Still Standing

If indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.”  Colossians 1:23

Yes, as a person that supports the Republican views, (meaning more conservative-based thinking that focuses on firm Bible-based values and a governing head that SERVES the people) it disgusts me that the Liberal society wants to silence a television sit-com, just because the theme is based on more conservative and Christians views.  Curiously, no one seems to be complaining about the ABUNDANT amount of t.v. shows or movies that promote more liberal and even un-Christian values!  I’m not knocking every Democrat out there.  I believe that many people of the Democratic society are just as unhappy with the more Liberalist views that have branched off from this political party.

It may ruffle some feathers to reveal that God is the ultimate definition of conservative.  Think about it, before you totally go blind to reading further.  God sent a part of Himself, to serve on Earth for the people (John 3:16, 1 John 4:9).  Backbone of the conservative (or Republican) government build; which is currently used in our government, regardless of the political party of the President.  God is unchanging, which also defines a traditionalist (1 Samuel 15:29, Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:7-9). 

Again, I am NOT attempting to attack another’s view.  I am simply trying to show a place where two political parties DID share the same point of view.  Today, that common ground has been trampled on, obscured, and completely obliterated.  Jesus made choices that were very unpopular with many people, including government officials.  Did that stop Him?  Thank His Father that it didn’t!  Consider what would have happened if Jesus kept quiet, or allowed the opposing party to silence Him!  Think about what would NOT be waiting for us, after our mortal lives have ended!  No glory!  No eternity!  NO GIFT OF SALVATION!  Not an ending that I would look forward to.

I am proud for the firm spiritual foundation that was instilled in me.  While I have stumbled plenty, I have resolved to gain firmer footing in the quest that God has laid before me; becoming stronger with each step I take.  I am not wanting to convince everyone to “become conservative”.  I am asking them to embrace the unchanging values that IS GOD and to not try to silence those that support the good Christian values that God’s Word teaches us.  The second thing that I am asking:  If you don’t like a particular t.v. show, CHANGE THE CHANNEL!  I don’t like or agree with plenty of Hollywood media that hits the airwaves but, I turn it off or watch something else.  I can still find some good, value-based entertainment out there. 

As for Tim Allen, his fellow cast members, producers, etc.:  Thank you for giving us a series that returns to showing that Godly values are still appreciated and accepted by His people!  

The Shadow Knows

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”  Galatians 6:7-8

While spending a day at my grandparents’ farm, I hit pay dirt!  I found a collection of old radio broadcasts, on cassette tapes.  Gunsmoke!  The Green Hornet!  Fibber McGee & Molly!  Sherlock Holmes!  I was a kid in the candy store!  I had known about these broadcasts through my family, even listened to a few syndicated broadcasts of Dragnet with my brother.  Having these priceless treasures to listen to, I couldn’t have asked for more. 

My favorite of these old broadcasts was (and still is) The Shadow.  I managed to start collecting more of this series on tape (20 broadcasts).  The crime-solving vigilante, with the ability to “cloud men’s minds”, rendering himself invisible.  He’s just plain cool!  “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?  The Shadow knows!”  I loved hearing that phrase, following the eerie theme song of The Spinning Wheel.  At the end of several of the shows, another line was often spoken by The Shadow: “As you sow evil, so shall you reap evil.”  Sounds like the words in Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia, doesn’t it?

Quite true that Paul and the fictitious Shadow, were saying the same thing: whatever choices you make from within your heart, and equal result will befall you.  If you choose to live a life of deceit, corruption, greed, and sinful pleasures; you can expect greed, corruption, deceit, etc. to happen to you in return.  No good will come of it.  Allowing evil to dwell in our hearts will only envelope our lives in a world that only knows evil.  The result is…well, a scorching hot outcome!

The good news is, we don’t have to look forward to that end.  We can choose to do what is desirable by God: honesty, respect, helping others, following God’s command to the letter, spreading His message and Light.  By sowing these choices, making these spiritual habits the very essence that lives inside of us, will lead us to the Promised Land.  It will lead us to that spectacular dwelling that God created, of which the apostle John was allowed to see and record for us; giving us a glimpse of the glory to come (see Revelation).  Here come those goosebumps I get every time I think about what John saw.  I want to end up there!  I want to reap a good harvest, after planting good seeds in good soil! 

Remember this, you may be able to hide certain wrongful actions and desires from those around you but God, as The Shadow says, KNOWS!

Voices of the Wise

But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.  Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.  Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”  Titus 2:1-3

One of my favorite country songs is performed by Chris Young, titled Voices.  It expresses a young man’s thankfulness to the sound advice from parents and grandparents, alike.  Words that stay in his head, throughout his life.  Some things may be very simplistic, while others can be a little more in-depth.  Whatever the case, they are valuable lessons that the elder passes down to the younger generation.  These MUST be taught, as much as those lessons MUST be heard.

I can certainly relate to the lyrics within this song.  Often, I find myself in a situation which I invoke the advice from either my parents, or grandparents, enabling me to hear them inside me.  We all have those moments where we hear our mom or dad’s voice, telling us what we should or should not do.  Those moments make me smile, every time.  Not exactly because my parents spoke those words of wisdom to me but, because I listened and filed those words in my mind, for future use.  It was important that those words left an imprint on me that my parents could be proud of.

In reading this passage in Titus, I want to draw attention, not to the advisor but, to the listener.  More and more, as I observe society, it seems that fewer lessons are being handed down from one generation to the next.  I could only assume that the older generation decided to give up, since the younger generation stopped listening.  It feels to me that a lot of things shouldn’t change, as the years go by.  It happens when those sensible lessons of value are lost, ceasing all together.

Like many, I was a hard-headed kid, refusing to listen at times.  You know how it goes: I’m a teenager so, I know more than my parents, now.  It’s a common mentality.  The problem is, the parents cease to teach and let the kids run free.  No guidance.  Sure, kids want to rebel as they age.  However, deep inside, they want the wisdom of the generations before them.  Some openly seek it.  Others may try to avoid it.  They want it, nonetheless. 

The greatest teachers that ANYONE has to rely on, haven’t earned education degrees.  They have experienced making good and bad choices, on their own.  They had opportunities to listen to their parent, before them.  Wisdom given to them, passing it down to the next generation. 

I will continue to hear the words of my parents, along with my grandparents.  I could not be thankful enough.  Through those lessons, a part of them lives on within me.  God willing, they will live on in my own children.

Hearing The Call: An Ocean’s Story, Part 2

“There is the sea, great and broad, in which are swarms without number, animals both small and great.  There the ships move along, and Leviathan, which You have formed to sport in it.  They all wait for You to give them their food in due season.  You give to them, they gather it up; You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good.”  Psalm 104: 25-28

Mother, Mother Ocean, I have heard you call.  I wanted to sail upon your waters since I was three feet tall.  You’ve seen it all.  You’ve seen it all.  Watch the men who rode you, switch from sails to steam.  And in your belly, you hold the treasure that few have ever seen.  Most of them dreams.  Most of them dreams.

Whether gazing out over the Gulf of Mexico or taking in the ongoing horizons of the Pacific, these lyrics from Jimmy Buffett’s A Pirate’s Look at Forty drifts into my mind.  It is within those words that holds my amazement for this enormous frontier.  There is so much history to be learned from it.  Cut across its surface, and far beneath, lie hundreds of stories of what has unfolded, in the course of time.

  Within these waters, tales of those who first sought to explore uncharted territory.  Chapters have been written of those that set out looking for the New World, not knowing if they would ever see land again.  Personal adventures of everyone that first braved turbulent storms and violent waves; a true test of their mettle.  Accounts of numerous battles that took place across expanse of blue in hopes of claiming fortune and glory.  Novels about the first steamers sent on maiden voyages, going much further than their predecessors.  Sagas of steel machines created to explore the depths below.  Not to mention the mysteries of the ships and lives that have been claimed in Davy Jones’ Locker. 

That is just part of the story.  What about the creatures that reside beneath Earth’s largest biome?  While there are many aquatics that we mankind has studied, there are more undiscovered mysteries.  While it would be partly terrifying, I would love to be part of a voyage to explore the deepest realms and make new discoveries in the one frontier that has not totally been explored before. 

These tales are whispered to me through the winds that come off the waters as I sit on the shores, at total peace with my surroundings.  The waves roll toward me, the water stretches out along the sands, reaching out to pique my curiosity, before receding back to the deep.  The salty air lends a seasoned taste for my consciousness to want more of it, to unlock its countless treasures.  It is a thirst that I know I cannot quench in my lifetime.

Much like the sensations that the oceans give me, so our eternal Father gives us a taste of His endlessly flowing fountain.  As I sat, staring out on these ranges of wonder, I marvel at the works of the Creator.  Without His hand, I would not be enjoying this moments of peace and harmony.  God desires that we should remember, daily, who created the surroundings that we get to enjoy.  Whether it’s the high mountains or the lush green forests, birds in the air or the largest mammals in the oceans; it is He who made it all.  Reflect on Him and He will unlock countless treasures for you.

“Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; as for me, I shall be glad in the Lord.”  Psalm 104:34

The Vast Blue: An Ocean’s Story, Part 1

“So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”  Ephesians 3:17-19

Over sixty-two million miles covers forty-six percent of Earth’s surface.  With the deepest point reaching over seven miles below the surface, it is no surprise why the Pacific is the largest ocean.  A weekend ago, I had the opportunity to see it for the very first time, and I was just looking out at it from a beach.  What small portion that I did view absolutely filled me up.  While I grew up riding the surface and fishing freshwater lakes, I have always maintained an admiration for the vast oceans.  It fills me to the brink and I can contain the entire ocean within me.

Obviously, I am referring to the essence of the ocean, not the water itself.  Everything about these beautiful and pristine tides, I can pack down deep inside of me.  The majesty.  The mysteries.  The bountiful life.  While there is so much of it, a lot still beyond my own comprehension, I can still wrap myself around it all.  If I can do that, I can hold something even larger.  What could possibly be larger than the oceans?  God’s love!

From the moment that we choose to live a life in God’s light, we choose to put God inside of us.  Once we have repented of our old ways, confessed to the grace of Christ’s sacrifice for us, and our baptized and cleansed of our sins, we open ourselves up so that God may step inside.

How is this possible?  God is so much bigger than us!  How can a being that vast fit inside a tiny thing like me?  We are God’s vessels.  2 Corinthians 4:7 refers to us as “earthen vessels” (or clay jars) that is filled with a power that can only come from God, not ourselves.  Unlike most containers that we may use in our day to day lives, these vessels have no lid to close it.  That only serves as a block and limit of what we can contain.  As is, we are made to be open.  Open to God’s amazing power and His unbounded love. 

Another name is given for that divine being destined to live inside of us: The Holy Spirit.  It is the essence of Christ.  It is the part that opens to allow the works of Christ to come forth out of us.  It allows us to extend His love to others and not turn away in someone’s time of need.  It is an endless ocean, from which the waters will never run down. 

There are times that we all create some sort of stopper to bottle up our personal vessels.  That is poisonous to our hearts and dangerous for our spirits.  We need to ensure that we are not trying to find a way to plug up the eternal waters of God’s glory from our lives.  Instead, we need to keep making that opening even wider and let more room for His Spirit to dwell.

Garden Prep

Image result for tilling a new garden

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”  Galatians 6:7-9

Given the choice of what step in gardening is the toughest, I would say it is the initial preparation.  I can remember way back to my childhood when my family moved out of Houston, a little further north to the then small town of Magnolia, TX.  With almost a full acre of land, my parents saw the potential in utilizing much of that space to grow a garden.  THAT meant preparing the chosen part of the back yard to become a garden.  With a good-size Troy-Bilt tiller, they began to break up the ground; churning the dirt and pulling up the grass.  Next, all that grass had to be raked out and removed.  That alone took a lot of time and was very tasking.  However, it was essential that this was done.  My mother could go into further details about all that prep work, better than I can remember.  Hey, I was barely starting Kindergarten.  What do you expect?

My wife and I began working on our back yard, this past weekend.  I also began planning the preparation for our own garden.  I need to remove the landscaping mulch that was used and a little bit of the dirt.  This will allow room for some fresh, fertilizer-enriched soil that will allow our seedlings to establish strong roots.  This will involve raking and shoveling out the mulch, uprooting weeds and plants that were already there when we moved onto this property, breaking up the ground, mixing in the fresh soil, digging holes for the young plants that we already have sprouting in small plant trays, and ensuring that the plants have their required amount of water and sunlight.  There are supplies to purchase.  There is plenty of sweat and sore muscles coming.  The reward is worth every bit of the fatigue that will come from preparing the garden. 

Why so much work in the beginning?  This is the vital stage that will unfold the results of our labors.  To take any shortcuts can lead to weeds invading and choking the young vegetable plants.  Or, improper soil can lead to bad seed germination, corrupting the entire plant.  There are plenty of things that could go wrong if we don’t take the time to prepare for a good crop.  Not letting anything seep in to spoil the foundations is priority in this matter.

What about the essentials in our own Christian communities?  Are we ensuring careful and proper preparation or, are we allowing improper techniques and dangerous ways of thinking to control how we choose to continue the church that was built and recorded for us in the years that followed the death and resurrection of our Savior? 

Suffice to say that wolves exist in our Christian society, leading people down a dangerous path and a very fine line on God’s expectations of His people.  I have witnessed numerous congregations promoting a single-leader foundation, instead of following the setup of a plurality of shepherds (or elders) to oversee the congregation.  While Paul instructs, in 1 Timothy 3, what the positions and qualifications of the eldership should be, I see congregations utilizing the “eldership” as nothing more than department heads.  All decisions are left with a single person.  Who is holding that one person accountable if they are established as the congregation’s authority?  The answer is: no one.  In cases that I have heard, people are losing connection within the church society.  Unity is only seen on a shallow scale.  Respect is lacking toward one another, but mostly toward the sovereignty of God.  False interpretation (or omitting altogether) of scripture is being taught.  Instead of being embraced with open arms, many are left feeling pushed out of the obvious cliques that have produced in this sort of harvest.  How can each member inside that community be assured that they are not being led astray by improper teaching?  They can’t. 

This is just the starting point.  It is nothing more than the improper preparation for what God intended to be sown.  I could continue in my observations.  However, the outcome culminates from the initial preparation.  If we, as Christians turn from God’s prescribed steps for His garden, are we not accountable for the tainted harvest that will produce?  How then can we expect to expand the God’s garden that Jesus began over 2,000 years ago?

We will all reap what we sow.  Following the Word of God will ensure a good, strong harvest.  Allowing changes or “upgrades” to His plan can (and do) result in a poor harvest.  Folks, I understand that nothing is perfect, where matters of human decision-making is concerned.  What does that mean for me, individually?  It means that I will follow the plan of preparation exactly as is required of me.  No quick solutions.  No second-guessing the main plan.  Just trying to follow the steps as closely as possible, if I hope to achieve the results that God wants.

Ready or Not!

“Therefore, you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”  Matthew 24:44

My wife and I woke up this morning to a power outage.  It was still dark, so I instinctively went for my camping lanterns.  A quick scan outside the window told me that the neighborhood had lost power.  The nighttime snowfall had caused a branch to knock down a power line somewhere.  My wife set to work lighting candles while I got a fire going in the fireplace.  After a while the power was restored, no problem.

For me, a power outage is no big catastrophe.  My parents raised me to have survivor instincts.  I can go into “camp out” mode any time the situation calls for it.  However, I know a lot of people that would be helpless, bored, and restless if they were forced to be without their creature comforts (cell phones, social media, etc.) for too long. Let’s face it, if an EMP knocked out the system nationwide, too many people would be at a total loss as to how to survive.  Thus, they’ve become the sloth.  Slow thinking, dependent, and lazy.  They aren’t prepared because they just expect everything to work as “normal”.  (Which is also the reason that there isn’t a great deal many people that I would want to take on an actual camping trip with me.  No tech allowed.)

Society, in general, has become too comfortable in settling into “convenience mode”.  If there is an easier way to accomplish a task or an app that will do the work for them, they will choose it.  They want everything laid out for them, no effort required.  That’s the first mistake.  Second, they get the attitude of “I’ve got time, I’ll prepare later.”  They get the mindset that there are more important things and that is at the bottom of their priority list.  The present concerns them more than the future.  That can be terrible thinking, especially when applied to our spiritual lives.

In the first thirteen verses of Matthew 25, we are told about a group of virgins that went out in the evening to await the arrival of the bridegroom.  Half of them took extra oil for their lamps, while the other half did not.  As you could probably figure, the night waned and by the time the bridegroom had arrived, the unprepared virgins could not keep their lamps going, for they had no oil to fill them with and were forced to find more oil.  By the time they were ready, the marriage feast had begun and the entrance doors were shut.  The prepared virgins were able to attend the marriage feast, without delay.  Verse 13 sums it up nicely by stating “Watch therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour.” The bible repeatedly commands us to be prepared.  It warns us that we won’t know when the time will come. 

Folks, I keep fresh batteries ready in my lanterns.  I keep my emergency power packs charged.  There is fuel ready for my camp stoves.  Of course, I use these items for the luxury of being out in the middle of nowhere, but I keep them accessible at home, just in case.  I don’t know what circumstance might arise where they will be needed.  That is why I keep them handy.  I DON’T KNOW WHEN THE TIME WILL COME THAT I NEED THEM.  In that same mindset, I attempt to stay prepared spiritually, because I DON’T KNOW WHEN MY TIME WILL COME.  It will be too late then.  I will have no one to blame, except for myself. 

Ask yourself, “Am I prepared for when the Savior returns?  Will I be ready the day that I WILL be facing the Lord?”  It isn’t a question of “I didn’t know that I was supposed to…”  Are you a lazy sloth or are you a survivalist?

Which will you choose?