fetch and chew

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My dog loves to fetch. He will willingly go after the ball, but he hates returning it to me. He likes to play keep away after he fetches. All my dogs have been that way. But I have begun to notice something. He loves for me to throw the tennis ball as far as I can and he runs after it with all his heart, but then he sits down and chews on the ball. Sometimes he chews and chews until he is on his side asleep. The ball is in his mouth, his eyes are closed, but he still chews.

This past week I went to a conference where I fetched and chewed with other eager participants. The speakers threw out information that I found joy in catching and now I am chewing…..and chewing…and chewing. And, yes, sometimes I have chewed while on my side, fully asleep.

I want to write about the things they taught. I want to throw it out there and if by some means you catch a word or sentence I pray that the Holy Spirit will help you chew and chew and chew.

Since this is my first writing on this, I want to introduce the people that gave me truth to think about during the past week.

Gordon Fort, senior vice president for prayer mobilization and training
Randy Rains, associate vice president for spiritual life and formation

Eddie Cox, director for the Office of Global Prayer Strategy;
and his wife, Debbie
Eleanor Witcher, associate director Office of Global Prayer Strategy

When you read this blog, you will see many thoughts that came from their hearts. They taught, not only with competency, but also with godly authenticy. I can take pretty good notes, but I usually fail to get some of the details. For this I apologize to these conference leaders if a fact is incorrect in some way. However, it is my goal to communicate what they said and then write what has come from the “chewing.” I praise God, from Whom many blessing flowed from their lives last week.

For now, I am going to go chew some more…and pray. Maybe sometime soon I will write what I learned. If so, together can have a fine game of fetch and chew. Want to?

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planning the descent

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You always hear people talking about climbing mountains. They plan their routes and equip themselves with the right shoes, the appropriate shelter, essential supplies, and important knowledge about the mountain before them. The climbing is important, but what about the descent? Isn’t it just as much a part of the journey as the climb?

Spiritually we talk about mountaintop experiences. I have been on one this week. I have been taught, equipped, and challenged, yet now is the hour to plan the descent. The climb was wonderful, but the descent is what I fear. I fear finding treasure on the mountain only to bury it in the valley. And buried truth does no one any good.

How does it get buried?

Busyness grasps the shovel. Procrastination digs the hole. Prayerlessness heaps the dirt. Before long a Fruitless Tree of Good Intentions grows to hide the spot where the treasure from the mountain lays buried.

How do I keep this from happening? How do I keep this week from being just a mark on a calendar and a nice picture in a scrapbook? The answer has to be PRAYER.

Prayer is the way to hold God’s hand so I can walk in agreement with Him. And where does His hand take me? It takes me to the upward slope of His Mountain and to the top of great heights. Then it holds tight down the slippery sides and pulls me to the coolness of the valley of everyday life. I have realized that life must become a conversation with Him. That way truth is never buried. It is lived.

So, Father…help us. May we be wise and use what we have learned. May we pray and not be found sleeping. May we abide in You so we can fall into Your rhythm. May we be found faithful to use what You have given. May we keep repentant hearts, willing hearts, thankful hearts. May we be as true in the valley of everyday life as we were on the mountain. And, if we live what we have learned and have felt so compelled to do, may You receive all the glory. For we hold this treasure in jars of clay, but the all surpassing power is from You. (2 Corinthians 4)

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face time

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The Spirit stirs my heart asking me just how much do I want God?

I want a better country…but do I want God? I want more economic freedom…but do I want God? I want unity in the church…but do I want God? I want the morality of a better time…but do I want God? I want grace, mercy and forgiveness…but do I want God?

I can’t decide. I have that microwaved, fast food, four lane mentality that ease, rest, security and peace should come as I order it. Let me pick and choose what I consume in life.

Yet, Gethsemane is the wall I must examine. It stands as a monument of a life that wanted God…His kingdom…His will…more than anything else…above life itself. That is what I am called toward. The mind of Christ. The fellowship of His suffering. The fear of God. The mercy of God. All of it bids that I come and find His order, His security, His way. I must…we must…want Him more than life.

It is time to seek His face and nothing else.

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wait

I am here and I don’t know what to expect. I’d rather have it that way. IMG_3365Expectations are tricky. They can be too much or too little. I want this week to hit me head on minute-by-minute, truth-by-truth. My soul must wait on Him. He always shows up just in time and with the right words. Be still and know……….

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what was will define what is

Every negative experience we have will in the end bow to God’s grace. Those experiences will highlight, underline and footnote truth. My bondage will highlight His freedom. My sin will underline His mercy. My restlessness will footnote His peace. In knowing what was, we will appreciate more deeply what it becomes once the world is ransomed.   At that point, all of Satan’s victories in our lives will become unwilling tools to magnify and boldly point to God. That is part of His beauty…the ability to turn all things toward my good and for His glory. Only He could do such a thing as this. (June 2014)

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a wanna be a giant

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We study the Bible expecting it to make us into a giant of the faith – spiritually stable, ever moving upward, and grounded in victory. Yet, on its ancient pages we read of weak, faltering humans who doubted and struggled. They were giants of humanness who stumbled and fell, but God picked them up and propped them upon His shoulder so they could continue in their determined pursuit of the finish line. Anyone who struggles in this way understands that if God says, “Well done, Faithful Servant,” the only reply to Him can be, “Thank You, God, I could not have made it without You.”  May 2014

 

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the powerful word

Pastor Mark Adams of Redland Baptist Church shared a unique story about the Bible and its part in a play written by an atheist.  He said,

I always go over our essential beliefs as a church family and on the Sunday that we talk about our convictions about the Bible I tell them the story of a play that was written many years ago before the fall of the iron curtain in the then atheist nation of Russia. The purpose of the play was to mock Christianity and it was entitled, “Christ in Tuxedo.” The opening scene showed a bar in a church building with nuns in their habits standing at the bar drinking and gambling. The purpose of this scene was to degrade the church-to depict it as a den of iniquity. The actor who was to play the lead-a Russian star performer-was to walk on stage and begin reading a few verses from Matthew 5-Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. He was to then put the Bible down and make fun of this text. Well, he entered on cue and began to read but strangely he could not. He continued to read on and on as if he were under an irresistible compulsion. A quietness fell over the actors and a stillness fell over the crowd. Finally, with tears in his eyes, the actor raised his hands in prayer and said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” The curtain fell permanently. The Soviet Union never allowed this play to be presented again. Because even in mockery, the Word of God broke through the minds of the people because God’s Word is alive and powerful. As Hebrews 4:12 says, “The Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

There is no book like THE BOOK.

 

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more

Help me to hold more of You in my heart so there will be less room in my arms for the world.  

May, 2014Image

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the inexcusable in us

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Popular sayings can look cute on our walls at home. I have several on mine. In Pinterest, they can even be dressed up with graphic designs that lead the eye to invite itself to read.  I just wonder if we read and think as deeply as we should in order to get the full message of the words bundled together by the quotation marks.

There is a popular quote streaming on Facebook that says, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”  This is a CS Lewis quote well worth reading; but, have we digested every word?

It is easy to see what we feel is the inexcusable in others.  Betrayal, abuse, infidelity, dishonesty, murder….you know the list.  These always make it to the inexcusable list.  But here is the rub….are not all sins, no matter the degree, inexcusable in the sight of God?

Is the “small lie” just as big in God’s eyes as the large one that tore a relationship to pieces?  Is the wayward word told in gossip just as bad as the slander aimed toward a leader?  Just how big are these “smaller” sins?  I know each sin has large or small consequences and the effects of some run longer and wider than others, however when you take each one to the cross of Christ they all have the same price tag.

Think.

If you took away murder, child abuse, cheating, wife beating, lying, and all other sinfulness from the world and left the smallest of sins, what would it cost Christ?  What if the ONLY SIN found in the world were small “white lies”?  What if we lived perfectly in all other areas of life, except for that one small sin we allow ourselves to hold on to because it is just not “that bad”? Would Christ still have to come and die if the only sin on earth was having a bad attitude?

Yes.

When I see my “small” sins nailing Him to the cross, then I really define “inexcusable sins.”  I am suddenly accountable for every thing I do and say for all are inexcusable at the cross.  We all have sinned.  We all fall short.  We all must have our silly, rebellious sins pardoned.  He bled for the gossiper just as much as he bled for the child abuser.  He bled for the rebellious look or shrug of the shoulder just as much as He bled for the serial killer.  He bled for back alleyway words just as much as He bled for the blasphemer. He bled for the explosive anger at a ball game just as much as he bled for the anger of a killer. All sin is inexcusable when you bring it before God.  All sin has to be covered by the blood, for God is HOLY.

So, I guess if I dared to re-write the quote it would say, “To be a Christian means to forgive everything, for God has forgiven everything in you.”

 

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man in the parking lot…the story continues

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It is hard to imagine how Spiritual Gifts can battle each other. But the truth is…they can. The battle can be so intense that the church ends up licking its wounds while the lost look elsewhere for help like the Man in the Parking Lot.

 

Paul deals with this battle of gifts in I Corinthians 12…right before the love chapter. If the gifts are not unified through the leadership of the Spirit, then the body becomes disorganized and accomplishes little when God has bigger plans.

Paul explains how the body becomes handicapped by the very things God gave them to be used for good. If the gifts do not work together, the body can’t see, hear or walk and becomes unrecognizable to the world.

What are the signs and stages of gifts at war?

First of all, people can become passionate about the gift more than they are about the exercise of the gift. The gift begins to turn inward instead of outward and starts to try functioning on its own. An example would be the one with the gift of service who begins to see how much he or she is serving and how little others in the church serve. The godly passion for service is gone and the servant has turned inward.   It is a form of self-amputation from the body.

Amputation of a gift in the body dramatically leads to the second stage…bitterness. Service is upset at all the people who do not serve and gets tired of serving if no one is going to help. Evangelism is upset that people do not have enough compassion for the lost. Gift Giving doesn’t understand why people don’t give more and begins to count how much they have donated to the church. Teacher does not understand why Service and Mercy skip Sunday School so often and judges their spiritual maturity by their attendance. Mercy does not understand Prophecy and Wisdom’s hurtful words and begins to avoid conversations with them in the hallway. On and on it goes until all are offended.

This emotion of offense leads to the third stage of the war…division. The body ceases to function as a whole. Its amputated members are bloody and growing tired of the others who don’t see things like they do. The gifts have fought… and everyone lost. God shakes His head and the Spirit grieves.

But now, don’t loose heart. God won’t let it end there with His children.

The great thing about God is that He can restore. He knows how to sew an amputation back on without it looking like a Frankenstein. His specialty is sewing for His Son’s Bride. This Called Out One – the Church – is from His mind and He loves her.

He cuts into the hearts as conviction settles in and does its work. Blame and bitter accusations are cut away and find their way to the floor to be swept up and thrown away by Grace. Hearts become honest as the Spirit uncovers sin and brings new life into old material. He weaves in and out with His thread as people tire of division and turn to Him for unity. He stitches and ties the knot as friendships are rekindled through confession. At times He makes a hem – telling a person to lay down the weapon and go no further.

Soon, the Mind of Christ begins to be seen. Hearts once again hear the Father’s voice and joy takes the heart to high places. Love over flows and each one is back to living out their gifts to the glory of God. As they worship, each one is thankful for the other for they know they need them and their gift.

Pretty soon, the church takes the place of the local bar. The Man in the Parking Lot is surrounded by ten people who seem different from his past friends…they sparkle inside with some sort of amazing love. Service can be heard saying, “I have clothes I can give you and come to my house to shower.” Mercy said, “I am here for you no matter what you have done in the past.” Then Leader said, “I’ll help you figure out the next step in this process” while Evangelism said, “Let me pick you up tomorrow so we can discuss some things.” Faith began to pray and Discernment could not help but smile. They all came together to love him with their gifts and the man finally found what he was looking for when he came to the Parking Lot in the first place….an amazing, forgiving, life-changing God.

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man in the parking lot

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The man clearly needed help. There was no doubt in anyone’s minds about that fact.   He had alcohol on his breath, old dirt under his nails and eyes that told a story of a beaten life. They gathered around him in the parking lot where they found him standing after church.

The ten church members listened as his needs grew larger with each passing word from his mouth. Soon, it was time to decide how to help; but how would they go about meeting so many needs in this one life?   They left the man with Mrs. Hospitality and moved to the side to discuss the situation.

Mercy was holding back tears, knowing that something had to be done and it had to be done now. He was the first to speak, urging each one to love and support this man. Prophecy quoted scripture, saying that the man evidently was dealing with sinful strong holds that needed to be addressed. Teacher agreed, but said it would take time to teach the man his way out of this grave situation. It was then that Evangelism said, “Hold on now…it is his soul I am worried about. Scripture will not mean a thing to him unless he is converted.” Under her breath, Discernment mentioned that she was beginning to feel a spirit of disunity within the group.

Gift Giving pulled out her billfold and said, “Do what you need to do. I have to move on so here is some money. And if you need more, call me.” She handed the money to Service who had no idea what all the fuss was about. He thought, “Let’s just do what we need to do…get him a shower, cloth his body with clean clothes and fill up his car with gas so he can be on his way.”

By this time, Administration was outlining the steps they would need to take to assure all needs would be met and Exhortation tried to encourage each of the ten to press on in this good work. Faith took a step back proclaiming that whatever was done, God would see it to the end so she left saying she would pray for them as they made a decision.

By now the eight remaining were growing weary with each other’s ideas. Mercy grew impatient. Service was just waiting to be told what to do and anxious to do it. Teacher, Evangelism and Prophecy were still discussing doctrine, while Exhortation grew weary of trying to spur them on to God’s work and decided to leave to enjoy the beautiful day God had made for golf.

It was about this time that an old friend of the man’s drove by and saw him standing there in the parking lot. Stopping, he called out from the car window, “Hey Man, you need a ride or something? Get in and come with me.” By the time the seven people saw that he was gone, the man was already at the local bar…drinking to find peace, talking with friends who understood, and feeling loved.

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stabs, slaps and kicks in the shin

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A stab, a slap and a kick in the shin all cause pain.  A stab can kill in a single plunge.  A slap can sting the face, but humiliate the soul. A kick can hurt like crazy, but then pass with a lingering bruise.  Hopefully, few of us have felt a dagger; but, more than likely, all of us have felt the slap and kick.

Move beyond the physical stabs, kicks and slaps to those things that emotionally hurt in the same way.  The friend that stabs your heart. The office worker that slaps your intentions.  The employer that kicks your success. The family member that pinches with a comment.  The told secret that jabs your sides.  All these hurt.

In the Christian’s life friends, peers at work, and even church members can stab, kick, and slap.  The outcome is painful, but it all calls for the same response.

The deep dagger pain needs forgiveness.  The slap in the face needs forgiveness.  The kick in the emotional shin needs forgiveness.  But, there is a problem. We tend to work harder on forgiving the one welding the dagger than we do the one slapping and kicking.  For some reason we notice the need to forgive when the wound is outwardly deep and deadly…when the offense is the greatest.  We will spend time dealing with the wound and trying to come to peace with the deep cut. But slaps and kicks hurt deeply too and may call for more work toward total forgiveness.   These are the actions or opinions from others that cause bitterness to gradually root itself in our souls.  It causes a stern stare, a step of avoidance and sometimes words that should have never been spoken.  It causes us to grit our teeth and set our jaw when talking about the other person. It causes division and builds walls that keep us from true worship.

It is these small day-to-day injuries that build up and destroy because we decide to live with them rather than deal with them in a godly way.  When left unchecked, it is these smaller hurts that bring down businesses, divide churches and destroy families.

There is a noticeable call for forgiving large offenses, but we will never fulfill HIS call to forgiveness unless we forgive ALL by forgiving ALL….Each of these – a stab of the nails, a slap in the face and a kick were present at the cross.  Jesus dealt with all offenses – differences of opinion, workplace comments, personality clashes, family discord – all these at the cross.  If He can do that FOR us, then what is He asking FROM us in return?

 

 

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granddaddy’s glasses

As a child I loved to try out Granddaddy’s glasses.  They made the world bend in ways that turned the furniture and floors into a Dr. Seuss movie.  The floor sagged and table edges pointed toward me in pronounced angles. The image was fun, but the dizziness that ensued made it hard to walk.

The view from those glasses resembles how life can get at times.  As a child, distortion was fun; but as an adult, it is confusing.  Even more, it is hard to walk when you can’t see what you want to see….answers.

Clarity of vision is what we seek spiritually, but just like our physical eye sight it can become blurred. When events occur that test our faith, we usually seek answers. Surely, we say, the answers will clear our vision and we will know all the whys, hows and whens!

Answers may be what we seek, but in reality they are not always what we find.  Our thoughts of “Why, why, why” echo through our very being and silence from heaven echoes back.  We tend to put words into the mouth of Silence and explain the whys as we see it…”if they had just”…”if only we had”….”if so-in-so would just”…on and on we answer what can’t really be answered.

What if God is not as concerned with clarity of life as we are?  Joseph had very little clarity in the pit.  As Abraham journeyed up the mountainside and Isaac carried the firewood, surely each step echoed “why,…..why….. why?”  Philip Yancey in Reaching for the Invisible God says, “At such a moment, we want clarity; God wants our trust.”  Sometimes trust is the only thing that makes sense.  It is an act of faith to “trust God’s goodness despite any apparent evidence against it.”

As a child wearing those large glasses, my vision was impaired; but I took unsure steps…trusting that the floor would meet my feet in time to keep me from stumbling.  By faith we do the same thing…walking on without clear sight, but trusting God to keep us from stumbling.

One day the glasses will be removed and we will see things that we were never able to see at the moment of crisis.  Until then, trust God.  He knows what He is doing.

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a sling full of scripture

I have been chewing on these thoughts for about two years now and this morning I finally swallowed them, hopefully learning from my mistakes.

We admire the story of young David and how by faith he slew a giant with a single stone. It is a story we can learn from each and every time we read it.  However, my problem is this…I like to think I am a David who can slay a giant with a single scripture that is well aimed.

Maybe you can relate.

Have you ever in anger posted a scripture verse that was covertly aimed toward another person?

Have you ever posted a verse hoping that a particular person would “get the message”?

Or, have you ever planned a family devotional or small group Bible study hoping that a certain person would be there…. that they would be hit in the forehead with the scripture and it would leave them writhing in pain?

What about this…have you ever sat in church listening to a message and said to yourself, “I hope that________ is hearing this”?

Have you, or am I the only one that has had these thoughts?

When I start filling my sling with scriptural stones, I might as well brace myself once the first stone flies toward my mark. What I have learned is that the stone has the ability to change into a boomerang…suddenly coming back toward my head and leaving me writhing in pain.

For example, most sling shots have one major scripture stone tucked inside…the stone of “Thou shalt not judge.”  Have you ever noticed how this has become a popular quote among non-Christians as well as Christians?  We sling it hastily any time we think it proper. But here is where the stone becomes a boomerang…as soon as we cast the “Thou shalt not judge” stone toward a another person, we ourselves have made a judgment call.  We ourselves have deemed the person we aim it towards worthy of being hit.  We judged them and convinced ourselves that we were being spiritual in sending it their way.

That verse is well used, memorized, but rarely studied in depth. If you study it you must also study the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians as he cautioned the church not to judge non-Christians, but to judge well within the church.

The Word of God is powerful.  It is mighty.  The armor of God in Ephesians 6 does list the Word as a weapon.  It is referred to as a sword….but whose sword?  Notice in Ephesians 6 it is the Sword of the Spirit.  HIS sword.  HE welds it and places it where it needs to go.  In Hebrews 4 the Word is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart….something we can NEVER do.  I remind myself over and over that I can not do the work of the Spirit of God…only He can.

If I use scriptures as stones to slay anyone who upsets me, then I am not correctly handling the Word of God.  If I incorrectly handle the Word, then I am incorrectly handing a weapon. A weapon that usually comes back and bangs me on the head.

So, before I post a scripture or saying I will ask myself…do I have a target in mind?  Is it aimed toward someone to make a point?  If I do have a target in sight, I should quickly turn around, look in a mirror and let it fly ….for my giant at that moment in time is usually me, myself and I.

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If I Could…

If I could make sure my family would grow old together…… I would.

If I could give them physical possessions that would make life easy…..I would.

If I could protect their health, straighten out the road, and smooth the bumps….. I would.

If I could place them into the perfect job and arrange the perfect marriage…. I would.

If I could write the resolve to “follow God no matter the cost” into the heart song of my sons…..I would.

If I could, I would….but, I can’t.

My woulds might be Good, but they would miss the Best.
My wisdom is not high enough.
My sight is too short.
My plans would fail and miss eternity’s purpose.

So my coulds and woulds, have to surrender to His “I will.”
For His wisdom is high.
His sight is far.
His Good is always Best.
His “I will” reshapes everything on my list.

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How Beautiful

How Beautiful

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation…

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dark hills

Yesterday while I was walking and listening to my MP3 player, I heard a song play that I had not heard in awhile.  It was an old Southern Gospel song from my childhood titled “God Walks the Dark Hills.”  Hearing the tune took me down memory lane.  This song was always in my head as a child.  I would sing it to the top of my lungs when I was mowing the yard on the riding mower.  It disappeared for awhile as I grew up and began to relate with more contemporary tunes by the Maranatha Singers, Sandi Patti, Imperials, and the emerging Michael W. Smith.

While listening to the words of the childhood favorite, I heard phrases such as “dark hills,” “silence,” and “storm tossed life.”  When I bellowed these words out as a child I took them literally.  “Silence” simply meant no one was talking.  “Dark hills” were hills darkened from the shadows of evening and the “storm tossed life” occurred whenever wind and rain became violent.  I was satisfied and glad and at peace with the fact that God walked in those literal things, but I had no idea how deep the phrases really plunged until life taught me more.

Now these words and phrases hold different meanings.  The “silence” can be when we ache for the voice of God to be heard in our mind and heart.  The “dark hills” are the shadow lands we walk through daily as we journey in a foreign land, waiting for home.  The “storm tossed life”…need I say anything to explain that one?  The only thing that has NOT changed  since childhood is God’s ability to walk through it all.  There was no change in that fact except that it means more, it soars higher, it covers more than I knew as a child.

I am thankful that as a child these phrases were scary in their own way and yet God proved Himself faithful.  But…I am very thankful that when these words redefined themselves in adulthood, that God proved Himself faithful still.

“God walks the dark hills
To guide my footsteps
He walks everywhere
By night and by day
He walks in the silence
On down the highway
God walks the dark hills
To show me the way”

By Iris Dement

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sunday morning with dad

I was able to spend a very special day with my Dad at the church where I grew up. It was a very special time for our family as they honored him for his service through the years.

Dad is the last surviving member of the building committee that built the church where it stands today. He recalled yesterday that when they met as a committe to discuss the possibility of building, that the church had about $1,500 in the bank and many did not believe they could financially support such an undertaking. After discussing it and looking at the financial situation, they sat in silence, knowing that it seemed to be an impossible task. It was in that silence that one elderly deacon reminded the committee that if God wanted it built, then God would see that it was built. After listening to this deacon, they stepped out in faith and voted to go forward to build the church. This was the building we sat in yesterday, 52 years later.

I was thankful that this story was not lost…that Dad remembered and told it again so that we could see the hand of God from the past and how it still reaches forward in a mighty way. When stories such as this are lost, we lose a part of our spiritual heritage. I say all of this to ask, have you told your children stories from your spiritual past? Do they know about the details of your salvation? Do they know how God helped you walk by faith when the job or money just was not there? I encourage us all to be very open or to leave a journal with those stories attached so that people can see why you live life the way you live it.

The second thing I thought about yesterday was something my sister and I talked about…everything they said about our Dad was also a large part of the Dad we saw at home. He was the same no matter where he went – home, job, or church. Wow. What a test of our lives to ask ourselves if this is the way we are seen by our children. Can they say that the Dad that is seen at church is the same Dad they see at home? What about you as a Mom? Are you the same Mom on Sunday as you are the rest of the week?

Sometimes I wonder if we as Christians are trying to be good instead of trying to be godly. There is a big difference. Many people have good fathers, but some have godly fathers. What is the difference? Godly fathers know that their works and good deeds come from knowing God and following His lead. They give Him the glory through their testimony. They give Him the glory by living His word out in front of all at home, work or church. I thank God for the influence He has had on my dad.

My Dad is not perfect. But he has lived a life of integrity.

I hope, through the grace of God, to do the same.

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a tilted cross

DSCN0904A decorated, wooden cross stands in my front yard. I’ve had many compliments on its beauty, but sometimes it tilts to one side since we did not do a very good job in digging and filling in the hole around its base. Many mornings I have to straighten it so it will look pretty. Hmmmm – a “pretty” cross?

We have come a long way from the cultural reality of the cross in Jesus’s day. It was a symbol of execution, much like the electric chair in today’s society. Think about wearing a gold electric chair around your neck or decorating it for your front yard! Even though the cross and the electric chair may be a symbol of execution by the courts, they are very different in how the death sentence is carried out. Today, those who are delivered to electrocution are spared from public humiliation and from a slow death. We don’t walk the criminal through the streets of the local town before they sit condemned to die. We don’t take their clothes from them and we don’t deliver just enough electricity to elongate their suffering. And neither do we place them next to a public roadway so that all who pass by can see their death. In all of its own ugliness, the electric chair does not equal the cross in its cruelty.

The tilted cross in my front yard reminded me of something else. Our view of the cross can become tilted. It is easy for us to see its love and forget its wrath. It is easy to see its beauty and forget its shame. It is easy to see its power and forget its cost.

Any balanced view of the cross will see that the blood spilled upon it contained justice and love mingled together. The wrath of God and the love of God was there at the same time.

Through the cross, God proved Himself to be just.  If God ignored sin’s punishment, He would be unjust. No one wants a judge who refuses to punish law breakers. When punishment does not come to the guilty then we hear people protesting that justice was not served.  If a human judge can not pardon everyone and keep his job, how can we think that God can do the same? He must punish the guilty so that justice can be served. The cross was God quenching His own wrath…justice served…payment made…guilt punished.

If the cross was the wrath of God, how in the world was it also the love of God? In His love, He provided the sacrifice upon which justice would be served. In His love, He provided a perfect, sinless sacrifice that could bear our guilt once and for all. In His love He sent Jesus. No wonder in Revelations 5 we find the worship of the Lamb who appeared “as if  it had been slain.”  The Lamb who “purchased men for God.”  Jesus paid the price by willfully bearing the wrath of God.  This is truly love at its highest…the just dying for the unjust.

The Resurrection was God placing His approval on all that was done on the cross.  It was Him saying “YES!” to His Son…..

“Yes” – payment accepted.  “Yes” – work completed.  “Yes” – justice served.  “Yes” –  My wrath is satisfied.  “Yes” – My love is proved…..now “RISE!!!!!!!!!”

As John Piper put it so well, “The wisdom of God devised a way for the love of God to deliver sinners from the wrath of God while not compromising the righteousness of God.” (Desiring God)

It is a balanced cross.  It balanced God’s justice and love toward mankind. It stands, lifted up…drawing all mankind to it as a gift of grace.

A balanced gift.  A beautiful gift.  God’s gift.

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true passion, real vision

The quote below has struck me in the heart over and over again.

Nate Saint, 19 days before he was killed by those he was trying to reach with the gospel said, “God renew our vision of the lost and our responsibility to them… If God would grant us the vision, the word sacrifice would disappear from our lips and thoughts; we would hate the things that seem now so dear to us; our lives would suddenly be too short, we would despise time-robbing distractions and charge the enemy with all our energies in the name of Christ.”

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