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Monday, December 15, 2008


Last night on the news we saw a story about a young man who had just become a Christian. He was so excited about it that he started telling all of his friends. Apparently he told one of them about it one too many times; the guy was found shot to death at an apartment complex.

So my 8-year-old son was there listening to the story and I wanted to see what he thought; you have to make sure your kids aren't scared by something like that. So I asked Mikey, "What do you think of that? Is that scary, that a guy got killed for telling someone about Jesus?"

Mikey didn't hesitate, and he didn't blink an eye. With total honesty, in answer to the question "Are you scared about that?" he told me, "No, not if it's the Word of God!"

Lord, please teach me to be as fearless as Mikey!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Do Angels Sing?

A few days ago I was at choir rehearsal, practicing for the Christmas production coming up in a few weeks, and someone told me that there is nowhere in the Bible that it says that angels sing, despite Christmas carols misrepresenting this passage (which, you will notice, says the angels were praising God and saying, not singing). I immediately thought of a passage I recently read in Revelation which I knew had an awful lot of praising in it, but as it turns out, in my ESV it only mentions singing one time, although they do a lot of "saying" in that passage.

So who is singing? Well, it's "the 24 elders" who sit around God's throne, and four "living creatures." Apparently there are folks who believe the 24 elders are angels, but I don't really buy that... if they were angels, how could there be "elders"? I've never heard anything that would lead me to believe that any angels are older than any others. On the other hand, what about those creatures? The description of them in Revelation resembles descriptions in Isaiah (who specifies that he is describing seraphim, a kind of angel) and Ezekiel (who also calls them "living creatures"), but neither of those prophets exactly describes the creatures as John describes them in Revelation, so I'm not sure we can consider them seraphim, or even angels at all. It could be argued that they actually are just some very unusual creatures that live in Heaven!

So that's no good, so I asked the almighty Google for answers. Here are some scriptures that people use as proof that angels sing:

Job 38:4-7 - assuming the "sons of God" are angels, which I think is iffy given this.

Jeremiah 51:48 - assuming that angels are either in the heavens or on Earth, which seems like a fairly good bet to me.

Isaiah 49:13 also mentions "the heavens" singing.

I would consider all of these good college tries at it, but I can't see any of them as being conclusive. So are angels melodious, or tone-deaf? The Bible doesn't seem to care enough to clear it up for us. I guess we'll just have to wait and see! And while we're waiting, there are plenty of places where it encourages us to sing our praises to God!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


I just got my confirmation email for Blogerella!

What the heck is a "Blogerella", you ask? Well, it's a new directory of blogs. When I saw that there were no other blogs yet in the "Religion - Christianity" category, I knew I had to get in on that action! What's the point? The point of Blogerella is to help people find blogs that they'll enjoy reading. How does Blogerella know what people enjoy reading? Votes!

If you could take about 30 seconds to create an account on Blogerella and vote smiley faces for any posts on this blog that you see there that you've enjoyed, I'd really appreciate it. You should be able to go directly from links at the bottom of the posts themselves straight to the voting page for that post. You don't vote for the blog as a whole; you vote for individual posts. And if we get enough votes, we go up in the standings and even more people get to see the blog!

So, get clicking! (If you came here from a different post, vote for that post... it's not really necessary to vote for this one!)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Attractive Worship

Now Muriel plays piano
Every Friday at the Hollywood
And they brought me down to see her
And they asked me if I would
Do a little number
And I sang with all my might
And she said "Tell me, are you a Christian, child?"
And I said "Ma'am, I am tonight!"

-Marc Cohn, from "Walking in Memphis"

I wonder if our worship services are sufficient to draw the lost to Christ. At my church we have a very contemporary style of worship, very upbeat, with a lot of pop and rock influences. People are welcome to raise hands, jump, dance if they want, whatever. Your church's music may be more traditional and majestic. Either way, we should be expressing something of our relationship with God in worship... either exuberance and excitement to be in God's family, or wonder at His majesty and beauty, or humbleness at his power, or thankfulness at His provision, or something along those lines. We don't worship to be seen, of course, but if someone does see us worshiping God, they should see a living testimony of our relationship with Him. It should be enough that people should want to be a part of that relationship themselves. By the time worship is over, The Lost should already be convinced that they want to be part of The Found.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Coming Out Of The Closet

Today God was trying to get me to come out of the closet. I failed miserably.

As I was waiting for the bus, someone came up to me and asked me if I could give him a dollar. He gave me the whole "I'll pay you back the next time I see you, I get paid tomorrow, do you always ride this bus?" thing. Maybe it's true, or maybe not, but I believe the Word says to give when people ask of you, so I gave him a dollar without hesitation. I even asked him if he had the extra quarter it would take to ride the bus (he said yes, he had it). The Holy Spirit told me to speak to the guy about Jesus. I did not.

I got on the bus and it was fairly full, so I sat down in the front seats next to a guy. This particular bus runs past the V.A. clinic, and quite often veterans ride it to get to the clinic, sometimes to catch the free shuttle from there to the V.A. hospital in Oklahoma City for more involved treatment (I mentioned one guy I met who does that in this post). The guy I was sitting next to asked the bus driver if he would let him off right across the street from the hospital (the bus stop is maybe 20 yards or so away, so that would save him some steps, especially on a rainy day). I felt impressed that I could find out what was wrong with him and pray for him. But I did not do so. When it started raining harder just before we let him off, I also considered giving him my umbrella so he would be a little dryer crossing the street. I did not, and it's not even an expensive umbrella.

Shortly after we let the guy off at the clinic, the bus driver commented, to nobody in particular, that the rain was really picking up. I had the thought that he would probably be appreciative if I stopped on the way off the bus and prayed for his safety on the job today. But I did not do that.

Strangely, I feel a sense of missed opportunities this morning, but I do not feel like a failure and I do not feel any sense of "condemnation" over it. I'm naturally a very reserved person, not the type at all to strike up conversations with strangers outside of maybe a little joke about something going on around us or something like that, but not anything heavy. But I've been reading about Jesus and how He went around meddling in people's lives, healing their illnesses, casting out their demons, teaching them about His Kingdom, and I know I need to be like that. But it's a learning process for me. This morning I definitely learned what not to do. Besides, the day's not over! I may yet get some chances to share some part of God's good news with someone. I'm not planning on keeping my Christianity in the closet forever! I've cracked the door open, and I've inadvertently shed some light into the darkness outside. Soon another opportunity will come and I will fling open the door and the light of Jesus will shine on everything around me! Holy Spirit, don't give up on me... teach me how to live my life as Jesus would live it!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jesus' Debating Technique - Part 2 of 2

Yesterday I started talking about Jesus' debating techniques in Luke 20. This is the other half of that... if you missed it yesterday, you might want to read that first!

Second question: Those same scribes and Pharisees sent flunkies to first butter Jesus up, and then to ask Him, "Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?" They must have figured that either Jesus would answer that Caesar should get tribute, thus angering the crowd, or that he shouldn't get tribute, thus opening the door for them to have him arrested. Instead, Jesus knew they were trying to trap him and answered in a way that not only demonstrated that the people should follow the law, but also taught them that whatever has an "image" of someone belongs to that someone. Although Jesus did not explicitly mention this verse, it is the logical basis for His answer; whatever has God's image belongs to God. What has God's image? You fill in the blank! The answer was so perfect that it literally shut up the people who were trying to trick him.

Third question: Some people brought a complicated story based on a rule from Deuteronomy to Jesus, trying to trick Him into being on their side on the subject of life after death. It's not really clear to be if they were trying to do away with Jesus, but they were clearly trying to trick Him. The final question they asked, "In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife" was apparently meant to allow only the answer "None of them will be her wife, because after people die they are dead and gone and it doesn't matter any more." The unexpected answer, that marriage is not an issue in the afterlife, was so clear and such a good explanation that even the people who had been trying to trick Jesus commended Him on His answer and " longer dared to ask him any question." Once again, Jesus shuts the mouths of His opponents.

Did Jesus stop there? No, He did not. He continued by asking His own Theological question, on that from the perspective of a Christian is simple to answer, but from the perspective of one of those religious leaders must have seemed like an insoluble riddle. Anyone who still had any idea of trying to outfox Jesus by that point must have been too scared to speak another word to Him!

The whole exchange ends with Jesus cautioning His disciples to be careful around people who are always looking for approval and financial gain at the expense of others, and making a comparison with someone who was somewhere close to the bottom of the social food chain, a widow with almost no money to live on. He basically said that she was closer to God's will than rich people, obviously referring to the scribes, Pharisees, and Saducees He had been verbally sparring with.

In the course of one chapter, maybe 15-20 minutes' worth of dialogue containing three questions and answers, not only had Jesus silenced his critics and made them afraid to say another word, but He had managed to teach several critical kingdom principles to His disciples. He never stopped teaching them, even in the middle of a heated theological debate, and kept turning things around to exactly what He wanted to talk about! Is that some great debating technique, or what?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Jesus' Debating Technique - Part 1 of 2

There have been a lot of debates lately in the U.S.... "official" Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates, unofficial water-cooler debates over the merits of the candidates, debates in Congress over the economy. This morning I read about my favorite debate of all... one between Jesus and the Scribes/Pharisees which is recorded mostly in Luke chapter 20 (it kind of laps over into chapter 19 and 21 a little bit, but the main part of it is in chapter 20). A while back I read the chapter and was seriously impressed with Jesus' unique debating style and how he flummoxed his opponents, and today when I read it again in my new ESV Study Bible I remembered why I like it so much. It's got to be one of my favorite chapters in the Gospels!

The debate actually starts in the last few verses of chapter 19 when Jesus "cleanses" the temple. This of course made the religious leaders pretty upset: they "...were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words." So I suppose they decided to try to discredit him on credentials, or destroy the people's faith in Jesus' teaching abilities by outfoxing him with questions. Bad idea! You can't out-question the Son of God!

First question: "Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority." I guess they religious leaders figured they had official credentials and Jesus didn't. Instead of answering their question, Jesus answered, I've always assumed, by deftly changing the subject. "Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?" The religious leaders were too afraid to answer what they really believed (that John was a wacko out in the desert somewhere) because they knew the people thought John was a prophet (for the record, yes he was!) and they were afraid of a riot. So they refused to answer, and so Jesus refused to answer their question as well.

Was Jesus really changing the subject? He was not! Jesus' authority came from the same place John's came from, and if the religious leaders weren't willign to recognize John's authority, they weren't going to recognize Jesus' either. So he refused to answer, but he got them to refuse first! Smart, huh?

Then Jesus immediately launched into a story. Is the story unrelated? No, it is not! The story is a parable about some tenants who are given the task of keeping a vineyard for the owner. Every time the owner sent a servant to pick up some of the fruit, the tenants beat the servant up and kicked him out, until finally the owner sent his son, whom the servants killed, thinking they would be able to keep the vineyard for themselves. The story is really about God giving authority to the temple rulers, who misused it and abused the true prophets of God, and who would shortly have God's son executed. At the end of the parable, the tenants are "destroyed" and the vineyard taken away from them. The story completely relates to the question of authority, although the people it was leveled against probably didn't get it.

Come back tomorrow for part 2!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I've got my new ESV Study Bible!

ESV Study Bible, HardcoverYesterday at lunchtime I did something not characteristic of me... I actually left my office and drove down to Mardel to pick up the ESV Study Bible I had preordered! It came shrink-wrapped, not in a box, although that matters very little (I guess it's that much less trash to carry out to the curb on Friday). The dust jacket and cover are beautiful... the dust jacket even has the ESV starburst logo (see it at the top of this page) embossed into the paper!

I got the hardback version. At first the pages seemed a little wrinkly right next to the binding, but after using it for a while they seemed to smooth out. The pages smelled all "new-booky"; I lvoe that smell. I was sniffing it all afternoon! There was an insert inside the back cover which had a scratch-off box with a code that gave me access to the online version, which is really cool although as a Web programmer and experienced Web user myself there are a few things about the online interface that I might change. Not unusable, but I think the number of clicks it takes to get to your information could be reduced. But that's material for another post, maybe!

The content itself is awesome. The colors in the pictures aren't as brilliant as they are in, say, The Holman Illustrated Study Bible, but they are still beautiful and very useful (see some samples here, but the online examples actually look more brilliant than they do in the book... maybe because of the thin Bible paper or the print process). I brought it with me to church last night and enjoyed using it during the message, although as with any study Bible, the temptation is to get absorbed with the study notes and miss part of the message!

I read some of the supplementary material too; I had already read "Introduction: A User's Guide to the ESV Study Bible" in the Book of Luke sample I got at Mardel several weeks ago, and I really am interested in the "Reading the Bible" series of articles (you can read it in the free online samples), but I didn't have time last night or this morning to read that. I did enjoy the "God's Plan of Salvation" article, which is kind of wordy and pretty detailed but ultimately a simple (and complete) overview of The Gospel. Last night before choir practice I enjoyed showing some friends the illustrations in Exodus of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, along with illustrations of the various pieces of furniture (golden lampstand, Ark of the Covenant, bronze altar, etc.) and did my best to impress a writer friend with the way the study notes and the book outlines are visually connected to help you see where you are in the overall structure of the books.

I'll probably lug the thing to church again Sunday to show a few more friends, but overall it's so thick and heavy that I'll probably mostly use it at home. Besides, like I mentioned before, I wouldn't want to get distracted from the message by the study notes! I'm seriously considering just starting from Genesis 1:1 and trying to make my way all the way through it. It'll take a while, but if my study of Luke in my sample copy has been any indication, it will be very much worth it!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Electronic Handheld Bibles

You know, this weekend I was thinking that I would sure like to see a well-designed hand held electronic Bible that was easy to use, both for personal reading/study and while listening to a message. Maybe something that looked sort of like the Kindle, but with stuff that was specific to the Bible... like letting you view multiple translations on one screen, maybe tile them in the four corners, and turn them on and off at will. Then letting you either link them so they scrolled different translations together, or let you view several different passages from the same translation at the same time for comparison or to follow a preacher as he jumped around during his message. A quick lookup by book, chapter and verse, maybe with drop-downs to make it easier. Touch-screen, like my kid's Nintendo DS. I've seen the Franklin Bibles, of course; I used to have one (after getting a bunch of road use, it eventually petered out, and I ain't talking Simon Peter but that would be a funny pun, wouldn't it?). The Franklin Bibles just seem kind of cheap-pda-from-the-90s to me, though. Some of them even look like toy organizers you can get next to the Matchbox cars at Walgreen's. These days an electronic device has to be easy to look at, particularly for long periods of time (for heaven's sake, don't give people a reason to not read the Bible!), extremely easy to use, and flexible so it works however each individual thinks it should work. And gosh darn it, what's wrong with it being fun to use, too? What if the thing that gave me the in to share Jesus with someone was the nifty Bible gadget I was messing with on a bus or in a restaurant?

The problem with the Kindle is that it's designed to be a book reading tool, not specifically a Bible-reading tool. For Bible reading you really need some tools that are specific to the Bible. maybe the Kindle is flexible enough to provide those, given someone with enough motivation to build that programming into an e-text of the Bible, but I don't think it's the perfect tool. Someone who built the perfect tool would seriously smoke any of the offerings I've seen out there.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

eBible now has NIV

I was looking back at some of my old posts and ran across the one where I mentioned and wondered how people would like it without the NIV. Well, that was a long time ago... today I clicked back over to eBible and discovered that not only have they added the NIV and TNIV, but if you visit the site for the first time, the NIV will automatically be your default translation! I guess that's just the treatment you get when you are the CBA's best-selling translation. Based on that list, it looks like they have all the playas but two... from the top ten best-selling translations, eBible has all but the New Living and the New Revised Standard.

The Bible Gateway, which is probably one of the most popular Bible sites out there, has all the translations eBible has, and they have the New Living Translation as well. They don't have the NRSV either, though. If you want the NRSV, there are sites that have it: Crosswalk,, and The Unbound Bible are some examples. And you can always just buy it for your e-Sword (the cost at this writing is $9.99). But that's one reason I really like the ESV... because of their commitment to electronic use of the translation, the ESV is available pretty much everywhere!

Friday, October 10, 2008

ESV Study Bible Preorder

I'm so excited... last night we stopped by Mardel (we made it in there minutes before closing time) and pre-ordered my ESV Study Bible! I've been waiting for that to come out literally for years, and in just five days it will be here! I had totally forgotten about the release date coming up, but last Saturday Mikey and I were at Mardel looking around, and I took him back to the Bible section to show him how blessed we are in the U.S. to have so many choices of the Bible in our language (and to mention that there are still many many languages in the world that the Bible is not yet available in), and saw a display with some samples of the book of Luke. I picked one of the samples up, and I've been reading it ever since. I LOVE IT! It's like listening to our pastor, one of the best Bible teachers in the world PERIOD, on one of his Wednesday night detailed series on a specific book (when I first started going to Grace about ten years ago, he had just started the book of Acts. he finished over a year later, teaching every Wednesday that he was in town, which is most Wednesdays. Now THAT'S detail! Right now he's working through James... check out the services online if you like!)

Anyway... I'm pumped about having the whole ESV Study Bible to read. I had to go with the hardback for economy's sake, but it looks so thick that I doubt I would lug one to church with me anyway. I'll either keep carrying the little ESV I've had for a couple years, or get one of the nice leather ones with a center reference to carry to church. I've already got a durable metal one to carry in my bag to work every day.

Want to see what bindings the ESV Study Bible is available in? Here's my list of what they've got at CBD!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Angel Visitations

I was reading the first chapter of Luke in a sample of The ESV Study Bible that I picked up at Mardel this weekend, and I noticed something that I hadn't noticed before. Zechariah and Mary both had visitations from an angel with very similar circumstances surrounding it, but their reactions and the result were quite different:

Both were visited by the angel Gabriel.
Both were "troubled" by the visitation, but while Zecharaiah was fearful, Mary sought understanding (although it could be argued that Mary was afraid also.)
Gabriel told them not to be afraid.
Gabriel told them they would "bear a son, and you shall call his name..."
Those sons would "be great" and do amazing things.
Zechariah responded by asking for a sign (which he then received, to his chagrin). On the other hand, Mary asked for details of what would happen, but then she accepted the Lord's assignment without resistance.

Why was a priest surprised by or afraid of an angel appearing in the temple where the Presence of God was expected to be, when a little girl in her house seemed to take the appearance of the same angel almost as a matter of course? Maybe Zechariah was thinking about how priests could face death for entering God's presence unworthily (although he was not actually in the "Holy Place inside the veil" but on the other side of the veil where incense was burned) and that sometimes angels were sent to kill people. Why was the priest struck mute (and probably deaf as well) for asking for a sign? Maybe it's because he doubted the clear word of the Lord ("How shall I know this?" Because GOD said it, fool! Don't you see the angel??) Mary did not doubt, but did ask for clarification. Even then, she did not demand an answer, although she did receive one.

People in ministry are sometimes held to higher standards by God than the rank and file, and that may have been part of it, but I think Zechariah reacted to the word of the Lord in fear and doubt, while Mary reacted in submission. I think that's why Zechariah spent the next nine months in silence, while Mary got to spend it glorifying God!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Today I was crossing the street on foot at the intersection of 21st Street and Garnett. This is a fairly busy intersection, with three lanes of traffic coming from every direction. I didn't just walk out into the street; first I pressed the button to get the "walk" signal, and then I waited until I saw the indicator light up that said that it was my turn to walk across the street. When I stepped out into the street, all the cars stopped for me. I didn't even have to raise a hand; they just stopped. Was it because they saw me coming? Nope; it wasn't my power that stopped them. It was the power of the rule that says when the light is red, you stop your car and wait. Because I was following a signal and rule as well, the "walk" sign, I was confident that I could walk safely across. I didn't have to run or be afraid of getting run over. (Of course, it's wise to be cautious and still look both ways before crossing! But for the sake of argument let's pretend that all drivers are completely competent and always paying attention.)

The Holy Spirit is our signal that we can move in the power of God. He is a deposit placed on the inside of us that tells us that when we move by His prompting, we can have confidence not only to come into the presence of God, but to do His works on the Earth. The Holy Spirit is the signal (like my "walk" sign) that lets us know that the power of God is our protection when we do something that might ordinarily be dangerous (like walking calmly out into the street at a busy intersection). If I had walked out into the street without the signal, I would have been in terrible danger. But when I walked out with the proper signal, I walked out in confidence and safety. And when I move by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I can walk in confidence and safety, because I know that the power of God is infinitely greater than the power of a traffic light. If I can trust a traffic light to keep me safe from a couple of automobiles, how much more can I trust God to keep me safe from anything in the universe that would try to stop or harm me?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Purified for Service

In Sunday school this week the teacher was discussing the story of Isaiah's commission in Isaiah chapter 6. In a nutshell, Isaiah had a vision of the Lord in all His glory, and Isaiah immediately assumed that because of his impurity, he was going to die. An angel brought a glowing coal from the altar fire, so hot that even the angel had to hold in in tongs, and touched Isaiah's lips and purified them. God then spoke a question: "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Isaiah immediately answered, "Here am I! Send me."

The thing that struck me was how quickly Isaiah went from "Woe is me! For I am lost..." to "Here am I! Send me." From fear to boldness in one single step... the purifying power of God. What is it that purifies? What is it that the sacrifice on the altar represented? The sacrifice of Jesus, the shedding of His blood. When the power of God touches us, it immediately inspires us to service!

(By the way... I can never read that story without thinking of this song...)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mikey Preaches

Thursday afternoon my 8-year-old, Mikey, heard my wife Cathy talking about Elizabeth leaving her position as worship leader at Grace and how hard it was to understand, and the spirit of Preach came all over Mikey! I asked him if he had anything to say on the blog, and here's his response...

We gotta stop working in our bubble. We've gotta start getting out there, we gotta start filling the gaps. First we gotta make sure that our church is ready to get out there. We gotta make sure everything is good at our church, we gotta make sure everything is right. Until we get to that point we can't do it! And if we get to that point Satan will not be able to stop us, 'cause we are undefeated! Satan will not be able to stop us. We got a new trick up our sleeve, and God is with us, and He will always be with us! We've gotta go places where people don't know Jesus, where we're not allowed to speak Jesus. God gave us our life so that we could preach, and He gave us our life because He loves us, and He gave us our life, and no matter what, we'll always go to heaven. If we risk our lives like that, you know, we're gonna go to Heaven and we're gonna be there forever. We gotta work where we're not supposed to work. We gotta do what we got to do. We gotta make sure that everyone hears this, everyone's heard the good news, everyone has able to hear God and feel God. A clock has to have all the cogs to work! We've got the cogs. They are the clock. They won't work until we put the cogs in! We've gotta make sure... like in Mama's dream, only the littler rooms were sinking. The large rooms were fine! Our church is like the large room! We're a really wealthy church, now we've got to spread it out where everyone can have it, everyone can be able to know the Lord! We gotta make sure that everyone hears it... EVERYONE. And we will not stop until we get everyone to hear it! We gotta get our of our own little bubbles and start working the gaps! We gotta get out of our shell and go out there and make sure the world knows Jesus! That's what we have to do! And if we don't do that, it won't work. We gotta have everyone doing a specific thing, but it won't work unless everyone wants to. They have to want to do it. They have to not only say, "Oh, I'll do it." They've got to say, "I want to do this! I know that God is always with me, and I want to do this!" They shouldn't just sit there... like in choir, we could do something like this: "We're not gonna do it until everyone's ready. We can't do it until everyone's ready! It won't happen if everyone's sitting down in the middle of praise and worship." Everyone's got to be standing up, everyone's got to be working, everyone's got to praise the Lord or it won't work! Just like if you've got a car and you hit a rock, you gotta get a new tire. And what about if there's a square, it doesn't have a top... it's not a square! We got the top. We got everything the other people need, and we've gotta give it to 'em! We've got to let them have what they need. Not like, the bad let's give it to 'em, but the good, let's give it to 'em, let's give Jesus to them. We've gotta make it happen. It won't do it by itself. We got to make it happen. It's a choice that we have to make, and if we're not ready yet, we're not ready yet; we can't do it. And if we're ready, we'll do it!

I actually cut Mikey off knowing that if I let him keep going he could easily preach me down for an hour and I would never have time to transcribe it all! This is VERY lightly edited from what Mikey said. The boy was on a roll!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Backyard Barbecue

I learned this weekend, to my horror, that backyard barbecues are an abomination to God, but only if you've got a fence. I learned this during Pastor Bob's message, but he didn't say it; I just saw it in the Bible verse so now I know it. Check it out in your own King James... it's in Romans 14:20!!!

(Hmm... now that I think about it, if you've got a fence maybe you could grill outside and then eat inside. That seems like it would be OK.)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sarah Palin

Interesting video that I found via Pastor Mike Goolsbay's blog. I think it speaks for itself.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Clean Hands and a Pure Heart

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
     And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
     who does not lift up his soul to what is false
     and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
     and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
     who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah
If we are going to be worshippers that go to "higher places" in the Spirit, personal holiness is a key. Our salvation does not depend on our actions, but our advancement in spiritual things clearly does. How badly do you want "more of God?" Badly enough to abandon sinful habits? What about bad habits that are not sinful but that distract you from the things of God? What does "lift[ing] up his soul to what is false" mean? It seems like this passage is about being a person who can be trusted, who always tells the truth and knows it. That's awfully hard to do in this life. Have you ever told someone that something was happening where you were, even though maybe it wasn't, just to get off the phone? Ever said a check was in the mail when it wasn't yet? Ever told the officer that you didn't know you were going over the speed limit when you really did know it? I've done things like that any number of times, and I'm sure you probably have too. But this passage doesn't seem to leave any room for "white lies."

How badly do you want more of God's Presence in your life? Badly enough to tell the truth?

Friday, September 12, 2008

My Dream Of Jesus' Second Coming

Last Sunday as we were discussing the events of the week before in Sunday school, I was reminded of a dream I had last summer. I dreamed about Jesus' Second Coming. The next day I mentioned it to my Sunday school teacher Shelley, just offhand, not even thinking anything of it, just that it was a cool dream. She immediately emailed me back wanting to know the details; she said she thought it might have significance to what was happening at Grace Church. When she said that, I immediately knew she was right; I don't always have "spiritual" dreams (last night, for example, I dreamed of throwing rolls of toilet paper at people's heads!) but occasionally I do, and it turns out this was one of them.Here's the dream, as I described it in an email to Shelley on July 1:
In the dream, Cathy and I and John and Sheri (our friends who have been coming to Sunday School lately) were at a restaurant. I never knew what restaurant it was, even while I was dreaming it, and I don't remember what we were doing exactly (I don't remember us eating anything). My kids were not with us (not unusual, since they hang out with their Meme sometimes when we go out.) Suddenly in the middle of whatever we were doing, there was a loud BANG that I thought of at the time as a "sonic boom" but it was extremely loud and sharp, like a gunshot from a really high-power gun. Not like a long BOOOOOOOOM but like a short POW!!! that went right through us. I looked up, and I could clearly see the horizon as though there were no wall any more to the room we were in. Not looking out a window; just no wall. The sky was bright, although not painfully glaringly bright; I'd say morning-like, although there was no indication one way or another whether we had been at breakfast or up early. I remember fluffy white clouds. I do not remember seeing the sun or any sun rays, but the sky was definitely lit. Between the clouds and us, far in the distance, I could see Jesus. He was a cartoon character! He was flat like a cutout, and looked sort of like anime, although He was so far away that He was tiny and I couldn't make out too many details. He was smiling and very happy. He was not animated like a cartoon on TV; He was motionless, not even visibly getting nearer. The light in the sky did not appear to be coming from Him. I got SO excited when I saw Him that I was jumping up and down, and you know I'm not generally the jumping up and down type. And that was the end! I woke up excited and happy! In the dream there was no indication at all that the cartoon character was not actually Jesus, and although nothing else in the dream was a cartoon, it didn't seem strange to me at all at the time that He was a cartoon. In the dream I was definitely positive that it was Jesus Himself. The overall impression that I woke up was that Jesus is on the way, not any feeling of seeing a counterfeit Jesus or anything like that.
The interpretation that I received after praying about it had to do with the fact that we had been studying a book about how God should move in miracles in our daily life as a sign to unbelievers. Inspired by the Lakeland revival that was occurring at the time, we had been praying for a revival move of God at our church. The meaning of my dream was that when God moved, it was going to look totally different from what I expected... as different as the real Jesus would be from a cartoon character version of Him. The things that happened two weeks ago fit that bill... I would have never predicted that a move of God on our class would be quite like that one was. It was amazing! And the next time, I expect it will be more amazing and unexpected still. We serve a God of endless creativity; I can't wait to see how He will surprise me next!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sometimes It's Juuuuust Right

Sometimes worship just clicks. Sometimes you get into the service and the songs just seem right, and you feel how in love you are with God, and your voice seems to sing all the right notes, and you don't get distracted, and tears are streaming down your face and your heart is full and it's just amazing. Those are of course everybody's favorite kind of worship time, and I believe we should work hard to learn to do that every time if possible. Does that mean there's something wrong in times when it's too "easy" or too "hard" and you don't reach that place? Well, maybe, or maybe not. Maybe it's just that sometimes the Holy Spirit chooses to move in certain ways, and sometimes He chooses to move in other ways.

Actually, maybe the real deal is that we need to be ready to worship God in whatever way it comes. Maybe it's part of "being ready in season and out of season." One of the main things about sacrifices in the Old Testament was that they be perfect, pure. Lambs had to be spotless, no bones broken, nothing physically wrong with them at all. If praise and worship are to be one of our "sacrifices" that we offer to God, I would say that the main qualification is that the sacrifice is pure. Offer your worship with a pure heart, pure motives. I'm sure sacrificial lambs often got dusty on the walk to the Temple; sometimes we pick up crud in our daily lives too, and sometimes it's tough to shake. But God can see what's in your heart, and if your heart motive is pure, your sacrifice is pure. Even if you get the words wrong and sing the wrong notes. Even if you find yourself thinking about lunch buffets halfway through the last song. Even if you yawn during "Open The Eyes Of My Heart." Approach God with a pure heart, and when you get to the top of the mountain, He will be there to meet you!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sometimes It's Easy

Sometimes I get into worship and I'm SO excited! I sing, I shout, I even dance a little. Maybe I jump; we do that at our church and it's OK. I get so into the music! And then I realize something: I'm totally into the music, but I'm not really focusing on God like I think I should. Then I have to figure out what to do.

Do I keep jumping and dancing and singing? Do I stop, close my eyes and refocus? Do I quit entirely because it's a failed attempt at worshipping? Well, sometimes I do stop momentarily and try to refocus, but sometimes I refocus on the fly. Do you know why? Because if God didn't want us emptionally involved, He wouldn't have couched worship in music. Music is there for emotional manipulation of human beings, period. We can worship God with words only and no melody; I've done it lots of times. But God has ordained music: singing, musical instruments. They're all through the Bible. Sometimes I wonder if there is really a spiritual dimension to music itself, or if it's just the key that unlocks the door between human beings and God's spiritual reality.

7So I firmly believe that there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting emotionally involved with the worship music you are singing. But I do think if you allow yourself to be emotionally involved with the music only, you are on shaky ground, so when I find myself going there I make a great effort to focus my heart on what the music and lyrics are saying and not just the sounds themselves. I would say that if you are singing worship songs and enjoying the music, but your focus is not 100% where you would want it to always be, you are far better off than if you sat down and didn't participate. Yesterday my post talked about obedience; we worship partly out of obedience to God, and that is what the "sacrifice of praise" is. It's okay to enjoy the music! It's okay to have fun in the worship service. That's what music is for! But struggling shouldn't be part of it. If you're fully engaged in the song service but feel like you're struggling to get in touch spiritually with what's going on... sometimes it helps to just stop struggling. Participate with your whole heart in the music and remember what you're there for. Sometimes you'll find that God comes to you instead of you struggling to break the surface and get to Him!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sometimes It's Hard

Sometimes worship time is difficult for me. I get into church and sing along, but my mind is somewhere else. Someone hurt my feelings or did something that upset me... something is bothering me... there's something I need to do after church and don't want to forget... there's someone I'm looking for in the congregation. Sometimes I just can't focus for some inexplicable reason, and my mind keeps wandering. You would think that someone who has spent as many hours talking about worship, rehearsing worship, and doing worship as I have would have it all together by now and it would just snap in every time. No such luck. Some days I struggle just to remain interested enough to keep singing. And sometimes I find myself singing on auto-pilot, thinking about something totally different.

I've heard lots of people reference the verse that talks about the fruit of our lips being a "sacrifice of praise". I think maybe we take the word "sacrifice" in that verse into a modern context, when the Bible is an ancient book, and we really have to understand the context the writers were in. A sacrifice to them was not necessarily something difficult or painful (although for a poor person it probably sometimes was). Do you think it was painful for King David or King Solomon to give up a sheep? Ten sheep? A thousand sheep? Of course not. They had tons of stuff; sacrificing one sheep was not a painful thing for them. The sacrifice, to the ancient people, simply was something they brought to God out of obedience. It was worship.

If you're getting the idea that I'm saying it's OK to let your mind wander during worship, you're incorrect. God deserves our full attention and adoration. What I am saying is that if you bring your worship in obedience to God and offer it the best way you know how, to the best of your ability, I am positive that God still accepts it, even if you keep having to drag your sheep out of the bushes and back onto the road and away from something that's distracting him on the way to the temple!

Don't not worship because you think your worship isn't good enough. Keep trying. Keep focusing. The struggle isn't the "sacrifice"... the obedience is.

Monday, September 8, 2008

One Week Later

Yesterday was "Super Sunday" at Grace Church. We don't have Sunday night service every week, but about once a month we have a special speaker for the evening service, and that's Super Sunday. This time the speaker was Mario Murillo, who is a gifted evangelist and sort of a friend of our church. He spoke in both services, which is kind of unusual; usually Pastor Bob speaks in the morning as always and the guest speaks in the evening. Anyway, Mario was excellent; check out his messages on the church service audio page when they go up later this week!

But this post isn't about Mario; it's more about the follow-up to what happened to us last week. Again, I can only kind of tell my story; it wouldn't be fair or accurate for me to try to tell someone else's story too much. What God is doing is too multifaceted for that. But I do know what has been going on in my own heart.

Worship in both services was terrific; I would say it was comparable to the week before, although it did not end in the same unusual time of intercession as last week. In Sunday school instead of a "lesson" or a teaching time, we took the time to kind of "debrief" on what happened the week before. The class was packed; I think everybody wanted to see what was going to happen this time! What happened was that we talked about the events of the week before, kind of got everyone on the same page (because the events happened in service, in Sunday school, and later at Brad & Hayley's house, and even the Friday night before, not everyone knew what all had occurred, although there was no attempt to give a detailed account of every minute of what had happened). Some of us commented not only on the previous Sunday, but on what had happened in the week after. There seemed to be a general sense of being intent on making sure that this didn't stop on Sunday August 31, but that the experience we had there would make a difference in our everyday lives. I know I spent last week in some serious prayer times. My prayer life has been transformed; I pray with more fervor and more life than I think I ever have before. One person told me that the word "sustain" has kept coming up for him all week in conversations and everywhere he looks. Several people seem to have been kind of "buzzing" all week. One couple pretty much lost their desire to do much else other than spend time with God and fellowship with others from the group! Truly, the Sunday school class and the rest of WAM feels more like family now than ever; whenever we get together it has the feel of getting together with a big tight-knit family for a holiday.

A few people have experienced intense attacks already. One woman found out immediately after the second service last Sunday that a friend of hers had passed away, for example. I think other attacks are bound to come, but you know what? I think God steers us around the worst of it if we listen to the Holy Spirit.

We didn't suck carpet this week. But when we were speaking out in Sunday school about what God was doing in my life, and particularly when it was my turn to share, I could feel his presence begin to rise up in me. Oh man, He's not done yet. Mario Murillo's message in the evening service was about how "the best is yet to come." One of the other men in Sunday school shared that he believes that life in God is like a big tall building with elevators; you can go up to the second floor, but there are always higher levels... the third, fourth, fifth, and sixtieth! ... there are always higher levels to go to. We're on the way up!

Thursday, September 4, 2008


It could be argued that the fireworks that happened last Sunday actually started the Friday before (although there have been rumblings for some time). This summer in June, July and August, WAM set aside the last Friday night of each month as semi-private worship nights. Anyone was actually welcome, but private in the sense that it wasn't something publicly advertised to the rest of the church. The reason was that our leadership felt that we needed some time to worship and draw close to God not as worship leaders, but just as a team of worshippers (if you've ever tried to lead worship, you know that it's not really quite the same thing). Each of those nights has been powerful, and I believe each was a step toward where we are now and where we're headed.

This particular third WAM worship night, Cathy and I had brought our two kids along. The other two times they had stayed with their Meme, but this time we kept them with us. Mikey (the 8-year-old) was pretty good, mostly keeping quiet and either playing his Nintendo DS or joining in on the prayer time. Hannah, the 8-month-old, was kind of a different story. Of course you can't expect an infant to be silent! Most of the night I was holding her, keeping her plugged with a binky ("pacifier" to those of you who may be binky-impaired!), and just walking with her. I was participating in what was going on, but I was physically sort of separate most of the evening. Which was OK; I really felt impressed that Cathy needed the time to be involved without interruption. So I was praying along and praising along and whatever, and something kept coming to mind. As I worship God, I try to let my spirit flow out with things about God from the Word... "Lord, you are beautiful, and You are powerful. Lord, your presence is here to heal. Your presence is here to supply all of our needs according to Your riches in glory..." and on and on. Well, this night I kept saying "I am fearfully and wonderfully made." I couldn't even remember if that was actually a praise and worship Scripture. I couldn't even remember where in the Bible it was! But it kept coming up. Afterward I looked it up, and it turns out it is right in the middle of Psalm 139:
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. -Psalm 139:14
So it is a worship Scripture! I began to read through the rest of the passage, which is along similar lines, and I realized that although the rest of the passage is about "me" (about how God made "me" and about how I could never hide from the presence of God even if I wanted to), that is the first verse in that Psalm that begins with the word "I". And what does "I" do? I praise Him, but I don't just praise Him because I want to. I praise Him because "I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

Suddenly it struck me... I don't just praise Him because I think it's cool that I'm around. I praise Him because I am a fabulous, God-created creature, and one of the "wonderful" features that is built in to me is that I have the capacity to praise Him! How amazing is that? I praise Him not just because I like to, but because it is a primary function of me as a human being. When I praise God, I am doing something I am explicitly designed to do. Isn't that cool?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

August 31, 2008 AFTER Grace Church

(This is a followup to a previous post... if you haven't read that one you might want to check it out before reading this one. It'll make better sense that way.)

After I had brought the children back to the choir room and everyone had finished praying, a few people were still just visiting. My 8-year-old son Mikey loves to talk to people, and especially about spiritual things, and he started telling Shelley about a dream he had which he believed to be a spiritual dream. He based that belief on something I had said: when I remember a dream in vivid detail hours and days after I wake up from the dream, that's one thing that alerts me that it may be a spiritual dream. Anyway, Mikey's dream was about him trying to get through a life-sized maze, but he couldn't do it. Shelley told him basically that she believes that God is teaching Mikey at a very young age that Mikey can't do what God has for him to do without God's help. She also spoke a little bit about that anointing God has on Mikey's life. This wasn't an OOOOOO-SHALABABA heavy-duty IvegotawordfromGOOOHD type of time, but more like casual conversation... I'm not trivializing it because Shelley wouldn't say she believed God was showing her something if it wasn't true. I'm just characterizing the mood in the room at the time. It was all very conversational. Maybe God made it non-threatening for a kid's sake. Mikey doesn't scare easily when it comes to that sort of thing, but it might have been a distraction to him if it had happened a different way.

We left at the same time as the rest of the congregation, went home and changed clothes, called my parents to make sure they were OK (usually they are at the early service and pick up the kids after, but they had had a rough night and didn't come to church at all. They were fine), and then decided to grab some pizza at Cici's Pizza Buffet. We knew we were going to go over to Brad & Hayley's house that evening and frankly, we wanted to eat a whole bunch of pizza in the middle of the afternoon to cover lunch and dinner both so we wouldn't have to worry about it later! At Cici's I was at the buffet getting some pizza and a little girl in her Sunday dress came positively flying past me, and I spoke up to one of the girls who was working behind the buffet, telling her about something funny Robert had said to me at church... Robert's little granddaughter and her friend, who are both roughly Mikey's age, had been running around in the church sanctuary during our choir sound check. I said to Robert, they still run around like crazies even if you put them in a dress, huh? He said, I think that makes it worse because they can feel all the air up in there! So I was telling that to one of the young ladies working at Cici's, and she kind of grinned about it, and another one of the young ladies piped in and asked me what church I go to. I told her it is Grace Church, which used to be called Grace Fellowship (I usually sort of qualify for people who don't know about the name change). She asked what kind of church it is; I told her it's a "non-denominational" church. She said, I was asking because I go to an Adventist church and the name of it also has "Fellowship" in it.

I went back to my seat and told Cathy about it, and we decided that on our way out we would buzz by and invite her to hear Mario Murillo next week, so we did that. She told us she works on Sundays so she probably wouldn't be able to make it; Cathy mentioned the upcoming Saturday services to her and we went out. Unless the Holy Spirit creates some other opportunities for her, I doubt she'll ever come to Grace, but it is very unusual for me to feel comfortable inviting someone to church. I'm a very shy person and I don't like to "intrude" into people's "business". So for me to be that aggressive about something like that, and to feel comfortable while doing it, is honestly not too short of miraculous!

The afternoon for us was uneventful; Cathy took a little nap (and overslept, which made us a few minutes late to get to Brad & Hayley's house... D'OH!) and I just kind of hung out with Mikey. The kids went to Meme's house and we headed all the way down to 131st & Elm to pray with everyone. Cathy and I were discussing the evening prayer time last night; again, it's hard to remember exactly all that happened. First we spent some time talking about some of the things that had happened that morning. Linda spoke up about something that had been on her heart, and we all gathered around her and prayed about that situation, and then Hayley put on some music that she said had been recorded in a meeting where the Holy Spirit was just sort of flowing. It was very repetitive, soothing music, and it was perfect for the time that came next... a time of "soaking" in the presence of God. I spent the whole time sitting on the floor, which is kind of where I like to be when the Holy Spirit is moving. Not "eating carpet" but sitting or sometimes kneeling. I sat there and just relaxed in God's presence. My body actually felt a little bit tense, but it was from the physical exertion that morning plus a lack of sleep in the days before; my spirit was at peace.

After our time of "soaking" Shelley spoke up and reminded us of the word Jerry had given that morning... that if we would spend the time from then until midnight releasing to God long0standing things that have stood in our way, starting at midnight for the next three days God would work those things out for us. So we spent the next little bit of time in prayer "releasing" those things that had been hindering us. Now, this was all very personal time, not really human to human, but human to God. I don't think I spoke to anyone the whole time until Cathy came up to me. She walked up and hugged me very tightly like she had that morning backstage when everyone was still praying after the first service, and then she spoke some things that are personal about goals we haven't been able to reach as a couple, very personal things about herself, and some very personal things about me... in fact, she hit some things on the head about me that I wasn't even aware of myself until she said them. We have been married for nine years, and until now I have never heard her speak to me or anyone the way she did Sunday night, even when she was speaking by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. She was very direct, very articulate in a way that she usually isn't, and frankly, she seemed totally broken before God. I didn't say anything back; she didn't require an answer. It wasn't time for me to talk to her; it was time for God to talk to me and her, through her. It was just a minute or two, but it's my most vivid memory of the eveining.

After that we prayed for several people, and some of it doesn't belong in a public forum and some of it I wasn't close enough to be totally privy to so I'm going to be a little bit vague here. One particularly intense episode was when we prayed for someone who was dealing with some family issues in her past. At one point I walked out of the living room and out onto the porch (in my socks... most of us had taken off our shoes in the entryway, which was fine by me because it was comfy) to call my mom and dad and ask if it was okay that we stay a little bit longer (Mom said it was fine), and as I walked through the areas between the living room and the porch, everywhere I looked there were people on the floor praying. It was the most awesome experience! I felt positively honored to be in a house full of so many people who were desperately seeking God's will for them. Many people never get to have that kind of experience.

Eventually Shelley said "Well, let's seal this up," and everyone came back into the living room and got in a circle holding hands (a couple of people weren't holding hands because they were still praying about something else, but they were inside the circle too). We continued praying, and then Chris began to sing something and we joined in with that, and there were several more words from God that came forth. I have to apologize for not remembering the content of those very well; I believe that they were for the moment, they had the impact on us that they needed to have, and whether I can remember the words or not, they did what they were supposed to do.

After that, as I remember it, things kind of came down and people began to trickle out. There was a lot of visiting on the way out and talking about what had happened. Cathy and I left and went to pick up the kids (actually we just left Mikey sleeping, so he stayed over, but we took sleepyhead Hannah home), talking all the way. You would think we would be so excited that we wouldn't be able to sleep, but in actuality we were too pooped to NOT sleep. Once we got in bed and shut our yappers, I think we were both out pretty quickly.

As a postscript... Monday we didn't particularly do much; we mostly kind of rested. But this morning when I got up I had a task in mind. I ride the bus to work, and when I miss my regular bus there is a second route that is close enough to walk to that leaves about 15 minutes later. Twice when I've missed the bus and went for the backup plan, I've wound up waiting for the bus with a man named David who is there because the bus goes by the VA clinic, and from the VA clinic there is a bus that will take him to Oklahoma City to the VA hospital. He has throat cancer; keeps asking me if I know anyone who smokes, and "tell them to stop it!" I haven't ever prayed for him; I've been really intimidated by people and I seldom just reach out like that. This morning I decided that I was going to take my hands that God has anointed with power, miss my bus on purpose, and see if I could run into my friend at the bus stop. I spent the walk to the stop in prayer, not specifically for him but for all of us, whether we had been in Sunday school or at the evening time or even the congregation members who had just been in the services (which in themselves had been phenomenal!) to be strengthened against the attacks which surely would come from the powers of darkness. And I prayed specifically for myself that I would not lose ground but that I would keep whatever ground I had gained in one whirlwind day, and move on from there to even more incredible things by the Spirit of God.

I got to the bus stop. David wasn't there.

So was all that faith wasted? No, it was not! I believe that the faith I released in seeking out a meeting with him to pray for him and invite him to church was not at all wasted, and that he will see the fruit of that somehow. I can't miss the bus on purpose every day... that wouldn't be honest dealings with my employer... but I can believe that laborers will reach him, and the next time I do accidentally miss the bus, if he's there, I can follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit and do what I knew the first time I met him I should have done... lay hands on him and pray for his healing. And invite him to church. Maybe that will happen this week; I don't know.

The miracle, for me, is that I was willing. I was totally, 100% ready to lay hands on a stranger and pray for his healing. Without reservation. That is as much a change in me as growing back a finger would be. I've been praying for that boldness to come on me for months now, and it is finally here. All I have to do is remain plugged in to the power source, and I believe God will finish the work in me that he has begun.

And I believe the same for WAM, the not-officially-WAM people who were involved Sunday, and the whole church body at Grace. I'm so excited! I can't wait for Wednesday night and next Sunday!

Monday, September 1, 2008

August 31, 2008 at Grace Church

Yesterday was a wild and crazy day for Grace Church, particularly in the Worship Arts Ministry ("WAM" which consists primarily of the worship leaders, choir and band). I think there are as many perspectives on what has happened and what is happening as there are people who were involved, but I'll give my perspective. Maybe I can get Cathy to post hers on here later, too!

(I'm going to name people's first names here if they are relevant and if it's not something personally embarrassing to them. I'm not going to give last names. You members of my WAM family, if your name appears here and you are embarrassed by it, email me or call me and I'll take if off immediately.)

At Grace we have two roughly identical Sunday morning services, one at 8:30 and one at 11:15, with about an hour in between for Sunday school classes. The song set is the same, the message is the same... the only thing different in theory is the people in the congregation. In practice, with different people and at a different time of day, and since God knows every person in the congregation and what they need to receive from Him, the services are sometimes radically different. This particular morning, worship in the first service was an incredible experience... and not just for us on the stage. People we talked to in the congregation had similar stories to tell. The atmosphere was positively charged with the presence of God. At the end of the last song, something happened that is rather unusual... the band quit playing, and the whole congregation was praying out loud in tongues. I don't remember hearing anyone singing at all; just speaking. There was a brief misstep when a video got played while we were still praying; I think maybe it was supposed to occur on Pastor's signal or something. At any rate, it didn't seem to stop the flow of prayer from the people. We prayed for maybe a minute or so after the video, maybe not quite that long, and then Pastor came out and moved on to the next thing.

Once the music is over, the people in WAM exit the stage to a hallway in the back, and then we are free to go to our seats in the congregation for the message, or after the second service, most of us go home (we've heard the message already at that point). Since I stand on the back row on stage and usually near the end of the row, by the time I get down there, the hallway is usually mostly clear of people. Not this time. When I got back there, I saw my wife Cathy with Stacy (her buddy from praise team), and also Amy and Mike (not Amy's husband). I also saw Shelley, who is a very intense spiritual leader in WAM, on the floor. She told all of us later that she basically was just glad she could make it off the stage and onto her face back there. She was praying in intercession, and she was pretty loud. The others were in prayer as well. I kept praying myself, but I wasn't really tuned in to what was going on so much. Cathy came over and hugged me tightly. I actually wondered if our friend and co-member of the choir who is in the hospital, Jimmy, had taken a turn for the worse or died! He hadn't; they were just praying. Cathy and Stacy and I, who had saved seats for ourselves together, left after a few minutes and went into the service, but we found out later that Shelley and Mike and the other Mike (who is married to Amy) and Amy went back into the choir room, where our choir director Cheray had gone and was playing softly on the piano. They were there for the rest of the service praying.

After first service at Grace, we have tons of Sunday school classes. There is an informal Sunday school class in the choir room; it's not part of the official Sunday school curriculum, so we are free to study about worship or read the same book the "regular" classes are reading, or just pray. It is mostly attended by members of WAM, but others are very welcome and WAM members are also very welcome to attend other Sunday school classes instead. This morning when we got to class, Shelley was intense still (remember, she and a few others had been praying during the whole rest of the service, probably something like an hour doing what Shelley described as "eating carpet"). She said that what she wanted to do during Sunday school time (she's the teacher of the class) was to continue in prayer and see what God wanted to do for us. What occurred after we started praying I think maybe if we all got together in a room we could map out a timeline, but I honestly only remember it as kind of a series for vignettes. I remember that we started out basically sitting in our circle of chairs, like we do every week. We were praying and praying. I remember that I started physically experiencing the power of God in a way I haven't before; always before when I've sensed the presence of God as a physical sensation, it felt kind of like electricity, like a vibration. This time I felt that, but I also felt something else; I felt the power of God in my hands. It felt like a tingle, like when you sleep on your hands or arms and they get numb. Now I'm no Oral Roberts and I don't think I need to buy a tent and set up healing revival meetings, but I think God was telling me that I need to not be afraid to put my hands on people and pray for them. It was positively like He was saying, I've anointed these hands to work for me. The same hands that are typing these words right now. I found out later that not only had Cheray also felt the power of God in her hands during that time, but Brad had also. I also had another sensation that Brad described later; I felt the presence of God in the part of my body where my stomach is. It was not uncomfortable at all, but if I hadn't known it was the presence of God I might have wondered if I was going to throw up. Have you ever seen a special effect in a movie or on TV where they superimpose what looks like a galaxy in someone's stomach to show that something supernatural is happening? That was what it seemed like in my mind's eye. A very strange sensation.

Anyway, I felt the power of God in my hands, and I looked down at them... I don't really know why. I don't know if I expected them to look different somehow, but they looked totally normal. But I just wanted to make sure I didn't disrespect and misuse the anointing that I felt God had put there, so I tried to listen really closely to the Holy Spirit inside of me to make sure I put my hands and that anointing on whoever God wanted to touch through me. The first person I touched was Cathy. I grabbed her hand and held it; later she told me that my hand felt warm. After that I got up and walked to another part of the room, and immediately after that Shelley called on Cathy, who had been on my right before I got up, to pray for and speak over Mike (Amy's husband), who had been on my immediate left. It was like a chess game where I was moved out of the way so that Cathy could make the move she needed to make! When she (and a couple of others) started praying for Mike I came and put one of my hands on him as well. Cathy had some pretty interesting things to say to Mike; we didn't know until later just how relevant those words were. But that story is Cathy's and Mike's to tell.

After that as I continued to pray, I walked around a little (I've always been a pacer, and especially when I'm praying) and touched several people, usually not even as a "laying hands on" gesture but just casually shaking a hand or whatever. I remember at one time squeezing Silvia's hand the whole time Jerry (Shelley's husband) was giving a word from God for the whole group. Someone called me over to put my hand on I think it was Christina's back while she was being ministered to; I actually put one hand on her and the other on a guy who was there who isn't in the choir who happened to be sitting next to Christina at the moment (he got ministered to formally by someone a few minutes later).

A while later Shelley called on all of the men who were present to come into the middle of the circle of chairs and begin to pray together. When we grabbed hands and began to pray it was an incredibly intense time in that little circle! Brad, who is very sensitive to the Holy Spirit and who spent a good bit of the morning (both in Sunday school and in the main service!) "eating carpet", was basically being held up by the circle... I had Mike on my left hand, and I was pulling on him and he was pulling on me because Mike was holding up Brad. Someone was on the other side of Brad, and Jerry was on the other side of that person, and Jerry was about to fall down too! Brad was leaning backwards, Jerry was leaning to his right, and the rest of the men were not letting them fall down. It struck me as a cool example of us giving each other strength in ministry. My prayers during that time were something about strengthening us as strong soldiers for the Kingdom. All of a sudden Brad sort of pitched into the circle and began laying hands on the guys. I grabbed him around the chest to hold him up while he was doing it; the other guys were holding both of us up or I wouldn't have been able to stand up either. Brad was just almost not supporting his own weight at all. Later Brad said that I kept putting his hands on each person, but I need to tell him the next time I see him that I actually wasn't doing that! I had both hands around his chest. I don't think anyone else was moving his hands either; I didn't see anyone touching his arms. I think the Spirit of God, or an angel, was moving his arms!

Brad laid hands on all of us, or almost all of us (I'm not quite sure if he touched everyone; I think he did), and then we let him collapse into a chair, and then put him on the ground so he wouldn't fall out of the chair. He laid there on the ground on his side with one foot on the ground and the other food about 12 inches away from it, up in the air. :) After that I just remember praying and praying. Then I remember noticing that it was almost time to go, and I was afraid that we wouldn't make it out to the stage without help, so I went to look for Elizabeth, the worship arts director at Grace, to come get us. Elizabeth had been busy with some other responsibilities of hers; later Cheray told her what had occurred and she was like, oh MAN why wasn't I THERE!!! :) Anyway, she was nowhere to be found, so I came back to the choir room. Shelley and Cheray were aware that it was time to go out, but they weren't aware of much more... they were so deep into the Spirit that neither one of them could really walk very well. But they said let's go out, and I put an arm around Cheray so she wouldn't fall and got her moving her feet, and I think someone else propped up Shelley, and we all got out to the backstage hallway somehow (Rhonda came up on the other side of Cheray at one point, so that helped; I'm glad Cheray didn't fall because I wasn't sure I could find an... ahem... "appropriate" way to catch her if she did!)

So we all got to the hallway, and we went up to the stage. I remember Cheray was mostly just standing there for the first few songs, sort of leaning on the music stand, then she started to become more coherent and started to direct us a bit, and by the end she was "sobered up" and didn't have any trouble getting off the stage. I didn't see how Shelley managed to get up onto the stage, but she was there. Some people later reported hearing angels during that service; all I remember was I was so charged up that I was singing as loud as I could and still be able to call it "singing," and I wasn't sticking out at all. The whole worship service seemed so LOUD! It was like a roar the whole time! By the end I was totally spent; the whole morning wore me completely out physically. We left the stage (that service had ended similarly with a time of speech prayer and no singing in the Spirit at all, and this time there were two words of prophecy as well) and went on to the choir room. What generally happens after the second service is that people go to the choir room to pick up Bibles, purses, whatever we had with us that we had left back there during the song service. Usually there is a little bit of chatter and laughing and sometimes there is a SHUSH! or two because we are right next to the sanctuary with just a little bit of acoustic insulation and a wooden door separating us from the service. Today, though, it was the most unusual thing... there must have been twenty people who just walked in there, sat down, and didn't say a single thing. I think we were so overwhelmed by what had happened that morning. We sat there for several minutes, not saying a word, then Shelley quietly spoke up and said that Hayley and Brad had extended an invitation to everyone to come over to their house that evening to pick up where we were leaving off. After that we prayed for Jimmy who is in the hospital, and then we started praying for people who were in the room and some people who weren't. I went over and picked up our two kids and came back and they were STILL praying! By the time we finished and left the room, the service was over and the congregation was leaving too!

There's more to tell... a conversation Shelley had with my 8-year-old son Mikey when we got back to the choir room, what happened at Cici's Pizza that afternoon, and especially what happened that evening at Brad & Hayley's house... but honestly, my anointed hands hurt and I need a break. Stay tuned and I'll blog the rest in another post!

(Click here for the followup post about that afternoon and evening)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hollywood Screenwriter Comes to Christ

I saw this article mentioned on Theophiles and thought it was interesting enough to mention here as well:
Joe Eszterhas' latest book is a shocker, but not the kind that made him rich and famous. The upcoming release from the man who penned dark thrillers such as Basic Instinct and Jagged Edge tells the story of his spiritual conversion and his newfound devotion to God and family.
Click here for entire article

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


All of my gains now fade away
Every crown no longer on display
Here in Your Presence

I never knew that my wife was such a fan of the Olympics until this year. Maybe it was because our 8-year-old son has been taking (and excelling at) swimming lessons, and then there was all the hoopla with Michael Phelps (which, admittedly, was pretty cool!) And how about that opening ceremony, huh? Dazzling! I've never been one for watching Olympics coverage; to me it always seems like watching random sportscasts from every sport in existence. You just turn it on and hope to heaven that it's not, I don't know, Olympic paint peeling-watching or something. But it is inspiring to watch those people, some young adults and some not more than children (and a few who are not as young!) who have worked SO hard for years and years, finally get the medals they have worked for. Then they get up on their podium and get to wear the reward, the fruit of their labors, and listen to the anthem of their country. There are few times in this day and age, at least for the U.S., when patriotism takes center stage like it does during the Olympics.

Well, the whole thing ended Sunday, and on Sunday morning during our worship service we sang a song called "Here In Your Presence" (partial lyrics and a YouTube video of it are posted above). It's loosely based around Revelation 4, the passage where the elders all throw down their crowns and fall on their faces in the presence of the Almighty God. In the presence of the flag of the United States of America, we stand proud and show everyone our accomplishments. In the presence of the God of the Universe, everything we have ever accomplished, everything that has ever brought us commendations or rewards, means nothing to us because we can see how great and how worthy of praise God is.

God doesn't want to take away our rewards for doing good. Who do you think gave the elders the crowns? And if you look at the passage in Revelation, particularly verses 9 and 10, it certainly appears that the elders are throwing away their crowns multiple times, which means that they have retrieved them in between sessions. The crowns are, to all appearances, theirs to keep. But when you get in the presence of God, crowns don't mean anything. Money and possessions and power and accolades... they just don't really seem to matter too much. All that matters when you are in the presence of God is that you are with Him.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Something Remarkable

Yesterday I was listening to Galatians Chapter 2 on my MP3 player and I got to verses 15-16:
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
Can you imagine what it must have been like to have been an all-star in your religion from childhood, knowing all the ins and outs of how it worked and becoming a leader who was so zealous that he would even physically exterminate those of conflicting belief, and then to have an experience that was so powerful that you would completely make a 180° turn and become a member of the religion that you had killed the members of before? To actually preach that the things you used to think would bring you close to God were in actuality not capable of doing that? Paul had clearly experienced something very powerful. He had no reason to leave Judaism, where he was already superstar clergy, and join what (from the perspective of Jewish leadership) amounted to a cult... and not a "safe" little cult, but one that was being actively persecuted by both religious and political authority. It would be like the Pope becoming a Mormon or Billy Graham embracing Islam (although neither of those groups is currently experiencing anything like the persecution the early Church was experiencing). Paul was a thoroughly-educated man, an intelligent man, a highly devout man... and he believed in Jesus. If he was ready to risk his life for Christ, what about you and me? How ready are we?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Why Read Isaiah?

In Acts chapter 8 there is a story of a man, an "Ethiopian Eunuch," who is reading the book of Isaiah and is supernaturally visited by Philip, who explains to him that the passages are about Jesus. Recently I was listening to this chapter in audio form and I wondered something. Why was this guy reading Isaiah in the first place? He said himself that he didn't have any idea what it meant:
...Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?”
Not only was the Ethiopian reading Isaiah, he was reading it out loud. Now, most Christians I know don't do much muddling around in the Old Testament. I imagine I've spent more time there than most, but even I don't just sit and read Biblical prophecy out loud to myself when I don't understand it at all. And yet here's a guy who is reading Biblical prophecy, to himself, out loud, without knowing what it meant, and knowing that he could not understand it unless someone explained it!

Why would someone do that? I can't say that I can read the Ethiopian's mind, but I can hazard a couple of guesses:
  1. The text was beautiful to read. Some sections of prophecy are, I understand, written in poetry in the original languages, and even in English, Isaiah 53 (the chapter he was reading) is quite beautiful to read. Maybe he was a lover of poetry.
  2. Maybe he actually understood more than the book of Acts lets on. This passage is widely understood to be about Messiah, and was even then. Maybe the Ethiopian knew it was about Messiah but couldn't understand what it meant about Messiah.
  3. Maybe the Ethiopian was a believer in God and had such a desire to know about God that he was just plowing through, hoping that something would stick for him, even though most of it was just looking like black words on a white page.
My money is on #1 and #3, but #1 specifically because otherwise why would he read it out loud? I think he was enjoying the beauty of the passage. Is it bad to read the Word for aesthetics's sake? I don't think so. The Word is "food" for a believer, yes, but when we eat, we enjoy the flavor of our food, don't we? If God wanted it to be only about meaning and never about beauty, He would not have inspired guys like David to write pages and pages of poetry, and Jesus would probably have not delivered a lot of his teaching in entertaining story format (A LOG in someone's EYE??? hehe!!) I appreciate my ESV so much partly because the translators worked hard to balance fidelity to the originals with beauty in English... or, rather, they sought to preserve the beauty and character present in original languages when they brought it across into English.

Read your Bible today. And don't just read it for meaning alone. Read it for meaning, but while you're getting the meaning that God is speaking to you through the text, enjoy it. If you don't enjoy it, stop by a bookstore and look into an ESV or some other translation that makes it a joy for you to read. Make it part of your life, like the Ethiopian was doing. God has provided it for you to enjoy!

Friday, June 6, 2008


Like a lot of the Christian world, my wife and I have been checking out the broadcasts of the Lakeland revival meetings with great interest. Actually, just this week we started checking out the broadcasts for the first time... they've been going on for I think nearly 2 months now. At first I was cautiously skeptical, but I definitely do believe that God is moving in that big old tent!

A week or two ago our friend Shelley sent us some links to a series of articles about a corresponding meeting that is happening in South Carolina. I think they are fascinating! They have a lot to say about the history of revival, how to maintain and sustain it, and how to not let it roll over your church afterward. Here are direct links to all of the parts so far:

The History and Future of the Present Revival
Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8 - Part 9

(By the way... Shelley is in that tent in Florida as I write this! Those of us who know her laid hands on her before she went... she and the other two ladies with her are our point of contact. We are expecting God to be able to use them to bring the revival back with them when they return!)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Video action - in my home

Hey, that's my pastor in the corner
He's wearing shades like James Dean
Rent or buy
They've got Chariots of Fire
And every flick I've ever seen

I shouldn't rent that James Bond movie
My conscience wouldn't leave my heart alone
R and X - you can't tell the difference
Maybe I can find some Sherlock Holmes

Video action
Video action
Near my home

from the song "Video Action" recorded by DeGarmo & Key in 1986

In my almost 38 years on this planet, I've noticed a trend. Things that used to be swear words are not swear words any more. When I was a kid, "crap" was a major Wirty Dird, and now it's the "clean" thing Christians say when they get frustrated instead of saying a "real" swear word. When I was a kid, "dang it" was what you said to keep from saying the "other" d-word... now the other one seems pretty commonplace. Now, I'm of a bit of a liberal mindset about swear words... I believe that the sin is not the word you choose to speak, but the anger or hatred or whatever is behind it... but it's disturbing to be that language has changed that way.

Last night I watched Raiders of the Lost Ark with my 8-year-old. We have a special DVD player from Clearplay that allows me to blank out violence, profanity, etc (click here to read about it)... although it does chop up Raiders a bit in some spots (watch it yourself and think about how gory some parts of it are) it was refreshing to not have to let my little boy hear Karen Allen say "I'm your g-d PARTNER!" But it got me thinking about swearing and how it has become so prevalent in even the politest culture. Even movies that people my age look on with fondness as "kid movies"... take E.T. for example... have swear words in them. Back then you wouldn't hear that kind of language on television... now you might hear it anywhere. Why is that?

Back when E.T. and Raiders were made, you actually went to the movie theater to see a movie. The VCR was a relatively new invention; DVDs were not anywhere near on the horizon yet. Even cable TV was still a little wet behind the ears, although HBO had been around for something like ten years by that time. By and large, I don't think cussing was something most people did in their living rooms; it was something they did in traffic, in bars, with their friends maybe, but yer grandma didn't do it because she wasn't really exposed to it. And movies did it because they weren't in your living room; they were in a movie theater. But when those same movies started to become available to take home and play in your living room, it brought the same moral lapses... profanity only one of them... into your house. Once they're there, they're part of your life and they become the norm. And suddenly kindergarteners know the F-word and aren't afraid to use it.

I would be stupid to try to blame the decline of western civilization on the VCR... things like that only bring out the darkness that's in our own sinful hearts already anyway. But it seems to me that it's made it possible for Hollywood to bring their version of reality much closer to being true.

(By the way, check out that Clearplay link... we love our player. I wouldn't have watched Raiders with my boy without it.)