Sunday, July 29, 2007


His skin strained to escape the piercing cold of the park bench. A moist fog fell from the moonless night, coating everything in its path with a thick dew as it rolled out over the park. His body continued to fight for his attention. His stomach knotted in hunger, his toes aflame with the hints of frostbite, even the screeching in his head that pounded continually now could not draw his thoughts from the pit of his guilt. Where was that first mistake? When did it all gone wrong?

With clarity that had escaped him for years, he examined every step, every breath, every glance, every action. For several weeks now, he made this bench his home as he slowly rewound his life, placing each moment beneath the magnifying glass. Hundreds of would be futures spread out into the darkness like a web as he exposed poor decision after poor decision. But where was that first mistake?!

Bean appeared too tall for his age. The weight of despair had long hunched over most of the elderly homeless in the park, but Bean stood upright. The heat that comforted his hands earlier in the evening, spread from a cup of coffee to Bean. The small crumpled bag, no doubt containing the apple, and perhaps some bread, that Bean procured daily, sat beside him. Where did I first mess up? Bean would be back in the morning. He shook his head. He needed to stay focused.

How could he be so content? Bean's hope shone. What was it Bean said earlier? He meant to remember it. What was it? The cold bit at him and he shivered, drawing his thoughts out of that past. A warmth spread through him. He remembered. He'd been trying to tell Bean he did not belong here, this was not the world he knew. Bean listened. His eyes shone with understanding and compassion. All the pain of failure had poured forth with no means of restraint. And Bean listened.

When he had finally run dry, they sat, silent, as the day gently slipped away. After a brief eternity, Bean spoke, "You know, we're just beggars, all of us. Beggars telling other beggars where we've found bread."

Saturday, July 28, 2007

What is my goal?

The July 28th entry in My Utmost for His Highest opens with, "We are apt to imagine that Jesus Christ constrains us, and we obey Him, He will lead us to great success. We must never put our dreams of success as God's purpose for us; His purpose may be exactly the opposite." It calls to mind Romans 9:20 & 21, "But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, Why have you made me like this? Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?"

The Utmost entry is titled "After Obedience --- What?" After obedience? The title itself knocked me back, and how much more the words that followed. How could this man who died 90 years ago know me so well? I am not obedient, so why even glance at the other side of this insurmountable precipice? It defines obedience.

How many times have I ignored His call because I felt insufficient? Or because I've held more tightly to the guilt of my sin than to the cross and His grace? "I am not spiritual enough to . . ." "I do not read my Bible enough to . . . " "I am too sinful to . . ."

I need to be continually reminded that it is odedience to His call that strengthens me spiritually. It is obedience that draws me into His Word and aids to put my sin in its proper place. The July 28th entry puts me feet back on the road, "if we realize that obedience is the end, then each moment as it comes is precious."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Right where I began

"Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct" 1 Peter 1:13-15 (ESV)

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

I don't know why I am having such a time getting my head around this "whole man" idea. It's not the concept as much as the conviction, the conviction to bring the whole man under obedience. Like the 1 Peter verse above, the challenge is escaping from the shadow of our former selves into holiness. But what a peace it is to know that, as B.B. Warfield put it, "the redemption wrought by the Lord Jesus Christ . . . renews me in the whole man after the image of God."

What is the whole man? It is everything. Every thought and every action. It is where I spend my time and my money. It's how I choose to relate to those around me and how I choose to relate to God.

I believe it was John Calvin who said we are idol making factories. Meditating on the whole man thing this week, I've found parts of my life, of me, I've not given to Him. I have not loved the Lord my God with all my heart, or with all my soul, or with all my mind (Matthew 22:37). I've been placing idols between myself and God.

So tonight, we tried it again: family devotion. We broke out My Time with God for Students, Training Hearts Teaching Minds, and even read Romans 9 (Q.7. What are the decrees of God? provoked some interesting discussion) The boys asked good questions. It's motivating to see them thinking about God and who He is.

An idol smashed.

Whole Man, Continued

"If Christianity is really true, then it involves the whole man, including his intellect and creativeness. Christianity is not just 'dogmatically' true or 'doctrinally' true. Rather, it is true to what is there, true in the whole area of the whole man in all of life."

Francis Schaeffer

Monday, July 16, 2007

Princeton Theolgical Seminary, New Jersey

"I believe that the redemption wrought by the Lord Jesus Christ is effectually applied to all His people by the Holy Spirit, who works faith in me and thereby unites me to Christ, renews me in the whole man after the image of God, and enables me more and more to die unto sin and to live unto righteousness; until His gracious work having been completed in me, I shall be received into glory; in which great hope abiding, I must ever strive to perfect holiness in the fear of God."

B.B. Warfield, point 15 of A Brief and Untechnical Statement of the Reformed Faith

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Westminster Abbey, London, 1647

What are the duties required in the first commandment?

The duties required in the first commandment are,

the knowing and acknowledging of God to be the only true God, and our God;

and to worship and glorify him accordingly, by thinking, meditating, remembering, highly esteeming, honoring, adoring, choosing, loving, desiring, fearing of him;

believing him;

trusting, hoping, delighting, rejoicing in him;

being zealous for him;

calling upon him, giving all praise and thanks, and yielding all obedience and submission to him with the whole man;

being careful in all things to please him, and sorrowful when in anything he is offended;

and walking humbly with him.

(Westminster Larger Catechism, 1647, Question 104)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Arequipa, Peru

Without using mapquest or google maps, how do you get from the Sebastian Inlet, Florida, to Arequipa, Peru, in a pontoon boat?

I received a call this week from someone who means a great deal to me. She is just beginning the process of getting some paperwork together to complete and return to some state agency. On top of the annoyance of dealing with bureaucratic redtape (of which she's only starting to see the beginning), she facing the fact it is something she should have already done, maybe even a couple years ago. Seeing an opening, the past heaped a good portion of discouragement and condemnation on her. And, now that I reflect on it, fear.

What is fear? We fear what we cannot control. The person who called me feared the consequences of her procrastination; she feared the process and the outcome of labor that must be put forth as she works through the paperwork and bureaucracy.

It seems I recently heard a pastor teach about his need to be in control. He recognized it as a fault, a stumbling block that had caused him to fall. I remember thinking, "I know I've my own host of issues, but the need for control is not an area where I fail." What is it? Pride comes before a fall? This week revealed my need to control things. But when I do, I keep God small.

I am unable to control my past. I am unable to control others. I am unable to control the future. I am predisposed to fear these things. Again, the person who called felt the condemnation of not pursuing these avenues available to her sooner. I told her, we can't change the past, but we can act now, and that affects the future. She's no idiot. I revealed nothing new to her, but she needed to hear it spoken aloud and from someone else.

I say it all the time. God is sovereign. He is in control of all things. I know it, but my actions too often reveal I don't believe it. When I seek to take the reigns from Him, I make God small. I believe that is why "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge"; He is in control of all things. In obedience we are to relinquish all control to Him.

On the July 8th entry of My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers says, "Will is the whole man active. I cannot give up my will, I must exercise it. I must will to obey, and I must will to receive God's spirit." Will is the whole man active. Will is the whole man active. Will is the whole man active. I am not frequently active, and when I am, it is most certainly not the whole man.

Too often I consider studying and meditating on God's word, attending church, and passively praying to be the extent of my Christian walk. When the Holy Spirit convicts me, I am forced to recognize that it is not walking, it's sitting back. Some of my favorite scripture is Paul's description of the full armor of God in Ephesians. What is armor for? It is for battle. Too often I find myself making it a museum piece. "Here is the Full Armor of God fitted for Josh circa 2007. It's pristine state is a direct result of two conditions: One, years of careful maintenance, and two, it was never worn in battle."

So, how do you get from the Sebastian Inlet to Arequipa in a pontoon boat? God.

A week and a half ago, as rain built up to the south of us, my dad pulled the boat up onto the south bank of the inlet. My son played shortly with another boy on the playground, while we talked and admired the newer buildings in the park. The rain held off and we decided to head for the dock (another adventure altogether), but as we started to load up, a man walked down from a pavilion toward us. It was Jesse, the father of a boy that once worked for me. Their family and ours has grown close through multiple connections through the years. During his conversation with my father and grandfather, it came up that Brian, his son, and Neal, another boy who worked for me at one time, had been to Peru on a mission trip. How cool! God is so good.

Later that day, my wife and I headed out to the mall while my folks watched the kids. Date night at the food court. On the way, 91.9, Christian FM, gave an update on a recent mission trip to Peru to help build a radio station. Could it be? Yes. Tonight I finally remembered to check their website for the Arequipa Peru Mission 2007. There they were, no longer boys but men. Active men going to battle. Again, how cool!

Map from GoogleMaps

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Channel Marker 73: Sebastian, Fla

I love Sebastian. It's not because it wants to be known as a quaint coastal fishing village when it grows up. Last week, when driving through Sebastian on US1, passing Capt. Hiram's Resort, a small shopping area called the Village Square and hearing about their annual Clambake in November, I found they're close to pulling it off.

It's not even due to the joy I find being out on the intercoastal swimming or fishing. I've even considered the possibility that since it where I spent my high school years, and my parents still live there, that it is home to me. But my home is with my wife and kids in Jax. So, why do I love Sebastian? It's where my folks, my family, live.

With some in Micco, others scattered in Ft. Pierce and Vero, grandparents in Sebastian, it is a place to touch base with where I came from so I can more easily see where I want to go. Each one of them colors who I am in some way (there is no way I am even going to attempt to say who and how; I'll inevitably leave someone out). Too often I wander around with blinders, excusing it as being "focused". As I result I am frequently humbled to see character traits I long for my boys (even me) to emulate where I never thought to look. Being around family helps me see we all are made in the image of God.

Each visit helps me grow. I never see it when I am there. In fact, I probably devolve to some extent simply by finding myself in too comfortable of surroundings. But tonight, almost twenty-four hours since we returned home, I can see more clearly. I can see my path more easily, the highground and the snares that line the trail. I can see where I need to step up as a father, and as a husband. And I can see, too clearly, where I fail to pursue Him. Going back to the place where you grew up, where you spent those teen years that molded you, tested you, going back can shed light on old sins that still plague us.

You know I ran across an old box of letters
While I was bagging up some clothes for Goodwill
But you know I had to laugh at the same old struggles
That plagued me then are plaguing me still
I know the road is long from the ground to glory
But a boy can hope he's getting some place
But you see, I'm running from the very clothes I'm wearing
And dressed like this I'm fit for the chase

'Cause no, there is none righteous
Not one who understands
There is none who seek God
No not one, I said no not one
So I am thankful that I'm incapable

Of doing any good on my own

'Cause we're all stillborn and dead in our transgressions
We're shackled up to the sin we hold so dear
So what part can I play in the work of redemption
I can't refuse, I cannot add a thing

That is from Thankful by Caedmon's Call (an incredible song by a band that has captured my thoughts perfectly in song multiple times). Again, why do I love Sebastian? It makes me better.