Wednesday, November 9, 2016

America, Land That WE Love

After looking at all the election comments on Facebook this morning, it is clear that we are sorely divided nation. Is Trump the answer? Did we get this wrong by not electing Clinton? Who knows, but this is the man who was chosen, by the majority of voters, to lead our country. One thing I am sure of is that this republic must pull together, or fall apart. Can it be done? While it’s impossible for such a diverse people to all think the same thoughts, and who would want that, we can unite in supporting our beloved nation. Surely, we can all agree that America’s well being is our common denominator.

During the debacle of this election, a verse from the old testament kept coming back to me. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 . God is not unaware of the mess we find ourselves in, but He has promised that the government will be on His shoulders. Think of that, God is present to shoulder/carry this weighty load we‘ve created. Obviously, Trump doesn’t look like the kind of man God would put in office, but neither did the apostles, St. Paul, or King David, to name a few. I believe that God can, and will, equip this man to do what is best for America. It is our duty now, Republican or Democrat, male or female, black or white, Christian on Non, to support the President-elect. Humanly speaking, it seems impossible, I’ll admit, but that’s where God does His finest work, in the realm of the impossible.

Even if you’re not a believer, this is what we’ve been served up, so let’s agree on that and move forward, together. For the benefit of the United States of America, our precious homeland, let us be united. “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Romans 13:1.” GOD doesn't choose the equipped, HE EQUIPS THE CHOSEN. God Bless America.




Monday, July 27, 2015

Do You Have Your Passport?

If you’re anything like I am, the night before a big trip outside of the USA, I tend to panic a bit.  Do I have all the right clothes packed?  How about my prescriptions and vitamins?  Do I have all the travel documents, plane tickets, and is there a transfer involved anywhere?  Down the mental list I go, and then I remember the most important thing, my passport.  Forget all the other stuff, because without a valid, up-to-date, government-issued passport, no matter how persuasive I might be, the customs agent they ain’t letting me in or out.

This travel talk got me thinking about how important it is to have our spiritual passports in order.  A passport not only proves who we are, but that we are American citizens.  For all believers, our ultimate destination is an eternity with God in Heaven.  But, do you have a passport?  What do I mean by that, you ask, well let me first tell you what it is NOT. Church membership, including a lifetime of adhering to doctrines, dogmas and rituals doesn’t earn you one. So, you say you have a steamer trunk full of good deeds; they won’t get you past the gates.

All those things I just mentioned are fine, in the same way an extra set of underwear comes in handy, but it doesn’t prove our citizenship.  To apply for a passport you must supply your certified, embossed birth certificate.  That cute one from the hospital with that little footprint won’t cut it.  Anyone could makeup a fake one of those, that’s why the official one is vital.  One time mine was questioned because the seal was not as raised as it should be.  They are picky, and rightly so.  So how do we back up our birthright?  Paul, talking to the new believers in Ephesus says this. “In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:12-13.

What Paul was saying to those folks, and to all seeking Heavenly citizenship, is that there has to be a time when each of us, on our own, must realize that we lack a legitimate birth certificate.  The reason being, we are born into a world separated from God by sin.  No amount of man-made “documentation” equals coming into a personal relationship with our Savior.  Good news, you don’t have to bribe any government officials, because God will always be there to forgive, accept, adopt and transfer your citizenship from this world into his. Don’t believe me, check it out for yourselves. But please, be certain you have one, because he‘s coming back soon to take all of us passport-holders home, and you don‘t want to miss the flight.  “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.” Philippians 3:20.




Thursday, July 9, 2015

What Are You Projecting?

What Are You Projecting?

Back in the day, when those of us of a certain age, were young, and shared the world with our pet dinosaurs, lots of things were different. For example, picture-taking was accomplished with a boxy Brownie camera, with actual film you had to load yourself.  There was no deleting and starting again, the resulting image was what it was.  My Dad often used slide film.  I think it was cheaper, and instead of making prints, you wound up with little white cardboard squares with an itty bitty celluloid picture inside.  You could hold them up to the light, but to see the picture in all its Kodachrome glory, the slides needed to be placed in a projector.  I loved getting those slide trays out, and projecting the tiny squares onto a screen, or in our case, a sheet hung on the wall.  What was only a miniscule piece of plastic, soon blossomed into big glorious life with vivid colors, and breathtaking depth.

Our lives, not unlike those slides, hold all kinds of pictures.  Our joys, sorrows, frustrations, every good or bad life experience is recorded and stored away in mental trays. How often, and which slides, do you bring out for the world to view? Often we choose the irritating images to enlarge.  Maybe you have a gripe with your spouse, friend, job or church; boom, up on the screen they go. Sure it may feel good to unburden ourselves, but what do these negative pictures really project about us as Christians?  In a commentary I read once, the author stated that “the slides” of our lives should be so appealing, winsome even, that people are drawn to our screens.

I’m sure Jesus had plenty of shots in his tray that were less than attractive, but he chose to project the ones that would draw the world to his screen, and keep them there.  What tiny pictures are you making big?  Are you projecting the way Jesus does, or are people searching to find the exit as soon as your “show“ begins?  Think about it before you start projecting.  “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about, (and project) such things. Philippians 4:8


                                                          

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Putting Down Roots

  I didn’t grow up on a farm, but over the last 40 years of living on one, I’ve learned a lot.  How to drive a tractor, mow acres of grass, and can and freeze produce are but a few of the skills I’ve acquired.  But the thing I find most fascinating, is observing the crops as they grow.  For example, did you know that every individual corn silk acts as a receptor to pollinate a single kernel.  If the silk isn’t pollinated, you’ll find an empty space on the cob, the “fruit” won’t develop without the pollen.  Or how about this, every corn plant sends out a primary set of roots, then later, when it is taller and more mature another set appears to anchor the stalk.  As everyone knows, corn gets as high as an elephant’s eye, and with the added weight of the ears, it needs that extra stability.  Without those secondary roots it could easily be toppled by a gust of wind, heavy rain or a hungry deer.

 I mention this today because, as Christians, sending out roots is a vital part of our spiritual maturity.  The Apostle Paul puts it this way, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”  Colossians 2:6.  Let’s unpack this verse a bit to understand what he’s talking about.  It’s important to understand that the Colossians were a group of people who had only recently accepted the teachings of Christ, as adults.  This was their first set of roots. We modern day believers, for the most part, received our first set, as children, from our parents, and the church they belonged to. We learned Biblical basics, followed the rules as we were told, and our roots held us steady. Then along came the teen years and adulthood, with all its external influences, and like a gust of wind, those little roots weren’t able to control us as well.

We aren’t a corn plant that naturally stabilizes itself, it is our personal choice whether we set down the next set of roots.  We, like the Colossians must decide, for ourselves, if Christ is who he, and the church, represents him to be. Is he indeed the son of the living God?  Do you understand and accept his word and directives for your life as written in the Bible?  Are you willing to repent of your sins, submit to his authority and live a life rooted in him?  If you stop your spiritual development with only those first, dinky roots, you can easily be blown over.

In the next verses, Paul continues by saying this. “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”  Colossians 2:6-8.   Don’t think that those first roots, that were handed to you as a child, will suffice.  It is easy to think that merely following rules and traditions is enough, but it’s not.  Paul says they may take you captive, and can be hollow and deceptive. They are not a substitute for secondary roots.  Do you have them yet, or are you swaying in the wind?

This world is a whirlwind of false doctrines, don’t be sucked in or knocked down.  Ask God to send out those strong, eternal roots.  “I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:16-19  

                                                 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Road Less Traveled

The Road Less Traveled

 "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.  Matthew 7:13-14.

 By now you are aware of my off-road adventures, from the numerous pictures I post. Sometimes I think I should hold back because I’m overdoing, but then a person will come up and thank me for visually taking them along. When on a trip, most of the population stays on the main roads.  Interstate travel makes the trip shorter, and there’s less chance of getting lost, but oh what you miss!   When I think of all the years that I took the wide gate, it made me recall this verse.

 There is a main road in life that has a lot of traffic. Both believers and non-believers zip along in carefree fashion.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always take back roads, highways are great if I want to get to someplace fast, but cruising along with the crowd can be dangerous to our life in Christ..   The problem I see, with a spiritual life spent only on the fast road, is  you don’t get to see all the details, and it‘s easy to get sucked into the driving habits of the masses. So many Christians are only familiar with the religious on and off ramps, and little else.  They think that as long as they do what the church “laws” demand, and not veer from the wide road, they’ll reach their heavenly destination. That is a very unfulfilled journey, folks.

Jesus wants us to experience, for ourselves, the beauty of his multi-faceted being, details we can never see as we zoom by him on a religious fast-track. Think about it, how much do you really know about him?  Do you have a photo album brimming with personal shots of times, and adventures spent with him?  We can’t truly know him if we spend all our time on the highway, and that is very sad indeed.  Don’t be afraid to exit, he will guide you and show you up close what you have been missing. “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”  Psalm 16:11.  “Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow.” Psalm 25:4



Monday, April 27, 2015

Bloom!!

I absolutely love spring.  The return of life to the winter weary earth is, dare I say, divine!!  Acting as though I’m seeing the flowering trees for the first time, I gush at every redbud, apple tree and dogwood.  Despite my current joy, one thing creeps in and throws a damper on my glee, the knowledge that the colorful blooms will soon give way to plain old green leaves.  Their beauty will be gone in just a couple of days, and  you won’t be able to distinguish them from the other trees.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if the gentle pastels didn’t have to fade into the crowd?  Oh well, there’s always summer and fall.

As I was pondering this process of blending in, I got to thinking about myself as a Christian. Was I standing out from the crowd, not in a bold or flamboyant way, but gently, presenting the true colors of Christ, or was I merely blending in?  While God’s plan is for the redbud to fade, that’s not his intent for Christians.  Some folks, like poor Job don’t know that, and will say, “All people spring up like flowers and wither away; like fleeting shadows, they do not endure.”  Job 14:2.  Sure, he was a bit depressed when he penned this, and could only see the fading part of the picture, but what‘s your excuse?  We, who live as heirs of the new covenant, have the supernatural ability to show our true colors all year long .  Jesus never told us to be showy in our display, but like the spring trees, whose subtle beauty attracts us, the way we live our lives should draw people to him.

Are you a year round bloomer, or are you content  to blend in with the crowd?  "Let your light (colors) shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.
 
                                        

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Born Again

Born Again

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. ” John 3:1-3.

 Most of us are familiar with the story of Nicodemus, but I’d like us to take a closer look at it today.  To begin with, Nick was a big shot in Jewish religious circles, a member of the ruling council no less. But, it appears to me that he had questions, maybe even doubts about his faith.  A guy like that was looked up to as a pillar of knowledge, very religious, and a sure bet to receive a good report from God on the day of judgment. So, why was he going to see this rebel, Jesus?   It goes on to say he went at night, under the cloak of darkness so he could sneak in without his temple cohorts seeing him.  After all, what would people think if they saw a man like that seeking answers from the likes of Jesus.  Something very powerful, his need to go beyond his secure, traditional “faith”, drew him.  Here was a man, a recipient of the ancient faith, a devout follower, one who strictly adhered to the Law, and we see him inquiring of Jesus.  What more could he possibly want to know?  Wasn’t he at the top of the religious heap?  Wasn’t his inherited faith sufficient?

 I’m no scribe, but I understand where Nick was coming from.  As a child, my parents handed me a nicely wrapped faith tradition, as well. It was fine, I never really questioned it, but I never really unpacked it either.  As I got older, it was relegated to a shelf in the back of my closet.  I’d been baptized as a child, and participated in all the required rituals, so I figured I had all the God I needed.  I never stopped believing there was a God, but I’d never actually met Him personally, either.  I was merely hanging on to a flimsy story my parents had passed along, and claiming it as faith.

Years later, not unlike Nicodemus, I started hearing things about this Jesus, things that pulled me in to Him.  As I questioned, studied and learned I realized that he could never be contained in that dusty box in the closet.  Nick saw what he was doing, and so did I, and then he spoke those words about being “born again”.  What could that mean?  I had already been born, physically.  I had done all the religious stuff, what did he want me to know?  Nick was far more savvy of religious things than I was, but Jesus told him this: “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”…“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? “

Spirit, there’s the operative word.  My “faith” had only been born of flesh, I’d never entered into the realm of the Spirit, and now I was ready to truly know him, to be born again.  We don’t know what happened to Nicodemus, did this meeting change him?  I can only tell you that it changed me, and continues to do so daily. Ask yourself, where is my faith?  Is it in a pretty box somewhere, or is it being used and developed by the power of God’s Holy Spirit?  Don’t be tempted into thinking that any  faith, no matter how weak or dusty is sufficient or pleasing to God.  Seek him out, any time of day or night, then claim and unpack this unbelievable gift with him, and be born again! “Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!” 2 Corinthians 9:15