Not Just a Card Game

Daily Post: Solitary

solitaire-win

Solitary is understood to mean: by oneself, on one’s own.  Hence the genre name of any of a number of card games which are played by yourself.  The game is: you verses a deck of cards.  You sort the cards as they come, by color and/or suit, until you can’t play any more, in which case the deck of cards wins.  Some variants include: Klondike, FreeCell, and Spider.  At least these are the ones I’m familiar with.  While playing your favorite card game on your computer or mobile device certainly passes the time, did you know in 2004 Microsoft’s Chris Sells described “Solitaire” as the most-used Windows application in the world?  If you think about the millions of people around the world who were using Outlook, Word, Excel, and Internet Explorer every single day at work, or at home, that’s an alarming comment.  If you think it is questionable, think about what this truth has accomplished in influencing our culture today.  Can you go anywhere today without seeing someone’s nose stuck in a downward position, as their eyes are glued to their mobile device playing some game, texting, or reading in a solitary existence among the masses of humanity?

For years I served as Pastor to churches where I was the only staff person.  I worked in an office where no one else was around, either at the church, or in my home.  It was by every standard and definition a solitary existence.  My interpersonal communications only took place as I made the intentional effort to get out of my office chair, go out to my car, and drive to where the people were.  Most of the time I might go hours at a time without the phone ringing to break the silence.  I think I have a pretty good idea of what some prisoners experience in solitary confinement.  The feelings of isolation, loneliness, and being cut off from the rest of the world are overwhelming at times.

I would often wonder if this is how the human Jesus of Nazareth felt too.  From Scripture we have the image of Jesus being a loner, often going off for hours at a time to pray.  But that is only one side of the picture.  In fact, Jesus grew up in a Jewish community where the whole village would see Him as “their” kid.  The sense of connectedness that He must have had, not just to this little village, but to the whole construct of “the people of God” eludes us.  Not only that, but our view of Jesus being a loner is incorrect.  He surrounded Himself with 12 men who were constantly at His side.  He was a socially adept individual inevitably inviting Himself over to people’s homes for lunch and dinner.  He was a sensitive human being to those around Him who were hurting, physically, mentally or emotionally, and His ministry was very personal.  Yet, Jesus was isolated, lonely, and cut off in another sense.  He wasn’t at home, in heaven, with the Father and the Spirit.

Paul says it this way…

Philippians 2:5-7
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

He was equal with God.  But He didn’t hold on to that equality selfishly.  He emptied Himself, and became “one of us.” The amazing grandeur of this act alone eludes me still.  I cannot fathom it.  My petty memories of being alone in my office are so inconsequential when compared to what Jesus left behind to come and offer me grace.

Consider how alone Jesus must have felt on the cross.

Consider how alone Jesus must have been in the tomb.

Considering all the loneliness, all the sacrifice, all the devotion of His actions, and considering it all, remember… it was all for you.

Now consider these promises he made to those who believe these truths.

John 1:12
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.

Hebrews 13:5
Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,”

You don’t have to be alone!  You weren’t designed to be alone.

He is ready to walk with you today, are you ready to walk with Him?

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Mysteries Unfurled

Daily Post: Unfurl

unfurl - Agatha Christie

The “Who-done-it” genre of novels were the starting place for me when I began reading for leisure, after months and years of critical textbook and commentary studies.  When I needed to engage another part of my brain, I enjoyed reading Agatha Christie’s work.  One source suggests that she wrote 82 books as herself, 6 under the pen name Mary Westmacott, 2 as Christie Mallowan, as well as her autobiography, for a total of 91 books.  80 of these works were detective novels.  These detective works led me to find other books in the genre by other authors.  Over and over I would sit and read the classic murder mystery and write out my suspicions as to “who-done-it.”  At first, I totally missed the little clues hidden in the mystery.  The more I read, the better I became at seeing between the lines, connecting the dots, and knowing at least part of the answers by the end of the book.

Edgar Allen Poe also wrote detective stories, the most famous among them The Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Mystery of Marie Roget, and The Purloined Letter. His protagonist is the French detective, M. Dupin, who applied precisely the simple laws of deductive logic in solving the mysteries.  Sir A. Conan Doyle credited Poe with the inspiration to create his own famous detective, Sherlock Holmes.

There is an easy way to understand “deductive logic.”  Deduction rhymes with reduction, and this is the clue to the meaning.  Using deductive logic you start with a set of possibilities and reduce it until a smaller subset remains.  For example, in a murder mystery the detective begins with a fistful of suspects – the butler, the maid, the business partner, or the widow.  At the end of the book these suspects have all been ruled out, one-by-one, until the suspects have been reduced to only one person.  “The victim died in the bathtub, but was moved to the bed.  Neither woman could have lifted the body, nor could the butler because of his war wound.  Therefore, the business partner must have committed the crime.

Paul describes the ancient Word of God, and the revelation of the gospel in Jesus Christ as mysteries.  In Colossians 1:13-29 Paul writes about the unparalleled incomparable Christ.  He also describes his own role in the process of unfurling these mysteries.

Colossians 1:25-27
Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Ephesians 3:4-7
By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power.

Out of God’s grace, Jesus saved Paul – the persecutor of the early church – and used him to unfurl the mysteries of the Old Testament now fulfilled in the life of Jesus.  At the end of the Bible, God uses John the Apostle to unfurl even more than the gospels did about Jesus. The arrival of Jesus in the early part of the 1st century, baffled and confused many.  He was such a mysterious man, with mysterious beginnings.  His life was shrouded in the power of God to feed thousands with very little food, heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out the demons, and through it all bring God the glory for these events.

John, late in the 1st century, wrote the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the last book of the Bible.  The scroll containing the will of God is unfurled during those last days, and every mystery will be revealed in full.  As each seal is broken, each trumpet sounded, and each cup of wrath poured out, every man, women and child living at the time will not need deductive logic to understand what is happening, or why.  The will of God unfurled in the Revelation of Jesus Christ will conclusively reveal the identity of Jesus as God, Savior, Redeemer, Deliverer, and Judge.

Even the most intricately woven mystery novels, are nothing more than children’s books, when compared to God’s unveiling Jesus before the world.  Is it hard to understand all the things written in Revelation?  Sure, no question about it.  Are all the details of the last seven years of humanity clear?  Not at all.  However, if you want to receive a true blessing from God today, take God’s words as literal in this statement:

Revelation 1:3
Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. 

This verse needs no deductive logic at all.

Read it, hear it, heed it, and be blessed for it.

If you need help understanding the book, get help here.

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Going Grainy

Daily Post: Grainy

grainy

Listening to the commentators on TV describe the tedious process of determining the direction of a putt by a professional golfer, can be confusing for those who don’t understand the terminology.  When the announcers speak about the “grain” of a green, it is a reference to the texture of the grass in terms of the direction the grass is leaning.  The “break” then, is the direction your ball will follow based on the green’s topography and the grain of the grass.

In the example above, if you are putting on a level green and hit your putt perfectly straight (ha!), but the grain of the grass is to the right, your ball will move to the right of the hole.  An experienced golfer will play this grainy influence by aiming to the left of the hole, allowing for the grain as an aid to help the ball stay on a path to the hole.

The grass on a given green, and the way it grows, contributes to the grain.  Most golf courses cut their greens from a different direction daily to keep the grain even.  However, if the course cuts their grass in the same direction every day, the grass will begin to grow in a distinct direction, leaning to one side more than the other, causing a grainy green.  Which by the way, some courses do intentionally to make a particular hole more challenging, or to assist the golfer on difficult shots.

Putting can be a lot like life at times.  It is definitely an imperfect and much maligned part of the total golfing experience.  What makes golf so different from other sports is the fact that there are 18 different greens to play in a single round of golf.  Since most golf courses place the pins on the greens at different locations every day, even if you play the same course over and over, it’s impossible to master every putt on every green.  And that’s just on one course.  If you play multiple different courses, the complexity of putting is multiplied exponentially.

What’s a golfer to do?  Here are three things to help you putt better:

  • analyze the grain
  • get a different view
  • trust your swing

Analyze the grain: this just means, do your best to see which way the grain of the grass is growing, and know that this factor will pull the ball in that direction.

Get a different view: just means, before you putt the ball, walk around to the other side of the hole you are putting toward, and see if the break caused by the grain looks the same from both directions.

Trust your swing: just means, after a quick look around (don’t waste everyone’s time here), use your best judgment, pick a line, and trust your subconscious muscle memory to help make your swing.

We could learn so much spiritually if we would approach our walk with God using these same simple instructions.

Analyze the spiritual grain around you…

1 John 4:1
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Get a different view than just what you see and hear in social media or fake news…

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

Trust God’s Spirit inside you …

2 Corinthians 5:4-8
For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord–for we walk by faith, not by sight–we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.

Going grainy just means, we live knowing there are invisible influences which try to make us stray from God’s intended path for our lives.  We must go against these influences, keeping our eyes on the prize of God’s glory through our lives.  And most importantly, we must trust God’s Spirit to empower us to do it.

Every day… go grainy!

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Peter Piper and Prickly Pears

Daily Post: Prickle

prickle

Some people may not know this, but the official state plant of Texas is the Prickly Pear Cactus, designated as such in 1995. Prickly Pear Cactus are found everywhere in the American southwest and were a source of food for the native Americans for thousands of years.  This Cacti is still a staple food for some residents in Mexico and Latin America, where the plant is raised commercially.  The name “cactus” derives from the Greek word “kaktos” which means prickly plant.

I grew up in what I affectionately called the “desert” of West Texas, where the prickly pear cactus grew naturally and abundantly in an environment not suited for other plants.  Wandering about in that wilderness in the early years of my life, I gained a healthy respect for the natural  defenses of the prickly pear, with both huge thorns, and the small prickly stingers that would get you quick if you weren’t careful.  I’ve lived in Texas all my life, and yet haven’t ever had a single taste of prickly pear fruit.  I always thought anything protected that well, wasn’t meant to be eaten.

In Psalm 107:43, the psalmist asks:
“Who is wise? Let him give heed to these things, and consider the lovingkindnesses of the LORD.”

These prickly pear cactus and desert images cause me to reflect about how God leads those who wander through barren and dry places in life.  I think about times when I was very thirsty and hungry relationally, wondering if God was hearing me cry out to Him in pain, or sorrow, or frustration.  I remember the times of physical pain after back surgery, and what seemed like long tortuous months of rehab, when depression sank deep into my soul, becoming a constant companion of the pain.  There were days I was so disoriented from these influences, I’m pretty sure almost nothing I cried out to God made much sense.  Psalm 107 became a source of healing for me, when my doctor got me off the medicines that were causing these side effects, and were altering my reality.

Psalm 107:1-9
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary, and gathered from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.
They wandered in the wilderness in a desert region; they did not find a way to an inhabited city.
They were hungry and thirsty; their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble; He delivered them out of their distresses.
He led them also by a straight way, to go to an inhabited city.
Let them give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men!
For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.

Psalm 107 applies directly to me and how God has used the desert times of my life to teach me about His grace, His lovingkindness, His mercy, and His abiding presence.  He was there to make sure I’m wasn’t destroyed, by outside forces or forces in my head and heart that are foreign to Him.  That we sometimes must go through the desert experience to bring about a holy purification, to learn from God a deep truth, or to broaden our perspective regarding God’s sovereign authority over our lives, is a fact discovered only by living through those painful desert events.  Yes, they are painful, and seemingly endless.  Yet, His abiding presence sustains us through each step.

Psalm 107 promises us that God does indeed respond to our brokenness, to our tears of shame or sorrow, to physical pain or emotional pain, of our own doing or someone else’s, and can still lead us out of this wilderness.  In fact, His desire is to bring us into a well-watered land, a land of life and hope, freedom and healing.  We wish at times He would bring us there faster.  We pray that the pain would be over quicker.  While in the middle of the desert, we have to believe without seeing – what God is doing.

Psalm 107:35-36
He changes a wilderness into a pool of water and a dry land into springs of water; and there He makes the hungry to dwell, so that they may establish an inhabited city.

It’s not me finding my way out.  It’s not me making the most of prickly pear plants in spite of their thorny protective coverings.  It’s me believing that God will deliver me out of my distress.  It comes in His timing.  Fine.  Deliverance comes in unexpected ways.  Fine.  The process takes longer than I want, involves changes I don’t yet see, and requires faith.  Fine.  But it does come.

So read verse 43 again, and this time don’t look at the prickly pear cactus, or the desert environment that is causing you such pain.  This time see the big picture, and the sovereign control, authority, and abiding presence of the LORD.

Psalm 107:43, the psalmist asks:
“Who is wise? Let him give heed to these things, and consider the lovingkindnesses of the LORD.”

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Fast Like Peanut Butter

Daily Post: Jiffy

Jiffy

Regardless of whether you like “store brand” or “name brand” peanut butter, neither one can be eaten quickly.  Peanut Butter doesn’t spread quickly either, it sticks to the bread and makes you work it a little, before it yields to go where you want.  Take a bite and if it sticks to the roof of your mouth, or to a couple of your teeth, good luck getting it un-stuck without a bit of work.  Such is the nature of peanut butter.   Some would think if you add a little honey or jelly to the sandwich, it would loosen things up a bit, and make the peanut butter a little less sticky.  Not really.  It makes me think perhaps the makers of “Jiffy” peanut butter were having some fun at my expense.

Some find it easy to think this way about God, and His Word, like He’s a cosmic jokester and having a little fun at my expense.  Folks who feel this way take a couple of verses from the New Testament and build a whole theology around the concept of “time.”  First they use the words of Jesus in John 14.

John 14:1-3
Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.  You know the way to where I am going.

But most of us are like Thomas, who basically responded, “We don’t have any idea what you’re talking about, Jesus.”  Maybe he thinks Jesus is pulling a fast one on them, and he feels a little left out.  “Tell me quick, what are you talking about!”  But John chapter 14 through 16 is one long explanation, or exhortation, of what is about to happen, and the implications and consequences of what Jesus is about to do.  There are no quick explanations.  There is no jiffy.

So we add the words of Peter, written much later, after the Resurrection, and the establishment of the Church.

2 Peter 3:3-4
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”

Now, there have been mockers and bullies since these words were written.  Yet, it seems in these last few years with all the social media blitz, and the “fake” news phenomenon, that more and more the world is adopting the attitude, “well, Christian, Jesus said he’d be back in JIFFY, where is He?  It’s a joke right? He really left you here on your own! ha!”

When things around you are going haywire, when the world seems one small “launch” button away from nuclear war, when you’re relationships are all strained to the point of no return, and you wonder “Where is the promise of His coming?”… don’t be confused by the wrong  idea that Jesus said, I’ll be back in a jiffy.  He didn’t.  He said He would come back.

The last verses often used to mis-construe the idea of Jesus coming back in a jiffy comes out of the last book in the Bible.  Now just think logically for a moment.  It’s the “last” book, and it deals with “last” things.  This means when you read this information, you should read it through the filter of “when time is up.”  So, look at what Jesus says about when “time is up.”

Revelation 3:11
I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.

In Revelation 22, Jesus says “I am coming quickly” three times for emphasis.  So many people take these verse out of context of the book of Revelation, and shout, “See it must be in my lifetime because HE SAID, I’ll be back in a jiffy.”

How is it that we miss the point that God’s timetable is not based in the human concept of time?  None of the promises of Jesus return were ever given in the construct of human time or timetables. In Revelation, God was just explaining how only after HIS own timetable and original plan for humanity had run its course, Jesus would come back quickly.  It’s not a big joke, it’s a serious intent to accomplish all God intends to do.  Peter really helps us understand this better.

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

What God really wants to do in a “jiffy,” is provide grace to all who have not yet said “yes” to His offer of salvation.  He is patient.  He is kind, loving, generous, and forgiving.  He does not wish one single person to go on living today, or throughout eternity, without His love and mercy.  God wants them all to come to Him through repentance, and trust Jesus for salvation.

If folks really understood the love of God, they would run to Jesus, in a jiffy.

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Timing, Delivery, Result

Daily Post: Delivery

delivery

What do UPS, FED-EX, Golf Professionals, and Preachers all have in common?  Timing, delivery, and results.

Almost every golf instructor in the world will tell you:

If you want to become a good golfer, you must learn to swing (deliver) the club on an inside-to-outside path.  There are many reasons, but the simplest is the inside-out swing path is nearly slice-proof; enabling you to hit a draw,  it transfers more energy (power) to the ball, which means more distance in the shot.  Combine this swing path with the right timing, and the results will astound you. (follow the arrows in the image)

UPS and their nemesis, Fed-Ex, along with all serious competitors in the shipping industry will tell you, it’s all about timing, delivery, and results.

If they are honest, with themselves and with their congregation/listeners, Pastors and Teachers all over the world will say the most impactful sermon or bible lesson has three elements: timing, delivery, and results.

For the optimum and singularly perfect application of this truth, consider if you will, the command of Jesus to His followers just before His return to heaven, after His resurrection.

Matthew 28:18-20
Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This command is given authoritatively because Jesus has already been crucified, resurrected, and glorified on earth.  He didn’t come right out of the box with this statement when He first arrived, and asked John the Baptist to baptize Him.  Instead He took His time, spending three full years living out the proof of His authority before the eyes of the world.  Then He DELIVERED this truth in the most self-less act of love ever demonstrated on earth, by taking the SIN of the world on Himself at the cross.  The ultimate proof of His ability to deliver US from DEATH, was revealed by delivering HIMSELF from death, and leaving the tomb behind.  This command He gave in authority, supported by the delivery of His grace, resulted in 2,000+ years of folks doing exactly what He commanded.  Because they were filled with His power, led by His Spirit, and glorifying God with their lives.  Beautiful, is it not?

Has anything changed that would cause us to believe this command is not valid for our lives today?  Has the whole world suddenly come to trust God, be saved, and start glorifying Him, and I missed it?  No, the words of Jesus are just as important for you and I today, as when they were first spoken to the first Christ-followers.

These words, this command, travels on an inside-out path.

It’s impossible for you to have a sense that you are supposed to go, if you’ve never come to see Jesus as Lord.  It’s an “inside” choice.  Willingly yielding your whole life to the Lordship of Jesus is the first step in being a “disciple” – or Christ-follower.  Once this step is taken, the very first visible delivery of your testimony of faith to the world is supposed to be baptism.  The singular purpose of baptism is to identify yourself as a Christ-follower, and a member of the body of Christ, the church (universal).  It is “out” of these “inside” decisions, that the followers of Jesus are commanded to go spread His love to the rest of the world.

Inside-out.

Timing, delivery, result.

It still works today.

Do you see it?  Are you in it?  Need more practice?

So do I.

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The Inescapable Moment of Truth

Daily Post: Glaring

glaring

Tuesday was a tipping point for me at the Senior Men’s Golf Association match.  The format for the day was “4-man Shamble.”  It’s a simple spin on the “scramble” format where everyone on the team hits from the best previous shot.  In a “shamble” Everyone tees off from their normal teeing area, everyone plays from the best “drive” location, then keeps their own score throughout the rest of the hole.  On Tuesday my scorecard total was 76 (6 over par of 70) for the day.  It was the day I’ve worked for, for a long time.  Breaking 80, even in a shamble, is not that easy to do.

When a person wants to be a good golfer, that person must be able to strike the ball solidly, in the correct impact position, and consistently on each shot throughout the round.  This means making contact with the ball as close to the “sweet spot” as possible (center of the club face). The club face angle and path of the swing will both determine if the ball flies toward your intended target.  In golf terminology this is called “The Moment of Truth,” and refers to the exact instant of impact.  The inescapable moment of truth for me Tuesday was in one clearly established fact:  I am capable of doing this… so no more excuses.

Golf analogies representing real life applications are often glaring and blinding like the sun.  Some of these truths are unmissable.  The Grace of God as an eternal truth is one of these inescapable truths.  In exactly the right time of human history, God the Son humbled Himself and became a human embryo planted in a virgin’s womb by God the Holy Spirit.  He wasn’t coerced, compelled, obliged, or bullied into this choice.  It was the ultimate expression of love and grace, demonstrated in Jesus giving His life so I might live.  In this image (in golf-speak), I am not the player, or the club; I am the ball.  I am the one impacted by God’s divine swing.  So, here’s the thing.  As the ball, I’m inert and incapable of any movement (high, low, near, or far) without God in control of the club. Additionally, we must understand, God’s swings perfectly every time.

So if the Moment of Truth is about striking the ball solidly, and consistently, and from the correct impact position… when God’s grace saves me, then leads me or guides me into action, it is His power which is evident in me, and it is perfect.  However, the glaring truth is: grace must be received, to become enacted for change in my life.  Remember Paul’s words?

Ephesians 2:8-9
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 

Let’s not get bogged down with the analogy.  That’s usually the trouble with preachers, too much application of an analogy, breaks down over time.  My point in this article is to suggest that we are capable of becoming the person God designed us to be.  The person living in correct relationship with Him, will always, not just some of the time, be impacted by the grace of God offered to us in Jesus.

We can’t work to be saved.  We can only be saved by Him, then be the glaring light of Christ to the world around us.  When we do this, when we receive His grace, trust His Lordship, then we too can experience the tipping point realization where we can say “yes” to Jesus consistently.  We are capable of this commitment, we have choice, just like Jesus did.  Once made, once a person steps over the line of faith into Jesus, life will never be the same.

It will be better.

 

 

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Non-boring, not so bland, hot stuff

Daily Post: Spicy

spicy

Grilling outdoors has been one of my favorite things since I was a kid watching and learning from my dad.  Something about the fire and smoke, the smells and the flavors, as well as the camaraderie that happens around the grill, really get my juices going.  I grew up on mesquite smoked/grilled food, cooked on an old bar-b-q pit made out of an empty 50-gallon steel barrel.  It took time to get the fire and coals just right, and time to cook the food, allowing for more than ample time for “cussing and consorting” (as my uncle Wylie used to say), with all those who gathered for the feast.  And what a feast it was.  With fresh home-made rolls, banana pudding, mashed potatoes and gravy, and all varieties of meats cooked on that old steel barrel.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

But that’s grilling.  Cooking is another matter altogether.  Over the last couple of years I’ve been trying my hand in the kitchen, and discovered a great deal of joy in cooking.  One of the things I’m learning is how fine the line is between too much spice, and too little.  I started by following recipes, and being quite precise about all the measurements and ingredients.  When it didn’t quite taste as I had expected (or as the picture of the dish led me to believe), I started experimenting on my own.  Hence the “fine line” discovery.  One of my favorite things right now is fried rice, with an entree of some kind, with a couple of egg rolls to complete the meal.  Entree’s recently include: sesame chicken, spicy shrimp, and a Panda Express Orange chicken reproduction.  None of them were boring, and some needed some tweaking on the spices, but all of them (if I do say so myself) were delicious.

The Word of God is like this grilling/cooking story to me.  I’ve been around it, or in it, for 63 years now.  I was in my mother’s womb, going to church, listening to a preacher preach, before I was born.  Most of my childhood, young adult memories originate from church experiences: worship, Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Youth trips, or special “Revival” times.  I’ve talked to people who thought Sunday School was boring, bland, and tough, as though studying the Bible was like eating a tough over-cooked slice of steak, that you could chew on for a week.  And I’ve been in study classes like this, but the one I remember most fondly was when the teacher would use the flannel board.  Do you remember those?  My Bible teacher would talk about all the characters of the stories, and then place an image on a flannel board that would take me off on a non-boring, not so bland journey that was spicy to my mind.  It hooked me on the “hot stuff” of the Bible.

Some people are what I call “meat and potato” folk, who aren’t necessarily all that thrilled with spicing things up, whether you’re talking about food or the Bible.  But isn’t that what life is all about?  Don’t we actually say occasionally that “variety” is the “spice” of life?  The Word of God is filled with so much variety, that there is something in it for everyone of us.  It’s clear to me that God understands the whole “fragrance” thing of grilling meat.

Numbers 28:24
After this manner you shall present daily, for seven days, the food of the offering by fire, of a soothing aroma to the LORD; it shall be presented with its drink offering in addition to the continual burnt offering…

Clearly Jesus liked to eat grilled fish, as indicated in John’s description of this fact.  The disciples had been out fishing all night, but when they came back the next morning Jesus was waiting for them.

John 21:9
So when they got out on the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread…  

The “spice” in the Bible is captured for me in the extravagant lengths to which God will go to reach the human heart with His grace.  To some, the Word is filled with do’s and don’ts, with rules and judgments and curses.  But what I see is the spicy side of God’s hand always throwing into the mix, what only God can do to make things come out right.  The peppery side of Peter’s personality is exactly what God uses to make the bold declaration to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” (Matthew 16:16)  It’s the strong and pungent side of James’s personality that God uses to help all of us deal with struggles we have in our lives when he writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” (James 1:2)

My desire to teach or preach is the same as my desire to cook… I want to do the non-boring, not so bland, hot stuff.

I want it to be Spicy!

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The Least Little Shimmer

Daily Post: Shimmer

shimmer

It doesn’t look like the earth is curved to me, but then my sight is limited to about 3 miles, on my best days.  According to scientist, human visual acuity ranges far beyond that.  If earth were flat, and we were on the top of a mountain, a person could see a candle flame flickering up to 30 miles away.  The distance a human eye can see is based on how many particles of light (or photons) a distant object emits.  The stars in this image, seen clearly on the beach are 2.6 million light-years from Earth.  The Andromeda galaxy’s stars in total emit enough light that several thousand photons hit each square centimeter of Earth every second, that’s more than enough to excite our retinas.

Now just imagine the human eye’s visual acuity as a metaphor for spiritual awareness.  The spiritual darkness on this planet is at an all-time high.  It requires more light to penetrate this malevolent murkiness and the forces which blind human eyes to God’s love, mercy and grace.  John the apostle wrote of Jesus coming into the world using the imagery of light.

John 1:6-9
There came a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him.  He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.  There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.

Were we to have John’s experience today, we might say, “please don’t look at me, look instead at the light I bear, for it is the light of Truth, given to me by Jesus.  I’m not the LIGHT, I only testify about the LIGHT.”  And if we were to do this today, we would only be fulfilling what Jesus commands of us, just as He did those listening on the hillside thousands of years ago.  Then the LIGHT rang true in the many stories, parables, and lessons which Jesus shared with the crowds who followed Him.

Matthew 5:14-16
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

At a time when the church, the collective of true Christ-followers around the world need to be united, in many ways today we reflect more dullness than light.  The church has been infiltrated with the same contemptuous attitudes that prevail on the nightly news and newspaper headlines.  The LIGHT of the gospel of Jesus, once bright and shining across the seas, has waned into a shimmer in comparison to the growing darkness.

Now I bring you hope.  Today I offer you encouragement.  Think again about the facts of light and the visual acuity of the human eye.  If the eye can see candle-light from 30 miles away, then the heart can see truth when it is standing right in from of them!  Don’t be discouraged that you may be the only light at your workplace!  Don’t give up hope for those who live in your home, who need to see the light.  Just BE who Jesus tells you to be! “You are the light of the world!”

Even the smallest, the least little shimmer of light that you bear in Jesus name, has the POWER to banish the darkness and bring truth to the heart which seeks God!  It has always been true and it remains true today!

Be like the Paul the apostle, don’t hide your light, but speak it boldly, live it confidently, and watch God be glorified!

Romans 1:16
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

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Loosey-Goosey Says It All

Daily Post: Casual

bowing horse

And within the context of human history, it’s been a pretty short ride to get here.  One good analogy would be: travel.  In just over 250 years we’ve gone from horses as the primary means of travel over land, to cars and trucks covering acres and acres of parking tarmac all over the world.  Whether you’re a creationist, believing the world is just over 6,000 years old, or an evolutionist, who believes the world is billions of years old, this leap in primary mode of travel is a minuscule amount of time in either context.

There are other good examples of how change has come into our world, both good and bad.  Each and every new invention, discovery, design, or development has the potential to render its replacement obsolete.  Perhaps the subtlety of some changes have lulled us into a casual acceptance of all change in general.  In many ways time gets away from us, and we tend to forget what we never learned from our predecessors who resisted change.

As a young adult (translate teenager) in those rebellious days of the late 60’s and 70’s, my mother and I went round and round about my hair, my clothes, and my casual (her word) approach to my life.  I just wanted to “let it be” (Beatles) and “get a little help from my friends.”  I found a church that would let me just be me, and accept that I preferred cowboy boots, white shirts and jeans, instead of suits and ties as appropriate worship attire.  I didn’t go down the hippie road, I was just being my own casual self.

During those early days of feeling as though God was calling me to ministry, I was on the edge of discovering just what that would mean long term.  The “call” of God on a person’s life can’t be explained adequately to anyone since it can only truly be perceived or understood by the inner-nature of an individual changed by God’s grace.  It is highly personal, and the specifics cannot be known all up front, but only revealed over time through people, places, events, and God’s Holy Spirit orchestrating it all.  The simple version is found in the word “Lordship.”  Unfortunately, this one word has almost completely lost its meaning to the world at large. More specifically it often has negative connotations in the Western world, due to our casual approach to salvation.

The true meaning of Lordship isn’t about external expressions of religion or spirituality. Lordship is more basic than that.  If I yield my entire life (thoughts, attitudes, purposes, goals, and daily walk) understanding it should be lived for my LORD (Jesus), then I understand the call of Jesus on the life of every person of faith… not just ministers.  Therein lies the issue.

Our spiritual paradigm today is a much more casual approach to worship, the Bible, and the call of Jesus to live a God-honoring life.  Like the mighty and powerful horse in the image above, we have bowed instead to the pursuit of things like money, power, influence, and faster, more expensive cars.  We allow the God of Creation a couple of hours every week, as we casually make our way to the church of our choice, listening to homilies and sermons which effect our lives in innocuous ways, and call this Christianity.  Today the word “Lordship” is not even in our vocabulary, and certainly not evident in many lives.

I believe to make a real difference in our world today, we must take literally – not casually – the message of Paul to the young church in Philippi.

Philippians 2:9-11
For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus is Lord and there is no such thing as a “casual” expression of His Lordship.  It requires bowing, yielding, submitting, confessing, and fealty to Him as King of life itself.

 

 

 

 

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Cart Partner

Daily Post: Partner

cart buddies

Tuesday mornings are always filled with dread and anticipation in equal proportions. Partly because of the unknown, but mostly because of what I’ve learned about the Senior Men’s Golf Association at Lake Park Golf Course in Lewisville, Texas.  Most of the 80 or so men who drag themselves out of bed at 6:00am to play golf together are older than me.  I’m the kid in the group at age 63.  I’m reasonably fit, and could walk this course faster than the average round of golf played by any given foursome on Tuesday mornings riding in golf carts.  And that’s where this story begins, with “cart partners.”

Since I’ve only been a part of the group for about six months, not only am I one of the youngest, I’m also one of the newest members of the association.  Not knowing who I will be partnered with is why I show up with both “dread and anticipation.”  Many of the guys will take a cart to the driving range and hit balls before their round, so they have already established their “driver” position in the golf cart.  I realized quickly that I could get to know someone easier if I were the “rider” not the “driver,” so I just keep my clubs up by the clubhouse while I chip and putt a little, until we’re all paired up.   I’ve ridden with the “Mario Andretti” of the group, the “slow poke,” the “Evel Knievel,” each of these men have a “style” of maneuvering the cart around the course which usually defines their personality, to say nothing of their golf swing.

Let’s be clear, the two people riding around for four hours on Tuesday mornings are more than likely cart “partners” not golf “buddies.”  Even though they all know each other, and have played together for years, the competition factor, keeps Tuesday mornings sharp and edgy.  Some can’t see farther than 100 yards down the fairway, some can’t hear when you say “it’s your shot.”  Some are totally unaware of what the other three golfers in their foursome are doing, while others have no clue regarding the term “golf etiquette.” However, generally speaking, they all get along, and we have a lot of fun… mostly.

Some of these men now know that I retired from being a pastor.  Word is getting around.  Last week, when one man, who helps run the computer, asked me if this was true, I said yes and his response was classic: “I wished I’d known before I spoke like that a few holes back.”   On the golf course, like in many other sports, men seem to feel that coarse language helps them fit in.  A couple of days ago, this past Tuesday, I was paired up again with three guys who spoke the language of “sailors” and “locker rooms.”  Then one of them asked “what did you retire from?”  Here we go again, right?  So, there on the 6th tee box, I gave a 1 minute synopsis of my pastoral background.  Same response, “well, sorry about the tirade back there…”

Here was my response then, and today, as I write these words…

I am a man, not divine.  I have my own issues which may resemble bad language to some, even if they aren’t evident to others.  I’m not your judge.  So how about we play golf knowing I won’t judge you, and you don’t judge me, for being a retired pastor.

The least verbally abusive of these three men spoke up and said, “You’re not the judge and jury, just the witness, huh?”

To which I replied, “exactly.”

I have a golf buddy who goes with me every single time to play golf.  And to the supermarket to buy food.  And to the convenience store to buy gas.  In fact, everywhere I go, He goes.  My life needs to be a witness to Him.  And while I know Jesus didn’t say these words to me personally, in my mind He did.

Acts 1:7-8
He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.

As a cart partner, or a golf buddy, go be the witness.

 

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Symphonic Praise

Daily Post: Symphony

symphonyMusic. Music in general, all varieties and styles, has been such a large part of my life, it many ways it defines who I am.  Mostly, I’ve been a vocal guy, participating in high school choir, college Chorale, and various small singing groups along the way.  That said, I have great respect and admiration for those who play instruments in bands and symphony orchestras.  In one brief stint, from 6th grade to 8th grade, I spent time trying to learn to play the coronet.  I was ok, but in my band director’s ears, probably mediocre at best.  When I got into 9th grade, at Andrews High School, my band director made me choose between band and football.  Seriously?  This is no contest, I was the starting fullback, and band was never again even in my rear view mirror.  Today, lots of football players also march in their high school band, but that’s how much things have changed over the last 49 years.

One of the timeless things that hasn’t changed, and will never change is the importance of how each individual believer makes up the eternal worship and symphonic praise to God, our Creator.  In the New Living Translation of Psalm 98, the translators have captured the idea, the significance, of the Symphony of Praise that should be a major part of our lives today.  Because it will most certainly be part of our experience in God’s presence throughout eternity.

Psalm 98
Sing a new song to the LORD, for he has done wonderful deeds. His right hand has won a mighty victory; his holy arm has shown his saving power!
The LORD has announced his victory and has revealed his righteousness to every nation!
He has remembered his promise to love and be faithful to Israel. The ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
Shout to the LORD, all the earth; break out in praise and sing for joy!
Sing your praise to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and melodious song, with trumpets and the sound of the ram’s horn. Make a joyful symphony before the LORD, the King!
Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise! Let the earth and all living things join in.
Let the rivers clap their hands in glee! Let the hills sing out their songs of joy
before the LORD. For the LORD is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with justice, and the nations with fairness.

If we view this image of the psalmist as a whole, we see the reasons for our worship, the instruction of who is to participate, and all the different sights and sounds that make up the symphony of praise.

The sea and everything in it, the earth and all living things, the rivers, the hills… all join in the activities of praise and worship, which humans should be leading them to do.

The reason humans should lead the symphony is based in the Lords: deeds, victory, saving power, righteousness, promises fulfilled, and faithfulness.

The humans are to sing a new song, shout to the Lord, sing praise, sing with the harp, trumpets, and ram’s horn… all joining in this great symphony.

Do you see what I see here?  The Holy Spirit used this psalmist to help us understand that every single human being, every created living creature, and all of the created plants life, all the earth itself, is supposed to participate in this worship.  Yet the only ones with choice, are the ones who are charged with leading the praise.

The psalmist doesn’t say, “if you can sing or play an instrument, be sure to sign up for the heavenly praise team.”

The psalmist doesn’t say, “I realize some of you can’t carry a tune in a bucket, so you can just sit this one out.”

The psalmist says, “No one is exempt from this most important, all-significant activity of praising the God of heaven.”

So, let’s be clear.  This psalm assumes the true Christ follower will join this praise party out of full devotion, some with overwhelming emotion, for what Jesus has offered them in His grace.  It begs the question, doesn’t it?  Do these words apply to you today?  Were these words just written for a different people group, at a different time and to a different culture, having no application for people today?  I think you know the answer here, but I’m not going to let you off that easy.

Psalm 98 is not really a choice thing.  It is spoken/written as an admonition, as instruction; not as optional for those who aren’t “musically” capable, or see themselves as “musically challenged.”  Think of it this way.  When humans fail to offer their voices (a gift of God) or their skills with instruments (a gift of God) in worship and praise to God, it is from a rebellious and stubborn heart, filled with a form of pride that robs God of His glory.

Wow.  That’s severe isn’t it? Well, perhaps it is, but I’m convinced it’s true.  The psalmist isn’t asking you to get up on stage and lead the praise.  The psalmist isn’t suggesting you do a “solo” on your instrument.  The psalmist is saying, “know your AUDIENCE!”

The audience, is the object of our worship and praise.  We sing to, and worship, Jesus. We lift our hands and our voices in a symphonic praise to exalt the King of kings.  I’m not singing for anyone around me.  I’m singing for the one who lives inside me, saving me with His powerful right hand, offering me grace every single day that I live!

And here’s the thing:

1 John 4:4
You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.

Don’t wait until Sunday morning worship… join the symphony of praise today!

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A Foggy State of Mind

Daily Post: Foggy

foggy

Yesterday was my golf day.  While the actual course I played yesterday looked nothing like this image. Yesterday it was sunny, and while not hot, it was humid, yet my scorecard might cause a person to wonder if I wasn’t playing on a foggy course like this one.  At one point I looked at my cart buddy and said, “I’m not sure what I was thinking with that shot, but it must not have been about golf.”  That’s how it is sometimes, our minds become muddled or befuddled with so many other thoughts, it’s hard to keep a clearly focused target in view.

Anyone who has had even one golf lesson can tell you, golf seems to be a simple game, but really it isn’t easy.  The list of things that can result in a good/bad golf shot seems endless.  Grip, stance, aim, club selection, swing execution, swing plane, terrain, lie of the ball, pressure to perform, wind speed and direction, target arm, back elbow, spine angle, et al creep into your thoughts like fog.  This game can often be frustrating and satisfying all at the same time.  My cart buddy yesterday said, “Well, Jim, you know why they call it golf right?  All the other four letter words were taken.”  He may be right, I don’t know.

Only the best amateur golfers shoot PAR.  Very few amateur golfers turn in sub-par scores.  Don’t be confused by these terms:  par is great, sub-par is Excellent.  Over-par is not so good, and describes the number of strokes it took you to complete your round as compared to Par (normal strokes to complete by the designer of the golf course.)  Please don’t ask me how many over-par I was yesterday.  I was playing in the foggy 6 inches between my ears.

Perhaps the reason I like the game of golf so much, is how I see it as a wonderful metaphor for life.  Some days for me, life is simple, without cares or concerns, just living this 24 hour period with no other motivation except to be who I am, and honor the Creator who gave me this life.  Other days are complicated, taxing, and full of emotional stress, while attempting to take care of details that really are important, and necessary.  The status of my mind (whether foggy or clear) usually becomes the determining factor as to how well I handle those days.  In golf, there are good days and bad days, so to stay focused you have to be able to handle both.

One of the ways golf is like life is disconcerting for me.  Yesterday I experienced it again, and it bothered me so much that I’m pretty sure it happened for a reason.  I’ve been playing golf for the better part of 50 years.  It doesn’t make me a great golfer, it makes me a student of the game, always trying to improve my score.  I have a great deal of head knowledge that hasn’t quite made its way yet from theory into the actual execution of the golf swing.  That said, when other players try to fix something in my swing (unsolicited), I don’t respond well in my head, and it often adds just another layer of frustration to an otherwise foggy and over-crowded thought process.

Yesterday’s experience caused me to wonder if there are times on this blog, when I don’t come off as sounding like the golfer who was trying to fix my swing.  I didn’t ask him to look at me and analyze my swing.  He’s not a professional golf instructor, nor did he shoot par for his round of golf.  The truth is I’m a pretty teachable man, and I usually receive instruction well.  But that air of haughtiness when he said, “Just give me 10 minutes after the round today, and I’ll fix this for you,” was just a little more than I needed at the time.

I post almost every day on this website, because I want to be helpful to people, by offering hope, comfort, or some answers for my life I have found in the Bible.  I don’t want to be intrusive, and I readily admit I don’t have a detailed solution for every single problem in life.  However, a foggy state of mind, whether in golf or the spiritual realm, can often have negative results.  So I try to write in such a way that a person can see the Creator.  My desire is that each reader would be inspired to seek God in new ways, or read more of the Bible on their own, allowing God’s Holy Spirit to be their teacher.

My prayer for you today is that as you read these words, God’s Spirit will help clear your mind of whatever fog is distracting you from seeing Jesus clearly today.  My purpose remains, to experience God’s grace renewed in me again today, and to extend His glory to the ends of the earth.  I pray this is your purpose too.

 

 

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Can You Hear Me Now?

Daily Post: Substandard

substandard

 

This was the catch-phrase of the famous Verizon cell phone commercials that began in 2002 and ran for 9 years, where the Test Man would wander around saying “Can you hear me now?” If the STANDARD of the cellphone industry is supposed to be seamless voice and data over cellular signals, regardless of terrain, we still aren’t there.  Dropped calls, garbled voices, and corrupted data connections are still prevalent in many places in the USA, and the rest of the world.  Even now we might say the providers who want us to believe they are the “best” providers (because they offer the best rates or data packages), are actually still just substandard.  As recent as May 2016 an article I read said that “Poor cell phone coverage creates a Mobile Divide.”  The article states:

Cornell researchers have mapped cell-phone  across a large city, finding that low-income areas receive almost 15 percent less network  compared with their affluent counterparts.  The result is particularly significant in light of the fact that lower-income people tend to get most of their internet access only through their phones. Many also have no fixed land-line phone service at home, relying on cell phones at home and away. The Catch-22 is that regions with substandard access tend to become more economically depressed, encouraging service providers to continue to turn their attention to more affluent neighborhoods.

By any quantifying method, this reality is just substandard. Yet it is a great illustration of a much larger, universal truth.

Way back when this whole thing started, there was only one rule, one standard.  The man and the woman were instructed: in order to maintain communication and relationship standards with God, they were to refrain from eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:16-17)  Unfortunately, Adam and Eve proved to be substandard on their ability to keep this one rule.

Realizing the inability of the first couple to keep the standard, they were ushered out of their cushy habitat into a world where toil and labor now filled their days.  Over time God determined He would call a singular nation of people to live by His Standards.  He led the Hebrew people out of Egyptian captivity, and into a land rich with the blessings of life.  Along the way, God laid out for them the Standards by which they were to live.  If they met these standards, God would bless them.  If they lived substandard lives, God would curse them.  Very simple stuff.

Yes, history has shown us that the substandard bent of the first couple, was also prevalent as an ingrained predisposition in the Hebrew nation as well.  Which ultimately caused the whole nation to be dispersed across the world.  While they were still a nation, their prophets continually spoke about a day when a Messiah, a Redeemer/Deliverer would come to save them from themselves and the bent to be substandard.  God’s word is clear, the LAW (Standard) was never given to them as a means of salvation, but as a vivid image of the importance of their faith in God alone to save them.

In a final display of all God’s intentions related to the Standard of Life for humans, God sent His own Son, Jesus to embody this truth.  Housed in human flesh, Jesus submitted Himself to every possible occurrence which would cause humans to react in substandard ways and fail to bring glory to God.  And in every one of these occurrences, Jesus never failed humanly to bring glory to God, setting the Standard for all to see.  So let’s be clear.  Adam and Eve were not the Standard.  The Law of the Old Testament was not the Standard itself.  Jesus Christ is the Standard.

When Verizon, Sprint, or AT&T measure their performances in the cellular industry against each other, each can make a case for how they are the best in the business.  But if the Standard is: a ubiquitous cellular network providing seamless voice and data over cellular signals, regardless of terrain (or socio-economic neighborhoods), all of them are sub-standard.

In the same way, when we compare ourselves to others, we will always tend to come out looking pretty good.  Do this long enough and we begin to think not only are we pretty good, but we may be the best there is.  We might even be… no, we must be the Standard.  Only when we see ourselves as God sees us, will we understand that we don’t, and we won’t ever measure up to the Standard of Jesus’ life as a human.  We don’t align ourselves with God’s intentions or will, the same way Jesus did.  In a very real sense, God can only see us as Sub-standard.

What to do?  How can we change?  Where can we find God’s favor?

Romans 8:1-2
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 

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.

Can you hear me now?

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Perspectives on Lust

Daily Post: Lust

lust

If you’re still reading, I’m going to see it as an indication you have an open mind, and want to know what the heck this title really means.  Ok, so let’s start with the standard fare of definitions.  “Lust” can function as noun or verb.  In both forms, lust usually describes a condition of very strong sexual desire, or a passionate desire for some thing.  “Desire, sexual appetite, longing, urge, lechery, randiness” are some sexual synonyms for “lust.” “Crave, covet, ache, want, wish for, yearn for, hanker for,” are some synonyms for the passionate “lust” for things.  My professional opinion is that 99% of humanity does not use this term to mean cravings or appetites that are non-sexual.  We don’t say “I’m lusting for an apple.”  Instead we say, “I’m craving an apple,” even if the craving ultimately borders on what the Bible calls “sin.”

In the Google definitions of “lust” there is a highlighted section called “Theology.”  The definition stated under this heading is: ” a sensual appetite regarded as sinful.”  This definition fits both from a human perspective, and a Biblical one.  Humans are wired to be attracted sexually, and within these designs specifications, all of our 5 senses are engaged.  Here’s a few scripture references to keep us focused:

1 John 2:16
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

Proverbs 6:25
Don’t lust in your heart for her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyelashes.

Galatians 5:16
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

Romans 8:6
For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.

James 1:14-15
But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 

So can we just all agree that the Bible is pretty clear about the distinction of “lust verses love?”  Can we admit that no one (at least no one I know) would ever say, “I lust for more truth from God?”  Even though “desire” and “cravings” are synonyms for “lust,” no one in their right mind would think the following verse had sexual connotations.

Psalm 42:1
As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God.

Yet, the image David paints in this verse, is a deep passionate longing, desire, or craving for more of God.

To repeat: “lust” in today’s world has and will always mean an unhealthy desire, craving, or pursuit of sexual expression, or things which supplant the glory of God in a person’s life.

There is a fine line here, huh?  To desire the glory of God in extreme fashion, at the expense of all other pursuits, is the most natural thing in the world, for the true Christ follower.  Others in the world might see these actions, and attribute some kind of sexual perversion in their interpretation of our lives.  Regardless, does it really matter what other people think, or do you and I give an account of our lives to only ONE Judge?

My uncle Wylie would often say, “Get your mind out of the gutter, you’re crowding me.”  The sexual expression of lost humanity is vividly on display everywhere you turn in this world today, the gutter is quite full.  Lust is often glamorized, exalted, and seen as the most natural of all human expressions.  “Natural” being the operative word here.  For those who are not Christ followers today, each man and woman demonstrates their “natural” lust quite clearly for God to see, deep within their soul, before words are formed, or actions are engaged.  Nothing is hidden, and trust me, God knows whether the actions and attitudes of your life are about Him, and His glory, or you and your lusts.

The pervasive pestilence persists, and there is only ONE cure. (Yesterday’s article)

Lust is the proof.  And there is only one perspective that matters.

God’s.

 

 

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Pestilence Persists

Daily Post: Pest

pest

The creature landed on my arm on the first tee.  Driver in hand, at first I thought I might have to use the club as a weapon of mass destruction against this evil menace.  The thing was huge.  As my uncle Wylie would say, “if the thing had a saddle, I could have ridden it home.”  Now, mosquitoes on a golf course are nothing new, and since this course is near a lake, pest management is a continual problem.  And while mosquito donuts containing a naturally occurring bacteria help control the pesty population, they are not the be-all cure for these nasty little creatures.

Knowing where to find their habitats is one of the keys.  Adult mosquitoes apparently rest where it’s cool, dark, moist, and out of the wind.  They stay in these little hidey-holes until they sense a victim (human or animal), then quickly fly to their prey.  Ugly pests that they are, they congregate near any pool of standing water to lay their eggs, and it takes a very small amount of water to constitute a pool.  Standing water can be found in potted plants, tarps, wheelbarrow or drainage pipes.  Golf courses are notorious for mosquito challenges.

The American Mosquito Control Association, founded in 1935, is a scientific/educational, not-for-profit public  service association operating under the corporation laws of the state of New Jersey.  It is world-wide in scope, with members or subscribers to its publications in over 50 countries.  Their mission: To provide leadership, information, and education leading to the enhancement of health and quality of life through the suppression of mosquitoes and other vector-transmitted diseases, and the reduction of annoyance levels caused by mosquitoes and other vectors and pests of public health importance.

According to their data over one million people worldwide die from mosquito-borne disease every year. This is the list from their website of mosquito-borne diseases:

  • Malaria
  • Chikungunya
  • Dog Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis)
  • Dengue
  • Yellow fever
  • Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE)
  • St. Louis Encephalitis (SLE)
  • LaCrosse Encephalitis (LAC)
  • Western Equine Encephalitis (WEE
  • West Nile virus (WNV)
  • Zika virus

Seems daunting and sobering just to think about it, huh?

But what if there were a pestilence with the capability of destroying billions of human lives, which was unseen and untraceable?  What if there persisted an evil so pervasive that it touched literally even human life on the planet?  Even better, what if a cure for this disease were readily available for each person, and there was enough available for each newborn human as well?  Wouldn’t this be horrible but wonderful?

The pestilence born over the course of human history is Sin.  It is not borne through mosquitoes, no.  It is born into each heart, as humans perpetuate the distance between their Creator and themselves.  It is a constant and perpetual problem, bringing with it the pain of certain death if not treated.  And make no mistake, that while there are many who propose to have found a remedy which eases the side effects of this disease, there is only ONE which eradicates the pest at the source.  All others are imitations at best, and worse,  false hope and lies.

The Creator, infinitely wise, full of grace and mercy, came from heaven to take on our human likeness, so that He might conquer this plague once and FOR ALL.  On the cross His blood was spent.  In the tomb He lay dormant until the process was completed.  When the stone rolled away, taking up His life again He came forth conquering the pestilence known as Sin, for all of mankind.  Now, thankfully, the Creator makes available the CURE for Sin to every person who will trust in Jesus Christ as Savior.

Some stubbornly refuse to acknowledge they even have this disease.  Some put on pretenses of worshipping the Creator, having never met Him or spoken to Him, and have certainly not put their trust in Him.  Others deny His existence or the reality of the disease itself, having been controlled by the pestilence to the point where their minds are blind to the truth.

There is no shot, no pill, no dietary regimen which will destroy the pest, called Sin, at its core. Only one thing will save.  Only one name will heal.  Only one name offers grace.

Jesus.

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

 

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Shallowishly Saved?

Daily Post: Shallow

shallow

Recently the suffix tag “ish” seems trendy enough that virtually anything can be “ish.”  Foods can be healthy-ish.  Men can be dull-ish, or dumb-ish, and apish.  Women can be pretty-ish, cute-ish, tallish, and shortish.  The whole color palette can be “ish,” greenish, yellowish, redish, etc.  Salsa can be hotish.  The water in this swimming pool can be coolish, deepish, or bluish.

Now, consider this swimming pool.  The community pool from my childhood was a rectangular shape, with a graduated bottom which went from 3 feet deep on the shallow end, to 15 feet deep on the opposite end with a diving board.  Safety to a person in this pool was directly proportional to the person’s ability to adequately manage the depth grade change.  Some managed by staying in the shallow end, and never learned how to swim.  Some went down the grade, to where their toes could bounce and skim along the bottom, while always staying close enough to the side of the pool that they held on, still having never learned to swim.  Others, having learned to swim, would walk all the way to the deep end of the pool, climb up and out to the end of the diving board, and dive deep into the cool clear water.  Belly flops, flips, cannonballs, and jack-knifes were the order of the day, but all who would dive, could swim.

In swimming there is no “ish.”  Even if all you do is dog paddle your way to the side, that’s still considered swimming (in my book), because you can keep yourself from drowning in the deep end of the pool. And you get to dive off the board.  Granted, some people swim better than others, but the fact is, either you can swim, or you can’t.  There is no “ish” in swimming.

In this same way, there is no “ish” in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This might be a little confusing in the world today.  “Christianity” (the word) means so many different things to so many different people.  Some people have called themselves Christian because they aren’t Muslim, thinking that not being one makes them the other.  Some people claim the title Christian because their ancestral tree was filled with people who attended church, so they consider they must have inherited it.  Attitudes today across the world have shifted away from “Christian” meaning a good thing, with good reasons.  There are too many gospel-ish folks out there frolicking in the pool.

Some people who call themselves Christians really are just trying to save themselves by associating with the name Christ, but having no real commitment to Jesus.  They’ve bought completely into the concept of staying in the shallow end, with their feet firmly planted 3 feet deep, and pretending to swim with others in the pool.  God does not accept this shallowish salvation activity.

Some people who call themselves Christians are more daring than others.  They creep along the side of the pool holding onto the ledge, all the while skittering along toward the deep end.  They long to jump off the board, they enjoy watching others do it.  The thrill of it motivates them toward the deep water, but their toes still touch the bottom, and their hand is still on the ledge.  They don’t know the truth, haven’t committed to the truth yet.

There is no “ish” in the gospel.  Learning that Jesus Christ demands I trust in Him and Him alone to save me, lead me, guide me, protect me, teach me, is a difficult thing to do. Yet for those who would be Christian, there is no holding back, or holding on to the past, or trying to do it yourself.  Every person who came to Jesus in Scripture was changed completely from the inside out.  Each individual was granted salvation by their confession that Jesus Christ is Lord, and professed their faith in Him alone to be their Savior.

“Ish” may be popular today, but there are none shallowishly saved.

The saved of God look exactly like the man in this picture.  They dive deep into God’s love and grace demonstrated in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2:8-9
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

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Knowing and Not Knowing

Daily Post: Hidden

hidden.png

I’ve always loved mazes, optical illusions, and jigsaw puzzles.  These devices challenge my mind to think creatively for solutions using visual keys.  Apparently the latest “thing” from education to advertising is something called the “wordle.”  Along with pimping up our vehicles or FB profiles, text now takes on a different image.  It’s no longer a monotone black and white world of words.  Today it’s horizontal, colorful, and mildly entertaining to discover what’s hidden in the wordle text images, as seen in the one above.  In the educational world, teachers have learned the pedagogic value of wordles, useful as a text analysis tool, using these images in speaking or creative writing. We’ve come a long way from paintings on the walls of caves.

Wandering through the mazes of popular opinion, conventional wisdom, or long-held traditional spiritual beliefs, often cause a person to be confused or frustrated by a perceived “hidden” message.  Looking at the image above, for example, the largest words are: “like, king, thousand, now,” and “hundred.”  But what does that mean?  What’s the significance?  The other 50-70(?) words surrounding these surely have significance, but how would anyone know the order of things, or be capable of making sense out of them?  It becomes a very subjective experience, which may be great to teach creative thinking, but eliminates all possibility of an absolute interpretation.

Therein lies the universal problem in approaching the Word of God as though it were just some cosmic wordle.  The ancient world, along with many men and women today, while ignoring the veracity of God’s word, have relegated Scripture to the shelves containing fairy tales, myths, and other entertainment fiction.   Here’s the crux of the issue.  Why not consider the Bible today as accurately transmitted down through the ages, in the same way that scholars consider Homer’s Iliad,  Sophocles’ Tragedies, Herodotus’ History, Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, Palto’s Tetralogies, or Demosthenes’ Speeches?  Why? Because the “truth” of the Bible seems still “hidden” to the men and women who make such decisions.  For details on this issue see CRI-The Biographical Test Updated.  If you are interested in such things, you might also find these 25 facts about the Dead Sea Scrolls interesting.

Like the Dead Sea Scrolls, hidden in caves for hundreds of years, the word of God still seems hidden or undiscoverable to the minds of many around the world.  This is due to many factors, but the one that sticks out for me is the simple word “Truth.”  In order to find truth one has to be willing to submit to the premise that there is such a thing as absolute truth.  Not subjective truth, as though looking at a wordle and perpetrating some explanation for the whole based solely on what you see or perceive.  No, not subjective truth, but objective truth, accepting without feelings, ideas, or opinions that one can know absolute truth.

Only when a person casts aside their own preconceived notions will they be able to come close to hearing the words of Jesus in the manner they are intended.

John 8:32
You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

It follows then that if someone is still subjectively seeing God’s Word, as only some confusing “wordle,” it is because something is blinding them to the truth.  What could that possibly be?

Paul speaks clearly to this issue.

2 Corinthians 4:3-4
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Objective truth?  Or wordle?

You have to decide for yourself.

Trust me, it’s right there in black and white!

 

 

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My Mother’s Ice Tea: Infused with Joy

Daily Post: Tea

tea

This title may seem familiar to you. With the exception of the last word, I used this title back in May when the word of the day was “infuse.”  In that article I wrote about Grace.  I wrote about my dad and how the ice tea debacle became a teaching moment in my early childhood days.  Today the temperature in Flower Mound, Texas, is supposed to be around 100 degrees and the heat index is higher than that by 5 to 10 degrees.  Days’ like this always bring me back to fond memories of my mother’s ice tea.

First of all, so as not to confuse anyone, when I speak of ice tea, this means: “sweet” iced tea,; brewed then poured over Imperial pure cain sugar (which is only 15 calories a teaspoon, non-GMO, and glutten free) and stuffed into the refrigerator to steep.  After the tea is appropriately chilled, and only then, ice is added to the pitcher to enhance the coldness.  Filling a mason jar with ice, pouring the tea into the jar, is for me… pure joy.  Each time I order tea in a restaurant that even comes close to tasting like my mom’s ice tea, joy again spreads through my being as I remember her presence again.  What I wouldn’t give for one more pitcher of my mother’s sweet ice tea!

Perhaps on some level what I have left of her is far better than this delightfully delicious drink.  Like you, for me life sort of blurs together over the years, and what we hold on to most of the time, are the positive/happy moments of our past.  Clearly I’ve done this over the years, because I’m not oblivious to all those tense or awkward times with my mother as I tried to survive childhood and young adulthood in the 50’s to the early 70’s.   There were some tough times, but they are long since historical blurs, and not as vivid in my brain as the face of my mother, laughing, joking, smiling and loving her family.  I’m sure my three sisters would say, “mom always liked you best.”  I’m not sure it’s true, but then again, I’ve been wrong in the past, so I could be wrong about this.

My memories of mom are from two rooms in our home, the kitchen and “her” chair in the living room.  Making tea was just a part of what she did in that kitchen, preparing meals for her family, demonstrating her love for us in those tasty treats.  But the memory I have of mom in her chair are still vivid for the joy of conversation.  Mom and I used to have discussions on Scriptures from the Bible that lasted for hours.  Most of these happened during my college days in the early 1970’s when I would come home for a weekend.  She would be studying her Sunday School lesson for the coming week and we would sit together discussing the passage to be studied.  It’s exhilarating even now, and joy spreads across my face even as I write this, remembering the pleasure and thrill of those discussions.

When I think of ice tea, or when I drink something close to what I remember, in each event God’s Spirit brings me joy through the words of Solomon in Proverbs 31, describing the godly woman.

Proverbs 31:25-28
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future. She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.  She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.  Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her.

I often think my mother’s sweet ice tea was infused with her joy, in just being who God created her to be!

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What’s in a name?

Daily Post: Fragrance

roses

From Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, 1600:

JULIET:

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.

One could argue, according to Juliet, that these beautiful roses I purchased last week would smell just as sweet if they were called Rosa delicti.  However, to use another worn out phrase, we should not be hasty here to judge a book by its cover.  You see, while these roses are beautiful in color, they have committed a heinous crime.  They have no smell at all.  They don’t smell like roses, or any other flower for that matter.  To my sensitive proboscis there is no fragrance, no odor, no nothing.  What a crime!  I remember well when roses smelled as sweet as the words Juliet used to describe them.

So wouldn’t it be more fitting to call these flowers “odorless rose”? But what’s in a name right?  Oh trust me, there is much in a name, and the power of names is nothing to sneeze at.  For example, if I suggest the name Adolph Hitler, what image comes to mind?  What world wide impact did the man have?  See, just the name Hitler weighs heavy with power unimaginable by most.

What if I suggest the name Winston Churchill? Passionate folks often quote Churchill in motivational speeches to convince people to become engaged in life.  Just a couple of examples:

“I would say to the House… ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat’… Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”

“Centuries ago words were written to be a call and a spur to the faithful servants of Truth and Justice: ‘Arm yourselves, and be ye men of valour, and be in readiness for the conflict; for it is better for us to perish in battle than to look upon the outrage of our nation and our altar.  As the will of God is in heaven, even so let it be.”

Reading these quotes you can almost smell the gritty fragrance of courage and conviction.  These were words which motivated men to engage for truth and justice once again.  So, what’s in a name?  Everything.  The name is the essence.

So, let’s talk about another name.  Folks react in a variety of ways when they hear this name.  Let me speak it now:  Jesus Christ the Lord.

To some the very sound of that name is a horrendous odor filling their nostrils with such fiercely pungent anger, that in their vain pride they shout this name in obscenity, cursing the heavens from whence He came.  To others the name is the consummate punchline, and laughing they equate the name with nothing more than popcorn eaten by thousands at entertainment venues around the globe, called churches.

But to us… to those reading these words who truly know Him, the name Jesus is sweeter than any other fragrance in the world.  One of the fragrances from my childhood that lingers even now, somewhere deep in my consciousness, is the smell of the little Baptist Church in Frankel City, Texas.  Located at the junction of Farm roads 181 and 1967, about 20 miles from Andrews, Texas.  What triggers this smell every time are the words to song written in the 1920’s, and sung often in this little church.

There have been names that I have loved to hear,
But never has there been a name so dear
To this heart of mine, as the name divine,
The precious, precious name of Jesus.

Jesus is the sweetest name I know,
And He’s just the same as His lovely name,
And that’s the reason why I love Him so;
Oh, Jesus is the sweetest name I know.

There is no name in earth or Heav’n above,
That we should give such honor and such love
As the blessèd name, let us all acclaim,
That wondrous, glorious name of Jesus.

And some day I shall see Him face to face
To thank and praise Him for His wondrous grace,
Which He gave to me, when He made me free,
The blessèd Son of God called Jesus.

What’s in a name?  Let me share the truth with you now…

In Acts chapter 4, Peter and John stood before the Elders who had them arrested, and boldly and confidently spoke these words:

Acts 4:12
“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

Later Paul would write to the church in Philippi these words:

Philippians 2:8-11
Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

What’s in a name?  Everything having to do with the hope of mankind, that’s all.

Believe this truth.  Act on this truth.  Let God’s will in heaven be done this day right here on earth… in your life.

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Trouble In River City

Daily Post: Harmonize

harmonize

Harold Hill was a con man posing as a boy’s band organizer.  He went to Iowa by train, stopping in River City to sell band instruments and uniforms to the unassuming citizens of River City.  Marian the Librarian falls in love with the fast talking con man and that’s where the trouble really started.  The Music Man was a Broadway hit in 1957, and adapted for a movie in 1962.  With tongue twisting lyrics and speeches, dancing and romancing, one of the best features of the film for me is still the Barbershop Quartet harmonizing throughout the movie.

For a very short time I was caught up in Barbershop Quartet harmonizing in High School.  I remember those rehearsal times fondly, and the assistant choir director who tried to help the four of us boys sing in tune.  It was quite comical at times, but fun nonetheless.  Harmony is beautiful when it happens, but the quarter-tones and half-tones resolving and harmonizing is just pure fun when a good Barbershop quartet sings.

Today, the popular version of Acapella groups is a far cry from those of my High School days.  One of my favorite groups today is Pentatonix.  Just a little over 5 years ago this group came onto the scene, and since has sold over 6 million albums, won 3 Grammies, have their own YouTube channel of 13 million subscribers, and 2 billion video views.  Using their voices to produce both the background tracks and the vocals, Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi, Kirstin Maldonado, Avi Kaplan, and Kevin “K.O.” Olusola have taken harmonize to a whole new level.

Often I wonder why life can’t be more harmonious.  Whether its Barbershop Quartet, or Pentatonix, the harmonies can be misleading because they make it look easy, like a well oiled machine.  Make no mistake, anyone who has ever sung in a group like these, understands it doesn’t happen without hours and hours of painstaking rehearsals and practice sessions.  People who sing are constantly practicing on their own, so that when the group comes together, it’s no long about learning parts, but making them all fit for the performance.

If we look closely at the world around us, we quickly realize just how messed up earth, and how out of harmony the people of earth really are.  Harmonizing politically is a joke.  Harmonizing economically is  a non-starter.  Harmonizing our past with our present is being destroyed even as you read this article, by the revisionist who can’t quite come to grips with their present.  And don’t even get me started on the Church.  Where is the cohesive, coordinated, compatible Spirit that is supposed to be the evidence of spiritual Oneness?

Not only does this world look dysfunctional, there doesn’t seem to be any hope for things to change positively any time soon.  We’re living in a dangerous time, and as Harold Hill would say, “We’ve got trouble in River City!”  What is the solution?  Where is the answer?

Isaiah 55:8-12
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.  For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.  For you will go out with joy and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

Yes, you guessed it.  This whole thing harmonizes when God’s Word is complete, and not until then.  And don’t forget, when God says, “so will My word be,”  remember John described Jesus as The WORD.  The ways and thoughts of God are higher than our own.  Jesus Christ the Lord is the ultimate expression and completion of these thoughts and ways.  He is the Word, He is God.  Our only hope for harmony… is Jesus.

1 Timothy 4:10
For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.

 

 

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Quiescent Silence

Daily Post: Dormant

dormant

Like the proverbial tree-in-the-forest joke, I wonder at times about my dormant days as a writer.  If I fail to write an article and post it on my blog, and no one notices, do I really make a difference?  For instance, Tuesdays are more often than not dormant days for me on the blog.  Tuesdays, the Senior Men’s Golf Association at Lake Park Golf Course meet and have a weekly tournament.  The 80 or so players on any given week are divided into 3 flights and play for a top prize of $27.50 in each flight, which almost covers the entry fee for playing golf that day.  By the time I return home, have some lunch, clean up, and sit down at my computer, writing is pretty much the last thing on my mind.  In fact, this tree in the forest pretty much defines my state of being for the rest of the day.  So the question remains, when the quiescent silence prevails, do I make a difference?

If a tree falls in the forest, and there’s nobody around to hear, does it make a sound?  Simple question right?  How do you interpret “sound”?  Do you mean the compressions and rarefactions of the air resulting from physical disturbances caused by the falling tree, sending audio frequencies through the stillness of the forest?  Or do you mean the physical signals received by the unique human organs inside our heads which are then synthesized as our brains form perceptions based on these signals, “Aha! A tree is falling!”?

Today isn’t Tuesday, it’s Saturday.  And today, like Meghan Trainor, I’m “all about that bass, no treble.”  No longer dormant, my mind is barreling along at a pretty good clip, heavy on the bass, not a lot of treble.  I’m wondering exactly how to communicate to you, each of you, as readers of this blog, how to awaken from the quiescent silence.  It helps perhaps if we understand the “quiescent silence” and define “make a difference.”

Yes, it is a habit of mine to read the Daily Post word, in this case “dormant,” and try to come up with a hook for my title.  Usually in this process I find a synonym to use as a springboard or writing inspiration.  Hence, “quiescent” really just means “dormant.”  So, if my writing goes dormant on Tuesdays, do I make a difference?  In the tree-in-the-forest example above, the answer depends on how you define “sound.”  In my example perhaps the answer lies equally in how one defines “make a difference.”

My blog presence allows readers all over the world to read something inspirational,  or something that will lead them to the Bible, or something that points them to a spiritual truth, at least that is my daily goal.  This blog has been read in 76 countries around the world since January 2017.  How astounding!  What is even more startling to me, is that even on “dormant” days, rarely is there a Tuesday when someone doesn’t visit the site and read a past article.  From the 173 articles written this year, someone has viewed an article, or page on the blog, 4,302 times.  My response to this analysis provided by my host site is, “so what?”  Because the question is, “have I made a difference?”  If “make a difference” is defined by having a presence then the answer has to be “yes.”

However, if making a difference is to be defined by my seeing the “effect” my blog is having around the globe, then the answer will be “no.”  I am not in China, Australia, India, or Cameroon. I do not know the readers personally.  Yet, even if I did, I don’t know the 24-hour details of their lives, or how God is using me to “make a difference.”  All I can do, is write.  All I can do is pray for God to take this blog, and make it His.  All I can do is be faithful to speak the truth in love, to everyone who reads this blog.  So here it comes, are you ready?

Just like me, you will never know the difference you make in someone else’s life.  Yet I want to encourage you to be faithful.  Living for Jesus often requires us to realize that life may often seem dormant, with no one listening or watching.  But we don’t know what God does with our words, actions, or the life lived for Him… we don’t see the effects, and maybe we never will.  Just because you are not present to hear the tree fall… doesn’t mean it doesn’t make a sound.

We are created to experience God’s grace and extend God’s glory to the end of the earth. Living in such a way will always have long term eternal results, even if in this life it seems to be only a quiescent silence.

1 Timothy 4:1-2
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

 

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Tootsie Pops vs. Suckers

Daily Post: Lollipop

lollipop

I’ve only had a couple of cavities in my life, and those when I was very young.  While I don’t adhere to the strictest calendar regarding Dentist visits, I’m confident from the last time I was in the hot-seat that I inherited the good teeth gene.  I rarely have that many sweets at one time, and I haven’t had a lollipop or tootsie pop since my twenties.  That’s over 40 years for those who don’t know me well.

Mostly I associate suckers with going to a Doctor (not a Dentist) and getting a treat when the appointment went well, meaning I didn’t cry, whine, or complain when I got a shot.  On the other hand, tootsie pops were my absolute favorite for awhile, because I loved the tootsie roll chocolate center when all the hard candy coating was licked off.  To this day I still like tootsie rolls although you won’t find any in my cupboards.

According to a Daily News 2011 article “Halloween candy is delicious, but lollipops and sticky taffy bars are the worst for your teeth.”  The author of the article says “Fruit is better than candy any time, but try telling that to a child!”  Apparently the worst candies for anyone are taffy and other candies filled with caramel, coconut or nuts, and a close second would be hard candies like lollipops and jawbreakers.

Why would someone desire to consume something so obviously harmful to the health of one’s teeth?  That answer is not as hard to come up with as you might think.  In fact this answer is as old as human history.  When the first couple were given instructions on what they could consume for food from the garden, there was only one restriction from the Creator.

Genesis 2:16-17
The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.

Along comes the tempter and convinces this couple that God really doesn’t mean they die, and besides that fruit is so good, God is just keeping it all to himself.  It’s good to look at, to smell, to touch, and to taste… so go ahead… you know you want to.  Regardless of what any parent says to their child at Halloween, these are the same words the child hears, when it comes to that stash of candy they just hoarded from the neighborhood.  So who’s to blame for all the cavities?  The kids?  The candy-makers?  The parents?  The Tempter?  God, because He let someone make the candy?  You see the problem?

Ultimately, if children don’t learn to control their urges, desires, or drives, the consumption of sugar, (or worse), could have disastrous results on their teeth, or health, or both.  Is there a simple lesson here?

What if tootsie tolls and lollipops are symbolic of more pressing adult issues which tempt our minds and hearts today?  Paul wrote about three things which have the power to destroy the human existence, from which we must keep constant awareness.

1 John 2:16
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

James 1:13-16
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.  But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.  Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.  Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

Everything today that stands against the will of God in your life falls into one of three categories (according to John):  lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and boastful pride of life.  These are the three areas which the Tempter will attack you.  Every test that comes your way looks, feels and tastes like a candy treat… but will destroy you if you are not careful.  James says when you give in, committed to the temptation in action (sin), the result is death.

So… when the Tempter offers you lollipops… just say “no.”

It really is that simple.

 

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Disastrous Ramifications

Daily Post: Disastrous

Billy bookcase instructions

I know a guy who has never read an instruction manual, not once.  This man figures he can open the box, layout the pieces, and figure out how they go together by looking at the image of the finished product.  He rationalizes this approach as though the item were a jigsaw puzzle as opposed to a bookshelf.  He says jigsaws are much harder by comparison.  All this often concludes with disastrous ramifications.  While reading would be easier, smarter, faster, and safer, none of that really matters.  What matters, to him at least, is that he can’t acknowledge that the engineers at Ikea could have a better way than his for assembling this Billy shelf.  He simply can’t submit to their authority over the correct way to build the shelf.

Some people approach the Bible in the same manner as an Ikea instruction set for building a bookshelf.  They convince themselves they are probably smart enough to figure out life on their own, without any help or instruction from the Creator of life.  They’ve done ok so far, and can’t see any reason for that to change in the future.  So, hey, when they need some help they’ll ask.  Until then don’t confuse them with the instruction manual.

Jesus, whom John calls The Word, does not control people’s lives, as though He were a taskmaster or puppet master.  He’s not demanding you submit to His authority or lordship.  He’s offering you the opportunity to learn the safety and security of that choice.  Jesus offers grace, but we must choose it, in order to be blessed by it.  At one point He said to the disciples, and the crowd nearby, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” [Luke 16:13]  It was a really awesome maxim then, just as it is today.  We choose whom we serve… or what worship.

Jesus never says “You must submit to me.”  In fact just the opposite is true.  The choice is completely yours and mine to make.  We can spit in His face, use His name as the ultimate height of profanity, crucify Him daily by denying His right to be Lord, and He will never speak against it.  However, to believe these actions and attitudes would have no consequence is not a wise choice at all.  Oswald Chambers says, “It is simply the unworthiness within me that refuses to bow down or to submit to one who is worthy.  When I meet someone who is more holy than myself, and I don’t recognize his worthiness, nor obey his instructions for me, it is a sign of my own unworthiness being revealed.”

Refusing to submit to Jesus as Lord has disastrous ramifications.  Failing to acknowledge His grace, given freely at great cost, will not just be disastrous in itself, but will have eternal consequences most people can’t even imagine.  The simple truth that Jesus stated to His disciples then, and now to us today is:

John 13:13
You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.

Say it well with your words and your life today, call out to Him as Teacher and Lord.  Proclaim His glory rather than your own.  If you need help with this, there’s always the instruction manual, where men and women of old gave us images in the proper exclamation of God’s great glory.

Psalm 150:1-6

Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
Praise Him for His mighty deeds; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
Praise Him with trumpet sound; Praise Him with harp and lyre.
Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!

 

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What Angels Savor

Daily Post: Savor

savor

Now me, I prefer a good tenderloin steak, medium rare, with a baked potato as opposed to say … a tofu salad.  But hey, that’s just me.  I recently sold my Vision Komodo grill to a nice young couple with two children.  I sold it because I’m too old to mess with how long it took to get the charcoal just right in order to cook that medium rare steak in the first place.  The subtle smell of wood smoke is an awesome thing, but if I need more of that smell in my new Weber, I’ll just soak a few chips, wrap it in foil just enough to leek out onto the steaks and I’m still good.  You might say I savor the experience as much as the smell, taste, sight and sound of grilling.

These five senses are God-given characteristics of how the Creator expects us to experience this life.  Literally everything we do in some way involves the engagement of our senses.  The things that we savor are those that penetrate deepest in our minds, in most cases lasting a lifetime.  One of my favorite savored memories of my mom is her banana pudding.  Legend has it that my dad (as a young man) came home from work one day to find a mixing bowl full of banana pudding in the refrigerator.  Mom apparently wasn’t around, so he took the rather large bowl and sat down, proceeded to eat the whole thing. My mother didn’t savor that experience, but he did.

So you see, we savor different things, because we are so unique.

Angels are created beings of a higher order and nature than humans.  Angels were created primarily to worship God, bring God glory, and perform God’s will.  In this unique design, angels were given powers and capabilities that humans do not have.  Yet there is within this paradigm the understanding from the Bible that in some ways, the angels look at our relationship with God and are awed by it. When the Apostle Peter wrote about the living hope and sure salvation we have in Jesus, he talked about the prophets who longed to know more, and the angels who saw from heaven, and wished they could understand better. [1 Peter 1:10-12]

How do I know the angels savor this salvation story?  Simple.  Jesus said so.

At one point in His ministry, Jesus told three parables back-to-back-to-back.  Just so that it wouldn’t be lost on his listeners, Jesus pointed out the object of the parable explicitly at the end of each tale.  He told about a lost sheep and said, “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” [Luke 15]

Then Jesus told the story about the lost coin, and at the end he said, “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”[Luke 15]

Finally, Jesus told the story of a prodigal son, the most complete and detailed version of the “lost” stories.  It was one that probably everyone in the crowd that day related to, because they had known someone who’s son had acted this way… or they were the son that acted this way.  At the end of this story, the son that never did anything wrong was so upset he asked the dad “what gives?” Jesus said to that son, “Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.  But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found!”[Luke 15]

Angels and humans are not brothers.  We do not become angels when we die.  However, angels and humans are both created by God, and have a common purpose.  We were both created to bring God glory.  The angels do this just as they have for eons before humans were ever created.  Yet in this long servitude, when in the fulness of time, the Son of God died so that humanity could be saved, angels were a willing part of this plan of salvation.  The angels ministered to Jesus while here on earth, and minister today to us as we seek to do God’s will.

Jesus said in these “lost” stories that every time a sinner repents, every time that person that is far from God steps over the line of faith into Jesus, the angels savor the experience and throw a party in heaven (look again at the lost coin story).  The angels savor and cling to it in such a way that it never gets old.  The joy never stops.  This aspect of their created experience, they did not know before the creation of humanity, and the plan of salvation for humanity.  But now… even after all this time of watching humans bring glory to God by trusting in Jesus… they savor the experience as something they will never know personally, but had a part in all along.

Are you far from God today?  Take that step… cross over the line of faith into Jesus… and let the angels savor that experience as well.

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Abram’s Moxie

Daily Post: Moxie

moxie

This morning I slept in.  I didn’t set an alarm last night, intentionally.  But then again, I don’t ever set an alarm as though I need one to get up in the morning.  My internal body clock just gets me up.  I can’t just lie there in bed.  It’s virtually impossible for me to force myself to stay in that prone position after I awaken. Life has been this way for me as long as I can remember.  As a result, just after 7:00 am on a Saturday morning, (an hour later than average), here I am, sitting at my desk, writing.

Everyone has their routines.  But I can honestly say I didn’t wake up full of moxie this morning.  I didn’t have a lot of pep in my step, or energy coursing through my veins.  Mostly it seemed I was on auto pilot until my reading routine brought me to this word –Moxie – from the Daily Post.  It wasn’t like a shot of adrenalin, or enlightening like an epiphany, really.  My coffee hadn’t even finished brewing at that point.  Something in my brain just clicked, and it was time to write.

This word, moxie, reminds me of Abram.  Most people know him as Abraham.  He’s pretty famous for his role in becoming the patriarch of the nation of Israel.  Yet, most people don’t even understand that when God spoke to Abram, it wasn’t because he was Jewish.  There was no “Jewish” at the time of Abram.  In fact many of the nations of the world came from Abram’s loins.  Additionally, Abram didn’t even live in the land that would become Israel at the time God found him.  Abram lived in the area of southern Mesopotamia along the Persian Gulf, in the land of Ur (see map above).  Through archaeological discoveries this area extols evidence of elaborate wealth, skilled craftsmanship, and advanced technologies and science (for that ancient time).

Now imagine you are Abram.  God’s voice comes to you and you hear these words: [Genesis 12:1]
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives And from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

What kind of pluck, what kind of courage, what kind of MOXIE would it have taken for Abram to act on these words at face value?  It wasn’t like he had been to the middle east territories and said, “that sounds good, I’ll go live there.”  Abram hadn’t seen it, couldn’t see it, and wouldn’t even know how to get there, except God shows him the way.  Talk about a pioneer, this guy has something most of us can’t even comprehend.  Abram has to leave the only home he has ever known, all his relatives will stay behind, and he’ll never return to his country.  Call it what you want, that takes moxie.

Theologians, Pastors, Teachers and the Church at large tend to quantify Abram’s actions by the word Faith.  Clearly, this is what Scripture teaches in Hebrews 11:8.  By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.

So here’s the thing, perhaps we’ve heard this word so frequently that today we need to find some context of its meaning for us personally.  Hence, I offer you here, Abram’s moxie as a bench mark of faith.  All of Abram’s actions were based in an active belief, resulting in behaviors which were evidence of his faith.  This takes moxie: courage, and determination.  Abram determined in his heart that God would do exactly as He said.  Abram then courageously acted in accordance with God’s commands.  I don’t know a better definition of faith.

After all, remember what Abram left behind in Ur… a culture of wealth, craftsmanship, technology… to become a pioneer of something greater.  When someone suggests walking in God’s will and way is easy, mostly they have no idea what they’re talking about.  It takes great courage and determination to believe God’s promises and act accordingly.  To pull up roots, to travel to an unknown land, takes moxie.

Faith today then should be expressed in Abrahamic style… with moxie.  Today I urge you to live courageously and determinedly, walking with God toward that land that you have not seen.  Step and in moxie-like faith, and become the person God intended you to be.

2 Corinthians 5:7
… for we walk by faith, not by sight.

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A Bespoke Being

Daily Post: Tailor

tailor

Working my way through undergraduate work at West Texas A & M University was quite a journey.  One of the many part time jobs I held was as a gopher to a Tailor.  The man who owned that business was quite nice to me, even if he was clear that I was not to be out in his shop when customers were in the store.  If I was caught up on my work, he allowed me to wander through the bolts of material which crowded around the stool he used to measure and fit his customers.  Or, I would stand and watch him cut the material for a new pair of pants or jacket, as he explained things about grain and weave and pattern that went completely over my head.  All I know is, I would have given anything to own one of his suits.  They were outstanding. They were made-to-order.  Bespoke.

It’s like the difference in real and powdered anything.  Take eggs for instance.  Real eggs, scrambled, taste vastly different than powdered scrambled eggs.  Powdered milk? Same.  Powdered anything? Same.  Made-to-order goods, like tailored clothing, simply look and fit better, in the same way made-to-order food tastes better.   In the hands of a master, the end result can be one-of-a-kind greatness.

Apparently, in the hipsterish culture of American consumerism, “bespoke” sounds old-fashioned and traditional, which are two qualities of pop-faith for todays “in-people” who think earlier generations did things in a more “natural” or “righteous” way. This lends easily to the “authenticity hoax.”   Simply add the word “Bespoke” to anything and the pop crowd rushes to the fountain to drink, literally.  Read Jim Farber’s 2016 article on Bespoke here.

“Authentic, unique, made-to-order, bespoke, and original” all have one thing in common.  These words speak to the elements design or creation of items not previously existing which come into being through the creators design and skill.  A suit is just a suit? Well yes, and no.  You can buy a pre-made suit off any number of racks in reputable clothing stores.  Whether bespoke or pre-made, each suit serves pretty much the same purpose.  While the pre-made suit will fit generally well, the bespoke suit is suppose to fit “perfectly,” having been designed for a specific body.

Here it comes.  Are you ready?  You are a bespoke being.  I am a bespoke being.  Not one person who has ever lived is a pre-made being.  We are all unique, we are all a one-off.  I realize I wrote about this yesterday in “Lumbering Through Life.” However, some topics just bear repeating, so I will.  You are a bespoke being.  God was in the bespoke business long before the hipsters discovered how cool it it.

The Bible says, (Genesis 1:1-5)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.  Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.  God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.  

When adding these thoughts to the passages from yesterday it is so obvious that God is the Master Creator.  He made the heavens and the earth “to order,” according to His own design and purpose.  Every creature, every plant, every person, and every thing was created for Him and by Him.

John 1:3-5
All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.  In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

If God is the Creator, and He created you (and me), then we are bespoke with a purpose. To find this purpose, all that is required, is to turn your life over completely to the Creator, seeking His will and His plan for your life.

You are a Bespoke Being!

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Lumbering through Life

Daily Post: Bumble

bumbling

One of my favorite Disney characters was Jumbo Jr.  Here’s the child elephant which has extremely large ears, not proportionate to his body, so he’s ridiculed and cruelly tagged Dumbo.  The moniker sends his mother into a fit storm that gets her chained up like a criminal.  Jumbo’s bumbling accident wreaks havoc and several elephants are injured, so “Dumbo” is dressed up like a clown and given dangerous acts to perform.  Finally all this leads to the discovery of how his humongous ears have a positive benefit, they enable him to fly.  Now the bumbling elephant becomes the feature show at the circus.

Disney movies had a way of touching children with simple images and stories, while leading adults toward some serious self-examination, and contemplation of life struggles.  There seemed to always be a “lesson” in the bumbling awkward telling of the tale.  Here are a few just to get you thinking…

Lion King … don’t take life too seriously
Aladdin … it is what’s on the inside that counts, nothing else matters.
Cinderella … material possessions can be gone in an instant, but no one can ever take away your dreams.
Winnie the Pooh … close friends are life’s greatest treasures, cherish your time together.
Beauty and the Beast … true beauty is found not in how one looks, but in how one treats others.
Dumbo … what makes you different is also what makes you incredibly special.

I guess this lesson stuck with me.  Within my own self-examination efforts there are times when I imagine myself no more than a bumbling, stumbling, lumbering human, whose awkward attempts at living fall miserably short of what I was designed to be.  At times I’m heavy-footed and uncoordinated, galumphing along the daily path.  Other days I’m tramping and blundering toward a goal, but doing it so ineptly.  The lesson from Dumbo applies to me everyday… I am what I am, I am who I am, and what makes me different, also makes me special.

Profiling can be a very dangerous thing, as we’ve seen recently around the world, as every country continues to fight ISIS, and terrorism in general.  However, there is an excellent way to come to understand the value of uniqueness that God designed in you.  Dr. Mels Carbonell, President of Uniquely You Seminars and Resources, says, “Personality profiling can be a sensitive subject if you don’t explain its importance and function.  The most important advice is to NEVER use the term ‘personality test.’ That definitely gives people the impression that some personalties are better than others.”  The DISC personality profile is a great tool to bring understanding to who you are, and why you think and act in the ways you do.

The Bible is full of expressions regarding the uniqueness of you as well.  While we are all designed in a general human subject context, we are each distinctly different in so many ways.  Consider these verse today, and realize… what makes you different is also what makes you incredibly special... at least to Dumbo, as well as Scripture!

Psalm 139:13-14
For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.  I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.

1 Peter 2:9
But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

Psalm 119:73-74
Your hands made me and fashioned me; Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.  May those who fear You see me and be glad, Because I wait for Your word.

Jeremiah 1:4-5
Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Ephesians 2:10
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Psalm 139:16
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.

Psalm 139:2-4
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar.  You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.  Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all.

Don’t just go lumbering through life!  Use these verses to find meaning and purpose in your life, serving the Creator in your own unique self.

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Like a dog with a bone…

Daily Post: Bury

Shot of a Handsome Labrador with Bone in his Mouth

The urge to bury bones, toys and other objects is in a dog’s DNA.  Instinctually driven, like their ancient ancestors, digging and burying something was a way to protect uneaten food.  Returning to those holes later to uncover their buried treasure, offered the dog an afternoon snack, or a midnight meal.  The late night meal would easily be true at least for our dog, which seems to have taken on a nocturnal nature, going out the doggie door at our bedtime, and wandering in and out at all hours of the night.  We’ve discussed many times how odd this is, and wondering what Sugar is doing. Today as I write, it mostly reminds me of the folks who love to go in search of hidden/buried treasure.

I read an article written in May 2016 about 7 treasures hidden in the State of Texas which most people don’t even know about.  These treasures really exist, or so I’m to believe, due to the rich history of Spanish and Mexican invasions into Texas.  For years treasure hunters have searched for a lost silver mine along the San Saba River.  Indians in the area told invading Mexicans about a strain of pure silver running through a hill in Central Texas.  Mines have been located, but no silver has yet been found.

The Sam Bass Loot of Denton is another good one.  According to the legend, an infamous robber named Sam Bass stole 3,000 gold bars from the Union Pacific Railroad worth about $20 each at the time.  While some of the bars have been recovered, the rest remains hidden, while rumor has the location in Cove Hollow.

Included in this article are the stories of:  Jean Lafitte’s Booty, The Mine in the Mountains of El Paso, Money Hill Treasure on Padre Island, Cypress Creek Gold in Upshur County, and the Google Earth Sunken Ship near Corpus Christi.  If you want to read about all 7 of these not-yet-found Texas Treasures, click here.  Everyone break out your metal detector and let’s go treasure hunting!

In the same way that I’m not a thrill-seeker and don’t go in for exciting escapades to get my heart rate up, I’ve mostly avoided the pie-in-the-sky pull of treasure hunting as well.  No, sorry, I don’t own a metal detector.  I’m probably more aligned with the old yarn, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”  There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to find hidden treasure, yet it can often serve as a barometer of what’s going on inside someone’s heart or mind.  In fact, the dog with a bone image is a good one for my point.

God has placed within each of us the capacity to know Him personally.  This place inside us, this “God-sized hole” is unique, in that it can only be filled or “satisfied” when we step over the line of faith into Jesus as our Savior.  When we do this, God’s hidden treasure – The Holy Spirit – comes to rule and reign in us, empowering us to live for God’s ultimate glory.  The Holy Spirit is the treasure we seek… by God’s own design.  What happens when we bury things in this space that is supposed to be filled with God?

When we bury the pursuit of money, power, lust, greed, land, cars, clothes, houses, or any other thing in this place, we have usurped God’s design, and become inhabited with an unquenched thirst for “more.”  When we abandon our treasure hunt for the truth, stepping by faith into Jesus… the hole God designed in our being is filled, and our thirst for treasure is quenched.. in Him.

Like a dog with a bone, we will fill this hole inside us with something… I wonder what it will be for you today.

Matthew 6:19-21
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

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Exciting Escapades

Daily Post: Caper

caper

No one who knows me well would label me a “thrill seeker.”  I’m not into spelunking, volcano boarding, zapcat powerboating, bungy jumping, or rollercoasters.  These are not capers which interest me.  If you want to run with the bulls, kayak over Niagara Falls, go whitewater rafting, or swim with the sharks, you’ll have to find another partner.  All these fearsome activities are in the top 25 of an article aptly titled, “50 of the most thrilling, daring things you can do on vacation.”  Just let me play golf everyday of my vacation and I’m beyond thrilled.

BASE jumping is an acronym defining four categories of fixed locations from which a person can jump, using a parachute to break their fall. These include: buildings, antennas, spans (bridges), and earth (cliffs).  It boggles my mind that someone would actually choose to do this on purpose.  Not to be coy, but really, who wants to go to Toronto, to the CN Tower EdgeWalk (image above)?  116 storeys above the ground you will be tethered to the wall in such a way that allows you to walk around the building on a 1.5 meter-wide ledge, which takes most people about 30 minutes.  This caper would take me days to complete, if you could get me on the ledge at all.  Put me on a putting green, with my feet planted firmly on terra firma any day.

For all you adrenalin junkies out there, here’s one last caper you may not have heard of yet.  It’s called Extreme Ironing.  EI is a combination activity and performance art of sorts.  People take an ironing board to an extreme location and proceed to iron (I promise, I’m not making this up. Check out this link: Extreme Ironing)  What began in 1997 in the UK is apparently an actual worldwide activity today.  I just don’t get it.

Why do people do these things?  What causes a person to get out of bed in the morning and think, “what can I do today to cheat death?”  Perhaps the simplest answer is in the sense that this person wants to “feel” alive.  Maybe without the adrenalin rush that comes with extremely dangerous activities, they continually feel nothing.  Then I suggest it isn’t so much about “feeling” as it is about consciousness.

Woven deep within the human DNA is the need to have a sense of purpose, a reason for living.  Since we were designed by a Creator who does everything intentionally, the primary design characteristic of the human species, was to live our lives in such a way that we bring ultimate glory to God.  I’m just not clear on how the activities I’ve discussed so far accomplish this design goal.  Not only that, but if just obtaining the rush that comes from cheating death is all that is required, why does it have to be repeated constantly to “feel” alive?

No, this pursuit can only be explained one way.  The exciting escapade that brings real meaning and purpose in life is one that takes extreme courage.  The caper that allows a person to finally and completely feel alive, because they actually are alive, is one that scares the living daylights out of many people.  The way to finally gain that sense of purpose that all thrill seekers pursue, is to take one simple step.  The step of faith.  The committed, intentional, purposeful step of surrendering your heart and life to Jesus Christ as savior.

The only object to be pursued, that will fill that empty spot inside your soul, is the presence of God’s Holy Spirit, which Jesus puts into you as His seal of salvation.  Now that is an exiting escapade!

2 Corinthians 1:20-22
For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.  Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.

Want an inexplicably exciting, death defying escapade?

Give your life to Jesus!

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