Philippians 4:6-7: Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
On July 4, 1776, a company of farmers, merchants, scholars, and business men gathered to ratify and sign a document to which they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.
Most of these men paid a heavy cost for that signature. They were not crippled by undo caution or timid in the petition that they brought before the King of England.
In the realm of the Spirit, we have also been called to affix or signatures upon an invisible document of faith with visible repercussions. In it, we declare our absolute loyalty to Jesus Christ. We lay everything on the line without the constraints of care or caution, without reservation or regret, without whining or complaint.
We come in complete trust rejoicing, thanking, and bringing our petitions before God. And we find in God, not an insecure despot lashing out at us, but a loving Father whose greatest desire is that we come to Him.
As we come, He gives us His peace and that peace becomes the security of our lives standing guard over our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
In 1776, there was great conflict in store for the signers of the Declaration of Independence. In our day of declaration, we may also find conflict ahead, but in the midst, we are surrounded by the peace of God that is completely beyond our comprehension.
Let us boldly declare our liberty and surrender our hearts to the One who sets us free indeed.
And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: (Matthew 25:32)
This is a dramatic and overwhelming scene that Jesus describes. As far as the eye can see, the nations are gathered before the throne. There are sheep and there are goats at a time when only sheep are truly welcome in the flock. There has been considerable blending up until this point, but now the shepherd is dividing them.
And there is one criterion by which He judges the nations. How did you treat me when I was among you?
He is not talking about His incarnation here, but His presence among His people many of whom were the poor, the lowly, the imprisoned, the hungry, and so forth. He is identifying with the powerless that He described in Matthew 5 and, from their perspective, evaluating the powerful.
What did you do with all your influence to positively touch the people I love? That is His question. It is the test of a nation's greatness and the test of greatness for every institution or individual that has been entrusted with power. Were you just? Were you fair? Were you generous? Were you compassionate? Were you righteous? Were you aware that I was there in the midst of my brethren?
This is one dimension of judgment in the heavenly kingdom and Jesus gives us a preview. It is but a glimpse. We could not understand more, but we can understand this much: We must always be aware of Jesus and receive others as if we were receiving Him.
The greatness of America has always been in her central idea: the dignity of every human being under God. It is the basis for freedom, laws, and our system of government. For the Christian, that means looking for the image of God in every person we meet and treating that person as we would treat Jesus.
We have a place in the story, whether we are great or lowly. It is a long and patient story with twists, turns, and gaps in reporting, but it is a story with miraculous continuity and eternal clarity.
In the midst of the story, we have only a limited perspective. We cry out the prayers of the Psalms such as:
"For the LORD hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners." - Ps. 69:33
Then, we turn to narrative for hindsight and to the words of Jesus and His apostles for insight.
"Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph."
This is going to happen.
Joseph has his time. We have our times. He did his job. He elevated his people and all the people. He was well known and respected and he made a major contribution to the world.
Then, he died.
And he was remembered.
And then, he was forgotten, slowly, gradually, not completely, but enough so that honor and glory and strength of influence evaporated.
Generations had passed and the person of influence simply did not know Joseph. All he saw were people he perceived as a threat.
He lashed out with irrational and indiscriminate violence to commit an act of mass genocide. It was horrific and yet, it was the story of emergence. A new leader would emerge from the bulrushes who, 80 years later would stand before a king and lead a people to freedom.
And he would be reminded of the story of Joseph and he and those who later reflected upon his life and legacy would somehow, connect the two stories to make one continuous story.
That was the story of resurgent and emergent leadership in a world where leaders come and go and crises grow and recede.
Our stories may seem isolated, disconnected, intermittent, and separated by decades and more of discontinuity, but they are actually part of one story.
We are known, remembered, and forgotten. Then, years, decades, and sometimes centuries pass and some sliver of memory is passed to the next wave of God-work in human frailty and greatness. A new story grows out of the old story and something lost in memory comes again into memory and some tiny tentacle grows to connect the new to the old.
And it is one story from Joseph to Moses and to and through so many stories to our own generation, having passed through the cross and resurrection, the story continues and we cannot know how many more chapters shall be written before there is some grand tension that shall bring us to that last page that grips us with anticipation and then, The End and then, we turn to page for ...
an Epilogue ...
for the "logue" is "logos" and the Word goes on and on and on ...
... and on ...
This is our time. What shall we do? How shall our story join the great ongoing story?
The story connects vertically AND horizontally.
"And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”"
"And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again."
Greatness and honor may come at a price too high for us to be willing to pay. Leadership is not about receiving accolades. This is demonstrated for us. Our place in the story, if we follow the Story Teller, is sometimes more humiliating than congratulatory. But it is the story and we are a part of it as well as beneficiaries of it. It is easier to read the first and last paragraph of every chapter and the first few words of every paragraph and skim over the gory details, but the big story includes some real pain, suffering, and sacrifice and most of that is done for us. Our place in the story is to take our place in the story and to want nothing more than for the Storyteller to finish it His way.
Have a lovely day!
One set of muscles and tissue are injured and need rest.
So rest them.
Then ask, "What can I exercise?"
Isolate the muscles that need rest and exercise the rest.
Something hurts. So what?
No twith a sneer, "so what," but a sincere question: What will you think or do next?
"An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force." - Newton's First Law, "The Law of Inertia".
One cannot remain an object at rest nor an object in meaningless motion. One must be moved and purposefully so.
So move something. Now!
Steadfast love, justice, and music! What a wonderful package to unwrap this morning!
I must ponder and take great care about the way that I walk. How can I do this in a rush? How can i do this if I do not rise before the demands of the day overtake me and the cares of this world absorb my attention? I must arise in time and devote the time to knowing what to do. By taking this time, I will save much time that will otherwise be spent flailing and failing, faltering and floundering. It is the blameless heart I seek, the heart that, in integrity, seeks not its own ends but those purposes of God for which it was awakened. Then, I begin where I am, in my own house, within the confines of my closest and dearest relationships, among those I have neither need, desire, nor ability to impress, to walk with integrity of heart. So, the psalmist tracks the beginning of successful person's day - Begin with God, continue with family, and branch out from there. Then, in verse 3, he reminds himself not to be drawn away by setting any vile thing before him. It is a good reminder that even the blameless heart can be distracted and diverted by the temporal temptations of decadent beauty.
Psalm 109 is harsh. It is the song of a king who vows to recompense those who walk over others and persecute the poor, who disregard God and disrespect their neighbors. We are tempered by grace from acting harshly. We are called by Jesus toabsorb and resist injustice at the same time. But we must not grow numb to the indignation that the psalmist expressed. We ought to cringe with such indignation and it ought to begin with those remnants of wicked motives within our own hearts and lives. Let us be so disgusted with that within ourselves that degrades and destroys that we set out to purge our own hearts regularly of their creeping decay that we might be singular in our love, sincere in our devotion to God, and simple in our service to humanity.
May Your Words unfold to me today.
"The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple."
"Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me."
"Let no iniquity get dominion over me."
This is the prayer of any person who fears addiction to anything. It is the cry of anyone who knows the danger and potential of anything gaining that sort of dominion. What might it be? How might it disguise itself? What attraction might it offer?
More important is how we might resist and a prayer of resistance and remedy is offered, "Keep steady my steps according to your promise."
What promise? It is the promise to keep our steps steady. NIV translates it, "Direct my footsteps according to Your Word." The NLV renders it, "Guide my steps by your word," and The Message, "Steady my steps with your Word of promise."
At verse 140, he says, "Your promise is well tried, and your servant loves it."
These promises have indeed been well-tried. Some, we ourselves have tried. Some we have not, but others have. The results are that they work and ....
Today can be a day of triumph and victory!
1 O God, listen to my cry!
Lead me to the towering rock of safety,
3 for you are my safe refuge,
a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.
4 Let me live forever in your sanctuary,
safe beneath the shelter of your wings! Interlude
Tom – I need to pray like that. I am praying like that today. It is a matter of my relationship with God.
1 I wait quietly before God,
for my victory comes from him.
5 Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him.
9 Common people are as worthless as a puff of wind,
and the powerful are not what they appear to be.
If you weigh them on the scales,
together they are lighter than a breath of air.
10 Don’t make your living by extortion
or put your hope in stealing.
And if your wealth increases,
don’t make it the center of your life.
11 God has spoken plainly,
and I have heard it many times:
Power, O God, belongs to you;
12 unfailing love, O Lord, is yours.
Surely you repay all people
according to what they have done.
Tom – I am a common man who often gets proud and puffy. I need a God-perspective on myself and on God. Scales do not compliment me. Wealth cannot be the center of my life. God is everything. My relationship with God defines me.
In the Genesis reading, Joseph’s brothers showed up needing bread, but first a relationship needed to be reestablished.
In Corinth, Paul was dealing with a serious relationship problem.
1 Corinthians 5:1-8
8 So let us celebrate the festival, not with the old breadof wickedness.
Tom – I need to do some sorting in my life too --- daily sorting.
20 One time Jesus entered a house, and the crowds began to gather again. Soon he and his disciples couldn’t even find time to eat. 21 When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him away. “He’s out of his mind,” they said.
31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him. They stood outside and sent word for him to come out and talk with them. 32 There was a crowd sitting around Jesus, and someone said, “Your mother and your brothersare outside asking for you.”
33 Jesus replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 34 Then he looked at those around him and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. 35 Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
Tom – I want to be a brother of Jesus today and that is all I need to be.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
"But I am a worm, and not human;
scorned by others, and despised by the people. - Psalm 22:6
Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
But you, O LORD, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid!
... he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him."
- Psalm 22:9-11 14-15, 19, 24
"...'We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.' And Joseph said to them, 'Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.'"
- Genesis 40:8
1 CORINTHIANS 3:16-23
"Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.
Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their craftiness," and again, "The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile." So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future - all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God."
"So he brought his people out with joy,
his chosen ones with singing."
- Psalm 105:43''
We read the emotions of yesterday's people, their longs, aspirations, and questions with a sense of immediacy. They are who we are. We are who they were. We yearn for the same answers and presence. We want what they wanted, an assurance of God being with them and purposefully guiding their paths.
We want to not be abandoned.
We want to know who we are and to be who we were meant to be.
In those times when we feel like worms, we want to know we are more.
We want to be beloved and to live in beloved communities.
We want to dream and when we dream, we need to know that only God can fully interpret our dreams.
We must know that we cannot accomplish all we desire for ourselves or those we love simply through our own efforts. We need to know that we cannot cleverly devise constructs that will always be true and go to the depths of understanding.
We need God, long for God, and find our completeness in God.
We are sitting by the sea, going about our business when Jesus comes. We are not that well thought of, even by our own estimations, but He sees something in us and calls us. He calls and we follow and rejoice.
GOSPEL READING MARK 2:13-22
13Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them.14As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed him.
15And as he sat at dinner in Levi's house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples - for there were many who followed him. 16When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" 17When Jesus heard this, he said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners."
"18Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, 'Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" 19Jesus said to them, "The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.'
21'No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.'"
He is with us and we rejoice. We think new ways and see the world through new glasses.
There are times of fasting, but they lead to times of rejoicing.
We are worms no more. We have cried out of the depths and He has head. Our deficits and iniquities, which are many, have been resolved by His mercy and the sacrifice of Jesus (which is, ultimately, the sacrifice of God demonstrating love and grace). We are redeemed. We are forgiven. We are new. We need new clothes and winsekins because this is a new day!
EVENING PSALM 130
1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.
2 Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!
3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
4 But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered.
5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
6 my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.
7 O Israel, hope in the LORD!
For with the LORD there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
8 It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities.
Morning Psalms 22; 148
First Reading Genesis 40:1-23
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 3:16-23
Gospel Reading Mark 2:13-22
Evening Psalms 105; 130
There are costs to following Jesus and excuses for not doing so.
Everything of value costs something.
We can think of endless excuses to procrastinate, obstinate, and prevaricate. We'll do anything but drop whatever we are doing and change directions.
It is a control issue - we want to be in control.
Mostly, we want to add - faith and devotion to whatever else we cling to in life.
But discipleship is not an "add-on" to our lives. It is a new center of existence and a new direction for everything. Everything passes through the filter or this new commitment.
It costs everything.
I was ruminating over all this as I drove to the gym before church one day and I heard the report on NPR that 38 people had died over a given weekend in bombs designed to disrupt the elections in Iraq.
In spite of this, and, by some reports, because of it, record numbers of people came out to vote - defying the threats. Some died.
Later, I heard the Vicar of Baghdad report that the same thing was happening his his church. One year every one of the over 50 people who were baptized died a martyr's death.
Sometimes we have a hard time trying to get people to show up in this country when it costs us nothing.
I wonder - If it is too cheap, do we lose any sense of the value of it?
If Jesus needed something, I probably need it too. He needed to check in with His Father and deal with whatever was working in and on Him. He needed it often. Sometimes, He needed it spontaneously. Frequently, He needed it in little slots of time between interruptions. He did not always get seclusion and solitude, but He built it in.
He knew it would not last forever. He would be called back into the fray, back among the hurting masses. He would be drawn back into the indignities of suffering, oppression, and spiritual drought and He would engage.
We are talking about our Savior, but also, our Master, our leader, and our role model.
We are following Him.
David knew His frailties. Jesus, after emptying Himself, became vulnerable to those same frailties.
Every saint has been a sinner and has needed confession. The sinless One, however, bore the sins of the people, not His own. It was an even greater burden.
He needed prayer and so do we.
Below are my reflections on this day of Lent and some of the suggested scriptures.
Three things I must do in the morning if nothing else (Psalm 5:3):
1. Make my voice heard before God.
2. Lay my requests before God.
3. Wait expectantly before God.
Which of these three is the greatest challenge for you? Which brings you the greatest joy?
I am a fool who has found a bit of precious wisdom and that wisdom has transformed me.
It is Day seven of the season of reflection. Let us not become so reflective that we fool ourselves into thinking we are wise in our ingenuity.
You can read ot listen here and gain more than you could ever gain by listening to my feigned wisdom or commentary on the subject. Psalms 45, 47, and 48, Genesis 37:12-24, 1 Corinthians 1:20-31, and Mark 1:14-28 speak well for themselves. All I can offer is reflection and I shall.
God chooses the foolish things of this world of confound the wise --- or the presumably wise.
God calls simple dreamers who sing the maskil songs of contemplation and envision futures off the charts of logic to infuse with extraordinary wisdom not of this world.
God calls the humble to acknowledge the kingdom, turn around, receive the good news, follow Him, become more than they can be, and join Him in His work of liberating those oppressed by the powers of evil.
That is the call.
It is OK to be a foolish thing because the message of the cross is confounding to the minds of those who insist of boxing in their thoughts and boxing out the possibilities of wonder and redemption.
There is a letting go to following Jesus. There is a complexity in the simplicity and a simplicity in the complexity, but mostly a singularity in it all.
"The kingdom is here. Repent and believe. Follow me. Let me make you more than you think you are or can be."
That is how Jesus calls those discarded by the world and deemed to be foolish things.
That is how we become wise.
To reflect on the whole, one would conclude with tentative reluctance, that the real, raw truth is that we cannot count on anyone including ourselves.
We walk, we share, we talk, we stare and those around us are prone to a failure we interpret as rejection. Our hearts are betrayed in our own estimation.
We are a broken people who yet dream even though our dreams are ridiculed.
Yet, we dream.
But we bicker ... and bicker over that which is less than ...
Less than value.
Then there is a cross. It makes no sense to the masses mulling over meaning and arguing about semantics. It is just a cross born by a Spirit Baptizer who somehow steps into our mess.
He steps in and stands by the dreamer as well as the downtrodden and betrayed.
If one is looking for a season with a reason ... this is it.
It is the fifth day of Lent, the lengthening of days, and this is a long one. It is literally later than you may think if you did not adjust your clocks.
It is always later than we think if we do not adjust our lives to God.
If we think we are too bust for a "daily office," then we had better stay away from the office, because we are going to be scattered and bothered all day. This is the "pause that refreshes."
"Daily office" comes from the Latin "officium divinum" meaning "divine service" or "divine duty."
The scriptures for to day can be read here at Bible Gateway. I've prepared a page that has KJV, NIV, and The Message. Take your pick or read them all.
The common thread is God's judgment and mercy. Judgement is what we bring on ourselves. In fact, Jesus removes His volition from the judgment equation and puts it all on our response to His words with out words and choices. He extends mercy.
It is a recurring theme today:
Psalm 98:3: "He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel: all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God."
Psalm 103:5: " Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies."
The harsh reality is, according to Daniel 9:7, "We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments."
Nevertheless, verse 9 proclaims, "To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him."
Hebrews 2:17 calls Jesus, "a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people."
The Message puts it this way in Hebrews 2:16-18, speaking of the life and death of Jesus on our behalf, "It’s obvious, of course, that he didn’t go to all this trouble for angels. It was for people like us, children of Abraham. That’s why he had to enter into every detail of human life. Then, when he came before God as high priest to get rid of the people’s sins, he would have already experienced it all himself—all the pain, all the testing—and would be able to help where help was needed."
No wonder, Psalm 63:1 exclaims so eloquently in The Message,
"God—you’re my God!
I can’t get enough of you!
I’ve worked up such hunger and thirst for God,
traveling across dry and weary deserts."
There is judgment for sin and we have sinned, but neither sin nor God's judgment were ever God's purpose. Neither was it the purpose of Jesus to condemn the world. He said, "I came not to judge the world, but to save the world." (John 12:47b)
It is going to be a long day. It could be even longer without the gentle reminder of the mercy of God. Your officium divinum stops you for a moment to face the fact that, in your business, stress, and frantic pace of life, you, as I have, may have neglected or rejected the voice of God. It carries its own judgment and condemnation, but we need not carry either.
We need time to soak in the mercy of God. This is that time. It is a time to reflect and bathe in the love of the Father and the Son, in the very presence of the Spirit. It is a daily office and it is one we need to heed.
We are not blind to the complexities of our lives and surroundings. We are not naive about how difficult this world and this life can be. I dislike the disrespect afforded Pollyana because she was not as pollyanaish as she has been characterized.
She was an optimist who played the "Glad game" until it was not game at all. It became a lens through which she interpreted her world.
The psalmist could see the crud and mud of life and still seek God and rejoice in hope.
Ezekiel knew the devastation of captivity and looked for the deliverance and restoration of the people. He was glad to serve a God who could both judge and forgive.
Paul knew degradation and imprisonment and understood that all people suffer. He was more than an optimist. He was an overcomer.
Pollyana was also an overcomer and wherever she went, people were infected with gladness.
So be it in and through our lives. Let us be glad in the Lord.
The readings for today are here (Day 52o) and the excerpts that grabbed my heart are below:
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever! (Psalm 30:11-12, ESV)
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near you. (Psalm 32:8-9, ESV)
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:10-11, ESV)
Then they shall know that I am the LORD their God, because I sent them into exile among the nations and then assembled them into their own land. I will leave none of them remaining among the nations anymore. And I will not hide my face anymore from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 39:28-29, ESV)
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13, ESV)
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Philippians 4:19-20, ESV)
The full movie:
Our readings for this morning were from the ESV on their Daily Office Page - Day 519.
We have some cause for regret. It is not what has been done on our behalf or to us that has corrupted us. It is what we have done.
We have not bowed down before God, acknowledged God, nor shown justice and mercy to our neighbors. We have sought our own selfish ends and we have bickered for our own causes.
At some point, we must take personal responsibility for rejecting God and when we do, we shall regret it. But regret is of no great ultimate value. We must return.
The door of returning remains open, but we are not facing it or moving toward it. We have to turn to return and that turning is called repentance.
Repentance is a joyful possibility because it's message to us is that we can change and that we are welcome back.
God is God whether we ignore Him or not. He has no pleasure in our destruction, death, or ruin. He calls us to return.
"Why will you die ...?"
It will not because our fathers ate sour grapes. It will because we choose to refuse the invitation to return.
God desires to bring us to the place of rejoicing. Jesus prayed for us that His joy would be complete in us as we are sanctified in truth?
Let us join Him in that prayer for our own souls today.
The Readings and My Comments for the Second Day of Lent
My comments will be in italics. I will call them Take Aways and you will be encouraged to consider and add your own.
27 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.
3 Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.
4 One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.
5 For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.
6 And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord.
7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
8 When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.
9 Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.
10 When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.
11 Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.
12 Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.
13 I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
14 Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.
Take-Aways: God is everything I need, but I need to seek God and wait on Him for strength. That sort of seeking and waiting does not come easily for the highly distracted, but it must come. So, we orbit around it and keep coming back to it as a center for our very being. This is a prayer I could pray daily and meditate upon so many of its deep sentiments and desires. I would also have fainted without hope. So be it, Lord, Amen. What are your "take aways?"
12 Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise thy God, O Zion.
13 For he hath strengthened the bars of thy gates; he hath blessed thy children within thee.
14 He maketh peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the finest of the wheat.
15 He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth: his word runneth very swiftly.
16 He giveth snow like wool: he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes.
17 He casteth forth his ice like morsels: who can stand before his cold?
18 He sendeth out his word, and melteth them: he causeth his wind to blow, and the waters flow.
19 He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel.
20 He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the Lord.
Take-Aways: God certainly has the capacity to send forth fierce and harsh judgment. He has it and He has the right to it, but He has never send forth the full fierceness of His warth. He has always restrained His own hand in judgment because of His great love, mercy, and grace. What would be our state if all that we have set in motion were to return to us in judgment? What are your "take aways?"
3 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth.
2 O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.
3 God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.
4 And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power.
5 Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet.
6 He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: his ways are everlasting.
7 I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction: and the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble.
8 Was the Lord displeased against the rivers? was thine anger against the rivers? was thy wrath against the sea, that thou didst ride upon thine horses and thy chariots of salvation?
9 Thy bow was made quite naked, according to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word. Selah. Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers.
10 The mountains saw thee, and they trembled: the overflowing of the water passed by: the deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on high.
11 The sun and moon stood still in their habitation: at the light of thine arrows they went, and at the shining of thy glittering spear.
12 Thou didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh the heathen in anger.
13 Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed; thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck. Selah.
14 Thou didst strike through with his staves the head of his villages: they came out as a whirlwind to scatter me: their rejoicing was as to devour the poor secretly.
15 Thou didst walk through the sea with thine horses, through the heap of great waters.
16 When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops.
17 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
Take-Aways: The faith and hope of this prophet stop me in my tracks. He declares that when everything that can go wrong, does go wrong, still He will rejoice in the Lord. Perhaps, what we are missing, is the commitment to rejoice in the midst of anything and everything . May we rejoice in the Lord and glory in the God of our salvation. So be it, Lord, Amen. What are your "take aways?"
12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.
17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
Take-Aways: Every sentence of Paul to the believers in Philippi resonates with where I live and who I am in life. We keep pressing and we do so with hope. What are your "take aways?"
17 These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:
2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.
3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
6 I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.
7 Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.
8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.
Take-Aways: This is truly "The Lord's Prayer" in John 17. Plumb the depths and let these words and this prayer shape you and not just inform you. Amen. What are your "take aways?"
For Evening: Psalm 126
126 When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.
2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them.
3 The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.
4 Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the south.
5 They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
6 He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.
For Evening: Psalm 102
102 Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come unto thee.
2 Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily.
3 For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth.
4 My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread.
5 By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin.
6 I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert.
7 I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top.
8 Mine enemies reproach me all the day; and they that are mad against me are sworn against me.
9 For I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping.
10 Because of thine indignation and thy wrath: for thou hast lifted me up, and cast me down.
11 My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass.
12 But thou, O Lord, shall endure for ever; and thy remembrance unto all generations.
I was just testing if the whole "bacon" myth still works in gathering attention to tweets. We shall see. Whether it does or not, something is sizzling in my mind about how we gain enough attention to communicate whatever message is burning within our hearts.
I actually do not eat bacon anymore or any other meat, but its sizzling sound and sensual smell draw me to the kitchen whenever it is being prepared.
It still influences me.
I don't know exactly why, but it does. Sometimes I eat veggie bacon and I like it because it is crisp and salty and it successfully stimulates my senses.
We are a sensual people with activated right brains that inform the rest of our thinking that we cannot always be logical.
Is there a lesson?
Do I have to speak to something other than a person's intellect if my goal is to get their attention and reason with them?
Something needs to sizzle before it can be successfully introduced. We need some sort of bacon to grab people's attention.
So, here is my slice of bacon for you:
B - Beacon. We have to shine in order to draw attention to what we want to communicate. Excuse me a moment while I take a bite of the sizzling platter they just brought me at Denny's - egg whites, avocado, salsa, zucchini, and other vegetables --- and it is sizzling. Vegetables sizzle. It is a beacon beckoning me. I'll be back in a paragraph. OK - Now I am back - Your beacon is the signal you send out. Choose it carefuly and creatively.
A - Appeal. Once you have someone's attention, what they see must have something appealing to keep that attention. The One who had "no form or comeliness" also created beauty and celebrated beauty everywhere. His power of attraction was a spiritual appeal. There is something creative and artistic in each of us that we can let the world see. In other words, offer something that appeals. If you cannot create it, borrow it (with permission and proper attribution, of course).
C - Content. You have to offer something other than an appealing label. You have to give people something in your communication that adds value to their life or work. You can be a content creator, a content distributor, or a content networker, but you have to offer something of value on your page or blog, in your speech, or in whatever presentation format you are developing. It is not ALL about the package. Eventually, someone will want to actually EAT the bacon.
O - Oats - OK, that is not obvious, and oats may or may not be the breakfast of choice for you, but they actually beat a steady diet of only bacon with all of its appeal. The bacon brings the kids to breakfast, but it is not the main item on the menu. It is not the entree; it is a side dish. Once you have actually engaged people in conversation, which is always two way, then you can introduce some healthy choices for their bodies, lives, and communities. You have earned trust and you have offered value that they can see. Now you can make your point and introduce concepts they have never considered -- like whole oats with almonds, fruit, and maybe even some flax seed!
N - Never misuse your power to draw people, manipulate, and influence. Always be truthful, respectful, and cautious, knowing that you have tools that can draw the masses and speak to their hearts. The more your charisma sizzles, the more careful you need to be to enable people to think for themselves and to empower them to use the tools you offer at their own discretion.
We all want followers whom we can influence, but remember that with influence comes great responsibility.
Let your bacon sizzle in the ears of the sensuous seekers among us and may you enjoy great success in getting your message out.
The scriptures indict me today. You can read them here. Psalm 5 reminds me, as does Psalm 147, of the greatness of God and, at the same time, of my own sinful pride. My haughtiness is brought low in view of His holiness.
I identify with the psalmist this morning, that I can only approach a holy God on the basis and invitation of His mercy.
Amos, 5:6-15 points out the disconnect between my self-righteous confidence in my own piety and the contradictory behavior in matters of justice. God wants us to do the right thing.
We are dust, and to dust we return. That is God's indictment, evidence, and judgment with regard to fallen humanity. We are dusty, frail, withering shells of what we were made and intended to be and if we choose a life that is only that, then that is all we shall be. That is the state of our souls if we suck out the spiritual dimension.
Hebrews 12 is somewhat more encouraging, and yet, it reminds us of the inner struggle we have to resist sin and to run our race with patience. Sometimes, we can expect to suffer.
Then, there is the gospel. Two men went to pray. Which one am I? Am I the religious guy who presents his resume to God and pats himself on the back? Am I the fellow who knows how low he has fallen and cries out only for mercy? One went away condemned and the other justified.
On Ash Wednesday, we humble ourselves before God.
Yesterday was a special birthday. 110 years ago, Theodor Seuss Geisel was born March 2, 1904.
The world is a happier place because he was here.
He had no children of his own. In fact he said we could have them and he would entertain them, which he did.
Along the way, he tapped into feelings and issues with which children struggle. He acknowledged their questions and became a fellow explorer with them. He mastered the art of writing books that could speak to children and adults at any stage of life.
Dr. Seuss took us to many fascinating places, but left it to us to explore the rest.
I have been doing so since I was a child.
"OH, THE PLACES YOU'LL GO!
THERE IS FUN TO BE DONE! THERE ARE
POINTS TO BE SCORED. THERE ARE GAMES TO BE WON."
Theodor Geisel died, September 24, 1991.
The world became a little less for a little while ... but since every generation has rediscoverd the Dr., the Cat in the Hat, and all of Geisel's friends, it has continued to expand ...
... and so have we.
How many places have you been and where are you going?
Maybe you will go somewhere today .... if only in your imagination.
What is keeping you?
"Your mom will not mind at all if you do."
"This is a test of the Emergency Blogging System. The bloggers of your area in voluntary cooperation with Google, Yahooo, Facebook, and other platforms and whoever is evesdropping at the N.S.A. have developed this system to keep you informed in the event of an actual blog post."
And thus, we introduce, for you platform builders and blog posters, the number one secret to increasing traffic to your various locations in cyberspace ... drum role ....
Are you ready?
Here it is:
I have experimented with this in the last few days and it works.
Of course, there are issues of context, social media integration, and key words, but I can confer with you on that one-on-one.
The real secret is to keep the content flowing
"If this had been an actual blog post, you would have been instructed to tune to one or more of my other hangouts online."
One day some cute kids broke up Jesus’ party. He had been doing serious teaching and had been telling all sorts of stories about what it meant to enter the Kingdom of God and follow Him. No one was really “getting it,” but everyone was enjoying themselves and listening hard.
They were straining to understand and reveling in their proximity to such a profound teacher. They were still thinking that the first thing was to be really wise and serious and to be able to pat themselves on the back for their spiritual discernment.
They were having a piety party.
Then some irresponsible parents lost complete control of their kids and they started climbing all over Jesus, distracting Him, giggling, and wanting to play.
The disciples knew what to do. This was serious business. These kids were breaking up the piety party. So they intervened.
Then, Jesus did something unexpected. He rebuked the wrong people. "Don't stop them! Let them come to me!" Jesus demanded, "This is what my Kingdom is all about. They are what constitute the Kingdom of God. If you want to be part of my Kingdom, you must become like them!"
They are what the party is all about. It’s not a piety part or a pity party or even a pretty party. It’s a preschool party!
FIRST – The very first thing you need to know is this: Cute Kids Are the Core of the Kingdom!
Yes, they are cute, but they are also CORE.
Yes, they are kids, but they are also KINGDOM kids.
They are CUTE because they are:
They are CORE because of some qualities that they alone can teach us, which reside in us in some sort of repressed state waiting be released by grace. They are:
This is the stuff of the kingdom, the cute part and the core part. Our calling is to live on tiptoe, to welcome interruptions, and to go with God's flow. If that means that we sometimes feel out of control and off-course, so be it. It comes with the call and it calls forth the kid in all of us.
With deepest apologies to those who have go crazy over context shuffle, "If pigs can fly, then why oh why can't I?"
Pigs can fly the same as you.
You get on an airplane with your pig and you both fly high, fly low, fly anywhere you want to go.
You've got to be careful about syllogisms that they don't get tangled up with your non-sequitur-ist similes.
We've got to be consistent - literal when we are literal, logical when we are logical, and levitating when we are exercising levity - which brings us back to flying pigs and ...
a deep reality:
I am being silly.
It is Saturday - Silly Saturday.
But, really, pigs CAN fly and SO CAN YOU ... So SOAR!
"At twenty a man is full of fight and hope. He wants to reform the world. When he's seventy he still wants to reform the world, but he knows he can't." - Clarence S. Darrow
I guess I'll have to wait a few more (11) years to find out, but I do not believe that is true in all cases.
I know people who have truly awakened for the first time at 70.
Nelson Mandela was nearly 72 when he was released from prison and began to reshape South Africa. Into his 90s he was still reforming the world.
Harlan Sanders did not start Kentucky Fried Children until he was 65 and invested his Social Security check. Sanders allegedly had 1,009 rejections when trying to establish his franchise.
Others remained active well into their golden years.
Big dreamers never stop dreaming and hoping. They do so because they believe they can make a difference.
Darrow may have been right about a couple of things:
However, that is no reason for discouragement because real dreamers have visions that extend beyond themselves and their lifespans.
The scriptures say that David fulfillled God's purposes in his lifetime and then, he died. May it be so. Let us live with purpose and wonder every day of our lives.
Growing old is and can be a wonderful thing.
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith "A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!"
- Robert Browning
Excerpts from recent musings ... Skip if you've been keeping up.
Praying for Realness
Oh God, who sees me, knows me, and loves me while seeing through my pretensions. There is nothing I can tell you about myself that you do not already know. I am laid bare by your penetrating gaze and your Word divides by thoughts and attitudes, sorting them out in ways I cannot even comprehend. You know all about me and still I have the urge to hide and cover myself with the leaves of shame. Crack my facade, dissolve the masks I wear. Give me the grace to be real today, real and vulnerable, and open and compassionate with myself and others. Your love validates my existence and your mercy gives me courage to embrace the ugliness I see in myself, the impurity of my motives, the haughtiness of my words, the impulsiveness of my poor choices.
They are a part of all I have been and am becoming and I am not stuck in them, nor do they define me.
You define me and in freeing me to be me and become more, Your message from Jesus to me and through me that there is a possibility of joyous repentance and kingdom purpose ring true.
You know me and yet you choose me, in love, to be one of yours! I cannot wrap my mind around the grace of it, but I receive it that I may give it.<Deep, mystical, penetrating prayer of heart and scripture from the pen of Mendelssohn. When the solo cries out, the singer alone, there is mournful pathos. As the prayer progresses and the chorus joins in agreement, there is a movement of confidence and even joy. So it is when others meet us before the throne of grace, whether near or far, joined in common prayer. We are lifted and we become a force with which to contend. God enters into the prayers of His people and assures them of His presence and grace.Make me, like Francis, an instrument of your peace today. I am not worthy, but I am available.
Because I follow Jesus, I ask this in His Name. Amen.
Deep, mystical, penetrating prayer of heart and scripture from the pen of Mendelssohn. When the solo cries out, the singer alone, there is mournful pathos. As the prayer progresses and the chorus joins in agreement, there is a movement of confidence and even joy. So it is when others meet us before the throne of grace, whether near or far, joined in common prayer. We are lifted and we become a force with which to contend. God enters into the prayers of His people and assures them of his presence and grace.
Mendelssohn/ Liszt - On Wings Of Song - Mendelssohn composed and brought the depths of his soul to bear upon the essence and Liszt arranged for piano. Gentle and reassuring - Just what I need for the day
Spiritual Disciplines for Highly Distracted Souls - That is my next book ... well, one of the next ones --- if I can concentrate enough to finish it .
Seriously now, some of you know exactly what I mean.
And you are the folks who are my kin in this particular skin.
We struggle to focus, but we must focus to struggle.
We know the deep value of grace in our lives be because we guzzle it like cool water on a scorching day in the sun. It is cooling balm to our blistered flesh. It is food for our souls when we are starving.
God, if my concentration is what is required to seek and find you, I am in trouble. Actually, I am in trouble ... have been ... will be, but I am not hopeless.
My concentration comes through distraction, through poly-focus, and through serendipitous discovery.
I see you in the commonalities of multiplicities.
I hear your voice arising from the cacophony of sounds in a dissonant chorus of groaning cries.
I see your face in the contorted faces of broken people.
I grasp your Word in the recurring themes of unlikely sources that echo your truth and highlight the verses that I read just yesterday or this morning as I struggled to keep my mind from wandering.
I sit as long as I can and listen. I walk as far as I can without veering off the path. I keep coming back to you and you are always there.
It is neither my mood nor my mind that guide me, Oh Lord of clarity, but your ever present hand and upon you, I lean.
I will follow you today. I commit my day to you.
I am easily distracted and often torn. I am likely to bounce from thought to thought and project to project, but I know that you are present in the midst to order my days and my moments ....
And in the precious, fleeting stillness of this moment, I commit all my moments and days ... and this day, in particular, to You.
Buy your food carefully, cook it properly and whenever possible, grow it yourself.
Drink good clean water and herbal teas with local honey.
Eat natural foods, raw or nearly raw vegetable.
Eats lots of fruit.
Get your protein …
It is that simple, but it is also complicated. We love to eat. We also desire to live long and healthy lives, being productive and alert until the day we die. We live in a valley of abundance and contrasting abundant need. There is no food shortage, but because agriculture is also agribusiness, our economy demands that most of the food we eat gets shipped and processed and shipped some more. We have food access, food justice and food quality issues .. Read More at Kings River Life: Forage and Grow
Experiencing God's Love in God's Word
"Let thy mercies come also unto me, O LORD, even thy salvation, according to thy word." Psalm 119:41
We are about to commemorate Valentine's Day, the holiday devoted to the celebration of romantic love. The word used in the psalm for mercies can also be translated, "unfailing love." It is the love of those who are in covenant together. It is the Hebrew equivalent of "agape," love that is unfailing, unconditional, and unbounded. It is the highest and best of love and that to which all human love aspires. It is the grandest romance of all, for God is the suitor wooing His people unto Himself through His precious love letters in the scriptures.
The romance of scripture gripped King David so profoundly that he had to sing about it. He sings the praises of God's salvation through His Word. In the next few verses he describes God's salvation revealed in scriptures.
By embracing the mercies of God found in the scriptures, we are filled with confidence and have an answer for every critic according to verse 42. We can speak His Word freely because our hope is in Him according to verse 43. Finally, because of His Word lovingly imparted to us and embraced in obedience, we can walk about in freedom according to verse 45.
Imagine any human love bringing such benefits to our lives. It would be the stuff of ballads ... and it is.
Such love is something about which we cannot keep silent and we will speak of it before kings according to verse 46. As human love is the topic of so much art, so many novels, and countless musical compositions, so God's love becomes the topic of conversation as David meets with kings. At the bottom line of God's love for us communicated in His Word and our love for God in receiving His Word is delight:
"And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved. My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate in thy statutes." (verses 47-48)
Adonai, above all powers, above all rulers, above all my thoughts and hopes and dreams, LORD of my frailties and Dreamer of my dreams, Giver of life, Author of hope, First Cause, Final Conclusion, Ultimate Concern, Lover of humanity, Creator of all that is, Mighty God, Everlasting Father ... my Abba ...
To Thee, I come and with Thee, I stand. In Thee, I rest. Through Thee, I live.
You are, יהוה , the Great I AM. I hesitate to speak Thy Name lest I speak it for naught and yet ...
You invite me, to call Thee, Abba, Father, Pappa ....
Our Pappa in Heaven, ours, and not just mine, They name is hallowed for Thou art holy with a sanctified Name.
Grant unto to be enveloped in a cloud of reverent awe at the sight and sound of Thy Name.
Hallowed be Thy Name.
In every segmented concern of my life, my family, my concentric circles of sanctified souls and saintly sinners of which I am chief of sinners, Thy Kingdom come! In every gathering where my brothers and sisters find shelter, Thy Kingdom. In every city through which I pass and nation that enters my conscious awareness and those that escape my notice, among all people and powers, Thy Kingdom, Lord. Thy Kingdom of joy and grace, and righteousness.
I turn, repent, and renounce my kingdom and every other kingdom which has enslaved me and to Thy Kingdom, Christ's Kingdom of peace and justice and love I run.
"The kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ and He shall reign forever and ever. Hallelujah!"
Thy Kingdom come where there is injustice and hatred, and bigotry, and violence, lust and debauchery, dehumanization and demoralization, contention and bitterness, exploitation and humiliation, poverty and homelessness, hunger and famine, disease and addiction, loneliness and lostness, oppression and desperate, despairing sin. Thy Kingdom come.
Reign, King Jesus, reign!
Thy will be done ... for Thou knowest best.
We know not how to pray. It is not that we shrink from desiring to know. We do desire to join Thee in knowing prayer, knowing that we shall not know all. We know that we do no know and in that ignorance is the bliss of trusting.
Abba, what we know, we hold loosely in our hands and minds, awaiting instruction and correction. We approach Thee, Thy world, Thy creation, with very large question marks and interrogative wonder. Tomorrow is in Thy hands with every yesterday and today and so, override our own desires with Thy perfect will ...
Because what we know is Who we know and we have come to love and trust Thee and pray that Thy Spirit will pray Thy will through us and that Thy will will be done here and now, apart from us and beyond us, and all around us ....
.... on Earth as it is in Heaven!
Give us today, this day, our daily bread.
Thou knowest our needs, OUR needs, not just mine. Free me from my slavery to selfishness and introverted focus on myself, Dear God. Provide what Thou knowest we need and see us through this day with ...
food and clothing,
healing and health,
love and affection,
mission and service,
and more ...
and sometimes less,
our daily bread!
Forgive us our trespasses, our debts, our sins. Forgive us to the extent that we are able to loosen our grip on those debt for ourselves and for others.
Make us debt free in the realm of sin and free of holding others to the obligation of their trespasses against us. Teach us to loosen our grip for in that grip of bitterness, we hold ourselves as well for the same hand that gives forgiveness, receives it.
Liberate us from the power of darkness and guilt and retributive desire, Abba, by Thy love and mercy and grace.
We forgive our debtors.
We need to be led. We shall follow. We desire to go where Thou leadest, Oh Lord.
Remember, Dear Father, that we are dust and we are susceptible to the vilest thoughts and deeds, and are so easily tempted. Please lead us away from those things that tempt us most ... and least and ...
Lead us not into temptation, yet, should we encounter evil, and we shall, for such is our fallen, broken, hurting world, then ....
Deliver us from evil.
You have in the past; You do daily; You shall in the future.
"Yeah, though I walk through the valley of dark shadows," the shadow of death, "I will fear no evil for Thou art with me."
Remind us that neither darkness nor death can overcome us with evil when Thou art present with us.
Hear us, Oh Adonai, for all that we have and are and ever shall be, is Thine.
Indeed, Thine is the Kingdom.
It is all Thine!
Thine is the power.
Thou canst (You CAN because YOU ARE, oh great I AM!) bring all of this to pass. Thine is the power!
Thine is the glory!
Glory, honor, and praise to Thee, Thou great Jehovah!
Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever and ever and ever.
Amen and Amen and in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, I pray, we pray, amen and amen!
We must become weak to be strong.
Lots can be said about the tragedy of Philip Seymour Hoffman who was sober for decades and died of addiction related events/behavior. He was neither a bad example nor a role model. He was a great talent and he had many valuable insights when he was at his best. He was a human being and a child of God and he died like each of us must die and too soon and of challenges that are common to each of us. We are all subject to the same human frailties as he was.
It doesn't really matter what paradigm you employ (well, it does, but not for this application), a great talent can be lost, a great light extinguished, and a precious life ended by giving an inch. I am reminded in my own life, at each level of progress over the sins, addictions, and negative attitudes that are a part of my past, that I am not too strong to slip. If I give an inch, a mile will be extracted.
The secret of great strength is in knowing our own vulnerability. I hate to have to preach this and know this at Hoffman's expense. His personal pain, disappointments, and tragedy are his own and only God knows his heart..
None of us is such a great role model that we do not need help beyond ourselves. None of us is so far gone that we have no hope. Some of us live high profile lives; some of us go through our days virtually unnoticed, except by God who gives us undivided attention. We must walk through this life with a humble confidence and a fearful faith - not the fear that terrifies, but the kind that holds our choices and destinies in deep reverence and knows that every move we make matters.
We can be "cured" and we can "relapse." We can stand and we can fall. We can be taken down by a microscopic virus or a minuscule choice.
Or we can have great victory and end this life well.
Paul wrestled with this in two places. Romans 7 is very familiar, but also @ Corinthians 12. The Message (Click here for 2 Cor. 12:9-13) gets in our face with the humanity that Paul experienced coupled with and overwhelmed by the power greater than himself, the power of God. He walked and we must walk in constant and continuous dependence upon that which makes us strong ...
... because it is not our own sheer willpower, our fame, our fortune, our success, or even our self-righteousness.
When we are weak, then we are strong.
King James Version (KJV)
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
11 I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.
Sermon Notes from Sunday, Feb. 2: Hebrews 3:7-19 contrasts rebellion and rest. Rebellion flows from and results back in a hard heart. Rest is that place of fulfillment, satisfaction, and trust. Resistance to rest is the struggle we all face. I'll be unpacking some of this and we will be partaking of the Lord's Supper at 4141 Ministries . All are welcome at the table who come to partake of the symbols of grace! I will be continuing some bible studies on prayer at 10 for those who wish to join our small group bible study.
Benediction and Blessing : May it be a day full of grace for you and may you taste the grace of each moment upon your tongue and may your tongue speak grace to all you meet. May God's grace be within you and flow through you. Amazing grace, grace greater than all our sins, sweet grace, transforming grace, amazing grace.
Challenge: "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God." - Micah 6:8 (New International Version (NIV))
Inspiration: We don't always "feel" inspired, but we keep on doing what we did when we knew the experience of inspiration and motivation. We keep on because that which inspired us is still within us. We keep on because in that moment on the mountain we looked around and saw the big picture ... and it was truth. We keep on because the vision and the cause is greater than our own mood and desire. We keep on because we know that in the movement toward the prize, the inspiration will come again and we shall rise. We keep on. Keep on. Listen Now
And a wonderful new bluegrass tune to bring it home to the heart. Listen Here.
Access is not charity. Neighbors just act like neighbors and assume, " if you're here, you're family" - like Olive Garden #FresnoBRT
Exactly what does "Love your neighbor as yourself" mean to you? #FresnoBRT
Tom Sims #FresnoBRT The ultimate social engineering = ROADS.
Building roads through cities always involves social engineering. Also - Interstate System -- Roads=Social Engineering #FresnoBRT
Retweeted Christine Barker (@cmichellebarker): reminder of what #FresnoBRT is about. "We have built this city for cars. We have 2 start building this city 4 people" Click for More!
Retweeted Rebecca Plevin (@rebeccaplevin):
Thanks @FresnoBee for featuring my @KVPR story about air pollution and kids' health on today's editorial page! Click to Read.
"Jesus repudiated the weapons of force and substituted the weapons of good will. " - E Stanley Jones
Jesus repudiated the weapons of force and substituted the weapons of good will. The world must follow him at this point or perish. The Spirit of Christ as the dynamic of this new Kingdom repudiates force and uses the healing forces of love. But that does not mean acquiescence to evil. Evil is resisted from a higher level. Mahatma Gandhi gave the world a glimpse of the possibilities of this weapon . . . He has shown us a technique by which evil may be resisted and how a group or nation may attain its objectives without recourse to the barbarities of war. -From "Christ's Alternative to Communism" by E. Stanley Jones
"Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing is so gentle as real strength." ― Ralph W. Sockman
Tom Sims shared Frederick Buechner's status.
“In the early centuries of the church, leprosy meant isolation, uncleanness, and death.
A church father named Basil had an idea: "What if we build a place to love and care for lepers? They don't have money. They don't even have to pay for it. We'll raise the money."
"One of the most famous sermons in that century was by his brother, Gregory of Nyssa (also a church father), and it was to raise money for this place to take care of leprosy. This is what Gregory said: "Lepers have been made in the image of God. In the same way you and I have, and perhaps preserve that image better than we, let us take care of Christ while there is still time. Let us minister to Christ's needs. Let us give Christ nourishment. Let us clothe Christ. Let us gather Christ in. Let us show Christ honor."
"That was the beginning of what would come to be known as hospitals. The Council of Nyssa (the same council that affirmed the Nicene Creed) decreed that wherever a cathedral existed, there must be a hospice, a place of caring for the sick and poor. That is why even today many hospitals have names such as "Good Samaritan" or "Good Shepherd" or "Saint Anthony." They were the world's first voluntary, charitable institutions.” - Buechner
"Many people have their consciences trained to be sensitive to the very marginal sins and shortcomings, and not be at all acute to central and fundamental sins." - E. Stanley Jones
A little bit of sweet bluegrass for your heart this morning. Do what you can today to take care of your hobos and others. Give some love away and let your heart bleed a little - That's what hearts were designed to do.
"Hobos In The Roundhouse" by Monroe Crossing 25Jan2013 - Listen!
The years go by so much faster than they used to. Days start with great expectations and we accomplish less than we set out to accomplish and sometimes more and usually more than we think and we step back and scratch our heads with wonder. We've come farther than we think and somewhere along the line we've learned to live with the paradoxical, quizzical, quintessential mysteries of coming and going, gaining and losing, moving and standing still. We lose track of time and find ourselves at curious peace with the situation. We live in the flow and know that we cannot set the course of the river. We can resist or we can rest in the grace of the moment, the grace of God. We can breath deeply of the awesome vastness of limitless possibilities and inevitable mortality. We are so tiny and we are so large. We were lost, but we are found. We wandered and now we are at home. We do not know where the time goes, but we have been blessed to be found in this time and to live out our purpose in time as part of a greater dream.
JUDY COLLINS - "Who Knows Where The Time Goes?" LIVE 2002 - Listen!
Perspective, like maturity, cannot be rushed. We see "Both Sides Now" once we've had the time and attention to pay attention and ... when we really see, we know that there is much more to see than we know or can know. And by the way, once you've been in the cloud and see it for what it is, you can still step back and enjoy the illusion and allusion of it because we really don't know the clouds as well as we think we do. Live with wonder. Embrace the mystery. Stand in awe of God today and all that God has made. Life is good and we really don't know it yet, at all!!!
JUDY COLLINS - "Both Sides Now" with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops 1976 - Listen!
The hard and soft sciences are vital to our infrastructure, understanding how things work, and how to sustain our lives. The social sciences inform and instruct us on how to interact and coexist. Philosophy and theology answer or raise questions about our big "WHY" questions and connect us with ultimate truth. However, the arts touch something deep within us that connects to our joy, how we express our reason for living and our total engagement in life.
Much of what we study in academia helps us live, but without the arts, there is a vaccum in the arena of our reason for living.
That is one reason why I enjoy writing about the arts in our local area as I have for this article in today's Kings River Life Magazine:
Are the performing arts alive and well in Fresno?
They are alive and thriving and the next generation is catching the fire and setting the world ablaze with brilliance.
From the age of five and upwards, young people and families can learn to dance in any style from ballet to tap, jazz, ballroom, Irish, or hip hop and more. They can explore the possibilities of visual art, gymnastics, or cheering. They can take vocal and instrumental music lessons, study acting, or combine any of these skill sets in the context of the performing arts at California Arts Academy. Read More
You can stroll through Fresno, veer off to the mountains and cities of Laos, and never leave your chair. As long as local photographer, cinematographer, and author, Joel Pickford is your guide, you can travel far and experience new worlds through his keen eye. What you see through his eye, is a combination of lights and images that evoke awareness, emotion, and a call to notice. Continue Reading ...
When I stroll, I am aware that the things I see along the way are only a small part of the picture of the neighborhoods through which I walk. On the surface, I see the faces of people passing by, the facades of buildings, traffic in the streets and whatever landscape is presented. Everything seems to be working in one way or another. Continue Reading.
It seems so small to say, “Merry Christmas,” and leave it at that. It is merry. Our hearts are at their best when dancing between the realities of brokenness and giddy joy. We are warmed, we are delighted, carols surround us, lights invite us; we are caught up in the season of hope. Continue Reading.
There are several things you notice when you walk through the door of Kuppa Joy on Clovis Avenue in Old Town Clovis. One is that there are people present, working, conversing, and sipping coffees and teas in a welcoming atmosphere that is rustic and contemporary. You notice that there is community gathering in the room creating community. Continue Reading.
More of my articles in Kings River Life Magazine : TOM SIMS SECTIONS
Not everyone reads Facebook. I meet folks there and often, they squeeze thoughts, ideas, and words out of me that I write on the spot. They don't always make it here. So, I picked out a few from the last week and re-posted them.
On Saying Goodbye to Pete
Let's Sing Together Today! What I most loved about Pete Seeger was how this gentle man with a banjo could get any group singing and usually harmonizing. He just won them over.
Even after his voice was gone, with his banjo and presence, he could get people singing.
Tom Paxton said that he looked them in their eyes and connected. All of us who try to communicate in one way or another could learn from that.
I know I did a long thing on him last night, but want to add this bit and more and more and more because I want the singing to continue.
So .... How about this tribute to Pete: Can we find some people to sing with today .... or tomorrow?
What if we could all start by starting to sing together?
I celebrate M.L. King Day every year like, to some extent, I celebrate the liberation struggle of every oppressed people through history and today. At one time or another, we are all the oppressed or we may be the oppressor. Our task is always to align ourselves where God is aligned, with the oppressed. We are called to be the voice of Moses in every generation whether we are among the "privileged" or whether we, like Fannie Lou Hamer are just "sick and tired of being sick and tired." It is never about one man or one voice or one people. It is about all of us and, for me, it is about following Jesus.
The American Dream for All
Langston Hughes said it with compelling insight. The American Dream is a great dream, but the dream is only worth its full weight if it is available to all to pursue and all are encouraged to pursue it.
The dream is bigger than the dreamers or the founders or any who have ever pursued it or expressed it. It is bigger than all of us ... and it is a great dream.
"O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath— America will be! Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death, The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies, We, the people, must redeem The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers. The mountains and the endless plain— All, all the stretch of these great green states— And make America again!" - See more at:http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15609#sthash.zjkimOtg.dpuf
Music in a Rest
“There is no music in a rest, but there is the making of music in it.” ~ John Ruskin
And further, he says ...
“In our whole life-melody the music is broken off here and there by rests, and we foolishly think we have come to the end of the theme. God sends a time of forced leisure, sickness, disappointed plans, frustrated efforts, and makes a sudden pause in the choral hymn of our lives; and we lament that our voices must be silent, and our part missing in the music which ever goes up to the ear of the Creator."
"How does the musician read the rest? See him beat the time with unvarying count and catch up the next note true and steady, as if no breaking place had come between."
"Not without design does God write the music of our lives. Be it ours to learn the tune, and not to be dismayed at the rests. They are not to be slurred over, not to be omitted, not to destroy the melody, not to change the keynote. If we look up, God himself will beat the time for us.” - John Ruskin
How does this apply to your life today?
Where in the score are you? Are there multiple measures of rest or is something at a grand crescendo? Perhaps you do not have the whole score and the conductor is only giving you a page at a time ...
There is the making of music in a rest.
Come to the table
Grace calls gently, firmly, stubbornly.
You are not able,
Flesh weak, willing, needy, humbly.
Look in the stable,
A baby wimpers, helpless child of destiny.
He comes to lead us
Tableward, forward, beyond ourselves.
- Tom Sims
I don't know if you realized it or not, but for you old timers and new timers, CompuServe Forums - the original nation-wide/international, live message boards/social networking sites (not to bypass BBS systems and the packets that moved overnight between them) - are still alive and well. That is right. For 25 years, I have been involved in two of them - one I originally opened with Georgia Griffith : the Religion Forum and The Christian Fellowship Forum.
Since Georgia died a few years ago, I have held the contract for these.
They are moderated communities where people can come together and freely discuss ideas as long as they agree to respect each other and live by the rules.
You are invited. You will have to join AOL to participate, but it is free.
We have a couple of Hot Topics at the moment.
In the Christian Fellowship Forum: Should Duck Dynasty Walk Away?
Would you like to weigh in on the controversy? Remember to respect each other as you disagree.
Reuters & Pew Research say 1/2 of Americans see it as mostly religious holiday. Your opinion?
Yesterday, I spent some time cleaning up and "redesigning" my Blog, "The Dream Factory." I like the new look. It is a bit fresher, cleaner, and more navigable. I noticed that there were quite a few dead widgets and irrelevant feeds. Most are gone now. It will take some monitoring in the next few weeks, but I hope that it will be easier for people to visit.
In fact, my statistics soared overnight.
We are in the last stretch of 2013. It is an a milestone, in one way, but a real geo-cosmic one as well. 365 days ago, one rotation around the sun, we were right here artificial
What needs to be cleaned up, discarded, redesigned, and beautified in our lives? It is worth the time and effort.
Our "statistics" might just soar.
Here is a digest of some of my posts on Facebook on a variety of subjects over the last week:
"...in all their distress. It was no messenger or angel but his presence that saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old." - Isaiah 63:9 (NRSV)
This is the personal involvement of God in the distress of His people.
We continue to celebrate Christmas on the Christian calendar and in life, the message of the incarnation is one of God's personal involvement in the pain and passion of people.
It is our clarion call to be personally involved, with passion in the pain around us ... present.
We must be present for God is present.
We cannot stand back and gaze upon suffering and injustice with nods and sneers and detached prayers. Our prayers must to attached to our lives and the lives of others.
Isaiah will be read in churches across the world this Sunday, the first Sunday after Christmas. We will praise God from Psalm 68. We will be taught from Hebrews 2 that it was fitting for our champion to be made perfect through sufferings to bring many sons to glory. We will see this lived out as the homeless Jesus becomes a refuge in a foreign land, an alien among a strange people.
It is personal involvement. What will you touch in the coming year?
In the early days of this country, if a person needed a home and had none, he or she could just move to the wilderness, hunt, fish, forage, or grow something, build a cabin, and live in peace. Then, we had homesteading and that is where many Americans started owning land. It is in relatively recent years that people who could not "buy into" the economy had absolutely no options except to be invisible or enter a program -- whether they were program material or not. One of my relatives even owned a "poor house" in Virginia where people could go, live, and work with dignity, take their families, and build community. Just wondering ... just wondering if, in this day of strict building codes, high land and housing prices, high unemployment, disparity between living wages and costs of living, and other obstacles to stable housing ... just wondering mind you ... if we could all get a bit creative together, develop a new homesteading plan ... or do something that does not judge people or render them wards of the state in order to help people become stable home owners or renters again. I saw so many good families Sunday who were not drug-dazed or lazy or indigent --- hundreds of them who wear the label "homeless" for one reason and one reason alone: They do not have a home. There are thousands in Fresno. http://youtu.be/RvzkWam1PRE
“Just viewed "It's a Wonderful Life" for the 3 millionth time, and also saw America becoming Pottersville. 1.3 million jobless are two days away from losing their extended unemployment benefits, Congress is readying another cut in food stamps, and 1 in 5 of our children is in poverty -- at the same time the rip-roaring stock market has made the nation's wealthiest some 15 percent richer than they were this time last year. Who's your candidate for Mr. Potter of 2013? (The Koch brothers? Ted Cruz? Paul Ryan?) Your nominee for this year's George Bailey?” - Robert Reich
My response to Robert Reich is not meant to be cynical, but sincere:
"If I could find a George Bailey in the group, I'd support him or his sister, Georgia. No one is entirely Mr. Potter. No one is 100% George (not even George was). Remember that George was reluctant and had no ambition to do what he was called to do --- so we might have to draft someone. I'd actually like to see that."
What if we could find a leader who was truly compassionate, wise, fair, just, conservative about what needs to be conserved, liberal about what needs to be shared, progressive about innovation and progress, regressive about decline, libertarian about personal liberties, utilitarian about necessities, pragmatic and idealistic, optimistic and realistic, firm on non-negotiable things and flexible enough to negotiate wherever possible, friendly and dignified, human but above reproach, honest, but diplomatic, strong yet vulnerable, self abasing yet confident, cheerful yet solemn, appreciative of counterpoints, yet able to make a decision ...
and lots more? ... Well ...
That person might be the Son of God and Son of man and ...
He/She would probably not want the job, but would consider what he/she was already doing to be more important ... and ...
Would not look good on camera ... and ...
Would be torn up by the left media or the right media or the centrist media or all combined ... and ...
Could not be nominated or elected ... and ...
Would appeal to virtually no one ... and would do nothing to change that image ... and
"I knew George Bailey, Senator and you're no George Bailey ..."
Not even George was!
So, given that scenario, let's just do the best we can, find a human being who can do the best he/she can, give him/her as much support as we can, pray for that person as much as we can ... and realize that's the way it has always been with leadership: There has never been a perfect leader of any nation ... and that includes the best of them.
New Research Suggests Our Sun Won't Form a Planetary Nebula
“You have probably heard that the Sun will turn into a red giant in about 5 billion years. And you probably know that this will result in not-so-fun times for any being still on planet Earth. As it transitions from a main sequence star into a red giant, the outer layers of the Sun will expand across the solar system. When this happens, our life-giving star will turn into an object of utter destruction. The Sun will expand beyond Mercury. It will expand beyond Venus. It will sweep across the entirety of the inner solar system in a mere 5 million years. When it finally stops its expansion, the searing tips of the solar surface will rest beyond the bounds of Earth’s orbit. In short: if we aren’t knocked out of the solar system as the Sun expands, or moved into a larger orbit as it loses mass...we will be consumed.”
“But what happens to the Sun after it becomes a red giant? We have a pretty good handle on the fate of our own world...but what about the Sun itself? “
“We once thought it would turn into a planetary nebula, but we might be wrong on that one.”
Read More: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/new-research-suggests-our-sun-wont-form-a-planetary-nebula/ Image Credit: ESO/S. Steinhöfel - from http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com
The ancient prophets spoke of the earth ending in fire, but the scholars and common folk could not deviate from their assumption of permanence. Nothing is permanent. The bible recognizes the transience of existence and the transcendence of eternity. The predictions are similar, but the scriptures imply a shorter time span and offer an explanation of intentionality with a promise of hope beyond the veil.
There is no conflict between religion/philosophy and science, nor do they operate in entirely different spheres. They have complimentary functions and sometimes travel parallel paths ... but they ask different questions that sometimes have the same answer ... at other times asking different questions with different answers ... and rarely, but sometimes, ask questions that have differing answers ... just different interpretations and applications.
Both deal with vast unknowns and deep mysteries. In the realm of faith, there is one Great Known and that is enough ... but within Him are a quintillion universes of unanswered questions for which He holds the answers. Henry Ford said that he did not have to have all the answers ... he just needed to surround himself with the sorts of people who knew them or could find them. That is what faith in God does for us.
Thank God for the inquisitiveness of science that evokes such awe and wonder.
What a great prelude to the worship service.
Wrapped in vulnerability,
Love descended ...
exposed to the elements ...
exposed to threat
and danger ...
invisible divinity and
an open target ...
a viable opportunity
to align or malign and yet
Present with us,
One of us,
Like us ...
in all our infirmity ...
every pain and passion,
poured upon Love!
Welcome, Presence and Power of God,
Emptied and embodied in
We are your body now.
All that you were among us,
We are called to be.
Let us be who you were and let us
give as you gave and let us
speak as you spoke and let us
love as you loved.
You, who are the Prince of Peace have made us ...
Peacemakers and called us ...
And we are ...
Welcome, Lord Jesus.
Welcome to our hearts and lives and
Joy to the World!
The Lord has come.
Let earth receive her King!
The babyhood of God -- a reflection by Oswald Chambers. BTW - A major goal of my life would be to be like him and others I admire and still be encouraging deep thought and extraordinary living long after I am gone. I think when I have that possibility in place and operating, then I will be ready for my call home. At the moment, I still have quite a bit of work to do as His life is incarnated in mine and I seek to reflect Him in all I say, do, and write. It is a journey and I have only yet begun. Yet, I am encouraged in the knowledge that He started small and He is with me!
"The tremendous revelation of Christianity is not the Fatherhood of God, but the Babyhood of God—God became the weakest thing in His own creation, and in flesh and blood He levered it back to where it was intended to be. No one helped Him; it was done absolutely by God manifest in human flesh. God has undertaken not only to repair the damage, but in Jesus Christ the human race is put in a better condition than when it was originally designed." --Oswald Chambers, in The Shadow of an Agony from the Quotable Oswald Chambers.
A wonderful reminder of what it means to align with the child in the manger on Christmas morning. To follow this man, Jesus, means to adopt His program, to enter His kingdom as a child by turning from everything else (repentance). When we make that turn, grace and mercy cover every failed attempt we have ever made to make life meaningful or bearable. Every sin is obliterated because He carried this entire program to the final degree of obedience unto death. Following His is freedom to bring this same good news of release, sight, liberty, and Jubilee to all for, as the Spirit was upon Him, He is with us and within us to accomplish these purposes. Our hearts and our lives are in lockstep with His heart and life for the poor, the captive, the blind, and the bruised. We can change things. We can make a difference. It is not all on any of us, but it is upon us all as one people with Him. We will have multiple failures, disappointments, and quite a few successes .... but the walk behind Him is a walk of grace and joy and peace. Welcome, Jesus! We shall follow you!
“When we analyze the program of Jesus, set forth in Luke 4, we find:
1. Good news to the poor -- the economically disinherited.
2. Release to the captives -- the socially and politically disinherited.
3. The opening of the eyes of the blind -- the physically disinherited.
4. The setting at liberty the bruised -- the morally and spiritually disinherited.
5. The Lord's Year of Jubilee -- a new beginning on a world scale.
6. The Spirit of the Lord upon me -- the dynamic behind it all. “
From "Christ's Alternative to Communism" by E. Stanley Jones
As I reflect upon the friends who have lifted me in life, some lean right; some lean left ... and some lean so far in one direction or another that it is amazing that they could share the same circle of friendship and love, but they do. I am glad they do. In my circle are all sorts of folks. I sure do love you all and value your perspective. Your range of thought keeps me coming back to my center. Thank you for what you all mean in my life.
I will shake anyone's hand who extends it and will extend mine to those who do not. I will speak to anyone who will speak with me and listen to anyone who will ask for my ear. That is was Jesus does and did do and calls me to do. It endorses nothing except their humanity and mine and I hope the whole world will start shaking hands with one another. In the name of the One who ate with publicans and sinners and took a lot of heat for it, Amen.
Today, I saw it was the birthdays of some preachers, as it often is. In this case, one was a man who mentored me for a while from a slight distance. The other was someone I had a small role in mentoring for a time. Somehow the continuity of it just struck me as wonderful. We are always being mentored and we are always mentoring.
It seems so small to say, “Merry Christmas,” and leave it at that. It is merry. Our hearts are at their best when dancing between the realities of brokenness and giddy joy. We are warmed, we are delighted, carols surround us, lights invite us; we are caught up in the season of hope.
We are merry as we ought to be.
Merriness is necessary to our emotional health and we must sing.
Yet, we must remember before there was a Christmas at all, the world was dark. Read the rest of the article at Kings River Life to see how light makes a difference.
To all of you ....
Whatever you believe ...
From whatever direction you come ...
Right or left ...
North or south ...
East or west ...
Whoever you are ...
Good News has come!
May your day be bright ...
And merry ...
May your life be filled with all good things ...
Your table spread with bounty ...
Your home filled with love.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas!
oringally posted on December 21, 2006
The Gift Cluttered Parlor
by Tom Sims
The world is dark
As a gift cluttered parlor
on Christmas morning
Before the children awaken
from their restless sleep.
Grace steps in softly on tip-toe.
We know its heart and soul
A goal, a light, an arrow in the sky
Why the urge to flee, resist
Insist on proof, bold, aloof and cold?
The old, the young, unsung and poor
A door to truth, a way to find.
Kind words are not enough
The stuff of delusion,
Confusion, and appearance,
A clearance sale, a give-away
Grey to bright, sight to insight
Flight above the clouds and stars,
Jars of life, boxes of love, packages of joy.
The piracy of our privacy
Invades the darkness and
redirects our thoughts
To a manger gift
And lifts our lives
Yesterday was a true day of rest. God imposed it upon me. That happens and I roll with it. My agenda did not work. Today is a new day. I've been up since a little before 3 and I've had three cups of tea. Why do I mention that? I do so to say that there is a flow with which we must go and it is better than the one we planned sometimes, even if it is not comfortable or pleasant. Some folks learn to swim, but not float. Sometimes, we just need to float.
I was shocked to see how lomng it had been since my last blog entry. i post daily to Facebook. All Facebook posts go to Twitter. All blog posts go to Faceboook, but these do not reciprocate to the Dream Factory. I need to work on something to make this work better.
In the meantime, here are a few and anyone can follow me any time on my Facebook page: TOM SIMS
We all profile people. We do it as a knee jerk reaction. We do it quickly and we do it for reasons we do not always know. We size people up and put them in boxes of our minds. We categorize them and assign them motives and characteristics based upon what we see filtered through the stories we have heard and the stories we have lived.
Occasionally, we are somewhat correct. The problem is, we are often wrong. We cannot quickly change our knee jerk reactions, but we can train ourselves not to so readily believe and act upon them. We can remember how often we have been wrong. We can think before we act. We can listen before we speak. We can deescalate rather than "standing our ground." We can learn new stories and discover new and more interesting profiles.
I have profiled people and I have been profiled.
But I am learning ... have been ... will continue to be learning.
There is no escaping that we are, in part, products of our environments and the shared assumptions of those who surround us. We are always at the mercy of limited knowledge IF ... IF ... IF we allow ourselves to be.
We are also capable of stepping back, reaching out, learning, growing, and loving.
I am so sad about the times I have blurted out my pontifical pronouncements based upon prejudicial assumptions. Mine are different than yours, perhaps, but they are still very, very dark. I am grateful that, in those times, I did not have a weapon on me other than the soul piercing sword of ill conceived words. I am grateful for the restraining Hand upon my shoulder of One who does actually know me very well (and love me very, very well) to say "STOP! You are getting this all wrong."
What wonderful lessons of life I have learned from folks I might easily dismissed as having nothing to say.
And what a blessing it is in life that we can keep rewriting our own profile --- like on Facebook.
God bless you all. I am operating on the assumption that we are all here for a reason, uniquely and wonderfully made, passionately loved by God, and immeasurably valuable to each other. Thanks for being my friends.
Quote from "What's So Amazing About Grace"
On Prejudice and Fear
We often think of prejudice as merely manifest in angry avarice and dislike of people from other cultures, races, or ideologies. That is certainly one such manifestation, but it is not the most prevalent. If it were, many of us could dismiss ourselves from the indictment with the words, "I hate no one" and be perfectly sincere, honest, and innocent.
However, there is a glitch in that thinking. The most common manifestation of prejudice against people is not hatred; it is fear. Fear is a powerful force and can express itself in fight or flight. Fear based upon generalized, false, or stereotyped assumptions is dangerous, ignorant, and hurtful, but it is also curable.
It can be cured by exposure, conversation, knowledge, and experience.
That is why Mark Twain said, ""Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. "
The cure: Get out among some people who do not look, talk, think, or believe like you this weekend and spend more time asking questions and listening than giving answers and making assumptions. Then, report back what you have learned in a few days.
A Bright Idea
Public people make big public blunders and big public bad choices and sometimes, their sins look very ugly amplified in the multiple media.
Sometimes they really are ugly, almost as ugly as mine. Our instinct is to hide pour ugliness. We do not want it seen, known, scrutinized, criticized, ostracized, or categorized. We don't want to be boxed in.
We want to create the image that everyone sees in us and that becomes the source of our identity, strength, confidence, and purpose --- sometimes, even our income.
When a public person tumbles, fumbles, or humbles himself or herself, I hope for the best, for them, for all. I tend to look for that. I tend to withhold judgment and stand with those who declare their innocence.
When public people fall, they fall hard. The inclination is to scrutinize, criticize, ostracize, and categorize. Why?
For one thing, it is safe to do it from afar. We don't know them. They don't know us. We are far more forgiving with those we know.
Second, and this is the best part, we want to learn from their failures and not make the same errors. We want our children to learn, "Don't do that." We want our neighbors to learn. A bad example is still useful.
Mostly, it just brings out some sense of indignation, superiority, or curiosity in us and we are tantalized by the whole thing and react.
I can understand all of that, but I am a pastor and I cannot maintain that stance for long. I've known some public people and they are people. I've known some not-so-public people and they are people too. I just assume that at any moment, I could be called upon to pastor that person and, if I were called upon, I'd want to meet them ... really meet them as person to person.
It starts with meeting and meeting is a place of empathy, caring, and intercession.
So, I tend to be reminded ... after an occasional foray into delusional moral superiority.... that I am an intercessor and can pastor people from afar. Any of us can. So, I pray. I may not pray well, long, or with intensity, but I pray in my way and it brings me into a curious contact with that person and I start to really care about his or her well being.
I am a conservationist and I do not think anyone belongs permanently on the scrap heap. Everything can be used in some way. Everyone has a purpose. Everyone is redeemable and I do not want to be the guy that got in the way of that because I had something clever, perhaps true, but totally unnecessary and vitriolic to say about that particular child of God.
We do need to be occasionally prophetic, perhaps often prophetic, but we do not need to be jerks. Some old preacher said, "Brothers, tell the truth, but don't be mean for Jesus."
Sure, these folks a big targets and have big potential to lead many astray before disappointing them. That is all the more reason to intercede for and with them.
Everybody is somebody's child ... even the meanest man on earth. And everyone is God's child.
Let us find it in our hearts to lift up all the people we meet, and those we don't, from afar, in prayer.
Darkness and Light
Isaiah 9:2-7 King James Version (KJV)
"(2)The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. (3) Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. (4) For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. (5) For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire. (6) For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (7) Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this."
Isaiah conveys a word He has received for the people around
him who are crushed, broken, despairing of life, depressed, rejected, and
oppressed and out of ideas for how to fix things. In a leadership vacuum, they
have no voice to call them or unify them. They have known success and seen
success depart,. They have had victories without deep satisfaction. They have
experienced defeat and they have known slavery. Like many today, the people
walked in darkness. Like many today, there is a crying need for light. We hang
lights on our trees, but we are called to carry the light on our persons.
Light has come to the world in the person of Emmanuel, God with us, Jesus the Christ. He has saved us and filled us with His own Spirit so that we might carry His light in the world where there is a deep and absent void.
I. The ABSENT VOID - There is darkness and it cannot be disputed or denied. Nor need we attack it at its roots because its roots are in the absence of light. It is the absence into which light pierces the walls of the void and the result is rejoicing.
What is life like in the Absent Void? The passage tells us it is a dark walk, a death walk, and it is a deafening walk of war.
A. It is a dark walk by definition. It is dark to the mystery to dark to morality. When we are in darkness we are blinded to reality. In fact, just a few minutes ago, in my house, I ran into a wall I did not see and bumped my head. I do not make the best decisions in the dark.
B. It is a death walk. In the shadows of death there is little hope. People walking in darkness experience a despair that is deathly and death is the common denominator of humanity. If there is no intervention of life, death is our permanent outcome and we experience some of it in the shadows here and now.
C. It is a deafening walk. The KJV translation of v. 5 refers to confused noise in battle. There is so much noise that the ears are deafened to any clear direction. Have you not been deafened by the cacophonies of dissonant battle cries around you so that nothing makes sense at all?
Another way of looking at the void is to create an acronym of it.
It is a V- Vicious darkness.
It is an O- Oppressive darkness. It
is an I - Insidious darkness. It is
a D - Deep darkness, but it can be
To follow Jesus truly, we must be willing to be present in the absence.
In the Absent Void of darkness comes the ACTIVE VOICE of light.
II. The ACTIVE VOICE - Light simply and powerfully penetrates darkness and that is that! He comes as a child. He comes to be seen. He comes to break the yoke of oppression. He comes to rule with justice and truth. He speaks through light and that light, according to John 1, is the Light of men. Let's look and word, voice.
A. First, it is V - VICARIOUS by nature. The word is from Latin, vicārius and it means "substituting." The government, which is a heavy weight, lands on His shoulders. He takes on our pain, suffering, and bonds to break them. He enters in to our life with us. Are we willing, as His representatives, to enter into the dark places and bear the suffering of the world to speak and to be?
B. Second, it is O - It is OBVIOUS - it is no secret coming when He enters a space. There is an obvious contrast between light and darkness and people notice. If we are the light of the world in Him, how obvious is our presence? Do we bring light to darkness just by being their? Does the voice of our lives speak as He did?
I - Third, it is I -It in INVASIVE. Light invades the darkness and He speaks to powers and systems, dismantles the weapon of destruction, liberates the captives, and sets up His rule, not as a mighty warrior, though He is capable, but as a child. Are we willing to be the childlike representatives of His Kingdom to light and speak with a gentle, yet powerful voice the confusion of the battles in our midst?
C - Fourth, it is C - a COMFORTING voice. He is the counselor, comforter, one who walks beside us as Prince of Peace. People do not necessarily understand this peace because it comes as incarnation. The message of the gospel is that those who are redeemed have this Comforter to come and live inside us, transforming the darkness of our interior lives into habitations of peace, joy, light, love, and the Christ Himself who can live in us, with us, and through us. What sort of comforting presence brings peace to the turmoil around us, through us as Jesus lives out His life and speaks His voice through us?
D - Fifth, it is an E - ETERNAL voice. There is no end to His Kingdom. The kingdom of darkness will cease, but the Kingdom of God is forever, embodied in a Child - a child in a manger in Bethlehem. His first whimper was a welcome sound for in His humanity, we discover divinity. He is our connection to eternity. Everything about this baby's life is God speaking to us, calling us, inviting us, living among us, tasting death for us, rising to raise us, and living forever within us. To come to Him like the shepherd and wise men, to welcome Him like Mary and Joseph, to worship Him, and to receive Him and follow Him is life itself and life eternal. It is also the beginning of our mission in the world to carry His presence into the darkness.
When we hear a word of admonition, we either desire to act or we bury the thought. But if we desire to act, to change, or to create change, we come up against an insurmountable wall of hopelessness and despair. What can i do about the world when I cannot even change myself?
This is my sermon for Sunday, December 16, 2012, just the rough notes and subject to change and reflection ... probably full of mistakes. It is in process. It is based upon the lectionary scriptures for the morning.
What should we do then?” (Luke 3:10)
This is the question prompted by the “advent” preaching of John at he announced the coming of the Messiah. People were hungry and expectant. Paul was addressing the believers in Philippi with some “final” words. They too were living in expectation and in a world of turmoil,
Philippians 4:4-7:"4 Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. 5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
Luke 3:7-18: 7 Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 9 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 10 And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? 11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. 12 Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? 13 And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. 14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages. 15 And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not;
16 John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: 17 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable. 18 And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people.” -
“Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the LORD With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” - Isaiah 12:2-6 (NIV)
- Rejoice with GENEROSITY (Notice he says it twice). We may have to work at it. He gives it generously. Let us receive it in abundance.
- Rejoice with GENTLENESS. Let’s become known as gentle people. It is so tempting to be harsh and judgmental. But the world is fragile sometimes and people need a soft touch. Even in our rejoicing, let us not be loud, obnoxious, intrusive, and insensitive.
- ANXIETY and cares. In every situation, we release everything in prayer and petition, presenting it all to God.
- ANY sense of entitlement. Thanksgiving acknowledges that what we have is a gift and gifts do not come to us because we deserve them.
- It TRANSCENDS understanding. We can be at peace when it makes no sense to be at peace to ourselves or to others. Our circumstances add up to trouble. Our lives multiply into shalom.
- It TRANSFORMS us by guarding our hearts and minds. We don’t need to have our peace protected by anything else than the very shalom of God itself. It stands century over our souls so that we can sing, “It is well with my soul.” As we read in our lessons this morning,
“Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the LORD. - Zephaniah 3:14-20 (NIV)
As the people waited expectantly, John said that all he had was water. What they needed was Spirit and that is what the Messiah would bring. John and Paul gave us a list of “should”s. Think of all the things in the world we should do if we could do them. But we fail. John says, “You need the Spirit. You need the Christ.”
- He comes to BAPTIZE – but not with water or anything material. With Spirit we shall be baptized- cleansed and buried with hope of new life. Paul says that we are buried with Christ in baptism unto death so that we can be raised with Him to walk in newness of life. In that washing/burial, sins are forgiven, hearts are cleansed, and we are made holy before God.
- He comes to BURN -With Fire we shall be baptized – and all the junk will be consumed. We shall be set free from the dross in our lives. It is a purifying flame and sometimes is a painful, but it is a necessary process to get rid of all in our lives that is not fit for Kingdom living. John and Paul both list some of the dross in our lives that needs to go.
It is a world of worry, a world of anxiety, a world of despair into which the Advent candle shines with waiting expectancy and hope that there is One who can bring the Spirit and baptize us in the Spirit and fire. There is much we should do, would do, and could do and much we cannot seem to be able to find the strength, will, and wisdom to do and these things ought to be done. The gospel is and always will be “good news” and that is what both John and Paul preached. That is what Jesus brought by His own presence, good news, the good news that repentance is possible in the Spirit. It is the good news that liberates us to rejoice in the midst of turmoil, release the things that bind us, and receive the peace that passes all understanding.
Again, when we hear a word of admonition, we either desire to act or we bury the thought. But if we desire to act, to change, or to create change, we come up against an insurmountable wall of hopelessness and despair. What can i do about the world when I cannot even change myself?
The Presence of Jesus answers that question once and for all. His baptism enables the change for which we long. Come to Jesus and find that hope, light the candle, and live in the Light.