Can’t really say that I am a scholar on the last days, end times, prophecy, Revelation, or eschatological events.
However, I am the world’s leading expert on that sense I sometimes get in the pit of my stomach. Since much of creation is circular, East and West must meet somewhere. What may be viewed as opposites can actually be in perfect agreement. This is the reality rolling around in my soul.
Malachi said that a very strange “day” would come upon the earth and all living people. This “day,” is unlike any other because it is best identified by opposites. It is the “Great day of the Lord” and at the same time it is the “Dreadful day of the Lord.”
At the core of my being I am aware that a very dreadful “day” has come. Although I want to say that the worst is behind us, I know it isn’t. Darkness will increase. Death will increase. It will look like all is lost.
Surely, the Christians in the Middle East can shout “This is a dreadful day!”
With the past, present and future moving into the consummation of God’s revelation, today must also be identified as a great day.
One would think that the more “dreadful” increases the less “great” there can be. Sort of like the more rocks there are in the glass, the less water the glass can hold. This is not an accurate take on the great and dreadful day of the Lord. In fact, the more “dreadful” increases, the more “great” increases too. Both are growing at an exponential rate.
Is it going to get more dreadful or great? YES. Both will increase with mind-boggling speed.
Reading the news reconfirms this feeling in my soul. On every hand there are extremely dreadful things happening virtually every day. It is wise to feel the dread.
Yet everywhere I look I see the great hand of God at work in ways that inspire awe. Today is truly, in every way, the great day of the Lord. It is wise to feel the greatness.
Jesus said, “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Our response on this great and dreadful day of the Lord is to straighten up and raise our heads because God’s redemption for us is drawing very near.
I have this feeling in my gut that our redemption is nearer now than it has ever been.
Back in the day I heard Amy Grant singing, “I’ve finally found the reason that I’m happy sad.” This lyric deserves a hearty laugh, I thought at that time. “Happy sad.” Impossible! thought my unseasoned heart. One is either happy or one is sad.
Forty or so orbits around the sun later I am starting to get it. Not only is happy sad possible, it may be a key indicator in personal well-being. Those who can hold opposites at the same time may have the best grasp on the reality of life.
Forty days after the joy and celebration of Jesus’ birth Mary hears the words, “A sword will pierce your soul too.” Puzzled? Yes. Shaken? No. Mary held celebration and crucifixion in her heart at the same time.
It really is “The most wonderful time of the year.” Our tree is decorated, the kitchen filled with sweet delights, the standing prime rib is ready for the oven tomorrow, and Tim Allen is busy saving Christmas on the television. More importantly, Jesus is both Lord and Christ. Our hearts are filled, not with only His birthday party, but with Him. He is among us! Happy.
In the past two weeks I have been involved in the lives of five people who surprisingly died. No one was expecting any of them to die.
Gary – 67 year old father and grandfather
Chelsea – 21 year old friend
Tavita – an MCA Island Revival member
Hannah – 23 year old student
Keith – 68 year old life time Christian minister
Five wonderful people gone much too soon. I attended four funerals in the past 10 days. Sad.
Just a few days before these five died Debbie Burger left this life for the next. To my knowledge all six of these dear folks simply went to sleep for the night and awakened in eternity.
Tomorrow is my annual December 24th shopping spree with a friend and my two sons. For thirty years my friend and I have made this annual splurge. I am very much looking forward to the day. At the same time I will be sharing the emotions of my almost cousin Kent who, for the first time in his life, is celebrating Christmas without his father.
Today, if you are feeling happy sad, you can rejoice that you have a high degree of maturity and can hold the tension of paradox. It seems to me that God is, at times, happy sad too.
Several years ago a hymn from my childhood began to take on a new sense of meaning for me.
Give the winds a mighty voice: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Let the nations now rejoice: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Shout salvation full and free; highest hills and deepest caves;
This our song of victory: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Rising up from within my soul was a new awareness – Since the winds have a mighty voice, shouldn’t every human being have opportunity to find and express their voice too! From that time until now, I have been searching for ways to help people find, value and release their voice.
Voice is at the core of what it means to be created in God’s image. Fourteen times in the Genesis 1 creation account it is recorded that “God said.” Although I have never seen it mentioned in any theology texts, one of the most important communicable attributes of God is the ability to communicate.
Additionally, the Apostle John tells us “In the beginning was the Word.” Our Lord is Communication Incarnate. Creation was spoken into existence by the Word. In a very real sense everything and everyone is language. It is then possible that creation is conversation.
The world, for thousands of years, has been filled with a heinous double jeopardy. First, for whatever crazy and ungodly reasons, you are thought to deserve your pain and second, you are unworthy to express your pain. “Suffer in silence,” we say.
The people in my home village experienced the double jeopardy. Their pain was real, expansive, and enduring. The forced silence may have been even worse.
This is, in my perspective, anti-Jesus, for He is the Living Word.
Decency demands that we give each other the dignity of our pain. The condemnation of the other person’s pain is de-humanizing and in effect destroys their personhood. If this de-humanization is followed up with a forced silence, we have created an Auschwitz of the soul.
To everyone who hurts today, I offer you the dignity of your pain. You don’t need to explain, validate, or have my approval. You are hurting and your pain matters. Your perspective, experience, and assumptions are important.
When I tell people that I battle with PTSD the immediate question is, “Why?” I think they really mean it well. What I hear, however, is an underlying condemnation sort of like, “You have never served in Vietnam or Iraq, so why should you struggle with post trauma issues?”
My opinion of your pain isn’t helpful. It is your pain and only you experience it.
I’ll keep working to become more like the Living Word to have the grace of helping those I know and love to feel their pain and to give them the freedom of their voice.
The upside of not feeling well is the opportunity to study the Bible, worship, and pray. In some ways, my body simply began to tell me, “If you keep pushing this hard, I will start shutting down on you.” Since I need my body to cooperate for the fulfillment of my destiny, I requested a leave of absence. Graciously, our Board of Directors approved.
I have pledged to make my leave of absence a personal retreat with the Lord. When I awaken, I drink a healthy fruit smoothie created by Paula or Queilla, and then I settle into my “prayer chair” for a lengthy time of scripture meditation, prayer, worship, study, and listening to sermons.
In the Bible I am reading and meditating upon the Psalms one sentence at a time. The depth, breadth, and height of God’s word is profound. In studying, I am reading R.T. Kendall’s “The Sermon on the Mount: A verse by-verse look at the greatest teachings of Jesus.” This 414 page treatise (in the smallest font I have read in years) is exceedingly rich.
My worship time is a mixture of both old and new. I am finding Christy Nockels fresh take on classic Christian themes to be invigorating and inspirational. I also am re-visiting some of the songs that were foundational to my Christian formation. Songs run deep in my soul.
I have viewed and worshiped with this song often during my prayer times. To quote our much loved, Dr. Linfield Crowder, each time “I had a spell.” It is true, “Surely the Presence of the Lord is in this Place.”
Every downside has a bigger and more glorious upside.
Making the most of our Alaskan resources for the cause of Christ ia important to me and to MCA Church. Helping folks, world-wide, become people of realized potential is deep in the core of our work. Truly, we want everyone to glorify God and grow to their full potential in Christ.
People potential is vastly diverse and developing potential requires a different approach for each person. One of our “Full Potential in Christ” ministries is the Boaz Operation in Burkina Faso, West Africa. The Boaz Operation is the child education component of our ministry in this fantastic West African nation.
Many Alaskans sponsor a child to attend elementary school through the Boaz Operation. The sponsorship is a twelve month commitment of $20 per month. The sponsored child is blessed to receive a school uniform, a lunch meal, all school materials, a Christmas gift, and a whole lot of Jesus’ love.
Christian author Frederich Buechner is well known for saying, “Listen to your life.” For almost all of my fifty-two years I have been too noisy and active to listen to what my life is telling me. Like a man with ear plugs, I have blown right past the shouting of my body, soul, and life.
“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”
By not listening to my life I have arrived at a port of call named “exhaustion.” Full of faith? Yes. Confident in God? Yes. Excited about the future? Yes. Leading a well rested and balanced life? No.
How do I stop the hurry scurry of ministry and the backlog of emotions and the tiredness and exhaustion? A leave of absence is the best plan for me at this time. I have a “Personal Board of Directors” comprised of (all friends of mine) two doctors, two pastors, and my Bishop. It was a unanimous vote for me to take an extended season of rest and the MCA Board of Directors unanimously supported the plan too.
For several months, rather than primarily helping others, I will be learning to listen to the voice of my life.
Pastor Wayne Cordeiro of New Life Church in Oahu, Hawaii, made a presentation about his journey of learning to listen to his life. Pastor Wayne tells his story with clarity and conviction. Enjoy!
PS: As I listen to my life, we will continue our conversation through this blog. You are loved!
When Paula agreed to become my wife, I remember being overjoyed that this exquisite, gorgeous, brilliant, Christ-like woman would commit to living out the rest of her life as my bride, mother of the children the Lord may give us, and my friend. Truly, one of the most meaningful moments of my life happened when Paula took my family name as her own.
I remember a deep call from the core of my soul, “Lord, HELP! I don’t know how to build a family. What is a husband to do? Whom is he to be? Lord, unless you build this house, we are in trouble. I can barely see today and we have just become husband and wife for forever. What kind of things are in this forever marriage? Lord, we totally trust you to build our lives together.”
Equipped with the Bible, prayer, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, our family and friends, and our church family we set out to build a God honoring family.
Soon, J-man, Q-girl, DTM, and D-girl were born and our family of two became six. The birth of each child re-ignited that deep core prayer, “Lord, build our house.”
The conversations in our house are different now than in the past fifteen years or so. Today we have been talking about life mates, job applications, what kind of cars are easiest and least expensive to insure, and where might God lead each child in their life calling.
I like our family just the way it is. Right here. Right now. No changes, please.
Early on in family life I held a misbelief. In my soul I thought that “Lord, build our house,” was a sort of ‘one and done’ prayer. It made sense to me, at the time, that the Lord would build our house and we could call it good. Done. House built.
More accurately, “Lord, build our house.” is a prayer that continues through until our whole family is safely in the presence of the Lord. I can only imagine how many families this means. If our four children start families, we then have five families. If they each have four children who start families, there are then twenty-one families.
I have never loved my family more and that love allows, welcomes, and encourages the exciting changes each day brings.
It seems that leaving what I know for that which only God knows is a big part of living by faith.
As jobs are found, cars are purchased and insured, and life callings are developed we will always find our souls anchored in the prayer of Psalm 127, “Lord, please build our house.”
Why is enjoyment such a difficult idea for some followers of Jesus to embrace with enthusiasm? It’s almost like God didn’t, indeed couldn’t, say of His creation, “It is good.”
The spiritual and the enjoyable are not polar opposites!
Have you seen people struggle with the question, “Should I enjoy this or must I be spiritual?”
Why not both? At the same time? With a touch of hilarity?
My hope is that our children enjoy their childhood, family, and home. I trust that Paula enjoys her marriage, life, and ministry.
Of life’s blessings? I say, “Enjoy them or give them away so that the other guy can enjoy them! Are you no longer finding joy in your 1983 Porsche Turbo Carrera? Give it away (may I suggest to whom? LOL). No joy left in great grandmother’s pink china set? Give it away! Has the joy departed from carrying those extra pounds around everyday? Get rid of them.
Of life’s new interests? Give it a go (to quote my Aussie friend). Buy the camera and start capturing images of beautiful birds. Plant the garden and see what grows. Pick up the ukulele and start strumming.
Of your Christian faith? Find happiness in your weekend worship experience. Re-discover the delight of reading the Bible. Celebrate the amazingly unique members of the Christian family. Enjoy God.
“Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work, – this is a gift of God”. Ecclesiastes 5:19
PS: The flower photos are from our hotel landscaping, in El Salvador. Between our scheduled events I took time to ENJOY! :0)
I am on American airlines flight 926 from El Salvador to Miami in seat 9C. Maura (seated in seat 9A) is a radiant, bubbly, Christian looking, El Salvadoran woman who appears to be approximately 65-75 years of age.
The flight attendant hands her the US Customs form and through hand motions, and a language I don’t understand, Maura informs me at she needs a pen or pencil. I hand her my pen but she shakes her head and rejects the pen. Then it hits me. She doesn’t know how to write.
Clearly she is a very bright woman. Her hands speak volumes about years of working in gardens and fields and raising a family and getting the job done when hard work was the only thing to get it accomplished.
My guess is that she simply never had the opportunity to learn to read and write.
Had the opportunity risen, I think she would have been on it like Trump on a dollar or the Yankees on a quality free agent.
She has me thinking, not about her lack of opportunity when she was a school aged child, but about my lack of responsibility in the face of gargantuan opportunity.
Maybe Paul had a similar experience. I guess no one would know for sure. Something was rolling around in his bright mind when he wrote to the folks in Ephesus, “Make the most of every opportunity.”
I asked the flight attendant, who speaks Spanish, if she would help Maura complete the form. When the flighty attendant returned with the form completed, she asked Maura to place her signature on the bottom line.
I watched Maura carefully as she wrote her initials, M. D.
How are you doing with the responsibility of the opportunities God has given to you?
Just a few hours ago, the State of Georgia executed Troy Davis for the murder of an off duty police officer. I must say these situations are very complicated and fill my soul with a deep sense of sadness and solemnity.
Obviously, I support a Biblical interpretation of the notion of dying for one’s murderous crimes. The tough question, however, is “What does the Bible mean by what it says about the death penalty?”
It is on this point that I feel the judicial system of the United States has it mostly wrong. Our system of justice is based upon the notion of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” One can be executed for a murderous crime if the jury determines that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Justice, in the Bible, however, requires NO DOUBT. Reasonable doubt and no doubt are totally different scales of measurement.
Additionally, in my view, the Bible condones the death penalty but does not require the death penalty. If the Bible required the death penalty for murders of passion, Cain would have been executed. If the Bible required the death penalty for premeditated murder, we would not have Moses. If the Bible required the death penalty for contract killings, we wouldn’t have King David. If the Bible required the death penalty for accessory to murder, we wouldn’t have the Apostle Paul.
I feel sorrow for the family who lost their wonderful brother, father, son, friend, and committed police officer.
Executing Troy Davis was not, in my opinion, what the Bible would have required. If the Bible doesn’t require Troy’s execution, then let mercy flow. Life in prison is my choice for convictions that are “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Save the death penalty for egregious cases where there is absolutely NO DOUBT.