Saturday, February 28, 2009

Got the T-Shirt...and Moving On

Fresh Hope For Pathetic Prayers

Fresh Hope For Pathetic Prayers
....There’s a serious disconnect between what we’re praying about and how I feel (or don’t feel) about it.

And to be honest, I hate it when this happens. I hate it when the intensity of my heart doesn’t match the weightiness of the prayer. It’s discouraging to say the least.

But recently I heard Mike Bullmore give some very simple and encouraging advice regarding pathetic prayers like mine. He said that he often asks God to help him feel the weight of what someone is praying. He asks God to stir his affections so that he too would desire what is being prayed.

That’s it. Nothing mystical. No magical amulets or prayer labryinths involved. Just a simple prayer to God that acknowledges weakness and asks for grace. God loves to answer prayers like this.

So rather than giving myself a spiritual beatdown every time my heart feels cold, I offer up this simple request to God: “Lord, please help me also desire what is being prayed.”

It’s given me fresh hope for my pathetic prayers.

Maybe there is hope for my pathetic praying also.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Recent Reads & Good Books

What I've been reading the past few weeks:

The Prodigal God by Tim Keller: Best book I've read in many years. There are more deep insights per page in this book than there are M&M's in a jumbo bag. I highly recommend this book and intend to read it over and over.

Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free by F.F. Bruce- A classic work which I've never gotten around to reading until now. There is a reason why it's a classic.

Mad Church Disease by Anne Jackson - New book on recognizing and overcoming ministry burnout. Good stuff! She has a good website / blog also.

Everyone Gets to Play by John Wimber - A collection of essays and articles by the late John Wimber on ministry and his philosophy that every Christian gets to play - no one left on the bench. Good reminder for me of the foundational principles of why we do what we do.

Love Jesus, Love People, Love Life

Blogger Tim Chester boils evangelism down to its center - Effective evangelism: love Jesus, love people, love life
I’ve been thinking about evangelism. I think three things are key to effective evangelism: loving Jesus, loving people and living life. Perhaps ‘delight’ or ‘relish’ would be better words: relish Jesus, relish people, relish life....

...Enthusiasm for evangelism doesn’t begin with evangelism at all. Exhortations to evangelize just leave us feeling useless. Driven by guilt we try ‘turning’ the conversation at work round to spiritual things with horrible crunching gear changes or we knock on a few doors to little effect. And so we give up. Again. And feel guilty. Again.

Enthusiasm for evangelism begins with an enthusiasm for Jesus. My willingness to speak of Jesus arises from my delight in Jesus. People love talking about the thing they’re into. Man United. Knitting. Vintage cars. A new boyfriend. Whatever it is, they love talking about. It bubbles out of them with an infectious passion. When we’re ‘into’ Jesus an infectious passion for Jesus bubbles out of us. To get going on evangelism we need to rewind to some of our earlier principles - back to God and his glory, back to the God’s work of change in our lives, back to the welcome and grace of cross, back to future glory. We need to get excited all over again with Jesus. We need to excite one another with the gospel day by day.

Update: here's part 2 on Loving People. Here's part 3 on Loving Life.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Free Calfskin Version of the ESV Study Bible!

Found this site -A Boomer in the Pew: Win a Calfskin Version of the ESV Study Bible! - via Rick Ianniello. They are giving away free ESV Study Bible in celebration of their one year blog birthday.

Yeah, I posted this for the chance to win the free ESV Study Bible (which I have been craving after with a "holy" lust). But it looks like they have an interesting blog also.

Thanks guys!

The Gospel is the Antidote to Everything

This post by Jared Wilson at The Gospel-Driven Church: The Gospel is the Antidote to Everything is so good, and so well said, that I can only quote it in its entirety with a hearty AMEN! Thanks Jared!

Once there were two brothers. You know their story, more than likely. One was wasteful, exploitative, wanton, licentious. One was rigid, moralistic, uptight, legalistic. Two brothers with two personalities and two sets of attendant sins. But their father loved them both and all that he had belonged to both of them equally.

This is how staggeringly awesome the gospel of Jesus is.

Two sisters. One is a busybody, the other kinda poky. One rarely Sabbaths; the other makes every day a Sabbath. The prescription for both is focus on Jesus.

Two Americans. One is a practicing homosexual and proud of it. The other is a practicing Baptist and proud of it. One trusts his feelings, the other trusts his actions. Both are in desperate need of Jesus for pretty much the same reason.

This is how wonderful the gospel of Jesus. It's the skeleton key for all of humanity.

Medicine doesn't work this way. You don't treat spina bifida with drugs for leukemia. (At least, I don't think you do.) You don't give a decongestant to a kid with athlete's foot. For every condition, there is a specific treatment. Different symptoms, different fixes.

But the gospel isn't like that. It fixes everything.

We all exhibit a multitude of symptoms for our conditions, running the gamut from self-indulgent immorality to self-satisfying morality. Opposite ends of the spectrum and everywhere in between. Whatever your symptoms, the gospel is the answer.

There is no problem, pain, or perniciousness outside the universe-spanning scope of the gospel.The gospel carries with it resurrection power.So Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, rich or poor, smart or dumb, well or sick, bad or good . . . the gospel is the power to save for all who believe.

The gospel is the antidote to everything.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Living in a Fornication Nation

You don't have to compromise with our sex-saturated culture. By God's grace you can stay in the sexual safety zone.
So says J. Lee Grady in an article at his "Fire in the Bones" blog entitled Staying Pure in a Fornication Nation. The article summarizes a speech he made to a group of college students. His four points of advice are:

1. Don't redefine your morality
2. Don't sell your birthright
3. Get ruthless with your weaknesses.
4. Live a transparent life.

Good advice for all of us.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Alternative Baptism

"… Besides, the Word is the principal part of baptism. If in an emergency there’s no water at hand, it doesn’t matter whether water or beer is used.”
- Martin Luther

Now there's an interesting concept - Baptism in Beer. I think I know a few people who have tried to do that - from the inside out.

Hat Tip: Boar's Head Tavern

Wisdom of The Proverbs 31 "Woman"

A friend was discussing the famous Proverbs 31 Woman as the ideal for Christian femininity, and I was reminded of something I read at NETBible last year regarding Proverbs 31

The book of Proverbs comes to a close with this poem about the noble wife. A careful reading of the poem will show that it is extolling godly wisdom that is beneficial to the family and the society. Traditionally it has been interpreted as a paradigm for godly women. And while that is valid in part, there is much more here. The poem captures all the themes of wisdom that have been presented in the book and arranges them in this portrait of the ideal woman (Claudia V. Camp, Wisdom and the Feminine in the Book of Proverbs, 92-93). Any careful reading of the passage would have to conclude that if it were merely a paradigm for women what it portrays may well be out of reach – she is a wealthy aristocrat who runs an estate with servants and conducts business affairs of real estate, vineyards, and merchandising, and also takes care of domestic matters and is involved with charity. Moreover, it says nothing about the woman’s personal relationship with her husband, her intellectual and emotional strengths, or her religious activities (E. Jacob, “Sagesse et Alphabet: Pr. 31:10-31,” Hommages à A. Dont-Sommer, 287-95). In general, it appears that the “woman” of Proverbs 31 is a symbol of all that wisdom represents. The poem, then, plays an important part in the personification of wisdom so common in the ancient Near East. But rather than deify Wisdom as the other ANE cultures did, Proverbs simply describes wisdom as a woman.
This argument makes a lot of sense to me. If wisdom can be personalized in Proverbs 8:1-36, why not in Proverbs 31:10-31. This interpretation makes the passage apply to both men and woman equally. Plus this takes some guilt of the ladies who may feel guilty for not perfectly living up to this standard.

What do you think?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Everyone Is A Theologian

"No Christian can avoid theology. Every Christian is a theologian. Perhaps not a theologian int he technical or professional sense, but a theologian nevertheless. The issue for Christians is not whether we are going to be theologians but whether we are going to be good theologians or bad ones."- R.C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture, p. 22

Hat Tip Zach Nielsen at Take Your Vitamin Z

Friday, February 20, 2009

Uniting the Mental Compartments

In the two months since I've been on Facebook I feel my life "coming together."

I did not realize until now how compartmentalized and segregated my personal memories were. In a way, the me of high school, of college, of young adulthood, the parent of teenagers and the man now facing middle age were all kept separate in my mind. I had different friends and was in different situations in each of those stages.

There is something different between the relationship you have with those who you knew and who knew you "back in the day," back when you were young, than the relationships you have that start later in life. Both kinds of relationships can be special, but they are different.

Today I look a my list of Facebook friends and see individuals from so many periods of my life experience: high school classmates, college classmates, friends who shared with us the experiences of being newlyweds, of being new parents, friends who knew me in my early career struggles, friends from two states now scattered all over the USA, friends from three different churches we have been part of, as well as the friends who share my life now. Some of these friends are actually interacting with each other on my Facebook wall. The mental compartments are coming together, the life stages are merging, the walls of memory are coming down. I feel more unified.

I know this is not well written, and may not make any sense. But I just want to ask - does any body else feel this way? Has anybody else experienced this?

Cleaning Up Our Evangelical Language

Danny Spence says we need to Clean up your language!! He's talking about the standard evangelical phrases that we use to lead someone to faith in Christ. The problems are : (1) said phrases are not in the Bible, (2) they have become trite and cliched, and (3) they create false impressions about the Gospel and salvation.

"Ask Jesus into your heart”
“Make Him your Lord and Savior”
Make a “decision” to become a Christian
“Just say this simple prayer that will change your life”
“Just believe in God”
“Just ask for forgiveness”
“Accept” Jesus — This one is particularly bad

I hear these phrases over and over in the modern church, but the problem is that they are NOT in Scripture. These are man-centered catch phrases that end up creating false Christians. I know first hand… I was one for 22 years.

So, all you creative people out there - Who has a way of concisely explaining salvation that is both Biblical and does not use these phrases or their equivalents.

Inquiring minds want to know!

The Nature of My Evil - And of HIs Love

Saw this piece by John Piper at "Desiring God" on the subject of Knowing the Nature of Your Evil and just had to share it. This is good!

Do you think the essence of your evil is disobeying commandments? That’s a good start. But it’s not the essence of our evil. Commands simply name the evil and its fruits, and tell us not to do them.

The essence of our evil is that we prefer anything to God (Romans 1:23; 2:23). Commands do not create the possibility of evil. Commands name it......

...But lawbreaking is not the essence of my evil. Desiring anything above God is the essence of my evil, before any commands name it.

One reason this is important to know is that it will affect the way you pursue change. If you think the essence of your evil is commandment-breaking, your focus for change will be commandment-keeping.

That is doomed to fail for two reasons. If we get good at it, we think we have changed, but the essence of our evil remains. If we can’t get good at it, we despair and quit trying.

But if we know that the essence of our evil is not commandment-breaking, but preferring anything to God, then our focus for change will be a change of heart. That is hopeful, because God promised, “I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19).

This is the new covenant that Jesus purchased with his blood (Luke 22:20). We receive it by faith.

This is why we need Jesus. This is why I need a Savior! This is why you need a Savior! We need a Savior because we are evil by nature, through and through, bottom to top, inside and out. Yet Jesus loves me and died for me and takes my evil into himself to be replaced by His goodness.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

God's Work & the Work of God

Saw Justin Taylor at Between Two Worlds quoting Francis Schaeffer's No Little People this week:
Chapter 4 of Francis Schaeffer's No Little People is entitled "The Lord's Work in the Lord's Way." The thesis is that "The Lord's work in the Lord's way is the Lord's work in the power of the Holy Spirit and not in the power of the flesh." Schaeffer argues that "the central problem of our age" is that "the church of the Lord Jesus Chris, individually or corporately, tending to do do the Lord's work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit. The central problem is always in the midst of the people of God, not in the circumstances surrounding them" (p. 66).
Schaeffer was both timely and ahead of his time. His writings seem more and more timeless to me.

I heard another haunting quote this week that fits here: "Do not let the work you do for God hinder the work God is doing in you." Doing God's work in human strength and confidence may hinder the work of transformation He is wanting in us.

Something to think about.

The Good News of the Kingdom

I was pleasantly surprised to read the following at The Good News Ligonier Ministries. This is an excerpt from an article by Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr., founder of the Highlands Study Center in Mendota, Virginia, and son of the great Reformed author and teacher, Dr. R. C. Sproul, Sr.
If we would understand the Gospels, we would be wise to understand that the good news they were reporting was the good news proclaimed not just about Jesus, but by Jesus. The good news is that the kingdom has come. This is the message of Jesus: the kingdom of God is here.

On the other hand, the bad news is that the kingdom has come. The life, death, resurrection, ascension and return of Christ is to us who have been called, the very aroma of life. To those who are still outside the kingdom, it is the stench of death. It is the same kingdom either way, but for the seed of the woman (Christians) it is blessing, and for the seed of the serpent it is cursing. That this one kingdom can mean one thing for one group and the opposite for another can help explain how we have come to conflate some terms over time. That is, the difference between seeing the coming of the kingdom as an event of joy or of dread is found in one simple distinction -- do we trust in the finished work of Christ alone or not? The seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent began in the same place, as enemies of the kingdom. We are all by nature children of wrath. But it is as we are gifted with repentance and believe that we move from darkness to light, that we are adopted into the very family of God. That's good news. Better still, the king who has adopted us, He is now king indeed. That's very good news.

Our gospel is a truncated shell of this great reality if the good news is merely that we don't have to go to hell. It gets only slightly better if it means that our souls go to heaven. The fullness of the gospel is found in the fullness of the kingdom. Jesus is about the business of remaking all things. He is, after all, the first-born of the new creation. He is remaking all the created order that groans under the burden of our sin. He is remaking all the political order, as all kings everywhere learn to kiss the Son, lest He be angry (Ps. 2). He is remaking the church, His bride, removing from us corporately every blot and blemish. And He is remaking every one of us, reshaping us pots into vessels of grace.

We are a part of this good news precisely because He came and lived a life of perfect obedience in our place. We are a part of this precisely because He suffered the wrath of the Father that is due to us for our sins. We are a part of this because He has given us each a new heart that responds to His calling with repentance and faith. We bring nothing to the table but our need. Jesus has done it all. We are His workmanship, judged innocent by His death, judged righteous by His life.

There is still more good news. We are not merely by the good news of His atonement made citizens of that kingdom we are called to seek. We are not merely judged righteous by His righteousness that we were called to seek. We are by the same Spirit made kings and queens with Him. We are not just subjects but rulers. We are seated even now with Him in the heavenly places. Our calling is to believe these promises. Our calling is to be of good cheer, for He has already overcome the world (John 16:33). We do not wait for His kingdom to come, for it is here. Instead, we strive to make it ever more visible, as we make all things subject to His glorious reign.
I agree with everything he says. Everywhere I look I see this Kingdom of God Theological Framework seemingly taking over systems of thought where I would not have expected it. There is now a pretty widespread consensus about the inaugurated eschatology position regarding Jesus' teaching on the Kingdom.

That is good news about the Good News!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

“Do the Stuff?"

Speaking of John Wimber (see post below), Michael at Charismatica posted my favorite Wimber story on Tuesday: John Wimber: “When do we get to do the stuff?"

"A professional musician who played the Las Vegas circuit for 5 years, John later signed with the Righteous Brothers. When John was gripped by God in 1963, he was a “beer-guzzling, drug abusing pop musician, who was converted at the age of 29 while chain-smoking his way through a Quaker-led Bible Study.”

He soon became a voracious Bible reader and after weeks of reading about life changing miracles in the Bible and attending boring church services, John asked a lay leader:"“When do we get to do the stuff? You know, the stuff here in the Bible; the stuff Jesus did, like healing the sick, raising the dead, healing the blind - stuff like that?”

He was told that they didn’t do that anymore – only what they did in their weekly services. John replied, “You mean I gave up drugs for that?”

It was a good question then, and remains a good question now. I'm glad to be part of a local congregation where we are still seeking to "Do the Stuff!" I'm also glad that stuff happens!

Spiritual Gifts as Situational Anointings

This week Michael Spencer, aka the "Internet Monk," ventured some Some Thoughts on Spiritual Gifts
Much of the teaching on spiritual gifts that has morphed into “inventories” and such seems to be about my own possession of a gift so tied to my own identity that no matter what situation I am in, that gift is my one offering to the community.

So if my gift is teaching, then I am gifted for teaching in every situation. And I’m justified to say “I would like to help, but that’s not my gift/calling/ministry.”

Instead, I’d like to suggest that the Holy Spirit manifests a diversity of gifts in diverse people in diverse situations, and what may be my spiritual gift in situation “A” may no be at all what I am gifted to do in situation “B.”

The applicable prayer here is not just “What can I do?” but “Father, how can I be a gift from you to this situation?”
What Spencer is describing sounds to me a lot like what Gary Best (borrowing from John Wimber) called "situational anointings" and "God's tool box." Best says when we face a need we can just reach into the tool box and what we pull out seems to be the right tool for a given situation.
Instead of stressing one's lifelong, unchanging, gifting, it appears that Paul's primary purpose in using the metaphor of the body is to counter the Corinthians' competitive sense of independence. (Naturally Supernatural, page85)
I highly recommend Gary's book Naturally Supernatural for anyone interested in learning more about this concept. We use it extensively at our church in training people how to pray for needy people and move in spiritual gifts. But a warning - do not try to learn more unless you are willing for God to start invading your comfort zone. He has a habit of doing that!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Theological Terms?

For a little laugh today, here's a list of new theological terms from the website jesus the radical pastor :

From my expansive reading, I’ve come to see the need for some new theological vocabulary.

wishonal church– those longing to be a missional church

hermesleuthtics– the process of finding “secrets” in the biblical text, i.e., the “secrets” of a successful marriage, blah, blah, blah…

Calvinblistic– vitriolic language used by classical determinists to excoriate others

Empireronomics– the results of detecting the concept of “empire” permeating the biblical text

superslapsarianism– Reformed seminarians slapping each other a high five (points).

Obamalogy– discovering how Barak Obama is closer to Jesus than ________________.

Old Testosteronement– a Texas manual of new sexual insights into the “Song of Songs”

N.T. Wrightitis– a rash some conservatives get when reading Tom Wright’s views on Pauline theology

theosystemicide– the decline of interest in systematic theology

“Tickling the ears”– hearing more from P. T. about the Great Emergence

Bible Belt Buckle– a Southern Baptist blackberry dessert casserole

Hallelacunae! — the joyful shout textual critics make when they resolve a crucial textual issue

Monday, February 16, 2009

Ranking the States in Religious Belief?

Per a new Gallup poll, Mississippi (my home state) ranks as the most religious state in the USA. Click the link below to see more readable versions of the map and chart.

Unfortunately, that characteristic many times translates into vast numbers of people inoculated against true Christianity. We residents of the Magnolia State sometimes have just enough cultural Christianity to keep us from catching the real thing.

This poll also makes the ministries of Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill Church, Seattle, WA) and Tim Keller (Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Manhattan, New York) stand out for the achievements they are. Building mega-churches in two of the most unchurched parts of the country without compromising on the Gospel has to mean something is being done right.

Hat Tip: World Net Daily: here does your state rank in religious belief?

Salvation For, To, and Through Us

"The salvation of God is for us. The Father has chosen us. Jesus’ blood has purchased us. We are adopted orphans.

Salvation is to us. The Holy Spirit stirs our heart, so that we come to faith in Jesus Christ personally. We are forgiven sinners.

Salvation is also through us. The world will be blessed by the good deeds we do in the context of the community of faith. We are commissioned communities.

Kevin Wax quoting from his forthcoming book, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals" at Salvation For, To, and Through Us « Kingdom People

(I'm going to have to get this book)


I like the distinction Tim Challies wrote about this past week - the difference between Theology-ology and Theology, i.e. the difference between studying about God and studying about the study of God. Well, he says it better than I can.
So what is it, then, that people are rebelling against when they disassociate themselves from theology? I believe that what they are running from is better termed “theology-ology.” It is a study of the study of God. If a Christian is diligent in studying God through the right motives and methods and for the right reasons, there will necessarily be change in his life. He cannot help but be changed by the living Word of God. However, if someone studies God only to acquire knowledge about him without applying any of that knowledge to his life, he is not so much studying God as he is studying the study of God. The study of God when done as he has commanded must always lead to application, heart change and then life change. Conversely, studying God through improper motives and methods with no view to application cannot affect true heart change in anyone.

There seems to be a fine line between theology and theology-ology. The line is not found in what we study as much as it is the motives behind the study and the result we expect to achieve. For example, 1 Corinthians 11 speaks about the necessity of women wearing head coverings while in church. I can look at that section of the Bible in two different ways. I can go in with a motive of wanting to show that women are subservient to men and sin if they do not wear head coverings in church. I can begin this study with the intent to prove to my wife that she needs to wear a head covering next Sunday. On the other hand, I can turn to this section with a motive of wanting to understand what God is trying to teach us in this passage. I can seek to understand the principles the Bible is teaching and how those relate to people today. I can begin my study with the intent to learn something that I can humbly and prayerfully apply to my life. This is an extreme or simplistic example perhaps, but it displays the difference between wanting to acquire knowledge of God through proper or improper methods and for right or wrong intentions.

I love theology. I love studying God and continually learning about him and about what he has done. I must confess that there is a part of me that also loves to study the study of God. There are many times in my life where I have learned about God simply so I could have more knowledge about him, never intending to change myself in response to what I have learned. There have been times where I have studied God just so I could convince others of their need to change. It is my prayer that whenever I study God I do so with proper motives and with a humble attitude, preparing myself to be changed by what I learn about him.

I must confess that I have fallen into this trap many times. Thanks Tim, for the warning and encouragement to pursue true theology and the knowledge of God.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Insult of the Gospel

“The gospel, by telling us Jesus died for us, is also really insulting. It tells us that we are so wicked that only the death of the Son of God could save us. This offends the modern cult of self-expression and the popular belief in the innate goodness of humanity.”

- Timothy Keller, The Message of Romans (Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2003), 2.

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

Grace & Decision Making

"Sometimes Christians speak of each decision of their lives as though they were launching a moon-shot where a single miscalculation would send the capsule into a trackless void. Even space scientists do better than that, correcting the flight of the space-probes by radioed signals. God does much better. He knows that we are often incapable of distinguishing trivial decisions from momentous ones, and that we are foolish and imperceptive. He knows--and he keeps us in his hand."

-Ed Clowney, Called to the Ministry, p. 77

Hat Tip: Buzzard Blog: Decision Making

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentines Day

Happy Valentines Day to my Sweetie, Colleen!

Lovemaking as A Spiritual Discipline?

On Valentines Day, Mark Driscoll promotes Married lovemaking as a spiritual discipline at Spiritual Disciplines: Lovemaking

In our age of rampant sexual sin, God intends for us to learn the spiritual discipline of sexual chastity while we are unmarried. However, God also blessed marriage as the holy outlet for sexual desire and one means of protection from the temptation to engage in sexual sin.

Free Sex
Married couples who do not have free and frequent intimacy together are warned by Paul that they are leaving themselves vulnerable to Satan’s temptations to either sexual sin or bitterness. Therefore, God’s answer to our desire for oneness and pleasure is to overcome our shame and fear through the gospel so that we can give ourselves in every way to our spouse, and also receive them as God’s gift to us.

Duke Lancaster agrees. So do I.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Need More Monkeys

Hat Tip: Christians in Context:

News Flash! Jesuits Accused of Catholicism ! Film at 11 reports this shocker :Jesuits Accused of Catholicism

A perfect display of what liberal “tolerance” means these days: apparently it’s now “intolerant” to put a crucifix in the classroom of a Catholic college. This comment is priceless:

"But sophomore Alex LoVerde, 20, believes a crucifix “pushes the Catholic religion” and does not belong in a classroom. “I think the Jesuit tradition is more of openness and tolerance,” LoVerde said. “I think that an overt display of crucifixes is not what the Jesuits would have had in mind.”"

Boston College really is failing its core educational mission if this sort of ignorance is common among its students.

Time for What Matters

From a few days ago at A Place For The God-Hungry here's a great list of things for which there is Just Enough Time for What Matters

Today, I realize just how valuable time really is.

1. I don’t have time to waste on things that don’t matter. I have plenty of time for the things that count.
2. I don’t have time to get moody, self-centered, and irritable. I do have time to love my wife and children.
3. I don’t have time to wallow in the past over what might have been. I do have time to focus on what God wants to do in my life today.
4. I don’t have time to play self-importance games (Whom do you know? What kind of house do you live in? What have your kids accomplished? What are you driving?). I do have time to build up others and forget myself.
5. I don’t have time to coddle worldly, immature Christians whose idea of church is getting their way. I have plenty of time to love fellow Christians who may have various opinions.
6. I don’t have time to be a peacemonger (doing whatever it takes to keep others from getting upset). I do have time to be a peacemaker (loving people no matter what).
7. I don’t have time to play it safe and never risk the possibility of discomfort. I do have time to trust God who has promised to never leave me or forsake me.
8. I don’t have time to whine and blame others for being obstacles. I do have time to take responsibility for my own actions and behavior.
9. I don’t have time to complain and focus on the negative. I do have time to speak a word of hope to people who are overwhelmed by heartache.
10. I don’t have time to settle for the mediocre. I do have time to be passionate about what matters most to God.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Grace at Roby Mac's site throws out a new term -Why Charismissional?

I like it!

Beautiful but Empty

(This post is a follow-up to what I wrote yesterday on "Stuff".)

Prior to the American Civil War (aka "the late great unpleasantness") there were more millionaires in Natchez, MS than in New York City. Natchez still has more antebellum mansions in good condition than anywhere else in the south, and many are open for tours or used as a Bed-n-Breakfast. We staid in one back in 1997 and had a great time.

One of the most beautiful, and haunting, of these old homes is called Longwood.

A wealthy planter and physician named Haller Nutt began construction of this beautiful home just before the war. It was designed on an octagonal plan with an onion dome on top. As the war clouds gathered in 1861, all the workers and builders left to return to the north. Dr. Nutt hastily finished the basement so his family could have a place to live, and hoped to finish the house once the war was over.

He never got his wish. Dr. Nutt died during the war after loosing most of his wealth. The workers never returned; the home was never completed. Today, visitors can drive down a path covered in moss draped oaks to see the beautiful exterior of this one-of-a -kind structure. Inside there is nothing but wooden beams and the "temporary" floor and basement originally built in 1861. So much for temporary. You can stand on the "temporary" ground floor and gaze at he hand made rafters and interior brickwork all the way up to the dome. There is nothing there but empty space.

Whenever I think of Longwood, I remember that what I build on the inside of my life is more lasting and important than what I build on the outside. We spend so much time and effort on the exteriors of our lives - appearance, careers, image, status - while relatively ignoring our interior selves- our spirits and character. Heart and spirit endure; stuff wears out, fails and dies. I do not want to die with a polished exterior hiding an empty shell within.

Unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain to build it.

God Is Never Outdone In Generosity

More good advice and wise words from The Anchoress - In Hard Times, “Give More”

Sometimes I get emails from people who are anticipating a bad result of a biopsy, or have put themselves into a terrible state of fretfulness and worry for some other reason, and they ask me to pray for them. And I do, because I am always happy to pray for someone; it is my privilege.

But sometimes I’ll also give them a little job to do in exchange: I’ll ask them, in all their anxiety, to pray for someone else who desperately needs prayers.

I’ll give them a very specific case to pray for, usually by name: a little girl with leukemia, a soldier who is gravely wounded, a family facing joblessness. I tell them that praying for others will help them to use up the anxious energy, and regain some perspective, and that’s true, but I also ask them to do it because I know the prayers they say for others will help them in their own lives.

Invariably, every single time I have asked worried people to pray for someone else, they have written back to say that the utterly selfless act of praying for a stranger’s concerns had lightened their own burden and brought peace to their souls and a broader, more positive perspective to their outlook.
She goes on to say:
But since I heard it first from Mother - who was very generous, some would say foolishly so - I’ll credit her. “God is never outdone in generosity,” she would say, “so when you’re down on your luck, don’t worry about giving to others who are also struggling, and don’t even think twice about it.”

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Are You Alarmed?

"If you find yourself loving any pleasure better than praying, any book better than the Bible, any house better than the house of God, any table better than the Lord's table, any person better than Christ, any indulgence better than the hope of heaven--take alarm!"

-Thomas Guthrie (quoted in Overcoming the World by Beeke, p. 37)

Hat Tip: CROSS-eyed: A Cause for Alarm!

Committing Breakfast in Your Heart

"If you look upon ham and eggs and lust, you have already committed breakfast in your heart."

- C.S. Lewis

Hat Tip: Buzzard Blog: Committing Breakfast in Your Heart

Hope in "Stuff"?

The Saturday before last we were visiting our son at Mississippi State University. He showed us an exhibit at their Student Union building of photos from the Mississippi Gulf Coast taken in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in August, 2005. The pictures were accompanied by stories of folks who lost everything material they had - homes, cars, pianos, priceless momentos -but found that faith and family, if properly grounded, can withstand any storm.

It was a good reminder for me to not place my hope in my "stuff."

When the plane went down in the Hudson River last month, no one tried to gather their belongings from the overhead bins. They evacuated the plane with nothing but the clothes on their backs - and were glad to have that. When life or death hang in the balance, no one cares about "stuff."

No one plans to write on their tombstone: "I had more stuff than the guy in the next hole."

So why are we so attached to our "stuff" rather than to what really matters? Why do we cling to the ephemeral rather than the eternal?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Healthy Teaching Pyramid

Remember those posters of the food group pyramid on your old elementary school wall? Lionel Windsor at The Sola Panel has adapted that idea to The healthy teaching pyramid

However, the healthy eating pyramid has given me an idea for helping Christians to understand and assess their own ‘diet’ of Christian teaching (e.g. sermons, small groups, one-to-one, with your children, etc.). I admit this is a rather corny idea and a blatant rip-off of the healthy eating pyramid, but hopefully that makes it memorable!

Interesting concept. Follow the link for the whole discussion.

What's Right about The Church?

There are plenty of voices in both cyber space and the real world who can tell us all the things that are wrong with churches today. Kevin DeYoung wants to remind us Why I Think the Church is Amazing (Even Though We Don't All Get Cool Buildings Like This One)

Even by conservative estimates, this past weekend over 50 million Americans attended church. No law forced them to. They just went. Sure, we might see enormous stadiums full of people gathered on Sundays to watch grown men in battle gear run into each other, sometimes paying large sums of money to sit in the freezing cold for four hours just to watch them do it. But don't be over-impressed by the crowds. What do 16 stadiums add up to? A million people maybe. And there are only 16 games a year, only 8 in your town (if you live a big town). Try having 50 times as many games, and playing them every single week of every single year for decade after decade. There would be a lot of people sick of football too. And I guarantee there wouldn't be 50 million people going the stadium every week.

What's more, lots of the people who came to church over the weekend did more than just attend. They taught Sunday school, handed out bulletins, played the guitar, stacked chairs, and held babies in the nursery--all without getting a dime for any of it. In fact, many of the 50 million gave money over this weekend. Sure, not as much as they should, on average. But millions still gave and they gave millions. They didn't have to. Congress didn't tell them how much to give. No collection agency was going to track them down. But they gave anyway. And with that money the church will pay for disaster relief in Louisiana, a week of meals at the Rescue Mission downtown, some new coats for the homeless, a little extra cash for the unemployed in their midst, and a few more bricks for the school being built ten thousand miles away for people they'll never meet.

More than 50 million Americans gathered in sprawling megaplexes, storefronts, whiteboard meetinghouses, and urban cathedrals this weekend. And millions of them did more than just sit there. They welcomed the new family, invited the college student over for dinner, and prayed for the young wife who's missing terribly her husband in Iraq. They planned meals for the new mom, talked about raising children to the glory of God, and cried with the widower who feels all alone. No doubt, millions of Christians heard some bland prayers this weekend, and sang some awkward songs, and sat through some stilted sermons. But they still prayed, sang, and worshiped Jesus--a bunch of them from the bottom of their hearts.

Of course, someone else could write a few paragraphs about all the rotten things that happened in our churches this weekend. But we know that already. We know why we sometimes want to ditch the church. We get sick of the church because we get wick of people acting like people. That's not to excuse sin or crummy churches. But it is to say, you find what you're looking for. I can find faults in my church just as they can find faults in me. But the longer I'm at my church, the more I see how special my church is, how special the Church is. All I need is a willingness, or better yet an eagerness, to see what God is doing and has already done.

We don't need eyes to spy the church's failures. That vision is getting closer to 20/20 all the time. What we need eyes for are all the reasons we should love the church. The reasons are out there. We just need to open our eyes and smell the cheap coffee brewing in the foyer.

Monday, February 9, 2009

What's a Recession Good For

... and no, the answer is not "absolutely nothing!"

If all things work for good for those who love God, we can even find good from an economic down-turn. At the Desiring God website I found this list: What Is the Recession For?
  1. To expose hidden sin and so bring us to repentance and cleansing.
  2. To wake us up to the constant and desperate condition of the developing world where there is always and only recession of the worst kind.
  3. To relocate the roots of our joy in his grace rather than in our goods—in his mercy rather than our money, in his worth rather than our wealth.
  4. To advance his saving mission in the world—the spread of the gospel and the growth of his church
  5. To bring his church to care for its hurting members and to grow in the gift of love.

Thoughts on Social Networking

Last week the Facebook social network site (I'm addicted) turned five years old. In recognition of this momentous event, Dr. Al Mohler at the Southern Baptist Seminary offers these principles for the safe and godly use of social network sites like Facebook and MySpace. See Facebook Turns Five: Thoughts on Social Networking

1. Never allow social networking to replace or rival personal contact and communication. God made us to be social creatures that crave community. We cannot permit ourselves to substitute social networking for the harder work of building and maintaining personal relationships that are face to face.

2. Set clear parameters for the time devoted to social networking. These services can be seductive and time consuming. Social networking (and the Internet in general) can become obsessive and destructive of other relationships and higher priorities for the Christian.

3. Never write or post anything on a social networking site that you would not want the world to see, or anything that would compromise your Christian witness. There are plenty of young people (perhaps older persons now, too) who are ruining future job prospects and opportunities by social networking misbehavior. The cost to Christian witness is often far greater.

4. Never allow children and teenagers to have independent social networking access (or Internet access, for that matter). Parents should monitor, manage, supervise, and control the Internet access of their children and teens. Watch what your child posts and what their friends post.

5. Do not allow children and teens to accept any "friend" unknown to you. The social networking world can be a dangerous place, and parental protection here is vital.

6. Encourage older friends and relatives to sign up and use the technology. Grandparents can enjoy keeping up with grandchildren and with friends and loved ones separated by distance or mobility.

7. Use the social networking technology to bear witness to the Gospel, but never think that this can replace the centrality of face-to-face evangelism, witness, and discipleship.

8. Do all things to the glory of God, and do not allow social networking to become an idol or a display of narcissism.

Biker Sunday - More Photos

Biker Sunday -Photos

I wrote last week about the "Blessing of the Bikes" at our church on Sunday, February 1st. Here's some photos from that momentous day. Thanks to Bruce Wimberley for the pictures.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sinks and Faucets

There are two kinds of Christians.

“Sink Christians” view salvation like they would a sink. The water of salvation flows into the sink so that Christians can soak up all the benefits: eternal life, assurance in the present, strength in times of trial. Those who adopt this mindset concentrate solely on what the Bible says God has done and will do for them.

“Faucet Christians” view salvation differently. They look at the world as the sink and themselves as the faucet. The blessings of salvation flow to them in order to flow through them out to the wider world. They rightly see that the Bible describes salvation as something that God not only does for them, but also through them.

- Trevin Wax, quoting from his forthcoming book, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals

From: Are You a Sink or a Faucet Christian? « Kingdom People
(Sounds like a book I might want to read!)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Something Important to Remember

From: Ur Wisdom: Ministry Out of Ur Conversations for Ministry Leaders

One Moment...Break the Heart

"One moment’s believing, close contact with the cross will do more to break the heart for sin, deepen the conviction of its exceeding sinfulness, and disenthrall the soul from all its bondage and its fears, bringing it into a sense of pardon and acceptance and assured hope, than a lifetime of the most rigid legal duties that ever riveted their iron chain upon the soul.”

—Octavius Winslow, The Foot of the Cross"

Hat Tip: Power Only in the Cross « Of First Importance:

Friday, February 6, 2009

Water & Sewage Control

Quoting J.I. Packer in A Quest for Godliness:

Theologians are called to be the church's water engineers and sewage officers; it is their job to see that God's pure truth flows abundantly where it is needed, and to filter out any intrusive pollution that might damage health

I think that is also a part of the job description for pastors and teachers.

Hat Tip: DashHouse: A Theologian's Job

On Not Being a Crusty Christian

Following up the Kevin DeYoung quotes from yesterday on keeping a strong doctrinal core, here's some of his comments on avoiding a "crust" over your core. From DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed: The Crust and the Core

What makes a Christian crusty? A number of things. For starters, it’s an attitude. It’s a demeanor where being Calvinist or paedobaptist or inerrantist (three things I am gladly) are put on like armor or wielded like weapons, when they are meant to be the warm glow of a Christian whose core radiates with love for Christ and the gospel. I believe in theological distinctives–I believe in them and I believe it is good to have them–but if the distinctives are not manifestly the flower of gospel root, the buds aren’t worth the blooming.

A second mark of crusty Christians is approachability, as in, not having any. There is a sizing up-ness that makes some theological types unnecessarily prickly. They are bright and opinionated and quickly analytical. As a result, knowingly or unknowingly, they emit a vibe which communicates something between “You Max Lucado reading moron!” and “I wish R.C. Sproul were here to teach you a thing or two!” Crusty Christians are hard to be around. They are intimidating instead of engaging and growling instead of gracious. They are too willing to share their opinions on everything and unable to put any doctrine in any category not marked “absolutely essential.”

When theology is more crust than core, it’s not so much that we care about good theology too much, we just don’t care about some other hugely important things in the same proportion. So we end up largely skeptical of a prayerful, fruitful, warm-hearted, godly, Arminian leaning pastor. Now, I might think such a pastor is prayerful, fruitful, warm-hearted and godly despite too much emphasis on libertarian free will, but I sure hope to be mighty thankful for all his prayerfulness, fruitfulness, and warm-hearted godliness. Some Christians allow evangelism to trump all other considerations, others size up fellow Christians by their attention to social justice concerns, but a lot of us do our judging with theology. If the theology fits, the lack of mission, prayer, and compassion doesn’t matter much. But if a few theological pieces are misplaced in the puzzle, see you later and don’t let Hymenaeus and Philetus door hit you on the way out.

Striking the balance is not easy. But let’s try hard to be discerning and grounded without always looking for the next theological misstep in our friends, our family, or the songs we sing. And let’s be able to tell the difference between wandering sheep and false teachers. We must delineate between a slightly ill-informed wording of a phrase and a purposeful rejection of truth. We must pursue a passion for fidelity to Scripture and a winsomeness that sweetens the already honey-like drippings of the word of God. Let us be more like a chocolate covered raisin, likeable on the outside and surprisingly good for you on the inside, and less like a tootsie roll pop with its brittle, crunchy exterior that must be broken through before anyone can get to the good stuff. Our theological heart, if it is worth anything, will pulse throughout our spiritual bodies, making us into someone more prayerful, more godly, and more passionate about the Bible, the lost, and the world around us. We will be theologically solid to the core, without the unnecessary crust.

I recommend the whole thing, as well as his books.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Law of the Garbage Truck

People send me a lot of e-mails that have been forwarded through long chains of e-mail addresses. Most of it I just delete. This one, however, actually had a good point that struck a cord with me. What do you think?
One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport. We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches! The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, he was really friendly. So I asked, 'Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital! 'This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, 'The Law of the Garbage Truck.'

He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they'll dump it on you. Don't take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Don't take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets. The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day.

Life's too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so...Love the people who treat you right. Pray for the ones who don't. Life is ten percent what you make it and ninety percent how you take it!

Have a blessed, garbage-free day!

This story reminded me of the little kid who thought the Lord's prayer goes like this: "Forgive us our trash buckets, as we forgive those who put trash in our buckets."

A lot of truth in that.

The Crust and the Core of Theology

Kevin DeYoung, co-author of Why We Are Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be writes below onThe Crust and the Core
If we are to be fruitful and godly Christians we need to have a theological core without being theologically crusty.

In desiring a theological core I don’t mean that all Christians must be bookish and given to intellectual contemplation. I mean that every Christian must be shaped from the inside out by a set of convictions about who God is and what he has accomplished in Jesus Christ. As Christians we should be animated (given life) and motivated (compelled to action) by a core of doctrinal truths–truths like God is loving, sovereign, and holy; God created the world and created it good; as a result of Adam’s sin humans are bent toward evil; Jesus Christ was God’s Son, begotten not created; Jesus suffered and died on the cross for sins and rose again on the third day; the Holy Spirit is God and fills us with power, enables us to believe, equips us with gifts, and bears fruit in our lives; the Bible is God’s word; Jesus is coming again to judge the living and the dead, and justification is by faith alone.

These truths need to be more than a set of beliefs we assume. They should be the lens through which we look at ourselves and the world. There are many Christians and churches that don’t deny any cardinal doctrine of Christian faith, but they still don’t have a theological core. They have, instead, a musty statement of faith they barely understand and hardly believe and wouldn’t dare preach. They are animated and motivated by politics, church growth, relational concerns and the like, but the gospel is merely assumed. “Yes, yes–of course we believe in the Virgin Birth, and the atonement, and the resurrection, and heaven and hell,” they say. But its all periphery, not core. It’s all assumed, not all-consuming. Theologically hollow congregations and pastors may like to think they will bequeath a gospel legacy to the next generation, but the truth is we only pass on what is our passion. New converts and new kids won’t think and live and love like mature Christians, let alone be able to articulate the Christian story, if our beliefs rest in a pamphlet and not in our hearts.

The above is some of what he said about the "Core." tomorrow I'll post what he said about the "Crust." The entire article is really good - I highly recommend you read the whole thing.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Water Cooler Christians

From: Water Cooler Christians The Sacred Sandwich

Praying for Strangers

The good Anchoress has done it again (I wish I could write this well!) She wrote some great stuff about Praying for the stranger

And lately, I find myself praying for strangers. At the bank, watching a harried mother deal with her whining daughter, I pray for them, and for their good. For the elderly couple walking hand-in-hand to light a candle in church. For the three kids dressed in black, hanging out aimlessly by the corner. For the overweight guy who looks so sad, the kid behind the counter whose dreams likely never included that job.

It’s a funny thing, but praying for strangers has made me slightly more at ease in the world. I am an introvert and that will always be true, but the spiritual and psychic engagement of the world, through prayer, has made me feel more a part of it. Praying for others has made Thomas Merton’s astounding personal revelation make more and more sense to me.

“There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

No. But praying for them helps one to move in that light.

We are, after all, all in this together - and quite outside of time.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


We are encouraged by bracelets and books to ask WWJD - What would Jesus Do? - as a guide to our behavior. The concept goes back to the classic 19th century book by Charles Sheldon In His Steps, and of course all the way back to the New Testament.

Unfortunately, as we have all discovered, just asking the right question does not in itself give the power to do as Jesus would do.

What if we first asked ourselves WHJD- What has Jesus done? I mean by that a focus on the finished work of Christ on the cross- the Gospel of grace and free justification. We act based on what He did and is doing. Christian spirituality is response, not initiative. He initiates, we respond. He comes first.

If we are very conscious of what he has done for us and in us, asking WWJD would probably work a whole lot better.

Update: I wrote the above before I saw this post by Jared Wilson. Great minds think alike!

No Addition Needed

“The message of the gospel is that you are saved by grace through Christ’s work and nothing else at all. As soon as you add anything to it, you have lost it entirely.”

- Timothy Keller, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians: Living in Line with the Truth of the Gospel (Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2003), 13.

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

Remembering "The Day the Music Died"

Today, February 3, 2009, is the 50th anniversary of "the day the music died." Let's all sing together "Bye, bye, Miss American Pie. Drove my Chevy to the levy but the levy was dry..."

The Don McLean song "American Pie" was big in 1971-72 when I was 15 years old. We spent a lot of time on the school bus every day figuring out what each verse meant. Finally discovered that the day the music died was the date of the plane crash that killed three early rock-n-roll stars. McLean obviously didn't think much of the state of popular music in the 60's and really despised Mick Jagger!
I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.

So bye-bye, miss american pie.
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
And them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
Singin’, "this’ll be the day that I die.
"this’ll be the day that I die."
In Memoriam and Rest in Peace:

Jiles Perry “The Big Bopper” Richardson, Jr. (October 24, 1930 – February 3, 1959)

Buddy Holly (September 7, 1936 – February 3, 1959)

Ritchie Valens (May 13, 1941 – February 3, 1959)

See: 50 Years After His Death, The Boy Finally Meets his Father - Warner_Todd_Huston’s blog
- RedState

Monday, February 2, 2009

Our Spiritual Weakness

"The great weakness of North American spirituality is that it is all about us: fulfilling our potential, getting in on the blessings of God, expanding our influence, finding our gifts, getting a handle on principles by which we can get an edge over the competition. And the more there is of us, the less there is of God."

-- Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places

Hat Tip to Jared Wilson at The Gospel-Driven Church

Friends of Sinners Bless the Bikes

A couple of years ago some members of the local chapter of the Christian Motorcycle Association (CMA) started attending our church. They started bringing their friends and families, who brought their friends, who brought their friends, etc. Now we have a large contingent of motorcyclists attending both of our services. They usually show up in their denim and leather, wearing their "colors" (the CMA emblem) on the backs of vests and jackets. One lady has a patch on her leather vest that says "These are my church clothes!"

Friday and Saturday we hosted a regional CMA conference. Our services on February 1st overflowed with bikers of all persuasions, CMA and not, including people who rarely if ever attend a church service and some rival motorcycle gangs who don't always get along with each other. We prayed hard! The message was given by the chaplain of this CMA region, who is a member of our church and an old friend of mine. He preached an evangelistic message in language intended for non-church people to understand.

Over 100 motorcycles were parked in front of our church Sunday morning for their annual "Blessing of the Bikes." After church every bike was prayed for, and the owner/riders prayed for, for safety and blessing during 2009.

It is a special satisfaction that our congregation is known as a place of acceptance for people who would not "fit in" at most churches. If Jesus was known in His day as the Friend of sinners, shouldn't the present day gatherings of His followers also be know as communities and places were sinners are welcome and accepted?

Just askin'.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Dead Men Walking

"Jesus came to raise the dead. He did not come to teach the teachable; He did not come to improve the improvable; He did not come to reform the reformable. None of those things works."

--Robert Farrar Capon

Hat Tip: The Boar’s Head Tavern

Soul Force Conquers Temporary Divisions

I recently re-connected with an old friend from 20 years ago via Facebook who is also now a blogger. Saw this comment about last years election and praying for our new president and thought it was very well said. Thanks to Dave Grant at My Opinion on the election: Davewgrantsblog

“Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”

Soul force?

The day after Election Day I went to work disappointed and worried for my country. Watching my African American brothers and sisters clap and dance and rejoice over “their” victory just poured salt on my wounds. I went to church the following Sunday and felt an awful tension in our sanctuary and Sunday school rooms. There was a hot division between my brothers and sisters. It burdened my heart to watch one of my pale Republican brothers express despair within a few feet of one of my beautiful chocolate sisters doing her dance of joy. I wanted to dance with my sister, share her living water, but at the same time I had to console my brother, lift him up to where he belonged. What could I do?

I believe this where Soul Force defined itself in my heart and mind. I knew what my heart wanted and what my God desired, so I reached down into my soul and forced out the right response. I grabbed my brother and my sister by the arms, looked in their faces, and tried to speak to their God made hearts.

“Yes,” I said to my sister, “What a proud day for you and for us all. Our country has done something extraordinary and you should dance and sing about it.” Then, looking into the eyes of my brother, I said “And we are going to pray that Barack Obama becomes the best president we ever had, aren't we? It would be insane to pray for his failure because in this dangerous day and age we need the best president we've ever had. ”

After all we are just temporarily Democrats and Republicans, blacks and whites, and left and right. We may not look alike and our family culture may be different but for eternity we are and will be Jesus’ children, and all precious in his sight On this Earth we must be Christian people, loving our temporary American home and ministering to it, but not allowing ourselves to be defined by it.

I believe prayer is the act that releases the power to raise us up from our divisions, from our differences, from disappointment to faith and from negative expectations to positive realization. Soul Force, making a divine decision in our spirit to live by the spirit and not the flesh, empowers us to pray, and prayer changes us, and will protect our country as well.

Thanks, Dave, for reminding us all of the temporary nature of our political and racial divisions. The unity of Christ transcends all human made divisions.