Monday, August 31, 2009

Creed’s “With Arms Wide Open” – Message of Hope

It seems there are surprises in life and there are surprises that change our lives; and that from inside out! The song by Creed, With Arms Wide Open, is splendidly reminiscent of a time when we found a hope beyond anything of ourselves for the very first time.

It’s a time when there’s a flurry of emotion and delayed, or at least confused, expectation as we deal with fear of life-transforming change i.e. what will we lose? It seems whilst one life starts, the old one—the one we’re endeared to and know intimately about—is ending... what about our relationships, our hobbies, our future’s. All of life is up in the air, and whilst that can be exhilarating, it can also be slightly terrifying as the inevitable ‘cold feet’ chill us.

It’s an exhilarated anthem for the newly expectant mother and father. The father just hears the news and takes a day or five to get used to it. He’s suddenly found in a ‘place’—a heart place—where he’s met with bliss. ‘What will it be like?’ he thinks, over and again. And nothing can prepare him for that joy which comes the moment his baby is born.

He’ll find holding his baby the best natural high he’s ever experienced. It’s a total mystery.

And this glittering joy is what the anointing of God is like; be it at the height of the great peaks of life or in the shallow depths, though the latter is more difficult to convey or explain.

To approach life ‘with arms wide open’ is the wish of every parent for their every offspring—to not be hedged into a world that has so successfully hedged us in. We start with such hope. It’s a panacea, of course, and one that needs the grace of God to temper it against likely or certain despair when we find out that they too will have a broken life; everyone does.

And this simply should further propel us to God who addresses our shortfalls. It’s only with him we can truly face life consistently with arms wide open.

Exhilarated joy is possible, and frequently at that. Teaching our kids that God’s grace alone is our only sufficiency is a fine start. It’s the only true start.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

We Do Not Make This “Story” Up

Are Jesus and the gospel story true? And what makes it so? Many people who’ve never known God and think Jesus is anything from a simple prophet to a myth will think the gospel story’s been made up. To them it might be interesting but it’s far from ‘fact.’ Christians believe it is fact. And I know many Christians who’re intelligent and not easily fooled, which leads me to think there’s more to it than merely story.

The Bible addresses this quandary in many different ways. I thought I’d focus on part of Peter’s account.

Can you imagine being Peter witnessing the Mount of Transfiguration event as portrayed in Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke? He saw Jesus both in the presence of, and heralded by, the chief prophet, Elijah, and the chief law-giver, Moses, as they proclaimed—with God the Father overseeing and giving his own testimony to the event—Jesus’ anointing in fulfilling the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17; 7:12) as Israel’s coveted, yet later rejected, Messiah.

And Peter proclaims this in his second letter, crucially propounding the God-inspiration of both the event and the prophesy that foretold Jesus’ coming, and importantly reinforcing his apostolic authority as one of only three eye-witnesses to the event beyond question:

“We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’[1] We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain” –2 Peter 1:16-18 (NIV).
And we too are witnesses of his glory through the experience in our own lives. Jesus, by his will and ours (i.e. our belief), broke in and revealed his fullness to us, his glory never-ending. We truly could not appreciate it fully and still can’t. This is not an experience we can explain nor can others relate with, until the personal revelation takes place for the very first time. Then we get it.

It’s at this point that “the story” that many unbelieving people think is fictitious becomes a fervent and pulsing reality for us. Like Jesus was, we too have been transfigured!—and that—spiritually, mentally, emotionally. Suddenly we’re alive to the motionings of the Spirit; our blindness has receded. We begin to see beyond this life and into eternity.

How could we not share this good news? This story of truth is bound to the reality of our changed lives of compassion, empathy, good humour and good cheer. We are not blown by the prevailing winds; we’re directed on the course of truth and grace. We finally begin living the way we always wanted to live.

The “story” makes sense only when our doubts evaporate enough to be open to belief; this is when Jesus—the real Person via the Holy Spirit—is able, finally, to make a home within me or you.

We are destined for our very own Mount of Transfiguration (and many of them) if our hearts and minds are open to receive the Presence of God in Jesus. We have a God of personal transfiguration and transformation in our midsts.

In him, for ourselves, we can do the openly impossible and immeasurable. What was once beyond us now becomes, of itself, transfigured and transformed. Many difficult things lay ahead of us, yet with his help, our relative mastery over these proves his existence and Presence with us.

And the things we cannot change, which served only to frustrate us; these are dealt with such that our hearts find it accepting to live and let live. Peace abounds in him who saves us.

[1] Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:7 and Luke 9:35 also speak of this event.

Taking a Good Look at Our Family

Funny as it seems we don’t do this very often—take the time to look, as God would, over our families. Picture for a moment driving home from a family occasion with a full complement of the immediate family onboard. The kids are in the back doing what they do and our spouse is at our side in the front passenger seat. No one’s aware that I, the driver, father and husband, is observing from the eternal workspace—the mindset of God... watching, surveying, seeing, admiring.

Times like these I’m not in such a hurry to get home. There’s a ‘sufficiency’ of God illuminating the view of life and I’ve learnt now to simply soak up these moments.

Everyone’s in their personal or collective element—there’s an absence of conflict—a wonderful harmony fills the moment. And it’s unhurried moments like these we feel specially blessed, doubly fortunate. We feel set apart from the ravages of the world.

For these are the eternal moments of our lives. In truth, all moments are found in the eternal yet we rob ourselves of more of these eternal moments than we ought.

There are reminders all about us of the very real need to cherish our families, yet we’ll often put off these urges, prioritising them lower than they should be.

The world of work and of responsibility is part of the problem, and that to a point is inescapable. There is also the world of our own selves which can just as easily cloud the real thing right there in front of us—our kids; our wife; our husband.

Each of these has their own soul and is a unique person, each with goals, dreams and aspirations—and each, in turn, loves me. That is an amazing concept.

Nothing more, bar God, comes close in the eternal realm. What we sow today we’ll reap tomorrow; ourselves and humankind.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Remembering to Pray, “Lord, Have Mercy”

There are times when we’re shaken mentally awake to suddenly realise in our ignorance how far we’ve really drifted. These are times when we’ve forgotten the echo of eternity in our own souls. We’ve somehow known things were wrong yet we never got it until we did.

The song Lord, Have Mercy is a humbling offering. We’ve all transgressed and gone the way of the world’s wisdom, leaving the God we’ve pledged to follow. And isn’t it amazing how we ‘apparently’ don’t need God when things are going well for us?

The lyric is reminiscent of a seasoned believer who’s strayed one time too many. And that in many ways is every single one of us. Suddenly he or she finds themselves on the cusp of God’s judgment—as the Spirit convicts the heart; the spirit deep within. They intuitively drop at the knee toward the holy throne of Grace in genuine repentance to find forgiveness has already taken place!

How do we find ourselves in these places? Far from God, entrenched in the world, we’ve forsaken the only real thing for things of temporal substance, delusions of grandeur.

And when we seek a way back and to truly love God as a way of truly loving ourselves we find it’s as if we never left, and even better, there’s rejoicing. It recalls the father of the prodigal son in Luke 15. God too can say of us, “this son [or daughter] of mine was dead and is alive again” (v. 24).

We so easily forget the promises of our Lord, the Christ... the Messiah who saved us, and continues to save us. Our doubting hearts fail us every time, and how often do we do it insipidly in some sheepish knowledge of the fact? The level of our unbelief has to be experienced personally, as God’s Spirit shows our slender devotion for him in the crest of the moment.

None of this is placed before us to make us feel worse—it’s simply the truth. We build altars to the things of humanity at the blink of an eye. It’s our nature to do so and there’s no denying it.

But, then, there’s the knowledge and the experience of the sweetest response. And we’re so capable of it. We long to be with him. In these moments we can be like God with our hearts turned toward him.

And this is when, in the moment, we realise our unique God-anointed destiny. We recognise in this the ever flowing mercies of God and how tremendous living life really is. The goodness of God’s Presence is something that nothing can compare with. It can only be appreciated.

On this side of eternity his glory, grace and forgiveness flow without end. Nothing here can separate us from the merciful love of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Lord, Have Mercy (Steve Merkel, Integrity’s Hosanna! Music/ASCAP, 2000)

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Greatness and Goodness of God

It’s not until we open up a quality theological textbook that we realise how vast God, and the subject of God, really is—certainly as far as words are capable of describing.[1] Studying just two of the aspects of the awesome living God—his greatness and his goodness—help us in understanding two important differentiated issues of God. These are the attributes of God and the acts of God.

As Christians, these issues of God are both issues held in tandem; one is no more or less important than the other, for we see him as above all and beyond all by virtue of his very nature and his ‘otherness’ (his greatness), yet we also give important personal testimony to his works in our lives and the lives of others (his goodness) we know he’s touched.

My absolute favourite biblical genre is the psalms and some psalms proclaim so well the attributes of God and others recall or speak of the acts of God resplendent in, say, the Exodus account (among lots of others both personally and communally).

Praise psalms follow the attributes of God—simply for who he is, and thanksgiving psalms commensurately acknowledge with appropriateness those works of God that transform life as we know it, demonstrating his faithfulness, compassion and grace.

The attributes of God’s greatness range from his Spirituality (God is Spirit); his personality (he is a personal Deity and has a name(s)); his characterisation of living and of life—never a more certain concept; his infiniteness that no one but him can comprehend—his time is beyond time; and his constancy—the permanence of unchangeability.

The acts i.e. goodness of God are much different. There is an utterly moral basis to God. Of his moral qualities there is the moral purity of his holiness, righteousness and justice. There’s also his integrity relating to truth; the genuineness, veracity and faithfulness of God—that is ‘being true, telling truth, and proving true.’[2]

Finally, and almost most obviously, his moral qualities are rounded out by love i.e. benevolence, grace, mercy, persistence. And in his works of being there is a great tension developed between his love and his justice, his mercy and judgment.

These are such broad topics and I’d challenge anyone seriously investigating the faith to step out and truly taste the richness in the theology of God.

And if I took just a teensy little slice I’d seek to know more of his persistence. I fail so often, yet he continues to forgive me. And likewise this little taste of God gives me an important thing to reflect upon… he seeks me to follow hard after him. If he forgives me, I must forgive others. If he is all truth-telling, so must I be (as far as I humanly can i.e. I will continue to fail at times).

A difference between the heavenly majesty of our God and ourselves is this: we can follow hard after the goodness of God but we can never come close to his greatness.

Having said that, his greatness is somehow magnified and made real as we display the wonderful goodness of God in our interactions and daily living.
[1] Of course, it could very effectively be argued that sunsets, thunderstorms, and cosmic black holes speak equally if not more so to the ‘vastness of God’ than does a book.
[2] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology – 2nd Ed (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1983-1998), p. 316. The entire article is based upon pp. 289-326 (the first two sections (of four) of Part 3 – “What God is Like” of Erickson’s work.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

When My Attitude Just Stinks

I am human enough to know that you surely will relate. Times come and times go when we’re just plain ‘snots’ (for want of a better term) and we just can’t stand the sight of other people, and most of all, ironically, our poor, little old selves! It strikes when you’re at work possibly; the dark shades of the spirit are drawn over and there’s suddenly an increasing pale—it’s time to quickly escape before anyone notices the chameleon change its colours unrecognisably.

These times are times that you sense are spiritually foreboding and perhaps there’s a precursor before it, however inexplicable; nothing quite makes sense. Death in the momentary situation has occurred and there has to be a sharp getaway.

Times like these, and other people must get them surely, I find myself rapidly slinking away from the public eye for some blanket show entertainment, and that, only for one! No one can reconcile me, not even I. It’s a temporary impasse fortunately, and only hours later the sunshine makes its grand reappearance upon a soul that stared hopelessness right in the eye.

The human being, at these times—in these moods, is a shady case. He or she is fragile—much more brittle than he or she wishes to be, I suspect. Or perhaps it’s just me and people like me? Somehow I know that’s not true. It happens to us all in our own peculiar ways.

One thing I’ve learned about myself—when my attitude stinks—is that I must allow the Holy Spirit to protect me, however insipid that might appear to others. My response is to cooperatively remove myself from the fray where the impact is going to be negligible.

Some might not understand but that’s the way it is for me. Call it sickness if you will—a sort of soul sickness that renders me hardly capable of the simplest tasks and interactions.

I know at these times that I must be with God and allow his Spirit to revive my soul, surrendering to the ministry of his being. And there’s nothing more wonderful waking up knowing the world is a lovely place again with the birds chirping and the sun shining.

God’s ministry of soul revival is a lovely thing. But it can’t be entered into with even a skerrick of “us” pervading the energy force field. Total, unconditional, situational surrender... it’s the only way.

Power in Memoriam – Recalling God’s Blessings

The moment I realised that my now 14 year old daughter was born by Caesarean Section having the umbilical cord wrapped 5 times around her neck was a moment I simply had to thank God. Why had she not died in that moment or in those preceding? If she had been born naturally she probably wouldn’t have made it. This and many other big and small things happen to us for a reason. It’s to remember how faithful God has been throughout our lives.

How is that we’re touched emotionally? It happens without a lot of warning much of the time. It happens when we recall certain life-changing events like the births of our kids, narrow escapes from death, healing miracles and a whole lot more. It happens when we hear people (especially our own kin) tell a story of God’s undying faithfulness.

On the evening of the last night of our Growing Kids God’s Way course, we were treated to one of most solemn reminders of the power of ‘memorials,’ or ‘to remember’—the power of the story. Moses told the Israelites “But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren” –Deuteronomy 4:9 (NLT).

Do not let these memories escape from your mind... and so without memorials to the wonderful and astonishing things we have seen, we let them escape and we so easily forget how powerful our great God has been in saving us and our families over and over again.

Sure, I know for most of us there are pains and losses that we’ve suffered where we simply couldn’t believe ‘God could do this to us.’ I cannot explain these away. But all I can say is, for all the good things we can thank God. And even for the bad things that happen, it is also possible, eventually, to thank God. (I can say this from personal experience.) We should never thank God for evil, but we can thank him for whatever eventual good comes from these events and situations. And it’s his nature to turn bad into good.

There’s no question that God’s placed the events of our lives in some sort of order, call them spiritual markers perhaps, of times when he’s broken in and saved us from disaster.

You know what? He wants us to impress these on our children to keep the stories alive of what he can do in situations where our confusion and faith fail us. Situations where we lost hope but he revived it again.

Memorials are a great lesson in soaking up the moments of enormity in our lives, again and again, cherishing them afresh, bringing them to life, as we live our days on this sweet and enduring earth.

Don’t forget, we have this tendency to forget the good things that our eyes have seen... our children and grandchildren need these visions of the security in God so that they too can learn to rely upon him and his sufficiency—to the nurturing of peace, joy and many other very good things.

Learn to remember, often. Learn to not forget.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Enchanted by Eternity – “Duration” Entraps Us

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He also has planted eternity in men’s hearts and minds [a divinely implanted sense of a purpose working through the ages which nothing under the sun but God alone can satisfy], yet so that men cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end”
–Ecclesiastes 3:11 (Amplified)
God is inscrutable. He makes us in ways to question our existence and our destiny. And this is what the verse above talks about. Even Christians cannot fathom what God is truly about notwithstanding Jesus, the apostles, prophets and the entire Bible. Nobody knows for certain—that’s why it’s called “faith.”

We believe, yes. We believe. We know the resurrection power of the risen Lord Jesus to save, transform and renew a soul, but the life force and eternity we still can’t fathom.

The word “eternity” is also rendered “duration” and “world” and is generally meant in a temporal sense as in “duration” or “a sense of past and future” or “the desire of eternity” or “ever new repetition.”[1]

Perpetuity is an amazing concept. It goes on and on; always was and always will be.

It is perhaps because this enthralls us and we are either captivated by it or we can’t stand it that causes belief and unbelief as to the things of the Spiritual realm. We go one way or the other, and never the twain shall meet.

Our time is beautiful in only a way that we can appreciate. If we pine for the 1980s we don’t really know what we’re talking about. We’ve adapted to this time now. We couldn’t appreciate the way it was without adapting back to it.

This “divinely implanted sense of a purpose working through the ages” links us in the present both to the past and to the future. This sense of purpose concerns us as we carry a baton of responsibility. We recognise that we’ll have to pass that baton at some stage and we’ve got to pass it well to the next runner. The next generation and the next (and so on) will feel the same burden.

The deep-seated and compulsive drive in us to know where we come from and where we’re headed is something that mystifies us or plagues us, yet we cannot escape it.

This “burden” we feel, that we might forever pretend doesn’t exist, is always there, always, and for every single person. That’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

[1] Roland E. Murphy, Ecclesiastes – Word Biblical Commentary 23A (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992), p. 34.

Monday, August 24, 2009

God Believes in Me Even When I Don’t

It is hard to reconcile to a life that sometimes just doesn’t seem to fit or work. Recently as I lamented my ongoing misfortune and lack of resources to deal with the situations that lay before me and I wondered, I truly did, whether God was playing this big joke on me. You know the thing where bad things happen in threes... well three was some time back!

Yet, in a sober-minded moment I looked back over my recent past and I was amazed to consider how fortunate I’d actually been otherwise. Life sure doesn’t turn out very predictably. People, situations, events... ‘These all conspire against me,’ I got back to thinking, going back to my pity party. And back and forth on the slippery slide I went.

God knows what we’re like; we are given to dissatisfaction, envy and distrust in a second. And even in this he understands us in his grace.

God created not only you and I and the universe and all that is in it, but he created the principle of transfiguration i.e. he created us to be transfigured—not once, but thousands of times. He knew we’d fall asleep on the watches of the night. He knew we’d disown him over and again. He knew we’d trespass each other. He knows we have ongoing problems with these very issues and much more.

I couldn’t imagine the amount of times I’ve given up on myself in a moment of despair. Sure, it might not be so regular these days, but the smallest thing (in comparison to the vastness of God) does it. I am so underwhelmed by myself at times. But not God; he believes in me.

And if I struggle to have the least skerrick of strength I always seem to find wonderful examples of humanity that soar to great heights—unlike me! Comparisons are never good when I’m in this frame of mind. ‘Get back to God,’ I say to myself again.

God created me to be transfigured again and again like the next man or woman, like a winter into springtime. He’s the heavenly parent who when we fall to the ground gently encourages us to get back up and dust ourselves off.

There’s nothing quite like being in the lap of God. It’s the best form of loneliness.

He believes in me even when I don’t.

Kingdom Builders (of a Different Treacherous Kind)

We see them in secular life quite often. The person, perhaps in a leadership position, who’s filling his or her own boots to the detriment of the cause they’re apparently (or supposedly) fighting for. This is the base hypocrite; the liar... the person living a lie of a life for an altogether temporary, and therefore, pathetic gain.

God cannot support hypocrisy:

“But God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood’” –1 Chronicles 28:3 (NIV). A salient gospel principle unfolds. The builders of wrong collapse eventually, and their ruins with them. David wasn’t an out-an-out hypocrite and the wars he fought were ordinarily on behalf of God but his life clearly stood in the way of the further purposes of God.

There are those in our midst’s who build for God, supposedly, but really they’re building for themselves. They operate under the name of God but they are charlatans really; they’re only out to pad their own very abundant egos which simmer unrecognisable (to most) under the veil of their shadowy, elusive existence.

Some rather high profile people are amongst this. It happens in all walks of life.

They build not for God, and in the end they’ll be frustrated by little reward or are even devastated by catastrophic consequences. And in the end it may even be difficult to detect these from the faithful servant, reward-wise. And this is where, in the heavenly realm, God will have most to say.

A couple of the psalms attend to this sentiment:

“Since they show no regard for the works of the LORD and what his hands have done, he will tear them down and never build them up again” –Psalm 28:5 (NIV). Again, “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain” –Psalm 127:1 (NIV).

Kingdom builders of a different kind build fragile kingdoms and their folly finds them out; if not now, certainly in the life to come.

We must conform to the truth and live that life now.

Mental Attitude Makes the Winner

You have to hand it to England; they’ve outplayed us in more critical test moments than we’ve outplayed them. Every cricket-loving Australian hates most to lose to England, and that is surely correct in the reverse. It’s a bitter moment.

It isn’t surprising to see the following quote plastered over the window outside the winner’s change rooms:

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude” –Thomas Jefferson.
Clearly the English had the better mental approach to the final game and the second and third tests as well. Australia fought well, indeed better in their up times, yet never really had an answer to the English consistency—for the few high scores we got, we had our share of low ones. The England team had only one really poor score, the lamentable 102 in the fourth test. But, how they recovered!

So, with Ricky Ponting and his charges choking back tears, I write this, ‘the day Australian cricket died’ in colloquial Ashes terms—until we fight the old enemy again in fifteen months time on our home soil.

Once the game’s lost the relief takes over; for both teams. A hard-to-believe, pinch-yourself joy reigns for the winner. For the loser it’s a grief that lasts for days, weeks, longer in some ways—perhaps until the next series.

Is there a lesson in this for us?

Hard work and consistency won the day (and series) for England. Tenacity also wins things for us. Our cricketers will feel the sting in this loss for some time, but they will learn and grow through it. We too will lose from time to time; we can’t always expect to win.

How we approach the losses in our lives speak infinitely more powerfully about our characters than how we simply enjoy the winning. The bold, magnanimous loser learns how to really appreciate the win in his or her future.

Psalm 141 – A Good Rebuke, Okay, Yet Protect Me, O LORD

How do we deal with the cheap shots of those in the workplace or even those in our own families without issuing some hot and heavy retort? In You’ve Got Mail (1998), Tom Hanks’ character Joe Fox suggests to his internet fling Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) that being brutally honest has its pitfalls; the remorse of something said often prevails over the spirit mercenarily.

A petition and prayer to be set aside to the holiness of God, despite foes and any temptation to react to them, is the 141st Psalm. It is hedged in the wisdom of the biblical tradition, hidden from worldly trappings. It features at least four prayers (vs. 1-2, 3-4, 5, 8-9). And not unlike a lot of other Scripture, there is much conjecture and confusion over what some of the words and verses actually mean e.g. verses 6-7.

Verse 1 features the unadulterated cry we all ought to make every time we’re stricken by overwhelming problems. It beckons God to our side. “Our prayer and God’s mercy are like two buckets in a well; while the one ascends the other descends.”[1] Prayer is vital in the initial moments of our distresses and throughout.

In verse 2, the words (line a: ‘may my prayer’) and actions (line b: ‘may the lifting of my hands’) signify the dedication of the works of the psalmist beyond ritual. This shows us that true belief for the Israelite community involved a deeply moral lifestyle; that moral and ritualistic living were intertwined.[2] The ‘may’ commencing each line involves a plea for the acceptability of each request.

There’s a wisdom-based prayer in verses 3-5c. The mouth, heart and head are all given over to God. Moreover, the mouth and lips (outer parts) are linked also with the heart (inner parts), as the psalmist desperately seeks the congruence of faithfulness over thought, word and deed (line 4d).

Wisdom tradition is rich particularly as verse 5’s four lines collude. Wisdom’s investment is humility’s cause—the courage to accept a good human rebuke in preference to the easier, more tempting choice morsels of the immoral. It’s an invocation to purity to choose the ‘wounds of a friend’ (cf. Proverbs 27:6; 17:10). This is “a sign of the strength of the bond [of kindness] between two [good] people” and the friend can be trusted.[3] The morally-correct person knows there’s more safety in painful truth than ‘kisses from an enemy.’

This next section (vs. 5d-7) leads us into a bit of a no-man’s-land of tortuous imprecation as the frustration on the part of the psalmist starts to take its toll. He begins to call down curses on his foes, and their governors.

The final three verses (vs. 8-10) swing, as most laments do, back to the praise of faithfulness in return for the provision of life both physically and spiritually. A parting smite is delivered upon the enemy as the ailing psalmist walks by in safety (Proverbs 1:33).

And so, what can we learn from this ancient offering?

Better are the acute pains of truth in life than walking the easy way; in keeping with Psalm 37:16 and Proverbs 15:16 and 16:8, best is little with God than lots without him!

Knowing this and being easily and openly satisfied with little can make life easier and clearer to live as we—with God’s help—more safely plough the relational pastures we’re destined to need to negotiate in life without giving into temptation.
[1] W. Graham Scroggie, A Guide to the Psalms: A Comprehensive Analysis of the Psalms – Vol. 4 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1978, 1995), p. 68.
[2] Craig C. Broyles, Psalms – New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers/Paternoster Press, 1999), p. 492.
[3] Allan Harman, Psalms – A Mentor Commentary (Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 1998), p. 437.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

As For Me and My House…

The rest of the sentence is, of course, “we will serve the LORD” –Joshua 24:15. I recall joining my current church nearly six years ago now and meeting a woman, and serving with her, who had an email address using the title of this article. Not being as knowledgeable about the Bible as I am now I wondered what it meant.

Putting the whole sentence together is quite a graphic statement of sincerity and faithfulness (v. 14). It is a solemn undertaking to follow after only one deity; the only living God. And it’s at this fresh juncture that Joshua recounts the covenant relationship with Yahweh by commanding the people before him to choose this day which god they’ll serve. He chooses to serve the LORD because, it is said, he is holy.[1]

I think there’s a key quality missing in our modern worship just as in Joshua’s day. We have this unbending propensity to wander from the safety of God into the destruction of our destinies warrant from our clinging desires.

We serve the thing or one we have allegiance to. For some it’s a football team, for others it’s a particular game or activity, for yet others it’s a career. All these might be good, but to the exclusion of God these are not good.

We serve a jealous God and Joshua’s charge, like a pastor’s in our contemporary day, is to give the people a choice easy to make. Jealousy is a “strong desire to possess something,” and that is how it is for God with us, particularly… most particularly, regarding his redeemed.[2] Backslider beware!

When God’s good and perfect gifts become contorted to the things they are alone without recourse to God we run a dangerous game. On the positive side of the ledger, serving God loyally and solely is the best thing for us—it is a choice for blessing.
[1] John R. Franke (Ed) & Thomas C. Oden, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1-2 Samuel – Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture – Vol. IV (Downers Grove, Illinois: Institution of Classical Christian Studies/IVP, 2005), p. 95. The extra words, “because he is holy” appear in the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament.
[2] Steven D. Matheson, Joshua and Judges (Oxford, UK: Bible Reading Fellowship, 2003), p. 115.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Life’s Tough, So What!

You’re in a tough season of life; there are stresses upon you and many demands. Life’s not even fair the majority of the time. In the mix of the mess of life we can laugh humbly at the sheer enormity of it all, finding a way where nothing can deter us. Yes, this can be achieved!

Recalling the Rose Tattoo song, Bound for Glory, we’re in this life and bound for glory if we’ll only cooperate with our circumstances and resist the nagging, weakening voice within, moving on to the next thing, a distraction even. And the words to the song also help us if we’re aware of them at the time.

From a deeply personal viewpoint we can categorically say, ‘I’m alive,’ and we’ll often look back, able to say, ‘I’ve survived.’ It’s only afterwards that we can indeed say with the tiniest shred of confidence, ‘Life’s tough, so what!’ as we consider what is now before us—the next challenge, drudgery or tribulation.

The warrior’s destiny, as Angry Anderson puts it, is glory, like it or not. And we should all see ourselves as warriors in this life—that’s how God sees us, I’m sure—it’s up to us. We’re all pitted against our natural desires and we all have to get used to many tough realities.

Anderson continues, “I’ve learned these lessons at the school of hard knocks...,” and in a sense we’ve all known life to be a school of hard knocks. This life doesn’t chew us up and spit us out as we might suppose (not normally anyway), but it does grind away at us, weakening our resolve to become the people we ought to become.

When we’ve got the resolve of glory we can’t be held down and nothing can hold us back. We recognise that the pain makes us strong. We find that it’s the hard things that define us.

“If Today Was Your Last Day” – Nickelback

In steely gravely tones, If Today Was Your Last Day really hits the reality spot. It preaches a message that desperately needs to be heard in today’s quite false “plastic” life of material temptation and riches, video games and virtual friendships—the postmodern romance. If today was to be our last day on earth would that change our perspective? That’s a rhetorical question, of course!

Saying goodbye to yesterday seems to be a prevailing theme in living genuinely for today. How hard would it be to live as if today was really our last day? Would we finally start to do the things we’ve put off, like forever? Would we forgive our enemies, seeing finally the banality of any differences we might have with them?

It appears to me there’s a lot of luck involved in life and whether we live or die, now, yesterday or tomorrow… or fifty years from now. Yeah, sure, some of us attribute to God everything, but if today was my last day, that’s the fact of relevance, nothing more. I’ll meet God, finally, sure, but what about those final opportunities I had… what about them?

If today was your last day
And tomorrow was too late
Could you say goodbye to yesterday?

These words of the lyric of Nickelback’s song have a hauntingly eternal and inescapable feel about them. It forces us into a corner of fast, obdurate introspection. God has us where he likes us, thinking about the things of truth, light, life, love and legacy.

It seems maddening, however, that most people will inevitably walk the other way refusing to own up to the fact of their very existence. The lights of life are dimmed and the mood’s subdued and padded by pleasure and ease. It’s ironical that this is the backdrop that provides all our relational problems; a setup where our yesterday’s and tomorrow’s hold us captive to the ever beckoning nothing.

If today was your last day… ‘As if,’ I hear you say… Let’s not be so sure!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Practise Forms Talent and Reality Informs Character

“A talent is formed in stillness, a character in the world’s torrent”

–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

The polymath, Goethe, is recognised for many works and had an amazing array of influence during his lifetime (1749-1832). He lived this quote above. And it seems we too can learn a great deal, and achieve a great deal of peace, by instituting this mentality in the work of our lives.

I used to be greatly troubled by investing more of myself than I felt I could sustain. I’ve had times when I’ve done so much I felt my heart was going to burst or my mind might melt down. I’ve hence sought solitude and momentary escape; and this from the ‘world’s torrents.’

As I consider the figures of fame in my lifetime I can only consider what stresses of life these people must contend with--the price of fame and influence, I suppose.

I recall the voice of Eugene Peterson, one of the contemporary world’s most eminent Christian visionaries, suggesting that his hour or two of prayer and quiet time each morning before the business of life started only preceded time when the heat and ‘business of life’ necessitated the actual practice of prayer i.e. prayer in the mix of life is vital.

Living life requires strength of character and an unerring application of resilience.

We practise our techniques for years. At times we hardly think they’ll ever be put to good use. But talent is converted to hard works in the form of character as we go about life. And so we need both... not just talent and character, but stillness and relative freneticism.

The Human Spirit Operating in Lack – Psalm 23

Psalm 23 says that God provides in our times of want. But how do we contend with times of acute boredom, or worse, an emptiness of spirit? These times we lack... something that would spark us up, something that would cast us out of our doldrums. Yet, the Psalm indicates we ‘lack nothing’ in God.

A certain blahish sadness envelopes the emotive soul as it grapples with the landscape of nothingness. This is foreign to us, or at least it feels foreign. It seems we never get used to it.

And life’s like this a lot when we are honest, yet a vast majority of the time we perhaps rest on a crutch, be it a substance, food, sex, or even exercise in preference to the ministry of his Spirit. We reject these ‘nothing’ times out of hand sending them to the basement of our souls that we never quite want to revisit.

Yet these maladaptive coping measures do little to affect what we’re really feeling. They address the symptom but not the cause. They do not pay appropriate credence to the stuff we’re dealing with. In this, God’s bringing something across our bows for a reason. He’s making us uncomfortable because there’s truth to deal with.

And the cause can only be addressed in a sense when we confront and “sit with” the state of being we’re experiencing. Again, this is totally foreign—it’s a state of being that we must learn to sit with, and not only endure, but grow from.

I’m no different from you. I’ve gone from crutch to substance to pleasure to activity... all to escape the trappings of my very soul... and for what? That is to finally learn that the very best experience—the only one which holds water—is that of sitting with God in the middle of a bereft spirit so that he alone might minister the whisper of his all-attending grace.

‘Sitting Shivah’ with ourselves and bearing with the pain of emptiness opens us to a strange experience all itself. Tears may come, awkwardness aplenty... yet, he is there. In our aloneness and void he is there treating us ultra-specially as his very own son or daughter. Afterwards we are blessed, in abundance. But not before the journey’s both undertaken and completed obediently.

And that’s the essence of Psalm 23 for me. When all is said and done it is God and me, God and you. That’s a truth that’s inescapable. The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing...” Finding him is finding our self.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

One Great Prayer – Of Strengthened Love

Ephesians is a common favourite of the discerning Bible-loving believer. I was reminded only recently of the wonderful two-fold structure of this gem from Paul, who was imprisoned when he wrote it. The ending of the first part of this book contains a heartfelt prayer for the Ephesians and it’s a clear biblical favourite.

Paul beseeches God on behalf of the Ephesians, in radical love. He pleads that the Ephesians might come to truly know Christ, and his “strengthened love which surpasses all knowledge.”[1]

He approaches the prayer in Ephesians 3:14-15 paying homage to God; the appeal of the prayer comes in verses 16-19; and, the prayer comes to a beautifully thespian crescendo of praise in verses 20-21.[2]

Paul is taken up in rapturous notes of inspired action in throwing himself before God as he advances on the throne of grace in prayer. He connects theologically the relationship of Son to Father and the context of the Ephesians as co-heirs in Christ, through faith. He then intercedes for them that Christ may indeed grant them “according the wealth of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person” (v. 16).

‘To be strengthened with power’ in the biblical context is an amazing concept; one that we can only barely grasp. Certainly only the born-again person could even begin to contemplate the vast riches in the height, depth, width and breadth of Christ’s overwhelming and superabundant love. But even to us, this is a mystery.

And we know, of course, that faith is central--in this way alone Christ ‘dwells’ in our hearts. Indeed, the Amplified has it: “May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts!” (v. 17a.) In this we see that faith is the ongoing invitation for the Holy Spirit to prevail over us, propagating our initial faith.

Faith in Christ at the fullest extreme is a very large meal--it is a lot to contend with, but not in a burdensome way. We’re simply awed by the measure of the fullness of him who is God. As we make room in our hearts for Jesus, by way of holy and virtuous living, he takes further root and squeezes out any last vestige of prevailing sin. That is the glorious theory, to the making of a devoted saint. (Of course, we know that sin is never defeated entirely; until the final day that is!)

Our sanctified holiness is hence entirely dependent on how well we accommodate God in our hearts. Where we make room he will fill. The more room made the more space he’ll occupy. And this is Paul’s wish--that the Ephesians will become transcended in the ongoing heavenly transaction.

And what could we say about the doxology (praise of God’s glory) that completes the prayer? It is a majestic symphony of wonder-filled praise for God’s inherent nature; the fact of his being.

We know that God surprises us serially--his dimensions in this life are simply beyond comprehension, and the moves and motives of him above are never truly understood. And the incredible thing for Paul and the Ephesians--and even ourselves--is the opportunity to be vehicles of this awesome power of love and grace.

This power works in and through us. We are his messengers as we accommodate and cooperate with the Spirit in ways we don’t fully understand; therein lays faith and the expectation of miracles of his grace in daily life.

“To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen (so be it)” –Ephesians 3:21 (Amplified).

[1] Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House/Baker Academic, 2002), p. 471.

[2] Hoehner, Ibid, p. 471-96.

The Pinnacle of Relational Life

It is a truly rare thing when we achieve real authentic rapport in relationships--any relationship. Most of us are too busy to be authentically ourselves for any length of time. This is even a problem in marriage for many people.

The intrapersonal relationship is central to success in interpersonal relationships; our relationships with others are actually strongly dependent upon our relationship with ourselves.

The “Intrapersonal” Relationship

This is about intimacy but not in a gushy gooey way; it’s about having fundamentally a first-class rapport with ourselves first, or in other words, to be at harmony with the purposes of our souls, indeed our spirits.

This is what I determine to be the final corrective in life; to the absolving of an evil world’s influence on and over us i.e. fear, mental instabilities etc. To be centrally-aligned with God basically all the time is the pinnacle of relational life because it facilitates the intrapersonal relationship.

To know what is good, and to think on it continually, and to finally do it consistently is real peace and freedom. And yet, there’s a paradoxical dependence on interdependence that makes this work.

The Dependence of Interdependence (and the Rejection of Independence)

In truth, all relationships are so dependent on the aspect of interdependence--dependence on each other--or mutual dependence. This means we must shun independence in relationships mostly as it creates resistance and dissonance i.e. relational separatedness. The best relationships in any sphere of life feature a deep and equal dependence or acknowledged and shared need for each other.

In this environment interdependence thrives. It’s about the defeat of ‘social loafing,’ a psychosocial phenomenon where people make less effort when working with others than they would alone. Interdependence links us intrinsically with people where mutual high commitment and common goals are the norm.

Personally--within ourselves--our thoughts and deeds are likewise to have interdependence with each other. There must be congruence. We must relate well with ourselves before we can relate well with others.

Personal Interdependence & Relational Interdependence

As our thoughts and deeds must depend on each other and align, so our relationships depend on us and vice versa--therefore, the best quality of any relationship is the measure to which each is dependent on the other.

The more mutual and evenly-balanced the dependence is, the higher the relationship can perform and the more motivation there is to work hard on maintaining rapport, which in turn generates ongoing trust and respect, two pillars in emotional intelligence and the maintenance of same both intra-personally and interpersonally.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

In Fear There’s No Defence – Get Strength Instead

Isaiah 30:15 says, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength,” two little lines of text that hinge the oracle of disaster for an ‘obstinate nation.’ For fourteen words strung together (in the English version), there’s a huge theological punch catapulting us to new and true heights in faithfulness of response to God’s grace--all via the strength of spiritual confidence and calmness of foot.


This is one thing that separates many religions from Christianity. We realise an incredibly paradoxical spiritual freedom when we can get our heads around our sinful natures, and the fact that we’ve already been forgiven means it’s so much easier to forgive those who trespass against us.

When no one can hurt us beyond our own capability to forgive, as we draw on God’s incomparable strength, we find an inspirational strength, and with it, peace and rest.

We have finally the power of resolve and the sight of truth to hear and see God as he draws us to confess and address our sin. Our hearts are moved to the moral high ground. Repentance is a “returning” to God.


This is the symbol that stands alone in our beckoning light to an indifferent world. The world notices something of rest and hope in us--which is something it can’t explain, but naturally wants to know more about. ‘How exactly does this Christian person deal so evenly with everything,’ seems to be the sentiment.

We enter the rest in obedience to the whisper of God’s Spirit--it’s a biblical principle in both Old and New Testaments.


This is humility. A quieted spirit dwells in control. Quietness is a sign of peace and rest. But there’s external quietness and internal quietness. Internal quietness is a resigned level of confidence of faith. Any busy person knows this sort of “absence of frenzy and restless anxiety” is something to be envied. It “evidences a true trust.”[1]


Trust accepts many things with a quiet level of confidence and it’s seemingly rooted deeply in the previous three, underpinning them.

All these four attributes equal up to be the perfect defence against fear. Repentance, in a second, squashes the fear of shame and guilt. Rest, quietness and trust are the results of faith, but it is trust alone that imbues faith.


This life, the culmination of these factors of Isaiah 30:15, brings a unique kind of strength--indeed, a ‘warrior strength’ which is “strength for life’s battles and challenges.”[2] This is why God is so insistent we follow him. He knows the way we were made. He knows how pathetic we are on our own.

[1] J. Alec Moyter, The Prophesy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1993), p. 249.

[2] Moyter, Ibid, p. 249.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Some Things Are True Whether You Believe Them or Not

In the 1998 film, City of Angels, starring Meg Ryan and Nicolas Cage, there are many afterlife issues presented. At one particular point when Seth the angel (Cage) finally meets Maggie (Ryan) the following dialogue takes place regarding a patient Maggie (a heart surgeon) failed to save:

Maggie: He should have lived.

Seth: He is living. Just not the way you think.

Maggie: I don’t ... believe in ... that.

Seth: Some things are true whether you believe them or not.

It treads poignantly through the landscape of afterlife issues. When we die things will happen to us that ordinarily happen to dying and dead people. We won’t have a choice to believe anymore. It will just happen to us.

But, what?

“What” is a good question. But the main point is life after death is going to be a reality we’ll all have to face. And on the way we’ll have to ‘live up’ to the fact of our lives on this earth and what we did with them.

Some things are true whether we believe in them or not. There’s little good sticking our heads in the sand or clamping our hands over our ears and closing our eyes fast shut singing “la la la.”

We have to at least come to terms with the possibility of an afterlife, and at least explore it... after all, we’ll all die at some point.

Christians believe what the Bible says, and the Bible says a lot about afterlife issues. The key message regarding heaven and whether we go there or not depends on our relationship with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit (who resides within the Christian person).

On the night he was betrayed, Jesus prayed aloud, Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent –John 17:1-3 (NIV). (Italics added for emphasis.)

Even more pointedly, Jesus said earlier, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me –John 14:6 (NIV). (Italics again added for emphasis.)

To spend perhaps eighty or ninety years on earth only to miss out on the true meaning of life is a catastrophic travesty. That is to spend eternity--the life without time--without ever knowing or seeing God; that alone is hell.

Accepting Jesus Christ died for us--the only sinless one, for our sin--is the key. He is the beam that spans the divide between us and a holy God who cannot stand sin.

And practically, the grace and peace of God, which only true Christians know, is only available to those who believe. If you want the best life, faith in Jesus is the only way.

That’s the truth whether we believe it or not.

If you do investigate (and a good way of doing so is reading the story of Mark in the Bible) and finally find you do want to believe in Jesus, you can pray a simple prayer called “the believer’s prayer.”

If you seriously believe in him in your heart and in what Jesus came to earth for i.e. to die for our sin so we might have a way to our Father in heaven, and say this prayer, you’ll be saved into heaven, both now and after physical death:

Dear Lord Jesus

Today I confess my need of you.

Thank you for dying on the cross so that I might have life.

Thank you for forgiving me of my sins.

Thank you for loving me and thank you for the privilege of loving you.

Please give me the strength to follow after you with all of my heart and soul and to bring glory to Your Name.

I commit my life into your hands.

I will love you forever.


And if you do decide to pray this prayer, the journey’s only just started. A lifetime of exploration in the things of faith and of Jesus awaits you! Be tenacious. The reward will be great for you.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Interlude That Changed My Life

Did you ever have a time when you felt like such an absolute failure? I did. Five years ago, I was really struggling--everything I did seemed to be going wrong. The reason for this was my most important relationships, those of my family, were in tatters.

I couldn’t focus, was depressed, and incredibly anxious and fearful about the future.

One particular Saturday morning I was so distraught, walking around home sobbing tears--I was at breaking point! By sheer chance, I switched the television on and there was a TV evangelist who preached how someone could be forgiven… all I had to do was simply pray to Jesus.

I had reached what you could call ‘my rock bottom’ moment in life; I acknowledged it and had to change. I immediately got down on my knees and prayed the prayer that the TV evangelist suggested--straight after him.

You have to know, I had actively believed in God, but I hadn’t actually handed my life over to Jesus, asking him to be the Lord of my life--that I accepted his free gift of forgiveness and peace with God. My limited submission meant I had limited faith.

Praying directly to Jesus in this way proved a real turning point for me.

It is hard to explain but as soon as I finished the prayer I felt a strange peace or assurance come over me; a sort of confidence that I had done something right and this relieved the pressure and pain I was feeling so intensely.

My life after that moment was still far from perfect, and I still had a lot of grief and pain to deal with, BUT there was one real difference:

I had a solid relationship with Jesus whom I could call on at any time; I knew someone who identified with my pain, indeed I knew someone who had endured so much more pain than any human ever has or ever will.

He not only knows my pain, but he knows yours as well.

Achieving God’s Will Via Two Roles – Facilitating & Sifting

Like any other belief system the Christian faith can get pretty complex for such a simple premise i.e. relationship with Jesus Christ, and hence redemption in the Father, through the forgiveness of sins. So it can help in boiling down all the complexity so we can know simply how to achieve God’s will. For surely when we get down to brass tacks this is what it’s all about.

I see it that any proper Christian, serious about fully engaging in their committed journey of discipleship ought to do these two things, one positive, the other negative; both are equally important and powerful for God.

We ought to be facilitators and sifters:

The Facilitator

The word means “to make easier... [to] help bring about,”[1] and that is in essence what we’re about, walking in Christ. Servant-heartedness is a throbbing core woven right throughout the gospels, letters and beyond through the biblical canon.

One of my favourite roles in the workplace is facilitator because it means I have the role to ensure a meeting, discussion or workshop runs smoothly, that all objectives and deliverables are met, on time, on budget. It’s the chance to serve some pretty elite sort of company by means of paradoxical spiritual leadership.

Even to cleaning up the venue and drafting prompt notes on proceedings, the idea is to inspire the very best result at all levels. It’s about doing the little things so well that people leave the session uplifted with how well it ran.

The Christian has this opportunity and responsibility. We’re lights of the world bringing glory to God, creating occasions where people might ask “why,” i.e. why do we perceive the needs so well... it’s so if they got to know us they’d find out it’s because Jesus, our Saviour, has crushed the pulsating flesh-need in us.

We can faithfully serve him (and others) knowing that he alone fills our cups. The better we serve others the more he fills our cup; it’s a pretty simple formula. There is surely nothing as inspiring as someone who’ll give up their rights, needs (and even life itself) for another. The facilitator does this, and with enthusiastic willingness to burn!

The Sifter

This is a difficult and contrary role which comes easier to some than to others. It requires a special measure of courage at steadfastness, a dedication to truth, and the sharp ability of Christian discernment.

The LORD said to Gideon in Judges 7 that he would “sift” the men as they drank the water. And again in Amos 9:9, the LORD talks about “shaking the house of Israel among all the nations as grain is shaken in a sieve.” This theology is graphically foretold in the imagery of Daniel, for instance, 11:32-35.

To sift is to test. It’s to reserve judgment in the face of God. It’s to wait and see, but also to act, on the motives--of ourselves and others.

I see it that sifting is being so loyal to God that it is to do his will no matter the relationship we have with the people concerned in this life. It is also to be ruthless about our own journey with God, forever willing to repent.

This is one reason I think why Jesus said this:

“Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law” –Luke 12:51-53 (NIV)

Jesus did not say ‘war against each other for the sake of it,’ but ‘do the Father’s will.’ At times we’ll not be able to do the Father’s will unless we transgress another or bring them to account, in God’s holy name. This must be done with discernment and skilfully so; so as to not be excessively offensive i.e. it is to be respectfully challenging where we have a relational context to work within, meaning some level of existing rapport is its basis.

Sifting for me is cooperating with God--it’s being a fully-engaged agent of God. Most Christians have difficulty with occasionally being agents for Satan. They see that they must be-friend everyone and ‘be loving’ at all costs. They perhaps don’t realise that playing the sifting role of keeping people quietly accountable, as we’re to be kept to account, is actually loving people properly i.e. in a disciplined way, out of reverence to God.

[1] “facilitate.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009. Merriam-Webster Online. Retrieved 15 August 2009.