By way of Introduction

I still don't totally get life. But mine is probably half over, so maybe I'm old enough to have learned something, and young enough to learn a whole a lot more.

Jesus said that He came to give us life and that more abundantly. Apparently, His idea of an abundant life and mine are not the same thing. My idea of an abundant life would be to win the lottery and live a life of pleasure. But that isn't happening, so He must have something else in mind. According to John 17:3 His idea of life is to know Him. So that's what I'm trying to do (get to know God), and hope to help others to do too.

The name of this blog is my attempt to express this. I choose the term FOG as an acronym for Friend Of God, but also as a way of saying the way isn't always clear to me.

Anyone who knows me knows I can be blunt at times. So was Jesus. The difference is that He was blunt and loving at the same time - I am not always. I don't mean to offend people (honest), but chances are I will at times. Please try to forgive me and not be afraid to come back.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Did Moses love sheep?

I was thinking about Moses the other day. Most of us know he spent 40 years in the wilderness watching his father-in-law's sheep, but the Bible says very little about this time in his life. I'm guessing that's because there wasn't much to say. He got married and had kids which was cool I'm sure, but he also spent hour after hour after day after year watching sheep walk around. I can't help but think that he sat everyday and wondered how his life had gone from being the son of the king and a man of prominence to being a farm hand. I'll bet he kicked himself over and over for losing his temper and killing the Eyptian.

I'll bet he asked God why He even bothered to spare his life as a baby, just so he could end up following around a bunch of sheep that weren't even his own (and he probably didn't care that much about).

I think at some point in his life, Moses must have realized he was born to do something special. The son of a slave being raised as the son of the emporer! What an amazing opportunity to make a significant difference for his people. I'll also bet that he thought he blew it once and for all when he killed the guy and ran away. And the longer he spent alone in the desert the more he forgot about ever doing anything great. So much so, that when God spoke to him from the burning bush he didn't even want to go back.

Sure, that's all conjecture on my part. But since I've gone this far I'll keep going: I'll bet the 40 years killed his pride and any sense of the "aren't I special" feeling that he probably grew up with.

Maybe that's you. Maybe you thought you had a great calling on your life at some point. Maybe you think you screwed up your one chance and now you're living on the back side of the desert somewhere doing some menial job. If it is, look to Moses, be faithful to whatever you're doing, and let God do His work in your life. Who knows what God will yet do?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Loving Obedience

The Lord knows (and now you do too) that sometimes I wish I didn't have any kids, but man have I learned allot from them. All the books and teachings about the Father Heart of God, or even the Scriptures about being like a child always confused me until I held my son (the firstborn) on my lap for the very first time. In those few moments, the flood of emotions (I know all you parents know what I am talking about) overwhelmed me, and so much made sense to me in a flash. And then to have another, and hold her for the first time and feel that same flood of emotions for her. It is truly profound beyond words.

There have been many lessons since then, but the most recent (and heopfully most meaningful) just hit me.

My kids are now 9 and 7. Old enough to understand a fair number of things and make plans and decisions on their own. Young enough to still need my guidance, but old enough to think that they don't. The types of motivations I could use when they were pre-schoolers are less effective. (Somehow "because I said so" doesn't seem to carry much weight anymore). And, I've always tried to relate to my kids as though they are individuals with unique personalities and (at least a little bit of) intellect. So now that they are bit older, I want my relationship with them to be one of mutual trust and respect (with me still having the final say, of course). I try to punish less, and allow them to simply deal with consequences. But what if the consequences are not obvious to them? That's when I want them to obey me (or take my advice) simpy because they love and trust me.

Sadly, this doesn't always work. I can stay "stop fighting please" six times with no effect. Finally I get frustrated and raise my voice to the point where they can no longer ignore me (yes, I know this is not the best parenting technique in the world, but feel free to cast stones if you've never done the same thing). Then I ask the dumbest question of all time: "Why do you only listen to me when I yell?" Of course they can't answer that (again, I KNOW why ok, so get off my back!).

Then my heart hurts that they listen to me only when there is some sort of negative consequence. I want them to listen to me simply b/c I have proven myself to be a decent dad and have their best in mind...

...and for the very first time in my life I understand what Jesus meant when He said "if you love me you will obey me." And I realize more profoundly than ever before how little I truly love Him.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Confessions of a proud donkey (slight re-do)

I heard a great sermon probably close to 15 years ago about the donkey Jesus rode on Palm Sunday. Just a simple donkey doing his job, not looking for fame or grumbling about his humble role. The preacher said we should have the same attitude as that donkey - just humbly promoting Christ.

Great analogy.
Hard to do.

As you may know, my entire adult life has been spent in some form of Christian ministry - radio announcer, missionary, missionary trainer, and now as a writer. So, I'd like to think that I've done my share of promoting Christ. But I know that many times I've wanted people to notice me while I'm doing it. If I had been Christ's donkey, I'd have been thinking Yes, worship Christ, He is worthy. But don't forget about me. Look how strong I am! Look how straight I walk!

Some of you know that 3-and-a-half years ago I thought I was on the brink of a huge role in world missions. I was the front-runner to lead a national missions movement that had the potential to see literally millions come to Christ. But through a long series of seemingly unrelated events I end up working in a tiny cubicle in a hidden corner of a ministry where hardly anyone notices me. A place where I take orders from other people, and I have quite limited influence. I actually enjoy my job, and I have a wonderful boss - but it is still humbling. I have often prayed for release into something else. Something greater. Something more in line with my experience and background. But for 2+ years I have sat in the same corner and answered to the same people.

Why? Well, I know this much:

- God doesn't need me there. There are no doubt thousands of people who could write the stuff I write. So it's not about my talent.
- God could meet my financial needs in many other ways. So it's not about money.

Instead, I am convinced I am there for me. For my character, my humility, my growth. The Great Physician has me on a regimen of spiritual therapy meant for my good. For how long, I have no idea. Maybe the rest of my life - maybe that's what it will take to bring my pride under control. That's His decision.

Mean time, I can complain about life, blame God (after all, a proud man can't blame himself), and get bitter, or I can submit, be content, and grow.

Can anybody relate?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The faith of Pharaoh

Yikes, it's 5:00 Sunday night and I haven't written a word yet! But, knowing the THOUSANDS who would be on suicide watch this week if I don't post any fresh insights, I'm gonna go ahead and try.

I was listening (I work for an audio Bible company, remember) to Hebrews 11 - you know, the chapter sometimes called the "hall of faith" b/c it lists hero after hero and the crazy things they did b/c God told them to. It gets to the part about the Israelites crossing the Red Sea on dry ground, and how when the Egyptians tried it they drowned. And it commends the Israelites for their faith. Somehow that struck me as odd, and then I started thinking about what faith is and what it isn't.

I'm sure you know the story. The Israelites are fleeing Egypt, they've reached the Red Sea, don't have any boats and the Egyptians are about to catch them and haul them back to slavery (or maybe kill them). The people start worrying and complaining (as I'm pretty sure I would have), Moses touches the water and it divides in two.

Now, clearly this was a stunning development. As everyone in the world knows (unless you live in Albuquerque where there is no water) water doesn't just STOP and form a wall in mid air. I'm sure the people were pretty freaked out, but they go in anyway and get away. But think about that for a second. How much faith did that really take? They could see the dry ground in front of them, and they could either walk on it or stay put and get captured. I'm sure some were nervous, but once the first few people made it thru the rest could see that it was safe.

I'm sorry, but somehow this goes against my image of what faith is. Don't we think of faith of being something that we use in the absence of any evidence that it's the right thing to do or that it will work it? (Like Abraham sacrificing Isaac) I'll get back to this.

Secondly, the Egyptians can see the Israelites crossing on dry ground. Again, I'm sure they're freaked out (then again, after everything they just went through in Egypt maybe they were just sitting there thinking "of course the sea opened up for them. Why not?") At any rate, they can see that it worked for the Israelites so they figure they may as well go for it too. And, of course it doesn't work for them and they all die.

So my question is this: What made the "faith" of the Israelites better than that of the Egyptians? Seriously. They both saw dry ground where it shouldn't have been. Saw people crossing on that dry ground and decided to do the same thing. So what's the difference?

I think the answer has to do with what faith really is, and for this I look at Romans 4. Verse 3 says "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." But verse 9 says "faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness." Get it? Faith = Believing God. Those terms appear to be interchangeable in Paul's mind. To me, that can mean believing God when it sorta makes sense to (as in "the guy in front of me didn't drowned, so I'll try it too") as well as when it makes no sense at all ("sure I'll kill my son. Just tell me where and when.")

I like that. It makes faith less mysterious, and something I can wrap my brain around. It also means that I live by faith everyday whether I know it or not. For example, when I confess my sin I have faith that I am forgiven (1 John 1:9) even if I don't feel like it. When I give 10% of my hard-earned cash for what the IRS calls "no tangible benefit" I am exercising faith by believing what God says about tithing. I pray b/c I believe that God hears me (even though I often have no proof).

I also like that because it means a Christian's faith is grounded in something - what God says. In fact, it must be grounded in what God says. I made the point earlier that the Egyptians had as much faith as the Israelites ("the ground is dry, what the heck, let's try it") but their faith was only in what they saw and not in God. God never promised the Egyptians that they'd be spared. I don't blame them for thinking that since it worked for the Israelites it would work for them too. But their faith wasn't in what anything God had said to them so it failed. I see implications there for the "hyper-faith" doctrines (both inside and outside of Christianity) that teach faith in and of itself is all that matters. Having faith in mind-power or whatever else is no different in my mind than having faith in God doing something for us that He never said He'd do.

I'll have to come up with some catchy sign-off phrase, but for now I'll just say "Guess that's it for this time."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Relating to an unnatural God part 2.

This may be the hardest thing I've ever tried to write (and I write for a living)! I don't know that I have any great insights here, but I've come up with a few thoughts.

First, I believe developing spiritual senses takes self-discipline. Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:17 to "train yourself for godliness". The word train is gymnazo in the Greek, so he is talking about some kind of exercise or hard work. What kind? If you look at the life of early Christians they fasted, they prayed, they studied scripture, the hung out together and what was the result? They walked with God to the point that they changed the world.

A couple of things I realized about these things though - first they are NOT the point (or the evidence) of Christianity. The point is to walk with God, and these things are only means to that end. In other words, what difference does it make if you have some tough spiritual regimen if it makes no impact on the rest of your life? Secondly, and I cannot stress how important I think this is, what works for someone else may not work for you. I seriously cannot do a food fast. I am a big guy with a high metabolism, so when I don't get enough calories I get tired and moody - which sort of defeats the purpose I think. Then there is personal taste too. Some people like (for example) "high church" liturgies and find great benefit in them, other people think they are the dullest thing ever. That's okay. God made us different and allows us to relate to Him differently (within Biblical guidelines of course).

If you've ever been frustrated (as I certainly have) by trying to follow someone else's advice as to how to pray, how to hear God's voice, etc I highly recommend a book called Sacred Pathways, by Gary Thomas. He profiles people in the Bible and how they related to God in different ways, and then suggests that each of us are wired in different ways and we need to figure out our own spiritual temperament and try to build our spiritual disciplines around that. The book is so helpful and practical. It even has a quiz to help you discover your own spiritual temperament and build your spiritual activities around that. One of the best half-dozen or so books I've ever read.

Now I'm going to go out on a limb a bit-but I think God gave us our physical senses as gateways to our spiritual ones. Romans 1 says that which may be known about God has been made evident in creation. But if that's so, why do so few people see Him there? Probably because they don't look. Most anyone who has been to Albuquerque (where I live) will tell you that the most striking feature of the city (besides about 8 trillion tons of sand) is the mountain range that forms the city's eastern border. The peak is something like 6,000 feet above the city (I'm too lazy to look up the actual height) and you can see it from almost anywhere. It's actually quite nice, b/c when you're lost you can always look up and see which way is east.

With my natural eyes I see the mountains the same way everyone else does - rocks, trees, snow at times, and that amazing pink hue at sunset. But I am learning to see more than that. For example, I see a reminder of God's righteousness (Psalm 36:6). Like the mountain, His righteousness never changes, never moves, and can withstand any and every storm. Or I can be reminded that even a problem as big as the a mountain is nothing for a person with faith. But how and why can I be reminded of that? Because I've taken the time to get the Word into me (spiritual discipline), and because I am learning to look for God's truth in natural things.

Think how often Jesus spoke of natural things to explain spiritual. Then He often said something like "he who has ears, let him hear" or even criticized people for not getting it. I think maybe He wasn't just teaching whatever the point of His parable was, but He was also teaching us to "hear" or "see" spiritual truth in natural things. I know there is a danger in that (we can misread natural things) and that's why we to be full of His Word, talk to Him throughout the day, and stay connected to others who can tell us if our ideas are completely off the wall.

This is where a really great blogger has some powerful final thought that ties it all together. I don't. I appreciate your thoughts and comments though - tell me if I'm completely off the wall!

I think next week I'll ramble a bit about faith.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Relating to an unnatural God

It occurred to me the other day that the main reason for my struggle with relating to God is that He is unnatural. Yes, I know I'm supposed to say "supernatural" - and He is certainly that - but I think unnatural more expresses what I am trying to say.

I have lived every moment of every day of my life relating to the world on the level of my five physical senses: taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight. But God usually doesn't relate to the world via those avenues. I know we use those terms (except maybe the smelling one) for God but when we do we mean something different than when we use them in reference to virtually anything else in life. Don't believe me? Open your mouth right now and try to take a bite of God. Or reach out your hands until you touch Him. Or download His podcast. Or call Him on His cell. See what I mean?

We simply don't use our natural senses (usually) to relate to God. Maybe that's what Paul meant when he said (in 2 Corinthians 2:14) "the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." Think of that, the natural person is not able to understand the things of the Spirit. It is impossible.

There are allot of metaphors in Scripture for what it means to follow Christ, but perhaps the one that best sums up biblical doctrine is "born again" or "born of the Spirit". One of the many implications of that is the ability to relate to a spiritual God in a spiritual way. To develop (not just tune, but actually develop) spiritual senses which by "nature" we don't have.

How do we do that then? Glad you asked, but in trying to keep my blogs short I can only tell you that I have some ideas which I'll expound upon next week.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Trying this Again!

Welcome back to my new and (hopefully) improved blog. I really appreciate everyone who commented on the previous edition. You encouraged me to start again. Perhaps the biggest difference this time around is that I am going to make a real effort to not be too cynical. Not to ask questions simply for the sake of stirring up an argument. And not to complain.

These posts take time, and I really don't need to hear myself ramble, so please give me honest feedback.