care more than some think is wise; risk more than some think is safe;
dream more than some think is practical; expect more than some think is possible


A Peace-bearing Sword

The other day I read the following exert from Spurgeon's Morning & Evening, "Christ is the great Peacemaker; but before peace, he brings war. Where the light cometh, the darkness must retire. Where truth is, the lie must flee; or, if it abideth, there must be a stern conflict, for the truth cannot and will not lower its standard, and the lie must be trodden under foot." ... It was his commentary of Christ's statement “I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword.” (Matt 10:34).

It caught me by surprise a little bit. 

Early last week, just before Christmas & immediately thereafter, I had heard or read several times over, the verses, "And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.'" (Luke 2 :13-14,emphasis added). Of course, we know this is in relation to the birth of Jesus, the God-Man. The heavenly and angelic hosts proclaimed to the shepherds, because the Christ is birthed, that peace shall reign, among men. 

But questions remain, namely, Where is this peace to be seen - here on earth? Or is it strictly a heavenly peace? And further, is this peace to be experienced by all men, in the sense of "mankind", or rather a select grouping of "men" from every nation and tribe and tongue and people (Rev 14:6)? These are a bit of a rabbit trail in refernce to what I am really seeking to address, however, let's make a quick summation of these questions. I will answer them to my best understanding.
I believe the peace spoken of shall be experienced both here on earth, during our temporal stay, and for eternity in heaven in the presence of God. Peace is only possible through God's ordained and predestined reconciliation of men to Himself, through the Christ Jesus (ie: salvation alone by grace alone through faith alone, in the atoning work of Jesus alone; namely, His death upon the cross, punishment thereupon for humanity's sin, and His subsequent resurrection, damning sin, death, and Satan for all eternity). That is how peace is attained between God and man, after God the Father, through the mystery of the Holy Spirit, works men's hearts to repentance and acceptance of His gift of salvation. Upon that acceptance, peace is restored to the broken relationship, and men are then no longer at enmity and war with God.
Then, for the 2nd question, the answer has really already been given above, but let me state it plainly. God has ordained, by some mystery I am not even going to attempt to address, that salvation is not for all men. Why? - I am not going to surmise anything. But, it is clear, salvation is not for all, some are bound for an eternity in hell (which is completely heart-breaking, but all I can do is trust that this is best, because this is what the Father has ordained), separated from God. But what else is clear, is that God is a missionary God! He loves diversity (just look around you), and He has called from every nation and tribe and tongue and people a certain number of individuals, and this is the "men with whom He is pleased" spoken of in Luke 2:14. So the answer is that God is the One who brings peace to men, both now on earth and for eternity in heaven with Him, and that this is for those whom He has chosen as His elect for salvation, for those whom He has chosen for adoption and to be co-hiers with Jesus! 

Now then, back to my original point. The angelic hosts proclaim peace, and yet Christ Himself says He brings a sword and will divide families (Matt 10:34-36) ... Now, I am no scholar, but these statements seem to be at odds with each other. Obviously, the answer to this "contradiction" (its not really one, it just appears so at first glance) is provided with Spurgeon's commentary in the first paragraph of this post. But, it still provides for great contemplative thoughts. 

Before peace is violence! Before the calm, comes the storm of the Gospel! Let us not pussy-foot around this, the Gospel of Christ is violent, thats why we hear people say it is a "Violent grace." The cross is anything but peaceful!  I recall the movie, The Passion of the Christ, a heart-wrenching depiction of the last hours of Christ's earthly life, and how the producers described that they could not include the full extent of the torture and brutality of the cross because it would have surpassed what is acceptable for viewing, even according to Hollywoods's criteria. That is intense!

Henry states, "This [division] of the preaching of the gospel is not the fault of the gospel, but of those who do not receive it. When some believe the things that are spoken, and others believe them not, the faith of those that believe condemns those that believe not, and therefore, they have an enmity against them that believe. Note, the most violent and implacable feuds have ever been those that have arisen from the difference in religion; no enmity like that of the persecutors, no resolution like that of the persecuted." And I would add to it, if one is not fully devoted, totally sold out, and wild & crazy for this "atrocious grace," then it will eventually offend, and will eventually cause one to flee.

Take any matter - homosexuality, legal marijuana, abortion - and consider the strife these topics stir in the hearts of those who are activists for whichever side of the matter. Then consider that the Gospel is dealing with an individual's eternal condition. Further, the Gospel of Christ is decisive - you either go to hell or to heaven, there is zero middle ground, no balancing acts allowed, you are either in or you are out. No fence straddling, thats kind of dangerous anyway (Right guys?). The Gospel inevitably sparks, even ignites the most violent of reactions because in a person's sinful, fleshly, and worldly state they see nor comprehend their need for a Savior.

Yet, even if this need be made known, they may still detest the gospel because of this little thing called pride! Pride cast Lucifer (Satan) from 2nd to God to least of all, the Father of Lies, the Liar himself, the serpent! Pride is a powerful thing, and more often than not, I think it is the single most  powerful tool employed by the Enemy for keeping men from salvation (Now, don't get cranky, I know Satan can keep not a one whom the Father has called with that sweet and irresistible effectual call, but if one is not called of God, then pride will be the culprit to which he or she is held accountable).

But for the one who responds to that effectual calling, to him all the riches of Christ, the eternal King of kings and Lord of Lords, is given (and in time, when that saint in called home to eternity, all those "riches" will be laid upon the feet of the King!!!). To the one who is called, peace shall reign! Peace now, and forevermore! But dont go thinking this peace is comfort or ease. Far from it!!! Here is what Jesus promises, "These things (see John14 and following) I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) ... and  ... "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad for your reward in heaven is great ..." (Matt 5:11-12a) ... and ... "...Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For ever the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:43-45) ... and lastly (but certainly not least or really last either ... "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls." (I Peter 2:21-25).

So, peace now is peace of heart, knowing that Christ has overcome all the world and the enemy has to throw at us! Alleluia and praise the Lord!


Surprising Alignment

You have heard of the "Prosperity Gospel".

What is it? What is this prosperity message?

Well, at its core the cliche message of the prosperity gospel is health and wealth - that is, that God wants his children to be healthy - cancer-free, good eye sight, perfect hearing, absent of heart attacks, straight & white teeth, etc...) and wealthy (as big a home as you could desire, a nicer car than your neighbors, and all the fancy platinum, gold and silver that can fit on your wrists). It is a false-promise to an easy life, where comfort and fat wallets are the goal, the blessings of God. It centers in on creating the belief that faith exhibited in a person's life is rewarded with health, wealth, and happiness.

What is interesting to me about this is that it lines up so entirely well with the American Dream pursuits. I heard at the end of a newscast this morning, "Have a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year! Good bye." That was the news anchor's sign-off from this morning's newscast. Doesn't that sound ever so similar to what prosperity preaching pastors proclaim?

The answer is YES! yes, wishing someone those things I know is not wrong. It is American, and well as far as I am concerned, I want nothing to do with it, thats just a personal viewpoint. But, when pastors are preaching, proclaiming "God's message" and lying about what God says in the Bible about our health, our wealth, and our happiness ... then I have a massive problem.

Here is the thing. Jesus did not come proclaiming that He desired our lives to be fleshed out in a way that tickled our fancies and satisfied our every last whim!

On the contrary, he promises persecution and hardship - He supported these claims by living out his own life which was full of hardship, leading him to the most treacherous of deaths! His disciples helped us to understand this as most of them were executed for their faith. Paul suffered endlessly throughout his life. Christians around the world (American Christians generally not included) are suffering daily at the hands of those who hate Christ.

So please, don't wish me a happy, healthy and prosperous new year. Rather wish me to grow is faith in Christ, and to begin little by little to look more and more to Christ and like Christ. That is the wish I have for my life.

The prosperity gospel is a disguised name for the American Dream, which is so strongly opposed to the Gospel of Christ!


The warm and cozy ... homeless park?

Ok, so in my last post I more or less blasted what a large majority of Christians do now-a-days, namely sit in a coffee shop and chat away theirs lives (myself included). I reported that I was going to live up to my own challenge and report back some of my experiences. Thats what this post is for.

So, two Wednesdays ago now, I set out for a local spot in the Ham called 5 Points, which all things considered, is actually a really awesome part of town, very eccentric and eclectic, almost bohemian. Its a major cultural clash, a hodge-podge of rich and poor, classic and new age, high class and hippie, art and trashy ... you get my point. And yet, in this little niche of a neighborhood ... there is both the nicest, most expensive restaurant in all of B'ham, and a park around the corner known for its homeless population. You can see Bentleys and Aston-Martins on one side of the street and on the other wigged out, drunk homeless men.

So, in my efforts to make "loving the poor and down-trodden in act" a part of my life, I wrangled up some beanies from around the house, 7 or so, which I found buried at the bottom of closets, stowed away in storage bins, etc ... grabbed them and made my way to 5 Points - literally 3.2 miles from my folks' house. 

It was a cool 36 degrees out - cold in my book - and so I was sure that the homeless would be bundled up and hidden. And so it was. I had assumed as long as I didn't see anyone to give the beanies to, I would just prayer walk around the area for a while. Included in my prayers was a request for Jesus to put some homeless men or women in my path. For the first 45 minutes there was hardly a soul to see, not even homeless, I just mean in general - there was no one. I made a large loop from my car and back during the first 30 minutes. I grabbed the beanies upon passing my car, and then headed the opposite direction, continuing to pray as I went along. By now, I was getting antsy to meet some new friends. So I again began praying for some homeless to show.

I kid you not, as I made my way through the park there, I had decided to just set the beanies out, for them to take up as they wandered their way through the area. I set one beanie down. Turned. And there he was, Rowan. I hollered at him, he turned and as I got close enough introduced myself, I explained I was home for a month before moving away, and that I had every intention of hanging out at 5 Points several nights a week while I was in town. He seemed interested. He didn't need a beanie, he said he already had two. As soon as I spoke to him for about 30 seconds, Roosevelt appeared! He was a little less ... altogether present, mentally. He was hammered. But he enjoyed selecting a beanie (He got one of the warmer ones!). And apparently, he doesn't just give his name to anyone ... but trusted me enough to tell me his name ... true or not, I got a name! Around another corner, as Rowan split and Roosevelt and I walked on, Willie was there headed our way. He took a beanie. Then within seconds there was Percy, Christopher, and one more who's name I didn't catch.

Literally, within a matter of ten minutes I met six homeless men. They were awesome. Genuinely pleased to see another soul (a stranger, a new-comer if you will). They were just as pleased to be offered an item as simple as a beanie... its practical. Its cold outside, your head gives off a large percentage of your body heat, and so a beanie makes sense! 

But, the heart breaking realization?

Most of them, nay all of them had beanies. My offering was just a nice addition to an already pretty warm head! Truth be told, most of them were not truly cold, as in shivering due to a lack of covering! That was a bit of a surprise for this suburban white boy.

The truth of the matter is that most of all (physically) they need food! I felt almost silly, nearly stupid, almost as if my offering were an insult - I mean, I know they were appreciative and all. I asked, "What do you need?" or "Would you like a beanie?" ... the common answer, "Oh thank you so much, I already have one ... " or  "Oh thank you, yes I would love one thank you ... " but both responses were followed with "... but I really need a meal or some food."

I plan on meeting that need. As best I can at some point soon!

So, here are some thoughts.

1) Jesus definitely wants us to love the "least of these" - after 45 minutes of hardly seeing a soul ... I met 6 homeless men on the very last leg of my little walk around the area!!! He provided for me to show some small token of his love. Mind you, Jesus' love is ultimately shared by speaking GOSPEL truth into a person's life, however His love can be and SHOULD be tangible too! Such as in beanies, or hotdog dinners or PB&J dinners, or FRIENDSHIP!!! This last bit is what I hope to offer the most of. Jesus is not for charity. He is for LOVE, for REDEMPTION!

2) I am truly out-of-touch. I pray to become more in-touch! Poverty, homelessness, etc ... is huge. Only God will overcome it, if that be so pleasing to Him ... but in the meantime, I can be as the arms and hands of Christ to those less fortunate than myself.

3) Action brings faith and belief to life. You encounter Christ when you take action. For me, it was an inner, spiritual encounter. I imagine that I will begin to see Him in the homeless as I get to know them ... for He tells us, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me." (Matt 25:40).

4) One taking action may and probably will inspire others. I tell this only because it confirms this desire in my heart and spurs me on my way. I sent an email shortly before going inviting several friends to tag along with me at a later date as I attempt to make it to 5 Points several times a week. This email made it the the dad of one of my friends. Dr. Walker called me a little later that week and offered to buy the food for a meal for the guys down at 5 Points if I would take him down there!!! How awesome is that? FYI: I just graduated, paid 1/2 a months graduate student stipend ... point being, I have NO money to buy them food! But Dr. Walker does, and is not only willing to, but giddy to!!!

I cannot remember exactly what I wrote last time, but I desire this to become an ongoing and habitual part of my life, that is taking time for loving in action the poor, the widowed, the orphaned. 

Mind you, do not think I report to tell of what I have done. I cant do crap. Never will. It will always be Christ Jesus in and through me that anything good ever comes of my life, time, energy, resources etc...!

Give it shot. Go love someone!!!



Christianity does not happen in a Coffeehouse!

I am one of many that this is targeted at, because I more than most love what I am about to write against.

Christianity is not a thing. It's not a belief. It's not an event or a choice.
It must necessarily be a life. Not a lifestyle. But your life. 
If you are a Christian, then Christ must be you life.

I have had ongoing thoughts of how out-of-touch Christians are today. I have some friends who are challenging my thinking big time too.  When I say "out-of-touch" I mean with Christianity - true, radical, hardcore, sold out for Christ Christianity - not out-of-touch with the world, because if anything, maybe we are all a little too in-touch with the world around us.

Here I want to address the disconnect between true religion and coffeehouse religion.

Paul says on behalf of God, "Pure & undefiled religion in sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, & to keep oneself unstained by the world." (James 1:27)

Note, it is in the sight of our God that we are to measure what is pure and undefiled - or what is righteous and holy. According to God's standard, He wants, rather commands us to love the least of those around us. Not only are we to love them ... but to make a special effort to do so in their distress! My own personal confession? I  do not care about widows and orphans, so my history screams. I don't make special effort to care for and love on this overlooked population, to make sure they are fed, warm, or in need of any miniscule thing! So, I am the first to accept my own words, which may sound harsh.

But I guess now, I ask, just because Paul lists orphans and widows, does this exclude the homeless, the mentally ill, prisoners, societal outcasts? I don't think so. I have no grounds for assuming the greek is or isn't more encompassing than it is,  but I do know God came in the man Jesus, to heal the sick, not the healthy; that he called prostitutes to Himself before the Pharisees; that He loved the least of those that the world has to offer ... If I recall correctly, He came and rescued fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, the effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, the covetous, drunkards, and swindlers ... which some of us are/were (definitely me, I fit under far too many of those labels) ... BUT, you were washed, BUT you were sanctified, BUT you were justified in the name of the LORD JESUS CHRIST and in the Spirit of our God (1 Cor 6:9-11, with my own input and capitalized emphasis).

My point?

Maybe we should spend less time sipping lattes; discussing how sinful we are, how we wish we could feel God and his love, how messed up American Christianity is, how we wish we could get rid of all the stuff we don't need or clothes we don't wear, or whatever the hell it is we do in coffeehouses (or whatever) for hours on end blowing hot air AND instead get out on the streets to love the homeless, the addicts, the prostitutes, or get in the homes of the widowed or the elderly and take care of them, befriend them, and love them or visit the orphanages and care for, befriend, and love them too.

Talk is not action. Talk is talk. It is not faith.
Faith in my book looks a lot like action. So maybe... less talk and more action is a good thing. Maybe less talk and more action would equate to more faith lived out, more loved poured out, and more glory to God through Jesus.

As I mentioned earlier, I include myself in this. I am not mad, please don't read it that way. Passionate? You better believe it!

Do I plan on practicing and reporting on the things I am challenging? Absolutely!!! 

Do I regret that for so much of my life I have served self and remained in my castles of comfort and cozy warmth? Yes.

Is it too late to change it? No.

Motivation? To love like Christ did. To follow and obey His commandments for His name sake.

Again, I recite Jude 25 - To the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority before all time and now and forever. Amen.


Are there ever days in life when you are just overwhelmed with so many things that you think you could just fall over and weep for praise!!! or anguish???

Today is like that for me. Having my mother's emotions, I have come to embrace the fact about me that I am an emotional person. So, I am fine with days like today, when I have had a lump in my throat all day.

Several reasons for this:

1) "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) ... words currently escape me to describe how heavily this verse has just been pounded home today! The Lord is using those few words, "But take courage, I have overcome the world!" in such a way that I am ready to fall on my face without words with worship. I cant tell you what they make me feel ... but it is good and full of joy, a joy I haven't felt is some time!!!

2) A friend of mine wrote me an email today, stating he wishes he could love like I have loved him. What he doesn't know, is that the email he wrote has been as the very arm of Christ wrapping me up in his love ... the email was powerful, as something only a true friend can write. I know that I am so deeply loved by this brother in Christ of mine!

3) Another person in my life is currently totally turned away from the Lord. This is the anguish part. Especially on a day where I have so tangibly felt the love of God ... it breaks my heart to think that this person at least was once warmed toward the Lord ... and now is not. How can anyone - this person, myself, anyone not be overwhelmed with such a pure and undefiled love??? My heart is weeping for her, for the Lord to woo her yet again and draw her swiftly to Himself for his name sake and for her heart and soul sake. 

I am mindful of the line, "and weep for the praise of the mercy I've found" from the son Thy Mercy, My God. Thats what I feel ... that I could weep for the praise of the mercy I have been given in Jesus Christ! Oh I am filled with His love and I love Him for it.

Ol' Ossie Oswlad

The Law of Opposition
To him who overcomes . . . —Revelation 2:7
Life without war is impossible in the natural or the supernatural realm. It is a fact that there is a continuing struggle in the physical, mental, moral, and spiritual areas of life.
Health is the balance between the physical parts of my body and all the things and forces surrounding me. To maintain good health I must have sufficient internal strength to fight off the things that are external. Everything outside my physical life is designed to cause my death. The very elements that sustain me while I am alive work to decay and disintegrate my body once it is dead. If I have enough inner strength to fight, I help to produce the balance needed for health. The same is true of the mental life. If I want to maintain a strong and active mental life, I have to fight. This struggle produces the mental balance called thought.
Morally it is the same. Anything that does not strengthen me morally is the enemy of virtue within me. Whether I overcome, thereby producing virtue, depends on the level of moral excellence in my life. But we must fight to be moral. Morality does not happen by accident; moral virtue is acquired.
And spiritually it is also the same. Jesus said, "In the world you will have tribulation " (John 16:33). This means that anything which is not spiritual leads to my downfall. Jesus went on to say, ". . . but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." I must learn to fight against and overcome the things that come against me, and in that way produce the balance of holiness. Then it becomes a delight to meet opposition.
Holiness is the balance between my nature and the law of God as expressed in Jesus Christ.


Isaiah 1:18

"Come now & let us reason together, though your sins are as scarlet, they shall  be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool."

I can think of sitting down with You in a warm den, with plush chairs, wool blankets and a roaring fire, while the snow whips and the storm wails outside. I hear Your beaming yet gentle voice, "Child," followed by a a brief silence, "come now, and let us reason together ... concerning you." And in from the cold, ruthless winter you draw me in, wrapping me tightly in your blanket called "Love" and covering my chilled feet with slippers called "Compassion", then You lead me to your spacious den.

As we sit, the warm silence breaks to the sound of your increasingly welcome voice, falling like a spring dew, "Adam, you know why we are here?" you ask. I nod slowly, as a child learning to listen with the smallest of utterance, answering, "My stain." You thumb away the sole streaking tear, as your owns eyes well and you simply nod back in agreement.

A few moments pass, as my thoughts filled with the degree of betrayal, lying, and disbelief that have marked my path ... the self-serving, self-loving, and superficial love which I pledge that has long marred this journey of life. In that moment of realization of the deep roots of sin within, your glory and holiness bursts forth, shining with a lightning white glow! In your true revealed and imminent presence, the humbled me sloths to the ground in awful fear.

The pronunciation is looming, and my soul teeters on life and death ... but what I hear stops my pounding heart, "Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow ... though they are as red like crimson, they will be like wool ... as the pure wool blanket I have wrapped you in! For there is One, He suffered outside the gate, outside the city. He is Jesus Christ - the Messiah, whose blessed blood has flowed liberally over those crimson stains, over that scarlet blemish. His life-blood has not merely washed them, but He has made them white, as white as snow; pure, as pure as I AM. He is the Son, your Savior because for my name sake I have poured out grace to you through Him, that you might by faith given by me become a Child and Heir in My kingdom, which shall never fade away!"