Wrestling with God


Originally written 10:35 PM Friday, September 25th, 2009

Genesis 32 – Passage Lookup – New Century Version – BibleGateway.com

Joshua 5 – Passage Lookup – New King James Version – BibleGateway.com

[It is dark.  I am alone.  Everything I have and love has been sent ahead of me. In the morning, I will go Home.  I will face the Brother I betrayed, and the Father I abandoned. But for now, I am alone with my fears and my regrets. 

Or am I….]

Halt, who goes there? Are you for us or for our adversaries?

Neither, but I lead those who fight for He Who Is.

Who is what? Is for us, or is against us?

[One who looks like a man steps forward out of the shadows, into the starlit clearing.  Oddly, he shines as if standing in direct moonlight — though there is no moon.  He is tall, well-muscled, moving with an easy grace and supreme confidence.  He is dressed like me in a flowing tunic, but somehow on him they look almost regal.]

And who are you, that I should answer your questions?

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LEAD! C.12 Joy in the Journey


In Which We Begin to Pursue the End…

This is the final lesson in our series, but hopefully just the beginning of your journey in understanding what it means to lead others — and yourself — into the “name” of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

As we proceed to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (cf Philippians 2:12), it is essential to continually rejoice (cf. Philippians 4:4), because the “joy of the Lord is our strength” (cf. Nehemiah 8:10). We may occasionally become discouraged when we realize we will never reach complete perfection, either in our discipline, our character, or even our theology (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:9). On the other hand, the good news is that this means we will always have room for improvement!

This course has tried to give you the basics, but there are even more wonderful truths about Christ to be understood, deeper works of the Holy Spirit to be experienced, and greater glories for the Father to be won.

May we persevere together in that pursuit until the day we are all finally united with our Beloved Bridegroom, to celebrate His matchless “name” for all eternity.

Memory Verse: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”Matthew 25:13 (NKJV)

Assigned Reading
  1. Richard Foster: Celebration of Discipline

    • 13. Celebration
  2. Donald Whitney: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

    • 13. Perseverance
  3. Eugene Peterson: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

    • 8. Joy: “We Laughed, We Sang”
    • 11. Perseverance: “They Never Could Keep Me Down!”
    • A Long Obedience: Epilogue
  4. Ruth Haley Barton: Sacred Rhythms

    • 9. A Rule of Life: Cultivating Rhythms for Spiritual Transformation

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LEAD! B.6 From Greed to Generosity


In Which We Gain Power Over Money By Giving It Away

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” — Matthew 5:7

Even if we escape the pride of trusting completely in our own “name”, we still must guard against trusting in things instead of God. The purest form of this is greed or avarice, which can be defined as treating money as an “end” — i.e., an extension of the self. This is in contrast to generosity, which considers money primarily a “means” of showing mercy to others.   

Assigned Reading
  1. Peter Kreeft: Back to Virtue

    • 8. Giving Mercy vs. Getting Things (Avarice)
  2. Dick Hockett: Foundations of Wisdom
    • 3.3 (Righteous) Example: Proverbs about the Tongue

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LEAD! B.4 From Folly to Love


In Which We Are Rescued from Our Folly by God’s Love


Love is the primary virtue of the Heart. It is both a Decision that gives rise to Emotions, as well an Emotion that gives rise to Decisions — and it needs both to thrive. It can be defined as “the ability to pursue another’s glory — even at the cost of your own.”

Love is particularly needed by the Fool, whose emotional damage drives a cycle of self-punishment disguised as the pursuit of pleasure. The only way out is to purify our hearts by receiving God’s love and forgiveness, to the point where we love Him more than the false gods we’ve served — and discover what it means to genuinely love ourselves…

Assigned Reading
  1. Peter Kreeft: Back to Virtue

    • 5.C (Love) The Three Theological Virtues
  2. Dick Hockett: Foundations of Wisdom

    • 6. The Fool

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Wrestling for My Name


September 28, 2004

I step onto the field.  Though the night is dark,  I see my Opponent waiting for me, the Author of all my miseries.  I flex my hands, eager for the combat.

“Mal’ak,” I cry.  “Step aside, or face my wrath.”

My Opponent does not move.  He does not shirk, nor does he laugh.   He simply nods, acknowledging my challenge.

Rage fills me.   All the lies, and torment, and frustration that I have bottled up for years, decades, come pouring out of me, coursing through my veins.   With a roar more beast than man I race toward the hated figure.

He shifts slightly then, bracing himself against my rush.   No emotion yet shows on his face.   I put my head down, and tackle him with all my strength and speed, hoping to force him down.

I hear him grunt softly as I knock the wind out of him, but he stands firm.   My shoulders ache as if I’d slammed into a wall, but I ignore the pain.  I wrap my arms around his abdomen and squeeze, hoping to constrict his breathing.

But he is too quick for me.  While I’m still getting my grip around him, he lifts me by the waist and slams me down, loosening my grip and stepping away.   I bounce back up, and hurtle forward again.   This time he steps aside, dodging my rush, his joined fists pounding my shoulder blades and knocking me to the ground.

My anger tempered, I get up more slowly, and approach cautiously, circling.   I know he’s bigger than me, stronger and faster.  Smarter, too.   The only thing I have going for me is that I want this more than he does.  I hope.

We circle each other, hands pawing the air as we search for openings.   I think I see an opening and lunge for his knee, but he jumps out the way at the last second.  I quickly roll to my feet, to avoid giving him another free shot.  The circling continues.

I know I can’t delay, since my Opponent can outlast me.   I risk all on brute strength, hoping his overwhelming superiority will make him overconfident.  I close quickly and leap forward, catching his throat in my hands.    Too close for him to pry me loose, he responds by squeezing my ribcage, preventing me from breathing.    It becomes a question of which of us will blackout first, if the lack of oxygen doesn’t force one of us to loose his grip.

Then, surprisingly, he smiles.   Persistent basted, aren’t you?” he chortles.   Then without changing expression, he releases his grip on my waist, then pops a fist right onto my hip joint.

Pain floods through my leg, almost making me black out despite the air now finally rushing into my starved lungs.   I slide to the ground, my arms nearly nerveless, my leg a lump of useless muscle. Yet, I see his feet before me, and with the last of my strength I pounce on his leg, and wrap my arms and good leg around him, like a small child hugging his father.

“No!” I cry.  “I will not let you go.”

He seems surprised, and after a few half-hearted attempts to shake me off realizes that I won’t let go voluntarily.  Yet, he seems strangely reluctant to exert more violence upon my person.

“What is it you want from me?” he asks in his deep voice, sounding almost — but not quite — puzzled.

I’m crying, pleading, clinging to his leg as if it was my only rope, and I suspended a thousand feet over jagged rocks.  

“Please,” I beg. “Do not leave me without your blessing.” 

I tighten my grip in a show of bravado, though I know I have scant seconds of strength left should he choose to resist.

But he does not resist.  Instead, he laughs.  The sound of his voice is like bells ringing, or birds singing.   The very air seems to brighten at the sound.  All my aches and pains start to melt away, though my arms are as weak as ever.  

“Day is coming,” he speaks, after the laughter fades away. “I must be going.  But you have earned your blessing.”

He reaches down, grabs me by the shoulders and lifts me upright.  His right hand seizes mine in one bear-like clasp, while the other claps my shoulder — almost knocking me down again. 

“You have fought well, but today you have learned what strength really is.  No longer shall you be called Master Ernie, but Mister Ernie.  You shall wear my livery, but you shall still rule your own kingdom. In the service of the Emperor Over the Sea.”

With that, he stepped back, then clapped his hands twice.  Two servants came, dressed in white.  One carried a gold robe, with a purple design sewn on front, which he wrapped around my shoulders.  The other carried  a golden sword in an ebony scabbard, which he banded around my waist.

My former Opponent stood watching my accoutering with an approving smile.

  “They suit you well, lad.” he said cheerfully.  Then, cocking an eye at the brightening sky, he added, “But now I must be off.” He began to stride toward the horizon.

“Wait,” I cried, limping after him.   He paused and glanced over his shoulder. “Will… Will I ever see you again?” 

He laughed, and resumed his trek, his speed increasing.  I feared I would never get an answer to my question.  But then, just at the edge of vision, before the rising sun obliterated his presence, he stopped, turned, and yelled back at me.

Fear not.   Anytime you forget who your Master is, I’ll be happy to come by and give you another lesson.”

And then he was gone.

I sink to my knees, exhausted.  It would be so easy to lie down, to sleep. To heal. To rest.

Instead, I force myself back to my feet.  I look toward the darkness, where the light has not yet come.   I have a kingdom to win.  An Emperor to serve.

Slowly, deliberately, I raise my sword and limp into the battle for which I was born.