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Monday, January 7, 2019

THOUGHTS IN THE NIGHT


“Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  Matthew 10:28 New Living Translation
Do you ever have a seemingly random thought intrude on your sleep? Last night that happened to me. While sleeping, the thought occurred to me that we often are concerned about things related to our health and happiness, when we need to give more attention to the condition of our soul. Matthew 10:28 (see above) was part of this nighttime thought process. Recently I have been thinking about what I perceive to be a lack of conversation about and focus upon eternity or eternal things. In our rapid paced world, the emphasis is often placed on what will make us happy in the moment or how can we experience the next adventure. This attitude and approach to life may be as common among professed followers of Jesus, as the general population. Whether we are focused on what we fear (“…those who want to kill your body”) or what is fun, we are often consumed by the ‘now.’ Driven by the desire to live the moment, we make decisions that we think will help us avoid those things we fear and steps towards acquiring what is fun. Concerns about the condition of our soul are given very little attention, if any at all.
Jesus chooses to use words, in Matthew 10:28, that are alarming: afraid, kill, soul, fear, destroy, and hell. If those listening to Jesus, when he first spoke these words, were drifting off to sleep or distracted by other thoughts, he likely regained their full attention.
As you go through your day or week, do you consider the impact your decisions will have on your soul? Our SOUL is the part of us that lives on in eternity. It is our soul that is the residence of our emotions, desires, affections, and dislikes. The Bible sometimes uses the word, HEART, when referring to our soul.
Our best decisions come from having a proper reverence and respect for God. In the Bible, this is referred to as the fear of God. If we are lacking in the fear of God, we will live recklessly [thoughtlessly] and make decisions that will be detrimental to our soul.
When making decisions, the highest consideration should be given to how the choice will impact the condition of our soul. In some respects, this is a long-term view, by considering the eternal impact made by a choice, but it will also lead to the greatest short-term benefits. We may think that the path to what we want is by doing what we want; we, more than our Creator God, know what is best and how to acquire it. I think there are many people who think they are smarter than God. God, save us from this self-deception! We should keep in mind that a prideful person is so proud, they are usually blind to the extent of their blindness.
If you and I will “fear only God” we will make decisions that will lead to our best life now and in eternity; our soul will thank us. May the Lord help each of us today!
“Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.  Proverbs 9:10 New Living Translation

Monday, October 15, 2018

OBEDIENCE IS NOT AGREEMENT


In my last post, “Life Isn’t a Greenhouse” 9/26/18, I started looking at how each of us navigates life when conditions are less than ideal or even extremely difficult. Even though life is very blessed (if we’re looking at the good things and not fixated on the bad) and the benefits are bountiful (Psalm 103), we frequently find ourselves facing very hard things. My experience is that the blessings and difficulties of life most often occur in the same season. Life is never ‘all good’ nor ‘all bad.’ Rather than becoming dominated by the hard things, to the point of discouragement or disobedience, it is important for us to understand how to continue to move forward in our daily lives.
“Obedience” is a common word. Most of us likely assume that we know what it means. The Oxford Dictionary provides the following definition: Compliance with an order, request, or law or submission to another's authority.” That definition contains several words that may elicit a strong internal reaction: compliance, submission, and authority.
It seems like in our world today, obedience has been reduced to agreement. If I agree with the order, request, or law (using the words in the above definition), then, and only then, will I obey. If I don’t agree, I will resist or rebel. If I think there is a better way, or I have alternative idea, I will argue my point, sometimes very aggressively. 

Have you noticed there’s a lot of ‘attitude’ in our world today? “Don’t tell me what to do!” “I’ll live the way I want to live” and “You don’t control me.” Personally, I don’t see these attitudes making things better, even for those who hold them. I believe the opposite is true.
The Dutch researcher, Geert Hofstede, has done an extensive study of the six factors distinguishing cultures around the world. One of the factors is INDIVIDUALISM. It may or may not surprise you that the United States is ranked as the most individualistic nation in the world, of the 66 countries studied. While there may be ways to ‘spin’ this as a positive characteristic, there is a significant downside to living with an individualistic mindset.
I have observed two ways individualism impacts obedience:
One, people obey to the degree that it benefits them personally. That is what happens when we are controlled by individualism. Sayings, such as: “Do you” or “Get yours” or “It’s my right” are far too frequently the mantras we hear today.
Two, people obey when the feel like it. Emotions, far more than any type of moral or truth-based values, influence obedience. Emotion-based obedience is dangerous because our emotions so frequently change.
In Hofstede’s study, COLLECTIVISM is the contrasting characteristic to individualism. As I understand it, the general idea of collectivism is to seek the common good. The Central American country of Guatemala excels in this quality. It is the idea of thinking of others, and not just oneself.
In my next post we will continue to explore obedience, submission, and control. It’s possible there is a better way to live, a better mindset in which to experience life, than what you have previously known and practiced.
IDEA: Ask the Lord to show you someone you can serve today. I’m thinking about an expressed kindness. You get bonus points if your serving includes both word and deed (say something and do something). If you’re going through a difficult time, choose two people. I believe it will make a difference in your mindset.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

LIFE ISN'T A GREENHOUSE


09.26.18

Though I am not an expert in greenhouses, I think I understand how they generally function. The purpose of a greenhouse is to create the ideal conditions for growth, regardless of the season outside the greenhouse. Heat and humidity are controlled to produce the ideal environment for growing things.
Maybe you’ve noticed that life doesn’t always provide us with what would be considered ideal conditions. There is often something or someone in our life contributing to a less than ideal environment for our growth and thriving.
What we do when we face these less than ideal conditions will determine, to a great degree, whether will thrive in life.
The dangerous and deceptive thing is that we often think we know what the conditions should be in our life. We think we know what would work for our best benefit. So, we take over management of our ‘greenhouse’ [life] and we look to acquire what we think we need to create the ideal conditions. Our prayers often become instructions for God, so He will know what to do; like He needs our wisdom, or our world may fall apart. 😊
In life I have been humbled many times. That which I thought was the ‘worst,’ God worked for His best in my life. That which I thought would be ‘best’ for my life, ended up not being helpful and, at times, even a hindrance to God’s purposes.
The stages of a seed provide a powerful life lesson. Before a seed ever sprouts [germinates] it is placed in the ground and “dies”.
In John 12:24 we find these words of Jesus: “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (NIV) 
Buried, surround by soil and shrouded by darkness, the seed has all the appearances of something that has died. Not so. It is the first stage in the new life that will sprout from the seed. You may be in a ‘dark place’ right now and feel like you’ve been ‘buried’ by life. Remember, God has placed His seed (His precepts and promises) in you to grow, so give it time.
What is so shocking about what Jesus is saying, is that very few of us share His view of death. It is hard for us to comprehend the stages of a seed, where the process of life begins with the dying of the seed.
Tomatoes are an item that are often grown in a greenhouse. If it were winter, we could probably find a greenhouse tomato in the produce section of the grocery store. The funny thing about tomatoes grown in a greenhouse is they, as you would expect, have many of the features of a tomato (color, shape, size, etc.). But if you are given the choice between eating a greenhouse tomato or one grown in the ground, there is no comparison. One can immediately tell the difference in flavor, texture, and juiciness. Nothing beats a sun-ripened tomato!
As I see it, we each face a choice: Will we try to live in a greenhouse (a place where we control all the conditions) OR are we willing to ‘die’ in the ground (so we can live)?

In my next post I want to explore topics, such as: obedience, submission, and control, specifically, in the context of when conditions of our life are less than ideal.

Monday, March 23, 2015

LESSONS FROM CYCLING, Part Three

There’s a fourth option to explain where you may find yourself in the ride of life: PAUSE
Before, during, and after a long ride there needs to be space [margin] for PAUSE. A pause is a time to fuel and re-fuel.
Lesson #3: Proper FUEL for the ride is extremely important.
Recently I decided to do a birthday ride of 55 miles on my 55th. I had prepared well by riding over 200 miles during the four weeks for this birthday ride. I enjoyed carbo loading the night before, with a great meal of spaghetti and homemade meatballs. While riding, I consumed an energy bar, banana, and alternated between water and an energy drink to stay hydrated. Despite all these efforts at about mile 48 I experienced severe cramping in my right leg, to the point I couldn’t bend it at the knee. My cell phone had died so calling my wife to pick me up wasn’t an option. I walked my bike for about 100 yards and slowly the leg started to relax. I decided to slow down my pace and see if I could finish the last seven miles. Thankfully I was able to get home and achieve my 55-mile goal.
This experience reminded me of the importance of proper fuel before, during, and after a ride. In this spiritual ride called life, we need copious amount of water [Spirit] and carbohydrates [Word]. It is the empowering of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, which will give us the strength for life.
When you don’t know what else to do FUEL UP! If we don’t fuel up, we run the risk of cramping up. In this context, cramping up represents reaching the point in the ride where we give up short of achieving our goal, or struggling to the degree we’re overcome by discouragement and disappointment.
Regardless of the stage you find yourself in today, PATIENCE will be required. Life isn’t a sprint, it’s a century ride (100-mile).
The Bible writers remind us of the importance of patience and endurance.
Lesson #4: Prepare to be patient

2 Peter 2:6-8 NLT “Knowing God leads to self-control. Self-control leads to patient endurance, and patient endurance leads to godliness. 7 Godliness leads to love for other Christians, and finally you will grow to have genuine love for everyone. 8 The more you grow like this, the more you will become productive and useful in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
2 Corinthians 6:4 NLT “In everything we do we try to show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind.”
2 Corinthians 12:10 NLT “Since I know it is all for Christ's good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

My lessons from Cycling:
  • Accidents Happen
  • Understand Momentum
  • Have a Plan
  • Fuel Up Frequently (fuel up or cramp up)
  • Prepare to be Patient

Thursday, March 19, 2015

LESSONS FROM CYCLING, Part Two

In my previous post I began sharing lessons I've learned while riding my bicycle. Lesson #1 was: Understand Momentum.
Lesson #2: You need to have a PLAN
Having a plan will enable you to set a proper pace, adjust your attitude, anticipate challenges (hills, wind, rough roads), and have an overall awareness of where you are in the ride (i.e. how close to the finish line)
How did you get where you are today? (Remember, God asking Adam in the Garden: “Adam, where are you?” Genesis 3:9)
Are you where you are because of disobedience? If so, then it’s possible that the challenges you’re experiencing are God’s discipline or PUNISHMENT. On the other hand, if you’re relatively confident that there isn’t blatant disobedience in your life, and you’ve been generally obedient to God’s call and claim upon your life, then you can rule out PUNISHMENT as the reason for your current place in life. Therefore, if PUNISHMENT is not the reason you are where you are, then what’s the reason? I know of two other possible reasons…PREPARATION and POSITION.
I’ve heard people ask the question: If God loves me so much, then why does He allow hard things in my life? Answer: God loves someone else so much, someone whom you will be in a position to influence in the future, that He intentionally directs your path through pain so you will be prepared “to give them the same comfort God has given” you! Before you protest too quickly, remember, God loves you so much He has sent someone to you (probably on many occasions), and that person encouraged you and reminded you of the hope that’s available through the God of all hope.
2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” The Greek word for troubles, is Thlipsis (thlip’-sis) and it means “a pressing, pressing together, pressure; metaph. Oppression, affliction, tribulation, distress, straights.” (Strong’s Concordance)
I’m convinced, from personal experience and from watching God work in the lives of others, that one of the reasons why we go through some of the things that we go through in life, is to POSITION us in God’s plan. 
C.S. Lewis, in The Problem of Pain, said: “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” PAIN is a great attention-getter, motivator, and humbling tactic. 

(To be continued)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

LESSONS FROM CYCLING, Part One

It’s been my experience that some of the best lessons come through everyday life. Sometimes the lessons come through our successes and other times they come through our struggles. In this post I want to share with you my Lessons From Cycling. One of my hobbies is road cycling. Not the Harley Davidson type of bike (I’m not that kinda’ cool), but more the Specialized Allez type of bicycle. Think spandex clothing. Second thought, don’t traumatize yourself thinking about a middle age man in tight clothes.
I had my first big bike crash last summer. It was a Sunday morning and I was on a 30-mile ride before church. While riding through the West Salem hills it started lightly raining. Not much, just enough to get the ground wet but not form puddles. I had just crossed over the Willamette River using the Union Street Bridge and I was turning on to Front Street, where there are railroad tracks that run down the middle of the road. You can probably see where this is going. The rails were slightly wet from the summer rain and as my front wheel crossed the second rail it slide into the gap between the rail and the blacktop. The wheel jammed into the gap and the force flipped me over my handlebars and down to the pavement. All of this happened with gravity defying speed. Stunned and somewhat disoriented from my less than graceful three-point landing, I quickly bounced to my feet, in the event someone saw my fall. Thankfully, the church I was riding by already started their gathering so no one was outside. Phew! Other than serious road rash in three places, there were no broken bones, and no damage to my front wheel. I did sprain my ego, but eventually recovered. The lesson I learned on this summer day was this: Even when you’re being careful, accidents still happen. Isn’t that a lot like life? Even when you’re trying to do the right things and make good choices, there are times when life rises up and bites you in the backside. Oh, yeah, I didn’t mention where the road rash was located on my body. J
In my nearly three years and probably 5,000 miles of riding the roads of the Willamette Valley, I’ve learned several lessons I’d like to share with you.
Lesson #1: Understand MOMENTUM
Going uphill and into the wind there’s the temptation to stop peddling.
Going downhill there’s a temptation to want to go even faster, to dominate the downhill!!!
Often times, when we need to be peddling, we want to quit, and when it’s okay to coast and enjoy the ride, we get in a hurry. Make sure you’re allowing the Holy Spirit to set your pace. What I mean is, listen to the Inner Voice that corrects you, directs you, and instructs you. Life is not a sprint, unless you’re planning to die young, so ride [live] accordingly.
Another point, when riding into the wind, cyclists get as low as they can go. This reminds me of the importance of PRAYER. “Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.” (James 4:10 NIV) NLT = “When you bow down before the Lord and admit your dependence on him, he will lift you up and give you honor.” We know how much we’re depending on God by how frequently pray and the content of those prayers.
I my next post I will share Lesson #2: You need to have a plan.