Sep 26, 2019

Momentous Menagerie

Jesus said that we need to be childlike. This includes both our faith and our approach to the Father. In fact, He was pretty adamant and said; "I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:15)

He is NOT talking about salvation or where you go when you die. If you put your faith and trust in the accomplished and complete work of Jesus Christ, you can have assurance that when you die you WILL go to heaven (see Romans 10:9-13)

He is NOT talking about age, but rather, about HOW you approach and enter into the Kingdom of God each and every day here on earth. He is talking about the wonder and amazement of how children come to you and ASSUME that you DO want to be with them.

He is talking about how children dance like no one is watching, and laugh and play. Actually, they don't make good religious folk...they need to be taught that as they learn false things about our Good, Good Heavenly Father.

He is talking about how children ASK for things they want, but don't really need. This was driven home to me recently by a couple of our grandchildren.

We were about to watch a movie with them and they came into the room bringing EACH a PILE of stuffed animals and proceeded to line them up in a position so that they too could watch the movie.

I surveyed them and realized that several of them were new; which meant there was still a pile of them in the bedroom in which they were staying AND another pile in the family room where they had been playing!

I thought of a time a few weeks ago when Cathy and I, along with them and their parents, had been site seeing and stopped in a toy store. I was amazed at how unhesitant they were to pick out several stuffed animals and ASK their parents if they would purchase them. Mom and dad said "no" this time.

And yet, I have seen this on MANY occasions. Their posture wasn't about greed or covetousness; but rather about ASKING. They asked because that is what children do; they ask.

Oh and they actually believe that they will receive. No, not because they beg or whine or pout (my grandchildren don't do this). They ask because they have a history with their parent’s generosity.

As I said, approaching the Kingdom Of God isn't just about receiving; we're too super-spiritual for that....Or is it?

Have we been so adult-like that we don't even ask and anticipate that our Good, Good Heavenly Father will provide?

Jesus Himself said: “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened." (Matthew 7:7-8)

This struck me today when I was reading Hebrews 11:6 which says:
"And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him."

Too often I will focus on: "impossible to please" and the word "sincerely"(NKJV use the word "diligently").

Today I saw the word "rewards" (NKJV uses the word "rewarder").

Basically, it comes from two Greek words that mean: to reward, give away, that is, up, over, back, etc. (in various applications): - deliver (again), give (again), (re-) pay (-ment be made), perform, recompense, render, requite, restore, reward, sell, yield.

Do you see the implication of the words screaming out "again"?

The writer is trying to communicate that EACH and EVERY time we approach our Good, Good Heavenly Father, He will make it worth our while! He is not put off by the repeated asking. He is not looking at "how many you already have". He is a REWARDER! COMPENSATOR! RESTORER! Over and over and over and over and over....

Children think this way; so they keep asking.

And Jesus is saying that you will never get into His Kingdom UNLESS and UNTIL you approach Him this way; like a little child...blindly trusting the Father's goodness, provision, care, and leadership in your life.

When you approach Him this way, you will be filled with an unshakable hope that He will provide for you an abundant life of righteousness, peace, and joy (Romans 14:17)

He is calling each of us into a greater lifestyle of the faith of a child. He is calling for you to trust Him for ALL that you need. He is calling for YOU.

All Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996, 2004, 2007, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Sep 19, 2019

Losing A Bearing

A few weeks ago while in a worship service at church, the Lord "spoke to me" and said; “You will find your bearings; I promise you; you will find them."

For the past two years I felt that I was out of place, lost, displaced, uprooted, removed (and (luxated and ectopic for those of you who read your dictionary on a regular basis). Some of it started a over two years ago when I had sensed that it was time to leave both the place where I was working (for five years) and the church that we had been attending (for over twenty years).

I had spent the season seeking the Lord's face for direction. I had also sought counsel from Cathy, my friends, counselors, therapists, and my board of directors and board of advisers. And now it was time to step out into a place that was uncharted territory.

Simply put, I had lost my bearings and I couldn't find my true north.

To 'lose one's bearings' means to lose sight of or become unable to determine one's orientation, position, or abilities relative to one's surroundings or situation. 

I knew that I was still called to be a father to my children and their spouses and a grandfather to their children. I knew that I was called to be a pastor and to preach and equip others and to write; but where and to whom? 

On a side note, when a bearing is going out on a car, usually there is a loud noise coming from the tire or wheel of the vehicle. And, if a wheel bearing is missing, it is not recommended you drive the vehicle at all as the wheel can fall off entirely while the vehicle is in motion.

That sounded a lot like me, at least on the inside. And at times on the outside as my anguish came out in short reactions to bad drivers or misunderstandings with Cathy and other minor irritants.

So I filled my time with playing hockey and making guitars and walking and picking up pucks and praying and crying and wandering (seemingly) aimlessly. I worked on projects and traveled and drank a lot of coffee. I applied for many too many jobs; only to get no response...which fed into my sense of lostness.

But I came to realize that I was still seeking identity, validation, and affirmation from circumstances, places, accomplishments, and people; which can lead to a false identity.

Then, while my hands were lifted up in worship of a God who calls Himself Father, I heard His voice deep in my soul; “You will find your bearings; I promise you; you will find them."

Hope arose, for I knew that voice and I had confidence because of His faithfulness to me in the past. I KNEW that somehow I would get to where I needed to be and I could be quiet and not make a loud noise as the lostness of the bearing ground against my soul.

He has been and will be faithful.

In time, at unplanned places (many times and many places) such as at a wedding or while working with a friend, the Lord spoke to me through many voices to encourage me to keep doing what I was doing. To remind me that HE had called me and that HE would get me to where He wanted me to be. 

His gifts were without repentance:
"For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn." (Romans 11:29 NLT)

When did I forget that He is the One who holds it all? When did I forget that He is still holding me? He's a Good, Good Father who is still is Lord of All.

Sep 12, 2019

Pompous Pacer

The year was nineteen seventy something and I was about to enter my senior year of high school. I had been working a side-job taking care of an elderly man who had multiple sclerosis (MS) and was deteriorating in his physical health. Mentally, he was a sharper than any tack that I had ever seen!

My job started off pretty simple: I would go over to his apartment (which was only a block away) and help him into his wheelchair in the morning; sometimes helping him get his socks on.

As his MS got worse, I would also go over to his apartment in the evening to help him out of his wheelchair and into his bed.

In time, he needed more help as the tremors would sometime make simple tasks very difficult for him, like preparing breakfast or pulling up his pants.

We had looked at several assisted living facilities, but none would meet his or our approval. Again, this was the seventies, and most of the facilities we looked at smelled like urine all the way out to the parking lot.

No way could we let him live there.

He was a very smart man who had a very prestigious career and had made a good income, so money wasn’t really an issue. His wife was deceased, and he had no children.

The solution that he came up with was to hire in-home nursing to give him further assistance. He also purchased a lift to assist getting him in and out of bed and another for the tub.

He also had another idea; he wanted to buy me a car so that I could drive him places.

I want to say that he was really a great guy and I enjoyed spending time with him. He loved reading books in order to stay a step ahead on new technology and the latest trends.

As I said, his mind was sharp as his body was falling apart. He joked with me that his mind would still be working for several days after he was buried in the ground.

Did I mention that he wanted to buy me a new car?

I really had no reason to respond the way I did when he purchased a brand new car and gave it to me. The plan was that it would be mine to use as much as I wanted and it was mine to keep after he died.

The problem? It was an AMC Pacer! No teenager wanted to drive, let alone be seen in a Pacer! Remember, this was sixteen years BEFORE the movie “Wayne’s world” came out and made it ‘popular’.

And, no, it didn’t come with a factory issued licorice dispenser. That was an aftermarket item that you couldn’t get until 1992!

My oldest brother had a Dodge Challenger at the time which further added to my reluctance to drive the car. His was cool, mine was lame!

The man told me that he had done research in Consumer’s Report and said that this was one of the best values in the market today. He also liked that it would be easy to load and unload his wheelchair in the back. And he loved that he could see out the windows.

That last statement didn’t help at all; if he could see out, then others could see in!

I should also mention that my next older brother had a Camaro with a spoiler on the rear. My next youngest brother had a Nova!

There is no way that I would be seen in a AMC Pacer.

So I made excuses not to drive it.

Yes, I turned down his generous gift to me. I NEVER even drove it! And I starting spending less and less time with him in order to NOT drive the car…I wanted the provision; just not in that way.

In a very short time, his body failed to the point where he was placed in a nursing home. He died within the month. I didn’t know what happened to the car; and didn’t really care at the time where it ended up.

I had been an ungrateful and proud teenager who, although I needed a car, choose to let pride stop me from receiving a gift from a generous person who wanted to show his appreciation for me.

I also missed out on my opportunity to spend time with this great man.

I missed it by allowing my pompous pride get in the way.

As I write this I have several thoughts.

First of all, it reminds me of Naaman in the Bible. He was a great and honorable man and the commander of the army of the king of Syria. He was also a mighty man of valor, but he was also a leper. (Read the story in 2 Kings Chapter 5).

Naaman had a chance to get healed of his leprosy, but he didn’t like how it was to be done.

Naaman was told that if he wanted to be healed; “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.”
Naaman said, “NO!” In fact he became furious at the preposterous suggestion. He wanted the provision; just not in that way.

Fortunately, he gave in, did what he was told to do, and received a complete healing.

My other thought is wondering how many times have you and I missed provision simply because we were too pompous to receive? How many times did it come and go and because pride caused us to stumble and fall short?

Finally, what about provision for that hole in your soul; for that sin in your life? Have allowed pride to stop you from simply receiving the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ?

Naaman almost missed it by allowing his pompous pride get in the way.

Be careful that you don’t make the same mistake.

“Today when you hear His voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.” (Hebrews 3:15)

But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.” (1 John 1:7-10)

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in Him will never be disgraced.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on Him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13)

All Scripture is from the New Living Translation (NLT), copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Sep 5, 2019

Where Would I Be?

It's a hot end-of-summer September day and I have an empty schedule. I did do an early-morning airport run and made several ministry-related phone calls. I also attempted to set up several appointments with no success.

And, even if I could set them up, I am somewhat land-locked because the city is resurfacing the roads around my house.

In the past, I would have fretted because I am wired to always be completing some task. Way too often my self-worth has been validated by how hard I worked and how much I accomplished each and every day. Too much of my affirmation has come from others who would say (in an attempt to meet with me); "I know that you are busy".

But instead I have come to learn that just because I’m not doing anything, doesn't mean that I'm "not doing anything".

So I grabbed my backpack with my iPad and headed out the door...I dropped off a zip drive at the computer store in my neighborhood and made my way to a local coffee shop. Along the way I met several business owners and took time to dialog with them and to introduce myself.

As I walked, I thought about how much I love to spend time with my own children. Even though there were days when goals 'had' to be achieved, I have always enjoyed spending time with them.

Now that they are adults, I often think that things can get blurred as the grandchildren seem to be the reason that we visit our children or have them over to our house. But it really isn't. I really have no hidden agenda, but just to spend time with them.

And then I 'heard' the Father speak to my soul communicating how much He loves to spend time with me; with no agenda, no real goals other than spending time with me. And as a father, I get it as my heart once again is filled with love for each of my children.
I arrived at the coffee shop, placed my order, and set my backpack on a table to claim it as my own; even if for a short part of my day...

And now, as I sit here drinking coffee and observing my environment, I realize that this respite is a good thing for me to have because the rest of the week is full and includes a 3-day trip to babysit some of our grandchildren and their farm, a wedding to officiate (along with rehearsal, etc.,) a family birthday party, babysitting another grandchild, and a church picnic when I return.

And that's just this week. Next week is even fuller.

Today, instead of breaking glass ceilings and building Rome, this is a day to ponder who God is and reflect on how good He is. It is a day to receive validation and affirmation as a son from my Heavenly Father. It is a day to spend time with Him and see where He takes me along the way.

I think of Henry Blackaby who suggested that we "watch to see where God is working and join Him".

Jesus said:
"...My Father has been working until now, and I have been working."..."Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you,  the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel." (John 5:17,19-20 NJKV)

I realize that it is His great mercy that has provided this day of rest and refreshing for my soul. And I let Him know that I am grateful.

Where would I be without Your great, great mercy
Where would I be without Your deep, deep love
Where would I go without Your light to lead me
Oh my Lord, oh my Lord

My Lord and my God

What would I do without Your great, great mercy
Where would I go without Your deep, deep love
Where would I live outside Your forgiveness
Without the risen Son

Where would I be?