Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Bad Day. . .

Last night I took a fellow home from church to his house way out in the country between Shipshewana and Middlebury. As I pulled out onto State Road 120 from the little dirt road that this fellow lives on, just a little ways ahead I saw a van on the side of the road with its emergency flashers on and a man doing something in the weeds by the side of the road.

I got out to see if he was having trouble and if I could assist in any way. He was cradling a young buck deer in his arms. His arms were around the little guy, trying to support the little deer, trying to keep it from falling over. I assumed that he had hit the deer with his van. I asked if he wanted me to call someone to come tend to the deer and he replied 'Yes, that would be appreciated.'

I called 911 on my cell phone and talked to the Lagrange County Sheriff's department and they said they would send someone out. I went back to the man and the small deer. He was searching for an injury on the animal. There was no obvious blood or broken bones.

This man maybe in his late thirties or early forties, with a blue knit hat covering his head and a beard from sideburns to chin covering the lower portion of his kindly face, was gently stroking and tenderly talking to this little deer in the weeds. He said that as he had come up upon the little fellow a larger buck with a impressive rack had run off and he noticed the little one here disabled in the tall grass.

We looked and probed the little deer and could feel no broken ribs or saw no other indication of injury outside of a fresh small bloody wound, maybe the size of a quarter just behind and below the little spike bucks left ear.

It is impossible to say for certain what happened, but being in the midst of rut season, the little one probably got too close to a female (maybe even his own mother) that the much larger and powerfully mature buck was interested in. . . its only speculation, but it appears that a fight ensued and the little buck was mortally wounded by a chance blow to a vulnerable area. . .

The little buck was not recovering at all. We both hoped against hope that he would shake off whatever fog he was in and come around, but that did not occur. I took out my oil and anointed the little guy. I send up a prayer for him to God. I don't know if my anonymous companion in the weeds along the side of the dark road joined me. God's word says that He cares greatly for sparrows. . . I don't believe that excludes little buck deer in the last moments of their life. I don't know what he thought. I wasn't really concerned with that. . .

Of all life. . . the first and the last moments are by far the most dramatic. We all have questions. I have faith. I love my God and I really do believe that death is a doorway to something much better than I've ever known. . . but. . . but. . .but. . . notwithstanding all that. . . that day that looms ahead with so many questions. . . with so much fear. . .

A number of years ago, I was walking in a very large woods and it struck me (this was before I knew God) as I reached the crest of a hill and looked out, that every one of the trees that I was looking at, for as far as I could see into the dwindlingly distant green horizon, would one day die and fall. . . For as permanent and as solid as a tree seems each one has a life with a beginning and an end. . .

How so very much as certain for us. Our life here on this earth has a starting point and an end point. Look around you. . . drive down the street. . . go to the mall. . . look at a huge crowd at a sporting event. . . it holds true for everyone. . . for all of us. We will all have a day where our prayer or our loved one's prayer for us is not going to be answered in the way we would wish. . .

For some reason, I don't know why, but I have trouble comprehending that. Maybe I don't want to understand. . . But the fascination is there, the wanting to understand is desperately there. I look at the little buck. I wonder. . . I want to know. . . I can only assume this, but in all likelihood he started out this morning, as just another day. He was young, energetic, apparently in good health. . . circumstances crossed his path and what started as just another day turned into something very different. . .

The questions. . . what thoughts go through your mind as you close your eyes for the last time? What memories will I have of this life? Who greets you on the other side? One day through storm, or fire, or just termites and old age the tree that is me will surely fall. . .

Dear God please send someone to caress me and hold me. . . hug me and give me comfort as I lay in the weeds on the side of the road. . .

I love you Lord. . .


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Common & Uncommon Thoughts

Genesis 6:5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Genesis 20:11 And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife's sake.

Genesis 38:15 When Judah saw her, he thought her to be a harlot; because she had covered her face.

Judges 15:2 And her father said, I verily thought that thou hadst utterly hated her; therefore I gave her to thy companion: is not her younger sister fairer than she? take her, I pray thee, instead of her.

1 Samuel 1:13 Now Hannah, she spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.

1 Samuel 18:25 And Saul said, Thus shall ye say to David, The king desireth not any dowry, but a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to be avenged of the king's enemies. But Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines.

1 Samuel 20:26 Nevertheless Saul spoke not any thing that day: for he thought, Something hath befallen him, he is not clean; surely he is not clean.

2 Samuel 4:10 When one told me, saying, Behold, Saul is dead, thinking to have brought good tidings, I took hold of him, and slew him in Ziklag, who thought that I would have given him a reward for his tidings:

2 Kings 5:11 But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.

1 Chronicles 28:9 And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off forever.

1 Chronicles 29:18 O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this forever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee:

Esther 6:6 So Haman came in. And the king said unto him, What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honor? Now Haman thought in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honor more than to myself?

Psalms 10:4 The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.

2 Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

The foolishness of our thoughts. . . How easily we are led astray by the foolish imaginations of our mind. As the list of verses above shows, our thoughts are often wrong. The mere fact that a thought is in our heads gives no clue as to whether it is an accurate thought or not.
We create castles and huge edifices in our minds that seem so very solid, but they are entirely, as the Bible says, vain imaginations.

Inside the jail are little intercom boxes with call buttons beside each door. As a rule the doors are not opened with keys, but electronically. You push the button and a staff member from one of the two 'control offices' answers over the intercom box. You tell them who you are and they push a button that buzzes the door open for you.

It seems like such a minor thing for them to hear my request and to buzz the door open, but sometimes it can take a number of minutes between your buzzing and the officer answering and opening the door for you. These two control officers have a large bank of video monitors in front of them, viewing into all areas of the jail. If there is a fight they must direct the response. They must watch for escape attempts. They have dozens of door buzzers to contend with. They have radio communication through walkie-talkies with all the staff and they answer and direct all incoming calls to the jail. To say they are often busy is an understatement.

Anyway, one night a couple of weeks ago, I buzzed an inside door at the jail. The staff doesn't like to be buzzed more than one time at the door. So you buzz and wait. I buzzed the door and waited. . . and I waited and I waited some more. Usually I am very very patient. I look forward to these little pauses in my day. It wasn't always so, but I have learned not to let these things upset me. I often use the time to pray, but this time my mind began building this dark castle in my mind. I began imagining that the officer was angry with me for some reason. Maybe they were intentionally trying to aggravate me. It just kept going. Before I really was aware of it I was really caught up in a totally imaginary verbal battle with the officer for keeping me waiting for so long.

I don't know why, but for some reason I leaned against the door. . . and it swung open. I had been standing there for maybe 10 minutes fuming about the awful guard. . .becoming more and more outraged at their rudeness. . . and the door was open all along. Ten years ago, I would have not waited for nearly as long as I did. I would have made a fool of myself and an enemy of the guard by my reaction to an imagined slight, but still I let my thoughts get the better of me for a short while.

Most of the scriptures that I listed above have to do with the vain imaginations of men. Our minds are good at finding patterns, much better than computers at this point of our technology. Do you ever have to look at a series of distorted letters and numbers and enter them before you register for entry into a website? This is to prevent little computer programs from automatically harvesting email addresses from websites. The human eye and mind can see patterns that baffle a computer. It is to our advantage to find patterns of danger and advantage in our daily life. The birds quieting in the woods can mean a hawk or some other predator approaching. The reactions of our co-workers or others at work can mean that we are on a layoff or promotion list. We are good at finding patterns.

But. . . but. . . but!!! We are also good at finding patterns where none exist. Everyone has at times seen faces or shapes in the white puffy clouds on a summer day. Do you really believe that those shapes are there? The person sitting right next to you, even after being shown them, often cannot see what you have seen in the clouds. Psychologists use cards with blobs of ink smeared over them to gain a glimpse of what is in our mind and thoughts. There are no actual pictures in the ink blots, just random blobs of ink, but our mind will create a scene and a story out of these random forms.

By the same way, we take little pieces of information from the people around us and construct scenarios or stories that often have no relationship to anything in reality. People sometimes accuse me of being arrogant. . . . 'That Dave Stokely, he didn't even acknowledge what I said to him'. . .'He is so stuck up'. . . that could be the reason, but I am also very hard of hearing. People cannot imagine it, but sometimes I just don't hear what they have said to me. They mistake my not hearing for arrogance or rudeness.

If you think about it, there are always several possible explanations of why people act the way they do around us. Do we always assume that people are reacting negatively toward us? That is really more telling about ourselves than it is about them.

The last verse that I quoted above:

2 Corinthians 10:5 . . .bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. . .

We cannot allow our thoughts to carry us away captive. It is put in terms of a war. We must make them captive and filter each thought through the love of God. The Psalmist said (Psalm 10:4) that the evil do not have God in all their thoughts. To flip that over, the reverse would be that in order not to be evil, God should be in all our thoughts.

I do not at this point in my walk have complete control of my thoughts. I don't know that I ever will. I'm not sure who came up with it, but I love the metaphor concerning our thoughts: I can't keep a bird from landing on my head, but I surely don't have to let him build a nest there. . . Thoughts often pop into our minds that we do not wish to have there. We need to do everything necessary to dispel them as quickly as we can. Trouble will come if we allow them to dwell unchallenged there.

I will close now. I love the passage:

Philippians 4:8-9

Finally, brethren,
whatsoever things are true,
whatsoever things are honest,
whatsoever things are just,
whatsoever things are pure,
whatsoever things are lovely,
whatsoever things are of good report;

if there be any virtue,
if there be any praise,
think on these things.

Those things,
which ye have both learned,
and received,
and heard,
and seen in me,
and the God of peace shall be with you.

When troubling thoughts come into your mind. . . think on pleasant things, think on the goodness of God. . .

I love you Lord. . .

I love you my God. . .


Saturday, October 27, 2007


The Lord my Shepherd

Psalm 23 (H7462 )

Psalm 23
A Psalm of David.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

My Shepherd. . .

He provides for me. . .
He sets aside lush abundant places and times of rest for me. . .
He finds places of peace and stillness where my thirst can be quenched. . .
He heals me from the wounds and battles of life. . .
He has adopted me as His own and has given me a Way of safety. . .

Yes, there are times of trouble in my life, but even when I am in very low places, I can tell that He is there. I may not see Him, but I see the things that He uses to guide and protect me. Those things build my faith and give me confidence.

There are those who hate me and wish me ill. Even while surrounded by them, He tends to my needs. He gives me nourishment. He puts soothing and healing oil upon me. I have no unquenched thirst. I am filled. I cannot consume all that He gives me.

As long as I have known Him, I have known these blessings. He has promised to never leave me. As long as I may live in this body, I can depend upon his providing and protection and it will not end there. . . I will be with Him, living in His home forever. . .

I love you my God. . .my Shepherd. . .



Lord who Smites

Ezekiel 7:9 (H5221 )

Ezekiel 7:1-9
Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, (2) Also, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD unto the land of Israel; An end, the end is come upon the four corners of the land. (3) Now is the end come upon thee, and I will send mine anger upon thee, and will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense upon thee all thine abominations. (4) And mine eye shall not spare thee, neither will I have pity: but I will recompense thy ways upon thee, and thine abominations shall be in the midst of thee: and ye shall know that I am the LORD. (5) Thus saith the Lord GOD; An evil, an only evil, behold, is come. (6) An end is come, the end is come: it watcheth for thee; behold, it is come. (7) The morning is come unto thee, O thou that dwellest in the land: the time is come, the day of trouble is near, and not the sounding again of the mountains. (8) Now will I shortly pour out my fury upon thee, and accomplish mine anger upon thee: and I will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense thee for all thine abominations. (9) And mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: I will recompense thee according to thy ways and thine abominations that are in the midst of thee; and ye shall know that I am the LORD that smiteth.

This is a name that God has given Himself, therefore I place special importance upon it.

Here are the words the KJV translates this as:

smite 348, slay 92, kill 20, beat 9, slaughter 5, stricken 3, given 3, wounded 3, strike 2, stripes 2, misc 13

When I first read and started to work on this name I was thinking that the Lord that smiteth would be smiting the enemies of a godly man. Obviously reading the above passage, that is not the case. . . verse 3:

I will send mine anger upon thee, and will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense upon thee all thine abominations.

He is smiting His chosen people for their disobedience. This does not mean that He is mortally wounding them, but His smiting is more like the smiting that a parent does to a child. It is also called chastisement:

Psalms 94:12-15
Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD, and teachest him out of thy law; 13 That thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit be digged for the wicked. 14 For the LORD will not cast off his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance. 15 But judgment shall return unto righteousness: and all the upright in heart shall follow it.

Certain chapters of the Bible are renown for their themes. Hebrews 11 – faith, I Corinthians 13 – love, Isaiah 58 - fasting. There are other examples. Hebrews chapter 12 is very much focused on chastisement of believers by God:

Hebrews 12:1-29
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

If you think you endure injustice and unfairness. . .Jesus sacrificed Himself for the very ones who killed Him. What a paradox. In their evilness they killed him and through His death, His murderers were given a path to salvation. . .

4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. 5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

This passage begins by reminding us that while we have fought against sin, that we have not yet paid the ultimate price of pouring out our blood in this battle, like Jesus did, therefore we need to respect He who fought like we do and yet paid a much greater price for His righteousness. He has a right and standing to correct us as a father corrects his children.

9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

It is not enjoyable to be chastised. No one would say that they enjoy it, but by the same measure we all require it occasionally. As the verses above state, at times our earthly fathers gave into their own desires, their own anger while chastening us. God never does this. It is always for our own benefit that he corrects us. In another compound name of Jehovah we looked at Leviticus 26. In that passage God clearly outlines the building up of consequences if we do not favorably take to His correction. There will be an ever increasing level of consequence, if we choose to ignore Him.

11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. 12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; 13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. 14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;

Again we do not enjoy our punishment from God, but if we allow it and take it with an agreeable heart, if we take it in the Spirit of love in which it is given, it will bring forth the result of righteousness in us. Do not allow yourselves to be sullen and injured in your spirit by His correction. It is our reaction to His correction that determines its result. Our response must come from humility and a contrite heart. This results in a very sweet fruit. We will walk more closely in His footsteps with a heart of humbleness. Pride and arrogance within us will cause a crop of very bitter fruit and we will be lamed rather than enabled by His corrections with such a heart. . .

16 Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. 17 For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.

Esau gave up for a pittance, what should have been of utmost importance to him. Likewise for us the danger is that in our response to correction by God we turn our backs on our birthright, we turn our backs on our obligations as sons of God and through our rejection of God's correction we deny His right as a Father and thereby in effect deny Him. The warning here is that the rejection of God's correction is not to be lightly done, nor is it lightly undone. Esau terribly regretted his decision and wished it differently, but it was not to be so. . .

18 For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, 19 And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: 20 (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: 21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)

In the Old Testament, under the old covenant God was inaccessible. We were forbidden from approaching Him. God spoke to all the Jewish people and they asked that He no longer speak directly to them, but through Moses only. God granted their wish, but at great cost to them.

22 But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

Under the new covenant, we now have a path, a mediator, a way to the Father through the Son. Under the blood of Jesus, we come into His presence with a more pleasing sacrifice than that of Abel. He will now speak directly to us. We have access to a new Holy mountain. No longer does the priest alone go into the Holy of Holies. . . under the sacrifice of Jesus we are all sanctified. . .

25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: 26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. 27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: 29 For our God is a consuming fire.

Therefore we being given access to Him directly we must allow Him to speak to us directly and act directly upon us. The consequences of the Jews requesting no more direct contact, is paralleled with and was as great as the effect of Esau turning his back upon his birthright. This is what we do if we reject God's chastisement. In a very fundamental way we are rejecting Him totally and therefore the implication is that we should not be surprised if we do not hear from Him directly ever again. . .

WOW! Esau tried, but could not undo his rejection of his birthright. Thousands of years ago, the Jews rejection of the voice of God directly speaking to them lasted. . . How long? Till today?

My God. . .
I hope. . .
I pray that I have never turned my back upon Your chastisement. . .
Let me always have ears for Your corrections. . .

This is strong meat. . .

We must not be casual about anything of God. . .

I love you my God. . .
I love you my Lord. . .


Thursday, October 25, 2007

The way. . .The truth. . .The life

Matthew 4:18-20
And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. (19) And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. (20) And they straightway left their nets, and followed

These men, . . .these simple fishermen, I don't say that to belittle them, but these were solid men, dependable men, with simple needs and tastes. . . when they saw Jesus and heard Jesus speak for a mere moment, they left their old lives behind for new. . . They left everything. Jesus touched something within them and they cast everything they had known for their entire lives, maybe even for generations of their heritage away to follow Him. Peter had a wife. It is one thing to go chasing after a whim walking along the beach, if you are single and unattached. It is a far different thing when you have the responsibility of a family.

They jumped onto the the path that Jesus was on. They followed His footsteps. Jesus showed them the Way and they followed. Did they yet have 'the truth'? No, the Way came first. Jesus did not at first speak of doctrine. What He offered was a magnification of that which they were already familiar. He did not offer to make them into great teachers or healers or shepherds. He did not offer them fame in their own time, a place in history or riches beyond their wildest dreams. They would have or would become all those things along the Way, but at this time they did not yet have that vision. They were not capable of seeing that far. Jesus enticed them with the magnification of something that was close, something that they already knew. He did not mislead them. He put what He was offering in terms that they could understand. They were comfortable and knowledgeable about fishing. There is comfort in the familiar. We can relate to and more easily get excited about that which we know. The Way comes first. The excitement, the passion comes first.

I've never known of anyone who first came to God through correctness of doctrine or truth. It is the longing for something more. It is Jesus speaking to our innermost needs, our pain, loneliness, hunger, shame that He calls to. It is our hunger for purpose in our lives, this is what God fills. This is the Way that Jesus first leads us to. This is the example for us to follow in reaching our world. We need to begin in the very same manner that Jesus began.

Without God we all have an empty spot. As hard as we try, as many things as we try, we cannot fill this empty spot without God. It is not any distant and exotic place that people have to be led to. It is only necessary to illuminate a need that is already there. Jesus knew that Peter and Andrew both loved to fish. Being aware of that, He knew how greatly they would be attracted to casting nets and pulling men out from a sea of sin. They hungered for what he offered. They greatly desired for their lives, a purpose beyond what they had ever known in their little boat. He had put it in terms that they could understand. Like many of us, they had passion for what He offered, for the need that He had filled. They had found the Way, but there was not necessarily much, if any Truth within them at this point.

When I came to life Tabernacle for the first time, I hungered for what I saw. I watched an older man worship God with a passion and joy that I envied, but could not understand. I did not hunger for correct doctrine. I hungered for being filled with that joy that I saw. I had to be shown, to be taught that there was a relationship between lasting joy and the Truth. The joy of what He offers gets us on the path, shows us the Way. The Truth sustains us and gives us the nourishment to complete the journey.

Jesus filled needs in the context of Truth. He showed us that there is a direct linkage between the two. It is the Way, the filling with the joy of worship, the joy of His calling, the intense joy and intimacy of being filled with His Spirit combined with the feeding on the substance of reading and hearing the preaching of the Truth of the Word of God that sustains us for the long journey. It is the joy and lively passion of the blood red wine, plus the solid wholesome nutrition of the snowy white bread taken together, it is the combination of the joy of needs met and the Truth of the sustenance of righteousness and holy living that will carry us to the life never ending in His presence. . .the Way and the Truth give us Life. . . lead us to Life. . . .

Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. . .
He is the beginning and the end. . .
All the fullness resides in Him. . .

Jesus is the Way. . . the Truth. . . and the Life. . .

I love you my God. . .
I love you my Lord. . .


Saturday, October 20, 2007


Lord my High Tower

Psalm 18:2 (H4869 )

Translated in the KJV as:

defence 7, refuge 5, high tower 3, high fort 1, Misgab 1

Psalms 18:1-6
To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who spoke unto the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul: And he said, I will love thee, O LORD, my strength. (2) The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. (3) I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. (4) The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. (5) The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. (6) In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.

Here is the last mentioned of David's metaphors for God in Psalm 18:2. . . his high tower. I do not begin to understand how one Hebrew word is at times translated 'defense', others 'refuge' and still others translated as 'high tower'. It is the same word. What clue did the translator take that 'high tower' was meant here and not refuge? I have no idea. It is beyond me.

I like the usage in this passage:

Isaiah 33:14-17
The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? (15) He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; (16) He shall dwell on high: his place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure. (17) Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off.

In this passage the 'high' portion of the meaning is an added word explicitly written down. What is a 'high' tower? What is a 'high'. . .place of defense? It is not only a secure place. It is not merely a place of safety, but it is also a place of great vision. Why does the top penthouse command the greatest rent? Why are the top offices in a modern office building the most expensive? The vision is greatest from there. The view unequalled, the line of sight unimpeded from the high tower. It is a safe place, but also from there you can behold the land that is very far off. . .

God's strength and wisdom are surely unequalled, but it is His vision that is impossible for us to begin to comprehend. God's perspective of view is from such a lofty height. Everything is visible to Him. . . nothing hidden. When the men of Babel wanted to be like God they endeavored to build their own 'high tower'. From it they wanted great vision like God.

Genesis 11:1-6
And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. (2) And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. (3) And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. (4) And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. (5) And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men built. (6) And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

God recognized this threat and reacted to it. He actively frustrated man's plan. From this we must infer that great vision without God, while it can be no actual threat to God, must in some manner be a threat to our well being and not good for us. God confused our languages to confound and slow our cooperation and progress. Look around you at the horrors that science without God has created. In Biblical times, one man swinging a heavy sword or throwing a spear could on his own kill one man.

Today we read about EMP weapons where one finger pushing one button could detonate a missile at an altitude of 300 miles that would destroy virtually every electronic device in the entire continental United States. Every computer, every electric motor, every car, every truck, every motorcycle, every airplane, every television, every radio, every power generation station. . . ALL would be gone in the blink of an eye. . . We would immediately be put back 100 years as far as our technology. . . You roll that nightmare scenario around in your mind. The numbers would probably be in the hundreds of millions that would die from exposure, starvation, and civil insurrection. Yes the achievements of man without God are terrible. . . Without God our progress, our vision is a terrible danger to ourselves. We are today circumventing the consequences of the tower of Babel. . . consequences intended for our own good. . .

With God providing the high place, with God providing the vision. . . indeed God shared his vision with the men of the Bible. God told Abraham and Moses of His plans for His people. Jesus spent three years explaining His vision to the disciples. He raised them up. He was a high tower of teaching and vision for them. We need great vision, but it must be vision through God, with God. . .

I surely need a place of safety.
I. . . all of us need God's vision for our lives, for our families, for our ministries. . .
I need Jehovah-Misqabbi, the Lord my High Tower. . .

Thank you God,


Friday, October 19, 2007


Lord my Fortress

Psalm 18:2 (H4686 )

Psalms 18:2
The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

Here is how the word is translated in the King James Version:
fortress 6, hold 6, snare 2, strong hold 1, castle 1, net 1, strong place 1, hunted 1, strong hold 1, fort 1, defence 1

I wrestle with these compound names. It has been two weeks since I wrote about the last compound name. I've been quiet, but believe me, I have not been idle. I do not just want to write to be writing something and this name especially has taken some prayer and thought and meditation to clarify this concept in my mind.

Several weeks ago we looked at Jehovah-Machsi - Lord my Refuge. A refuge can be found many places. If a tornado or other strong wind arises and you are caught out in the wide open places, it is often suggested that you take refuge in any small depression in the ground, a farm ditch for example.

A fortress, a strong hold, or a bunker or a fort of defense on the other hand is a much less common place. You could carry a little tent with you as a place of refuge from the rain. You cannot carry a fortress with you. A fortress is massively solid and substantial. You must go to the specific place of the fortress.

The uses of the refuge and of the fortress differ also. When you think about it, you use a place of refuge against a trouble that is not specifically aimed against you. I related how I had found refuge a few years ago in a little lean-to out on a golf course for protection from a sudden storm. I do not believe that that storm was designed specifically to trouble me. It was just a common little summer cell of wind and thunder and lightning that happened to cross my path. That same refuge that gave shelter to my friend and I against the rain and wind would not have been of much use in shielding us from a roving gang of armed men who were out to specifically harm us. We would have needed something more substantial than the little lean-to. We would have needed a strong place, a fortress to protect us from an evil directed specifically against us.

A refuge can be sought and used almost anywhere, while a fortress is a base from which you operate and come back to only as required. You cannot find a fortress just anywhere. You cannot take a fortress with you. It specifically must be sought out. Can it be then that God in a role of our strong place has the same requirements?

It may be thought that the difference between the two roles of God are the differences between tactics and strategies. Really neither is more or less important than the other. A tank or a jet fighter are instruments of tactics. They are used to deal with a specific situation or a particular skirmish. That might be likened to the role of God as a refuge. An aircraft carrier or a nuclear submarine are instruments of strategy. An overall theatre of conflict or an entire nations purpose is projected by these vehicles. These would be comparable to God's role of a fortress in our lives.

We cannot survive without either or both of these instruments. An aircraft carrier with its dozens of fighters and fleet of attendant ships takes months to get into position. It projects raw power. It is an in your face display focusing and vividly illustrating any nations might who commands it. A nuclear submarine, while also strategic, on the other hand takes a position in some remote corner of the ocean and sits quietly, trying to remain completely undetected as an asset of last resort, invincible in its invisibility and secrecy.

We need God in His role of refuge for us, in the tactics in our daily battles. How do we handle the stress of financial setbacks? He is there for those needs, in His protections, in His answering of our prayers, in His promise of providing for His beloved. How do we fight the battle of cancer? How do we cope with an unfaithful spouse? How do we handle the death of a child? These are hard fought and terrible battles, but as hard as they are they are still individual battles and not the entire theatre of our war (or at least they should never become our entire war . . . there is a great danger of losing sight of that in difficult battles. One battle is never an entire war, unless you surrender.) . . . We have much longer term spiritual requirements also. This is where we need a God of fortress or a God in our strategic battle planning.

All of us face both short term and long term threats to our salvation. Salvation involves not only getting saved, but also must require our staying saved. This is the strategic need we have. How do we maintain our fire long term? How do we resist the lure of the world over decades of life? How do we keep from gradually compromising and compromising until we are indistinguishable from the world we live in? Once the first blush of passion is passed in our relationship with Him, how do we stay in love? . . . stay on fire to the end? How do we suffer the loss of one battle and have the fortitude to continue to fight the war? This is the God of the fortress that we need.

We must be completely confident of our strategic base. If we are not confident of our aircraft carrier we will never risk sending it where it is needed. We must be sure of God as a fortress. We must be completely filled with faith in Him or we won't step forth in our faith and thereby be blessed by Him. Peter had the faith to step out of the boat. He was sure of God as his fortress. This allowed Peter the strength of that strategic power of God as his fortress. I am certain that Peter fed for years off the memory of his steps upon the water. He lost a battle. He suffered a tactical defeat in his denial of Jesus, he lost one skirmish, but . . . but . . . BUT . . . HE WON THE WAR!!!! God had a strategic role in Peter's life. God was a strategic power in Peter's life. God was a fortress for Peter, a place of strength for Peter that did not allow the defeat of one battle to turn into the loss of the entire war.

For Peter, the most it could have been is what? Maybe two years? Probably much less . . . two years in which he walked on the water, denied Jesus, and preached the message on the day of Pentecost. We know for sure that denying Jesus and his preaching on the day of Pentecost were only a few weeks apart, less than 50 or so days. . . That degree of change cannot take place without Peter's knowing a place of utter safety, his abiding in a totally safe place, having a fortress where he could go and heal from the wounds of his tactical loss.

We must have that also. We must have both. We must have a place of refuge from our day to day trials, but no matter the outcome of any single battle, we must also have a deep fortress of invincible and utter impregnability for the long term campaign of our life. . . We must have Jehovah-Metshodhathi, the Lord my Fortress.

Thank you my God. . .
My Stronghold. . .
My Fortress. . .
My Strategic Defense. . .


Friday, October 12, 2007

The Advantages of being a Christian. . .

I spent the first 45 years of my life mostly not believing in God. I knew there was no God. There was no chance I was wrong. . .All that has changed. . . my eyes have been opened. . . I once was blind, but now I see. . .

I smile when I read the news stories about the latest atheistic best selling book on the New York Times book list. I was so intelligent. I knew so much. My logic was so certain. The one thing that I never stopped to consider was that the foundation my philosophical structure was built upon was sand. . . Jesus talks as recorded in Matthew 7:27 about the foolish man who built his house upon sand:

And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
All atheism is built upon an unknown. That is not a solid foundation. An atheist does not believe in God therefore he says there is no God. In a manner of speaking the atheist places himself in the center of the universe. I am not casting stones at anyone else. I am talking about my past. This was my belief. This was my position. There is a huge weakness in this position. I was so sure of my arguments and my logic. I mistook my certainty for fact. It was not conceivable that I could be wrong. It was not conceivable. . . but I was wrong. . . Who ever you are who might read this and not believe in God. . . You likewise may not believe in unicorns and you are welcome to continue that belief right up until the day when you open your curtains one morning and find one munching daisies on your front lawn. If you are the honest and logical person that you claim to be, you will apologize to the unicorn, admit that you were wrong, give him a hug and start planting more daisies. . . for now (in your mind) the impossible has happened

I am not writing this to debate the existence of God with unbelievers. I know first hand how unfruitful that is. You and I can have an interesting debate about unicorns and whether they exist, as long as neither one of us has ever seen a unicorn, but we cannot really have any kind of interesting discussion about the existence of my Father. You may not know him. You may never have seen him, but I will not long stand for your questioning his existence. For me, that will grow tiresome very quickly. He is my father and I have a relationship with him. If you don't know him, I will be glad to introduce you to him, but I see no benefit in our endlessly debating whether he exists or not. When ever you are ready, I will be glad to lead you to Him.

Rather I write this to explain to believers where I have come from. My wife and I have had a number of exchange students in our home in years past. I thought we would learn about another culture. Actually, I ended up learning more about my own culture than about theirs. In some ways to most of you I am probably a stranger from a strange land. My origins are undoubtedly completely foreign to most of you. Like any non-native immigrant, I may learn the language and the rules of courteous behavior, but I may also never completely blend in.

The last thing I want to say before I begin to explore this topic, is that these things I've chosen are not intended to be some all encompassing and theologically complete list of all Christian doctrine. I may overlook some aspect of Christian living that you may very rightly believe to be foundational. I'm sorry. No blasphemy is intended. I am just writing about a few topics that have come to my mind. Please don't take any offense or begin gathering wood with which to burn around me at the stake.

Not being alone. . .

The biggest change I've noticed in being a Christian today as compared to my first 45 years of atheism, is that I am no longer ever alone. Please I am happily married. . . I love you Jackie. . .I love my wife dearly, but I was a very lonely person as an atheist. There is a limit to the extent to which two people can ever come to know one another. There are places within me that I cannot describe in words. There are feelings and fears. . . needs. . . longings. . .that are impossible for me to completely share with anyone else. My own lack of skill in expressing myself, my lack of self awareness, in large measure the ugliness of things inside of me that no one would want to know, all prevent me from exposing myself, from sharing myself. Everyone, all of us. . . no exceptions!!! without any doubt, we have a shell that is impenetrable by anyone else.

Behind this shell where no one else can see, is the little vulnerable child that we all are inside. No matter how hardened you are outside, within you is a little boy or a little girl. . . the little boy or girl you were before the world toughened you up. As an atheist this side of me was only rarely revealed to anyone else. This innermost part of me would sometimes peek out under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but under normal circumstances it was always hidden deep within me. This little child was very very lonely for a very long time.

Now having a relationship with One who can be completely trusted. . . One who never leaves me. . . One who knows all about my ugliness already, I can let this vulnerable side of me come closer to the surface. This innermost part of me has found someone to talk to, that understands, that accepts, that isn't shocked, that forgives. . . This little boy inside me is growing stronger, more confident, less frightened. He is coming closer to the surface. He loves God so so much. He has been looking for someone very much like God for a long long time.

You cannot have this without God. There is no substitute that is at all satisfying or beneficial. You can try to let out the little one inside you with drugs or alcohol. You can spend your life ignoring him, pretending he isn't there. You can strive after money or power or lust and through the jolts of adrenalin or the raging of emotion and fleshly feelings that they bring hope to bring distraction from the child inside of you. You can try to make him so weak and push him so deep that you cannot hear his lonely cry or you can try to convince him that being alone is good. None of these things bring any lasting relief. In the dark hours of the night, the loneliness and yearning returns. . .

There is nothing to compare to the joy, the fulfillment of having God to share your innermost. . .everything with. He is right there. Never more than a breath. . . no that is wrong, even less than that. He is only ever a thought away. . .and even that is wrong. He is right there, never any distance at all away, closer to me than my thoughts. There is no away from Him. Without words, He is there. He understands. He loves me. He loves ME. Thank you my God. HE LOVES ME!!! Oh my God I thank you. The little boy inside of me. . . weeps now. . . He thanks you for loving him. . .

Easier decision making. . .

I spent my life making, what I felt at the time were the best decisions that I could, but I had no guidance, no direction. Sometimes I made good decisions. Sometimes very very bad ones, but for me there was little to distinguish them before hand. I had no reference point. I thought that I was in control of the situation and that most every path had equal chance of ending up in a desirable destination. I had no way to predict which choices would turn out well and which were doomed to failure. As an atheist, believing in the basic goodness of man and no higher moral code, often when faced with choices, I had no clue as to which way was the better of my options.

Now with God in my life, making decisions is so very much easier. The law of man takes feet and yards of books filled with incredibly difficult to understand codes and rules. Each state in the country, each county, each city. . . every country of the world has their own system. . . impossible for any man to completely understand. The rules of God simple. Jesus said they boil down to two:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Now surely there is more to Christian doctrine than just that, but in any situation that I am faced with, at any fork in the road of my life. . . if I stop to consider which path leads me closer to my complete loving of God and which path takes me further away from him and which path best ministers to my fellow man, I will know the correct path to take. These rules are not exclusive. The answer to both of these commandments will be one path over the other. There is no conflict. This is my compass.

The rest of the Bible is both illustration and examples of how these rules work when followed and illustration and examples of the consequences of not following these rules. It does not take yards of library shelf space to explain God's commandments for us. They are made simple enough for us to understand and complete enough for us to be able to apply them in every situation of our lives.

Unless you have lived a life without direction, I do not believe that you can fully appreciate the comfort and security of having a way to find your way through the wilderness of life. Life is so much easier to live with a map to follow. . . I thank you my God. I thank you my Lord. . .

No Fear. . .
I am a chaplain. I deal with men and women every week who for all outward appearances have nothing to live for. Their lives are in ruins. Many face the rest of their lives, behind bars. . . never knowing freedom for long decades to come. . . . but even in that depth of trouble. . . it is not the worst that could happen. I do not care what situation you find yourself in. It doesn't matter. Look at Job. . . He lost his children. They all died. He lost his wealth. . . all gone. . . his health shot. . . seeping pus filled sores covering him. . . sitting in the ashes scraping his diseased skin with shards of broken pottery as his supposed friends stand around undeservedly accusing him and condeming him. . . In all that misery and pain, it is still not the worst that could happen. What is the worst that could be?. . . to die and spend eternity in the anguish of hell. That is the very worst thing that could be.

My fear of earthly terrors is gone. To be sure, if I take my focus off God, it can return for a season until I remember where my true happiness comes from. Now my only lasting fear is, the fear of somehow falling back into my old ways. This is too precious to give up. I must never lose this. Troubles of health. . . financial troubles. . . relationships. . . career troubles. . . my happiness does not come from any of those. This body will wear out. I will leave this body behind, but. . . but. . . but my reward lies beyond the doorway. My Lord is waiting for me.

Psalms 48:14
For this God is our God forever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.

I am not filled with fears and uncertainties like I was as an atheist. I am confident. I am strong abiding in the Lord. My happiness does not come from this world or its trappings. I love you so much my God. Thank you for everything You've done for me.

Fellowship. . .
This that I write tonight is maybe of no deeply spiritual insight. These are just things that I so very much appreciate about living for God, that I have found in the last 7 1/2 years. It would not be complete at all without expressing my appreciation of having others to journey through this life with. Really my entire life, I have not had many at all in the way of close friends. We bump into people all day long in our worldly walks, but it is only coincidence that we share the same path for a few steps. . . until we come to God. Now I am surrounded by wonderful, loving brothers and sisters, who in every way are striving for the same goal/goals that I am. We want to make it to heaven and we want to bring as many people with us as we can. . . This is such a complete change from life as an atheist. It's not like we had meetings and lifted each other up.

To have men and women around me. . . to help me carry my burden when it becomes too heavy. . . to help me share the victories and disappointments of my life. . . to help me pray for my loved ones. . . to pray for me when I am in need. . . What price can I ever place upon this? What value has this added to my life? . . . It is impossible to ever imagine going back to a life without being surrounded by the love of the body of Christ. I don't know. . . the pride of the world. . . the having to maintain an exterior where your weakness never shows. . . . It is so nice to have refuge in a church filled with love. Again it's beyond my words to express the value that this has for me and the contrast with my life before. . .

I could probably go on. . . but I will draw the curtain to a close here. . . I love you all. I thank you my God for everything. . .


Monday, October 8, 2007

The River of Life. . .

I was told by my doctor some months ago that I needed to lose a significant amount of weight. Within the past few years I was diagnosed with diabetes and up until this point I have been controlling my blood sugar levels through watching what I eat and a couple of different medications, but in the past year or so, the medications have become less effective and my physician plainly told me that I had a choice of either losing weight or starting injecting insulin for the control of my blood sugar. That is pretty motivating. I'm sure that I could learn to do that, but it will be after I am drug kicking and screaming to it.

So, I've lost somewhere over 40 lbs now mainly by eating lots of fruits and vegetables and not much of the good stuff. . . :) As most of you who have dieted before know, the pounds come off more slowly the more you lose. There are good reasons for that. Today I'm carrying 40 pounds less than I was a few months ago. Just think about the work involved with carrying 4-10 pound bags of potatoes everywhere you walk all day long. That is a lot of exercise in of itself and in addition those 40 pounds weren't just dead weight, but that was flesh on my body that required its own nutritional maintenance each day so I required calories keeping, those very unhealthy 40 pounds, healthy. . .

A few days ago it dawned on me that where I am today is the end result of the equation of my life. If you add all the things I've eaten, from the day I was born and subtract all the calories used by my metabolism, by my growing, by illness or injury, by any exercising and work that I've done the result of that equation is where I am today. In a very real sense I am a few ounces or fractions of ounces heavier today as a result of my best friends birthday party that I attended when I was 6 years old. The reverse is certainly true also. I weigh less today from all the exercising that I did during my Army basic training back in 1975.

So now I not only have to regret the dessert that I ate yesterday at the wedding reception that Jackie and I attended, but I can legitimately feel remorse over dietary indiscretions of decades long gone by. . . The cupcake I ate 25 years ago is just as much still a part of me as the cupcake I ate yesterday. . . You can try as hard as you like to escape this, but you never can. You can say, 'well, I exercised the day after I ate that cupcake 25 years ago, and burned it off.' But the point is inescapable, that if you hadn't eaten the cupcake and exercised you wouldn't have had the cupcake to burn off and you would weigh less today as a result.

The more I thought about this the more obvious it became that really it's not just my weight that operates in this manner but all of me. . . What is it that makes me what I am today? I was so surprised when I had my children, just how different they were right from the moment of birth. My son is a night owl. My daughter is an early bird. This was not something that their mother or I planned or taught them. They came with this preference right from birth. So much of why they are who they are today is in their genetic makeup. Our heredity plays a huge role in who we are. We can surely either overcome or waste what talents or disabilities we have from our genes, but a large part of our who-ness is from the genetic material contributed by our mother and father.

It is fascinating to read about studies done with identical twins separated at birth. It is downright spooky. I read of one pair of boy identical twins separated when they were just a few days old. 40 years later they were both firemen. They both married wives named Debra, lived in similar split level houses, had three kids, drove Ford Taurus cars. . . I mean this is just from my memory, but it was incredible how similarly their lives had turned out even though they were raised by completely different parents hundreds of miles apart.

After birth though, every experience, every interaction shapes and molds us. Most of these interactions and events taken by themselves leave little in the way of recognizable influence upon our lives, but the fact that something is difficult to measure does not mean that it doesn't exist. The little people around us in church, we are helping to shape their lives and certainly their world view by how friendly or unfriendly we are to them.

I am who I am today as a result of my parents genetic contributions, plus the sum total of all the events of my life. Choose any particular day in my childhood and alter it in some manner and I would be a slightly different person than the one I am right now.

I like the metaphor of a river. A river has a definite source, a beginning point, a place where you can point and say this is the source of the river. (Just as an aside, the difference between a river and a creek is that a river is longer than 100 miles in length. A creek or stream is a 100 miles or less in length.) Anyway go 200 miles downstream from the rivers source and the river at that point is a result of every little spring and tributary that adds to the river. It is changed by every wide spot in its concourse. Throw a cup of water into it and its flow is increased by 1 cup of water. It may be hard to measure, but the Mississippi river is changed from one little boy squirting his water pistol into it. This is over simplifying it of course, but every river is the result of the equation of water added by tributaries and springs minus evaporation and porous sandy soil it passes through. . . at any particular point a river is the sum total of what has gone on before in its course.

This explains some things. . .How then is it ever possible for me. . . for anyone to change? Think about how hard is it to change the direction of a river. I deal with men and women every week who desperately need to change the direction of their lives. There is no doubt, they know that they need to change, but the awful truth is that few of them succeed. It is heartbreaking to watch. It's probably not much different for anyone in any ministry, but I watch the same faces return time and time and time again to the jail. The river of their life has momentum. Every rivers channel is a path, the path of least resistance to the sea. Rivers never climb mountains. They never run uphill. Rivers don't ever change directions without first carving a new basin in which to carry them. . .

I ask again, how then is is ever possible for me . . . for anyone to change? If I am the sum total of all my past. . . how can I ever change? How can I ever escape the momentum of my past?

I look behind me. I can see my former thoughts. I can see all my logic. I can see all my former arguments. I can see my past deeds. . . deeds which at the time I found no flaw in. I can still see those things up stream from my life now. They all hang in tatters. . . The fabric of my life has been torn, like the veil. . . torn from top to bottom.

What happened? In maybe 100 days, from the first of June 2000 to sometime in September the same year, my entire attitude changed. My opinion on God, abortion, homosexuality, divorce. . . sin of every kind, illegal drugs, drinking, smoking, modesty. . . really go as deep as you want. . . I was changed completely. . . fundamentally. . . again I ask. . . how was this possible to occur. . . How could a 46 year old man completely change so radically, in such a primal way???? I can see my old ways still in my mind. . . I can see my old justifications in my mind. . . they aren't gone. They are still there, but completely irrelevant, in tatters. . . destroyed.

It surely is no secret. It may only be a mystery to me:

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

I have been reborn. Until the writing of this tonight, I don't know that I understood just what that meant. I have been reborn. . . No longer do I believe this to be mere symbolism. This is truth. I have been reborn. I have passed through new birthing waters. I am a new creature. The course of the river of my life has changed. In any kind of normal circumstances that is impossible. With huge expenditure of effort, it is possible to change the course of a river for a short time, but eventually it will always revert to its former bed. That is the way of rivers. The only way to permanently change a river, is to change its source. . .

That is what has happened to me. I have been reborn. My source has been changed. No longer do I merely have an earthly father. My very foundational makeup has been altered by the addition of the Spirit of God into my core. . . my essence. This is the only possible explanation to the mystery of my, and not just my. . . but millions upon millions of men and women just like me, that have been reborn. . . remade. . . into our new Spirit Father. . . into God's image. . . . This is the true impact of our being reborn upon us. It is a completely new course for the river of our lives. . .

I love you my Father. . .

I love you my Father. . .

I love you Abba. . .


Saturday, October 6, 2007


Lord my Deliverer

Psalm 18:2 ( H6403 )

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who spoke unto the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul: And he said, I will love thee, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.
(Psalms 18:1-6)

This is an interesting compound name for Jehovah that we have today, The Lord my Deliverer. Here is how the word is translated in the KJV:

deliver 16, deliverer 5, calveth 1, escape 2, safe 1.

We have two main usages for deliverer in today's culture. The first that comes to mind is the UPS man, the delivery man. Someone who brings a package from one point, its origin and delivers it to another point, its destination. We usually look upon the UPS driver from the perspective of one awaiting for our package to be delivered, but this usage, this role of Jehovah speaks of the deliverer from the perspective of the package.

We are that package that is being delivered. In so many ways we have been brought from one place, usually not a very nice place and we are taken by God ultimately to the nicest place, heaven. He is the driver. He is the one who picks us us and who will gently deposit us on the steps of the mansion that even at this moment He is preparing for us:

John 14:2
In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

We are in transit right now. The heavenly truck has come and we are on board, but our end address isn't quite finished yet. Maybe God is right now putting the numbers on the mailbox of our mansion or maybe the foundation had just been poured. We don't know how close our mansion is to being completed. All we can say for sure is that if God called it a mansion it surely won't be lacking any comforts. The only thing we need to do as good packages, is to stay on the truck. We don't want to go bouncing out the back of the heavenly van into the weeds along the side of the road. God is preparing a place specifically for us. He knows our likes, our desires, our personalities better than any earthly architect. We will be amazed what delights the rooms of our custom designed mansion contain.

Another usage today of the word deliverer is also reflected in how this word is translated from the original Hebrew:

Job 21:10
Their bull engendereth, and faileth not; their cow calveth, and casteth not her calf.

This is the same word. It is usually translated delivery or deliverer, but in this case it is translated calveth. . . to give birth. . . to deliver from the womb.

Hebrew is such a rich language. I can only imagine. I think that our reading the Scriptures in English in some ways must be like watching a foreign film with English subtitles. A movie like that is never quite as funny, never quite as impacting and powerful as in the original language. Surely you can recieve the intended message, but much of the wonderful flavor is lost in the translation.

Jehovah is our deliverer. That is one of His many roles. He brings us forth, not now speaking of our original birth from the maternal womb, but now talking of our rebirth, our spiritual birth.

Our mothers brought us from the secret place of our creation into God's world in all its glory. She carried us. Fed us. Nourished us from her own sustinance. Provided a safe place for our bodies to develop and grow. Through her pain, her sweat, through the tearing away from her flesh she delivered us, birthed us into our lives.

As deliverer this is also God's role for us spiritually. He has given us everything we need. He has nurtured us, protected us, carried us from our origins in sin to the waters of our rebirth, to our birth of the water of baptism and to our birth of the spirit. . .

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God . That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
(John 3:3-8)

It is clear. There must be a rebirth and God, not an earthly mother is our deliverer for this birth. The gestation period varies. It lasted 46 years in my case. We develop differently. Like mothers of our flesh, all the things to grow and thrive are provided, but still sometimes something is wrong with the baby. Sometimes the baby is unable to prosper. Not through any fault of the deliverer, something is just wrong and the baby does not flourish. It is estimated that as many as 40-50% possibly even higher, of all pregnancies result in miscarriage. Most occuring before the mother is even aware that she was pregnant. It is no fault of the mother, it is not the fault of the deliverer. It is the same spiritually.

God has provided what we require to come to know Him. He has placed people in our paths. He has provided spiritual nourishment, if we will only give suck to it:

Deuteronomy 32:9-15
For the LORD's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. (10) He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. (11) As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: (12) So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him. (13) He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock; (14) Butter of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat; and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape. (15) But Jeshurun [the beloved one] waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.

Of all the things that the maternal deliverer can do and provide, She cannot make the infant take nourishment. If the baby refuses to give suck there is little that can be done. The deliverer can offer and entice, but it is up to the infant to open his mouth and accept the nourishment. From the very beginning, even within its weakness it is the infants choice, it is within the infants power to either prosper or to perish. . .

No where in Scripture is God ever referred to as female. It is never Mother God, always Father there is no confusion about that, but in His role as deliverer there surely are some maternal connotations. There is a relationship between mother and child that the father knows nothing of. We also have a relationship with our spiritual deliverer that is without hint of imitation in any other relationship. . .

I love you my God. . .
I thank you for giving me nourishment. . .
I thank you for delivering me. . .


Friday, October 5, 2007

Out of the belly of hell cried I. . .

Reading today at lunch, very moved. . . memories flooding into my vision. . .

Jonah 2:1-10
Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me forever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God. When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD. And the LORD spoke unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.

Out of the belly of hell cried I. . . and thou heardest my voice. . .

How terribly achingly grateful I am for a living, loving God.

Out of the belly of hell cried I. . . and thou heardest my voice. . .

I never want to go back to my old life, but I must never forget the pain of it either.

Out of the belly of hell cried I. . . and thou heardest my voice. . .

I see too many who have lived for God for most of their life, for decades. . . wax cold and fall away. I was there too long. . . too many years to ever return.

Out of the belly of hell cried I. . . and thou heardest my voice. . .

The pitfall is to forget the pain. Healing is good, I am no longer what I was. . . not at all! But I fear that if I forget my history then I am destined to repeat it. . . I must remember. . .never ignore the scars. They are real. I cannot afford plastic surgery. The wounds, the lessons learned too expensive, for me too costly for makeup. The ugliness that made them is real, never to be covered up or disguised. They are my remembrance. The peril is to become so accustomed to the wonderful life I lead under the wings of God, that I heal so completely and forget. . . the pain, the junk, the trash, the fear, I cannot allow that former reality of life of being totally lost, to fade. . . the terror of being so completely alone. . .every point of the compass the same. . . night and day alike. . . no a.m., no p.m., a maze of gray. . . a rebirth. . . a new life into another world. . .now a mazing of grace. . .

Out of the belly of hell cried I. . . and thou heardest my voice. . .

No more! Never will I leave the path. This is no gentle mulch covered trail in a friendly woods with innocent explorations on every side. . . This is a high way, carved from the desolate and perilous wilderness. I cling to the way, no detours , no shortcuts. . . no compromise. . .I was at the bottom of the sea once, . . .never again. . .no one to blame. No one threw me overboard. I went willingly through the jaws of the fish, smiling. . .thinking myself so superior to fools who loved the Santa Clause born in a manger. . . to fools who worshipped the Easter Bunny hanging on a cross. . . never ever again. . .

Out of the belly of hell cried I. . . and thou heardest my voice. . .

I weep. . .I love you my God. I search for some hint of grudge, some shadow of reservation from you. There is none. The fatted calf is mine for the asking. . . The embrace is so very powerful and warm and deep. The welcome long and moist and genuine. . . pure love. . . Thank you for taking me back. Thank you for rescuing me. . .

For Out of the belly of hell cried I. . . and thou heardest my voice. . .

Thank you my God. . .