Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Joy

In 1707, Isaac Watts wrote this about hymn singing:  

"While we sing the Praises of our God in his Church, we are employed in that part of Worship which of all others is the nearest a-kin to Heaven: and ‘tis pity that this of all others should be performed the worst upon Earth…. To see the dull Indifference, the negligent and the thoughtless Air that sits upon the Faces of a whole Assembly, while the Psalm is on their Lips, might tempt even a charitable Observer to suspect the Fervency of inward Religion; and ‘tis much to be feared that the Minds of most of the Worshippers are absent or unconcerned."

It has given me reason to consider my own singing, do I enter the words, and do I voice them with resolve, passion and as an offering to the Lord. Perhaps even more importantly, is my voice on Sunday morning a reflection of my activity of worship in my week. We recently sang “Joy to the World”, Isaac Watts take on Psalm 98:4,9,  Two lines in particular caught my attention:

Let every heart prepare him room, ….
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
What is the evidence that my heart is a prepared room?  In part – if He dwells within me I will share in His compassions and see the world around me through His eyes. And what does that lead to? A life that is a river of blessing that flows from His dwelling in me out to a hurting and lost and joyless world,  At this time – when we enjoy so much abundance – I should be more in touch with the great want of hope and joy in the world around me and be taking daily steps to reach in to it with the love and compassions of Christ.
So – as I look forward to more great Christmas singing on Sunday - how will I really join in the angels songs and avoid the indifference and lack of fervency that Watts spoke of? I guess it begins today – being an avenue of blessing to those who don’t experience or know the Joy that has come into the world.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bells

It is always amazing at how mindlessly we can sing particularly when the songs are so familiar. A couple weeks ago we sang the Christmas carol, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day."  I have sung it many times and yet it had never really connected with me before. The words sounded new and fresh. Interestingly enough I was completely unaware of the story behind the song. Henry W. Longfellow wrote it as a poem on Christmas Day of 1864. The country had been immersed in civil war and was experiencing something very different than "peace on earth.." Three years prior to writing the poem, Longfellow's wife had died in a tragic accident and the following year he would write during Christmas that there was no joy in the celebration. One year before writing the poem one of his son's was severely wounded in the war. It is no wonder that he would write "in despair I bowed my head: there is no peace on earth I said."

How many of us struggle with God's promised peace and the tangible realities of a world in chaos and struggle and our own hurts, disappointments and losses in life. It seems that at Christmas those questions and losses seem to be more intense. It takes a couple years but Longfellow does go on to write "then pealed the bells more loud and deep: God is not dead: nor doth He sleep!" The experience of Christ's work, the reality of His ongoing movement in the world, and the sounding truth from His Word do  - at just the right time - sound louder and deeper than the doubts and despairs of our own hearts. Just when we start to think that the Lord is absent - He shows up and touches our hearts with assurance and promise and a restoration of hope.

The bells of Christmas worship will ring out this week ... at church, in your car, at home, in the mall. Perhaps it will be a bell that sounds of joy, or perhaps a bell that sounds the hope of rescue, or perhaps it is a bell that wakes us up from slumber and complacency... there is Good News in it - always - "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep!"

1. I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

2. I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

3. And in despair I bowed my head
'There is no peace on earth,' I said,
'For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.'

4. Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
'God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.'

5. Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

COME!

Although it is not frequently sung, one of my favorite Christmas carols is "Come, Thou Long-expected Jesus" by Charles Wesley.

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne. 
The very first word always catches my attention - COME! The song is a reminder of the longing for a Messiah during a dark time and all that He would/did bring: hope, joy, strength, consolation, deliverance, rule, glory...presence. Revelation ends with a similar statement about His future 2nd advent. "He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!" Rev. 22:20
It is often the silent cry of my own heart: "Come!"  "Come into my work."  "Come into the lives of my kids."  "Come into my crazy schedule."  "Come into my finances....." YET ... His gentle answer is "I have come." He was called Immanuel - God with us. This was both descriptive of Jesus as He walked on the earth but also of His ongoing, very real presence among us as believers through the Holy Spirit. "I will never leave you." I don't need to ask Him to come into my schedule, work, children ... He is already there! What I need to be doing is looking, paying attention, joining, listening, obeying, worshiping.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanks

Martin Rinckart wrote the hymn "Nun danket alle Gott" in 1636 as a poem to his children. Rinckart (1586-1649) began pastoring in the town of Eilenburg in Saxony at the age of 31. The 30 years war had just begun and he died just as peace came. During his ministry the town was frequently plundered and suffered greatly at the hands of enemy soldiers. In 1637 the plague broke out in his city taking with it close to 8000 people. Rinckart conducted the funeral services for 4000 people including his wife. Severe famine followed the plague that left people fighting in the streets over dead animals. Rinckart freely shared all he had as he worked to provide care and food to his congregation despite the fact that it left him impoverished.

The Scriptures call us to GIVE THANKS. I find it easy to say thank you but not so easy to have a genuinely thankful heart. Martin Rinckart - in the midst of the worst that life can bring - overflowed with a thankful heart. His poem for his children was later translated and many of us sing it at this time of year.

Now Thank We All Our God

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and bless├Ęd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore

Sunday, October 30, 2011

change

I am sitting in a familiar place in an unfamiliar setting of life. I arrived in Grand Rapids, Michigan a few days ago to visit my mom who is in an assisted care facility, connect with my brothers, and help close up my mom's home for the winter season. I stopped in this Starbucks - for the WiFi - to update my blog and check email.... Except for a few decorating differences, most Starbucks look and feel pretty much the same. Sitting here I could have been back in any of the Starbucks back in Tucson. The sameness is comfortable and in some sense masks what is outside the doors. What lies outside the doors is anything but sameness - it in constant change and bears an elevated sense of uncertainty. This week has been a reminder that my own family is in the midst of change. My mom is  in a really nice but unfamiliar living situation. The "family home" with all its memories is closed up for the long winter. Unlived in, it will soon be covered in snow drifts. My dad has passed away and his car now sits unused in the garage. My brothers and my sister and I are at at different places in our lives as we watch our kids grow up and move out and begin establishing their own lives. Much of the change is good and normal, much of it doesn't feel so good at the moment.

Immutable - what a great word - God never changes! All of His character traits have existed in all their fullness for all time and beyond time. His glorious nature does not grow or increase because it has always been full. God has been the fullest expression of goodness - always has been - always will. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus is the same - yesterday, today and forever!! As change sweeps over us there is an awesome, wondrous, ever working, never changing God that sweeps us up into Himself ... there in that place He shapes us in the change, He reassures us in the trial, He gives glimpses of His future paths which are always full of wisdom and life. Hiding from the outside change in the soothing confines of a Starbucks shop is only for a moment - the great promise as that we are hidden with Christ in God and as we walk, run or crawl through the changes - there is one unshakable place - in the arms of Jesus

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Grow

With the death of my father I have been considering the relationship we had. There was always a certain security in that father son relationship - the sense that dad was always there and available. Of course, over the years, that relationship has changed from adult and child to adult and adult, yet there was always a remnant of still being a child and the security of having a father. It was a good feeling - something that strengthened me as an adult. With death, that has changed. Dad is not there to look to - I am the adult and not a son in the same manner as before.

At 53 years old you would think that I would finally be grown up ... truth is we are always in a process of growing up. Ephesians 4:15 calls us to "grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ." It appears the growing up is a life long process and along the way there are always new, different and surprising areas in which we discover another way (all aspects) to grow up! A dear brother in Seattle once told me that there are certain lessons that you only learn in certain decades of life. That truth freed me from feeling like I had to figure out all the ways I needed to learn and grow and just focus on those areas that God had chosen for a particular time. It seems that this is another time to grow up - learn a new lesson about finding my security and dependence and trust in my Lord alone - to give thanks for what I had in my dad but delve deeper into the better things we have in Christ.  I guess this makes sense - the Bible calls us children and as children, there is always more growing up to do.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Coffee

Today is National Coffee Day! This significant calendar day has only been around a few years but I am anticipating that it will someday be a nationally recognized holiday. You can get a medium coffee at Dunkin' Donuts for 50 cents today and there is free coffee at 7-11 till 11am. I must admit that making coffee is one of my first thoughts and actions every morning - I actually look forward to it. My Mom was always the first to rise and I would wake up each morning to the great smell of coffee and breakfast. There were only a couple of occasions when My Mom failed to get up. On one of those days I came into her room to see what was going on - she informed me that she was unable to get up because we were out of coffee! She sent me out with a few quarters to get her a cup!

So - what really gets me up in the morning - what should be foremost on my mind and heart as I prepare to enter a new day? Ephesians 2:10  says "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works ..." When I rise there should be a fresh shout of praise within my heart that I am His, that I am in Him, that He is reigning and at work, that He goes before me, and that my day is infused with value and purpose. That is what should get me up.

"Holy, Holy, Holy!
Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning
our song shall rise to Thee!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

grace

My dad passed away yesterday afternoon. One of his favorite subjects was grace about which he talked frequently. Yet ... my dad, like many of us, seemed to resist grace's full experience. I am thankful that today he is enjoying its fullest measure but grace is for us today  - completely.

Ephesians 1:6 declares "... to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely
bestowed on us in the Beloved."

We embrace His grace for salvation but often try to diminish its power in living. His grace - all of it - is poured out on us today! We diminish its tangible impact by embracing condemnation (which Romans tells us has no place in the life of the believer), by saying that we can only experience it in heaven (2 Cor. 8:9 says we can know His grace fully now), or by believing the lie that we "get" more grace as we get "more right" with God. Truth is, grace is greater and better than we have ever imagined. It is abundant, always present, given not in increments but poured on us always and completely, and it is "freely" given - never added to by what we do right or lessened by what we don't do. There is nothing else like it! Today God has fitted and made you to reflect the praise of the glory of His grace - enjoy His gift - share His gift.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

disorder

Last week I missed two appointments - I completely forgot about them. The first time I am under my car trying to line up a new alternator and my cell phone rings - "Chris, where are you?" The second time, a day later, my cell phone rings while I am shopping at Safeway - "Hi Pastor Chris, where are you?" I mess up many things but I never miss appointments! So I began to ask myself - "Chris, where are you?"

I have a few personal indicators when something is not right in my life - a messy car, a trashed closet, an unbalanced checkbook, and now - missed appointments. They usually show that I am running through my day rather than walking with Him in my day... that I am being pressed through my responsibilities rather than being led into my responsibilities ... that I am "scrambling to make a play" rather than listening to Jesus "call the plays". (note the appropriate football metaphor)

This struggle happens frequently - these sabbath patterns that I seek and speak about slip away all too often. My response - as it was last week - is to "catch up", bring order, pull it together, get ahead of the game.... When things piled up on Jesus and life pressed in - He got away, He "did" less, He stopped! (Mark 6:31-32) It is the opposite of what I tend to do. It should be noted that He did not stop and become inactive but He stops and it results in better activity, intentional ministry, working that flows from a place of quietness.

So, missed appointments are not a cause for panic but a call to Jesus, a call that we should hear each day.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

God

Last Sunday we began our study of the nature and character of God. Even thinking that we can categorize Him and study Him like a subject just doesn't seem to sit well with me. We are called to "know Him" so our study has a good rational, but it is important that we see this as a small step, a pressing towards Him as we wait for His revelation of Himself through the Spirit. The Lord reveals Himself both propositionally - information/truth about Himself - as well as personally - a revelation of Himself and a call to relationship. He does both. As we saw last week, not only does God reveal - He also conceals. We cannot know everything about God nor can we ever say we know Him to the fullest depths of relationship. We continually grow both in our knowledge of Him as well as our awareness of  "how unsearchable" He is. (Rom. 11:33)

In Acts 17, Paul describes the Lord as one that "does not live in temples built by hands" - He is wholly other than us. Yet, Paul also describes Him as "he is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being." I love this aspect of God... that I can experience His very real presence and grow in knowing Him and yet at the same time He is transcendent - unconfined - unhindered - absolutely free. We can never plumb the "depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God." And what should be our response? The same as Paul's in Romans 11:36 - "To Him be the glory forever! Amen"

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cling to the Crucified

Cling To The Crucified

1. Cling to the Mighty One, Cling in thy grief
Cling to the Holy One, He gives relief
Cling to the Gracious One, Cling in thy pain
Cling to the Faithful One, He will sustain

Chorus: Cling to the crucified, Jesus the Lamb who died
Cling to the crucified, Jesus the King
Cling to the crucified, Jesus the Lamb who died
Cling to the crucified, Jesus the King

2. Cling to the Living One, Cling in thy woe
Cling to the Loving One, Through all below
Cling to the Pardoning One, He speaketh peace
Cling to the Healing One, Anguish will cease

3. Cling to the Bleeding One, Cling to His side
Cling to the Rising One, In Him abide
Cling to the Coming One, Hope shall arise
Cling to the Reigning One, Joy lights thine eyes

 
© 2007 Kevin Twit Music (ASCAP).
Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Words - anonymous from Bonar's "Lyra Consolationis"

Thursday, August 25, 2011

sing!

One of the blessings of being on sabbatical this summer was the opportunity to visit a number of churches here and in Phoenix. It was good to be able to join them in worship, be taught in the Word and have an increased contact with the extended body of Christ. My biggest surprise was that many churches don't sing well! I am not referring to the quality of their music or voices - most of the churches had great worship teams, a good selection of songs and I'm sure most people had much better singing voices than I. The problem was that I couldn't hear people singing. In some cases there were not many people so they may have felt uncomfortable putting their voice out there. In other places the buildings were so large and the sound was just absorbed so if people were singing, I couldn't hear them. In other congregations - people just didn't sing.

Colossians 3:14-17 creates a direct connection between, the love of Christ, love for one another, the peace of Christ, the Word of Christ, the work of Christ though our activity and ..... singing. When we sing out - particularly as a gathered congregation - our gathering is transformed, our hearts are enlivened and readied for serving, and the imparting of the Word is accomplished on a deeper level. There have been many occasions when I arrive at church and just don't feel like singing, or the songs just don't seem to appeal to me; but when I choose to join in, raise my voice and participate -  a transformation happens, the gates of my soul are opened to the Spirit, the readiness of my heart to participate in the Word is shifted and my engagement with other believers is put into motion as we join voices.

I love singing at the Vineyard. Perhaps its the small building that causes the sound to bounce and bang off the walls filling the space with sound. Perhaps its that we are all packed in so tightly that our voices really seem like one, or perhaps it is that we just like to sing. Either way - it transforms our hearts, it pulls us together, it realigns our attentions and it exalts Jesus.

So - SING!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lessons

So I am back to my office following a three month sabbatical. Part of the purpose of the time was to study the sabbath, work, ministry, and family rhythms of the early Puritans and then bring some of those insights into my day. It seemed a reasonable goal - figure out how it all works and then make it work! Did I learn things? yes. Did I put some of it into practice? yes. Is it all figured out and working? no.  I do have some random insights at this point...

* There is no such thing as a routine day! To even think such a thing exists would mean that everything is in my control - it would remove God from the equation. Granted, most days are comprised of a number of very similar elements and they can seem routine because they are always present but they get juggled around, relationships are always shifting, there are frequent unexpected problems, joys and opportunities. I discovered that planning and structure are important but only because they give a platform for constantly making adjustments. I thought that with the removal of all the time and energy of full time ministry removed for three months it would be easy to establish routines of sabbath rest in my day and week - not so.
* I discovered that "distractions" are not the enemy of sabbath rhythms rather they are daily opportunities to press closer to Jesus. In reading the Gospels, Jesus was often trying to get away alone but the crowds would find Him out - it says that He often could not even find time to eat. Yet, His life was still marked by regular patterns of work-ministry-rest.
* Insights follow study and experience. Of course we all know this but it is an on-going process - the insights get deeper over time but it does take time.
* I think the goal of sabbath is not achieving but depending. It is not something I accomplish but an ongoing longing for more of Him. The Lord said He allowed the Israelites to hunger so that they would learn that man does not live on bread alone but on the words of God. He wanted them to look to Him, to depend on Him - this was far more important than getting it right.
* Ultimately sabbath is not learned ... it is practiced... over and over and over. Here is the heart of it - it is moment by moment and a perpetual activity of the heart. Just orienting ourselves in that direction again and again is transformative and brings our minds and activity and hearts in line with the truth that we are already at rest in the finished work of Christ.

So how do we see these rhythms work out with full schedules, kids, flat tires, money problems, work stress.....? It begins and continues by having a longing for Him, a heart bent on receiving His gift of rest - in that turning and longing He begins to shape our days.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Deo Vivere

"Theology is the doctrine or teaching of living to God (deo vivere)."  William Ames begins his book, The Marrow of Theology (1623) with these words. The treatise gives a full look of Puritan thought about God, the church and the world. Despite its highly Puritan style and detailed theological content, what stands out is the emphasis on the heart and the actions that should flow from that heart relationship with God. Ames makes it clear that knowledge is not the ultimate goal but rather how the life of Christ shows up in all spheres of living. In keeping that focus he emphasizes 'deo vivere" or 'living to God".

Do I really live to God? If asked, I would say that I want to give glory to God through my life - but what does that really mean - what does it look like - does it in practice just come down to living my own life but keeping it within His bounds and directives? In truth, I generally live life - "my" life - a life focused on me and make it "christian" by asking God to bless it, to be in it, to help me live "my" life for Him. Ames idea of living to God is something quite different from my routine. God is the one who is really alive and living out life - Gal. 2:20- I am an intrument - a vessel. His living is designed to permeate every sphere of life, every moment, each interaction. Its not me living with His power of help but His living in and through me. I am not supposed to carry God along with me but rather I am to be carried along by His current, His wake - swept along in the draft of His movements. 

Sitting here in the cool early hours of my day in Tucson - how does that mindset - that orientation impact the remaining hours of this new day. I am not all-together sure ... but I think it changes everything!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Blocks

The past week or so I ran into the first significant block/wall in my sabbatical. It started with having a few insights and ideas about things to change or add in the church ministry. They were good thoughts but it seems they quickly moved into some self - imposed fretting about my 'need" to come up with new ideas, some great insight that will open up an "exciting" new door for our church's future. As I began worrying about the need to come up with "things to do" I found that my sabbath joys were dissipating, the rest I was experiencing began to give way to burdens.

I have given some thought to the cause and cure for this. New ideas can be a great thing and I trust the Lord will direct us as a church along His paths - I suspect He will bring many good changes in the months and years ahead - nothing wrong with activity - it is an integral part of ministry and part of my responsibility.  I think the problem - the cause of the blockage in my rest - was rushing on to activity - moving on to doing something before I had spent the Lord's allotment of time sitting... waiting ... releasing ... ceasing ... enjoying. It is so easy to rush toward labor - the need to be productive - before thoroughly entering rest - the need to be "unproductive" - dependent. Exodus 31:17 says that God "ceased from labor and was refreshed." New ideas, fresh insights and inspired productivity flow from regular sabbath experiences with the Lord - when they come before ceasing - they feel burdensome and don't minister life.

Ideally each day should be a mixture of ceasing, resting and doing. In reality I get swept towards activity - doing before being. Lord, draw me to You - give me a thirst for sitting at Your feet - there is much to do but I want it to be in Your timing and of Your design! Amen

Monday, June 13, 2011

study

Many of you have perhaps heard of Rob Bell's new book "Love Wins", I know that some of you have read it. I read the book, it asks many good and challenging questions in the way only Rob Bell can. It also, I believe, offers up some misguided answers. I have no intention of discussing the book here or my own views but I would like to direct you to a great video clip by Francis Chan that I have included on the left side of this blog page. Chan addresses issues surrounding how we respond to those in the body of Christ that might present views with which we disagree - perhaps strongly. He presents a call to listen, to love, to challenge, to look inside, and mostly to be students of the Word. How we respond (our attitudes and words) and the basis from which we respond (our hearts before God and our diligence in study), will say a great deal about the bride of Christ and its reflection of our Savior. So, watch the video  http://youtu.be/qnrJVTSYLr8  and then as we deal with controversial issues, cling to Jesus and dig into His Word.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Floating

I have been enjoying my own private oasis this week. Our 15' X 4' pool from Target is usually an arena of violence and competition. My son calls me out to the arena daily for our summer version of backyard basketball - put it in the bucket - anything goes! Although I might occasionally come away with a win, I always come away with a battered body and a lack of oxygen.

This week has been different - since my son has been at basketball camp during the day, the afternoons have been quiet and free of pool brawl. Instead, I have gone out each afternoon, skimmed the pool, dunked myself underwater once and then have peacefully reclined on my $1.50 raft of delight. Twenty minutes (or until my sweat starts boiling) of peaceful, silent, uninterrupted floating in a mini backyard paradise.

It is just 20 minutes, but those brief minutes of calm and stillness have brought huge dividends of strength and renewal. It has once again been a reminder of the wisdom of sabbath moments.  Sabbath moments must always begin with "ceasing" or "stopping". It doesn't matter if the ceasing occurs in a pew, on a bus, at a desk, in the library, standing at the sink, waiting in a line or even floating in a little pool - when we cease our striving we open the door to the Lord's renewal, power and a regaining of a right understanding of our great need for Him in every moment.

Isaiah 30:15 "... in quietness and trust is your strength." My peaceful afternoons will soon come to an end but with a little effort we can always find opportunities for "sabbath moments." We must - they are God's design for strength in our day.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Holes

This week I once again set up our backyard pool which we purchased at Target three years ago. After 7 years of "interesting" and "terrifying" experiences with our pools, this one has been trouble free - well, less trouble free. Anyways, I get it set up and proceed to start filling it with water. When it was about 18 inches deep I noticed that the dirt in one spot below the pool was wet. As I checked the vinyl pool I noticed about 3 inches under the pool a tiny pin hole with water spraying out! Fortunately I was able to apply a small patch which appears to be holding.

The pin hole was undetectable until I added water - the pressure revealed the weakness. If I had ignored it and continued filling the pool and thus increasing the pressure it would have likely split open and the whole pool would have been lost. (I know this by a previous experience!) Had the pin hole been further underneath the pool I might have noticed it too late.

A couple weeks now into my sabbatical and I have noticed a number of "pin hole" sized "leaks" in my life. These are not huge tragic weaknesses but small, hidden, weaknesses left unnoticed for too long. They include ways I waste time, small attitude problems, impatience over unimportant issues, lack of attentiveness to conversations, selfish protection of routines that could be more flexible, discontent, harboring small hurts..... Alot of "pin hole" sized problems can add up to big troubles and left uncared for will become very noticeable eventually. As I have had time away from "work" I have realized that busy days can be a very effective cover up for my weaknesses and sins.

I Timothy 4:16 says "pay close attention to yourself and your teaching; persevere in these things ...." Learning to take notice, bringing them before the Lord, doing some daily patch work, refilling on the fresh water of the Spirit - small daily habits that bring health and life and growth.

There is a tree over our pool that drops small yellow flowers into the water everyday. Each morning I use the skimming net to clean it up - skip a day and the job gets big but on a daily basis it is a small matter. So in this day I'll pay attention to the small "leaks" in my life -  the Lord is good at repairing and mending and renewing.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Looking

Much has been said in many blogs and on Sunday morning around the country since "Judgment Day" passed by.  I read that Harold Camping intended to spend the hours preceding the rapture watching his television in order to see the events around the world ... I found that rather peculiar but it got me thinking about what it means to be "Looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus ..." Titus 2:13. Along the same lines, what does it mean to "be alert?" Matt. 24:42

I suppose if I knew for a fact that he was coming today at 6pm my day would look a bit different but what should it look like when we believe He can come at any moment? I believe that "looking" is really all about "living". The Lord brings all sorts of activities, interactions, routines, tasks and opportunities into any given day - they have eternal value and bring glory to God when they are infused by His Spirit and offered to Him. When I am looking to the callings and tasks of my day as coming from Him, then in that day I have been "looking" for His coming. To "be alert" is to be alive to the moment, to see His activity in the present, to be aware of His working through me and around me especially in the daily routines.

So, when Jesus does return, I hope He doesn't find me staring up into the sky or watching for the end of the world on the television. He will probably find me doing some chore, studying for Sunday, talking with someone over coffee, driving my kids somewhere, taking out the garbage, shooting baskets with my son .... "looking for the blessed hope" is doing every activity in His strength, offered for His glory.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

sabbatical

Today I begin my 4th day of a three month sabbatical. As the term implies, it is intended to bring rest on a variety of levels and the resulting refreshment of body and ministry vision that such a rest should produce. Although I have been looking forward to a renewal of vision, time with family and the opportunity to study, I had not given much thought to needing rest - I wasn't aware of  feeling tired on any significant levels.
                                                                my new home at home

   I was wrong! These first days of getting settled into a new routine, organizing a study area, and really  being with my family have have been a delight. The one word that describes what I felt almost immediately was "unburdened". Carrying any load or burden is tiring and yet I was going along unaware of holding a burden and not in touch that it was tiring me out. That's a bit scary - to be that unaware!

So what are the great "burdens" that I have been carrying? I think they are nothing more than the ones we are all tempted to carry - work responsibilities, family demands and schedules, finances, personal hopes and goals, daily chores - nothing out of the ordinary, as a matter of fact - they will always be there - they are part of the life the Lord has placed us in... The problem is that I have carried them - not the Lord. Having these burdens miracuously lifted in these first days has brought me to see that if I had left these for Jesus to carry - I could have been experiencing refreshment on a much deeper level not just on sabbatical but as an ongoing, daily reality prior to this time. Jesus said "... you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matt. 11:30

It is amazing that we can carry a very heavy load and actually grow accustomed to it, to mistake tired trudging for a free and restful walk with Jesus.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Prayer

The Valley of Vision by Arthur Bennett (1975)

"Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime, stars can be seen
from the deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine.
Let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty,
Thy glory in my valley."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

singing

"Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs ..." Col. 3:16

As we wrap up our Sunday morning series in Titus, "Beautiful Doctrine",  we come back full circle in Titus 3:14 with a reminder that our lives/actions are to "adorn" the doctrines that we teach. Paul makes it abundantly clear that we are to be sound in doctrine and then he challenges us to live in ways that show the beauty of the truth of God. There are, of course, many ways to do this - one way that I have been considering is through singing and through writing songs. Colossians makes a very direct connection between the truth of God in His Word and the expression of that through songs of many kinds.

I have been studying the Puritans for some time now - they give a great deal of attention to teaching, doctrine and duty - things we see in Titus. They are sometimes accused of not "adorning" their doctrine - that it is often "cold" and lacking in "heart" and grace. I have discovered that a wealth of hymns flowed out of the Puritan's and those that followed them and not just from "hymn writers" but from the preachers and theologians. Richard Baxter wrote several wonderful songs. Philip Doddridge, who wrote "The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul" and was known for his writing and preaching (William Wilberforce came to faith through his book), wrote over 400 hymns! Even John Bunyan wrote a hymn found in many of our old hymn books.

When God's Word deeply touches our hearts, when we let it work its way through the hard places, when we hear His truth and embrace it, preach it and stand unwavering upon it - what is the external result? Well one result should be an outpouring of songs! Pastor's should not just be teachers - they ought  to be singers and hymn writes as well!!! Songs that adorn doctrine and ultimately lift up Jesus ought to be on the lips of all of us.

William Gadsby (1773-1844) was known as a preacher (he preached over 12,000 sermons!), unwavering in the doctrines that he held; but that wasn't all - songs flowed from his heart as well. He compiled a hymn book and contributed over 150 songs of his own. May we be people of absolute truth, sound in doctrine and full of music and songs about our Savior.

Jesus, the Lord, My Savior
By William Gadsby
(updated by Sandra McCracken)

1. Jesus, the Lord, my Savior is,
My Shepherd, and my God;
My light, my strength, my joy, my bliss;
And I His grace record.

2. Whate’er I need in Jesus dwells,
And there it dwells for me;
’Tis Christ my earthen vessel fills
With treasures rich and free.

Chorus: Mercy and truth and righteousness,
And peace, most richly meet
In Jesus Christ, the King of grace,
In Whom I stand complete.

3. As through the wilderness I roam,
His mercies I’ll proclaim;
And when I safely reach my home,
I’ll still adore His name.

4. “Worthy the Lamb,” shall be my song,
“For He for me was slain;”
And me with all the heavenly throng
Shall join, and say, “Amen.”

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Wondrous

"For God has not destined us to wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us ...." I Thess. 5:9

What Wondrous Love Is This
Alexander Means (1835)

Verse 1
What wondrous love is this
O my soul O my soul
What wondrous love is this O my soul
What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul for my soul
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul

Verse 2
When I was sinking down
Sinking down sinking down
When I was sinking down sinking down
When I was sinking down
Beneath God's righteous frown
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul for my soul
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul

Verse 3
To God and to the Lamb
I will sing I will sing
To God and to the Lamb I will sing
To God and to the Lamb
Who is the Great I Am
While millions join the theme
I will sing I will sing
While millions join the theme I will sing

Verse 4
And when from death I'm free
I'll sing on, I'll sing on
And when from death I'm free I'll sing on
And when from death I'm free
I'll sing and joyful be!
And through eternity I'll sing on, I'll sing on
And through eternity I'll sing on.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cares

This week I have been helping transport my son's 5th grade class to and from the Davis Monthan Air Force Base for a special week studying math and science applications - they are having a great time. I have been driving my Jeep and with the great weather I have the top down and the sides off - 5th grade boys love an open air Jeep. They are hanging their heads outside the Jeep, waving their arms , yelling at every car that drives by - basically being 12 year olds and loving the moment. I , on the other hand, was about to say: "Knock it off!" Before the words came out I thought - "what's the big deal?" They weren't doing anything wrong, just being boys and loving it.

As I have pondered what I guess is my being too "uptight" or my diminishing ability to enjoy the moments of delight that God so graciously gives - perhaps it is because of carrying a load of cares. When the burdens , anxieties and cares of the world start stacking up, delight... joy ... laughter... rest.   play... and yes, even worship all slip away. Ezekiel 12 talks about God causing the people to eat their bread under a load of care and anxiety - it was a judgment to turn them back to the Lord. There is no joy in eating when we are burdened! Scriptures tell us to "cast all our care on Him." It is more than just telling Him about them, we are to unload the full responsibility of our cares onto the Lord. Anything less is actually a mark of unbelief and sin. ouch!

5th grade boys can teach me a great deal. These boys don't really have any cares and it frees them up to fully enjoy the little delights that God brings. I serve a mighty God, my cares are a light load for Him and I get to trade them in for rest, joy, freedom, beauty, fresh insights, and moments of wonder! It's a good deal.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Seeing

I was recently struck with a couple lines from Mark 8. Jesus had just performed an incredible miracle testifying to His Kingship - out of compassion He feeds the 4000. This was one more in a long line of unmistakable manifestations of His divinity and yet how do the Pharisees respond? They ask for a sign. Mark 8:12 and 13 states "Sighing deeply in His spirit... Leaving them, He again embarked and went away to the other side." What a sad statement - "...He went away to the other side..."

Daily, in our very midst - the Lord is working wonders - as Tozer says, "Always a living person is present, speaking, pleading, loving, working, and manifesting Himself whenever and wherever His people have the receptivity necessary to receive the manifestation." How much do I miss, how often do I pray for God to do a work and at the same time ignore of miss His obvious workings? Having eyes to see the Lord's wonders takes some practice - being intentional about looking, seeking and then upon seeing His activity, giving thanks, and pointing it out to others. Will God do wondrous things among us today? Of that, there is no doubt. Will we take notice?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

words

I just spent eight days deep in the Arizona desert in complete solitude and silence. There was barely a sound. I heard an occasional bird, the sound of a lizard running through the brush and the wind, but that was it! No other sounds and no words spoken by me (I didn't start talking to myself) and no words spoken to me. There was a one time exception to this - I was sitting in the sun, dozing off when suddenly not 10 feet from where I sat I heard a resounding MOO! I looked up and I was surrounded by a small herd of free wandering cattle! I looked at the cow and said MOO!
So much for a deep conversation... As I pondered a week away from noise and words I have wondered about how much of my talking is no more substantive than saying MOO. How many of my words are spoken with intent and thought, In how many of my conversations do I speak words which minister encouragement, life, challenging thinking, mercy... words that truly touch and linger.

The Scriptures have much to say on our speech and words: Eph. 4:29 "Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth but only such a word as is good ..." 2 Tim. 1:13 "Retain the standard of sound words." Eccl. 5:7 "In many words there is emptiness." Prov. 16:24 "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul" Eccl. 5:2 "God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few." James 1:19 "... be quick to hear, slow to speak..."

I'm not suggesting that we all take vows of silence or that we cease our friendly conversations but I am learning that voice and words are a gift from God and are a powerful and wonderful thing. They should encourage, challenge, delight, declare the truth and beauty of the Savior and be evidences of a heart transformed by Jesus. I am fearful that if I erased from my day all the words spoken that had the value  of  my conversation with the cattle - there might be very little left.

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer." Ps. 19:14

Friday, March 18, 2011

silence

My first real step towards my summer sabbatical begins this Monday. I will be staying in a completely secluded 1 room building in the middle of the desert north of Benson, AZ for about 7nights. No roads, no Internet, no phone, no lights, no shower! Just me, the Lord and all the stuff that my heart and mind clings to. In silence and solitude the Lord desires to clear out all that stuff we carry around and bring us just to Him.
Henri Nouwen says that we build a scaffolding around our lives - all that we lean on and depend on besides Christ, The tearing down of these scaffolds is a painful ordeal but if we persevere through it, there is a promise of clarity, rest, insight and refreshment. I am quite sure that I have been laboring hard in the past years at building my scaffolding and it is a frightful but freeing thing to lose them and be with nothing but Jesus.
Nouwen states in "The Way of the Heart" ... "the wisdom of the desert is that confrontation with our own frightening nothingness forces us to surrender ourselves totally and unconditionally to the Lord Jesus Christ."  John 15 says "Apart from Me you can do nothing!" What a great place to be. Of course, most of  us can't escape to the real desert for a week, yet I believe there must be ways to find the silence and solitude necessary to keep Jesus at the center. Again Nouwen says, "We have, indeed, to fashion our own desert where we can withdraw every day, shake off our compulsions, and dwell in the gentle healing presence of our Lord." So, whether in your car, in your bed at night, during a walk - find your desert moments that lead to refreshment.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bread

Lisa asked me to stop at the local Safeway recently to pick up a loaf of bread that was on sale. I don't even remember the brand anymore due to the flood of choices that awaited me at the store. She said the brand was something like "Nature's Own" but when I began to look at my choices I saw things like: "Nature's Cupboard", "Nature's Pantry", "Nature's Pride", "Open Pantry", "Nature's Bakery",  "Open Cupboard" and on and on it went. I stood there frozen in confusion. I think I finally just bought something that had a plain label and was cheap - "Wheat Bread'!!

Our culture increasingly is a world filled with choices and it is not just in breads or cereal or coffee shops but involves ideas, priorities, lifestyles, morality and everything else. Rarely does our world attach any labels on these choices as though one might actually be the right choice but they all receive equal validity. In our culture's quest for valuing personal choice and a "unified" diversity we really end up awash in chaos and a lack of any defining clarity.

As believers we often fall into a similar "chaos". In words we claim that the Lord is at the center but we too often disconnect that center from all the details of our surrounding days as we constantly change priorities and effectively fail to have a unifying ground to our decisions and purposes. I love Zechariah 14:9 - "And the Lord will be king over all the earth; in that day the Lord will be the only one, and His name the only one."  A day is coming when that truth will be recognized by everyone but for us we know it to be true now! For those of us in whom the Holy Spirit dwells there is only one focus, only one choice about the ruling element of my day,only one choice about the grounding point of all my hours - it's Jesus and nothing else! Today, at all times and in all places lets make Jesus our preoccupation and worship our every activity.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Progress

A brief note: One of my favorite books is "Pilgrim's Progress" by John Bunyan. The actual title is "The Pilgrim's Progress From This World To That Which Is To Come; Delivered Under The Similitude Of A Dream: Wherein Is Discoverd The Manner Of His Setting Out; His Dangerous Journey; And Safe Arrival At The Desired Country" Whether you read it long ago or have never opened this great book let me invite you to take a journey through it. I have an additional blog that introduces the book, gives reasons to read it, and will include several meditations from each chapter. You can find the blog at:
http://www.ponderingprogress.blogspot.com/

Monday, March 7, 2011

Pat

Last night we gathered to remember our dear brother Pat. We did so with a great shout of music and I believe the Lord was honored and Pat would have been delighted. As I thought of him I was reminded of the closing passage in Pilgrim's Progress when Christian enters God's presence. May you be encouraged with it and may it create a fresh longing for the presence of God.

Now I saw in my dream, that these two men went in at the gate; and lo, as they entered, they were transfigured; and they had raiment put on that shone like gold. There were also that met them with harps and crowns, and gave them to them; the harps to praise withal, and the crowns in token of honor. Then I heard in my dream, that all the bells in the city rang again for joy, and that it was said unto them,

   "enter ye into the joy of your lord."

I also heard the men themselves, that they sang with a loud voice, saying,

   "blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth
   upon the throne, and unto the lamb, for ever and ever."

Now, just as the gates were opened to let in the men, I looked in after them, and behold the city shone like the sun; the streets also were paved with gold; and in them walked many men, with crowns on their heads, palms in their hands, and golden harps, to sing praises withal.

There were also of them that had wings, and they answered one another without intermission, saying, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord. And after that they shut up the gates; which, when I had seen, I wished myself among them.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Traditions

Tucson is a crazy place. Sunday morning I woke up to snow on the ground, by Tuesday I had the top down on my Jeep enjoying the sunshine. I was driving  yesterday - with the top down - the sun was warming my face and suddenly a brief hint of cigarette smoke blew through the Jeep and I was instantly transported to old memories. It felt as real as if it was yesterday - I was about 15 years old, sitting on the cooler in the boat as my Dad and I were out fishing, the sun was making me drowsy and I could smell my Dad's cigarette smoke. The memory of those days was a good one and it caused me to reflect on what kind of day I would give to my own son - would it be a good memory - one more small foundation stone in his own life. How will I build those memories for him(minus the cigarette smoke of course)?

Memories can be a good thing when they trigger in us a further step with Jesus. It is like when we hear a particular worship song and we experience all over again the touch of His presence and the call to worship. The Puritan's often built these memories through the establishment of traditions in the home. By creating regular traditions that had specific connections to the values of the family they built into their kids  lifelong opportunities to reflect back and then press forward. As long as the traditions continue to bring us to Jesus they are valuable assets. So, what traditions, memories are we building and creating and do they point to Jesus?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Basketball

Everyday - I mean everyday - I walk in the door at the end of my work day and my son, Micah, calls me out to the basketball court (otherwise known as our dirt and gravel backyard). His great joy is to challenge me on the court. We alternate between games to 5 and games of  p-i-g. As of late , this 12 year old upstart has been soundly beating his old dad! Often he will be up 4-1  ... I don't mind losing but I don't want to lose 5-1! To avoid a complete massacre I'll suddenly take full advantage of my only remaining weapon - I've got about 6 inches of height and 50 pounds on him so I'll use it to dominate and crush and by some chance grab a couple more points before he closes the door on me with a basket! Considering his shoe size has surpassed mine I don't think I will be able to use my advantage much longer.

I have been thinking about parenting - we're called to guide, nurture, encourage, love ... and so we do, but what happens when our kids push back a bit on an issue or just plain act badly - too often I abandon the nurture and encouragement and figuratively throw my weight around and squash it on the spot. I suppose there is some kind of victory in that - but not really. Paul speaks to the church in I Thessalonians 2 verses 7, 8, 11 and 12 and  compares his ministry to that of a mother and of a father. He speaks of gentleness, affection, sacrifice, care as well as exhorting, imploring and encouraging. Of course this makes sense because it is how the Lord treats me even when I push back a bit or just plain act badly!

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, self-control...incredible ingredients for great parenting and a demonstration of God's great love for us

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pipes

Sitting here in Tucson with the temperature in the 70's it is hard to believe that a few days ago it was only 17 degrees. Like many others we woke up that morning to frozen pipes, no water, no shower. So, instead of a trip to visit ASU with Paige, I was on my way to Home Depot to pick up pipe insulation since the next night was supposed to be very cold as well. I shut off our water and then watched as the day warmed up. Sure enough, around noon, I noticed one of our outdoor pipes dripping - further investigation revealed a 1/2 inch split in the copper pipe. As I headed back to Home Depot I saw many driveways with water pouring down them - all the pipes with weak spots in our neighborhood were making themselves known. At Home Depot the pipe repair aisle was a circus - panicked homeowners like myself trying to correct problems that would have never happened with a little preventative care. Fortunately a 12 inch piece of copper pipe and some connectors solved my problem.

Sunday, for communion, we looked briefly at Colossians 2:6 - "as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him". Verse 7 goes on to say, "having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith." Our walks with Jesus can be much like those pipes. Of course, our relationship and righteousness is taken care of - He "rooted" us in Himself, but we need to continue on - participating in His ongoing, daily work of "being built up in Him." Those small, daily disciplines of depending, trust, worship, community, being in the Word - strengthen and establish us. Neglect of those habits leads to an anemic, weak faith. When the pressures of life come along - and they always do - that weakness makes itself known.

Two lessons come  from the frozen pipes. 1) If there is a weak spot - it gets revealed when the pressure is turned up. 2) Taking small, simple steps of care and maintenance in advance bring long term strength under pressure. When life begins to cave in is not the ideal time to turn our hearts to the Lord (although we should) - rather it is in all the days preceding the difficult times - there are endless opportunities for us to be strengthened and built up today - it beats the trouble that comes when the pipes burst.

I have a little piece of copper pipe sitting on my desk - it has a split in it - a daily reminder to walk daily with Him!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bread


This Sunday we will celebrate the Lord's Supper/Communion and I have been reflecting on taking communion as a kid. On Sundays we were always on our own for breakfast so I usually went with my favorite - Captain Crunch. Inevitably my stomach would start growling - loudly - about halfway through the Pastor's sermon. I'd spend the remaining time - an eternity - thinking about lunch! This posed a particular problem on Communion Sundays. The ushers would first pass out the "bread" - they were actually little crackers less than a half inch square - then they would pass out the juice and we would have to sit holding both until the Pastor led us to take them. I remember fidgeting with the little plastic cup and on several occasions I would squeeze it too hard and the plastic cup would crack and the juice would start running out all over the pew causing a minor disturbance in the DeHaan row! Anyways, I would sit there with my stomach growling and longing to gobble up that little cracker - something to put in my stomach! Of course it wasn't nearly enough to even touch my hunger (20 of those little crackers might have added up to one saltine) but even so, that little cracker always tasted so good!!

I used to feel really bad about all this because I was only thinking of how it was going to taste instead of thinking about Jesus and the cross ...but perhaps I had it right all along! If Jesus had been sitting in the pew next to me perhaps he would have said - "Take a whole handful, Chris - enjoy it - eat it up!" His death was bitter and painful yet for us it is LIFE! If we listed every good thing that we have received through His death we would would be overwhelmed - filled up with gratitude and joy. We get "every spiritual blessing" and we can hardly even begin to count them. No wonder the Scriptures say "taste and see that the Lord is good" and that Mary sang out "He fills the hungry with good things!"

Do I really hunger for Him - the Bread of Life? Do I daily taste and see? He doesn't offer up some little token serving size of Himself - He offers us daily the full measure of His goodness. I love the invitation of Jesus in John 21:12 "Jesus said to them, 'come and eat.'"

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cars

Motivated by a desire to save money I have been working to develop my mechanic skills - actually that implies I had some skills previously, which I didn't - but I am learning! I have enjoyed it when I have success like the new radiator in my jeep. It is maddening when it is unsuccessful. I recently installed a new alternator in our old Montero - it all works fine but the very next day an engine light comes on and it runs terrible in the morning.(prior to the repair it ran fine) Now this - and other similar instances- may all be coincidental but it appears that I often fix one thing only to have created a new problem. If I knew more about cars and had the bigger picture - I would probably avoid these dilemmas.

When it comes to addressing my own problems I often do the same. I see something - or someone points it out to me - and I just jump in and "fix" it! The problem? I am an amateur at best when it comes to fixing problems in  my life, I only see part of the issue and I rarely take a look at deeper things that should be addressed first. The result? I make the problem worse or create a new problem or make it appear the problem is corrected but it still remains.

Philippians 2:13 says "for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." What great news - I have a personal "mechanic" who is already at work - He wants me to entrust the work to Him - let Him do what He wants - and keep my hands out of it! He alone can get to the root of the problem and He alone knows how to go about it in a way that effects change and brings God glory. So today, lets ask Him to work on us in any way He chooses - after all - we belong to Him!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

work

It seems that ever since the curse in the garden we have wrestled with "work". Sometimes we labor under it as an unavoidable burden that we are forced to carry in this world. A different approach is to remove it totally from our 'spiritual' life and relate to it solely as a secular activity and then pursue it and carry it out according to a worldly perspective. I believe the truth lies somewhere else. Sin did not make work bad or remove God from it - it just made work difficult. God originally created work as part of the fabric of His good creation - an opportunity to experience and worship the creator. By so doing, He infused value - even holiness into the most mundane work. The cross had not only redeemed us but it has redeemed the work He calls us to.

The Puritans were the first to reverse the notion that there is a sacred/secular divide. Prior to that time, 'religious' work had value - laboring in the field, the shop, the home - were 'secular' activities. William Tyndale said "there is (externally) a difference betwixt washing of dishes and preaching of the word of God; but as touching to please God; none at all." the Puritan's made every job(calling) of eternal value because they believed all of life is a context for glorifying God and serving Him by serving one another. We call this doxology - turning everything into worship. William Perkins, another Puritan, said "the main end of our lives is to serve God in the serving of men in the works of our callings."

When we view our work - whether in a school, a shop, at a desk, in the kitchen, picking up the kids - as a parenthesis outside of God's Kingdom work - it becomes a burden and a place that is void of worship. When we rightly view our work as a holy calling because God is in it - it becomes a place to express the image of God, to honor Him by serving and to experience His blessing as we embrace it. And yes, because of sin it can be very difficult - see it as a chance to depend on Him and His ability to work in us. Ask the Lord to take all of your work today into His hands and to use it as an offering of worship.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Stop!

During the next 4 weeks in our services we will be looking at "An Invitation to the Devoted Life." A central focus of our series revolves around several principles of finding, developing and practicing Sabbath rhythms in our day. I enjoy the topic of Sabbath because it promises me rest!! I love a great nap and I will zealously guard my plans for an hour of Sunday afternoon sleeping. The rest God promises might include a good sleep but goes way beyond to include that deep, confident, centering trust in a Savior that has done all the work. Experiencing and embracing the true rest of God is missed by too many believers. I have considered why I so often miss it as well and I believe my biggest barrier is that before we rest we must stop! The 1st step of sabbath keeping is ceasing or stopping - only when I have quit my own efforts and striving can I begin to understand resting. I can often cease activity - like when I get a nap - but my heart and mind just keep going... planning... striving ... worrying ... creating... The end result is a little sleep without any real rest.

I hate to admit it but my refusal or reluctance to stop is rooted in unbelief. If I actually stop for awhile can I really trust that the Lord will carry everything for me or will it all come tumbling down? Tozer says that the only things that are really safe are those things fully entrusted to the hands of our Savior and whatever I am holding on to is not safe at all. Good news - the One who created everything and gave His life for us is more than able to carry it all for us; not only that but when my life and activities and dreams are in His hands it gets reshaped in His image instead of my own. So today lets try to stop our striving - at least for a few moments and let the deep rest from God pour over our day.