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Can God get lost?

 

I love our GPS, I chose a British accent and she says things like “Boolevard”, or “Object Ahead” (like an objection instead of an actual object)

I’ve grown very dependent On the GPS.  Much like spell checker has reduced my ability to spell on my own, I don’t think I could find my mailbox from the front porch without an electronic gadget telling me how to get there.

But, I’m curious… Did you watch the clip?  Has that ever happened to you?  Obviously, not to that extreme.  I don’t expect you to have actually driven into water at the advice of a computer.  But I would also wager you have been led to the water.  Has your GPS ever misled you?  Mine has.  Quite a bit.

When I listen to the GPS and follow it to a successful destination, I feel good about myself.  I chose to listen.  I saved time, gas, wear and tear.  I’ll sing it’s praises.  But I’ll also take some credit.

When the GPS is wrong, I want to toss it out of the window and never use it again.  If I had followed my instincts, I would have been home by now.  The GPS is always to blame when it’s wrong.  And it can be all sorts of wrong:  it can tell me to turn too late, mispronounce the street name, the volume is too low, “unverified area”, “make a u-turn if possible”…

So what happens when we choose to follow God and we end up getting lost along the way?  This place isn’t what I signed up for.  I didn’t mean to turn down here.  We passed my exit miles ago.  Why did God lead me here?  There is pain here.  There is emotional distress.

One of the bigger problems with this way of thinking is that we don’t fully know where God plans to take us, even if, we properly submit to His will.  When you are living in a relationship with God, there are no wrong turns.  Did you catch that I didn’t go for the obvious cliches?  I could have referenced Jesus taking the wheel or how we take turns driving (so many obvious comparisons while we journey down this road of life)… God doesn’t want a copilot, he doesn’t want passengers, He let His Boy die on the cross for us so we could be His family.  His companions.  Journeying with Him.  Growing together.

So when in a properly nurtured relationship with God, there are no wrong turns, there are no miscalculations.  We find the path off the main road because that is part of our flight plan.  Miracles don’t happen where they aren’t needed.  There has to be a storm before you can calm it.  There has to be a disease before you can cure it.  There has to be pain for healing to take place.  Jesus said it Himself, He didn’t come to heal the healthy people.  He didn’t come to bless the rich.

So often we look around and cry out at our circumstances.  We don’t want to be in the poverty or the sickness, or in the path of the storm… but then we ask why God isn’t using us to do His will.  When you end up in the lake, don’t throw out the GPS, start looking for the type of thing Jesus would have done in this very situation.  When we look around and loved ones are dying, family is chronically sick, friends are in despair, good people are suffering… its easy to shake that fist and claim that God needs to stop and ask for directions.

Or we could follow that awe-inspiring example of Jesus, roll up our sleeves, and make ourselves at home in this little hovel off the beaten path.  We are where we need to be if God is our Father.  If we truly want to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, its time to start looking for His footprints.  We wont find those in many of the places we’ve been looking.  He was with the sick, the misunderstood, the needy, the exhausting.  When that temptation sinks in to cry out, “why!!!” to God… think instead and ask “How”.  How can we be Him in this place in our lives.

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Click Here NOW! Amazing-est News Ever!

It’s called click bait.  Headlines like “Breaking News”.  Terms like, “You won’t believe what (insert controversial person of the day) said…”  Colorful adjectives like “Destroyed”, “Shredded”, “toppled”.  Polarizing descriptors similar to: “And no one cared…” or “It blew everyone away”.

We see this a lot now.  Media meisters are preying on some people’s inability to separate fact from heavily loaded emotional appeal.  If you have fallen victim to this strategy, you already know why I use the term victim.  The headline sounds like something the entire planet should be up in arms over, but the actual meat of the article is trivial at best, and often a far stretch, even to be trivial.

So why does this work?  Why do we (collectively as humans) fall for it?  I’m going to say its because we live in fear.  When we hear those tagged words, they trigger our deepest concerns.  “what now?!” we wonder, and some of us cry it out as we can’t handle any more.  We know deep down that anything can happen, and we often play along and assume it just did.

Consider this.  We serve a God who does not fear.  He does not wake up in the world and have to search to see what horrible things happened while we slept.  He is not shocked by the disasters and He is not paralyzed by the sickness of man.  And this is who hears our prayers.  I’m comforted to know that our Lord does not need the news to keep up.  He loves us, each one, and is very interested in our lives.

I’m also happy to know that God loves us all.  So we don’t have to worry about our shapes, sizes, colors, accents, personal preferences, or birth marks to know whether He cares or not.  I think God’s news feed would throw out all of the nonessential buzz words and cut right to the chase:

“You are hurting… I am here”

“You are lonely… I am love”

“You are abandoned… I am Father and Brother”

“You are accused… I am justifier”

“You have sinned… I wash dirt off feet and darkness off souls”

“You are tired… I am rest”

“You are overburdened… I carry your cross”

“You are un-salvageable… I am salvation”

There is a reason the Gospel is called “The Good News!”.  Oh how it stands apart from what we think news is today.  Can I encourage you to share the good news today?  To ignore the bad.  To resist the temptation to spread the lies and the bait.  It’s really not a call to do or not do anything… its an issue of focus.  What gets your attention?  “Click Me, I’ve got some juicy stuff!!!!!”, Or, “Let me show you what it means to love unconditionally”.

Football isn’t in the Bible

First, let me start by stating that I’m not going to present my political opinions in this post.  Why?  Because you don’t care what I think about those issues.  And you shouldn’t.  What I’d like to challenge you to remember is that others likely view your opinion the same way.

I’m reminded of a well meaning Sunday school teacher.  She wanted to get children excited about the Bible.  Her statement was that anything we could imagine was included in the text.  Then she challenged us to ask what we enjoyed reading about and she would show us where that topic was in the Bible.

As a class of young children, we gave typical childish answers:  dragons, super heroes, talking animals, flying, etc.  and she answered in turn with very unprepared answers that attempted to prove her original point.

She consider the many eyed creature in Revelation to be dragon-like enough.  She passed off the disciples as super heroes and walking on water was parallel to flying in her mind.  Who knew, there actually is a talking donkey in the Bible!

She meant well, but all she really taught me that day is the Bible doesn’t have a story for every occasion.  While there are numerous analogies and examples, even some sports metaphors… the Bible doesn’t get to American football or it’s political implications.

So, how should we, as Christians, maneuver this new found mine field?  We shouldn’t.  And that is exactly point number 2.

Number one is that no one wants to know your opinion in a matter where their side of the story is already deeply rooted, emotional, and immovable.  Think of how your heart aches over the issue.  So does theirs.  The second point is that God never intended us to be arguing over matters of opinion any way.  If this specific issue were important to Him, we could turn to Gridiron chapter 2 and read all about it.

But you might be thinking there are applicable scriptures for the current climate.  And, you are right.  They are scriptures written to Christians (not to unbelievers), and they talk about, not what we shouldn’t be talking about… but what we SHOULD be talking about.

And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” – Luke 2:49

Another translation in lieu of “in my Father’s house” is, “about my Father’s business”.  Either way, the point was, Jesus was telling the people, they should have known where He was by His very nature.  He was here to point people to God.  He accomplished that both by His works and via the temples and synagogues of the day.  What did Jesus spend His time doing?  Praying, healing, teaching, setting examples, spreading the gospel.  When it came to matters of government, He had one comment:

“Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” – Matthew 22:21

They wanted oh so badly for Him to weigh in on the conversation.  The whole thing was a trap.  They specifically asked Him about taxes.  It didn’t matter who He sided with, they would have Him the second His political stance started dripping from His mouth.  But instead, He showed again where His time would be spent…. Giving things to God.  What a clever way to answer, leaving them, the deceivers, to decide what actually belonged to each, Caesar and God.  Look at how accurately and specifically our Bible gives us direction in the real world today.  Are we not baited in social media every moment to counter political, social, and territorial injustices?  We don’t have to ask what Jesus would say today… He has already said it.  And it was effectively, ‘I’ll not join in. ‘

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”  – Exodus 20:3

This one is a bit before Jesus’ time.  Straight from God to Moses and then carved in stone was this command.  We know there is only one true God.  The capital G necessitates personal specificity.  The lowercase, gods, are not real.  But, people worshiped them anyway.  We do the same without always realizing it.  Our gods might be internet surfing, social media, food, money, status, etc.  They are things that would take a place before the God.  We don’t have to say a prayer and ask WWMD to worship money.  Making money a priority in our life is a form of worship all on its own.  God wants to be our priority.  If people know us by our politics, then I might suggest we have a god before our God.

“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation”  – Mark 16:15

Another word for “Gospel” is the good news.  But not just any good news.  A dog having puppies isn’t the gospel.  A successful fish fry fundraiser isn’t the gospel.  Cancer all gone?  Fantastic!  but that isn’t the message (at least not in whole).  The good news is that Jesus died for our sins and He rose again defeating death for all of us if we choose to accept that gift by following Him.  Does that sound ANYTHING like the mess we see on social media today?  The good news doesn’t come in condemnation, correcting, or argumentatively.  The gospel is hope and love.  Period.

“…that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”  John 17:21

Jesus’ prayer was for unity.  Topics cannot both divide and unify.  And most of these verses seem to be reaching towards other comparable scriptures like being lukewarm.  You can’t prioritize both God and politics.  You can enjoy politics, but you can’t divide humanity over your viewpoint.  To say you love God and you also hate man that disagrees with you… that is lukewarm.  It’s trying to keep a foot in two camps.  All of this boils down to having a single identity in Jesus Christ.

Does what you say and do point to your Master, your Creator, your Savior?  Or does it point to what YOU think, believe, or want to see this temporary world become?

I could go on for quite some time listing fruits of the Spirit, parables told by Jesus, examples the disciples learned by following.  The Bible is quite clear and consistent about where our politics lie.  Always behind God, and always in a loving, unifying, God glorifying way.  This means 99.9% of us need to shut up.  And I mean that in the good, Godly way of saying it 😉

Can we be Christians and still talk about politics?  Can we be Christians and still be rich?  Possibly.  But this is where many will fail.  Trying to justify that we have successfully done both.  Its not that it’s impossible, its that its really hard.  So hard, that Jesus often tells us to give the money away.  It’s too much of a burden to juggle the wealth and the ideal Christian spirit.  Can some pull it off?  Yes.  Do most?  No.  So whether possible or not, we can see the recommendation from scripture to avoid the temptation altogether:

“And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.”  – Matthew 18

Satan, the great liar, will start right now to convince you that the other side isn’t playing fair.  The other side isn’t caving any.  The other side is… I could spend days just listing the lies he will use to convince you that what the world needs is another uninformed political opinion.  (Dare I say you might be uneducated in the world of politics?)  Yeah, if your source is second hand or lower (and a HUGE majority of us are likely 5th hand or lower), then yeah.)  Isn’t that just like the devil?  He has us fighting over someone else’s beliefs that they obtained from other resources we have never once been privy to.  Why?  Because God wants us unified and Satan wants us in Hell.

Father in heaven, before temptation sets in, please guide your believer’s to your voice and away from the lies of the enemy.  Remind us who the true enemy is.  The true enemy does not want our taxes or our votes or our bumper stickers.  He doesn’t want donations, up-votes, or cult followers.  The true enemy wants our soul.  Bless us to hear and follow only your voice and that we may be irrefutably your children in every word and deed.  May our lives bear only good fruit for You.  Lead us away from this destructive temptation that divides us up for the enemy to ensnare one by one.  Let us find unity in You.  Let the desire of man fade from our hearts and allow us to follow the almighty God and live in Your blessing and love.  Let the world see your love in your followers and not the division of those who only claim you in name and not in deed.  Amen.

One final thought (P.S. p.s….) don’t share this post with unbelievers.  Don’t go and wag scriptures at unbelievers.  Jesus called out the Christians who didn’t get the message when He spoke and corrected them.  When He spoke to the unbeliever, He spoke with love.  He shared the good news with them.  If they don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, they aren’t living life by the same book.  Throwing that book at them won’t help.  Doing life as a living example of the Son of Man will do just that.  But they have to see Jesus as the true priority in our lives.  When He comes out second or third… the message is fully lost.

 

Erasing Makes A Mess

I worked for an unscrupulous manager when I was growing up.  He would fill out the schedule in pencil and, when it suited him the most, he would erase time slots and fill it out again.  Thankfully, the GM was smart, and when I showed him the faint outline left by the erasing it was obvious that the data was altered.

I used to use erasable ink pens until I learned that no amount of swiping would make the surface completely clean.  Maybe technology has changed, but when I was a child, writing something in an erasable format was like putting something on the internet… there was no way to get rid of it.  Like a dirty chalkboard, you can make out bits and pieces of what was previously documented there.

This is why I’m thankful that Jesus didn’t erase our sins.  He took them.  If He had just forgiven us, there would still be a remnant or stain.  And in our minds we would know what we have done.  It’s hard to live through guilt.  Jesus took our sins.  More specifically, He bought them.  They had a price and we couldn’t afford it.  Jesus stepped in and heaped them all on Himself in our place.

I know a lot of people who won’t begin or further a relationship with Jesus because of their past.  They feel that God is all powerful, but He can’t forgive them.  They think that they have messed up too many times.  They use phrases like too much, too late, or too hard.  The gift we have been given pretty much means that we don’t have a past anymore.  We only have a future.

Jesus found a way so that when someone comes along and scratches the surface of our lives, they don’t find the person we used to be.  That person is gone. We are new with Christ.  That doesn’t just mean we act different, it means we ARE different.  We have a full new history of grace, forgiveness, and salvation.

Satan would have you believe that if someone comes along, they can perform that trick the detectives use on TV shows with a pencil on a post it note to uncover your secrets.  God’s truth is that you have no secrets… His Son paid for them all.  The temptation is to retreat in your sin.  The gift is that you have no sin.  Not if you accept the gift of Christ crucified and live in a relationship with Him.  So please allow me to encourage you to stop letting your sin keep you from Christ, when it is Christ who keeps your sin from you.  Stop trying to erase the sin, when He will fully take it all.

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Hate is always Hate

If you have to raise your voice to be heard, you are not living your life right.

If you have to stand up to be noticed, you are fundamentally and categorically flawed.

…he gave no answer.  – Matthew 27:12

But Jesus made no reply. – Matthew 27:14

And yet, what name is known more than His?  If you want to change the world, drop the signs and pick up a Bible.  Stop chanting and start praying.  Put down the binoculars and spend some time at the mirror.

If we really want to make a difference… we have to stop screaming, “me, me, me!” and start living like Him, Him, Him.

Hate, for noble and good reasons, is still hate.

When I was younger, I remember saying I hated someone very evil.  My mom told me that was not acceptable.  “We don’t ‘hate'” she would say, “its OK to dislike someone, but never hate them”.  I replied once, “well then I dislike them to death!”  It was a hard lesson for me to learn.  Hating seems very natural, but it’s anything but, its a status of the heart.

The lesson my mom learned in her walk with Jesus is that Hate, even for seemingly good reasons, is still hate.  When the Bible tells us to walk 2 miles, what it means is that someone will come to us and demand we go one mile.  That is hate.  It was a form of slavery and societal hierarchy.  And so the response is to go twice the distance expected.

In a similar verse we are told what to do when slapped in the face.  Striking someone on the side of their head is most definitely a hate filled action.  The entire world would unanimously approve and even applaud a return strike.  But Jesus shows us that even when justified, hate is hate.   So how should we respond?  Turn the other cheek.  Let them strike the other side.  Why?  We don’t hate.  All hate is hate.  All hate is wrong.  All hate is from the most evil one.

Jesus has the most perfect response to hate.  He called it love.  And He spent His life showing it to others.  Mastering it in our sight.  Letting others document it over and over how He always chose the natural way of things.   God’s way of things.  The path of love.

And when His story was finished… when He had shown true love over and over again until His whole legacy was a lifetime of love and compassion… He spoke no more.  What else was there to say.  In a final act of love and sacrifice He lay still while hammers injected the world’s hate into his veins.

Fully loving, completely sacrificed to us, we can change the world in a very similar fashion.  We need only stop pointing to the world.  Stop trying to keep the hate scale even on both sides and let it tip over off the table when we collectively stop hating back.  Show the world a love they haven’t seen in years.

And some may look at the world and say that the death of Jesus didn’t have an impact.  Look in your mirror and ask yourself… “is that true?”.  And if it hasn’t… couldn’t it?  God didn’t put a timestamp on love.  It doesn’t spoil.  You can fully utilize it right now no matter how longs its been.

I don’t believe Jesus meant that we can’t defend ourselves when threatened.  But I do believe that we have interpreted our freedom into a chip on our shoulders that says its OK for me to get mine!  I’m allowed to be first.  I’m not going to be treated that way.  I’m not going to allow this.  I’m…. Me… Mine… My….  see the problem?  If we are on our knees before the king trying to do the Father’s business… we wouldn’t even notice the disparity.

Look at our posture.  Standing at the ready.  pointing at each other.  Anger filled, Hate fused.  Look at the posture of Jesus.  Kneeling in prayer.  pointing to the Father, washing our feet.  Love filled, overflowing with grace.  To be Christian means to be like Christ.  How far do you have to go?

 

Listen to your Donkey

We don’t hear about this much from the pulpit… but there is a talking donkey in the Bible.  The owner’s name is Balaam and the donkey is called… his donkey.  If you aren’t familiar with the story, you might take a second to get caught up:

Numbers 22:21-33

In my Bible, the heading of that story is interesting.  It’s titled, “Balaam’s Donkey”.  After reading that story, I would have thought the angel with the sword was pretty cool… and very important.  But Balaam didn’t even notice him.  You know what else Balaam didn’t notice?

THAT HIS DONKEY WAS TALKING!!!!!  Read the text.  After the donkey asked why he beat him so, he simply responded and then added a threat to the donkey to boot.  I also think its interesting that the word says that God opened the donkey’s mouth.  Note the words it spoke,

What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”

Balaam wasn’t beating God or the angel.  He was beating his donkey.  And the donkey spoke.  Why ME?  Not, why HIM?  Not, leave that Donkey alone… it was, “you beat ME”.  And the donkey speaks in first person again.  Later, Balaam sees the angel and the angel references the donkey directly as a 3rd party.  And while all of that is interesting, Balaam responds to the donkey’s questions as though it was a normal conversation.

We don’t receive any physical description of fear, surprise, shock, awe, or confusion.  Balaam is so angry at this creature that when it asked why he would hurt it, he had explanation prepared and shouted it readily.  Balaam wasn’t quoted with a stutter, nor were any follow up questions mentioned.  I was expecting something along the lines of:

“you can talk!?!??!?!”  Or how about an, “I’m so sorry!!”.  Speaking tends to humanize things a bit, but Balaam was wishing he had his sword to teach this animal a lesson.

This situation screams out crazy.  Who could tell this story and not end up in a white jacket after?  But I believe that we re-enact this on an extremely regular basis.  Consider the following:

  1.  We follow our own path.
  2. We keep our head down and pay little attention to what is going on around us.
  3. Circumstances try and steer us clear, but we complain, point fingers, blame, and otherwise try to work around these “obstacles” that are actually there to help us… in hindsight.
  4. Something amazing happens.  Perhaps even miraculous.  But it wasn’t what we wanted, or our way of doing it, or in our timing, so we kick it, fuss at it, and wish it harm.
  5. God performs a holy double face-palm at His efforts to put us on track and our inability to see Him through our own small thinking.

Even when I’m trying to do good, I go about it MY way in most cases.  There are two things I think we could all do better:  (look and listen).

  1.  Keep your eyes out for sword wielding angels.  God cares so much for us.  He loves us to death (His Son’s death) and He would, and has done, anything for us.  This includes working in our lives today.  Keep that head up and look for signs, opportunities, noble paths, people in need, etc.
  2.  Keep your ears open for talking donkeys.  Don’t be so entrenched with what you want, that you can’t even hear or notice that God is clearly talking to you.  If you are open to the will of God, then you need to be always prepared to step back from the worldly way of doing things.  We need to be prepared and expect speed bumps, road blocks, detours, bridges out… If these things derail us emotionally, we will never experience the miracles off the beaten path (which will be most of them).

We can get so wrapped up in our world, we don’t even recognize it when donkey’s speak.  Balaam didn’t.  Not that I can tell.  But I can recognize his exasperation for the situation.  It’s a laser focus mentality that refuses to acknowledge anything other than plan A.  Balaam was on a mission and this stubborn beast was not going to get in His way.

Be open to the whims of the donkey… it may just be spying a sword wielding angel ready to slice you down.  Did you see how the angel talked to Balaam?  He told the man that he would have killed him if he kept going… and he would have spared the donkey.  The donkey saved his life (and tried to 3 times).  Perhaps when things don’t go our way, instead of asking, “why me!!?”, why not pray about what blessings are about to happen?  Or what warning needs to be heeded?  Balaam learned, in the oddest way possible, to be thankful for unexpected inconveniences.

I know that for me, the next time I blow a tire, I’m going to be looking around the area.  Is someone else around?  Is there an opportunity here?  Should I go another way?  Should I turn around completely?  Does the hubcap have something to say?

 

 

 

It is Well… no, really!

The best, most wonderful, precious and amazing thing we can do is pray.  But what happens when we don’t feel like it?

Most of my blogs are about prayer.  Jesus spent a huge amount of His time in prayer.  The answer to all things Christian is prayer.  The modern Christian has little else to do but pray… But there are circumstances where prayer just seems out of reach.

We aren’t worthy, we haven’t been answered, we feel let down, we are stuck in a rut, angry at God, need a break, it hasn’t yielded positive results in months.  And… etc.

Christians aren’t called to be perfect, but we are made to endure.  The song “It is Well”, if you aren’t familiar with it’s roots, was penned by a man who just lost 4 children in a boating accident.  He didn’t have the strength to do much.  So he wrote.  When peace is with me… it is well.  When trials come… it is well too.

His wife, who couldn’t comprehend the devastation, said “God gave me four daughters. Now they have been taken from me. Someday I will understand why.”  She was having the same moment her husband was.  It was an ‘it is well’ moment.  Devastating, horrible, unfathomable, gut wrenching, and yet… not eternal.

They knew death has been defeated by Jesus.  They knew eternity and real life starts with death.  But, as the living, we mourn the loss of those we love.  And in those moments where our hearts are floating in the abyss we can’t muster the attitude that says, lets move on, lets celebrate!  Instead, we trust God just enough to know that it is well.  Or maybe for some… it will be.

Each day can bring a new season in your life.  You may be happily faithful.  You may be being stretched and prepared for great things.  You may be in an ‘it is well’ moment.  And while we will all endure each of these, it’s very important we don’t give up.

It is well, means… I’ve lost my children, but God has gained them.

It is well, means… I’ve lost my job, but God will provide.

It is well, means… I’ve received the diagnosis, but today is not the end.

It is well, means… I’m in prison, but I can minister to my captors.

It is well, means… I’m on the cross, but its for them.

It is well, means… whatever my lot in THIS life, my soul’s path is unchanged.

It IS well.  It really is.  But there are times when our inner resources need a moment to process and catch up.  We don’t live for the playing of taps, we eagerly await angels blowing trumpets.   Tears at a graveside isn’t the end of life, shouts from the heavens are where it simply begins.

It is well, means… the tomb has been sealed, but it was empty days later.

It’s about the victory that is to come, but isn’t quite here yet.  We can’t let go of that.  The loneliness, the bitterness, the emptiness… it will create a vacuum of pain.  That is when we need it is well the most.  Not quite the power to dust ourselves off and march onward, but enough faith to know that God will deliver in His perfect timing.

One of the greatest misunderstandings in the Christian faith is why we suffer.  And why suffering builds character.  And how suffering molds us into receptive and strong foes against the enemy… how it prepares us for future needs.  How one loss prepares us better to deal with another.  And how these moments are NOT created by God… but we are guided through them, by Him.

As cliched as it sounds, don’t despair.  It is well.  God turns water into wine.  He turns blindness into sight.  And, He turns tombs into celebration.  All we have to do is weather the storm.  The end of the story for the writer of this song???  His wife gave birth to 3 more children.  But that was just a momentary pause in the story.  The end hasn’t happened yet.  He awaits, along with us, for what the true ending will be.  All he knew in life, was the ending would be worth it.  How much so, is still eagerly anticipated.

But due to their faith… because she knew God knew…  because He knew THE day was about a heavenly battle already won… they rested their hopes on days to come.  This day will pass.  A new dawn will rise.  Tomorrow brings fresh opportunity.  With time, healing abounds.  It is well.

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Small portion of the story found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horatio_Spafford

 

 

I’ll stop the world and nag for you!

Luke 18 tells the story of a whiny, annoying, tattletale.  The woman is seeking justice so I assume she recounts her entire story including names and locations with grisly details abounding.

This, of course, is from the point of view of the ruler who had to hear her testimony day after day.  Because the scriptures tell us she kept coming back, we can assume he told her, “no”, more than once.

After all, he did not care what she, or even God, thought about his ruling decisions.  But something happened.  An M. Night Shyamalan style plot twist occurred.  The ruler grew tired of the repetition.  He thought, ‘can I afford more enemies’?  And for the most selfish reasons afforded to him, he chose to answer her plea…. eventually.

You don’t have to ponder for long what the moral is here.  The Bible follows with it bluntly.  If an evil, selfish ruler will grant your requests, how much more so would a loving Father?  And if you combine this scripture with my very favorite, “Pray without ceasing.”  You get a pretty good picture of what prayer life is supposed to look like.

Don’t stop praying.  God does not tire of the monotony.  He has an entirely different perspective than that.  His children are sharing with Him what is most important to them.  Those who have children will understand that its in our nature to jump from one fad to the next.  So when the kids break down the door after a long school day and shout out their most current, favorite thing in the world… veteran moms and dads will wait it out and see just how precious this new interest is.  Sometimes it lasts only a day.  Some can be interested for a few weeks before tossing it out for the next big thing.

Praying for the same thing every day lets God know where you are vested.  It’s a conversation with your Father.  He doesn’t answer out of frustration, or even pity.  When He answers a prayer, its out of love.  I imagine the dialogue is not like that of the evil ruler who gave in selfishly to protect his own time and interests.  I believe its more like:

‘You have wanted this for a long time.  You have shown to be faithful.  It pleases me to do this for you’.

Many will point out that God does not need our prayers to do His will.  Some will argue our prayers are ineffective against the plans of our Lord.  While I feel that contradicts scriptures in several ways, perhaps its better to try and look at it a different way.

Suppose we decide to go skydiving today.  When we jump out of the plane, our abilities really have nothing to do with the experience.  In fact, anyone can go skydiving.  The plane takes us up to a height that allows the jump, and the parachute allows us to safely return to the ground.  So when we say, “I’m going skydiving!”, we are really just taking a ride.  The true power is everywhere but within us.

Even as it is, we still have to make the choice to skydive.  We still have to get ready that day and get to and on the plane.  Most importantly… we have to be willing to and decide to jump.  Those are our actions even if we need the plane and the chute to make everything else happen.

And if we choose not to jump… perhaps someone else will.  But they will be the ones in the embrace of the chute.  They will be the ones climbing into the warmth of the sky.  They will be the ones experiencing the presence of adventure.  We will have missed out on the whole experience.  Perhaps the parachute opens anyway?  But its a chute meant for everyone… and only a few chose it.

When we pray, the power comes from God, but we have to act out some faith and time on our end.  God designed prayer for us to be along for the ride.  So it can take us to wonderful places and allow us to experience fantastic things.  Will the world keep moving without us asking God for it to?  Most likely.  But, He desires our communion with Him.  And He has proven on more than one occasion to alter His plans for those that love Him and pray accordingly.

Never stop praying.  Pray for miracles.  Pray for healing.  Pray for rain.  Pray for insight.  Pray for tacos.  God desires to hear from you… and every single day at that.  Is your aunt still sick?  Pray again.  Still?  Pray again.  This isn’t questioning God, His will or His power.  It’s communicating your constant desires to your creator.  My cats tell me every single day they are hungry in the morning, lonely in the afternoon, and frisky in the evening.  Without fail, they make their case known plainly.  Does it bother me?  Not at all, I’m happy they know I’m the one to come to for such things.

Now imagine a loving, daddy anxious to hear what is on your heart.  Even if He’s heard it a million times… He wants to hear it once more, every day, as long as that is what consumes your heart.  Someone you know need prayer?  Stop your world and pray for them.  Pray the way God created you and prayer to work together.  Never ceasing, never withholding, always giving God the glory, faithfully that He intends to use that power as He promised, when you ask.

 

God’s Work During ‘the Fall’

 

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image” – Gen 1:26

We are made in the image of God.  That thought alone should spawn hours of reflection.  I would like to offer that we are capable of one thing that God is not… sin.  And God, is of course, capable of some things we are not.  Most suitable to this discussion… forgiveness.  True forgiveness where the price is paid and the slate is washed clean.  The type of forgiveness where it never happened.  Too often we read into how forgiving God is, and only come out with how sinful we are.  And this may be why God reminds right off the bat, where we come from.

Satan would tell us we come from dirt and used bones.  God’s word says we come from God and the breath of God breathed into us and gave us life.  And thus we have the devil.  Half truths, lies, manipulated context.  So effective at deceit he started the fall of mankind.  I tend to read quickly past the fall as its clearly not man’s most shining moment.  Similar to the story of Noah where God is so upset He regrets ever making us and claims we have nothing but evil in our hearts.

Yet there is hope for every one of us, and if any part of the Bible teaches us this hope, I think where it all began does it the best.

So the Lord God said to the serpent… – Gen 3:4

To the woman he said… – Gen 3:16

To Adam he said… – Gen 3:17

First we get an unintentionally comical scenario where God shows up on the scene after things got out of hand.  Immediately 3 hands shoot out from their respective sides and illuminate blame to an opposing party.  Satan nodded at man who had the core just under his feet.

The man spits out quicker than his tongue can handle that the woman was to blame for she offered it.  Shaking off tree leaves and apple stems she yells that the ‘snake’ put her up to it.  How would this play out in people’s court?  God has His own way of justice.  All of them were guilty.  Three crimes had been committed, all of them against God.  God dealt with them swiftly, yet justly.  God was with them when they didn’t see Him and He knew how to respond to their action.

Even though they walked and talked with God, they assumed He had His back turned.  We know better.  We have the opportunity to live knowing God is a part of every moment of our lives.  He breathed into us life, and He is a part of our every breath.  Live like He is with you, you will be judged and rewarded based on that.

 

they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” – Gen 3:8

“Who told you that you were naked? Gen 3:11

“Where is your brother Abel?” Gen 4:9

After each sin, God asked them about it.  Parents likely already know the reasoning.  God clearly knew the answers to His questions, yet He asked anyway.  This is where we get Cain’s famous response, “Am I my brothers keeper?!!”.  You have likely seen internet memes expressing innocence over obvious guilt.

explode

While we can laugh at the absurdity, consider God’s point of view.  And just like a good parent, He withholds summary until each party has a chance to speak.  Each one blaming, lying, making excuses, and when He has heard enough, He passes judgement.  You notice no words are recorded of the event after God starts talking?  Not until after they are out of the Garden and officially living, post Eden?

I like to ponder the why of that as well.  My current best guess is that we get a chance to come clean, one chance.  I know many parents who dole out weaker punishments when the truth is told up front.  After all, we are made in the image of God.  What do you think?

“With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” Gen 4:1

Here we have Eve commenting on the birth of Cain.  This is the very first story we get after they are kicked out of the garden.  And remember, painful child birth just happened to be her punishment.  What is her response to exile and pain?  Praising and thanking God, of course.  Because God’s punishment was just and because He still loves mankind unconditionally, He is able to see past the mistakes.  Outside of the garden, life went on.  Just because we see Eve as the ruin-er of all good things, doesn’t mean that God does.  He lovingly created her.  And He wants her to be happy.

We see that back in the creation story when God did all that He did in the garden.  Beautiful trees, ample food, diverse creatures, and finally woman… all for Adam’s delight.  That feeling of love, protection, and comfort didn’t end with a mistake.  All it did was set in motion the next plan to save humanity.  Once you grasp your mind around what God does for us, how He made us, and how much He loves us… it’s easy to see how Eve is able to praise God for a painful experience outside of the safety of the garden.

Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear”. Gen 4:13

But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. Gen 4:15

In the actual process of casting punishment against Cain, Cain speaks up.  God responds in a way that should shock most of us.  He is, of course, speaking to an angry God, after just committing the worlds most gruesome crime to date.  God hears his concern and counters the murderer’s concern with a mark.  The mark promises that Cain goes unpunished by the rest of the world.   This tells me two things.  First, God’s punishment is more about discipline.  The root of that word is to disciple.  He isn’t interested in exacting vengeance, it’s about lovingly teaching and molding His people.

He could have just killed Cain, but He chose not to.  He could have allowed the world to enact their own justice, but He forbade that.  And that brings me to the second point.  God’s judgement… is enough.  The world has no place butting in and passing their own rulings along the way.  This fits nicely with the very straight forward scripture that says, “do not judge”.  The world does not need another judge.  The world needs God’s love.

What does God ask us to give, spread, and share?  Love.  It’s the greatest command.  Does God, anywhere in the Bible ask us to help Him bring about justice in the world?  nope.  But He does, on many, many occasions tell us that the key to all of life is to love EVERYONE.  I think we can see that here when God so graciously marked Cain to keep the nosy, holier-than-thou’s away from him.

The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. Gen 4:4-5

God has personal opinions and choices of His own.  He preferred Able’s offering to Cain’s.  Cain was not wrong in His offering, but God liked the other better.  We truly are made in His image.  We often beat ourselves up over choices when God ultimately leaves it up to us to decide.  God isn’t a vegetarian.  That doesn’t make Cain a sinner.  It just means He preferred the meats.  Whether you choose dancing, singing, poetry, mechanic, uber driver, etc, etc, etc.  You aren’t wrong.  As long as you obey the laws where the laws are at.

The next verse quickly explains that Cain has His reward for doing what is right.  But Cain was jealous because Able pleased God’s senses as well as His will.  The litmus test isn’t where, when, who, or how.  It’s about obeying God.  And we can do that in almost any locale, with almost anyone, etc.

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.  Gen3:7

The final definition of choice.  Sin desires us.  We forget spiritual warfare is so real.  It’s not a sin to be a vegetarian.  It’s a sin to kill others who aren’t.  And when we make those choices… we let sin win.  Sin isn’t a bench warmer.  It isn’t a spectator.  It’s the main event.  If the most devastating opponent and we must give it the respect it deserves.  When we give in… it gets us.  We are the reward to evil when we don’t rule over it properly.

So there we have the fall of man.  Just a few verses, often summarized as a single act that engaged God’s boot to swiftly kick us out of the garden.  Yet if we pause on each verse we see a loving Father preparing those ‘in trouble’ for the next phase of life.  (and aren’t we all ‘in trouble’?)

Just Breathe

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being – Genesis 2:7

This amazing verse is likely where we get this incredible song.  But if you prefer not to stop and listen, I’ll put the song at the bottom and the important verse right here:

It’s your breathe in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to you only.

I have sleep apnea.  What that means is that my doctor thought this would be a great place to start troubleshooting health issues for me so he sent me to a sleep center for what is called a sleep study.  A sleep study is much worse than it sounds.  I am the one being studied.  They hook up wires to everything (arms, legs, chest, head, feet), open windows into the room, turn on cameras pointed directly at me and then demand I sleep for their viewing pleasure.

If you missed that, let me rephrase, as its very therapeutic for me… I already have problems sleeping, so the solution is to put me through trauma and then insist I do the very thing I’m seeking their help in accomplishing.  This doesn’t work in many areas of life.  If I went to flight school, they wouldn’t ask me to fly first.  They would teach me to fly so I don’t crash their plane.  With sleep apnea, you have to sleep, so they can tell what is wrong and to what degree.

Nestled in my bed of cables, with blinking lights in full view to my left and a bright, wide open hallway to my right, I opted to stare at the TV, which was surrounded by video cameras staring back at me.  Only a couple of moments passed when the nurse walked back in and with a very solemn voice, softly said, “I’m glad you are here”.  I heard, but I didn’t understand, so I said, “excuse me?”.

She said, “it’s very good that you came, we are already getting data that needs to be treated”.  I corrected her that I hadn’t fallen asleep yet.  I could recite every word and action that happened on the TV.  I watched her walk back into the room.  I saw her in the hallway.  I hadn’t even closed my eyes.  She corrected me further.  You slept, but its such a low quality, you likely wouldn’t know you were sleeping.

I received my results in the mail.  It started by defining what sleep apnea is.  Its diagnosed by the number of abnormal breathing events you endure in an hour.  There are anomalies and one-offs, so a single event or two isn’t worrisome.  In fact, this doctor classifies anything less than 15 events an hour as ‘normal’.  Any thing over 15 events an hour is considered apnea and needs to be treated.  Anything over 30 events an hour is considered ‘severe’ and could pose life threatening issues.  My number, was in the 70s.

What does that mean?  Basically it means, that multiple times a night, I wake up gasping for air.  Sometimes I just need air and a better sleeping position to help me breath, but many times, it includes panic.  I know something is wrong but I don’t know what.  I know I need oxygen and I’m not getting it.  Waking up is like busting through the surface of the water just as the last bit of air ran out and I could hold my breath no longer… I heave in air as hard and big as possible while frantically tossing covers and trying to stand outside of the bed to see exactly what is happening.

Our bodies don’t function without air.  But as bad as we need air, we need God more.  Some of us need to get checked out… but without a third parties involvement we may never know how much we need Him.  We need family and friends praying over us.  We need a Bible study instead of a sleep study.  We need intervention.  Because we are gasping for God and the longer we go without the worse it gets.  Jesus went without God.  It was at that time He cried out that God had forsaken Him.  Our Savior languished under the absence of God… and He had God’s powers.  How are we to make it without the Father in heaven?  Especially if He could not stand it?

You might have seen a movie or TV show where two people are trapped underwater and they take turns breathing from a diver’s tank of oxygen?   That is pretty difficult to keep up.  Each time you hold your breath, your body wants to breath in more.  Need a visual?  Hold your breath for as long as you can.  When you need air, breath.  What happens?  You are likely breathing heavy, trying to regain oxygen throughout your body.  Now imagine you are back under water.   You have to hold your breath until the other person relinquishes the breathing mask.  Each breath of air requires more and more oxygen to offset the holding in from before.

We weren’t meant to live a life with God and another life without Him.  Being a different person on Sundays is like trying to breathe from someone else’s tank.  It doesn’t last for very long.  We need God in every breath.  We need Him every moment.  He needs to be in our jobs, our schools, our grocery stores, our highways, our parking lots, and our pool halls.  Everywhere we go, we need Him.  We sing another song that demonstrates how badly we need Him.  It’s worth sharing again…

Oh god how we need you

Oh, isn’t filler or to keep the tempo.  It’s an adjective of desperation.  I learned this when I was little.  When my mom said, “barry”, I knew we were about to engage in interpersonal dialogue.  when she yelled, “BARRY!!!!!”… I ran.  To say, “God”, is to address our Father in heaven.  Our maker.  To sigh out “oh God!” Is to be on our knees.  Tears dropping to the ground as we rest face down before the holy King.

“How” has a different effect.  I think of the poem, how I love you, let me count the ways.  How is an amount… but it’s an unfathomable number.

When we truly offer to God, “OH”, “HOW”, “I NEED YOU!” we put ourselves in the proper place of worship.  And that is precisely when God fills us back up with His air, His breath, His life, His Love, Himself.  We carry the breathe of life… Try rethinking your day with that image in mind.  And remember… as bad as we need God, so does the world.