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.
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… 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 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… 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;
Loving God
Our shield

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


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 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 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… 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.