Outside the Comfort Zone

Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi
all photos by Wil Robinson, 1986

We met in San Luis Obispo, a city on California’s Central Coast. I don’t recall his name. He worked at a small used book store on the main downtown street.

He was enamored by Francis, as he was at the thought of the cloistered life.

We talked about that, and how he thought he’d be a perfect monk, that the lifestyle would suit him.

It was his best friend who dissuaded him from this endeavor. He told him he should make the world his monastery.

We also talked about Francis.

Another view of the Basilica

When I think of Francis of Assisi, I think of a hippie preacher. He’s often thought of as a New Ager, though, as “He preached: ‘Your God is of your flesh, He lives in your nearest neighbor, in every man.’ ” (Wikipedia)

Francis is also known for his Canticle of the Creatures, in which he calls the sun brother and the moon sister. And “around 1220, Francis celebrated Christmas by setting up the first known Nativity scene).”

Francis’s early years as the son of a wealthy business man were ones of high-spirited excess. “He was handsome, witty, gallant, and delighted in fine clothes. He spent money lavishly.” (Wikipedia)

Despite what can be thought of Francis, he stepped out of his comfort zone and into a life of poverty.

I suppose the fellow from the bookstore wanted to emulate Francis. Perhaps making the world his monastery is a way to step out of the comfort zone.

View from the Basilica

L-RD Bless, Keep, Shine. . .

Why do you stand looking into space?

Ever been at work and seen a co-worker standing there staring off into space? Perhaps instructions have been given for a particular task and one of the staffers just sits there gazing off into space as if lost. There’s lots of work to do, and he or she is doing? N O T H I N G!

I like the way Memphis Applegate, the host of Memphis Monday, a wood working show I like, opens his video blogs. He sits in a chair, briefly explains what he’s going to do that day, puts his hands down to push himself out of the chair, and says:

” Let’s get crackin’ ”

So it was like that a couple thousand years ago, and provides a great principle for us today. Yeshua had given some instructions to his followers.

“. . .stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)

But after Yeshua ascended to Heaven, His followers simply stood there. Perhaps their mouths gapped open. Perhaps they were simply struck with the full weight of the grief for losing their Teacher. An angel appears to snap them out of it.

“Why do you stand looking into heaven? Yeshua, who was taken up from you into Heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)

There is a kindness in the Angel’s words. There is comfort in immediate reassurance that they’ll see Yeshua again. But there is also a bit of a chiding, too, “Why do you stand” there? The implication, as I interpret it, is that to get back to doing something, for even in waiting, there are things to do. And that’s exactly what those followers did.

They returned to Jerusalem and gathered together in “one accord. . .devoting themselves to prayer. . .” (Acts 1:14)

Finally the promise of Yeshua to cloth His followers in power came about. ”

“. . . there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. . .” Acts 2:2-4)

Once the followers were clothed in power, they now could get on with their primary task. They were to declare repentance for the forgiveness of sins in the Name of Yeshua to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Luke 24:47)

Every thing that they would do, essentially building a community of followers of Yeshua within the larger Jewish community, was aimed at bringing the G-D of Israel to all peoples of the world.

I see principles here that are applicable for us, for today, for tomorrow. We find ourselves overwhelmed or over burdened. We stare at a blank wall. We look up toward some hill as if someone would come to help us in our situation—whatever the issue. But our help isn’t coming from a out in space, from a wall, from a hill.

We simply need to begin to talk to G-D the Father, through the mediation of Yeshua Messiah. We must accept our misguided nature, turn to G-D, and seek Him with all our being.

The problem isn’t necessarily going to simply disappear. But if we continue to develop a friendship with G-D, we will find in increasing measure, the Spirit’s influence until at some time we are completely clothed in the Power of the Spirit of G-D.

Along the way we will be drawn into a community of followers of Yeshua, find our place within a new community, draw away from the old world in which we were born, raised, lived, and failed. Yes. The old world doesn’t encourage us to succeed, to have inner peace and joy. It simple traps us into a false notion of happiness based on external devices that fail us, and we fail.

Please understand. It’s not about joining a church, going to some classes and learning. It’s about turning from who we’ve been, turning to the only hope for a truthful, full, abundant life.

L-RD Bless, Keep, Shine. . .

It used to be easy. . .

. . . or at least it seems so. Identity. That is today’s writing prompt. Let me share what I think, what I know—probably it will be mostly a lot of what I think I know.

I remember when I was in college in the sixties and suppose to write a paper for a psychology class. Who am I? was the title. I got a “A” on it. I wrote about who I was physiologically, intellectually, and emotionally. Despite the grade on a great paper, I really had no clue who I was. The sixties were confusing times. For previous generations, it seemed one’s identity seemed to be set before them, like a Continue reading “It used to be easy. . .”

Getting Old


The Daily Post Writing Prompt Moody 

dime-and-coffee“An English degree and a dime,” Dad said, “will get you a cup of coffee.” A dime won’t get me a cup of coffee these days. Do something “practical.” How ’bout a marine biologist. And later, inspired by my auto shop teacher, I wanted to get my degree in industrial arts and teach. When I finally started college, it was like more high school—same-O, same-O. The English I liked. I did take psychology. It was good too. But I didn’t HAVE to attend class. I found my niche; I majored in lounge. My days consisted of hanging out in the student lounge and fraternizing. Occasionally I attended a class or two. English and psychology.

“Your problem is that you’re codependent,” her words jabbed Continue reading “Getting Old”

Life After Death . . .

Pastor Chuck SmithIt’s been over thirty years ago that, while attending a two-week course in Irvine, California, I was privileged to attend services Calvary Chapel Irvine. Pastor Chuck Smith founded Calvary and served there as head pastor. Pastor Smith had the ability to draw an audience into a sermon taking them to places they’d never have imagined. I recall part of one of his sermons in which he spoke about Heaven. He illustrated Heaven as if it were Earth, divided up giving each person a share of land, which he calculated to be three acres. He said things like there won’t be plumbing in the house, because things will be perfect. What I have remembered about Pastor Smith’s sermon is that even if Heaven looked anything like Earth, it is very different. Perfect, for one thing. The physical presence of our Lord Y’shuaJesus is the most significant difference. And after our physical deaths, we who are saved though faith in Y’shuaJesus will experience Heaven as life in the presence of G-d.

There’s another kind of life after death. And we who are marked, having our names engraved in the Book of Life, are experiencing it right now. This life began when we responded to the call of the LORD. For our response was one of dying to our flesh and receiving a new life of the Spirit.

. . .now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. Romans 7:6.

From the time the Law was given to us on Mount Sinai, until the Cross, we were bound by the written Law. We were not certain of our afterlife. We were certain only of the overwhelming guilt that didn’t seem to come clean even with the sacrifices. We thought if G-d told us what we were to do, we could do it. Like children, we said, in effect, “I’ll be good, Father.” But we couldn’t. We needed something more. It took the Blood of Y’shuaJesus to wipe away the guilt and shame, to pay the price we simply couldn’t pay. We have now the Spirit, and the Law is written upon our hearts. We are saved. We are Genuine. We are Authentic.

Sure, we’ve from time to time fallen back into the flesh, into some sin or other. But we don’t stay in it. We see it for what it is, and move away from it. Things aren’t rigid anymore. There’s flexibility. We don’t have to fit into a mould, fit into a small rigid box. We are free to walk in the way the Spirit guides us. Free from condemnation.

This way of walking didn’t come easy for me. Call it legalism. It doesn’t have to be enforced by a church; it can be self-imposed. I must do this, or that, or . . . But I don’t have to be that way. That’s the freedom we have in Messiah. The freedom we have in the Spirit. It means we can serve G-d in a way that’s uniquely tailored to our personalities, our gifts, our talents.

There are time, however, in which we are called to stretch ourselves out of the comfortable, into other paths. We are promised, however, the Lord’s Lamp to guide our feet, His Light to guide our paths.

These were the potters, and those that dwelt among plants and hedges: there they dwelt with the king for his work. 1 Chron 4:23.

C.H. Spurgeon in Morning and Evening (June 03) uses this scripture to speak about service to Christ that is less than glamorous. He mentions that some are called to live in the country and not the city, as they might prefer.

I am reminded of the fellow in SLO with whom I once discussed St. Francis of Assisi. He said he was so very suited to be in a monastery but a friend said he could, and should, “make the world his monastery.” His life could be spent not doing what is comfortable for him, but what is not within his comfort zone.

For me, it’s helpful to know that the Lord won’t let us bite off more than we can chew. I’m a county boy at heart. I long for the wide-open range, the mountains, a long stretch of barren beach. A small town is okay, too. As I’ve said before, I’ve little use for cities. But, then here I am, a stone’s throw from Atlanta, Georgia. And I’ve accepted that it is this way for the moment. Praise the Lord, for when I am up to my neck in too much city, the Lord allows me to find times of refreshing, both physical and emotional/mental, with Him.

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Inner Struggles

Lately I’ve been in a Spiritual struggle. It isn’t an inner conflict, exactly.  It certainly is neither inner confusion nor a Spiritual battle. Actually, it is a pleasant struggle, like the playful wrestling around that two kids might do on the grass in the cool of the evening after a hot day.

It began innocently enough while reading the end of the ninth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. I’m sure you’ve read it too. Y’shuaJesus opens the blind eyes of two men who’d followed along behind him crying out for mercy.

And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.” But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.

Did these to men sin when the spread the word about Y’shuaJesus’s healing of their eyes? Simple enough question. But, they’ve been blind. How are they suppose to keep people from knowing about it? They were, no doubt, led from home to wherever they hung out during the day to await someone’s kind handouts. Now they can walk home themselves. Is no one suppose to notice this?

The various commentaries were of no help; one said one thing, while another said something contrary. Did the men sin? If so, how exactly were they suppose to not sin? And why is this important? It’s not as if it’s a faith-breaking thing. This isn’t some Spiritual battle that means I’m in Spiritual hot water. It’s just a curious thing.

An acceptable answer came. I could say, “The Lord told me. . .” Or I could say, “The Lord put it in my heart. . .” Or I could simply say, “I was led to an acceptable answer.” How does the Lord speak with us? That’s the way the answer came to me.

Now this sort of back and forth tussle continued throughout last week and this weekend on different questions that seemed to arise. Some of the questions came as responses to previous ones. Others, it seemed, just sort of popped up seemingly out of now where. Not all were “solved,” as they seemed only to be things to be explored, at least for the moment. It’s been fun. It’s been relaxing. It’s been reassuring.

So, the two formerly blind men—Did they sin or not? First, just asking the question was important. Second, not having an answer was equally important. I asked a question and spent time with the Lord exploring. In the end, it turns out it wasn’t about whether or not the men sinned or not.

Just telling this account now reminds me of something I realize how much I miss. For many years, as an adult, I would spend Sunday afternoon with my parents at their home in California’s Central Coast. Year round the weather was pleasant. Dinner was always served at 6:30, and was the big weekly meal. Usually during the meal we would talk, and continue some discussion long after eating. Occasionally the discussions became a bit heated, as is natural, as we disagreed on something. I learned from those discussions so many things. Not just about my Father, and his views, but ways to see the world. With him I was free to express everything I might be thinking, and while we may seem to argue about something, and he may say, “You’re cuckoo, or something,” it wasn’t him being mean. He didn’t put be down for what I might say. When things did get heated, my Mother would say, “Turned out nice again!” It was her way of saying, “Okay, boys, enough is enough, give it a break.”

The last time I saw my Father alive, he could barely speak; the Parkinson’s Disease had so affected him. I last saw my Mother when we buried my Father in a National Cemetery not far from where I was born. A bugler played taps. A rifle squad fired a twenty-one rifle salute. As we said good-bye, she said with almost no Welsh accent left, “We did good, didn’t cry.” Then tears welt up in our eyes.

It wasn’t many months later that we spoke on the phone. She was not feeling well. Her doctor said it was the flu. As we hung up, she said, “I love you.” I said, “I love you.” It was something that had never happened before. That night she died of meningitis.

This past week has been with my Heavenly Father like those dinner conversations with my birth Father, who would have turned 94 this month.

One day we’ll all sit around a table and dine together at the Feast. What a glorious day that will be. And truly it will have “Turned out nice again.”

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Another View of Jesus

In his blog In a Mirror Dimly: An Imperfect, Sarcastic Perspective on Following Jesus, Ed Cyzewski began a post saying: “With all of our talk about gender roles and the place of men in society and the church, I think we tend to overlook Jesus.” He suggests some areas we overlook when considering Y’shuaJesus: “Jesus Was Homeless; Jesus did not provide financially; Jesus was single; Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.” Take a look at what he says about each area here.

Mr. Cyzewski goes on to ask, “Should we imitate Jesus’ version of manhood?” He says “the complexity of the biblical story that presents us with a series of paintings that illustrate what it looks like to be followers of God in a particular time and place rather than nailing down a specific way to meet with God at all times and all places.” So perhaps you and I can follow Y’shuaJesus while having a house, a job, a wife, a few kids, and not have to wash the feet of those that enter our houses. Mr. Cyzewski does point out, however, that “in our rush to fit in with our Christian and Western culture, it’s easy to lose sight of how counter cultural and even revolutionary Jesus was in his own time and would be in our time. His ministry would not be the kind hailed at conferences and his manhood the model we’d think of imitating.”

What I really like about this particular blog by Mr. Ed Cyzewski is his closing paragraph: “There is no blueprint for a “godly” home, ministry, or man. There is God’s calling on our lives, and obedience to that calling is what Jesus modeled for us and expects us to imitate. The details are incidental—home or no home, job or ministry support checks. When Jesus says, “Follow me!” We obey because there is no other source of hope or life.

Mr. Cyzewski is an echo of a distant voice:

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God. John 6:68,69

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Jesus Models Authentic Manhood

The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. 1 John 2:6, NASB

10 Ways Jesus Models Authentic Manhood*
by Thomas Garrett

As both the Son of God and Son of Man, there is no greater model of authentic manhood than Jesus. I’ve observed 10 qualities of authentic manhood I believe are instructive to men—and women—today. Let’s take a look at them:

1) Jesus allowed the Father to affirm His identity. Before Jesus faced the devil in the wilderness and before He ever performed one miracle, He was affirmed by His Father: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17, KJV). A man exhibits authentic manhood when he allows the Word of God and the Spirit of God to affirm his identity as a son.

2) Jesus was focused on His Father’s business. Even at the young age of 12, Jesus possessed a keen sense of awareness that He was on an assignment given to Him by the Father: “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). While others were busy about the normal activities of life, Jesus gave Himself to discovering God’s plan for His life on earth. A man exhibits authentic manhood when he is focused on his God-given assignment.

3) Jesus practiced self-control. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus was tempted in every category of sin and knows what the “pressure of the flesh” feels like, yet He did not yield to the pressure—showing us that we can endure temptation and do not have to yield. A man exhibits authentic manhood when he practices self-control of his body, his thoughts and imaginations, and his words.

4) Jesus lived dependent upon God. Although Jesus was endowed with miracle-working power and supernatural wisdom, He did not act independently of God. He was completely dependent upon the Father’s direction. He said, “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do” (John 5:19). A man exhibits authentic manhood when he lives dependent upon the Lord’s direction in the various areas of his life.

5) Jesus was His brother’s keeper. Conscious of Satan’s desire to destroy His disciple Peter, Jesus did not stand idly by but prayed for His friend and encouraged him: “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee” (Luke 22:31-32). A man exhibits authentic manhood when he looks out for the spiritual welfare of his brothers in Christ.

6) Jesus walked in humility. Although Jesus was “in the form of God” (Phil. 2:6), He laid aside His rights to operate like God, became a man, and died on a cross to save His creation. The Creator dying at the hands of His creation—there is no greater display of humility. A man exhibits authentic manhood when he humbles himself for a cause beyond and greater than himself.

7) Jesus expressed His need for others. In His greatest moment of temptation, Jesus was honest about His need for help: “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with Me” (Matt. 26:38). Jesus demonstrated the strength to be transparent with those He could trust and did not pretend that everything was OK. A man exhibits authentic manhood when he is honest to express his need for help with other godly men.

8) Jesus was zealous for the house of God. Jesus did not have a casual attitude about the house of God. When He saw merchants misusing the temple, He drove them out with a whip, turned over the tables and poured out the money (John 2:13-17). A man exhibits authentic manhood when he demonstrates zeal and enthusiasm for God’s house and contributes to its purposes.

9) Jesus lived to serve others. “For even the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, ESV). A man exhibits authentic manhood when he allows God to use him to serve others.

10) Jesus played through the pain. “For the joy that was set before Him [Jesus] endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). From the Garden of Gethsemane until the moment He gave up the ghost, Jesus did not focus on His own agony. Instead, He focused on what would be accomplished if He followed through with the Father’s plan. A man exhibits authentic manhood when he is willing to carry out his assignment—focusing on the long-term reward, not focusing on the temporary pain.

*Published in Charisma Magazine Sep. 03,2013

Thomas L. Garrett is senior pastor of Faith Christian Center in Tampa, Fla. He is an honor graduate of the Word of Faith Bible Training Center and a graduate of Lawrence Tech University with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering.


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Model Prayer

Father in heaven,
Your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one. Matthew 6:9-13. (HCSB version)

The other day I began to pray The Prayer, and stopped after the first two words: “Our Father.” The LORD is the Master of the Universe. The LORD is G-d. The LORD is One. And The LORD is Father to His chosen. How awesome is this knowledge. How incredible to be a child of the Most High King. Wow! Echoing King David, this knowledge is too wonderful for me. This awesome moment still lingers, warming my heart.

Yet I’ve considered before the concept of G-d as our Father. In the early 1980s I was blessed to attend Calvary Chapel Irvine, then pastored by Chuck Smith. I was in Irvine for a two-week electronics course, and able to attend during the week as well as on Sunday. Pastor Smith spoke on various aspects of The Lord’s Prayer. I don’t recall all that he taught.

And there are books on this subject, too, I discovered. I perused one written by a Rabbi. He wrote about אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ (Avinu Malkeinu), which is translated Our Father, Our King. It is a prayer recited on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur during services. It is said to be the oldest and most moving of the prayers. It is taken from Isaiah 63:16, Our Father, and Isaiah 33:22, Our King.

Speaking of Rosh Hashanah, it begins tomorrow (Sunday Sep. 13, 2015) at sundown. It begins ten days of repentance that concludes with Yom Kippur. The traditional blessing for this period of time is: “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.”

Lord Bless y’all. May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.

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