The Chasing Song

Now and then these feet just take to wandering
Now and then I prop them up at home
Sometimes I think about the consequences
Sometimes I don’t

Well, I realize that falling down ain’t graceful
But I thank the Lord that falling’s full of grace
Sometimes I take my eyes off Jesus
And you know that’s all it takes

Well I wish that I could say that at the close of every day
I was happy with the way that I’m behaving

‘Cause Job, he chased and answer
The wise men chased the Child
Jacob chased her 14 years and he
Captured Rachel’s smile
Moses chased the Promised Land
Joseph chased a dream
David, he chased God’s own heart
All I ever seem to chase is me

Well, they say a race can only have one winner
And you know you’ve got to pull out front to win
God knows the only time I’m winning
Is when I’m chasing Him

Well I wish that I could say that at the close of every day
I was happy with the way that I’m behaving

‘Cause Samson chased a woman
And he chased the Philistines
I’m not quite sure what Jonah chased
But I know he caught the sea
Cain, he chased the harvest
While Abel chased the beasts
David, he chased God’s own heart
All I ever seem to chase is me
And Jesus chased the moneymen
And he chased his Father’s will
He chased my sin to Calvary
And he caught it on that hill
Saul, he chased the Christians
Till his blindness made him see
David, he chased God’s own heart
All I ever seem to chase is me

lyrics by Andrew Peterson

This song is really speaking to me today. I’ll just let it speak for me.

Grace and peace.

The Chasing Song

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Don’t Lose Focus

1 On August 29 of the second year of King Darius’s reign, the Lord gave a message through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest.

“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: The people are saying, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.’”

Then the Lord sent this message through the prophet Haggai: “Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins? This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes!

“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! Now go up into the hills, bring down timber, and rebuild my house. Then I will take pleasure in it and be honored, says the Lord. You hoped for rich harvests, but they were poor. And when you brought your harvest home, I blew it away. Why? Because my house lies in ruins, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, while all of you are busy building your own fine houses. 10 It’s because of you that the heavens withhold the dew and the earth produces no crops. 11 I have called for a drought on your fields and hills—a drought to wither the grain and grapes and olive trees and all your other crops, a drought to starve you and your livestock and to ruin everything you have worked so hard to get.”

 

Haggai 1:1-11 (NLT)

 

The remnant returned to Judah and began to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. However, they got distracted. They got caught up in their own lives. They forgot why they had been allowed to return. They forgot their purpose. I often do the same thing. I think we all do. We get so caught up in our lives that we forget why we’re really here. We’re meant to be lights shining in the darkness. We forget that we’re supposed to be the hands of feet of Jesus. Lord, forgive us when we lose sight. Give us the strength to stay focused.

Grace and peace.

It’s Saturday. Where Did Thursday & Friday Go?

Wow. I was doing really well over the last week and all of a sudden I miss two days in a row. I guess I am still doing better though. I honestly don’t remember what I did Thursday. I was in the office until Noon and then the rest of the day vanished. Yesterday was a busy one so it’s not really surprising. I had a job interview with Walmart in Mansfield at 11:00 and didn’t leave there until a little after Noon. Once I got home things got crazy (as is the norm) and the next thing I knew I was sitting on the couch fussing at the Yankees for blowing another game. Oh well.

We’re planning to head up to Mt. Pisgah and cook some burgers and hot dogs on the grill.  later on. I may walk the trails if they’re dry enough. We’ll have to wait and see. Jamie is mad because the pool doesn’t open until Monday and that is somehow my fault. I am finding that the majority of the time she gets mad at me is because of something that I have absolutely no control over. As someone once said, “It’s like a bridge. She’ll get over it.”

Here’s my Bible thought for the day.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

1 Corinthians 13:12 (The Message)

 

Grace and peace.

Reading “The Message”, Listening To U2

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

Ephesians 2:7-10 (The Message)

 

Truthfully, I could have called my last three posts (counting this one) this because that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing in my spare time for the last three days. I guess are there are much worse things I could be doing. Ephesians is one of my favorite sections in the New Testament and U2 is one of my favorite bands and they fit together quite nicely. I know there are those who will want to debate the sincerity of Bono’s faith and I guess I understand where that comes from but I’m not one of them. I listen to the songs he writes and see them for what they are. Well, I see them for what I THINK they are. Bono does address faith quite often and I find his lyrics to be honest and interesting. I know he isn’t coming from the exact same place I am and I know that we probably disagree on things but that’s okay. He’s not my teacher or pastor. He’s just a rock singer. I keep that in mind when listening to his music.

As far as this section from Paul’s letter goes, it’s a good reminder that without Christ I am nothing. That’s what the title of this blog is all about. I can’t save myself no matter how much I try. I can’t earn it. I can’t buy it. It’s a lavish gift from a God who loves me more than I can imagine. However, that is supposed to motivate to be a part of His work. I am supposed to get up and get busy for the Kingdom instead of just sitting back and wallowing in His grace and mercy. His love should motivate me to love others so they come to know Him and experience that same grace and mercy. And when that happens I have to remind myself that it’s nothing that I did. I’m just a conduit for Him to work through. He does the work and He deserves the glory. What a humbling and challenging thought.

Grace and peace.

 

I Couldn’t Think Of A Good Title

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

Ephesians 2:1-6 (The Message)

 

I have been listening to a lot of U2 over the last two days. One of my reasons for doing so was to “purge” my soul from a lot of the darkness I had been feeling since learning about Chris Cornell’s suicide. I listened to quite a bit of his music afterwards and it was depressing. After that I needed something with more hope. U2 served that purpose.

I am still reading Ephesians from Eugene Peterson’s The Message. I really appreciate the imagery and the down-to-earth language he uses. I know he takes artistic liberties from time to time but even the most scholarly translations have to resort to interpretation when it comes to some things. As long as one understands and acknowledges that I think that different translations and paraphrases are helpful, especially to those of us who don’t know the original languages.

The first thing that jumps out of this passage is the idea that the world’s way of living is no life at all. I sometimes forget that. I let the things of this world distract me or bog me down. I fall victim to the temptation that the world has all the answers when I know that just isn’t true. Peterson reminds me that God’s immense mercy and incredible love show me what true life is all about. It’s found in Jesus. I can never hear that enough. That is what sustains me.

Grace and peace.

Ephesians 1:11-14

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life

Ephesians 1:11-14 (The Message)

 

I like to read from Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the Bible. He’s a genuine scholar so he understands the original languages and I think that gives his take on things a little bit of credibility. It’s not like I’m sitting down and putting things in my own words. I do like to do that from time to time but I’m leaning on the work of others. Peterson doesn’t have to do that. Having said that, I like the way he renders these verses from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. I realize that some may take issue with the way he has tried to explain predestination here but I’m fine with it. That’s one of those loaded words that means different things to different people. I’m still not sure I completely understand what it means so I appreciate Peterson trying to give us the gist of what Paul is saying.

I am encouraged by the fact that God knew me before I even thought about knowing Him. He had a plane for me (however that works) and He reveals it to me. I especially like it when Peterson reminds us that Christ had his eye on us long before we knew him and “got our hopes up.” I try to remind myself that my hope is in Christ and that he has things planned for me that I can’t even begin to understand. I also like the idea of being “signed, sealed, and delivered” by God’s Holy Spirit. The Stevie Wonder song immediately comes to mind and that makes me smile. I love that image.

There isn’t any real rhyme or reason to my posting these last two or three days. I’m just trying to get back in the habit. Hopefully I will find my voice before too long.

Grace and peace.

 

 

Habakkuk 1:1-4

This is the message that the prophet Habakkuk received in a vision.

How long, O Lord, must I call for help?
    But you do not listen!
“Violence is everywhere!” I cry,
    but you do not come to save.
Must I forever see these evil deeds?
    Why must I watch all this misery?
Wherever I look,
    I see destruction and violence.
I am surrounded by people
    who love to argue and fight.
The law has become paralyzed,
    and there is no justice in the courts.
The wicked far outnumber the righteous,
    so that justice has become perverted.

Habakkuk 1:1-4 (NLT)

Throughout history people have read these words of the prophet Habakkuk and seen their own world and their own time in them. I confess, I am tempted to do the same thing. Stop and read them again. Take in each and every word. I’ll wait. Now be honest. Did images from the current news cycle come to mind? Did certain stories jump out at you? Did you sit there and think, “Man, he must have been looking forward to our world today.” Don’t feel too bad if you did. I have definitely done it. I was even tempted to do it this morning as I preached through the book of Habakkuk. It seems to fit perfectly.

I believe one of the reasons it seems so timely is that human nature hasn’t changed. The sins we commit today are no different than the sins committed one hundred, one thousand, or ten thousand years ago. We’re a fallen bunch and it has been that way since Adam and Eve had a snack in Eden. As someone once quipped, “The more things change the more they stay the same.”

When teaching or preaching a text like Habakkuk it is important to remember the original context. Habakkuk was a prophet living in Judah over over 2,600 hundred years ago. He was speaking to a nation that had continually abandoned its God. He was speaking of a pagan nation that God was going to raise up and use to punish those who were unfaithful. That is the context and to rip the words of the prophet out and slap them on those of us living in the 21st century is bad exegesis.

I do believe there are lessons to be learned and applications to be made but we have to remember when these words were written, who they were written to, and how they were understood in that day. I think the basic message is still applicable today. God will punish the wicked and there will be grace and restoration for those who repent. That is the underlying theme throughout all of Scripture.

Those opening verses are pretty interesting though. Read them again. I’ll wait. I know Habakkuk is addressing the sinfulness of Judah but it just goes to show that we haven’t changed much have we? The wicked continue to live contrary to God’s will and He continues to wait patiently. Don’t be fooled though. At some point He will hold us all accountable. His patience will run out. I am thankful for the grace and mercy found in Christ. Without it we would be in bad shape.

Grace and peace.

What A Strange Week

Today is my brother’s forty-third birthday. Happy birthday Stacy. In two weeks I will turn forty-seven. The bigger that number gets the weirder I feel about birthdays. I guess that comes with the territory. However, that is not why this week has been weird. I, along with everyone else, woke up Thursday morning to discover that Chris Cornell had died. It was a bit jarring and as more information trickled out it became even more unnerving.

I assumed that he had passed away from natural causes. He was young (fifty-two) but people that age have heart attacks and strokes every day. My own uncle passed away at that age a few years ago. It happens. It was not until I kept seeing the words “police are investigating” that I suspected something more sinister.

My next thought was drugs. Cornell never denied that he struggled with addiction and his past was out there in the open. It was not out of the realm of possibility that he could have relapsed. What I did not expect was the revelation that he had taken his own life. I watched as news reports updated (all while listening to Soundgarden and Audioslave) during the day until it was confirmed that he had indeed hanged himself.

Many in the media made obvious connections with other singers who were Cornell’s peers. Cornell was the vocalist for one of the “Big Four” of the Seattle “grunge” (I hate that term) scene. He was the third to die from either drugs or suicide. Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) died from a gunshot wound to the head in 1994. He had also taken a nearly lethal dose of heroin. Layne Staley (Alice In Chains) died in 2002 after battling addiction for years. He died of an overdose.

There were others from the same era who died in similar fashion. Andrew Wood (Mother Love Bone) was actually a former room mate of Cornell and was in a band with guys who went on to form Pearl Jam. He overdosed in 1990. Shannon Hoon (Blind Melon) overdosed in 1995. Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots) overdosed in 2015. In several of these cases the outcome really did not surprise people. Some of these guys had very public battles with their demons.

I guess that is why Chris Cornell’s passing jarred me. He seemed to have survived it and moved on to a good place in his life. I read a story in Rolling Stone last night that suggests his suicide may have been a result of a prescription drug overdose. His wife is saying that she believes he killed himself after taking too many anti-anxiety pills. I assume that the pending toxicology report may shine some light on that but to be honest, it really will not make a difference. Chris Cornell is dead. In my opinion he had one of the best rock voices ever and it is now silenced. He left behind family, friends, and fans who will truly miss him.

The other reason I have been a bit shaken by this is the simple fact that he was not much older than me. In fact, all of those guys I listed earlier were right around the same age as me. This is my generation dying off and it is dying off needlessly and senselessly. It breaks my heart because these guys (and anyone who died in such manner) did not have to die. They died because they lost their battles. They lost their direction. They lost their hope. I pray that all those who are struggling with their demons find someone who can point them to that hope. Perhaps it is you.

Grace and peace.

 

May The Fourth Be With You

Well, another month has breezed by and I am still not posting. No need to apologize at this point because not posting is more normal than posting. We have had an interesting week. We lost power Monday night during a really rough storm and it was out for over fifty hours. The lights came back on sometime after Midnight this morning. We were very grateful and appreciate all those folks who have been out there working on the lines. They probably do not get enough recognition. So let me say, “Thank you very much.”

Yesterday was Geo’s twenty-first birthday. Today is the second anniversary of he and Becca getting married. Today is also National Day of Prayer as well Star Wars Day. What a busy day. This hasn’t been the best week for celebrations so we plan to do something this weekend. That will be difficult too because Men’s Night Out (at Sylvan Hills) is tomorrow night. Our Mother-Daughter dinner is Saturday night. We’ll squeeze it in there somewhere.

I am sitting here in the office working on a chapel talk for New Beginnings tomorrow and polishing up my sermon for Sunday. I have a massive head cold that seemed to swoop down out of nowhere and attack me early this morning. I am listening to a lot of U2 this morning. I always liked them but at some point in the past twenty years they have become one of my favorite bands of all time. Electric Light Orchestra is still at the top, Petra and Stryper are still fighting it out for second place, but U2 has jumped right up there with them.

Well, that’s all I really have. I did want to write something this month. Who knows when I will pop back up here. Have a good one.

Grace and Peace.