Monday, September 14, 2009

Proverbs 1 - True Wisdom

"Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers." – Jesse Venture, former Minnesota Governor and professional wrestler.

In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises. He boasts of the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD. In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God." (Psalms 10:2-4 NIV)

Today Proverbs 1:22 "How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?

This Proverbs is speaking to those who are obstinate in their foolishness masking as wisdom. We know that the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man

This ties in so well with the posture we like to talk about….and Brandon spoke on last night. I really do think that if we are willing to come to God, whether believer or not…and say, I’m not so sure about this but would you teach me…I think that in His mercy, God will reveal himself. As a Christ Follower, I am constantly reminded of my deficiencies in knowledge of Him…and I love him, and study his word, and strive to know him.

I think of those who know (or kinda know) religion and cast all its negativity on God. Who claim they know Him, when all they know is ritualistic traditions and “the motions” of religion. I pray that as believers, we can invite people to search the depths of God and not just scratch the surface of our churches.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Psalm 98 – Let’s join the praise

Psalm 98 – Let’s join the praise

This morning….I just want to join the seas resounding, the rivers clapping and mountains singing. I know this from Luke 19:40…”if we remain silent, the rocks will cry out!”

What a great reminder of God majesty and dominion over the earth. As we sit Sunday…and hear the music being played…and hear, read or even sing the songs being sung, are we joining the rest of creation in it’s worship of its Creator or are we going through the motions?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Psalm 95 - Reminders

Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Psalm 95 reads;
Hardness of heart is at the bottom of all distrust of the Lord.
I hear people from time to time talk about a Life Verse. One of the one’s people like to use….is Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (I guess that’s actually two verses.)
What are you suppose to do if you have a hard heart? How can I trust Him in all things if I am unwilling to trust him in the little things? I know I have trusted him in HUGE things before….so is it a sign of a hard heart if I am unwilling to trust in the small?

The Psalmist reminds his people of a previous time in Meribah, where they questioned his provision….and according to Moses, they were testing God. Moses feared for their lives…and went on behalf of them to God. It was at that time that God commanded Moses to strike the rock, and water came out of it.

I understand…the Israelites reaction to running low on water, but their reaction was strictly self-focussed. Would the God who delivered them out of Egypt, or let them walk across the Red Sea on dry ground, not be able to handle a water crisis? Or was it a crisis at all….or just a way for God to make himself known? It’s when we take out eyes off of God that we forget that our provision comes from Him alone.

At ANC we have had so many God-sized provisions….and honestly, they keep coming, day after day, week after week, month after month….they are great constant reminders that God is doing something, this isn’t about us, keep our trust in Him….and do not let our hearts become hardened.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Psalm 94 – Futile

Psalm 94 – Futile
I sometimes wonder why God puts up with us. Why he puts up with the wicked, why he deals with people who curse Him. Why he allows agnostics or atheists to breath the breathe he gives them. He doesn’t have to…but he does it because he loves us, he created us…and knows us.
The LORD knows the thoughts of man; he knows that they are futile.
And we also know that the Lord disciplines those he loves
Blessed is the man you discipline, O LORD, the man you teach from your law
So this is a great reminder for those seasons that we feel like oppressed, like the Psalmist…and we feel that people are getting over on us…that the ‘amoral’ person has the upper hand in life…as we see them screw their way to the top. God places the seasons of discipline in our lives…so that we can grow in character, learn to trust Him more, see His love for us in all things…and ultimately for our good and His glory!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Psalm 93 – Merely Waves

Psalm 93 – Merely Waves

The seas have lifted up, O LORD, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea— the LORD on high is mighty. Psalm 93:3-4

Im reminded and comforted this morning that God is on His throne. Whatever comes against us, speaks against us, persecutes us..will not prevail.

God’s kingdom is immovable, unchangeable and eternal.

This morning, my heart was thinking about a friend who stepped down from the church he pastored for 9 plus years. How what seems like a huge wave not only to him, his staff and his flock….is merely God moving. I pray for all of them to keep their focus on His Glory. Not to let the one who confuses or lies, keep them (or us) from advancing the Kingdom for His glory. His Kingdom will advance regardless


The Creator will not be taken down or lessened by the creation.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Psalm 92 – Finish Strong

Psalm 92 – Finish Strong

I really don’t consider myself old. I seriously feel and behave like I’m in my 20’s (aside from the naps). But as a 42 year old dude, I am the guy, who 15 years ago…I was wanting to emulate. I think it is so important to be an example, to finish strong…and I pray like the Psalmist here is saying….that my latter years are even more productive than my earlier ones.
Verse 14 states (The Righteous) will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.
Knowing that it’s Christ’s Righteousness that allows us to bear fruit, I pray that I can continue to position myself to pour into other men, to be the guy that encourages guys to put their trust, and plant their roots in the Lord.
I think about Paul….and his analogy of ‘the race’…..and at the end of his life/ministry he was kicking to the finish line. He still had a lot in him….God, keep me fresh and green.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Psalm 91 – Close

Psalm 91 – Close

God’s peace, God’s protection God’s Will.
All the protection that God provides….are for those who dwell in the shelter of the most high. One thing this passage screams to me this morning is STAY CLOSE! We must be close to be ‘in His shadow’ or ‘under his wing’.

And Happy Birthday Mom!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Psalm 90 - Knuckleheads

Psalm 90:12 Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

I love this verse this verse this morning. To me, this verse is saying….give us perspective, Kingdom perspective, so that we aren’t knuckleheads.
I think if we truly gain perspective of the time we have on earth…as compared to eternity, things begin to look a lot different. The temporal things we work so hard for, pale in comparison. The lost brother…while he may be a screw up and be almost unlovable on earth….is condemned to die for sin.
I almost wonder if most of us don’t believe that Hell is a real place, or that separation from God…isn’t such a bad thing, for eternity.
God, I pray in my own life…that you wreck my stupid materialist, consumer, self-focused, temporal, insolent perspectives…and give me fresh new love for people and a heart of wisdom to minister to them. Protect me and my family as we wade through the mess where culture and Kingdom collide.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Psalm 89 - Rogues Waves

You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them. You crushed Rahab like one of the slain Psalm 89:9-10
At first glance I was a little surprised at this analogy….and I had to find out, why Rahab.
In this instance the Psalmist is either talking about a sea creature…or the guardian angel of Egypt. Either way…it represents chaos in the bible.
This morning I think about the headline I just read…Waves Pull 20 People to Sea. Hurricane now Tropical Storm Bill Skirted the eastern coast and is now headed back out to sea….caused huge rogue waves in Maine. Large enough to wash 20 people out to sea, including a 7 year old girl and her parents. The parents survived and the girl did not.
When there is chaos and devastation….it is a grim reminder for those closest to it, that death is real. It escapes no one….
47-48 Remember how fleeting is my life. For what futility you have created all men! What man can live and not see death, or save himself from the power of the grave? Selah
James 4 says that life is but a mist….here today and gone tomorrow.
The Psalmist asks, like we all would in this instance….”where is your great love, which in your faithfulness you swore to David?” And for us….that great love is manifest in Jesus, on the cross….in the grave…..resurrected!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Psalm 80 – Vine

Psalm 80 – Vine
I love the vine reference and how the verses in John were probably based on this scripture.
“If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit”
Apparently the vineyard the Psalmist is talking about, has recently been bearing fruit. However with the state of the church, the fruits were being plucked by anyone who passed by, the wild boars were devouring and all the creatures of the fields were feeding on it.
The language though is a little different.
“look down from heaven and see, watch over the vine”
“your vine is cut down, burned with fire”
Even in these scriptures that have very similar language, I just realized that we have a more personal God. One who is with us, via the Holy Spirit, one who has said, “surely I am with you” and “remain in me”.
But I believe that this Psalmist is calling for the Messiah. For the “son, at your right hand” to be raised up, so that we (the Israelites) may be restored, saved.
God thank you for your mercies…your Word…the written and the living. Give us tons of opportunities to love our neighbors this week.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Psalm 79 – Desperate

Psalm 79 – Desperate

I know the Bible, in it’s entirety, is the inspired word of God. But I think if God could hand pick one verse today….and say…..this…..this verse is why this Psalm was written, it would be;
8 Do not hold against us the sins of the fathers; may your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need.
I know this is where God wants me. Too often we, like the Israelites, rely on ourselves, our actions, our goodness, our checklists, our scales of justice to determines whether or not God should love us. These things produce arrogance, pride and physically push us further from his goodness.
Last night, right before service started…we had about a 7 minute gully washing rain. I am talking it came down hard. Brandon mentioned in the sermon about how many times we pray for rain…then argue about God’s timing.
Well another thing I have been praying about is the temperature in the building. And at 5:45 is was 80 degrees (and climbing) inside the building. The building is basically a hot tin can laying in the sun…and the insulation and a/c do little on the inside against what the elements are doing on the outside. Factor in a cooling rain on the entire structure…and by the time the service started….inside we were down to 78 degrees and by the end of the service 74. This provision of rain outside, did on the inside…what none of our best efforts couldn’t accomplish.
Coolness of a building and having your temple laid to waste don’t even compare….but He is saying to me this morning…..seek me when you have no control, when you are desperate…and before you become that way.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Follow me here

Over the summer, we are reading the TK (Tangible Kingdom) Primer as a church.
Follow this interesting look at Missional "Sent"ness as our church body BLOGs daily.
http://anconline.wordpress.com/

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fencelines

I’ve been told recently, you and Jenny just meet people so easily….we just don’t know where to start, what to say, how to act…..
Well, truth be known….I still get nervous meeting new people, but it does get easier with practice. I don’t want to be too goofy, too serious….just natural….whatever that means. I don’t wanna say the wrong thing, give the wrong impression or get all “spiritual” too early….when they ask what I do. I just want them to get to know me and me them.
This weeks action is to imagine Jesus taking you somewhere….and it might be to a neighbor’s home, who you have lived next door to for years…and now it might be awkward to just start talking to him or her. Well yeah….if you just bust right out with….”hey you are part of this project, and ummmmm…Jesus said…ummmm……”
They might be older…or younger, or different ethnicity, or religion….but you have some commonalities….if you pay attention. Pets, cars, flowers, children/grandchildren, your homes, time of day you water, music, possibly talk about a third neighbor you don’t know…ask what they know about him/her, these are all great things to start talking about. Just have a conversation….and string it together with another conversation, then another. No rush…no agenda, God’s got this.
Great example for this for me personally….is the Sheltons. We had girls on the same basketball team….and boy the same age. Perfect! We weren’t out to “get them to come to church” or “tell them about Jesus”. We just wanted to become friends.
Crazy things about friends is though…..when you are friends, the things that are important to you, become important to them…and visa versa. Seriously, I would have never been to Camp Ben McCollough and pitched washers, watched Texas A&M basketball or football, or met Shane Phillips or Richard Taylor or all the 10 plus guys we play poker with, had it not been for the Sheltons. And they, in turn, became curious about our church, our friends, our Serve Austin Sunday and Restore Communinty.
I think I know the problem for most people….and I’ve heard this…people don’t really want anymore friends. People don’t feel they can emotionally invest in another relationship. I don’t know how to get anyone over this….but to tell you….too bad. God didn’t give us that option.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tangible Touches

I guess I must write down this “example” only because it is so fresh, so real and hit me between the eyes tonight.
Those in our Restore Community know Bob and Juanna Reilly. They have met and recently taken in a man dying of cancer. They met him through another sweet lady (Mary Beth) in our Restore Community who is a hospice care-giver.
Well when I read about the immersions….I was struck at how this man (not a believer) was immersed in the blessings (or tangible touches of God) through these two families. Not many people would take a man into their home, only knowing him for 3 weeks, let alone a dying man, who by all accounts was difficult and mean. Yet the Reilly’s showed him love when he could offer them nothing. This touch softened this man’s heart.
In God’s sovereignty and his timing this man of 66 years lay dying in the breakfast room…in a make-shift hospital room, as Brandon and I prayed for him in the next room. We had been called to the house, as Juanna ran some errands…to possibly be with him as he died. We prayed for God to allow him to hear us and respond to the Gospel….or to just mercifully end his suffering.
This man, in the next few moments….sat up in bed and began talking….why did this shock us? Then, God moved in this man’s heart, to accept the gift of salvation that is available to all of us…oh my!
Over the last couple of hours….this has grown increasingly incredible to me. Its not always what we say…..it’s how we live and how we give those “tangible touches”.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

More

Living 'missionally' or SENT is definitely an aspect of life that is both old and new for me. Having been 'called' to live on mission, before I really knew what that meant....Jenny and I basically served as best we could where God placed us.
You guys have got to know…that we have always been comfortable having people over, live with us, serving in one capacity or another….whether it was with youth, young adults, small groups ministry….but living ‘missionally’
has invaded and stretched us in ways that I didn’t think possible.
Invaded sounds kinda harsh…unwanted…but it was a new world to think that God not only called us to serve people who live like we do, in the same areas of town that we do, and go to the same schools or the same church….but he has called us to serve beyond our own little world…..in His.
When we responded to his call to live ‘missionally’ beyond our realm….we found life and love greater than we had ever experienced. When we trusted that when we “served the least” we WERE serving our Savior himself….we found joy that nourishes our souls.
As we begin this journey through the TK Primer…my prayer is that we can lay down the religious ‘baggage’ we bring in. We might not even realize we are carrying any. But I have heard some form of this conversation….. “I have been serving as hard as I can serve, attending church whenever the doors are open, I am a deacon or church volunteer of the decade….I have done every Beth Moore Precept study there is to do…and deep down I just know…there must be something more.”
Through living on mission….we will find….there is.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Daniel 11 - Time

Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.

A couple of verses came to mind as I read this passage. When I think about prophesies of end times or end of seasons I rest in the fact that none of this catches God off guard. And who better to rely on, put your faith in or trust in…..because none of knows the “appointed time” or the when the “time of the end” will come, except the one who set it all in motion.

Psalm 121:1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from?
1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

Christ even tells us in Acts that "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
I am really thinking about Mr. Nichols who has been placed in our lives through our connection with Mary Beth Ryan in our Restore Community. He has been overtaken by cancer…and even today….our neighbor Juana Reilly is driving Mr. Nichols to her home. The Riley’s have opened their hearts and their home to a man they never knew prior to a few short weeks ago.

He is not a believer, and has maybe just a few days left…but they are showing Christ’s love to man, who by all accounts has been difficult to deal with and mad. But his heart has softened and he has agreed to come home with the Reilly’s where he will most likely spend his last days.

He weighs 88 pounds and according to Juanna has lost 7 pound in the last week. But in all that….he doesn’t and we don’t know when he will draw his last breath…..but God does.

Let’s pray together that this is Mr. Nichols "appointed time" and that he is touched by the Kingdom and God as it is poured out....by the Reillys, Mary Beth and the rest of the ANC Restore Community. Pray that he will respond as we hope. But whether he does or not… God will glorify himself through this, no doubt.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Daniel 10 - Swagger

Daniel 10 – Swagger
A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said, "Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you." And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.
In this vision (apparently his last of the book) Jesus stands before Daniel, and he is so overcome with terror…that he is overwhelmed and can no longer speak, stand or look. Daniel….who stood up to Nebuchadnezzar, thrown in a den of lions…now is terrified before the Lord.
And here we are….sinners…that the only thing that saves us is the Grace of God…and we have some sort of self-righteous swagger.
I am reminded of when I signed on to play football at the University of Alabama….and I showed up for “voluntary workouts” in the summer. I seriously am walking in, in the best shape of my life….with a bunch of “lesser” athletes to a “voluntary” workout, how hard could this be? Right guys?
Day one, they had us report straight to the Track Field…..hey ran us so hard, so long, so many times that I felt that my heart would explode, my lungs would collapse, my legs would literally feel less pain if I would run over them with a car…I can honestly say…that is the day I lost my “swagger”. Day One…..done. Day two, after experiencing to the reality of my fate…..my main thoughts were on survival.
Do we not get it….because we aren’t really experiencing God? I pray that we would continually find ourselves in the position Daniel found himself in…face to the ground.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Daniel 1 – Favor

Daniel 1 – Favor

What a great example of God’s hand working through unbelievers….”God had caused the official to show favor”. No doubt this official (another translation calls him the Prince of Eunuchs) was a follower of the deity of whatever the king worshipped. But Daniel’s disposition and God’s hand allowed him the wiggle room to show Daniel favor.
Even with his own life on the line, he allowed Daniel and the three men, not to ‘defile’ themselves with the royal food. Though not vegetarians these men were not only able to sustain them selves on vegetables and water, but became more healthy looking than any of the others.

8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, "I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your [c] food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you."
11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 "Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.
I think of the manner that I sometimes take with someone of opposing views or beliefs and the effect that has on my cause. Could Daniel have been indignant? Could God have still caused the official to relent? Sure…but Daniel, not knowing how or when God would intervene, decided to be gracious until He did. I guess the lesson here is ….. stand firm on your convictions, acts as if your position was fully dependent on your actions….then when God’s favor is placed on the situation, be sure to give him glory.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Psalm 78 – That’s Not Fair

Psalm 78 – That’s Not Fair

38-39 Yet he was merciful; 
he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, 
a passing breeze that does not return.
To me, the greatest thing about the mighty hand of God….is that he restrains it toward us when we don’t deserve it. He offers love, understanding, mercy…and grace. Romans 5:8 says, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
This may be a little corny… but when we are being stung by a mosquito….our natural reaction is to swat it, usually leaving a small black smear with some blood in it. We never think about the significance of that small life…..and its short life cycle, because we didn’t create it. You know I think about the ease with which God, in his full wrath, could just swat us out of existence…..yet he doesn’t. He remembers that we are but flesh, his creation, and he loves us.
But like my dad used to say….”I brought you into this world, I can take you out!” God’s mercy isn’t to be taken advantage of, or God isn’t to be though lightly…..his full wrath is still swift and just. In a few weeks at ANC we’ll be reminded of Ananias and Sapphira, and how God took them immediately. Romans 6:23 ….for the wages of sin is death! I just thank God that his mercy is exercised more than what is fair!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Psalm 76 - God's Got Game

Psalm 76 – God’s Got Game
4 You are resplendent with light, more majestic than mountains, rich with game.

Well I actually added that last comma….sorry God, but he does have game….and it’s rich.

I was just amazed yesterday, and I was searching for words to describe God….but realized that any word used, falls short. Not that ‘resplendent with light’ came to mind….but I realized that all these descriptions, are merely words trying to capture the glory of the Creator.
All the Psalms, 150 in all…..with all the words contained, still fall short. Yet we live as though we are serving a finite God. We give Him a Sunday or two every now and then to hold him at bay.
I read yesterday that in recent years, via the Hubble telescope that it is (conservatively) estimated that there are 350,000,000,000 galaxies….conservatively estimated! Why?
Why did our Creator create things that no one in history new about until recently. Maybe he is wanting us NOW to know….even with your fancy computers and telescopes....you cannot fathom the depth of me. You could spend your whole life trying to describe me…and still fall miserably short, not even scratch the surface.
God forgive me for not giving you my all, and forgive me for thinking you are smaller than you are.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Psalm 74 - It’s not about us.

Psalm 74 - It’s not about us.

I just found the tone of this Psalm very self –focussed. Maybe that is just a conviction I am having today. We’ve seen it before with the Israelites, and here the Babylonians have just overrun the Temple, plundered Jerusalem, and left the place in ruins.…and now they turn to God again?

20 Have regard for your covenant, because haunts of violence fill the dark places of the land.

Why is it that we do this….we are cruising along, not a care in the world, because things are going so well….and things turn, and now we remember….oh yeah God, we have a covenant. Have regard for it….even though I may not have.

And why does the Psalmist/we think that we need a reason to uphold a covenant OTHER than there is a covenant? God is continually upholding his end of the deal, the failure, when there is one, is ours.

And why do when bad things come, that we forget….God is in control of it all. That he knows what is going on. The same God that saves us, loves us..and because he loves us, he corrects us. Most of the time it is painful, but all of the time it is just. WE may not see it, but we aren’t God. So we need to quit acting like we are.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Psalm 72 - Cries

Psalm 72:12-13 For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death.
Last night we watched the Lifeway videos that Jen Hatmaker had done for her upcoming book Interrupted, and I was reminded of my own journey and how the poor and oppressed were to me…..a people group, some other people “out there”, nameless faces that I was scared of, that I felt they wanted to harm me somehow.
The guy that did the interviews from Lifeway basically said the exact same thing to Alan Graham, founder and president of Mobile Loaves and Fishes. For someone (like Alan) who already has a heart for the homeless, the oppressed and the marginalized….there wasn’t a worse thing to say to him….His jaw tightened….his teeth were clenched…and as soon as the interviewer paused for an answer, Alan Graham said….”you know, your feelings don’t matter.”
This is who God directs his love and compassions and mercies toward. Jen, later in the interview, talked about meeting God there….in service to marginalized. He is there.
Once we strip away all the things that we have grown up believing about church, what it should be, how we are to behave, what we are suppose to learn and achieve, and take (like consumers)….we are left bare with…. “what have we done for the least”?

Well, I went to all Beth Moore’s precepts classes….yes, but what about the homeless?
I taught Jr. High boys….yes, but what about single moms?
I sang in the choir, yes but what about children who don’t have a daddy?
I gave to Lottie Moon….yes, but what about taking a family who has lost their home into yours.
The verses talk about the cries of the needy….and they are there. The same cries we drowned out with our self serving, life numbing, busyness…. all in the name of Christiandom.
Pastors from other churches and people in other “flocks” are always asking us….how can we do what you guys are doing? Is it even possible? And the short answer is YES, listen for the CRIES!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Psalm 70 – EmUrgency

Psalm 70 – EmUrgency
5 Yet I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; 
O LORD, do not delay.
Was David literally poor or needy?
I’m thinking this posture of David is one that we all need to take.
David could have said….Lord I got this world on a string….I am it’s king…what do you have to offer me, or better yet….what can I do for you today if I have time? Though that was never David’s heart….is it ours? We would never say that…. But I wonder if sometimes in our hearts that isn’t exactly what we give or say.
And I love that David seeks God’s urgency. I’ve done this so many times….but my prayers aren’t always answered in the manner or timing that I would have preferred.
As a parent, its one thing to be sitting in the living room watching the TV or talking to our wives….and one of the kids says…mom/dad can I get some help with this homework. We might say….give us a minute, or wait until the commercial. But one of our kids is hurt, or in trouble, or scared…..we drop everything to get there “without delay”.
David seeks God’s urgency….because he is in need.
As a Sovereign God, when we seek God urgently…and he responds to us, in his timing…..I wonder what that says? Maybe he is teaching us to wait on Him, maybe he is telling us He’s got this, maybe He is teaching us patience.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Psalm 67 – Global God

Psalm 67 – Global God
I got an email this morning before reading this passage….from Mari, a dear friend of ours. Mari was in the youth group with Brandon at my old church….she was good friends with Luis (from our church) and was instrumental in the Father’s plan of salvation for him.
Anyway, Mari is now in North Africa….serving with the IMB (International Missions Board) to teach English. But the main purpose for Mari being there…and the reason she signed up for this 3 year commitment, is to reach her region for Chrst.
So this passage this morning with words like nations, people and the ends of the earth….really made my mind and heart turn toward Mari. Then after reading Mike’s post I thought….okay….we are all teaching English is some capacity, but what is our real purpose. What are our barriers?
Mari has to be careful with her communication because she is in a Muslim country that is closed to the Good News. She communicates and talks about “the Father”, “prying for her”, Chrst the “LRD” the Kingdom….the same Kingdom we press into and try to make more tangible to our neighbors and our city.
Please join me in pryer for Mari, that the soil she is working will become fertile. That the language will ‘click’ and she is better able to communicate. Pry for Dora, Falicia and Amanca…who she asked we pry for.
I am cc’ing Mari to this email. If you want, let her know you are prying for her….what a privilege we all have to pry and openly communicate with the Father and each other. Love you guys!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Psalm 66 - Refined

Psalm 66 - Refined
10 For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver.11 You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.12 You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.
Refining is a difficult process, one that when we are in the middle of….we are never grateful. The helt during refining is at its hottest. I do love that God’s word refers to us as being refined. The fact that we are “precious” metals is a loving analogy. But then, God wants us to become even more precious, more valuable…so he refines us…..to remove any and impurities or imperfections.
When I think of the Refiner….and the process of removing the dross…..the black coat of burnt up impurities on the top of the melted, molten(liquid) gold or silver….scooping all that away…so that when he looks down into the pecious metal….He sees His relflection…..it’s a reminder during the refining process to remove all of the “stuff” that makes us look less like Him.
There is a song by Jeremy Camp called Empty Me….love this;
Holy fire burn away
My desire for anything
That is not of you and is of me
I want more of you
And less of me

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Psalm 65 - Floored

Psalm 65 _ Floored
5 You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness,O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas,
Spurgeon wrote of this verse;
God's memorial is that he hears prayer, and his glory is that he answers it in a manner fitted to inspire awe in the hearts of his people.
You know so many people try to do something with prayer….other than what God intends it to do. I’m as guilty as anyone.
Garth Brooks wrote about Unanswered Prayers, people always default to praying for healing, happiness, riches…..rarely do we pray for God “awesome deeds of righteousness”.
I truly believe this is the difference between 3rd world countries, where God seems to be moving in incredible ways….and right here in the good ole US of A, where people believe it to be preposterous that God awe them….besides, if we want to be awed….Star Trek is coming out in a few weeks.
I think if we were truly open to be awed by God….we would be. Maybe it starts with the prayers of a few men in Austin…God answer our prayers with awesome deeds of righteousness. Let us anticipate and look forward to your hand moving so obviously and greatly, that we are floored.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Psalm 64 - Create/Fight Injustice

I wouldn’t say that I have been a political junkie in the past….but I did enjoy it. My dad got me hooked on it the first time he decided to run for city council. I was in 9th grade working his phone bank, putting out signs and just being as involved as a 15 year old can be. I went to breakfasts with him on Saturday morning, where he spoke to small groups of men about Economic Development and Tourism. I sat in his office as he and the mayor hammered out strategies and the way they thought the rest of the council would vote.
I learned early on the difference between conservative and liberal, I learned that I was conservative in platform and liberal in ideals….meaning….I was screwed up. I wanted all the things that government could provide….yet I wanted less government and government intrusion. I was pro-life, but I knew we couldn’t legislate morality (hasn’t worked yet). It seemed as though locally….I was a democrat, where I could see the money at work, and nationally I was a Republican. I loved Rush Limbaugh, yet I wanted local government to pass bonds for infrastructure and new ‘stuff’.
I wonder if anyone was as screwed up as me…with their affiliations? I tend to think they are…because man is selfish and tend to see the world as it relates to them….politically.
Well, I read the Psalm this morning, and my mind turned to politics.
Psalm 64:6 They plot injustice and say, 
 "We have devised a perfect plan!" Surely the mind and heart of man are cunning.

I know this over simplification….but;
Dems tend to tug at the heart strings….appeal to the down and out, a promise of a better tomorrow, we’ll take from the filthy rich and redistribute so that life is more fair. They are the advocate of the little man..and they fight the injustice put on them by the GOP.

GOPers tend to circle the wagons, protect against the "money grubbing" Dems, “say” they want to downsize government….all the while…they grow it, they are pro-life, promise a better tomorrow and they fight the injustice put on them by the Dems.

I must say, that I have grown cynical (at least nationally where the big money is) They both have the perfect plan…and it is to keep the people at bay, create injustice for the other side to rally against, keep themselves in office as long as possible, while projecting this image of working for us….and creating/fighting injustice!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Psalm 63 – Anything I Want?

Psalm 63 – Anything I Want?
What a rich Psalm…..maybe someone should write a song…with some of the lines from it.
Something that correlates to a book that I am reading jumped out at me this morning. Verse 3 says;
Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
I am at a point in my faith life…that including folks who have not had a faith journey before, is becoming more and more natural. But there are so many times that I have acted like a bull in a china shop….and I did anything BUT glorify God.
There was this line in the book The Reason for God….where Keller is talking about people initially making the distinction between “religion” and the Gospel….and we’ve all heard this from someone who is not a Christ Follower…..”that is too easy….you mean, all I gotta do is have this relationship with God and I can do anything I want?”
The religious (or the Pharisee) might take this as an opportunity to jump down the throat of the irreligious…(and I have done this) to say, “No way sinner! you don’t keep on sinning so that grace is multiplied” (which is somewhat scriptural) you don’t trample on the free grace of God. What a stupid thought….seriously!”
The problem with that answer…is that it is spoken from a defensive posture. The Pharisee is more substantiated by his religiousness…than by God’s grace…therefore, he feels compelled to make another Pharisee than a Christ Follower living under grace.
And it came to me this morning….that nope…that type of talk was reserved for believers. When speaking to someone about Christ….with no faith background, we should just say yes….sure….you can do anything you want. Say yes so that this person may taste and see that Lord is good. What happens after that, as we all know…..Christ changes our wants.
The question that the seeker is asking is “spoken outside of an experience of radical Grace” (according to Keller). And I am not saying we should soft sell the Gospel….but our posture needs to continually be inclusive…and not exclusive. Because I truly believe that God’s love is better than life….

Friday, May 01, 2009

Psalm 61 – Day by Day

Psalm 61 – Day by Day
6-7 Increase the days of the king's life, his years for many generations. May he be enthroned in God's presence forever; appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.
I was talking to Tate the other day and she revealed to me that she wanted to live to the oldest woman ever. My thought was…I sure wouldn’t want to live to be that old. I’m not really sure of her motivation….but I would bet that it revolved around the idea of just NOT DYING.
David here isn’t selfishly asking God to increase the number of days his life for his own glory….but so that he could serve Him, to fulfill his vows before God.
One thing that I love about this passage is the correlation between David’s words in verse 8; “Then will I ever sing praise to your name and fulfill my vows day after day.” And the passage in Luke 9:23-25 when Jesus is talking to his disciples “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”
It is truly a daily journey, one with choices…and like David, we can choose to honor God or choose not to. Another great verse, Joshua 24:15 says that you must, “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve….but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD”

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ecclesiastes 12 – Philosophy 101

Ecclesiastes 12 – Philosophy 101

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, "I find no pleasure in them"-

In the verse and the entire chapter, Solomon encourages us to remember God when you are young….before you become either so jaded or so distracted that you no longer see God in the very things He created.
Solomon was said to be and known to the richest and wisest man to ever live. A man who had such wealth and tested the very philosophy he wrote about, because he was in a position to. He tried; knowledge, pleasures, achievements, career, fame, wealth and family ….all these things still left his soul empty….unsatisfied. All these things were chasing the wind. In other words, the very things that “the world” encourages us to chase after….is at best, fleeting.
What a joy and honor it is for me to have seen my kids both recognize God as their Creator and Only Hope while they are still young. I know parents whose kids are wandering….buying into the things that the world is selling….and praying that some day….they would be drawn to the ‘goodness’ of God. Conversely, I know kids whose parents don’t know God. They, because of their age, and what they have seen…and what they have done, believe either that God mercy has passed them over, or that it’s not nearly big enough to save them…from the pain and suffering they have seen and inflicted.
God save them. And thanks for saving me.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ecclesiastes 11 - Hopeless Sea

Ecclesiastes 11:1
Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary said of this chapter;
Solomon presses the rich to do good to others. Give freely, though it may seem thrown away and lost. Give to many. Excuse not thyself with the good thou hast done, from the good thou hast further to do. It is not lost, but well laid out. We have reason to expect evil, for we are born to trouble; it is wisdom to do good in the day of prosperity. Riches cannot profit us, if we do not benefit others. Every man must labour to be a blessing to that place where the providence of God casts him.

The water imagery represents the multitudes that we sometimes feel our efforts go wasted on, but according to Isaiah 49:4;
I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.Yet what is due me is in the LORD's hand, and my reward is with my God.

Something about what ANC is about….feels right. Though most of us are somewhat new to the experiences we are challenged with….we never leave empty.

Brandon and I were talking about this just the other day, with each new ministry opportunity, there is a certain sense of dread, worry, apprehension….but when you bust through and just do it….God blesses the doer and the giver.
So the challenge is to keep casting bread …… on what appears to be a hopeless sea.

Ecclesiastes 10 - Full of it

Ecclesiastes 10:14 –
A fool also is full of words: a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him?

Two age old sayings that I love (but don’t always adhere to) are;
It's better to be thought a fool than open your mouth and prove it.
And
We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak

I found a quote from Epictetus, a Greek philosopher, who said;
“First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.”

I have gotten myself into trouble so many times with my mouth. I also think too many times we try to understand people without listening to them. Solomon observes that someone who is “full of words” is probably full of something.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ecclesiastes 8 – Bad things

Ecclesiastes 8 – Bad things

14 There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: righteous men who get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve.

This is timeless….yet the questions persist. Why do bad things happen to good people? or Why does HE get all the breaks?
These questions really seen to bother both followers of Christ and those who don’t. But I think for followers of Christ….we were given;
1 Peter 2:18-24 Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 
 "He committed no sin, 
 and no deceit was found in his mouth."When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

I think the challenge is whether we follow Christ’s example and “trust ourselves to the one judges justly.” I mean….if anyone who ever walked the earth had the justification to scream….UNFAIR! it would be Christ.

Seriously, we have talked about this before…..but I don’t think we really want what is fair. What is fair in God’s economy is Hell and Eternal Separation from Him. What is fair is what happened to Ananias and Sapphira.

I believe God wants to see if, in these times, we trust Him. We trust his judgement, as absolutely the Perfect Judge…or do we only trust him when things are going well?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ecclesiastes 6 - Enjoy the Ride

Ecclesiastes 6 –
God gives a man wealth, possessions and honor, so that he lacks nothing his heart desires, but God does not enable him to enjoy them, and a stranger enjoys them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil.
I have seen people like this…so engrossed in their empire, their family, their money, their status….each new wrung that is achieved is never enough. You cant enjoy where you….for the lure of where you think you should be.
I think about “the Journey” we like to talk about at ANC. A few weeks ago, Brandon showed us a picture of a Winnebago Motor Home that their family used for a trip one time. And he reminded us that it isn’t always about the destination….its about the journey. There is fun in the journey, adventure in the journey, there are times that you will never recapture or recreate along the way.
We have become so discontent in our journey…we are always thinking someone elses is better. That is what I love about service with the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized….it is a great reminder that this person….would give their right arm for my journey.
Someone sent me this great example of how discontent we have become in our culture….and he even mentions a journey….on an airplane…..how true is this.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ecclesiastes 5 – Permission to Enjoy

Ecclesiastes 5 – Permission to Enjoy

Ecclesiastes 5:19-20 Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.

Guys, I know we are wealthy…some more than others, but all of us at more than 90+% of the worlds population. I don’t feel the need to beat myself about that. We were all fortunate that we were born in a capitalist society that values that, able to become educated, better ourselves and live in the manner we do.
I really do enjoy my ‘things’. They are still that….just things…I don’t dwell on them….none of them are the objects of my Godly affection....so I feel Solomon is saying, “It’s okay to have stuff.” Not that God blesses financially his children….but when it happens….he wants you to enjoy it. But what are you doing with it, and are you living within your means (and this includes giving back to God what is His).
I also believe that, to those who are given much….much is expected. We have talents, that God gave us…that we are to use to be a ‘part of the body’. We all have our thing but that comes with a financial tag as well.
I pray this for the offering every week…and I believe this….God doesn’t need our money, but the work the church is doing… isn’t possible without giving.
I think that the “gladness of heart” is achieved when we become content with what we have, the things we possess, and the money we use for ministry.

Ecclesiastes 4 – Influences

Ecclesiastes 4 – Influences

Ecc. 4:13 Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to take warning.

Being poor creates need. Being wise and poor lets you see where you can sustain yourself…get your needs met.

I know this, I don’t want to become the old foolish king. I think about President Obama, and his Cabinet. The President can’t be completely knowledgeable in ALL areas, so he ask those people who are known for their expertise in certain areas to fill in the gaps. The president may have a working knowledge of Finance….but he has a Secretary of Finance (it may be called something else) there to instruct the President in areas of finance. A foolish President would go against (not listen to) the advice of the ‘expert’ in a certain area….much like the foolish king. God, surround me with your men…and allow them to feel the need to speak into me, when you direct. God allow me to receive your words…..don’t allow my heart to harden. Do what it takes, Lover of my Soul.
I would still like to be more associated with the wise youth. I still enjoy the wonderment of new things. I believe this is why Christ tell us we must be like a child….a child believes 100%....whatever a parent tells them. A child believes a parent can catch them if they fall….100%. Children don’t hold anything back. To a child…a parent has super-human strength. That is the kind of faith Christ wants us to have….not a blind faith, but one rooted in trust and love.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Ecclesiastes 3 – Bad Science

Ecclesiastes 3 – Bad Science
11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men.

I know this to be true for me…but I wonder if those who claim NO eternity, who believe when we die….we just cease to exist, actually believe this, or if they did claim to believe otherwise, they’d have to do something with God.

A scientist who once tried to prove/disprove the existence of an afterlife, once created a test that only he knew the answers to, sealed them in an envelope, and after his death instructed those close to him to use 5 mediums to channel his spirit and find out the answers…of course, the mediums didn’t/couldn’t. Thus proving no afterlife? Or thus proving all mediums are full of crap?

Another scientist reported of eternity….’Finding out is easy. Reporting back is the challenge.’

I think the fact that scientist are constantly at odds with biblical truths, actually gives credence to the fact that something (God of the Bible/eternity) is on the hearts of men.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ecclesiastes 2 - Journey

Ecclesiastes 2 - Journey

I have seen rich men wrestle with this same thing that Solomon is realizing. Work hard to amass riches…and in the end, pass it off to someone who will never appreciate your efforts. What’s the point?
In our western culture, we are very ‘self’ and ‘me’ focused, not to mention money focused (which I guess about me and my ability to do whatever the heck I wanna do). Most infomercials and best selling books and magazines are about making money, becoming rich, getting out of debt or lifestyles of rich and famous. When comparing riches though…..Solomon surpasses Bill Gates and “the Donald” combined. And again, we see that he finds no ultimate good or pleasure from amassing wealth.
I think Ecclesiastes ties in very nicely with;
Matt 6:19"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Just a quick aside….I looked up Matthew 6…in my blogging this morning to see what I had written about this verse….WOW!
No, I really didn’t write anything good….but it took me back to a time, before Austin. The excitement about coming and being a part of ANC was thick…..Jenny and I had been driving to and from Corpus for months in late 2007, and the date we journalled Matt 6, we were prepping to leave home.
What a journey it has been so far. Thank you guys for walking with me, encouraging me, pouring into me and supporting me. This really is a cool journey…and exactly what Solomon realized in Ecclesiastes. It’s the ETERNAL that is significant, not the rat race or the “American Dream”.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ecclesiastes 1 - Trying to Rope the Wind

Ecclesiastes 1 -
"Look, I have grown and increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge." 17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.
Everything….there is nothing new. Why do we keep chasing in vain the things that allude us? Even wisdom?
What Solomon is saying…..if wisdom itself were all living was about…..it wouldn’t be worth living, would it?

I have known some who measure their ‘worth’….by the knowledge they have attained. I think deep down, like Solomon, they must know that the knowledge reveals the holes in their quest. It also reveals the need to explain the answers that elude even the wisest man.
Like Solomon says….its chasing after the wind.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Psalm 60 – Disparity?

Psalm 60 – Disparity?
When you read the description of the Psalm at the beginning and realize that in this time…David was at the height of his victories….why does the Psalm read like he is getting his butt handed to him day after day?
One of the commentaries I read said that;
David saw himself as a small part of a grand scheme in which God caused the rise and fall of nations for His own purposes. Even David’s victories were seen as chastenings of a sort—costly reminders that the outcome of events does not depend on the strength or will of man, but upon the decree of God, the true King, who disposes all things according to His wisdom, justice, and mercy.
In other words, David is recognizing is that….even in times of victory, there is someone on the other side….who the favor of the Lord isn’t shining on….that the grace and mercy of the Lord is solely His to bestow to bring glory to Himself.
ANC finds itself in a time of favor…and we pray for that to continue. But we realize that there are church planters all over town, and the country for that matter, who have felt a calling by God to plant only to fail.
I really don’t have any clue as to why…..but what I do know…is that there is a season in the life of this church, where we are winning battles large and small. To God be the Glory!

Monday, April 13, 2009

In Psalm 59 - God is my……

In Psalm 59 - God is my……

At some point in life, we all feel as though we have adversaries. Whether is a personal attack or a spiritual attack….we have at time felt vulnerable, beat down, hurt, attacked, abused, hated or unloved.
David in this situation writes a beautiful Psalm to his God..and calls God 5 very distinct names, all different attributes that David found in God in this moment.
Isn’t it amazing that the very attributes David needed in his God….he found.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Jeremiah 29:13

David found God to be his;
Strength
Fortress
Loving God
Our shield
Refuge

Now, I’ve addressed the “Name it and Claim it” gospel before…and I don’t think this is what is going on at all. I just feel that David is ‘a man after God’s own heart.’, and pursuing God’s will. It says in John 14 that;
‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Seder


We had a great time last night at the Seder Dinner. Dale Lear and his family, along with several key volunteers pulled off an amazing dinner. We sang, we talked, we ate....the kids looked for the Afikoman...we sang some more (in Hebrew) it was amazing.
The Afikoman may have been my favorite part of the meal. When Dale lifted the Matzah Tash Bag...which was a beautifully embroidered bag with three compartments for Matzah....he showed us the compartments and how the Matzah in the middle was taken out, broken and hidden.....it was so obvious that this signified Jesus. Yet he said rabbis argue on the meaning or remain silent all together.
Some interpret Afikoman as dessert.....or 'that which comes later'. The thing that struck me...was the apparent symbolism of Jesus being broken, Jesus being buried (hidden) and jesus raising from the dead (being found by those who went looking for him). Jews are actually taking part in communion when they continue this tradition.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Psalm 58 – Defang

Psalm 58 – Defang
Matthew Henry said it best in his commentary this morning on verses 6-11;
David prayed that the enemies of God's church and people might be disabled to do further mischief. We may, in faith, pray against the designs of the enemies of the church.
As ANC is poised for ‘even greater works’ I am reminded to pray for the enemies of God’s Church. Like MH says….not solely for salvation (which we do pray for) but to render the enemies harmless.
6 Break the teeth in their mouths, O God;
tear out, O LORD, the fangs of the lions!
We have been praying from the inception of ANC to bring us the ‘right people’. And so far, I feel God has provided us the correct pieces of the puzzle. Evidence; Two Sundays ago we served across this city, with more people than normally show up for a Sunday Service. Our folks tirelessly serve, give of themselves, and continue to find new ways to give more. The Spirit is palpable whenever we meet……whether it be for Sunday Service, Community Group, or just over coffee or lunch. There has been no real division or distraction from the work God has called us to. And there is something unique God is doing at ANC but maybe more importantly THROUGH ANC….not that it has never been done before, or we have cornered the market on it….but like Brandon has said….we recognize this and ”we just don’t wanna screw this up.”

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Psalm 56 - Father's Love

3 When I am afraid, I will trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?

We have some good friends in Corpus, the Willises. I actually graduated high school with both of them. Prior to moving to Austin, we served with them at our previous church.
Over the past several months...and it may be even longer, they have been going through the adoption process of a girl from China. Recently we found that the girls name was Faith, and the Willises over the last couple of weeks, have taken their family to China to meet and pick up their daughter.
What a change.
Not only for the Willises who have had one daughter for 11 or so years, but for Faith, who I could imagine living in 'the system'. Probably orphaned early on, being cared for by people who's job it was to care for you and many other children. Never really having anyone to call your own...to hug, to cry with, to laugh with and to love.
Enter the Willises.
Well, last week we finally got a glimpse of Faith and she is beautiful. You can see in the pictures the wonderment and maybe a little apprehension of the whole situation. There was one particular picture that really gave me a glimpse of a New Believer or possibly a Prodigal Son returning. The amazing thing about this picture to me is that Faith had just met Jeff. She had probably heard about him for a while, saw pictures, maybe even heard stories.....but she had never met him....and what did she know about a father's love?
But in this moment...she was frightened, maybe overcome with what was going on, maybe nervous about the reality of leaving the life she had always known....and then....the only thing Faith knew to do, was run into the arms of a Father who had adopted her, picked her, made her an heir, grafted her in.....where she would be safe.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Psalm 55 - Shouldering the Load

Psalm 55:22 Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.

You ever had one of those verses that meant a whole lot to you….but you never knew where it was. This is one of those verses for me.

The word cast literally means to throw down or hurl….the picture I will give, I don’t expect you to understand unless you have teenagers…..but the way they come in the door and cast aside the backpacks and head to the fridge or TV. They don’t care where they landed, and they have no intention of going to pick them up….they expect us to.

I was at the low point of my life….literally, and I was struggling, emotionally, spiritually, I was losing weight (Ha! Probably not….but I should have been), I had rage and hatred toward those who were (in my opinion) attacking me, and I was as close to depressed as I knew. When I was at that point, the only place I knew to turn was God.
My pastor (Sam Douglass) at the time was correct in telling me that this burden wasn’t meant for me to carry alone. By telling him, and him directing me to Christ….he said Christ would carry the load.
He also explained to me about my sinful human nature…and pride and that those things always make us want to go back and pick up that burden. Why is that? DO we believe God isn’t capable of taking care of it. Now in my instance, there were obligations I HAD TO HANDLE….but Sam told me to take care of what I needed to take care of….but to allow God to carry the burden.
Seriously…I slept better, I didn’t worry….I gained all my weight back…and then some, because I knew that I had to leave it with God. This time in my journey did a lot to shape my direction over the past 12 or so years. I actually thank God for those that were my apparent adversaries during this troubling time.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Psalm 54 – Peace Through Pain

Psalm 54 – Peace Through Pain

7 For he has delivered me from all my troubles, and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes.

In light of where David was in his journey….he surely has had troubles, and more to come. But David didn’t ask God NOT to have troubles….he just prayed through them and thanked God for delivery from them.

I am super pumped about this coming Sunday and the videos we will be showing. They are real life troubles that people have experienced…C. S. Lewis said God whispers to us in our pleasure and shouts at us in our pain. In these true life stories….God is doing a lot of screaming…and its through that pain, that we get to experience His Peace.

I know its counter-everything-we-are to pray FOR troubles…..but it is in those times that I have leaned more on God. I saw an article one time on this subject…..
Whether suffering and pain created more Atheists or Believers. I tend to think the latter. I think that as we walk through life….fat, dumb and happy....the thought of a higher being, a greater good, someone who is sovereign doesn’t seem to make it on our radar. But interject 9/11….now, people begin to ask the questions. Have a loved one die….and folks are grasping for answers.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Times is Tough

You know in tough economic times we really rethink a lot of our spending...and one thing Jenny and I are doing is taking outside work to help supplement our income. She is substitute teaching over at the High School..and I am working as a street performer for tips.
You know actually this is a friend of ANC, Johnny. He plays his bucket on 6th street. Brandon and I stopped by last night to see him, and I actually sat in with him and Chris....a 17 year old, who rapped (flowed) with us.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Psalm 53 – Seek/Find

Psalm 53 – Seek/Find
2 God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men To see if there is anyone who understands, Who seeks after God.

We are promised that if we seek…we will find. But I don’t think that God is playing a celestial game of hide and seek…..and that once we find him, we arrive. I believe that God reveals himself, his will to us through his word, other believers, circumstances and prayer. This may be weak theologically, but I think when we find him…we are finding small portions of him….so that we remain in the process of seeking him. He is saving the big reveal for eternity.
The Hebrew word for seeking here means treading (walking with)…or to follow. Another word that is used to define seeking in verse two…is to frequent. The relationship is fostered when we frequent, and when we tread and follow closely.
I think this is where we lose a lot of people. A lot of professing Christians, are just that….professing. There is no following, and definitely no frequenting. People dabble in the occult as a means of seeking God or spirituality. People pursue wisdom and cannot comprehend God…so they wirte him off. And tons and tons use works as a means to impress God and get his favor….all these are not means of seeking God.

Deuteronomy 4:29
But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.
Proverbs 8:17
I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.
Jeremiah 29:13
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Matthew 7:7
[ Ask, Seek, Knock ] "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
Luke 11:9
"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
Acts 17:27
God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

I have found the process of seeking God, this past year, to be the most amazing chapter of my journey. No, I don’t get frustrated that the more I learn of God, of his heart, of his character…the more I find that I need to seek. I just rest in another promise of the bible, draw near to God and he will draw near to you.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Psalm 51 – Do anything

Psalm 51 – Do anything
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.
I think this is an awesome perspective. David has just, in his own words, ‘sinned ONLY against God’ by committing adultery with Bathsheba. Nathan has confronted him about his sin. But what about Bathsheba, what about the murder of Uriah the Hittite? Yes there were personal offenses….sins even……but David recognizes that ultimately….the offenses…even the LUST and the LYING were infinite offenses against an infinite God.
And here David comes in verse 12 and 13….and says, (paraphrased) God…do what you need to do (Hebrew) tear me down to build me up. Physically break me, restore my joy of salvation you gave me.
A friend of mine in construction from Corpus once told me….in renovations of older homes…you can never have enough money in job to cover the cost of what you can’t see. What lies behind the walls or under the floor is always a risk. The walls are a veil to the mess that lies beneath.
In this weekends Serve Austin Sunday project (at Soli Deo Gloria), we got to experience some of that first hand. We were to replace the subfloor of the bathrooms (because they were old and squishy), replace the tile, and reset the fixtures. Easy enough, until you cut into the subfloor and find moisture. Not only has their been a water leak, but the sewage line, that is all gravity fed….is running uphill (not a good thing). It may have even been originally built this way. So several things now have to be TORN APART to be made right.
That is what David is saying here…. God, I know I was born this way….5 Surely I was sinful at birth, 
sinful from the time my mother conceived me…so no matter the mess, no matter the cost, no matter the pain, tear me down, to restore me…..so then I can help restore others. In the Hebrew…the word ‘restore’ in verse 12…is exactly the same as ‘turn back to you’ in verse 13.
At ANC this is what I hope to see happen time and again. To see people come to faith, or return to faith, so that they in turn can point others to the joy of Salvation in Christ alone.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Psalm 50 – God’s Hunger

Psalm 50 – God’s Hunger

12 If I were hungry I would not tell you

This is God speaking to Israel….and this is so profound…yet we do things for God all the time as if he needs us.
Israel believed that God was pleased with their sacrifices….when in fact, he in essence says, you are continually sacrificing to me…how bout instead, you live in communion with me….know me…pray to me…and be thankful in the blessings you do have, the victories you do win and the family and friends you have.
We do the same things….to keep God at bay. We do just enough. We offer up some crappy prayer at dinner….sometimes. We give a little something in the plate, and we try NOT to cuss. I bet God is so impressed with us!
The God who created the universe and everything in it…..doesn’t need our sacrifice….he wants the very things that he leaves us as stewards of; our time, our love, our finances, our relationships and our hearts.
It’s so true though….if God was hungry, do we think we could create a meal fitting for God? Something to appease His appetite? Do we think that with everything God has to choose….he would ask me to cook him dinner?
I am thankful I am not saddled with that task….that he brings ME into his banqueting table…and his banner over me is LOVE.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Psalm 49 – Good Ole Boy Theology

Psalm 49 – Good Ole Boy Theology

16 Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; 17 for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him.
I have been the funerals of some very wealthy and locally influential people. And like the Psalmist tells us here…..death equals the playing field.
I have never heard mention, at a funeral, how much someone made, what fortune they amassed (I’m sure there have been some), how well the wife and kids will live. No, most of the time you hear one of two stories.
One, you hear about what a great guy, husband, father, grandfather they were. Sometimes you hear about some accomplishments, deeds or accolades. You hear about….what a good guy he was.
But the funerals I like are the ones who say, you know ‘old Bill here’ he did all that stuff, got all these things…or maybe he didn’t, but today we know Bill is with Jesus…because of he lived his life, surrendered to the King.
You know, one of my least favorite lines in a secular funeral is….you know ‘good old Bill’ is in a better place, no more pain, no more suffering. Really? What about sin, what about grace, what about God…and His righteousness. What do you do with the sin? I wanna say these funerals may help perpetuate the ‘good old boy theology’. If you are good enough for the pastor to talk good about you…then you must be in a better place.
David, and subsequently Solomon knew that anything you amassed couldn’t substitute for knowing the redeeming grace of our creator.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Psalm 48 - God of this City

Psalm 48 – God of this City

You know…I think the Psalms are so cool. Just when you think you can’t think of another way to praise God…..his majesty, his beauty, his love, he compassion, his strength, his forgiveness…..the Psalmist praises God for His city.

Here God is praised for the beauty and splendor of His city. For the tremendous strength she (Jerusalem) represented. Her walls and her towers strike fear in those that would attack her….yet within the heart of the town, lies God’s temple where the people could meditate and seek God is peace.

I pray ANC continues to be such a church….not the physical 4 walls…..because we don’t have that, but I pray that the church (the body of Christ) continues to be a place of peace, comfort, joy, forgiveness, hope, and light. A body that will always welcome a ‘Sojourner’ .
We got to film 3 testimonies yesterday….we plan to use for Easter. They are about what God is at work doing within the hearts of those at ANC. I am blown away at the congruity between the 3 testimonies of people who didn’t prepare what to say, weren’t led any particular direction and they all come from different backgrounds….yet they all talked about the love, the acceptance, the community, the ease of entry, and the lack of condemnation they experienced.

I am also so proud of the work that the PlantR Network is doing. PlantR (http://www.plantr.org) is a group of Austin Area Church Planters who have come together to bring God to this city. What is awesome and unique (in my limited) experience is the level of camaraderie and unity there is in this group. Everyone involved seems to make themselves available to anyoen else there…..to be used as a resource. There is definitely a team approach…and there is a recognition that God is up to something huge in Austin.

Another soldier in this city is Alan Graham..and the work he is doing through Mobile Loaves and Fishes. ( http://www.mlfnow.org) I pray for Alan and others as they will spend the next 72 hours on the streets, to raise awareness, get some great time with God and experience what the streets are like…..some (not Alan) for the first time.

I also applaud the efforts of everyone involved with Cap City Kids. Last night we attended a benefit concert and met those involved with the non-profit. Cap City Kids (http://www.capcitykids.org) provides basic needs (school supplies, clothes, backpacks) as well as mentoring to the 4000 homeless kids in Austin alone. I was blown away by one 6th grader who is an example to not only homeless kids, but kids in general.

My prayer is that Austin becomes such a beacon of hope for revival throughout this land…and it is looked on as a city of God.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Psalm 47 - Inheritance

Psalm 47
4 He chose our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob, whom he loved. Selah

The way I’ve always thought about it…. an inheritance is usually a large some of money and limited to the wealth of the bestower.

When Jenny’s mom died, we were 21 years old. Jenny had grown up poor. But her mom over the last 10 year or so of her life had begun to be able to save…and when she died….she left her ‘estate’ which consisted of a small house (which Jenny’s little sister got) and maybe $30,000 to her kids. Well….divided by the 6 of them…it amounted to a dining room table for us. I’m sure, she would have love to have given us way more…..but she was limited.

I think the Writer of this Psalm is rejoicing that the God, the infinite creator of everything….would not only choose us, but then……choose our inheritance as well. And not an inheritance limited by anything we could imagine….but one that no matter how many times you give it away….its still as vast and rich as it was before any of it was given.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Psalm 45 – From the Inside Out

Psalm 45 – From the Inside Out
“My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.”
As I pray to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit, I am reminded of how this feels and manifests itself in my own life.
In the Hillsong United song, ‘From the Inside Out’…the lyrics are
Your will above all else, my purpose remains
The art of losing myself in bringing you praise
In my heart, in my soul, Lord I give you control
Consume me from the inside out …..Lord.
This is really when we allow God’s holy spirit to consume us. To so closely associate with the things that Christ was passionate about… that they become our passions, to take our will and conform it to His.
A friend and I were discussing tonight….and his concern was that God made us individuals….and while this is true….God’s one desire is for us to be HIS reflection. Not that we are all to be robots….but that Christ would magnify the very things that He placed in us as individual creations, that bring Him the most glory.
His will above all else…..the writer of this Psalm was obviously filled with the spirit of God and used his God given ability and allowed God to enhance them to write this beautiful Psalm which is a picture of Christ as the Bridegroom.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Psalm 44 – Kicking and Screaming


Psalm 44 – Kicking and Screaming

Although this it is a kids movie….Kicking and Screaming is one of my favorite and most quoted movies. It may be because I have listened to this movie over 50 times while traveling…and it is playing on the DVD in the car (but I cant see it).
One of my favorite parts of the movie is when the little league soccer coach, played by Robert Duval trades his own grandson to another team. Duvals son played by Will Farrell confronts his dad about the trade….and his dad admits…”well I didn’t GET anything for him.”
I guess this is about as low down as you can feel….David admits this is Psalm 44. He has a sense that God has turned his back on them….that his worth to God is ‘craigslist’ cheap. You know….the crap you put out by the curb with a sign that says FREE on it…..and inevitably someone will take it.
Verse 12 says, “You sold your people for a pittance, gaining nothing from their sale.”
Then is verse 26 he asks God to complete the transaction, “rise up and help us; redeem us because of your unfailing love.” The last verse of the chapter he asks this of God, not because of any worth that we have….remember we are worth a pittance….but because God’s love of us.
One of my favorite shows when I come across it is Antique Roadshow. I don’t Tivo it or anything…but I always stop on it…and watch it for a while. The premise is that people bring ‘finds’ on the show and appraisers tell them how much their stuff is worth.
I love when people say, “I found this at a garage sale…..and paid $4 for this painting” or “ this was in the back of my grandmothers closet…and it was given to her by her grandmother…..” and the appraisers will say…”well what you have here is a Rembrandt….dated the turn of the 17th century….and this is one of the better preserved of his works…and I’ll place a value at somewhere in the neighborhood of $460,000 - 500,000.”
One of the things I was reminded about in last nights sermon…was role of Peter. And when Christ called him out…and said Peter…upon a faith like yours…I will build my church….Peter stepped up his game. His self worth increased to the value that Christ saw in him.
The grandson in the movie….the benchwarmer…..the grandfather traded for nothing…..and David is saying in Psalm 44….though in your economy….I am worth a pittance… buy me back.
Today….this side of the cross…..our value should never be in question. Christ paid the ultimate price for you and me. He laid down his very life…because of his unfailing love.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Esther 10 - Rhino Focus

Esther 10 – Rhino Focua
Mordecai never served his own interests…..just those of his people. I think the great example he leaves us….is that we are called to the task at hand. He never thought about becoming second in command in all of Babylonia….he responded to what called had called him to. For Mordecai, it was life and death….but simple in nature. Stand up for his people and work for their good.
I know sometimes I get all sidetracked by the end result and not concentrate on what is before me. I love Matthew Hansens tattoo of the Rhino…..it is a representation of the faith he has and wants to keep.
Rhinos are very near sighted…so much so, that they can only see several yards in front of them. So as they step or walk or charge….they are focused on what is just in their short sighted range.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Esther 9 - Observance of God's Deliverance

Esther 9:28 These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city. And these days of Purim should never cease to be celebrated by the Jews, nor should the memory of them die out among their descendants.

March 10th 2009, was the day that Jews celebrated Purim this year. They mark this even by celebrating, giving gifts to the poor…..and cooking traditional meals for family.
I think Brandon did a great job this week telling the story of ANC, casting the vision, getting folks up to speed and telling of some pretty amazing things going on right now in the life of our church. Our story of what is going on, in my opinion….makes for an extraordinary working of God. Much like the Jews deliverance from the Babylonians, God’s hand is at work…and I believe that we should brag about these things….not for our glory…but for His. (Gal. 6:14)
I am so excited about the One Year Celebration we will have at ANC. I am humbled to be on this journey…and I get an upclose and personal view of the life change Christ is making in the hearts of people.
We are hearing great stories that people want to tell and we plan to video them….as a powerful tool and witness about what God is doing.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Esther 8 – You cant take it with you!

Esther 8 – You cant take it with you!

I know we’ve all heard the joke about…you never see a hearse with a U-haul behind it. Well….Haman certainly proved that. In all his boasting and in all his self-righteous posturing….he could have never imagined that the very things that he took the most pride in, were given to the man who never honored such things in him.
It made me wonder about the legacy we leave behind. Is the stuff we are amassing here, in this life, all we are about. Are we more than the position we hold, the car we drive, the neighborhood we live in? What defines us?
What did Haman’s family say about him after he was hanged? Based on his character, I have to think they had some pretty disparaging remarks, for him. I don’t think that his family could have been too pleased. Because the very thing he took the most stock in….he couldn’t deliver to them.
However, if we are imparting love, faith, wisdom, right living, charity, dignity and honor into our kids…..even if stripped of every material thing we have acquired…..they still have love, faith, wisdom, right living, charity, dignity and honor.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Esther 7 – Well what do ya know…..

Esther 7 – Well what do ya know…..

Putting your foot in your mouth is one thing….but your head in your own noose…..thats irony.

"A gallows seventy-five feet high stands by Haman's house. He had it made for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king."

We’ve all done it though in some form or another. Me, “ oh…when are you due?” Crickets……darn. I have an even more recent one….I was trying to reach out to someone ministerially speaking….and I find out that the very transparency that endears me to this person….also is my downfall with them.

The Lord really has been teaching me some things lately about my heart, my beliefs, my love and my background and the Tradition that I come from. Its not all good….and I have laid it bare before God in prayer. But in my heart, what I believe, God will have to change….as he already has….. about many many things. God continues to reveal himself to me in new exciting ways, and in turn He is shaping my heart to be more like his.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Esther 6 – Narcissism

Esther 6 – Narcissism

Okay, first off….I need a book of chronicles. Seriously, the king couldn’t sleep so he decided to have his peeps read to him about himself. Cool thing was, it reminded him about Mordecai…and how he had saved his life.
Haman is starting to believe all his own hype. He has become narcissistic in his thinking and his actions. In his mind, the only thing that is worth talking about or honoring in this entire kingdom is Haman himself.
What a blow to Hamans psyche, after constructing the Honor to end all Honors….to have to place it on the man that you despise and have plans to kill.
So while he is still reeling, he heads home, tells his wife and friends all the junk that just went down….which to be honest with you, is a surprise to me. A guy so proud and full of himself, may have spun that a different way to make himself look better….but he didn’t.

Esther 5 – Pride and Arrogance before the Fall

Esther 5 – Pride and Arrogance before the Fall
Two things that struck me about today’s reading…was Haman and how awfully insecure he must have been. Not only did he feel the need to invite all his friends to come to his home so that he could brag about his position, his wealth and his sons, but he felt threatened by a ‘lowly’ Jew at the city gate….who didn’t show him the respect that he thought he deserved.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Esther 4 – Catch Me!

Esther 4 – Catch Me!
Its foolish to think that the Creator NEEDS his creation to do anything. We were created for his pleasure, to bring Him glory and to honor Him. But what about our purpose?
I’ve had several Esther moments in my life…..some I’ve stood up and done what I felt compelled by God to do….others I’ve shied away from. Never once was I faced with peril though.
Mordecai brought great perspective to Esther. He said in verse 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"
I think that I’ve thought of this verse, coupled with Romans 12:1. in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual[ act of worship….. whenever I am making, what I believe to be critical Kingdom decisions, no matter the size.
Not that my action or inaction will affect the Kingdom of God one iota…..but it will affect my faith….and possibly that of a few people around me.
Mordecai, pointed this out to Esther when he told her that if she remained silent, help would come from somewhere else….I don’t think this was desperate attempt to get some ‘insider help’ as much as it was a spiritual gut check. Granted the stakes were very high for Esther, Mordecai and the rest of the Jews in Babylon, but Mordecai was reminding Esther of the God who took Moses to the edge to the edge of the Red Sea, the God who caused David to pick up the stones, and the God who told Joshua to march around the walls of Jericho…..all reluctant heroes of FAITH.
In the summer…..Tate and I play a game in the pool called Catch Me. No matter where each of us in the pool….if we yell to the other….CATCH ME!.....the yeller takes one last breath and curls up in a cannonball and plunges under the water. The saver…swims as hard and fast as they can….and catch the human ‘bobber’ and bring them to the surface….loads of fun.
But when Tate asks me to do the Trust Fall with her…..on dry land…this is only going to work one way…and that way is if the one capable of catching (me) is the one being trusted. As much as she’d like me to….I just can’t trust her to catch me, if I were to just fall back toward her.
When we are faced with Kingdom decisions (loving our neighbors, talking about our faith, standing up for injustice, serving outside of ourselves, living on mission) ….I think that it is key to trust the one capable of catching/rescuing us. God wants us to take that small (relative to Esther’s) step of faith and trust him to…..CATCH ME!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Esther – 3 Marked with the King’s Seal

Esther – 3 Marked with the King’s Seal

Haman was apparently very important to Xerxes. He was elevated to the highest honor of any of the kings nobles (whether worthy or not)….and he was trusted with the king’s signet ring. With the ring, Haman could put the king’s very name to any decree, in the form of a seal, and it would be as if the king himself had written it.
Seals were introduced around 5000 b.c. by royalty as a means of proving ownership and issuing decrees and edicts. Seals were very identifiable and impossible to mess with or reproduce. Seal’s carried weight because of who was behind it. It proved authenticity and ownership.
I once had my watch stolen. I luckily had all the original paperwork and serial numbers to the watch…so the police added that to the police report. Two years later, out of the blue, I get a call from the Manassas Virginia police department….they have come across my watch in a database…and wanted to know where I wanted the watch mailed to. The serial number I had, proved my ownership.
Though in the Esther story, the seal Haman placed, was done with cruel and malicious intentions….Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians uses this metaphor of the seal to give us the image of being joint heirs, marked with the King’s (God’s) own seal….the Holy Spirit.
That is God’s mark, His indelible image. God’s seal on us is His Holy Sprit. The Holy Spirit can’t be copied, His mark is genuine, He proves our ownership and under who’s headship we live. By his Spirit, we are heirs in His Kingdom.

Eph 1:13-14 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Esther 2 – Wrong Place at the Right Time

Esther 2 – Wrong Place at the Right Time

A great subplot to the story of Esther and Mordecai was….why were Jews in Susa in the first place? Susa was a town in the Persian Empire (modern day Iran) When the Babylonian captivity ended years earlier….(probably 2-3 generations) the Jews were freed from captivity, to go home to Israel. Free to return to the place of their spiritual heritage yet some chose to stay. Why?

Probably some of the same reasons we would choose to stay. They had grown comfortable, they had climbed the corporate ladder (Mordecai was a Jew in the citadel…a government official), their family had attained status there. So you can’t really blame them…..but it’s like biting the hand that feeds you….God the author of life, giver of all good things, the deliverer of your very people……orchestrates a plan to free you from the bondage of slavery and tyranny, and deliver you to “The Promised Land”….yet they remained. They (those that remained) thumbed their nose at God….and basically said…”yeah, I know you have your plans…and they are good, but I’m fine where I am at.”

I think about addictions, how some people are given all the opportunity in the world to free themselves from the very thing that will kill them, yet when given the opportunity of rehab or support or accountability…they choose to remain an addict. ‘Giving the bird’ to family and friends that care about you…and don’t want to see you die.

So just so we know…Esther being “chosen” was really God’s hand in a mess. Xerxes was harvesting virgins to have sex with and dispose of….it just so happened that Esther found favor. This is why we pray for favor at ANC….because as jacked up as we make it sometimes….if we remain in God’s favor, he can choose to bring glory to himself through it. (Another practice of the Babylonian Empire was harvesting young men, and making them Eunuchs. Xerxes, it is written, would harvest up to 500 men and women per year.)

I know none of us has been plucked from our families to become servants in an evil empire….but we do become enslaved by our work, our hobbies, our dreams, addictions or agendas…and maybe we find ourselves far from God, or not exactly in a God-honoring position….. But it’s not unthinkable that God won’t choose to use us……and we may have been born, been in the position we are in, for such a time as this!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Esther 1 – Behind the Scenes

Esther 1 – Behind the Scenes
I am a HUGE Esther fan. I guess reading this first chapter the thing that Lord is laying on my heart is how he is constantly working. Behind the scenes, when we are sleeping, when we are unaware, in other believers, in those that don’t claim God…..He works. And like in;
Romans 8, I believe that He “works for the Good of those who love him and been called according to his purpose.”
We will learn later on….all that is unfolding for Esther…and how God plans to use her to save his people….and she isn’t even aware of it right now.
Back in 1998, I was at a place in my life that was very distant from where I am right now. I was a believer, but nominal at best…one that Christ would have spewed from him his mouth….neither Hot or Cold.
God was using circumstances and people that I believe don’t even know him (or at least they didn’t act like they did) to draw me closer to Him. He placed people in my life, who pointed me to Him, challenged my faith, my convictions, and who I thought God was.
I have been on that journey ever since. Sometimes closer than others….but realizing that I am not the center of my universe…..God is.
I honestly believe that God is preparing EVERYONE…for works of service….it’s just a matter of obedience.

Psalm 40 - Hidden

Psalm 40 - Hidden
10 I do not hide (secrecy) your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly.

There are times that I must admit, that I have hidden God’s righteousness, because I am unrighteous. This is the very thing that makes us hypocrites…..we wait until we feel righteous….when in fact….we are not. Which literally makes us ‘self-righteous’.
I was watching the movie “religulous” last night…..knowing that it would turn my stomach. Bill Maher always turns my stomach…..but some of the questions that he posed were dead on. He exposed many of the things that are the ugly underside of ‘religion’.
I particularly enjoyed him talking to a self-proclaimed Doctor of Theology. This black pastor had no degrees at all. Bill called him out on his $2000 suit, cars, homes and extravagant lifestyle that the pastor defended with some ‘Prosperity Gospel’ crapola…..but Bill quickly pointed out that Jesus lived in opposition to this. The pastor mumbled through and changed wording of Christ about ‘poor in sprit’, ‘blessed are the poor’….wait….errrr…….In a very strange and refreshing way, Bill was dead on.
If we hide Christ’s righteousness inside of us….we hide the only righteousness we have.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Psalm 39 - Life is Fleeting

Psalm 39 – Life is Fleeting
Life has this way of reminding us what the Psalmist is saying in this Psalm…..’Each man's life is but a breath.’
A few weeks ago we had a young man Glen, who was being cared for by one of our Restore Communities. Glen was introduced to them, by an organization that cares for those who have advanced stages of AIDS and cancer. One of the last things that Glen was able to do in public….was to attend one of our ANC services. I believe that Brandon was preaching that day….and Brandon had no clue Glen was there. At ANC we rarely do an ‘invitation’ but this day….there was a presentation of the gospel and Glen trusted Christ with his life.
Glen passed away last week.
My dad, 6 years ago….played golf on a Saturday morning, was settling in to watch the Alabama vs. Arkansas game, and had chest pains. He got my mom to take him to the hospital. As he walked into the ER and sat down, he was telling the nurse his Social Security number……and died.
A dear sweet couple from my last church, she suffered from Rheumatory Arthritis and he has just been diagnosed with cancer….. were driving to Houston to visit family. On the road between Corpus and Refugio, I have driven 1000 times, a truck blew a tire, swerved into their lane, hit them head on and killed them both instantly.
David, asks for what he already know….”let me know how fleeting is my life.”
James puts it this way ‘You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.’
We all have someone that we know, who has died…..some closer than others. But isn’t it amazing that people continue to live life as if death will never come, that somehow death will escape them.
I praise God for those I have mentioned who knew Christ…and have stepped from this life to eternity with their Creator. All their testimonies are completely different, but they all….at some point recognized God as the Author of Life, and the source of Salvation.