Change

It’s something many people do not appreciate. On my way home from work, I was thinking about how the choir at my old church sang with a very heavy alto because there had been no change in the choir and had lost soprano members. But altos seem to outlast soprano.

There are always changes happening. If we don’t have change of something new, we experience the inevitable change of decay as things get old. Change is like weather. Weather makes our world fresh and new by precipitation and also breaks it down by erosion. Our world is not very unlike us: it is subjected to futility, and the unchanging nature of change.

We who seek to preserve constancy in this world will find it to be hardly a passive battle. The ground will keep waxing old, and we will need to dig for new fruits. The one who builds a house will need to maintain it or it will change to corruption. The one who tries to be faithful to his word will find he needs to sacrifice to keep it true.

One principle of how change works I realized on my way home from work. I will share it in parts and then as a whole.

Before change, something is okay,

Because of the principle that all is decaying, if something has been the same for a while, it is probably out of date or expired. To simply do things a certain way because you have always done them thus you will find things achieve mediocrity speedily.

but after change things get worse

Transition means that parts of the problems grown in situations left unattended by good leadership need to be cut out so that the good can be grown. It will get worse first.

So that things can get better than before

But if all the dead weight is cut out, and new vigor about the new ideas is infused (and they are good ideas) Then things will improve. Even here, this will not happen naturally.

Under a good leader.

Here’s where Trust, Integrity, Wisdom, and Value and a whole other host of dynamics come in. We who resist change are often seeking to preserve our own value both of ourselves and the things that matter most to us. What we seek is a leader who has the integrity to stay true to his word, who has the heart to recognize the things we value, and has the wisdom to cultivate them skillfully.

I believe change is a risk and what determines whether the risk is a good one or not, is if the leader is a good one or not. If he is good, if he is on the Lord’s side, if he is a servant, and is carrying his cross, trust him and follow him. If he is not on the Lord’s side, beware the effects of the changes that come.

E.M. Bounds said, “Men are looking for better methods. God is looking for better men.”

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The Sun of God’s Love

How bright the Sun is shining always!
It keeps the earth alive, renewed.
That even when the storms are raging,
And thunder rolls like hammers crude,

Still constant burns life-giving love
To sift the seasons of our souls,
And storms that rage against our surface,
Cannot deny this central truth:

He is mighty in the open sky
The heavens round him circle,
That when it’s gone, small evidence’s fly
And dazzle the eye with new emotion.

The weight of glory bends all time
To circle us around his globe
That we being pulled in the vortex of God’s love
May sustainably run across the empty universe.

The planets wobble and shatter to asteroids,
Still the Sun remains.
Though the world fall to pieces and all life crash down,
Still God’s love will keep us in orbit.

The darkness of night, and the shadows of storms
Beat against the surface with its bitter cold,
Still there is a love beyond our own making
Which holds the life for a thousand worlds.

How majestic and radiant the love of God!
It changes the very nature of the heavens,
It casts its generous heat all around,
And only a fraction reaches this planet.

Eclipses cannot Eclipse the weight of his glory,
And the Sun is but a shape.
In contrast God’s love takes all shapes
And makes them good according to his purpose.

O love of God, all life is in you,
How can I but rejoice in your light.
Apart from you I die,
I cannot see, nor can I feel.

But all this I rejoice that You, O God,
Have given me many ways to see it.
Forgive my stubbornness to be blind
And my fear which does not trust how good You are.

Opinions and Truth

Everyone has an opinion.
Few hold the truth.
I know where to find it,
But it’s very hard to get there.
Mainly because it’s where I have no power
Only accountability
Only a glaring ugliness of all the lies I love

Opinions muck up the works
The Truth brings simplicity
Few know it when they hear it
But it’s very hard to ignore
Mainly because of it’s quiet immovable power
It is only submitted to His authority
He who loves me, and hates my proud Babylons

I am tired of opinions
My heart aches for truth
Where can I find it?
It’s worth the difficult search
Mainly because it can give me the power
To face my accountability
For the problems in my life that are really my own fault.

Oh God, I submit my opinions
I yearn to be shaped by Your truth
Can you find me?
Am I worth the search
Mainly because You have given me the power
To be accountable for your Truth
To the one who loves me more than all my failures.

Humility and Pride

I would like to introduce a way of thinking about the human composition. I understand that to discuss humanity is a grand subject unworthy of such oversimplification, but I hope you will forgive the philosophical implications of this picture. I’d like to view the soul, the heart, the mind, and the body at four levels. The deepest level is the soul and that is the essence of who we are, where the spirit lives and moves in and out. The second level up is the heart, where it is deeper than thoughts, though the thoughts can try to express it, it is the place where all stored information from the mind resides sub-consciously and cultivates emotion and mood and temper. The next level up is the mind, where thoughts are understood in a conscious sense, information is taken in and formed together into the simplest and most complex interpretations, often in an environment created by the heart, which assumes it’s stance of being at the soul and spiritual level. The Top level is the surface where the body is, where our mouths intake food and output words. Where our mouths breathe, and where our hearts pump life, and where our minds control us consciously and unconsciously to act. So there you have this pattern: four levels. Topmost is body, second is mind, third is heart, and fourth is soul.

Two other features of this pattern, I give you: The Spirit moves through all of them. The spirit moves through the body as energy to act, it moves through the mind as inspiration, it moves through the heart as emotion, it moves through the soul as the life principle that animates the whole  being. The Will is also something that moves and, if you will directs, the spirit where it decides to go. It is an elevator that reaches down to the level of the soul. It reflects the state of being just as it also reflects the state of the heart, and of the mind, and is visible in the human body.

These attributes, these building blocks can be seen as making up the human person. Now, I’m sure we can all think of other attributes that could be added to this basic 6 part composition, but I want to make a point about pride and humility.

C.S. Lewis is quoted to believe that the fundamental sin at the root of all other sins is Pride. I was in Starbucks talking with my wife and the man who was best man at my wedding, and he said, “I’ve always wanted to understand that emotion better.” “Pride? An emotion?” I said to him. I understood that pride is a matter of the heart, but it goes deeper than the heart in this word picture above us. Sometimes it’s frustrating when different cultures put the seat of the emotions at different places. In English it’s in the chest, in Hebrew it’s in your intestines, where will you put it next?

The point that my friend was bringing up, and I think it’s a valid one, is that pride is something deeper than the thought, and I agree with him. He and I are likely descended from the kings of Ireland and Scotland respectively, which doesn’t seem to matter to me all that much, since we are all descendant from the first King, Adam, but anyhow. Pride is a fundamental problem of sin. And even if you’re a King, or a knave, a prince or a pauper, a scoundrel or a scholar, you still can let pride rule your heart, because it is seated deeper than your emotions.

That’s exactly the point I want to make here. Pride is central. You can Stand haughtily like you’re high and mighty, that doesn’t make you proud. You can think grandiose thoughts of yourself that doesn’t make you proud. You can feel about yourself a sense of self-sufficiency in appreciation or deprecation of yourself, that doesn’t make you proud. All of those are symptoms of your pride. Your pride is at the level of your soul. It’s the impulse we have to crawl off the altar upon which we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. It’s the living principle of self-serving that naturally refuses the submission of the will to God. Pride is more formidable than any other state of being except one. Pride is more sturdy than confidence, more insistent than anger, more devious than mistrust. It twists the noble sword of truth into a dagger of division. It kindles a flame on the tongue that ignites the course of our lives according to our own being, rather than based on God’s own being. The Lust of the Flesh, the Lust of the Eyes, and the Pride of Life. These three, but the deepest of these is Pride. Lust of the flesh and lust of eyes are like two greedy hands feeding this impudent self-destroyer at the core of each of our very beings.

Pride is the opposite of humility, but even if humility is not grasped at the deepest level, pride can swing humility by the tail. Humility is pride’s sack-cloth it wears whenever it feels the need of ingratiating that part of all human beings where God intended for us to reserve our devotion and fealty to Him. Pride needs only an inch, and he can live in out-right rebellion against God. All Satan, the Proud One, needs in us, is the tiniest ledge—the smallest shadow he can hide in, and he will succeed in marring the glorious image of a holy God stamped on each one of us.

As I sat there with my friend talking about how Pride can be beaten. I wrote down this phrase on my phone when I went to use the bathroom: “Perhaps the will is the only vehicle that can deliver the nuclear blow of humility to the deeply subconscious and central issue of pride.” If the Will is like the Spirit and it can be like an elevator to all four levels of a person’s being (assuming again, my word picture is a good one) Can Humility be a choice of the Will?

Well let’s think for a moment. The Will is like the steering wheel for our whole life. If we don’t have much strength of will, it simply means we do not have much grip on the steering wheel, but we each and all have one. The Will is the place of decision. The Will Moves with resolve in action, in mental affirmation, in heart solemnization and soul “becoming.” The Will can deliver true humility to that deepest level.

Now, some of you, who I’m sure have already thought this out, may say to me, “Ah ha . . . but if you by your own will choose humility at the level of your soul, aren’t you able to take pride in that?” Well, I suppose so, if that’s what you were deciding. It’s not a serpent eating it’s tale though. It’s not a never ending cycle. All the soul needs is to choose to love God. How do I know?

Because in Numbers chapter 21, the people were complaining out of pride, so God sent serpents among them. By the way, He says in Deuteronomy that this whole time He has them in the wilderness is to test what is in their hearts. Deuteronomy 8:2, says, “You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” So what is he doing here in Numbers 21? He sends the serpents among them to test them, to humble them, to see if they had a heart to keep His commandments. And what was the test? All they had to do was look at the serpent that was lifted up. That’s all they had to do. “Look!” Look! It is perhaps the most profound and simple movement of the body, but that’s not what saves a person. It is perhaps the most passive thing a mind can do to take in the information of a snake on the pole, but that’s not what saves a person. It’s perhaps the slightest nudge inside a person’s emotions against the organ of their acceptance, but that is not what saves a person. What saves a person, is the disposition, the humility to seek to see their salvation from the same hand of the one who afflicted them for example. It is the humility to seek salvation in God, not claim it for yourself. Humility gives it’s life at every level. Pride keeps back some part of it for himself.

To write about Pride is to do it an injustice. It doesn’t deserve this much attention, but because he has already done so much damage, I don’t need to convince you that it exists. You may need some convincing that it is in you. I know I did. I have a healthy dose of the most unhealthy disease every man suffers from.

So how do we choose humility? What hope can we take that Pride is not incurable? Fear God is the beginning of wisdom. Fear God is to depart from Evil. Fear God keeps us from evil. Fear God is man’s all. Fear God is the antidote for pride. At least it abates it for a time, the way light abates a shadow. But should that flame ever flicker and die down, the shadows of pride will enshroud the soul evermore until the day when the Devil and all his works are totally and completely cast down. Fear God is the beginning.

This is an attitude of the Will, to transfer this Fear of God to all levels of our humanity. At the surface it is seen in obedience to God, and physical posture of submission before Him, and words which reverence Him. Fear God at the level of the mind is occupying every thought with him, seeking him and knowing Him. At the heart level, it is loving Him, and rejoicing in Him; thanking Him. To Fear God is for that fantastic word –which post-modern Christianity has all but retired—piety to permeate every part and parcel of us until we are no longer parts but we are one whole living in the Fear of God.

If any of you would give objection to this saying, “There is no need to fear God now that we have the Cross and Jesus Christ.” Or say, “’There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear,’ doesn’t the Bible say?” Of course you are right, except that you must examine more closely the meaning of Love as it is shown in the person of Jesus Christ. The attitude toward God, the soul’s position before God, the heart’s emotion toward God, the mind’s thoughts of God, the body’s posture toward God as seen in Jesus Christ was never irreverent or flippant. This lack of reverence we have for God is the very smell of Pride in a human soul that rises before the God who smells what is in secret, and cannot stand it. If Love be without reverence, it is not love, just like if love be without truth, it is not love.

So Pride versus humility. I am convinced that the answer to beating pride at that deepest level is from the deepest part of us, we decide to humbly and totally submit and fear the Holy God who fashioned us and created us in His image to rule and bless and fill the earth.

One way to test whether we know the fear of God, is if our hearts can feel the terror dripping from these words of the author of Hebrews 10:, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” If you do not feel the dread of this truth in your heart, you do not yet fear God. The emotions are not everything. They are a good thermometer. How hot is your heart at the knowledge and obedience of God?

As Paul said to his Philipian beloved church, I iterate, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” When Adam sinned, he sinned by mouth, by mind, by heart, and by soul. And when Jesus had the opportunity, “he did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped. But he emptied himself.” This is our example for how to repent from our Pride. “And he took on the form of a servant.” The answer is to be a servant who is “obedient to the point of death even death on a cross.” This is the Salvation of the human soul, seen in Jesus’ humility and humanity, which we too are called to have the same mind. And this is how we as God’s servants, can know true humility when we smell it.

I close with this for now: pride and humility are like the odors of our soul. Pride is the smell of rotting flesh. Humility is the warmth of justice submitted to God as good. You can see the body, you can hear the mind, you can feel the heart, but you can smell the soul. And humility is the only perfume that is acceptable in God’s nostrils.

God’s Servant, It’s Time to Love God F.O.L.K.S.

To be God’s Servant, you must give up what most people think of as living ordinarily: You do what you want and serve yourself and serve whoever you want to and enjoy life wile you have it. Such a life is utterly sinful and warrants the total death of the fruitless tree. You are a fruitless tree.

So how shall God’s servant represent His God? It is in this Acronym. It is first by Fearing Him, Obeying Him, Loving Him, Knowing Him, and Seeking Him.

Love
Obey          Know
Fear                               Seek

In brief, this is what each word entails as you go up the mountain to the pinacle: Love.

 Fear— Depart from Evil (Prov. 16:6)
        Obey— Do Good (Ps 34:14)
                 Love–With all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Deut. 6:5)
        Know–Intimately share (Phil 3:10)
Seek–Turn toward, look to learn (Jer. 29:13)

Starting with the bottom of the mountain:

  • Fearing God means you recognize Him as Holy, Just, and Powerful. He is good, and that is a terrible thing for us, because we are not good. We fall so terribly short and lack so severely the glory of His Image with which we were first endowed, that we deserve nothing at all but the tormenting fires of hell, reserved for everything the bears the Evil One’s resemblance: corruption, weakness, selfishness, and sloth. Therefore, depart from evil, which receives from God the just recompense on anything unworthy and oppressive to what is good.
  • Obeying God means serving Him as your Ruler, your master, your Captain, your boss. In obeying him, you recognize your responsibility of being His image bearer on earth. He is the one you represent, therefore do as He does! He is the Sovereign lord of creation, and he has made you sovereign lord over the earth as His representative, so serve as He serves, work the ground to bring forth life the way He does. Do good to your neighbor as He does. Outwardly and temporally and definitely show the world who God is by doing the good that he commands you to do.

From the other direction:

  • Seeking God is more than just looking for Him. It is trying to find him. Seeking recognizes that God is infinite and you are finite, and so you are like a cup constantly dipping into the ocean of His eternity, but simply for the reason you want to Know Him. Seeking the Lord means turning your face upward to behold him, it means looking for Him trusting that He will reward the one who diligently seeks him. (Heb. 11:6)
  •  Knowing God means intimately sharing with God all that you are, and allowing Him to share all that He is with you. It recognizes that you are related with Him, and He wishes you to know Him, just as you wish to be known. (1 Cor 13:12) To know Him, is to be familiar with Him in relationship as a friend, as a confidant like the disciples were to Jesus while He walked among us on the earth.

At last the Summit:

  • Loving God is the final goal: It means to live for Him, where He is your everything, and everything in your inner and outer life is completely devoted to Him. Love means, you wouldn’t do anything that would be against Him. Love means that everything you do is for Him. Love means you are actively engaged in seeking Him out and pursuing Him. Love means you treasure the intimacy He shares with you with a tender and faithful heart.

All five of these dimensions are indispensable to fully representing God.
Fear acknowledges, “I am sinful.”
Obey acknowledges, “I am purposed to do good.”
Love acknowledges all these things and says, “I am Yours, You are my God.”
Know acknowledges, “I am related with Him.”
Seek acknowledges, “I am finite.”

You cannot say you love God without fearing and obeying Him. You cannot say you love God without seeking Him and knowing Him. Most of us will rise up the slope to the summit of love from one direction, but without the Moral and the Relational, without the Internal and the External, without the mind and the heart, without the soul and the strength, our love will be only one-dimensional or two-dimensional. Never will we represent our God fully as His Image bearer on earth as Jesus did.

My call is to you–you who wish to be one of God’s servants as described in Isaiah 42. Grow in the fear of the Lord, and seek Him while He may be found. Obey Him to share His work, and know Him to share His heart. Above all let it be love which crowns you with the seal of His image.

Ache

Earth groans– the roots of oak trees find them out
~     In secret seeking cool sustaining streams
The air feels thin while splitting on the flout
~     A piercing cry of music from my dreams

How old the marrow grows in once strong arms
~     Anticipating touch without remorse
Still waiting for beloved tender warmth
~     Returning swift received without recourse

Two dandelions blown in stormy breeze
~     Are stripped of new beginnings as they wilt
Believing sure their children earth will seize
~     Creative soil unseen new lives rebuilt

So short cruel time to sever love from love
~      Its wound agape awaits the Gard’ners glove

My Truck

Pretty as a 19-year old model
Shiny like she’s brand new
Bright red like a fire hydrant
Big like the King of the road

An 8-foot bed huge loads handles well
Her gate well-oiled snugly shuts
A bed liner makes the whole body protected
Its ridges guide the water out straight

Beneath the shine, a villainous corrosion
An oxidization made brittle by city salt
The frame has holes and cracks that deepen
Every bump it takes, and puddle it fords

One bump, the spring shackle bracket broke
And the left back corner of the truck bed sank
Suspension, transmission all put under tension
And the metal floor of the bed began to scrape

ACH! That noise! That digging scream
That cried for repair before the break came
It would punch a hole in the 8-foot bed,
If it was not healed with the Welder’s flame.

BREECH! That bump cost far too much
Too long the scream went unacknowledged
And now silenced the dagger is still
Jutting up through the floor of the 8-foot bed.

The frame now bears weight on the bone of the Truck
And the bed liner is not pierced but raised from the floor.
But a once water-tight 8-foot bed has a leak,
And the moaning continues as the hole gets bigger.

Aiee! Ach! That shameful burden stabbed
My heart to know my own neglect
Caused one small problem to cause many more
And now the damage cannot be undone.

But repair can be made by the Welder’s flame.
The community shop can raise up her frame
Line up the spring shackle bracket again
And solder it back to shoulder loads well again.

The hole in the 8-foot bed can be patched.
And the scar will still hold the water inside.
In fact, the strength lent to this space may be needed
Should any further breech occur beneath.

But the rust still needs to be arrested.
Or the problems will continue unless dealt with

A Prayer of Victory

Skiddish Little millipede
Your cyan shell is easily penetrated
I do not seek to break it
I seek only to teach and lead

Oh Room of watchful souls
Your eyes see truth more readily
Than those who bear weight steadily
And see their heart is full of holes

Now comes to tempting trials
That beckon sons to cast their life
Away for what only laziness brings: strife
But can the bars withstand the files?

Fear not, your heart means more
Than countless hours of death and dying
Though my own heart is used to lonely sighing
I will not let this emblem vain be bore

The power of the chronicle to tell
A story that reaches from the body to the soul
Will carefully instruct the wisdom’s role
Lest the story end up half way down to Hell.

A week of peeling self-lessness
That pries the very heart of all things sacred
And spits out everything that desecrates it
And renders those with no time a useless mess

Prickly sticky fingers grab the sword
Where fire leaps upon the drying brush
And carries up the anthem to a hush
And beckons the returning of the Lord

Yea! Battle cry ye sing forth words of old
And bring the AdamSon to heart the break
Of thunder clapping lightning splitted skies
Which echo with the carnage of love’s choice bold

“The battle is accomplished!” Says the son.
The rain has landed on the thirsty ground
The heart is open, and is not made unsound
By the devices of the accusing Evil One.

Nay! For the battle is for the heart of grace
The heart with a single voice to be discovered
May the Lord the Savior grant my whole recovered
So there may be a full light in our face.

The Less and the More

The heart wrestles with the less and the more
The less it knows well; its Hell he can tell
How it numbs him and dumbs him
Like a lute it strums him
Shaking his soul’s song sung before
The first conducted baton stroke fell.

The more is his deep-seated longing true
This more– the core with more in store
How it fills him and wills him
Like a like river flowing thrills him
Life that gives its life for more in view
Saving joy for the ocean he will every day adore

O heart betwixt the path of now or always
The choice is yours; make your noise and rejoice
The song He wrote has one sure note
Like a name He skillfully wrote
Awaiting its debut in many plays
When you hear your beloved’s voice

The Column

Deep and dark in the cave time carved
A sprinkling sound skipped off cold stone walls
A spire that hangs from the high ceiling calls
Down to the answering stalagmite love-starved

Wishing quietly for gravity’s haste
To break his prison bars which anchor hold
The dripping rock that has grown in the cold
Weathered only by water’s mineral taste

Iteratively aching to loose each drop
Truncating his comfort for the love for which he longs
Translating his care into stories, deeds, and songs
Interpreting echoes growing nearer every stop

Night how cruel to cast sun-hiding shade
Recalcitrant to tell the story of the lover’s act
Return my Love who from me love attract
Never-ending lest I dwindle without your aid

Dampness felt as calcium splats the tip.
An answer echoes close in the stalactite’s ear.
Again! Could it be the cherished one is near
Devoted to respond to his steady drip?

Lips moistened by the fall and growth of love
Come now to lightly touching until at last
Connection! As the two rocks now stand fast
Lodged as one: a bridge from below and from above

Enter now, O climber in the cave
Transfixed by this monument to faithfulness
Telling the power of earth’s fruitful thankfulness
Enmeshed with Heaven by all the gifts He gave.