The summation of my academic life is reduced to starting blogs, forgetting what I was going to say, and stopping because food, coffee, or even the mail seem more interesting. One minute I’ll be on a good thought and the next I’ll be all like ‘I wonder what is on Netflix?” That will only seem funny when you’ve scrapped the bottom of Netflix and realize that everything you’ve just binged through is terrible entertainment – like sugar free ice cream. This is probably to a lack of discipline on my part – or totally to that, but nobody really cares anyway. My mind is structured and my thoughts are well ordered, so whether this has been communicated properly to my hands seems of little importance. To both me and, most assuredly, you as well.
*thinks about snacks*
I was just going through my Instagram. Instagram is nostalgia avenue for me. When I take see a photo it reminds me of the feelings I had when I choose it and posted it. How did I feel on that sunny day? After that good workout? Actually, it can be a little difficult when I scroll to quickly and get all tangled up in feels. Just take it slow, I suppose. Still, it’s a testament to me of my growth as a person or my place in life or walk with the Lord.
I walked down a country road once a year and snapped a photo. The peace of the country is amazing – the cows stretched through the fields, the crickets beginning to chirp on a summer evening, and the humidity so think I thought nature was trying to water board me. The briars grew high over an old barbed wire fence with honeysuckle flowers in bloom waiting to be picked. I liked to pick them as a child and suck the nectar off the end – if you are unfamiliar, you pulled the stem from the middle of the flower and there will be a drop of dew on the end (I’m saving you from what you may see if you were to google it, you’re welcome). But the country changes and goes away. Last Winter a developer bought the land, wiped out the fence, and built a million “ranch country” houses. The gravel road is paved with lines and everything. Things change. That’s what they do.
There is a photo of the sunset over the white beaches of Florida. I went down after Christmas to stay with my brother. I needed time away from life and it gave moments of healing and independence. I didn’t know how to adult very well at all. I read Harry Potter and stayed up all night so I could go to the ocean for a shot of the rising sun. I’d walk to the beach and I remembered it being bitterly cold. There were jellyfish everywhere. I’d walk the beach and think then go to Panera and eat an everything bagel with Chive and Onion cream cheese. At night I’d sneak down to the pier and take photos of the moon. To frame a time, I went to see Les Miserbles. I’d like it, except for the fact I did not appreciate France so it didn’t mean so much – now I’ve studied the French Revolution, but I know more who was killed where and whos head was thrown off of which hotel balcony – I’d probably make a terrible sight seeing guide.
It makes me happy. It makes me sad. It makes me want to change a lot of things. But I’m kinda happy how things played out because things are beginning to turn out so well and any other path would make everything so…. different.
Life seems simple when I look through photos. They are the snapshots of those memories. Now life is big and complicated. There are concerns and real things to consider. When I was a boy, I loved the woods and wildlife and nature and beauty. Now I think in rigid schedules and creations and plans and mechanics. I have those moments of clarity but even now one day I’ll look back on me now and wish then that I was me now, but then… if that makes sense. I guess I should just think what me then will want me now to do so me then can look back and give me now a thumbs up, and then we can use that as a plot for Terminator or something.
This isn’t entirely profound and I’m sorry if this doesn’t past typical post standards. I’ve written anything in about a year so I’ll just come up with some new standards. I’m out of things to say and… wouldn’t you know, out of peanuts as well.
I don’t appreciate winter. I know I have lost all love for the season; perhaps as turn of opinion that comes with age, or the fact that I find myself struggling against it almost on a daily basis. I stood on my porch this morning and watch the dawning sun peek over a far crop of oak and gum trees (not bubble gum, mind you, but a tree in the south known for little prickly balls and a wood that will easily binds up any saw). If I took a moment to minimize the traffic on the road, the houses around my clambering for noise, and my own busy schedule, I think I could see something I haven’t noticed for some time – sleep.
We are busy. Nature is asleep. We complain of meetings and lines and people we meet in town, while the world around is asleep.
The grass that stretches over the field before my home filled with dew cloaked grass frozen by the night and transformed into a reflecting pool of stolen rays of the red sun – the hill giving up its fog, almost as a sigh in its sleep in this light. Oddly the scene takes me back into my own life and my own past. Despite the tragedy of that September, the autumn of 2001 has become one of the fondest. It could have been the trip my family took across the country. I remember warm afternoons under the canopy of the redwoods in California and the deep azure skies of a crisp Oregon morning – getting lost deep in the forests of the high desert.
What is we would long as deeply as we ache?
Maybe there is a better way of stating the question, or maybe it is a question meant only for me. So often we long for the good-old-days – to be children excited to greet the day, but the future before is hidden in the shroud of the present. As though looking over a beautiful city through a pane of glass, we cannot see the future without catching the dimmest reflection of ourselves cast back. At this cast down, we become very discouraged to believe the world can ever be made right again – and it cannot.
As a disciple of Christ I can only begin to grow into this queue of nature to which the Bible references again and again. The world can fall into winter’s sleep as it rests safe in the hand of God – I too, ought rest in this same care to trust a world more beautiful when I wake. I rest in the work of my hands, my relationships, and my life because I rest in His hands. The feeling of stress that I must work harder to provide better can only be mastered when I temper it to the One for whom I work. I have never been unloved.
I advocate hard work. I advocate dirty hands. I want to crawl into bed a little tired at the end of the night. I want to be spent. But until I let go of being so short sighted as to long only for the past, or only for the far future, for the short-term ‘fruit of my labor’, I can never know the rest of His sufficiency that promises my provision and that I will never give away anything that will not one day be returned to me – perfected.
Nature sleeps. I rest. He is good.
It is enough to make my avarice heart content.
The lights dim, the fires are put out, and the ornaments and decorations are packed away. The last major event of the holiday year has come to an end and the expectations are breathed out almost as a heavy sigh. I missed this advent season. Quite honestly. Last year I sat and marveled, studied, reflected. This year, leading into the Christmas season I worked… Two separate works days trailed almost 36 hours with little rest. I felt like I just hung on to the season, but still in it there will always be a peace and wonder.
Tonight I cannot help but think about Abraham leading Isaac away from his home to be offered as a burnt sacrifice. Perhaps one of the most layered and complex stories of the entire Bible, but one so simple it is never drawn far from the heart. Abraham followed the voice of God without reservation – in leaving his family for a land he didn’t know, and for leading his long-awaited son to the alter, simply at the command of the LORD. Requiring obedience, the intention was never for the boy, but for the testing of the heart of Abraham in such an intense way. Abraham’s faith fell in God’s provision.
My sister and brother-in-law came into town for Christmas and I got to meet my little nephew for the first time. If the rush of fatherhood is to compare how I felt about this little boy from the moment I led him, I will one day taste of very deep sweetness, but holding his little smile in my hands has been one of the greatest blessings of the year. At only 4 months old, he engages the world with delight, but is absolutely helpless. This afternoon I heard him crying in the crib and so I took him out and rocked him in the chair a while.
I kissed his tiny head as his eyes followed me, or the toys I would hold before him. With his pacifier in his mouth, he would pause for a moment and furl his eyebrows to understand what he was looking at before tracing his gaze back to me. He’s helpless. He cannot eat on his own. He cannot express emotions beyond smiling, crying, and wagging his arms and legs. He cannot even roll over. But in his complete dependency he’s entirely safe.
It echoes in my heart as I struggle with my own feelings of inadequacy. It is only when I lean into His provision, to first see everything as a gift, filter it through the needs of my family, and allow the rest to reach out to make much of His name that I understand peace. It is a rest from the relentless need to prove myself, or show myself, but to be quiet for a moment and hold my Father’s hand. The provision of God is not something I can stock pile, but comes when I need it and this to fix our eyes on His as we ‘walk on the water’. If He were a God who sent only provision in bundles then He would be a God not well acquainted with relationship – but if He is close, I am like the infant who need not worry because my father is always close at hand.
We rest in Him and He gives us rest in this world. He is the King and the chaos is only the world crying for the return of the king. Even so, come.
I have been discouraged. I have been frustrated. I feel like I have been playing catch up for about a month (that’s catch up, not ketchup. No condiments were hurt in the making of this blog). I have been tired and spent. But work isn’t done and I’m far from finished. I build home furnishings and ship them all over, and I’m remodeling a house and need to start saving for some pretty big ticket items. My budget and my needs are not getting along very well right now. My attention feels all over; like being caught in a net, the more I struggle and work, the more I get tangled up. It’s so annoying!
Last night I was talking with Jamie and the random idea popped into my head to read her The Pineapple Story. ” Do you want to hear a story?” I asked her. “Mom read it to me when I was a boy. it’s short, like a picture book.” I found it on the bookshelf, where it has rested for years, and flipped open the cover and began to read a story about a missionary in New Guinea who hires the natives to help him plant 1000 pineapple plants and hires them for their work. After the first three years they began to ripen and the natives keep stealing them. Confronted they say: “My hands plant them. My mouth eats them,” that it’s the way of the jungle that ownership belongs to the planter.
The missionary: Otto Koning, realizes that he has been so angry and struggling with the natives because they were stealing from HIS garden, but really he needed to give it to God because it was GOD’s garden. As long as he was contending for his rights and his garden, he was frustrated and offended, but when he surrendered the garden to God, he let God do what God wanted.It actually freed him to love others.
The book closed with a question: What is your pineapple garden?
This struck a chord with me as I read it. There are times I wrestle God for a blessing, and there are times I wrestle God for my pride. I have been over-whelmed by the needs before me; although receiving provision I wrestle with contentment. In my head, I know that everything is God’s, but I fail to actually apply that idea. I work for Him. These are His things. I follow Him. \
It’s an elementary principle in our faith, so try it out like this. The garden in our life is not only what we tend, but on what fruit we wait. if a plant does not come into season, or bear fruit, i become concerned for the health of the plant; however, if it does come into fruit and that fruit is snatched away and I become personally offended and robbed, it is only because I see the fruit as mine and not God’s. This is a metaphor of course. Plug in the examples of your own life to make it yours.
it runs hard along the lines of sufficiency. When I feel my need to do my best to prove myself, it is arrogance dressed up as humility and I am incapable of truly loving or serving anyone as it may tie heavily back to my desire to compensate and control the board. I cannot love my family when I feel overwhelmed in my business because I have put too much favor in my performance and forgot I live for and by God’s goodness. My priorities and His do not align. When I align them with His purpose, I am free because I trust His judgement, and diligent to His purpose, and work to bring honor to His name.
Pan out for a moment. When I look at success as a reward, my god is small. If I think the reward of God is what I receive in this world, I fail to understand God. I’ll break out some good vibes on gardening in the next blog, but everything in this life is a tool for the increase of His kingdom and the glory of His Son. if God is eternal, than reward must be something beyond the finite. This is an amazing truth on which to muse. I turn off the lights tonight and rest in this freedom.
I’m often given good advice; I’m often bad at listening.
Autumn is beginning to set over North Carolina. The day hung heavily overcast in the lower 60s. it rained most of the day; which is just a drizzle that comes and goes. It’s nice, but also annoying. This time of year always carries a certain degree of nostalgia with it, and I cannot tell whether it is the abrupt change, or maybe it is when my heart feels itself come to life. This time last year, I was sitting on a dock in Northern Idaho, I had finished a hiking trip only a few days before to seek clarity on my plans for the coming year. I listened, I waited, I lived.
I loaded my car and followed the calling in my heart to Dallas. I miss Dallas. It was a good time for me; something that was my own – a step, a move of independence, a realization – I worked with Our Calling with the homeless in the Deep Ellum neighborhood for two weeks. I would sit outside of the little warehouse with the guests and we’d talk about the weather, about the city, and about the cars driving by on the highway. The afternoons were calm. I felt so at peace in a situation that would have made me uncomfortable before. I think the love of Jesus is that way. You never understand it until you put it on. It’s like a jacket on a cold winter night, that doesn’t make you warm until you put it on.
At night I’d grab a cup of coffee and head back north to Denton. I remember being stuck in traffic and I actually didn’t mind it at all. I’d look at the city lights glow and change as I drove around the buildings. It was such a strange beauty in a such a new place. I made a lot of friends in the city and all of them were deep and real relationships.
Things change. My goal in Dallas was to learn how to establish relationships with the homeless. I packed my conviction and headed home at 2am on a Tuesday morning. I stopped in different towns along the way and met friends. Drank coffee with strangers. I took a walk in Nashville through some parks and part of the city and I met a well-to-do lady walking two fancy dogs in conversation with a homeless man on a bench. I jumped into the conversation as the man started talking about Shakespeare. We crossed our swords over The Merchant of Venice and I asked him how the city was. It turned into an hour and a half discussion on homelessness in the city. I felt so pumped when I returned home.
I realized the beast is harder to tackle. I have seen some great things since I have been back and i have been in some dangerous situations. But have I been diligent? Charlotte has no shortage of provision for the poor. It’s a good city to live in, but there is a vast shortage of care. I don’t know how to go about tackling the issue. One night it dropped below zero and a chef who works with the homeless asked for blankets and clothes. Traffic was backed up for five blocks in Charlotte with people donating and we had blankets and sleeping bags stacked to the ceiling! We went out that night and met so many people. I remember a lady and her daughter, only four, bouncing in a princess backpack. We took people to shelters, to the warming centers, and bus stops.
I am remodeling my home now. It’s a beautiful log cabin on a nice piece of land. I build lights and furniture and ship them all over the world and god has been so good to me. I find myself pushing deadlines. I have been weeding out my desire to procrastinate, but it is not only a deadline issue – sometimes I feel I have missed entire sections of my own calling because I fail to keep my eyes open and my heart ready. I’m writing devotions for church on the servants in Luke 19. I struggle with it because I feel I am more often the lazy servant…. What was his fault? He wasted his opportunity and assumed what he was given to invest was his.
This hits home.
I wait for God, but in retrospect I cannot say i endured well in the waiting, or even that I am where I should be now. I fear I have buried my handkerchief in so many ways. Yet He is good. He works all things for good. maybe this is rambling, but if you are evaluating your life and accounting for your time, remember that God is wise and sees growth where we see death. In one instant, at His coming, He will set all things in order. He’s not hurried. Not rushed. He calls end from beginning. He has the world. I have a handkerchief and a hand full of deadlines.
“Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why has your countance fallen? If you do well, will not your countance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at your door; and its desire is for you, and you must master it.” – Genesis 4: 6-7
The boys worshiped a God that they did not know the way their parents had known; being the first born on the outside of fellowship, but at this point there was no written law and so the relationship between God and man is different still then it will become. Cain stands on the face of the first real sin mentioned after the fall of man, and he is given the opportunity and warning to repent – he doesn’t. In fact, he goes and tells his brother what the LORD had told him, and then kills him. Abel is dead.
“What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground” – 4:9
Commentrators seem to point that Abel is crying for vengeance, which makes sense since he was just murdered, but after spending some time in Hebrews, I can’t help but wonder if there is another answer. See. When the righteous are killed in the Bible, very seldom, or never, do they curse their enemies. Jesus prayed for them, Stephen begged their forgiveness. the author of Hebrews mentions that Abel was a “type” of Christ, or that Christ was the true Abel when is speaks of the order in heaven.
to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than Abel.” – Hebrews 12:24
After I read this, I don’t believe that Abel was crying for vengeance, but for mercy. His cry became an advocate for the life of Cain, and for much of the race of humanity. So Cain’s punishment was only that his way would be hard, but his life would be protected. If Christ is an advocate for the salvation of our souls, then Hebrews would show Abel was an advocate for the salvation of life… In fact, if Abel’s blood spoke not only for Cain, but the first to speak for all humanity until the coming of the New Covenant, even as the saints who have died long for the restoration of all things – the righteous seem to sense this in their life on earth (Hebrews 12).
I think the challenage for the day is not to endure the life we have, but understand it. The world seems to fracture more everyday. The very humans who have created all problems in the world somehow think we are the solution – but we know better. He makes all things well, so disappointment is not simply “How can this ever be good?” but “God is creating something very beautiful right now!”
I can’t tell you how much my heart is curious to see the return of the King. When Jesus comes and sets everything in order. He will not come to convince our doubt, but everything will be so overwhelmingly clear. If He is beyond my thinking, then I can only trust that He is doing something beyond my belief. I can only trust. Maybe a testament to the grwoth of faith, or maybe I just see the reflection of the heart of the Man of Sorrows in the cries of the world.
All shall be well.
I don’t often write on social issues or politics – I don’t really see the point in reading too deeply into something that will have completely changed in a matter of 5 – 10 years. Yes, it’s good to always have opinions, but I have never seen myself as a political informant… or maybe that is something else. Recently, I’ve been wondering a lot about the movements in our world. It could be because of the news, or perhaps I accidentally watched some of the live-acting/puppet shows Saturday morning and have been permanently scarred for life.
When I was poor and I complained about inequality people said I was bitter, now I’m rich and I complain about inequality they say I’m a hypocrite. I’m beginning to think they just don’t want inequality on the agenda because it is a real problem that needs to be addressed. – Russell Brand, interview with The Guardian, 11/5/2013
Most sentiments of inequality light on our social systems. The incident in Ferguson, MO became a hallmark to deep-seated racism and racial tensions in the West; which has branched into questions of economy – this generation estimates the rise of trillionaires, while inhabitants in Africa die by the ten thousands daily of malnutrition and poor water sourcing. Almost every social issue becomes an off shoot of the have’s and the have not’s. In a scene of irony, Charlotte celebrated Pride Day the other weekend, which is a push for social equality, while a homeless man named Raymond sat on a bench not even a block away – where he sits all day, every day. Nobody taught him to read, he’ll tell you about losing his family, but thankful his children are doing well for themselves. Some love him, others curse him. He’s a veteran. He’s also a grandfather. What is equality?
Equality – the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities
The majority hold equality as autonomous freedom; “I can do what I want, when I want, and with whom I want”, and many value systems reflect a push for a life without consequences in that ‘it’s not hurting anyone’ or ‘it doesn’t involve you’. Equality is seen as a long term goal life stumbles into, and not granted at its inception. This thinking does little to explain if equality is even possible, or if we really know for what we ask. The wheels of human history seem to turn against social equality, yet the most profound sense of loss is when we see the weak oppressed and the lonely rejected – the question is no longer can we be equal, but are people equal? Here’s one for free: are men and women equal?
Until a man named Paul sat down and wrote letters to the early churches, the answer was No. Women were not without rights, and neither were slaves, but the game was changed when Paul wrote: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). The rule of the world’s social orders had been honor and power, but the message of Jesus began to flood through the world and teach love; our strive for equality in America is actually birthed from Christianity.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – Declaration of independence
The equal rights granted in the Declaration of Independence are not rooted in absence of personal responsibility, but social obedience to the Creator. If men are created, then we will be answerable to His standards, not ours. The Bible teaches that men bear the image of God: the imago Dei, so respect becomes natural and hard work is a desirable trait. Born with a stamp from a source that cannot be changed and is absolute, the pursuit of justice and fairness blossom; we are not the point even in our own lives.
Without the concept of creation, equality is an end we work toward and society, or government, is the source of its definition; humanity has no intrinsic rights other than those offered by the state – children in California have more value than children of Mexico. In fact, the standard of justice can only be seen through the state since nothing is inalienable if it is not also created. There is no moral obstruction in any number of social situations other than the value we could read into them against feelings and social consequences. This harbors an environment of further inequality and loss of human rights, which is the exact thing we find when we stray from the idea that people have intrinsic worth. imago Dei.
Don’t believe me or think I’m crazy? Try this; many of the privileges the first world enjoys are currently at the exploitation: emotional, moral, and physical slavery, of other peoples of the world. It is estimated there are 27 million slaves today. Roughly 3% of any city’s population will be homeless, and only 1 or 2 want to be while the rest don’t know how to escape the deep pain and addiction they feel buried under, or how to embrace and world that has forgotten them. Some actually do call for help while those passing on the street look the other way – literally! The people who seek to help them are often way under funded and under equipped. You can turn away and avoid it, but you can never say you didn’t know.
There are become two camps: either nothing matters, or everything matters. Either I can be unmoved because humanity has no intrinsic value and the die has been cast to offer me favor of my own, or I can be moved because they were born with the same inalienable rights I have been, given to them in their birth, which stirs my sense of justice, my sense of loyalty, from the Creator Who is calling them home. Equality is the beginning, not the end. It is the recognition of deep value and responsibility – not freedom from them.
Am I my brother’s keeper? yes.
It’s late and I can’t sleep. It’s a beautiful night. The humidity is low at 65 and the crickets have filled the woods with their song. Part of me would like to get back to work, but it seems hornets decided to take up residence in the eve of my home. Not Charlotte Hornets, they don’t play basketball, but nasty red hornets that like to eat meat and get into everything. I’ve been trying to reconcile the struggles we feel with the actions we should take. In sorrow, joy is only a shadow on the wall of a passing day bound to fade to night, and in strength the full moon lights the way of ease – they rarely mix and are easily forgotten.
It is in the desert of the soul I beg for the rain, and grow discouraged that a mere nod from heaven would absolve my pain; the sun would rise and peace would fill this heart again, yet to stand in the silence of God between the twilight of this world and the one to come; it is a difficult thing to understand. Could it be that the need I feel is not the need I have? Bound to experience need under the guidance of my fleshly appetite that is never fully known apart from the light of Him. If the work of God is sanctification, this must mean He is constantly drawing me out to destroy my expectations and reform them – I myself formed in His image, yet my heart in its warn torn shape would need to be reforged to be remade. In this I ought run not away from the discomfort of the soul, but lean into it as the flame of passing to further enter into the goodness of His will – that He is good and in Him I rest my heart.
This is not bound only to the condition of the heart, but many things that move the soul beyond the body that cause me either to drift further into His arms, or to kiss His face. We make the idol of sanctification ‘not the sin’ rather than the bitter drink that is sweet in the stomach. The gospel comes on the heels of darkness that we walked in darkness but have seen a great light. if the world is lost, it is lost of itself and redemption only comes at a forsaken point along the road – a choice, a life in a world in which we never experience freedom. We live to learn the joy of obedience.
Is my identity in Christ? If I woke to lose the thing I loved – my ability to create, to speak, to move, would I understand my life in light of eternity and sow into the kingdom of God? If I walk in His sufficiency I understand the words of Paul “to live is Christ and to die is gain; it is not I who lives, but Christ in me”; the point of strength is always found in weakness and not in greatness. Yet, to taste the goodness of God and turn again to the mud of this world, how should I not turn my joy into mourning that any joy should be found apart from this truth… “I am a ransomed slave that mercy sends home to my Master with a word of kindness that He would embrace me and send me to serve again.” Life is found in this simple point.
Ezekiel was called to give a message that would be rejected, but called to give it anyway. So much of what I see is founded in the success of numbers that I fear the purpose is absolved – yet am I the same? Do I walk in the fruit of what I can see, or do I trust the One who can bend the rains, that He has with held the rain for a purpose I do not know? I am a weak god: all my strife is produced by myself and so I humble myself beneath the council of One who not only receives me, but loves me. This welcome to the joy of obedience. This is the paradox of much of the world.
The past two months have been particularly busy for me. I have started a small business that has led to long hours of working alone designing and building furniture and other home furnishings – I am actually almost at the top of Google and am one of the only providers of the lights I offer, God is very good – and so I fill my time listening to music and sermons from different churches to touch on my calling in ministry: spiritual formation – the growth and development of the church.
I’ve been thinking about money and how to best honor God with it. I want to be more intentional about pushing my income to gospel-centered missions in other place. This has faltered against my heart for several reasons: the practical teaching is to first give to your local assembly, and the second is where we insert thoughts on tithing. The call to look after those who minister lands against the grow of the emergent church with specific church assemblies that can grow across 9 campuses and have thousands of members. Should we buy into this? There are large churches because they are well marketed and watered down, and there are large churches because God has trusted the church assembly; but do we determine between a church that is growing and one that is gluttonous?
I have listened to several sermons from several churches that approach generosity differently. The Village Church in Dallas, TX is my go-to favorite – their goal is minimalism, strongly biblical, and growth to the end of planting autonomous churches and making much of Jesus. But I was recommended a church in Arizona and stumbled into their sermon on giving and was opened to this statement preached from Malachi when God is upset about the blind sacrifices they were bringing.
“We don’t bring a lamb to sacrifice any more because Jesus was the perfect Lamb who died to take away our sins. We bring to God ourselves… and often this… our money.”
“God measures generosity based on a percentage not an amount.”
When people mishandle the word of God, take it from context, or try to manipulate it, it makes me angry. I couldn’t believe that this was taught, or that it is so easily believed, or that the men who have sworn to protect the church and proclaim the gospel are so quickly betraying both. I’m going to tear this band-aid off quickly. Tithing is not a New testament principle. It isn’t a standard that carried over from one to the other. It was in the Old Testament for the sacrificial system – we are not required to give a certain anything. The New Testament is even better.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” – Galatians 2:20
Paul calls himself a ‘bond-slave’ of Jesus as He recognized that freedom in Christ is not autonomous freedom. Rather, so compelled by the sacrifice of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14), we offer our lives in service to the One who holds all things in order. This does not free us up to pursue ourselves, but actually pushes us to engage the world and get involved in other people’s lives (John 15:12-17; 1 John 4:20). Freedom in Christ is to recognize that we are image bearer’s of God and walk in the liberty of our acceptance to grow in this sanctification.
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your comfort” – Luke 6:24
The sinking feeling is a curse against wealth, but this isn’t. But this also isn’t the gospel saying: this doesn’t apply to you. I know several wealthy men who are generous and very godly. The answer is in our relationship to God. Following Jesus means becoming His servant, being so compelled by this love. Nothing we have is ours. Everything belongs to the Lord. In Christ, we are not wealthy. We are only managers with which we have been entrusted. Our resources are given to make much of His name – we are image bearers. It is no longer a blanket “give 10% to the church”, but it is an issue, as the servants in Matthew, where you sit and think, how am I sowing into the Kingdom. Friends, when I stand before God I think He will be far more upset with all the other resources I have wasted under the umbrella of dropping tithes.
Should you support your local assembly? Yes and no.
Your local church is not your church. it is not its programs. It’s you. It’s the body of Jesus that gathers in that building. The instructions of the New Testament are far more individualistic than we’d like to believe; when we are called to support the one who is struggling or give to the one who has need, these are individual callings because the church is believers, the specific church is where they gather. The New Testament says that it was in joy the church grew and they shared all things in common. We don’t take on the role of offering things to God as the Old testament, but as Believers we are stewards of what He has given us and so everything is His.
How does this effect the church? Don’t rely on the church to fulfill what you are called to do, but rather engage your calling in that context. It is has always been a simple Biblical idea to give to the church; however, we have many churches who are not honest with what has been given them. I’m typically leery of those who only preach from Malachi only when they want to talk about offerings: as though they don’t know what the rest of the book is about. The idea is typically “give to get a blessed life”, which means give to God to get from God, which is not the currency of the New Testament which causes us to worship because we are compelled as His servants. The fall of man is that we prefer the creation over the Creator.
You are a steward of what you have been given. keep that in mind. I think giving to a church that engages the gospel, it’s assembly, and the world around is a church to grow in and support with your money and service. If possible, give in the area of the church you feel a passion in your life. Then give your time there as well. I am passionate about missions; specifically, the poor, more specifically, children. I’ve not been obedient in my calling and realize I must do a good deal of repenting as I see the depravity in my heart and realize that I don’t love like I should. I want to begin by sponsoring children through Compassion International and to them I am rich; I have not been generous. In the same, I want to engage to make much of Jesus, not of myself.
It’s always about motives. God doesn’t want your money. He wants your heart.
The sun falls beyond the farms in the west: dipping to the ground, light breaks around the clouds. God is good, but still I doubt. I wonder why I wonder why. This isn’t coming out of a season of answers. The winds of prosperity are not filling the sails of my vessel, but the storms pushing the waves in the distance feel less intimidating even in the face of the absence of answers. Perhaps in this moment I am at rest, yet only to find the seed of faith planted long ago begin to take root, and root to hope.
We go to great lengths to isolate our lives from the effects of relationships; either in responsibility or accountability, as though falling beneath a yoke bondage we cry to be free only too, in the same way, transform our solace into mourning in the absence of companionship. Freedom is seen as the absence of responsibility – in the greater sense that we should be able to live how ever we please, but I think it’s often overlooked that the only allusion to freedom and control in this life is the illusion that we have it at all. If I am free, I am unaccountable – I should not feel shame when I don’t measure up, nor should I feel insufficient that I am not who I should be.True freedom should be unfettered personal ambition, but browse through your social media and follow trends in your own life, or the lives of others, and we find ourselves dominated by physical fitness and appearance, the food we eat. and our possessions.
Our greatness is not in our greatness, but in our weakness. We celebrate big moments in our lives. Many Instagram photos are taken when the person feels best, or when their meal is on point. If I eat one really good meal to ten bowls of mac and cheese, am I as cool as my food? C.S. Lewis sums up a similar idea in Mere Christianity: “For you notice that it is only for our bad behavior that we find all these explanations. It is only our bad temper that we put down to being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves.” If I am an impatient person with my family, but just a delight with my friends, to whom am I most accountable – those who see me often, or those who see me very little?
This is love; not that we love God, but that He loves us (1 John 4:10). If a man would pursue a woman, he must delight himself in her -her beauty, her talent, her presence. This comes easily in the opening of romance when thoughts are consumed in passion, but nothing in our life is ever intended to work in cruise control because it is always work to ascend. He must begin to actively choose her, to look away from others, and embrace what he has been given as the gift to his heart. This is what is meant that husbands should love as Jesus loves the church: it’s death, it’s life, it’s perfection.
There is a constant desire to moderate relationships, and especially so with God. If I call a niece or nephew to come with me, and they do without question, I can assume that the child trusts me. If I am called, but my reaction is “first do this and then I will come with you” I do not trust the calling – even still, if my demands are met, I still will not trust the calling, but only myself. This is especially true between us and God. He calls us to trust Him and we demand results – yet, in getting results we will never trust Him at all. We demand of God and wonder why our relationship with Him never deepens and never grows, but seems to shallow and hallow out.
Our greatness is not in our strength, but in our weakness. If we crazy beauty, we should be lost when beauty is lost. If we crave wealth, we will be hard out when funds dry up. if we crave attention, then who are we when the crowds leave. At the end of the song and the close of the dance we are only as strong as we are without those things that prop us up. Yet when I find those who have lost everything, they seem to have a quiet and very humble chorus; to understand that God is heaven and we are on Earth, therefore let our words be few. We are not free when we are at liberty; we are only free when our identity is in something that cannot change, cannot be taken away, that does not need us, but seeks us anyway. This is the liberty in Christ and sets us free to love others.
When called, I should move. When I pray, I should move. When my heart hurts, I should move. When I rise, I should give thanks. When I fall, I should give thanks.
Do you see the paradox?
No matter where I go: what culture or example, there seems to be an undercurrent that either pulls to or away from humility. The highest values of culture trace back to a heart that is humble and prefers others – acts of kindness, generosity, a genuine heart; however, all the tools of the culture exist in exact contradiction: power, narcissism, and gluttony. The heart follows pride without being told, all the while looking back and desiring humility. Yet not all lowliness is humility, and so this is not just a discontent with position. Why?
Ezekiel is a hyper-dramatic presentation of God’s disgust with sin with His people. This comes on the heel of many generations of Him trying to bring their hearts back and finally send someone crazy enough to get their attention. The middle of the book is full of judgments against the kings of the world. Basically this, the kingdom you thought you made, you didn’t, and what you have is about to war against you. Oddly enough, chapter 28 is dedicated against Tyre, but it seems to go right over their heads and target Satan. I believe the reason is because those in ancient Asia Minor had a good idea who he was.
When Adam disobeyed, the punishment of man was that everything he was given to cultivate would war against him. In man’s humility, he was given a task to cultivate the world. In man’s pride he saw the garden as his own. The punishment was taking everything he had been given and using it against him, but without freeing him from the responsibility of caring for it. In the same, all the kings in Ezekiel aren’t removed from power, but they have to suffer through their disobedience.
– Honor God
– Prefer others
– Love yourself
“If at all possible, be at peace with all men” – Romans 12:18
“Blessed are the peacemakers” – Matthew 5:9
“Now the God of peace…” – Hebrews 13:20
Peace – freedom from disturbance: quiet and tranquility.
I have been struggling with peace. not peace to be the opposite of strife, but peace to be settled in choice. The gut-wrenching desire for action at the end of a day that requires patience – to wait, to be well. This struggle is common, although shows itself through different forms. Many try to take a point of control of their own in matters that they do not have the authority wrought. For me it is the belief – if I say this, or if I make this point, then… This is the thinking that has pulled my hand so many times from the door of departure and put myself back into a position of conflict, a position in which I felt I could change matters through my own efforts, my own cunning.
To believe we can change matters where wisdom and endurance beckon us to wait is pride. Goodness and Mercy point to go this way, but I pull another. It is God to whom the heart ultimately belongs, and when we speak what we are to speak, we must be earnest to make peace – with others, with the situation, with ourselves. It is not that an agreement is reached, but we become at rest with the difference – not that we do not pray, nor remain open to positive changes, but we accept our place as we are; once an alien, now reconciled.
“…and through Him to reconcile everything to Himself by making peace through the blood of His cross.” – Colossians 1:20
We are told that God pursues us; this is true, but not always true. We know the God who pursues because everything has been reconciled; He is peace. In the Old Testament, He would often turn away from hearing His people in their rebellion and simply wait for the moment to show Himself as things were not reconciled. In the same, Jesus was never hurried in His ministry. He was in control. He didn’t merely possess authority, but He was authority… He is authority. He is not hurried. Be patient.
I find to be at peace does not mean to pursue the indifference, but often to let it grow as it will. My heart, if unbittered and my testimony unharmed, will only grow and situation will reflect the calling of God in my life 10 times more. Christ came to seek and save, but we are only called to make disciples.
In the same, if God is peace and by peace we are called children of God, then our peace is not of ourselves. It is not something that I can gain through being calm, but only by being content. The authority over my life is in the one Who slept in the boat during the storm, and so, I too can sleep in the boat during the storm. It is not from a lack of fear, but faith. Faith is rest. Rest is peace. “The Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath/rest” (Matthew 12:8). Peace is on loan from God, who is peace and made peace even to His enemies.
At one point, people who live reckless lives without harboring regret bothered. Perhaps it is partially as I have always possessed a high level of awareness to the affect of my actions on others, or on the future; I cannot help but cringe at words said in jest that I know cut deeper to the person then they let on, or else erode away a piece of that joy they find in the moment – but to live completely without regrets after being so reckless? Perhaps it is only my own self-righteousness bubbling to the surface. If I have done right and regret things I have said and done, then how can someone do wrong and be without regrets? But the truth is not in the declaration, but what it means.
A regret is remorse held over a past action. When a reckless life it is often tied to consequences, or getting caught. People don’t seem to regret sin until they have to pay the price for what they have done wrong – which means, a majority are safe living recklessly as they are in environments that do not harbor consequences, nor do people stay around in our lives long enough for our choices to affect them, as a rule. The only consistent relationships are those who are largely unaffected by most of our actions – our family, old friends. What is there is regret if we are never found guilty? If we never have to pay any price for any action? To say “I have no regrets” is to say nobody was hurt by my actions, or better I really don’t care if they were.
But this isn’t really regret.
When the reality of our life is torn away all regret becomes premature; it is only focused on us. The dire straights of consequences is that we believe they are punitive that come against us now, as being grounded, or maybe breaking a bone. if we hurt no one now we believe our actions ought to be tolerated, or even permitted, and we think ourselves to be right. We are short sighted enough that this is sufficient, until we begin to peel away our lives in the rest of the world. Consequences do not always fall like wrath on our heads, but what on the heads of others and what if they do not fall now?
To not have regret is to never take a stand on anything important, never lose anything of value, never to love anyone else with any integrity. When we love, we must esteem the other better than ourselves. The deepest sense of regret not having regret, but rather the quiet moments longing of the heart – this is when we judge ourselves against a standard we do not know and realize we are not sufficient. This same feeling, this fear, is what drives us into madness beyond the pace of nature to always hide and demand exposure, to crave justice and fear accountability. But even these are not trials and is only a half-hearted swing at regret.
Right now, there are nations of people dying. The average age of Uganda is 14, which has made it a nation of children. What have we done about it? Something? Nothing? The atheist asks: “how can a good God allow such evil?” yet whether you believe in theism or not, you are faced with the same problem. God could snap is fingers and end everything, but to the little girl dying in the slums, you could do that same thing and yet… do you? This is the catalyst of regret: a choice. You can do nothing and live as you have, but you cannot walk away and say you never knew.
Avoiding sin makes us self-righteous when we believe avoiding wrong makes us better, but that is only because we are so short sighted to the pieces in motion. Saving all the children and all the animals in order to escape consequences will never bring that relief if these things are done to escape the feeling of responsibility – in fact, running into the fires to save others ought make us more accountable to them, and yet running away leave us feeling somewhat condemned: either to say people do not matter to me or else I am number one. To think we will escape the heart by our own actions is only to say we must never be honest with our motives: retreat to the fourth paragraph.
At the end of the day, when all is said and done, our lives are not governed by where we were and were not caught in the moment, but what we do with the time we have been given: the right now. This is a lesson from my own book.
“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” – John Wesley
if life is a race, I spend a majority of my time bouncing between the walls of the track – that is, my relationships. There is an undercurrent of the constant dialogue that there is no dialogue: “hey, if you have free time this week, let’s catch up.” When in reality, the more I have to catch up with friends, the less I find I know them. But it doesn’t stop there. The adulthood my generation found is one where we half do everything and fully do nothing; I’m not sure if this is because we never really learned to appreciate and be quiet, or perhaps because we are too busy. Yet ironically most of our efforts are only to terminate upon ourselves, or else there is no real value to much of what we do at all.
In March, I quit drinking coffee for the month. It was not for lent, although I accidentally gave it on lent. That we an experience. I felt like I had more energy and was more focused, but I had nothing to compare it to since I forgot what it was like to have caffeine in my body after three weeks. I’m drinking coffee again and I honestly cannot tell if I am happier drinking it, or not drinking it. I can only say that I feel different and without coffee I have a hard time caring enough to sit down and write – I didn’t just not write here, but anywhere really. No letters, no emails, no journal pages. Once April rolled around I still cut back on coffee and have yet to really be back at Starbucks – I like that.
In the mean time, I have begun renovating a log cabin, and then building a pretty large shop out of which to run a small business to focus on craft and design: specifically custom furniture and what not. It has kept me pretty busy and promises to be profitable, but mostly to the fact that I will be beginning my final leg of school in the summer and will no longer have time to do much else. I will be in school 4 days a week and I will build and design the other 3. Hopefully to connect all the dots and be ready for the plan I’m spinning for next spring. I think I have known my best laid plans are the ones I don’t talk about – but they just happen, like Mr. Fredrickson’s house floating away in Up.
It is not with anxiety and pain, lessons and learning, love and joy. This is not the whole story.
People like to reference Nehemiah when they are working in ministry; mainly since he was so structured in his efforts. It is the story of Nehemiah, the cup bearer to Artaxerxes, hearing of the trials of his people in Jerusalem after the Persian Empire released them from bondage. He had no connection to these people other than heritage, but when he heard the report he mourned deeply for days. The king gave Nehemiah permission and resources to go back and rebuild the walls of the city. Nehemiah is very calculated and careful, specific about what he does. It provides a good backdrop for why they should keep up with numbers in attendance, finances, and programs. But it is not the full story…
The Persians let the Jews go home, which many did (upward to 50k), but some stayed back in Babylon. Esther is about those who stayed behind in Babylon. Nehemiah is about those who came to rebuild the wall. Haggai is about those who went to rebuild the temple. Each book shows a clear purpose of salvation from three vantage points, and only when put together do we began to get a full grasp of who God is and what He is doing – I believe what Acts calls “the whole council of God” (Acts 20:27). Nehemiah is not the whole story, nor is Esther, nor is Haggai. But together we began to see how God works through government, through us, and how God views worship (it’s not limited to these three things).
I realize how short sighed my own Bible study has become since it is easy to rest upon a book, or a passage, without digging deeply into the darker points of the Bible – those that are rarely opened and read. So often the Bible is taught in relevance to our lives, which brings the danger where we try to conform God to us and not be conformed into His holiness. The Bible is about the gospel. Adam and eve were given the tree to learn the liberty of obedience, and God provided a way. Habakkuk teaches to understand God’s justice and His love and how they work together. This isn’t just us trying to make something broken work; the whole council of God will spin on its own wheels and if you take time to look deeply at the actual Bible, there is something really amazing to behold. Check it out.
The Kingdom of God. That is the whole story.
Life can be difficult and messy. Life is filled with storms. Sometimes they are storms we have made ourselves, and sometimes things simply don’t go the way we imagined, the way we planned. It’s easy to get discouraged when we feel that our best isn’t good enough: we come to a proverbial wall of glass between ourselves and our dreams, and those moments are what test our faith, shake our peace, exhaust our patience. It’s hard to find joy in a day filled with rain. It’s hard to find strength in a road filled with rocks and pain.
We are all called to different lives; we have different journeys and dreams, and we have different struggles. It’s difficult to understand these because so many look at us from the outside with often well meaning words and advice, but it doesn’t always make everything better. Storms are real in our lives not because one person hurts more than another, but because they are real to us. Yes, time will heal the heart, but in the moment of its breaking a hug means more than all the kind words in the world.
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in all things as we are… – Hebrews 4:15