Yes, I May Be Completely Crazy

For the last 23 years I’ve been carrying a story in my head that I’ve only verbally related to a handful of people. To be clear: it’s not a story that others particularly need to hear, because there’s not a great deal (besides the biographical) to be learned from it; but I’m at the point where I’m worried that if I don’t get the story written down I’ll start to lose some very important pieces of it to the sands of time. And I’m loath for that to happen, because it’s a story that has provided Jenn and I with much-needed spiritual sustenance over the decades.

The first person I ever told this story to, in fact, was Jenn, long before she was my wife. And that’s because God told me to tell her.

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I Am Here to Kill You

That’s a pretty provocative title, isn’t it?

Too bad I can’t take credit for it. John Prince used it for the title of his knockout sermon on Daniel 2:12-23 on September 12.

The text in question tells the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s edict as the penalty for his seers’ inability to tell him what his dream was. Since he had concluded that they were all charlatans, he decides to execute them all–including Daniel and his buds. Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard was sent to carry out the edict.

Imagine, John says in his telling of the story, Arioch coming to Daniel and telling him, “I am here to kill you.

And imagine, John observes, how unlike our own typical response to such a message is Daniel’s: he just asks for a little more time so he and his friends can pray. One of John’s big takeaways from the text? Daniel’s predicament was not something that God had to get him out of; it was something God got him into, at every point along the way. So when Daniel was praying, that’s part of what God wanted to happen. And when Daniel praised God, his prayer itself was an expression of wisdom. Nebuchadnezzar was not sovereign; he was just temporarily controlling the reins of power. God was sovereign–always has been, always will be.

I have been taken all week by John’s phrasing of the message. “I am here to kill you.” How arresting. And this afternoon when John was talking about the urgency of Harambee’s purpose, I was struck again by the message: “I am here to kill you.

After all, that’s a message John has heard personally–when he learned he had kidney cancer three years ago, a cancer that kind of kicked John’s spiritual butt. But that kidney’s message, “I am here to kill you,” actually turned John free. With the kidney and cancer gone, he’s been cut loose from the fog of pain. His mind is clear. His sense of purpose is keen. Perhaps you’ve felt that clarity in John’s preaching.

Marty’s heard the message, too, and come out the other side. Abbie has heard it, and lives with it weekly. So has Jenn. In her case, the continuous struggle has made her entire existence about people rather than stuff, and “doing.”

But really, we all have it coming. At some point, we are all going to hear, “I am here to kill you.” What are we going to do with that?

They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Theologically, Star Wars had it closer to right: what kills you makes you “more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” Tolkien also knew it when he sent Gandalf into the abyss at Khazad-dum. It’s the central lesson of the cross, after all, and it’s built into the DNA of the Kingdom of God.

This is something I reminded Mike Gunn of years ago. Every church, if it’s built on Christ, is born to die. It fulfills its purpose, and then moves on after having empowered its people to keep moving the Great Commission forward. And we don’t get to determine what that purpose is. God does. Because he’s sovereign.

Jesus didn’t just die to fulfill prophecy. He didn’t just die to be obedient to his Father. He didn’t just die to satisfy the arcane details of a system of blood sacrifice spawned 1200 years prior. He certainly did not die in service to a metaphor.

Jesus died to empower his people. He was quite explicit about that. “It is best for you that I go away,” he told his disciples on the night that he was betrayed, “because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. … There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.”

Death–figurative and literal–is part of the plan because new life comes from death. And on the verge of destruction, God is always whispering, “I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.” Something “immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine.”

Remember that the next time you hear the words, “I am here to kill you.” Feel the hair on the back of your neck stand up, and start looking for God.

He who loses his life will find it. Die to sin. Die to self. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Get on board with the ministry of reconciliation.

“Every man dies,” Mel Gibson’s William Wallace says. “Not all men really live.”

God’s got a big adventure in store for every one of us, and it’s a helluva lot more interesting than any paltry plans we could dream up. If you’re going to die anyway, you might as well start today. God’s here to kill you, and make you better.

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Of Dreams and the Interpretation Thereof

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. –Sigmund Freud

I guess Freud would have had a thing or two to say to Nebuchadnezzar’s advisers.

During John Prince’s message from Daniel 2:1-11 on Sunday, I was struck by the means God used to goad John into returning to school to pursue a ministry degree. I, too, found my way to Bible College by way of dreams.

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What’s the Point of Trials and Suffering?

On February 26 at Harambee, Caleb’s message was from Daniel 1:17-21. The sermon was entitled, “Unusual Ability.” The basic outline, according to my notes, was: 1.) It’s not the ability, it’s the gift; 2.) It’s not the gift, it’s the use; 3.) It’s not the use, it’s the purpose.

Aside from being simply an outstanding contemporary application of this Old Testament passage, Caleb’s words spurred a thought which filled in a major theological hole in my understanding of the OT.

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In Search of The Lost Spaniard

In one respect, this tale begins around 1986 with a birthday gift.

Generally speaking, I am not a big fan of my birthday, and there are not many birthday gifts that I remember. But during one of his visits to Seattle after starting his stint in the Air Force, J-W Smith bought me the most remarkable gift for my birthday.

It was a book.

And it was used.

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sleeping on the ground
is more relaxing—and safe—
when the ground sleeps, too

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The Waptus River Record

We stood at the high point of the first half on the Waptus River Trail.

The goal on this backpacking trip was to find a decent camping spot on the west bank of the Waptus just outside of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness boundary, and we were pretty sure we’d found our jumping-off point to cut off-trail.

This kind of go-it-alone exploration was getting to be something of a habit for us.

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Jim Bridger’s Lament

I can see it all very clearly

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Tonga Ridge Tales

I lay flat on my back in the snow, my orange fifty-pound Sportswest budget external-frame backpack pinned under me, my brand-new Trek cross-country no-wax skis twisted awkwardly if still painfully attached, poles flailing, and four-letter words spewing in a non-stop stream from my cold and ice-encrusted lips.

At times such as these, you find out who your friends really are.

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The Great Insurance Panic of 2016

To the elders at Harambee:

When you have lived on TPN for 11 years as Jenn has, every year brings new insurance coverage and home-health supplier issues. This year’s transition has been absolutely brutal.

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