What is Balmoral?


There is a castle in Scotland called Balmoral.  It has been a safe haven for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth.  She leaves the challenges of London and goes there for a time apart, to rest and to regain perspective.

I am using that term as a metaphor for a place where I will be going sometime in the future.  I plan on a season of deep rest and restoration.  It is not in Scotland.  I am simply using the name “Balmoral” as a symbol so I don’t have to reveal where I will be.

For the indefinite future, I will be writing a series of prayers and blessings to prepare that land.  I ask you to join me in praying each new prayer for that land.  I invite you to pray it also for any land of yours that needs to be sanctified.

Arthur Burk

Posted in The Big Picture | 12 Comments

6. Habakkuk: A Mercy’s Onramp to Worship


Pick your church.

What works for you?  What will increase your connection to God?

I watch people do it all the time and much of the time the defining factor is the worship service and what kind of an onramp to heaven it provides for them.  These days worship seems to have supplanted teaching of the Word as THE growth tool for the modern American.

One person likes the contemporary music.  Another prefers soaking.  Someone else likes the old hymns.  The tastes are many and varied.

But what if God chose the onramp to heaven for you?  Can you imagine the magnificence of the God who created you and knows your every nuance, personally designing the ultimate worship onramp for you?

God knows how He wants to reveal Himself to you and what that unique revelation is supposed to unpack in you that you might not even know about yet.  After all, He knows so much about your design that you don’t know yet.

And then to think that He has the whole world of natural things AND all of the unseen world at His disposal to craft this incomparable worship experience.

Are you on tip toes with expectation yet?

Come stand with me, while we watch the Master at work, taking someone into a level of intimacy they had never known before.

I like the story of Habakkuk.  One wonders whether this was actually his birth name or just his nickname.  It literally means “The Little Hugger.”  I don’t know whether his parents had a sense and named him that before actually knowing his personality, or whether Mommie found out quickly that he needed a lot of lap time with frequent cuddles, therefore he got stuck with a moniker for life.

Habakkuk loved music and sang in the Temple choir.  He also composed songs.  Hebrew scholars point to his poetry as some of the most elegant in Scripture, having a sophistication of form and sound that was never equaled by subsequent prophets.

What a picture!  God creates a touchy feely male Mercy, who loves music, and places him in the office of prophet, during the declining years of Judah’s history, while the kings were wicked and foolish.

God exquisitely crafted this gentle genius, gave him a superlative classical education then  placed him in an office primarily known for its spiritual, intellectual and functional violence.

Now that God has placed His player on the world stage, what will He do to unpack the finest of treasures from the deepest place in him, so Habakkuk is fit to write Scripture in partnership with the Spirit of the Almighty?

It began with a simple, Mercy question.

“Uh, God.  Have you read the news lately?  Things are getting pretty ugly down here.  There is such violence that there is no such thing as safety any more.  I need safety and justice to be the best musician/prophet I can be, and you have been flat out ignoring all my petitions.  What’s up with that?”

“Yes, son, I am quite up on the news.  No, son, I have not been ignoring you.  As THE God Who Plans Ahead, I have been working on this for a while.  If YOU had been reading the news, you would have noticed that a two-bit Bedouin tribe has unexplainably morphed into a mighty nation over the last century.  That was compliments of Me.  Their specialty is violence.  They are more violent than Judah is, so I am bringing the Babylonians in to stamp out the violence that is bothering you.  Brilliant of me, isn’t it?”

“B R I L L I A N T???!!!  I don’t think so.  How about C R A A A A A A Z Y!  Have you noticed that they are more wicked than my neighbors?  What is a righteous God like you doing hanging out with thugs like that, much less putting out a contract on Your own people?  THISISNOTWORKINGFORME, GOD!”

“Actually, Habakkuk, I do have a pretty good dossier on them.  I know more about their insolence toward Me than you do.  And I take it pretty seriously.  When I get done using them to spank Judah, I will personally disassemble them with levels of justice and judgment they have never imagined.  Let me show you a preview of how I am going to wrap this up with perfection and precision.”

After the preview of Divine violence against Babylon, MISTER Mercy wrote:

“I heard and my heart pounded,

my lips quivered at the sound;

decay crept into my bones,

and my legs trembled.

Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity

to come on the nation invading us.

Though the fig tree does not bud

and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails

and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

and no cattle in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the LORD,

I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign LORD is my strength;

He makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

he enables me to tread on the heights.”  Habakkuk 3:16-19 NIV

So there you have it.  The Master Craftsman who knows the Mercy gift inside out designed an onramp to intimacy for the ultimate Mercy’s Mercy, and it was called Sheer Terror.

The bone chilling preview of the God of Vengeance settling a score was determined by God to be the single most effective tool for unpacking the best of the Mercy gift.

Come to think of it, there is another world class Mercy prophet named John who got a preview of Sheer Terror too, as a way to augment his already phenomenal spiritual pilgrimage.

Who knew?

Father, in the natural, Balmoral is a place of substantial peace today.  It has a special draw for the Mercy gift as a place to go, to feel safe, to sit and soak in Your presence. 

While we celebrate the softer, gentler side of Balmoral, and we know from past experience that it ministers deeply to the Mercy gift,  we hereby proclaim faith in Your wisdom and invite You to take anyone You desire, Mercy or not, to a place of incomparable intimacy, even if the onramp is named Sheer Terror.

Copyright December 2011 by Arthur Burk

Sapphire Leadership Group, Inc.

Posted in 5. Onramps to Heaven | 11 Comments

5. Joshua: Administration


I spend a lot of time with bosses and with their personal assistants.  The script is pretty predictable.

The PA works hard for weeks to sort out all the gritty little details of my trip.  There are e-mails flying every which way, with variations and confirmations of each facet of what is supposed to transpire.

But when I come, it is the boss who goes out to dinner with me, while the PA settles for the four second introduction to me — if we happen to meet in the hallway!  It’s the boss who gets to explore the God-ordained social DNA of the company, learn how to weave together the redemptive gifts of different players, and ultimately to envision a bold new trajectory for the company as he seeks to erase the line between the secular and the sacred.

Meanwhile, the PA makes coffee, reservations and juggles the phone calls from people who want to talk to the boss.

At the end of my time there, the boss is excited and energized as he joyously informs the PA about the new projects that the tired PA gets to add to his already overflowing To-Do List!  Clearly the boss has an inside track on meeting with God while the PA does all the heavy lifting.

With that grid, I have wondered for years about Joshua.  We all know the story of his boss going out to the tent where God was waiting for him.  He had God-on-demand like no other person in the world ever has had.  Moses could ask Him anything about everything, any time.  The boss had perks, no doubt about it.

But there is a simple verse tucked into the story in Exodus 33:11.  “Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.”  NIV

There are layers and layers here.  I checked the Hebrew, and as near as I can tell, Joshua was actually INSIDE the tent with Moses.  So he too saw God and listened to the dialog between the boss and God.  Fascinating.

There is no mention of his face shining like Moses’ face did so being the kind of guy who looks around the edge of everything, I wonder about that.  Why didn’t he get juiced too?

Second, it is very clear that the PA’s union back then had a much better labor contract than most of the personal assistants I have seen lately.  Moses was a busy man.  He had places to go, people to see and things to do, so he was a bit limited in how much time He could spend with God, but Joshua seemed to have nothing pressing in his inbox.  He had the luxury of being able to hang out with God endlessly while the boss pounded out a bruising work load.

But the million dollar question is what it was like for Joshua and God when MISTER Exhorter left the tent with all his emotional energy.

Did God exit out the top of the tent as Moses was leaving through the front flap?  If so, did Joshua hang out in the tent just mulling over what God had explained to Moses about administrative procedures, trying to see the wisdom behind the commands?

Or was he a land guy?  Did he rush over to where God had been and lay on the ground to receive every last vestige of anointing that was left there?  Or would that have been extreme sacrilege?  Did he stay motionless in his corner, worshipping with his spirit without daring to even make a sound?

If God stayed, was Joshua the Mercy content to just hang out with God silently, enjoying His presence without commentary?

Or did their spirits partake in a robust engagement, wrapped in utter silence from soul and body?

OR . . . did Joshua engage in his own verbal dialog with God once Moses had gone back to work?  If so, did he simply ask for clarification on the boss’s issues, or did he open up whole new areas of dialog — Mercy queries that the Exhorter never would have thought of?

I have circled around that verse hundreds of times in the last 50 years and so far have found not a single clue that would answer any of those questions.  The boss left and the PA stayed in the tent.

Simple.

Yet absolutely loaded with possibilities.

But at the end of the day, it made Joshua a very simple man.  Decades later when he was leading Israel, he had a remarkably distilled world view:  Nothing gets in God’s way!

So, when the command was clear that all the enemy troops were to be destroyed, and the darkness was getting in Gods way, Joshua unhesitatingly commanded the darkness to punch pause, because he needed the light for a while longer.

Impressive.

Moses got a rod that was charged with the power of God and some instructions on what to do with it.

Joshua leveraged the most improbable assignment (PA) into having his life charged with the nature of God.

And the difference between those two rings down through the ages.

Father, there are many people in the world who walk in the shadows of the people who seem to walk with You.  They appear destined to only know You vicariously through the lives of others. 

We invite You to bring them to Balmoral and to free them from the burden of serving Your servants so they can be served by You.  As with Joshua, we invite You to impart to them on this land the reality of who You are, not just Your wisdom for dealing with life’s problems.

Let the faithful people who have served so well behind the scenes, setting the stage for the high profile people, have their own encounter with You, on this land.

Copyright November 2011 by Arthur Burk

Sapphire Leadership Group, Inc.

Posted in 5. Onramps to Heaven | 7 Comments

4. Gideon: Prime Rib


Q.   What is it like when God shows up?

A.   Depends on who you are!

Have you ever noticed how many different presentations God uses in Scripture?  Sure we all know about God high and lifted up, seated on a throne, with the train of His robe filling the temple.  Good stuff.

And the still small voice which spoke to Elijah is also a cliché in our religious cultures.

Between the two bookends of the immensity of God and His strategic downsizing when speaking to a super sized prophet, we find a wide range of presentations.  Each variant tells us something about God’s relationship with that individual.

Take Gideon’s situation.  He is an army officer, the veteran of a disastrous battle where his brothers were brought home in body bags.  Clearly he came home with PTSD.  Not only that, but his theology was badly shattered because he thought he had been fighting that battle on behalf of God, and God showed no interest in their battle.

A lot of you reading this know what it is like to sincerely, absolutely, completely believe that a battle you have engaged in began with a direct call from God to you, it is righteous in the extreme, needed, timely and if you do your part, God will intervene and bring you great victory.

So . . . you did your thing and God did nothing.

And you were left holding tragedy in both hands, while your faith was left whimpering in the shadows of your shock.

That is Gideon.

Life went on without his permission.

He learned to cope with the tragedy but that was all he had the energy to do.  Faith remained comatose.

So God showed up to the loser and said, “You are my champion who is going to lead Israel to victory.”

To which Gideon quite understandably responded, “Yeah, right!”

Jesus is no stranger to Christians with emotional PTSD plus faith that is shattered.  He was up for this argument.  On the surface the discussion was about who Gideon was.  At the root the discussion really was about who Jesus was.

Jesus was winning the argument when Gideon made a desperate move.  He said, “If you are God, will you kindly sit here on a rock in the forest doing nothing for a couple or three hours while I go fix you lunch?”

God said, “Deal.”

Gideon had to catch, kill and butcher the calf, grind the wheat to make the flour to make the bread, and cook it all.  Eventually he showed up at the rock with the picnic lunch and to his relief and surprise, God-who-looked-like-a-human was still there.

Tell you what.  I have looked at this for 40 years and I still don’t get it.

I get that Gideon was scared to death to buy into another “word from the Lord” especially when that “word” had the letters “w” or “a” or “r” in it.  This I understand.

I get that God showed up without His fire and brimstone.  He looked like an ordinary Hebrew with just a touch of command presence.

But how does cooking lunch for God prove to Gideon that this brawny stranger was THE God of Israel?

I have no clue.

Sure God did a bang up miracle when Gideon came back with the food and convinced Gideon that He WAS God, but that was sure not on Gideon’s radar when He left God sitting on a rock.

So what did Gideon expect?  How would God’s reaction to prime rib au jus prove that He was God?

I still have no clue.

This is a recording.

All I know for sure is that I would not have approached the problem of positively IDing God that way.  It wouldn’t work for me.  But it did work for Gideon, and God humored him because He knew it was what Gideon needed to do.

Or put another way, God met Gideon where he was, with his PTSD, shattered faith and his deep need to cook dinner for God.

And that says more about God than it does about Gideon.

Father, we celebrate that You do not use shock and awe on people who have PTSD.  We worship You for Your willingness to engage people in their own emotional language. 

And Father, we invite You to bring to Balmoral people who need to meet You on their own terms.  Bring the ones who have served You and been devastated.  Bring the ones who have been burned by religion and walked away from You.  Bring those who have seen religion from a distance and judged You to be toxic. 

With its gift of Mercy, we feel Balmoral should be a place where the disjointed and disgusted people of the world can come and meet You in totally unique ways.  

Let each story be a celebration of Your exquisite understanding of the pathway through the minefield of their prejudices and pathologies.  

We ask You to bring the Gideons of the world to Balmoral, to let them serve You a prime rib dinner in the forest if that is what it takes, then to send them forth to liberate the captives, once they have been liberated from their past. 

Copyright October 2011 by Arthur Burk

Sapphire Leadership Group, Inc.

Posted in 5. Onramps to Heaven | 14 Comments

3. Obed-Edom: Available on Short Notice


It was not just another day on the farm.  Obed-Edom and his family had watched with fascination as King David prepared with unprecedented care to bring the Ark of the Covenant up from Kiriath-jearim to Jerusalem.

It had been deposited in this small town to the west of Jerusalem when the Philistines were trying to get rid of their plagues, caused by having this illicit trophy of war in their midst.

After suffering decades of benign neglect, it was suddenly to be the centerpiece of David’s new administration in Jerusalem.  The highway ran by their farm, and other than the essential chores, everyone was on standby to watch the parade of Israel’s dignitaries come by.

In addition, their musical king had done an amazing new thing which was to conduct a talent search in Israel for musicians.  As a result, there was going to be a band and choir executing with excellence the music King David had written.

Never had Israel experienced so much pomp and circumstance — and it was going on right in front of the Obed-Edom family!  First all of the important people came down from Jerusalem right by their home, and now, by early afternoon, they could hear the parade coming.

It was an event to be savored to the fullest and remembered to tell the grandkids.  They would probably never be this close to the Ark of the Covenant again in their entire lives since they were foreigners and were not allowed anywhere near the Tabernacle or any of the religious events those Hebrews did.

Obed-Edom was in an awkward position.  He was a Philistine from Gath and he fully understood the past history between his people and Israel, especially related to David’s army.

On the other hand, as bloody as that history had been, David had some issues with his own nation during their civil war, and he had been using some mercenaries from Gath, since they were tall, strong men with a bent for war.

Eventually David would have 600 Gittites as his personal body-guard during another civil war, but for now, Obed-Edom was simply a foreigner, farming on the Israelite side of the border, walking gently, staying out of trouble, and being as low profile as a really big man can possibly be.

The parade finally came with row upon row of leaders, soldiers, priests and dignitaries.  Then, there IT was!  Right in front of them.

Suddenly there was chaos.  Men were shouting and running.  The music stopped, as did the oxen pulling the cart.  Kids in the trees shouted down incomprehensible snippets to those on the ground who were striving to make sense of the mess.  At the very least, it looked as though someone had died.

But how?  What had happened?

Suddenly an official came elbowing his way through the crowd violently.  He rushed up to one of the farm hands and asked, “Is this your farm?”  The man hastily pointed out Obed-Edom who came forward swiftly, yet with concern.

The civil servant was so upset he was hardly intelligible, but Obed-Edom sort of said “yes” to something.  Moments later the official’s staff had shoveled all the furniture out of the living room, the Ark of the Covenant was dropped off there, and the crowd began to dissipate, slowly.

Rumor had it the king was furious.

There certainly was a dead man to be dealt with.

The crowd that had been so joyous was at a loss to know quite how to wind down the parade that had crashed and burned.

The only thing that was clear is that the Ark of the Covenant of the Most High God of Israel was in the living room of a Philistine from Gath.

And that was enough to make a really big man, really quite nervous.  The last time the Philistines tangled with the Ark, thousands of people got sick and whole cities were over run with rats.

How on earth did such a bizarre turn of events occur?  He had done NOTHING to get himself in this fix.  He and thousands of others were just watching the parade go by, and suddenly, through absolutely no fault of his own, a man is dead, the king is in a rage, the parade is wrecked, and the Ark is in his living room for who knows how long just because it happened in front of his house!

Staggering.

So now what?

What exactly could he do when the rats overran the farm and the kids came down with boils?  This was too weird.  It’s not like he had gone to war to capture this dangerous representative of God.  It was thrust on him.

In the end, no plague broke out on his farm.  In fact, as they squeezed themselves into the rest of the house, coming and going through the back door so as not to desecrate the living room with their uncircumcised presence, God began to bless everything about their farm.

It was simply amazing, incomprehensible and as over the top staggering as the first event was.  The neighbors began to talk about it and pretty soon every gossip in Israel knew that this Philistine from Gath was getting smothered in blessings at an unprecedented level.

Nothing like this had happened in Kiriath-jearim when the Ark was there.  This was certifiably wild.  In 90 days, Obed-Edom, the guy who tried to keep a low profile, was the top national story from Dan to Beersheba.

Go figure.

All because he was willing on one moment’s notice to adjust his life to accommodate the needs of the God of Israel.

Father, we ask you to bless Balmoral by sending many people there with the lifestyle of Obed-Edom.  In the midst of religious people who wanted You to synchronize to them and their unholy plans, you found a non-religious man who would synchronize to You, instantly.

Bring to this community the men and women who will change any aspect of their daily life, for a single day, or for the rest of their lives, to make their homes a place where You would delight to be.

We would rejoice in having preChristians come to this city with their reverence for a generic God whom they do not know, only to experience unparalleled blessings that bring them face to face with You in a personal way.

We ask this in the Name and through the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Copyright October 2011 by Arthur Burk

Sapphire Leadership Group, Inc.

Posted in 5. Onramps to Heaven | 3 Comments

2. Generational Legacy


It is a very familiar story.

The daughter brings her boyfriend home for the first time. The family tries hard to be civilized about it, but the atmosphere is quite stiff.

As soon as the taillights of his car vanish, mom clears her throat and asks, “Honey, what exactly do you see in HIM?” while she tries to suppress the shudder associated with the word “HIM.”

Honey adopts the stance which kids use when they believe their parents have an IQ right around 35 and begins to point out all the finer qualities of her beloved, which her parents had totally missed.

Seeing someone through another person’s eyes is usually highly enlightening.  What is especially informative is seeing someone through God’s eyes.

We have such a situation in Genesis 18.  God and a couple of angels had donned temporary bodies and they came to visit with Abraham and to nuke Sodom and Gomorrah.  After lunch, as they were leaving, God was musing with the angels over whether to let Abraham in on the impending disaster or not.

What criteria would you use to make that decision?

God’s criteria is quite interesting to me, but it sums up Abraham’s connection to God — his on ramp to heaven.  God announced to the nuclear angels that He was going to share with Abraham because Abraham had a generational world view.

This is in fact the core of Abraham’s story.  Money, fame and political power came to Abraham and he used them all but was unimpressed by them.  But the issue of his legacy through his family line was primary.  It was the sweet spot at the core of his being.

There are at least seven times where God engaged personally with Abraham.  In three of them, God initiates promises of land and a generational legacy.  In the last four, it is primarily about the legacy.

It is fascinating that Abraham never raised the issue of land.  He neither thanked God for the promises of land or asked for details or complained about the terms of the deal (a 400 year escrow!).

But in Genesis 15 he complained about the meaninglessness of the faithfulness of God to him when he had no legacy.

In other words, this was his on ramp to intimacy with God:  a generational legacy.  Everything else in his life was merely a context.  With all that and no son, life meant nothing.

There are still people today who have that passion for a family line that is defined by spiritual greatness.  They can do war and can do hospitality and can do commerce and can do land, but they only really come alive when the prospect of building spiritual greatness into their generations is on the table.

Father, we humbly ask You to send us some people like Abraham who have a passion for their seed.  Remove from the existing community some who are self-absorbed and cannot see beyond their own comfort.  In their place bring some men and women who are single minded on the issue of their legacy.

We crave the men and women who cannot be bought off with the baubles of success or fame or power.  Send us those whose passion for the generations is laser sharp, year after year, pursuing for a century if necessary the promise from You.

As we focus on forming a community that knows You in a wide variety of ways, we ask that You would anchor this community with a generational vision, not a contemporary self-serving vision.

There is so much in Scripture that will only be understood by those who are passionate about the generations.  We ask You Father, to send us those men and women who can open the Word and reveal to us the treasures of that on ramp to heaven which You found so precious in Abraham, Your friend.

Copyright September 2011 by Arthur Burk

Sapphire Leadership Group, Inc.

Posted in 5. Onramps to Heaven | 5 Comments

1. On Ramps to Heaven


It has been a long time since we started this series about a place God said would be a restorative refuge for me.  Since that day, God has not allowed me to return and there is no timeline visible to know whether I am near or far.

This project qualifies for what Eugene Peterson called “a long obedience in the same direction.”  The payoffs for those long obediences tend to be massive so we will continue to lean into this one.  I am so appreciative of the people who check this daily and join us in focused prayer.

We began with cleansing prayers for land, boundaries and nature, then I worked through all 400 verses that refer to peace and have selected 54 which were the basis of individual peace blessings.  Now it time to move to a completely new category of blessings.

The focus will be “on ramps to heaven.”  This refers to the methods we use to cross the line from the natural to the spiritual realms.  In our culture, the dominant on ramp is corporate musical worship.  There are many people who cannot connect with God spiritually unless they are in the context of a group, musical, spiritual event.

This is a very legitimate on ramp, but far from the only one.  We need to explore the many other ways in which God designed us to be in touch with the heavenly realms using our spirit, not just our mind.

I want to do this in the context of the gift of Mercy of Balmoral.  The Mercy gift is designed to have an intense relationship with the spiritual realm, making the connection between heaven and earth quite normative, rather than exceptional.  To do that, they have to provide the largest collection of on ramps of any community.

There is another side to the Mercy equation and that is their ability to form an ecosystem that is widely and mutually life giving.  That involves getting the right people in the right place at the right time.

So we are going to add some warfare to our blessings.  Everyone has a place where they can thrive spiritually.  As you look at God’s interactions with humanity, He adapted His communication to their specific place in life.  At times He used the drama of earthquakes and fire.  Other times the still small voice.  Sometimes He came dressed as a human, and other times He was merely a voice in the night.

Specifically, the spiritual dynamics we are building into Balmoral are not a one size fits all.  Although all of those things are good, not all of those things will draw all of the people to the King.  So we are going to begin to pray people out and in.

Simply ask God every day to remove everyone from this community who is not thriving there and who will not be able to thrive.  Ask Him to move them to the community which He has prepared for them, so they can meet Him in the way that is right for them.

And since nature abhors a vacuum, we must pray in the replacement people.  On the one hand, we will pray generally asking God to bring in those whom He has prepared to be part of the Mercy ecosystem of the community — each one receiving and giving in the right key of music.

But beyond that, we will be exploring the different on ramps revealed in Scripture, and we will ask God to send those kinds of people to Balmoral so that everyone who does not know the King can find someone who sings the gospel song in their key of music.

It is quite exciting to watch this happen.  In one city where a small team began praying this, the apartment owners’ association reported with shock that there was a huge transition of people during the two months of the year when typically there is the lowest level of turnover.

God knows where each person can meet Him best, so let’s pray His will into reality as people are moved out of the city who will never connect with God and God’s purposes there, and then move into the city from anywhere in the world, those who have a divine appointment with the Kingdom of God on that land.

The posts for the next several months will each highlight a God-ordained on ramp as incarnated in Scripture.  We will bless the community with that kind of person moving in each time there is a new post, but running in the background continually should be our prayer for God to move people out in order to make a place for the new ones coming in.

Copyright September 2011 by Arthur Burk

Sapphire Leadership Group, Inc.

Posted in 5. Onramps to Heaven | 10 Comments

54. Heaven’s Wisdom


“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”  James 3:17 NIV

Peace-loving.

Sigh.

Talk about raising the bar!

I was the classic angry young man 30 years ago, eager to pick an ideological fight with anyone so I could set things right.

Over the years, I have gotten inner healing for the floating anger, gone through deliverance, learned to be life giving, gained some bits of compassion here and there, and learned a vast amount of self-restraint so I don’t shatter the peace simply by showing up.

I am enormously less overtly antagonistic than I was 30 years ago.

But I still love a good fight!  I am a warrior.  An insult to my King will whip my emotions into warrior mode in nano-seconds.  I see an enemy stronghold over a city and swiftly envision the strategy to exploit the weak spots.   I watch one of God’s people walking bent over from the enemy’s bondage and my mind leaps into analysis mode, seeking the tip of the tap root so I can set another one free.

Yet, wisdom from above is pure, then peace-loving.

I can walk in peace.  Sometimes.  For short seasons.  But peace-loving?  Me?  Not at the core!

Oh Father, the spirit is willing but the flesh is still weak.  Being peace-loving is beyond the reach of so many of your children, but not beyond Your reach. 

So in this final blessing of peace on the place we call Balmoral, we beseech You to work in the hearts of those who live there.  Let them crave peace with You and peace with their fellow man. 

It is You who works in us to give us the desire and the power to be Christlike.  The desire to desire peace is vaguely there some of the time for some of the people.  The power to be peace-loving is utterly beyond so many people.

We appeal to You, the source of all wisdom, and the God of peace to do a miracle in our hearts and cause this community to be infused with the wisdom that comes from above.

Copyright September 2011 by Arthur Burk

Sapphire Leadership Group, Inc.

Posted in 4. Blessings of Peace | 4 Comments

53. Sanctified by Peace


“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.”  I Thessalonians 5:23 NIV

From a religious/legal point of view, we turn to the blood of Christ to “sanctify” us from the defilement of sin.

However, from a biological point of view, a vast number of pathologies go back to some level of inflammation in the body, which causes a cascade of negative consequences.  And the greatest cause of inflammation is generally emotional stress, not the stress of hard work or exercise.

So our fear of real and imagined things, from the past, present or the future, activates a series of responses in our bodies which is broadly toxic.  Live in enough fear, often enough, long enough and it will poison every biological system you have.  Fear which causes stress will literally take as many years off your life as smoking, drinking or overeating.

We have developed some lame tools for stress reduction.  Have a glass of wine in the evening.  Watch some TV to unwind.  Take a sleeping pill.  Have a wave machine define the sound while you sleep.

Go to a spa for a day.  Take two weeks vacation once a year. Dress casual on Friday.  Sleep in on the weekend and don’t shave.  Eat comfort foods when you are down.  Retreat to your man cave for some time alone.

Do all that and you will eliminate at least 5% of all the stress related toxicity stored in your body.

Or you could have God Himself, THE God of peace, sanctify you through and through.

Balmoral, you are a Mercy community by God’s design.  As such, you are intended to be a place of completeness, not lack, and a place of resonance, not tension. 

And as a Mercy community, your greatest strength is to bring people into deepest intimacy with God.  The single most mentioned command in Scripture is “Fear not.”  And we fear because we do not know the love of God that casts out fear.

If we knew the love of God, we would have no fear and no stress and better spiritual, emotional and physical quality of life.

So we bless you, Balmoral, with becoming a place where the God of peace can send stress riddled people to learn the love of God in the Mercy key of music, so that the God of peace can then take them through the ultimate detox, removing all stress related toxins from their whole being.

Copyright September 2011 by Arthur  Burk

Sapphire Leadership Group, Inc.

Posted in 4. Blessings of Peace | 5 Comments

52. Peace that Guards


“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”   Philippians 4:7 NIV

Gatekeepers.

The very term surfaces a lot of frustration for the nobodies of our culture. You try to talk to someone “important” and they have all of these people who run interference, filter your message, and otherwise do what they can to keep you from getting to the big guy, because, after all, he is important and you are not, and those self-important gatekeepers consider it their job to protect the highly valuable boss.

A breakwater.

Change the imagery now.  You have a vast ocean which is host to sundry storms.  An atmospheric condition or an underwater earthquake can each release massive waves 1,000 miles away which travel relentlessly toward shore where their power is dissipated with some degree of violence.

But when those waves arrive at a populated coast, they generally expend their violence against a pile of rocks strategically placed there by engineers.  Inside the breakwater, a billion dollars of nautical pleasure rocks gently at their sundry moorings, unperturbed by the aquatic violence a hundred yards away.

My first home.

Well, not quite my first, but the first one I was old enough to remember!  It was in Icoaraci, was perched on the edge of a large hill, and was built of bricks (big, structural, Brazilian bricks — not these cutesy, cosmetic, imitation bricks they stick on the outside of American houses).

I loved being in that house when it rained.  We would sometimes get an inch and a half of rain in about half an hour.  You could not see the trees a few feet outside the window.  The wind was intense and the violence of the trees outside added to the din.

Revisiting that picture of a three year old watching the storm out the window surfaces a deep sense of peace in me, even today, 50 years after I left that home.  The building was solid.  I cannot remember any storm ever damaging even one roofing tile.  The trees were just far enough away that nothing could fall on the house.  The hillside allowed for rapid water runoff and there was never a question of flooding.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the violence outside from my place of consummate safety in the house that Dad designed and built.

Peace that guards.

Blend those three pictures into a picture of Balmoral.  There is commotion in the natural world and the spiritual world.  Violence and instability vie with each other for the spotlight.  Fear wrestles with anger for their place on the stage.

As you drive through the countryside headed to Balmoral, the graffiti assaults you with the reality of lawlessness lurking around every corner.  The billboards scream political conflict, the prices at the gas pumps assure you of the speedy deterioration of the economy, the nuclear power plant reminds you that you exist moments from death at any time, and the fear mongers on the evening news add toxicity to your turmoil.

And then you cross the boundary into Balmoral.

Your world changes.

Suddenly, you have the freedom to define your own emotional climate because peace is the gatekeeper of the city and nothing gets past her.

The reality outside the city is still grim, but it does not have the right or the power to intrude and define your emotional climate while you are in the city.

Imagine the incomparable privilege of being able to define your own emotional climate.

Tonight will be an evening of tranquility as you walk in the early moonlight and savor the artistry of the shadows created by the reflector of the sun.

Tomorrow will be a romantic evening as you court your wife once again.

The next day will be a time of joy as the kids return and the house is filled with shouts of pleasure over the antics of the grandkids on the recent vacation.

And the following day is a day for deep meditation on the spiritual treasures of the week.

For most of us, that is somewhere between a dream and a fantasy.  Our plans are too often invaded and violated with impunity by the emotional whipsaw of life’s vagaries, and we end up reacting instead of living out our desires.

But this kind of peaceful city could be.  God clearly offered this as a resource we could abound in.   How could peace be such a fantastic gatekeeper, a firewall or virus protection program for our thoughts and emotions?

I have no clue.  In fact, the verse says we can’t understand how.

So instead, we will just savor the picture.

Father of peace, we say yes and amen.  Let it be.  Let Balmoral be the definition on planet earth of a place where our thoughts do not pursue us because peace is the gatekeeper.

Copyright September 2011 by Arthur Burk

Sapphire Leadership Group, Inc.

Posted in 4. Blessings of Peace | 3 Comments

51. Preaching Peace


“He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.”  Ephesians 2:17 NIV

He came!

It doesn’t get any better than that.  The fact that we were far from Him became the reason for His coming!  Instead of our obstreperousness being the reason He turned His back on us, it was the exact reason He came looking for us.

What a Savior!!!

Balmoral!  We bless you with becoming the object of preaching by the Prince of Peace.  May He find immense delight in teaching the depths of His wisdom about peace to those who already know peace and to those who know that no peace can ever be known by them.

Can you imagine a sermon on anything preached to you by the King?!  He has never preached a bad sermon!  He never misjudged the audience.  He never had to scramble to find an illustration that would flesh out a spiritual truth in the clothes of the culture.

But for the Prince of Peace to preach on peace!  What a marvel that would be.  What incomparable transformation would take place in the lives of those already replete with peace and those destitute of it!

Balmoral, may the cumulative impact of the blessings we have prayed heretofore cause the whole city to become an amphitheater that majestically directs the sound of the preacher into every nook and cranny.  May this become one of the King’s favorite places to preach on peace!

Copyright August, 2011 by Arthur Burk

Sapphire Leadership Group, Inc.

Posted in 4. Blessings of Peace | 2 Comments