Archive for the ‘Ephesians’ Category

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“LET’S (NOT) RODEO” – July 20

July 20, 2013

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”  Ephesians 6:12

English: Bull riding at the Calgary Stampede. ...

English: Bull riding at the Calgary Stampede. Photo by Chuck Szmurlo taken July 10, 2007 with a Nikon D200 and a Nikon 70-200 f2.8 lens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I went to a rodeo the other night and was reminded of the amazing power of bulls.

Bulls possess the most natural raw power that I have ever witnessed from an up close and personal perspective.  I grew up around bulls, which instilled in me an incredible respect for their power.  I have seen a bull effortlessly rip a stanchion section from its moorings.  I have been sent running when a bull inadvertently flipped a 500 lb feed manager in the search of some remaining crumbs.  I have been aghast to watch a cattle trailer bulge unnaturally when some bulls decided to enter three abreast … after a slight encouragement on my part.  (That was a big oops!)

Bull riding at the Calgary Stampede. The "...

Bull riding at the Calgary Stampede. The “bullfighter” or “rodeo clown” is standing just to the right of the bull (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the rodeo, I saw a 2,000 lb animal repeatedly leap about four feet into the air with a 170 lb man on its back while spinning until the rider was flung from its back like a rag doll.  That is power.  It is enough power to dissuade me from any inclination of crawling onto their backs and going for a ride.

I have always been apprehensive around bulls.  Growing up on a dairy, I had several jobs that required me to get into a corral with a bull.  I don’t know what it is but Holstein bulls seem to be more ornery than other breeds and we had several ornery bulls.  If they got too mean, my dad would get rid of them but too mean was always more subjective than I thought it should be.

I remember bedding down the animals during the winter.  We would get all bundled up in our insulated coveralls, boots, and gloves, mount-up on the tractor, and pull a trailer full of straw into the corral.  My dad and I would lug straw bales over the frozen and pocked surface of the corral, spreading the straw out to give the cows some protection from the temperature and slop.

The corral was an obstacle course of tripping hazards from iced, craters where animals had lain to frozen mounds of manure that had become heaped by mysterious forces.  Add to this pleasant landscape, the circus act of juggling an eighty pound bale of straw between walking, jostling knees while suspending it in the air from bailing twine stretched tight by a precarious backwards lean.

There were plenty of reasons to keep your eyes on the ground so that you would not take a tumble and find yourself immersed in all that animal goodness.  Unfortunately, the necessity of watching your step had to be shared with an eye toward the most aggressive resident of the corral.  While we spread the straw, the bull would circle our little perimeter.  He would paw the ground, head down and steam rolling from his nostrils.  He did not like us in his corral and his low, bray was a continual challenge to a fight.  My eyes were constantly darting from the ground to the bull and back to the ground.  I worked hard to keep as many cows, equipment, straw bales, and whatever else that was available between me and that ornery old bull.  It was a dance that I did not enjoy.

It was a dance that haunted my dreams.  One of my youthful reoccurring nightmares was of running from that bull.  I remember waking up exhausted from spending a dream filled night of jumping over fences, diving through stanchions, and sprinting across a corral while a bull was bearing done on me in a full-on charge.

I have never thought that playing with bulls or ignoring them were good ideas. 

It seems to me that there are many people who treat sin like a bull to play with.  They have a bull rider’s mentality when it comes to sin.  They don’t respect the power of the flesh enough to stay away from it.  They think that they can mess around with sin for their eight seconds of delight and walk away unscathed.  I find bull-riding the most unnatural of events at a rodeo.  All bull riders eventually get hurt.  I watched two riders limp away from their ride attempts just from our night at the rodeo.  Bull-riding is a very dangerous business.  In a rodeo, the bull always wins.  The rider may last for eight seconds but he is still flung to the ground and has to run out of the corral as the bull rampages.  In the same way, playing around with sin is a dangerous proposition.  Many of us allow the lingering attitudes of resentment, discontentment, gossip, sensuality, lust, crassness, etc. in our lives and think that nothing bad will transpire; as if we can manage spiritual forces of evil.  When I have done that, I am attempting to ride the bull of my sinful flesh.  It has never gone well for me.  Sin cannot be managed.  There are forces behind it.

There are always consequences to sin.  Some consequences may go unnoticed but the sweetness of my relationship with God has always affected when I have sought my delight apart from Christ.  No one gets away unscathed.  Eventually, someone is going to get hurt and in the meantime your life turns into a spiritual rodeo.  The eight seconds of delight has never been worth it.

However, I think that the greatest danger to most of mankind is indifference toward God.  I have never thought that ignoring a bull was a good idea.  It is an even worse idea to ignore God because an indifference to God is an equal indifference to the present darkness of this world.

Being indifferent to powers and principalities of this world is like taking an afternoon stroll through a corral of angry, ornery bulls.  We live in a world that is in rebellion.  It is a world that opposes our God and us by extension.  Why would we walk around indifferent to it all?  Our enemy is not indifferent to a Child of God.  God is not indifferent to us.

Why would we be indifferent to all that is occurring in the heavenly places? 

Life-Savers In Action

Life-Savers In Action (Photo credit: Bill Gracey)

Living our life in a manner that is indifferent to our advocate and protector is sheer folly.  Just consider the attitude that allows us to go days without thinking about our savior; foolishness.  God actively protects those who are His.  God is much more than our bull-fighter but He does that very well.  Christ has put Himself between us and our enemy.  We should be doing all that we can to keep it that way. We should be living our lives with an eye toward the path before us but also be aware of the most aggressive resident of this world.

That means following Christ with all of our heart and stop the rodeo of sinful disobedience.

PRAYER: Lord, forgive me for playing around with the evil of this world.  Forgive me for not taking the spiritual forces of evil seriously.  Thank you for keeping me safe.  Thank you for keeping our enemy away.  Help me to follow you.  I don’t want my life to be a rodeo of sin.  I want to be more and more like you.  Please continue to transform my heart and help me to see this world for what it is.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

 

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“AIN’T DUTCH, AIN’T MUCH” – July 18

July 18, 2013

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, …” Ephesians 2:19

NETHERLANDS HOLLAND

NETHERLANDS HOLLAND (Photo credit: LachieB1)

I have never been around more Dutch people than in the Church of my youth.  It was generally know as the “Dutch Church” while there was actually only one family from the Netherlands.  The vast majority of the other members had been born and raised in the United States.  However, many could claim a Dutch ancestry but their motherland dead-ended in Minnesota.  They knew very little of the actual Netherlands much beyond windmills, tulips, and canals.

However, that did not prevent a very real ethnic identity within that Church.

Netherlands

Netherlands (Photo credit: Vicki Devine)

There was distinct passion and pride for all things Dutch.  Most members’ homes contained some knick-knack, trinket, or lawn ornament paying homage to Holland.  I remember one family friend who wore a baseball cap emblazoned with “If You Ain’t Dutch?, You Ain’t Much!”.   Many in this small community held that opinion and those outside felt its sting.

Christus in the storm on the lake; Rembrandt (...

It was a bit ironic how fiercely loyal they could be to a heritage which was more American than Dutch.  Most had no idea of the providence in the Netherlands, from which their ancestors migrated; that there actually are providences; that there is no country called Holland; that the Kingdom of the Netherland extends to the Caribbean; that Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh were Dutch painters; that the war of the United States of Independence was significantly financed by the merchants of Holland.  They do not know anything of the politics, geography, or culture of their heritage but they sure were proud of it.

I don’t think that my experience was unique.  Every major city has ethnic neighborhoods.  There is little, Saigon, Pakistan, Italy, Moscow, Manila, and Poland, just to name a few.  There is Chinatown, Germantown, Koreatown, Japantown, and Frenchville.  All are areas with a very distinct ethnic identity; an identity for a place that is not the inhabitants’ current home.

I realize that there can be a lot of negatives associated with these communities.  However, there is one aspect that I like:

The zeal for a place that most in the community have never known.

The Apostle Paul writes that all who are in Christ are citizens of the Kingdom of God.  Now, there is a reason for some zeal.  The Kingdom of God is better than any kingdom of this earth; being a child of God is better than being a member of any nationality.  Fierce loyalty is an appropriate response of someone who has been adopted as a fellow heir with Christ.

I should be zealous for this place that I have never been.

The good news is that this place of my hope and zeal is not exclusive.  My heritage is Dutch.  My son and daughter are Korean.  They can never be Dutch.  I can never be Korean.  Yet, the origins of our pasts do not prevent us from being fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.  The community of God does not have barriers of discrimination or superiority.  God’s kingdom is open to all who will come to him regardless of race, gender, or nationality.

That should get us passionate about who we have become in Christ.

How can any of us “ho-hum” this place of our hope?

How can any follower of Christ prefer the world more than the place of our new citizenship?

We should be fired up about who we are in Christ!

While it is silly to think that if you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much, it is true that if you ain’t got Christ, you ain’t got anything.  We should want others to be like us because it is better to have eternal life.

Our zeal for the Lord should fire us up to boldly proclaim our true citizenship and call the world to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

PRAYER: Lord, you have given me a heritage that is far better than anything this world has to offer.  Father, thank you for adopting me into your family.  Thank you for giving me an inheritance and a hope.  Thank you for saving me.  Lord, may my zeal for You be seen.  My hope in you be evident in all that I do.  Help me to boldly proclaim the free gift of citizenship that You are offering to all people.  May your name be praised and glorified.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

Fun and Informative Video on the Netherlands:  Holland vs the Netherlands

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“TRAPPED LIKE A MISERABLE GOPHER” – April 2

April 2, 2013

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:11-12

I am a ruler; a sovereign noble over more than nine acres of flora, fauna and terra firma.  My kingdom produces a variety of produce including cheatgrass, kosher weed, thistle, white-top, knapweed, ragweed, stinkweed, milkweed, morning glory, hemlock, crabgrass, Russian olive, among other varieties of the unwanted.  My kingdom is not a land of agricultural produce.

IMAG0018However, there is trouble in my kingdom.  There is open rebellion to my rule.  Not all the inhabitants of my lands are willing to subjugate their existence to my rule.  The gophers have declared their independence.  They have declared their freedom and pockmarked my fields with mounds of defiance.  They are usurpers and destroyers.

I hate gophers.

Their existence is a stench.  Their menacing message has reached even within my yard.  The audacity of proclaiming their message of defiance by blanketing mounds of soil over my grasses of fescue, cultivated by my own hand, has to be stopped.  My domain must be defended.

I have declared war on all gophers and have bounded myself to their destruction.  Their destruction has been primarily wrought through the use of the trap.  This season my wrath has been particularly felt by these usurpers.  I have already trapped 44 of their rebellious kind.

Mazama Pocket Gopher trapping arrayDeception and lies are the principles of effective trapping.  The gopher must be deceived into complacency in order for the trap to deliver them to their destruction.  The gopher must be lured from the safety of their natural environment into the artificial environment of my trap.  This dance of enticement requires the practice of the art of deception.  Every gopher that I have trapped has followed the promise of one of my lies.  I have never pursued any gopher down their filthy tunnel.  I am a master of deception and lies.  My lies are crafted upon their natural tendencies to orchestrate a sonata that is so seductive that they willingly shuffle from the hand of safety into my hand of destruction and death.

The immature gophers are easy.  They are oblivious to a change in environment and the danger that it represents.  I don’t even have to be very careful in crafting the deception of my trap for these wee-ones.  They stumble along and don’t perceive that the walls of their tunnel have changed from dirt to plastic, they don’t comprehend the unfamiliar scent of my hand, they do not consider the danger of the message dangling enticingly before  their nose.  They push against the trip-wire that I have lured them to and there is no time for escape once tripped.  They are in my hand in that instant and their destruction is assured.

I prefer to kill gophers when they are young, before they get the chance to mature and start to reproduce.  That is when they become a real problem.  Therefore, I am diligent in setting my traps during those periods when I know that the young are venturing out into their own tunnels.  I can tell when a little one is finding its own way.  Their tunnels are small and their mounds are little.  Their tunnels are shallow and easy to dig up.  I seek them out.  I will pursue a young one over a mature one.  A mature gopher is hard to deceive.  My time is best spent on the young ones.  Therefore, my eyes roam my lands for small mounds and I am quick to spread my traps of deception when the young ones venture too close.

This does not mean that I do not entice the mature gophers.  I celebrate every mature gopher that I destroy.  They are the ones responsible for the greatest encroachments into my domain.  Therefore, the mature gophers, especially the leaders, which I can ensnare, are particularly satisfying because I understand the difficulty in getting them to fall.  The trick for trapping a mature gopher is to get them distracted from their natural senses.  The deception for a mature gopher must be sufficient to get them to rush into the trap.  They must be enticed to rush forward with passion, otherwise the warning signs of even the most skillful lie will alert them to danger and they will flee, backfilling their tunnel, and the opportunity lost.

I play on the passions of the mature.  I know what they love.  I know what instincts drive them.  Gophers are very territorial.  Each gopher has its own tunnel system and they defend it vigorously.  Their territory is their greatest love; it is their greatest passion.  They will rush to the defense of their territory.  When I set a trap for a mature gopher I spin the lie of their greatest passion.

I take the body of a gopher that I have already killed and lay it behind the trip-wire of my trap.  A mature gopher will be blinded by their passion to protect their territory and rush past all the warning signs that normally would have kept them safe.  I have trapped gophers so large that I don’t know how they pushed themselves into my trap.  Their territorial passion must have been all consuming.  This has been the only way I have been able to kill the big ones.  It is the only way I have been able to effectively deceive them.

I use death to entice them to death.

Every follower of Christ lives in a world, whose ruler hates them.  Those who call on the name of Christ are an abomination to the ruler of this world.  We have an enemy who is seeking our destruction.  We have an enemy who cannot destroy us in safety of our new environment in Christ.  Therefore, he must lure us out of the safety with deceptions and lies.

He has an affinity for feasting on the destruction of the immature.  He spins lies that the words of God are not true and cannot be trusted; he crafts the deception that giving up the pleasures of this world is not worth the gift of eternal life; he amplifies the cares of this world to choke the young with anxiety and worries so that they forget what they have been promised; he send in charismatic wolves to preach a slightly different message that sends the careless in a direction that leads only to the trap trip-wire.  He seeks the young ones who are venturing out on their own because they are easy to deceive.  He wants to get them before they spread the message of the Gospel and become a real problem.

However, that does not mean that he does not come after the mature ones.  He just has to work harder.  He has to craft more elaborate lies.  His traps may take years to be laid.  He knows that he must get the mature followers of Christ to blindly rush after his lies and ignore all that they know to be true.  He must stoke their passions for the flesh.  He must get them to abandon their first love.  All he has available for bait is death.  Therefore, he must make death appear beautiful and desirable.  He must craft an illusion that in death there is the promise of all that they have ever desired.  He must get them to believe that death is preferable to life.

He uses death to entice the wayward to death.

Our enemy roams this world seeking those whom he can devour.  Do you believe that?  There are many who don’t believe that.  There are many who live in so careless a manner that it appears that they are oblivious to the existence of a predator.

It is in Christ where we are safe.  We are secure when we are living according to the Spirit and our minds are set on the things of the Spirit.  We have nothing to fear when we hear the word of God, believe it and bear fruit.

The fact that we have nothing to fear does not mean we should be lackadaisical to dangers.  We do not need to fear of this world due to our ability to cling to the promises of God.  The setting of our minds on the wonderful promises of God and the things of His Spirit is what grounds our hearts to our first love.  It keeps our passions for our first love.  When we love God with everything that we are and have then there is no passion that will entice us to rush away from our Lord.  Perseverance is the following of our passion for Christ and Him alone.

Let us not ignore  the world that we live in.  We have an enemy who is cunning.  He will lay many traps for us.  However, he is not to be feared as long as we do not let our love for our Lord to venture from our hearts.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for freeing us from a spirit of slavery and living in fear.  Thank you for giving us the Spirit of adoption as sons by whom we can cry “Abba! Father!”  Thank you for hearing our cries.  Lord keep us and protect our hearts from all of the passions that can be used to entice us to wander away from you and our minds to drift back to the things of this world.  You are better than all that this world has to offer, combined.  Keep me under the shelter of your wing.  Amen

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