Moved this blog…

21 08 2010

You can now find previous and future posts here:  http://www.daddytude.com/category/spiritual/

In an effort to consolidate my lives, this blog will be closed shortly.  Feel free to subscribe on my main blog!

Thanks for your support.





Tithe, Offerings, and “First-fruits”

13 03 2010

Scripture:

Deuteronomy 26:1 “When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you as a special possession and you have conquered it and settled there,2 put some of the first produce from each crop you harvest into a basket and bring it to the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for his name to be honored.3 Go to the priest in charge at that time and say to him, `With this gift I acknowledge to the Lord your God that I have entered the land he swore to our ancestors he would give us.’4 The priest will then take the basket from your hand and set it before the altar of the Lord your God.

5 “You must then say in the presence of the Lord your God, `My ancestor Jacob was a wandering Aramean who went to live as a foreigner in Egypt. His family arrived few in number, but in Egypt they became a large and mighty nation.6 When the Egyptians oppressed and humiliated us by making us their slaves,7 we cried out to the Lord , the God of our ancestors. He heard our cries and saw our hardship, toil, and oppression.8 So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and powerful arm, with overwhelming terror, and with miraculous signs and wonders.9 He brought us to this place and gave us this land flowing with milk and honey!10 And now, O Lord , I have brought you the first portion of the harvest you have given me from the ground.’ Then place the produce before the Lord your God, and bow to the ground in worship before him.11 Afterward you may go and celebrate because of all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household. Remember to include the Levites and the foreigners living among you in the celebration.

Galatians 5:5 But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us.6 For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.

13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Observations:

Tithe, offerings, and “First-fruits” are something that are not particularly common in today’s culture.  We often think that we acquired our wealth and privilege through our own hard work.  Even among Christians, few return a tithe, or truly honor God for the blessings He has bestowed.  Why is that?

And why, when some churches practice the “Old Testament” practice of tithing, do they not teach people to follow the above ritual?  So very interesting.  This seems to be just one more ritual that may have lost it’s popular meaning, cultural significance, and relevancy.  Too bad really.

Applications:

When our income stream came to a close several months ago, we virtually quit spending.  Although we have shared some offerings, our tithe stream has stopped.  There are several reasons for this.  First, disillusionment with our chosen denomination;  Second, a confusion as to what is meant by “the house of worship (see above);”  Fear – yes, I admit it.  Which is really just a lack of faith;  Also, rationalization.  The “doctrine” actually says: “10% of one’s increase,” but currently, we are not increasing.  Our net worth is decreasing.  Our balance statement is in the negative, by several thousand dollars – and if we lose our house, it will result in a net loss greater than any income we’ve brought in for months.

So, what to do?

Prayer:

Father God, today, I am convicted to trust you.  Guide as as we should today.  Let me know how you would like us to honor you?  Give us wisdom, obedience, and grace.

Thank you – I love you too!





Can You Hear Me Now?

19 02 2010

Scripture:

Numbers 7:89 Whenever Moses went into the Tabernacle to speak with the Lord , he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the Ark’s cover—the place of atonement—that rests on the Ark of the Covenant.s The Lord spoke to him from there.

Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.

Acts 27:20 The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone.

Observations:

  • Moses Spoke with God!
  • Knowing that God is our shepherd – then we know we have everything we need!
  • It’s easy to lose hope when we lose the light – natural light, spiritual light, and the enlightenment that comes from knowing the future (which none of us really has).

Applications:

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

We sing the words to this old hymn, but do we really believe that God speaks with us – that He talks to “ME” personally?  I don’t believe that we do.  Whenever I speak of God “talking” to us, we usually follow it with a quick footnote: “well, He didn’t really speak to me – I mean, I didn’t hear an audible voice or anything…”  And then we go on with our story.

Why are we so afraid of admitting that we heard God’s voice?  Audible or not – we were created to converse with God.  He created us for our companionship, conversation, and communion.  Why is that bad?

As I was reading Numbers 7, I was taken by the statement in verse 89.  Of course Moses would want to share with others what occured behind that veil.  If you were in their conversing with God, you’d be excited to share it also.  You’d want to tell everyone you knew.

I’ve had a few God moments in my lifetime.  If I stop for a moment, and let my mind recall, I can remember where I was, what I was doing, and what He said.  It wasn’t always an audible voice, but it was just as real.  Sometimes it was nothing more than an impression.  Sometimes, I heard my name – and that’s all.  Other times, though it wasn’t audible, it was as if I heard every word.  Each experience is burned into my brain – as real as what I’m doing right now – but less than 10 times.

Twice I was awoken from a sound sleep by the calling of my name.  It was soft, gentle, and confident.  Almost as if my Mom waking me up to go to school.  Both times it was very early in the morning and I awoke with a start – expecting to see someone standing next to my bed. I didn’t know why He woke me up – and to be honest, it was kind of scary.  I wondered if something big was going to happen that day.

Of course, I know now that Jesus missed me and wanted to spend time with me.  At the time, I was confused.  I was still under the impression that spending time with God was like recharging a battery.  If I tried to go through life without my battery charged, I would run dry and crash.  Most of the time I tried to keep the battery charged just enough to make it through the day – often with no reserve.  I now know that it isn’t like that at all.  It’s a relationship.

My God – the Creator of the Universe – wanted to spend time with me.  He took time away from keeping the planets in motion, trying to bring peace to the world, and now just wanted to talk.  I’ve come to believe He often has this craving.

Other times, I’ve “heard” God’s clear voice giving me direction.  Was it audible?  To be honest…  it doesn’t matter.  I don’t think it was – but I can clearly say it was more real than audible.  He spoke directly into my soul.  There was no mistaking His clear voice.

A few times, God spoke to me through epiphanies, impressions, and other people.  Again – very clearly.

One time, about two or three o’clock in the morning, I was on top of Council Crest.  It was a clear, Fall night, and the wind was blowing.  I hadn’t spoken with God in years.  Actually, I’d given up hope that He existed or cared about me.  I was in a fairly desperate state.  I’d forgotten that He is my shepherd.  “All hope was gone.

That’s when I heard it.  I will never forget the moment.  It was as if a piece of glass had fallen on the concrete.  It was a small tinkling sound.  As soon as I heard it, I knew it was a supernatural experience.  I had doubts – which is why I went to the spot and looked for the cause.  On my hands and knees I looked for a piece of glass, or metal, that could have blown in the wind and caused the noise.  There was nothing there – except a presence.

It was a peaceful, hopeful, and confident presence.  I didn’t see anything – but immediately, I was filled with peace and hope.  Something happened that night – but I can’t explain it.  I will never forget it.

Moses did speak with God.  The text doesn’t say that God spoke to Moses – which is how we often hear it in our minds.  It doesn’t say that Moses spoke to God – which is what prayer is.  It says God spoke with Moses – an interactive conversational experience.

We don’t need to be afraid of hearing God’s voice.  And we don’t need to be ashamed of the experience.  Moses could tell you the exact spot where he heard God’s voice – as if that is exactly where God was sitting.  If we were to go up to Council Crest Park, I could show you the exact spot where I heard the tinkling.

Where were you the first time you heard God’s voice?

Prayer:

Father God – thank you for speaking to me.  Thank you for getting the message through, no matter how hard I try to blur it, obfuscate it, or block it.  Thank you for being persistently crazy about spending time with me.

I love you too!





The Price of Obedience

31 12 2009

“Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.”  But that is a good thing.  I’m one of those unique individuals who thinks it OK to not be UP! all the time.  It is OK to be introspective, melencholy, and morose.  These are the times God speaks most clearly to me.

The last two years of life have had more down times than good times.  Our family has faced a number of difficulties.  Unfortunately, we were kind of stranded and alone during this process.  It was very disappointing to have our church family remove us for having a going through hard times.  But, why should it be any different for us than for others.  I happen to believe that God knew it would be a hard time for us, and He sent us to a new church despite that.  I believe the church missed a golden opportunity to live out God’s love.

Scripture:

Luke 1:18-20 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”

Observations:

I read this today in the contributions section of YouVersion:

He [Zechariah] was a priest who went before God to do his duties and he had an encounter with God through and angel called Gabriel. He was in the midst of a huge transition. Sometimes, when we are in the midst of a huge transition, it confuses us because we have to shift from a traditional way of thinking. We can be hard to be around when we are in a major transition because we are confused and trying to find our way. Zacharias (sic) is the priest who is about to have a son who is a prophet. A prophet is very different from a priest. How could he train his son? For generations, Zacharias’ (sic) family had been waiting for a Messiah, but when the time had finally come, it was hard to receive. Even the angel said his prayers had been answered, but Zacharias (sic) said he couldn’t do it. What do we do when God gives us a challenge and we don’t know how to receive it? God doesn’t call a board meeting with us when he wants to move in our lives. He doesn’t ask our permission. God says, “Surprise, surprise, surprise”.

God spoke to me in this paragraph.  It reminded me of something Henry Blackaby says.  “Obedience to God has a price.  It not only costs the believer, but those around them.”

How would you like to be Elizabeth?  Zechariah goes into the Temple to perform his priestly duties, but when he returns, he can’t speak.  Through sign language, writing on the ground and on tablets, he’s able to convey somewhat of what happened.  She is livid!  Gabriel, himself, appeared to you, and you questioned his words?!  What were you thinking!!?  You idiot!

For the next nine months, Zechariah mopes around, trying to make sense of all of this.  He loses his importance in the community, people stop coming by to ask his advice.  I mean, all this writing, drawing, and hand signals – well, it all seems so confusing.  They go and find another priest to talk with.  In the meantime, Elizabeth is having a really hard time.  They are about to have a baby – a prophet that will prepare the way for the Messiah, but she can’t really “talk” to her husband about it.

Like Moses, or Jesus, in the Wilderness, not only was God silent, but these men had their voices stifled.  They were not able to perform the public duty they were called to perform.  For Moses it was 40 years; for Jesus it was 40 days; and for Zechariah, it was about 270 days – nine months – 39 weeks.  That must have been very difficult – for everyone involved.

Applications:

I’ve noticed that God often speaks through object lessons – almost more than He does with words.  Jesus used parables that often seemed confusing and incomprehensible.  Jeremiah had to walk around naked, sleep on one side, and eat food from dung-fueled fires.  Job went to Hell and back.  Hosea had to marry a prostitute – and love her.

HMS Richards used to say, “Preach always, and if necessary, use words.”

We live in a culture that values words – the spoken word.  We often forget what God is saying via the circumstances around us.

I’m troubled by the troubles my family experienced over the past two years, but I’m more troubled by those who rejected the opportunity.  I’m thankful that I didn’t have to walk around naked, or run and hide by the Brook Chereth; but it was still hard to be terminated.  I’m glad that I didn’t have to love and marry a prostitute – but I’m really thankful that I wasn’t stoned, flogged, or crucified.

We continue to stomp our feet and shake of the dust.  But it doesn’t shake off easily.

Zechariah made a mistake, he questioned God’s #1 messenger, Gabriel.  But look at how many have benefited from that mistake?  We often focus on the miracle birth of his son, John – and all that brought – but how many have stopped to listen to God because they learned from Zechariah’s mistake.

A bigger question I have, and it would be fun to know someday, is this:  Did Zechariah’s peers learn anything during his silence?  Did Elizabeth learn anything?  Did Zechariah’s disciples learn anything?

Or another way of saying this would be, God speaks in a spectrum of voices.  We may see one thing, hear another, and experience another altogether.  He may be saying one thing to me and quite another to you – with the same words and the same experiences.  It is easy for me to focus on what you need to learn, but harder to focus on what I need to learn.  Red, yellow, ultraviolet, infrared, visible, invisible, three-dimensional, or five – Current, or future.  God transcends time, space, and reason.  What is He really saying?

Maybe things are not as they appear…

I Corinthians 2:13-15 When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. But people who aren’t spirituals can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others.

Prayers:

Father God, open my eyes that I may see glimpses of Truth, thou hast for me.

Amen





Voluntary Enslavement

24 10 2009

Scripture:
Genesis 37:8 So when the Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, came by, Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the cistern and sold him to them for twenty pieces of silver. And the traders took him to Egypt.

Observations:
It never occured to me until today that Israel was not enslaved by force – they sold themselves into slavery. The brothers didn’t realize the shortsightedness of their actions. By enslaving and selling their brother – the chosen of God – they enslaved their entire nation, their decendants, thei own flesh and blood!

Application:
We make choices that enslave us everyday.

Prayer:
Father God – open my eyes!





When was the last time you were afraid of God?

5 10 2009

Intro:

Continuing in my process through the God Encounters book – today, chapter 2.4

Questions:

  • What part of your life forgets to tremble?

I don’t tremble.  I haven’t trembled in years.  It’s not who I am.  I fix things – if something is scary, I fix it, subdue it, avoid it, or crush it.  I’m not saying this is the best way to handle things, it’s just what I’ve learned.  If I can’t fix it, I get a bigger hammer.

As I write that, I’m impressed to explore the suppress, subdue, and/or crush scenario.  Hmmm…

So, I suppose the answer is- in all aspects.

Whoa. Note to self: Need some work here.  This is a spiritual discipline that I not only need to work on, but I didn’t know it existed.

  • When was the last time you were afraid of God?  What caused your fear?

As mentioned in the book, maybe we’ve done such a good job rejecting Jonathan Edwards’ Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, that we’ve forgotten that fear and trembling are OK.

However, I think I’m afraid now.  Afraid that God won’t live up to the promises I cling to.  Will He really take care of us?  Will He really shield us from persecution?  Will He really see us through this mess?

We only have enough money for two more house payments.  What happens God?  What happens next?  Did we hear you wrong?  Did we misunderstand?  What if our theology is wrong?  Will you still take care of us?

Over the past several months, since my Smiling Son was weaned, I’ve had the delightful opportunity to develop a deeper relationship with him.  It’s really been fun, exciting, rewarding, and meaningful.  There have been times where I can tell that he just adores me.  However, something happened recently.  Mommy and Darling Daughter went to an event and it was just the boys at home.  Suddenly, he got shy, timid, and maybe even a bit afraid of his Dad.

I was taken aback some.  He hadn’t acted that way with me ever.  Of course I adapted, but it was obvious that he was still quite attached to his Mommy and hadn’t quite developed that trust level with me yet.  It was as if he was looking at me, thinking, “Do you have what it takes to take care of me?  Do you know where the food and diapers are?  What if I start crying?  Will you be able to handle that?  Maybe you ought to call Mommy right now – just in case?  Maybe you ought to get her over here… um, now – just in case I start crying or something.”

So how did I handle this?  Well, a less secure parent might have been hurt and wounded to the core.  I could have taken it as an affront to my competence – or worse, as a doubting of my unconditional love of him.  But I didn’t.  I realized this was his issue, not mine.  I backed off and gave him some space.  I dialed up the fun quotient and turned on the attraction.  IOW, attraction, not promotion.  It had moderate success.  We didn’t end up with a wailing toddler begging for his Mommy – but he was sure glad when Mommy got home.

Where did I learn this? From watching others.

I’ve watched people who seemingly adore children or pets.  They walk in the door and immediately they want said children to snuggle with them.  But, um, those said children don’t know this stranger.  They have no relationship – no trust.  The kids hang back in apparent shyness.  My mother was one of those people – loved kids and was dying to snuggle with them.  Kids avoided her.

What I do is basically ignore the kids.  Say hi, smile gently, but don’t try to touch them (handshake, high-5, etc) – just focus on the tasks at hand, or the adults I came to see.  Before too long, the kids are my friend.  Same with pets – but for different reasons.  I’m not naturally drawn to other people’s dogs (especially yappy, little dogs) – or cats.  But by ignoring them, pretty soon all cats end up in my lap. (sigh)

Since that experience with my Smiling Son, we have continued to grow our relationship.  In fact when I ran a quick errand to the store Friday afternoon, he caught my attention, thumped his chest and said, “Me? Me?”  He desperately wanted to go with me – and we had a great time together.

So, here’s how I see it.

I’m hanging back, wondering: “Are you up for this God?  Do you know where the food is?  What if I start crying?  Will you know what I need?  What if I misbehave, are you going to whack me?”  Where’s this going?  Is Mommy ever coming back?  No one consulted me on this change?  I’m not so sure I can really trust you…

Is it possible that God has adopted an attraction model also?  Is He just waiting for me to come to Him?

I think so.  I believe I don’t need to be afraid.

Before my kids could talk – and long before they could even begin to express why they were crying – they still had needs.  As a parent Dad (Mom’s have an intuitive skill/knowledge – they just know.  I always skipped the 20 questions and just asked the Mom – it was quicker), it is our job to play 20 questions and figure out why they’re crying.  But here’s the deal – just because I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, that didn’t mean that I abandoned my kids.  Even if I didn’t understand their pleas, I didn’t leave them to their own devices.

But also, children never stop asking until they get what they need.  And in those early years, they get everything they ask for.  When they get older, they try to get more than they need – and we, as parents, use our judgement to determine whether they need it or not.  We look at the big picture, the little picture, the needs vs. wants, the treat vs. spoiling, the special occasion vs. routine, and so on, and so forth, et cetera, blah, blah, blah…

My conclusion on this. It is my “job” to ask.  It is God’s job to answer.  Sometimes I’m the one-year old and sometimes I’m the 13-year old.  Sometimes I cry and babble inconsolably – sometimes I throw a tantrum – and sometimes I want something that is not only unnecessary, but downright harmful.

If I really need it, He will give it to me.  If I don’t need it – He will think about it.  If it is harmful, he won’t let me have it.

  • What strikes profound reverence or awe in you? Explain.

Impossible answers to prayer always amaze me.  Either physically impossible, or psychic impossibilities.

10 years ago I was running out of money, soon to be married, and at a dead-end.  As I surrendered that, God showed up in the form of an email offering me a job.  All I could do is weep.

A year later, while going through the one-week church planter assessment process, I was at a crossroads in my life.  I had moved to Michigan to attend the seminary, but I wasn’t convicted that I was staying – so I didn’t unpack.  I attended church planting assessment and seminary orientation at the same time.  Towards the end of the week, while having some QT3 with God, I felt His presence.  It was intense, for it felt like He’d been silent for over nine months.  Since calling me into full-time ministry, I hadn’t really heard from Him.  But that day He showed up.

It was as if He had His hand on my shoulder and was saying, “I’ve been here the whole time.” I knew in that moment that I would be staying in the seminary and not doing a church plant anytime soon.  When the church planting assessment team sat down with me the next day to tell me the same thing, I just nodded my head knowingly.

It is these moments that inspire awe.

So here’s a self-devised question: Why can’t I anticipate that awe?  Why not act as if?  As if the answer has already been received – and start doing the awe thing already.

When my kids see me do something that would be impossible to them, they stand there, mouths agape, laughing, giggling, and begging me to do it again.  So, once again I toss the orange in the air and bounce it off my bicep and back into my hand.  Over and over, and they laugh.

  • How would you define the difference between the fear the disciples experienced and the fear being advocated in Deuteronomy 10?

The disciples were afraid, God asks us to revere Him.

  • In what ways can fearing and loving God happen simultaneously?  Can you love God and yet fear Him?  Explain.

Probably – or He wouldn’t have asked us to do it.

Questions like this reveal the superficiality of my faith.

Prayer:

Father God – take me to a deeper level – please.  Oh, you are?  Yeah, I was afraid of that…

Discussion:

Saturday night while cooking dinner, I put my iPod on random to play on the home stereo.  Whenever I do this, I pray that God will direct the music selections.  He always comes through.  The following song came on – it comes from the first Jars of Clay album that was pretty much my theme from 1995 to 1999.  This song, as I listened to it the other night, is a prayer I’ve been praying for several years.  The Lord is in the midst of answering this prayer.

Scary? YES!

Needed? Yes.

Trusting? I’m learning?





God Encounters: Fear and Trust

1 10 2009

God Encounters 2.3

  • What fears have you learned? Where has your trust been broken?  What is preventing you from experiencing life to the full?

Fears? Oh, that’s not an easy one. I’m a guy, we don’t have fears.  Right?  Actually, I was struck by the statement that children are born with two innate fears: loud noises and falling.  I don’t know how “they” know this stuff, but it appears to be true.  As I watch my kids learn to walk, run, play – that fear of falling seems pretty innate.  And loud noises definitely startle them.

I have some sensible claustrophobia.  Not so bad that it prevented me from doing my job as a firefighter, but enough that I would sometimes hesitate before entering some spaces.  Burning basements were kind of bizarre. The only entry and escape was often the chimney venting the fire – the basement stairs.  If that access became blocked, there was no way out.  Overturned cars in ravines were also kind of hinky.

But my fears probably run deeper.  Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of intimacy, fear of trusting another.  These issues lead me to be self-reliant, self-absorbed, aloof, and somewhat distant.  This keeps me from experiencing real, solid, and intimate relationships – on the level that would best reflect Christ’s character in my life.

  • How might you rebuild your trust in God’s faithfulness?  What are the first steps you will take?

This is actually an easy answer.  But words are cheap.  The simple answer: let go

Understanding that God has a hold on me – I don’t need to hold on so tightly. To whatever?  Relationships, my kids safety, the safety of my wife – emotional, physical, spiritual, social, etc.

Just let go, and let God.  That is the first step – surrender.

  • Where in your life can you acknowledge that God has been asking you to leap?  What adventures might you imagine He has in store for you?

This too is an easy one – for the leap has been made.  Last year He asked me to hold some people accountable, I did, it cost me my job.  So, here I am, with no visible means of support, with only a month or so of resources left, and no vision into the future.  It is quite scary.

It is also quite exciting.  It will be very interesting to see where God leads on the next step of the journey.

Prayer:

Father God, just for today, teach me to trust You and to let go of the artificial control I think I have of my life.








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