Spiritual Truth You Can Depend On

Discipleship, Holiness, Nature of God, Truth

Philosophic Imponderables

Here’s one: I can prove that you can never get anywhere although it seems that you can. 1) any distance can be divided in half, an infinite number of times – 2) Before you can travel any distance you must first travel one half that distance – 3) Since there are an infinite number of half-distances one must travel before a distance is traveled and since one can never travel an infinite number of distances, you can never reach your destination. I like these types of puzzles. I know that in the real world they may be time-killing nonsense, but as mental exercises I still enjoy them from time to time. But what if they were more than that? What if our entire concept of reality were being shaped by some similar nonsense?

I submit that the popularly held concepts of our origin, those held by the secular scientific big-wigs, is no more than a philosophical imponderable that caused someone to once say, “Enough! This is the starting point and we’ll take it from here – END OF DISCUSSION!” The Big Bangers are fine with the idea that something physical came forth without cause and from nothing at a specific time past. If this is accepted, then all sorts of rational work can be, and is being, done in the disciplines of science. I just find their logic faulty and their conclusions, while agreeably useful to our lives every day, are not based on objective evidence. But I can hear the outcry already, “Where’s your objective evidence for creation?”

I am not going to pretend that we will solve the debate over origins here in a few short minutes but I would like to posit a few notions that I feel deserve equal time when stacked against their secular counterparts. Causation: Everything that has been created had a creator. Regress: An infinite regress is impossible. Matter: Physicality cannot exist without prior potentiality. Now I have no doctorate in philosophy; I’m no theological laureate nor scientific scholar; why anyone should lend dignity to my views is beyond even me! But I am a thinking man and I feel as though there should exist, even in the higher disciplines, a modicum of common sense which cannot be thrown out simply because it seems to help an argument by disregarding the obvious.

The Big Bang theorists neglects to answer the fundamental questions of what caused the bang and upon what did the bang act. If one is sitting comfortably in their recliner in the living room and a crash is heard on the other side of the house, doesn’t one get up to see what caused the noise? Walking down the hall and finding the neighbor’s pick-up truck parked in the kitchen would explain the noise, right? But if the noise had no explanation then one would be left to wonder if it was anything more than an imagination which never really happened in the first place. The answers I want concerning the Big Bang have to do with what it was that exploded and what caused the explosion.

The Bible teaches that, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” We are not told how, (although it would not surprise me to find out that it made a lot of noise), but at the moment of creation physicality and time began. God showed Himself in millions of ways prior to the advent of Christ and if He now seems to remain in the shadows, as it were, the evidences of His workings still abound today. These evidences may require openness toward biblical faith, but they exist nonetheless. And the faith required to accept the biblical account of creation seems to be no less questionable than does that required of the secular theorists who would have us believe their unbelievable theories.

Suppose that you had a red ball. Everyone could see right away that the ball was red and suppose further that we disregard the question of whether the ball possessed redness on its own or if the redness was merely the interpretation of the mind’s awareness of the quality of light reflected off the ball as being red; the redness was the essential element of the character of the ball. Now we put the ball in our pocket and go into the deepest darkest cave we could find, where a race of blind people were to be found and pull out the red ball. Is it still red? Can it be proved? Those who may be with you who had seen the redness of the ball before you entered the cave would be able to attest to the redness that the ball possessed but the others would have to take it on faith. You may have first-hand evidence that the ball was red, but that must be conveyed to those who never had the chance to see it in the light of day.

I was not present at the dawn of creation, I never saw the Red Sea part, the Jordon River pile up its waters for Elijah, the sun stand still in the sky for a whole day, the dead return to life or any of the other miracles recorded in the Bible but I have a faith that holds them fast as accurate events caused by an immortal, supernatural God. In the scientific quest to explain away all things that are infinite and beyond the scope of man’s comprehension it seems like the secularist screamed, “STOP! My head hurts. The Big Bang is the scientific beginning of things and though it’s really no better explanation than what we were fighting against, it is what we are going to put forth as science and make everyone accept it.”

Science cannot be satisfied unless man’s intelligence is the final arbiter of all things. If man cannot understand; then it is not true. And the fact that the things man CAN understand need not necessarily be true doesn’t play into the equation at all. This is also apparent in other posited theories such as Darwinism. While survival of the fittest, natural selection and genetic mutation cannot adequately answer the problems of non-theistic propagation of species; it is plenty good enough to get us by: truth be damned! But Darwin is a whole other can of worms, for another day. The point is that we are being forced to swallow a set of theories that cannot close all the holes we encounter in our science as well as our prior theological models did and all for the sake of elevating man to a position he should never have aspired to in the first place.

We are not the creators of anything. Man has made marvelous advances in many areas and I do love the wonders of plastic and microwave technology but all we did was manipulate things that were created by a God we can never hope to understand. We can manipulate the genome of the foods we eat, (much to our greater harm I might argue), to make them yield greater harvests and resist some insects and diseases, we might alter the DNA to avoid defects or health conditions in the future but we cannot create a single gene. Everything we will ever do will start with something and become something else; Solomon was right when he said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” We may learn how things work but we cannot make them work.

Just because the imponderable philosophical facts that I am not in France, I’m not in Spain and I’m not in England infer that I must be somewhere else; and if I’m somewhere else I cannot possibly be here writing this; the facts that God is not parting oceans before our eyes today and explaining His supernatural abilities in natural ways that mere mortal men can understand does not mean that He does not exist, that He is not responsible for the creation of everything and that He is not the God we should be learning about from the pages of the Bible. We must remember that God did not do everything He did so much for us, as He did it…

All for the Glory of Christ

A Cup?

Discipleship, Holiness, Nature of God, Salvation, Truth

One on One

2 Chronicles 29-32 describes the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah. This can also be found in the book of 2 Kings, but it made more of an impact for me reading it in Chronicles for some reason. It’s interesting to see that Hezekiah’s reign fell between his father Ahaz and his son Manasseh. It wasn’t unusual in the linage of the kings, the throne generally fell from father to son, to son etc… but what is remarkable is that both the one Hezekiah received the throne from, as well as the one to whom he passed it, both did evil in the eyes of the Lord. Yet, Hezekiah did that which was right. How does a good king fall between two bad ones? And the bigger question may be, why?

Does the son raised in an environment where the father does things which anger God not learn that these things are correct? Since Ahaz was a prideful and self-reliant man, what would make Hezekiah want to do anything differently than the example which was set for him by his father? The ability for a man to ignore his upbringing and choose to act in ways that violate the essence of his parentage must be the reason that God does not condemn a son for the acts of their father, nor a father for the acts of his son. The Law of Moses taught that each would die for their own sins and so there must be an opportunity for each generation, each individual person to choose the path they will follow regardless of the influence of the environment in which they were raised.

“For the eyes of Jehovah run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” (2 Chron. 16:9). Surely God was looking for one like Hezekiah, and He found him. Hezekiah did many things which must have astounded the people he reigned over. They would have known his father Ahaz and the way he acted, so to see the new king destroying the altars and high places that his father had revered must have been more than a little intriguing. Hezekiah repaired the temple and restored worship in Judah. He re-instituted the Passover and made offerings of immense proportion on the reclaimed altar of God. He stood by the promises of God when confronted by the Syrian armies and was shown right as they fled in defeat before a vengeful God who was able and willing to fight for His people.

Even after prayer and weeping before God to remember his life when he was on his bed suffering what should have been a fatal illness; God agreed to extend his life 15 years, and with his family seeing all this, his son Manasseh turns away from everything his father Hezekiah had done. Manasseh rebuilt the high places and led the people back into the evil that Hezekiah had worked so hard to turn Judah from. Why? I can’t imagine that the benefits of living a life pleasing to God was lost on the next generation or that the power of God in defeating Sennacherib was reduced to happenstance in so short time. Still, all through the accounts of the kings of Judah and Israel we find good kings succeeding bad ones and vice versa. We read the accounts and think, “How stupid can a people be?”

First; we are no better. Unless we are in serious trouble we oftentimes neglect the power and majesty due God in favor of our own abilities which we seem to think we achieved on our own. Maybe Manasseh thought that Hezekiah was weak because he bowed before an invisible God and decided that he was going to be strong on his own and that no one would dictate to him what he would do. I don’t know. But like a little child sledding in the winter snow, when we are at the top of the hill we don’t need any help. We are capable of guiding the sled down the course and enjoy the thrill of the ride but when we get to the bottom we want someone else to carry us back to the top again. Then no sooner than we get there, we want to be left alone again to enjoy the next ride down.

Another lesson that is clear from the account of Hezekiah’s reign, as well as the other kings of the era, is that the benefit, or destruction, resulting from the relationship each of us individually maintain, or fail to maintain, with God is between us and God. No one can forge that relationship for us, only we can draw near for the sakes of our own eternal security. Each of us decides the path we will travel; whether it be to eternal torment, or glory in the presence of the Saviour, and just as our parent cannot secure eternity for us, neither can we do the hard work for our children. There must be something more that we can be doing to ensure a godly legacy for the generations that are to follow, there has to be value in a virtuous life well lived for the glory of Christ.

But if one thing is clear in the accounts contained in the books of Kings and Chronicles, it’s that not even good example is enough to ensure that righteousness is passed down to the next generation. Even if it were the case, don’t imagine that a good example carries the same weight as a bad one. People are a funny lot and it is amazing that a bad example is readily followed whereas the good example of a life of virtue is so easily discarded. We are not only to live a life as God would have us live, but we are to TEACH OUR CHILDREN the ways of God and show them how to form good opinions and to make good choices; choices that God would find pleasing. I am not saying that we need to thump our Bibles in their faces evey night after supper, (though a little more exposure to the Word of God could surely not hurt), but we need to go deeper than that. We need to teach our children WHY the choices we make are firmly grounded on principles that come from God.

It is pointless to tell our kids to think before they act if they don’t know how to apply reason to their situation. If we don’t teach our children the reasons why we do the things we do, the moral bedrock upon which our life’s choices stem from, then the choices our children see us making will seem like foolishness based on foundations of clouds. It may be a part of my, “Show-Me,” Missouri upbringing, but I don’t want to be told to do something as much as I want to be able to understand the reason for choosing to do something in the way I am being told to do it! If I can understand the reason for something, then I am far more likely to turn that information into a reason for acting in a proper manner that doing so, “…because I told you to, THAT’S WHY!”

This is similar to one of my biggest complaints with the public education system, they want you to learn all this stuff that is supposed to benefit you someday, (though I’m still pretty sure that Algebra hasn’t done much for me to this day), but they don’t teach you HOW to learn. I know that advanced math skills make connections in the brain that are useful for non-math decision making later in life, but it isn’t presented that way. I cannot get behind the idea of learning how to read by sight, recognizing a pattern of letters and recalling that it is supposed to sound a certain way, but I get the structure when I know what the sound of each letter is and how they link together to form words, sentences, and , (gasp!), even logical strings of thoughts.

When we teach our children the reasons why Christianity is valid instead of just saying that it’s so, we give them the ability to understand and begin a relationship with Jesus Christ, one on one, in a sensible way. When we tell them to believe in Jesus or else they will end up in Hell, we only scare them into something that looks like faith when it really has no root in the child’s heart. You have heard the adage, “Give a man a fish and he will eat today; teach him to fish and he will eat for a lifetime,” well – Tell a child to believe and he will think he does until he finds himself at the gates of Hell with nowhere to turn, Help a child to understand Christianity and he will make it safely to Heaven and may take scores of others with him as well. But there is still a problem, one that many do not want to take on.

To teach a child the reasons for believing, to help them learn to think responsibly about this, the most important decision in their lives, we have to know what we’re talking about. We cannot teach something we, ourselves, do not know. So the challenge is to open our Bibles, get into study groups, find mentors to teach us the very things that we have thought we knew all this time and then pass that information to the next generations, and not just the information – but the method of being able to teach it. Even if we are today’s Hezekiahs, we cannot imagine that our children will follow us to Heaven without help. Help the children! Teach them to think and THEN teach them what they need to be thinking about. If we show our faith and teach the reasons why we believe what we believe, then others will follow; follow to a kingdom built by, and…

All for the Glory of Christ

A Cup?

Discipleship, Doctrine, Nature of God, Salvation, Truth

How Big is Yours?

To apprehend is to become aware of something whereas, to comprehend is to understand something. There is a world of difference between awareness and understanding. We may be aware of a divine attribute in our own natures without understanding what the workings of that attribute actually are, of how those attributes are to shape us. We may be aware of God without understanding the complexities of God. We may recognize something like big-ness without realizing that we generally ignore the fact that we only think of something as big when we compare it to something else. I have heard that Lincoln was once asked, (due to his tall stature), how long should a man’s legs be? He answered, “Long enough to reach from his waist to the ground.” In short, the answer is that a thing should be equal to the task for which it is intended.

So then, what about God? How big should God be? God must be big enough to fulfill the nature of God. Some people have gods that are simply too small. Some rely on a man, or more properly; a man’s philosophic outlook on existence, others on natural things or even the cosmic wonder of the universe; all of these are too small to be God. The other day, as I looked out over the bare oak branches that will soon form the savannah of northern Missouri, I thought about just how big God must be. First, it must be stated that it is little more than an exercise in foolishness to even attempt to think of God’s size in terms of physicality. What finite measure can be used to measure the infinite? I wondered if one of God’s eyelashes might be enough to cloak the world in darkness if it were to appear on the horizon. I considered the Scripture that tells us that God holds the whole universe in the palm of His hand, (Isaiah 40) – (sorry New-Agers, your god is too little), and marveled that with the span of His hand He has marked off the heavens.

How pointless it is for finite beings such as we are to attempt to fathom the immensity of God! It is like infinity – we might be able to apprehend the concept of forever, but until we reach the end of endlessness, how can we really comprehend infinity? I am not saying that God has no limits, He does. God cannot do some things, but not because our natural laws or physicality prevent it. The things that God is unable to do are because they oppose His very nature, they compete with holiness or they are in error by their very proposition. God cannot make rocks so big that He cannot lift them; He cannot make one sided coins nor can He make square circles. God cannot deny Himself. But the things that God can, and does, do, are things that we cannot expect to understand by our limited human understanding. How did God make the sun stand still in the heavens and prevent its going down for a whole day? How did God part the Red Sea? Why should we think that we could ever understand such things?

Even if God were to condescend to try to explain Himself and His ways to us, we would never have the capacity to understand. Why should we try to make the acts of a supernatural God fit into the natural world of our understanding? There was an episode of Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone, “called, “Stopover in a Quiet Town,” where at the end a little girl, (a little giant girl), is using the characters as dolls, or lab rats, in her diorama of a small town and I thought, “God would be like that. I was only a teenager then and had no real understanding of God, but the thought of a giant hand reaching down and scooping up a person seemed like the sort of thing that religion was all about. Now I see that that size god would be insufficient for the role of God.

Some religions teach that the followers need to defend their god and fight for his honor as though he were unable to do it for himself. Judges 76:31 describes such a thing when the people want Gideon’s father to bring him out after destroying the altar of Baal. We are called to defend our faith but what we are called to is not armed conflict, no; we are to arm ourselves with the Scriptures that explain the reason for the hope we have in Christ. We are to be able to defend the reason for our belief in a loving and reasonable way but we are never called to fight physically in this world to defend God Himself. The Christian God is plenty big enough for that. There are several occasions where God destroyed armies for His people because they were in imminent danger, but God never had His people fight to defend Him.

One of the most amazing things is that though God is beyond measuring in His infinitude, He reaches through all of time and space to come to us. He divides the cosmos and weaves His way through galaxies; He slips between solar systems and eludes the orbits of the planets to come to earth. He pierces the atmosphere to locate the continent and the state and the town where we are. He comes to our house and finds us on our rooms to care for us, each individually. We are not insignificant to God. Yes He is infinite, but in His amazing immensity He reaches into the lives of each of us, to the point that even the very hairs on our head are numbered, Matthew 10:30.

I once used to think of how insignificant any single person must be in the grand scheme of things and how no one would miss any of us were we to have never been born, (It’s a Wonderful Life aside), because the world would keep right on spinning and life would go on without us. That’s when I was lost in the depths of depression – but now I can see that my perspective was all wrong. It is a comforting thing to realize that the very insignificance realized by our human situations is the same thing that is of critical importance to God. He wants us to all come to repentance and to know Him as our Saviour through faith in Jesus Christ. He is not willing that any of us should be lost. The infinite God of all is so big that all he can concern Himself with is the welfare of His creation and the sustenance He provides to benefit us all.

If you worship a man, consider the world in which he lives; it’s bigger. If you worship the trees or the water, consider the sun which gives light; it’s bigger. If you worship the sun and the moon, the stars in the sky, consider how ordinary a star or a moon is compared to the expanse of the universe; it’s bigger. If you worship the universe and trust to the aether to return some benefit to you, consider the God of creation who has made everything by the speaking of His voice and holds it all in the palms of His hands; He’s bigger. Now you’re thinking about a worthy God, a God who is able to save and a God who is willing to condescend to come to earth to offer Himself as a sacrifice for our transgressions so that we, (as insignificant as we may think ourselves to be), may be made right with Him and live with Him in eternity.

Unless we are willing to accept our own smallness, we will have an extremely difficult time in understanding God’s big-ness. We have to strive to apprehend the character of God and even though we may not be able to comprehend that character; we must accept the fact that God IS, and that He is big enough to deal with anything. If all we want is a god that’s bigger than we are, then any god will do. If, on the other hand, we want a God in our lives, (and He is there whether we want to admit it or not), who fulfills all of the requisites of GOD, then there is only one place to turn. We must open our Bibles and begin to learn everything we can about the God of creation; the God who is described in the pages of Scripture. As we accept the truth of who we are and who God is and the right relationship we have between us, we will begin to receive understanding; an understanding that will mature into actions which are…

All for the Glory of Christ

A Cup?

Discipleship, Holiness, Nature of God, Salvation, Truth

Size Matters

What??? OK, let’s start this way… In 1982, (the dark ages, right?), a movie came out called, “Conan the Barbarian.” In this film we find the hero, Conan, talking with his associate Subotai about their respective gods. It begins…
Conan: “What gods do you pray to?”
Subotai: “I pray to the four winds…”
Conan: “Crom [Conan’s god] laughs at your four winds. He laughs from his mountain.”
Subotai: “My god is stronger. He is the everlasting sky! Your god lives underneath him.”
The argument seems to be centered on whose god is bigger and therefore most deserving of recognition as God.

This occurred to me as I was doing my daily read. I was in 2 Kings reading about when Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, sent Rabshakeh and his army against Hezekiah and Jerusalem and called from outside the city walls casting insults at the God of Judah. Remember that Hezekiah removed the high places and destroyed the altars of the false gods that had been set up throughout the land prior to his reign; he walked in the ways of God. Hezekiah had commanded that the people to worship at Jerusalem, and sought to bring back the honor and reverence due to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So now comes Rabshakeh, hurling taunts at the people of God saying that they should not place their confidence in the surrounding countries, (Egypt etc…), to help them nor in their own God to save them.

Rabshakeh calls out, “Hath any of the gods of the nations ever delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?” (2 Kings 18:13). To his credit, he was right in that no other god was ever able to do anything to stop the Assyrian army – but the thing is, the Assyrian army had never come up against God before. That’s God with a capital, “G.” The size of the, “g,” matters! None of us ever need fear any god, but we all need to bow in fear before God. The gods of the surrounding nations were little more than dead wood, molten images and likenesses in stone, covered with gold or silver; they were gods which could not move or interact in the affairs of the people who mistakenly held them in reverence. But now the Assyrian army was going to face the only living God, the genuine article of creation, the Creator of heaven and earth.

God had a plan though; He spoke through the prophet Isaiah, reassuring them that He would defend the city. As it turned out; God put 180,000 of the Assyrian troops to death and Sennacherib withdrew; this without Hezekiah lifting a finger. It may well be that no other nation, no other nation’s god, could protect them against the might of the Assyrians, but there has never been, either before time, not after, an army that could stand before the God of Israel. Size matters! This is a lesson that seems to be lost today, when science declares that God is dead. But if God is God and gods are mere idols; how can it be that science was able to kill God and not sweep away all the other gods with Him?

In 1966 Time magazine asked, on its cover, “Is God Dead?” How could God be dead and yet Buddha, Allah, Vishnu, Brahma, many others and even the Universe survive as viable options? Just as Conan worshiped a lesser god than his contemporary, Subotai, today we find New-Agers turning to the Universe when the God of Judeo-Christian faith created the universe. This is as senseless as the man in the desert who is dying of thirst worshiping the faucet from which water flows instead of the water which is able to preserve his life. This is like worshiping Mary as holy because she birthed the Christ child instead of, or even as equally as, the Saviour Himself. Moses, Aaron, Jacob, Sampson, Gideon, Isaiah, Elijah and Elisha and a host of others were every bit as much a vessel of God as was Mary, and yet none of them are worshiped.

Today we can fine all sorts of people who, because they think they have reconciled with the imaginary gods they have created in their minds, couldn’t care less about the biblical God. People are lazy and gullible to settle for whatever fancy tickles their need. It is a serious mistake to think that any god is as good as any other, that any god is as good as God. The point is; every god who is not God is simply too small. Size matters! Even the, “G,” that starts the word makes a difference. We can speak of all sorts of gods from the ancient Greeks and American Indians, the mystic deities of the far east and even the expanse of the expanding reaches of space without impunity because none is really any better than the next, but when God, the biblical God, arrives on the scene, everything else must bow in submission.

Even within the ranks of what is popularly thought of as Christendom, varying identities of God appear. Catholics, Protestants; Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitarians, Reorganized Latter Day Saints, Scientology, Mormons, Mennonites or practically all Christian denominations all claim to be true Christian believers and all have something which distinguishes them from all the others; can they all be right? I am not intending to say that any of these groups are not Christian, (though I believe that to be the case in some regard), the point is that we cannot allow ourselves to be so easily swayed as to accept whatever brand of mysticism, theology or ideology is offered to adequately fill the need placed in us by the One true God. We were created to worship God and to enjoy Him forever; how can that happen if we don’t take the minimum effort required to learn who God is and how we are to live as His people?

The Christian God is the biggest, bad-est, most holy Being that could ever be conceived of by a mortal mind. God has created everything by the speaking of His holy voice, He has numbered the stars and calls then out by their names, He holds the universe in the palm of His hand, His arm is never too short to accomplish His will, He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, He is from everlasting to everlasting. Every other god exists, (though there isn’t really any god but God), beneath Him. Since our Creator has made us to worship Him, we owe it to God to know who He is, to learn the attributes of His nature and to worship Him in spirit, as He has mandated that we worship, in a way which glorifies Himself.

In an exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” Alice asks, “Would you tell me, please which way I ought to go from here?” The cat answers, “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” More than a cute line from a fantasy story; this is a question that deserves serious contemplation. Where do you want to get to? If you only want to get to tomorrow morning then it might not make all that much difference to you how you answer the question concerning which way you ought best to go. But keep in mind; not even tomorrow morning is a certainty. We may, at any moment, even before you finish reading this, be called to account before the bar of judgment. So then, if we cannot be sure that we will see the sun rise on the next new day, shouldn’t we be primarily concerned with the way to get to the place we want to get to?

There is only one way to get there, and that is through faith in the sacrificial death of Jesus of Nazareth. If we don’t care where we end up, then any god will do because it really doesn’t matter which way we go. If, on the other hand, we hope to spend eternity in the blessed glory of our Lord, then the way we go is the most important thing we can ever hope to discover, and we have the map, the Bible; it’s a map given to us by God; the biggest God; the only true God. The God who made the biggest sacrifice for our sakes, and again; size matters! If we are to be saved we need a Saviour and not just any saviour, but a big Saviour, a God sized Saviour, We need a Saviour who is God, One who saves His people…

All for the Glory of Christ

A Cup?

Discipleship, Forgiveness, Holiness, Salvation, Truth

February Snow

Back in December I wrote something about how serene, beautiful and romantic the new fallen snow was and how we can find the Rockwell moments in our lives if we will only look through the right eyes. Now, in February, the perspective has changed; why? It’s still white, (mostly), and it looks much the same as it did when first it fell, but for some reason it doesn’t carry the same charm it once did. Now it seems only seems hard and cold, imposing and loathsome to have to shovel, a blight that I wish would simply go away. “How much like myself,” my internal voice points out. I hate that voice sometimes!

The snow fell quietly, reverently and settled in such a way as to rekindle the joyous remembrances of childhood but then it became weathered, blown by the winds of a bitter winter into dunes and strata of miniature mountain ranges cast across my yard and the sun, though trying on more than one occasion, has failed to melt much of it away. I let the dog out in the morning and where he had playfully romped in the fresh powder just weeks before, he now takes tentative steps testing, trying and then breaking through the crusty top layer and plunging into the depths beneath. What was a romp has become a burdensome effort. What went wrong? I know the change is in me as much or more so than it is the actual condition of the white icing on the ground.

Enter the part that I find the most disturbing. I can be a CC, that is, a Crappy Christian! I know that I should be more open, more loving and better able to forgive easily. I used to be a lot better at it than I sometimes seem to be today. The bitter winds of January have crusted the surface of my faith and I find myself failing in areas where I know my past experience used to be much better at achieving. The smooth texture and softness of the new believer is now displaying ridges where the peaks are crisply frozen and it seems like I prefer the frozen, rigid opinionated positions I find myself holding to the warmth of the new Christian heart. I know that there is still a warmth inside, a longing to be the person God created me to be but sometimes, and with certain people, I seem to proudly fly my flag of indifference.

I sometimes find myself reading my Bible looking more for justification for being the way I am rather than for lessons on being conformed more closely to the likeness of Christ. Jesus came down pretty hard on the Pharisees and the keepers of the law, (I like that part…), but He was also compassionate and forgiving of the human condition, (…not so much). This is the, “Getting right with the Lord,” that we must always keep in the front of our minds, the softening of the heart that we all need to be praying for, and the assignment of God, through the Holy Spirit, that we can be faithfully carrying forth the message of the Gospel. This is not as easy as it might sound though.

Just as the snow hardens gradually in the blackness of the night, our hearts can harden by the smallest of steps. We look in the mirror and see no overt change, we seem the same but little by little, the garden of our souls that God, by grace, has made new, can begin to turn back to weeds. A dear friend moves and neglects to let us know, another suffers alone across the country but says not a word, we say, “Well, I guess that’s the way they want it,” and cross them out of our address books. We see the injustice in the world and can begin to think, “What’s the use.” The means to combat such discouragements can be hidden from us, hard to find and if we are not careful, we can decide that God doesn’t want us to find it and would rather we look on the situation as, “Pearls before the swine.” Sometimes it seems easier, (and incorrectly sanctioned by God), to take our truth, our Saviour, shut up and go home.

This is not what God would have us do though. We are charged with loving through the tough times and while I may not always, (seems more like – rarely), find the means to love when everything in me says not to; I have to make myself stop and realize that the love I am supposed to show is not my own, it is the love of Christ which He first shared with me. This is not an easy thing for me share and I almost decided not to write at all this week but, who couldn’t benefit from a good purge, right? We will never deal with the crusted hardness of our hearts if we are unwilling to admit that our hearts are crusting over. Unless we put it all on the table, how are we ever going to work past the things in us that cling stubbornly to the old man of the world and begin to reach for the things of God in the new man?

What happens to the fresh, romantic snow of December is caused by the influences of the world just as the hardening hearts we sometimes surprisingly discover in us are forming due to the pressures of the world around us. We can tell ourselves that we are justified by the Bible, that we are acting at the hand of God and simply emotionally smiting the enemies of God but its all lies. We are only doing what WE want to be doing and using God and His Word as an excuse. Is there a time when we are to leave off and let the unbeliever drift out into the murky seas of the world? I think there is. The problem is that I find myself waiting patiently for God to open doors to have the opportunity to share His Word and then turn around and decide on my own when it’s time to write someone off.

The problem is worse with those who are the closest to us. Perhaps it’s because we are the most deeply hurt by the rejection of the ones we would think should be the easiest to reach, I would rather be disregarded by a stranger than by the one who I desperately long to have come to the knowledge of grace and salvation. But that only points out another failing on my part; why should I, (simply based on the fact of relation), care more for any one person over another? Is the homeless man on the street any more or less deserving of grace than the relative you grew up with? Of course not – it only seems to hurt more when those you love refuse to hear you. Aren’t we more deeply affected by the sister in law who co-mingles a version of a false Christ with universal oneness, reincarnation and New-Age hoo-doo, Vu-Doo than the wino who mumbles walking away wiping his nose on his sleeve because he didn’t want to hear about how Jesus loves him?

I refuse to believe that I am the only one who suffers with such matters. This may be in part another vain attempt to include myself in a larger group, (thereby making my offences seem less than they really are on the basis of sheer numbers), to ease a grieving of the Spirit that I know, I know better than to be doing. If I am the only person who struggles with this sort of thing, then I’m in worse shape than even I imagine, (and I already feel like I’m well over my head)! I believe that we all could use a check-up from the neck-up when it comes to our Bible study. Are we hoping to hear from God or only hoping God to hear from us? Do we want to please God or only have Him approve of our preconceived positions?

God never said to love only those who were easy to love or take the Gospel only to those who seem glad to listen. We are told that in this world, we WILL suffer, (John 16:33), so we have to expect that our loved ones may not want to hear the very thing they most need to hear. I have to keep reminding myself that I am not out to convert anyone, only to scatter seed. We may never see the fruit of our labors but we have to trust in God, knowing that if a person is called to His purpose, then His purpose will be served; and served in a way which is…

All for the Glory of Christ

A Cup?

Discipleship, Doctrine, Holiness, Nature of God, Salvation

In the Beginning, God…

If only we were to make the commitment to faith that the first four words of the Bible were true, then everything else would fall into place. If we believed in the Originator of the origin, the Creator of heaven and earth, the God who is the very beginning of our existence in every aspect of life; then anything else could seem possible, plausible and sensible. Before anyone gets all in a twist, let me add that there is considerably more to understand but I’m simply saying that the avalanche of salvation would come after the pebble of accepting a sovereign God started its descent down the mountains of our lives.

The root of our salvation is in Jesus Christ: that’s where all of this is headed. I know that belief in God is not enough. “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.” James 2:19. I get that! It’s trusting in Jesus that brings the gift of eternal life with Him, but how do we get there from our dark place in the world? The starting point has to be a basic, fundamental belief in God. If we think of the Word of God, the Christian Bible, as a tree of many branches with verses for leaves and godly wisdom as the fruit then before any benefit can be had, we must accept the tree. There is a tree and it is before us; similarly, there is a singular God and He stands before us. I AM NOT SAYING THAT GOD IS A TREE AND THAT WE SHOULD THEREFORE BE WORSHIPPING TREES! I’m restating the truth in Hebrews 11:6 which says, “…for he that cometh to God must believe that He is…”

If we first reach for the low hanging fruit, (returning to our metaphor), then we will find each piece increasing the case for Christ and leading to salvation. So then, beginning with, “God IS,” the next thing to do is define what it means to be God. What is this God before us? The attributes of God are many and not all are necessarily understood before we come to faith in Jesus, but among the primary ones are that He is everywhere present, (omnipresence), all knowing, (omniscience), all powerful, (omnipotent), He cannot lie, He cannot deny Himself, He can lack nothing and is capable of doing anything that does not violate His own nature. This does mean that God has limits in as much as He cannot make square circles, one sided coins, or a rock so big that He cannot lift it. With this in mind; we can begin to pick fruit from the Bible.

But is the Bible reliable? The Bible tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”- Who said that? The apostle Paul – so why trust him? Because he explains the origin of his knowledge in Galatians 1:12, “For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it thorough a revelation of Jesus Christ.” OK, so what makes Jesus so far above scrutiny? John 1:14 tells us, “… and the Word became flesh and dwelled among us…” So who’s the Word? John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

So the Word was God, the Word became flesh and dwelled among us as Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus revealed the truth of God to Paul who wrote to Timothy that every word of Scripture is God breathed and reliable, therefore; we have good reason to accept the Bible as the truth of God and since God cannot lie, (a thing which would violate His nature), God is telling us that the Bible is true. Once we get to this point, we begin discovering who God is, what His plan for us is and how our shared reality fits together. The Bible tells us that our faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, is the only thing that will assure our eternal security in Heaven. The Gospels give us the evidence that Jesus is who He claimed to be and the world slowly begins to make sense.

Once we have secured our salvation by faith in Jesus, we begin to feel the driving force of the Holy Spirit leading us into the deeper lessons of God. We find the right ways of living. We see that “free love” or tattoos or reading the horoscopes are all things that were not what God intended for His children. I am not saying that a tat will keep anyone out of Heaven. God’s grace regenerates us from the inside and that happens regardless of how we appear on the outside at our conversion. What I am saying is that the child of God will be constrained from doing things against the will of God as he/she grows in the faith. Our fruit will begin to become ever more holy and fitting as we are increasingly convicted of the will of God in our lives.

When we understand that God IS; that Jesus is the incarnate God; that the crucifixion was to pay for our sin; that God died to save us from the end we were ignorantly chasing; that we have eternal life through faith in Jesus; that we are what the Bible tells us we are, then we begin to grow in the truth and ways of God. We begin to understand, when we are walking in the ways of the Lord, that the things that seem contrary to the earthly desires we once held as reasonable are the very things that are truly for our benefit and that by holding onto the truth of God’s Word we can have a more abundant life. We begin to learn that fulfillment is not as much a matter of having a bunch of stuff and being immersed in what the world would call wealth or success as it is in realizing and being thankful for the position we hold in Christ and seeing the abundance in the things we have been given, even though by our earlier selves we might have thought them wanting.

Our faith grows when we study the Bible because the Spirit of God dwelling within us is able to use the Word to convict us and direct us on to the paths God has selected for us to travel. We can start understanding that we are where we are for a purpose that may not be visible to us; that we can trust in a holy God to be using everything for our benefit. When things get confusing we can rely on knowing that God has a master plan that is being revealed; when we hurt, we are being grown into more useful participants in the kingdom of God. We can learn that we are to deny ourselves the urge to retaliate against our attackers and love them instead. Most of what seems instinctive to us is actually that which is against the directives of God, but until we learn a better way, a way that comes from God’s Word, we would never even consider them as a proper course of action.

If we ever hope to have the avalanche of blessing in our lives we have to drop the pebble which is a willingness to accept, “In the beginning God…” The Spirit of God will draw us into a deeper relationship with Him through Jesus; we will come to realize the assurance of our eternal state in Heaven with Jesus as we grow in the Word. “[God] not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9), gives us reason to hope. If we accept that God exists, then we must strive to consider who God is, allow ourselves to be directed by His Spirit, and submit to the instruction of His Word. “In the beginning God,” is more than the first four words of the Bible, it represents the kernel of truth which opens all the doors to the kingdom of God; four words that can take us off the path to Hell and place us in the light which is …

All for the Glory of Christ

A Cup?

Discipleship, Holiness, Nature of God, Truth

The Cup We’re Given

The night that Jesus was arrested, after Peter had attempted to defend the Lord by cutting off the ear of the high priest’s servant, (perhaps evidence that Peter was not skilled with a sword), we read, “Then Jesus said unto Peter, ‘Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?’” John 18:11. This made me think about a problem that is often crossing my mind; how do we know the will of God for our lives? Since we are to emulate the Lord in every way, are we not also given our own individual cups to drink? And if we are, how are we to know which we actually drink and which we are to pour out?

The line between knowing that which we are to endure and that which is given to urge us toward action, or a change in action and lifestyle can be a confusing thing to identify. I have written about this situation before, (God’s Hand or Satan’s Handiwork), but the questions linger; how do I know if I am being tested to see if I can endure a certain trial, or if I am being directed in some way other than the one I think I should be going? There is definite help in God’s Word, but I believe that a lot of the problem comes in Christian maturity – and we never reach a state of complete maturity in this life, but are always being continually conformed more closely into the likeness of Christ. The more we grow in the faith, the better we are able to see whether we are to stand-fast or move toward another position at the prompting of circumstance.

Sometimes it’s an obvious choice; the guy who gets a flat tire or has an accident on his way to do a thing that is decidedly un-biblical is probably being directed away from something, but what about the opportunity to support a cause that isn’t so clear? What about the man who asks for money on the street? Are we being presented with the opportunity to show God’s compassion for the less fortunate, or are we being deceived into taking from God’s resources to aid in the potentially destructive behavior of one of Satan’s minions? Are we helping a man stay alive of simply providing access to his next drunken binge? Sometimes the test has confusing questions on it. We can all agree that we want to do the right thing, but figuring out what that thing is, is not always so clearly seen.

Jesus knew that He was destined by the Father to suffer and die at the hands of the authorities but that’s not really fair; He is God! That put Jesus on the inside track. To the person who is out of work and cannot find a job anywhere, the question of whether he is to endure until the door is opened for him, or uproot his family to go to a new city is not so easily discerned. Trusting in the verse that tells us that God will, “work all things for the good to those who love Him and are called to His purpose;” (Romans 8:28), I usually tend to stay wherever I am until God blows the door open and kicks me through it! Some might think that I am only being stubborn and refusing to listen, preferring instead to think myself right in every situation and to those people I emphatically say, “YOU’RE WRONG!” But then again, that might be making their case for them, but I digress…

Whenever I meet a person who seems confident in every predicament, who is un-ruffled regardless of cause, I am torn between awe over the fact that they seem so securely led and wonder as to whether or not they are acting on the impetus of God or doing as seems best to them only. In the books of Judges and Kings the case is clearly shown that mankind is inclined to do whatever they feel like doing, so we have that against us, but I cannot help but believe that there ARE those who really interpret the will of God and are acting in that regard. If only schizophrenia were not looked down upon; how I’d love to have the unmistakable, audible voice of God in my ears guiding me through everything I face with uncertainty.

We all have our cups to drink. I look at mine and ask, “Is it sweet or bitter?” “Am I to drink it now or carry it somewhere else because it needs time and a new setting to sweeten into the blessing that I hope it is intended to be?” When the car breaks down I wonder, is it really the better option to buy a different car, or will I be ahead to spend considerably less to replace a blown engine? When my hip hurts, am I in need of a doctor or should I wait until I can barely walk before determining that God must want me to seek help? Our lives are full of a seemingly endless series of cups to drink but the ability to know when to flee and when to fight oftentimes eludes me.

I moved to the country hills of northwest Missouri and thought, “Thank you God, I love this place and hope to stay here until I die.” The voice in my head tells me to not become attached to the situation because it could be gone tomorrow but my ability to obfuscate the obvious still wants me to be where I am. Then, when I find that the cost of living here, (propane at, or above $4.00/gal), the options for work and the trials of keeping the acreage maintained converge to make me think that God might have a different plan in mind for me, I wonder if I am being told to move on or to wait on the Lord. I am blessed that, (so far), what I believe to be the will of God in my life seems to be what God is currently allowing, and I know that I am blessed to have found a job that meets the immediate needs of my family; the question of whether or not God will allow me to have what I now have until the day I am called home still remains to be seen.

I don’t think that God would have us run from every discomfort, and even if this is not what He has in mind as my, “forever,” on earth, I know He can and will use me wherever I am. Just like I wrote in, “Boats and Helicopters,” God sends signs we are to correctly interpret; I just pray that the intended message is not one that I am missing. The only hope I have is in the Christian disciplines of study and prayer. This is the only hope we need though because God will move Heaven and earth to accomplish His purposes and with them, us as well. I just don’t want to be the cog that sticks when the machinery of God begins to turn.

I would never suggest that we lay in bed refusing to move until God tells us to start the coffee first or rather head to the bathroom, if we have a flat tire there is no need to wait until the mountains split and the voice from the clouds says, “Change thou thy tire!” We have to recognize our cup, making sure that we are not trying to care for the cup of anyone other than ourselves; we must seek the wisdom of God through study and prayer to know when we are to act, or act otherwise and we must be obedient to the call of God on our lives to do the things we are given to do. As with anything we set out to do, practice makes us better. Our prayer life requires practice. Our devotion to reading the Bible and the study of God’s Word gets better with practice. The betterment of the lives we live are improved by the practice of the things we hold dear in life and seeking the kingdom of God must be one of, no, the primary thing we attend to in this life.

Will we always know the thing God is trying to say to us? No. Are we going to stumble and fall? Yes. But there is great comfort in the pages of Scripture where we are told the Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us; for as many times as we fall, God will set us upright on the path again and that His love for us is beyond our understanding. When we drink the cup we are given to drink, if it is sweet, drink it with gratitude to Jesus; if it is bitter, drink it in communion with Him. The cup we are given is given for a purpose; either as a reward or as a lesson to be learned. God will not harm us but use even the bitter cup to mold us to the likeness of His Son so we are to be thankful for our cup and we are to drink it…

All for the Glory of Christ

A Cup?

Discipleship, Doctrine, Holiness, Nature of God, Salvation, Truth

The Disagreeable Truth

One might think that if a thing were true and honest, that we would prefer it to any other possibility. If, in trying to make an informed decision, we were looking for data to consider; we would want the best, most true information possible so that we could make the best choice. But here is the disagreeable truth; we would rather have what we think we would want rather than truly make the better decision based on truth. The reason that we find the truth disagreeable is because we want our way, the way we naturally think, to be confirmed, not corrected. No one wants to think that they have been living in error and in most cases it is more likely that we will look for justification for our error, than it is that we will make necessary changes.

The truth is like the hoe we need to be able to use to tend the garden that is our lives. We can use the truth to chop down the weeds and loosen the soil so that our lives can flourish; to direct streams of water to the places that are dry and even drive away unwanted pests. Take the hoe out of the hands of the gardener though, and the neatly tended plot of ground that we had worked so hard to keep trim immediately begins to succumb to the ravages of thorn and thistle; our fruit is taken by insects and disease when the soil is no longer able to provide its nourishment as it had in times past. If the truth is so beneficial, you might ask; why do we so often find it disagreeable? What’s wrong with us?

It’s our nature. There is a story about a frog and a scorpion. The scorpion wants to cross a stream and asks the frog to carry him across the water but the frog is wary because he is afraid that he might be stung. The scorpion reassures the frog that it would be silly to sting when his very own survival depended on safe passage so they set off to cross the stream. Midway through their crossing the scorpion strikes. The frog in horror exclaims, “Why? Now we will both die!” The scorpion simply replied, “I know, but it’s my nature.” We, as the human animals we are, do things every day that are driven by our nature and are ultimately harmful to our wellbeing. We overeat, we smoke, we use drugs that are not prescribed for us, we act in dangerous ways in traffic, we practice promiscuity, we lie, cheat and steal; why, because it’s our nature. The Bible teaches us that man is a fallen evil creature and that our hearts are desperately wicked. (Jeremiah 17:9).

In John 3:19 we read, “The Light has come into the world and the children of men loved darkness more than the Light, because their deeds were evil.” Paul bemoans his own condition in Romans 7 when, stating that he does what he doesn’t want to do and doesn’t do what he knows he should, says, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” In Romans 1 we have it explained clearly; “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. … just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.” WE – are the – THEY – being discussed here! This is the human condition.

We are so prideful that we would rather think ourselves right than be shown to be correct. There are so many people who would rather refuse to accept the truth and acknowledge that they have been wrong, to their eternal condemnation, than accept the truth of their situation. How does it make sense for a man to say that he would rather believe that everyone gets to Heaven even if it takes him to Hell? But still, we see it every day. Each week millions of people receive a feel-good gospel which is really no Gospel at all. The New-Ager is content to accept everything, or nothing, as satisfying, (except Jesus Christ), even though they have absolutely no warrant for doing so. Some perform acts of service with the thought that those acts will buy their tickets to glory, or at least lessen their suffering in some imaginary temporary place of torment.

The problem with the truth is that it flies in the face of our pride; our machismo; our ability to see our own fatal flawed-ness. The truth is disagreeable because if we are to respond to it correctly, we have to kill a part of who we are; who we think we want to be. We are all too willing to give up satisfaction and blessings in eternity for the sake of a temporary enjoyment here on this earthly level, and it isn’t really all that enjoyable in the here and now anyway. In an age where we take payday loans, convert our structured settlements for a reduced immediate accommodation and would gladly, “…pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today,” how can we ever hope to see the long view? As hopeless as this may seem, there is an answer: an answer of hope.

We cannot do this alone. We cannot change our natures but the Holy Spirit can. We cannot change, but we can be changed. Returning to Romans 7, Paul goes on to say, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Only when we accept our depravity can we begin to see that we need help and only when we accept the truth, God’s truth, can we begin to see the only way to our salvation in Christ Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. The truth seems disagreeable because we are living outside of God’s will, and we like it that way! Every time we rile at change, it is because we would rather be doing things our own way, and while that may seem like a good idea, it usually never is.

Our purpose in life is ultimately to glorify God. If we are, we will worship Jesus, His Son, and do the things we are being taught to do in the pages of Scripture, not because they bring us to a better eternity, (although they will), but because these are the things that we are intended to do. We are given the choice to do things as we think we should – suffering the consequences, or we can learn at the foot of the Master and live according to the Word of God, enjoying our eternal security forever.

Philosophers, even Pilate, have asked, “What is truth? Does truth exist?” It does exist and God allows us to know it as it serves His purposes. His Word is the truth and we need only spend time, do our due diligence, in learning what that truth is, and applying it to our lives. God is a gentleman though; He will not force Himself upon us while we are in this world, the choice to hear Him is ours. We will face the wrath or grace which our decisions lead us to one day. On that day we will have already predetermined our fate by the decisions we have made in this life concerning who Jesus is and what we have done with that information.

We can either live somewhat comfortably in this world by embracing lies and their consequences, or we can choose otherwise. We are, (right now, today), in the position to endure a certain amount of disagreeableness, to sacrifice our pride and assumed certainty in what we think we know as right for the unimaginable glory that we are promised, if we will but bend our knee and believe on Jesus. God is saying, “It’s My way or the highway!” The highway leads to Hell, but His way is…

All for the Glory of Christ

A Cup?

Discipleship, Doctrine, Holiness, Nature of God, Truth

Eyes Wide Open

Have you ever been in church and had the pastor say that though he was ready to give a sermon on such-and-such a topic, God placed a more urgent message on his heart and the whole sermon was changed? That’s where I find myself today. I had a topic to write on this week but then God revealed His will through a remarkable set of circumstances and I’m having to rethink everything. It is rare that I am made so aware of something as I tend to oftentimes miss the obvious, but there was no mistaking the significance of what I was being told. The lesson this week is to not be dismayed about anything, but rather; look with eyes wide open and see what God may be doing through the most unlikely of circumstances.

I had been laid off from my telemarketing job some time ago and was called back to work a project soliciting donations to help battered women and children for a Canadian charity. It was only four hours a day and in order to make ends meet, both my wife and I had to work the four hour, part-time shifts. I had been making application at a lot of local companies during this time and I received a call for an interview at a retail store on the town square. I wasn’t sure that I wanted the job but I knew that I had to do something to better my situation; since God had opened this door, I went. Thirty minutes later, I had a new job – with benefits! Within the next week my pickup started making noise.

The engine was running roughly at idle and it was getting progressively louder. Being the typical man that I am, I knew that the only thing to do was to immediately begin a phase of denial and turn up the radio. That, while normally a fine solution to most of my woes, didn’t work for very long; since there was no “11” on the volume dial I decided that I had to do something drastic – I had to put it in the shop. I hated the idea that I had to spend some of our dwindling resources on a vehicle when I was only just starting to get my feet back under me but evidently time and auto repairs wait for no man.

The appointment made; the morning dawned cold and clear and off I went to drive the 28 noisy miles to the repair shop. I exited the interstate and began to drive along a surface street when I look to the left just in time to see a woman slip and fall on the steep incline of her paved driveway. I swerved to the shoulder without thinking, set my brake and ran across the street to see if she was alright. The woman was in her early 60s and I thought, “Did she hit her head? Has she broken any bones? Should I dial 911 right now?” She said that she didn’t know in response to my question as to whether or not she was alright; as she climbed the ladder that was me, we slowly discovered together that no apparent serious injury had occurred. Regaining her feet she thanked God that I had come by when I did and remarked on her surprise that she hadn’t been able to see that the path was icy and frozen before she stepped upon it.

Gathering her trash cans and helping her to pick up her newspaper, she held my arm as we walked carefully back to the house and I helped her safely inside. I refused her offer of compensation for helping her and went on my way to get the truck to the shop. As it turned out, the bill for my repair work was a mere fraction of what I had feared it might be and on the way out of town I noticed that this woman’s husband was outdoors. I stopped again to check that she was, indeed, alright and spent a little time talking with the man who was also grateful that his wife had had help when she needed it. This episode confirmed in me the benefit of my not being a truck driver anymore. I used to worry that my wife might slip and fall on her way to the mailbox when I was hundreds of miles from home, and with us living so far out in the country, how long might she lay helpless on the ground before anyone noticed?

The ride home gave me time to think about the goodness of God, how He has a plan, a perfect plan, and how each of us have a responsibility to fulfill in completing that plan. I was so thankful that God had put me in that place, at that time, to be able to do His work when the moment came. More than once I was in tears thinking about how we never know where God is planning to use us, how much grace is spread throughout our lives to protect us and how we rarely understand that the things we see in our shortsightedness as curses are really blessings toward others waiting to be distributed. If I had not gone back to check that the front door was locked, I might have passed that spot several seconds earlier and not seen this unfortunate woman fall; if I had been looking the other way, I might have driven right on by.

Did God make the repair bill so low because I did the work of His hands? Did I have trouble with the truck so that I would have to go to town on my day off? Did I get that job so that I would have to drive a set number of miles and have the exhaust problem develop so that I would come out of denial and do something about it at just the right time? How long had God been orchestrating events in my life so that I might be ready and available to do this small act of kindness when the call came? I don’t know. But recalling the Scripture which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good to those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose,” (Romans 8:28), I do not think that any of these questions lay outside the will of God. I might not be certain that God pulled every string, but I certainly do think that it is entirely possible and even probable.

The point worth noting here is that we are incapable of seeing the big picture. God has a perfect plan and He calls each of us to do our part in completing that plan. What if this woman had been having doubts about her faith? What if she prayed to the impenetrable ceiling that very morning that God should do something in her life to show her that He was there and caring for her and that by doing the work that God set before me, her prayer was answered and her faith restored? I am not claiming any great accolades for myself in any of this; only saying that we should not pre-judge the events in our lives as things that are outside of the plan of God. As we go through our daily lives we must do so with eyes wide open. We need to be aware that God may present us with the opportunity to do His good works at any moment and we need to accept the office of the body of Christ to do the things we are given to do.

I fail at this all the time and I am so thankful to God that He allows me to see the correction of my own errant ways from time to time as He grows me into a better person, into the better likeness of His Son. When the hard times come we can either fall under the weight of them or thank God for the thing He is about to do. To the faithful believer, God has explained His ways to us. In Jeremiah 29:11 we are promised, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Instead of crying out, “Why ME!” We should praise Him and simply say, “OK, show me the plan Lord, let me see the magic!” God may do just that. Remember the passage in 2 Kings where all seemed lost to the servant of Elisha until, “And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see.’ Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (6:17).

Every day we wake up to a NEW day, God is either commissioning us to do something for His glory or He is preparing us for the day when that commission comes. We have to be ready to respond to the call of God’s will in our lives. It may not be a great thing in our eyes, but every act of kindness, each smile and gracious word conveys a truth about God that is not our own. Face the day with intention toward finding the reason that God gave you one more day; we must remain steadfast in our desire to show the grace of God to a dark and dying world. We must face each day with our eyes wide open so that we don’t miss the chance to offer an act of grace to someone in need; an act which ultimately is…

All for the Glory of Christ

A Cup?

Discipleship, Holiness, Salvation, Truth

The Virtues of Being a Turtle

I think that most of us are well acquainted with the story of the tortoise and the hare; they run a race and the slower of the two ends up winning. I believe that there are many good lessons to be had from this encounter and that we, as Christians, would do well to keep in mind as we go through our daily lives. Very little of what follows is definitively scriptural but even though this comes from a place of speculative insight, we need to remember that God gives us natural examples that we should not overlook. Jesus used the common items of His day to teach lessons of immense importance and one of the best ways of making a convincing argument is to show the point one is trying to make by referring to the ordinary things around us.

Correctly understood, nothing made by God can be considered ordinary. We see miracles every day if we take the time to look past the veil of busyness we have covered ourselves with. Every earthly element points us back to the Creator when viewed through the lens of holiness. The turtle is no less a miracle of creation than we are; just as little sins are as sinful as great sins, small miracles are no less miracles because they seem small to us. One of the points I have made to skeptics is that it is we who fail to recognize the bounty of daily miracles that surround us and if we took the time to see God in our lives, we could never again deny Him. So what can God’s miraculous turtle show us?

The turtle is determined. He sets out on a course and little by little he works to achieve his goals. He is not fast and is therefore able to spend the necessary time to receive the instruction of the Lord as he goes about his journey. The turtle plods along as though he has all the time in the world because he knows that God gives to each, the time necessary to complete the will of God in each life. The turtle realizes that if there was urgency to his journey, God would have had him start out earlier because God’s plans are always perfect, and the turtle knows it will get where it needs to be at just the right time. The turtle does not concern himself with the obstacles that may be in his path until they are actually in front of him. If the turtle worried about every hill, stream and roadway he had to traverse ahead of time, he would retreat back into his shell and stay home.

The turtle is strong in his defense. Here in northwest Missouri we have alligator snapping turtles and they can become aggressive. When these guys are on a quest they do not like to be deterred and will hiss and snap at anything that they perceive as a threat. You might not think of a turtle as being a threat but I’m not talking about the box-turtle house pet you had when you were a child – think armored backed, jagged shelled, faster than you might expect turtles that can be up to 30 inches long and weigh from 50 to close to 200 pounds. An alligator snapper can remove a finger from the unsuspecting person and not give it a thought. When a significant threat is encountered a turtle will attempt a retreat into the safety of its shell and wait patiently, but if provoked it will defend itself.

Armed with the truth, we as Christians should be equally determined in our walks of faith and prepared to defend our position when called upon to do so. Though we can expect to face obstacles along the course of our walk, taking a lesson from the turtle, we can plod along concerning ourselves with only the next step. When we are poked with the stick of unbelief, we can use the Word of God to defend our position and the grace we have been given on loan, to encourage others to join us in the pursuit of holiness. When we come to the highway of sin and have to find a way to cross over to the green fields of blessing on the far side, we can trust that God will not allow us to be struck down by a passing car as long as we are listening to the voice of our heavenly Father.

The turtle is not concerned that other animals may be able to move more quickly than he; the rabbit may be much faster but the rabbit moves in fits and starts. The rabbit will madly dash ahead and then rest and graze before dashing towards its next rest. The turtle, on the other hand, will bite off a stem of grass and munch it down without slowing his steady pace. The turtle cares little for the acts of others. The turtle is concerned with his own walk, not the walks of other turtles. This is another lesson we Christians need to learn; ours is not to grade other Christians for where they are presently in their walks, but we are to remain steadfast in our own walks. Today the churchgoer is likely to think that a particular message was beneficial for the person next to them and miss the importance of that same message in their own life.

How often do we, on the way home from services, remark on the failings of other congregants instead of praying for them and looking for the message that through them we are being given? Do we ask for patience or a cool tongue and then rail at the trials that are sent to help us better control those weaknesses in ourselves? The turtle would not do such things; he is only concerned with his own next step. As we, in a desperately dark and fallen world, struggle to maintain our walks with each next step, why should we spend so much effort on the critique of others? Do we not have enough evil to avoid in our own existence that we feel as though we are justified in casting stones at others?

The turtle keeps his head down and deals with each turn of events as it occurs and as it pertains to his life. The turtle is all about consistency; not consistency in the trials of each day or in the results associated the outcomes of those trials, but consistency in the perseverance required to take the next step on his journey. We are not necessarily called to win in every attempt against every trial, but we are expected to turn to the Source of all things as we face each trial. The macro is more important than the micro. It isn’t whether our child got sick, we lost a job or the car wouldn’t start; it’s, did we turn to God and use the godly precepts He has given us as we look for our way through the difficulty?

I am not suggesting that we should all be sad that we were born as humans instead of turtles, but I am trying to make the point that within the natural order, there are indicators of the way we could improve our existence if we would only look at them, embrace them and apply them to our day-to-day circumstances. We do not need to rush to serve in one particular way until we are no longer driven by that thing and then rush to the next area of service; scramble from one discipline to the next as we become disenchanted with each one, but we can be faithful as we plod along in our walks. Sometimes we may move more quickly than at other times, we may move slower when the terrain gets steep, but slow progress is still progress. Don’t concern yourself with whether or not you may be moving as quickly as you perceive others to be moving, our spiritual walks are self-paced and in God’s timing.

A person may read several chapters of their Bible each day or only a few verses, some people may seem to have more remaining sin in their lives than others and some may seem holier than others, (everyone else compared to me), but the question is this; are we seeking the kingdom of God? Are we striving for that closer walk with Thee? Remember that the servant who only worked one hour in the vineyard received the same payment as the one who labored all day so the reality is that we, all who are saved, will inherit the blessings of eternity with Jesus in Heaven. In the grand scheme of things, being the virtuous turtle is still…

All for the Glory of Christ

A Cup?

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