Monday, May 29, 2006

Blaze '06

Well, I just got back from Spokane and another Blaze conference and I’m still basking in the afterglow . Once again the Lord met us there and I took away so much. It is such an experience to see God move and work; whether it’s in the music, preaching or altar calls.
All the messages spoke to my heart and they all called for a greater dedication which I was ripe to hear.

The conference was held in a unique building called “The Service Station”. It is owned by a Christian man and is a non-profit business. When you enter, it is an upscale coffee house with a dash of Starbucks ambiance. Furnished with leather lounge chairs, modern décor, warm feeling, a jazz group or a single piano player in a nook playing background music to the laid back atmosphere. There are a variety of tables where some were playing card, using lap-tops, mingling with friends while sipping their coffee or eating a sumptuous desert from the Deli bar.
A younger clientele, but some older as well.

Behind, but in the same building, is a large conference room, with stage and professional lighting and seating for about 150. This is where Blaze took place.
Four churches participated in Blaze this year and I think as many joined the band. The music was youth oriented with a hard driving rock beat which melted into smooth spirit lifting worship songs. LeeElla led the singing with a mix of songs that set the mood and warmed the heart as only LeeElla can do.

The speakers this year were Eric on Friday night and Scott Gull’ey the balance of the three sessions. Eric led out with a message on Sampson, and the series of events that led to his ultimate bondage, his plea to God while bound, blinded and controlled. With his mercy plea God began a restoration in his soul and in his death he gained more victory than in his life. It was a stirring, passionate, relevant message that started Blaze out with altars full, tears flowing and true church ministry at its best. I sat somewhere between prayer and spectator, eyes brimming as I watched the Holy Spirit cause a meltdown in hearts. It is always a moment of pride when I see Eric preach. In my opinion, he has developed into a hold your attention, impassioned orator.
As Eric went from person to person lined at the altar, it was a most sacred experience. Eric stopped at one young man, slight of build, maybe 15, and Eric began to pray, then as the emotions ran hot and tears flowed from both, Eric was forced to halt for the tears choking his voice. As composure came, he continued and then continued down the line speaking into the lives of penitent and seekers. For an hour church leaders, the visiting speaker, and Eric hugged, spoke to, prayed and wept with the youth as all were bathed in a Holy Spirit embrace. Holy ground, holy ground…..

The second session, by Scott Gull’ey, was about the death of Jesus at Gethsemane. His point; the decisions to die are made at Gethsemane, or our prayer closets, not at the hour of testing. Jesus laid his life down at Gethsemane not at the cross. He faced the cross with a previously determined will prepared in Gethsemane. Powerful and convicting.

Scott’s second message on “When the Lion Roars” was another penetrating message about how the children of God, when faced with the Roar of Satan, can step up in faith and anointing to do battle and as Sampson, rend in two the devil.
Scott, preaching with power, humor and anointing, always using his unique terms like; issues that cause tissues, we all have Junk in the Trunk, and repentance that cleansed him and he ain’t a ho no mo!

Scott’s third message was at Eric’s new church and focused on the need of faith in this new venture.

There was also a teaching on personal purity led by Jackie, for the women and two Christian brothers named Jason for the guys. I did not attend either but the reports were that they both were powerful and relevant, reaching deep within those in attendance.

Blaze, a mixture of passion, humor, conviction, revelation, worship, salvation and repentance. The epicenter of what God is doing.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

When aspiring to the highest place,
it is honorable to reach the second
or even the third rank.
The common problem, yours, mine, every one’s,
Is, not to fancy what were fair in life
Provided it could be,
but, finding first, what may be,
then find out how to make it fair
up to our means;
a very different thing.
Robert Browning.

Blind to our Faults

Fenelon -Letters of Love and Counsel

But note well for your comfort that we only see our faults for what they are when we are recovering from them. It is only when we have no wish for improvement that we are incapable of seeing how fundamentally rotten we are : it constitutes that state of blindness, presumption and insensitiveness which delivers us over to our own devices. A man who lets himself be carried along by the current of a stream has no idea how swiftly it is running; it is only when he begins to struggle against it that he realizes its strength. ---- pg. 19

Pimps of Pleasure

I like to read old Christian literature because so many of the things were written before our culture became desensitized to vices we rarely raise an eyebrow at today. Much was written on the theater of old. If these authors were to see all that’s offered on the big screen or through video today, I think they would mourn for the “advancements.”
This short essay was written to the youth living in the country, where 70% of the population resided at the turn of the 20th century, and the exposure to the theater would only take place on those rare trips to the city to sale their produce etc.
None the less, the principles of evil are the same and in the following quote it’s obvious that the issues were the same though the degree of graphic lewdness before this century were no more than “tarts and cheesecake.”

Pimps of pleasure
"Here is pleasure, all flushed in its gayest, boldest, most fascinating forms; and few there be who can resist its wiles, and fewer yet who can yield to them and escape ruin.
If you would pervert the taste- go to the theater. If you would drink in false views-go to the theater. If you would efface as speedily as possible all qualms of conscience—go to the theater.
If you would put yourself irreconcilably against the spirit of virtue and religion- go to the theater. If you would be infected with each particular vice in the catalog of Depravity- go to the theater. Let parents, who wish to make their children weary of home and quite domestic enjoyments, take them to the theater. If it be desirable for the young to loathe industry and informative reading, and burn for fierce excitements, and seek them by stealth or through pilferings, if need be- send them to the theater.
It is notorious that the bill of fare at these temples of pleasure is made up to the taste of the lower appetites; that low comedy, and lower farce, running into absolute obscenity,
And are the only means of filling the house. Theaters which would exhibit nothing but the classic Drama, would exhibit it to empty seats. They must be corrupt to live; and those who attend them will be corrupted."

When you read a blazing attack on an industry which most of us were nursed on from the cradle, and today has so many creative ways to bring the theater into our homes, it seems harsh or overstated. Or does it?

Some Reasons We Believe

The most compelling reasons that we believe the Bible, are the following;
When we see how exactly the rule of duty prescribed in the Bible agrees with that enforced by our own conscience.
When we see how the account which the Bible gives of human nature, coincides with our human experience.
When we see how powerfully the truths presented there operate to purify our soul.
When we feel how completely the truths presented console and sustain our soul.


" All real and wholesome enjoyments possible to man have been just as possible to him since first he was made of the earth as they are now; and they are possible to him chiefly in peace. To watch the corn grow, and the blossoms set; to draw hard breath over plowshare or spade; to read, to think, to love, to hope, to pray- these are the things that make men happy... Now and then a wearied King, or a tormented slave, found out where the true kingdoms of the world were, and possessed himself, in a furrow or two of garden ground, of a truly infinite dominion." John Ruskin.

Peroxide, Studs and Gestapo Boots

A while back I had a friend who was having trouble with his teenager. So I thought I would
write him a little ditty of encouragement.

Peroxide, Studs and Gestapo Boots

Somewhere between innocence and arrogance
Lie those years with no defense.
A time when brains seep out the seams
those cherished years called the “Teens!”

Hating school, church, and home
and under that leaking peroxide dome,
is attitude, and barbed wire speech
lucky to stay outta Dad’s reach
when tempers flare like fire!!!

Loving smile they used to share
replaced with venom and hardware.
Innocent pursuits, now lame and dull,
now it’s “Pops, check out my tattooed skull.”

Studded tongues, nose with a ring,
I just don’t understand a thing!
Gestapo boots, chains and chants,
Damn it, pull up those baggy pants!

Compose myself, settle down.
I once terrorized my little town.
Fred Blauer 2-2000

Nursing home memory

I talked with a motivated Christian last week who had an interest in Nursing home ministry.
It reminded me of this experience I had a few years back. I was working with a woman named Joyce at the time, she is referenced in this account.

I had a haunting experience yesterday at the rest home. During the service about mid-way through a person was brought in with the metal cage type apparatus that fits your head when it's mandatory that your head does not move. It appears to be bolted into your head. Do you know the type of cage I'm talking about? This woman who wore this was, I assessed, in her mid sixties. which is young for the rest home. I could see traces of youthful beauty in her eyes. Although the Lord allows me to see the youth in most of the residents there. Anyway, this was her first visit to the service and I tried not to stare. As we sang and carried on in our normal fashion, Joyce was very moved that this lady was weeping and felt it necessary to tell me in the middle of a song. Joyce always has a way of putting people on the spot. which just makes me squirmy! Anyway I'm just sure this lady knows we're talking about her, so I make sure as not to stare. Anyway when the songs over Joyce goes up to her while I continue the service. Then Joyce stops me and has to put this lady on the spot just like I feared! Well, it turns out this lady wasn't uncomfortable about talking and she answers Joyce's inquiry about her tears by explaining that all her life she ran from God and was involved with drugs and the like, till November 10th, it all came to a head when her husband tried to kill her! In fact he actually did! She was pronounced dead, but was revived. She turned her life over to Christ after this experience and was so filled with joy that we all just rejoiced with her. She said she wanted to talk to me and Joyce after the service. Needless to say the hair is just now laying down on my neck. The balance of the service took on a different enthusiasm than the beginning, you can just imagine.
No way to exaggerate it.
After service I asked her if she wanted a ride home and so I took her to her room where we talked and I found out more detail. It turns out she is 46! One year older than Sue. It is impossible to tell because of her condition. The method her husband used to try and kill her was to run over her with his car! He crushed her skull, broke her neck in two places and to repair her neck they had to go in from the front so they had to slice her throat! Her hair was shaved and she had stitches all over her skull. Her skin was jaundice and she is very dehydrated and so her skin appears very old. She is just a mess. But she is on fiiiiiiiiiirrrrre with God!
She is in pain and can't lay down with that cage, she is in physical therapy daily to learn how to walk and to speak, which she does well, a little slow but clear. In all this horror she has a Jesus smile on her face that went the length of the corridor.
I'm ashamed to admit that in my church the testimonies are fewer than they should be. And the miracles are almost non-existent. But yesterday I sat and talked with a walking miracle of grace.
I can hardly shake her from my thoughts. I woke up last night with her face etched in my mind.
God still raises the dead, and saves the lost!!!!

Absolute Truth?

We live in an age when absolute truth is questioned. Some espouse there is no such thing as absolute truth and each creates and lives in his own reality. I think if we take a moment to reflect on the value of truth in our lives, we will see how important absolute truth is and how we all have the same need for it.
Every person is bound to love the truth. We recoil when we find truth absent from love, marriage, our government and courts. Whether it be in law, science, medicine or marriage, no progress can be made without absolute truth.
There is no justice without truth and scarcely a contract can be made without absolutes.

We are bound to love the truth in personal affairs as well, even in the smallest matters. Think about the importance of truth in the following-
In our daily thoughts; in our feelings; in our personal taste; in trifles as well as things of great importance; in matters of praise or blame; in good humored satire an wit; in that immense microscopic realm of human life down below human law, and even below the reach of public sentiment, where people are themselves the sole spectators of themselves.

Truth and justice, therefore are the soil out of which all moral faculties may be said to grow. Regardless where we are born or what culture we are in, we all share the same love for truth.
Charles Hodge

The Cynic

The Cynic is one who never sees a good quality in a man, and never fails to see a bad one.
He is the human owl, vigilant in darkness and blind to light, mousing for vermin,
and never seeing noble game.
The Cynic puts all human actions into only two classes – Openly bad, and secretly bad.
All virtue and generosity and disinterestedness are merely the appearance of good, but selfish at the bottom. He holds that no man does a good thing except for profit.
The effect of his conversation upon your feelings is to chill and sear them; to send you away sore and morose. His criticisms and innuendoes fall indiscriminately upon every lovely thing, like frost upon flowers. If a man is said to be pure and chaste, he will answer:
Yes, in the day time. If a woman is pronounced virtuous, he will reply: yes, as yet.
Mr. A is a religious man: Yes, on Sundays.
Mr. B. has just joined the church: certainly, the elections are coming on.
Such a man is generous: of other men’s money. This man is obliging: to lull suspicion and cheat you. That man is upright: because he is naïve.

Thus his eye strains out every good quality and takes in only the bad. To him religion is hypocrisy, honesty a preparation for fraud, virtue only want of opportunity, and undeniable purity, asceticism. The live long day he will coolly sit with sneering lip, uttering sharp speeches in the quietest manner, and in polished phrase, transfixing every character which is presented: His words are softer than oil, yet are they drawn swords.

All this, to the young, seems a wonderful knowledge of human nature; they honor a man who appears to have found out mankind. They begin to indulge themselves in flippant sneers; and with supercilious brow, and impudent tongue, wagging to and empty brain, call to naught the wise, the long tried, and the venerable.

I do believe that man is corrupt enough; but something of good has survived his wreck; something of evil restrained, and something partially restored; yet, I look upon the human heart as a mountain of fire. I dread its crater. I tremble when I see its lava roll the fiery stream. Therefore, I am the more glad, if upon the old crust of past eruptions, I can find a single flower springing up. So far from rejecting appearances of virtue in the corrupt heart of a depraved race, I am eager to see their light as ever a mariner was to see a star in a stormy night…..

Henry Ward Beecher, one of the finest preachers of the 19th century.

The Sex Problem

No easy solution to the “sex problem” has ever been discovered and none ever will be. From the foundations of the world it was ordained that this problem should be difficult to the sons and daughters of men. Nobody has yet been able to circumvent nature at that point. Socrates seems to have recognized this when he replied to the young man who consulted him about getting married, “whether you marry or refrain from marrying, you will regret it afterward.” Should we not all be in a better position for dealing with the sex problem if we frankly recognized from the outset that we were up against “a very difficult affair” and that a short and easy cut to the solution is impossible for everybody ? Here, if nowhere else nature seems to have resolved that mankind shall struggle till the end of his days. There is no escape for anybody. The self of a human being is a complicated and many-sided affair, in which the sex element, though always present and unquestionably important, is only one of a thousand demands which have to be satisfied before anything worthy can be attained.
Man, by nature, is a skill hungry animal. His nature is defined by his function; and his function, as revealed alike by the structure of his body and his mind, is the exercise of skill. Taking the “self” all round, it seems to me that its hunger for skill is the most important and universal feature of it........... Here it is [in skillful activity] that the self most completely attains the joyous satisfaction of its deepest needs, while satisfying at the same time the needs of the social environment, with which it is integrally one. Without some form of skillful activity on lines that are socially valuable, self-expression is impossible.
L.P. Jacks -turn of the 19th century.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Volunteer Organist

The great big church wus crowded full uv broadcloth an’ uv silk.
An’ satin rich as cream that grows on our ole Brindle’s milk;
Shined boots, b’iled shirts, dickeys an’ stovepipe hats were there.
An’ doods ‘ith trouserloons so tight they couldn’t kneel down in prayer.

The elder, in his poolpit high, said as he slowly riz:
“our organist is kep’ to hum, laid up ‘ith rheumatiz,
An’ as we hev no substitoot, as Brother Moore ain’t here,
Will some’un in the congregation be so kind’s to volunteer?”

An’ then a red-nosed drunken tramp of low an’ rowdy style
Give an introductory hiccup an’ then staggered up the aisle.
Then thro’ thet holy atmosphere there crep’ a sense ov sin.
An’ thro’ thet air uv sanctity the odor uv ole gin.

Then Deacon Purington he yelled, his teeth all set on edge;
“This man perfanes the house uv God, W’y, this is sacrilege!”
The tramp didn’t hear a word he said, but slouched ‘ith stumbling feet,
An’ sprawled an’ staggered up the stairs an’ gained the organ seat.

He then went pawin’ thro’ the keys, an’ soon there rose a strain
That seemed to jest bulge out the heart an’ ‘lectrify the brain.
An’ then he slapped down on the thing ‘ith hands an’ head an’ knees;
He slam dashed his whole body down kerflop upon the keys.

The organ roared, the music flood went sweepin’ high an’ dry;
It swelled into the rafters an, bulged out into the sky.
The old church shook an’ staggered and seemed to reel an’ sway,
An’ the elder shouted “Glory!” an’ I yelled out “Hooray!”

An’ then he tried a tender strain that melted in our ears,
That brought up blessed memories and drenched ‘em down ‘ith tears;
An’ we dreamed of old-time kitchens, ‘ith Tabby on the mat,
Uv home an’ love and baby-days, an’ mother an’ all that.

An’ then he struck a streak of hope, a song from souls forgiven,
They burst the prison bars uv sin an’ stormed the gates of Heaven;
The morning stars they sung together, no soul wus left alone,
We felt the universe was safe an’ God wus on His throne.

An’ then a wail of deep despair and darkness came again,
An’ long black crepe hung on the door uv all the homes of men;
No luv, no light, no joy, no hope, no songs uv glad delight,
An’ then – the tramp he staggered down and reeled into the night.

But he knew he’d tol’ his story, though he never spoke a word,
An’ wuz the saddest story that our ears had ever heard;
He hed tol’ his own life history, an’ no eye wuz dry that day,
When the elder rose an’ simply said, “My brethren, let us pray!”
Sam Walter Foss

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Ritual and Sacraments

I was reading a sermon by Edwin Hubbell Chapin, one of the finest orators of his time, and he was describing the different ways that people worship, and this paragraph, on those that find meaning in Ritual and Sacraments, I found interesting. I have walked into a Catholic church a few times in my life and was taken by the grandeur and sensed a reverence within the beauty. In this piece he flushes out those feelings I had.

There are those who can find peace only in the arms of an hereditary Faith: who can feel the inspiration of worship only among forms that have kindled worship in others for a thousand years: with whose earliest thoughts and dearest memories is entwined a Ritual and an Established Church, so that personal affection and household sanctity, as well as religious feeling, demand that every great act of life -- as well as joy or sorrow-- should be consecrated by the familiar sacrament. For that church, too, their fathers have died in darker times, and beneath its chancels, sainted mothers moulder into dust. All, too, that can exalt the ideal, or wake the pulses of eloquent emotion, is connected with such a church. To them it opens a traditional perspective, the grandest in all history.
Behind its altars, sweep the vestments of centuries of priests, and rises the incense of centuries of prayer. In its stony niches, stand rows of saints, who have made human life sublime, and who, through all the passing ages, look down upon the turmoil of that life with the calm beatitude of heaven; while its flushed windows still keep the blood-stain of its own martyrs, plashed against it ere yet it had become an anchored fact, and while it tossed upon the stormy waves of persecution. I can understand, then, how an imaginative and reverential mind can find the truest religious life only in connection with Ritual and Sacrament.

In the following paragraph he describes those that find satisfaction in the discipline of a spontaneous devotion; also the faith of the Puritans with their rugged independence of soul, that faithfulness to the individual conscience, that sense of the Divine Sovereignty, which could kneel at no man's altar, and to God alone. And other modes of worship as well.
Let them all continue.

We must.....

The message today was on Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman. I was eager to hear what new insights the Pastor would reveal from this famous passage. He picked up in
John 4:4 It begins saying—“Now he had to go through Samaria.” He stopped there and I wondered what he would say about that simple statement. He posed the question, ‘why did Jesus have to go through Samaria?’ Certainly this was not a story about travel directions, He certainly did not have to go through Samaria. In fact, it would be rare for a Jew to go through this town of mixed races and mixed religions. Many would never take this route. But Jesus HAD to go? Jesus always seems to do as he sees fit and surely no one compelled him to go.
The Pastor then began to surmise that this chance encounter with the Samarian woman was not chance but rather the reason Jesus chose this route. Her need compelled Jesus and he MUST go, not to get something from her but to give her the deepest need of her soul. He was interested in her. Because of her he had to go that way. He must.

The Pastor had a picture of Madonna the singer on the overhead to demonstrate how we tend to see the surface and often overlook the needs of the heart. Of course my first reaction was a middle age repulsion of this embodiment of evil, so his modern day illustration of the repulsion of the Jews was effective. The Jews had two sayings about Samaritans; “to eat Samaritan bread is to eat swine’s flesh, and, Samaritan women are always unclean.” I guess I kind of felt that way about Madonna. But Jesus HAD to go to through Samaria.
I left church today with a greater sense of the heart of God. I felt if the living Christ truly lives in us, and in a world with needs at every turn, then we too must go.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Prepared to do any good work

In my reading recently I came upon this – “In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble.
If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”

I met a niece about five months ago; Married to truly great guy, they rear their four children in a devoted Christian home. But their children came through much difficulty; Mary, my niece, had great difficulty with each childbirth; health problems, premature births and one little girl who died after only an hour and a half of life. This tiny little angel, Mariah, lay in a hospital blanket, no clothing available for one so small.
Now Mary can knit and crotchet. Soon God moved on her to use this talent to knit tiny clothes for other women that have premature babies. She found that all over the country in Neonatal facilities, in Pregnancy Resource Centers and the like, there is a need for these tiny infants. That was a few years back and now she has a charity in all 50 states where women, and some men, knit clothing for children in need. Now till I met Mary, I never knew the need existed. But God did and he moved on Mary, a woman “prepared to do any good work.”

I read on the Free Burma Ranger site that high in the mountains of Burma they have a need for hats for the young children to protect from the cold. I mentioned this to Mary and that day she posted the need on her web-site and that week she had members knitting hats to fill the need. Now Burma has a permanent place on her web-site and she asked me to manage that site with information, updates and needs.

Now Tabitha, immortalized in the Bible, was always doing good, making robes and clothing for the poor: a noble, holy work, useful to the Master.
She was prepared to do any good work.

Please visit Mary’s web-site at Heavenly Angels in Need .com

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

"Be Short"

I was reading a brief biography of Cotton Mather, a Early American Puritan- born 1663
The following piece interested me and maybe you as well?

"No person in America read or possessed so many books or retained so much of what he read.
So precious was time to him that "Be short" was inscribed over his study door to prevent visits of unnecessary length. His publications amounted to 382. His "Essays to do Good" is a most excellent publication, to which Dr. Benjamin Franklin ascribes all his own later usefulness."

I can just imagine visiting his study and the intimidation that little sign would cause.
Also, not a bad recommendation to have Franklin ascribe his usefulness to you, wouldn't you say?