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Thursday, February 26th, 2009 - 2:54 AM

"Greenway Nutria"

I encountered a nutria (aka coypu) on the way home from work Monday evening. I was surprised how tame it was. It was perfectly visible along the path, chewing on the damp blades of grass. I've not ever seen a nutria up so close. It looked like half beaver and half rat (because of the tail). I became fond of the animal, as I was able to approach and observe it very closely. Truth be told, I was less than 2 feet away, my camera lens probably a foot away at one point. It didn't even flinch. I guess I have a way with animals :)

Poor things. Nutria are considered invasive species to our continent, but it is our fault. We brought them here for the purpose of raising them for their fur. Now they are breeding out of control and considered a pest. Too bad, so sad. Greedy people. I don't care. I like my new friend, the nutria... even if he does have an ugly rat tail and weird orange teeth!




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Wednesday, February 25th, 2009 - 11:51 PM

"Your Blessing Awaits You"

He did it. He accomplished it. He said it, and it happened. He declared it. His voice shook the mountains. The vibrations shook the core of the universe, and all things rose or fell in submission to His will. He did it. The impossible became possible, even the small task of moving a dead heart into motion. If you believe in miracles, why not believe His ability to affect your own soul, much less completely redeem and transform you from the inside out! Don't doubt He will do it.

This whole Biblical model of blessing is stunning me lately. I used to think it was just a cultural thing. I admit worse sentiments: I thought it was wordy rigmarole. For example, when I read about fathers blessing sons in the Old Testament, I thought it was boring and insignificant. I figured it was just an old fashioned practice of an ancient civilization. OK, I didn't think of it THAT negatively. I guess I just didn't think of it at all. As far as the New Testament blessings, I found them tedious to read and repetitious. For example, all of Paul's epistles start or end approximately the same way, "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" and yackety smackety. I always considered that stuff as empty wind to package the more important content - kind of like a way to introduce or wind down the more relevant message in the middle.

A year ago, I was compelled by the Holy Spirit to reconsider the significance of Old Testament blessings. Just a few weeks ago, the New Testament ones also came alive. The account of how this happened is almost too lengthy to share, but I'll try to relate the gist of it.

My Grandpa has been a great inspiration to me. I know I've shared that numerous times, but there is a lot to the story. I still have yet to publish the video of his explanation for the "blessing" of his disabilities as well as the recording of his blessing over me. Much remains to be said. I've always greatly admired my Grandpa, the humble pastor with a great passion for the Word of God and ability to make it come alive through his sermons rich with wisdom and insight. I admire his authenticity in simple, childlike faith. He's a good man in spite of (or perhaps because of, as he would attest) his many difficulties.

A couple years ago, the thought seemingly randomly occurred to me that I'd like to somehow "inherit" some part of Grandpa's spiritual gifts and aptitude toward all things of God and His Word. I can attest to the truth that these thoughts simply "came to me". I don't know where from, seemingly from the Spirit, looking back in hindsight. The specific accounts of the patriarchal generational blessings (Isaac blessing Jacob, Jacob blessing his sons, etc) popped into my mind. Like I just mentioned, these stories didn't really mean much to me at all growing up until the connection to my Grandpa occurred to me. The other story that "magically" made it's way to my mind was when Elisha the prophet asked for a double portion of the spirit of his mentor, Elijah. For some reason unknown to me, I felt compelled to seek this sort of blessing or "inheritance" from Grandpa. I can't stress enough how "outside myself" the nature of these thoughts is, and I believe they were from God.

I kept these thoughts in the back of my mind for a couple years and didn't act on them. I wondered if it might be presumptuous to assume God would actually use such a transaction or sentiment to endow me with an actual tangible blessing. I figured it couldn't hurt, but was not overly hopeful for crazy stuff. So I put it off. Last August I could wait no more. I don't know what changed in my heart, but I suddenly felt pressured to ask for some sort of blessing from Grandpa. This feeling happened to coincide with a general drop in Grandpa's health, but several months before his very sudden decline that led up to his admission to the hospital and later to a nursing facility, where he resides currently. Even so, it was God's timing, for had I waited much longer, I probably would have missed the opportunity entirely. I wept a few times about it, and it was this emotion that drove me to finally step out in blind faith and ask for Grandpa's blessing. I figured there must be something to it.

Little did I know that God would use this simple act to completely rearrange the composition of my spirit. Something miraculous happened in my life that cannot be explained. I don't even know how to tell the story, I feel like I'm blabbing. Three stimuli changed my life at around the same time: 1) I confessed the full measure of all my sin and horrible plight to Ethnos my church body (or rather my beloved spiritual family) and was somehow miraculously healed from my infirmity by being exposed to the Light of God (still need to better tell the fulness of that amazing story), 2) I asked for Grandpa's blessing, and 3) I asked God to give me more of His Spirit, specifically the same type of Spirit interaction that inspired and empowered the early church. For whatever crazy reason, God did something amazing to me by way of this three step deal. The way I describe it is this: "The Holy Spirit has fallen on me, and there is nothing I can do about it!" Ever since that time about seven months ago, my life has been full of crazy interactions with God's Word, His people, and most importantly the Holy Spirit. This account may be hard to accept, and some skeptics surely discount it as my imagination. I know better than these. Something happened. I can feel it.

Now for the shorter story of how I learned to appreciate New Testament blessings. I just now realized as I was writing, I have to credit Elder Dave primarily for this appreciation. Quite often in the Ethnos gatherings, he will come prepared with a benediction that comes in the form of one of these New Testament style blessings. Hearing those over the last several months probably primed my soul to help me finally realize these blessings' significance (which I used to think were just fluffy verbiage to hem in the Apostle Paul's messages).

Not only that, but Elder Dave suggested reading Romans together a chapter at a time and discussing our findings. I started that out in my community laundry room and only got to verse 7 of chapter one, cuz I wrote too much (nothing new). This is the final conclusion to the findings of that first encounter in Romans (I've had others since).

To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 1:7 ESV

OK, whooptie-do, right? Maybe like I used to, you also read such a verse and think, "Yeah, just an introductory or closing statement. No real power or anything to learn here." Ha! WRONG! Think about it. What is Paul actually saying or doing here? He is directing something from God toward another human being. In the same way that God did strange miracles through Paul by having a handkerchief heal people that Paul only touched, something is actually being projected out of God through these words. Grace is something we know. Peace is something we know. Paul here is somehow sending out grace and peace from God Almighty and His Son Jesus.

What? Really? Does God really grant power to men to dose out His peace and grace? Apparently so. Have you ever thought of that before? Each time you say, "God bless you" or "Peace be with you" and append it with a name of God, you are potentially petitioning the God of universe to action. That's AMAZING! It's not that God bends His knee to our will and performs our requests like a genie. However, He is the best Father ever known, and He chooses to act through our "benedictions and well wishing of others".

Why am I all worked up about this blessing stuff? Isn't it just hopeful, not guaranteed (like something to make people feel good)? Perhaps. I don't know for sure that my own weak and faithless words call God to action like these men in Scripture. I have to believe it to some degree, but my faith fails to expect 100% response (to my shame). Sometimes I feel my prayers go no farther than the ceiling. To say otherwise would be dishonest. I'm human. I doubt that which I can't see and touch like the rest of everyone has and will throughout the history of the world. Even so, God has blessed me with miraculous measure because I simply followed His Spirit to ask for the blessing. That's it. That's all I did. It just happened like that.

Don't trust my testimony? Trust Scripture then. What happened when blessings were meted out in the Bible? Were they just meaningless blessings like, "Live long and prosper?" No, in every case of a blessing declared, everything happened just as was blessed. These blessings were prophecies. When Israel (Jacob) blessed his sons, he dictated very specific details of where they would live, what their character would be like, how their lives and stories would play out, and so on. Isn't that nuts?

When you ask for the blessing of someone you respect, "Old Testament Style", you might be told something like this: "Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel!" That's what poor Simeon and Levi got as a "blessing" from their father! Just think, it is from the tribe of Levi that all the priests of Israel descended. Weird, huh?

In the same set of blessings, Jacob blesses his son Judah in an incredible way. Judah gets the longest blessing, filled with flattering prophecy. Judah was one of the brothers who in jealousy condemned Joseph to death. Joseph was the instrument of God's deliverance to the entire ancient world. However, Joseph's blessing nowhere near compares with the glory Judah receives. In fact, Judah became a separate nation after the reign of Solomon. It was Judah, and the rest of Israel. That alone is an amazing distinction. Interestingly enough, the kings of the tribe of Judah, and King David himself, were always on the throne, just as Jacob's blessing dictated. Not convinced yet? JESUS HIMSELF descended from the tribe of Judah. One of His esteemed names is "The Lion of the Tribe of Judah"! Let me tell you, when you ask for an Old Testament blessing from a man of God, you better watch out! Can I get an "Amen"?

Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion's cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey's colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.

Genesis 49:8-12 ESV

The kicker for me that really opened my eyes to the significance of Biblical blessings I found in Isaac's blessing of Jacob (who "stole" it from Esau... though God knew this would happen, and it was predicted from his birth and predestined long before that). After Esau, the firstborn, finds out his younger brother stole his father's blessing through deceit, he begged his father to bless him also. If these blessings were meaningless trifles or meaningless well wishes, Isaac would have gladly also blessed his favored son Esau, would he not? Instead, this is what happened:

As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, when Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, Esau his brother came in from his hunting. He also prepared delicious food and brought it to his father. And he said to his father, "Let my father arise and eat of his son's game, that you may bless me." His father Isaac said to him, "Who are you?" He answered, "I am your son, your firstborn, Esau." Then Isaac trembled very violently and said, "Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all before you came, and I have blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed." As soon as Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry and said to his father, "Bless me, even me also, O my father!" But he said, "Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing." Esau said, "Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing." Then he said, "Have you not reserved a blessing for me?" Isaac answered and said to Esau, "Behold, I have made him lord over you, and all his brothers I have given to him for servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?" Esau said to his father, "Have you but one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father." And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.

Then Isaac his father answered and said to him:

"Behold, away from the fatness of the earth shall your dwelling be,
and away from the dew of heaven on high.
By your sword you shall live,
and you shall serve your brother;
but when you grow restless
you shall break his yoke from your neck."

Genesis 27:30:40 ESV

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Wednesday, February 25th, 2009 - 12:33 AM

"One Hundred Talents of Silver"

100 talents of silver

In catching up on my Bible reading, I noticed an interesting sequence of events spilled over three chapters of 2 Chronicles (chapters 25 to 27).

Amaziah, king of Judah, was partially faithful to God. This pattern of starting out well and finishing like junk seems to be quite the pattern among the historic kings of the Southern Kingdom. For some reason, their mothers are always mentioned in the opening lines of their various accounts. Hmmm... weird. Maybe that is an indicator that they all died before their time, and their mothers took over until the next, younger king was ready to rule? Just a guess.

King Amaziah made the fatal mistake of worshiping the false gods of Edom. This of course led to his downfall, as the kingdom of Judah (or any kingdom) will fall if God lets it fall. God can not abide the whoredom of idolatry, so He withheld His strength and blessing from the king, and Amaziah eventually fell. It's a pity that these mere men did't realize their strength came from God. A small nation like Israel or Judah would instantly be snuffed out by their more powerful neighboring enemies if God didn't constantly protect and empower them. For more on this idea, read God Wishes to Be Declared God - or skim and read the big, bold words highlighted in the passage included there. There are countless stories throughout the history of Israel that prove that God alone was able to route the enemies of His people. Time and time again, it is by God's hand alone that Israel survived in spite of ridiculously impossible odds. A great example (it's hard to pick just one) is how God used Gideon's 300 men to route untold thousands of Midianites and Amalekites (read about Gideon in Judges 7).

His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.

Psalm 147:10-11 ESV

Astoundingly, immediately after God grants victory to King Amaziah through divine intervention, the king immediately turns and worships the idols confiscated from his defeated foes. What in the world?! How dumb is that? At the same time, I see myself here. How often have I prayed for something from God - perhaps deliverance from a problem - and when I get it, I immediately go on with life without praising Him... as if I didn't even need Him to begin with? This Amaziah tomfoolery hits a little too close to home for me. Replace the idols with an attitude or a sinful habit, and this describes all of us at times. I've learned to not be so quick to condemn what appears to be blatant stupidity in some of the Old Testament accounts, for I too am a practitioner of buffoonery.

On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." When he saw them he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" And he said to him, "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well."

Luke 17:11-19 ESV

At this point in history, Israel and Judah are two separate kingdoms, with clear division of territory and political power. In fear, Amaziah hires out 100,000 soldiers from neighboring Israel to help fight against his enemies. To pay for this military service, he gives Israel 100 talents of silver. A man of God instructs Amaziah to free the Israelite mercenaries of their obligation, for God Himself has the power to deliver Judah from its enemies. Amaziah worries about his silver expenditure, but the prophet assures him God has much more money than that to replenish the lost sum.

All that is background leading up to the interesting observation I noticed today. Amaziah meets his demise for failing to give glory to God for his victory over the men of Seir. His son Uzziah follows in his footsteps. Uzziah starts out honoring God with his reign and gains fame and power through listening to the wisdom of Zechariah, the prophet of God. However, Uzziah's pride gets the best of him. Much like Saul didn't wait for Samuel to offer sacrifices to God, doing it himself, Uzziah takes the liberty of forgoing obedience to God's law and enters the temple of God in a fashion only allowed by the priests. He is striken with leprosy for his arrogance.

Uzziah's son Jotham takes over as king of Judah, himself the grandson of Amaziah who lost 100 talents of silver. According to 2 Chronicles 27, Jotham does what is right in the sight of God. There is no account of spiritual wreckage later in his reign, unlike his father and grandfather. Here's the kicker for me and the whole point of all this build up. Because of Jotham's faithfulness to God, he is triumphant over his enemies during his lifetime. The Ammonites became subject to him and sent him 100 talents of silver each year for three years, as well as vast amounts of wheat and barley. Maybe it is a coincidence that Jotham's enemies pay him an annual offering that matches (exceeds, counting the grain) what his grandfather lost when he dismissed his 100,000 Israelite mercenaries. Then again, maybe it is not a coincidence at all. God rewards those who are faithful to Him, those who remember Him and set Him in His proper place as God. Perhaps this blessing, spoken of by the prophet during Amaziah's time, was passed down through the generations until God found one man worthy to receive it, a king who "ordered his ways before the Lord his God". I hope the blessing God wishes to pour out on me does not get passed to another generation. Lord, make me faithful to You. Mortify my flesh today! So lent begins.

He hired also 100,000 mighty men of valor from Israel for 100 talents of silver. But a man of God came to him and said, "O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the Lord is not with Israel, with all these Ephraimites. But go, act, be strong for the battle. Why should you suppose that God will cast you down before the enemy? For God has power to help or to cast down." And Amaziah said to the man of God, "But what shall we do about the hundred talents that I have given to the army of Israel?" The man of God answered, "The Lord is able to give you much more than this."

2 Chronicles 25:6-9 ESV

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Tuesday, February 24th, 2009 - 1:57 AM

"That's Not Phil, It's Batman!"

It gives me the demi-chuckles to hear people's comments to me every time I wear my favorite T-shirt. Invariably people call me Batman all day long. Four or five people named me thus today. One interaction in particular was funny enough to write down the script. It inspired me to take an illustrative picture.

Receptionist: "Hi Phil."

Me: "Hello."

H.R. Manager: "That's not Phil, it's Batman!"

Me: That's right!"

That's not Phil, it's Batman

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Monday, February 23rd, 2009 - 5:56 PM

"How Long, O Lord?"

Life hurts sometimes. Can I get an "Amen"? Oh how I wish my suffering or inner turmoil could be alleviated by a simple act of will power. When I look at my life's comparatively simple plight and consider the greater suffering and injustice served others, I get annoyed with myself. I am in a situation of great blessing. God not only provides for all my basic needs, but He has abundantly blessed me in the spiritual realm. Not only am I alive in Christ and set apart for eternity, but God has answered my prayer of desperation and has dosed out His Holy Spirit to me when I asked it of Him.

Every time I say or write these truths, I feel better. Rehearse! Yet tomorrow or the next hour my flesh will forget again. I was realizing again today the ironic blessing I have of poverty in spirit, particularly manifest in recent months. I don't know if I should clap for God for arranging such a beautiful and fortunate dependence or weep because I am annoyed how consistently and easily hurt and crushed I seem to be. The glory is that because I'm so weak, I am forced in my hurting moments to turn to God. Then I feel pathetic because I can't bear up under the light load entrusted to my easily bruised shoulders. I read God's Word and am delivered. A cycle of sorts.

I have often believed my best cure is to serve others. When I have too much time alone, my thoughts inevitably turn to my own concerns and desires. I find great joy in serving. It is a largely unexplored path, one I wish to traverse down more in coming months. I love the irony of this: feel like junk, so help others. Logic would dictate others serving me because I feel like junk. Nevertheless, I know the truth. Healing comes when perspective is gained. The troubles will not cease, but they cease to be so troubling.

As poorly communicated as these thoughts are, they were inspired by a reading of a verse from the book of Jonah, which I saw while looking at one of my pieces of "artwork", 3D Prayer Room. It is a good verse because it describes my daily sojourning (a word I would never use had I not been reading the Old Testament in the ESV, where it is used repeatedly). I live daily life. Something small hurts me or sets my face downcast. I remember the Lord and pray to Him. Perspective is gained (I'm not in the "belly of a whale", like some are after all) and comfort received. I am completely reliant on Him, and for this I am thankful. I used to be swallowed up in life. Now I feel more swallowed up in Christ.

When my life was fainting away,
I remembered the Lord,
and my prayer came to you,
into your holy temple.

Jonah 2:7 ESV

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Sunday, February 22nd, 2009 - 12:45 AM

"Fortune Cookie's Dreams Fulfilled"

My most recent visit to Panda Express (Panda Exproido, as it could be called) revealed something about myself I never knew. Apparently I've always dreamed of glamour and luxury.

Your dreams of glamour & luxury will come true

Little did I know that it would come true so soon. A couple days later, it all fell into place. I believe these pictures prove it beyond the shadow of a doubt. If you feel differently, please don't shatter my hopes and dreams. It better be worth it because I had to iron a shirt, which is a rare occasion for me. It's all about the glamour, baby! Consequently, these pictures also show the most recent state of my ever-increasing volumetric hair.

glamour and luxury

glamour and luxury

glamour and luxury

glamour and luxury

glamour and luxury

glamour and luxury

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Thursday, February 19th, 2009 - 12:50 AM

"No Other Gods Before Him"

And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, "The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!" Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, "Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness." Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them.

Acts 14:11-18 ESV

I found this passage quite interesting today because it came across starkly for some reason. I guess today's theme in my writing is the first and second commandments. The last blog entry I wrote had a similar theme.

What struck me as interesting and new (I don't remember noticing before) this time was verses 16 and 17: "In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness." I think I skipped right over those verses in previous reads of this passage. I see now a HUGE and OBVIOUS connection between these verses and Romans 1:18-25 - a passage I seem to be eternally "reading" in preparation for talking with Elder Dave :)

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Romans 1:18-25 ESV

Look at that! Paul speaks of God allowing the nations to walk in their own ways (implying evil ways). Yet His witness to them was embedded in creation. It's a cool description of a God who defies the impersonal one presented by the Deists. His hand is indeed at work in our lives. What we see as chance such as good weather and seasonal crops is actually the kindness of God shining down on us. For those who live in darkness, what is God's antidote? He is fully capable and within "His rights" to curse the land of His enemies. Sometimes He may see fit to do just that. However, He is not limited to our expectations. Perhaps more often than not, God blesses the wicked right alongside the righteous. Why?! Huh? What's up with that!? SAY WHAT!?

Here's a big ole clue for you. I was once in sin. You were too. We all were. God looked down from heaven on all men to see if there was a single one who was good. Guess what, He didn't find a single one to point at. His fingers remained in His pockets, and He turned around and kicked the empty soda can as He walked down the streets of gold. Not a SINGLE one good? How depressing is that!?

God could sigh in His high heaven and say, "What the hayock happened to the stuff I made that I am certain I once said of it, 'It is good'?" Or He could choose to destroy it all like in the flood and start all over with a clean palette. "Let's put some friendly bushes over here, some mighty trees, some happy clouds, and all sorts of sticks and twigs, whatever you feel like... just beat the paint out of it, my favorite part!" (Does God have a big afro-for-hair and a mellow voice? Nah!)

Instead we learn that it is God's kindness that leads us to repentance. How on earth could the wicked turn to God without His kindness shining down on them? He leaves His witness - the favorable crops in season - to tell of His kindness, even to those who turn aside and worship creation rather than the Creator! He causes His rain to fall on the just and the unjust. How kind is that? Feel unfair? You don't like that the one who works 1 hour gets the same wage as you who worked all day in the grueling heat? Don't like that your brother who squandered his inheritance with wild living and repented at the last second gets a feast? Don't like the criminal who gets to see Jesus "today in paradise"? Well I DOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Thank You, Lord! Thank You for being kind to sinners! Thank You for being merciful to me, even when I so many times have turned my back on You! I'd be lost without Your kindness. You have brought me to repentance! Wowza!

It's a shame what we see happening here in Acts. The passage in Romans explains exactly what the silly people in Acts did in response to the apostles. The men witness the miracles performed through the hand of Paul and declare he and Barnabas to be gods. Rather than give glory to the Creator, the intention of the "message" of the miracle, the people instantly glorify gods they themselves created with their own hands. Messed up! The Roman gods are SO idols! Think about it. Polytheistic systems are often divided and named by features and "benefits" provided in nature. Ah, the crops are cool and nice and regularly provided... and the rain, the sun, and so on. This stuff is "good", so let's make categorized gods, give them names, say they are the god of "so and so" and "such and such". Surely all this splendor surrounding us in nature is worthy of worship!

Aaaaah! The very mirrors that God embeds in creation intended to reflect eyes to Him are looked upon as gods themselves! Worship the mirror? No! Stop that! You see, these things are gifts FROM God. They are His kindness to turn our hearts toward repentance. They are not gods themselves. Don't craft images of things in the form of people and animals. Don't exalt the lowly. God alone is God! He doesn't take kindly to being replaced by the relatively simple things He's made, or worse yet the things WE make! Will we worship dead wood and stone? How foolish is that!?

...if you read further in Acts, immediately after worshiping the apostles, the same crowd is convinced to stone them. I'm sorry, but that is crazy! What in the world!? I hope we are not so easily deceived on a whim today. Sometimes I think we are. We're just a big mob of mindless freaks sometimes. Is not our culture full of similar deceptions? If you say no, you might be in the cloud yourself. You have to step into the light in order to recognize the haze you once called "truth". Don't we prostitute ourselves to the highest bidder? We live in this world as if it is all there is. All the while God alone is God, but do we exalt Him and make His name known or give thanks to Him for His good gifts? Oh dear, such audible declarations might offend someone. We better keep it to ourselves, in case those who listen worship some other god or believe in no god at all! NO! Shout it from the rooftops! Wake up, O sleepers! Rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light! Seek God while He may still be found. If Jesus finds little faith when He returns to the earth, resolve that your obedience and faith will make up part of His favorable yet meager collection. Endure to the end, and all the rewards promised in the book of Revelation will be yours. Above all that, God will Himself claim you. He is the greatest reward. The rest is comparatively fluff.

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Wednesday, February 18th, 2009 - 11:44 PM

"God Wishes to Be Declared God"

I know, a LOT of Scripture. Like you're actually going to read it, right? Oh well, wishful thinking. I just know that if I write, "go read 2 Chronicles 20:1-21" before continuing on, that wouldn't happen either. I may as well put the passage here to save you from using the excuse of not reading it because it required you to go get your Bible :) Don't even try writing a revenge blog entry that tells me to go read the entire Bible before reading the rest of your post. I probably wouldn't do that... though I wouldn't rule it out. By the end of this year, I'll have probably read through all of the Bible once, and most of it several times. So come January 1, 2010, I'll read your essay on the Bible :) ... that is, if you first do your part and read 2 Chronicles 20:1-21!

After this the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites, came against Jehoshaphat for battle. Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, "A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar" (that is, Engedi). Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord.

And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, and said, "O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, 'If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you - for your name is in this house - and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.' And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy - behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you."

Meanwhile all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children. And the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. And he said, "Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, 'Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God's. Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.' Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you."

Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshiping the Lord. And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.

And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, "Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed." And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say,

"Give thanks to the Lord,
for his steadfast love endures forever."

2 Chronicles 20:1-21 ESV

I love to see the attitude displayed in the character of Jehoshaphat here (he messes up later). The leaders of the Gentiles lord it over their people. This leader humbles himself, lowering himself to the proper position and posture before His ultimate Leader, God. What a mantra for us to consider. How about we put on the attitude of this phrase in times of great need: We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

What this phrase says is this: 1) We believe that You exist, God, even if we cannot see you with our eyes. 2) We believe that You give good gifts to Your children. This 1-2 combination is the essence of faith. Even though the people of Israel had no visible reason for hope - they were totally outnumbered - the correct choice was made.

God wants to be declared God. He wants willing submission. He wants it to be our choice. He will not force us to choose Him like mindless robots. Oftentimes God will allow difficulties in our lives to train us to look to Him. Stop for a moment and consider what's going on when in troubles. Say and believe this: We don't know what to do, but our eyes are on you! If you are persistent in this to tears and seek Him with your entire "assembly" bowing before Him and His sanctuary, expect Him to answer. However, do not relent. Rend your heart and repent. The time of His return is near!

I see this story as a great symbol of the salvation of Jesus Christ. If you rearrange some of the key verses I underlined, you get a pretty clear prophetic image of the work of Christ...

We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You. The battle is not yours but God's. Believe in the Lord your God. Believe His prophets and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf.

Normally I would never cut and paste Scripture to make it say what I want. I don't intend to imply my ordering is the way it was meant to be read. I perceived the symbol in the text without having to reorder it. However, I just wanted to make sure you saw what I was talking about by offering the visual aid.

God tells His people here to believe in what His prophets say. It is reliable and true. The ultimate fulfillment of prophecy comes in Jesus Christ. He alone is our Salvation. While we were still powerless in sin Christ died for us! The enemy we face is insurmountable by our strength alone. The enemy has a horde at his disposal. Nevertheless, in Christ, no weapon that's fashioned against us will stand. The battle belongs to the Lord! We need only to stop, humble ourselves, and look to Him.

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Wednesday, February 18th, 2009 - 11:11 PM

"Blue Elbow Syndrome"

I made this image for an entirely honorable, overwhelming, and pliable reason. So I figure, thinking to myself, "Why not put this yon image on my el blogo?" Therefore, the results of this pensation are as follows: Golf is a sport I don't play, nor do I plan to start within the next 4 months.

Blue Elbow Syndrome

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Tuesday, February 17th, 2009 - 3:56 PM

"Warner's Warp, Caiaphas"

This little ditty was created using a bunch of conical gradients, a mild twirl, and a couple radial gradients. Simple as pie. I added my most recent favorite filter - the GIMP's "Line Nova" - to give the image some pop along the edges. I guess the design is called Warner's Warp, Caiaphas because that's the first thing that came to mind.

Warner's Warp, Caiaphas

Then as usual, I cover up the best part of the design with a product photo and some words...

Warner's Warp, Caiaphas

Prices and featured items totally void. Ad graphic shown for fair use illustrative purposes only.

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Tuesday, February 17th, 2009 - 12:15 AM

"Psalm 46"

Psalm 46 was the first segment in yesterday's reading. I like it a lot. Each stanza has cool stuff.

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
"Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!"
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46 ESV

Doesn't it often feel like you are all alone when troubles and hardship come? I have certainly felt that way many times. Lately though I've been blessed with a powerful presence of what I can only credit and believe is the Holy Spirit of God. Though many things quake around me, even things in our church community, I feel a warmth and hope.

I love this first stanza. It is so awesome! I think maybe I should memorize it or something. Listen to the words, people! What's pretty much the worst thing that could happen to us or befall creation? How about if the entire earth gives way? Wouldn't that mean none of us exist, all to perish in the upheaval and crash? If the mountains are thrown into the sea (hopefully not by someone abusing their mustard seed gift), that speaks of a pretty bad earthquake! Even if the geography of the entire earth suddenly shifted like crazy silly putty, God is our Refuge and Strength. We have nothing to fear. What can mere man or nature do to us? What is the valley of the shadow of death? What is the depth of the ocean? God is here and there. He will not abandon us.

God exists outside the box, created the box, and sustains the box. Lord, we praise You from within the box! Thank You for coming to die for us specks in the box. Thank You for coming into the box and not leaving us alone in the vast emptiness of it. Make us into something that pleases You on the final day. Save us by Your blood! We claim You alone as Lord. You alone are our Shelter in the storm, our warmth in the cold.

HAHAHA! It's funny! Imagine the entire armies of all nations setting themselves in battle formation, a huge array of many millions. Watch them all shout and raise their arms, weapons wielding. Then God utters His voice, and the entire earth melts! AHAHAHA! What a waste of time to oppose an Invincible Opponent! Don't make God your enemy. He loves you and does not want to have to oppose you.

Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.

Isaiah 55:6-7 NKJV

Break the bow and shatter the spear, O Lord! Make quiet of all, just so we are forced to be still and know that You are God! Soften our hearts so that we need not be shattered or found in the bowl of Your wrath.

Wow, The Lord of Hosts is with us! Who cares what befalls us, for we have a VERY PRESENT help in trouble. I didn't even know someone could be very present. Oh Lord, I have not this confidence. I fear my mind will disintegrate because of small worries and troubles that I'm faced with. I can't imagine what I'd become if the earth shattered or melted. Protect me in the shadow of Your wings. Cover my ears with Your warm hands, for they are filled with the screams of insanity this world offers. Look into my eyes, and forgive me when I hesitate to gaze back. Flood me with light, against my dark tendencies. Coax me to approach You, my Source. Rest me on sure ground, where You stand. Carry me Yourself through the tumult. I need You. You are my Passion alone. To look to the right or left - a habit of mine - is tomfoolery. There is nothing more beautiful, nor is there a more worthy pursuit than You! Correct me like a Father disciplines a son, but do not so in Your anger. Be gentle with me. My bones are fragile.

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Monday, February 16th, 2009 - 2:43 AM

"Yay for Pajamas"

A few weeks ago our SW Hills Community Group from Ethnos had a spur-of-the-moment pajama party. Angie posted a picture on her blog, so here it is:

Pajama Party!

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Sunday, February 15th, 2009 - 2:14 AM

"I'm an Undeserving Gentile"

"If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?" When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life."

Acts 10:17-18 ESV

Do you ever take for granted that you have direct access to the Father, Lord and God above all? I've recently been struck whenever I read passages that speak of the Good News to the Gentiles. Let us not forget that originally, the Jews alone were set apart to be God's people. Not only that, but salvation through Christ was first revealed to the Jews as well. The early church was not immediately aware that Jesus sacrifice was for all peoples. Then the Spirit revealed the order of things. Praise God for His incredible mercy, extended to us.

Sometimes in our pride we think in the western world that we are the source of salvation to all. We send out missionaries and write our systematic theology books. How arrogant. There is a reason everything started in Israel. I have no idea what God's eternal plans are, but I don't want to forget the significance of the grace extended to me. Praise God that we too can become children of Abraham, children of the promise - even though we are born of different blood. Glorify God that Jesus Christ made one man out of the two, reconnecting the broken lineage of Adam, the son of God!

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Psalm 32:1-2 ESV

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Sunday, February 15th, 2009 - 11:59 PM

"It's All About You"

How many times have I done that? I start writing about something, and in forming the supporting thoughts, I go a completely different direction and end up writing about something else. The previously written article titled, "Creation Speaks Plainly" used to be called "It's All About You". I wanted to comment on the video I had been watching (The Truth Project) and instead went on a tangent that became the article's direction. Oh well, I'd be a fool to stop what was flowing naturally as I wrote. Anyway, I intended first to write about yesterday's reading from Psalms that I'm now reading today.

I'm constantly amazed and humbled how my daily Bible reading lines up with seemingly EVERYTHING ELSE under the sun. I'm beginning to sound like a broken record on that, I realize. How can I fail to praise the Spirit of God for opening up the Scripture to me by connecting it with so many other things? I will not fail to glorify Him and make His name known!

Late Friday night I was reading the one-two combo punch of Psalm 42 and 43. In fact, I even wrote about it, or rather simply wrote IT out (it speaks for itself). That night I looked ahead in my old rustic NIV Student Bible to see Psalm 44 and all its underlines. I recognized it immediately. I used that old Bible so much that I knew the layout of the pages and where to find just about everything. I was a student of the Word in my adolescence. I feel as if I'm only scratching the surface of my former familiarity with my latest resurgence of interest in the Word. What I lack in "lookup power", I now make up in passion. The Lord has created in me a new heart for His Word through the power of the Holy Spirit that has fallen on me heavily with great might in recent months.

Here is the piece of Psalm 44 that has stricken me since my youth. I was so excited to "find" it in my old Bible Friday and relive my excitement for it. I literally jumped and raised my fist in the air with excitement and exclaimed, "YES!" At the time, I didn't realize the obvious thing, that I'd be reading it yet again in a couple days (since it would be part of the daily reading). Whoopie!

We have heard with our ears, O God;
our fathers have told us
what you did in their days,
in days long ago.

With your hand you drove out the nations
and planted our fathers;
you crushed the peoples
and made our fathers flourish.

It was not by their sword that they won the land,
nor did their arm bring them victory;
it was your right hand, your arm,
and the light of your face, for you loved them.

Psalm 44:1-3 NIV (version chosen "in honor" of the original reading from my youth)

What I noticed from this passage long ago as a teen is HOW MANY TIMES it used personal pronouns that refer to God, giving HIM ALONE credit and glory. I LOVE IT! It strikes me every time. I like to read it aloud, emphasizing the words "You" and "Your" as I read. I think it is the way it was meant to be read :)

The rest of the chapter gives similar emphasis on God. I guess the reason I started that first blog entry about creation is that even creation is all about Him. Everything that exists is about Him! Why? Because He created it, duh?! Would He create it and simply walk away? Won't it all "return to Him" some day? Shall the creation cease to praise the one who made it? Well, it seems it all but has... but that's an unfortunate and separate story. All the while, even if we humans - the culmination and greatest reason for His creation - fail to praise Him, nature does not. Look around and see the glory of God, "His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature". They are clearly seen. It's a fascinating concept to me that something that is invisible can be clearly seen. Yet it is SO true!

Jesus, Lover Of My Soul

by Passion, Lead: Shelly Nirider

It's all about You, Jesus
And all this is for You
For Your glory and your fame
It's not about me
As if You should do things my way
You alone are God
And I surrender to your ways

Jesus, lover of my soul
All consuming fire is in Your gaze
Jesus, I want you to know
I will follow you all my days
For no one else in history is like you
And history itself belongs to you
Alpha and Omega, You have loved me
And I will share eternity with You

Sweetheart, Kiss the Son

This Valentine's Day, will you submit to the true Lover of your soul? He created you to love you. Jesus Christ demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Surrender with me, while there is still time, friends. "Kiss the Son"

Find a way to listen to this song. Sing it as long as you have breath in your lungs. Your Creator longs to hear your voice and heart. Return to Him, creation. Allow Jesus to find faith when He returns to the earth.

Shelly Nirider The original
HAAHAAAAHAHA - Hilarious! John Dreher - I love watching this guy. I can't help but laugh!
Sarah Kim Good too
I'm partial to this one because it has Portuguese subtitles - and it was the first video I happened upon... coincidence?

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Saturday, February 14th, 2009 - 10:44 PM

"Happy Valentine's Day"

My parents were very gracious to me and invited me over for the weekend. It has been a few weeks since I've had the chance to get other there, so I was ecstatic. Life is boring and sometimes treacherous for me these days, and my family are among my prized and most precious company. Thank you, Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa for making this a great Valentine's Day weekend!

Friday night I got my first chance to play with the Wii Fit that my parents recently bought. It is quite fun. I'm really tempted to get one for myself, as it is awesome exercise. I think I would actually exercise if I had one of these things. Naturally, I get tempted in this way just as I'm about to embark on some pretty serious financial reformation (I may eventually speak of my plans here - no promises).

I was kinda excited when my parents first described Wii Fit. It sounded like there were a bunch of balance exercises or tests. I have pretty good balance and coordination in general because of all my years of juggling a soccer ball (you get in the strangest positions and keep your legs up in the air for long periods of time, jumping, twisting, etc) and some martial arts experience. However, the balance stuff ends up relating more to tiny intricate movements, and I suck at it like the next guy. I did fairly well for my first try, but I have a long way to go before I'm proficient at all the various exercises. It's really fun to try them all, though some are REALLY frustrating! Clearly it's all the pad's fault (stupid control!) when I fall of the tightrope, not mine!

my take on balance

my balance tricks

Why isn't this a sport?

We visited Grandpa today. It's always a blessing to see him. He was seemingly coherent and relatively good at communicating today. He really liked the brownies my mom baked for him for Valentine's Day! I was so pleased because when I left, our conversation went as follows:

Me: "Good bye, Grandpa"

Grandpa: "Bye, Phil"

Me: "I'll continue praying for you."

Grandpa: "Thank you."

Me: "I love you."

Grandpa: "I love you too."

Embedded in that short conversation are two gems. First, Grandpa remembered who I was and recognized my voice. Sometimes I can't get him to repeat my name or know who I am. Today, he said my name without prompting and knew I was there. I prayed for him as I sat and watched the visit - perhaps it helped. Second, Grandpa told me he loves me. What a Valentine's Day present! Sometimes he doesn't respond to that, and other times he'll say something like, "Good to hear it" or "I'm glad". Well now I'm glad that Grandpa loves me too!

Tonight we ate dinner at Pepino's, a family favorite Mexican place down on Hawthorne. Best bean dip around. Yum!


Mom and Dad

Grandma and me

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Saturday, February 14th, 2009 - 10:39 PM

"Creation Speaks Plainly"

Let's face it, the Psalms are cool. The ESV Study Bible daily reading plan is cool. How the Spirit of God uses the Scripture to work in our lives and open our eyes is cool. But seriously, all that pales (well, not the Spirit, who is God) in comparison to the riches of knowing God. Let's face it, it's all about Him! What is "it"? It is everything. If there is indeed a Creator - and indeed there is - then all that exists can be nothing but all about the One who created it. All things exist by Him, through Him and for Him. In Him we live and breath and have our being.

For the last five weeks or so I've been attending a Friday night study. Daniel, a friend from church offered his home to host the viewing of a video series and discussion. We are watching Focus on the Family's The Truth Project. The thoughts I've had since watching this series deserves at least one dedicated blog entry. Nonetheless, since I haven't yet mentioned the Truth Project video night on my blog, I felt it needed a written introduction before I suddenly made random comments concerning it.

Interjection: I can tell already this article is going to be one of those jumpy ones, with no clear direction. Tee hee. Rejoice. Stale, predictable writing is boring! Be thankful I'm making your brain do some work to follow along - that is, if I haven't lost you already.

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.

Psalm 19:1-4a ESV

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Romans 1:18-23 ESV

Last Friday's video session was about science. One of the key Bible passages presented was the beginning of Psalm 19. I read this Psalm as part of my daily reading a couple weeks ago, and I loved it! I was glad to hear it again. The point from the passage the video brought out, along with the awesome power of the Word in Romans chapter 1, is that the case for a Creator is plain. Quite honestly, that's all I needed to hear. The rest of the video gave a bunch of examples - you've heard them all before - how and why it's obvious this world of beauty and order was designed by a Mastermind.

This temporary dwelling we live in is simply amazing. And yet so many purposely look away and turn their back on what is so plain, so clear, even obvious. The faith and wonder of a child can see it. What's wrong with adults? Has a pursuit of science clouded the minds of us who are so "learned"? It is interesting that true, pure science should point a scientist to the conclusion that is best supported by the evidence. Truth is supposedly sought, to whatever end. Yet for many, the simple and most obvious answer, one that ALL SCIENCE points them to is overlooked intentionally.

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
there is none who does good.

The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.

They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.

Psalm 14:1-3 ESV

One way of defining the word insane is to say it is the condition of a person who has lost their connection to or perception of reality. Many people who have lost their capacity to think clearly and discern imagination from reality are unfortunately bound by what exists in their mind. What is really real does not change based on their condition, but to them it does. In the same way, many supposedly learned students of science have intentionally turned their back on reason - even science itself - and ignore the obvious answer.

Personally, I find it somewhat a waste of time to attempt to defend great truth in the form of apologetics, especially when great and confounding arguments are in order. Don't get me wrong, it is a valid pursuit, even very valuable. Truth is truth. Even so, how many times has someone in this postmodern generation been convinced by an irrefutable argument? Yes, the Bible is rock solid. It is perfect. The ways of God and the case for a Creator are perfect. Science, archeology and every form of fact that is available for mankind for all times past present and future will support it one hundred percent, even more if possible. No one can refute it. HOWEVER, they don't need to, do they? They simply have the choice not to believe.

The most clear fact regarding apologetics is that people believe what they wish to believe. They will surround themselves with books, teachers, prophets, leaders, even pastors who will defend them and agree with them. It is human nature, or rather the way of the flesh since the Fall of mankind. We do not want to face our Creator as long as we live in the dark. If we admit there is a God, then everything He says about Himself is 100% truth. It can be NO OTHER WAY. If God is God, then we are not.

Why is the man who says "There is no God" a fool? Because we Christians or the authors of the Bible like calling names when we don't know what else to say to those who reject God's truth? No, hardly. This is not a name calling event. The point is this: What can be known of God is clearly seen through creation. With or without honed scientific methodology or evidence, it is plain to see. A child could see it. Such a tragedy is a form of insanity, a refusal to accept reality and the truth from what is plain to be seen. We don't need a telescope to search the endless vastness of space or a microscope to probe the endless infinitesimally small particles and spaces between them. Throw away your fancy toys and pick up the simple ones you used to play with! Give glory to God as a child, and acknowledge the obvious!

Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
"Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us."

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
"As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill."

I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, "You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 2 ESV

The days are short. Faith in God is waning. The darkness of this world is spreading its infectious influence (or rather influenza). People are choosing to turn their attention to the false gods of self and created things. Will the Son of God find faith when He returns? Will a single voice or hand give Him glory when He fills the sky in an instant? Surely all who are left behind will have also seen Him (every eye will behold Him). With their "grand and glorious" scientific method, they will come up with a thousand explanations for the sudden disappearance of thousands - if not millions - of people and the great vision in the clouds. Don't wait for this. Don't wait for your death, which might well be tomorrow or tonight. Kiss the Son and tremble in fear before He who is awesome. All things, including you, exist for Him and come from Him. Even so, rejoice! Though we should be considered insignificant specks to be squashed or incinerated for our imperfection, the King has offered you everything. He gave His life for you! Seek Him before you are swallowed up in the deceptive lies of this world, or even death. He is good. He is true. He loves you.

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:6-11 ESV

So Jesus again said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John 10:7-11 ESV

"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him."

Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

John 14:1-11 ESV

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Friday, February 13th, 2009 - 10:08 AM

"Strike Three"

And he said to the disciples, "The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it."

Luke 17:22 ESV

HA! I forgot where I paused my Scripture listening from yesterday. For a couple weeks I was listening to Acts. This week I'm back in Luke. When I'm somewhat melancholy, discouraged or sad, I often turn to the Gospels. Reading about the words and life of Jesus is a great comfort to me. The best way to know how to live and what God is like is to see Jesus. He is the very image of God. If you see Him, you've seen the Father. Jesus is the ultimate Example for us how we should live, and the direction of God's heart is fully realized in His actions and words.

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Colossians 1:16-20 ESV

ANYWAY, the first thing I heard some minutes ago when I pressed play in my Winamp playlist was the following verse, one I've already mentioned once, insomuch as I've mentioned it twice. Now thrice:

Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, "Young man, I say to you, arise." So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.

Luke 7:14-15 NKJV

In case you can't tell, I like this verse about the young man. I feel it is the call of Jesus Christ, the power of God through the Holy Spirit spoken into my own life to also rise. There is a day coming when at the sound of a trumpet, the dead will rise. I hope to be among them, or else to be caught up together with them in the air.

For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

Romans 8:5-11 KJV

Call me broken record boy. I need to read the Word of God a thousand times seven, so bear with me if you have to hear it thrice. Don't take that as a promise this will be the last time!

By the way, if you don't connect with this "young man arise" verse solely because you are a young woman instead of a young man, try this one on for size. Sorry for not sharing it earlier. I've heard it several times too.

While He was still speaking, someone came from the ruler of the synagogue's house, saying to him, "Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher." But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, "Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well." When He came into the house, He permitted no one to go in except Peter, James, and John, and the father and mother of the girl. Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said, "Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping." And they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead.

But He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, "Little girl, arise." Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. And He commanded that she be given something to eat. And her parents were astonished, but He charged them to tell no one what had happened.

Luke 8:49-56 NKJV

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Friday, February 13th, 2009 - 12:08 AM

"To God, My Exceeding Joy"

I've long appreciated the Psalm 42-43 combo pack. It speaks to me. So I'll just put it here.

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
"Where is your God?"
These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock:
"Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?"
As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
"Where is your God?"

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
against an ungodly people,
from the deceitful and unjust man
deliver me!
For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
why have you rejected me?
Why do I go about mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?

Send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

Psalm 42, 43 ESV

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Wednesday, February 11th, 2009 - 12:59 PM

"Laundry Intercession Party"

Last night (OK, this morning - WAY early) I decided to address the issue of having virtually nothing to wear. Nearly all the clothes I own were in the dirty laundry busket. I had fond memories of my previous laundry room Bible Study caper and decided to do some sort of repeat. I find it easier to concentrate there because there aren't really any distractions.

I brought my journals and Bible, intending to read and review more of Romans chapter 1 for my meeting with Elder Dave. Our first Romans meeting still hasn't happened because of scheduling conflicts - gives me AMPLE time to think about it... or be lazy about it! Instead, I realized there are some pretty serious prayer needs that have been posted on my church forum. It was on my heart to pray for them, so I did it. I brought a candle into the laundry room to set a prayerful atmosphere.

all the necessities
All the necessary supplies, including 3 big loads of laundry, detergent, dryer sheets, folding camp chair, journals, Bible, pens, printed prayer requests, tripod, camera, massive caffeinated beverage, popcorn, and other junk food :) It took me 3 trips to get all this stuff to the laundry room, and a couple more trips to get a few random little things.

the laundry room setup
My setup. Later I turned the lights off, when I realized I probably wouldn't do much reading.

prayer candle
Mood lighting.

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Tuesday, February 10th, 2009 - 3:11 PM

"Finger Knitting"

Here's a picture of me finger knitting, an occasion I recently referred to from last Thursday's Ethnos church SW Hills community group. It's not the greatest picture. My hands are a blur with speedy knitting-ness. Tiffany took the picture with her phone, so the color wasn't that great (thus the black and white ness). Since it was Ashby's yarn, I made the rope into a scarf of sorts for her. As I was about to undo the whole thing, she insisted on keeping it. Somehow I doubt it will do much in this wacky snowy weather. Too bad I don't have about seventeen fingers... might be wide enough for a decent scarf.

Again, it was pretty fun making the finger knitted rope. I think it literally has been about twenty years since I've made one.

finger knitting

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Tuesday, February 10th, 2009 - 9:21 AM

"Neve Novamente?"

Crazy pants weather. Huge snowflakes greeting my eyes as I was readying myself for work this morning. I call it:

Yippee Skippee Accolade.

snow again

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Monday, February 9th, 2009 - 3:49 PM

"Bernice Agrippa Pomp"

I worked up this image for this week's E Special. Even though I tend to go overboard with visual stimulus on these images, I thought this one was worth sharing, cuz I like the blast effect. Makes me want to buy one - even though I'll probably never be a painter. The title chosen for this image, Bernice Agrippa Pomp comes from what I've been reading in Acts this week and last:

So on the next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city. Then, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in.

Acts 25:23 ESV

My question for you, my readers is to give your personal opinion about which side represents Agrippa and which is Bernice. State your reasons. There is no "right" answer. Your options for consideration are the black metal easel with fiery background and the brown leather sketch journal with icy blue background. Which is which? Huh?

Alternate Titles (didn't make the cut)

Cutthroat Eye Flair Del Montaña - inspired by Anthony's song choice this Sunday
Succotash Slice 27.5 - just the way things are nowadays, fore shore (and seven years ago)
Mequa-Quilt Supra-Loaf - you know it's begging to Stew the Boggles 'n Fire!
Circumstantial Plasti-Tap - methinx this one just don't make no sense!

Bernice Agrippa Pomp

Prices and featured items totally void. Ad graphic shown for fair use illustrative purposes only.

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Sunday, February 8th, 2009 - 9:15 PM

"Time to Act"

Just a quick note to remind myself how awesome God is and to thank Him for meeting me in the form of His Spirit. Last week my book of choice for listening to at work was Acts. Being that I'm seven days behind in my daily Bible reading, I didn't yet see that after Luke in the lineup comes Acts. How cool is that! I can't stop saying how crazy this reading plan has been. It so connects with what is going on that I can't even fathom it. Elder Dave has said the same. A couple days ago, my mom and I were talking about the very same thing also. What are the "chances" that a "randomly" published reading plan would so vividly connect with at least three distinct lives in such an obvious way? Fortunately I don't believe in luck. I believe the Spirit of God orchestrates such things to bless His children, we who are so much in need of seeing Him. He is indeed invisible. It takes great faith to believe. Yet for those who look, you will find Him. He is working in your life every day. Without Him, we would all fade away.

I'm about to catch up on 7 days of reading... instead of using the online thing, this time I'm going to put the catch-up chapters on my MP3 player and listen to them while I take a hot bath. Ah, that's the life. I might even gobble on an ungodly bowl of ice cream. I trust the Spirit will still work through the Word coming into my ears, even if I'm rebellious in my snack choice!

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Friday, February 6th, 2009 - 12:59 AM

"Where'd the Spiritual Side Go?"

Someone might be wondering where my ridiculous number of spiritual blog entries went. For a while I was writing bewilderingly long posts about what God is doing in my life and what I am getting out of my Bible reading. Well, it's still happening (though I'm a bit behind in my reading still). I guess what's going on now is that my brain is kind of overwhelmed with bits and pieces of thoughts. Some of the thoughts are really profound to me. Many of them come together under a common direction or theme. Even so, I'm finding it very difficult to process the thoughts in a cohesive fashion. I think I need a week vacation to do so. When I get a handle on my thoughts, you'll be the first to know... cuz I'll fill up the Internets all at once.

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Friday, February 6th, 2009 - 12:15 AM

"The Cheapest Replacement Part"

Big Douse was interested too
Big Douse was interested in the fixing of the seatpost
(or rather, he wanted to be in the picture).

I wasn't really sure what to do about my broken bike seat. I didn't really want to ride all the way over to the bike shop. It's a major pain to ride without somewhere to sit. Thankfully, my good friend Dave read my former blog entry on the subject and delivered me from my troubles. He offered to drive me to the bike shop this evening. Performance didn't have zip. G.I. Joe's didn't have zip (I refuse to call it "Joes"). Finally, The Bike Gallery had just the thing. I was beginning to think I would have to replace the entire seatpost, which can be expensive. No one had the diameter of post to match my bike - literally no one. The Bike Gallery had the replacement bolt I needed though. So I fixed my bike for a buck! Awesome!

Thanks Dave, for dropping me off at the Smiths' for community group. Thanks, all who were there, for being a continual blessing to me. Yummy hamburger (and Jelly Bellies)! Thanks, Ashby, for bringing your yarn and allowing me to finger knit a rope. I'm amazed I still remembered like a veteran. It has been probably 20 years since I've done that! Thanks, cousin Tracy, for teaching me how to finger knit a LONG time ago at Grandma and Grandpa's house in Gold Beach. Thanks, Wes, for giving me a ride home.

fixed bike seatpost
I know, it's backwards. I fixed it after taking this picture :)
It probably doesn't matter much, but the angle should push from behind (basic physics).

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Wednesday, February 4th, 2009 - 9:32 PM

"Jesus' Hand"

I've been playing around with some photos I took of my hand with velvety material from church. Though I am never really satisfied with my results, here's what I came up with.

Jesus' Hand

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Wednesday, February 4th, 2009 - 9:20 PM

"And Now For Something Completely Different"

My bike seat suddenly broke off while I was riding today. It was really nice and the way I like things to happen in the world. Luckily I didn't get hurt or anything. Now I'm a man without a place to put my buttocks. I had to ride home standing up the entire time. It was rather annoying. I guess I should have steered with my feet and pedaled with my eyebrows. That's the way they do it in Switzerland, I've heard (I just "heard" myself write it - quality journalism in action).

broken bike

And no, I don't watch Monty Python. It's WAY beyond an acceptable level of inappropriate content for me. I mostly liked "The Holy Grail" though. The rest is rubbish to me.

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Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009 - 3:22 PM

"Mais Brasileiros?"

Weird. I decided to stop by Subway for lunch after riding up to DMV to do some business. Sitting near me at Subway I could hear a man talking to his boy. I didn't eavesdrop, but I could hear just enough to recognize they were speaking in Portuguese. Ah! How cool is that!?

I couldn't help myself. I walked over and asked if the man was from Brasil. He said he was born there, son of a missionary. His boy is half-Brazilian because like me, the man is married to a Brazilian. Very cool! I didn't get contact information or anything, but it was nice to "randomly" hear of someone in a similar situation. I like hearing people speak in Portuguese: brings back great memories. I used to have several friends with Brazilian wives. Unfortunately that segment of my life is in the past. This was a nice and unexpected surprise - and so soon after my first recent exposure to Brazilians at work.

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Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009 - 1:24 AM

"Grandpa's Blessing Continues"

Phil is stricken by the power, grace and love of God as displayed through his Grandpa's words.

Grandpa's Blessing

I just watched for the first time the recording of my conversation with Grandpa Honey in August of 2008. It was powerful to me and life changing/transforming. I haven't been the same since... though I've had my reverting moments. Even so, the Spirit of God has been strongly upon me since these events early in my "tragic period" of life. My mourning has often turned to singing and praise. God is good.

I'll be sharing this video soon, for I think it has power to bless others also. Thank God this was recorded. I needed to hear it again.

By the way, I've spoken recently how the Bible reading plan I'm on is constantly connecting with what I'm doing in life, what's happening in my church and in the world. It's no joke. Dave, my friend and elder at Ethnos who has been working with me has verbally noted the same on more than one occasion recently. It's almost ridiculous how relevant and timely the readings seem to be. I just now noticed that the last thing I read in Genesis 27 (I'm a couple days behind again) was Isaac blessing Jacob. This "just so happens" to be one of the two Old Testament events that inspired me directly to ask for my Grandpa's blessing. The other was Elijah blessing his successor, Elisha, with a "double portion of his spirit". More on that later though...

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Monday, February 2nd, 2009 - 10:51 AM

"Don't Deserve It"

I am a person who doesn't deserve the grace of God. Even so, it is poured out in my life time and time again. Though difficulties come, and sometimes disobedience or faithlessness on my part, my Father covers it all with His wonderful mercy.

Lord, thank You for Your continued faithfulness to me, though I don't deserve it. Forgive me and don't count me among the evildoers. In fact, use me to deliver others who are bound. Please shape me into a man of faith who looks to You in every trouble. You are my source and my destination. Hold me tightly. My feet stumble without Your constant support and defense. Make me strong. Fill me with Your Spirit continuously. Turn me upside down and gently shake all the bad out of me. Shine in me so I shine too. Gain glory through me. Make something useful from me by creating something from nothing.

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