Sunday, September 18, 2016

First Impressions

Have you ever met someone and in your mind they are a jerk, rude, male-chauvinist, lazy or any other negative image in your mind? You might have walked away thinking, "That person is so_______ that I hope I never have to talk to them again." Then some time in the future you happen to see that person talking to your friend and they seem to be getting along famously. 

You inquire of your friend, after the other person has left the building, about such and such person and "I am not sure how you two are friends because when I met them they seemed so _____". 

Your friend says, "Oh, you don't know that person at all. They are not like that in the slightest, in fact, they are more opposite than that then they are like that. If you get to know them you will love them, they are one of my best friends."  Head scratch ensues. 

How did we get this first impression so wrong? Is it possible to get the wrong impression so wrong, especially when we might say "I'm a pretty good judge of character" or "I follow my gut because it's almost never wrong." and we never would have given them a second chance if it weren't for our friend?

I was thinking that sometimes, actually often, we get the wrong first impression about God too. We meet Him somewhere in life and are introduced by someone who has their own impression of God without really knowing Him. We base our future relationship with Him on the first meeting and decide He's not a friend I want to have because He is too ____. End of that relationship.

What if your/my impression of God is totally wrong? What if what we think God wants from us is something completely different than He really does want? 

You might think that God is this grumpy/strict/demanding father figure who just wants to tell us what to do all the time and what not to do. We get that impression because there are people who taught us in Sunday school who never really said that but they acted like that and that's the story we remember about how/who God is.

God does have a lot of rules and "not to do's" in the same way I have rules and "not to do's" for my grand kids. The reason for the rules is not so they won't enjoy life, rather it is so they will enjoy it because I know more than they do at this moment. I know that if they eat healthy right now they will feel better later. I want them to love ice-cream like I love ice-cream but not for breakfast, at least not everyday. 

What if the God in your mind was actually way more for you than you ever imagined? What if His goal for your life was you loving all the things He created for you instead of them all being off limits? What if His desire for you was even higher than your's was for you. Would that change your mind about who He is?

If you think that God is some kind of "Cosmic kill-joy", mean and grumpy, authoritative-just- to-be-that-way kind of God, I'd suggest getting to know Him better before you make your final decision.

God gives when we are not thankful. Seeks relationships when we are unfaithful jerks in return. Loves His creation more and better than His creation does. Seeks our highest and best when we don't. Hears and answers- and His answers are always for our good even though in the moment they may seem wrong. God is the best Father you and I will ever have and in order for us to know what He is really like we have to get to know Him better. 

What's your impression? Has it changed as you have gotten to know Him more? Please share.   

Monday, February 29, 2016

Thoughts on Dad

I spent the weekend remembering a man who molded and shaped me into the man I am today.

This was not a perfect man, though much of my life I thought he was.
This was not a wealthy man, though we didn't really know he wasn't.
This was not an overly successful man, by the world's standards, but I always thought he could do anything.

When some think of their dad the thought conjures up bad memories of abuse, to them or of a substance. 
When some think of their dad they might think of discipline or harshness.
Some may think about a lazy man who never did anything for anyone but himself.
Others may think about someone who was stingy and grabby, never sharing with others. 
And there are others who may think about someone who was unfair and unkind.

None of those things come to my mind when I think about my dad though.

When I think of my dad I think about as close to opposite of these things listed above as could be possibly imagined. 

If there was ever abuse in our house it was us abusing him. I think we often took for granted the things he was doing for us rather than being thankful for them. Not always, but too much.

Dad was a man of discipline and I, like him, can give off the impression that I am disciplining someone without even saying anything. I never, ever, heard my dad raise his voice in anger and I, for one, gave him plenty of things to be angry about. His discipline of me was always deserved and often not fully what I deserved. 

I've seen some lazy men in my life. I've seen men who work only as much as is needed to get by and don't raise a finger at home to help their family. This was about as far from who dad was as a person as can be pictured. He was relentless at his "work", whether that was leading a school, teaching, coaching, studying, working in the yard or cooking, he was all in for the long haul. He was no slacker. "Don't rust out, wear out" was him.

As far as the stingy piece goes- he was one of the most generous people I have ever met. We didn't have much to share, by the world's standards, but he shared himself and everything he had with others. I remember him raising things from our garden just so he could take it to church to share with others there. It was his delight to share himself and all he had.

Lastly, with regard to the fairness and kindness. I often thought that dad should have been a judge. He had a way of looking at everything on the table and being able to make the right decision. If we could have had him as a Supreme Court Justice America would have been a better place. He just knew the right thing to do and it was not out of unkindness or spite that he made his decisions. 

He was a man who loved his people and loved His people as well. He loved making people laugh just as much as a deep theological discussion. He loved helping and watching people win at sports AND math. He loved his wife and kids and bragged about us all the time. Not necessarily in front of us but you always knew he loved you- there was never a question.

When people say, "Wow, you look just like your dad", I know that it's very true. I only hope that at the end of my race I will look as similar to my Savior as dad does. 

I'm gonna miss him and the ability to give him a call and ask "what do you think about this?" but I KNOW he is rejoicing with his Savior and that has been on his mind since a very early age. He's been anticipating singing these words-
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
    who was and is and is to come!”
He's wrapped up in seeing what he could only dimly imagine for many years- 
                "And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever,  the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,"
 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they existed and were created.”

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Weapons Against Fear and Discouragement

Joshua 1:5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraiddo not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

I first heard these verses when I was very young. The plot-line, riveting. The "actors", diverse. The outcome uncertain, from a human perspective. 

Coming off of the Red Sea escape and the subsequent time in the desert with all kinds of pitfalls as well as drama it's difficult to see how there would be a need for this type of "speech" on God's part to the men and women who had just endured all that they had over 40 years. 

I think it is also easy to think that God is talking to small and frail people when He is giving these words. Especially when you hear them as a child, one can quickly think He is talking directly to kids.

He is talking to kids and even women but NOT primarily. He is talking to the leader of Israel and giving him words that he should pass along to his leadership team of men.

Four times in 5 verses He commands him/them not to be afraid or discouraged but to be courageous. Why this need at this point?

Men, yes grown men, get discouraged, disheartened and afraid. We are not supposed to be so, but obviously God knew that this predisposition was "crouching at the door" and so He is reminding Joshua and his men that they were to trust Him.

I, for one, can relate. I have not learned yet, to not be discouraged and afraid when things are out of my control, when things look bleak and even insurmountable. 

This story goes on to tell of some people who thought along the same lines as I have been inclined to think as well as just a few who obeyed God's command to not be afraid or discouraged.

How does one come to that place, to not get discouraged? I believe the only way that can happen is to fully rely on Him and realize before we even go into the fray that it is ALL out of our control in the first place and God is going to do what He is going to do with and for His people.

There is a prerequisite to success and blessing listed by God in these verses as well and it's not to get better equipment or weapons but rather to think about what He has told them to do and then do it, not turning to the right or to the left. "Trust me and I will not leave you or forsake you as long as you do what I have told you to do."

Simple words, hard to remember in the midst of life's craziness. 

May we trust and obey what we know He has already commanded us to do.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Lessons from a Girl- who isn't even 2 years old

Being a grandpa is awesome and it's even better when you get to see the grand kids every day in person. That happens when everyone lives under the same roof. That's on purpose.

We have 3 babies, Job will be 3 Aug 5th, Ruthie will be 2 Sept 17th and EllaBeth is just over a month. There are some busy people in this house and the noise level is pretty high at times. 

Each of the little people have their own personality and character traits. While there is overlap there is also uniqueness a-plenty.

Ruthie is the subject of my lesson this past few weeks. How can someone who is not yet 2 years old teach an old guy like me things about God? Add to that the fact that she can barely talk and this gets even more poignant. 

You see Ruthie is the sweetest, bright-eyed, steal-your-heart-with-a-smile kind of girl. She is full of life, busy all the time and very decisive. She knows what she wants and is very happy to tell you repeatedly what that is. She is also happy to tell you what she doesn't want and if she doesn't get that pretty quickly you'll definitely hear about it. 

As my first grand daughter she has stolen my heart. That's the way it's supposed to be. So what's the lesson.

More often than not she wants her mama or "Gigi", who is grandma. Apparently when I am not near by she is asking about me all the time and seems to be very interested in knowing what I am doing, but when I am around she often is not interested in any advances of affection from me. She just walks off and says "no". 

You might say, "Get over it, she's not even 2" and that would be understood but there is a lesson here she is teaching and she'd like for me and you to get it. 

She's teaching me how I often related to my Heavenly Father. He lavishes all good things on me without reservation, longs for the closest of relationships with me and yet often I am too busy doing my own thing. He is constantly showing His love and affection to me and yet I am looking the other way, thinking I know what I need while He is offering what I truly need. 

I am not trying to give Ruthie bad things or things that will make her sick and yet she is not that interested in what I am offering but instead thinks she knows what's best. 

Hmmm, I am often "Ruthie" in my relationship with The Father. 

When she turns the corner and is once again kind and sweet, I of course am excited to continue the relationship and lavish all my love onto her, which she then happily accepts: for the moment. It's my delight to get to show my love to her. 

The Father's unconditional love looks the same way when we have been doing our own thing, going our own way and seeking our own pleasure. When we return He is excited to start anew. He doesn't push us away or make us go "think about it" for a while. He lavishes His kindness and love on us once again, just like I am so excited to be loved and needed by Ruthie.

Just something to consider. 

“The eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Chosen Children- Faithful Father

Do you have children or grand children? Have you ever heard one of your children crying, without having them in a direct line of sight, and known that it was them? When your kids are in the backyard you are often watching them out of the corner of your eye to make sure they are ok, but as they grow up we don't need to watch them every second because they can fend for themselves. While they are learning to walk we are watching them VERY closely, hovering over every step.
With that in mind, read the following verses. 

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are attentive to their cry;
 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    he delivers them from all their troubles.

The Father doesn't have a capacity issue with having to stop watching His kids that are grown so He can focus on the "ones who need it". We all need it no matter our age. 

 The righteous person may have many troubles,
    but the Lord delivers him from them all;
 he protects all his bones,
    not one of them will be broken.

Can you imagine the joy He recieves when He blesses His :righteous ones"? Read that again, He is "ATTENTIVE" to their cry. He delivers them out of ALL their troubles.

Do you ever get into a place where you think that the trouble you are in is over yoru head? I know I do. We are to cry out for then he hears and delivers. 

The Psalmist then goes on to say that He protects all the bones of the righteous and not one is broken. We are unbreakable until He allows the break. We are immortal until He decides we are not. 

What a passage Psalm 34 is for those who are suffering in so many ways: and people are suffering.

Oh you His chosen child, are you suffering some affliction that seems too great for you to overcome? The righteous WILL have affliction, so if that's your lot at this moment then be thankful. The affliction is exact what we each need for Him to bring us closer to Himself. 

I'll let the Psalmist close with these couple of verses. Pretty powerful stuff here. Blessings and lacking no good things are what are in store for those who take refuge in Him. 

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
 Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
    for those who fear him lack nothing.
 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Weight is Heavy, Knees are Weak


Weight is heavy, knees are weak
Work day and night, wallet springs a leak
Two steps forward, 3 steps back
Makes one wonder, "am I on the right track?"

Is this the way, it's gonna be?
Will we once again, ever run free?
Life is hard and then you die
Need is great, where's the supply?

Cattle on hills, a picture tells
Current existence, kind of smells
Life as we know it, looking bleak
Weight is heavy, knees are weak 

Ever wonder where God is taking you? Ever wonder if you really are doing what He has intended for you to do and if this is what He "best" is for you then why does it seems so futile? 

Do you sometimes feel that you are in a limbo contest and God is holding the stick and you believe you have just passed under the lowest possible measure and then you see the stick go down another notch?

"When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine."

Singing this song has previously been easy and then I am realizing that the fire, the same one that I have said "God controls the degree and duration of the flame", is still fire and the gold is not excited about being in the fire and the flame is doing its job, but when will the fire subside?

"We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;" 

Ever read these verses and wonder how much closer one can get to the edge without falling over?

I'll leave you with this from Tim Challies "Crushing Weight of Glory"

"Christian, do you know that morning is coming? Do you believe it? 
In all the pain and weariness and suffering and trauma, in a world of so many trials, it is so easy to be full of despair and to give up. Paul himself was sometimes close to giving up. When he wrote the church at Corinth he spoke of a time where he experienced some kind of trial in Asia. He wrote, 'We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. We felt that we had received the sentence of death.' He was fragile. He was afflicted, he was perplexed, he was persecuted and he was struck down. But hold on.

Why? Because he trusted in what Christ had done and he kept his gaze fixed on what Christ had promised to do. Even the heaviest blow would some day be deemed a light and momentary affliction when he experienced the crushing weight of God’s glory in the presence of God. He had no greater hope than that. You and I have no greater hope than that. Hold on to that hope, hold on to God who gives you that hope, and you will endure." 

Monday, March 10, 2014

One, to Be and See His Glory

John 17:20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

As I read these verses my heart is full that Jesus would be praying these words for us; His Bride in the future.

He knew that in moments His betrayal would move to full swing and He also knew where all this would lead His disciples. He knew much better than they what was about to take place and His shepherd's heart is on display.

You can feel His compassion for His sheep as He says "Father", "given me", "perfectly one" and again "O righteous Father". His desire is that His sheep will know the Father as He knows the Father and He knows this will happen through His word and through the unity that the Spirit will bring to His people. 

Imagine leaving your kids and grandkids for the last time- what words would you use? Jesus' desire was for the reunion to take place so that His sheep could see the glory that His Father had given Him. 

He knows how good it's going to be in Heaven and He is excited for ALL those whom the Father has given Him to be there with Him forever. 

the unity that we have as believers is one of the things that the Spirit uses to bring others to Christ and Jesus knows this; He's praying to the Father that each one of us would know this and desire to have unity with the Body. This is important enough that it's some of the last words we hear Jesus say before He goes to the cross.

Read the short paragraph again with the understanding of how close the cross is and with the idea that it's you leaving those you love. 

God placed us in this exact spot for a purpose and a major part of that purpose is to show the world we are one.