Monday, January 30, 2012

Live Christ

"For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life." - Romans 5:10

Set right in the middle of Paul's amazing theological treatise in Romans, this verse just pops with the real life I was talking about in the last post.  We have been reconciled to God through Jesus' death, now how much more shall we be saved by his life.  Now that's a promise!

How much time do I take to ponder the new life we have in us?  How often do I think about this great promise of salvation?  How much do I believe the reality that Christ not only died for me, but now lives to save his children IN THIS LIFE?

Not often.  Sadly I think about it a lot, but do I revel in it and rejoice?  I don't think so...

But that's the promise: that God's very own Son is living, breathing and active in Philip Long's (insert your name) life taking him from glory to glory.   I will be thankful forever that my sins are forgiven and that I'm reconciled to God, but am I thankful daily, that each day I wake up on this planet is a day that Jesus Christ will work in Philip?

This is bold stuff.  This is the stuff that has had saints passionately giving their lives away to the cause of God's Kingdom throughout history.  Why?  Because it's God, and with God "anything's possible" and I'd say all bets are off.   

Good stuff.  Live Christ, live.

Bloggled Turns 200!

"It will be said on that day, 'Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.  This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.'" - Isaiah 25:9

My blog turns 200 (with posts) today and I feel like celebrating.  I should probably get the blog some orthopedic shoes, but I'm lazy and I think he'd (I guess it's a him, I don't want to make Melissa jealous) just prefer me to do him the honor writing the 200th.

I find it's odd that the 200th has landed on a Monday, which is a hard time to write, let alone celebrate, but it's good and it reminds me that God is faithful even on Mondays.  That is a big claim!

We've has this church-planter dude staying with us recently and he pointed me to Isaiah 25 and the rich celebration that is pictured there, as God brings his salvation and fulfills his covenantal promises to his people.  I can't wait to be there on the day the passage describes, it's going to be a really good day.

But it's hard to keep that hope in my vision.  It's so very difficult to celebrate and rejoice when life throws you into tail-spins and whirly-do-dads and you're not sure which way is up and which is down.  And on top of that, then it's Monday all over again.

That's why it's so important for me to remember, and especially on the 200th post, that God's reality is REALITY and in Jesus we find life, real LIFE.  These have been the themes that I have looked at the most through the past 200 posts, and my guess is that these will be the themes that occupy me for a while.

I guess I'd call this theme "Real Living."   Real living first and foremost entails a firm knowledge that Jesus Christ is risen (something that pastor friend reminded me of this weekend).  Armed with this knowledge everything is different.

EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT!  I'm free now to really be sad, while having hope.  I can really pour out my heart and be broken, with full knowledge that I am being healed.  I really can play and be silly, knowing that Christ made me funny (or at least made me to think I'm funny, which can be even funnier).  I really can father, husband, and worship simply because Jesus Christ, this dude who God rose from the dead in the 1st century, is alive.

It's the beautiful insanity of being a Christian, that our most insane desires will and are being met.  It's the insane hope that the holes we all feel (thank you Ann Voskamp), the hurts we all know so well and the longing for real life that dominates the trajectories of our lives are will be filled, healed and met in Jesus.  He's my hole filler, the doctor, and my life's satisfaction .

So I guess as this is my 200th post, a milestone for me and for my blog, there's one thing I want to highlight:  The reason that this blog is still alive is because there's something real going on behind it.  So thank you Jesus and may your real life continue to fill the next 200.

Friday, January 27, 2012

God in the Wetlands

"My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender...  for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath."  - Hosea 11:8,9

God is so misunderstood.  I hear him batted around in some secular discussions as wrathful, indecisive, paranoid and even a tyrant.  Then in some Christian circles he's talked about as if he's a great big grandpa in the sky - kind-hearted and lovey-dovey but sometimes distant, detached or confused.   If I was God I'd have long ago gotten frustrated with stupid conceptions of myself floating around and smited everyone.  I would have been a God who liked to smite, I'm sure of that.

But when I pick up my bible and actually read it, I find something totally other and totally alien.  He's not somewhere in the middle of the character speculations above.   He's actually alien to our brains.  He doesn't make sense because he doesn't act at all like us.  (In case you're wondering, he's not a real alien with big eyes and tentacles.  Although I'm not sure what God as spirit looks like.  My guess He's not some fuzzy white glow.)

There's a weightiness to God's character in scripture.  A whisper of his glory, and constant hints that he is beyond searching out completely.  He's a God of both wrath and a God of love.  He speaks in anthropomorphic language so that we can understand his feelings, but they are way-way deeper than we are.  Dude, they're seriously deep dude.

I had a lady once tell me that she doesn't believe that God's a micro-manager.  In the conventional understanding of micromanaging, I'd agree, but God is both the micro-manager of the entire universe and the one who super-cedes it all.  And on top of all this he has time for each individual human.  He's a big God with a big heart for his world and for those lost in it.

I know this as I was pretty lost in the Floridian wetlands yesterday.  I was already as tense as bow-string, walking face-first through spider webs, when I stumbled upon huge gator slides, yikes, big poops, yikes-yikes, and a place where bush-hogs had torn up the marsh for about an acre, gulp.  They had literally blown the place up.  I'm glad I wasn't around when they were doing it.  Oh, and I saw an armadillo.  Oh, oh, and I saw a flock of turkey-buzzards which had my "fear of birds meter" hitting "run for your piddly life you fool!"  I'm pretty sure that 3 of them could take me and there were about 50!  Yike, yike, yikee-yike!!!.

But while I was lost, I was never really lost.  God knew exactly what I was doing and where I was, even though I clearly did not.  Of course I'm not going to start testing God and start hiking around without a compass (come to think of it, I didn't have a compass). God doesn't work like a magical GPS.  Plus he might decide to test me with some natural consequences.  I would, I'd smite, smite, smite: Alligators, turkey-buzzards, bush-hogs, and just for the place-where-my-presence-is-withdrawn-and-is-therefore-totally-evil of it I'd even let the armadillo have a go!

Back on topic:  In the passage above I hear God's heart.  He says himself that he's not like man, who's quick to wrath.  He's a God who clearly leans towards compassion.  Ultimately this is most evident and clearly seen at the cross, where his justice and mercy kiss.

I've thought that maybe a good practice is to take the best human qualities I can think of and multiply them by a trillion-gazillion and then apply them to God.  But this doesn't work in regards to him.  God's simply off the map when it comes to goodness.  And he exhibits a goodness that hates evil, loves good, and rescues sinners.

So here's to pressing on to know the real God.  Not the grandfather in the sky and not the petty and mean-spirited judgmental god.  Oh, and not the Florida wetlands GPS God.  

The more I actually study my bible, the more I realize that I need humility in approaching the character of God, for he's so good and way beyond what I can fully understand that I really need him to help me think on him rightly.

What do you think about God?  Would you, like me, really like smiting if you were God?  Comment bellow...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Drink the Christian Kool-Aid. It will make you happy, FOREVER!

"I loathe my life; I will give free utterance to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul."  - Job 10:1

My friend was at his office desk with his head down, face covered with his hands, trying to just find a little space in his tiring day to work through his feelings. He was soon interrupted by a coworker who asked how he was doing. He told her that he wasn't doing good, and that life can be hard.

Rather than listening she went into commiseration mode, pouring out all of her difficulties with life, while my friend was thinking, "This is ugly, but I really don't want to hear all about her miserable life."

Then, since she was on a roll, she did what we Christians often do, she reached deep (or not very deep) into her bag of spiritual tricks and produced this gem, "Don't let Satan steal your joy."

When my friend related this to me over the phone, I was reminded of the movie "Office Space", when the main character is asked by a miss-was-a-cheerleader-20-years-ago-so-now-must-always-be-happy-office-lady-no-matter-how-much-pain-life-dishes-out (aka "Miss Chirpy-Pants". You know the one I'm talking about) if he was having a case of the "Mundays?"

In the movie, he later relates this to a friend who works construction, asking if this sort of thing ever goes on outside of offices.  I love his friend's response, "No...  Hell no man, I reckon someone's ass would could get kicked for saying something like that.  Why?  Did someone say that to you!?"

Why do we Christians sometimes abuse each other with pithy sayings?  Why do we sometimes wake up and think we have to put on happy make-up, make-up that we apply because we MUST NEVER ADMIT sadness, depression, confusion, defeat or hurt?

Frankly, this make-up is absolutely unbiblical.  If the Bible shows us anything about it's weird and diverse characters it's that they had a host of real and very raw emotions that they took to God, or flung at God, all the time.  Now I'm not saying that they didn't experience joy, but it wasn't this pasted on stuff we so often see today.

To look at it from another angle, I had a friend get on me recently for being spiritually timid.  "Don't you know that the Christian life is about victory over sin?  Claim your victory," my friend said.

No, I refuse to claim it.  To simply claim victory over sin is to refuse to deal with it's deep reality and deep problem.  The Christian life is about relating to Jesus as all of our emotions from deep despair and discouragement to deep joy and happiness.

As Job illustrates with his broken life and words above, we Christians have got to move from living in fearful happiness (yes, I believe it's fearful) or "peppy Christianity" to the LIFE God offers.  My guess is when we do that, we'll quit turning people off to Christianity as well.

Sorry about ranting, but I feel like ranting, and that's OK.  Some may call me the unhappy, defeated, and angry Christian, I'd be OK with that.  My guess is that most of you would be too.

But whatever you do today, be sure not to let Satan steal your joy.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Perfect Prayer

"...circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter."  Romans 2:29

My daughter, Teya, has been showing more and more signs of spiritual interest.  In fact, I've been wondering if she is indeed a "Christian."  I say this somewhat tongue-and-cheek because I am growing more and more aware of my own tendency to rely on steps and formulas rather than the living God.

This is especially true when it comes to salvation isn't it?  I want so badly to make sure who's in and who's out by separating those who have prayed an effective prayer and those who haven't.

But what is an effective prayer?  "Um, God, I need you" may be every bit as effective as "Dear Father I recognize that I have sinned and fallen short of your perfect standard and that I need Jesus Christ to be substitutionary atonement on my behalf and I want to accept his sacrifice and follow you as my Lord from this day on."

I like the first prayer, because to me, it just sounds a little more honest, doesn't it?  We need God.  We simply need him.  Every moment, every second, every stage of our existence we need God.  We need this God who saves.

So while I think all of the concepts in the second prayer above are important and vital, I think that they are understandings that we grow into, and on our first utterance at our "point of salvation" hardly even understand.  I mean, I hardly understand them now, and I've been a Christian for 30 years!

"Important they are, but saving they are not."  - I say it like this because it's Chinese New Year today.  Yeah!

This gives me peace when I think about my children.  It is the Holy Spirit that convicts and saves, not me.  And while it is my job to help Teya understand her growing convictions and desire for God, it is his job to save.

So in my book, whatever her prayer sounds like is cool with me.  Of course now she'll probably say something like, "Dear Baby Jesus, I am so glad that I am a good person and that when I am good enough and at the height of my goodness, I will pray the perfect prayer and you will come in your clouds to take me to your heavenlies.  Amen, Oh Sweet Dear Baby Jesus."

And just for fun let me take a stab at the perfect prayer of salvation.  Here goes:  "Dear Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three persons but one God, I understand that I am a sinner, born into original sin, totally depraved, completely tainted in every way by the Fall - due to Adam's disobedience as our federal head (Eve having tempted Adam as we all know).  Your Holy Spirit has quickened my soul to see that I am a sinner in need of your sovereign grace.  Your grace came to us in the person of Jesus Christ, the second person of the trinity, the word made flesh in incarnation, fully God and fully man, who on the cross was our full penitentiary substitution and atonement as he bore God's full wrath towards our sin and cried the cry of dereliction.  I believe that the Spirit's calling is effective upon my rebellious soul, convicting me of my need for this atonement and new life that is now exhibited in my regeneration and rebirth, having moved from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of everlasting light, and I now look forward to the perseverance and sanctification that is granted to God's children or saints.  Amen.  a-A-a-a-men..."

Friday, January 20, 2012

God has Dirty Fingernails

"Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth." - Psalm 74:12

God's a pretty old dude.  I was thinking about this the other day as I was trying to wrap my mind around Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology.  He was saying that though God's existence is infinite, we're not to think of God as on a time-line because he both works in and stands outside of time.  Try rapping your brain around that and not getting a headache.

I like the verse above because it reminds me that "God is from old," and he has a history (I think - Grudem).  And his history screams salvation.

It's also a gritty verse and I like that.  The idea of "working salvation in the midst of the earth" reminds me of how God gets dirt under his fingernails and works out our salvation.  He does not stand far off, he's closer than we can ever comprehend and even describe.

And who's the worker in this verse?  God is.

So often I'm tempted to think of myself doing this or that for God, or even "serving" him, but the reality is that God alone works salvation.  This is such a core concept for me.

I've got a day ahead of me of trying to engage with teenager's questions, fears, doubts and faith.  And I don't have the answers.  And I can't work their salvation.  But I know a God who can.

In this I have freedom to dive in to God's work, to be about God's work and if I fail, to say hey, it's God's work in the first place.

The Psalmist above is crying out, how long will the nations scoff at us and have you forgotten us?  But then he remembers who his God is.  And he remembers his God's history.

Then he asks "Arise, O God, and defend your cause."  So here I go, may my King of old do his thing and defend his cause.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


"... for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works." - Psalm 73:28

My 3 yr. old dragged a rickety rocking chair into the hallway, turned it over, scrambled up on top of it and then leaped off and sprung into a somersault.  It was pretty impressive.  I hollered, "That was so cool David, do it again!"  His face beamed.

We had just been watching Parkour on Youtube, which is a potentially very painful mixture of gymnastics and stuntman stuff (some call it "freestyle running" as well).  Guys (and girls) were running up buildings, leaping over moving cars and doing things that would have their Moms wringing their hands and chasing them around with wooden spoons.

"Cool!" thought David.  "Cool!" I thought.  David and I had a simultaneous thought: "Let's set up some obstacle and do a twirly-do-dad over it and then flex our muscles like the guys in videos."  So David immediately set about dragging the rocking chair into the hallway, while I began wondering what a 35 year old body can still do.

Following my thought process, I remained on the couch.  Meanwhile David pulled off his stunt with aplomb and the heart of his father rejoiced.

This to me is the essence of being "near to God."  Having the same goals, aspirations and ridiculous antics in mind, and then pulling them off.

When I'm near to God, I know he's smiling on me as I beam over my "Look what I can do!" accomplishments.  It's the joy of life together.  It's the joy of Life.

After the rocking chair stunt, David began to pull out other obstacles.  And being an imaginative little fellow, he pulled out a plastic pretzel and a baby-bottle and attempted to "Parkour" over these innovative stunts.  I can still seem him contorting his body in an attempt to balance on the baby-bottle.  I'm thinking, "Koodos for trying little buddy."  And I'm proud.

I'm also proud of what happened as Mommy was putting him down for bed.  Thinking he was asleep, she began praying over him and apparently thought it would be a good idea to pray about his future spouse.  As soon as the words, "the girl that David will marry" came out of Melissa's mouth his eyes popped wide open, like two little angry saucers in the night, and he said "I'm not going to mawwy a giwl Mommy!  Yuk!"

That's my boy David.  "Beloved."  And near to his father's heart.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


"For you have been my help, in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.  My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me." Psalm 63:7,8

Man, whatever else was going on in this Psalmist's life, he got it.  He got what life was all about - clinging to God and praising him.

I just got off the phone with a friend of mine who is finding strength to love others as he learns about God's immanent presence with everyone; his power to hold all things together.

There is nothing better than learning that God is immanent.  To learn for the first time, as my friend put it, that God is not some bearded dude up in the clouds, but that's he's God-with-us-humans, he's God holding everything together, he's God who helps, he's God in the shadow of whose wings we sing for joy.

Our souls have got to cling to something.  As CS Lewis and others have mused, we have a place in our souls that only God's weight, the weight of his glory can fill.  And to be filled up with God, that's life.

I'm a pretty screwed up guy, living in a pretty screwed up world with lots of screwed up messages floating all over the place.  And it's amazing to me that God would take the time and infinite patience it must take to help me and uphold me.  Word's won't ever do justice to God's steadfast and faithful love.

The more I think on God, the less my worries and cares seem to matter.  He is my souls satisfaction, and his steadfast love is better than life.  His love is not only my life, it's better than life itself.

I don't know what heaven will be like.  I often think it's going to be sort of weird.  But if it's anything like being loved by an immanent God in this world, with as messy as I make it, I think it's going to be a really good experience.

So if you're like me, a total car-pile-up of thoughts, aspirations, frustrations, disappointments, joys and confusion, welcome to a better place, a place of hiding, and a place of living.  May you be held up as well as your soul clings to God.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"I Pity the Fool" Again

Almost the second I begin to feel anxious about something, I begin looking for solutions.  "If I do this will it bring some relief?  What if I do that?"

And usually I don't look for solutions any farther than my own nose.  I think I have them.

But the bible paints a different picture.  It says in 2 Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness."  When we even begin to feel a hint off track we're supposed to look to God, for he's our sufficiency.

I know this, because I just got back from biking.  It's sort of my catch-all hobby to go to when I'm feeling the least bit tired, stressed, anxious, fearful, sad, worried, pitiful, hungry, itchy, etc.  I go to it first.  And most of the time it does make me "feel" better.  But am I really better for going to it first?

I would argue that I'm not.  Often I'm masking over stuff with escape when God is calling me to draw close.  For God has "pity on the weak and needy, and saves the lives of the needy" (Psalm 73:13).

Now Mr. T doesn't have pity.  No he pities the fool!  And so should I.

In my foolish thinking I think, think, think way too much.  If I feel I need to repent, I think about it.  If I think there's something wrong, I think about it.  But now I'm starting to catch the gist of what I think God is saying to me recently, I think.

He's asking me, rather attempting to figure out why I go to biking, or watch movies, or guzzle coffee, or eat chocolate by the fistful, or "punching people in the face yo", why don't I recognize that God is my sufficiency and run to him first thing.

I've thought of repentance like this for the longest time:  You try and figure out what you've done wrong, confess it to God and then turn to Him.

Um, I think I've got it backwards.  Maybe, just maybe, I should turn to God first, and then allow him to help me see what's wrong.  

After all I'm the weak one and he's the one with all the muscles, just like Mr. T.

(By the way, this is the second time Mr. T has shown up in the blog.  I'm starting to feel like he's singling me out here.)

God and Steak

"My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed and meditate on you in the watches of the night."  Psalm 63:5

One of my fondest parenting memories is Teya saying to me "I have a verse for you.  I've hidden it in my heart."  She said it with a smile I'd pay $50 for on the spot, a smile that summarizes for me all that is good about being a child.

I envy children.  I envy their ability to trust, believe and recklessly jump into life with all of the wildness of a faith rooted in love.  It's a beautiful thing to see my children expressing that they are loved  as they engage with the world around them.

As my kids are inside rolling the carpet up around their sibling and attempting to jump over (attempting being the operative word), I'm outside enjoying some of the best weather of my life.  In fact it's so good, sitting here in my crazy creek, with my toes in the sunshine and the gentle breezes playing with the pages of my Bible, that I'm thinking, if I could freeze a moment, this might be one of them.  Then I'd scoop up all of the mosquitoes (that'd be frozen in time) in our backyard/swamp and reek sweet vengeance on them by burning them one by one.  Mmm, that would be good.

The verse above didn't so much "jump out" or "pop out" at me (though it's scary when they do) this afternoon as it spoke to something deep within me, a desire that sitting in my backyard paradise can barely tap, but does in fact tap.  This mug within me is very excited by the promise these verses are tapping.  The mug is trembling with anticipation...

In the verse I hear promising words, especially as I take eating seriously and find laying on beds to be one of our favorite pastimes.

Sometimes we think of scripture as purely spiritual and then totally miss the point.  For our soul to be "satisfied as with the richest of food" takes physical realities and applies it to the spiritual.  So I guess, and I hope I'm not reaching here, scripture wants us to bring the physical into the spiritual.  Do I know what I'm talking about?  Not really.  But I'm guessing that true "soul satisfaction" will be something that will hold the weight of our full being, all of our desires.

It's amazing that just remembering God on our beds and meditating on him through the watches of the night will indeed bring this satisfaction.  But it's true isn't it.

One of my friends has been experiencing all sorts of health problems and she's begun describing it as a hurricane.  First there was the storm and gusts of doctors, anxiety, pain and unseen fears.  Then there was the eye of serenity, of true knowledge that God had her just where he wanted her, and that he was her soul's satisfaction.  But then the storm hit again as she re-entered the everyday world with all of its fears, worries and busyness.

I for one am glad that God makes us sleep.  Otherwise life would just drive me out of my puny mind-space.  I need to lay down.  I need to remember God, and I want with everything that's in me (alright that's may be a gross overstatement on the best of days) to know this God.  He only satisfies.  Like a sirloin steak at Logans.  Hmm.  I wonder what we're doing for dinner tonight...  Hey Melissa?     

Monday, January 16, 2012

Getting to Tuesday

I think it's alright to write when I'm feeling down as long as I help people see the other side.  I just opened to the other side in my bible, Psalm 78 to be exact, where the Psalmist is just gushing on about God.  Check it out:

"My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge.  With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone" (verse 15).

Amen Psalmist, you preach it.  You tell me about this good news that will get me to Tuesday:

"You who have made me see many troubles and calamities (Monday without coffee) will revive me again...  You will increase my greatness and comfort me again" (verses 20 & 21).

Amen.  Will it feel like I have coffee in me then too?

Feeling Fallow?

"Sow for yourself righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you." - Hosea 10:12

Gardening is hard.  It requires expertise.  It requires getting your hands dirty, and finally it requires knowing terms like "fallow".

I have no idea what fallow ground is, but I'm going to take a wild guess and say that it's ground that's bad, thus it must be broken up.  I am such an amazing biblical exegete!  Do not be discouraged by your own piddly bible interpretations, just email me your most difficult passages and I will break up the fallowness of them.

There's a reason that this passage jumped out at me this morning and for the life of me (OK maybe it's not that serious) but for the life of the squirrel I almost ran over this morning, I can't think of why it jumped out.  Perhaps it's because I highlighted it very carefully last time I read it.  Perhaps at that point, I had some deep and meaningful thoughts going on, that would revolutionize your day, guaranteed.  I'm betting that was the case.

Unfortunately, I'm feeling pretty normal today and I've weaning myself off of coffee (don't ever try this!).  Therefor I don't think I have anything all that meaningful to share other than it's a good idea to practice the verse above.

But I was talking with a new friend this weekend.  We immediately began to become "even more newer friends" when he said that his buds get tired of his bringing up "depression" and that he's experienced no real comfort when he shares that he struggles with his faith.  The answers he commonly receives are "Well, you do know that your relationship with God is a two-way street, and that you have to put in time (quite time) with God in order to not have these crises."

What a load of bologna!  I mean on one level it's true, so I guess it's sort of like salami, but then on another it's still total bologna.  We do need to seek God and have intentional time with him.  But in our seeking we need to know that there's a lot more mystery going on in this whole life of faith than having a quiet time.

So if you're like me, and sometimes feel like your heart is totally fallow, and quiet times don't seem to be cutting it, or even coffee - the greatest spiritual booster of all, perhaps you need to be reminded of who God is.  God is not only the author of all that's good/righteous, he is righteousness and goodness himself and when we seek him in all of our blah-ness, with our fallow and messed up lives and all, he answers.  That's what this fallow heart of mine tells me this morning.

OK, it's killing me now, I'm going to have one innocent cup of coffee.  Please don't tell my nutritionist, Melissa.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Die Printer, Die!

"Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God.  Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son." - 2 John 1:9

I make the mistake of just reading my bible a lot.  I forget to abide in it.  I forget to let it's truths wash over me and form me.  I sit down, read, get up and go about my day, one more box checked off.  This leaves me feeling good about myself but not feeling good.  It's sort of like after I've eaten a Big Mac (without the nausea).

The goodness that God offers is not quantifiable, it's inexhaustible.  It's inexhaustible because it comes in the form of Himself.  This echoes John Piper's greatest teaching: that God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him.

And to relate to God, to abide, to find him as my refuge and the restorer of my soul, now that's where it's at.  That's satisfying.  That's where the magic of the gospel is at.  In Christ I now can relate unhindered with God.

It says in the verse above above that if we abide in the teaching we have "both the Father and the Son."  Heads have exploded throughout history trying to understand this core concept: that we can actually have God.  Are you kidding me?!

And like I've said in previous posts I yawn at these truths.  At core I often don't really believe this stuff.  It's too alien to my experience.

If you check the time of this post, you'll realize that I am up way to early.  I had a terrible day yesterday.

I spent almost an hour staring at my computer trying to get the *&@*# printer to work at the office (I'm convinced that all printers are going to hell).  Then I read a book on parenting, which even though it was really good, thought it would be fun to beat the daylights out of my parenting style.

Then, being a total glutton for punishment, I read some Systematic Theology by Grudem, which went on and on and on, yes, and on, about God's immutability.   By this time my eyes glossed over and I thought, "I wish I could just die."

So when I got home I did the next best thing, I told the kids I was sick (white lie) and crawled into bed.  I slept from about 6PM till 3AM.  Hey, maybe I'm turning into a farmer!

But this morning has been weird, I've actually had a good time (along with the roosters and the English - who are probably eating crumpets by now).  There's not a printer in site and I've had time to meditate and listen to God.  And what he's speaking to me is really encouraging stuff ("Uh-oh, Philip's getting all charismatic on us, he's probably waving his hands around in worship and all that craziness...")

He's reminding me that abiding in him is my number one priority.  Being still and allowing him to speak to me.  Being still and allowing him to lead.  Being still and allowing him to help me face my fears.  Being still and allowing his fullness to fill my emptiness.

It's a good thing that God is awake at 3AM.  Otherwise I don't know what I'd do.  I'd probably go feed the chickens.  "Yuk, let them eat cake. I say, would you pass the Mar-mite?"


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Victorious Christianity Loses

"In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us..."  1 John 4:18

I woke up this morning with a tight ball of anxiety in my chest.  I wanted to pull up the sheets, curl up and escape all the worries of the day.  I'm feeling depressed, out of my element and not up to the challenges of the day.

It's on mornings like this that I need to hear the core goodness of the gospel, that I am a sinner who is loved, forgiven and reconciled to God.  I don't need to hear what I heard on the radio later in the morning, "Dear friends, if your life doesn't look any different now as a Christian, you need to examine you heart and see if you are truly God's child."  Thanks!

If I'm honest with myself I often feel as if my life is no different.  And I know I'm not the only one.  Measuring my levels of sinfulness on a human scale gets me absolutely nowhere.

"Victorious Christianity" beats a very dead rhythm on the over-stretched drum of my heart (sorry about the mixed metaphor).  Thud, thud, thud it goes.  And I can't help but think, is the gospel really about personal victory over sin, self-examination and moralistic and trite sound-bites for the broken?

I know it's not and I had a meeting this morning that reminded me it's not.  The gospel is that God is alive and working, working in the lives of the desperate and needy, continually calling us onward, moving us forward into real life, precisely because we are needy, frightened, worried, discouraged and helpless.  We need God.  Any victory we have is from God.

The gospel is hope for the sinner.  Real sinners who really sin. Repeatedly. Over and over.  People like me who consciously say, "No God, I'm not going to obey, I want this more."

Does the gospel encourage sin?  No.  Does it have tons of passages about obeying God's commands, yes.  Even the verse above is preceded by "Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love."  But even there it's about knowing God and not "sin management" as I've recently heard it referred to.

I think I'm right in concluding that the good news of the gospel story is not that we become better people, it's that we become part of God's family.  The gospel is what I quoted above.  It's about God's unfailing steadfast love that's poured out on a rebellious and stubborn people.

It's also true that you can stiff-arm God.  You can say that you want nothing to do with him and his forgiveness and love.  But God rescues those who cry to him for help (no matter how many times) and he welcomes them into the family.  And last time I checked, once we're part of the family, it's not our job to figure out if we're a child or not.

"May those who seek you rejoice and be glad in you!  May those who love your salvation say evermore, 'God is great!'  But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God!  You are my help and my deliverer;  O LORD, do not delay!"  - Psalm 70:5

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Dispirited Spirit

"Take heart my son, your sins are forgiven."  - Jesus in Matthew 9

To be honest, which is a good policy, I was a little depressed after my last post.  You may have noticed I didn't even include a picture, which is a sure sign of my dispirited spirit (what is a "dispirited spirit" you ask?  It sounds like a ghost that's died, so it fits, but really I have no idea).  But that's the way I felt.

This morning I was reminded of the words Jesus gives to a crippled man whose friends have brought him over.  It's interesting that in Matthew (and I need to check it out in the other gospels) the man hasn't done a thing but get carried to Jesus, and he's forgiven, as well as healed.

After a long day at the office yesterday, and my dispirited spirit, I felt like a water-logged and flat soccer-ball (being an avid soccer player, I know exactly what these feel like - they are depressing. It's sort of like kicking a dead frog, just not as gross).  But yesterday as I  trudged out of the office like Eeore, I was greeted not only with a gentle Floridian breeze, a wide spacious vista, a setting sun and birds and all those nature thingies, but with these words, "take heart my son, your sins are forgiven."  It was just what I needed.

I'm reminded of the words David says in Psalm 103, "Bless the Lord oh my soul and forget not all his benefits.  Who forgives all you iniquities..."  I heard a speaker once say that forgiveness is enough for us to be thankful for the rest of our lives.  And with my experience yesterday, as I felt all the weariness and fleshy-world competitiveness wash off me, I felt that.  I felt that God's forgiveness and acceptance was more than enough.

One of the things that's been weighing me down is the way I responded to my daughter Teya this past weekend.  We were FINALLY (why does gathering young children to go to church pose as difficult a challenge as say Ernest Shackleton's desire to cross the South Pole?  His misadventures can be found in the book "Endurance," which I highly recommend if you want to learn how to get to church on time, attempt to cross the South Pole, or learn how to eat penguin for a week while floating on a slab of ice) on our way to church and she threw out this comment, "David, I know how you can put Jesus into your heart."  The words not being couched in my thinking of right theology (which could be a whole post in itself), my knee-jerk reaction was to laugh.   Boy I wish I could take that laugh back.  After my laugh Teya clammed up like a high-security Swiss bank vault and would not share another word, no matter how much I apologized and encouraged her.  I felt like a total jerk, perhaps because I'd just been one.

Another thing that makes me grateful for the forgiveness I felt, is just the difficulty I have with not getting really ticked off at people who disagree with me, belittle me and/or touch my pride. I'd been having a discussion yesterday that had me feeling about a centimeter tall (even standing on my toes), so when I stepped out of the office to be met with a renewed reminder that I am to "take heart" as God's forgiven child I felt a very real, tangible gift.

I'm not made to carry all the weight of life around on my shoulders (my shoulders are sloped which doesn't help anyway).  I'm actually made to live weight free.  And while "weight free life" means death to my old ways of living (as I posted yesterday), it also means authentic and real joy in the knowledge of my forgiven status before the King of the universe.  My heart is quick to forget to be grateful, but I sure was grateful yesterday, as I trudged off to my car.

I'm a forgiven sinner and a child of God, that's the truest thing about me.  That being said I can move on to bigger and better things, like thinking about the one who's forgiven me.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Jesus Needs a Better Marketing Strategy

"And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."  Matthew 10:39

Come on Jesus.  Couldn't you make the Christian life look a little more appealing than following you around with a Roman torture device strapped to my back?  Couldn't you tame your words a bit and help us just revel in love, forgiveness and good times?

No.  I guess not.  The reality of the gospel is that it can be a hard pill to swallow.  The reality of the good news is that it sounds like bad news sometimes doesn't it?

Why would anyone want to join Jesus in his death march?  Why would anyone want to lose his life?  Am I, as a Christian, called to spiritual suicide?

According to Myers-Briggs I'm a high feeler.  When it comes to passages like the above a high feeler is likely to feel something like cold ice slowly sliding down his spine.  That doesn't "feel" good to a feeler.

But Jesus words are a kindness aren't they?  He's preparing us for the reality of being a Christian.  The reality is life won't be roses for the Christian.  And the reality is that if I seek to make my end this life, I'm going to forfeit the life to come.  I'm not saying it, Jesus did.

Jesus, rather than letting us hold on to an ideal of having our cake and eating it to, tells us that living in this life expecting blessings while expecting the next life to hold blessings is incorrect.  It would be cold comfort, as it's just not reality for the Christian.

Jesus is my Lord.  That means where he goes, I go.  Where does he go?  Unfortunately he goes to die.  So, as much as I hate to say is, so do I.

Alright, so that sort of sucks doesn't it?  I don't really like the potential of all this death talk.  I don't like transformation, crucifixion and self-denial, but both Jesus and I know that I am so sick that the only remedy involves the salve of death and rebirth.

It's all so counter-intuitive.  No one in their right mind should become a Christian.  Life is full of promise.  Life can be fun.  Life can be about me.

Not so for the Christian.  Life is to be let go of to find.  Death is entrance into full life.  (I really don't like writing this stuff, I wish there was an easier way.)

But when I look at what Jesus offers in himself (friendship, healing, hope, joy, connectedness, love, freedom, peace, and eternity), and then I compare that with the vapid and meaningless directions my ego will take me, I better hurry up and pick up that cross and follow, there's no other direction to go.  I'm between Jesus and a hard place.

And knowing Jesus the little I do, I believe he's got this whole paradoxical death thing figured out.  And death after all is only the beginning of the story.

All of this is so morbidly depressing that I'm sort of tired of typing about it.  But it changes tone when I realize who I'm following, who is calling me to come and die and who promises to never leave my side.  If death was my focus, I'd never go through with it.  But the truth is real life in real reality is my focus.

So I surrender Jesus, you win, at least for now.  After all Jesus, it sounds so crazy it just might work.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Sometimes it's best to just go ahead and plagiarize and ask for forgiveness later, IF anyone reads your stuff.  No, I read this fantastic article this morning on "hide-and-seek" which can be found at  In the article I was reminded of the ridiculous games I've had with David and Teya.

There's a wide variety of games we play.  "Wrestle" is their favorite, but it involves all sorts of spin-offs.  Our pre-wrestle warm up is to run to Melissa's and my room, begin growling "wrestle" and rip our shirts off.  We're ready...

Then all of heaven breaks loose.  Teya asks for "Rocket" - where I swing her in a circle and basically slam her on the bed hoping she won't just skip across it and fall off (this hasn't happened yet, but like those movies with cliffs in them, she's come really close and caught a hand-full of bed-spread to avoid plunging to her demise).

David typically whines while we do this, just begging for us to wrestle.  So when I'm tired of throwing Teya all over the place, I hop up onto the bed and David tries his muscles out on Dad (Teya meanwhile gets into a popular and more realistic fighting stance - on her back - and begins aiming kicks at my groin.  This has since been outlawed.)  But David is fantastic!  He bares his teeth, furrows his brow and just takes on this persona of the baddest little dude ever.  I love it.

So why am I sharing all this?  Well if you don't have little ones, I hope you can hear a snippet of how God loves you seeping out through my paternal gushings.

I just love playing with my kids.  And as painful as the kicks to the groin can be, as well as the poorly aimed punches that hit me in the ear or some other not-so-sturdy spot, I find it totally worth the risk.

I believe God plays "Wrestle" with us.  He did it with Jacob, and he does it with us every day we want to play.  And as the kids and I decide to take a break and go get Mommy, run around her in our under-wear all the while chanting "Hubba, hubba, hubba!" there's even something here that reflects our going out into the world with God and sharing his good news: "hubba."  Enjoy Him because he enjoys you.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Spiritual Ear-Wax

"May I always be amongst those who not only hear thee but know thee, who walk with and rejoice in thee..." - The Valley of Vision, pg. 12

As I study God it's so easy to just stop up short.  To stop up short at knowing stuff about God and not enter in to actually knowing God.  To hear things about God, but not even listen to God.

So much clogs up my ears, and I'm not just talking ear-wax - thought Melissa thinks I have a problem with this.  I think that that what really keeps me from presently knowing God is not entering in to the cycle of love, trust and obedience.

I say "cycle" of these three because I believe that they all feed eachother.  As another blogger, Pastor Paul at, reminded me today, obedience is birthed from the relationship of love and trust.  As I trust, I obey.  As I obey, I love.  As I love, I trust.  I love it!  I could mix those up all day.

I stumble when I think that I've got to feel God's love before I obey, for obedience may be the vehicle through which he wants me to feel his love.

Anyhow, I struggle with actually knowing my God.  But it is good to know that he knows me, knows my struggle and my mental hiccups, and all the games I play to try and get out of obedience.  And he knows how tempted I am to run my own life, find my own blessings and live for my moments rather than his.

And I am convinced that his knowledge is what will win the day in my life.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Phil Saves Father-in-Law from Certain Death, Again!

"Our God is a God of salvation, and to God, the Lord, belongs deliverances from death." - Psalm 68:20

A couple of days ago I was worrying about how I've been asked to write for youth, address their issues and help them walk closer with Christ. Basically I was carrying the weight of the spiritual plight of teenagers everywhere. No big deal right?

It doesn't help that I'm not quite sure what project I should be diving into right now. Should I be developing a blog, populating our Facebook page or writing new discipleship materials? There's so much to do, and so many directions I could take that I feel a little frozen in indecision. I'm also feeling impatient, wanting stuff for young people's spiritual growth to already be out there yesterday!

(I find my Uncle's advice about taking this time to research my theology and today's culture as invaluable. So that's what I'll be about.)

But I realized that the reason I was feeling so much weight is that I don't believe in a "God of salvation." I tend to default to the idea that "Phil saves from death."

Of course I do have some experience in this area. I once caught my father-in-law as he was sliding off a roof. Then another time I saved him from doom by catching a wall that happened to be collapsing on him. (My father-in-law lives a peculiarly perilous life. I am secretly grateful of this as it gets me a few brownie points, that I could cash in one day, say, like when he makes a comment about me not mowing the lawn for Melissa - "Remember the time you almost died...")

So I needed the reminder today, that I can't save anyone from death (other than my father-in-law) and that I do indeed serve a "God of salvation" who is way more than capable to deal with the spiritual plight of teenagers. He's just invited me along for the ride. For that, I'm very grateful.

And in case you're wondering, my Father-in-Law doesn't give me a hard time about not mowing the lawn, it's Melissa that does, so I plan on using my points on her: "You're mad that I didn't mow the lawn for the sixth week in a row? Do you really wish that your own flesh and blood, your father, was dead right now?".. Something like that anyway. I try and keep life light.