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The righteous are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. Psalm 1:3

Jesus said, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” John 15:8

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Fort Casey, WA | January 2019

I shared the unbelievable and incomprehensible conversation I had many years ago with a man who was leaving his wife and daughters. He told me, “I know it’s wrong. But I’m leaving her.” I was so stunned I didn’t know what to say.

As I shared that with the guys at the Theology on Tap Bible study they were similarly stunned. Then one spoke up: “Don’t we all do that?” While on some level he’s right, I pray we never fully reflect such an attitude or action. We’re very much like that man – all too bold in our sin, doing things we know we ought not. We are in sadly all-too-common company in that regard: no less a one than St. Paul experienced that.

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. – Romans 7:15-19

So are we like that bold and audacious man across the desk from me those years ago? Yes and no. To recognize that we are – whenever we sin – keeps us humble before God and one another. When we repent of our sin, we are much different. This is one way in which the unrepentant sinner and we are very much not alike. We repentant sinners who follow Jesus – albeit imperfectly – do glorify God.

Jesus says the key to bearing fruit is not perfection, but connection to him. When we abandon God’s ways, and openly and willfully sin, we lose that connection. We do not glorify God. But when we stay connected to Jesus we will bear fruit. We will have a beautiful witness to God’s grace in our lives. And what we do will have lasting impact.

The man who left his wife and daughters had a lasting impact on them as well. But that’s the kind that does not glorify God nor give evidence to the world that we are Jesus’ followers. As we stay connected to Jesus we will bear fruit of lasting impact for the good of others and the glory of God.

O land, land, land, hear the word of the Lord! Jeremiah 22:29

So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 1 Thessalonians 5:6

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“JOHN TREVOR” | Fort Casey, WA | January 2019

I hear the call to “hear the word of the Lord” as an urgent warning. I think of prophets confronting kings of the Old Testament. I imagine evangelists calling people to repent. O how we need this today! How we need a true prophet to speak truth to power. Whether it has to do with immigration issues, life issues, moral decency, or sexuality and chastity, God’s word desperately needs to be heard! “O land, land, land…” I can hear the dire call of Jeremiah, deeply desiring that the people hear and heed the word of God. This is an pleading cry for the people to repent.

I can recall having one of those “come to Jesus” moments. The comments were clear and direct. There was no confusion, beating around the bush, or oblique language involved. “This is what’s going on. This isn’t good. You must change.” That was when I was in college. I really did need to change. And I did.

Not everyone needs that kind of direct and overpowering communication. Some need the more gentle and kind word of exhortation. The mere hint of a need to repent will send them to their knees. The suggestion that there may be something worth reconsidering, or recalibrating is enough to get their attention.

Some people will not listen in any case. The soft and kind whisper is for them a pesky gnat flying around their head. It simply needs to be swatted away. The bold and direct call to repent is nothing but bothersome noise to be drowned out by the clamor of the world or the distractions of busy life.

Still God calls. His prophets, preachers, followers, missionaries, and evangelists speak in his behalf. As Paul says, “We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). These words reflect the earnest desire of God for us to be known by God, and to know him fully. God is constantly calling us to himself, and seeking to bring us to a better place of his kindness and grace than any place we can make for ourselves.

Perhaps there is someone in your life who needs to hear the truth of God in a strong and direct way. Perhaps you are yearning for a loved one to “get it” so that they become no longer their own worst enemy.

You may also be distressed by the behavior and actions of powerful people in your life. Whether it’s your boss, a teacher, or politician – local or national – you may feel the need to “speak truth to power.” That phrase is used to describe what Peter did when he was told not to speak anymore about Jesus. Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

If that is the case, do not neglect to speak truth also to the Highest Power. Don’t neglect to call on God in their behalf. When we speak truth to God, we will acknowledge our sin, but also speak our needs to him. Remember that God yearns for us to call on him, and to seek his  guidance and grace. When we speak truth to love, we delight God – whether we are speaking to a politician, or to God himself.

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Psalm 9:9

And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? Luke 18:7

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Smaller Artillery Shelters | Fort Casey, WA | January 2019

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Disappearing Artillery Installations | Fort Casey, WA | January 2019

We visited Fort Casey on Whidbey Island, WA when we were visiting family there. It is an interesting fortification. Two large cannons remain atop an embankment pointing out to Puget Sound. Places remain where several others had been installed. There are numerous rooms, nooks, and crannies scattered around the stronghold. I was particularly interested in the existence of a bunker with the sign “Switchboard” over the entrance. It was buried deep inside the man-made hill. I’m not certain of the strategic importance or purpose of the fort. But its design indicated purpose and importance.

The problem with a stronghold such as this, however, is that it may or may not be well-placed. What if the enemy ignores the area being protected by this citadel, and attacks at another spot? Useless. Only to be abandoned. It becomes a curiosity. Wikipedia tells us:

However, the fort’s batteries became obsolete almost as soon as their construction was completed.

The invention of the airplane in 1903, and the subsequent development of military aircraft made the fort vulnerable to air attack. In addition, the development of battleships designed with increasingly accurate weaponry transformed the static strategies of the nineteenth century into the more mobile attack systems of the twentieth century.

Worse yet are those obsolete strongholds into which we take refuge only to discover they don’t serve us well. Large 401K becomes a 200.5K in one fell swoop in 2008. A well-cared-for body succumbs to the ravages of cancer. Every precaution taken to insulate your career goes up in smoke when the company is sold to a competitor who eliminates 75% of the workforce.

God, however, is never sold out. He triumphs over sin, sickness, and death. He has eternal and true riches, and promises to provide for all our needs when we put him first, and seek his reign and rule above all else. For too many people God has become obsolete. But he is not obsolete. He rules above every power, authority, and spiritual force. He has the Last Say. And in the end those who take refuge in him will delight to see him come to vindicate the faithful and save the oppressed.

Those who think their stronghold will stand fast will be utterly disappointed when they discover that their fortresses to be utterly obsolete before the judgment of God.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. Psalm 19:7

In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:3

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“ARUS EIGHTY THREE – II” | Fort Casey, WA | January 2019

I am not a perfect guy. That comes as no surprise to anyone who knows the truth of the fallen state of man. We’re all sinners. We all fail. But there are some perfect people – humanly speaking – in the world. Some of them are our work associates, fellow students, family members, or neighbors.

I recall seeing one such person from afar. He was getting ready to do some work in his yard and put out little flags to identify every single one of the sprinkler heads. I thought it was a bit much, more than really necessary. Then I happened to see his garage when he was pulling out one day. Every single tool, lawn-care implement, extension cord, paint can, lawn-care chemical, and can of oil – whatever you can imagine to be in a well-stocked garage – was perfectly place. Completely in line. Not one misaligned item. Not one. This man was obsessively perfect. Even his cars were perfectly aligned in the garage; not one inch to the right or left of where they should be.

I have a fairly neat garage. But it’s not perfect. And don’t even ask me about my desk in my office at home! I like to think that my messiness makes me lovable. I’m approachable. People won’t be put off my my perfectionism. I hope that they are not put off my my messiness!

Consider God. When I think of the phrase, “the Word became flesh,” I have in mind a bit of messiness. The birth process is messy, and without more modern sterile birthing practices, and a feed trough in which he was laid, Jesus embraced the messiness of this world. He took on human flesh and lived among us. Life is messy. Jesus embraced all of our messiness.

But Jesus is also pure and perfect, wise and with full knowledge of us and our fallen state. He is not some plastic cut-out of a perfectly-coiffed, nattily-dressed, and pristinely-presented televangelist. He is real. But don’t let that realness fool you. He is wise beyond any human, and perfect from his heart. He knows you perfectly and has no battle within himself to overcome in order to love you fully. That’s a perfection for which we can all thank God!

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. Jeremiah 31:31

You have come to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant. Hebrews 12:22,24

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“ABUS EIGHTY THREE” | Fort Casey, WA | January 2019

Imagine yourself bound to a fair contract , but one which you cannot fulfill. The terms are fair, just unattainable. You don’t have the necessary money to bring it to completion. You don’t have the resources to deliver the goods.

Now imagine that the one who holds the upper hand in the contract offers you a completely gracious and totally favorable to you. You are given favored client status, all the necessary resources, and complete financial backing. You gain everything you weren’t able to enjoy or deliver under the old contract. You simply go to work in a completely favorable environment.

Out of deep gratitude to the one who re-negotiated your contract and provided these entirely new and advantageous conditions, you might be willing to honor the wishes of the other party to your contract.

So it is with God and our relationship with him. The Old contract (Covenant) was simple: “Do these things and you will live. Don’t do these things and you will die.” There was no hope in that, for we could never fulfill our side of the Old Covenant. No one could. The best Old Testament king (David) failed. Royally. Murder. Adultery. Deceit. Sin. Two of the Ten Commandments completely, grossly broken. The superstar prophet Isaiah – when confronted with the glory of God – said,

 “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5). The one who was declared righteous by God in the end said, “I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). “They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” (Psalm 53:3).

But now there is a new covenant – a new agreement between God and man. It is founded on the One who did good, was perfectly righteous, and then died in behalf of us who have failed to do so. Now the agreement is this: Jesus’ blood and righteousness has delivered us from sin, death, and condemnation. There is a new agreement, a new way for us to live.

No more manipulating the gods for favors we only deceive them into believing we deserve. No more trying to deserve the good things that come our way. Now we live lives of gratitude, love, and faith. Now we have a new attitude. Now we rest secure in the goodness of God, not in our efforts to do something we could never do in the first place.

For me that means I have new opportunities daily to begin again, to experience his love and grace, and to reorient myself to this new way of living – under Christ in his kingdom and serve him in eternal gratefulness and praise. That means I’m not stuck in some groundhog day of futile hopelessness.

Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.  Proverbs 12:18

Look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. James 3:4-5

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What is Held Inside Here? | Fort Point, WA | January 2019

Two encounters with teachers during my elementary and middle-school years left their mark. I’ve since lived them down, but I’m certain they set me back a good little bit those several decades ago.

When I was in third grade my teacher was known as being very strict. I think that actually meant that she never smiled. Her face was furrowed brow to harsh frown one of determined solemnity. Hers was a Bill Belichick demeanor. She may have thought of smiling had her class won the prize for best behaved (read: scared) class in the school. One day I told her about a book I had written.

I was in a book club and when finished the reader was prompted: “I will tell my teacher about this book.” Perhaps it was a marketing ploy, to get kids to recommend the book, teachers to assign the book, or at least request it be ordered for the school library. I was a failure at marketing. And she was a failure at encouragement. Her response to me: “What am I supposed to do about it?” I never told her about another book again. Nor did I receive much encouragement to read more books.

Another teacher once told me – when my name was not called to be assigned to a foreign language class in junior high school, “Well, I guess you’re just too dumb to take a foreign language.” Perhaps she was just having a bad day. But it certainly didn’t make my day any better. Like a dagger to my heart, I proved her correct when I tried to take Latin in 8th grade. I had no idea whatsoever why we were saying, “Amo, amas, amat…” I could figure out the “La lacunum est parve” (the pond is small), but the rest – not so much.

Compare that with words of encouragement I’ve received, “I believe you’d be a good pastor,” said a certain young woman to me when we were first dating. Little did she know that she would end up being a pastor’s wife! Just today I received a comment, “One of your best,” speaking of a recent blog post. Kind words of encouragement. Well spoken. Soothing to the soul.

The tongue of the wise brings healing. I’ve also been asked some challenging questions by wise persons. “God never does anything wrong, right?” My answer: “Right.” The repartee: “Well then why doesn’t everyone love him, honor him, respect him, believe in him?” Challenging words, but wise and healing to a soul that thought if I could just do everything right I’d be successful in handing some conflict in the church I was serving at that time.

There are others. A doctor who got in my face about a health issue. A seminary professor who thought I turned out OK at the end of my seminary education. “Why do you say that, Dr. Eggold?” “Well,” he said, “when you got here you looked like you really didn’t know what was going on.” Boy was he right – perhaps about the final comment, but for certain about his assessment of me when I first arrived at the seminary!

More than once I’ve wished I could take back words spoken rashly. Whether or not I intended to be hurtful, they were. So it goes. I hope these words bring some healing to you, and that you, dear reader, will seek to speak words of healing, grace, and truth.

The Lord has been mindful of us; he will bless us. Psalm 115:12

Rejoice that your names are written in heaven. Luke 10:20

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“ProSeries 428” | Fort Point, WA | January 2019

The other day I took the dongle off my earbuds in order that I could plug them into my computer for a conference call. I normally keep the dongle on the earbuds so I can plug them into my iPhone (thanks Apple…NOT!). Nonetheless, I did that. Shortly thereafter I put the little two inch white connector SOMEWHERE. The problem is that I did it really absentmindedly. REALLY absentmindedly. I have no idea where I put it. I looked for the treasured connector several times before giving up and buying a new one (Did I already thank Apple for removing the earphone plug from its latest and greatest phone? But I digress).

If that was the only time I was absentminded, that would be one thing. There may be other times as well. If not absentminded, try inattentive, distracted, thoughtless. I particularly rue the fact that I could ever be thoughtless. I pride myself on being thoughtful, kind, and attentive. Sadly, however, I am too often distracted, otherwise-focused, or preoccupied. My wife will testify to that fact – sorry Diane!

Thankfully God is never any of those disconnected things. He is mindful, attentive, aware, present, and focused. He hears when we whisper our prayers. He listens when we sigh our anxious thoughts. His eye is on the sparrow, and we are worth more than many sparrows (Matthew 10:30-31). He knows our thoughts, needs, desires, hopes, dreams, and struggles. Every one of them. Every. Single. One.

What is truly amazing about all this has to do with our forgetfulness, thoughtlessness, and inattentiveness to God. We are so often very too much taken by the things, worries, desires, distractions, and allurements of the world. How many times does your mind wander to places of sinful thoughts? How often is God completely absent from your mind?

God knows all this. He knows everything about you. He knows your thoughts. He knows your words. He knows the things you have done in secret. He knows the things you try to hide. He knows the secret shame you dredge up in the dark hours of the night. And still God loves you. In fact he loves the real you more than any fake, put on a good show, stiff-upper-lip, don’t-let-them-see-you-sweat, hold-your-head-high self you might try to project.

Jesus died for the real you. The broken you. The thoughtless you. The forgetful you. The hidden, shame-ridden you. The fearful, anxious, worried, sleepless you. He lives in you so that there may also be times of joy, celebration, thanksgiving, thoughtfulness, and awareness. Then we can put God in his proper place and keep aware of others’ needs. Then we can rejoice in God’s faithful awareness of us, our needs, joys, hopes, and struggles. For he has been mindful of us!