Tense Truths

I.

It all started with a dream last week,

About a friend I hadn’t seen in more than a decade,

And hadn’t talked to in six years.

Even though it had been so long

And so much life had passed us by,

I realized how important he still is to me.

My love for him and his family is as strong as ever.

And that dream made me take a look at the tapestry of my relationships

And realize somebody was missing.

[click to continue…]

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(The further adventures of Eugene Davis, Sophomore Christian)

“What would be s good time to come by your office?”

The voice on the other end of the phone was none other than Eugene Davis, Sophomore Christian and resident expert on all things spiritually enormous.

Normally Eugene would pop in, sort of like the Allies dropped by to pay the Germans a visit at Normandy.  But this was different.  It had the air of urgency.  Eugene Davis was always serious and everything was important.  But this was a step beyond.  It was deliberate.  Ruggedly precise.  Appointment-worthy.

“I’m free about 3:00,” I said.  ”What’s up?”  (To this day I don’t like ambushes in meetings.)

“I think the Lord has given me a vision.”

“Well,” said I, ”I’ll be here.  Come on by.”

Apparently I didn’t send the right signal.  Didn’t catch the gravy of the situation.  This was a vision.  From God! [click to continue…]

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Just in case you somehow thought that God was irrelevant and grace is for people who never really needed it…

Twelve times He said it.  Twelve times he peeled back the veil and revealed very early something of His heart, passion, and grace.

And twelve times, I daresay, we have missed it.

In a gesture that can only be described as Covenant Love, the Creator of the Universe – the Holy Lord of Heaven – entered into a covenant relationship with three men we refer to today as Patriarchs.  And in a stunning act of clarity and focus, the Lord changed their names – and His.

He gave them His name (Abram inserted the Hebrew name for God and became Abraham).

But He also took theirs.  Thereafter He would refer to Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

We all know what that means, right?  He’s the God of three old guys whose pictures we put up on flannel boards in Sunday School.  Three cardboard cutouts who never had to change their oil, replace a hard drive, or tweet their followers.

And yet, Jesus used this phrase – The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – to make the point that He is the Lord of the living, not the dead.

I’m thinking we may have missed something. [click to continue…]

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It’s the creator’s fantasy…

…to use the tools of the trade – words or paint or dance or music – to design the ultimate masterpiece.

…to turn passion into such artistic cleverness and inspiration into such adoration that mountains move, easels grow dark, and all other voices remain silent, at least for a while.

…to write the song to end all songwriting, or the story that all other stories are compared to, or the verse that contains the finest content of the heart.

Never gonna happen.

The heart is too large to be reduced to words or rhymes or phrases or meter.

The soul is too powerfully changing to be framed by one snapshot of expression.

The imagination is too delighted in the dance of dreaming to stop with one image.

The inspiration is too elusive and awe-inspiring to ever satisfy the poet that his work is done.

The Creator whose image we bear is too interesting to be limited to our vision-of-the-moment.

So we have the choice… [click to continue…]

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The path of the Christian is not always bright with sunshine; he has his seasons of darkness and of storm. . . The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope. (C. H. Spurgeon)

In East Tennessee a mother suffers a broken leg and a devastated heart as a tornado claims the life of her baby.

In West Alabama a couple hears a noise and opens the front door of their home.  Seconds later, there is no more home, and no more couple.

123 tornadoes, so I hear,  in one day.  The death toll at this point:  319.

Meanwhile, on the same day, in East Texas a spiritual champion and one of the most respected leaders of his generation collides with destiny in the form of a tractor trailer.

And as the world reels and the grieving begins in earnest, a rude reminder comes collecting – the winds blow and the rains fall on the just and the unjust, and none of us has any guarantee of tomorrow.

Does that anger you?  Me, too.

Does it seem unfair?  I get that.  Why do tornados never seem to level prisons?

We can huff on our high horse all we want, but guess what?  Neither you nor I will change the fact that life is unfairly short and at times unbearably hard.

Is that God’s fault?  I’m sure we’ll get our dose of that from the usual sources.  How come nobody ever “blames” God when money’s in the bank, gas is cheap and the ocean is calm? [click to continue…]

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A man was brought into court for trial and found guilty.  The judge happened to be a close boyhood friend of the accused, although they had not seen each other for many years.  Remaining impartial, the judge sentenced the defendant and levied a penalty – a fine – appropriate to his crime.  The fine was so large that the accused could not pay it, so a jail sentence seemed to be the only alternative.

The judge then did a very unusual thing.  Leaving the bench, he approached the convicted man, shook his hand, and announced, “I’m paying the fine for you.”  There in the courtroom the law was satisfied, and so was love.

Beautiful justice.  Scandalous love.

What a picture of the cross.

At the wonderful, tragic, mysterious tree

On that beautiful, scandalous night you and me

Were atoned by His blood and forever washed white

On that beautiful, scandalous night.

The ultimate intersection:  two beams connected, the vertical and the horizontal.  One pointed to God, one reached out to man.  And there, suspended between heaven and earth, the Prince of Glory was judged in love.

The ultimate paradox:  how could something so ugly be so beautiful?

The ultimate collision:  sin met grace.

The ultimate demonstration:  the love of God and the sin of man.

The ultimate betrayal:  thirty stinking pieces of silver for the life of the Son of God.

The ultimate rejection:  unconditional love, hammered through with nails.

The ultimate ransom:  innocent blood for guilty humanity.

Beautiful justice.  Scandalous love. [click to continue…]

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Six Signs of a Spiritual Attack

“Well, how did it go?” Robin wanted to know.

“I just want to be teachable,” I said in a hollow, measured voice.

“What did he say?” she asked – getting ready to rise up in my defense.

What did he say, indeed?  The scene happened during my first pastorate.  Our church had grown quickly and had experienced changes, which is never an easy thing.  Now we were trying to establish our annual budget and define our biggest priorities.  And a man I’ll call Joe wanted to know if he could meet with me.

When we got together, the first words out of Joe’s mouth were, “It is obvious that you aren’t here to help our church grow, but to make a name for yourself.”

Ouch.

I listened mostly (although I did tell him I didn’t appreciate him judging my motives).  I listened as he talked about church’s former days.  I listened as he talked about troublesome people.  I listened as he offered his version of a solution to our problems.  I listened (and stared, frankly) as he “led” us in prayer – weeping all the while.

And I went home, still listening.

I Hate Criticism.

For years I hollered to whoever would listen that “there’s no such thing as constructive criticism.”

I was wrong. [click to continue…]

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Joey’s feeling pretty small today.  That’s what happens when you’re supposed to have the right words to say and there are no right words for a family in needless grief and pain.  So Joey just hangs there, offering the ministry of presence.  Hoping to offer some kind of life or lift that will help.  But who will lift the lifter, and remind Joey what it’s like to stand tall and strong again?

Joey needs a carrier.

Alicia would never admit this, but she’s a living example of a Proverbs 31 woman.  Greatly admired, if not revered, she never seems to sleep, and lives pedal-to-metal most of the time.  She gets more work done by lunchtime than girls half her age and boys of any age do all day.  But behind the success and flair, Alicia hides an ugly secret:  She’s exhausted, and nearing the point of just not caring anymore.  And though she has a hard time admitting she can’t do it all, she, too, needs a carrier.

Joey and Alicia are real-life examples of somebody who’s near you, or who is you, right now…

  • Tired, but no end or help in sight…
  • Overwhelmed, but no clarity about what to hold onto and what to let go of…
  • Weepy at times for no apparent reason, or for any little cause…
  • Feeling abandoned or opposed against the tide of opinions, accusations, or criticism…
  • Disappointed by those once trusted, confused in the very areas that once produced confidence …
  • Surrounded by pain, yet seemingly helpless to do anything about it…

All these and more are the unmistakable signs of someone – maybe you – who is calling for a carrier, whether they know it or not. [click to continue…]

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The Circle’s End

by Andy Wood on March 29, 2011

in Insight, Life Currency, Tense Truths

Phillip’s down, and he thinks he’s out.

Life hasn’t been kind to the 33-year-old; in fact, life has been brutally unfair.  In just one calendar year, Phillip left his friends due to a job transfer, lost the job that transferred him due to downsizing, suffered an excruciating ankle break in a pick-up basketball game, and separated from his wife of seven years, though they are working on things.

Phillip tries to be hopeful when everything around him feels fatal.  But he can’t mask the confusion.  How can a year that started with such promise and confidence leave him feeling so lost and broken?  How can a life driven with such expectancy just a few months ago feel so aimless now?

But what Phillip can’t see because he’s in too deep is how close he is to the Circle’s End.

Karen can’t believe her eyes, but there’s no mistaking that little “plus” sign.  After months and months of futility, what she has dreamed of all her life is finally happening.  She’s going to have a baby.   That’s a much better explanation for that morning nausea than “stomach flu.”

The enchantment she and her husband are feeling is surely a precursor of things to come.  The family they both have dreamed of.  The joy and delights of holding that little one for the first time.  The expectancy that life has made a turn for the better, and there is nowhere to go but forward.

And she’s right… to a point.  But just as tides ebb and flow, Karen will eventually reach the Circle’s End.

However you would classify your circumstances, one thing is certain – they’re anything but still. [click to continue…]

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(Tense Truth:  Every believer occupies a position of victory and authority because of the finished work of Christ. But we can position ourselves to fall victim to Satan – an already-defeated foe.)

He’s the player to be named later.  The unwelcome guest at any crisis, the unspoken stalker behind every fear.  He’s the artful author of your doubtful thoughts about God and the persistent reminder that you should just go ahead and quit. 

And before a wise apostle concludes his note of encouragement to suffering believers, he puts in a plug to remind you and me…

This lion doesn’t sleep tonight.  Or any night.

Pull back the Curtain of the Seen in the Land of the Obvious, and you will find that behind every frustration, accompanying every conflict, and beside every expression of trust in God, a battle is being waged.  And you’re in it. [click to continue…]

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