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The Dark

Posted in Uncategorized on October 30, 2014 by nmpreach

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to hear Episcopal priest, author, and professor Barbara Brown Taylor. Although her talks weren’t long, I (and I assume others) were intrigued from the very beginning.  One of her God-given gifts is the power of words.  Being read to is not one of my favorite past times, but Taylor’s voice, and more importantly, her subject matter was what drew me in from the beginning.  Taylor spoke regarding Genesis 14, and particularly on the identity of Melchizedek.  Although she was willing to let the vagueness of the text speak for itself, she also offered a few principles I thought simple yet powerful enough to jot down.

“God works through religious strangers.  Some people are different, yet God chooses them to affect you and/or your circumstances.”

“God blesses through all kinds of people in all kinds of ways.”

I left that talk thinking maybe we search too hard for a meaning in texts that are vague.  In other words, could it be the narrator of Genesis (1) didn’t know the details of certain historical accounts, (2) didn’t think them important to the “take away,” or (3) intentionally left them vague for a bigger reason.  Defining God contains a bit of mystery.  Maybe that’s the simplest sentence you’ll read today.  But it’s important.  The point is:  Can we ever be okay with simply saying, “I don’t know.”?

The vagueness is what Taylor would call “the dark.”  Examples in Scripture are numerous but include the exodus at night, and Jesus’ dialogue with the Pharisee Nicodemus (John 3).  Blaise Pascal once spoke of a “God-shaped hole” within each of us.  Taylor would proffer the search for what fits in the hole is part of the gift.  In other words, there’s an intimacy found in the dark (vagueness); whereas we’re never promised certainty – at least this side of paradise.  Finally, Taylor stated, “Practice faith in the dark until something blooms again.”

Although we’ve been taught (and perhaps teach others) about the things that “go bump in the night,” what might we learn about God’s character within the darkness?  I’m currently reading Taylor’s latest work Learning to Walk in the Dark (Harper Collins, 2014).  More on that later!

If God is sovereign (I believe that He is), He is even bigger than the dark and those things contained in the dark.  He remains sovereign even in the midst of storms.  Maybe the darkness is offered not only to teach us about ourselves but to encourage us to appreciate the light even more.



Swapping Tables

Posted in Uncategorized on December 31, 2013 by nmpreach

I’m not much for resolutions, but I think goals are vital to life.  Is that a contradiction?

What I mean is this:  Resolutions focus on the upcoming year but often times those new-found commitments end after a few weeks.  Resolutions seem to appeal to individuals – their hopes, dreams, desires, etc.  You might resolve to lose weight, quit smoking, exercise more, etc.  But most seem narcissistic.

On the other hand, Jesus said, …I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (Jn 10:10)  Living an abundant life should be our goal – living a life that’s full.  So we must define the abundant life the way He defines it.  In other words, my life is not my own.  My goals can’t be focused on me!  My selfishness must be destroyed.  That’s not narcissistic at all.  In fact, it’s the opposite.

So here’s one of my goals for 2014.  I’m making an exchange.  From this,


to this.


Don’t get the wrong idea.  I’m not giving up food.  That would never happen!  🙂  But I do want to make better choices.  Although I will benefit from making better choices on what I consume, in the long-term, my family benefits, my church benefits, everyone around me benefits.  They benefit because of conscious decisions that I make.  I’ve also told our church I’m praying that we all have a new hunger and thirst for God’s Word.  Ezekiel 2:8 reads, …open your mouth and eat what I give you.  Jesus himself said, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  (Matt 5:6)  That’s the “table” I’m more interested in.  Amen.

Quotes (31)

Posted in Uncategorized, Words on December 19, 2013 by nmpreach

One of the best gifts you can give to others is your ability to receive a blessing.  – Anonymous


Posted in Uncategorized on December 6, 2013 by nmpreach

Uh OhAny of you who know me know that if you hang around long enough, there’s a good chance I’ll say something stupid (and you might get offended).  I really try to be wise about my words.  But honestly, I think no tongue might help.  FYI, this blog is not equipped for audio so there’s no applause button.

As I’ve aged, I’ve also realized some will get offended just by miscommunication.  It’s inevitable.  I didn’t communicate something well.  They didn’t hear what I said.  etc.  Most of the time, the failure is on my part.

Here’s the latest:  A few days ago, I posted a Facebook status that got more conversation started than people who have ever read this blog.  Maybe that’s an exaggeration – but not by much.  I know bloggers who write things just to be controversial.  Trust me, that was not my intent.  My intent on the blog (and on the FB status) is to get people to think.  Simple!

The status was Church = hypocrites encouraging hypocrites

Again, the premise was to get people to think.  Now here’s my thinking when I wrote.  Forgive me if you’ve heard the argument before.  There’s a dichotomy between the nature of the flesh and living by the Spirit.  Although I didn’t have the space to note the following on Facebook, I’ll do it here.  You might read Romans 7 in its entirety.

For I don’t understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.  So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.  For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and  making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.  Romans 7:15-25 ESV (emphasis mine)

The controversy was over the definition of the word hypocrite.  Offerings to define the word included “thinking oneself pious but not living piously,” and “stating certain beliefs while behaving differently.”  The latter was the definition I proposed.  Here’s where the lack of communication was evident.  I don’t think (in the end) there was a sharp disagreement – although I was accused of being contradictory.  Is that the right word? Nevertheless, there was a problem.

Paul speaks of being in bondage to sin and then speaks of grace.  Huh?  At first glance, I suppose it does sound as if he’s contradicting himself.  But further study reveals that’s not the case.  Paul – Follower of Christ – recognizes sin in his life.  And he says plainly in verse 18, …For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  So it’s not either/or.  It’s both/and.  1) Follower of Christ; 2) Sinner  Another way to look at it is 1) Sinner; 2) Saved by grace

That’s exactly what Paul is doing!  He believes certain things, yet he behaves (in some ways) differently.  Using the latter definition above, would Paul consider himself a hypocrite?  I think so.  I think that’s a major part of Romans 7.  Why else would he declare, Wretched man that I am!

I will continue to filter my words.  Without an intent of being controversial, my intent is to force people to think.  Please understand, it’s always in love.

Horn Of Plenty (1)

Posted in Uncategorized on November 24, 2013 by nmpreach

A rare post on Sunday morning.  But because of the weather, we’re unable to meet as a church family.  Over the next week, I’m going to post a few thoughts from a sermon that was to be preached today.  I pray you’re challenged!

First of all, think about your blessings. 

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
*Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.
[*And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.]

Those words were written by John Oatman in 1897.  But they ring true today as well.  Some of you were singing, weren’t you?

cornucopiaAre you familiar with the word “cornucopia”?  It’s from the Latin and describes what you see.  The basket is in the shape of a horn and when empty, is simply a basket.  However, when filled with a harvest, it becomes a “Horn of Plenty.”  The recognition of one’s blessings makes it easy to fill the basket.  Sadly, though, instead of focusing on our blessings, we often focus on our troubles.

At church every Sunday, you have an opportunity to offer praises before the prayer concerns.  Are you more concerned with your troubles or are you focusing more on your blessings?

Secondly, a Horn of Plenty is meant to be shared.  In other words, it’s not just for you.  It’s for those around you.  Your blessings are meant to be shared with others.  After all, we are simply stewards of all God owns.  Are you willing to share what God has done for you?

More tomorrow.  Stay warm and safe.  Worship today.  And think about a Horn of Plenty.

Quotes (25)

Posted in Uncategorized on October 17, 2013 by nmpreach

A summary of Revelation today:  1) God’s team wins.  2) Pick a team.  3) Don’t be stupid.


You’re welcome.

But Then…

Posted in Uncategorized on October 8, 2013 by nmpreach

If you haven’t taken the time, read the book of Ezra.  Ezra records the return of certain exiles and the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem.  The Israelites are excited to get started and are supported by resources from the Persian king Cyrus.  But then.

Then a new king reigns.  Then adversaries rise up and cause trouble.  Then a letter is written to the new king demanding that the work be stopped.  Then untruths are included in the letter.  And the king issues a decree demanding the building of God’s house be ceased.

Enter a leader named Zarubabbel.  He’s intent on following God’s directives, despite what any earthly king says.  He’s all about glorifying God.  If you read the text, his passion for God’s will will jump off of the pages.  As the adversaries inquire of who gave him permission to begin rebuilding again,  Zarubabbel reminds them of the original decree (Cyrus) and more importantly of God’s will.  A third king (Darius) is consulted and upon finding Cyrus’ decree, allows the temple to be completed.

As I was reading the text, I was reminded of Peter and John in Acts.  You remember.  They were told to cease from speaking about Jesus.  He was gone.  The religious powers wanted to retain their power.  And speaking of Jesus was causing turmoil.  Peter and John must desist.  It was time to fade away and never to be heard from again.  As the text says (Acts 4:2), the Saducees were greatly annoyed, arrested them, and eventually told them to shut up.

But then.  Then Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Then Peter and John spoke boldly.  Then the two did what God wanted rather than what man wanted.  Then God protected them from the Saducees and they worshipped.  Then the place where they were was shaken.

When God calls us to follow His will, He doesn’t eliminate struggles.  Read that again!

Too often, we perceive challenges as “I must be outside God’s will.”  But that’s not always the case.  If Zarubabbel would have followed man’s directives and waited on the new king to issue a decree, chances are it would have never been done.  The temple wouldn’t have been finished.  If Peter and John would have listened to the Sanhedrin, they wouldn’t have seen God move and eventually the entire place be shaken.  Despite the circumstances, Zarubabbel, Peter, and John had an enormous faith.

I’m convinced God wants a modern-day Zarubabbel who stands up to do what’s right.  One who serves the people of God.  A leader.  One involved in ministry work.  One who won’t take “no” for an answer.

I’m convinced God wants modern-day Petes and Johns.  People who declare truth regardless of perception.  People who know because they’ve been with God.  Sure, there’s circumstances that come our way.  But then.

And when these things happen, the entire place with be shaken.  And God will be glorified.  Lord, may it be as you have said!