The 1st Parallel

When I was a new Christian back in high school (back in the “ancient” days, as a former student just
posted on my Facebook page!), I remember a time when the Lord spoke so very clearly to me out of His Word. I would take my Bible to school daily and read before school started because the bus dumped me off there about 45 minutes before classes started. I remember reading in Exodus, where God spoke to me so many times,

Exodus 3:8, “I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out
of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey….”

God said, “Rick that is a parallel of the new Christian life!” I thought to myself, “Brilliant!  As God delivered Israel, God’s beloved people, out of the bondage of Egypt, so has He delivered all new Christians out of the bondage of the world and of Satan – who runs this world.” But if you extend that parallel, what does it say about our new life? “Flowing with milk and honey…” Sustenance fills the Christian life.  Richness.  Water is one thing – it keeps us alive.  But milk has nutrition to help us grow.

God says our new Christian life flows with nutrition to help us grow.  Now if God were angry with us, why would He do that?  The answer is:  He NOT angry with us.  He loves us to the point that our daily existence is marked with daily nutrition to grow and mature.  He loves us to bless us!

Honey.  Did you know that honey is a food that is hard to spoil?  Most all bacteria cannot grow in honey for its lack of water. But, you do not give honey to babies because the one type of bacterial spores that can grow in honey – rare – can be unhealthy for a baby.  So, milk is for new Christians, but not Honey.

1 Peter 2:2, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation…”

But like the old saying goes, “A baby is safe in a cradle, but that’s not where it is meant to stay”  If we just feed on milk, we will not progress far enough…Honey provides energy.  Energy is for doing – it is ACTION oriented.

Hebrews 5:12-14, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

So, we all need to grow up at some point.  Some people are on different trajectories than others.  Kinda like school.  Some kids are early bloomers, while there are some who get to high school without puberty hitting them yet.  Life is tough for those kids!  Spiritually, we have a choice to grow or not to grow!

Honey is for the more mature Christians.  Did you know honey does not freeze?  It remains an amorphous type of substance way down to minus 60 degrees F at which point it will shatter if you drop it.  Pretty durable!  My grandfather used to harvest honey from bees.  I was always amazed at how they would never sting him!  Honey is formed from a honey bee that was drawn to a flower, experienced nectar from that flower, brought it back to the hive, and regurgitated it to the others.  Refreshing, eh?  I know you want to just rush right out and get some!  BUT WAIT!  Fear not!   It’s not that bad.  Bees have an extra stomach just for honey!  It does not mix with the “other stuff.”  So, the honey has been transported in a sort of honey tanker with wings…it finds the nectar, gathers it up, brings it back to the hive, and pours it into the honeycomb.  I think that is how we grow as Christians.  A Christian will experience things, and bring it “back to the hive” to share with others in the body in the light of God’s Word.  This is the “Doing” part of the Christian life that the Hebrews passage talks about above.  We do life, we do God’s Word, and we share the results of those things with others to help them grow.  But we have to have the Word of God in us first so that our experiences are interpreted in light of His Word, or all we have achieved is existential confusion.

Are you growing IN CHRIST?  Sure, we all experience things, but are they being regurgitated in the light of God’s Word?  Are your powers of discernment increasing as a result of this?  Remember, the Land God is leading you into is a life…and it really is flowing with Milk AND with Honey!

Be blessed this day!

Momma Kitty

Trust took 3 years to get here!

We had this stray cat come around our house a few years ago that was obviously starving…skin and bones.  Many people hate cats – especially stray cats.  They try to kill them, shoot them, poison them, etc.  Basically stray cats are objects of peoples’ wrath.  We set food out for it and it ate it.  All of it.  Quickly.  As this became a daily ritual I decided to see if I could touch it – it was skin and bones, but it had a beautiful coat.  I leaned around the corner of our garage where we had its food and scratched the back of its neck as it ate.  She  pulled away for a quick second, but then she resumed eating.  Her need for food overruled her perceived need for running away from this stranger who was touching her.  Over time, she grew used to our scratching her neck while she ate.  We were concerned that she would become pregnant – which would not be ideal for a litter of kittens in this situation.  Since she would never let us touch if she was not eating, let alone pick her up, we trapped her.  We took her to a veterinarian who did charity “fixes” on stray cats.   We were too late – she was “with kittens.”  The doc took the kittens, and then de-wormed her, de-fleaed her, and then, interestingly, when the vet was done, he clipped one of her ears as a sign to Animal Control that it was a stray cat who had been fixed so that they would not pick “her strayness” up to euthanize her.

We decided that after all of this effort, we would take her home and let her become our second “indoor cat.”  We called her momma kitty.  This is because the other kitty we had at home was still a kitten – dropped off at our front door.  Momma kitty, though she had no kittens, would still lactate for a while.  Oddly enough, they became “mother and daughter” and younger kitty actually nursed from momma kitty.   Funny how God even cares for and meets the needs of two cats!

I was curious to know if she would ever warm up to us.  My first few attempts to try to pet  her were met with rejection.  I did not want to scare her, so I just left her be.  The day came when she rubbed against my leg like cats do.  I reached down to scratch her neck like the old days, and she let me.  Progress!  I could not, however, pick her up as her claws would dig in and she would be gone!  She really liked being scratched behind the neck.  She especially liked when I scratched her clipped ear.  It seemed almost euphoric to her.  If I ignored her when she rubbed against my legs for her daily scratch, she would meow.

After several weeks, I tried something.  I totally ignored her.  After several minutes of her trying to get my attention, she jumped on the edge of the couch next to me to meow.  I looked at her and told (as if she could understand me!) “Look, if you want me to scratch your neck, then I want some reciprocity!”  She actually walked over to my lap and let me scratch her neck while on my lap.  That was over two years ago.  Now it is a daily routine where I come home, sit in the easy chair, and she jumps up on my lap and I scratch her neck, her ears, and then she rolls over and I scratch her belly.  She lets me hold her and even turn her upside down like holding a baby – but she can only take that for so long!  Amazing how far her trust has come – but it has taken 3-4 years!

God is like that too.  He doesn’t rush us.  He is patient.

Isaiah 30:18, “Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.”

2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you…”

Like Momma Kitty had her ear clipped to show the world that she was different, God put His mark in us to show the world that we, too,  are different:

Ephesians 1:12-14, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,  who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

His grace is awesome!  His grace has two parts. 1) the transfer part, and 2) the transform part.   He has transferred us from the kingdom of darkness where we were, by nature, objects of wrath just like momma kitty was before she came to our house.  In the kingdom of darkness, things were not going so well for us….

Ephesians 2:1-3, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

To be clear, we were not objects of God’s wrath, we were objects of Satan’s wrath.  The author of abuse was loving what he was doing to us!  Now the second part of grace is the transformational part.  This is the part we tend to not like.  Change takes work.  We are used to our habits!  Our depression was familiar to us!  Our anger was a nice fixture on our walls!  Living in the shadows was fun!  Nobody told us what to do!  (Really?)  But God loves us too much to leave us that way!   We are transformed from what the world wanted us to be, to what God created and redeemed us to be.  Our job is to work that transformational grace out into all parts of our lives.

2 Corinthians 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

Philippians 2:12,  “Therefore, my beloved…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…”

2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Ephesians 4:20-24, “But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Go in His transformational grace this day!  Stop being an object of wrath, and join a new Kingdom!  If you would like to know how, just contact me!

Lenses and God’s Working

I am always amazed at who God uses.  “Who’d a thunk” God would choose Gideon?  It was really simple:  God was going to deliver Israel from some bad people.  He chose Gideon.  We’ve all heard of Gideon – powerful guy, right?  Well….

Judges 6:15 – And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” 16 And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you…”

Okay, stop right there!  Anytime the Lord says “I will be with you” it should be a slam dunk!  But when you’ve been beat down as much as Gideon has, you don’t think so big any more!  Here is why –

Judges 6:2-6 – “And the hand of Midian overpowered Israel, and because of Midian the people of Israel made for themselves the dens that are in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds. 3 For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. 4 They would encamp against them and devour the produce of the land, as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel and no sheep or ox or donkey. 5 For they would come up with their livestock and their tents; they would come like locusts in number—both they and their camels could not be counted—so that they laid waste the land as they came in. 6 And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord.”

In God’s style, He answers, and puts His plan into motion.  But He uses Gideon.  Gideon was tired of the Midianites.  They were like the bully in the neighborhood.  You will do everything in your power to avoid the bully.  If you see them in the distance, you immediately  go into stealth mode.  Do not make waves!  That is what Gideon was doing that day.  He was so tired of the Midianites stealing their wheat after he had harvested it, that he did it in secret.  Winepresses were dug out into the ground – kinda like a deep ditch – hard for people to see from ground level.   The Bible says that “Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites.”  I do not sense a warrior’s spirit in him.  I sense a “I’m tired of being beat down” spirit in him.  So who does God use?  Beat down ol’ Gideon!

Have you ever noticed that when God shows up, amazing things begin to happen?  So God actually appears to Gideon, does some miraculous things, and then the plan begins.  God wants to do an introductory assault on the bad guys.  He tells Gideon – who is ALL ears at this point…

Judges 6: 25-27 – “Take your father’s bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it 26 and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of the stronghold here, with stones laid in due order. Then take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah that you shall cut down.” 27 So Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the Lord had told him. But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night.”

Did you catch that?  His family had already given in!  The altar to Baal – the false god – was THEIRS!  Gideon was not only against the bad guys, he was against his own FAMILY!  This is more than just a high school prank, this is an assault on the leadership of the enemy!  (which needed to happen by the way!).  So he pulls down the altar to Baal, and puts one to God in its place, and then leaves the dead bull on it!  Now he has poked the bear!  The people of the town were in arms.  They find out it is Gideon who is behind it all, and a “hit” is issued for Gideon.  Meek, little Gideon who was tired of being beat down.  Wimpy kid.  Napolean Dynamite.  You get the picture.  But something amazing happens.  Remember God said He would be with Gideon?  Those same exact words were also shared with other great heroes of the Bible, like Moses (Ex. 3:12), Joshua (Josh. 1:5, 9), and later on, David  and Solomon (1 Kings 11:38).  The bible says that suddenly, “…the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon, and he sounded the trumpet…” much like in the Lord of the Rings when they light the torch summoning all of the other nations to help them in their fight against evil.

So, more than just a town lynch mob, entire nations are summoned against Gideon and – because Gideon represents Israel – against Israel.  But a funny thing happens.   Next thing you know, Gideon has 32,000 men with him ready to fight.  No more “beat down!”  But God, in His typical style, is going to really make us rely on faith instead of human might to do gain the victory.  God tells Gideon he has too many men to fight.  He sends 22,000 men home.  Huh?  Again, God says, “Giddy!  still too many people!”  So he sends home another 10,000 or so until all he has left is 300 men.  But with 300 men, Gideon defeats – I mean, GOD defeats – the enemies.

God had to change Gideon’s lens – his beliefs in himself – before He could lead Gideon into action.  God has made us with common sense.  We are not going to do something we know for a fact is outside of our skill set.  If we don’t believe we can do something, we will not even try.    But, in our beliefs, God needs to become more common in our senses!  Those who believe they can – are right.  Those who believe they cannot – are also right!  We do what we believe we can, with God.

Psalm 20:7 “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

May the Spirit of God clothe you!  Rise up in the Name of God!  Be blessed this day!

Windows to the Soul

I was sitting at Rosas’s Cafe the other day for “Taco Tuesday” with my son and found myself looking into the window.  The reflection was a bit distorted due to the tension in the glass.  Yet, when I looked at things directly, I could see them clearly for who or what they were – without distortion.  It made me realize that in life, everything we see is seen through a lens, and that lens distorts everything we see – maybe a little, maybe a lot.  The lens is our belief system.  Our belief systems filter EVERYTHING we see, and eventually can lead us to do really good things, or really stupid things.  They can bring us a lot of joy, or a lot of sadness.  They draw us close to God, or push us away from Him.  We would like to think that our great and powerful “intellect” makes us believe – or not – in God.  Truth is, it is an emotional thing, a belief thing.  In all of the atheists I have ever met, every one is angry at God, or angry at Christians, or at the church.  And in their great “intellectual capacity” they deduce that since they had a bad experience with Joe, who claims to be a Christian, then God must not exist.  Do you see the logic (or lack thereof) in that statement?  It is like saying, “well, I have had a really bad experience with Interstate 35.  In fact I hit a large pothole doing 65!  Therefore it must be true that the entity which made I-35 must not really exist.  It is clear that it just evolved.  Because surely, if the entity DID exist, they would have FIXED that stupid road.”  I know, clearly an unreal example – entirely made up!  🙂

Powerful little thing these beliefs are.  I knew a guy one time who believed his life was no longer able to be lived.  So he believed he had to self-terminate.  And he did.  Do you think our lenses are powerful?  What about the woman who was convinced she could swim the English Channel?  She trained, and even had a boat that accompanied her on her swim in case anything bad happened.  As she got within two or three miles of the other side of the Channel, a dense fog set in, and made it very difficult to see clearly.  As she swam, she had the distinct impression she was swimming in circles. She was nearly out of energy, and felt lost and directionless.  She panicked.  With her last little remaining effort, she climbed inside of the boat, feeling defeated.  Little did she know that the shore was only a few hundred yards away – her final destination.  What a waste to know she was THAT close when she made her choice – but she believed she was not going to make it – therefore she didn’t!  A year later, she tried again, and like before, a fog bank set in, but this time, she kept to her course – having learned from her prior experience – and made it to her goal.  She believed – in spite of the circumstances – having learned from a prior belief that proved wrong.  And she made it to her goal!  Beliefs are indeed powerful things!

Here is what is really ironic.  Ever had something fly at or close to your eye?  Did you experience a “jerking” reflex to protect your eye?  I’ll bet you reacted very swiftly and effectively to protect your eyes.  We do that with our vision.  It is one of the most important things we have.   We have a built-in reflex to protect our vision.  Same is true spiritually – we naturally protect the way we see things.  Here is where it gets dangerous and life altering:  Our beliefs about God are formed by our life experiences before we can really even reason formally.  So you have gone to church all your life, or perhaps you are not a church goer.  Here is my question:  Has biblical Christianity really formed your worldview – your belief system – your lens?  Or is your belief system a result of your life experiences and emotions, the lenses by which you filter everything else?  Life is hard, but God is good, and your beliefs will be formed by the hard life, or the GOod God – your choice.  Like the lady who learned not to give up when the fog rolled in.

Does God do miracles?  Is God intricately involved in every detail of our lives?  That depends on your lens.  Is God aloof?  IS God angry at you?  Does He love you?  Or does He just put up with you?  What does God say about His love?

Deuteronomy 7:8 – It is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 10:15 – Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring [you!] after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.

Romans 11:29 – For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable [that means nothing you could ever do could EVER change that!].  For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience,  so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy.  For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.  [Awesome passage!  God WANTS to show mercy to all!]

The other day I was driving down I-35 and was going around a curve on one of those high ramps.  I caught a powerful sight:  The traffic barriers lining the high curve had all kinds of tire marks on them from people who were actually were going to go straight when in fact they were indeed on a curve!   That meant that while reality said there was curve in the road, some people failed to see it soon enough – their lens was wrong, or perhaps clouded by poor judgement or alcohol.  We do that in life sometimes.  Life will often contain a “curve ahead” yet we continue to plow straight ahead, and hit a barrier.  Our beliefs often differ from reality, and it is NOT our belief that wins out I am afraid!  We need to correct our vision then our beliefs.  The ones given by the world are very ineffectual.  The beliefs in God’s Word are very powerful, but some assembly is required to put them all together!  Do you know which beliefs are biblical and which are just experiential?

God tells us about this in Romans 12:2,

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by he renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Don’t put on the world’s lens, but let God’s word renew your lens because in doing to we get to figure out what God’s will is.  It says it right there in black and white (or whatever color your lenses see!) that His will is good.  He plans are acceptable.  Let this passage about Jesus affect your lens:

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” Hebrews 1:3

Want to know God?  Look at Jesus.  Jesus never abandoned his disciples, though they abandoned Him.  Jesus healed EVERY body who came to Him, though very few actually came to Him.  He made some promises to us also, though few of them are actually known by people:

He will send a Comforter (not the cloth kind!).  He has already overcome the world.  He will never leave us nor forsake us.  His burden is light.  His truth WILL set us free.  He calls us his friend.  No one can snatch us out of His hand.  And how about this one:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.  Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it…” John 14:12-13

He meant it when He said it!  Get to know Him really good – and watch your prayer life be transformed.  It is not about getting answers, it is about asking the right things.  Watch God start to move across your life and the lives of those near you.  Find a prayer partner you can pray with often.  Watch your lenses be cleared up and corrected.  Watch your soul be transformed!

Have a blessed day!

Diamonds on the Plane

Never did see the movie “Snakes on a Plane.”  It was the summer between my Junior and Senior year.  This summer job was an interesting one.  At the time I lived in Minnesota and attended (and eventually graduated!) from Mound Westonka High School – same city that was home to the Tonka Toys factory.  We lived pretty close to Lake Minnetonka, a large and very popular lake west of the Minneapolis area.  I really miss it!  Anyway…

His name was Kenny Cronstrom – founder of Cronstrom Heating and Air Conditioning, a large industry in the Minneapolis area.  Like most people who lived on lake Minnetonka, Kenny was pretty wealthy.  He owned about a quarter of a mile of prime lakeshore property with docks for his boats, and large rocks that lined the rest of his shoreline.  He paid me pretty good for a high school kid back in 1979.  My job?  I was his “lawn boy.”   On Mondays and Tuesdays I mowed his lawns.  It easily took two days using riding lawnmowers, push mowers, and then edging around the trees and quarter-mile of large rocks along the shore.  Wednesdays -Fridays was odd jobs, which primarily consisted of cleaning the seaweed off the rocks along his shoreline.  This meant I got into the water, turned over each rock, cleaned it with a brush, and threw the seaweed onto the shore to come back and pick it up after it dried that afternoon.  You would never think that sunfish are carnivorous aquatic rodents that try to feed on your legs.   In packs.  It is a strange feeling, especially after watching Jaws!  Yes, backbreaking work.  But I loved it.   Hard work cleanses the soul.  I actually rode my 12-speed bike to work each day, around 10 miles or so.  Then rode it home again.  Loved the workout!  It was a time I listened to the Christian radio station (KTIS?) while I cleaned my rocks.  I learned and grew a lot that summer as a fairly new Christian.  The music was pretty old, but I loved the preacher guys and always looked forward to the dramatized book they featured each afternoon.  I still remember some of them like it was yesterday.  John Bunyan’s story.  Jim Elliot’s story.  Just me and the radio and God.  What a blessing Christian radio was to me!

But I will never forget this particular Friday.  I got paid on Fridays, and I normally found Kenny, probably in his 60s or 70s by this time in his life,  in his metal shop “puttsing around.”  He had told me that he would teach me how to work with copper tooling and brass tooling when I had some free time.  He had jokes.  Anyway, this particular Friday he was not in his shop.  His vehicles were there, so I approached the house and heard a lot of yelling and screaming.  The voice was too high to be Kenny, so I deduced it was his wife.  I hesitated to ring the doorbell for my paycheck, but I really needed it this weekend!  I rang.  A frail and aged and teary faced Mrs. Cronstrom answered the door with the check in her hand.  Not wanting to be nosy, but concerned that everything was alright, I asked if she was okay.  She immediately went into her tirade about why she was so upset.  Ooops!  Did I ask for this?  Yep!  Put your listening hat on!

She proceeded to tell me how they were going down to Florida the next week.  Kenny had just bought her a $70,000 diamond ring, BUT he did not want her to wear it on the plane as they were travelling to Florida because if the plane went down, he would be out $70,000!  I had to do a double take.   Did I hear that correctly?   “Mr. Cronstrom is going to be on the plan as well?”  I asked.

“Well of course he is!” was her reply.”And he cares more about that _____ ring than he does about ME!”

I had a lot of things going through my mind at the time, but didn’t say any of them.  I merely said “I am so sorry Mrs. Cronstrom…”  She said something else then handed me my check.  I told her thank you and that I was very sorry to bother her.  She said something about being a sweet boy and then told me to have a good weekend.  As I rode my bike home that afternoon, I did a lot of reflecting.

1 Timothy 6:9-12 says, “…People who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.  But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.”

I am sad to say I have never had to struggle with the hardship of riches.  But if I do, I believe the lessons God will invite me to the table with have taught me well.  Here are some lessons I have learned:

  • Riches and even your ability to earn them come from God (Deut. 8:14-18)
  • Honor God with the first fruits of your earnings.  The FIRST thing I do with every check is give to the Lord  (Prov. 3:9-10).  It is an act of worship.
  • Be a blessing to others (Prov 3:27, Zech 8:13).
  • God wants more than money, he wants our time and our lives as well (Romans 12:1-2).

I pray you be blessed this day with not only the riches of this world but the riches of His grace!

Why? or Who? or What?

I was involved in pretty conservative churches since I became a Christian at age 16.  Always zealous for fellowship and spiritual growth, one day after football practice in 11th grade I rode my bike all the way from the school to the church.  I knew I would be sweating and so decided I would sit away from people.  I just wanted to hear from God.   When I got there, the pastor was at the door meeting people and he looked at me and said, “Sorry Rick – no shorts in church.”  I looked at him at first thinking he was joking with me.  I soon realized that there was apparently something more important than worshipping God and Fellowship – dress code.  Though I have yet to find this in scripture to this day, what I DID find was that we are to submit to our authorities and the pastor was one of my authorities.  Now I did not understand any of that as a new Christian.  All I did understood was to say “yes sir” and rode my bike home.  Little did I know just HOW FAR away from people I would be sitting! 🙂

I say all of that to say that the church was very conservative.  When it came to spiritual gifts, they believed that some were still in use today, and others were no longer needed.  I heard the pastor say that.  While, again, I have never found that idea anywhere in scripture, it gave me a definite prejudice about the gifts.  To go to a class on “healing” would absolutely ludicrous.  People are not healed anymore these days, that was for “way back then” to show us examples of His miracles.  When it does happen today, it is just a fluke.

Please understand I have several degrees, including a BS in Chemistry, minors in biology, physics and math – initially, I was going to do pre-med.  A Master’s degree in Administration, and nearly completed a PhD in C&I with a minor in Statistics, so I do not park my brain at the door when I go to church.  SO, when I say I have been going to an 8 week long healing class that has been transforming my life and theology, you know that it is not out of ignorance that I do such.

One thing I DO know is that information never healed anybody.  Not once did anybody ever go to Jesus for healing that Jesus went into a seminar on pride or sin or anything else.  Also, not once did anybody EVER go to Jesus for healing that Jesus turned them away, saying “I am sorry, it is not God’s will that you be healed.  You have this ailment for a reason, now go figure out why that is!”  Yet that is what I was raised to say everytime I prayed for healing for somebody!   So we go back to the familiar saying of “It is not WHAT  you know, but WHO you know” because we need a person – Jesus – not knowledge about Him.  When we ask the question “Why” it is an empty question.  “Why” is a great question when it comes to academics – and believe me, I am a professional at asking “why.”  It is the “Who” that we need to ask – “Who can heal us?”  “Who can fix us?”  “Who do we turn to?”  The answer is Jesus for all three, and more!

But there is another question we need to ask.  When I buried my mom at a young age due to lung cancer when she never smoked a day ion her life, I was tempted to ask “Why?”  But the answer to that question will do nothing for me.  And Jesus never once told his followers – those who were healed – why their ailment happened.  But he ALWAYS told them what to do next.  “Go show your self to the priest” “Do not tell anyone what happened” “Go..”  So, our question should also be “What next Lord?”  We may not be healed, but our question should always be “What next?” because those things that happen to us are for His glory when we are submitted to Him and for our good.  That is what scripture says:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28

I think we are often like the kitten who chases the laser light on the floor…it is cruelly funny to watch them tear the place up trying to get to the light.  Yet they never look up at the source of the light.  Much like that kitten, we focus too much on the blessing, or the healing, that we forget the Blesser – the Healer.  HE is Who we need.  HE is Who brings life.  Blessing and healing do not bring life.  So, it is not “Why, but Who and What.  Be Blessed!

Hebrews 12:1-2 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…

Tires

I was not raised in a Christian family.  My mother took me to a Methodist Vacation Bible School when I was very small, and my grandmother and grandfather would take me with them as well, but that was all I can remember.  My dad was quite angry with God.  When his sister was coming home from the hospital with her newborn baby, a train hit and killed them, and my dad never let God off the hook for that one.

So it came as quite a surprise to all in my family when I became a Christian in 10th grade (1977).  How that happened is the subject of another entry perhaps, but suffice it to say that I was so zealous for Jesus that my dad was convinced I had gotten involved in some sort of cult.  Which means that the foolishness of youth coupled with a passion for my newfound faith paved the way for some mistakes on my part!  I am glad the Grace of God covers a lot of foolishness too!  Anyway, that bought me a ticket to counseling.  Just so happened the guy was a Jew and had no friendliness towards Christianity, or faith of any kind.  So when he asked me how things were at home, I made them sound pretty bad.  After all, all things are pretty terrible when you are 16, right?  When Ralph told me it was okay if I left home until things got better my dad took issue with that.  I didn’t have to go to counseling anymore.

So, in the summer of 1978 I had a job working in downtown Minneapolis.  I lived 45 minutes away on a farm in Maple Plain with my dad and step mom.  I remember the Monday or Tuesday when one of my tires developed this “flump” sound (new SAT word!) as I drove.  I stopped to see what it was and was surprised to see this bulge coming out of my tire.  I remember thinking to myself, “What the heck?!  I never seen that kind of thing before!  This cannot be good!”  I knew the tire would not last long (they were all getting pretty old!) but I could not get new tires until I was paid on Friday.  All I could do was pray, “Lord, please hold these tires together until I can get new ones!  You are the only One who can do it!”  That was all I could do.

My dad was concerned about my driving the car in that condition.  He was especially angry that I could have gotten tires right away but had given some money to church that Sunday (tithe).  When I told him that God would hold it together until I got paid again, I could almost hear his angry thoughts – “Well, God sure didn’t protect my sister from that train!”  He thought I was so irresponisble.  There was nothing I could tell my dad.  I had no easy answers.  All I knew was that God was good, and that somehow I didn’t think that the accident was God’s fault, but that He allowed it for some reason.

Pretty soon my dad saw some tires for sale complete with rims from somebody selling them in the paper.  I remember they were just $100.  I thought that was a pretty good deal with rims.  Only problem was I had to wait until Friday to ge them.  It was rather unnerving driving all those miles with that bulge hitting the pavement every time the wheel did one rotation.  It was like hitting a balloon on the pavement hoping it would not break.   Looking back, I calculated that if I drove 50 miles round trip each day to work and back, that tire (assuming a 24″ diameter) with the bulge hit the pavement over 21,000 times each day – on hot summer pavement.  Over a 3 day period that is over 60,000 times the grace of God covered me!   Romans 5:20 tells us that “…where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…”  Thank you for your goodness Lord!

Friday afternoon I picked them up and took them home and my dad helped me change the tires.  I will never forget the look on his face when he took the tire with the bulge off the car and laid it down.  As he laid it down, the tire immediately started hissing like somebody was letting the air out of it.  It went all the way flat.  He had this look on his face of “You have GOT to be kidding…that is incredible!”  I had this urge to say, “I told you so!” but didn’t want to get hit!  God had held them together like I asked Him to.  It was also a testimony to my dad of God’s goodness.  Not that God was trying to be let off the hook – God does not need letting off of any hooks.  In fact, he purposefully stayed hooked on the cross for all of us – dying in our place so that we might live.

I remember that story today because I read this passage this morning:

Psalm 20:7-8 – “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.  They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.”

Not that chariots or horses are bad, but they can mask the person really behind the victory – God.  It is not good tires that get me to work – it is God, though God may choose to use the tires.  It is not my hand that makes my money, though God may choose to use the skill in my hands or the knowledge in my head, I acknowledge that all good things come from God.  And for that reason, I praise and worship a God who is good.  And He IS good – all the time.

Arguing with God

Most of us argue with God.  We argue with Him about who we really are, and about what He has done for us.

Pretty stupid, eh?  Of course, it depends on who or what we think God is.  If we think God is just like a man, then we can argue all we want.  Who knows, we might get our way and outsmart god.  That’s right, small “g” because if we really could argue with god and win, then he wouldn’t really be God after all.  Yet, there are a lot of people who have that view of God.  That kind of God cannot create the heavens or the earth, plan our lives or protect us.  Then again, that god is very convenient because with a god like that, we don’t have to worry about anybody telling what to do or how to live – we can do as we please.  This is the idea that Satan would love for everybody to have about God.

Then there is the other extreme – the god who is very large, and all-powerful, hence, impersonal.  Somebody who is all-powerful tends to want to be treated like TinMan or Scarecrow or Lion initially treated the Wizard of Oz – with great fear and trepidation.  He is so great he could never be our friend, or even take the time of day for us.  He is too important and way to busy for us.  Kinda like aloof – “Way up there.”  Satan likes that idea too.  Why bother going to a god who does not care?

But then, I guess that is why we argue with God.  We really don’t want to believe He is Who He says He is!  If he is god number 1, then he surely cannot heal our diseases, or manage our affairs.  Certainly, not those of a world of over 6 billion people – all at the same time.  On the other hand, if he is god #2, he would never care to even be involved in our lives.  Yeah he made the world, but now leave him alone already, alright!?  Kinda like the dirty, stinky, greasy homeless man wanting a date with Miss America.  Really?  You can hear the Valley Girl talk already – “Like, gag me with a spoon!”

God is both and neither of those.  He loves us like a loving father loves his child.  He is almighty and all-powerful and really did make the heavens and the earth, and He is REALLY big.  In fact He fills the universe.  He also longs to fill your hearts, if you’ll let Him!  He would never force His way – He is not like that.  HE longs for you to know Him personally.  He wants to heal you.  He wants to bless you with good things.  He wants to redeem your marriage.  He wants to talk with you and guide and direct you every day, but He will never force His way on you.  He wants a family that wants Him.

See, I can hear the arguing starting already!  “God wants ME??  No way!”  Or, “God is too busy to heal me!” Or, “God doesn’t bless people, people get what they work for!”  Again, Satan loves those lies.  He came up with all of them!  Then tell me, why does God say certain things in the Bible?  For example, like this:

Isaiah 40:11 – “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.”

Why does God want us to know Him as Someone who carries His lambs in His bosom?  And why would He care enough to “gently” lead those who are with young?  Notice the passage says He feeds His flock like a shepherd, He doesn’t make them go find food in the wilderness all by themselves.  It is an action by a loving shepherd.

Ever thought about what pleases God – what REALLY makes Him happy?  Scripture tells us!

1 Corinthians 1:21-22 – God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

It actually pleased God that we came to know Him!  Don’t think HE didn’t know what you did last summer, or even last night.  And guess what else, He even knows what terrible thing you will do next!  It didn’t change His opinion of you.  He is PLEASED to have you in relationship with Him!

One other thing.  Can you tell me ONE time when a person came to Jesus for healing in the gospels that Jesus did not heal them?  Far as I can tell, EVERY person to come to Jesus for healing got healed – AND forgiven.  Hebrews tells me that –

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”   -Hebrews 1:3

So, wanna know who God is?  Look at Jesus.  Jesus was never too aloof.  In fact that is what got him in trouble with the pharisees, remember?  That He hung out with sinners.  Even Jesus Himself said, “Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” -John 14:9

Stop arguing with God.  He said He loves you.  He wants to heal you.  He longs to spend time with you.  He wants to talk with you.  Enjoy Him!  Worship Him!

Locusts

I still remember Leon Chamberlain fondly.  A great man in my eyes.  He owned a ranch in the mountains around Douglas Wyoming.  I wish I had a picture of him.  This is the church he often attended.  I remember hearing him in the chapel of Lone Tree Bible Ranch in Glendo Wyoming way back in the summer of 1978.  No preaching, he just told stories.  Stories from the mountains about real life.  He spoke about living your life for God.  I was a new Christian, and what I was hearing was revolutionary!  If you live your life for God with no holds barred – nothing reserved – He will bless you and watch over you with His favor.  He read out of John 10:10 where he said that the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, and he spoke about wolves who would try to break into the sheep pens and steal animals.  He would wait with his rifle and shoot any animal that tried to break into his little lambs and kill them.  That was incredible to me to think that my God would protect me with that same type of passion.  Leon went on to say that Jesus came to give us life and gave us life that was abundant.  That was God’s desire for us.  Wow.

Then he told this story, and used Psalm 78:46 for his verse: “He gave their crops to the destroying locust and the fruit of their labor to the locust.”  Leon, being a rancher, was pretty close to his ranching buddies around him.  They always helped each other out.  When it was hay bailing time, they helped each other when they could.  If a tractor broke, they helped each other.  If there was a break in a fence and livestock was getting loose, they helped each other.  There was one difference, however.  These men did not know the Lord.  Leon did, and he tried to introduce Jesus to his ranching buddies.  They wanted nothing to do with Jesus.  They all still got along – for the most part – and had good relationships, but this Jesus thing was the one item that made Leon a butt of jokes.  Now, in school, when people bully you, you can go to the teacher or the assistant principal.  But when you are a grown man, what do you do?  Well, Leon did what any grown man should do – he gave it to the Lord, and remained their friend.  God is very clear that He WILL take the cause.

The clouds were gathering and the wheat crop was ready to be harvested.  All the ranchers in the valley were concerned because if it hailed, it would destroy the wheat crop and leave the ranchers with a mess in their fields and a mess in their finances.  They all got together, and decided to get the combines out and harvest the wheat knowing that if they worked together they could get it done faster – fearing the hail.  But it was Sunday.  Leon didn’t work on Sundays.  He felt that Sunday belonged to the Lord – he feared the Lord more than hail.  Now, at this point in the story, I deviate from my dear brother Leon in his theology about working on Sundays, because even Jesus said, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out?” (Matthew 12:11).  But the point of the story is this:  God wasn’t rewarding Leon’s theology.  God could care less about Theology.  God loved Leon’s fully devoted heart.  Leon Loved the Lord, and the Lord loved Leon.  The hail did come, and those ranches only got some of their crop in.  Except Leon.  For some strange reason, all of that hail just seemed to miss Leon’s fields.  Not one iota of damage hit Leon’s crops that Leon could see.  On Monday, he started to harvest his own wheat – without the help of his neighbors – and got it all in that week, intact.  His neighbors had a lot of their wheat destroyed and knocked down by the hail.  Leon honored the Lord with his life.  The Lord honored Leon IN his life.

Back to Psalm 78:46.  So locusts are a symbol to me.  A symbol of the world’s curse, and a symbol of our own disobedience.  When we disobey the Lord, we open ourselves up to the curse of the Locusts.  Egypt disobeyed a direct command from the Lord, and God sent locusts to them.  Leon’s friends refused to bow their knee and honor God, and then made fun of their friend who loved Jesus.  So God sent them some “locusts” in the form of hail.  Not because God is mean, or is punishing them, but because He is loving – trying to turn their hearts to Him like it says in Amos 4:6.

I want God’s blessing in my life.  More than that, I want God’s blessing in my family.  I want a healthy family tree.  I do not want the locusts of Psalm 78:46 to invade my family tree.  Locusts are a physical representation of a spiritual reality.  Demonic forces – “spiritual termites” I call them – can destroy a family tree through disobedience of the parents.   I came across this verse the other day that made me stop in my tracks.  It reminded me that the health of my family tree is dependent upon my obedience to my God.  If I walk away from God, or choose to disobey Him, I invite the locusts into my life, and locusts don’t play…

Joel 1:4 – What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten.  What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten.

Like Leon, I want to honor God with my life.  If you have been walking away from God, and are tired of the locusts, then do an “about-face!” God is ready to hear you!  He longs to walk with you and spend time with you!

Joel 2:12-25, “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;  and rend your hearts and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster…I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.”

Families Low On Function 2

Nature abhors a vacuum.  I have seen it time and again.  That is why God invented leadership, because Godly leadership fills that vacuum with goodness – IF it is good leadership.  Not all leadership is Godly.  After nearly 2 decades working as an assistant principal in a large suburban school district in North Texas, I have seen the results of poor or no leadership in the lives of children.  I have dealt with children whose moms got involved with a man who was a poor leader and raped her children, while she turned her head.  I have seen dads turn their head while while the mom is on drugs and do nothing to help the family other than to immerse himself into his job to cover his pain and provide an excuse not to have to be home.  I have seen parents watch their daughters get involved in abusive relationships and do nothing to rescue their daughter.  I have seen parents get so involved in drugs that they spend ALL of their money getting high, and leave nothing for the kids for food, and let their kids’ teeth begin to rot out (thank God for my friend the Christian dentist who fixed their teeth free of charge!). Yes, nature abhors a vacuum.  And when it finds a vacuum, nature fills that vacuum with whatever the world will offer at the time.  Have you seen what the world has to offer?  I just named a small part of the list above.  Ironically, just today details emerged about the young man arrensted in Tampa who was going to try to blow up his school on the fist day of classes.  What is interesting is that when police arrived at the house to search the young man’s house and found all they were looking for, they “also found a marijuana growing operation” in the same house.  How does something like that happen without a parent knwoing about it?  Exactly – it would seem the parent knew.  Leadership.  The Bible tells us plainly in James 4:4, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”  That is partly because there is not much goodness in the world, and that is because man, by his own volition, put the world under the control of the evil one.  So what does this have to do with families?  Everything!

King David was a dad.  He as a dad like his own dad.  If you read my post from yesterday, you know that hios dad was not necessarily the best dad!  That is how it works.  Dads will be dad like their own dads.  Moms will be moms like their own moms – good, bad or indifferent!  Our job is to turn our parenting over to Jesus to let Him transform it.  David did not get that.  If you remember the story about Bathsheba, David started off that whole year on the wrong foot.  David (the nation’s LEADER) should NEVER have taken himself out of the role of leader when times were getting tough.

1 Samuel 11:1-2, “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David…remained at Jerusalem.  2 It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful…”

It only goes downhill from there.  David abdicated his leadership.  He took a back seat, and let nature have its way.  Good leaders never let nature have its way.  Because David let nature have its way, the nation was never the same and neither was his family.  He has the affair with the woman who was named Bathsheba, he has her husband killed and pretends for over a year that it never happened until God sends a prophet to deal with his lack of leadership (and lack of communication!).    As time goes on, one of David’s sons (Amnon) rapes his sister, and pretends like nothing happened (kinda like David did with Bathsheba!), and David, again, does nothing to address the issue for years.  Finally, David’s other son (Absalom)  takes matters into his own hands and kills the other son who did the raping.  Time goes on, and because of Absalom’s anger against his dad, he tried to overthrow his dad’s rule.  While David is on the run, he hears that Absalom is acting so immorally, that he has sex with all of David’s wives on the roof of his house in front of everybody, and when Absalom is finally killed, David weeps bitterly: “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (1 Samuel 18:33).

Godly leadership.  We all need it.  It is not always easy.  Godly leadership makes a family strong, and healthy.  Godly leadership keeps the enemy at bay.  Take a break for a minute, and nature will fill that void with all sorts of “stuff.”  Take a lesson from King David.  Peter wrote about leadership in the new testament as well:

1 Peter 5:1-5

So I exhort the elders [leaders] among you, as a fellow elder [leader] and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd [lead] the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders [leaders].  Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”