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.


Monday, June 12, 2017

Jesus will be vindicated

As I was reading Matthew's account of Jesus's crucifixion, I was impressed with the reality that the sign above His head was true: Jesus is King of the Jews.  And while He was publicly disgraced, violently in Jerusalem, I sense that He will ultimately be vindicated and sit in a place of honor (e.g., on a throne) in Jerusalem, the Foundation of Peace.   

Who will sit on His right and left when He is vindicated?  In His death, Jesus had a criminal on His left and right, but on the mount of transfiguration, Jesus was joined by Moses and Elijah.  Was that a preview of Jesus's entourage when He publicly reveals His glory?

Heavenly Father, thank you for the hope of Jesus's vindication.  I want to be prepared for that day.  I want my whole life to be ready for that moment.  Jesus, I want to honor you now as King.  Holy Spirit, please help me line up everything inside my soul and every detail of my life under the reign of Jesus.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Jesus died for being Himself

The Jewish leaders tried to condemn Jesus based on the testimonies of false witnesses, but ultimately, the high priest demanded that Jesus confess that He was the Messiah, the Son of God, which He admitted.  Jesus is the Truth, even in how He allowed humanity to condemn Him to death for being Himself.  (And I think that, because Pilot and Herod did not set Jesus free, God showed us that we are all guilty of the death of Jesus, Jew and Gentile alike.)

Even the sign of condemnation on the cross above Jesus was true and revealed another aspect of His identity: King of the Jews.  Beginning with Abraham, God was "king" of the Israelites, but they insisted on having a human king.  In His death, Jesus the God-Man finally restored the kingship of Israel to God.

The irony is that Jesus, the King, did not enforce His lordship.  We live in an age of voluntary submission to His lordship.  When the women were weeping for Jesus on His way to Golgatha, Jesus hinted at the coming judgement for those who do not submit to Him as king.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your great love lavished on us, that you would pay our debt so that we could be restored to relationship with you.  Jesus, thank you for your sacrifice on the cross.  Thank you for your humility to offer yourself as the propitiation for our sin, instead of insisting on your rightful place as King.  Holy Spirit, thank you for leading people to Christ.  May I join you in your work.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Blood on our hands and heads

When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this manʼs blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!"  All the people answered, "His blood is on us and on our children!"  Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
Matthew 27:24‭-‬26 NIV

Pilot wanted to avoid the guilt of killing Jesus, but the Jews eagerly accepted it.  The reality is that none of us can wash our hands of the blood of Christ. Like Pilot, we are each guilty of killing Jesus.  And yet, the irony is that, from an Old Testament sacrificial perspective, having Jesus's sacrificial blood on our heads is actually pardoning (not condemning) us of the blood on our hands.  

Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus's sacrifice.  Thank you for not holding us guilty of the blood on our hands.  Jesus, please help me better appreciate your sacrifice.  Holy Spirit, please help me help other people experience forgiveness and restoration through the blood of Jesus.  I ask in the name of the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Holy Spirit

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—  the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
John 14:16‭-‬17 NIV

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:26‭-‬27 NIV

"When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.  And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
John 15:26‭-‬27 NIV

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.  When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment:  about sin, because people do not believe in me;  about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer;  and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.   "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.  But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.  He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.  All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you."
John 16:7‭-‬15 NIV

Our friend, counselor, and advocate guides is always with us.  He is our best friend who never leaves our side and is always empowering, teaching, and encouraging us to abide in fellowship with our Father and Christ and to walk the path of righteousness.  He shares with us what the Father shares with Christ, even future events.

Heavenly Father, thank you for sending the Holy Spirit.  I want to grow in my relationship with you and Jesus by growing in my friendship with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me through the Holy Spirit.  Holy Spirit, I am your instrument; tune me and play me like a guitar.  I want to be near you and allow you to flow through me today.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Best Friend

I listened to Hillsong's Behold song (https://youtu.be/BDNrouqSGjY) several times this evening, and I think I had a significant theological epiphany.  Over the past several years, I have grown in my perspective of relationship with the Holy Trinity, especially the Father as our Daddy, and Jesus as our Brother.  But I have struggled with how to relate to the Holy Spirit.  Even referring to this person as "THE Holy Spirit" reinforces His nebulous and enigmatic identity. 

But I think I finally understand a very simple relational identity that He is our BEST FRIEND.  The Holy Spirit is the best friend that any of us could ever have.  The kind of friend who is closer than a brother. (Or in this case, as close as a Brother.) He knows us inside and out.  Every day is an adventure together, and we can talk to Him about anything. 

So we relate to the Holy Trinity through three fundamental identities:  Father, Brother, and Best Friend.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the tremendous love that you have lavished on us.  Jesus, thank you for being my Brother who took my punishment.  I submit to your leadership.  Holy Spirit, thank you for being my best friend.  I want to grow in my friendship with you.  Let's make every day an adventure together!   I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Authority

At the end of the sermon yesterday, Greg led us in a brief tutorial of Lectio Divino ("divine reading").  He read the passage about the Roman officer who asked Jesus to heal his servant.  The first time Greg read it, he asked us to listen for one word or concept that jumped out at us.  And then he read it a second and third time, asking us to consider personal application.  I was really impressed by the word "authority" and the faith that the officer demonstrated in the context of authority.  At the end, Greg asked us to share what we heard from the Lord with someone else, so I walked over to Randy and Cindy, and they had heard the SAME THING!  

I think the Lord is speaking to us about what discipleship means in our Paseo context.  We want to empower Paseoans in their identity as sons and daughters of God, deputies of Christ's authority, and we can operate in faith and healing just like Jesus.

Heavenly Father, thank you for speaking to us.  Thank you for your presence and love.  Please guide us and give us specific instructions about how to make disciples in our context.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Talents and minas

Jesus told several similar parables about turning a profit on God's investment in you.  In one parable (Luke 19:11-27), a king gave ten servants ten Mina's, and a mina was worth approximately three months wages.  So, assuming a modern salary of $60k/yr, and assuming one mina per servant, each servant received approximately $15k.  

What would I do with $15k?  I might be tempted to think that $15k is not that much to invest.  After all, "it takes money to make money", right?  The easiest thing to do would be to put it in the bank to earn interest, which is currently near nothing.  Maybe you put it in a CD?  When is this king going to return and want his money back?

But that perspective is wrong.  Jesus tells us that the king rewarded those who multiplied his investment ( e.g., 1000% and 500% increase).  It would take a very long time to get that return from a savings account, so I assume that these servants took some serious RISK in their investments to gain such a good return.

It is tempting for me to think that I don't have that much to invest.  If I was artistic or athletic, then I could make more of an impact for the Kingdom.  But that perspective is wrong.  I need to demonstrate faith by being risky with what God has given me to invest.

In the parable of talents (Matt 25:14-30), the master gave five talents, three talents, and one talent, in proportion to their ability.  Per the table in the appendix of my Bible, a talent was worth 60 minas, or 15 years worth of salary.  Assuming $60k/yr, we are looking at $4.5M, $2.7M, and $0.9M, respectively.  Can you believe that someone would bury a million bucks?  But don't we all do likewise when we marginalize our own unique personality, skills, resources, and purpose?

Yesterday, Neill preached on the parable of the mustard seed (Matt 13:31-32) about sowing seeds of faith, and he said repeatedly, "small seeds can become big things."  In both the parable of the talents and the parable of the minas, sowing and reaping are mentioned.

Heavenly Father, thank you for investing in me and giving me a chance to invest in your Kingdom.  Lord, may I be faithful to sow seeds of faith all around me.  I want to live risky for a 1000% profit. It is you who gives the increase.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Anxiety

I have had several conversations with Brothers this past week that have helped me realize that I am still struggling with anxiety.  Most, if not all, of my anxiety is work-related.  But I don't want to be anxious any more.

After being awarded tenure, I guess I assumed that my anxiousness about work would dissipate, but I realized this weekend that it hasn't.  I realized that most mornings, within a few minutes of waking up I have that intense nervousness in my gut.  I guess it has become normal for me over the past several years, so that I haven't noticed it.  But now I am aware of it.

I did some introspection, and I think my anxiousness is an artifact of something deeper.  I think it stems from either pride of wanting to be recognized or fear of being noticed as less-than.  And my anxiety symptoms are amplified around deliverables, so this week of final exams, research proposals, journal papers, and commencement is pretty intense.  But even in an intense week, I want to work diligently for the Lord and not for men.  I want to be motivated to do a good job because of my love for the Father and the joy of joining Him in his work.

As I was discussing this with Brandi yesterday morning, she told me that when she has struggled with anxiety, she realized that her anxiety stemmed from not believing that God was good and that He was going to take care of her.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your peace.  Please deliver me from anxiety, pride, and fear.  Jesus, I want to live in the abundance of your life.  Holy Spirit, please show me what is my wrong belief that I need to repent from and embrace the truth.  I want healing from this.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Double dose

Luke 10:33‭-‬34 NIV
But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.

I am impressed with the pouring of oil and wine, both of which are symbolic of the Holy Spirit.  Over the past several years, I have grown in appreciation of Jesus's healing ministry, which I now believe should be an essential part of every disciple's normal lifestyle.  It is encouraging to me to see the Holy Spirit so involved in healing ministry. So, oil and wine could represent a double dose of the Holy Spirit, or it could be a double dose of Jesus and the Spirit.  But the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are united in their work, so really it is a triple dose.

The good Samaritan anointed the man's wounds with oil and wine, both of which are typically used as food.  And not staples for survival, but rather for enjoyment and celebration.  The Holy Spirit is so intimately involved in our lives, from healing to celebration.

I think many people in this world have serious emotional wounds, some more obvious than others.  I feel encouraged to be more bold in allowing the Holy Spirit to flow through me to minister healing to people who I come across in daily life.

(Side note: Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah's spirit, and the Scripture records Elisha having twice as many miracles.)

Heavenly Father, thank you for goodness expressed through healing.  Jesus, thank you for your example of healing ministry. Holy Spirit, thank you for your presence and power to use me for healing people.  May I be a good Samaritan, giving people a double dose of your goodness.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Monday, May 1, 2017

transformational life change requires a change of identity

Randy preached on the parable of the four soil types, and his thesis was that the fundamental element required to become fertile soil is a change of identity.  If you want to become a healthy person, you have to see yourself as a healthy person.  Otherwise, behavioral changes will not be long-lasting because they are inconsistent with your personal identity of your self.  

If you want to be spiritually fertile, then you have to fundamentally see yourself as a disciple of Jesus.  That must be your overarching self-identity.

I was convicted of two things.  First, I feel like when people ask how I am doing, I usually describe how busy I am, and somewhat overwhelmed.  I need to change my identity of myself to not be a slave to being busy and over-committed.  I want to take on an identity of having a full life. (Jesus obviously worked hard, but He did what He saw the Father doing.)  Second, I typically am too quick to anger with my boys.  I need to change my identity of myself to not make assumptions or rush to conclusions with my boys.  I want to take on an identity of being a patient father.  

Shaun reiterated during communion, that "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Cor. 5:21 NIV)

Heavenly Father, thank you for your incredible gift of identity change.  You changed Christ's identity to be sin so that our identity could be righteousness.  By your grace, I will live the fruit of the Spirit, especially self-control and patience. Holy Spirit, please remind me of these often. I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Jesus focused on obedience, not acceptance

When the chief priests, teachers of the law, and elders demanded that Jesus identify His basis for authority, Jesus responded with a question about John the Baptist.  When the religious leaders balked, Jesus told them two parables.  The first was about two sons: one who eventually obeyed, and another who promised but did not obey.  The second parable was about the owner of a vineyard whose tenants killed the owners servants, and eventually killed his son.

I constantly feel like I need to prove myself.  I feel a need to validate my legitimacy.  Over the past two or three years, I have begun to realize that I am an adopted son of God, but I still have a lot of orphan tendencies.  I want to be confident in my identity as a son of God, and I want to realize that I do not need to prove myself to anyone, especially religious people who think they know God but deny His power (2 Tim. 3:5). As I continue to grow in my relationship with God, I hope that miraculous healing and genuine disciples will be evidence of the presence of God in my life.  Jesus said, "Wisdom is proved right by all her children" (Luke 7:35).

Similarly, in the academic context, it is ironic that there is a general goal for faculty to challenge the status quo and be game changers in their fields, but administration has a very narrow (religious) view of performance metrics for faculty.  In the information age with millennial-generation students, I believe that academia needs to impact society in far reaching ways that are beyond assessment by the h-index.  We need to make real improvements in the quality of life for people, and as I think about the life of Jesus, he focused on helping the overlooked.  I hope that my life is spent helping others.

Heavenly Father, I want to be like Jesus.  He was so focused on hearing you and seeing you.  Jesus, you lived a life focused on joining the Father in his work. I want to follow your example.  Holy Spirit, I want to keep in step with you.  I want to be a vessel for you to dispense yourself into others.  Please demonstrate your goodness, love, and power through me.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Excercising faith

Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey, and people celebrated Him as the Messiah.  He spent the night in Bethany, and on they way in to Jerusalem the next morning, He cursed a fig tree for not bearing fruit.  On their way back to Bethany, the disciples were amazed that the fig tree had withered from the roots.

Mark 11:22-25
"Have faith in God," Jesus answered. "Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."

I am impressed by four concepts around asking:
1. Have faith in God.  Believe that He is good, that He is able to provide, that He wants to provide, and that He will provide.
2. Believe and do not doubt that it will happen.
3. Believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
4. Generously give forgiveness to anyone, and expect God to be generous to you in the same way.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your faithfulness.  Faith in you is never misplaced.  You are worthy of our faith.  Jesus, thank you for your example of living a life of faith.  Lord, may my life be full of tangible proofs of me excercising the faith that you have given me.  Holy Spirit, give me boldness to pray in faith.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

searching for flow

John 7
37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Some people search for flow in listening to music or getting lost in a good book.  Some try to find flow in the intensity of competitive sports, or others in the relaxation of recreational sports or dance. While those activities aren't inherently evil, they fall short of the experience with the Holy Spirit that our souls are craving.  Some people even reach for drugs or too much alcohol to experience flow, but it is a worldly flow that only leaves them more wounded.

I propose that we all have a God-given desire to be immersed in the Holy Spirit and overpowered by the flow of His goodness through us.  Jesus was constantly spending time with the Father so that He could say what He heard the Father saying, and He could do what He saw the Father doing; all of that was in the flow of the Holy Spirit.  The challenge for us is to choose to be in the flow of the Holy Spirit and not in the flow of our flesh.  The battle is in both our hearts and minds.

What if I was so focused on listening to the Father and watching the Father, making myself an instrument of righteousness (Rom 6:13), keeping in step with the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:25) that I was constantly in the flow?  What if I was in the flow while I am teaching class or mentoring research students? What if I was in the flow walking down the hallway or sitting at the dinner table?  How much would He show his goodness, love, and power?

Heavenly Father, you are good, and I want to be a conduit of your goodness.  I want to live in your flow of righteousness and grace.  Jesus, thank you for your example of living in the flow of the Holy Spirit.  Holy Spirit, I want to be fully in step with you.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Faith to be a seer

Mark 10:51‭-‬52 NIV
"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him. The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."   "Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Over the past 20 years, I have been trained to develop my analytical cognitive skills and have become an extremely analytical ("left brain") person.  Over the past 10 years, I have become envious of creative, artistic, right-brain people, and I assumed that I can't operate in that capacity because left and right were mutually exclusive.  But recently, through a workbook and some conversations, I have realized that was a lie, and I can grow in right-brain capacity.  As I was driving to work one day last week, I confessed to the Lord that I had believed that lie, and that I am trusting Him to grow me, especially by giving me spiritual visions.  

During our home group last night, as I was preparing my plate of food, I caught a quick glimpse of us praying together for something important.  After dinner and a little discussion, I shared with the group what I had seen, and we prayed for a person in our group to be delivered from addiction to cigarettes.  I believe that this was a confirmation of that vision that I saw.

This morning, I am encouraged by Bartimaeus's bold pursuit of sight.  

Heavenly Father, I believe that you made me with a left brain and a right brain on purpose, and the truth is that I can continue growing in using both.  Lord Jesus, I want to see.  Holy Spirit, you already give me dreams, and I am learning to hear you and see you.  Thank you for giving me visions and growing me as a seer.  I am excited about your work in my life!  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Friday, April 21, 2017

It's all about perspective

John 11:38-57

Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and some of the Jews who saw it happen went back and reported to the Pharisees.  Instead of concluding that Jesus was the greatest prophet that the world had seen (and maybe even the Messiah), the Pharisees concluded that Jesus was their enemy and that he should die.  This is very sad, because it was their man-made religion that prevented them from believing God and embracing His goodness, and they were unaware of how their bias led them down the wrong track to make the wrong conclusion.

What man-made religion do I currently believe that prevents me from receiving a deeper revelation of God's character and enjoying His goodness?  

Heavenly Father, show me my distorted lenses that I can't see.  I want to see you and know you truly.  Reveal to me the lies that I believe about you.  I want to know the truth about you.  Transform me by renewing my mind.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

discovery and revelation

John 10
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." 

Heavenly Father, I don't even have to speak out loud for you to hear me.  You are not far away.  I know that you know my thoughts, you hear them, and you are listening.  I can share raw and transparent thoughts with you even by thinking.  I am swimming around through your presence.  Speak to me, Father.  As Jesus did what He saw you doing, and He said what He heard you saying, so I want to live in constant discovery of you and revelation to people.  Set me on fire, Lord.  I wan to be soaked in the napalm of your love, smearing and dripping your fiery presence everywhere I go.  Teach me how to better listen to you.  I don't want there to be anything between us, preventing or limiting communication.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter 2017

On Saturday morning, I helped Andrew with some landscaping in his front yard.  We had great conversation, including several spiritual topics.  It is encouraging to me how the Lord is growing him.  Iron sharpens iron.

We had good conversations in the car with Beau and Jude this weekend about Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.  Saturday​ evening, we watched a narrated Gospel of John, and I think the Holy Spirit spoke to Jude through it.  I pray that they will put their faith in Christ soon.

In the message yesterday, Greg focused on the walk to Emmaus. He contrasted how sin and death entered through Adam and Eve eating the fruit versus Jesus instituting a new covenant meal of bread and wine.  I was thinking about how simple it is to eat a fruit that grew naturally and was appealing versus how Jesus was like the wheat that was ground into powder and baked to make bread for us to eat.  May we truly believe in the resurrection and wield His power for resurrection life in every aspect of our lives and the people around us.

Heavenly Father, thank you for redeeming us from death and destruction, and thank you for the promise of resurrection life.  Jesus, thank you for your commitment to secure our salvation.  Holy Spirit, please empower us and give us boldness to be your witnesses.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A father's legacy

I was looking at a friend's Facebook page this morning, and his profile photo is of his brothers and him standing in the rain at their dad's burial.  It is a powerful photo.

I realized that the principal legacy of a father is his children.  

It made me contemplate how I need to spend more quality time with my children, with a focus on teaching them how to think.

As I was standing at the front of the auditorium during an exam for my large freshmen intro course this morning, I realized that I want to be a father to my students.  I want to do more than teach them how to calculate forces and moments; I want to teach them how to think.

What if the world knew how good our Heavenly Father is because we lived like Him.  His legacy is up to us.

Heavenly Father, thank you for trusting us with your legacy.  Please help me show who you really are.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

simple testimony

Every time I read this passage, I am reminded of how powerful a simple testimony can be:

John 9:24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. "Give glory to God by telling the truth," they said. "We know this man is a sinner."

25 He replied, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!"


I think the key is to focus on how the Lord has blessed us and healed us - to explain how He has changed us.  There are certainly situations that warrant a more detailed apologetic response, but perhaps too often we try to convince people with logic instead of a simple testimony of how He has changed us. As RF says, it is hard to logic someone out of their belief or practice that they didn't logic their way into.

Heavenly Father, may I be faithful to communicate your wonderful love toward us and how you have rescued my life from destruction.  I want to give a simple and undeniable testimony of your love and power.  Please help me be bold.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Looking for an angle

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"   "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.  As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.  While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."  After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the manʼs eyes. "Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means "Sent"). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
John 9:1‭-‬7 NIV

I think many times, we make assumptions about people or situations and then try to make logical conclusions based on those assumptions, but we are not all-knowing, so our assumptions and conclusions are incorrect.  The man's blindness wasn't a direct consequence of sin (although it was an indirect consequence of original sin).  

Perhaps we should focus more on the power and light of God being displayed in people's lives than looking for an angle to diagnose their problems.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your light and power, and thank you for your desire to heal and restore.  Thank you for making us salt and light.  Lord, may you be honored as you flow through me to bless others today.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Monday, April 10, 2017

seeing and hearing the Father

Jesus characterized his teaching simply as what he saw the Father doing and heard the Father saying.  Jesus characterized his teaching as reporting on his presence with the Father.

I know that you are Abrahamʼs descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word.  I am telling you what I have seen in the Fatherʼs presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father. "  "Abraham is our father," they answered.  "If you were Abrahamʼs children," said Jesus, "then you would do what Abraham did.  As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things.
John 8:37‭-‬40 NIV

Jesus modeled the close relationship with the Father that He wants us to abide in.  It seems to me that the principal barrier to enjoying that close relationship with the Father in our modern culture is being too busy.

I want to spend time every day in the Father's presence hearing Him and seeing Him, following Jesus's example.

Heavenly Father, please show me the next steps to take to grow in hearing you and seeing you.  Help me focus my heart and mind on you.  Deliver me from distractions in my heart and mind.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Growing in faith and works is an iterative process

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"  He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you.
Luke 17:5‭-‬6 NIV

The Lord gives you faith.  And you try to obey, and the Lord blesses your obedience.  And then you get more faith.  And then the Lord invites you to join Him in another work.  And, again, you grow in faith as you excercise the faith that you have, through works of obedience.  

That might sound mechanical, but Jesus teaches us that obedience is synonymous with abiding and loving Him (John 15).

Heavenly Father, I want to see what you are doing, hear what you are saying, and join you in your works.  Lord, may I be faithful to conserve spiritual momentum by exercising the faith that you have given me. I want to grow.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, April 3, 2017

A fireplace isn't much use when it is full of rocks

I think we had a good homegroup meeting last night, and I think it was significant.  A couple of weeks ago, we started talking about how God speaks to us through dreams and visions.  Andrew said that he never remembered his dreams when he woke up in the morning, but I told him to keep a pen and paper next to his bed because we were going to ask God to speak to him through his dreams.  Andrew told us last night that he woke up the very next morning having remembered his dream, and he told us the dream.  Shaun asked the Holy Spirit for an interpretation while Andrew was sharing the dream, and then Shaun shared an interpretation that was so encouraging to Andrew.

After several other people shared their dreams, we practiced guided meditation by reading the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11ff) and focusing on visualizing the story.  I think several people received something fresh from the Lord through that experience, and the discussion time was meaningful.

At the end of our meeting, Shaun asked us to pray for him, and several people shared words from the Lord for him which were encouraging to him.

This morning, I went out on the porch for a few minutes to sit and meditate.  I wasn't out long because I got cold.  But I noticed that last night, the kids filled up our little chiminea with rocks.  At first I was frustrated, but then I thought maybe the Lord was telling me something through that picture.  A fireplace is not very useful if it is full of rocks.  If I want to be filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit, then I need to be open, not full of other things.  The rocks don't necessarily have to be evil, but they are preventing/limiting the fire of God.

I went and moved the rocks out of the chiminea as a prayer to the Lord that I want to be open to Him and welcome His fire.  I think one rock in my heart is allowing frustration to grow to anger and then to harshness towards my kids.  By the grace of Jesus, I will not do that anymore​.  I am moving that rock out of my heart and inviting the fire of the Holy Spirit in its place.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your faithfulness and love.  Jesus, thank you for your sacrifice for me.  Holy Spirit, thank you for speaking to me this morning, and thank you for your fire.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Freedom and healing

On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity."  Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
Luke 13:10‭-‬13 NIV

Sometimes Jesus healed by rebuking the illness, but in this account, Jesus spoke freedom to her.  And then He put His hands on her.  This is very interested to me.  The engineer in me wants a procedure/formula for healing, but I need to go back to the basic principle that God is relational, and He is sincere and genuine with each and every person.  He takes time to behold a person.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your desire for freedom and healing for every person.  Help me stay focused on relationship with you, not religion or procedure.  Jesus, thank you for your examples of walking with the Father and beholding people.  Holy Spirit, thank you for your presence.  Please make me more like Jesus today, and use me to bless people today.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

I think we are at the rehearsal

But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.   "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. ...  "Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning,  like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.  It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.
Luke 12:31‭-‬32‭, ‬35‭-‬37 NIV

OK, I know I am mixing metaphors here, but if He is going to come get us for the wedding feast, then does that mean we are currently rehearsing?  Maybe that is not the best analogy, but I think it is encouraging to think about actively "rehearsing" Heaven (that is, actively seeking to implement Heaven on earth, as Jesus taught us to pray).

I have been watching some teaching on healing from Dan Mohler and Todd White recently, and two points that have been encouraging for me are:
(1) Healing is out of loving relationship, not based on principle.  The Father loves every child, and his desire is healing.  I slip into logical, doctrinal argumentation sometimes in prayer, but the Lord is relational.  Don't make a person a number or the next person in line for healing.
(2) You can pray for healing for someone else in the very thing that you are not seeing breakthrough in.  Todd shared about when he tore his knee and they all prayed and prayed for healing, but ultimately, he had surgery to fix it, and while he was in the two weeks of hospital and therapy, he saw 36 miraculous healings of people's knees.  Don't become offended at God for not healing you, but continue to pursue intimacy with Him.

Last night, I had a dream that had several themes of different discussions that we had yesterday evening (family tree, finances, healing), and previously I would have just assumed that the dream was from my mind.  But this morning, I realized that the Lord was telling me implicitly through dreams that He is with us all day, He knows us and every detail of our lives.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your closeness.  Thank you for your compassion and love.  Thank you for growing me and pointing me toward you and not religion.  I want to walk joyfully and abundantly with you.  I love you, and I am connected to you through Jesus.


Friday, March 24, 2017

Childlike faith, sitting with the Father

At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
Luke 10:21 NIV

I want to be full of joy and child-like in faith.  I never want to assume that I have figured it out.

I was impressed with the lyrics of this song on the radio this morning by Shawn McDonald called Open Me:

Would You open up my eyes, so I can see
Would You open up my ears, so I can hear
Would You open up my mind, so I can know
Would You open up my heart, so could love You more
I want to serve You, my God
I want to give you everything


I do want to serve Him, and I feel like that has been my main perspective of my interactions with Him for most of my life, and I want to grow in my relationship with the Father.  But I don't think a child is principally concerned about serving his father. I want to be with Him.

"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

Heavenly Father, thank you for inviting me into relationship with you through Jesus.  Thank you for always welcoming me to sit with you.  I am glad that you are always in a good mood.  I want to know you and love you more.  And I know that you want that for me, too.  I love you, and I look forward to spending today with you.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Living in relationship with God

Brandi and I saw the movie The Shack on Saturday evening.  It was a great reminder of how God truly wants us to live in relationship with Him instead of religious checklists.  The essential challenge for me is to be aware of His presence and open for communication throughout my day.

I am also concerned about Beau.  Over this past week, there have been several conflict situations with his brothers, Brandi, or me in which I feel like He needs to experience the love, forgiveness, and hope of Jesus.  I am praying that I will have opportunity to share the Gospel with him and that the Holy Spirit will minister to him to bring him to faith in Christ very soon.

Heavenly Father, I want to focus on you and living in relationship with you.  Thank you for being here.  Lord, what do you think about me?  "Relax, Shane.  Do not worry.  I will take care of you and provide for you.". Thank you, Father, that I can trust you, and I don't have to have it all figured out.  Thank you for how you have grown our relationship over the past several years.  I want to emulate that closeness with my children so that they can know you closely.  Thank you through Jesus.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

conjugating discipleship

Mark 8:34 NIV
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

What is translated as "whoever wants to be my disciple" is more literally "if anyone desires after me to come" in Greek.  The Greek word for "disciple" is not actually there, but implicitly, Jesus is explaining what it means to be His disciple.  And while Jesus spoke this instruction in third person, as a disciple of Jesus, I want to personalize what He spoke.

First, I must deny myself.  The verb is aorist tense, imperative mood, middle voice (AMM).  Based on what I have read about Greek verb conjugation, the aorist tense is a simple summary and is not necessarily emphasizing time (past, present, future) or type of action (progressive, ongoing, completed).  I think it is interesting that Jesus first commanded me to deny myself.  I think this denial of self is explained in more detail in Romans 7-8; I obey by setting my mind on the Spirit, not the flesh.

Second, I must pick up my cross.  The verb is aorist imperative active (AMA).  I can't be passive; I have to actively persevere through persecution in following Jesus.  Because Christ has accomplished atonement for us through His work on His cross, my cross represents worldly persecution for me obeying Christ and death to my flesh. My work on my cross is not atoning, but persevering.  I think it is implicit that I have to continue carrying my cross after I picked it up.

Third, and I must continually and actively chase after Christ.  The verb is present imperative active (PMA).  Right now, in this moment - in every moment - I must choose to find Him and stay with Him.  I want to move with Him.  I want to go where He goes, do what He does, and say what He says.

Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Christ to ransom us and show us the way to you.  Jesus, thank you for saving me and teaching me.  Holy Spirit, help me obey Christ.  I want to deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Jesus.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Jesus modeled healing for us

Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them.
Matthew 15:29‭-‬30 NIV

If a disciple is growing to be like his/her leader, then I want to grow in healing because Jesus repeatedly demonstrated the love of God through healing.

Heavenly Father, you love us so much, and I want to show your love.  Jesus, thank you for your example.  Holy Spirit, give me boldness.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Cleanse my heart

He went on: "What comes out of a person is what defiles them.  For it is from within, out of a personʼs heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder,  adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evils come from inside and defile a person."
Mark 7:20‭-‬23 NIV

You are not morally corrupted by eating certain foods, it is our corrupted flesh inside us.

Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus' sacrificial death and resurrection, which defeated the power of sinful flesh.  Lord Jesus, live your victorious life through me today.  Holy Spirit, flow through me and purify me.  Wash me whiter than snow.  Cleanse my heart.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Abundance

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted."  So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
John 6:12‭-‬13 NIV

Maybe Jesus had heard the saying, "Want not, waste not."  But seriously, I am impressed that Jesus implicitly blessed the disciples with an abundance of leftovers in the midst of a miraculous provision of 5000 men, plus women and children.  Perhaps there is a principle here that as we collaborate with our Father, Lord, and Holy Spirit to supernaturally bless people, we are blessed with dividends from that supernatural work.  (I am not suggesting that we should be motivated to participate for this dividends, only that we should be grateful and praise Him for his abundance.)

Heavenly Father, you are full of blessing and abundance, and you are pleased to double-bless your children as we join you in your work.  You are so kind and gracious.  Thank you for your love and mercy, and thank you for your compassion.  Thank you that I can smile at you and know that you are smiling at me.  Thank you for your presence.  Lord Jesus, I want to hand out bread and fish from you to other people.  Holy Spirit, thank you for your anointing today.  I love you.  Amen.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Shepherding and rest

I was reading this familiar story of Jesus feeding the five thousand, and I was drawn to how Jesus was a shepherd to the people:

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. ... Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass.
Mark 6:34‭, ‬39 NIV

I was thinking about how shepherdless sheep wander, get scared, run scattered, and might not find food, and might not rest.  And then contrast that with reclining in lush, soft, green grass (with no allergies).  He provides rest, and He provides food.  He provides.

And then I noticed how King David spoke of the Lord in the very same manner:

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his nameʼs sake.
Psalm 23:1‭-‬3 NIV

As we dwell on His goodness and thank Him for taking care of us, He refreshes our souls.

Yesterday, I ran into a Brother at the ASCE conference, and he was asking if I had recovered from RMSF.  I joked that the Lord had been telling me to slow down and rest, but I didn't.  I certainly don't think the Lord gave me RMSF, but I do believe He uses all things for the good of Him who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  But, considering how busy I have been recently, I can't say that I actually learned a lesson of rest from RMSF.  I need to learn to integrate rest consistently in my lifestyle because Jesus commands us to rest.  He makes us lie down in green pastures.  I want to be obedient.  I need to be obedient.

Heavenly Father, thank you for speaking to me this morning.  Thank you for your word, and thank you for commanding me to rest.  Lord Jesus, you are the Good Shepherd, and I trust you.  Holy Spirit, thank you for your presence and conviction that I need to rest.  I want to honor your lordship by obeying your command.  And I want to enjoy your rest.  I love you, and I thank you.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Master's example and commissioning

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. ... These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "... As you go, proclaim this message: 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.'  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
Matthew 9:35‭-‬38, 10:1‭, ‬5‭‭, ‬7‭-‬8 NIV

Jesus healed EVERY disease.  And He commissioned his disciples to tell people that the kingdom of heaven is near and to prove it by healing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing people, and driving out demons.

I am a disciple of Jesus, and I believe that He has commissioned all of his disciples with this commission.

Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus' example and commissioning.  I want to be a faithful disciple, demonstrating your love and compassion through the authority and power of Jesus.  Holy Spirit, may I keep in step with you today.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The most important thing

As I was sitting here thinking about how important my work is today, I was listening to Shane Everett's song We Are Hungry, I realized this truth: at the end of this day - at the end of EVERY day - the most important thing is that I grew closer to the Lord and gained more of Him.

Doctrinally, some people argue over how much of God do you need to be saved.  But this is wrong.  The most important question we should be relentlessly asking is: How do I get more of Him?

Heavenly Father, thank you for giving me this awareness.  Please increase my hunger and thirst for you.  I confess that too many times I implicitly operate as though I have enough of you, but the truth is that I can never have enough of you.  I love you, and I want to see you and hear you throughout the day.  Help me stay aware of you.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.