Friday, December 23, 2011

Two Christmas "Compilations" . . .

I have taken the liberty to “translate” a couple of Bible verses (no I am not a Greek scholar, and I don’t claim that these are “accurate” in that sense). I hope that they bless you as they have me as I have reflected on Christmas this season. Please don’t get offended that I have taken this liberty—nothing blasphemous is meant by it, and I am not trying to say it is a true “translation” or to add to or take away from His Word which is perfect and true. These are more accurately compilations of multiple verses put together into a way that helps me, by putting different thoughts in one place, grasp just what it is I believe.

May this Christmas be filled with joy, awe, and worship for all of you as you reflect on the wonder and the awe of God loving us as much as He does, and being so near to us. Thanks for reading my blog, sharing your thoughts, and being a part of my life. I value you. To paraphrase Paul Ellis in his “Escape to Reality” blog, through God’s eyes Jesus came to earth because God loves us, so through God’s eyes, “You are the reason for the season.”

God bless you all, and Merry Christmas!

"Translation" of Luke 2, verse 5: “to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child” becomes:

to be registered with Mary, [a young, poor virgin from a no account city], his betrothed [(because he was told in a dream that her story that an angel had come to her and that it was God who had put the child in her was true)], who [had inside her frail and very human womb the One who breathes out stars, the Creator of all the universe, the One who all things find in Him their beginning and their end, the One in whom all things are held together and around Whose throne the multitude of angels and hosts of heaven hover and bow and cry “holy, holy, holy]”.

"Translation" of John 1:14a, drawing heavily on Revelation 19:11–16: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . .” becomes:

And the [One called “The Word of God” and “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” who will return on a white horse with eyes like a flame of fire and wearing a robe dipped in blood with all the armies of Heaven behind Him also arrayed on white horses when He returns to strike down the nations and rule them with a rod of iron as He treads out the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty] became [a baby, laid in an animal feed trough, surrounded by coarse straw and wrapped in rough cloths, totally helpless and dependent on a poor couple, hounded and chased from His own country] and [lived among us, getting tired, hungry, weeping, being single and homeless, rejected, spit on, mocked, beaten, and ultimately killed] . . .

Friday, December 2, 2011

It Matters to That One . . .

Hello friends. It's been awhile. I haven't disappeared—I've just been spending some time reflecting. I hope that this finds you well and your hearts being drawn toward awe and worship as the reality of Christmas and God becomming man fills your thoughts.

I wanted to share something with you that recently touched me, and I hope changed me. It happened one night around a firepit with some guys from our fellowship. As a background to it, there's a story that is told and retold in different variations of a man walking on a beach and seeing tons of starfish washed up, starting to die in the sun as the tide recedes. He comes across someone (most versions say a boy) throwing one after another back in. One version has it ending with the man saying to the boy, "You can't save them all, so why bother trying? Why does it matter, anyway?" and then says: The boy thought about this for a while, a starfish in his hand; he answered, "Well, it matters to this one." And then he flung the starfish into the welcoming sea.”

Opening the "Praise Jar" on Thanksgiving morning.

Recently I was reminded of this by a man whose life was in shambles when I first met him, and who is now an amazing testimony of God's power to change lives and take what society has cast aside and turn it into something amazing! I had been sharing with the guys how sometimes I can look at our fellowship and feel such warmth and such a sense of family and that God is doing a good thing there, and other times I can look outside of it and wonder if we are doing any good, if we are making any difference. Sometimes it feels like trying to fill the ocean with a drop of water when I see the scope of the lost and just how distant so many are from God. This man quietly mentioned the starfish story . . . and with his quiet words, "It mattered to that one," suddenly no more words were needed. I knew what he meant, and it pierced my heart.

I think it is so easy for us to focus on what God is not seeming to do, or hasn't done, or the prayers that remain unanswered instead of focusing on what He is doing and has done. Yet, the Bible says we are to meditate on things wonderful (my paraphrase) and while this doesn't mean we live a fairytale life ignorant of the pain and sin and emptiness around us (how can we minister to what we aren't aware of?), I believe it does mean that the focus of our thoughts and meditations are to be on Him and His wonderful nature and love and character and works. Psalm 100, verse 4 says we enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise and I like to think of that as a picture of the temple. As we approach the Holy of Holies, the presence of God, through the outer gates and courts we draw near with thanksgiving and praise. I know that for me, when I can fix my heart and mind on those things, it seems to break through dry periods and bring me into sweeter fellowship with Him.
The "Praise Jar" and the wooden top
I made for it some years ago.

"It matters to that one . . ." How easy it is to almost lesson the miraculous work God is doing and has done by focusing on what isn't done. I hope I never forget that night. You have my permission to remind me of it if I do.

In His Love,

Note: In keeping with tradition (for those of you who have followed the blog for awhile) I am sharing a couple of pictures from our family's Thanksgiving morning opening our Praise Jar. The "Praise Jar" is something we started some years back in an effort to make God the center of our Thanksgiving. Throughout the year we write down praises of His hand in our life, and then open and read them on Thanksgiving morning while the Turkey is in the oven. It is amazing how many you thought you'd never forget at the time they happen, but you have indeed forgotten by Thanksgiving. It is an amazing way to refill your "faith tank", not to mention to record the testimony of God's hand in your and your family's life.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On What Authority?

"On what authority?" It is a very powerful question that cuts straight to the heart of most of the values issues relating to us today. If a person says that something is OK (or not OK), it is the simple question that cuts through everything else and gets straight to the heart of the matter. For me, on the issues the Bible addresses, the answer to the question is clear, "Because God says so in His written Word." But, for someone who rejects the Bible as God's written Word and as inerrant, we must simply ask them what makes the things right they say are right, or wrong that they say are wrong . . . "On what authority?"

When I was at West Point I was not a Christian, and I concentrated in philosophy. I remember thinking, for a season, that I was a moral relativist after hearing about that line of thought. I found myself saying, "Why not? What is right for some is right for them, and what is right for others is right for them." An officer there, who I many years later found to be a Christian, talked to me in private and told me that if he truly thought I was a moral relativist he'd do his best to have me removed from the academy. He said it was a very dangerous position to hold, especially for people who will be in positions of influence. I was stunned. I was rocked to my core. To me it was as simple issue of debating philosophy and playing with different belief systems, and he saw it as deeply serious.

Today, I couldn't agree with him more. Moral relativism—the idea that people come up with what is right for them and their culture—is incredibly dangerous and can lead to societies that euthanize the elderly, abort babies, selectively eliminate races, enslave certain classes, etc. And it comes from determining what is right for them. But, moral relativism is a philosophy predicated on error. It ignores that there is one God who is Lord of all, and who defines right and wrong. It ignores that there are absolute rights and wrongs. It ignores that we are accountable to our Creator, and that there is someone bigger than us. It ignores the fact that, in the end, it will not matter if we think something is right or wrong, but only what He thinks is right or wrong.

The quickest way that I know to cut to the chase and find out the core philosophy or foundation of someone and their arguments is to ask the most basic of questions . . . "On what authority do you base your opinion?"

Monday, October 24, 2011

History-Cookbook Fundraiser

Hello All! As readers know, I rarely mix my pastoring and youth leading with this blog as it is my personal blog, but since so many of you heard about the youth group's fund raising history-cookbook Mary Ann and I spent most of the summer working on (and some of you even sent us recipes for it!) I wanted to take a moment to announce: "It is here!" (The applause is resounding, especially from this house!)

If you want to read more about More Treasures Under the Oaks, or request a copy via PayPal (you don't have to have a PayPal account to do so), you can do so at our fellowship's web page: We are asking for a $12 donation per book, and all proceeds from the book go to the youth group and the outreach work we do to local youth (neither Mary Ann or I or any individual receive anything for this book). The postage is a little steep for a single copy, but because of our rural location we can't go to the post office to weigh individual orders so we are using flat rate priority envelopes and boxes. Of course, and I mean it!, don't feel any, any pressure to request a copy.

The book turned out wonderfully, and I don't say that because Mary Ann and I wrote it and typeset it. Simply, God's hand was on it. It is 224 pages of local history and photographs and recipes, with a special, large section on outdoor cooking (barbecuing, grilling, Dutch oven, smoking, etc). Many of the stories we recorded have never been in print before as God led us to interview old timers who have since died or moved and whose stories have never been written down in the past. In many cases these old timers gave us their scrapbooks with photographs never published before and told us to take them for as long as we needed and use what we wanted from them. God is woven throughout the book in scattered verses and the section titles, plus multiple of the articles and other writings. We have received wonderful feedback on the book so far, and it is exciting to me to hear how many people are reading it cover to cover who have never set foot inside the church building or will never hear me teaching or read my blog. It is exciting to realize they will read verses from God's written word, hear the story of a Creation-Scientist with a PhD in Evolutionary Biology who used to be an avid anti-Christian and evolutionist (a recipe from him is in the book), read how our area is not a slice of Heaven, but a shadow of Heaven, all as they read stories of treasures, wild-west shootouts, pioneer life in our area, and so much more! To God be the Glory! Whether or not you get a copy, please keep this in prayer as both a wonderful fund raiser for our youth, and as a door into people's hearts and homes in the region that otherwise might have stayed closed.

Friday, October 14, 2011

She Considered Him Faithful . . .

I know faith has been used, at times, like a club that beats someone up further who hasn't been healed or seen a prayer answered and heard the words, "You don't have enough faith." That is sad. Faith is a beautiful word when used in the context of our confidence and trust in God, His Word, His character, His goodness, His promises. And, yes, faith does, often, play a role in God moving—the Bible is filled with stories of people whose faith caused something to happen—and it also records God moving in other times when it seems no faith was involved.

I have been teaching recently on the amazing, divine invitation we have from God as Christians to surrender our will and "kingdom" to His will and "kingdom" and to let His will be done where we have a realm of influence. It is amazing and awe inspiring and exciting that God invites us to colabor with Him and to be a part of His will and work—that He dwells in us, leads us, and offers Himself to us to partner in plans eternal, and to be a part of His kingdom driving back darkness. How could we ever buy the lie that we can somehow, on our own, make decisions for our life that will give us more happiness, meaning, purpose, joy, security, etc. then partnering with our Creator in the very plans and works He created us for?! Yet, how often each day we decide we can better secure our happiness or security or meaning than He can. It is so foolish . . . and yet, a lie we fall for far too often.

These last few Sundays I've been talking about some of the reasons we don't surrender to His will. Sometimes we don't want to give up control—our lives are already so regulated and to give up even more control of them seems to diminish us. Or, maybe we don't trust God—I know we'd never admit that, but it is true at some level for most of us. Maybe we don't trust Him to make us happy, or to speak to us, or to take care of us. Maybe we are afraid that what we think we need isn't what He thinks we need when He promises to take care of our needs. Maybe we are offended or angry at God because of something that happened to us once, or a prayer that wasn't answered, and it makes it hard for us to trust Him. There are so many reasons we might resist His will and choose our own in any given moment of our life.

One of the most powerful and revealing verses in the Bible to me is Hebrews 11:11. It says, "By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised." Sarah, who mocked and didn't believe, had a promise from God for a child. At some point, after her mocking, it seems she stopped and took her unbelief captive to something and that gave her faith. Her faith brought out the life and power that was dormant in God's promise, waiting, and it came to pass. So, what did she take her unbelief captive to? To God Himself. To His character. Somewhere in there she stopped, recognized the lie and the error of her thinking, and realized just who it was that promised her. It was God! The God who created the Heavens! And, by taking her doubts and, maybe, fears, captive to the person of God Himself they melted away and were replaced by a faith that brought life to God's promise and she received the power to conceive. Her faith brought power, and life.

When we look at ourselves, we find, I believe, one of two things. If we are arrogant and proud we find a false confidence built on frail and temporal bodies and minds. If we are self-critical and even honest with ourselves we find little confidence because we realize how limited we are and how fragile we are. But, when we look at God we find something else, altogether! We find an all powerful God who loves us beyond measure and who never leaves us or forsakes us. We find a God who invites us to colabor with Him and to partake in the Kingdom's resources to bring His will and plans together. We find a Creator who created us for special works and leads us in fulfilling them, hence fulfilling the very purpose we were created for. We find a God who breathes out stars and yet says to us, "I want to spend eternity with you!" Suddenly, when we consider Him and not ourselves, His capability and not ours, His wisdom and not ours, His power and not ours, our faith is increased and the impossible becomes possible when it is Him leading us.

Sarah was bound by the world and her experience and her limitation. If formed the basis of her expectation, and in those boundaries she had no expectation of a child. But then she considered Him, and who He is, and His character and nature and power, and she realized that, while she is frail, He is faithful, and He has promised, and she was filled with faith and believed. And the power to conceive came upon her.

What has God invited you to colabor in? Are you considering yourself, or Him, in your assessing of it. When our own capability and resources form the outer boundary of our expectations the boundaries are small . . . but when He leads and we surrender and His capability and resources form the outer boundaries of our expectations, we find there are, in fact, no boundaries that exceed His capacity. He is faithful, even when we are not. Let us consider Him . . .

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Religious Test for President?

A recent article on FOX News reported on Mitt Romney wanting Rick Perry to apologize for a pastor's comments about Mormonism being a cult. In the article it quoted Mitt as saying, "Gov. Perry selected an individual to introduce him, who then used religion as a basis for which he said he would endorse Gov. Perry, and as a reason to not support me," Romney said. "I would call upon Gov. Perry to repudiate the sentiment and the remarks made by that pastor."

There is a huge error, I believe, in Mitt's statement. While I do not believe our nation can, or should, have a religious test for offices as a law, I find it ignorant and irresponsible for people to say individuals should not use religion as a basis for personal voting choices and endorsements. To me this is just one more inroad of the enemy that has already so powerfully succeeded in blocking faith from life—to so many faith has become a thing for Sunday and heaven, whereas science and their own strength and capability are left to provide the "real" answers to "real" life.

We find so many who have bowed to science's words over God's Word, and so many who find themselves in a hollow gospel that saves Jesus for Heaven, but leaves them alone to walk through life on a day to day basis and deal with all of life's "stuff" on their own. Now we are told (or at least it is implied) that someone shouldn't use religion as a basis for endorsing and supporting a candidate (or not endorsing or supporting one). How sad! Do we realize that if everyone who proclaimed to be a Christian actually voted on their faith and not on their own definition or right and wrong, or on their own economic best interests, we'd have a majority every time? Already, it seems to me, too few people are voting (or caring about) God's values and priorities.

If we don't understand a candidates world view then how can we possibly understand what makes that candidate tick, or how they will vote on issues that aren't even on the table for discussion yet? How can we understand a candidate if we don't understand their attitude toward right and wrong, man's condition, good and evil, humans and the environment, etc.? If someone is true to their world view it will define everything they do! For people who believe in evolution, they will find themselves believing that in man the answer will eventually be found because we just keep getting better and better. On the other hand, a Creationist recognizes the fall and decay of man and the absolute necessity for God to move and man to move in partnership with Him. To the evolutionist we are equal to animals and plants, but to a Creationist we are clear that we are custodians of them and that they were given to us for us, but not as our equal. To an atheist there is no absolute standard of right and wrong and moral relativism is the rule. To a Christian God is the source of right and wrong. To an atheist there is no explanation for evil, but to a Christian we see evil as real and having a source, and we are careful in dealing with people ruled by it.

On and on we could list the issues that should be dramatically affected by our faith and world view. If we are true to it, and it isn't just a political expediency to woo a mass of voters, it will be the very definition of who we are, how we act, etc. It should be true for every individual, not just politicians, but in the case of those running for office it is, to me, sheer ignorance and foolishness to imply a candidates faith should not be an issue in individuals deciding who they will support. To the contrary, I wish more professing Christians actually voted the way they feel God's Word reveals God would feel on an issue.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Inward or Outward?

Today I was sitting in a VA waiting room with a bunch of other vets waiting to be called for my routine physical. As I watched the nurses calling people and weighing them in one nurse seemed particularly rushed and even a little sour. One patient tried joking with her and she was obviously not appreciating it, and she was clearly not in a good mood (I need to say that this is the exception, not the rule, for all the people I have encountered in the VA system—the ones in the clinic I go to seem to truly care about vets and want to serve them).

As my time drew close to be called I thought, "I hope I don't get her!" Who'd want, after all, a grumpy nurse weighing you in and asking you questions and taking your blood pressure? But, almost immediately after that thought, I had this thought pop into my mind, "But what if she needs what you have?"

It was profound. In a mere second I saw my complete self-focus, desiring to make things easy for me, to have a cheerful nurse, etc. My eyes were completely focused on my self and my ease and comfort and pleasure. And in a moment, with a simply thought, it was as if the eyes of my heart spun 180-degrees and I saw myself as possibly there for her, and not for me. After all, I know the One who loves her and who brings hope and joy and peace and love into our lives. I carry His presence, and I bear His image. It was amazing how fast my entire focus shifted and I found myself excitedly saying, "God, if she needs what I have please give her to me as my nurse!" I was actually hoping to get her and eager to see what He was up to! It was incredible, actually, how quickly I went from being there to be served, to being there ready to serve. It was almost funny to think that maybe I'd been brought there not for me, but to do His business there.

I never did get her as my nurse, but I did get a real glimpse into my heart and into how quickly I can slip into a place of inward, self focus and forget just who I am in Christ and who goes with me and in me. I am worried about my own comfort and actually praying, without realizing it, that I might miss a divine appointment. Isn't it awesome how even in a place we go to in order to be served that we can find a place to be the server! May God open the eyes of our heart to see their inward focus and ignite in us a desire to be in the service of others, carrying His image and love and power to them!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Ordinary is Extraordinary!

Mary Ann working on her cast.
Last Sunday our family left for our "weekend" and slipped up to the Sierra Nevada Mountains after church for some fellowship and fishing. We love what happens in our hearts above 5,000 feet when the rivers are flowing with clear, cold water and the breeze blows through the tall trees that cover the rock covered mountains. Bethany caught a trout while we were there, Abigail became an amazing "caster," and Mary Ann and I got to practice fly fishing. There is something so beautiful about that line curling up in the air above and behind a person as they gently drop the fly into the stream or pool. The new header for this blog is a picture of our family from our trip (if you are reading this by email subscription you'll need to go to the blog to see it). It was wonderful, refreshing, and beautiful—and the fact that we shared the couple of days with some wonderful people up there who love the Lord and our family made it especially sweet.

On the way home Tuesday night we headed straight west for awhile, right into a sunset. The sun was slipping down behind the far hills and there must have been a haze or something out there because it was a big, orange ball that you could actually look at. I have seen hundreds of sunsets in my life, and there was nothing in and of itself spectacular about this one, but for some reason it really struck Mary Ann and I at the same time. Maybe it is because this last year or two God has been awakening me to the awe and wonder of His Creation in the heavens and I have been learning a lot, and sharing a lot, about them. Normally, during the day, you can't look at the sun. It is this ball of light in the corner of our eye that we take for granted. It is normal. But Tuesday night we couldn't not stare at it as it was straight in front of us right on the horizon. To take our eyes off it would be to take them off the road. As we stared at it we both were like, "That is a star!"

I don't know that this will make much sense, but there is a sense, at least for me, that I see all these stars out there at night, and then during the day there is our sun. Maybe it is because I equate stars with night, but it often eludes my conscious thought that the sun is a star. I know it intellectually, but fail to focus on that fact. It is just "the sun" in the sky, and it is "normal." Tuesday night, however, we both found ourselves in awe, realizing we were staring at a star—a great big, massive, ball of gas and fire that would consume us long before we ever got to it! We were staring at a star and it was big and it was close! It was astounding. It was awe inspiring. There is this star just a skip away in light year terms that we are circling around. We are feeling its heat. Its blazing light is lighting up our earth. It is so big and so powerful that nothing man has ever created is a fraction of its power. According to one web site, if we could harness it right, enough energy arrives at our earth every minute to meet all of our demands for a year—and that is with only about a hundredth of a millionth of a percent of the sun's energy actually hitting our earth! It is so mighty, and yet we (at least I) take it for granted and take our proximity to it for granted. I am afraid that in this, and in many things, I have let the extraordinary become ordinary.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

God is Amazing

Sometimes we move so fast that we miss the miracles in front of us. I snapped this shot last month in our garden and wanted to share it with you. Notice the pollen on the bee (in FireFox—I don't know about other browsers—you can click on the picture and it will take you to a larger version, then you can hit the back arrow to come back to the blog). Isn't God amazing? I find such comfort in knowing that since He has paid attention to the tiniest details in Creation I can trust Him with the details of my life, no matter how tiny. I really encourage you, today, to stop and "be still and know that He is God" as the Psalm says. Whether it is the details in a garden, the flight of birds above you, or the glory of the night sky above you, just stop and be still and let who He is and His awesome wonder and might and breadth and power wash over you and bring everything you are dealing with back into its proper perspective. God bless you all, and may today be a wonderful day filled with a deep awareness of His love for you and presence with you.

Laugh a Little More 1

I love to laugh. I don't do it enough. I get so serious and caught up in stuff, and yet . . . aren't we a faith of joy? Aren't we a faith of coming like children? Aren't we a faith that, while we deal with serious stuff, we have a great big Father in Heaven who loves us and calls us His own? Some time back I started collecting Christian jokes—clean, God-centered things that made me laugh and smile. I don't think we need to divide our life into compartments where we have the work stuff, the God stuff, the fun stuff, the (you fill in the blank) stuff, etc. I believe that our faith can cross all the lines, and I have found that there really are out there a lot of fun, God-centered, clean jokes. So, now and then, I'll share my favorites with you. I've said from the start that this blog is simply a place for me to share reflections, thoughts, things God is showing me, slices of my life, etc. So, I hope no one is bothered by this or wishes everything was theology. We need to laugh! The world needs to see that side of us too, not just a serious message. I'd love to have you send me your favorite Christian joke(s).

So, here's the first. I have no idea how often I'll throw these in among my other sharings and thoughts. Let me know if they make you smile, too.

Locked Car Door
    A woman was at work when she received a phone call that her daughter was very sick with a fever. She left her work and stopped by the pharmacy to get some medication. She got back to her car and found that she had locked her keys in the car.
    She didn't know what to do, so she called home and told the baby sitter what had happened. The baby sitter told her that her the fever was getting worse. She said, "You might find a coat hanger and use that to open the door."
    The woman looked around and found an old rusty coat hanger that had been thrown down on the ground, possibly by someone else who at some time or other had locked their keys in their car. Then she looked at the hanger and said, "I don't know how to use this."
    So she bowed her head and asked God to send her some help. Within five minutes an old rusty car pulled up with a dirty, greasy, bearded man who was wearing an old biker skull rag on his head. The woman thought, "This is what you sent to help me?" But, she was desperate, so she was also very thankful.
    The man got out of his car and asked her if he could help. She said, "Yes, my daughter is very sick. I stopped to get her some medication and I locked my keys in my car. I must get home to her. Please, can you use this hanger to unlock my car?"
    He said, "Sure". He walked over to the car, and in less than a minute the car was opened. She hugged the man and through her tears she said, "Thank you so much! You are a very nice man."
    The man replied, "Lady, I am not a nice man. I just got out of prison today. I was in prison for car theft and have only been out for about an hour."
    The woman hugged the man again and with sobbing tears cried out loud, "Oh, Thank you God! You even sent me a professional!"
(author unknown)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Turning Our Sin and Inadequacies to Praise

I have been struck recently by the wonderful opportunity we have to turn even our sin and our inadequacies into praise that glorifies the Son. Take, for instance, a sin I commit. There are two main possible responses. One focuses on my sin, my shortcoming, how bad I messed up, how lousy I am, etc. The other stands in awe that God forgave my sin, that He saw it before the earth was formed and created me anyway, that He loved me so much He would erase it with His own blood, that He has completely separated me from it, etc. One puts the eyes on me, the other the eyes on Him.

I tend to think the Biblical response is to dip quickly in and then out of the first, “Father, I’m sorry. I blew it," and then to dive and swim in the latter, “Oh, but thank You so much, Father, that you knew I’d do that before You even formed me yet you still did! I love you, Father. Thank you, precious Lord Jesus that you bore that sin on the cross for me! Thank you that I am completely forgiven of that sin and separated from it! Thank You that You will never leave or forsake me despite my mistakes! Thank you that you are so awesome and holy and wonderful that You love me with a love so vast and so deep and so wide! Thank You that sin matters to You, that you are purely good! Thank you that I matter to You, that You want me with You! Thank You! You are so wonderful and amazing! I praise You!” It strikes me that this is the pattern we see in Paul—he spent a bit of time, now and then, acknowledging his shortcomings, but the bulk of his time was spent praising God and God’s love and God’s complete sufficiency and provision and forgiveness in the face of his shortcomings.

What a difference a shift of focus can make! Our inadequacies can follow the same pattern. Either, “I am so inadequate to do this or that. I fall so short. I do so lousy at this or that,” on and on, etc., etc. Or we can say, “I praise You, Father, that though I alone am so weak at this or that, You are not, and Your grace is sufficient for me, and You are with me, and You will never leave me or forsake me, and that with You nothing is impossible, and that You are faithful to complete the good work You’ve begun in me, and that You both put Your desires in me and You work in me to bring them to pass! You are awesome and amazing and I love You and I praise You!” etc.

It’s about the eyes of our heart and mind. Are they on Him or on us? One path will take us down into the mucky pit and mud of self-focus, self-bashing, negative expectations, bitterness, depression, gloom, and darkness. The other will lift us beyond our shortcomings and into a place of praise and love and awe that stirs in us faith, positive expectancy of the future, and a longing to go on, to get closer to Him, and to glorify Him more. It has never been about us—we couldn't do anything to be born again (except faith) and we can't do anything to lose it. It is not about us, it is all about Him and what He has done. The enemy wants our eyes on us and our work (or lack of) so that we never fully understand the magnitude of the work Jesus did on the cross and our utter and complete forgiveness and acceptance before God, and the position we hold in Christ. God wants us to focus on His Son and the work His Son did, from love, on our behalf so we might walk from our position in Christ—completely forgiven, accepted, adopted, righteous, and with authority over the demonic. May we choose the latter and may all we do point to, and glorify, the Son! He alone is worthy!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Clarification on Global Warming Post

If you received my Global Warming post this morning by email I have slightly modified it at the beginning and end to better explain why I wrote it and what bearing I feel it has on our Christian life as we try and make daily decisions, vote wisely, and walk out our faith across our life and not leave it a compartmentalized part of our life that has no bearing on other parts of it. You can read it at the blog site. God bless. Have a wonderful day! —Erick

Monday, September 12, 2011

Global Warming—Another Babel?

Note: This is a slightly modified version from the post that went out to email subscribers this morning. Because this issue is so sensitive I tried to explain a little better why I wrote it and what application I feel it has to what we might face as Christians.

As a Christian who tries to make my faith relevant in every area of life, and not just as a compartmentalized part of my life, I feel like I often have to confront the assumption by others (in error) that I don't care about the environment because I either don't esteem sciences' opinion as high as others do, or because I make values and pro-life a higher priority in my voting. I want to share some reflections on this, and maybe it will help others who face the same thing.

I read today that Al Gore plans on a 24-hour broadcast to defend man’s impact on global warming. I think about this topic now and then because it comes up so much. I am not a scientist, and I am sure I don't understand all the arguments, but I’ll share my struggle with this whole thing, and then close with a thought. I am not bashing on global warming believers in what I am about to say—I am sure they have sincere hearts and I can only wish more Christians shared their passion for a cause. I just can't, at this point, buy what they are saying when I really think about it. I obviously can't personally verify the numbers I am using, but I have tried to find websites that seemed solid. So, here is how I think about it all:

Depending on what internet site you look at, anywhere from 70–75% of the earth’s surface is covered by water. That leaves only 25–30% covered by land.

One web site said that 70% of the world’s land mass is covered by vegetation. So, that means 17.5–21% (70% of 25% and 30%) of the world is vegetated. This means only 7.5–9% of the world is land that is not covered in vegetation.

According to one web site, half the earth’s landmass is unihabitable for one geographic reason or another. So now you are down to anywhere from 12.5–15% of the earth is even inhabitable.

So, of the 7.5–9% of the earth that is land not covered in vegetation, or of the 12.5–15% of the earth that is even inhabitable, what percent is covered by industrial, emissions producing people, buildings, and vehicles? I couldn’t find the figures, but I’ll bet it is tiny! I know I have flown over the United States many times and I am awed by the percent of the land below me that is uninhabited, or sparsely and agriculturally inhabited. One web site I did find says the U.S. Census Bureau qualifies “developed land” as land with 30 or more residents per square mile. According to that qualification, as of 2000 only 5.4% of the United States is considered developed! And we are a developed country!

So, take that fractional percent of the earth's water and land surface that is populated by emission producing, pollution producing people and facilities. Set that aside for a moment and consider that a conservative estimate of the thickness of the critical portions of our atmosphere is 29 miles thick. (The stratosphere is, I understand, the area of our atmosphere where the ozone is contained and it is from 11 miles above the surface to 29–31 miles.) If we take all of the atmosphere it is hard to know where it ends because it fades off into space, but different web sites put it at many hundreds of miles thick.

I can’t even do that math, but if you picture the critical atmosphere of 30 miles thick, spread that thick above every part of the earths surface (almost 197,000,000 square miles according to multiple web sites), that is a lot of atmosphere! Thirty miles thick over close to 200 million square miles! And the tiny percent of the earth that actually produces emissions (and many of those are heavily regulated) is supposed to be affecting that so much that it is altering the earth’s climates?

As I said earlier, I am not a scientist, but that just doesn’t make sense to me. And, honestly, I get tired of it being implied that I don’t care about the earth or the environment because I don’t buy global warming. Our family loves the outdoors. We live where we do, for one reason, because of the wide open spaces, the clear skies, the clean air, the wildlife, the stars, etc. We police after ourselves, and others, when we are in the wilds. We fish. We camp. We compost. We conserve water. We recycle. We believe God made us custodians of the earth, but we also believe He made the earth for us and not the other way around. I guess if you believe evolution then you believe Mother Nature is your equal, but if you believe Creation you know man is God’s shining Creation, made in His image, and given the earth for stewardship and use.

Frankly, the global warming argument strikes me as another tower of Babel. While I am not saying global warming believers are arrogant, I do believe that the extension of what they are saying, laid out as I have tried to do, is another sign of man’s arrogance (intentional or unintentional). To me it is inherently arrogant to think that we are so mighty that this fractional percent of people and factories can affect the earth’s climate on a global scale. I do believe sin affected it—I believe the whole earth groans under sin’s curse. And, I believe we can locally affect it and destroy its air and streams and land. But the claim of global warming is, too me, at this point, not something I can believe. Maybe I just don’t give us enough credit. I just know that there are, to me, much bigger issue at work and that we live in a world that desperately needs to know the love of the God that made them in His image and loves them beyond measure. This is, to me, the crisis that should energize us all, and I don't think it means we have to not care about the earth and be custodians of it, but we remember it is not our equal, it is for us and not us for it, and that it will pass away one day while human spirits will live eternally. I don't like having to choose sometimes in candidates that don't meet all of my viewpoints on things, but when I have to choose I will choose pro-life, family values, and a Christian with a solid, Biblical world view (and witness) every time.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Sure Foundation

This afternoon we were all having lunch out on our screen porch and the girls were sharing with me what they’ve learned about science today. Abigail gave me a pretty good 6-year-old’s definition of it, and then Bethany told me about the scientific method in which you ultimately form a hypothesis, test it, repeat it repeatedly, and then form a law or theory around your observations and results.

Naturally (at least in our house), the conversation turned to the theory of evolution. I shared how multiple of those components of even forming a decent theory that is justifiable are missing for evolution across species. One, you can’t observe it. Two, it can’t be replicated or created. Throw in there that there is no evidence for it and you have, at best, a very weak theory.

Bethany then asked about Creation and all of us talked about how it is a theory as well (at least it is presented as one, though we believe it is far from a theory, but rather fact). One major difference, however, between the two is that the evidence supports Creation—take, as just one piece, the multitude of creatures with mechanisms in place that would have caused the creature to die out and not reproduce if those mechanisms were at any point short of completely developed.

As we talked it struck me that there is another huge difference between the two “theories.” Creation has a primary source account of it from the One who not only observed it, but did it. We have the written record from the One who created it all and who told us how He did it. So, in the end, in addition to the overwhelming evidence for Creation, it comes down to the Bible and our view of it. Is it His Word or not? If it is, who are we to doubt or twist it or to try to conform it to man’s opinions? And, if it is not His Word, then we have far bigger problems than evolution or Creation. Thank God that He gives us every reason to believe His written Word is true, and for the revelation it gives us of His heart, His character, and His promises. It is a sure foundation on which to build our lives.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

First Classroom Day . . .

No, despite yesterdays post and now this, I won't be bombarding you with day after day of memory and internet hogging posts filled with pictures, but I couldn't miss my traditional “First Day of Homeschool” post, and I know many of you who know us enjoy sharing this day with us. Actually, yesterday was just the first day of classroom time—we’ve had a pretty amazing, educational summer (see our zoo trip to see one thing we did) and we are more and more seeing why some people call it home educating instead of home schooling. The education never really stops just because you aren’t in the classroom, and we are finding that it is much more of a lifestyle (and full of life skills) than the set number of days or curriculum you can tend to try and compare yourself to if you try and just do "school," only at home. (For those of you new to my blog, I am in no way implying anything against the wonderful teachers and parents and staff at public schools. We treasure the love shown at our local school, have many staff members at our fellowship, and volunteer at it coaching softball.)

The day began with the girls dressed in “baking” clothes and taking lead in measuring out and making up a batch of peanut butter cookies to bless a neighbor with who gave us some veggies, and to take to youth group. Then, after a recess (and Dad sneaking in a cup of coffee with Mom), the girls surprised Mom and changed into some pretty dresses and got to see the classroom and all the surprises it holds. As class began, of course, the Shofar was blown off of the upper deck, and the day and year were prayed for. May the Holy Spirit anoint the year and us for the trust of raising our children! I invite you to share a bit in our day, if you are interested, through some of the pictures I’ve included (they are each worth a thousand words, after all). You should be able to click on each picture to enlarge it, and then hit the back arrow to return to the post (at least that works in FireFox). God bless you, and thanks for being a part of our lives.   —Erick
Eager to start!

Momma/Teacher & her girls.

Baking, and tasting, and . . .

Exciting learning ahead!

A trip to the Grand Canyon . . . at least a poster of it.

Momma even gets a gift!

Science table with microscope, tree rings, Saber Tooth Tiger
tooth cast, fossilized dinosaur bone, obsidian, an old 3 1/2"
disc and a new DVD (do you know that it would take a
stack of those discs as high as 14 Abigials on top of
each other to equal the storage on two DVDs?), and more.

Teacher loves her girls (and "principal" loves
his girls, all three, too!)!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Zoo & Creation . . .

California Condor Wing Span. Incredible!
The Gorilla came up to the window and sat down.
How sad children are taught apes are their relatives
when God has fearfully and wonderfully made them.
Lunch by the Elephants.
Our family was blessed last week to get a tour of the Santa Barbara Zoo led by a Creationist (Russ McGlenn). Our homeschool group set it up and it was a wonderful and refreshing change to be part of a group glorifying God through the animals (and nature) instead of trying to make us believe we are their relatives (and they are equal to us). Here are some pictures to share with you of our day. He is truly evident in Creation, and His amazing design truly can give us confidence that He can handle the details of our life!


In Romans 3:9–12 Paul writes: What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” He ends that description in verse 18 with, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Paul is describing both Jew and Greek, basically the “proper” religious ones and those totally ignorant of the true God (therefore, everyone). It is a stunning statement and it is a clear look at how God sees good and bad, Light and darkness. We must remember that he is including here even the man or woman next door who doesn’t hurt anyone and who helps others. None are righteous. No one does good. This is shocking if we are used to defining good and “righteous” by deeds and moral measuring sticks—the kind of defining that leaves us stunned that the “Son of Sam” (see “The Son of Sam and . . . You and I”) might be in heaven one day, and our neighbor or family member who has never done anything so horrific as he has be absent from there, and in hell.

If this reality stuns us, or bothers us, we are probably looking at good and bad as ranking or measured or rated, with people being compared and ranked by their “goodness” or “badness” of deeds. This is dangerous and it will draw us away from God and in to arrogance (or, in some cases, horrible depression if we start to believe we are so much more horrible than others). One thing must be clear in our understanding of the Gospel—the Law, the moral code, is not to encourage and build us up, but to point us to Jesus. Paul continues with verses 19–20 and says: Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The Law convicts. The moral code convicts. It makes the whole world accountable to God. By the Law NO ONE will be justified in God’s sight! The Law brings the knowledge of sin, not unlike Adam and Eve gained the knowledge of good and evil and were suddenly ashamed and afraid of God. That is it. That is the Law’s purpose. It is a tutor to bring us to Christ. The Pharisees made the horrible mistake of letting the Law exalt them because they measured good and bad by it, and found themselves “closer” to it than others. That is NOT the Law’s role! It is not to show us we are better than another, but to show us how horribly separated we are from God and how unrighteous we are—to prepare us for Christ and to show us our utter need for Him and His work on the cross as our SOLE basis and claim of righteousness.

When moral works exalt us or puff us up or cause us to esteem ourselves better than another we have completely missed the point of the Law. We were created to live in an intimate, moment by moment relationship with our Creator and Father, led by His Spirit. We were not created to live by a moral code. The Law kills, the Spirit gives life and freedom. What we must understand is that there is no good apart from God. Romans 14:23 will go so far as to say whatever does not proceed from faith is sin, and this is not talking about huge moral acts—but about eating! James tells us it is sin if we know what TO do and don't do it (so there is sin from doing, and from NOT doing!) We can start to see that there are NONE righteous—not one! There is no good apart from faith—none! This is so, so hard to absorb as long as we insist on defining good by works and not God. HE, alone, is good, and we must understand that. We become good and righteous in Him and through Him, only! It is only through a living, faith relationship with Him that we are found righteous—and it is only what is done by His Spirit through us that is good.

But, the amazing and awesome flip side of all this is that when we come to Christ, we become completely righteous! Christ has completely paid for our sin and we are completely crucified with Him at our born again moment, and completely raised with Him as a new creation, paid for and adopted, righteous and alive. It is not because of anything we have done, but all because of what He has done and what we have received in faith in our place. It is positional—just like we can travel at 60 mph in a car without doing anything ourself, but simply because we are in the car. Our righteousness is simply because we are in Christ, and that is the most wonderful news of all. If I didn't earn it by my works and can't lose it by my stumbles, and my God is perfectly able to keep me in Christ, no matter what the enemy might try and throw my way!

Thanks be to God! May the joy and freedom His grace and your total freedom from the Law fill you with joy today.   —Erick

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Son of Sam and . . . You and I

Note: If you have not read the Light and Dark series (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) I recommend you do as a context for what follows. I believe that an understanding of this truth will dramatically affect both our understanding, and our sharing of the Gospel.

A Fox News story today reports that convicted serial killer David Berkowitz, also known as "Son of Sam," said he has "no interest" in parole thanks to forgiveness by Jesus Christ. It reports that Berkowitz—who terrorized New York in the late 1970s, killing six people and wounding seven—will not seek parole during his next opportunity in May. According to the article, he wrote Fox News, “I have no interest in parole and no plans to seek release . . . If you could understand this, I am already a 'free man.' I am not saying this jokingly. I really am. Jesus Christ has already forgiven and pardoned me, and I believe this.”

Now, I recognize that there is a lot of scepticism about prison conversions (I have almost never met with someone in jail who hasn’t said God got a hold of them this time and it is the last, but few have made significant and lasting changes toward God when they are out). I don’t know David personally, but I do know that there is much more to be said, and read, about him and his conversion. He even has a web page where he writes devotionals called But, setting any skepticism aside (and in NO way saying what he did was not horrible or that God doesn't think it horrible), and assuming for the sake of this post that his conversion is real, this is a story almost guaranteed to reveal deep down your and my understanding of the holiness of God, the condition of man, the Gospel, and of Light and Darkness.

If you, as a Christian, struggle with the fact that this man will share Heaven with you while your neighbor, who gives to charity and does “good” deeds won’t as of now, you may not fully understand how God sees Light and Darkness. Likewise, if you are not a Christian, and you struggle with the idea of this man being eternally in Heaven and you being eternally in Hell, you probably don’t understand Light and Darkness.

At this point in my life and studies I believe that the major problem and obstacle to our understanding of the Gospel lies in defining good and bad by a moral measuring stick and not by God’s presence in it or absence from it. We must remember that the Bible says that the Light came into the Darkness, and that men loved darkness because of their wicked deeds and so rejected the Light. There are only two kinds of people—those in the Light and those in Darkness, and God’s reign is the defining mark. Colossians 1:13-14 says of God, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” The “domain [rule] of darkness” and the “wicked deeds” Jesus talks about in John, Chapter 3, apply to even those family and friends and neighbors who do “good” deeds. I believe we struggle with this because we want to measure ourself against others, and fail to see the vast distance we all are from God and the utter darkness of absence from Him.

I can not adequately explore this in a single post, and I will talk about this more in the coming days, but we must be very, very careful to not fall into the trap of looking left and right to define Light and Dark, and good and evil, instead of looking up to Him. He is the line, He is the mark, He is the litmus test, He is the measure. He is the life. We were created for relationship with Him, and we chose the knowledge of good and evil. WE chose a moral code. WE chose a set of rules that make it possible to live independent of His leading. HE created us for intimate, moment-by-moment relationship with Him and WE chose a path that made us “like God”—able to define right and wrong on our own. We MUST understand, HE is the measure, HE is life, and anything apart from Him and relationship with Him is Darkness and death. It may have the appearance, and even intention of good, but He alone is life. And, so, we come again to that place where “wicked deeds” are not defined by a moral measuring stick, but by His absence where we have replaced His rule with self-rule, and separated ourselves from Him. We will never grasp this if insist on believing good can exist apart from Him.

I know that this is a lot, and that I run the risk of offending people with such a limited explanation, but hang in there. More next time, but until then, may His love be felt strongly by you.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fire Boring Preachers?

An August 8th post by Eryn Sun in The Christian Post naturally, as a pastor/teacher, caught my eye. It was called, "Why 'Boring' Preachers Should Be Fired." It talks about Christian theologian Carl Trueman and credits him with writing about how, "good preachers preaching on doctrine or 'the description of who God is and how he has acted' should never leave audiences feeling cold and indifferent" (and how elders should fire ones who consistently do). You would need to read the whole article to get all of what he is said to have said, and to be truly fair to the full picture he presents, but a few comments the author of this post attributes to him include:

1.  "The relationship between doctrine and worship in the structure of Paul’s letters allows us to infer that doctrine which does not lead to praise is not really true in the richest sense of the word" . . . "Doctrine which does not culminate in praise is not true doctrine" . . . "Teaching of doctrine and appropriate response to the same are inextricably tied together such that the former should really terminate in the latter."

2. “I was talking to a friend recently who told me of a Sunday school class on providence which he had attended. The presentation, while precise and correct at the level of formulation, left my friend cold. Nothing of the glory or the grace or the mercy or the patience of God had been conveyed in the presentation. There was nothing to call forth a response of praise and adoration.” The article also states that, "He clarified that this did not mean people should be swayed 'by aesthetics' or 'reader response' however. He just questioned a man who took 'the deep, mysterious and glorious things of God' and consistently turned them into a 'bland medium.' "

Naturally, this subject is something I reflected on, and I have a few thoughts about it. My thoughts are not all directly tied in to Mr. Trueman, but rather spawned by his. I have not read his original article, only the article about it, and I am not criticizing him at all, only sharing my reflections that the article birthed.

I wonder—what is the responsibility of a teacher? What is he accountable for? I would think that it would be an accurate presentation and exposition of the Word of God or subject that the Spirit of God led him to. If he picked a message from his own "good ideas" or because a denomination told him to then there is a strong chance that the Spirit is not leading it or anointing it. But, if he has prayed and sought the Lord and obeyed, then the Spirit will anoint it and he has done what he was called to do.

I wonder how Jesus would measure up to the standard of true doctrine being that which elicits praise in the audience? I, honestly, don't see a lot of that response coming from his words. We could say his audience was pre-Pentecost, but then Acts tells us a lot about the apostles being driven from cities for preaching (not praise coming). Of course, if this only refers to an audience of true, Spirit-filled believers then does the criticism find merit that true teaching should evoke praise? I am still unsure on this. What is the responsibility of the listener to be prepared for the teaching and to have his or her heart ready and his conscience cleansed. If the Spirit is grieved or quenched by him or her will a teaching cause praise to rise up?

I think that there is a danger (and a truth) in what Mr. Trueman brings up. Obviously, if a man is consistently unmoved by the glory of God and transmits that lack of emotion then there is a chance it will have an effect on the listener . . . but what a danger there is in putting the response of the listener on the back of the teacher as well. Might this not led to a pastor-centered church instead of a Christ-centered church? Might this bring about the situation where we follow a teacher and not the one the teacher points to? Might this standard subtly pull us into the realm of seeking out teachers who give our itching ears what they want to hear?

I think a key is that the Spirit alone can awaken a heart. If it is awakened or moved by the delivery of a man it is not going to be true. I have read that Jonathan Edwards delivered "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" in a monotone and people clutched the pews in fear. Other preachers can preach in a great oratory and evoke an emotion of praise that doesn't last past the first person that cuts them off on the way home. And, what about the mix in the congregation? I can't tell you how many times the same teaching I have delivered has caused one to two people to nod off and had multiple people come up after and tell me how much it moved and affected them. I have had, in the same week, the criticism that the church was too "Pentecostal" (I don't know what that means) and that it wasn't Spirit-filled enough—same week! I have had people complain I go to long and others wish I went longer. I have had our church condemned, and praised, because we long to see those come to it who are broken, addicted, outcast, and rejected. So, what becomes the standard in these cases?

I think the answer has to lie in the simple question, "Did the teacher do what God asked them to do?" That is all they are responsible for, I believe. But, it is an interesting question and line of thought and I'd love to hear your comments. Obviously, as a pastor, I'm a little pre-biased. What do you think? What do you believe God's Word says a teacher's responsibility is? What would cause you to fire a preacher, and what wouldn't?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Light and Darkness, Part 3

I highly encourage you to read Paul Ellis' 8/16/11 post on his Escape to Reality blog called "12 Infamous Examples of Walking After the Flesh in the Bible." This post dovetails beautifully with my prior posts in this series—in which I shared how "darkness" and "wicked deeds" are not defined by our moral measuring stick, but by God's presence in them or not (and how this realization affects our understand and sharing of the Gospel, especially with "good" people). The comment I left on his post was: This is one of the best posts I have ever read. Thank you for teaching and reminding us that even our “good” ideas and leadings, apart from Him, are sin. I have been finding in my recent studies and teachings such an amazing revelation in Jesus’ talk with Nicodemus. When He tells Nicodemus that the light comes in to the darkness but men love the darkness because of their wicked deeds I shared with our church how this applies even to our friends and family who don’t do “bad” things, but even do charitable things and “good” things. Clearly, Jesus defines darkness and wicked deeds differently than we are tempted to do with our moral measuring stick. The conclusion I have come to is that darkness and wicked deeds are anything separate from Him. I really, really appreciate this post. I am going to share a link to it on my blog. I hope that is OK.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Accountable for Words . . .

The whole account of Numbers 13 and 14 of the people spying out the land, and then choosing fear over faith, captivates me. Every time I read it I find more rich gems about faith, and fear, and trust in it. Today I was glancing through it and a verse I know I have read many times jumped out at me like it never has before. It is Numbers 14:36–37 and it comes right after the Lord told Moses and Aaron that all who were twenty years and older (except Joshua and Caleb) will fall in the wilderness over the forty years and not see the promised land. It says, “And the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation grumble against him by bringing up a bad report about the land—the men who brought up a bad report of the land—died by plague before the Lord.”
    Wow! That really made me sit up and re-read it. What had these men done? The whole congregation would wander out their days in the wilderness because they had made the choice to not believe God, to be in fear and not faith, and to grumble and complain . . . but these men seemed to pay an extra hard price. What was their special “sin”? They brought the report that caused the people to fall in to fear.
    Now, Joshua and Caleb saw the same land they saw, and gave the same report of bounty and of the enemy . . . but the difference came after that. Of the ten spies singled out here Numbers 13:31–33 says, “Then the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.’ So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, ‘The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.’ ”
    What of Joshua and Caleb? What was their response that “earned” them the favor of seeing the promised land? Numbers 14:6–9 says: And Joshua . . .  and Caleb . . . tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” Prior to that, in Numbers 13:30, Caleb had spoken the words that caused the other ten to rebut him when he said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”
    The result? The people chose fear and grumbling over faith, and God would go so far as to say they didn’t believe in Him! That would be a shocking statement to a people who would absolutely say they believe in God and who would see a difference between believing in Him, and believing Him (He had promised them the land) . . . it appears God doesn’t see that difference.
    So, the people would wander and perish over the years in the wilderness . . . but of those ten, the ones whose words were words of fear and not faith, the ones whose words brought out the unbelief and fear in the others, there was stiff accountability. It makes me wonder, what is our responsibility for our words around those in whose lives God has given us influence? Are our words building up their faith and drawing their eyes to their great God, or are our words causing them to be in unbelief and grumbling? Do our words and expectations give more power to God, or to the enemy? Are they words of life and hope, or fear and pessimism? This isn’t about drumming up false encouragement and denying reality . . . it is about embracing true reality, in faith, and not letting sight define it. It is about God and His Word and His promises and His power being the most powerful influence on our expectations and words, and not the world and its “wisdom” and its predictions and its circumstances. We have the God who speaks out stars that are so big they would swallow our Sun and all the planets out to near Saturn (and all the space in between those planets). He is our God! Do our words reflect it? What are they bringing out in those we influence? It is a thought worth asking the Holy Spirit about, because our words have power and they have influence and God does listen to them.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Country Life

I guess this is the day for sending you to other sites. That is what is so wonderful to me about the body of Christ—we can't, and shouldn't, operate effectively alone. Christ, alone, should be the center—not one man or woman's ministry, not one church, not one gift. I treasure the body of Christ, and one of my favorite places to "visit" is the blog of Stephen and Janet Bly, Christian writers with a lot of fiction out there. My heart leans toward the novels of the Old West—I love westerns and that era, and to find books that glorify God while allowing me to "step" in to that time is a true blessing. You can find a link to their blog in my "Links" section, and you might especially like to see their post from today as it has two very special girls in it . . . I'll leave it at that, but I think you'd enjoy seeing it. (To go to the post I am talking about, click here and scroll to the Thursday, 8/11/11 post called "This Country Caption Says It All.") As always, I'd treasure your feedback. I always want this blog to be a place for us all to grow and share, not just a place about me.

Devotional Christian Web Site

As you know if you've followed this blog, my heart for it has always been a place to dialogue, connect with and encourage and challenge one another, and to share thoughts and reflections that will help us bear His image. Through it I have met many wonderful people, and been introduced to many blogs and "God Lovers" who have challenged me and helped me grow. I have often talked about Pearl and her blog, and Toyin's blog, and more recently I have come to really enjoy a blog by Glen, who writes The Renewed Mind—there are links to all three on my "Links" page. While I may not agree with every post each of them makes, and I am sure they don't agree with everything I write, they are all people who love the Lord and who seek to glorify Him and help others, and who I have been blessed by them.

Recently, Glen mentioned that it his blog had been accepted for listing on a site called "The Devotional Christian". I hadn't heard of the site, so I checked it out. While I can't, obviously, vouch for every posting or link on it, I really like the idea of the site and what it represents. Tony, who runs it, reviews Christian sites and blogs designed to help Christians in their walk and collects them in one place for ease of the rest of us finding them. I sent him by blog link and he approved it this morning (while sipping a cup of coffee, he added), and I wanted to thank him and share his page with you, that you, too, might be blessed by his work.

Home Page:
Blogs Page:

Tony also has a page I am really excited about diving in to more deeply (is that a correct wording?). Already Mary Ann, looking over my shoulder, said, "Bookmark that one!" for further exploration when we have access to high speed internet. It is called Ministry to

Thanks, Tony, for including my site, and my God bless your work as you seek His glory! Thanks, Glen, for pointing me to it. May it bless all of you as we seek to grow in Him, together, and may we all encourage one another to not stop with theology, but to walk it out. As the sign I have that hangs below the pulpit I teach from says, "The lesson does not end here. Now it must be lived"!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lessons from Hummingbirds . . .

I will return to my "Light and darkness" series in the weeks ahead, but I wanted to share here a few thoughts I had yesterday while sitting in our sitting area and taking a little "be still" time. As I was out there I had the pleasure of watching hummingbirds coming to the feeder we have hanging above our vegetable garden. They are fascinating to watch and incredible evidence of a Creator, and I noticed a few things while I did:

1)   Without the hummingbirds, the feeder was "dead": Hanging there, with no birds around, there was no beauty in the feeder itself. It was made for something, and when it wasn't used for that purpose it held no attraction. But, when the birds came to it, it suddenly became the center piece of beauty and part of drawing my mind toward God. We, too, are created for a purpose and a relationship. We find our purpose and meaning and beauty in our relationship with God, when He dwells in us and finds us a surrendered vessel for His presence and will. Then, we are vessels that bear His image and through us others' eyes are drawn toward Him.

2) Two things disrupted the beauty and purpose of the feeder: The first was when one bird chased off another. Suddenly, when they weren't united, the peace and beauty of the scene was lost in conflict. Though there are four holes on the feeder to drink at, often one bird would chase others away from it. There was plenty there for them all, but they not only prohibited others from drinking when they acted that way . . . but they couldn't drink themselves when they were doing it, either. How many times Christians chase others away from drinking deep of Him by their pettiness, criticism, self-focus, judgment, jealousy, lack of faith which makes them self-preserving, etc. And, of course, when those things mark us, we can never drink deeply ourselves as our fellowship with Him is broken by our actions and attitudes which grieve His Spirit and keep love from flowing—and He will not be where love is not, since He is, Himself, love. The other thing that disrupted the purpose of the feeder and the beauty of it was a Yellow Jacket trying to get something from the feeder. They are small next to even the tiny hummingbird, and yet the hummingbird fled from its charge each time it did so. How many times, I wonder, do we allow an enemy we have authority over, and whom Jesus has defeated, rob us from what God intends for us? I can't help but think that, if the hummingbirds could just see themselves from our perspective, they'd realize it is the Yellow Jacket that should flee from them and not the other way around. We, too, must remember that the thief (Satan) comes for nothing but to steal, kill, and destroy, but the promise to us is that if we resist him he WILL flee.

Just some thoughts, and maybe some lessons, from the hummingbird . . .

Too Cool!

Abigail peering at the Praying Mantis.
The Praying Mantis peering at Abigail.
If you've followed this blog for awhile you know that there is something special God is doing with us and Praying Mantis. They have shown up on our property (and at our church) countless times on just the day we needed a reminder of the power of prayer, and the victory of God over darkness. They are something our family gets really excited when we see, and the other day Abigail saw one and came to get me to show me. I thought that these two pictures were too cool not to share, so I hope that you enjoy them. If you think this is awesome too, you might enjoy my August 31, 2009 post "I Receive That!"—if ever God sent a visual picture through nature of the power of Him and prayer over the sting of the enemy, that post shows it!

Thursday, August 4, 2011


We are in the final three days of proofing and preparing the file for this history cookbook, and I found a pretty significant typo I made! I wonder what the reactions would have been if God hadn't helped me notice that, when talking about the types of meat you could use in the recipe for 25 lbs of Swiss Sausage, I had put that it had to be 1/2 pork and that the other 1/2 could be beer (instead of beef). Twelve and a half pounds of beer. Hmmm. I wonder if someone would have tried it. That's when a spell checker just doesn't help . . .

Please keep up your prayers. I still don't have the file fixed, but have found some workarounds. I will be continuing the series on Light and dark soon, and look forward to being back "together" with all of you.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Light and Darkness, Part 2

Note: Please be praying strongly this week for this history-cookbook project I am wrapping up. We are very, very close and I am really struggling with the  "closer" (Gospel) page which shares how our region is not a slice of Heaven (it is a wonderful place!), but a shadow of Heaven. Then, last night, Mary Ann and I were up until 11:30 trying to fix a corruption in the file---the first time this has happened, and the night before we were to print proofs. I can't figure out what happened, and yet I know that God is bigger than it all, and that this book will be finished and bless our community, our youth, and glorify God!

Light and Darkness, Part 2: One of the starkest contrasts the Bible presents between the Kingdom (reign and rule) of God and the reign and rule of Satan is that of Light versus dark. The Bible makes it clear that the world is in darkness. Now, anyone that has ever been sunburned knows we have a very big light above us half the day, so something else is meant in the following passages:

Matt 4:12-17   Now when he [Jesus] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. . . . so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ". . . the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned." From that time Jesus began to preach, saying,  "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Acts 26:15-18   And I [Paul] said, 'Who are you, Lord?' And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. . . . for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, . . . to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'

Clearly, darkness is the default condition of man and the world, and clearly He means a spiritual and mental darkness. This ties in to the theme of blindness, also in the Bible describing the lost:

2 Cor 4:3-6   And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. . . . For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

So, just what does God mean by this darkness? It is a critical understanding to understand the Gospel, and it especially speaks to the heart of "good people" (of which I spent many years thinking I was, because I wasn't "as bad" as many around me). I believe the clue to God's meaning of "darkness" comes in John's encounter with Nicodemus in which Jesus (who calls Himself the Light of the World) says to him:

John 3:19-21   And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God.

Those who refuse to come to the Light (Jesus) are those who love darkness because of their wicked deeds. But, we all know people who, compared to others, are really "good" people and don't do "wicked" deeds (as long as man, and not God, is the standard). And yet, the Bible is clear they are lost and, tragically, going to Hell. So what are their wicked deeds? Why is the darkness they so love? It is the absence of God. He is the Light. Apart from Him is darkness. So wicked deeds are not just things like murder and drugs and adultery, but any deeds done in the darkness, done from self-rule and not God's rule (hence Kingdom). They are us, loving ourselves more than Him and others, and being our own Lord of our life. That is the ultimate tragedy and trap of the enemy, to get us to think that there is any good apart from God. When we love to rule our own life more than loving God and others and His rule in our life we are separated from Him, not walking in faith, and separation from Him is darkness. A great lie of the enemy is that it has to be "really bad" things, when He is so good that anything apart from Him is bad, and tragic.

I'll write more about this in the next post (God willing), but I encourage you to reflect on it. It is changing the way I share the Gospel and the concept of sin and darkness, and I truly believe that if "good" people understand this they will understand the Gospel better—people who don't do murder and the such and struggle to understand what is so dark about their life. This understanding of darkness elevates our eyes from others around us, and their lives, to Him. Until then, God bless, and don't hesitate to send your feedback. I treasure hearing from you!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Light and Darkness, Part 1

Hello all. No, I haven’t “disappeared”—I have just been putting hours upon hours in to wrapping up the history-cookbook fundraiser we are doing for our youth group, and most of the rest of things have slipped to the side. But, it is close . . . and I am feeling things start returning to “normal” (whatever that is—someone said the other day that “normal” is a setting on a dryer and all the rest is life . . . )
    With that said, as a “sub” series in the running study I am teaching on the Kingdom of God (which is focusing on the present-day, “breaking in” aspect of His Kingdom—as opposed to the place Heaven, or the future Kingdom reality) I have been doing a shorter series on the stark contrast that exists (and should be evident) between the two kingdoms—God’s reign and rule versus Satan’s. The Kingdom of God, in the present day sense, is the reign or rule of God in a situation or person. Jesus said if He cast a demon out of someone the Kingdom of God had come upon them. He would heal a sick person and use it to talk about the Kingdom of God, and Colossians 1:13 says that when we are saved we are taken out of the rule/authority of Satan and into the Kingdom of Jesus.
    When God comes in to a person or situation the contrast should come to be stark because His rule has just replaced Satan’s, and their two hearts are very different. Jesus came in love that we might have life (eternal life begins at salvation), and have it abundantly, and He left us access to His joy and peace and indwelt by His Spirit which produces such things as love and kindness, etc. Satan, on the other hand, is by Jesus’ words a thief who comes naught except to steal, kill, and destroy. When God’s power comes against Satan’s, God’s is always superior—just ask Pharoah’s magicians, the demonized man in the tombs, or Simon or the woman with the spirit of divination in Acts.
    Unfortunately, in Western Christianity, the world seems to rarely see such a stark contrast between itself and God’s Kingdom, and I think that one of the reasons is that we try (and our culture permits us) to live at the same time with the security of Heaven, and the pleasures, values, and priorities of earth—and we often have little more respect for the authority and truth of His Word than the scientists do who mock it (hence our faith is weakened). Thus we are powerless, His voice is quieted, His Spirit is quenched, and all the world says is different about us is that they have Sunday morning off and we don’t. For the most part, Western Christianity is a far cry from those in Acts who “turned the world upside down.”
    I want to begin in the next few posts to talk about one of the stark contrasts between God’s Kingdom (reign and rule) versus Satan’s—the stark contrast between Light and darkness (and what God means by those two words). I think that it will really help us to better understand why a “good” person can go to Hell, and how we miss God as the mark of all that is good. I encourage you to follow this along, I think it will bless you. Until then, may God pour His favor upon you.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Another Thought on Unanswered Prayer

In June I wrote a post involving Steinbeck and my dad called "Unanswered" Prayer in which I shared that maybe, sometimes, when we feel like God isn't answering our prayers, it is because the answer involves so many people and/or situations that aren't yet in place in our lives that we might not even recognize His answer as from Him if He told us what we wanted to know. Last night we had a young man from our youth group over for dinner to talk with him and spend some time together and we got talking about the future. He has a tremendous heart for God's will in His life, but experiences the uncertainty of not knowing what that is (something we all, often, experience, I would imagine). Mary Ann shared a thought with him that I believe is another reason God may not always share with us the information about the future we are requesting (seemingly not answering our prayer). She reminded him of Abraham and Sarah and the mess that came out of God telling them their future . . . and then them trying to "help God out" and make that future happen (the birth of a baby to them being the situation I am talking about). We have the whole situation with Hagar and the two sons when there was only supposed to be one and all the problems today that spring back to that moment. So, maybe, sometimes God doesn't give us an answer to a request for His will or plan for the future because He knows that we'll try and "help" it happen instead of letting Him bring it about in His timing through our surrender to His leading . . . and rather than help, we'll just mess it up. Just a thought, and one I felt was a good one. Interestingly, it was this same Abraham who earlier in his life left his homeland at God's command and traveled, not knowing where he was going, until God said stop. He is a man who should have been familiar with God leading every moment and orchestrating the timing of everything. I wonder . . . how many times do we learn a lesson and then forget it or blow it off?

God bless you all, and thanks for sharing in my life and this little blog world. We have a truly mighty and wonderful God!


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