Sorrow – A Poem

I realized that my recent post was fairly balanced, but I know it can sometimes seem like Christians are always “happy jolly” and “never really deal with pain and problems.”  And while I would hope you could read the facts of pain in previous posts, I thought I would share this poem with you anyway.  It so aptly captures how I would characterize pain, depression.  Still, never forget that your life belongs to Jesus; He is our hope, our strength, and everything we need to make it through anything, on any day, at any time!  Trust and keep your eyes fixed on Him, the Author and Perfecter of your faith!

Without further ado…

Sorrow, by Ben Messer

You’re a twisted, vicious, and spiteful tempter.
You lurk, you stalk, you drag-down my demeanor.

Oh how I wish, I could throw off your stakes!
You grab tighter and give me the shakes.
I hate you, evil fiend.  Yes, I hate you.
Not a nice word, they say, once knowing you!

You chip at my core, and make me less;
I seem overwhelmed by you, I must confess.
And yet, there is Light, always ever present,
You try to hide it, snuff it, Light suppressant.

You mar my world, distort my view, lead me on.
I despise your very presence in my heart; be gone!
You are not welcomed here, let me go and live,
I want the Life, not you, a destructive sieve!

T​here is hope, one should know, hope to overcome.
This battle is not over; it is not ended nor done.
One day, I’ll taste victory, the final end of pain and sorrow.
It may not be today, nor be next week, nor even the morrow.

The Light will come, once and for all, to end darkness,
And in that day, I will find my joy at its complete and fullest.

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A Heartfelt Mind-Meld: Are you willing to be broken? … Again?

“God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”

1 Peter 5:5b, from Proverbs 3:34

“God, how long will you torture me?!? Have I not endured enough? Have You not taken enough? What more must I do before You will soothe my children’s pains, and bring a woman back into our house?”

That was actually one of my prayers. To document all of them would be exhausting, time-consuming, and…well, humiliating. At the time, I thought it was completely fair! My heart was torn and wrecked. It is no small thing to hold your children as they cry and to comfort them, especially on a daily basis. It seemed like everywhere I looked, my life was in shambles, destroyed and beaten such that only the dusty outlines gave hints of what once was. Regrets threatened to choke the very life out of me. I became bittered, angry, uncomforted, even while my spirit wept within at the very sight of such hardness.

I am blessed to attend a church that does regular times of church-wide fasting. I am unsure the exact schedule, but it seems that approximately every quarter, our church has a church-wide prayer and fasting. Prayer and fasting (of which, usually fasting is skipped) should be hallmarks of every believers life, even if altered by medical constraints or the like. Jesus speaks in the Gospels of fasting as a given: “when you fast…” In my own life, I can testify that prayer and fasting have greatly benefitted my relationship with Jesus via increased devotion, decreased power of my flesh, revelations (from the Bible) and even some miracles. It is through a recent time that the above bitterness became apparent to me and the way it was eating away at my witness.

Another blessing that God granted was the opportunity to attend a conference my church puts on for a multitude of other churches; it’s called the Refresh Conference and provides the opportunity for ministers and church servants to step away and be served, fed, and refreshed, so that they do not grow weary in their service. While I had opportunities to attend in the past, this was the first time that I got to attend and concern myself only with what God had to speak to me. Everything else was managed, and I could just spend my time listening, worshiping, and communing with God. What an intense blessing!

“Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”

Galatians 3:3

Through these two blessings, God revealed this to me that I was living by my flesh; I was not living by His Spirit! I had stopped looking to Him, trusting in Him to bring about what was necessary, and was relying only on what made sense to me! You see, sometimes, God makes no human sense!  It is not that He is a God of confusion, but sometimes, He asks us to do radical (or painful) things. Take, for example, Abraham; he was asked to go to a land God would show him (where’s the logic there?) and later to sacrifice his only son, the son of promise (that’s not cool!). Yet in both of those situations, we can now see that God had a plan; devotion was the product and good was the outcome.

Yet, in our own lives, we often don’t see the end. We’re not reading the book, able to skip ahead; we are living life in a very linear manner. We cannot look ahead and be assured this will all turn out. Rather, we must trust in the very character of God, that He will work all things out for good (remember, there is a caveat here: for those who love Him!). If we are dedicated to following Jesus, we must dedicate ourselves to the most obvious principle He taught us; we must be dedicated to following God, even to a cross!

… just stop there for a moment …

Are you willing to be broken? “But Messer! I’ve been broken! How can I be broken any more?”

Oh, my dear reader, dear beloved of God. A tree may be chopped down, but it’s roots will continue to grow for some time, unless the stump is removed! In the same way, God has broken you, in part.   But as a dear pastor friend repeatedly told me some years ago, “Jesus wants ALL of you!” And He does. He deserves no less than all of you, for He gave all of Himself for you!

“I don’t know if I can make it; I don’t know if I can do it.”

The task before you is not one to make or do. It is one to decide and follow! And it is one your Lord has walked before you!

For myself, I often saw it as the impossible task, the pain and endurance I could not manage. But in that moment, I am exalting myself above God! I am placing my desires and logic and thoughts above His. I am telling the Eternal Creator that I, the created, will take the reins of time for my life.

If you’re not already shivering in fear, please understand that such a statement is a dangerous proposition. Consider that a man once made such a statement by eating a simple piece of fruit; as Adam’s sin introduced sin into a once-perfect creation, so my sin can introduce a world of pain and suffering into those around me! I am the head of my household; if I ingest poison, my whole body (household) will suffer!

So then, what are your options, you may wonder? Surrender. Let go of your dreams. Let go, and let Him replace them…let Him be the replacement of them! For me, I had to let go of remarriage. I wanted it for all manner of fleshly reasons, but it was getting in the way of me letting God guide my life! I couldn’t be following Him if I was constantly looking for the next woman in my life! Instead, if I keep my focus on Him, He will sift what is necessary for my life to accomplish His will, and He will bring those good things into my life.

And if I need to suffer longer? If my children suffer longer? Then I will continue to trust Him to do what is best for us. I know my God will not withhold whatever I need in life. Instead, He has the perfect plan, aware of the explicit details necessary to bless my life and raise my children to follow after Him. He knows what conditions will produce what qualities in my children and how He will use those qualities.  For me to try and argue that I know better is like a child arguing that he should be allowed to mix whatever chemicals he has in his hands, not even realizing he’s holding nitro and glycerin or bleach and ammonia. Oh the child might find the right combination on accident, sure enough! But the chance of that child harming himself or others is much greater than the chance of hitting the right combination!

 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

1 Peter 5:6-7

He is so good!   He is so kind! And He desires to bless us. All we need do is keep our eyes on Him (“Seek first the kingdom of God…and all these things will be added to you.” Matt. 6:33) and He will bring all good things into our lives, as necessary for our development and His glory! And yes, sometimes those things will mean pain, but our Lord endured worse pain, pain He never even earned. He endured it for love, to have a relationship with us. Who are we to claim we should endure any less? Or will we deny a deep fellowship with Him by identifying with His sufferings? (Philippians 3:7-10, emphasis on v. 10)

I leave you with this final thought, that a good friend shared from C.H. Spurgeon:

“If an ill wind blows upon us, let us believe that, somehow or other, it will blow us some good; and if a rough tide comes up, let us believe that it will in some way or other, wash us nearer to our desired haven.”

Spurgeon, Sermon on 1 Timothy 1:16, published 1913

Vires et Honorem

1 Corinthians 15:10

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A Heartfelt Mind-Meld: On Perspective

First, my apologies for not posting in so long. Long story short, getting the site up on SSL, and a few other chaotic items in life, left me without much to say for a while. And in ministry, it is my rule to never fake-it-until-I-make-it. I will only ever give what I have received. Without further ado, here we go.

In the last few weeks, my heart has been broken and beaten and emboldened. With a new job, new schedules, pressures on finances, time, and family, I have been very short on strength of my own. God has granted favor in the sight of my bosses, strength (often only noticed in hindsight), and has blessed my family to make it through. I am in a time of stretching, strengthening, and learning with the Lord. Particularly, I liken it to the process a knife goes through to become a quality piece of steel.

When a knife is made, it is forged, shaped and then it is given a strengthening process to make it a quality knife. The steel it is made out of determines a great deal of the knife’s initial strength, but the final process builds strength into the knife that cannot be obtained from the untreated steel. In fact, a friend of mine illuminated me to a depth of this truth I’d never considered. You see, when a knife is given this greater hardness, it is heated to intense temperatures, making the knife almost malleable. Then the knife is thrust into intense cold. As my friend noted, this creates almost a vacuum-sealed effect. Inside, the knife is still hot, but the cooling brings the outside to compress on the innards. As the knife cools, it pulls itself into a tighter form, albeit not necessarily visually. This process of heating and cooling is repeated several times until the intended hardness is reached.

In my own life, God has done some great works; He preserved my children from dangers, granted me the ability to provide for our family, gave me an apartment (later a house) in a town that housed incredible people to encourage and lift me up before Christ, and He gave me a relationship with folks whom I thought our relationship was beyond repair. He has protected, guided, provided, and even backed me into corners (when necessary) as any good Father would. But it doesn’t always feel like that! In fact, sometimes, I am on the verge of insulting His character! Sometimes, I get a wonderful reprieve where all is wonderful and things click like puzzle pieces coming together.  Other times, it feels like I’m stuck in an anaconda, fighting just to keep air in my lungs.

This is where Perspective becomes my word-of-the-year! You see, if I look at my situation through my eyes, I crumble! Literally, I end up a sobbing mass of flesh and clothing. It is WAY TOO MUCH for me to handle in my own resources. I begin whining about not having a wife/girlfriend/prospect, about how I don’t have as much savings as I want, about “what happens when…” and “why can’t I…”, and I generally end up sobbing in the arms of my Savior.  Over the last several weeks, I have cried out to God over how tight and stretched I am. To quote Bilboa Baggins, I feel “like butter scraped over too much bread.” Are those valid concerns? Absolutely! Are they worth getting worked up over? Not at all because He will meet all my needs in His perfect timing!  Further, He has made it known that this is His will for me, for a time!

“But why would God do that to someone? God has abandoned you, Messer! You’re just not bright enough to notice! He’s done with you, gone on holiday or some such thing!”

If you were to say this to me, I would chuckle as a tear slipped out of my eye! The tear is because the enemy is always in my head claiming the same thing! The Accuser stands oh-so ready to indict God or myself. I know the pain of that thought all too well! But I laugh because it is laughable; it is patently absurd to believe that God has abandoned me. In fact, God is right here, catching every tear, marking every whimper, holding up my arms when they cannot hold themselves! He is my ever-present companion, and I should think I would die, if He ever did leave. Yes! In fact, like a man would be crushed if his spotter walked away, so I would die under this weight if my God, if Jesus, would turn His back on me for even a moment!

But therein lies one answer to your question; He would do this to build our strength IN HIM! He would do this to build our confidence IN HIM! He would do this to teach us to trust IN HIM! You see, all things work for His glory! Oh yes, they work for the good of those who love Him, but even that is to His glory, and He will not share His glory! And now, here my tears come; in the midst of these truths, I so often tear up. I find the tears flow like sweet rivers of water into a land rife with drought. Why do they flow? Because in the truth, my soul finds comfort and rest! In Him, who is the Truth, I find my comfort and rest. And when I remember my place, as a creature created to bring glory to Him, and that in my trust, confidence in, submission to and strength in Him, I bring Him glory…that is something that makes me long for my Savior and home! In this moment, I become identified with my Lord, seeking the glory of His Father as He walked, knowingly, toward His brutal, torturous, excruciatingly painful death. And when I am identified with my Lord, my soul leaps, it runs with the strength of eagles and horses, and I am blessed from the inside out.

No. It is not easy. No. It is not comfortable. No. I do not “like” it. No. I am not “happy.”

Yes. His yoke is easy! Yes. He is my comfort! Yes. I am blessed by Him! YES! I am content!


Perspective, friends!

Perspective, dear reader!

Perspective makes all the difference, and is the difference in the above sentences. When I look at myself, my desires, my “goals,” even my perceived needs, I am slowly crushed by the weight. But when I look to Him, to His desires, to His provisions, to His sufferings, I am encouraged! I am emboldened to walk with Him for another step and another step after that. And as I submit my ways to Him, He grants what I need, and He makes me into a tool for His use (with me unaware), to correct, direct, and bless others.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” – 1 Corinthians 15:10

Vires et Honorem

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Thoughts on Christmas/Easter

I recently started cleaning up an old computer and stumbled on this gem.  I thought I’d share it with y’all, since it was a compilation I put together due to friends’ strong adherence to particular beliefs that I find un-Biblical due to their legalistic stance (“this is what’s right, all else is damning sin!”).  As I read it, I was reminded of things I’d forgotten, and I thought some of you, my readers, would enjoy hearing about and knowing these pieces of information.


I give no argument against those who don’t want to celebrate Halloween. I, too, do not celebrate such a holiday. Granted, I may get dressed up on various years and go have fun seeing how my friends have chosen to dress up, but honestly, I don’t care for the holiday. I do, however, take great enjoyment in dressing differently than I usually do, especially in things like Pirate garb. =) Arrrr! =)

That said, I also do not begrudge folks who do not participate in Easter egg hunts. I do not hold them myself, and I do not request to have my children participate in them. However, I’m not one to tell my children to sit by the sidelines if they happen to be around one. I am, however, inclined to teach them the true meaning of the Resurrection and what this time of year is all about; the true timing of the Resurrection, two days after the atonement day of Pesach (Passover).

Now, with that background, let me dig into a few items. First of all, Christmas. Many look at it and derive it from the words Christ and mas, thinking mass like the Roman Catholic Mass. The Roman Catholic Mass is based on the same Latin word, missa. Now, depending on whom you take your Latin translation from, missa can mean a couple things: dismissal (as in “it’s time to go”), sending (as in “I’m sending you to get food”), or a celebration. The last is more a historically-derived context in which Masses were held for particular occasions to celebrate that occasion. The other two are variants around the word depending on whether it is used as a participle or a verb.

It may look like I’m trying to skirt an issue, but in all honesty, I am trying to truly ask the question: is Christmas just a Roman Catholic-derived word, or is it a valid description of the time of celebrating the coming of Christ? The consensus seems to be toward the former, but I would contend that it is equally viable to use the word to describe the later, even if tradition does not agree. In fact, I would even argue that the verb lends an intriguing statement to the word Christmas: Christ sending. A time to remember the sending of Christ to earth?

Another objection I’ve heard revolves around Krampus (look it up, if you want). Krampus derives from pre-Christian days in the Alpines. He was apparently integrated into the celebrations of Christ’s birth by these same groups, juxtaposed with Santa Claus. And there’s an interesting topic!

Santa Claus. Sinterklaas. Babbo Natale. Father Christmas. By all these names, he is the mythological male figure which we have been trained (by tradition or commercialism) to associate with Christmas. But, how many people know that there was once a man with a similar name who did what Santa Claus is credited with doing; giving gifts to good children, and coal to bad children. He is best known as Saint Nicholas, Nikolaos of Bari, Nikolaos of Myra, or Nikolaos the Miracleworker. (And as an added note, coal wasn’t a worthless gift! It kept fires going, so the children could keep warm; they just didn’t get a fun toy/trincate to play with.) There’s a problem, though, with Saint Nicholas. He seems to have flown below the Historical Radar. Saint Nicholas has a grave, a crypt, in Bari, his reported hometown. Here’s the catch, though, there’s little to no historical data on Saint Nicholas. He’s like the Apostle Paul but without any written letters (Epistles) to tack him into history. He moves around a bit, has a history carried on in legend and some folklore. And yet, there’s nowhere to exactly say he existed except the grave that is attributed as his (which a select scientific team was allowed to inspect in the late 1950s, but all they did was verify the bones and determine his approximate height and figure).

So, did he exist? It’s almost a burden of proof to show he didn’t exist. After all, he has a grave and lots of tradition and folklore to tack him down. We have less on people like William Wallace and Saint Patrick (St. Patty’s Day?!?). It seems only reasonable to concede that he did exist. And it seems only appropriate, given the previous concession, to concede that the commercial and traditional characters of Santa Clause grossly distort his true character as a man who, by all accounts, sought to bring the love and compassion of Almighty God to the poorest of mankind.

And for those who may object to the name Santa Claus, the etymology appears to go something like this: Middle Dutch Sinter Niklass (Saint Nikolaos) to Dutch Santa Klaus to American Santa Claus.

Switching back to Easter, many do not realize that Easter parallels another, pagan holiday which involves the goddess of fertility, Ishtar. This is why there are bunnies, eggs, etc. so associated to the holiday.   And, like Christmas, it is inaccurate to the time when the actual celebrated event occurred. “Now you’re getting picky.” Yeah! Actually, I am.

Think about it! We celebrate July 4th ON July 4th every year, why? Because it is an important date! We celebrate birthdays, typically, on the date, why? Because it is an important date (to most)! In the same way, don’t you think it’s kind of important to celebrate the dates when our Savior was born accurately?

Now, in the interest of honesty and full-disclosure, I don’t celebrate Christmas on or about 15 October. Nor have I paid attention to Pesach (Passover) enough to celebrate Easter on the proper time. But, I am advocating that it would do us well to do that! As noted above, the true Resurrection day is two days after the Day of Atonement at Pesach. Christmas is based at Sukkot. These festivals form a very static calendar (by the Jewish calendar) and, true to the Hand of our Lord, a beautiful poetry when you read what the festivals are about, then reflect on the fact that Yeshua (Jesus) was born at that time, and when He was sacrificed.

So, all that said, where does this leave us? Well, as I see it, there are three basic paths. First, one could take a very legalistic approach to the above facts and conclude that we should always celebrate Christmas/Easter/Resurrection at a specific time and any variation is sin. Second, we could disregard the facts and determine to be “culturally relevant”, or whatever your personal bi-word is, and celebrate Christmas and Easter with the culture, making mention of “the Truth.” Or, we can take a third stance, which I believe is Biblical; search the Scriptures and acknowledge the facts of Christmas and the Resurrection (and even be amazed by the poetry therein), and yet, celebrate as lead.

In closing, “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” – Romans 14:5-9 (emphasis mine)

Vires et Honorem – 1 Corinthians 15:10

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A Heartfelt Mind-Meld: The Desert

“The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.  The sons of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly…” – Exodus 16:2-3 (truncated)

How often do we accuse God of leading us into the wilderness to die?  “It would have been better for You to leave me in the slavery of my sin…”

No matter where you are, there will be (or is now) a time in your life when the Spirit will lead you into the desert.  It is not to break you but to bend you.  It is not to crush you but to humble you.  It is not for evil but for good, for love!

God has never sent us into the depths of despair but while ready to pull us out.  The problem, though, is that most of us want Him to pull us up when we think we’re ready, when we think the trial is over, when we have deemed it enough.  Yet we often forget: you are not the Master, dear reader.

Years ago, I learned something about how knives are hardened.  In the final stages of the creation of a knife, just before the final edge is put on, the steel is hardened.  To do this, it is raised to an incredible, intense temperature.  When it reaches this intense temperature, it is then trust into a frigid, freezing vat of oil or water.  From here, the knife is reheated and re-frozen (pardon my parlance).  This process can happen multiple times, until the right hardness is achieved.

Once the knife is properly hardened, it can have a final edge and be ready for regular use.  Without this hardening, the smallest use of the knife could take the edge off or, worse yet, nick the knife!  A knife, to be effective, must withstand the pressures it will be put under, which vary with the knife’s purpose.

In my own trials, I have found that the Father will sometimes allow me to be heated until I can bear no more (or so I think), and then I can be suddenly dunked in a freezing solution which leaves me shivering from the cold.  I have even experienced this roller-coaster in rapid succession.  But my knowledge of knives reminds me that He is building the character in me that He desires for me to be useful for the plans He has in mind (Jeremiah 29:11).

Whether you are merely in the desert, or on an up-down roller-coaster, like a newly created knife, know that the Master Smith is behind it all.  He has the designs for where you will go, what you will be used for, and how this process is effective.  He may even be using you to train another, encouraging them by your endurance or chiding them by your faithfulness or giving them wisdom by how you listen and share what He has given you.

Don’t fear the desert, and do not despise His craftsmanship, but grab Him in a bear-hug, and trust in His absolutely incomprehensible love!  He loves you, dear reader!  He sent His Son, Jesus, who died and rose again just to make a way to a relationship with you!  Let Him show you what He has planned!

“But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.  But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.  For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him?  But we have the mind of Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 2:14-16

Vires et Honorem – 1 Corinthians 15:10

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Observation on Electricity and God

I was contemplating electricity today and how, in the electronic world, so much of what we have never goes away. Think about the fact that you are right now reading this blog on a browser. To read this, your browser had to download some data from my server to your computer. Now, you may have it set to clean up after you, but even if it cleans up the contents of this page after you exit, that data will remain, in some amount, for someone who would have the tools to mine it off your computer.

So, let’s take that thought; electricity is so powerful that It remains behind to some degree in everything it touches. Electronics wear out. Light-bulbs burn out. And computers retain large amounts of data even after they’ve been wiped. So, as we think about this, remember that everything in our world reveals something about the creator, whether created by man or by God.   Electricity is an interesting force because it also reveals the power of God, not explicitly, but as a revelatory force.

Here we have electricity in our world: We create it through massive generators powered by water, steam, gasoline, etc. We create generators that can produce massive amounts of electricity which can be stored, can be sold, can be purchase, and can be used to power many different devices. We then manufacture devices that run on electricity, and through them, we are able to do countless activities that, otherwise, would not be even remotely possible.

Take, for example, the fact that you are reading this, whether on a phone, tablet, PC, or Mac. You are reading this on an electronic device, and I am able to share my thoughts to you through an electronic device. All of this is possible because of the power of electricity. Without it, I’d have to hand-write or mechanically print these posts and get them carried to you on some other medium that would be much more difficult and limited.

We have command and control, to some degree, over electricity. This is very much like how we as human beings exist in our world. We have power and consideration over our choices. We can decide to go to the grocery store or go to a bar. We can decide to go to church or go to a seedy establishment. And we are even, as science tells us, a type of electrical generators. We take the matter we consume (food, water, other liquids, etc.) and turn it into electrical power which powers our brains, conveys signals to our muscles and so forth.

Electricity is not confined to our generators but occurs naturally in the forms such as static electricity or powerfully in the form of lightning. Just think about the last time someone shuffled their feet across a floor and touched you; it hurt, right? Imagine the electrical storms that happen in many parts of the US. When lightning strikes someone, even if it does not kill them, it leaves a mark. We can’t even manage to generate the same amount of electricity in a single bolt of lightning, but it happens naturally.

In the same way that we generate electricity to power an electrical world but natural electricity occurs via lightning and such, we also generate a degree of electricity ourselves, but God is an even greater power source for us.

When we plug something into the wall, it is able to do so much. If it is able to handle additional power, it could do more. But if the power provided to it was insufficient, it is “under-powered” and cannot do its intended job. In the same way, if we take an item that is intended to be used on the US power grid, and we try to plug it into a European power grid, presuming the plugs were right, without an adaptor, that device would be over powered and fry. Why? Because it is not submitting to the power it is being given. The device was designed expecting so much power and too much power causes it to overload because it can’t submit to the power. (This is not a free-will/predestination argument, so please don’t take the analogy too far. Just roll with me.)

In a similar way, if we are not submitted to God, not standing within Christ, we fry in the presence of God because His justice could not be restrained against our sin. In this place, we are not functioning as we were designed and are running in an under-powered state. But when we submit ourselves to Christ’s Lordship, through accepting His sacrifice in our place, we can receive His power in our lives, enabling us to do as He has always desired of us.

Everyone in this world seems to want to make a difference, or at least, most do. I’ve often heard Ghandi’s quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” But just as the human-created power only goes so far (without the use of substations and such to boost the power), so our human efforts can only go so far, usually insufficiently. On the other hand, lightning can strike miles apart with the same deadly force in each direction. Lightning does not need a substation or a boost, but is naturally occurring. Similarly, God’s power, worked out through our submission, can move the world!

When we give our lives over to Jesus, and allow Him to transform us into His image, we get the privilege to have God work through us, living in the intended, constant communion with God. We are then enabled to bless others through the blessings He gives to us.

Noodle on that, will ya?

Vires et Honorem

1 Corinthians 15:10

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Thoughts on Discipline and Fatherhood

In our world, we often approach parenting in a mechanical, managerial way. Now I doubt anyone has ever explained it that way, but, frankly, that’s often how I see these books on parenting and books on raising children as if we view our households as a corporation and our children as employees to train.

And while there is some truth to the analogy (such as a household budget being like corporate budgets), the reality is far deeper. Our children are not given to us to merely raise. As believers, our children are given to us to disciple. That’s a difficult concept for most people because most of us have never been discipled ourselves. But in reality, our children are given to us to be disciples. And while, in a human sense, they are disciples of us, we would be remiss to not make them disciples of Jesus.

With that statement comes a heavy responsibility, but not heavy in the sense of weighing on us harshly or weighing us down. It is a serious, even sacred, responsibility.  Jesus said His yoke is easy and His burden is light, and in that very truth, we can hold some confidence that Jesus will not abandon us in the raising of our children. In fact, in my own life, I have watched as my weaknesses, my failures, have been turned into success and glory by His hand alone. I am, by far, not a perfect parent. Yes, some may say I’m better than most, but really, I’m no different. The only difference between me and most other Dads is that, frankly, I don’t get any other choice. I don’t get the option to not feel like it; I don’t get the option to say I had a bad day at work because there is no one else to pick up the slack.

And I think there is something within that, as I found myself often being viewed as an example to other people…I believe there is a challenge God wants to give to all men, all fathers, all Dads; when we have a bad day at work, yes, you’re going to bring some of that home. I don’t care how perfect you are. But when we bring that home, we need to give it into the hands of God Almighty. We need to remain vigilant in our lives for correct from him, whether it comes from our wife, or the Spirit within, or even from our children!   You see, they are ours to disciple, and yet, they’re also His disciples! And we have a sacred trust to bring to them Christ in the flesh!

When we mess up, we have a duty to apologize and ask for their forgiveness, to exemplify to them humility, honesty, and forgiveness. I will never tell anyone that you cannot teach your kids about Santa Claus or what-have-you. But I will caution you to be very careful that you do not lie to your children. In my own, unique situation, my children often ask me questions that I cannot answer or questions whose answers are more than their young brains can handle or heavier than their young hearts could hold. In those situations, I have promised them that I will not lie to them, but sometimes, the answer is “I don’t know,” or “I can’t tell you that right now.” Understand that being honest with your children does not greatly constrain you; there are some things you will not be able to or simply cannot tell them.

Think about this: what is discipline? It is disciple-ing. We are giving our children nuggets of truth and wisdom.   We are correcting them when their path goes astray. We are seeking to provide encouragement, to provide insight, to discipline so that they can get back on the path.

It has been said that how a child views their father will greatly affect how they view God. Men, take that as a solemn and sacred exhortation! God has given you children not to reflect yourself, not to live vicariously through them (as some do), not to finally achieve that scholarship or trophy or championship win that you never did. He has given us children so that we may grow. Let that sink in for a second. He has given us children so that we may grow.

You see, when we are in the world, living out our lives, everything is possible. We can pack up in a moment and go on to some new adventure. We don’t have to think about others or reason a complete plan because it’s just us. Then we add a wife, and the adventures get a little bit smaller because we need to provide security and safety for her, a rock upon which she can stand. But it is still you and her. And then suddenly, you add this helpless little being, this reflection of your genetic material, and I would argue a reflection of your spiritual material. As my own children have grown, I have noticed many of my own struggles have become evident in them as well. They wrestle with many of the same demons I wrestle with, in their own child-like ways. God has given them to me because I understand that struggle. I know that struggle. And because I have grown and need to grow!

In our Ameircan world, we often go to the next level, in our careers, relationships, possesions. We seem to always be seeking some unattainable goal.   I think Paul hits the nail on the head when he says, “Laying aside all temptations, and the sin that so easily ensnares , we reach for the pricesof the upward call of Christ.” Men, that.means.our.families!

These little beings. These little bundles of sin.   They are such a blessing and so much fun, and in a second, they turn around. Ha ha. One minute, life is great, and the next minute, they are ready to tear someone’s hair out. One minute, they’re happy and life is grand, and the next, they are screaming because they’re hungry.   One minute life is great and grand, and the next, someone has stolen every bit of joy they will ever have in their life. They are drama, and we are drama! We must disciple them, in concert with God, submitted before the Almighty, so that our children can see Him when they look at us.

We must train them to read the Scriptures, their Bibles. We must train them to know the Lord of their life, Who died and rose from the dead just to have a relationship with them!

I challenge you, men, do not merely raise your children. Don’t just provide a home and food and clothing. Disciple your children! Teach them what you have learned, and, perhaps, as appropriate, how you have learned it!

There’s the old saying, “Do As I Say, Not As I Do.” Part of that is teaching our children why we encourage them to do things we never did, why we encourage them to step up in ways we never did/could. So that they can understand that we are not just blowing smoke, trying to tell them to do something we won’t, but that we are encouraging them to be disciples of the Almighty and to learn from their Father, and to seek out other men who can teach and encourage them in the same, beyond what we can teach them or our limited experiences.

And then there comes the day when we have to let them go. True, they will always be our children. They will always be a part of our lives. But we have to prepare them for the day when they need to take the reins of their provision, of their shelter, and of their lives. So that when that day comes, they are not seeking unknown, unexpected things…so that they are not thrust into a world of temptation and sin that they are woefully unprepared for, but that this transition becomes as expected and normal as when they get up in the morning and get their clothes on. That the day comes, and we hand them the reigns and they gratefully take them…not rending them from our hands, not scared to accept them, but ready. Yes, there will be some fear, but the picture remains.

Go! Lead your families! And disciple your children with all diligence and humility, following the example of the One, in humble submission to the Father, our Father!

Vires et Honorem

1 Corinthians 15:10

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Musings on Music

Well, this definitely falls under the classification of random musing! I also find it deliciously conflicted that I’m musing on music. Ha ha! Well, here we go!

In the last year, I have run into many people that have reminded me of the mathematical qualities of music. After all, there are whole notes, quarter notes, half notes, etc. And music results in frequencies that are both predictable and determinate. At the base of mathematics is logic and reason. After all, 2+2=4 because there is a reasonable building of 2 on 2 resulting in the logical conclusion of 4.

As such, we can conclude that music, while being mathematical, is also logical. After all, musical theory is based on logical structures of music, shown to flow naturally and properly. If you’ve spent much time in music, you can usually predict (with some accuracy) where the flow of a piece will go. Put more specifically, if I hear the arrangement of the previous 4-6 notes, I can make reasonable estimations of where the next notes will fall. Granted, the possibilities are greater than one possibility, but they are far from incalculable, if I know one thing: was the piece composed for the pleasure of the listener or to promote dissonance.

Mind you, I am not expert on music. This is merely my experiences either from being the son of a music major and a personal love of music or from those I have known who have taken the time to teach me details of musical theory and such.

But here’s an interesting collision. Music evokes emotion. In fact, composed properly, it can evoke specific emotions. A composer can lead a person to feel passion, anger, grief, irritation, etc. Granted, each person will interpret the composition through various lenses, but it is still very likely that the piece will evoke the intended emotion.

So, here’s where this gets most interesting. As I have made clear on this blog, and in real life, I see this world through a lens of what’s termed general revelation. By this, I mean that I believe God has revealed Himself throughout His creation.   As such, anywhere I look, and I can find some attribute of God in what He has created. There is always some fingerprint of the Artist on His masterpiece.

Today, as I was listening to a much-loved composition, I noted that while it was music, which is considered mathematical (thus logical, as shown above), I was also emotionally affected by it.   As such, I came to a personal conclusion that music reveals an interesting aspect of God. In this incredible medium, which affects so many people and can aid memory recall tremendously, we find a poetic mystery. Logic and emotion are wonderfully entangled in a unique and moving way.

Rarely does pure logic affect the emotional state of a person. Rarely do emotions mix well with logic.   Yet, in the mystery of music, the two are entwined, logic granting emotional response and emotions built by logical structures, in the forms of notes, rhythm, and movements. Normally, emotions must bow to logic or logic is tainted by emotion.   In many cases, emotion and logic being mixed usually results in one or both being compromised.

Yet, in music both are really needed to properly convey whatever thought evoked the piece. And, as if miraculously, both come together in what might have appeared as an impossible relationship. The notes of the piece, the rhythm, any lyrics, and all movements combine together to evoke emotional responses, which, even in the simplest, can cause us to remember lyrics even decades later! Words that hold little specific meaning to us can become imbedded in our minds because the tune was catchy.

I think this is why music has become such a powerful medium.   It is one of the few things in this world that most reflects God Himself. (Yes, I am making that statement carefully.) We can see evidence of His love, attributes of mercy, power, beauty, etc. But in music, we find a unique intertwining of logic and emotion, a medium that expresses itself through the air, a force which can have a profound effect on one or many at any given time, and an expression which conveys some aspect of the author. It is a profound expression, which points to the reality that only in a world with a profoundly expressive God could we get such an expression. (I could go on to argue this, but I’ll leave it as a simple statement for now.)

Enjoy the music! =)

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Observations on Sacrifice

I was considering something today, thinking back over my life, thinking what I would do differently if I had it to do over again. I live my without regrets, but I do reflect and acknowledge that there are things that should have been done differently. And it is by this that this blog post becomes important.

Sacrifice. We don’t know, in America, what sacrifice truly is. Often, we think sacrifice is not going out to dinner on our one night that week, not buying our morning Starbucks for a week or one day a week. We don’t, typically, understand going without meals for several days, not eating so your children can eat, eating two times a week so your children can eat four times. These are sacrifices that others have to make, and we don’t often have to.

In the blessing we have lost an important attribute. Sacrifice.

When I was courting my ex, I thought that I could not live my life well, if I did not marry her. I thought this transient status of courtship could not survive some years. I felt that it would be leading her along. And perhaps, I would have been, if we dated for several years. But the reality of was much deeper than that. The reality is that if we had spent those years cultivating our friendship and truly getting to know each other, understanding each other, perhaps the character flaws that lead to the death of our marriage would have surfaced or would have been non-existent. Perhaps, the relationship would never have survived as mere friends.

It occurs to me that, had I taken more time, we could have found ourselves in better places. Having such directionality to my life could have caused me to purpose myself, similar to how the marriage did, but in a better way. Without having to support a wife, without having a bifurcated focus, it could have pushed me in a way that honored God more directly; paying off my debts, accumulating a safety-net of savings, etc. Thus, when the time came to provide for my bride, I would have been more capable than I was those years ago.

Instead, the hard-knocks we should have encountered in our courtship were encountered in our first years of marriage, as a layoff lead to financial hardships, as the opportunities for jobs lead to moving to a more remote area, separating us from family. While all this appeared to strengthen us initially, it eventually proved to be more damaging than either myself or our families realized.

For some years prior, God had led me down paths that had shaken me, breaking me in various ways, always pushing me to grow. Consequently, I failed to realize that the new difficulties were too much for my ex. I was ignorant of the ways such struggles were impacting her, and she chose to keep it to herself. Our foundation began crumbling because it had never been properly laid.

Instead, if we had chosen to sacrifice, giving up that which we so desired and wanted, and established a plan, striving to achieve the goals, knowing that it would take some time, perhaps more time than we wanted. Even still, ultimately achieving those goals would have been a greater blessing than either of us could have realized.

As I think about these things, I look at where my life is now. I realize how much I could have done with the resources God gave me. I could have had these experiences that I did, but I could have had them in a much smarter way.  It would have been difficult, but that difficulty could have worked out insufficiencies in my life, areas where I needed to, frankly, grow up!

Look for the things that God has asked you to sacrifice on. Rather than looking at them as some sort of deprivation, as something that God or society has held you back from, see the Master’s blessing. See what God is saving you from, what He is protecting you from. And let that sacrifice be your meager offering to an infinite, loving, powerful, compassionate, gracious, merciful God who cares more for you than you can ever think possible!

For me, with all my mistakes, He has still given me beautiful children whom I am blessed to care for. He has broken me until I’ve submitted to His incredible will (brokenness is not bad, see here). And He has granted me the opportunity to let my mistakes teach me and, through the mediums of our time, to give others the opportunity to learn from my mistakes.

Before I leave this topic of sacrifice, I must say that if you have never given yourself to Jesus, if you have never made the ultimate human sacrifice of placing yourself down at the foot of the cross, giving up your sin for His salvation, then today is your day, dear reader! Do not close the window, do not leave this blog, without letting go and giving your life to God’s service, not as some religious or patronizing act, but as a true sacrifice in thankfulness for what He has already given to you, Himself, His Son’s life, broken and bleeding for you, risen again as the victorious Savior He is! All you have to do is cry out to Him, admit your sin, and as Romans 10:9 says,” that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” And then live, just live, in that thankfulness, serving Him, not in some religious piety, but in an honest sacrifice of love to the God who loved you first!

Vires et Honorem – 10 Corinthians 15:10

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No-Win Scenarios

“I don’t believe in no-win scenarios.” – Capt. James T. Kirk

When I was growing up, I often heard, “Nope, can’t do that!”  I didn’t hear it from people trying to tell me what I could or could not do in a career.  It’s not like I was held back from my dreams or even held from the things I wanted.  Instead, I was the guy who was outside the social circles.  I was not the popular kid!  I’ve always been better in my head than with my body.  I could work a math problem, but I couldn’t catch a football.  I could even program a computer, but I can’t throw a baseball into a guys mitt with any regularity!

So, I started working on the questions people put down.  “God can’t exist.”  Oh, really?  LOL!  “You can’t switch out of Psychology mid-term and go to Trigonometry.  You’ll never pull off the grade!”  Ha ha!  Watch me!  =D

You get the point.  I don’t believe in no-win scenarios…mostly.  There are some scenarios that extremely violate the laws of physics or specifically violate some particular logic sufficient to consider them a closed-case impossibility.  However, these are fewer than most people like to admit.  In most any situation, there is a way that it works.

This philosophy has guided me for many years, but mostly from a selfish, “I won’t let you lose” attitude!  And then, I came across a stunning reality in the midst of my world-collapsing.  My attitude had a truthful root (and a lot of selfish roots that I had to let God pull up!).  This truthful root is reflected in my life verse…

And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

In our day-to-day world, the impossibilities of life are constantly confronting us.  From every corner, we can see another monster that waits to devour us.  Whether your a single parent or just another person trying to find their place to make an impact, challenges are a fact of life!

I started fighting those facts of life by my own will, but now I find that I can fight them by His Spirit.  When I began to challenge the impossible, I could challenge the perceived impossibles.  I took on what others wouldn’t, found the path that others missed, put together the disparate pieces that others had dismissed.  But in Christ, I can conquer even the insurmountable!  I can believe that people can change because I know the One who can change them!  I can step into the unknown because I know the One who knows all things!

You see, what I once did out of rebellion, I can now do out the power of my Savior!  It is no longer a question of what I am capable of, but what He is capable of!

I don’t believe in no-win scenarios.  My God is bigger than that!

Vires et Honorem – 1 Corinthians 15:10

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