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.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Psalm 38 - Weight of Sin

Psalm 38 –
As I read this Psalm, I am reminded that David is living under the consequence of his sin. David agrees with God in his punishment…only in one he asks to lessen the severity of it. David wholly owns the punishment…and in his confession, agrees with God’s sense of justice and appeals for his mercy. Not that he deserves it…but because David knows God loves him.
1 O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. 2 For your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down upon me. 3 Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin. 4 My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. 5 My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly.
This passage makes me even more mindful and thankful that Jesus bore the consequence of our sin.