Friday, December 15, 2017

Abiding in love (i.e., God)

1 John 4 (NASB)
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

 This passage reminds me of the first part of John 15 (NASB), which is one of my favorite passages because we memorized it in college:
4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 9 Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.

Of the word "abide" (μείνατε) in John 15, Thayer's Greek Lexicon interprets "to be kept, to remain", and in 1 John 4, "to continue to be present" or "to maintain unbroken fellowship, to persevere".  God has given us agency to choose our presence and the focus of our attention.  May my presence and focus be increasingly with Him.  We can choose to abide in his love by obeying his command to love.  (Love is both a noun and a verb.)  We seem to be leaky vessels, so we need God's love to overflow out of us so that we stay full of his love.

Father, thank you for your love.  Jesus, thank you for being the connecting point for me to God.  Holy Spirit, thank you for flowing through me.  I want to continue to be conscious of your presence and attentive to your fellowship.  May our conversation be unbroken today, and may I demonstrate an increasing conductivity of your love.  I love you, and I love being with you.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Permanence

Brandi and I have had the privilege of praying with Jill a couple of times this past week, and we continue to have faith for healing.  This situation reminds me of the spiritual battle that we face every day.  We are guaranteed victory because we are gaining more of God, and He is refining us to be pure and holy like Him.  We are becoming more and more substantial as we climb the mountain, as CS Lewis describes in The Great Divorce.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire."
Hebrews 12:28‭-‬29 NIV

We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat. ... For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
Hebrews 13:10, 14 NIV

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16‭-‬18 NIV

Father, though we begin this journey as combustible as wood, you are faithfully petrifying us with your self.  We are being transformed and preserved with your permanence.  As we consume the bread from your altar every day, we are nourished by your Word, the Lamb of God, the Manna from Heaven.  I want to walk in eternity now, revealing the reality and presence of your Kingdom the way that Jesus did.  Holy Spirit, I want to keep pace with you today.  I love you.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Conviction is a blessing

This morning, I felt convicted that I overreacted in an email a couple of days ago. I thanked the Holy Spirit for His conviction because I know that He is leading me on the path of righteousness. So I sent an email to apologize.

Rev 2 records Jesus giving a letter to each of four churches.  To three of them, He gives critique/rebuke.  This is actually a blessing, so that we can be aware and walk in righteousness.  

To three of the churches, Jesus points out the fight against Satan.  Our enemy is not flesh and blood, and he is stealthy.

To two of the churches, Jesus specifically rebukes sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols.

Father, you are righteous. Jesus, thank you for your truth, and thank you for speaking to us.  Holy Spirit, thank you for your presence and correction to keep us on the path. I want to walk in obedience.  I love you.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

sonship and healing

John 10:31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?"  33 "We are not stoning you for any good work," they replied, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."  34 Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are "gods"'? 35 If he called them 'gods,' to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, 'I am God's Son'? 37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father."

Previously, I assumed that Jesus was referring to all humans as "gods" because we are made in the image of God with the ability to be creative and rule over creation.  But in a sermon a couple of weeks ago, Pastor Mark of CityView in Lubbock explained that Jesus's reference to Psalm 82 was actually an indictment (Ps. 82:2) against the Pharisees because people in authority (Ps. 82:2,6-7) are supposed to represent God, which means that they should defend the weak and rescue the needy (Ps. 82:3-4).  Furthermore, in John 10:36-37, Jesus is basically saying that He is genuinely God's Son (and God Himself) because He accurately represented God by fulfilling the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 35:

Isaiah 35:3 Strengthen the feeble hands,
    steady the knees that give way;
4 say to those with fearful hearts,
    "Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
    he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
    he will come to save you."
5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then will the lame leap like a deer,
    and the mute tongue shout for joy.

Similarly, when John the Baptist send his followers to ask Jesus if He was the Messiah, Jesus answered that He was fulfilling Isaiah 35 and 61:

Matt. 11:2 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?" 4 Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me."

I believe that, as a son of God, I should be representing God to other people, and miraculous healing is a great way to do that.  It is interesting to me that in the book of Hebrews, in the context of humbly receiving discipline as God's children, the author references Isaiah 35:3-6:

Heb. 12:12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 "Make level paths for your feet," so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

I think there is an aspect of the "now and not yet" mystery here.

Father, thank you for sending Jesus as your representative.  Jesus, thank you for taking our sins away, and thank you that by your stripes, we are healed.  Holy Spirit, help me live as an effective son of God today.  I love you.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

let us draw near

Several points have impressed me this time through Hebrews.  While the Melchizedek priesthood was established in the time of Abraham (before the law), Jesus was established as a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek "on oath" in the time of David (Psalm 110:4).  Jesus's priesthood is ultimate because He was both the priest and the sacrifice, atoning for our sins once and for all and reestablishing relationship with God.  The conclusion, then, is close relationship with Him:

Heb 10:19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

If The Way to God is now available, then why would I not want to go to Him?  Why would I allow my heart and mind to be distracted by any other thing?

Ironically, this is the point of my blog.  And yet, as of late, I have been delinquent because I have been "too busy".  

Father, thank you for making the way to reconnect with you.  Jesus, thank you for being The Way for every person in the world for all time.  Holy Spirit, thank you for leading me to The Way.  Please help me turn my heart to you and seek you even more.  I want to know you and walk with you daily.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

fire and oil

Heb. 1:3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. ...
7 In speaking of the angels he says,
"He makes his angels spirits,
    and his servants flames of fire."
8 But about the Son he says,
"Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
    a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
    therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
    by anointing you with the oil of joy."

I feel like the focus of my attention is so quickly drawn to my task at hand.  Like a child playing hide-and-seek with his father and quickly becomes distracted with something else in the room and forgets that he is searching for his father.  I want to stand in wonder at Him. I want to enjoy worshiping Him.

I started reading When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy by John Piper, and it resonates with me.  Fundamentally, we are passive recipients of God's grace - like the wick of a candle set aflame.  (In contrast, religion is man's attempt to set himself on fire.)  Yet, also, in just as much a fundamental way, we are active agents with respect to enjoying His fire and pursuing more flame.

Father, help me enjoy searching you out and standing in awe of you.  Jesus, I am such a fragile wick, but I know that you are gentle and will not snuff out a sputtering flame.  Holy Spirit, would you give me a steady pour of the oil of joy to sustain your flame?   I love you.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Fighting the good fight?

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
2 Timothy 4:6‭-‬7 NIV

Most of the time I feel spent.  Jesus came to serve and to give his life as a ransom.  The apostle Paul was poured out like a drink offering.  But where is my joy?  Maybe I'm fighting battles that are not eternally significant?  

Father, please let me know if I'm fighting in the right ring.  I'm recently realizing that I'm feeling burned out.  How do I catch my breath and refocus on you and your amazing love so that I'm fighting with you and not on my own strength.  Jesus, teach me how you kept going for the joy set before you.  Holy Spirit, I want to keep in step with you.  I love you.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Seeing the Father's face

We went for a long hike and walk yesterday morning before lunch.  When we returned home, Enrique (a man who repaired the stucco on our back wall) was working on some repairs at our neighbors' house.  I greeted him in Spanish, and he responded with a blessing in Spanish.  I didn't understand all of it, but I felt it in my spirit.  I could very clearly see the love of God in his face.  His eyes were so sincere.

This morning, as I think about it, I can see the Father's face in his face.

Heavenly Father, thank you for revealing yourself to me through Enrique.  Please reveal yourself to others through me today.  I love you, and I ask because of Jesus.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Big picture

1 Peter 1

Father, thank you for choosing me, and thank you for giving me new birth into a living hope.  Thank you for raising Jesus from the dead and proving your ability to give me eternal life.  Thank you for my Heavenly inheritance which is like an eternal birthday present.  Father, may I joyfully persevere through trials, as I know that you are with me, and you are using all things for my good.  I want your joy to be evident in my life.  I want to be filled and overflowing.  Not flimsy happiness, but solid joy.  Help me continue to be amazed by the story of Jesus.  And in response, I want to live as your son, holy because you are holy.  Thank you for your word, which is seed with eternal life DNA.  May my heart be singularly focused on allowing your eternal life to grow and produce fruit in my life.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Good deeds and Father's work

No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord's people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.
1 Timothy 5:9‭-‬10 NIV

My grandma was not a widow, but she lived these verses.  I am reminded of her going to the nursing home and painting ladies' fingernails and toenails.  Servant heart.

Saturday evening, Beau and I were working on strengthening the batting cage that Beau got for his birthday.  It was a little cold outside, and Beau asked a couple of times if we could go inside and warm up.  He went inside and put on shoes and came back out with a flashlight to help.  He helped enthusiastically until we finished.  I was thinking about how the Father is at work, and we can join Him in his work.  We can choose to be excited about working with Him.

Father, I want to join you in your work.  You are present and active; how could I not be moved by you.  Jesus, thank you for your example.  Holy Spirit, I want to keep in step with you today.  I love you.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Personal assistant

I read an article about the decline of the fraction of the population in the US that self-identities as Protestant or Catholic.  I think the decline is because many churches meet to talk about God or the book that He wrote but do little to shepherd people in their relationship with Him.

What if I could operate as God's personal assistant?  What if I could ask people who don't believe in God if they would allow me to schedule an appointment for them to meet Him?  How about tomorrow at 1:00pm?  Better yet, how about right now?  

What if I was so in-tune with the Lord that I could hear what He was saying to them and could help them connect?  What if I heard the Lord tell me to heal their shoulder or their back?  What if I heard God tell them how much He loves them, and I got to deliver the message?

Father, please train me to be a better personal assistant.  I want to join you in your work.  Jesus, thank you for your example.  Holy Spirit, help me view every meeting I have today from your perspective.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

joyfully giving thanks

Col 1:9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

I want people to see the kingdom of light through my life.  I want to live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way.  I want to bear fruit.  I want to have a constant lifestyle of joyfully giving thanks to the Father so that other people will see it.

Father, please increase your joy flowing through me.  Holy Spirit, pour your oil of gladness through me so that other people will be smeared with joy.  I don't want cheap happiness, I want deep abiding joy that overflows to the people around me, especially my wife and children.  Lord Jesus, you are my fountain of life.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Conclusions from Ephesians

Eph. 6:4 NLT  Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.

My role as a father is not to teach them about the Lord, my role is to tell my children what the Lord is speaking to them.  I am a relay of His instruction.  I need to pay more attention to what the Lord is speaking to me for my children.  And I need to treat them with gentleness and kindness so that they know how the Heavenly Father treats them.


Eph. 6:18 NIV  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people.

I want to pray in the Spirit.  I want live in constant conversation with the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and the Father.


Eph. 6:24 NIV  Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.

The Greek word that is translated here as "undying" is "ἀφθαρσίᾳ", which is also translated as "incorruptible".  Based on the Strongs definitions that I read, the word is not referring to lack of contamination, but more about immortality, perpetuity, and lack of decay.  This is interesting to me because, just yesterday, a guest speaker in our Paseo gathering reminded us of Jesus's words to the church in Ephesus in the book of Revelation:

Rev. 2:3-4 NIV You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.

I want to persist in loving the Lord with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and I want to grow in that love every day.  I want to grow every day in my awe of His amazing love towards us.

Father, I want to be a father like you.  Teach me.  Help me watch you and emulate you.  Holy Spirit, show me how to pray in the Spirit.  I want to be consciously aware of your presence and speaking the entire day.  Lord Jesus, I want to continue growing in loving you.  Tune my heart and mind to love you more.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

God's heart for his lost children

I was thinking about the magnitude of God's compassion for all people.  He loved the world so much that He sent Jesus to rescue us. 

Parents know the intensity of the panic when they lose their children in a public place.  You immediately start calling their name, looking everywhere, asking other people if they have seen them.  Of course the analogy doesn't quite work, because God knows exactly where we are, but I think His reaching for us is even more intense than what we experience as parents.  

Labor Day weekend, we went to the water park at Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio, and Brandi ran across a girl who couldn't find her parents.  She was lonely and afraid, and Brandi and I felt the urgency and sense of helplessness of helping her find her parents.

Father, I want to live with your urgency and intensity in reaching out to your lost children.  You want all of your children back.  Your heart hurts that they are lost.  Your heart hurts for those who are lonely and scared.  Your heart hurts for those who are distracted by the things of this world and who don't yet realize that they are lost.  Lord, please use me to help people find you.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

motivation

I attended the first session of a UTEP leadership development series yesterday afternoon, and President Diana Natalicio was the first speaker.  She shared her inspiring story of growing up in a blue collar family and how high quality education in elementary school and college empowered her to live an impactful life.  She talked about how money and prestige do not motivate her and that, instead, she is motivated by making a lasting impact in the lives of other people, especially through education.  She talked about how an aspect of leadership is understanding what motivates you and making an impact in what you are passionate about.

Walking back to teach class, I sent Brandi a text message and asked her what motivates me (without any context for my question).  She replied, "Bringing glory to God, helping others, pointing people to Jesus, knowing what you are doing has a real impact on lives, naturally strong work ethic is part of your character."  To be honest, I feel like I am more motivated by what other people think of me than bringing glory to God, but she knows me better than I do, so I am going to trust her and agree with her in faith.  As I consider the life of Jesus, He was totally motivated by glorifying and pleasing the Father.  I want to be like Jesus.  I want to be passionate about God's glory.  In John 17, Jesus's prayed about glory:

John 17:1 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

I want to be singularly focused on His glory and doing the work that He has prepared for me.
 
Eph. 2:10 For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Father, thank you for adopting me as your son.  I want to live like Jesus lived - focused on glorifying you and pleasing you by knowing you and doing the work that you have prepared for me to do.  I want to fulfill my God-given purpose.  By your grace, I am a Spirit-filled, Spirit-led son of God, and I will love you, walk with you, and glorify you.  I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Living like Jesus

Even though they were shipwrecked on their voyage to Rome, the Apostle Paul was still living like Jesus:

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.
Acts 28:7‭-‬9 NIV

After finally arriving in Rome and still waiting for a hearing with Ceasar, Paul took every opportunity to share the Good News:

For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!
Acts 28:30‭-‬31 NIV

Father, I want to live like Jesus.  I want to walk in your power and authority of healing people so that they know that you are good.  And I want to teach people about your kingdom and help them walk in close fellowship with you.  Holy Spirit, lead me today.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Observations from Paul's commissioning

'Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me.  I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'
Acts 26:16‭-‬18 NIV

I believe these are universally applicable to all sons and daughters of God:
- sent into the world
- sent to open eyes
- sent to turn people from darkness to light
- sent to turn people from the power of Satan to the power of God
- sent to help people receive forgiveness of sins
- sent to establish people as sanctified sons and daughters of God.

Father, thank you for commissioning Jesus as the first Son of God to give us a perfect example of your character and will.  Jesus, thank you for sending Paul and for the heritage of the great cloud of witnesses that we have in faith.  Jesus, thank you for sending the Holy Spirit with us.  Holy Spirit, thank you for your presence and power.  I want to run with you today.  Lead me; I will follow.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus, the Son Who was sent and who sends.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Religion is dangerous

Questions: Before his conversion, why was Saul so adamant about persecuting people of The Way?  After Jesus transformed Saul to Paul, why were the Jews so adamant about killing Paul?  

Acts 21:27 ... some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, "Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place." 29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.)  ... 31 ... they were trying to kill him ...
 
Acts 23:12 The next morning some Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul.13 More than forty men were involved in this plot. 14 They went to the chief priests and the elders and said, "We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. 15 Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here."

Acts 25:3 They requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way.

Question:  What would cause people for whom one of their top ten most important laws reads, "Do not murder", to not once, but twice, conspire an ambush to kill someone (deception, collusion, premeditated murder)?

Answer: Religion.

The Jews had developed many additional rules and regulations for themselves beyond what God had originally given them, but more significantly, they lost sight of the main point of relationship with God.  They developed a religion through which they could reinforce self-righteousness.

I think it is tempting as humans to rationalize our behavior, and even people who profess to be "Christians" develop doctrine to justify their perspectives.

At lunch this past Sunday, I told some friends that Brandi and I want our kids to grow up with genuine relationship with God, not religion.  We want our kids to know the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.  We want our kids to live in constant fellowship with the Holy Trinity, dynamic conversation, and bold obedience.  Brandi and I want to live that for ourselves so that our home is an incubator and accelerator for their spiritual growth.

Father, thank you for your grace and mercy through Jesus, that we can abide with you as sons and daughters of God.  Jesus, thank you for your example and promise of abundant life.  Holy Spirit, thank you for your presence and power.  May we live in constant fellowship, conversation, and obedience with you today.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

free to flow

I was listening to worship music this morning, and one of the lyrics was "free to dance".  It got me to thinking about freedom.  I often pray that the Lord will use me as a vessel to dispense Himself through me.  I want to be a clean vessel so that I can be more useful.  But this morning, I was thinking about obstruction to flow.  Lord, remove from my mind and my soul, even my body, anything that prevents or limits your flow through me.

I thought of myself as an electrical circuit.  I want to be a superconductor with zero resistance.  I want the Spirit to be able to flow through me with high power, high amperage, and high voltage.  I want to live with zero impedance.

Father, you set me free.  I was trapped in the prison of sin and death, but you ransomed me with the death of your Son to set me free.  My feet were shacked in sin, and I was a slave to sin, but now I am free to run and dance.  I was held captive and forced to fear, lust, and be angry and proud.  But now I am free to love.  I am free to live your life.  I want your love and life to flow through me and propel me.  You have transferred me from darkness to light.  And you have turbo-charged me with the Holy Spirit.  I want to live unimpeded.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

God of hope

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. ... May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:5-6,13 NIV

I presented at two water conferences this past week, one at the University of Oklahoma, and the other at Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua (UACH).  Several students traveled with me to Chihuahua, and we had a great time together. They asked some great spiritual questions in the car, and it was a privilege to share and explain my faith in Jesus.

Father, thank you for the opportunity to be a professor and share the hope I have in you.  Thank you for redemption and restoration.  May I be a better witness today than yesterday.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Transcendent

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!  "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?"  "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?"  For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Romans 11:33‭-‬36 NIV

He is incomprehensible, and yet, He is knowable.  He is mysterious and hidden, yet He reveals Himself.  He is far above, and yet, closer than any other being.  He does not need me, yet He pursues me relentlessly.

He is amazing.  I want to wonder at Him.  I want to stand in awe.

Father, you are above all things, and yet, in the person of Jesus, you are embedded in humanity.  Holy Spirit, direct my thoughts to wonder at your transcendence.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

I am a son of God

Romans 8:14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

This time through, I have noticed the strong sonship theme in Romans 8.  We have full, legitimate, legal standing as sons and daughters of God.  We are following Jesus's example of a son by abiding in our Father's love and joining our Father in His work.  And that is accomplished by listening to the Holy Spirit and obeying Him.

Father, thank you for making me your son. I want to walk in greater measure of hearing and obeying today.  I want to live a good example of what it means to be your son.  I want people to have a good picture of who you are as the see me.  Jesus, thank you for your example to follow.  Holy Spirit, lead me.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Practical focus

Lately, I have been struggling with work stress and waking up in the middle of the night and not going back to sleep.  Yesterday morning, I asked Father about it, and He reminded me of this passage:

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.  Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal.
Isaiah 26:3‭-‬4 NIV

Then I read my daily Scripture, which included some of my favorite verses, and I think they are very fundamental and practical:

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
Romans 8:5‭-‬6 NIV

Conceptually, it seems simple to set your mind on the Spirit.  But I get frustrated and overwhelmed. 

Jude lost his two front teeth this past week, and the dentist pulled two more yesterday.  Seeing him try to talk or eat with so many missing teeth reminded me that he is still just a kid.  Sometimes I am too hard on him, but last night after baseball practice I took him for a burger and ice cream.  In the car, I reached back to squeeze his leg and tell him that I love him, and he took my hand and held it while we drove.  It was a special moment for me.  I feel like I finally connected with him on a deeper level.

Father, thank you for being my Rock.  Thank you for being steadfast.  Teach me to focus my mind on you and rest in your goodness and love.  May my life be characterized by supernatural peace.  I love you and pray in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

died instead of divorced, resurrected and remarried

Romans 7:1 Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? 2 For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. ... 4 So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.

Humanity was married to the law, and we had no way of divorcing the law.  We were under covenant to the law.  But by faith in Jesus, we participate in His death, and therefore, thankfully, our marriage to the law is finished, obsolete ("until death do us part"). I am so thankful that I am no longer bound to that covenant!  But even more thankfully, by faith in Jesus, we also participate in His resurrection, so humanity is able to be the bride of Christ in a covenant of grace.  The goodness of our new covenant is greater than the badness of the old covenant.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your kindness in rescuing me from the misery of the law!  Thank you for giving me a way to die to that covenant and be resurrected for a new life in a covenant of grace!  Jesus, thank you for making the way for me.  Thank you for saving me and giving me a new life of joy and hope.  Holy Spirit, teach me to walk fully in this new covenant, not living like I am still in that old covenant.  I want to fully experience abundant life.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Reigning in life

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive Godʼs abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
Romans 5:17 NIV

Jesus's death completely and finally paid for the sin of everyone in the whole world for all time (John 3:16, Rom. 5:18).  Jesus has freed us from the tyranny of sin and death!  

Even more, Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit and delegated us with His authority and power to reveal His Kingdom.  This, we are empowered and commissioned to reign on His behalf.

Heavenly Father, thank you for justification and anointing.  Jesus, thank you for the power of your resurrection life.  Holy Spirit, I want to walk with you today.  Break through the things in my heart and mind that are limiting your love flowing through me into the lives of people around me.  I want to walk as a king, appropriating the resources of the Kingdom to bless people and show the goodness of the Father. I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

courtroom analogy

One of my friends recently served on a federal drug trial, and as I read Romans 3 and 4 yesterday and today, I saw a courtroom analogy of faith and justification.  

God the Father is the Judge, Jesus is the defense attorney, the Holy Spirit is defense counsel, Satan is the accuser, I am the defendant, and the angels are the crowd. 

The accuser claims that I am guilty and submits evidence of every sin that I have ever committed.  At this point, it seems like the case is closed, and the sobering reality is that the punishment for any single sin charge is the death sentence.  

But then the defense counsel explains to me that my only hope of avoiding death is that there is another piece of evidence that could be submitted to the court: the perfect life, death, and resurrection of the defense attorney. However, in order for that evidence to be submitted to the court, I have to plead guilty to all charges and trust that the defense attorney will be able to save me. 

So, I plead guilty to all charges and put all of my faith in the defense attorney.  Faithful to His word, the defense attorney submits as evidence to the court, His perfect life, death, and resurrection.  And then several amazing things happen.  First, the Judge accepts the defense's evidence as complete fulfillment of the death penalty for every single charge.  Second, the Judge announces that I am NOT GUILTY, the case is closed, and I am a FREE MAN.  Third, the Judge destroys the evidence of every single one of my sins.  

As the crowd celebrates the announcement, the defense attorney hires me to be part of His team, helping other people hear about how this defense attorney can save your life.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your amazing mercy.  Jesus, thank you for your perfect life, death, and resurrection, and thank you for standing in my defense.  Holy Spirit, thank you for guiding me to put my faith in Jesus.  I love you, and I want to help others experience your mercy and grace.  I pray in the name of Jesus.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Disciples of Jesus

I had the privilege of writing a blog post for a new blog for the Crosby County Faith community: http://crosbycounty.faith/disciples-of-jesus/.

As I was thinking about what I should share, I realized that I had two parts, so the first part was about how loving each other is the proof of being a disciple of Jesus, and the second part is forthcoming.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the opportunity to communicate what I am learning in my walk with you.  Please use me to encourage others in their walk with you.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Prosperity and the Gospel

My parents taught me to tithe when I was a kid.  They taught me the principles of financial giving, and they taught me the discipline (practice) of how to prioritize spiritual giving (i.e., you set aside that money first before you budget ANYTHING else).  They taught me that it is a matter of both the heart and the mind.  We give because He gave, but sometimes you give even when you don't feel like it, because you know that it is the right thing to do.  (Of course, it would be nice to feel it every time, but I think that is why it is called "discipline" and not "chocolate cake".). Fundamentally, God does not need our money, so it is our willingness and faith to give that is essential.  I think this is what Paul was pointing out here:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. ...  For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.
2 Corinthians 8:9‭, ‬12 NIV

I think there is an aspect of giving that is independent of your financial situation, as evidenced by Jesus' commentary on the woman who gave her last few cents.  It is a matter of trusting the Lord instead of trusting money.  But I am thinking there is also an aspect of God increasing our capacity to give as an opportunity to sow more into the Kingdom.

Of course, we have to be careful to not slip off into the ditch on either side, neither the prosperity gospel nor the poverty gospel.  Jesus did not die on the cross so that we could have all of the material possessions that we ever want, nor are you more righteous by living ascetically.  But perhaps God actually desires to increase our capacity to give:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: "They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever."  Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
2 Corinthians 9:6‭-‬11 NIV

When you have a small salary, most of your monthly income goes to shelter, food, and other basic living expenses.  But what if, as we desire to give a greater fraction, and as we are faithful to give a greater fraction, God desires to increase our capacity to sow more in faith because He is pleased by faith and returns a crop of righteousness?

I have struggled with feeling guilty about having a nice salary as a professor, but by the grace of God, nearly every year, Brandi and I have increased our financial giving.  And we have seen God continue to increase our capacity to give.  I need to check my heart to make sure that I don't associate the size of my paycheck with my value or God's approval of me, but maybe there is still room in there to consider financial resources a type of blessing and an opportunity to sow more into the Kingdom.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your rich love for us and how you spent the treasure of your Son to purchase our redemption and freedom.  Jesus, thank you for your example of becoming poor so that I could become rich.  Holy Spirit, lead me to give away what I can't keep to gain what I could never buy.  I want to store up treasures in Heaven where we can celebrate for eternity.  And I want my children to grow up with that culture of living generously and watching you produce a great harvest from what we join you in planting.  Increase my desire to give.  Increase my faith as I sow.  And increase my capacity to give even more.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Weapons of righteousness

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: ... in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 
2 Corinthians 6:4‭, ‬6‭-‬7 NIV

What are weapons of righteousness?  Tools to destroy the works of the enemy?

Can we look to the life of Jesus as an example? 

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devilʼs work.
1 John 3:7‭-‬8 NIV

What is the devil's work?  Satan is a deceiver, accuser, thief, and murderer.

... the devil ... was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
John 8:44 NIV

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
John 10:10 NIV

So, by contrast, our weapons of righteousness are the Sword of the Spirit (which is the always true Word of God), forgiveness/mercy, and grace/blessing.

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:4‭-‬5 NIV

I want to walk in the power and love of God today, prepared to use the weapons of righteousness to reveal the Kingdom of Jesus.

Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us weapons of righteousness to demonstrate your power and love.  Jesus, thank you for your example and commissioning.  Holy Spirit, thank you for your presence and anointing.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Ministry of the Spirit

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. ...  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lordʼs glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:6‭, ‬17‭-‬18 NIV

During Greg's message this morning, he pointed out that Christ is reigning, and we are revealing His Kingdom, even when the world around us is full of turmoil.  We are the KING's DOMain, so we are the Kingdom. We live in such a way as to reveal the reality of Jesus' reign.  And He has broken "the fourth wall", so He wants to multiply His life through each of us.  So, He has delegated His authority and power to us through the Holy Spirit to have a bunch of Christs to appropriate the resources of the Kingdom on behalf of the King.  And we operate in the midst of a spiritual battlefield.

Therefore, since through Godʼs mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. ... But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. ... Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:1‭, ‬7‭-‬9‭, ‬16‭-‬18 NIV

Brandi said that she thinks that when it finally clicks for us (when we operate in the reality of who He has now established us to be), it will be like the scene in The Matrix when Neo stops the bullets.

I asked the Father this morning what was holding me back from stepping in to that reality, and He told me that I need more love.  So, I asked Him how I get more love, and He told me that I need more of Him.

Heavenly Father, I want more of you.  I want my mindset to be identical to yours.  I want my heart to match yours.  I want your love to flow through me.  Please forgive me for being so selfish and self-centered.  Please invade my mind, invade my heart, invade my marriage, invade my home, invade my work.  Holy Spirit, lead me to Jesus.  Jesus, lead me to the Father.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

prophecy and tongues

In 1 Cor. 12:7-11, both prophecy and speaking in tongues are included in the list of gifts of the Holy Spirit, but apparently the church in Corinth was too focused on tongues.  Personally, I didn't have much exposure to tongues before high school, and in grad school through early career, my perspective oscillated [1] and then warmed up [2], [3], [4], to the point that recently, I have asked several Brothers and Sisters to pray for me to receive the gift of speaking in tongues.

With respect to prophecy, I think I have generally dismissed this gift as unattainable for me, even though Paul gives several directives to pursue this gift:

1 Cor. 12:28 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.

 
1 Cor. 14:1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit,especially prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue[a] does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. 3 But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. 4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. ... 39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.

I believe that God wants us all to desire prophecy. But how do you grow in prophecy except by practice?  I need to listen to the Father, and then share what I think I hear.

And, I think it would be great to speak in tongues, as well.

Father, thank you for your desire to speak through me.  Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.  I want to live every moment aware of your presence, hearing you, and sharing what you are saying.  Jesus, thank you for your example of constantly listening to the Father.  Holy Spirit, I believe that there is a mysterious connection between speaking in tongues and speaking the words of the Father, and I look forward to growing in your gifts.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Manifestation of the Holy Spirit

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
1 Corinthians 12:7 NIV

Perhaps the degree to which He reveals Himself supernaturally through us is dependent on the degree to which we allow Him to possess us.

From A.W Tozer's How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit,

... are you sure that you want to be possessed by a spirit other than your own? even though that spirit be the pure Spirit of God? ... I ask you, Do you want Him to be Lord of your life? That you want His benefits, I know. I take that for granted. But do you want to be possessed by Him?

Heavenly Father, thank you for the privilege of being united with you in spirit.  Lord Jesus, thank you for redeeming my spirit.  Holy Spirit, I want to be fully possessed by you.  Take full control of me.  I am your vessel, your instrument; use me according to your will.  I ask in the name of Jesus.

Friday, August 18, 2017

childlike faith

Heavenly Father, draw me nearer to you.  I want to step nearer.  

I want to have a childlike marvel at your goodness.  I want to brag to people about how great my Daddy is. 

I am afraid that I will stall out in my growth.

I have provided for you every step of the way, and I will continue to lead you every step.

Thank you, Father.  I trust you.  I want to trust you more.  I want to be faithful to continue walking and growing in the faith that you have given me.  I want to exercise the faith that I have and see you increase it.

Thank you that I can trust you to lead me.  I will follow you.

I pray in the name of Jesus. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Peace, art, and leadership

I read this passage a few days after the Power & Love conference, and I committed to memorize it:

2 Thes. 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.

I want to live a life of peace, and I want to allow the Lord of peace to flow through me into other people.  Over the past couple of weeks, I have prayed this verse over several people.  

On vacation out at the farm this past week, my mom encouraged me to take up sketching again.  It was an enjoyable activity in junior high and high school, and I even enjoyed engineering drafting in college.  Somehow I lost that activity later in college, grad school, and early career; at some point, I allowed my perception of myself (my self-identity) to become strictly analytical.  But my mom reminded me that I do have artistic capacity.  I think sketching is a good activity for me to resume.

Brandi and I have decided that we want to be intentional about our kids learning to play the guitar.  It is such a versatile instrument, and I would love for my kids to be able to lead people in worship with a guitar.

Sunday, I had the opportunity to preach to Paseo about bearing fruit (Luke 6:43-46).  I fasted Saturday evening and Sunday morning, and I felt very tired and weak Sunday morning.  I almost ate some food before preaching, but instead, I asked the Holy Spirit to give me energy and passion as I taught, and He did.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to be used by Him to encourage my church to pursue God more deeply.  I want to engage fasting as a way to pursue God more and mature in hearing His voice and having a greater measure of Him flowing through me.

Sunday evening, Brandi, Shaun, and Raelene prayed over me, and it was very encouraging.  I was reminded of my opportunities for leadership, opportunities to make a difference.

Yesterday, I walked into the lab office, and the students were having a conversation about body, soul, and spirit, and the difference between animals and humans.  We ended up discussing how God made humans with a spirit to connect with him, how sin separates us from God, Adam and Eve and original sin, Jesus as the second Adam, how Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial and substitutional death, and eternity of heaven and hell.  Wow, what an opportunity to share truth!

Heavenly Father, thank you for your continued work in me.  Thank you for using me and flowing through me.  Please increase your flowrate through me.  I believe that you are leading me to spend more time with you in the mornings and evenings pursuing you, and also through fasting.  I trust that you will flow with more miraculous healings as I focus on pursuing you for you.  Thank you for your love!  Oh, may I be awestruck every day by your incredible love!  May my amazement at your beauty and love be evident to those around me.  May I be bold in explaining the source of my joy is you.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Identity, intimacy, peace, and confidence

Reflecting on the messages at the Power & Love conference in El Paso this past weekend, four of the topics that were significant to me are identity, intimacy, peace, and confidence.


Fundamentally, we have to see ourselves as adopted sons and daughters of God.  We have been bought by the precious blood of Jesus, which secures our eternal salvation and allows us to be filled, baptized, and anointed with the Holy Spirit.  We are beloved children, and we are worthy of His love because of who He made us, not because of anything that we have done.  While we are worthy (worth the price that He paid), we are undeserving of His mercy and grace.  We are not "sinners saved by grace"; we were sinners, but now we are saints.  


As adopted sons and daughters of God, we need to focus principally on desiring intimacy with our Father.  Jesus lived this out daily by spending time in "the secret place" with the Father in the mornings and evenings.  Jesus did what He saw the Father doing, and He said what He heard the Father saying.  Before we focus on doing, we need to focus on being.  As a "type A" person, it is easy for me to slip into the religious check-list of reading your Bible, praying, fellowshipping, etc., which are very effective at promoting intimacy only if we approach those activities with a desire for intimacy.  Otherwise we end up like Pharisees.


With respect to healing for ourselves and for others, we need to focus on the presence of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace ("sar shalom"), who is the Spirit of Peace, who destroys all chaos.  We can simply invite Peace into us, and He will destroy the work of the enemy.  Especially when ministering to children with mental or behavioral issues, it is important to treat them with gentleness and peace.


If we want confidence in demonstrating the power of God, then we need to step out in faith.  If we want to grow in faith, then we need to take more steps of faith.  Faith is spelled, "R-I-S-K".  If we try to heal someone in the name of Jesus, but we don't see it happen immediately, then we need to press in to know Him more.  We need to strive to live out the example that Jesus set for us of 100% healing, but the supernatural power and miracles are not the goal, simply an overflow of our intimacy with Him.


Heavenly Father, thank you for growing us and leading us.  Thank you for continually stretching us.  I want to know you more.  I remember when I was in junior high saying that I wanted to live a life that convinced people of who Jesus is.  I want to make good on that desire.  I want your power and love to flow through me so abundantly that people around me experience your goodness.  I don't want to try to give people a sales pitch for you, I want them to experience your love and power.  Lord Jesus, thank you for being the Spirit of Peace that destroys chaos.  Holy Spirit, thank you for your presence and power.  I want to be a holy vessel of faith that you flow through.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Sent to bless: encourage and strengthen

In my Scripture reading this morning, I read about Silas and Judas Barsabas going back from Jerusalem to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas.  

Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers.
Acts 15:32 NIV

I think the Holy Spirit has given me a gift of encouragement, and He has given Brandi a gift of prophecy. I feel like Brandi and I are supposed to learn the concepts, principles, and practices of the Power and Love conference this week so that we can go and teach it to others.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your great love.  Holy Spirit, thank you for giving us gifts.  Please confirm your desire for us to use our gifts to advance the Kingdom of Christ. We are your vessels, please flow through us. I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Importance of marriage retreats

Brandi was explaining to Beau that it is important for parents to invest time in marriage retreats because we can slip into routine, but taking time together helps us be intentional in our relationship.

Some time ago, God gave me an analogy of life before marriage as one-dimensional (1D), just me and God.  Marriage before kids is two-dimensional (2D); the three points of God, my wife, and me create a triangle of relationships. Continuing the analogy, categorically, life with one kid is 3D, and life with multiple kids is 4D.  What God showed me this evening is the aspect of quality.  I realized on our vacation last week that you can't have high-definition 3D and 4D without high-definition 2D.  Low-resolution 2D can not be used to produce high-resolution 4D.  So, it is important to take time to recalibrate and clarify the marriage relationship (2D) so that the relationships between the parents and each child (3D) and the relationships among the children (4D) can be higher quality.

Last night I had fun wrestling with my boys in the living room.  I feel like that was an overflow from our trip last week.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your abundant love that flows through us and cascades through our children.  May our family be a blessing to others and to you.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Fifteen years of marriage

Brandi and I spent some time last week celebrating our 15th anniversary on the beach near Puerto Morelos.  It was a great time to rest, relax, and have a lot of un-interrupted conversations.

As I reflect on the past 15 years, I think of three seasons.  The first season was a mixture of the accomplishments of education with the sting of sin.  The second season was recovery and discipleship as a couple.  And the third season has been the abundance of having children and parenting.  I am so thankful for the mercy and grace that the Lord and Brandi have given me.  Grace upon grace.

I look forward to this next season of our marriage together.  I know that it will be good.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of marriage.  Thank you for the opportunity to walk with the wife of my youth.  May I be a blessing to my wife and children.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Mercy and peace

because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
James 2:13 NIV

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
James 3:17‭-‬18 NIV

"Justice will prevail!" Actually, we would all be damned if justice prevailed.  How do I teach myself to love mercy more than judgement?  I think it is a work of the Holy Spirit.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your mercy in sparing me the judgement that I deserve for my sin.  Jesus, thank you for making peace between me and God by unjustly taking my punishment on yourself.  I want to love mercy, and I want to be a peacemaker.  Holy Spirit, I want to follow you today.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Blessing from Ephesians 1-3

I paraphrased the blessing below from the book of Ephesians, chapters 1, 2, and 3.  I shared this in our gathering yesterday morning. 


This blessing is spoken in first-person from our Heavenly Father, so I invite you to close your eyes and picture yourself sitting next to Him, and hear Him speak this to you:


Eph. 1:4-14 I chose you before the creation of the world, and I see you as holy and blameless in my sight.  I delight in you!  I love you so much and adopted you into my family through the blood of Jesus.  I enjoy lavishing my love on you and giving you my constant presence through the Holy Spirit.  I am so excited about you being part of my amazing plan and shining my glory!


1:17-19 I am pouring out my Spirit on you so that we can be together all the time, and you will know me better and better. I am opening the eyes of your heart to see the hope to which I have called you, the riches of my glorious inheritance in my holy people, and my incomparably great power for you who believe.


2:1-10 You were spiritually dead and separated from me because of your sins, but I love you so much, so I showed mercy and grace. I gave you spiritual life with Jesus, and I gave you a place of honor with him in Heaven so that I can show off my riches of grace and kindness that are beyond compare. I have given you a gift of forgiveness and salvation. You are my handiwork, my masterpiece, created to be part of the Body of Christ, the Church, to do good things, things that I have planned specifically for you to join me in doing.


3:12, 16-19 Because of Jesus, you can be with me and talk with me all of the time.  And out of my glorious, unending riches, I am strengthening you with power through my Holy Spirit dwelling in your spirit, and Jesus dwelling in your heart through your faith. And you, being embedded in my love, will continually be blown away by the incredible magnitude of Jesus' love for you.  Enjoy being filled with my love, overflowing with the fullness of all of my presence - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Simple prayers

I was impressed with how a simple prayer can express such powerful faith:

As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the Lordʼs people who lived in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years. "Aeneas," Peter said to him, "Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat." Immediately Aeneas got up. All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.
Acts 9:32‭-‬35 NIV

In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. ... Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, "Tabitha, get up." She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.
Acts 9:36‭-‬37‭, ‬40‭-‬42 NIV

Sounds like these stories are straight out of the Gospels.  Wait, maybe that's the point.  We can live like Jesus because the Holy Spirit is in us and on us.  

Note: It doesn't require a lot of words to heal someone or raise someone from the dead.

Heavenly Father, thank you for Peter's example of following Jesus's example.  I want to walk in Jesus's lifestyle.  Holy Spirit, show me the next step of faith.  And thank you for making it simple.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Full of the Holy Spirit

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
Acts 7:55 NIV

The Holy Trinity, right there in Acts 7.  What a privilege for Stephen to see the Son standing at the right hand of the Father!

After persecution broke out, and Philip preached the Gospel in Samaria, the Apostles knew that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was so important

When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Acts 8:15‭-‬17 NIV

Even the apostle Paul received the Holy Spirit when Ananias placed his hands on Paul and prayed for him:

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit."
Acts 9:17 NIV

We see these several specific examples, and then we see a general confirmation of Jesus's promises of the Holy Spirit:

Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
Acts 9:31 NIV

Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Holy Spirit!  Lord Jesus, thank you for fulfilling your promise of sending the Holy Spirit!  Holy Spirit, thank you for your indwelling and your anointing!  Thank you for comforting, encouraging, and empowering us to live the righteous life of Christ! We want more of you!  Lead us to walk in more anointing!  We love you, and we pray in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Lifestyle of supernatural experiences

The disciples of Jesus continued walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, and their lives demanded hearing.  When Peter and John healed the crippled beggar at the temple gate, the religious leaders jailed them and commanded them not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus.  But it was not only a matter of doctrine that they were teaching, they were operating in spiritual power.  They could not unsee their experience with Christ.

As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."
Acts 4:20 NIV

Indeed, they continued operating in the anointing of the Holy Spirit:

The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomonʼs Colonnade. ... Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.
Acts 5:12‭, ‬16 NIV

Even Stephen and Philip, two of the seven selected to supervise the distribution of food to widows, were living a lifestyle of supernatural experiences:

Now Stephen, a man full of Godʼs grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people.
Acts 6:8 NIV

Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed.
Acts 8:5‭-‬7 NIV

Heavenly Father, thank you for the examples in your Word of those who have gone before us. I want to walk in supernatural experiences like them.  It seems to me that the way to step into that lifestyle is a step of faith whenever I see someone who would be blessed by an experience of your power.  I want to walk in your presence.  I want to be very salty and very bright.  I want my life to be characterized by your love flowing through me.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Disciples of Jesus can (and should) heal the sick

Shaun has been discipling me in praying for healing for people, and he does a good job of modeling, explaining, and then inviting me to try (in a gentle but persistent way).  Recently, I have seen the documentary, "The Last Reformation" (2016) several times, and it has really inspired me with (a) how simple it is to pray for people who have pain or injury and also (b) how significant it is in people who experience the healing power of Jesus.  In my reading this morning, I was impressed with the connection between Jesus's promise of power and His command to share the Gospel:

Mark 16 (NASB)
15 And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. 17 These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." 19 So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.

Acts 1 (NASB)
8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.

In our Sunday gathering, some of the people who are homeless come in for coffee and oatmeal. This past Sunday, I greeted several of the people sitting at the front table, and one lady winced when I shook her hand.  So, I took a chance and asked her if I could pray for her hand.  I simply commanded, "In the name of Jesus, all pain must leave."  I asked her to check it, and she told me that the pain was gone.  She was pleasantly surprised.  Then I noticed that her hand was swollen, and she had limited motion of her fingers (i.e., she couldn't clench her fist).  I asked her how far she could move close her fist, and she could barely bend her fingers at all.  So, I asked her if I could pray again, and I commanded, "In the name of Jesus, motion be restored."  I asked her to check it, and she could fully close her fist.  She was even more surprised.  She kept opening and closing her fist and telling the guy sitting next to her, "I couldn't close my fist this morning."  I told her that Jesus loves her.  

If I could go back in time and do it differently, I would have asked her if she had any other pain or injury that I could pray for.  And then I would tell her that Jesus loves us, died on the cross for us, and was resurrected so that we can have abundant life with Him.  And then I would ask her if she wants to receive healing in her soul like she received healing in her body.

I want to grow in these experiences - both in frequency and magnitude.  I want to be like Jesus.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your great love for us.  Lord Jesus, thank you for your example, your commands, and your promises.  Holy Spirit, thank you for your presence and power.  May I be attentive to what you are saying and doing today. I want to be used by you.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Home is where the heart is

This interaction between Jesus and Mary Magdalene on the morning of His resurrection has always intrigued me:

Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "
John 20:17 NIV

I am trying to imagine what Mary must have been thinking at that moment.  She was one of the most passionate followers of Jesus, having been delivered from a lot of baggage from her past life.  Mary loved Jesus, and she was a devoted follower. I can imagine her clinging to Jesus's ankles and swearing to never let go.  Mary reminds me of Ruth promising to follow Naomi:

... "Donʼt urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.
Ruth 1:16 NIV

Ironically, it is Jesus who echoes Ruth's oath, in His own enigmatic, upside-down, inside-out way.  I wonder if He was poetically saying, "You will, indeed, go with me, as will all of My disciples."

As a follower of Jesus, we want to be with Him.  And Heaven is wonderful because we will spend eternity with the Good Father who gave His only Son so that we could walk with Him again.  I think sometimes do a disservice in highlighting the streets of gold and the crystal seas.  It is the people we long for, not the scenery.  At the end of time, after a long "week of weeks" (as the prophet Daniel might describe it), we get to rest with our Family.  Heaven is the never-ending weekend that we have always wanted, that we get to share with our Good Father, Loving Brother, and Amazing Spirit.  

But of course, one of the essential realities of Jesus's abundant life is that Heaven starts as soon as you begin following Jesus. We are His temple, we are His body, and He invites us to abide with Him.  He is the vine, and we are the branches.  Even now, He is inviting us into the throne room with the Father, and He is inviting us to enjoy the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your great love, lavished on us all, that we could become your children.  Jesus, thank you for your promise to be with us always, and for our spirits already mysteriously abiding with you in the Heavenly realms.  Holy Spirit, thank you for your fellowship, which is not without the Father or the Son.  May my life be characterized by walking with you, knowing you, enjoying your presence, and sharing your great love with everyone around me. Lord, give me a deeper longing to abide your presence. I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Anxiety, Part 2

At our Sunday morning gathering, we were singing the song "Brokenness Aside" by All Sons & Daughters, and Brandi told me that she felt like my work stress/anxiety was "caught up in words tangle in lies".  She pointed out that while it is true that I need to produce some deliverables in my work (e.g., publications, grants, graduating students, etc), my motivation and self-perspective has been sabotaged by fear and lies.  Brandi mentioned how I have previously struggled with impostor syndrome, and I am glad to say that, I think the Lord has delivered me from that, and I now feel like a legitimate professor.  

However, I have recently been acutely aware that I have had a chronic struggle with work stress and/or anxiety.  At the end of our gathering, Caleb asked me to pray for him about anxiety, and as I was listening to the Lord, I felt the incredible depth of the Father's love for Caleb.  It was very impressive to me.  And I saw Caleb as a strong man, with no fear.

I want that fearless life for myself.   I want to fear the Lord and nothing else. In my work, I am trying to focus more on the process (inputs) and leave the responsibility of the products/deliverables (outputs) to the Lord.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your great love and acceptance.  Thank you for peace and joy.  Thank you for helping me be aware of what distracts/entangles me, and thank you for giving me a vision of freedom and abundant life.  I want to walk with you in abundant life.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

negative sine function

I was reading about Jesus's death and how Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus quickly prepared Jesus's body before the "day" of Passover began at twilight.  In Genesis 1, the concept of a "day" is recorded as evening and morning, in that order.  So, a "day" (24 hour period) begins with "night" and then the "day" (light).  So, I think the concept of a day could be modeled as a sinusoidal function, specifically: -sin(2πx), where x represents the fraction of the day (a 24 hour period) and a negative ordinate value represents "night", and a positive ordinate value represents "day" (light), as shown in the figure below:

I think it is significant that Jesus was resurrected at daybreak, the beginning of the "day" (light).  Perhaps the magnitude of the ordinate value could represent how far away "God's people" are from His presence.  For example, in the beginning (x = 0), God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  The "night" could be the time of the Law, and during reign of the latter kings of Judah and Israel (e.g., x~0.25), God's people had strayed pretty far from Him, but then Ezra and Nehemiah rallied a comeback.  And when Jesus walked the earth (x = 0.5), people were pretty close.  And then people drifted during the middle ages (x~0.75), the Crusades, etc. But over the past five hundred years, there have been various reformers and revivals, and so we could see ourselves in the greatest revival the world has ever seen, just on the cusp of Jesus's return (x = 1).

Heavenly Father, thank you for the patterns that you have embedded into time and space.  I love the beauty of your patterns.  Holy Spirit, I want to join you in your flow.  Come, Lord Jesus.  I love you.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Practicing conversation with God: anxiety and joy

In our home group, we have been studying How to Hear God's Voice (Virkler), and two-way prayer journaling (i.e., writing down your conversations with God) is described in Chapter 5.

I tried it last Monday (Jun 5), hand-writing the conversation in a notebook, but I want to record it here since I think it is the first time that I have done something like this.  Sometimes it is difficult to differentiate whether it is my thoughts or the Lord's thoughts, but I believe a conversation happened:

I have so many questions, Lord.  Where to begin... I want to grow in conversation with you, and yet, I feel like I need to prioritize and limit my questions as if you may only answer a few.  But I have all day with you.  And all night, for that matter, since you can speak to me through my dreams.  Thank you for your presence.  Father, where does my anxiety come from?  What predisposes me, causes me to be anxious, or makes vulnerable to anxiety?  Please teach me about myself.  I want to mature in the character of Jesus.

Gal. 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

What in my life hinders or inhibits the development or expression of joy, peace, and self-control?

You have a false belief that God loves discipline more than having fun.  Father is in a good mood.  Jesus is joyful.  Holy Spirit is adventurous.  There is a difference between disciplined behavior due to fear of punishment versus Holy Spirit fruit of self-control.

How I treat my kids (boys, especially) is a window-glass into my soul.  What am I angry about?  What makes a person unnecessariliy (unrighteously) angry?  An infraction against selfish pride.

Father, thank you for speaking with me.  Please help me see in what aspects I am selfish and proud so that I can turn that over to you in humility.  Jesus, I want my joy to be complete.  Holy Spirit, help me grow in joy, peace, and self-control.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.