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Sunday, November 30th, 2008 - 10:47 PM

"Hope Shine"

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Romans 15:13 ESV

Today's service at Ethnos was amazing. Once again the presence of the Holy Spirit was administered in power. I have had a quite discouraging week - one of the worst in my life perhaps. I needed a glimmer of hope, and it rained down this evening. Thank you Lord!

This week begins the Advent season, and today's service focused on hope. Much of the service was spent in corporate prayer and sharing time. It was a thing of beauty. People feel free to be transparent here. This availability for openness is what freed me from my own desperate darkness. It was in this way that I was exposed to the Light. I believe it is equally important for others to be forthright about their problems. There is mega strength in the Body of Christ. We must break the bondage of this culture's encouragement toward autonomy and isolation. We need each other.

Today we prayed for those who needed it. In fact, everyone was prayed for. We broke up into small groups and prayed for each other. Following the personal prayers, we huddled around the advent table and prayed what Anthony referred to as "Korean Style Prayer". Basically, we all prayed out orally at the same time. I am so amazed at the beauty of this event. I would like to do it more often. There was a sense that we were offering up our prayers directly to the mercy seat of God Almighty, Yahweh Most High! Not that we should ever doubt, but today I am sure our prayers were heard!

The worship in song was inspired and vibrant. Anthony led us into the throne room. In fact, I'd say it was the best worship service I've attended in a long time. Something(s) about it hit me powerfully. A shining message of hope was offered to us, and we encouraged each other with stories of hope in our lives. Oh God, what an amazing night! I could not help but smile hugely as I was singing because God's presence was so clear. The gifts of the members of His Body were shining, shining, shining! O man, you should'a been there! Now THAT's church! :)

I felt like we shined tonight as lights of hope in this dark world. The spiritual world surely was shaken, the forces of darkness disrupted. That is the glory of our King, when He stirs the hearts of His servants. We have the power and authority of His Name at our disposal, the wonderful Name of Jesus!

Like the recent altar call service, this too was a much needed service, one I have longed for. I have needed so long to sing some of the songs we sang today, to pray in the way we prayed today. I was brought to tears because the Spirit moved me with great emotion. Even now I can't hold back the tears. Glory to the name of Jesus!

As the Jews waited in great expectation of the Messiah to come to earth, we now wait for Jesus' second return. This season of advent represents this time of waiting. Not only that, but we groan in our spirits for that time when everything will be redeemed. Creation waits eagerly with us. He has redeemed us, and He is in the process of changing our hearts. What a mighty God we serve. Nothing is too difficult for Him! All things are possible with God.

Yes, there is hope. There is hope indeed. One of the songs we sang had a powerful line - we screamed it out, while Anthony, Mark, Sarah and Wes jammed!

The Best is Yet to Come!

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

Romans 8:18-19 ESV

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Saturday, November 29th, 2008 - 1:18 AM

"H.G. Wells of Living Water"

living water overflow

Ha! I purposely drew you in with a clever title. Sorry you science fiction fanatics! I won't be talking about Herbert George Wells, the famous early science fiction author. Rather, the Holy Ghost is my Subject. I have been baptized in the Spirit of God by the power and authority of Jesus Christ. A missing piece of the "Christian puzzle" has been filled in, and let me tell you it was a whopper piece! Before I could hardly even tell what the few pieces would come together to form. Now a big chunk of the picture is visible.

The final image of the artwork God is painting in our lives will not be fully revealed in this lifetime. Nevertheless, at least now I am beginning to see more purpose to this madness called life. Our dark generation offers much confusion and ugly muck to blind it. We are bombarded by it and corrupted from birth. The Holy Spirit has a way of washing out by purifying Light. I recently received this matchless gift and am basking in the Spirit's endless healing flow. The fruit that Adam plucked corrupted the totality of man's best mental aspirations. Only by the fruit of the Spirit of God and His baptism can we regain some of what was lost in the curse. We have the chance to figuratively walk with God in the Garden again.

I don't think we often realize how much the puzzles of our lives are already complete. It's easy to overlook God's presence and work in our lives because nothing in this world points us to look to God, the Invisible. Faith is a foreign concept nowadays. Our lack of wisdom and sleepy eyes necessitates painful and sudden changes in order for us to see God at work. This should not be so.

Lately I have been recording my life's journey every step of the way and encourage everyone to consider doing the same. With a record it is easier to see progress. Such encouragement also drives us to more expedient transformation and will help us avoid some of the common pitfalls that result from complacency and spiritual blindness. The faithful investment of recording our path with God also produces an incredible sensitivity to Him, further breaking down the deception of this age.

In the span of the last 4 months much has been miraculously made known to me by the power and mercy of my First Love. My God is mighty to save, infinitely compassionate, and gentle with His correction. He is aware of my lowly state and knows the limits of what I can handle.

Meu Amor

Please, Abba! Please! I beg of You! Restore what is missing! Fix what is broken! Heal what is sick! My life is ebbing away. I love her more than life. How can I continue? Only You can provide. Heal my broken heart. I am crushed in spirit. My bed is flooded with tears. Abba! Daddy who gave me Your breath and a new heart, also lend me Your shoulder. My heart is broken. If I have a well of living water, it is leaking from mine eyes. This broken pot cannot contain You. Hold me close, let Your love surround me. Bring me near, draw me to Your side. And as I wait, I'll rise up like an eagle. And I will soar with You, Your Spirit leads me on in the power of Your love.

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Thursday, November 27th, 2008 - 11:43 AM

"And the Monkeys Feasted and Rejoiced"

"Oo Oo Ah Ah!"
(Happy Thanksgiving!)

May God bless you with the richness of family and friends.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

Psalm 100:4 NIV

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
to one who orders his way rightly
I will show the salvation of God!

Psalm 50:23 NIV

Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.

Psalm 105:1-2 NIV

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Wednesday, November 26th, 2008 - 12:20 AM

"Annoying Slime Phantasm"

In the year 3085 we will have flying cars, flying houses, flying thoughts, flying bass guitars and coffee flavored eyebrows. Though stuff like "web browsers", "da web altagetha" and "communication via written alpha characters" and "computers" will be long obsolete and stone age-ish... the W3C will still exist, and we will be stuck with CSS 2.1.0.0.1.2.3 r1 alpha, and CSS 3 will not yet be released as a "recommendation". So don't get any "fancy ideas", web designers. By the time your favorite markup language gets a boost, you will be out of a job because the web won't exist as a platform for design anymore. Besides, imagine the danger of things like advanced selectors, multiple backgrounds per element, flowing columns and many other haphazard "advancements" would have if unleashed on the world before their proper time! Insane punks with muskets and frozen TV dinners might frolic in the streets! Beware of smelly food muskets!

Hopefully one of da big wigs will read this and realize that 15 years between web design advancement "recommendations" is really lame - and maybe do something about it! Um... not likely. Too bad my blog won't exist in 3085 to verify. It would possibly be cached in the Google Empire's logs even then... but by then the worldwide brainwash will have worn off, and people will have moved on to follow a different miracle life-change-zappo-promising freakazoid megalith.

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Monday, November 24th, 2008 - 1:43 PM

"Lord of Mouths"

But Moses said to the LORD, "Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue." Then the LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak." But he said, "Oh, my Lord, please send someone else." Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses and he said, "Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs."

Exodus 3:10-17 ESV

After listening to Genesis several times at work I've now moved on to Exodus. Exodus chapter 3 really struck me this time through. I am convicted by God's words to Moses. I have read this passage many times before. This was not the first time I noticed the similarity between Moses and me. Today I felt a stronger connection and was convicted of lacking faith.

It seems Moses and I suffer from the same problem. Our gift is not in the verbal arts. Oration and speech don't come easy to me. Preaching, teaching, message delivery, and all types of oral communication are among my weaknesses and fears.

God has been speaking a message directly into me. The very message of the Word of God has been transforming me. By the breath of a whisper from the Holy Spirit of God I am created new from within. He created light out of the void in me. Rather, He IS the Light within me! He has made His dwelling in me and has been cleaning house (though my flesh resists painfully). Every corner is unfolded so no painful crease can hide a dark secret or lie.

I feel the amazing, miraculous work of the Holy Spirit in me is something to be shared. Since this calling out of darkness began some months ago, I have been compelled to share openly of my experiences. The Bible has become alive to me in new ways, exploding off the page! A new passion for service to the Kingdom of God has sprung up from within me. All of this and more has been happening to me and my heart. Sometimes it seems too much, that I will burst.

Oh Lord, may I not resist Your Spirit. I am certainly least qualified among Your servants to lead, to teach and to shepherd others. I'm even afraid of such responsibility. What if I fall? I am full of sin and pride. I have a hard time seeing past the nebulous cloud of self. My ears are closed to You even though You speak with incredible clarity. I hear You more than ever. At the same time, I feel my ears are bolted shut. The wall of flesh is my vice. There is more You have to say, and I fear the most important parts are lost in translation.

Continue to transform me by Your Light and Life. Cover me with Your blood. Protect me from the evil that calls my name and woos me by night. The sneaky dark shadows vie for my attention. Your power is stronger. You can crush them all. Destroy my enemies. Blind them to confuse their efforts. My Lord is my Rock and Shelter. In Him will I trust. All else is dust and shadow. I love the One who saves me.

May Your love and mercy be found in me. I want to rest my life in Your hands. Lord, use even my weakness. Because You are strong, it can be evident that Your hand has done it. I take no credit and wish to parry all glory with perfect angular deflection straight back to You! All praise be to You and the Name that is above every other!

Be the Lord of my mouth. I cannot speak a single word without stumbling. My tongue is either afire with serpent-like poison, or I become one of numb and dumb mumblings.

You are the One who enabled the tongue of Moses. You indeed were the very mouth of Moses. Lord, in so much as You are willing to use the frailty of my being, be my tongue. I don't want the title of "prophet" to exalt me before my brothers. I simply want to become less so You are more. Use me mightily for Your kingdom. Shine! In Jesus name, amen.

For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, "Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?" Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, "Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?" But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

Deuteronomy 30:11-14 ESV

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Monday, November 24th, 2008 - 9:22 AM

"The Blood of Jesus is Ridiculously Powerful"

Jesus

Don't be mistaken. He cannot be mocked. He's coming in power.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.

Matthew 25:31 NIV

The only way I can wait is because I have to! Reminds me that the time is short.
There are things to be done. I hope to be part of all dat.

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Thursday, November 20th, 2008 - 11:19 PM

"Please, May I Have a Second Helping?"

We never had "a song".
Now that you are gone,
this is my song for you.
I love you more than life.

I don't want to live without your love
I don't want to face the night alone
I could never make it through my life
If I had to make it on my own
I don't want to love nobody else
I don't want to find somebody new
I don't want to live without your love
I just want to live my life with you.

cross

The First Helping

Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone;
I will make him a helper suitable for him."

So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man,
and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place.

The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man,
and brought her to the man.

The man said,
"This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man."

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother,
and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Genesis 2:18,21-25 NASB

cross

Oh bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh...

Where are you?

My missing rib is far and twice removed.

The ones I yet have are broken.

I'm bleeding inside

I have no helper.

She's not helping.

One step undone, may as well undo the rest.

I'll return to the dust.

Take my breath away.

Swallow me whole.

Nothing left but:

Void. Darkness. The Deep.

cross

The Second Helping

Start From Scratch

The earth was formless and void,
and darkness was over the surface of the deep,
and the Spirit of God was moving
over the surface of the waters.

Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.

God saw that the light was good;
and God separated the light from the darkness.

cross

Oh Lord, my helper is gone!

Oh Lord, may I have a second Helping?

I am so lonely I feel as if I dwell in the void, in darkness.

Even though You spoke to me "Let there be Light!"

And there was Light.

Oh Lord, can You replace what I've lost?

I've called out to You night and day

Though Help comes, I weep again.

Help me, Your son, Your beloved.

I am Yours, for no one else wants me.

Aside from You, I have no one to claim me.

Take me, Spirit.

Move over my deep, over the surface of my waters.

Speak a new creation into me: "Let there be Light!"

cross

Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD?
He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword.
Your enemies will cower before you, and you will trample down their high places.

Deuteronomy 33:29 NIV

But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand.
The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.

Psalm 10:14 NIV

Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior.

Psalm 27:9 NIV

Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me; O LORD, be my helper.

Psalm 30:10 NASB

Behold, God is my helper; The Lord is the sustainer of my soul.

Psalm 54:4 NASB

The LORD is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies.

Psalm 118:7 NIV

So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"

Hebrews 13:6 NIV

cross

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;

John 14:16 NASB

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name,
He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

John 14:26 NASB

cross

If ever I needed a second Helping, it was now.

I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their power when Thou art nigh.

I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is in vain.

I need Thee every hour; teach me Thy will;
And Thy rich promises in me fulfill.

I need Thee every hour, most Holy One;
O make me Thine indeed, Thou blessed Son.

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Thursday, November 20th, 2008 - 10:00 PM

"A Web Site Eighteen Years in the Making"

It's about time (I'm gettin' old!)... theoretically, nervously, quadsifically, bionetricondensically, meanderthalitonariotrism, callbroodbeansundualbreakage... gerguats.

Jim Guys

Expect the best: jimguys.com Wait for it...!

WHAT?! 18 years, and that's all you can come up with? Pathetic.

Phil
Why yes, yes it is.
So what?
Who cares?
Smithsonian Ketchup Restoration.

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Tuesday, November 18th, 2008 - 4:11 PM

"Gimme Some Red Stuff"

Red Stew (Stuff)

Every once in a while the wording chosen in a particular version of the Bible strikes me as funny - if not hilarious. Today I encountered one of those choice, giggly verses. I have been listening to Genesis today, from an audio New American Standard Bible (NASB). The NASB is well-noted as being a fairly literal translation compared to some others. In regard to Bible versions, "literal" refers to dedicated faithfulness to word-for-word translation from the original languages (sometimes sacrificing readability). The other extreme of translation would be called "dynamic" or thought-for-thought (the extreme of which loses accuracy and literary beauty). NASB is not as literal as King James, but is less dynamic than NIV - at least that's what people say. However, let's take a look at Genesis 25:30. The list below is ordered more-or-less from most literal (word-for-word) at the top to most dynamic (thought-for-thought or paraphrased) at the bottom.

And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.

Genesis 25:30 KJV


And Esau said to Jacob, "Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary." Therefore his name was called Edom.

Genesis 25:30 NKJV


And Esau said to Jacob, "Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!" (Therefore his name was called Edom.)

Genesis 25:30 ESV


He said to Jacob, "Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I'm famished!" (That is why he was also called Edom.

Genesis 25:30 NIV


Esau said to Jacob, "I'm starved! Give me some of that red stew!" (This is how Esau got his other name, Edom, which means "red.")

Genesis 25:30 NLT


and said, "I'm starving to death! Give me some of that red stew right now!" That's how Esau got the name "Edom."

Genesis 25:30 CEV


Esau came in from the field, starved. Esau said to Jacob, "Give me some of that red stew - I'm starved!" That's how he came to be called Edom (Red).

Genesis 25:30 The Message

Comparing these various popular Bible versions, all of them pretty much say the same thing. Esau wanted the red stew (or "pottage"). If you look up the Strongs number for the word, this rendering seems fairly accurate. It was some sort of soup or stew. Okay, NOW look at how the NASB renders this verse, keeping in mind that the NASB is a Bible translation fairly well known for being on the literal side of the scale. Prepare for it now... this is awesome!

and Esau said to Jacob, "Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished." Therefore his name was called Edom.

Genesis 25:30 NASB

STUFF!??! Awesome! Now I KNOW I chose the right Bible version to listen to! When you think about it though... Esau was very famished, probably bending over in stomach pains as he stumbled into the room. It's quite possible he might have said something that reads in English as "Dude! Gimme some of that red stuff!" or simply, "Bro! Hand that over now!". Nevertheless, I don't really understand why the translators chose to substitute a more general word for something that is pretty specific and doesn't need to be generalized, even to meet the demands of changing language patterns. Oh well. It's not all that important to me. It sure gave me a chuckle to hear it said in my ears though!

Oh, and by the way, in case you are a massively legalistic, literalistic scholar, consider this. Do you think the use of the fairly modern word "stuff" is heresy? Did you know that the oldest commonly used version of the Bible, the King James Version, uses the word "stuff" a bunch of times? It is used exactly the same way you or I use it today! Don't believe me? See here! And you thought this was a fairly modern, lazy word! Think again! There is no better word than "stuff". How can you describe a group of things that aren't related to each other? It's the only word that works, dude! The only use of the word that you probably won't find in any Bible is the "pointless suffix" use: "Today I went to the mall, ate lunch at Subway, got my pictures from Costco, and stuff."

So, in the end, what is the more accurate word for Genesis 25:30? Stew or stuff? I'll leave it for you to decide for yourself. In general, don't base your life off a whim impression - this is the very Word of God, to be considered deeply and carefully... though on matters of "stew" and "stuff", I think it's not a matter of life or death. Speaking of Bible versions, which one do you read? Give me some reasons why you decided for "your" version or against the others. Me? I read (or listen to) all of the ones listed in this blog post (except the CEV and Message - too "iffy" for my studious, detail-oriented taste). I also have one other one. I think it is an ASV Study Bible or something.

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Tuesday, November 18th, 2008 - 11:54 AM

"Beer Lahai Roi"

Hagar and Ishmael

I've always been fascinated with words. I like words that sound either 1) really horribly strange and cacophonous, or 2) beautifully flowing words. I think if I had time in this life I'd create 2 languages - one that is horrible sounding (like Klingon) and one that flows (like Elvish in Lord of the Rings).

I've created a large number of words myself. Many of my pencil drawings have names that are composed of words that don't otherwise exist. This whole appreciation for neology is part of the micro-subculture of me and my eternal friends, the Jim Guys.

That said, I have always liked the Hebrew phrase, "Beer Lahai Roi". I guess I would say it has elements that are both flowing and cacophonous. I guess that's why I like: it includes the best of both worlds! I have no hidden message in this blog post. I am listening to Genesis today, and I heard the word. I couldn't pass up the chance to report of my appreciation. :) For the record, Beer Lahai Roi means "The well of the God who sees me". It is surrounding the account of Hagar and Ishmael, when an angel of God met them in the desert. I suppose there is significance even in those translated words. I would like to go to the well of the God who sees me. Yet those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ have within us a well of living water which springs to eternal life, and we shall never thirst again! Heck yeah! That's where I'm at! I have recently experienced an awareness of this well. I am indeed refreshed by the Spirit of Christ! Okay, didn't intend to have a "message", but I guess that was it! :)

Yeah! Beer Lahai Roi!
You Go, Girl! (to the well)

I think that is maybe what the angel is saying above.
He was kind of a cheerleader angel.
The painter forgot the pom poms.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?" (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

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

"Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?"

Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

John 4:7-14 NIV

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Tuesday, November 18th, 2008 - 9:40 AM

"Ethnos Web Team Meeting"

Ethnos

Last night was the first among hopefully many meetings we will have regarding restructuring the Ethnos Church web site. It has been a couple years since any significant revisions have been made to the site, and it's about time. Much of the information is outdated, and there are some incomplete ideas. A team of people interested in helping was formed several weeks ago. Not everyone could make it to the meeting last night, but it was a very profitable time with those who came.

I'm really glad to be part of this team. It's not clear yet what my contribution will be. Just to be involved with a group of cool, like-minded individuals is a great blessing for me. I am always in need of company anyway. There's no better company than the people of God, and to be discussing work for His kingdom is a godsend.

Though there is no physical product manifested from our meeting, I believe we got a good start on discussing some of the goals for the project. We weighed several options against each other and tried to determine what we envision in an improved web site. Matt is especially excited to get cracking on the work, which is encouraging to me.

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Monday, November 17th, 2008 - 5:47 PM

"Right Time Song Deliverance"

As I was leaving work on my bike today a burdensome thought slipped into my mind - one I didn't want to be there. It troubled me, and so I asked Jesus to give me a song to cover it. As if by magic, the "right" song came immediately, and I sang it all the way home. I couldn't help but smile because it was so appropriate.

You Are My Hiding Place

Michael Ledner

You are my hiding place,
You always fill my heart with songs of deliverance.
Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.
I will trust in You.
Let the weak say I am strong in the strength of my Lord.

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Monday, November 17th, 2008 - 2:25 AM

"Oh Man, the Mercy Seat"

Dave said it way better. I'm not trying to preach though, except to myself. So it doesn't have to be brief or sound good (didn't even proof read those last two monsters). If all this stuff is unbearably long, I'm sorry. I'm trying to capture the message that was spoken to me, that came through loud and clear.

Dave made allusions to the horns of the altar in the sermon today. The blood of sacrifices is poured on the four corners of the altar. These points represent the very place where God's mercy comes down. To grab them and weigh down on them is to request mercy in absolute humility and trembling. We had an old-fashioned altar call today with this symbolism in mind. Again, like I was torn with great sorrow some weeks ago (still need to write about that)... I ran to the altar of the cross. I have needed this for longer than I can describe. I grew up in a Pentecostal church where altar calls were a weekly occurrence.

Lord, forgive me for not having the mercy in my heart that You do. You love me in spite of the worst darkness, yet I have not spent my life sharing mercy with others. I beg Your forgiveness for being an unprofitable servant. Stir in me a passion and light a flame. Embolden me against the darkness and give me the ability to explain clearly my relationship with the MIGHTY ONE. You are beautiful in Your majesty. You are the MOST HIGH. Your Name is too lofty for our tongues, yet You have chosen to call us "sons and daughters".

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Monday, November 17th, 2008 - 12:01 AM

"Be Intentional About Being Missional 2"

Part II: "I Desire Mercy and Not Sacrifice"

As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector's booth; and He said to him, "Follow Me!" And he got up and followed Him. Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, "Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?" But when Jesus heard this, He said, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. "But go and learn what this means: 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Matthew 9:9-13 NASB

If I remember right, some cool observations Dave made from the text:

  • "And he got up and followed Him" - It was a pretty big deal for Matthew, a tax collector, to get up and follow Jesus immediately. He had an important job. There would be consequence to leaving a job such as his. It's possible the Romans would have hunted him down. Jews at the time were under Roman rule and considered second class citizens at best. Matthew was a Jew. His profession was considered by his people to be a traitor's job. After all, he collected money for the empire that oppressed them and took away their freedom. What good sense would it make to follow a man, Jesus, who also offended his people? Matthew probably also had a lucrative position and may have even cheated to get more, as was a common practice among tax collectors at the time.
  • "Jesus was reclining at the table" - Shows how willing Jesus was to mingle with those of disrepute. He didn't linger near the door, ready to speak to any passers by. He didn't sit high and proper, so as to visually separate Himself from the brood. No, He reclined in comfort, just as any other invited guest. These people were "tax collectors" and "sinners". The Pharisees rebuked Jesus through their questions concerning His choice to associate with such folk.
  • "Go and learn what this means" - Don't we so often wait until we think we are ready to serve before doing anything for the Kingdom of God? We are better equipped with knowledge in this country than perhaps anywhere else. We know the Bible - or can know it - because of our direct access to it and many other resources far and wide. How many times reading the Bible, how many Bible degrees, how many studies will we have to experience before we deem ourselves "ready"? Jesus here says, "Go and learn"... and then gives a command that tells us what we should be doing. We need to show mercy. If we indeed have received this great mercy from Christ in the forgiveness of our sins, we should be prepared to show the same mercy to others. But rather than waiting eternally until we think we are ready, it is a challenge to go AND learn. The times are evil and short. We don't even know if any of us will be alive tomorrow. As uncomfortable as it sounds, people are going to hell! It's about time we set aside our shame and doubt and DO something!
  • "I desire compassion (mercy), and not sacrifice" - While talking with Dave this afternoon, I expressed to him a little bit of a struggle I have with this verse. It reminded me of another verse in I Samuel 15:22. I mentioned how I don't fully understand what either Scripture means - partially, but not fully. The terminology isn't exactly clear in my mind. After all, aren't we called to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to the Lord? And aren't we to bear our cross and share in the sufferings of Christ? Won't we be persecuted and even killed for the sake of Christ? Aren't we supposed to submit our will to God's, even when it means giving up things we value? Dave made the keen observation from this verse that it says, "I desire", not "I require". If Jesus had said, "I require mercy, not sacrifice", it would mean that one must be done, and not the other. Instead, Jesus gets to the heart of the matter. He doesn't free us from all responsibility to sacrifice, but He says He desires mercy MORE than sacrifice. This is to say that He desires our hearts to reflect the same love He has, not for us to be motivated by our own agendas and what we can DO to please Him and justify ourselves. It's not about our works. It's about the attitude of our hearts. Yes, when we understand mercy - the compassion of God - works will follow, even sacrifice. This was a very good answer to my lacking understanding of what Jesus was saying here. It had bothered me in previous readings that Jesus said, "Go and learn what this means", and I myself didn't really understand exactly what He meant! Am I as bad in my understanding as the Pharisees? Perhaps sometimes. Nevertheless, it now makes a whole lot more sense to me. I just needed an exegetical explanation from someone who has better understanding of words and thought progression.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:1-2 NIV

Elder Dave shared a cool illustration that I'll try to recreate. It was a concept that came out of a meeting he had with Megan earlier last week. I'm thankful it ended up being used in the sermon as an illustration because it is one of the most powerful missional ideas I've heard. I had a bit more time to let it sink in, as Dave showed it to me in our meeting before the service. It really struck a note with me... the implications of which will take some time for me to process fully. However, in the spirit of this sermon, I hope to GO AND LEARN, rather than sit and ponder until I've completely understood it (never). It's a message that should result in immediate action and change.

Dave and Megan's Missions Diagram

This diagram shows a severe misunderstanding we as Christians often have of mission work. It is broad and general, but it illustrates a poignant truth. Those passionate about following God or who have felt called by God often get intimidated by it, or even fearful. Some people say, "Well, if I follow His call, surely He will send me to deepest and darkest Africa!". Others, who are perhaps more zealous or "willing to obey" might say, "I assume, since I'm open to the call, that He will send me to Africa, China or a Muslim country. I'm ready to go. Here am I, send me!"

Dave shared some feedback from missionaries regarding the field of Africa. There are certain areas of Africa that are among the most receptive to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As the result, huge numbers have given their hearts to God. Part of the reason they are so quick to turn is because of oppression they face. Their great physical need makes these people ripe for harvest. The message Dave heard is, "We are not planning to send a great deal of missionaries to this area, because everyone is already Christian!" Now, obviously even if that is partially true, all these new Christians are in deep need of discipleship. They still have former beliefs and practices ingrained into them. So there is need, even in these "reached" areas for further work.

I've thought of mission work myself, and in some ways I've not feared being sent to a far away place. My reason for lacking fear further illustrates the concept of the mission diagram. I don't fear going to places like Brazil or Africa so much. Because of the receptiveness in the needy hearts, much progress can be made. It feels like "you're doing some good". Even a person who lacks great evangelism skills like me could probably present the basic truths of the Good News of Jesus Christ and produce some fruit in such places. Like Dave said, "Jesus is a product that sells Himself!"

Rather, I have come to realize my greatest fear in thoughts of missionary work is this: being called to the United States of America! The chart above has two spiral shapes. The one on the left represents the United States. The other represents the mission field far and wide - Africa, China, etc. We assume that being called to make disciples will involve going to the farthest reaches of the earth. The huge arch represents this "great feat" of traveling to such a place and "enduring" all the cultural differences and "danger". After all, in some of these places, a person could die for sharing the faith! Woah, death. That's pretty bad, huh?

I do not fear death. I submit to you that most Christians, if they really think about it, don't fear death horribly. Why should we? We know the reward that awaits us, even Christ. Of course we don't want pain and persecution, but we are well aware that none of us is immortal. Whether in peace and by old age, or by war and disease, we will all die.

I think rather than fearing death, we fear rejection. We fear humiliation. We don't want to go out on a limb and look the part of a fool. We want people to think we are cool, that we can fit in with "their" crowd and be just like them. Or perhaps I just speak for myself. Okay, so I'm not much in the way of conforming... but I do sometimes fear rejection. Let me tell you a worse rejection we risk facing with such an attitude:

Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 10:32-33 NASB

The diagram above illustrates a fateful mistake. Some countries in the world are ripe for the harvest, where needy souls jump for joy at the first mention of the Gospel. And the worst that can happen to a missionary in such a field is death. Is death so bad? I don't think so. Here in this country, it is becoming increasingly difficult to share the Gospel. The average person here is not very ripe to hear the Word. It seems it takes adversity to be cut to the core. We are too comfortable. We can "afford" to turn aside to myths and forsake the truth. What are the consequences? We still have our nice houses, cars, plenty of food, stable government, health, TV, internet, and so on. We can afford to develop complicated philosophical ideas that have not a shred of truth in them because we have the luxury. We are too busy for God. Who is God anyway? Does He even exist? Who needs Him? We have everything we need, right?

Western culture has become increasingly hardened toward God. In fact, if you are looking for atheism, look to the U.S. and Europe. The point? If you desire to be sent to the "deepest, darkest" place, don't look to Africa. Once you have been out of the country and return to the U.S., you will realize something. I've been to Brazil 4 times now, and I see a people there who are full of joy, people who are more open to the Gospel. Unfortunately this is changing, as they conform to the patterns set by industrialized nations like the U.S. Other countries are developing some of the same "problems" - materialistic greed and vain, self-sufficient philosophies. If you want a dark place, full of the worst kind of opposition (worse than death), I submit a shift in perspective might point you to exactly the place you already live. No need for a huge arch of geographical distance. The arch now represents our pride.

Are we willing to go to all the way to Africa for the cause of Christ, but are unwilling to go the grand distance of next door or workplace? There are people all around us who don't believe in God. Or if they do, they have not experienced the true New Birth through Jesus, which is the only Way to eternal life. These people are perishing! They are going to hell! Sounds stiff and extreme, I know. It's not a message you will likely hear much these days from the whitewashed false prophets and "spiritual leaders" in this country. The word "sin" is taboo because everything is relative, and we don't want to offend anyone, right?

The problem of mission work is not geography, but spiritual chasms. We need not travel to the farthest location from where we currently live to find a mission field. Is our home really located in a house, near a family, in a city, in a country? Are we really "Americans" or "Egyptians" or "Chinese"? If you identify yourself with the things of this world, you need a renewed perspective. If you feel perfectly "at home" and comfortable here, something might be wrong. Those of us who are new creatures in Jesus Christ are not of this world. Our home is in heaven. We are aliens and strangers, ambassadors. Our promised land of rest awaits us. Chew carefully on this food:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

I Peter 2:9-10 ESV

We are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.

I Chronicles 29:15 NIV

Hear my prayer, O LORD, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping. For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were.

Psalm 39:12 NIV

Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Philippians 3:19-21 NIV

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.

Hebrews 11:13-14 NIV

As citizens of heaven, the farthest place we can go in this world is not Africa or any other physical location. That's irrelevant. We are children of Light. We have been transformed. The farthest place is where the deepest darkness and spiritual strongholds exist, for our home is a spiritual one, heaven. The place where darkness holds the most sway is in the hearts of those blinded by this world, those who don't "need" a Savior (rather, they think they don't). Our war is against these spiritual powers of darkness that bind them.

In the darkened age of vain philosophies, the western world has become one of the most powerful strongholds of spiritual oppression in the history of mankind. Talk to a person about Christ here, and you are likely to receive a million excuses why they don't need Jesus, or simply don't care. Or they may claim they already "have Jesus", but it is clear they do not.

The hardest realization comes by admitting and realizing we are surrounded by one of the greatest and most difficult mission fields to penetrate. Don't be afraid that God will send you to "deepest darkest Africa". In fact, don't insult those beautiful people. Their dark skin is their glory, their distinction, their beauty. Their smiles, joy, and receptiveness to the Gospel shame us who live in comfort and yet are blind. If you want to call someone "deep dark", look at the western world. We in our pride and arrogance think that no one can touch us. Our might is our god. We assume our days will never end. Nevertheless, God is not pleased, and there is a limited lifespan for those who raise their own heads and fists against the Alpha and Omega. We are not gods, nor are the things we own.

Africans turn to God because they are oppressed and full of need. We turn away from Him in slumber because we don't "need" Him. Will we wake up in time? When Jesus returns, will He find faith on the earth? I tell you, yes. But some of the brightest spots on the faith detector might be those places that we in our pride call "deep and dark". Those places are even sending missionaries to the great US of A. It might turn out that they have a better gift to offer some of us than we do them. Are you willing to accept a gift from someone you feel is "less" than you? Praise the God who uses the weak and foolish to defame the wise and proud. Let us allow ourselves to be broken now. Let us weep now so that we can laugh then. There is an eternal reality. We will not be rewarded in that day for money, success or power. All the things we have earned and valued in this world will become our rot and damnation.

Starvation, poverty and political danger often turn people to God. They run to the shelter of His wings. My story is living proof of much the same. It took a great foundation shaking to wake me up. Do you wish to lose something or someone highly valuable to you in order to wake up? Must this country go through a time of horrors? Unfortunately this may indeed be the only way to stir hearts. The time may be around the corner for a great shaking of powers. My hope is that some will learn not to grab the stove top element and burn their hands. I hope that God's parental warnings of danger will wake us up and turn our hearts toward Him.

My biggest fear is not to be sent to Africa or China. My challenge now becomes this: am I willing to go to the darkest place, the one farthest separated from the country of my true citizenship? It's a huge chasm to leap. It is one from pride to humility. Am I willing to bear the shame, the cross? Maybe not. But I'm willing to pray to God that my heart be rend until I am. I weep bitterly for the souls around me, those that are perhaps depending on me to share with them the Good News. Lord, equip me with the same mercy You show me. Help me love the way You love.


As the ultimate irony or "unlikely" thing, we had a visitor today at the service who came for the purpose of experiencing a "missional church". This passage in Matthew just happens to be where Dave was in the sermon lineup. While "mission" is just one of Ethnos' core values, it shined through tonight in the most powerful missions sermon I've probably ever heard!

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Sunday, November 16th, 2008 - 9:31 PM

"Be Intentional About Being Missional 1"

Part I: "A Sleepy World"

K, Dave. You've been preaching some freakishly awesome sermons lately, but today you outdid yourself. The Holy Spirit was present to convict, and we all needed to hear every bit of it - including yourself, as you humbly admitted. Praise God for such a boldness! I'd go as far as saying anyone should hear this word from God to His people. It is a message for our time. I hope the sermon recording makes its way online so I can review it (and anyone else can listen if they so desire). It is what God has been laying on my heart as well - my inevitable weekly direct connection with the sermon! Once again, I'm highly privileged and thankful to have had a preview of the message during our afternoon meeting. Our conversation in general, I felt, was highly profitable. I have been edified and "enlightened" beyond belief! Sometimes hearing something isn't enough - discussing it is gold - especially since it always relates to the issues I am struggling with or experiencing! I dare not forget these times or what I'm learning here. I have to write down immediately what the Spirit has done in me as the result. I feel it is my duty, among other more "active" responses - such as applying the amazing sermons and Biblical principles to my life as soon as possible.

It seems one our struggles as modern-day western culture Christians is to connect with the new generations (stay relevant, but not polluted), to share Jesus, and to be active disciples of Christ. Such tasks seem daunting if not impossible (on our own, it is). I know I am intimidated by sharing my faith here in this country. People seem deadened or even hostile to anything that relates specifically to Biblical Christianity. People have their minds full of deceptions and assumptions about what Christians are. Interestingly enough, just about every other religious and philosophical "truth" is readily and quickly accepted. Mention "Jesus" or "the Bible", and the walls go up. To me, this shows who has "command" over all the rest, and it is yet another among many confirmations I have chosen to believe the correct (and only) Truth. This is surely a sign of the times we live in - the sifting of the wheat and chaff has already begun!

Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

Romans 13:11-12 ESV

I believe the Spirit has shown me that our entire nation and much of the westernized world is under a dark cloud of spiritual drowsiness and oppression (not every individual, but as a whole). It's becoming more rare to see people on fire for Christ and ready to bear His cross. The truth is being distorted craftily, fused with the vain philosophies of this world.

for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

"Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you."

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Epeshians 5:8-17 ESV

The Spirit is moving, and not all is lost, but I sense we are largely resisting Him in our comfort and laziness. People go to church, but they live mediocre Christian lives or are almost completely defeated by bondage, sleep, or doubts that have creeped in. We live for ourselves, are plagued by "conveniences" and won't lift a finger if it has a cost associated with it. We speak of great things, but we do little. It frustrates me!

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

James 4:4-10 ESV

I speak of these convicting things freely because I have experienced them firsthand. Three months ago, I was under this same shroud of spiritual drowsiness, laziness and blindness to the evil forces at work. I was "The Sleeper"! Stop a moment and consider... could you be "sleeping" too? Only by the grace of God, I have had tons of blinders removed - and more each day. God's kindness led me to repentance. He is giving me His Spirit, the Word of Truth, unprecedented victory, encouragement, companionship, and greatly increased faith. All this in spite of by far the worst life circumstances, sorrow and discouragement I've ever been dealt - by far!

Man, no, that's not the half of it! My entire being has been transformed (or is being transformed) in every area! I'm greatly encouraged by the undeniable work I see God doing in my heart. I have a new boldness to do things for Him that I could have never dreamed possible from my own efforts to motivate myself. All this is from Him, and I have nothing to boast about (zero, nada, zip, zilch!). Thank God I was steeped in sin at the moment He delivered me (not that sin is good). This way it could be clearly seen and testified that it was HIS hand that had done it! Praise be to His name forever and ever! Amen.

Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, while it is said,

"TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME."

Hebrews 3:12-15 NASB

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Sunday, November 16th, 2008 - 9:17 PM

"Microsoft is Kinda Old, Lame, Behind the Times"

Vent: I'm sick of Hotmail. I've had it since I started emailing. I've had the same address forever. Lately the entire rich text capability has dropped to the floor for no apparent reason. So I can't send anything but plain text. Plus, all the email headers appear in the body when replying, so I have to delete them. DUMB! JUNK! Windows Live Mail, the updated email client that sort of replaces Outlook Express SUCKS! It's a piece of crapola! 1) Windows Live Mail doesn't allow multiple users with separate passworded logins - as Outlook Express did, 2) Sometimes when you click on a local folder in the left pane to interace with what's in the folder, it doesn't do anything at all - the contents don't appear in the main pane. 3) I've seen it crash quite often. Every time it has crashed, I've not even been doing it. It's minimized. 4) There are many other email clients that put Live Mail to shame, so why use it? It really sucks. Hotmail is a stone age product compared to similar services like Gmail, Yahoo, etc. I could go on and on about how lame and slow the interface is. It's totally old school junk compared with what is possible with AJAXian technologies - such as those Google applications utilize. It's not easy to configure an email client to connect with Hotmail. Microsoft purposely makes it difficult and forces you to only be able to do it properly with their Windows Live Mail client - which SUCKS! Sayonara Microsoft products. I'm going to use Mozilla Thunderbird as my email client, and I'll have an email address through my own web site.

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Sunday, November 16th, 2008 - 12:09 PM

"Share the Good News!"

No, in this case I'm not talking about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That, of course is the "Best News". What I'm about to share isn't quite that exciting or important. You be the judge how exciting or important it is. Shall I demonstrate my magnificent vocabulary by saying "exciting" and "important" again? Okay: exciting and important.

I recently changed my email address, and I have been going around to all the web accounts I can think of to update my information. Yesterday I updated my email with Verizon. It was a very important step in my life, and I wanted to share with you Verizon's response to my bold move. This is precisely what I was offered after confirming the email address change:

Congratulations!

Thank you STELLER, PHILLIP ! You have successfully validated your email address to enhance the privacy of your account.

congratulations, an expression of joy in the success or good fortune of another.

Will you help me celebrate my grand achievement by expressing joy and vivacious jubilance? Man, fame and fortune are just around the corner! I better be careful not to let it go to my head.

Are you down and discouraged in life, friend? Do you feel as though you made some wrong choices or aren't living up to your full potential? Do you have an account with Verizon? Change your email address, and you too can feel the joy and fortune that I have received.

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Sunday, November 16th, 2008 - 12:15 AM

"For the Record"

This morning I woke up absurdly early and rode my bike several miles to clean a house. Okay, so it wasn't that early - just earlier than I'm accustomed to for Saturdays. A friend from church, Zac, is experimenting with a new ministry. Excited with the fresh idea, I volunteered to help him out. It was a profitable experience. I was most thankful to see blessed faces of my family in Christ. I would have otherwise been at home doing little more than nothing. It's a wonderful thing to be among people, especially company so pleasant.

My mom and I had talked about getting together for a movie marathon after I got done with my morning "chores". I called her up and ended up bike riding and taking the MAX over to my parents' house in the mid-afternoon. We rented a couple movies and ate Subway sandwiches for dinner (and way too much candy!). Again, I can't think of much better company. I need these times with loved ones like I need the Word of God, water and oxygen. My energy is constantly in "drained status", praying without ceasing for the one I love the most and miss the most. I rely heavily on these times of social and spiritual refreshment. Without them I would shrivel up and die. God provides. I have the best family and friends money can buy. Wait... no, that's not quite right - but you know what I mean (I think, hope!).

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Friday, November 14th, 2008 - 7:28 PM

"The Sound of Music"

Julie Andrews

Okay, I'm kidding right? Is The Sound of Music really my favorite movie? Yep, pretty much. Why? Wasn't it made more than ten years before I was born? Yeah, so. Isn't it kinda old fashioned? Oh, and it's a musical, right? Yes. Yes.

For some reason this movie brought me through some dark times. Each time I watched it, I felt better afterward. It has magical cheering properties. I guess I really like the character Julie Andrews plays. It's one of my favorite characters ever. I wish she was here now and would sing me a song, written especially for me. I'm not sure it would be possible to be sad or discouraged if that sort of thing was going on.

...Okay fine! I guess I'll settle for a visit from Mary Poppins! Sheesh!

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Friday, November 14th, 2008 - 7:12 PM

"Basic Arithmetic"

If life is summed up by relationships... then the subtraction of one worth so much may as well result in death. And that's how I feel at times. Fortunately I have One that has infinite value. The rest could all disappear, and I'd still be okay. Yet, I don't believe we are designed to live in solitude. Living alone simply stinks like moldy onions (quite literally sometimes).

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Friday, November 14th, 2008 - 3:23 PM

"Deep In Love With You"

I never really understood how to reconcile the type of "love" we should have for God, and how it compares to the other forms of love we experience on earth. I don't care anymore. I'm no longer afraid to say, like Smitty does, "I'm deep in love with you, Abba Father!" and "My heart, it beats for you, precious Jesus!" and "You are the Lover of my soul!"

My soul aches for the brokenness of my human relationships, and I will not forget or despise them. However, I am learning lately that they all fade in comparison to the love I must have for God Almighty. He loves me in stronger ways that any husband and wife can demonstrate. In fact, He created marriage to be a mere reflection of His love and never-ending commitment to us. He will never abandon us, even in our worst sin! Blessed are those whose sins are forgiven!

I'm learning much about that whole marriage reflection too. If the things here on earth are seen in our eyes as through a veiled glass... then how much more He must love us than we can comprehend! I used to not know how to appropriately express my love to God in words and actions. Now I cannot hold back, for all my love is His. Lord, may I never value anyone else in this world or in the sky above higher than You! I love You because You first loved me! It seems You have gone to great lengths to gain my love, my attention. You have it, and You are worthy of it and more. May every breath and fiber of my being be made subject to You, for only in You can I be satisfied!

One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And He said to him, "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the great and foremost commandment."

Matthew 22:35-38 NASB

Have you fulfilled this commandment? Nor have I. I submit that only God can fulfill such a great thing by demonstrating to us HOW it is even possible. Then we must follow Him, and try to do the same. As there is no greater love than one who gives His life for a friend, and God has done this, we must also give Him our very lives. That way, whether in life or in death, we can know that we are in God, and He in us. Any reason to fear that you are loving God too much or giving Him too much attention? God's greatest commandment makes such concerns seemingly impossible!

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Friday, November 14th, 2008 - 1:22 PM

"Anti-Christs Are in Our Midst"

It's interesting to me that - for some reason - the name Jeshua is being misused wide and far to refer to a collective consciousness. This is naturally a total misunderstanding of the God of the Bible and Him the coming in human flesh 2000 years ago, namely Jesus Christ. Folks, these are the very times when anti-christs will arise. They have been around already, yet more are coming. Don't be misled. This whole "Jeshua Channeling" thing is a total perversion of the truth of God. Do not be deceived. It is indeed a different gospel than the one preached in the Bible. Such deceivers, if they do not repent, will not fail to receive the just "reward" for deceiving others. God's truth is not something to be trifled with. Watch out for those that agree with everything you say. These people will "allow" any belief to pass through their filter except the truth itself. This truth, the truth in the Word of God, is the only thing that will spark their interest and that they will take the time to oppose vehemently. In the end times, and they are at the door, the sound doctrine revealed by God Himself will not be tolerated. A time of persecution is at hand. Don't fall away in fear. Rather, take heart! Not only has Jesus overcome the world, but everything born of God (you) also has inherited this authority and power! You are not alone!

Heretical Misuses of Jesus' Wonderful Name: modern-day anti-christs:

Beware, clicking on these links can be dangerous if you are not founded in the Truth, secured by the Almighty Hand of Christ, and empowered by His Life-Giving Spirit. I link here only to demonstrate what is happening in this dark world (as if you didn't already know by looking around you).

WARNING: This link does not point to the "real Jesus"!
WARNING: A poor use of the magnificent (domain) Name of Jesus - the person described is not Jeshua!

Bible Passages Concerning False Prophets and Anti-Christs

Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist - he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us - even eternal life. I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit - just as it has taught you, remain in him.

I John 2:18-27 NIV

Then if anyone says to you, "Behold, here is the Christ," or "There He is," do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance. So if they say to you, "Behold, He is in the wilderness," do not go out, or, "Behold, He is in the inner rooms," do not believe them. For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

Matthew 24:23-28 NASB

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 ESV

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

Matthew 7:15-16 ESV

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

2 Peter 2:1-3 ESV

Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don't be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.

2 Timothy 4:2-5 NLT

If the prophet speaks in the Lord's name but his prediction does not happen or come true, you will know that the Lord did not give that message. That prophet has spoken without my authority and need not be feared.

Deuteronomy 18:22 NLT

Look to God's instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark.

Isaiah 8:20 NASB

If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, "Let us go after other gods" - which you have not known - "and let us serve them," you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.

Deuteronomy 13:1-4 NKJV

For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

Revelation 22:18-19 NKJV

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Friday, November 14th, 2008 - 11:32 AM

"My Best Friend Has a Name"

Some time ago, in my desires to be closer to God I cried out to Him, asking if He wanted to reveal a name I could call Him. Though I enjoy calling Him by descriptive titles, it feels weird not being able to call Him by a personal name.

Of course I know the various names offered to us from Hebrew Scripture. I always used to think we were "unworthy" of calling to God Almighty by such vocalizations. I think this thought came to me from the fact that even the Jews refuse to use such names of God, for they feel it is too sacred to be uttered. It seems they are worried the true pronunciation has been perverted or lost since it was revealed to Moses and others in the Old Testament.

I hope not to make a mistake in this, but I don't think that is right. Should those who know God as their Father be afraid to call Him by Name? Will He strike us down for trying? Maybe, but I prefer to be stricken than to fail to call out to Him. I need Him more than water and bread, and I refuse to live in human fear. Besides, the Jews (in general) failed to know God when He spoke with them face-to-face in the form of Jesus Christ. Should I live in the same restrictive fear that they do? I refuse. God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, has come to live inside my heart. He is in you too, if you believe in Jesus and confess Him as Lord.

Several times lately I have cried out in agony, and the word, "Abba" has come out many times... seemingly without intention, it just comes out naturally. While this is not a name in particular, but rather like saying with affection, "Daddy"... still, it feels more like calling personally to the One and Only God I know. In addition, I'm desiring to describe my God as "Yahweh". This name given to us describes the fact that God is that He IS (The Great I AM). We may not fully understand or appreciate the awesomeness of such a name... but I am learning, and I want to try to describe Him and call upon Him.

I've also been thinking of Jesus sometimes as "Jeshua" (or "Yahshua", or "Yeshua", etc), a closer equivalent to how His name might have sounded in Hebrew/Aramaic, while He was on earth.

I'm not sure how "important" these distinctions are. I don't personally fully appreciate or desire to be proponent of the resulting legalism over the exacting name spellings and pronunciations. Though I submit that there are many things about this subject I don't understand, and some of this care may be warranted. Right now, these names have much significance to me. I'm not too worried about imperfect pronunciation in my own journey and according to my current conscience. Not because I don't fear belittling our God. But when you think about it, if there is a "perfect" pronunciation, it is in the very voice God boomed to Moses (or whispered, don't know). The very moment Moses repeated it, it would have sounded "different". A woman's voice saying it would be even more different (because of the higher frequency of vibrations - pitch, and softer... I would say more "beautiful" or "better"!). Or a man with a speech impediment or people with different nationality accent influences. Or how about a child, who is just learning to speak? Were all the Hebrew children slapped every time they tried to utter God's name imperfectly and forbidden to try until their tongues had "matured" (forty credits/hours of classes to perfect it required)? I tend to think not. I don't imagine people were punished for trying the best their tongues had to offer to cry out to God. The Scripture even reveals that Moses himself had a speech problem (or at least he lacked confidence and boldness at first), and Moses was no god.

My beautiful wife has an unusually beautiful name to match that is hard for many Americans to pronounce. Many people have such names. It can be a little frustrating for the person with such a name to hear such distorted attempts. But in general, it is appreciated when people give it "their best shot". It's not likely that a person who tries will get a punch in the face, nor should such a mis-pronunciation disallow a relationship between people. For the record, most Brazilians pronounce my name more like "Feel" than Phil. It doesn't bother me one bit. It is my hope that, in my efforts to know God better, He will be patient with me as I try to use different names of Him that I find wonderful to utter - even if imperfectly so.

I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately. My thoughts were renewed today as I've been listening to "A New Hallelujah", Michael W. Smith's latest album. He uses several of these Hebrew names for God in the songs, and it struck me as awesome... for it is what I've been wanting to do. Worship feels something special when uttered in the tongue of the "people of God" (at least a few words). After all, it was through Israel that salvation came. We as Gentiles are made one with the Jews through Christ, but it was not always this way. I think we best not forget this, for it is a major facet of the Bible's story. This unity of the two peoples is even described by the apostles as a "great mystery". God could have set one nation apart for Himself and rejected all others. We are under His amazing grace, all unworthy. I'm humbled by this fact. Have we forgotten this? Have we, in our views of what is "fair", reduced this to "no big deal" that once all Gentiles were separated from the promises? Wow, what grace: that God extends it to whomever He pleases, and that we can also receive it!

I'm still cautious about this, for I don't want to take the Lord's name in vain. My comparisons to human situations are not perfect, for God can be and is different from anything we understand in this world... and His Name is also set apart and holy, unlike any other name or thing that can be named with a word. Yet, something tells me, that like many other Pharisaical additions to the Law of God, that maybe the name of God was "lost" for the wrong, self-righteous reasons. I am not accusing, for my understanding is limited on the subject. I simply am looking for a way to refer to the God I already know. I hope He will be honored in my personal walk with Him, as I seek to know Him better. It would be awesome if He "re-revealed" His name in vocal utterance to His people... but we will settle to worship the God we cannot see or hear, for it is this faith that He requires of us.

Note: I provide the following links, not as authoritative truth about God and His nature, but rather to give some background information on some of the Hebrew names of God (stuff that I can't adequately know by instinct, nor have I studied greatly). I'm not qualified to judge all the facts, to approve or disapprove them.

Jeshua
The Names of God

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Friday, November 14th, 2008 - 10:49 AM

"A New Hallelujah"

Michael W. Smith - A New Hallelujah

I noticed Michael W. Smith recently came out with a new CD, "A New Hallelujah". I haven't bought a CD for a really long time. I pretty much don't buy CDs, aside from Worship albums. Well, this is a worship album. I have just about every Smitty album there is anyway - been a fan since the beginning (don't care if that dates me or puts me into some stereotypical contemporary group). Nowadays, I've been more into the idea of buying individual songs that minister to me. Worship albums are the exception because the more songs to sing in worship to God, the better. Edification and glorification of God surpreme!

Yeah, so far I like "A New Hallelujah" quite a bit. Maybe my favorite thing so far, oddly enough is the mega drum sequence that starts off at the beginning. Perhaps my favorite song in recent history - or among the top 3 - is Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone). I like Chris Tomlin's original version WAY better, but anyway. The chorus is perhaps the most powerful thing I've ever heard, and it describes my condition so perfectly - what God has been doing in my life. Oh man, I get chills listening to it. The last verse about the fading earth strikes me to the core, for it is the age I feel we are in. All things are fading, yet who cares... because our God has not only called us out of darkness, but He has made us one. We will see Him soon.

Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)

Chris Tomlin

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I'm found
Was blind, but now I see
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed

My chains are gone
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, Who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine
You are forever mine

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Friday, November 14th, 2008 - 2:50 AM

"Brakes Aren't Supposed to Look or Sound Like That"

I waited way to long to replace my bike's brake pads. For two days they have been making horrible grinding, scraping noises. It's the first time I've ever replaced brake pads on any bike.

old brake pads

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Friday, November 14th, 2008 - 12:18 AM

"I Kept Mine. Did You Keep Yours?"

Josiah

Ah, kids. Aren't they great? I wish I was one and never grew up. Oh wait, that's really not far from the truth! Josiah had an agenda for all us old folks today. He prepared a "carnival" for us to perform. We were each handed a piece of rope cut to about 3 inches in length. With the rope we were given a torn piece of paper with what - to adult eyes - appeared to be random letters written on it. Josiah said these were "songs". Here's my song in it's entirety (sing with me now, you know the words!):

WZX9SJWZX05JYVCK
UXSYCOKSUJ

Fred liked the fuzzy rope
At the Smith's house, you will find pieces of paper taped to the wall in various places. Only Josiah knows exactly what all of them mean, I suppose. I taped my two gifts to a prominent place at my apartment in a likewise manner. Fred the Monkey was immediately all over it, fascinated with the creativity factors.

All of our various songs were compiled on a typed out and printed paper that was handed to Tiffany. I'm not sure if the typed letters matched the songs on our torn papers, but that's not really important. Tiffany sang the songs quite well. It sounded something like Russian. The amusement was great - just like the "carnival" Josiah envisioned, I think. It's too bad Ashby wasn't there tonight. I bet she would have liked to have been part of the performance. The rest of us simply sat around the dinner table in amazement :)

This is hardly the first occasion of such silliness in the Smith household. Josiah has quite the "random" sense of humor. I'm rather impressed. I didn't develop that level of total senselessness until I was... well, okay, maybe I was silly too when I was young. Mine never stopped. I wonder if he'll give up the "most excellent way". I hope not! What fun!

This all comes from going to the Smith Family Community Group, one of several small groups meeting weekly in association with Ethnos Church where I currently attend. Wes invited me over a while back, and I make it over there from time to time. Good food, relaxed company. God provides, when we need His people most. He's giving me what I need in the hour of my distress - it's coming from many directions. Praise Him! He is good. He is very good. I love Him.

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Thursday, November 13th, 2008 - 10:56 AM

"A Reality More Real Than Reality"

There is more truth to movies like "The Matrix" than many of us will ever know. What we see as "real" - flesh and blood - is passing, fading. I'm not talking about the extreme implications of this point of view - where nothing is real, and all an illusion. Yes, what we see, feel, hear, taste and touch is very real. However, what is "more real", if you want to qualify it that way, is a battle behind the scenes for our souls! This entire world (which is real for now) and the very heavens (in their vast array) will soon pass away. They will melt like wax before the Lord of Hosts. His judgment is coming soon!

When all fades and burns, does that mean what is "real" no longer exists? Will there then be silence and void once again? Let me tell you that God and the realm where He dwells are more real than the human mind can conceive. None of this can be seen with eyes of the flesh, for we are blinded to it now. God requires faith, which is the pathway to "seeing" those things that are invisible. Faith doesn't see with eyes and flesh, but with the spirit. Neither can faith be fabricated. Faith too comes from God, and we must ask for it. When we die - or the world fall - we will continue to exist as beings. We will then see the reality behind the scenes, for we will see it uninhibited by the bodies that now contain us. We will face in that moment either the greatest sense of joy and peace, or the deepest regret.

There is a hideous and deadly battle for our souls being waged today. Its manifestations are disguised, yet present all around us. Don't look for demons and angels hiding under every rock. That's not what it's all about. It's about the darkness versus the Light. Whose side are you on? You might think that it is unnecessary to choose sides, that peace with both sides will forfeit you from any penalties. Unfortunately for us there's no easy way out. Under the Way the King of heaven set up "the rules", indecision is a choice for the forces of darkness. In fact, the dark commanders are trying to bind or convince those who won't follow their own ranks to at least make no choice at all! There is a world full of endless religious and philosophical choices. In the end, it all boils down to this one thing. We must consciously respond to the matter of one historical person: Jesus Christ. Accept, reject, discredit or ignore Him. The choices have dire consequences or sweet, unimaginable rewards. The time is short. Jesus is alive and well, dwelling in Power and Light. He's coming back soon. What is now invisible, every eye will see on that day! Will He find us ready? Will He really find faith on the earth?

"The Battle Belongs to the Lord". I now see songs like this in a new light. I see the reality presented and am comforted in the truths we are given. In the world, we will have trouble. But take heart! Jesus Christ has overcome the world!

The Battle Belongs to the Lord

Jamie Owens-Collins

In heavenly armour we'll enter the land
The battle belongs to the Lord
No weapon that's fashioned against us will stand
The battle belongs to the Lord

And we sing glory, honour
Power and strength to the Lord
We sing glory, honour
Power and strength to the Lord

When the power of darkness comes in like a flood
The battle belongs to the Lord
He's raised up a standard, the power of His blood
The battle belongs to the Lord

When your enemy presses in hard, do not fear
The battle belongs to the Lord
Take courage, my friend, your redemption is near
The battle belongs to the Lord

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Monday, November 10th, 2008 - 1:07 AM

"Wow, Forgiveness is Profound!"

Be of Good Courage!
Be Encouraged!
Take Heart!
Take Courage!

A continuation of my reflections resulting from the WOW sermon today...

At the risk of being WAY TOO encouraging to the one who delivered this message (sorry Dave, try not to get too puffed up [smiley]), I must give it very high praise. Lately, I've been often privileged to get a preview of the sermon before it's delivered. Sometimes elder Dave mentions a point from his upcoming sermon during my accountability sessions. I've recently discovered and started attending the pre-service prayer meetings in Dave's office too.

I commend this pastoral transparency, for to me it reveals an understanding that these morsels are God's ministry to His people - to be shared - and it's not all about a big ole impressive 30-minute show from the pulpit. If the point is going to get across, why not repeat or preview it - at risk of "ruining the surprise" at the moment of the "delivery". Not only that, but I've grown tremendously from investing the time to go to this sort of thing - reminds me of Kinship Groups back at Evangel Baptist, where I was able to see Pastor Jack's insights. Oops: major tangent detected. EXIT DO; GOTO ReturnToMainPoint; In conclusion, I have come to appreciate bearing repetition through hearing the same message more than once. TRUTH BEARS REPEATING! After all, I've read the Bible umpteen times, and it is still SOLID GOLD! (seemingly more than ever) Such can also be true for "repetitious" sermon bits drawn from such a divine source.

When I heard the sermon preview snippet today, I was excited to the core beyond my ability to describe! All Dave did was read the passage - Matthew 9:1-8. He offered his profound, concise discovery (watch while I talk about it with the opposite of concise). Before Dave's sentence was completed I understood what he was getting at, and my spherical eyes must have revealed what I was thinking - WOAH! I can't stress enough how awesome it is to be hearing the Holy Spirit through His Word like this! It's nuts, and I don't expect anyone to believe my excitement. I have to do little dances of delight in order to not burst from otherwise unreleased jocundity! I don't care if I sound like a complete bumbling idiot right now. That's seriously how excited I was about the idea presented from Scripture today!

Here's the background laid. Earlier today we had #2 of what Dave is calling Shepherding Meetings. The idea of these meetings is for us as followers of Christ to gain better understanding of how to shepherd people. "Shepherding" in this case is a broad term used to umbrella all the various methods we as Christians can minister to others - both in relationship with fellow believers and nonbelievers. Of course Scripture is our textbook and Jesus our Example as the Good Shepherd.

This month's discussion topic was Encouragement. Dave outlined four categories of encouragement. I won't go over those now, as that would be a massive tangent (what, writing reform? Nope - but I have enough to blah about even if I manage to stay on track!). I wanted to mention it though, because Dave made an allusion to the encouragement discussion by calling the sermon the "Fifth type of encouragement" and "better than the others". I see this as a key point and very powerful! Oh, and the by the way, rightfully said today's sermon was the shortest ever. It was really short because he gave a lot of time for personal testimonies. He wasn't feeling well. Well, for not being well, I might as well say how well the point got across. In a few sentences I felt like I was drawing from a deep well (corny puns are fun; let me give you an earful... or rather awful!).

Captain Franken Von DoubleDork
A diversion, just in case you were getting bored reading.
I know, it's "corny" and ugly beyond all your worst nightmares!
Um... I just spent MASSIVE time making this junk!
I got distracted and was doing a bunch of
bug reports for the software I'm using while dragging corn layers around.
Silly me: call me "short attention span boy extraordinaire!"
P.S. I'd be really offended if you didn't catch the ear of corn pun.
Aw shucks! <-- Sorry, that was even worse than ears.

Consider again the key verse from Matthew 9: "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven." [insert one thousand exclamations!!] Man, that is a packed verse! Like English Professor Jules Hilbert (played by Dustin Hoffman) in the movie "Stranger Than Fiction" (awesome flick) gets excited about the expression "Little did he know" and could write a whole book about it, I feel the same way about this short little verse! It's as if the secrets of the universe are embedded, unraveled and attainable only by a thousand years of intensive study! Okay, so perhaps all of scripture is like that. It is the very Word of God, after all! Yippee!!! (like the annoying scene in Sound of Music after Liesl kisses her dumb boyfriend - consequently my favorite movie in spite of this yuck).

First off, look at the first phrase. There are several modern English translations from the Greek. Some of them are found at the top of this post. The NASB which I am commonly pulling from says, "Take courage". I can see the obvious connection to encouragement that Dave noticed here. However, the encouraging (beautiful, inspiring, jaw-dropping) declaration that follows outshines any other encouragement humanity can possibly hear, much less this paralytic guy.

In a word or two, Jesus puts a tear in my eye here. He calls this man - a total stranger - "my son", or "my child". Let's see how bold and amazing that is. Who is Jesus, a man of just over 30 years old, to be calling anyone "my son"? This paralytic may very well have been older in earth years than Jesus. What it screams to me, yet with a gentle, passionate whisper is this: Jesus is ageless. He is God Almighty, existing outside of time. He came to earth fully man, packed in flesh like we are. That man-God called this man "son", not because He fathered him through a marriage relationship. No, but rather He lays claim to the exalted position of God the Father of all! This word shows more than Jesus as the Creator. It obviously communicates great affection. How meaningful would it be if Billy Graham, the President of the United States, Superman, Aslan, or Gandalf (imagine not hating the man in the highest elected office in the world - I don't, but some do) taking the time to talk to you and looking kindly at you and saying, "Be encouraged, my son..."! Um... leave out the "be encouraged" because the God of the universe calling me son is the highest form of encouragement possible!

Next, look at the further admonishment given to the man - this is the kicker. Get read to do repeated roundhouse kicks in nutty excitement! What did the man expect and hope to receive? Well, he wanted to be healed of his paralysis, of course! Did he know he had a deeper need than this? What could be more obvious than his need for physical healing? I tell you Jesus is the power and the Word of life, if you are willing to hear it. Listen to the Word of Light and Life who came to earth, sent from God - and hear Him exclaim His very purpose for coming...

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!"

Matthew 17:5 NASB

Imagine Jesus being transfigured into pure light, as He now dwells in heaven at the right hand of the Father. Imagine a thundering voice of God Almighty ringing in your ears. Then listen to what the voice says: God claims Jesus as His Son. What other witness do you need, folks? Any doubts? You are doubting the Father if you reject the Son. Don't do it, friends. Not only that, but listen to what He says. Why? Because the voice of God, booming throughout all nature tells you this one thing: "Jesus is my Son. Listen to the very words He speaks. He is my voice. He is the Word. In the beginning, He was with me. He is the I AM. He is one with me, Almighty God!" ...a worthwhile tangent, folks.

And in all that glory, we know Jesus to be the Son of God. And what does God say through His Voice? He says,"Your sins are forgiven!!" And this is a big deal. Jesus even tells us it is a big deal by qualifying it, "Take Heart!". If that's not a freaking ridiculous encouragement to you, my friends and family... it is to me. So much in fact, that I am reeling in tears as I consume the Word one letter at a time. To know that I, mere dust, am worth God coming down to earth to say, "Phil, my son/daughter, be very encouraged by what I'm about to tell you. Listen closely and understand: don't lose a word of it. I love you enough to die for you. By this, all that dark stuff that you did, do you remember it? I am wiping it all from your heart and am giving you a new clean heart to replace the old one, a heart of My own design. I will make my dwelling place with you. You are highly blessed and will get to see me soon! I look forward to it. I won't remember those worthless deeds you did because I paid the price in your stead. Come share in my Father's delights! Even those tears that I see in your eyes right now, I will wipe them away with my finger." Put your name in that paragraph and believe that is what God also wants for you. THAT is what this verse is saying! Hallelujah!

Do you see it now? It is not physical healing that we need. We are cursed, folks. Our sin has sentenced us to death! What we need is not contained in the things of this world. We need healing from sickness of the heart. The forgiveness that Jesus offers is more than the type we understand from the English word. Yes, we are pardoned when we accept Jesus, and we no longer have to feel guilty. Yet even more, His forgiveness spells healing. When He says "Your sins are forgiven" He might as well be saying, "You are no longer a paralytic. You are no longer sick with sin. I've HEALED YOU, SON! Get up and walk with the courage I Myself have bestowed! Come 'home', follow Me." We need the same Jesus who healed a paralytic. Dance for joy, you feet that were broken! Dance for Jesus your Lord! He'll grab your lifted hands and give His child a big toss in the sky, sun 'n' smiles all 'round.

The secret is out. Jesus told His disciples not to share the story of His transfiguration until after He defeated death and returned to the Father in heaven. That is where He is now: with the Father, "speaking to Him" on our behalf. He wants to give you His Holy Spirit to live inside you and comfort you, guide you, transform you. He wants to call you "son" and collect you to Himself in the clouds. Wake up, buster! If that's not fantastic, I don't know what is! Be of good courage!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it...

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:1-5,14 NASB

Read all of John chapter 1 to get the full picture. God says in an audible voice the same thing He said on the mountain of transfiguration - in case once wasn't enough! John the Baptist, a prophet, filled with the Holy Spirit from birth, also says:

"I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God."

John 1:34 NASB

Don't fear or doubt any longer. He is the One. Look nowhere else. Jesus. Jesus! JESUS!

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Sunday, November 9th, 2008 - 8:02 PM

"The Answer You Were Looking For (or Should Be)"

Listen

as waddle: adverb

Also. In addition. Origin relates to pronouncing "as well" in an Irish accent, so there is almost a "rolling R" or "D" sound. However, there is no trace of such an accent, but rather the described attribute, which becomes quite literally pronounced as the English word, "waddle".

Additional Information

Dave's sermon today was AWESOME!. It is a testament to the power of the Testament. Wut-stuh-Testament sir? The Testament is the Word of God - both Old and New (Testaments). What I'm saying here is more-or-less a reflection of what I heard today. I can't help but repeat it because I was stainken weigh too excited 'bout it, bruddhas 'n' seastars! Is it possible for one verse to have the power to change the world? Is there such a Testament? I testify of this Testament, how it changed not only a lame man's life, but mine as waddle , and yours too!

Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city. And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven."

And some of the scribes said to themselves, "This fellow blasphemes."

And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, "Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, and walk'? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" - then He said to the paralytic, "Get up, pick up your bed and go home." And he got up and went home. But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

Matthew 9:1-8 NASB

It's an awesome story all around. But wasn't there one verse that kind of stood out in some way? No? Try reading it again. Hint: it's somewhere in the first paragraph.

Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven! (I think the translators forgot the exclamation point!) But what does that even mean? Why does that relate to the story? Isn't the story yet another record of Jesus' miraculous power over diseases? After all, didn't Jesus spend most of His time on earth healing the sick, blind and lame?

Jesus indeed has power over all sorts of sickness. More powerful than any sorcerer, He can in a word undo any curse. Even 2000 most formidable demons shudder in His presence and call Him by His rightful Name Matthew 8:28-32 NASB. So yes, because of the curse of the Fall of mankind we all experience sickness, pain, sorrow, loss, and even death (Can I hear another "of"?... "OF!"). Yet all these are just symptoms and signs of the true problem.

What happened in the Garden of Eden? Did Adam and Eve catch a cold or develop a rare form of cancer? Is this why God cast them out of the garden and placed a curse on them, sentencing them to death? Rather, it was because of disobedience that mankind fell. It was an evil choice, a sin, that brought upon us all the curse of death. So in an indirect way, all sickness is the result of sin. It doesn't mean sick people sin more than anyone else and they are especially cursed. Yet all sickness and pain has its origin from the shameful act committed in the garden.

Do you take cold medicine to cure a cold? Isn't it just masking the symptoms? Yet Jesus knows the very source of sickness. He knows how to cure it. Though no one can live a perfect life in order to reach heaven, He can. He did. It is finished. Jesus came to die in our place, to pay the penalty we rightfully owed. He came not only to cure physical illness, but spiritual death!

When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, "Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?" And hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Mark 2:16-17 NASB

"For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."

Luke 19:10

What causes spiritual death? Sin! So why is it important what Jesus said here? Let's listen again: "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven!!" Simply put, Jesus got to "the heart" of the matter. In fact, it is a broken heart that Jesus comes to heal: a heart full of sin and death. Okay, so the following verses are talking about people with humility. He comes not only to repair hearts broken and deadened by sin, but also those that are downcast because of the difficulties that result FROM sin.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:18 NASB

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

Psalm 51:17 NASB

Is this referring to a heart that isn't working too well? Is Jesus referring to healing a person who suffers from cardiovascular disease? Literally, no. Figuratively, yes! All men are born with a disease in their hearts. No one is ready to face God, nor do they have the power to make themselves right or to even seek God! Jesus came to do some serious "heart surgery"! In one act - His death - He gives us the chance for a total heart transplant - free of charge! He's offering Himself - His Holy Spirit - as a lifelong tenant (Don't worry, He's not an annoying renter... He'll stay "for good"). Our heart has a room He is pleased to call His home. He earnestly seeks the humble plot. As strange and impossible as it may seem, He's very interested in the small amount of hospitality, square footage, and amenities we have to offer. We need only invite Him in. He sees the "for sale" sign and has already paid the mortgage in full... are you willing to hand over to Him what is rightfully His? Don't fear: It won't hurt. He's the Master Surgeon. He's in the business of mending broken hearts.

He heals the brokenhearted
And binds up their wounds.

Psalm 147:3 NASB

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
Because the LORD has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;

Isaiah 61:1

Okay, so what's so important about Isaiah's message? Did Isaiah have the power to do what he spoke of? No, he was simply delivering a prophecy. Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah's words:

And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read.

And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,

"THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME,
BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR.
HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES,
AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND,
TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED,
TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD."

And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him.

And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

Luke 4:16-21 NASB

the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM.

Matthew 11:5 NASB

By the way, I didn't capitalize that stuff. The NASB version of the Bible does that, apparently when the words from the New Testament are a direct quotation of the Old Testament (fulfillment of prophecy). All good and well, but how do WE respond to such great truth?

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me."

Revelation 3:20 NASB

Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks.

Luke 12:36 NASB

After we have let Him in, we have a new direction in life. There is something we must DO from here on out:

Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.

John 14:23 NASB

Are you now willing to say this along with me (I feel the need to repeat this type of prayer often):

Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight ... Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow ... Hide Your face from my sins And blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:4,7,9,10 NASB

K, whutup-wit-dat? That wasn't the direction I was planning to take with responding to the sermon. Those thoughts weren't in my head before I started writing them. I couldn't very well ignore that stuff though. Yet I want to record my original response as well, so:

To Be Continued... here


Yay! This one made it to Ethnos' online sermon audio collection: Matt 9:1-8 Jesus forgives and heals paralytic. This is the sermon my thoughts here developed from.

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Saturday, November 8th, 2008 - 7:17 PM

"God is the Great I AM"

"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."

Revelation 1:8 NASB

"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."

Revelation 22:13 NASB

I'm learning about the Holy Spirit lately because He is the very One who dwells with me and in me. The Holy Spirit Himself has transformed and renewed me with generous portions of life, wisdom and passion. I've been very lonely lately. Days and weeks pass really fast. While in the thick of them though, each day seems to never end. I get bored almost out of my mind. I'm so miserable at times that I ask God to end my days and take me to be with Him. Even so, I don't want to be the useless, wicked servant who hides his talent in a hole and returns it to the Master without first multiplying it. So if I do nothing else while I yet live, I must share what He is teaching me about Himself!

First off, I'd like to dispel what I am convicted is a horrible injustice and insult we do to the Spirit of God. To attempt to determine the "role" or "purpose" of the Holy Spirit is about as arrogant and deadly a proposition as any other heresy or blasphemy. I admit to sadly employing this misconceived notion in my head even as I make honest efforts to know Him. Let's not get legalistic about this: words and logic are not so much the enemy here, but rather the intention of the heart. Exactly who is preeminent?

The Spirit of God does not exist "for" us. The purpose for His existence doesn't involve filling a missing gap in us. Though God chooses to fill an empty gap in us, the Holy Spirit is GOD! In the same way that we exist by the Word of God - He spoke, and we became and He breathed life into us - so too we exist FOR the Holy Spirit. If God be trinity, and the Holy Spirit be one of three (though the three be one), then He is One, and I am "for" Him, not Him for me!

Therefore it is more important to discover what our role for Him is, rather than what purpose the Holy Spirit serves. To assign a purpose to something implies it was created or conceived at some point in time and designed with a limited set of functions or skills to fulfill its purpose. The Holy Spirit is the I AM, the Alpha and the Omega. There was no point in time when He did not exist, nor is there a conceivable "purpose" for His existence. He was not designed, He designs all! He simply was, and is, and is to come. Forget time: He created that too! Therefore all things exist by Him, for Him and through Him. Not only that, but a short (or long) group of linguistic sentences describing what He does or a list of His attributes (as we discern them) is a pittance to His true nature and ability. He is beyond our comprehension. Of course we should still try to understand, for it is an honorable and worthwhile pursuit to know God and His person better. Nevertheless, after all our best reasoning and Scripture searching, we should yet be astronomically astonished and astounded by Him.

I'm pretty certain that neither the Holy Spirit, nor Jesus, nor the Father can be divided into having various discernible duties or roles - at least certainly not ones we with our base craniums (compared to His) can fully determine and etch in stone. To say that Jesus exists in order that men have a way to reach heaven, for example, is a total farce! Did Jesus provide a way (the ONLY Way) for us by His death and resurrection to enter heaven? Yes. Indeed He did. But is that WHY He exists? Heck no, people! He's not a loving, awesome person BECAUSE those are the attributes needed to save us. He doesn't exist TO save us or serve us, though He does DO that - by His will (authoritative choice), not by the way He is "designed" or compelled by an outside force. Not even our needs can change Him. He knew our needs long before He created us, but He doesn't morph to meet us. He is who He is and will always be. He always existed, and in His kindness and love He first decided to create us and then save us from death, the wages of our sin! He IS (exists - state of being) because He is the Great I AM outside of everything we know and understand! That's all that is needed to justify all creatures bowing their entire existence low at His feet and uttering words of worship. Do you see the difference - that we exist for Him, not the other way around? The three are One, and that One is God Almighty!

We exist for God, not Him for us. We are His creations! Some gods have been created by man: of stone, wood, metal and intangible imaginings. But this God Almighty - the only One - created all things and all peoples! If we want to assign roles, let's figure out what OURS are, not His! I'm preaching to myself, for I had not realized this distinction succinctly and completely before. I think it is a very crucial thing to understand, lest we deface in our minds the infinitude of God and His glory. He should remain spectacular and awesome in the sight of all His creatures. Otherwise we risk considering ourselves higher than He! Such a deception and prideful point of view surely won't lead us to a happy place!


Yay! This one made it to Ethnos' online sermon audio collection: Matt 9:1-8 Jesus forgives and heals paralytic. This is the sermon my thoughts here developed from.

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Saturday, November 8th, 2008 - 7:00 PM

"What Do You Do For a Living?"

I submit that there is only one thing you can do for a living. Know Jesus Christ and be baptized by His life-giving Spirit.

See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand.

Deuteronomy 32:39 NASB

Should anyone rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, then the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the LORD your God; but the lives of your enemies He will sling out as from the hollow of a sling.

I Samuel 25:29 NASB

The Spirit of God has made me,And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

Job 33:4 NASB

"I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it," declares the LORD.

Ezekiel 34:14 NASB

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.

John 3:36 NASB

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

John 5:24 NASB

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.

John 6:63 NASB

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."

John 14:6 NASB

This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

John 17:3 NASB

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

Romans 8:2 NASB

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Saturday, November 8th, 2008 - 6:44 PM

"Naught The Neccos"

Dude! Don't Be Eatin' Those! Them's Me Laundry Fuel!

false Neccos

Necco wafers

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Saturday, November 8th, 2008 - 5:50 PM

"The World's First 6-Legged Spider Insectisoid"

6-legged spider

I discovered a 6-legged spider meandering in circles on a piece of card-stock I own (I'm rich!... imagine how much the used piece of card-stock is worth!). No, I didn't pull two Leggs™ off (I'm not a total sadistic freak... I don't wear pantyhose, save that fur the girls!). I found the spider in this condition. Normally when I want to rid myself of a spider, I simply smash it with my fly swatter. I would never pull their legs off just for fun! Okay, actually, it depends on the size of the spider. I used to take the time to capture them in a glass and throw them outside (sanctity of life). However, if it's a huge, hairy variety, I usually get a bit creeped out and want to smash them so they don't multiply and invade my isosceles triangle of sisterly and smithsonian safety. I had compassion on the mutated 6-legged spider and gave him a ride on the card-stock until the door and threw him out. Good bye fame and fortune! I could have made millions on this rare find. I watched movies like King Kong and the Last Unicorn though, and I find it unethical to profit from caging fantastical creatures.

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Saturday, November 8th, 2008 - 5:29 PM

"Time For a Watson Family Style Veggie Sandwich"

Wazzup, dog!? Okay, so I made a zesty taste Captain Smurfy Dabulon Veggie Sandwich for lunch (aka Watson Family Style). Naturally, I made up both of those titles by tugging at the wispy particles located around the cuff of my shirt (none of my shirts have cuffs because I wear pretty much only T-Shirts). So there! I bet you are wishing you could join the Flying Jet-Rocket-Booster Watson Family just so you could chomp down on such a delectable selection and Palpatine Proportion of Fantastic Frederickson Foodstuffs like I did today. Elementary, my dear Edison (or was it Watson?). Isaac Watts versus Thomas Edison, next on Geraldo!

veggie sandwich

Speaking of Murphy, Matilda and Meriwether, I love onions nowadays. More specifically, I love sweet onions. I almost typed sweat onions, which while a generally gross concept to think of, it makes some logical sense. And I say "sense" quite literally. Hasn't your sense of smell ever detected a hideous body odor that reminds you of rotten onions? Well thus the expression "sweat onions" is born! Okay, so I don't like sweat onions, but sweet ones.

veggie sandwich

When I was young, I didn't like onions at all. Until a few years ago I always used to ask for no onions on most food. Now I wouldn't dare! In fact, this handful of onions you see here most people would consider a ludicrous amount. I was considering cutting even another slice through to contribute to Skippy Spinatrol Sandwiches... but then there would be less left for next time I make Diamond Duel-Daffodil Dime-a-Dozen Delectabilities (Duh!). All that to say, I've grown since childhood, and now I'm taller and fatter than I was before (I mean, "I like onions now").

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Saturday, November 8th, 2008 - 5:17 PM

"You Be The Judge, Captain Smiley"

I just went on a very short bike ride down to Albertson's to return a movie (and get another one) and get something to drink. Two people smiled really nicely at me as I was riding. I don't know if it was because I was carrying a bag of stuff while riding, or they were just nice. At any rate, I was horribly sad and down this morning and cried out to God in many expressions of uncertainty and sorrow. I recognized His face smiling at me through these people, and I became full of joy. I also saw God's love shining through the blue sky and beautiful colors outside. I have also been listening to the Worship Network on TV. Prior to my short bike ride they were playing very inspirational worship music that helped me catch a vision of our comforting Lord. After I got back and even now they are playing Christmas music - which is enough to give me eternal strength for a thousand generations (I LOVE CHRISTMAS MUSIC! - well, the classical Christian variety, not so much the new, secular stuff).

At first I was wondering if I had something horrifically embarrassing on my face, and that's why people were smiling. You be the judge. I guess my face generally looks kinda funny anywayz.

So, since I have a bit of joy, I decided to spread it a bit. I hope these pictures help bring a smile to your face in the same way the smiley faces helped me as I was riding.

faicais

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Saturday, November 8th, 2008 - 3:52 PM

"Oh, What a Feeling!"

When we're dancing on the ceiling!

Do you have enough imagination to see this photo as though you were walking on the ceiling? Or does it simply look to you like the picture is up-side-down? I was sitting in my computer chair and leaned far back... so far back that I saw this view. I decided to share this perspective with Mr. Camera because I wanted to show him - and you - how to walk on the ceiling.

walking on the ceiling

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Friday, November 7th, 2008 - 10:12 PM

"Stephen's Angels"

So I decided to actually draw something at church Sunday. I sat at one of the big tables, and a pad and pencil eventually appeared before me. Wasn't inspired, didn't have much in mind to draw. Stephen, one our worship leaders, was messing with his guitar, so I drew a very quick mess of him. If it looks like his arms disappeared, it's because he was holding his guitar in a strange way, not playing it. He was tuning or fixing something: I don't know. Hindsight is 20-20. I should have drawn him when he wasn't in that weird position. Oh well. I didn't pay much attention to form - just did a quick layout of the shapes and started filling in with sloppy details.

It seemed too boring or meaningless to draw a random sketch like that, so I drew in two angels as waddle . And a yadda yadda, fill in the rest of the space with scribbly lines and call it done. The pencil was about the worst one I've ever used. I had to press pretty hard to get any dark lines. I was missing my mechanical pencils and woodless pencils. It probably would have turned out a bit better if I had those tools with me. Maybe had a bit more depth and shadow.

Stephen's Angels

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Friday, November 7th, 2008 - 1:49 PM

"Young Man, I Say To You Arise!"

Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, "Do not weep." And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, "Young man, I say to you, arise!" The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother. Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and, "God has visited His people!" This report concerning Him went out all over Judea and in all the surrounding district.

Luke 7:12-17 NASB

I believe firmly I gave my heart to Jesus when I was young. It was at that time I became a new creature in Christ. I have little memory of specific events, but I know I was in His hand most of my life. As God's presence is traced down through history alongside His people the Israelites, so too can I trace His presence in my life. I remember hearing Him speaking to me through His Word, the Bible. I remember feeling His presence on many occasions. I remember a passion in my heart for His church, the Word of God, reaching people, etc.

Nevertheless, I had forgotten some of these aspects for a time in my life. About three months ago I awakened, as from a slumber. It was not by something I did, but rather I was roused by God Himself. Today I was listening to the Bible and heard the passage from Luke above. Somehow I felt as though this young man Jesus woke up was me! I read it, and it shocked me for a minute. That is what Jesus did for me. Though I was already "saved", the darkness of this world had me in some odd trance, as good as dead. Something miraculous is taking place in me, and it is by the power of the Holy Spirit of God! Praise His Name!

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.

For this reason it says,

"Awake, sleeper,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you."

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Ephesians 5:6-17 NASB

Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him."

Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."

Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?"

Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

Nicodemus said to Him, "How can these things be?"

Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God."

John 3:1-21 NASB

I am something new. The Spirit flows. It's a deep mystery, but God is pleased to call me His son. I hope the same for you. It is His offering as God Almighty. Are you a Christian already, and just feel like you're in a slump? Do you doubt even your own salvation? Been there, done that. I don't have answers or a cure. Jesus does. Ask Him to wake you up. Ask for the faith you don't even have. Do it even if it takes tears and smashing the floor in agony. Life is hard enough as it is. Don't face it without the Master's guidance. He will help carry your burden so it won't seem so heavy. Even with the heaviest of loads, knowing and walking with the Savior is enough to make me run at great cost. Even if the yoke crushes me, I will smile at the face beside me who smiles back and calls me to run!

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

Romans 8:9-11 NIV

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Friday, November 7th, 2008 - 1:23 PM

"It's Reciprocal"

Happy Birthday!
I LOVE YOU, BABE!

11-7

7-11 logo

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Friday, November 7th, 2008 - 11:09 AM

"Jesus is Guaranteed to Return in Your Lifetime!"

At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

At midnight the cry rang out: "Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!"

Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, "Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out."

"No," they replied, "there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves."

But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

Later the others also came. "Sir! Sir!" they said. "Open the door for us!"

But he replied, "I tell you the truth, I don't know you."

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

Matthew 25:1-13 NIV

I'm no soothsayer or prophet, but the time for Christ's return is pretty near. Even when the disciples had just experienced Jesus' presence in the flesh and saw Him gathered up in the clouds, they thought His return would be near. Does 2000 years that separate us numb our senses to think that, "Eh, it won't 'happen' to me"?

Let me share with you an insight that occurred to me some time ago. For each person, including you, He will "return" in your lifetime. This is a radical idea and not a theological one or to start some new movement, but it is a practical one. For the life of each person who has lived since Jesus came to earth, He has come again in their lifetime. What do I mean by that?

There are two possibilities for the end of your life. One of these will certainly describe your end of days.

  1. You will die the normal physical death and be stored up for the judgment of Christ.
  2. Jesus will physically return and collect the dead and the living all at once, including you if you are alive at that moment in time.

Are you relying on the numbers of probability and are therefore coasting through life? Here's what I mean. Okay, so about 2000 years have passed since Jesus made the promise to return. The average life expectancy in this part of the world is about 78 years. So, assuming nothing "goes wrong", you can say that you have about a 1 in 25 chance of Jesus returning during your lifetime. Is that shocking? Are your laws of probability already being shaken? 1 in 25 is a pretty good chance, wouldn't you say? Would you bet your life on those stakes alone? Chances are, you already have if you aren't living your life for Jesus Christ!

Of course there is far more to the probability equations that that. For example, we don't know when Jesus will return. He could come in the year 4000, which would decrease your odds to 1 in 50. Do you really think He will tarry that long? I can almost guarantee He won't! Look at the signs of the times! If He waits more than 100 years from now, I believe we will completely destroy each other, and there will be no one living to collect to Himself. It would be a 100% resurrection, rather than a gathering of the living and the dead.

Besides, even if He waits until the year 4000, your chances are still 1 in 25. Why? Because 2000 of those years have already passed, and Jesus hasn't returned to take us away yet. So that leaves 2000 as the balance, thus returning your odds to 1 in 25. Worse yet, since it's very unlikely God will wait that long to send His Son again, I think we can safely shave off some years from that 4000 "worst case scenario". He's coming sooner than that, I tell you! What if He is very likely to come in the next 200 years of human history? That means that you, your children, or a few generations out will see the coming of Jesus Christ. And it may be your own lifetime to see it. If you still feel like being lazy, at least gain some passion for your childrens' sake! If Jesus doesn't come in your lifetime, it may be your children who see it. Don't you want them to be ready? Don't you want to pass on an excitement, rather than apathy? The time is short.

To shift the probability even further, who says you will live to your full expectancy? Who says you'll be on this earth tomorrow? Is it not true that you can die at any moment? Car crashes, unexpected or hereditary disease, murder, war, natural disaster, etc. Don't you know at least one person if not many in your small circle of existence who has died before "their time"? Maybe it was an accident, maybe murder, maybe suicide. At any rate, maybe that person will be you! I'm not trying to scare or dishearten anyone. I just want to be aware myself of the importance of this subject, and I hope it strikes someone else too.

Let me take this probability analogy even further, and this was my "discovery" a while back. For all practical purposes Jesus is guaranteed to "return" in your lifetime. Lest someone quote me on that and put me in the local papers as a psycho false prophet, hear me out. Review the 2 possibilities of the end of your days above. You will either die as your fleshly body gives up its ghost, or you will see the return of Christ and be gathered (or be left behind). No duh! How does that "guarantee" the coming of the Lord in your lifetime?!

From the perspective of your own opportunities, for all practical purposes you are the very virgins waiting outside for the bridegroom to show up. Your time is limited. You have a predetermined number of days. If you die before Christ returns, your time is up. If He returns while you are alive, your time is up. It makes no difference at all! Once you breath your last, it is as if Christ has returned. You no longer have an effect on this world. You can no longer make a choice concerning repentance from your sins. You can no longer fight the darkness in this world as a soldier for Christ. You can no longer share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with someone who is perishing. In short, Jesus will return for you at the end of your life, and your time is up. For you, it won't matter if Jesus comes one second after you die or in the year 4000.

Therefore, our time is short. Jesus is coming soon. Let's live as though He will come back tomorrow, for if we ignore the lateness of the hour, something will be lost. If we are playing games and waiting for the last second to repent of our sins, living in sin... it will come as a thief in the night - either His return or our own accidental demise. If we are Christians but are lazy about the late hour, living in comfort and acquiring things... He will return when we least expect it, or our bodies will perish at an unknown time, and our chance to reach someone God has placed in our life will end. Consider the probability. Jesus is going to return in your lifetime. Please, let's do something about it!

So what am I saying in all this? What's my point? Hasn't it been a while since you've heard an end times sermon? I used to hear more of these types of sermons when I was a child. It seems like it's been a while. People, we need to take this seriously. Jesus is coming back soon! Our time is short. As Satan is anxious because he knows his time is limited, shouldn't we also consider the same? We are the antithesis of Satan, his worst enemy. He hates us as he hates Christ Himself, for we are the physical embodiment of Christ in this world. We are the Body of Christ, and the Holy Spirit of God dwells in our hearts! Should we not also consider the hour late and take up weapons against our enemy? He is killing and destroying quite effectively. Souls are being lost every minute. What are we going to do about it, friends? I have been a lazy Christian, broken apart by the trials of this life... not doing much for the Kingdom of God, not bearing much fruit. I'm sick of it. I don't know how to "solve" this dilemma. Shouldn't we pray about it though? Shouldn't we pray that God change our apathetic hearts so that we are willing to lay down our very lives for Him? Our lives will end anyway, one way or another. Why not for Christ? Why not in His name? He is coming. Jesus Christ is coming soon!

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

2 Peter 3:8-13 NIV

Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.

Ephesians 5:15-17 NIV

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Thursday, November 6th, 2008 - 10:36 PM

"Thanks, Elder Dave"

I know, it sounds kinda dumb to preface someone's name with a title like "elder". I do it because my great friend of many years has the same name. So I have to distinguish somehow between the two. Of course, "elder Dave", I also count you among my friends. At any rate, I want to mirror a shout of thanks to elder Dave for his big part in my recent spiritual growth (and going forward). This little ditty doesn't really adequately credit the value of the work Dave has done... but it's a start. For the context of why I wrote this particular response, visit his blog post.

Thanks for sharing, Dave. I was hoping stuff like this might find its way to your blog. I'm not much for politics, so peering into your mind on things spiritual is very much appreciated :)

Regarding encouragement... I've heard people subtly gossip about what you refer in yourself as being a bit critical or cynical. I want to dispel those sort of light accusations and encourage you in your progress, if you want to call it that. I don't know if those were issues with you before... maybe yes, maybe not. I wasn't really around.

Regardless, I don't really see it. I see a very encouraging person in you already. Even if it doesn't feel natural for your personality type, you have been an amazing encouragement to me. Let me encourage you that. If you had not been at Ethnos at the time you were, and had you not been willing to accommodate a relative stranger like me in your midst by letting me share my story and my confession... I might still be lost in sin and darkness. I say this with tears - because of your obedience in Christ and tender-heartedness... I am a restored brother! God bless you and your family! I should make this thanks more public and known, for your servant-hood has helped change my life.

Our conversations since then have been very fruitful. Sure, we've had a few scrapes... I'm sure my baggage has been a burden, and for that I'm sorry. I pray God richly reward you for your good work and cancel out burden I pass on with a thousand blessings!

Your sermons lately have been piercing. I see the Holy Spirit very alive and working in and through you. I don't really care if anyone criticizes you in any fashion because of personality quirks. We all have them. Mine are probably the most strange - makes me a bit hard to approach. You have chosen to take your whole life - quirks and all - and place it all in God's hands... to serve Him and the rest of us.

Thanks for doing that. Thank you very much, brother.

As time progresses, only God knows how much people in my life have influenced and encouraged me for the better. There should be lengthy descriptions made public here for just about everyone in my life. God is the only One that can adequately describe the profound effect these sacrifices have made in me. I only hope some day I will add such "credits", not to my own name, but to the work and Name of God through my life as well.

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Thursday, November 6th, 2008 - 7:36 PM

"Thrashed Bibles Are the Best"

NIV Student Bible

Something awesome occurred to me while reflecting on what God has done for me this evening. I remembered a resource to compliment much of what I am going through, especially the thoughts that dawned on me tonight. My old Bible from high school is somewhere around here. Many passages are underlined and highlighted that pertain to trusting in God over men. In fact, when I look back at my life, I recall stories of people failing and disappointing me. By God's providence and kindness I believe I maintained a fairly healthy perspective in this area - not losing all hope in community with others, but running to God when others fail. That is to say until I became distracted by the things of this world for a time. Now that God has restored me, the lessons return to bear more fruit in me. Thank goodness!

Naturally this means my list of blog topics will grow even more, rather than shrink as I write. I have enough material for quite a while. I've been prioritizing the recent experiences because I like to report while in the middle of the ordeal, to record the thoughts more passionately. For the other topics, I'm relying on my notes to revive the thoughts later. Who knows if that will work.

signs of wear

So what's so great about an overused Bible? Aren't Bibles holy, to be kept in perfect condition? After all, it is the very Word of God!? True, we should have a respect for the Word, but not so much in the written pages and books it occupies. This is a book that should be severely used, if there ever was such a book!

When I look at my dilapidated NIV Student Bible, I am again reminded of that last period of my life when I was consumed by a passion for God's Word. In my adolescence I was pretty familiar with Scripture. It helped to have one Bible for many years. Before online Bible search tools were commonplace, I was able to find many passages out of shear familiarity with the one I overused. Sometimes I could picture which position on the page a well-known verse was found.

I'm an advocate of marking up Bibles with all sorts of notes, underlining, highlighting, doodles and so on. While I like to keep things in fairly good working and presentable order, a tool as useful as the Bible should show signs of use and wear.

Had I not marked up my Bible and kept a journal, I probably would not be able to recall the experiences that brought me to where I am. This would be a shameful loss, for I would not appreciate God's work in me nearly as much.

a 1993 Christmas present from my parents

Do you find yourself silently complaining that it seems God doesn't work in your life? Does it appear He is giving an unfair dose of His provision or presence to people around you? How about seeking Him with all your heart, and while doing so, watch out for signs of His presence. Record these "God sightings", and not only will you have no excuse for thinking He's not working six months from now, but I believe God will dispense more of Himself as an answer to such a faithful response to His work. I'm speaking a bit from experience in this.

Our most obvious guideline for recording the works of God and life events is the Old Testament of the Bible. The entire collection of books presents a colorful history of God's dealings with His people, along with many priceless life lessons (not to mention divine prophecies and miracles, etc.). Through these ancient writings we also have knowledge of sin and the Law. Without the Old Testament the work of Christ wouldn't mean much. We could not possibly understand what led up to God's sacrifice or why it was necessary. In the same vein, you might understand better where you are today if you had recorded events prior. In fact, you might have seen patterns developing that were taking you down a darkened path and possibly have avoided some heartache and setbacks. It's a sad thing to live in cycles, not learning a thing from previous mistakes - or forgetting them altogether.

us

I'm in need of much wisdom and have an insatiable longing for the truth of God. To aid in my quest for closeness with God and freedom in life, I think it will be profitable to review some of the places I've been. Starting with my old Bible, I will review some of the passages and thoughts that inspired me in my youth. If time and sanity permit, I may also review some of my many written journals. Hopefully it will be encouraging to see where God has brought me after all these years. Possibly some areas will have devolved, some "maintained" (can be good or bad), and others greatly improved. I encourage you to develop habits that allow for some of this self-introspection if you aren't already doing so. Some people are more equipped for this sort of activity, but I believe anyone can make efforts at it and yield benefits. I consider myself somewhat of a master thought recorder... so don't ask me for advice. I might get too excited and discourage you from trying with all my grandiose ideas! :) Start small so you don't get tired of it and see it as just another chore. Also, make a decision about how much positive versus negative stuff you'll record. I tend not to record specific details of painful things, so I don't have to relive it later. Just an outline, so I can appreciate God's deliverance. My recordings tend to be pretty positive and edifying - though VERY emotional poignant and brutally honest at times.

Recording your thoughts is an investment that you will not realize until years later. Like brushing your teeth... MAN I WISH I WOULD HAVE DONE MORE OF THAT WHEN I WAS YOUNG! That's what you'll probably say later if you don't record some of your "personal history" starting now.

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Thursday, November 6th, 2008 - 1:09 AM

"Sermon Notes"

As time and memory permit, I'm going to try to post reflections from Sunday sermons here. I waited too long this week, unfortunately. The sermon was powerful and effective, though you couldn't tell by what I'm about to say. I forgot most of it! I was really excited when I first heard it. I suffered elder Dave to send me the passages He spoke from. I assumed the references would be enough to spark my memory. Nope.

There's something seriously wrong with my memory. I should have taken some notes immediately after the sermon. Now I've lost most of it. I remember it had to do with the time being short, and not to be complacent.

So I'll read and consider the passages once again and see what my busted brain comes up with. It surely won't be what Dave delivered. Besides, I'm tired, and I'll probably write incomplete sentences anyway. Brain dead city USA relocated to my apartment. I'm the mayor, sheriff, and the only citizen. I arrest you in the name of the law. Blah blah boring narrative yuck gross, shut up.

Okay, I'm silenced. How about now including the verses. Maybe the Spirit will implant the message from these passages into your mind.

And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, "What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?" Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them. And the demons begged him, saying, "If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs." And he said to them, "Go." So they came out and went into the pigs, and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters.

Matthew 8:28-32 ESV

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world - he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!"

Revelation 12:7-12 ESV

The simple message here is that time is short. This planet and universe simply ain't going to last forever. What is the "appointed time" the demons refer to in Matthew 8? I see it as two possibilities. The most likely is the end of time, when the angels of darkness are cast into the place of fiery torment prepared for them. The other possibility is Jesus waging war on them after His death, gaining the keys to hell and rising again. Death could not hold Him!

At any rate, Satan's time is very limited on this earth. He knows very well that Jesus, the Son of God, will return and claim His people. Then it will be said, "Your time is up!" If the demons know their time is limited and are anxious, not resting for a moment, how much more should we consider our time limited? Beings whose "lifespans" pass through all periods of human history with the idea that their time is limited? I'm sad to say, perhaps we need to take this example from the enemy and start DOING something! Our lifespans pale in comparison to theirs. If their time is short, how much more is ours?! Any day can claim us who fade like the grass of the field. There's no guarantee that we will die of old age. Shouldn't we take life a bit more seriously and stop living for ourselves and our own pleasures?

Unfortunately, in our deadened and numb society, Satan has many people exactly where he wants them: blinded in the darkness, living it up, dying inside. These are bound by worldly pursuits and lack of concern for eternal things. We humans can't see spiritual things after all, so why should we care, right? We should care because the enemy of human souls is roaring like a lion, ready to devour. Indeed, many human souls have been lost already. They are being picked off one by one, day by day, hour by hour. Shall we as God's army do nothing? La-dee-da, living in comfort and complacency? Yuck. Sounds gross. Sick of it. Sick of doing nothing.

Wowza! I'm dead tired and can't think. Good night. Zzzz.

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Tuesday, November 4th, 2008 - 9:40 PM

"Nothing New Said, Everything New Made"

And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son."

Revelation 21:5-7 ESV

Okay, Lord, I'm listening! Or perhaps I'm not (in general), and that's why You have to use such tactics to get my attention!

The transforming truths through the Word of God that I'm experiencing lately are nothing new folks. In fact, probably just about everyone reading - if you have the patience to keep up with it all - are thinking to yourselves, "Huh? This is nothing new! What's up with this? It sounds like 'new-Christian over-excitement syndrome'. He's getting way too excited about nothing! He needs to settle down and face 'real life'!"

If you're thinking there's nothing new about the things I'm sharing, you're right! It's been in the Scriptures for thousands of years, staring us all in the face. The problem is to first read it. The second challenge is to allow it to sink in, change us, and convict us to do something, or rather be something!

I believe God Himself through the Holy Spirit is the One revealing these truths to me through His Word. While I believe the Holy Spirit is fully capable and allowed to tell me something new or dispense special revelations, I don't necessarily think that is happening here. I believe rather what is happening is that the truths I already knew are finally becoming real to me. He is answering my prayer, my heart's desire to "move God 18 inches, from head to heart (gut)" (greatly influential on my life - Pastor Jack Hatfield's words). I have never suffered from a horribly lacking knowledge of God's Word - though my understanding is nowhere near perfect. Rather, my frustration has been to have all this knowledge transform me, both in heart attitude and action. In short, Hortence Heart was jealous of Brewster Brain. Now they are both being satisfied with tasty food.

How can I communicate what's going on in a way that will - as I hope - help others to experience much the same? I DON'T KNOW! I feel like repeating the same thing over and over again because I don't know what else to say! God has transformed me! I have to pray, along with those who desire for some of the same Spirit, that He will honor such a desire. The challenge to our faith comes in the waiting. God is sovereign, and He doesn't always answer our prayers 1) in the way we expect, and 2) in the timing we demand. My life is the ultimate case in point: God's timing was not my own. What I hoped would happened years ago took that much time to produce fruit in me. A great tragedy seemingly had to happen first. I got no wife now! You think that's happy and cheery? Think again! It's indescribable hurt to lose the only one who matters much at all! Yet I rejoice in my suffering!

I wouldn't wish tragedy on anyone - certainly not the outcome I've been dealt. So please, read and consider the failures and sorrow of others - like me - who have "been there". Spare yourself the same fate. I hope, if nothing else, the example of a discouraging story will inspire others to action, to safeguard themselves.

The presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian should be coveted above all else, and I encourage anyone wishing to be transformed or freed in their spiritual life to seek the Holy Spirit at any cost! There's nothing or no one in this world that should be put above Him. In fact, we should follow Paul's example and consider all things loss, even our lives! There is nothing we can be unwilling to part with in order to meet with Him, to know Him and to be transformed by the Truth and the Light!

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith - that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Philippians 3:7-11 ESV

Huh? Broken record? Deja vu? Remember, everything you hear repeated in a lecture twice is important, and you'd do well to remember it. Anything repeated three times or more is sure to be on a test, so you better write it down! It's also said:

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Matthew 10:34-39 ESV

What spurned this thought? Literally every Sunday at church, what elder Dave preaches about directly relates to what the Spirit has been showing me in His Word prior to that. His sermons totally reinforce and empower like nuts! I get so excited I want to kick my feet in the air rapidly. I don't have any special meetings with the pastor to make sure I'm studying or considering the topics in advance. The Spirit does this for me. So, what is fairly ordinary or routine "heard that before" truth becomes active and alive - a two-edged sword to my life and soul!

Among other examples that I hope to cite later (to give God the glory), the specific "coincidence" that led me to write this particular blog entry comes from Luke 10. I met with Dave before service on Sunday, and we talked about some great and encouraging things - primarily how we sense the Spirit is working in our lives and in the world right now. Quite a number of passages came up in our discussion. One of them was from Luke 10. I recently set up Winamp at work with a new playlist (the MegaMix). It has a number of songs mixed in with the entire New Testament, chapter by chapter. Altogether it is 441 tracks. I have them randomized in the list, and also have the shuffle feature turned on. There is no way telling which track is going to be played next while I'm working. Maybe a song will play, or a random chapter of any book of the New Testament. As I started playing from the MegaMix this morning, a couple songs started the queue. The first passage to follow them was Luke 10, the very one Dave and I had just talked about the day prior! Hmmm... must be "coincidence" [rolling eyes].

It's a shame it takes that sort of seemingly miraculous intervention and "unlikely probability" for God to get through to me, to speak truth and have me listen. It's equally shameful to assume things like this are just coincidence, fearing a path toward superstition. Are we numb to His Word and His work in our lives? Do you read the Bible or hear sermons regularly and feel like you're not "getting anything out of it"? I've been there, done that: time and time again (and again). So what's the missing ingredient? The Holy Spirit of God. Am I saying you don't have the Spirit if you are struggling in your devotions? Not at all. However, I challenge you to ask for more of the Spirit! What can it hurt? Only believe that you will receive. Faith is a key ingredient to all things spiritual. God blatantly requires it.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Hebrews 11:6 ESV

Speaking of Jesus, John says in his Gospel:

He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

John 3:31-36 ESV

Okay, great, right? Jesus gets the Spirit without limit. But we are stuck with doubt, and it seems like miracles don't happen anymore. Not to mention, how do we know when the Spirit is telling us stuff, or it's just our own minds? Isn't it dangerous to act upon stuff that we "feel"? We just have to endure "the crud" until Jesus returns and takes us away from this dump, right? Well, yeah, I feel that way quite a bit of the time too. And there's some truth to be found there, as all of creation is grumbling, the time is short, and our enemy is roaring like a lion, ready to devour.

You know all those passages about prayer and faith? All we have to do is ask for anything in His name, and we will receive it, right? Do you get discouraged by that, and it seems more a stumbling block than a call to faith? You've tried, and it doesn't seem to work. It forces you to conclude that either you didn't pray "right", or God isn't fulfilling His promises. Trust me, I struggle with it too. It does NOT, however, make me want to scream at our Maker or doubt His existence or doubt His goodness. I just continue in faith, believing even though I don't see. Sure, I shout out a complaint every once in a while. I admit, it all confuses me too. The way I think of it, if it was easy, what faith would be required? If we could see it all immediately, wouldn't we just reduce God Almighty - the Lord of Hosts - to a genie to do our bidding? Rather, forbid it. He is Lord Supreme! Who are we to question the One who made not only all things, but us as well?

I want to give a testimony of the Light of God. The Holy Spirit of God has been transforming me from the inside out. He has given me a great desire to absorb the Word of God. When I listen to or read it, I almost can't handle it because something invariably pops off the page.

Is all this I'm saying annoying to you? I know I used to get a bit perturbed when people have nothing to say except positive stuff like that. I just figure it's a phase or "high" they are going through. I thought, "Yeah, I've certainly had those experiences before, so I know it 'can happen' - but it probably won't last." Cynicism and the difficulties of life caused me to assume it would all be momentary... as if God jumps around here and there to do sparse work - as if He's sleeping or He can't keep up with giving proper attention to each person every whim. I'm not describing truth, nor am I describing what I believe. I'm saying these things because I think they are common feelings, and I'll bet you guys have felt some of these things at times too, as I most certainly have.

So what? Do I have a miraculous answer? Is there a 1-2-3 step process, each step beginning with the letter 'P', and they just happen to rhyme? Sorry, no. So what good is it to even share what's going on with me? Am I bragging or trying to gain attention for myself? If it just makes those who are struggling say, "Good for you, what about me?", what good is it?

I can't shut up, regardless! Don't dare make me. God is working in my life, and it's not fake. It's not a momentary delusion that I've created in my spare time to help me not feel so lonely, now that I'm wifeless. No! No! No! If I'm boasting, I'm boasting in what God is doing, not me.

God showed up. Or rather, the dullard (me) who saw nothing but darkness has been transformed by the Light, scales dropped off eyes. God was there all along. His Spirit is doing this. It's not my effort. In fact, I was in sin. That's a big part of the cause of all this crap and struggles in my life. I had no strength left to even seek God, much less fool myself with artificial spiritual awakening and extraordinary God interaction! I would have perished in sorrow after one day of those efforts had God not intervened.

Not only that, but God is sustaining His work in me. It's not a one day delivery and everything is peachy. Nor is it a immediate fix, and then He goes on to other things in the heavenly realms, trusting me to coast on my own ability through life, hopefully with enough of His fuel from that one event to make it over some small bumps.

Yes, God did do something amazing almost in an instant for me. However, the process following that amazing thing has been painful. I've had severe ups and downs. Furthermore, if He did the instant thing and left me on my own, I'd not have strength to sustain myself - probably not for a single day! He upholds me every single day. I don't suspect I'll ever be self-sustaining. I don't WANT to be. If I am, it means I have forgotten God, and that all good things come from Him. Life is not about success, money, victory, happiness, comforts, status, possessions and appearances. Those things are nice - and God is generous to supply His children - but life is more about knowing the One who both gives and withholds those things. God doesn't even promise everything will be perfect and easy for us (in fact, much the opposite). Even if life is painful, torturous and fleeting, it's still summed up in knowing the One who sustains and provides eternal hope.

So, we are still in the "So what!?!" phase, I realize. I haven't given an answer yet. Nothing practical. Just another guy who has a bunch of stuff to say, stuff that's a burden in its length and poor writing style. I'm truly sorry. I wish I had a preacher's charisma to share better what's going on. Yet I don't. Nor do I have magical equations or prescriptions to solve every problem known to man.

Dare I fail to share what God is doing, however, I'm a fool! His investment in me is not just for me. The message is crystal clear: share it openly and freely. Shall I die tomorrow and not have shared what God has done? No! Each and every day I will figuratively scream aloud His good works in me!

So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.

Matthew 10:26-27 ESV

Normally what is whispered in your ear is an implied secret. However, I'm sick of secrets, and in this case, I believe I'm being told not to keep them! May the good and bad of my life serve as an example. Some day it will all be exposed. I am not ashamed, for it is God who justifies. Jesus' blood has covered me, I have new garments, and the Holy Spirit has fallen on me. There is no one to condemn except the Lord Himself... and He has mercifully chosen otherwise. So what have I to fear? What can mere man do to me?

In the end, because of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit working in me, I believe I do have a few "answers" that will help people. I'm still working on them. Some of them have been revealed already in my pathetically written blog. My writing tends to be quite verbose and hard to follow. It is because as I start writing, brand new discoveries flow in like crazy. I feel I have to record them before they vanish. My writings aren't conclusions or answers that I'm sharing. They are rather morphing and growing as more is understood. I'm on a journey just like everyone else.

I find it immensely difficult to develop a well-developed thesis and reinforce it with supporting points. I learned some of that writing style stuff back in high school, but that was 12 years ago, and I wasn't paying that close attention then! The revelations and treasures from the Spirit have brought me to my knees, made me dance and jump, strike fists in the air, weep at length, and more. Yet amid all this emotion and power I can't seem to communicate my thoughts well. I read them and think, "This isn't going to mean anything to anyone else." It frustrates me! Yet I must believe God will use me, in spite of my self-doubt.

My plan is to reorganize some of these thoughts over the next several months. I am developing a format and venue to present them. I believe I am called by God to do this - at least, to do something. My suffering has not been in vain. My deliverance is to be shared. My cup overflows, and I don't want it to go to waste! There's something in me that has use for someone else. That "something" is the Holy Spirit of God! That something is the truth of the Word of God, written in my heart!

Please don't herald me as anything great or congratulate me on what seems to be "going the right direction" or anything like that. My victory and power is the very realization that I can do nothing at all. It is God who is working here. Praise Him! I don't need recognition. I don't want credit. I'd feel a looming sickness, as a thief. For it is God's solid gold refined by fire seven times that has the power to save! I am but a stubborn instrument in His hands. I'm thankful to be alive in Him. I'm thankful to know Him, to call Him Lord and Father. He is my portion, and I need no other. Sometimes my flesh cries out for something else, but I must crucify it with the shed blood of Jesus and take all thoughts captive, for nothing can satisfy like my God! He is my Love, my Light, my Life, and my Salvation! Amen.

Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.

Zechariah 4:6 ESV

After all this, I did perhaps little else but ramble. Hunt for it, and you might find something. I bet if you do, it will be colored green. Again, don't skip passages, for they are the Word of God. The rest is perhaps the ravings of one gone mad! Nevertheless, my "madness" is from God, for I am crazy about Him! His Word is making me crazy!

I leave this post with this thought, from Luke 11. I hope it is a practical one. Before I even read this passage, God did what it says. Before I even asked, He answered. Furthermore, as I discovered the principle captured here, nothing but amazing things have happened since. Does it seem like God doesn't do miracles anymore? Are you afraid to ask Him for something, only to be disappointed when He doesn't give an immediate and exacting answer? Ask for the Spirit. I dare you!

Believe and plead humbly and sincerely with all your heart and don't relent, and I believe for your sake He will answer. You might find that, with the Spirit, not only will some of the "stuff" you thought was important fade away, but you might have faith to ask for things according to the will of God... and you can be confident to receive that, even if you can't "see" it (Huh? More on that another time - just in case I forget, and you're interested, read repeatedly Hebrews 11 in light of this preceding, confounding thought).

Think well and carefully on this passage from the Gospel of Luke. Consider how specific the conclusion is to such a lengthy description of prayer... doesn't it sound weird? I bet you thought it was going to say, "How much more will the heavenly Father give to His children whatever they ask for". Nope, while He says stuff of that nature in other passages (The Gospel of Matthew records it that way you were thinking), we'd be fools not consider the implications of this very specific answer here, since all Scripture is inspired and useful. I hope you don't miss it. It's kind of the point of everything I just wrote. Trust me, it's very practical! Not sure what to pray for? Have you become so cynical that you think prayer makes no difference, and God's just going to do whatever He wants no matter what we ask? Or better yet, would you be willing to submit to such a harsh reality as a submissive servant and creature, if He doesn't answer at all (not saying this is the case, but there's a principle of humility there)? Listen up. Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead!

And he said to them, "Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and he will answer from within, 'Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything'? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

Luke 11:5-13 ESV

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Tuesday, November 4th, 2008 - 7:59 PM

"The MegaMix"

My Bible listening has been insanely profitable and productive over the last three months. My ears and heart have been stuffed with life changing gold refined by fire seven times. At times I have felt my head is overwhelmed with an overload of information to process. Even now I have over twenty passages or realizations I wish to discuss.

Because of this virtual audio overload, I have decided to adjust my Winamp playlist at work. If I continue pouring the Word in my ears in this fashion, my headphones will transform from a distraction and background noise muter to a distraction in of themselves! It's somewhat of a sad debate to endure, as everything in me wants to listen to the Bible more and more. Nevertheless, if I'm going to keep food on the plate and a roof over my head, I need to focus more on my duties while at work.

The adjustment I made involved adding some music tracks into my Winamp playlist. Of course by doing this I incur the risk of only enhancing the effectiveness of Scripture by surrounding it with inspirational music. I guess that's a risk I'm willing to take :) I now have a list of 441 tracks that loop continuously in my ears.

As I have always done, I hand selected the music albums to be ones that notoriously both comfort and challenge me. Selections include Forgiven Much, Terry McGlasson, Third Day, Paul Ramey and Keith Green (I respect no musician more - a modern-day King David). I randomized the order of the tracks and turned on the shuffle feature to boot. I have no idea which track will come next: music or scripture. The likelihood of two consecutive Bible chapters playing is pretty slim.

My reasoning behind this change is to get less distracted from work by listening and regaining the benefit of dulling down the distracting conversations and noise in the office. In the meantime, I still benefit of getting saturated with exactly the medicine my heart requires.

After some thought I realized that the randomness of the track order also potentially allows God to more powerfully "show up". Comparable to casting lots, an element of what appears to us as "chance" frees the Spirit to soar and shine. When we assume we know exactly what we need or want (self-diagnose), there's little room for God to speak what He knows we need to hear. Now I believe God has the ability to use randomness to His advantage (my advantage). Great! I've seen this happen a couple times already. What should be entirely arbitrary has proved to be selected tracks speaking to me when I need them. The shock of the seemingly perfect timing becomes an element of inspiration and praise in of itself.

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.

Proverbs 16:33 ESV

I am titling this playlist of music and Bible "The MegaMix".

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Monday, November 3rd, 2008 - 9:55 AM

"A Week Later"

My knee still hurts when I bend it, and my heel still hurts when I walk on it. Hopefully it's just a matter of time for it to heal. I guess it's only been a week since my bike spill (pun intended - poor Pizza Schmizza cup!). I should come up with some play on words regarding "heel" and "heal"... but everything I come up with sounds really "lame"... Ha ha ha, get it? I wonder what was wrong with the lame man? Maybe the problem was in his heel. He needed a heel heal.

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids - blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, "Do you want to be healed?" The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me." Jesus said to him, "Get up, take up your bed, and walk." And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

John 5:2-9 ESV

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Sunday, November 2nd, 2008 - 11:23 PM

"Bike Stats Future Feature"

So there should no longer be any painful bike stats on my blog. I finally created a database table to hold the information. Eventually I may use this to create a stats displaying page with graphs and such. Knowing me, it might be years before such a thing becomes a reality - if ever. At least now I have a proper way to record the stats without annoying my very few readers!

P.S. Since I've been properly recording my bike statistics from my bike computer each day, I've traveled 633.04 miles! That's after 3 months, 67 days of those days being riding days, averaging 9.45 miles per day. My fastest maximum speed so far is 33.5 miles per hour. My average speed over all this time so far is 10.55 miles per hour.

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Sunday, November 2nd, 2008 - 12:42 PM

"Occupied With the Word"

I don't normally spend a lot of time thoroughly reviewing random blogs out there in the immense, endless stack of them... but something put me in the mood to do so today. I'm glad I did. As the result of looking into Bible stuff on the web (thanks for the inspiration Wes!), I came across Jason Holm's blog, Occupied With the Word, where he talks largely about His journey through the Word. I appreciate his detail-oriented approach and great observations from Scripture. I'll be following his findings, as I find it encouraging to see others who are inflamed by a passion for the Word of God! Some months ago I would never have said such a thing and really meant it. But today, because of the amazing work God is doing in my life, I can say no other thing! To God be the glory for the things He has done! I feel like I don't have enough hours in the day to pursue all these things He is laying on my heart! Phew.

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Sunday, November 2nd, 2008 - 1:33 AM

"Virtual Reality"

Just playing with my new Serif PhotoPlus X2... more on that later... and found an old picture to look at. Looking into pixel-eyes is not nearly as good as the "real thing", but what choice do I have? Wow, now that is a gorgeous babe with none to compare! I miss this one horribly. To look into those eyes again... not sure I could ever look away.

virtual reality

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Saturday, November 1st, 2008 - 5:07 PM

"The Zimmer Man"

As promised, here is the poem I wrote about Mr. Zimmerman back in 1996. Larry Zimmerman was my math teacher for two years in high school. I was hoping to find the list of verses that he compiled for us to consider, but I couldn't locate a copy in my files. I also took the liberty of changing the name of my poem to "The Zimmer Man" because it sounded weigh kewler than the original :)

The Zimmer Man

a poem by Phil, 1996

I saw him walking down the hallway: perfect in his stride.
The empty hallway: no one seen except this one and I.
I saw his age in every hair and wrinkle on his face,
But I could never call him old by looking at his pace.
He walked a stoic walk that day, the day that first I saw.
That balding head, that look of dread: a layer of the law.
One cannot judge this man, for this describes his outer part.
The outside never shows the truth which lives within the heart.

This man has wits; they have not left; he is a teacher still.
He teaches us according to his knowledge and his will.
At first he seemed a perfect man - except a stoic mien.
But what's about to be described destroys all prior seen.
As he was teaching Calculus, an error did he make.
I watched with every part of me - Would he admit mistake?
The room became so still; expression on his face was gone.
The next event which happened leads me further, farther on.

With all that was within him he dropped pen and faced the room.
His face at first expressed emotions absent - as a tomb.
And then, as resurrected life, an upturned lip I saw
A glorious smile, and all the while I truly was in awe.
He joked about his error, and he did it in a way
That no one in the room could keep from laughing on that day.
A man was shown I'd never seen - He'd been there all along.
I'd thought he was a stoic, but I could not be more wrong.

This man is kind; inside you'll find a heart of solid gold.
A warmth is kindled in his heart: example to the cold.
A student and a teacher: he is both to say the least.
Not one can count the number of the students he has reached.
He learns from God, his Father, and he teaches what he learns.
He puts the Lord in every page of Calculus he turns.
It seems as though he has a burden placed within his heart
to teach, to reach a part of each; himself he will impart.

I see him walking down the hallway: perfect in his stride.
The empty hallway: no one seen except this one and I.
I see him not the same, however, as I saw him then.
A stoic? No. His heart does show a happy man again.
I see a man who smiles and find he whistles as he walks.
The hallways cheer when he comes near: to them his whistle talks.
I cannot stress the point enough that love can only trace
The age that's found in every hair and wrinkle on his face.

The Zimmer Man

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