Monday, September 8, 2008
Being saddled with debt can be a binding thing. We cannot be free to serve the Lord when we are enslaved to worldly wealth. We cannot do all that God commands when our obligations are to another master. We can suffer tremendous pain while suffering in debt. But this worldly pain of being indebted to the world's systems pale in comparison to the eternal pain we will encounter if we leave this temporary world and our eternal account remains unsettled.
When we realize that our payment has been made for us to live in eternity, it makes a difference how we live our lives here and now. We can be indebted to the bank and live freely in Christ. Our eternal debt has been settled by an Eternal One. He has forgiven our sin debt. He absorbed the cost Himself.
Several things have to occur when a debt is settled. The first question to settle in our minds is about the debt itself. There must be agreement about the debt. Does the debt exist? How much do we owe? And to whom? Our eternal debt exists. Even if you are reading this and do not believe that you owe God your life, trust me, you do. The wages of sin (sin being our natural-born existence and not only the wrong things we do)is death. Someone has said that sin has a payday someday. We have to consider that we are being held as hostages to sin by the ruler of this world. He has control over our lives because we are born sinners. We are born debtors. So yes, we have a sin debt to reconcile.
The next question is about the debt. Can we repay it? What is the amount? Consider that there are two ways to settle a debt. The debt can be paid in full. This option only exists if we have capacity to pay. The currency that we use must be correct for the amount and it must be acceptable as payment. Or the debt can be forgiven. This is highly appealing to the debtor but highly unlikely. Only the creditor has this option. Only the one who is owed can forgive, or cancel, the debt. The creditor alone enjoys the privilege of taking the initiative to exercise this option. I can pretend that I do not owe my life to God and must give an account to Him, but the reality is that I would be living in a fantasy. I do not have the currency or the resources available to buy my way into God's presence. The sin debt is too high. I am powerless to cancel it because that is not the debtor's option.
But when I enjoy a relationship with God, the One to whom I am indebted, the truth is that this dream of debt forgiveness has come true. God has assumed the cost of the debt. He has purchased us from the master of sin. As in any debt settlement, the terms of forgiveness must be accepted to take advantage of our new standing as debtors. This is the choice of the debtor. The conditions often include a pledge not to live in such a way that we become indebted again. Our problem as humans is that we want to be forgiven of our unpayable debt, but we also want a clean slate to live how we want to live. But rejecting the terms of our debt forgiveness leaves the debtor in debt. Are you still a debtor of a debt that you can never pay? Our has your debt been settled by God? Our account must be settled up when we're called up. Jesus paid it all…all to Him I owe. Only the blood of Jesus has been considered sufficient to pay our way out of bondage to sin. Are you grateful for that transaction today? Are you taking advantage of your debt settlement? God's children have been redeemed from slavery. We have been bought. bought by Him, and bought for Him.
I can't tell you how that stirs my heart with joy. So I'll just let the words of God's word say it for me.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace... (Ephesians 1:3-8)
Monday, August 25, 2008
Unwanted plants can spring up in a cultivated garden and often the only way to keep them from overwhelming and crowding out the good things are to pull them up by the roots. But something called Roundup works pretty as well. It's the brand name of a herbicide that is pretty effective. Spray it on weeds and for a couple of days afterward, you may think it has had no effect. But suddenly, the plant will begin to wilt and become discolored as it dies. It won't matter what you feed the plant after an application of roundup. It will not be revived. Death has gone all the way down to the root.
Spiritually speaking, the writer of the Book of Hebrews had some wise counsel about bitter roots. I believe the advice was given to religious people and is relevant for us in our day as well. Early Christians were advised that they were to be on guard for a certain kind of growth in their midst would only yield big trouble. A growing root of bitterness would spoil the growth of many.
Have you ever been blessed by God in the things that you do? There is nothing quite like it. In those times it seems that everywhere you look spiritual fruit seems to be growing. Then suddenly, much like the dramatic death of weeds after a shot of roundup, the fruit begins to wither in your life. In times like these, you begin to wonder what's wrong. You begin to review your relationships and your life before God to discover that somewhere along the way, you have begun to harbor feelings of unforgiveness in your heart. The unforgiveness begins to feed a root of bitterness. Things begin to wither and die. Ever been through that kind of trial? Ever wonder where the fruit has gone?
A clear understanding of the grace of God does not provide environments for bitterness to grow. Once we know that grace is not earned, we understand that we are not entitled to it either. When we are more aware of God's grace in our life, we are more willing to extend that to others. Applications of grace retards the growth of bitterness. Keeping grace growing helps to crowd out roots of bitterness. Bitterness needs room in the heart to grow. It flourishes in graceless hearts. Bitterness will spring up when envy, jealousy, and resentment exist. Roots of bitterness grow in graceless gardens. A life lived apart from the grace of God will yield bitterness. Bitter lives beget bitter lives. Bitter roots grow bitter fruit.
Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; (Hebrews 12:14-15)
We must actively see to it that bitter roots are spotted and removed. A shot of spiritual roundup can go to the root. A generous and repetitive application of forgiveness and grace is a death sentence to bitter roots and bitter fruit. Interesting that the glory of God was once seen in a fruitful garden and the desire to want something more than He had provided resulted in this broken and bitter world. But God is intent on restoration. God is glorified when we forgive those who have wounded us. God is glorified when bitterness is identified and we agree with Him that this attitude dishonors Him. God is glorified when we ask forgiveness for being resentful, angry, and envious and allow the Spirit of God to have His way in renewing our lives.
Always monitor your spiritual garden for the bitter root. There is no substitute for pulling the weed up. Roundup is good, but sometimes we need to get our hands around the weed of bitterness. Pull it up. Bring it to God. Ask His forgiveness of the unforgiving attitude.
Friday, August 15, 2008
When I was young, it was a popular thing to tell children about "the birds and the bees". The information that was communicated had nothing to do with feathered friends or buzzing bees but was indeed about nature. It was about the nature of human sexuality. Often when the session was completed, the children left with more unanswered questions and the adults left with a sense of incomplete and frustrated instruction. We never seemed to do an adequate job of sex education. The homes began to hush about it. And the church began to push the mute button. It was something we just didn't talk about until it was too late. So we left it to the cultural institutions. The schools began to teach it. And the streets began to instruct us. I wish I could turn back the clock a generation or two just to get this insight out for all to see. So here's my latest leftover thought:
The hummingbirds and the bees are attracted to the colored sugar water which appears to be nectar. Nectar is something good for both of them and was created naturally for the good of the rest of creation. So the birds and the bees are in conflict over something that is not what it seems. They would be better off searching for the real thing around real flowers but the feeder makes it too easy for them and it is so alluring. It seems we humans have intervened once more with our own design and haven't thought it through so well. So it is with society's teaching about sexual things. The media, our prominent cultural institution, does a pretty good job of promoting that which is not the real thing when it comes to the allure and accessibility and satisfaction of our sexual desires. In contrast, the Creator God has designed in His mind and written in His plan the good and right way to enjoy a sexual relationship between two human beings. The boundaries of marriage between a man and a woman is His naturally designed place to partake of this God-given pleasure. When our society turns from a trustworthy plan and design in favor of something that looks good and seems right to the mind of man, there is emptiness, disappointment, and death at the end of this direction. We have made our own design the way we think things ought to be. And we suffer as a people because of it. I think I understand the anxiety of the hummingbird as he shares the space at the feeder with the lone honey bee. Even though the tiny hummingbird dwarfs the bee, the bird knows that the bee has a stinger. That stinger could be death to him. Our so-called freedom to experience and experiment with sexual relationships comes with a price we are not prepared to pay. Our sexual freedom, the prize of my generation's sexual revolution, has deceived us. It is not what it seemed. It is no prize at all. It's a penalty and the price for our ignorance and rebellion. We are only as free as God makes us. Free love is when God sets us free to love His way.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
At one of my favorite places to eat, I can ask for an additional honey mustard sauce to be added to my order. This particular chain has several restaurants in my area. They have their own brand of dipping sauce and without fail, at every one of these locations, they offer to replace their sauce with the honey mustard. I know they are only trying to save me money. You have to pay 25 cents for each additional sauce. But it seems like they never hear the word additional or heed its meaning. I usually have to explain that I want both, their own special sauce and the honey mustard. But lately, I think I've gotten a breakthrough. Instead of saying the word additional at the drive thru speaker, I have begun to use the word extra. I've tried it at two different locations. So far, we have communicated exceptionally well. They add the honey mustard, I pay 'em the quarter and it is almost like heaven...almost...but not quite. Sorry...that experience is not even close to heaven.
If you ask someone if they would like to go to heaven, most people will say yes. That is, if they believe there's a heaven. And even if some don't, some will hedge their bets and opt for heaven just in case it might be a reality. Now if heaven is real, there may be an alternative location some folks would reason. And here's where I really want to go with today's leftover thought. Most people want to go to heaven. It gets interesting when they tell you why. Some will say that they would rather go to heaven than hell. I can see the wisdom in that. Then there are those that say they want to go to heaven to see their loved ones. Now they have to make assumptions that the loved ones will be there when they get there...which is another assumption altogether! Some want to go where there is no pain and suffering. Who wouldn't want that? Some are waiting to occupy a mansion that they say will be given title to. Some want to claim their rewards for the good lives they have lived while on earth. Then there are those who think their pets who died will be there. All these things make good theological discussions. But occasionally you will hear someone say they want to go to heaven to be with their God. I think these are folks who have had a significant breakthrough in their understanding of life and death and life after death. They want to be with their God, the One who has been with them. You see, folks may not always understand things that are additional. Additional things are things that are added. But extra is extra! We understand extra. Extra says that I am receiving more than I thought I would. More than I earned. More than I expected. The extra is what God has done to get me to heaven. It is not what I have done. Extra is when God grants more to us when we deserve less. Extra is what grace is all about. Extra is heaven when hell is deserved. Being in Heaven with God is extra enough. But when other things are added in, it is more than extra. God has made a way for me to spend eternity with Him. He has done through Jesus what we cannot do for ourselves. That is EXTRA, EXTRA good news!!!
Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (Eph 3:20-21)
Extra, Extra, Read All About It. Take the time, some extra time today to read in the Bible about what God has done and what God is doing and what God will do. Heaven is all about marvelling at the awesome work of an awesome God forever and ever. Heaven is more about a Person than a place. And anything else that heaven may be is over-the-top and out-of-this world extra.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
My grandchildren help me with this new endeavor. On the computer, we don't have to keep up with the pieces. We drag them around with the mouse on the laptop and assemble the straight-edged pieces to frame up the picture that the puzzle will reveal. This is the easy part. Then we labor over the rest. The children (OK, and me included) often take a piece that we want to put into the puzzle but it just doesn't fit. Around and around we go inside the framed puzzle until I finally say, "I guess the puzzle's not quite ready for this piece." So we work as we wait until more of the puzzle comes together. And then we see it. We see the place for the piece. Everything fits. It all comes together.
Life is so much like a jigsaw puzzle. We work at getting our life framed up, considering our choices and selecting our options. We identify our borders, sometimes by trial and error, and we live out our existence within the boundaries. Some of life makes a lot of sense as the puzzle fits together very nicely. Then some things happen that do not fit within our frame. Our lives can be impacted with such grievous losses or we can be wounded so wickedly that the focus changes to the piece that doesn't fit the puzzle. It is time-consuming and even paralyzing. Whether it is disease or death or divorce or any of many life-altering tragedies, as we move through the sorrow of it all, we wonder what we will do with this piece that has our attention. The puzzle does not seem ready for the piece. Life does not seem ready for the loss. This painful piece does not fit.
In my younger days, I knew someone who was proficient at putting puzzles together and had this uncanny ability to "see" the places where the pieces fit before the rest of us could. We often called this person "Puzzle Master". Puzzles did not seem so challenging to the Puzzle Master.
When we don't understand the timing of events in our life and are bewildered at how it's all going to come together, we can take great comfort that we have Someone who knows what the completed picture will look like.
He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.
God is an excellent Puzzle Master. Surrender that piece that doesn't fit or ask Him to help you find pieces that are missing. Trust me, the Lord can be trusted with the picture. He designed it. And it will come together in time.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (Colossians 3:17)
Now does this mean that God frowns upon my sorry excuse for a tie-dyed T-shirt? I don't think He worries about that too much. But I do think that God is concerned when I say I do my best and it is evident that I didn't give it my best effort. Someone is always watching. It is not the best example that I set for my granddaughters. They need to see a man that strives for excellence because He has a God with an excellent name. Someone is also watching when other people never see us. Our lives are lived before the all-seeing eye of a most excellent God. It's amazing that a person can learn in nine years what it takes another one over fifty years to forget. Some times we only do what we really want to do. I'm glad God didn't stop halfway to the cross.
Blessings to you,
Thursday, June 19, 2008
"How do they feel?" the young man asked.
"They feel fine," I said, "But I can't see through them."
"Great!" he exclaimed. "And they look so good on you!"
"But I can't see through them," I responded.
"But they look good," he maintained.
"But I can't see," I repeated. It's like he can't hear me, I thought. Maybe he's a deaf man in an optical shop. I wondered if hearing and seeing are connected. Finally, I began to break through to this guy. Evidently, someone had misread the lens prescription. He seemed heartbroken as he sighed and told me that they would have to send them back. "And they really looked good on you," was the last thing I heard him say.
The memory of this experience was triggered after my recent eye surgery. A lens implant from a cataract surgery ten years ago had slipped out of place, causing me to see double images in one eye. I am so glad that the surgeon wasn't like the optical shop technician. They seemed to have radically different understandings of the ultimate purpose of their service. The technician focused on how my eyeglasses "looked" and not how well I saw. The surgeon wanted to correct my vision. I have learned that it's far more important to see clearly than to look good. God wants me to see clearly so that He looks good. Jesus had something similar to say to His disciples. He told them stories that helped people gain a greater understanding of God and His purposes. Some of the people didn't get it. They were more concerned with looking good than with seeing clearly. But for the ones who heard the word of God...their vision was corrected.
"But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it." (Matthew 13:16-17)
Hearing and seeing are connected. Ponder awhile on this leftover thought: Instead of asking myself, How do I look?, focus on the question, What do I see? The world looks radically different through the lens of God's word. If anyone has ears to hear...
Blessings to you,
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Saturday, May 31, 2008
The culture in which I grew up was primarily small town and rural. We altered the boogie man's pronunciation, and even the spelling. Our Boogie Man was called the Booger Man. Boogers are boogie terrorists. In my time, I've heard tell of some mighty scary boogers! Anyway, as children, we were cautioned and counseled (politically correct terminology for threatened and terrorized) to behave ourselves or the booger man would come and get us. We were never told what he would do when he got us or where he would take us. That part was left for the imagination. For a young mind to be so soon a-wondering about such things and a-wandering through life was pretty scary. Further looking into some of this song's lyrics can give one the impression that this boogie man is there to do whatever he could to please the listener. Kind of like the boogie man was some sort of genie, your-wish-is-my-command sort of thing. He was there to serve whoever is listening to the song. This is a rather seductive suggestion. Well, my booger man philosophical worldview goes something like this. The booger man is in our earliest memories because he is real. We are born with that reality in place. And he is not there in our lives to serve us. He is there to be served. His presence is not there as a deterrent for bad behavior...he is the source and originator of bad behavior. He dominates our lives because he is a strongman, who inhabits our thinking and intends to control our behavior. He is not our friend. He is our enemy. And he is the enemy of God. The Booger Man is the devil. And it is his intention to destroy our lives by holding us captive. Wow. If that was the end of the story, it would be sadder than sad. But consider Jesus. He has hope for this grim reality. The authority of Jesus is constantly being questioned. Always has been. But questioning authority does not change the truth. Jesus is ultimate authority. He is stronger than the strongman. He's the booger man's booger man! And on one occasion He had this to say: "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can anyone enter the strong man's house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house." (Matthew 12:28-29) Jesus, God in the flesh, has come to destroy the works of the devil. The kingdom of God has come upon me when I fear God more than I fear the booger man.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
When you make a bold statement, it can be very costly to you and those around you. In the workplace, a bold statement that is in opposition to the boss's philosophy may cost you your job. Disciples of Jesus Christ will often find themselves with the opportunity to give credible testimony of God's incredible power. When that happens, there are risks associated with making bold statements. When we suffer for making bold statements about the favor of God, our questions become, is it all worth it? Why does God put us in these uncomfortable situations anyway? Wouldn't it be easier just to keep quiet?
When we have our head on straight, and our thinking is focused on eternal things, it makes a little more sense. Here's a news flash. God is not as concerned for our comfort as He is with the integrity of His name. He wants others to know about the faithfulness of His provision. Often that only comes from the mouth of a witness. We should not be ashamed of suffering for Christ. Consider what this ancient witness says in the Bible:
...we may boldly say, " The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do to me." (Hebrews 13:6)
Because of what God's word boldly says, we can make two bold statements:
I. THE LORD IS MY HELPER BECAUSE HE PROMISED TO BE WITH ME.
This help is nearby and constant. I don't have to wait hours, days or months for help to come. His help is immediate. He is with me. He will never leave me.
II. I WILL NOT BE AFRAID BECAUSE THE LORD IS MY HELPER.
Only fools will attack a superior force. With God on our side and at our side, whom shall we fear? The real danger is living our lives enslaved to fear. When we fear God, man is no threat.
Are you living in fear of suffering some loss of perceived status in the eyes of those people around you? Or are you concerned with what the eyes of the Lord sees?
Take the opportunities that God presents to testify about His greatness. See what God can do with your witness in the world and in the workplace. Fear God. And fear nothing. Be bold. Be free.
Monday, May 19, 2008
"Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem; ...He did evil in the sight of the LORD, as Manasseh his father had done. For he walked in all the way that his father had walked, and served the idols that his father had served and worshiped them. So he forsook the LORD, the God of his fathers, and did not walk in the way of the LORD." (2 Kings 21:19-22)
"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)
It's hard to argue with this kind of Fatherly wisdom, don't you think? Can you hear me now???
Blessings to you,
Friday, May 16, 2008
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
This is encouraging for those of us in the garbage dump of life today. Jesus...one man's trash...another man's treasure. Is Jesus your treasure today?
Blessings to you,
Monday, May 12, 2008
Back then I was a young American in the Air Force and he was an older Korean man. Every few minutes, he tried to speak slower so I would understand what he was saying. He even drew a couple of pictures for me of what appeared to be a large truck with two stick men standing beside it. About three hours into our journey, he flashed a broad smile, shouted something in Korean, reached into his wallet and flashed an ID card with English and Korean writing. Under the smiling picture was his name and occupation. I don't remember his name. But I never will forget what he did for a living. He was probably the most excited sanitation worker I have ever met!!! But he was also excited about something else he wanted me to understand.
Language can be such a barrier to communication. The language of love has many barriers to keep us from connecting. Because God is love, His language is love. He speaks out of His nature. Because He wants His people to speak love, there are many natural barriers. The language of this world is diametrically opposed to godly communication. The world’s systems are not supportive of the language of love. Now I’m not talking about how the world defines love. I’m referring to God’s love. A supernatural love…Love that communicates patience…while we live in a fast food, drive by world. God’s love speaks contentment when we are tempted to want more and more of what we have enough of already. Godly love is marked by humility and selflessness in a world filled with pompous braggarts and selfish pleasure, (and treasure) hunters. God’s love finds joy in right livng while the world celebrates and flaunts wrong ideas and attitudes. God’s love will motivate us to share it. It’s too marvelous to keep to ourselves.
I recall that the Korean man also had a book in his lap. It was a bible, written in English and Korean. He kept reading parts of it and pointing to the English translation, trying to get me to read it. I kept acting as if I didn’t understand. My problem was that I understood all too well. It was a time in my life where I needed God more than ever. I was a stranger in a strange land, alienated from God, and living as though I didn’t need Him. I was a living example of arrogance on display. But God was on my trail. Trying to break through with His language of love, using a trash man’s passion for the Treasure he had found, God was symbolically communicating in His language of love. He had placed me on a bus, sitting next to one of His people, sharing His language of love one more time. I can see it pretty clearly now. When God is on the hunt of a human, He will chase us until we follow Him. Listen to how God defines His language of love.
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails;... (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
What is He saying to you today? Who is He speaking through? Love never fails.
Blessings to you,
Friday, May 9, 2008
Have you ever wondered what Humpty was doing there…sitting on that wall? Perhaps he (or she) was reflecting on how good life really was or maybe how life had suddenly become so complicated. Perhaps Humpty was contemplating jumping off that wall or desperately trying to muster the courage to face another Humpty Dumpty day. Whatever the reason, I wonder if the fall was a total surprise. I wonder if Humpty could see the fall coming or was he totally blindsided? Was the fall self-induced or did it result from the actions of another? The familiar lines of the nursery rhyme do not answer these many questions. But we are told two hard, cold facts: The fall was great…The damage was beyond repair.
The Humpty Dumpty story is so sad because it mirrors the human condition. Some of us fall from high to low places. Some of us depend on all the king's horses and all the king's men to fix our brokenness. What we discover is that indeed all of these could not put Humpty Dumpty or our shattered lives together again. The part that makes this human scenario so sad is depending hopelessly on the king's resources and the king's men to fix broken lives. The tragic part is that we forget about the King. In God’s word, the Colossian letter begins with the proposition of truth that Jesus, the Christ was, is, and always will be the King of the Cosmos; He is the King of the created universe, all we know about and all that we don’t. The words in chapter one expound on the power of Christ to create and sustain all of creation. These words are a great source of encouragement and hope for those of us who have had some of those Humpty Dumpty Days.
And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17)
When the fall is great I can remember He is before all things. He knows about the fall before I have the great fall. Nothing can take place in my life that takes God by surprise. When no one can put my life back together, I can remember in Him all things hold together. He is the power that holds us together. He picks up the pieces and reassembles the parts.
Perhaps there is someone around you today that is in the midst of a Humpty Dumpty Day. You can spend a lot of time and energy trying to piece together what happened and who is responsible. Maybe they have tired out all the king's horses and have exhausted all the king's men. But instead of calling in CSI to examine the evidence to ascertain what went wrong, asking the never ending and seldom answered why questions, call on GOD to give hope and direction to the how questions. How do we survive these Humpty Dumpty days? Would you be the one to tell them about The Cosmic King who picked up your pieces and still holds them together?
Blessings to you,
"Pastor, how does it feel to be an American today?"
The question came from the Filipino pastor we were visiting. A dream had come true. To be on a mission trip in some faraway land was something only God could have put together. To be there as an American and to hear the question was the most unpleasant part of that trip.
During that time in 1998, the worldwide, everyday news was about the scandalous sexual episodes of an American president. In the moment the question was posed, there was a feeling of shame within my heart for our nation. I felt a sense of being ashamed when I would hear so many people say that morality did not matter as much as a strong economy. Besides, some would say, what a man does in private does not affect anyone else publicly. Those folks ought to have to explain to a Filipino pastor how morality is irrelevant in a very public arena. What this president did in private was manifested publicly in our mission trip halfway around the world.
There was a whole lot of popular thinking that agreed with the concept of no absolutes in 1998. After all, we're only human and who are we to judge, right? What's wrong in one person's way of thinking is perfectly acceptable to another, some would claim. It was always amazing to me to see how silent the church was during that time. That kind of popular thinking is still very popular today. Shame is still a precious commodity in America. Someone has said we used to blush when we were ashamed. Now we are ashamed if we are seen blushing!
Living in a culture of non-absolutes does not change the truth that there is an absolute standard. It is found in the word of the Living God. Contrary to pop culture's value system, the standard is not the gold standard. The standard is God's standard. Holiness.
Not only collectively, but as individuals, we are held up and measured against God's absolute standard. The pain of resisting sin and being ostracized in our culture today is very real. We can easily feel the sting of being called a bunch of narrow-minded, intolerant, religious bigots. We can easily be trapped by compromising godly principles and becoming confused about "gray" areas of right and wrong. Sometimes God’s people don't know which way is up. If God occupies the high moral ground, where is this place? Is it the church? Is America still known as a moral nation? Ten years out from that mission trip I don’t see improvement. I see only degeneration.
Righteousness is to sin as up is to down. As a nation, we can either be exalted or disgraced. It may come as a huge surprise to learn the following spiritual truth: America is not the Kingdom of God!! America's political and spiritual leaders are accountable to a holy God according to His holy standard. One day the church will be judged on the basis of how we used what God has entrusted to us. Someone has said that America will not stand back up on her feet until the church gets back down on her knees.
Instead of lamenting about the moral darkness, what are we doing to be lights in our homes, churches, schools, workplaces, communities, regions, and nation? Let God clean your vessel so His light may shine the brightest. Instead of whining, why aren't we shining? Instead of hiding in the darkness, we can take back the night.
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. (Proverbs 14:34)
I guess I had a lot of leftovers in my mind about that. Gives us all something to muse about for the rest of the day.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
The acknowledgement that our father did not love us or willingly abandoned us can be very traumatic. But it also can be liberating, when we realize that God wants to love us with an everlasting father’s love. He wants the world to see what a person can become when they are full of God’s love. Until I had grandchildren, I was under the impression that the relationship of “daddy” was as close as I could get to modeling the the Heavenly Father’s love. But I have discovered a new dimension in relationships. The word “Papa” is spoken on the lips of my grandchildren. They call me Papa!! They also use the nickname “Pa”. I don’t mind it and it really doesn’t make me feel too old. Don’t tell them, but I want to grow up to be the papa they already think I am!
God’s love can be shown in the persona of a papa. In the scriptures, I am told that the word “Abba” is a close translation of our word papa. There is something within me that prompts me to respond in a loving way when these children call me papa. A papa’s love is enough to go around. One of my grandchildren often says she will never run out of love. It's like she knows the source of love is an eternal, all sufficient God, who we can know as Father and Papa. In my relationship with my grandchildren, I have a desire to give them the best of who I am. And I hope some of the worst things will just drown in the gene pool!!
Those of us who enjoy knowing God as Papa and Father can understand that we have an eternal heritage and an unbelievable inheritance. God has given us His Spirit. He gives us Himself. That's how we know who we are and to whom we belong. The Spirit within us is the Spirit of God. The question to muse about today is not Who’s your Daddy, but Who’s Your Papa?
And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Gal 4:6-7)
Blessings to you,
Monday, May 5, 2008
Have you ever been deceived and learned some very painful truth that you really didn't want to know? It may be similar to a man who learned his wife was unfaithful in their marriage. When she confessed it to him, he wanted to stop her in the middle of her confession. He did not want to deal with the truth of it all and pretend that it never happened. Sadly, he could not remain in denial and still know the truth. As long as he pretended to be in a healthy and happy marriage, he could not be a part of its restoration. He either had to be bound to the lie or live with the truth. Thankfully, some storybook romances, that are really fantasies and fables in disguise, can really be transformed into happy endings. In this example, the husband and the wife turned to the truth of the situation and experienced a restoration of their marriage. They found that when they learned to live by godly principles based on God's word, they could know the truth and be set free. God is glorified when we come into the knowledge of His truth. It is His secret that He freely shares. Truth transforms us. The question that man has sought the answer for since ages past is not what is truth, but who is truth. Truth is not found with our hands on the Bible. When we open our bibles, truth is found on the inside... in the heart of this book we will find the heart of God. He is Truth. He said so.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Is there a connection between TV and tee ball? Yes. Something called dirt. Recently, I saw part of a television show that highlighted a sad human story. A family was having a feud...within their own family! A mother and daughter were squabbling over a parcel of land. They were next door neighbors and the conflict had intensified between them. They had built a fence that separated their two estates. Neither one allowed the other to tread across their respective property lines. They weren't speaking or interacting with one another at all. As a last resort, from the prompting of other family members, they agreed to appear on a popular television show, hoping to settle the conflict and possibly make peace. Trying to get these parties to solve the conflict was a seemingly useless endeavor until the counselor brought in a wheelbarrow of dirt. He dumped the contents of the wheelbarrow right into the middle of the living room floor as he stated that this was what they were really fighting about...a big old pile of dirt. The mother was shocked into a breakthrough. She later stated that it wasn't so much the dumping of the dirt that got her attention. It was the realization that we all are truly "piles of dirt" and we treat one another that way. The tee ball connection came as I watched a little boy at the ball park sitting in the dirt and scooping up a large pile in front of him with both hands. He molded it into a circular shape about four inches high, patted it frequently and garnished it on top with a few pieces of gravel. As his mother approached him I thought, uh-oh. This little dude is in trouble. He's getting pretty dirty. His mother asked him what he was doing. He said he was making a birthday cake. Then she praised him for being so creative. Somehow I don't think there will be any fences constructed between these two if they ever decide to be neighbors. After all, it was only dirt. And so are we. It has been somewhat of a revelation to discover that I am truly an old pile of dirt...emphasis on the old! When I think about my life and how I've lived it in the past, I discover that I could have treated others better. Relating to other piles of dirt can get pretty dirty. God's word says that we will return to the dust from which we came. When I understand that my earthly, physical body will pass away, returning to the earth, I know that there is more to my life than just dust to dust. There must be some meaning beyond the here and now. The meaning of my life is found in the time between my birth and my death. For my life to have any meaning, it must be lived for some purpose. And the only way I can ever relate to others in a more godly way and a more encouraging and meaningful way is to have something of God living in me. God's word gives us a glimpse of what He has in mind. Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. From one pile of dirt to another. Blessings to you.
Have you ever heard the birds sing just before daybreak? Why are they singing in the dark and what are they singing about? Maybe they are singing about the glory of God, putting proper perspective on the rooster crowing, the creature in contrast singing about the greatness of the Creator, testifying to His mercies, which are fresh and new every morning. Maybe they sing while anticipating the day, because they are believing in the promise that Light has come into a dark world, remembering that the darkness cannot overcome the Light. Why do people use the words "bird brain" to insult others in claiming they have limited intelligence? The birds that sing in the dark seem to know more than many humans. Sometimes humans despair and become quite anxious about their lives, stressed out and fretting about what they should eat and wear, and fear for their future in general.
A wise Person said once that we could learn a lot from bird watching. He said "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?" The advantage to having a Heavenly Father adds a new dimension to bird watching. Why is it that we can believe that God feeds the birds and will not feed us? Could it be that we believe that God is an adequate provider for birds but not enough for us? What is it that we believe we need that is beyond His ability to provide? When we think that our Heavenly Father needs our help, we have become like the strutting rooster who may think this world has been created to serve us. All of creation has been created to glorify God, including mankind. Look up and see the birds, knowing that we have a Father in Heaven...if we are indeed His children. God looks after His people. Remember in the dark what you knew in the day. And sing to our Father...after all, this is His world.
Friday, May 2, 2008
Blessings to you,
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Here's the leftover thought for today: Can you tell me when it is time for the mountain goats to give birth? If you are stumped over this, who in all the universe can tell us? And why is it relevant? I'll talk more about this on the next post.
Blessings to you today.