Thoughts of a messed up Christian saved by God's grace

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Angel in a red pickup truck

 I was on my way to work this morning and just as I turned onto a road that I take to work, a red pickup pulled out. I admit I am an impatient driver and was irritated as he slugged along at 20 mph in a 35 mph zone. Fortunately I didn't follow him very long as he went left where I went right at the next crossroad.

  About 15 minutes later as I topped a small hill and hit a flat area, I saw movement to my right and automatically slowed. A deer was running from the direction of the road and had obviously crossed just before I came up the hill. As I braked I glanced around to make sure it didn't have any friends straggling along behind, and saw no other dear. Muttering a "Thank God" that I hadn't hit the deer, I went on my way. But as I drove, I was thinking.

  Narrowly missing that deer might not be a big deal to most people, but it was to me. If you know me very well, then you know that I never hit a deer in my life until I had my previous car that I got rid of in February. I hit a grand total of 4 deer with that car. Three were in the space of about 8 months, and the last two were in the space of 2 weeks. It has made me very cautious and jumpy as I drive to work in the dark or almost daylight. Every morning before I leave the house, I pray for God's protection and help for the day and pray that I don't hit any deer....honestly I do. I may be the only person who prays that, but that is how paranoid and fearful I have become of hitting a deer.

I only had my current vehicle a couple of weeks and had 2 close calls with a deer, so I put those things on my bumper that are supposed to scare the deer away. As I drove this morning, I wondered... was it the contraptions on the front of my car that caused me to avoid hitting that deer? Was it my prayer? Was it being held up for a few seconds behind a slow moving pick up that delayed me just enough for me to miss the deer? What if the truck was put there by God? What if..... what if it was angel driving that pickup to slow me down long enough to miss hitting a deer.

  Seem far-fetched? Possibly. God has a lot more important things to do than to help me avoid hitting my fifth deer, or does He?

  I seriously doubt God would send an angel to drive a pickup slow just so I'd miss a deer, but He could orchestrate that vehicle pulling out just then and going 15 miles below the speed limit, knowing if I hit another deer that I'd be devastated and be more of a basket case while driving to work.

  Too many of us tend to think our problems and situations are too small and insignificant for God to notice or intervene in, yet if He sees the sparrow fall and cares about the lilies of the field, how much more does He care about every detail of our lives? Even helping someone avoid hitting a deer with a car.

  I don't know how much God will reveal to us when we get to Heaven, and we probably won't even care at that point. It is possible He will pull back a curtain and we will see all of the times He caused Heavenly hindrances in our lives to protect us. The time our car wouldn't start, protecting us from a bad car accident that would have taken lives. The time we got held up in the check-out line that prevented us from being mugged and robbed. The job we didn't get that would have led us far from Him. The relationship that didn't work out because God knew he or she wasn't the right one. Only God knows what He has kept us from using delays and what looks like non answers to prayers we have prayed. If we could see our lives from Heaven's point of view, we might be thankful for delays and not always having our prayers answered the way we want.

  Maybe it was the deer horns as they are called that prevented me from hitting the deer this morning. Maybe it was the pickup delaying me a few seconds....and maybe it was all God. I don't think it will hurt just giving Him the credit and being thankful to Him, and not a couple pieces of plastic on my bumper.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Slavery, the Holocaust, and Abortion

 I have studied and read about the Holocaust and the issue of slavery a lot in my life. The same thoughts always go through my mind:

1) How could Christians own slaves and participate in such a horrible practice?

2) How could other Christians turn a blind eye to slavery and not take measures to put a stop to it sooner?

3) How could Christians in Germany and elsewhere let the Holocaust happen? Why did America not try to do something sooner?

  And then we have abortion. I don't do much about it, I admit. I pray for it to end. I always vote for pro-life candidates in any election, and I share articles about it on line. I have even stood in a few pro-life rallies, but what I have done isn't much.

  These three things, abortion, the Holocaust, and slavery have similarities:

1) In all 3, the victims were and are not seen as human life.

2) In all 3, the victims had and have no voice or rights.

3) In all 3, a political party did all they could do for the cause of keeping the atrocity legal.

4) All 3 are evil

5) Opponents of all 3 are demonized and made into the bad guys and often punished for their efforts to end or thwart the practices.

  There are probably more, but those ones stick out to me. The Holocaust is long past, though there is an increasing hatred towards Jews and Israel brought on largely by our anti-Israel president and media and by an increasing acceptance and tolerance of Islam. Slavery in America is long past, though many won't let it go, and slavery of all colors and races exist other places in the world.

  But abortion still exists. And is championed by liberals and feminists. It should bother anyone with a soul that one of the main platforms of the Democratic party is abortion, the "right" for mothers to kill their babies in the womb. Think on that. Almost every Democrat who runs for an office champions killing babies in the womb. Anyone with a conscience and capable of intelligent thought and compassion should run from voting for such candidates..... yet people who profess to be Christians vote for these baby-killing champions by the thousands.

  Barack Obama is the most pro-abortion president we have ever had, and many Christians thronged after him and voted for him twice. This same man while a Senator was the only Senator to vote against a bill that would require abortion facilities to try to save aborted babies who survived. Our oh so compassionate president wanted them to leave the baby lying there until he or she died. How could anyone with a conscience vote against that bill? How could anyone with a conscience vote for a man like that? One of his first actions as president was to restore funding to organizations overseas that do abortions. He has fought his whole presidency to help the cause of killing babies.

  The same people who have no problem with voting for politicians who so crassly champion killing babies would never vote for someone who voted to abort puppies and kittens. Our country seems more concerned about the treatment of animals than the killing of babies. Maybe we have just gotten too used to it, or believe the lie that it isn't a baby but a blob of tissue. That it isn't murder but a "procedure." That it isn't ending a life, but it is "women's rights."

  A few weeks ago, Facebook was full of people demanding the Confederate flag come down, and cheering when it was taken down...... as if that was some wonderful landmark decision that would accomplish more than a hill of beans. Since then, two videos have been put on line that have Planned Parenthood directors discussing selling organs and other parts of aborted babies. In the most recent one, the woman is joking that she wants to buy a Lamborghini so she'd like to get more money out of the baby parts.

And you know what? My Facebook friends who thought the flying of a flag was so offensive that they had to keep posting about it, are silent about these two videos. I could be wrong, but I don't think any of them have said a peep about the videos. Or have the people who are always posting "save the animals" stuff.

  Now I am not saying everyone has to be posting pro-life stuff all of the time because I do..... but it seems we post things important to us and that we are passionate about. I never post "save the animals" stuff because I am not an animal lover and that just isn't important to me. Am I for abuse and neglect of animals? No, but isn't even in the same galaxy of importance for me as abortion and some other issues are.

  But it does bother me a bit when people are so passionate about things that aren't really that important and never about those that are. Maybe we have just gotten too apathetic and used to abortion. Maybe we don't like to think about the realities of innocent babies being ripped apart in the womb of their mother who view them as an inconvenience to be gotten rid of. Abortion is far worse an evil than a deserted puppy or a flag that lost its significance 150 years ago.

  We went to war to stop Hitler and his horrific treatment and killing of Jews. A war ended slavery whether or not that was the aim of the war. What will we do, what will it take to end this terrible atrocity we call abortion?

  The Holocaust was ended. Slavery in America was abolished. I am sure at the time there were sane individuals on the opposing sides of the issue that wondered if those horrible practices would ever end, but they did. I look at abortion and wonder the same. Will America ever wake up enough and stop their apathy, get our heads out of the sane and also stop this modern day Holocaust on the unborn? I believe it can be done, but it won't be easy or won't be done overnight like banning a flag. So what can we do? What should we do?

1) Vote pro-life. I don't believe there is any more important issue when voting than this one. Many may disagree with me, but I believe a vote for a pro-abortion candidate is a vote for abortion.

2) Pray. And pray hard, but if we don't do #1, there is no sense in praying.

3) Support pro-life organizations and crisis pregnancy centers that offer pro-life alternatives.

4) Call our congressmen and ask them to de-fund Planned Parenthood and to stop using tax dollars to fund abortion.

5) Go to pro-life rallies and hold peaceful protests.

  If there was a building in our town where they were taking children and toddlers and cruelly ripping them apart, we'd do something about it. If they were ripping puppies or kitties apart in or out of the womb, we'd do something. Well, they are doing that with babies in the womb and those babies matter as much and are as much of a life as a toddler or child, and much more than an animal. What are we going to do about it?

  The excuse has been used by some that since it is a law, we just need to accept that there is nothing we can do, but that is a lousy excuse. In some civilizations, sex with kids has been and is legal..... does that mean it is OK and no one should try to stop it? A very small minority just changed  the law that marriage was between a man and a woman.....Christians far outnumber the amount of gay people in this country. It is time we stood shoulder to shoulder and send abortion where we sent slavery and the Holocaust.... into the dustbin of history and into hell where it came from.

  A mob went after a flag. Let's go after something that will really make a difference: de-fund the evil Planned Parenthood corporation, and work on ending abortion here in the US. Two down, one to go.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Calling God a liar.....thoughts from a walk

  I took a walk this evening with my iPod plugged in. A favorite Praise and Worship by Chris Tomlin played, My Grace Is Enough." I have a lot of "stuff" on my mind. There are doubts and fears of tomorrow, and as the song played, the thought went across my mind "not sure there is enough grace for me." Immediately, I felt a rebuke from God.

   The Bible talks a lot about trusting God and not doubting Him. It is easy to pull our righteous robes around us and like the rich young ruler, announce we have kept all of God's commandments from our youth up, yet many of us doubt God...... and maybe it is a bigger thing to Him than we want to admit.

 Something that hit me as I walked and thought about doubting God, is we basically call God a liar when we doubt Him.

He says "My grace is enough for you". I say "no it isn't".
He says "I love you with an everlasting love." I say "you can't possibly love me."
He says "I know what is best for you". I say "no, I know what is best for me."
He says "I have a purpose for your life." I say "You can't possibly."

 No matter how you slice or dice it, we are calling God a liar when we tell Him things like that. And I am sure I am not the only person who does it.

  God isn't like us with our vulnerabilities and emotions, though He loves and experiences anger, jealousy, and other emotions. Can you hurt God's feelings? I don't think so, at least not in the way we are hurt, but He must experience some emotion when we basically call Him a liar. Imagine how that would make us feel?

  What if you told your spouse you loved them and they were the only one for you, and they replied saying they were sure you loved someone else more. Or you told your kids you loved them and they replied with incredulity and said if you did, then why......

  Most of us rarely say things like that to the loved ones in our lives... if you do, than your marriage and family need help..... yet we dare to talk to the the God of the universe that way? To tell Him He is wrong when it comes to us. If you really think about it, it is complete arrogance on our part to tell God we don't think He is right.

  The best thing we can do when the temptations to doubt and infer or tell God He is wrong, is to do like Thomas. Just say "I believe, help my unbelief."

Sunday, July 12, 2015

On the Potter's wheel

  The theme of the conference I attended last month was "Masterpieces In Process." And it is a process. A long drawn out process.

  In Jeremiah 18, God told Jeremiah to go down to the potter's house. As Jeremiah watched the potter working on a jar, it didn't turn out the way the man wanted, so he crushed up the clay and started again. Although the message was for Israel, it is one for us today. When we don't turn out the way God wants, when we mess up and our actions don't line up with His plan, He doesn't toss us aside. He puts us back on the wheel and works on us again. He remolds and reshapes.

  There is a song that goes like this:

Empty and broken, I came back to Him
A vessel unworthy, so scarred by sin.
But He did not despair...He started over again
And I bless the day, He didn't throw the clay away.

Over and over, He molds me and makes me,
Into His likeness, He fashions the clay.
A vessel of honor, I am today,
All because Jesus didn't throw the clay away.

He is the Potter...I am the clay
And molded in His image, He wants me to stay.
Oh, but when I stumble...
When I fall...
When my vessel breaks,
He just picks up those pieces,
He does not throw the clay away...

Over and over, He molds me and makes me,
Into His likeness, He fashions the clay.
A vessel of honor, I am today,
All because Jesus didn't throw the clay away.

  I feel like I have spent my entire life on the potter's wheel. I look at others who seem to be the perfect masterpiece. They are worthy vessels God uses in mighty ways. And then there is me....a lump of clay being remolded and reshaped......over and over again. I have so many flaws and imperfections that I wonder if I'll ever get off of the potter's wheel and not need more work.

  But yet, it should be a good sign if God has us on the wheel reshaping and working on us. That means He hasn't given up on us and still sees value in us. I would much rather be on the potter's wheel than tossed aside on the garbage pile.

  I don't know much about clay or potter's wheels, but I would imagine there comes a time when the clay is too hard to be molded anymore. It is no longer resilient and soft, but difficult to reshape anymore and must be thrown away. I don't ever want to be like that. I want to always be soft and malleable. If God wants to reshape and remold me, I want to be willing and able to be put on the wheel and worked on and over again. I don't ever want to get to the place where I consider myself done, to think I am a masterpiece and God doesn't need to work on me anymore.

  And it is easy to look at others who God is using and think they have it all together, but we don't know what is going on behind the scenes. God may have them on the wheel and reworking them also, and we don't know what they went through to get to where they are. Sometimes the clay goes through the fire before it is ready to be used.

  There is song that has been on my mind a lot lately, another song about clay and the potter: "I'll Trust the Potter's Hand".

Here on the potter’s wheel, I find myself once more,
My faults and frailties bring me here just like before,
With strong and loving hands the pressure is applied,
Oft times I tremble as He puts me thru the fire

I’ll trust the potter’s hands, He knows what’s best for me,
He has a perfect plan these human eyes can’t see,
He’s the potter I’m the clay,
He knows just how much I can take,
When I face the fire again I’ll trust the potter’s hands

His hands work deep inside and He makes no mistakes,
Though it seems I’ll crumble down and I can hardly stand the pain,
But into His own design, He is molding me I know,
Though my world spins all around the potter’s in control

I’ll trust the potter’s hands, He knows what’s best for me,
He has a perfect plan these human eyes can’t see,
He’s the potter I’m the clay,
He knows just how much I can take,
When I face the fire again I’ll trust the potter’s hands

  And therein lies the rub: trusting the Potter. I want to jump ahead to the finished product. I want to skip the trials, heartaches, temptations, and any discomfort and just arrive at being a masterpiece and a finished vessel. It is too easy for me to doubt and think God doesn't have my best interests at heart, when He is most likely just plopping me back on the wheel to work on me some more. I am stubborn, and tend to think I know what is best for me. The truth of the matter is I don't know what is best for me, but He does. And if I spend the rest of my life on the Potter's wheel being remolded and reshaped, then so be it. At least I can rest in knowing He still values me and has a plan.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

There but for the grace of God go I

As I was at my afternoon post in the main lobby of the hospital I work at yesterday, a man who had just been released from the behavioral health unit came up to the desk. As with so many people who spend time there, he was unkempt, not too clean, and showed the signs of years of drug abuse and sinful wasteful living.

  He asked to use the courtesy phone, and the lady at the desk told him how to use it. As he talked for quite some time, I heard enough to know he was trying to get off of heroin, he had HIV and Hepatitis, and he was trying to get into rehab. He finally finished his call and sat down around the corner out of sight. I don't figure one can catch HIV or Hepatitis from a phone, but just to be safe, I got some sani-wipes and wiped down the phone....only to have him come up and use the phone again for several minutes. And he indicated he would be using it again.

  A while later, someone came down from the behavioral health unit and got on this guy for missing the bus. The man told him he was trying to get into a rehab center, which got him a lecture about how he needed to really try this time, etc. The worker left to get him some information about where to go, and the man got on the phone yet again. This time he got a rehab center to take him. He put the phone to his shoulder and called me over. I had a feeling what was coming and thought "Dear God, please don't have him put me on the phone....." And sure enough, he wanted me to give the place the address and phone number of the hospital. I tried to talk without putting the phone on my ear, but couldn't hear the lady on the phone, so I had to put it on my ear. I gave the information and hung up the phone. The man thanked me and said "God bless you sir" and stuck out his hand. I'll be honest..... I didn't want to shake the hand of this diseased and dirty druggie, but I did, and told him he was welcome. He asked if it was OK to hang out in the lobby until his ride came, and I told him that was fine. Then I walked into the bathroom, washed my hands well, and scrubbed my ear.

  Exiting the bathroom, my eyes fell on him again, and I felt God check me for my attitude. I wasn't rude to him, and was polite and helpful.... outwardly. Inwardly, I was cringing and looking at him as just another wasted life spent on drugs and who knows what else. I felt my judgement replaced with compassion and the realization that there but for the grace of God I go. I didn't say anything else to him, but said a prayer for him.... and for myself.

  In my two years at the hospital, and especially in my 16 months working the Emergency Department waiting room, I have seen a lot. Drug overdoses, suicide attempts, the same people in and out of behavioral health for drug and alcohol related problems, people coming in trying to get drugs for pains and illnesses they don't have. It is sad. There are so many people addicted to things they used to try to escape, to try to be happy and feel good about themselves, but instead they got addiction, ruined health, and ruined lives. I see people come in with all kinds of health problems, barely able to breathe while reeking of cigarette smoke. They can't give up the thing that is destroying their life. Others walk through the door needing to be treated for STDs.

  We live in such a broken and hurting world. People all around us are trying to find happiness through other people, through drugs, entertainment, alcohol, sex, sex changes... and none of it works.

  I am not without compassion, though I have felt a sense of disgust before at the obvious attempts of people to get drugs through a visit to the ER. I have had the thought many times that multiple visits and stays to the behavioral health floor or multiple visits to a rehab or detox center will never truly fix people. Many of them will continue their destructive lifestyles until they die, a lot of them earlier than if they had lived differently. I have thought about the attempts of the nurses, doctors, and counselors who work with drug and alcohol addicts. They may give advice and counsel, but I doubt they point the people to the true solution. They are most likely not even allowed to do so if they are Christians. The only true solution is Jesus.

  We could all be where the man from yesterday was. Broken, addicted to drugs, having two serious diseases most likely gotten from his drug use. I don't know how long he has been on the road he is on, or how many times he has been in and out of rehab and behavioral health units, but it is very likely a lot of times. He is very likely homeless and carrying most or all of his belongings in the paper bag he had with him. That is very common.

  Yet Jesus died for him and loves him just as much as he loves you, me, or Billy Graham. He is what the Gospel is all about. Sinners who need redemption. I don't know if the man knows Jesus is what he needs. He said "God bless you", so I would assume he is familiar with God, but he obviously isn't giving God his life and a chance to redeem it and make something of it.

  We truly are surrounded by a world of broken and hurting people who are plunging to an eternity without God, but we are more concerned about taking a flag down so we feel better about ourselves, or catching the newest Jurassic movie, or making time for the Pirates game. We don't have time to take the Gospel to anyone. We don't want to get our hands dirty. We don't want to rub shoulders with drug addicts, alcoholics, gay people.

I am a bit cynical. I admit it. However, I wonder sometimes if the reason some Christians are so enthusiastic about missions and missionaries is because they themselves don't want to get their hands dirty or take time to be a missionary where they are, so it makes them feel good to toss some money in for missions and go and hear a missionary speak. I may be wrong and horribly judgmental and cynical for suggesting such a thing, but so many of us are unwilling to inconvenience ourselves to do much of anything for God, especially in the area of helping people and taking the Gospel to them.

  It is too easy to pull our righteous robes around us and like the Pharisees be thankful we are not like those kind of people. We can be thankful that we are not, but not with a sense of pride, but of thankfulness and humility that God rescued and redeemed us and remember that there but for the grace of God go I...... and that there is world of hurting people all around us who need the Jesus who has redeemed us and forgiven our sins.

There's a man on a corner with a cardboard sign that reads
I will work for food
A woman stands beside him with hungry eyes that plead
Our children are hungry too
Some may say I'm foolish for giving to their cause
I've become a believer that heaven's helped us all.

Oh there but for the grace of God go I
How without compassion can we pass them by
Oh, it could be you it could be me the world has cast aside
There but for the grace of God go I.

When I think about my home late in the evening time
How we've been blessed with much more than we need
Keep a warm fire burning when it's cold outside
We don't have to worry that we might freeze
How can I go to bed at night and sleep so gracefully
If I haven't given something for the least of these.

Oh, there but for the grace of God go I
How without compassion can we pass them by
Oh it could be you and it could be me the world has locked outside
There but for the grace of God go I.

Oh, the time has come for everyone to learn to help another
We could turn this whole wide world around if we only loved each other.

Oh there but for the grace of God go I
How without compassion can we pass them by
Oh, it could be you it could be me the world has cast aside
There but for the grace of God go I.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Not afraid to trust Him

Last night I attended a concert by a Southern Gospel group that I like, the Whisnants. I have been to many Southern Gospel concerts in my life, but have not been to many that encouraged me as much as this one did. I have been entertained at many, but the focus of this group seems to be more ministry than entertainment. And there was a theme woven throughout the concert of trusting God. There were several songs that talked about trusting God or had the idea of trusting God.

  That has become my most recent battlefield. For most of my life, it was believing God loves me. That sadly took all my life up to two years ago, and though a random doubt may creep in occasionally, I have managed to hold onto the belief that God does indeed love me in spite of all of my screw-ups and in spite of the way I view myself or feel others view me.

  But trusting Him.... I haven't arrived there yet. As one of the singers said last night, it is easy to trust God when everything is going well. It is different when things are not going well. When the bills are piling higher than what is in the bank, when health issues are hitting us hard, when facing the death of a loved one, when we are unemployed, when it seems the bottom has fallen out of our world. Trusting God isn't as easy when life is tough.

  Most of us tend to think we know what is best for ourselves. That man or woman is the right spouse, and we are devastated if it doesn't work out. That job is the one we want and when God doesn't drop it in our lap, we question Him. Instead of living next door, the kids take your grandchildren and move several states away..... or to another country to be missionaries.

  I am at an impasse right now. It is past time for me to get my own place, but to put it bluntly.... I am scared. The last time I lived totally by myself, I didn't make enough money and got in over my head with credit cards. I fear that happening again. I fear I will get out on my own and the hospital won't renew the contract with the company I work for and I will be out of work. I fear being out of work and not being able to find another job. My fears and lack of skills pile up and bury me, leaving no room to trust God. I waver, not being able to find the line of doubting my own abilities and doubting that God can help me in spite of my lack of abilities and skills.

  I love spring and summer. I enjoy driving with the windows down being rather carefree as I cruise along. I keep my eye out for the other guy, but trust my car and my driving. I am a good driver and have no reason to fear. Winter is a different matter. As I have gotten older, I worry more about driving on bad roads. I don't drive carefree on snow covered or icy roads. I creep along with both hands on the wheel. It is the same car and I am the same driver, but the road conditions cause fear and worry, and a lack of trust in my driving and in the car.

  I do that with God. The same God who is there when everything is going well, is the the God who is there when nothing is going right and life doesn't make sense. As one song says, "the God of the mountain is still God in the valley, the God of the good times is still God in the bad times. The God of the day is till God in the night."

  God always knows best. He doesn't always act in ways that we think He should, and at times it may seem like He isn't listening or coming through at all. That is when the rubber meets the road. That is when we truly have to trust God. It really isn't trust if we never have to exercise that trust. It really isn't faith if we never have to use it. And it isn't a question of if storms will come, but when. It isn't a question of if we will have to fight to trust God. It will happen.

  The disciples were fishing and Jesus was sleeping the bottom of the boat. Everything was fine, everyone was having fun until a storm came up. The disciples panicked, woke Jesus up and asked "don't you care if we die?" It is so easy to criticize people in the Bible in instances like that. They had seen Jesus perform miracles, yet they doubted in the storm. Anyone who has been a Christian for very long has done the same. God has come through for us. He has answered prayer, made a way when it seemed there wasn't a way. But then tough times come. The storm hits and we are tossed on the sea of life. We pray and it seems God is just not there and not caring. Yet He knows everything and sees all that is going on. He has His own timing and His own reasons for letting us go through the storm and valley. He will come through and answer prayer. It just may not be when we want it, when we think we need it, or how we think it should happen. He is worthy of our trust more than anyone else.

  One of the songs that was sung last night is titled "I'm not afraid to trust Him." May that be the cry of every Christian's heart.

Sandy Blythe

Outside the sea is troubled, and the night has been so long
Out on the open water, I'm praying for the dawn
But I don't have to worry through the storm of doubt and fear
For the One who rules the tempest is standing at the wheel. 

I'm not afraid to trust Him 
As I face the raging sea. 
I don't know what lies ahead, 
But I know the One Who stands by me. 
I don't know about tomorrow, 
But I know Who holds my hand. 
I've placed my faith in Him. 
I'm not afraid to trust Him.

You know, this is not the first storm that He's brought me safely through
And I'm holding to His promise that I'll come through this one too
This storm won't last forever, for I will see the sun again
No, I'm not going under; I'm sailing with the Great I Am. 

I'm not afraid to trust Him 
As I face the raging sea. 
I don't know what lies ahead, 
But I know the One Who stands by me. 
I don't know about tomorrow, 
But I know Who holds my hand. 
I've placed my faith in Him. 
I'm not afraid to trust Him.

The world is going to hell, but we took a flag down

 One would have to be dead or living in a monastery to not be aware of the Confederate flag hysteria of the last few weeks. Because a killer had a Confederate flag in his possession and had racist ideas, the country went crazy trying to wipe the flag from the face of the earth. As I type this, Fox News is broadcasting the official removal of the flag from the Capitol building in Charleston.

  I have watched with disgust as online and other retailers caved to political correctness and mob mentality and stopped selling the flag. Amazon did but still sells a Communist flag and a terrorist flag... but no one cares about those, even though they have a worse and more recent ideology and killing attached to them than the Confederate flag. Insanity rules as the Dukes of Hazzard show is pulled, and plans made to dig up a general from a city park, among other crazy ideas.

  If you are of the opinion this is foolish and won't accomplish anything, and you dare to voice your disagreement, you are viewed as hateful, racist, a bigot, and more.... just for not bowing to the media and public opinion and being offended by something I am told I should be offended by. I think I had at least one person un-follow me on Facebook because I dared to have opinions different than everyone else. Never mind the endless list of things more important than a flag.

  I am so sick of the flag stuff that I am tempted to fly a Confederate flag and display it on my Facebook profile. Were it not for the fact that a couple of my friends may truly be offended by it and not because they were told to be offended, I just might have done that.

  I texted my best friend last night this "I am so sick of the confederate flag crap and people cheering like taking it down is some wonderful accomplishment. The country is a mess, most of the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, ISIS is killing Christians ...but we took a flag down."

  And it is true. The flag represented what people let it represent. There is so much more wrong in our country than a blasted flag that people seem to ignore. While we were having hysteria about a flag that has been around for over 150 years.....

ISIS killed 25 of our Christian brothers and sisters....but we took a flag down.

Illegal immigrants committed multiple crimes and a woman was killed by one... but we took a flag down.

The Supreme Court legalized marriage, helping to further cripple our freedoms and do harm to the family and children.....but we took a flag down.

Countless babies were aborted.....but we took a flag down.

There is a pastor being held in Iran......... but we took a flag down.

There is a marine being held in captivity.......but we took a flag down.

Countless women and children - and some men - were sold into sex trafficking.....but we took a flag down.

Countless souls dropped into an eternity without God.....but we took a flag down.

We are surrounded by hurting and broken people....but we took a flag down.

  If the same amount of energy and outrage was put into what really matters, imagine what could be accomplished.

  Are there people who truly were offended by the flag before they were told it was offensive? I am sure there were, but no one ever said anything in my circle of friends on or off line until it became the popular thing to go on the offensive about.

  It won't accomplish anything. It will make people have warm fuzzies for a while that they managed to eradicate a piece of cloth. And it actually worries me. If it is that easy for even intelligent people to be caught up in the mob mentality of banning a flag just because a few people are offended by it. If it could happen to a flag, it could happen to books, to the Bible, to anything. What I saw and learned was if enough people believe something is bad and offensive, and the media and politicians help whip up the hysteria and fervor....something that is pretty insignificant to most people can be banned and there is no end in sight of the ridiculousness.

  Just by posting my opposing viewpoint may cost me friends, or cause others to stop following me. If a differing view on a piece of cloth is that much more important to them than I am, then that is OK. They can harbor their warm fuzzies for taking part in the flag hysteria and helping in Stalinist-like mentality, and I'll still be the same me I was before the flag hysteria hit.

   I am actually a bit worried about how easy and fast our country was turned against a flag. If enough politicians and media can exploit a tragedy like they did here, who knows what could be banned. Next up could be the American flag, or "In God We Trust" on our money, or "under God" in the pledge to our flag. The Bible could be banned, or Christianity. It may sound far fetched, but there is a lot happening in our country we never thought would happen here, and with our increasingly godless government and a media who hates Christianity, who knows what could happen.

  If you look at history, socialists and communists did things like banning a flag. There have been times in history when their was a cleansing of certain books and people, and whether people will admit it or not, this flag stuff reeks of that same attitudes that banned the Bible and other books in the past..... and many Christians are cheering the flag's removal.

  And lest I try to cast stones and appear sinless, may God also help me to focus on what is important, and not channel all of my energy on things that really don't matter in the light of eternity. And may I not be so quick to un-follow those or be overly critical of those who have a different viewpoint than me.

Monday, July 6, 2015

If my people will humble themselves

Back in my college days, I had to read some books for an American History class I took by correspondence. They were fascinating in that the authors showed how much our country was truly founded on godly principles, and they showed some comparisons between Israel and our country.

  I can see some comparisons myself. Back in the day of kings in Israel, they would get a godly king who honored God, then they would get a wicked king who would undo all the godly king did, then they'd get a godly king, and the cycle would keep on repeating. Finally God had enough and let Israel be overthrown and taken into captivity.

  You can't find the exact patterns in America, but they somewhat exist. We have had presidents who honored God and tried to do what was right for our country and for religious freedoms. We have had presidents who were praying men and were influenced by God and the Bible in their running our country.

  And we have had presidents who claimed to be Christian to get Christian's votes and support, but did religious freedoms harm and fought for things that are damaging to our country, our families, and our children. They have done nothing to lead our country closer to God, but their policies help make our country more godless and anti-Christian.

  We sing and pray for God to bless America and to shed His grace on our country, but what if the same thing happens to us that happened to Israel? What if God comes to the place that He has enough?

  When Israel would go astray, there were a few things that really angered God. They always went to idolatry, often sexual practices God disapproved of, and there were times they even went to child sacrifice. And we are there.

  We have our idols. Sports, entertainment, sex, pleasure. Even the recent ruling of gay marriage is rooted in idolatry. Homosexuality revolves around the worship of the male body by other males, and now we have legalized marriage of two people who are in essence worshiping each other.

  We recoil at the thought of child sacrifice, but that is what abortion is, but only called a more politically correct name. Millions of babies have been sacrificed in the name of women's rights. They have been ripped apart in the womb because women - and men - don't want the consequences of carelessly having sex with no thought or desire of parenting a child that could come as a result of the sex they are enjoying.

  We are addicted to pornography and pornography disguised as TV shows and romance novels. Entertainment and sports have become our god.

  And we have made our own god, who is nothing like the God of the Bible. The god of America is a doting grandpa who winks at sin, who doesn't care what sin we commit as long as we attach a nice name to it. Everyone goes to Heaven, no matter what kind of life they lived.

  Adultery has become an affair. An abomination has become "love." Murdering babies has become a medical procedure and "women's rights." Christians are mocked and made fun of by the president, congressmen, the media, TV shows, and everyone else. We have a president who says we are no longer a Christian nation, and that sadly seems to be true.

  But does it have to stay that way? Are America's best days of freedom and godly principles behind us to stay?

  Josiah was king of Israel. He followed a wicked king who had led Israel far astray. The books of the law were found and Josiah had them read to him. He tore his clothes in despair when he realized how far from God and His laws they had gone. Josiah had become king at the age of 8 and was now 26 years old. He repented and God promised not to send judgement until after Josiah died.

  Imagine if that happened here in the US. If Obama really read the Bible - not just the parts he can use to try to get his agenda passed - wept at how far from God we have gone, and led the country in repentance?

  Well, I don't think that is going to happen, but what if the church as a whole did that? What if we claimed 2 Chronicles 7:14:
"Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land."

  We have an arrogant president, but too many of we Christians are arrogant also. We don't seek God's will enough in our lives, we go through our daily activities doing what we want, spending our time like we want, thinking we know what is best for us.

  How often do we pray for God's leading as we vote? How often to we pray that God will have the right people run for office and pray for His will on who we vote for?

  We have a government that is by and large godless and intolerant of any who want to truly live for God. Both parties pay lip service to God to get Christian votes, then vote the opposite way on most things that would be good for religious freedoms. The politician who would humble himself and pray and seek God's face is rare, but who says it has to be our political leaders who do that? If Christians stopped bickering and focusing on our differences, and went by this verse. What if we truly humbled ourselves, prayed, sought God, turned from anything that He was displeased with?

  Our land truly needs healing. We have made a mockery of purity and virginity. God is a spare tire we use when things get tough. Marriage was desecrated and made a joke long before gay marriage with quick and easy divorce and couples having sex like rabbits outside of marriage.

  Our government run schools have become indoctrination centers to turn all kids into liberal robots who have no desire to live pure or live for God. Our colleges are even worse with professors filling student's minds with anti-God and anti-America rhetoric.

  We have a president who uses the Bible to try to pass amnesty and other policies  that would hurt our country, who fights Israel and Christians, yet crawls in bed with Muslims, terrorist-related people and groups, and doesn't care about religious freedoms.

  Congress is full of men and women who care more about their agenda and making people happy who give them the most money, than they are about helping Americans and pleasing God.

  TV has become full of vulgarity, bad language, sex, and a pro-gay agenda and anti-family and anti-God rhetoric. Music is full of cursing and racial slurs.

  Racism is worse under a black president than it has been since the civil rights movement, but instead of trying to unite the country, we keep reviving hate and division and would rather ban a flag than get to the heart of the matter.

  We need to be more careful in voting, and vote for people who are pro-life, pro-Christian, and pro-traditional marriage that love America and don't want to "fundamentally change it", who wants equal rights for all, not for some.

But politics are not the answer. Getting the right kind of people in politics would help, but I believe it is our fault the country is where it is at. Jesus gave us some commands that the church has sadly failed:
1) To love each other
2) To be salt
3) To be light.

  Someone has said the church is only 10 years behind the world. Whatever new taboo thing the world is doing today, the church will be doing tomorrow. There are no absolutes anymore. Once society accepts something, once Hollywood promotes it, just give the church time and they will accept it and do it also.

  We have a nation going to hell in a hand-basket, and too many Christians are not standing up for anything. We are too busy pursuing whatever fad or form of entertainment the world is throwing our way to care about people's souls, to be the salt and light our country needs. The church is too busy being just like the world to win the lost, to be salt and light.

  Gay marriage being legalized is a big blow to the church. I do believe it is going to cripple our religious freedoms and freedoms of speech. Christians who want to stand true are going to have to make some tough decisions and may likely face some persecution for just daring to say it is wrong.

  But we should never have gotten to this place. This country that was founded on Christian principles and religious freedoms should never have come this far. Abortion should never have been legalized. Prayer and God should never have been banned in schools.

  I am very cynical, but I do believe this: If Christians had truly obeyed these commands down through the years, I believe we could have had such an influence on the entertainment and music industries. We could have had a greater influence and voice in politics. Abortion and gay marriage would never have made it to the Supreme Court. Sundays would still be a day of rest and most businesses would still be closed on Sundays. Our churches would be filled instead of dying.

  But somewhere the church became too much like the world. Instead of keeping the Sabbath, Christians do the same things sinners do on that day. Instead of boycotting movies and music with vulgarity in, Christians watch and listen. Instead of avoiding godless politicians who want killing babies to be legal, they voted for them.

  The light is under a bushel. The salt has lost its savor, and Christians can find more to disagree and argue about than they can find things in common and love each other.

But if we, His people, will humble ourselves and pray. If we will seek His face and turn from our wicked ways, He will hear from Heaven, will forgive our sins, and heal our land. This America we call home. It is a promise, but it is conditional. We can't expect God to do His part if we don't do ours. Salt, light, and love. Humbling ourselves, praying, and turning from our sins. Are we up to it?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Just give Jesus your little lunch

 I've been thinking lately about the miracle of the loaves and fishes. It is unusual in one way that no one was healed or raised from the dead. People were just hungry, and we aren't talking starving here. It was lunch time, and people were hungry. I am sure most of them could have gone home and gotten something to eat within a couple of hours, but Jesus cared enough to do something about it. That alone should give us hope that He cares about the little things and not just about the big things.

  I'm not a preacher, but there is another message in that story that has been sticking out to me. A lot of the reason is because of a new song on a CD. The song is called "Small-town Someone". The first verse talks about the feeding of the 5000 from the perspective of the boy whose lunch Jesus took and multiplied:

A little boy with a little brown basket
Thought it was crazy when someone asked him
If he could have his fish and bread
Wonder who would have ever guessed it
That when Jesus broke and blessed it
Thousands were fed
I'll bet he ran home and said

You won't believe it when I tell you all that I saw Jesus do
I still can't get over, out of the people He could choose to
Help Him feed the hungry, I can't believe He used my lunch

Picked me, just an ordinary small-town someone.

  The Bible doesn't say, but it is very possible there were others there who had taken a lunch. We don't know, but with that many people surely there were a few others who had brought something to eat. If there were, they didn't offer their lunch. Maybe they were too selfish, or they figured what they had was too insignificant to make a difference, maybe it was a lack of faith, or they figured no one would like what they brought. Whatever the case, no one else offered their food if they had food with them.

  But a boy had a couple of loaves of bread and a few fish. If they were just for him, I am sure they were small and not the size of our loaves of bread. His age is unknown, but his actions live on through a Bible story.

  I wonder what he was thinking? Did it even occur to him that Jesus would manage to feed 5000 people with his little lunch? Maybe he figured Jesus could eat it and that was enough for him to give up his lunch. If he was familiar with Jesus, he most likely knew of his miracles, so it is possible he had faith that Jesus could do something with his lunch to feed that many people. Whatever his thoughts, he willingly gave his lunch to Jesus for Him to use.

  I look at some people and envy their talents. They have so much to offer God and are so talented..... and then there is me.

I play the piano, but not very well.

I like to write, but rarely write something I think is very good.

I don't mind speaking, but am not sure I am any good at it, and don't have occasion to speak anymore. (being banned from speaking at your own church can do that)

  I look at my good qualities and have a hard time coming up with any. I'm too outspoken, too opinionated, too passionate, too insecure. I do have a conservative haircut though.......

  Some people think I talk too much about some things that I am interested in and passionate about. I even had a woman from my own church block me on Facebook because I posted too much about homosexual issues.

  Lately I have felt like a hamster running in a wheel. I wish I could do something for God with my life, but what? If you bundled up my talents and good qualities, it would be even more insignificant than a young boy's lunch.

But yet the size of the lunch and the boy himself had nothing to do with how the story ended, or how Jesus used it. Jesus took a small amount of food that was just enough to feed 5000 people, and there was 12 baskets full.

It would make sense to assume the same thing about our talents and qualities. It has been said that God does not call the qualified, but He qualifies those He calls. If I and others who feel we have so little to offer God, and feel our talents are so minuscule and not something He could use.... if we just gave them to Him anyway, had faith, and let Him use us in whatever way He wanted, there is no end of possibilities.

  A preacher preached a message once on "what is that in your hand". He listed some examples of people in the Bible that God helped them when all they had was something small. Samson slew a few thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. David killed a giant with a small stone. 5000 people were fed with one boy's lunch.

  Granted, some people have a natural talent that exists whether they serve God or not, but even the most talented only do what truly matters when their talents are put into God's hands/

  The devil is smart. He has an endless supply of ways to tempt and discourage people, but he doesn't seem to just stop at trying to tempt Christians to sin. I believe he does his best to make us feel we are worthless and God can't use us, that we are no good at anything, and God only uses people who are really good at things....better than us. I am sure he knows if every Christian did as the boy with his lunch... if we had faith and were willing to let God use our little lunch or whatever it is we have that seems so small and insignificant.... we might turn the world upside down and accomplish so much for God that the devil himself would be discouraged.

  Just imagine it. If every Christian refused to listen to those voices that say God can't use us, that other people can do it better, and on and on.....only God knows what could happen. He might use us to start a revival, to change government policies, to encourage hundreds or thousands of people, and reach millions for God. It isn't the person or the talent that is responsible for what happens, but God. It is like being a tool. If someone makes a great meal, no one compliments the kitchen utensils for the quality of the meal. They compliment the cook who used those utensils to make the meal.

I cannot do anything in and of myself for God. I would fail at anything I'd do on my own, especially if I tried to take the credit. But if I just let myself be a tool in God's hand and not worry about my abilities or lack of abilities, who knows how God could use me. When the chef is cooking up a meal, the spoons and pans don't fret about how useful they are going to be, or fear that the food won't turn out right...they are a tool being used by a chef. It is up to him how the meal will turn out. Oh to be just like that with God, to just be willing to be used and not fret about how we will affect the outcome.

  We are in good company who fear the outcome of being used by God, or fear we are not able to do what He wants. Moses argued with God about being used to free Israel. Esther feared for her life, yet God used her to save the lives of her people. History is full of people who didn't think they had what it took, yet trusted God and He used them to accomplish great things they could never have done on their own.

 I look in the mirror and don't like what I see. Not just on the outside, but on the inside. My insecurities and self-doubts get in  the way of God using me. I don't have much, and if what I had was measured in a lunch, it wouldn't be enough to feed a sparrow..... but if I give that lunch to Jesus with no strings attached, and believing He can use it.... that He could use me, and take my hands off of the wheel, then the sky is the limit.

  It is a tall order, and the devil is really good at pointing out my failures, my lack of talents and abilities, but God help me remember that it isn't what I can do that God can use. It is what God can do with the little bit I have to offer Him.

Smalltown Someone (Lunch)

Verse 1
A little boy with a little brown basket
Thought it was crazy when someone asked him
If he could have his fish and bread
Wonder who would have ever guessed it
That when Jesus broke and blessed it
Thousands were fed
I'll bet he ran home and said

You won't believe it when I tell you all that I saw Jesus do
I still can't get over, out of the people He could choose to
Help Him feed the hungry, I can't believe He used my lunch
Picked me, just an ordinary small-town someone.

Verse 2:
A little girl, a big time dreamer
Never really thought she would be a singer
But she's thankful every day
That God could use the little gift that He gave her
To tell others about a Savior
And His amazing grace
And if you ask her, she'd say

You won't believe it when I tell you all that I saw Jesus do
I still can't get over, out of the people He could choose to
Help Him feed the hungry, I can't believe He used my lunch
Picked me, just an ordinary small-town someone.

Oh the smallest offering
He can bless

You won't believe it when I tell you all that I saw Jesus do
I still can't get over, out of the people He could choose to
Help Him feed the hungry, I can't believe He used my lunch

Picked me, just an ordinary small-town someone.