Questions

What are you doing each day to connect with God? Are you are person of Scripture, of prayer, of worship?

Are you living your life in evidence of praying, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”?

Are you pressing on towards the upward call of Christ? Are you searching to really know Him more?

Are you living your life in the full belief in the life to come?

Are you living each day as today may be the return of Christ?

Are you living in the wonder and sacredness of the Creator God?

Are you loving your family? Are you loving your friends? Are you loving your neighbors? Are you loving your enemies? Are you growing in love?

Are you growing in assurance of who you are in Christ?

Do you have joy and peace? Are you expressing those to others?

Are you smiling and laughing?

Are you doing the things that God created you to enjoy?

What bothers you about this world? What can you do about it?

Are you praying for the persecuted Church?

Are you a shining light on a hill? Are you subversive to the fallen systems of sin in this world?

Do you believe there is always hope?

 

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Pictures

Armed with my iphone, the following are a handful of my favorite pictures from the last year or so of my wanderings.

Psalm 8:3-4
When I consider the heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?

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Fall

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Gem Lake

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Mountain hiking in the snow and clouds

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Never-ending pines

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The mountains are calling…

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Sunrise in the stand

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Kentucky sunset

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Moonville Tunnel

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Spring and Summer

 

Sacred

Romans 11:33-36 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out. Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

God is Creator. God is holy. God is THE God. He is the I Am.

The wonderful thing about the creator God is that he desires that we, his creation, draw near to him. As it says in 1 John, “We love because he first loved us” (4:19). But in our drawing near we must not lose our wonder and awe of him, because simply put, he is God. He is creator and we are creation. We cannot make him into something else or something less. Or as Annie Dillard plainly put, “Does anyone have the foggiest idea of what sort of power we so blithely invoke?”

Psalm 147:5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power

When we lose our wonder and awe of the God we say we serve, we lose the sacredness of our meetings with him. Our time in his presence is sacred. Our times of prayer are sacred. Our times of fasting are sacred. Our times of worship are sacred. Our times of meeting together in his name are sacred. The public reading of Scripture is sacred. The partaking of communion is sacred. The act of water baptism is sacred. To see these things as anything less is to begin to see God as less than God. Sacred time. Sacred place. Sacred space. Meetings with God. Connections to God. There is before us the reminder of the difference between the sacred and the secular.

The loss of the sacred causes the essence of our interactions with him, especially our worship, to be shallow. At worse, the loss of the sacred turns our interaction with him into self serving actions. We begin to see God as simply a means to benefit ‘me’ in some manner. We begin to judge our interaction with God based on what we get out of it- whether emotional or tangible. Though God does respond to us and forgive us and bless us and at times touch our emotion and so much more, we cannot completely reduce it to these kind of things. He is God. We worship and follow him because he is that, whether or not there is emotional feeling or a tangible result. He is God and our meeting with him stands on its own. It is sacred. He is not the great genie of the sky simply there to grant our wishes. Our interactions with him (whether worship or prayer or fasting, etc) are not the ways in which we rub the lamp to get the genie to come out in order to have our wishes granted. We worship God because he is God. We serve God because he is God.

God met with Moses through a burning bush. He called Moses to do great things. The meeting with God was ‘take off your sandals sacred’. It was as if to say, “I am God. Don’t forget who I am. Once you get past yourself and do these things, no matter how great they are, remember, I am God. And our interaction is sacred.” This sacredness did not lose it’s edge even when Moses met with God “face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” (Exodus 33:11)

Jesus addressed this in an underlying way in Matthew chapter 6. In talking about prayer and fasting he made it clear that God rewards what we do in secret. In other words, these kind of things are between you and God. They are sacred. They are not to be used to showboat or try to get praise from man- to seem spiritual in front of others. If so, that is the reward you get, but you receive no reward from God. When you go to God in secret, that sacredness of time with him, there the reward is found. That is not to say there should be no public prayer or times of public calls to fasting, but what it is saying is do not remove the sacredness of the acts because of pride.

This shows up in our public and private worship. The range of worship shown in Scripture goes from “Clap your hands, all you nations, shout to God with cries of joy” (Psalm 47:1) to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). It is not that the loudest draw the nearest to God (lest we try to be very loud to be seen or heard- to God and to others), nor is it the quietest that draw the nearest to God (lest we try to be very quiet to be ‘seen’ or ‘heard’- to God and to others). It is the heart born expression of our ever growing love for God that, in both of these, is found a sacred place of worship. If it is a heart born expression, whether it loud or very loud, quiet or very quiet, the expression of worship is sacred. The heart born expression comes from a secret place. When the psalmist cried, “Oh God, you are my God”, the full weight of that was genuine.

Does this mean we are to be ultra super serious all the time when it comes to God? No. Actually, joy is as much an expression of the sacred as solemness. Does God desire for us to draw near to him as a father to a child? Yes. But we cannot take these times lightly nor allow them to become what they are not, and in that, treat God as something less that what he is (God) and lose perspective on what we are (creation).

I want to sit at the table of fellowship with God. To draw near to him. To know him. All within the wonder and awe that he is God the Creator.

As we used to sing at the close of every Sunday service at the church I attended as a child:
Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Amen.

Revelation 4:8  Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty,

who was, and is, and is to come.”

 

 

 

 

As you carry on in life…

As you carry on in life…

Navigating relationships. Making a way in this world. Facing struggles. Celebrating triumphs. Dealing with pain. Laughter. Mourning. Clarity. Confusion. Changing seasons. Making plans. Chasing dreams. Suddenly getting older. Simply facing the workday.

Remember,

God is with you.

God is for you.

God is working for your good.

All things are possible to the one who believes.

 

Isaiah 9:1-7

May we believe; steadfast, unmovable. May we reimagine the world through how things can be. May we have hope (and with that joy and peace). May we live it now, it’s not just for a life to come, but live it now prophetically. May we be people who have seen a great light, who in turn become a light.

Isaiah 9:1-7

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan—

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as men rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.

Walking the Road

Walking the road
Away from
towards what?
In company
but alone
Whatever pleases
flashes of regret
Confident
confused

Called to
Turn a quick look
what was seen?
what was felt?
Ignore
walking the road

Flashes that draw
quick looks back
Now stopped
turned around

Running to you
arms open wide
Steps toward
quickened
Embraced, recovered, restored
Home

The Least of These

Individualism is an idol of the American, modern society. It is at odds with loving your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said loving your neighbor is just like the greatest command of loving God with everything you have. Jesus puts others squarely in front of you.

Others. We have to see. Actually, truly see. Get outside of my individualistic way of seeing things and really see. Get outside of what is simply best and comfortable for me.

Matthew 25:31-46. The hungry. The thirsty. The stranger. The naked. The sick. The prisoner. Whatever you do for the least of these you did for me. Whatever you did not do for the least of these you did not do for me. Jesus said that. In other words, love your neighbor as yourself. Don’t just see them, really see them. You cannot really see until you put your politics down. You cannot truly see until you dig deep to rid yourself of prejudices. You cannot really see until you put aside and rid yourself of your fears and insecurities. For a lot of us, our direct neighbors are not among those who are described in the above passage. But if you look hard enough, or simply watch the news (for instance the current refugee crisis in Syria), it is evident the needs that are there. And once you really see, what are you to do?

Matthew 11:2-6. When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

The prophets, in critique of their own people, were constantly reminding of the dangers and sins of idolatry and injustice. Idolatry: other gods, becoming mixed in their hearts. Not following God and serving him only. Injustice: lacking in how they did not treat the poor, the widow, and the orphan as commanded. To the point of not just improper care for them, but actually oppressing them. Jesus announced the kingdom of God in deeds and in words. He was the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. He is what they pointed to. He restated the warning of idolatry and injustice in his answer to the question of what the greatest command is. Love God. Love neighbor. In these things there will be no idolatry and no injustice. Right relationship with God, right relationship (& actions) with others.

When John the Baptist, in prison, wanted to know if Jesus was the awaited Messiah, Jesus responds with the miraculous (signs of the Kingdom, things that swirl around the Kingdom) and specifically that the good news is being preached to the poor. This is an echo of Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” In the synagogue, Jesus read this text and said it was fulfilled in their hearing (Luke 4:14-21). But why the emphasis on the poor? Did Jesus not also bring the good news to the rich, the well to do? Did he not interact with the rich ruler? Did he not interact with the religious leaders who were mostly of the upper class? Yes, but…

The poor are the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the prisoner. The poor are the marginalized. The poor are often oppressed. The poor are not the ones invited. The poor are often the ignored. The poor are looked down upon. But this is where we find Jesus. This is where he proclaimed the good news. This is a sign of the Kingdom as much as the signs of the miraculous. The gospel reaches to the farthest corners of the marginalized and the oppressed.

Where people are marginalized, Jesus is there. Where people are oppressed, Jesus is there. Where people are left out and not invited, Jesus is there. Where people are ignored, Jesus is there. Where people are looked down upon, Jesus is there. He invites them to the Kingdom, to the great banquet, to seats of honor.

A while ago my daughter came home from church and asked a question. She had misunderstood something that had been said by the speaker concerning the cost of the temple of Solomon and God’s dwelling there. She asked me if the speaker meant that God doesn’t dwell, or go to, where the poor are. I told her it is the exact opposite. As a matter of fact, he is often in the last place where we think he would be. Sometimes we get the idea that Jesus is bottled up within our church buildings where the presence of God is because there are two or more gathered in his name. But if we really look outside our church doors, we may be surprised to find Jesus at work among those where we think he would never be.

And if Jesus is there at work among the oppressed, the marginalized, the outcast, the ignored, the looked down upon- so should we be.