A few weeks ago, I dove into the world of Sanctuary with my friends at Theology Gaming. Check out the video of our adventures!
“One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think.” – Brother Lawrence
The idols speak deceitfully,
diviners see visions that lie;
they tell dreams that are false,
they give comfort in vain.
Therefore the people wander like sheep
oppressed for lack of a shepherd. – Zechariah 10:2 (NIV)
21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”
But the people said nothing. – 1 Kings 18:21 (NIV)
The showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal ended with God answering with fire from the heavens. The people believed that the Lord is God on that day and the prophets of Baal were slaughtered. The Kishon Valley ran with the blood of four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. God had answered Elijah’s prayer in verses 36 and 37:
36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
God answered another prayer that day, as a heavy rain began to fall, ending what had been a severe drought.
What did Elijah do after standing up for the Lord? He ran (vv. 45-46) and soon begged to die (19:4).
4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”
He will meet you where you are.
I am not sure where you are in your journey in life. I am not sure whether you are on a mountain, like Elijah, experiencing a closeness to God. You know that He is 100% there. I am not sure whether you are down in a valley, like Elijah, feeling a part from God and perhaps wanting to just give up. Check out how Elijah’s account continues:
5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
7 The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.
Note that God takes care of Elijah by meeting his needs, where he is. I take comfort in the fact that God will also take care of me when I am walking through a valley. When I am ready to give up and call it quits He will give me the strength to continue onward…if I ask.
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland. – Isaiah 43: 18-19 (NIV)
Came across the above verse this morning that I wanted to share. I love how God is telling Israel not to dwell upon what has already happened. Verse 19 begins with the gentle reminder that God is always working, even when we can’t see Him, God is going before us. Reminds me of Jesus’s words in John 14:3 -
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
There is comfort in knowing that God is constantly at work and going before us–reminds me even further of Haggai–. Whether you are dealing with an unstable job situation–like me–or just life in general, take comfort in knowing that God goes before us just like He did for Israel and Joshua when they set forth into the Promised Land.
I know that it is really easy to read what I have written and just dismiss it. But this is truth. Throughout the Bible, God constantly reminds us that He is there, working. Do you believe that? Better yet, are you listening/watching for His response?
What is God teaching you?
Had an interesting situation happen to me today as I was walking from my house to the car. A woman approached me, in tears, and told me about the $10 worth of medicine she needed to buy her son and how she wouldn’t get paid until Friday. She even offered to pay me back. Truly one of those moments where I was torn over what to do. I immediately wanted to know:
- Was the woman lying?
- Did her story add up?
- Were her tears real?
- Where did she come from?
- Was she canvasing the neighborhood looking for handouts/drug money?
- Ultimately, what did God want me to do in that moment? I know we are supposed to be His hands and feet.
So hard to respond to others when so much unbelief and pessimism clouds how we see people and the world. Christ calls us to push past this though and simply trust in Him. As a Christian, the money is ultimately His anyways.
Regardless of how I responded, what would you have done? Check out the poll below and vote. Add an answer if you need, leave a comment if you want to talk, and then check out the verses from Matthew below.
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” – Matthew 25:31-46 (NIV)
I did not want to get up this morning. I did not want to go to work today. All I could think about was coming into an office that is experiencing the throes of change. I want answers to:
- “Who is going to be fired in two weeks, if at all?”
- “What does my job/position look like in the midst of these changes?”
- “What does the future hold?”
As I got ready this morning, I decided to read from the Book of James. A few weeks ago my pastor quoted a verse to me from it; yesterday our guest speaker mentioned it.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,”
I cringe every time I hear this verse from James 1. Equating suffering with being joyful sounds odd to my ears. Who wants to be joyful while living in/through hard times? I remind myself that God is always calling us to embrace Him and let Him do the heavy lifting. Reading on, a word (bolded) stuck out to me in verse 3:
“because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
Perseverance is a word I am quite familiar with. Growing up, I even used to listen/sing a song about it by GT and the Halo Express. When I think of of the word perseverance, I think of a quote made famous by Meet the Robinsons.
“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney
Despite my company being the verge of possibly shutting down… despite people’s attitudes/moods in the work environment as things get tough… despite not knowing where I am going to land in the future, I know that I need to have faith and persevere. James 1:4 goes on to say:
“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Living in the valley, walking forward in shadow, I know that this is where Christ works. I know that I want to be where Christ works.
Going through personal difficulties? Encountering obstacles? I want to encourage you to keep moving forward. However, I want to further encourage you to not do so on your own. God wants to shoulder your burdens. He will give you what you need to persevere. Will you let Him?
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” – James 1:5
“Like a ship at sea, you will be tested, and the storms will reveal the weak places in you as a man. They already have. How else do you account for the anger you feel, the fear, the vulnerability to certain temptations? Why can’t you marry the girl? Having married, why can’t you handle her emotions? Why haven’t you found your life’s mission? Why do financial crises send you into a rage or depression? You know what I speak of. And so our basic approach to life comes down to this: we stay in what we can handle, and steer clear of everything else. We engage where we feel we can or we must–as at work–and we hold back where we feel sure to fail, as in the deep waters of relating to our wife or our children, and in our spirituality.” – Fathered By God, John Eldredge, pp 6 and 7
I am convinced that God deals with us in the valleys of life, in times where we need the most faith to move forward. Sure there are moments where we can clearly tell where God is leading us, those so-called “mountain top” moments. I would argue though that those moments of clarity are few and far between. In the darkness, we need the light. In the darkness we must rely/embrace God, trusting that He will see us through, that He has an ultimate plan.
Started reading Mike Erre’s Astonished the other day. Below is a quote I wanted to share:
God takes us to places where we can’t figure it out or depend on our resources or intelligence. He wants us to trust Him, nor our formulas, spiritual disciplines, or knowledge of the Bible. He draws us onward, using the acute sense of limitation and sorrow we feel, to bring us to the place where we “don’t know” and “can’t see” so that we’ll reach for Him and grab hold of Him, after there is no other place to turn.
In the Valley
Lately I’ve been in one of those places where the valley only seems to be getting darker and deeper. The crazy cycle/ negative atmosphere at work is eating away at my soul. I can’t seem to find the work eject button. A job I applied for a few weeks ago, a job that seemed like a shoo-in, panned out into the ether. I am not sure where God is leading me but the crazier I feel, the more I know that I need to be leaning on Him.
Even at the end of my rope, why do I find it so hard to just give up? Why is it so hard for us to just allow God to be our strength? Pride? I’m not sure. I do know that prayer is the answer. That trust in God is the key. I have come to a place where nothing else makes sense, where God has me. I just need to surrender and listen. So hard.
My church has been going through Experiencing God on Sunday nights. Unit 8 is titled “Adjusting Your Life to God”. Check out the story of Elisha below and then join me after reading.
19 So Elijah went and found Elisha son of Shaphat plowing a field. There were twelve teams of oxen in the field, and Elisha was plowing with the twelfth team. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak across his shoulders and then walked away. 20 Elisha left the oxen standing there, ran after Elijah, and said to him, “First let me go and kiss my father and mother good-bye, and then I will go with you!”
Elijah replied, “Go on back, but think about what I have done to you.”
21 So Elisha returned to his oxen and slaughtered them. He used the wood from the plow to build a fire to roast their flesh. He passed around the meat to the townspeople, and they all ate. Then he went with Elijah as his assistant. – 1 Kings 19:19-21
In the above story, we read about Elijah calling Elisha to become his assistant. Notice that Elisha immediately slaughters the oxen, burns his plow, and throws a BBQ. With his livelihood burnt and eaten, there was no going back for Elisha.
–> How is God calling you to adjust your life to Him? <–
Last year, my wife and I made the decision to keep her home with my son. This decision carried with it both a financial and personal impact. Yet we both felt, and continue to feel, that God was/is calling us to keep her home. Our decision required an adjustment that has been hard at times but good. Very good.
Sunday morning I listened to a great discussion in small group. The topic was on evangelism and how there are different roles in bringing others to Christ (sowing, watering, reaping, etc.).
Saturday, my father-in-law came over and helped me take down the handicap ramp out front. Looks much better now.
Friday night I had some time to myself. So I fired up the PlayStation 3 and decided to pick Tomb Raider back up. About an hour and a half later, I found that my opinion of the game has not changed. Tomb Raider is a videogame that basks in tension, torture, and somehow female empowerment. The entire time I was playing I kept thinking, “I wish this was an Uncharted game.” I wanted the fun of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark versus the seriousness of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Six missions left until the end of the game. I will persevere.
- LINKS –
- “But man, if you’re looking for some deep philosophical themes or life-changing experiences, Chrono Trigger (or most any game, for that matter) will not be the place to look at all.” – Adults Playing Chrono Trigger
- Also, I enjoyed The Theology Gaming Podcast #33 – A History of Healing. Great discussion! Would love to hear other topics such as: resurrection, circumcision (as mentioned), baptism, etc.
Came across this verse in Ecclesiastes this morning and wanted to share.
13 Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind. – Ecclesiastes 12:13 (NIV)
If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed, but skill will bring success. – Ecclesiastes 10:10 (NIV)
When I first read the above verse, I immediately thought that the verse would compare the unsharpened ax to a sharpened ax. Nope. Note if an ax edge is unsharpened that “more strength” or effort is needed to complete the task.
We often give up when things are not going our way, when the tools of our mind/body are not up to the project we are working on. Perseverance, keeping at something despite the difficulty, is the key to success. We need to stop blaming our tools and instead keep moving forward.
Read Ecclesiastes 9 this morning. This story, towards the end, stuck out to me. Verse 17 seems to be key.
“13 Here is another thing that has made a deep impression on me as I have watched human affairs: 14 There was a small city with only a few people living in it, and a great king came with his army and besieged it. 15 There was in the city a wise man, very poor, and he knew what to do to save the city, and so it was rescued. But afterwards no one thought any more about him. 16 Then I realized that though wisdom is better than strength, nevertheless, if the wise man is poor, he will be despised, and what he says will not be appreciated. 17 But even so, the quiet words of a wise man are better than the shout of a king of fools. 18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one rotten apple can spoil a barrelful.” – Ecclesiastes 9:13-18 (NIV)
We need more writing like this:
“As any football fan or regular participant in golf, ultimate frisbee, or Settlers of Catan will confess, embracing make-believe battles isn’t in itself a sinful or even unwise act. What matters is one’s perspective. For anyone who plays videogames, there must be a commitment to proper perspective. The game is not the ultimate reality, even while playing it. The player should see the game as an experiment, not as a genuine set of priorities and goals, but as a pretend set of priorities and goals. Videogames should be viewed as opportunities to practice and explore the values and commitments we make with ourselves and with our God. Just as men ought not genuinely despair over a lost football game, men who play videogames should learn to accept failure as an integral part of the experience.” – Richard Clark, Videogames and Men
Neon lights mix with the sound and smell of sizzling fajitas, nothing like a Mexican food restaurant in East Texas.
My pastor and I had a lunch meeting a few weeks ago. During the meeting, he encouraged me to start fasting as well as read Fasting by Jentezen Franklin. I have since done both.
In the book, Jentezen discusses a Biblical command that is often ignored, fasting. Matthew 6:1-18 serves as the Biblical aircraft carrier from which he launches his book. The following are some quotes and notes I jotted down while reading.
“Jesus said, “when you give…” and “When you pray…” and “When you fast.” He made it clear, that fasting, like giving and praying, was a normal part of Christian life. As much attention should be given to fasting as is given to giving and to praying.” (p11)
According to the book, there are three types of fasting:
- Absolute fast
- Normal fast
- Partial fast (giving up particular foods or drinks for an extended period of time).
“Whenever you begin a fast, remember, if it doesn’t mean anything to you, it won’t mean anything to God.” (p35)
“…fasting is a constant means of renewing yourself spiritually.” (p71)
This one was interesting:
“When you fast, you abstain from food for spiritual purposes. I have heard people say that they were planning to fast TV or computer games or surfing the Internet. It is good to put those things down for a time of consecration if they are interfering with your prayer life or with your study of God’s Word or you ministering to the needs of others, but technically, that is not fasting. Fasting is doing without food for a period of time, which generally causes you to leave the commotion of normal activity. Part of the sacrifice of fasting, seeking God, and studying His Word is that normal activity fades into the background.” (p111)
What do you think? Any thoughts on fasting?
“If technology is so easily twisted and abused, our gut response may be to avoid it. We can try to carefully avoid using any form of digital technology, fleeing the temptation and the opportunities for evil they encourage. And yet for most of us, avoidance is not an option, nor is it necessarily the most biblical, God-honoring response, as we will see. Our task, then, is not to avoid technology but to carefully evaluate it, redeem it, and ensure we are using it with the right motives and for the right goals.” – Tim Challies, The Next Story
Back in college, God used your book Blue Like Jazz to help me battle through the rampant hypocrisy and legalism I was experiencing on a daily basis. Other Christians were causing me to want to walk away from Christianity and Christ himself due to their actions. Your book showed me that a Christian can indeed smoke a pipe and drink without fear of condemnation. You showed me that a Christian can be human. I thank you for that.
I don’t know if you know yet but good books for a young dad are hard to find. Your book Father Fiction could be the best book about being a dad I have ever read. By the time I finished reading it, my perspective on fatherhood was forever changed. I now look at my son as God looks at him. Thank you once more.
As you can see, you have been a big influence in my life. Which is why your blog post entitled “I Don’t Worship God by Singing. I Connect With Him Elsewhere.” surprised me. You see, I don’t have a problem with your learning style nor the fact that you do not connect with God by singing. I can understand that.
“It’s just that I don’t experience that intimacy in a traditional worship service. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of sermons I actually remember. So to be brutally honest, I don’t learn much about God hearing a sermon and I don’t connect with him by singing songs to him.”
“Interestingly, I learn a great deal by teaching, which is interesting to me.”
What troubles me is that you say that you learn through teaching. Don, if you only learn by teaching others, who is teaching you? Who are you allowing to influence you spiritually on a weekly basis?
I am not naive enough to say that I know you, even though you have been there for me when I have most needed someone to be authentic. But I am concerned, Don. No man is an island. I think it is great that you have a company and people who surround you. But again, if you are only teaching others, who is teaching you?
You have made yourself an island with full anti-aircraft weapons at ready.
Your concerned friend and brother in Christ,
Edit: Jonathan Leeman wrote a very heartfelt response to you, Don. I especially liked the part where he talks about Tom and the body of Christ.
I am thankful for the small group of friends that I have; I am also thankful for slowly learning that it is okay to tell another guy that you love them.
Tim Challies has a great article up today entitled “The Myself I Was Yesterday“. Thought I’d share.
“In small doses solitude is a great thing, but we are made to need each other.”
I listened to this sermon the other day and wanted to share. Stick with it. Mike’s left hook at the end is killer!