Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Love Stronger

I thought I understood forgiveness.
Then the anguished cries of a heartbroken hero filled me first with wonder, then with hope...

-  -  -
-  -  -

Mahanaim, Land of Promise.

A king and a father await word of the battle, from the safety of the city's gate.
At long last the runners are seen. The pacing ceases. The king must know the state of the nation. The father longs to know the state of his son.

The report arrives, breathless.
King listens. Father waits... Then:

"But what about my boy??"

Beg your pardon?

What boy?

You mean the one who killed your eldest son? That cold blooded barbarian who sought to steal from you everything you had, ending with the crown? The one that this very day launched a campaign to end your life? That boy?
The one who so slowly, so slyly turned the hearts of your friends against you? Turned your influence to ashes from the inside out? Shamed you? Defamed your character before your counselors? Unravelled every thread of trust in the fabric of your rule? That boy?
The one who won the hearts of the kingdom's greatest talent, greatest beauty, greatest skill? Split your family in pieces, then laughed at your sorrow? That one?
That boy?

Yes. Exactly that boy.

And when the king-father hears that his son has fallen, he breaks in pieces.
He breaks into bitter sobs; looks for a place to hide his grief.
The guard tower above the gate will have to do. He stumbles up crude stone stairs meant only for soldiers. Breathless messengers and stalwart guards watch him go, hear him sob:

"O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!(II Sam 18:33)

-  -  -

I blind with tears even now.
Lord of Glory, teach me the heart of forgiveness...

Don't misunderstand me. I am known as a merciful man. But this has pushed the bounds of my conscious duty.

How in the world...?

It isn't complicated.

Forgiveness is simply love, stronger.
Stronger than death.
I mean real love...

Until days ago forgiveness was mechanical in my mind. Simply a releasing of hate. Almost an aloofness that says "I'm fine, you're fine. I'm not hurt by this."

But forgiveness isn't finished with the releasing of hate. It needs the (re)embracing of love.
Real love.

I can feel from here the throbbing hearts of readers that will never comment on this post. Hearts that cry because trust has been broken, shame has been dealt out. I sense tears, even in the dark. Your soul sinks, because you're sure there's more to this I can't possibly understand.

I don't pretend to fully understand, but my heart throbs with you. Nor am I so naïve as to believe that healing is always as quick or simple as a choice.
I have a Master's degree in counseling. And I know and love more broken people than some will meet in a lifetime.

But please, oh please my friend... Listen to me. And then pass the word to every hurting soul you know.

Whether you've been defamed, distrusted, shamed, violated, exploited, stolen from, crushed, then laughed at...

David was wounded by his own flesh and blood. His family. And it is those closest that have the greatest power to harm, as well as heal.

But David had love. Love stronger...

Love is stronger.
And to love is to be free.

Tell, oh tell the hurting world...

Monday, November 28, 2011

New CD!

It was a beautiful home the Lord of Glory left, when He set out o His mission to save His friends... And it was a cold and barren wilderness He came to. But there was no hesitation. Heaven poured out praises as its Commander became nothing for an ungrateful race...
What He saw here to make Him choose pain and sacrifice over the adoration of angels, We Cannot Tell.

But He chose anyway. And it makes us sing...

Our new CD is shipping. Listen to samples, or order your copy right here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cost of Giving

Like all gifts, Heaven's almost always come with the price tag removed.
And that's no accident. Because one shouldn't be able to casually calculate the cost of giving...

-  -  -
-  -  -

Crickets sound and I quiet my iPhone in the dark. It's not long before I'm smiling.

Thanksgiving day.
Best day of the year.

Gifts pile up all year long, and of course we say thanks along the way...

(I hope.)

But today is different.

Today we sing over our gifts, and keep singing.
But there's more than that...

Because a step back to take in a full year's worth of grace gives us a little bit better sense of the cumulative cost of the giving.

You know, the price tags are always removed before the gift is wrapped up pretty... Heaven does that too. Even if we were informed of exactly the purchase price, we wouldn't remotely be able to compute...

So we're given another way to understand.


There is only one kind of person in the world that can grasp the value of a priceless treasure.

It's the man or woman who rejoices over the gift they don't understand until their own hear bursts with giving-back.

Gifts I'm rejoicing over (and over) today:

A bleeding Brow.        John 19:2
The Father's Hands.     Luke 23:46
The innocent Face.     Mark 15:14
Everlasting Arms.      Deut 33:27
Eyes that never wander.    Psalm 33:18
A Heart that never forgets.    Isaiah 49:15 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Don't Be Ashamed of My Chains..."

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I suddenly hear in his words an agony of earnestness that makes my heart stop. I breathe. Heave breathe; roll onto my side to get the weight off my chest. But it will not leave...

- - -
- - -

An old man, bent and nearly blind* is pressed down the corridor.
The step that once was firm and free is encumbered by shackles, the joints beg for mercy from the damp cold. This man is innocent. One look at his face is all it takes to prove it. But he is going to die.

You are in Rome. And this, is Nero's dungeon.

Ruthless hands. Ruthless hearts.

The steps of the guards fade into silence and in my mind I am there.
There to see the great man grope about his cell; call out for his companion.
He calls for parchment, but he can't see to write. Faithful Dr. Luke will write for him, this last will and testament. His hands tremble, his voice trembles, but this heart is strong.
Stronger than the Roman Empire.

It is Nero's heart that trembles upstairs. (AA chap 48, "Paul Before Nero")

But his frame is tired. And with the knowledge that he has not long to live, highest priorities becomes only priorities.
He wants to see his boy.

I do not know how the good doctor took the dictation without soaking the parchment with tears.
I couldn't have.

I read the letter now, this last letter ever written by the Apostle to the Gentiles, this last will to the world, this letter to his boy, and I want to weep.

"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" (II Tim 4:7)

Indeed you have, sir. Indeed you have.

I hear his chains rattle. And I hear a cry that is half audacious challenge, half daddy's heart.
I can almost see the hand upraised, silhouette of shackles against cold stone. And my heart stops...

Don't be ashamed, my boy.
Oh, don't be ashamed of my chains...

And don't be ashamed of the Gospel. **

Luke writes. I read.

My heart leaps, as Timothy's must have.
Timothy, who most likely did not make it back to Rome in time...

I hug my pillow. Pray--

Oh my Father...
let me never be ashamed.

*Many scholars believe the "thorn" of II Cor 12:7 was in fact near blindness...
**See II Timothy 1:8

Monday, November 14, 2011

Imperative of the Supernatural

The sound of dry leaves underfoot charms me through. (I'm a midwesterner by breeding.)
I shuffle for the joy of the sound; the joy of the smell...

I breathe pure November under naked oak and hickory;
pause to watch the world readying for white...

And I wonder:

When a man of God does, who does the doing?

I have heard more than one new recruit on the field say to his fellow:

"Buck up, man! You've got what it takes."


I'm unconvinced. Especially when I remember that Adam in his spotless strength and beauty drew every drop of nobility he possessed from his connection to his Maker... even though he was fresh from the hands of God (and thus was arguably in the best place to stand alone). His glory, his perfection, his holiness were gifts given not to stand alone, but to put and keep him in connection with the Perfect and Holy... And even as every leaf today draws it's life force, and every star it's brilliance from the heartbeat of God, Adam drew his glory from the Infinite.

I other words, the crown of God's crowning creation (read: humanity) was the connection with Heaven.
What can be compared?

But disconnect... Now there's a real problem.

[I bend down, aim my iPhone a few inches above grade.]

Disconnect perfect angels, and you get demons.
Disconnect perfect and glorious humanity, and... Well, look around you.

And if Adam needed so badly to be connected to his God... then what are we thinking when we blaze off on our own? Or when we foolishly unfit ourselves for the inhabitance of the Holy Spirit... (emphasis on the word Holy.)

Every man of God, ever woman of God, is nothing.
The image of God, yes... But every shadow disappears when the object is removed.
Without the Supernatural indwelling, we are lifeless, empty shells.

Or worse.

Yea, much worse... the indwelling of the other supernatural.

You're just a shell, my friend. Just a shell...

Ah, but what glory, when filled with Heaven itself!?
What an honor, to be God's shadow.

Then let everything else be cast out, that we might not restrict the inflow of the Spirit.
Darkness and Light cannot both be.

Let the Light so shine...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Words of the King's Daughters

I awaken this morning on a Tennissee farm with a little question on my mind.

Perhaps you have picked up by now that I am passionate about the Gospel...

But I wonder if you know why.

It is really quite simple.

I love life.
I love life...

When a man loves, hard work isn't heroism.
It's joy.

Duty is joy.

Today I read a trilogy that made my Gospel-loving soul stand tall.

Written by three of the King's daughters, who as far as I know, don't know each other at all.

Not just the what of war, but also the why...

I'd tell you the secret, but their words are better than mine.

Go read the words. Eat the words. Live the words...

"The love of Christ constraineth us..."

Emily.    Esther.    Moriah.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

To Fight or Not to Fight, That is The Question

Consider this Science of Temptation, part 2.
I was born to be a warrior.
So were you.
Trouble is, most warriors today are in confusion over titles and job descriptions.
If grace and faith are really sufficient, what need have we of war?
-   -   -
-   -   -

I pace the floor of my basement office, from french door to bookshelf and back. 
It's cold in here. But my mind works best that way.

My finger runs past scores of titles on the shelf--
Past my Greek New Testament, Waggoner's commentary on Isaiah, 11 journals...
Testimonies to Ministers, Conflict of the Ages, and great Christian classics.
Leather bound, paper bound, hard bound...

I find the one I'm looking for. 

And I pace again, my whole posture insisting on an answer. 

Temptation's power is utterly insufficient for the man or woman who takes God at His Word, and denies the tempter's underlying lie:
"I've got something better."  *

End of conversation.

But if the power of temptation is truly thus neutralized, is there no need of war?

Ahh, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

The promises are completely (and exclusively) sufficient to vanquish the enemy. The money is in your pocket already. (Do yourself a favor and depend on it, because no other currency of your own earning will pay the debt, either.)

But we are soldiers. We wrestle.
Oh, but why??

"Conversion. . .does not put new flesh upon the old spirit; but a new Spirit within the old flesh. . . Deliverance and victory are not gained by having the human nature taken away; but by receiving the divine nature to subdue and have dominion over the human."  **

Paul was surely talking of a wrestling match when he said "I keep under my body..." [better english word order would be, "I keep my body under me"]

Yet he speaks not of wrestling with the tempter... Christ Himself would not do that. ***
The tempter is to be dismissed by the Word.

But to wrestle the flesh is the work of the will.  
To receive the power of the engrafted Word, we must align ourselves (read: obedience) with that Word. 
And there is nothing easy about that.
But if being a soldier were easy, there would be no honor associated with the title.

This room is still cold. 
A mild allergy to gas flame means I awaken more alert with the heat off. 
The flesh hates 50 degrees in the morning. Every morning
But I have only three choices. Stay in bed and lose Gospel battles, turn up the heat, wake up groggy, and lose Gospel steam...

Or get up anyway.

I'll take the third. 
* * * * *

The book slides back into it's place on the shelf. 

We must fight. White knuckled and sore armed. Discipline. Sacrifice. Self-control. 

That is our battle.

There is no substitute for obedience.

Fight, soldier. Fight.

-  -  -
-  -  -

*  "The tempter can never compel us to do evil. He cannot control minds unless they are yielded to his control. The will must consent, faith must let go its hold upon Christ, before Satan can exercise his power upon us." DA 125.2

** A. T. Jones, Review and Herald, April 18, 1899

*** "Though Jesus recognized Satan from the beginning, He was not provoked to enter into controversy with him. . .He would not parley with temptation. . . Jesus met Satan with the words of Scripture. 'It is written,' He said. In every temptation the weapon of His warfare was the word of God. . .So long as Christ held to this position, the tempter could gain no advantage." DA 120

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thy Thoughts Towards Me

"How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand..." 
Psalms 139:17-18
Crashing waves on endless beaches always do something moving in my soul. 
For the larger God looms, the less I fear my problems.
And God grows at the beach in my little mind. By virtue of sheer volume of sand; sheer power of water.
If you don't understand me, go count the grains in a teaspoon of sand from the neighbor kid's sandbox.
My long silence has had to do with crossing the United States by car. (then back again). The trip is only half done... But one of the highlights was certainly gathering on the beach at AMEN conference with the surgeons, physicians, dentists, and PHDs and their little ones building sand sculptures from the bible.
You've never watched anything like it...

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