Friday, July 22, 2011

The Doughboy Army of Joel 3

Proclaim this among the nations:
Prepare for war!
Rouse the warriors!
Let all the fighting men draw near and attack.
Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears.
Let the weakling say, "I am strong!"

To which I would add,   "AAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHHH!
Give me a black patch over me blind left eye so I might really feel it to me bones!!!!  Even grow out me beard a bit more!

But what's the truth of this scripture as I dig in further?   Well.... replace that pirate yell with the sound that we hear from the Pillsbury Doughboy when his soft tummy gets poked.
Awwww..... isn't that cute?   I combined a few images to illustrate what I see, to engrave this image into your minds.

Reading with the guys in Joel 3, at first take we immediately resonated with the talk of battle.
It was, after all, in the same vein that we embody as Christian men.
Fighting men, rousing, proclaiming, attacking.....the weakling getting to say with pride, "I am Strong!"
Why would that not be something we feel right down to our souls, given the day and age we live in.
Look at your average, middle-class, middle-aged man. What do you see?
Do you see a man hardened for battle?  Do you see blood, sweat and tears?  Do you see scars from battle?

Maybe a nick or two from where he shaved this morning while daydreaming.
You see soccer dad.  You see comfort.  You see a faith that has a foundation forged of Jello.  Things get tough and persecution in the mildest of forms can cause an 8.4 on the Richter scale up in the echelons where we live.  Our heads are in the clouds!
Chaos! Destruction in our world, when one person in the office, one person in the family, calls us a Ninny for believing in a bunch of fairy tales!   Desolation and Despair when someone gives a question about our Jesus that we can't answer, when we don't have the answers to give an account of our faith, because we only spend 30 minutes a week in scripture, and having it read to us at that, on Sunday morning while we drool and dream of biscuits and gravy!  'Get on with it Preacher-man! I'm hungry!'

Shake our tree a bit, and we'll fall straight to the ground.  We're ripe for the harvest, fruit that is beyond ripe and to the point of rotten, having the appearance of being connected to the vine, when really we are primed to fall, hard, to the ground.

Yes!  We are a Doughboy Army!   We are softies, trying to put on our armor and pick up a sword that weighs more than we do.

Joel 3 is not a battle cry for the Lord's army.  It's a cry, yes, but a cry in vanity.  It's about the enemies of the Lord, from the fighting men right down to the Doughboys, weaklings who think themselves strong, marching into the onslaught of a righteous judgment.   They are rousing for a war they cannot win!  Beating their farming tools in weapons because they have no excuse.  All men will march.  All men will find that throne.  Not one will find refuge from that Day.

This scripture is the Lord, daring, calling out to His enemies!  He says, "Bring it! Bring your best!  I'm ready to meet you on the battlefield, and bring whatever you may, it won't even be a fight!"

What do we do about it today?  We cry for help!  For forgiveness!  For repentance!  I don't want to be a member of the Doughboys anymore.   That life, while soft and cuddly, is headed for the oven.
Get up out of the frying pan man!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What is "our primary?"

the following is an excerpt from an article entitled, "The Quest for Significance." The author is unknown to me but I am assuming the Holy Spirit had something to do with it!

What Are You First: A Worker or a Lover?

Many Christians who reach out to others burn out quickly because they launch out into ministry before they establish in themselves the foundation of being lovers of God. Discouragement, despair, boredom and frustration will inevitably occur if we do not recognize that we are first called to be lovers.

Yes, it is true that God has called us to be workers. Yes, we are called to be servants. We are called to bear the inconveniences of being caregivers to other people. But we must remember that such works of service are a part of the second commandment; they are an overflow of the first commandment. (See Matthew 22:37)

What happens when we want to first be workers or fighters for the truths of our particular religious system? What happens if we first want to be students or to disciple others? What happens when our first priority is to fulfill the Great Commission to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature? (See Mark 6:15.)

Devastating things can happen when we place ministry to others and the Great Commission first in our lives. The first thing to go wrong is burnout.

When we are lovers first, when the first commandment is first, our sacrifice and labor are rewarded. This reward is twofold: (1) The Holy Spirit communicates to us that God loves us. (2) We become a vessel through which the Father's love for Jesus flows back to Him. This twofold reward keeps us invigorated, and therefore we avoid much of the burnout so common today.

God fashioned us to receive love and to be vessels through which His affection flows back to Him. It just feels right when we experience His love in our moments of weakness and distress. At such times we can have the Father's affection and enjoyment for Jesus pulsating through our hearts back to God.

The reward of our labors is that we get to enjoy being a lover as the primary preoccupation of our lives. It's a pleasure beyond compare. But we suffer greatly when we are workers first. When workers are mistreated, when the anointing of God does not show up as we want or when circumstances disappoint us, we have nothing to fall back on - except waiting for heaven. The result of such pressure is usually burnout.

But the outcome is far different for lovers. As a lover first, now when I experience attacks from other people, when I am undermined, when things don't work out, or when disappointment comes while I am laboring for the gospel, I can always run back to the secret place. I still have a secret place of pleasure where I am immersed in the knowledge that God loves me. This is where God imparts back to me a little bit of the Father's love for His Son. This is true spiritual pleasure...this is our primary!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

He Will Bring You Back

My little girl has these moments during church where she has a great need to write. She wrote this on the back of a card yesterday in the first service, and intentionally put it on the chair in front of her. It's for someone. Don't know who. But it's been left intentionally by an 8 year-old who hears from Jesus.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Jenna and the Detours

Jenna, a friend of our family, stopped by for an early morning bike ride.  I accepted the challenge.
Jenna is 19.  
I am 36.
Jenna's bike is new and light and aerodynamic.
My bike is heavy and old and wrecked.
(these are my excuses, if you hadn't already picked up on that)

Down and around the state park we rode, and always she was in front of me.  I was constantly standing up on my pedals just to stay up with her.  It seemed she was making no effort at all, and I was giving it my full attention to just catch up.
We'd start back for the home, and she'd casually ask, "Wanna go down around town?" or "Should we keep going?" to which I would muster enough breath in my lungs to say, "Sure!" as enthusiastically as possible. 
My heart was about to explode.  
Was she trying to brake me?!  I'd sooner die of a heart attack than be broken!  Arrrrgghhh!  I will not yield!  (from 10 feet behind)
Hey! We'd passed the same road 3 different times, from 3 different directions.
While I'm gathering my strength, my thoughts become rudimentary,  like the GPS in the car....."recalculating.....recalculating.... turn left in......300...meters."  Just when my brain is wired on the new route to the finish line, which is home, and whether or not I'm going to make it there, I look up to see Jenna, laaa-dee-daaa, swerving and taking a ride through a parking lot, between some cars, any detour possible.  She looked carefree, soaking up the morning sun, enjoying every moment.   She wasn't thinking about finishing the job of a workout, she was only thinking about the fresh air and the beauty around her, and the joy of the ride.

Earlier in the morning, Kari and I read a bit from Oswald Chambers, and during the ride I realized God was painting a perfect visual for me as I watched Jenna zig-zagging through a school parking lot:

"We always have visions, before a thing is made real.  When we realize that although the vision is real, it is not real in us, then is the time that Satan comes in with his temptations, and we are apt to say it is no use to go on.  Instead of the vision becoming real, there has come the valley of humiliation...God gives us the vision, then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of the vision, and it is in the valley that so many of us faint and give way.  Every vision will be made real if we will have patience.  Think of the enormous leisure of God!
He is never in a hurry.  We are always in such a frantic hurry.......Over and over again we escape from His hand and try to batter ourselves into our own shape.....If you have ever had the vision of God, you may try as you like to be satisfied on a lower level, but God will never let you."

It was perfectly coincided with the scripture we read in Matthew.  Peter sees Jesus transfigured on the mountain, having a chat with Elijah and Moses, face lit up like the sun in all this amazing glory, and the first thing he wants to do is build 3 shelters and stay right there on that mountain.  This is the place to be! We should never leave here!, he thought.  And what did Jesus do?
"Get up. Don't be afraid."  And down the mountain they went, into the valley, to be molded by God into the final, ultimate vision of dying on a cross to pay for our sins!  

Think of it!  God brought His boy up on the mountain, to strengthen him and encourage him. So Jesus would have the fortitude to push through what would become His greatest valley.

I complained that my bike had been wrecked, and no longer worked in the higher gears, and since I couldn't get out of the lower levels, I couldn't keep up with Jenna.  It was my last believable excuse. 
So of course, we switched bikes.

Oh yes!  Her bike was more nimble, lighter, faster, easier!  Wow!  I could fly and zip along..... at exactly the same speed I'd been going before on my old clunker. :)
Jenna still beat me home, even stopped and purposefully put on her brakes for let me catch up. 
Once I think I even saw her pretending to pedal, letting her bike slow down so I wouldn't be so humiliated.   I told her that was not allowed.  Then I gritted my teeth and pushed all the harder....just to stay about 10 feet behind. :)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Back 40

If you've ever had the pleasure to drive the backroads of rural America, you might notice the old pickups, farm implements, the beautiful curves of the cars from yesteryear, parked out in the weeds.   Once important to the everyday function of life, these dinosaurs always seem to tell me a story.   Why?
Because in some window of time, each one was treasured.  There are miles and miles recorded on each odometer.  They were travelers in their shining moments.  They went the distance.  There was a day when they were taken for a spin, kept up, cleaned, even polished.  Each one had its glory days, so-to-speak, when it mattered.

And when they were parked for the last time, there's a story there too.  That farmer knew it still had value,  thought maybe one day he'd get use out of it again, maybe sell off the parts, or the kids would grow up and want it.   And if you notice, they are never parked out front for everyone to see.  They are always stashed somewhere in that far corner of the farm, near the tree belt, what we used to call the Back 40. 
Out of sight, out of mind.
The weeds come up and take over,  time and weather take their toll,  some psycho nephew grabs his 22 and uses them for target practice one day...  

Eventually they become a nuisance.  A problem. Just something to get rid of to make the place look better.
The farmer turns the place over to the kids, or some new out-of-towner who wants the feel of 'country-livin', and then come the complaints that they make the place look like a dump.
Someone has to haul those 'eye-sores' away.

It dawned on me this morning....that's exactly what we do with the Word of God.
We take those pieces of scripture that aren't about love, aren't about grace, aren't about prosperity and riches, and we carve them out of our daily lives, don't we?

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple." ~Jesus, Luke 14

Ouch.  Awfully strong words. We don't say that anymore.  Hmmm.....Cut that out....

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. " ~Jesus, Matthew 10

Park that out back for now...

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. " 

I don't feel very good reading that.  I think that's just gonna sit somewhere I don't have to look at it...

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter–in–law against her mother–in–law — a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ 
Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." 

Are you seeing my point?  It's about so much more than looks, isn't it?  Will it matter how manicured and pretty the front lawn is if we've got those old junkers sitting out back?  Who wants to hear them, let alone look at them? 

Eventually, if we keep them parked out in the weeds and don't mention them, they are going to become useless to a world so comforted and coddled with the peace, love, joy and prosperity that we preach. 
Is that the faith we want to hand down to the kids?  I mean, who knows, might be worth something someday...they might get some use out of it....

Cramming our own, personal faith into our own custom fit, we find one day that Jesus only looks good on a T-shirt, and His true message is "outdated", "primitive", "intolerable" .   His truth will no longer satisfy or give freedom, because they will no longer have ears to hear or eyes to see.  They'll just want some piece of scripture to make them feel good.   

Reducing the bible down to some sort of self-help manual, the power and the message of what He did and why are lost.   One day, it will be considered best to just take all those bibles and haul them out of here.   It will seem to make the place more fresh if we just haul those eyes-sores away. 

I always tell my kids to grab their ears and give them a good wiggle.  Soon as they do, I read this old junker of a verse...  This old, outdated clunker that is really a treasure given the proper measure of attention and respect that it deserves....this piece of history that tells a story, a whole story, meant for all to hear...

"He who has ears, let him hear."