Rusty Routines

via Ordinary

Ode to Simon Peter

PeterIn my mind’s eye, I’m just an ordinary guy.
The sun rises and sets, everyday I clean my nets.
Some days the fish bite early, on others I just go home surly.
Then along comes a man, who seems more than just a man.
He lifts me from from the pallor, He fills my life with color.
No longer satisfied, to move in and out with the tide,
I now reside, inside … the circle of this extraordinary man.

 

For years and years I got up early, went immediately to the shower, got dressed like a warrior to do battle in a suit.  Routines were important.  Routines kept me focused on the next task, so that when the tasks of the day were complete, I could sleep again.  Rest again. It wasn’t always such a dreary life as to wish I had another.  Moving from one career to another over time seemed natural and normal, ordinary.  The routines all felt ordinary.  The days, months, and years, now looking back, all seemed just so ordinary.  It was what it was.

For a good part of that life I often found my nose pressed in one particular book called the Bible.  Actually the Bible is a collection of 66 different books by almost as many authors.  Taken as a whole it describes a great and extraordinary kind of love, demonstrated to all men and women, ordinary and great, regardless of race, color, or nationality.  Having now spent the best part of my life studying, preaching and teaching from this collection of Books on God’s love, I find in myself an unusual sense of peace.

I don’t get up at the same time every day.  I eat when I’m hungry, not on a predetermined schedule.  Some days I don’t shave.  Some weeks I don’t shave for several days in a row.  This feels normal, ordinary even.  I read, a lot.  Having read for years in preparation for the next speaking opportunity, now my reading has expanded to other topics of interest.  I’m investigating new technology gadgets, new recipes to try,  and new training methods for my golf swing.  For me, this is the new normal.  Some days I’m content in this place, while other times I look back almost fondly, through a misty fog, on the rusty routines of a younger life as me.

The Ode to Simon Peter (above) came to me just this morning.  The picture I’ve loaded is not by accident.  Peter lived such an ordinary life before Jesus showed up one day while Peter and Andrew were cleaning their nets.  On that day, their lives changed forever.  Peter would never tell us today that his life after that day was ever ordinary.  In fact, I suggest that Peter would tell us now, as he looks back on his life with the Master, that this one image is a perfect reflection of how his relationship with Jesus looked… every single day.

Jesus is in the saving business.  Peter was just an ordinary man, an ordinary fisherman, who needed Jesus to provide, protect, lead, and yes, save him, every day.  This my friends is the very definition of grace.  We are all so ordinary.  God is so extraordinary.  His hand reaches out to us, and by His hand we are saved.  I so readily identify with Peter in this way.  I realize with ultimate clarity that my whole life past, has been about God’s saving grace, for an undeserving ordinary man, me.  I have no illusions about my present, or my future.  I’ll continue to be very ordinary.  In this way, I will also continue to need Jesus offering His hand to save me.  Yet, I will always be, what God called me to be, like He called Peter to be, a fisher of men.

Mark 1:17
“Follow Me”, Jesus told them, “and I will make you become fishers of men.”

 

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Nature’s Way

via Instinct

When you hear, “Once upon a time…,” what immediately comes to mind?  Fairy Tells? Mythology? A television show?  Children’s stories?  What about this phrase, “In the beginning…”?  So often I’ve heard people say the origins of our earth and universe were creations of chance, without logic or reason, or a Creator… it was just a Big Bang.  Yet there is this document that having stood the test of time continues to be one of the best selling books of all time.  In it is found the narrative of creation, including the universe, the atmosphere surrounding the earth, the water and the mountains, all plant life, the fish and the birds, and every living animal or creature, including the human species. While there are those who continue to proclaim this document’s narrative is no truer than the average fairy tale, children’s story, or epic mythological account of time, what exactly determines the veracity of this story over the others?  There is no other tale, story, or myth that goes on to explain the meaning of life in such vivid detail, with such historical accuracy, or with such future promise as does the Bible. In fact, in the Bible is found the explanation for all the other narratives.

Romans 1:18-23
For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them.For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles.

So here’s the thing.  You can’t ask a tree if the tree believes in the Creator, because the only “voice” the tree has is it’s instinctive knowledge of the seasonal changes the Creator instituted, and the tree’s own presence to demonstrate this truth.  So every season the tree’s leaves change color, the tree goes to sleep, then bears new leaves or fruit in it’s time of new life.  It’s wired this way.  It’s instinctive.  But if the trees, or the rivers, or the mountains and the hills did have a voice…

Isaiah 55:12
You will indeed go out with joy and be peacefully guided; the mountains and the hills will break into singing before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

All of nature makes its way to glorify the Creator within itself.  Animals, birds, fish, plants, trees, the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars of the universe, all point to the Creator and say, “what a great God we serve!”  They all act on instinct – that innate, fixed pattern of behavior with which they were created to act.  But NOT the human species.  We are different.  While the Roman’s passage above tells us that we are capable of recognizing God’s handiwork, in the sense that we “instinctively” know God exists, we humans get to choose to worship and bring Him glory.  Or not.  Choice, that’s the difference.  We are not hard-wired in our DNA to specific actions or reactions based on certain stimuli, without reason or deduction.  Our minds think, then choose, then act.  It’s nature’s way.  It’s how the Creator made us different from every other creature on earth.

animals

If we understand this difference between choice and instinct, we are better equipped then to accept that humans are responsible for their own choices.  No animal raises its eyes to heaven and says, “Why did you make me this way?”  Yet, it might be the very question more people should be asking their Creator.  His answer will be simple.  I believe the Creator would say to every person that asks (honestly – without a preconceived answer), “You are you, so you can know how much I love you, and how I want to show My glory through you.”  You get to choose whether this answer rings true to you or not.  Let these last verses guide you in that process.

John 3:16
For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

Psalm 115:1
Not to us, Yahweh, not to us, but to Your name give glory because of Your faithful love, because of Your truth.

Psalm 33:6-12
The heavens were made by the word of the LORD, and all the stars, by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into a heap; He puts the depths into storehouses. Let the whole earth tremble before the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it came into being; He commanded, and it came into existence. The LORD frustrates the counsel of the nations; He thwarts the plans of the peoples.  The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation.  Happy is the nation whose God is Yahweh– the people He has chosen to be His own possession!


 

 

 

 

 

Created to Create

via Craft

Communication has been my craft for most of my life.  By the time I was 16 years-old, I was speaking to small or large groups of students about the Word of God.  A friend of mine and I were a preacher/singer combo, going around the smaller towns of west Texas to preach “youth-led” worship services.  In retrospect, I’ve discovered many things about myself.  The most stark reality I face today is how imperfect I am in this craft.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m completely at rest where with I’ve been and the opportunities afforded me, and for having the great privilege of telling the Greatest Story Ever Told.

My skill was in simply creating an atmosphere or climate for someone to dive into the Word of God and see themselves as God sees them.  Then step back and allow The Holy Spirit to move their hearts and minds toward God in this process.  We always offered people an “invitation” to accept God’s grace, forgiveness, and salvation, right there on the spot.  We felt “called” to conduct the services in this way because of the gravity of the truth of the message.  From time to time I would be in the middle of speaking, when suddenly I would become aware of the words coming out of my mouth, and over the sound system, knowing they were being formed or created on my tongue by God’s Spirit. These were no “unintelligible” utterances, I’m not talking about “speaking in tongues.” I know for certain the words were given for someone in the room who needed to hear those very thoughts.

46 years later now, I yearn for the opportunity to once again speak with this same result. The tools of my craft included the Bible, commentaries, basic education and higher education, going to conferences, and listening to taped recordings of the world’s most recognized and gifted communicators.  From each of these resources I would make notes, script a sermon or Bible lesson, honing and trimming the excess or duplication of thoughts, until the day of the presentation.  I would then pray a simple prayer: “Lord, please use me one more time, just to speak Your truth, tell Your story – not mine, and trust Your Spirit to accomplish what my words never could.”

Other people, not me, would tell you whether or not I was successful in my craft.  My perspective is that I was doing the best I could in each moment I spoke.  Early days would clearly be evaluated as not nearly as effective as later years, but by definition I was not fully educated, or as practiced then as later years.  The Creator gave me the grand privilege of creating (or planting) a new church congregation in 2006.  11 years later, and now semi-retired from church staff work, God has planted in me the desire to continue my craft of communicating God’s word.

I am literally days away now from publishing my first book.  It will be a Bible Study book on the most confusing book in the Bible – Revelation.  It is being designed differently than any other book about this material on book shelves today.  The book will read more like a script than a history book, in that each paragraph is a single thought (sentence) on which the Bible student can make specific notes. In this way, the individual reader while studying God’s word, can question, make observations, notes, ideas, or write their own conundrums down for later discussion.

Another thing that makes this book different than any other is my approach of avoiding timelines, future dates, or obscure language to interpret these scriptures.  I will help the reader who truly wants to understand the meanings, to gain insights that have escaped others.  Here is the premise of the whole work:
I believe the Book of Revelation defines the exorbitant length to which God will go to seek and save those who will be saved in this era of human existence.  Revelation is 100% about Jesus Christ; and everything in the book is created to reveal Him in new and exciting ways not previously understood in any other book.  Revelation is about a loving God, a holy God, and a saving God.  Trust me, it’s worth the read.

My prayer is that God will use this book as the vehicle or tool to once again have an audience, and communicate the best I can -The Greatest Story Ever Told.

 

revelation-cover