friday.folio

Here’s this week’s “friday.folio,” a hat-tip to some of the things I’ve read the past week that surprised / encouraged / challenged me.

1.The Nowism of Grace” is an article by Paul Tripp at “Desiring God.” We can easily see the beauty of the Gospel for Salvation and Eternity – but what about the in-between? Do you live as if you have been saved by Grace?

2.Inklings” is a post by Ryan Tate at “Doorframes of TaterHouse.” Ryan explores how God sustains us through things by simple, yet profound, reminders and glimpses of Grace through community with one another.

3.God Uses Blogs And Twitter” is a post with a story, by Michael Perkins at “Untitled.” Michael shares how relationships made on twitter eventually facilitated a movement of God in a person. I won’t spoil it any further.

4.Devotional on the Psalms” is an entry by Pastor Scott Cundiff at Daily Devotional Writing from Pastor Scott.” As the title of his blog suggests, he writes daily devotionals. I try to read them because I really like his down-to-earth style. This post is about “riding the roller-coaster” with David. I think you’ll like it.

5.Count Your Blessings!” is a post by a friend and fellow Thriver, Diana Joyner. She just started a blog called “Zephaniah 3:17.” This post is her second entry, and it humbles me. The post challenges our view of blessings – are they our blessings or God’s?

6. Finally – something funny! I preach from an iPad (which I am trying to sell) and I  thought the post, “Pastors who read sermon notes from an iPad” by Scott Acuff at “Stuff Christians Like” was pretty funny, even though it did not describe me AT ALL.

I want to start using “friday.folio” as a way to meet new bloggers. So, if you’ve run across a good post today, please share it below – even if YOU wrote it 🙂

believe.your.eyes

photo credit: LoHud.com - supposedly the Virgin Mary's image on a potato.

I love to fish, and if there is one thing fisherman do well, it’s exaggerating. The “fish-tale” is a common idiom for exaggeration of an actual event. I used to fish a lot more than I do now, but when I did, my friends and I would call each other to brag about the day’s fishing. Inevitably a potential whopper that suspends belief would spew out.

You’ve said it: “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Other variations are, “photograph of it or it didn’t happen,” and “where’s the vid?” Sometimes we hear things that seem so outrageous that we just can’t believe it until we see it. Our eyes and ears must have mutual confirmation for us to believe it. So, we demand proof.

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
19 The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.
(Luke 1:18-19)

Sometimes, we do see, yet we still do not believe. I am pretty sure that if an angel was standing in front of me, I would believe what he told me. Luke 1:12 says he was “gripped with fear,” so it’s not like he didn’t know who/what he was looking at. Yet, he asked for proof! That just blows my mind.

Sometimes someone will ask me to pray for something, and when the issue gets resolved they tell me that I don’t have to pray anymore because it worked out somehow. “SOMEHOW???” Just because things appear to be readily explainable by the natural does not mean it was devoid of the Supernatural God’s handiwork.

Sigh. Well, you know, I’m guilty of it too, and I’m sure you sometimes are too. Is it because we don’t believe in the divine miracle anymore? Is it because we have been desensitized to the work of the Holy Spirit? Is it because we’re afraid to accept that the work of God is actually the work of God?

15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked.
16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
17 And Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha
(2 Kings 6:15-17)

The battle was won. I wonder what the other soldiers, the ones whose eyes were not opened, thought of the events of that day. Did they attribute what they did see to the handiwork of God?

Father, help me to see you in everything that you touch, so that I can praise you before others.

12.stones

Today’s post is inspired by thoughts emanating from a post by Michael Perkins.

I often say, “If you knew me before Jesus, you would not recognize me at all.” Sometimes, I change it a little to, “If you knew me before Jesus, you would not like me at all.”

I recognize myself more with the repentant robber on the cross than with Paul. At least Paul thought he was doing God’s will when he fought against Christians. I fought against God, on purpose. I don’t know if it is some psychological issue I have or the Holy Spirit, but whenever I begin to feel puffed up, the memories of my life before Jesus come rushing over me. It’s OK, though. I don’t mind it. I am happy to be reminded of how much God can change a person.

4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, 5 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, 6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 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)

I suppose that I’ve erected 12 stones of my own. Memorials to the work God did in me. They stand as constant reminders of the power of Grace, the reach of Perfect Love. I am happy for these stones that remind me of the beautiful work my Jesus did on the cross. I am happy to take people on tours of these stones – perhaps they can know the same Grace that erected these memorials.

There is a temptation of which I am becoming increasingly aware – the temptation to define myself by those stones. Joshua did not have the people erect those stones in order to worship them. Their purpose was to serve as a road-marker – a point in the journey where God did something amazing. My identity is not in the stones – it is in the work of God, continuously being wrought in me.

courtesy.prayer

When friends get together, we laugh about all kinds of things. We laugh when someone says something funny and we laugh when someone says something stupid. We laugh with and at each other simultaneously. The nature of friendship is such that we know one other’s  flaws. Part of the way we cope with them is through laughter. A long time ago, my brother, Rick introduced me to the “courtesy laugh” – a tool I employ with my friends at every opportunity.

Let’s say that you just said something that you thought was absolutely hilarious, but no one else found it to be even remotely funny. This is a ripe occasion for a “courtesy laugh.” One of your very good friends would show you grace by laughing enthusiastically on your behalf, but just as you are enjoying this laugh and beginning to revel in your great sense of humor, your very good friend abruptly stops laughing, changes his expression to one of patronization, and then says, “courtesy laugh.”

The typical response is some very authentic and enthusiastic laughing by all those present, at your expense.

Please note that this is only acceptable within the confines of close friendships – outside of this realm you may suffer  unexpected bodily pain.

15And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:15-16)

The other day, someone was hurting. Their heart broken.  They asked for prayer. I was busy. I whipped out the “courtesy prayer.” Unlike a “courtesy laugh”, the “courtesy prayer” typically never takes place. We promise to pray, but not right now. Unfortunately, we tend to never get around to praying as we promised. The “courtesy prayer” is a pacifier without remedy.

Hi, my name is Herb, and I am a recovering “courtesy pray-er.” I fell off the wagon yesterday.

between.2.loves

My son is getting ready for college. His major has to do with music engineering, and in that business Mac’s abound, so we bought him a Macbook Pro for college. We’ve never been a Mac household, seeing the Mac culture as pretentious, and aristocratic. But, as a fairly satisfied iPhone user, I’ve come to be less hostile to Apple’s products in general. I am ready to admit they are absolutely solid in design and manufacture – perhaps unrivaled. But, I still have problems with the OS itself – the detached menu bar is stupid if you ask me. Increasingly, I’ve become torn between the Windows and Mac worlds, drawn by the ubiquity of the Windows OS, and the refinement of the Mac’s chassis. For my next PC purchase, I’ll probably get a Macbook Pro, and put Windows on it! Gasp!

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew 6:24)

Contextually, the passage above speaks to our love affair with money. But, I think it’s scope of application is so much broader. You could insert a plethora of words in place of “money.” For me, “career” is probably the most appropriate surrogate. As a bi-vocational pastor, I work outside the church. I am pretty good at what I do. I take a lot of pride in the product I create, and how well I perform my craft. Yet, I am called to pastor. Most of the time, being a pastor is absolutely my first love. I am engrossed in it. But, sometimes I find myself consumed by my career and the road to advancing it. In those times, God reminds me that my “tent-making” is not my vocation – it is a means to it. Usually this reminder comes in a painful way – like me letting someone down. Ouch.

I cannot maintain any gods except God. He alone is worthy of my first praise and my first passion. My relationship with Him is above everything else, and everyone else.

Are you sometimes torn between two “loves?”

friday.folio

Here’s this week’s “friday.folio,” a hat-tip to some of the things I’ve read the past week that surprised / encouraged / challenged me.

1. “The Path of Greatest Resistance” is a post by Jason Stasyszen who writes at “Connecting to Impact“.  This should have been listed in last week’s list, but somehow I missed finding it again in my feeds. I’ve always been fascinated with Jesus’ conversation with God in the Garden of Gethsemane. What did they say to one another that was not recorded? What physical, emotional, and spiritual battles were being raged there. Jason, in his mind’s eye,  peeks in on this conversation.

2. “Private Confession” is a post by Pete Wilson at “WithoutWax.” He is a pastor of a church in Nashville, and the author of a book titled “Plan B” which I have not read yet, but is on the list. I found his blog through a post by the blogger “Zee” and subscribed out of curiosity. This post deals with who we confess to. I won’t spoil it by saying any more than that.

3. “Dreaming With a Troubled Heart” is a piece by Duane Scott. It is a beautifully written narrative account of a restless night he endured. I won’t spoil it with any further description. But, I will say it is stunning writing.

4. “Andy Stanley Interviews Jim Collins” is a link to a Catalyst video on Ron Edmondson’s blog. I probably should have direct linked it to the Catalyst site, but I found it via Ron, so he deserves the “finder’s fee” – hahaha. There are some seriously good “quotes” in there for those who are involved in leadership.

5. “Love Indescribable” is a poem by Jesse Joyner, who has a new blog called “Seeking His Face Blog“. It’s great, ‘nuf said.

Enjoy!

brand.loyalty

Everyone knows that I love Ford vehicles. I love their cars, I love their trucks, I even love their tractors! This is not a love affair with some nostalgic family memory. My family had vehicles of most brands. All brands have their lemons, so you really have to remove the extremes from the equation and look at the normative. That’s why I like Fords. By and large, they seem to be of better manufacturing quality than other similar brands (not talking about luxury or pseudo-luxury brands). Trim stays put, doors close with a satisfying soft thunk (not a clack or smack or clunk), and when they do need repair, the parts cost a little more, but they are so easy to work on. If you disagree, I would advise you to stay away from the display at the ford dealership comparing build quality between brands – your world will be forever shaken (smile). The bottom line: I’m a Ford man.

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:15-16)

Peter was a Jesus man. He was a zealot who found the answer to his restless soul in Jesus. People talk about how “radical” Jesus was, and he was definitely a “different” kind of leader. But, there were far more “radical” people around during that period of time. Many “messiahs” had come who vied for the loyalty of the people, promising revolt and revolution. There were certainly more “zealous” personalities that he could have followed. Yet, he chose Jesus.

I can imagine there were times when he thought Jesus should have been more forceful, more reactionary. Yet, he stayed with Jesus. Even when he was weak and dropped the ball (John 18:25-27), that rooster’s call reminded him why he could not let this mistake be the last word. And when Jesus met him for breakfast that morning on the beach (John 21:15-19), he had already made up his mind that he was a Jesus man – he just did not yet know how far he would be willing to go.

Peter knew from experience who Jesus was -the Son of God. He failed Jesus, but Jesus never failed him. Peter is a Jesus man.

I know from experience who Jesus is – the Son of God. I’ve failed Jesus, but Jesus has never failed me. I’m a Jesus man.

honor.the.sabbath

For some time now, I have been exploring Sabbath. What I mean is that I’ve been reading and meditating on what Sabbath is supposed to be, asking myself, “what does God hope to achieve with Sabbath?” I’ve long wrestled with the relationship between priest (pastor) and Sabbath.

5Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? (Matthew 12:5)

God’s call on the priesthood is to do the work of a priest on the Sabbath. Considering the strict Hebrew sensibilities concerning Sabbath, it seems to be quite a privilege to work on the Sabbath. I remember the first time I was asked to publicly pray during a church service – I was a young married father. At once, my fear of public speaking produced an elevated heart rate, and hyper-ventilating. But something else was there too – I was honored to be asked to be part of the Sabbath work – extremely honored. The feeling reminded me of running my toy lawnmower beside my dad as he pushed the real mower. It is an honor to be part of the Sabbath work – even as the lead Pastor, I still feel this way.

27Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27)

Without getting into the minutia of Sabbath theology, I’ve come to believe that while we priests (pastors) are innocent of desecrating the Sabbath by doing our priestly work, we are in real danger of failing to honor the Sabbath – honor the purpose of Sabbath. While the work of  Sabbath is valuable to me, as a bi-vocational pastor (which means I work outside the church as well), I find that I need to experience the rest of Sabbath as much as anyone else. Rest is what the Sabbath is for.

If you do a biblical survey of Sabbath, you’ll find that it is an integral part of the whole of creation – not just humans. The soil needs Sabbath. The cattle need Sabbath. People need Sabbath. Fellow laborers, priests need Sabbath too.

Considering my situation, I can’t do what other pastors do (take Monday off). But, I’ve committed to finding Sabbath rest – not just rest for rest’s sake, but rest for rejuvenation’s sake – which means that during these rare jewels of time, I want to incorporate personal meditation upon and worship of my precious God.

How are you intentionally experiencing Sabbath?

my.daily.bread

Last night, I had dinner with my bride and some friends. I mentioned that I had begun blogging every weekday. One of my friends said, “wow that is a lot of work!” I was able to share with her why I made this commitment and I thought it would be a good idea to share with you as well. Consider this passage:

(Psalm 119:57-64)

57 You are my portion, O LORD;
I have promised to obey your words.

58 I have sought your face with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.

59 I have considered my ways
and have turned my steps to your statutes.

60 I will hasten and not delay
to obey your commands.

61 Though the wicked bind me with ropes,
I will not forget your law.

62 At midnight I rise to give you thanks
for your righteous laws.

63 I am a friend to all who fear you,
to all who follow your precepts.

64 The earth is filled with your love, O LORD;
teach me your decrees.

As I read that passage, my heart cries, “Yes, Lord, yes!” Yet, I know that the passion for God’s Word described therein is hardly the condition of my heart. Don’t get me wrong, I love God so much, and He teaches me, constantly, how to be holy (1 Peter 1:13-16). I do not lack a passion for God. I will do “anything” (I hope) to serve Him. But……

I’ve been lazy in my meditation on His word. As a pastor, it is very tempting to allow the sermon preparation time to take the place of prayerful meditation on His word. There is a lot of spiritual value that I get from preparing to preach, and I grow with Him as I do. But, I’ve come to realize that, for me, this is not a fitting offering. I must admit that His Word has not been my passion for a long time. I love His Word, but I’ve allowed the urgency of  “the task” to make my time with His Word task-driven – mediocre.

This – must – change.

So, I’ve committed to blogging every weekday, with the specific intention of exposing how my meditation on the Word of the Lord transforms me. I need this time, everyday. So this is my offering.

How does your passion for God’s Word measure up to the passage above? How are you exercising that passion?

i.can.barely.see

I was at Thrive Church the other evening. We worship in a warehouse building. I love it. It is very versatile, but because it is a warehouse, there are very few light switches, and none of them are conveniently located. I left something in the sanctuary, and went through the “side door” because it was the closest to me. Unfortunately, there are no light switches at this door. As I opened it and looked in, I saw that it was incredibly dark, even with some light peering in from the door I was getting ready to walk through. I took out my iPhone, and launched my flashlight app, but it hardly gives out any light – I could hardly see. I knew we had some furniture in the middle of the way, so I walked slowly, with the “flashlight” just barely lighting each individual step. I had no frame of reference except my memory of the room and this tiny, dim spot on the floor.

(Psalm 119:105)

Your word is a lamp to my feet

and a light for my path.

According to this passage (in context) I can trust in what God has already done and said – and that is enough to light my path.

I am preaching a series through the book of Daniel, titled “Trust God.” I have to admit it has been as personally challenging to me as to anyone in the congregation. I have a particular situation in my life right now where the way has become obscured. I cannot see beyond this moment. But, I want to see MORE than just the step I am taking right now. I want to see MORE than the limits of the faint light before me. But sometimes, God works like that iPhone “flashlight” – revealing just enough so that we can put our foot down firmly – and that’s it.

Can you live with that?