It’s Good To Be Humbled

Brent, our church’s first pastor and the man who trained me, was back in town to visit and speak in our church.

Knowing he loved the sport, a number of golfers in the church decided to take him to a local course following the Sunday meeting. Though I’m not a golfer they invited me along for the fun and fellowship.

It was a drizzly day, but we were committed. Because all the other guys were golfers, they were prepared for the weather and had rain gear, hats, etc. I came completely unprepared. So in the clubhouse I secured a large trash bag, which I made into a makeshift parka by slitting holes for my head and arms.

Neither did I have golf shoes like everyone else. I wore tennis shoes which provided no traction whatsoever, especially on wet grass.

So Mr. Doofus in his trash bag and slippery shoes strode out of the clubhouse to take on the fairway.

I was miserable all afternoon. Dripping wet, and slipping constantly in my tennis shoes, I occasionally needed help getting up the slopes on the course. When I’d get ready to drive the ball, the wind would come up beneath me and inflate the trash bag, impeding my swing. Many times I’d barely nick the top of the ball, driving it a good, oh, four inches. Other times I’d miss completely. And when I did manage to connect, I ejected balls into woods, water and other dimensions never to return again.

By the time we got to the last hole, I was thoroughly disgusted. I’m pretty sure my mocking buddies weren’t even keeping my score. And I was wet to the bone despite my billowing trash bag. Sidling up to my ball on the tee, I looked toward the hole. It lay off in the distance beyond a pond. I decided I was going to smash the ball as hard as I could. Cream it. Crush it. I imagined everyone’s jaws dropping as my ball vanished into the heavenlies, only to reappear on the green, 2 inches from the hole.

I whipped the club back over my shoulders as far I could. Vertebrae cracking, neck craning at an inhuman angle, I could see the whole club dangling before me. With all my might I brought the club around, breaking the sound barrier.

Unfortunately, the head of the club plowed into the grass a full foot in front of the ball. The forward motion of the club stopped, but the powerful torque I’d generated, in combination with the slick bottoms of my tennis shoes on the wet grass, launched my feet arcing skyward. I hung suspended in the air. I saw scenes from my childhood. I left my body, coolly taking in the whole scene from above. Then suddenly I slammed onto my back, splattering the soaked earth, hands and feet flailing.

My friends convulsed and squealed with laughter like stuck pigs. “I can’t believe you did that!” one screamed, gasping for air. “I wish I had a video camera,” another shrieked, tears streaming from his eyes. “I’d have $10,000 on Funniest Videos.” It was a full five minutes before anyone could compose himself enough to play. And they told and retold the tale with raucous guffaws every time another foursome returned to the clubhouse.

I forgave them, of course, because it was funny and I know how to laugh at myself. But someday they’ll be sorry when they find horse heads in their golf bags.

photo by leonrw

The Hound Of Heaven

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him…..
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.

( from “Hound of Heaven,” by Francis Thompson, 1859-1907)

We sometimes describe our salvation with phrases like “I found the Lord.” But in reality, Jesus found us. He wasn’t lost; we were fleeing from him and he apprehended us. We fled him, down the nights and down the days…yet those strong Feet followed, followed after.

After Jesus saved Jericho’s despicable chief tax collector, Zacchaeus, he said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (LK 19.10). This sums up the book of Luke and was Jesus’ mission statement.

From the moment Adam and Eve rebelled, the Hound of Heaven began taking the initiative to restore that which was lost.? They hid cowering in the garden but the Lord called out to them, “Where are you?” Even then God sought to rescue sinners.

Think of your own conversion and recall how those strong Feet followed after you.

I was having coffee with a friend at college, when a hippy-ish guy strode over to our table, plopped down a couple tracts, smiled broadly, then walked away. He was the happiest looking guy I’d ever seen.

Later I ran into a Jewish friend who said, “Mark, I gotta talk to you about Jesus. He saved me!”

For some unknown reason I picked up a paperback Bible, and began reading the gospels.

My girlfriend called to tell me about a guy she’d met who wore a Jesus t-shirt, and how he’d talked to her about the Lord.

My parents invited me to a “prayer meeting,” and the guy next to me talked to Jesus like he was his best friend. The hair on the back of my neck stood up.

In all these ways, the glorious “Son of Man” of Daniel 7, who has all dominion, authority and majesty, who shed his divine blood to purchase lost sinners, pursued me.

Contemplating that Christ seeks sinners stirs me in 3 ways:

  • I want to overflow with amazement and gratitude that he sought me.
  • I want to imitate Jesus by seeking the lost.
  • My faith is bolstered knowing the Hound of Heaven is still seeking lost sinners, and he is pursuing those I reach out to.

photo by lcrf

Speak Up!

You know who you are. You sit in the corner, quietly reading this blog, without ever leaving a comment. You think to yourself:

  • I don’t have anything to say!
  • They’ll laugh at me and call me names like “Cotton-headed ninny muggins”!
  • They’ll think that all I do is sit around in my sweat pants and read blogs all day!

Nonsense! (how many exclamation points can he use in this post?!?) Here at The Blazing Center we love comments. We may not be able to respond to them all, but we read and appreciate every one.

So I’m declaring today “Get To Know You Better” day. We’ll keep it simple. To help us know our readers better, leave a comment that includes:

– Your name (only first is necessary)

– Your age (if you feel comfortable)

– Where you’re from.

Does this feel like one of those cheesy team-building exercises where one person falls backward and the rest of the team catches him? Good! Let’s get started.

Glory In the Details

Have you ever had an ?I see it!? moment while reading scripture?

You start seeing connections. This verse to that verse, this chapter to that chapter. A picture starts to emerge, like a 3-D ?seeing eye? panorama. You start to understand why the author wrote what he did, when he did, where he did. The Word of God becomes crystal clear. It?s glorious.

This usually happens when we notice the details. There?s glory in the details.

Mark 4:35-5:43 is one of those passages where the details make all the difference. Look at how this section of scripture is laid out:

  • 4:35 ? 4:41 ? A storm arises and the disciples panic because death is at hand. Jesus speaks, the storm dies.
  • 5:1-20 ? Jesus encounters a screaming, demon possessed man. No one has been able to cage this man. Jesus speaks, the demons panic and flee.
  • 5:25-34 ? A woman has been hemorrhaging blood for twelve years. Doctors are useless. She touches Jesus? garment and the bleeding stops.
  • 5:35-43 ? A little girl lies dead in her father?s house. ?Talitha cumi?. Life springs back into her body.

There?s a theme that runs through these verses: the authority of Jesus.

Jesus speaks and nature obeys. Pressure systems change, clouds shift, water currents move, and winds die at the sound of his voice. Authority over nature.

Jesus speaks and demons obey. These demons rule a man. They manipulate his voice, electrify him with supernatural strength, and dominate his life. They were unstoppable. Until they meet Jesus. Authority over demons.

Jesus heals a woman without speaking a word. She touches the edge of his cloak and encounters healing power. Blood congeals. Tissue is repaired. The incurable has been cured. Authority over sickness.

Jesus stands over the corpse of a precious little girl. Her life has been snatched away, cut short. Death, the great enemy of mankind, has stolen another life. It is relentless, merciless, ruthless, always winning, always killing, crushing the hopes of men and women. But even death buckles before the Savior. He has authority over death itself.

When you read scripture, look for the details. Linger over the passage. Put pen to paper and record your thoughts. Try to answer this question:

Why did the author put this passage here and not somewhere else?

The glory is in the details.

+photo by YaniG

More Important Than A Dream Job

“But I say to you, seek first the best job you can get in the sweetest location you can find and the kingdom of God will be added to you…maybe.”

Within the next few weeks, thousands of graduates will be unleashed into real life and the job market like dandelion parachutes floating in the wind.? Maybe you’re one of them.

If you’re a Christian, consider this when searching for a job.? Make your top priority finding and joining a “solid” church.? Once a man told me he had an opportunity to take a high-paying dream job in a particular area.? I asked if he knew of a good church there.? “No, but I’m sure there will be one.? There are good churches everywhere.”? Several years later, I saw him and his wife and they had yet to find a church to settle in.

Here are some questions to ask of a potential church:

  • Do the pastors preach the gospel?? Many churches preach how we should live yet fail to preach Jesus Christ and him crucified.? Is the church Christ-centered and cross-centered?
  • Does the church place a high priority on sound doctrine?? Does it believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God?? Sound doctrine shapes our whole view of God, not to mention work, relationships, marriage, parenting, suffering and all of life.
  • Do the pastors receive care and accountability from anyone outside the church?
  • Does the church have small groups or other structures for practicing biblical fellowship and applying the Word?
  • Does the church pursue the active presence of the Holy Spirit?
  • Does the church encourage heartfelt, expressive worship?
  • Do the members love, serve, and care for one another?
  • Does the church seek to reach the lost for Christ?

God knows you need a job. But take this advice from Matthew 6:

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ?What shall we eat?? or ?What shall we drink?? or ?What shall we wear?? For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (31-33)

What would be better for your soul – a dream job, or a great church?? Seek first God’s kingdom, expessed in a local church, and he’ll take care of the job.

For some great reading on this topic check out Stop Dating the Church by Joshua Harris and 9 Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever.

photo by pensiero

The Last Day Of Darkness

Today begins for me, like every other day for the past decades, in darkness.

Not because the sun has yet to rise, but because my eyes are worthless. Dead, unseeing stones in my head. Sightless appendages draped with needless eyelids.

I shuffle in my hovel, groping for the putrid rag I call my cloak. My fingers slide up the leg of a small stool, on which they locate the crust of bread I saved from the day before. I put it to my cracked lips and take a bite.

Today will be another empty day in an endless string of empty days. Another day sitting in the heat and the dust by the road, begging for spare coins. Begging the laughing ones, the busy ones, the working ones, the seeing ones. Scavenging like one of the dogs that wander the streets. Only I can’t wander. I can only sit in the stifling darkness.

I’m sitting by the road, taking in the sounds of wagons, and carts, vendors and shoppers, the normal cacophonous background to my darkness, when I hear the growing commotion of a large crowd drawing near. Is today a holiday? Is there a procession? Is a prefect or governor about to pass by? Maybe he’ll look down on me from his royal coach and toss a coin my way.

“What’s going on?” I call out. “Who’s coming? Can someone tell me?”

“Jesus of Nazareth is passing by,” someone yells down to me.

Jesus of Nazareth? Yes, I’ve heard of him. He heals the blind, the crippled, the deaf. No one has ever done the works he has done. And did not the prophets foretell that the Messiah, the final and glorious son of David, will do these very things? And he’s coming my way!

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” I shout, as loud as I can. “Son of David, have mercy on me!” I shout again and again.

“Shut up old man,” someone hisses.

I shout still louder, against the chaotic noise of the crowd. “Son of David!”

“Quiet you old fool!” another voice yells.

“Have mercy on me! Have mercy on me!”

Suddenly someone touches my shoulder, then grabs my hand. “Come my friend, he’s calling for you – Jesus is calling for you. Well, are you just going to sit there?”

He helps me to my feet, and leading me by the hand, calls out, “Make way. Let us through. The Teacher has summoned him.” We stop, and the crowd grows silent. I stand there, listening, waiting. And then I hear a voice, a wonderful, tender voice. A voice I have longed to hear my whole life.

“What do you want me to do for you?”

My cracked lips speak. “Lord.” My heart is pounding. “Let me recover my sight.”

Can a voice smile? Can it dawn upon you like the first sunrise in creation? Can a voice flood your being with infinite joy? He says, ?Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.?

My head explodes with blazing light. I’m blinking and tears flood my eyes. Slowly my eyes begin to focus for the first time, and…I am seeing…a face. A smile. And laughing eyes. I’m gazing into the face of the Son of David. The face of the One I will follow for the rest of my life.

photo by Salva [Om Qui Voyage]

What Happened At the Cross?

Last Friday, Christian author Tony Jones wrote the following:

Some people today may find it compelling that some Great Cosmic Transaction took place on that day [Good Friday] 1,980 years ago, that God’s wrath burned against his son instead of against me. I find that version of atonement theory neither intellectually compelling, spiritually compelling, nor in keeping with the biblical narrative.

If Tony Jones is right, I’m going to hell.

If no “transaction” occurred at the cross, I have no hope for salvation. If God’s wrath did not burn against his son, it will one day burn against me. If my sins were not credited to Christ then they still hang upon me.

Thankfully, Tony Jones is not right. Scripture makes it clear that an astonishing transaction did take place at the cross.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. (1Peter 2:24)

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2Corinthians 5:21)

My only hope is in this glorious exchange. My sins upon Christ. God’s wrath upon Christ. Christ’s righteousness credited to me.

Pray that God opens Tony’s eyes to see and embrace the glories of the gospel.