Another Special Son is Born

cimg03471 My second son, Ashwin Cade was born December 19.  I’m amazed at how God not only blesses us, but seems to enjoy piling on the blessings so that they spill over.  I imagine God as my father with a big, wide smile and bright eyes as he gave us Ashwin.  We were already so blessed to have Harper, but God, who is especially fond of us, blessed us even more.

In a previous post, I told the story of the song, You Never Let Go by Matt Redman that I heard when my wife and I found out that Ashwin had a cyst in his brain (diagnosed at 20 weeks, disappeared after 35 weeks).  This song gave me immense comfort when I was scared.  …You’ll love this next part.

Last Friday morning, when we got into the car to go the hospital for the scheduled C-section, I was nervous about the surgery and Ashwin’s health.  I turned on the car and the first song on the radio was You Never Let Go.  I felt that it was God telling me again, as a reassuring father that He would be with our family during the procedure and that Ashwin and Tara would be alright.  I was overwhelmed by the attention that God was giving us.  Of all the physical laws and people and planets and lives God is busy directing, He intentionally took that moment to focus on our family and give us not only a special song to communcate that everything would be fine, but he went over the top with extra credit to make that song the same one that we heard 20 weeks prior and that gave us such comfort then.  God is like this.  He is many things, and He is personal and caters His attention to each person so that they can know that He is especially fond of them in particular.  God is good and is smiling as we hold our new Ashwin.  Thank you God.

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The Upward or Downward Spiral

Bitterness turns to skeptism which turns to cynicism which turns to an emptiness of the soul.

But Belief opens the door to love. As love grows, God reveals himself more. As God reveals himself more, love increases and trust is created. It spirals upward to ever increasing love and trust and the soul is filled.

Soren Keirkegaard’s parable of the king disguised as a beggar. The king could not make people love him by displaying his power. But as love grew, he could display more and more power because the love others had for him was not based on his power, but on the trusting love.

You never let go

Stress

Worry

Doubt

Lack of control

On Aug. 28, 2008 , Tara and I went to the doctor for a routine  ultrasound of our unborn son, Ashwin.  The doctor found a choroid cist in one of the lobes of his brain.  She indicated that this could be a sign of a chromazomal abnormality called Trisomy 18.  Most babies having Trisomy 18 never survive until birth.  Of those that do, most die within the first few weeks of life due to deformities and other physical abnormalities.

Needless to say, Tara and I were shocked by this news and very frightened.  In this state of shock, I got into my car.  When I turned the ignition, the song You Never Let Go by Matt Redman was playing.  Here are the lyrics I heard.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
Your perfect love is casting out fear
And even when I’m caught in the middle of the storms of this life
I won’t turn back
I know you are near

And I will fear no evil
For my God is with me
And if my God is with me
Whom then shall I fear?
Whom then shall I fear?

(Chorus:)
Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me

And I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on
A glorious light beyond all compare
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
We’ll live to know You here on the earth

(Chorus)

Yes, I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on

And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
Still I will praise You, still I will praise You

Even in the storm of this horrible news, I felt that God was with us and had not left us alone.

Update from December 2008:

Another ultrasound at 8 months.  The choroid cist has disappeared from Ashwin’s brain and all signs of abonormality have vanished.  Praise God.  Ashwin will be born the week of December 14.

Statement on Christian Unity

Our Christian basis for unity is in that we all share the same blood, we have all been redeemed by our brother Christ.  But we also have our unity in the fact that we share the same human condition. We are made in the image of God and are unique in creation. Yet we also are all equally flawed. None of us have the right answers, none of us are perfect, none of us can make it without each other. Additionally, we all share the same purpose- to draw nearer to God and to be transformed into his likeness each day.

Our objective should therefore be to work with one another, recognizing our collective and individual strengths and weaknesses so that we can complement the work God is trying to do in us – our transformation for the good of ourselves and of the world. We will never agree on everything (doctrine or opinion), but our unity as stated above is that which carries us through our disagreements. Our foundation in unity is the power that allows us to trust and bend when we need to and stand strong when we need to. This is a good vision to call our own and it is also a vision that is open or flexible enough to allow God to direct our work and efforts according to his will.

Awake, oh sleeper

The Holy Spirit is at many times connected in scripture through analogy with breath, wind, air. Likewise, the spirit is the aspect of the trinity that gives life – animates that which was dead. We see this in Genesis 1 when the Spirit vibrates, hovers, or broods over the face of the waters and fills the oceans with life. We see this in genesis 2 when the father “breathes” into Adam’s nostrils the “breath of live(s)” and man became a living soul. We see this in the New Testament in that the christians are raised to walk in newness of life – to be “born again” (Rom 6 and John 3). We see that the Spirit begins to indwell the believer at the time of faith and begins the work of transforming the new “child of God” increasingly into his image so that he looks like his heaven father and brother more each day.

In Acts 17, Paul, describing the nature of the on true God to the Athenians said that, “in him we live and move and have our very being (existence)”.

We know God filled the world with many signs designed to point us to him. I believe one of the most impacting of these signs is the air we breathe.

As humans, we live within the atmosphere. It is our sustaining habitat. We cannot live underwater or in outer space. We must have oxygen to breathe. The air touches our skin and fills all the crevices on our body. We breath it into our bodies and it fills our lungs. In filling our lungs, the life-giving oxygen is transferred to our red blood cells which in turn circulate the oxygen throughout our entire body. This oxygen is converted into energy, it helps regulate our core temperature, it allows us to live.

Additionally, we cannot be alive unless we are “in the presence of” the air. It surrounds us and we cannot escape it no matter how hard we try. When we cease to breathe the air, when it ceases to fill us, we die.  We become separated from this world – this place created by god as his domain.

Think of God as the freshest air you could breathe – clean, crisp, cool. When we unknowingly or unwillingly breathe polluted air (from factories etc.) We experience the taint of sin and the fall of man because it poisons our bodies. When we willingly breathe polluted air (smoking) we demonstrate our fallen nature and our ability to choose poison over God.

As Paul said in Athens, the one true and living God is not a God who lives “far away ” from us. Rather, he surrounds us with himself. We exist inside him just as we are enveloped with the oxygen-filled atmosphere of the earth. As we move through  his creation, walking to our offices, playing at the park, sitting in our living room – with every breath we take we are taking god into ourselves and receiving life. He surrounds us, and fills us and binds us to himself and to each other.

Most of the time I don’t even realize or think about my breathing. It just happens. Thousands of times per day, I inhale and exhale the life-giving air and I don’t even think about it. Maybe this is also a sign of god. Perhaps it tells us that go is so embedded within us and our world that we should think of God and the world as two separate things – disconnected and independent. Rather, perhaps we should think of God and the world as connected like two dancers – intertwined and moving together to a complementary rhythm. As time and creation move, so does God. He is deeply woven into the fabric of us and our world. Just as it is natural for us to not think about our breathing, it is just as natural for us to not consciously recognize God moving around us in this world. It is simply the way the world works and we have grown used to it and are not distracted by it.

However, because of our sinful, fallen nature, we have progressed past the point of no longer being “distracted” by God’s movements in the world. We have progressed so far as to have forgotten his movements all together. This is why the bible is filled with the phrase, “give me eyes to see and ears to hear.”  As a species, we humans have given up out ability to see and recognize God’s movements. We have chosen to forget him, so much so that we no longer realize what is symbolized when we breathe. We desperately need to remember, to wake up from our long sleep – to open our eyes once again to the glory of the lord that fills each of our life’s moments. We need to recognize that when we breathe, we are being given another breath of life that heal, feeds and quickens our bodies. We need to understand that as believers we are also continually inhaling and exhaling the breath of god which is the spirit who continually gives life to our personal spirit and regenerates us evermore into his holy image.

There is much going on around us that we fail to see and recognize. This is one of those things. Open your eyes and see.

Deconstructing Legalism

Note: this post is constantly being edited, but I’m making it public anyway.

Series Introduction:

Jesus’ feelings about legalism are revealed in his dealings with the Pharisees. Jesus railed against the Pharisees. He clearly communicated that their way was not the right way. Why was he so hard on them?  The Pharisees were the essence of what it meant to be devout. Their strict belief in observing the Law caused them to want to not only observe it, but to observe it with such vigor that they would not only forbid themselves from crossing the line, but also to forbid themselves from even approaching the line. Their motivation was their belief that disobedience caused separation from God. Therefore, they committed themselves to not coming close to disobedience. They implemented this belief by creating new restrictions in the hope that such restrictions would insure they did not break the Law. Over time, they began to observe these man-made restrictions as Law. Jesus had a problem with this because they had created a new set of laws that were not from God. They bound on others what God had not bound.

Jesus walked through Galilee teaching a message of freedom from the legalistic worldview of his Pharisaic brothers. Scripture says that he fulfilled the Law with all its requirements. Jesus satisfied the Law by offering himself as the supreme sacrifice – a sacrifice worthy enough to not only cleanse the Jews of their centuries of sin, but also worthy enough to cleanse all people of all cultures through all of time. His sacrifice ripped the veil separating God and man bringing the two together.  Jesus restored humanity’s direct access to God by removing the blood guilt of sin – he made us white as snow. By his sacrifice, we have become God’s children, adopted into his family and made heirs to kingdom which now exists in part and will be fully revealed one day.  Because of all Christ has done, we no longer have to cower in fear of God’s judgment.  We no longer have to hold ourselves to an unachievable standard.  We are free to boldly and with confidence walk into the presence of God as his sons and daughters.  Without fear, we can look directly into his eyes.  With confidence we can point to that man sitting at his right hand – the one with holes in his palms and feet and proclaim that Jesus, the firstborn, has made us spotless for the glory of his father.  And God smiles.

Sadly (and I mean sadly), some in the church have not embraced this message of grace and freedom.  Some have not heard it because it is simply not preached in their churches.  Others refuse to hear it because the message implies that their long held legalistic beliefs are wrong – a realization being too difficult to accept leaving rejection as their only option.  Still others have overtly rejected the message because they simply cannot fathom that salvation could come so easily – as a gift. Lastly, others reject Christ’s freedom because they enjoy control – controlling themselves and others.  They arrogantly see a world where everything is so easily defined and comprehensible.  They love the status quo, their traditions and want to keep their world the same forever.

This series of posts will explore what legalism is and the cultures it creates.  Also, the series will offer a lay interpretation of the psychological affects of a legalistic culture over time.  All of this will be approached from a biblical perspective supported by scripture and personal experience and interpretation.  The goal of this series is not to stir up division, slander brothers or project a sense of personal and intellectual superiority (Lord knows there is far too much of all this already).  Rather, the goal is the opposite of all those things.  I hate division with a passion.  I want for my legalistic brothers to be free from their yoke of slavery to an imaginary law and to experience the joy of life in the kingdom.  And I realize that I have no claim to authority or superiority because my circuitous way out  of legalism was strictly by the direction of God.  Without his leading, I might still be there.  So, this series is intended to rescue and reconcile not rebuke.

Series Topics:

What is the culture of fear that legalism creates?

What does God think about obedience?

What does God want our motivation for obedience to be?

How does God want us to respond to him?

If it is not through the keeping of a set of Laws, what is our response to be?

Where does agreement on doctrine fit into the mix?

What is the difference between life being a journey and life being about the destination?

What is the difference between view the kingdom as a reward to be received later verses the kingdom being something to experience now?

What is  “conventional wisdom” and how did it affected the Pharisees and us?

What is the transformation of the heart through the power of the Spirit?

What is the word of God?

Where is the power of the word of God?

What about the prophesy to make living stones?

What about putting the law on their hearts?

These are some questions I’d like to explore in future posts.  I’ll post these under the “Transformational Living” category.