16 December 2008

Eye Guiding

Psalm 32:8

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.

A sister in the church shared the verse above with me yesterday. I have been intrigued by it ever since. God spoke to her through this verse, and I guess it’s now my turn.

To me that verse is so telling of how our relationship should be with Jesus. Yes, He can lead us in so many ways:

  • We follow Him because we recognize his voice
  • We follow Him because He sets the example
  • We follow Him because He instructs us

But this verse takes it deeper. It tells us that He will guide us with His eyes.

Having owned and hunted with dogs for a good part of my younger days, I would equate God training us, like we train dogs. Voice commands work great, and that’s how you start training a dog. Teach your pup the basics. Don’t give him too much 9information too soon, or too fast. Give him just enough training to build confidence in you as a leader.

The next step as you build a relationship with your dog, and you get closer to one another, you can begin using hand signals. This is a scenario where we train by showing recognizable signs. We keep training using words (perhaps a still small voice) along with the hand signals or signs, and eventually, as the dog grows in knowledge and understanding, all that is required is the hand signal. The dog looks in the general direction of the trainer for advice and direction, the trainer shows the way, and the dog follows.

But only in the best teams or partners of dog and man, can the trainer command the dog with his eyes! The trainer looks in a direction, and the dog runs in that direction. The trainer looks another way, and the dog sits or stays. Here’s the rub; You only get to that point after two things happen:

  • The dog absolutely trusts the trainer, and trusts that the trainers signals never change, he’s always the same.
  • Secondly, because the dog is always looking into the eyes of the trainer because that’s the only place where the commands come from that bring any reward.

We must always be looking at Jesus. Look Him right in the eyes, trust Him, know His voice, know that He will always react the same way and always command the same way, and that will never change. His expression will say it all. If we look Jesus in the eyes, if in our life we are staring in His face, we will know immediately if we have made the right move, or if He wants us to take a different path. But to accomplish this, we have to remain fixed on the Trainer, on the One who loves us, and the One from whom the only reward that matters comes.

15 December 2008

Humbled (again...)

II Corinthians 3:5

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God...

This weekend has been a cold one. We woke this Sunday morning to dusty snow covered icy roads and chilling child in the low 20’s. None the less, God provided safe travel for all, and a day and message that spoke to all of our hearts.

We spend our time in the Word studying the Holy Spirit, and reviewing scripture that defines who He is as a person, within the Trinity, His office and works, and role for/in us today. Despite the cold, and some people not being able to make it, we had a wonderful time together in fellowship. The service ended, and we all went our own ways, a little more slowly than usual, and attended to the rest of our daily activities, which for our family included some time playing in the snow for the kids, getting ready for the week of homeschooling for Mom, and for me, building a fire and just relaxing and staying warm.

Round about 9:30 or so, after our hanging of the nightly figure on our advent calendar that we all enjoy so much, and the kids have trotted off to bed, there is a ring at the door bell. It’s dark, it’s about 20 degrees outside, the wind is blowing and the doorbell is ringing. This is unusual for us.

In exchange for a reduced rent, I work part time for the sportsmen’s club that owns the house we live in. Part of the work I do is manage the rentals in the RV hooks ups that we occasionally make available to folks outside the club. With the dogs barking like crazy, I open the front door to find one of the RV guests seeking some assistance. Long story short, his RV is not operating correctly, and he is having trouble generating heat, and getting his electrical supply to function properly. We talked for a while, he regaled me stories of his bad luck and plans gone awry, paid me for a couple more weeks stay, and off into the cold night he went. I felt compassion for the man, but there was really nothing that I could do for him to fix his RV.

Later on, as I was tucking myself in for a nights rest, the initial chill of the cold sheets had me instantly thanking God for the warm home in which I am able to live, and for my warm wife (except for her bone-chilling feet) who helps keep me toasty at night. And then I realized something: When the door bell rang that night and I went to talk to our RV guest on the porch, he was all bundled up in his coats, gloves, and a Seattle Seahawk (poor feela) knit cap, it was obvious he was cold. And yet there I was, standing on the front porch in shorts and a t-shirt, with him looking in our big picture window at the roaring fire in the fire place, and knowing that I was warm as a bug in a rug. I felt ashamed, and yet so very blessed.

God is such a great provider. While I know for a fact that I’m the guy (along with my son Wyatt) that cut the firewood that was blazing in the fireplace, I am also wise enough to know that God is the provider. I may not live in a mansion, and I may not drive a Cadillac and have the nicest clothes in town, but God has provided all my needs. My children sleep dry and warm at night, I ate a steak for dinner. God ha provided for all my needs, and will continue to do so. My sufficiency IS from God, and I am so blessed to have it.

01 December 2008

Thanksgiving Thanks

Even in our lowest lows and wowest wows, we have much to be thankful for. I know this post comes after Thanksgiving and the Christmas Season has officially begun, but there is as much to be thankful for in review, as there is hope in anticipation of Christmas Day.

We could spend much time discussing family holidays, and how they can be feared and loved at the same time. We all look have forward to them so much, and then remembered that time that old Uncle Billy did that thing that he does and just ruined everything. We all seem to have that Uncle Billy or cousin or newphew or in-law of some sort that somehow always figures into the finished product of our holiday memories in a bad way. Sometimes it is a different person every holiday, and sometimes it is rare. But most, if not all of us, have experienced the Holiday Horror at least one time in our lives. But that is not my story. Holiday Horror is not the title to this post, it is Thanksgiving Thanks. Here's why:

The food was great, the company was great, the kids got along, the adults got along, and it just felt like we were all truly grateful, and that Jesus was at the center. We may not have seen Him, but Jesus came to dinner. For that, I am so thankful.

25 November 2008

Preparing for Blessing in the face of Adversity

Judges 6:11-14
11 Now the Angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him, and said to him, “The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor!” 13 Gideon said to Him, “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” 14 Then the LORD turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?”

The story of Gideon is perhaps my all time favorite in all of scripture. As I was pondering our nation this the week that we celebrate Thanksgiving (come on 4-day weekend!), I began to pray for our nation and it’s leaders. As I did the Lord brought the story of Gideon to my mind again, and this is what He has shown me:

Sometimes when things look their worst, when we are faced with uncertainty, when we feel oppressed and as if God has abandoned us, He is about to do a great work in your life!

Looking through scripture and through history we can see this pattern. God will withhold a blessing, or allow a circumstance to bring a people or person to a point where they have to choose between a continued dependence on self, or a renewed dependence on God. The bible is replete with revival. Old Testament and New Testament. In people and in nations. When the world throws distractions at us, it gets pretty easy to focus on the circumstances, rather than on God who is the real provider.

Look at Gideon’s response. “Sure you’re with us God, that’s why we are all still in bondage!” Sarcasm was the attitude, and God recognizing this, did not send lightning to smite ye old Gideon (like he probably had coming…), but rather used Gideon, empowered Gideon, and made Gideon an example of God’s grace, power and love.

What Gideon failed to realize is that he had the Lord in him. When the angel called Gideon a ‘mighty man of God’, he already had the might in him. The same can be said for all believers. Gideon denied it by lack of faith and a sarcasm towards God. He viewed his lack of prosperity as a denial of the power of God. You will never find me supporting a blind, name-it and claim-it type prosperity doctrine that defines your success by your financial and physical blessings, and that the lack thereof as completely your fault because of lack of faith. But you will find me preaching that God does want to bless us, and that He desires that we seek His face and His hand by devotion and commitment to Him. Living a life in denial of the power of God will hinder you, that is for certain.

When we are faced with uncertainty, when we feel oppressed and perhaps even as if God has abandoned us, think of the words that God gave Gideon: “Have I not sent you?” God, has sent you! The might is in you, and it belongs to God. Go in this might of yours, and do what God has planned for you. Prepare for rain, prepare for revival

19 November 2008

Liberty: Civil and Christian

Psalm 119:41-48

41 Let Your mercies come also to me, O LORD— Your salvation according to Your word.
42 So shall I have an answer for him who reproaches me, For I trust in Your word.
43 And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, For I have hoped in Your ordinances.
44 So shall I keep Your law continually, Forever and ever. 45 And I will walk at liberty, For I seek Your precepts.
46 I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings, And will not be ashamed.
47 And I will delight myself in Your commandments, Which I love.
48 My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments, Which I love, And I will meditate on Your statutes.

Unfortunately, many of you reading this probably do not know that this date, 19 November, is the 145th Anniversary of the original reading by then President Lincoln of the Gettysburg address. At this event, the dedication of a National Cemetery on the grounds of the Gettysburg battle field in southeastern Pennsylvania, President Lincoln gave an address that took around 2.5 minutes to read, but will remain in the annuls of history forever as one of the greatest speeches ever given.

Lincoln was a very religious man, and had been through much in his life. Coming from an impoverished home, poor personal health, the death of a child, what most believe to be at least a severely depressed if not mentally ill wife, and what others perceived as bad luck followed him much of his life. Lincoln knew better, and understood that providence was the provider of his life experience that was to become his testimony and legacy. Humble to the day he was assassinated, liberty was something that Lincoln understood perhaps better than anyone in his generation, or since. Civil and Christian alike.

While I do not know with certainty that this verse in Psalms was one that President Lincoln read frequently, I can imagine him sitting behind the desk of the Oval Office, reading this aloud as he prayed for the secession of war in his country, for the liberty of the blacks from slavery, for the liberty of the citizens of the then, not-so-United States of America, and for the liberty of the souls of the hundreds of thousands already killed in the US Civil War by the fall of 1863. In great part, by the prayers, unfainting hope and unwavering Christian faith that lived in President Lincoln, this nation has survived as united, yet free. In a not so small way, we owe our civil liberties in this nation to the unabashed Christian, because of his faith in Christ and the liberties that He offers to us all.

President Lincoln is know to have said, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day.” We walk in liberty, because Abraham Lincoln sought His precepts.

11 November 2008

Veteran's Day

As a Combat Veteran who served in Desert Storm, my deepest thanks, honor and appreciation go out to all others who have served, and to those at home who prayed for them, and continue to pray today.

As a Christian, I am also a patroit, soldier, and lover my country. I still cry every time I hear the National Anthem played. Although violent and disturbing, I feel it is necessary that our children see images of war so that they know of it's horrors, and respect the soldiers of this nation that fight those horrific battles in far away lands so that they do not have to be faught here. I feel they need to have a solid historically accurate (i.e. not the stories they are taught in public educational/indoctrinational institutions...) knowdge of and understanding of the wars faught particularly by the soldiers of this great nation, but of all history. Those who do know know and understand history, are detined to repeat it.

Thank you to all Veterans, past, present and future. There is no greater thanks we can give you than a thank you when we see you, respect of your unitform, and to honot you on this day. I have lost friends in war, and have others fighting right now. May God be with them all.

In an effort to stir up some patriotism, here's a song that should inspire.

07 November 2008

Accountability (Blogging)

I have a self imposed policy. I allow for anonymous postings on my blog. I want people to feel free to express themselves. However, take responsibility, (be accountable) for what you say.

If you want to share an opinion or a thought, great! But if you want to be critical (an action in and of itself that is not necessarily evil), do not post anonymously. Stand up for what you feel, and do it in a respectful manner. Honest and true people can agree to disagree, and do it with respect for one another.

I work in an industry where brand loyalty brings people to verbal blows constantly. The ‘mine is better than yours’ statements are totally moot when it comes to opinions. If it is “my cars engine in more powerful than your cars engine”, than we have something that we can draw empirical data from. There is no empirical data in an opinion, just egos, and I have no room for that.

Sound Off! But not from behind a tree for cover, stand on your soap box and be seen and heard. Be proud of who you are, what you say, and who you represent!

Accountability (Spiritual)

Luke 16:2
'So he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’

The topic of accountability came up between my wife and I this morning, and I felt it worth exploring today.

The verse above comes from the parable of the talents. Obviously, the message is clear that we are accountable for what God gives us. If you do a word search for the word ‘accountable’ it makes for an interesting study. God makes it clear throughout scripture that we are accountable for our actions. Not only to Him, but to others as well. King David said in his famous Psalm, “ I have sinned against you, and you alone”, and of course this is true, but you can easily cause an offense to anther, and held just as accountable to God for that.

When God gives us something (salvation, growth, a spiritual gift, a friend or spouse, children, our right to vote in this nation, even our very life), we owe it to Him to be accountable for the proper use of that gift. We use our gifts, not to benefit us (necessarily, although many times they do by God’s good Grace), but rather to glorify HIM!

Lately that has been His theme to me; glorify the Father. I pray I do with every breath, but know just as well that I fail. Don’t make the mistake of glorifying God with all your worth, instead glorify God with all HE’s worth!

06 November 2008

The Worst Feeling in the World

I woke up to face this day with perhaps the worst feeling ever in the pit of my gut.

This feeling is not because our President elect is open to abortion, gay marriage, legislating from the bench, and so on. It is not because he is friends with a convicted felon and domestic terrorist, or because his house was purchased with the support of another convicted felon under nefarious circumstances. This feeling is not because I know that the plans of the President elect will raise my tax burden - and the tax burden of all people -, or even because he is a pacifist seeking to emasculate the military of the United States by slashing the military budget by 25% or more during a time of war. My feeling did not come from the fact that this man is a confessing Christian who has a foundation of 25 years of teaching under a "pastor" whose message about the "US of KKK-A" are nothing more than a fascist mantra designed to get people to believe in racial power struggles and to hate the governmental system we currently work under. None of these things has caused my angst.

So why do I feel so badly? Because I’m left wondering: Could I have done more.

To me, this truly is the worst feeling, and I do not like it at all. Think of the feeling one might get when a son or daughter is killed because of a tragic accident. You know that it is an accident, but you will always wonder: Could I have done more? I do not want to ever have that feeling again.

Having seen this election fall the way that it did has inspired me not only in politics, but in life - and in my Christian walk. To prevent this feeling I must work hard, knowing that the direction I’m heading is the right one, divinely guided, and always be evaluating my progress and what I have done.

I think we as a nation have gotten away from this. JFK’s famous inauguration speech contained a line, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” We have gotten so far away from that. Our citizenry has come to expect a handout. We are now the entitlement generation. Our political leaders are so far left that socialism is a daily used work now. Our President elect has run his campaign on government spending and a new social agenda that does not empower a people (something that those who lead the 1960’s Civil Rights movement were working for), but rather entitles them, and in the process does not call them to action like JFK’s, RFK’s and the MLK’s before him did, but pushes them into apathy and lethargy.

Could I have done more? This is a question we all need to ask ourselves.

Did you do enough in this lection cycle to see the Christian agenda forwarded? Did you do enough to make sure that not just your vote was cast and counted (shame on you if you mailed in your ballot, it’s just un-American…), and did you do enough to voice your opinion in such a way and to such a people that it may influence their vote towards righteousness and a Godly society?

Outside of politics: Did you do enough in training up your children in the way that they should go? Have you done enough TODAY in spending time in, and meditating on God’s Word, seeking guidance and counsel? Have you done enough in the local grocery store in letting the clerks and employees there that you may encounter that you love Christ and that your life values and morals are based on biblical Christianity?

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we spend our time beating ourselves up for our failures or perceived failures. In my case, the pit in my stomach could have done several things:
It could have caused me to doubt my faith because my prayers and fasting did not (in a temporal fashion that we expect) work to influence the outcome of the elections.
It could have pushed into a position of apathy. Since all this “hard work” did not do anything, why try again.
It could have put me in a catatonic state of inactivity to anything and totally sapped my motivation towards any sort of action, Christian or otherwise.
But instead, it urged me to take stock in myself. It has increased my drive to do more to influence people to Christ and Christianity. It has caused me to more frequently to ask myself, ‘Can I do more?’

We are not called to live in the past. What is done is done, we move forward because of the grace of God no matter what our state of mind or heart. We need to look forward, hands on the plow, never looking back. But to be able to never look back, to ensure that you at least lesson the desire to look back, do all that you can, right now. Commit 100% - to God’s calling in your life, and do all you can to effect this nation, and this world for the Kingdom of God. Work hard enough and dedicated enough that we are less like to ask ourselves, ‘Did I do enough’.

Paul told us to run the race fairly, so that we not be disqualified. But he also told us to run the race as if we were going to win. There are no guarantees in life, save one: If you love God, and have committed your life to Jesus Christ as your savior, you are guaranteed delivery from His wrath, and a call home to be with Him. Run as if you are going to win, and work hard so that you are sure you have done enough.

04 November 2008

Elders at the Gate

Deuteronomy 25:7
But if the man does not want to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate to the elders, and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to raise up a name to his brother in Israel; he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother.’

Sort of a strange verse to use as a devotional, I know. But there is something that I want to concentrate on being that this is our national election day. My topic has nothing to do with Jewish law or the responsibility of kinsmen redeemership. But the verse fills the purpose that I need it to.

Today we have an opportunity to choose our leaders. We concentrate so much on the Presidential race, but the Presidential powers are limited, and our Constitution is written in such a way to balance the powers of the executive and legislative branches. We will also be electing new Senators and Congressional Representatives as well. Some states are voting on some very important propositions that will effect right to life/abortion, same sex marriage, assisted suicide and more. While our elected officials will stand on their soap boxes and spout that we cannot legislate morality, this is in fact, much of what we do legislate. Abortion, marriage, suicide are all moral issues. When we go to the polls, we are voting our conscience, and our responsibility, our duty, is that as Christians our conscience represents Christ.

Back to our verse from Deuteronomy. The point of using that verse as some of you may have figured out, is the reference to the men at the gate. These men were the judges of the city. While these men, as far as we know, were not elected by popular ballot, they instead earned their positions based on their standing in the community. You earned it because your reputation was one of a trustworthy, honest man. You became an Elder of the city, not because of age alone, but because of character!

Just as God did not choose people because of their popularity, or how much money they could raise for the temple, or how loud and moving their prayers were in front of the people, we too must do the same. God chose people because of their heart, and their character. And he chose many of them in spite of their flaws. Moses was poor in speech, Abraham was from a family of idolaters and was a man without direction, David was the least of his family, Gideon was as far from a warrior as one could get! Yet God chose these because of their character and their heart. So too must we.

Our freedom to participate in this electoral process is a gift from God. Those who oppose its use by Christians because of the ill perceived separation of church and state, have little grasp of what that means, both biblically and Constitutionally. We have a right given to us by God to participate in the election of our officials. Why can I say this with confidence? Because that’s what our forefathers believed, that’s what they taught, and that’s what our Constitution tells us as well.

Do you think that God does not want us to represent Him here on earth? Do you think that God desires that the path of America go down the road of heathenism and debauchery? Do you honestly feel that our Creator’s wishes is that we, His children, stand with our hands folded doing nothing while the nation that He helped to found (again, not my words, but the words of our founding fathers. Read G. Washington’s inaugural address…), falls into a nation of sin just because we did nothing?
I have heard the argument that Jesus didn’t vote. True, but he was not living in a democratic republic that had given Him the right to vote either. Instead he lived in despotic times, and many of his speeches were politically motivated against the laws of the Jews. Moot point. We HAVE been given that right. As I have shared so many times before, God could have placed us in any nation in any time in history. But, but His omniscient sovereignty, we are here, and now. Do your part, vote, and allow Christ to speak through you.

03 November 2008

Our Christian Duty to Vote

II Chronicles 7:14

14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and
seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven,
and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Probably at some point or another in the last 6 months or so, you have seen this verse come up in discussion in Christian circles regarding our national elections. For me, I have seen it so much it seems almost clichéish. But it’s significance bears attention, and oft repeating until at least 8:00 PM tomorrow.

There is much talk and unrest among the US populace with regards to our Presidential Election. In some there are critical issues on the ballot that pertain directly to a Biblical World View, as well as specific issues of biblical morality. Tomorrow is the day we vote on these issues all across the nation. When we enter the polls, we need to go in their humbly before, and vote not our fleshly conscience, but our spiritual one. Our vote is important to our nation, and it is important to God.

Oh, I know, some have already stopped reading. Too bad for them because it reflects poorly on their understanding of our biblical mandates and their understanding of the character of God and sound biblical principals. The separation of church and state, an issue that was not mandated in our Constitution, but rather by a corrupt Supreme Court, a matter that was opposed by the semi-religious man whom they give credit for authoring, is not a Godly idea. It is an idea of fallen man. The very phrase “the separation of church and…” you fill in the blank, it counter Christian, and counter God. As we can see from the verse used today as our devotional verse, God calls on us as a nation to seek Him, to cry out to Him, to love Him, to humble ourselves before Him as sinners, praying for His mercy and forgiveness. THIS is our biblical mandate.

In my mind, to not set ourselves on a path that seeks to have God intervene in this and all elections set before us in the divinely created nation ( a fact that was supported by many, many of our founding fathers), is to reject the station in life that our sovereign God has given us. We have been called to represent Him in all matters here on earth. Why reject that very thought in matters such as these when it is perhaps most important?

Humble yourself today and tomorrow before God. Pray like you mean it, like a son or daughter that desires more than anything that his or her father simply loves them back. If we pray, God WILL hear us. If we reject these notions, if we do not pray, we will not be heard, and a nation that is already falling away from it’s Judeo Christian foundations, will sink further in the post modern world that hates and rejects the God that created them.