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.”


– 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



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)

Bloo v 0.14 coming soon

Just a quick update – I have been working pretty diligently on the next release of Bloo – I hope to release it this weekend if possible.

It will contain a lot of internal enhancements – in other words, it may not be immediately obvious to the casual observer what the new version actually “improves” over the previous one! But, for what it’s worth, I’m pretty excited about the enhancements I’ve been working on. They will allow for a much more flexible, extensible and nimble system.

I also intend to start posting on some of the code constructs in Bloo, for those of you with an inner geek.

Coming soon . . .

Update 4/17/05: “soon” is one of those relative words – one of the sites I webmaster had a bit of a meltdown this weekend, and it was a busy weekend anyway. So I didn’t make much progress. Of course, as my better half has reminded me, it’s not like there are people clamoring for the new version 🙂

The God of the second chance

The excellent Mr. Standfast today has posted a simple reminder for us: The God of the second chance. He includes no commentary, just two passages of scripture:

Acts 15:38-40 (circa 50 AD)

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company.

2 Timothy 4:9-11a (circa 65 AD)

Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.

Don’t you just love these juxtaposed passages? There is much to observe and to be read between the lines; the loyal love of Barnabas, the growth in Kingdom usefulness of John-Mark over those fifteen years, and – did you catch it? – the development of a gentle humility in the aged Paul. And even a tender hint of loneliness in the old apostle. “Only Luke is with me.” – ahhh. Luke. Good man.

God never gave up on Mark. Neither did Barnabas. And in the end, neither did Paul.

May God build into me the encouragement and steadfast love of Barnabas, the boldness and single-minded drive of Paul, and the growing usefulness of John Mark. Not to mention the ability to just “be there” exhibited in faithful Luke. These are jewels in the crown of character that I desire greatly.

And may I learn to extend the same grace and second, third, and four-hundredth chances to others that God has extended to me.

“On Your chariot of salvation . . .”

Was your wrath against the rivers, O Lord?
Was your anger against the rivers,
or your indignation against the sea,
when you rode on your horses,
on your chariot of salvation?
You stripped the sheath from your bow,
calling for many arrows.


– Habakkuk 3:8-9a (ESV)

Habakkuk 3 is a breathtaking chapter. It’s a poem, really; a cry for deliverance and a promise of patience.

Habakkuk lived and prophesied at a time of crisis. We often use the word “crisis” to describe the temporal hardships and heartaches in our own lives, but what the people of Israel faced in Habakkuk’s time was nothing short of national extinction. The Babylonians were coming.

“For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own.” – Habakkuk 1:6

The state of Habakkuk’s troubled mind, I would imagine, was something akin to the way a young soldier in World War I would have felt as he crouched in terror and watched, powerless, as his enemy overran his trench, killing his friends and eventually killing him. Habakkuk was waiting, in great fear, for the arrival of the juggernaut.

Yet Habakkuk, the questioning prophet, the one who pled his case before God, knew who his Deliverer was. His God was the one who had delivered His people before, the God who uncovers his bow and calls for many arrows, who mounts His chariot of salvation and rides to the rescue. Habakkuk’s prayer was that God would deliver again, and he boasts of the power of his God:

The sun and moon stood still in their place
at the light of your arrows as they sped,
at the flash of your glittering spear.
You marched through the earth in fury;
you threshed the nations in anger.
You went out for the salvation of your people,
for the salvation of your anointed.

– Habakkuk 3:11-13a (ESV)

So far so good; I am staying with the prophet up to this point. Yes, Lord, come save!

But then Habakkuk does something unexpected; something that leaves me in his dust. Habakkuk silently, at the end of a thought, weighs the justice and goodness of God against the wickedness of his nation, and the calls for quick deliverance die on his lips. There is no quick fix for the predicament that his nation has brought upon itself.

Yet in this dreadful knowledge Habakkuk rejoices! It is the realistic rejoicing of a man who knows that disaster is about to strike but who has chosen to wait patiently for His Lord anyway, knowing that the calamities wrought by God are far better than the pleasures of the world apart from Him.

I hear, and my body trembles;
my lips quiver at the sound;
rottenness enters into my bones;
my legs tremble beneath me.
Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble
to come upon people who invade us.
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.

– Habakkuk 3:16-19 (ESV)

Thus the prophet who began his oracle asking God “How long until You deliver us?”, “Why won’t you help?”, comes to the end of all his complaints and questions, and rests in the patience and strength of his Lord. And in that strength he ascends to a high place of relationship with God that few of us ever attain.

And there he waits for the Lord to come riding on His chariot of salvation! The timing may not be to Habakkuk’s liking, but it is the timing and wisdom of God that he now desires.

And that is joy!

Here is love

Today’s Bible Gateway verse of the day describes an aspect of God’s love that I wish I was eloquent enough to adequately write about. Drink this in:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

– Romans 5:6-8 (NIV)

“Very rarely will anyone die . . .” – so true. Martyrdom is a rare thing. I’ve often wondered how I will react if ever given the chance to lay my life down for another. My great fear is that I will not act as Christ did, but will rather desire my own life above all others. I hope not! As Paul points out, very rarely will anyone die, even for someone who deserves to be saved.

What then can we make of God’s sacrifice for us? I’m afraid that I can’t fathom it. At all! As I confessed in the paragraph above, I wonder how I will react if ever given the chance to die for another. I think about this quite a bit, actually. But there is another thought that is so frightful that I never venture toward it. It is the thought of sacrificing one of my children. I simply can’t imagine a situation where I could do that. It is the one area of death and pain where the choice is pretty much a no-brainer. I don’t believe I could do that. Ever.

Which is why I stand in awe of our Lord. He demonstrated His own love for us in this fact: while we were still sinners and powerless to help ourselves, He sent His own Son to die for us. And yet even that statement, as true as it is, doesn’t capture the full horror of the event or the extremities of sacrifice to which our Lord was willing to go for you and me. Christ didn’t just die for us, He was killed by us.

Here is love. Amazing, self-sacrificing, forgiving, gracious love. Paul continues:

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

– Romans 5:9-11

“How much more” indeed! We have a God who loves us in a way that we’ve rarely seen demonstrated. In fact, this kind of love is not just rare, it’s almost unheard of! We weren’t just helpless; we were His active enemies at the point of rescue. An analogy that comes to mind is that of a fireman rushing into a burning building to save a victim, only to find that victim actively engaged in arsoning the building with a flamethrower. And, not content to bring about his own destruction, the victim then turns the flamethrower on his rescuer. Yes, we were Jesus’ enemies, and we played our part with deadly efficiency.

When we were still His enemies, we were reconciled. Reconciliation is such a beautiful word. And it is a beautiful thing to see. In that word we get a picture of whispered reassurances of forgiveness and love, tears of joy, arms opened wide to receive the prodigal back home, peace, a life begun anew. We are born desperately needing to be reconciled with our Creator, and desperately powerless to do anything about it. Reconciliation is only something that God can do.

And it’s what our God has done.

Here is love!