Posted by: eightweleve | June 12, 2009

on Jephthah

‘Now Jephthah of Gilead was a great warrior.’ – Judges 11:1

Wouldn’t that be a great introduction of your life? Though I don’t have as cool of a name as Jephthah, but ‘Matthew of OKC was a great warrior’ has a nice ring to it. Anywho, I was continuing my 3 year long commitment to read all the way through the Bible this morning in Judges. (Yeah, I know. I haven’t been doing the best. I have gotten all the way to 2 Kings before. So really, this is like my third time. I think I will make it this time.) I came across the story of Jephthah. To provide a little bit of context to our man Jephthah, the Israelites have finally settled into the promised land – thanks to Joshua’s amazing streak of winning battles (with the Lord’s help, of course). A few generations have passed (Joshua, Gideon, etc..) and Israel still wants to have a leader. So God has given them a succession of judges; some good (Deborah), some bad (Abimelech). But mostly what has happened is that Israel has pretty much given themself over to serving the very gods that God (big G) had strictly commanded them not to serve. Finally they come to their senses (again) and plead to the Lord to forgive them for being dummies, but the Lord pretty much tells them that He has had enough of their empty promises. Here’s the interaction in Chapter 10:

Finally, they cried out to the LORD, saying, “We have sinned against you because we have abandoned you as our God and have served the images of Baal.” The LORD replied, “Did I not rescue you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites, and the Maonites? When they oppressed you, you cried out to me, and I rescued you. Yet you have abandoned me and served other gods. So I will not rescue you anymore. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen! Let them rescue you in your hour of distress!”

(ouch)

‘But the Israelites pleaded with the LORD and said, “We have sinned. Punish us as you see fit, only rescue us today from our enemies.” Then the Israelites put aside their foreign gods and served the LORD. And he was grieved by their misery. At that time the armies of Ammon had gathered for war and were camped in Gilead, preparing to attack Israel’s army at Mizpah. The leaders of Gilead said to each other, “Whoever attacks the Ammonites first will become ruler over all the people of Gilead.”

(Cue theme music) Enter Jephthah… (the great warrior), but wait a second…

‘He was the son of Gilead, but his mother was a prostitute. Gilead’s wife also had several sons, and when these half brothers grew up, they chased Jephthah off the land. “You will not get any of our father’s inheritance,” they said, “for you are the son of a prostitute.” So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob. Soon he had a large band of rebels following him.’

So his brothers kick him out of town. What nice brothers.

Finally the Israelites come to their senses and convince Jephthah to return and lead them to victory, on the condition that if he comes back to the very place he was just kicked out of, he will be made the ruler of all the people of Gilead. He then goes out and wins the battle against the Ammonites. This is where the true character of Jephthah comes into focus:

‘And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD. He said, “If you give me victory over the Ammonites, I will give to the LORD the first thing coming out of my house to greet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” So Jephthah led his army against the Ammonites, and the LORD gave him victory.’

continuing…

‘When Jephthah returned home to Mizpah, his daughter – his only child – ran out to meet him, playing on a tambourine and dancing for joy. When he saw her, he tore his clothes in anguish. “My daughter!” he cried out. “My heart is breaking! What a tragedy that you came out to greet me. For I have made a vow to the LORD and cannot take it back.”

Amazing. What fear he had of the LORD! I mean, seriously, He had to keep his vow to the Lord. And check out his daughter’s response:

‘And she said, “Father, you have made a promise to the LORD. You must do to me what you have promised, for the LORD has given you a great victory over your enemies, the Ammonites.’

So to finish the story of Jephthah, he allows his daughter to go up into the hills and weep with her friends for two months. And then she comes back and he fulfills his vow and sacrifices her.

Tragic.

Looking back at this story, it appears that maybe Jephthah the warrior could have thought of a better vow – or at least could have put a stipulation on his vow regarding his only daughter. But he just went straight for it, at the cost of his only child. And as heart breaking as this story is, the thing that has been bouncing around in my head this morning has been about being a man. Its something to the effect of, ‘one part of being a man is to be a (great) warrior. and besides being strong, courageous, and fully committed to the LORD, a man must keep his vows…no matter what the cost.’ I have never (and probably will never in the future) make a vow this serious to the Lord. But the vows I do make to Him have a cost attached to them; a sacrifice attached to them. And that sacrifice is a loss of control of my own life. Listen to to the words of Jesus Himself echo this truth:

‘If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life.’ (Matt 16:25)

Let us be men that are great warriors for the Lord (strong, courageous, and fully committed to the LORD) in all that we do. And may we take hold of this ‘true life’ promised by Jesus.

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Posted by: eightweleve | June 2, 2009

on the in between

one thing we are walking through with mason now is something i have dubbed, ‘the in between’. once you have a child, you officially qualify for a legitimate family. technically, a new family starts once you get married. but you still fall under the ‘familial umbrella’, which means you are still expected to attend your larger families’ events (thanksgiving, christmas, july 4th). however, once a child arrives, you gain this new bargaining power (that previously didn’t exist) to be able to politely excuse your family from attending an event. i am not talking about ditching your larger family on christmas. but the small weekend trips or events can be avoided on a new ‘we need some time as a family’ basis. i am also not talking about using the baby as an excuse when u just dont want to go (maybe). but there is now a new reason to legitimately say ‘no’ to the family and it be ok.

another piece of this ‘in between’ is you can begin to imagine what family will look like in the future, once your parents pass away. i know its a little awkward to think about, but sally and i have begun to discuss what we want our family environment to look like after our parents are gone. for example, what will family vacations look like; what values to we want to stress that are different than the ones that are in place now; who do we want our children to grow up knowing. maybe this ‘in between’ is just the next season of life for us, or maybe it is just a little more weird for us? at any rate, we know that it will probably look pretty different than our parents’ versions.

and we love our parents. we’re just not crazy about the way they have chosen to ‘do family’. we first became aware of this difference last month while on a week long vacation with my parents and brother to my aunt’s house in east tennessee. it was nice to get away, but we left the week kind of disappointed. we just didn’t feel like we really connected with anyone. we played games, and shot guns, and ate way too much food. but we just didn’t really talk about anything significant with anyone. my dad and brother were often missing in the mornings. dad was off taking pictures of the same lake he has photographed on my aunt’s land for the last 30 years. my brother was just sleeping. my mom, grandmother, aunts, and cousins talked about memories that i dont remember. or they read their own books in the same room. if we were out at my cousins house, it was even more awkward because i haven’t been out to tennessee since my cousin’s son (who was graduating high school that week) was 8. nothing like spending time with people you only see once or twice every few years.

the whole week we were in tennessee i felt like the Lord was just asking me to ‘pay attention’. looking back on the trip now, i felt like He wanted me to see how dissatisfied i am towards all of those relationships. sally and i are looking forward in moving toward a more healthy environment for our own growing family. (not that i have any illusions of family not being awkward) sally and i know some families that appear to at least meet our values…though there aren’t too many we have come across. but there is something sweet in a family when the parents openly love and follow Jesus, and how that manifests itself in their respective families. and we want ‘that’. 

so, like all things, we are just going to start where we are, and pray that Jesus enables us to have a more tightly knit family as we raise our children. we also feel challenged to ‘bridge the gap’ (so to speak) with our parents and families now.

we’ll see how it goes.

help us Jesus.

Posted by: eightweleve | April 24, 2009

on the mountain sermon

‘You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor & hate your enemy’. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? But you are to be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.’ – Mt. 6:43-48.

Talk about a direct personal object lesson this week. (the following name is to protect the innocent) I have been trying to get ahold of a ‘client’ of mine recently to get an overdue invoice paid for the branding design i did for their company. this client is (or at least, has in the past, claimed to be) a friend of mine. but he is just ignoring me. he wont return my calls, emails, or texts – which i know he is receiving. He is the most technologically plugged-in person i know. What has been frustrating about it (until yesterday) is that he is my only contact with this company. so if i couldnt get ahold of him, then i was out altogether – which is really frustrating. 

Needless to say, every time i start thinking about it, i would just get pissed. it takes everything i can do to maintain an honoring heart with this whole thing. the thing is this – he told me to send them the invoice to them so that they could pay me for my progress. i did the work in february, the invoice was due the middle of march, and now it is almost may. and still nothing. at the beginning they agreed that i would be their designer going forward. they approved my larger costing branding quote. and now i cant even get them to pay me anything. did i mention it was a contract they agreed to? it is really not worth it to try to take them to court, because of the hassle and by the time i paid the legal fees, i wouldnt really be getting anything. i feel a little stuck.

it would be one thing if i could get some sort of communication about the whole thing, so that way we could negotiate some sort of compromise so that i could get paid for my time and service to them. but they are taking the position of ‘screw him – he’s not worth the time to even talk to; to tell him that we dont want to pay him. we are a big bully of a company, and he is just a peon. what can he do?’ yeah. extremely disrespectful. from a ‘friend’.

and therein lies the rub. if this wasnt ‘this guy’, then i dont know if i would be as upset. this just feel like the last straw in a long line of selfish maneuvers by him. he really acts so double-faced and manipulative alot of the time. recently he only talks to me when he needs something – and most of the time, he needs it 5 minutes ago. his relationship with me is (and mostly has been) all about him. and now, since this situation doesnt benefit him in any way, he has decided to blow me off. 

if i were a lesser man, i might begin to consider some sort of less than noble retaliation. but that is not who i am. i am using all of my emotional and mental energy to not go there – to keep my heart in a honoring position before the Lord, in an attempt to ‘bless my enemies’. but at times i am not succeeding at this. and this is why i need Jesus’ help. real bad. ‘Come Lord Jesus and work Your value system into my heart. Help me to live as i am – as a true child of the Father. Help me to desire the heavenly reward over the short term satisfaction of dishonor. Oh, come Lord Jesus, with Your peace. You must. Amen.’

Posted by: eightweleve | April 16, 2009

on being weary, yet pursuing

‘Then Gideon and the 300 men who were with him came to the Jordan {and} crossed over, weary yet pursuing.’ ~Judges 8:4 (NASB)

thats exactly how i feel this week; weary, yet pursuing. i have been unusually physically tired most of the time. its probably due to the fact that i have become the co-carpenter on a wood working project at work. but it is more than that. in my spirit i feel pretty worn down too. i am learning in this season (and at this job) that it is pretty tough to get caught up if i get a little behind. i just dont have too much room in my schedule to refresh with Jesus. and recently when i do have time, i dont do the best job of taking advantage to be with Him. but i am still going. i am excited with the possibilities for our mini-cluster’s outreach neighborhood. i am imagining what that might look like – mostly geared towards how to best equip everybody with solid Biblical foundations. (maybe that would motivate me to read my Bible more?)

i am also motivated more and more to get my design business off the ground. i think i would really like to be in norman more, and the most direct route is to step into a full time freelance career – but at this point, i just need to get some foundational pieces in place (website, business card – then some sort of market research and direct promotion). yet, it also seems so risky to start up – especially with a family to provide for now. (sigh) small steps.

 yet my heart yearns for something more; something deeper. i feel pretty lost direction-wise with Jesus. i just am not too motivated in any one area in the Kingdom. i have my moments (of course), but nothing that is driving me right now. i am barely reading my Bible, and my prayer rhythm is starting to wain ever so slowly. i am pretty bummed about the lack of ‘peaceful people’ at work, though there could be potential. and then i blink, and another week has passed.

i want so badly to live a life that matters; to model a Kingdom lifestyle. but lately, that desire is fading more and more into one that resembles one that is just true to Jesus and others. is that bad?

even so, come Lord Jesus.

Posted by: eightweleve | April 3, 2009

on the ten year reunion

my ten year high school reunion is this summer some time. i dont have the dates or any info; i just know that i graduated in may of 1999, which, if my math is correct (doubtful), will be 10 years in may of 2009. mrs gambrell would be so proud of me!

what got me thinking about all this reunion mess was i recently got a facebook friend request from a girl that was my first official crush from those early high school days. and talk about embarrassed! i mean, it was baaaaaaaaaaad, how immature i was with her at the time. not that i acted like a 6 year old, but immature in the sense that i would call her probably every night of the week immature. yeah, not good. its not like anyone who had that first crush and had no idea how to act and ended up making a fool of themself has any different of a story than me. i just didnt know any better, and gave way too much of my heart to her, and got wounded pretty bad in the process (the type that took years to heal). so i kind of cringed when i saw that it was her who was attempting to reconnect with me, all these (much more mature) years later. but i decided ‘what the heck?’, and chose to become friends once again – though only through facebook, which is much safer and less ackward.

kris and i were talking about this tonight over a couple of fat tires (beers, to the lay person). theres something about this ten year reunion that causes one to notice just how completely different they are now then in high school (well, mostly different). for me, you know, it is actually a sweet time – looking back on these ten years – in the sense that i get to see how much redemption Jesus has worked in me – specifically in the area of my identity.

in high school, and even the few years after that, one of my driving motivations was to be someone that people liked. i wanted to prove that i had something to offer, and that something was what others wanted. but all this caused in me was an unhealthy self image. the truth was, whoever i really was (whoever the Father created me to be), i was pretty sure that i didnt like him. so i had to almost become someone else. i wouldn’t say that this drive was completely self abasing, but i knew me, and i wasnt too excited about who i was. until Jesus started working in me; really working in me.

He started telling me that being myself was enough; that He enjoyed me. i have to admit, at the time, it really messed me up. if He liked me, then there had to be something in there that was valuable; something that had worth. He helped me to see that all this striving and straining to please people was actually counter productive to who i actually was. instead of some ideal i had held about ‘what a serious for Jesus lifestyle looked like’ (and constantly failing to live up to that ideal), i became (over time) free to be me.

i must let you know, it is pretty freeing to be who God created you to be. and i say that not in the hokey, fake smile on my face sort of way. but in a genuine and satisfying way. in a deep, heart peace way. i know that the Creator of the Universe is crazy about me. He loves it when i am just living out of this identity, instead of trying to please people. and over time, i have learned how i am spiritually wired (ie. spiritual gifts) and what i have to offer the Church. it is totally freeing in the sense that i can spend my time and energy in the avenue that God created for me in the first place. i dont have to do everything. i can specialize. and the crazy thing about that is that when i am serving the church in that avenue that is chosen by the Father for who i am, others are blessed AND i am the most effective in the Kingdom.

wow. praise Jesus.

i am reminded of a quote by Mike Bickle. to summarize he said that when you are self-analyzing your life (or in Christian-ese: your Christian walk), you have got to be on the ten year plan. you dont really get the full impact of the work of Christ in your life until 10 years later. and now, looking back, i am amazed at how much Jesus has worked in my life, and i pray that He blesses you because of it.

here’s to the next ten. (raising fat tire bottle now)

blogs are a funny thing. i think i must have been telling myself for weeks that i need to post something; not for you to read, but for me. getting my thoughts out helps me to process life and get a better handle on how Jesus is speaking to me. but for whatever reason i just havent blogged. sometimes i do the same thing with journaling in my (gasp) paper journal. i have so much bouncing around in my head, i actually decide to wait to scratch it all down – because i know that it will take a good hour or more to get it all out. and, lately, i rarely have even an hour to myself, much less an hour where i feel like journaling; even if i know that it will be beneficial to me. (does anyone else know what i am talking about?)

one of the books i remember the most from when i was a child was, ‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’. i suppose it is a little strange that it was one of my favorite books, considering the theme. maybe it was just the pictures? (probably) i was reminded of this book yesterday, while i was in the midst of my own ‘terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day’. for starters, i woke up late (and tired). then the coffee i made last minute before i left some how was mis-brewed, and tasted like watered-down nasty. and of course it was monday, and this one found me even less motivated than usual. so it took me until about 10 to even get into work related things. (i arrive at my office around 730, usually). a little later sally calls and tells me that her car wont start. we have taken it in 2 times so far, and have paid for repairs to fix it. but it still occasionally will not start. so that only added to the sucky-ness of my day. but i rallied a bit over lunch and in the afternoon, and was mostly productive. maybe it was the chik-fil-a i had for lunch? (i think so) i thought i was turning a corner once i was off work for the day, because, well, i was off work. but i get home just as mason is waking from his nap. i think to myself that this is so perfect. i can take him, hold him for a bit until he falls back to sleep, and then catch a nap just holding him. but of course, the moment i start to drift off to sleep, he starts crying. and it escalates. and it escalates. and then he is pissed. and though i know its not my fault, and he was just overly tired (and needed a diaper change + bottle), it still felt like he was pissed at me. so i give him a change and the bottle, and pass him off to sally, and finally get my nap. but it is cut short, because dinner is ready 10 minutes later. so i probably got a 4 minute nap. which, i guess, is better than nothing. so things smooth out for a bit, and after dinner we have to go run a couple of errands (to blockbuster and braums). i go into blockbuster, grab a movie, and come back out. mason was fine. we go to bruams, sally goes inside to get milk, mason goes crazy. again. and at that point, i was done. sally gets back, we drive home (with him screaming all the way), and i collapse on the couch; into movie-land. an hour later, its time for bed. and mercifully, my ‘terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day’ is over. 

welcome to parenthood.

its funny, processing yesterday now, because i am reminded of a verse that has been highlighted recently out of 2 Corinthians (16:13-14). It reads, ‘Be on your guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous.(act like men) Be strong. And do everything with love.’ it suppose i would summarize this verse as, ‘man up’. i feel like what Jesus is encouraging me to do is, in a sense, ‘man up’. and reading this verse after yesterday, i feel like i can choose to have 1 of 2 responses. 1: i can throw up my hands and give up, or 2: i can man up. but like the good curious lad that i am, the next question is, ‘what does it mean to ‘man up’ in the biblical sense? do i just pull myself up by my own boot straps? this verse in Corinthians would define ‘manning up’ as being courageous and strong – which sound cool in the context of fighting a war or leading an expedition. but what about in my life in 2009? what does courage and strength look like in the midst of my ‘terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day’? 

i suppose that i would begin to define biblical courage and strength (manhood) as coming from the Lord. when i think about it, i know that on my own, my strength and courage ends even before it begins. i would rather whine and complain than ‘man up’. therefore i know that any strength or courage (or ability to be a man) begins in receiving it from the Lord first. it is a realization that i am a poor beggar without Him. and, more than that,  it is being ok with being a poor beggar. because this poor beggar is also a son. and when i start to wrap my thoughts around the reality of being a son of the Most High, faith is birthed in my heart. it is this faith that enables me to receive strength and courage (and everything else necessary for Kingdom living) from The Father. somewhere in this mystical interaction with Him, i am able to grab hold of that grace that enables me to be the man that He believes that i am. and just by interacting with Him, my heart is strengthened and encouraged, and i am reminded of how wonderful He is. 

and that is beautiful. 

i am planning to hang out with the manhood theme for a while, so you (the 2 people that read this blog) can expect more posts on manhood in the near future. i am planning to re-read a book called, ‘the four pillars of a man’s heart’ by stu weber. it has been on my mind for a while now. so if u are going to be overwhelmed with too much manliness on my blog in the near future, i wouldn’t re-visit this site for at least a month. but either way, thanks for reading.

Posted by: eightweleve | February 14, 2009

on baby swings

mason is in his baby swing and sally is catching up on some sleep in the other room, which leaves me with something i havent gotten a lot of recently – quietness and peace. i dont want to jinx myself because it is really close to when mason needs to eat again, so he could wake up at any moment. but for this brief moment, it is quiet.

this is probably the first time i have had time to process his first few weeks of life, because i have had so much going on. if having a newborn in the house (and all of the toll that takes on us) wasn’t enough, my freelance design has gotten remarkably busy. i have rebranded a company’s entire look, and i have another one to do today. i am in talks to do three different company websites also, which means i am constantly thinking and creating – or trying to coordinate meetings with various clients. but its great. and the hope would be that eventually i would be able to step into freelancing as a career. a career like that would be ideal for me. setting my own hours, doing what i enjoy doing, working from home…perfect. the next few years will hopefully only open up more opportunities for me to move that direction.

so, hows it being a dad? surreal. 

sometimes ill be carrying him through the house (usually to sally because he wont calm down, and she seems to have this uncanny mojo to soothe him) and ill just have a moment like, ‘whoa this is my son. and this is our house. crazy’. i am not even sure if i can attempt to convey what fatherhood is like. i know i definitely feel more challenged to ‘be a man’; to provide and care for my family, and make sure i have my stuff together.

but mostly i like holding him.

well, looks like the quiet time is over. mason is crying (again). the swing only lasts for so long. so i am going to have to cut this post short.

Posted by: eightweleve | January 27, 2009

on integrity

the idea of integrity has been bouncing around in my thoughts recently. i am not sure if there was one specific thing that caused this train of though. it just seems like i have noticed when it is laking in people around me recently. and as it percolated a little longer, i realized that The Father might be trying to get something through to me. let me explain.

the past 5 years or so have introduced me to the unexpected in life. and not necessarily the ‘good’ parts of it. and as sally and i were talking last night, i realized how much i have changed; how much my worldview (way of thinking) has changed. 

when i was a student at ou and trying to determine what exactly it meant to be a follower of Jesus, i was introduced to a group of people who really challenged me to take discipleship to a whole new level. i mean, these guys were serious. they would wake up at 5 am, pray, and read the Word for a few hours every day. they were serious about evangelism, and would take every opportunity to share about Jesus – but most importantly, they were trumpeting the call of taking the Gospel to ‘the hard places’ – those areas of the world that it had yet to be heard. when i encountered these people, something in me knew that ‘this’ is what it looked like to follow Jesus. immediately after school i joined with them, and began traveling with them to tell students that God had a place for them in His destiny of redeeming all peoples – whether that role meant going overseas, or praying, or hosting, or supporting them financially. we all had a role in The Father’s global redemption plan.

and really, i still believe this now; though not with as much energy.

but what i discovered is that while we were serious and focused about trumpeting the cause of the unreached peoples for Jesus, we sure weren’t doing the best job of ‘life together’. sure we wanted to be used of God to affect the nations, but i just wanted to make sure that we still liked each other once we got there. and overall, i was never quite sure exactly what my role in this whole ‘evangelization of the world in this generation’ business was. and no one around me seemed to have any time to help me figure it out.

but that was 5 years ago now. and i have given those people the benefit of the doubt.

since then God has led me back to Norman, to be a part of a church, and is teaching me how to do life with people. i have also gotten married, changed jobs three different times, and (most recently and importantly) become a father. and unfortunately also had to watch some of those same ‘serious for Jesus people’ fall flat on their face. its been hard. i wouldnt say as hard as some of my other friends have taken it, but its still sad to see dear friends make some of the decisions they have made and then had to deal with the consequences. i have seen them get divorces, walk away from the Lord completely, and choose lifestyles that only sew sin into their lives. of course, experiencing those things cannot leave one unaffected.

but i am still trying to find my niche in the Kingdom. and one of the things that i am learning the most is that it doesnt necessarily matter ‘what’ you are doing for the Lord, but ‘how’ you are doing it. which brings me back to the idea of integrity, and how essential it is. if success in the Kingdom is measured in faithfully responding over time to Jesus, then integrity is essential. how can we be faithful stewards of the Kingdom, if we are not the same people at work (or wherever else in our ‘bubble’ we are) that we are with our Christian family? and how can we call ourselves disciples of Christ, and then ‘walk away and forget what we look like’ (James 1:23-24)?

so i definitely dont have it all figured out, and havent come close to ‘arriving’, but i do desire to know Jesus and become more and more like Him. and one of those important ways to emulate Christ is to live my life with integrity. miriam webster’s online dictionary defines integrity as ‘moral soundness’. another way to define it may be to look at integrity’s fruit – ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control’ (Gal 5:22-23). 

Jesus, help that my life would be characterized by the fruit of integrity. May my ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, and my ‘no’ be ‘no. and may my heart each day desire to do Your will. even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen.

Posted by: eightweleve | December 29, 2008

on being challenged

1 Corinthians 16:13 (NLT) – Be on guard. Stand true to what you believe. Be courageous. Be strong.

1 Corinthians 16:13 (NASB) – Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

kind of an interesting difference in translation, huh? this verse has been bouncing around in my head this morning, and since i dont have much going on at work this week, i thought i would explore it a little more. i first was introduced to this verse while on a summer project with campus crusade for christ in virginia beach. it was one of our weekly memorization verses. i thought it was a little weak at the time. of course time and wisdom have proven me wrong (again). to be a man is to be courageous.

i have been in a such a different season lately; one that feels so directionless and unmotivating and (gasp) normal. I’m not sure if i have reached the Proverbs 29:18 point yet (Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.), but i dont feel too far away. I am struggling with sin in a way that i haven’t in a long time, and recently have been pretty lame in my resisting it. and i dont like that i have been so lame. Jesus is showing Himself kind and gentle to me in this season, and wisdom is teaching me that most of life is learning how to interact with Jesus in every season of life. that’s not the problem. the problem is with me; with my part of the deal. i am just sucking. and i am dissapointed with myself…not that i have any illusions that i am anything but poor in spirit without Him. but there is something in this verse from Corinthians that challenges me to ‘man up’; not in the way of pulling myself up by my own boot straps, but more of a challenge to more fully step into a Biblical definition of manhood.

‘Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men/be courageous, be strong. ‘

There’s something about The Father’s definition of manhood that declares men are firm, strong and courageous. So my challenge is to grasp ahold of this Truth in one hand, Jesus’ hand in the other and live in a way that this verse is proven true in me. In other words, to be brave & trust Jesus in this season.  I have also been reading through Deuteronomy lately and feel like He is also challenging me through the Israelites’ desert wanderings. (From Deuteronomy 1) Basically what is happening is the Israelites have been led to the border of the promised land after 38 YEARS of wandering in the desert. They send over their scouts to assess the land, and they all come back afraid. So the Lord is upset with Israel’s lack of faith and tells them to turn around and go back into the desert. And then Israel does what most people would do – apologize and try to still enter the promised land (though by entering it would be disobedience).  

42 “But the LORD said to me, ‘Tell them not to attack, for I will not go with them. If they do, they will be crushed by their enemies.’ 43 This is what I told you, but you would not listen. Instead, you again rebelled against the LORD’s command and arrogantly went into the hill country to fight. 44 But the Amorites who lived there came out against you like a swarm of bees. They chased and battered you all the way from Seir to Hormah. 45 Then you returned and wept before the LORD, but he refused to listen. 46 So you stayed there at Kadesh for a long time.”

The challenge is to continue to remain in this season of waiting. It would be easy for us to try to make something happen; to enter into His promises before His timetable – but that would be disobedience. and if we were to do that, there’s a good chance that He would refuse to listen to us after that. The challenge to continue waiting at first is a little disheartening if i am honest. but i have to remember Who i am waiting with; that Jesus is in the waiting season – in the same way that He led the Israelites in the desert. He comforts us at night, feeds us each morning, and moves us when it is time to be moved. And also like the Israelites in the desert, if we dont cling to Him we will perish. But thankfully He is a good Father. And His goodness enables me to be brave and courageous (and continue waiting). This is what He is like:

‘The Lord God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.’ (Zephaniah 3:17)

Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Posted by: eightweleve | December 20, 2008

on our life in two thousand and eight

two thousand and eight was quite the year for our new family. we began the year on a train, which is a fitting metaphor for our year as a whole. in january, we celebrated our first wedding anniversary by taking a weekend train down to forth worth. we spent the weekend in a nice hotel, and visited a few museums, restaurants, and stores. and even now, we are just a month away from our second year together. our life together truly has been a blessing, and we are excited for this next season.

if you haven’t heard by now, we are just a few short weeks away from meeting our little man. it is difficult to describe how excited we are to finally meet him, and even though sally has been pregnant since may, it still seems so surreal to think that we will (very soon) have a son. fortunately for us, we also have a number of friends that are having boys soon too, so our little man will have some buddies with whom he can cause trouble.

in keeping with the ‘train’ theme from above, two thousand and eight was also a busy year of transition for us. in may, we signed a contract to build our first house in norman. and a week later, matt lost his job. needless to say, we were a little anxious to see what The Father had next for us, but a few weeks later matt accepted a position as a senior graphic designer. he is working for a company called ‘american fidelity assurance’ in oklahoma city. and now, six months later, having fully assimilated into his team, he is busy creating magazines, programs, logos, brochures, t-shirts, and (most excitedly) videos that contribute to the success of the company, and that also really impress his wife. 

halfway through october our house was ready, so we became first time home owners on ga zump drive. about the time we became settled, it was time for sally to quit working to began preparations for the baby. we were a little concerned that the norman arts council might fall apart without her, but it was time for her to move on. she has been filling her time up well with various projects around the house, such as decorating the baby’s room, further unpacking our stuff, and keeping matt in order…which we all know is a full time job in itself. 

we are still becoming established  at norman community church. our home group (approx. 35 people) is focused on ministering to the poor and needy in norman. sally has become a renowned chef with the people we serve meals to at the local shelter, and her menu has opened wider doors to love those less fortunate than us. we are blessed to be surrounded by a wonderful church family who love and support us, and continually challenge us to know Jesus and be more like Him.

we pray that two thousand and nine becomes a year of blessing for you and your families, and that Jesus surrounds each of you with His satisfying Presence.

with warm regards,

matt, sally, and baby allen.

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