..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Burning for God

There are two kinds of people on the earth:
Those who burn for God, and everyone else.
If you see a person on fire in the street,
don't run away or too quickly try to put
out the fire. First, see if they are burning
with the fire of the Living God. Then, if so,

throw yourself upon the fire, so that the two
of you are now aflame.

If you see a smoldering wick about to go out,
Bring it to your Lord and watch Him blow
gently upon it, fanning it back into a flame.

There are two kinds of people on the earth:
those who are careful and contained,
And those who are burning out of control.
God asks, "How can I set you on fire if your
heart be as cold as ice?"

Do not be afraid of God's fire.
Do not be afraid of the purifying heat.
Let it burn up those things that hold you
Let it burn your wrong thinking,
Let it burn your lethargy, your dullness,
your puny plans, Let it burn all that
you cling to apart from Him.

For our God is a consuming Fire, a
Roaring Blaze. He is about burning.
He who makes his angels spirits and
his ministers a flame of fire,

What shall He make of you?

For He has come to set a fire on the earth,
and what if it is already kindled?
Come in out of the cold.
Be kindling for God's conflagration.
Burn up in the Fire of God.

Did you know there are two kinds
of people on the earth?
Those who are ablaze for God, and
those who shall be burned in Hell's

Did you think this was going to be
just a nice easy poem?


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Voice of the Martyrs--Indonesia

Several times a month I will be posting articles about persecuted Christians in the world. Despite our day to day problems, we still have it easy compared to our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. Please remember them in prayer.

Please check out this link on Worldnet Daily about a Christian teen in Indonesia recovering from a brutal attack by Islamists: . Voice of the Martyrs is helping. Please also check out their site: Voice of the Martyrs and the Persecution Blog

An Infusion of Love

[Eternal life is] nothing else than that blessed regard
wherewith You never cease to behold me, yes, even the
secret places of my soul. With You, to behold is to give
life: It is unceasingly to impart Your sweet love to
me so that I might love You; ‘tis to inflame me to love
You by love’s imparting, and to feed me by inflaming,
and by feeding to kindle my yearning, and by
kindling to make me drink of the dew of gladness, and by
drinking to infuse in me a fountain of life, and by infusing
to make it increase and endure.
... Nicolas of Cusa (1401-1464), The Vision of God

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

My Life or His Life?

"He that findeth his life shall lose it:
and he that loseth his life for My sake
shall find it" Matthew 10:39

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except
a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die,
it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth
forth much fruit" John 12:24.

"We must be willing to get rid of the life
we have planned so as to have the life
that is waiting for us."--Joseph Campbell

God has a wonderful plan for my life! But we
have misunderstood what He is offering! He is
really not offering me an individually
successful life where I am validated and set
apart by the special things He will do
through me. This is human thinking, even
American thinking! No, He invites me to
partake of the eternal life that He is!

For it is not just a "plan" that God wants to
give me, but an inclusion into the very Life
that flows by the Spirit between the Father
and His Son. It is not a call to an "individual"
life, but an invitation to be lost in a
gloriously corporate one: the corporate life
of the one true God! The One opens Himself to
the many that Christ has purchased so that those
"many" may become one in Him!

Will this make us God? Of course not! Will we
lose our individual identity? Only the part
that is not built of His Spirit! And good
riddance to that!

It is easy for me to think of the life I live
as "my life"--one in which I do basically what
I want, running to God in times of trouble, and
proceeding with my own agenda the rest of the
time, but still looking for individual glory.
This life I desperately try to preserve. We live
in a society, even a world, that has no
conception of total surrender to or union with
God. It is easy for me to offer God a little bit
of "my" life, but to hold onto the parts that I
want to keep. But let me tell you, that is not
why we were created! We were created for His
Glory, not ours! For His life, not ours!

We have to be not just talk but action
in letting go of our life so that we might have
the Life that God longs to include us in. We are
looking to differentiate ourselves based on our
accomplishments, God is looking to sweep us up
into Himself, give us His Name, call us His Bride!

As the new year approaches, it is a good time to
take a hard look at our lives. Our we living "our"
lives with a little "Christianity" sprinkled over
the top? Does God have just part of us, or does
He have us deep to the core? Unreservedly?
Without excuse? Without anything held back?
Our we the single seed or the one who has chosen
to fall into the ground and die, waiting for the
life of God to bring forth what He chooses?

As 2007 dawns, we need to ask ourselves if
everything, every ounce of our beings, is
fully the Lord's. If not, we need to get down
on our knees and ask the Lord, "What has
happened to me? What issue or issues has
caused me to hold back from You?"

No doubt He will be quick to show us. Will
we be quick to answer Him? And quicker to
surrender? Our lives can be half-lived,
half-hearted, half-surrendered. They can be
the seed eaten by the birds of selfish
ambition, or tender plants choked by weeds
of jealousy and strife, or our unanswered
calling fallen on the rocks of a
hardened and unforgiving heart.

On the other hand we can have a life overtaken
and lived by the Spirit of Christ within: a
life of peace and sweet fellowship with our
Lord and Maker. This Life we can have if we
but let ours go. If this seems difficult,
weary soul, think of this: once you surrender,
God becomes responsible for you! You no longer
have to carry the heavy burden of decision and
provision. You will become Christ's just as
Christ is God's! Do you think He would abandon
you? Never!

Throw yourself into the ground of total
surrender! A new life that you cannot
imagine awaits you.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Sunset over White Sands

"Our labor here is brief, but the reward is eternal.
Do not be disturbed by the clamor of the world
passes like a shadow. Do not let the false
of a deceptive world deceive you."
-- Clare of Assisi -

The Innkeeper by John Piper

The Innkeeper

By John Piper
December 14, 1986

Jake's wife would have been fifty-eight
The day that Jesus passed the gate
Of Bethlehem, and slowly walked
Toward Jacob's Inn. The people talked
With friends, and children played along
The paths, and Jesus hummed a song,
And smiled at every child he saw.

He paused with one small lass to draw
A camel in the dirt, then said,
"What's this?" The girl bent down her head
To study what the Lord had made,
Then smiled, "A camel, sir!" and laid
Her finger on the bulging back,
"It's got a hump." "Indeed it does,
And who do you believe it was
Who made this camel with his hump?"
Without a thought that this would stump
The rabbi guild and be reviled,
She said, "God did." And Jesus smiled,
"Good eyes, my child. And would that all
Jerusalem within that wall
Of yonder stone could see the signs
Of peace!" He left the lass with lines
Of simple wonder in her face,
And slowly went to find the place
Where he was born.

Folks said the inn
Had never been a place for sin,
For Jacob was a holy man.
And he and Rachel had a plan
To marry, have a child or two,
And serve the folk who traveled through,
Especially the poor who brought
Their meal and turtle-doves, and sought
A place to stay near Zion's gate.
They'd rise up early, stay up late,
To help the pilgrims go and come,
And when the place was full, to some
Especially the poorest, they would say,
"We're sorry there's no room, but stay
Now if you like out back. There's lots
Of hay and we have extra cots
That you can use. There'll be no charge.
The stable isn't very large
But Noah keeps it safe." He was
A wedding gift to Jake because
The shepherds knew he loved the dog.
"There's nothing in the decalogue,"
He used to joke, "that says a man
Can't love a dog!"

The children ran
Ahead of Jesus as he strode
Toward Jacob's Inn. The stony road
That led up to the inn was deep
With centuries of wear, and steep
At one point just before the door.
The Lord knocked once then twice before
He heard an old man's voice, "‘Round back!"
It called. So Jesus took the track
That led around the inn. The old
Man leaned back in his chair and told
The dog to never mind. "Ain't had
No one to tend the door, my lad,
For thirty years. I'm sorry for
The inconvenience to your sore
Feet. The road to Jerusalem
Is hard ain't it? Don't mind old Shem.
He's harmless like his dad. Won't bite
A Roman soldier in the night.
Sit down." And Jacob waved the stump
Of his right arm. "We're in a slump
Right now. Got lots of time to think
And talk. Come, sit and have a drink.
From Jacob's well!" he laughed. "You own
The inn?" The Lord inquired. "On loan,
You'd better say. God owns the inn."
At that the Lord knew they were kin,
And ventured on: "Do you recall
The tax when Caesar said to all
The world that each must be enrolled?"
Old Jacob winced, "Are north winds cold?
Are deserts dry? Do fishes swim
And ravens fly? I do. A grim
And awful year it was for me.
Why do you ask?" "I have a debt
To pay, and I must see how much.
Why do you say that it was such
A grim and awful year?" He raised
The stump of his right arm, "So dazed,
Young man, I didn't know I'd lost
My arm. Do you know what it cost
For me to house the Son of God?"
The old man took his cedar rod
And swept it ‘round the place: "Empty.
For thirty years alone, you see?
Old Jacob, poor old Jacob runs
It with one arm, a dog and no sons.
But I had sons . . . once. Joseph was
My firstborn. He was small because
His mother was so sick. When he
Turned three the Lord was good to me
And Rachel, and our baby Ben
Was born, the very fortnight when
The blessed family arrived.
And Rachel's gracious heart contrived
A way for them to stay—there in
That very stall. The man was thin
And tired. You look a lot like him."
But Jesus said, "Why was it grim?"

"We got a reputation here
That night. Nothing at all to fear
In that we thought. It was of God.
But in one year the slaughter squad
From Herod came. And where do you
Suppose they started? Not a clue!
We didn't have a clue what they
Had come to do. No time to pray,
No time to run, no time to get
Poor Joseph off the street and let
Him say good-bye to Ben or me
Or Rachel. Only time to see
A lifted spear smash through his spine
And chest. He stumbled to the sign
That welcomed strangers to the place,
And looked with panic at my face,
As if to ask what he had done.
Young man, you ever lost a son?"

The tears streamed down the Savior's cheek,
He shook his head, but couldn't speak.

"Before I found the breath to scream
I heard the words, a horrid dream:
‘Kill every child who's two or less.
Spare not for aught, nor make excess.
Let this one be the oldest here
And if you count your own life dear,
Let none escape.' I had no sword
No weapon in my house, but Lord,
I had my hands, and I would save
The son of my right hand . . . So brave,
O Rachel was so brave! Her hands
Were like a thousand iron bands
Around the boy. She wouldn't let
Him go and so her own back met
With every thrust and blow. I lost
My arm, my wife, my sons—the cost
For housing the Messiah here.
Why would he simply disappear
And never come to help?"

They sat
In silence. Jacob wondered at
The stranger's tears.

"I am the boy
That Herod wanted to destroy.
You gave my parents room to give
Me life, and then God let me live,
And took your wife. Ask me not why
The one should live, another die.
God's ways are high, and you will know
In time. But I have come to show
You what the Lord prepared the night
You made a place for heaven's light.
In two weeks they will crucify
My flesh. But mark this, Jacob, I
Will rise in three days from the dead,
And place my foot upon the head
Of him who has the power of death,
And I will raise with life and breath
Your wife and Ben and Joseph too
And give them, Jacob, back to you
With everything the world can store,
And you will reign for evermore."

This is the gift of candle three:

A Christ with tears in tragedy
And life for all eternity.

© Desiring God

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

FInding Jesus Outside the Camp

Let us, then, go to Him, outside the camp,
bearing the disgrace He bore. For here
we do not have an enduring city but we
are looking for the city that is to come.
(Hebrews 13: 13 & 14.)

It's nearing Christmas and I am feeling so drawn
to go out and stay with Jesus outside the camp.
I have no question that is where He is and
that is where I will find Him. No doubt at all.

God, I am so sorry that as the celebration of
Jesus' birth approaches, that we have not
chosen to acknowledge Your Son completely
as Lord, with every knee bowing gladly
to His indescribable Glory.

So until that glorious day dawns, I think I
will pull up my stakes and go stay with Him
outside the camp. What camp is that you
ask? The Camp of Worldly Comfort, the
Camp of Compromise, the Camp of
Complacency and Self-Will. He is not at
all wanted in those camps, and in many
similar ones, I leave the naming of them
to you. Sadly, He is not really wanted
by many who call themselves Christians.
He is not really wanted by much of what
is called the church. But I want Him, and
I hope you do, too.

If I have to try to convince you of why you
should want Him I am afraid that you have
not seen Him. For you would not have let
Him go. Solomon wrote of such a
soul-annihilating mistake, The Lover had
called out to His Beloved, but she was not
willing to get out of bed to follow Him.

She had gotten warm, and comfortable and
was reluctant to put her shoes on and go out
to follow Him. (Song of Solomon 5: 2-8).

For He will be found among the humble
and contrite, not among those whom the
world calls wise or strong or good. He is
out looking for the lost sheep, the prodigal
son, the wayward lamb. Will you go looking
with Him? Surely we might get cold and dirty
ourselves in the process, but shall He not
warm us? Surely we might find ourselves
pressed out of measure, but is that not how
we might become drink poured out for Him?
Will we bear rejection and disgrace? And He
did not?

What drives us outside the camp is our
passion to be with Him wherever He goes. For
what is a city without Him, and what is a home
without His Presence, and wealth without Him
as as our treasure? We do not have a city in this
world, we are looking for a city where He alone
is the Center, where all who have given Him
everything long to be and are, at last, gathered
together. Here is our home and our camp.
Here is our God!

As these dark days grow darker, and the love
of many grows cold, I trust you will hear
His Voice calling out to you: calling you to
leave all, calling you out of your beds of
sleep and comfort, calling you unto Himself.
He will be calling to you from outside the
camp. Do not hesitate to follow Him there.
Where He dwells is Life itself, and fullness
of joy. But first you must forsake all and
go to Him.

The Victory of Light

And the light shined in the darkness, and the
darkness did not conquer it. --John 1:5

Friday, December 15, 2006

A Matinee with the Trinity

I keep coming back to this most comforting
vision I had recently. Let's face it, we can all
use a bit of comfort. As I was praying I saw
myself as a child, at that perfect age of
open-hearted innocence and wonder, just at
the age where a realization of how big the
world might be starts to dawn. I have an
actual picture of myself at that age: long
blond hair, large wondering eyes, and that
kind of "I think I'll just sit back and ponder
the wonder of it all" look that has never
really gone away.

In this vision I was at the movies. It was
great. On one side was Jesus, and on the
other side, was One who I understood to
be God the Father. The Holy Spirit, with a
great sense of humor, was getting tons of
refreshments for all of us. I looked back and
saw that He could not carry all the stuff He
had for us to eat and as I was looking He
was trying to get me to laugh. Please realize
that my descriptions are not meant to be
theological but reflectively experiential.
Hold the mail, please!

I am an immensely happy camper sitting
between the two. The scene kind of going
back and forth between me watching it and
me feeling what it was like to sit between
God and Jesus. I remember feeling how
relaxed They were, and how safe and loved
and included I felt. There we were, the
Trinity and I, just little ol' me, watching a
movie together like They had nothing else
to attend to in the whole universe.

But They did have other things to attend to.
I remember not being interested in watching
what was on the screen, it was the old black
and white news reels, British Pathe, I think,
full of wars and rumors of wars. A few times
Jesus looked over at God, but sitting there all
I felt was Their love.

Watching from a distance I could see that there
was trouble in the world that They were
watching and tending to, even as They sat there
with me. I remember Jesus looking down at me,
smiling, yet with a depth in His eyes that saw
me when I was all grown up, and I all that I
would be. All that He would make of me. He
tenderly took my hand, and that is where
I wanted to stay: nestled between the Him
and the Father. Tended to by the Spirit.

I am looking with my "older" eyes now. And see
that it is from these moments of near silent
encounters with Himself that God puts both
His love and His Father's business in our hearts.
I hope I could say if I had seen the adult "me"
sitting between them that nothing would be
different except a greater fellowship with
Them in what They were watching.

I would want to share in Their compassion
and intercede for Their intentions to be done
in the earth, as it is certainly being done
in heaven. And what else is heaven but sitting
between God and Jesus, feeling the love that
flows between them?-- me, and you, caught
in the crosscurrent of that love, happily just
being there.

Dear ones, may the love of God overwhelm
our hearts today. Sit before Him and let Him
love you. Perhaps take in a matinee with
the Trinity. There is no-one like Him.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Pain at Christmas, Pain in the Christmas Story

In the Christmas story, Mary's obedience to God
brought her pain: the pain of false accusation,
the pain of the humiliation of having her baby
born in a barn by the side of the road, and
the pain of childbirth, itself. Yet, out of
Mary's pain, Jesus was born into the world.

Pain, it seems, can often be the very kind of
contraction that makes new life burst forth.
Pain means something is being stretched out
of place, set out of its accustomed order,
made aware of its lack. Sometimes we need
that so we can see what God really wants from
us and where He really wants to bring us.

Pain points out the problem, focuses our
attention, so God can birth new life into
our death.

Jesus obeyed God and it brought Him pain. This,
too, is part of the Christmas story. The journey
from, shall we say, God's bosom, to the bosom of
Mary, may have been the easiest part of the journey
earthward for Jesus but nonetheless costly.
For Him, it would be a long, long journey of
obedience. Soon after His birth, and
throughout His life, He would be a hunted and oft
times rejected man. A "man of sorrows" and
"acquainted with grief."

His pain was not for His own wrongdoing, but for ours.
For us he endured the pain, suffered the humiliation,
willingly submitted to the Father's plan, so that we
might be ransomed. Out of Jesus' pain, humiliation,
and false accusation, the eternal Church of the Living
God was born.

Our obedience in the face of pain, even pain of our
own making, can bring new life. We should not waste
our pain. This Christmas, let us be found to be obedient
to God amidst, and maybe even because, of our pain.

God does not allow pain as a plan to "get back at us"
for being poor, miserable excuses of humanity. He
allows pain, allowed it in the life of Jesus, to get us
back to Himself. He can use pain to birth something
of His life in our broken lives. All we have to do is let

So this Christmas you may find yourself in deep pain
for any number of reasons. It does not matter why it is
there or where it comes from, so much as what you
allow God to do with it. Offer your pain to God, and ask
Him what life is meant to be born from it. If you cannot
even imagine such a thing: that God would be willing,
and able, to use your pain to bring forth new life, then
your God is too small.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Handling Jesus Tenderly

It's Advent and I have been thinking about
the vulnerability of the Christmas story. One
phrase, "and they laid Him in a manger"
(Luke 2:7), keeps reverberating. They laid
Him--King of King and Lord of Lords--picked
Him up and laid Him down. Laid Him where
they decided, laid Him in the only place open to
Him, laid Him, as vulnerable as a puppy, in the
place for the animals. I just cannot imagine this.
They, his mom and dad, must have looked at
Him, taken a good long look, and wondered,
"God in heaven, Who is this?"

Yes, God in heaven. Now God on earth. So small,
so fragile, so handled by men. Thank God for the
loving hands that first handled Him. Mary and
Joseph. God chose so wisely. They would be kind
no matter who He was. They would love Him no
matter what. God knows they did not see what
"no matter what" would mean. Oh Mary, how
favored you were of God! How much He trusted you.

Christ came into the world that night in
Bethlehem. He was destined to be handled by many
hands. Few, if any, would ever handle Him so
tenderly as those first hands did. Handled He would
be, touched in so many different ways: in friendship,
in love, for healing, for salvation, for hope, for
strength, for life. Handled also in anger and fury and
in error, in betrayal, in hatred, in jealousy, in
confusion and zealousness.

Until the day came when He chose to lay Himself
down. And make no mistake about it, He layed
Himself down, there was no doing that to Him or
forcing Him into it (John 10:17,18). Then came death.
And He was handled, for one last time, by hands both
hateful and loving.

Mary, the Magdalene, of course is the first to go out
looking for Him after that awful and wonderful day.
"Where have they laid Him?" she asks of Jesus, Himself,
thinking in her tear-blurred, grief-stricken mind that
He was the gardener (John 20:15). She could not bear
to think of how He was handled or that anything worse
should become of Him. Even after death, she went
looking for Him. Perhaps she would handle Him one
last time. So that, if by some chance, He was looking
down from Paradise, that He could rest comforted in
the fact that the last hands that handled him loved
Him as much as the first.

Jesus gave her that one last chance.
Not recognizing Him, He calls her name, so tenderly
we cannot even imagine, and she sees Him, the One
she has loved, standing before her. You can tell from
what Jesus says that it only takes Mary a split-second
to wrap her arms around Him so tightly that He quickly
sees she will not let Him go (John 20:17).
One can't blame her for that. The One does not blame
her either, but compliments her with this: "I am
ascending to My God and your God."
Here is the heart's reward for handling Him
so tenderly.

John thinks about this, as an old man, probably his
keenest memories, "that which was from the beginning,
which we have heard,which we have seen with our
eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have
handled, the Word of Life (I John 1:1). I cannot
imagine what John must have felt like when he
wrote that. I know he was still awestruck and amazed.
I am and I wasn't even there.

So it is the time of Christmas, of our celebrating a God
who entered into the world and was not afraid to be
touched. A God, unlike any other kind of God, in any
other place or time or faith, that came to walk among us.
A God who let us handle Him, poor treatment and all,
so that we might see what the Glory of God really
looks like.

So I ask you, as I ask me, this Christmas, "How will
you handle Him, and how will He be laid in the manger
of your heart?" He is now the Lord of Glory and if we
saw Him, as John did in the Revelation, we, as he,
would fall in fear (Rev 1:11-18). The Sight would be
too great. But God is not about making Himself too
distant to be known and allows Himself to be homed in
the hearts of humble men and women. We will not really
ever understand so much with our minds. We will have
to know it in the mystery of our hearts. How we will
be handled, and how it will end for us, is determined by
how we will handle Him.

For a day comes, and now is, when He will
handle us, and we will be the vulnerable
ones. Perhaps that is why He said, "Do unto others
as you would have them do unto you" (Matthew 7:12).
The Christmas story should comfort and soften and
challenge our hearts. If you have ever thought
that God reigns distantly and coldly in heaven, think
again. He reigns, no doubt about that, this story
is about why we adore His reign in us.

It is the story that determines our destinies. Prepare
a soft place for Him. However humble the dwelling,
He will come if invited. Handle Him tenderly.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Dog Hero Rescues Elderly Owners From Snowstorm

I loved this story, and had to post it!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

By Liza Porteus

NEW YORK — When Eve and Norman Fertig
rescued a sick, two-week-old half wolf,
half German shepherd puppy from a breeder
almost seven years ago, they'd never
dreamed that the animal one day would
save their lives.

"God is watching; he's watching all
the time," Eve Fertig told FOXNews from
her home at the Enchanted Forest Wildlife
Sanctuary in Alden, N.Y.

He apparently was watching on Oct. 12,
when the 81-year-old Fertigs were treating
injured animals in the forest sanctuary on
their property. One such animal is a
near-18-year-old raven, while another is a
crow who was shot, blind in one eye with
two broken legs.

It was routine for the couple to feed and
exercise the dozen or so animals there
around 7 p.m. every night.

"While we're in there, the lights go out
and I realized something's wrong," Eve
Fertig said. "We go outside to see what's
happening and down comes one massive tree
… the trees came down across us."

The massive storm that hit upstate New York
that night felled trees, blocking the
Fertig's path to the other sanctuary
buildings — such as the school and
storage building — and to their home,
which was at least 200 feet away.

"We were in big trouble. … I said to my
husband, 'I think we could die out here,'"
Eve said.

The Fertigs huddled in a narrow alley
between the hospital building and the
aviary, where they were sheltered from
falling trees. They couldn't climb over
the trees without injuring themselves.
Neither had warm clothes on since it was
clear, crisp fall day just a few hours ago.
They hugged each other for warmth, since by
9:30 p.m., temperatures had dropped.

"I wasn't prepared for this … I thought,
'we're trapped, we're absolutely trapped,'"
Eve said. "That's when Shana began to dig
beneath the fallen trees."

The 160-pound dog that habitually follows
her owners around — Eve likens it to "Mary
had a little lamb," when the lamb went
everywhere Mary went — eventually found
the Fertigs and began digging a path in
the snow with her teeth and claws underneath
the fallen trees, similar to a mineshaft,
and barking as if to tell them to follow.

A reluctant Norm said, "I had enough in
Okinawa in a foxhole," referring to his
service in World War II.

"'Norman, if you do not follow me, I will
get a divorce,'" Eve said to her husband
of 62 years. "That did it. He said, 'a divorce?
That would scandal our family.' I said,
'all of our family is dead, Norman!'"

After Shana tunneled all the way to the
house — a process that took until about
11:30 p.m. — she came back, grabbed the
sleeve of Eve's jacket, and threw the
86-pound woman over her back and neck,
which Eve described as "as wide as our
kitchen shelf."

Norman grabbed Eve's legs, and the dog
pulled them through the tunnel, under
the trees and through an opening in a
fence to the house, at which they arrived
around 2 a.m.

"It was the most heroic thing I've ever
seen in my life," Eve said. "We opened the
door and we just fell in and she laid on top
of us and just stayed there and kept us alive
… that's where we laid until the fireman
found us."

There was no electricity and no heat in
the house, so Shana acted as a living,
breathing generator for the exhausted
Fertigs until the local fire department
arrived the next morning.

Concerned neighbors — many of whom had
children Eve taught — who couldn't get
hold of the elderly couple via telephone
throughout the night had called the Town
Line Fire Department.

But when the fire department urged the
Fertigs to go to the firehouse to take
shelter along with 100 others, they told
them they would have to leave Shana behind.

"We said, 'we don't go anywhere without
her.' ... I said, 'we'll stay until the
people are gone and we'll take Shana,'"
Eve said.

So the couple stayed at home with Shana
until Sunday, when the firehouse emptied
out. During the three days in a house with
no power, heat or hot water, Shana slept
with her owners to keep them warm.

"She kept us alive. She really did,"
Eve said.

Also during that time, firefighters not
nly helped clear trees from their grounds,
but they brought food and water for both
humans and animal.

"They kept looking at that tunnel and
said, 'we've never seen anything like it,'"
she said. "I can't thank them enough —
they're heroes."

When they went to the firehouse Sunday,
Shana followed the Fertigs everywhere, even
to the bathroom. And she was 'spoiled rotten'
by the fire crews there, Eve said.

She said the fire chiefs said her story of
being saved by her pet rejuvenated exhausted
fire teams. "The story, they said, just gave
them new hope."

Last Thursday, Shana received the Citizens
for Humane Animal Treatment's Hero's Award for
bravery — an award traditionally given to humans.
The plaque, complete with Shana's picture on it,
hangs in the Fertigs' living room, along with
other pictures of wolves the couple has worked

Eve, who teaches courses in Saving Endangered
Species and Caring for Injured and Orphaned
Wildlife at community colleges and trains animal
rehabilitators in New York, said she hopes her
story will help further her message of humanity
toward animals and educate people about how even
a wolf, if treated with care and dignity, can be
a "kisser and a hugger" like Shana.

"If you're vicious to a human being, they'll
become fighters," Eve said, but even wolves,
"once you treat them right and raise them in
your house, they're magnificent. "

Eve has taught 400 adults to be wildlife
rehabilitators. She and her husband are
volunteers who pay for their own teaching
licenses and caring for the sanctuary animals,
out of their Social Security checks every year.

"I've never been on a cruise and I don't shop
and I haven't seen a movie in two years,"
Eve said.

The only time the Fertigs go to the movies is,
of course, when they are submitting to a
higher calling.

"What I do to get signatures for my petitions,
I go to [a] movie that's showing a wolf, horse
or whale story," and she and her husband camp
out outside the theater and get petitions
signed to help save various animals, which
they send along to wildlife organizations.

"I have a motto ... joint abilities don't
create hostilities, " Eve said. "I make it
my business to talk to all groups, all
conservationists, all hunting clubs, to
let them know what they're missing out there."

Editor's Note: The Fertigs rely on food
donations to help feed the injured animals
they try to rehabilitate at their Enchanted
Forest Wildlife Sanctuary in Alden, N.Y.
They told FOXNews.com that the Oct. 12 storm
completely wiped out their supply of food.
The Fertigs would welcome any donations.
Please contact them at 716-681-5918 if you
would like to donate or volunteer.

(this story reported by Fox News)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Tipping Point

For months now, all the warning lights have
been lit up on my inner dashboard. Not in the
sense that something was personally ready to
crash and burn within me, but in the Christian
church at large. Something has seemed "rotten
in the state of Denmark." Although it is not
Denmark that appears to be the problem, there
seems to be an interesting corollary in
Shakespeare's Hamlet. In the story, the ghost
of Hamlet's father comes back and appears to
him to try and warn him of the evil lurking
in the person of the new King.

I am thinking that the Holy Ghost sent by our
Heavenly Father has been zealous to warn the
hearts of many. I realize that the world has
always been crazy, and the Christian church
has always had issues, and even factoring in
that I am somewhat re-entering the public
arena after a long semi-eremetic season,
does not account for the sense of
foreboding that I feel.

If I am called as a sentry, then I am
sounding the bell. Biblically sound,
Spirit-led Christianity, that properly honors
the holiness of God and the atoning work of
Christ seems to be at the top of the endangered
list. The assault is coming from so many angles
and in such over-the-top ways that I keep
thinking I must be dreaming. While it is not my
calling to point fingers and list sordid details,
I will briefly review some of the issues of concern
that are causing a boiling pot of controversy on
the landscape of American Christianity. I realize
some who read this may not be aware of them, and
for this rude cold basin of water in your face,
I apologize.

Only a few weeks back the controversy with Ted
Haggard surfaced and while we can hope it is a
somewhat isolated experience we have to know in
our hearts that it is not. Things just don't get
to where they get to by accident. Our way of
isolating leaders while at the same time putting
them on pedestals in a society that makes it
increasingly easy to have a public persona far
different from your private life will be sure to
reap devastation. There is meant to be
accountability in the church, I am meant to watch
over you, and you are meant to watch over me.

I used to work for a major Christian ministry
who put young Christians in the public eye because
they were well-known for some secular gifting.
I would always cringe when I would see these young
Christians expected to know God and minister Him
simply because they were good at something
completely unrelated in life, like singing or
acting or politicking. A recipe for disaster.

I can guarantee we have not seen the end of
high-ranking Christians falling off their
pedestals. We set them up for it. We cannot
safely assume that just because folks finds
themselves in a leadership position that they
are prepared or even called to lead. Even
if are called, they should not lead outside the
protective umbrella of a faith community which
functions in a scripurally-prescribed manner.

Then there is the whole Rick Warren
controversy that threatens to set off, if it
has not already ignited, fireworks of global
proportions in the growing war over what makes
us Christians and how we interface with people
of other religious and political persuasions.
It is painfully hard not to believe that
his notoriety will not lead to the downfall
of his eternal soul. It's not the
hula ministry, its the, dare I say it,
dangerous if not unholy alliances, he is
crafting, and the social gospel kingdom
he is building. If the real gospel is in
there somewhere, I am sorry to say I have
missed it. You can be sure that Stephen
would not have preached a Warren-style
speech to the Sanhedrin, and that John the
Baptist would not have forgotten to warn
those in need of repentance.

Consider too
George Whitfield,
in an eerily similar situation,
addressing his free-thinking
friend, Benjamin Franklin, "as you
have made a pretty considerable
progress in the mysteries
of electricity, I would now humbly
recommend to your diligent unprejudiced
pursuit and study the mystery of the
new-birth. . . . One at whose bar we
are shortly to appear, hath solemnly
declared, that without it, 'we cannot
enter the kingdom of heaven.' You will
excuse this freedom. I must have "aliquid Christi"

[something of Christ] in all my letters."
Mmm. Something of Christ in everything.
Oh, if only it were so.

As a younger Christian I could never see how
the Antichrist could get large groups of
Christians to follow him. I totally get it now.
But you know, that whole Antichrist idea is just
one of the many silly notions of "bible-bashers."
What is amazing to me is that I might now be
called one of these bible-bashers by people I
had fellowship with just a few short years ago.
Make no mistake about it, an ugly line is being

On another front the very tenets of the gospel
are being reworked by substantial factions such
as the Emergent Church. Yes, lets take a burgeoning
movement, full of young people eager to serve and
find meaning in the gospel, and yes, let's
encourage them to do it, but let's
rework the idea of why Jesus died.
They will never know or mind the difference. It's
all post-modernly relative anyway, isn't it?

Well, isn't it? Dear ones, please go to the Lord
and ask Him to lead you to the Truth. Let God take
a look at your heart. A very wise man, a man who
had leaned on Jesus breast and felt the beating of
His heart, a man who had touched the very Life of
God said, "Beloved, believe not every
spirit,but try the spirits whether they are
of God: because many false prophets are
gone out into the world. Hereby know you
the Spirit of God: every spirit that
confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the
flesh is of God: but every spirit that does not
acknowledge Jesus is not from God and this
is that spirit of antichrist, whereof you
have heard that it should come; and even now
already is in the world,
" (I John 4:1-3.)

These matters will not be won by mental debates and
doctrinal tribunals. These matters are deep matters
of the heart and will be rightly divided by God alone.

Our enemy is not of flesh and blood, but the
evil one who sows deception and lies. Let us buy from
Jesus salve for our eyes that we might see, so that
in that Day we will stand, not with the goats, but
with the Lamb of God. He shepherds His little lambs
in peace and truth, and lets them lie down in
safety. Who would want to stray from Him?

We have probably tipped past a point of no-return.
The journey shall be arduous from here on in.
The house is burning. Sound the alarm.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Waiting for God

A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes
...and is completely dependent on the fact
that the door of freedom has to be opened
from the outside, is not a bad picture of
Advent. -- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in letter, 1943

This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man
boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of
his strength or the rich man boast of his riches,
but let him who boasts boast about this: that he
understands and knows me, that I am the LORD,
who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness
on earth, for in these I delight," declares the
LORD. --Jeremiah 9:23,24

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Holiness of God

"The holiness of God makes the angels cover their faces, and crumbles Christians,when they behold it, into dust and ashes." --John Bunyan

It's Never Too Late To Change

(Corky at the airport)

Yesterday, Corky started his new life in Oregon.
He's as old as the hills and has been one of the
crabbiest dogs I have ever known. He is also
amazing. I first met Corky about 8 or so years
ago. He was dropped off at a kennel where some
friends and I who did "dog rescue" would keep
our rescue dogs while we found homes for them.
Corky had been dropped off by his owners and
"not retrieved." One can guess was the reason
was that he was too crabby. Only a guess.

He was not what you would call an "adoptable"
dog. None of the local rescues seemed to want
him. Not that I actually ever saw him bite
anyone. It was just the growling of that
little gremlin-like face that put you off.

So Corky was kind of "adopted" by the old man
who ran the kennel. The old man was nearly
blind and quite a character. Corky did not
get along with the man's other dog, so he
was gated in the kitchen. I used to visit
ever day to make sure the other dog got his
eye med's and Corky would always be there,
being Corky, which usually meant being
crabby. Once someone came all the way from
New Jersey, I think,to adopt Corky and
Corky just growled at them and went to
stand by Walter. He did not get adopted.
Corky is what you would call a "curmudgeon."

Well, Walter, the kennel owner, died this
year. We tried to find out what happened
to his dogs. Months later we found them
in a truly horrible condition. Corky was
just a matted, stinking mess. But what
could we do? He ended up coming to stay
with us for the last two months. Growling
and snarling all the way. But family is
family. We got him cleaned up and cared
for and he started to show signs of a
different kind of Corky, a mellower side
which actually might want you to come near.
I watched in amazement as he let my elderly
mom pick him up. He would follow her all
over the yard.

The day before yesterday we drove him to
meet some kind folks who had volunteered
to take him the rest of the way to meet
his new "mother." He crawled out of the
crate and slept on my friend's lap the
whole way. Hmmm. This was something new.

When we reached the place we had agreed
to meet these folks the man jumped out
of his car and so quickly came to look
at Corky that I had no time to say "But
wait, be careful, he may biteeeeeeeeee!"
but by then the man had already scooped
Corky up and cradled him in his arms.
Corky LET HIM. He leaned back against
the man's chest. No growling, no
snarling. Nothing. He wagged his tail.
HE WAGGED HIS TAIL! He looked alert and
happy. He looked at me directly, for
the first time. "Goodbye" I said.
"Goodbye!" I think he understood.

Yesterday these kind folks delivered him
to the airport where he was introduced
to his new mom and had a long, long flight,
in the cabin, to Oregon. We waited with
bated breath for the news of how it had
gone. His new mom called him "a trooper",
who basically slept the whole way. Today
he is settling into his new home, with a
kind, big-hearted woman and her other
canine companions.

I've learned two things from this: One,
its never too late to change, even if
you have been crabby your whole life.
Two, that God, in His infinite mercy,
loves even the smallest and most cast
aside of things, and using human hands,
can make a way for them.

Corky has dodged a lot of bullets in his
life. The last few he dodged were the
most amazing. The amount of things that
had to fall into place for this little
scrap of a dog to experience a real home
and warmth in his latter years is simply

It is never to late. We are never beyond
hope. God can still reach us. And yes,
we can change. Love does it every time.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Decisive Moment

The process by which God molds us into
His image is truly an amazing one.
This morning I think I was having a
pre-Christmas vision, Dickens style,
a sort of reflection on my life and who
I am, and the nuances of the many things
I could have become and who I might yet
become. I'm not talking occupational
things. I'm talking about how God uses
the process of life to bring us to the
destiny of our identity in Him.

I am quite sure that God had a plan, a
finished idea of what He created each
of us to be when we were just "twinkles"
in God's eyes. That God! He has such
a confidence in His ability to bring to
perfection those He has chosen. In the
human realm any artist, any creator of
any sort, knows that variables are part
of the process of creation. A hundred
different things can go any which way
when we get down to the process of
painting or photography or throwing
pottery, or glass-blowing.

I love the French photographer, Henri
. He is known for his
"decisive moment" kind of photography:
the ability to press the shutter at the
precise climactic moment of life's
most awesome moments. You need a kind
of intuition born of long hours of
watching to get that kind of sight.
You need to know about ebb and flow,
about shadow and sun, about longing
and fulfillment. About waiting. And
grace. Sheesh. I'm getting a rush just
thinking about it.

God wants to sculpt my life and yours
into something beautiful that both looks
like Christ and is our own unique
reflection of Him. He has so many
decisive moments both on His end and
on ours. He sets up all the
circumstances of our lives, uses each
high and low, ordains some things,
allows others, all for our benefit.
He knows that, like any great Artist,
that one mistimed move can wreck the
whole work.

So this morning I suddenly saw myself,
the thousand different selves, the
different "me's" that would have
developed BUT for the grace of God. And
even the good but not perfect "me's" that
are still tempting me to accept them.
I basically tell you this from my knees

My very first recollection of
why I came to God was as a very young
teenager catching this same sort of
vision of myself: the kind of person
that I would become if God did not
intervene. That sight horrified me
and drove me to my conversion even
before I intellectually, or even
dictionarily, knew what conversion
was. How, you may ask,can a young
person of 13, have a sense of their
own destroyed destiny? I think we
know far more than we care to admit,
and far earlier then we imagine,
if we dare to be honest.

But the process of conversion, is just
that, a process. Yes, yes, I know, we
are "saved" at a specific moment in time,
but the process of being renewed, being
made into the image of His dear Son,
is a lifelong one. In some eternal moment
of now I can see my life as a motion
picture, with all the decisive moments,
the choosings of the "road less traveled,"
the near fatal steps, the near misses,
the clouds, the deaths, the deserts,
the mountains, the still, small Voice
of God, the grace-laden interventions.
My heart is beating pretty fast now.
All, all, all is the grace of God.

In this moment I can see all the
ugly things I could have easily become:
destroyed by bitterness, pride, pessimism,
self-seeking, ambition. Shall I continue
to name my own personal bullets? But God
is trying and I trust, only because of
who He is, succeeding, in turning me into
something that will delight Him and bring
Him glory. Rabbi Aaron Kaidanover
once said, "if you knew how
many demons thirst for your blood
you would abandon yourself
entirely...to the Almighty."

Life, in one sense, is Precariousness
on Wheels. There is no way that I can make
it through it in my own power, using my
own wisdom, fighting with my own strength.
In another sense, life is God's Grace on
Wheels, always speeding to my ever present
need of aid.

Played out in this is the idea that some
make it and some do not. Jesus did not hint
that it is or ever will be otherwise. Has God
predestined some? I need not go there.

Where I will go is to the idea that there
are many, many, many, many, many decisive
moments in our lives. If we knew the
importance of them, (and how can we know but
in retrospect, looking back from "ages and ages
hence"?), we would indeed throw ourselves
on the mercy of God, and tell Him to take,
without reserve, every bit of us.

We live in troubled times. We always have,
and until He comes, we always will. Yet
these times seem a bit more troubled,
or perhaps I have just put on my glasses.
This moment, like all others, is a
decisive one. Will you let it tick by,
unnoticed, and ignored? Or will you turn
your heart to God and allow Him to do all
that He needs to do in you? The choice is
yours. Your destiny is being determined.
What are you deciding? Let His grace
intervene. Here is your decisive moment.

Friday, November 24, 2006

In God's Treehouse

When I grow tired of living,
When I am hurt from loving,
Lord Jesus, I will climb up the stairs
and sit with You, sit at Your feet,
where the air is cool and where
I can feel the strength and stability
of Your royal leg as I lean
my back up against it.
Your strength will penetrate and uphold,
cracking away the defense,
melting the offence.
Then, when I have been replenished,
You will invite me to your Divine
Tree House, where we will play
like kids on a summer's afternoon
and laugh until our bellies hurt.
I'm feeling better already.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Yellow, mellow, ripened days, Sheltered in a golden
coating; O'er the dreamy, listless haze, White and
dainty cloudlets floating; Winking at the blushing
trees, And the sombre, furrowed fallow; Smiling at the
airy ease, Of the southward flying swallow Sweet and
smiling are thy ways, Beauteous, golden Autumn days.

--Will Carleton

We have had the most glorious fall in New England, each
sparkling day has nearly overcome me with thankfulness
and wonder to God for His handiwork.


And let these altars, wreathed with flowers and piled with fruits, awake again thanksgivings for the golden hours, the early and the latter rain!
--John Greenleaf Whittier

It is raining here in Massachusetts on this Thanksgiving Day. Amidst the rain there is much to be thankful for--even for the promise of the "latter rain." Rain on our thirsty hearts, O God!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Opposing Spiritual Codependency

The other night I had a dream that I have been
pondering. I dreamt that I saw a man and a
woman and I was filled with foreboding about
them. I knew that they were up to no good. I
felt I must follow them and keep an eye on
what they were doing. I had sat down on a step
to think about what to do and as soon as I had
decided to keep an eye on them a rather rotund
young lady came and sat squarely on my lap,
sort of pinning me down.

I saw the lady and the man turn to me. The
lady said, "I am a white witch and I use
my magic for good, there is nothing to
worry about. She pointed to the man,
and said, "He is an atheist, and doesn't even
believe in God, he is harmless. " I looked at
the man and knew that he was not just an
"innocent" non-believer but could tell that
he was, in fact, demon-possessed, and that
and had a sinister plan.

They headed off across the street toward a
very high grove of mushrooms. I was thinking
about how to get this young lady who was
pinning me down to stand up so I could keep
these people from fulfilling their bad
intentions. I had to make a concerted effort
to push her off my lap.

Here is what I felt the dream means. The
lady who was sitting on me was someone
that I used to babysit for when she
was a baby.That was an appropriate
time for her to be sitting on my lap
and to be receiving "babysitting"
kind of care. Now she had grown into
a woman but still expected to be
cared for and treated like a child.

How many of these relationships do we
have in our lives? How many babies are
sitting on us, keeping us from a
necessary spiritual watchfulness and
engagement? What unbalanced relationships
have we continued to foster,
relationships that started out healthy
but have turned into entrapping ones?
People can often get used to our help
but unless we as spiritual mothers and
fathers are helping people develop
a strong relationship with God that
is not primarily dependent on man,
then we are failing them.

In the meantime evil, often somewhat
disguised as something good or innocent,
can creep in. Mushrooms are symbols of
decay. They grown in darkness and are
parasitic in nature. Our attention can
be taken up with those who are refusing
to grow and mature while our real job
as spiritual sentries is

There is a season for "everything under
heaven." Let us look to the Lord and
ask Him to show us things, including
relationships and people, that we are
meant to let go of lest they become an
entrapment to us. Things can appear to
be innocent but can draw us away from
the Lord into spiritual darkness and

It is not our place to "babysit" others
but to make disciples who will follow
the Lamb wherever He goes. Let us not
be unaware of Satan's schemes to slip
past our watchfulness and trap us until
we are not able to move.

There is Nothing Like the Sweetness of God

For love comes from meeting Him. Knowledge united to
God fulfils every desire. And for the heart that receives
it, it is altogether sweetness overflowing into the
earth. For there is nothing like the sweetness of God.
--Isaac of Nineveh

Friday, November 17, 2006

In Praise of Dappled Things

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;

And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise Him.

--Gerald Manley Hopkins

(I absolutely love this poem, and yes, the photo is an
actual scene, in Suffield, Connecticut, slightly
enhanced :) --RM

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Great Mosaic of God

If you feel that you don't fit in,
that no place seems to be "your place";
It is because earth is too small for the
grand, eternal design of God to be displayed
in all its splendor.
Someday, in a new heaven and earth,
the pieces that have been flung to the four winds,
to rough terrain, and dry, hidden corners,
to the bottom of the sea and to the top of
rarely-climbed mountains,
Will be gathered up into a great mosaic
of God's own making.
A mosaic made, in praise of Christ, and
as a present to the Victor
for having ransomed every sort of man
and woman from the tribes and nations
of the old earth.
In that day, you will fit perfectly,
for you have been chosen
and designed for that.
It will be a great work of art.
It will be a great day.
You will fit.
God can see it in His mind,
even now.
He is smiling.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

One characteristic that marks the average church today
is lack of anticipation. Christians when they meet do not
expect anything unusual to happen; consequently only
the usual happens, and that usual is as predictable as the
setting of the sun...We need today a fresh spirit of
anticipation that springs out of the promises of God. We
must declare war on the mood of nonexpectation, and
come together with childlike faith. Only then can we
know again the beauty and wonder of the Lord's presence
among us." --A.W.Tozer, God Tells The Man Who Cares

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Process of Dying Daily

Much in our life experience is actually an experience
of death. Death surrounds us in many forms. Jesus
speaks much of death, but he speaks of it in widely
divergent ways. There is a death that produces
death, and there is a death that produces life.

How do I know that my experience of death will
result in the new life of resurrection or whether
I am simply dead in my sins--dead the worse
possible way? For in either case, a genuine death
occurs but of two completely varieties.

I love it when Jesus tells people that certain dead
people are "just sleeping." You really have to laugh.
We are human. We know dead. Lazarus is stone
cold dead. Dead 3 days in the hot sun dead.
Abutting the decomposition mode dead. Jesus,
however, tells his disciples that dear old Lazarus
is just "sleeping" John 11:11. Because they are
nowhere near smelling range of Lazarus, they
think he really is just "sleeping." "Ok," they say,
"that's a good sign, he'll rest and feel better." But
Lazarus is utterly dead. Sleeping won't help him
if Jesus doesn't do something.

Then there is the little girl who has died. Jesus
tells the family that she is "just sleeping"
(Mark 5:39.) His assessment of the situation is
not met with a lot of respect. The girl is dead.
I'm telling you, we are human. We know dead.
Jesus, stop being so mean to the family! But
Jesus is by no means "mean." Christ's
assessment of what dead is and my assessment
of what dead is, are two different things. In His
assessment, people can look to be completely
alive but really be "whitewashed sepulchres"
(Mat. 23:27) and completely without life. He
tells people to come and follow Him and "let
the dead bury their own dead (Mat 8:22) ."
Yes. Hmmm.

I notice that the early church picks up Jesus'
term of calling physically dead believers simply,
those who have "fallen asleep." Stephen "fell
asleep" (Acts 7:60) as he is stoned to death,
Paul preaches that David accomplishes his
earthly journey and "falls asleep" (Acts 13:36).
Many of the Lord's followers have "fallen
asleep," (I Cor 15:6, 18, 20); and that at the
Lord's table, many are sick or "have fallen
asleep" (I Cor 11:30). Those who die in the
Lord, fall under Jesus definition of "falling
asleep." Death has lost its cold, hard sting.
For I must say to you that we who are the
Lord's experience a real death process long
before we get to the grave. It begins, in
great measure, with our baptism. It by
no means ends there.

T.S. Eliot, reportedly reflecting on
his own baptism, in the poignant
poem: The Journey of the Magi

"All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen
birth and death,
But had thought they were different;
this Birth was Hard and bitter agony
for us, like Death, our death,
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old
dispensation, With an alien people
clutching their gods. I should be glad
of another death. "

Eliot reflects that the Magi coming to Jesus
know that everything will now change in
their lives. A certain death of the "old
dispensation" has come and will leave their
future uncertain. For make no mistake about
it, our baptism ushers us into a genuine death.
For what is death but a process of being put
out of the control of one's self? Our future as
believers is anything but uncertain, but before
we can enter into the glory of this heartfelt
knowing, a real death must come. A death that
sweeps us away from all that we have known
before. It is a complete death, and it is without
escape. It is not a physical death but the
experience of a spiritual one.

A death, our death, is what births us into our
new life: the life of God. Of course we are
already spiritually dead to begin with. Then
we come to a place of accepting God's
forgiveness and receiving His life. We are
baptized with Him into His death (Romans 6:3)
and all of our old identity dies with Him.
And then Jesus promises us the another
baptism, this time one of fire! First I will
be drowned, and then I shall be burned!
Dear Lord, shall there be anything left of
me? Well, if you put it in those terms it
seems to move away from the strictly
theological understanding to one
connected to our everyday lives.

Paul says, "I die daily"(I Cor. 15:31). Dying
to ourself is both a one-time event and a
continual process. If we were expecting clear
sailing every day, we would be very naive
sailors indeed. What we are not prepared
for is the intensity of the death that we will
experience. Not just a little scary ride through
the "fun house" but a force so overpowering,
that, well, it could only be Death.

Ah, but dear reader, our faith is about Life
and resurrection. Yes, but first we must speak
of death. And back to our question, how do I
know that I am dying unto Life, or dead into
eternal death? It is only by my simple, childlike
faith in Christ.

We must follow the Lord where He leads us. If
that be through death before it is through life,
and most assuredly it will be, then follow Him
we must. It is our faith in Him alone, faith
stripped naked and bare, that gives
us the assurance that we are kept by Him. Do
know that He himself has made this journey
before. Alone. He came forth the Victor. He did
it for us. He experienced the height and breadth
and depth of Death. For me. For you.

There will be days when we will be sure that death
has won over us. It is for those who are in those
days that I may be writing. To those I have but
one word of advice: Do not focus on the process of
death, but on the One in whom you have believed.
Death is meant to overwhelm us, and to conquer
our natural strength. It will finish us off unless we
reach our hearts ever so slightly to the One who
conquered death even from the midst of death.
We have all seen those movies where someone
has become so paralyzed that they
can only move the smallest part of their
finger to signal for help. It is no different with us.

Call unto Him, even if the call is seemingly
imperceptible, and He will not forsake you.
Death is real. Life is more REAL. Life is our
glorious Christ, risen from the dead. In Him
we most certainly die, but in fact, we have
fallen asleep in His arms.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Ad augusta per angusta:
To high places by narrow roads

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

God Meets Us In The Wreckage

It suddenly occurred to me this morning that while we are trying to meet God in the one halfway decent (in our estimation) inch of ourselves that we deem presentable, that God always seems to choose to meet us in the place that is hopelessly disfigured, dark and demon-filled. As we read through the Scriptures it is always God coming to us at the point of our need, loss, and failure, holding out restoration and salvation to us in His outstretched, humble yet decisively all powerful Hand.

Peter's darkest hour was denying Christ. Yet, at the very
time of the denial, Christ is on His way preparing what
is needed not only for Peter's restoration but for the
restoration of the whole world. Hallelujah! Peter, in a
fearful fog of self-preservation, is bitterly startled back
into reality by the crowing of the rooster.

Morning was about to dawn in Peter's life. The
Morningstar was rising and coming to get Him. When
Jesus re-appears on earth after His death, He makes
a bee-line for Peter to set him firmly on the right path.
Peter would be restored and go on to be all that God
meant him to be.

You see, the gospel is really all about our total surrender
into the wild liberty of enslaving love to Christ. Yet we
become slaves to Him with no strings attached and only
the power of Everlasting Love keeping us close. It is a
liberty and wholeness we have never known and can
not imagine with our natural mind.

We think that we must get ourselves in shape before
God can use us. We believe we must try harder. If
there is something really wrecked inside, we must
hide it. God says, "When you have reached the end
of yourself, I will be there to talk about My kind
of kingdom."

The problem, from our side, is that reaching the end of
ourselves usually involves crashing and burning in some
major spiritual, social, psychological or emotional way.
We don't stop ourselves until something stops us. God
meets us at the point of our blindness and error. He
meets us at a place where we cannot help ourselves.

Why? He really, really loves us. He doesn't want to just
help us live our life, wants to BE our life. He wants to
be our everything. He does not want us to rely on
ourselves. He wants relationship with us. "Who
is this that comes up from the wilderness,
upon her beloved?
Song of Songs 8:5). It is always out
of the wilderness that we learn to so lean and do it
with gladness.

God will come after each of us at our greatest point of
need. Straight to the disaster He heads! And if we
manage to hide the disaster, He will still come. We
do not understand the ferocity of God's love for us,
and what He is willing to allow or us to come to know
Him in liberty.

Ted Haggard did not know the lengths and depths of
this ferocious Love. But before you cast a stone, neither
do you. Neither do I. Not completely, maybe not at
all. He allows the circumstances of life to bring us from
a place of absolute weakness, to a place of absolute

This surrender is not a slavish violation of liberty, but
a magnificent entrance into the liberty that is
apportioned to God's sons and daughters. Too bad
it takes such drastic measures to get us there. But once
we are there we could easily spend eternity worshipping
God and giving Him thanks for it. Too bad we initially
view it as a hostile invasion. It wastes so much time.

God is not looking for forced submission. He is looking
for eager pursuers of Himself. He is waiting to be
known for who He is. May that journey start afresh
and anew for each us, and may our prayers be with
our fallen brother who has the chance to come to an
utter and happy leaning on God and restoration that

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Is the Gospel in America Poisoned?

I've been hearing the wake-up sirens blowing for quite awhile now and in the wake of the recent controversy regarding Ted Haggard one can only wonder, is this the first of a new batch of public symptoms of a totally compromised gospel in American Christianity? Are we beginning to reap what has been sown? Is our spiritual well water poisoned?

You know, I must tell you, that for quite awhile I have been heartsick. I listen alot. I read alot. I hear a lot of preaching. I see alot. I am left feeling like, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, ...we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way" --Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.

America has so much: really, a land of opportunity and blessing. A land of abundance and beauty. But what has happened to the gospel here? American ingenuity and pragmatism have helped us create some of the world's greatest inventions and technology. We are a "can do" kind of people. But have we concocted a gospel soft drink, goes down smooth, but full of emptiness? Is it made from a polluted spring?

Much has been said about the American gospel, and a lot of what has been said is true. The fingers however always seem to be pointing at the "other" church, with their heretical beliefs, and not at our own hearts. Maybe we all need to take one giant step back and see if how we each form and hold our beliefs is American and not, in fact, biblical.

I love reading the old American revivalists: Edwards, Brainerd, Whitfield as he preached in America, etc. And yet, when I actually read their words and hear their mindset, I wonder if they were to preach today if the churches they preached in would have many people attending them. Might not all the folks be across the street at "seeker" friendly churches, the one with comfy seats, and pastors wearing cool flip flops, where you are nudged toward a calm, friendly kind of spirituality, where Jesus never really makes any demands on you, much less causes you to fall on your face in repentance? Or, if you like things a little radical, maybe join a church with lots of purpose. Only the purpose is really about a lot of American kind of ingenuity painted in spiritual hues but lacking the power to change the hearts of men and women. Just because something seems to work, doesn't mean its true. Apparently much of what is preached isn't even working.

Where is the gospel that turned a bunch of fearful, bumbling disciples into people that willingly and fearlessly went to their deaths proclaiming a Christ out of whose mouth came a sword so sharp that it could divide completely between what was of God and what was of man? Where? I really want to know where it has went. And do we really think that all that the early church was about was presenting orthodox doctrine? If that was all it was about, where would they have gotten the power and boldness to shake society, including religious society, to its core? Wouldn't it have have been just another near-eastern religion, long forgotten? So where is that gospel? Where is the cross? Where is holiness and fear of the Lord?

Today it was a typical fall day in New England. This meant that there was a church bazaar on every corner. Great pies. Nice hand-knit gloves. Lots of preserves. No radical gospel that I could see. Lots of bread, but no Bread of Life. Have we, as Americans, just made the gospel serve us? Have we knocked off all the difficult parts so we can fit it in to our schedules? Have we preached mostly what brings good attendance and lots of money? Homey feelings and patriotic pride? Now don't get me started there.

Be forewarned: the real Jesus is a stumbling block. Many will stumble over Him. I have always gotten goosebumps when I read this:

Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures,'The stone which the builders rejected, the same was made the head of the corner. This was from the Lord. It is marvelous in our eyes?' Therefore I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and will be given to a nation bringing forth its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but on whoever it will fall, it will grind him to powder (Matthew 21:42-44).

So, will the kingdom of God be taken away from us and given to a nation that will bear fruit? Is the Stone ready to fall on us? Frightening correlations. This all strikes me as Toll One on the bell of "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" ....well, maybe its not really Toll One. It might be a little late for that. You know what I mean. We need to ask ourselves this: Is the gospel we preach Christ's gospel? Is it the gospel of God? Does it honor the Cross of Christ? Does its message come down from heaven or is it a poisoned well of destruction and deceit?

Our leaders get to where we are going to first. They have served the poisoned water and now they must drink of it. That is a very scary thought. Are we going straight to heaven or direct the other way?