Archive for the ‘Explorer's Group’ Category

It’s Only Two Days

December 11, 2014

According to scriptures we are in the last days.  That is, the last days of the human experiment, and the last days of God’s grace.  But, puzzling enough, it appears we have been in the last days since the time of Christ.  How can this be, since that was 2,000 years ago?

It is clear from the writings of the apostles that they thought they were clearly in the last days.  They would, no doubt, have been very surprised to see how long it has lasted.  But, is it really that strange or a mystery that cannot be solved?

Depending on which account you want to believe man (men and women) have been on this planet anywhere from 6,000 years to 200,000 years.  Of course, there are those who think man has been around a lot longer than that.  So, if you consider even the most conservative estimate of 6,000 years it is clear to see the past 2,000 years place us squarely in the latter portion, and if you consider the more liberal estimate of 200,000 then the past 2,000 years is practically nothing at all, not hardly 1% of the total time.  So, the answer is, yes, we could be living in the last days, and have been for more than 2,000 years.

But, there are other explanations, too.  In 2 Peter 3:8 it says this:

“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

In other words, it has really only been two days since Christ walked the earth, in the eyes of the Lord, that is.  Two days is not very long.

If we have been in the last days since the days of Christ, we may wonder why is the Lord taking so long to wrap things up?  Or, put another way, what is keeping Him from fulfilling His promises?

In fact, it has been so long that some people have given up on the idea.  This idea is also addressed by Peter in the verses proceeding the one above:

Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,  And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.  For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:  Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:  But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”

Peter makes it pretty clear although it appears the Lord is not acting as quickly as we think He should, He does act and at exactly the right time and place.  Apparently, there were scoffers in Noah’s day who didn’t believe the warning Noah gave out.  The scoffers were silenced when the rain began to fall.

So, when will the end of all things be?  That is a good question, and one which I cannot intelligently answer.  It could start wrapping up today, but then again, it could be another 1,000 years, or as the Lord looks at it, one more day.  Why does He wait?

In the same chapter, our brother Peter has the answer for that:

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

At least one answer to the question of why the Lord is waiting still has to be His unwillingness that any should perish, and His desire for all to come to repentance.

Will His patience finally wear out?  Yes, one day it will come to full completion as given in the Book of Revelation and Daniel.  When it does come it will come suddenly, without warning.  But, do not be deceived, no one knows the day or time.  While there are many who make predictions, the scriptures make it pretty clear that the timing of this event is up to Father God Himself.  But, rest assured it will take place, and when it has begun will be brought to a swift and final conclusion without delay.

Will there be signs before the end?  Yes, and many of these have already taken place.  While we may not know the day and hour, Paul gives some instructions to Timothy about what people will be like in the last days.  See if you recognize any of these traits:

“Remember that there will be difficult times in the last days.  People will be selfish, greedy, boastful, and conceited; they will be insulting, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, and irreligious;  they will be unkind, merciless, slanderers, violent, and fierce; they will hate the good;  they will be treacherous, reckless, and swollen with pride; they will love pleasure rather than God; they will hold to the outward form of our religion, but reject its real power. Keep away from such people.”

It seems pretty clear he could be describing our time.

 

 

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Great Sadness

December 5, 2014

This posting is a little different, but my friends would not expect anything different from me, would they?  This posting is more of a cautionary warning to my friends and associates.

During this holiday season, as with all holiday seasons, there is an increased push by charities to solicit your help.  To be sure, the world has many needs, and there are truly those who are in meager situations who could use our help.  Not just in this holiday season, but at other times, too.

But, here’s the problem —

While the needs are real, there is more than a small share of corruption and mixed agenda on the part of some fund raisers who would solicit your help.  They post pictures, videos, stories, in an effort to engage you on an emotional level so that you will give.

Now let’s be perfectly clear here.  I’m not disparaging all charitable giving, or targeting any specific group or person.  What I am saying is that it is difficult for the casual observer to know exactly what his or her gift is going towards, or to know that it is being used for the intended purpose.

So, you basically have a few options:

  1. Just go ahead and give, at least your conscience will feel better knowing you have done what you could.
  2. Thoroughly and completely check out the organization and ensure you know what your money is going for.
  3. Give to those organizations where you have a clear understanding of what your money is being used for.

Personally, I tend to prefer #3, even though it tends to not be the high profile institutions.  I certainly don’t like #1, and I seldom have the time for #2.

So, as my title suggests, it is with great sadness I confess that some charitable giving has become a high profit business that focuses on gaining as much money and attention as the holiday spirit will allow.  This is sad as there are truly real needs in the world today that are not being met.

So, my friends, beware, be smart, be discerning, be discriminant, and be careful.  Money is a precious commodity, and not to be squandered.  We are encouraged to give, but to give in a way that creates maximum impact.

As a closing thought I give you Bill and Melinda Gates.  Yes, that Bill Gates, the one who co-founded Microsoft and is reportedly one of the richest humans on the planet.  They have created a foundation to help with some of the world’s problems.  With that kind of money one would think they could solve many of the world’s problems, but they were smarter than that.  Somewhere along the process of researching they discovered that throwing money at a problem was not the way to solve it, and secondly, there is not enough money in all the world to solve problems that way.  So, they focused their giving into a few areas:  1) providing vaccines to children in 3rd world countries where the mortality rate from common curable diseases was rampant and unchecked, 2) working to provide clean drinking water in countries where clean water is a rarity.  In short, they apparently wanted to see that their money went to worthwhile efforts, and was not merely thrown to the wind in an effort to ease their conscience.

So, my friends, I challenge you this season to help others, but do so in a way where you know what your effort is accomplishing, and to be careful with your limited resources.

The Painful Fence

December 1, 2014

I’ve spent a lot of time considering where pain comes from.  Now consider this – I’m not really addressing physical pain here, that is a whole topic by itself.  No, I’m looking at emotional pain and the suffering associated with it.

To be sure, some emotional pain we suffer is not our fault and is often unavoidable.  When we lose a loved one, when relationships don’t work out as planned or hoped, when someone does us wrong, when we are betrayed by a friend.  These things are very painful emotionally, and often unavoidable, meaning simply, there was nothing we could do to make it turn out differently.

But, if I had to make a wild guess, I would say the above covers about 20% of the pain we often suffer.  What about the other 80%?  Where does it come from, and what can we do about it?

After much contemplation and study, I believe the remaining 80% of our emotional pain and suffering come from what I call “fence sitting.”

That’s right, we can’t decide which side of the fence we want to be on, or need to be on, and, therefore, spend our time sitting on the fence.  Very painful.

And here is the worst part of it.  It’s not a pain God will fix.  He could fix it, but He will not.  Why?

Because it is a pain we must fix for ourselves.

Why do we spend so much time ‘on the fence’?

The answer to this question is really pretty simple, although the situations vary a great deal, and the details are always interesting – we simply cannot decide and commit to a course of action.  Why is this?  Generally, it is because we may be required to give something up.  Something we desire, something we love, something that brings us pleasure, something we hold dear.

Other reasons for fence sitting have to do with once a decision has been made we have no commitment to see it through.  Everyone knows it is much easier to make a decision than it is to follow it through to completion.

In my early life I had great difficulty with this concept.  I would start things, but found it was much harder to finish them, so I left many of them uncompleted.  It plagued me for many years, until I finally got the lesson.  The lesson was not so much completing what I had started as it was to be more careful about what things I committed to in the first place.  I started committing only to those things I had some assurance I could complete.  My list of commitments, therefore, shrank to a reasonable size and I was able to finish those things I committed to without too much difficulty.

People make ‘deals’ with God all the time.  “If God will do this, I will do this.”  But, how often do we fail to follow through with our commitments?  When this happens it creates pain in our life.  Emotional pain.

Most of the major decisions in my life were preceded by much pain and anxiety.  Wondering if this was the right decision or wrong one?  Wondering how things would turn out?  Wondering if there were things I had not considered?  Wondering if I should get a second, third, or even fourth opinion?

Interestingly, once the decision was made, and I was committed to it, things got better.  The pain level receded, and I began focusing on achieving what I had committed to.  But, fence sitting is hard.

A careful study of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) tells us many interesting things about Christ.  He was gentle, but He was also demanding.  He required people to make a decision.  He was not happy when they flip-flopped or couldn’t make up their mind.  Half-commitment didn’t work for Him.  Indecision is not something God is acquainted with.  He is never in a quandary about what to do.

But, there are many reasons for indecision.  We are not sure what the future holds.  We are not sure how our decision will affect those we love down the road.  What if our decision is the wrong one?  If we are not careful we could end up spending so much time sitting on the fence that we lose the opportunity.

Sometimes we ask God about a decision, but we don’t want to hear the answer.  Truth is, we already know what the answer is, but we may not like it.  There can be no doubt God asks us to do things we often do not want to do.  Or asks us to do things that require more of us than we are willing to give.

Paul, in talking to the Corinthians said it this way – “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.”

Now in our modern times, this might be phrased something like this, “Listen, it’s time to put on your ‘big boy’ pants and take it like a man.” [Editor’s note, ‘man’ means men and women.]  What Paul was really saying was, “Stop sitting on the fence, make a decision, and stick to it.”

But I’m scared.

Yes, well, it’s healthy to be careful.  It’s also healthy to be cautious.  But, there are times when it is time to move.

Although I served in the military during Vietnam, I was fortunate and did not have to engage in actual combat.  However, I have been told by others who saw combat that fear and cowardice can get you killed in a combat situation.  That, there are times when it pays to be forceful and have courage, even when you are afraid.

Well, we are in a combat situation.  There is an enemy, and he seeks to destroy and kill.  He is happy when we continue to sit in our foxhole and are too afraid to engage in the battle.  He is happy when we are too afraid of what might happen to us if we stepped up to the challenge.

There are several kinds of Christians in the world today.  One group is too afraid to do anything so they do nothing, or very little.  One group attempts small tasks, and tries to stay hidden.  One group is sitting on the fence and doesn’t know which way to go.  I don’t think the devil is too concerned about those who fall into these groups.  But, there is another group – this group engages in hand-to-hand combat with the enemy on a daily basis.  This group is not just concerned about their own safety, but they are engaged in warfare for souls that are in the balance.  This group has blood, sweat, and tears on their face, and sometimes show the scars of warfare.  But, they serve a Savior who is holding the flag, and who is cheering them on, for their reward is great.

Fence sitting is hard.  It is painful.  Don’t you feel it’s time to join the battle?  There is still time…

And to those of you who are marred by the scars of battle, I salute you, as one warrior to another.  Keep up the fight…

 

Was Jesus Ugly?

November 29, 2014

Well, if I haven’t made all my friends mad or upset by now, here’s my opportunity to try once again.  I’ve written over 350 postings so, it is even possible I’ve covered this ground already, but at my age I can start repeating myself without incurring too much penalty.  As with all my postings you will have to bear with me as I make my case.

We have all seen, and in many instances grown up with, or around, images of Jesus.  There are images of Him knocking on the door, walking on the sea, carrying a lamb on His shoulders, dying on the Cross, standing in Heaven, and many more.  Mostly, they depict a very handsome man, even if He almost always is shown with long hair and a beard.  But, is that an accurate portrayal of our Savior?

Now let me be very clear here.  Jesus is attractive.  But, what I’m focusing on here is not Jesus as He looks today, but Jesus as He looked during His brief three and one-half years of ministry on this earth.

Of course, we don’t know for sure what He looked like, we have only the clues hidden in the scriptures.

Let’s start with Isaiah 53:2, which says in the King James:

“For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.”

We have some confidence that Isaiah chapter 53 is in reference to the Savior Jesus Christ.  It describes Him, His ministry and His sacrifice.  But in verse 2 it describes His physical appearance.  Let’s see how this is rendered in a modern translation.  Here’s what this verse looks like in the Good News Translation:

“It was the will of the Lord that his servant
    grow like a plant taking root in dry ground.
He had no dignity or beauty
    to make us take notice of him.
There was nothing attractive about him,
    nothing that would draw us to him.”

Hmmmm…  now we are getting somewhere.  No dignity, or beauty.  No attractiveness.

Now the real question here is why would He come that way?

There is a simple reason.  People are drawn to beauty, charisma, and charm.  People rise in business because of beauty, charisma, and charm.  People rise in politics and in entertainment because of beauty, charisma, and charm.  We are attracted to people who possess these qualities.  And, we feel foolish when we find out that many with these qualities we were attracted to only possess them skin-deep.

When the Father sent His Son, it was important people be drawn to Him for the right reason.  Their desire had to be one of faith, and a desire to serve and live for God, not to be part of the ‘in-crowd’ or pep-rally, or to see and be seen.  We always assume the leaders and rulers of Jesus day despised Jesus because of the threat He represented to them, and this must at least be partially true.  But, is it also possible He was not one of the ‘pretty people’?  You know you can’t hang with the ‘pretty people’ unless you are one of them.

I can see I have pricked your interest, but I’m not sure I’ve convinced you of anything, at least, not yet.

Shift over to a familiar scripture passage in Matthew chapter 16… In this chapter we see Jesus questioning His disciples.  He wants to know from them who the people think He (Jesus) is.  He gets various answers.  Some think Jesus is John the Baptist.  Some think He is one of the prophets.  Finally, Jesus asks His disciples, “But, who do you say I am?”

And we know Peter’s now famous response, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

To which Jesus replies –  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.”

Let me put a new twist on this much quoted scripture passage.  Here is Chuck’s interpretation – “Blessings to you Simon Barjona, for you didn’t come to this conclusion by what you saw with your eyes, but my Father, which is in heaven, has revealed this to you.”

Aha…

You see – it is not possible to know God through only the five senses.  You must know Him through the additional sense of faith.  In order to put things in their right perspective it was necessary for Christ to be revealed through faith, not through sight.  It was required that people believe in Him, not because He appeared right and beautiful, but, perhaps, because He didn’t appear right and beautiful.

We skip now to a scene after Jesus was resurrected.  Two of the disciples were on a day-trip to Emmaus, and they were talking about the recent events which included the crucifixion.  All of a sudden Jesus appeared and began walking with them, but they did not know who it was.  My interpretation of these events, and others, is simply this – Jesus was in His normal state, that is, beautiful, handsome, with dignity.  Therefore, they didn’t recognize Him, as they only knew of the Jesus that, in my opinion, was less than beautiful, less than handsome.

It was necessary for those who were drawn to Jesus to be drawn for the right reasons.  A desire to know and serve God, a desire to know the truth, a desire to make a commitment to God.  It would take faith to believe this Jesus was the Messiah that was prophesied to come. Had Jesus appeared as charming, beautiful, and attractive it is possible people would have been drawn to Him for the wrong reasons.

Ok, to sum this up.  I do not believe Jesus was ugly, although this could have been the case.  However, I do not believe He was beautiful, either.  At the very best He was average, with nothing in His appearance that would suggest His true nature or greatness.

Is this important?  I think it is.  In today’s modern society we put a premium on looking right, talking right, acting right, and associating with those who can do us some good.  All the traits I believe God avoided when He sent His Son to this earth to save the lost.  And since He is our prime example we should act accordingly.  Now, let me be clear.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t make yourself as attractive as you can (Lord knows some of us really need it), but that you should think and act soberly, and to not be so high and mighty you cannot associate with those of low degree.

 

The Role of Conflict

November 24, 2014

I’ve been thinking about this for awhile.  Maybe 10 years or more, in fact.

It is true that once we have things settled in our mind it is difficult, almost impossible, to change that pattern.  We don’t want to give up our understanding of how we think the world works, as that plays a vital part of our mental stability, and sense of well-being.  But, there are times when we must reevaluate our base definitions if we ever hope to be able to move to the next level in God.  This is exactly where I’ve been on the topic of conflict, and attempting to understand what role it plays in our life.

You see, I, like many of you, have worked a lifetime to avoid conflict, or to at least defuse conflict when it attempts to raise its ugly head.  Conflict has the appearance of warfare, destruction, violence, frustration, and a host of other negative emotions.  It can leave scars that linger long after the conflict is over.

But, I’ve noticed that for all my effort many times conflict simply cannot be avoided.  In some cases, it cannot be avoided because it involves the protection of our family.  In other cases, it cannot be avoided because it involves basic rights we are entitled to, but not receiving.  In still other cases, conflict may involve defending the rights of those who cannot defend themselves.

Of course, we haven’t really defined what conflict means.  While most of the time our mind conjures up scenes of physical violence or war, in this posting I’m mostly talking about conflict that is personal and mental, not necessarily physical, in nature.

For all of my prayers and efforts I’ve been largely unsuccessful at avoiding conflict in my life.  I have managed to diminish the damage conflict can cause, but I cannot eliminate it entirely, as much as I would like to.  Which brings me to the biggest question of all – “If I live for God then why do I have to face conflict, and what would the purpose be?”

After many years of dealing with this I’ve come to a surprising conclusion.  I’ve broken down my conclusion into several steps:

  1. Stop trying to eliminate conflict from your life.  It is a part of life, much as breathing is part of your life.
  2. Look at it from God’s viewpoint.  While all conflict appears bad to us, it may play a vital role in our development that we know nothing about.
  3. Learn to accept the fact, that conflict, when God is in control, gives you a chance to experience victory, not defeat.
  4. If God allows conflict to enter your life, it is for a purpose – not to destroy, but to bring us to a different level.

Not to say I’m particularly happy about this conclusion.  I’m not.  But, it is better to face life with a realistic appraisal than to try and live it through ‘rose colored glasses’, wishing for something that is not going to happen.

If occurs to me if conflict cannot always be avoided, and probably has affected every individual who has ever lived, there must be a ‘higher’ purpose we cannot always see.

Now to get down to specifics…

We have a much better time understanding complex subjects like this one when we have concrete examples to draw from – preferably from someone else’s life, and not our own.  Fortunately, the Bible is full of such examples.  In fact, it would be hard to find an individual in the Bible who did not experience conflict in their life.  And because the Bible does not hide anything we can often see the long-term effects such conflict brings to individuals.  And for those individuals whose lives were committed to God, the end benefits of conflict are clearly illustrated, and they are conclusively positive and not negative in nature.

But, the real question is whether we can see the same benefits in our own life experiences, or do we view conflict as simply something to be avoided, and are simply glad when it has passed.

In 1944 the European portion of World War II was going badly for Germany.  They were fighting the Russians on the Eastern front, and the combined Allies on the Western front.  But, Hitler, facing imminent defeat refused to consider surrendering, preferring to have Germany, and its people, destroyed first.  In the summer of 1944 an attempt was made by some of the German officials, who saw the madness in Hitler, to kill him in an assassination attempt.  It failed.  The war dragged on for another 9-10 months before ending with the destruction of Germany, Berlin, Hitler, and his empire.  It is a mystery why the war could not have been terminated with less destruction and death than it did.  So tragic.  But, wait….  Let’s say the attempt on Hitler’s life had been successful, and the leaders had been successful in negotiating a peace with the allies.  Wouldn’t that have been better?  Maybe, but maybe not.  Remember, World War I ended in much the same way with a negotiated peace settlement that barely lasted 20 years, and ultimately planted the seeds for World War II.  Is it possible the total destruction of Germany, and its leadership, was necessary to ensure world peace (at least from World War) until the present time?  Of course, we don’t know.  But, consider the point I’m attempting to make, which is simply, things may look bad, they may feel bad, there may not be a glimmer of sunshine anywhere, but out of this dark place may arise victory for the future.  Which I think also applies to our discussion of conflict.

I might wish things could be different, but alas, my wishing doesn’t change anything.  I just need to realign my thinking so that I can deal with the things in my life and be the overcomer God wants me to be, and not listed with the defeated.

Which brings me to the question – Can every conflict result in victory?  The answer is a surprising, YES, if God is in the works.  This does not imply every conflict will be comfortable, or pleasant, but does indicate it will lead to ultimate victory and success, if we continue to follow the plan of God.  Portions of the victory will be realized while we are still alive, while other parts of the ultimate victory will not be realized until we are on the other side.

So, do I welcome conflict, because it may work to my good?  No, I do not welcome it.  Nor do I go looking for conflict.  But, I don’t have to worry, it seems to find me without any difficulty or effort on my part.  Some are small battles, and some are larger.  Some only threaten to annoy me, while others threaten to take me out entirely.  Some affect only me, while others affect my family, too.  Conflicts come in all sizes and shapes.  They can affect relationships, finances, health, security, the list is long.  But, in each case God has given you the tools and training necessary to win, to be victorious, to be successful.

When David faced Goliath he had many things at his disposal.  We talk about his courage and determination, but we often fail to grasp he had been trained by God to do this job.  For it was his previous encounter with the lion and the bear, that gave him the confidence and training necessary to tackle this new challenge (conflict).

So, thanks, for taking this journey with me.  I’m still working on my world-view of conflict and its positive role in my life.  I still find myself trying to side-step it, or to avoid it entirely if at all possible, but also knowing that ultimately into every life some conflict must come.  And, if it must come, then I certainly want it to produce a positive outcome, and not a negative one.

 

You May be Right, But is it Wrong?

November 16, 2014

What kind of title is that?  Actually, I spent more than a few minutes struggling with it.  I knew what I wanted to say, but exactly how to say it eluded me for awhile.

Here’s the basic premise we want to explore.  It goes something like this, “I don’t feel bad at all.  What I said was the absolute truth, and if I had to do it all over again I’d do it the same way.  I’m sorry others got hurt, but it needed to be done and I know I’m right.”

Here’s the problem – is it ok to say or do something that hurts others, even if it is right, or even if you are in the right?  “Well, they hurt me, so, yes, it definitely feels right.”

I believe this approach is used much more than we might think, and it deserves some attention.  While it is true, you cannot please everyone, we do have some responsibility towards others.  There is no need to be crass, disrespectful, or vulgar, when with just a little more time and patience we can do it a different way.  Now, of course, I say all this as if I have mastered this fine art.  I haven’t.  But, I have discovered that when I can control myself and deal with others on a more dignified basis things tend to go much smoother.  But, of course, this is sometimes extremely difficult to do and tries my patience to the uttermost.

There is more at stake here than simply keeping our cool, however.  It may actually be a Biblical principal, one which we have largely overlooked or ignored.  Once again, as I have done time and again, I draw your attention back to Jesus.  If we want to see the ultimate example, it is always good to go back and review someone who did it perfectly.  Every time.  But, was it hard for Him, too?  Yes, I think it was.  I’m certain He had to bite His tongue more than once to keep from saying or doing something that might be regretted later.

Peter put it this way –

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:  Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:  Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:”

And Peter should know, because he walked with Christ, watched His actions, listened to His words, saw His disposition in every situation.

It is hard enough when we are reviled for things we’ve done wrong, but when we’ve done nothing wrong it is almost unbearable.  But, Peter says we are called to this.

Now, back to my title.  Here’s the problem – We use the fact we are right as our excuse to do or say whatever we want.  Why?  Because we are right and they are wrong.  But, what about those things that don’t need to be said?  What about those ‘truths’ that don’t need to be told?  If our ‘truth’ hurts and doesn’t bring positive results, then maybe it should remain hidden.  Just because it is ‘truth’ doesn’t give license to destroy and tear down.

There are many interesting facts that can be gleaned from the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) about the words and actions of Christ during his three and one half years of earthly ministry.  There is something very unusual about how He conducted Himself.  Even as he confronted those who opposed Him there was significant restraint on His part.  Some like to point out that Jesus cleansed the temple at least twice with a whip, and use that as an illustration of lost temper or no restraint.  But, I beg to differ.  For someone who had the power not only to heal, but to destroy and torment, I view the whip incident as very merciful compared to what might have happened had He not controlled Himself.  Truth is he could have destroyed those merchants, or blinded them, or gave them leprosy, or any other punishment, but He chose to simply drive them out with a whip.  Quite merciful, when you stop and think about it.

No, the lesson of Christ is one of restraint and control, even in times of great distress or discomfort.  The last part of the above scripture is interesting.  “but committed himself to him that judges righteously.”  In other words, He reserved judgment to the Father, and to another time.

Not every wrong that is done against you will be reconciled in this lifetime.  You won’t hear, “I’m sorry”, very many times in your lifetime.  In many cases the other party is far from feeling sorry about anything they may have done or said about you.  But, rest assured there is one who is watching.

Just because something is ‘right’, doesn’t make it right.  Doesn’t make it wrong, either.  But, there may be a better way to do it.  To handle it.  To clear it up.  To make things better.

So, where am I?  I’m on the same path as you.  I struggle to keep things in check.  To keep myself under control.  To say and do the right things.  To try to build up and not tear down.  To encourage versus discourage.  It is a daily, and even hourly challenge, but somehow will be worth the effort.

 

Congratulations! You’ve Been Criticized

October 31, 2014

You may have said to yourself or to someone else, “It seems the more I do, the more criticism I receive.”  Well, that’s actually a good thing, although it doesn’t always feel very good.  No one likes to be criticized, especially when they are doing the best they can.  But, consider this – at least you are doing something.  I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating, “It takes absolutely no skill, knowledge, education, or experience to be a critic.”  Everyone, regardless of qualification, can be a critic.

With that said, not everyone can do the things you are doing.  It is relatively easy to tell someone else how they should be doing something, or how to do it better.  It is a different thing, however, when the critic attempts to do it.

Now, let’s be honest.  It’s pretty hard not to be a critic.  After all, one doesn’t have to be a musician or singer to know when something sounds good or bad.  However, being critical doesn’t really solve anything, does it?

It may be best at this point to consult an expert on this subject – Jesus.  If anyone had a right to be critical it would be Him.  How would you feel if you created something, say a machine of some kind, and when inspecting it you found it not operating the way you designed it?  Or, using the same example, what would happen if you found the owner of the machine you designed using water instead of oil to lubricate it?  You might find yourself being a little annoyed and critical.  This is the position Jesus found Himself in when He was working His ministry 2,000 years ago.  Things were not going particularly well.  The people He had come to save, for the most part, didn’t want Him.  The disciples He was training didn’t understand most of what He did or said.  The ones He fed with bread and fish, just wanted to be kept fed and were looking for another free meal.

Although He certainly had every right to be critical, we do not have any recorded reference to it.  Yes, He did correct some, He rebuked others, He comforted still others, but you can’t really say he went on a criticizing binge.

“Why won’t these people listen to what I’m saying?”

“How many times do I have to tell this?”

“They are never going to understand”

It is interesting to ponder why He never became critical.  Is it, perhaps, because being critical doesn’t really accomplish anything?  Is it possible being critical tears down instead of builds up?

In short, it is ok to see something that isn’t being done correctly and be motivated to action.  It isn’t ok, if that only action is to be verbally critical, without offering to either do it yourself, or to help someone do it better, or to show them how they might do it better.  If the only action we are motivated to do is working our jaw muscles, we have missed the point entirely.

Now hold it…

If I have to put actions to my words and actually do something, that is work.  And if it is work, then I might get exhausted and tired.  And if I work and get exhausted and tired I won’t have any time left to be critical.  Uh, yes…  Any more questions?

So, if you are being criticized take comfort in knowing you must be doing something, which is typically more than the criticizer is doing.

Without Conflict There Can Be No Victory

September 25, 2014

Victory is sweet.  There’s probably not a person alive who wouldn’t vote for victory.  We welcome it.  We rejoice in it.  But, victory comes at a price.  It would be wonderful if victory just came into our life and dropped itself into our lap.  But, it doesn’t work that way.  Victory only comes after a conflict.

Let’s face it, no one wants conflict in their life.  We go out of our way to avoid it.  We will actually pay a ransom in order to prevent it.  But, whether we welcome it or not, everyone has their share of conflict.  Conflict can come in many forms.  It can be conflict with the Devil, who, by the way, contrary to some popular belief, is still alive and well.  It could be conflict with friends or loved ones.  It could be conflict caused by war or terrorists.  It could be conflict at work.  It could be conflict within our own soul.

Doesn’t sound very promising does it?  But, I have some good news for you, especially those of you who are called by God’s name.  You are designed and destined to be an overcomer.  To overcome conflict and achieve victory.  Is there still a price to be paid?  Yes, there often is.  Sometimes we achieve victory but show the marks, cuts, blood stains, and scars of the conflict.  But, it’s important to note that God does not allow conflict in your life in order for you to fail.  He wants you to succeed.  Can I prove that with scripture?  I think I can.

We all know about Peter walking on the water, and how once he got his eyes off Jesus he began to sink.  But, roll back just a minute.  Examine the conversation that occurred between Jesus and Peter.  Peter asks Jesus, “If it be you, Lord, then bid me come.”  Permission is asked.  Jesus could have very well have said, “No, Peter.  For if you come to me you will surely sink.”  That is not what the Lord said.  He said simply, “Come.”  This was permission granted.  Jesus would not have said, “Come” if it meant Peter would fall into the water.  No, by saying the simple word, “Come”, Jesus was actually saying, “Come on, Peter.  You can do this, and we will walk together where no man has ever walked before.”

Sometimes we have the wrong impression of God.  We sometimes think He is setting us up for a fall, when actually He is setting us up for Victory.  But, to achieve victory we must be willing to go through the conflict.

This year when the football season wraps up there will be two teams that will meet in the SuperBowl.  These two teams will have struggled all season, and met with conflict after conflict to reach this place.  And now the final conflict will be determined by this game.  No one walks away with a SuperBowl ring without first having been in the conflict.

So, remember my friend.  When conflict comes your way, which it will, know that God has set you up for Victory.  You may come out bloodied and scarred, but He wants you to win.

 

King David – The Half-Breed

September 25, 2014

Ok, so that’s going a bit too far.  David was no half-breed, but he was not 100% Jewish either.  His great-grandmother was the Moabitess Ruth, making David 1/8 Moabite.  While this may not sound like much, if you have 1/8 American Indian blood, then you qualify to be included in most of the Indian tribes of North America.  (Tribal requirements vary from tribe to tribe with some requiring 1/4, while others require as little as 1/16.)

Why does this matter?

It matters because back then, as now, people place undue significance on our background, our heritage, our nationality, and our skin color.  David surely dealt with his share of prejudice and hostility, because he was not 100% Jewish.  We cannot know for certain exactly what this did to David, or how he felt about it, but it stands as a testament to the way God selects his chosen ones.

Historically, God has chosen people we would often think unfit to do His work.  He chooses prostitutes, partial-breeds, outcasts, tax collectors, Gentiles and Jews, high people, low people, beggars, Kings, and slaves as He sees fit.

King David is considered by many to be one of the greatest Kings Israel ever had.  Of course, not everyone during David’s time thought so.  And yet, David was not from the royal family, he was a fugitive from justice much of his young life.  He was not a particularly favorable role model.  Few would have chosen him to be King.  But, God did.

Even after David ascended to the throne, following the death of King Saul, many considered him to be a usurper, an unwelcomed successor to King Saul.  Not only did David have to deal with strife and division from without, but there was division within his own family.  Twice his sons attempted to ascend to the throne without authorization.

So, why is the story of David so important?  Why do we often stop with the story of David and Goliath?

The answer is simple.  The story of David is important for many reasons, but, perhaps, the foremost reason is simply it is the story of every man who can accomplish great things when anointed by God and His Spirit.  It matters not what your background is, where you were born, what color your skin is.  What matters is whether you have a heart that is after God.  For the one thing that stands above all else in the story of David is the simple phrase “a man after God’s own heart.”

Often we are reminded of how little we are, and what little we can accomplish.  We might want to change the world, but the task slips away from our grasp.  Perhaps, the story of David is significant because it is really a story of little things.  A shepherd boy, who was despised by his brothers, was anointed to be a future King of Israel.  A shepherd boy who rose to be one of the finest warriors in ancient times.  Never defeated in battle.  A shepherd boy, who though flawed by sin and mistakes, still shines as an example of what one person can do who is committed to God.

It should come as no surprise that David was a man with a purpose.  We might also say a man with a destiny.  But, is that only true for David, or does it apply to everyone?

I was reminded recently of the significance of the dash when seen on a tombstone.  You know, the dash between born and died dates.  The dash is to be filled with life.  The dash signifies our importance, purpose, and destiny in the time God has given us.  It may look small and insignificant, but the life it is attached to is not.  My father’s grave stone reads “1920 – 1982.”  While the dash is so small, it represents life, teenage years, war years, divorce, remarriage, children, career, loving, giving, sharing, and so many other things.  It represents achievement, disappointment, sadness, joy, humor, anger, fear, frustration, victory, and defeat.  It represents a life that was lost and then found again.

David’s dash was filled with many things, too.  Now the simple question is what will you do with the dash God has given you?  Will you let anything stand in your way?  Background, wealth, poverty, skin color, culture, nationality are all things that might distract or slow you down.  Do you really have time to acknowledge them?  Or is it time to bid them goodbye, and get on with the destiny God has for you?

You Can’t Change That

September 10, 2014

In 1979 a song was released called, yes, you guessed it, “You Can’t Change That”.  A portion of the lyrics goes like this:

You can change your telephone number
And you can change your address too
But you can’t stop me from loving you
No, you can’t change that, no, no

You can change the color of your hair
And you can change the clothes you wear
But you’ll never change the way I care
No, you can’t change that

(C) Ray Parker, Jr.

Put to a catchy tune it was a hit in 1979.  I’ve been thinking about these lyrics and wondering if that applies to God, too, and how He loves us.  Does He know where we are?  Does He know us by name?  What if these things change?

In the book of Acts we read about the conversion and ministry of the Apostle Paul.  Up to Acts 13:9 we see Paul referred by his given name Saul.  After Acts 13:9 he is referred to as Paul.  Some mistakenly think this name change was due to his spiritual conversion, but the real reason for the name change has to do with Paul’s increasing world-wide ministry.  Saul is a Hebrew name, while Paul is Greek.  During Paul’s time Greek was to that current world the same as English is today.  It was a common language known by most folks living at that time.  As Paul’s ministry expanded beyond simply ministering to the Jews it was appropriate for the name change to take place.

But, the question to be asked is – Does this confuse God?  Or, does God know you only by one name?  What if you name changes, what will God do?

Once again, the answer is in the scriptures.  What we need to find is actual references of God referring to Paul or Saul to find the answer we are looking for.  And they are available.

In Acts 9:4 we see where Jesus spoke directly to Paul as he was traveling to Damascus.

“And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”

Now that we have found a reference pertaining to his given name, the question that remains is can we find a reference where God uses his new name?

In Acts 27 we find the following two scriptures:

23 For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,

24 Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.

This is Paul speaking recounting an angelic visitation from God.  Note, how the angel calls him by his new name – Paul.

Isn’t that interesting?  So, no matter what you are called, or what name you choose to go by, God knows who you are and will call you by name.

Now what about addresses?  Does God know where we are?  How can He find us?  Does He need a GPS?

The Book of Acts also offers clues about this topic.  In Acts chapter 9 we find these two verses:

10 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.

11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,

Don’t you find it interesting how specific God is?  Find the street called Straight, go to the house on that street that belongs to a man named Judas.  There you will find Saul of Tarsus.  Note, this was not Paul’s permanent address.  This was his temporary home.

In Acts chapter 10 we find another angelic visitation, and once again, specific instructions about the location of a man called Peter.

He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.

And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.

And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:

He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.

This angel visited a man named Cornelius, a Roman centurion.  He was instructed to send for a man named Simon, surname Peter, who was lodging in the city of Joppa with a man called Simon, who was a tanner, and whose house is by the sea side.

Sounds to me like God knew exactly where Peter was.  Note, again, this was not Peter’s permanent home, he was just visiting Joppa.

So, let me hear the verses of that song again….

You can change your telephone number
And you can change your address too
But you can’t stop me from loving you
No, you can’t change that, no, no

You can change the color of your hair
And you can change the clothes you wear
But you’ll never change the way I care
No, you can’t change that

 

I think that could be God’s message to you and I.  He knows exactly where we are, and nothing you can do will make Him stop loving you or caring for you.  Things may change, but that will never change.  No matter what name you go by, or where you live, or where you travel, He knows you and you can’t change that.