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.