The New Middle Road: Francis Chan

Here is a challenging three minute clip of a Francis Chan speech really emphasizing that following Jesus is shown in what we do, not what we say.

Passion Week Musings: The Last Passover Supper

After the Olivet discourse the events documented in the Gospel’s really focuses on events of preparation leading up to the Last Supper which was a Passover meal.   Prior to that meal there are two other significant documented events.  Jesus was anointed with perfume by some woman, which Jesus described as his being prepared for burial.  During this same time the other event described in the Gospels is Judas making a deal with the religious leaders to betray Jesus.   Up until the last Supper all the tensions were mounting and the crescendo was building.   As Jesus spent time preparing both himself and his disciples for what is coming there had to be an emotional storm building in Jesus.  The anticipation of what was to come had to far more intense than anything any of us have gone through.  Tomorrows post on the Garden will touch a bit more on the emotions of Jesus.  Here the focus is really about the preparation and Jesus pointing ahead and trying to prepare his disciples for what is to come while the pieces were moving and being set into play.  Jesus focus during that last Passover supper was all on what is to come.

After all the pieces were in place, Jesus and the disciples had the Passover meal and celebration. Now if the reader is not aware, the Passover points to the night Israel was delivered from Egypt with the tenth plague, the death of the 1st born males in Egypt.  There was instruction to sacrifice a lamb and place the blood on the doorpost, resulting in being spared having the first born killed.   The Passover meal reminds us of sin and bondage and points to God’s once and for all sacrifice in Jesus.  Jesus declared himself the “Afikomen” when he directed his disciples to eat the bread. He declared himself “salvation” when he drank the third cup.  He really told the disciples about what was coming and it would be for salvation.   Jesus also spent time giving the disciples words to remember and a significant object lesson of serving and loving one another.  His actions were all about preparing the disciples for what was ahead, even though he knew they did not understand that they could not possibly understand. When Judas left the meal, after likely dipping the parsley at the same time as Jesus and announced as a betrayer, imagine the confusion and shocked the disciples experienced.  I can imagine the indignation the disciples felt as they were told that they would all falter.  Imagine after the resurrection, the disciples talking and discussion the events of the Last Passover Supper with a new grasp and understanding that had failed them in the midst.  The point that really hits home today thinking about this, is the Jesus and the Father both spent a lot of time preparing the disciples and those around for the events that were to unfold.  The essential point here is God does prepare us for what is ahead. 

Now our being prepared is not something that we are fully aware of at the time.  We like the disciples may be confused and lost in the midst.  We wonder the who, what, when, where, and whys of things we do not grasp. Yet, God does go before us and prepare us. God is in control.  Sometimes many pieces come into play that converge, but God is not caught off guard or surprised by anything and he gives us what He knows we need, which is often different than what we think we need.  Jesus spent personal time with his disciples during an important and meaningful time to prepare them for what is to come.  As what was to come in the next few days was an apex of darkness before the point of victory occurred.  The time leading up to the Last Passover supper was all about preparation,  it was the “middle” part of the story that at the time seems insignificant and can even get  bogged down but really is the essential time as it was the time the pieces moved into place, the character moments established that build to the climax, which in the cause were the death and resurrection to come. 

In this day and age, when pieces and events seem to be moving us ever closer to the second coming, it is important to know that God has us undergoing times of preparation. Whatever we are doing and going through, it really serves to build us up and prepare us for what is yet to come.  God is working in each of our lives to give us the teaching, training, and growth needed for what is yet to come.   Each day is a day closer to Jesus return.  Just like the cross, the moment of victory will be preceded by a time of great darkness and the appearance of victorious darkness. Yet, Jesus is coming and Victory is assured.  God has prepared us for what is ahead and will go before us and lead the way.  We just need to stay the course, be sober, be alert, and remain awake.  God is and will test all claiming to be in the faith. Lines are being drawn, pieces are moving, and we are nearing the end.  It is both a terrible and glorious day.  But worry and fear not, because it is God that prepares our hearts and minds, it is he that enables us to stand firm.  Just seek and pursue truly loving God and others, walk the path God directs and points you and trust that God will prepare you for what is ahead.

Learning from the death of Ben Larson

Well today learned more about seminarian Ben Larson, who God called home in Haiti.   The ELCA News Service posted an article on Ben and reported information from his wife Renee about Ben’s death. The article can be found at: He Spent His Last Breath Singing: Wife, Cousin Remember ELCA’s Ben Larson – News Releases – Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The touching thing about the article was Ben’s behavior and attitude at the time of his death.  He was seperated from his wife and cousin.  He was clinging to a beam as the building began caving down on them.  In the midst of it all, he was singing.  The article reports that he had a sang the  words “God’s peace to us we  pray.”   Ben was singing praise to God, looking for His wholeness in the face of impending death.  He represented an attitude focused on God and his love and in the midst of immense crisis and face of impending death.  He focused on God, being separated from the wife he loved.  His death reflected God’s peace. 

Another important consideration in examining Ben Larson’s death was that he was true to how God created him and used his gifts up till the end.  He was created with musical talents and the ability to communicate God’s message in words.  He was serving others, building them up in understanding of growing in God.  He invested in God’s kingdom over.  He didn’t hold back, he did not just use what other people created. He actively used what God gave him and used those gifts to touch others with God’s love.  He did leave a little bit of his work behind on the internet.  He left seven songs published on a Myspace page including a worship song based on Psalms 30 . 

There is more information posted about who Ben  Larson was at his churches website: http://www.flcduluth.org/.  When you go to the church website, he hear Ben Larson singing varied songs, as they are playing four of his songs.  They also have a link to his obituary.   His obituary ends with a verse: I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will praise my God while I have my being. Psalm 104:31-33. As someone who only learned of Ben Larson due his death in Haiti, the little learned on the internet is that the verse sums up the man God created in Ben Larson.  He lived out the verse  till the end of His being in this life as he passed on to the next.  Personally, I hope and pray that what Ben has created becomes circulated amidst the church body as a whole, if his family and friends are able to find away.  In the meantime, take time to listen to what he has left and examine yourself to see if you are truly walking out and using what God has given you.   

As for Ben’s family and friends, may his Psalm 30 song echo in your hearts and mind and may God truly turn your mourning into dancing.  He clearly was a blessing and my life in enriched for learning of His love for God even unto death.  In fact, right now the thought that comes to mind is “Yet though he slay me, still I will praise him.” Ben did.  May the same be found true of us all.  

  

Haitians helping Haitians from the Livesay Blog

Ran across a powerful picture that is a testimony of people helping people in the midst of crisis.  People in Haiti so far have been giving of themself and doing what they need to do to survive.  One has to wonder if it takes for some of us losing all before we give all of ourself?   How would you respond to total devastation? Would you give of your last like the widow with Elijah?  How are you loving others?  Here people are walking out serving one another.  Those who follow Jesus need to be daily reflecting the light of God’s love to others.

The Livesay [Haiti] Weblog: Haitians helping Haitians.

                                                                                                                                                             A form of medical transport based on how God created one man.

Seminarian from Duluth Ben Larson died in Haiti

The Star Tribune has reported the probable death of Ben Larson in Hati. He, his wife Renee, and cousin Jonathon were on a mission trip to Haiti and were staying at St. Joseph’s guest house.  The building collapsed.  Renee and Jonathon made it out, Jonathon did not.  This death really emphasizes that for each of us, we do not know what day will be our last.  Ben was serving God and loving others, letting his light shine and reflect God’s love to others.  Personally, I never met the man or his family, but he died following God’s call.   Pray for his family, his friends, and all those who cared for the man as their hearts will be heavy with grief.  Yet, I hope and pray that they are also able to rejoice, for He has gone to be with God. He served God, and it was time to go.  Now the paper did indicate that there is some slight hope that he might still be alive, but if he is alive he is buried in rubble that rescuers cannot clear or get through.  It is a season of pain  and sorrow for many, yet may God’s peace grow in the hearts of those touched by Ben.  May his wife and family receive God’s comfort and peace and may their mourning be turned to dancing as God’s glory is served.  He died serving Jesus and loving others.  We all need to remember that to live is Christ, which is filled with pain and suffering along with loving others in surrender to the Father’s will.  Death is gain, for he is gone to be with Jesus with no more suffering or pain.  It is hardest on those left behind, yet I know God is bottling their tears and has His hand on their hearts. 

Another important word to remember is that God does work all things together for the good for those that love God.  Now that does not mean absence of pain or suffering, rather God brings good that glorifies Him out of all that happens in our lives.  We surrender to God, He works things out to the good.  Important to note that the good is not about things in this life, but rather the life found in Jesus and each step sanctifying us as we grow more  into God’s intent over our own and become a brighter reflection of God’s love.  This is true in each difficulty in our lives, not just tragedies filled with pain, suffering, and death.

The End of 2009: Reflections, Resolutions, and Questions

Well another year on the Roman Calender is coming to a close.  Time keeps on moving.  In each life, good and bad, pleasure, and pain, joy and sorrow, laughter and tears and other such elements of life happen.  Each day another day where we face the consequences and curses of sin.  Yet, today is a day marked off to focus on change.  Change from one year to another.  Today is a day that people look back at significant events and make plans for what is ahead. In other words people take time to reflect on the past and look ahead to the future.   In this blog article I will take some time to generally reflect on the year ahead and look forward to what God is doing.  Please take an opportunity to pray for me as you read this post and thank God for what he has done as well.  First, I will share some personal reflections of what this year has been about for me and then will look ahead to what looking forward to in the New Year.

2009 Personal Reflections:

2009   was a year filled with much change and growth.  Looking back at an article I wrote last year looking at where I have been and where I am going it is clear the journey I had made. Last year I was focus on the pain in the lives of those around me.  My step-mother Janie Blake was in the midst of her battle of Cancer.  It is a battle won, yet not quite finished yet.  Also became aware of my brother’s mother-in-law battle with Cancer and learning that her process was one leading to death.  A death still pending.  I was beginning to grow deeper in my relationship with God.  Last year at this time I was focused on the professional goals of finishing what I needed to do to complete my professional licensure.  Last year I had commented on a need to contact others and move in forgiveness. I moved and made attempts at some levels of doing such, but still an area needing growth.  Last year’s article referenced starting a forum and eventual web-portal.  Well the web-portal has been low on priorities.  I started out the year with a list of articles to write, and failed to get to or complete many.   Yet, also had written some articles that I believe God used to touch others as well as myself. 

2009 brought some significant events into my life and the lives of those around me.  Janie was victorious in her battle with cancer.  My mother became aware of vision loss.  My brother’s family overwhelmed with the suffering of pending grief.  My wife engaging in and seeking to move into getting healing and changing and letting God work on restoring her to how He created her to be.  The church God has me at, New Joy Church went through a transition from Pastor Richard Hubert to Pastor Brian Sinclair.  A move I sense will bring the church in to a period of productive service to the King of Kings.  So lots going on in those around me. Also lots going on with me as well.

Looking back last year, I commented that 2009 was a year of change.  And good changes did occur in me.  I can say without a doubt I am not the man I was a year ago.  Sure, I have undergone accomplishing a personal milestone in becoming a licensed Psychologist. Yet, the changes run a bit different from that.  I am a person who loves stories and fiction.  I can easily get lost in watching assorted stories and movies and spend a lot of time doing so.  Yet, God has opened my eyes and ears to the depth of the messages communicated in the stories presented on television and in movies.  My level of viewing these stories has reduced significantly.  As a person who grew up with ongoing television exposure this is a significant change. 

Another change was related to changing my diet.  I was reluctant to do so. I enjoy eating the foods I eat and really was not committed to change.  I agreed to a diet manly to support my wife.  Yet, in the process God has worked on my heart to start viewing approach to food differently and changing my mindset.  I still have some changing to do and old patterns return easily, but the change is positive and it is no longer doing it because of wife’s request.

I also believe that God has me in a process of restoring voice.  I have been a person who easily engaged in matters to working to serve God and others.  It was all about what I am doing.  A few years ago, God let me know that in terms of loving God and loving other that I needed to grow and restore my voice.  Actually starting writing this blog was a part of the process but God moved in my life to the point where I he had me give a sermon. The crowd was small, the sermon was imperfectly delivered. Yet, it is a move of giving voice.  In the process God also taught me a bit deeper about what it means to love God and others deeply and what it means to worship Him in spririt and truth.  If you haven’t read the full “sermon” on that, please do go read it here: https://peacebringer7.wordpress.com/2009/10/26/worship-in-spirit-and-truth-how-do-we/.  God also has me back to a point where I want to find ways to serve God in the church and allow God to use and develop my voice.  So God has continued that restoration process. 

Well, there are probably other areas where God has moved and changed me but the ones mentioned are the core areas coming to mind upon reflection.  A lot more comes to  mind on what changes still need to happen and continue as continue to grow in loving God and others genuinely as a reflection of God’s love for me.

Personal Resolutions:

The biggest need for me in the year ahead is to be more intentional. Often with the blog, the forum, and whatever else God has going on in my life, matters are often taken moment by moment.  There are lists of article ideas that simply have not been written as engage in writing on things that are more topical.  There was an effort to have some intentional posts getting into element of  spiritual growth but the articles stimulated litte  discussion or audience.  Yet, they served a purpose.  So I know I need to commit to both having articles posted by certain days and work on the list and ideas on what to write about that God has stirred in me. Until I get to writing some of those matters further, the use of  the voice God has given me is still not fully functional. 

One commitment for me as well in growing with relationship with God, is being more intentional also in relationships. It starts with my relationship with God.  Much like the blog, the interactions with God ebb and flow.  There is a lack of intentional consistency.  All to easily I let other things get in the way and feed on the junk rather than spending time relating with the One who loves me beyond measure.

My relationship with my wife and family and friends also can fit the same pattern.  There are ebbs and flows.  There needs to be more intentionality of my interactions and communications with those I love.  So as I am writing this, it is clear my overall resolution and desire in 2010 is to grow in intentionality and consistency of loving God and others rather than attending to self.  Just thinking about this, the lack of intentionality ulitmately is about self-focus rather than a God-focused reflection of His love.  Being intentional involves an act of the will of where to turn my focus.  So all in all I need to grow in surrendering to God and being intentional about what He puts before me.

 Now there are hopes and plans for the year to come and ways that need to move intentionally.  Those areas really mark the questions for the year ahead.

Personal Questions:

As stated a lot is going on in the lives of those around me.  Changes, struggles, suffering, and growth all are there.  The question that comes to mind is how can I be used in ongonig ways to love and build up those around me?

Of course there is the professional question of what will starting a private practice look like and what will the year bring?

There is the question of how am I to serve God in the church he has placed me? 

Will God give other opportunities for me to grow in use of voice?

What does God want me to say and do to help others?  

What will God do with what He is already teaching me?

What will happen in the world at large as God continues to allow pieces to shift in setting the scene for the return of the King of Kings?

These are my thoughts at the moment.  Tomorrow I will post specific prayer requests for me, my family, and my church as well as some words in prayer for the year ahead.  Please take time to look at where God has brought you, what God is stirring in you for the year ahead, and consider what God is asking of you today.   And may all you readers grow in God’s love and peace in  the year ahead.

BOOK REVIEW- Primal: A quest for the lost soul of Christianity by Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson's Primal

Mark Batterson is an author I recently became acquainted with the author via his blog: http://evotional.com/. I had run across an article I found helpful and reprinted it on the blog: https://peacebringer7.wordpress.com/2009/07/21/helpful-articles-the-best-decision-i-made-this-year-by-mark-batterson/.  As an author he seemed to be tuning into things God has been working and moving in me and as such challenging my growth in my relationship with God.

So given that initial introduction via Facebook and his blog I learned of an opportunity to review is upcoming book: Primal.  The books are read are carefully picked these days and done with the leading of the Holy Spirit. There is plenty of information and thoughts in the world at large but felt a leading to read this book and embraced the opportunity to discuss my impressions of the book on this blog site.  In discussing my impression of the book the discussion will involve examining the overall writing style of the book, the content of the book, and the personal impact of reading the material.  After examining the book I will add in my overall recommendations regarding the book.

The Writing:

As an author Mark Batterson is an excellent communicator.  He does a good job of communicating his points in an accessible manner that can be easily understood and digested.  Mark is able to take you into his perspective and teach what he has to offer.  Mark writes with a clear organization structure and the writing flows from one topic to the next easily.  As an author Mark is able to take you through a process and lead you to the summary conclusion in a seamless and succinct manner. 

The biggest strength Mark Batterson displays as an author is that of being able to use symbols that give fuller meaning and detail to the point he is making.  He is able to use symbolic images that illustrate adeptly the theological points he is making and give what he is teaching greater depth.

Another factor that is evident in the writing of the book is a deep genuineness. Mark writes in a way that is open and shares himself and his relationship with God. When reading the book, there is a feeling of joining in with the journey God brought Mark Batterson through in coming to the thoughts and the conclusions the book examines.

There is one issue though with Mark’s writing. Sometimes in what he shared it seemed he has repeated points he made elsewhere. Some of that may stem from the fact of having recently read his book Wild Goose Chase and have visited his blog several times upon discovery of his writing. So when an example is read that is similar to one read previously it just seems repetitive. Part of that is when you have got a powerful symbol that makes the point it is difficult not to keep using the symbol or try and find another symbol to say the same thing. It however can be frustrating to a reader to come to a point and feel like you had heard that point already.

Overall the writing in the book does excellent job of teaching the information presented in an accessible way that provides both depth and ease of understanding.

The Content:

The content in primal is that of primal importance.  The book content really does a profound job of describing genuine response to God’s revealed reality.  In other words, the book expounds on what it is to worship in truth. The content of the book really builds off of the points made in this article/sermon: https://peacebringer7.wordpress.com/2009/10/26/worship-in-spirit-and-truth-how-do-we/.

The book Primal in essence expounds upon the greatest commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Mark views heart, soul, mind, and strength as being four ways we move in love.  Mark connects heart with compassion, soul with wonder, mind with curiosity, and power with energy.  He then goes on to explain the meaning of those four areas. 

Mark Batterson does a good job at describing each area that gives a solid introduction to the concepts that also leaves the reader challenge to grow, explore and find out more.  The book cannot be read without being challenged to grow in compassion, wonder, curiosity, and energy. Even more, it challenges the reader to fully depend on God, as the true move in each dimension comes not from self but dependence on God. 

The content of the book though is not simply about explaining what it means to respond to God in those four areas of love, it is also a call to change and action.  It is call to others to move into loving God which requires action. He sums up the call to action of love in two words derived from Latin: Amo Dei. Meaning: Love God.

Personal Impact:

Personally the book was very complimentary to what God has been teaching and showing me. The connection with the examination of worship is spirit and truth has already been made. Yet I must admit that upon reading Mark’s perspective on the greatest commandment initially there was some struggle.  The first thought in my mind is that those four areas are not just ways we respond in love but the four aspects of self.  God though took those thoughts and through Mark’s writing enlarged them to a deeper understanding with Mark’s perspective added onto what I already had come to an understanding of.  So the book challenged me to move beyond my own understanding and look at the same concepts from a different perspective.  Ultimately Mark’s perspective expanded my understanding of moving in genuine response to God’s revealed reality.

The second impact was that the book challenged me to self-examination and growth.  The material in the book pushes the reader to really take a good look at the level in each dimension where operating in loving God, or settling for matters of gratifying self.  A personal reflective look results in knowing that there is a lot more growth needed in loving God and loving God well.  There is still a lot of self that dominates and gets in the way.  My heart, soul, mind, and strength are not as fully engulfed in loving God as they should.  Yet, it also leaves with knowledge that when I genuinely respond to God’s revealed reality and the initiative God takes in my live, the more I grow in ability to love not only God but others as well.

One other reaction to the book was that in each area of description it seemed that Mark only scratch the surface of meaning. It felt like taking a walk in the shallow end of the four dimensions examined by Mark.  There was a distinct desire to delve more deeply in understanding of each level. 

The true personal impact of the words written by Mark Batterson as God uses them in my life remains yet to be seen.  The book serves a good introduction at loving God completely and growing in genuine response to God with compassion, wonder, curiosity and strength that transcends self.  The book ends with a call to “Reformation” that brings the result of living Amo Dei. Living in such a way that loving God is greater than loving life. 

Recommendation:

If you want to start off the New Year with a book that will challenge you to change and growth, start off with reading Primal.  Of course it helps that the book is scheduled to be released on January 1st, 2010. The book is definitely worth adding to your library.

The book is well written and does a good job of teaching the importance and essence of following the greatest commandment, loving God totally.  The reader will not be unchanged in examining the content as God speaks in the words Mark uses to examine all aspects of loving God. The book will leave you with a call to action to move in greater measure of loving God.   

It is a book that can certainly be used in any church congregation or small group as well. The book can serves as a good discipleship tool in teaching others what it is to live out loving God.  For Pastors who like to use books in conjunction with sermon series, the material in this book provides rich ground for even further exposition.   The book is written in such a way that the material can be used in a small group format along with questions and interactions that could result in a powerful small group learning experience.   It will be interesting to see how God uses the book to touch the lives of others and people reconnect with the primal meaning of loving God fully.

My final recommendation is regardless of whether or not you read the book or use it as part of a small group community or church ministry you should take time to learn how to love God deeply.  I support strongly the call to live Amo Dei. You do not need to read Primal in order to grow in your genuine response to God’s love, you can do so simply responding genuinely to what God has done, but the book will give you a good foundation and framework that can facilitate growth in loving God.

Places you can purchase Primal: Amazon, Random House, Barnes and Noble, Christian Book Distrubutors.