Tidings of Comfort and Joy

 

star-of-bethlehem

 

The words to the carol begin, “God rest you merry, gentlemen.” The comma goes after merry. The word “rest” is a verb and in the oldest use it means “make.” It is saying, “God make you merry, gentlemen (the general audience). God make you joyful, and let nothing you dismay – let nothing frighten or trouble you.

And then the narrator explains how God has had provided for their merriment and quieted their anxious souls. Remember, says the caroler, that Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day. To save us all from Satan’s power while we were gone astray. So, Christ has saved us from a fierce enemy, and from the fruit of our own folly.  The oldest versions then say, “this brings” or “which brings tidings of comfort of Joy.” Remembering what Christ has done for us brings news of comfort and joy.

The actual origins of this song are not known, and I can’t find anywhere that says if the writer developed it from scripture. But the main refrain of the song is extracted directly from Jeremiah 31:13, “Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” Young women (same word in Hebrew as virgins) will dance and be glad. Why this? It is a symbol of hope – it’s why the “young” dance – because they represent anticipation of the future – anticipation dances when there is hope. Why hope? Because of what the Lord has done and promises to do. God says, “I will turn their mourning into gladness.” I will turn their sad song into a happy song. HOW? I will give them comfort and joy.

The first thing he gives is comfort. This is not just a hug and a “there, there.” The word carries the connotations of deep empathy – it sounds like the low-toned sigh of a caring adult quieting a troubled child. God says, “I will comfort you.” How? Immanuel. God with us. God saving us. Earlier, in v. 11, the prophet says the Lord will deliver Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they. God will comfort us by being bigger and truer and stronger than the things that trouble us, even and especially the things that are stronger than we are. He will be present: bringing down the noise, quieting the alarms, the voices, the pressures, the threats, the fears, anxieties, and un-ending expectations. He comforts us by confronting these things. Christ comforts us by His own victory over them.

The term Christus Victor refers to a Christian understanding of the atonement which views Christ’s death as the means by which the powers of evil, which held humankind under their dominion, were defeated. The idea is this: Christ is victor. Christ in his death and resurrection overcame the hostile powers that hold humanity in subjection, those powers variously understood as the devil, sin, the law and its condemnation, and fear and anxiety and even death.”

Christus Victor is rooted in the Incarnation and how Christ entered into human misery and wickedness and thus redeemed it. The Christus Victor view of the Atonement is a drama, a passion story of God triumphing over the powers of darkness and liberating humanity from the bondage of sin. He redeems us from everything that was stronger than we were. He comforts us by His victory over all our fears.

His comfort precedes and produces joy. Comfort comes first because it is the voice of truth. It displaces lie and shadow and threat. Comfort settles the soul. It prepares the way for joy. Joy cannot long abide in the troubled soul. Without comfort, joy is temporary, elusive – crowded out. So, He comforts us – that He may cause us to have joy.

He would comfort your soul – that he may cause your joy. Where are you troubled? “Benign” things: Life? Work, family, finances? Or does fear, unrest, regret, or pain trouble your soul? Christ has overcome. He is truth. He is love. He is power and grace. He is stronger. He Is Immanuel.  God rest you merry, dear friend. Let nothing you dismay. He wants you to dance again. Tidings of comfort and joy indeed.

Thanks for reading; Merry Christmas,

‘Dav

 

Why? A Picture of the Preferred Picture for Heritage Church


 

heritage logo

Change can be a lot of things: exciting, curious, uncomfortable, comforting, and a little scary. More often than not, change is hard. So then, why change? In our case, as Heritage Church, why should we change from meeting in our current facility and embark on the journey toward a new facility?

There are a handful of pretty good reasons to stay put. Plenty of people have been meeting together in this location for many years. The Lord has done some really wonderful things in and through the lives of folks that have gathered here. The building isn’t broken, and we’ve remodeled it 5 times in 7 years. It’s paid for. Those are all good reasons to consider NOT changing. So, why should we?

If our shared passion were to preserve the present – then we might be able to accomplish that goal by staying where we are. It’s possible that we could maintain our current attendance and ministry programs. It’s almost certain that we would continue to enjoy God’s presence and power (all He’s looking for is our continued faith and yieldedness). We could continue to work to make our presence known and convince folks to find us on Hazel Dell Avenue. We could consider investing serious money in renovating and improving the facility. All this is possible. If, that is, we fixed our focus on preserving the present.

However, if we lift our eyes and allow faith to fuel a fresh dream for Heritage; if we asked the Holy Spirit to help us paint a fresh picture of a preferred future for Heritage – would it look like what “is”? Is “this” all there is, or all there should be? Or, is there more?

Right now, in two services, we are able to accommodate a couple hundred adults at a time. I am thankful for each person in each padded seat. But what if we could accommodate even two or three times as many? What could we accomplish? While it is not difficult to maintain a minimum budget in a small, paid-off building, it also isn’t possible to accomplish much of anything else.

Sure, moving will cost us. We’ll have a mortgage. We’ll spend money on renovations and improvements. But let us not be like the 10 spies who looked at the challenges beyond the Jordan and retreated in fear. Let us be like those of faith. We are well-able. We don’t have a huge slush-fund or giant surplus currently. But we do have solid, consistent income. And we can adjust spending to accommodate increased expenses as we need to, if we need to. I believe that where God guides, He provides. I am willing to believe that the same God who calls us to dream big will supply all we need for those dreams.

A larger capacity, with more people working, serving, praying, and giving together would allow us to accomplish so much more locally and around the world. We would be able to provide family-raising-wages for our staff. We would be able to fund larger missions and relief projects. Further, we could host regional conferences and events – inviting more people and impacting a great deal more people. The benefits of increasing our capacity are many.

What if we had the kind of building and location that could facilitate better, weekly ministry to young families? What if we had indoor recreation and outdoor play areas for kids? What if we could run a Faith-Filled, Christ-Honoring, Family-Affirming Preschool? What if we had a place, during the week, where mommies with little ones could come and connect over coffee while their kiddos had a fun and safe place to play?

What if we had the kind of building and location that could better facilitate teaching, training and development? What if we had different sizes of meeting spaces that allowed us to host smaller seminars and workshops? What if we had space and location to develop and offer a Certificate in Bible / Ministry Leadership program?

What if we had meeting space that allowed for more growth in elementary, middle-school, and high-school ministry? What if we had the space to host regular, week-day morning devotional services for our more “seasoned saints” who enjoy potlucks and hymn-sings?

What if we had a facility that made better use of contemporary technology in order to serve and communicate with congregants and the community?

What if we grow large and strong enough to begin to see past just filling up and using one church building, and instead set our sights on planting many churches? What if we had the resources, personnel and plan (I have the last part already) to plant a new church every two years?

In the end, a facility is not just about current or future capacity, but about current and future calling. What are we called to be and do in our city? In our region? In our world? As Heritage Church, what legacy will we leave?

As we stand and banks of the Jordan and consider the cost of crossing over, I invite you to remember why. We move forward because we have concluded, after years of prayer and preparation, that there is more for us to be, and more for us to do. We must keep our eyes on the picture of our preferred future and say, “that is why.”

 

Yours for “more,”

 

‘Dav

Two months, Two states and Two nations.

fall journey

This fall is landscaped with some terrific opportunities to travel to different states and nations to serve and encourage others.

The first weekend of October I travel to Indiana to spend a weekend with a fantastic church that has been aggressively pursuing and experiencing revival for several years. While I sincerely hope to encourage them, I know that I will receive much from my time with them.

A week later I travel with a friend that I respect and love to Cuba for a week of Ministry Schools and Crusades.

The first weekend in November I return to my friends in Bozeman, Montana for a conference on the Holy Spirit where I will serve alongside another ministry colleague.

The last week in November I travel back to the Philippines to be part of Philippines 4 Jesus – and do a week of meetings in Ozamiz.

Whenever I travel, I remember Paul’s words in Romans 1, that he was eager to visit the church there in order to impart to them a Spiritual gift  – that is that he and they would be mutually encouraged. This is my prayer once again. PLEASE pray that I may bring to those I serve a gift from the Holy Spirit to build, encourage, strengthen and bless them. Please also pray that in each place I go, I learn, grow, and increase in the sweetness and strength of His anointing.

Thank you for praying with and supporting me as I travel under the covering of Ten Talents International Conferences and Crusades.

 

God bless you much,

‘Dav

Sealed image

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cuba

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Do you want to live a long and prosperous life?

prosperity

Sounds like the start of an infomercial. But it’s not an idea birthed by late-night marketing professionals. It’s an ancient query, posed by David  in Psalm 34:12-14. He offers this rhetorical question, “Hey! Do you want to live life, loving your days and see good?” The question presupposes an affirmative response, “uhm, yes please.” He offers a succinct solution to what you seek. The answer isn’t found in super-secret-strategies or narcissistic navel gazing. It’s about living by grace.

Keep your tongue from evil and lips from lies.

Interesting. The first thing David tells his audience is to watch how they talk. David apparently knew that how we talk – to and about others in particular – has a direct impact on our lives. Does he mean that our words have some sort of karma-like effect on our lives? Or is he pointing out that our words can most often be the first source of trouble and pain in life? I think it is mostly the latter. If we speak unclean and unkind words to or about others, or if our speech is littered with guile, we partner with everything ugly and invite the same in our lives. Where you find sour speech, you will not find happy hearts. There is a symbiotic relationship between destructive words and decaying lives.

Turn from evil and do good.

It follows that next David urges a change in our behavior (but remember he first insists we change the way we talk). Turn away from evil – by turning toward good. The Psalmist posits that the way we abandon evil is to embrace good. Doing good is turning from evil. You pretty much can’t do both at once. Don’t bother making a list of things to “stop doing” and then try real hard to not do them. Change what you focus on altogether.  Most of us don’t have to turn away from great violence or other horrid vices. This is more about the small stuff. In any given day we are presented with a thousand opportunities to make a better choice, to choose a kinder course. To encourage. To give. To serve. To do good.  Take advantage of every opportunity. Make doing good an adventure. What good thing can you do for even one person today?  I wager that you’ll discover your life is richer. Doing good is the good life.

Seek peace and work to maintain it.

Nothing ruins life more than strife. And few things shorten life as fast. The one who would prize a prosperous life should pursue and protect peace. It may cost you your pride, but pride is worthless anyway. Seek to bring peace where there isn’t any, and protect peace by precluding the poisons of envy, accusation, and quick-offense. Peace doesn’t mean everyone agrees and has had their expectations satisfied. Peace means we honor one another enough to adjust our expectations. Peace means we stop feeling the need to control others. Peace means we treat others the way we’d really like to be treated. Peace means we look for opportunities to forgive. Peace means we assume the best instead of suspect the worst. Peace has to be protected; don’t we always protect our valuables?

Apparently David recognized that a long and prosperous life has more to do with our words, our actions, and our relationships than almost anything else. May the grace of Jesus Christ fill and flow through what you say and what you as it governs and guides your relationships.

Live long and prosper.

Keeping Your Ask Big

Ask

Cruise control is for cars, not life.

Sure, life is a marathon and not a sprint, and patience proves a powerful ally. And yes, a great deal of life is getting up, showing up, doing what’s right, and then doing it again. But consistency is no excuse for apathy.

I am stirred by the encounter that Solomon has with the Lord in 2 Chronicles 1:7. At a very early point in Solomon’s reign, shortly after sacred inaugural events (including 1000 burnt offerings), one night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, “Ask! What shall I give you?”

God essentially dares Solomon to dream. God commands Solomon to ask from Him – with a powerful inference that He expected Solomon to ask big.  I cannot imagine a better way to begin a career as king – or anything else for that matter.

Think of it, Israel had already experienced significant success, wealth, and power under the reign of David. David essentially did all the heavy lifting. Solomon could – could – have eased into cruise control and just enjoyed the echoes of David’s reign.

But on this night God appears to him and says, “ASK!” Now, I have for years read this passage and attributed the wonder of this opportunity to God responding to something Solomon had done right – as if Solomon had picked the winning numbers in a lottery and “boom” God rewards Solomon with the greatest question ever.

But perhaps not. Perhaps this question reveals something about God, rather than something about Solomon. Perhaps we see a God who invites us to ask – and ask big. No, I don’t mean a God who invites us to selfishness or greed or discontent or gluttony – not at all. I mean a God who is glorified by great expectations.

Too often I fear that I tolerate atrophied expectations. I begin a day or start a task using the same measuring stick I used before, almost as if the goal was just to finish something instead of achieve something.

But what if I heard the voice of God each morning, inviting me to “ASK!” What if each week’s goals, every day’s appointments were predicated on elevated expectations – based on a big ask?

I am challenged to keep a big ask. I don’t want to set the cruise-control and just go through the motions, being satisfied with getting things over. I want to hear the voice of a Great-Big-Good-God who invites me to approach life, daily, with elevated expectations.

Ask! Dream! Imagine! Risk! Dare! Expect!

“Lord, help me to inhale hope and ask big today. And then to do the same thing tomorrow. Help me to keep a big ask.”

‘Dav

Here am I, send me…

Dear friends,

I am grateful and deeply honored to have the opportunity to travel at home and overseas to encourage leaders and churches, and to help equip believers to powerfully, compassionately confront suffering. I am deeply grateful for the Holy Spirit’s comforting, life-giving, empowering presence. He is all our confidence!

Update from Ghana: In Ghana I had the opportunity to serve Manna Mission, an organization that runs a hospital, school, church and bible college on a 32 acre compound just outside of the capital city of Accra . I look forward to the returning there.

This fall several ministry opportunities have become available, including overseas schools of ministry and crusades in Cuba and the Philippines and state-side conferences in Indiana and Montana.

I appreciate your faith and prayer support on these next endeavors.

The Lord bless you much.

‘Dav

Therefore I will not fear

fear

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear thought earth gives way, through the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling (Psalm 46:1-3).

A sturdy truth: God is present, very present.

Response: Therefore we will not fear. Never.

Even if: the earth gives way, the mountains crumble into the sea, the sea itself roars and foams and cause the earth to shake. Still, we will not fear. We will not fear.

Trouble can, does and will happen. It can go from bad to worse. But because God is a very present help, the singular resolve of my heart is this: I will not fear. Not even if cataclysmic events cascade around me (or even if a bunch of little things pile up and cast a shadow of threat).

I will not fear. I may lose everything, but I cannot lose if I will not fear.

The Lord is transcendent, greater than and existing over every and all temporal concern.

There is nothing to fear – but Him – and He’s here to help.

The human heart is quick to fear, a result (I suppose) of the fall.

Fear is the condition of the heart when it has lost consciousness of God.

It is why Jesus never was afraid. Except perhaps for that one instant, “Eloi, eloi lama sabachthani” – when for a moment of eternity He took upon Himself the abandoned, fearful heart of an orphaned people.  Jesus bore our fear.

It is why “fear not” or its likeness is one of the most often repeated imperatives in scripture.

The prescription for fear is a deep awareness of God, that He is a very present Help.

The nearness of God, the conscious awareness that He is very, fully present leads my heart to this resolve: I will not fear.

Fear not, and thanks for reading,

‘Dav

 

 

Renewed Resolve to Preach and Practice the Gospel

the-gospel

At the local church where I serve as teaching pastor, we are in the middle of a series called “The Good News” – we’re surveying the gospel as presented by Mark.

It is a very healthy thing to read through the gospels, letting them speak for themselves to us about Jesus, His ministry, mission and the Kingdom of God. What Mark records for the reader (his intent is to present “the beginning of the Good News”) tells us what Mark believed (probably from Peter’s preaching and tutelage) was important for the reader to know of Jesus.

Again, if I let myself just listen to Mark, then I feel like I am bombarded with powerful, compassionate images of a Christ who spends a great deal of time driving out unclean spirits and healing the sick. And with each sequential occurrence, whether individual or the masses, the crowds become more desperate for Jesus, and His fame (people spreading the testimony of Jesus) grows. The more Jesus heals and delivers, the more people do everything they can to get to Him or to bring others to Him. When Jesus was just being Jesus – he could not even hide from people if he tried. (Yes, there are also those who grow increasingly hostile to Jesus – but this isn’t about them right now). As I read I am overwhelmed with passion, with desire, with delight and deep longing.

And then I pause to consider the trends, the fads, the programs, and paper-back buzzwords and techno-idolatry that I see pushed as “how we’re going to really reach this generation.” Let’s be clear – I love technology and I love communication, leadership and administration. I don’t have time or interest to defend myself on those fronts. My point is that if more leaders were more honest – a great deal of what is pushed and polished has nothing to do with what occupied so much of Christ’s time and energy. I struggle with wanting a better facility, more staff, more funds for more sophisticated operations, and all the same stuff that most leaders wish they had more of or better. And I don’t apologize for wanting all of it. There’s no reason not to be excellent.

But the gospel. The gospel itself is really, really enough. It’s more than enough. There isn’t a facility in my county that could contain the people crowding inside if they thought Jesus was really there touching broken lives. No one would care about acoustics or esthetics. Like those so many long years ago, they’d come to hear and be healed. I believe the Gospel is still powerful. I believe it is still the power of God. I believe the Name of Jesus still authorizes healing and deliverance. I believe untold numbers of people need both. I believe the gospel still works.

So with renewed resolve I will preach and practice the gospel. I trust the Holy Spirit to help me, to guide me, to teach and lead me – and to be the Power and Presence of Christ to us and through us now. My world still needs good news; the Gospel is still the best news.

The Oil that Consecrates

oil

 

In Exodus 30:22-33, The Lord gave Moses directions to have a special oil made. Its contents are described in vv. 23-25. Certainly there is historical symbolic significance to each of the ingredients, but more significant to me is the purpose and effect of this oil.

After it was blended by a perfumer, it was a sacred anointing oil. In v. 26 The Lord says this oil is used to anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony and all the utensils, the lampstand, the altars, etc. In applying this oil to these items (anointing them), they became consecrated, and became most holy. Whoa. I slow down and do the math, imagining myself observing and processing this: applying this oil on that object has an effect on that object – it makes it different; it changes its purpose, it is consecrated; it is most holy. This oil on that has made it MOST HOLY. Before the oil, that lampstand was unique and precious. The ark of the testimony was something wonderful. The tent of meeting was uniquely constructed and marvelous. But this oil on those things changed them – the oil wasn’t a reward for their perfection; they weren’t anointed because they were holy. They were (became) holy because they were anointed. Wow. The Lord even says that whatever touches them becomes holy. This is to highlight the reverence prescribed for the anointing oil. It is that sacred and powerful. Wow.

And the next sentence is awesome (in the real, literal sense of that word). That oil is applied to Aaron and his sons. They are anointed with this oil. It consecrates them that they may serve as priests. Can you imagine that reverence, wonder, fear and gratitude? The same oil that anoints and consecrates the ark of the testimony gets poured on Aaron? If that were me, I would feel such a sense of wonder and humility and reverence. I’d say to myself, “I’ve been consecrated to the Lord. This oil has made me holy. I didn’t walk in here holy; I didn’t earn this; it’s not a reward; this is something that has happened to me that must affect everything I do from here on out. I am holy because of this oil; I must live in reverence and wonder of this fact. Even if I can’t see or smell the oil, I know this oil has been applied to my life and I can never be the same.”

Then the Lord says that this oil must never be poured on the body of an ordinary person. It was exclusive. And further, anybody that tried to manufacture this oil on their own… well, don’t (vv. 32-33).

I read this passage today, knowing that this oil represents and speaks to us of the Holy Spirit. His anointing consecrates, makes holy. And I am awe struck and I weep at the concept that this Holy Oil is not applied externally, but has come to abide and saturate my innermost person. And because of Jesus, that oil is for everyone who will trust in Christ. That holy oil, the Holy Spirit, has come to live in me. I am undone. I have become the temple of the Holy Spirit. What He anoints is most holy. The Holy Spirit makes me Holy. He doesn’t validate my own; He imparts His. And I, more than Aaron and his sons, bear the reverent, wondrous, blissful awareness that the Holy One lives in me.

How can I ever live the same way? I am consecrated. I am not my own. I have become His. There is no higher calling or purpose. Consecrated holiness is a reality I live from and because of – not a status I hope to acquire. Even if I fall; even when I plow head-first into the muck and mire of my own sin, there is a greater reality at work. I am defined by this oil; not by my failure. Sin is not my identity and shame is not my destiny. I can quickly repent of and reject filth and folly. I give thanks that because of His Presence effectively at work in me, I can indeed lay aside every weight and sin that easily entangles (Heb. 12). There is a greater reality at work in me, one not of my own doing or invention, one that I neither earned nor can I boast of. He has made me His. It is about that oil. The Holy Spirit makes me holy. The more deeply I believe this, the more boldly and consistently and reverently I live it. If I treat this Holy Oil lightly – as if it were of little import and consequence, then I am little moved and less resolved to live any differently. But I do not. I reverence Him. I trust Him. I trust IN Him. I yield to Him, receiving and relying upon His Person, Power – and Holiness – to live and work in me. I tremble in wonder and gratitude. I rejoice. I am undone. The Holy Spirit makes me holy.

Thanks for reading,

‘Dav

Holiness and Authority

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The man with an unclean spirit in the synagogue (Mark 1:21-28) cried out in fear when he saw Jesus, “have you come to destroy us?” He continued, “I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”

That interaction, that phrase caught my meditation afresh this morning. Mark precedes and follows the story emphasizing that Jesus ministered with authority – this exorcism exemplifying such authority. So, assuming a theme of “authority” reading this passage, I take fresh note of what appeared to intimidate the unclean spirit.

The spirit did not cry out that Jesus was the “mighty one” (although He is) or that Jesus was the “powerful one” (although He is), or that Jesus was the “wise one” (although He is). What tormented this tormentor was this: “You are the Holy One of God.” Is it plausible that the authority Jesus radiated found its epicenter in the Holiness he bore?

I wonder if (our) authority is often muted by a casual relationship with Holiness. I cannot entertain or partner with the unclean in one moment and then expect to exercise dominion over it in the next. I don’t mean that a believer should muster and trust in his or her own “holiness.” That’s just laughable. I mean that the Holy Spirit makes me Holy, and because He does, I choose to live that way. I recognize that the Holy One abides in me. I recognize that I belong to and have been made one with Christ – The Holy One of God. And I live that way because I can and because I should. The Holy Spirit makes me Holy.

I reject a casual relationship with Holiness for this reason among many: I suspect there is a causal relationship between the Holiness I am conscious of and authority I exercise.