fear, faith, & other musings…

Fear paralyzes us. It stirs up doubts. It rises up in opposition to faith. It crowds out every other thought, dominating the mind. It is a primary weapon used by our enemy, the devil to attempt to manipulate & control us by taking our eyes off of Christ, & putting them onto our circumstances. Fear promises us an alternate future, one void of the good & faithful promises of God.

In Acts 9, one particular disciple, Ananias, had to confront fear & make a choice: would he let fear or faith direct his life?

Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” Acts 9:10-12

Saul.

Ananias knew who he was. Everyone knew Saul of Tarsus. The stories of his zealous persecution of the Way had spread like wildfire. The believers he’d personally thrown into prison, the families he’d destroyed, & the stonings he’d been party to were numerous.

While every other believer in Damascus was looking to hide FROM Saul, God purposely was sending Ananias to FOR Saul. To pray for him. It didn’t make sense. Ananias wrestled with it. He discussed it further with the LORD.

And then he boldly went, found Saul, & healed him in Jesus Name.

One of the main purposes that Jesus gives His followers the Holy Spirit is so that, in the face & threat of fear, we would be filled instead with boldness. And in those moments when we’re wrestling, where fear is attempting to ensnare us, we can have the Divinely provided fuel to reject the temptations to fear, & to purposefully & boldly give ourselves to obedience to God’s purposes & plans.

Living with bold obedience to Christ affects not only my life, but those that I come in contact with. And because Ananias chose faith over fear, God used him to help Saul the leading opponent &persecutor of the Way, to become Paul, God’s chosen instrument to spread the gospel over the known world.

LORD, fill me with Your Holy Spirit today – that I would recognize (& reject) the temptation to fear, & choose faith instead. May I be boldly given to Your purposes & plans.

on the run & other musings from Acts 8…

The Martyrdom of Stephen instigated a firestorm of persecution against Christians, and the members of the thousands-strong Jerusalem church were faced with the choice: be imprisoned (or worse,) or run. They ran.


And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles… Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Acts 8:1,4

As they fled for their lives, I wonder if Jesus’ last words to His disciples rang in their ears… “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, & you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, & Samaria, & to the ends of the earth.”

Because it was happening. They were now going throughout Judea. Samaria. To the ends of the earth. And everywhere they went, they were preaching the word & sharing the gospel.

I bet they didn’t think it would be like this.

Still, in the middle of their flight, they had the surety of God’s promised Holy Spirit, indwelling them, filling them with strength to keep going, and boldness to keep sharing the gospel. Grace. Repentance. Forgiveness of sins. New life in Christ.

Even on the run.
Even when we’re walking through the valley of the shadow of death.
Even when the whole world seems to be turned upside-down.

Our faith in Christ is precisely for such times of adversity; our need for a Saviour is never so obvious as when we’re faced with suffering and difficulty. Its at these moments we discover the depth and breadth of what it means to have a Rock of Salvation in Christ; a hope that goes beyond this life; a peace that goes beyond understanding, that transcends circumstances.

Wanted: Table servers. Must have good reputation, be full of the Spirit & full of wisdom…

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples & said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit & of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer & to the ministry of the word.”… & Stephen, full of grace & power, was doing great wonders & signs among the people. Acts 6:1-4,8

What are the characteristics you’d look for in a person to serve tables? Good personality. Responsible. Able to multi-task.

The disciples had a different list: Good reputation. Full of the Holy Spirit. Full of wisdom.

To serve tables. Isn’t that a little much?

I don’t think so. The disciples weren’t just trying to find a warm body to help pass out food; they needed several someones that fit their description exactly to help heal a potentially volatile situation that had arisen in the church.

“…anyone who calls upon the Name of the LORD will be saved,” meant that people who had had little to nothing to do with each other in the past, were now worshiping Christ together. Former points of division were tentatively, but surely being overcome.

It was precisely at those points of racial and cultural division that our enemy, the devil, attempted to strike by stirring up offense & bitterness, trying to get the Greeks to lash out & retaliate against the Jews, subtly whispering to them that this ‘salvation in Christ’ was just a sham, & that the Greeks were still second class citizens.

The Apostles brought the Church together – the whole church – & asked them to pick 7 men, of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit & wisdom. And they did – if you read Acts 6:5, you will see that all the men chosen had Greek names.

This seemingly menial assignment was actually one of great significance, & the discernment, grace, & faithfulness of Stephen & the rest help diffuse the antagonism & bring unity to the Church.

Every single one of us who belongs to Christ serves in a vital place in the body. Our job title may not be prestigious according to the wisdom & values of our culture, but in the eyes of the One who made a way for us to serve in that role, it’s perfect. Because our world needs us, men & women of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit, & full of wisdom to bring glory to God by the way we live & serve.

And real significance comes from hearing God say, “Well done, good & faithful servant.”

what really matters is being with Jesus…

Now when they (the Council) saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

How our world & culture measure value, potential, and ‘specialness’ in people is largely based on brains, brawn, looks, & special abilities. This type of thinking & evaluating can find its way into the church as well – it can sound a little like:

“That person is so gifted & talented! If they became a Christian, God could really do big things through them.”

Sound familiar?

By the time Jesus had chosen the disciples, they each had most likely been passed over as “not good enough” by local rabbis seeking out promising young disciples. Sure, they’d all been taught the Torah, God’s Law & the Prophets as kids, but as they grew up, each one took a job, learned a trade, or joined the family business.

And then Jesus called them to “come & follow Me.”

The disciples were chosen not because of their greatness or special abilities – Jesus chose them because they were normal. They were common, regular people, with nothing really remarkable about them.

God sees value & potential in people, not because of their natural giftings, abilities or competencies, but because He sees what we can be when we’re called by His Name, filled with the Holy Spirit “…Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

It’s important to keep this in mind when we ‘evaluate’ our (& others) fitness & ability to be used by the LORD. Too often, we disqualify ourselves for God’s use based upon our shortcomings, weaknesses, struggles, & inadequacies, as though God didn’t know these things about us when He called & filled us.

It’s vital for us to remember that what really matters is being with Jesus. It is impossible to be with Him & not be forever changed. May the same things that were said of Peter & John, be said about us – “they seem normal enough, & there’s really nothing special about them… it must be Jesus.”

Great book resource: Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus – by Spangler & Tverberg

what a difference a day makes, a new future, & other musings…

Jerusalem was jam-packed with Jews from all over the world; they’d gathered to celebrate the feast of Pentecost. This was the context God chose for the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit onto the disciples & gathered believers.

The city was buzzing – hearing these ‘common,’ unschooled men & women speaking the praises of God in the tongues of far-off peoples generated all sorts of intrigue & questions. Some said the disciples had just drunk too much wine, but others knew that wasn’t it, & were desperate to know, “What is going on here?”

Peter answers.

Peter. The one who, days before, had denied even knowing Christ three times. The one who had trembled in fear & wasn’t able to acknowledge his relationship with Christ to a servant girl.

Peter addressed the crowd of thousands & explained what was happening:

…Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice & addressed them: “Men of Judea & all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, & give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “‘& in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…”

Peter is an example of one who has been filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to live for Christ, & to give witness to what God has done & is doing in, through, & around us. His fear & timidity have been replaced with boldness. His past failures, fears, denials & inadequacies did NOT dictate his present & future, in Christ.

I believe that there was a moment as Peter gathered himself to speak to the crowd that he was bombarded with thoughts of fear & memories of his denials of Christ. It’s what our enemy does; he accuses us before God, & he reminds us of our past sins, failures, & the like. And then there’s the accusation, the lie that sounds a lot like this– “if you try to talk you will fail. You’ll look stupid. You’ll be a failure. Again.”

This accusation is one that is directed at & against the character of God – because the LORD has promised to fill our mouths, & tells us that the Holy Spirit will teach us at that very moment what to say.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit’s boldness means being willing & able to reject the accusations & reminders of the enemy, & being willing & able to respond to the Holy Spirit’s promptings for the situation at hand.

Peter did it. So can we.

waiting for change, my plans, & other musings…

…Jesus ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, He said, “you heard from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked Him, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, & you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem & in all Judea & Samaria, & to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:4-8

Jesus was the Christ, this much the disciples knew. His resurrection from the dead had sealed that fact for them. And because He was the Christ, God’s Anointed One, the Son of David, Jesus’ next move should have been to follow in the David’s footsteps & lead Israel to military victory, evicting the Romans once & for all.

After 3 years, the disciples were still thinking in terms of “us vs. them.” They were still caught in the the temporary, the here & now. They still thought that their biggest problem was Rome, a problem that the Risen King could take care of quite well. Boom!

Maybe that’s why Jesus told them, strongly, to stay put in Jerusalem, to wait for the promised Holy Spirit. It’s like He said, “Guys, I don’t want you to go anywhere or do anything in your own strength. Wait for Mine. The kind of change that you & this world needs, My Kingdome coming, My will being done, isn’t brought about by human effort, but by the work of the Holy Spirit. So wait for Him. Then act.”

I get the disciples, especially how they were so quick to believe that God’s purposes actually mirrored their own. They needed to lift their eyes up from their myopic view of selves & get divine perspective.

This happens when the Holy Spirit gently confronts. Challenges. Convicts. Changes. Reveals. Fills. Empowers.

And suddenly, my agenda, my purposes seem small. Insignificant. Perhaps even irrelevant.

And there is a joy, a relief even, in the revelation of God’s purposes. Cause I FIT in them. And so do others.

thinking on one of Christ’s promises, & other musings…

What would you say, what testimony would you share, what message would you bring if your life was on the line?

Paul’s was.

The trouble and opposition that had followed Paul from place to place on his missionary journeys came to a head upon his arrival in Jerusalem. It was assumed, wrongly, that Paul had taken a Gentile into the temple. Chaos ensued. Paul was attacked, beaten, and the crowds tried to tear him to pieces. Fortunately, Roman soldiers stepped in and saved his life – for the time being – and gave him an opportunity to speak. And speak he did:

• To a hostile crowd that wanted to kill him, and saw this as a prime opportunity to do so.
• To a Roman tribunal that trying to figure out WHO Paul the rabble-rouser was.
• To the Sanhedrin (Jewish religious council), which was looking, to build a legal case against him so he could be put to death.

How did he do it?

Paul was living in the grace of the promise that Christ gave His disciples:

And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say. Luke 12:11,12 ESV

The Holy Spirit will teach you what to say.

Christ’s promise.

You’ve filled your heart and mind with God’s Word. You’ve looked to put into practice and obey the LORD in every area of life. If (& when) you’re put on the spot, even hot, hot spots, don’t worry. Because the Holy Spirit was given to indwell us for just such moments, and fills not only our mouth with words, but our heart with courage and boldness.

So don’t worry. Don’t be anxious. Instead, give thanks that what we say at that moment of crisis (or in the grocery line) is something that WILL BE given to us at the appropriate time by the One who will never leave, forsake, or abandon us.

thoughts about Paul’s ‘mission from God,’ suffering, perseverance, & other musings…

Acts 21 tells of Paul’s intent to head to Jerusalem, and also the fact that he received several prophetic words and pictures declaring, “If you go to Jerusalem, you will be thrown into prison.”

I never understood why, after hearing these multiple warnings from the Holy Spirit of the imprisonment, persecution and suffering awaiting him in Jerusalem, Paul still purposed to go to Jerusalem. I even tried to come up with possible reasons WHY he might be so intent to finish this journey; none of the reasons made sense, especially considering the man the Apostle Paul was. So I asked the LORD, “What would make a man choose this path and persist in the face of what looks like preemptive warnings of danger and trouble from the Spirit?”

Immediately, an earlier portion of Paul’s story flashed into my mind, from the time right around his conversion (Acts 9:10-19.) From the beginning, God revealed that He had made Paul His “chosen instrument to testify of Christ and spread the gospel, before the Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.” And one of the first things revealed to Paul was how much he would suffer for the sake of the Name of the LORD.

Aha! I get it. Paul was on a mission from God.

The single-minded purpose to get to Jerusalem wasn’t an exercise of stubbornness on Paul’s part – he simply understood that this was part of the living out of the mission given to him by the LORD years before. The fact that his obedience and persistence could (and would) result in imprisonment and suffering were almost an afterthought; the mission, and the spread of the gospel, were preeminent.

I think that we might have an underlying assumption that suffering is to be avoided at all costs, probably because suffering hurts. Digging deeper, we may have an unscriptural ‘karma-like’ belief about good and bad happening in our lives, e.g. if we’re doing what God wants us to do, life will be good, and if not, then that’s when the bad stuff happens.

Jesus told His disciples, “The servant isn’t greater than his master; if they persecuted me, they will also persecute you…” (John 15:20) If I’m living a life of obedience to the LORD, living for eternity and not just for comfort in the here and now, I will suffer. The good news is that any “present sufferings won’t even compare to the glory that will be revealed” in, through, and around us in Christ Jesus and by His Spirit (Romans 8:18.)

Paul was sure about one thing – God had given him a mission, and therefore, whatever it took to complete the mission, he knew that God would provide it.

I pray for such a faith to grow in my heart and mind, and for that kind of faithful perseverance to the calling and mission that God has placed in front of me. LORD, help me live life with eternity and Your values firmly in sight, and with a single-minded focus on my mission.

Reading, studying, & thinking…

I’ve been re-reading (which with books that one has read before is more like visiting or revisiting an old friend,) “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” by Eugene Peterson. I love the familiarity of the Songs of Ascent, & Peterson’s thoughts on discipleship, faithfulness, & perseverance in the face of the times of life that are seemingly mundane, humdrum, boring, uneventful, & lonely.

And it gives me great joy to learn & keep learning from those that have gone before me, walking a similar path to the one I’m on… & those that are a few steps ahead of me in life.


For the last few weeks, I’ve been pondering a blog post I read from a guy I look up to… in it he mentions some identifiers, “measuring sticks” really, of spiritual maturity…

1. Our spiritual maturity is measured by the degree which we communicate the love of God to & with others.
2. Our spiritual maturity is also measured by how we encourage others in their spiritual growth & development.

Both of these indicators aren’t fantastic, spectacular, or even… spiritual, in the way that many see spirituality. One thing that stands out to me is that they aren’t focused on the individual, but rather look to others, their lives, & how they can be encouraged, helped, & blessed.


Currently in a series at church called, “GOD – the Holy Spirit”… which came out of an increasing awareness that the Holy Spirit, the 3rd part of the Trinity, seems to be largely misunderstood, ignored, or feared by large segments of the Church at large… & that many (myself included) weren’t really aware of the work, let alone the person of the Spirit. My studies & prep have taken me from the book Forgotten God by Francis Chan to perusing Scripture, with eyes especially looking for where the Spirit is at work & is revealed…

Something I read the other day still rings in my head… it was in Ezekiel 3:24 where Ezekiel has fallen on his face due to the glory of the LORD being revealed. Here it says that the ‘Spirit entered me & made me stand on my feet…”

The Spirit gave Ezekiel strength to stand, & then gave him direction at what to do next. Wow.

Its very encouraging to me to see the Spirit, God’s indwelling representative in me today, actively participating in the “what to do” & the “how to get there.”

thoughts on TiVo, signs & wonders, love, & other musings…

I’ve been waiting for 3 years, & now DirecTV has figured out a way to make their DVR technology compatible with the wiring in my house. In the interim, I had TiVo – & wasn’t incredibly overjoyed at having to subscribe to a dish service, & a separate service so I could record the shows I wanted to watch at my convenience.

So, today, a joyous occasion. After 4 false starts & missteps, the DVR is being installed as I type this. Which means that I needed to call & cancel the TiVo service. Which is a lot easier than it sounds. Should be simple, right? Call in (because you can’t cancel on line, don’t you know? For my protection. Right. I think that it just might be that they make you call in so they can hit you with the Full-Scale Guerrilla Blitzkrieg (FSGB,) which employs intimidation, cajoling, ridicule, name calling, & other fun Techniques of Manipulation to try & keep you as a customer.

I’d prefer not to recount the entire 20 minute interchange with Andrew, which I endured in order to obtain the elusive Confirmation of Cancellation code, hanging like the proverbial carrot at the end of a stick. And yes, it really was that bad. Bad enough that I’d like to call in to talk to a supervisor to discuss my experience. Bad enough that at one point I asked Andrew, (in my best Steven Seagal ‘I’m totally under control but I’m so incredibly fearsome you really don’t want to continue in this vein because of my knowledge of Kah-razy’ voice):

“Is it your job to attempt to antagonize me to the point that I just hang up the phone before getting the elusive Confirmation of Cancellation code, thereby maintaining my TiVo subscription? Do you realize that I had my mind made up to cancel this service when I called in this morning, & all of your Techniques of Manipulation, attempted twisting of my words, & unwillingness to Cut to the part where we CANCEL the service have only served to harden me to the idea of EVER using, let alone recommending the TiVO service to ANYONE?”

To which Andrew replied, “I just can’t see why you won’t keep this great service at the great price with the great deal I’m offering you.”

Oh goodness. Breathe. And I realize I’m upset. Frustrated. On-the-verge of snap-age. Over TiVo. But its not about the TiVo. Its more about the discomfort of conflict. The feelings of being manipulated & not having my “No!” heeded. Anger at the part of me that wants to give in, to make Mr. Andrew happy, pay more money for a service I no longer need. Just to make the conversation stop.

Asking God to examine my heart.


And in other news, I’ve been reading a book by Philip Yancey called
Disappointment with God. Only about 1/4 of the way into it & already I’m hooked. What has stood out to me the most so far is Yancey’s observation about the correlation (or lack thereof) between displays of God’s power (the ‘mighty hand & outstretched arm’) & the devotion, love, faithfulness, & obedience of His people, Israel.

You’d think that the result of God’s miraculous provision, protection, deliverance, & presence would have been the undying, unwavering love & devotion of the people that He provided for, protected, delivered, & dwelled with. Surprisingly, what actually happened was that Israel complained & grumbled. Chased idols. Mistrusted. Wished for a return to the good old days of slavery in Egypt. Rebelled against their God-appointed leader. And God.

Makes me think about Jesus in the Gospels, & how He would heal, & then tell those that had been healed not to say anything about it. For the longest time, I never really understood why He would do that. In my mind, it seemed that these signs, wonders, & miracles would serve to point to Christ as the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Promised Saviour… & that people would have had even more reason to believe in Him because there was evidence of His power & might backing up His words.

But when I read through the gospels, there were many, many miracles that Jesus did. Turned water into wine. Raised the dead. Fed 5000 people with 2 fish & 5 loaves of bread. Healed every kind of disease. Was transfigured & transformed, revealed in all His glory. Was crucified & buried, then was resurrected from the dead. Was taken into heaven in the full view of hundreds of people.

And the result? Lots of crowds, not many disciples. Lots of people, the multitudes, the religious leaders , & even a king, continually asked Him to perform more signs.


Maybe what we’re looking for, what we think we need from God, isn’t really what we actually need in order to be faithful. To love God. To obey. To persevere. And the signs we hope for (pray for? wish for?) wouldn’t really be the ‘thing’ to put us over the edge, the short-cut to being able to live it.

Sigh. Gonna ponder & meditate on it.


And for the 1st time in more than a month, my whole family is home, together, at the same time. Pizza Plus for all! Booyah.

Life is beautiful.