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Showing posts from April, 2006

Marriage obbligato

Obbligato is a musical term that means an indispensable part of a piece. The piccolo solo in Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever is labeled obbligato.
It's never to be cut. Obbligato comes from an Italian word that means to obligate. Marriage is an obligation. That means it is a requirement that must be fulfilled. The Italian root word obbligare means to compel or bind (duty bound). An obligation is an act of binding oneself.

Coming home

He got right up and went home to his father.
When he was still a long way off, his father saw him.
His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him.
Luke 15:20

It was twenty years ago now, when I began coming home as a prodigal son. I was raised in the church and had a personal relationship with God in my childhood. After I turned thirteen sometime, I had an experience where God asked me to let Him be Lord of my life. This was 1973 or 1974 and in our Evangelical church, especially as a child, I never heard about salvation versus Lordship. But in that experience, as a thirteen year old, I knew what God meant because I had a vision of Him taking the steering wheel of my life. Unfortunately, I did not say yes and God heard me. From that day, I lost my intimate walk with the Lord and began my rebellion.

By late 1985 and early 1986, God was wooing me. I was trying to read the Bible but couldn't understand it really and I tried to pray and could really only continue to ask f…


If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him. Matthew 7:11
"I'm telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you're not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Matthew 18:3
See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for he allows us to be called his children, and we really are! 1 John 3:1a
This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" Romans 8:15

For many years, I had a morning devotional time with God. I read, journaled, prayed, listened, or sat in silence sipping coffee. Six months ago, I became a father to my own son. I have been realizing that holding my son and playing with him in the early morning is not getting in the way of my time with God, but is my time wi…

When you gather for worship

So here's what I want you to do. When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all: Sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight. If prayers are offered in tongues, two or three's the limit, and then only if someone is present who can interpret what you're saying.
1 Corinthians 14:26-7

Participative church, not a one or two person show. I know that this passage is descriptive as are passages that show the Apostles preaching or teaching. But, because of the Corinthian letters, we have a glimpse of what early church life could be like, perhaps should be like, and shouldn't be like in their naughtiness.

Also the early church was in a cultural context, perhaps much more community oriented than ours. The question is, does communal church facilitate growth in Christ or is the Greek/Western classroom, lecture style church more facilitative? I think that there's no question that communal styl…

Speak up

In Germany, they came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.
--Martin Niemoller
"Speak up for the people who have no voice,
for the rights of all the down-and-outers.
Speak out for justice!
Stand up for the poor and destitute!"
--Proverbs 31:8-9

Crossing over

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus reached…

Dead man walking

Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer.
2 Timothy 2:3-4

When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up hiscross, and follow Me.
Mark 8:34

I was thinking of what it must be like to be a soldier. Risking your life. I was thinking about how they handle getting close to death, yet doing their jobs. I was thinking about the families that lose a loved one involved in military action. Does the soldier count the cost, know the risks and go ahead anyways?

How is being a Christian like being a soldier? If you are denying yourself and enduring hardship, following your master and pleasing your commanding officer; how does that affect how you live, how you react to life?


Milestones in your life are those significant events that mark the path of your life.

They are flags or signs that identify who you are. Families, churches, organizations, communities, tribes, and nations also have milestones. They mark, signal, or identify. They tell you about your heritage.

The final milestone is death. We visit gravesites and usually there is a marker there and we see the ending place of a life and look backwards. A memorial of stones was made after the Israelites crossed the Jordan into the land of promise:

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, "Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cu…

What's your passion?

I went to a job interview about ten years ago and I got this question. I had carefully filled out the application and carefully considered the situation. I believe I had more self-awareness than many thirty-four year olds, but this was still a tough question for me. I had not read Interviewing For Dummies. I'm still wondering about this question and my answer to it. I'm not sure if that question was in vogue ten years ago or what. I think that there are two ways to discern your passion. One is to ask, "what do you care about?" What gets you going or excites you? The second, is to look back at your life. What have you invested your time in? Yes, I got the position, that was a job I had dreamed of having years earlier. It turned out though that from the new vantage point or vista, I could see much farther and my dream got much bigger. From then till now, my passion has been realigned and reformed though. Here is a quick "what's your passion?" exercise…

Outside the Box

A few years ago, I started hearing it said we need to "think outside the box" in order to evangelize this generation. I barely grasped what was meant by this, but it sounded good. I'm finally beginning to get it on what this means. To do something "outside the box" means to be unconventional or to innovate.

I love being an outside the box person. I love unconventional people. I love innovations. But I also am constantly pulled back by the "boxes" of thinking and doing, so I am far from being completely unconventional or innovative. I am open to these things and people that are outside the box and want to be more open.

Jesus is the prototypical outside the box person- unconventional and innovative. But he always respected core values for living. Unconventionality and innovativeness are never equatable with immorality or badness. But conventional, box bound people (and I'm not judging them as bad either) can easily react negatively or in fear at the…

Did you know it all belongs to Jesus?

I am listening to a four part sermon series by Brian Bloye on the book of Ruth and some things he said connected the dots for me about evangelism today. That is that Jesus paid for everyone's redemption. God knows who is going to say no thanks and that is for God to be concerned with, not us. From our vantage point, everyone can be saved. The price was paid for everyone to get in. Since some might say no, it's like God overpaid, which is the way God does things- he over does things. God isn't merely enough, but too much; as an evangelist from Louisiana puts it. So I think that when we pray for those who don't know Jesus to be redeemed by Him, we can have the boldness to call for them, as having already been paid for. We are asking for something that has already been bought.


I listened to Les and Leslie Parrott on the radio yesterday, talking about conflict in marriage. They spoke of research that concluded that if couples had four styles of conflict, that there was a 94% chance that their marriages were doomed. These four styles are:
criticism, contempt, stone walling, and defensiveness.The one point I took away was of how to turn critcism around to a self-expression of personal pain. They said (I am paraphrasing here) that complaining is a better way than to criticize. I don't mean complaining about your spouse because that would be criticism. I mean just complaining, preferably owning the feelings with "I statements". "Woe is me" ALWAYS sounds ten times better (even a hundred times) than, "you are bad". A complainer is at worst a pest and a neurotic, while a critic is hurtful and even abusive and destructive. They used the example of saying, "I feel so frustrated when we're always late" (complaint), versus…

In praise of my wife

I could have never found you without God’s help.
I fully trust your judgment in all things.
You make me feel rich.
You have greatly enhanced my life.
You have a knack for finding the things we need.
You keep us healthy with your choices in food.
You tirelessly make homemade baby food for our child and continually do the laundry.
You have bought property on your own and brought us income from it.
You are industrious, always making our life better.
You are always scanning for bargains, saving us a lot of money that is better spent.
You know how to crop pictures with your hands, making beautiful scrapbooks.
You are the most generous person I have ever met and especially generous to the poor.
You make sure our baby is nice and warm on cold nights and when he is outside in the cold.
You dress often in blue matching your husband.
You put together nice scrapbooks and give them as gifts.
You have a strong backbone and poise.
You are joyful and almost fearless.
You speak wisdom to others and are always kin…

He is risen

I'm thinking about the stories of when the various people ran into Jesus after he had risen from the dead. They were each surprised and didn't recognize him at first. Thomas was incredulous and Jesus was gracious to him. The guys on the road to emmaus didn't recognize him until they sat down for a meal. I wonder how that coincides with the sayings about how you really can not know someone until you share a meal. In many cultures they believe you must share a meal to accomplish something together. The other thing that sticks with me about the time after Jesus rose was that it says that He appeared to about 500 people in all, but only 120 made it to the upper room prayer meeting to wait for the Holy Spirit to come. It also says that after his post resurrection appearance that many still did not believe. I also love the story of peters recall or recomissioning.

Self pity

I was going through a box of notes and I found these on self-pity. I'm sure these thoughts are not original to me, so I don't take credit for them.Self-pity is the result of unhealed wounds and ungrieved losses. It keeps us stuck in the unresolved past so that we cannot see God's glory now nor have a positive future vision.Manifestations of the unbroken cycle of self-pity can be, but are not limited to:
Accusing God Fatherlessness Feeling abandoned Feeling lost Self-defensiveness Rebellion to authority Unteachable "No one really understands me" No hope of healing or restoration Religiosity replaces genuine spirituality Martyr complex becoming a slave to comfortWhat's the solution?
The fellowship of His sufferings His resurrection power in our lives God's love Processing each negative thought through God's love Seeing life through God's love Experiencing liberty

Remember me

I love the account of the man on the cross next to Jesus who believed. The gospel really is that simple. Just believe. It's not a consideration or a thought, but real faith. This man had faith in Jesus and made an expression of it. Just faith exercised. It's all grace. Salvation is all God's doing. He knew his sin, he knew his need of forgiveness, and he asked. That's it. Done deal.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
Luke 23:39-42


Have you ever been betrayed? Notice what Jesus called Judas when he was about to betray him. Friend. The gospel writers call him "traitor", but Jesus calls him "friend". It's like Jesus is not needing validation from this guy who is betraying him. He realizes that his life is in the Father's hands and that's where he gets his validation. He's not invalidated or offended by Judas.

Do you think that Jesus always knew Judas would betray him? Do you think that he thought one of the twelve would eventually betray him? Do you think Jesus knew that Judas was embezzling from him before the final week? How do you think that Satan gained access into Judas? After his betrayal, do you think that Judas could have repented? Do you think Judas did repent? Do you think he is in heaven?

Have you ever betrayed Jesus? Did you hear him call you friend in spite of it? Can he forgive you? Can you forgive yourself?

In the garden

Jesus is praying to God, in the garden of gethsemane. He knows what awaits him. This is one of the most moving scenes in the Bible and in history. Jesus, completely sinless, full of grace and compassion: love incarnated, God; is in agony.

Some people misunderstand the incarnation and believe that Jesus was God, just in a man's body. But that's not the truth. He was fully human, yet without sin; and fully God, setting aside his powers as God.

Jesus on the night before his crucifixion was in agony. Unlike us, he had no emotional blockages. He was in full awareness of his feelings. He was in severe emotional pain. This is the part of the gospel that really touches me. Jesus does know what emotional pain feels like, completely. I can never see him as removed from my experience of pain. He knows. He has been there. Not figuratively, but actually. It's always a lie that splits us off from God, to believe He does not understand or is removed from our pain.

They went to a place cal…

Generous Tipping

By Steve Sjogren:

Nonbelievers' Perceptions of Christians

We pride ourselves on getting good deals, but when it comes to compensating people for their hardearned, one-to-one personalized labor – that is not the time to get a good deal. This is the time to be generous! Most people who work as waiters and waitresses are barely making it financially. Many are students or single parents. I worked as a waiter for several years at a number of restaurants while I was newly married and in college. I earned a lot of money as a waiter, but very little from Christians that I served. It’s sad to say, but I learned that the best tippers are those who drink alcohol. I also learned that by far the worst tippers – and the most frequent complainers, those with the worst attitudes, those who sent their food back to the kitchen – were often Christians. How did I know? Sometimes they brought their Bibles with them. Often, they would pray before they ate. But the dead giveaway was their stinginess. “The…

Passing over

Today is Passover. I'm thinking about what it means, what is symbolizes. There was the passing over of the angel on the first passover that we commemorate today, but the Hebrews passed over as well. They passed over the yokes of bondage. They passed over dry land when they crossed the red sea. Later, they passed over the Jordan river into the promised land.
Through Christ, we pass over from death to life, in this life and in the afterlife.
Through Christ, we pass over the chains of sin and pass over into freedom.Passover might also mean transition, to transit into a new season. I believe we're always in transition, on a journey, sojourners who pretty much live in tents. But during this passover time that also points to the Lord Jesus Crucifixion, death, and Resurrection; I think that we can also take notice of the transitionsthat are occurring in our lives.
We see a great majority of the people we know in transition right now. We're in transition again too. Our ministry assig…


Passover begins tonight at sundown.
Passover is about redemption and deliverance.
Passover is about favor or "pay backs". The Hebrews plundered those who had enslaved them when they were set free (Exodus 3:21-22). In God's economy there is restitution and retroactive payments.

extravagant giving

Holy Week WednesdayWhile he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, "Why this waste of
perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year's wages and the money given to the poor." And they rebuked her harshly. "Leave her alone," said Jesus. "Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the
gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her."
Mark 14:3-9
What may be judged by others observing you as wasting your life, le…

Wise or Foolish

On Tuesday of Holy Week, scholars believe that Jesus gave ten parables. The ninth one is of the ten virgins and reads:"At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. "At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' "Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.' " 'No,' they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.' "But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgi…

The cursing of the fig tree

Holy week, Monday.The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was
hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he
went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached
it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not
the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, "May no
one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples
heard him say it.
Mark 11:12-14
Righteous Indignation
These are the two words that explain Jesus cursing the fig tree. Jesus did things that spoke. He often taught by what he did. Jesus wasn't just grouchy when he did this, but did it for a reason and it's recorded to show something. The context helps to interpret this story. Next to this account are the accounts of Jesus cleansing the Temple. The Holy One came to the Temple and made a negative judgment on what was happening there.
Two things are going on with the fig tree. Jesus approaches it with hunger, looking for fruit to eat and finds leaves without fru…

Palm Sunday

The texts:
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Zechariah 9:9

Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and
selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches
of those selling doves. "It is written," he said to them, " 'My house will be
called a house of prayer,' but you are making it a 'den of robbers.'"
The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But
when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things
he did and the children shouting in the temple area, "Hosanna to the Son
of David," they were indignant."Do you hear what these children are saying?"
they asked him. "Yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read, " 'From the lips
of children and infants you have ordained pr…


The word grudge jumps out at me in the text below:
Mark 11.25, "But when you are praying, first forgive
anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your
Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too. "Prayer is a great thing. I've wanted to learn more
about prayer: the why, how, when, what, who of prayer.
One thing I believe and feel sure of and that is that
prayer is a good thing. The second thing I believe is
that prayer actually shapes us toward God (not the
opposite). Although, thirdly, I believe that God
wants to and waits to partner with humans through
prayer to do things. That's mysteriousSo, whatever the posture of prayer, whatever the kind
of prayer.... what if you find yourself beginning to
pray and you remember Jesus said first, before you do
all the praying, you have got to look inside yourself
and deal with grudges through forgiving. Anger,
resentments, umbrage; they've got to be dealt with!
These things are toxic.

Who do you think you are?

This is an important question.
I'm used to hearing this negatively,
as in "what gives you the right"
or "where do you get off..."
Sure, those accusational
messages will always come.
They were even said to Jesus,
so you're in good company:
"By what authority do you do these things?", they asked him.
Maybe it was a sincere question.When I think of this question I think of authority and
identity. Who am I, who are you; and what do you or I
do about it or with it? What if you see yourself as
weak, like a nobody or a slave; and then you try to do
something, it doesn't matter what- and it doesn't
work, because of how you see yourself. Or, what if
you say you see yourself as a powerful person, like a
princess or a general; but you never do anything with
it? I think that authority and identity go together.
If you have the identity, really have it and it's not
just a name card or a costume, then you'll have the
authority that goes with it.But it starts wit…

My favorite book, my favorite page

Oswald Chamber's, My Utmost for His Highest,
came into my hands, over 20 years ago. This
little book has had the most affect on me
ouside of The Book. This verse became my life's
verse. From page 2 of My Utmost:WILL YOU GO OUT WITHOUT KNOWING?
"He went out, not knowing whither he went." Hebrews
11:8Have you been "out" in this way? If so, there is no
logical statement possible when anyone asks you what
you are doing. One of the difficulties in Christian
work is this question - "What do you expect to do?"
You do not know what you are going to do; the only
thing you know is that God knows what He is doing.
Continually revise your attitude towards God and see
if it is a going out of everything, trusting in God
entirely. It is this attitude that keeps you in
perpetual wonder - you do not know what God is going
to do next. Each morning you wake it is to be a "going
out," building in confidence on God. "Take no thought
for your life, . . . nor yet for yo…

Preparing for Passover

I was reading Chuck Pierce's latest newsletter and I saw
some insights about Passover. Here's the part that
really interested me, in my own words:

Moses was dealing with Pharaoh and with the Israelites:
"God says let my people go", to pharaoh, and "people, let go"
or "people, let's go", to the Israelites.

You know the saying, "be careful what you ask for, you might
just get it"? It's like you've been in a situation for a long time and
want out of it, but you haven't really considered what it will be
like to live on the other side. Backing up a step even before release
is, what if things get worse before they get better? Detoxing comes
to my mind. You stop an addiction, but the withdrawal or detoxing can
be physically and emotionally painful- so hard that the person withdrawing
might beg to go back to the addiction.

This is part of the Passover story. Pharaoh would not immediately obey God
and grant Moses request. Things got worse …


Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits-
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
Psalm 103:1-5

There's a deeper meaning here that's easy to miss
unless you are an expert on eagles. Eagles go through
a time in mid life, where they go to a safe place and lose
feathers and their talons and their beak. They become
completely helpless. But, other eagles come and feed the
one going through this renewal until he or she grows new
feathers and talons and beak.

Desert / Dessert

Life has seasons.
Life has cycles.
We are all on a journey
and on the journey we go
through different places.
The desert or wilderness is
one of those places on all our maps.

I was listening to a Graham Cooke CD on the way to work
and he was saying how he loves the time in the spiritual
wilderness, that he loves these times and seasons with God.
His thinking might go against "conventional wisdom" that
says that the wilderness is bad or a punishment.

What does the desert represent? If you are a
city-dwelling person who also likes greenery and the
ocean, the idea of the desert might be negative.Or, you might think positively about the desert. The
heat feels good, the clear sky and horizon, the stars
at night, and the stillness. These all are refreshing
to the body and soul.When the circumstances of our lives take us into a
time in the desert it is not a bad thing. It's a good
thing. It's a place to connect deeper with God
and be renewed.
There have been times when I was led back into