Archive

Uncategorized

Even now, in fact, my witness is in heaven, and he that vouches for me is on high. Job 16:19

Paul wrote: At my first defense no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them! But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength. 2 Timothy 4:16–17

20181207-DSC00321

Flora at the Hermitage | Nashville, TN | December 2018

Imagine someone whose relationship with her husband is broken. She’s done some really stupid things, been self-centered, and selfish on more than one occasion. She’s not been unfaithful as far as you are aware. But her actions have really hurt their relationship. For his part, however, he has given her no grace. He is adamantly angry with her and sees no good reason for any of her nefarious actions. These two are in a very bad place. She may or may not be contrite, but he is certainly not gracious toward her. Every effort she might make to get right with him will be dismissed. She has no place to stand.

There are times when we must deal with people who will not forgive or who judge us so harshly that we cannot endure their scrutiny. It may be an unreasonable boss. It might be a jealous spouse, an unforgiving neighbor, or a mean co-worker. In those moments we must simply entrust our hearts to God, and look to him for our peace of heart.

There are alternatives to doing so. None of these, however, are good options.

  • Ignore the oaf who is causing you grief. Sometimes the enemy flatters while your friend will give you the “last 10%” – the hard truth that no one else has the courage to tell you. (cf. Proverbs 27:6)
  • Launch a vicious counter-attack the likes of which he has never seen before: Shock and Awe relational warfare. God’s word says: The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. – James 1:20
  • Work harder so that no one can accuse you of falling short in any manner. We’ll never be able to gain a sense of justification by working harder. We do not earn God’s favor by our good works. Those good works become filthy rags if we seek self-justification by them. (cf. Isaiah 64:6)
  • Give up and live in the gloom of condemnation and accusation. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That’s a powerful truth in which we stand.

Perhaps you do need to repent, even as your accuser has no grace for you. Remember, God does. We are justified by grace through faith. When we impute good to God’s character, recognize Jesus’ perfect righteousness as God’s gift to us, and allow his goodness and grace to cover us we can stand even the most unfair and harsh earthly condemnation. God’s word to us is grace, mercy and peace. What a precious word that is!

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones. Isaiah 49:13

Christ Jesus became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 1 Corinthians 1:30

20181207-DSC00332-Edit

The Hermitage Flora | Nashville, TN | December 2018

A friend of mine is battling cancer. It is a vicious enemy, this disease. He told me something this morning that really struck a note in my heart: “When they don’t have good news they get vague.” He was speaking of the medical professionals whose job it is to bring healing arts to cancer patients and others. Apparently at this moment there isn’t much good news, because the docs are being pretty vague.

He also spoke of the tendency of his doctor to keep up his hopes. “Who knows? It might work!” That was the attitude of his oncologist. “They have to be that way, otherwise how could they go to work each day?”  That was the conclusion of my friend.

God’s word is filled with specific promises, clear and consistent truth, powerful words of grace and life. He promises to hear us when we pray. He tells us that when Jesus rose from the dead, he conquered death for all people. He is direct and specific in his commands: Love the Lord your God. Love your neighbor.

That has implications for us when it comes to witnessing to others about God. We have good news to share. When a doctor comes in and says, “I have a 80% chance of saving your life,” he has just delivered good news. When he hems and haws about trying this or that (emphasis on trying), he has no good news to share.

If you are hemming and hawing about God – who he is, what his promises are, and how we are to know him – we are not delivering good news. But if we sing his praises with gusto, and proclaim his glory clearly we are giving witness to the Good News of God.

At Christmas time we have more opportunities than at any other time to deliver a clear message of good news. After all, the message of the angels to the shepherds in the field was, “Behold! I bring you good news of great joy that shall be for all people. For unto you is born this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

How many songs and carols do you have that proclaim that good news, and not some vague hope for a fat elf to make his way down your chimney? How many gatherings can you attend where the true message of Christmas, a Savior who is Christ the Lord, has come. And he has saved us.

Shout it out! Sing praise to God. The wisdom from God, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption has come to us in the babe of Bethlehem. That’s not something we have to mumble about.

I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on your name. Psalm 63:4

Paul wrote: I urge first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone. 1 Timothy 2:1

20181207-DSC00343

Flora at the Hermitage | Nashville, TN | December 2018

We – like many churches these days – are facing some financial challenges these days. These are unusual, however, because of the circumstances we face and the pockets in which the money is or is not. The details are not important, but a note from my brother and fellow pastor David Schultz is germane to to this post.

He wrote:

As we were talking last week about prayer for the final stewardship emphasis, I was thinking about a note to the congregation from you of the need to be in prayer to sustain the response to the needs that are ours. Might begin with an emphasis from I Tim 2:1ff, “I urge you then FIRST OF ALL, that requests, prayers intercessions and thanksgiving me made for everyone…” ; followed then by Jesus words Matt 7:7, “ask and it shall be given”; followed by James 4:2b, “you don’t have because  you do not ask.”

Perhaps asking everyone on our email list to pause with you for 5 minutes each day till the 31st (you set the daily time), and we will pray with you a prayer like,

“Dear Heavenly Father; You have given us the greatest gift in Jesus Christ your Son, and for that we are eternally grateful. But with ministry emphasis at St. John expanding exponentially yearly, there are ministry needs that we have yet to meet for 2018. Give each of us the willingness to join hands to  meet these needs with gifts we have yet to put aside, but which You have already provided. In Jesus’ Name.  

My reply to him was simple:

This is excellent. I was thinking of sending a pray-gram to the members and regular attenders in this vein. Thanks for your thoughts. Prayer first…what a concept. We should all be on our knees in repentance that we haven’t been doing this from the start!

What, in your life, is in need of God’s intervention and prayer? Is it a wayward child, an estranged relative, a broken relationship, a battle with disease, trouble at work? This is not a call to disconnect our minds and bodies from working on things we are able to do ourselves. It is a call, however, to pray first.

It’s not clear who first said it, but it bears repeating: Whatever you face, pray like everything depends on God and work as though everything depends on you. Another way to say this is, “Pray like everything depends on God and work as though you are God’s answer to the prayer you just prayed!”

O grant us help against the foe, for human help is worthless. Psalm 60:11

Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God. John 6:68–69

Houston Cistern | November 2018

Diane and I are in Nashville for her PLI team meeting and Christmas party. I’ve distributed my Flowers by God Photos by David 2019 calendar – our Christmas gift to the members of the PLI team. We’re also really enjoying the PLI in-service training event around the Enneagram (as well as the five-fold gifts (APEST), and five capitals). I have been somewhat skeptical of this new-to-me latest thing of self-discovery. Two discoveries on my part have helped me appreciate the Enneagram.

The Enneagram is actually an ancient tool (the roots of which date to as early as the 4th century) for thinking about and understanding oneself. It is connected to and grows out of how the seven deadly sins manifest themselves in our behaviors and how they influence our motivations.

Our training session today unpacked some deeper connections to issues around the positive and negative manifestations that each of us who follow Jesus experience and express. Some key thoughts for me today are reflected in the notes I took today:

The Journey of Selflessness

  • Know myself
  • Accept myself (stop here and you become narcissistic)
  • Forget myself
  • Give myself (the highest goal of Jesus followers)

The Power and Importance of Selflessness

  • Knowledge of self + Knowledge of God = Life Transformation
  • Lack of self-knowledge + Knowledge of God = Naive Optimism
  • Self-Knowledge + Ignorance of God = Selfish Ambition

This is what connects with the verses above: none of this self-discovery is of any value apart from God’s presence, power, and influence in our lives. Only through Jesus and his words do we have life of any value. Only through his gift of eternal life does any of this have true value.

We may successfully navigate through life as a follower of Jesus without ever knowing about the Enneagram. If, however, we are willing to learn what we can about ourselves we may be able better to follow Jesus and have an impact in others’ lives, and have a kingdom impact on them.

If we stop the journey of self-awareness at the “Accept myself” step, we will simply be narcissists. If the Holy Spirit leads us to give myself to the benefit and blessing of others, we can have kingdom impact in the lives of others, helping them to listen for Jesus’ voice and seek God’s help in all of life, now and through all eternity.

The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. Psalm 121:5–6

He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:8

20181130-DSC00286

I listened today to a podcast from a pastor who made the point that Jesus didn’t come only to forgive our sins. He came to set us free. I think I know what that means, and I hope my understanding is correct. But I wonder. Do we realize just how vitally important it is that our sins are forgiven.

Life on this earth is not to be despised or belittled. The challenges of living the victorious Christian life are bold and daunting. Our witness to the world is certainly stymied if we are in bondage to anything other than the love and grace of God.

Nor do I want to point people to the idea that in the end, the end is all that matters. Our calling to live under Christ in his kingdom and serve him is a daily calling; not something we simply put off until the end and then ask for forgiveness for all those times we failed to honor Christ or take advantage of the freedom we have in him.

That’s why it is truly good news that God is our keeper, our shade and protector. That’s a daily reality, and we honor him when we take that on fully and live in hopeful faith each moment of our lives.

The strength that Jesus gives “to the end” is not to be a cause for giving up or letting go of the challenges before us. The strength to the end is for the cause of Jesus’ rule and reign in our hearts and the hearts of others. O Lord God, I need that strength!

Each year for the past several years I’ve offered the prayer at the Northwest Houston Photo Club Christmas party. It’s a fun light-hearted thing. This year I wrote lyrics to the Christmas song, Do You See What I See. The whole group sang with me! Then I prayed the prayer, and at the end the group joined in saying “Hallelujah! Amen.” We had a great time. I hope you enjoy the song and prayer/poem…

Do You See What I See – Photographer’s Version

Said the landscape photographer to his photo buddy,
Do you see what I see?
Hill and streams running down below
Do you see what I see?
The morning sun casts its golden glow
And the scene is filled with great light.
And the scene is filled with great light.

Said the flower photographer to her photo buddy,
Do you see what I see?
Petals, colors, shapes in perfect light
Do you see what I see?
A flower, a bud, a background and a vase
All arranged so perfectly right.
All arranged so perfectly right.

Said the host of the NWHPC Christmas Party
Listen to what I say
Pray for peace people everywhere
Listen to what I say
The child, the child
Sleeping in the night
He has brought us goodness and light
He has brought us goodness and light

Let us thank him for goodness and light!

2018 NWHPC Christmas Party Prayer

We’ve sung a song. We’ve shared good cheer.
The food is spread. The time is near.
So before we eat, we’ll say a prayer
And offer thanks for gifts so fair.

Food, and drink, friends and kindness
All from Your hand, O Lord of all goodness.
We thank you today united as one
Whether our gear has black lenses or uses the gray ones.

I’m happy to offer this prayer again this year
Remembering that God’s gifts bring the truest cheer.
So raise a glass high and join me in praise
For the True Gift of God who in a manger was laid.

The goodness of God displayed to all the world
Brings joy, peace, hope, and life – it’s Jesus our Lord.
We thank you, O God for all these good gifts
For they are signs of your love and give our spirits a lift.

Now if you will do so, as this prayer comes to an end,
Join me in saying hallelujah! Amen!

Song & Prayer by David Bahn | December 3, 2018