I Love This House! Psalm 84:1-4

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 1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
2 I long, yes, I faint with longing
to enter the courts of the Lord.
With my whole being, body and soul,
I will shout joyfully to the living God.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young
at a place near your altar,
O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God!
4 What joy for those who can live in your house,
always singing your praises.

 Psalm 84:1-4

There are some things that leave an indelible mark inside, deep on our souls.  For me, one instance I remember staying at Simpson College on Silver Ave. in San Francisco in June 1986.  The dorms were empty and I had a whole floor to myself.  The campus was gorgeous.  I found a little “mom and pop” corner market nearby which had a awesome deli. Here I could buy cold cuts, braunschweiger  and fresh sourdough bread.   I returned to my room to build my sandwich.  I remember the windows were open and a beautiful breeze was there.   Food, warm sun, flowers in bloom and the Holy Spirit are just about ready to intersect in my life.

It was simply a moment I captured and savored.  Everything seemed to coincide, it was magical in the best sense of the word.  It was beautiful, that is all I can say.  That time in that dorm room has become a crystalline moment that I will never forget.  Right there, it seemed I fell in love, not with a girl, but with a moment in time and place.

That nostalgia is thick on the shoulders of the writer of Psalm 84.  He remembers and savors the memories of his visit to the temple.  He was given something in that particular moment that  would haunt him for the rest of his life.  In his thinking, the beauty of the temple could never ever be the same again.  The beauty of that experience was inviolable and true and could never be duplicated.  But it was his, and he would never forget._ho2

God gives moments, wrapped in wonder and awe.  His presence is very likely the tipping point in these.  When He is present, a connecting link is made and we receive grace.  We will longingly look back on these moments when grace was so close.  The psalmist has the same hunger .  These moments in the temple which are so blessed have also ruined him.   Special times of God’s presence have resulted in a sanctified dissatisfaction with the present.

When we finally make our way to Jesus, life takes on a curious wonder.  When the rain finally comes to the barren desert, an explosion of life bursts out.  In the exact same way, our lives get very green and lush.  This is in contrast to our dry and desperate life without His presence.

I am hungry for His presence.  I want to be in the center of wherever He is at.  I admit that His grace and love has spoiled me.  But the love of Jesus does this.  Normal life seems to be in black & white, He turns it into a vibrant color.  The psalmist begs to be returned to the temple.  He wants to be there, more then anything.

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Martyrs in America? Maybe

They died bravely in the first century. Will we in the 21st?

Being heard is not the same as having influence. Believers must reconsider the issues of being salt and light in a pagan culture.  We have tried a myriad of approaches in our evangelism, and we are not succeeding.  We have been maneuvered to the margins of society, and I fear that is where we will stay.

Several years ago, a believer directed a high budget movie, The Passion of The Christ, which shattered box-office records and sparked interest in religious films when it came out in 2004.  It was compelling and disturbing.  We saw Jesus beaten and whipped, but the splattering of blood did not translate well into spiritual change.  If perhaps anything, it inured people to a higher purpose– salvation.

We must use everything that is available to us as people to broadcast the gospel.  Art, both fine and popular, music and theater, movies and sports.  We need to squeeze out every venue, in every media to share the good news. Creativity is not a gift of the Holy Spirit, but it’s close.

But this is not enough.  We are engaged in a heated, spiritual struggle for truth and hope.  I believe that our methodology will consistently fall short of our ideals.  In the time of ancient Rome the only time Christians were in the limelight were as martyrs.  And the lions of the Coliseum made quick work of their witness.  But man, they succeeded in reaching thousands, and the pagan empire was brought to Christ, en mass!

Perhaps martyrdom will be our path to reach America with the Gospel.  The New Testament word for “witness” is martyr.  It very well may be that our blood will be the seed for a new generation of believers.  Church history would support this view.  It should come as no surprise.

martyrdomI remember witnessing once in UC Berkeley campus.  It is a very challenging place in a stronghold of intellectualism.  The people I encountered were bright and engaging.  But as I got ready to leave, I met a university professor.  He looked at me in his tweed jacket and sweater vest and said something I will never forget.  “Too bad we can’t feed you to the lions”.  It was a flat-calm statement; stark and frightening, because I knew he meant it.

In this enlightened campus, there was a coldness and a bitterness that I never encountered in the “drug and sex” neighborhoods of San Francisco.  In contrast, this incident in Berkeley was a brazen and committed calculation against the Gospel. Perhaps persecution by core intellectuals will fuel this martyrdom to come.

We are in God’s hands.  Obedience is a die-cast, deliberate decision we must make ahead of time.  We can’t just hope to make it work, unless we change.  “Die before you die, and your dying won’t be death”, the old preacher wrote.  This could very well be our cue. Get ready. And “watch and pray.” And die now.

 

 

 

 

 

Post art from The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer, by Jean-Leon Gerome (1824-1904)

Calibrating Your Heart to His

Calibration is necessary.

“May the patience and encouragement that come from God allow you to live in harmony with each other the way Christ Jesus wants.”

Romans 15:5

“Now make me completely happy! Live in harmony by showing love for each other. Be united in what you think, as if you were only one person.”

Philippians 2:2

The science and method of calibration provides us with a way to bring two, or more things into harmony.  It is done frequently on diverse things as scientific instruments, avionics, or music.  Without ‘this quest for harmony’ readings and things degrade into a thing of futile confusion.

A piano is tuned, and the worship leader then tunes into that piano.    The worship team is blending simultaneous sounds of different pitch or quality, making chords. This takes practice, and a gift. This principle is enhanced when we think of several gears that mesh and turn together.  There is a certain congruity, or a symmetry that makes it successful.

We need a “calibration of our spirits” with God’s Holy Spirit.  We tune in to Him.  His word is a little bit like a “tech manual”, showing us, and helping us.  He helps us adjust so that we are harmoniously flowing with Him and with others.

Have you ever met a believer not in harmony?  I bet you have. They may have a belief that is out-of-balance.  It may be health, or sickness.  That is quite common today.  Finances are also an issue, or politics.  I lived in San Francisco in the ’80s.  There was a small church down in Pacifica who would drive up to ‘worship on the street’ with us.  They were incredible!  They had a sensitivity and anointing that other groups didn’t have.  They loved Jesus very much, and it showed.

Within six months they disbanded, and went their own ways.  I was told that their meetings were essentially ‘gutted out’.  They became fanatical about the’anti-abortion’ message to such an extreme they didn’t even have a church service anymore.  It was now nothing more than a political rally, and they were not even reading the Word.  They were no longer calibrated to the Spirit or the Church.  They were no longer aligned to the truth.

I have to be regularly adjusted into a harmony with the promises of God.  I need my gauges to be consistent with the Word.  Not to be ‘heavy’ on certain things. I realize that my illness causes me to be very inconsistent.  I suppose I am God’s ‘ping-pong ball.’  I wish I was different, but the promises given are that He intends to change me.  I bet He can do this remarkable thing.

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A Holy Troublemaker

Christians were never meant to be normal. We’ve always been holy troublemakers, we’ve always been creators of uncertainty, agents of dimension that’s incompatible with the status quo; we do not accept the world as it is, but we insist on the world becoming the way that God wants it to be. And the Kingdom of God is different from the patterns of this world.”

Jacques Ellul

I was living in the gritty Mission district in San Francisco, I remember sitting in my favorite coffee shop at the corner of Clarion Alley and Mission reading Ellul’s “Meaning of the City.” I have to admit, I was profoundly undone.  Here I sat with my ‘latte,’ in the presence of a “genius,” reading a man who was describing the city that I was living in.  It was a bit much. It devastated me, but in a very good way.

Jacques Ellul describes the condition of city-darkness.  His contention was that there are people who are actively, (but often passively,) in a rebellious opposition to whatever God is doing.  There is an “organization of unbelief” that always resists the Holy Spirit, and it has become especially embedded into places we call the City.

Ellul recognized that there is an opposition force.  There are now those who have been drastically connected to the radical presence of God. There can’t ever be real normalcy here.  We are saints, (whether we like it or not.)  We are solidly “light.”  And then we start reflecting that into a profound darkness, which cares for nothing at all– even hating the grace of God– things can get vicious.

We stand in an awesome place (whether we understand or not.)  We are in the truest sense revolutionaries.  We stand by grace in this place.  The light is always breaking holy-troublemakersinto the lives of those who are living against Him.  This is most uncomfortable– like falling into a raspberry patch naked, with all its stickers and scratches. Hardly pleasant.

We are “the troublemakers.”  What we believe turns the world upside down (really, upside right.)  We have become obstacles to those in darkness. We are altered, and as believers the change is dramatically authentic.  There is simply nothing outside of His power that can do this.

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot be in God’s kingdom.”   John 3:3, NCV

This critical thought describes the essential work that must happen before we can enter into it.  God’s kingdom is now our dream and our destiny.  It fuels us, and energizes us far beyond any work we can do.  We are now living people, residing in the “land of the dead.”  We must expect problems, but exult in a real existence.

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ybic, Bryan

 

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14 Odd Scraps About Me for Facebook…

  1. I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at a very young age, lol.
  2. My parents were very young, my mom 16 and my dad was almost 18.
  3. I grew up in Northern Wisconsin. In a brick farmhouse. I used a hand-pump and an outdoor toilet for awhile.
  4. I was very close to my great-grand parents, Ben and Eva Tarbox.
  5. I joined the Army when I was 17, and stationed in Hawaii, was a hospital corpsmen.
  6. When discharged I came to Homer, Alaska to attend the Alaska Bible Institute. I graduated in 1984.
  7. Lynn and I met in 1987 in San Francisco, we married in 1989 and lived in the city for several months.
  8. I was stranded for 36 hours in a small car north of Fairbanks in January 1986. It got down to 30 below zero. A week later I was almost burned to death in a cabin fire. I have lots of scar tissue on my back.
  9. I drove an old van from Mexico to Alaska in 1998, I patched a big hole in the gas tank using a bar of lye soap. I drove it all the way to Homer without it leaking. Go figure.
  10. I pastored Kachemak Bay Christian Church for three years. I loved it.
  11. I had several medical crisis’ beginning in 2002. Brain surgery was needed, I found I had contracted HCV in 2003.
  12. I aspire to be a writer. I’m now negotiating with a publisher. I also have three blogs.
  13. I have severe tinnitus. I hear noise all the time. It gets old.
  14. As a boy, my dream was to be a writer, or a forester.

I Almost Killed a Man

Clarion Alley, very much cleaned and renovated
Clarion Alley, very much cleaned and renovated

In 1987 I was serving the Lord with S.O.S. Ministries in San Francisco, California. I was living in community with other team members in the Mission District on Sycamore St. Everything was rather gritty. (Some would say it was ‘loathsome or gross,’ but that seems unkind.) Wine bottles, mixed with the decor of fresh graffiti  and was then blended with the acrid smell of urine. When it got hot, it got really bad. It could make your eyes water.

“Amelia’s”, the biggest lesbian “rock-n-roll” bar west of the Mississippi was a few doors down. A gay thrift store was next to it. Right next to us were heroin addicts; when they overdosed they would start retching in the common “light-well” that we shared with them. The “puking” could get pretty violent, and you had to turn up the radio just to block it out. And we prayed for them.

I had the misfortune (?) of having the front room on the first floor overlooking the street. Nights would bring out all the crazies, the junkies, the girls fighting and throwing bottles at each other. I heard everything. Cursing and yelling and screaming. I had a front row seat to all the nastiness and pain these folks had. Every now and then a police car ventured into this circus, and things got normal– for about five minutes.

I once saw a couple, completely nude and having sex in the middle of the street. And it was only 12 noon. Hmmm. The house we lived in was smack in the middle of what the San Francisco Chronicle called “San Francisco’s Mean Street.” I think there were some close runners-up to us though. But living on Sycamore had its share of memorable moments.

I was driving the ministry truck back from an outreach at Powell and Market (the “cable car turn around.”) We had had a great outreach, almost four hours. It’s a perfect locale, with the subway and the tourists and the street performers. The truck was loaded with sound equipment, and I was taking it back to the S.O.S. house, where we stored it (under lock and key, of course.)

There was an alley directly behind our house. Clarion Alley was the classic inner-city alley. It was very rough and nasty, and if you did venture out you needed to be “prayed up.” It is also the city’s largest bathroom. It seemed the urine smell tried very hard to cancel out the stench of the feces. It was very ripe. (I had also gotten stabbed with a used heroin needle while I was cleaning– but that is another story.)

I was driving along, very happy to be headed home. It had been a very long day, and I was tired. I turned from Mission St. into Clarion Alley. It was dark and pretty chilly. I was thinking about a cup of hot tea. Now Clarion is only a block long. The street was filled with garbage, and as I tooled along there was a big roll of carpeting laying pretty much crossways on the pavement.

I was tired. My first thought was just to drive over it. I think I might even accelerated the truck. All of a sudden I had the strong urge to stop. I slammed on the brakes and jumped out of the cab. Cautiously, I knelt down for a closer look. Rolled up inside was a wino trying to sleep. I’m sure in his mind, the carpeting was a cozy “godsend,” a safe place that was warm and dry place hidden from “bad people.” And I came just inches from killing him.

God intervenes to protect our lives probably much more then we realize. Each person has been created in His image. He loves everyone– as if we were the only one.

“We put our hope in the Lord.
    He is our help and our shield.”

Psalm 33:20, NLT

ybic, Bryan

SOS Ministries has reorganized but still is true to the vision it had when I served with them. Website: http://sosmin.com/wordpress/. It is the premier place to develop a gift of evangelism and worship. 

SOS Ministries is an inter-denominational, evangelical, street ministry in San Francisco.  Their special mission is to reach the people of the San Francisco Bay Area and to train Christians and churches in evangelism helping them reach their own communities for Jesus. Come help share the love of Jesus Christ with the people of San Francisco.

SOS organizes three “Church on the Street” outreaches each month in San Francisco or Berkeley on Saturday afternoon. Local churches bring their worship group and conduct a church service in a downtown park. They also witness three times a month in San Francisco on Friday night.

Outreaches are subject to change. Call (510) 282-5629 to confirm outreaches or for more information. E-Mail: mail@sosmin.com,

Website: http://sosmin.com/wordpress/.

Mailing Address:
SOS Ministries
P.O. Box 27358
Oakland, CA, 94602