A False Gospel of Convenience

The morning of Day 15,010 has fallen on a Tuesday. The air is crisp outside and the meteorologists predict abundant sunshine and dry weather for the remainder of the week. Even though I am currently unemployed, I have quite a lot to do today: the yard debris washed in by Hurricane Matthew will take a long time to clean up, and I am working on creating an advertising brochure for a local business. Working in the yard the past couple of days I picked up a couple of fire ant bites: I am highly allergic to fire ants. Fire ants are capable of both biting and stinging. Whatever they do, even one ant’s attack causes significant hot swelling and an oozing, burning pustule, followed by painful swelling and itching which lasts a week or more. I take Benadryl sometimes to try and mitigate my body’s reaction to the little devils, and in spite of doing so last night I still woke up several times during the night with pain and itching on my ankle, where one got me two days ago.

I have not been able to get over to the beach to see the ocean since last week because authorities have kept the whole town off-limits to visitors since the hurricane. Apparently they’re having problems with flooding and the sewer system.

I need to do some quality reading today, as I have not been doing anything but checking the weather and the news concerning the election for almost a week. A lot of people I know are going a little crazy over this year’s election cycle. It’s the Christians I really pity, though. Fear is causing many of them to misplace their faith in a man who is incapable of satisfying their hopes: Donald Trump. It’s really grieved me to see people I respected – people who used to decry the lack of morality in our country – now back an unrepentant, solipsistic, immoral man as their chosen leader. Some are even prophesying in the Lord’s name or saying he is anointed by God, a kind of messiah-figure.

This election cycle has exposed American Christianity for what it really is: a heresy rooted in a false gospel of convenience. Same ancient problem that anyone with a heart to know can read in the narrative of the Scriptures which the Lord has given us for our guidance and edification. But people can’t or won’t see it. Revelation must come from God. Perhaps the Church will turn to the Lord and His revealed Word after suffering dashed hopes and disappointment as a result of this rash and carnal course. That’s my prayer.

I will close to pay attention to the work of the day. I am in Him.

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15,000 Days Through Water, Fire & Blood

On October 1 of this year, I quietly celebrated an anniversary of 15,000 days in this reality, thanking God for life and the opportunity to know Him. I thanked Him for His plan and purpose, for His word which sustains me and gives me hope, and for the people He has placed around me: my parents, friends past and present, various servants of God who have touched my life, my precious beautiful wife, and the children He has given me. I praised Him for all the little things in life: a woman who reflects His love and lays beside me every night, hot coffee in the mornings, a body that functions and is recovering, and senses that can perceive and appreciate the beauty of mountains, seas and distant stars. I have never lacked a place to sleep, a place to live, clothes to wear, or food to eat. I took time to appreciate His diversity in creation and in the personalities of people: I thanked Him for giving me a searching heart and a mind that asks questions. I also considered the many experiences and trials I have encountered, the successes and failures of my brief life, and how faithful and unchanging His mercies have been through all of them.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:22-23

I meditated on my travel through waters: from my mother’s womb, from Christ’s side on the Cross, through the flood of baptism and the washing of the water of the Word. I thanked Him for the fires of life: the trials and sufferings through which the Holy Spirit burns the chaff of my existence and disconnects me from the affections of earth to which my soul cleaves. And I thanked Him for Jesus, for His plan of life through the blood and sacrifice of a God who knows suffering, who suffers with me. I thanked Him for repentance. I thanked Him for the eternal Church, a place of rest in His imperishable temple, and for the brothers and sisters to whom He has joined me in these last days in the measurement of time.

I don’t deserve any of it; nothing I have done or not done has merited my standing in Him. It is His good pleasure. From Him and through Him and to Him are all things. If I should live another 15,000 days, I want to live them all in Him.

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. – Revelation 4:11

His Truth is Eternal

Five in the afternoon of the 14,990th day of life in this realm, and I just used the Keurig the girls bought for our household last week to make a cup of coffee. It’s rare for me to drink coffee this late in the day but I’m tired and frustrated, and I figured it might perk me up a little before church this evening. I spent yesterday and today running around, toting people places and doing errands and getting nothing accomplished.

I’ve been jogging or walking nearly every morning for the past two months, along with lifting weights and a little yoga sprinkled in to try and loosen everything up. In the past, exercise would make me feel more energetic but on the heels of whatever’s wrong with me circumstances have changed and I just feel exhausted all the time. Most days I want to take a nap, or at least lie down. When I first got sick last November it turned out I had pneumonia and reactivated mononucleosis, on top of the raging asthma. I felt tired then, too. Now I find myself tempted to drink too much coffee or even dip nasty black tobacco, just to keep going. Stupid. I should just go buy some caffeine tablets, crush ’em and snort ’em up my nose.

It’s exasperating because I really want to get back to work. I’ve been throwing a few lines out into the job market just to see what bites. At this point I don’t know how I would return to work feeling the way I feel, but it doesn’t hurt to scope out the scene in case the long-term disability people decide to cancel my benefits or something. I went to the pulmonologist early this month and she seemed pleased with how my lungs sounded; she said she’d order another lung function test in January. I don’t really understand what her long-term treatment plan is: I can only safely take Xolair for two years because it’s got a lot of side effects, including higher risk of certain cancers. Maybe allergy shots are the next step?

I’ve been reading and praying my way through a study book called The Tabernacle of Moses by Kevin J. Conner. It’s a very enlightening and rewarding study of the Tabernacle. It’s weird that I’ve been in church my whole life and am just now getting around to carefully studying the Tabernacle, but recently I sensed it was something the Lord would have me do, so I ordered the book a couple weeks ago. In the introduction the author noted that in the biblical record God spent two of our “chapters” explaining the creation of the habitation of man, and noted how much we work and delight in studying all that pertains to that creation, but God then went into painstaking detail concerning His own dwelling place for 43 consecutive chapters and made subsequent reference to it repeatedly throughout the rest of the Scriptures. And I have basically ignored it my whole life. Conner mentioned that in the introduction too: that the subject is one of the least studied, explored or understood parts of the Word of God. It just goes to show we don’t value things that God has revealed, we don’t emphasize things that God emphasizes. It is blowing my mind on a daily basis and I find myself praising God as I study. His truth is eternal.

School Daze

It is a Friday morning and this is the 14,971st day of my existence by God’s design, calling, choosing and favor, and I awoke at 5 AM to thank Him for life. This has been an eventful week in our household, as all three boys are going to public school this year, especially for Garrett and Winston who are attending regular classes for the first time ever.

Both of them fussed about wanting to stay home today, Garrett saying he had a sore throat, and Winston saying that he “didn’t want to go to school every day.” We sent both of them to school: Garrett didn’t have a fever and Winston – the kindergartner – has to learn that school happens every weekday. It’s a big adjustment.

One amusing thing is that Garrett has said that for three days he’s sat down at a corner of an empty table for lunch in the cafeteria — at a different table each day — and the same group of girls has followed him, sitting themselves down wherever he has chosen to sit. Garrett is tall for his age and spent the summer lifting weights, and he also has a sense of style and likes to look nice. (He takes after my dad that way: my father never looked like a slob like I often do.) Garrett has just entered 8th grade, and since he is new to the school it adds an element of “bright, shiny and new” in the eyes of his onlookers there. It amuses me that Garrett seems mostly unaware of how attractive this might make him to girls at the middle school; when telling us about the “moving girls” he seemed to regard it as a total mystery. Of course I haven’t said a word to expound the mystery to him. I hope that as he becomes more aware he will continue to focus on his academics and personal growth and not get distracted by the wild drama that always plagues teenaged “romantic” relationships. I’ve been praying that God will send him a friend or two of the male persuasion, boys who have some background in families with morality, stability and good sense. I have talked to my children often of being friendly to everyone, but not getting too intimate or close to people that are plainly following a different path.

At the same time, I’ve told them their attraction to the opposite sex is totally natural. It’s just a question of proper timing.

Throughout my mid-to-late teens, I was interested in the Bible and pursuing God, and I sluffed off a couple of girls at church because they did not share my passion. There was one in particular named Jenny: she was even my “type,” a cute little thing. She was the most persistent, but eventually I told her I just wasn’t interested in a dating relationship because I was in school and wanted to build the foundation of my life before getting into anything like that. She quit calling. I never dated or got romantically involved with anyone until I was twenty years old, and that was with Sikki who is now my wife.

Sikki and I met at work: she was 15. I thought she was really strange and she felt the same about me. (In my case it was quite justified: my weirdness has been consistent.) Neither of us had any thoughts of romantic interest until three or four years later, when I sent her a bouquet of flowers as a graduation gift. Shortly after that, I nervously asked her out. She had three boyfriends before me, I think, and I believe I met all of them. In our many talks since then, she has expressed some regret about dating, but in our culture it is just taken for granted that you should spread yourself around quite a bit before settling down.

Some of the Christians I’ve known have an axe to grind about dating, being critical of it or disallowing it altogether. I’ve never been on board with a legalistic approach. I don’t think there’s a “right” or a “wrong” way to get to know people. (But that is the goal: getting to KNOW them, not getting attached and THEN finding out who they are.) There are three main dating dangers in my mind: being “unequally yoked,” spending a lot of time alone, and accepting without question everything that is “normal” in our culture. Our culture’s shifting expectations have led to nothing but busted relationships and people, so those accepted norms should not be leading believers around by the nose.

I’ve had three teenaged offspring who have started some exploration into relationships with the opposite sex, and Sikki and I have tried to guide them through it while at the same time making them aware of the inherent dangers and distractions of those relationships, but without uttering a commanding and absolute No. As their father, I try to make it a conversation and a learning experience, but I’m not interested in preventing their every pain and mistake. Otherwise, they’ll never learn how to function as adults in this world.

Another thing I try to emphasize is that they should take things very slow. It’s important to learn how another person reacts under STRESS. That is absolutely key to knowing someone. It’s all fine and dandy to date and have fun, but lots of people get into serious trouble because they don’t find out how the other party handles life when it’s adverse and painful.

Then there’s the question of “pressure” from the other person: if you’re telling them to take it slow and they’re rushing you into commitments or physical interactions or acting generally clingy and needy, you should move on. They don’t care about you or respect you; they’re trying to use you to meet some unmet need of their own. You’re worth waiting for, kid, and in the sphere of relationships, haste really does make waste.

I tell my kids a good rule of thumb is to try and find someone who loves Jesus more than they love you — you’ll recognize them because they will talk about Him all the time in regular conversation — preferably someone who could get along fine without you in their life. That will be a pretty complete, mature person. Or at least it will be someone who has a solid foundation when the storms of life hit.

It’s an ongoing process and I don’t have an action plan or divine directive except for some principles of Scripture that apply to all relationships. Me and Sikki are trying to figure it out, but the responsibility to train them is on me primarily since I’m their father. I pray for strength and guidance every day to accurately represent life in God to my children. I hope to inspire them to pursue Him on their own.

I just received an automated call from the school district that they will be closing early due to Hurricane Hermine, which is passing us today. I will close to address the concerns of life.

A Fruitful Season

Last night Pastor Bobby took me and Jerry up to Love Faithfully Ministries, a black church in Leland, to hear a visiting minister Pastor knew back in the day and hadn’t seen in over ten years, Scott Stimson. Apparently this dude was involved in the early days of NLCF. I felt quite comfortable in the place because the people that were assembled had a passion for God, and since they came out on a Tuesday night they also obviously had an availability to His purposes. Passion and availability mark the ground that God walks and works in.

The praise was very vibrant, the speaker’s teaching was challenging, and he also spoke prophetically to several people. It just so happened he started with me. I don’t have the exact transcript (the church pastor said he’d send the recording to our church, since Jerry and Pastor also received prophetic words), but the gist of the thing was this:

He said as he looked at me he envisioned a large tree that looked as if it was about to bear fruit. Though all the conditions were right for the fruit to grow, and my expectation was that the fruit was forthcoming, the fruit had nevertheless not materialized. He said he saw the branches hanging low with many leaves, but the fruit had not come, and I had been disappointed. He said it was nothing I had done or not done that had caused this situation, but just the timing of the Lord – it was simply not time for the fruit to come. But he said I was now entering “a fruitful season,” and that I would begin to see the fruit I had expected and longed for. He said God had given me “big dreams, even in the time of your early teens” and that God would accomplish those things in His time. He repeated the phrase “a fruitful season” four or five times as he spoke to me, indicating that it was present. Now.

I will transcribe the message if I ever receive it, but that was the crux of the message. I try to pay attention to both the written and the spoken Word of God. There was just no doubt that the word was from the Lord’s mind and knowledge.

I began seeking the Lord in earnest when I was a teenager, after hearing the ministry of Wade Taylor one evening. Brother Taylor was not a particularly good speaker in terms of organization and his manner of speaking, but when I first heard him something was ignited inside. It was somewhere in Maryland, and he was speaking exegetically from the passage in Exodus about Moses and the burning bush. I remember excitedly going home and telling my Dad how he was saying “all these profound things” and Dad smiled. It was a seminal moment because I realized that the Word is more than just a story, or a philosophy, or mental assent to certain truths: it is alive, it speaks to our real lives as we find ourselves in this present age and reality, and it is limitless in depth and scope. But it cannot be successfully or helpfully approached apart from connection and relationship with its Author.

Not long after hearing Brother Taylor for the first time, I went to a conference at the Bible school he founded, Pinecrest Bible Training Center in Salisbury Center, NY, and God visited me and helped me during that time through various ministries. That is where many of the “big dreams” were imparted to my spirit with the laying on of hands and prophetic utterance, and where I began learning how to pray, how to worship, and how to read the Bible. I view that weekend at Pinecrest as the start of my “path” in the Way (and ways) of the Lord. So when Brother Stimson mentioned “big dreams from your teens” that period is what flashed through my mind.

Time passed and I continued to seek the Lord. Jess and I were attending Abundant Life Church in Georgetown, Delaware. That is where I took my first steps in writing about the Word and public teaching, speaking with fair regularity on Sunday mornings, leading Bible studies and a men’s group. The pastor, a fine, loving man named John Betts, was also seeking the will of God and mentioned that eventually I might be on staff at the church, or that they might look to establish a Bible school in that county where I should teach. But nothing ever came of anything and I became discouraged. I began to focus on the “darkness” and “lack” that I observed in the church, and I wondered why there was so little desire for the things of God in most of the people. Eventually I quit going after 15 years or so because I felt like the entire thing was a charade for me personally (and maybe for most of them): it all just felt never-endingly lifeless. I started working for Pepsi while at Abundant Life, and my life became more and more consumed by work.

So yeah. A time of looking for fruit and not finding any. In the Pepsi years – nearly a decade – everything seemed to be a dead end. Spiritually (the church/ministry situation), vocationally, financially, residentially (with our house in Laurel not selling for a year), educationally and even bodily (with debilitating sickness), every effort and every righteous desire and the sweat from every pore of my being just seemed to lead to absolute nothing. And the whole time I wondered what was wrong or what I should do differently.

I have much to learn.

Timing. A certain place. A certain man. A certain time. Everything will come to pass. Everything will surely come to pass.

Willing To Live

In modern America you can believe anything you want as long as you don’t take it too seriously. Muslims throughout the world are in the news almost every day because they are willing to die for their beliefs. Most Americans can’t fathom how it is possible that anyone would die for his beliefs because most folks fear death more than anything else. Our colonial fathers and mothers understood, but for the most part their distant children don’t get it.

The disciples of Christ expressed willingness to die for Him – Peter most vocally. People remember Peter’s denial of Jesus and think him a coward, but they forget he tried to live up to his promise. At the point of crisis, Peter went full beast mode, drew his sword, and sliced a dude’s ear off. It was dark and he probably wasn’t aiming for the ear: he was trying to waste that fool and be The Greatest Disciple, Jesus’ Bodyguard & Right-Hand Man. He’d made his decision to make a valiant stand, and just when his adrenaline was up in the red zone and he was ready to pound the next guy, Jesus yelled “NO!” And then He healed the evildoer’s ear.

It was so very deflating when Jesus wouldn’t let him fight. It took Peter from a place of ACTION to a place of helplessness. He just stood there, not knowing what to do or say, breathing hard, falling on the inside. When the rest of the disciples split, he ran too. Later that night, Peter would come to know himself better than he ever wanted to, and he got reduced even further. All because Jesus wouldn’t let him go out in a blaze of glory.

Jesus said, No, no, Peter. If you take this carnal approach, you’ll die by this carnal approach. I’m not having an armed revolt here, so no more slicing and dicing and strong-arming your way through this dark night. Just put the whole thing away – both the sword and your willingness to use it. Get rid of those trappings. I know you’d like to hurry up and die with Me but I’m not interested in your dying right now. I’d really have liked to have you PRAY for an hour with Me, instead of trying to fight and die here. Everything I’ve taught you is about LIVING, not dying. I want You to LIVE for Me, Peter.

Those Muslims I mentioned earlier, I get where they’re coming from, wanting to rush out and die for their false god. I used to have an attitude like poor prayerless Peter in the garden, full of zeal and holy indignation, whipping a sword out to slay any clueless, beleaguered soul who was out of line with the truth and didn’t relate to God the way I did. When I was young I thought myself so full of knowledge and power and wisdom I couldn’t even imagine I’d make it past 25 years, or at the most 30, because I was certain I’d be martyred by the unbelievers and the reprobate Jezebel church before that time. My view of myself did not square with my actual condition: I needed God and other people to help me discover that, and the process was ugly.

What Peter learned – what we have to learn – is that God calls us to LIVE FIRST. The call to live scares us because we know (if we’re honest) we aren’t up to the task of following in Jesus’ footsteps. We’d rather do almost anything other than having to live, because life in God is dependency, not natural strength and cunning. Prayer is humiliating to the flesh, having to ask for daily bread and defense from the power of the evil one. Peter was willing to die, but he wasn’t yet willing to live. Jesus knew that full well when He said beforehand, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

That’s why the call to life is so important, why we have to be awakened to the desire of the Holy Spirit to teach us how to live. Because the way of the natural man with all his striving works death in the situations around him, but one who lives for and unto God brings life and strength and healing to others, and glory to the God whose ways are not our ways.

It is Day 14,936.

The Battle is for Time

It is Day number 14,935 in the sweltering coastlands, where the heat index has been around 100 degrees most of this week. I have been doing a lot of paperwork and trying to stay cool because the heat bothers my breathing, but today I went a little crazy and cleaned out the garage. Some old mattresses and other junk was making itself obvious in there, so the kids and I loaded it all up and went to the landfill, just to be free of it. (Also I have been finding snake poop in the garage and wanted to cut down on the number of his possible hiding places, because the idea of a big snake lurking under something in there or the adjacent laundry room oogs the girls totally out.) Anyway we came home and ate lunch and then Garrett and I mowed the grass. He helped with the parts of the yard that need the push-mower and I used the tractor.

I am trying to stay on my feet even at the times that I feel unwell, just because it is good to stay on your feet. Sitting is a kind of defeat these days. Overall though I think my lungs are improving.

Today I spoke with an acquaintance from long ago, a woman the Lord used to speak into my life around 25 years ago at Pinecrest Bible Training Center in Salisbury Center, New York: Mrs. Joanne Picataggi. She gave a prophetic utterance that – along with some other movings of God at the time – was pivotal in changing the direction of my life, especially as I considered the nature of God and the possibilities of my future. I wrote to Mr. Picataggi to thank the two of them for their continued service to God, and to let them know the impact their ministry had on me though I was only its beneficiary for a brief time.

It was nice to speak with her, though I came away with a task because she spoke of the sons of Zadok and a “new priesthood,” and now I have to read about these things. She said, “Zadok chose God, and then God chose him.” It was prophetic and spoke to the currents under the surface of the Body of Christ: God is about to move through those who have made time to listen and obey Him. I believe it was Walter Beuttler who said, “If you build God a house of devotion, He will build you a house of ministry.”

I was watching the Democratic National Convention the other night when Bernie Sanders was speaking, but I wasn’t paying much attention to what he was saying. I was looking at the crowd. The camera kept showing all these Millennial kids sobbing — both young women and men. I told Sikki, “This is how empty the kids are. Everything safe and secure in their world has been called into confusion and questioning. They’re looking for someone to follow.” The man in this instance was Bernie Sanders, and he was at that moment endorsing Hillary Clinton for President. He was violating his principles and the talking points of his “revolution.” And the poor kids were weeping not for him, but for themselves. They desperately want someone and something to believe in.

This dynamic – the backlash of the world’s empty promises and futility – is what God will use to bring them into His Kingdom. His instruments will be those who gave Him time. The battle right now is for our time. Time is critical right now in the Church. We have to give God our time. If we don’t, we won’t have anything to say when the hurting and wounded come knocking.

I was tempted in that last paragraph to say we must “sacrifice” our time, which just goes to show that I’m not right in my thinking. Because I’m not sacrificing when I give up nothing to attain everything. If to make room for Him I give up reading a novel, or scrolling Facebook, or watching psychological thrillers on Netflix, I’m not losing anything: I’m only gaining. Time with God is always the best time, always leaves me feeling full and whole and strong. It is where my heart is adjusted and I learn to hear.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. – Philippians 3:7