#WalkAway in not a new thing…

In these confusing days of intolerance, judgment, and hate I’m reminded of these words written thousands of years ago:

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” [Ecclesiastes 1:9]

What stirred this thought process for me was an article on the Fox News Website this morning, click here to read it for yourself.  According to Fox News, “Kevin Nicholson is a decorated Marine Corps veteran who served combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Following his time in the Marine Corps, he earned a joint degree at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government (Master of Public Administration) and Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business (Master of Business Administration). He then worked for McKinsey & Co., and now works for ghSmart as a business consultant. He is a first-time candidate in the Wisconsin Republican primary for U.S. Senate.”  Now here is a man I could get behind and support without question.

Yet, as I read this article, an overwhelming sense of sadness came upon me.  What the author of Ecclesiastes wrote is true throughout the ages.  Intolerance will be around until the end of time itself, repeating with fervor ever so often, rising again and again to claim its victims.  One very famous victim of intolerance had a lot to say about the #walkaway concept.

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.  God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.  God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.  God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.  God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.  God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.  God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.  Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.”  [Matthew 5:3-11]

In His teaching, Jesus went on to talk about hate, anger, revenge and other volatile topics ending with these words…

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy.  But I say, love your enemies!  Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.” [vs. 43-47]

There comes a time when dealing with intolerant judgers and haters requires a person to just #WalkAway.  Jesus said this too.  When His disciples were met with ridicule or persecution after preaching the gospel in a given city, Jesus instructed them:

But if any place refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate. 

[Mark 6:11]

Today’s vernacular would say… #WalkAway

He never said this life would be easy.   He never promised we would only walk through rose gardens, and only smell the roses.  In fact He said,

“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 12:53]

Today on the front page headlines we find Kevin Nicholson’s story and see these words fulfilled:

I’m running for Senate as a Republican. My Democrat parents are so furious they’re backing my opponent

 

The most important thing you can take away from this blog today is this:  God’s WORD is absolutely true.  There is nothing new that God hasn’t seen, or already said is coming.

So, if you want to find your way in this crazy world, the place to seek your path is in the word of God.  It was true then… it’s true still, today.

2,107 Miles North

2107 Miles

Photo taken:  May 24, 2018, 1:12 P.M.

It’s been almost 2 weeks since my last post, but I can explain.  Perhaps the best explanation is this image.  My wife and I love to play golf together, and we look forward to many golf trips in the future.  If you follow this blog you’ll know that we just returned from a trip to Canada where we toured the Rocky Mountains and saw amazing sights along the way.  One of our two-night stops was at the Jasper Fairmont Lodge, in Jasper, Alberta, Canada.  This photo perspective is from the first tee of the JFL Golf Course.  We didn’t get to play that day, the course was having some teenage tournament, and behind us (not in the photo) were several bus loads of kids about to tackle this course.

So with that context, the reason I haven’t written in a couple of weeks is that upon our return from vacation it became apparent that if we were to go on many more vacations involving hiking, or golfing, my wife was in need of a total knee replacement.  Eleven days ago, she had this surgical procedure done.  We go back to the doctor tomorrow to get the staples removed.  Then, in about another month or so, we’ll be back out on the golf course chasing that little white ball.  As a result, I’ve been out of touch and haven’t even been at my computer much.

This morning I travelled 2,107 miles in my mind, standing once again on this first tee box, imagining what it would be like to play this course.  What strikes me now, stuck me then, that I might have trouble focusing on my swing because I was so distracted by the beauty of the surrounding terrain.  The blue hue of the mountains, the almost fall-look of the forrest, and the brilliant gleaming green of the fairways was a truly awesome sight.  I wondered then, and I wonder now, if those kids realized how blessed they were to play in such a grand place.

As I write this, I can almost smell the cool air drifting down the fairway as the breeze quickens, the leaves rustle in nearby trees, and the branches move at the tops like soldiers saluting a passing general.  On this day, just like that day in May, I’m reminded of God’s glory, and how blessed I am to know He is in sovereign control of all of life.

Thank you God for the beauty of this world, and thank you that my wife is healing well, and that soon we’ll be venturing outdoors again to experience your creation among the greens.

1 Corinthians 2:9   That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”

 

 

Can’t see the forest for the leaves

look straight up 2

photo taken: Sunday, May 20th, 1:55pm

I realize that I misquoted this statement, but it fits better with this image.  It was, and still remains a mystery to me why so many people look out, or down, but never look up when walking through a forest.  The path may be dangerously steep or rocky, so yes you have to look where you’re going, I get that.  No mistake at all that the forest is filled with all different species of trees which are glorious all on their own, but together in the mix of trees, one could even call it magnificent.  But just once when you look up into the canopy… at the tops of the trees where the sun shines through… well most people never do see this image.

These leaves were a good 5 to 10 feet above my head, so the tops of the trees overhead had to be 75-100 feet above, or more.

Our eyes seldom focus on the far things, but rather on the things right in front of us.  These bright green leaves might represent our current circumstances, good or bad.  The tree tops might represent our future, sometimes obscured except for an occasional glimpse of what might be.   And the brightness of an overcast sky in the distance having no clarity at all, represents a hazy, gauze-like, white cotton heavenly, but unknowable, eternity.

I don’t want to miss any of it.  I want to capture everything in this life which God meant for me to experience, understand, and know.  So while I’m focused on the now, I live in the hope of seeing the tops of the trees before my life is over. Then, in the end, to go into that bright light, to be at home with the Lord.

Right now, I continue to look up, because I want to be ready.

Job 35:5   Look up at the heavens and see; gaze at the clouds so high above you.

What’s wrong with this picture?

whats wrong with this picture

photo taken May 25th, 2018, 4:12pm

We had stopped at this location to see a frozen lake and landscape on our way to Banff.  It was majestic as far as the eye could see, the mountains, the ice cap, the beautiful blue sky, and this lake that until now was frozen solid and had just begun to melt.

When into the frame stepped this young man with a paddle board… hmmm.  Now I’m not one to judge, but it did cause me to contemplate, “What is he thinking?”  Surely he is not going to plunge himself, on purpose, into this ice cold water, then paddle board around for the afternoon… is he?  I don’t know how this story ended.  It was time to load the bus, and go on to the next site on the list.  So, we never saw him go in, only his intention to do so.

The action of the young man weighed on me as I consider life around me today.  I don’t know what causes some people to just “jump” into an irrational pattern of behavior.  I don’t understand how this action would even be a consideration.  Maybe it is as simple as this young man considers himself to be a “paddle-boarder.”  So in all kinds of weather, regardless of hot or cold, he goes paddle boarding.  I guess I could accept that.

I also know that it might be how people look at me.  I consider myself to be a person of faith, long-time pastor/teacher.  So whether in adversity, or peace; when I’m sick or when I’m healthy; whether I have little, or a lot… my thoughts turn to scripture and its applications for life today.  It’s who I am.

What came oozing out of this young man’s veins was, “I need to go paddle boarding,” it’s who he is.

What comes oozing out of you on a daily basis?  And does the world around you always understand why it does?

There is one sure-fire way to determine people of faith in the chaos of the world today.  When it’s freezing spiritually, or when it’s beautiful spiritually, the person of faith is seen this way: they are … loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and in control of themselves.   How do I know this?  Read Galatians 5:22-23.

The world in chaos and darkness will look at you the same way I looked at this young man… and they won’t understand it.  But make no mistake, God’s Holy Spirit will use you in these actions to make a difference in your world.  So let the “fruit” of God’s Spirit inside you work through you today.

 

 

It’s Not Easy

not easy

taken: Johnston Canyon, Alberta Canada, May 26th, 11:31 a.m.

Walking this path to the waterfalls in Johnston Canyon was a fast 20 minute hike, so we chose to let younger legs pass us by as we just took our time listening to the sounds of the forest and the river below.  In one incredible moment, there was a single ray of light that lit up this lone aspen tree in the forest, and I knew what it meant when Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” [Matthew 5:14]

What we are designed to do is reflect God’s image to the dark world around us, because He lives inside us.

What we are supposed to do is speak God’s truth to an unbelieving world which is filled with hate, anger, fear, and judgment… and speak this truth in love.

What we are supposed to BE… is holy, set apart for God’s own purposes, just like this lone aspen in the middle of the forest.

In the chaos of life surrounding you today, if you are in Christ, be “The light of the world.”

It’s not easy…

Can You Imagine?

Center of Attention small

Thursday, May 24, 1:18 p.m., Jasper National Park, Alberta Canada.

And the thought that came to mind was, “Heavenly!”

These two read chairs, sitting next to the lake just behind the Fairmont Lodge, were so inviting.  In the cool mountain air, with just a hint of breeze, I was thinking how nice it would be to just sit and talk.

This led me to folks who’ve gone on before me to heaven, and how one day maybe I’ll get to sit beside them in some idyllic setting such as this, and just catch up.  I’d like to sit with my mother again like this and just talk like I did when I came home from college.

Then, I thought of my dad, struggling with the mysterious illness we call Alzheimer’s disease.  I don’t remember many times when my dad and I just sat and talked.  We played golf, we played card games at family times like Christmas or Thanksgiving.  But there weren’t that many times when we would just sit and talk.  Now, I wish he could remember me, and we could just sit and talk.

Inevitably, these thoughts today brought me to the idea of one day just sitting and talking with Jesus.  How marvelous that will be!  But wait…

I know it seems like prayer is a more formal exercise often only emphasized in church worship or at Bible studies, but doesn’t the Bible actually teach us that prayer is simply having a conversation with God?  In fact on this day we celebrate as Father’s Day, what could please him more than if we simply pulled up two chairs together (wherever you are today), and just took the time to have a conversation with the Creator of the universe, our Heavenly Father?  The Apostle Peter said it this way… 1 Peter 5:6-7

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

No More Thirst

AF 1 small

Here I stood, listening to the roar of the mighty Athabasca Falls, taking in the stunning view of sunlight as it lit up the mist, while my heart inside my head repeated over and over and over, “My God, How Great Thou Art!”

The stone monument nearby read:

Since the last in a dynasty of glaciers retreated 10,000 years ago, The Athabasca River has battled a trembling earth.  Abandoned channels, potholes and deep canyons in some of the hardest rock in Jasper National Park mark the ancient battle lines.  Today, the battle continues upstream at the 25-metre falls.  This trail offers a 20-minute visit to one battleground in a land of many.  It is a dangerous please so please stay behind the guard rails.

This image taken May 25th, at 10:15 a.m., captures the spirit of this monument completely.  The power of the water running over these giant stones was intense.  It was easy to believe the story of the river in battle with a trembling earth.

It also brought instantly to my mind the eternal battle being waged around the world for the hearts and minds of those far from God.  In one crystal clear image I was drawn to the words of Jesus as He sat teaching during the Feast of Booths (see John 7).  What stunned those great teachers in the temple was His ability to speak so clearly, communicate so effectively, with authority and influence, because Jesus had received no formal training like they had.

Think of the stubbornness born out of rote ritual and legalistic thinking as the stones of the mountain, and the words of Jesus spoken in love as the river water doing battle against the walls of human thinking.  These water falls, to my mind, are these words of Jesus to the Pharisees that day, and yes to all the world, to every person alive today:

John 7:37-38
Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”

Today as you read these words, as you view this image, trust in Jesus to quench the thirst in your heart for meaning, purpose, and life.  Only Jesus has the power to give eternal life.

 

 

One Way

One Way small

On Sunday, May 27th, at 8:34 a.m., I was remembering all that we read about the discovery of Lake Louise by the first settlers, and the small hamlet named for this nearby lake.  It was named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria… yes “that” Queen Victoria.

This view is pretty much due west from our room, and overnight most of the ice that covered over half the lake had melted.  There was almost no breeze at all and the lake took on a perfect mirror reflection of the mountains and sky above.

While standing in awe of the view, I wondered about the pioneers who might have witnessed this view decades ago, and if they needed direction, it was easy enough to see.  Right in the middle of the photo, where the lake meets the closest mountain on the left, the snowy mirror reflection made a perfect arrow pointing west.

Here’s a closer view.

One Way 2 small

As I reflected on these images this morning, I was reminded that God does these kinds of things on purpose.  When the way to turn is obscured by difficult circumstances, when life seems pointless or dreary, God can reveal a path to wellness, wholeness, and healing… if we just know where to look, and follow the path revealed.  That’s why Jesus came.  It is … who He is.

John 14:6, Jesus said…
“I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Follow the signs, follow the arrows, and turn your eyes upon Jesus today.

Faith

People talk about faith a lot.  Especially people of faith.  True Christ-followers understand the concept of faith better than anyone else, yet find it difficult at times to exercise that faith in certain situations.  James said it would happen [James 1:2-3].

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

Recently I had the chance to exercise my faith in a real life experience, and I gained some valuable insight into the concept of faith.  Here is a little history of the Capilano Suspension Bridge, in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada:

In 1888, George Grant Mackay, a Scottish civil engineer and land developer, arrived in the young city of Vancouver in Canada. Mackay purchased 6,000 acres of dense forest on either side of Capilano River and built a cabin on the very edge of the canyon wall. In 1889 he suspended a footbridge made of hemp rope and cedar planks across the canyon with the help of August Jack Khahtsahlano and a team of horses who swam the ropes across the river. The ropes were then pulled up the other side and anchored to huge buried cedar logs.

for more information click here.

bridge small

This 153 yard bridge took me to the other side of the river, where we walked on other bridges up into the tops of the trees and looked down at the river flowing below.   I’m not a big fan of suspension bridges, holding at any given point more than one hundred people going back and forth.  The only bad thing about going all the way over to the other side… you have to cross the bridge again to come back.

Placing my faith in the cabling, wood, and design of this bridge was very challenging for me.

I suspect that for people far from God, who always want to believe they can handle everything on their own, they might have some difficulty believing Jesus really is the only BRIDGE worth taking.  They probably doubt His ability to be the Savior He claims to be.  They dispute His authority and claim to be the ONLY means (way, truth, life) of right relationship with God.

Nevertheless, it is true.

What it takes to act on this truth… is to take a step of faith into Jesus.

Hebrews helps us here [11:1]:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

If I wanted to see the river from the tops of the trees… there was only one way to get there… stepping out in faith.

If you want to know the joy of eternal life with the Creator of the Universe, there is only one way to get there… taking that step of faith into Jesus.

Juxtapose

Now this is a great word.

My wife and I recently had the opportunity to do a bucket-list vacation.  We flew to Seattle to catch a train called The Rocky Mountaineer which took us north and east across the Canadian Rocky Mountains to Vancouver, Kamloops, Jasper National Park, Banff, Lake Louise, and finally ending our trip in Calgary.  Then after 10 days of exploring places we’d never seen, and likely never see again, we flew back home to Texas.

We saw lots of wildlife, including bears, elk, eagles, ospreys, big horn sheep, and rowdy Australians.  We made many new friends from all over the world, and enjoyed the scenery of God’s creative genius as we listened to story after story of how that part of the world was discovered and conquered by men and women pioneering previously uncharted territory.

One of my favorite experiences on the trip was seeing Mt. Robson, the most prominent mountain in North America’s Rocky Mountain range, and the highest point in the Canadian Rockies, at 12,972 feet.  When traveling through this area, this peak is only visible a few days of the year.  As you can see, we were one of the lucky and privileged to have this great view from our train.

Mount Robson

Juxtaposed within minutes of passing this spectacular view on the left of the train, was this incredible water falls image on the right, demonstrating where all that snow and ice end up.

Water Falls from the Train 1

What is amazing to me is not that I was able to capture these images from a moving train, but that I was given the great privilege of seeing both.  All along the way on this trip, I was constantly reminded of how small I am, and how large God’s creation is.  And it caused me to whisper, almost constantly…

For You are the LORD Most High over all the earth;
You are exalted far above all Gods.

~Psalm 97:9

 

Juxtapose

Bubble

When I hear “bubble” all sorts of images flood into my head.  In no particular order or rank, I immediately think of “Double Bubble” chewing gum, “Bubble Fun” soap bubbles, the “bubble head” on a beer poured too fast, and those “bubble icons” used in cartoon strips.  Maybe my favorite is Charlie Brown and the bubble surrounding his  constant comment, “Oh good grief!”

Most recently, the word “bubble” might be useful to describe the maniacal ravings captured in a quip I saw on Facebook this morning.  The quote went like this:

The forest was shrinking, but it kept voting for the axe, because its handle was made of wood, and they thought it was one of them.”

And so goes the nay-sayers, haters, and blind who are still living in the bubble that Hillary should have won, and that Trump needs to be impeached.  This bubble is so hard to break out of, but somebody needs to do it besides Kanye West.  Don’t get me wrong, in a world filled with chaotic voices screaming at each other, it’s sometimes hard to hear the truth.  He’s done a good thing by breaking out of his bubble, and on TMZ this week, saying he was “free thinking” and that he had “slipped the bonds of black political conventions.”  (Full story here.)

Bubbles are interesting to study.   In my childhood days we would play “who can blow the biggest bubble” with our gum.  Some yAyhoo would blow a great big one, not being able to see the nose on his face, when one of his “so-called” friends would punch the bubble and all the gum residue would end up on the kids face.  Is this not a sign of our current political times? Hmmmm.

Soap bubbles are a great delight to children everywhere, including me.  (Sometimes I think I’m just a 64 year old kid).  Just dip the stick, put it to your lips and blow.  Out of this magic wand come these grand illusions of light flying lightly on the breeze, traveling up and out to worlds unknown.  It’s great fun, you should try it.

Now, here’s the thing.

There is more to this life, and to our world, than any one of us can see in our tiny bubble of existence.  I’m not just talking philosophically, I really mean it.  Sometimes folks are carried along on the wind of tradition and ritual, like so many soap bubbles, never realizing the changes happening all around them.  Then, when forced to consider the changes can be good, the bursting of those bubbles is so traumatic, they believe life as they know it is over.

One of these days, the whole world will come to understand that a larger plan and purpose has been at work in all of it.  Like Charlie Brown, to a person, all around the world, there is a day coming when there will be a great lament, “oh, good grief!”  Because in that moment the whole world will know their little bubble, was not the only bubble.  Like concentric circles (or bubbles) of our life, our church, our city, our state, our nation, our world, our universe, and all of space beyond… is contained in the sovereign “bubble” of The Creator’s will and purpose.

Maybe, just maybe, we should consult with Him about our bubble.

 

Bubble

Tantrum

Would you like to know what the real definition of “tantrum” is?  Listen to comedian Michelle Wolf as she performs at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington on Saturday:

And I’m never really sure what to call Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you know? Is it Sarah Sanders, is it Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is it Cousin Huckabee, is it Auntie Huckabee Sanders? What’s Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women? Oh, I know. Aunt Coulter.

Despite the criticism that flooded social media, by both conservatives and the drive-by media, comedian Kathy Griffin responded to the backlash with this:

Then don’t have a comic do a roast,” Griffin said on Twitter, “If you want to focus on the journalism do a boring awards show. Journalism is all about the 1st amendment..If you don’t see the import of what @michelleisawolf did tonight then you don’t get it.

And finally, and quite unfortunately, President Trump always seems to want to add his two cents worth:

While Washington, Michigan, was a big success, Washington, D.C., just didn’t work. Everyone is talking about the fact that the White House Correspondents Dinner was a very big, boring bust…the so-called comedian really “bombed.” @greggutfeld should host next year!

So here’s the thing… a tantrum is an uncontrolled outburst of anger and frustration, typically in a young child.  Think two-year olds who demand everything is theirs, they want it now, and it’s their right to have it.  Our country will never get passed this nonsense until the grown ups quit acting like two year olds.

So here’s the other thing…

What does the person under attack do?  How did Sarah Huckabee Sanders react?  From one of her own critics, she was praised for her response:

That @PressSec sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive,” tweeted Maggie Haberman of The New York Times.

You can read all about the event here.

The White House Press Secretary, at least in my mind, did exactly what Christ would have done in the exact same situation.  Wait.  I should say “did” in the same situation.  In fact Jesus surrendered to the will of God that took Him to the cross.  Jesus said, in Matthew 16:24:

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders was the epitome of this verse Saturday night.  She didn’t get up and walk out.  She didn’t immediately unload a storm of vitriol on social media aimed at her attacker.  In fact in my search for anything of a response on the internet this morning, I found nothing.

Thanks Mrs. Sanders for not responding in kind, and for providing America a good model to follow, and for living our your faith in real time before a National audience.

Tantrum

Bestow

There is no greater honor, right, or gift, as the one bestowed upon an individual who steps across the line of faith into Christ the LORD.  John the apostle, under the direction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God said so.  Listen to it now…

John 1:12,13  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

It is not stated as a future endowment.  It is not implied that having received this right, it could somehow be taken away in the future.  The “right” to become children of God, is reserved for, and bestowed upon, those who receive Jesus and believe in His name. In addition, this is an eternal right.  It is not eternal because of us, the believers.  It is eternal because of the ONE  bestowing the blessing, and conferring the right.  It is guaranteed in His power, not mine.

I am now… a child of God.

As such, with this great honor bestowed upon those Christ-followers, their behavior should match this position of honor, and privilege.  But does it?  I’m concerned at the number of people I know who live in fear, or in opposite contrast to what they claim as their badge of honor – a Christ follower – a Child of God.

In our world today, there is a shadowy veil of hate growing at an alarming rate, fueled by unseen forces, with the intent of annihilating the words “Christian” or “Christ-follower” from our vocabulary.  People of faith around our nation are just now beginning to recognize the first salvos breaking across the bows of churches everywhere.  Christian businesses have been under attack for awhile, but now the increased activity in the legal sector demonstrate this hate has just begun to stretch its talons of destruction.  What’s interesting, but sadder still, is that most Americans don’t realize this isn’t a new event.

The pursuit of the destruction of anything Godly, but especially the people of God, is as old as the garden of Eden.  The result of God’s children’s actions in that idyllic setting was fear, blame shifting, and rationalization of their behavior.  What are the three clearest signs, that nothing has changed since then?  Fear, blame shifting, and rationalization of behavior… is the ubiquitous nature of sin around the world right now.

So… what is “supposed” to be the defining evidence of the true Christ-follower?  I suggest that the “NATURE” of God is what is bestowed upon the true person of faith, and is evidenced when one becomes a CHILD of God.  That evidence is LOVE.

1 John 4:18  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.

1 John 4:16  And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

John 3:16  For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

So what is bestowed upon every child of God?

The right to become God’s children, living in the love of God, sharing the love of God, and one day when we graduate to the next life, living in the presence of the love of God… eternally.

There is no greater honor, right, or gift.

 

Bestow

God is NOT a Genie

One of my favorite topics of conversation about God, is the concept of “prayer.”  I think you would be surprised how many interesting and varying views there are about talking with God.  This space is too limited, and the time you have to read is insufficient to digress into a discussion on “who is God?”, so let’s cut to the chase, and I’ll assume you know I’m talking about the One and Only God, the Creator of the universe, present and revealed in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

With that brief foundation let’s stay on track and talk a little about “prayer.”  Regardless of your faith system, or denomination, the Bible (not tradition or the teachings of men) is the defining authority on the topic of prayer.  For instance, a good starting point would be Hebrews 11:6 which says, And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.  So right out of the gate, any conversation with the eternal deity is based in FAITH and has as its motivation that God “is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Even the Bible implies that seldom does anybody really come to God for a general conversation about nothing.  Instead of “Good morning Lord,” more often than not it’s “Good Lord, it’s morning, help me get through it until I get some coffee.”  What may start out as a prayer of “thanksgiving” swiftly and most often turns into a list of needs or litany of wants.  So, I have to say it, Hebrews 11:6 does NOT imply that God is just a genie in a bottle, we release to meet our every whim, notion, or fancy.

All too often we use Jeremiah’s words like a dial up to Uber service.  Listen to the weeping prophet’s words, as he describes God’s desire to hear from us.

Jeremiah 33:3 Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.

Now, here’s the thing.  If we believe that God is (exists), and wants to reward our inquiries (Hebrews 11:6), and that we have his phone number (Jeremiah 33:3), then what SHOULD be the nature of our conversation, when God answers?

Rather than going off in any and every direction based on our circumstances, wants, or needs, God the Son, Jesus Christ, has already given us a real good MODEL on which to base our conversations with the Eternal Father of heaven.

Respect and reverence:
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Request for daily needs:
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Direction and wisdom:
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Recognition:
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.
AMEN!

I don’t see a genie in a bottle here.  I don’t rub the bottle, watch the smoke pour out in a disembodied ghost-like appearance, with a voice that says, “What shall I do for you today, Master?”  God doesn’t call anyone “master.”

I see the Creator seeking to engage with His creation, for them to know Him as they were intended to.

I see a Creator who knows what we need, even before we ask for it, because He sees what we don’t see, and knows what we don’t know.

I see a Creator who is timeless and always present, knowing the exact direction which will lead to me fulfilling my purpose within His purposes and His will… and He is willing to guide me there.

I see a Creator who deserves my love, adoration, obedience, and trust.

God is not a genie in a bottle… please don’t be tempted to treat Him as such.  When we call God up, in faith, and in sincerity “ask” for His love, protection, guidance, healing, or blessing, but most of all HIS WILL to be done in our lives… we will get it.

Be careful what you ask for.

 

 

 

 

Genie

Glimmer

glimmer

What started with such a glimmering hope of adventure, became a journey that, in the end, couldn’t be over soon enough.  As a first timer going on a cruise, I was ill prepared for the pacific ocean in the dead of winter.  What could be better than Thanksgiving on a cruise right?  The gleam and glitter, the sparkling twinkle of the lights ashore as we left Los Angeles that night, are crystal clear in my memory.  Perhaps so because of this shot I took from our room’s balcony during the departure late that night.  The gentle rocking waves in the harbor, the smell of salt in the air, and the cool breezes all seemed to welcome me aboard, whispering a fond bon voyage.

Then, reality set it.

I was going to be on this rig for 14 days… hmmm.

I know people personally who can’t get enough of life on a cruise ship.  They go all over the world, and they look for new adventures, all the while sailing the oceans on a vessel holding 2,000 to 3,000 souls.  I applaud their tenacity, but alas, it is not for me.

In the darkness of a night on the ocean, overcast, with visibility about 50 feet or less at times, while torrential rains added more water to the 15-20 foot waves, I thought about 12 men in a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee.  They too thought they might die in the deep dark waters.  They too were very close to panic, and perhaps even those seasoned fishermen felt a little nauseous as they fought to stay afloat.  Then as a flicker of lightning lit up the sky, they saw what they thought to be a ghost hovering above the water coming directly beside them.  Turns out it was the form of a human man… walking on the water.

The panic of just a few minutes before turned into stark terror.  What made it worse, if there could be a worse, the Scripture indicates that He intended to pass them by [Mark 6:48].  I’ve often wondered about this phrase.  “He came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them.”  Why?  He clearly saw them “straining at the oars.” Why was His intention to pass them by?

In Matthew’s version of this story (chapter 14) it seems to be more about Peter and his abandonment of all sensibility, hopping out of the boat and going to the Master.  But even in that narrative, it is difficult to pass by the underlying truth in the telling of the tale.

The fact is, when we place our hope in boats, or in my case a cruise ship, to keep us safe in the middle of an ocean, we are trusting in the wrong object of our faith.  It is Christ alone who is sovereign creator of all we see, including the wind and the waves.  It is Christ alone who will save us, when we cry out to him in our darkness.  It is Christ alone who offers these words, to the disciples then, and to us today… “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.” [Mark 6:50]

There are times today when my life seems dark and dangerous, just as menacing, just as threatening as those 15-20 foot waves right outside the door to my balcony on that ship.  In these moments I hear the voice of my Savior, calling out to me, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.”

This phrase is my glimmer of hope.  In what or whom do you place your hope today?

“But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.” [Psalm 39:7]

 

Glimmer

Rush

What’s you’re hurry?  Why the need to gallop through life? Is it that necessary to race to the finish without smelling those proverbial roses?  When I was in high school I couldn’t wait to get my driver’s license for the freedom of movement and the promise of adventure that little piece of plastic represented.  Now, some decades later, that little piece of plastic still allows me to zoom, zip, and whip along my way on the freeway to my heart’s desire… but now I mostly fear for my life, and the life of my family, when I’m out on those freeways today.  Today’s drivers bring a whole new meaning to the words “bolt, careen, and speed.” So you get there two and a half minutes faster, so what?  Slow down already… don’t be in such a rush.

What’s true on the highway is true in life too, don’t you think?  In just the last two weeks my wife and I have found a home that meets our needs better than our current one, and decided to put our house on the market.  For several days I rushed from one task to the next providing financial data to our lender, meeting with our realtor, and making sure we dotted all the “i’s” and crossed all the “t’s” to get this ball rolling.  We listed the house on Thursday and had open house over the weekend. A few “lookie loos” came parading through, marveling at how wonderful the house is, and why we should ever want to leave.  When order was restored, our realtor remarked that it’s early days, but there were two couples who seemed genuinely interested in the purchase process.  I said to the realtor, “Well, that’s good, because I am one of the most patient people you’ll ever meet.”

What a joke right?  Anyone who knows me, knows I’ve been full tilt on “go” since I came out of the womb.  I’ve rushed through each phase of my existence on this planet, always ready for the next big adventure.  Patience may be a virtue, and it is definitely on the list of the Fruit of the Spirit of God, but it rarely shows up in my life with strength, or longevity.  Apparently, I’m a work in progress when it comes to patience.  This morning, before I started writing this article, I was reminded again of just how sad it is for people like me, always rushing around to the next task.

Contemplating the weekend’s activities, and thinking about writing out the list for today’s jobs, I looked to my right to get the yellow stickie notepad on my desk … and out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of the sun rising in the east.  A totally cloudless sky of deep purple enhanced the glowing yellow and orange rays of the coming light.  I was mesmerized, and shocked at how few times I’ve just sat and watched the sun come up.  For whatever reason, what I did next shocked even me.  I sat.  I breathed.  And I watched in wonder at the beauty of God’s creation.  I wasn’t anxious.  I wasn’t in a hurry.  I wasn’t rushed.  I just sat.

So here’s the thing.  What’s your rush?  Take a moment, and take a breath.  Now relax, look around at something besides the “to-do list,” and take the time to see the wonder and beauty of God’s creation.

Psalm 27:14
Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.

 

 

Rush

Invisible

Some things we cannot see.  Many things we are not supposed to see.  They are invisible on purpose.  God designed it that way.  Even though there are those who insist that humans only use a small percentage of our actual brain capabilities, it was not designed or destined as the purview of human beings to know what tomorrow holds.  Tomorrow is invisible.  Books, movies, songs and poems have been written about the desire or dread to know what comes next… but it is invisible to us.  There must be a reason.

Could it be that the simplest answer is that God, who is omniscient, omnipotent, and ever present with us, is supposed to be enough for us?  More than just an impersonal “force” which has an equally powerful “dark side,” isn’t it significant enough for us just to know that the One who created us, also wants to lead, guide, protect, and love us… for all eternity?

In an age of real-time news coverage of the latest dramatic school shooting, or bomb-making maniacs killing people indiscriminately, is this really what should be occupying our minds?  Do we really need to know all this stuff… and especially in real-time?  In what way does this enrich our lives?  How does this help to stop the spreading panic and hopelessness, in a world seemingly gone mad?  How does this knowledge bring peace to our souls?

The clearest answer is… it doesn’t.

I’m not blindly suggesting that in some kind of ignorant stupor we simply close our eyes and pretend what’s happening in our world isn’t there.  What I am suggesting is that the media, even conservative media sources, are on the edge of being out of control.  If I am to be at peace, I must believe in something invisible… the promises of God.  We do not see them, but we can certainly know, see, and experience the results of them.

To that end, I offer only one of God’s simple promises… and then, what our response should be as we live daily in the reality of this promise.  Seeing is not believing… believing is seeing!

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

1 Timothy 1:17
Now to the King eternal, immortal, INVISIBLE, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

 

Invisible

Identical

How does one distinguish between the two distinct people and personalities that result from identical twins?  In college I found it hard to know which was which.  They laughed the same, walked, talked, ate, and looked the same.  If one showed up without the other, few knew them well enough to know who was standing before them.  The degree of likeness, one to the other, could not be described any better, or more appropriately than, identical.

When Jesus arrived in Judea, traveling from one tiny village to the next, proclaiming “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel…” [Mark 1:15] the crowds that followed were “…amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” [Mark 1:22]

Maybe the explanation is as simple as this.  The scribes, rabbis, and other teachers, while knowing the law of God, continually used other men’s interpretations and ideas when they taught what God was saying through the Law and the Prophets.  Since Jesus was, and is God, along with the Holy Spirit and the Father, He was able to speak from original intent, since He was there when the words of the Law and the Prophets were inspired then written.  As such, Jesus would quote the original text without the aid of scrolls kept in the synagogues or the Temple.  The words He spoke were identical to those written in ancient days.

So when Jesus would begin, “You have heard that the ancients were told…  But I say to you…” [Matthew 5:21-22], He was speaking about how the teaching of men erred from the original intended meaning behind each passage He quoted.  This alone gave Him the authority to also say, “I and the Father are one.” [John 10:30]

Having spoken these words, it’s easy to see why the Jewish leaders took offense, since there isn’t another way to interpret this statement except Jesus claiming He and the Father are IDENTICAL.  Now don’t go so fast here… linger a minute.

Jesus isn’t saying He is “another- like” the Father.  Jesus isn’t saying God and the Son are identical twins.  The one-ness Jesus is claiming is further captured in His statement to Philip, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” [John 14:9]

One of the spiritual games we like to play seems to be finding an explanation of the Trinity:  God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – three in ONE.  This idea is captured in an ancient image, that most of us have no construct from which to assimilate it’s truth.  We recognize the second part, but mostly skip completely over the first part.  It goes like this…

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. [Deuteronomy 6:4-5]

Even the most simple explanation is mind boggling, because LORD (Yahweh – the proper name used for God) and God (Elohenu – the divine being) are the same. Since both God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are invisible to human eyes, it makes it virtually impossible to wrap our minds around the idea of One-ness. So…

Let’s not make this harder than God intended it.  In fact, while it may be fun to come up with human images that help us deal with the Trinity of ONE, our focus should be on the most complete revelation of who God is, and what He wanted us to know about Him.  And in this case, all we have to do is look to Jesus and see the ONE.  He is identical in every way, yet was visible for awhile on the earth, and will one day soon (I hope) reappear on this planet to demonstrate His One-ness.  What did this man Jesus say to John the Apostle that He wanted us to know?

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” [Revelation 1:8]

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.”
Amen.
Come, Lord Jesus.
[Revelation 22:20]

Identical

Patience

In this age and time, a universal culture of instant gratification exists which seemingly yields not at all to the very concept of patience.  Not only do people flit from here to there seeking the next “thing” to satisfy their narcissistic pursuits of self-indulgence, but the momentary pleasure they achieve in these pursuits is so short term they impatiently enjoy the achievement, never satisfied, never satiated, never at peace.  My belief is that nothing in scripture is by accident, or haphazardly written.  So when I look at the list Paul gave the church in Galatia regarding what it means to be a true Christ-follower, and having the Holy Spirit living in us, producing in us the “fruit” of our faith in Christ… well, I contend there is order to what is written.  He wrote:

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

People today, yes-even Christ-followers today, struggle with the idea of patience because somewhere along their walk of faith, one or all three of the initial items Paul talks about is off track.  It is truly difficult to be patient about anything in life, if there is no peace in your walk of faith with Christ.  If you are not at peace – with yourself, others around you, your spouse, your family, your co-workers, then something about joy is off track.  And if your joy is nowhere to be found, then something about your love is out of focus.  Do you follow what I’m saying here?

Now, here’s the thing.

I believe each of these 9 attributes are “supposed” to be found in every true Christ-follower, every day, all the time…  but how many people do you know who really look like the image here, in real time, in real life?  I can’t look in the mirror on any given day without realizing something about one of these attributes is either missing, or dormant in my daily routines.  When I realize this, I have to ask the question, “how did I get here?”

Now this is really simple.  If I’m right, and these attributes are linear, while I may think I have great self-control, if I don’t have patience, how could I be in control of my emotions, or actions?  That seems disingenuous to me.  At the least it is hypocritical, but worse, it opens the door for Satan to defeat me spiritually, by causing me to believe I’m more in tune with Christ than I really am.

If in fact these attributes are linear, all predicated on the attribute that comes before, then all these attributes stem from the original… love.  I will never know all of what God wants me to know; nor will I experience all that God has planned for me… until I yield fully to the love of God, by surrendering my heart fully to Jesus.  In that moment, I experience His love as He intends it.  Which opens the floodgates of joy into my life.  Yielding to the Spirit in joy, opens the path to peace.  And the progression continues until I am completely yielded to the Holy Spirit’s direction for my life, and find in the end… self-control, by the Spirit’s power.

No patience today?  Go back … turn back to Christ in faith and ask the Spirit to reveal which part of these attributes is off track in your life.  And for goodness sake, be open to what the Spirit wants to do in you… and be patient while the Spirit answers your prayer… well, at least try to be…

Patience

 

Grasp

grasp

Tiger Woods staring down a putt at Innisbrook Valspar Championship was an awesome sight.  The resurgence of a career many if not most had all but deemed completely over just 6 short months ago.  However, given a few more laser iron shots like he hit in the first three rounds, or given a few chips that went in, or just a couple of putts that should’ve rolled out a few more inches, and the trophy was within his grasp.  I agree with Randall Mel of the golf channel, and his rant yesterday about these young guns on tour wanting Tiger to come back strong.  These boys need to be careful what they wish for.  To me the most telling stat in his article is Tiger’s record when holding or sharing the lead after 54 holes… Tiger won 47 out of 50 tournaments.  Those like myself who have always been a Tiger fan (his spiritual life or morals notwithstanding), if it’s golf you like to watch, at the top levels of how golf is to be played, then Tiger Woods is the guy.

Why would I say this?  It’s just math really.  Some, and perhaps rightly so, would say that Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer to ever play the game.   Many say this based solely on the Major championship titles held by Mr. Nicklaus, which is a staggering 18 titles.  Once again some have wondered if Tiger could ever achieve this height, along with all his other accomplishments.  Like…

  • PGA Tour titles = Sam Snead, 82… Tiger,79… Jack Nicklaus, 73
  • Tiger’s 142 consecutive cuts made over a 7 year stretch, Nicklaus – 105
  • Most seasons winning five or more times, 10 seasons;  Nicklaus – 8
  • Winning percentage to starts, 27%;  Nicklaus -12%

So, it’s got to be more than just Majors right?  But what if it isn’t?  What if the only stat that matters in determining the greatest golfer, is number of Major titles won?  Is this really within Tiger’s grasp?  It’s been ten years now since Tiger won the 2008 U.S. Open, so does he have the stuff of Major Championship golf?  Maybe we should wait until this weekend and watch him at Arnie’s place before we decide.  But as we think on this matter consider this.  Tiger is 42 years old, and true he has had health issues, but he looked as good this weekend as he did when he was winning big time.  So how much does age factor in the Majors?

In 1978 Nicklaus won the British Open at age 38;  in 1980 the U.S. Open at 40; in 1980 the PGA Championship, again age 40; and for his 18th title, Jack won the 1986 Masters at age 46.  This means Tiger Woods has 16 more majors in the next four years to win 4 times to tie Jack… winning 5 gives Woods the all time record.  What if he plays competitively more years than just the next 4, to age 46?

Within his grasp?

Check my facts if you must, but I’m pretty sure they are correct.

But in the end, Tiger’s looking awfully good for the possibility of doing something never done before (again)… by challenging Jack Nicklaus’s Major Title number.

I think it’s within his grasp… I’ll let you decide.

 

 

Grasp

Uncompromising

My basic understanding of the word “compromise” is when two people in disagreement each make concessions (altering their position) and a settlement/agreement resolves the dispute.  Here are some of the greatest compromises in human history…

  • The Christmas truce of 1914, when the troops on opposing sides of World War I had an unofficial ceasefire, each crossing into no-man’s land, and exchanging holiday greetings.  A showing of human decency in the midst of the most brutal conflict the world had seen up until that point.
  • When a populace in search of security, in compromise yields more of its liberty than is required.  Benjamin Franklin said: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty, nor Safety.”
  • And perhaps the most famous of all, the compromise made by Pontius Pilate, giving the choice over to the crowds of people over whom to condemn to death, Barabbas or Jesus.

While each of these examples have specific outcomes, and each event has been written about, dissected, and discussed ad nauseam, all three are good examples of compromise, where concessions must be made to achieve resolution of a conflict.

Compromise, as far as I’m concerned has a negative impact in the life of a true Christ-follower today.  That’s because we are constantly being harangued to modify our beliefs to appease those who un-appeasable.  Trust me when I say that nothing short of abandonment of your beliefs will be good enough for many in our pagan unbelieving culture today.  However, if you want to be a true Christ-follower, it is time to take an uncompromising stand about your faith.

Uncompromising faith is not an easy stance, and you should not take me to mean that God will automatically bless you, or make you successful, or even protect you from those who would destroy you for taking this uncompromising stand.  Yes, there is a whole host of characters written about in Hebrews 11, great Bible characters who remained faithful and uncompromising in their service to God.  And down toward then end of the list, the writer suggests he just doesn’t have time to list them all, but lumps the faithful all together saying…

[11:33-35] …who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; 

It’s easy to want to be like these and know that our uncompromising faith might have these same kinds of effects.  But here’s the thing.  It’s a semi-colon, not a period at the end of this thought. And then the writer goes on to say…

[11:36-38] …and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.

And the bottom line for the author, regarding those who live faithful uncompromising lives is… all gained God’s approval through their faith.

It’s easy, and yes perhaps too easy when times are good, successful, and happy to sometimes be lulled into thinking I don’t have to try so hard to speak the truth, in a loving, but uncompromising way.  After all, why stir the pot, right?  Anyone who thinks this way is thinking contrary to Scripture.  Just two more passage of Scripture for your consideration, before you decide if I’m right or not.

Romans 12:1-2
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

John 14:6
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

Neither of these passages are written as a recommendation, or as a debatable thought.  Each is written as an absolute truth.  Each is a fact that cannot be compromised.  Paul urges every true Christ-follower not to be conformed but to be uncompromising in their stand against the ideologies of this world.  And Jesus Christ says the only way to accomplish this is to place uncompromising faith in the fact of His claim to be the true Messiah.

Today I challenge you to live an uncompromising faith before your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers… and rely on God to glorify Himself through your life.

 

Uncompromising

Restart

Many of you, depending on your age, may remember the “black screen of death,” or some of you may have suffered this fatal error recently.  It’s just a term that defines what happens when a Microsoft Windows based computer suffers an internal error causing the whole system to shut down.  Often when this occurs, because the system didn’t shut down properly, the user experiences great emotional pain and intellectual suffering when the computer fails to restart.  “According to Wallace McClure of ASP.net, the phrase was originally coined in mid-1991 by Ed Brown, a technician with The Coca-Cola Company‘s IT department in Atlanta, GA. He reports that the company was rolling out Windows 3.0 within the Global Marketing group and when the users would attempt to run WordPerfect, they would randomly receive a black screen.” (click on restart, for more information.)

Missing files, compressing files, or running certain software programs, were all thought to be reasonable starting points for the random, and eerily unpredictable event, which would most often occur at the most inopportune time. Imagine working for hours, then reaching a critical point in a data set, or proposal due by 8:00 a.m. the next morning, and suddenly with a single key-stroke, your computer screen goes black (or blue, depending on the operating system software version), and you’ve lost hours and hours of work.  Hence, the other phrase people who work with Microsoft based systems are familiar with today, “Save, and save often.”

One of the most unpredictable aspects of human existence is the timing of an event we also call “death.”  Like the computer systems which just go black, at some point along our human journey, our bodies, the human system will also just go black.  How morbid, right?  How unthinkable, right?  The fact remains, human existence on this planet is not guaranteed for anyone, and trying to predict the moment of a terminal/fatal event or action is impossible.  Many have tried to answer the questions, “Is that all there is?  When it’s over, it’s just over?  There isn’t anything else?”  The logical answer for those who disavow the existence of God, the salvation of Jesus, the eternal bliss of heaven, or the eternal punishment of hell remains, “yep, that’s all there is.  There is no re-boot, or restart.”

However…

For those seekers of truth who remain far from God, but are open to the facts regarding life here, as well as life after death, I offer you great hope.  This topic of death not only doesn’t have to be morbid or macabre, but the reality of going black here, for some really does mean stepping into the Light.  For those who believe the Bible is the authoritative guidebook for a journey through this life, and the next, see the event of death as the hope of eternal bliss.

While sitting at your computer, it would be great to be able to predict when the screen would turn black, but again that is impossible.  Likewise, it would be great to know the point of our human demise, so we could be “ready” when it happened.  The only guarantee for your data to remain on your computer, is to save what you are working on regularly.  The only way for you to experience a true restart, of life as it was intended to be lived, is to be “saved” by stepping over the line of faith into Jesus.

Like malware hiding and lurking in the corners of your computer, just waiting to create chaos and destruction, and ultimately the black screed of death… sin is hiding and lurking in the corners of your mind and heart, just waiting to wreak havoc and destruction on your soul, and ultimately separate you from God for eternity.

Is there something more?  Of course there is!  Life with God, as God intended us to live all along.

How do you find it?  Restart.

How do you restart?  See, that’s the right question!  And here is the answer…

Romans 10:9-10
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

 

 

 

Restart

Imagination

Imagination is more to me than just the ability to form new ideas, or images or concepts.  To imagine might be considered a gift by those “vision”-challenged individuals who are governed by literal thoughts and senses.  Those weak in the art of imagining remind me of Missouri’s U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver, who served in the United States House of Representatives from 1897 to 1903. Vandiver attended a banquet in Philadelphia, where in a speech, he stated, “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.

This is the attitude of many literal or legalistic minds when challenged to think outside their box and imagine a different world, a different model, a different direction, or a different solution.  It’s not unlike the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, when they were constantly asking for a “sign” that would authenticate the words He spoke, and the things He taught.  Yet, the absence of signs was not the issue, for they were too numerous to mention.  The issue was a stubbornness that would not be softened by truth or signs.  The men who opposed Jesus so vehemently, had no spiritual vision or imagination.  In this way they were blinded to even imagine that Jesus could be Messiah.

Long ago, in ancient days, the prophet had spoken the words that would condemn them, and it dealt with imagination…

Zechariah 8:16-17
These are the things that you shall do; Speak you every man the truth to his neighbor; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates; a
nd let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbor; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, says the LORD.

The imagination they did have, was only evil thoughts and ideas about how to rid themselves of this person who was confusing the people with claims to be the Son of God… even if it did mean drumming up false charges, with false testimony to serve their agenda to kill him.

But to those who would see the spiritual truth, and commit themselves by faith to Christ, their minds would be transformed by the very power of God.  In this mind-transformation process, God’s Spirit would reveal things unimaginable by the normal, stubborn, human mind.

Paul encouraged his friends in Ephesus, to allow this imagination transformation to be the focus of their lives.  He prayed for it all the time.

Ephesians 3:14-21…  For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend (imagine) with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge (or imagination), that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think (imagine), according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Imagination, spiritually speaking, is the ability for God’s Spirit to teach us the reality of things we do not see, we do not know, and we cannot understand, without His enablement to comprehend them.  Yet, these are exactly the things God wants to do for every person who calls Him LORD, believes in His Son, and trusts in His Spirit to lead them.

Today, be opposite of those who constantly ask for a “sign”, and instead, imagine that God has already given you everything you need… to know God personally, know His will and purpose for your life, and to live for His glory.  God can’t “show you” anything, until you imagine it possible.  It reminds me of the old hymn…

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light!

Imagination

Courage

After wandering around for 40 years in a primitive wasteland, where God provided both food and water when none could be found otherwise, the chosen Hebrew nation was at their defining moment once again.  As a people group, they could decide once and for all to live as God called them to live, in a Promised Land… or they could reject the words of God, and wander in the wasteland forever.  Their leader, Joshua (not Moses at this point), said to them:

Joshua 1:7  Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.

The people chose to listen and heed these words, at least for a period of time, and God blessed them greatly… as long as they did.  The law of God was the equivalent of God’s divine voice, given through Moses, as the instruction manual for maintaining the covenant relationship God had established with them.  When they began abandoning these words, things turned against them.  When they returned in repentance to God, seeking forgiveness and restoration, heeding once again His instruction manual, God reconciled with them and began blessing them once again.

By the time Jesus arrived in Galilee and Judea hundreds and hundreds of years later, the words of Moses and the law of God was so misconstrued that few of the leaders, and most of the people, looked very little like the trusting Hebrew nation that came out of the wilderness.

They needed a new word from God.  They needed a new covenant.  So God (the Son) left heaven to come and reconcile all mankind, not just the Hebrew nation, back to Himself.  He spoke the divine voice of God again, with new instructions about a new covenant.  His authority was established in mighty ways, through signs and miracles, through which He demonstrated His authority, control and presence as “God with us.” (Immanuel)

One night as the disciples were crossing the sea of Galilee, a storm threatened to sink their boat, and in the process they would all die in the depths of the raging waters.  But then, suddenly, out of nowhere, Jesus comes walking to them on the waves.  They cower in fear, thinking they see a ghost.  Now hear the words of Jesus, to these fearful expert fishermen:

Matthew 14:27
But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Courage then, from the Old Testament and the New Testament, could be defined as the RESULT of faith in action, placed in the divine voice of God, instructing us to NOT BE AFRAID.

Not so easy to do in this world today is it?

Not when those given the task to protect us… allow innocent lives to be taken, when it could so easily have been averted.

Not when those given the task to rule and lead us… constantly politicize the event rather than deal with the real issue of accountability of the humans involved.

Not when the society we live in constantly belittles and condemns our leaders who have the courage to stand for their faith in God, and vocalize it publicly.

But here’s the thing…

Neither God the Father in the Old Testament, nor Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in the New testament… said it would be easy.  Remember what they did say…

“Be strong and very courageous…!”
“Take courage… it is I; do not be afraid!”

Think of it this way…

It is not courage, if it is easy.
It is not courage, if you are not in danger.
It is not courage, if the core of your faith is not challenged in any way.
It is not courage, when you say, or do, or think… like everyone else.

Courage is living out your faith in Jesus…
Living as He lived, by yielding every moment of every day, to the glory of God the Father.

What does courage look like… for you?

 

 

Courage

Mnemonic

An easy definition for mnemonic is:  “a device such as a pattern of letters, ideas, or associations that assists in remembering something.”

I saw this “Word of the Day” prompt, and immediately thought this is something missing in so many Christ-followers today.  Somehow we’ve forgotten some of the most important things designed to keep our daily relationship with Jesus fresh.  However, there is a simple mnemonic I learned years ago which I still use often these days to refocus my mind on the major elements of my faith.

When I’ve taught folks as new believers how to pray Biblically, I’ve these letters:  A.C.T.S. It goes like this…

A= adoration

All too often the first thing out of our mouths/minds towards God’s throne in heaven is, “help” or “could you please…?”  While God is interested in hearing our heart-felt cries for help, the fact that we begin our prayers this way is telling us something.  Maybe we haven’t quite figured out what our relationship with God entails.  We serve the God of the universe who has all authority, is in control of everything, and has promised us His eternal presence here and now in our lives today, not just in heaven when we get there.

Knowing this about God should generate a more appropriate response of adoration, and a desire to bring God glory with the praise of our lips.  We should exalt Him for what He has done, is doing, and will do in the future to glorify Himself in Jesus Christ, and in us.  Seeing and knowing God these ways should result in a specific response.

C = confession

What a realistic view of God usually does for the true Christ-follower is very humbling.  Like the apostle Peter in the boat when he realized Jesus was the true Messiah, Peter basically shouted “get away from me Lord, I’m a sinner!”  Acknowledging our failures and sins before our Savior, and feeling the need to run and hide, is the very point at which Jesus pulls us into Himself.  With fabulous forgiveness and glorious grace multiplied daily by our confession, we continue to walk in His spirit, bringing light and salt into the world around us.  It also generates another response.

T = thanksgiving

The basic difference between adoration and thanksgiving is the understanding between God’s nature and God’s actions.  We adore Him because He is God, and deserves to be glorified, exalted and adored.  We offer our thanksgiving for how He acts toward us, and the world. The best and easiest way to do this is found in the old hymn “Count your blessings.”  This song is not to be confused with the famous “White Christmas” song, “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep.”  That’s a great song, but has a totally different meaning.  The one I’m referring to goes like this…

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God has done.

And finally, after we’ve adored God’s nature and character, confessed our sins before Him, and offered our many thanks for all God has done, we’re prepared, in humbleness to approach the throne of Grace with…

S = supplication

I realize this is a word not many 21st century believers are even familiar with.  So, again, a little definition.  Supplication: the action of asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly.  Perhaps the keys words in this definition are “earnestly or humbly.”  Too many people I know, start their prayers here, and in their voices all I hear is “God, look at all I’ve done for you… you owe me this.”  They approach the throne of grace without knowing who God is (Adoration), knowing who they are (sinners), or with a grateful heart for how God has blessed them in the past (thanksgiving).  They just jump right in, as though God is some cosmic slot machine, they throw up their many requests, and pull the handle (“in Jesus name”) and expect God to deliver whatever it is they want.

I’m pretty sure it saddens God’s heart when lost people do this.  I’m convinced it grieves God’s heart gravely when He hears His own children act in this unbecoming way.

If you want to turn around the relationship you have with God in Christ, to be the living, vibrant life you truly desire spiritually, and Jesus described as “life more abundant”, then fill you prayers daily with:   A.C.T.S.

Remember: who God is, who you are, all your blessings, then make your petitions…

The results will astound you.

 

Mnemonic

Enroll: choosing to sign up

Here’s a poem I wrote three years ago, published as a newspaper article.

“One of these days,” the old saying goes, that infamous trite, of favor and woes,
“I’ll this or I’ll that,” whether it’s my “ship will come in” or “I’ll get rid of this fat!”
January comes, and February follows, then slowly but surely the promises hollow.
The doldrums return, the vision almost lost, humans fail to see the infinite cost.

“He’s a man of his word,” an interesting phrase, the sum of his actions, given in praise.
Just think were it true of the many, not the few, would peace, love, and harmony ensue?Most people aren’t, because words are just cheap, good intentions to be burned on the rubbish heap.
The thing left undone, lies rotting and wasting, a carcass of words, for the scavenger’s tasting.

“I’ll get around to it” oh, certainly you will, the timing’s the thing, like cash in a till.
Good intentions aside, it’s action He seeks, not tomorrow, the next day, or even next week.
Now is the time, what prevents such a thought? Time itself cannot be borrowed or bought.
Words, words, words, words, spoken and unheeded, the fallow field left unseeded.

“The crux of the matter”, the truth yet untold, most flounder and flutter, and the promises get old.
Transformation is required for most human wills so not to be caught in a broken-promise swill.
Transformation cannot be learned and taught, yet in such knowledge life can be fought.
Winning battle after battle against mediocre living, action in life given, and keeps on giving.

To whom does one go for this transforming power, the life-giving knowledge kept in high tower?
Only one source exists which answers these needs, found only in One man’s words, and His deeds.
“The crux” in fact is the cross of our Christ, without which the enemy achieves a great heist.
To steal the will and soul of man, is his singular focus, his ultimate plan.

“The Old Rugged Cross,” through thousands of years, still now is the resource dispelling our fears.
The man who hung there, with transforming power, now offers a reason no longer to cower.
A trade so simple a child can engage, an action so strong no enemy can upstage.
Invitation to transformation, take it fully in stride, change words into action no darkness can hide.

But a heartbeat away, a choice from inside, to engage the Creator, in His arms you’ll reside.
Do it now, no waiting, no hemming and hawing, do not hesitate, no time now for fawning.
For darkness increases, it’s almost over, even now skies wilt, and there’s no more clover.
Grains of sand draining away, holds time itself in absolute sway.

One choice remains, trust Him completely, rely on His grace, His forgiveness implicitly.
These actions alone, and no other words, will secure eternal life only He affords.
Call on His name, rely on His word, and “one of these days,” will be yours in the Lord.
“He’s a man of His word,” trust it for sure, life which He gives is the life that endures.

 

 

Enroll

Profuse

At times I become so passionate about the message, that I go way over the top trying to make a point.  In an extravagant, gushy way, I over-speak, or over-teach, because I want to make sure I get through to my listeners or readers.  Recently I’ve discovered, sometimes less is more.  Like when Jesus asked the simple question of his listeners:

Luke 6:46 – “And why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?

So, in the interest of brevity, I want to challenge those today, who feel the discord and division of our political climate, and the social consequences of these problems.  The conservative minds, the evangelical minds across our country, need to listen closely to the words of Jesus and not get caught up in the hate-mongering, judging, critical rhetoric coming from antagonists stirring the pot.

Luke 6:27-28  – “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Those who are blind, but think they see; those who see themselves wise, but are merely self-deluded by their own agendas; those who would mock us, belittle us, or worse silence us… are the very ones some would call enemies… and the very ones who need our prayers most.

So, Christian… true Christ-follower… I call on you today to love those who hate you, bless those who curse and mock you… but mostly pray for those who want to silence you.

Father, this person will never understand how much they have hurt me, until you give them sight and understanding. My prayer for them, is for You to bring light and life into their heart and mind. In coming to know you, help them to be transformed by your power. And help me to love them as You do, as though this has already happened.”

I call out to the persecuted, the hated, the judged, the condemned… for all those who are the “underbelly of America” because you want to trust God instead of politicians to rule across our land.  I call out to you to pray.  Pray for our President, our elected officials of both parties, our judges, our military leaders and soldiers, our governors, our mayors, our town councils, our police and first responders… pray for the person who disagrees with you most about Truth… pray that God will transform our country into a nation state that brings Him great glory.

Luke 6:46 – “And why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?

Profuse

Silhouette of Faith

silhouetteWhat does faith really look like?  Is there a way to pinpoint it with any accuracy?  The image here is offensive to some, but represents the saving power of God to others.  Paul the Apostle wrote, “For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” [1 Corinthians 1:18]  Faith then, is an action on our part, evidenced by the resulting transformed life of the true Christ-follower, by the power of God.  What does that even mean?

This silhouette of Jesus on the Cross of Calvary captures for us in black and white, the sacrifice of our Lord, paying the penalty for our sin, offering each of us the grace of forgiveness and eternal life.  When we accept this reality, stepping over the line of faith into Jesus, His own Holy Spirit is implanted in us.  Then, day by day, as the power of this saving love begins to shape our lives, the more we obey His words, keep His commands, trust the Holy Spirit to lead us, guide us, provide for us, we become… more and more like Jesus.  Paul also wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.”  [Galatians 2:20]  In this way, faith is not a once-and-done action.  No, faith is a step, followed by another step, followed by another step… of faith.  “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” [Colossians 2:6]  Well, how did you receive Christ? [by faith]  Then we are to walk [live]… by faith!

So what happens over time, when we walk in faith, step by step, continuing to yield more of our lives to the Holy Spirit’s control?  The proof is in the pudding, right?  It’s not about judging someone else, or suggesting some Christians are more “Christian” than others, right?  It really is about self-examination, and it’s about understanding a way to tell if I’m really experiencing the transformed life, that should naturally occur (by God’s supernatural power) if I am in Jesus.  So put yourself to the test… Galatians 5:22-23:  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”  The fruits listed here are the RESULTS of a transformed life.  If you could paint a silhouette of what this looks like, it would look very much like the image above… The Cross of Jesus.

So tell me… what would the silhouette of your life resemble?

 

 

Silhouette