Friday, August 25, 2006


I write on spiritual disciplines because we face a tough reality in the world, as Christians surrounded by temptation, sin and death. In this Christian faith, our spirit is willing, Matthew 24:26 says, but our body is weak. We are threatened daily by arrogance, envy, wrath, sloth, avarice, gluttony and lasciviousness, which is why the spiritual disciplines, supported by the full grace of God, must be central to our lives in order to become the “person who should emerge from following Him.” (Willard). Prayer, more than any discipline, is absolutely essential to the Christ-life transformation.

There are so many things in our society called prayer, that it makes it necessary to define the term. As it turns out, prayer may be less about us than we might at first think. Could it be that we are mostly prayer vessels, through which the Holy Spirit works to transform our hearts? I once read that prayer is “the Father, prompting the Holy Spirit, to pray to the Son, who petitions the Father.” Read that again, slowly. In other words, true prayer is God prompting the Holy Spirit in us to pray to Christ, who is our high priest to God. It’s all about God! We, in the process, are transformed and conformed to God’s will through our open communication with Him. Not only are we shaped and changed by this type of prayer, but are given perspective on what is truly God’s nature. When we take part in the work of Trinitarian prayer, all that is not of God falls away and is no longer offered up to the Son. All that remains is true to the nature of the holy God we serve. I believe this is why so often in the Psalms we see the Psalmist begin with petitions and end with praise. He lays his desires, his hurts, his fears and his angers plainly before a mighty God that takes them into His bosom and returns His own heart to His children through the Holy Spirit. Through prayer, the heart of man is transformed to the nature of God.

The implications of the reality of true prayer are far-reaching to the Christian and non-Christian alike. Does this mean that I must follow and respond to God, rather than demand? Yes. Does this mean I shouldn’t ask God for things I want? No. In our society, prayer is most commonly thought of as a means to “get something” from God. “Ask whatever in my name, and you shall have it,” is a commonly quoted saying of Jesus to justify this belief. I do encourage you to ask God for things you need, and as a Father would not give a stone to a son that asks for bread, God will not ignore your requests. However, be careful not to hear what you want to hear instead of what Jesus actually said. Jesus said, “Ask whatever ’in my name’,” which literally means “in my character” or “according to my nature.” He did not mean, “say the name ‘Jesus’ at the end of your prayer and I’ll give you that million dollars you asked for.” He meant, “listen to my voice. My sheep know my voice and obey.” He meant know Him, listen to Him and ask for what you need. God can not, by His nature, answer any prayer that is not consistent with His nature and purpose (of and from Him). He made that law and sticks to it, because a core value of God is remaining true to His holy nature. However, when we ask things that are of God’s nature and He responds, what better builder of our faith?

So, does this mean God can’t hear a non-Christian’s prayer? First, let me narrow the term Christian (as we must do) to someone who has been washed by the Blood of Christ, made into a new creation and given the Holy Spirit (God) to reside inside them. Now, let me answer the question: can God hear the prayers of non-Christians? Yes, of course He can! He can hear me talking right now! But, will he answer them? No. He won’t, because if they did not originate from Him, they are not in His will or His plan and are therefore disregarded. That statement is offensive, I believe, for one reason: we think this life is about pleasing ourselves. It is not – it is about worshipping God. Being obedient to God, through transformation in prayer, is worship and it pleases God tremendously. That said, obedience is also a basic duty of a follower of Christ (Luke 17:7-10). Besides, it is false to believe that we can know, apart from God, what is best for our lives. God can see much further than we can and can therefore lead us down a path that brings Him honor and us great Joy.

Does it matter what position I’m in or what words I use? Jewish tradition says that a man’s heart will often follow his physical body. You can see this in the mood changes you experience when you go from laying down to standing to kneeling. When you lay prostrate before your Lord, many times your stubborn heart has no choice but to follow. However, this is not to say you can not pray as you walk or swim or lay in bed. In fact, Paul encouraged believers to “pray without ceasing.” This is, in fact, what makes prayer a discipline rather than just an activity. It is a constant communication with God, which positions you to hear and receive Him. Pray all the time, about everything – and as far as words go, be honest! God already knows your heart, you can speak plainly!

So, why doesn’t God heal sick people every time someone prays? There are a lot of factors. First, is it true prayer – or are you conducting some strange experiment to test God? Although your non-Spirit-led prayer may be equivalent to the power of a lucky horseshoe, God is not a lucky horseshoe. He is alive, very powerful and will not be tested. Second, God performs miracles in proportion to your faith and the patient’s willingness and desire to be healed. Do you really believe God can heal? Does the patient? There are many more factors, but I don’t understand them well enough to write about them here.

Finally, let’s look at how Jesus taught us to pray (The Message):

“Holy Father,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Forgive us and keep us forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil."

This prayer is rich in meaning, but I will only point out the major themes: a) knowing God b) enacting God’s will on earth c) providing for our most basic needs d) living in a right relationship with God and others e) guarding us against evil. Notice, no Ferraris or Game Boy’s in that prayer?

As Christ fell on His face, prostrate in prayer at Gethsemane, he demonstrated true prayer when he gave up His own fleshly desires in response to God’s will for Him to die a horrific death on the Cross. “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." Lord, may my heart be like Christ’s, completely transformed and obedient to Your will. Teach me to listen and obey the Holy Spirit’s convictions on my life.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.” Mathew 9:15

I‘ve struggled with this topic for several weeks because of simple arrogance; an intellectual arrogance before an infinitely intelligent God. An arrogance which knows “right” even in view of the God that created the body. Arrogance that believes we are somehow more intelligent than human beings who lived a short 2,000 years ago (see ‘Study’ in a few weeks… err, ok -- months); that we have somehow evolved beyond simple disciplines like fasting, which of course have grown irrelevant in this “modern age.” Most of all, I see an antinomian spirit among Christians that says I can do whatever I want, despite what the Bible clearly indicates and the example Jesus set. It’s this arrogance that has caused me to struggle with the writing of this post: my own arrogance, mostly. As God would have it, fasting is a walk in humility.

In the Christian biblical sense, fasting is a dietary restriction in which followers of Jesus submit to during times of prayer and intercession (Psalms 35:13, Matthew 17:21), mourning and grief (Ezra 10:6) and worship (Acts 13:2-3). An often misunderstood and therefore rarely exercised discipline, fasting was practiced by the fathers of our faith, from Moses and Elijah to John the Baptist and Jesus Himself. For over two years now, I have been practicing this discipline that, in many ways, still mystifies me. This seemingly self-mortifying ancient practice has mostly negative semblances today, such as involuntary hunger (without food) and the well-known and very damaging eating disorder of anorexia.

Very briefly, there are four main types of fasting: Absolute fast: No bread or water for a period; Solid food: No solid foods for a period; Substantial Bread and Water only; Restricted Diet: Avoiding certain foods. Time periods in scripture ranged from supernatural fasts, directed by God, which lasted as long as 80 days (Moses) and 40 days (Jesus) to weeks and, most commonly, days. Medically speaking, longer fasts (which I won’t dig into) carry significant risks and were always directed specifically by God. However, shorter fasts have notable medical benefits, which I will not get into here. Most commonly practiced, 1-3 day fasts, with the aid of juice and an occasional piece of fruit or bread (on the second day), are a regular practice for many Christians. (Juice fasting helps control the rate at which your body purges itself and prevents extreme weakness and discomfort in the first 48 hours of the fast.)

To the question, “Why fast?” I have only one good answer: weakness.

We should fast because we are weak. In our daily lives we arrogantly forget our weakness (complete dependence on God for goodness) and trudge on as if we can live apart from God. Daily, we forget the a) common grace (rain, sunshine, food) and b) specific grace (answered prayers) as if we somehow deserve anything we are given (Psalm 24). Through biblical fasting, however, we are positioned to recognize the provisions of God in our daily lives. We begin to see how often we are blessed by common grace, which we take for granted, and specific graces through which God meets our individual needs.

For me, fasting has proven fairly humiliating. It often brings to surface the strange solace I take in the pleasures of food as well as how much clever mastery I allow my own body (and the enemy) to have over my mind. I still struggle each time… which is why I simply can not mention fasting without pairing it directly with prayer (normally the case in scripture). It is the fasting (complete dependence) that draws me into humble prayer.

It is only through fasting as a spiritual discipline (not exercise), in prayer, that I learn of its true significance as a teacher to my soul. It humbles me, revealing my true dependence on God for all comfort. It trains my body to resist the devil, who tempts me to break the fast (Matthew 4:1-10). And what blesses me most is that it reveals the ability of God to provide “food you do not know about” in the midst of my suffering.

This separation from the flesh usually occurs over the first 48 hours, a humbling process in which I have failed many times. However, when I enter into that time in prayer, I enter with great humility and hunger towards a God I now see more clearly. A break in the dam seems to occur at that moment, when I gain a true sense of what Jesus meant in Matt 6:16-18 when he told us not to appear distressed, but to feast on the Lord and His will (Luke 12:33). Dallas Willard says, “Fasting is training in suffering happily as we feast on God. And it is a good lesson, because in our lives we will suffer, no matter what else happens to us.”

Finally, the desperation and suffering of fasting gives me an understanding of the boundless resources of our Lord! When in fasting and prayer, you are provided with the bread of God and the words that proceed from the mouth of God. When in prayer, your energy is restored and you are lifted to offer your service and prayers that are often such an integral part of the fasting process.

Here are some key scriptures related to fasting: Psalms 35:13; Isaiah 58; Acts 13:2-3

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


“Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD ?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”
Proverbs 30:8-9

As urgently critical and relevant to the human condition as any other topic, Jesus spoke more on our “relationship to money” than faith and prayer combined, heaven or hell and more than anything else except the Kingdom of Heaven. Fifteen percent of His teachings were money related and through His focus on that topic, Jesus demonstrated that our relationship with money is among the foremost of all spiritual disciplines.

Frugality, an uncommon term in our culture, is a nearly lost discipline that right-sizes the fleshly cry for possessions, titles and cash. Since it is a way of life that is, in a very real sense of the word, costly, it is not as “popular” of a discipline as fasting, prayer or confession. You can’t fake your way through this discipline very easily. And at the same time, it speaks out loud to the world, through actions, the condition of your soul. If someone needed to make a judgment as to your spiritual health, and could only use one metric, I would suggest going straight to your bank account. Where is your money going? I would look at percentages, not total dollars…. What percentage goes to God as your tithe? Are you giving the first tenth, that is, at least ten percent of your “before tax” salary? (Malachi 3:8-10) How much of your money is going towards bad debt? (Romans 13:8) How much is spent at the bars and on toys? A good eye-opening experiment is to look at all of your personal expenses over the past month… how much was spent on you? How much was given to God? How much went to others? Don’t worry, there’s no “holy percentage” formula… and the percentages really aren’t as important as the heart behind them (see Warren Buffet quote below).

The bank account method above is actually used by Christ to determine the spiritual condition of those he met in several instances in the bible. Look at Christ’s judgment, based on the level of sacrifice (percentage) in Luke 21:1-4: As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." The widow did not give a large sum, but a large proportion of what she had available.

Here Jesus discerns Zacchaeus’ inward salvation experience by his outward expression of his relationship to money: But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."

In Mark 10:21-22, when Jesus taught the rich young ruler that the love of money will make it more difficult for many to get into heaven that it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle: Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Money alone kept him from Jesus.

When John Joseph Surin was asked why so few actually achieve saintly character, he replied “The chief reason is that they give too big a place in life to indifferent things.” And while frugality often serves the good of others and God, it is of grave importance as a discipline in its ability to free us from (cut off) desires for “indifferent things.” In that kind of freedom, we are able to “to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” (Micah 6:8) We are no longer busy jockeying for position, power or status... and can easily put others first. What if we just gave up on the desire to be famous? Or rich? If we did, would we ever have to compromise? Jesus hung on the cross after a compromise involving just thirty pieces of silver. The lust for money brings out the worst in men.

Frugality, then, is training in being satisfied with less – and using our money in ways other than to gratify selfish desires for status, wealth and fame. O. Hardman put it this way: “It is an injury to society as well as an offence against God when men pamper their bodies with rich and dainty foods and seriously diminish their physical and mental powers by excessive use of intoxicants… Luxury in every form is economically bad, it is provocative to the poor who see it flaunted before them, and it morally degrading to those who indulge in it. The Christian who has the ability to live luxuriously, but fasts from all extravagance, and practices simplicity in his dress, his home and his whole manner of life, is, therefore, rendering good service to society.”

Finally, we must counterbalance this discipline with the knowledge that frugality or charity does not save. Only the Blood of Jesus covers sins. When charity and frugality become a “good work” that earns us a place with God or in heaven, it is no longer a discipline. By definition, a spiritual discipline only positions us to know, receive and love God… it doesn’t earn favor.

Warren Buffet, after giving billions of dollars away to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was noted as saying, "There is more than one way to get to heaven, but this is a great way." He later qualified the statement as a “colorful phrase” he uses to describe successful investing, but further laid bare his actual spiritual condition to the whole world with this statement: "I don't know whether or not there is a heaven," Mr. Buffett wrote. "But, if there is one, I would bet that admittance in no way depends upon giving away surplus wealth (however large the amount), which in no way affects the well-being of the giver."

Here we see it all goes back to the heart. Our checking account and frugal lives are a good outward reflection of our inward transformation, but it is not spiritual check box. The Pharisees tithed religiously, but their remaining wealth was horded and selfishly spent, revealing their true priorities. Lord, teach us to trust you to provide. Please don’t allow me to be rich or poor, but give me only my daily bread, so that I may walk humbly with You.

From a study of the Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Spiritual Disciplines

I’ve discovered why, I believe, the Spirit has not permitted me to go into a formal field of ministry yet. As I left the community and accountability of a wonderful church in Dallas for the religious communal wasteland that is deep East Texas, I’ve come to learn some new things about my relationship to Jesus. In exchange for over 100 like-minded solid, walking Christians, I have chosen a handful of stressed out and burdened entrepreneurs, a church with few people my age and a very hectic schedule. I have felt the effects of little or no community.

A thousand times I’ve prayed, “Lord, I know I seem distant from you right now – but please don’t give up on me. I still love you!”

For some time, I’ve relied very heavily on community and others for building and refreshing my faith. And how important that is! It’s critical, in fact. We are, obviously, creatures hardwired for rich community with God and other people. But what happens when you step out into the wastelands? For example, the rice paddies of China or the jungles of Indonesia or Africa… places where there are no anointed preachers for a thousand miles. No friends to lift you up when the world is crushing you to the ground. What happens when your community, even in your church, fails to be a community? What about when “spiritual highs” are a distant memory, like a past life? What is it that keeps the lone missionary walking strong?

My humbled and broken answer is one which I have some head knowledge, but ashamedly too little life experience. It is a subject I understand and appreciate, but have neglected because of my rich group of friends and encouragers I have always had in my life. I’ve neglected, also, out of my distaste for acts that seem to be justification by works, or the earning of eternal life… religion. It is an answer which I believe the whole of the American church lacks… my answer is the spiritual disciplines.

Lately, I have been broken by my inability to do anything good without God – by my darkest darks, which are even deeper than the African jungles. When I live apart from active, daily intimacy with God as a Christian, I take the Lord’s name upon myself in vain. Often, I impede the spread of the gospel and the knowledge of God’s nature, which is the power of salvation, in the lives in which I have an influence. (The mention of God’s nature brings to mind another area I hope to explore soon, which is the significance of doctrine, or knowing the character and nature of the God we worship.)

In the timeline of God’s lesson plan for me, He has had me rereading sections of The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard and starting on his new book, The Great Ommision. I hope over the next couple of weeks to write on the different disciplines as they fit into their primary purpose: positioning ourselves to praise, love and know God. They are, in their true form, spiritual acts Christ modeled for us in order to increase in grace and knowledge of a Holy God… to be an active disciple even when walking in the wastelands.

“For different reasons, and with different emphases, (the conservative and liberal churches) have agreed that discipleship to Christ is optional to membership in the Christian church. Thus, the very type of life that could change the course of human society—and upon occasion has done so—is excluded or at least omitted from the essential message of the church.”

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Abide in Me

After the miracle of feeding five thousand, many people had begun to follow Jesus. Jesus, knowing the crowd grew because He provided food that perishes and did not care about things of eternity, offered this statement:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” John 6:53-56

Not surprisingly, many following Him turned back.

Certainly, this is not one of the more popular sayings of Jesus. You rarely hear it quoted in sermons or Sunday school. And, it in fact did not increase His popularity – as He boldly followed that statement with:

“Does this offend you? is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.”

And still more left.

Obviously, Jesus felt this was a crucial message to the survival of His disciples if He made statements that caused, what the modern church would call, “seekers” to turn away. Please keep in mind, He offered this message in the wake of miraculously providing food and drink for the crowds. You must eat my flesh. You must drink my blood. Obviously, Jesus was not a cannibal. So, what does that mean?

His message, as always, was focused on a spiritual need, not merely a physical need. It is easy for us to accept the idea that when you eat food, it gives your body energy and is used to build muscle, to repair tissues, to supply organs. Without food, your body will grow weak, become susceptible to disease and eventually die. Without food, your body can do nothing. The very same principals work in the spiritual realm. Without the Spirit, without abiding in Jesus, we can do nothing (John 15:6). We can do nothing of any worth to God.

There is also a time aspect built into our need for spiritual nourishment. As time passes, the longer we are apart from the presence of Jesus, from His word, the weaker our convictions, the less our power and the more susceptible we are to attack. It’s like food. Without it, we grow weak. In the same way we would not willfully go a day (unless fasting) without food, our soul does not willfully go a day without nourishment. Instead of hunger pains, we feel spiritual pain. We feel inadequate, empty, exhausted. We feel powerless. It’s no wonder many Christians feel powerless, bored, in their faith. They haven’t communed with Christ, abode in Him, for days, weeks, months or sometimes years!

There is no religion here. This is about relationship. It is about spending time with Jesus the way you would a good friend, your wife or a grandparent. That time helps you know them more, it transforms you and teaches you. But with Jesus, it’s more than that. He gives us the Spirit by which all of our righteousness and Christianity emanates. It is from abiding in Jesus, like grapes on a vine, that we bear much fruit. One thing that helps me in the discipline of abiding is

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John15:5-8

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Heavens Declare...

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17

I believe we should (attempt to) offer the environment the same degree of care as the Creator gave in creating it, as all creation points to Jesus. A very surface study of biology would reveal the intricate detail, care and balance that our Father took in weaving the fabrics of life, down to the very last quark. I understand that what I am about to write is highly opinionated and not a critical issue… I almost didn’t post this entry, simply because it seems minor in the grand scheme of things… but I guess I just believe in conservationism. You be the judge as to whether what I write is consistent with the Spirit and brings glory to the Father.

What is written below is with the perspective that the world we currently live in will one day be destroyed and replaced by a “new heaven and new earth.” (Isaiah 65:17 and Rev 21:1) It is temporary and is “groaning” in anticipation of the second coming of Christ (Romans 8:19). Also, the end of this present earth or “human life” will not come from environmental decay, pollution or disaster – it will end with Christ’s return. Finally, in my non-scientific opinion, the earth was created with an uncanny ability to “absorb” the byproducts of human industrial “progress.”

However, if a great artist used his expertise to create a masterpiece of beauty, like Van Gogh’s Starry Night, would we not take special consideration when moving, handling or displaying that work? If not out of respect for the artist’s ability, would we not at least care for it out of its perceived or real value to the owner? What greater respect should we have for God’s masterpiece?

You will not see me chained to a redwood or protesting in front of a refinery. However, I believe balanced conservationism may have fallen out of favor as a healthy practice in response to the “Green” movement.

The Green movement claims that humans are the problem, heaping environmental doom upon ourselves as we destroy “Mother Earth.” I admit, humans may be a problem in that we make decisions apart from respect for creation… but the deeper issue, in my opinion, is not the damage to the environment as much as the greedy desires which drive the damage. I guess that takes us back to the Fall, which had a greater impact on the environment than any other event, as it changed weather patterns, introduced death and changed human nature. However, the Green movement often puts the environment over humanity, nearly deifying it. This view of the earth is found in eastern religions and hardcore environmentalists that often consider the creation to be of the same substance as the Creator. You see evidence of this idolatry in activists who willingly endanger human life (even their own!) for animals, to prevent the construction of pollution creating factories or the cutting of forests. Rational people will never willingly give their life for anything unless they consider the act of dying to be critical to preserving (or restoring) something endangered that is of greater value than their future days on earth. (Please consider that statement in view of what Jesus did on the cross.)

In response to this unfortunate misunderstanding of what creation is, the value creation has in pointing to God should not be forgotten. And we have a part in treating this creation with the respect and care of a good steward, even in its (and our) fallen and temporal state. Which, in my opinion, means different things for different people… for the politician and business leader, it means giving wise consideration to renewable sources of energy, for the average citizen, it means recycling and to the church, it means offering and preserving creation as a means of pointing to the Creator. Something as common as a star-filled night has the ability to make anyone wonder if a higher being may exist… a question which can lead to the one true God. I guess I’m trying to convince you that being a conservationist is Christian! All creation points to Jesus!

O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
above the heavens.
From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:1-4)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Call to Confession

This is not a call for the religious. It’s especially not a call I care to answer, as I’m afraid I’ll be exposed for the spiritual fraud I am… look at that last sentence; confession simply can not take place in a heart like that. Four references to myself in one sentence! This entry is about obedience before self to a just and holy God. An honest look may expose your Christianity as it has mine, that it can sometimes become more about what “they” think than about Jesus. Confession, on the other hand, is like lying down, open chest exposed, for spiritual surgery. It’s an act that cleaves the flesh from the heart; that flushes out pretension and fills with authenticity. And it’s something I haven’t done in a long time...

I don’t always feel spiritual. I don’t always “feel” like I love Jesus. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t care. My mind gets focused on my job or my friends or what I don’t have – and my thoughts about Him become less and less. I don’t care to read my bible or pray… and my words towards others aren’t encouraging… they’re short. You see, apathy is not my only issue. Some people who read this blog think because I write about visions or praying on my face that I have attained something spiritually. I’ve attained nothing. Everything I have I’ve been given… even so, I forget about the Giver, like a child that does not know how much his parents sacrificed for the clothes he wears and the food he eats.

I haven’t been tithing since March 23rd. It would be easy for me to say that it had to do with moving and not having joined my new church yet. The real reason: money is tight and I had been pushing it off. Malachi 3:6-12 recently flashed through my head – and I joyfully set up a recurring payment online for my new church and paid my back-tithes. Tithing, like confession, is not something God needs from us. He already knows our sin and all the riches already belong to Him. Our role is in our obedience.

My heart has been focused on me. I wonder at why they “wronged” me or why they say things they do. I take offense at things not worth being offended over. I see to it that my needs are met before I see to the needs of others. I have become the definition of selfish – and any departure from that is an act of God’s grace. Lord, grant me brokenness. I give you my hard and prideful heart. There is so much more I want to tell you – give me a friend I can trust to talk about my struggles!

But, it’s not just our close brothers and sisters that need to hear our confessions. My favorite part of the book “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller is when they set up a tent during a college drunkfest/orgy in Portland, Oregon. The tent had a sign over it that read “Confess Your Sins.” The students, with Donald, dressed up in monks clothes and smoked pipes while they waited as the other students mocked and laughed at them -- for good reason. Finally, after hours of standing and waiting, one half-drunk student walked in. He asked, “So, am I just supposed to spill it or what.” To which Donald replied, “Well, no… I really just wanted to tell you about what I had done… and ask for your forgiveness.” In front of the wide-eyed student, he began to ask for forgiveness for the crusades, for his personal sins, for acts of hate done in the name of Christ. He went on for thirty minutes. The visitor broke down… and before they knew it, the line filled the sidewalks with students waiting to hear from authentic Christians. You may be wondering what good this did… over the next couple of months, it opened up bible studies and Christian interest sessions where there had been none before. In a godless college, authenticity paved the way for Jesus to be made known.

Why do we feel like we have to hide our shortcomings – as if our mistakes will discredit Christ? If the secret got out that we are not perfect would non-believers then draw the conclusion that Christ is not perfect? If so, what message were we trying to get out: Christ crucified or Christian glorified? Is Christ's deity hanging on our spotlessness? Did Christ not die for that very reason, our fallen state? Is it only through grace that we are righteous? Why do we need to defend ourselves when people outside the church point to our faults? Why not confess and ask for forgiveness? Why not point to Jesus as our only hope? How refreshing and authentic would that be?

Some say, “I confess to the Lord… but not to other people.” Read James 5:16. We’re not talking about airing your dirty laundry for all to see; certainly, there are sins I would not mention on this blog. Confession is about rebuilding and renewing, not burdening or shaming. It’s about keeping your relationship with Jesus fresh and alive and open… confessing your sins so that the devil would not have a secret foothold in your life.

2 Corinthians 9:13 says, “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.”

One Sheep

What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying?
If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray.
So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.
Mathew 18:12-14

Jesus, help me to write this so that your glory would be the result. Help me share what you showed me this weekend, about the measures you are prepared to take in order to bring one sheep to the flock. Help me to show the depth of your love.

I was amazed at the love the Lord showed me this past weekend, as we had a visitor out at the bulb farm. She was an old friend of one of my coworkers, out to see the farm, the cabin and a little bit of Texas. And as she later told me, she came to find “something that was lost.” She felt that God had somehow “called her to action” as a part of taking this trip to Texas. And once she arrived, I felt the Spirit urging me to talk with her.

Over the next few days, we spent hours on long car trips, a night at Northgate in College Station and a night out dancing in Tyler, where we discussed finance, politics, religion… all the stuff you’re not supposed to discuss with acquaintances… and got to talk a lot about Jesus. The last day, Sunday morning, we visited a new church (which I will join) and had breakfast at the local donut shop.

Over breakfast, I told her a story about a car wreck I had, before I had a relationship with Jesus… and how I nearly lost my life to stupidity and partying. She then asked what “turned me around,” at which point I shared my testimony, the good and the ugly. And, that was it… she left later that afternoon to head back to Maryland.

Monday morning, I got an unexpected email:
“I thought before this trip I had a relationship with Christ, it turns out I was wrong. It was just a name, something said in a prayer, something expressed in a service. Not a one-on-one relationship as my personal savior and guide through life. Yesterday was a revelation.”

The email broke me. What honesty! Lord, if everyone could be so honest – how many more could be spared? A precious soul; what could possibly be more important than what God Himself died to save? But it doesn’t end there. The morning before she left, she went back to visit with the pastor of my new church and accepted Christ. She was bold in her pursuit and found Jesus as a result.

The measures God took to reach her astound me! Forming a friendship that was the basis of her divine appointment in Texas, urging her to visit... all the while giving her friends back home who love God... the Lord taught me about the depth of His love, how He would burn everything, pass on all opportunities, give everything He owned, just to save one sheep. Just to save me. That is the heart of God.

Lord, help me to have your heart. A heart that abandons every pursuit that doesn’t lead to eternity... help me to pass when the enemy offers me the world, and instead pursue things you consider worthy!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Dreams and Visions

The gifts of God always encourage and build faith. If they discourage or divide or cause someone to stumble, they should be kept quiet and checked for whether they are of God. I am certain the following three experiences were of God, so please be encouraged by a few examples of what He has done to encourage, guide and love me.

In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Joel 2:28 (see also Acts 2:17)

I was at church worshipping during a Sunday morning service and the minister Michael Miller started praying that the Lord would rain down His Spirit on our group. At that, I began to see a vision of myself around a campfire, talking to native tribesmen in a language I could not understand. I was speaking and walking around the fire. Suddenly, bluish-white rain started pouring down and I looked up to see warriors dressed in white coming from a white and bluish light, carrying swords and passing over me. The rain seemed to be reaching me but I didn’t feel it – almost as if it was passing directly through me. I then looked down to see an extinguished campfire. A great sadness came over me as I realized the flame was out. It had once been burning, but now it was not. I realized the vision was about a choice I had made, when I chose to work at GE rather than Epicquest, and now it was no longer an option. (It was my choice to make, not a mistake, but a choice that God honored...) I grew discouraged and then cried out, “What now, Lord?” In a moment, He laid a hand on me and pointed me to a room. There was a desk and a lamp and I was writing on a yellow notepad. The Lord seemed to say to me, “Write… write what I tell you.” I later recounted this vision to my pastor Michael… but for some reason I stopped at the campfire scene. I told Michael that the door to going to unreached tribes had been open but was now closed, at least for now. Two weeks later, we were at a church conference and the Lord pressed it on my heart to pray for Michael. I walked over, laid my hands on him and began to praise God… I prayed for about 10 minutes until I was exhausted. As I closed the prayer, Michael looked me directly in the eyes and said, “I received your prayer but I didn’t hear a word you prayed. As you were praying, I saw a vision of you sitting at a desk, writing on a yellow notepad. The Lord wants you to know your writing honors His Name and you should continue.”

I was standing on a farm, making a phone call on my cell phone. We were under a pavilion with open sides and one of my friends was there with me. As the phone was ringing, a terrible screeching sound, like the emergency broadcast signal but louder, started coming through my phone. I then realized it was a ringing in my ears, only much louder than I had ever experienced. I moved quickly to the edge of the building to see the sky turn a crimson color and the trees and grass around me caught fire. The sky appeared as if a hand was pressing in, like when someone presses in on a tent wall. Airplanes flying overhead suddenly went down in flaming tailspins, as if swatted by the hands bulge. I turned to look at my friend, who was afraid and running for cover. I screamed, “Look up! LOOK UP!” but it was no use, he was full of terror. I saw the sky begin to open up in an awful display of fire and light as my body began to be lifted from the ground… I turned to watch my friend slam the pavilion door. With a shake, I awoke in my bed covered in sweat, my heart racing and overwhelmed with a feeling of complete fear and awe.

I was standing in a chapel with brown walls wearing a tuxedo… and then I saw her. It was all incredibly clear in my dream. Dressed simply, she did not look like a girl I would normally be attracted to… she had an average body with an attractive, but not uncommon face… these thoughts occurred to me, as if I was watching myself… watching myself standing there, completely captivated by her. I admired her authentic, lasting beauty, beyond her appearance, and I sensed a deep, warm love I have never known. I do not remember seeing the walls again. I walked a few steps down the aisle and hugged her closely. I whispered something in her ear. I could feel her smile as she pulled herself close and rested her head on my chest. With that, she seemed to say, “I’ll follow you anywhere, through anything, to the glory of God.” I realized we were in a wedding, our wedding… and this was my wife. I can recall vague details about her appearance. But it wasn’t her appearance that caught me… it was her spirit, which I didn’t see in my dream, but somehow was very conscience of... a gentle spirit that emanated for miles around. Playful and witty but not overbearing – a spirit that truly sees people… a Romans 15 spirit… a 1 Corinthians 6:7 spirit. Selfless and wild. She was a sunken ship that had been raised and repaired to its full glory and now sailed confidently before her Maker and fellow man. I woke up and knew the Lord perfectly provides.

God speaking through dreams is mentioned over 98 times in the New and Old Testaments: Dream Verses
And visions almost 50 times… Jesus has risen and still speaks!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Heart above the Head

I’ve received some concerned emails over the past couple of months, wondering where I’ve been and why I hadn’t posted anything since November 27th, 2005. First of all, I’m sorry – but no, I didn’t get put in the hospital or get married or renounce my faith or anything crazy like that... I was in a different season of my walk with Jesus. It was not a time for theology or reflection. It was not an easy time and was not always fun. It was a time of warfare. And it wasn’t the strategy side of warfare either. I was deep in the muddy trenches.

Let me explain. We’re in the middle of a war, right? You hear preachers talk about this all the time. But, it’s not a war against the abortionists or the Terrorists or the neighbor that steals your paper.... It’s not a war against other people at all – it’s just not. A lot of us need to let go of that idea – we’re not in a holy war against other races, against people who speak other languages or even those who believe other things about God or god or gods. It’s a war alright, but against “the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6:12) And our enemy is intelligent, deceptive and absolutely ruthless. Over the past two months, I have seen a darker force ruling this earth than I had ever imagined. A force that conceals himself – so that, like a black hole, you only know he’s there by the absence of Light. And you only know he’s gone when the Light breaks through, by the name of Jesus and the power of faithful prayer.

If you’ve ever read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis or This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti, you at least have an idea of what I’m talking about. He is set on disrupting the plans of our Father. He will stop at nothing –your finances, your health, your logic, your mind, your emotions, your doctrine, your family, your job… all open to attack. He will make you feel sick for three weeks straight. He will give you headaches you can’t explain. You’ll wreck your truck. He’ll try to pull you from community. Your greatest temptations will be laid before your face. Most of all, he’ll whisper disobedience into your mind.

This whole story began when I was drawn into prayer beginning early December of last year – I didn’t know why, but I spent every night for a week and a half, coming home from work and praying and worshipping God for hours. During that time, I sensed the Lord’s Spirit (which I will write more about later) was preparing me for a difficult time. Shortly afterward, my friend offered me a job in which I would leave GE to work in an agriculture start-up business in East Texas. I began praying that God would lead me – and that, if it was His will, He would confirm it at least three times. Over the next two weeks, God confirmed this path almost two dozen times. My family, my friends, everyone seemed to support this as well… which is crazy, since it is definitely not a “logical, stable career move.” There was a lot going into this decision, which I can also write about later, but I sensed very early that this was going to stir a lot of warfare from the evil one. The enemy resists you when you become a threat.

I could write the full story of all the attacks I faced – in which I felt like Marlow in Heart of Darkness. Instead, I’ll talk about the most difficult, surprising and potentially damaging trick the enemy tried… he tried to get me to be disobedient by appealing to my ‘sense of decency.’ I made my decision to leave, prayed about the date I would give my notice – and it came up February 6th. A Monday. Shortly after I made that decision, I found out our company’s annual three-day leadership meeting would be held the Tuesday-Thursday of the week before – and I was going. About a week later, two weeks before the leadership meeting, an executive at one of our large customers emails my region manager to tell him they “refuse to work with [GE employee name here] any more – he is not our man, give us someone else.” So, my branch manager, ops manager and region manager call me into their office, paint the grim story of this troubled account and say, “Brad, we have no one else to take this customer – will you handle it until we can find a permanent replacement?” It was the first time I had ever hesitated at accepting an opportunity – in a matter of 5 seconds I had to decide which was better: telling them “no,” leading them to ask ‘why not’ and having to explain, well, I was quitting… or, saying “yes,” taking the account and doing my best for the couple of weeks I had it… I wanted to say no, but my gut told me to say yes. I did. I left feeling like I was not being fair to GE, that I should not shoulder that responsibility for only four weeks, only to turn it over again… I felt like crap inside, honestly. Now, fast forward to the leadership meeting… Take a guess at what the primary topic of the week was -- that’s right: employee retention! For three days I got to talk about how to retain our employees, when I was in fact quitting on Monday. I even sat next to the HR manager for all of GE Supply at dinner one night. Awesome. Again, I felt like scum. This entire time, from the moment I heard about the dates of the leadership meeting until late January, I felt like abandoning my chosen date and telling them early. It seemed like the only decent and responsible thing to do.

In making that decision, I spent an entire Saturday in prayer and fasting – seeking God’s will in all of this. It was a hard day. The enemy was warring against me. I was distracted, I couldn’t think straight, I felt tired… but there was a moment in prayer, when suddenly God clearly told me: ‘Brad, you’re under attack -- Stick to your path.’ So I did. I’m not going to pretend to know why Feb 6th was the date – but I do know that God brought forth a mighty victory because I was obedient. Not only did I get to share my heart for over 30 minutes with five of my key bosses, but at the end of the discussions, the president of the business told me that he ‘respected what I was doing’ and that if ‘I ever needed a job, you have my cell phone – just call me up.’ Additionally, he left the door open for me to return to the program if the company goes under. Is God good or what?

I chose to write about this as my first entry since coming out of this tough time because I truly believe that knowing the reality of who we are fighting against is the first step to being able to effectively fight and claim the victory God has already won. Calling on Jesus, staying close to Him and following in humility is the whole of the strategy to take… I thought about titling this entry “wisdom is not enough,” because, in battle, its only one of the tools you need for victory – along with the word of God, the Spirit of God and a community of support and prayer. Instead, I called it “heart above the head” because a lot of the two months were spent on my knees in prayer, bent over with my head physically lower than my heart – asking for simple things, like strength for the day, light for my path, God’s protection and offering worship to a holy God. That is where true spiritual warfare is done (prayer), simply because of the nature of your true enemy (ephesians 6:12). Praying in that position was a way of reminding me that I am to live primarily from my heart in obedience to God, not my logical head or emotions alone.

Lord, help us to see this is not a war against people. Teach us, through Him, the Holy Spirit, who teaches all things, how to fight against the darkness who rule this world. Lord, I am weak because I have seen the power of the darkness – but you are my rod and my staff. Father, You command the demons and they shutter at your precious Name. You, Lord, are my shepherd and I shall not fear. Lord, I will bow in humility, with my heart above my head.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Economics of Charity

I recently heard a sermon on the principle of tithing, or giving 10% of your gross income, to the church. The Old Testament law stated the first 10% of your income belongs to the Lord; it even spoke of anything less as stealing from God. (Genesis 14:18-20, Genesis 28:20-22, Numbers 18:21, Numbers 18:25-31, Deuteronomy 14:22-26, Deuteronomy 14:28-29, Malachi 3:10, Luke 11:42) Now, I know we are no longer under that law; we are no longer held to the law of tithing just as we are no longer required to sacrifice bulls for our sins, as Christ fulfilled the whole law (Matt 5:17). However, God did write the law for a reason and many principles are contained in them so that we would be saved from pain and/or be prosperous (Joshua 1:8). So, with that and Matt 6:21 in mind, I decided to do some research on the power of the law of tithing as it would be, if followed, in the United States. Here we go:

The average household income is $42,228 at 109,297,000 households for a total of $4,615,393,716,000.00 in annual personal income in the United States. Let’s assume, as a nation under God, that the citizens of the United States tithe as a whole, out of a love for God. The annual tithe from this group comes to about $461,539,371,600.00. (Actual estimates of annual church giving in the U.S. comes to about $17,200,000,000 or about 2.5% of the active church attendees after tax dollars, not gross income, or first fruits. (Deut 18:4)) Now, tithes are supposed to be used to run the church, pay the clergy, etc – so let’s say we decide that as a nation, 75% of our tithe, or $346,154,528,700.00, is needed to run our churches. In other words, under this assumption, the annual budget for Christian churches in the U.S. would be 20 times greater than their current budget. However, to be fair, since we are assuming that every household in the U.S. is tithing, we should also assume they are now all attending church (roughly tripling the number of Christian church attendees), thereby raising the churches overall annual budget requirements. (As in all persuasive estimations, I want to remain on the conservative side at all times.) Okay, after all that, we now we have a number: $115,384,842,900.00, which is the remaining 25%, after church expenses, of the United States tithe. From now on, we will lovingly refer to this dollar value as The Offering.

There are approximately 777,000,000 undernourished or starving people in the world, 194,000,000 of which are in Africa. Based on estimates from Mercy Corps and World Vision, it costs an average of $1/day to feed and give medical treatment to one person in Africa. If our giving equaled The Offering, we would be able to provide at least $1.63 per malnourished person in Africa every day, as long as we continue to give. To sum this up, the citizens of the United States, by offering a tithe, could wipe out starvation and curable disease in Africa as we know it. And that’s just the United States. Imagine if “High Standard of Living” households in Europe, Japan and Australia joined in as well. Starvation could be wiped out in India and Asia.

Let me take a little aside here… because I think these numbers are actually more powerful than they seem. Most poverty experts in Africa, Asia and India will agree that, except in very rare and extreme cases, starvation is not due to a lack of food. More often, it is due to the inability to move resources from one region to another because of a poor infrastructure. In other words, roads, bridges, trucks and rail stand in the way of curing world hunger more than weather, disease, thieves or food scarcity. If we were to invest in the infrastructure (longterm) with our tithe, rather than the short term of providing food – we may even teach a man to fish: Africa could feed itself. I realize I’m being very naïve in regards to the political instability, drought and the lack of agricultural knowledge in the region – but I think we could do a lot to affect the area with money and investment – as long as smarter people than me are in control of allocating the resources.

Ten percent. I know that’s a lot. But, I think in many cases, we need to see things from a slightly different perspective. “The earth is the Lord’s, and every thing in it, the world, and all who live in it…” (Psalm 24:1) and “‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty” (Haggai 2:8). It’s all His. And, we, as children under grace, do not have to give tithe, even from what does not truly belong to us. God does not want us to give out of a desire to earn our salvation, to earn favor or blessings (though they seem to always abound) or out of compulsion. "Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Corin 9:7) American materialism tells us we always need more – more car, more apartment, more clothes, more investment… we’re so good at storing treasure on earth where it will rot, meanwhile we are not storing anything in heaven, where it will last for eternity. I should add that in the early Christian (that’s post resurrection, new covenant churches) 10% tithe was assumed and considered the “floor” of their giving levels. 10% may just mean driving a Saturn instead of whatever is in your garage now… Lowering our standard of excessive living (relative to the rest of the world) by just 10% could completely change the world… it could wipe out starvation. When I ran these numbers, I assumed total U.S. participation – but if only the current Christian church attendees gave at this level, what an amazing difference we could make! The temporary and diminishing returns we would have received from buying that “new thing” could turn into eternal rewards. But, don’t wait on the rest of the world to answer this call, “be the change you want to see in the world.” -- Gandhi.

Finally, 1 Cor. 13:3 says “And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” Giving, then, should only be a response to the love shown us when our inequities fell on Christ. It should be an outpouring of love onto the “least of these.” (Matt 25:45)

Sources: 2001 Census, The State of Church Giving Through 1998, Mercy Corps, World Vision, CIA World Factbook, Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Of Noble Character

I guess I’m ready to write this. Writing is hard because, when you’re real, it means you have to be vulnerable. It’s not natural, but it is freeing. I also kinda didn't want to publish this, but I've had it in the wings for a couple of months now, so it needed to be released. I apologize in advance for the length of this entry – no one wants to read a book when they expect a blog entry…. I mean, that’s the beauty of a blog: short and to the point. Or short and pointless. Or just short – because short, of course, requires little commitment – and that’s what our generation loves. If it’s painful, at least you know it will be over soon – but with commitment, you must accept pain as a part of the journey. And in true commitment, the journey becomes what you seek, not just “the point.” That sounds so un-American, doesn’t it? But I'm straying from the topic… One thing I will deliver is a painful, pointless, beautiful, honest, committed, journey filled entry – but it will not be short. Sorry.

The honest truth is I want to meet someone who gives me a sort of amnesia when it comes to my desires for an “ideal mate.” After I meet her, I want to look back at this entry and laugh… a little… the way I laughed when I found my autobiography I wrote in second grade. So much of it was still so true about me – but I had progressed so far since, once my dreams met reality. My childhood dreams, I saw, were far too short-sighted in view of God’s already determined intentions for my life. But, I was content to desire those things at the time – they were all I could see from where I was standing. My vision is far greater and expectations far higher now that I’m more mature – but I expect them to change even more as the Day approaches.

the spirit, heart and mind
I love hippies. Not because of the drugs, “free love,” bad hygiene or unshaven pits – more because of the free spirit. The spirit that says, “I’m in.” That doesn’t care about having or having not, about the discomfort and uncertainty that comes with adventure or about what the celebrities are doing (pet peeve). That looks upon, sees, people with interest, with love, with patience. That stands for her convictions, in protest, but would prefer unity and peace if possible. She doesn’t care what kind of car she drives, or that I drive, for that matter. A spirit that is playful and silly and courageous. And she doesn’t have to be conservative, liberal or moderate. In fact, I’d rather her not be any of those. I’d rather her have been conformed so much to the likeness of Christ, that she’s liberal when He is, conservative when He is and moderate when it just doesn’t matter.

And I love the free spirit, not because it’s “unattached” or “independent,” even though it seems to be, but because it is powerfully “attached” and “dependent;” only not to the things of the world, but to Christ. That is true freedom. I love it because it makes one completely available to God and unavailable to the world… She does not have a plan that says we will live in a house that looks like this or the kids will play this sport or we’ll have this dog, this car or live in this city. A woman that does not want to rule, or plot everything out, but just walk forward in an adventure, a journey, that is uncertain, unclear and wild. A woman who gets her security, freedom and comfort only in the messiah named Jesus the Christ and who is willing to follow a man, who follows the same God. This level of security is evident in the way she talks, dresses, acts, works, plays and follows me. And, she’s not afraid to call me out when I’m wrong.

Creative and artistic, she lives from the heart. She’s been hurt before, because she is open, but that hasn’t made her hard hearted. She is ready and able to be intimate with people in a pure way, because she in intimate with God in a real way. Judgment simply does not exist in her heart, because she lives for God’s approval alone, and does not need to gossip or think ill of others. Her mouth is full of praise and encouragement.

the soul
I’d love to meet a woman that would love and serve Jesus in obedience, even if she knew hell was her final destination. That doesn’t serve only out of gratitude for salvation, but primarily out of love for a beautiful God, her Master, Friend and Savior. Someone who has known and seen the brokenness of her soul, yet she lives in the reality of her redeemed, full and abundant life; she is open and honest in her struggles, void of pride and certain that she is working out her salvation in the context of an eternal life, which has already begun. A woman who does not believe everything the world tells her she should be – but only believes, from the heart, what God’s Word says she is… And she doesn’t watch Oprah, Sex and the City or Desperate Housewives. (Another pet peeve, I guess.) I’m not talking about a finished work here, but an “in process” reality.

the body
Our society makes it out to be superficial to desire physical beauty in a mate – while at the same time, it silently worships that same beauty above any other qualities. Especially in American culture – how many ugly people do you see on TV or in movies? How much more do you value a person who is really good looking over someone who is just plain? Honestly? The reason I put this quality last because I struggle with its place in my heart… that I don’t want it to be first, however I do want to be honest about its place in my life. I want a beautiful wife and it’s hard for me deal with, because it shouldn’t matter that much, right?

But it does. I feel a little guilty about that being even part of the reason I'm not interested in someone, but I've come to the conclusion that, right or wrong, I simply can’t date them if that is the case. I couldn’t date her because, if I did not consider her beautiful, then I was doing her a deep disservice by dating – because another man, better than me, would not do her that disservice. I want her to know she is beautiful and I want her to feel free to make every attempt to be beautiful for me – how could either be true if I didn’t believe it?

Now is about the time I could start listing all the qualities I’m attracted to, but I won’t… instead, I’ll just say that I like someone who is “cute” and “beautiful” rather than “hot” (don’t act like you don’t know the difference). That doesn’t wear a pound of make-up. That is not taller or stronger than me. That is innocent and modest. That is a lady of noble character. That treats her body as a temple, stays in shape but is not rail thin.

Maybe she doesn’t exist. Maybe I’m way off. And I could be -- but until one of those statements are proven true, I will be content being single. Unless, of course, I find her… then I’ll snatch her up before some other hairy-legged punk. I hope this didn't seem like a personal ad -- it's really not. I really just wanted to lay out what I see when I think about a Godly woman, despite cultural traditions. Right now, I am content because I know that I am being held in God’s holy and powerful hand. Lord, help me with the part of me that is not content – that covets. Help me to be pure. Teach me to wait on, and be content in, You.

Lies and Betrayal

cheap grace fraud, saved not to be
Accuser paints, daily mural for me
what i did, thought and denied ago
on his mural, ashamed, i stand alone

writing on the wall, echoes of a fall
iron mixed with clay, standing fragile
a far cry from the head of gold
long since forgotten, truth be told

fact and lie, blinding facts and lies
spread the canvas, floods my eyes
the Power, which i do not call upon
cares to shed forth Light; as a pawn

i move to his piper tunes, blind mice
with a cross on hand, slow and nice
biting the tail ahead, on perdition trail
forgetting to look upon the betrayal

for what it is. a lie told, since adam
took hold his apple, slaying the Lamb
the stiff brush drops, from my grasp
at my feet of gold, strong and at last

i see the True Vine, from who i am
washing and drying, a Humble Lamb
i cry ‘Worship,’ my only response to
a God who serves a made new shrew

living streams, sweep the canvas aside
reveal deep waters, reflecting my inside:
a new creation, the old has passed away;
a new life, more abundant unto the Day.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


“And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.” Heb 10:24-25

I’ve become convinced that it is simply impossible to be a walking Christian without community. That’s not what the world tells us – in the world, it’s all about your “personal faith” or “private beliefs.” You don’t even have to attend church on Sunday to claim Christ, much less be deeply woven into a community of believers. I used to say, in my desire to avert religion, that you could be a Christian without going to church. I still believe that. You can be a Christian without ever stepping foot into a church building. But, you absolutely can not walk with the Lord without stepping out with commitment into a group, a community, a gathering of believers. You absolutely can not have all that God has for you – intimacy, growth, encouragement, selflessness, devotion, commitment, love, patience, peace, joy, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. You can’t dive deeply into the Kingdom of Heaven unless you are holding the hands of, being led by and leading God’s children. We are one body, brought to life by the Blood and moved and activated by His Spirit. Moving as one body.

Don’t be fooled. You can be a church attendee and have no community. If church is about checking off a list or if your deepest conversations go this far: “Hey, how ya doing?” Then, you have something in common with the residents of hell. You are alone. You are not in community. You are right where Satan wants you – divided, so you can be conquered. Brother, don’t put yourself in that place.

Maybe I’m being too harsh. Maybe. I’m only writing like this because I have been there. I’ve bounced from church to church. I’ve made many surface church friends. No more, Lord. I have committed to walk as Jesus did – and he was always in community and always, always deeply in love with his church. I’ve experienced, for the first time, a true love for the church. Love that makes me want to carry a cross and be hung for the sake of the Body. Don’t get me wrong. I am scared right now. I’ve asked God for months to remove any comfort I have that is not Him – and He is answering. Recently, I’ve asked God to take me as far as He wants to take me. Scary. And, over the past month, God has shown me how very little I know about Him. I have experienced things of the Holy Spirit I’m not ready to write about – simply because I don’t understand. I don’t understand – but meanwhile, all the things I had in my head about God have been transplanted into my heart. And it has changed everything.

Stepping into community is scary, I know. You may be rejected. You may be hurt. You may not feel comfortable. And these are all legitimate concerns because you’re dealing with humans. Entering it is perilous territory, but staying out is damning. Let me add this important disclaimer. I’m not saying you will lose your salvation or that you never had that free gift if you are out of community. I am only saying, get into community – your abundant life depends on it!

Come, Holy Spirit. Fill me up. Thank you for creating us for community. Help me to love the church, even with its flaws, as You love the church. The day is drawing near, Lord. The birthpains are growing closer together. Praise your Name! Amen.

On a side note, I thought it was kind of funny that the entries "Hell" and "Community" ended up right next to each other -- as they are diametrically opposed to one another. Satan wants you alone -- he, not God, gives you the anxiety that prevents you from stepping into a community. "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7

For more on this, read Acts 2 or “Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Sunday, October 23, 2005


"... the surest source of destruction to men is to obey themselves." John Calvin

"Whereas the primal relationship of man to man is a giving one, in the state of sin it is purely demanding. Every man exists in a state of complete voluntary isolation; each man lives his own life, instead of all living the same God-life." Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"Thus no one chooses in the abstract to go to hell or even to be the kind of person who belongs there. But their orientation toward self leads them to become the kind of person for whom away-from-God is the only place for which they are suited. It is a place they would, in the end, choose for themselves, rather than come to humble themselves before God and accept who He is. Whether or not God's will is infinitely flexible, the human will is not. There are limits beyond which it cannot bend back, cannot return or repent.

"One should seriously inquire if to live in a world permeated with God and the knowledge of God is something they themselves truly desire. If not, they can be assured that God will excuse them from His presence. They will find their place in the "outer darkness" of which Jesus spoke. But the fundamental fact about them will not be that they are there, but that they have become people so locked in their own self-worship and denial of God that they cannot want God." Dallas Willard

To Be Loved

Lately, God has been revealing something fundamental in the human soul that I’ve never really noticed before: our intrinsic desire to be loved. It’s the primary reason for everything we do… planted there, I believe, by God – but often “watered” with strange solutions that evaporate, kill and rot. From billboards with half-naked women and beer advertisements that declare “This Bud’s for you” but really mean “Drink this and beautiful, half-naked women will love you” to car advertisements that show little of the cars features but overtly suggest how satisfied it will make you; the advertisements clearly show it’s not the car’s features that make the sale, its how the car makes you feel. And why do we want a car, of all things, to make us feel anything? Why do we want make-up or beer or a Vice-President title or a round of applause? Why do some work jobs they will never love, just to put food on the table – while others work 80 hours in a week to reach that “big promotion?”

My answer: love. The desire to be loved by your family, your friends and your co-workers…. who all have one thing in common: They’re human and they will die. Please don’t get me wrong – desiring to be loved is not wrong. And certainly, doing things out of love for others is not a bad thing at all. It’s good. But, that human love will never replace the full and eternal love of God. Lord, why is this so hard for me to understand?

You can see it all around (and within) you; the desperate scratching and clawing for an ounce of pure, real love that no car, no man, no woman and no thing can provide. And the whole world is screaming for it! They’re dying -- no, killing themselves – just to get some. They spend hours getting ready to “go out” in the hopes they will attract love – they spend years buying bigger homes and amassing wealth so that sometime, somewhere, someone will say, “Look at him. Wow.”

“If I could just get that dress, or if he would just call, or if I just had this much money, or if I could just write that book… if I were that, then surely I would be loved. Surely that love would give me rest.” It’s so obvious, it SCREAMS from every insane move that we make! We workout for hours a week to look good – why? Is it really for our health? Maybe that’s part of the reason, but why is working out so much more of a priority for single young adults than married 45 year olds? The 45 year olds are the ones who should be concerned about their health! It’s not about health – it’s about being loved. The young adult wants someone to take notice and love.

What a powerful desire implanted in us – and what a strange way we try to satisfy it! We beat ourselves up and sacrifice even our lives for the mere hope of lasting, true love. Romeo and Juliet showed us that! Why do we identify with that story? Why do we all want to fall that desperately in love – even to the point of dying? It’s so strikingly beautiful and so awfully sad at the same time.

In most cases I’ve seen, the reason a girl gives her virginity to her boyfriend is that he promised his love will come with the act. But it doesn’t – it just brings more emptiness and shallow devotion. And the digression begins. The love we so eagerly pursued was not attained – and instead, we lose hope. If we can’t have love, we’ll have bitterness. At least bitterness is guaranteed.

Imagine, just for a moment, that all of our clawing and scratching stopped. No more flashy clothes and hairstyles, no more status symbols, no more grasping for straws. Imagine if we knew, deep in our core, that we were loved. Imagine if we no longer had to get approval – because we were already approved. Imagine if our restlessness gave in to rest. What if, we no longer had to look good to be worthy of love? What if, we no longer had to be successful to be satisfied? What if God’s love was enough? What if you could do anything you wanted with your life – because God loves you and you love Him. We’re all dying and willing to die and sacrifice for love that fades – why not die for Christ’s sake and live in the reality of His true, lasting love?

Lord, teach me to love others out of a response to the love you have for me -- not because I desire to be loved in return. Fill my desire to be loved. Teach me to stop grasping for straw intimacy and move deeper into your Throne Room. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


“and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:2

The Holy Spirit is like a smoke that descends into a house of prayer. (Isaiah 6:4) A fragrant cloud of love and mystery filling and expanding to every cavity, as smoke can, pressing the temple walls. Thickening from the incendiary heart that worships "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory." Thickening to dispel fleshes provisions, the root of my struggle. Pulling the reins of “Brother Ass” in an exhale of offering I share in joy with my joint-heir, Jesus the Christ. Billowing out from the windows of my soul and the door of my heart onto Broadway; the fragrance covers the gutters of fallen creation and the cobblestone of hardened souls. Roughshod over cobblestone rides the prince of this world wielding weapon slicing smoke, prowling for flesh to claim. A breath, Yahweh, from the cold stone rising to enter His Throneroom. “Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.” Lord, may my fragrance be only that of Christ -- so thick that I can not even be seen or heard. Selah. Amen.

Sunday, October 09, 2005


There is a tremendous amount of things that I do not know about God– and even some things which “I know” that may not be correct. How ridiculous is it for a Christian to think all of his/her beliefs about God are perfect? The truth is, all of us unknowingly carry false or incomplete beliefs. Lord help me to go forward in confidence with what I do know, while remaining flexible and humble enough to be wrong, be taught and be changed.

I was baptized as an infant – with the commitment from my family to “raise me up in the Lord.” A commitment which, I believe, was honored by my extended family over the years. It wasn’t until I was 17 years old that I accepted Jesus as my savior – and several years after that when my commitment became real – or, I started walking with the Lord. At that time, I made a commitment to walk as Jesus did (1 John 2:6).

For about two years I really wrestled with baptism. What is it? What does it do? Why? What does the water do? It seemed like religion to me. I searched the scripture and saw the baptism of the Spirit, a baptism I had received, as the necessary reality that has brought me to the intimacy I enjoy with Jesus. Why, with the Holy Spirit and a relationship with Jesus, did I need the water? Additionally, many ministers and pastors I spoke with agreed that I had in fact been baptized and another dunking wasn’t necessary. After all, I didn’t want to do anything for religion’s sake – only for Christ’s sake. Besides, so many false beliefs circle around this subject, such as being associated with salvation or the false idea that water “washes sins off,” that I didn’t even want to touch it.

But baptism again rose as a subject this weekend (several years later), when it was mentioned at a retreat– in passing, really – but it stirred something that made me want to search. I believed I was right, but I also didn’t want to ever close the door on the Truth. I went to the scriptures and read about Jesus’ baptism in Mathew 3. What caught my heart was when John tried to deter him, Jesus said that it must be done in order to “fulfill all righteousness.” Not to be saved, not to receive the Holy Spirit, but to fulfill all righteousness.

My friend also pointed to a lot of scripture concerning baptism, scripture I was very familiar with but didn’t lead me to believe that my baptism needed to be redone. We did, however, pray that the Holy Spirit would reveal His will. He (the Spirit) led me to an intimate exchange with God that I can’t articulate really, but in that I asked God to show me why I should be baptized. I just didn’t want to do it because of church tradition or religion and I certainly refused to accept that I was somehow “incomplete” without baptism. The Blood made me complete.

During a time of meditation, I walked around the outside of the room reflecting on some stations that called us to contemplate on who Jesus is… at the last station, there was a pair of sandals with the verse “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:6. At that, the picture of Christ’s baptism flashed in my mind and, almost at once, I understood that baptism was simply a part of fulfilling my commitment to “walk as Jesus did.” To fulfill all righteousness, as Jesus said.

For this reason, I was baptized as a believer this morning in the swimming pool at the Salvation Army retreat center near Midlothian, Texas. Praise Jesus. I believe there is some aspect of baptism I still do not understand – specifically the role it plays in “dying to myself,” my greatest desire. However, I do believe God will bless obedience and submissiveness to His will. Amen.

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Saints are sinners that keep going. – St. Augustine

One of my biggest roadblocks to Christ is shame. I often look back on my past not with a healthy contrition, but a dose of shame. Shame that is not of God. To make matters worse, all around me I watch as Christians, churches and non-believers approach Christianity as if a follower has to be a perfect human being – always polite, always well groomed and always, always smiling. No matter what, you must smile. Saying things like “I’ll be praying for you” or “Bless you,” is expected, even when you don’t mean it. You have to be a “nice guy” and you certainly shouldn’t struggle with sin. Just a few things they never say but often mean; as man looks on the outside of things, God looks at the heart.

As a result, many quit the race, and even fewer start, because of the burden on the believer to “have it all together” – and in place of that level of perfection, many who remain compensate by covering their sins. This covering of sins only adds to the world’s perception that Christianity is only an act.

Without question, perfection should be our aim -- but a culture that does not treat "sin struggles" with understanding, patience and love destroys the openness the community was intended to provide. After all, what is community if it’s not a support system for encouraging each other to continue the honest pursuit of Christ? In fact, instead of openness, we in the church find ourselves holding stones instead of forgiveness – adding to the weight of shame. We don’t encourage the prostitute to “go and sin no more,” we talk about how shameful she is. The stones we hold today aren’t rocks – but looks, snide comments and exclusion. We exclude the sinners from the church -- as if we ourselves are blameless apart from Christ.

Nowhere else is this more true today than in the church’s dealings with homosexuals. I look out and see the church taking two terrible extremes: condemning and condoning. The conservative churches say such terrible things against homosexuals that none would dare step foot in the doors -- shaming the sinner for sinning. The liberal churches, however, seem to say you can be a practicing homosexual and at the same time a follower of Christ.

In my opinion, both have terrible consequences. Christ did not come to heal the well, but the sick. The church’s mission today is to offer that healing through Christ rather than take potshots at specific groups of sinners. Imagine if a doctor condemned you for being sick? Would you ever go back to that doctor? At the same time, no one can remain who they are after deciding to follow Christ. Even “good” people. You, and everything in your flesh, must be crucified and die so that Christ may live in you. Homosexuality, love of money, lust, anger, jealousy and all other sins must be abandoned for Christ’s sake. Not once -- every day. And everyday our aim should be to pursue the grace of God and be a means of grace for others. One of the toughest questions I face is how to make clear the path for sinners to meet with the only God who can redeem them. In other words, how do you love the sinner without condoning the sin?

Through all this, I’ve found it true that the more Christ-like I become, the greater consumer of grace I am. I need grace to hold me up in righteousness, every day, in every moment. I will never be “there.” I will never be above temptation or stumbling – I will never be “good” as God is good. But one thing is for sure, I can not allow the fact that I am “not good” to stop or discourage me from approaching the holy and dangerous God I serve. I can, in fact, approach God with the confidence that my sins, though shameful, have been forgiven and forgotten because of the Son. I only wish we could all approach the American church with that same confidence.

'Burn Again'

“Too late came I to love you, O you beauty so ancient and so fresh, yes too late came I to love you. And behold, you were with me, and I out of myself, where I made search for you: in my ugliness I rushed headlong upon those beautiful things you have made. You were indeed with me; but I was not with you: these beauties kept me far enough from you: even those, which unless they were in you, would not be at all. You called and cried unto me, you even broke open my deafness: you discovered your beams and shone unto me, and chased away my blindness: you did most fragrantly blow upon me, and I drew in my breath and I pant after you; I tasted thee, and now do hunger and thirst after you; you didst touch me, and I even burn again to enjoy your peace.” – Confessions, St. Augustine

Lord, here’s my prayer tonight: give me no provisions but your voice. Take away any comfort I have that you have not given me through your grace. I don’t want it. To this, my flesh trembles and my Spirit shines.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

God's Tear

sometimes it just doesn't make sense in prose...

excruciating pain of a loss
an intimate friend who left
a love lost and moved on
to bed with another less than.

struck deep in void darkness and
willfully broken and stripped,
thorned and pierced by gold,
stable and nails to reach out

upward groans, not to be taken
but to be took, took by the lost
God’s tear and salt and pain not
for His wounds, but the wounded.

pains, birth pains, for dead jesters
alive for a world, dead in The Court
holding onto coin to drop the cross
God’s tear of salt and pain not lost…

lost on me, a deep pain drives sure
a laborious hurt and anguish that
drowns the voice of the world, a
tear of salt and pain to drown it all.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

A Step Missed

Have you ever walked down an old familiar flight of stairs, just to reach the bottom, miss a step and tumble to the floor? Naturally, I’m a klutz, so it’s not an uncommon feeling for me – but I experience this feeling in more than steps. Today, I led my first bible study group since college – in college, I led a lot of discussions, with lots of partners, in lots of settings, but tonight – tonight was different. It felt like my first time, all over again. I made the same silly mistakes, I was nervous, I didn’t know what to say, I couldn’t bare the silence… and my partner, I didn’t allow her to shine the way she could… God help me for thinking I know what I’m doing… God help me for thinking my doctrine is perfect. Lord, help me to give you the group and the message and the glory. Jesus, help me to hear your voice. II Corinthians 3:5.

I came home from this learning experience and my apartment door was decorated with ducks and flowers and wreaths and my doormat had been “stolen” and moved to my neighbor Billie’s apartment. I started to walk over and heard a loud scream -- I rushed inside to see thick smoke and uncontrollable laughter. Billie had burned her steak and my other neighbor, Dawn, was over for dinner. I stayed for an hour or so, but listened as God opened a conversation with a hurting and dying friend that night. At the moment I felt most awkward and inadequate, God seemed to say “Don’t worry about you. Your anxiety is mine. Your leadership, your talents, your discipleship, even your faith is mine. Don’t worry about the words or what people think or being wrong. I love you – and I’m going to use you. Trust me – my hands are capable.” I believe that, but man, how anxious am I in the storm? I so want to lead and to witness – but how uncomfortable, how scary is it to put myself “out there.” And yet, just after I had missed that step, in my humility and brokenness, God presented his eternal opportunity to love the unloved. And He moved.

Daddy, you have given me a broken and anguished heart beyond my understanding. I can’t feel “normal” anywhere – I can’t help but ache when I see the hurt and pain that sin causes in your creation. Help me Father, not to succumb to that same sin that I grieve over. Help me to trust you. Help me to get over myself, get beyond myself, beyond my fear and wear your anguished heart that I feel in the closet when I step out in the open. Help my heart to stay at the bottom of the steps, broken and humble, available for you to lead me back up. God, the enemy doesn’t want me to get back up or bear fruit – help me, Father.

I have so much I want to write about -- lots of doctrine and ideas and theology, things I've thought about on long drives -- but all I can write is what you got above. It's hard to focus on the "classroom" when you're in the heat of battle.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Psalm 55

1 Listen to my prayer, O God,
do not ignore my plea;

2 hear me and answer me.
My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught

3 at the voice of the enemy,
at the stares of the wicked;
for they bring down suffering upon me
and revile me in their anger.

4 My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death assail me.

5 Fear and trembling have beset me;
horror has overwhelmed me.

6 I said, "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest-

7 I would flee far away
and stay in the desert;

8 I would hurry to my place of shelter,
far from the tempest and storm."

9 Confuse the wicked, O Lord, confound their speech,
for I see violence and strife in the city.

10 Day and night they prowl about on its walls;
malice and abuse are within it.

11 Destructive forces are at work in the city;
threats and lies never leave its streets.

12 If an enemy were insulting me,
I could endure it;
if a foe were raising himself against me,
I could hide from him.

13 But it is you, a man like myself,
my companion, my close friend,

14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
as we walked with the throng at the house of God.

15 Let death take my enemies by surprise;
let them go down alive to the grave, [b]
for evil finds lodging among them.

16 But I call to God,
and the LORD saves me.

17 Evening, morning and noon
I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice.

18 He ransoms me unharmed
from the battle waged against me,
even though many oppose me.

19 God, who is enthroned forever,
will hear them and afflict them—
men who never change their ways
and have no fear of God.

20 My companion attacks his friends;
he violates his covenant.

21 His speech is smooth as butter,
yet war is in his heart;
his words are more soothing than oil,
yet they are drawn swords.

22 Cast your cares on the LORD
and he will sustain you;
he will never let the righteous fall.

23 But you, O God, will bring down the wicked
into the pit of corruption;
bloodthirsty and deceitful men
will not live out half their days.
But as for me, I trust in you.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Be still...

“God, what do you want me to do? Do you want me to start my own company or buy some rental property or move to Africa or move to California or start a church or start a camp or buy a franchise or go to seminary or go to business school or save more money or give more money away or start dating or get married or become a monk or maybe a priest or join the military or move to Africa – sorry, I already mentioned that one – or pray more or study more or read the bible or read about real estate or exercise more or move apartments or sell my truck or... hmmm, maybe I could buy a new car or get a roommate or clean my apartment… or get more sleep or maybe sleep less…”

Welcome to the mind of Brad for the past 8 weeks. Ever since I started working, my mind has been consumed with everything I’ve ever wanted to do and am not doing now. I come home at lunch and get on my face and plead “God, where are you?” I can barely breathe. I am more confused than ever – and I have not felt God’s peace about much lately. There are so many things I’m passionate about that I want to do – and I keep going to God not to hear his will for my life, but just to build sand castles in my own mind. I read verses like Matthew 8:19-22 and I wonder – “Did I miss the boat? Am I like the scribe? Is that why I’m not in the Philippines right now?” A very low and negative voice whispers, “Yes, you missed it, Brad.”

‘What I want’ has so swallowed me that I’ve literally been rendered neutral in my effectiveness as a soldier for Christ. It has become abundantly clear to me that I have been under Satan’s attack for the past 8 weeks – he’s attacked my mind and used my desires and dreams to tear me away from God’s peace and current mission. The truth is, none of the things I’ve listed above will ever bring me peace or make me content.

Finally, I came back to God and asked the same question with a new heart. “God, my life is yours. What do you want me to do?” and I waited and listened.

“Be still and know that I am God.”
“Be content where you are and trust me.”
“I know the plans I have for you – plans to prosper you.”
“You are right where I want you – don’t listen to the Liar.”
“I love you and will never leave you.”

God, thank you that you are a God of clarity and wisdom. Confusion and deception are not of you – you are a God of joy and hope and love. Thank you for restoring your peace in me. Help me go to sleep in your hands. I will rest in you – I will be still and know that you are God.

The Great King

Once upon a time, there was a great and powerful King. He lived in a huge, shiny castle with lots of guards, a big giant moat on top of a gianormous mountain. He ruled his kingdom well – as no other king could hope to rule. He knew everything that happened in his land and he enforced the laws with wisdom and strength. He was tough, but he was kind.

Some of the peasants loved and admired the King. “What a great King we have – he commands his army to protect us and provides all that we need, if we work to serve him.” Others say, “Our king is wiser than any other!” and “Praise and honor to our King!”

Other peasants did not like the King. “Great King? What has he done for me? I’ve never even seen him – he just stays in his castle all day and has a great old time – while I’m down here working his fields. I don’t even know if he exists, come to think of it.” And others say, “If he’s so great – why is my mother dying of cancer, anyway?” and “I don’t need the king and his ideas – I’m just fine by myself – thank you.”

As a son of a farmer, and young servant boy, you don’t know what to think of this King. You’ve never met him yourself – and everyone seems to say something different about him. No doubt, this King is the center of discussion.

Then, one day you meet a young boy about your age in the market. He claims to know the King – but given his appearance, you have your doubts. You hang out on the weekends until one day you ask him – “If you know him, can you show me the King?”

He smiles and you follow him through the village, all the way up the mountain and over the cobblestone street to the castle gates. You’ve never been this close – and the castle is even bigger and overwhelming than it seems from the village. As you and your friend approach, the draw bridge opens and all the guards bow down as you pass.

“What a nice gesture,” you think. Until you realize, those guards are not bowing for you, but for your friend. Suddenly, the King appears and picks your friend up joyfully, “Son, welcome home! Who is your friend?” You are introduced and the very King himself greats you with warmth and love and hospitality. You are invited to eat with the King at his table and he shares with you the riches of his kingdom.

Now, as the son of a farmer, you have access to the King. Because you know the Son, you can sit in the King’s courts and learn of his wisdom. You see that the King deeply loves each of his people in the Kingdom – he rejoices over his hardworking and diligent servants and agonizes over his lost and confused peasants. You understand that he would give anything – even your friend, his own son – just so his people would know him and learn to live in his will. You see he is a truly great and wise King – not distant and cold like some say – but as intimate and loving as a father.

As you leave, the King pulls you aside. “You are friends with my Son – now, you are my son as well. Everything I have is yours. Go and invite everyone you know to my castle.”

As you return to the village, you see that nothing has changed. The opinions of the King still vary greatly – but you have met Him – you know Him, you are his son. You invite everyone you know to the castle but few accept the invitation. Few believe you know King – they have known you all their life, and you are just a peasant. But the one thing they can’t deny is that everything about you is suddenly different. Everything about you is aligned to serve the King.