Local Politics

I am increasingly interested in local politics. On May 6, Hampton is having elections for Mayor, City Council seats, and school board seats. This is an interesting election, since we had our previous mayor leave to work on a national level. This opened up some additional seats for election as folks shuffled around to fill her position. We have 7 folks running for 3 regular city council seats, 2 folks running for one special election council seat, and 2 folks running for mayor. There are 5 seats out of 7 that are up for election.

In the past, my votes for city council have been woefully uninformed. On a state or national level, it is easier (and lazy!) to group candidates in with the platform of the party with which they associate, and at least get an idea of where they stand. That is very difficult to do at the local level. The issues are quite specific and many don’t even qualify as “regional” issues. Things like “what to do with the empty lot on the corner of Armistead & Mercury” don’t quite rise to the level of Democrat vs Republican planks. A participant in local politics really has to engage in difficult decisions where there is rarely a clear-cut stand based on principle.

As such, it is difficult to become engaged as a voter. It is easy to become disinterested and say “I don’t care what happens to that lot. I just want kids to stop doing drugs near my house.” Thinking about rezoning ordinances is enough to push the fledgling political activist to look to loftier goals of ending world hunger, ending a war or funding the space program. These things are worthy endeavors, and one should answer the calling to these goals. But we must not neglect the opportunities in our own backyard to feed the hungry child, or to bring justice to a wronged person, or to encourage scientific wonder in the mind of a single child.

That’s what local politics does. It forces us to roll up our sleeves and get into the tricky details of ordinances and neighbors. We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. A case can be made that in this global economy in which we live, all are our neighbors. But those who live across the street have always been in the definition of neighbors. So what *should* be done with that closed down daycare at the end of the street? I used to think that environmentalists were going over the top for the ill of our society. That might be true on a national level. However, when considering the wetlands two blocks away from my house, and seeing how the new failed development further upstream has caused flooding issues for a 70-year old neighborhood, well, maybe God made a sponge for a reason.

These are real issues that should be given serious consideration. Raising property taxes to cover city deficits causes a very real impact on my family budget. But by the same token, reducing city services due to insolvency causes a very real impact on my family as well. These are tough issues ahead of us. Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill said “All politics is local.” This is still true, 30 years later.

I started praying for Hampton a few years ago, and I am amazed at how quickly God placed a love in my heart for this city. My heart goes out to those in the city who are hurting, those who require justice, those who struggle to make ends meet. I believe God has charged government with the responsibility to make righteous laws, and to do justly and love mercy. I want to see my city reflect God’s righteousness in its actions. I plan on voting for those I believe will faithfully carry out this charge. I hope you do the same.

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A Choice

Joshua 23 and 24 records Joshua’s final address/charge to the Israelites. He has led Israel into many battles, taking the land promised to them by God.

In 23:7 & 8 he says to refrain from serving other gods, but to hold fast to the LORD. This “hold fast” is like “cling.” Too often we walk the line of “how close can I walk to the edge without falling. The command is “stay close and cling to the Lord.” You won’t be in any danger of falling then. Don’t be the lamb wandering as close to the wolves as possible. Stay right by the shepherd.

In 23:10 Joshua shares the secret to their success in battle. One will put to flight a thousand of the enemy, for the Lord fights for us. This is His promise to us. You can stand on this promise.

So now we are to be diligent, and take heed to love the Lord. There’s a remnant of people in the land. If we love the Lord, then even that remnant will be driven out in like manner. But if we do not, if we join ourselves in marriage to those who are not children of the Lord, if we engage in their idolatry, then that remnant will become snares and traps. They will be whips on our sides, and thorns in our eyes. The end of a wrong relationship with them will be the perishing from this good land. It is difficult to see with thorns in our eyes, and without vision, the people perish.

Now Joshua is about 110 years old (maybe a little shy of this when he gives this charge), and says something that is echoed at the end of David’s life. “All the promises of God have been fulfilled, and not one has failed.” David said “In all my days, I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his children begging bread.” It is quite a thing to say at the end of a long life, that the Lord has done all He has promised. We can stand on these promises. More sure than we can trust in the sunrise, we can trust in His promises. He will drive the enemy from the land before us. One of us, with a right heart towards Him, will put a thousand to flight, for He fights for us.

The Creator of all we see, the Lord of Hosts, God of the Angel Armies, He fights for me. He will fight for you. What do we have to fear? Who can take you out of rest, when you rest in the Lord? The LORD gives you a land that is full of bounty, for which you did not have to labor. The unrighteous work day and night, toiling to amass wealth, power, influence. My God owns it all, and gives it to whom He pleases. We who have relationship with Him do not need to seek wealth. We do not need to seek influence. He gives these to us as He will. We can rest in Him, and enjoy the fruit of the vines we did not plant.

“So therefore”, the famous closing of Joshua, in his last public words, “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord… Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD God of Israel.” He then set up a memorial stone as a witness to the covenant the people made, that they will serve the Lord, and will obey His voice.

The time is now. This is the only time we have to act in. Right now, you must choose for yourself. No one can choose for you. In what direction will your family go? Will you serve the Lord? Will you serve others? Will you choose life, or will you choose death? My family and I have made that choice. We will continue to choose life.

This is my memorial stone.

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Meet our daughter

Exodus 2 opens with a marriage between a Levite man and a Levite woman. This couple had a baby boy during the worst possible time; there was a standing order from Pharaoh to throw Hebrew male babies into the river. His mom hid him for three months, and then finally placed him into a tiny reed boat and sent him down the Nile. His sister watched over him from afar. The river took the little boat right in front of the Pharaoh’s daughter. She had compassion on the crying baby, and said, “This is one of the Hebrew’s children.” At that moment, his sister came right up and offered to get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the child. Pharaoh’s daughter liked that idea, and the next thing you know this Levite woman is getting paid to nurse her own son, with the full blessing of the household of Pharaoh.

1 Samuel 25 opens with the death of Samuel, a beloved prophet of God. After he is laid to rest at his home in Ramah, David heads down to the Wilderness of Paran. David encounters Nabal, a very rich man who is also harsh and evil. David called up on him to extend hospitality, but Nabal instead chose to neglect the anointed of the Lord, saying “Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse?” When David heard this response, he instructed his men to gird their swords and prepare for battle. One of Nabal’s servants heard this, and went to Nabal’s wife and asked her to tell Nabal that David actually protected Nabal’s shepherds for a good while, because he was such a scoundrel that a servant wouldn’t be able to get through to him. Nabal’s wife prepared a peace offering and road to meet David. Upon meeting him, she fell on her face and pled for the life of her husband. She then proceeded to prophecy that the Lord would make David’s line endure, and that he fights the battles of the Lord. David had mercy on this prophetess and her fool of a husband. When she told her husband of the story, he had a heart attack and died about 10 days later. David heard the news and proposed to her due to her wisdom and grace in the midst of terrible events.

Miriam interceded on behalf of her baby brother, Moses, who ended up being raised as a prince of Egypt, later being anointed by God to deliver the Israelites out of the hand of Pharaoh. Miriam the prophetess was skilled with a timbrel and dancing, and led all the women in a joyful song of rejoicing of the glory of God.

Abigail interceded on behalf of her husband, and declared a wondrous prophecy of the Davidic royal line. The scriptures explicitly note her wisdom and her beauty, and she is a shining example of character and faith.

The name Miriam has a cloudy etymology. It could mean Star of the Sea, Wished-For Child, Rebellion or Sea of Bitterness. We have a heart for Hampton, and desire to see God move mightily here in our city. The slogan of Hampton is “From the Sea to the Stars”, nodding to both the naval significance of Hampton and the development of the space program at NASA Langley. We believe our daughter will also bear a burden of intercession for Hampton, and she is certainly a wished-for child. Those other meanings we choose to ignore. :-D

The etymology for Abigail is more straight-forward. It means Rejoicing of the Father or Father’s Joy. This little girl has brought much joy to her father, and we believe she has also brought and will continue to bring great joy to her heavenly Father. She has been dancing in the womb, and we believe she will join in worship with dance, just as her Biblical namesake. A close friend of ours is Abigail Sines, who is also a dancer, and we hope our daughter follows in Abby’s footsteps.

So the astute reader may have already ascertained the name of the newest addition to our family; her name is Miriam Abigail DeWitt. She is a greatly wished-for star of the sea who will manifest the joy of the Father to all those she meets.

Miriam Abigail DeWitt

Miriam Abigail DeWitt

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Ears to hear…

We looked at Matt 13 last week.  I have read this chapter more than once – it’s rather famous.  It starts of with the Parable of the Sower, and then has a number of other parables concerning the Kingdom of Heaven.

The disciples ask Jesus, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”  This is a question I hear often.  Why doesn’t Jesus just speak plainly?  Jesus answers their honest question, and quotes from Isaiah 6.  “It has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.”  Isaiah says “Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull.  Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.”  Jesus then says “But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

I used to think that the disciples were blessed because they got to see Jesus walk on earth, and were alive during the time that the Messiah came to earth.  How wonderful that would be.  But it hit me last week that we are blessed right now, to see the things we see.  Isaiah prophesied that one day people from all around the world would pray to the Lord.  Guess what?  We have a group of gentiles that get together on Thursday evenings and read the Bible and pray to the Lord.  People in our group come from all over the globe.  I don’t think it’s overreaching to say that many prophets desired to see our little Bible study in action.

Seeing gentiles worship the One True God is amazing.  Seeing God move in power and might is also wonderful.  However, there is another reason we are blessed.  As Isaiah said, there was a group of people who refused to hear or to see, because they did not want understanding.  Why would anyone want to avoid understanding?  Well, if you understand, then there must be a response of turning and being healed.  People who desire to remain in their sins do not want to be healed.  A great many choose to stay in their sins, clinging to the filth and heartache they have grown to know so well.  It breaks my heart.

We are blessed, because we have eyes that see and ears that hear.  We have understanding in our hearts and the grace for repentance.  This is only because of the righteousness of Christ.  The Lord is so sweet, that He would allow us to experience His grace.  The sweetness is that this grace is open for all us.  We can all experience His grace and have understanding in our hearts.  Lord, let the scales fall off our eyes, and let our ears be unstopped that we might see your face and hear what the Spirit is saying in this hour.

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An update

The Ascent is going on at LHOP right now. Raegan painted during worship this morning, and I love her piece. It’s entitled “He is here; He is coming”. Last night, I got to hear Andrew McDade’s opening remarks, and the basic idea I got before I had to leave was that God wants us to ascend the hill of the Lord, and He wants us to stay there, not just for minutes, hours, days, but even the rest of our life and all eternity. Knowing that we can ascend His holy hill and bask in His presence is wonderful. Knowing that He desires to dine with us in the place of intimacy is fascinating.

So I’m enjoying that revelation working in me. I have a lot of mundane, daily stuff in my life. Not evil, but things that can distract me from my One Thing. Things like diapers, software development, baby gates, lawncare, kitchens etc. So I’m encouraged that in the midst of these things I can still stay in the presence of the Lord.

I am starting a new job on Monday, one where I’ll be working from home. I’m hopeful that I can get into a groove where I will be able to be more productive in my regular job, but also able to spend more time in prayer and worship. Of course, there will be more family interaction which is very welcome.

So new things all around. I hope the bulk of my time will be spent in the Hill of the Lord.

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Burning in private

I was listening to Jonathan David Helser and a cry came up from within me, “oh that I might worship with the same kind of freedom”. So I was thinking about that, and what a good friend of mine once said, “you can’t burn in public unless you first burn in private.” I think he’s absolutely right. Jesus often went by himself to pray. So that’s what I need as well. I need to burn before my Father in private, slowing His holy love to burn away all the kindling I’ve built my life around. Then I can truly worship Him with reckless abandon.

Do you burn in private?
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The Kingdom of Heaven is like a pearl, a net, a sower, a mustard seed, some yeast…

Parables in Matt 13:

  • Parable of the Sower
  • Parable of the Wheat and the Tares
  • Parable of the Mustard Seed
  • Parable of the Leaven
  • Parable of the Hidden Treasure
  • Parable of the Pearl of Great Price
  • Parable of the Dragnet

Why parables? How does this explain the Kingdom?
v11: Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.

These parables seem so disparate. How can they be talking about the same kingdom? Some talk about fruit or maturity produced in someone’s life (sower), others talk about getting into heaven (wheat/tares, dragnet). Then others talk about the KoH as being something to be searched for and found (pearl, treasure in field). Then two of them are seemingly unrelated yet again: something small that produces something very large (mustard seed, leaven).

How can these all be talking about the same Kingdom? Just when I start to think I understand; maybe this is all about a small idea/concept that produces something big in our lives(covers sower, mustard seed, leaven, maybe even wheat/tares). Unfortunately, it doesn’t really cover the dragnet, the treasure and the pearl. Hmm.

So then the KoH is something hidden that needs to be sought out. That covers the pearl and the treasure. Maybe it’s a combination of different things. Some of these parables could be describing how it is attained (searching: pearl, treasure), some describe how it is perceived (small & inconsequential at first: mustard seed, leaven), and others describe the effects it has in our lives and in eternity (sower, mustard seed, leaven, wheat/tares, dragnet).

Ok, so that makes sense to me. I get the feeling I need to look into this more. This Kingdom thing is the second line in the Lord’s prayer: I need to know what I’m praying for!

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Irene’s Dream

The Dream
Part 1. Well-dressed lady enters house, and about 10 kids follow her. The kids come in and start stealing, taking things. Irene was amazed at the clamour, and the audacity of the children. The woman had a key, and Irene said, “Where did you get that key?” The lady said, “Oh, I have many keys.”
Part 2. Irene went to the basement, and saw men breaking into safes. She said, “You wouldn’t do this if my husband was here!” She also had the thought to tell them about Jesus. So she did, and they just sort of shrugged their shoulders and continued with their work.

The Interpretation
Part 1. The woman is the Spirit of Jezebel. She is well-dressed, and would fit right in at any church, from outward appearances anyway. She has trained these children to go into houses and steal with confidence and authority. These children have been taught and conditioned to accomplish one goal: to steal the treasures from the church.
Part 2. The men in the basement had the same mission as the children. The men were seeking to steal the treasures from the church while the authority figure was away. They were indifferent to the gospel, and were only interested in taking advantage of the opportunity afforded to them while Jesus was gone. They were not deterred from their task at hand, which is the same as the children: to steal the treasures from the church.

Application:
Both of these pictures represent usurpers. The woman Jezebel is taking advantage of children who have not been trained in the ways of the Lord, and has been spending time training them in the ways of darkness. She has usurped the church’s rightful responsibility of speaking life into children’s lives. We must be vigilant with our children, teaching them the ways of the Lord; teaching them how to approach the throne and intercede with Jesus. We must teach our kids to operate in the gifts of the Spirit with the same measure of confidence and authority that the children used in the dream. We must be undeterred from our mission, like the men in the basement. In the last days there will be scoffers; put them aside. We must be vigilant against those who would come with evil intentions while the King is away. They have a sense of urgency, because they know he’s coming back home. So must we be urgent, knowing that the days are short. We must love one another so much the more.

Be watchful and pray without ceasing. Train up your children in the way they should go, otherwise you’re handing them over to Jezebel.

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Abortion in the Empire State

I made this chart using statistics from the New York State Department of Health. It shows the number of pregnancies that ended in abortion, broken out by race. In 2008, the most current year of data, over 1/2 of all black babies were aborted. Over 1/3 of all hispanic babies were aborted, and nearly 1/4 of white babies were aborted. I believe the abortion movement was started by racists as an implementation of eugenics, and it is wildly successful.
Abortion Statistics for New York State

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A new phase of worship

I stepped down from the worship team at Grace Fellowship just before Thanksgiving, 2010. It’s been about 10 weeks or so since I spoke with my pastor. It was a very difficult decision for me to step down. There were a number of things that led up to it, but mostly I needed a break. I had been on the worship team for the past 15 years or so. I was burned out.

One thing I believed (and still do!) was that God had something in store for me regarding worship. I thought it was just that I would have more time to play piano at home and maybe flesh out some of the songs that have bouncing around in my head. However, something significant happened a few days ago at a Wednesday night service.

Ezra likes worship. He is found either dancing in the aisles or waving the flag. I want to encourage him to be free in worship, but at the same time I want to teach him how to worship. He was half-heartedly waving the flag in the aisle, and I was afraid he was going to hit someone. So I slipped around Raegan and brought Ezra to the front of the church where there’s more room for a 3-yr old to wave a flag. Immediately, Ezra picked out a purple flag for me. I couldn’t say no to my son, so I started waving it. Within four waves of the flag, Ezra decided I should have his blue one and he’d use my purple one. So we switched.

Now I had felt the presence of the Lord on that worship service from the beginning of the first song. Oh, how wonderful it is to feel the presence of the Lord! I’m still learning how to worship when I don’t have anything to worry about it (like leading people from the piano). Meanwhile, Ezra and I are in the front of the church, each of us waving our flags. At first, my wavings were fairly subdued. But after a few stanzas of free worship, I realized that I was doing an amazing thing. I was participating in art worship, making a beautiful air sculpture for my Lord. This was liberating. I kept one eye on Ezra, who now had a green flag, teaching him the basics of worshipping with a flag (don’t step on the flag, don’t hit the piano, etc). However, I soon discovered that Ezra was teaching me how to worship at the front of the church without caring what people thought.

So I walked away from that worship service thinking how wonderful it was to learn this new lesson. I get to teach my son how to worship, and I also get to learn from him how to worship. On the way home I was struck with another thought. We have had some struggles at our church getting the congregation to break out of some of their comfort zones when it comes to worship. I can be much more effective at getting the congregation to enter into free worship if I’m in the congregation, than if I’m stuck behind a piano. That’s not to say that pianists can’t teach their congregations things, but more that I was hiding behind my piano, as it were.

I pray that God will give me the grace to praise Him unabashedly, and to live a life that glorifies Him. If I am to play a part in helping the congregation enter into His throne room, then so be it. I do know that I have a glorious honor to help my son learn what it means to ascend the hill of the Lord, and worship in His presence. I’m very excited about what’s about to happen.

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