Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dad, I wish there weren’t any flies.

This is my favorite time of year. Actually, this is the start of my favorite time of year. I just love the cooler weather, the cooler days and nights. My area of the country doesn’t get just freezing cold. And, at this time of year, we're still dealing with flies and mosquitos. But, if it’s not raining, then most evenings I’m out on my back porch staring up at the stars and watching my breath in the air. Ahhh…. I love the Fall and Winter.

This past weekend, I was working on a little home improvement project around the house. My youngest son was helping me, and he was really doing a good job too. It helped make my job much easier that day. As the day went on, It was soon time for lunch. My wife fixed sandwiches and chips for us, and we ate lunch on the back porch. It was a real nice day. As we ate, my son soon realized that he was fanning flies away from his lunch to the point that he was getting pretty frustrated. “Dad, I wish there weren’t any flies around.” He said. I chuckled in agreement, but soon realized that I had a perfect opportunity to remind him of our God. “You know” I said, “Pharaoh, King of Egypt said the same thing.” I gave him a few seconds to let him remember the story which he did and he began recalling the story to me in great detail – with emphasis on the gross, green frogs, the nasty blood in the river, hail, lightning, boils, locust, and more.

I was very proud that he remembered the story. So I continued the story where he left off and made the comment to my son that Pharaoh, King of Egypt did not listen to God. God told Moses to tell Aaron to "Go in to Pharaoh and tell him, 'Thus says the Lord God of the Hebrews: "Let My people go, that they may serve Me."'" Exodus 9:1 I explained that Pharaoh was stubborn, and would not listen to Aaron, Moses, or God. Pharaoh would not learn or believe despite the outrageous plagues that God sent his way. Pharaoh started to change his mind when things got real bad, but as soon as each plague was removed, Pharaoh changed his mind back to being the wicked ruler he was – time and time again. Exodus 8:15

I told my son that whenever we see flies bugging us, we need to remember this story, and remember how God used His creation to help teach us a lesson. God said, "I will multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt... and will use my powerful hand against Egypt. When I judge them with mighty acts, I will bring my people Israel out like an army on the march. Then the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord." Exodus 7:2-5
Am I Listening To What God Is Saying In His Word?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Sower Went to Sow. Part II

Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times. - Mark 4:3-8

Again, my Sunday A.M. bible class talked about this great story as read in the book of Mark. And it’s interesting sometimes to read beyond “what’s in between the lines”. Again, I’ve heard this story before, and I have a pretty good handle on the basic meaning of the scripture. But from time to time, things just pop into my head, or rather, His word is revealed to me in greater understanding. But, the glaring question that I had this morning in class is this; Out of all the soil types that are mentioned in this story, how did the “good” soil become “good”? It’s obvious that the rocky soil that received the seed was rocky because no one bothered to pick up those rocks and move them. It’s also obvious that the path that received the seed was packed down from years of walking back and forth upon it. It was a functional piece of land allowing passage from one area to another. Also, the thorny land that received the seed was thorny because no one had bothered to take the time to remove the thorns and make that piece of land useable for crops. I’ve done just a bit of farming or gardening rather, enough to know that it’s not an easy job. During most of the growing season around in my area, it’s also a hot job too. Matter of fact, there’s not much I’d rather not do, than to pull weeds out of my flower beds. And if you’ve ever seen them, you would have to agree. I give my flowers a good head-start in the spring, but after that, they’re pretty much on their own. So, with a little thought, one could see that this “good” soil that is talked about in Jesus’ story possibly didn’t just happen that way. [Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not reading something into Jesus’ story that is somehow different. I’m not changing the story to mean something else than what Jesus was teaching. I’m simply making an observation that the “good” soil more than likely took some work to make it good.]

I’m suggesting that my life or Christian walk is sometimes filled with things that make it hard for me to grow or produce as I should. I’m also suggesting that the stones and thorns that “crop-up” over time will have to be dealt with. I can either ignore the weeds, letting them continue to grow and spring up and take over my field or my life, or I can take the time to remove them. I’m also suggesting that IF I were to ever succeed in removing all the stones and thorns from my field, or life, that it would not remain that way without working hard to keep it that way. In fact, I’m also suggesting that from time to time, I’ve been known to carry a few large stones around and drop them into my field. How dumb is that? Then, I’ve been known to realize my mistake, and haul them off again. Some rocks I’m sure I don’t even notice any more, even if I happen to trip over them. I’ve realized that I’ve done that before. To trip over the same rock, and just keep on moving, never being bothered by its presence. Sigh.

My whole point to this is; I have control over my life, rather than someone else being responsible for my life. Whether I choose to act correctly or not, it is up to me how my life is tended and cared for. If I’m going to go through the season, barely getting by, sowing and reaping around all the rocks that happen to be just lying around and be less productive. Or, if I’m going to stay vigilant, and stay on top of those weeds and thorns and rocks this year, and not let anything defile my life – and reap a bountiful harvest. The choice is only mine. However, I realize that I cannot do it on my own. I need the help that comes from God, who watches over me and helps me when I can't stand on my own. Without God's help, all my efforts are in vain. But without my efforts, I'm doomed to fail, despite the help that God has already given me.

Am I Listening To What God Is Saying In His Word?

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Best Substitute for Me

Duck tape is a great substitute for Glue or Nails. Tofu is a great substitute for Meat. Olive Oil is a great substitute for Butter. A healthy smoothie is a great substitute for a traditional fatty meal. Yogurt is a great substitute for cream. Pasta is a great substitute for Rice. There are substitutes for Sugar, Milk, Eggs, Fish, Stone, Wood, Glass, and Fiber. There are substitutes for practically most anything. What used to be the real thing, is now a cheaper, healthier, more efficient counterfeit.

However, I want to remind myself that there is one substitute that can be replaced by nothing else. There is no one else or nothing else that can save me - except Jesus Christ my Lord. When it comes time to stand in judgment before God Almighty, I will not be able to stand there, had it not been for the One who took my place. In my place, Jesus was scorned, was rejected, was filled with sorrow, and was caused to suffer. For my sake, He was alienated, looked down upon, and shown no respect. He went through and suffered things that I should have suffered because of my sin. He bore the pain and agony that was meant for me. He was beaten, mocked, and crucified because I had sinned. He was punished because of what I had done. He carried my judgment and condemnation, so that I wouldn't have to. Because of this great substitute, I am redeemed and forgiven. I am cleansed and healed and made whole again. Not only did Jesus take on my sins, He took on the sins of the world - for everyone! He has made many people Holy because of what He went through. He was punished for our sins. Because Jesus took on the sins of everyone, because He was willing to stand there, in place of me and of you, He will be rewarded. And the good news for me and for you is that because the price has already been paid on our behalf, we will also be rewarded if we are faithful. [paraphrased from Isaiah 53]
I must make no mistake, that this sacrifice – this pain and suffering that was made on my behalf is a "free pass" that allows me to live as I choose. Not at all! This sacrifice was offered to me, if I believe and have faith that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and that He alone can save me. I do not want to change the topic, but to say that we must have faith.

Romans 1:16-18
Romans 5:1-2

Am I Listening To What God Is Saying In His Word?

Your comments about your own experiences are welcome.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Be With Me Lord

From time to time, I find myself struggling with making a right or wrong choice. Okay, that may sound like I only have an occasional problem. Actually, every day - throughout the day, I find myself struggling with making the right or wrong decision. I pray to God to help me make the right choices. I pray to God to help keep me strong.

The thought re-occurred to me today and as soon as I had the thought, a chill ran down my back. I wonder if after I just finished praying, if the devil just asked God if he can tempt me. Because as I sit here feeling all energized from my prayer, I suddenly remembered a few quotes in the bible about this sort of thing....

And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren." But he said to Him, "Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death." Then He said, "I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me." - Luke 22:31-34

And also this one...

One day, angels came to the Lord. Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered, "From traveling all around the earth. I've been going from one end of it to the other." Then the Lord said to Satan, "Have you thought about my servant Job? There isn't anyone on earth like him. He is honest. He does what is right. He has respect for me and avoids evil." "You always give Job everything he needs," Satan replied. "That's why he has respect for you. Haven't you guarded him and his family? Haven't you taken care of everything he has? You have blessed everything he does. His flocks and herds are spread all through the land. "But reach out your hand and strike down everything he has. Then I'm sure he will speak evil things against you. In fact, he'll do it right in front of you." The Lord said to Satan, "All right. I am handing everything he has over to you. But do not touch the man himself." Then Satan left the Lord and went on his way. - Job 1:6-12

Now Job was a great man. Of course I remember what most of Job was all about. But in the end, Job remained faithful and never "cursed God and died". He had the attitude, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." - Job 13:15

How do I compare? Lord, Increase My Faith! Lord, I pray that you will watch over me. That you will be there for me when I face decisions. That you will hold my hand, lift me up, turn my head - my face - my body, lead me, carry me - bless me. Lord, thank you for your blessings. You have given me so much - so much more than many others. Physically, You've blessed me with Godly parents, a Godly wife, with children, with a home, with a job, with a car, with food, with clothes, with health, with protection, and with so much more. Spiritually, You've blessed me with forgiveness, mercy, love, grace, faithful examples found in Your word, with many Christian friends to help support me, and with so much more. Thank you for hearing my prayers. Thank you for watching over me. Amen.

Do I Hear What God Is Saying In His Word?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

God, Samuel, Saul, Agag

Samuel also said to Saul, "The Lord sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.' " - 1 Samuel 15:1-3

In an attempt for me to focus on God’s word and will, rather than my own, I wanted to study this story again here briefly. I was reminded of this story a week ago as I prepared myself to teach a group of 4th through 6th graders in Wednesday night Bible class at church. Part of the focus in our class is to cause these impressionable kids to think about doing what their told by God, rather than on what they’d rather do themselves. I need the same lesson. Without spending a lot of time in background research on the reasons why God told king Saul to go and “utterly destroy” the Amalekites, I’m just going to quickly focus on the command, the action, and the result.

So in continuing to read verses 4-9, we see king Saul’s action. He gathered 210,000 men together and took off after the Amalekites and starts the battle. Somewhere and sometime during the day, he captured the king of the Amalekites, Agag. The people also left the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed. –v9 Remember, this was after king Saul had been commanded to “utterly destroy” them all – everything. Saul was influenced by the people – not the other way around.

Now the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, "I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments." And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the Lord all night. - 1 Samuel 15:10-11

So the next day, Samuel went to Saul and upon finding him Saul was proud of his accomplishment. "I have performed the commandment of the Lord." Saul said.

This is one of the most profound statements in the Bible for me. I’m certainly not putting myself in Saul’s position because I am not a leader. But I can see this situation from a different perspective because this story is condensed into one single chapter in the Bible. Bottom line for me is that Saul did NOT do God’s will – even though he thought he did. In fact, an almost comical response to Saul by Samuel is paraphrased this way, “Can you speak up Saul, I can’t hear over all these animals! Where did all these animals come from anyway?” And then we have the classic blame game kind of like Adam and Eve. Saul blamed the people for sparing the “best” for themselves. What a king, what a leader…

Samuel then asked king Saul, “Why did you not obey the voice of the Lord?” And Saul said to Samuel, "But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites." Do I see the contradiction there? Do I even need to point it out?

Samuel points out the important theme and I paraphrase it this way: “God has more delight in our obedience to His will/word, than in our own great plans. To obey God is better than any other thing that we can creatively come up with. By rejecting God’s will, God will reject us – just as he did king Saul. By us choosing to do our own will, instead of God’s, God will cut us off. Our will, our desires, our plans are to God worthless and sinful in His sight, if they are not according to His will. Our best intentions are an abomination to God, if they are not patterned after His word.”
Am I Listening To What God is Saying in His Word?