophies of Man to divide us. We will love
Truth and settle for nothing less. We will learn to sniff out and
purge compromise and half-truths. We will force out of us every
bad dark thing by being completely filled with the Bread of Life.
We will be nourished by Truth. We will be armored by Truth.
We will swing the Sword of Truth in big wide circles and pierce
the hearts of anyone near. We will fight and not grow weary. We
will charge forward and never retreat. Should one slip, others will
lift him up. Should one fall, others will take his place.

No more. It ends now. We'll fight with love to awaken our brethren
who are asleep and get them in fighting form. We will push back
the darkness by speaking nothing but TRUTH. It is rare and
precious - and only Jesus is the source. Every man-made thing
will burn off in the fire.

As Gideon, we will lovingly restore our own altars first while the
people are sleeping. Then we can rally a restored, awakened people
to fight the forces of darkness. Those on the front lines that have
proven themselves good and faithful servants and stewards of their
talents will be provisioned with a hundred times their own needs so
that they can feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty as they
see any need. We will pray and encourage and support them and
recruit more. We will always strive to continue growing up into
Jesus, who is the Head.

In view of the great mercy shown us by Jesus Christ, we will offer
our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. We will
stop conforming to the pattern of this world. We will be transformed
by the renewing of our minds so that we will be able to test and
approve what is God’s good, pleasing and perfect will. Then we’ll
go and do it.

I Corinthians 14:8 "Again, if the trumpet make an uncertain sound,
who will prepare for battle?"

No more. It ends now. As clear as we can say it, this is war.

~Doug Perry.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

No ethos without theos

My head's been banging around about true grace, and how the role of the poor relates to Christianity. I was very encouraged and challenged by this article.

SOURCE: Thinklings
Kingdom behavior cannot create kingdom hearts. It is the other way around. For the former approach puts the focus on man, while the latter gives the glory to God. This is more, I suspect than many of Bono’s acolytes would be willing to accept. Bono says, "To me, faith in Jesus Christ that is not aligned with social justice, that is not aligned with the poor -- it's nothing." But the reverse – "Social justice that is not aligned with faith in Jesus Christ is nothing" – is just as true, is in fact truer. Why is it not preached except by those accused of bigotry and judgmentalism and putting conditions on the Gospel? Because most of us, Christians included, want the glory without the cross.

The evangelical, conservative church is not exempt from this error either. I think the Church makes the same mistake, despite its explicit acceptance of the exclusivity of Jesus. The Church reduces the Jesus ethic to pious sentimentalities, as well, equating “doing good” with “being good,” decontextualizing the teachings of Jesus until they become little more than baptized proverbs. Discipleship is about self-improvement, taking up one’s cross is about staying positive through a rough time, etc. We are just as guilty, because we are drunk on self-help and our own potential and discovering the champion in ourselves. We too want the glory without the cross. Bonhoeffer had a phrase for that: cheap grace.

No sentimentality without (the) sacrifice.
No justice without holiness.
No right behavior without righteous character.
No ethos without theos.

Kingdom actions without kingdom character are rubbish.
Testing, testing, 1,2,3

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Not really sure where to go.

Thinking out loud.

I'm just hungry for the Real Thing. The already but not yet. Not just an experience for experience's sake, but an experience because an encounter with a living God in the midst of a community will leave you messed up for real.

Actually, I think I'm just impatient for something to happen.

Why is it that I can so freely accept the grace of God for the crap in my life, but I have such a hard time extending that grace to others?

I'm discouraged because of the state of me, and the state of the church. Not that its my responsibility, but I'm quite honestly just like --> bleh.

God, I don't know how in the world you work with crap like us, but Your power is perfected in our weakness and you delight in us, even in this place.

"God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist…Without becoming weak in faith [Abraham] contemplated [his natural insufficiencies], yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness." Romans 4:17,19-22

"24For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it." Romans 8:24-25

How does one progress from concept to practical application? Just do it? Do what?

If I read the Bible long enough, pray hard enough, have enough spiritual gifts, am balanced enough, love enough, am disciplined enough, have I made it? I don't think anyone would agree with that assessment, but why is that I sometimes live like that?
The Gospel of Mark is so graphic this way. The first half of the Gospel is Jesus showing people how to live. He's healing everybody. Then right in the middle, he shifts. He starts showing people how to die: "Now that you've got a life, I'm going to show you how to give it up." That's the whole spiritual life. It's learning how to die. And as you learn how to die, you start losing all your illusions, and you start being capable now of true intimacy and love. -- Eugene Peterson

This is not the way our Scriptures are written. This is not the way Jesus came among us. It's not the way Paul preached. Where do we get all this stuff? We have a textbook. We have these Scriptures and most of the time they're saying, "You're going the wrong way. Turn around. The culture is poisoning."

Do we realize how almost exactly the Baal culture of Canaan is reproduced in American church culture? Baal religion is about what makes you feel good. Baal worship is a total immersion in what I can get out of it. And of course, it was incredibly successful. The Baal priests could gather crowds that outnumbered followers of Yahweh 20 to 1. There was sex, there was excitement, there was music, there was ecstasy, there was dance. "We got girls over here, friends. We got statues, girls, and festivals." This was great stuff. And what did the Hebrews have to offer in response? The Word. What's the Word? Well, Hebrews had festivals, at least! -- Eugene Peterson

And the kicker:
I think relevance is a crock. I don't think people care a whole lot about what kind of music you have or how you shape the service. They want a place where God is taken seriously, where they're taken seriously, where there is no manipulation of their emotions or their consumer needs. -- Eugene Peterson

I hear people saying yes to things like this all over the place, but I feel like I'm still hearing the same old story, the same old things. We're fighting the same wars of 20-30 years ago. They've just been repackaged to look modern. When is the next big thing going to happen? When is "ideal" going to arrive?

Probably never.

I don't think I'll ever find what I'm looking for...but I've got to ask the question of now, NOW, what and who do I invest my life in? I'm sick of the institution of Christianity, and I think everyone is sick of religion. SO WHAT? So everyone else? What do we do?

I think I like talking about how messed things are than to really do something about it. I like doing more of the pointing of the finger and laying heavier yokes on the oppressed. Its not malicious, but its much easier and safer to do that than to actually live out Isaiah 58.

Okay, now I've moved from thinking outloud to ranting.

...I should just pray.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Jesus Talks to a gay man.

Jesus Talks With A Gay Man - (John 4:1-33, 39-42 - more or less...)

1 In late July, the Metro Chicago Synod heard that Jesus was attracting more first-time visitors and baptizing more adults than any other ELCA pastor in the city, 2 although in fact it was not really Jesus who had baptized them, but his irregularly-commisioned staff of unordained lay ministers. 3 Now when Jesus learned of this, he left the seminary community in Hyde Park and went back once more toward the ELCA headquarters on Higgins Road.

4 Now to get there, he had to go through an area just north of downtown called Boystown. 5 So he came to a part of Boystown called Northhalsted, not far from the plot of ground where Emperor Mayor Daley had ordained that the Chicago Cubs should play baseball. 6 Cub's Stadium was near there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey on the Red Line, sat down at a sidewalk café table outside the bar called Hydrate. It was just about lunch-time, and though the rainbow flags were fluttering in the breeze and the music inside the bar was pumping, there weren't many people around (because it's often hot and miserable outside, at mid-day in late July, in Chicago).

7 A waiter came to the table, wearing a bright pink "His+His" t-shirt and a "Silence=Death" armband, and raised one eyebrow at the man seated at the table in front of him in the "Come Follow Me" t-shirt. Jesus said to him, "Will you give me a drink?" 8 (All the lay ministers had gone down the street to pick up Subway sandwiches for the rest of the journey.)

9 The gay man said to him, " tell me. After all, you appear to be a straight Christian, and I'm a gay man. Let's face it - we don't get many religious folks in Boystown, let alone places like this. And I'm not only a gay man, but I'm a Muslim gay man. So where does a guy like you get off asking someone like me for a drink?" (For Christians do not associate with gays, nor with Muslims if they can help it.)

10 Jesus answered him, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."

11 "Hey, mister," the gay man said, "I'm the waiter here. I don't see you with an order pad or a serving tray, and it's tough for customers to even get close to our fountain-drink station, let alone our bar. So how are you going to get anything for me to drink, let alone 'living water'? Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you somehow greater than the folks who own this place, who let us drink have free water and soda (and snitch the occasional mixed drink) whenever we want?"

13 Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks your water, or your soda, or your beer will get thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

15 The gay man said to him, "Yeah? know what, I have no idea who you really are, or even what the heck you're talking about. But you're the first Christian man in 20 years that hasn't spit on me, or called me 'an abomination' to my face. Somehow, I think I want some of what you're offering. Give me some of this water you keep talking about, so I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to get something to drink."

16 Jesus told the man, "OK - just call your wife and come back here, and we'll talk."

17 "Who are you kidding?" the gay man said. "Don't you know where you are? You're in Boystown, for cryin' out loud. I don't have a wife, or a girlfriend. Heck, right now I don't even have a boyfriend," he replied.

Jesus said to her, "You're right when you say you have no boyfriend. The fact is, you've had five boyfriends, and the guy you're living with now isn't even your boyfriend. He's just a guy you picked up in the club - some guy who doesn't even know your real last name."

19 Whoah, buddy," the gay man said, "that's pretty intense! How'd you know that about me?" Jesus was silent. "OK...I get it. Maybe you're one of those folks who can see right through people - maybe one of those guys with 'second sight.' Maybe you're one of those folks who 'have the Spirit,' like those televangelists say. 20 I don't know anything about that. My family - my people (the ones who are observant, anyway) - think that you have to pray five times a day to Allah to get that kind of power. The rest of the people I know don't even bother with that spiritual mumbo-jumbo...they just think you have to work out a lot, look good, live fast, die hard and leave a good-looking corpse. And all the Christians I've met think that I have to pray their way, and start living life their way, or I'm 'going to hell.' Either way, my day-to-day life is so empty, I'm not convinced that I'm not already in hell. What's a guy supposed to believe?"

21 Jesus said, "Believe me, my friend, a time is coming when you won't worship God in Mecca, or in the gym, or in the club, or in a church sanctuary. 22 You and your friends worship what you think you know, but do not know. Christians worship what they do know, for salvation is promised in Scripture. 23 Yet a time is coming - and has now come - when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

25 The gay man said, "I know that the church folks say that their Savior is coming. Maybe when he finally gets here, he will explain everything to us."

26 Then Jesus declared, "Then wait no longer. I'm the one they're waiting for."

The Irregularly-Commissioned Lay Ministers Rejoin Jesus

27 Just then the lay ministers returned and were more than a little surprised to find Jesus apparently talking with a gay man - one who appeared to be Middle-Eastern in origin, to boot. But no one asked, "What do you want?" or "Why are you talking with him?"

28 Then, leaving his tray and his order pad behind at the table, the gay man went back to the bar, and even next door to the gym and to the other clubs, and said to the people, 29 "You gotta come and see this... come see a guy who told me everything I ever did, and didn't run away or act disgusted. Could this possibly be 'the Christ' all those religious folks keep talking about?" 30 People came out of the gym, and out of the bars and clubs, and made their way toward him.

31 Meanwhile the lay ministers (the ones who considered themselves Jesus' disciples) kept saying, "Hey, padré, you may walk on water, but come on - even Michael Jordan's gotta eat something." 32 But Jesus said to them, "I have a source of energy that you know nothing about."

33 Then his disciples said to each other, "Did someone slip him some Mrs. Field's cookies while we weren't looking?"
Many Gays and Lesbians Believe

39 Many of the gays and lesbians who gathered from all around Boystown believed in Jesus because of what the waiter said: "You gotta come and see this... come see a guy who told me everything I ever did, and didn't run away or act disgusted." 40 So when the people of that area - gay men, lesbians, bisexuals (even people in civil unions from Vermont and Episcopalians visiting from New Hampshire) came to him, they urged Jesus to stay with them. So rather than continuing the ride out to Higgins Road, the irregularly consecrated lay ministers found some rooms at a nearby bed-&-breakfast, and he stayed in Boystown - amidst the people with whom most Christians would not associate - for two days. 41 And because of what Jesus spoke to the men and women there, many more became believers.

42 The people who heard Jesus said to the gay man who first encountered him, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world."

Opens your eyes a bit doesn't it?

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Eugene Peterson

I really like this guy...He's the one who wrote The Message Bible. I think I appreciate his work knowing his heart. He's a quote about prayer:

It's a life that you are immersed in. Prayer is the interiorness of our life in relationship to the God who has spoken to us. So deep within us there is a dialogic reality. God spoke life into being and we answer it. That is the way our life is. As our life enters this lively word, this revelation, prayer is living our life now in response to that. Prayer cannot be confined to a certain period of time. It is nurtured in those things, and we realize certain aspects of it during those times.

This has been coming up a lot for myself personally. Lord, move us into action.

Well, why do people spend so much time studying the Bible? How much do you need to know? We invest all this time in understanding the text which has a separate life of it's own and we think we're being more pious and spiritual when we're doing it. But it's all to be lived. It was given to us so we could live it. But most Christians know far more of the Bible than they're living. They should be studying it less, not more. You just need enough to pay attention to God.

Man...I really, REALLY like this guy. Something just stirs in my heart when he talks about the arts and ENTERING into relationship with Christ in everything that we do. I don't consider myself an artist in any degree...but if you are involved with the arts, you need to read these interviews. Everyone else should read these interviews too. Yup.

A Conversation with Eugene Peterson

The Psalms In American

Spirituality For All The Wrong Reasons; Hospitality Incarnate

Brilliant. Inspires me to...

...program. Haha, I'm a computer science major, what can I say.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

As full as you want to be

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. --Matthew 5:6

It may be said without qualification that every man is as holy and as full of the Spirit as he wants to be. He may not be as full as he wishes he were, but he is most certainly as full as he wants to be.

Our Lord placed this beyond dispute when He said, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." Hunger and thirst are physical sensations which, in their acute stages, may become real pain. It has been the experience of countless seekers after God that when their desires became a pain they were suddenly and wonderfully filled. The problem is not to persuade God to fill us, but to want God sufficiently to permit Him to do so. The average Christian is so cold and so contented with His wretched condition that there is no vacuum of desire into which the blessed Spirit can rush in satisfying fullness. Born After Midnight, 8.