Friday, March 30, 2012

8 Ways to Measure Love

There are two great commandments in the Bible.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-5), and love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18).  Jesus says that all of the law and the prophets hang on these two commands (Matthew 22:40). 

Love seems like an important thing, but what is this thing called love? Is it that happy, longing feeling you get with your parents, spouse, children, etc, or is it just actions that you have for others? 

Read the rest in today's Proverbs and Wisdom article: 8 Ways to Measure Love

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

God Glasses

Some friends of mine and I did a video awhile back called God Glasses, which I believed I posted in these pages once upon a time.

It's about how God sees things differently then we do.  I play a business man dressed in a suit, but when the protagonist sees me through the God glasses, He sees a man dressed in rags.  And when he sees a rough looking character through the God glasses, he sees someone dressed to the nines.

The video features Ben Cabe ( and Clyde Annandale (  Ben did all the editing and a lot of the camera work, and Clyde was gracious enough to appear in the film as Jesus.

Here's some rough sketches I did that we used for storyboards (though we mostly just made it up as we went along when it came time to shoot) followed by the short film itself.

Visit for more information on Design work.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

No Fear of the Lord

In our previous Relationship Tuesdays, we’ve been looking at the fear of God in terms of being a created being.  And today we’re going to look at what a lack of the fear of God looks like.

We fear God because He is our creator.  In every way He’s beyond us.  And it’s not just us who have this response.  When we look at glimpses of heaven in the Bible, we see the seraphim around the throne and these are pretty scary characters: they have six wings; they have four faces: a man, a bull, an eagle, and a lion; and as if that weren’t enough they are covered in eyes.  It’s like something right out of horror show.  And yet before the throne of God these terrifying creatures not only bow, they cover their heads and their feet in holy fear of their creator.

And if they’re afraid, how much more should we be as sinful rebels before the throne?  I mean just look at Isaiah’s reaction when he stood before God.

But you know I don’t think everyone is afraid of God like they should be, and that’s often what gets us in trouble.  Take for example, Isaiah 14 when talking about Satan:

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! [how] art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, [and] consider thee, [saying, Is] this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; [That] made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; [that] opened not the house of his prisoners?”

Satan had no fear of God.  He assumed that He could just usurp His throne.

Or look at Adam and Eve, they ate from the tree of knowledge and good and evil.  They had no fear of God.

Everywhere you look in the Bible those who lack a fear of God are called wicked and reprobate.  They do what they please.  They profane righteousness.  They are in a word, evil. 

And even on judgment day, in Matthew 7 Jesus talks about those who are going to list everything they did for Jesus, make claims of having relationship with Him, trying to convince Him why they are worthy of heaven; telling God why you’re worthy of His approval isn’t a position of fear before a Holy and just God. 

Alternatively if you look at Revelations 15, you get a glimpse of what the saints of God, those who have a relationship with Him say:

And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by Godand sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: "Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages.

Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed. (Revelations 15:2-4)

I mean this is on the verge of entering the end of the age at this point, and the saints in heaven are still talking about fearing God.  I don’t think this is something that goes away when we enter eternity.  In fact, I think it gets even more pronounced as we stand face to face with His holiness.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Submissive Soul

In Matthew Mondays, we’ve been looking at the temptation of Christ and how Jesus was tempted in all the ways we are within the trinity of man: body, spirit, and soul as per Hebrews 4:15 and 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

In the previous weeks we’ve looked at how Satan tempted Christ in body and how Satan tempted Christ in spirit.  This week we’re going to look at how Satan tempted Christ in soul.

The soul of a human being is the seat of the mind, will, and emotions.  And while temptations affecting the body are often about survival and comfort and temptations affecting spirit are often about the supernatural, temptations that lure our soul are all about control.

Let’s look at how the temptation plays out:

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.

"All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." (Matthew 4:8-9)

Satan’s offer is to give Jesus control of the whole world in exchange for worshiping him instead of God, basically submitting to Satan rather than God. 

This is the last and perhaps the greatest of the temptations.  It’s easy to empathize with the first temptation.  We all get hungry.  We all want to live comfortably.  Only a crazy person says, “boy, I’d sure like to experience some pain and suffering today.”  The second temptation of the spirit is easy to understand too.  Who doesn’t want to see something miraculous?  Ask any atheist what it would take to convince them that God exists, and they’ll give you some impossible sign for proof.

The last one is a bit more subversive because it is a temptation that we rarely recognize as such.  It’s the temptation of free will.  Will we submit to God every moment of every day, or will we pursue our own agendas and try to control our own lives?  Will we be driven by our own desires, swayed by flippant emotions, or led by our own understandings, or will we seek God’s desires, God’s emotions, and God’s understanding, and let these be what guide our path.

What makes this particular temptation so hard is that sometimes we know what God wants, but we think we can speed up His process and do things on our own.  That’s what Satan is tempting Jesus with in this example.

Ultimately the submission and obedience of our body, soul, and spirit to the Almighty God are what worship is all about, which is why Jesus responds to Satan the way He does:

Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"  (Matthew 4:10)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Planks and Specks

Writing is one of those weird things where it’s easy for me to see the mistakes that others make. I’ve been a professional writer for years now, and I teach writing classes at the college level, so every error my students make stands out like big flashing signs screaming at me.  It’s even worse when I read a book and spot a misspelling or a punctuation mark out of place because there are supposed to be professionals going over these things with fine-tooth combs.  “Who publishes this rubbish?” I often snicker to my wife.

Yet when it comes to my own writing, I often make mistakes and miss my own errors all the time.  I can’t even count the times I’ve read over some paper, article, or story I’ve written months or years ago, and I spot a misspelling or a grammatical faux pa.

Sometimes I wonder if this is the sort of thing that Jesus is talking about when He says, “"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)  

Read the rest of the article in today's Proverbs and Wisdom.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Power Week 2012 (Design Work)

Our church is doing a Kid’s Camp coming up in June, and I did some design work for them.  I did a mailer, a trifold, and a 12-page booklet.  Everything is drawn from scratch using Illustrator and vectors, so that the size can be adjusted without losing any quality.  As always if you’re interested in having some work done, I’m available and affordable. Visit for more information.

Here’s a sampling of the camp designs:




Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Fear of Claymen

Last week in Relationship Tuesday, I made the statement: “We should fear God for the same reason we serve Him, not because of what He can do to us or for us.”

So what does this mean? 

Let’s say you decide to be creative today and do a little sculpting.  You carefully work the clay between your fingers, and you decide to make a figure in your own image: a little clay person.  Slowly a body begins to form with arms, legs, and a little head complete with eyes, nose and mouth.  And let’s say that you open the mouth of your little person and breath into it, and lo and behold, your creation comes to life. And you name it George.  Why you ask?

Hey, it’s my imagination, and that’s what I would call him (yep now it’s a him too).

At first you and George have a grand old time.  You teach him how to speak and how to live, and you give him directions that will help him to be safe.  After all, you’ve been around longer and a have a view on life and the clay person’s surroundings that little George is never, ever going to understand.  Every time he looks up at you, he trembles, and you have to take his little clay hand and say, “it’s okay Georgie don’t be afraid.”

However, one day you tell little George not to eat a little clay piece of fruit you made, and he looks up at you, defiance written all over his little clay face, and says “take a hike, loser”, and then goes right ahead and takes a little bite.  After a while, George isn’t listening to you at all, and he’s even going so far as saying he doesn’t even think you exist.  That you’re just a figment of his or someone else’s imagination.  He curses you and spits in your direction as if it could get any where near you.  He starts building little clay images of his own and saying, “this is what made me”, and when he gets tired of that, he just starts claiming to have evolved over millions of years, even though you just made him hours ago.

Now, at this point you could just smash little George.  That would be no big thing for you.  You could take control and make him do what you want. The little monster is out of control after all.  I mean honestly what would you do?

And yet here we are little dust people acting just like George.  Our fear ought not stem from the fact that God could squash us. He could pull us apart piece by piece and feed us to the dog.  He could throw us into a proverbial kiln that never shuts off.  There’s really nothing that God couldn’t do to us.  Who could oppose Him?

And yet despite all that the fear George felt before he disobeyed did not stem from all the horrible things you could to him, it came from your otherness. And it’s the same with our fear of God.  He is above and separate from everything else that is.  He made it all.  Another way to say this is “God is holy”.

I mean consider the seraphim in Isaiah 6.  They stand around the throne of God faces and feet covered in the fear of God, yelling “Holy, Holy, Holy” or “different, different, different,” all day long for eternity. 

God’s holiness is a fearful thing, and anyone that would tell you otherwise has never experienced His presence in His real, raw power.  And much like George the clayman, we’re foolish to not approach God with fear in this relationship He’s called us to because ultimately the lack of the fear of the Lord leads to sin.

Next Week: What No Fear of the Lord looks like.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Rebuffing Spiritual Temptation

In our Matthew Mondays we’ve been looking at Matthew 4, and the temptations of Christ, particularly through the lens of Hebrews 4:15: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin”, and the trinity of man: body, soul, and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23) in that these three temptations of Christ represent every way we are tempted.

Last week we looked at how the devil tries to tempt Jesus physically with food, and the way Jesus rebuffs Him by explaining the nature of the physical world: it’s God’s word.  God spoke it into being; thus man is not sustained by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).

This week we’re going to look at the second temptation of Jesus.

Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You; and 'on their hand they will bear You up, so that Your foot will not strike a stone.'" (Matthew 4:5-6)

Now let’s take just a moment before getting into Jesus’ response here to look at exactly what the devil is asking Jesus to do.

Satan took Him to the temple.  This is the spiritual center of the world.  Even the New Testament talks about Jerusalem and the temple as being the spiritual central.  The Gospel would eventually radiate out from this point into the entire world, and it continues to be the major focus of the Judeo-Christian religions. 

If Satan had just wanted to see if angels would swoop down and rescue Jesus, there were hundreds of other places he could have taken Him.  Mount Everest might have been a good choice.  Satan knew as well as Jesus did that the angels would have saved Him.  This temptation wasn’t about the action any more than the first one was about bread. 

The temptation on the temple top had a spiritual element to it. 

Imagine you were standing at church waiting to go in, and this guy comes hurtling down off the steeple, and before his foot hits the ground, a bunch of angels appear, catch him, and gently set him down.  You ask why the angels caught him, and he says because I’m the Son of God—hard to argue with that don’t you think? 

If Jesus had fallen for Satan’s temptation, He would have immediately become the spiritual leader of Israel.  Caiaphas (a goon appointed by Rome) would have been tossed out on his head, and there would have been no crucifixion, no redemption of sin, and no spiritual regeneration for any of us.  But God had other plans.

And so Jesus responds, “On the other hand, it is written, “you shall not put your Lord to the test” (Matthew 4:7).

Often times when it comes to spiritual temptation we experience, it comes in the form of testing God, and the test is for the wrong reasons.  It’s never just to prove to ourselves that God is true to His word and that He abides in us.  It’s to prove ourselves to others around us.  We pray for God to do x, y, or z in our lives.  Make us rich.  Heal us.  Help us teach, preach, and prophesy.  But our imaginations are running a mile a minute about what others will say or do when God moves so mysteriously/miraculously in our lives.

This is spiritual temptation.  God’s power is not meant to bring us glory; it’s meant to bring Him glory.  When you pray for these things, pray that God would glorify Himself however He wants and then be obedient.  Maybe He wants to use someone else to accomplish His work, and maybe He has other plans entirely.

Obedience to God’s plans is the key and the beauty of overcoming spiritual temptation.  Because in obedience there is humility, in humility God is glorified, and when God is glorified, He raises our spirits.

Next week, we look at the temptation of the soul.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Greener Grass

An old farmer was out working in his fields just outside a small town, when a man driving an expensive town car stopped and waved him over. The farmer walked over, hands in his pockets and squinting from the glare of the sun.

“Hey, old-timer” the stranger began.  “I’m new to town, and I wanted to get a local’s perspective. Can you be happy living here?”

The old farmer tilted his head to the side and said, “Tell me about the town you came from.”

The stranger shook his head: “It was awful . . . Read the rest at today's Proverbs and Wisdom

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My Imaginary Jesus

St. Peter walks into a communist vegan restaurant in San Francisco and orders smoked salmon.  The hippie at the counter rolls her eyes and says, “we’re vegan.  No salmon.” Of course St. Peter is incensed and ready to start brawling: “isn’t this the Pacific northwest?  How do you not have salmon?”  And just before he lets fly his fists of fury, he looks over and spots Jesus sitting next to Matt Mikalatos. St. Peter’s brow darkens a little farther, and he strides over to confront them.

Yep that’s the opening scenario of Matt Mikalatos’ My Imaginary Jesus.  It turns out that Matt’s Jesus was an imaginary Jesus, and with the help of St. Peter, a talking donkey, an ex-prostitute, some Mormon missionaries, and an atheist, Matt goes on a quest to confront his imaginary Jesuses (yes there are many), so he can find the real one.

The book was a lot of fun, though I don’t think I’ve been around or cared about church culture enough to get all the jokes.  However the point of the book, namely that a lot of the general ideas about Jesus you hear in Sunday School or are taught in seminaries these days are imaginations and interpretations of a real person, is spot on.

It’s the real Jesus that we should be seeking relationship with, not the myths we’ve made up over the years.  He’s alive and speaking, and we can know Him personally.

I highly recommend this book.  It will entertain you certainly, but more importantly it will leave you hungry to know the real Jesus and maybe even help you start rooting out the imaginary Jesuses in your life.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review.  All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Man's Man

Last week in Relationship Tuesday we began to talk about the fear of the Lord.  This is the starting point for a relationship with God.  Without a proper fear of the Lord, we can’t understand all the complexities of the relationship He wants to have with us.  And this is a real fear, not simply awe and respect, though those are important.  Everyone who’s come in contact with this God who’s offering us relationship has hit the dust in sheer terror, even John the beloved disciple.

John and Jesus were tight.  John even rested his head on Jesus’ chest at the last supper.  There are very few people I would let cuddle up with me like that, and all of them are family, namely my wife, my son, and my little sisters, though they’ve stopped doing that so much now that they’ve grown up.  If any of my guy friends said, “hey let me rest my head on your chest”, I’d probably laugh and punch them in the mouth.

Seriously though, John and Jesus were close, and to be fair John was probably a teenager at this point, just a boy, so it’s not so weird as all that.  Jesus was like his father or older brother, and John loved Him. 

Everything John writes is about love, but we also read that he was a bit surly.  Jesus calls him and his brother “Sons of Thunder”.  They sound like a professional wrestling tag team group.

They’re the ones who ask if they can call down fire and consume people.  They’re the ones who ask if it’s time to go to war with Rome and bring the kingdom.  They’re the ones whose mother asks if they can’t sit on Jesus’ right and left in the kingdom.  John was the only disciple that went and stood at the crucifixion even though it meant he would be seen as a disciple and could have been arrested and killed too. There were two things you can be sure of when reading the Bible: John the apostle loved Jesus, and he was fearless.

And yet, when John stands face to face with the glorified Christ in Revelations 1:17, he “fell at His feet as though dead.”  And like every human being who ever has had contact with God since Adam’s fall, Jesus has to reach down and say, “do not be afraid.”

So, why then does this same John, who turns into a quivering pile of Jell-O at the sight of the glorified Jesus, write, “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18)?

If that small phrase were all John wrote, then it would seem strange. But most people who use that phrase to suggest we ought not be afraid of God anymore, don’t quote everything John wrote here: “By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (1 John 4:17-18)

John is talking about being afraid of the Day of Judgment and being afraid of punishment.  In that respect, if His love is perfected in us, we do have no reason to be afraid of God’s punishment.  There is no punishment for those who know God and are known by Him. 

However, not being afraid of being punished does not preclude that we have no more reason to fear God.  In fact if punishment is the only reason you’re afraid of God, you don’t know Him. 

We fear Him for the same reason we serve Him--because of who He is not what He can do to us or for us.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Physics 101

In the last Matthew Monday, we looked at Matthew 4 and how Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by Satan.  Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” 

How does the temptation of Christ in the wilderness equate to “being tempted in all things”? 

It has to do with the trinity of man: body, soul, and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

The first temptation that Satan issues is directed toward Jesus’s body.  Jesus has been fasting for 40 days and 40 nights, and Satan walks up and says, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread” (Matthew 4:3).

Jesus answers, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4).

Often times Satan uses our body to tempt us into sinning against God: food, sex, adverting pain and suffering, etc. 

But Jesus says, listen God spoke the world into existence.  His words are not just some kind of sustenance; they are life.  There’s nothing our body needs that God’s spoken word hasn’t provided: plants and animals exist because He spoke them into being, the opposite sex exists because of His word, and pain and suffering exist because we challenged His command in the garden, but with a word from Him they can end just as surely as they began.

The Bible says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.  And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-4, 14).

This physical world is a product of God’s spoken word.  Jesus is God’s word made manifest in flesh.  Satan doesn’t use physical temptation for the simple act of making us suffer physically; He uses it to get us to deny the very word of God, and this is why Jesus rebuffs the physical temptation with the scripture He does. 

We live and have our being because God speaks.  Understanding this truth is the key to overcoming the temptation of the flesh. 

Next week we'll look at the temptation of the spirit.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

God Gave Us Love

Little cub is annoyed by the noisy otters scaring away her fish, but Grandpa reminds her that part of the fun of fishing is just being together, which leads into a long lesson on the nature of God’s love.

Now I could get all haughty and dissect the theology in the book, but considering it’s a board book meant for children ages 2-5; I think it does all right relaying the beauty of God’s love even when we don’t deserve it.  The book delineates between what “like” and “love” are and that mammas and papas love for each other is special and not the way we should be loving others. 

I imagine that these are all questions that would come up for a child when you’re talking about love to this age group, so it’s good to have a story like this as a catalyst for discussion.

There were a couple of drawbacks to the book though.  The first one was that there really wasn’t much for storyline or character development.  My wife commented that it read like a Sunday School lesson more than a storybook, so don’t expect your child to get attached to or care much about the characters. 

The second issue is that the lessons are fairly lengthy and don’t have much substance.   My two-year old was squirming after about three pages, and then, much like the otters, he disappeared, which you might say is normal for a two-year old, but he’ll sit still and listen forever if we’re reading from his Winnie-the-Pooh book.  Why can’t Christian children’s books capture a young audience like that?

Sigh, that’s a topic for another day.

I wouldn’t go so far as to not recommend “God Gave Us Love” because the morals are solid, but I can’t imagine this becoming the “favorite” bedtime story in your home any time soon.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review.  All opinions are my own.


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