Revelation Over Experience

Good morning!! Today is Friday, December 21, 2012. Four more days to Christmas, and five days to Cancun!

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen two such opposite “holidays” offered. Today is both “Humbug Day,” and “National Look At the Bright Side Day.” Alrighty, then…

On this date:
In 1620, the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock.
In 1913, the first crossword puzzle was published in the New York World. It was designed by Arthur Wynne.
In 1937, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves premiered.
In 1968, Apollo 8 launched, and its crew became the first humans to ever leave Earth’s gravity.
In 1974, this song hit #1

It was Harry Chapin’s only #1 song.

Today’s birthdays include Thomas Becket (Archbishop of Canterbury), 1118, Roger Williams (English theologian), 1603, Calico Jack Rackham (English pirate), 1682, Benjamin Disraeli (U.K. Prime Minister), 1804, Werner von Trapp (“The hills are alive,” etc.), 1915, Paul Winchell (ventriloquist and the voice of “Tigger” in Disney’s Winnie the Pooh films), 1922, Phil Donahue, 1935, Jane Fonda, 1937, Frank Zappa, 1940, Jack Nance (actor), 1943, Carl Wilson (Beach Boys), 1946, Samuel L. Jackson, 1948, Jeffrey Katzenberg (Dreamworks), 1950, Chris Evert (tennis), 1954, Tom Henke (baseball pitcher), 1957, Andy Dick (actor), 1965, Kiefer Sutherland, 1966.

Just for fun, here’s a Frank Zappa clip.

Christi and I watched White Christmas last night. It’s my most favorite Christmas movie of all time. I still cry at the end, when all the soldiers show up for the general’s party. And then it snows. Gotta love happy endings.

Christi surprised me at work yesterday. I was in the break room, about to get some more ice in my Sonic cup, so I could pour my Crystal Light over it, when I saw a woman walk by the window, and I said, “That looks like my wife!” But she was going the wrong direction, away from the front door. I watched and saw her go to the passenger side of a red Hyundai Elantra, just like hers. Then, she started back up the sidewalk, and, lo, and behold, she was carrying a Chik Fil-A cup!! I got so excited, I ran to the front door to meet her. She had brought me a peppermint chocolate chip milkshake!! You see, I’ve been wanting one of those ever since they started showing up on their signs, but had not had an opportunity to try one. It was quite delicious, too. Many thanks to my beautiful wife!

She’s “working” from home, today. ๐Ÿ˜€ Yeah. I don’t think she has any meeting scheduled at all today. And the company is closed all next week. Monday evening, we will celebrate Christmas with Christi’s family, as is our Christmas Eve tradition, and then Tuesday morning, after we have our little Christmas at home (along with Rachel and Justin), we will head to Mineral Wells to have Christmas lunch with my parents. Wednesday morning, if the Lord says so, too, we will get up and drive to Christi’s work place and get on a shuttle bus to the airport (it’s free and so is the parking), where we will board a plane for our first ever trip out of the country, to Cancun. I’m a little concerned…it’s supposed to be 26 degrees Wednesday morning, with 40% chance of rain on Christmas. But the high on Christmas is supposed to be 52, and Wednesday should be 43. Our flight is scheduled to leave at 11-something am, so we should be fine. It should be around 81 n Cancun that day. ๐Ÿ˜€

Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple! (Psalm 65:4)
Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. (Psalm 33:20)
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath. Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them. Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For you will render to a man according to his work. (Psalm 62:5-12)
Father, I am satisfied with your goodness and holiness. You, alone, are my rock and my salvation, my fortress. I will not be shaken. I pray for a glimpse of your face this morning, that I might look to you and your glory for my strength throughout this day.

Today, I’m reading Isaiah 11:10-16.
10 In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoplesโ€”of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.
11 In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea.
12 He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
13 The jealousy of Ephraim shall depart, and those who harass Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah, and Judah shall not harass Ephraim.
14 But they shall swoop down on the shoulder of the Philistines in the west, and together they shall plunder the people of the east. They shall put out their hand against Edom and Moab, and the Ammonites shall obey them.
15 And the LORD will utterly destroy the tongue of the Sea of Egypt, and will wave his hand over the River with his scorching breath, and strike it into seven channels, and he will lead people across in sandals.
16 And there will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant that remains of his people, as there was for Israel when they came up from the land of Egypt.

This root of Jesse is traced back to verse 1, where a shoot comes from the “stump of Jesse.” Jesse was David’s father, and the house of David was in shambles. But there was, at least a root, a stump left, and out of that came Jesus Christ, the “root of Jesse,” from the lineage of David. All of the exiled people of Israel will, once again, be assembled. There seems to be a miracle indicated in verses 15 and 16, one that rivals the crossing of the Red Sea.

Today’s reading in My Utmost For His Highest is called “Experience or Revelation.” The scripture reference is 1 Corinthians 2:12. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

“Reality is Redemption, not my experience of Redemption; but Redemption has no meaning for me until it speaks the language of my conscious life.” When I was “born again,” the Holy Spirit took me out of myself and my personal, private experiences, and identified me with Jesus Christ. If I had simply been left with those experiences, they were not produced by Redemption. This all sounds kind of wordy and confusing, but I promise you, it eventually makes sense. My experiences are not the ground of Reality. The proof that they are produced by Redemption is that I don’t consider them to be my ground, my foundation. My foundation is the Reality that produced those experiences. “My experiences are not worth anything unless they keep me at the Source, Jesus Christ.”

If I try to “dam up the Holy Spirit,” so that I only have subjective experiences, he will break out and take me back to Jesus. “Never nourish an experience which has not God as its Source and faith in God as its result.” This is very important! No matter what kind of vision I may have had, if I do that, my experience is “anti-Christian.” Is Jesus Christ the Lord of my experience, or do I try to be? More importantly, is there any experience that is dearer to me than He? At some point, my confession must be that I do not care what I experience, “I am sure of Him.”

“Faith that is sure of itself is not faith; faith that is sure of God is the only faith there is.” I tell you three times, I am not sure of myself at all. But “I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” (2 Timothy 1:12) I am sure of Jesus Christ, and I am sure of Redemption. My experience does not matter. My eyes will be on Christ.

Father, I pray with all my being that your Spirit keep my eyes on Jesus Christ and not on my experience. There is much that I have experienced in my 54 years on this earth. If I were to base my entire believe system on those experiences, I’m not sure what I would believe. And that is where so many of your children fall short; we place too much emphasis on those experiences and not enough on you, the One who provided them. It always comes back to Jesus and his Redemptive work on the Cross. I have been identified with Jesus Christ, and my experiences have been born out of that identification. May they always work together to keep at the source of my life, which is Jesus. My faith is not in faith. My faith is not sure of itself. In fact, my faith is very much unsure of itself. However, my faith in you, Lord, is, at this point in my life, pretty much unshakable. Not perfect, no. Never will be until I see you in your glory. But you have brought me to a place where my faith is in you and you alone. No matter what I experience in this life, I am sure of you.

I pray for this day. May I have a smooth day at work today, the last one before vacation. I pray for the days that I will not be there, that things run smoothly in my absence. I continue to pray for Phillip as he recovers from shoulder surgery. I also lift up Valerie, our pastor’s wife, as she, hopefully, is recovering from her pneumonia. I pray that Christi might have a nice, relaxing day today. As we head toward our vacation, I pray that you keep us safe and well, and that we continue to look to you for everything. I pray that this vacation trip be an opportunity to experience you in a new setting, finding ways to worship you as we explore new places. I pray for a glimpse of your glory in the jungles of Mexico.

Jesus trumps experience every time. I must stay at the source and allow that source to interpret all experience, not the other way around.

Grace and peace, friends.

What the World Needs Now…

Good morning. It’s Thursday morning, December 20. Five days to Christmas, six days to Cancun. Today is “Mudd Day,” apparently named after the doctor who tended to John Wilkes Boothe after he shot Lincoln and broke his leg. He went to the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd, who apparently delayed contacting the authorities, and, subsequently, served four years in prison for participating in the conspiracy to assassinate the President.

It’s also “Go Caroling Day.” I like that one better. ๐Ÿ™‚

On this date:
In 1803, the “Louisiana Purchase” was completed.
In 1860, South Carolina was the first state to secede.
In 1941, the “Flying Tigers” had their first battle in Kunming, China.
In 1957, Elvis was drafted. (Presley, not Andrus.)
In 2007, Elizabeth II became the oldest monarch of the U.K, passing Queen Victoria.

Today’s birthdays include Samuel Mudd (see the info on “Mudd Day” above), 1833, Branch Rickey (baseball exec), 1881, Fred Merkle (first baseman, “Bonehead”), 1888, Peter Criss (drummer for KISS), 1945, Alan Parsons (musician and producer), 1948

Cecil Cooper (baseball player), 1949, Chris Robinson (The Black Crowes), 1966, Aubrey Huff (baseball player), 1976 (grew up in Mineral Wells, Texas, my home town), James Shields (baseball pitcher), 1981, David Cook (winner of American Idol), 1982, Jonah Hill (actor), 1983.

We didn’t do much yesterday, other than watch the two episodes of The Voice from this week, including the season finale. I won’t be a spoiler, but let’s just suffice to say that I was VERY unhappy with the final result.

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. (Psalm 51:15)
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90:1-2)
Father, you truly have been my refuge for all these years. Open my lips this morning, and I will praise you. Show me a vision of you, that I might serve you faithfully today.

Today, I’m reading Isaiah 11:6-9.
6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
9 They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

The beautiful scenario begun yesterday continues in today’s reading. The peace envisioned in the reign of the Messiah is almost unfathomable. Verse 9 is especially beautiful. “They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”
There also some interesting thoughts regarding children and animals that I don’t have time to get into this morning.

Today’s reading from My Utmost For His Highest is called “The Right Lines of Work.” The scripture reference is John 12:32, in which Jesus says, And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

“Very few of us have any understanding of the reason why Jesus Christ died. If sympathy is all that human beings need, then the Cross of Christ is a farce, and there was no need for it.” The world doesn’t just need love, the world needs open-heart surgery.

If a soul that is in difficulty can get to God through any other line than the Cross of Christ, then that Cross was unnecessary. I’m about to say something very unpopular, so get ready. If what many people say is true, that there are “many roads to God,” then the horrible suffering that Jesus Christ went through was a tragic, terrible joke on him. If there is any other road to get to God besides the road of the Cross of Christ, than that God is a cruel, sadistic, jerk. The truth, as I believe it, is that there are only two roads, and they lead in opposite directions. (That’s a Timothy Keller thought, there.) Even Led Zeppelin only mentioned two roads. “If you can help others by your sympathy of understanding, you are a traitor to Jesus Christ.” I must keep my soul rightly related to God, and I must only try to help others on his line, not trying to help on the “human line” and completely ignoring God.

I must show the world Jesus Christ and him crucified. I must lift him up, so that he may draw to himself. “Every doctrine that is not imbedded in the Cross of Jesus will lead astray.” My usefulness to God depends solely on my simple relationship to Jesus Christ, and nothing else.

Our calling as “New Testament workers” is to “uncover sin and to reveal Jesus Christ as Savior.” Chambers says we “cannot be poetical,” we “must be surgical.” While I might agree with that sentiment, I find great comfort in waxing poetical, at times, especially since I’m a fledgling songwriter. However, I do agree that “We are sent by God to lift up Jesus Christ, not to give wonderfully beautiful discourses.” The aesthetic quality of our speech matters not one iota as long as the message being presented is the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

All that being said, there is still a need for the truth to be spoken in love. There is a way to “uncover sin” that is not so harsh as some want to make it. The Gospel of Christ can be shared without being “judgmental.” “You’re going to Hell because of your sin,’ is probably not the best way to win someone over. “Here’s how much the Creator of the universe loves you,” is probably a better start.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Father, I pray for compassion for all people. While I recognize that sympathy is not what the world needs, and that “what the world needs now is love, sweet love,” is not quite an accurate assessment of the problem, when we attempt to spread the Gospel of Christ while spewing hatred at sinners, we don’t do much good. Over and over, your word tells us that we are to take care of the needy. The widows and fatherless are especially dear to you, and your word does not differentiate between the saved and lost widows and fatherless, at that point. The poor and needy are poor and needy, regardless of their spiritual condition. Nevertheless, I pray that, while we generously provide for the needs of the people, we don’t forget to give them what they really need, and that is Jesus Christ. I pray each day that I might help someone find your peace. That peace comes through Jesus Christ and him alone. Obviously, I don’t believe that there are many roads to get to you. But I do believe in using compassion to help someone find that one true road. So I pray for more compassion for people. You have told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. You have told us to treat people as we would be treated. That must lead me to the conclusion that there are a lot of “Christians” out there who would prefer to have hatred and venom spewed at them. I don’t want to be that person, and I thank you that you have brought me down a path of compassion instead. I want to love like you love, Lord. I pray daily that the characteristics of love presented in 1 Corinthians 13 would be manifest in my life. I pray that you would make me
not envious,
not boastful,
not arrogant,
not rude,
not insistent on my own way,
not irritable,
not resentful,
not one that rejoices in wrongdoing,
one that rejoices in truth,
bear all things,
believe all things,
hope all things,
endure all things.
In short, I want to be like Jesus.

I pray for this day, Father. I pray for a good work day for Christi and for me. I pray for a day with no anxiety for us, as well as for Stephanie. I pray that Stephanie would feel better today, as she was a little “under the weather” yesterday. Draw us all closer to your heart today.

I thank you that our pastor’s wife is improving, and continue to pray for her healing and recovery from pneumonia. I also pray for my manager’s recover from shoulder surgery.

Repeating a previous statement. The world doesn’t just need love…it needs open-heart surgery.

Grace and peace, friends.

Cut To the Quick

Good morning! Today is Wednesday, December 19. Only seven days until we leave for Cancun! “Seven daaaayyysss…” (Spoken in that creepy “The Ring” telephone voice.)

Today is “Look For An Evergreen Day.” That’s easier said than done where we live, but there are a few of those in north central Texas.

On this date:
In 1924, the last Rolls Royce Silver Ghost was sold in London.
Adolf Hitler became Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the German Army in 1941.
In 1963, Zanzibar gained independence from the U.K.
In 1972, Apollo 17 returned to earth.
In 1998, President Bill Clinton became the second U.S. President to be impeached. He was, of course, acquitted.

Today’s birthdays include Ford Frick (baseball commissioner), 1894, Martin Luther King, Sr., 1899, Leonid Brezhnev, 1906, W. A. Criswell (preacher), 1909, Professor Longhair (blues musician), 1918, David Susskind (TV talk show host), 1920, Cicely Tyson (actress), 1933, Al Kaline (baseball player), 1934, Joanne Weaver (baseball player)(seriously), 1935, Maurice White (Earth, Wind & Fire), 1941, Zal Yanovsky (guitarist for The Lovin’ Spoonful), 1944, Alvin Lee (Ten Years After), 1944, Robert Urich (actor), 1946, Jennifer Beals, 1963, Kristy Swanson (Buffy, the Vampire Slayer), 1969, Alyssa Milano, 1972, Jake Gyllenhaal, 1980.

We had the most awesome time at our lifehouse Christmas party last night! We had great snacks and the white elephant gifts were great. I wound up with a nice “flameless” candle set. Christi got a Kermit plush holding a Butterfinger and a Twix. I hope she shares. We also had some awesome fudge (made with Kahlua) that Christi made, and some pretty amazing chocolate cake, brought by the Hennekes. It was, in Christi’s words, very comfortable. We are truly like family. Oh, and we also had apple butter. That’s become a bit of an inside joke. Our lifehouse leader LOVES apple butter (as do I).

I’ll be honest…it’s very difficult to think about anything but our trip to Cancun, which begins next Wednesday morning. I think we still a little Christmas shopping to do, though.

Christi got a “boot” from her doctor yesterday, which she is supposed to wear for four weeks. He did, however, tell her she could wait until we get back from our vacation to start wearing it. ๐Ÿ˜€ He didn’t think that it’s an old injury, and that she might have done that to her foot doing a thing with the leg press machine. There is definitely a “stress fracture” in her foot. She also can’t work out until it heals.

I’m calling for urgent prayer for our pastor’s wife. She has pneumonia, which has now been diagnosed as “double pneumonia.” Her name is Valerie.

While I’m asking for prayer, my manager is having shoulder surgery this morning, and will be out for a while. I’m praying for successful surgery and quick recovery for him. His name is Phillip.

My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever. (Psalm 145:21)
Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. (Psalm 36:5)
Father, as my mouth speaks your praises this morning, I pray that your Spirit guide me to a vision of you that will keep me looking to your grace throughout this day.

Today, I’m reading Isaiah 11:1-5.
1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

What a powerful passage! This passage is speaking of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. Inspired by verse 3, I pray that I might be able to also judge, not by what I see and hear, but by the righteousness of Christ. Lest I sound arrogant, I quickly say that I possess no righteousness of my own. However, the righteousness of Christ resides within me, and is available to me, when I submit to it, and allow it to reign in me. May righteousness and faithfulness be “the belt of my loins.”

Today’s reading in My Utmost For His Highest is called “What to Concentrate on.” The scripture reference is Matthew 10:34. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

This reading is a little tricky. I’ll see if I can make sense of it. It begins, “Never be sympathetic with the soul whose case makes you come to the conclusion that God is hard.” “God,” says Chambers, “is more tender than we can conceive…” If I cannot get through to God, it is because there is something that I’m not willing to give up. Even if I admit I’m doing wrong, if I don’t give it up, I might as well try to fly. “People want the blessing of God, but they will not stand the thing that goes straight to the quick.” In other words, people want God’s blessings, but they don’t want to have to do the thing that he most requires from them.

“If God has had His way with you, your message as His servant is merciless insistence on the one line, cut down to the very root, otherwise there will be no healing.” We must drive this message home until there is no place to hide, “no possible refuge from its application.”

Before the message of the Gospel is of any use, there must be a sense of need. Of course, we discussed earlier that the Gospel creates the very need that it satisfies. But we have to recognize that there are, quite literally, millions of people in this world who are perfectly happy without God. The kind of “sword” that Jesus came to bring is the kind that cuts through this false sense of peace to the quick of a man, making him realize that he is, in fact, lacking the most important thing in his life, the peace of God. “Jesus Christ came to send a sword through every peace that is not based on a personal relationship to Himself.” It’s a difficult message, and it tends to make the messenger unpopular. I pray that this would be the only thing that makes a Christian unpopular. Sadly, there are many of us out there who are doing other, senseless, things that are making us unpopular. Let’s stick to the message, let us know “What to Concentrate on.”

Father, I will praise you with my mouth, and pray that all flesh would do the same. I so look forward to the day that is prophesied when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. I thank you for your steadfast love that reaches to the heavens, and your faithfulness that stretches to the clouds.

I thank you for the righteousness and faithfulness that is the fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. I thank you that he judges based on your righteousness, rather than on what he sees and hears, for righteousness pierces to the very soul of a man, judging motives and intent over visible action. I pray that you would give your people the same righteousness. I pray that we would recognize your infinite tenderness in our lives, and that we would stick with the message of the Gospel, driving it home until people have a true sense of true peace. And, Lord, please help us understand that, while Jesus came to “bring a sword,” we are to be people of peace. There are many of us who run around wielding that sword with no thought whatsoever of who they are cutting. We even tend to cut each other with it, and that ought not be so. Jesus commanded us to love each other as he loved us. I pray that we can fulfill that command, Lord. Last night, to me, was a perfect example of how we love each other. We had great fellowship with other believers, and it was amazing. I thank you for the sense of community that you have brought in us through this lifehouse ministry.

I pray for this day. May Christi have a good day today, with no anxiety. I pray that Stephanie will also have a good, anxiety-free day, and that you would draw her heart closer to yours. I ask for a smooth day at my work, with no issues. As we get closer to our vacation, I ask that you prepare my heart for finding you in the places we will go in Cancun. While this trip is definitely about R&R, may it also be about discovering you in new places. I fully intend to “experience” you in the beauty of the jungle.

I lift up Valerie Engle to you this morning, desperately praying for her healing, Lord. Touch her with your healing hand and fill her with your Spirit this morning. I pray for complete healing from this double pneumonia. Give Joel more strength as he ministers to her, and as he takes care of the children. I pray that brothers and sisters will rise up to help and provide for them.

I also pray for my manager, Phillip, that his surgery will go well this morning, and that his recovery would be quicker than expected.

Today’s reading was one of the tough ones. As Christians we need to bring peace, but it needs to be true peace, the peace that passes all understanding.

Grace and peace, friends.