29 April, 2007

Gaia in Christ's World

Most people do not consider Gaia a living person, spiritual or otherwise, but it will be helpful to refer to her as such. She is the sum of all life on earth, and hers is the philosophy that seeks life's continued preservation and evolution. She is the mother of all earth-life, and she is the meta-organism that is made up of all earth-life.

There are trillions of bacteria living happily in our guts, and we are their earth. E Coli is a major, beneficial bacteria and is much appreciated, but sometimes it spoils everything. When E Coli escapes from the large intestine, it kills not just its own home, but everyone's. Even so, man is a powerful force in Gaia's body. When we find our place and maintain it, all of the earth is bettered. When we escape from our place, we risk killing the earth for everyone.

So, things like global warming, worldwide poverty, unbounded development, industrialized food and nuclear proliferation are all anathema to Gaia. She sees their global effect, and final outcome, and longs for mankind to stop them.

"How do you know that?" you ask.

Gaia has no voice, except that of the people who speak for her, and they shout these things from the housetops. Without question, each of them preaches a slightly different, or wildly different, version of Gaia's heart, but they are all defending Mother Earth - Gaia - and thereby defending all of us who are her essence.

There is also a subset of Gaians who believe in spiritual things, and that we are as interdependent spiritually as we are physically. They believe that hate and greed are as toxic to the world's psychosystem as are industrial waste and automobiles to our ecosystem. They preach love, and not just feelings of love, but love in action. And they don't just preach these things, they start groups that put their love in action. They are making a positive difference.

Gaia cares, and Gaians live her caring out on his tiny blue-green orb we call home.

I need to talk about Gaia for a while.

I hate her.

I hate her from the depths of my being, and I want to talk about why. You will find her in every TV show, in every news report, in every self-help book, and quite probably sitting in the corner in your church, waiting to "make a difference." The grammar of Christianity's conversation is framed by Gaia, not Christ, and too often we must talk in her words to be understood at all, even in His church.

Gaia is invading Christianity. You see her in our talk of Unity, spoken in her words, not Christ's. Our goals are her goals. The church partners effectively with charities everywhere, because we are trying to accomplish the same things - and we should not be. Gaia is winning the verbal judo match. In judo you take the attacker's force, and turned it back against him. Gaia has taken our precious words, received from the Holy Spirit, and defined them in her own image.

She is sifting the Christ out of our churches, and leaving us with a Jesus formed in her own image.

Gaia's promises will fall when she meets her Ruin. Those hidden under her skirts will be exposed and judged. Their guilt will find them, and their judgement will be complete.

The world, and the fulness of every cell of every living being in it, is Christ's, and He will throw Gaia down into the pit.

24 April, 2007

Courage and Depression

The question came up after my post on Rest, what it means to "labor to enter into His rest." I fiddled around with different ways of approaching the subject when depression happened into my mind. It's an easy call for me, for a number of reasons. I have lots of experience with it, and can only think of a few times that I have not fought it daily.

This is not one of those times. ;-)

Depression is an insidious enemy. It's poison is not in that it cannot be fought, but that it lulls every desire to fight it into a passive slumber. There are many worse things than being depressed. Sometimes being depressed even helps me pray. Why not just stay there?

The good-intentioned have lots of answers for the depressed, and all of them are right.
- Count your blessings.
- Praise God.
- Get out with others.
- Do something caring.
- See other people's needs.
- Work in the garden.

Every single one of those things works. The advice is sound, but it addresses the wrong problem. I want to be depressed, and all those things just get in the way of being well and usefully so.

When the "do something" approach fails, round 2 of the good-intentioned is an attempt to address my motivation. In this stage the kind souls remind me that God forbids depression, or at least hanging around there. Again, this is true - true enough to be really depressing. ;-)

God deserves the richest praise, and He has surely blessed me, so dwelling upon the negatives of my condition must be quite unthankful. So there must be a skill to being well and usefully depressed. I must praise whilst weeping. That confuses 'em real good. They don't quite know what to do when I am praising God, but am still every bit as depressed as before they showed up.

Eventually all the helpful people go away. They've caused all the pain they have the patience for, and I have to figure out what to do next. I am finally alone with my pain, and I have to find an appropriate response.

Here is where I must find the intersection of Courage, Rest and Pain.

Psalms 61 Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.
David's first word is, "Lord." It should always be. He expands on this as we go, but for now he is scared of his Lord.

I am a daddy, and it tears my heart how quickly my children believe I am angry with them or that I will be. Neither of them would want to do anything that would really make me angry, and neither of them has. I can be made angry, but not by them - not a chance. We are even more safe with our Daddy, but it doesn't feel that way.

Specifically, David is afraid God will be angry at him or discipline him. I'm afraid of those things, too. I'm afraid because I have done things wrong, and I'm afraid because being depressed is just another thing I'm probably in trouble for - but this trouble includes phrases like, "Depart from Me, I never knew you."

2 Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. 3 My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long?
David is fainting. He lacks the strength to fight this fight. He is curled up against a wall, wishing he had the strength to get a kerchief. He begs for healing of his bones. His body cannot even hold itself up. His heart quails from the thought of his own agony. And he asks the Lord the key question, "How long?"

He can muster the strength for one last push, but how many more pushes will it take? Deep down, he knows it's too many, and that he will fail.

But, he keeps calling out to the Lord. It is the Lord Who holds his times and seasons, and the Lord Who holds his healing. It is the Lord Who fills his mind.

4 Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. 5 Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave?
David quits mincing words.

"Repent, Lord. Deliver me. Save me," he says.

He knows the Lord has not quit loving him, so he implores Him do what He wants to do anyway. He can yet praise God, if barely, but if the Lord keeps him even a little longer in this agony, that last trickle of praise will end. The grave is never far away from the depressed.

David does not want it to end.

6 I am worn out from my groaning. 7 My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.
Again, a hallmark of depression, fatigue.

It takes a great deal of energy to be well and usefully depressed, but David has done it here. He has spent himself. He has drained the bucket, all the way to the bottom. He is tired of listening to his own weeping, and has cried until he can hardly stand to open his own eyes.

Now, he is naked before His Lord.

Take a two hour break, now, before reading verses 8-10. Spend those two
hours reading verses 1-7 over and over, because connecting verse 7 to verse
8 in the span of a single breath is insane.

It cannot be done.

Something happens between verse 7 and verse 8, something that takes time, maybe hours and maybe months.

David has admitted his Pain. Now, he finds his Courage. He finds the strength to stand up from all his fatigue and ...


When we hear that a person has found Courage, we expect that they defeat their enemies one after another. That's what happens in all the stories, right? But it's not what happens to David.

Depression is the least active of states in all of life, and yet it is horribly fatiguing. Even while praising in the midst of depression, fatigue weighs its victim down. Ever wondered why anti-depressant drugs lead to suicide? In that first couple weeks after starting the drug, the person gets emotionally stronger without getting happier. During that dangerous window, they find the strength to finish themselves before they find the reasons not to. Depression wears a person down even to the point that they cannot harm themselves.

So, what happened during the space between verse 7 and verse 8?

Maybe David sought out someone to help him find his courage. Maybe he sung some of the good songs. Maybe he just kept weeping a little longer, and remembering his God.
This "something" that he did, for however long he had to do it, is what Hebrews 4:11 calls "laboring to enter into His rest."

David reminds himself why he should resist depression. In life there are countless ways to be depressed, and each one affords itself a different way to resist, to overcome. In the context of this psalm, David reminds himself that his enemies are God's enemies. He reminds himself, too, that his enemies are evil, and must not be allowed to triumph. Lastly, he reminds himself that God will not vanquish his enemies apart from his own participation by faith.

8 Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping. 9 The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer. 10 All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish; they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.
David reminds himself of the Lord in a supreme act of love. This is an act of courage, and (oddly) the action is to rest.

David gives up his fetal refuge up against the wall for love's sake, love of those who will be helped when this battle is won. There are those who need David to stand against these enemies, and it's love that strengthens him to rise. It's brotherhood that causes a soldier at war to fire on the enemy, and it's brotherhood that teaches a man to resist every other fear, too.

More, though, it's the childlike love for his God that picks David back up. It is trusting and remembering that the Lord is good and strong and dependable that puts the starch back in his spine. These enemies will win if David does not remember God. David quits fearing God's rebuke, and begins to fear the loss of honor to God's Name. David can choose here to do a thing, to stand up against all the fears in his heart, that will give God a chance to hallow His Name on earth.

Love depends upon God to make a way to offer God a gift. It's remarkably like a mother helping her toddler make a Mother's Day gift. It seems a little silly, but it's one of the most charming expressions of love the world affords.

James Bond would handle these enemies by infiltrating the enemy command post and taking out the bad guy. Braveheart would give a stirring speech and raise the nation against the baddies. Gen. Patton would make the other poor sap give his life for his country. That's how we write our stories of courage.

The history of the kingdom sees human courage differently, badly.

Israel turned back to Egypt when they were being brave. Or they called on strange gods. They drew courage from throwing their children into Molech's fires, and from buying clues about the future from fortune tellers all across God's land.

David decided before he ever penned this poem to pour his heart out to an invisible God. After receiving no answer to his weeping, and after his bones shook within him, he reminded himself of the works of this invisible God and stirred himself to hope. I AM tells no fortunes. I AM made David a promise through Nathan, and then He went silent.

And in that silence David had to decide what to do.

Would he attack his enemies in human boldness? Or buy them off in craven fear? Might he turn to Molech? Or maybe offer sacrifices to the true God out of fear like Saul had, hoping to appease Him Who had been silent so long?

The man after God's own heart had the courage to throw his lot in with the invisible.

It is not recorded what David did to actually address the problem, but David records the important step. He believed. He believed so strongly that his despair annealled into confidence, and into holy boasting.

Israel lacked this boasting when it came time for the people to take the land of Canaan as their own. They needed only to march across the Jordan, and God would have given the land into their hands.

It says,Ex 23:28 And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.
Israel had a chance to obey and to rest and to conquer all in one motion. She could have crossed that river into that land of giants, and lived in peace without the sacrifice of a single life, either from Israel or from Canaan. Instead, she listened to the 10 spies who told her that God could never deliver this land into her hands.

Note, though, that Israel could not conquer the land without courage and motion. They needed to walk into that land of giants to inhabit it. Courage inspires action, not indolence. Rest comes from God, and it comes as we act, not as we sit. Think back on every story of God's deliverance, and you will find an action on the part of the people. God would not allow Gideon to conquer with 30,000 soldiers, because that is not rest, but He also would not allow Gideon to conquer without the motion of 300 men against the enemy.

We have every opportunity to live out courage and rest in the midst of our pain. We have the more sure word than mere prophecy. We have the Life and Resurrection of the Son of God on which to pin our trust.

Let's say a hangnail has me down right now. I need to spend a while decrying the pain of that hangnail to God. Then I need to spend a while earnestly seeking Truth to inspire courage in my heart. And finally, having found courage and rest in God, I need to trust that the Lord cares about my hangnail and go to the doctor to have it fixed.

I hope to continue this subject, looking at courage in our personal lives and in the life of the church.

23 April, 2007

Real men eat quiche?

It seems I've run most of the men off from the site. Now let's see if I can run off the women. :-)

I know some of you are squeamish, so just move on from this post. And no, I never kid.

It's just that, you know, it's dinner! And it makes me happy!

One of the ladies at work buys her eggs from another of the ladies at work, just like I do. Well, she forgot and left her eggs in her computer bag all weekend, and found them just this morning. Fortunately, I was there or a dozen fruits of the hen would have been lost. I did not know exactly what to do with them, but they WOULD be eaten.

On the way home, I knew. It would be a quiche.

So, I busted up a dozen eggs, added a half cup or so of milk (I quit measuring a while ago) and hit the fridge. There were a couple bags of half-finished frozen veggies - in they went. There were the pinto beans my boy cooked last week - Perfect. There was that last pound of xtra-xtra sharp cheddar - I scraped the fuzz off all 6 sides of it, and in it went. A little fresh spinach, just because I have too much laying around and have to get it eaten. And the coup de pork - the last pound and a half of the easter ham along with all those good juices. Blend in a couple good shakes of salt, and half a doohicky of herbes de provence and stir.

Then, to grease the pan, coat it with a liberal couple fingers full of bacon drippings - yep just like your grandma used to keep under the kitchen sink in a coffee can. These days it's a yogurt tub, but I'll never quit a habit that kept so many generations of Knox's hale and hearty through the centuries. And finally, scrape the fuzz off a half pound of marble porter cheese to top it all off.


How long? Well, until you're ready to eat it, obviously. :-)

When you can smell it real good, it's not quite done. Let it go a bit more.

When I pulled it out, my son asked me what it was. I reminded him that it was quiche (it had been almost two hours since I had announced my intentions) and snickered. His first guess had been meatloaf (porter is a very dark cheese), so he promptly corrected me that I was NOT eating quiche. This was "eggloaf."

Tru' dat.

I've got a post coming soon on depression, but nothing puts a smile on a man's face like a couple pounds of eggloaf.

18 April, 2007

Rome is a Distraction

I make a pretty big deal of the confusion of the Jews, in looking for a Messiah to deliver them from Rome. They thought their Branch would grow up to displace all other kings and kingdoms, and could not understand a King Who gave anything to Caesar. They finally rejected the Anointed One when He refused to be tempted to the throne by a Sunday morning parade with palm leaves.

They did not know Jesus. He had already resisted the temptation of the Devil to be given the kingdoms of the world. I suspect when the people He loved tempted Him to take the kingdoms of the world, it was an even harder temptation for Him to resist, but He was ready. He must have wished to see those children rejoicing in their victory, but in the end He knew that they would have been rejoicing in something much less than God Himself.

Jesus never flinched. He continued to declare, "My kingdom is not of this world."

So, how are we better than those Jews when we pray for America, or for its churches?

Are we not praying to see our Christ establish His control over the White House? Are we not praying for His kingdom to come - visibly. In the most real of senses, are we not erring precisely as did those Jews?

Let me read the king of all "pray for America" verses:
1 Tim 2:1-3
I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;

We ought to intercede for kings "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty." Do we? Or do we pray to make those institutions into God's very kingdom. If Paul had coached Timothy to pray as we might wish, would he not have prayed for the conversion of Nero, and the overthrow of paganism? I know there are many Christians who will assert that this is exactly what Paul meant, but it is not.

I am a patriot. I raised my right and, and swore to defend the constitution of this country and served four years. This is a good country, and one I would choose over and again. I will participate in the electoral process, and have served as a judge and presiding judge in elections. I will even keep up with Kansas Bob's great analysis of each of the '08 candidates. There is more good in America than there is bad.

But I am not confused about the kingdom to which I am born.

My kingdom is as far above America as the heavens are above the earth. I will not weep when America shrugs off her last vestige of Christianity. I will not pray for hours that America continue to look like a Christian nation. It's all a show these days, and it's a game I won't even watch on TV.

And I still don't feel good about the churches our tax breaks support. At their worst, the denominations are just another human government that has nothing to do with the invisible kingdom of God. At their best, the churches are the visible gathering of the invisible kingdom of God, and still they don't know whom they are. They pour out sweat and riches on so much that is visible, and need to be taught how to do real work in the invisibles.

Acts 13:2 records, "As they ministered to the Lord..."

Can anyone tell me that this is the primary work of the organization we call church? Singing, praising, and being taught are all good things, but ministering to the Lord is a higher, real thing. By God's grace, we may still realize that we are part of an invisible kingdom much larger than America.

Saving Rome was never Paul's intent. Even so, let's look for something deeper and better than saving America.

Thy kingdom come.
They will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Taking Votes

Who do you think is the most culturally relevant biblical character? A study of whom would provide the most important lessons to Americans? For reference, my current vote is listed in Heb 11 as a hero of faith.

14 April, 2007

Israel's Mission

What was Israel supposed to do with God's blessing? What was their mission? Their work?

Were they to conquer every foe? Should their kingdom have overspread the entire earth? Were they to learn the Torah from beginning to end? Should their holiness have redefined what it meant to be alive on earth? Were they to spread the good news of YHWH's salvation? Or was it all of the above?

Deut 33:26-29
There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun [Jeshurun = the upright one, Israel], who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky. The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them. Israel then shall dwell in safety alone: the fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine; also his heavens shall drop down dew. Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the LORD, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places.

None of the above.

After her enemies would be destroyed, Israel was tasked with dwelling in safety alone. They were burdened with enjoying the dew of heaven, and feasting on corn and wine.

And they failed.

Enjoying the bounty of God is more important than working for Him, and Israel did not get it.

Hebrews 4:1-11
Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

The gospel was preached to Israel, but it did not profit them, and not because they did not work, but because they did not rest. And they did not rest because they did not believe. They feared, and their fear caused them to work, but when they worked, they worked the works of those who must help God. It is God Who is our help.

I saved the very next verse of Hebrews 4, because context is everything.

Hebrews 4:12-13
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

How many times has this verse been read to Christians? And how many times has it been used to provoke Christians to work to know the Word? And I'm not against working to know the Word, mind you, but doesn't it seem a tad odd to you that the entire context of this verse is routinely neglected?

We are naked and open before Him.

Hebrews 4:14-16
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

And our High Priest has been naked, too.

We know no torment nor exposure which He has not suffered - and He overcame it. The Word of God is living and active, separates that in us which does not believe and which turns back, from that He has placed in us and turns forward to Him for mercy.

Israel's mission was to turn forward to Him, and to rest in Him, and they would not. The Word saw their heart, and swore to them that they would never enter into His rest. Given the chance to rejoice in the dew of heaven, Israel fled their God. Given the chance to rest in God, she worked. Over the centuries, she tried to return to Egypt, she left her enemies alive in the land, she trusted their gods, she begged from God a king, put her faith in riches God had given her. She turned back and to the east and to the north, but never toward heaven - never toward the One Who loved her and had her every need before His eyes night and day.

Like Israel, the church is rich. Like Israel, we understand more than those around us. Like Israel, we should conquer. We want to conquer the world for Christ. We want to conquer the atheists with Truth. We want to conquer culture with Righteousness. So, we turn to the throne in need of victories for Him, and forget to just be needful of the joy of being in Him.

He is our Land. He flows toward us as Milk and Honey. He is the Dew that falls on us in the morning, and the Corn and Wine on Whom we feast at the Lord's Table.

What does He require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him Who loves you more than His own Life.

Labor to enter into Israel's mission - Rest.

13 April, 2007

Why Do You Love Tennis?

I got to answer this on another site. Thought I'd echo it here just because.

I was having a perfectly awful night, receiving doubles in the ad court (usually my favorite.) I had stayed put after my return, and the rushing server decided to squeeze a drop volley wide. And it was a beauty.

I took off. He didn't know it, but that's my favorite part of tennis. I'm a little gray, and I wear a knee brace, but I love to "get there."

I got there.

And I got there with enough time to put about a 40 mph topper on that little spot between them where neither had a chance.

I love tennis because they both dropped their jaws and gawked. They knew the heart, training, control, creativity, and luck that shot took, and they took the time to admire it. I love tennis because that one shot felt so unexplainably good the whole night was redeemed. I love tennis because you all know exactly what I mean. I love tennis because for three hours, every passion of my heart gets to push my body as hard as it can go but is punished for imprecision. I love that when I hit the ball, I cannot look at the target. Mostly, I love to feel the force of my pinky toe channel up through my palm and drive a ball to a target I only see in my heart.

I love tennis because every character flaw and weakness I show at work and home and church, bleeds out onto the court. You can't lie about who you are on the court. If you're a choker, you'll choke. And I love that when Dunlop Maxply and others gave me tips to fight choking, I could test them on the court, and find out they worked at home with my son.

And I love tennis because after 35 years I still let the point of impact on my backhand drift in toward my body, and wonder why everything goes wide left.

This game is just amazing.

Got voice mail?

I do.

I lie on my voice mail message. It says something to the effect of, "I would love to get back to you, but I only listen to these messages every week and a half or so." I just checked voice mail messages. The first of the twenty-five waiting messages was from March 5th.

Amusingly, the only one I cared about in the least was left today. It was good news, though not critical in any way.

4 voice mail messages were for my son, which is odd, because he tells his friends not to waste their time leaving messages. Could it be that teens are not good listeners? Nah.

And one message was for my neighbor. It appears that a telemarketer could not get hold of him, so he called me, and asked me to hand deliver his phone number to my neighbor. That's certainly creative. I've wanted to talk to him any way. Any excuse is a good excuse.

I don't know what the other twenty messages were about, because hitting 3-3-7 causes the voice mail to be deleted immediately. 33 skips to the end of the message, then 7 deletes it. Telemarketers usually manage to tell me, [Perky cutie voice] "Hi, I'm Brenda! Did you know [] beep-beep-Tweep. [Computer voice] "Message deleted. Your message from an outside caller on ... "

So the bottom line is that not listening to my voice mail for 6 weeks didn't hurt my life in any way. I'm not sure that's a record for me, but it's the hillbilly way.

12 April, 2007

The Milly Meme

Milly gave us 500 words to tell what we believe. I have not had a chance yet to read her link, but I just had to write my 500 words. Great idea, Milly.

I should probably edit mine, but I know I won't have time. Here it is raw.


History is the gift of the Father, and its center is Jesus, the Annointed. Every ripple in history exists to display Jesus’ worthiness to rule over it. Within history He gave life to a bride, His own life, and redeemed her from her curse. Now He courts her as He watches her grow, revealing the depth and honesty of His devotion as He enables her to triumph over every hinderance of sin, temptation and evil on her path to an eternity with her Bridegroom.

Within history, Jesus stood as a man, and died as one, but He first in all history rose from death to eternal life. In rising again, He proved that the first man was Adam, and that he had sinned. He proved that Noah and seven other souls were saved from destruction by obedience. He proved that Abram obeyed God, and became the father of many nations. He proved that David was a king of Israel after God’s own heart. He proved that the kingdom of God was meant to sweep over all the earth, and that God was faithful to His promise, and that every knee would yet bow. We will rise.

In His perfect life, Jesus proved that love can be lived on earth, and that it never fails. Love listens, heals, and sets the captives free. He proved that love is the only authority needed to rule the kingdom of God. He proved that love is vastly more to be treasured than life.

In His death, He proved that God’s justice is unmovable, and that God’s mercy is irresistible. His justice was the rock that could not be moved, since we had offended Him irreparably. His mercy embraced that justice, and satisfied its every demand for our sakes. When He carried His Blood into the Holy Place, the stone rolled away from our doom.

In His church, before and after His time on earth, He proves in us that faith allows the weak to love the Invisible One. Him Whom we have never seen we adore and trust and honor. We do His will on earth as it is done in heaven. Far more than not doing what is against His will, we live from our own will, and find that we love doing what He loves.

Here, in this history, we are tempted by our enemy when our hearts lust for the things he and this fallen world offer. We are weak, and we fail, but Jesus advocates for us, and the Spirit leads us into the life that is already ours. We war against the flesh, and in Christ we mortify it, taking the victory He has won for us. In doing so, we show the world that Jesus Christ is the King of all Kings.

The life that we now live is a hard one, full of tribulations, but He has overcome the world and we love Him for it.

History declares and glorifies the Lord Jesus, and we live to love Him.

11 April, 2007

Faith versus Courage

I have wanted to put these thoughts into well-formed words. I simply lack anything like the time (after that one open weekend, things have gone back to their old pressure again so far.) So, let me jot down a quick couple of paragraphs, in raw form, and see what we make of it.

I was raised Assemblies of God. The church I was in was fundamentalist-charismatic. We expected God to hear us and help us with guidance, healing, and control of our circumstances. We followed a living and active God.

I learned from them that courage was a bad thing.

"What!?" you ask.

Really. Maybe I should not have, but I did.

You see:
+ If we were quiet, God would lead us into all truth.
+ If we were obedient, God would keep us.
+ If we prayed sincerely, God would answer our prayers.
+ If we asked, He would heal.
+ If we were spiritual, He would keep us in perfect peace.
+ If our circumstances were bad, faith would still rejoice in Him.

The unintended consequence of those teaches was I learned courage was bad. Courage was what you had to get by on if your faith was not up to the task.

Faith was the ultimate, "Happy place."

Are you worried that your marriage is about to end? Quiet yourself before the Lord. Obey His commands. Pray sincerely, and get everyone else praying, too. Ask that He heal you, your spouse and your marriage. Give Him all your distressed feelings, and take His peace in their place. And keep praying until you find it in your heart to rejoice.

In quietness and confidence is your strength, so now wait on Him.

That doesn't work.

Courage is needed. Courage admits how very afraid I am, and looks my problems square in the eye and makes a plan. I have found that applying courage where I used to apply my misunderstood faith has begun to make me a happy person for the first time in my life. Happy with myself, and happy with my Lord.

In my life, I have been finding:
+ Courage seeks wisdom, not answers, then decides.
+ Courage acts, instead of just obeying.
+ Courage prays, then works, instead of waiting for the clouds to part.
+ Courage spends its life with God, knowing He may heal, but rehabbing hard until then.
+ Courage finds peace in a good exhaustion, rather than hoping God drops it from heaven.
+ Courage lets me rejoice in the team God and I make.

Picture a father and his munchkin working at chopping down a tree. They take turns with the axe. You and I can both guess who's really making chips. But if that little boy gets scared and stands 100 feet away, exercising faith that daddy can get everything done safely, he learns nothing.

But if that boy is standing one hatchet length away from that tree when it begins to sway, and if he decides where to strike next, and if he hits that place (even on the third try) and that tree begins to fall, he is going to experience the exhilaration of having stuck out a big, scary job. And he's going to be that little bit closer to being a man, because of who he and his father were as a team. That burst of pride he is going to feel is a good thing, and the first thing he'll do with it is turn around share it in a beaming smile with his father.

Losing a marriage, or losing a church, or facing an illness is a mighty, mighty tree to face.

Real faith makes a plan and grabs the hatchet.

10 April, 2007

Parenting in the Culture

A fine new mother told me today that she would be telling, not asking, her children that they were visiting their grandmother - it's time to get in the car. That's the way it was when we were kids, and that's the way it should be. None of this asking them what they feel like, and listening to their answers.

And how can I argue?

That's largely how I raised my kids, and it is right and true. But now I'm divorced. But now my kids are in public school. But now they watch Southpark and Family Guy. But now they have the friends they have chosen.

They live in a different culture than I did, and radically different than my parents did. And it's harder to fight culture than it seems.

When we were kids, all our friends whined about having to see grandma. *My* peer group thought it stunk. My *kids'* peer group just doesn't go.

That is radically different, and it's hard to fight, because they have reasons that they should not be made to go. We taught them to have good reasons for everything, and now they do. Even stuff we don't like.

Parents used to have a hard job and weak support. Now they have a tougher job, and active opposition. Opposing a culture of reason is vastly more difficult than it seems. Fifty years ago, one was a hero if he gave a reason to his children for his dictats. Now, a reason is not enough. One must persuade his children to obey by appealling to their half-formed reasoning abilities while they're under the influence of peer-reasonings.

It can be done and when done well it is beautiful, but it is exhausting.

May the Lord have mercy on all us parents, and all our children. And may our culture be found wanting and its weaknesses swept away.

08 April, 2007

Easter Thanks

I am one of those people who sees an empty glass with a little bit of water in it, a walking raincloud if ever there were one. When provoked to count my blessings, I usually end up in tears.

But, in the invisibles ...

In the realm of the Lamb, even rainclouds are rich, richer than the wildest pessimism.

I am crippled, and yet there is One Who never passed me by. He stretched out the right hand of His love, and restored me. He took me into His house and fed me at the greatest expense to Himself. And if you will understand my meaning, He fed me His last two mites.

He had everything to give, and they were things I would have bubbled with delight to receive - things that would have cost Him nothing. Like so many stylish lovers, He could have promised me the moon and stars, but He could deliver. He gave something else.

He was upright and good, and could have enriched me to satisfy His own infinite standards. I would have honored His Name, had He blessed me to keep His robe of holiness white and perfectly starched. He lifted me for another reason.

When there was no obligation that could touch Him, and when I was His enemy, He came and walked beside me. He clothed Himself with the body of my struggles, and labored under the needs that overwhelm me. For only two reasons, He came to be with me.

He loved His Father Who called Him to such obedience. And He loved me.

He suffered more with me than I will ever suffer alone, because He wanted to know me, and be with me. He gave Himself because He found me valuable. He treasured me as He did His own Father, and He endured the cross to join me to Himself forever. And He will never want to leave me.

In all the world, there is only one treasure, love. If a man would give all his riches for love, and trade an empire for love, it would be utterly condemned. And yet the Master gave love to me above a hundred lesser things I would have wanted.

Even so, come Lord Jesus.

07 April, 2007

The Depths of the Resurrection

I am reading NT Wright's, The Resurrection of the Son of God, and what a joy it is. I'm only a third of the way through it, but it is like a warm bath of pure hope. Don't get me wrong, it's technical, not devotional. It's hearing so many things I've always believed but never encounter, things that deepen and enrich the popular understanding of the resurrection, that are firing me up.

There are two depths Wright fathoms (so far) that paint the resurrection as shatteringly huge as it deserves to be.
1) The utter ambush that it was. Nobody saw it coming.
2) The immensity of it. More rose with Christ than just one body.

Jesus' disciples did not understand the messiah's mission, while they were with Him. They saw Him, and they heard Him, but they were confused because they knew all too well what messiah would be.

(BTW, Israel would never have thought to capitalize Messiah. The prophesied messiah was King David on 'roids, and he was chosen by God, but he was human. That messiah was a mortal man was no more questioned than that the Sanhedrin would all go to their fathers one day.)

The disciples had heard the prophecies since they were children, and they knew that
+ Israel was the suffering servant
+ The messiah was the conquering king.
+ There was to be a high priest as well, a kind of a co-messiah, but nobody was quite sure what that would look like.

Israel had suffered for years, over and above the call of duty, so when Jesus began to fulfill the prophecies of the messiah, all Israel was primed. They were very ready to be delivered. Gloriously, ecstatically, delightedly ready. On "Palm Sunday" they showed how very ready they were, as they gave the royal reception to their new-found king.

Had Jesus stepped out Sunday night or Monday morning in purple, and called Israel to arms, the nation would have risen to conquer the world. He would have found Himself the king of a willing army of loyal fanatics, and with God on His side, He would have pulled it off. When the mother of Zebedee's children came asking that their sons sit on His right and left hands in His kingdom, she was talking about a couple years from then - when Jesus stood on the neck of the Roman emperor and fed him his own bile, when Israel was finally redeemed from her so many and oh so long exiles.

Just like the prophecies said.

Then some offscoured weasel of a Roman governor outwitted this Jesus, captured him, and shamed him publicly. This alleged rod of Jesse was put under Pilate's rod, and clothed in purple as a mockery. This was not the prophecy. This Jesus was just another imposter. Israel wished she would be released from her role of suffering servant, but this Jesus was just one more poser to the throne. "Crucify him," was the only appropriate answer.

And another false messiah died at the hands of the false emperor.

And He died very, very dead.

All of Israel went away broken hearted, but not that Jesus had died. She had fallen for yet another false hope, and she was crestfallen. Her God was not yet ready to deliver her. She had given her heart to another imposter, and she woke up Saturday morning with the hangover of a thrice jilted lover, and told herself, "Next time, I'm going to wait and make sure it's the real thing before I give my heart away."

The disciples were no different. Without their Shepherd there to comfort them, they were plunged to the depths by the same flood as Israel. Peter held out the longest, hoping against hope that this was all some kind of trick and that Jesus would prove Himself yet, but before the cock crowed, even he had surrendered.

You may not realize what was the most amazing thing about Jesus speaking to Mary on Sunday morning.

The most amazing thing was that Mary was there.

- All of Israel was gone.
- Everyone who had ever been healed by Jesus was gone.
- Everyone who had believed his preaching was gone.
- The seventy who had cast out demons in His Name were gone.
- The twelve to whom He had committed all Truth were gone.
+ But Mary could not leave Him.

She was there because she did not care that He was not the messiah. She loved Him, and she could not leave Him. THAT is a testimony for the ages.

She was the first to know that the world as we know it had ended, and that a new world had begun.

Rising proved that death is mortal.
No one had ever once thought that death might be broken before the last day. The Saducees did not believe in any resurrection, but even the Pharisees did not believe it would happen before the end of the age. Jesus breaking death was the most unexpected event of history. But He didn't just wiggle and squirm out of the grave, He rose with a new and glorious body - healed and vastly superior to anything He had ever been before.

Death wasn't broken, it was destroyed.

Ro 6:9
Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.

Rising proves that Messiah is God.
Can you imagine?

The failed messiah rises! He had declared Himself equal with God, and been crushed by the Sanhedrin through Pilate. Now He lives and eats with His disciples. His every claim is vindicated, instantly we see the Suffering Servant, the Messiah, and the High Priest are all one God and one Man. For shame that we might merely think that His resurrection proves "Christianity is true."

Ro 1:4
And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:

Rising gives us hope of life.
One of my favorite movie scenes is from Moonstruck, when the mother looks at her adulterous husband and says, "You're going to die." He's out with a bimbo night after night trying to prove he's still young, still vital, not going to die. When she calls him out for the root problem, instead of the sinful symptom, she wins my heart.

The fear of death wrenches at our guts. It hits us below the belt, below consciousness really. We make so many decisions to sin or to avoid sin because we fear death. We need to remind ourselves that we are going to die, and we need to remind ourselves that we are going to rise to joy.

Rom 8:11
But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

Rising raises us.
Resurrection with Christ does not wait for the day of His revealing, though. We are raised with Him now. Even as you read this, you are alive in a way that your unsaved neighbor is not. You are alive in a way that will last forever. You are alive exactly as you will be ten thousand years from now. Your eternity has already begun because Christ lives.

Col 2:12&13 + 3:1
Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; ... If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.

Rising brings the kingdom.
Christ's death atoned for our sins, but His rising makes the way for the kingdom of God. The kingdom is life and Spirit, and it is that new life that the kingdom requires. The blood covered one time, but life is ours forever.

And that life is not ours, but God's. The life we now live fulfills the request of the Lord's Prayer, "Thy kingdom come." Progressively, unstoppably, the kingdom of God grows in spite of the cancer of sin in the world. Even now His kingdom is invisible, but it is no less real than that the messiah was divinely Messiah even though nobody could see His divinity.

1 Cor 15:22-24
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.

Rising restores the rightful order of the world.
The expanding ripples of the resurrection continue, until all the world is revived in His resurrection. The redemption of Christ's body gives rise to faith in the redemption of our bodies, and the redemption of all creatures.

Rom 8:21-23
Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

Rising brings God love.
The Spirit brooded over the waters for a reason. The Father spoke and the Word created for a reason.

Col 1:15-20
[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.

Jesus is the firstborn from the dead, and we follow soon after. Eventually, our bodies will follow our spirits, and the very earth and cosmos follow as well. All will be reconciled and restored to the original plan, purpose and passion of God.

Jesus' resurrection was not just an event, but a beginning for all of creation.

Friday was an unimaginable day from the perspective of the angels. From the Sun to Pluto, everything was dead, everything was dust and dry bones, except one Man, and He was a beaten, bloody mess nailed to a tree. The only shred of life earth had known for millenia flickered out.

Sunday, though... On Sunday, one Body rose up alive, and with what a life it rose!

Heb 12:27&28
And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

The Life that rose Easter morning could never, ever be shaken again by anything. And that life began to spread, and it still could not be shaken. The gates of hell crumbled before it, and death watched helplessly as the martyrs praised while it took them. Soon - very soon - sin, sorrow and death will be swept aside, and all creation will be live to join in everlasting praise of the Eternal God Who overcame everything.

And His church will embrace Him in love forever.

05 April, 2007

Essential Courage

Hello Again. :-)

Thank you again for all the kind wishes when I disappeared. They really were touchstones for me.

Those of you who are my friends know where I've been, so I'll not belabor it. Things are probably 10-20% better than they were, and for the first time in a long time I'm not stealing time from anyone if I blog a little. I doubt that I will be coming back 100% for a long time, but I've got things to talk about, so maybe I'll be able to get something out here a time or two a week.

So, with no further ado, I'd like to say something about doctrinal unity. Weekend Fisher has already put a strong piece out there, so everything I say will more or less assume her points. The question is, "What are the essentials of doctrine?"

I met Salguod in person the other day, (it was a great lunch :-) and he told a story about a church that had created a statement of unity. It was a list of doctrines that mattered, the essentials. He said about that document, "They called it a statement of unity, but really it was a statement of division. It was the list of things over which they would divide." That was such a great insight.

That's why I would like to declare the question a false dichotomy. The question really asks which doctrines we can devalue for the sake of unity, when our unity was never, ever found in doctrine. As Weekend Fisher said so well, our only unity is in Christ. At the same time, though, I would like to argue that there is no doctrine we can afford to devalue.

I would like to start by quoting 3 verses, all by Paul, all from the book of Galatians, and all feeding the fire over circumcision that was burning in 50 AD.

Gal 5:2-4
2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

Gal 5:6
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

Gal 6:15
For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

(Before I go on, I just have to quote them again from The New Testament in Scots :-)

Gal 5:2-4
Hairken me, Paul, as I tell ye this: Gin ye hae yoursels circumcised, ye s' get nea guid o Christ. Aince mair I warnish ilkane at hes himsel circumcised at he s bund tae keep the haill o the Law. Ye ar twined frae Christ, ye at wad be juistified bi the Law; ye ar forfautit an deprived o grace.

Gal 5:6
For whan a man is in Christ Jesus, it maksna an he be circumcised or no: the ae thing at maitters is faith wurkin warks o luve.

Gal 6:15
For naither is circumcision ocht, nor oncircumcision: ar ye new creatit, or no, is the ae thing at maitters.

Paul writes a long letter against circumcision, and the people who promote it, then ends it by telling everyone it doesn't matter.

So, is Christ's salvation stymied by a knife to the foreskin or not?

That's a pretty important doctrine to fight over, and Paul comes down publicly on both sides of it. If I'm a nervous gentile in 50 AD, do I take as gospel the 95% of the book that tells me to put that knife away? Or do I cling to the 5% where he says I can do as I please?

But that's not the hard thing about this doctrinal question. The hard thing is how the 1 question becomes 4 options so quickly. You may not have noticed, but there are 4 positions to take on any single doctrine, because half the people will say the argument doesn't matter. The argument about whether circumcision matters will grow much larger than the one over whether circumcision is wrong. On the one side, the soft-hearted crowd (who will be made up of those with and without foreskins) will want to make sure everyone feels comfortable with their choice, and the hard-headed crowd (again, with and without) will remind everyone again and again that doctrine shapes faith, and therefore makes all the difference in the world.

You can bet at some point you'll find two circumcised people digging at each other over whether they should fight over circumcision.

And you thought calculus was confusing.

At least in calculus there was SOMETHING that wasn't changing every time you calculated the equation again.

With doctrine, you can't even pin the question down. You stick a thumbtack in the idea of circumcision, and tell everyone to debate it. In seconds they're debating whether debate is scriptural, deciding it's not, patting themselves on the back, and finally able to agree on something - that you are not very spiritual if you want to debate circumcision. About twenty minutes after you get your head unspun again, it occurs to you that your calling may be "helps," and you leave all doctrine behind.

And there's one more dimension that doubles the number of positions on circumcision from 4 to 8. Yes, there are 8 possible positions on any single doctrine. The third dimension of doctrine is that of teacher or learner. You might be teaching that circumcision is bad but that we should not fight over it, or you might be a student of that belief. How you see yourself makes a huge difference in how you present a doctrine.

This doctrinal unity thing gets scary quick. 1 doctrine = 8 positions, and that's before we start talking about the people with truly bizarre ideas. If it were just 8 positions, life would be pretty manageable, but the outliers keep everyone guessing. Have you never heard anyone say anything like, "Circumcision is prohibited physically, but it's absolutely necessary spiritually. Being spiritually circumcised means that you have put off all the behaviors of the old man - all of them!" And I guarantee you, that brother has a bushel-full of verses to back his invention up.

So, we have 8 positions plus untold outliers, and we haven't even mentioned the unsaved yet, much less the unsaved who think they are saved but are deceived. Without the indwelling guidance of the Holy Spirit, the oddest things of all make their appearance. "The most spiritual people on earth are the Buddhists, and they don't circumcise, so we shouldn't either. What's that you say? Yes, of course I'm a Christian. Why do you ask?"

And all this after Paul lays out the answer on circumcision so clearly. Imagine if it's a doctrine that's not so clearly spelled out. Try this. Replace the word "circumcision" with the word "baptism" back in all those verses up there and see if we don't find ourselves in the midst of a 20-position doctrinal debate post-haste.

The question was, "Which doctrines are essential?"

Unoriginal though it may be, I have to answer none of them and all of them.

We cannot separate over doctrine
Paul paints it clearly. The only thing that matters is the new creation in Christ. When you were dead without Him, quoting every doctrine exactly as Christ meant it could not save you. Even the devils believe and perish. You might have had all knowledge, and spoken with the tongues of angels, but you could not see His kingdom; you could not love Him. Christ remained of no effect to you.

And now that you are alive to Him, everything else is secondary. Though you speak with the tongue of a baboon, have faith such that a mustard seed could bowl you over, and muddle the clearest doctrines into mysteries, you have looked to Him and are saved. You see His Face, and you've entered His kingdom. You are a new creature in Him, and He is become your salvation. None of the doctrines matters.

But that only works in a perfect world, one in which no one is deceived into thinking they know Christ when they don't.

In the world in which I live, people claim the Name of Christ, do wonderful works of love, and never know Him. People say things like, "It doesn't really matter what you believe, as long as you believe something," and never seek Him. People in this world assume that everything spiritual is divine, when that is horrifically false. Lying spirits prophecy. Lying men steal from honest children of God. It's like taking candy from a baby, except that it's devastating.

Every doctrine is important
I stand here and tell you that circumcision is wrong, and that it's important to say so in certain terms.

When a man teaches circumcision, he is teaching God's children to fear their Father and trust him instead. Circumcision is the teaching that a man remains spiritually unclean before God, and that he must do something physically to be clean before his Father. And the man doing the teaching implies that only he has the magical formula that will clean his audience. Christ becomes of no effect to those children of God, because they start looking to the guy with the knife and the magic for their salvation.

Our hearts deceive us. Over and over we believe we have the mind of God, when all we have is a good vibe and a scripture that feels right. Whether we are teachers or learners, whether we believe in debating or pacifying, whether we believe this doctrine or that, our flesh wars against our spirit in the battlefields of our lives. We are tempted when our lusts draw us aside to sin. And we are weaker against all our enemies when we believe false doctrines about how our lives with God work.

So we need doctrine. The Spirit distinguishes soul from spirit for us through the blade of scripture.

We stand forewarned that not every man who fills a pulpit and proclaims the Name of Christ knows Him. Not every church that calls itself Christian has a lampstand. These things don't just matter, they protect us. We each need doctrine, right doctrine, and as much of it as we can get. When the world, our own flesh, and the devil all want to deceive us, only the milk and meat of the word can deliver us.

So, what is essential for unity?
There is only one essential, Christ; and one command, Love.

What is essential for Life?
Every doctrine is essential, and there is a right answer to every question. How does God predestine? What does baptism do for us? Are the gifts for today? Is contemplative prayer profitable? Should women lead? There is only one right answer to each of these questions, and we need to get as close to it as we can.

And sometimes we need to separate

I played classical guitar for a few years. I loved it, but the diesel mechanic-ing destroyed my precision fingernails too often. While I was learning that art, I read one master say (paraphrased), "No guitar lesson should ever be given to a person who doesn't know how to play already. If you want to play guitar, and you cannot make the instrument sing by ear, teaching you to pretend like you can play is a disservice to the world. First prove to me that you have the guitar music in you, then I will teach you everything I know."

Even so, If you run into a teacher peddling error, don't hope that he'll "get better". Run. Don't try to teach him when the music is not in him. Flee. You'll save yourself years of waste.

Paul had a chance to divide from those Galatians, and he did not. He had a chance to divide from Peter over his error, and he did not. He had a chance to tell them to divide from anyone who would divide from his foreskin, and he did not. His last word was that it was the new creation that mattered, and he meant it.

But he didn't water down doctrine one little bit. He laid it all on the line, telling them that they were in danger of being divided from Christ over this little issue.

Both of those things require courage. To not separate in heart or deed from those who disagree with you, and to draw a line in the sand where the Truth lies are both frightening things. The church has been too long with only one of those courages. We need both, and we need them badly. I know it's "impossible", but Paul did it, and so did Timothy, Titus, Aristarchus, Gaius, Sopater, Tychicus and Trophimus, and Epaphroditus after him. I may give up on seeing both courages in the church some day, but I'll never quit trying.

Lord, grant us courage.