Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christianity from the Outside Looking in. . .

A little about my background. I was an atheist for the first 45 years of my life. In 2000 many different, seemingly unrelated chains of events came together in my life, and my eyes were opened. . . I saw what a fool I had been for my disbelief.

I clearly remember how negatively I used to view Christianity and Christians. I saw nothing positive at all, no redeeming value in Christianity. 15 years after coming to Christ, obviously today my view is completely different. I was so wrong on every aspect of my distaste for Christianity.

1. It looked so boring to me to be a Christian. So many of my ‘fun’ things to do, were centered around sin. I greatly enjoyed smoking, drinking, and gambling, and I could not imagine having fun without these as integral components of my fun. Drinking especially was important to me. A night out playing pool or playing cards or a cookout, a camping trip, a gathering of friends or going out to eat all involved drinking for enjoyment. . . . Yes, I clearly remember that it was fun to drink. . . to relax, and let down your hair as the saying goes, but what I don’t so fondly remember are the terrible fights Jackie and I had while drinking. . . the stupid and terrible things I would say or do under the influence of alcohol. . . the horrific feeling of depression, often shame, and always utter sickness that was with me for more than a day after a bout of binge drinking. . . the costs monetary, relationship, and health wise that drinking, and smoking exacted upon me.

2. I viewed Christians as somewhat stupid. . . generally self-righteous, and judgmental, often bigoted and without logical thought. . . quite shallow and universally hypocritical people. Oh so superior I was to them. . . and there surely are those Christians who fit many of those attributes. . . I had some bad experiences with self-righteous, judgmental Christians which really skewed my view of Christianity. By far the huge huge majority of Christians I know today are loving, compassionate, humble people whom I am proud to call brothers, and sisters. . . they are indeed my family. I know that they will love me and others, in spite of failings. My brothers and sisters, a great many of them have been delivered from sin, and clearly remember, and bear scars from their past. . . no pointing fingers of self-righteousness, but utter gratitude for their new heart, and mind. . . Love and not judgement is our guiding role and focus.

3. I viewed the Bible as a collection of fables. . . myths, entirely the equivalent to Greek, and Roman mythology. I knew various, what I thought were difficult questions, contradictions, etc. that proved how foolish the Bible was. Now after 15 years of reading the Bible more than 10 times from Genesis to Revelation and studying it, I stand in awe of it. On the finest, deepest level that you look at the words of the Bible, it fits together seamlessly. . . More than 40 different writers. . . Kings, prophets, men of high and low estate, written across more than 2000 years and it fits together perfectly. Time and time and time again doubts have been raised by scholars claiming that people's, timing of events, battles, cities, languages. . . could not. . . did not exist as described in the Bible, and it is always. . . always! eventually verified with further research, and archeological discoveries as being dead on accurate in its accounts. I was as a 15 year old boy having scant knowledge of geometry, algebra, and trigonometry declaring a calculus textbook to be filled with contradictions, and fallacies. . . largely based upon the declarations and skepticism of others, and my own failure to comprehend and understand.

My life is utterly changed for the better.

Jesus speaking:

Matthew 11:28-30
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (29) Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (30) For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

What beautiful words those are. Feel the attitude. . .the compassion and love of them. My life with Jesus, rather than a heavy burden. . . rather than a chafing task to be resented and daily undertaken with distaste. . . I deeply love Him, and the more I know of Him, the more depth and height my love for Him has. I want to do those things, and to live in a way, which formerly seemed to me. . . from the outside looking in, to be so distasteful. I want to do them now, because I am in love with Jesus. These are not rules applied to me externally, which I resent, but my heart is filled with love for Him, and I desire to do things which are pleasing to Him. . . and I hate it when I disappoint Him and let Him down. That is my conviction. . . not my fear of judgement which motivates me, but when I mess up, my actions hurt the One I love more than any other. . . and that makes me very sad with myself. Rather than seeing how much I can get away with, I want to stay as far away from that line as possible. . . this is the power of the relationship with Him to change me in ways, that the mere rules and laws. . . commandments, etc. by themselves never could.

I so clearly remember the pain, and chaos. . . the darkness, and sickness of my previous life. In those days, I could in no way imagine the peace, and joy, and power, and strength that this life with Jesus has given me.

You’ve tried it your way, and you can always go back to the person you were before, but why not give God a chance? Why let the doubts, and in many cases the outright lies of others dissuade you from what I and countless millions of others have found to be an island of light and peace in a dark and chaotic world. . .

I love You my God. . .
I thank You for saving me. . .
I thank You for loving me. . .


Monday, December 21, 2015

Crucified on the Cross of Good Intentions. . .

Matthew 23:25-27
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. (26) Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. (27) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.

Both from personal experience, and in my ministry I have experienced first, and second hand the frustration, and fruitlessness of attempting to apply goodness, and righteousness from the outside and expecting it to ever migrate all the way through.

I chuckle at the similarity. . . this morning I am preparing to make pulled pork on the smoker. Last night I created a strong brine solution of a cup of salt per gallon of water, and I soaked the pork loins in this for about 12 hours or so. the purpose of the brining is not to flavor the meat, but to create a layer of denatured protein on the outside of the pork loin to prevent the meat from drying out during the 10 hours it will be on the smoker. That salt only very very slowly permeates the meat from the outside to the middle. Even after 12 hours of soaking only a very thin layer on the outside is effected by the brine.

The application of goodness from the outside in, is similarly superficial. It can create a thin layer, that appears right and good and holy, but it is only a cosmetic change. Useful for deceiving others, and maybe even fooling yourself when you look in the mirror, but only good for hiding ugliness, and not creating true beauty.

Does anyone doubt that the Pharisees thought themselves righteous? Were they not full of good intentions? They thought themselves the true experts of the Law, able to discern even its finest points, but as Jesus pointed out to them, they concerned themselves with the outside of the cup and plate, and completely forgot about what was contained within.

I remember my own actions, and my own self-opinion before I came to Jesus, and I was filled with good intentions, and I saw myself, and my actions in a very favorable light. How easy it was to make excuses, and give logical reasons and justifications for the bad things I did.

Do you think that Hitler looked in the mirror and saw an evil person? or wasn’t he more likely able to justify and rationalize the things he did as somehow reasonable and good overall. . . Hitler killed millions of people by his good intentions. Jesus was crucified by good intentions. . . Good intentions are everywhere. Good intentions account for nothing. They probably are out there somewhere, but I think the person who revels in their admitted evilness is rare. Far more common I believe are those who are self-deceived into thinking their evil is good.

Is this so far fetched? I thought myself a good person. . . I lied. I stole. I cheated. . . . but I had what I convinced myself were good reasons, in my mind I was justified. In my spiritual myopia and astigmatism, my good far outweighed my bad. There is no end to which we cannot see ourselves in a good light, if we are allowed to ignore the darkness. Immediately upon coming to God, I was filled with His light, and my former darkness was revealed for what it actually was.

Now my conviction. . . my desire to do good, and to be good was coming from within. . . from His Spirit which was living within me. His Spirit, combined with my utter love for Him gave me now the power to overcome the darkness, which is the natural way of all flesh.

We all begin as people who think themselves good, and who truly desire to be and to do good. Our arguments, and logic mean nothing. If the mirror is skewed enough, straight lines may be made to look crooked, and curved lines straight. . .

Results are all that matter:

Matthew 7:17-20
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. (18) A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. (19) Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. (20) Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

The fruit. . . the end result, is the only thing by which our decisions and our actions are measured. What is the fruit?

Galatians 5:14-25
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (15) But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. (16) This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. (17) For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. (18) But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. (19) Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, (20) Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, (21) Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, (23) Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (24) And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. (25) If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

For all your arguments. . . for all your logic, and your certainty what is the fruit of your life? What result do you have? Is your life one of contentment, and peace, and joy, and happiness, and love? Or is it one of contention, and strife, and anger, and bitterness, and jealousy, and unforgiveness?

Stop with your efforts at everything else. . . stop immediately with your own programs of resolutions, and self-improvement and devote all your energies into seeking God. . .

Jeremiah 29:11-13
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. (12) Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. (13) And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

Seek God with all your heart. . . find Him, and fall head over heels in love with Him:

Matthew 11:28-30
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (29) Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (30) For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

. . . and. . .

He will give you rest. . .
He will give you peace. . .
He will give you joy. . .
He will give you victory. . .

I once was blind, but now I see. . .

I love you God. . .
I thank you for saving me. . .


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Panning for Gold

Years ago Jackie and I were camping down at the Salamonie State River Forest campground with Connie Smith my mother-in-law and Jack Smith my father-in-law. Across the road from our campsite was a rough woodsy area, traversed by a tiny rill. This small bit of water bubbled up from alongside the road and with a twisted course of tiny flows, dribbling falls, and shallow pools, ran a crooked course a hundred yards or so from hillside spring to where it joined the Salamonie River.

My father-in-law is a man of many varied romantic talents. . . underwater demolition, and construction expert. Among other fascinating adventures, he had traveled the country cutting up and salvaging underwater train wrecks. . . he dove for mother of pearl shells in the Mississippi River, performed construction and welding various metal works in the waterfront of Lake Michigan. . . and had for a time panned for gold out west.

That had always intrigued me and on that hot summer day, I asked him to show me how to pan for gold. I thought no better place to try my hand at this than the tiny stream across the road from our camp. I cannot remember exactly what we used. . . my mind fills in the blank with a rather large stainless steel salad bowl, that Jackie and I used to own. It may have been that or it may have been that Jack had one of his old sluice pans with him. I cannot remember for certain.

We headed across the road. I think Jackie, and Connie (Jackie’s Mom) came across with us. We searched the little stream, for a time until Jack found a spot to his liking to take our first pan of gravel to sift. We scooped the pan about half full of gravel, and dirt from the bottom of the stream, and filled it about halfway to the top with stream water, picking out the larger bits of sticks and leaves, etc. all the organic material that we could manually. Continuing the process of swirling water, picking out little rocks, and stones, by hand as we gently rotated the water around the bowl.

I was ever too impatient, wanting to too quickly flush the mud. Jack had to again and again take the bowl from me and show me the proper slow graceful rocking motion to be used. My motions never attained the smoothness of his, but I gradually improved to where rather than taking control of the bowl himself, he was alternately verbally encouraging me and correcting me.

This was no easy process. If I remember, we worked on the that one bowl of gravel for an hour or more. My thought before we began was just to take some dirt from the creek, and swish it around for a minute or two, and find gold, but the reality was a very gradual, very hot, very sweaty and extremely tedious process. In other words, it was a large measure of very hard work and at the end of all that work, we had a teaspoon or so of black sand, 5 lead birdshot shotgun pellets, of which Jack had put in 3 from his pocket when we began as a test of our panning effectiveness, and an almost invisible particle or two of something yellow that Jack thought well could be, what he called flower gold.

It took no skill. It took no patience. It took no graceful movements to find dirt. Indeed any impatience in the process would have washed away the gold with the dirt. The dirt was so very easy to find. The process of panning is a process of soft patience, and great restraint to wash away the 99.9999% that is worthless, to find that tiny 1 part in a million fleck of gold.

I remember his lesson to this day. I still need the correcting of Jack’s instruction in my mind. . . slow down. . . gently. . . slowly. . . smoothly. . . ever patiently wash the mud away. . .

Please Lord. . . give me patient panning eyes.
. . .give me eyes of soft washing, and clear water, and the gentle caressing motion of grace. . .
. . .give me eyes to seek the purity, and holiness of a speck fine gold in a pan of mud and sand. . .
. . .such as You somehow saw in me. . .

I love you God. . .
I thank you my Lord. . .


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Three Dimensional Christianity

What is a Christian?

The ‘ian’ suffix attached to a word means that it is related to, or like, or belonging to. So a Christian would denote being related to, or like, or belonging to Christ.

In my meditations considering this, there seem to me to be three dimensions of being a Christian.

The first dimension:

1.Do you call yourself a Christian?

The first level of being a Christian is whether you believe yourself to be one. It is hard to imagine the circumstance of being a Christian without first considering yourself one.

A recent ABCNEWS beliefnet poll conducted in the summer of 2015 reported that:

Eighty-three percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians. Most of the rest, 13 percent, have no religion. That leaves just 4 percent as adherents of all non-Christian religions combined — Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and a smattering of individual mentions.

For the past 14 years, I have ministered in a local jail and I speak with easily hundreds of people each year. Men accused of the most atrocious crimes. . .before being arrested, living the most hellacious out of control lifestyles, and yet many consider themselves to be Christians, often believing that they are going to heaven.

There is a completely mistaken, non-biblical philosophy taught among many mainstream Christian churches, that all you need to do to be 100% certain of salvation is to confess Jesus Christ as your savior. From that point forward you can molest children, rape women, beat your wife, sell drugs, murder people, and it doesn’t matter. . . confessing Jesus Christ as your savior is the most powerful abracadabra magical incantation imaginable and the ultimate Get-out-of-jail-free card. . .it sends you to heaven forever and nothing can supposedly change that.

A piece of string can be looked at as a one dimensional shape. It has length, but virtually no height or width.

So the first dimension of being a Christian is internal within you. Do you think yourself a follower of Christ.

The second dimension:

2. Do others call you a Christian?

This level is more exclusive than the first, in that usually for someone else to call you a Christian, you must exhibit behavior or a lifestyle at least superficially identifiable as one who follows Christ.

This may mean, that others see you pray, or that you are known to attend church, or you may not drink/smoke/cuss for what are known to be religious reasons. For others to identify you thus, there has to be some element of spirituality, or religious practice apparent in your life.

Often at this level others around you will modify their behavior out of respect for your beliefs. People will apologize if they curse in front of you, or will abstain from telling off color jokes in your presence. They might come to you with prayer requests, etc.

This now cannot merely be an internally held belief. This is an added aspect. . . a second dimension. If the first dimension is length, such as a piece of string has. This second dimension would be width added to length, like a piece of paper. A piece of paper has length, and width, but virtually no height.

This level of Christianity has the internal profession of being a Christian, added to it a second level of being apparent on the outside for others to see.

The third dimension:

3. Does God see you as a Christian?

The first thing that must be observed, is that God said that many of those in the first two levels of Christianity, we have viewed here today, are going to be disappointed, when the day of judgment comes:

Matthew 7:21-23
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (22) Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? (23) And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

These people had an apparent internal belief of being followers of Christ, and were ministering to others. . . Many will say that they have done many wonderful works in His name, but He did not know them. He had no relationship with them, and apparently they had no relationship with Him. . . They will be surprised, and from this verse, after judgement apparently they will even argue with Him, trying to convince Him that their good works outweighed their continued disobedience. . . their continued sinning to Him.

Verse 21 those that do the will of God will go to Heaven. . . those who continue to do bad things. . . work iniquity. . .continue to sin, will not go to Heaven. The hard truth is, that they will go to hell.

Statements of Jesus:

Matthew 19:17
And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

John 8:51
Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.

John 14:15
If ye love me, keep my commandments.

John 14:21
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

John 14:23
Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

John 15:10
If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.

This is Jesus speaking in all the above verses. How can anyone then argue that salvation is only about belief, and not about actions?. . . only about actions, and not about living a holy and righteous life? It seems stunningly clear to me that we are not do do iniquity, but we are to follow Jesus in His words and obey His words.

The woman taken in adultery. . . sexual immorality. . . sex outside of marriage, in whatever flavor it might take:

John 8:10-12
When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? (11) She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (12) Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

He commanded her, “Go and sin no more.” He did not say, “Go and continue to sin, and you will go to heaven.” He said, “he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness. . .” What does that mean to you? Darkness=sin. To walk in darkness, is to live a sinful life.

More statements of Jesus:

Mark 7:21-23
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, (22) Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: (23) All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

Mark 16:16
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

John 3:3-5
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (4) Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? (5) Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Revelation 21:5-8
And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. (6) And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. (7) He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. (8) But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

These are the words of Jesus. It is beyond the scope of this essay to explore all the commandments of Jesus and their implications, but my purpose is to make you aware that He does have commandments. . .and He expects us to submit to Him, and obey them.

He cannot be our Lord, if we do not obey Him. A Lord cannot be ignored. He must be obeyed.

Find out what these things mean. . .

Jeremiah 29:13
And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

Matthew 7:7-8
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: (8) For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

And while He loves us, and He was the sacrifice for our sins, He will also one day sit in judgement of us. It is not His will that any should perish, but unfortunately because of their actions many will. . .

Revelation 20:11-15
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. (12) And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. (13) And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. (14) And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. (15) And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

You must of your mind, and in your heart decide and commit to being a disciple of Christ. You must love your fellow man, and strive to be forgiving, and loving, and Christlike in your relationships with your fellow man, and finally you must love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. . . and as a consequence, if you love Him, you will keep His commandments.

At this, you will be a 3 dimensional Christian. . . Having spiritual breadth, and depth, and height. . . filled with love for God and for your fellow man. . .Holy. . .having no cause for shame.

I love you my God. . .
I thank you for saving me. . .


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Stopping for No One. . .

I believe everyone has at one time or another, been driving in the wee hours of the morning, and have been totally alone on the road. It’s as if the whole world is asleep, and you are the only one awake. . . and you happen to come to a stop light, which is red in your direction. As far as the eye can see ahead of you, and behind you. . . to your left, and to your right there are no car lights even in the far distance to be seen. How long do you wait? How long before the little voice in your head says to you, “Just go on through. . . It is senseless to stop for no one. . .no one will see. . . no one will know. . . it will make no difference”

Have you given in to this urge? I know that I have. . . knowing that I am breaking the law, but deciding that for that place and time, the law is senseless, and is not important to keep.

It takes a very disciplined person, never to have run a red light when there is no possibility of anyone else seeing it. It’s about as much of a victimless crime as there can be, but I’d like to argue, that even at that laws should be obeyed out of respect for the law and what it stands for.

As much as they chaff and bind, and seem to restrict our freedom and happiness, without law there is anarchy. . . total civil breakdown. . . confusion. . . violence, and abject subjection to whomever is the strongest at that moment. Certain aspects of the law, may be seen to be unfair in their basis, or possibly unfair in their enforcement, but taken as a whole we benefit from the law, and society as we know it is dependent on the structure of the law holding it together.

As respect for, and the adherence to the law breaks down, so does society itself. Surely only the most naive can imagine that the elimination of the structure of law would benefit anyone, but the meanest bully on the block.

My first exposure to law, was parental law. I was generally an obedient child, but I can still remember my questioning and resisting the rules. . . the laws of my parents because I did not see the purpose in them. . . The list is long. A few representative: a set bedtime. . . eating your vegetables. . . not riding my bike on busy roads. . . and on and on. My not understanding of them, was no indication that there wasn’t good purpose for them.

There are reasons for not touching hot stoves, or riding bicycles on heavily trafficked roads, or getting sufficient sleep, or eating foods with needed vitamins, I can now see that as an adult. I can also see that it is childlike to disregard laws as unimportant and unworthy of being followed merely because I don’t understand and/or agree with them.

I see taken as a whole, our society’s respect for the law, and for the officers of the law diminishing at an accelerating rate. . . a small example, anymore it is rare on my 6 mile trip to and from work, not to have someone pull out in front of me from a side street without even slowing down a little bit. People almost totally disregard stop signs any more. Stop lights have a little more respect, but stop signs if any mind is paid to them at all, are viewed at most as yield signs. Driving has become as a result, significantly more dangerous.

Law officers are now looked upon by many, as opponents, rather than as allies. . . abusers of our freedom’s rather than as protectors. Disrespect for and outright hatred of officers of the law has reached heights unimaginable only a very few years ago.

As Christians, we cannot follow the world, and fall into this trap. It is clear from Scripture that we are to be law abiding citizens:

Titus 3:1
Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,

Romans 13:1-7
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. (2) Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. (3) For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: (4) For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. (5) Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. (6) For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. (7) Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

1 Peter 2:13-15
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; (14) Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. (15) For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:

Submit yourselves. . .note that if you agree with something, then it’s not submission. Submission is to follow even in disagreement. Submission is to do it against your will. Neither God’s Law, nor the law of men are of a cafeteria type choice. We cannot pass through life deciding what law suits us and will be obeyed, and which will be passed over for something more pleasing to us.

Submission is an anathema today. The world teaches that to curtail any desire, is to restrict the full development of person, and any guidelines or strictures upon a person deform their personality. This is utter nonsense. I was there. . .My children were not born perfect entities. . . They were born with inherent violence, and deceit within them. They needed guidance and rules and teaching and correction in order to become good citizens in the community of man.

These same needs follow us as adults. We are properly given civil and spiritual authorities over us to guide us, and develop us in the case of our Pastor’s into righteous God fearing people, with a hope of attaining everlasting life in heaven.

Exodus 19:9-13

And the LORD said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the LORD. (10) And the LORD said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes, (11) And be ready against the third day: for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai. (12) And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death: (13) There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.

God gave Moses the authority to set boundaries beyond which the people were not to go. This boundary was an arbitrary decision by Moses. . . a boundary. . . a decision made by Moses, but enforced by God.

My Pastor has set boundaries, beyond which I may not go without peril. He has made decisions, as to what he allows as proper, and holy. . . allowed behavior and disallowed behavior. Do I agree with it all? Do I understand it all? The answer to both is, ‘no’. We can endlessly argue about apparel, and hair length, and allowed activities etc. etc. etc. etc., but that is not submission to the Man of God, who is given spiritual authority over, and responsibility for us.

At 4 a.m. there is no chance of anyone seeing whether I obey the traffic signal or not. . .but my heart knows. . .my flesh knows. . .and my flesh is strengthened, and my spirit is weakened by giving into that very minor breaking of the law. Likewise my pastor will never know if I have a glass of wine with dinner when on vacation. . . He will never know if I go to the beach or use the hotel swimming pool immodestly dressed when on a business trip. . . but that’s the whole point of true submission to authority, it’s the following of the law even when there is no chance of being caught. . .

I love and respect God. . .and I also love and respect my Pastor. My Pastor is God’s favorite tool used to shape and mold me.

Jeremiah 3:15
And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.

Obey God. . .
Obey your Pastor. . .
Obey the law. . .


Monday, October 26, 2015

Death by Inches. . .

The past few weeks Jackie and I have been watching the series ‘Breaking Bad’ on Netflix. The scenario is of a high school chemistry teacher, who is diagnosed with lung cancer, and to help pay for his treatment, he turns to manufacturing meth as a way to make money.

I find a peek into this world, fascinating for the fact that I am in regular contact with the after effects of meth addiction in my personal life. . . my best friend Matthew Yeater was blinded by an explosion that occurred while cooking meth himself, and in my ministry. . . many many of the people we minister to in the jail a there via their use or manufacture of meth.

I don’t know how realistic the show is, in its portrayal of meth addiction, and the cooking of it, etc., but one thing I do find realistic, from my outside looking in perspective, is how this man thought somehow that he could just stick his toe into this world of meth, and so very quickly he was immersed up to his neck. This jives pretty closely with the stories I’ve heard of meth and crack users. . . Some I’ve known, have related how literally after one use, what they thought was a one-time casual use at at party, they were full blown addicts, out of control for years afterwards, and their lives completely dominated by these drugs.

A sequence from a recent episode, reverberated with me very strongly. A woman. . . maybe in her late 30’s or early 40’s, a heavy meth addict was portrayed. She had a young son 3 or 4 years old living in squalor. . . filthy himself, unattended, in the wreckage of a meth den. I say she was 40 or so, due to the age of her son. If I had no other clue, I could easily have guessed her to be in her 60’s. Her face disfigured by crank sores, or speed bumps as they are called. . .ugly vivid red sores caused by the severe addict’s malnourished, wrecked body just falling apart after months or years of abuse. . . The house had layers of garbage and filth everywhere. The child was left unattended as his mother, and boyfriend were out searching for more drug.

I am certain that there are similarly horrible scenes of just this scenario. . .Poor, pitiful, neglected children living hellish childhoods within our own community. . . very possibly behind drawn curtains of houses and apartments we drive by, mere yards away every day. . . I weep at the thought. . . I see men come into the jail. . .Absolutely GRATEFUL!!! for being arrested. . . . looking upon arrest as a blessing from God, for delivering them from the hell that was their life in bondage to meth or crack.

It strikes me that the addict portrayed in this episode of ‘Breaking Bad’, didn’t arrive in this state in a day, a week, or a month. This is the result of the chronic putting off dealing with an issue for years. . . .Never facing up to what needed to be done. . . ever deeper. . . ever deeper. This is an extreme example of the eventual outcome of procrastinating and putting off something that needs to be dealt with in your personal life day after day after day for years on end. . .

With regularity, you read of poor souls who weigh 500 or 600 lbs. . . confined to a bed, who cannot even rise up and leave their house any more. Their problem came about one bite at a time. . . one more spoonful. . . one more forkful. . .ignored. . . untended for decades until they are in peril of their lives, from a spoon and a fork.

How many of us have, maybe not as dramatic, but issues just as threatening facing us, that we somehow think we can put off forever with no consequences. . . Smoking. . . drinking. . . eating poorly. . . not exercising. . . all small step problems. . . one sip. . . one cigarette. . .one snack. . .one more day watching TV without exercise,. . . (if I may as a preacher. . . one more little sin). . . with fatal outcomes if not addressed at some point.

I’m speaking to myself. For months now I’ve been putting off getting my exercise bike setup, and using it. . . one more day. . . one more week. . . one more month. . . killing me slowly. . . invisibly, but just as certainly as a gunshot to the head, if I don’t tend to this. . .

I look down upon the lady meth addict, while at the same time in my own life doing a quite similar thing. A mental image of my face, covered with meth sores. . .really quite similar, in superficial appearance anyway, to ulcerated diabetes sores from long term ignoring of high blood sugar. . . amputated limbs. . .nerve death. . .non-functioning kidneys. . . heart attack. . . premature death.

I vow to get that bike setup tonight, and to pedal myself to better health. . . Problems don’t get any better by ignoring them. . .

I love you my God.
Thank you my Lord.


Friday, October 23, 2015

The Road to Bear Heaven. . .

Years ago Jackie and I were driving in the mountains of West Virginia looking for a camp site. We finally found one at the top of a mountain in the Bear Heaven recreation area. The road to the mountain, was just a one lane trail, more than a proper road. There was no way that two cars could pass on this very narrow twisting dirt path around the mountain. As a flatlander, I distinctly remember white-knuckling the steering wheel, as we navigated the switchbacks up the side of this mountain. I told Jackie, that if we met someone coming the other way, that I was going to get out of the car and throw my keys over the side of the mountain, so that I could not be forced to back my way down the mountain.

It was a new experience. It was very scary. . . very uncomfortable to me. I imagine that the locals, people who navigated roads like that regularly, found no big discomfort in that situation at all, but to me it raised my heart rate, and blood pressure, about the same as if I was being chased by a bear or some other life threatening situation. But realistically. . . logically, there was little danger in creeping along the side of a mountain at 5 mph. In absolute terms, I was in far greater danger, on the well paved state highway, with the 55 mph posted speed limit. . . passing within a few feet of opposing traffic going 55 mph in the other direction.

110 mph of speed differential between two cars or a car and an 18 wheeler, means pretty certain grave injury or death in a headon collision. I have to have faith in an unknown driver, not to be drunk or high or texting on their phone, or distracted by children, my tires not blowing out, or my brakes failing or etc. etc. etc. It happens every day, that people are killed on a well paved road from headon collision accidents, and I think it is very very very rare that someone dies by sliding down the side of a mountain in West Virginia creeping along at 5 mph.

Yet the unfamiliarity of the one situation, and the familiarity of the other situation caused me to evaluate the risks in totally different ways. A way of stating this might be, that the familiarity of a risk, doesn’t lessen its potential danger to you. A familiar deadly danger, becomes no less deadly merely because it is familiar.

As an atheist I loudly proclaimed my disbelief in God. If there was no God, then there was no judgement and there certainly was no hell. There was no code of morality to follow. If I did good, it was merely my decision to do good. . . a completely altruistic act, with no consequences outside of itself, likewise if I decided to do bad, it was an act which stood alone without connection to anything outside of itself.

But once God revealed Himself to me, then everything that I did was connected to me, and to God and to my future. That was a considerable change in viewpoint to me. I knew the difference between right and wrong. I just didn’t figure, that it made any real difference, therefore I did as I wanted, and didn’t give too much thought about it afterwards.

So therefore, I can understand someone who doesn’t believe in God, doing wrong. I get that. The mystery to me, is those who profess to believe in God, but do wrong in spite of that belief. Somehow they have convinced themselves that it doesn’t really matter to God how they live their lives. That God is a God of love only, and not a God of judgment. They can continue to lie, steal, commit adultery, etc. etc. etc., and when they stand before Him at the time of judging, they imagine that He will overlook all that, and He will say, “We done my good and faithful servant”. . . even though they have been neither good, nor faithful, nor His servant in the way they have lived their lives.

Matthew 25:21
His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

The Bible is God’s Word. It is given to us for instruction, and it is clear that God does forgive, but it is just as clear that He expects us after that forgiving, to “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11), as Jesus told the woman caught in the act of adultery. Sin is to be repented of. . . to be turned away from, not to be accepted. . . it must be fought within us every day. . . every hour of every day. . . Yes we will occasionally stumble, but we don’t remain there. We rise up. We brush ourselves off. We tell God how sorry we are for disappointing Him, and we go back to living for God.

Sin is death. It is also very familiar, but that does not detract anything from its lethality. As a flatlander, the edge of a West Virginia mountain cliff scared the willies out of me, but in all likelihood that cliff has been there for 1000’s of years in the past, and will remain there for more uncountable 1000’s of years into the future. But the edge between life and death that I walk upon each day, with every heartbeat and every breath, will with certainty give way into the abyss one day in the near future. A bus can hit me tomorrow. A heart attack may strike me in the next hour, or I may die in my sleep 10 years from now, but it is coming, and I must be ready for it.

Again. . . I beg you, do not let yourselves be deceived. Sin is death, therefore flee from it. . .

I love you my God. . .
Thank you for making a way for me. . .
Thank you for saving me. . .


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Tomorrow's Amish. . .

Our world is a changing. . . This morning I renewed my license plates online. A very painless process. It took less than 2 minutes, and I’d never done it before. I had to create an account and password, security question, etc., and even with that, in less than 2 minutes my new license plates were on their way to me. . . Compare that to the frustration of years ago, heading to the license branch on the last day of the month with everyone else whose name began with ‘S’, and as you finally found a parking space, glimpsed with trepidation your first view of a line threading out the door and around the building. . . knowing you had to endure at least an hour or maybe even two of waiting for the pleasure of paying for your license plates. . . now less than 2 minutes online and the plates are delivered to your door.

Remembering payday years ago, and heading to the bank with your check in hand, again to stand in line to cash your check, or possibly hoping against hope that the cashier at the grocery store would accept your ID, and cash it for you when you bought your groceries. . . Now with E-banking, and direct deposit becoming so prevalent, both the bank branches, I used to frequent as recently as two years ago, are now both vacant, and for sale or rent.

I still go to the grocery store, but for other shopping, much of it is now done online. Today I buy our dog food from Amazon. I find a cheaper regular price, than the pet store offers and it’s delivered to my door for free. Same with my parrot’s food. I’ve bought shoes, other clothing. . . games, books, movies. . . Video stores. . . does anyone still go to a video store for movies, etc.? I refuse to go to University Park Mall, the large shopping center in the large city to the west of here. Between $5-$10 in gas. . . frustration of the traffic, long long stop lights and parking. . . I just won’t do it.

Even as a child, I remember every neighborhood having it’s own little grocery store. . . replaced by a few supermarkets per town, which in turn were replaced by an even fewer all in one superstores per town, these too I think are now soon to be largely replaced by one or two massive distribution centers per state. I can compare prices, and reviews between the online sellers, and order from the comfort of my easy chair in a small fraction of the time, and expense of going to the stores in person. Returns are as easy as the purchases. . . No long lines at the service counter. . .Tell them you don’t like it for whatever reason, and they give you, no questions asked, a prepaid UPS label to send it back.

Mom and Pop stores are nice and quaint and terribly expensive, and inefficient compared to the large scale automated operations of today’s retail giants. I do remember, and mourn their passing in a rhetorical sense. . . but at the same time I surely don’t want to pay twice as much for my merchandise merely to satisfy this sense of nostalgia.

Convenience, reduced prices, reduced traffic, reduced demand on real estate, and at the same time reduced employment opportunities. I began my working career as a bag boy in a little neighborhood grocery store, where everyone knew your name. The customers were all old friends. Many lived within walking distance of the little grocery store. . . a bygone era.

Really unknown, with nothing comparable today, I remember my mother, having coffee and chatting, almost every morning with the neighbor ladies. Mrs. Adams, by best friend’s mom, who lived across the street. I remember hearing the blood curdling screams, of my best friend’s brother Jerry, the day when he got his arm caught in the wringer of an old style washer, crushing his arm up to the elbow. Mrs. Gunts, my next best friend’s mom after Bobby Adams moved away. . . Mrs. Campbell, who lived next door, and baby sat us when mom and dad would go out. I remember that she croched , and so many miles of thread had passed over the side of her index finger, that she actually had a groove worn in her skin. She was a kindly, heavy set lady, who I think had asthma or some other trouble breathing, and hummed with each breath that she took. Across the street from her, lived Mr. and Mrs. Williams, a retired elderly couple who lived catty corner to us. Mr. Paul Williams was blind in one eye. He had been struck by a piece of coal in the coal yard where he worked and was blinded as a result. Mr. Robinson, who lived catty corner the other way, who was a traveling salesman, he had a high school aged son Bruce, who was only occasionally there, who was my hero. I really looked up to him. . . and then there was the poor Anderson family, who lived at the end of our dead end street. Mrs. Wanda Anderson was psychotic, and heard voices talk to her. Her children, my age and a little younger. . . not well dressed. . . not well fed. . . not well cared for. I remember my dad being party to a little neighborhood vigilante group of men, who one summer, evenings after dark, tried to catch some neighborhood teens who thought it great fun to throw rocks through Mrs. Anderson’s windows at night. . .

I could go on and on I can think of more details of more neighbors spreading out further in the neighborhood, but the point is that everyone knew everyone else in the neighborhood when I was growing up. Moms had coffee and borrowed cups of sugar from one another on a regular basis. Dads borrowed lawn mowers, and tools, and helped each other out with projects and tasks. . .

In my neighborhood, I know one of my next door neighbors. We talk across the fence regularly. He and I work together. We watch their dogs when they go out of town. His kids wave or stop and say ‘hello’ if I’m out working in the yard, but my neighborhood familiarity ends there. The people catty corner to us, I wave to, but I have no idea of their names. My other next door neighbor, the same way. I see him mowing his lawn, but I know nothing of him beyond that he lives alone and leaves for work every day about the same time as I do.

Is there anything at all remaining of the world I grew up in today?. . . maybe other than the congregations of churches. I think, in a small way that same sense of community is found in the pews, of our church anyway. In the last 15 years, I’ve watched, and been been a participant in children from toddlers to high school. I’ve watched a young one transform from playing with Matchbox cars and falling asleep beneath the pews, into being a student at Purdue today. . .I’ve prayed for illness, and rejoiced in celebration of successes from many people. I’ve lived births, and deaths, and marriages, and divorces with a couple of hundred former strangers. . . whom I now call brothers, and sister. . .I have found. . . or maybe helped create a place where everyone knows my name as the old Cheers theme song goes. . .and it is a comfort to me. It is strength to me, but for people of today’s world. . . is it maybe too alien, or too threatening, or somehow too unsanitary and intrusive to have strangers enter your life in that manner?

Are we in the twilight of church as we know it? Is the future of the church to be found in streaming services. . . maybe we in the not too distant future will have holograms, and virtual reality headsets by which we attempt to duplicate the power of an anointed preacher, or a shake down the walls Holy Ghost worship service via the Internet. . . I don’t know how that can be. I cannot imagine it, but maybe someday we will look upon this era as the time of the sunset of the Mom and Pop church. . . replaced by huge regional Spiritual distribution centers. . . the local church a faded memory only or possibly found only in quaint backwater communities, like the Amish and their horse drawn carts living in a 4-lane highway world. . .

You can resist change. You can cling to old ways despite the current of the world. Again, the Amish are surely proof of that, but how do we reach the other 99%. . . how do we reach those who refuse to ride in buggies and light their homes with kerosene lamps. . .who refuse to pass through a church door two or three times a week? Are they reachable? I don’t know. . . a question for which, I’m certain there is an answer, but am I willing and able to accept and see that answer. . .I just don’t know. . .

Thoughts on an October morning. . .

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Jesus is My Balance Bar. . .

Continuing to think on how coming to God has changed me, in maybe not so expected or visible ways. . .
God has had a greatly moderating effect upon my life. My anger, my depression. . . in so many ways I am a calmer and steadier person since coming to God. One not so noticed way that I have become more temperant is in respect to my self pride. Like many. . . maybe most young people I came out of childhood and adolescence with a wounded and maybe somewhat fragile ego. I had a significant lack of self confidence, and feeling of low value. My military experience was a large help in giving me confidence, a feeling of competence and value. Going through Army basic training, and having success in my advanced training helped me greatly in my feeling of confidence and self worth. That shaky foundation may be covered over by subsequent experience and somewhat repaired, but is not easily healed.
It continued to manifest itself, by my always being on the lookout for slights, and disrespect. One of many examples comes to my mind. A new phone system was installed where I work, and there were two styles of phone for the system, a very basic white phone, which was restricted to only dialing calls, and a black multi-function phone which could do voicemail, intercom, message transfer, speakerphone, conference call setup, and the full range of tasks. I am now convinced that it was totally unintentional, but a white phone was put on my desk, and I remember how angry. . . how furious I was. . .the rage I was in, at what I was certain was an intentional slight and disrespect to my image. . . I was sure that this revealed management's disrespect and lack of value of me. This feeling of inner questionable worth, caused me to see everything as a personal affront. I saw lots and lots of things as attacks on my pride and self-respect, which were no such thing. This foundation of insecurity manifested itself in many ways. . . almost always expressed as anger and outrage at someone disrespecting me.
But ego, pride, self-confidence, are needful of moderation. A balance bar for a tightrope walker, helps keep him centered on the wire, as certain death lies to each side. Such is it with ego, and self pride. Disaster lies with too much, as well as with too little. My self pride eventually grew to great bounds. To even think that I required God or spiritual/moral authority or accountability in any way was hugely insulting to me. In my eyes, I was my own god. I was good. I was moral. I was altruistic, not requiring the bribery of heaven to do my good works. I was superior to Christians in every way. . .
As long as I could overlook my lying. . . my stealing. . . my oath breaking. . .my drunkenness. . . etc. etc. etc. etc. my overall immorality, I was a good person. . .as long as I had nothing to compare myself to.
I’ve said it before, if you’ve never seen anything white, you can convince yourself that any shade of gray is white, but as soon as you discover something pure and holy and truly righteous, then your filth becomes very very apparent. The scales come off your eyes, and you can for once see yourself for what you are.
I no longer have to depend upon the acclaim, and praise of men to pump up my self-opinion. I have my God who loves me. . . who values me. . . who despite my warts, and scars, and ugliness, sees worth and value in me. He gave of Himself in order that my sins might be paid for, and that I might escape the death that I totally deserved.
But in the other direction, I am today completely humbled and ashamed of how good I thought myself, and how evil I really was. In that still fresh memory, I despair of ever again becoming prideful and self-righteous. I carry the vision of my arrogance without any foundation. How smart. . . How wise. . . How righteous I thought I was. . .
Jesus is my balance bar. Keeping me from tipping into either the chasm of despair, or haughtiness which lie to either side of me. I am changed. I am remade. I am reborn, truly into a new creature. I will not go back to the land from whence I came.
I have found power, and I have found peace.
I thank you my God. . .
I love you my Lord. . .

Thursday, August 27, 2015

How Have I Changed Since Coming to God?

Thoughts this morning. . .

Thinking on how have I changed since coming to God?

This is probably a question best answered by others, but these are my thoughts as to how I have been changed in the last 15 years.

  1. I hate sin.  Before coming to God, I knew that lying was not right. . . I knew that stealing was wrong. . . but I found ways to justify sin in spite of knowing right from wrong.  Now God hates sin, and I love God.  When I sin, I sin against Him.  I disrespect Him.  I hurt Him.  It drives a wedge between between God and I.  I hate sin because of the effect it has on my relationship with God.  This relationship is the most important.  This relationship is more important than the rules of right and wrong.  The relationship precedes the rules of right and wrong. . . I am not trying to apply the rules of right and wrong on the outside, but my hunger to be holy, and righteous comes from my heart. . . I loved my grandpa.  I imagine my grandpa’s face as God’s face, and when I sin, I have disrespected God. . . I see my grandpa’s face. . . God’s face with my spit running down His face mingled at the same time with His tears. . . God loves me so much, and when I sin it hurts Him. . . I hate sin, in direct proportion to how much I love God. . .
  2. I am more humble.  Before coming to God, I was very prideful.  I didn’t need a God. . . a Creator. . . a supreme being in order to be a good person.  I was very prideful at how good I was. . . I was a fool.  I justified all my flaws in order to be able to continue doing them.  I thought myself good, because I would give a street person $20 every now and again.  Forgetting all the darkness within me.  I thought myself good, because I had no experience with anything truly good and righteous.  If you’ve never seen something pure and white, you can convince yourself that any shade of gray is white. . . . But once you are exposed to blanket of freshly fallen virgin snow, never again will you think the charcoal gray tapestry that is your life, is anything but the soiled rag that it is.
  3. I am more forgiving.  Before coming to God, I was great at holding grudges.  It took a bit to get me mad, but once mad I could stay mad for weeks or months on end.  Now I see. . . I truly see how much God has forgiven me of. . . and there is no restraint of His love. . . I can detect no grudge from Him for my past behavior.  If then He can forgive me, who cursed Him and hoped Him dead. . . How can I not forgive the small injustices done to me?
  4. I am happier.  Before coming to God.  Happiness was always receding into the distance ahead of me.  Happiness was always on the next hill to climb. . . better job. . . more money. . .nicer house. . .goals with the children. . .and when I would arrive at where I thought happiness was, I would find some new obstacle to my happiness.  What ever line I drew where I thought happiness would start, I would find only a temporary happiness.  I had no lasting joy.  But now. . . my happiness comes from within.  I don’t look for external happiness.  I carry my happiness wherever I go.  My happiness comes from my relationship with God.  It isn’t dependent on job, finances, health, marriage, children, etc. etc. etc. etc. any external source.  My greatest joy is to dance before the Lord, and to worship Him.  I have found peace and happiness in an extraordinarily unexpected place. Like Dorothy and her ruby slippers. . . the means for happiness was within my reach for my entire life. . . I just wasn’t looking in the right place.

Just a few thoughts. . .

I love you my God. . .
Thank you for everything. . .


Pack Animals

Jackie​, and I just love our dogs so much. You can tell the season is changing. All summer long our dogs were on the floor for most of the nights in front of a fan, seeking coolness. . . now with the recent change of cooler evenings, they are snuggled as close as possible to us. . . both gaining and providing warmth. . .

Thinking of it, there are great advantages to being a member of a pack. . . to having friends, and family around us for mutual warmth. . . support and companionship.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. (10) For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. (11) Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? (12) And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

I have known several in my live who by choice lived very alone lives. I do not say lonely, for by external appearances they have not seemed to suffer from their lack of companionship, but they also have not seemed to lead very happy lives. They have tended toward being eccentrics. . . whether by cause or effect, I cannot tell, but that eccentricism seemed to progress and enhance as their years of aloneness persisted.

Wondering. . .no real evidence, but still wondering in my mind. . . an audio speaker, if given as input, its own output, enters into a feedback loop, where the sound becomes increasingly distorted and painful to hear. . .quickly losing its usefulness as a tool to enhance clarity. . . It seems to me, that the human mind also, if left alone. . . generating thoughts which are used then as input for more self thoughts without modification and feedback from another person. . . this loop seems to result in increasingly strange if not totally bizarre outlooks upon life.

In short, all evidence is that, on several levels we truly need one another. We need others in our lives. . . We need the fellowship, and companionship, and brotherhood of others around us. Women being social beings to their core, seem to get this, more than most men. In my own life, I need my wife Jackie to keep me plugged into my family and other people. I very much think without her, that I could easily become a naval gazer. . . an eccentric living in a cave, with a long beard, and strange unkempt ways.

I need my family. . .I need friends. . . I need my pastor. . . I need my brothers and sisters in church to fellowship with. . . to travel this journey with me. . . to lift me up when I stumble. . . to offer advice and warnings of dangerous paths. . . to help me pass through trials. . . to celebrate with me in times of joy.

I thank you my Lord for my family and friends which you have place in my life. . .
I love you my God.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Blessing of a Dis-eased Heart. . .

The past few days, my heart has been burdened, and I have been waking up and praying in the wee hours of the night, and throughout the day. . . It is not always that I devote myself to such passionate prayer with purpose. I do speak with God, much of the day, every day, but more in the manner of conversationally speaking to my beloved best friend, rather than in focused and fevered intercessory prayer.

I find fault in myself for not devoting more time to intercession. The needs are huge. There is an overflowing need in our world for God to act. . . heal, restore, reveal Himself. . . No shortage of topics for us to pray for. . . It dawns upon me, that it is not lack of discipline and strength of will within me, but lack of hunger. . . lack of heart. For now I have found a purpose, I find no lack of intercessory energy and dedication.

The dramatic on camera murder today well illustrates this. A day never goes by when there are not many murders, but the drama of this one, recorded in act for all to see, if they so choose. . . (I did not so choose) . . . but the drama of this raises within us an emotional response, that merely reading a headline does not inspire within us. This drama, because we connect with the event has touched many hearts, which would have remained cold, without an eye into the event.

Does this mean that any murder is less deserving than any other of our concern? No, but unless we have a personal connections, everything else being equal, we are insulated, and hardened by the sheer numbers of such events we experience over our lives. . .

Note the following:

James 5:16
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

. . . and note the contrasted warning of this:

Matthew 6:7
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

Prayer without passion. . . without fervency. . . without true heart behind it is vain. . . a worthless exercise. It is not the hours of prayer. . . but the tears, and anguish. . . the depth of feeling behind the prayers which gives it potency.

It is not the discipline to force myself into my prayer closet which I lack. That lack is a symptom, not a cause. It is within my heart where the flaw lies. . . my numbness. . . the thick callouses which insulate me from caring are the source of my failure of intercession. Give me a prayer task close to home, and I have energy enough. . .

Lord help me love more. . .
Lord help me to care more. . .
Lord. . . please help my heart to be dis-eased. . .


Friday, August 7, 2015

Thoughts this morning. . .

Thinking on how have I changed since coming to God?

This is probably a question best answered by others, but these are my thoughts as to how I have been changed in the last 15 years.

1. I hate sin. Before coming to God, I knew that lying was not right. . . I knew that stealing was wrong. . . but I found ways to justify sin in spite of knowing right from wrong. Now God hates sin, and I love God. When I sin, I sin against Him. I disrespect Him. I hurt Him. It drives a wedge between between God and I. I hate sin because of the effect it has on my relationship with God. This relationship is the most important. This relationship is more important than the rules of right and wrong. The relationship precedes the rules of right and wrong. . . I am not trying to apply the rules of right and wrong on the outside, but my hunger to be holy, and righteous comes from my heart. . . I loved my grandpa. I imagine my grandpa’s face as God’s face, and when I sin, I have disrespected God. . . I see my grandpa’s face. . . God’s face with my spit running down His face mingled at the same time with His tears. . . God loves me so much, and when I sin it hurts Him. . . I hate sin, in direct proportion to how much I love God. . .

2. I am more humble. Before coming to God, I was very prideful. I didn’t need a God. . . a Creator. . . a supreme being in order to be a good person. I was very prideful at how good I was. . . I was a fool. I justified all my flaws in order to be able to continue doing them. I thought myself good, because I would give a street person $20 every now and again. Forgetting all the darkness within me. I thought myself good, because I had no experience with anything truly good and righteous. If you’ve never seen something pure and white, you can convince yourself that any shade of gray is white. . . . But once you are exposed to blanket of freshly fallen virgin snow, never again will you think the charcoal gray tapestry that is your life, is anything but the soiled rag that it is.

3. I am more forgiving. Before coming to God, I was great at holding grudges. It took a bit to get me mad, but once mad I could stay mad for weeks or months on end. Now I see. . . I truly see how much God has forgiven me of. . . and there is no restraint of His love. . . I can detect no grudge from Him for my past behavior. If then He can forgive me, who cursed Him and hoped Him dead. . . How can I not forgive the small injustices done to me?

4. I am happier. Before coming to God. Happiness was always receding into the distance ahead of me. Happiness was always on the next hill to climb. . . better job. . . more money. . .nicer house. . .goals with the children. . .and when I would arrive at where I thought happiness was, I would find some new obstacle to my happiness. What ever line I drew where I thought happiness would start, I would find only a temporary happiness. I had no lasting joy. But now. . . my happiness comes from within. I don’t look for external happiness. I carry my happiness wherever I go. My happiness comes from my relationship with God. It isn’t dependent on job, finances, health, marriage, children, etc. etc. etc. etc. any external source. My greatest joy is to dance before the Lord, and to worship Him. I have found peace and happiness in an extraordinarily unexpected place. Like Dorothy and her ruby slippers. . . the means for happiness was within my reach for my entire life. . . I just wasn’t looking in the right place.

This is not an exhaustive list. . .Just a few thoughts. . .

I love you my God. . .
Thank you for everything. . .