And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”  Revelation 14:13

I think we all would agree that this has been a trying time for our country.  We have hatred and racism, all around us.  People are hashing up old wounds from the distant past, without properly understanding those events that divided our young nation.  People are bent on hating purely based on skin color.  Many have rejected history as a learning tool and are in the process of “removing” history any way possible.

Natural disaster, by way of two hurricanes, have left a path of death, injury, and destruction.  Many states, companies, and emergency service units sprang into action; providing rescue, food, sheltering, and medical assistance.  The damage is not over.  The casualty rate will, likely, rise again.  While many are forgetting the hatred and joining together, another historic statue was removed in Dallas, TX.  Sadly, while the Lone Star State is trying to recuperate from massive hurricane and flood damage, people still are bent on selfishness and foolish pride.

Today, sixteen years later, family and friends are remembering loved ones that were killed in the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.  Many our remembering the sacrifice family members made, while stopping the plans of the terrorists aboard United Airlines Flight 93.  Where are the rest of our hearts?  Are they still burning with racial hatred?  Are they forgetting what happened?  Do they realize how vulnerable they are making this country?  How weak they are making its citizens?  What is it going to take, another terrorist attack?  Have you forgotten?

There is a reason we should be taking a moment and reflecting on what has happened.  There is a reason that it should cause us to pay more attention to what is happening to our fellow Americans that have been driven from their homes, in the aftermath of these recent disasters.  There is a reason we should be fighting to be ONE NATION, UNDER GOD.  That reason is God’s Son, our Savior.  He died to unite people to God, not drive wedges between them.  Have you forgotten?

While we often reflect on soldiers that fought and died, protecting this country, ask yourselves, “What about those who didn’t ask to die?  What will all those that just went to work in the World Trade Center, expecting just another average day of work, say to people so full of anger against each other?”  “How would those men and women, on United 93, feel about what they left behind?”  Do you think they would be asking, “I gave up my life, never being able to see my family, kiss my spouse, watch my children grow, for this?”  Have you forgotten?

To those out there, that are keeping the racial tensions burning, you can stay filled with hate, anger, greed, wanting attention, expecting everyone to change to suit your misunderstanding of our past.  Or, you can understand that we are not living in the 1800’s still.  You can research the events that took place and gain knowledge about those events.  Then, you try to be part of the solution for bringing UNITY to all our nation’s citizens.  Have you forgotten?

This morning, my prayer revolved around the hurricane victims and to all those helping their fellow citizens.  It also reflected on those who are missing loved ones from today’s tragic history.  I would hope that everyone would do the same and ask our Father “what can I do to be part of the solution?”

Heavenly Father, don’t ever let me forget!

The Worst Brings Forth The Best

Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?  And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?  When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”  Matthew 25:24-40

The past week has not been easy for me.  With great pain, I have been watching, from afar, as a natural disaster has struck my beloved home state and seeing the damage caused to lives and property all around the area that I lived.  As I have been going through several images of relief efforts, I have been in tears this morning.  Tears of sorrow for those that have been forced to leave their homes.  Tears of sadness for those that have been injured or worse.  It is overwhelming.

My tears are also of hope and pride.  So many companies and resources have been called into action.  H-E-B Grocery, a Texas-based chain of stores, has mustered supplies and volunteers.  Police, Fire, and Medical forces from all over have kicked into high gear, not to mention our Armed Forces.  Places like the George R. Brown Convention Center and Falcon Steel’s Warehouse are being used as shelters for evacuees.   Native Houstonian, Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, has opened his Gallery Furniture stores to take in those needing shelter.  Several states have already sent relief forces to South Texas.  A great many people, owning boats, have hooked up and headed down to help rescue many more still caught in the floods.  If an individual has had the means, he/she have taken it upon themselves to lend a hand.  This is an emotional time, all around.

Amid a nation attempting to tear itself apart with racial issues, people of various ethnic backgrounds have proven that “Loving one another” is still stronger than those that are bent on destroying goodness.  They have shown that we can come together when the going gets tough.  We can stand united and MUST continue to do so, long after this recent disaster is over. 

“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:20

Highway to Heaven

“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.”  Proverbs 3:27

When you hear the phrase “highway to Heaven,” what comes to mind?  Do you fill your thoughts with “what I must do to get to Heaven”?  Well, good luck with that notion.  We can’t do our way to Heaven.  Only in our Savior, can we possibly reach that kingdom.  Instead, my thoughts turn to is “What beneficial thing can I do along the way?”  Do I have the power to make a difference?  Then, why not?
Yesterday, my heart was saddened with the news of famous actor, comedian, and humanitarian, Jerry Lewis, had passed away.  While I had watched numerous movies with his zany humor, especially partnered with the late Dean Martin, it was his life after acting that took a particular interest to me.  He turned to a different power.  The power to help others.
Since 1952, Mr. Lewis dedicated his life to the efforts of raising fund for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.  This organization was created for medical services and research to combat MD and other diseases of the nervous system that affect some quarter of a million kids, as well as adults.  Most notably, he was responsible for annual telethons, raising money to fund ongoing research for these diseases, which he did for 46 years.  I recall watching several years of the charitable events.  Each year, I could see the face of this once young and vibrant comedian turn older.  His eyes looked more and more weary, each year that passed.  At times, he would appear so physically exhausted, I wondered what kept him going.  The answer was: his passion for helping the children.  It gave him an inner strength to keep going forward.  Mr. Lewis was a prime example of how someone with fame and fortune can use their talents to serve a Godly purpose.   
“Bear one another’s burden, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”  Galatians 6:2 is clear on taking up the burdens that other people are forced to carry.  To help those, especially when they cannot help themselves, is fulfilling one of Christ’s commands to love our neighbors, as ourselves (Matt. 22:39).  We each have the power and ability to teach, build, counsel, among several other talents.  These serve no end when they remain idle.  They do, however, serve and please God (Heb. 13:16).  
How accomplished do you feel when you are able to help others?  Maybe it’s helping your friend do repair work on their house.  It could be doing a little yardwork for a neighbor that is physically unable.  Or, dropping off some food to someone that has been physically ill.  The possibilities end only where we choose to turn away and ignore a situation.  We all want to get to Heaven, right?  The real question, we all must ask, is: how will you choose to spend the time walking that highway?

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.