Category Archives: Life

Why?

In my later years have been accused of being a little over inquisitive. I ask questions which cause seeming discomfort to myself and those who I ask. Asking why is the measure of my quest.  I can look up the how; there is always a video on YouTube to show me that.  I can weigh all the factors like my bank account and my calendar to determine the when.  I can even analyze the best person to do the how.  But when it comes to why, that question is different. 

Why? Why? Why? Any statement of fact can well be answered by the dreaded “WHY”. I was never satisfied with the, “because I said so,” in response to why I needed to clean my room. There is always a question in my mind. I can be annoying if you are the victim of most of them.  I am a curious sort and want to know everything: its origin, meaning, cause, and consequence. It can be profound or mundane. I have asked the great questions of life (or so I think) and also the base queries about ordinary stuff.

My why today is about the motive of those who express themselves in response to those around us.  It has been called peer pressure, or crowd think, or herd mentality. Why do we seem to want the acceptance of everyone around us even it may cut at the edge of public morality and personal ethic?  Why loot a store just because someone else broke the glass in the first place.  Why go along with the crowd and carry signs of solidarity with those who know little about? Why complain about the amount of cows that are in danger of being slaughtered when your own ox in the ditch (to use a biblical expression)? Or like Jesus said why worry about the speck in the eye of someone else when you have a log in your own.

I will keep asking why.  And if you don’t want to answer, Why not?

Sermon on the Mount

I am building a group of men to think for themselves.  To rightly divide the word of truth.  The vehicle for this building is a study on the Sermon on the mount.  It is in Matthews Gospel Chapter 5,6,7.

But as I read these words over and over again, I am amazed at the teachings of Jesus.  He was teaching the disciples on a grassy hill about the Kingdom of Heaven.  The hearers were amazed at the teachings of Jesus for it was from authority.  It meant something to them.  The sermon was one of those in which after the last AMEN, you simply said, “wow”. It pierced their hearts with truth. Not like another law book or set of rules.  Jesus taught them about the things which impacted their lives.  

The Scribes and Pharisees taught speaking and re-speaking the same words.  Words without life and conviction. Jesus said to those who listened, “your righteousness must surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.  This new law of the Kingdom of Heaven, this new way of truth and life, this abundant life points to dire need for a new righteousness.

The Kingdom of Heaven is a righteousness of faith empowered by the Holy Spirit to enable  you  to  lovingly,  willingly  and  delightfully  yield  your  will  in  total  submission  to  His  examination  of  your  heart  so  that  you  may  be  completely  set  free.

As with any revolutionary idea these words of Jesus were and still are misconstrued. It would be easy for anyone reading the Sermon on the Mount to wince once and a while. We have to be different from everyone else.  We can’t even think about getting angry and wishing someone ill, just looking at a woman is the same as having relations with her, divorce is out of the question, can’t make a oath, turn the other cheek and pray for my enemies.

In a quick read the task of obedience is overwhelming. “Jesus have you just traded one set of laws for another?”  The demands of Jesus are simply too difficult. Who among us have never hid wrong attitudes in our heart?  Who is not guilty of disobeying the rule of the King? 

The inevitable result is to fall short of God’s glorious ideal. We try and try to uphold that ideal with every ounce of our strength, but we fail again and again.  We end up living a life full of disappointment, guilt and failure.  And that is just the point. 

your conscience burns within you knowing that Jesus does not rule simply until you’ve had enough.  But rather than leaving you naked in your rebellion and exposed to judgment, He forgives you. He heals you. He restores you. He lifts you up and strengthens you to carry on the journey of faith for yet another day.

In our men’s study we simply say, “there are only two things in the Bible, 1) Revelation and 2) reconciliation.”  God reveals Himself in his plans and ideals and we are to reconcile ourselves to that revelation. When we fail.  And fail we often do. Failure should lead ourselves back to God for His strength, His guidance, His forgiveness, His love, His reconciliation.

Behemoth shame

When I was a young boy, I was visiting my cousin Sam in Pacific Grove. We were more like friends than cousins and we did most everything together. One afternoon we decided to go to the movies to see Behemoth, a monster movie in black and white. Back in those days late 1961 there was not much trouble two boys in a small town could get into so together we would go.   My Aunty Mae was busy, and we didn’t really want to ask her if we could go, so out the back door and down three blocks to the movie house we walked.

But when we got there, we discovered, to our dismay, we did not have enough money for both of us to get tickets. After much discussion, we decided on a plan. Sam would buy the ticket with a clear conscience and enter the theater.  The real dastardly deed would be for Sam to sneak down the aisle and open the back door so I could get in.

It was going to be an easy thing to do. We heard of others doing it. And if we got caught, the worse would happen was to be kicked out. Oh there would be a blemish on our spotless record and be banned from ever coming back, but no risk no reward.

It wasn’t that we were evil little boys of eleven, it was that we could see no harm in me seeing the movie from an empty seat. I was not taking the place from anyone else, and no one would ever know.

For the time, it was a good monster movie. It was a knock off of Godzilla.  Lots of screaming, destruction, and ending with a victorious banishment of the monster. But I could not enjoy watching all the terror and mayhem. I felt all during the movie that someone was watching me. My guilt was keeping me from enjoying my ill gotten gain. I thought to my self, “Someone knows of the dastardly deed I had done.”  I was attending without paying the price of admission.

I have done some things in my life which I am not proud.  I have sinned in so many ways; I have done dastardly deeds that I should have been caught and punished for.  But I have availed myself of the free gift of grace and forgiveness offered by Jesus.   Occasionally I have the same feelings of cheating which I had back in my delinquent days with cousin Sam.  How do I get over them?  In the book of Hebrews is a simple and elegant answer: Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience. 10:22.  That movie ticket which I cheated on was simply wrong.  I was guilty even though I was ever found out.  That feeling is not guilt, it is shame.  Shame is the feeling in the conscience that makes us feel bad.

So every time I feel remorse, shame from a past act, I just smile.  Jesus paid the price. God is able to cleanse us from that guilty conscience.  Praise the Lord. 

Wandering

As the Israelite’s wandered in the wilderness for 40 years looking for God and His will, I have constantly tried to understand what motivated the Israelite’s to go in circles for all these years in an environment that was trying to kill them with every step.  I would think they would have grown tired of constantly moving and getting nowhere. As a Christian, I find that at times I also take to wandering.  Why do I do the things I do?  I think there is a direct relationship between the wandering by the Israelite’s  when they were trying to find their purpose and following a Godly leadership, with my own Christian walk today. I would think that there are four ways to understand the motivation of Christians in today’s modernistic world: Gizmos, pathways, rebels, and stubborn fatalism.

Israel in the wilderness was called to follow an external device of smoke and fire.  True they had a leader. Yet even Moses was guided by these heavenly prompts. When the manifestation of God moved so did the Israelite’s.  It did not matter what the path these prompts pointed toward, there was an inner belief that these manifestations knew where they were going. They were guided every mile, every year to following the presence of God. When the smoke moved, they moved. Following as they were pointed, may well be characterized as a mechanical device or Gizmo we find in most cars: the GPS. When we want to go somewhere, we simply punch in a destination and there is a turn by turn guide to grandma’s house. It tells us when we will get there and even if there is any delay on our path.  We listen carefully to a voice, usually a woman’s voice, telling us where to turn, what road or exit to take, even the name and number of the street or highway which is on our path.

When our GPS Gizmo tells me to turn, I make every effort to follow and fully expecting she knows better than any path I could figure out. But there are times when I may well think “That’s not right”, or “I want to make my own path” or  “I know better than this,” or I want to stop along the way to get a Diet Pepsi.”  But when I do, my loyal GPS gleefully reports, “Recalculating.”

That little disembodied voice say does not say, “this is not what I told you to do.” Instead, this tiny Gizmo realizes the place you are and plans a new path. Recalculating is saying, “I will start from when you have gone astray and I will map you a new path to your destination. I will set you straight. Trust me I will get you want to go.”

Sometimes I question this seemingly blind faith in the displayed path.  I know for a fact there are two routes from the church to my house and they both get me there.  The problem is my GPS GIZMO randomly chooses one path over the other because they both are the same distance and duration.  To the Israelites God was their heavenly GIZMO.  God gave them a turn by turn directions and the first type of Israelite and consequently many blessed Christians will find their way to the promised land.

The second way we can look at the wandering at the wilderness and also our Christian walks in our wandering is characterized by the ant. The total purpose of an individual ant is to serve the whole.  To follow the rules of searching to find a source of sustaining resources is the entirety of one class of ants.  Some stay home and take care of the young.  Some receive the bounty provided by the wanderers.  The wanderers provide for the rest of the ants.  Each ant has a responsibility to do their job and not to stray in the least. The philosophy of an ant is to survive the journey.  And they do this by sending out individual ants in search of a new source of food and bring it back the report to the nest.  To find their way back to the nest they produce tiny scent trails wherever they go.  They spread out as far as their scent will allow them to go.  If they don’t find anything they simply die.  Wandering along looking for some choice morsel or better yet a large source of choice morsels like a dollop dropped from my peanut and butter sandwich.  If they find the gooey mess, they follow their own scent trail back and tell everyone.  In rapid succession, hundreds of ants follow blindly the previously laid down path.  All the while, the additional scent is laid down to reinforce the path. Every ant in this parade simply follows the ant in front of them.  Every time a new path is found a group of ants will follow.  Every time there is a new source of plenty there are followers.  Each Ant following dutifully the ant in front of them.

A problem arises when the lead ant loses the scent for a moment and doesn’t know which way to go. When the scent is lost the lead ant turns abruptly looking for the scent again and all the while, every ant behind follows. The lead ant repeats this turning until it finds the scent. What often happens is they run across their own scent line and turn to follow it and in doing so they make a giant circle and they go around and around and around each of the succeeding circles.  Every ant following in step following the ant front of them. The mindset of every ant in the parade is to constantly follow the ant in front, “he must know where he’s going.” Every ant following believes and accepts the, “follow the one in front” idea and is fully convinced that they are going the right way.  And every trip in the grand circle it increases the scent and they can’t stop.  They go around and around and around and ultimately, they simply die of exhaustion. A catastrophic end. Again the Hebrews followed until most of them who had experienced Egypt died.  In the Christian walk we must keep the cloud in mind not the person in front.

The 3rd characteristic of those who would find themselves in the wilderness trying to find God’s will is the rebel. The rebel mindset says to himself, “there must be something more in my divine destiny of life.”  In the Hebrews in the wilderness, they were characterized as the “Grumblers”.  They grumbled about the quality of water, they grumbled with the lack of food, they grumbled with the lack of variety of provided food and they complained because there was not enough water.  Dissatisfied with Moses on the mountain they were the first ones to, “make a god for ourselves.”  This rebel belief reveals itself with trying and changing everything. A complaint of “we have always done it this way” is confronted with “we have never done it this way.” Let me be first.

These rebel firsts keep saying, “I have to go faster, fly higher, explore everywhere, to boldly go where no one has gone before.” “I am the creator of my destiny.” Or “I can do anything I want.” The rules of sanity and common sense simply doesn’t mean anything to me. It doesn’t matter if I crash and burn; at least I can be an example of what not to do. It is a modern self-description. It is a mindset that says, “I have emerged from the cave where man created God, created faith and created religion and I no longer will follow blindly. It is an attitude of personal self-responsibility. “I know who I am and I don’t need or want some old sage to dictate my life.”

The rebel is plastered all over YouTube.  Riding bicycles off of a roof into a swimming pool, or trying to jump over a car while it is coming at you at 20 miles an hour are examples of this rebel attitude.

It is the rebels who have stretched the common beliefs of the church. “Let’s have a church in a deserted drive-in theater,” or “we don’t need pews” or “let’s get tables and coffee” were all once thought of rebellious ideas. “Let me be the first, at least I will be cool about it.”

They live by their own rules because everyone else seems stuck in a pattern and that pattern is I can’t live with. This rebel spirit believes and is willing to die for that belief. Columbus was going somewhere and if he died along the way so be it. Alan Shepard strapped himself onto the back of a rocket to prove something not only to himself but everyone who was going to follow him. It is not a question of, “lead or follow” but just stay out my way.  And like Evil Knievel and all his copies, more often than not they crashed and crashed hard.

The last group of wanderers is those who simply give up: the fatalists.  “If we keep going, day after day, we will ultimately die, so why go on.”  To the fatalist, any path is a path to destruction.  The Egyptians wanted to kill them, the people in the destination wanted to kill them, the desert wanted to kill them, all the new laws set by Moses are all filled with death and punishment, I might as well just dig a hole and climb in. When the Christian does not see that perfect path before them like a heavenly GPS, or another ant in front of them, or there is no unction in your gumption to change the path, the fatalist simply sits down and dies. “If I don’t know where I am to be, this spot is good enough.”  These fatalists die alone because they find no responsibility to follow anyone or conform to any path.  

 Four paths:  Follow the presence of God, follow the other ants in front of you, rebel and do your own thing, or give up. As we walk the walk that is Christianity, it is my choice and it is your choice.

a goose and guilt

Quite a few years ago I toyed with the idea that I could enjoy golf. I was wrong, but that is another story. I was in Reno, Nv and after I had picked up a set of fourth-hand clubs and headed off to the local public golf course. It sits adjacent to Reno International Airport in the apex between the North and West runways. Reno for its relatively mild winter weather was filled in every green spot with non-migratory geese. The fairways was just the place for them to eat grass and leave their little gifts of grey and white clumps along the fairway.

I think it was on the fourth or maybe the fifth hole I was ready to tee off and my attention was diverted by the sound of thirty or more geese landing in the fairway before me. They were close enough that my shot would easily clear the flock. I put the ball, a brand new one just purchased from the office, on the tee, sized up the shot and let it rip. In golf parlance it was a hedge hopper. It took one hop and hit a goose in the head. There was an immediate feeling of guilt.

Guilt does terrible things to a believer in God. But it was not my fault. But I still felt bad very bad. Even after running up to the now struggling goose to retrieve my ball the shame of it all was almost overpowering. I started to second guess myself, my unworthiness to strike on of God’s creatures had destroyed my will to continue my game.

In the Old Testament the Hebrews had a sacrificial system that was to cover over their sin. To make them no longer responsible. But it was not helping for the individual to deal with their guilt. I was like those Hebrews of old that was struggling with a conscience that would not give peace.

In the book of Hebrews I have since found the solution to the sense of guilt or shame. Hebrews 9:13,14 The blood of goats and bulls and ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from act of that lead to death, so the we may serve the living God.

What is the solution to shame and guilt from within with no cause? What do we do with our memories that bring up the bad stuff that has been confessed and forgiven? REMEMBER, Jesus not only died for our sins but to cleanse our guilt.

Every time I remember that goose and feel a little remorse, I remember full well that I have a clean conscience by the blood of Christ. With that remembrance, I by faith, know it is not real guilt or even shame. AND I SMILE.

New Year’s Plan

This is the day the Lord has made, Rejoice and be glad in it.
We have to be alive.
Think freely, practice patience.
Smile often. Savor special moments.
Live God’s message.
Make new friends. Rediscover old ones.
Tell those you love that you do.
Feel deeply, forget trouble.
Forgive an enemy. Hope. Grow.
Be crazy.
Count your blessings. Worship.
Observe miracles; make them happen.
Celebrate small victories.
Discard worry. Give, Give in
Trust enough not to take.
Pick some flowers, Share them.
Keep a promise. Look for rainbows.
Gaze at stars. See beauty everywhere.
Work hard, be wise. Try to understand.
Take time for people. Take time for yourself. Take time for God.
Laugh heartily, Spread joy.
Take a chance.
Reach out. Let someone in.
Try something new. Slow down.
STOP
Be soft sometimes, Celebrate life.
Believe in yourself, Trust others.
See a sunrise. Listen to rain. Reminisce.
Cry when you need to.
Trust life. Have faith.
Enjoy, wonder, comfort a friend.
Have good ideas. Learn.
Make some mistakes.
Explore the unknown, Hug a kid.
Be alive.
Anticipate a good day,
Believe a good day,
Plan a good day,
Think a good day,
Work a good day,
Pray a good day.
Be Still and know God.

Hope Poem

It is the one thing we cannot live without

The deepest part of our soul’s cry out for it.

Without it, we start to shrink moment by moment.

All our efforts seem pointless and without zest.

HOPE

Hope that it will be OK

Hope that someone is standing in our corner

In all the places you could find yourself this exact moment

There is a truth

HOPE IS HERE

Not a false HOPE that makes untrue promises

Not a guarantee of an outcome invented by any man or woman.

Not a fantasy or an illusion or a make-believe invention

But a real lasting HOPE

HOPE that GOD is still GOD

HOPE that He is really holding it all together

HOPE that He is really holding it all together

HOPE the GOD has not turned HIS face away.

HOPE that GOD can and is involved in our lives.

More that we can ever know.

HOPE IS HERE

HOPE that you are loved in your worst moment

HOPE that pursues you even as you run away.

Make no mistake

HOPE is here.

No matter where you have been

No matter where you are now

HOPE is here.

Because HOPE is a person

And his name is JESUS

JESUS.

Christian Sabbath?

The big question for the Sabbath is whether in the New Testament a commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy, is the same it was commanded in the Old Testament.  Do we, as enlightened new covenant Christians, be constrained in the same manner and constricted like the Hebrews.

Remember, if you will, if we say yes to this conformity, then the same punishment is also attached.  The Hebrew law for Sabbath keeping states you could be killed for carrying sticks on the sabbath day.

Let’s ignore the issue of which day is the sabbath, we can address that some other day.  That issue need not be addressed here because we have to understand the requirements of sabbath and their relevance to us before setting a time and place.

In Romans 14 we are admonished not to quarrel and accept those whose faith is weak. But it goes on to speak to the sabbath issue in verse 5:  “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike.  Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.”  Please notice this is not an indictment of those who keep one day holy and another as secular or unholy.  The argument is the keeping a day holy when they all should be kept as holy.  So what Paul was saying in Romans was that every day is to be holy AND one day is special.  Holiness of the Sabbath is a good thing AND Holiness of every day is even better.

Paul did not take a side.  He simply said, “Let both honor God.”  Keeping the sabbath is making it special. For the Christian, the sabbath should be holy, like every other day. Where we get confused is the special part.

How do we make one day special?  This special day, in my opinion, is the day I STOP.  That is what SHABOTH in Hebrew means.  Stop and set a day and “BE STILL and KNOW THAT I AM GOD.”  My sabbath is that day of the week that I set aside to first, STOP my usual life, second WORSHIP, third to FELLOWSHIP with fellow believers. It is a day of POINTED REST.  It is a day when I express my “I LOVE YOU GOD”, “I COUNT YOU MY LORD”, “I AM YOURS IN WHAT EVER HAPPENS.” That is the rest meant for the Israelites in the wilderness. That was the rest for the Hebrews in Canaan. That is the rest that Jesus talked about in Matthew 11:28,29

Encouragement

Encouragement is not telling someone they have done well.  That is simply a reward for something done.  You may well call it honor, or accolade but it is simply something which acknowledges effort.  It is a pat on the back for something accomplished.  It is something well expected after a job is well done.  While this reward, this acknowledgement is a good thing, encouragement, is telling others that you believe in them before they even start. It is action before the battle.  Encouragement is to help someone to make a good start.  It is the coach telling the team they have it within them to beat the other team.  It is one Christian putting an arm around another when he is about to face a big decision.  Encouragement is not a, “I knew you could do it” but a “I know you can do it.”  It may be a subtle difference but the very act of encouragement leads to better results than a pat on the back afterwards.

Sure, there is always a possibility of failure, of not living up to the encouragement, never-the-less it is a much better than waiting for that failure.  Those things, those efforts that never begin are always failures.  It is better to start well than to do nothing.

I believe there are six ways to encourage:

  1. Show you care – When you take the time to learn about others, it shows that you care. This empowers and encourages them.  It confirms both our understanding of the task and an honest assessment of the possibility of success. One of the single best ways to encourage others is to care about what they care about.
  2. Tell them with words – Take the time to tell your small group, your brothers in Christ, that you believe in their abilities and that you are confident that they will succeed. It is never enough to just sit and think about success or failure.  Encouragement should be more than good thoughts.  It is not about awareness of the task.  It must go further to be encouragement.  It takes effort and a communication of that encouragement.
  3. Tell them in writing – The great thing about encouraging someone in writing is that he can keep the note forever. An email, or better yet a real, post office delivered letter is something that may well make the difference.  That is why Hallmark is successful; they make a palpable, touchable, savable product that conveys encouragement. It is the gift that keeps on giving.
  4. Share with others – When you are in public praise your fellow Christians. Be open with our praise and private with your criticisms. And while you are at it praise and encourage when no one expects it.  Encourage when they are faced with both little and great things.  Tell others of your confidence, your trusting faith in someone to everyone who do or do not want to hear it.
  5. Trust them with greater responsibilities – When you assign responsibility to someone, even if you verbalize it, you are saying, “I trust you.” Trust conveys belief. When you give someone responsibility, remember you are not only trusting them with the expectation of success, but you are allowing them to make mistakes. When you micromanage or try to “fix” things along the way, it is discouraging and demotivating. Give responsibility, trust the person, and get out of the way.
  6. Help them – This might sound like the opposite of #5, but let me be clear that helping is not micromanaging or meddling. Simply ask how you can help them. Sharing in a task delegated by the person responsible is not taking over.  It’s important for others to know that while you trust them, you are also there to help. This goes beyond just helping with projects or task. It is saying I trust your way of doing things.

Hebrews 3:12-13  See to it brothers and sisters, than none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.  But ENCOURAGE, one another daily, as long as it called today.

Did you learn anything?

It was an accomplishment.  Stepping off the school bus in rural Iowa.  It had been the first day of school.  Her clothes were a little more wrinkled that when he set off that morning to learn, to study, to be a grown up.  There was a little mud on the sweet pink and white checked dress from playing with the kids at recess.  And now she was boldly walking up the path to home where dad was waiting to see how it had went.

After a big hug, a peanut butter sandwich made with extra grape jelly, and a cold glass of milk, Dad asked the big question, “Well did you learn anything at your school?”

The daughter stopped and looked at her dad and with a look of disappointment she answered, “I guess I didn’t learn enough”

“Why do you say that my little sweet pea?”

“Well Dad it is like this, I have to go back tomorrow.”

Learning takes a lifetime.