|September 12, 2011||A Mighty Fortress|
|September 05, 2011||Separation vs Isolation|
|August 29, 2011||Lunch With A Young Lady|
|August 22, 2011||Moral Absolutes? ABSOLUTELY!|
|August 16, 2011||The Power of Vision|
|August 08, 2011||Time to Panic or Surrender?|
|August 01, 2011||All Hypocrites Please Stand|
|July 27, 2011||Action and Reaction|
|July 19, 2011||Some Really Great News|
|July 11, 2011||Taking Grace for Granted|
Does God fail? A better question might be, has God ever failed you? As Christian men, our knee jerk reaction may be something along the lines of “God never fails” or “God has never failed me.” I am not here to argue the point, because I would agree with you, however, the way we live our lives sometimes testifies differently than what we have proclaimed with our mouths.
I do not know anyone who has not been affected by the economic turmoil these days. If you have not been personally affected, then you know someone who has. Statistically speaking, it would be impossible for you not to fall into one of those two categories because of the immensity of the problem. Does God know about it? Does God understand how it is affecting you or someone you know? Has God failed? Has God failed you?
Who is your God?
Is your God someone you can count on or not?
In times of greatest distress, I think many of us wonder if we can still count on God. It is the reality of being human. There is a circle of people out there with a very cynical view of God, but their wondering and musing can be helpful when we ask the question, “Who is your God?” I was watching TV the other night when a guy came on asking the question, “Is God in control of everything or not?” As I listened, he began to cite the many things that are attributed to the work of God, such as tsunamis and volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.
He then assumed that, well yes, God is in control of all those things. Because God, being all powerful could have prevented any of them, yet for whatever reason, chose not to do so. Without missing a beat, he then cited God for all the other tragedies in the world, and ended with God giving aids to babies in Africa. Whatever your reaction to these accusations of God, that is the perception of God to people who refuse to believe God exists. It begs the question: who is your God?
I am reminded by the words of a goodie but oldie hymn called “A Mighty Fortress.” For those who have never heard of it, here is the first stanza of that song:
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
our helper he amid the flood of mortal ills prevaling.
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.
What those who choose to not believe in God will never understand is that while Christians may never be able to prove to their satisfaction that God is real, there is great peace and power in accepting and knowing that God does exist. God does care, and while we may not understand the tragedies in the vapor of existence we call life, we know that God has never failed us, and that God never fails.
Isaiah 14:24 “The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand:”
Reposted from www.MenRising.com
Suppose I gave you a jar of yellow gumballs with this simple instruction: you are to separate one gumball from the rest without isolating it from the others. Could you do it? As soon as you take one gumball out of the bunch, it is separated, but now it is also isolated. As soon as you put it back in, it once again becomes neither separated or isolated.
Can something or someone be separated without being isolated? It is a question worth asking because it drives at the core of the meaning of holiness. As Christians are we to be a holy, separated people, or are we to be a holy, isolated people?
How you look at your Christian life through either of these two possibilities will determine how you relate to the world around you. From two different pastors I heard the following two statements: “Church is not for the saved, it is for the lost to come and hear the Gospel” and “Church is not for the lost, it is for the saved to come and learn how to live a life pleasing to God.” As I took in and thought over these two statements, I could not see anything wrong with either of them except for their exclusive stance toward a particular group. In truth, church should be for the saved AND the lost.
The church should be a place where the lost feel welcome and where the Gospel can be planted in their hearts, however, it should also be a place where Christians feel comfortable bringing their families because they know that the teachings will help all of them learn to live a holy life pleasing to God.
Going back to the example of the gumballs, what if you were to take one gumball out, change it’s color, and then place it back in the jar. Would it then be separated? Well, it would certainly be different, and it would stand out. It would also no longer be isolated.
1Peter 2:9 “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:” John 9:5 “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
If we are in the world and no different than the world, then I propose that we are not separated, or to use another word, holy. To be holy is to be different in a way that gives honor and glory to God instead of bringing attention to ourselves. If we are so different that we isolate ourselves, and the world has no interaction with us, then they cannot see God in us in that way either. We may as well be a gumball wrapped in opaque packaging completely cut-of from any interaction, definitely separated, but also just another form of isolation.
There must be balance. We cannot hope to influence a lost world if we isolate ourselves from them, nor can we be the light to a world if we are no different than they are. That balance, that distinction between being separated and isolated, that characteristic that points to God instead of ourselves, that is what I believe is holiness.
Reposted from www.MenRising.com
When the For Sale sign went on my motorcycle, the first thing my daughter asked me was, “Are you going to sell your motorcycle?” It was not a question of if, but more a question of why. I explained to her that I did not need the motorcycle anymore, and that we needed the money more than I wanted to keep the motorcycle around. I could tell she was sad about the whole thing, so I offered to take her for a ride. She became very enthusiastic. I went and got the helmets, and off we rode through the back roads of Jacksonville and eventually ended up on Hwy 204 headed into town. It wasn’t a planned trip, but it was fun, and instead of just heading home, we went to a local restaurant to get some hamburgers.
Just being with my daughter on this impromptu date was fun for her and me. We had ridden together on the motorcycle together before, and as we ate hamburgers and fries, she recalled the different times, places we went, and things we did together. For the most part, we hadn’t done anything spectacular, no pictures had been taken, there were no main events, but I began to realize a couple of things: first, just being with my daughter is an event all its own, and second, this little girl is growing up fast.
At the restaurant, she did all the talking. Stopping occasionally to ask questions on some point she was unclear on, and sometimes taking a bite of food, she rambled on for many minutes, and I just listened to her talk. It’s amazing to see what a child takes in, their perceptions on things that have happened, and how they can come to some pretty amazing conclusions all on their own. She talked about stuffed animals and friends as though they were both an equal part of the world, and in her world I am sure they are. She talked about riding a bicycle, and how it is a lot like riding a motorcycle, except for all the things that are different, which she began to name.
As I looked at her and listened and watched, I began to wonder what kind of future is she going to have. Who will she marry? That thought reminded me of a story a preacher told about his wife who was busy praying one day. The preacher asked his wife what she was praying about and she said she was praying for a Godly husband for their daughter. The preacher thought this odd since their daughter was not yet 5 years old, but then his wife added, “Somewhere, there are parents raising a young man who will one day become the husband of our daughter. I’m praying for all of them.” That’s when the preacher knelt down beside his wife and also began to pray.
Since that time, I have begun praying for the future husbands of both of my daughters. As we wrap up our little lunch, I wonder if there are parents out there with a little boy, possibly praying for me and my wife and my daughter. I wonder if they have the same concerns about this world and a future for their children as I do, and if they care as much about raising their children right.
As I parked the motorcycle on the driveway, and though the motorcycle is still technically for sale, I took the For Sale sign off. Not because I didn’t want to sell it anymore, but for some reason I found I just didn’t want to sell it as badly as I used to.
Reposted from www.MenRising.com
I was talking with a young lady in China, trying to get her to understand the concept of how God sees sin, right and wrong, and moral absolutes. As we talked, it became apparent to me that either she did not understand the concept of absolute right and wrong, or she was purposefully choosing a line of thinking that said all actions of right and wrong were conditional.
To clarify her position in my own mind, I asked her if prostitution was against the law in China. She said yes. When I tried to get her to admit, based on the law, that prostitution was wrong, she wavered. “Wrong by the government does not mean it is wrong for the girl. Maybe she must do these things to support herself, and maybe she must support her baby.”
She then brought up a question I recognized immediately as a moral dilemma question. Here is the setup: A group of people is trying to escape from certain death in a building through the only passage way available. One person becomes stuck in the passage way just a few feet from the opening outside, and this person cannot be removed by either pushing them forward or backward. It seems now that everyone will die.
However, one person in the group has a crude and gruesome means of removing the person from the passage way, but it will certainly kill the person blocking the way. Some people argue that for one person to die to save everyone else is worth it. Others argue that it is outright murder and should not be done. The person stuck in the passage way has a family and does not want to die, but agrees there is no way for everyone to live unless they die, and so the decision is left up to you. What do you do?
There are variations on this story I have heard since then, such as the person in the passage way is a relative, maybe a husband or wife, or maybe the person stuck is a pregnant female. In one case the person is begging for their life to be spared, and in another they are consenting to their own death. Whatever spin you put on it though, the original moral dilemma remains the same as in the first story. The other variations just seem to add in distractions intended to complicate or simplify what is essentially the same choice: one person (or two in the case of the pregnant female) dies so that the rest may live, or all die in the name of preserving moral right.
While you may never personally face this moral dilemma, we still face these types of decisions once in a while. Is it OK to change seats at a ball game for better seats you did not pay a premium price for if they are empty? Is it OK to call in sick on a day when you actually overslept? If you do something wrong and someone else is getting the blame, do you step in and fess up – even if the consequences are going to be very harsh?
Problem is, these answers may be difficult for some people to answer, but when there is a clear line of right and wrong, and a choice has been made to do right no matter the cost, then the decisions are actually made before the time of decision even comes. Those clear lines of right and wrong are called moral absolutes, and when solidly based on the Word of God, we can make choices with confidence instead of worrying if we did the right thing or not.
How this really begins to apply is when we are raising our children to choose to do right. Peer pressure among friends and a desire to fit in with the group has a very powerful way of greying out a line of right and wrong. “I’m not hurting anyone else but myself” would be one argument, while another argument has been “What is right and wrong for you is not necessarily what is right and wrong for me.” If moral absolutes do not exist in the first place, there is very little chance these faded lines will hold up when the greying effect of peer pressure comes in to sway you, or your children. What moral absolutes can you find in the Bible?
Reposted from www.MenRising.com August 15, 2011.
When I was a kid, a conversation that would come up once in a while had to do with our five senses, and which one we could do without, and which ones we felt we absolutely had to have. Eventually, the list would be narrowed down to a choice between sight and sound. If you had to lose one of them, which would you choose? Unanimously, everyone said they would rather lose their sense of hearing over their ability to see, because while hearing is critical, a lack of sight would keep you from doing so many more things.
Most people would be devastated to lose their sight. No more golden sunrises or sunsets. No more reading books, at least not the way you’re used to reading them. Movies would be left up to your imagination. The faces of your children would be impressions of your hands on them. So much of what we discover and experience in life comes from our sense of sight. It would be a very difficult thing to lose.
Vision, however, is not just what we see right now. Vision is the ability to see what is coming before it gets here, to see potential problems, as well as the ability to see the potential of what could be. Before every great development, invention, new product, or new experience we have, there is the flicker of an idea in the imagination that slowly emerges as a vision of a future that could be. That vision shapes everything, creates motivation, focuses energies, and makes things happen.
As the leader of your home, what is your vision for your family. Maybe you have not given this a lot of thought, but you should. What kind of relationship do you see between you and your wife 5, 10, 25 years from now? What kind of relationship do you see yourself having with your kids when they are grown and married? What about your grandchildren? What will it take to get there?
I do not personally know of anyone who ever married for the pure motive of getting a messy divorce, ripping their family apart, and destroying a good relationship – but it happens. I also do not know any parent who purposefully raised their kid to be a drunk, a drug abuser, or someone who breaks the law and lands in jail for the sole motivation of being able to go bail them out of jail at night, sending them to a rehab clinic, or seeing the lives of their children destroyed – but this also happens.
I feel that part of the problem is the inability of these people to see the end-game of their actions. The other part of the problem is that they never had a concrete vision of the future they really wanted, or that if they did, then they never had a road map to take them there. Without such a vision, many things are left to chance, or even the selfish vision of someone else. You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint, so why try to build a home without one?
By home I am not referring to the sticks and blocks that make a house, I am talking about the decisions you make now that can have long-term effects. Setting standards, having rules that have consequences when they are broken, and saying no to things that do not promote or further the vision you have for your family. That kind of vision provides a focus that is very powerful, because it makes so many other decisions easier.
Reposted from www.MenRising.com 8/10/2011 post
The recent downgrade of the US Credit Rating seems to have many in government scrambling - to get out from under any responsibility. The news media is giving voice to anyone who wants to get in front of a camera and point fingers, and many hold their breath waiting to see how the markets will settle out over this newest wrinkle.
Are you worried?
The truth is, no one knows what will happen next. The economy seems to be on a daily roller coaster that is being built daily, and the future is impossible to predict. I’ve had conversations with people about how to prepare for such an uncertain future, and suggestions of what to do have run from doing nothing differently, to some comical “end-of-the-world” preparations, and all points in between with some ideas I found pretty level headed.
We have all given it some thought, and when I search for something in the Bible to compare it to, my mind went immediately to the storm at sea the disciples experienced with Jesus asleep in the back of the ship. The story is found in Matthew chapter 8 and Mark 4, but some points about their situation jump out at me as being similar.
First, they had a very huge problem come upon them. This was not a theoretical, political, or personal problem. This problem was tangible, it was immediate, and it threatened their very lives. Second, for their part, there was nothing they could do. The ship was full of water, and their future was in great doubt. Third, they went to Jesus, but finding him asleep bemoan that He does not care for them, and that they may die.
Ever been in a situation where life is turned all upside down and it seems God is asleep at the wheel and/or does not not care about what is going on in your life?
As this economy plays out, there are some people out there in ships that are sinking. Their problems are not theoretical, political, or personal. They have very real problems that require very real answers. They have gone to God, and from their point of view, it seems God is asleep. They have cried out in their hearts, in their prayers at night, in frustrations and anxiety of an uncertain future “Carest thou not that we perish?”
Their concerns and fears are no less real than the concerns and fears the disciples had while on that ship in the middle of a raging sea that threatened to destroy them, and I think Jesus’ response to the disciples would be no different for us today. Mark 4:40 “And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” The difference being that Jesus calmed a very real storm in their lives before uttering those words. His actions showed what the intent of His words were. He was always in perfect control of the situation.
Sometimes we simply want the storm to stop, and then we will trust God and be thankful. I know that is where I would be in my mind. We want to see the storm abate to know God is still in control. Strange. Why do we believe God is control when things are good, but when things go bad we doubt His sovereignty? When things are good, faith is easy because we perceive the good blessings of God’s provision, but it is when things are not so good when our faith is tested.
The God in control of our lives in good times, is still in control when things go haywire. When things are good, it is easy to give God control of our lives. We should be equally prepared to surrender control in our lives when things are not so good, or downright terrible. The way I see it, with all the uncertainty I have about the future, I think I’d rather have faith in God who really does control everything than trust myself. It’s not easy.
Like being the passenger in a car heading into trouble, the impulse is to wrest control of the steering wheel away from the driver, but if the driver is an expert, and we really do trust him, faith dictates we be prepared to surrender complete control. Now, you can start by taking your hands off the wheel.
See more daily posts at www.MenRising.com
Talking with a friend who had just witnessed to someone days earlier, he related the story of how he talked with the young man about Jesus, and about how the young man had responded that he didn’t believe in Christianity, and that everyone who called themselves a Christian were just a bunch of hypocrites anyway. As he went on to tell the story, my mind was stuck on that singular stinging indictment of all Christendom. Whether we like it or not, what the world sees when they look at Christianity today is not Christ, but a bunch of hypocrites who think they are better than everyone else.
Typically, Christians tend to react defensively to this. When the world points out all the atrocities and horrors inflicted in the name of Christianity, we like to point out all the good things people have done in the name of Christ. There are arguments and pointed examples for both sides to be sure. There is also a tendency to point out that there are “real” and “fake” Christians, and that it is all the “fake” Christians out there who live ungodly lives that are giving the good Christians (like yourself) a bad name.
Think about that last sentence for a moment. Go back and read it again if you need to. In making that argument, have we not just clarified in the mind of the world that “Christians think they are better than everyone else.”
Step back from the scene for a moment and try to imagine how God sees it all. The world is full of sin and sinners, and you and I are no exceptions. From the Bible to the laws of men and even the internal mechanisms we all adhere to for a standard of right and wrong, we all, Christians and non-Christians alike, say we believe in a code of right and wrong and yet fail to live up to that standard whatever it may be. We try to do what is right, but we often fail. That makes all of us hypocrites.
Where the world sees a difference is that Christians don’t own that. The world knows and understands, and even accepts that they do wrong. Christians on the other hand are so busy trying to live a right life that they sometimes get consumed with it, and in that pursuit they see they are doing right things more than they were before and that can lead some to elevate themselves above others as a people who are better than others. Going to church, reading your Bible, praying, and living a good life are all good things, but they do not make you better than anyone: Isaiah 64:6 ” . . . and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags . . .”
So how to respond when someone calls you a hypocrite? Just own it. It’s true, but understand we are all hypocrites. Just because you go to church and try to live a right life does not make you better than anyone else. Also understand, that Christ did not love you because you were good, Christ loved you because you needed to be loved. Without His love, there would be no salvation. The lost person who calls you hypocrite needs to see that love that Christ loved you with. Even though you are not perfect, and even though you are a hypocrite who struggles to do right and often may fail to make the mark, you can still show the love of Christ.
Reposted from www.MenRising.com 8/1/2011
A few nights ago, I was working on something in my office at home when I heard what sounded like my oldest daughter reading a book out loud in her room. When I went to look, I saw my youngest sitting next to her, listening as she read. Wanting to capture the moment, I went and grabbed my camera. On my way to take the picture, I remembered that my camera has a function that illuminates an orange LED light just before you snap the picture, and this orange light had messed up some candid shots in the past because when someone sees it light up, they look, and it spoils the natural shot I was looking for.
So, instead of taking a picture, I decided to put it in video mode. As I started the video, I edged the camera slowly around the corner, and just watched from the small LCD screen. I listened and watched for a few seconds when my youngest daughter, holding a small Teddy Bear, announced “I’m going to take your temperature.” She grabbed a toy thermometer, and began holding it to the mouth of the bear.
My oldest saw this, and stopped reading long enough to make a swipe at the thermometer, but missed. She made another swipe at it, grabbing it away from her younger sister. After very forcefully getting rid of the thermometer out of reach, she gave a glare as if to say, “Don’t do that again!” and started reading again. As I watched this scene play out, I was shocked by two things: my oldest daughters action, and my youngest daughters reaction.
You see, my youngest did not react at all. She just took it, and my heart broke for her. If she had reacted defensively, I would have been on her side! The injustice of the moment angered something inside me, but I just let it play out because it was on video, and I wanted to see if this was going somewhere. It went nowhere. It was diffused immediately because there was no reaction.
Too often have I made the mistake of reacting to injustice, whether real or perceived. It is a quite unnatural thing for me to even think of remaining silent and “taking it” when I feel that someone has wronged me in some way. Convinced of their wrongness and my right to defend myself, I can get very defensive very quickly, and my reactions are there to put things back in balance. In the end, even if balance is restored, relationships are usually damaged and hurt.
For me, it is easy to say that my youngest daughter just took the injustice because she does not yet know another way to react, and though I may be right, I hope she never learns another way. Once you begin to react, it becomes a very hard habit to break.
As for the video I took of my daughters, about 90 seconds had passed from the incident when they noticed it was there. They had no idea how long I was there, and assumed wrongly that it was just a few seconds. They wanted to see the video.
As I took my oldest daughter to the office and played the video, I paused it when she made the first swipe and asked her, “What was that?” I restarted the video and when she made the second swipe I said, “What was that?” Then, I restarted the video and when she got rid of the thermometer I paused for the third time and asked, “What was that?” Her face was downcast. She had just seen and heard what I had seen and heard, and she was feeling the heat from being caught.
“Want to see it again?” I asked her. “No, Papa. Please don’t play it again.” It was enough. The point had been made. In trying to catch my daughter doing something very good and very right, I had been given a very unique opportunity to catch her doing something else. As I watched the video later, and saw how my youngest daughter just took the injustice, my heart was broken for her, but inside I knew she had reacted the right way.
Reposted from www.MenRising.com - my daily blog for Christian men
I opened my mailbox today to find out that none other than Tobin Smith has written to me! I felt I should somehow be very excited about this, except I did not know who Tobin Smith was, and I could not recall ever having written to him. No matter!
I opened the envelope to see in LARGE BOLD LETTERS that a secret breakthrough has been revealed. My first thoughts being somewhere along the lines of "so much for the secret". The paragraph continued using really energetic sounding words like "unprecedented" which is much the same as precedented, only not so much. I had not even opened the brochure from Mr. Tobin Smith when a letter fell out. At the top of the letter was a note that said, "From The Desk Of Tobin Smith" and I knew right away that either this man had a well educated desk, or that this letter was somehow more important than letters say, from the dining room table.
The outside of the envelope bearing my name, now revealed itself to contain a more personalized letter titled "Dear Trend-Conscious Investor" which is not at all how my name is spelled. I'm thinking at this point the envelope labeling person and the letter writing person were probably not one in the same, and quickly I have determined that this letter, and I am so disappointed to come to this conclusion, is quite probably in fact, (it pains me to say this), NOT from Mr. Tobin Smith.
Like many other "Trend-Conscious Investors" out there, I filed the letter respectfully in the wastebasket. I do not take such things seriously, and I also do not think Mr. Tobin Smith will be too disappointed if he doesn't hear back from me any time soon.
However, there is an Investor that has written to all of us, and it's not "junk mail" either. The Letter has been around for a long time, and the Investment He made was quite substantial. You see, in very clear language, the Bible tells us in John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
You see, when it came to investing in the salvation of all mankind, God made quite an investment, and as Christians, we are the return on His investment. Furthermore, we have been given the awesome opportunity to invest ourselves in this opportunity, for we were given a Great Commission - "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel, to every creature." (Makr 16:15)
That is an investment we should all consider very seriously.
Ever stop to realize how much we as Americans take things for granted? This past fourth of July, Independence Day, we celebrated a freedom many outside this country will never know, and many inside this country cannot comprehend. It is a loss of perspective brought by the consistency of it’s presence, and it happens in the Christian life, too.
The other night, my youngest daughter was saying her prayers. She still does the “Now I lay me down to sleep . . .” routine because she has not yet learned the meaning of prayer. We work with her, but understand that talking to God is a difficult concept for her age, however, one night presented me with a teachable moment. The girls were late getting into bed, and there was a flurry of activity of getting nightgowns on, bed’s made, teeth brushed, and getting into bed. When I said it was time for prayers, my youngest took her cue and off she went saying her night time prayer as fast as she could.
When she finished, my other daughter started to pray, but I said, “Just a minute.” I stopped what was going on and looked at my youngest daughter and asked her, “Why do we pray?” She just shrugged her shoulders, but my oldest daughter then spoke up, “We pray to talk to God.” I looked at my youngest daughter and asked her, “Do you talk to anyone else really really fast like that?” She shook her head “no” and I told her, “When you pray, you are talking to God, not just trying to get to bed as fast as possible. Try it again, but this time, talk to God.”
She did, and we all went to bed, but it had me thinking, how many prayers have I casually breezed through without ever talking to God? I pray when I wake up, pray for different things throughout the day, pray for safety when I travel, and pray for my food before I eat, but how often am I talking to God, and how many times have I just said words to get through the tradition and ritual of prayer before meals? Furthermore, in what other ways have I taken God for granted?
I soon realized that even having a Bible I can call my own is a gift, and how often have I failed to exercise my freedom to read its words? Convicted, I saw many things that surround my life that I have taken for granted from my clothes and car, to my health and my family. I have been truly given much. When my thoughts turn to salvation though, I have no excuse.
Grace. Salvation. Mercy. Words I understand in my own human mind that cannot even begin to compare to their real meaning on God’s scale. All God really expects of me is to live a life that will glorify Him, and to take the message of the Gospel to others. Yet my life is filled with so many other distractions, excuses really, that seem so important. Then I realize, I have been living with this grace for so long now, I have come to a place in my life where I have taken it for granted.
While we may now access salvation freely, there was never a mandate from heaven that required God to give His only begotten Son to die for our sins. When someone asks, “Where would we be without the grace of God”, just try to internalize that thought for a moment, and see if it does not change your perspective and guide you towards actions and a life that is lived to glorify God.
-reposted from www.MenRising.com 7/11/11