Category Archives: God

A home is where hospitality lives

During the civil war, houses that were caught in midst of battles were transformed by need into buildings that could best serve the wounded. Because of the urgent need for shelter, water, and personal attention to wounds many homes turned into hospitals, barns into Intensive Care Units, and the resources on the compound no longer only serviced the needs of the family, but of those in need, the soldiers.

Fast forward to around the early 1900’s and you’ll find a radical named Francis Schaeffer. His philosophy was also formed around the home, and was also formed around the need of those around him. The need? People wanted answers to life concerning just about anything spiritual: Why am I here? If God is good, why does evil exist? How can God allow pain and suffering and still be a just God? Francis Schaeffer, a theologian, an artist, a pastor, and a philosopher believed that the Word of God and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is sufficient to answer all these and more. He bravely opened his home to anyone who would want to struggle through their big questions in life, and thus birthed a theory of community that exists in many cities throughout the world, called L’Abri.

I’ve been thinking some about homes, and how they are an echo of our heavenly home. Just as my home in heaven will be perfectly God exalting, so I want my home to be. Christ exulting, brother and sister admonishing, where broken-hearts are lifted and the refreshing breath is breathed into each others sails.

Brothers and sisters, we have about 70-90 years on this earth. You don’t exist for yourself! If you think you were made for coming home to watch your TV ’til you go to sleep, your selling yourself extremely short (I’m not saying TV is bad, we just tend to not be good stewards of things that feed laziness). If you just want to go home and not be bothered by those people who want to “be up all in your business”, you may not understand the purpose of the community of Christ. I’ll close with a quote I heard recently from John Piper,

If you don’t at least have a leaning towards a desire to excercise hospitality to others, you may not have truly felt the love of Christ from the cross.”

What do you want your home to be? What do you want your home to be TO people?

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"Death is a cruel, brutal, and fearsome trespasser…"

This moving article was published October 5th, on Christianity Today, by Gordon Conwells provost, Frank James III. He lost his brother on a climbing venture to summit Mount Hood and return…he never did. Frank recalls that day in an emotionally stirring article. You can read the whole thing here.

Midnight, it is said, is the portal between this world and the next and is somehow in league with chaos, death, and mystery. It is the moment of dark visitations. So it was for me in December 2006. My sleep was interrupted by a phone call, and I was instantly shocked into full consciousness: My younger brother was trapped in a snow cave on Mount Hood, and an unyielding blizzard prevented rescue.
The mountain proved to be Kelly’s final adventure. Losing my brother on Mount Hood has been a painful reminder of my own spiritual fragility. None of us is immune to the heartaches and sorrows that inhabit this misbegotten world. Though I am a preacher, a professor of historical theology, and the provost of a theological seminary, I have found it agonizingly difficult to come to terms with my brother’s death. It is one thing to talk about death in the abstract. It is entirely another to cope with the death of someone you love very, very much. The truth of the matter is that losing a loved one hurts down to the deepest parts of your soul.
I was the first to learn the news days later. Hearing those words announcing his death was like a blow to the solar plexus knocking the breath out of me, but telling the rest of my family was more dreadful. I had known heartache before, but this transcended every previous emotion I had ever experienced. My vision blurred. My feet were heavy and seemed to resist carrying me to the next room, where my family anxiously awaited the latest news of the rescue mission on Mount Hood. Kelly’s wife, Karen, the children, our mother, three brothers and a sister—they took the news hard. I have never heard weeping like I heard that night in the village at the foot of the mountain. The Bible sometimes refers to “wailing” as an especially forlorn kind of weeping. That is what I heard that night—wailing. I hope I never hear that sound again.
Death is ugly, and we cannot—indeed, should not—try to make it palatable or explain it away with pious platitudes. Death is a cruel, brutal, and fearsome trespasser into this world. It is an intruder and a thief. It has severed an irreplaceable relationship with my brother. We shared the same story, and he knew me in a way no other person did. Kelly would no longer return my calls. Never again would I hear him cheerfully mock me as “Frankie Baby.” Sometimes I see him in a dream, and I reach out to grasp him—but he is not there.
We are created for life, not death. Kelly had a shameless zest for living life to the fullest. When death strikes suddenly from the shadows or claws at us until the last breath, those left behind experience numbness and disorientation. Somehow we know in our hearts that it is not supposed to be this way.

Later in the article he asks the question Why would God let his brother freeze to death on that mountain? In his struggle he says this:

One of the profoundly difficult lessons is that amid all the spiritual consternation in the shadow of Mount Hood, God has manifested himself in my grief. Somehow he is found in the disappointment, the confusion, and the raw emotions. This does not exactly make sense to me, and I’m quite sure I don’t like it. But I have felt the divine gravity pull me back toward God, even while I am dumbstruck by his hiddenness. My conception of faith has become Abrahamic—which is to say, I must trust God even though I do not understand him.

Dying on vacation

This is a re-post I thought very compelling. I find myself guilty of this…”at least” I’m not doing XYZ or ABC, like so’n’so…when if I have the eyes of God, I’ll realize that whatever I do to offend an almighty, is an offense, period. Enjoy!

If it were up to me, you’d be allowed to board an airplane based on how fast you took your shoes off in the security line. Clock a good time? You’re on the plane first! Slowly unlace waist high boots? You’ll board last.

It would be like the Olympics of airport security. And it would be awesome.

These are the kind of things I think about when I fly. If you follow me on twitter, and you really should, you know all of this. You know that last Saturday I tweeted about the four year old next to me who shook his sippy cup like he had just won the NBA Championship. Milk flew on my book and my face. It was a scene man, a real scene.

Eventually the flight attendant stepped in when the kid made a play for the fire extinguisher and the bullhorn. Party time!

But that kid wasn’t even the most interesting thing that happened on that flight. There was an officer in the army sitting on the other side of me. He was flying back to Afghanistan and said something that really surprised me. I asked him what was one of the biggest misconceptions about Afghanistan and here’s what he told me:

“We statistically lose more 18-25 year old soldiers when they go home for R&R than we do in combat in the field.”

That surprised me. If you asked me which was more dangerous, being in the middle of an armed conflict in Afghanistan or going home for a few weeks of rest and relaxation, I’d pick the first option. But the more the army officer explained it, the more it made sense.

“What sometimes happens is that you have folks that go back home after being out of the country for months at a time. They’re flush with cash, haven’t been in a lot of social situations lately and think they’re out of danger.”

They buy motorcycles and crash them. They make crazy financial situations that wreck them. They get in DUIs. In a million different ways they make the kind of mistakes that can ruin you. All at home. All on vacation.

The more I listened to him, the more the story started to sound familiar. In fact, I think we do a similar thing with our faith sometimes.

We all know the “neon sins” we’re not supposed to do. We all know the big things we should avoid like the plague. Adultery, murder, money laundering, robbing banks, chances are if I suggested we shouldn’t do those things you’d agree. There’s nothing groundbreaking about that. But sometimes we play the “at least game.”

My friend reminded me of this a few years ago. I told him I felt like I was struggling with some lust issues. I told him I was feeling pretty wrecked by some decisions I was making. In the middle of our conversation he said,

“Yeah, but at least you’re not sleeping with hookers.”

That’s true, I wasn’t sleeping with hookers. I was avoiding some neon sins in my life. I wasn’t involved in prostitution. I was staying away from the combat zone types of sins, the at war in Afghanistan type of dangers. I was escaping the trenches in my life on the battlefield of my heart.

But I was dying on vacation.

I might not have been sleeping with hookers, but I was slowly wearing myself away with lust and pornography. My death might not have been dramatic or extreme, like a rocket-propelled grenade from an enemy, but it was happening nonetheless. My faith had grown weak and comfortable. I wasn’t growing, I wasn’t being renewed, I was a adrift. And I don’t want that.

I don’t want “at least” faith.

I don’t want to find somebody who is worse off than me in order to feel better about me.

I don’t want to prepare and train and fight hard against the big enemies of my life, only to die in the middle of an ordinary weekday, during an ordinary vacation.

The battlefield is a scary place. We’re constantly reminded of that as pastors and friends alike give in to big terrifying foes. But in our desire to prepare for the battlefield bruises, in our focus on the big, loud, neon sins in our lives, let’s not lose sight of the little things.

Let’s let go of “at least” faith.

Let’s not die on vacation.

Read the whole post here.

“The power of God and the potency of prayer”

Today was just one of those days. You know what I’m talking about, they just mysteriously happen. Perhaps something to do with alignment of the planets or weather, but you just wake up grumpy, have a hearty breakfast but it does nothing for you. You go see your favorite people, the ones that usually make you smile and laugh, but you are unfilled. You finally have the rest of a day to spend with your loved one, and it just wasn’t as fun as you thought it would be. Thoughts of just getting the day done with and over, and try to start new tomorrow morning are frequent. Perhaps the best way to describe it is, funk! I’m just in a funk…not funky. No sir, not feeling funky, just a funk has come over me. Don’t try to pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about…I think its human to go through this….

…but how you react to this, makes all the difference in the world!!

It would be my guess that others, like me, when they’re in this “funk” start asking questions that are not fun, but if you haven’t asked them before, are vital to your happiness. Questions like “what will I do today?”, or “why did I chose this way of life?”, or even “why am I alive, what’s my purpose, am I to work a 9-5 job until I die or retire and lose my mind?” These times that we go through are vital, and how we go through them are even more so!

A great counselor, writer, and pastor named D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, once wrote regarding depression “the oxymoronic ability for a believer to be depressed, is their inability to preach to themselves, and their ability to live off their feelings” [paraphrased]. If our whole worldview is based on something as subjective as our feelings, our lives will amount to nothing more than a series of roller-coaster rides, and at that, may even have the ability to fall off our rails. Think about it, what are our feelings based on, or influenced by…things that surround us. Circumstance, health, weather, activities, and other peoples sentiments towards us. We can’t control this, as much as we may try to.

I’ll be honest!! I want to be happy! I want constant satisfying joy! I want to be known perfectly, I don’t want my wife to have to guess as to what’s going on with me (though she is VERY good at that…she must know me in some part I guess). I want to be able to shake myself out of every funk I find myself trapped in! When I compare what I can do, what I’ve done, to where I want to be….I find myself completely lacking in skill to get there. The fact of the matter is, I fail sometimes. So how do I get there. Let me tell you a story:

I went on a solo backpack trip in the Appalachian Mountains once and I forgot my headlamp. I went to the mountains a little nervous knowing there were bears, wolves, and creatures who could easily prey on my tender white flesh if they wanted to, especially being alone, but confident as to where I was going. When it came to evening time, and light was slowly fading, I found myself not too sure where I was, where my campground would be, or if the skies would stay clear for me (I didn’t have a tent…I chose to be under the stars to sleep). If I had let my emotions take the best of me, some poor guy would have found me running through the forest and screaming for help like I had just met Saskwatch or something. But I had to preach to myself, coach myself into truth….I had to tell myself “If God is in control of everything right now, if he is not done with his plans for me, if he can shut the mouths of bears and wolves (like he did for Daniel in the lions den), THEN my God will look out for me.”

So too today I have found myself altogether hard-pressed to find something with super-natural strength to bring me out of this funk. I found myself praying, praying to the one who always listens, who always knows my state of emotion before I tell him. I found my answer in a facebook post that basically encouraged me with a truth of God, and a caution against a lie from the devil. That’s how it is isn’t it! No matter how I FEEL, the truth of God stands firm, but the lies of the evil will try shake the foundation of that truth. Right now, as I write this, I am a son of God adopted to His family by His will, I am co-heirs with Christ not in this world but in the world to come as well, I have a Father who has provisioned every good thing for me before I could think of them.

The word says in Psalms “In my presence there is joy, in my right there is pleasure forevermore” I want that!! You know what, I can’t find that in a calming cup of tea, a glass of wine, in comedy, in chocolate, in delightful friends, or even in my wife! I must press into my Fathers heart and delight in Him in order to find what I’ve been looking for all along! The place where joy and relationship with my maker perfectly mingles!!

I want to mention one more thing. There was one more instance when I was in a funk, it was ruining Emily and I’s day, she didn’t know how to handle me, I didn’t know what I myself was going through. Something sudden happened, and the next instant a weight was lifted off my heart. I felt new, and wonderfully suprised! My immediate next thought for some reason was….”somebody prayed for me.” I turned to Emily and said, “Emily did you just pray for me?” She calmly looked at me, smiled and nodded. We both then just marveled at how God’s Spirit works between us! God impressed Emily to pray for me, and BOOM like that, it was effectual. Ladies, don’t forget to pray for your husbands, and husbands likewise your wives. Prayer is probably one of the most effectual disciplines and is probably the one thing we do the least. God bless you all….and good night!

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Worthy of all the energy in the World

Tonight is one of the those nights that I knew what I was going to write all day, since this morning when I read the daily devotional by A W Tozer. I’ll post it, and share my thoughts afterward. As a backdrop, every month has a theme, and this month is preaching.

Since I can’t find a way to copy and paste into this Blog, I’ll sum up his devotional in this statement he makes. “The freshest thought to visit the mind, should be the thought of God”. He makes the point that probably one of the absolutes of the event of preaching is the ability to capture the attention of the audience, for their long-term benefit. If a preacher comes up, does not speak well, is mundane, says things which are not very relatable, the intended long-term effect of the authorial intent the preacher had, will not be there.

If you can listen to John Piper’s shpeal on preaching, when he talked about George Whitefield. Absolutely amazing! The gist of George Whitfield was, if actors so act to convince you of something fake, how much should we use tools of communication to convince others of what is real. Think about it! What is more deserving of passion, of intellectual input, of rhetoric, of presentation and speaking skills, but the word of God.

It’s so interesting! I’ve told my wife this so many times. “If consumerism were a monster, advertising and marketing would be its arms and legs.” Billions and billions of dollars are spent each year……on trying convince you need something you really don’t. Buy this new contraption, it will REVOLUTIONIZE your life….buy this doo-hicky for your couch, it will improve your digestive system…’s all craziness! Advertising is a multi-billion dollar business!

What if we presented the gospel, like these companies try to convince consumers on buying things they don’t really need! Just putting it out there….what if? What if God’s people got it together, and made campaigns! Now, I know churches like Mars Hill, and Willow Creek, and Harvest Bible Chapel, and Bethlehem Baptist Church do make an effort in this arena. But just what if we pushed the envelope even more. I am not even sure what that would look like to be honest. It’s been on my heart, and I’m not sure where it will go from here. Perhaps other peoples hearts will be stirred too. What do you think? Am I crazy? Are city-wide, or nation-wide campaigns feasible? Is the gospel worthy? Is God’s glory that worthy to be magnified in people’s hearts turning to Him as an outcome of these campaigns?

I’m trying to think of recent history of things of this magnitude. Billy Graham crusades….I know Charles Spurgeon and Dwight L Moody spoke to THOUSANDS in their day.

I’m going to leave it at that for right now….what do you think? What are you thinking?

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