Saturday, July 14, 2018

"The Exodus of the Wild Boars", Part 1


“We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what. All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave.” Thai NavySEAL Facebook post (July 10, 2018, 7:11 a.m.)

I clicked the ‘heart’ symbol, along with 343 thousand others from around the world.  This was an event which captured the minds and hearts of people, truly, ‘from every tribe, tongue and nation.’  The act of saving a team of boys and their soccer team coach from a cave literally took the cooperation of humankind in a way which is rarely seen. What was not to love about this story of human beings acting to save other human beings just because they are members of the human race. If we could capture the spirit which led to this act of international cooperation and sprinkle it like dust over the leaders of the nations perhaps peace would prevail perpetually.

The picture of the helpless boys floating through the cave toward the light at the end of their journey, with one diver before them and one behind them, is a modern-day reminder of the moment when God’s people, the Israelites, are passing through the waters with the ‘pillar of cloud’ moving in front and behind them. The LORD, Yahweh, was in the pillar of cloud and fire which protected the people day and night. The lesson of the Exodus was and is, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only be still.” (Exodus 14:14, NIV)

To people who can see with the eyes of faith there is no question. Our God, the God of the people of Thailand and the world, still carries people through the waters.

What remains for the people of God to do?

“They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!” (Ps. 22:31)

Again.



Saturday, July 7, 2018

The 'Wall' Still Stands


Paul was afraid to speak.  The religious folks wanted him beat and imprisoned, if not killed. The local courts heard the case against Paul, but they dismissed the case because the complaints were about religious laws, not civil laws.  As far as the government was concerned, if Paul wanted to say that Jesus was God, well, that was of no concern to the city of Corinth.  And so the gospel spread. The freedom to speak religious ideas without government interference helped Christianity spread from cult status across borders and oceans.

Not to be missed was that though Paul was afraid to speak, he overcame his fear because the Lord told Paul, “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” (Acts 18:9-10)

What should the church celebrate at the birthday of the United States? That the famous ‘wall of separation’ still protects the ‘church’ from the ‘state’.  The President cannot make a rule telling me, as a Minister of God, what I may or may not preach. The Congress may not pass a law restricting the manner in which any religion practices its faith.

The phrase originates with Thomas Jefferson’s writing,  “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.” (Source: Wikipedia, quoting Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists, 1802)
                                                               
Do not be afraid to speak, friends. Love God. Love your Neighbor. Praise the Lord! No one can stop you from speaking the Truth.

The Wall is still standing. Now, that is something worthy of fireworks.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

"The Earth is Flat..."


My first thought this morning: “When I consider the moon and the stars…who am I that you are mindful of me.’   How God, is it, that you make room in your Being, the Being that made the heavens, that painted the stars and the moon and pinned them to the black canvas, how is it that this hand made me and blessed me and preserved me?

My second thought: Is Polaris still the north star in Australia? Last night was a very warm night, and the bugs were manageable, so some friends could enjoy time staring at the stars. We followed the patterns which led to Polaris, that ancient star which guided ships for centuries, keeping them on their bearings since it always showed them ‘true north.’  My friend wondered whether this was true in Australia. I responded that it must be: I mean, sure the toilet water flushes in reverse, but North is North!  He wasn’t so sure. Which led to my morning musings and a discovery: you cannot see Polaris in Australia.  North is still North, but most places from the Equator into the Southern Hemisphere cannot see ‘up’ to Polaris because the Earth blocks the view.  (Don’t worry, they get to see the Southern Cross.)

Which led me to find that Polaris is central to the proofs offered against the theory that the Earth is flat.  Meet the cleverly-named The Flat Earth Society which believes that the earth is not a sphere. Those picture of the Earth from outer space? Just more ‘fake news’.  Some hold to this belief because ‘the Bible tells me so.’  (Which is yet more evidence that some people still don’t understand that God was not writing a science text book.)  I don’t know which troubles me more, that people insist the earth is flat, or that there are people who writing long papers about Polaris to refute them.

I mused on this until the first light appeared and the stars receded. I thought, well, they’ll be back in 16 hours.  Sounds simple. But it’s good to have something so simple to count on in our ‘world gone mad’, that Polaris and the God who made it will still be for all the ‘tonights’ of my life, holding the spinning sphere, and me.



Saturday, June 23, 2018

Whose Child is This?


I changed my Profile photo on my Facebook page to a picture of me holding a newly baptized baby boy.  It was our Vacation Bible School Sunday, so instead of the usual ‘church’ background, there is a backdrop of an ocean beach where the children were ‘shipwrecked’, waiting for Jesus to rescue them.  When my wife, Jill, saw it she commented, “People are going to wonder whose baby that is?” 

A short time later I met with a woman who had lost her young son, and the verse the Holy Spirit led her to was, “’Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 1:8, NIV)  Earlier that day, while searching for new music take away the monotony of my morning walk, my music service selected the Talley Trio singing Orphans of God  (Twila J. Labar, Joel Lindsey).  The lyric is powerful, and you should listen to the whole song, but here is the part that got caught in my throat:
There are no strangers.
There are no outcasts.
There are no orphans of God.
So many fallen, but hallelujah,
There are no orphans of God.
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZ-afR8GNt0)

The pictures and sounds of the immigrant children at our border, separated from their parents, is a political problem with varying views of who is at fault. The parents? The politicians?  But the picture that keeps coming back to my mind is that some priest or pastor probably baptized those children and put a mark of the cross on their forehead, saying, “You have been marked as God’s own forever.” It is for the politicians to assign blame for the children’s plight. It is for the Church to be the presence of God who rescues these ‘shipwrecked’ lives.  It is for me, as a follower of Christ, to make sure these children know that they are not abandoned orphans of God.

The disciples restrained children from approaching Jesus. “When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me….”  (Mark 10:13-14) 

Whose child is this?


Saturday, June 16, 2018

A Father's Faithful Footsteps


Fathers, when your children look back on your life, what is they will find you treasured most? Money? Lusts? Success? God?

That was the decision confronting the man who penned Find Us Faithful.  Consider his story, and the excerpt of the lyrics he wrote as a result:

“I wrote that song in response to years of being unfaithful,” (Jon Mohr) admits. “I always wanted to do the right thing, but my sexual passions and appetites were so strong….For the first eight years of our marriage, I continued to battle with my lusts and fantasies. I lived a tortured, double life….I was going to leave Luanne and our 6-month-old daughter. Then God confronted me one last time. ‘You know, Jon — you face Me now or you face Me later — but you will face Me.’ Suddenly, I could see it. I was such a fool. I was undone. I sat down with Luanne and a bath towel for a handkerchief! I cried and confessed everything I’d ever done; I left nothing out. Miraculously, when the dust settled she forgave me. I experienced an important truth. Because of the power of the cross and my obedience, I found freedom….I had to continue to fight to maintain freedom, but with new habits and staying totally current with God, I could remain free.…Now…I see that nothing is more important than finishing this race strong and leaving deep footprints; a legacy of faithfulness for our six children and four grandchildren!”  (Source: Reba Rambo-McGuire at http://www.homecomingmagazine.com/article/find-us-faithful/)

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful,
May the fire of our devotion light their way,
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe,
And the lives we live inspire them to obey,
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful.

After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone,
And our children sift through all we’ve left behind,
May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover
Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find. 
Words and Music: Jon Mohr / Copyright 1988 Birdwing Music/Jonathan Mark Music (One of my favorite versions of this song is performed by Steven Green, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eERKnxzNzwg)
God is asking you today, Dads, to make the commitment to make whatever changes you must make so that those who follow you will look back at your journey and find deep footprints of faith.  Is there really any greater legacy you could leave the ones you love?


Saturday, June 2, 2018

Thoughts for Graduates Seeking Success


“Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.” Emily Dickinson

Is the bar over which you plan to leap high enough that there is a chance you might fail?

Is the target toward which you aim specific enough, focused enough, that it takes some real skill and hours upon hours of devoted practice to achieve steady success in hitting it?

Is the finish line toward which you run distant enough that you will need a lifetime of devotion to finally cross the finish line and break through into your victory lap?

As Ms. Dickinson’s poetry reminds us, when we lose the battles we fight, the defeat makes ‘sweet’ to our minds and spirits the sound of success.  But these defeats might also be mere steps on the way to an elusive, gloriously far goal. If your goal is too small, or too ambiguous, or too close, you will know something like success, but not the sweetness of anticipated achievement which defeat teaches as we hear “The distant strains of triumph/Burst agonized and clear.”

May God grant you the blessings of health strong enough to leap over your highest barrier; with a focused determination to pierce the bullseye which gives you lasting joy; and with a life long enough to reach your finish line. But may God also grant you the spiritual strength, the emotional stamina, to survive enough defeats to know the value of real success.  And may you come to know, sooner rather than later, what it means to live a ‘successful’ life.

May you count success as sweet because you are always just one more step from the end you are destined to achieve.  Until, at the last,  you, like the Victor, rise for the last time.

(Success is Counted Sweetest by Emily Dickinson in The Top 500 Poems, W. Harmon, ed. Columbia University Press, New York)

Saturday, May 26, 2018

When Mountains Don't Move


The most frustrating part of walking with God is that sometimes we arrive at the foot of the mountain of trouble we have been approaching and despite our earnest prayers for a way over, under or through the mountain, it just stands there, like the immovable force we feared it would be.

How we respond in that moment defines the rest of our journey.  Do we give up on God because we think God has given up on us? Because we doubt God really is?  As I have tried to help people find their way through these questions at the foot of their respective mountains I have started using some song lyrics which speak to my heart.  At first I thought that the words seemed trite, like making excuses for God.  But then, as I tried to pray them and live them as a response to the ‘mountains’ I have been praying about, I find them to be like a ‘third’ answer to prayer.  I would of course love it if all of the mountains would move in response to my prayers.  I accept that sometimes the answer which appears as a ‘no’ is really a ‘yes’ that is a better outcome than I could imagine.  But this ‘third answer’ brings comfort to my faith as well.

When the answer is not ‘yes’ or ‘no’; when God says, ‘trust in Me’; I wonder if this is the faith that Jesus told us would move mountains?          

When You don't move the mountains
I'm needing You to move
When You don't part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don't give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You
I will trust in You

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_aVFVveJNs
Songwriters: Lauren Daigle / Michael Farren / Paul Mabury
Trust In You lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Essential Music Publishing, Capitol Christian Music Group