WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US

February 14, 2018

Have you ever been reading along in your Bible, and you start to feel kinda good about yourself?

You know, all this talk about the righteous and the wicked, us verses them?

And then, you read something about the wicked, and you think, “Wait a minute, what?”

Yesterday, going through the 5th chapter of Proverbs, I came across this little piece:

“An evil man is held captive by his own sins;

They are ropes that catch and hold him.

He will die for lack of self-control ;

He will be lost for his great foolishness.” NLT

Ouch!?

I thought we were fighting this big war against some huge enemy.

Now you tell me that I am holding myself captive?

But, when I start to think of all the things I have thought I SHOULD do,

and of all the reasons I didn’t do them,

I begin to realize that it is my own nature that makes me wicked.

Really, I do an incredible amount of stuff to keep myself happy,

To make my life easy.

ME, ME, ME….

WHAT CHANCE DO I HAVE IF I CAN’T STOP THIS DRIVE THAT IS IN ME?

Grace.

That’s right, that supernatural gift from God that gives me abilities that I do not possess in myself.

That’s right. No one had to teach me how to lie, steal, manipulate , or feel proud of myself. It just came naturally.

Even self-loathing was a form of selfish pride.

But God, in His great love for me, poured out this grace, this favor I didn’t deserve, and considered me “good.”

Not because I was.

Because I wasn’t.

But because I suddenly realized that I wasn’t.

I accepted His payment for my wicked ways.

I could never be good enough.

Now I knew it.

He sees me differently now.

Not the natural me.

Still wicked, but, hopefully getting smaller, weaker.

The other me.

The new one.

The one that fights the old one over everything.

The one that loves Him more than he loves himself.

That one looks like Jesus to Him.

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Mud pies

The conversation started with a question.

“So, you don’t think it is possible for a Christian to be gay? What would you say if I told you I have been in a committed, loving relationship for over ten years.”

“Well, that says a lot about your loyalty and strength of commitment….”

“What about a Christian that overeats? Isn’t he just as guilty for indulging himself, for giving into his desires?”

Good question, don’t you think?

What about one who is sexually immoral, or commits adultery, or puts some thing in has life ahead of his commitment to God (idolatry), or one who takes stuff that doesn’t belong to him, or one who still likes to get drunk, or high, or someone who gossips, or someone who is still a little bit shady in his business dealings?
Can this one still be a Christian?

Could we be asking the wrong questions?

C.S. Lewis would say that we are happy sitting in the mud in our backyard making mud pies instead of spending a holiday at the beach.

A Christian is one who has received a gift from His creator, a gift of life that goes on forever, that cannot die, that gives him the ability to see God, to see His kingdom, to drop his chains and become free to be what he was created to be.

Why would I want to live in the old way, desperately searching for a tiny morsel of pleasure in the dirt, when there is a path laid out for me that leads to a life of inexpressible joy?

If I am happy with life the way it is, the way it was before I “became a Christian,” then, maybe I haven’t yet received a new life.

Maybe, the questions I should be asking are, “Do I belong to the One who made me?
Is He still changing me into what He made me to be?
Do I want to please Him?
Or me?”

“You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6)

You will like the new you!

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“BE SAFE OUT THERE”

I’m not crazy about this new “goodbye “. It seemed to emerge into the vocabulary in the early days of Covid, when people began to fearfully come out of their houses to venture into this new and dangerous world.

Pete Buttigieg, our esteemed transportation czar, spoke recently about his goal for transportation in the U.S.; no deaths. Admirable goal, right?

Is it, though?

Since when did we begin to measure our lives upon the idea of being safe?

Staying safe seems to mean hiding away from anything that might harm you.

Viruses we can’t see.

Or block with cloth masks.

Accidents on the roads.

Accidents in the air.

Accidents with ladders.

Attacks of red wasps.

Knife cuts.

Twisted ankles.

Broken bones….

Make your own list.

The problem with being safe is living in fear of pain.

Or fear of anything.

Life comes at you from all sides, in all ways, and it comes at you quickly.

You don’t usually see it coming.

Sometimes it will knock you down, take away your happiness, cause grief, sorrow, and pain.

Sometimes, it will force you to look beyond yourself to find some kind of meaning, some sort of answer to the question, “Why do these things happen to me?”

Sometimes, your eyes can be opened to a world of challenge and hope, and in the process of walking through this scary, scary world, being guided by the One who designed your inmost parts and made plans for your future, for your purpose, you will find joy.

Sorry, Pete, I’m not interested in your type of safe life.

I will not be afraid.

“BE BRAVE OUT THERE!”

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you;

I will help you;

I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

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BE PREPARED

A guy told me the other day about his boy scout troop doing a regular hike into the grand canyon when he was a kid. He said the memory when he was 12 wasn’t a good one because he was worn out afterward and got fired from his morning paper route the next day.

I remembered the bad memory campout from my boy scout days.

I was probably eleven or twelve, and it may have been my first campout.

(I am realizing now that my memories of that time are more like snapshots than video streams. More about that later.)

I know that I was excited. Maybe a bit nervous, but not scared. I have no idea where we went, what preparation was involved, who I hung around with, or details about the campout.

What I do remember is, during the night the temperature dropped to 18 degrees, and I could not get warm in my sleeping bag, and when it was time to get up, I was miserably cold.

When the scoutmaster found me, my teeth chattering uncontrollably, and crying, he let me sit in his truck with the heater on until I warmed up.

I remember the older boys weren’t acting like anything was wrong at all, laughing, doing camp things around the fire.

The morning air warmed into the 30’s and it didn’t seem so miserable to me.

The Boy Scout motto is “Be prepared.” I wasn’t.

Wendy asked me, “Didn’t anybody tell you how to dress for the cold? Did nobody watch the weather?”

I really don’t know. I don’t remember.

But, this is what I learned.

Layers. Wear layers.

I am 70 now. Still working. When I get up in the morning, I know what the weather prediction is for the day.

I put on layers. Even on weekends.

“How many shirts are you wearing?” Wendy will ask me.

“Well, a teeshirt, long underwear, and this shirt. I will probably take a jacket.”

“Big baby,” she says, lovingly shaking her head.

I prepare.

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LINE UPON LINE….

🎶 I can’t see me lovin’ nobody but you

For all my life

When you’re with me, baby the skies’ll be blue

For all my life🎶

Oh, how I hated that song!

If it plays on your clock radio at four in the morning, you will understand.

I had a Dallas Morning News paper route in Garland, Tx, and, at four o’clock, every morning ( EVERY MORNING, RAIN OR SHINE, HOT OR COLD) that stupid clock radio would disturb this young boy’s treasured sleep.

I was in the ninth grade at Memorial Junior High in Garland, Texas. I had gotten this, my first real job, the previous summer. The truck would arrive from Dallas at Orchard Hills Shopping Center sometime between 4:00 and 5:00 most mornings, and, if you were one of the first paperboys there, Mr. Jack Roland, the district manager, would count out your papers first, you could get an early start, and, if things went well, crawl back in bed and grab a few winks before breakfast.

But, for me, getting up was the hard part. Once up and pedaling my bike to work, I always enjoyed the job.

That could probably be credited to my dad. He worked for Nabisco (did you know that stands for National Biscuit Company?) for over forty years as a route salesman, and I never knew him to miss a day of work, or grumble about his job. He used to take me to work with him occasionally in the summer time, and I saw how fast he worked, how he seemed to know everything to do, how businesses he called on liked him, respected him.

I wasn’t new to the paper business. My older brother, David, had had a Dallas Times Herald route a couple of years earlier, (Dallas’ afternoon paper back in those days) and my dad had put some saddle baskets on my red J.C. Higgins bicycle with chrome fenders so that I could help him sometimes. My brother had a heavy duty Schwinn that was made for stuff like carrying newspapers. It had a huge basket on front, and a rack on the back to keep the saddle bags from rubbing the wheels. I learned to fold the papers tight, triple fold, so they would fly true through the air and hit the porch, learned the classic side arm throw, and even learned to throw from a moving bicycle.

In the eighth grade, my best friend, David Hall, got a Garland Daily News route, and I would ride my bike home with him every day, help him roll the papers (roll, not fold. Garland was small back in those days) and deliver them in the neighborhood around his house. Afterward, we would play one on one basketball in his driveway. When basketball season at Memorial arrived, I talked him into trying out with me for the team. I had played in the Parks and Recreation Dept. League for a couple of years, but he had never played. I could see us playing side by side in our school uniforms, the crowd cheering our moves, our shots.

He made the team.

My name was not on the list.

I think I cried on the way home.

David’s mom asked me if I would take over the paper route while he was playing, so I did.

I made a little money doing that, for a couple of months, but, the thing is, I enjoyed having a job.

Now, as a paperboy, you only get paid once a month.

And you have to collect the money yourself.

On my Morning News paper route, toward the end of the month, Mr. Roland would give me a bill for the papers I was given every day, plus the box of rubber bands I used, and I would have to take my collection book in the late afternoons and evenings up to each of my customers’ homes and collect my 1.70 for 30 or 31 days of delivering their paper, every day, on time, to their front porch. (If I missed the porch with my throw, I would stop my bike, walk to the yard, or bushes and toss it onto the porch. I didn’t miss much, but I do remember breaking a milk bottle, or two. I didn’t stop then.)

Once, I knocked on a customer’s door on a Monday night, I could hear the TV on, laughing in the back of the house. I knocked and knocked and knocked. Finally, Dick Nalley (the sports guy for the Garland News) came to the door, tears in his eyes, paid me and said,”Don’t ever come here again on a Monday night during Laugh-In!”

Okay.

I had about 100 papers every day to deliver, ( a few extra on Sunday, because we had a Sunday only subscription for .85.)

I hated the Sunday papers.

You cannot throw a Sunday paper.

Sunday papers are heavy.

I had taken over my brother’s heavy duty Schwinn, (he had a driver’s license, now), but on Sundays, it was really easy to lose your balance, fall, and dump all your carefully loaded papers on the street.

Anyway, after I finished collections, (I had a nifty bank bag with a zipper to keep my money in.) I would take the money to Mr. Roland’s office, pay my bill, and I would get to keep all the rest.

I made about 70.00 for the month.

I was rich! I remember occasions when my mom would ask me if they could borrow money from me until payday. I would go to my desk, pull out my nifty bank bag, and hand them 1.00 or 5.00 or whatever they needed to tide them over.

“For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.””

Isaiah 28:10 ESV

Now, the reason I am sharing this story is for what I see in our culture today. I am guilty as well.

We have become an instant society.

We want it quick, and we want it now.

If CNN is not given the chance to ask the president elect a question because of its record, the world is ending.

We forgot how to build relationships, restore trust.

Because it takes time.

It is easier to make enemies, keep enemies, find others who will share in your enemy making.

The things that are important, that build you into the man or woman of character, are those little things that you do over and over and over again, with little reward, or notice, but you just do them.

Because it is right.

I seldom was told that they appreciated my efforts to put the paper on the porch.

But, every once in a while, someone would thank me.

That feels good.

Occasionally, I even got a tip.

That feels good, too.

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LET THERE BE LIGHT

1/9/2019

LET THERE BE LIGHT

I know, I know…the Bible is not a science book.

What I wonder, though, do you think it is true?

I keep hearing that the earth is

2. something billion years old…the universe even older than that…

Yeah, God could have created everything, but not just thousands of years ago…billions. Science has proven…science tells us…even God could have used evolution which we have proven to be true.

Don’t be so literal, Randy.

The Bible is a book to teach you how to live. Who cares if it was billions of years or thousands?

Hmmm?

I kinda care.

Here’s what I think. Granted, I have no more weight on my side than anyone else.

Shoot, I didn’t even finish college.

So…consider my opinion.

When God said (according to Genesis), “Let there be light,” that is (according to Genesis) the first time there was light. (oooh, time…interesting) A God who is Spirit doesn’t need light to see…but things he is going to create do need light. So, there it is.. Light…and it was good.

Then, He separates light from darkness, day from night…evening and morning, first day.

Then He separated waters above from waters below and made Heaven. (No, I can’t explain this yet) The second day.

So, the next step…separate dry land from waters, and then, cause vegetation and fruit trees to sprout on the land, all bearing seed so they would continue to spread over the earth. And each kind bore seed that would make the same kind. Evening, morning, third day.

Then, God made the sun, moon, and stars to divide the day from the night. (Wait a minute…how could there have been evening and morning without the sun? I’ve got a better question for you…how could there have been a sun, moon, and stars without light? Good thing God planned ahead.) Evening, morning, day Four.

Now, it gets busy…living creatures to fill the waters, some salt water, some fresh water…bam. Birds to fly in the sky, big ones, little ones…bam. All the birds and the creatures in the water were made to be fruitful to multiply. Good news for future hunters and fishermen. Evening and morning…fifth day.

Now, let’s get cracking…God makes animals for the land. So many kinds. Creeping animals, running animals , dogs, cats, livestock, turtles, elephants, sloths, platypus (what is plural for platypus?), unicorns (it’s in the Bible, kjv version), behemoths, leviathan, lions and tigers and bears, oh my, reptiles (dinosaurs? I think so.) And all of them were capable of reproducing according to their kind. But God wasn’t done yet. Caretakers needed. God made man, male and female, that, in small abilities, were kinda made in His image. Ability to think, reason, even figure out how to create stuff. Imagine that.

Then he made them in charge of this earth, giving them “dominion over all living things” (this has got to infuriate PETA. “Animals are people, too.”) But man could think, reason, figure things out, talk to God.

It was all very good!

Evening, morning, sixth day

Now, everything was created, light, waters, dry ground, stars, moons, planets, fish, birds, animals…and humans.

All in six days.

“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”

Genesis 2:2-3 ESV

So…did God bless a day…or did God bless an epoch?

I think it was a day.

After all, you can’t have a sun if you don’t have light…right?

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WHO ARE YOU GONNA BELIEVE?

I’m tired of being lied to.

The trouble these days is that the lies continue to be told until they are believed. 

Believing something doesn’t make it true.

Just because someone is an authority, or has authority, doesn’t mean he, or she, can be expected to tell the truth.

Well, we can expect it, and we can accept it.

But, that doesn’t make it true.

When you are planning your life based on the advice and counsel of “authorities “, and you discover that the things the authorities have been

been telling you are not true, or based on anything other than an expectation of a hidden outcome, do you continue to listen to them?

If more and more sources are telling you the same thing, even after you discover that the original premise is false, when do you begin to question the veracity of what you are hearing?

How do you fight the onslaught of the untrue? 

With logic, reason, sarcasm, wit?

There has got to be a standard for truth: A plumb line to determine straight from crooked. 

To fight the lie, just speak the truth.

Maybe, if you tell the truth over and over and over, someone will change from believing the lie to believing the truth.

Maybe.

‘How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the Lord ’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. ‘

Psalms 1:1-2 https://my.bible.com/bible/72/PSA.1.1-2

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FINDING TREASURE

After Christmas brunch, my brother, Jeff, my wife, Wendy, and I were sitting in our sunroom, sharing the wonders and joy of finding a life fulfilled in Jesus.

Jeff said, “We don’t know who we are without God….”

Jeff’s wife of 30 plus years, Ann died two years ago on Christmas Day after several months of inoperable brain cancer.

Jeff was with her at the moment she passed into “the real world.”

Our daughter, Chelsey, died nineteen years ago in a traffic accident, as a passenger in our car.

We were all together in the moments before the collision when she passed into “the real world.”

In times of loss and the grief that follows, the plans that we had made for our futures are flipped on their heads. Everything changes. A new path of life opens, and we are forced into a decision of choosing between the possibilities.

So, who are we without God?

Rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous.

“Bad things” happen to “good” people and “bad” people.

Our lives are shaped by many things, things that happen to us, our responses to these things, choices we make in our lives, and the consequences that follow.

Good and bad.

I have had people tell me that God must not be omniscient (all knowing) or omnipotent (all powerful) because He lets such bad things happen.

Or Maybe He just doesn’t care.

I have others tell me that they are Christians, but the possibility of certain bad things happening keeps them chained away from life in a cocoon of self-protection. (COVID, for example)

Wendy and I watched a really good movie last night at the suggestion of my friend, Tim.

“Greater.” (You can find it on NETFLIX)

I will not spoil it by telling any of the story.

But there was one line, the main character telling a football player, “While we are down here on this field, we only see and react to what is right in front of us. But, up there” he points to the coach in the press box, “they can see the whole field. You have to trust them.”

I can tell you, that trusting God with the control of your life, no matter what happens, NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS, will lead you into an understanding of who you are.

Seeing the world around you through the gift of the vision that God will give to you will change you and your reactions to those trials that now seem to control your thoughts and your life.

Peace and Joy will come to those who find who they are, by trusting in the One they were created to love.

You don’t know who you are, without God. You only see what is right in front of you.

He sees the whole field.

YOU HAVE TO TRUST HIM!

“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,

To search out a matter is the glory of kings.”

Proverbs 25:2

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A TINY LITTLE SEED

A young man of faith (around 30) is having trouble reconciling his belief in God with the timing of the deaths of two close family members.

The “Why” turns into doubt.

The doubt grows stronger, the faith grows weaker. The one you feed….

An atheist whose blog I read was asking the question of those that claim to “be spiritual”, “How do you define spiritual?”

I read some of the comments, a few from those who seem to have an understanding of things spiritual, many more from those who refute the few who made attempts to come up with a definition.

My first thought on reading the blog was, “Why do you spend so much energy talking about something that you consider total fantasy?”

We have covered this sort of question before, regarding proof of the existence of God.

My answer is always pretty much the same. It doesn’t matter what I tell you , if, ultimately, you don’t want to find Him. You can tell me that the Bible is a man-made compilation, that every act, teaching, miracle, birth, death, and resurrection attributed to Jesus has been claimed about countless others professed to be gods, that stories have been exaggerated and turn to mythological fables, and on and on and on.

But there is something that I can claim.

I used to be one way, unable to even imagine the things of God, the spiritual truths that come from Him, the Life that He has made me for. Unable to see, hear, or experience the depth of life that comes from Him, I lived a self satisfied life of seeking what I could find to satisfy my longings.

Until it didn’t satisfy.

Actually, it never did.

I used to be one way…and now I am completely different.

Same human, different spirit.

It was building over a long span of time.

But I changed in a moment.

I guess you could say that I became a “spiritual person” in that moment. The world that surrounded me, that I had been oblivious to, began to reveal itself.

A tiny seed of faith was placed in me, planted by The Sower, and it began to grow; tiny little roots, tiny little sprouts, tiny little leaves.

The fruit from this tiny plant was sweeter than anything I had ever “tasted” in the life before the seed was planted.

So, to my atheist friend I would say that spirituality is the ability to discern the effects of the invisible world around me. If you say there is no world of the spirit, then I guess I would say that you are not spiritual.

To my young friend who is engulfed in doubt, I would say, Feed the seed that was planted in you, water it, help it to grow. Seek advice from those who have survived trials, losses, pains, and troubles, and have grown stronger.

If you have received the Life from the Giver of Life, turn your eyes back to the Giver.

If you do not have the Son of God, you do not have Life.

Receive the Son.

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WHY DO I LOVE “THE CHOSEN”?

Thoughts Wendy and I had about “The Chosen”

Imagine the disciples were a lot like we are, struggling through life, facing hardships, broken dreams, disappointments, failings of those who fail to.meet our expectations, failures of ourselves to be who we hoped we would be.

We are fighting our way through a life that is, at best, tolerable, at worst, cruel and unfair.

One step forward, seven steps back.

One day, some guy comes along, looks at me, and says, “Come. Follow me.”

You had just watched him speak a few words to someone’s hopeless situation, and watch as a life completely changes before your eyes.

He looks at you, speaks those challenging words, and you leave what you know and follow him.

There are others, a few, that have also responded to the challenge to follow, all coming from different backgrounds, responding to the new life they are entering much as they have responded to trials before.

But, now, they are following a man who, when facing a trial, a challenge, a disappointment, somehow rises to a different plain in his response.

The circumstances don’t control him. He doesn’t react…he responds.

He seems to understand “the why” behind the trial.

And he gently instructs, with a knowing encouraging nudge, pushing you toward a different response in a way that makes you want to be there.

You think, “How am I supposed to do that?”

He looks at you as if he hears your thoughts and whispers, ” You can do this.”

You struggle, you trip, you fall.

He reaches out a hand to help you back to your feet. “You’ll get there. Just follow me.”

You reach a point where you tell people, “Come and see.”

You can sense that he is changing you from within, and you want to be more like him.

“COME AND SEE!”

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