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 for protection on the freeways and a few other small things, but could not really connect at all. But also, during this time, I began to go back to various churches with friends. They would have these simple praise songs at a Calvary chapel I visited and the songs made me cry and cry.
By May of 1986, I was on the road to coming home. I had a long, dry repentance; but I was drawn very strongly. I took these long walks, pondering my life and where I had gone wrong. My spiritual hunger kept increasing and on Father's Day of 1987 I finally found a church that I would call home for the next twelve years. Someone was also praying for me during this time and said that they would just cry. I later realized that perhaps God was crying over me- broken hearted. I later realized that Jesus parable of the two sons was about me and Father God as well.
There is a revelation here when Jesus says that while the son was still a long way off, the father saw him. He was hoping and waiting. Perhaps scanning the horizon whenever he was outdoors. Then one day, there his son was, and the father ran to meet him. Very awesome. The love of God. Have you experienced it?

Papa

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 with God. It is my devotional with the Father and with my son at the same time. God has been revealing to me that this is the main thing. My relationship with my son and The Father's relationship with me. It's the main deal, the center, the core.

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 style is better for the whole. Classrooms serve a purpose for classes, for the part that needs educating. But I also think that the classroom by itself is a very poor way to learn. I think that classroom teaching needs to be combined with coaching, mentoring, tutoring, and/or discipling.

Perhaps the Corinthians didn't have order or direction in their gatherings and Paul gave them some direction. What was good for them is probably good for us, don't you think? Did you know that the sermon is pretty much a tradition that was brought into the church around the second century by the Greek orators & thinkers who were getting saved?

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 out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God." When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.
Matthew 14:22-36

I am crossing over into something new. New situations, new people, new relationships. It hasn't all happened yet but is just beginning. The story above is a crossing over story. Like the disciples, I feel sent somewhere in my life, by Jesus. He has directed me to go. I don't know exactly where I am going, but I have some direction as to going out towards it.

Along the way there is darkness and storms. There are challenges in many dimentions. I wonder if I should go back to the known place that I set out from that was safer. But I don't know if I could find my way back even if I wanted to and I know that there is no gaurantee that it would be the same. My personal belief, from experience is that it would not be the same. I have changed to much and I suspect that the place back there where I came from has changed too. I can not go back.

So here I am, out there, out here; between my old home and my destination, wich is foggy. I wonder what is going to happen. All I see are waves and wind and there is the heaving up and down and around, like I might go upside down. Where is Jesus in all this. I got out here in this because he got me into this and said "go". Where is he? I'm praying to God, praying too Jesus and I feel like he is not there and I can not see him. Where is he in all this?

Then, something or someone appears. What is it? who is it? It's Jesus. I think that Jesus apprears, figuratively in my life and yours; and he can appear literally if he wants to, in new ways that we are not used to. After all these years, I personally am recieving a new revelation of who God is. It's not all new like I did not know Him before, but a deepening, a renewal, a restoring or who He has always been and I have not seen as well. My eyes and heart are different and see more. It's not a different Jesus, but a new side of Him. For me, more a new side of Father God.

He's coming to me, like Peter, in a new way. He's even asking me to walk with him in this way that is new to me, with him. I have to keep my eyes on him to do it and walk in faith. I am crossing over.

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


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 cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever."
Joshua 4:4-7

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, that I found, if you are interested:

  • What one subject can you enjoy talking about for many hours?
  • Do any of your hobbies involve working a lot with other people?
  • What specific concerns preoccupy your mind, breaking into whatever else you're thinking about?
  • What do you most enjoy doing for others?
  • Let's pretend you've reached the end of your life, and you're in heaven looking back on it. What's the one thing you want to be most happy about having done or having been?
  • Who 'out there' in the world have you come to care about the most? Who do you most want to help, enable, or reach? (You define the categories, whatever way you want. Go with your first instincts.)
  • Now, write down at least five of your life experiences that most gave you a sense of fulfillment and/or growth. (Don't think about them until later -- just write them down for now.) If more experiences come to mind, just keep listing them until you exhaust yourself. You'll sort them out later.
  • 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 outside the box people or ideas and that is ok. It's just human. Here's a great short piece on what it means to be outside the box:


    Exactly what is 'Thinking Outside the Box'? By Ed Bernacki

    Thinking outside the box requires different attributes that include:
    * Willingness to take new perspectives to day-to-day work.
    * Openness to do different things and to do things differently.
    * Focusing on the value of finding new ideas and acting on them.
    * Striving to create value in new ways.
    * Listening to others.
    * Supporting and respecting others when they come up with new ideas.

    Out-of-the box thinking requires an openness to new ways of seeing the world and a willingness to explore. Out-of-the box thinkers know that new ideas need nurturing and support. They also know that having an idea is good but acting on it is more important. Results are what count.

    Ed Bernacki created The Idea Factory to help people and organizations to develop their capacity to innovate.

    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.

    Criticism

    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 "you always make us late" (critcism).

    There is a way to vent frustration and express personal pain without criticising, without abusing.

    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 kind.
    You carefully watch over our household and make lists about what needs to be done.
    You are never lazy.
    Your child blesses you.
    I praise you.
    Yes, there are other capable women in this world, but you are the cream of the crop.
    You are hot, but you seek God first in your life and that is your most attractive quality.
    You deserve rich rewards and I will help The Almighty shower them on you!

    (Loosely based on Proverbs 31)

    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 comfort

    What'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

    Betrayal

    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 called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch." Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."
    Mark 14:32-6

    Bob Dylan wrote a song called "In The Garden".


    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 longer they pray, the less they pay.” That was sad, but almost universally true. Here’s a news flash. The going rate for a generous person who eats out is now 25-30percent. As Christ-followers, we need to be known for our generosity. We need to be the kinds of customers who are so popular that when we walk into a restaurant we frequent, the waitstaff squabble to wait on us. They know from experience that we won’t be rude, demanding, sour – all the things Christians have traditionally been in the past, before we had an awakening. As Christians, the reality is you can’t disrespect people over and over again in public situations and then expect them to treat you with credibility. We’ve blown our credibility. The good news is that those outside the Church see some bright spots on the radar screen – Mother Teresa, Billy Graham. Here’s the challenge: ALL OF US are called to live like that in front of the watching world. We ALL need to live lives of great generosity. Here’s a good place to start: The next time you go out to eat, factor a 30 percent tip into your spending. Address the waiter/waitress by name and smile. Tell them you are Christfollowers (Christian doesn’t mean anything to most people any longer) and that you are on a movement to change the perception of what Christians are about at public places. You tip well because you believe in generosity. Then when the bill comes, ask if you could talk with the manager. Tell them the same thing – that you are Christians from XY&Z Church in town and you believe in generosity. Tell him you had a fantastic time that meal. Your waiting person was excellent – congrats on hiring such a skilled worker! You intend to spread the good word on his restaurant. Shake his hand, and leave your card if you think it’s appropriate. I can assure you, you will make a lasting impression. Maybe – just maybe – this will be the beginning of new conclusions about the way Christians behave at restaurants … and in public in general. God knows we need to gain some credibility points in the worst way.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I announced to Janine that from now on, when we go out to eat, we're gonna tip 30%. So when we think of going out, we've got to factor that in! I also want to buy the food or drink for the people behind me in line when I'm at a fast food place, but this is a stretch for me. I might try it first with an extrovert friend!

    Last night, Janine went out with Johnathan to a sandwich place and she handed the girl a 30% tip and her eyes got real big and she lit up and said, "thanks".

    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 assignment has just changed and taken on new dimensions. A year ago, our ministry assignment also changed, my job changed, and my grandmother transitioned to heaven. Three years ago at this time, we were passing over into the transition of marriage. Four years ago at this time, Janine and I met and transitioned into courtship. Four years ago also at this time of year , I attended my last meeting, as a member of the denomination I had been in for almost fourteen years.

    Passover

    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 Wednesday

    While 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, letting it be broken and poured out as a costly perfume onto Jesus, is a beautiful thing.

    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 virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. "Later the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for us!' "But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.' "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
    Matthew 25 1-13

    There are two groups here: wise and foolish. The wise ones have extra oil for their lamps and the foolish ones do not. Both groups fall asleep. Both groups are awakened by surprise in the middle of the night. One group is ready to go and for the other it is too late.

    I have a couple of thoughts. One is preparation. We are required to be prepared. God surprises us with things and we are either prepared or we are not. Everything requires preparation in order to be ready. It's always foolish to try to do something significant without preparation and preparation always pays off when the thing happens that you have prepared for.

    Secondly, what's the oil? What do you need extra of for when life happens in a big way? What could you stock up on in normal times that you'll need if crisis hits you? Or if your wildest dream suddenly came true, what would you need to get, perhaps inside yourself, that you don't have, in order to be prepared for that dream to come true?

    My third thought is that you can not ride on someone else's coat tails. The saying, "God has no grandchildren", is true!

    Jesus himself is calling you a fool if you think that you are ready for him or for the kingdom to come and you have not prepared your self. He's saying that he will suddenly come and you have to be ready when you don't expect him. The people in the parable are all the same on the surface: virgins with oil lamps. But if you looked at them closer, you would notice half had full oil reserve bags and the other half did not. The wise ones had to spend the extra money to have extra supplies and they had to hold onto them in a state of readiness. There's a burden there of spending ahead of time or investing and losing the cash for other things and then carrying the supplies around or keeping them close by. Some work is required, but it has to be that way.

    So, what is the extra oil that we need to have?

    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 fruit. However, it was not the season for fig trees to bear fruit. It was April, but the season for figs is May/June or September.

    When fig trees have leaves, it's a sign that they also have fruit and this tree had the leaves with no fruit. So, it seemed that Jesus might have been OK with the tree bearing fruit early, but what made him curse the tree was that it had leaves without fruit. If the tree had not had leaves nor fruit and Jesus cursed it, it would not have made sense, because in April it is not supposed to have fruit. So, it is obvious that what got Jesus angry was that Israel had the "leaves" out, the religious activity, but without fruit; and he used the fig tree as a metaphor.

    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 praise'?" Then he left them and
    went out of the city to Bethany, and He lodged there.
    Matthew 21:12-17

    Holy week, day one. What a day! Jubilation, celebration, confrontation, declaration, healings, worship, conflict, and rest.

    I guess the beginning of Holy week and Palm Sunday are about expectation and revelation. What do you expect from Jesus and what is God revealing to you about him? Are your expectations able to flex? Will you allow him to change your expectations? Or will you run from him or reject him? Are you focused on him or your self? Are you willing to receive new revelation?

    I think that it really takes discipline or a dying to self to let yourself be open to God unfolding His plan and revealing His will. I think it takes humility to see the kingdom of God and enter in to it. I think that besides saying , "crucify him", it's pretty easy to fall into the oxymorn of, "not so, Lord", in telling God He is wrong.

    A neat thing I also see here is that in the midst of the chaos is that Jesus heals people.

    Grudge

    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 mysterious

    So, 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 with who you believe you are, really
    believe; and that real belief is proved through
    action, risk-taking action.

    Thinking you're something that you're not or trying to
    exercise authority you don't have are also issues to
    consider. We all have real identities and we all have
    spheres of authority. You and I don't have the
    identity or authority of the President or the Pope.

    Finding out who you are and what you are for, in my
    opinion, will lead to a more fulfilling life.

    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
    11:8

    Have 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 your body" - take no
    thought for the things for which you did take thought
    before you "went out."

    Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He
    will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is
    going to do; He reveals to you Who He is. Do you
    believe in a miracle-working God, and will you go out
    in surrender to Him until you are not surprised an
    atom at anything He does?

    Suppose God is the God you know Him to be when you are
    nearest to Him - what an impertinence worry is! Let
    the attitude of the life be a continual "going out" in
    dependence upon God, and your life will have an
    ineffable charm about it which is a satisfaction to
    Jesus. You have to learn to go out of convictions, out
    of creeds, out of experiences, until so far as your
    faith is concerned, there is nothing between yourself
    and God.

    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 all around before they got better.
    The good news that we know is that things did get better, but they didn't
    know that and we might not "know" that when we go through a breakthrough
    in our lives.

    When we've been disappointed over and over and felt defeated, our hearts
    are weak or broken. It's understandable that even when our deliverance
    or breakthrough is announced, that we might not be that excited because
    we are frankly depressed by our bad experiences up to that point.

    So, what to do? I think that we can "go with it", knowing that we are going to
    feel disoriented as we move "off our maps" and out of our comfort zones. I
    think we just need to embrace humility as we can and flow with what God is
    doing for us and realize that change is a time of taking off and putting on
    or death and new-life. I think we also need to realize that God who brought
    you out is God who will bring you in. To quote this from the NT, "He who
    began a good work in you (all), will be faithful to complete it."

    I've heard that when imatiated prisoners were released from concentration
    camps in Germany when WW2 was ending, that they had to be very careful
    not to eat too much, because their stomachs had shrunk so much. It's fitting
    and ok to take "baby steps"! What's important is to go in the right direction.

    Renewal

    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
    the desert when I wanted to fight battles and take
    territory. In the desert I learned things that I only
    took for granted before. Things were built into me
    that had to be built in solitude.

    I have learned that the desert is actually a good place
    to visit spiritually. I think of Jesus with all that he was
    doing, retreating to a place to be alone. I want to be
    like that in my life.