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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

My Dayspring, My Morning Star

He is my Dayspring ... my bright Morning Star.  Who am I referring to? The God-Man, Jesus of Nazareth ... Creator and Sustainer, Giver of real life, Transformer of mind, body and soul.  He poured His love into my heart in the month of May 1982. And, over the course of the next year during a kind of "quarter-life crisis" as I was working my way through an MBA education and experiencing a great deal of angst wondering just where all this was going to lead, He worked to cement that love into the very core of my essence. In the midst of trying to make sense of it all, I came to a complete and utter realization of just what this amazing Savior did on my behalf, and what this incredible love really meant for me as I moved forward into the riggers of life. I was changed from the inside out, never to be the same again ... and never looking back. I was re-born.






Though it has been Spring on the calendar for a number of weeks, here in the Northeastern United States the month of May is when Spring really starts to show. The up-and-down temperatures and unsettled weather systems start to moderate into a consistent pattern of warmth, brightness and beauty, and the spectacular blossoming renewal of Spring usually reaches its zenith of splendor.

I count May to be the month of both my natural birth (the 13th) and my spiritual re-birth (the 16th). I've thought often of how appropriate it was that the beginning of my spiritual renewal and inner healing began at this transformational time of year.  Winter loosens its icy cold grip and fades away, nature springs back to life from its quiet stillness, bland grayness turns into spectacular hues of color, and everywhere stagnation is infused with regenerative power ... and so it was with the Creator giving the indwelling life of His Spirit to this broken and repentant man. I'll never forget the start of my wonderful journey of spiritual discovery ... an embracing of what author and psychologist Dr. Larry Crabb coins "The Immanuel Agenda": God with us. His infusion and cultivation of a people who will value Him above all else. God in me, and I in Him. It was a pivot point ... a changing of my life's center from me, myself and I to that of The Creator of the Universe who cared enough and came near enough to take restorative action on my behave ... and on behalf of all humanity, should we all care to recognize and embrace it. What a wild, exhilarating, and many times scary ride ... sometimes hanging on white-knuckled to the safety bar! But what change, growth and opportunity to come to know Him like I never thought possible.

I've embedded a song here that I think encapsulates so well what I felt on the day I found the God-man ... or should I say, He found me. I really felt as if I was seeing for the very first time, with fresh Spirit eyes. He made my heart His home.




I hope you enjoy the freshness and wonder of Spring ... and if you haven't experienced a day of re-birth yet,  my prayer for you is that someday you will on just as fine a Spring day as I did. Shalom!

"... and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." 
- from the apostle Paul's love letter to the Romans, 5:5 (NASB)
"Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can't bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can't bear fruit unless you are joined with me. I am the Vine, you are the branches.  When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant.  Separated, you can't produce a thing."
"I am praying not only for these disciples, but for all who will ever believe in me because of their testimony. My prayer for all of them is that they will be one, just as you and I are one, Father - that just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent me." 
- Jesus of Nazareth (from the Good News according to John, 15:4-5 MSG and 17:20-21 NLT)

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Last Adam



Every story in the Bible (the Judeo-Christian source documents) whispers the name of its central heroic character ... Jesus Christ. Like a scarlet thread unraveling and stretching from beginning to end, the story of redemption, restoration and transformation unfold in its pages. It traverses many peaks and valleys, but its apex and punctuation is radiantly reached in the life, death and resurrection of the one referred to as the "Last Adam." The Savior of the world is given so many wonderful names and titles in the source record, but this one is particularly striking. Why?

Because it hearkens us back to the beginning, and our connection to it, where the ugliness of the first Adam's defiance and rebellion against an infinite and pure Creator marred and distorted the very image of that Creator stamped within him. That real-life screenplay forever changed the landscape of humanity, changing the course of our destiny, and passing on an inheritance of defiance, rebellion, selfishness and ... separation and death. It was never meant to be that way.

Ahhh ... but the nature, the very essence, of that infinite and pure Creator is also one of goodness and lovingkindness that compels him to seek out and actively set right what had gone so terribly wrong. Which brings us to the work of the Last Adam, Son of the Living God. The Apostle Paul, a major contributor to the Judeo-Christian source documents, says it this way: 1/

"You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we're in - first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death. That sin disturbed relations with God in everything and everyone, but the extent of the disturbance was not clear until God spelled it out in detail to Moses. So death, this huge abyss separating us from God, dominated the landscape from Adam to Moses. Even those who didn't sin precisely as Adam did by disobeying a specific command of God still had to experience this termination of life, this separation from God. But Adam, who got us into this, also points ahead to the One who will get us out of it. 
Yet the rescuing gift is not exactly parallel to the death-dealing sin. If one man's sin put crowds of people at the dead-end abyss of separation from God, just think what God's gift poured through one man, Jesus Christ, will do! There's no comparison between that death-dealing sin and this generous, life-giving gift. The verdict on that one sin was a death sentence; the verdict on the many sins that followed was this wonderful life sentence. If death got the upper hand through one man's wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides? 
Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said 'no' to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said 'yes' to God and put many in the right."

The first Adam and the Last Adam ... similiar in comparison, but what a contrast in outcomes: 2/
  • The first Adam yielded to temptation in a garden. The Last Adam beat temptation in a garden.
  • The first man, Adam, sought to become like God. The Last Adam was God who became a man.
  • The first Adam was naked and received clothes. The Last Adam had clothes but was stripped.
  • The first Adam tasted death from a tree. The Last Adam tasted death on a tree.
  • The first Adam hid from the face of God, while the Last Adam begged God not to hide His face.
  • The first Adam blamed his bride, while the Last Adam took the blame for His bride.
  • The first Adam earned thorns. The Last Adam wore thorns.
  • The first Adam gained a wife when God opened man’s side, but the Last Adam gained a wife (his "Church," all who choose to believe in Him) when man opened God’s side.
  • The first Adam brought a curse. The Last Adam became a curse.
  • While the first Adam fell by listening when the Serpent said “take and eat,” the Last Adam told His followers, “take and eat, this is my body.”

The Last Adam lived life as it was meant to be. And in His death he did what had to be done, the only way it could be done, to set things right again ... to restore us, to renew us ... to make us whole and connected again.

Don't hurriedly rush through this day referred to as "Good Friday." Take time to think through what took place on this day in history on a lonely hill and upon a rugged cross. THINK about what an infinite Creator, your Creator, did for you and I through the "Last Adam." And, oh by the way ... Friday is not the end ... Sunday's coming! Shalom.

Notes:
1/ - From The Apostle Paul's love letter to the Romans (5:12-18, MSG).
2/ - From a BreakPoint article entitled Jesus, the Last Adam by John Stonestreet with Shane Morris.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

What I'd Like To Hear From Colin Kaepernick


I've been a fan of Colin Kaepernick and his gifted athletic talents every since he burst onto the NFL stage a few years back. However, my level of respect and admiration for the man has been diminished with his recent stance and comments. Here's what I'd like to hear Colin say (perhaps in a prime-time news conference) so that I could take seriously his "passionate" reluctance to show respect for his country and one of its most important symbols, the U.S. flag, during the pre-game singing of our National Anthem:
"I am clearly under-performing and not representing the fans of San Francisco to the best of my abilities. Until I can perform up to the level that I am capable of as a skilled quarterback in the NFL and represent well the fans and organization who so graciously provide me with the opportunity to earn a living while playing this wonderful game, I will not be accepting the generous paychecks that I currently receive. I will voluntarily ask the front office to suspend such payments until such time that my play and leadership are representative and well worth the oppressive price that both the fans and the San Francisco 49ers' organization sacrifice to see me perform. In addition, if I cannot perform at the level that I am capable of, I'll either consent to re-structure my contract to be more reflective of my current level of performance, or gladly accept a trade to another team. Thank you."
 My previous level of respect and admiration would then return, for both the man himself and his "passionate" stand on other matters outside of football, even while being disappointed in his failing to secure the starting QB job in San Francisco and returning to at least the level of play he showed during that marvelous Super Bowl run a few years ago. This wonderful, albeit imperfect, country provides for you, Mr. Kaepernick, the opportunity that you now enjoy and are compensated so handsomely for. In no other country would you be afforded that opportunity (perhaps excepting Canada) ... not Cuba, or any other truly "oppressive" regime (of which there are many) that don't hold a candle to the stature and level of freedom afforded and enjoyed by you, me and so many others here in the United States of America.

It's not likely, but here's hoping that Colin changes his tone and tenure before tonight's pre-season game with the San Diego Chargers, who by-the-way are holding their annual Military Night to salute the contributions to our country of so many wonderful military personnel. No doubt, it will include a show of respect and honor for the flag they all have helped to protect. Hear, hear!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

A Winning Formula

It's playoff time in the NFL. 12 Teams have earned the right to a post-season ticket by slogging through a grueling 16-game season. Along the way, they've experienced triumphs, setbacks, having to overcome injuries and working through team dynamics with multiple personalities and talents needing to be molded and shaped for optimal performance at a very high level of play.




One of those teams is the Kansas City Chiefs. I've never been a fan particularly of the Chiefs, but their performance this year has been impressive and I admire the leadership of their head coach Andy Reid - it has been nothing short of remarkable. Coach Reid has endured many a struggle, on and off the field, leading up to this point (including losing a son to a tragic and untimely death a few years back, and overcoming a five game losing streak at the start of this season). Yet he has found the ability to lead his team on an impressive 10-game win streak that has propelled the Chiefs to a wild-card playoff berth and to becoming a credible contender for the Super Bowl (as of this writing, they've won their 11th with a victory on the road against Houston in a wild card game).

A couple of years ago, as he was making a transition from the Philadelphia Eagles to his current post (and on the heels of his son's tragedy), I heard Coach Reid share four principles that have helped him to endure and succeed through the challenges of life. He has said that he passes these on to every player he has coached as a "recipe" that contributes to motivating his players to focus, compete and give maximum effort and output in what they do best on the field of play ... and as a guideline for how they can approach life in general. Executing on these day-by-day, he says, can be life-altering. I would agree.

Here are those four principles, with my thoughts on each:
1. Eliminate distractions
Focus, focus, focus ... nothing of significance can be accomplished without an intense effort to prioritize and "laser-in" on the moment's primary objective. To do that, we have to have the discipline to eliminate distractions in the process. Coach Reid says that he impresses on his players in their preparation work for game day to work hard to eliminate anything that keeps them from focusing on performing at their peak best. Doing "the job" means giving our all to the task at hand. Competition at a high level demands it, and a life of excellence calls for it as well.
2. Create Energy
In order to perform at our peak best, in whatever we're doing, we have to have the necessary energy to do so. We need to find ways to create maximum energy and to maintain it. What that calls for is getting serious about how we maintain our "physical plant" ... mind and body. Regular exercise, attention to our nutritional diets, getting the necessary rest and regeneration, and expanding our minds through informative study, has to become a part of our day-to-day routines.
3. Fear Nothing
Persevering and winning in the heat of battle requires courage: overcoming in the face of fear ... staring it down and having the confidence to move ahead in spite of emotional feelings to the contrary. As Franklin D. Roosevelt once said in the face of a daunting attack, "there is nothing to fear but fear itself." That's the staunch stance we must take as we approach the day, the task, the seemingly insurmountable obstacle in our way. It's a mind thing that translates into a confident "can do" attitude. So much the better for those who can confidently draw on an infinite resource beyond themselves. 
4. Attack Everything
Give it our all with complete abandon. Having prepared well with focus and energy applied, throw caution to the wind and take the plunge forward. Coach Reid will tell you that he counsels his players to "take the offensive," whether it's on the practice field, in the heat of an intense game day battle, facing a "tall order" in the completion of a job assignment, facing a long rehab from a server injury, or facing a seemingly uphill battle with a negative medical diagnosis. Attack it ... with as much strength and vigor as we can muster, physically and mentally ... steadfastly persevering as we do. Big things have been accomplished with that kind of mental engagement and physical execution.

Not a bad set of principles to live by, giving us every opportunity for success in life's endeavors. Good advice from a pretty good coach. Oh, by the way ... does God's Word have anything to say in support of the above principles? I think so. Take a gander at the below ... not bad advice, either.
"Do you see what this means - all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running - and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed - that exhilarating finish in and with God - he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever ..."
- Hebrews 12:1-2 (MSG)
"I don't know about you, but I'm running hard for the finish line. I'm giving it everything I've got. No sloppy living for me! I'm staying alert and in top condition. I'm not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself."
- 1 Corinthians 9:26-27 (MSG)
"Fear not (there is nothing to fear), for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My victorious right hand of rightness and justice."
- Isaiah 41:10 (AMP)
"God has given gifts to each of you from His great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God's generosity can flow through you. Are you called to be a speaker? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Are you called to help others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then God will be given glory in everything through Jesus Christ ..."
- 1 Peter 4:10-11 (NLT)
"Let every detail in your lives - words, actions, whatever - be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way."
-Colossians 3:17 (MSG)




Saturday, January 2, 2016

Live A Life Free From Worry



For 2016, resolve to live your life focused on one day at a time, without anxiety for the next. What will give you the power to do that? You make the proactive decision to not live life self-propelled and self-focused, driven by the pressure of performance or burdened under the weight of the expectations of others. You decide for a life of God-worship ... of returning to the Creator who made you and provides you with the very essence of who you are. You resolve to commit, lean and have confidence in the One who gives you the breathe of life; that's called trust ... placing your life within the reality of something that's larger than yourself. That's my prayer for you and I. With that focus, life can be so much better ... and so much more freeing. What's it worth to you?





"If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to Him than birds.
"Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion - do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
"If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers - most of which are never even seen - don't you think He'll attend to you, take pride in you, do His best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way He works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how He works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes."
- Jesus of Nazareth (from the Good News according to Matthew, 6:25-34 MSG)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The "Plowed" Life



From a farmer's perspective, there are two kinds of ground: fallow ground and ground that has been broken up by the plow. Both yield very different things. The same thinking can be applied to the acquired "fields" of our lives (either fertile or infertile) ... yielding very different produce depending on how open and receptive we are to the One who plows, and the choice of our reactions to what we may encounter in our unfolding experience of it. Throw down the protecting fences.
"The fallow field is smug, contented, protected from the shock of the plow and the agitation of the harrow. Such a field, as it lies year after year, becomes a familiar landmark to the crow and the blue jay ... safe and undisturbed, it sprawls lazily in the sunshine, the picture of sleepy contentment ... fruit it can never know because it is afraid of the plow and the harrow. 
In direct opposite to this, the cultivated field has yielded itself to the adventure of living. The protecting fence has opened to admit the plow, and the plow has come as plows always come: practical, cruel, business-like, and in a hurry. Peace has been shattered by the shouting farmer and the rattle of machinery. The field . . . has been upset, turned over, bruised, and broken, but its rewards come hard upon its labors. The seed shoots up into the daylight, its miracle of life, curious, exploring the new world above it. Nature’s wonders follow the plow.
There are two kinds of lives also: the fallow and the plowed. The man of fallow life is contented with himself and the fruit he once bore. He does not want to be disturbed. He smiles in silent superiority at revivals, fastings, self-searchings, and all the travail of fruit bearing and the anguish of advance. The spirit of adventure is dead within him ... he has fenced himself in, and by the same act he has fenced out God and the miracle. 
The plowed life is the life that has thrown down the protecting fences and sent the plow of confession into the soul ... such a life has put away defense and has forsaken the safety of death for the peril of life. Discontent, yearning, contrition, courageous obedience to the will of God ... these have bruised and broken the soil till it is ready again for the seed. And as always fruit follows the plow." 
- A.W. Tozer, Paths to Power

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Quests

" 'My first direct view of Titanic lasted less than two minutes, but the stark sight of her immense black hull towering above the ocean floor will remain forever ingrained in my memory. My lifelong dream was to find this great ship, and during the past thirteen years the quest for her had dominated my life. Now, finally, the quest was over.'

So wrote Robert Ballard after discovering the ghostly hulk of the R.M.S. Titanic in her lonely berth more than two miles deep in the North Atlantic. For nearly three-quarters of a century, since early April 1912, the great ship had been celebrated in legend, along with the 1,522 souls who had disappeared with her beneath the icy waters hundreds of miles off the coast of Newfoundland.

On several occasions, the explorer used the same word to describe his lifelong dream: 'quest.' It means a pursuit, a search, or, as Webster colorfully adds, 'a chivalrous enterprise in medieval romance usually involving an adventurous journey.'

What is your 'quest'? Do you have a 'lifelong dream'? Anything 'dominating your life' enough to hold your attention for thirteen or more years? Without a quest, life is quickly reduced to bleak black and wimpy white, a diet too bland to get anybody out of bed in the morning. A quest fuels our fire. It refuses to let us drift downstream, gathering debris. It keeps our mind in gear, makes us press on.

God is forever on a quest, too. Ever thought about that? In fact, His adventurous journey is woven throughout the fabric of the New Testament. One thread is in Romans 8:29, where he mentions that He is conforming us to His Son's image: 'God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love Him along the same lines as the life of His Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity He restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in Him.' [MSG] Another is in Philippians 1:6, where we're told that He began His 'good work' in us and He isn't about to stop. Elsewhere He even calls us His 'workmanship' (Ephesians 2:10). Peter's second letter goes so far as to list some of the things included in this quest: 'faith ... moral excellence ... knowledge ... self-control ... perseverance ... godliness ... brotherly kindness ... love' (2 Peter 1:5-7, NASB).

Character qualities in His children - that's His quest. And He won't quit until He completes His checklist. When will that be? When we rest in peace ... and not one day sooner. Thanks, Lord."

____________________________________________


"All of us are surrounded by and benefit from the results of someone's quest. Let me name a few:

Above my head is a bright electric light. Thanks, Tom.

On my nose are eyeglasses that enable me to focus. Thanks, Ben.

In my driveway is a car ready to take me wherever I choose to steer it. Thanks, Henry.

Across my shelves are books full of interesting and carefully researched pages. Thanks, authors.

Flashing through my mind are ideas, memories, and creative skills. Thanks, teachers.

Tucked away in the folds of my life are discipline and determination, a refusal to quit when the going gets rough, a love for our country's freedom, a respect for authority. Thanks, marines.

Coming into my ears is beautiful music - a wonderful mix of melody and rhythm and lyrics that linger. Thanks, composers.

Deep inside me are personality traits, strong convictions, a sense of right and wrong, a love for God, an ethical compass, a commitment to my wife and family. Thanks, parents.

At home is a peaceful surrounding of eye - pleasing design, colorful wallpaper, tasteful and comfortable furnishings, hugs of affirmation - a shelter in a time of storm. Thanks, Cynthia.

My list could go on and on. So could yours.

Because some cared enough to dream, to pursue, to follow through and complete their quest, our lives are more comfortable, more stable.

That's enough to spur me on. How about you?"


The above is from "Day by Day with Charles Swindoll"