It is a Terrifying Thing to Fall into the Hands of the Living God

For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

I know this passage from Hebrews 10 has mostly to do with apostasy, of turning away from Christ and returning to Egypt. But I find it compelling in the sense that no one simply “goes back to the world.” An expanding series of thoughts, false beliefs, detrimental actions and neglectful inactions leads one step-by-step away from Christ. In fact, the writer of Hebrews expresses this thought in chapters 3 and 6 as well, with this passage being the third admonition, emphasizing the need for believers to stimulate one another toward good works and greater devotion in order to keep themselves in the Way. The first step in the Hebrews’ encounter at Sinai — and even while they were still slaves in Egypt — was an awesome, terrifying display of raw power and holiness.

This morning while reading I was struck – once again – by the fact that I feel I am missing the experience of these sentiments in my life. I don’t think I really understand the fear of the Lord, and therefore I don’t think I understand much of anything. I’m not speaking of mental assent or acknowledgement of the truth – I think I could explain it quite well biblically, from a doctrinal standpoint. But I mean that the fear of the Lord isn’t always an active deterrent to sin in those areas where I “willfully” sin. When I overeat, I typically do so without thought of God. If I waste time, I often do so without consideration of Jesus’ lordship. Throughout my life, this is a problem.

I’m not really interested in getting to all the particulars of why I have this problem. Perhaps it is because there is so little instruction in “the fear of the Lord” in church, or maybe I never had a role model who demonstrated it for me. I just want to be delivered from my ignorance. And so I prayed this morning.

Bow Your heavens, O LORD, and come down; Touch the mountains, that they may smoke. – Psalm 144:5

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Give Me This Hill Country

This past week something has occurred every day around four in the morning which compels me to get out of bed, and on this day, #15,492, it was an upset stomach. Yesterday it was a child with an ear infection. And so on for the past week. Perhaps I should just prepare on getting up at four for a while as it seems the Lord desires my attention and I might save Him the trouble of coming up with new ideas for getting me out of bed. After I was awakened, I spent time with Him, and then from 5-9 I took my children to the bus stop and read the entire book of Joshua.

The words of Caleb in chapter 14 were personally significant as I read. He details his strength and past faithfulness in following the Lord and the promise of Moses to him, and then he says, “Now then, give me this hill country about which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim were there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the LORD will be with me, and I will drive them out as the LORD has spoken.” My eyes were fixed on the words: Give me this hill country. I prayed: Give me this hill country…give me this hill country…give me this hill country…

In a flash I thought of the people — unrelated and independent of each other, except by the bond of the Spirit — who spoke prophetically of my future and my calling in God in the days of my youth: Jack Buskey, Joanne Picataggi, Wade Taylor and Dennis DeGrasse, and in more recent times Bobby Norton and Scott Stimson. I thought of the first thing God ever showed and quickened to me in His Word when I began seeking Him for myself in earnest: the past, present and future implications of the story of Eli, Hannah and Samuel and what it meant concerning my service to the Body of Christ. Give me this hill country.

Give me this hill country. Let everything God has promised and declared over my life come to fruition, in spite of the giants. And may the Lord find in me a willing and obedient heart that trusts that what He began in me, He is also able to finish.

A Fruitful Season, Pt 2

It has been seven months since this prophecy was given, and I previously recorded my cursory recollection and the significance of these words here, but I just received the audio and wanted to transcribe it verbatim for remembrance. These words were spoken to me by a total stranger.

I see you standing before a large tree with many leaves, with the branches hanging down low. And I see you coming to this tree, and I see the tree has had the buds, and it’s had everything that would look like “this is the year.” And then I see you going through a year saying I’m not sure why the fruit never did come then. And then I see you going back again and looking at it again and expecting, because everything looked right. The tree looked healthy, the tree looked like it was ready to produce, but still there was no fruit, the fruit that you were looking for.

And the Lord is just saying to you that this is the time that you will begin to produce the fruit that you’ve been waiting for, that you’ve been looking for. And where you’ve known seasons of disappointment, it’s not because of anything that you’ve done wrong, it’s not because of anything that’s happened to you or anything anybody else did to you. It’s just because of the season, the timing of the Lord.

But now’s the time where you will produce that which is in your heart. God’s put some big dreams inside of you and He’s just written them in you. He wrote them in you from an early – from your early teens, or even pre-teens – where God began to put some dreams inside you. And now He’s started to bring those to life in you. They’re not impossible. They’re not too difficult.

You’ve had the structure in place for it to happen. You’ve had a healthy tree. But now’s the time for the fruit to begin to come forth, and the branches that have hung down will begin to stand up straight. So new life is flowing to you. And you’re going to look around you and you’re gonna see that He really has made all things new. Some people say, “I don’t know how that suddenly happened,” but you will know that He’s been preparing it all along, and now’s the time for it to come forth. This is your season. A fruitful season. A fruitful season. A fruitful season. Hallelujah. Thank you Lord.

A Stranger’s Prayer

It is Day 15,163 and I am stopping in for a short visit to record something that happened after church this morning. There was a guest speaker from another local church, but I didn’t get to hear his message because today was my day to speak to the young teen group; Sikki and I are scheduled to be with the teens once a month. But after the service, I was hunting down my little children and the visiting preacher called me over and said he wanted to pray for me.

I found his prayer noteworthy because it wasn’t your usual run-of-the-mill generic stuff. It seemed like his prayer for me matched so many of my own prayers on a day-to-day basis that it seemed to have prophetic, affirming tone. He prayed for increased effectiveness in my service to the Body of Christ, for ideas and imagination to take ministry outside of the four walls of that church to reach young people specifically, and for protection from temptation and despair. He called me a “choice tool,” which when I write it here makes me chortle because I am a smart aleck, but I also appreciated the prayer and spontaneity of the thing.

I haven’t written much here in the past few months because I’ve been very busy and haven’t felt like writing. My health continues to improve. Last time I went to the pulmonologist she told me I could probably come off Xolair injections if I lost 30 pounds, which as it turns out is about what I gained in the past year. So I’m not sure how losing weight will help me breathe better, but at the same time I’ve always wanted to lose weight.

On March 1 (Ash Wednesday) I started an Alternate-Day Fasting approach, which I am documenting on another one of my old blogs here. I’d heard about intermittent fasting from a number of sources in the past couple of years, but I decided that since I’ve been dealing with tendinitis in my right heel I’d give the fasting a go for a couple weeks and re-evaluate after that. Even if I haven’t lost weight yet, I do feel better.

Last week I took steps to go back to college. After talking with a vocational rehabilitation counselor from the disability insurance company, I found out they might pay for some of my tuition if I can prove that my degree major will lead to a good job. I’ve got the time, I love to study, and I have always wanted to finish my bachelor’s degree. So why not try? I’d like to get into the Communication Studies program at Appalachian State University if I get accepted. I figure Communication Studies is somewhat in line with what the preacher prayed this morning.

The Church’s Trump Dilemma

INTRODUCTION

I’ve decided to lay out the foundations of my claim that Donald Trump should never have been unquestioningly supported by Christian believers in the American Church, and how that support has damaged the veracity and witness of the Church in the eyes of the world, perhaps for many years to come. I did not draw these conclusions with flippancy or haughtiness, but I read, listened and wrestled with various viewpoints and information about this issue for nearly two years. While I could have written an even longer discussion on the unacceptability of the Church’s supporting Hillary Clinton in 2016, for the most part I know Christians did not do so, which makes that argument unnecessary. Suffice it to say that many of the cautions and points I raise about Mr. Trump could also be applied to Mrs. Clinton. My goal in writing is to show the workings of my thought process and the conclusions I reached, both for my own sake as a kind of record, and in an effort to teach my children the necessity of a faith that asks pertinent questions and searches for answers without fear and, once those answers are discovered, applies them to real life, “knowing” them in the biblical sense of the word, letting the chips fall where they may.

I have always felt more concern for, and had more interest in, what is happening in the life of the Church than with the United States at large. I am not a nationalist. I’m not even very patriotic. I don’t pledge allegiance to a flag, and I don’t have an “America First” mentality. “Our citizenship is in heaven,” the apostle wrote. While here on the earth by God’s decision I am part of a larger Body of Christ whose purpose is to bring God glory and represent Him faithfully, to be perfected in love and unity, and to seek the good of the land of our sojourn. It’s a place where many different ideas exist and contentions often arise. But the aim of my life is to serve that Body. My allegiance, passions, prayers, energies and thoughts are with the Bride until my Master takes me home. The behavior of my fellow believers – including everything they have said and done in this election year – is of primary interest and concern to me, simply because I am connected to them for better or for worse.

Before I get to specifics, I must first touch on some general cultural dynamics within the American Church community which make this volatile and vitriolic election year a difficult subject to discuss with others, much less come to agreement on. While they may seem unrelated to my declared subject, if you’ll bear with me it will hopefully become obvious why they are pertinent to the larger picture.

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Prophetic Word by Ronnie Coleman

Went to church this morning, after not being there for a month of Sundays. Thing was, I felt pretty good for most of this week, but when it came time to get ready to leave with the family, my lungs went janky again. I went anyway, but I felt very tired and short of breath when we arrived. Of course I couldn’t help but consider the spiritual ramifications of starting to feel better and having a good week, and then feeling sick again on Sunday morning.

At the outset of the song service, the people all prayed for me. I was out of breath and sweating bullets. After the worship, Ronnie Coleman gave the message. He is a prophetic man; he hears from God. In the middle of his sermon he said this:

Brother Steve, as we were praying for you I heard the Lord say, “This is a precious thing that I have deposited within this man. And it will not be achieved and claimed without a ferocious battle.” But He also said, “But you shall live. And not only live, but you shall live well. For it is my choosing, saith the Lord, that you edify the house of God and the people of God, even as I have edified you.”

Here’s his whole message.

Black Lung

I slept three hours last night. My face is starting to look like a skulking ghoul’s. I could play in a Tim Burton movie. It’s hard to be certain, but I think the lungs are getting a bit more air today. Maybe the Xolair is working, though the doctor said it could take a couple months and I only got the first shots last Wednesday. I spent a half hour doing some strength training in the garage: it was rough going and I felt gobby and faint inside, but I felt better afterwards. You know…when I stopped exercising.

Last night I hit the wrong button somewhere and downloaded 9,000 emails from the past ten years onto my hard drive. I spent some time today looking through some of the older ones. Quite a few were to people who have departed this life: my dad, Torrey M., David C. Even more were to people who are out of my life for reasons other than death.

I still have a draft of Torrey’s first novel, an attachment in one of those emails. He eventually severed our relationship because I am a Christian, but I liked him and admired his talent as a writer. I was thinking about Torrey the other day that maybe he never had a plan for what he would do if he didn’t get famous. He was ambitious and condescending and often just a jerk. He asked me to critique the book back then, 2006. It was pretty interesting. I don’t know if he ever submitted it for publication anywhere before he took his own life.