Thursday, September 29, 2016

Catching Up, and a Thought About Planting

Hello All. I hope you are well. I am amazed at how the time has flown since I last shared here (August 5). In early August we had a very serious situation with a young lady in our fellowship; followed by the massive Chimney Fire which lasted 2 weeks (took up 3 weeks of our time) and was stopped a tad over a mile from us; and then had a special family trip away visiting both Mary Ann's family and my folks, with being loved on in the middle by the fellowship at Shaver Lake that has so blessed our family. It truly feels like the last month and a half disappeared, they are such a blur. 

Young Lady: We saw a miracle in our midst as she was caught in a serious gang incident and not only lived, but is doing amazing. God's hand is all over it, and despite some very scary days at the early part of August, we are seeing Him work in incredible ways. Prayers for the long road are appreciate.

Chimney Fire from our property.
Chimney Fire: It broke out near Lake Nacimiento (about 8 miles south of our home) on August 13th and from the beginning myself and one of our elders had a strong sense it could massively impact our area. I was four-wheel drivin' and scouting and helping him prepare the ranch he manages for the first week and, sure enough, one week after it started a massive wind shift exploded the fire and it began racing north toward us and many homes in our fellowship. They called for an evacuation and we sent Abigail and our horses out. The rest of us stayed (I am a volunteer fire fighter–20 years this February; Mary Ann was one for five years until Bethany was born; we have great clearance). God really used us to help the engines in our area who were from all over the state and struggled to find their way around out here. It was a long two weeks, but one we felt we were in God's hand throughout, and used of God in many ways through. Being inside the zone we not only helped fire fighters, but we could take care of animals left behind, help people get generators up and running, check on homes, assist in clearing around homes, etc. The fire is out, we have a view of black coastal mountains out part of our kitchen windows, and we are returning to "normal."
Chimney Fire from our property.

Family Trip: Besides seeing family, and some special friends in the fellowship at Shaver Lake, one of the highlights was a back country trail ride the girls took. They had honored my heart to stay in the mountains and near streams (Daddy needed it) and not go down to where the pastor keeps his horses which is in terrain much like ours—brown grass, dry, rolling hills with oaks. Well . . . the pastor and his friend brought three horses and a mule up to 9,000' and took the girls into the back country on a 10 mile ride, crossing creeks and rock faces, getting rained on, stopping to eat in a beautiful meadow, skirting a high mountain reservoir. It was an amazing gift and God truly blessed them in this act of love, and blessed Mary Ann and me as parents able to watch them have that experience.

The girls leaving on their trail ride.

We are home, and adjusting to getting back into the daily "stuff," and trying to process how one keeps up the sense of the much bigger we had while going through all of this. It is so hard not to get back into a rut of the daily, and lose the awe of serving a mighty God and having Him living in and through us. During times like we've been through—at the family level, and larger fellowship level—personality issues fade, little irritants are set aside, and the daily monotonous things go to the side. But then "normal" life returns and all the little stuff becomes "big" again if you aren't careful, and we are trying to process that as individuals, as a family, and as a fellowship.

In the future, among other things, I do hope to blog more about abortion. I feel it is possibly the most important thing facing our nation today. It is impossible to ask God to bless a nation that "lawfully" condones the murder of babies, just like He couldn't if we had "legal" concentration camps down the streets and we did nothing. And it is not simply a "woman's issue." Men are called to stand up and protect the defenseless, and the unborn epitomize the defenseless. We will I believe, as Christians, in some way answer to God for what we did—or didn't do—on behalf of the unborn—at a minimum we will reap the cost of it on our nation and lives. I would like to keep sharing my thoughts on this, and working through many aspects around it I am unsettled and challenged in—making sure a nation understands the horror of abortion while offering grace and love from God to those who've had abortions; finding each of our individual roles in the abortion fight knowing many are called into battle in many different areas of God's heart, and in many different ways; keeping my heart filled with love and joy in the midst of such a hard subject; legislating abortion versus abolishing abortion; and more. For right now I would encourage you to visit and read the petition there. If you agree, sign it. I have. Abortion must not just be legislated in degrees, it must be abolished. Right now it is the "law of the land"—but totally in contradiction to the law and heart of God. He can't bless us if any level of abortion remains legal, and if our judges and politicians actually read and believed our nations founding legal documents they'd see that abortion is not only illegal, but that they have a mandate to stop it (but, of course, many have justified their minds into thinking the unborn are not a person). We are a nation that was founded on God's laws and Word. We have left that. We now, as pagans, legally condone many, many practices completely in the face of what God says. We will reap what we sow . . . and, along those lines, in closing, a thought from my reading through the Bible this morning . . .

Today I almost finished Hosea. In Hosea 8:7 it says, "For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. . . ." As I read that I thought, "Isn't that true of seeds and everything else. What we reap is always far bigger than what we planted." It struck me as a strong warning to us to not be casual with even "small" sins because they will reap far bigger consequences. We see that in David who allowed himself to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and from that give in to temptation, then have to cover it with bigger sins, and ultimately be drawn into a path from which his whole life, family, and nation would suffer. I also believe it works in the positive. Galatians 6:7-10 says:
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
What are we sowing (planting)? It may seem small and insignificant in the moment, but we will reap what we sow, and its yield will be bigger than what we planted. It is a good question to ask God to reveal to us in our individual lives.

God bless all of you. Thanks for reading and sharing in my life. —Erick

Friday, August 5, 2016

I Was

"I was." No, that isn't a misquote of the famous God "I Am" words. I'm talking about me. I'll explain the train of thought that took me to this post . . .

In my reading through the Bible I just finished Jeremiah and began Lamentations. I see so strongly the effect on a nation of turning from God, and the effect when God turns from a nation. I found myself in an internal back and forth that is too familiar to me, "God, have mercy on our nation. But if He does, then everyone will continue in their arrogant and successful life just as they are and will never come to Him. They need to be woken up. But, even 9/11 didn't do that. It only lasted for a bit." On and on that dialogue goes in me, back and forth. If God blesses this nation then everyone continues on just as they are, arrogantly assuming they or a nation are the source of their blessing. But even a true disaster only seems to send people running to God for a short time, until their lives are "blessed" again. I know, in my heart, that what our nation needs is for individuals in it to encounter the Holy Spirit and turn to Jesus. We will only truly change as a nation when the individuals in us change.

As I was thinking about our nation and its current condition I felt the familiar anger rise up. And then, suddenly, it hit me in a very powerful way. I was everything I am angered about in our nation today! I was intellectually proud, and I felt I was the one who could plot my life and make it a success. I was pro people being able to do what they wanted and not having other people tell them what to do—I remember arguing round and round with Mary Ann that prostitution should be legal because it was "their choice." I was pro abortion—not seeing a baby in the womb, but seeing only a women's body and others trying to tell her what to do with it (my perception). I thought I was a moral relativist, believing what was right for some was right for them, but it didn't mean it was right for others—that there was no absolute right and wrong across cultures. (In fact, a professor at West Point confronted me on my stand and it was a wake up moment for me. I write a lot about moral relativism in this blog, but I specifically mention that incident with my professor here, here, and here.) I mocked the Bible, God, and Christians (I flung profanity at a God I claimed I didn't believe in), and I believed in evolution and an old earth. On and on I could go, but I think the point is made. Everything that angers me today . . . I was.

And, as I look back, I realize that no law in the world could have changed me. In fact it would have angered me even more to have someone "shove" their beliefs onto my life in law (I am not arguing that laws shouldn't exist that reflect God's heart, just saying how it wouldn't have changed my heart, even if it forced my compliance). While laws have value—they regulate a society, they protect unborn and other defenseless, they model a moral code to youth—ultimately I don't believe they change a heart, and that is the only thing that changed me. God having mercy on me, an arrogant and blasphemous atheist, put Mary Ann and others into my life and the Holy Spirit drew me to Him and He changed me, from the inside. And that is, I believe, the only hope for our nation in the end—a personal encounter with Jesus by the ones who make up this nation. And then allowing Him to change our hearts into alignment with His. (Even God's Law wasn't an end in itself, it was a tutor or schoolmaster to reveal sin and point us to Jesus.)

I recognize that even among Christians not all agree on everything, but without that at least as a starting point I don't think a change is possible for us. He makes us new creations. He writes His law on our hearts. He teaches us truth. And that brings up then the question, what is my role in drawing people in this nation to Jesus, the ultimate changer of hearts? Because until He came into my heart and changed me, everything that bothers and grieves me today in others in this nation . . . I was.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Expect the Unexpected

First day of home educating for the year. Teacher and books
and, of course, coffee and hot chocolate. It's tradition!

We have started our school year, and part of it includes trying to do family devotions each morning before "school" starts. This morning I shared something that struck me during my morning reading in Jeremiah 36. In a nutshell, here's a summary of the chapter then I'll share what spoke to me.
Summary: God told Jeremiah to write on a scroll everything He'd spoken to Jeremiah against Israel and Judah. Baruch took dictation from Jeremiah and wrote all of his words on a scroll (words of warning to the people, of the coming capture by Nebuchadnezzar, etc.). Since Jeremiah was banned from the Lord's house, Baruch went and read the scroll there. A man who heard it went to the secretary's chamber in the king's house and the officials were sitting there (the Bible lists their names). He told them what he'd heard and they called Baruch to share the words with them. They felt fear (they believed the words) and went and told the king about them. The king cut up the scroll and burned it, and he and his family paid a horrible price for that.
Teacher and students and Shofar. It's tradition!
 As I read this the words about the officials in the secretary's chamber of the king's house struck me: "and all the officials were sitting there." It didn't strike me that they should have been doing something else, or were lazy, etc. What struck me is that they were probably just sitting there, talking, hanging together, with no idea that in a moment God was going to do something in their midst, and they were going to respond in a way that would get their names recorded in the Bible for all earthly time.

"Were sitting there." Think back over the most significant moments in your life when God worked either in it, on you, or through you, on another. My guess is that many, many of those times weren't in some big, anticipated, ministry event or activity. My guess is that many of them were in an unexpected meeting with someone, or phone call, or external event, that started a chain of events that was life changing. And God works that way so many times . . . Moses, just out in the desert tending sheep. Gideon just beating out wheat in the winepress. David out tending sheep. David just taking food to his brothers.

Principal and coffee. It's tradition.
On and on we could find those moments, totally unexpected, when God suddenly moves and everything changes. (Often we don't even realize the significance of the moment at the time.) Think of the calling of the different disciples—just out mending nets, fishing, another day on the job at the tax booth. And suddenly, without warning, a moment of decision or opportunity arises that could change the world—and don't take that too lightly, because one person's life being changed could easily ripple into lives changed across the globe, especially in this day and age of interconnected people through technology.

These men sitting in the secretary's chamber heard about God's word and responded. They believed and acted. The king heard the same words and responded. He burned it. Two groups, both heard the same words, both had it brought "out of the blue" to them, both reacted differently. And I doubt either group of men got up that morning anticipating a huge "God moment." It just suddenly happened in their midst. Suddenly brought before them.

In June 2010 I wrote a blog post called "My Pad of Paper . . ." In it I write about why I carry a pad of paper and a mechanical pencil everywhere with me. It is because, for me, to not do so say I don't expect to hear anything worth recording from God. And why would I not expect to? God loves me. God lives in me. God is at work in me, through me, and around me. God has plans for me. God desires to lead me in truth.

For that matter, why would we ever not expect the unexpected moment? There is a real, unseen spiritual world, good and bad, that interacts with ours. There is God in us, and a devil pacing about. There are people all around us whom God loves. There is the natural cause and effect of living in a sin-cursed world. It is always the perfect storm, the ripe conditions for the unexpected to happen. And we must ask ourselves, "Am I ready for it? Or, like Bilbo, am I content in my Hobbit hole, stunned by, and totally unprepared for, any adventure that is suddenly thrust on me?"

We have a speaker coming in this Sunday I am really excited about. He is a friend who is a Ph.D. scientist who tells us why we can trust the literal Genesis Creation account. I am anticipating Sunday morning. I am ready .  . . But what if the big moment God is planning this weekend is that neighbor I'll bump into at the mailbox, and whether or not I follow a nudge from God and just wave, or stop and talk, could change lives and the world forever . . .

Friday, July 22, 2016

Anger Without Sin

Note: I will still post more of my thoughts, reflections, and struggles regarding abortion (See "A 'Floating' Controversy: Parts 1, 2, and 3") in days ahead, but I wanted to share this today. Thanks so much to those of you who have taken the time to talk with me, or email me, or comment with your prayerful thoughts about abortion and how we are to address it. You have blessed me. I am truly shaped, by God, through Godly friends, in so many ways.

Well, I did it. In my anger and frustration I posted something sarcastic on Facebook, and later took it down . . . though at the time I posted it I even felt in my spirit a caution (which I ignored). Basically it was a meme (or whatever they are called) that was a reference to Ted Cruz's convention speech the night before, and the boos and hate that came when he didn't endorse Trump. It said, "Dear Trump Voters . . . Here is the most critical question of all for those who didn't like Ted's speech. When he asked people to vote for a candidate who shares your values and would defend the Constitution, why didn't you think he was talking about your candidate?"

I know about "the pledge" Ted took. I know he refused to endorse Trump. I know all that. This isn't about Ted. This is about my frustration and the biting sarcasm God has really helped me come free of all coming together in a perfect storm and causing me to sin and have to relearn a lesson.

As a background I am so tired of the biggest reason anyone can give me to vote for Trump being that it is a vote against Hillary and to save our Supreme Court. These are powerful reasons, I get it, but what does it say when the strongest arguments "for" a person are the arguments against their opponent? I am sick of a nation more concerned about allegiance and blind loyalty to a political party—even one that no longer reflects them—then to God (one of the reasons I went from the Republican party to no party affiliation toward the end of the primaries). I am tired of being made to feel like if I don't vote for a man like Trump I am voting to destroy a nation I put my life on the line to defend. I am so tired of people who I know love God (even some candidates I used to respect) singing Trump's praises simply to beat Hillary, knowing that, despite a few token "God" references thrown out, he is proud, a self-proclaimed lover of money, rude, arrogant, seemingly unrepentant, if what I have heard about his book is true then a boaster in sexual exploits, and his financial success is in part tied into an industry that preys on people at their most desperate and lost place (gambling and the associated lives, entertainment, and industries around it) . . . to mention a few things.

God opposes the proud! God! God does! I am supposed to vote for a candidate who God is going to oppose? My doing that is going to "save" America and make it great again? Really? If we ever thought our greatness came from anything other than God's blessing and favor then we are more ignorant than I thought.

More and more I am seeing how this world is not my home. It doesn't reflect me or my values. I am an alien and stranger in it. My citizenship is in Heaven. I am seeing things called "okay" that I never thought I'd have to prepare my daughters to deal with in a mainstream society. But, I shouldn't have been surprised. I guess that is what verses like this are talking about:

2 Timothy 3:1-5   But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

2 Timothy 4:3-4   For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

Isaiah 5:20-21   Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!
I guess, if I'm honest, I want to be able to "win" in this world and I should have never expected to be able to. I want to be able to vote for a candidate I believe in and who I feel like God will bless, and not feel like I am betraying my country (and even my daughters' future, if Hillary gets to pick the Supreme Court). I can't win. And so I guess I have to choose—trust (and fear) God more than man and vote for who I believe He will bless, or vote my "wisdom" and hope God comes behind my choice.

But here is the crux of this post, and the real reason for it. I have many friends, who I love, who are probably voting for Trump—and my falling to sarcasm in my anger and hurt and frustration was not love toward them, or toward anyone who feels they are doing the right thing. These are people who I do believe love God and treasure this nation, and I let my hurt cause me to be sarcastic and biting toward them.

Cutting sarcasm is something I struggled with in my early Christian days. Before Christianity I loved to debate. I loved a chance to verbally dissect someone without having to use profanity or things like that (an ignorant way out, I felt). Oratory was something I studied for fun. A hero was Winston Churchill who supposedly told the lady who said that if he was her husband she'd poison his tea, that if he were her wife he would drink it. I took pride in that zinger that left somebody floored. And I was good at it. After I came to Christ I really had to reign that in. To be OK not getting in the last word. To let someone get me with a zinger and to hold back the one I had for a reply—one I knew would knock out their verbal knees from under them.

At first I reigned it in with sheer will, but gradually God has helped me to where it isn't even a first thought anymore. I don't want to "zap" people. I want to love them and show them Christ. I don't have to get in the last word or line. It is OK to just love and take it. Just like Jesus did.

But yesterday, seeing all the hate coming towards Ted for failing to endorse Trump, and the blind party loyalty we are "demanded" of just to "stop Hilary," and feeling trapped in a no win situation, I saw someone's meme and thought it biting and, lashing out, I shared it. And in doing so I let my anger cause me to sin. To be unloving to people I care about. To go the way of the world and not love. Scary, isn't it, how close that "old stuff" still often is in our new creations?

I don't believe loving means compromising on truth. But God says in Ephesians 4:26, "Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger." I have found—unfortunately too many times—that I can be as well-intentioned and even scripturally "right" as can be, but if I am not acting in love it is worthless because God is love, and He won't bless or be a part of that which isn't.


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