Monthly Archives: February 2006

Christian Comfort

The Urban Missions Initiative
Volume 2
Christian Comfort, Issue 7
The Anglican Cycle of Prayer
Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany – “Set us free, Oh God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of the abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.” Amen
Grace to you* and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassions and God of all comfort, the One comforting us in all our affliction, for our being able to be comforting the ones in every affliction by means of the comfort with which we are comforted ourselves by God. Because just as the sufferings of Christ abound to us, in the same manner our comfort also abounds through Christ. Now if we experience hardship [or, are afflicted], [it is] for the sake of your* comfort and salvation, the one being effective in [the] patient endurance of the same sufferings which _we_ also are suffering; and our hope [or, confident expectation] [is] steadfast concerning you*. If we are comforted, [it is] for the sake of your* comfort and salvation, knowing that even as you* are sharers of the sufferings, in the same manner also [you* will share] of the comfort.” I Co 1:3-14
Have you ever received compassion and comfort? Not the passing kind, the kind that simply expresses best wishes or good intentions; I mean the grace and deep felt comfort when you really needed it? It happened for a reason. Not the trouble, the comfort. It was so that you and I would be equipped to give the same authentic and deep felt love to others who finds themselves needing it. Trouble comes because we live in a troubled world, Jesus came that we might overcome this troubled world with love and Grace. I love the description the writer gives about our God.
He says that he is the Father of compassions, the God of all comfort, and the One who comforts us in ALL our affliction. One could spend a lot of time arguing about what causes trouble and why God doesn’t stop it. This one thing I know, there is no argument against the idea that God has done something about our world, and has given us the tools of justice, peace, grace, love, and comfort. I wonder what would happen if enemies would begin to comfort the other first? I wonder what would happen if Vocal activists would go to Arkansas and repair, paint, and clean up the Westboro Baptist Church? I wonder what would happen if each of you would go out your way to bring peace and comfort to another this week, especially someone you don’t get along with?
You see, Christ came to equip us with spiritual tools to be used. Matthew five, for example, tells us about the beatitudes, I Corinthians thirteen talks about Love, Romans twelve tells us about Christian character, Galatians five gives us the fruit of the Spirit. In all of these passages we are given tools, spiritual actions and character that we must choose to act on. Being a Christian is a choice. God will watch our backs, pick us up, and equip us, but we must chose to use the tools of comfort that he has given us. Think about it; if the God of the universe went to so much trouble to come to this earth and pay the ultimate price, even for people that hate him, and pay that price for you and me, should we not show others the same grace, even those who hate us? It is the power of God through Spiritual tools (gifts) that WE use that will change the world and ultimately make us into who He calls us to be… comfort givers.

May God radicalize your life this week with love and power and comfort!


Smiles Under Adverstiy

Little league first baseman Layson Alivado smiles as he tags another out during the World Series last week. At first base, or at bat, Layson showed great character for a child his age. Even when his team was the underdog, Layson kept the smile on his face. Even when the umpires made two bad calls, his demeanor stayed the same. Thinking of Layson reminds me of the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians: “…in everything making it clear that we are the servants of God, in quiet strength, in troubles, in need, in sorrow, In blows, in prisons, in attacks, in hard work, in watching, in going without food; In a clean heart, in knowledge, in long waiting, in being kind, in the Holy Spirit, in true love, In the true word, in the power of God; with the arms of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, By glory and by shame, by an evil name and a good name; as untrue, and still true; Unnoted, but still kept fully in mind; as near to death, but still living; as undergoing punishment, but not put to death; As full of sorrow, but ever glad; as poor, but giving wealth to others; as having nothing, but still having all things.”
II Co 6:4-10

Think of maintaining one’s purpose and character in the face of that list. Paul speaks of troubles, sorrow, blows, prisons, attacks, hard work, hunger, being spoken evil of, shame, obscurity, and being near death. Wow! Many of us have stories of life journey that has taken us to a few of these places, yet I doubt that even a few of us have had to face all of these things. Now, here is the test: pick out just one of those adversities on the list you have faced. Think about how you did in comparison to Paul’s description of Christian character.

By the way, I forgot to mention that Layson Alivado is the smallest guy on the team. Down by 3, and up to bat in the last inning of regulation play, Layson got on first with a walk, and his team mates batted him in, hitting two home runs to tie the game, putting it into an extra inning. They went on to win 7 to 6 over Currasoa. They are now the 2005 World Champions of the Little League.

How many Big Leaguers” like us can act like little Layson in face of a challenge or adversity? Jesus said that in this world we would face adversity, but we should be of good cheer, because He overcame the world. Layson had a smile on his face the whole series long.
Digital Pictures Wanted

Do you have a picture that best represents the name “Insights from the Innerstream?” You can E-mail pictures to me and I will print the best of the best in future issues. The address is

“When the foe comes like a flood, the Spirit of Jehovah
Shall cause him to flee.” Isaiah 59:19

I am overwhelmed as I realize that I wrote the first half of this letter on Monday, prior to the hurricane in the gulf coast. I am also overtaken that I chose the above picture prior to the massive flooding in New Orleans.

These events point my attention now more than ever for the need of humanity to call on the name of our Lord, and for we, as believers, to fast and pray for the victims of this catastrophe. The scripture I chose from Isaiah reflects in such an eerie way to me the truth that when evils, such as the hurricane, come against us, that God promises to raise up a standard against them. A standard is a “levy” designed to hold back the flood of evil coming against us.

In the light of this horrible occurrence, Christian people need to realize that we are part of that standard, that levy of protection. Our fasting and praying is needed, but so are our resources. A preacher once said that “our prayers are as good as our feet and hands work to make them come to pass.” It is not just enough to expect the answer to come from some place out there. We must actively become a part of the standard, and God will be the almighty force to hold it together.

To Be A Believer

In a prison, a man asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (See Acts16) Their reply was simple; to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. It really does sound over simplistic to simply believe, yet, that is the beauty of Christianity. To be a believer, you must simply believe. Belief is a choice. It is an activity of not just the mind, but also the mind, the heart, and the spirit. Belief is like taking a leap of faith. First, you choose to believe and then Christ will show up with the goods, the foundation of our choice to believe. One major operation of the Person of the Holy Spirit is to bolster our faith when we choose to believe. He gives us the power to become the sons and daughters of God. In addition, He goes even further to help us in our quest.

There is the quality of belief that He enables us to have. Mark chapter 11 and verse 22-24 is a prime example. “Have faith in God,” we are told. The Greek language gives us even a deeper insight to what is at our disposal. The phrase Echo Pistos Theos Literally means to “have the faith of God. Wow, commanded by Jesus, we are to have God’s KIND of faith. It stands to reason that if God commands us to have his kind of faith, that He would enable us to have it. So, we simply must ask our Father and expect to receive, which is the other part of the verse in Mark. Whatever, we are told, we ask for, if we believe we receive we will have what we ask; that is, the kind of faith we are asking for. This pleases our Father in Heaven when we ask to be like Him. What parent wouldn’t be pleased when asked by their child to be like them?

Then there is the obedience word. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that those who would please God must believe that He is and that He rewards those who believe. The rewards are many, when based upon quality of life and faith. When we seek the right things of God, He opens the windows of heaven, even during tough times.

Then there is Jesus. “Do not let your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The Words, which I speak to you, I do not speak from myself, but the Father who abides in Me, He does the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me; but if not, believe Me because of the works themselves. Indeed, I tell you truly, the one believing into me, the works which I do, that one shall do also, and greater than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you may ask in My Name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” John 14:1, 10-13

We are told that we have control over the trouble in our hearts, even though life may not be going that easily. He is giving us a lesson here on abiding. The fact that he tells us that the Father is in Him and he in the father is alluding to the fact that they, with all the quality of the Godhead, will abide in us. Now that is a real reason to choose faith and to believe. Some one said that seeing is believing, but in this case it is not. Asking to be indwelt by the faith giving God is trusting and obedience; and that leads to becoming spirit filled which then tells us internally that we are believers. We believe because our hearts are convinced and then our fickle, human minds can line up with the reality already inside us. I call this the Innerstream. Check out Ephesians chapter three:

Eph 3:16 “that He may give you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; Eph 3:17 so that Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,”

Wow, want to believe? Simply choose to do so and see what happens.

You Missed What Mark?

You’ve Missed What Mark?

Moses gave us a mythological story in Genesis called Adam and Eve, the account some believe to be actual and others allegorical. He compares the first time humans “sinned” to a fruit called the “knowledge of good and evil.” Whether you believe the story to be literal or allegorical, the comparison of fruit to disobedience against God is the central focus. I find it quite accurate to liken sin with fruit. Most fruit has seed that will reproduce. Moses seems to be indicating that there was a time when humankind first erred and chose to focus on evil, rather than good. Humankind chose to reproduce fruit that was against the nature of God, and those actions separated us from the Nature of God.
Just like may, I am turned off by the brow beating we hear on TV by the evangelists who use sin as a means of condemnation. Most of them may have never investigated the Allegorical, or the Biblical word picture given to us. The New Testament word for sin is the word Harmartia. It was a military term used by the Romans meaning: to “miss the mark.” Used in conjunction with Archery, any time a Roman Marksman shot his bow and arrow and missed, he “missed the mark.” The target, then, was the mark. Just like the Romans, Christians have targets to shoot for and those marks are as diverse and unique to each follower of Christ as there are stars, yet the targets are all made of the same substance.
The Epistle writer Saint Paul writes this in Romans: “All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.” Ro 3:23 Now, he goes on to tell us that the “glory” of God is the “Spirit” of God. Ro 6:4 and 8:11. We all come short of the presence or Spirit of God and miss coming into to fullness of the fruit of the Spirit. Gal 5:23ff Why did Moses compare sin to a forbidden fruit? The kind of fruit that the Spirit of God produces is not the kind that the world may produce. We are all to produce peace, love, joy, faithfulness, kindness, gentleness, self-control, meekness, and patience, the attributes of the Almighty and the character of Christ. When we do not produce these things, we miss the Mark; we fall short of the glory (Spirit) of God. We all miss it from time to time, and that is no reason for condemnation. In fact, Paul writes in the first of verse of Romans 8 and states: “…there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus for the law of the Spirit of life has made us free from the law of sin and death.” Reassuring, isn’t it?
Our Targets are to become the unique persons He made us to be, and to produce that good fruit of the Spirit in the diverse ways unique people do. What is your target?
Paul states that “Christ, who never missed the marked became the missed target on our behalf that we can achieve the Glory of God…” II Co 5:21 (my paraphrase). We no longer are separated from God by falling short, our aim redirected by Jesus. When we do need to refocus, life in the Spirit puts us right back on target!

Make Our Just Cause Shine

Greetings on this snowy Saturday from Kentucky,
The reading in the Psalms today is one of my favorite passages and I find it quite applicable to my personal and social life. The rich meter and heart felt content of the Psalmist indicates wisdom flowing from a life lived in both the good times and the bad. David had his ups and downs, his struggle to last through the reign of Saul, and then becoming King, and finally as the King of Israel. He had his triumphs and made his mistakes. The scripture reveals a couple of them in a big way. God also forgave and helped David in spite of his humanity. His life is certainly one we should all look at and learn from. In fact, to really understand the 70 or so of the Psalms that he wrote, it helps to understand who he was and how he lived. You can find his story in the first chapter of I kings and in I Samuel 16 through the end of II Samuel. His story is also found through a good part of I Chronicles. The stories are rich and reveal a human side of someone that God exalted. It is awesome. At one point, God called David “a man after his own heart,” yet David fumbled, stumbled, and sinned against God. So, the stories really tells us something about the intentions of God toward us and His own marvelous plan especially designed for each of us. They are as diverse as there are grains of sand or stars in the sky. (see Genesis 12:1-3 and 15:1-6) Check out today’s passage taken from the “God’s Word for Today” paraphrase:
(Psalms 37:3) Trust the LORD, and do good things. Live in the land, and practice being faithful.
(Psalms 37:4) Be happy with the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalms 37:5) Entrust (commit) your ways to the LORD. Trust him, and he will act on your behalf.
(Psalms 37:6) He will make your righteousness shine like a light, your just cause like the noonday sun.
Can you see the progression in that? Now, I am not suggesting a “3 point sermon” or a 4 step self help formula for happiness, I just simply see a poetic progression that I believe the Holy Spirit inspired David to write. First, he says to Trust. In my mind that means that I need to look ahead in life, focuses on a vision for the future. Without a future there can be no trust. In the process of living out that vision, the result can be that I will do “good” things. That I will live in the land, in other words, be settled in my community, in relationship with others. Second, David says to be happy. A more familiar translation says for us to Delight in the Lord. If we do, God will enlighten us to the things that make us happy and deeply satisfied; a path to lasting peace. Third, he tells us to make a commitment. I have found that as I seek to live out this vision for the future, what makes the journey easier is to define the focus and then stick to it. I may not do things perfectly and even slide sideways into the ditch, but with a committed life, it is easier to head on up the path toward the end of this journey. The next point is my favorite. Lastly, David says that if I stick to these three principles in the abiding light of God, that God will make my “just cause” shine like the noon day sun. That is when the sun is the brightest. I find it totally cool that the God of Creation and the Lord of the universe leads me in a “just cause.” It is one that is specific to my life. God cares about what I care about, and he wants Justice for all people. He has one specific to your life. He also wants all people to follow Him on their journey through this process of maturity: Learning to trust, growing to be happy, and living out a solid commitment.

May God radicalize your life this week with love and power!

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My Identity In Christ Issue #6

“Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God–you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration–what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day. Your thoughts–how rare, how beautiful! God, I’ll never comprehend them! I couldn’t even begin to count them– any more than I could count the sand of the sea. Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you!” Psalm 139:13-18 Message paraphrase.
Because of the comments some of you have made concerning you identity and conflict with it, I could not pass up the Psalm for today. The writer is recounting how his/her life in the eyes of God is unique and special. Check out the first line above. The writer says that God shaped him inside (in spirit) first and then along came the physical. The impression is that God literally knew us first as people, as souls, and as uniquely individual. He shaped us inside first… who we really are and who we would eventually grow to be. More importantly, it is God who shapes us in personality and spirit. This is contrary to the many fundamentalist who say that our intrinsic person is formed by the world around us. Not so, according to the Psalmist. We are who we are prior to conception. The all knowing God has even that knowledge! Check out the 3 steps in this passage:
1. You shaped me first inside, then out
2. You watched me grow from conception to birth
3. The days of my life all prepared before I’d even live one day
Shaped, grown, and prepared! Wow, now that is a recipe. Each of us is made in the image of God special and unique to Him. He has a plan and purpose for us, even though life may be unpleasant at times. One thing the fundamentalist are right about is that the worldly pressures can affect us and how we respond to them. The difference is, we do not have to change who we are in identity and orientation in order to learn to respond correctly to those pressures. We are who we are, and we behave the way we choose to behave. Sometimes we handle life because of who we are, but more often than not, we react out of the pressure put on us, or because of the stigma society places on us. Sometimes I have chosen to respond to those pressures by trying to live up to the expectations of others in a performance driven behavior. Sometimes I have responded in ways that I thought would cause others to like me better, even though I really knew that I wasn’t being true to myself. I think Shakespeare had that one right when he said “to thy own self be true.” Jesus said it this way; in the King James the translation goes, “be ye therefore perfect as the father in heaven is perfect.” My paraphrase, based on the Peshita is this, “be the perfect You as the Father in heaven is the perfect Father.” This way makes more sense to me when I ponder the words of Psalmist. I should live to be who God shaped me to be, not as others see me or want me to be. I am the perfect me, and no one else can define that except God and me. I can learn to conduct myself toward others with that same respect and love, however.
From conception to birth, consider who’s concept is being referenced! Check out Ephesians one, “It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. (Message) Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone. Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love: having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved…” Eph 1:4-11 A L T. It is clear to me that it is God’s concept of who we are and not humanity, that should define us. conception then, is not just the physical event that takes place, but the eternal knowledge and awareness that God has for all his children. Can you fathom it?! He knew you before you ever came to be. It doesn’t make sense that you should become anyone else! Be the perfect you. Live each day with the knowledge that they are all planned out for you to do just that! “The days of my life all prepared before I’d even live one day” Live each and every day as those that are prepared especially for you, even if the going gets tough. When they do, ask yourself, “what is it that God wants me to earn about myself today? How can I become the perfect me.” I have found a great peace in being just me, and then responding to life out of that. Living an authentic life means to drop all the pretenses and performances. I no longer worry about what others think. I only want to be who God created me to be, and that creation took place long before I was born. I was in the heart and mind of Christ long before the foundation of the world. So were You!
It is only the sin and darkness of this world that forces people put on masks, airs, and hateful behaviors. Remember, the Gospel states that “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall MAKE you free.” John 8. Notice the word is MAKE and not set. We are not set free to stay where we are in our maturity. We are being made, and in that light, when we realize that process was in God’s mind long ago, we are free to allow the process to continue on that basis. When we are true to who we are then we can grow to become more like him, and less effected by others. There is a great new Christian Contemporary song on Third Day’s new CD, Wherever You Are, called “How do you know…”
The chorus says: “how do you know, how do you know,
what I’m supposed to be doing, Why do you go, why do you go on,
Thinking you know my fate.
So many times I’ve lost my step, but never lost my way
How do you know, how do you know, when I don’t know myself.”

God will never tell someone else something about you. He will tell you directly, if you listen. So, next time someone uses the all-knowing card over your life, you might ask them that question. You see, I believe our God knows each of us in that way, and he reveals it a little at a time to us, so that we never totally lose our way. The Psalmist has it right, no other human is meant to tell another who they should be. Every human should discover what God says uniquely to themselves, and then live out a life of truth and wisdom, as a light for others to see.
May God radicalize your life this week with love and power!