Bow of War, Bow of Peace

“I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.”  Genesis 9:13

While at some friends’ house, my wife and I experienced the awe of God’s beautiful bow, in the sky.  It was full; the colors were vivid.  I never tire of viewing the countenance of such a powerful symbol that God gave to us, so long ago.  While it is a symbol of peace and beauty, there is a second aspect that must also be remembered when beholding this curved emblem in the sky.  This is God’s weapon.  A bow that was fashioned to destroy.
For all you archers and bow hunters out there, take a good look at your choice weapon.  It was not created as a play toy.  It certainly was not built to create something.  Your bow is a weapon, plain and simple.  It is made to pierce and puncture.  In the hands of a skilled hunter, it is designed to swiftly kill your prey.  In the days of old, bows were symbols of death and destruction.  Many battles have been fought with these simple projectile weapons.  
God’s bow is no different.  He used it to destroy. God’s creation, His people, were turning against Him.  They were being corrupted by Satan’s hand.  The generations that came from Adam and Eve began to lose themselves.  Their hearts rotted with wickedness.  It became a corrupt and perverse society.  A society that God had enough of!  He decided that it was best to wipe the slate clean.  Start over.  New beginning.  With His powerful bow, God destroyed the Earth.  His arrows worked in a different fashion than what we are used to seeing from these weapons but, effective nonetheless.  His weapon succeeded.  Mankind (except for Noah’s family) ceased to exist.
After these events, what did God do?  He hung up His bow of power.  He turned it to point up toward the skies, not aiming downward toward the land.  In the presence of Noah, his wife, his son’s, and their wives, God hung His bow before them, vowing never to use it again to destroy the existence of mankind, as He had just done.  
What goes through my mind, any time that His bow appears visible, is: “Thank you, Father, for leaving that bow hanging just where it is!”  Despite how corrupted His people have become, He leaves His bow alone.  No matter how many people despise Him, or twist what He is, God leaves His bow hanging.  Societal issues just go from bad to worse yet, He doesn’t touch His bow.  
I don’t know about you but, it makes me want to improve my life and not give Him a reason to say, “You know what?  I change my mind!”  
Thank you, Father, for your patience with me and with this world, in general.  May we strive to be better children to You.  May we seek Your divine strength and courage to try to make a positive impact in our little piece of this world.  In the name of Your Son, Amen.

Keep Your Feet Moving Forward

(Video courtesy of YouTube.  Written and narrated by the late Geoffery Lewis.  Inspirational Navigations holds no rights to this video.)

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14

The Valley, performed by Geoffery Lewis and Celestial Navigations, tells a compelling story that I believe our Father would approve of.  It tells of a young man’s journey through life, reaching his next destination point.  He realizes that his journey was burdened by what he continued to carry with him from place to place, through the years.  It was slowing him down.  It was holding him back.  He knew in his heart that if he was going to fully appreciate the experience of his new surroundings, changes would have to be made.  The weights of the past would have to be set loose.  Only upon taking that rejuvenating step, was he able to enter his new realm unencumbered and with a newfound peace of mind.

Before I moved from Texas to Colorado, I had to do some purging of my own.  Granted, I was never much of a packrat but, I still had material possessions that were no longer relevant to my life.  I had plenty of memories through photos and a few sentimental items but, I still kept hold of too many things.  Things that I wasn’t even aware of because, they became lost and forgotten in the fragments of my mind.  If I retained every little bits and pieces of everything that I have collected, in the past, I would have mere boxes of junk.  They weren’t things that would serve any fresh purpose in my life.  So, out they went.  Much like the narrator in the story, I felt “taller” upon doing this.  I was taking the weights off my shoulders so I could stand straighter.  My steps became lighter, not more tasking.  I felt much more freedom.

Imagine, filling a backpack with large rocks.  The pack is as full as you can make it.  You go out for a long hike.  At first, it’s not too difficult.  As you continue walking, the muscles in your legs start to get sore.  You feel the weight of the pack pressing down on your shoulders.  Your back begins to hurt, due to the imbalance of weight.  Moving onward becomes more of a struggle. 

Now, as you hike, you pause, remove a rock from your pack and continue forward.  You may still feel the soreness and ache in your body.  However, you also notice a little bit of relief from removing some of the weight.  Take away another rock.  You feel yourself starting to take longer, easier strides again.  The pain in your back lessens.  Toss another rock.  Your pace increases.  You can cover more ground in less time.  Chuck another rock away.  Your breathing comes with less of an effort.  You feel like taking that next upward slope at a light jog, due to the decrease in the amount of energy you are forced to exert.  You get the point!

You can burden yourself just as much with anchoring yourself to the past as you can by keeping material items from the past.  Letting go and moving forward is the only way to rejuvenate and reinvent yourself.  While my past makes me the person I am today, I do not LIVE in the past.  I LEAVE IT in the past.  I have my fond memories.  I have photos to share with my family of those precious moments.  I have just enough material items to relate to some of those moments but, they take a very small percentage of my “backpack”.  I keep my feet moving forward.  My back gets straighter and I “grow” taller in Christ.

How full or burdensome is the backpack you carry in life?  Is it too full for new experiences?  Is the past still holding you down?  Remove what is slowing you down and taking up too much space.  You will be much more spiritually in tune with our Maker’s plans when you do.

Song In My Soul

“…but be fulfilled with the Spirit, speaking unto yourselves with Psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts.”  Ephesians 5:18b-19

I grew up in a house of musical talent.  My daddy was an accomplished guitar player and had a powerful bass voice that could be heard clearly, from any position in our church’s auditorium during song worship.  This actually came as a blessing many times when he could drown out another bass singer, who was always just a bit off key.
My mother, with her harmonic alto voice could add that perfect sound to any song.  I have seen her play a variety of instruments, from a stand-up bass, autoharp (which I loved “playing” when I was little), to utilizing her piano skills on an electric keyboard.  I’d always loved hearing her sing!
Dexter, my older brother, had picked up the guitar at a young age.  Being part of band and a tenor in choir, he just followed the footsteps of the talent that ran in the family.  He’s fortunate enough to have retained his tenor range, as mine has somewhat diminished.  LUCKY!  😊
I can recall many evenings, growing up, when my daddy and brother would pull out the guitars, mom with her bass or autoharp, and just have a family jam session in our living room.  I was too young to really latch on to learning an instrument so, I just sang out and looked cute.  Also, we spent many Saturday evenings at the local bluegrass festival, where my daddy, and eventually my brother, would perform with some of the other talented musicians.  Both of my parents also lent their skills in the church’s adult Christmas programs.  I have worn out the old cassette recordings of those gatherings.  Awesome memories!
My wife and I met through music and I love how are voices sound united.  My mornings start in complete bliss, listening to her sing as she gets ready to go to work.  It is a complete state of joy and happiness.  This is just another example of the importance that music (especially vocal music) is a vital part of life.
The Bible references “singing” over 100 times.  You would think that God is trying to tell us the importance of music in our lives.  We use it to express emotions, as a way to commune with others, and to worship our Creator.  In fact, growing up, nothing would have more of a spiritual impact to me than hearing the harmony created by the voices of my old congregation.  While some may choose worship with instruments and a band, nothing, to me beats the sweet sound of a large group harmonizing beautiful hymns.  
You don’t have to be a great singer to be able to praise God through the words of hymnal praise.  You just have to feel it inside.  As the passage says, make melody “in your hearts”.  To God’s ears, every voice, praising him in harmony, is a sweeter sound than anything else around.  
Keep the music of your life strong and lift up your voice in praise to the Father.

A Word from The Fathers

“Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”  1 Timothy 6:12

Two hundred and forty-one years ago, this nation became a truly American nation; free from control of the British crown.  A documented was drafted, declaring the New World a nation under its own authority.  We know this document as the Declaration of Independence.  While modern society debates the religious and moral beliefs that forged the beginning of this nation, I feel that some of the writers and signers, our “Founding Fathers” can speak for themselves:

“Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love and reverence toward Almighty God...What a Utopia, what a Paradise would this region be.  The Bible is the best book in the world.”  - John Adams
“Here is my creed:  I believe in one God, Creator of the Universe.  That He governs it by His Providence.  That He ought to be worshipped…”  - Benjamin Franklin
“We all agree in the obligation of the moral principles of Jesus and nowhere will they be found delivered in greater purity than in His discourses.”  - Thomas Jefferson
“God commands all men everywhere to repent (Matthew 3:2, Mark 1:15).  He also commands them to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and has assured us that all who repent and believe shall be saved (Acts 3:19) in a way of free grace through the atonement.”  - Roger Sherman
“Our all-gracious Creator, Preserver, and Ruler has been pleased to discover and enforce His laws by a revelation given to us immediately and directly from Himself.  This revelation is contained in the Holy Scriptures.”  - James Wilson
“The Bible contains more knowledge necessary to man in his present state than any other book in the world.  By renouncing the Bible, philosophers swing from their moorings upon all moral subjects…It is the only correct map of the human heart that ever has been published.”  - Benjamin Rush
“It behooves you most seriously to reflect upon your past conduct; to repent of your evil deeds (Acts 8:22); to be incessant in prayers to the great and merciful God to forgive your manifold transgressions and sins (1 Kings 8:50); to teach you to rely upon the merit and passion of a dear Redeemer, and thereby to avoid those regions of sorrow—those doleful shades where peace and rest can never dwell, where even hope cannot enter (Ephesians 2:12).”  - Thomas McKean
“I am constrained to express my adoration of the Supreme Being, the Author of my existence, in full belief of His Providential goodness and His forgiving mercy revealed to the world through Jesus Christ, through whom I hope for never ending happiness in a future state.”  - Robert Treat Paine
“I…[rely] on the merits of Jesus Christ for a pardon of all my sins.”  - Samuel Adams
“On the mercy of my Redeemer I rely on salvation and of His merits, not on the works I have done in obedience to His precepts (Ephesians 2:8-9).”  - Charles Carroll

Thank you, gentlemen, for this example to follow.

Mind the Rocks

And, ‘A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’  They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.”  1 Peter 2:8

I think we can all agree on one proven fact about hitting your toe on a rock:  IT HURTS!  I have yet to hit my toe on any object and think to myself, “Hmm, I just hit that with my toe.  Oh well.”  NOT HARDLY!!!  It’s more of seeing stars, feeling a splitting pain in your entire foot, not to mention resisting the sudden urge to blurt out profanity.  You wind up with a throbbing feeling and convinced that every little bone it that toe has been shattered.
Here’s a good example of having extreme lack of finesse.  How many of you have attempted to walk through a room in your house, at night, without the lights on?  Did a certain piece of furniture manage to find your very sensitive toe?  Anyone that hasn’t had that experience just hasn’t lived!  Why did it happen?  Because, you walked through the house in total darkness!  Why do you think?
Tripping over something isn’t any better.  First, you have the afore mentioned experience of excruciating pain in your toe or foot, added to whatever bumps, scrapes, or bruises that occur when you fall to the ground.  Amidst the pain, we look around and see if anyone witnessed our sincere lack of grace.  It’s the sort of feeling that makes you want to crawl back in bed, throw the covers over your head, and pretend the day never happened.  Anyone have those days?  Who am I kidding?  Of course, you have!  We all have!  
As one that loves to venture into unsteady terrain, it is IMPERRATIVE for me to pay attention to the terrain and to ensure that I am walking properly.  If I’m dragging my feet, I’m going to be eating the ground, there’s just no way around it.  While I love to look around while I am trekking up hills, down steep slopes, or navigating through a very rocky path; I give much of my attention to the ground.  I would rather view it while I am still on my feet, instead of seeing it from a distance of two inches, after falling on my face.
These two cases teach us one important lesson:  PAY ATTENTION!  The words of Peter, along with other writers in the New Testament, clearly tells us that if we are walking in the light, seeing where we are going and paying attention to the path we are walking, then we will not stumble.  (See John 11:9, 2 Peter 1:10, Romans 9:32-33) Does this mean that we will never stumble?  No.  We will still have those moments in our lives when we figuratively stump our toe or go crashing to the ground.  Afterwards, we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, bandage the wounds, and continue on.  We become more focused on our surroundings and the trips and stumbles become fewer and fewer.  
May you go through today minding the rocks that lie in the path before you.  😊

Vigilance Vs. Fish

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  James 1:2-4

I caught my first rainbow trout, last weekend.  (By the way, the picture is not me.  Just a photo I found online showing the fish in more detail than the photos my wife and I took.) It was only one but, there was a definite feeling of fulfillment inside of me.  Let me explain.  Having grown up and venturing the various lakes of Texas, my fishing knowledge revolved around two species: bass and catfish.  If you were to look at the arsenal inside my tackle box, you’d see various soft and hard lures, meant for these two types of marine life.  Moving to Colorado, where trout is the top catch, what I had would not work.

My wife and I took off for a day of fishing.  I did my homework on some of the preferred live baits (since we would be fishing in a reservoir that ONLY allowed live bait), purchased what was needed, and headed out.  Now, the area that we went to consisted of three different reservoirs in the high elevation of the Pikes Peak Tollway.  The first reservoir we went to produced no fish.  Even after several hours, neither of us experienced even a bite on our lines.  Even though it was very peaceful, in spite of several others also out fishing, we still wanted to catch a little action on the lines that we had cast into the water.  After about four hours, we decided to go up the road to one of the other reservoirs. 

We set out to a spot on this body of water.  As we walked along the bank, we passed a couple of guys and inquired how the fishing was.  They replied that they had only caught two fish and that they had been out there for several hours.  Still determined to enjoy our time, my wife and I set up on a nice spot, baited our hooks, and cast out into the waters.  Within minutes, I had a bite!  While reeling in my line, I could tell that the fish wasn’t very large but, it was still putting up a little resistance.  Several seconds later, I had landed my first trout!  A beautiful rainbow trout.  Not long after, my wife also caught one…then a second one!  As much as this bit of action stirred me up, it would be the last of the catch that we would see, that day.

What is a successful day?  Yes!  It was a beautiful day to spend outdoors with my wife.  Guys, let’s face it.  How often do you come along a lovely woman that is willing to spend a day out fishing with you AND enjoy it?  That made the day a blessing in itself.  The added blessing was, after a lot of patience and vigilance, I received a catch.  It was only one trout but, I had caught it, nonetheless.  That experience became my first lesson into the world of trout fishing.  I am on the rode to learning about this new species, which will become my “bread and butter” living in a state where there are rivers and streams brimming with this species of fish.

Fishing offers one of the greatest biblical lessons, in my opinion: vigilance.  The act of remaining in one place for a long period of time, remaining alert and attentive to your surroundings.  When it comes to the art of fishing, vigilance is the difference between catching a fish and mindlessly letting one get away.  While I set out with the mindset of bringing in a full bag, I will not be discouraged if I made a worthy attempt and was not able to catch my limit.  Life doesn’t always allow those opportunities.  Most times, we need to stay in that one spot, give it due time, before moving on.  Leaving that one position, or situation too soon may cause a missed opportunity.  Staying around for too long, you may miss a definite opportunity elsewhere. 

How do you know whether to move or not?  Through time, patience, alertness, and understanding.  It won’t happen overnight.  It won’t happen in a few days.  It will be a while before I will be learned enough to be considered an intermediate, or expert trout angler.  I am enjoying the training and knowledge that comes with bettering oneself in a particular field, or situation. 

God gives us these abilities so that we may hone our talents.  Most importantly, to hone being the best, attentive Christians that we can be.  The learning does not end.  God calls us to be “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).  This type of fishing means learning how to catch a variety of “species” of mankind.  We catch one but, those methods don’t work for another.  We must continue to keep our senses in tune to our surroundings, pay close attention to everything, and try different methods if we hope to be successful anglers for God.

Tear Down to Build Up

"See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant."  Jeremiah 1:10

My backyard looks like a terrible Greek tragedy!  Rock piles!  Clumps of dug up earth!  Uneven ground!  It’s less than pretty.  My wife and I have a plan: WE WANT MORE GRASS GROWING!!  To do that, all the rocks must go.  The concrete walkway (which is also uneven) has to be dug up and hauled out.  The ground needs to be tilled up for fresh soil to mix in.  Then, laying down new sod.  There’s a LOT of work to be done.  Every day, the yard looks just a little worse.  Ground zero!  However, this step is vital.  We cannot create the vision that we have until we tear down what is already there.

Why must one tear down before they can build?  Think about it.  Can you build a new house over an existing house?  Of course not.  Can you build a beautiful deck over an old, rotting one?  Not without having a poor looking result.  Can you install new parts to your car and still keep the old pieces intact?  It just doesn’t work that way.  Let’s go one step further:  Can you be born into the life of your Savior, without dying first to the sinful life?  Futile.

If the old remains, it could ruin the new.  I could find shortcuts to creating a beautiful yard.  Let’s face it, it won’t last.  I will have trouble properly maintaining it.  It will create more problems down the road.  I want to create it once, then enjoy it.  If anything, making additions, as we see fit, will be easier to do.  Should it be any different on how we create our lives?

I would love to say that once you commit yourself to Christ and our immersed into the waters of baptism, then you are in great shape.  I think my fellow Christians know that isn’t true.  Many start out strong.  However, instead of clearing away their old lives, they attempt to build new pieces to what is already there.  The foundation isn’t solid and won’t support the new life.  We should ensure that we have totally torn down our old lives, making sure that we have removed every board and nail that we previously used to construct our daily lives.  We need to be able to begin again with an empty plot, so to speak.  Only then, can we start fresh.  A new beginning to a new life. 

While our yard may not look like we want, now; we do look forward to what it will become, with proper time, planning, and care.