Friday, February 12, 2016

What Have We Become?

I can't tell you how sad, and how angry, I was to watch multiple candidates in the New Hampshire Republican debate endorse making women sign up for Selective Service. What have we become? What are we that we, as a nation (even many of the leaders who most tout their Christian stands), are considering drafting women into the brutality and horror of war?

It strikes me that much of the crumbling in our society we see is in part stemming from a collapse of Godly men in the homes. Men who protect their wives and children. Men who train their children up in the Scriptures and God's ways. Men who open doors for ladies. Men who provide. Men who teach their daughters what a Godly man looks like, what appropriate touch is, and give them a model of the man they should look for. Men who teach their sons to love and cherish and honor and protect women. And now, it seems, that men can't even defend and protect this nation.

And before someone calls me sexist, let me just say that to do so is to level the same claim at God. He ordained the structure of the home. He ordained the roles of the Home. He told men to love and cherish their brides and to lift them as ones without spot or blemish. He died for His bride.

At West Point and in the Army I had the privilege of serving alongside many amazing women who volunteered to be there. Volunteered. But the inevitable result that anyone looking could see coming is now here. The push to be equal, equal, equal has now "drafted" in those who were not pushing. Daughters who don't want to kill, be killed, be captured (and everything that goes with it), see the horror of death thrust in their face won't have a choice. What have we become? Can we no longer even protect our women from that?

Based on some responses I got when I posted about this on Facebook, there is almost a smug "hey, women, you wanted to be equal so now lie in the bed you made" attitude. My response is this—not all women wanted this, but all women will be subject to this. And before you think in some perverse way you are "getting back" at feminists through this let me say that that line of thinking is akin to firebombing a city to get back at a few criminals in it.

I believe that how we view this goes directly to how we view Scripture and God. Do we believe He has ordained roles and different strengths for the different sexes? This isn't to say a women shouldn't (or can't defend herself). This isn't to say anything against women. But to make law a variance to God's structure is to say something different. It is to fly in the face of God and the truths and order He has given us.

I guess, though, what do we expect?!? We undermine the Scriptures. We rewrite God and our theology to fit what we approve of. We remove the idea that we are handcrafted, each uniquely, in God's image and we teach instead that we are all evolved animals. In that light, what does it matter? But to have men who claim to believe in God and the authority of Scripture believe this is good is grievous to me, and it scares me.

I can't—and won't—describe to you some of the things I've seen on the volunteer fire department. Images flash through my mind I'll probably never be able to forget this side of the grave. And I can't tell you how grateful I am that my wife and daughters don't have those images in their minds. That I could stand in a place so others don't have to. The thought of my daughters being drafted into an environment where that could be their exposure sickens me, and angers me. But, in light of the rejection of God and the Scriptures we are avalanching into in this nation, I guess it shouldn't surprise me . . .

Friday, February 5, 2016

Lenses

I love the word "lens" in a Christian context. It always reminds me that I need to see through the proper lens when I am processing things in life. I need to see things through God's lens and not mine or the worlds. His "lens" (His way of seeing things) is the only one that matters in the end, and the only one that is truly correct, and the only one through which I can see things in the true perspective and light.

For example, last night I was teaching the youth group about Paul and how his encounter with God instantly changed his life* (as a follow up to Isaiah's similar moment in Isaiah 6). As I taught we reached Jesus' words to Paul (then Saul):
And falling to the ground he [Saul] heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. (Acts 9:4–5)
As a side note to the main teaching I drew their attention to the fact that Jesus sees persecution against the church (believers, His body) as persecution against Himself. We don't stand alone. When we are persecuted it is to God as if He Himself is persecuted. I referred back to Jesus' words to the disciples before He sent out the 72, "The one who hears you hears Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me, and the one who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me" (Luke 10:16). We are the body of Christ, and Christ is in us and completely identified with us. Even in solitary confinement we do not suffer alone, and we are not alone.

This morning our family was watching a documentary on the Bible and it was talking about the early church and the horrible persecution it suffered for over 200 years. Torture, burned alive, lions, etc. A horrible litany of the tremendous evil of man unto man. The narrator gave religious, political, social and economic reasons for the Roman persecution of the church . . . but stopped at that. I had the girls pause the DVD and told them that no matter the "topic" or hot point the devil uses to stir up people against believers, at the core of it all it is that darkness hates light. The light has come into the world and men love darkness and hate the light. At its core all persecution and hatred of God's people is a spiritual war, driven by Satan and his hosts. I told them that this is why it is imperative to me to know a political candidate's deep and true religious beliefs and worldview lens. There is no way they can truly understand the nature of world events and issues if they do not have (and apply) God's spiritual lenses through which to see it.

I ended by sharing with them that while it is easy to direct our hate at Nero (who burned Christians alive as his torches, etc.), the Bible makes it clear to us:
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:11-13)
No matter the person leading the persecution. No matter the person being persecuted as a Christian. The reality of it all is that ultimately it is Satan warring against Jesus. It is darkness against Light. It is Satan and his hosts driving the persecution, and it is Jesus receiving the persecution as if unto Himself. This is the only lens through which we can truly understand it, through which we can truly direct our anger and defense against it . . . and the only lens through which we can find the only true comfort in it—what is done unto us for the sake of Christ is received by God in us as if done unto Himself.

We are not alone. We are the body of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Darkness hates light. But we are eternally alive in Christ, God's own children and special possession, forgiven, in truth, in light. And nothing can take that away!

* Luke records this encounter as a narrator in Acts 9, and then Paul tells about it in Acts 22.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Sacrifice, an Offering, of Praise . . .

I've been reflecting a lot on two different verses in the Bible. The first is Hebrews 13:15 which says, "Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name." The second is Psalms 119:108 which says, "Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O LORD, and teach me your rules."

These two passages are ones I have a sense are loaded with a depth of meaning I can only scratch the surface of. I wonder, what does it mean to give our praise unto God as an offering, and as a sacrifice? I have to believe this is so much more than the casual praise we lift up to God so often, or the way we might sometimes simply sing songs of worship and praise without fully being cognizant of each word and fully lifting them to Him as if from the depth of our hearts. I am thinking out loud here, and I might be wrong, but to me praising God and talking about Him can be easy. I don't normally think of the word "praise" in terms of God in a context of a sacrifice or offering. To me those words imply a cost and a determined, purposed gift.

I wonder if I am too casual in my worship and praise. Well, I know I am. There is no way my worship or praise could ever match what He is worthy of as God—holy, Creator, the One in Whom all time and goodness and love and life and light find their very origin. So I know I am too casual with my praise. I could never give Him, or express to Him, what He is truly worthy of. But that being said, I know my praise is pleasing to Him and accepted and loved. But I am wondering, is there a level of praise that I could lift to Him beyond what I am? A level of praise that is costly to me and emanating from the very core of my being?

Obviously to praise Him—to choose to praise Him—in the midst of suffering, in the midst of circumstances where His hand isn't evident, in the midst of seeming "unanswered" prayers is "costly." It is choice we must make, contrary to what we might feel. I think I get that and how that choice could be an offering and sacrifice of praise.

But what about when life is going good? When it seems like I can see Him moving in my life, providing, answering prayers, and praise is easy? How can I then give Him my praise as a sacrifice and offering? What level of meditating on Him and His attributes and His holiness and His love might I need to make the effort to do to come to that place where my praise is a sacrifice, an offering? What does that mean?

I have a picture of Him on the throne, and my handing Him my praise as a gift. My praise must be a fragrance of my life. It comes before even my requests . . . "Our Father in Heaven. Hallowed. Holy be Your name . . ." I am so casual, so quick, to speak to Him (and I know that is my privilege as His child) that at times I believe I need to just pause, and collect myself, and to wrap myself around Who it is I am about to speak to, and to breath deeply and to be in awe, and to praise Him. To worship Him. To give Him my praise as an offering. A sacrifice.

And I am still trying to figure out fully what that means. But I believe when I do it will forever change my life.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

What did Lazarus think?

I was thinking about Lazarus this morning. I wonder how grateful he was to Jesus for raising him from the dead. We know he was around Jesus after that.

John 12:2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table.


I wonder how sacrificially he gave his all to Jesus after Jesus raised him from the dead. I wonder how many people were drawn to Jesus through the testimony and witness of Lazarus' new life.

John 12:9-11 When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

I wonder if there is anything Lazarus would have held back from Jesus after that, or considered too great a price to pay to love and follow Jesus.

Then I thought about:

Colossians 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.


Romans 6:13b . . . but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

 I was dead in my sin. Cut off from God, Who is Himself life. And He raised me from the dead. And so I wonder . . . I wonder how grateful I am to Jesus for raising me from the dead. I wonder how sacrificially I give my all to Jesus after Jesus raised me from the dead. I wonder how many people are drawn to Jesus through the testimony and witness of my new life. I wonder if there is anything I would have held back from Jesus after that, or consider too great a price to pay to love and follow Jesus.

What is the proper response when someone has raised you from the dead?

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Follow the Clues . . .


Proverbs 25:2 — It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.
The other day Mary Ann and I dropped our girls off at camp. On the way home we stopped at a roadside cut that we know has had some fossilized shells impressions in the past. I'd been really looking forward to it, as I haven't been fossil hunting in awhile. The spot is miles from the ocean, and in mountains high above it, and it is to me a wonderful place to collect evidence of the flood of Noah.

Arriving at the spot, we looked at where we usually find fossils and found some good, small ones. I then decided to look for some new veins of fossils in the bent shale layers. After some searching along the road I found a couple small impressions in the sluff pile below the large cliff. We started to scale the slide area, looking for clues to where the vein of fossils might be in the wall, and soon started to see some other impressions, still in the matrix of the wall. Out come the rock chisels and hammers . . . and soon we were rewarded with a beauty! I have include the rest of the series of pictures below so you can share in the fun of the hunt! (Clicking on each picture will give you an enlarged view of it where you can really see the fossils!)

In following those clues and finding the "treasure" I am reminded of the coming of Christ, by Whose death and our faith we are united back to God, with God Himself dwelling in us. This mystery of the ages, set in place from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) was a plan God had in place for the fullness of time, when Christ would come. But it was not a plan without clues, as the entire Old Testament points to this moment and foreshadows it. In fact, Christ is the best lens I have found to interpret the Old Testament through.

God has left His "clues" all around us. Evidence of His hand. Examples of His love and power. Testimonies of His love. It is but for us to step in and explore them. He invites us to "taste and see that He is good" (Psalm 34:8). The evidence for His existence, the evidence for the truth of Genesis (hence of the Bible), the evidence of His involvement in our lives . . . it surrounds us! In fact, regarding the evidence of His existence that is found in Creation alone—He says in Romans 1 that it is so evident that man is without excuse to deny Him!

I love God's "clues"! I love the nudges of the Holy Spirit, the glimpse of His hand, the breath of His leading. I love to follow the "clues" and take the trail and see where He leads. He is so good. May you enjoy the journey of following Him. I think He enjoys leaving us the clues, and having fun with us as well!

(Note: If you are on Facebook, and you enjoy being blessed through God's Creation, you might enjoy "liking" my daughters' and my page "Just a Closer Look" where we put macro parts of a picture from Creation that we've taken and people guess what it is. Even if you don't guess, it is a lot of fun and it encourages us to be still and know that He is God.)





Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Do You Want to Be a Cowboy?

Last Saturday was, for me, one of my first really relaxing Saturdays in a long time. One of our elders was teaching for me on Sunday and I got to simply show up and be blessed. I didn't have the teaching laying over me on Saturday and I found myself able to relax, just be present in the moment, and not be too worried about the time, etc. I hadn't realized how much the Sunday teaching affects me on the days prior to it until then.

One of the things I'd really been looking forward to was cutting up some wood in the morning while the girls rode on our lower property, going to a friend's function, then curling up in the afternoon and reading a good Western. You know—cowboys, six guns, wide open plains, and of course horses and cows. It has been a love of mine since fourth grade.

I was anticipating the afternoon time reading, dozing, and simply being in another place and time for awhile. Then . . . when we got back from the function, we thought our cows and sheep had gotten out. We looked everywhere with binoculars across the 40 acres and couldn't find them. The girls went out on one of our horses combing the draws and hidden depressions and couldn't find them. They did find, however, a spot where the fence was low on the back side and some matted grass leading up to it.
Looking across our property (at a greener time of year)
to the brush-covered hill we figured the cows and
sheep had escaped to.

And so . . . we could only imagine the cows got spooked earlier in the day when the girls were practicing moving them around from horseback, and that they probably went over the fence and up into the thick brush and hills on the others side of it, the sheep faithfully in tow. It was a daunting prospect to think of hiking those hills in the heat with flakes of alfalfa in our hands, watching for snakes, locating the roaming critters, trying to move them back to and through the fence, then having to repair the fence. I wanted to read my Western!

The girls on Baylie, our retired cutting horse they used
to move the cows around.
I was frustrated and disappointed, then I had thought pierce my self-pity like a spear thrown through it. It asked, "Do you want to read about cowboys, or be one?"

It was one of those moments of self-confronting. I had to ask, "Do you want to read about it, or be it?" and then, almost immediately, came the follow up question . . . "And what about your faith, do you want to read about it, or live it?"

I love to read about God. I love to curl up in my chair with a cup of good, strong coffee, and study Him. And so it was a strong reminder to me to be on guard against being more in love with the idea of something then the reality. It is not to say that Bible study, church, Men's Group, etc., are not important—they are tremendously important—but if I ever let the study of the Christian life replace living the Christian life I've missed what it is all about. If I ever let things about Jesus replace Jesus I've missed the mark it all aims at.

Paul wrote, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20) It is Christ who lives in me, desiring to live through me. It is a life often tiring, inconvenient, and with, at times, great cost . . . but it is the real thing, what we are created for—a living relationship following Jesus, allowing Him to live in and through us, loving and serving.

May I never forget the question: "Do you want to read about cowboys, or be one?"



P.S. We found the cows and sheep, still on our property, in a clump of bushes along the fence line, hidden until you were about 20 feet away.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Never Forget . . .

I had the honor and privilege recently of having a long, tear-filled conversation with someone who has struggled with same-sex attraction. They have literally taken a bullet, and watched a friend die by the bullet, of someone who simply hated gays. They shared how, without a legal commitment of relationship, the family of someone they loved (and had loved for decades) could cut them off from even seeing that person in the hospital if that person was unconscious. They shared how they couldn't find the depth of love in someone of the opposite sex they found in someone of the same. They shared their deep longing to love and be loved and to not grow old alone.

We talked. We listened to one another. We honored one another with listening and trying to hear one another's hearts. It was an amazing experience.

I still believe the Bible is clear about God's stand on homosexuality. I still believe that we, as Christians, can't legitimatize by law something we believe God says is sin. But it was a powerful reminder to me—one I hope I never forget—that this whole battle (or any battle, for that matter, be it abortion, etc.) is not about "them." The "them" are (granted there are extremists on both sides who make a genuine discussion hard), but the "them" are people with feelings, people who love, people who often want to please God, people who are hurt. They are real people and if we ever forget that, and walk not in love (which doesn't mean compromise), then no matter how correct our theology is, we will not be representing God.

I talked extensively about this with our fellowship yesterday, and I felt God bring two questions to my mind. They are questions the church must grapple with if we want God to wash this nation with His Holy Spirit (and I believe that is the only answer for us, that the individuals in this nation choose to love and obey Him above all else). Those two questions were:

1. I, who am so passionate and patriotic about America, am I even more passionate and "patriotic" about the true nation I am a citizen of, the eternal nation, the holy nation, that is God's Kingdom, His body, and about the eternal effects of it expanding and reigning or not?

2. I, who am so indignant about our nation's laws and direction, am I even more indignant and passionate and vocal about God's laws in my own life and within the church?

I do not believe God will pour out the only true answer—His Holy Spirit that draws men unto Jesus—if the church is not passionate about Him, about eternity, about holiness and purity in our own lives and ranks first. Why would He?

Nothing  I am saying here is a call to compromise on what we believe is true and right before God, who does declare some things as true and right. But it is a call to never forget. To never, ever forget. That our enemy is not flesh and blood. That the "them" are real people whom God loves, with hurts and hopes and needs that are real and deep, with tears that flow like ours do, and hearts that hurt like ours do. May we live and love like Jesus. May we be humble and broken in our hearts toward our own sins and violations of God's laws, and living toward others as one saved only by the grace of God to another.

May we never forget the tears. God doesn't, and won't. Rather, it says, He will one day Himself wipe them from our eyes.

I am deeply concerned about this nation, and the nation I will hand my children and their children. I am deeply concerned it not longer puts God or His heart as the top of its list. I am concerned by it, and grieved by it, and I intend to continue to teach and live what I believe is truth. But as I do, in these days ahead, if I ever have to error, may it be on the side of love. May I love with a passion born of God's love for me and my love for Him. May I love in a way that the lost, the hurting, the confused find in me such a picture of His love that they run into His arms, and find their a Holy Spirit willing and ready and eager to lead and guide them down the road into His truth.

May I never forget the tears.
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