Friday, December 25, 2015

Harvest and Christmas

I got to help my dad finish harvesting cotton a few days ago.  I want to be more devoted to helping my Father finish the Harvest.

This week, I've had good spiritual converstions with my mom, dad, and brother about vocation, shepherding, and pastoring.

We had a birthday party for Jesus this morning.  After opening presents, the boys were fighting over toys and not sharing.  I tried to not let that change my attitude.  I think I should have that perspective year-round.

I taught Beau how to drive this morning.  I thought he did pretty well.  It is encouraging to me to empower him with knowledge and skills.  I want to be more intentional about empowering my children.  And spiritually, I want to invest more time in empowering disciples.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the time to take a break.  Thank you for the opportunity to spend time with family, work, and rest.  Lord Jesus, help me invest in promoting your Kingdom.  Please keep me from investing my time and effort in fruitless activities.  Holy Spirit, please empower me and guide me in bringing Heaven to earth by abiding in your presence and operating in your authority and power.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Good Shepherd

John 10:11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Yesterday, Rebekah preached about Jesus being the Good Shepherd.  She pointed out that sheep don't have very good vision or stability, and they tend to get scared.  One of the main points that she made was how we need to reflect on how God has taken care of us so that we continue to follow His shepherding and we continue to believe that He is good.

I think I have had the wrong perspective of tenure, perceiving it more of an end-point as opposed to a hurdle along the way.  As I have recently begun to change my perspective around the tenure process, I think this tenure hurdle has induced in me a critical evaluation of my mission and vision for the rest of my career.  I tend to want to cling to the big grants that the Lord has brought through in the last 12 months (USDA, USAID, NSF ERC, etc.) instead of believing that the Lord will continue to provide.  But if He is really a Good Shepherd, He will continue to lead me along the path that He has for me, and He will continue to provide for what I need.  I must believe that His heart for me is good, and that goodness includes generosity.

As we took communion yesterday, Rebekah reminded us that the elements are evidence of His goodness, because He gave His own life for us.  He loves us so much, and we need to consistently remember that He is good.

Heavenly Father, thank you for showing us your goodness by giving us Christ Jesus.  Lord Jesus, thank you for being the Good Shepherd.  I want to trust you to guide me, protect me, and provide for me.  Holy Spirit, help me grow in listening to your voice.  I want to mature in constantly talking with you and being aware of your presence.  I want to believe you to do good things in my life and the lives of others.  I want to praise you for the good things that you do for us.  I want to know that you are good because I know you, not just because you do good things.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

intimacy and awe

I think that most of the times that I read this passage, I am impressed with the awesomeness of Christ.  

Rev 1:12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

But today, I was impressed with the intimacy with which He communes with the churches. Later in the chapter, Jesus explains that "The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches."  The Greek word for "angels" could be translated as "messengers", which may figuratively represent the pastor of the church.  I was impressed with the intimacy of this scene - Jesus is standing among the churches, and He is holding the messengers in His hand.  He is abiding with the churches because He loves the churches.  

I also think it is significant that His feet are bronze, like the bronze serpent that was lifted up on a pole.  The Son of God who commands the armies of angels took on human flesh - He became human - to absolve us from the wrath of God.  

Rev 1:17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

And now we have nothing to fear.  We trust the Living One.  Our life is consumed in His life.  His life is cascading through our lives.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the intimate love that you have shown us through Christ.  Lord Jesus, thank you for the intimate care that you show your body, the Church.  Holy Spirit, fill me with the Living One.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

love God by obeying God: love one another

If you want to love God, then you should obey God's command, and His command is to love one another:

John 15:9 "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.

The Apostle John reiterated this essential doctrine in his letters:

1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. ... 5:2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome ...

2 John 1:4 It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth,just as the Father commanded us. 5 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your love.  I love you because you first loved me, and I want to obey you.  Please anoint me with your Holy Spirit and pour your agape love through me.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Good News of Love!

As I was reading this morning, I was impressed with the Good News that we get to celebrate this Christmas season! 

1 John 4:10-16 NIV
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.  This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

May our hearts overflow with joy as we think about His great love and kindness towards! Not only has He given us Christ as an atoning sacrifice, but He has given us His Spirit to live in us!

Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us and givin us Christ and the Holy Spirit!  I praise you because you are love.  May your life and love pour through me.  I love you!  I pray in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Unlimited atonement

In a previous entry, I questioned the doctrine of limited atonement (the "L" in TULIP).  But after reading 1 John 2, I believe that a doctrine of unlimited atonement is explicitly clear:
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2 NIV)
The question may remain, if Jesus was the atoning sacrifice for the whole world, then why is the whole world not saved?  I think this question is answered in the previous chapter:
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:7-9 NIV)
It seems to me that while atonement has been accomplished for all, justification is conditional: if you believe, confess, and walk in the Light.  This condition stated in 1 John 1 is consistent with what Paul taught in Romans 10:
If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, "Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame."  For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:9-13 NIV)
Heavenly Father, thank you for the atoning work of Jesus! Thank you for atoning for the sins of the whole world! Thank you for bringing me to faith in Jesus.  Lord, please use me to lead others to understand and believe in Jesus, to confess their sin, receive His forgiveness, and walk in the Light.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Saturday, November 28, 2015


I am thankful for salvation in Christ.  I am thankful for my wife, boys, and daughter on the way.  I am thankful for time with family and time to relax.

Heavenly Father, thank you for providing for us and protecting us.  We love you, and we want to honor you.  May you be blessed.  Thank you, in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


This past Sunday, Greg preached about Jesus being the Light of the World, and he shared his vision for Paseo to be a people of light.  Greg believes that God told him that in the next year, God will use Paseo to bring transformation in the lives of over 5000 people.

Heavenly Father, you are good.  Thank you for your promises of doing good in our lives.  Lord, please use me to bring the transformation of your grace in Christ to others.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Jesus is the Bread of Life

A week ago, Neill preached in John 6.  The thesis was that Jesus is our provider, and we can trust Him.

One of the points that really rang true with me is that Jesus doesn't need us to have everything figured out.  He just wants us to submit what we have to Him and trust Him to bless it.  When Jesus fed the 5000, it all started with five loaves and two fish.  I have been very self critical because I still have less than ten publications, which not that different from seven little pieces of lunch.  I just need to trust God with my five loaves and two fish and ask Him to do good things through me.

Heavenly Father, I bring you my insufficient self, my five loaves and two fish, and I trust you to manifest your life through mine.  May you be honored by my character.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Friday, November 20, 2015

It's a girl!

We learned earlier this week that our next child is a girl!  God has spoken to us in several ways over the past couple of months. 

God interrupted one of Brandi's moments of anxiousness aboug the pregnancy to tell her that He was going to give her the desire of her heart (to have a girl).  It was such a clear moment that Brandi smiled.

A few weeks later, Brandi woke up two mornings in a row with the impression that her name should be Katelyn Elizabeth.  Brandi and I had talked about this name several years ago because the name honors both my mom and Brandi's mom, but Brandi wasn't excited about it until a week later she looked up the meaning - "pure oath of God".  She felt like this was a confirmation of the promise that He had given her to give her the desire of her heart.

Lori had a dream about Brandi having an ultrasound and finding out it was a girl.  Then I had a dream that I told someone, "Oh, you have three boys and a girl, just like us."

Brandi told Lindsey about these things one Sunday morning, and Lindsey's response was Luke 1:45:

"Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!"

Indeed, the Lord was faithful to His promises to us.  We look forward to her arrival in May.

As I think about having a daughter, I am a little nervous about the newness and differences of raising a daughter.  But I think I am especially impressed with the idea that I want to raise her to be a Daughter of God.  I want to be careful to demonstrate the character of our Heavenly Father.

Heavenly Father, thank you for speaking to us, and thank you for blessing is with a daughter.  Thank you for giving us a testimony of you speaking to us.  Lord, please help us parent her to know you and love you.  We love you, and we praise you.  I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Our battle is not against flesh and blood

With the terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut, it may seem like a particular terrorist group is the enemy.  But Paul reminds us that:

... our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph. 6:12 NIV)

Furthermore, Jesus teaches us to treat haters with love:

"But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." (Luke 6:27-28)
Heavenly Father, please help us respond with love.  Holy Spirit, please comfort the loved ones of those killed in the attacks.  Lord Jesus, please reveal yourself to those involved in planning and executing these attacks, and bring them to salvation in your grace.  Teach them to love you and love people.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Last days

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5 NIV

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 NIV

Read the news headlines.  Ask yourself, "Are we in the last days?"  I believe the answer should always be, "Yes."  We should live with the expectation that Christ might return at any moment.

I feel like the world progressively grows more audaciously apostate, but perhaps it is an artifact of me continuing to grow closer to the Lord.  I think I need to intentionally and explicitly prepare my children to navigate such a world - to be prepared for fierce conflict with the enemy.

Heavenly Father, please help me be wise and discerning in these days.  Help me see the signs of the times.  Don't let me be ignorant and naive.  Help me prepare my children to live as faithful disciples in this world, despite what fierce opposition may come.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Answered prayers

In the past several of weeks, the Lord had answered two huge prayer requests for a couple in our home group.  I am so encouraged by His kindness and faithfulness.  Though He did make us wait, He is faithful.  He had given me so much joy through seeking these answered prayers.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your kindness and faithfulness.  Thank you for hearing us, sustaining us, and answering us.  Lord Jesus, may your fame spread across the world.  Holy Spirit, give us boldness to proclaim His love for us and our love for Him.  We love you, and we pray in the name of Jesus.

build up yourself and others

Jude 20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

It is both internal and external: internal maturity and external ministry.  

Keep yourselves in God's love.  That is an interesting way to put it.  Almost like we have some freewill contribution to the relationship.

I want to learn to pray in the Holy Spirit.

Be merciful, save them from the fire, show mercy.  Kindness, compassion.

Heavenly Father, please help me consistently build myself up in holy faith, help me pray in the Holy Spirit.  Help me be a merciful rescuer.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

acting like my Father

On Sunday, Joe spoke in our morning gathering, and his dad and brother came to support.  Joe spoke about how sometimes we wish we had a second chance at a first impression; Jesus was God incarnate, reintroducing Himself to us.  In the next seven weeks, we will be studying Jesus's seven "I AM" metaphors, and Joe invited us to consider how we could allow ourselves to give Jesus another chance at an introduction.  

During communion, I noticed how Joe's brother had very similar mannerisms as their dad.  The thought occurred to me, I want people to recognize that I look like my Father.  I want to move and talk like Jesus so that people will recognize that I AM is in me.

Heavenly Father, I want to act like you.  Help me see you and learn to live like you.  Help me see you through Jesus.  Holy Spirit, help me.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Saturday, November 7, 2015


1 Pet 1:13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;16 for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."

For a long time, I thought "holiness" simply meant "morally perfect", but that is not actually what the word means.  I was reminded, recently, that the Greek word ἅγιος (hagios) means "different" or "set apart".  God commands us to join Him in His apartness.  God is the Creator, and we are the creation, but He wants us to be with Him.  I think it is as much relational as it is behavioral.

Practically, how do I join Him in His apartness?  I'm not sure if it starts with the heart or the mind, maybe both.  I think I need to want to be with Him, and I think I need to intentionally and consciously think about the reality that my spirit is with Christ in the heavenly realm.  How do I bring my soul and body into God's apartness with my spirit?  How do I grow my desire to be more fully present with God?

Heavenly Father, I praise you for your holiness.  You are holy, and I want to join you in your holiness.  Thank you for the privilege of being with you through Christ.  Holy Spirit, please grow my desire, and prompt me to think about being with you all the time.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

What do I really want most?

In our home group discussion this evening, Tamara told us about Randy Clark's autobiography and how he really wanted more of God.  It made me consider, what do I really want most?  To be honest, I think most of what I think about is career advancement.  This makes me sad.  I want to want God the most.  I need my heart calibrated.

Heavenly Father, I am sorry that I have allowed myself to focus the attention of my heart on my career instead of you.  I love you, and I want to want you most.  Please forgive me, and calibrate my heart to focus on you and seek you first.  Holy Spirit, I want to experience your presence and power.  I pray in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Role of women

I have read this passage before and just scratched my head, because I felt like it was odd and inconsistent with the holistic Biblical narrative.

1 Tim 2:11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

Recently, I read some commentary about this passage in the book Eldership and the Mission of God by Briggs and Hyatt, which explained that Paul was responding to some specific false-doctrines in the church. Here is my edited brief of the salient points:

[Paul was] correcting heresy (actually raising women's status) and [this passage] is notoriously difficult to understand in English without a proper cultural background.
v 11-12
First Timothy was written to a pastor (Timothy) in Ephesus, a center for the worship of the goddess Artemis. The word translated "exercise authority" [αὐθεντεῖν] appears only here in Scripture, so it's hard to get a handle on.  It could mean "dominate" or "exercise authority in a domineering way" [or "usurp" or "coup"]. It seems that in Ephesus, where people were coming out of pagan goddess worship, women, feeling their newfound freedom in Christ, were taking a dominating attitude, claiming a privileged position. Paul said they, like anyone else, should learn from their teachers quietly and submissively; he did not permit women to teach men in a domineering way.
v 13-14
Paul then corrected another heresy that was circulating, taught by the Sophists in a culture that was accustomed to goddess worship: that it wasn't Eve that sinned first, but Adam, and that in fact she was the one created first. It's foolish of us to get caught up in the "who sinned first" argument. Paul wasn't basing a prohibition of women in leadership on the order of creation; rather, he was reminding them of the facts of the biblical narrative and asking them to keep it straight. He was dealing with an early form of extreme religious feminism.
v 15
Paul responds to a protognostic heresy that women should abstain from intercourse and become male to be saved (e.g. Gospel of Thomas).   Women can be saved through (not "by means of," but "through the middle of"— that is, "in spite of" not only intercourse, but even childbirth.
In essence, Paul wrote, "I don't allow women to dominate men, and these ideas going around are incorrect. Eve was the one who sinned first and wasn't the one created first. But, lest you think I buy into the other side that says women are evil, let me correct that as well."

This background on the false-doctrines that Paul was responding to is essential to interpret the passage according to what he was actually saying. Otherwise, you end up with a conclusion to demote women, which I don't think is consistent with God's restoration of all people, male and female.

Heavenly Father, thank you for truth, and thank you for the opportunity to learn and grow in understanding your Word.  Please continue to guide me and lead me to a more accurate understanding of your character and work.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

worthwhile investments

It has been a while since I went for a walk.  I want to be consistent in this discipline. 

As I was waling back up the hill, I was thinking about all of the new hotels that I saw in south Texas when I drove to my Uncle Larry's funeral.  With the low price of oil these days, I can imagine that most of those new hotels have very low occupancy. This led me to think about how we invest in things that don't pay off; we see such a short time horizon, yet we spend ourselves so heavily on risky enterprises.

Then I realized how true this is in my own life with respect to how much time and effort I invest in building my little fiefdom in academia instead of focusing on investing in the Kingdom of Christ.  It sure is easy to listen to the worldly influences around me, telling me that I need to publish more papers, I need to bring in more money, I need to graduate more students, ...  It is not that there is anything evil about publishing papers or securing extramural research funding; I think the evil is in the "more".  At some point, I am over investing myself, when I should be investing my time loving my wife and children, and being a friend and disciple-maker.

1 Tim 4:7 ... train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 9 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. 10 That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the reminder for me to focus on investing in your eternal Kingdom, not worldly things that will fade away.  Lord Jesus, thank you for salvation and hope.  Holy Spirit, please empower me to live a godly life.  May I set an example in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

familiarity breeds contempt

When I traveled in an airplane after I had taken fluid mechanics, I was so impressed with the phenomenon of aerodynamic lift every time we took off.  How is it possible that something as dense as a plane could fly in something as thin as air?

Yesterday, I was reading one of the chapters in Duncan Smith's book about Christ's substitutionary sacrifice and how incredible it is that Christ paid the penalty for all of our sin in His death so that we could have all of His life.  I realized that my heart is calloused.  I want to be moved by that reality. 

Perhaps, like me not even noticing that our airplane had taken off, I am so familiar with the Story that I take it for granted.   I think if I had a deeper sense of ownership of my sin and the terrible wrath that was due to me, maybe I would be more appreciative of the incredible grace of God.

Heavenly Father, I want to be filled with genuine gratitude for your mercy and grace.  Holy Spirit, please fill me with joy.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Equipping and building the church toward unity and maturity

Ephesians 4:11-13 ESV 
And [Christ] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

APEST servant-leaders

  • apostles (church-planters, missionaries, initiative-starters)
  • prophets (God-speakers, Spirit-revealers)
  • evangelists (Gospel-sharers, freedom-proclaimers)
  • shepherds (herd-tenders, soul-carers)
  • teachers (truth-explainers, trainers)
This sentence is a bit of a run-on, which makes it tough to diagram, but I think that the two functions are equipping and building with goals of unity and maturity.

Christ gave APEST servant-leaders to the church for the functions of (1) equipping (καταρτισμὸν, perfecting) the saints for the work (ἔργον) of service (διακονίας) and (2) building-up (οἰκοδομὴν, constructing a dwelling-place [for God]) the Body of Christ (the Church).

Our goals are (1) unity (ἑνότητα, harmony, oneness, and cohesiveness even with our inherent diversity [not uniformity]) in the faith and knowledge of Christ and (2) maturity (τέλειον, full-grown, complete, end-goal), that is, measuring-up to the complete stature of Christ and also filled completely with Christ.

Heavenly Father, this is pretty heady.  As we ordain new elders for our church tomorrow, please inspire us and bring us to an understanding of this truth, and may we continue to fully commit ourselves to this eternally-valuable work.  Holy Spirit, please show us our giftings, and grow us in growing others.  Lord Jesus, we love you, and this is all for you.  I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, October 12, 2015


I listened to a sermon today about having a strong core.  The speaker focused on the importance of having a core group of deep friendships to share life with.  The speaker also discussed the importance of knowing your priorities so that you can be strategic in the investment of your time.  Knowing what you are saying "yes" to means that you know what to say "no" to.

I say "yes" to too many things.  I consistently overcommit myself.  I need to learn to say "no" without feeling like I am a failure.  And I need to focus on high quality to the things that I commit to.  I want my "yes" to be a significant "yes".

Heavenly Father, I want to be about your business.  Jesus knew how He could join you in your work; Holy Spirit, teach me to commune with the Father.  I want to invest my time in efforts that matter for eternity.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Emulating Jesus

Acts 28:7-9 NIV
There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured.

Paul emulates Jesus.

Like 4:40 NIV (and similarly, Matt. 8:16)
At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them.

I now believe that healing ministry is available for all believers, and some are especially gifted.  So, how do we grow in maturity in knowing when and how to heal people.

Heavenly Father, thank you for these examples.  Holy Spirit, please show me the way.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Dealing with problems

Yesterday, Beau told Brandi that he didn't want to go to AWANA.  Last week, he cried a lot and said that He missed his mom. 

I tried to reason with him and explain the value of memorizing Scripture and learning about God, but logic didn't seem effective.

I asked him if something had happened to upset him.  He didn't tell me anything. 

Finally, I told him that I am his father, that I love him, and that I want him to grow to be a strong man.  I told him that in life, he will face many challenges, and he can't run away from them, that he needs to face them and deal with his problems, and that I am always here to help him through that.

As I was saying this to Beau, I felt like the Lord was saying it to me.  But like Beau, I think many times, it seems that I don't know what the problem is.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your love for me.  Thank you for your patience.  Please help me be more spiritually self aware and discerning of problems.  And please lead me to breakthrough.  And Beau, too.  I love you, and I didn't mean to rhyme. In Jesus's name.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Rhema and Logos

However, as it is written: "What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived" — the things God has prepared for those who love him—  these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NIV

We commune with God through our regenerated spirits, and God desires that we receive spontaneous rhema from Him in our spirits and combine that with rational processing of logos in our minds.

Heavenly Father, please help me set my mind on the Spirit and stay in fellowship with you.  Lord Jesus, I want to follow your example of walking in communion with the Spirit and demonstrating His power.  Holy Spirit, please help me listen to you in my spirit.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

work paradigm

I've been in a slump for several weeks, and I think it is because I submitted my application for tenure and promotion from assistant professor to associate professor.

When I was in junior high, my dad told me that he didn't have enough money to pay for me to go to college, so I needed to work hard and get good grades so that I could get scholarships.  My parents had taught me how to work hard on the farm, so that conversation significantly influenced me.  I did work hard in junior high and high school to get good grades, and the pattern that I set for myself continued into college.  

At each academic phase, I had a clear goal.  In high school, I was working hard to be valedictorian.  (I came up short by three one-hundredths of a point.)  In college, I worked hard for the "four-point-O", which cost me a lot of late nights of studying.  In grad school, I worked hard for the thesis, and then again for the dissertation.  

And I think my task-oriented, goal-driven personality and work ethic metastasized into workaholism in the context of tenure-track assistant professor expectations.  Looking back now, I am ashamed of how many days I would work 10-12 hours at work, get home, eat dinner, and then ignore my family while I worked on my laptop until late in the night.  This was the effect of my unbalanced "do your best" effort in the absence of clear expectations.

But now that this work is behind me, and I submitted my dossier for evaluation, now what?  I realize that I made a significant mistake.  Humanly speaking, I was working for tenure, and not working for me.  Spiritually speaking, my motivation was to please someone else (i.e., all of the people who would review my tenure application), instead of working for the Lord.

Col 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

The reason in verse 24 is as important as the directive in verse 23.  I know this in my mind, but actualizing it into behavior is actually believing it.  I don't think I have done that.

Consequently, I think I have been going through withdrawals the past several weeks.  I have been unconciously frustrated and depressed.  But I really didn't know why until Friday morning, when I started talking out some of what I was thinking/feeling with RF.  (He really has been a great friend and counselor to me; reminds me of the verses in Proverbs.) That conversation helped me realize that I was frustrated/depressed because I think that much of what I have done is wasted effort or worthless because I did it with the wrong motivation.  I am also questioning my impact and significance, sort of like a mini-mid-life-crisis.  (I think I should buy a Corvette.)  Maybe part of it is me feeling like I was investing my God-given in efforts tangential and distracting from what God wants me to focus on.  I have spent so much of my time operating in an opportunistic way of bringing in whatever extramural research funding I could that I wasn't operating in a strategic way according to how God is leading me.  To be honest, I don't think I have spent much time seeking God to lead me in my work.  Part of my frustration could also be an artifact of this pervasive Western perspective of God having a specific plan for our lives, and we feel like we are missing out if we miss God's will for our lives.  

All of this frustration led me to even question whether or not I should actually be a professor.  I see all of my mistakes and weaknesses in research and teaching.  What am I doing?  Why am I continuing to pretend to be a researcher and teacher?  Why am I continuing to work so hard and still miss the mark?

I talked out some of these thoughts with Brandi in the car on the way to meet with our church on Sunday morning.  Then we got to discuss them over lunch with Steve and Tamara.  These conversations were helpful for me to vocalize and externalize what I was thinking/feeling.  Brandi and Steve reassured me that God has indeed given me a gift of teaching and not to doubt that.  

On Monday, I ate lunch with Isaac.  He really encouraged me about being a good teacher and professor.  One of the things that he said that really struck me was that me helping one of my students is worth more than all of my academic accolades.  That really helped me to think about myself and my work from a Kingdom perspective.  It is so easy to slip into a worldly view of keeping track of my accomplishments (research funding, journal papers, etc.), but the reality is that each student is made in the image of God and I can treat them with respect, dignity, and love.  My fundamental mission is to love people and make disciples of all nations.  I hope I can keep that perspective and live that out.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your grace and patience.  I trust that you can work all things for the good of those who love you and are called according to your purpose.  Lord Jesus, I want to work for you and not for men or myself.  Holy Spirit, please help me listen to your directions for me.  I believe that you are trying to guide me, and I want to keep in step with you in attitude, character, and action.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Battle of the mind

Romans 7:25 NIV

Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. 

The Greek word for "mind" here is "νοῒ" or "νοῦς" (G3563), which is the reasoning faculty.  I think it is fascinating that I receive spiritual instruction/directives from God and am thus a slave to God's law in my mind, instead of some other faith organ. (The same word is used in Romans 12:2.)  It is also interesting to me that the "mind" used only a few verses away in 8:6-7 is actually a different Greek word. The Greek word in 8:6-7 is "φρόνημα" (G5427), and here are definitions from HELPS Word-studies: 

phrónēma (a neuter noun) – properly visceral opinion (the innermost, personal level of opinion); inner perspective as it determines (regulating) outward behavior, especially as it bears on the outward results (i.e. of exercising personal insight). Note the suffix, -ma, pointing to the result of the verbal idea. 

phrónēma – ("the results of gut-insight") connects how the individual processes opinion-making to how they act.

You can see how several different translations try to communicate that concept for "mindset" in Romans 8:6-7:

(NIV) The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so.

(NASB) For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,

(ESV) For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.

(NKJV) For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.

(DLNT) For the way-of-thinking of the flesh is death, but the way-of-thinking of the Spirit is life and peace. Because the way-of-thinking of the flesh is hostility toward God; for it is not subject to the Law of God, for it is not even able.

Thinking (no pun intended) about the connection of Romans 7:25 and 8:6-7, it is not enough to think or reason about God, but we must consciously and intentionally use our mind to set our will to follow the Spirit.  As a consequence of sin, the impulses of the corrupted flesh are so hard-wired to control the mind.  We must be vigilant in denying these impulses, and instead, as a matter of internal will, choose to obey the Spirit.

Heavenly Father, thank you for giving me a mind to hear you speak to me.  Holy Spirit, I want my mind to be governed by you.  I want to set my will to act in obedience to you.  Lord Jesus, I want to follow your example of walking in obedience to your Father and in the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  Lord, please help me grow in maturity and discipline in denying the impulses of the flesh.  I want to trust you and obey you.  I want to love you and honor you in the way that I live, which is a result of my mindset and heart-posture.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Elijah and Elisha as types of Christ and the Church

In the children's Bible that I read with the boys at night, a couple of days ago I read the story of Elijah getting a chariot ride to Heaven.  I have always thought that it was interesting that Elisha had the idea to ask for a double-portion of his spirit (2 Kings 2:9).  I have not double-checked (ha! no pun intended) this for myself, but I have heard that the Scriptures list twice as many miracles for Elisha as Elijah.

I think Elijah could be a type of Christ, and Elisha could be a type of the Church.  Jesus told his disciples that we would do even greater things than He (John 14:12), and then He told them about sending the Holy Spirit.  Since we have the Spirit of Christ and the Holy Spirit, in a way, we have a double-portion of the Spirit.

Wouldn't it be awesome if we saw disciples all over the world doing the works of Christ: healing the crippled, healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead!

How do you enter into that level of operation?  Elisha got to watch Elijah and then replicate. The disciples got to watch Jesus do it and then replicate.  Who do I get to watch?

Heavenly Father, I praise you for your goodness and power.  Lord Jesus, please give me a double-portion of your Spirit.  I want to do your works, and even greater things.  Holy Spirit, please lead me and empower me.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

keeping an open mind

I ate an ant this morning.  A roasted ant.  From Columbia.  Definitely outside my box.

Listening to 1 Corinthians 12 this morning, I realized that I have come full-circle on my interpretation of some of the topics in this passage.

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

First, the Spirit manifests Himself.  He demonstrates His presence and power.  And it is for our good.  Second, Paul lists nine gifts (not an exhaustive list), and included in this list are four gifts that I previously dismissed as obsolete or faked.  But recently, I have come to believe that the Holy Spirit does still heal and demonstrate miraculous signs and wonders, and I believe that He gives people the supernatural gift of speaking and/or interpreting unknown languages that are spoken somewhere in the world.  

The middle of the chapter is about us being one body with many members, each with different functions.  The end of the chapter returns to the distribution of gifts:

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

Miracles, healing, and tongues are right in there with teaching and helping, and it seems to me that no one has all of these gifts.

Previously, I have thought that speaking in tongues as a prayer language was bogus, but after listening to Chapter 14 this morning, I have changed my opinion.

13 For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays,but my mind is unfruitful.

Paul spoke in tongues, and he thought that it was profitable in certain circumstances.  But he also thought that prophecy was very helpful for the body.

39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

Heavenly Father, please help me be open minded to your truth, and please teach me.  Holy Spirit, please demonstrate your presence and your power through me.  I want others to know believe in Christ and experience your goodness.  Lord, please speak to me, and use me to speak prophecy to others.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

knowing God

God said:

but let the one who boasts boast about this:
    that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
    justice and righteousness on earth,
    for in these I delight,"
declares the Lord.
(Jer. 9:24)

Jesus said:

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
(John 17:3)

The word "know" in Jer. 9:24 is Hebrew 3045 יָדַע ("yada"), which means to know by experience.  The word "know" in John 17:3 is Greek 1096 γινώσκω ("ginóskó"), which means to know by experience.

I think God wants us to know Him as our Father, our Brother, and our Friend, and I think having conversations with Him is essential to establishing a relationship with God.  Conversations require listening. 

I want to learn to hear God's voice.

Heavenly Father, thank you for desiring to know me and for me to know you.  I want to learn to hear your voice.  Please help me.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Training versus maintaining

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 NIV
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

Run in such a way as to get first place.  That is pretty challenging.  There is a significant difference between committing to exercise consistently to stay fit versus just not being concerned about fitness.  But then there is a significant difference between a commitment to fitness and training to WIN a competition.  Staying fit requires discipline and committment, but training to win consumes you.  When you are training to win, everything in your day and week centers around winning, and it seems to me that the critical difference is a commitment to continuous improvement.  You never settle for "good enough"; you are constantly striving for "better" so that you can be the best.  I think we should continue striving until we become like Christ.

Ephesians 4:15 NIV
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

Heavenly Father, please help me have more than a commitment to be spiritually disicplined; help me have a commitment to continuous improvement.  Lord Jesus, I want to train for being like you.  Holy Spirit, empower me and coach me; give me strength, and challenge me to push harder and run farther with you.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

indwelling and annointing of the Holy Spirit

This passage made me think about how we receive and experience the Holy Spirit:

ACTS 19:1 While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions until he reached Ephesus, on the coast, where he found several believers. 2 "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" he asked them.
"No," they replied, "we haven't even heard that there is a Holy Spirit."
3 "Then what baptism did you experience?" he asked.
And they replied, "The baptism of John."
4 Paul said, "John's baptism called for repentance from sin. But John himself told the people to believe in the one who would come later, meaning Jesus."
5 As soon as they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 Then when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.

It is my understanding that, upon faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit regenerates the spirit of the believer and indwells their spirit (e.g., what Paul wrote to these same folks in Eph. 1:13).  Until recently, I haven't thought much about the annointing/manifestation of the Holy Spirit, but it seems to me that in Acts 19, the Holy Spirit manifested himself to confirm their receiving Him.  It doesn't seem to me that all believers should expect to experience the Holy Spirit in such a way upon belief or water baptism.

I have wondered about the purpose or value of such manifestations, but I think Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 2:

 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power.

By God's power, He spoke the universe into existence.  By His power, He rose Christ from the grave.  This same power is at work in us and through us to convince others of God's great love for them.

Heavenly Father, please use me to communicate your incredible love demonstrated in the good news of Jesus Christ. And please show your power through me to provide evidence for people to experience and believe.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Words and power

For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 1:4-6 NIV

I think it is interesting that Paul considered both words and power to be connected with the Gospel.  In the past, I think I have focused almost exclusively on the logical explanation of the Gospel, and mainly justification.  But now I want to share the Gospel with words and power, keeping in step with the Holy Spirit.  I want to be an imitator of Paul, who imitated Christ.

Heavenly Father, please help me seek you.  Lord Jesus, I want to imitate you in preaching the Gospel and demonstrating your power.  Holy Spirit, lead me, and help me learn and mature.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Commissioning and empowering to be overcomers

Acts 13

I listened to a message from Bill Johnson about Acts 13, one of my favorite passages.

Saul, Barnabas, and others were ministering to the Lord.  Seems like they didn't have an agenda in that particular meeting, other than to wait on the Lord.  In that space, God commissioned Saul and Barnabas to go on a missionary journey.

On that Journey, Saul cast out evil spirits from a slave girl and an advisor to a governor.  Bill made the observation that God intends for us to be victorious, but He accomplishes that in us through opposition.  At the end of this chapter, Saul is called Paul.  Seems like a promotion.

Heavenly Father, please help me have a good attitude about perseverance.  May I continue to run the race.  You are the goal and prize; help me remember that.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

helping the poor

Gal 1-2

Paul explained the validity of his apostleship, but he also explained that he confirmed his theology with the other apostles.  I think it is fascinating that after confirming their agreement on doctrine, their main concern was taking care of the poor:

2:10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.

Unfortunately, most of the time, I don't think my doctrinal study leads me to compassion for the poor.  I hope that God grows in me a Christ-like concern for others, especially the poor.

Heavenly Father, please help me grow in my attention and compassion of others.  I want to lead a Christ-like, selfless life.  Lord Jesus, thank you for your example of caring for others, especially the poor.  Holy Spirit, please help me listen to you in how you are leading me to care for the poor.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Value and productivity

In a previous message, Greg talked about how we don't need to produce anything to be valued by God.  We can begin with a realization of acceptance by God and move into productivity.  The world (especially academia) says that our value is proportional to our productivity.  I think my first couple of years of workaholism were fueled by this pervasive paradigm, and exacerbated by my freshly desire for approval.

But God says we are priceless because He made us in His image, and He chose to spend His Son's life to demonstrate His love.  I think I came to a conscious awareness of this reality about half a year ago.

But today, Greg preached about hurriedness, which is related, but different.  Jesus was undoubtedly busy in His ministry, but He made time to be still and rest.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

You can't do it all, and you can't do it alone.  I need to make time to be still and rest, and know that I am not less of a person because I am not doing anything.  I need to cast my cares upon Him and let go of my internal hurriedness to acheive.

Heavenly Father, please deliver me from my desire to do what is expected of me.  Help me focus on doing what you lead me to do.  Help me daily come to you and receive your rest.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ask versus command

In Acts 3:6, Peter said, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazereth, get up and walk."  He didn't ask God to heal the man.

In Acts 9:34, Peter said, "Jesus Christ heals you." He didn't ask God to heal the man.

In Acts 9:40, Peter said, "Tabitha, get up."  He didn't ask God to heal the man.

I wonder if I should have told that Sister on Sunday that she was healed instead of asking God to heal her.

Heavenly Father, I don't understand this.  Please make it clear to me.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Call me by name

When Jesus interrupted Saul on the road to Damascus, He called him by name.

When the Lord instructed Ananias to lay hands on Saul, He called him by name.

Heavenly Father, please speak to me.  Call me by name.  I want to hear you and obey.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, August 17, 2015

talking with the Holy Spirit

When I woke up yesterday morning, I vaguely remembered a dream where I was searching for the Holy Spirit.  We were out in relatively open country with scattered brush and a few trees, and I knew that the Holy Spirit was ahead of me, and I was determined to catch up with Him.  I was encouraged by this dream, but I had a sore throat and a headache, and I allowed it to put me in a bad mood.

Yesterday morning, we attended the church gathering with Brandi's parents.  I wasn't singing because my throat was sore.  I noticed a lady sitting a couple of rows ahead of us while everyone else was standing and singing.  I felt impressed that Brandi and I should go pray for her.  I felt an impression that she was sick and we should pray for her for healing.  In my mind, I tried to rationalize and dismiss this impression as something that I was only imagining because she was sitting down.  But I couldn't shake the impression; it felt like conviction of the Holy Spirit.  

I told Brandi that we should go pray for her if they started another song.  Unfortunately, that was the last song.  So, while the pastor was preaching, I tried to dismiss the impulse.  I tried to make an excuse that I had missed the opportunity.  But then I asked the Lord to be patient with me and to give me a chance.  I wanted to take the risk that He was really speaking to me, and I wanted to be obedient to what He was asking me to do.  After communion, the pastor told us that they were going to sing one last song.  I knew that it was my chance.  So, Brandi and I walked around to her, and I told her my name and that I felt impressed by the Holy Spirit during the earlier singing that we were supposed to pray for her for healing.  She immediately started crying and said that she had been asking the Lord for healing.  It was such a confirmation that the Holy Spirit had spoken to me, and I hope that it was an encouragement to her that the Lord heard her prayers and confirmed it through another Believer.  

As I started praying for her, I realized that I wished I had asked her name and if she wanted to tell us to pray for healing for anything in particular.  I didn't really know what to pray for, but I just prayed what was on my heart.  I believe that the Lord heard our prayers and that He is gives grace abundantly, even in our inexperience and immaturity.

In retrospect, I wonder if I should have prayed for her as we did, or if I was supposed to simply declare her healed, as I observe Jesus and the disciples.

Heavenly Father, thank you for patiently looking after me and caring for my soul.  Holy Spirit, thank you for speaking to me yesterday morning, and thank you for giving me the faith to step out in obedience.  Let's do this again; I really enjoyed this experience of hearing you and obeying you, and I want to have a lifestyle of consistently hearing from you and ministering to others.  Lord Jesus, give me boldness to heal in the power of your name.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Healing, miraculous signs and wonders

Acts 4

When questioned by the high priest, rulers, elders, and teachers, Peter and John clearly explained that it was by the name of Jesus that the crippled beggar was healed.  And while the religious leaders wanted to squelch the event, they asked themselves (v.4):

"What should we do with these men? For it is plain to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable miraculous sign has come about through them, and we cannot deny it."

It seems to me that signs and wonders are particularly effective for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ if they are undeniable, irrefutable, and unarguable.  If we are debating philosophy or doctrine, then you can always count we with a rebuttal, but a miraculous event can be proof of supernatural power, not just ideas.

So, all the religious leaders came up with was to scold and flog Peter and John.  But they replied (v. 20):

"... it is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard."

I sure have heard a lot of preaching and teaching in my life, and I don't want to undermine its significance.  But I think personal, first-hand observation of supernatural power would be engaging evidence for several of my friends.

I think it is fascinating that, after these events, the disciples asked God for more:

29 "And now, Lord, pay attention to their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your message with great courage, 30 while you extend your hand to heal, and to bring about miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus."

What would it look like if every follower of Jesus was asking God to grant us courage and miraculous signs and wonders?

Heavenly Father, thank you for the example of the apostles and disciples in following you boldly.  Lord Jesus, it is by your name that we have salvation and healing.  Holy Spirit, please embolden and empower me to be an agent of your Kingdom here.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Miraculous stuff

Recorded in Acts 3, Peter and John were going up to the temple, and instead of giving a crippled beggar some money, they healed him.

Somehow, I grew up with an implicit cessationistic perspective that the miraculous stuff happened in the lives of the apostles to jumpstart the chrch, but that miraculous stuff doesn't really happen anymore.  Except for missionaries, who had some really crazy stories.

The question that I am considering is, does God want miraculous stuff to be a more common occurrence in disciples' lives today.  I am beginning to think that He does.  I have heard too many stories of miraculous stuff to maintain a cessationistic position.  I cant think of anything in Scripture that would indicate that this demonstration of signs And wonders would die with the Apostles. And how sad, really, to believe that God won't work that way any more.

Frankly, I want to see Him do stuff like that through me.

Jesus modeled supernatural and miraculous demonstrations (e.g., casting out demons, healing people, etc.), and then He sent out the disciples (not only the twelve) to replicate.  He said that we who believe would do similar things (Mark 16:15-20), and He said that we would do even greater things than He (John 14:12). Paul said, "Imitate me as I imitate Christ." (1 Cor 11:1) That is pretty crazy when you think about all of the miraculous stuff that Jesus and Paul did.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the examples of Christ and the Apostles in joining you in your mission, by the power of your Spirit.  I want to live as a disciple of Jesus.  Please use me to demonstrate your supernatural power.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, August 3, 2015

presence of the Holy Spirit

I'm trying to understand the presence of the Holy Spirit.  In summary, it seems to me that there are two aspects of His presence: (1) a permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit, initiated upon belief in Jesus Christ, and (2) a dynamic annointing/(re)filling associated with spiritual power.

First, Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit would be sent from the Father and from Jesus (John 14 and 15, respectively). This teaching was just before Jesus's death, burial, and resurrection.  Soon after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to the apostles in the locked room and gave them the Holy Spirit:

John 20:21 Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.

For everyone else thereafter, I think you receive the Holy Spirit upon putting your faith in Jesus.  Peter preached at Pentecost:

Acts 2:38 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.

And Paul taught the Ephesians:

Eph. 1:13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory.

I have generally understood this first aspect of the presence of the Holy Spirit since I believed in Christ, but I am beginning to think that there is a dynamic aspect to our relationship with the Holy Spirit, as well.

It seems to me that this dynamic aspect is associated with us continuing to fulfill Jesus's (Messianic) mission.  Jesus told the disciples:

Acts 1:4 On one occasion, while [Jesus] was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."  ... 7 He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

This is curious to me, because in John 20, he had already given them the Holy Spirit.  But, sure enough, at Pentecost:

3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Throughout the rest of the book of Acts, people believed in Jesus, were baptized in water, and were baptized by the Holy Spirit.  And it seems to me that there is a correlation between being baptized by the Holy Spirit and validation of the Gospel through miraculous signs and wonders.  It is still not all clear to me, but I think I am trying to get past the pride of doctrinal sufficiency to be open to what He is teaching me and how He is leading me.

Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us your presence through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus, I want to experience the abundant life that you give.  Holy Spirit, please anoint me with your power to be a witness of Jesus.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

types of God in the story of Moses being drawn from the Nile

Brandi was teaching the preschool kids on Sunday morning about Moses being drawn from the Nile, and (this may be heretical, but) I was thinking about several types of God represented in three women.

In this story, Moses could be a type for all of humanity, condemned to death.  Pharaoh's daughter could represent Christ in the sense that she rescued Moses from the curse of death for all (boys) and made Moses an heir of the kingdom.  Moses's sister (presumably Miriam) could represent the Holy Spirit in the sense that she oversaw Moses's rescue by Pharaoh's daughter and guided Moses to nourishment and care by his mother, who in this case, could represent the Heavenly Father.

It feels a little weird to me to see the Holy Trinity in the three ladies in this story, but I think it is an artifact of my culture as opposed to a Biblical basis why God would preclude revaluation of Himself through a particular gender. (Gal. 3:28 may have some relevance).  

Heavenly Father, I believe that you are compassionate and motherly.  You nourish us and protect us.  Lord Jesus, you rescued us from certain death, and you have made us co-heirs with you.  Holy Spirit, you stay with us, watch over us, and guide us to the Father.  Thank you for revealing yourself to us.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, July 27, 2015


I have said before that Jesus was falsely accused so that the religious leaders could kill him.  But I was impressed this morning by the reality that, while Jesus was indeed falsely accused, Jesus was ultimately sentenced to death because He is the Messiah, the Son of God:

NLT Mark 14:55 Inside, the leading priests and the entire high council were trying to find evidence against Jesus, so they could put him to death. But they couldn't find any. 56 Many false witnesses spoke against him, but they contradicted each other. 57 Finally, some men stood up and gave this false testimony: 58 "We heard him say, 'I will destroy this Temple made with human hands, and in three days I will build another, made without human hands.'" 59 But even then they didn't get their stories straight! 60 Then the high priest stood up before the others and asked Jesus, "Well, aren't you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?" 61 But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest asked him, "Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?" 62 Jesus said, "I am. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God's right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven."

NLT Luke 22:66 At daybreak all the elders of the people assembled, including the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. Jesus was led before this high council, 67 and they said, "Tell us, are you the Messiah?" But he replied, "If I tell you, you won't believe me. 68 And if I ask you a question, you won't answer. 69 But from now on the Son of Man will be seated in the place of power at God's right hand." 70 They all shouted, "So, are you claiming to be the Son of God?" And he replied, "You say that I am."

Fundamentally, Jesus died because He is the Messiah, the Son of God.  

Heavenly Father, thank you for giving Jesus as the sacrifice for the sin of the world.  Lord Jesus, thank you for your faithfulness to our Father's will.  Teach me to be faithful.  Holy Spirit, please guide me to a more humble and grateful appreciation for what Jesus did for me.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Working with my Father

We took a long weekend vacation to the Hill Country to relax and splash in the Frio river.  Its been 14 years since we were here last.

On Friday, we were playing in the river, and I started working on building a little dam to divert more flow into a little set of rapids and improve the rapids for a tube ride. Beau jumped in to help me, and we had a great time hauling rocks.  I moved one big rock that probably weighed a couple hundred pounds, and Beau was very impressed.

We were having such a great time that we didnt notice that the rocks had a surface like very fine sandpaper, and unfortunately most of Beau's fingertips were bleeding before we noticed.

I was so impressed with his love for me and his enjoyment of our collaborative work.  It was challenging to me as I considered the spiritual analogy of how Jesus loves His Father and enjoyed working with Him.  Jesus said that He did what He saw His Father doing.  Jesus loves His Father so much that He was even willing to allow His hands to be bloodied to accomplish His Father's work.

I want to join my Father in His work, enjoying fellowship and colaboring with Him.

Heavenly Father, help me see your work.  Jesus, thank you for your example of working with the Father.  Holy Spirit, please show me how to join in the Father's work.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Courageous faith

Yesterday, we were playing in the river, a little bit further down from the cabin.  There is a large boulder with a ledge about eight feet above the water, conveniently adjacent to a deeper pool in the river.  After seeing Jason jump into the water, we asked Beau and Jude if they wanted to try.  I was surprised that both of them were willing.  Jude climbed up, and after only a moment of hesitation, he jumped!  And Beau soon followed!  I was so proud of them!

Later, I told each of them (individually) how proud I was of them for jumping off of the rock.  I want them to to be courageous men, and it fills my heart with joy to see them be courageous.

I was thinking about how our Heavenly Father must enjoy it when we courageously obey the Holy Spirit when He leads us to try things in faith that are new or outside of our convention.  I want to be a courageous son.

Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us the Holy Spirit to guide us in truth and obedience.  Heavenly Father, help me see that you love me, independently of my obedience or disobedience, but help me want to bless you by trusting you and obeying you.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Floating the river

On Saturday, we floated a section of the Frio river.  I was thinking about the analogy of floating down the river of life, and I thought of two seperate analogies. 

During the first hour, I spent so much effort trying to keep Brandi's tube on the right, and the boys' tube on the left, and all of us facing downstream.  I spent so much time managing our configuration that I was missing the peace of just going with the flow and trusting the current to take us downstream.  I think I do this in life.  I spent too much time trying to figure out how to keep everything the way I want it to that I miss the beauty of the scenery around me.

Near the end of the float, the stream was wide, and we were moving very slowly.  A mild headwind came through and started blowing us back upstream.  I had to paddle a little bit, and then I jumped into the river to tow my family downstream.  I was thinking about how, as a husband and a father, I need to be seeking the Lord to know which direction to go, and when the winds of adversity come against us, I need to work to keep us moving in the right direction.

Heavenly Father, I want to be moving with you.  Holy Spirit, I want to be in your flow, and I don't want to be overly concerned about how you are moving me, as long as I am going forward with you.  Help me to trust you.  Please give me wisdom as I lead my family, and please give me discernment to know when I am fighting a headwind.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

living water

Yesterday evening, we walked a few miles to a park that the boys really like.  It rained a few days ago, and there is a low spot that retained some water adjacent to the park.  The water was stagnant and murky, and it stunk like anaerobically digested organic waste.  I commented to Brandi that there was a good spiritual analogy in seeing that stagnant water stinks.  She confirmed and added that stagnant water also grows things that suck your blood (mosquitoes).

John 7:37 On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, "Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, 'Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.'" 39 (When he said "living water," he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)

Heavenly Father, I don't want to be stagnant; I want to have your Holy Spirit flowing through me continuously.  Lord Jesus, I believe in you, and I want to come and drink from the fountain.  Holy Spirit, please anoint me and use me to continue the work that Christ began.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


I think God might be testing me.  You can choose to control your attitude and emotions to remain joyful, in spite of your circumstances.  In the midst of a lot of work pressure and 16 month old who still doesn't sleep through the night, I have a perfect opportunity to demonstrate maturity and to be joyful in spite of difficult circumstances.

I think He wants me to see that I am stronger and more resilient than I think I am.

I am reminded of strain hardening metals.

Ultimately, I am responsible for my own attitude, avoiding bitterness, and choosing to be joyful in spite of inefficient support services at work and chronic sleep deprivation at home.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. ...  May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Heavenly Father, please help me be mature.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Serving with Him

Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

It is encouraging to me that Jesus said that we are serving with Him.  And later, He said that He would send the Holy Spirt to empower us.

I want to serve with Christ today, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Heavenly Father, please help me join you in your work.  Lord Jesus, help me stay with you.  Holy Spirit, please empower me today to serve.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Friday, July 3, 2015

sweet fellowship

Brandi and I had a couple over for dinner Monday evening.  They are a sweet couple, both relatively new believers.  It was so encouraging to see them growing in their faith, asking clarifying questions, and really pursuing the Lord.  It is such a blessing to be involved in their lives.

We had them over for dinner several months ago, and they gave us a bottle of wine.  This week, they gave us some special bread.  On Tuesday night, I used the wine and the bread that they gave us to serve communion to our home group.  It made me think about how fellowship with other saints, especially new disciples, helps us remember and appreciate Christ's sacrifice.

Heavenly Father, thank you for encouraging us and challenging us to continue growing in our faith and making disciples.  Thank you for your great love for us, and thank you for ministering to us within the Body of Christ.  Holy Spirit, please help me see the importance of spending time making disciples.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, June 29, 2015

our Heavenly Father gives good things to His children

On my walk this morning, this promise from Luke 11 came to mind:

11"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

I want to believe Him and trust Him for this truth.  I want to ask Him for good gifts, believing that He gives generously and joyfully, but I don't quite know what my hesitation is.  On the one hand, maybe I think this sounds like the "prosperity gospel", but Jesus said it, so it must be legitimate.  On the other hand, I think I have unconsciously bought into the "poverty gospel", so I feel like it is not good to ask our Heavenly Father for good things. 

And I want to be anointed by the Holy Spirit.

Heavenly Father, help me see you for who you are.  Jesus, thank you for your promise of a loving and generous Heavenly Father.  Help me believe you and trust you.  I want to have confidence to ask.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

I want to be like my Daddy

Today is Father's Day, and I am so thankful that my dad taught me the Scriptures and led me to love the Lord.  I am thankful that he has been an example for me to follow.  I am thankful that he continues to seek friendship with me.

Recently, Beau has been wanting to spend time with me, dress like me, and work with me.  Yesterday, Beau said that he wanted to be like me.  I told him, "Our Heavenly Father wants us to be like Him, too."

John 5:19 Jesus gave them this answer: "Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.

I want to want to be like my Heavenly Father.  I want to demonstrate His character.  I want to know Him well enough to call Him "Daddy".  I want to genuinely believe that He is my hero.  I want to believe in my heart that He is kind and strong.

Heavenly Father, thank you for my earthly dad.  Bless him with more of your presence and power.  Thank you for my sons, who are examples for me to follow in loving you, following you, and believing that you are the best. Bless them with the desire to want to be like you.  May I have faith like a child.  Please help me want to be like you, and use me to draw them closer to you. I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

trusting His sovereignty

Yesterday, I submitted my application for promotion to Associate Professor with tenure.  I was encouraged this morning by several verses in Proverbs 16:

Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
    and he will establish your plans.

In their hearts humans plan their course,
    but the Lord establishes their steps.

Before I emailed my application to the chair of my department last night, I told the Lord, "I submit my plans to you.  I trust you to lead me where you want me to go."  I am really feel a sense of peace in knowing that the Lord is in control.

As I was working on my application, I was reflecting on the privilege of being a professor and the opportunities for impacting people.  I think the main way that I can impact people is through my words.  I was impressed with these verses this morning:

13 Kings take pleasure in honest lips;
    they value the one who speaks what is right.
21 The wise in heart are called discerning,    and gracious words promote instruction.
23 The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent,
    and their lips promote instruction.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your promise of watching over me and guiding my path.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a professor, and thank you for giving me the strength to do the work that is at my hand.  Thank you for your peace.  Lord Jesus, may my attitude and actions honor you and clearly reflect your lordship.  Holy Spirit, please fill my mouth with your words of grace and life.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.