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God Stoops!

October 6, 2014

I was recently reading Psalms 113. In this Psalm David is praising the name of God. David wants God’s name to be held high forever, “from the rising of the sun to its setting”. In other words, all day all the time! Why should we do that? Because The Lord is high above all nations. I find that comforting in today’s world after reading the headlines.

He is higher than the Supreme Court. His name is stronger than Putin’s or Isis’. His glory is grander than the United States. His glory reaches higher than the heavens. David says that no one is like Him. He is enthroned on high. Our God is in control. All authority is His. He doesn’t consult with world leaders or poll takers. He rules with all power and might. His rule is absolute and just. No one else can compare to Him – no king, ruler, president, dictator…no one. He is majestic and powerful. And yet…

And yet David tells us – has the audacity to tell us this majestic, powerful being “humbles Himself to behold”. In other words, God stoops to look around and see what is going on in heaven and on earth. God stops His day, His agenda, to watch us. (Though God is not ruled by time – He rules time. He has no agenda – all is His to do as He wishes.)

The very idea that God humbles Himself to observe mankind on earth should stop us in our tracks! Consider that fact for minute. Why would God humble Himself to watch us? David says “He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap” to make them sit with the princes of His people.” and He makes the childless woman live like a happy mother of children.

All right…here you have poor people in the dust. That’s not just speaking of those in poverty. That includes those whose dreams have turned to dust…He raises them, too. And He lifts the needy from the ash heap. That makes me think of the time last year I went to the area in Colorado Springs that was devastated by raging wildfires. Nothing but ashes. All was gone. Even the iron beams which held the homes up were twisted and scorched. It was a serious ash heap! God lifts those that are scorched by life, something has twisted their security, their future. He not only lifts them up but He makes them sit with princes – a place of honor. And the ones with hidden shame and regret He puts in a secure, loving environment of joy. He does it tenderly knowing where the wounds are and how deep they go with the searing pain.

Often when we go through a jarring, searing experience we demand, “Where is God?” This Psalm tells us. He’s right here. He knows our condition. He loves us. From the lowest, and lost, and least, and last – which means all of us!

David ends the Psalm with this declaration: “Praise the Lord!”

Yes, after all our God is and has done for us it is fitting to praise Him from the rising of the sun until the setting of the same.

Should Christians Practice Yoga?

October 1, 2014

Yoga is the trend. I myself have taken yoga classes and found it helpful as an exercise and way to relax. The local Baptist church offered a class in the basement each Monday and I enjoyed it – the stretching was good for me. But I also was aware that there were questions surrounding whether or not a Christian should practice yoga. I reasoned that since I was just using it as exercise and not engaged in the religious practice or meditation part that it was okay.

Then I read this written by a friend who has studied it and is very knowledgeable. I also talked with a native of India who knows yoga practice first-hand.

What seems innocent and benign… I pass this on for your own interest and information. I stopped going to my yoga classes and took up Pilates. I’ll let you decide for yourself.

http://truthbuildersonline.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/should-christians-do-yoga.pdf

Truth Builders is a wonderful resource for believers who want to be informed from a Biblical world view. I trust it.

God is lavish.

September 22, 2014

Every Thursday I am in town I attend the community Bible study at Advancing Native Missions, an organization that supports indigenous missionaries around the globe. The gift they give to our community is this Bible study on Thursday mornings. It is a highlight of my week. Not only do we have a Bible study but we are given a mission report from somewhere in the world where God is at work be it Africa, the Philippines, Egypt, Turkey… As an American I get so myopic and see everything through my own cultural framework. That’s normal. But it is good to shake that and see the world from different points of view with the Biblical worldview…

I’ve mentioned to you before that as I walk the hallway, I feel I walk amongst giants. I am so privileged.

So…I went last Thursday and one of the chaplains was teaching on the story of Jesus changing the water into wine. It is a familiar story I have always liked. Jesus was at a large party – a wedding. A happy occasion. Jesus enjoyed having fun. He is not the grim, always serious person we make Him out to be so often. I mean all you have to do is look at the platypus to know He has a sense of humor!

Everyone was enjoying themselves but with so many guests the wine ran out – a huge embarrassment for the groom. Jesus’ mother tells him in an apparent effort to get Jesus to do something about this. He reminded her that He was not on earth to “fix” things. Mary was not focused on His true purpose. She knew what it was – the angel told her at the same time he told she was going to have a child. But she lost the focus for a bit. No doubt she relied on Him heavily after Joseph died (We assume he died during Jesus’ childhood, but we are not told.) and she was just used to taking everything to Jesus.

But Jesus does take things in hand and tells the servant to fill six water jars that were standing nearby. These jars were used to hold water for washing hands and feet before and during a meal. Big jars – each holding 20 gallons – that’s 120 gallons! When the jars are filled to the brim Jesus tells the servants to take a sample to the steward. When he has tasted it he declared it was the best wine and was amazed that it being served at the end of the party when most people would have had too much wine and wouldn’t know the difference.

I know there are discussions in some circles as to whether Jesus actually turned the water into wine. I believe He did. And am not sure the point is worth arguing! What I want to note is the lavishness of the event. At lease 120 gallons of wine – not just an extra bottle or two – 120 gallons! That figures to be about 1500 bottles. At $100 a bottle (for really fine wine) that’s $150,000.

How extravagant! How lavish! That’s how God does things. He is not stingy – reluctant to give us of His bounty. But I confess that often that is how I see Him. But that is wrong. He loves to give to His children. We are told in Luke that “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12) Also He says “And why are yo anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin. Yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. But if God arrays the grass of the filed, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you…?)” (Mt. 6)

You can be sure Solomon was dressed to the nines. Nothing spared. Solomon was known for his lavishness and excess. The Queen of Sheba testified to that saying, that while she had heard of Solomon’s greatness, the half had not been told!

We have a greater that Solomon taking care of us! He is lavish in His love and care. He is extravagant. What is more excessive than giving your only Son to die for a bunch ungrateful, prideful sinners on planet earth just for the pleasure of having their company?! He loves us like that!

You’ve heard the ad on the radio with Tom Selleck’s voice saying, “Take time to be a dad today.” Take time to praise God today!

Child Abuse vs. Spanking

September 18, 2014

NFL’s Adrian Peterson was suspended from the Minnesota Vikings, reversing an earlier decision to let the investigation proceed before making a judgment. What happened to “innocent until proven guilty”? The man has been judged as having abused his child for spanking him with a “tree branch”. In reality it was a “switch” – a flexible twig meant to sting the legs.

My mother used them on my siblings and me. She made us go pick our own switch and if it wasn’t strong enough then she would go choose one. If we were disrespectful we got a good “switching”. My parents believed in corporal punishment. It wasn’t child abuse! When does the NFL and the corporate sponsors like Nike, get the right and authority to tell a man how to discipline his child? This is getting way out-of-bounds.

If there was, indeed, child abuse (and there are those that think spanking is child abuse, I do not) then let it be determined. But the media has taken this and run with it so that a man’s reputation and career are in the balance.

The NFL player that knocked his now-wife out with a punch needs some anger management and she needs counseling. That was a clear case of abuse. And they don’t need my 2 cents worth. But spanking your child is not in the same ball park.

I spanked my children. I used a wooded spoon. My mother used a switch (“tree branch”), belt, shoe tree and once a brush – she hit my sister with the wrong side so my sister went to school with red bumps on her legs like measles! It was not child abuse! We were being disciplined for disrespect, lying. We didn’t see it as or feel it as abuse but parental love.

Now before you jump all over me Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived said, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.”

After I posted this I was in my car listening to Glenn Beck. He was talking about this incident. He had seen a picture of the 4 yr. old son of Adrian Peterson. Glenn said the boy was badly bruised all over. Glenn said it was a clear case of abuse. He made the point not to spank a chile in anger – it can quickly escalate. That is not what I am talking about or advocating.

There is no place for an adult, especially a big football player, to beat a small child…any child.

My first “Selfie”

September 17, 2014

I am just back from a two-week beach vacation. I had a wonderful time – one of the best vacations I have ever had. Maybe because I needed it more than I ever have! I didn’t do anything particularly different. I was in the same house, on the same beach with the same people as in previous years.

What was different? I do think part of it was that I did need to get away. I was closing in on burnout. But this year I gave myself permission to do nothing. Oh, I took a sack full of books I needed to read and things I wanted to write. But I didn’t touch some of the books and I didn’t write anything worthwhile. I just relaxed.

As I re-read that last statement I realize how foolish it is. Relaxing is worthwhile – very worthwhile. So I did a lot that was important. No I wasn’t busy. No I didn’t check things off of a list. And to be honest, it felt very good. I came to see I need to do more of it.

Relaxing feels good. We do far too little of it. And when I say relax I am not saying be lazy or a sluggard.
Here are some photos! Notice my first attempt at a “selfie”!
SelfieIMG_0479

I am saying give yourself a break. They say that if you are sitting at a desk working you should get up and walk around ever two hours or so. Go outside and breathe fresh air. Well, that should apply to our months and years. When we work steadily at a job we need a break once in a while. That’s why most companies give paid vacations. It makes for better workers. Even God rested! And He knew we needed rest – that’s what Sunday is all about! A day of rest. Sabbaticals are necessary for everyone. We function best when rested.

There are no crowns for exhaustion!

Silence and Praise

August 18, 2014

I read Psalm 65 the other morning (I love the Psalms!) then just before I closed my Bible I paused for a moment. Verse one says “there will be silence before Thee and praise in Zion…” I wanted to think about that. Silence. And praise. One does not overrule the other. You can praise in silence. (Something some of these newer churches don’t seem to understand – there isn’t much room for silence in their services…but that’s a subject for another blog!)

Anyway, I reread the chapter and certain words caught my eye…

God hears, forgives, chooses, blesses, brings near, satisfies, establishes, stills, causes joy, visits. He is not up in heaven just idly observing us – closely. He knows what is going on and is active on our behalf.

Words like overflow, greatly, enrich, full, prepare, abundant, soften, bless, crown, bounty, fatness, rejoicing, joy and sing fill this chapter! Such lavishness. It catches one’s breath and silences us. But then the praise cannot be contained! We must sing and shout the goodness of our mighty, lavish God.

It reminds me of II Corinthians 9:8: “God is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things and at all times, having every thing you need you will abound to every good work.” He gives so that we will be able to give. He fills so that we will pour out.

What are we giving? What are we pouring out? Can these same descriptive words be said of us? Me? Do I listen to people and really hear what they are saying? Do I readily forgive – even the repeated slights? Do I chooses to engage and bless others? Is my life one that softens a situation? Is my life marked by joy and singing?

Even as I write these questions I am convicted that it is not always true in my heart. I am too frequently more tuned into self than others. My heart is so burdened by my own concerns I don’t see or sense another’s anxiety. My burdens suffocate my capacity for joy and singing. I am not very God-like, I am grieved to admit.

But the good news is that I don’t have to stay that way! Going back to Psalm 85. God hears, forgives…

Suicide

August 15, 2014
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Suicide is a very serious thing. It has been in our news this week as actor Robin Williams took his own life.

It is very sad. Robin Williams was very talented. I don’t know if he knew God or not. He made light of God in his comedy routine and he could be very crude and profane. My prayer has been that the only One who could have offered him hope and solace met Robin in his deepest despair.

God is faithful. There is no question about that. Faithfulness is a part of His character. However, we all have choice – His faithfulness does not overrule our free will to choose.

There are those that see no way out, they have lost all hope – in life, in God. They cannot see or feel the faithfulness, love, mercy of God at that moment. It is all darkness – no hint of light so they resort to something that they think will bring relief – they take their own life. It is a mental illness.

I do not believe, as many do, that if someone takes their own life they automatically go to hell. The unpardonable sin is the ultimate rejection of the Person and work of Jesus Christ. He came to seek and to save those that are lost. He came not to condemn us but to save us.

I find great comfort in something my mother said long ago, “God did not call them home, but He welcomed them home.”

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