Saturday, December 26, 2009

THE ROADS TO BETHLEHEM: WATCHERS, WORSHIP & WITNESS


Three questions:

1. Have you ever really been truly scared over something you saw or heard that caused you to literally "shake in your boots?"

2. What would it take to make you leave your job or other important task and go to a place to go where something extra ordinary had taken place?

3. What kind of "gossip" would it take to send you running to a neighbor or friend to tell it?


Scriptures to consider: Luke 2:8-20

CONSIDER THIS, that it was just these kinds of questions that were answered by a group of shepherds who were WATCHING over the sheep on a hillside outside of Bethlehem on a certain night over 2000 years ago. Their responsibility was the WATCHCARE of a flock that they owned or that someone had given into their care. They were to WATCH for anything that would endanger those sheep, to provide a WATCH for good pasture and water to meet the needs of the flock.


In the midst of this task perhaps they had the occasion at night to gaze into the heavens and wonder at the vastness of it all. Maybe as they looked, they even wondered about their purpose in the whole of creation's existence, or perhaps they just took life a day at a time, with no idea of their importance in creation's movement. Which ever, their WATCHING on that certain night took on a significance they could not have dreamed!


Angels appeared in the sky and caused them to quake in fear, falling to their faces. Then came the words, "Don't be afraid!" Can you imagine their reaction? Put yourself in their sandals. Maybe they were thinking what I thought when I read it. "Yeah, sure. That's easy for you to say!" Then the news that was shared about a king, born in a stable, laying in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. The information did not jive with their limited knowledge of kings and their births. They knew stables, and mangers, and swaddling clothes, and this information did not fit with kings and palaces, and such an announcement certainly not given to lowly shepherds!


Now, these shepherds did, in spite of their fear, respond to follow the directions given by the angels, to leave their flocks and seek the new born king, and having found Him, they WORSHIPPED! The results of their WATCHING was WORSHIP, and it was not confined to the stable. Their coming and sight of the Lord proclaimed by the angel led to worship before the Child and was continued as they returned to their flocks. They praised and glorified God for the things that were revealed and that they experienced.


True WORSHIP is not just done when one enters the church building, or stable, as the case may be, for service to others and God has WORSHIP as its base root meaning. Their actions challenge our times and places of humility before the Lord in WORSHIP. Their coming and sight of the Lord fueled their WORSHIP's continued activity as they went back to work with the flock. The question for us is, "when we have left our work to come to worship, do we return to work and continue to worship, or have we left it behind at the church's door?" The shepherds challenge us to come and WORSHIP and then, having done so, return to our tasks with new habits of praise that glorify God through what we do and say.


Now, the WATCHERS turned WORSHIPPERS are given a new task to perform within the context of their normal work as shepherds. They were to become WITNESSES of all they had seen as it had been revealed to them. They were to be spreaders of the good news they had WITNESSED. They were to "gossip" the "gospel" message. And they did so!


The question now is - Have we as WATCHERS seen God anew today? Have we truly WORSHIPPED Him Whose truth is revealed? Are we going to go in that spirit of WORSHIP and WITNESS what we have seen and heard, as it has been revealed to us?


It is OUR ROAD TO BETHLEHEM. May we travel it faithfully, just as the shepherds did!


Be encouraged today as you move on this road.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

BETHLEHEM'S ROAD: SACRIFICE, SUBMISSION & SERVICE



I don't know about your preparations for a trip, but I am the world's worse "over-packer" when I get ready to be on the road anywhere. Ask my family if we've had experience packing for a trip. Their first response will be, "Which trip? We've spent our lives on the road or in the air going somewhere!" And for everyone of those, we carried along everything but the proverbial kitchen sink, and I still wonder if the weight of one of those trunks did not betray that we had even put that in for good measure.

I am making preparations to go to Israel in the near future with a few of my pastor colleagues. We've been told that our trip will be a busy road tour with teaching points where each of us will be taking a turn. The instructions were to pack light, as we will be moving from place to place with our gear. My thoughts at this point are, "What will I give up that I would normally take?" and "What rules do I need in mind as we travel?" Having lived overseas has made me fully aware that there are many "things" I just won't need or use and that each place has its own set of culturally determined rules "of the road."

The two words that describe my need to trim-back what I carry of life's stuff or lifestyle are SACRIFICE and SUBMISSION. Unless I am willing to give up some of what I call my possessions or submit to the accepted rules where I go, I'll not be permitted to participate in the third word's priority - SERVICE!

This brings me to the first couple of travelers that we meet in connection with the ROADS TO BETHLEHEM. Beginning nine months prior to Bethlehem's nativity event, Mary and Joseph were called to walk down the road of SACRIFICE and SUBMISSION to be of SERVICE to the Christ of Bethlehem.

Mary was called upon to SACRIFICE all she had known as a simple maiden of Nazareth, and her future plans for a traditional life with Joseph in the village. Her encounter with the angel Gabriel brought first fear, then doubt and faith as she was given information that to her seemed impossible. SACRIFICE describes what knowledge she had to give up to believe in a conception by Holy Spirit overshadowing. SACRIFICE also describes the good name and reputation she would lose in the community when she was found to be pregnant before her wedding was consummated with Joseph. But all of this she to put behind her in SUBMISSION to her commission to be of SERVICE to God, as shown in her words, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." (Luke 1:38)

Joseph, too, faced his own need to SACRIFICE upon learning that Mary was expecting a child before their marriage was officially sealed. To keep her from perhaps facing the judgement of being stoned for her supposed immorality, he would privately put her away. His encounter with the angel who informed him of the truth of the situation brought both SACRIFICE and SUBMISSION to follow the same commission of SERVICE in becoming the earthly father of God's Son. Matthew 1:24 records, "Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife."

So, these two entered upon the road to Bethlehem and the birth of the Son of God that they would name Jesus.

As we consider their preparations and the applications to our own lives there are astounding parallels which should be weighed. Consider first the SERVICE Mary was commissioned to give in the Lord's incarnation into life. As she was to be the vehicle of Christ's birth, so is every one who is called upon to believe in the reality of Christ's coming, for each one is called to allow Christ to be born anew in them. It's the new birth of Christ in the heart of every one who is SUBMISSIVE to the call of faith in Christ. The world also calls this impossible, but this idea must be SACRIFICED even as Mary's was. And further SACRIFICE is called for, as in the case of Mary and Joseph, who faced community condemnation for broken traditions. One's standing in the world community will face persecution, as well, when the life commitment to Christ's new birth is made known. But this must be so, for it is the rules of the road to Bethlehem's good news to be given to the world.

The question remains for each of us today, "At what point on the road to Bethlehem do we find ourselves?" For you who has yet to enter the road, Christ is calling you to SACRIFICE all you have known, to be SUBMISSIVE to God's call to repentance and faith, and the new birth of Christ in your life, and inter into His SERVICE as a new child of God. If you already have begun the journey, perhaps it is to lighten your worldly load by SACRIFICE, and SUBMIT to His continued call to faithful SERVICE as a spreader of the "good tidings which shall be to all people." (Luke 2:10)

Be encouraged today and look for another group on the road to Bethlehem next week.

Monday, December 7, 2009

INTRO TO THE ROADS TO BETHLEHEM

Main Highway between Jerusalem and Bethlehem


Each year with the approach of the Christmas season, each of us takes a special journey back to the stable in an ancient town called Bethlehem. For most, it is not a trip called for by a star in the sky, nor an angel's visitation or announcement, nor even a census called-for by a Roman ruler named Caesar Augustus.

Sadly, it is a journey that is prompted by the commercial enterprises of our modern age, seeking to capitalize on the gift-giving spirit which inhabits this time of year. The road they take is lined with brightly-lit malls and stores, each full of the latest offerings to be purchased, packaged in bright paper and bows, and placed under a tree in someone's home, awaiting excited hands that will tear-off the wrapping and possess what's inside.

The closest that many will come to the stable will be a small replica of the cene depicted in the Gospel of Luke, a carved wood or plastic model that sits on a mantel or under the tree amid the presents. Many will not even hear the story of that first Christmas read, nor understand the true meaning of the season's celebration. For them, it is just another "road-side" attraction to break the monotony of a journey that has no particular destination.

Not so, the first Bethlehem journey and the roads that the individual participants took to get there. Their roads had a destination, and it was for them a life-changing one.

Your road to Bethlehem this year can be a life-changing one, as well. Follow my blogs in the next few days and examine the roads that the ORIGINAL PEOPLE followed as they made their way through that stable manger to their purposed destiny.

Be encouraged this Christmas, won't you?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

AURA U SHINING?


AURA U SHINING?

Several years ago I walked into the shoe store owned by a good friend with whom I exchange a lot of good natured banter and the latest jokes. Out of the blue I announced to him that I noted he had no customers and that I could help him with the problem. He responded with a questioning nod and a smile, waiting on the punch-line, whereupon I told him it was no joke. I said matter-a-factually, “you take me back and sell me a pair of shoes, and I guarantee that when I come up to check-out, I will have to wait behind four other customers.”

He rolled his eyes as we started to the back of the store where the men’s shoes were located. After finding the shoes I wanted, we returned to the front and check-out. His eyes widened as I stepped into the line – FOUR PEOPLE DEEP! I turned to him and with an air of I-told-you-so and asked, “Now, do you want to put me on a percentage basis or straight salary?” I went on to explain. “You see, I have this special AURA that surrounds me everywhere I go. When I go to Walmart to purchase just a few items, I can go in and all of the check-out lines are empty of customers. I won’t be but just a very few moments, and when I return, every line is full. It happens every time.”

Needless to say, he continued to be skeptical and I left without a SALE on my AURA. It continues to be the base for good-natured ribbing each time I stop in and find no customers in the shop.

Later on, as I was standing in line at WM, I noted that the checker was having a particularly rough time with a customer about FOUR ahead of me, and began to weigh what she was feeling. As the line shortened toward me, her patience and demeanor became even more negatively pronounced. It seemed the other customers, rather than giving her encouragement, became impatient themselves, adding fuel to the already intolerable situation. Observing this, I determined to try to be a positive influence.

As my turn came, I simply stated, “I’m here to bless you today!”

She looked up from her task with a look that said, “Oh no. What now?”

Others were behind me in line, so I began quickly to explain to her about my AURA, which was already a source of blessing because it brought many customers into the store. Granted, some didn’t realize they were part of the blessing.

Heads behind me began to nod in agreement, their own rush forgotten for the moment. I went on to explain that as a Christian, I was to be a source of encouragement, so I thanked her for her task of helping me.

As I completed check-out, she smiled and expressed, “Thank you. You’ve made my day.”

“Of course,” I said, “that’s what my AURA is all about!”

Now, to explain, I’ve studied this AURA phenomenon extensively in other situations and it always works. Not just at WM or my friend’s shoe store. It happens when I am on the road, driving. I can bank on it. If I want to go somewhere, this AURA will be felt by many others who seem bent on going the same direction, many to the same location. Now, prior to my research into this AURA, invariably I would take the stance of many of those customers I mentioned, who became more of a problem than the blessing they should have been. I’m still not perfect and forget my AURA’s influence, and become impatient with the press of the folks I have “infected”. but coming to my senses, assume my responsibility and try to enjoy the trip, even uttering a prayer for those drawn along in my wake.

In my study, I have noted that the AURA responds to my emotions. When I am in a rush, pressed for time, or otherwise anxious to complete my trip or get through the check-out, my AURA seems amplified and draws a greater number of persons into my space. Often, I think, if I truly want to get somewhere quicker, I need to assume a deadpan look, chill my emotions and speak with a typical “Ben Stein” monotone. Yes, I think that would do it.

The only problem is, the AURA not only affects others, it also affects me and cannot be bottled up for long. And shouldn’t be!

Now, at this point, many of you are thinking that all that I’ve explained, YOU’VE BEEN THERE! DONE THAT! You just did not think of it as an AURA. You’ve perhaps thought of it in terms of the world in which you live. It’s just the way things are. We face the good and the bad with no control over situations. Just make the best of it. Correct?

WRONG! I started out thinking of it as a joke with my friend. Quite frankly, I was SURPRISED about those first FOUR myself. I was simply stating things I had observed that happen to people everyday – waiting in lines, etc. Then the more I thought of it, the more I reflected on just what kind of influence I have. And do you know what?

I DO HAVE AN AURA OF INFLUENCE! IT COMES FROM THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST WITHIN!

I realized also, that those who do not have His presence, do have their own “AURA” that they project, often not as attractive as the one HE GIVES!

As I thought on this, I realized another application of TRUTH that I believe about how God works to enhance the AURA of His Son.

First, I believe God is in providential control of every life's contacts. Second, I believe that God has given me His Son that I might be a bearer of His blessings through His Son. Third, I believe God puts people in “my way” to touch them with that PRESENCE. Hence, the AURA which is His, shines forth to touch all with whom I come into contact, whether in a check-out line at WM or on the highway, everywhere and in all situations. And He is in control of the movements of others, to bring them into that AURA of influence for His good purpose.

IF YOU KNOW HIM, YOU HAVE THAT AURA, TOO!

AURA U SHINING?

Consider these scriptures and be encouraged today:
Matthew 5:14 “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.”
Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
John 6:44 “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Little Past the Top of the Hill


A little past the top of the hill
We're called to climb in the path of God's will,
The burdens of journey we carry them still
But He waits to refresh, just past the top of the hill.

The climb is a hard one this side of the hill
And success in the effort seems less than our skill,
But we're given command, and continue the drill
Until we are told we're past the top of the hill.

Sometimes in our climb past the top of the hill
We're set by some things that make us feel ill,
But if we would make it through this moment's chill
We'd find a blest healing past the top of the hill.

O climber, don't give up this side of the hill.
Keep climbing, though burdens seem ever to fill
Your mind, instead of God's passion to thrill,
When you reach just a little past the top of the hill

Now, not all we will face past that side of the hill
Will thrill us or skill us, for its intention's to kill,
But if we'd continue our Lord's will to fulfil
We'll find renewed vision past the top of the hill.
5-13-2006

I was reading from II Samuel and came across this passage in chapters 15 and 16, where David was facing the threat against his throne by his son, Absalom, who was conspiring against him. In fleeing with his household, David seeks to avoid being captured by his son. As he comes to accend Mount Olivet, with head covered and feet bare, he does so with weeping. All the people following him also ascend in the same spirit, with weeping. When he came to the top of the mount, he worshipped God. After receiving word of the activity in Jerusalem, David is "a little past the top of the hill" (16:1), when he is met with donkey's laden with food for those with him. They were refreshed for the continued journey and ultimately, the defeat of the conspiracy.

The hill of progress that must be climbed is often hard and we wonder if it is worth the trouble. David's heart ws burdened with the rebellion of Absalom, but "a little past the top of the hill" he found refreshment, and though the problem still lay before him, he went forward. The struggle upward with burdens which seem too much, need the awareness that "just a little past the top of the hill" there is respite, a repast, a renewal of heart and strength to continue in the midst of even stones being thrown at us by those who do not follow the right path. (16:5-6)

Be encouraged today, dear friends, as you climb the hills in adversity's wake. God will be there to give you refreshment.

Friday, September 4, 2009

FEED ONE A FISH, OR TEACH HIM TO CATCH?


There have been times that I have, quite by accident, pulled from the depths of a creek’s meandering waters a sizable Small Mouth Bass or a slippery Catfish. And I have sometimes had a grandchild along to give some assist to in the catching, and my, oh my, the joy on his face when he reels one into the boat. Now, I confess I can cook one better than I can catch, though the latter I find intensely more enjoyable. That is, unless, after smelling the frying aromas, I am able to pull a chair up and savor the results of my expertise.

Fortunately, the original intent of the quote that inspired the title of my blog has a focus far more reaching than feeding someone a fish or teaching him to catch one. Its purpose is to help a true servant multiply his effectiveness by giving his destitute fellowman the tools to feed, cloth and shelter himself for life, as opposed to giving him only one meal or its equivalent.

I am a teacher and have taught a number of courses on the college level. But who is really not a teacher? As parents, many who claim very little talent or skill in the teaching profession, have an automatic class and student body over which they have professorship in the best sense of the word. Their subjects are not limited to one course in which they excel. Rather, they are called on to give exercises in all disciplines, whether or not they themselves are proficient. In the same way, by degrees, dependent on age, training or purely character traits, every person young or old is a teacher.

Having said this, I return to some personal reflections on my own exercises in this most noble of professions. I have dabbled in a number of fields of interest, and have tried my hand, sometimes very adequately, if I do say so myself. I am certainly not in the same league with others who’s singular focus on one field of talent’s pursuit lands their product in a museum. I am, however, a “plodder” in a number of areas. In each I have at least tried my hand and gained personal affirmation and joy of a task attempted.

At times I am told that I am gifted in so many ways, but indeed I realize that some of my applications are less than “gifted” in their product. The fact is, I am addicted to trying my hand at a lot of things, many of which, with some effort, I am able to produce something that has value, if only my own affirmation of something attempted.

I enjoy the arts. I dabble at drawing and painting. I even came within three hours of an art minor in college. As a missionary in Asia, I used art to develop a “cottage industry” to help people earn a little extra income, while I taught them the Bible. I even tried my hand at stained glass, which still shines a message out to the lost that see it.

I love to write. I’ve been writing poetry and prose for more than forty years, and even have some that has been published. I’ve been writing on my autobiography for some time, of course it won’t be finished until I am, but it will be my gift, published or no, to my kids and their kids and etc. I’m working on a historical novel about my mother’s life. Her simple grace and compassion as the family’s “nanny”, grown out of an orphaned childhood of hardship deserves to be told, and the pen and the desire to write it was given me.

I like to sing, and do so periodically, and have even written some songs that have received some “kudos” of kind words from those who have heard. I tried my hand with the piano, for twelve weeks, at the end of which I rescued my teacher by quitting. I did, however, learn some basics, and though I have to stop and count the lines and spaces to come up with the name of the note, in singing I can watch “my note” and manage to travel up and down with it through the measures. And keeping my desire alive to make music somehow, I’ve taken up the mandolin and hope someday to make a recognizable noise with it. And hey, I’ve got someone who plays who is willing to suffer through my attempts.

With my wife, for thirteen years I’ve being stepping forth to do historical monologues and dramatic portrayals before schools, churches and numerous community events. Not, perhaps, of Broadway stage caliber, but believable and apparently of value to those who’ve continued to extend invitations for repeat performances. I’ve even tried my hand at “clowning” (as you may have noted in my bio information which adjoins this column) and find it a special release of some inner expressions I might find it hard to express were it not for the disguise of greasepaint.

I’m a fair to middlin’ carpenter and painter, crafts that I learned from my Dad, who built houses “from the ground up” and put his boys to work in the trade very early on. Out of this, I’ve tried my hand successfully on models of every kind. I suppose the kid in me who wants to put something together with his own hands is still alive. (Check out my blogs over the last six months and you’ll see some of my projects.)

As far as ministries go, I’ve worked at the normal tasks of preaching and teaching and counseling and pastoring for forty-five years, and still enjoy the preparation in scriptures, and the times of delivery of what I’ve studied. I received my share of the “back pats” and “good job” comments, most perhaps very sincere, others, it’s hard to tell. I’ve also led prison ministry on foreign soil, with some great success due to my team and their dedication. Nursing home ministry has been another area where I’ve worked, though tough because of my own sensitive nature as I confront those who’s conditions tear at my heart. I even did my doctoral work in the development of ministry in such facilities, and was offered a professional position as a result. I declined as I realized it was God’s way of broadening my vision of ministry.

Other areas of work in ministry have been offerings to which I did respond favorably. I was a state prayer director for seven years, during which time I was able to lead in helping focus the attention of churches on the great priority of prayer to enable the whole of ministry to which God has called. Out of my missionary calling and work overseas and at home in the U.S., I was able to serve as a missions director for men and boys work, and lead mission teams to do work in Canada and in the U.S. on an Indian reservation.

And now that I am retired from what is termed “full time” ministry, though I am still a pastor, and teach Bible at a local college, I still have the same inner call to explore some new ways of doing creative work. Be it with my mind, my voice, my hands, or with my whole body, which by the way, is slowing somewhat, I’m game to try!

“Now,” you may be asking, “what is your purpose in this running resume of activity?”

Well, I’ll tell you. The other night as I was teaching my course in Old Testament at the college, one young student approached me and began to share. It seems that the assignment I had given for a term paper had connected with him in a way that originally I had not considered. I had told them that I wanted them to write a paper on a subject that seemed to “leap out” at them from the course of study. I wanted it to be something that “grabbed” them to the point that they wanted to explore it further.

In preparation for my lecture, I had begun to think of some possible themes. I remembered this young man’s music interest and ability and had written down a possible direction for him to pursue. To my surprise and delight, my challenge and sharing from the class before had inspired him to consider the same direction. We had connected! Then, on reflection, I began to weigh what had occurred. I came to this very important conclusion. I am a teacher and I deal with a lot of facts that I desire the students to learn, but it’s more than mere facts, which could be learned from reading the book. I am a teacher with a responsibility to inspire the students to learn to apply the facts to meaningful expression and application. This is to be applied in the direction of those areas of giftedness, small or large, where they can find fulfillment and meaningful service to God and their fellowman. My own varied experience and drive to pursue new experience is a way to connect with my students in opening up their own interests and applications.

The real “kudo” of praise and honor for the work I may have done in any area of attempted excellence is not the kind words spoken in a moment’s encounter. It is through the lives that begin to have a creative vision for what can be attempted, and often, accomplished. I was inspired by numerous mentors and teachers that challenged my thoughts to go beyond what I perceived were my limited talents. They challenged me, not to just do that which was counted as a sure thing in the minds of some, but to open my vision to see and attempt every kind of creative activity, and as a result, find in it the joy of doing. I thank the Lord for such mentors as these.

I hear the plaintive excuses often. “I just don’t have a creative bone in my body.” “I’m not gifted at anything.” “I don’t have anything worth sharing.” Shall I say it? Hogwash! Don’t compare yourself with anyone else! The great creative Father and God of us all does not make JUNK! He makes things that work and have gifts to share.

And how do we find those gifts? We try them on for size. Sometimes they are too big, or maybe too small. Try another size in the same style. You do it at Walmart. It works in other places, too. And variety, well, they say, “it’s the spice of life!” Well, put some spice in your life and see how good it tastes to others, as well! My own experience has found that when I am exploring God’s will for the next project, I don’t have time to organize an inner “pity party” of excuse. Like a small child at play, everyday faces me with a new delight of some new toy of blessed activity.

And speaking of blessed activity, when you teach someone to “cast out” in exploration of their giftedness and interests, giving a few pointers from your own experiences, the joy on their faces as they “catch” the vision is a rich reward. Your attempts and joy in the doing is doubled in theirs. By all means, feed the hungry, but, by all means, be the teacher you are created to be, and help them "catch" their own meals!

How about you? Take a look at these scriptures which express the challenge I have tried to convey today, AND BE ENCOURAGED!

Ecclesiastes 9:10 “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is not work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”

Matthew 25:15 “And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.”

I Corinthians 4:7 “For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?”

Friday, August 21, 2009

HAVE YOU USED SON BLOCK TODAY?


Did you ever get a real sunburn on your face? People did not have to know where you had been, they knew you had been in the sun for too long a time.

Physically, I am very susceptible to the sun’s rays and blister very badly. As a youngster we did not know about sun blocks or what the sun might do to the skin in causing cancer, etc. Many of us are paying the price for that lack of knowledge and the sun block that was needed. I remember the time when, after a particularly good day in the sun, I came home suffering a sunburn that literally caused blisters an inch high to appear on my shoulders. With no air conditioning at that time, I took the relief of a pallet in front of the screen door where the night’s cooling breeze could ease my pain.

Physically, we’re told we need sun block to keep out the harmful rays of the sun, particularly if we have skin tones that are lighter and more susceptible. I heartily concur and recommend it.

As I weighed the effects of sun block to act as a defense against burns that can be quite serious, I began to think of another kind of blocking that commonly takes place against another kind of SON! The more I thought about the analogy, the more it seem to have some applications that would be worthwhile considering.

Stay with me on this. I want to make the transition from the “sun block” which is needed to keep us healthy in body, to the “Son block” which we need to avoid to assure our spiritual health.

How shall I describe the benefits of not using “Son block?” Consider first the “sun block.” In the case of the “sun’s” influence upon us physically, we want to keep those powerful rays from causing their deep burning of the skin. To avoid this, we put the sun block on all exposed areas and it forms a protective shield. The greater the SPF the less dangerous UVA rays will penetrate the barrier to damage the skin. We are told that even when the sun is somewhat hidden on a semi-cloudy day, such rays are still present, so some kind of “screen” is recommended.

Now, what about “Son block?” The affect of God’s Son shining on and into our lives might be said to have the same results, minus the damaging burn and other possible negative ramifications. When the Son of God is allowed to shine on and deeply in your life, there may be the heat of a passion for Him that grows in the relationship, but there will be no burning, ever. No damage, in fact, for His Rays make for permanent spiritual health.

Sun block products often have guarantees that they make. The guarantee for NOT USING SON block, and allowing the Son to shine His truth deep within is the promise of life everlasting.

Now follow a bit of analogy as I pursue the levels of sun block that I use:

SUN BLOCK 15 – I USE TO MOISTURIZE AND HAVE TAD OF PROTECTION –

Application: SOME USE A SPIRITUAL SON BLOCK 15 TO GET JUST ENOUGH OF A DOSE TO KEEP THEM RELATED BUT NOT TOO DEEP. You know, use a little of the church language but keep involvement at a long-arm’s length.

I MAY USE A STRONGER SUN BLOCK #50 TO COVER ON A MILDLY CLOUDY DAY. IT’S STILL SUN BLOCK BUT JUST ENOUGH TO STILL CATCH A FEW RAYS-

Application: THEY USE THE SON BLOCK 50 OF JUST GOING TO CHURCH OCCASIONLY. Attend just enough not to be considered a backslider.

USE THE SON BLOCK OF PRAYING JUST ENOUGH TO GET BY. After all, God understands I have a lot of other things to get done.

USE THE SON BLOCK OF READING AND STUDYING THE BIBLE JUST A LITTLE TO KEEP A LITTLE RELIGION BUT NOT GO OVERBOARD. There are too many fanatics that cause more problems than good.

USE THE SON BLOCK OF JUST ENOUGH GOOD WORKS TO BE CONSIDERED GOOD ENOUGH FOR GOD TO ACCEPT. Nobody’s perfect. It’s like using the “toning blocks” to make you look like you’ve had a complete “Son-job” but it’s only “skin” deep. Some use spiritual “tanning-beds,” but these, too, are not equipped to provide the real Son-shine.

USE THE SON BLOCK OF EXCUSES TO KEEP FROM TOO MUCH SPIRITUAL RESPONSIBILITY. I CAN’T TEACH, OR SING, OR PREACH. I’M NOT GOOD WITH PEOPLE. Well, I honestly can’t.

THE BIG SUNBLOCK FOR ME IS LIKE #70. THIS IS TO KEEP ANY RAYS FROM GETTING ON ME ANYWHERE.

USE THE SON BLOCK #70 THAT SAYS DON’T TALK TO ME ABOUT CHURCH – My religion is a private matter and I can worship anywhere.

ONE SON BLOCKER I HEARD SAID THAT HE DID NOT TAKE HIS CHILD TO CHURCH BECAUSE HE DID NOT WANT TO INFLUENCE THE CHILD’S FREEDOM TO CHOOSE GOD OR NOT. This is putting the Son block #55 on the child, but leaving the world’s influence “unblocked” and free to influence. The child’s freedom of choice will be seriously jeopardized.

USE THE HEAVY SON BLOCK OF UNBELIEF. This will insure that no divine rays will shine upon and bring life to the one who has blocked the Son of God.

AND OH, IT’S INTERESTING TO NOTE! WHEN I’VE USED THE SUN BLOCK I’VE NOTICED THAT I STILL FEEL THE DISCOMFORT – MY SUN BLOCK GETS IN MY EYES AND BURNS.

Application: FOR ALL THE BENEFITS OF SON BLOCK FOR THE ONE WHO DOESN’T WANT TO HAVE CHRIST VERY DEEPLY UNDER HIS SPIRITUAL SKIN, HE CAN STILL FEEL THE HEAT OF CONVICTION AND NO AMOUNT OF SON BLOCK CAN KEEP YOU FROM GETTING A REALLY BAD BURN AFTER IT’S ALL SAID AND DONE!

ON THE OTHER HAND, WHEN THE SON OF GOD IS ALLOWED TO SHINE DEEPLY IN YOUR LIFE, THERE MAY BE THE HEAT OF PASSION IN THE RELATIONSHIP, BUT THERE WILL BE NO FOREVER BURNING, EVER. THAT’S PART OF THE PRODUCT GUARANTEE.

IT’S IN THE PACKAGE INSTRUCTIONS. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Be encouraged today! Use the Sun Block but don’t block the SON!

Monday, August 3, 2009

HOW DOES ONE GET OFF A MERRY.GO.ROUND?

Recently, our family of eleven (6 adults and 5 children) went on a vacation together in eastern Tennessee. The first part of our trip was a three-day retreat in the mountains with other missionaries with whom we served in Bangladesh some 23 years ago. It was a time to catch up with each other’s lives, hear recent updates from the mission field and just enjoy a time of worship and fellowship with those we claim as family, as well. Additionally, it gave our grandchildren contact with folks that they hear about from time to time, to help them glean a little of their parents’ early experiences as Missionary Kids.


After the retreat, we drove a short distance to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, where we planned to take in some of the local claims to fame. One such place we spotted seemed to invite the whole group’s interest, so we spent the better part of an afternoon being “chilled and thrilled” with the advertized 101 “mind boggling” mysteries of what was called WONDERWORKS.


As you can see, our minds were “hooked” already by the unique structure which housed the mysteries. It literally was an upside down experience for this family, especially me! There were every kind of mind confusing electronics you could imagine. For instance, the “tunnel” hallway to access the main displays was a simulated “bridge” through what appeared to be a seven foot pipe, completely darkened except for the constant spiraling ribbon of blue light. The affect on the eyes was so dramatic that though you knew the bridge was stationary, your mind told you that your whole body was revolving. I get a sensation of vertigo just recalling it. After this were encounters with every kind of mind teaser, including some very physical activities such as rock climbing,


lying on a bed of actual nails
and making enormous bubbles with 3 foot hoops dipped in vats of soapy water.



One mind messing “ride” I was challenged to take with son-in-law Kirk was a two-seater closed capsule in which we were completed strapped. In front of us was a screen on which a very psychedelic “roller coaster ride” was imaged while the capsule was put on “spin” to simulate the ride’s swerves and turns. I felt as though I’d been on the worst roller coaster I could ever image. When we climbed out of the capsule my legs, my body, everything, felt a wash of exhausted sensation that took 30 minutes to finally pass. I recognized with the immediate concern of my family, I should have left that experience unexperienced and vowed to do so in the future. I recognized the “going where no man has gone before” was not all that great. Fortunately, my taste has had no lasting affect on me. (By the way, if you are interested in checking out WONDERWORKS as a possible family activity, check their website and the UTubes available for viewing.)

The next day’s activity was a visit to the famed DOLLYWOOD, where the family was delighted to find a well-laid out theme park of rides, music shows and craft shops of every kind. Something for the whole family. If this sounds like a travel log, it kind of is, but I do have a point I will make before I close, so stay with me.

I enjoyed the time with family and watching the faces of my grands and their parents as they took in the variety of experiences. Having learned my lesson somewhat from the WONDER of the day before, I was less prone to push the proverbial envelope too far on rides, so I enjoyed watching those that did and getting a few pictures. I did take in what was advertized as their version of the “log chute” drench, and was properly soaked for the experience.



It was here at DOLLYWOOD that I began to think about the things that makeup the day- to-day passion of man generally. All about me I saw, and experienced to a degree, the seeking of things to “chill and thrill” the body and mind. My grands would go on a ride, scream through its particularly mind-blowing parts, emerge and plead to go stand in line for a repeated chill. That day we arrived to open the park, and they were still pleading for just one more thrill ride before the park closed, which it did as we left.

It caused me to think of man’s constant cycle of search for the meaning of life. Literally, a MERRY.GO.ROUND, ever seeking a new thrill, and he finds that each one is short-lived, and so like the rides of a theme park, come back to the place where it started with the result, a memory that will begin to fade as he steps out of the vehicle that took him through the experience, and a pocket with less than the price of admission to it. His cycle of life will have nought but that fading memory and sensation, and so, he will proverbially stand in line to repeat it again and again, or find a new thrill to replace it, resulting in the same scenario.

As I have said it before in describing my mental gymnastics of comparing such thrill seeking to life in general, I am not opposed to having the fun offered by such as is found in these mind bogglers, and I only cite the examples to bring our thoughts to an important truth about man’s real “thrill” possibilities. But before I do, let me take you one day further in our family’s vacation experience.

Before turning our sights toward home, we left Pigeon Forge and heading southwest toward Chattanooga, Tennessee. Our target for experience was Ruby Falls and Rock City. The first, a cave down into a mountain, where we would have seen a waterfall so named, and the latter, a natural formation of rocks said to be a great adventure of walking and climbing. The cave’s combination of descent and necessary ascent was ruled out for the already weary group, and the heavy downpour of rain that threatened to continue as we arrived in the city put a “damp-er” on the Rock. Needing to head east before too late, we discovered an in-door activity we’d not been aware of before arriving. The Tennessee Aquarium on the river, and downtown, was a likely experience all would enjoy. Well, we did not know the half of it.

The two huge modern buildings which housed both fresh water and salt water life were magnificent in their construction and display of the underwater life of our planet. As we “wandered” and “wondered” through the 3-story sloping halls filled with enormous tanks of water, fauna and fish, we were put in visual, and sometimes in touch, with creatures beyond our imagination.

Let me pause to plug this place of experience. If you ever are considering a trip through or near Chattanooga, don’t miss taking time to take the self-guided tour through this facility. Young and “older” will enjoy, as we can testify. Check out their website – you’ll catch a little glimpse of what I mean.

Now, back to our experience there. One of the things that immediately impressed me and began to set my mind in reflective motion once more, was the section of the aquarium labeled Seahorses. On walking into this area, I expected to see very small creatures with their typical “horsehead” structure which gives them their name. I was not prepared for the size nor the wide array of variety in this animal’s kingdom. One that caught my attention most was called the “Leafy Seadragon” which I picture below.


Leafy Seadragon Photo by Todd Stailey
At first, I thought it was merely some of the vegetation floating in the water. On closer look, I saw the head and body in the midst of its leafy camouflage. My immediate thought was that God had certainly provided for the protection and propagation of this species. It could hide in its environment and thus elude would be predators very well. After all, it had initially fooled me.
While “wandering and wondering” the halls with our family, I was made aware of the fact that one of our grands, Keaton, had his notebook out and was writing down a lot of information about what he saw. His mother then began taking pictures of many things to save him the time and effort, relating that he had a great passion for all that the aquarium was showing him, and he wanted to keep the experience in his mind as long as possible. Needless to say, I was duly impressed with his desire.

This experience brings me to the point of this family vacation blog.

I have related to you, the reader, what consumed my mind as I thought about the “chill and thrill” rides of both WONDERWORKS and DOLLYWOOD, and how they spoke to me about the cycle of man’s passionate search for meaning in life. Now I have related an experience found at TENNESSEE AQUARIUM, where my grandson discovered something that for him would have more lasting memory and value. This same boy that enjoyed the rides and with the others, wanted just ONE MORE RIDE BEFORE THE PARK CLOSED, now was expressing something of more lasting value than the chill of a moment. I don’t know what Keaton will do with his knowledge gained. He may someday be one who uses such to build his own unique work of lasting value to him and others.

My point is this. Man’s search for meaning often misses the mark because he seeks that of the world’s short-term thrills and chills of experience. On the darker side of experience, the drug and addiction culture that is so rampant today is a very obvious example of the short-term thrill to escape an otherwise hopeless and helpless existence. The cycle which takes man on a roller coaster ride of thrill will not ever progress past the point of its beginning fix, will always push for a little more chill the next time around, and with a drive and passion that JUST HAS TO HAVE ONE MORE RIDE BEFORE THE PARK CLOSES. And what is true in this particular culture is also true in those who seek the experience of gaining the world of riches, which ever tempts them to give up everything to possess its claim on lives. It, too, has a thrill which is short-lived. One who gains and million wants to gain two, and so on it goes.

The lesson that Keaton shows me in his seeking of knowledge about life under the sea, is how much more is to be gained by growing in knowledge, and knowledge to pursue, to gain, to grow in one’s understanding of his world. Spiritually, man’s seeking after God is the really true passion that has an experience that lasts, growing daily in understanding one’s understanding of his purpose in life. It is here that peace of mind, joy in the journey, hope for the future, and love for God and man’s neighbor can be the thrill that lasts beyond the PARK’S CLOSING HOUR. It doesn’t just bring you back where you started, but take you on to greater thrills of the heart and mind than can ever be won by a roller coaster to nowhere.

Consider these scriptures that take us on a journey of growth, and be encouraged!

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
John 15:4a, 7, 10a, 11 “Abide in me, and I in you…If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you…If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love…These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”
Matthew 6:33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Sunday, July 12, 2009

REBUILDING OUR TABERNACLES




I love building with my hands. Making something COME ALIVE out of a few pieces of wood, some paint, glue and string, can keep me singularly occupied for hours on end. My only impatience is waiting on the glue to dry, but when I step back to view my progress periodically, there’s a delight that’s hard to express in words. Such is my latest project in constructing a model of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, where God came to dwell among His people Israel, after He had freed them from Egyptian bondage.

How did I settle on this particular project you may ask. Since retiring from my almost 30 years in missionary work, I have moved back to the area where I spent most of the first 18 years of my life. There, at the country church that birthed my Christian pilgrimage and mentored me later as my first pastorate some 45 years ago, I have returned to pastor again. In February of this year, I determined that a sermon series in the book of Exodus was the best direction to take in my preaching. This book has been the ideal renewal base for helping the church, and ME, rediscover what it means to be the people of God in a growing land of bondage that they have created.

Step by step, as I have preached through the experiences of Moses and the Hebrew nation as they followed God’s lead, the applications of scripture have beautifully been affirmed by my church’s pre-planned and sometimes unknown events from week to week. For ezample, the birth of a child to members of the congregation came the very week of sharing about Moses’ birth. And when the couple decided to dedicate the child after 40 days had passed, the message dealt with the dedication of the firstborn following the plagues. A pre-planned Lord’s Supper came the same week as the Passover passages. And so on it has gone.

As I began to project my sermons and study ahead to the next episodes in Israel’s pilgrimage, I realized that very soon I would be dealing with the building of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. It would come on the Sunday when I would be absent for a retreat reunion experience with my family and missionaries with whom we served in Asia. As I weighed the matter of one to supply for me in my absence, I thought of my cousin, Bro. Ray, and remembered his experiences of year’s past as a guide, in priestly costume, through the life size model of the Tabernacle at Eureka Springs, Arkansas’s famous Passion Play. Contacting him, we arranged for him to do so, and in costume to share the message with my people. The idea of a Tabernacle model surfaced as a way to aid in his presentation. And, in light of the fact that I would be teaching a course in the Old Testament at our local College in the fall, it would be an added teaching tool for me, and him, in other venues, as well.

There you have it and I cannot tell you how much very personal and practical help my “hands on” construction has been. I have not yet “plummed” the depths of spiritual meaning that occurs to me with every bit of wood and paint applied, and the attention to detail which surely must have been the first builders’ experience in touching the holy things they put in place according to God’s blueprint.

The pictures I’ve shown still do not have the final curtains and covering instructed by God for His original dwelling place among His people. I expect that in their preparation and installation this week, I will come to some added personal understanding, and I pray, more renewed awareness of my own “indwelling” of His Presence.

This brings me to some final words of encouragement for you, my readers, in this installment of Barnabas Brief.

As we weigh what God was doing with His people in that wilderness so long ago, I pray that we realize He was setting in motion the essence of what His relationship then, and later with the coming of His Son, was truly to be. The Tabernacle itself was a visible tool to bring them into a deeper spiritual awareness and relationship to the God Who was ever with them. All through those 40 years in the wilderness wanderings, He revealed His Presence, dwelling among them.

In a real “touch and feel” kind of experience, the Tabernacle was to be the “temple” of His indwelling in their lives, and every bit of furniture that was placed within it, and even the building itself, was to have special indwelling significance to them. And its proclaimed “holy” nature was not speaking of the materials from which it was constructed. It was little more than mineral and plant product of the earth. Its “holy” nature came from their contact with HOLY JEHOVAH.

Speaking of the construction of such holy contact with God, Peter wrote, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 2:5) Further, he wrote, “ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (I Peter 2:9)

Question. You may not be constructing a model of the Tabernacle, but are you actively involved in a renewed construction with Christ, the temple, the spiritual house of His indwelling with you? If you are, then in truth, He is, IN HOLY PRESENCE, in the TABERNACLE which you are! Praise the Lord!

Why not look up EXODUS, chapters 25-28, and read for yourself.

Be encouraged, fellow TABERNACLE!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

MY COUNTRY 'TIS OF THEE, SWEET LAND!

Oh, how we take for granted this sweet land of liberty!
Everyday we growl and complain and frown at our fellow citizens, as they, too, exercise their right to drive on its highways. We become lost in our own circle of life, and fail to see around us many of our "sisters and brothers" who's circle is smaller and filled with more pain and distress than we've ever faced! We do not even give thanks for the daily bread that is in abundance in our markets, when even in this land there are those whose children cry because there is not a crust to be found in their homes! We watch our televisions, and see with untouched hearts, the world around us whose hearts bleed daily in want and bondage! Oh, when will we awake to the true call to freedom's banner!
Today is our nation's birthday! As we look at the lighted "candles" that fill the sky today in celebration, may there be a new resolve to take our freedom seriously, to learn to care and give space to those who, too, own its liberty, to reach out to enlarge the circles that often bind and distress our sisters and brothers, to thank God for bread by sharing it with those who lack its abundance, to move forward to LET OUR FREEDOM RING for the hearts of those of our world who've never known what it sounds like.
Oh, today of all days, truly live like it is GOD'S COUNTRY AND A SWEET LAND - FOR ALL!

Friday, June 26, 2009

WHAT HAPPENED IN THE WORLD ON JUNE 26, 1965?

I began to research the internet today for what happened 44 years ago on this day. I came up somewhat empty. I did discover that in Belgium a political party named Wallon was formed, and of course, we were already in the midst of the conflict in Vietnam, an ongoing news maker for some time to come. But on that day, it seemed the world found no other history of importance to record. It was almost as if there was a pause.

Now, I am not claiming that everything in the world was put on hold for me on that date, but there was a significant event that took place in the heartland of North America, in the Ozark hills of northern Arkansas, in a tiny little community known as Burlington. There, in a rural country church, surrounded by witnesses who would attest to what occurred, two lives were joined in what is known as Holy Matrimony. Yours truly became one with a very special lady, and thus began a journey that would indeed reach around the world during the next forty-four years. When you think about it, the empty space on the world scene on June 26, 1965 was not so empty after all.

HAPPY 44TH ANNIVERSARY, DEAR, AND THANKS
FOR BEING MY JOURNEY COMPANION!




I just had to include this one because it is "different" - She says "but we're not smiling"!
Personally, I was nervously glad we were finally "marching" out, and she, well, I leave it
to you. Who do you think she was winking at, and why? 44 years later and I still am
finding out she knows me "like a book" and I'm still finding "new pages" to read about her!
Been there, done that?


Dear friends, let me add that there is no better way to spend a life "in the Lord" than with someone who shares your faith, your call, and your walk. Be encouraged today.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

YOU KNOW YOU’RE IN THE WILD WHEN…





…The neighbor’s dogs tree a raccoon on your deck…
Or…

· When life just seems to go-around-in-circles.


· When your ship comes in and you’re not ready.


· When you seem to be in someone else’s tea party.


· When life’s ups and downs leave you dizzy.



· When you can’t seem to get off the ground.



· When life’s heading for a drenching and you can’t stop it.


· When it seems your lifeboat can’t even save you from a splashing…
Just remember…



· To LAUGH because you’re NOT ALONE in the boat.

Our recent trip to Silver Dollar City with three grandsons gave us some thrills and WET chills as we experienced the various rides designed to either DIZZY-FY, FLUSTER-FY, MYSTIFY or DRENCH-A-FY (Pardon my words, for sometimes there is just no words to describe it.) And regardless of the nature of the rides or what it did to one’s insides, we lined-up for a repeat dose. Now, there’s a paradox! Of course, we “chalked” it all up to fun, and made some great memories with the grandsons.

It did put me in mind, however, of our lives and their seeming constant confrontations with that which doesn’t result in fun. Just the opposite! We get frustrated, anxious, fearful, and even sick in the midst of life’s variety of unwanted RIDES. And there are times when you see it coming and realize that you are powerless to avoid being hopelessly DRENCHED by it.

One paradoxical TRUTH that surfaced in my musings on the experiences of the day, was that sometimes that which we dread for its past affects on us, we will, with eyes open, STAND IN LINE to cause it to be repeated. Why do we do that? Do we forget, or are we waiting on God to keep us from doing that which we should not? I am afraid it is the latter. We like the excitement, the challenge of temptation’s draw upon us, but don’t want to pay the price of our yielding to its call.

The last picture of the lifeboat gives us a picture of what God would have us know about the experiences of life with its NEVER CEASING RIDES that challenge us. First, realize that we are not alone in the lifeboat. There are others who share our experience, so it is not unique to just us. Often, we cry out of such a crisis “WHY ME?” Well, it is not JUST YOU! Secondly, realize that there is ANOTHER WHO IS IN THE LIFEBOAT!. IN FACT, HE IS THE LIFEBOAT! You may be drenched, but IN HIM you won’t DROWN! It was His death on the cross that enables you to float above that eternal threat upon you. Finally, LAUGH WITH HIM as evidence of your ASSURANCE that regardless how rough the seas of our rescue, we ARE AND WILL BE VICTORIOUS IN HIM!

Oh, yes. What does the raccoon have to do with story? Well, after coming home to our house in the wild woods, the boys were sound asleep in the room just off the back deck. I was still awake, when suddenly the neighbor’s dogs began some serious howling. Amid this commotion, there was a lot of scratching, like something climbing on the vinyl siding. When I went to investigate…well, you see what I found. It was the first such critter we’d seen, aside from deer, squirrels and birds. YEP, WE LIVE IN THE WILD! The boys never woke up! In life, the wild need never destroy our peace and joy!

I Corinthians 10:13 "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above hat ye are able to bear; but will wiith the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."

John 14:16-17, 27 "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you...Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."


BE ENCOURAGED, FELLOW TRAVELERS!

Monday, June 1, 2009

THE BRIDLE AND BIT OF LIFE


A model of strength, of submitted control,
The horse to his rider commits to his role.
If given his head he might charge on alone,
But trained to the reins he refuses to roam.
He responds to the touch of his rider's command,
The tug on the bit from the reins in his hand.
We, too, have the power that's given to us,
By our Rider and Lord, in Whom we can trust,
And when we commit our tongue to His rule,
He'll guard and will keep us from sin's speaking cruel,
And as did our Saviour to God's will commit,
We'll yield to His tug on our bridle and bit.
~jdb, 1-20-2007
A couple of years ago, I had the awesome opportunity to see a "Horse Whisperer" at work, taming an "unbroken" two-year old horse who had had little handling, and no contact with the "Whisperer" at all. As I watched the man go through the paces in the arena with this, at first, nervous pony with a stranger and a crowd to boot, I saw him gradually gain the confidence of the animal, indicate by gentle pressure and basic signals what was expected of him. The horse responded, took the bridle and bit without hesitation, then the saddle, and ultimately the weight of the rider without the bucking normally seen on the rodeo circuit. This done, the rider then guided with the reins, his steed around the arena. All of this took a total of about an hour and a half. Amazing. And what was even more amazing was that the "Whisperer" talked more to the crowd than to the horse. He kept a running commentary of what he was doing, and laced the whole of his presentation with a witness of how it related to the life of one who was, at first, not a Christian, but who, coming under conviction, began his move toward Christ. Every step he made with the horse he related in steps he'd taken in coming under the control of Christ in his life.
As I reflected on this scene and began to make a connection between the bridle and bit of God's control, I thought of the place where the control begins. There is nothing that creates more mischief in life than a person's tongue "out of control". What he or she says is most often the measure of how much or how little control they have on their whole body's action, good or bad.
How much control one has over his body total can be seen in how much control is kept on the tongue. It is the steering mechanism that moves the body one way or the other. The tongue out of control can ruin the Christian's witness, and its unbridled use can run over in destructive power the very ones who are the objects of God's love and life.
The control of the tongue, or speech, is pictured like the bridle and bit put into the horse's mouth. With it this most powerful of tamed animals can be guided and led to do the most amazing tasks. When tamed, a horse still has all his strength to do as he will, but he has placed his will under the control of the master of the reins, and has submitted to the bridle and bit which guide him in the use of his power.
In the same way, when the child of God has committed and submitted to the indwelling master of his life, he has received the potential of God's "watch" upon his lips, the bridle and bit of God's guiding Holy Spirit. Our supreme example of a life under control, with His reins secure in the will and purpose of His Father's hands, is Jesus. He, the righteous power and might, when condemned and abused undeservedly, opened not His mouth in defense or condemnation. He, Who had the bidding of angels, kept Himself under the controlling reins of the Almighty's will, and died upon the cross. Ho, all the earth, keep silence before such a One, and submit to the bit and bridle of God!
Psalms 141:3 "Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth: keep the door of my lips."
Ecclesiastes 3:7 "A time to rend, and a time to sow: a time to keep silence, and a time to speak."
Isaiah 53:7 "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth."
Titus 2:8 "Sound speech, that cannot be condemned: that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, have no evil thing to say of you."
James 3:2 "For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body."
James 1:26 "If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain."
Be encouraged today in all you say and do, that it is in responce to God's bridle and bit.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

THE SAGA OF A-RESTED SWINGER!

Today's BBB (Barnabas Brief Blog) is given with a little tongue in cheek related to the last two days of activity around our house. I do have a point, so wade through the rest with me and I will get to it as I close.

Yesterday and today were "honey do" list days at our house. One project was the securing and installation of a new porch swing. I had planned on building one because what I had seen was either too expensive or not quite the right color and design. Day before yesterday as I was traveling back from a trip to the Passion Play grounds at Eureka Springs, AR, with my Broco (Brother Cousin) I spotted a road side shop where a man was displaying several items made of cedar, including several swings. We stopped and found one exactly the right size, price, color and design, so we loaded it into the van and I brought it home. Immediately, the honey do list inceased by one project in the #1 position of priority.

After much very technical computation, and the application of hand saw, level, electric drill, tape measure, more leveling and a great deal of applied "sweat" to grease the swing, here is the result:

Today the list required another town visit to pick up potting soil, mulch and 440 pounds of decorative cement border blocks (40 of them). I picked up each one a total of probably 8 times from the stack at Home Depot to their final resting place around a new flower bed. (NOTE TO SELF: Muscles in arms need to be carefully watched for major expansion.) Arriving home, I took a quick nap and began the process of developing another piece of technical computation - how to build a flower bed border with rounded corners and use exactly the right number of bricks without piecing the last brick. My supervisor's keen eye (supervisor, i.e. the "honey" of the "do" list) gave several suggestions to which I was the willing "sweat-ee" in, again, lifting the blocks a few more times. Seriously, the suggestions were correct! Well, you can see the results in this picture of an 8 by 12 oblong flower bed.


Now, to quote from my vast french repertoire, I arrive at the "creme de la creme" or the "piece de resistance" of my day.


I don't know why the French say "piece de resistance" when I felt no RESISTANCE at all!

Yes, I take the WORD seriously when it says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

Take a big HINT from this BLOG - regardless of what you do as far as physical, emotional or spiritual labor that wears you down, find a SWING if you can, but ALWAYS RESPOND TO HE WHO CAN TRULY GIVE YOU REST! Be encouraged!









Monday, May 25, 2009

GET YOUR OWN DIRT!


Of all the things that man can do,
There’s really nothing that is new.
He copies all of what he sees
Of what’s been done that he perceives.
Invention, discov’ries, are not from “thin air”
For they come to past from what has been there.
There’s only been One Creator of new,
And He is the One Who made me and made you.
~jb, 5-25-2009

I like the joke I was told at church yesterday. I had been sharing a doctrinal message on the subject of man’s creation, making reference to him being God’s crowning creative work, and as such the goal of God’s creation of the world and all of its life. Obviously, this is not the same conclusion theorized by much of the scientific community, who see man as merely an evolutionary product of nature’s billion year developmental ooze. I question the age – Did they find a date written on something? – And the “ooze” – What nothingness did that come from anyway?

Ah, yes, the joke! Well, it seems that the scientists contacted preachers from all of the major denominations. They invited them to a special meeting and told them that they had discovered that God was no longer needed, that they had been able to create a man and would demonstrate their discovery for them. The preachers invited God to attend the meeting with them, and He and they were at the appointment. The scientists began to prepare their demonstration by filling a bucket with dirt, which they poured out on the floor of the lab. Then, before they could do anything else, God stepped forward and blew the dirt away. He then told them, “GET YOUR OWN DIRT!”

I am so amazed at the utter audacity of those who theorize (theory is not fact) that there is no God involved in the existence of the universe and all that is within it, and to arrive at their conclusions, they depend upon what God has provided as a resource of tools for their discoveries. They say all started with a big bang, but they never answer the question of what exploded in the first place. I wrote a little verse several years ago that illustrates this bit of theory.

If the universe expanded
From a small but weighty ball,
By whose pow’r was it compacted,
And whose hand was then retracted,
To fufil a goal protracted,
Giving reason for us all?
~jb, 3-2-1991

The standard come-back from those who deny the existence of God is that they believe only “what they can see” or perceive with their senses, or are able to understand. They never seem to take into account the very nature of what the term GOD implies. If He were able to be understood completely, He would not be GOD, who by definition is so superior to man’s highest thoughts that man cannot attain to Him, unless that door of access be opened by GOD Himself. And of course, that is exactly what He has done in giving the Bible as a revelation of Himself.

Another rational expressed by those who would deny a greater and more supreme intellect than their own is the similarity between the material makeup of man and his animal/organic environment. They propose that the shared micro and physiological structure of both indicates an evolutionary development of one into the other. Well, duht! It is a wise Creator, indeed, Who insures all of the resources of life in complimentary availability are in place before the man is “moved” into his new home. Because I can eat a carrot and glean nourishment from it does not mean I used to be a carrot!

And, as I have often said to those who pose why God didn’t create His crowning work, man, first; what would man breath, or eat, or where would he stand? God made him as His finished work, adaptable to and as caretaker of the rest of creation, along with personhood to receive and return God’s greatest gift and trait, His love.

Invariably, the question of sin then enters the mix. Why did God allow sin in such a perfect environment, if He truly purposed man to be the recipient of His love and care, and capable of returning it in kind? Evolution of a developmental “ooze” can never explain the presence of man’s complex self-awareness and conscious ability to love and live sacrificially by choice. Even the presence of instinctive sacrifice in the animal world cannot reach its measure. Man alone has the capacity to choose, to self determine his actions, good or bad. Such knowledge and choice is not within the animal’s prerogative.

Herein lies an answer to the question of sin’s entrance. Had God’s purpose been to merely create a garden with a perfect caretaker who could only act out a programmed set of “farming” instructions, sin would not even be discussed, and even this writing ever conceived. But because God’s purpose was to have a created object of His love nature, and one with whom He could intimately fellowship in “give and take” relations, He gave man a free will with capacity to choose to love or not to love, to obey or disobey, to do right or to sin.

Then knowing in His infinitely omniscient mind how that free will would exercise an imperfect choice and sin, He pre-arranged for man’s redemption before creation’s beginning. Then, in its beginning, He put His plan into action, a plan culminating in the birth and human life, then death and resurrection of His own Son, Jesus Christ, as payment for man’s sin and restoration to full fellowship with God for eternity.

So, worldly wise, here’s your paradoxical challenge. Try to prove my God doesn’t exist, but in doing so, be honest. “GET YOUR OWN DIRT!”

Genesis 1:27-28 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Genesis 2:7 “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

Genesis 3:1-24 records the story of man’s choice and sin’s entrance.

John 3:16-18 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Dear friends and believers in Christ, be encouraged today. This is my prayer.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

COME UP HERE...AND SEE!


Our journey in life is a daily climb,
From earthly-bound realms to that called sublime.
So also in Christ, we live t'ward new heights,
With experiences rich in blessed delights.

But lest we should falter in our upward climb,
And lose depth of knowing this One who's Divine,
We'll respond to His call to "come up...and see"
And there find revealed all He wants us to be.
~jb, 3-17-07

During the time of our missionary service in Asia, we had the opportunity to spend some time in northern India, in the Himalayan foothills. On a clear day, at 7000 feet where we stayed, the scene was beautiful. We loved to hike the many trails that covered the ridge where we were lodging, and at times I would be in the lead, urging my wife and two daughters to keep up as we moved up to the crest of the ridge. As I arrived the first time I found myself uttering the words, "come up and see", for before us we were able to see the snow-capped range toward Mt. Everest, a sight that caused the lower scenes to pale in comparison. Since that time almost twenty-five years ago, my mind has often retraced that journey with a longing to somehow recapture the experience we had.

When John was given the Revelation he recorded, and that door in heaven was opened for his eyes to behold the throne and He who sat upon it in all His glory, how he must have recalled another high place and the vision of Christ transfigured before him. It was a foretaste of the glory to be revealed.

The Christian journey, too, has levels which we are called to "come up..." and see. As we live daily the very highest and best that we know, God will ever call us up higher, to experience the relationship with Him that is even more beautiful.

As He calls you to this, respond immediately and begin applying yourself to live in the new heights. If He has revealed it, it is within your ability to reach and you will not be disappointed in the new vision it gives.

As the vision of Christ transfigured gave the disciples new intimacy for living and ministry in the valley, so our climb and focus on Christ will strengthen us to be all that Christ wants us to be. But hesitation may bring a cloud that blocks the light that would have revealed it and granted you the vision and relationship He desired that you would share. So don't hesitate, but "come up...and see".

Revelation 4:1 "Come up here, and I will show you..."

Matthew 17:1-2, 8 "And after six days, Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them...and when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only."

Be encouraged in your journey climb today, and see only Jesus!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

HE AIN'T HEAVY!


Lord, I oft' cry, it's heavy, how can I go on?
With the weight of this burden my strength is all gone.
Lord, help me to shoulder this weight given me,
That my journey's high purpose would glorify Thee.

Lord, thank You for bearing my greatest life load,
As You did for my sin, freeing me on life's road.
And now, Lord, I'm ready to bear life with no other,
For I've found its weight easy with You, my Elder Brother.
~jb, 4-13-2005

I am reminded of the story of the motto for Boy's Town, an organization that traditionally cares for wayward youth. It grew out of a drawing of a young man walking down a road, carrying a younger boy on his back, because the child was obviously unable to do so on his own. A kind-hearted motorist pulled over to give them a ride to their destination, and as he stopped, he asked this question, "Isn't he a heavy load, son?" The reply was full of meaning but simply stated. "Sir, he ain't heavy, he's my brother."

We are often the weary "in well doing" because we have either incorrectly assumed a burden whose purpose only slows us down and wearies our journey, or we have failed to recognize our traveling Partner, Who would shoulder the greater part of the weight that bears down upon us. The young man's perspective made the difference between a wearying task and a weight measured and borne in love.

Christ is the Great Burden-Giver and Burden-Sharer, as well. On the cross where He bore all the weight of sin on Himself, Christ echoed the young man's sentiments, "Heavy? Yes, but they are My brothers!" Some burdens He'd not have us carry at all. Sin and doubt are such, already borne by Him to death, and no longer to be borne by His children at all. Still others are allowed, but with a significant difference. They come as the parcels of life itself, born out of purpose in a world where the road is not smooth nor down-hill. In these, the key is perspective and yoked-partnership with our strong-shouldered Saviour and Lord. An old chorus shares this sentiment, "rolled away, every burden of my heart rolled away."

Psalm 55:22 "Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain thee."

Matthew 11:28-30 "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Perhaps added meaning may be applied to us as we reflect the "burden-bearing" of the Saviour for us. Are we not commissioned to, in like manner, "bear one another's burdens?" Imagine how it would change our perspective, and subsequently, our neighbors, both near and far.

Yes, imagine that and be encouraged today, my brothers and sisters!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

WHINE OR WINE?


I'm pressed with a burden, I often complain.

It's hard to live daily the strain of His name.

"Oh, God," I oft' pray. "Please take it away,

And give in its place an easier day."

But the answer He gives I cannot refute,

The burden is needed lest His strength I dilute.

The press that is given, it comes from His hand,

And its purpose is squeezing-forth wine that is grand.

And this wine is the fruit of my link to the Vine,

The joy of His strength with roots all Divine.

"So, Lord, give me burdens, Your strength to complete,

That the wine I produce will be heavenly sweet."

~jb, 4-14-2004


One of the pictures of harvesting the fruit of the land that conveys a difficult spiritual truth is that of the grape. Many, of course, find their way "whole" into the marketplace, but much of this fruit must be put through a lot of pressure to squeeze out its essence. If the grape were able to feel and express its pain during this process, it would be a story of great suffering.

The Christian life is bound for such a press! As Jesus was in His life on earth, so will we be as we identify with Him. We are to be harnessed with Him to produce that which is the best. In truth, the burden is the pressure He provides that presses the grapes of our life to produce the wine of joy. And those whose lives have this joy in evidence seem to have no burdens at all. Oswald Chambers says we must lift the veil from our eyes to the see the burden press that gives off peace, light, and the joy of God. If, however, we complain under the strain, we'll miss the pleasure of pressure and the wine of His strength will spoil on the vine.

Oh, child of God, be encouraged with the strength God gives within such burden born of His Spirit. Such power is invincible in this world. When you are pressed of Him, what shall be the produce, a whine or wine?

Matthew 11:29, "Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me..."

Isaiah 40:29, "...to those who have no might He increases strength."

Nehemiah 8:10, "...the joy of the Lord is your strength."


Be encouraged today, Christian friend, and be as Sweet as He!