Jun 27, 2019

Even In The Darkness

The world we live in continues to become darker and darker each day. Ever since June 22nd, the nights become shorter as we continue to lose daylight until next spring.

And we, as a society, seem to be OK with it as long as it doesn't infringe upon our activities and we are able to turn on some lights in order that we can see what we are doing.

I sit in my favorite coffee shop trying to write this as conversation at the table next to me wafts over into my ears. Sitting at the table are five people who are each in their late sixties or early seventies.

As best as I can hear, the conversation stems from two main characters who talk of seminary and church policy and discuss as those who are in authority have squashed them by saying "no" to their very liberal theology. I get the distinct impression that one of them has had their credentials removed for their theology.
The conversation is loud and aggressive and filled with passion from hurt by individuals who have areas of hypocrisy in their own lives.

Quickly others around the table quip that times have changed and the church needs to speed up with the times as they try to console the two people with (in my opinion) some very bad arguments that are mostly based upon subjective feelings; not actually study and research.

Unfortunately these people have been hurt by those above them who have tried to shove theology down their throats as they ignore their very real hurts. They all appear to want to follow the Lord as they try to justify their interpretation of what is truth. They all appear to be sweet people made in the image and likeness of the One who made them.

But, I must add, even though we live in a country in which we vote as we attempt to legislate morality, that has no bearing on what the Lord says is truth.

The world we live in continues to become darker and darker each day. Just when we hear about some crime that seems inconceivable, another even more heinous crime is reported. Just when we think that we will eventually not allow activities, we continue to legislate as we move (once again) the boundaries of what we deem as acceptable in our society.

We, as a society, seem to be OK with it as long as others don't infringe upon "our rights" or preferences or activities and others can't see what we are doing. Or as long as we can create some sort of artificial light to create the illusion that the darkness is actually light.

Darkness seems to continue to crowd out the light as we have become a society in which those who call darkness wrong are seen as the odd and intolerant ones. Society has become a place where the only intolerance that isn't accepted is when someone is intolerant regarding your beliefs.

Society calls evil good, and good evil; puts darkness for light, and light for darkness; puts bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20)

And yet, the good news is that even in the darkness, the Lord reigns!

"Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You." (Psalm 139:12)

Even in the darkness His mercy and grace are calling out for all of us to turn back to what He calls good and right and true; away from our own distorted truth and interpretation of His rules.

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined." (Isaiah 9:2)

"I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, and not forsake them." (Isaiah 42:16)

"The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:16)

Even in the darkness His Holy Spirit is calling out to each of us to come out to be what He has created us to be:

"But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy." (1 Peter 2:9-10)

Even in the darkness He is calling out to us, reminding us that we are to live differently in this world:

"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.” (Ephesians 5:8-14)

Even in the darkness He is calling us to be salt and light:

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:13-16)
Even in the darkness He calls out for His followers to make a difference as the darkness tries to hide His truth. He is calling for each of us:

"Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising." (Isaiah 60:1-3)

Even in the darkness He is still in control

New King James Version (NKJV)
All Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Jun 20, 2019

I Made This For You

Cathy was sitting on the front porch at our family cabin drinking a cup of coffee as she took in the beauty outside. She loves this place and is very grateful for it.

The cabin was built by her father (and other family members including myself) thirty years ago as a gift; which has deeper meaning and memories for us now that he has gone to be with the Lord over twelve years ago.

The cabin was made for vacations, retreats, and other forms of respite. Some have spent their honeymoons there. It has served me well for many sermons and times of meditations.

I am very happy to see our children taking their families to it and enjoying it the way it was intended... laughter and life and memories filling the air.

Cathy shared with me, as she came back inside to the kitchen table where I was sitting, just how grateful she is as she can even now see her father saying to her; "I made this for you!" many years past when we first cleared some trees on the property and poured the footings.

"I made this for you as a place for you and your family as a place for rest, relaxation, restoration, and community..."

"I made this for you far beyond some gifts that are made for you."

And then she shared with me how she saw beyond the physical structure of the porch and realized that her father had made the cabin to be a place to sit and ponder the place where he had chosen to build it. He wanted her to enjoy what he had seen and treasured about the lake and land.
It was more than just the cabin that he wanted her to enjoy....there was a world beyond the cabin; which really was a shelter for when this place had changed and the elements were cold or hot or windy or snowy or rainy...

And then she thought of the Lord who had literally created all that her dad had seen...

And she heard Father saying to her (deep in her spirit) "I made this for YOU!"

And she was filled with gratefulness for her dad to have built the cabin, to create a space for her to sit and ponder this place that meant so much to him. A place designed and created by a God who reveals Himself as "Father" who had made all of this for her.

“Thou are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Revelations 4:11 KJV)

Jun 13, 2019

Is That A Barn Swallow?

Many years ago, I worked for a general contractor who had the habit of showing up after a subcontractor made a mistake and hadn't been able to fix it prior to his arrival.

And, most of the time, if he had not seen it, it would have been fixed by someone prior to signing off on the project. This would include everything from a ding in a wall, to wrong paint color, a poor miter cut in a piece of molding, or something not being completed on time.

And, wouldn't you know it, it would be the one thing or area that he would notice as he walked on the job site as he asked; "What happened here?", or "Who did this?"

Needless to say, it would be an embarrassment to the sub who had made the mistake and no matter what he would say, it sounded as though he was making an excuse. 

In time, we as subs found a "trick" that would help us with this problem. We discovered that the general loved wildlife; especially birds. And all we would have to do to distract him (temporarily until the repairs could be made) was to point towards something and ask; "Is that a barn swallow?"

IMMEDIATELY his attention would be focused on whatever direction we had pointed. Usually this would be followed up with a "maybe I'm wrong…" as he feverishly looked to see what we had seen. 

Usually this was enough to distract him and, because he had a short attention span, was enough to redirect him to another area so that the sub could correct the mistake...or cover it up until he could get to the repairs.

In the entertainment world, they call that "sleight of hand" which is a cleverly executed trick or deception. It takes fine motor skills and is used to entertain or manipulate. It is associated with close-up magic, card magic, card flourishing and stealing.

It also can be used to point out the faults of others in an attempt to draw attention somewhere else.

Basically it is a way of saying; "I need you to look over here so that you can't see what I am doing over there."

I have also observed it being used in the church. This includes areas such as sexual sin, addictions, or other habits. By drawing attention or pointing out something that someone else struggles with, we draw attention away from our sin(s).

Sometimes it is a way to distract others until we can deal with an area that we are struggling with. Unfortunately, it is oftentimes used because we have no intention of changing or fixing the area of sin we struggle with.

We do this by categorizing sin into sins that are "bad" or "understandable" and sins that are REALLY bad. In other words, sin we do and sin that "those people do..."

And it’s damning as it separates us from "them" and takes away any hope that their sin is even forgivable. Oftentimes this hopelessness is dealt with by legislating morality in an attempt to feel better about whatever it is that they struggle with.

But the problem is that we may be fooling others, but we are not fooling God; the One who calls sin "sin".


The Bible also tells us:
“You didn’t think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract God from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard? Or did you think that because He’s such a nice God, He’d let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. God is kind, but He’s not soft. In kindness He takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.” (Romans 2:3-4 MSG)

The Bible also tells us that
"No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." (1 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV)

In other words, just because we haven't done what "they" do, it levels the ground and tells us that we too have the potential of giving in to the same sin! Yes, even THAT sin!

I love how Jesus backs this scripture up by saying;
"You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5:27-28NKJV)

Jesus goes right to the heart and lets us know that ALL of us sin; and that He knows it and is not distracted by our attempted sleight of hand by pointing out someone else’s' sin which we deem as worse than our sin.

In other words; "...all (of us) have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..." (Romans 3:23 NKJV). 

And EACH of us will have to deal with our own sin and hopefully receive the gift of salvation knowing that Jesus paid for ALL of our sins. That is unless someone wants to pay for their own sin which equals an eternity in hell until it is paid off.

The main problem is that we forget (those of who have been forgiven) that we didn't fix our sin problem; Jesus did!

“It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose His temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then He picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.” (Ephesians 2:1-6 MSG)

The real truth is, no matter what sin it is that is in our life, God loves you and me so much that He doesn't want to leave any of us in our sin. 

His grace is available for each of us to reach us, and change us, and to lift each of us out of our sin(s) or any situation...

IF you will turn to Jesus with all of your heart. The rest, He will give you the power and the ability to say "no" to sin through His Holy Spirit.

Rather than using sleight of hand.

The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
New King James Version (NKJV)
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Jun 6, 2019

Don't Be Cat Food

I came home to a present today. Actually, I think that the present was already on my back porch when I left for the store an hour before...because it had foot prints on it that looked an awful lot like the sandals that I was wearing!

When I arrived back home, I noticed that there was something squished on the mat at the rear of our house. 
Upon further examination, I discovered that it was a mouse head in a pile of vomit left by a neighbor's cat. 

Because we used to have cats as pets, I recognized this was the generous endowment from a feline who was offering it as a way of expressing its love for me.

Or else the cat thought that I wouldn't mind it if they puked on my back porch; thus affirming my reasons for no longer having any pets!

Either way, I was left to clean it up.

And I was grateful that it was from a cat on my back porch and not from the Corleones as a veiled threat, otherwise the cat would have left it in my bed! 

When I see gifts left in my yard from cats like half-eaten mice, shrews, bunnies, or birds, I often wonder; "Where is the rest of the animal?"
Or "Why did they want to share it with me?"

I know that they have their reasons. Cats are naturally hunters and seem to be wired to teach their young how to eat their food by bringing home dead or injured prey as well as to share their bounty with their family. 

So, I can deduce that when they are leaving a dead animal on my back porch, the cat is simply acting out its natural role as mother and provider and consider me to be a part of its family.

I also wonder how deceptive the cat had to be to sneak up on such unsuspecting animals who had no idea that their life would end so abruptly on that day. 

How was it that the animal had no clue that they were about to be killed? 

What could the animal have done to prevent its death being a forgone conclusion?

Perhaps it was unbalanced and undisciplined and didn't have a sober mindset. 

Perhaps it was because the animal wasn't alert; so self-focused that it didn't pay any attention to its surroundings. Or if it did pay attention and was alert and cautious, it didn't do it at ALL times.

Perhaps it was because it didn't realize that it had an actual enemy who prowled around fiercely hungry, seeking someone to devour. 

Perhaps the animal, when seeing the cat coming, didn't resist the cat against his/her attack by being digging its claws in; rooted, established, immovable.

Perhaps the animals didn't know that the same experiences of suffering are being experienced by mice, shrews, bunnies, and birds (as well as other animals such as lizards) throughout the world.

Perhaps we would do well to learn our lesson from their mistakes if we don't want to end up as cat food.

“Be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour. But resist him, be firm in your faith [against his attack—rooted, established, immovable], knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being experienced by your brothers and sisters throughout the world. [You do not suffer alone.]” (1 PETER 5:8-9 AMP)

Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA 90631. All rights reserved.)