Heaven With A Gun

     “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”  Matthew 6:24

     I remember an old western, with the title above, filmed in 1969, starring Glenn Ford, about a former gunfighter turned preacher. This man, Jim Killian, wanted to put away the sins of his past and follow God, and bring God's word to others. When trouble starts brewing in his community, with no aid in sight, Killian straps on his guns, once more, to take the matter into his own hands. The problem is, to do that, he will be returning to his old ways. The town's madam, sort of a voice of conscience for Killian, says a line that I remember, to this day. She tells him he can be "gunman or preacher, Heaven or Hell", stating he cannot have both, he must choose one path or the other.

      In the book of Romans, chapter 3, it states that all of us, have and are sinners. We are frowned upon by God for choosing that life. However, it goes on to state that through His grace and the redemption of Jesus, we can receive the promise of eternal life.

      Now, take a look at Romans 6:23. It clearly states, that sin leads to death (Hell). There's no pardon.  No "it's ok, I know you didn't mean it." It's death, pure and simple. That's what lies in store for us. God knew this, He knew we could never be without sin, so He sent His Son, to be sacrificed, for us. So that we can step out of the clothes of sin and step into God's light.

      We are PROMISED Heaven, by living a sinless life, by turning ourselves to God. He, through Jesus, is giving us a chance to make up for our spotted, stained lives. He's telling us all we have to do is set down the "guns" for good and follow Him, and we will receive Jesus's salvation.

     Sadly, this doesn’t just go for those outside of the church.  Within the church society, there are those that “do God’s will” to support their own purpose.  They are, in essence, even more corrupted in their thoughts than those outside of the church.  They live for an appearance.  They do, based on how it will make them look toward others.  They may sound knowledgeable by even quoting certain scriptures (though they definitely overlook others).  We cannot be serving our own agenda and claim to serve God at the same time.  It just doesn’t work that way.

      We will continue to struggle in our lives. You will, and I will. What separates us from the rest, is our willpower to come back to God, and to fight the sins of our lives and make them part of our past, not our present.

A Mighty Lamb

   “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.  When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.”   Hebrews 1:3-4

     Being alert is a vital factor to my hiking explorations.  Why?  I am, in a sense, invading the land of the wildlife, though not meaning to cause confrontation.  It is unwise to assume that, while I may see tracks of where other people have hiked, that I may not have an unfriendly encounter with some animal that may not like the fact that I am just a bit too close to their homes and families.  I traverse areas that are homes to bears and mountain lions, wildlife that can put up a decent fight when threatened.  So, though I may be enjoying my ventures, I keep constant alert.  I don’t want to unintentionally be a threat. 
     A lamb, on the other hand?  Pretty timid, shy, mild-tempered.  A lamb would likely turn tail and run, having spooked easily.  Yes, if I were to encounter an animal, I’d prefer to encounter a lamb.  Not much of a worry about being attacked, right?  Yes, a lamb. 
     Why would the Son of God be referred to as a Lamb?  Why a timid creature?  Jesus was certainly able to hold His own, after all.  He was part of God.  He could have called down an army of angels to destroy everyone that meant to harm Him.  He wasn’t weak or shy, like a lamb.  He was a turning point in history.  He was the definitive point in which people were to set aside the outdated teaching of the Old Testament (Law of Moses) and to bring a new order (Heb. 1: 2).  He healed many that were sick, blind, even raising the dead (Matthew 8, Mark 3 & 5, John 9, Luke 7 & 17…just to list a few).  He was in the seat of honor, at the right hand of God (Heb. 1:3).  Why a lamb?
     Jesus did not come to conquer.  He did not come to overthrow.  He did not come to forcefully enslave people to God.  He came as a choice.  He came to teach and set examples, giving Himself as a gift to save, should mankind choose to receive it.  His message was gentle, as a lamb’s demeanor.  His earthly life served to end with a sacrifice of blood, His own.  In essence, He was raised (on earth) as a sheep to be slaughtered.  That was His purpose.  That was His goal.  While many viewed His death as their victory, it was His shining moment.  God’s purpose did not end with the death of His Son, it has just begun.
     I am thankful that Jesus was, and is, the Lamb of God.  His life and purpose gives my life hope.  Not just my life on earth, but it gives hope for my soul.  A hope that I can join Him and the Father, one day, for all eternity. 
     Take a good, long reflection of that last statement, for yourself.  Feel free to let the goosebumps roll!

Heed The Rules, Or Fall Off The Cliff


     "It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?"  Hebrews 12:7-9

     Raise your hand if you ever disobeyed a law?  Come on, I'm pretty sure that it has happened.  You may think "But, it's not big deal.  Everyone does."  Is it not a big deal?  It is, by human nature, easier to break a law than it is to follow one.  By law, I mean ANY sort of rule, whether in the home or in public.  It is easier just to turn away from it, right?  From what I observe, more stress is applied to those that do not respect those caution signs of life.
     Here is the real kicker to that previous sentence.  This stress comes because people that have problems sticking to a disciplined plan have trouble enforcing rules upon others.  Those that have trouble enforcing, find problems with CREATING the rules.  (I speak as a former teacher.  Believe me, I'm not making this up.)  I was speaking to someone, the other day, and we were discussing the differences in a person that creates a rule and the person that enforces it.  Who has the tougher job?  The enforcer, always.

     As a classroom teacher, I was responsible for the growth of my students.  It wasn't just the academic standpoint.  I was also in charge of helping those young boys and girls learn responsibility.  Because of that, I had to enforce boundaries.  In order to do that, I had to be more than just an enforcer.  I had to be the creator of the rules.  The school set it's rules.  I set more rules, in my classroom.  I wasn't changing the general rules, I was enhancing them to meet the expectations that I was attempting to set.  After completing those two aspects, I had to really focus on the other part of enforcing, which is CONSISTENCY.  If I caved in, even once, my students would take that opportunity and run.  I couldn't let up, or turn away from any of the rules.  I'd have lost my students' respect, end of story.
     As Hebrews tells us, God sets rules for us and we are expected to follow.  He won't give in to excuses from us.  His rules are set.  We need to follow them, regardless if we think they are relevant.  Just like the many times that I have been on the hiking trails, I gave each warning sign it's due respect.  I'm not crazy enough to assume that I don't have to pay attention and do what I want.  That could lead to me tumbling off a rock ledge, or and uncomfortable encounter with a predatory animal.  I have to do my best to avoid those dangerous situations.  
     The consequences are not fun.  They are not meant to be.  In this day and time, society looks at discipline as negative and unhealthy.  Read Hebrews 12 again.  God will look at us as illegitimate children, if we remain without discipline (vs. 8).  Likewise, when we set rules and are children do not follow, the discipline needs to be something that will not be liked (vs. 11).  You've heard the phrase: "You give them an inch, they will want a mile"?  Think about it.
     So, it is important that we, as adults and God's children to follow the rules that are given, whether we personally agree, or not.  Then, we need to create and enforce rules for the younger generations to follow.  It is a pattern that is breaking down and it really needs to be rebuilt.  


Breathe The Fresh Air

     "And that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth."  Ephesians 4:23-24

     How easy is it to get that old, worn out feeling?  Day in, day out you have the same routine.  Work (or school), home, sleep.  Work, home, sleep.  Within those phases, we squeeze in time to eat, check our kids' homework, discuss whatever topics there are to talk about in the day, and prepare to do it all again tomorrow.  While routine plans are needed and structured, it is also easy to get into a lull. 
     What about taking a few moments to renew your inner self?  Did you do that?  Or, did you make an excuse that you are either too busy, or there was no time?  As much time as people spend on social media, I doubt that those are legit excuses.  I've seen time from parents taken on these moments; not even they can get by with those excuses.  So, what is the problem?  Why are we not refreshing ourselves?  Instead, we allow ourselves to get lost.  
     True, I'd use vacation time to spend being outdoors, hitting the trails.  It was an advanced dose of rejuvenation for me.  That time was for God and I, surrounded in everything beautiful that He created.  It was great for my mind and body.  More importantly, it was refreshing to my spirit.  
     We can't always run away from our daily responsibilities when it gets a little stressful.  Instead, we need to take those moments with God.  We need to stop everything for a few moments and spend talking to Him.  We need to listen to His words, by way of the Bible.  That is a daily dose of renewal that can and will help us to get through our day.  
     Don't forget to stop and smell the proverbial roses, daily.  Seek God's counsel through the troubled times and when everything is working smoothly.  There's nothing better than a truly rejuvenating breath of fresh air!

Tales From The Trailhead – Part 4: A Fountain Shall Be Revealed

     “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”  John 4:14

     We arrived at the beautiful setting of Pedernales Falls State Park and prepared our equipment for the two-mile hike to the campgrounds.  It took plenty of endurance to make that little journey, but we arrived and managed to set up camp.  While we had plenty of water for the night, we planned to scope out the location of the river, in the morning, for a source of water supply.  When you plan to be out in the middle of nowhere, you aren’t going to try and lug gallons of water.  Ryan and I had our water filtration packs, ready for use.
     The next morning, we set out looking for the river that was supposedly very near the camp sites.  It wasn’t as near as I’d hoped (the map not being to scale).  I worried about what we would do.  Yes, we could hike back to Ryan’s truck and head over to the water spouts, fill up our water tank, and head back.  That would have taken a lot of time.  As we were heading back to the camp sites, we stumbled upon a point where and underground spring came up to the surface, poured into a nice pool, and continued on.  What a stroke of luck……no, a blessing!  God provided our source of water very close to our camp.  We’d scoop up the water, filter it, and pour it into our water tank.
     I have NEVER tasted water so refreshing!  It was so clean and pure.  Granted, I went a little “science teacher nerd” and ran a full test on the water, which came out perfect.  Seeing what the water was and what it became was quite a sight.  All of the sediments filtered out, you would have thought that you’d just had bottled water from the store…. only better! 
     Two things to learn from this experience.  First, God will ALWAYS take care of your needs (Philippians 4:19).  Second, He offers living water (John 7:37-39).  His water will be the most quenching that can be provided, so much that we will want to keep returning for more.
     Give me water from the well, that never runs dry.