Archive for the ‘examining yourself’ Category

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A FABULOUS PAIR OF LEGS – July 13

July 13, 2014

“Thus you will recognize them by their fruit.” Matthew 7:20

English: Recreational floaters on the Boise Ri...

My family and I recently floated the Boise River. While we waited in the rental line, I noticed a man in line before us. This man was probably in his fifth decade but he had a striking characteristic. He had fabulous legs. He did not have the legs of a middle-aged man. His legs were so distinct that I nudged my wife and whispered, “Check out the legs on that dude.”

the-razors-edgeThese were legs to be admired. They were chiseled masterpieces of bronzed muscle. The definition of his calf muscles hinted to a power unusual for a man of his age. The large veins that traveled along the inside of the ankle were visible up across his shins noting an uncommon endurance. It was obvious that these fabulous legs had been crafted over years of rigorous training and hours of intense activity. These sorts of legs don’t just happen.

These were the legs of an athlete.

It did not take much insight to determine what activity had crafted these legs. The tan-lines had distinct edges starting just above the ankle and ending just beyond the knee. However, the conclusive clue was what was missing. There was a feature normal to a man that was absent from these legs.

His upper body demonstrated a genetic ability to grow a furry coat. However, the legs contradicted his natural state. These legs had been groomed clean. There is only one type of athlete, who has legs that are muscled to the point of veins, tanned in this particular pattern, and shaven.tan-lines1

These were the legs of a cyclist – a long-time cyclist.

As I admired these fabulous legs, I narcissistically wondered what the person behind me thought about my legs. I wondered if my athleticism was as evident in my conditioning. As I glanced back at my own calves, giving them a little flex, I questioned how well my continence revealed the passions of my life to an examining eye.

Beyond my vanity, the important passion of life looms large. I really care very little about getting recognized for a great pair of legs. However, there are characteristics that I hope are recognizable in a casual observation.

Does the person next in line see self-control in my behavior?
Has my wife come to expect gentleness in my response?
Are my kids accustomed to patience and kindness in my reactions?
Do my co-workers consider me a peaceful person?
Would my biography describe me as a joyful and good man?
Am I recognized by love and faithfulness?

Our passions are obvious to those around us and the fruit of our lives are revealed in a myriad of manners. I hope that we all can be identified by characteristics that are more important than a fabulous pair of legs.

PRAYER: Father, I want to be known by the fruit of your Spirit.  I want to be recognized as a child of God.  Lord, continue your work within my heart.  Transform me into your likeness.  May the world see you in my life for your glory.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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THE LURKING BEAST OF A WEIGHED-DOWN HEART – April 19

April 19, 2014

“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:34-36

 

20 on explore on Sunday, July 1, 2007There is a beast that roams my small acreage.

I have never seen its shape for it comes out only after I yield to sleep. Yet, the evidence of its presence confronts me at sunrise every morning. I walk into my field and shutter at the thought of an unwanted presence having recently crossed the very path of my footsteps.

I know what it hunts. I see the numerous holes it has dug in pursuit of its prey – gophers. I do not object to that pursuit. However, I wish that it would get its own. This beast has found that it is easier to steal from me. It has discovered that at the bottom of the fluttering location flags is a gopher trap that often, by the time of darkness, contains a dead gopher. It then absconds with the gopher and my trap. I have lost two traps to this beast.

I can tolerate the presence of this beast lurking in the darkness since we have a common nemesis – gophers. However, I know there is a danger that goes beyond the thief of traps and the annoyance of hole digging (this beast does not have the common courtesy of backfilling its holes).

English: Badger hole This large hole was in th...My concern is for my chickens. I know that it is just a matter of time before this beast finds that a roosting chicken is about as easy to catch as a trapped gopher – and much more satisfying. Therefore, this beast has become my enemy before I lose something I value more than a dead gopher.

I am not sure of my success. Therefore, I must stay vigilant to the unseen dangers.

IMAG0018There is a danger to our souls that lurks in the darkness. Our danger is that the day of judgment will come upon us unaware, when we do not expect it, and when we are not prepared for it. The danger is that we are called to meet our Lord, and He is the furthest thing from our hearts and low on the list of that which we love.

We are most vulnerable to this danger when we are unconscious to its presence. That is why we are encouraged to stay awake. We are to stay vigilant against the beast of a heart that is weighted down. We are to watch ourselves from becoming satiated with an inordinate pursuit of the good things of this world and an over-indulgence of the appetites of the body.

Many of us live in an amicable truce with the cares of the world. We fall asleep and allow the beast of our cravings to roam free because we consider them a normal course of our existence. We live with competing loves because it does not appear that they are having an effect upon our spiritual lives beyond an occasional thief of joy and the annoyance of our disrupted façade.

I believe that the danger of a weighed-down heart is far greater than we realize. A weighed-down heart is evidence of misplaced love. Misplaced loves have to be killed before they can burden our hearts, steal our fruitfulness, and even cause us to give up.

From my experience, I rarely get a clean shot at my misplaced loves. They grow in the hidden crevasses of the normal course of my life. I can become so accustomed to these cares, that I fall asleep to their danger.

I have to go to their lair and smoke them out.

There is only one way to smoke out misplaced love. It is by the work of the Spirit in our lives that affections are set upon God and God alone and misplaced love is killed. We have to come to the Spirit in pray and ask the Lord to examine our hearts for anything that we love more than Him. When we feel weighed down by the cares of this world, we must yield all to the Lord and set our eyes upon the things of the Spirit.

We mustn’t fall asleep to the danger. We must not accept a beast prowling in the darkness of our hearts as normal. The danger of a weighed-down heart is nothing to ignore.

PRAYER: Father, I do not want my love to be misplaced.  I do not want to love anything more than you.  Lord, examine my heart.  Show me where I am being weighed down by the cares of this world.  Show me the good things that I pursue more than you.  Show me where my appetites are out of control.  Help me give to you those loves that I have allowed to become too elevated.  Help me keep my eyes on you.  Help me stay awake to that which I am setting my mind upon.  Keep me in your steadfast love.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“STREET CORNER OR PEW?” – Sept 27

September 27, 2013

“But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whoring on any passerby; your beauty became his.”  Ezekiel 16:15

When do our actions correlate more with the street corner than the pew?
When does one become a harlot? 

Consumerism characterizes my world.  We buy goods and services every day.  However, there is a demarcation where consumerism becomes unacceptable.  There is a level of consumerism that is completely expected and even encouraged:

English: A picture of the inside of a remodele...

English: A picture of the inside of a remodeled Walmart in Miami, Florida. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We do our grocery shopping in a variety of locations.  No one has ever accused me of being unfaithful for shopping at Wal-mart and not Fred Meyer.

I buy gasoline on regular basis.  No one has ever accused me of infidelity for stopping at a gas station that is conveniently located along my travel route.

I like to try new restaurants.  My wife has never felt betrayed by my desire to eat someplace other than our dinner table.

This level of consumerism is acceptable because there is no expectation of faithfulness.  Costco was not offended when I tried Wal-mart toilet paper and returned after discovering that their quality did not satisfy.  I did not have to sulk back into their warehouse and offer an apology.  Trying different toilet paper didn’t make me a toilet paper whore.  Consumerism is acceptable when there is no expectation of faithfulness.

However, a person will encounter chastisement once they proclaim their faithfulness but still continue to practice consumerism.

Chevrolet

Chevrolet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For years, I endured all of my cousin’s jokes about the superiority of southern California in comparison to Idaho.  I have had a lot of fun reminding him of his unfaithfulness now that he has moved to Idaho.

This sort of consumerism is still socially acceptable.  A person can move to another state without the fear of being stigmatized as a whore.  They may not be liked, particularly if they are from California, but they won’t be thought of as a harlot.  Other than a period of good-hearted ribbing, no one takes offense to a person seeking a new favorite.  Consumerism is acceptable when there is no expectation of faithfulness and a personal relationship is not involved.

Our society begins to apply a social stigma when there is an expectation of faithfulness in an intimate personal relationship.  We risk the whore label when we continue with attitude of a consumer in search of satisfaction from any person or thing, in violation of a commitment to faithfulness.  This is most evident in our views of marriage.

English: A Catholic wedding ceremony in Milwau...I have committed to be one with my wife physically, emotionally, and relationally.  When I married my wife, I made a vow to her and entered into a covenant with her and she with me.  I became hers and she became mine.  We committed to each other that we would seek our relational satisfaction only in each other as we became one before the Lord.  Consumerism has no place in marriage.  The search for someone better ended when we said, “I do”.

Therefore, I violate my promise to her when I seek to have my relational desires satisfied outside of our marriage.

I will clearly play the whore if I were to go sleep with someone else.  However, our commitment to physical fidelity can also be violated via pornography, romance novels, and the relational ideal.

I can play the whore through a platonic relationship by desiring an intimacy that was intended to be with my wife.  Our commitment to emotional fidelity can be given away through family, kids, buddies, hobbies, work, and the general chaos of life.

God describes our relationship with Him as a marriage.  He has established a covenant relationship with us.  Interpersonal faithfulness is the fundamental characteristic of this covenant relationship .  There is no place for divine consumerism after we have said “I’m yours” to God.

God said to Israel:

I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine.  (Ezekiel 16:8b)

This is how God viewed Israel following the gods of other nations:

You played the whore also with the Assyrians, because you were not satisfied; yes, you played the whore with them, and still you were not satisfied.  You multiplied your whoring also with the trading land of Chaldea, and even with this you were not satisfied.  (Ezekiel 16:28-29)

God viewed Israel’s search for satisfaction outside of His covenant relationship as adultery.  I doubt if the Israelites considered their actions as adulterous.  They were just practicing consumerism.

God viewed their actions as adultery.

We live under the new covenant.  We are new creations in Christ.  We no longer need animal sacrifices for our sins because there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  However, I  cannot find anywhere in the scriptures where the new covenant changed how God views sin.

I may not face the condemnation for my sin but my sin still has the stench of adultery.  Thankfully, I have never experienced the unfaithfulness of my spouse.  However, I can imagine the feelings of betrayal if my wife were to be unfaithful to me.

I hate the thought of my actions conveying that type of unfaithfulness to Christ.

Yet, I know that I have been unfaithful to my Lord.  I despise the fact that I have played the whore to the One who saved me.  I hate my unfaithfulness not because I am afraid that God is going to whack me.  I hate my unfaithfulness because it is such unloving behavior to show toward the One who has shown such great love to me .  Jesus said:

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  (John 14:15)

Let’s abandon our lives of divine consumerism.

May the actions of our lives communicate our love for God and not the desires of an unsatisfied whore.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for being faithful even in my unfaithfulness.  Thank you for forgiving me for seeking my satisfaction in the most unsatisfying places.  Lord, I want my actions to declare my love for you.  I want you to be glorified in all that I do and say.   Help me to be faithful to you in all of my thoughts, desires, hopes, and dreams.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“COLONOSCOPY OF THE HEART” – Sept. 17

September 17, 2013

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:11-13

I have an anniversary to celebrate.  This year is my ten year anniversary of being cancer free.

I am celebrating with a colonoscopy

English: Pictured is a physician using a remot...I realize that a colonoscopy is not much of a celebration but one thing I learned about cancer is that it is best to catch it early.  I hate getting a colonoscopy but that is the best method for catching cancer of the colon early.

I hated having cancer more than the procedure.  Therefore, I will drink the cocktail that will liquefy the contents of my gut.  I will allow a camera to travel a passage that should have remained secret.  I will relinquish a productive day to anesthesia’s groggy recovery since I have no desire to watch the live action.

I don’t get a colonoscopy because I like them.  I get a colonoscopy because I don’t want to die from colon cancer.

How foolish is it to refuse to have a colonoscopy because the procedure is uncomfortable and embarrassing?

How foolish is it to refuse to act when the colonoscopy reveals a growth?

Sometimes, the word of God feels like a colonoscopy.

“Oh Lord, don’t go there!”  is my thoughts when the Word pierces into the secrets of my intentions and thoughts.  I do not particularly like it when the duplicity of my heart is revealed.  I am not fond of being exposed to the eyes of Him to whom I must give account.

I come to the word of God and allow it to do its work because I don’t want die in unbelief. (Hebrews 3:19)

No one can fool the probing inspection of God.  All of our attitudes, thoughts, biases, and agendas are exposed to the Great Physician’s examination.  However, we can harden our hearts when we hear God’s diagnosis.  We can justify our disobedience.  We can rationalize our rebellion.  We can close His Word and refuse to acknowledge His authority.

How foolish is it to refuse to expose your heart to God’s word because you know the process will be uncomfortable and embarrassing?

How foolish is it to refuse to act when our unbelief and disobedience is revealed?

God has given us His word for our own good.  He has not left us in our rebellion.  Most of the time, I don’t like what His word shows me about myself but I know if is for my own good.  Therefore, I try to come to His word with a soft heart.  I want Him to do His work in me.  I know that polyps of unbelief still reside in me.  I want them removed.  I know that the remainder of my spiritual walk on this earth will entail the uncomfortable and embarrassing examinations of the word of God.

I want that.  I need that, daily.  Therefore, I will echo the words of David:

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. (Hebrews 4:7b)

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for softening my heart.  Thank you for your Spirit and your Word that reveal the unbelief of my heart.  Help me in my unbelief.  Continue to remove the cancer of disobedience and rebellion from my being.   Do your work in me.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“RACE EXPECTATIONS” – July 14

July 14, 2013

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealously, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.  I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace,  patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, against such things there is no law.”  Galatians 3:19-23

I am a Spudman.  Yesterday, I competed in the Spudman Triathlon, which was my first triathlon of the year and my first try at the Olympic distance.

I was a little disappointed in my results.

I had hoped to finish with a time between 2 hours 30 minutes and 2 hours 45 minutes.  I had it all figured out.  Swim the 1.5 K in 28 minutes, ride at a 20 mph average, and run at a 8:30 minute/mile pace, then I would finish right where I was hoping.

My race did not turn out as I had envisioned it in my head.  My mind pictured me gliding through the water with the race leaders.  I saw myself flying up the two big climbs like I was in the Tour de France.  The visualization was to conclude with me running like a gazelle along the Boise River.

In reality, I finished at 2 hours, 51 minutes, 37 seconds.

039As usual, I was right in the meat of the race bell curve; The Meat of Average.  I did not swim with the race leaders.  I was jostled about with swimmers all around me throughout the swim.  I emerged from the water after 31 minutes, 17 seconds.  However, I swim 1.6K in a 25 yard pool at around 32-33 minutes.

Therefore, my swim was right about what I average in training.

079The professional cycling teams will not be seeking to take me to the Tour de France next year.  The two big climbs of the course humbled me to 8 mph.  I made up time on the descent and the flats but the climbs were brutally long stretches and my average speed was only 18.7 mph.  However, I finished a similar hilly course two weeks ago and averaged only 17 mph.

Therefore, my ride was right about what I average in training.

The tranquility of the Boise River Greenbelt was not sufficient to transform me from an ox into a gazelle.  I plodded along as other competitors continually passed me and I passed no one.  There were so many familiar faces that I had raced past on the bike only to see them gracefully stride past me on the run.  It was depressing as I labored in at a 9 minute, 14 second per mile average.  However, I normally run a 10k just under 9 minutes per mile.  When you consider that I had just swam 1.5K and cycled 25 miles, my run was right about my training average considering my tired legs.089

Race day expectations should be guided by everyday training experience.  There was nothing in my training that supported my vision of 2 hour, 30 minute finish time.  However, that had not prevented me from creating all of these justifications for why my race day expectations would be different from my training experience.

There are many people who are discouraged by how they respond to temptation.  They wonder how they could get caught up into something so completely of the flesh.

Why did I click on that website;
Why did I flirt with that person;
Why did I say such a mean thing;
Why did I get so angry;
Why does that person irritate me;
Why can’t I stop wanting their life;
Why did I do something so unethical;
Why did I drink so much?

It seems to me that many folks have  expectations of  responding well to big temptations that the experience of their daily spiritual walks’ do not support.  It should not surprise us that we fall when we are not regularly and consistently walking by the Spirit and setting our minds on the things of the Spirit.

Adultery never just happens –
it comes from habitually allowing our minds to linger on the sensual and lust.
Fits of anger never just happen –
it comes from allowing our selfishness to regularly be irritated for not getting what it wants.
Major lapses into the unethical never just happen –
they come from a pattern of compromise and justifications.
Feuds never just happen –
they come from years of pride and a refusal to reconcile.

Most of us want to think that we will never do those “big” sins.  What is your confidence built upon?  Is the confidence of victory over temptation based on hopeful speculation or experience?

How is your training been going? 

Does your daily walk support your expectations? 

There are many folks who expect a spiritual response when their path has not been of the Spirit.  They expect godliness when their minds have been languishing in the godless.  Our daily walk in the Spirit is a good indicator of how we will respond to those bigger challenges of our faith.

We need to have realistic expectations.  This is no place for speculation.  If your daily walk in the Spirit is not what you know it should be, then do something about it.  All of our minor flubs and foibles do matter because they show us where our minds are set.  Those mis-steps should not be merely dismissed and justified.  They should turn us back to our Lord and Savior in repentance, love, and a desire to follow Christ with our whole heart.

We can face temptations with confidence when we face them through the power of the Spirit.  Let’s make sure that we are actually living in the power of the Spirit.  Let’s run this race of life with realistic expectations based on the joyful experience of being daily trained by the Spirit himself.

PRAYER: Lord, you know that I want to persevere to the end.  You know that I want to run well.  You also know that I am very weak.  Father, help me; fill me with your Spirit and help me to set my mind on the things of you.  Lord, I need your help to walk in the Spirit.  Thank you for helping.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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SOFT AND SWEET FRUIT – June 15

June 15, 2013

“Brothers, do not be children in your thinking.  Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.”  1 Corinthians 14:23

Ripe Plums on a plum treeI have a little plum tree that lies close to my attention throughout the summer.  The fruit from this little plum tree rarely make it into house.  When its fruit ripens, I tend to stand in our orchard and simply graze on its sweet fruit.

There are many competitors that will steal my fruit before it matures.

The birds are the worst.  They will alight upon a branch of my little plum tree and will take a single pluck of fruity flesh from a plum, knocking several others from their life sustaining moorings in the process. 

The wind will shake my little plum tree, sending even more un-ripened fruit to the ground. 

Other fruit will be so buried beneath foliage that it never feels the sun.  There is not enough time in the season for this hidden fruit to ripen.  They feel the nip of my pruning shears as they are removed to allow for other plums to mature.

And then there are the bugs; this particular nemesis will plant their young upon my precious ripening plums.  They worm their way deep inside the body of the fruit to consume it from within.

One never considers the blossoms of spring in the calculations of a fall harvest.  Mature fruit is the reason I have my little plum tree but very few of those blossoms will ever turn to mature fruit.  Therefore, I watch my little plum tree for the development of mature fruit.  The time of harvest comes when the fruit turns from hard and bitter to sweet and soft.  That transition indicates that the early spring blossoms of potential have made it through all the dangers of summer to maturity.

No fruit has ever ripened for itself. 

Plums

Plums (Photo credit: ahisgett)

Fruit matures and turns sweet so that it will be consumed.  Reproduction occurs when the seed within is planted afresh through the consumption of the fruit.  Maturity allows the seed to be transported to areas that the roots of my little plum tree could never reach. Paul encourages us to be mature in our thinking.  We are inclined to consider maturity in terms of years.  However, we know that years alone do not bring maturity.  As Father’s Day plans are being made, I cannot help but think of the perpetual adolescence of males in my culture.

There are so many men who never grow up.  They tend to be the center of their little worlds.  Many men live for their sports, hunting, fishing, job, or hobbies.  They live for the activities that bring them fulfillment.  They are living for themselves.  Often, these “mans-man” men are merely adolescent boys in advanced years.  Their identity is tied closely with their cherished manhood.

The man preoccupied by his own manhood has allowed his concern for self to stifle his thinking.  Our thinking should ripen.  Maturity comes when we begin to live for others; when we set ourselves aside.  We become softest and sweetest when we mature and allow the purpose of our life to be for those outside our skin.

There are many men who will recoil at the thought of being soft and sweet.  Their definition of manhood does not include those terms.  They think that women are the only creatures who should be soft and sweet.  A man, in their mind, should be strong and tough.  However, this often translates to hard and bitter for most.  The dangers of summer have caused their thinking to be stunted.

Maybe, they have been hurt by others plucking deep into their self-esteem.
Maybe, they have been knocked away from the sustaining nourishment of Jesus.
Maybe, they have allowed evil to get inside them and they are being consumed from within.

True manhood comes when a man becomes everything that he was created to be in Christ.  Men and women have been created to bear fruit; we have been formed to mature into our purpose.  We are supposed to be tasted so that the seed of the gospel will spread beyond us.

Real maturity is easy to recognize.  It is a life that  is comfortable and pleasing to be around.  There will be a different flavor to the fruit of a man’s life than that of a woman but it still should be sweet to the taste and easy to take.  No one wants fruit that is hard and bitter.  God implants His children with the gospel at their core.  He then ripens us through His Spirit.  He softens us.  He sweetens us.  He removes our concerns for self so that we may mature.  He matures us so that His gospel will be proclaimed by our lives.

God is glorified in our maturity because it is then that we reflect the wonderful flavor of Jesus.  Others should be able to taste our lives and know that the Lord is good.

What does your life taste like?  It might be time to ripen so more.

PRAYER: Lord, mature me.  I know that I can still be bitter.  I know that I can still be hard.  Father, forgive me for not representing your goodness like I have tasted.  Lord, help me to be an infant in evil and mature in my thinking.  Lord, remove my preoccupation with what this world defines as a man.  Make me a man after your own heart.  Make me into fruit that draws others to your gospel for your glory.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“MY PORTION OF IMMORALITY” – May 24

May 24, 2013

“We will not give our daughters to the people of the land or take their daughters for our sons. And if the peoples of the land bring in goods or any grain on the Sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on a holy day…” Nehemiah 10:30-31

The general moral decline of Western Society seems to be a favorite topic among Christians.  It does not take long before the topic is raised in some context when Christians gather.  I have heard it preached from the pulpit  in various forms.  I have discussed it after violent tragedies.  I have read about it in research studies.

This decline tends to be present in an abstract, third party manner.  Like it is something that is being imposed upon us Christians, the last bastions of moral piety in our society.  I have heard some folks attribute statistics of immorality as evidence that the end of the age is upon us.  It might be, but then again it might not.

Consider the premise of the lament; our society should be moral.

True morality is a fruit of the Spirit.  Therefore, a truly moral society is a society that is made up of individuals who are saved in Christ and filled with the Spirit.  Why would we expect a society made up of people who are not in Christ to act like they were?

What should concern those who are in Christ is not the society as a whole.  What should concern us is the body of Christ – the Church.  Our lament should be associated with all the indicators that suggest the Church is not statistically that much different than the society in which we are imbedded.   The implication is that there are a lot of unsaved people in the Church and in our society.

I know the overwhelming feeling of this lament.  What can one person do about a world that seems to be changing so quickly in the wrong direction?

God did not make changing the world our responsibility.

God did not appoint any of us with the charge of transforming our society.

God called us, as individuals, to follow Him; to love Him and to love our neighbors.

He has called us to be holy as He is holy.

He has has called us to be imitators of Him.

A moral society comes from the agglomeration of individual hearts that are seeking the Lord.  True holiness comes only from walking in the Spirit.  Walking in the Spirit comes when we are settling our minds on the things of the Spirit rather the the things of the flesh.  It comes from individuals wanting to follow Christ when they roll out of bed in the morning.  It comes from friends who want to please God more than the crowd.  It comes from parents who love their kids enough to teach them about Jesus rather than being their buddies.

I have talked with a brother who could quote the statistics of declining church attendance in Europe; yet, he was an irregular attendee here in the US.

I heard a Christian mother complain about the violent video games her sons played; games that she bought for them.

I have seen Christian girls walking through the mall wearing the “short shorts” and skin-tight tank tops; clothing their parents bought for them.

I have known parents concerned about their kid’s friends; friends that they pick-up and haul around town.

The general decry against the sexual agendas presented on television has been stated in so many ways; yet, we still are watching – we know characters and who they are sleeping with; we know every scantily cladded dancer on Dancing with the Stars.

The number of murders a child sees on TV is staggering but that has not gotten us to turn away.

We put our money down for movies and music containing images, language and beliefs that are directly contrary to that which we claim.

Basset Hound at Sesimbra, Portugal.

Basset Hound at Sesimbra, Portugal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The sad reality is that we Christians, in general, are not that distinct from the society in which we live.  I realize that I am more like the lazy basset hound, who loudly barks at those who don’t belong but wags his tail in hopes that they will bring a tasty treat, then I should be.  That speaks more to my heart condition than anything else.  I delight in the things of this world more than I should.  I like to momentarily allow my mind to rest on the things of the world.  I support the immoral through my indifference, familiarity, and occasional sampling.  My heart condition is what I present before my Lord.  I have a portion of responsibility in the general moral decline of my society.  I have no power or influence of the world.  I will let God handle the grand plan.  I am responsible for what He has called me to do – follow him with all of my heart, mind, and soul.

If we all just do that, it will be amazing to see what the Lord will do with our society.  Let’s live what we believe, lead our families in the way of the Lord, and let God take care of the rest.

PRAYER: Lord, give me a desire to be like you.  Create in me a longing for personal holiness.  Lord, I want to be a pleasing fragrance to you.  I want to walk in your Spirit continually.  Forgive me for allowing my mind to drift away from you.  Forgive me for sampling the offerings of the flesh.  Forgive me for pointing out all that is wrong with the world around me and ignoring the unrighteous desires of my own heart.  Help me to walk every step of my life in your Spirit, to produce abundant fruit.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“SHEAR PIN OF THE SPIRIT” – May 14

May 14, 2013

“But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” 1 Corinthians 8:9

I had a typical farming weekend.  I spent more time working on equipment than working with equipment.

English: Cider orchards east of Hereford 1 The...I had great plans for the weekend.  The weather has turned wonderfully warm, even hot.  The weeds of our acreage are enjoying this turn in weather just as much as I am and have shot up to meet the sun.  The result of all this vegetative growth has turned our driveway into a gravelled channel cutting through an irregular sea of flowing green.  My intention was to tame these weeds so that it appears someone actually lives at our home.  I started to back up the tractor to the brush-hog mower and  attach the drive-line to the tractor power take off (PTO).  That was when my memory was revived; humph.

At the end of last year, I had driven over something that was not inclined to be mowed.  I had not thought much about the loud bang and irregular jerk from the mower.  Just a rock, I thought, and I kept mowing until I realized that I was not really mowing.  I was just driving through a field.  I discovered that whatever I had hit had snapped the shear pin on the mower.

There is a bolt that connects the drive-line from the tractor to the mower gearbox.  The purpose of this bolt is to break.  It is to break before something more expensive breaks.   There is a lot of force contained in the spinning momentum of mower blades.  That force has to go somewhere when it collides with the immovable.  It could easily tear apart my mower if it were contained.  So, the designers of my mower gave that force a place to go in the form of a bolt.  All the forces are allowed to spin free once that bolt is broken.

The replacement of a shear pin is not a hard task if you have a shear pin.  I did not have one at the end of last year and I was mostly done mowing so I parked the mower and forgot about it.  I no longer had the luxury of neglect so I went to my garage in search of a bolt.  I searched and searched but could not find the right bolt, in diameter and length.  I finally found  a little guy of a bolt.  He sort of slopped about in the shear pin hole of the mower but I figured he would have to do.  The problem was that he was way too long.  I cut off the bolt to an approximate length, cleaned the ends on the grinder and marched out to the mower.  After banging all the pieces into alignment, I slipped my newly formed bolt into place only to discover it was a smidgen too short; ugh.

Back to the workshop I went to prepare a new, longer bolt.  More cutting, more grinding and soon I was back on top of the mower with my longer bolt and the associated washers and lock-nuts.  After a significantly longer amount of time than I had anticipated, I was ready to go.  My new bolt was all tightened in place and ready to slay some weeds.  I thought I would give my handy-work a test, so I pulled the tractor forward and engaged the drive-train.  The PTO whirled but the mower did not shutter to life.  I killed the power and went to investigate.  My handy work proved to be not very handy.  Apparently, the hole for the shear pin is not a suggestion.  It is more like a requirement.  When the power was transferred from the tractor to the mower, the shear pin sheared immediately.  It was not strong enough; Grrrr!

I was not going to be defeated.  So, I loaded the kids into the pick-up and we headed into town to get a bolt, among other things.  Two hours later with my Saturday quickly evaporating, I was back on top of my mower, tightening my new large bolt into place.  I now had a ½” diameter bolt, 3-1/2” in length, with a locking washer and a lock nut.  I was ready and my test of the mower proved it.  The mower vibrated to life as I slowly released the clutch on the tractor and power cascaded into spinning motion of metal blades.

I figured that I would clean up the edges of the driveway first.  I aligned the tractor and lowered the mower into place; turned on my ipod; selected a gear; let the clutch out and I was mowing.  The weeds had encroached rather considerably into the gravel base of our driveway so my first pass was to get our driveway back to its normal width.  I decided to lower the mower a bit since the weeds still look shaggy where I had passed.  A moment after I tapped the hydraulics, the tractor jerked and I heard a loud explosion type of noise.  I spun in the seat to see the back of the mower flopping back down to the ground and the drive-line freed like an unrestrained fire hose.  I had hit a rock; a big rock hidden in the weeds.  The mower blade hit the rock with such force that it split the six inch piece of granite into two three inch pieces of granite.  The really unfortunate part was that the force also split my new bolt in pieces.  My shear pin had once again sheared.  I was done because I had only bought one bolt.  Arrrghhhh!

I considered my options as I cooled myself in the shade of our front porch with a glass of ice water in my hand.  I could get a higher-strength bolt.  I could get a more rigid connection.  I could weld it.  All of those were bad ideas because the bolt had actually done what it was designed to do.  My intention is not to mow rocks.  I don’t want to contain forces that are beyond the shear strength of a ½ inch bolt.

I just needed to get more bolts.

This frustrating experience caused me to think about the work of the Holy Spirit in my life.  It seems like much of the Spirit’s work serves as shear pins of sorts. The Spirit guides us in order that we stay on purpose but out of troublesome boughs.  I wonder how many times when I feel like something has snapped and the power evaporated that it has been the Spirit keeping me from something that could do real damage to my soul.

A good understanding of scripture and a meaningful prayer life are the shear pins of the Spirit’s work in our lives.  I have seen a misapplication of scripture get people in all sorts of trouble.  On the one side, there are some who have interpreted scripture in a manner that they have to isolate themselves from the world.  They have applied a very weak shear pin.  Their approach to life snaps when there is no real danger to their soul.  They have a very difficult time accomplishing anything because just engaging God’s power in their life will snap the defaults that they have created.

There are others who have gone to the other extreme.  They have inserted a shear pin that has numbed the restraining work of the Spirit in their lives.  They can do anything and accept anything because there is nothing that can snap their philosophical underpinnings.

The selection of the right spiritual shear pins in every Christians life is the work of the Spirit.  We have a tremendous amount of freedom in Christ.  There are some activities that may be sinful for one brother or sister and not for another.  These are the shear pins that the Spirit has given us to protect us and make us effective.  I cannot tell anyone what their appropriate shear pin is.

However, we should consider what boundaries we have set and why.  We should have strong scriptural reasons, confirmed through our spirit in prayer, for what we do and don’t do.  The hole that God has given in our lives for the application of His word is a specific size, for a specific purpose.  It is not too small or too big.  It is just the right size for where we are right now.  We just need to be intentional, through seeking the Lord, in the application of the Word of God in our lives.

The Word of God has been given to teach us and protect us.  May we choose our shear pins, wisely.

PRAYER: Father, I thank you for your Word.  Thank you for your Spirit.  Thank you for guiding me and teaching me.  Father, show me the boundaries that are appropriate for me.   Give me the appropriate boundaries and checks in my life to keep me fully engaged with you.  Lord, I want to follow you, whole heartedly in the full power of your Spirit.  Show me the right shear pins for my life.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“FORGETTING OURSELF” – April 8

April 8, 2013

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 13:52

I have a tendency of forgetfulness.  I don’t think it is a dementia type of forgetfulness, at least I hope not.  I think it is a preoccupation type of forgetfulness.  I have had to rush from my office on more than one occasion, breaking free from the after-hours cocoon of solitude, to pick up my kids.  I have been lost in conversation to discover that hours have slipped past.  I have been entranced by the promise of the next page and lost afternoons in books.

There is some forgetfulness that is good and there is some that is very bad.  However, there is a forgetfulness that I wish was permanent and that I don’t experience as often as I would like.

I am rarely forgetful about myself.  How about you?

When given a picture that you are in, where do your eyes go? 

If you see someone in new clothes, do you wonder what you would look like in them?

How often do you tickle a conversation back to your life and experience?

Are you insulted when your opinion is not requested or you are not included?

Is it your expectation to receive complimentary comments on your new haircut?

When you see a great relationship, are you inclined to question your own?

Do you feel bad when “how is it going” is not asked?

Do your feelings preoccupy your mind?

Do you want your children to behave well because it reflects upon you and your parenting?

Do the opinions of others weigh heavy upon you?

Do the good estimations of friends cause you to change your behavior?

Are compliments a condition of your service?

We are told that our old self was crucified with Christ and has been set free from sin.  We are no longer bound to our old sinful ways.  Through Christ, we have put off our old selves and those associated practices and put on our new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of our Creator.  This on-going renewal is a work of God in our minds.  Our knowledge, how we think, must be renewed after the image of our Creator.  The renewal of our new self is not measured by our level of obedience.  Self-control is not mastery over a rebellious body.  True self-control comes from a mind that does not think about self.   Sin is the manifestation of a self-indulgent mind.  A mind preoccupied with one’s self is a mind that is prone to seek itself first.

The pursuit of today’s self-esteem is the seed of tomorrow’s anguished confession.

A mind that does not think upon itself is a mind that is freed to seek God first and wholly.  The fallen condition of every person enslaved them in a mind that binds them to seeking first the kingdom of self; a mind that is set upon the things of themselves.  Every person has a kingdom of self that resides between their ears.  The ruler of this old kingdom is our old minds.

We do not want to subjugate that ruler.  The old ruler of our mind can mask himself into following religion because in even the most selfless appearing sacrifice his appetite for praise and adoration is still fed.  That old ruler cannot coexist with our new mind that is being renewed in knowledge after the image of our Creator.  The old ruler of the kingdom of self must be put to death and the kingdom of self must be allowed to fall and crumble away.

The renewal of our minds allows us to forget about ourselves.  There is a forgetfulness that is good.  It is a forgetfulness that comes from a preoccupation of God.  It is a forgetfulness that comes from a mind that is intentionally set upon the things of the Spirit.

A mind that is forgetful of itself is a mind that will experience the most liberating of self-control.  It is a self-control of freedom rather than a self-control of excessive personal discipline.  Self-control is the natural result of a mind that is not thinking about itself.

Effortless self-control comes from a mind that wholly loves God in all ways with a mind that has forgotten itself.

PRAYER: Lord, I am so prone to think upon how things affect me.  Forgive me for falling into the great temptation of contemplation that swirls around my own feelings rather than upon You and You alone.  Lord, teach me how to forget myself; it is impossible for me to do on my own.  I need the work of your Spirit in my life to free me from my thought on myself.  Lord, I want the effortless self-control that comes only from You.  The self-control that brings you all the glory for it is your work.  Father, please continue your work of renewing my mind for your glory and praise.  Amen.

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“CLEAN OR UNCLEAN ASSOCIATIONS” – Mar. 12

March 12, 2013

“In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air.  And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”  But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”  And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.”  Acts 10:12-15

There is a new church coming to your town.  I wonder if you will attend.

It is a church where:

Children run up and down the aisles;

Your race is the minority;

People talk at inappropriate times during the service;

Some are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction;

An ashtray is outside for the smokers;

The worship service has some hip-hop;

A few believe that deodorant is optional;

The police are aware of a few of the attendees;

The guys have longer hair than the girls;

Some are struggling with pornography addiction;

Some unwed teens are pregnant;

Not all have homes to return to;

A few effeminate men and masculine women attend;

Occasionally, feet are placed on the furniture;

The underwear of several young men can be seen;

Some, struggling with cursing, fail here;

The local tattoo artist references many attendees in his portfolio;

There is no doxology.

Church HDRIs this the type of church that you seek?  I know the reasons why these are not the attributes that appeal to my family and me.  I don’t see these attributes in the vision statements of most churches.  I wonder how much of our religious Church culture creates the same results as the Jewish culture of Peter’s time.

And he (Peter) said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.” Acts 10:28

Our Christian doctrines don’t have specific laws about who we can associate with or visit like the Jews did.  However, consider the end results.  Isn’t the typical church on a Sunday morning almost as homogenous as any Synagogue in Jerusalem during Peter’s time?

Mine is.

It is as if the welcome mats at our Sunday gatherings have an unwritten expectation of what we consider clean and acceptable.  The unclean don’t seem to get past it.

Are there folks out in your community who you would prefer not to associate with on Sunday morning? 

Are there some who you consider too rough? 

Are there some who are simply uncouth? 

Are there some who you have determined are unclean and should not be associated with?

Peter was sent to the very people he believed he should not associate with.  God showed him that he should not call any person common or unclean.  I have never heard anyone in the mainstream of Christian community call any group of people unclean.  However, do our actions confess to a heart that has judged another person as unfit to be associated with?

To my shame, I think that my actions do.  I don’t think that I have actively pursued a course of pious dissociation but I look at the reality of my life.  I rarely associate with anyone who does not look like me.  I wonder what a disinterested third-party would infer of my beliefs based on an evaluation of the people with whom I associate.

I think that we all need to be very careful about letting our social preferences creep into our definitions of acceptable.  In Galatians 1:11-14, we are told that Peter stumbled due to this mindset.  He withdrew from the Gentiles.  Those same people whom God had said were clean he withdrew from because of social pressures. We don’t have any written rules or laws about who we can associate.  However, we sure seem to withdraw from those who make us uncomfortable.

Brothers and sisters, let’s evaluate our hearts to make sure that the reason for the uniformity of our associates is not due to some attitude of withdrawal that has the effect of keeping the uncomfortable away.  Remember, those who make us uncomfortable need a Savior just as much as you and I.  I am not sure how to immediately apply this to my life.  Maybe, we are to be like Peter, when the Lord sent the unclean to him.  Peter opened the door and was welcoming.  Maybe, we should prepare our hearts and make sure we display a welcoming attitude for all those who expect to be rejected.

PRAYER: Lord, I don’t know if the reason for the similarity of all my friends is due to an inappropriate attitude or simply due to where you have me.  Either way, examine my heart, Lord.  Don’t allow me to be unwelcoming to those whom you bring into my life.  Lord, I want to be like Peter and go to those who you send to me regardless of social pressures or personal preference.  Father, may your Church be the most welcoming place in the world for those who are truly seeking you.  Amen

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