Archive for October, 2019

Letter to Kanye

Posted: October 31, 2019 in Current Affairs, Meditations

download.jpegMy heart thrilled when I heard you sold out, lock stock and barrel, to follow Christ. I’m an old man, nearly 65 years old, and it feels like yesterday that I made that same leap of faith. I was 17 when I cried out to God, “If you’re real, please be real in my life.” Kanye, 48 years later, I can say, “If I had it to do all over again, I’d serve Jesus every day of my life.” I have no regrets, my relationship with Christ has never been stronger, never more intimate. But life is messy and the spiritual warfare has a violence all its own.

Never forget, you belong to God. Christ is your king. Any number of people will want to use you for their purposes, their causes. And why wouldn’t they? Who wouldn’t want your brilliance with words, your perceptions on life? You see and speak what many of us can only sense in part. You give voice to the soul of man. That is a gift from God – guard it. Never take it for granted.

Each day is a partnership with your friend, the Holy Spirit. I adopted a spiritual discipline from the legendary Pastor Cho from South Korea. Every day when I wake up, I utter these words, “Good morning, Holy Spirit. You are my senior partner, I am the junior partner. What are we going to do today?” My life is full of daily heavenly assignments. Each moment is a gift, an opportunity to be God’s hand extended. The Holy Spirit will guide, teach, and warn you. As you get to know him, that partnership will flow – much like your music. Just remember, there is no shelf-life. It’s like the manna of Moses. It goes to worms the second day. You’ve got no choice, Kanye. Hang onto Jesus and let the fur fly.

Always respect spiritual mentors. They are the patrons of the Christ follower. We all need grounding, we need men to hold us to account. The more successful you are, the more you need that pastor and those elders in your life. Pride and the flesh are insidious bedfellows. So, Kanye, hold these individuals tight. You know who they are.

Finally, treasure your wife and your children. Be patient, be gentle with your correction. Remember, they belong to God, you are a trustee. Kim may be in a different place than you and I’m sure she has a different temperament. You are now a much different man by your own account. Encourage your wife. Affirm her. Be measured and prayerful with your constructive criticism. The best thing you can do is love her and honor her. The one thing we can’t redeem is time. Give your family the gift of time, be present, invest in their lives.

I will pray for God’s protection on you and your house. You have declared war on the devil. Trust me, the enemy has declared war on you. He will seek to destroy your family and your credibility. Job, at his low ebb, declared, “Tho you slay me, yet will I trust in you.” We serve a Great God, Infinite Goodness. Welcome to the family. I’m so proud to call you “Brother.”

I Should Be Dead

Posted: October 30, 2019 in Meditations
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You have not lied to men but to God. Acts 5:4

Thud, Ananias is dead. His wife, Sapphira, soon follows. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events. (Acts 5:11) Scary stuff. What happened? This couple wanted the praise that certainly came with dramatic gifts of generosity. Barnabas is remembered for such an act in the previous chapter (4:36). But their love of money made them hoard a portion of the sale for themselves. The result, they told a lie, a deceit that threatened the integrity of a young church. God struck them dead. God extinguished an existential threat and the congregation took notice. You cannot lie to God and get away with it.

Numbers 16 shares the horrific account of a rebellion led by Korah, Dathan and Abiram. These three men brought 250 community leaders with them and challenged the spiritual authority of Moses. You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly? (Number 16:3) By the end of the day, 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah. (Numbers 16:49). That was the end of the rebellion.

Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7,8)

By the measure of Ananias and Korah, I should have been dead many times over. I’ve been deceitful, manipulative – done so many “good deeds” to receive the praise of others. I remember a dark moment when I asked myself, “How far can I remove myself from God and still come back to the fold?” My stupid arrogance still astounds me. Each sin stole a piece of my heart. I had less and less to offer to my wife and children. I may still be breathing but I was dying. Never forget, sin is death. 

Christ said, in John 10:10, I come that you might have life to the full. This is my experience, my testimony. My pursuit of God makes me a better husband, a better father, a better uncle, a better friend. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:9, 10). This is the life of a Christ follower, this is life to the fullest. 

Don’t be afraid, don’t hesitate, God waits. He wants to restore you, he wants you to live life to the fullest. For Those Tears I died, an old hymn, says it better than I ever will. 

Jesus, I give you, my heart and my soul

I know now without God, I’ll never be whole

Savior, you opened all the right doors

And I thank you and praise from Earth’s humble shores

Take me I’m yours!

 

Ode to Conan

Posted: October 29, 2019 in Current Affairs, Meditations

A tribute to a special friend

I stood at the veterinary clinic counter wallet in hand. “Go home, sir, go straight home. We’re not doing money today.” I nodded and walked out, face quivering, tears streaming down, an emotional wreck. An hour before, I came with my little dog, Conan. I drove away alone. My buddy left me forever. Grief bubbled out. Gasps exploded into sobs. My lament betrayed a love I rarely admitted to.

I never wanted a dog. Conan belonged to my  firstborn son. But John took a job that sent him overseas. Conan now lived with us, the kids’ dog, and especially Mama’s dog. What’s a man to do? I had no alternative and that little ball of fur wormed his way into every crevice of my heart over the course of the next thirteen years. Good days, bad days—they meant nothing to Conan. Every day was a great day for him. Not one moment ever passed without receiving his unconditional love. He asked for little and gave so much. I still grieve. Flash memories haunt me, his last breath, the light departing his eyes. God, I miss him.
I still sort through my emotions, always searching for clues about myself. My mind says, “He’s just a dog.” But my heart knows better. My little buddy affirms fundamental truths. We are created for relationship, to love and be loved. Our pets often point us toward a better way to live. In our selfishness, we can be so volatile, so petty. God meant for us to be so much better. Conan, in an elemental way, points me to God. Trust, faithfulness, selfless love—this is the legacy of my special little friend. Conan, thank you. You are forever in my heart.

We Are Not Alone

Posted: October 25, 2019 in Meditations
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Life confronts us with twists and turns. We think we are in control of our lives until we aren’t. What then? Sadly, it often takes tragedy to appreciate the quote, “We don’t know Jesus is all we need until Jesus is all we have.” Can we, will we, sing, It Is Well With My Soul?

Ray Hildebrand wrote a song back in the sixties that says,

If I live, well, praise the Lord.
If I die, well, praise the Lord.
If I live or die, my only cry will be, Jesus in me, praise the Lord.

Fear can be awful. Its waves choke our joy, it buries all perspective in the churn of surging emotions. God, where are you in the midst of my trouble?

He is there. Trust me, he is there. And where are you, where am I, if he is there? Jesus says, “Behold I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The psalmist, in Psalm 56:3, says, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” He later asks, “What can mere mortals do to me?” He declares, in the midst of his fear, “In God I trust and I am not afraid. What can man do to me?”

Only the Holy Spirit can truly give rest to our souls. Who is our senior partner? We are not alone. We were never meant to be alone. We are created in the image of God. What does that imply? We are created to communicate with the Almighty. We are designed for relationship. Embrace him. God has already made the first move. The ball is in our court.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in our faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

I Peter 5:8,9

This Moment

Posted: October 22, 2019 in Meditations
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Colossians 3:1–17 (NIV): 3 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.  12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Each moment we exist, our lives must cry out, “Christ is all, and is in all.” To live is Christ. Too many conversations center around the word “what “ rather than “who”. Aziz Ansari, a wildly successful actor and comedian got taken down by the METoo movement. Two years later, he’s making a comeback. He spoke these words to an audience. “All that stuff, it can just go away. All we really have is the moment we’re in and the people we’re with.” This moment is not merely what we have; this moment is all we need! Christ is our sufficiency in each moment, gifted to us for God’s glory and pleasure. When our neediness gets swallowed up into God’s infinite goodness we proclaim, “Christ is all that matters.”
God in all, this is where any ministry must begin. Humility is the indispensable virtue for every Christian. It is also the virtue that must age. Pride reigns in our hearts; spiritual pride always threatens the existential well-being of the church. Humility is the product of surrender and sustained relationship with God. It is the artful transformative work of the Holy Spirit. I decrease that he might increase. I love out of God’s infinite goodness, not out of my neediness. Disposition is everything. Desires change. Actions change. I now walk in partnership with my senior partner, the Holy Spirit. I am a vessel of his purposes, moment by moment, and I know only good can come from it.
Am I good at this? Man’s response will vary from derision to awe. From my heart, I would say, I’m awkward. I still war with pride of every variety. My trust can be wobbly, my fears haunt and chide my soul. Still, the faithfulness of God amasses trust within me, moment by moment, day by day. Fears and failures no longer paralyze me. Faith and trust are two sides of the same coin. God’s faithfulness breeds trust. Faith builds on faith. None of this happens apart from God. Seize this moment, this day. Be bold. Christ is all that matters.

The Honeymoon

Posted: October 21, 2019 in Meditations
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They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Acts‬ ‭2:42-47‬ ‭NIV‬‬
My wife and I honeymooned at Lake Tahoe, a glorious mountain paradise. Towering blocks of granite peppered with pungent pine envelope a vast tub cold pure water. Hikes, tennis, and good food filled our daily routine. No stress, no demands—I relished every moment with the woman I loved. In a few short days, we drove out of idyllic mountains to our new home. We now faced stress, limited assets, new demands and our own foibles. Welcome to life, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
If Acts 2 was the only account of the early church, how frustrated would we be? Too good to be true, right? Selfless fellowship, hanging out with the men who lived with the Christ, people joining the cause every day—the ultimate honeymoon!
The early church soon woke up to a new reality, the church at war with sin in an evil age. Peter and John get jailed in Act 4. Acts 6, factions surface in the church. Stephen becomes the first martyr in Acts 7. By Acts 8, the church scatters under persecution. The Council at Jerusalem , Acts 15, reaches a compromise to avert a split in the church.  How quickly we discover a fundamental truth, the kingdom consists of flawed saints in an evil age.
So what do we do? We commit ourselves each waking moment to our senior partner, the Holy Spirit. He is our first taste of heaven. He is the reason we can confess, “All things are possible, only believe.” He is the reason we can sing defiantly, “Run to the battle.” King David said, “The  Lord is my light and salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1. Real life is no honeymoon. Life can be violent; it will assault you. But fear not. Be bold! In the end, Christ is all that matters.

The Gift

Posted: October 18, 2019 in Meditations
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Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.

‭‭Acts‬ ‭2:38-39‬ ‭NIV‬‬
Reverend Robert O. Brown, my paternal grandfather, lay in his recliner, his frail body shuddered beneath a blanket. Periodically convulsed with coughing spells, tears of exhaustion welled in his eyes. Cancer is a damnable disease. I sat across from Grandpa, we were alone. Grandma napped in the back bedroom. I was about to head for home.
“Phil, stay. I’ve got some things I want to share with you,” said Grandpa. I nodded, he began to talk. What followed was so unexpected. I received the gift of a story, the intimate personal story of my grandfather: his joys, his sorrows, disappointments and triumphs. I wept with him as he struggled to describe the loss of his sweet Alliene and his little buddy Philip, my namesake. No verbal veneer, pure raw honesty, palpable emotion—every bit of it intentional—this was his legacy, his gift to me.
Two hour’s passed in a nanosecond. “Phil, in the end, Christ is all that matters.” It was time to go. His chest heaved with sobs as I exited the door. He knew, I knew, this was goodbye until the far side of heaven. And it was. I carry his gift always. I sign my letters, “Be bold, Christ is all that matters.” I love you Grandpa, I’ll see you soon. “Christ is all that matters.”

God Loves Us

Posted: October 17, 2019 in Meditations
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Who Am I 
by Casting Crowns
Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name,
Would care to feel my hurt?
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart?Not because of who I am,
But because of what You’ve done.
Not because of what I’ve done,
But because of who You are.I am a flower quickly fading:
Here today and gone tomorrow.
A wave tossed in the ocean,
A vapor in the wind.
Still You hear me when I’m calling.
Lord, You catch me when I’m falling.
And You’ve told me who I am.
I am Yours, I am Yours.

Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love and watch me rise again?
Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me?

Not because of who I am,
But because of what You’ve done.
Not because of what I’ve done,
But because of who You are.

I am a flower quickly fading:
Here today and gone tomorrow.
A wave tossed in the ocean,
A vapor in the wind.
Still You hear me when I’m calling.
Lord, You catch me when I’m falling.
And You’ve told me who I am.
I am Yours.

Not because of who I am,
But because of what You’ve done.
Not because of what I’ve done,
But because of who You are.

I am a flower quickly fading:
Here today and gone tomorrow.
A wave tossed in the ocean,
A vapor in the wind.
Still You hear me when I’m calling.
Lord, You catch me when I’m falling.
And told me who I am.
I am Yours, I am Yours, I am Yours.

Whom shall I fear?
Whom shall I fear?
‘Cause I am Yours, I am Yours.

Whom shall I fear? I am yours, created by and for you. So easy to forget, isn’t it? I get so caught up in the temporal moment that I forget I exist in an eternal continuum.
Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love
And watch me rise again?
But this is exactly what God does. He loves us, every one of us.
“A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising.
Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.”
‭‭Mark‬ ‭15:7, 15‬ ‭NIV‬‬
The hate for Jesus could not be more stark. A rogue murderer carried more worth than Jesus. The horror of his crucifixion begins with the tearing of flesh. Yet his love for all involved never faded. He loved Barabbas. He loves us. We are his creation, ordained with eternal purpose, endowed with the capacity to have relationship with God. Love him, pursue him. He loves us.

Emptied

Posted: October 17, 2019 in Meditations
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“But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.””

‭‭Mark‬ ‭14:61-62‬ ‭NIV‬‬
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:5-7‬ ‭NASB‬‬
I can’t escape the idea of Christ emptying himself, laying aside his glory. He gave up everything to take on flesh for us. No privilege, no reputation, a bastard child from the obscure backwater village called Nazareth, this is the Christ’s ordained lot on earth. Who would predict, who could even imagine this scenario to be the pivotal moment in the history of mankind? God’s ways are not man’s ways.
We too must empty ourselves, but it is not glory but rather our flesh that must be set aside. Christ must become all in all. A powerful song says, “In the pressing, in the crushing, we become new wine.” We are continually being transformed into the image of Christ. Effects of sin get exposed. Patterns of wrong thinking that lead to sin get broken—one day, one hour, one moment at a time. Our brokenness leads to resurrection. The fruit of gentleness, goodness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and the love of God demonstrate themselves in our relationships. These attributes grow deeper and stronger as we prove faithful, emptied, Christ all in all.