I Love Your House! Psalm 84:1-4

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painting: Pieter Neefs

 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, deep down into 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; the roses were in full bloom.

I found a little “mom and pop” corner market nearby which had an awesome deli. Here I could buy cold cuts, some excellent braunschweiger, and freshly baked sourdough bread.   I returned to my room to build my sandwich.

I remember that the windows were open and there was a beautiful breeze.   Food, warm sun, flowers in bloom and the Holy Spirit are just about ready to ‘intersect’ in my life. It would be a holy collision.

It was simply a moment that 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 lays thick on the shoulders of the writer of Psalm 84.  He remembers and savors those powerful memories of his visit to the temple.  He was given something at that particular moment that would follow him for the rest of his life.

The beauty of that experience was inviolable and true and could never be duplicated.  This treasure was his. As he aged he could tell his grandchildren, “I walked with God.” And really mean it.

I personally believe God gives us these holy moments, wrapped in wonder and awe.  When the Holy Spirit deeply touches in this way you will never, ever be the same.

The psalmist has the same hunger.  These moments in the temple which are so blessed have also ‘ruined’ him.   Often special times of God’s presence will result in a ‘sanctified’ dissatisfaction with the present status quo.

But when we finally make our way to Jesus, life takes on a special and curious wonder.  When the rain finally comes to the barren desert, an explosion of life bursts out.  In much the same way, our lives are ‘watered’ by Jesus. Things get very green and lush as we live in the Spirit.  All of this is in contrast to our dry and desperate life without His presence.

I want to become hungry for His presence.  I so 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 nothing more than a boring journey into ‘black & white’, but somehow He turns it all into stunning color.

The psalmist practically begs to be returned to the temple.  He wants to be there, more than anything else. It is now his true home. He will not be satisfied with anything less.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord.
    Apart from you, I have nothing good.”

Psalm 16:2

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Martyrs in America? Maybe

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They died bravely in the first century. Will we follow Jesus when this happens to us?

Believers must reconsider the issues of being salt and light in our flourishing pagan culture. For instance, the Church has tried hundreds of approaches in evangelism, and I know of several first-hand. I’m afraid that most of them are rather stale. Sorry.

Sometime ago, someone suggested that I see,  The Passion of The Christ directed by Mel Gibson. At the time, it was shattering box-office records when it came out in 2004.  Personally I found it both compelling and disturbing.  We saw ‘Jesus’ beaten and tortured,  but it seems the splattering of blood did not translate well into spiritual change.  If perhaps anything, it may have hardened people to God’s Spirit. But who knows?

We definitely must use everything that is available to broadcast the gospel.  Art–both fine and popular, music and theater, movies and sports. I worked with a christian brother who wanted to put billboards up proclaiming “Jesus is Lord” along the highways. (He might be onto something.) I’m personally praying for a street artist like ‘Banksy’ who would witness for Jesus publicly. We need to squeeze out of every venue, in every medium every gift to share the good news. We must take it to the people. In order to do this must make the choice:

  • To be true. Endure. Continue to pray and witness.
  • To be prayerful. At least working on it. I know prayer is supremely powerful, linking my inadequacy with God’s capability.
  •  To be joyful. Sing often. Thanksgiving all the time. Our tormentors hate joyful hearts. It seems to disturb them.
  • To be real. Being faithful to Jesus. No lies, no illusions. Every aspect of our lives is to be the truth.
  • To be giving. Time or talent, it’s a stringent test of a believer’s maturity. Money is secondary.
  • To be convinced. We need to become fully convinced of the message of the gospel, and to be sure of His love.

In the time of ancient Rome, the only time Christians were in the limelight were as martyrs, front and center.  And the lions of the Coliseum made quick work of their witness. But they succeeded in reaching thousands by their witness, and a pagan empire was brought to Christ, en masse!

Die before you die, and your fear of death will die.

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. It should come as no surprise.

martyrdomI preached once on the UC Berkeley campus.  It’s a  challenging place; a condensed stronghold of a godless ‘intellectualism’ (if you can imagine that).  There is always a few people that for the most part 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”.  That is all he said. It was a flat-calm statement; terse, cold and frightening, mostly because I knew he meant it. (It was eerie and quite weird.)

In this ‘enlightened’ campus, there was a coldness–a hatred that I never encountered in the areas of inner San Francisco–Polk Street. or the Tenderloin.’ The Haight/Ashbury neighborhood in SF can be a little ‘rough’ at times, where I once was punched in the face while preaching, but nothing like ‘Berzerkeley‘ (that’s what we called it.) In three years of full-time evangelism I never met another man that was as hateful to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This incident in Berkeley was a darkly brazen calculation against the Gospel. Perhaps persecution by hardcore intellectuals will be the catalyst for the martyrdom to come.

We are in God’s hands. Period.  Our obedience to Jesus should be a decision we must make ahead of time.  We can’t just hope to make the gospel work, unless we change.  “Die before you die, and your dying won’t be death”, the somebody once wrote.  This could very well be our cue. Get ready. And “watch and pray.” And prepare to die the death now.

 

 

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

 

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

Calibrating Your Heart to His

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A chart used to calibrate video

“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 blending’ things degrade into a symphony of 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. Beautiful music can happen only if the musicians have been calibrated with each other.

We need a calibration of our spirit 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. Sometimes this takes time.

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. Be very careful.

I lived in San Francisco in the 1980s with SOS Ministries.  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 loved each other, 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 or worshiping together. 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 sometimes feel like I’m 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.

U

ybic, Bryan

 

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