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Location: Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Interests: Knowing God.
Knowing God likes photography....
Expertise: I swizzle well. Yeah. I'm a good swizzler. I'm really good at remembering things differently than they actually happened. Funnier usually...... Oh, and I am probably the very best person in the whole world at being me. If I'm not, well, then that'd just be sad wouldn't it?
Occupation: Systems Administrator
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|The Sheep Are Starving.....|
I've started reading A. W. Tozer's "The Pursuit of God" again after many years absent from its pages. I've got to tell you, when I read stuff like this I wonder why today's writers are unable to measure up to those from another era. Consider the following:
"There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals oft he faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives. They minister constantly to believers who feel within their breasts a longing which their teaching simply does not satisfy. I trust I speak in charity, but the lack in our pulpits is real. Milton's terrible sentence applies to our day as accurately as it did to his: 'The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed.' "
And this is just the preface! These words are more true today than they were when written. How many pastors behind how many pulpits continue to "minister" without any sense of the manifest presence of God in their ministry? How many people sit under such teaching and yet leave thinking that there must be something more? It may not even be that the things being taught are wrong, but simply inadequate. It's certainly possible to starve while eating things that are not necessarily bad, but have limited nutritional value. Consider the very next paragraph:
"It is a solemn thing, and no small scandal in the Kingdom, to see God's children starving while actually seated at the Father's table. The truth of Wesley's words is established before our eyes: `Orthodoxy, or right opinion, is, at best, a very slender part of religion. Though right tempers cannot subsist without right opinions,yet right opinions may subsist without right tempers. There may be a right opinion of God without either love or one right temper toward Him. Satan is proof of this.' " What a picture of the contemporary church, a place where God's children are starving while seated at the Father's table. Wesley had it right in the quote that follows that indictment. It's not sufficient to be right in our doctrine. We must also be right in our actions which can only happen when we are right in our relationship with God. Right doctrine is no virtue when it is divorced from knowing God. In fact I have met many who hold proper doctrines who are puffed up with their "rightness" and as a result they "minister" damage to others. There's no healing in their words. They are actually delighted at division rather than grieved by it, revelling in their distinction. They look upon others with contempt for their inferior stance on issues rather than being saddened that they have not been taught and when they preach or teach they aren't feeding God's flock but they're feeding their egos. They wear their doctrine as a badge of honor, like an MD who is impressed with their own credentials but sneers contemptuously at patients who have succumbed to illness. The sad thing is that our doctrine can't lift us above the ravages of sin any more than the Doctor's credentials can lift him above the ravages of disease. No, our doctrine must work its way out into our deeds or it's not beneficial to our walk of faith. Satan is indeed a picture of one who has a right understanding of God but it does not motivate him to step into the flow of God's will but rather to resist it. This isn't a measure of the truth he knows but it is completely defined by the relationship he has with his creator.
Tozer goes on to say that we need proper Biblical teaching in order to be a genuine part of the church of the living God, but if our hearers are no better off for having heard the truth we're not feeding the sheep. Now, that's not to say that there's no individual responsibility of the believer in the equation. I've also known many who can hear the best teachings with hearts so full of rebellion that they still remark, "I'm not getting anything from the services". I can only shake my head in wonder that they were in the same service and heard the same message I just heard.
Our doctrines and even the Bible itself are not the be-all end-all for Christianity. I'm afraid that in many fundamentally sound churches doctrine and the scriptures have been elevated to the point that they become the end rather than the means to a proper end which is a relationship with God himself. It's not the Bible that feeds us, but it's our relationship with God that satisfies the yearning in our souls. Don't allow the Bible to become your substitute for God himself.
I know that when I preach it's easy to tell when things get out of balance. If I spend the bulk of my time studying for the message, what comes from the pulpit is a recipe that has too much of one ingredient - me. But when I spend the bulk of my time praying for the sheep and asking for God to feed his people then that makes all the difference.
It's my prayer that God's people come to know him more fully and that I might be permitted to continue to feed his sheep.
I can hardly wait to get out of the Preface...........
Some of my photos are in the "All Time" Favorites in their categories on smugmug. In the Wedding category, this one is the first one seen as an all time favorite:
I kind of hate to use it again so soon, but it's occupying the number one slot (I don't know if the position means anything or not, but my pictures aren't all together, so.....)
And in the baby category I have several including this one:
Friday afternoon I was working on some pictures when my laptop died. I had promised the pictures would be posted and ready Friday evening. I wasn't able to fulfil that promise. I spent Saturday at my son-in-law and daughter's (and grandson) house trying to get my laptop working. I think I might have it fixed for now but I really need to look for a replacement.
My camera has also been giving me trouble - putting stripes across the width of the image. It was intermittent, so I could still use it. Friday it started being more consistent and spoiled several nice sunset images taken near Lake Pleasant. Saturday I didn't even get the camera out since I was tinkering with the laptop and trying to rescue some files from the existing harddrive. Sunday morning I took the camera out to grab a shot of Angela practicing with the praise team at her new church. Dead. I can review existing pictures just fine, but the image sensor (the digital equivalent of film) is totally gone. I am currently out of the photo biz.
I was all bummed out about the whole thing when pastor Eric Woods at Ben and Angela's church started his message by recounting his own frustrating experiences over the past two days. He had to get alone with God in order to be reminded that the circumstances weren't strong enough to strip him of what was truly important - his relationship with the savior. Amen. I remember hearing Howard Hendricks, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary at the time, asking a member of his congregation how he was doing and receiving the response, "Pretty good under the circumstances." His response was, "Well, what are you doing under there?"
Scriptures admonish us to rejoice in the Lord in all things (not necessarily for all things, but in the midst of every circumstance). I have long held the position that nothing can befall me that does not first pass through the hands of God. Was God able to keep both my laptop and camera in working order? Absolutely. For some reason he chose not to. I have to admit that my only real frustration with the laptop was that I missed a commitment. As for the camera, I took a picture of an interesting truck with my cell phone...... not very satisfying. Still, I wasn't as bummed as I could have been, or even as much as I would have expected to be.
All in all, even though I had these problems, it was a good weekend. I got to spend some time with family. I got to play with my grandson. Ben was able to spend more time with us (before this he was always working nights and sleeping most of the day). I heard a good message from the Word of God. I'm glad I didn't allow the things that bummed me out rob me of the good things this weekend.
No picture today.
|33I've Been Thinking Again.....|
That's often dangerous! I was thinking about all of the things that have been used against Christianity in America. Now I know some of you will think in terms of political parties, or laws restricting Christian expression, or slanted portrayals of Christianity from Hollywood. I'm not saying those don't factor in, but I think there's something bigger lurking under the surface and situated behind most of Christianity today. Much bigger.
What is this lurking monster poised to devour us? Why do we not sense its hulking presence just behind us?
There's a fish that lies on the ocean floor that is invisible to its prey except for a small part of its body. The angler fish has an appendage that sticks out from its head - a long, slender thing with a wriggling, fleshy attachment on the end that mimics a worm. The prey does not see the danger because it fixates on the visible and never sees the hidden danger until it's too late. That is the intent of the menacing form that lies so close behind us - to devour us. It feeds on us.
Another phenomenon in nature is that human intervention ruins animals. There's a reason for all the "Do not feed the bears" signs in Yellowstone beyond ranger concerns over ursine obesity. When bears, or other wild animals, are fed by humans they grow to associate humans with food. Because of this they begin to seek humans because that's where the food is. No longer do they think in terms of rooting out grubs or sniffing out berry patches. Once they lose the ability to forage for themselves they must either be captured or destroyed.
OK. So what's all this have to do with some mysterious lurking presence mumbo jumbo?
Eph 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places].
If we look at this passage we are to put on the whole armour of God for a particular purpose: That we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. What are wiles? Fans of the old Roadrunner cartoons (and who isn't) will remember that the Coyote's name was Wile E. Coyote (wiley coyote). He was constantly trying every wiley trick in the book to catch the roadrunner, much of which involved baiting him - laying out food or curvaceous lady roadrunners (mockups, not the real thing) to get the unsuspecting bird to stand on the X long enough to meet his doom. Wiley, crafty, subtle (well the coyote was a caricature of misplaced self-worth, wasn't he?) and full of decet.
We've lost sight of both our purpose as children of God and who the enemy is. The bait has been placed and we stand on the X obliviously pecking away at carefully seeded "issues" while the world goes to Hell - and that's not metaphorical Hell, but the real thing. We're so busy wrestling against the flesh and blood practitioners of abortion that we're aborting those who long to be born again. We've spent so much time acquiring political clout that we no longer trust in the power of HIS might. We've more faith in the ballot and the bullet than we do in a Sovereign God. We'd rather wage war than allow God to turn the hearts of the kings. Instead of praying for God to turn hearts we've taken it upon ourselves to turn the tides and along with them the stomachs of many. The church is no longer revered, but despised, and rightly so. We have abandoned the instructions of God because tacklin' Jericho's walls with swords is much more practical than marching to God's command and blowing ram's horns.
In our quest for power at the polls and in the legislatures I fear that we have forsaken the genuine power of his might. Despite the understanding that scriptures tell us that it is not by might nor power but by the Spirit of God we persist in seeking political clout. Paul understood that it was in his weakness that God's power was lifted up and put on display. When we seek our own power we have no need of God's power. We have done two things: We have forsaken the spring of living water and have hewn ourselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water(Jeremiah 2:13).
As we've been going through Ezra and Nehemiah at Foundations of Faith it occurs to me that there is a marked difference between having political power and having favor. The kings that commissioned the rebuilding of Jerusalem were not godly men. In fact, king Artaxerxes was extremely wicked. One historical account tells of an elderly man who only had one son left after the elder brothers had been killed in battle. He petitioned the king that his only remaining son would not have to go to war as he was his only heir and he was too old to produce another. The king granted his request and asked that the boy be brought to him. When he arrived the king had him cut in half and marched his army between the two halves as they marched to war. And yet this king was used of God to bestow favor on the builders.
This is not to say that we should not run for office or, at the very least, work to see godly people elected to office. Nor does it mean that we should not lodge protests when we perceive our government doing evil. What I'm trying to get across is that we need to recognize that we have allowed the hidden enemy to operate in our midst undetected while we are mesmerized by the bait of 'power'. We have lost the ability to forage for God's power in our quest for our own. We have become so issue oriented that we're building political kingdoms rather than building God's kingdom. We're too busy getting signatures on our petitions to see that names are being written in the Lamb's Book of Life.
When the salt has lost its savor it is good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under the foot of men (Matthew 5:13). We aren't losing religious liberties because we're not politically well placed. We're losing them because we have not taken advantage of them to do the will of God. We've lost our savor and God says that means we are not good for anything but to be trampled under the foot of men. God says it. Yet we insist that we can preserve the liberties if we elect the right people despite the fact that God's Word clearly spells out the cause and effect sequence we can see in our own society.
So what is the monster that lurks below the surface, ready to devour us? It is our arrogant pride. It is our own sin. The battle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places - not high political places, but the high places we've made in our minds that tell us that God's power is insufficient to save us. In the Old Testament the high places were designated places for idol worship. In the New Testament they are described as any thought that exalts itself above the wisdom of God. When we see God's warnings and principles in scripture and forsake them for political wisdom we've created high places. That is a fertile laboratory for the enemy to creep in and sow seeds of discord, to create the monster that will eventually destroy us. He's distracted us with things that are not part of the building of the kingdom of God. We've not been like the builders in Nehemiah, working with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other, but we've left off the building to become footsoldiers in a war of our own making while the king can only wonder why we're not at the task he's assigned us. We've become so enamoured of the favor of men that we've purchased it by selling the favor of God.
We must repent. We must turn from our wicked ways. We must seek God's face and do his will. If we fail to do these things then we will find ourselves consumed by our lust for power.
Speaking of lust for power.......
OK. So there's no segue here. Just wanted to mention that I've been updating my smugmug103 account. A lot of people don't seem to know that you can leave comments (be sure to identify yourself) and vote for pictures you like (Just hold your mouse over the larger pictures on the right and a thumbs up/down icon will show up. Click on the green thumbs up to say "I really like this one!" or the red thumbs down to say "This picture stinks!") Also, make sure you visit the galleries. I guess some people get stuck in the 'most popular' view and didn't even know that there were galleries to visit.
Bah! The listening to music thing isn't working. I'm listening to Yo Yo Ma.......
|333Sometimes I wonder.....|
If I were a salesman and didn't believe in my product I'd find another job. If I were a health nut and genuinely felt that sugar was poison I wouldn't invite a bunch of kids over for an evening of overindulgence in Twinkies and Coke. I've never been able to understand why someone who actively promotes everything else as equally valid would claim to be a Christian. What really boggles is the folks who go into "ministry" who gut the gospel entirely by their philosophies. It is not for nothing that scriptures warn that we not be spoiled (in the sense that the enemy takes spoils from the conquered) by the empty philosophies of men. I would say something about having a form of godliness but denying the power, but some folks don't even bother with the form......
What prompts this train of thought? A recent article about a church in New York tells of their "Youth Night" being shut down as an "illegal nightclub":
"An organ recital is a church event. This is not a church event." That's
the ominous argument of Albany (N.Y.) Police Chief James Tuffey, who
sent his officers to break up a concert at Trinity Methodist Church and summon pastor Maurice E. Drown to court for running "an illegal nightclub."
Let's complicate things a bit by noting that the church's youth music
nights, called "New Age Cabaret," include bands like "Drown Retarded
Children" and "Clitorture" (which has a lovely song called "Why Won't
Jesus Die" that starts like this: "Why won't Jesus [expletive] die?
Hopelessly turning the pages, the good book of lies. Your moral guide
to a self-righteous life. Knees pounded into the dirt, free will has
died. In the palm of God's hands, you're wasting your life. Slaughter
the lamb. Worship the goat. Pry the Lord's hands away from your throat.
Before I pray, I'll slit my own wrists. Religion of hate, to each his
own scorn. All these years of worship have left you with nothing.)"
Why are these people in ministry? Not the bands, but the ministers who open their church for such a thing? I guess the lyrics might be appropriate in such a church.
I couldn't be a satanic priest. I just don't believe that Lucifer is greater than God and I much prefer the lamb than the goat. I don't understand those who go into ministry when they don't believe Jesus is who he said he is. I guess it's a vocation for them, not a calling. What if these ministers had existed in history? They could join the ranks of the sons of Eli in their corruption of God's ways. I could just see them as the Macabees:
"Well, we decided to open the temple for porcine sacrifices on Friday nights to attract the young people. Our hope is that the blood of pigs defiling the altar of God will allow us an opportunity to talk to them about spiritual things and to affirm whatever they believe whether it be Moloch or Dagon or anything else..... Oh, and we charge admission so it's a source of revenue as well, especially when you consider that there's no pork in the temple budget."
What's the point? Why are you in ministry if you think Jesus has nothing to offer? Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. He redeemed us with his own blood. He died that we might live. I don't think we need to legislate a theocracy (I've been to too many church business meetings for that) but I don't have to facilitate heretics and blasphemers - particularly when scripture says, "from such turn away". I'll talk to them and treat them as I would want to be treated, but I'm not going to provide a venue for them to defile the name of the Christ whom I serve. Jesus didn't invite blasphemy into the temple, he drove corruption out. It amazes me that we still think that we aren't able to reach a particular demographic because we don't cater to their flesh when the reality is that we don't win people because we allow the money changers free reign.
I see this as a defilement of ministry and of the church. It is no wonder that people find fault with Christianity when those in leadership serve up a gospel stripped of all meaning. They don't serve bowls of water in their soup kitchens, why would they do the spiritual equivalent? They say they're trying to reach kids. With what?
It's easy to see the prostitution of the church when I think about stuff like this, but what are we willing to compromise the gospel for? Yeah, I know the Bible says 'x' but I want to do 'y'. We justify our own defilement of the blood of Christ, maybe because we can look at instances like this and pat ourselves on our collective backs in congratulatory self-worship. But the failures of others can only help me when I'm willing to look at the base sin involved and ask myself if I've compromised the gospel of Christ. This church tolerates blasphemous lyrics, no, it seeks them out. What do I tolerate or even seek out that defiles the temple that is me (for my body is the temple of Christ and in it dwells the Holy Spirit of God). In what way do I allow my desires to dictate a path that deviates from the ways of God? How have I trampled under foot the blood of Jesus?
He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear.....
|3333Ezra, Haggai, Zerubabel.....|
What do these names have in common?
They're Biblical names associated with the rebuilding of the temple AND that have not been snapped up in the spate of baby naming that's been going on lately in our church. That's OK. We have a couple more candidates coming up soon. Just don't name them Sanballat or Tobiah....
Lest anyone think my choice of male names is motivated by patriarchal sexism we've had mostly boys born of late. We do have one recent girl with a Biblical name. I've thought that if Grace had been born as an identical twin that her sister could have been named Mercy since those two get confused an awful lot. Of course, if we ever have girl triplets in our church we could name them Shirley, Goodness and Mercy.....
The nice thing about this proliferation of progeny is that I get to take lots of baby pictures. I've thought about designing a business card that says, "Let me shoot your kids" but I'm afraid that some harried mothers might be inclined to think in the wrong direction.....
I'm working on a new website (not a blog) where I intend to post some of the testimonies of God's faithfulness in my life along with some teachings, maybe killing a few sacred cows (commonly held misconceptions within the Western church) along the way. Anybody up for a barbeque? You can check it out and give me feedback. There's only one testimony up so far and I'm thinking of writing it up as two individual accounts rather than one lengthy narrative. If you've been blessed by something I've taught or a personal testimony I've shared, send me an email and I'll try to add it as I get time. My intent is to create an online memorial of my track record with God and to provide teaching in a format that allows for easy navigation to a particular article. Hopefully it will be a blessing that reaches beyond the walls of our local fellowship.
Here's one of those Biblical characters now...
Oh, and here's another one......
OK. One more.....
Hey, wait a minute...... Whose kid is that???
For those who wanted to see the full picture rather than the cropped version that appeared in print.