Wednesday, December 24, 2008

the womb before the cross

There were more than expected that came to the Christmas Eve service tonight. We lit the room with 40 small candles and a tall lamp standing beside me that cast a jaded glow. We could not have filled a stadium or even a typical church, but the night was true and fellowship was intimate. It is this night--of all nights--to remember that the greatest of things and the truest reality does not always draw a large crowd. Sometimes it is just a few shepherds. Everything about the night is humbling. God cannot control his physical body--no baby can. He must be warmed by rough clothes and nourished by creatures milk. "He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him." (John 1:10-11) "Veiled in flesh the godhead see!" It was too humbling a reality for most to believe and it remains that way. Sure we can imagine a lot of nice characteristics to God, but who dares to fully take in all of Him? It is easy to talk of love and its full expression in the Father, just as it is a conversation over tea to talk of the justice of God...or kingliness...or servanthood...or unexpected...or unchanging...or merciful...or full of wrath...or jealous...or long-suffering...or patience...or holiness, etc. But who dare expose his heart to all the wonder? I remember reading of one saint that had such a revelation of God that he cried out, "Lord! Stop!" fearing that his heart could not take any more. And so we do not understand Jesus. How could it be? A God-Man born of a virgin? God sacrificing Himself to Himself? We have abused our brains and gone mad thinking of other ways to be saved. There is just this one way. Never was or were or will there be another. God has worked in this one way and always planned to, and it is by this expression we know Him. All His perfect qualities are completely seen together at the cross. It is the summation of all God's self-revealing expression to man--the final earthly work of the "Final Word." We would do ourselves much eternal good to focus our lives, the deepest meditations of our hearts, and our times of pleasure to pursue what God focuses all the energies of scriptures towards--Jesus. Begin again by taking in his birth. The shame of a scandalous pregnancy...the field showered by angels songs...the need to be helped, clothed and cared for by a mother and learn to tie learn to walk by the Spirit and talk with the Father...the years needed to grow in grace and favor in the eyes of God and man...the resolution to follow at all cost. We always talk of the laborious movement to the cross, consider the approach to the womb! "Because God so love the world He...."

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

the silent uplifiting

"There is a silent uplifting impartation from the Absolute. It does us good to look up and see Orion driving his hunting dogs across the Zenith, or Andromeda shaking out her tresses over limitless space...It enlarges the self to have studied great architecture; to know great art--the red of Titian, the sunset of Turner, the seas of Winslow Homer; to have felt the spell of epic heroism; to have swung to the rhythmic pulse of Homer; to have known the tenderness of Francis of have heard the whirring of angels' wings in Milton's 'Paradise Lost'; to have been swept away on the streams of Beethoven's music; to engrave the prologue to the Gospel of John on the heart; and to march with the majestic affirmations of the Nicean Creed...It does something inside a man. It stretches him mentally, stirs him morally, inspires him spiritually...."
- Peter Marshall

There are days that you hike to no end, and others that you hike until you find a silent place to stop. Today I hiked to stop and be still for awhile. The world was still with me for that while, silently calling glory back to its Maker who had generously opened the storehouses of snow to ornament our home here. I find a lot to pray about in those times alone, but find myself even more these days simply enjoying the presence of God, which involves a good deal of listening and loving. I am learning that sometimes our lives can be covered by a blanket of snow, suppressing--as it may--with all its might the budding efforts of spring life. The snow postpones as long as it can and tempts despair with its chaotic flurries. It covers the city and binds the roads. But when the spring sun rises at just the right time--as does the Son of God in our hearts--the snow has no power to remain. The snow can never cool down the sun, just as our sin can never cool down the love of Christ. He will conquer whatever heart He pursues. Today my silent snow wandering reminded me that is the power of God that thawed my heart and, I believe, will also save this city.

Also, an hour visit with an old friend, who chuckled at my getting old even though he is topping 95 years. He is always kind to do most of the talking and also to offer advice freely. His advice is not always words though. His voice trembles and verges on sobbing when he asks for the scriptures to be read and reread. The subject of prayer frequents almost every paragraph of conversation. His belief is the centerpiece of his existence. Jesus is without a doubt his closest friend and heaven is talked of so sweetly and obviously that you would think he had memories of a recent visit to his future home. With fading memory he takes the time and energy to be concerned about me, which is usually expressed humorously. After being a bachelor for 95 years he encouraged me to get to know one of the nurses at his care facility when he found out that I wasn't dating anyone. More advice was to keep running so that I will continue to grow strong. He has reached the level of unashamed appreciation that comes with years of living (I hope more of us can reach that stage early on in life). The whole time I spent with him he held my hand and would tell me frequently how much he appreciated the visit. I did too.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

hiking with athanasius

"It was January 11th that I committed suicide," he told me as we drove together. It wasn't an attempt, he told me, it had worked. For several seconds his heart had stopped beating, just like he had intended. It wasn't a stunt used as a platform for a desperate cry. It was what he wanted for himself. For the painful blood to stop repeating its cycle through his body. Today his heart beats just fine. God actually gave him a new one. One that is tender with compassion and that desires others to find God too. We walked together and prayed together, drank milkshakes and bought burly belt-buckles together, we are brother because God gave us both new hearts.

"I would sacrifice to the devil anything that I could find in the prison yard...10 years of solitary confinement," was the testimony of another conversation. I believed him. Neither of us minced words as we talked together late into the night. I told him plainly, "Sir, I have more hope for you than you have for yourself, because my God is unstoppable and irresistible." Between dinner in Gig Harbor (another story) and entering this fellows house I had 10 minutes alone. 10 minutes of holding my precious Bible and praying for wisdom--10 sweet minutes of being alone with God. Two other brothers were with me and God gave us much boldness.

Your prayers are always coveted and being remembered in prayer always refreshes my soul. Sometimes I long for the stillness and fresh breath of the hills. It was said of Athanasius, the great defender of the faith at Nicaea, that of all things he loved the mountains the most. We are going to be hiking buddies in heaven.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

book-doors, business-doors, and door-doors

"The book of God is a store of manna for God's pilgrim children....The great cause of neglecting the Scriptures is not want of time, but want of heart, some idol taking the place of Christ. Satan has been marvelously wise to entice away God's people from the Scripture. A child of God who neglects the Scriptures cannot make it his business to please the Lord of Glory; cannot make Him Lord of the conscience; ruler of the heart; the joy, portion, and treasure of the soul....If the Bible be used aright by anyone, it will be to him the most pleasant book in the world." - R.C. Chapman

The quote is taken from a book that I have read the past two years in the winter months. The book is "Agape Leadership: Lessons in Spiritual Leadership from the Life of R.C. Chapman." The front is covered by a kindly man in a large white beard that wraps all the way over his head forming a perfect frame for his face. As we stroll together through pages (metaphorically, of course) I can hear him saying again each year, "slow down, young man, it is God who makes a man. Set yourself to love Him through reading the word and prayer."

By the looks of it the Coffee Oasis/Hope in Christ Ministries will soon be buying a successful drive-thru coffee business. Please pray for my father as he spend time working out the business details. The previous owner is willingly donating almost half of the business ($21,000) because they believe that God is leading this way. One of our faithful advisers and an earnest brother in prayer said that he was praying for God to give the rest since He has showed it to be such an easy things to give us half. It is crazy the amount of trust offered to us being Christians, who gain our name from a God-man who was raised from the dead.

Please pray for me. Today I went door-to-door with one of the other staff from the Oasis. She is a spunky, boardering on hyper, lady who makes quick friends with any moving object. I, however, am not the best at such extroverted activities. We were not passing out tracts or looking to wage Bible wars with anyone, just inviting our neighbors (the city) to our community Christmas party. I hate the thought of invading someone elses space and don't always want to make new friends. I am not always good with new people, knowing that I am not always good with the old people either. Pray that God invades the spaces in my heart that hold me back from loving others and wanting to share the message of eternal life with them.

Started running again!!!

Monday, December 8, 2008

no, sir, i don't understand, but can i?

I had already been out for awhile, talking and praying with members of our church, when I returned to gather my belongings and head out for another engagement. One of the regulars came up to me and pointed me to the laundry room were there was a man who "needed to be prayed with," as she put it. I arrived at the washing room at the same time he was exiting the building. Deflecting the shutting door I followed the man outside and asked him if I could sit down with him and get to now him so we could better help him. We sat down and I talked a little. "Name...address...really your from Guam! Wow! what brought you here?...Four kids and a electricity...I am so sorry...No, Sir, I don't understand what that must be like, but can I pray with you?" "We want to help you in any way possible," I said, almost pleadingly, over and over again. In all he did not want to pray. He said that the whole things was to hard to talk about. It is humiliating, you know, to have no job and to do laundry at someone else's expense. I wanted so badly for him to know he was loved, not just by me or the other staff, but by God. That's why we are here in Bremerton, even here on this planet--love for God and our neighbors. "For God so loved the world...Jesus!" Dear God, let him know your love, and bend down to feed them (Hosea 11).

This morning I met a close friend, who is a youth pastor in Tacoma, for breakfast. We talked about what was most passionate to us, so I am sure many people in the cafe overheard loud, excited remarks about "God!" Over half way through our meal our waitress approached the table and told us that she would have brought our bill, but that someone (who asked to remain anonymous) had covered it for us. After an elderly woman in the adjoining booth left we were told that she was the kind benefactress (thankfully, I had acknowledged her with a smile as she left. I actually tried to smile at everyone else to not knowing who was the silent provider.) I felt very honored.

Pray for us as we prepare for a large Christmas gathering at the Oasis on December 20 and the caroling that precedes the event tomorrow night.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

things worth dying for

Tonight I spoke to a group of 12 people that gathered at the coffee shop on the subject of what our church breathes by--what we would give every breath to preach and live in word and deed (ie. our statement of faith). I am thankful that the Lord seemed to offer clarity in the the words spoken. Some of the topics spoken on were the Trinity and sovereignty of God, the authority of the Bible, salvation, and the two options of eternity. Given an hour I covered nearly 30 points, including sub-points and a several minute portion of time to cover a question on the essential nature of a God that could and did perish on a tree. I was happy to speak every word; happy to have such a God to speak about and that He taught me--me!--His song of love that wraps throughout history and beyond our celestial walls. Just think, it was all declared in final detail even before the world began (Ephesians 1:3-6)! May our passion never be only a matter of discussion between ourselves or a matter of question for onlookers. "Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed" (Proverbs 27:5). I don't want my love to be concealed. O to be always open with love to God; then, I known, from us will flow streams, pouring over and multiplied to others. I tire though. The reality is that it all takes effort. Jesus asks us the Gethsemene question: "will you stay awake and pray for an hour?" Your life and mine is only a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:14). It was the final point. I am looking forward to the unfettered and forever joys of eternity. O God make my mist one that hangs epicly over battleground-earth.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Christmas homesickness

In a Christmas sermon given December 2, 1928, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, who look forward to something greater to come. For these, it is enough to wait in humble fear until the Holy One himself comes down to us, God in the child in the manger. God comes. The Lord Jesus comes. Christmas comes. Christians rejoice! When once again Christmas comes and we hear the familiar carols and sing the Christmas hymns, something happens to us...The hardest heart is softened. We recall our own childhood. We feel again how we then felt, especially if we were separated from a mother. A kind of homesickness comes over us for past times, distant places, and yes, a blessed longing for a world without violence or hardness of heart.But there is something more--a longing for the safe lodging of the everlasting Father. And that leads our thoughts to the curse of homelessness which hangs heavily over the world.”

For the past months since my arrival we have been praying for a home for boys. We prayed and looked and realized that only a miracle would involve us in the debaucle that the house market is right now. We were looking for a big place, secluded enough to raise chickens, with the look of adventure. So what happened was that we didn't find it; rather, it was offered to us last week. Pray and praise with us as this work continues. In 2 months me and several other brothers ("staff") will move into a home on the edge of town. We already have a full number of guys wanting to move into the house to begin being discipled. As the Shephard moves the sheep will follow. May His voice always be familiar to our ears.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

when to laugh becomes easy

prayers from the day:

a girl: tired of truth and "trying God." Lured by the immediacy of prescriptions and pay by the hour motels.

a child: she learned psalm 23--Brilliant for her age. Pray that her and her mom learn to call God there Daddy.

a city.

Today when asked what I was thankful for the first thing that came to mind was imitatable people. Each night before I fall into sleep I prop myself up to read a few chapters of a book that inspires me. I admit that I have never understood those people that read to fall asleep. I take it as a sign of my maturing (ha, I have to look for signs) that I don't allow myself to be engrossed each night in flipping pages and forget to sleep at all. Reading itself is restful for me. It is one of the ways I dream. Anyway, I have been reading another biography of Hudson Taylor titled: "Hudson Taylor and Maria: Pioneers to China" by J.C. Pollock. First I will tell you to buy it and next I will tell you why. Buy it! I have tried reading this book several times and did not received it well (or as I should). It is a book that must be read by someone ready to accept the humanity of Hudson Taylor and love and laugh at his idiosyncrasies. The first time I tried reading this book I thought I was set for life. No need to worry about a wife, I was set. In my own priggish arrogance I actually wondered why people ever did worry. Just trust God, right? Hudson Taylor, the Leviathan of faith and exalted to the point of being canonized in sermons, was desperate, even sick, for a wife. I will not be a spoiler for the story, but do want to show you what God brought to Hudson. Hudson, knowing the call of God, went woman-less to China because he loved God more than anything. When Hudson finally met Maria there was much harsh feelings towards their courtship from other missionaries in China, even to the point of persecution. But here is the woman God was providing for Hudson. To ease the difficulty Hudson thought of returning to England to achieve an official medical degree or ordination, thinking that this would ease the hard feelings towards the match--her being well-bred and him being poor. Maria's thought on the subject of him leaving for a title was this: "I would wait if he went home in order to increase his usefulness. But is he to leave his work in order to gain a name for the sake of marrying me? If he loves me more than Jesus he is not worthy of me--if he were to leave the Lord's work for the world's honour, I would have nothing further to do with him." To this Hudson replied, "she is a noble girl." "A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised" (Prov. 31). God be blessed for starch Godly woman. What is even more incredible is that Maria fiercely was attached to Hudson when she wrote this, yet knew for their love to ever be God must reign on the throne of their hearts. Blessed be the woman that guards your heart from idolatry, she is rarer than a rare jewel. As Francis Bacon would say, like a fine gem roughly set. I am encouraged to write this for a couple of reason: 1) I am happy to see that there are such people, 2) and to share this wonderful story with many who find this subject to be very consuming. Make sure Christ is on the throne of your heart. Love Him first and you will begin to know glorious intimacies of true love.

A friend of Hudson and Maria wrote of the days following their engagement: "Those were days when to laugh was easy."

Monday, December 1, 2008

remember the Majesty

12 hours from when I left home to when I returned today. Deliveries, praying with people, figuring it out along the way, Gospel. "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth (Eccl. 12.1)," in the days that seem long, in the unexpected endings and the bright morning beginnings, in the laughter of a hearty soul or the bleak look of a troubled one, in all the surprises of life--remember Him. Remember the Majesty.

"O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!" - Psalm 8.9

Sunday, November 30, 2008

good fires

"It is better to burn out than to rust out." - Henry F. Lyte

There have been many goings-on the last three days. I have been enjoying, perhaps even too much, the rest offered by the advent of the holiday season. Two of our guys are offering themselves for baptism. I love these guys. They bring great happiness to our Church--your Church (they can also catch a football pretty well!). Last night we had an Ordinary Guy movie night. Our few ordinary guys came and left changed. This last week I have also been visited by 10+ people from my previous homeland, Pullman. I love the enduring work of God. Please pray for SOMA and the new Black Horse Band as they all continue to minister at the Evangelical Free Church in Pullman.

For the next four weeks we will be having Sunday Classes at Coffee Oasis teaching on what it means to be a Church, what we believe, and the vision of The Refuge (the Church that meets at the shop). Pray for me as I study to teach next week. Please pray that my words will bring joy to those that hear. My heart is heavy with the knowledge that my words have at times been harmful rather than healing. I do not want my tongue to cause the spark that lights the blaze of doubt or bitterness in anyones heart. I beseech you to pray that I speak plainly and lovingly, even lovely, and highly of Him who is forever true.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

thankful for generations

"Well," my Grandfather thoughtfully began, "I was nearly engaged to an Adventist once." It was the beginning to a story. While abiding by our planned 20-minute interlude between dinner and dessert (two marvelous "d" words!) I, being prompted by my Grandmother, had asked my Grandfather a question. He went on, "We met at a skating rink. After a couple months of dating I realized that we believed very differently, and it was about that time I met your Grandmother." Every soul was intent as my Grandfather remembered. I am thankful to hear those memories. The years and the Parkinsons make every memory a prize to be won. They fall and rush from a limited vessel like the precious water from Bethleham's wells that David longed for in his exile. I find myself filled with faith during those times of hearing. Just as God has taken care, He will again and forevermore. I am thankful that he left that pretty little Adventist girl. I am thankful that that young Air Force officer, Albert Lauer (whom I owe my middle name to) met another girl, Janet Frohmader, a pretty young brunette heading off for a college degree. I am thankful that my Grandfather is a man of conviction. And I am thankful for the generations that feasted together today proving the worth of such conviction and the timeless faithfulness of God.

ps. pray for a man that I sat with on Wednesday. We sat for some time in a curtain drawn room singing hymns and praying. He struggles with deep depression and abiding discontentment with himself. I understand both of these struggles. One of the refrains God brought to mind to sing while I was there was, "When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil. / On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand."

pps. I watched the movie "Get Smart" (the new one) 1.5 times last night and laughed pretty hard. A reminder how good it is to laugh.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

dam the river, Lord! dam the river!

“The best of all is God with us. When He is ready I am ready; I long to taste the joys of the heavenlies.” - E.M. Bounds

A beautiful day. Such a simple word--beautiful--but a true definition. At the coffee shop we see an endless flow of people. All sorts of people: odd, normal, spectacular. Please pray that God will throw his net out into this flow and pull in a big catch. I pray to be a better fisherman. I lack that killer instinct. I think there should be an instinct in every Christian to be a little reckless. To get in their and pull em' out. I can be pretty timid. Please pray that I will proclaim Christ with boldness (isn't it surprising that Paul asked for that same prayer?). I have been challenged reading on the lives and actions of George Whitefield and John Wesley. They still preach.

As trite as it sounds I also ask you to pray for quick healing for my left quadricept. I strained it again pretty bad playing football this Sunday. It is terribly hard to be out of the action. As surprising as it may sound, those times of sports are an excellent ways of showing guys love (even if it involves pushing them around). Oh that Christ may be preached in every way. I can be so plain and one-dimensional. "Here am I."

Monday, November 24, 2008

when the sun begins its course

"To meditate on the three Persons of the Godhead is to walk in thought through the garden eastward in Eden and to tread on holy ground." - Tozer

"One God! One Majesty!
There is no God but Thee!
Unbounded, unextended Unity!

Unfathomable Sea!
All life is out of Thee,
And Thy life is Thy blissful Unity." - Frederick Faber

"Batter my heart, three Person God." - Donne

I took an early morning to walk eastward in Eden. I was impressed this morning by how much of the Bible is about me. Or should I say, "concerns me." It is because God is; because God "loved me and gave Himself for me." Love is an exchange and God, above all others, has shown Himself to be unselfish in His romance. It is not a gospel about me though. Still, in a relationship there is a me and another. "I am my beloveds, and His desire is for me." We are not nothing, but persons that have senses and affections, tissue and bone, mind and intellect, spirit, deepness that will cry out to deepness. All of ourselves was meant to be united with all the beautiful, coherent, intertwining, and blessed unity of the Godhead. Though I often feel dumb and helpless with the way I am using my body God instructs us in the way things should be done. He speaks of my eyes and my hands, He looks at my mind and my heart, He offers how I should use my mouth and where to place my feet. When I read the Bible I hear the voice of God saying, "This is the good way, walk in it!"

Please pray for me as the week begins. I was very tired and tempted at the end of last week.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Jesus--fully immersed

After a late night at the coffee shop I woke with the robins share the morning worms with my uncle (ha! some analogies work better than others). Every once in awhile my uncle and I will sit down and talk. I am grateful for his insight. Even on the drive home I thanked God for the particular insight that God gave him into my own life. We, you and I, spend much of our lives not knowing what exactly God is making us into. I think it keeps us humble. "Here am I, God. Just me. All I have is me to give. Send me, use me, I'll go" (Isaiah 6). I consider each decided step Jesus took into the Jordan river to be baptized by John. Jesus knew that this humbling moment would relate Him with the manhood, and the full sin--your sin and mine and everyone elses--that comes with that, forever. With each step He became wetter. Has any lamb walked so willfully through the blood toward the altar? With each step he felt the lapping water rise up against his human form. He knew what this meant. "Look the lamb of God (they pointed and starred) who has come to take the sin of the world." Then, supported by the rough touch of human hands, He bowed down into the water. He was now completely wet. The river wind made Him cold. "Not my will, but Yours be done."

"This is my Son," the Father beamed, "With Him I am well pleased."

It is well, it is well with my soul.

Friday, November 21, 2008

the eventide

"True religion confronts earth with heaven and brings eternity to bear upon time." - A.W. Tozer

I apologize for the infrequency between posts this past week. I have made a commitment not work on my computer after 10pm. This commitment was made for several reason: those late hours can easily be wasted rather than cherished (they are usually best spent with a hot beverage, a good book, and a chair that makes prayer easy; though they are often spent with souls), I also do not always think clearly at those times (by that time my thoughts are a strong potions of passions mixed from the happenings of a long day), and I would like to get to bed earlier so as to "rise on the wings of dawn" the following day. Even now I am writing with only 10 minutes before work and cannot write long. Last night after a 4 hour meeting I walked out on a local pier and prayed, surrounded by a great expanse of dim city darkness. Either side of the large dock I looked over it was peering into a rippling reminder of God's constant faithfulness. He is even more constant than the tide. "Abide with me, fast falls the eventide / the darkness deep, O Lord, with me abide.../ swift to its close, ebbs out life's little day / earths joys grow dim its glories fade away... / O Lord, abide with me." I plunge with willful helplessness into that faithful tide of grace. God's plan is being revealed and I look forward to the blessings of a nearer walk with my Savior.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

past the the buzz and glow

Here is an article I wrote for the recent Hope in Christ Ministries Newsletter (pardon for the late night writing without extensive editing):

Sometimes it feels like we are in the business of “hoping against hope” (Romans 4:18). It is not only challenging to believe that some will be saved; it is often a challenge to believe that they will come at all. We cannot offer the flashy entertainment of an arcade or, like Peter and John in Acts, we don’t have the cash it would take to keep them interested; but, here is the secret, we as a staff trust that God has and is preparing a harvest. So I sat and waited. It was not like I was just waiting, I had an appointment. We were to meet at 2 o’clock. I made myself busy as the minute walked slowly around towards 3 o’clock and decided to opt for plan B: track em’ down. You see, if God was willing to leave heaven to track us down, then why shouldn’t I be willing to walk a few blocks up the street. The house where the boy lived is a frequent stop for the ministry staff as we make our afternoon rounds to minister to people. We are known by name there and are usually a welcoming distraction from the buzz and glow of the television that is a constant presence in the gloomy sitting room. The boy that I had come to see opened the door after a few knocks and invited me inside to the gloomy room, filled with the usual buzz and glow. It was a musty darkness. It was as though nothing had happened. He didn’t want to take the effort to feel, much less to care. He had already felt the emotion of defeat when he woke-up, and then came the paperwork, and the memory of yesterday’s failures, and the expectation of tomorrow’s failures. Who really would care if he left the couch at all today? Since Jesus and me did, the three of us sat down and talked about the worth of a soul—of his soul—to the one and only God of the universe. We wore new creases in our Bibles flipping from the Old Testament to the New, then back again, and again! “So what does it means to be saved? You know, for me to know that I am really saved?” He finally asked. “Well,” I began, “It means that you know and believe with your whole heart and soul and mind that Jesus—who is God and perfect—took your sins when He died, so that you can be pure and clean before God; and even more, so that you could be a son of God!” (2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 8) We talked on about how his title is would long “sinner,” but “son” through the work of the Holy Spirit in the new birth, as Jesus once explained to another on a dark and gloomy rooftop, with the buzz and glow of the city below (John 3). While we talked the darkness fled and the hum grew faint, as I am sure it did on that night long ago when Nicodemus sat with Jesus. God was all we wanted. So we kept on talking. We talked about baptism, letting the world know how good it was to be saved, living in truth and trusting the counsel of the Holy Spirit, and we ended our time in earnest prayer. O God, may we never forget the words that were spoken. May we never forget your final Word—Jesus. Thank and praise God with us for the ears that are finally being opened to hear the Gospel. “Raindrops of mercy are falling, but for the showers we plead.”

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The only time you will here me speak on the subject (or in someone else's words)

Sometimes you are divinely spoiled: heated seats on the drive to work.

I had to work-out at home today due to a strained quadricept from the game of football (please don't imagine me being tough though. It was two-had-touch and I was wide-open when I came up lame). What added to the pain of being lame was that the world was lovely today and I could not be outside running. While I was laboring inside to not think of the outside I stumbled across a special book. There was a page forcefully dog-eared, a bookmarked memory from someone else's effort to preserve a hallowed spot of prosaic wisdom forever. The chapter that was meant to be read again was underlined and marked-up with excited strokes, now fading, from a #2 pencil. Here are parts of the chapter:

"You and I have known, either personally or through their writings, some great single women and men whose lives were rich and fruitful because they understood a paradoxical spiritual principle: 'If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your desire with good things, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a well watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.' Here, I think lies the answer to the barrenness of a single life, or a life that might otherwise be selfish or lonely. It is the answer, I have found, to depression as well. You yourself will be given a light in exchange for pouring yourself out for the hungry; you yourself will get guidance, the satisfaction of your longing, and strength, when you 'pour yourself out,' when you make the satisfaction of somebody else's desire your own concern; you yourself will be a source of refreshment, a builder, a leader into healing and rest at a time when things around you seem to have crumbled....Amy Carmichael of India never married, though there are faint hints in her biography that she had had to make a choice and that it was an extremely painful thing for her to take up a cross which meant leaving a man forever. But her life was a watered garden, to the hundreds of Indian children who came under her care, and to the thousands who read her books....St. Ignatius of Loyola prayed, 'Teach us, Good Lord, to serve Thee as Thou deservest; to give and not count the cost; to fight and not heed the wounds; to toil and not to seek for rest; to labor and not ask for any reward save that of knowing that we do Thy will. Through Jesus Christ our Lord.'"


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

we are not donkeys for burden

There was a call last night that woke my parents up: "Will you take me to the hospital?"

Please pray.

It was a conversation I had this evening with someone I love very much: "yeah people screw up and hurt you, push you away from God, but that doesn't change God," I told her. It's true, God is love.

Please pray.

When Nehemiah saw the walls of Jerusalem in ruin he wept. I cannot remember the last time I lost myself and cried seeing a broken and ruined temple walking in front of my eyes. They were created for beauty and love, not this.

Please pray.

My life is hidden in Christ.

Give thanks with me.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

to be more than a toy soldiers

I could quote you a number of authors if you wanted, but you would not know anything about me. If you wanted to hear my thoughts on any number of sermons or concerning the men that I respect I could list them for you in impressive fashion. I once talked to a fellow who followed Sir Mix-a-lot, the famed Bremerton rapper, through the aisles of a retail store. I have a quote for almost anything. There are key terms that I have logged away just to make me comfortable in many educated circles. Vanity, all vanity. Do you know what it is like to chase after the wind? I do. Many will come in that day and say, "Lord, Lord!", and the Lord will say, "You only read about me and talked about me." O heart, what is your true song? O life, what is your testimony? When will we be real. There must be something within the houses that are being built, and all rocks and gold will be burned away. Have you drank from the cherished water of another, but find yourself thirsty when you are alone. Can you feel rushing within you the fount of living water that Jesus offered the Samaritan woman. He offers it to you. You CAN live a life worthy of the calling--"Not by might nor by strength, but by My Spirit." I often feel that words take on a more authoritative tone when I am quoting dead puritans, even though the Spirit dwells within even me--"not a Spirit of timidity, but of POWER and LOVE and of a SOUND MIND." Perhaps there are deserts or nights or even heights that God has taken you through with His strong hand and has given you an intimate look at His character--you know what it is like to hold His hand--but there remains something that keeps us from praising and testifying. Most serious Christians have a fear of being too holy. It is not their non-christian friends that make them feel awkward. It is more the lonely, sideways silence of seriousness that slips in when God is brought into discourse among believers. I do not want to have to warm-up to talking about God. God needs no ice-breaker. God created you and all your senses of delight and emotions. He is the man of all seasons. He created the moon and the stars and the galaxies far beyond the reach or imagination of our largest zoom lenses or fantastic fictions. He created life and fun and falling leaves. "He formed the light and created darkness." Yes, darkness too. "Let EVERYTHING that has breath praise the Lord!" There is a need for full hearted Christians that are not given to parroting ideas. God wants men and women that live brilliantly--inspired by the Holy Spirit to do the works that He prepared for them. He is not putting out want-ads for argyle sweater wearing, pipe smoking, dark beer drinking, church historians, not even for the cool abercrombie, ripped-hatters (though He'll all who come humbly). He wants men and women who love Him with all their heart and soul and mind. There are some that would take issue with this and seek to clarify. There are those that string together lists of things that must be taught and learned before anyone can teach the scripture. I think that even the down syndrome man can tell the whole truth with speaking the name of Jesus and beaming a smile. Yes, there are many ways to preach it wrongly, but let us not hinder the many ways that there are to preach it right. Do not silence, rather encourage and instruct, those who "cannot help but tell all that God has done for them." Was it not the dirty smell of fish, the missing education, and the power of the Holy Spirit that stood out to the pharisees when they looked at the Apostles. Can you compare notes on how it feels to be ready to be burned at the stake? We all can stand with David's wife, Michal, and try to sensor his dancing, but we will never be a people who are remembered by our heart of God (gasp!). Honestly, I think I would feel uncomfortable around someone who was silly in love with Jesus. Oswald Chambers asked me a question one morning that burned into my heart: "Have you ever be carried away for Him?" God, here is my heart. Please do something with it. Something.... Let us give our lives, not just build our libraries!!! "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me...The I said, "Here I am...I have come to do your will, O God."

Monday, November 3, 2008

Voting Psalms 2 and An Ended Week

"Why are the nations in an uproar
and the peoples devising a vain thing?
The kings of the earth take their stand
and the rulers take counsel together...
He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury, saying,
But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain...
Ask of me and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Your possession...
Now therefor, O kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
Worship the Lord with reverence
and rejoice with trembling.
Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry,
and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in Him."
Thank you all who prayed for the time of worship and teaching on Sunday. Sometimes I can only express my feelings in ways that I have sung them before: "I need Thee, O I need Thee, every hour I need Thee. O bless me, Thou my Savior, I come to Thee." My hour of need was as brilliantly obvious as a harvest moon on a cloudless night. It is as though everyone could have pointed it out at once, completing my exposure, much like in the case of the emperors new clothes. As I expressed it to a friend, it is rare that I stand before a group of people and do not find myself to be the most needy for a message. I am often scared of trying to win men with words and then scared of my articulation being too bland. Then Jesus arises in my hearts, just as he towered from his wee boat over the tempting Galilean waves, and speaks clearly to me, "Be still." It is Him that it is all about. Both eloquence or elocution bow meaninglessly low in His presence. "Freedom is not for us and what we want. Freedom is to be a slave to to the Son." It was the message. A message that is freedom in believing. Freedom isn't preaching a good sermon, or voting for the right presidential candidate, or finally kickin' the habit; no, freedom is found in Jesus. You see Jesus isn't found in quitting your addictions or being enlightened from your present slumber. Jesus CANNOT be compared even to these important experience. His words only call out the love of those who cherish eternity in their hearts and will subject themselves no longer to the fantasies and temperaments of passing pleasures. Has it ever really dawned on you that God made you and knows what you really need. He does not want you to just keep walking and at some point He will come along and join you in-stride; no, Jesus wants you to be born again. "He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf" (2 Corinthians 5:15).
Friday Night:
Sometimes you know why a person did what they did (to put it plainly). It was his birthday and nobody knew. Well, that is not completely true. I think it would be true to say that nobody knew what was in his heart--just how much he wanted to be loved on that day. He had told a few people and his family knew; but, his family did not want to pick him up and the others forgot or had other things to do. So he came down early to the coffee shop, dressed in a dark brown-styled UPS uniform for Halloween. There are only a few people to mingle with, most are busy, too busy to stop or remember. It's not worth it. So he asks a girl if she has any she could sell. She tells. He lies. He hears himself over and over again...lying. "I am a waste." Broken he returns home. The birthday was a waste, I am a waste. Unable to obtain green chemical comfort, he takes too many sleeping pills and passes out on the couch. By the middle of teen night the pieces had puzzled themselves together and I was walking up to pull him off the couch and tell him how much he was loved--how happy I was that he was born and that it was his birthday. We read through John and I told him about new birth. He was fascinated that when people practice truth they want their deeds to be made known before men and God (paraphrase of John 3:21). Please pray for this young man. I don't know if he remembers that night.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

for whom? here? please!

"Some glad morning when this life is o'er/ I'll fly away." There was always the sound of jumping when I played that song in Pullman. Maybe because Caesar Paul was always jumping and because it is a happy thing--one day we will fly away! Most people find themselves in the unsettling paradox that they do not look forward to death--no, that would be morbid--but they also do not look forward to life--that would be hopeful, and we have all been hurt by unmet hopes and dreams. As I studied for the sermon this Sunday I found my own heart aching, caught by another paradox. You see, I am so so so happy to be loved by God. I have felt so sure lately, so loved. Sure like the way you should feel about getting married. I am so happy to wake up and say, "I do," to God in the morning. There is an ache though. I feel it even now. It is a drawn soberness. There are people numbering in the hundreds (I do not exaggerate) that have come into the coffee shop in the last decade that have walked out an never met Jesus. They may have seen Him, but they did not leave leaping, carrying their mats. We have been at it long enough to see a generation come and go, with only a few saved. Even now they come, homeless from all corners of Bremerton, kids from different school districts, gays and gang-bangers, hippies and medieval-wannabes, and the normals too. "Raindrops of mercy are falling, but for the showers we plead."

"What can be given in exchange for a soul?" Would you give five minute to pray? I'll make the Abrahamic bargain: what about ten? 15? For one soul? For two? For a child being raised by a prostitute. For a girl who has to find creative ways to stick herself with needle because the typical spots are infectious. For a bum who can't stop boozing. For a fatherless young man who can't find a job or a place to live, and who is beginning to realize that God is a father. For a man who won't look you in the eye because he is so scared of himself. For me who wants to worship in the midst of it all. "Be still and know that I am God. I WILL be exalted among the nations, I WILL be exalted in the earth" (Psalm 46). What about here, God? Even here? Show everybody, God. Just like you showered down fire on Elijah's altar of rough, uncut rocks, shower down here.

Please pray for me as I prepare to teach this Sunday. Those who have had the challenge of being close to me know that I can sometimes carry a very serious demeanor while preparing for a sermon. It always feel the weightiness of the undertaking. The days can carry a unique contentment, along with a unique loneliness. I get antsy when I study, as if the material is too rich for my soul. And it is strange how hard it is to share those riches. I often have to pace. It is a time set apart. Pray that I will think clearly and love well.

"Just a few more weary days and then/ I'll fly away."

Monday, October 27, 2008

surfers and snow

I planned to pass up writing tonight, but decided that there are stories to tell of God's faithfulness. I'll make them brief because honestly, though I love writing, I enjoy sleeping too, even more I enjoy seeing Jesus high and exalted. i long to see the train of His robe filling the temple. With the song I sing: "Open my eyes Lord I want to see Jesus."

The college group that I spoke at was having a pizza night this evening and since I taught last week I thought I should attend (and if Josh is reading this, I wanted to see you too). I wanted them to know that it was more than a fly-by-night Gospel bombing the week before. About 3/4 of the way through the painful movie What About Bob? I was wondering why I had come. My first thought was one of embarrassment for liking the movie so much when I was younger. For second reasons, I have been harping on myself a lot for not guarding my time better. I want more time alone with Jesus. Right as Bob (in the movie) was getting married to Dr. Melvin's sister a shaggy, blond surfer walked in the front door of the house I was at. In retrospect I was not very welcoming. I was only dropping by, was my excuse. I hate it when I fall into the mentality that "my ministry" is elsewhere. O God, use me here and now. There is never a time for cold hearts and detached heads. But God thinks of me more than I think on Him so the night was better than my passionless plans. It was a meeting of souls. Matt just moved here from the small town of Quincy, in the Leavenworth/Wennatchee area, with his bride of only a month. Explaining the growth of beauty and evidence of God in his relationship he asked, before sharing a story, "are guys into Jesus' stories?" I was riveted. I already thank God for bringing a guy here that sees how big He is and if that not enough he plays the drums!!! Weeks before I landed in Bremerton, as God gave me an exciting vision to see His name worship, I had started praying for a drummer. Please pray for Matt and that he will be encouraged as his wife is out to sea (Navy) and as God may bring him into ministry in Bremerton. Exciting times!

Ps. I had the greatest run today. It was fast. Well, it felt fast. Probably because it was dark out. You always feel faster running in the dark. But that is not the story. The story really starts three years ago. Three years ago myself and two other kindred spirits forged our own trail into the thick of Moscow Mountain to find a choice tree. You might imagine since I used the word "forging" that there was a great deal of snow. It's true. The mountain was bound in snow. We found our own trail-less way into a slanted meadow of snow, sheeted with perfectly preserved crystalline flakes of snow. It was there we found our tree. To be more clear, it was only the top of the tree that caught our liking, which was fortunate since we could not fit the whole Fifty foot structure in Elmherst, Apartment H. So I climbed up the tree and topped it. As I climbed the tree that day I was wearing a pair of Nike running gloves that had been issued to me earlier, while I still competed for WSU x-country. It was that same pair of gloves that I wore today on my "fast" run. To this day the gloves still smell strongly of the pine tree I cut down that day. Thinking that I was only overcome by nostalgia I asked my mother and sister to smell the gloves. Same result. They distinctly smell of that tree and that day. I thought I would share the story that brought me so much joy on my run. There are days I miss the mountains in Moscow and snow deep enough to wear tennis rackets in and drinking baileys hot chocolate with CJ in a single-pain windowed apartment. It made me laugh to smell that day again three years and hundreds of runs later.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

stills of the weekend

Scenes from the weekend:
One is a member of our congregation that has a level 22 man-beard (the picture was taken at Rob Wall's birthday party/concert at a cafe on Saturday night). The other two are of our own personal Ninja, who fights anything that he can land a punch on. When he is not running around making below-the-belt punches he is hiking the ball on my team. I make a point to station Isaiah on my team for two reasons: he doesn't take swings at me and he never runs out of energy. Just like his old man, Rocky. Today was a one of those famous Northwest days that all the tourists miss and all the locals walk around muttering about how unbelievably gorgeous it is outdoors. I know that there are some faithful blog readers and I thank you for putting-up with long posts that run over like rainy season waterfalls. Even more, I thank you for reading through it and praying. If any of you would like to visit Bremerton I would love to host you and let you eat at the overflowing family table (or as soon as my budget allows, you can eat at my own table). For those who are only passing through you are welcome to join the epic (read into that word the full meaning) Sunday afternoon football games. His love endures forever!!!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

sing to your beloved

It would be a better thing for any church, whether "emerging" or "traditional," to have a humble , tone-deaf keyboardist playing harp sounds, than to have a brash and flashy band playing sweet riffs on a stage build upon their own ego's. We always hear the disclaimers that dictate our expressions on how church and the christian life should be; such as, "well, it's not like we will ever be perfect" or "God created us to be creative and talented so bad singing does not bless the congregation." I hear with sad frequency people talking about their own offerings or place before God. Have we forgotten the sound of the Shepherd's voice? I want to know what it is like to bow before a King. Tremble and pray, O soul, who has neither the fear nor awe that accompanies true honor. The King is all and in all, and in His presence all cry, "Glory" (Psalm 29). O for tears to express the pain that there are so many Christians in the court of the King that have not taken there eyes of themselves to look at Christ. To steady our gaze on Christ is to feel an erupting, completing sensation remains indescribable even for the partaker. There is no thought of self in the place of His presence. There is only Him. One missionary is recorded as writing to another: "with every one look at self, we must take ten long looks at Christ." I want to know the way that is beyond talking about what we/I take and give. It is the way of the humble and contrite heart that God surely does not despise (Isaiah 57). It is a completely different mentality. For lack of a better word: it is natural. The war within us for obtaining and maintaining stops when we surrender to God completely. It is how Paul could see himself as a man without a reputation. Some may have heard me quote from Andrew Murray: "There is nothing more natural and beautiful and blessed than to be nothing so that God might be all." That is exactly the pure and noble and lovely things that we are to think on again and again (Phillipians 4). Here is the act and outcome of how we usually go about using the gifts and talents God has given us: Moses as the prince of Egypt. While he was known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter he went out to start a coup and ended up getting kicked out of Egypt. I am sure that his traveling thoughts, marching towards indefinite exile, were, "But Lord, I was delivering your people." He was ready and willing. He had a lot to offer Israel. By the time he returned again he had nothing and was unwilling. He couldn't even play the tambourine. "Why don't You send Aaron?" Was his question to God. Do you see the difference. The second time he was following God. His language was different (and it is my fear that our language sounds more like the prince of Egypt than the nomadic shepherd who had wandered with God and found himself wanting). How many have forgotten that few find the road that road leading to Zion's jeweled gates? There are many on the road of personal offerings and there reward will be one of rust and tinder. Remember, even Cain brought an offering, but only Abel's was accepted. Look around you, there are many talented people. The truth is that the individual leading "worship" at a church and doing it out of desire to "use his talents" is just as unacceptable in the sight of as the headman of a scummy bar band who only plays for the free beer. God looks at the heart, not the ability. Many years ago I heard a song that has since become a theme, it goes: "all I ever have to be is what you made me / any more or less would be a step out of your plan / as you daily recreate me help me always keep in mind / that all I ever have to be is what you made me." It remind me of the love-struck exclamation of the bride in Song of Solomon, " I am my Beloveds, and His desire is for me." It is the full humbling vulnerability of true love. She is lost in desire for the one on her mind and in her heart. She doesn't talk about herself at all. All attention is on the one that she loves, and that is the life of a true Christian--lovestruck.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

small days

Some days I do not live big. I do not think we are condemned by such days, but that we miss out with each passing of one. There is no need cram minutes with acts and appearances of worthy sacrifice, but there is the need to obey. There is a great blessing to be found in the long days beside the reliable waters that bed in the meadows of the Good Shephard. We only find ourselves in that heavenly pasture when we have followed Jesus there with ALL our heart and soul and mind and strength. I am sure that we all know what it is like to lose a day to dull thinking or lack of ambition. These are true losses, and I was at such a loss this afternoon. Though I sang with a brother for his encouragement, I did not engage. It was only like a time of practice; worship cannot be practiced, it must be done. When I returned home I was tired and didn't love well those around me. I wasn't mean, I was just "there." God is coming back for those that "long for His appearing," and I feel a gross unpreparedness in these hours lost in not longing. May we long. I want a stronger heart. O the joy that we forfeit. It is difficult to write and let the words fall without the sound of blame falling on me or another. It is not a matter of blame, but a matter of genuine loss. It is the difference between a prodigal son wasting a relationship with the Father and and the man "who happily, sold all his possessions to gain the greatest treasure of all" (Matthew 13:44). I guess the plainest way to say it is that I really love Jesus. I love Him. And it is hard to swallow the fact that I missed out on an enjoyable afternoon. It is not Him who scolds me, but me who scolds me. Tomorrow I want to join the clouded sky of witnesses in the brave-hearted cry, "For me, to live is Christ..."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

naked gospel

Tired. Rocky, Danny, and myself talked with an individual that claimed to be possessed by darkness today. He called it the "Dark Prince," or some foreboding name like that. We talked about Jesus. In the midst of the time this individual made a point to talk of His powerlessness against this dark strength. There was a joy that came out of me in words. I told him about my Jesus. The ONE through whom the whole heaven and earth where created, that satan himself was nothing in comparison to the SON OF GOD who spoke the world into being. Still more, Jesus came to destroy the power of sin and death and hell, and that as Christians, who are brothers and sisters, coheirs even, with Jesus, we stand with Him, forever secure, perfect in the eyes of the loving Father, indwelt with the Holy Spirit. Oh what a glorious recounting of the truth. While I felt extraordinarily strengthened through that time I am now tired. Pray for the Gospel to break down the doors to hearts.

I am privileged to work with a group of individuals that would gladly give the clothes off their own back for someone who is cold to stop shivering and hear the words of Jesus. It is what I call the "naked Gospel." To him who has ears...

Monday, October 20, 2008

a joy to speak...

At the last minute a buddy asked me to fill in for him in teaching a small group of college students that meet every Monday night in a home. The group was fairly familiar with each other, but not very familiar with me. A few years ago my nerves stopped flaring as bad for teaching when I realized, or the Holy Spirit let me in on the obvious secret, that it was God who people should be thinking about when the time is over, not me. For starters, our time began late. And for those who know me it might be surprising to find out that it was not because of me. I actually showed up 10 minutes early. The subject given to me to teach on was Galatians 4:8-20, "Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves...." Being able to talk on this subject was a release for the personal lessons of that past several weeks. My persuading almost turned into begging as I asked people what the difference was between before they were saved and afterward. To be honest, I am both sad and scared for people who see no difference. It is not that we were good and Jesus made us better. Jesus did not merely tag-on an afterlife, like a good rewards package for choosing the right airline through life. We were lost and now we are found, blind and now seeing, dead and now alive. No longer are we cargo on the slaveship of sin. Mastered by one who want to dehumanize you. Shielded from the freeing truth that there is a Savior that loves us and endows worth on our lives. Even more, we are allowed to walk into His presence, wherein is the fullness of joy (Psalm 16).

For some more honesty, I am not sure how much everyone else benefited from the time. Ha! I always want revival. There were some girls on a couch that seemed to have grins that widened as the night went on. Some guys struggling with clinical depression interacted on varying levels. One guy loudly declared afterward that he shouldn't sit on the comfortable couch next week (i.e. "I almost fell asleep."). Despite the inconsistent response I love talking about the truth. I love to feel it, much like the classic children's song: "I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart." Please pray for more to hear and understand. I think it would make my joy complete.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

patches of life

Saturday at the pumpkin patch:

"I wake up with that feeling every day," was the sound of someone relating to Jesus' first sermon. It came from at the end of a short drive home from church with a guy that I have begun meeting with on a weekly basis (that is, when he remembers). The exchanged happened after short stop by his house to pick-up some of his gear for the football game later in the day. As he jumped into the car to leave I noticed he had grabbed his Bible and a copy of Bruce Wilkinson's Prayer of Jabez: Teen Edition. He asked me my opinion on the book and I gave him a brief overview of what I thought about the story of Jabez in Chronicles and how he had called to God in desperation and dejection and how God had answered him; purely an exegetical response since I had not read the book. Me, being my usual verbose self, thought I had killed the conversation. Just as we had settled into the 1.5-seconds of silence the guy in the back seat began confessing, "that is exactly what I needed to hear. My parents didn't want me, my foster parents didn't want me, but I think God still has big plans for me." Before I could respond the guy in the passenger seat leaned back and said, "Dude! That is why I brought the book. I thought that maybe it could help you." Praise God for doing things bigger than me! This brought us into talking about the Beatitudes in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Mind you that it is only a 3 mile car ride. I told them how God came for the sick and rejected. The Jabez's and thems. I told them how we come to God only when we finally wake up and realize we are dirty and desperate, bankrupt and (I cannot remember the exact word I used). That is when he said it: "I wake up with that feeling every day!" So we sat outside. Talking as the guy in the back grew more restless. Pray for this young man. He is beginning to see the difference between freedom in/through Christ and personal efforts.

Today I thought of these grand lyrics to the under-appreciated hymn Hark the Herald Angels Sing: Christ by highest heav'n adored / Christ the everlasting Lord! / Late in time behold Him come / Offspring of a Virgin's womb / Veiled in flesh the Godhead see / Hail the incarnate Deity / Pleased as man with man to dwell / Jesus, our Emmanuel / Hark! The herald angels sing / "Glory to the newborn King!"

With it I considered (know how unfulfilled my heart is to have no better word to express what it is like to ponder such Divine matters) what it meant for Christ to come here. Here. Psalm 29 reads with force, "Ascribe to the Lord, O sons of the mighty; Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength; Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name." May none of our actions belittle the fact that HE IS GOD and that HE WILL REIGN FOREVER. What will it be like to need no Sun because the radiant presence of the Lord lights the skies wherever it stretches? How can we understand when He came and walked and ate and lived among us as "the true light that gives light to every man," but "though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him?" "His own did not receive Him" (John 1) I read with great emotion again, "Christ by highest heav'n adored / Christ the everlasting Lord! / Late in time behold Him come / Offspring of a Virgin's womb / Veiled in flesh the Godhead see / Hail the incarnate Deity / Pleased as man with man to dwell / Jesus, our Emmanuel / Hark! The herald angels sing / "Glory to the newborn King!"

John weeps, literally cries, in the book of Revelation that there was none found worthy in Heaven and Earth to open the scroll, which is a warrant of life and hope to the devastated soul. I will claim with serious certainty that a person is not saved and has no personal relationship with God if they are not despairing at the thought of life without Him. How many churches could do without Him? Before John is lost to wild emotional pain the Lamb enters. He recounts, "Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders...He came and took the scroll...and the four and twenty elders fell down...and many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten a loud voice sang: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise" (Revelation 5). Praise Him! Feel emotion for Him. Know Him intimately and personally. Praise Him!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

a Gospel tract

Rocky, one of the full-time staff at the Oasis, came up with an inspired tract today. For the past weeks we have been collectively thinking of ways to better soul-win. One of our passions is to produce attractive gospel literature that can be distributed when we hit the streets to evangelize, as we are already in the habit of doing on a weekly basis. We do not want people to receive something and feel like they are being petted or pelted. We want them to see and meet Jesus who yells at the hiding Zacheus (yelling at them too!), who has embarrassingly climbed a tree, "Hey! Lets go hang out. I have a few things to share with you." While I have struggled writing anything other than cheesy tracts that sound like a android trying to explain systematic theology, Rocky went on Holy Spirit inspiration and wrote an incredible piece of literature. Rocky has been a believer and for a little over 5 years and is now recognized throughout the Church and ministry as being a leader. Though he has been saved for many years he still has the movement of language that is easily recognized on the streets as being normal and natural. The tract is one guy explaining to another what he has read in the Bible. Not a Q&A session with one Holy whiz-kid explaining predictable answers to predictable questions, but rather a genuine interaction of two dudes figuring out life. I'll stop writing before it sounds dull, being put into my way of speaking. Please pray that this tract is powerful in reaching kids on the streets. That many hear and respond.

As I prepared to finish my day today I thought of Ananias and Sapphira in the beginning of the book of Acts. Ultimately they bore the price of a divided life. God does not take part in something. If something is only partly consecrated it remains unholy. For example: what if you decided to use your bicycle and it decided to keep a piece? As you speed down the road you realize that it decided to keep the both the back and front brakes. All goes well until you realize that there is a need to stop, perhaps a barrier of monstrous proportion is in your way, and you can only toss yourself carelessly onto the gravely side or collide at full speed with the immovable obstruction. If you are making an effort to give only a portion of your life to God--trying to tithe your life--then you are bound to crash. God will not share the title to your heart. Dare to test and see if Christ is in you reigning as Lord and King. Or have you erected a bobble head figurine in you heart? Is there power, vigour, and love in your relationship with God? Or have you kept back the best part? He is a good King that rules with fairness and watches over those that are His with a jealous eye. One beckons our hearts who is fairer than ten thousand (Song of Solomon 5:10).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

God loved a girl

Thoughts from Hosea 11:
The reason Jesus came was to love a bitter, runaway bride; bitter because of her own efforts; because what she did didn't cut-it; because she wanted to be good all by herself; and spiteful because no amount of make-up could ever make an enduring beauty last on her eternal complexion. One author commented on such efforts, "we cannot do anything to qualify for the by-product of being loved unconditionally and voluntarily." Do you believe that He loved His bride even when she lives like this? Compare her with the champion of our Souls. She was gross. I was gross. How could these words of Paul be true, that the "Son of God, loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2) Are you significant? Do you matter in respect to history or geography or astronomy? Yes, God, I must be reminded. Thank You, God. Because of Your constant calling and determined pursuit I can live at peace with You and love You. Soften my heart daily with the fresh news of Your love, because I am dust and long for the constancy of being at home with You.

One of the girls who made the Coffee Oasis, and also the Frederick home, her “refuge” was shining with unquenchable brilliance today. I wish I had a better word than shining. I have heard hope compared to floating, so perhaps she was floating. Blah! Perhaps you have to see it for yourself. For the last months she has been living in the midst of spiritual darkness. Though it was not the state of her own heart, it was the place that she lived and the people that surrounded her. For several days off and on over the past months she has made our home her “vacation” spot. More of a spiritual vacation that anything else. While she desired to make God the love of her life, she started surrendering all the barriers she could name. First went smoking, then boys (she want to focus on Jesus right now), and finally her home. So today she was all life. It was an encouragement all day. She bounced around the coffee shop telling about what Jesus was doing for her. Praise God! May more people bounce like that.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

who is your daddy?

It was my turn to watch the children this Sunday. I have watched the children before and it usually looks the same. We get upstairs make our way upstairs after the music and I begin to unravel for them some eternal truth by telling them an exciting story. As usual, they seemed more interested in letting it be known that my story was not making its way into their little ears, let alone their young hearts, than feigning obedience. They honestly did very well. About 4 minutes into it God begins to teach me. First, He encourges me to lose the my own agenda of success. I put away my lectern and the kids put away their halo's and we meet as we are. I want to love the kid. I want them to leave knowing that they have a God that loves little kids coming to Him and that the church loves them to come too. After we had started coloring a picture of a woman holding a fatty loaf of manna (little did I know, manna came in loaf size pieces) one of the little boys, 4 years of age, distanced himself from the group. Leaving the rest of the group making their pictured women all different sorts of natural and alien colors I approached this child alone. "Hey K., what up?" I gently asked. "I hate my Dad," was the only reply. "why?" "He hits my mom." "I am sorry" I told him, not knowing what else to say. I felt dumb, even helpless. Dumb with compassion. "It's okay, it's not your fault," he said, trying to comfort me, seeing the worry in my eyes. He went on, "I hate because he is mean and I can't do anything, and...." So I told him how much God loved him and how much I loved him. How good of a Daddy God is and how awesome of a little kid he is. 4 years old!!! We talked together for about 10 minutes, but I have listened to that conversation repeatedly over the past days. Pray that God would fill this beautiful little boys heart with forgiveness and love. That he would grow up to be a mature man of God. Take comfort in the word of your heavenly Father. Spend time with Him. Only then will you know what to tell others when they ask.

Monday, October 13, 2008

a bonhoeffer quote that my father pointed me to:
"The only man who has the right to say that he is justfied by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ"

Today I visited Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. 4 buildings of varying age are scattered across the victorian styled estate. It is small, but from what I can tell men are equipped there. It was a blessing talking with Gerry Breshears about spiritual warfare and at-risk youth. Please pray for me as I consider this possibility and now try to sleep off a tiresome sickness.

Romans 3:28-29 - The promised good of being in relationship to God is a transforming into a more Christ-like character. It is my praise that God is making that goal my sweet puruit. Let us pray for holy desire. "My soul yearns for you...I open my mouth and pant for you." (Psalm 119)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

the mountains first bow

Today the first and freshest snow of the year fell on the Olympic mountains. With a short one-mile drive and a pair of binoculars you can see this spectacular view across the Puget Sound, a waterway curving through a natural maze of peninsulas and islands.

"Have you entered the storehouses of snow?" - Job 38

Today offered the opportunity to study Spanish with a young man who frequently comes into the coffee shop. If he does not come we go to him. Since he is always willing to pray and often eager to burrow into the scriptures I decided it was high time to start meeting with him on a weekly basis. Together we made a commitment to start reading through the life of Jesus and Neil Anderson's Victory Over Darkness. Please pray that these times are each as a direct beam from a twirling lighthouse mirror--shining straight and brightly into this young mans heart the whole Gospel.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

rough-hewn truth

The point to the following text, quoted in length from Spurgeon's Lectures To My Students, will be told afterward:
"A nose is an important feature in the human countenance, but to paint a man's nose alone is not a satisfactory method of taking his likeness: a doctrine may be very important, but an exaggerated estimate of it may be fatal to an harmonious and complete ministry. Do not make minor doctrines main points. Do not paint the details of the background of the gospel picture with the same heavy brush as the great objects in the foreground of it. For instance, the great problems of sublapsarianism and supralapsarianism, the trenchant debates concerning eternal filiation, the earnest dispute concerning the double procession, the pre or post millenarian schemes, however important some may deem them, are practically of very little concern to that godly widow woman, with seven children to support by her needle, who wants far more to hear of the loving-kindness of the God of providence than these mysteries profound; if you preach to her the faithfulness of God to his people, she will be cheered and helped in the battle of life; but difficult questions will perplex her or send her to sleep."

Yesterday I sat down with a brother who came to me with a comment about my teaching. For you who know me--I mean, really know me--I am do not take criticism or "comments" sitting down. In my head and on my tongue an infinite number of refined responses are being formed while I listen. As I sat there taking it all in I was praying the most submissive and holy prayer I could think of: "God, please help me shut-up and love." So I squeaked out a thank-you. For me that was a victory. I am the kind of guy who earns a score for being competitive on strength-finder tests (true story). Today as I drove to work God reminded me the Proverb, "wound of a friend can be trusted." (Proverbs 27) I go through crazy efforts to not be hurt. I elevate myself to levels of invincibility in peoples eyes so that I don't have to be portrayed just as I am--a brother to the exposed thief on the cross, gasping with all the effort left in my lungs, "Jesus, want to be with you." You see it is not the word justification that saves people, it is the truth won by Jesus that does. Do you get what I am saying? If the words we use make the Gospel out of reach or if our examples ostracize the listener then it is me that has failed, not the hearer. May we watch our lives and our doctrine closely so that the life of Christ be clearly seen in us. Please pray that the gospel may be clearly preached and readily received here in Bremerton.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

those who weep

"The Gospel of a broken heart demands the ministry of bleeding hearts. When our sympathy loses its pang we can no longer be the servants of the passion. We can never heal the needs we do not feel. Tearless hearts can never be heralds of the passion. We must pity if we would redeem. We must bleed if we would be ministers of the saving blood."
- J.H. Jowett in A Passion for Souls

I saw them again today. They are not outcasts, they are lost wanderers. To be an outcast you must have had a home at some point. They have none. Has Jesus knocked? Is your heart His home? If so, how can you stand the sight of so many homeless souls? Why can I stand the sight? Just as Jesus said, "there is One greater here" (speaking of His place above the Law), I believe there now stands a need more urgent than the election of earthly powers or the travail of financial systems or rumors of war, it is the prevailing need of each individual soul, standing speechless, deaf, and blind before God. "How will they hear unless there is preaching?" (Romans 10). This is not to be understood (or misunderstood) as the trained utterances of a man who, after being hidden from the public throughout the week, stands behind a lectern and wails about a distant subject matter. It is a man or a woman being moved by the Spirit, filled by love, helplessly driven by divine delight for her unseen Lover, singing in the streets or in homes to anyone who will bear to give her a minute of time. By these means the Savior knocks and calls the lost to join the banquet. I want to be there and sing now.

an afterward:
I enjoy rereading the posts and seeing all the possible points of contention (though I dislike contention). One might be a whisper of: "did you see how he said man 'or' women? Maybe he thinks women should be pastors." We all have mental hang-ups that allow us to justify our half-hearted mode of living. We commend ourselves for ferreting out indecent doctrine, while missing the heart of the message. We busy ourselves like Martha, thinking we are an example of discipline, while the spiritual Mary's enjoy a greater rest and understanding and testimony of personal relationship. Today I heard a John Piper message title "War." In it he said, "my greatest enemy is John Piper." Let us search hard for the planks. Should we preach the Gospel? Yes! Should we preach it correctly and as the Bible prescribes? Yes! There is only one God and only one Gospel. The character of that God is mercy expressed through Jesus to us, who through faith in Him are being saved (I can already imagine my studied brothers shouting "Justice! Remember justice!"). I pray that all I speak to will be saved, proving the justice of God in the death of His righteous Son. In view of His sacrifice may we learn compassion.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

ghetto gospel

It is a song I heard today, "The Ghetto Gospel." If you do a google search under Tupac and Elton John You will find it. I was actually introduced to the song by a girl today. Some of you might know this girl by a little book put out titled "Ghetto Child." She is more than a ghetto child though, she is loved. Oh if she only knew how loved she was. She is my sister (if you walk the streets enough you realize that familial titles rarely are associated with true blood ties). Most days she comes to the coffee shop and is surrounded in prayer. Every day Erica cries for her. Every day I wish that I cried. When such cries and prayers are lifted up on her behalf she sits, seemingly numb and helpless, and usually whispers, "I'm not worth it." If she only new how God saw her before the creation of the world. I wish you could see her now, then you would see what Christ saw and loved. Most people do not really know what love is because everything that they feel is conditional. The love of Christ is not conditional. Oh if you could see the dark rings that spread like bruises from the eyes telling of her weary weary weary soul. How long until she accepts love, surrenders her will, repents, and forevers turns to Jesus? How long? Pray. None can save except for Jesus. Do you believe that? Do you pray?

"My sheep know my voice." - John 10
"Love always hopes, always perseveres...Love never fails." - 1 Corinthians 13
" God is our refuge and strength; an ever-present help in trouble. / Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. / Though it's waters roar and foam, and the mountains quake with their surging. / There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. / God is within her, SHE WILL NOT FALL. / God will help her at the break of day. / Nations are in an uproar; kingdoms fall. / He lifts His voice and the earth melts. / The Lord Almighty is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress." - (Amen!) Psalm 46

I pray that God will makes this more than ever true in the life of this girl.

Monday, October 6, 2008

when it rains and your praying...

I actually like praying in the rain.

Here are some encouraging clips from the day. I woke up. Did you know that Davids child before Solomon was named Nathan, which is the very same name of the prophet that came and convicted David of his adultery. Imagine the burden on the heart of Nathan, an uncle in the house of the king, coming to uncover his friend, coming to humble a king. We need more men who value righteousness and are willing to speak-up when it is needed. Though business was slow talking with Rocky and Erica was encouraging. Prayer from 1:30-2:00. Rocky and I went out to a home and prayed/talked through scripture with a guy. Please pray ahead as I meet with this individual again on Friday. As the Coffee shop closed its doors we had about ten individuals from the church who had come in to pray and learn and encourage. It is a beautiful church. Afterwords I took a college group from PBF prayer walking. To be more correct, the Lord took us (just trying to share the 100% truth). To go behind and never before the Lord is to go in power. We prayed in the rain. My heart has been filled with such hope lately. Today I saw no one come to know Jesus, but I look forward to that day. I know the day is coming when many will call on the name of the Lord. Right now I am lovin' Jesus and looking forward. May we be the one Paul speaks of who are "longing for His appearing." (2 Tim.)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

what are you?

Unlike the famous quip suggests, you are not what you eat. The truth of you is not able to be consolidated to a fancy one-liner. Sorry. If you want to understand what and who you are, then understand what you worship. Tonight I spent over an hour studying on the subject of worship. I wanted to hear the opinion of the Bible. You see, I desperately want to believe what the Bible says, and, even more, do all that it tells. The problem is that I have read it too much (don't worry, I know the ridiculousness of that statement). Seriously! I have read the scriptures enough for the lines to enter the doors of my ears like a casual acquaintance that I know what to expect from. Take for instance the passage in Matthew 22:37: "Love the Lord, you God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." Pardon my stuttering and I pray continue with my efforts at expressing what I feel entering that verse. I read that verse and only part way through I have lost focus. Do you know what I mean? I have entered something holy and divine and then an overriding default allows me to both finish reading and carry on another thought, perhaps about another activity or obligation that I have. I am convicted by this. Especially when reading a verse such as this one. At some point, somewhere, I protected myself from passion. Maybe it is what I have heard of happening to those who get "old." Perhaps I am protecting myself from being raised-up only to be hurt or disappointed. You know, all the usual excuses. But that is not what the verse says, and if I follow that reasoning I miss the point. The Bible doesn't allow for excuses. No one will stand before the throne of God and get away with a "But...." The verse gives no exits, other suggestions, or possible alternative routes to being a Christian. You see there is only one way to be a Christian--for there to be a radical transforming of your heart and changing of your mind to claim Jesus as Lord. There is only one way to worship--in Spirit and truth. And only one way to be identified by yourself, by others, and by God as being a Christian--love. I am not going to "go Greek" on everyone in talking about love. Think of the greatest, most triumphant idea of love. Here is what the Bible thinks of: patience, kindness, no envy, no boasting, no pride, no rudeness, no selfishness, not easily angered, dislike for evil, joy in truth, protecting, hoping, always persevering. It is the recipe for eternal twitterpation. Here is my desire and, I believe, the culmination of worship: fireworks, dancing, whistles and trumpets, banners planes and in-hand, people singing and the whole world being rattled with the forever news, "God is and was and is to come, holy and just, and...incredible...infinite...." Think about it, what is God worthy of? Crazy to think about, huh? If you want to LOVE someone with your WHOLE heart you are definitely not going to always be cool and collected about it. You may lose sleep thinking about them and spend time writing them thoughts or even walk with them just to have a heightened sense of all that is beautiful. Being in the presence of the person you love does that. Do you love Jesus? How? It is something that I am asking myself and encourage you to also.

"Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrendering of will to His purpose - and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin."
- William Temple (1881-1944) in Readings in St. John's Gospel

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

all you need to do...

Here is how the story was recounted to me by one of the guys who is part of our church, a believer of 11 months, and already an example to me of taking Jesus at His word:

"Today I was tempted by evil twice, and twice God gave me words to speak. I spoke in scripture and in words that were too wise for me came from my mouth. The confrontations came from two coworkers. Neither of these guys have ever said anything discouraging about my faith so I knew immedietly it was the evil one challenging me in my faith. The first guy called me a "gay Christian" and before I knew how to respond scripture came from my mouth, "You know not by what spirit you speak." It was like Jesus was inside me defending me. The second guy unexpectedly called me a "fag" and in the same way words came, "I care not what the world think of me." Later I met an old aquantence who asked me what I was doing. I stood at her and grinned for some time. She asked, "why are you smiling." I told her, "it is because of my Lord Jesus Christ," and she ran away. Another girl who had spoken to her came up and asked me how I was enjoying church. I told her how amazing it was and she told me how she really wanted to be a Christian. She had waited a long time and she felt like the time was now...."

Here is a young brother who today was my tutor in faith. His summary was: "all you need to do is make yourself available to God." He left me with the words that we have exchange frequently in the last month, "God is doing something big!" Please pray for us. I greatly desire pure passion as we draw near to God in worship.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

new birth and new birth

Today a good buddy of mine and his wife, Will and Amanda Cyrier gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Evan Elizabeth Cyrier, coming in at 9lbs 1oz and 20.5 inches. Happy Birthday.

Without any prior knowledge that today would be the day that this infant arrived in the world, I set myself to memorize 1 Peter 1:3-4: "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you..."

I love these big natural reminders that our God awaits our arrival with love and anticipation, just like my friends loved their daughter even before she open her eyes to take in her new life. Take a moment, let it sink in, you were "loved before the foundation of the world..."

Lots of prayer today. Busy lunch rush at work. One of the boys was filled with much excitement today as he feels God is giving direction and a vision for the uniting of churches in Kitsap County. O God, let it be. I pray for the miracle of pastors uniting because they love God and not because they have an irreplaceable granule of wisdom to share or a hollow platform to build and stand on alone. May God humble the minister so that he can use them as he does his angels--as flames of fire. Please continue to pray as many lost souls pass through our doors each day.

Monday, September 29, 2008

after the week ends...

For the few of you that did read and did pray I thank you wholeheartedly. I feel like writing, "I mean that!" I never want the words, "I will pray for you," to noncommitally roll of my tongue. It is more than simple honor. I believe that God hears and responds to our prayers. I believe God showers His people with added intimacy and love when they boldly approach His presence.

Sunday proved to be a very long day. First there was the morning service, followed by a spagetti feed. Inbetween our church gathering and the highly anticpated full-on tackle football game at 3 o'clock I attended to whatever Jason Thompkins needed in doing some basic construction on our home on Bledsoe avenue. The football game was an excellent means of personal interaction with guys. Whenever you are able to smash someone into the ground and are then able to give them an encouraging hand back up it is an all around success. Such an incredible experience! Seriously though, we had about 25 guys and gals (a few tough one that played, including my ferocious mother) that came out to test their strength, speed, and ability to forgive. In the midst of these basic opportunities to live and preach out the gospel before others there was another pulling back of the veil into the serious unseen. After football had concluded a newcomer, who had attended church earlier and had experience a few tackles by the preacher-guy, pulled me aside and asked for prayer. He's tired of riding the fence. He want for his life to finally be all for God. I was happy. Surprisingly, however, that was not what he wanted to talk about. He is staying at a KMH (Kitsap Mental Health) home that was filled with people that the State sets aside for special attention because they are old and hopelessly lost. While at the house another resident has been spiritually taunting him, claiming demon possession (even naming the demons within), and is often overcome this evil force, which works to effect her with harm and others with harm. I cannot write this in full detail. The mere thought of further details abandon me only to prayer. Please pray with me. O God, set the captives free.

I have also begun Luther's "Bondage of the Will," and encourage any of you to keep me accountable to my reading. One commentator wrote, "Whoever puts this book down without having realised that evangelical theology stands or falls with the doctrine of the bondage of the will has read it in vain." Phew! There lies the challenge.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Preach the Word

Please pray for me as I preach tomorrow at 10:45 in the morning. There are always a number of souls present that have not yet responded to Jesus. Pray that I may speak with clarity, humility and power in the Holy Spirit.

"We labor to make things plain...Having nothing to conceal, we have no ambition to obscure”
C.H. Spurgeon

may i be unlike the seven sons

"No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life...."
- 2 Timothy 2:4

We started a new practice for Teen Night on Friday nights. Come 9 o'clock we pass out tickets for an opportunity to score a free drink (which is nothing new) and offer to pray and counsel anyone brave enough to enter the side room. In the side room they will usually find me with another staff member ready to claim people for Jesus. Jesus heals people. This is the second week of the "routine" and so far we have had a few staff member come in hungry for prayer and a few other usual suspects. A girl came in to discuss her hurting hand and miserable living situation. She told me that a girl at her home needed to be prayed for. That this girl had been swaying backwards and forward, stumbling about, and talking to herself for the past 14 hours. The place where they lives is a slum. It is a broken down house turned into dirty apartments fit only for a close encounter with a wrecking ball. Anyway, this is where they live with about twenty other people who hate both the light of day and the light of Christ. It is a place of utter darkness. When I heard about this request I was rearing to go claim the victory in Jesus. One of the other staff members entered the room before we left and suggested that we pray, asking if God was going to give the enemy into our hands--much like the children of Israel--but the answer was not what I expected. I figured that God would obviously want us to go, charge, and attack the demonic stronghold. However, remember with me now that there was always something that happened before the glorious victories in the Bible. Before these victories you will find a people that have consecrated themselves for the Lord. A people that prepared themselves for battle. Know church that you cannot win battles until you have been trained by the Lord of Hosts, God Almighty. Do not go up unconsecrated or you will lose. What does this look like? How much have you prayed, even wept, because you care for the lost and see the love and glory of God? Have you prepared for battle? Do you know what the battle is? To finish the story: we stayed and prayed. Let us not be arrogant and think that we can enter a situation like the gospel story of the seven sons of the pharisee and cast out demons. Let us humble ourselves before we are humbled by the reply, "Paul I know and Jesus I know, but who are you?" I am grateful for the caution of the other staff member and was challenged to be prepared as a soldier of Christ.

Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His Name?

Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To help me on to God?
Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage,
Lord.I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.
Thy saints in all this glorious war
Shall conquer, though they die;
They see the triumph from afar,
By faith’s discerning eye.
When that illustrious day shall rise,
And all Thy armies shine
In robes of victory through the skies,
The glory shall be Thine.
-Isaac Watts