Monday, December 28, 2015

My Idol


Today's illustration was shared by Frank Turek on Twitter.  It combined some things that came together for me, with this year's Christmas.  For me, Christmas is one of those times when I think about people.  Friends, would be enemies, those who've merely passed through my life, those who've made a difference in some way.  It got me thinking about the past year and where it took us.


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Hallelujah- Lindsey Stirling- #aSaviorIsBorn (Video)

It's Saturday of Christmas weekend.  And we have several gifts.  As you may already know, if you follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Google+, I'm madly in love with Lindsey Stirling -- her talent, her spirit, the way she deals with those around her at any given time.  So, our first gift is a video of her rendition of "Hallelujah".  She shares a few words after the performance.  Please take the time to watch to the very end.  The video is in the full post.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Delight Yourself

image used under Creative Commons license, 
photo by John Pavelka, from Flickr
Psalm 37:4  Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

It's Monday of Christmas week and that verse resonates in our spirit, even more than usual.  For those of us who are Christians, there's a connection to the manger in our illustration.  That one is from the Catedral Metropolitano; Zona 1, Guatemala City, in 2009.  But our connection is to the original it depicts, some 2000+ years ago.

We celebrate the season through gift giving.  There's fun, lights, trees, presents, food, beverages.  An atmosphere of festivity.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Living Life or Living in Misery?

Micah 6:8  He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?

That verse was the focus of our last post.  And we're continuing the subject, today, starting with a different graphic quote.  Our graphic for today's post asks a really good question.  If we think about it, that speaks of our impact in the now. But, since we live in the eternal, one way or another, it also relates to our long term state.

What can be extremely edifying or totally scary is our attitude toward those around us and the things of this life.  Tim Keller expressed it well. He said, “If you need something in addition to God to make you happy, that is your true King.”


Monday, December 14, 2015

Your Own Thing?

Our illustration quote is from a site called Live Life Happy.  It grabbed my attention for several very possibly conflicting reasons.  Let's take a look.

We can go all the way back to Adam and Eve and still be able to make the same statement.  Or we can look at modern people and groups to see that it still applies.  If you pay attention to the news there are some situations we're all aware of, others not getting so much coverage. But we can see some real issues in our world.

There's a common denominator.  While some say they seek equality, all their behavior shows an "I want mine" attitude at the expense of someone else. Contrast that with those willing to suffer for their faith and we realize there's more than one way to define what a "strong person" is.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Faith in God's Faithfulness (Video)

image used under Creative Commons 
license, courtesy of Wikipedia
First, an announcement.  Or, to be more precise, an announcement of an announcement.  The books are stating to sell the way they deserve to.  And that, of course, helps fund our mission trip that's coming up.  Because of all who have been praying and donating, we have a Christmas gift that we'll be announcing on Christmas Eve.  Look forward to that one!

The mission trip is definitely a go.  We have the plane tickets, I was able to use some of my credit to cover the hostel where I'll be staying.  We still need finances for meals, snacks, and local transportation (including to and from both airports).  And it'd be nice if God would pay back the credit card company. There are links to my books, either side of our post area.  And there's a link to our funding page, to the left.  If you haven't donated, yet, and feel led to contribute, those are all ways you can help.  Having said that, let's get to today's post.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Trust God and Then Trust Him Some More



Proverbs 3:5  Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

It strikes me that many of my recent posts have indirectly talked about trusting the Lord.  And it's about time we put that subject in the spotlight.  Is trusting the Lord easy? Not on your life!  Is it something that comes quickly?  Not a chance!  Can those answers be changed?  Absolutely!  And, hopefully, something we share will help you get there quicker than I did.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Baby Steps

image used under Creative Commons license, 
photo by Rachel Vorhees, from Flickr
First of all, if you have a Kindle or Kindle app, this is the final day of a two day sale for the Kindle version of both my books.  Afar Off is free today, here: http://amzn.to/1XH7t1T.  And our one year devotional, Breastplate Gems, is $2.99, here: http://amzn.to/1XH7TVX. It's a good time to grab both!

"Writing = brutal discipline. Tyrant goals. Can't write a book if we don't write a chapter. Can't write a chapter if we won't write a page." -- Beth Moore, December 2, 2015 tweet

Having several books out, that Beth Moore tweet struck a respondent chord.  But, sometimes. it's even further down than a page.  It can be that one sentence or that one word that's holding us back. And that's really the truth about a lot of things, isn't it?  Baby steps accumulate.


Monday, November 30, 2015

Forgiving by the Forgiven

That's a very real truth stated in today's graphic illustration.  Let's get right to a verse.

Luke 6:37   Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:

Many jump to the first two parts of that verse, most often as a way to excuse their lifestyle, to avoid accountability. That kind of works in their minds because there's no context.  

Like everything else in the Bible, this verse says much more because there is a context.  Sometimes context is based on other verses on the same subject.  Other times, the context comes from surrounding verses.  We'll look at a few highlights of the passage this is in.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

O' So Sweet

We''ll finish this morning's post with a short thought from Todd Parsons.  But this is a little more than just a guest post.  Some of it fits our random thoughts category.  Let's get to the first.

You may notice that we didn't use our usual "guest post" graphic.  We "borrowed" that verse graphic from our friend, Theresa Wolmart.  Here in the US, we're on a holiday weekend that started on Thursday with Thanksgiving, a day where we remember that the pilgrims' first act when they landed in the New World and were given food by the native Americans was to have a feast together with those native people to honor and thank God for the blessings they had. Our graphic highlights that thought, the heart of the verse referenced.

1 Thessalonians 5:18  In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

I love that it says "in everything".  Not just when we feel blessed, not just when things go the way we want them to.  Everything we experience is allowed to be included by God for our spiritual growth.  That's a great thing.  But it strikes me that our thanks in and for everything has a time element.  It also becomes "at all times".  Our gratitude is expected to go beyond the holidays where we experience the things that allow our flesh to generate an emotional sense of gratitude.  So, we begin our random thoughts with thankfulness.  Not late for the holiday, but stretching the one day a year to 365.


Monday, November 23, 2015

Heavenly Immigration Policy


Our illustration was taken by a Romanian who goes by the online handle of Nick Nice.  He was testing the camera on his Nexus 6 and produced that gorgeous image.  Serendipity for both of us. Finding something pleasant or of value that we weren't looking for.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

To Stay Has Deep Roots

image used under Public Domain license,
photo obtained from commons.wikimedia.org
Once again, Todd Parsons.  He has a thought I believe fits in with several of our recent posts.


Monday, November 16, 2015

God of the Fresh Start


Our starting graphic is one of several that I found on the site mentioned at the bottom of the graphic, thanks to another from there being shared to my social media stream.  Much of it seems like humanism.  At the same time, there are things some of these slogans say that has pure Biblical foundation.  Like today's illustration.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Wednesday PM Service 10/28/2015 (Video)

Today we get to be blessed by a full service, including the music, etc.  And by our Missions Director, Pastor Steve Scibelli.




Monday, November 9, 2015

Breastplate Gems - A November Excerpt

It's getting closer to midway through November and it's about time for an excerpt from our one year devotional book Breastplate Gems (paperback).   That's also available in ebook format,  Breastplate Gems (Kindle). The book sales will help us finance a mission trip to Latin America, which may turn into a move onto the missionfield.

What's more important is what the devotional can do for you, the reader. It's easy to find devotionals that are full of "feel good" thoughts.  Those are good, but they don't necessarily give us tools to protect our souls. Our goal was to allow God to feed us content that might make us feel good, but definitely strengthen our faith.  With the holidays rapidly approaching, this would be a great gift for almost anyone.

Today's post is one example from the November chapter.  The prayer thought is just that -- a starting point for your own prayer, based on the devotional principle.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Return.9

image from politicaloutcast.com
I know, that's a pretty unique title.  But it's a pretty unique guest post, getting into the nitty gritty of some things that we ought to consider.  Charlie Lyon wrote it a few weeks ago and it's a topic I thought we all need to pay attention to.  Our "illustration" comes from the original post.  How it applies will become evident as you read.  Or not.  At any rate, I asked Charlie if we could reshare this, so here it is.


Monday, November 2, 2015

Spiritual Seeking

“If you’re not confident in the authority of the Scriptures, you will be a slave to what sounds right.” -- Matt Chandler

Christina Reid, one of my online friends, shared that one.  Besides recognizing the truth in it, I felt that tug on the creative soul that this was a starting point for my next blog post.  But, all day, nothing was coming together to do that.

There's a picture stream on Facebook that's titled "Places to See Before You Die", kind of a scenic bucket list.  I had my own train of thought about them.  It dawned on me that the two ideas might be tied together. The result is this post.  Our illustration is part of the discussion, which we'll get to shortly.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Work of God is His (Video)

image used under Creative Commons 
license, courtesy of Wikipedia
Like our Todd Parsons devotionals, it's been awhile since we've shared a video from one of our church services.  And it's time to make up for that, too.  This was the 9am service, Sunday, October 25, 2015.

Our service, that morning, found our head pastor away.  So, we get to be blessed by two friends of mine.  Pastor Bailey Norman and I used to do outreach together.  He has the introduction, this time.  Pastor Barry Quirk and I used to work together for a number of years, before he became the principal of our Christian school.  That only ended when Pastor Barry went to Budapest to run a K-12, there.  And he's now returned to head our school, again.  I think you'll be blessed by the preaching of both.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Power, Possibility, and Opportunity

image used under Public Domain license
@Inspire_Us: "Behind me is infinite power, before me is endless possibility, around me is boundless opportunity." - Author Unknown

That thought struck me, as I read that tweet, this morning.  Let's think on that one, together.  The Amplified Bible says this:

Colossians 1:17 And He Himself existed before all things, and in Him all things consist (cohere, are held together).

When we go back to Genesis we see an interesting picture.  God took nothing and transformed it by creating out of it a something. Light and dark,  The planets and stars.  Land and sea. Animals, plant life, man.  There was nothing beyond God, then His power suddenly created it.

Our illustration is earth as seen from outer space.  That's part of what God created, but there's more to consider than just that.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Breastplate Gems - October, Day 11

We haven't shared anything from our devotionals in some time.  It's out now as a single volume, Breastplate Gems - Kindle. That's a one year devotional and, yes, that's a link to the page for the Kindle edition.  If you'd prefer the paperback edition, that's here: Breastplate Gems - Paperback.

Our devotional is set up so that each month has fourteen devotional readings.  Each gets read twice in that month. Then, it's meditated on several times that day.  That way each truth is more likely to become a part of us.  The result is that we not only get blessed on a daily basis, but are strengthened in our faith.  We get to live in 2 Peter 3:18, which says "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.".

Finally, each devotional ends with prayer thoughts, not a set prayer that gets said every time we read that particular reading.  Each time, our prayer will be different.  Those prayer thoughts should trigger our prayer, based on those and how the devotional spoke to us each time.  And those prayer thoughts may even be the final part of the devotional.  As we grow in our faith, what we receive and what we pray will change. With all that in mind, let's look at our devotional for today.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Roots and Retakes

image used under Public Domain license,
from the Public Health Image Library
That title came from a BBM conversation with my friend Jake.  Jake is involved in the music at his church and had been helping with recording an album, after pulling roots in the garden,  He was talking about his fingers and hands being sore from gardening, then playing music.  At which point, that title popped into my head.

I'm not a gardener, so I'm not sure if the young lady in our illustration is doing the same thing Jake was, that day.  But keeping a garden looking good and growing well requires some effort.  And that came to mind as I was thinking about that title.

When we think of that and, in particular roots in a Biblical discussion, we have to start with the harsh realities of the climate of those locales.  It's dry desert..  So, plants may or may not bloom, but they have roots.  Deep roots.  That's essential to the survival of the plants.  The deeper the root, the more likely it reaches a source of water.  And, if nothing else, the longer the root, the more surface there is to absorb any available water.  That got me thinking about some important spiritual principals.

1 Timothy 6:10  For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 

We all know that verse and usually leave it at the love of money.  Some even stopping at money. But, yes, it's the love of money.  Although that's a hindrance to our relationship with God, it's an example of a deeper issue.  If we let anything get in the way, it has the potential of taking over.

Jake weeds his garden so the things he doesn't want growing there are removed.  If he doesn't root them out, they have the likelihood of taking over and choking out the things he does want there. That's a principle of nature.  It's a spiritual law, as well.  

Mark 4:19  And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. 

If we allow the wrong things to get into our soul and they aren't dealt with, they can outgrow the things that ought to be there and choke our spiritual life to death.  So, we need to be good spiritual gardening tools, periodically weeding out sin and any distractions, feeding the things that grow our walk with God.

We said that, in the environment where the Bible was written, that it was important for plants to have deep roots in order to survive.  So, how about this verse?:

Isaiah 27:6  He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit. 

That's quite a promise.  And it highlights a spiritual reality.  Whether we take that to be the physical ancestors of Jacob or those spiritually connected to him through Christ, it's not their efforts that count, but God's grace and mercy functioning in their lives to allow that fruit.  What happens is that deep spiritual roots allow blossoming and fruit bearing.  But we're never our own gardeners, as much as we may think we are.  When we realize that, it eliminates pride in that area and it takes the pressure off us to do something we never could, anyway.  Think about a New Testament example.

Ephesians 3:17  That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 

If we go back a couple of verses, Paul says he prays for this to happen.  First of all, it's God prompting him to pray.  Then it's God fulfilling the prayer.  Seeking their salvation, working out their being discipled.  It says "being rooted and grounded in love,".  That's God's love, toward us then through us.  

"Being rooted and grounded" is an interesting phrase.  We need deep roots in God to gain the right nutrition and watering.  But there's more.  Remember all those old western movies we saw, with the dust or sand storms?  There's the tumbleweed we see blowing around, but that's already dead.  If the film makers are accurate, there will be some smaller, more flexible plants blowing around, too. In real life, those are plants that are still barely alive, but the roots didn't hold them onto the ground. Short roots don't get as much water and nutrients.  And, in a storm, they're either too weak not to break or too short to anchor the plant.  That's one heck of a spiritual image, isn't it?

Then there's the second part of our title.  The retakes.  With music, whether it's recording or rehearsal, there's always someone getting some part or note wrong, initially.  That requires repetition to get it right.  Sometimes it's once more, other times, it'll be multiple times.  I've had that with blogging and writing.  And we can all point to things in our lives where that's been the case.

1 John 1:8-9  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

We're imperfect beings, courtesy of the decisions Adam and Eve made.  And, what's worse is that we feed our imperfection through our own tendencies to live in the inherited weaknesses.  That passage in 1 John says we have short roots and we can deceive ourselves into believing we're anchored in righteousness, despite that.  Then, it tells us something really important about our relationship with God.

The passage says that if we confess our sinfulness, God will forgive us and that combination of actions makes us righteous, again.  The police want crime confessions, with the criminal telling the police of their crimes.  Some churches insist on telling another person of our sins.  But that's not what this verse is about.  There certainly isn't any man, woman or child on this planet, at the moment, who has the power to forgive sins.  And we really don't need to tell God.  He's omniscient, so He knows all our sins.  What we're talking about, in good King James English, is being in agreement with God about our performance.

The gist of 1 John 1:9 is our title's retakes.  Yes, there are instances where we need to go to the person we've sinned against.  But that's mentioned elsewhere and deals with specific instances. What we're looking at here is agreeing with God, on a consistent basis.  Although it's not stated here, there are good reasons for that.
  1. Since God already knows our state, then it allows us to see the depth of our depravity.
  2. Recognizing our sinfulness allows us to realize the enormity of the grace and mercy that God bestows upon us
  3. Honest awareness of our true sinfulness has to lead us to remorsefulness.
  4. That remorse prepares us for repentance, each time.  Repentance isn't just a one time thing, at salvation.  Is repetitive, for the rest of our earthly lives.  And it's a state of mind that will keep us agreeing with God.
So, we want our roots going deep with God to get all we can to enhance our relationship with Him. And so we're anchored to him, not blowing around in any wind of understanding.  We're open to spiritual "do overs", our retakes.  Our confession, remorse, and repentance brings us God's grace, mercy and forgiveness.  And, with the right spiritual attitudes, we grow closer to God.  So, how are your roots and retakes, today?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Concentrate on Him & Worship Him‏

It's Saturday and our "anything goes" post day.  And, just to be clear, there are limitations to that anything.  But we might have a post of our own if we're continuing in a series or God really puts something on our heart as needing to be shared on our Saturday post.  We might pop in a video post -- maybe a sermon from my pastor or other Christian video, with permission.  

Often you'll find a guest post, here.  That could be something new or a repost (again, with permission) that really speaks to us and we think will bless you.  Most often, that's likely to be a devotional from our friend, Todd Parsons.  We might also jump over to our Other Stuff blog for something not necessarily considered spiritual -- particularly things like politics.  We also have a sporadic, but ongoing, series called Gadget Goodies for all things tech.  Today, we're going to be blessed, again, by Todd Parsons.

Zecharaiah 8:23  Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.

     'Skirt' in the Bible speaks of an intimacy of relationship, or worship, i.e., concentration. 'Take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew', "looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith...", Hebrews 12:2. As we look unto Jesus we find the heart of the Selfless One, One who worships the Father's will and we also find the Father is with Him, for He now sits at the Father's right hand of the Throne of God, Hebrews 12:2b. Take hold of Him means to be in Christ. As we look to Him with worship and see Him, we see less and less of self, simply because of becoming more and more occupied with Him, by means of concentration...
     John 9 is the passage about the man born blind and his concentration and worship on the Lord and the receiving of his sight... John 9 also reveals a people that say "they see" and their blindness is made plain and open... John 9:30-33, the man born blind is instructing those that say they can see in that which they see not...

John 9:31  Now we know that God hears not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and does His will, him He hears.

John 9:33  If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.

John 9:35-38  Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?  He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?  And Jesus said unto him, You hast both seen Him, and it is He that talks with you.  And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped Him.

John 9:41  Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remains.

Ruth 3:9  And he said, Who are you? And she answered, I am Ruth your handmaid: spread therefore your skirt over your handmaid; for you are a near kinsman.

     "So Forget About Yourselves,
     Concentrate on Him and Worship Him,
     Worship Him, Jesus Christ Our Lord"

     Of So Great Love, we are, tjp

Monday, October 12, 2015

Floccinaucinihilipilification

image used under Creative Commons license, 
photo by Sander van der Wel, from Flickr
Today's title got your attention, didn't it? I'm not sure how many of us could get through pronouncing that correctly and smoothly at the same time.  Bekkie Sanchez has been sharing unique words on Google+ and that was one of them. Google says it's a noun and is "the action or habit of estimating something as worthless. (The word is used chiefly as a curiosity.)."

That whole idea of worthlessness got me thinking about some of the realities of who we are and the contrasting misconceptions some tend to espouse and live by.  It leads us directly to the sense of depression and dejection we see in our illustration.  Whether it's circumstances, other people, or ourselves beating us up mentally, is that emotional beat down correct?  Should we be dwelling on our shortcomings?  Do we need to fix ourselves?  Or, perhaps, are we too depraved to be repairable?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

What is Enough?

image used under Public Domain license,
photo obtained from commons.wikimedia.org


We spent the summer with some great photographers and having a second chance to be blessed by the spiritual thoughts some of their work led to.  Then we had our "bouncing" series that alternated between blogs, discussing the pitfalls of letting our things possess us instead of us just owning them.  And there was a brief, related LifeNotes series.  So, it's been awhile since we've had the blessing of a Todd Parsons devotional.  The wait is over!



Monday, October 5, 2015

If Not You, Who?

image used under Creative Commons license,
courtesy of en.wikipedia.org user khym54
The tail end of July saw me a little north of Chicago, at Quentin Road Baptist Church, for a conference.  I was also trying to get a visit in with a friend who is part of their staff.  So, I went up a day or so early.  I was hoping for a little time with John, at the same time, avoiding having someone miss midweek service just to pick me up at the airport.  Teen camp had already begun and, with nothing going on at the church during the day on Wednesday, I got to join the teens for their morning Bible study and their lunch.  Our title was displayed on their camp t-shirts and onscreen.  It was the theme for the camp week.  Without us going through the entire series of Bible studies that were the underpinning of the camp theme, it still generated thoughts that led to this post.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Seeking the Goal

image used under Public Domain license, from en.wikimedia.org
Matthew 6:33  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

I try to live by that verse.  And, when I need a verse to guide me through situations, it pops up for me, more than any other verse.  And it's part of what brought this series into existence.  This is actually the fourth post in a set that's been here and our Other Stuff blog.  The series began two Saturdays ago, with a catch up discussion of where I was with the tech side of my life.  I closed that post talking about the fact that I was planning and there's a spiritual aspect to that.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Followers of God

If you read our tech post on Saturday (here: http://bit.ly/1KlYaOD), you know I've been aiming toward downsizing.  But there's more than just getting rid of excess and overload. 

Many of you know I have my sights set on the Costa Rican mission field. Certainly a move there would require losing some excess.  But there's also a contrast between what many there have for possessions and what we have, here. That brought some interesting thoughts to mind.  Our illustration fits those thoughts.  It;s a famous painting called "The Sleeping Gypsy", painted by Henri Rousseau in 1897.  Follow my train of thought on this one.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Greatest of These Is Love

image used under Creative Commons license, 
photo by Howard Arnoff, from Flickr
Wow!  And, again, wow!  I'll explain that reaction.  Although this is posted near the Fall, part of it was written in the week or so after the church shooting in Charleston, SC.  I'm not going to be supporting my thoughts with a lot of appropriate verses.  This isn't a Biblically scholarly piece. It's heart to heart writing. From God's heart to mine and from my heart to yours.  Do you remember what Joseph said to his brothers, when they came to Egypt seeking food?


Genesis 50:20 (KJV)  But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

Dylann Roof intended evil with what he did in Charleston.  And yet, there's so much more that can come out of this.  Some already has.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

What You See Isn’t Always What You Get (Revisit)

The image illustrating today’s post is by Dru Stefan Stone.  When you get a chance, hop over to Google+ and check out her work.  As for this picture,  I’ll say more about it as we go along, but we're glad we had permission to use it for this post, the first time we shared it.  It illustrates today’s thought very well.  Think about this as we begin:


Monday, September 7, 2015

My Peace I Give Unto You…. (Revisit)


That’s Saturna Island, British Columbia, Canada, taken by Hamel Tailor. Taken with his Blackberry.  The scene looks so very peaceful.  It made me think about how peaceful our lives can be when we’re one with God.  Even in the midst of turmoil.  What the Word says about peace is worth considering.



Saturday, September 5, 2015

Let Him Pray.... (Revisit)

A friend of mine posted that on Facebook, awhile back.  And others have shared it more recently.  As we've pointed out before, prayer is close to God’s heart.  How we pray, what we get out of prayer, what our prayer says about our relationship to Him.  It mirrors our thinking in good times and bad.

James 5:13 (KJV)  Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.

Prayer and praise.  James' recommended prescription for getting through life.  And we have a prime example of that.  In a conversation I was having with someone about their marriage, the person mentioned that Christ prayed often.  And that thought piqued my curiosity.  What were the circumstances?  How often?  What was behind His prayer?

Monday, August 31, 2015

And The World Asks "Why?" - Part 3 (Revisit)

“Stormy Land”.  It’s a powerful image taken by Saija Lehtonen.  And reminds me of the stormy atmosphere of today’s world, making our surroundings less inviting than they should be.  There are several reasons for that.

Last time we mentioned that it was quoted on the news that there have been 37 incidents like Sandy Hook, Aurora and the DC Sniper since 1974.  At the time, another newscaster said it was 75 incidents since the mid ‘90s.  And yet a third said there were 20 incidents a year.  None of these bothered to cite their sources, so it’s impossible to determine which (if any of these) is accurate.  But it’s pretty safe to go back through our history and note that the more we removed standards, the more a lot of wrong things occurred in society.


Saturday, August 29, 2015

And The World Asks "Why?" - Part 2 (Revisit)

Again, the picture is what I’ve titled “Stormy Land”, by Saija Lehtonen.  It inspired this series because it demonstrates a truth.  The storm clouds bring a sense of impending gloom and doom.  The landscape no longer has the same inviting look that it would on a bright, sunny day.  That’s true for our intellectual and emotional state, as well.  Bring in a bad economy or a situation like the Sandy Hook shootings and our outlook is closer to gloom and doom than bright cheerfulness.  Last time, we did a brief survey of US history up to the ‘60s.  So far, we’re not seeing signs of much evolutionary improvement.  But there’s still some 40-50 years to go.

Monday, August 24, 2015

And The World Asks "Why?" - Part 1 (Revisit)

We had originally planned editing and resharing this series in a couple of weeks.  We certainly didn't intend two images in a row from the same photographer.  This series came out of Saija Lehtonen’s image, which I’ve titled Stormy Land to go with today’s discussion.  It highlights the emotional state we were all in after the shooting at Sandy Hook, CT.  And again after the recent incident on the train to Paris.  

Storm laden clouds darkening what appears to be possibly dangerous flatlands.  For me, this is the toughest post I’ve had to write and edit.  Once again, we experienced another attempt at a mass shooting, this time on a train.  The series originally came out of the shooting at a K-4 elementary school in Sandy Hook, CT. There were 28 dead, with 20 of those being students at the school, and one more related killing. Our heart and prayers are continually with the survivors and the families of all involved in any of the shootings.  And the world asks, “Why?”.  They don’t have an answer.

The rationale for the public killings seems unfathomable to most people, understandably.  Until we look at US and world history and how our world has changed through the decades.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Run For Your Life! (Revisit)

Saija Lehtonen is one of the great photographers I follow on Google+.  She does a wide variety of subject matter, from hummingbirds, to macro flower shots, to sunsets and sunrises, to vast naturescapes like this one.  As we revisit the thoughts inspired by this image, several years ago, don't forget to give her Google+ profile and Facebook page a visit.  Her pictures will bless you.  This one got me thinking about what we perceive as good and bad, and how we deal with it.

Let’s start by looking at the picture.  It’s raining.  Something that’s good for the parched land.  We’re obviously in a desert.  The land is definitely dry.  And the clouds are very foreboding.  Threatening heavy downpours.  All of that got me thinking about the potential scenario.

Very often, in the old West, you didn’t want to get caught in the middle of the desert in a torrential downpour.  The heavy rain would come down too fast for the dry ground to absorb it.  As a result, the ground didn’t get very much benefit from the rain.  And places that normally were safe might become raging rivers with enough power to take down horse and rider, possibly drowning both.  What should have been a blessing could become a curse.  And yet, there’s vegetation that does stay alive only because of those storms.

The thought of those storms and avoiding the torrents created a mental image of me hightailing it to high ground as the rain poured down.  When I get to someplace safe and out of the torrential downpour, I look more like a soggy rag draped over a horse than a human being sitting tall in the saddle.  But I’m safe and out of the rain.  Our natural instinct is to avoid uncomfortable and painful situations.  Comfortable is good, uncomfortable is bad.  Painless is good, painful is bad.  All of those thoughts are natural.  But are they God’s thoughts?

When Moses asked to see God’s glory, in Exodus 33, God responded, “But, He said, You can not see My face, for no man shall see Me and live.  And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place beside Me, and you shall stand upon the rock, And while My glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by.  Then I will take away My hand and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.” 

God was protecting Moses, much like my imagined run for covered high ground in the rain storm, from too much blessing.  Remember that 23 chapters earlier Moses had been in God’s presence. And needed to wear a veil over his face because of the transferred glory, just from having been in God’s presence.  Moses glowed like radium coated clock hands.  Now it was God protecting Moses by only partially allowing his request.  But, let’s look at some others.

There’s Joseph, in the Old Testament.  As we read Genesis 37-47, he goes through a series of negative situations.  He’s thrown in a pit, sold into slavery in another land, then his master’s wife tries to seduce him, and she accuses him of seducing her so he can’t accuse her.  That landed him in prison.  Those are pretty negative circumstances.  But, without those circumstances, there wouldn’t have been the correct interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream.  Which got Joseph elevated to second in command to Pharaoh, over all of Egypt.  And ultimately, reconciliation with his family.  Along with being able to ensure that they were able to live and eat comfortably in the midst of a famine.  None of it could have happened had Joseph avoided the pit and the jail.

Where would we be without Jesus going through all He went through.  Too much to go into, here.  But without the trials and the Cross, our flesh would have denied us the possibility of spending eternity with God.  Jesus certainly could have gotten Himself out of all that turmoil.  But the end result would have been worse.  The Father’s desire for all men to be with Him in eternity would have been fully denied.

There are modern day martyrs, like Richard Wurmbrand, who will vouch for the fact that their relationship with God would have been diminished by living an easy Christianity.  And what about ourselves?  We’ve each had negative circumstances in our lives.  Some more compelling than others.  Would we be the same without them?  Would our relationship with the Lord be as rich if we had it easy?  I can think of situations in my life that seemed horrendous, at the time.  Yet, my closeness with God would have been much shallower without them.

How are you converting those bad experiences to spiritual gold by growing closer to God?

Monday, August 17, 2015

What's Your Poison? (Revisit)



The above graphic was shared on Facebook by GodVine and it hits on part of our subject matter, today.  Back when I worked in broadcasting, there were a few jazz clubs that I’d go to for interviews with some of the musicians.  One had a bartender whose regular question was, “What’s your poison?”.  This year, I attended my second Grace Conference at the Quentin Road Baptist Church, north of Chicago, At the first one I attended, Pastor Jim Scudder Jr gave a great illustration that fits right in with that.  And with the thought behind the graphic.

Picture having a freshly opened bottle of water.  Ice cold, inviting, refreshing.  Any one of us would be happy to twist off the top and take a swallow.  But, next to it, is a small vial of another liquid with a dropper.  And someone puts a few drops from the vial into the water bottle.  Suddenly, that bottle of water isn’t so tempting or attractive.  Why?  Because we don’t know if that liquid in the vial is safe.  Will it make us ill?  Will it kill us?  How potent is the vial of liquid?  That vial may be perfectly safe, but the possibility that it’s not stops us in our tracks.  Spiritually, that’s not always the case.

There are a couple of passages with a similar analogy.  When we read 1Corinthians 5:6, it says, “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?”.  Or there’s Galatians 5:7-9, which reads, “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?  This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.  A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”.  Just like the liquid drops added to the bottle of water, the leaven (yeast) spreads throughout the lump of dough.  But in the moral and spiritual realms, we don’t find it so easy to push away trouble.  At least it would seem that way or God wouldn’t need to warn us about it.  Let’s look a little closer.

The verse in 1Corinthians follows a passage reproving the church for immorality and allowing incest.  And yet they gloried in their supposed spirituality.  Paul was concerned with the immorality, but even more that sin had infected the church.  As any drug addict will tell you, the start of an addiction is very small.  But, over time, the need and the quantity are ever increasing till the addict reaches a level just shy of killing themselves. 

Actively condoning our own sin works the same way as addiction.  We may start with a little lie, or looking at “safe” but risque pictures, or using things from work for our personal use.  And our sin becomes comfortable.  We like it.  It’s an OK sin, compared to other sins.  Whatever level of sinning becomes acceptable in our eyes opens the door to do just a little more the next time.  Some describe it as a “slippery slope”.  That’s a pretty fair assessment.  It usually calls for exactly the issue described in the graphic that starts this post.  That allows hanging onto our own sin, because it’s different from what we’re condemning.

Galatians 5 deals with what seems like a slightly different issue with similar results.  Diluted doctrine.  The Galatians started with the Grace of God, then added other requirements.  Remember that graphic at the top of the post?  It fits even more for this.  What the Galatians did was take the Word of God, then superimpose their own thoughts on Biblical Truth, changing it to Grace plus something.  The something can be doing something extra to please God or it can be doing something to avoid a certain area of sin – as long as it’s not our area of sin.  Sounds like the Corinthians, doesn’t it?  And maybe us?

If we want unleavened bread, we don’t put yeast in.  And, if we want pure water, we don’t drink any that’s had something added from that other vial.  No matter how little.  But we seem to forget that when it comes to living our lives for God or otherwise.  If we avoid some sin, even if we have a laundry list of others, we’ll be OK.  Or we can accept the Grace of God, but add some requirement – maybe ceremony, maybe ritual, maybe doctrine taking away something God says He gave us. 

There’s another analogy that may better illustrate the problem more clearly.  Imagine being out on the plains somewhere in a wagon, going on a trip.  But, out of 360 degrees, we’re just 1 degree off our course.  While we’re close to our starting point, that 1 degree doesn’t seem like much.  The wagon may be moving over both lines of travel.  But 50 miles later we find ourselves at a location very different from where we intended to be.  And we may be far enough off that we can’t see where we ought to be.  That sounds pretty final, but it’s not.

God continually tells us that our failures never have to be the final result.  Continuing in the Word, regularly confessing to God and repenting, continual prayer all give us open lines of communication between ourselves and God.  And options to do things His way instead of our way.  Are you ready to do that, today?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

This Will I Do (Revisit)

barnsunset


Luke 12:18  And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.

Neil Camara took the above picture and holds its copyright.  Our thanks for permission to use it. It’s titled “The Burning Skies of Illinois”.  Seeing the picture brought to mind the passage that includes the above verse.  Think with me as we read further.

Monday, August 10, 2015

In the Moment (Revisit)

time_flies-Luke_Griffin

James 4:14b For what is your life? For it is a vapor, which appears for a little time, and then disappears.

When I saw that copyrighted picture by Luke Griffin, the first thing I noticed was the clouds.  They look like they’re rushing towards the horizon.  It made me think of that point in future history when everything moves from time into eternity.  We never know when that will be, but all of time is rushing toward it.  That needs to be kept in mind.  And it highlights a precious reality.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Heaven's Gate (Revisit)

Heavens-gate_Mike-Shaw
"You do not have to believe in a god or life after death to believe that there is something greater than yourself. You only have to look up at sunset and realise that you are stood on a rock that has all that you need to live, circulating around another rock that keeps you warm. Its then you realise that you are in fact stood on heaven's gate." -- Mike Shaw.

The image and the quote are both by Mike Shaw.  Both are used here, by permission, but he holds the copyrights to both.  Great image, but the thought behind it made me think, once again, of how different perspectives will always lead to different conclusions.  And it could be that those two perspectives seem alike, but they may be farther apart than the viewpoints that are openly different.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Afar Off - Part 1 (Revisited)


Our booklet Afar Off began life as a series of posts, here on the blog, taking us from Palm Sunday through the Resurrection.  And highlighting how God made Resurrection Life accessible to us.  Once again, that was inspired by a photo.  That’s titled “Sunrise in My Backyard” and was taken by my friend John Vincent.  He holds the copyright.  

There’s a great sense of serenity and peacefulness in the picture.  But what really caught me with this one is the light coming from the horizon.  Hebrews 11:13 says, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”  That verse speaks of the “heroes of the faith”, but it could be us.  The light on the horizon got me thinking about the phrase I highlighted, “afar off”.  We'll look at the first part of the series.  The easiest way to follow the whole magilla is to get the Kindle book on Amazon.  It's only $.99 US.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Connections (Revisit)

apologySometimes, it's a graphic instead of a picture that triggers a thought.  I found that one on one of the social networking sites, shared it on another, but I don’t recall who originally posted it.  I include it here because it indirectly points toward our concept for the day.  Pastor Tom Schaller (my pastor) shared a two part message, one Sunday, about Jonathan and David.  When the morning service was over, the one word that summed up my own thoughts was “relationship”.


Monday, July 27, 2015

On the Mountaintop? (Revisit)

Scotts_Bluff_In_The_Fog-Gailen_Mapes2011
© by Gailen Mapes, All Rights Reserved
This is another of those images that evokes interesting thought trains.  It’s Scotts Bluff, in Nebraska.  And the fog has set in.  I looked at this and immediately my mind leapt to the various concepts people create of our relationships with God.  Many create a mental image of God sitting on the mountaintop, aloof from what goes on down here, undisturbed by the fog because He has no real interest in our circumstances, and wants to keep a distance and mystery in our experience of Him.  But is that myth or reality?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

On My Own - Part 5 (Revisit)

The Dark Traveler


Mark 4:24  And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given.


We said , last time, that there was a way to avoid being run aground in spiritual shallows.  We’ve spent quite a bit of time dealing with how not to remain spiritually safe.  Now it’s time to look at how to safely navigate life.  The verse that starts the last post and this one summarizes it all.  But it's more detailed than that.  So, let's take a look.

Monday, July 20, 2015

On My Own - Part 4 (Revisit)

The Dark Traveler
Mark 4:24  And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given.

In the beginning post of this series, we said that the photograph at the beginning of each post in the series is the inspiration.  And it is.  Mary Kay, the copyright holder, created a stark and compelling message with her photo of "The Dark Traveler".

Whether we’re intentionally false teachers, whether we preach incorrectly because we learned incorrectly, or if we’re part of the flock and misled by either of those types of leaders, we still have a way toward a different result than we see in that image.  So, look closely at the picture.  And let’s weave a storyline or two into that image and see where they take us.