Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Letting Go When the Cramp is so Deep

There are times in my life, when the whimsical grace of God beckons me to loosen my grip on the things of this earth that are of little eternal gain or loss. God simply knows I would walk or run with greater haste and fleet footedness; should I cast them out of my hand. He’s a good and wise Father who really does know what’s best for His kids, but is gracious enough to let us try and walk or run with full hands, so as to move into self-discovery only to realize; He was right.

Then there are other times in my life when His grace is less whimsical; and often forceful in command to hold on and not let go. Despite the fact that all human strength seems to wane at times like this; His grace takes its grip over mine and assists me in holding onto handle and hilt so as to not falter in the battle or aim of my swing. Ultimately to be found standing back to back with a lone comrade of the heart; watching as the mist clears only to realize the enemy’s defeat and we the sole survivors. Sword locked so tightly in hand that one’s fingers must be pried from their place. To God be the glory the battle was the Lords! For that, a tight grip is essential, yet impossible without His covering.

Then still there are deeper things that only His grace can touch; despite my initial insensitivities to His workings, until it’s too late to reject His Fatherly discipline. These are the times I most struggle. Letting Go When the Cramp is so Deep and so locked onto its object of affection; and often for the most pure and initial grasping’s. I mean really, does not the Bible tell us to “hold onto the good”? I’m sure it does. But as we’ve all heard, good can often be the enemy of the best.

It is in those times that I scream in pain as the Master therapeutically, by His grace alone, breaths rest and release into that cramping grip that I once thought so noble. That grip that once gleamed brightly to reflect fidelity to a covenant or promise of good intentions; now unwittingly stands between the freedom and bondage He died so richly to provide.

Oh you may not fully understand the permanence or struggle of a cramp so deep on a noble grasp that only the Divine can loosen its lock, but let me tell you we all have them. We all have our Isaac or Benjamin or aspiration or aim once thought of Divine origin, yet only to realize they’ve become Nehushtan. Nothing more than idols born from the provision of God at a time of great vulnerability and ignorance, yet still supplied at one time by His grace. Funny; how He sets things up to test our love and devotion. He is indeed wise in that way.

So what must we do when the grace of God comes and pierces the deepest of grips? If Letting Go When the Cramp is so Deep causes such labor and anguish, we must know in our hearts that His infinite wisdom and mercy is at work once again; freeing us. Yes freeing us from shackles of bondage we have imposed. Shackles not from the hand of an oppressor outside, but from the oppressor called self and desire.

For the moment my wants and desires, goals and ambitions, covenants and commissions, overtake my allegiance and grasp on Him alone; I can be rest assured He will swoop in by His grace and fight my death grip that has cramped so deeply only He can break its hold.

Letting Go When the Cramp is so Deep is impossible for me alone; but with His grace and infusion of rest and release I can become free. All the while not knowing I was bound.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Stuck at a Handicapped Door in the Library

You know, I’m kind of weird some days. Okay shut up, more than some, but I have a point. I stopped by our local library tonight to pick up a bunch of C.S. Lewis books (I’m still waiting for my Kindle Fire Christmas gift – hint, hint, nudge, nudge, say no more, say no more). I barrowed 4 hard copies and 1 audio CD package; I’m feeling like immersing myself in some Lewis for now.

Anyway, as I went to leave, I approached the brushed aluminum door. So nicely glazed and appointed I just had to stop exhale. “Nice door” I thought. “Wish I could have a set in my church.” Anyway, as I stood there I reached out and punched the blue handicapped button. In an almost capricious way, as if I had some kind of power at my beck and call (I do that sometimes).

Most of the time the door swings apathetically open in a way that says; “Hold your shorts buddy… you’re handicapped.” But this time nothing happened. That’s right nothing.

I punched the button again, and again, and again even faster (as if that would help); but nothing. So there I stood Stuck at a Handicapped Door in the Library and couldn’t get out. Now granted I could have done a speed skater move and shuffled to the right to get out, but no, my pride just locked me there in mortal combat with an amoral inanimate servo switch; stupid me.

But in that instant, something dawned on me. How often have I been on a quest for knowledge and solace at the feet of God or some lessor being, only to find myself bagged up and ready for warfare and study, yet locked by pride in combat with something I had no power over? Seriously! And you? Me more often than I care to admit.

So here’s the crazy thing. Was the door not opening MY FAULT? Did I not punch the button accurately enough? Did I not finesse its smooth concaved divot with enough grace and tenderness that would otherwise swoon a lesser servo device – yet this one stands like a bulwark unmoving?

Or was it the Manufacture? Was it HIS FAULT? Did He not think of every contingency failure? Did He not gaze upon the beauty of the brushed aluminum and polished laminate handicapped sign and say “Well done” and speak it into subservient and perpetual obedient response? Did He even consider the ramifications of a door not opening for one who patiently waits to see the Magic of His illustrious leadings? I think not. Relax it’s not the Manufacture’s fault. I really love the Manufacture.

Oh I know, it’s the fault of the low paid custodial maintenance people at the “public” library. They must not have given their best as to the regular maintenance of servo electronics and hinge dynamics. They must have been pining away in the basement surfing the city’s free webhosting looking for “This Old House” YouTube reruns instead of doing what they’re paid to do with my tax money. No it’s not likely that either.

You know what I determined the problem was? Me and reality. Me in the fact that I was too bull headed in the moment to move to my right about four linear feet. And reality; in the fact that entropy, atrophy, corruption, corrosion and gravity happen in this fallen cosmos and especially on this fallen planet; but the day is coming when that will change.

Romans 8:19-21 NIV 1984 “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

So the next time I find myself Stuck at a Handicapped Door in the Library and drop into a cosmological fog; I’ll breath and know there is no one to blame but me and reality. And heck, at that point I don’t want to start punching myself like a self-destructive postal worker. Nor do I want to level a shot gun at the doctoral advisory committee who pissed on my dissertation then went off to smoke their pipes and muse about higher things. Serious, reality happens to the best of us. No one is exempt.

So take heart, be at peace and step to the right about four feet and keep walking. But don’t expect doors to magically open simply because you punch the beautifully-appointed-religiously-anointed-servo-trend-setters-and-go-getters-button. Sometimes you gotta shuffle a bit and push the door for yourself. Especially when you find yourself Stuck at a Handicapped Door in the Library.

One thing I do: press toward the Mark.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bruised Waters

As I was driving across town today, these words came to mind; “Bruised Waters”. Now I’m not sure what they are supposed to mean, but I’ll attempt to elaborate what’s on my heart.

So often over the years of my life, I’ve heard that still waters run deep. Then I’ve heard that still waters don’t run at all. Then I’ve heard that our lives are subject to the rocks dropped into them creating concentric ripples. Then I’ve heard that the Master calms the waves in the storm. Then I’ve heard smooth sailing is ahead of us all, as long as we tack with the right compass course. All of which is much to do about nothing. Sorry.

The above statements don’t put skim milk in the door of my frig. Nor do they assure me that the King is still on His throne. But more often than not, they frustrate me. Simply because they do not represent the world in which I live. The world that I live in is all about dealing with the waters that have been destabilized by currents or objects to create waves or wakes. Simply put… daily life.

My world very often is ALL about Bruised Waters. They’re very often about learning, by the grace of God to navigate waters that should have been calm – but are not. Bruised Waters are far too often about destinations that one has plotted and confirmed, but due to outside forces, course correction is needed.

Now I’m not so naive to believe that we should always have smooth sailing on the waters of life, but when you have banked it all on carnal promises of smooth sailing IF you take so and so’s words of advice as eternal and permanent truth; it’s likely you’re left with some seriously Bruised Waters.

So what about waters that are far from being calm? What about waters that are more often than not, wavy and unstable? What do we do with Bruised Waters? What do we do when what we thought would be calm turns out to be dented and wavy? That’s a wonderful question to present to each fundamentalist among us?

I know I don’t have an easy answer, per se, but I do know that YOUR waters will be bruised by the intrusion of something and then you must figure out how to float and navigate on waters that were once stable; that now are NOT.

Bruised Waters… Get ready. The impact is coming!

Friday, November 18, 2011

So Grateful for Old Rib Eye’s

As I contemplated dinner tonight, I found 4 rib eye steaks from Fareway in the freezer. All in all that’s good, but they had been there for about 3 weeks. Does good meat go bad after that long in the freezer?

Anyway, what I was thinking about as I sprinkled tenderizer over the meat, and tossed on some Cookies meat spice… was this. How many people around the world, right at this moment or for this evening’s dinner had the privilege of even thinking about the taste or quality of the food they were preparing?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not carping about my meal plan, but I’m deep in thought about the amount of people on this planet who have zero to little choices on what they eat. Yet even at my worst times as a meal planner or shopper, I have and eat more than most of the rest of the world, combined. No guilt intended, just reality.

So what will you eat, as the rest of the world eats less? May I never be ungrateful for the Old Rib Eye’s buried deep in my freezer, under other stuff I could eat and find moderate nutritional value therein?

And may I NEVER take for granted my next meal… despite the fact I live within 7 minutes of fast food, slow food, custom food, and fresh food. May God help me and you to become more grateful than ever before!


An Old Sermon Outline Inspired by John Piper - 2002

“A Debtor’s Ethic”
Rev. Russell A. Kinney
Sunday, August 11, 2002
Altoona Assembly of God -

Text: Ephesians 2:1-10 (Read text – NLT) vv. 4-5 “…(4) But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so very much, (5) that even while we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s special favor that you have been saved!)…”

Subtext: Romans 5:6-11 (Read text – NLT) vv. 6,8 “…(6) When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners… (8) But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners…”

When the day came for us to purchase a home in Davenport we were given by the lender a copy of an amortization table. On this document was a listing of a certain amount of payments. Each payment line on the document showed how much money was applied to the interest as well as the principle.

Over the course of many years the debt that we owed would be incrementally paid off, so as to eventually be debt free. We would eventually owe the lender nothing and we would receive a warranty deed that was stamped and documented as paid in full. This indeed is the goal of every homeowner.

But as one looks at this schedule of payments one needs to ponder the fact that often we approach God and what he has done for us as if we owed him something.

Now granted, I really do owe him everything that I am and that I have, because He did indeed pay a debt that I could never have paid. But even so, we frequently error in our understanding of His grace toward us.

A Debtor’s Ethic
This morning I would like to speak with you about the problem of “A Debtor’s Ethic”.
When each of us applies for credit, when we purchase on credit, when we get phone or utility service in our name, or even when a piece of real estate is purchased… We are promising by our word, our signature and by our past history that we will be faithful to repay the debt in full. And this is proper and right. None of us would dispute the proper ethic of this type of repayment. As a matter of fact we would consider it unethical and even immoral when debts go slothfully unpaid.

But what about what God has done for us? All too often we fetter ourselves with “A Debtor’s Ethic” because we believe somehow that we are obligated to repay God for what he has done. When God saved us, he entered into the realm of our lives and paid the spiritual and eternal debts caused by our sin. Indeed, God did us an immeasurable favor.
And in the world we live, there is a natural inclination to payback to someone a like favor in kind. These patterns are not bad, as long as we don’t apply them to God and what he has done for us… by faith through grace.

To Nullify Grace…
As far fetched as it sounds, if for any reason we find ourselves in the posture or mindset to “repay” God with good behavior or our righteousness, we are sorely mistaken. We run the risk of nullifying the grace that He has already extended to us, as well as the grace that He sends us daily. If we, by default and cause of the world around us try to payback God for the good He has shown us and done for us, we make THE GIFT OF GRACE AND MERCY to be a transaction of debt and repayment. It is NO LONGER A GIFT, BUT SOMETHING THAT WE HAVE PURCHASE BY OUR REPAYMENT SCHEDULE OF GOOD DEEDS AND RIGHTEOUSNESS!!!
If in anyway this pattern exists in us, we must renounce it and reclaim the free gift of God’s grace shown toward us while we were still sinners.

Three Ways to Avoid a Debtor’s Ethic
Turn in your Bible to Ephesians 2:1-10. Follow along as we discover the three ways to avoid a debtor’s ethic.

1. REALIZE YOU “WERE” DEAD IN SIN – vv. Eph. 2:1-3
• Spiritually Dead
• Doomed Forever
• Full of Sin
• Obedient to Satan
• Followed Evil Desires and Passions
• Born with an Evil Nature
• Under God’s Wrath and Anger

2. REALIZE GOD “IS” RICH IN MERCY – vv. Eph. 2:4-7
• God Loves Us
• God Gives Life to the Dead
• God Has Special Favor Toward Us
• God Gave Us a Special Place with Christ (because of Christ)
• God Uses Us As Examples of His Favor and Kindness

• God Saved You
• All You Did Was Believe
• No Credit is Extended to You
• God Gave You a Gift
• Salvation is Not a Reward
• None of Us Can Boast

Now let’s look at a few other passages of scripture to affirm and confirm the above truths.

Romans 5:6-9 “…We were utterly helpless…”
Colossians 2:6-23 “…And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus…”

The bottom line is that we can never go back to living in a DEBTOR’S ETHIC… We cannot ever repay what Christ did for us. We can simply live by FAITH in what he HAS DONE on the cross and what He IS DOING AND WILL CONTINUE TO DO. Since we are saved by GRACE, through faith, then my friends we are kept by GRACE through faith.
I cannot merit more of His grace for today or tomorrow. I can only by faith accept more and more of his grace.

Bow your heads with me…

1. REALIZE YOU “WERE” DEAD IN SIN – vv. Eph. 2:1-3
2. REALIZE GOD “IS” RICH IN MERCY – vv. Eph. 2:4-7

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It Used to be Wingtips

Over twenty years ago I entered the full time ministry. That’s not so unusual, because millions have done the same. But something that’s kind of funny is this: when I started out, a good expensive pair of real leather wingtips in burgundy or black was a must. Now it’s a good black pair of Converse All-Stars.

It makes me chuckle inside because, if you were one who donned a killer pair of Cons back in the early 1980’s you must have been a follower of the Sex Pistols or Joan Jett and the Black Hearts. Funny how things change.

As for me, I love wingtips, but I love Converse All-Stars too. I guess because of my extremely flat feet, both work orthopedically for me. As for the Cons and skateboarding, they made more surface contact with the board than most other shoes at the time, notwithstanding Van’s original crape waffle soles.

I love how the packaging is changing, but I have some concerns for the contents of the package. People don’t need doctrine, albeit they’ll reject soundness in these our last days. People don’t need worship, albeit we can “can” our worship to be replicated around the planet; worship begins with the Spirit of Truth, not the latest band or vocal sound (nor lights). People need renewal, but it’s not about some creative genre that pops flashy images and ideas to a hungry crowd, but it’s about men and women carrying the truth of the power and presence of Christ, so as to do signs and wonders and prove that they are following the Word.

So what am I saying: Wingtips, Vans, Cons, or sandals… nothing matters unless the presence of the Living God is there. Period.

So if you wanna do wingtips, great. If you wanna do Converse All-Stars, great. Just make sure Jesus is present in your meetings. That IS THE PROOF that His fruit and favor are in our midst.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

When Success Comes Before Failure

Something dawned on me today. When Success Comes Before Failure, failure tends to be easier to navigate, because success has created a buffer zone of resources. Plus if a person reached a certain height, it’s likely they can do it again. Now granted, failure is failure, but like many successful people in this world, when they fail, they tend to bounce back, resuming their talented actions to comeback almost as good, or better, than before; whereas if a person of little success fails, they have little to fall back upon.

I pondered this because; each person on this planet could be placed upon a scale of success. Albeit that is a relative word, nonetheless some have used their talents well, others have not. Some have few talents others have many, all according to their capacity to handle what God has meted out (see Matthew 25).

I really believe that this thought came to mind, because if and when we run into some kind of failure, or calamity, or hardship – how one has been effective prior to the engagement, may often determine their ability to rebound and turn around.

If a person has economic wealth and they fail economically, most rebound and turn around, simply because they already have the goods to make things happen. Or if a person has relational wealth and they fail relationally, likely they will rebound and turn around, because they’re good at relationships. Or if someone is physically and spiritually wealthy prior to a crash of some sort, it’s likely, due to their previous patterns of discipline and vision; they will rebound and turn around. Most of the folks that you can think of who have achieved something of note in any of these or other areas, will tend to survive and ultimately to reverse things and thrive once again.

So why these thoughts today? Because I have never thought of myself as a success in any particular area of my life when trials, challenges, and even failures come – bounce back IS EXTREAMLY difficult. Now I know some of you may be saying you’ve had more than your share of extremely difficult bounce backs, but let me ask you this: did you bounce back to the same level or what? Did the decline experienced by the failure, launch you to higher than previous levels or did you just bounce back to the level you were before?

I know people who might say failure brought them to greater levels of self-awareness and success in later endeavors – you know we learn from our mistakes – right? But, I really believe that if we understand the acquisition of resources and know how to succeed, it’s likely despite failure, those people fall back to the things that worked before and begin to do it again and bounce back.

What if someone is NOT familiar with success or methods of efficiency and effectiveness? When they fail or face dramatic hardship, do they survive? Let alone bounce back and thrive? Go drive through neighborhoods that are oppressed and poor. Go drive by the liquor store in the bad neighborhood and take note, history tends to repeat itself. Is it because we humans are just stupid or is it because When Success Comes Before Failure – rebound and turnaround is much more likely? I say it is.

When people neither have resources nor the know how to access streams of prosperity and power it’s likely they remain in that condition – then when failure comes before failure – failure is really devastating and typically exponentially reversing. Next thing you know, they’re living in their car. Next thing you know they’re a suicide statistic. Next thing you know they’re marching into the county jail in an orange jump suit.

Please if you’ve read this far, don’t plan a rebuttal that tells me pain, challenge, trials and failure are any less difficult for persons of exceptional success and resources – I get it. Pain is pain. Loss is loss. Failure is failure. But if someone from a wealthy family fails, they just might have familial resources to help them fight the failure and rebound and turn around.

If someone has a wealth of relationships that are high quality and dependable – failure to rebound to turn around will likely be bolstered by arms of love and acceptance. If someone has proven their worth by boot-strap-achievement, likely when they fall or get hit, they’ll pull themselves up once again. But God help the person of little resource when failure comes.

I have to ask myself – what resources, talents and experiences to I possess that can and will support me and thrust me into rebound and turn around if and when failure or calamity comes? It’s kind of like counting your blessings and naming them one by one.

If you’ve never done it before, take time to do it. Write down the blessings of God in your life. Write down and list the good things you can do, things you can do to make money and jobs you know you can do. Take time to list people who you love and trust and who could resource you relationally when needed. Take stock in how good life is NOW before the bottom drops out.

You just may find, your life is more successful than you think. Because When Success Comes Before Failure, failure’s usually not fatal. Let’s try to avoid another fatality, okay?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

When God is Not Our Destination

I was just thinking this morning, about my journey in this life, and where I’ve been and what’s transpired in my short 51 years, and something dawned on me. It was a question that weighed very heavy on my heart: Is God my destination or simply a vehicle I’ve used to make my way through this life?

I really began to ponder that introspective question, because what I don’t want to happen is that I get to the end of my life and I stand before God, face to face, and He doesn’t recognize me as one of His very own, but He recognizes me as one of the masses who used Him as a vehicle to get what and where they wanted in this earthly life, but lacked the ultimate goal of Him as my final destination.

Let me break this down. I believe we can use God, or God stuff (Bible, prayer, church, music, etc.) as a cathartic vehicle or tool to travel this life, because often, things that are greater than us, in terms of ideals, philosophies, or simply positive life actions that yield good results, can actually be substituted for a personal dependent relationship on God.

For instance, most of the divine Laws that are in the Bible, that declare a blessed result if someone participates in them, can be activated by unbelievers – with good results; simply because they are laws that apply to all who operate in them. And many of those laws work without regard for ones belief in God.

So what I have to ask myself is this: Have I used all the principles and laws of God, to help me through this life, and comfort me with tangible results; all without God as my ultimate destination (a full relationship and recognition by Him and of Him)?

Because When God is Not Our Destination, but only a vehicle to a better life, an abrupt stop at the end will prove that God as a vehicle alone… is not enough. May He alone be the Vehicle and the Destination for the journey we call life.


Friday, November 4, 2011

The Great Money Grab

I should have done this yesterday, when it came to mind, but I didn’t so I’ll do it now.

I really believe that next to peace on earth, of which everyone is going to get real crazy to achieve, there is coming, and very quickly, another massive demand. The Great Money Grab is a coming movement that will take many of us by surprise, yet will be precipitated by each of us. I say that because, all of us needs money, right?

Money is the tangible life blood of each person who’s ever put their nose to the grindstone and shoulder to the wheel. Are you kidding, none of us goes to work strictly for benevolent reasons, not caring if our blood, sweat, and tears (and time) are rewarded with some sort of legal tender or tangible goods? I for one will not work for very long without the prospect of some sort of reward, be it cash or some other element that ultimately will translate into food, shelter, clothing, and some really cool shoes and internet service. And everyone said; Amen?

The point I’m making is, as I watched the news last night, more and more about Greece, and the European Union, and how they affect the U.S. and global economies got more and more poignant. Also, what about the sleeping, yellow giant to the east? It keeps hitting its snooze alarm, but eventually it’s going to get up off it’s back and demand payment or else.
So what’s the simple answer? Level the playing field for everyone, and create a global currency, so that no one can manipulate values across boarders and seas. That’s right, a one world economic system with class reciprocity across the board.
I think the Bible mentions something about the fact that during a certain seven year period of time, there will indeed be what I described above – and worse. Google it if you don’t have a Bible.

And now, on top of it all, just today I saw the news of some “Occupy” wherever, offshoots who are urging people to close their bank accounts tomorrow (especially if you have accounts with the big Wall Street type banks) and put your money in smaller local banks and credit unions. Essentially causing a run on many major banks; maybe. And of course that would be great for the entire nation; right?

Watch closely kids, for the next big show down. The Great Money Grab, is coming to your world very soon, but few will realize the gravity of its influence, nor will they even remotely understand what it will precipitate so as to fulfill God’s ultimate plan.

Don’t hold too tightly onto your assets and this world, because in a simple heartbeat or an overnight, you might find yourself at the bank wanting your money, and the doors are locked, and the pantry is empty, and you have nowhere else to turn, but to the movement and the momentum that will be created by, The Great Money Grab.

Just remember… don’t let anyone mark you or implant you, in the name of getting your cash back.