Posts Tagged ‘Glory’

h1

“LOW VALUE PROBLEM SOLVING” – Feb. 3

February 3, 2017

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.  Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory!”  Psalm 72:18-19

The following is a devotion I was allowed to share with students at a recent NCFCA National Open tournament in Spokane, WA.  I hope you find it encouraging.


Iintel have been reading a book by Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, called “High Output Management”.  It is not a Christian book and I don’t know if Andy Grove was a Christian.  This is, as the title suggests, a book on management.

I read a statement in his book regarding the manufacturing process that I found profound enough to post it on Instagram (@blom.jd), which is the true measurement of a quote.  I believe this singular sentence encapsulates a truth that goes beyond the production of widgets or the motivation of employees.  He stated:

 A common rule we should always try to heed is to detect and fix any problem in a production process at the lowest-value stage possible.

Obviously, the context of his statement is manufacturing.  Simply, it is better to remedy a problem as close to the raw materials of a manufacturing process as possible.  It really is a common-sense statement.  It is always better to discover a problem before you make continued investments of time, money, intellect, and a myriad of resources.

However, there is a universality of this simple principle that goes beyond business.  Simply change the words, production process, and you may see a much wider application.

A common rule we should always try to heed is to detect and fix a problem in our relationships, friendships, school studies, debate case, speeches, at the lowest-value stage possible.  Doesn’t that make sense?

When is the best time to dump a problematic debate case or a cluttered speech?

At the last tournament, after you have invested much time and effort or
before the season even begins?

Obviously, it will be far better to address the problem before the season starts,
at the lowest-value stage.

It makes sense.

This morning I look out and see a crowd of individuals who are at a very low-value stage.  Now, don’t be offended; “he called me low-value”.  I did not.  I am observing that most of you are at the beginning of your potential.  You are at the starting line of a myriad of different paths.  Soon, you will be making massive investments in the subsequent steps on your individual paths that we call life.

Therefore, is it not sensible to try to detect and
fix any problems at this early stage in your life?

I can tell you as a middle-aged man who has had to address problems later in life, at “higher value” stages of life, that it gets much more difficult and messy the longer you wait to address a problem.  Therefore, my first advice to you this morning is to live by the simple principle:

It is far better to detect and fix problems when they are small and manageable,
before they become difficult and messy problems.

The Jonathan Edwards Collection 20 Classic Works Kindle EditionMy next advice is associated with how to detect and fix these small problems in our lives, which leads me to another book I am reading, the Complete works of Jonathan Edwards.  The other day I posted this quote from my readings to Instagram.

Let us endeavor to obtain, and increase in, a sensibleness of our great dependence on God, to have our eye to him alone, to mortify a self-dependent and self-righteous disposition.

I look out upon you all this morning, and I see the sovereign hand of God.  I see a generation being raised in the power of the Holy Spirit for the challenges of a time yet to come.  I see excellence elicited, skills sharpened, intellect ignited for what, I do not know but I do know that it is for a purpose.

This is all for a purpose.

Therefore, I implore you this morning hear Jonathan Edwards’ advice because I know of few problems that have a greater potential to seep into your life and ruin all of this wonderful potential then problems from the seeds of self-dependence and self-righteousness.  If you do not detect them early then they will manifest themselves later in your life, at higher-value stages, when it will be much more painful and destructive.

  • Take on an attitude of imperfection; continually, daily, seeking out problems before they are difficult and messy problems.
  • Endeavor to obtain and increase in the sensibleness of your complete dependence on God; it truly is sensible – learn what that means and increase in that understanding.
  • Start a practice of setting your eyes on Him alone. Learn how to control your mind.
  • Start a practice of mercilessly putting to death an attitude of self-dependence.  You are who you are by the grace of God alone.
  • Prune every bud of self-righteousness, before you and others are forced to taste its bitter fruit.

I earnestly encourage you, today, to live a life that endeavors to set your mind on the things of the Spirit.  Allow the Spirit today, through the grace of God, to increase your dependence on the one who has rescued your soul and be obedient to your calling.

PRAYER: Lord, I pray that you will reveal the roots of self-dependence, the buds of self-righteousness that we are harboring unaware.  Show us how sensible it is to depend upon you.  Empower us in our endeavor to live a life that is killing self-dependence and self-righteousness and glorifies you in all that we do.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

h1

“PURE WORDS” – April 13

April 13, 2016

“The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.”  Psalm 12:6

ncfcaThis past week I had the occasion to attend another NCFCA speech and debate tournament with my family.  I was afforded the opportunity to be a parent judge on multiple speech and debate rounds.  As a result, I had the privilege of judging the finals of the Biblical Presentation speeches.

This was the first time I had witnessed Biblical Presentation as it is a new event this year in the NCFCA.  “Biblical presentation is a speech that creatively develops and presents one or two selections of scriptures in an effort to foster understanding of God’s word, deepen the speaker’s Christian faith, and encourage the listener”.  NCFCA Speech

I now have a new favorite speech category.  I could not get enough of these speeches.  Each speech presented warmed my soul because at their core, each speech was the pure Word of God.  I got to listen to approximately 80 minutes of teenagers presenting 8-10 minutes each of memorized biblical passages, word for word,  in extremely engaging and creative ways.

There was one in particular that is still blessing me.  The speaker was not the most creative.  She did not have the most powerful or engaging voice.  She did not have the most dynamic interpretation.  However, she made the most significant impact on me in her 10 minutes.  She presented two of her favorite passages from Isaiah in such a genuine and heart-felt manner that tears welled up in my eyes from the unadulterated beauty of God’s word.

It was almost startling to hear sacred words simply spoken.   I was not preoccupied by her presentation.  Her interpretation was not a distraction.  On the contrary, I was drawn into the words.  I was captured by the Spirit.  I was renewed in the wonderful truths that filled the room with each utterance.

In recollecting that speech, I have been struck by the reality of how rare it is for us to simply hear the Word of God earnestly spoken in its entirety as the author intended.  So often, we sit silently reading our Bibles or we hear a few verses read before a Pastor spends an hour telling us what they mean.

Both are needed and good so I am not being critical.

However, the presentation of Isaiah reminded me of the power of the Word of God and the benefit from simply listening to the pure words of the Lord.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for the opportunity to hear anew the purity of your Word.  Thank you for showing me the beauty of inspired scripture.  I pray for all of those who are memorizing and sharing your Words through the NCFCA.  I pray that you will bless each one of these competitors and write your word on their hearts.   I pray that the purity of your words will abound and refine all those who hear for their enrichment and your glory.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

h1

“BIRDS OF A FEATHER…” – Feb. 29

February 29, 2016

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”  John 10:27

Cowboy_popup-webMy wife and I recently were in a local appliance store.  As we perused our freezer options, a cowboy sauntered in from the back of the store.   I say sauntered because that is exactly how he walked.  His boots making the familiar clack-tap with each step on the hardwood floor.  It seemed like a slow, relaxed echo from a saloon of the old-west.

As I turned, I saw exactly what I expected to see.  The epitome of a cowboy -worn cowboy boots with a little manure clinging to the heel, Wrangler jeans, large belt buckle of rodeo origin, leather vest over a western shirt, a handle-bar mustache, and a dirty black cowboy hat.

I watched him make his transaction and he sounded exactly as I expected.  He talked with the cashier in a slow, western drawl, about the weather, hunting, work to be done, and the superiority of cash to credit cards as he pulled two hundred dollars of twenties from his leather wallet.

“Now, there is a unique individual”, I thought but then I immediately wondered “is he?”  Could he really be my personified ideal of an individual if I knew exactly what he would look and sound like?  He was the epitome of cowboy; that is not unique.

In a society that idealizes the concept of individualism, I see few examples of truly unique individuals.

Consider the labels:   Cowboy Nerd Hipster Poet Biker Goth Academic Artsy Devote Musician

The images associated with these labels that flash through our brains are probably very similar.  There are stereotypes for even those who many consider the most unique of our society.

It seems that there are few truly distinct individuals and I wonder the extent to which any human lives uniquely.  Even the most unique among us still end up in some stereotypical flock.  We often confuse individualism with genius or exceptionalism or independence.  For me, the truly unique individual is the one who lives outside the imposed influence of society in general and his own neighborhood in specific.

Yet, is that even possible?  More importantly, is that a state that should be desired?

I was recently watching some videos on birds flocking.

The mesmerizing movement of these flocks make it seem like an orchestrated control over the mass.  Yet, we know that the actions are the agglomeration of each animal’s individual decisions based upon a local perception of their surrounding.

Science does not know how birds flock without sheer chaos and crashes.  Wayne Potts studied birds flocking in 1984.  He found that the turning of flock can spread from bird to bird three times faster than any individual bird’s reaction time.  This suggests that there is not much thinking occurring within each individual bird as they fly along.  They are most likely responding unconsciously to the actions around them.

The most interesting explanation of this phenomenon has come through the attempts to simulate flocking in computer animation.   Craig Reynolds developed three rules that are still the basis of flocking simulations:

  1. Avoid collisions with nearby flockmates
  2. Attempt to match the speed of nearby flockmates; collisions are unlikely if the velocity of the individuals are similar.
  3. Attempt to stay close to the nearby flockmates; there is a stronger influence of nearby neighbors than distant members of the flock.

I wonder, if we could achieve a broader perspective, whether the activities of man would appear more like the random motion of a flock’s unconscious decisions rather than a choreographed pattern of deliberated reason.

How many times have you wondered, “how did I get here”?

Just as a bird may be baffled by how it came to alight in a field miles from its origin, I often feel swept away from principles and priorities to find myself in a cultural landscape far from my origin.  We are all influenced by friends and family.  We are inundated by beliefs and values through education and entertainment.  It seems as if norms are cast aside without much thought or consideration.

I’m baffled by where we often find ourselves.

I wonder if we humans are more influenced by the Reynolds’ rules of flocking than we care to admit.  Soren Kierkegaard referred to it as being lost to the finite, which is mindlessly following social conventions.  It is accepting the current paradigm of expectations without consideration.  Consider the bird in a flock; that bird probably thinks that it is acting as an individual but it is really at the mercy of those around it.  That bird has lost its individuality to the finite influences of the flock.

The scary part is that the bird doesn’t even realize what it has lost
– its individuality.

Let’s use Reynolds’ rules of flocking to evaluate the individuality of our personal decision making:

  1. Are you conflict adverse? Will you go along with ideas or activities that you don’t agree with simply because you don’t want to offend or be excluded?  If your first tendency is to subjugate your actions to those of others, then you might be flocking.
  2. Do you simply accept the ideas of experts? Do you match the actions of those you respect because surely they have thought it through?  If your tendency is to receive thoughts rather than think them, then you might be flocking.
  3. Is your identity associated with affiliations? Do you follow along with the group for fear of being left behind?  If you tend to move with your community even when it is turning away from core beliefs, then you might be flocking.

Every person who has bucked these rules have found themselves outside the flock.  I think that the reason we see so few true individuals is due to the fact that living outside the flock is hard.  In fact, I don’t think that we were ever meant to live outside the flock.

The problem is that we often choose the wrong flock.

I believe that we created flock.  We were created to flock to God.  We were meant to instinctively know and follow God.  The problem arises when we substitute the voice of God with the voice of man.

The truly unique individual is the one following the voice of the Shepherd because only He truly knows each person in the unique personhood.  True self is only found in relationship with God.

Let’s use Reynolds’ rules of flocking to consider what flocking to God might look like:

  1. You avoid collisions with God. You know that sin causes conflict with the Shepherd.  Therefore, you strive toward obedience to the will of God in your life.  If your first tendency is to subjugate your actions to God, then you’re probably flocking to your Shepherd.
  2. You match everything to the Word of God. You don’t simply accept the ideas of others but you examine those ideas to the scriptures to see if they are true.  When you match your beliefs with the Bible, collision with God are unlikely and you’re probably flocking to your Shepherd.
  3. You strive to stay close to the leadings of the Spirit. The Shepherd takes each of us through life with many meandering turns.  If your tendency is to follow even when you don’t understand, then you’re probably flocking to your Shepherd.

The Church should be a conglomeration of truly unique individuals.  It should be a beautiful flow of individuals, each participating from their unique personhood revealed through their relation to the Good Shepherd.

There should be a stereotypes for those who are in Christ – the image of Christ and the Fruit of the Spirit.  Unfortunately, that is often not the stereotype that Christians are known for.  The problem rises from the fact that too many who profess Christ are still lost in the finite and flocking to the mentality of man.

We, as unique individuals in Christ, have the continuous task of keeping our flocking instinct focused on the correct initiator.  The hardest of all tasks is to recognize when we are quietly losing our self to the influences of the world rather than influencing it.

quote-Henry-Ward-Beecher

Living as a unique individual in relation to God is rare because it is hard.

Obedience to God will result in conflict with people.
You may be hated for your refusal to follow the flow of man.
“…but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world,
therefore the world hates you.”  John 15:19b
But take heart, God has overcome the world!
We will always be secure.

Following the Bible as the inspired Word of God will result in being excluded.
You may be ridiculed for clinging to traditions or supposed doctrines of bygone days.
“Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?  
There is more hope for a fool than for him.”  Proverbs 26:12
But take heart, we have a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul,
the hope of those who through faith and patience
will inherit the promise – eternal life.

Following the path God has laid before you will result in periods of isolation.
You may find yourself abandoned and alone as others drift after the ideas of man.
“I know your works.  Behold, I have set before you an open door,
which no one is able to shut.  I know that you have but little power,
and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”  Rev. 3:8
But take heart, we are never abandoned or forsaken.  
We are loved!

Living as a truly unique individual, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, will be hard but the promise of the joy set before us will be so worth all that we may have to patiently endure.  Keep your eye on Jesus!  He will never fail you.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to truly follow you and you alone.  Help me to hear you voice.  Show me where I am being influenced by the ideas and opinions of people.  Enable me to resist my inclinations to go along with the flock.  Give me strength to stand alone.  Give me endurance to stay on course to the open door that you have laid before me.  Help me to keep your word.  Father, I want to imitate you.  I want to be a reflection of your loving kindness. I want to embody the hope that you have given me.  Lord, may all I do bring glory to your name.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

“The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss – an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. – is sure to be noticed.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

h1

“DON’T JUDGE ME – I’M A FAN” – Jan. 3

January 3, 2016

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.  Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory!”  Psalm 72:18-19

I have struggled for motivation to climb upon my bicycle while it is clamped into the trainer.   However, I have to do something because the digits on my scale are continuing to increase inversely to the outdoors temperatures.  I’ve sought may aids to curb the monotony of a cycling trainer; music, cycling training videos, Tour de France videos, sermons, audiobooks, and even stand-up comics.  None has been able to keep me contentedly pedaling beyond 30 minutes.

However, I finally found my tonic for trainer tedium – Dark Matter.

Dark_Matter_Intertitle

My tonic is not the invisible matter constituting the majority of the universe.  Mine comes from the Syfy channel.  I got hooked on this story of a spaceship crew who awakens from stasis with no memory of who they are, what they have done, or why they are on board a mercenary spaceship.

I love a good story and if it is set in space, then it’s even better.

I saved watching Dark Matter as the carrot before my motionless bike.  I easily pedaled through each episode as subsequent adventures revealed mysteries of forgotten pasts.  I was actually starting to look forward to my time on that accursed contraption when it all came to an end.

The final episode of Season 1 successfully left me spinning on the edge of my saddle, wanting to know what will happen next.  I went to click on Season 2, to spin through another episode, but made a stark discovery.

There is no Season 2.

I was done.  I climbed off my bike and felt that familiar disdain for my next date with the trainer.  I searched the internet to discover whether there was another season with a growing concern.  I learned more about Dark Matter than I had intended.  I learned about the actors and the production.  I read reviews, both positive and negative.  I was delighted to find that there will be another season but annoyed to know that it is only in production.

I even discovered the WordPress blog of Joseph Mallozzi – Josephmallozzi’s Weblog.  He is the co-writer and creator of Dark Matter.  He has a lot of behind the scene photos of the current filming of Dark Matter on his blog.  I flipped through each post in my developing sense of fandom.

I learned that Dark Matter was originally a comic book that Joseph Mallozzi co-wrote.  So, I did what any newly minted fan would do.  I got on Amazon to see if I could buy one.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit that the compilation book of all four comics should arrive in two days.  I haven’t bought myself a comic book in three decades.

Don’t judge me, I’m a fan.

I find it interesting that I wasn’t really a fan of Dark Matter while Netflix held a trove of unwatched episodes.

It wasn’t until the streaming dried up that I even thought about the writer.
It wasn’t until the entertainment stopped that I began searching.
It wasn’t until I was forced to wait that I became a fan.

My reaction to Dark Matter reminded me of this quote from A.W. Pink.

Pink

I can testify to these dry seasons of the soul.

Most Christians will experience these periods of drought
if they follow Christ any length of time.

It is part of sanctification.

Have you ever wondered why we experience these periods where the river of God’s presence feels like it has dried up?

Some may say that these seasons are periods of preparation or testing or due to sin.  I agree in part.

However, I wonder if dry periods are simply a process to make us into fans.

When I enter a dry period, I tend to think more about God.  I confess that my thoughts often sound like complaints, “why is God doing this to me”, but my eyes definitely get focused back on Him.

When I feel spiritually lethargic, I tend to search more earnestly in His word.  I start digging into the mysteries of God and realize that I am usually not even asking the right questions.

When I am waiting on God, I inevitably begin to ask myself, who I am waiting for, which brings me back to the Gospel, the wonderful treasure of the good news of Jesus Christ and I become more of a fan.

A dry period  will inevitably
bring me to the glory of God.

It will make me a fan.

When I am a fully glorifying fan:

I am prepared to follow Christ in whatever He has called me to do.

I am ready to persevere through the suffering and trials that are before me.

I am willing to turn my back on the temptations of this world for the surpassing worth of my loving Savior.

The lukewarm Christian is a lukewarm fan.

Christians should be more enthusiastic than any of the fans in a sports stadium.

Our demeanor should clothe us as followers of Christ more than any avid comic con attendees.

Our homes should proudly display our fandom of the One.

We were created to be fans; we were created to worship.
A true fan should be easy to spot.

God wants us to be easy to spot.
God wants us to be true fans.
He is willing to take us through those dry periods to teach us that our fandom rests only in Him.

PRAYER: Lord, I pray that you will make me into a fan.  Help me to want to join my voice with that of the Psalmist and declare your wondrous deeds in unabashed fandom.  Help me to accept the dry seasons.  Help to see that you are taking me to greater happiness.  Father, do your work in me even when I am not fully cooperating.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

piper

h1

“BROKENESS WITHIN GLORY” – July 8

July 8, 2013

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”  Isaiah 6:3

I survey the activities of this earth with a flick of the remote or a click of the mouse.  What I see draws me to the conclusion that I live within a broken world.

I see a burned wreckage of a plane; glory does not come to mind.
I read of the violence in Egypt and Syria; descriptions do not sound glorious.
I observe the continual subterfuge of politics; I see no intentions set on glorifying.
I know many are dying from disease; glorious does not enter the terminology.

Many view the world with eyes from the same perspective as my own.  The most common accusation against God emerges from the observations of a broken world.

If God is a loving god, then why would he allow so much pain and suffering?

Isaiah could have questioned the bleakness of his world.  King Uzziah had died.  The nation was surrounded by enemies and its destruction was not far off.  Faithlessness, oppression, and arrogance were the fruit of the land.

Yet, there was a song being sung at that very moment in Isaiah’s life.  While Isaiah was physically in a bleak world, God’s holiness was being proclaimed in the heavens.  While Israel was on the threshold of being crushed, the world was proclaimed as being full of God’s glory.  God was on the throne in all His holiness, reigning as the Sovereign ruler of the whole bleak universe.

The song of the earth is quite different than the song in heaven.  The bleakness of this world causes many to curse rather than praise.

Curses come from a perspective that is plagued by our inability to see God’s manifested holiness.  I look and see glimpses of holiness but the unholiness seems overwhelming.  The limitations of my flesh blinds me to His glory.  When I look upon this world, all I tend to see is brokenness.  That brokenness does exist.

There is evil in the world.
There is rebellion in this world.
There is hate, pain and suffering all around us.

However, all of that unpleasantness does not cancel out God’s glory.  Far from canceling God’s glory, all of this brokenness exists within His glory.  It all resides within God’s plan of redemption.  The redeeming of an unholy and rebellious people by the holy and sovereign Lord of hosts can only be described as glorious.

The whole earth is filled with brokenness.  The whole earth is full of His glory. 

These contrasting perspectives are so difficult for me to comprehend.  I do not claim to have understanding or insight of how this can be true.  I accept it by faith.  I accept that there is a glory around me that I cannot see.  I praise God when I get glimpses and I long for the day when the redeemed are called and the fullness of His glory is revealed.

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.  Isaiah 11:9

Until that day I will live by faith; I will have a conviction of things that I cannot see.(Heb. 11:1)  I believe that the glory of God is all around me.  I do not need to see it.  The Spirit confirms within my spirit that it is truth.

Until that day I will live by faith; I will place my assurance in the hope of the day without hurt and destruction. (Heb. 11:1)   I hope in the days when the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord.  I look forward to the day when the wolf shall dwell with the lamb; the leopard shall lie down with the young goat; the cow and the bear shall graze together; the day when violence, pain and suffering are covered with comfort and peace.

In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples – of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.  Isaiah 11:10

Until that day, those who follow Christ live in a broken world while walking by faith in the glory of God.  I don’t know how that works.  I just know that it does and for that I praise the Lord.

PRAYER: Holy, holy, holy are you my Lord and Savior.  The whole world is full of your glory.  Forgive me for all the times that I have lost sight of that.  Forgive me for not being in continual praise as those who are in your presence.  You are great and highly to be praised.  Father, help me to keep my eyes on you.  Help me to keep my mind-set upon you and your glory.  Keep my faith secure in all that I cannot see and my hope in you and you alone.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: