The unsatisfied runner

I’ve been thinking recently about satisfaction. Is it something that can be attained in this life for the follower of Christ?

I would conjecture that many, if not most, lost people are at some level aware of and distressed by the gap in their lives that can only be bridged by God. And I think many people spend a great deal of time and energy trying to fill that gap. They strive to find satisfaction by any means possible and to no avail, thus fulfilling the gloomy observation of the preacher in Ecclesiastes 6: “All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied”.

However, I also believe that there are a number of well-integrated lost people who do feel a great deal of satisfaction with their lives. How a person finds any satisfaction at all outside of a relationship to Christ boggles my mind. But I believe some lost people attain a form of temporal satisfaction.

So what do we make of the unsatisfied Christian? Is being unsatisfied a bad thing? Because I have a confession to make: I feel unsatisfied much of the time. Now, let me explain what I mean: by “unsatisfied” I do not mean “ungrateful”, or even “unhappy”. I have been blessed beyond blessing, and this I know well. Anyone looking at my life circumstances would agree with that. Regardless of the winds of trouble that blow on my life from time to time, God has been very, very good to me. So, with my lot in life I am far from unsatisfied.

And yet there is an uneasiness, a longing for joy in my core that sometimes speaks with a very loud voice. As David wrote:

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;

my soul thirsts for you;

my flesh faints for you,

as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Psalm 63:1 (ESV)

My understanding is that David wrote those words while physically in the desert, and his surroundings served as physical representation of the soul-thirst that he felt for his God. That being said, I believe David would agree: sometimes being in the desert is not such a bad thing. What growth he experienced in the hot sands! I’ve found in my own desert times that I cling to God more tightly, that I seek Him more earnestly than ever, that I do thirst and faint for His presence. And His presence and comfort become very real.

Yet for all that, here on earth we are kept (and for good reason, I believe) from experiencing God in His fullness. We are broken and bent, and even when redeemed and cleansed we are still too frail to endure His glory. While our victory was won for us on the cross and confirmed in the resurrection, there are reasons why we still have to practice faith, hope, and love. Faith, because we trust in what we cannot see. Hope, because what we will be still dwells in the future.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. – 1 John 3:2 (ESV)

And love, because God is love, and we are God’s expression of Himself to a lost world, and to each other. And then back to Him as well. And Love will endure when there is no longer need for either faith or hope, because all shall be seen, all shall be known, and we will finally have become what He created us to be, unbroken, unbent, glorified and standing joyfully in His presence.

For all my talk of satisfaction and the desire to earnestly seek after Christ, I know that much of it is just that, talk. The world calls me, comfort calls me, compromise calls me. I wonder why I’m not satisfied and the uncomfortable answer is that, while no follower of Christ can be completely satisfied until he is home, I have, in so many ways, made the world my home and become comfortable here in this far land. Therefore the trudge toward my real country has become wearisome. There’s something about running with weights tangling your legs that makes for an unsatisfactory journey.

But my desire, hopefully to be coupled with action, is to set my sights more fully on the finish line ahead, and on the One who completes my faith. To cast off these weights. For joy and satisfaction for the Christian can be felt – even if only in snatches here on earth – when we are running unencumbered. When, smiling and with our head thrown back, we speed on our swift course with the landscape surging past us as we press on toward the goal.

. . . that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:10-14 (ESV)

New to the bloogroll

Welcome Semicolon to the Bloogroll!

I noticed this site based on a recommendation from Mr. Standfast, and I can see why he blogrolled it too. The site is run by a homeschooling mother of 8 who’s husband works at NASA. Interesting stuff.

Two items of interest tipped the scale for bloogrollage. The first was a post on poetry called Creating Silences, in which she quotes Stephen Mallarme:

“It is the job of poetry to clean up our word-clogged reality by creating silences around things.”

The second is her list of The 105 Best Movies of All Time. So many of the movies I treasure are on this list.

Good reading.

Orphans and slaves no longer

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Romans 8:15 (ESV)

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God

I John 3:1 (ESV)

I was raised by two loving, biological parents and I’ve never known, physically, the special loneliness of the orphan. And another condition is also foreign to me: I’ve never been a slave and I’ve never, physically speaking, known someone who was a slave, although I do know that slavery still exists in certain dark corners of the earth.

Still, the act of reading these two passages brings with it a spark of recognition. Orphan and slave; I can’t say I don’t know these conditions, because, in truth, I’ve been both.

Sometimes I forget how precious salvation really is. Yet I was once an orphan, alone in this world. I was also a slave to sin. The portrait the world paints of the well-integrated lost person is one of “freedom” – freedom to do what you want, to say what you want, to live a life dedicated to the stimulation of the nerve endings and to the feeding of that most insatiable entity, the human ego. Yet this portrait of freedom is precisely opposite to reality.

The reality is that a life without Christ is one of slavery. Again, slavery is a concept that is thankfully beyond the physical experience of most of us, but citizens of the first century would have been very familiar with it. From the palaces of rulers to the wharfs and marketplaces to the dreaded mines, slaves were everywhere in the Roman Empire. A slave was marked by who owned him, and he had to do his master’s bidding, always. He was not free to live as he chose. Often at the mercy of the whims of a disinterested master, a slave’s life was one of fear.

In the same way, any freedom without Christ is an illusion. Without Christ we are orphans and slaves; in slavery to sin and unable to break its cruel bonds. We are orphans, alone in this world and without an inheritance, without a name, without hope. Alone and afraid in the cold.

Yes, I forget how precious salvation really is. My Father has redeemed me; He has paid the astronomical price to buy me back from slavery and set me free. He has adopted me into His family and given me the rights of sonship.

Those who think becoming a follower of Christ is a form of bondage have bought a lie. Life with Christ is a life of freedom! It is the unspeakable joy of the orphan, disfigured, dirty, long abandoned and without hope in this world, who is singled out in the throng and who hears a loving voice say “This one. This is the one I want. Yes, this is my son.” This one was born in Zion.

It is the speechless joy of the slave, without prospect of release, who hears the words long hoped for but for which he dared not hope, “You are free”, and finds himself standing, unshackled, in the warm sun, blinking back astonished tears and feeling the winds of freedom on his face.

It is the freedom of a beloved child, a child free to laugh and run and play without shame, a child who runs to the door to welcome, with joy and a tight embrace, her Daddy. This is a child who has a name, who has a heritage, an inheritance, security, hope.

It is the freedom that only comes from Jesus, our Savior in every sense of the word. Orphans and slaves look to Him and are adopted and set free.

As one who has worn the rags of slavery and known the loneliness and desperation of the orphan, I can only bow in worship and thankfulness before my Redeemer. I really do forget how precious salvation is sometimes. Thank you Father, for your indescribable gift!

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God!

An “hour” is all the enemy gets

Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

Luke 22:52-53 (ESV)

“ . . . this is your hour, and the power of darkness . . . “

The authority of Jesus is amazing. I don’t believe that anything that happened on that dreadful night was beyond His control. “This is your hour” — Almighty God gave the enemy that short time to do with His Son what he would. And what the enemy did was absolutely dreadful, but it was also all within God’s plan.

I’ve often wondered what the angels thought during the passion of Jesus. Were they aware of why it was happening? I don’t know much about angels, but scripture gives us hints about their power and, as C.S. Lewis remarked in his excellent space trilogy (I paraphrase, from memory) the ones assigned to earth are of a “decidedly military caste”. The image I hold in my imagination is of the angels looking on from the heavens in horror as their Lord is tortured and killed. Their white-knuckled hands grip golden sword-hilts as they await the order that never comes. With tears of fury running down their cheeks they tremble and strain to hear the shouted order to “Attack!!!!” Surely toward the end many of them desired to rain holy fire and destruction on the entire earth — how could a race of beings who dared touch the Beloved with such violence be allowed to survive? Why didn’t their Lord call for them to rescue Him as He suffered on the cross?

This is all conjecture, of course. I am not really sure what the angels thought and felt. But what I am sure of is that God in His sovereignty gave the enemy that “hour”. It was the time when the power of darkness had its way, with God’s permission.

The blessed good news is that an hour is all the enemy ever gets. The raft of evil stays afloat for just a moment in the wide ocean of eternity. And even the workings of the enemy get turned against him, as he discovers, time and again, that the evil he worked has been woven into the good purposes of God. As Joseph said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (Genesis 45:4b-5). Evil can’t change God’s plans. It just can’t.

So, in my best moments, I don’t fret about the future, and I don’t worry about the enemy winning. What he has meant for evil, God will turn to good. The enemy’s hour of darkness will be swallowed up in the bright Morning of God’s victory. Even in the dark hours I can feel the healing touch of God, the warmth coming back into my weary limbs, the stiffening of faith and resolve, and the strength returning to my arms. I can once more pick up my sword and do battle.

Thank you Lord, for the hope that sustains!

“Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.”

– Psalm 30:5 (ESV)

“He shall be high and lifted up”

Behold, my servant shall act wisely;
he shall be high and lifted up,
and shall be exalted.
As many were astonished at you–
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind–

Isaiah 52:13-14 (ESV)

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

John 3:14 (ESV)

Lord thank You.

I’ve wondered what You must have felt as a teenager or a young man as You read the scroll of Isaiah. As You read about Yourself.

“his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance . . .”

I cannot imagine what went through Your incarnate mind, Lord. Did a thrill course up Your spine when reading these words? Did You have to catch Your breath? Did You understand, in Your humanity, the passion that would be required of You? And all of it for us. Though holding no illusions about the suffering You would endure, did you not ache for the day when You would say in triumph “it is accomplished!”?

May You be high and lifted up in my life. May people be drawn to You.

May Your light shine through me, and may I cease from covering Your light.

What am I afraid of? What on earth?

Even in times of weakness, or despondence – the desert times, the battle times – may You be lifted up. I have been such a timid follower.

May none ever point to me and say “he doesn’t live it”

And may I rejoice at the prospect, and the reality, of living and dying for You.

I can write these words on a page, on the internet, but may I write on the wall with my blood, ‘Jesus is alive’. I can write these words, but will people know that You are my one and only? Do I even understand that?

And even when discouraged, tired, and fearful, may a fire burn in me that can’t be quenched, and that doesn’t consume, so that people will turn aside to marvel at the Spirit that burns, with me out of view in His glory, and points all to Christ.

Lord, as Your human life was, surely, filled with a million small things that You were perfectly faithful in, preparing you for the larger things that You would be perfectly faithful in, may I be faithful in the million small things. And far less boastful about the larger.

Even when I’m discouraged, tired, and fearful, may the sparks of joy that I feel even now be set ablaze. May I have the same attitude that was in You, and may I rejoice to pour myself out for others, as You did.

I thank You that You are so close when I’m hurting – and I’m ashamed that I was surprised by that. May my urgent prayers, whispered hour by hour, be answered in Your time, and in Your way, to bring glory to You. So that You may be exhalted and lifted high.

For You alone deserve it.

Bloo v 0.14 release notes

Well, I have finally completed version 0.14 of Bloo, and it is currently powering the blog.

Some notes: This version represents quite a step-up in the Bloo software, even though most of the changes are behind-the-scenes type modifications. For those of you with an inner geek, I have moved all the Bloo SnapOns and Overlays into individual “packages” (Java style) that load dynamically. In other words, to add a new SnapOn to the Bloo system you can just create it based on the SnapOn API (still being finalized so I don’t have the docs yet) and place it in a package file in the packages subfolder. Once this is done, the SnapOn will load dynamically, and if you, for instance, reference it in the Overlay or containing SnapOn that controls part of a page, voila, it is now a part of Bloo. I’m geeking out over this. Future releases will allow for the dynamic, non-destructive modification of Overlays, which will allow the blog administrator to change the appearance of their Blog – in all its aspects – online and dynamically. I say “non-destructive” as I plan to build in the ability to always get back to previous versions of the blog’s appearance. Many blogs allow the user to modify a few templates, this plan should be like that, except on steroids.

And – eventually – I will add the ability to define a new SnapOn on-line and dynamically. That will be pretty cool . . .

By way of review: the term “Overlay” refers to a construct used in Phoo/Bloo which represents an interface, either to a database or to the web front-end. For instance, the post you’re looking at is defined/formatted by an Overlay. So is the Bible verse now appearing in right sidebar. The term “SnapOn” refers to the smart objects that populate Overlays. For instance, the overlay that formats this post is contained in and populated by the PostDisplay SnapOn. SnapOns contain overlays, which can contain embedded SnapOns, and so on.

Well, enough of that kind of talk :-) – below are the major new features introduced in this release:

  • Code Organization – Created the current concept of the SnapOn “package”, as described above
  • List Management – again, not something the casual reader has access to. But I’ve implemented a set of SnapOns that allow one to create and manage lists. For instance, the Bloogroll in the right sidebar is now a display of a List (before it was just a static overlay). This is a pretty important feature, since once you have the ability to create lists there are all sorts of pieces of information – both visible and behind the scenes – that can live inside a list
  • A new Weblogs Pinger. Not being happy with my pingomatic pinger (which doesn’t seem to work very well) I’ve re-written the pinger SnapOn and I’m now pinging other services (weblogs, technorati, blogrolling, etc) – we’ll see if this improves my pinging luck. I’m not holding my breath (I feel like I’m missing something here)
  • Small formatting changes – so, tell me, how much do you hate the new textured background in the sidebars and date header?
  • Did some slight cleanup on the RSS (that probably no one will notice)
  • Added the SnapOnDescriptor class – giving the developer th ability to create SnapOns that are self-documenting
  • Improved the error-rendering features of the blog
  • Added the “Daily Passage” SnapOn – this is retrieved from the RSS feed on the excellent English Standard Version website

That’s it! Version 0.15 will be coming out . . . eventually.

Watch me for the changes . . .

“I have sworn by my holiness . . .”

He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father,
my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’
And I will make him the firstborn,
the highest of the kings of the earth.
My steadfast love I will keep for him forever,
and my covenant will stand firm for him.
I will establish his offspring forever
and his throne as the days of the heavens.
If his children forsake my law
and do not walk according to my rules,
if they violate my statutes
and do not keep my commandments,
then I will punish their transgression with the rod
and their iniquity with stripes,
but I will not remove from him my steadfast love
or be false to my faithfulness.
I will not violate my covenant
or alter the word that went forth from my lips.
Once for all I have sworn by my holiness;
I will not lie to David.
His offspring shall endure forever,
his throne as long as the sun before me.
Like the moon it shall be established forever,
a faithful witness in the skies.”

Selah

– Psalm 89:26-37 (ESV)

In the middle of Psalm 89 the psalmist launches into this beautiful and powerful retelling of the promises of God to His servant David. I am no Biblical scholar, but I see in this as well God’s promise extended to His Son – “I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth” – and to those of us, redeemed by Christ, who have become children of God.

When God speaks of His promises, certain words and phrases begin to establish themselves in the prose like ancient and steadfast obelisks of truth: “my covenant will stand firm”, “I will establish . . . forever”, “I will not remove”, “steadfast love”, “endure forever”.

“Once for all I have sworn by my holiness”

God means what He says. He swears to it by His holiness (what greater thing could He swear by?). I praise Him for that iron determination of His, established in beautiful, beautiful truth, and for the sovereignty and Lordship that God exerts over His creation. There have been times in my life when the thought that God really is in control seemed an unfair thing. I can’t fathom now what I was thinking – what a comfort it is to know that He simply will not lose, He will not let His promise return void.

God does what it takes. He lovingly disciplines us, He brings us back home. He will not let us go, will not lie to us, and will never be faithless – least of all to Himself.

“Once for all I have sworn by my holiness;
I will not lie to David.
His offspring shall endure forever,
his throne as long as the sun before me.
Like the moon it shall be established forever,
a faithful witness in the skies.”

These are words we can count on. He has sworn to them by His holiness.

He groans for us

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

– Romans 8:26 (ESV)

Last night I went to bed groaning. Almost audibly. Have you ever had no idea what you were going to do? What to pray for? Thankfully, since Christ came into my life those times have been rare. But I’m in one of those times now. The feeling is the same that any man gets when “action” seems called for but he doesn’t know which “action” to take. Go left? Go right? Forward? Back? Or maybe just stand here and spin around in circles.

It is such a weak feeling.

It is comforting to know that when I groan I am not alone. And that when I am weak my Intercessor stands beside me, and He lifts up my head and holds up my arms. He helps us in our weakness, and when we’ve exhausted all of our ideas, schemes, and stratagems, when our prayer has been reduced to a groan and, finally, to silence, He groans for us.

How can we not love God? His compassions, they fail not. He stands by the tomb of our hope and weeps with us, and then commands it to come forth! He stands by the orphan and the dispossessed, and makes of the outcast a great nation. He binds up our wounds, heals our broken hearts, dries our tears, and, when all understanding says “despair”, He gives us a peace that passes all understanding.

And I feel like I just barely know Him — how can I comprehend this great King of the universe? He is lifted high in glory, the Mighty One. He is the self-existing, eternal “I AM” of all the ages. Yet I do know Him, because He has made Himself known to me, has poured Himself out for us all, has given us His last full measure.

And when I’m hurting, He stands beside me, wraps His arms around me, and groans.

The cool people I get to minister with

For the past seven years I’ve been involved in our student ministry as one of the “worship band guys”. Basically, every year I get the amazing privilege of helping to equip high school students to lead worship.

In December I began to feel strongly that this should be my last year of doing this particular ministry. God is calling me to something else, although I’m not sure what. But I also feel called to finish out the year with the current band I am working with – so I’m still doing this thing through August.

I must say, I have been enjoying this year immensely! Every band has been special, but I’m not sure if I could pick a group I’d rather finish strong with than this one. The pictures of these fabulous five are below – I took these at our recent flag football HSABSFFBCS “bowl games” – so it was a bit of a looser and crazier time than our usual Sunday morning worship services (hence the team t-shirts, face-paint, etc), but it still was worship! I also threw in a few pics of a recent band party.

These kiddos are precious to me – they are all very talented, but – most importantly to me – they all are growing in their relationship to God and all have great hearts. These pics represent the fun, but behind these are untold hours of hard work in getting ready to bring a fitting gift of worship to our Lord. I love these students, and I’m blessed to get to work with them and play with them. What a privilege.

Some pics (my apologies to those of you with dial-up and lower resolutions – let me know if this messes up the page too much for you and I’ll adjust ;-):

Update: I have made these a single, rather than a double, column of pics. Will be a longer post but now the site won’t spill off the right side of the browser for those with lower resolutions.


Kelso (you’re an angel, K :-)


Mego, belting it out (this girl can sing!)


Megan and Kelsey singing “Hey” on “Undignified


Hallelujah!


BALDERDASH!


Love you guys! (oh – the guy with the beard
is Brad Brogden, who also works with the band –
and he’s an amazing musician in his own right)


Joey, amazing drummer, rocking out


Gabe – always having a great time


Kevo – an amazing guitarist


Big Gabe, “taking the bassline for a walk” – heh


Kelso, Mego and Joey
(Megan held that look on her face for a good thirty
seconds while I fiddled with my camera – heh)