He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Psalm 40:3a

Monday, May 21, 2018

Going Against The Grain

         Numbers 14:6-10a Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good.  If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” But the whole assembly talked about stoning them.

         We can see disagreements in the political world every day! One person will say one thing, and within moments, with our social media, there is usually an immediate response, often in the form of a tongue lashing for any variety of reasons!  With all the bickering going on, it’s hard to know what is really right and what is wrong, not to mention how each person actually feels about a particular issue!

         Disagreements and broken friendships/relationships didn’t begin just within the last twenty or even fifty years.  There were disagreements between others as far back as Biblical days, as indicated by our scripture; and even with friends in the Revolutionary War and Civil War, as well as others.  It’s been seen time and again over the last decade, given our current political climate.  It seems like just around the curve, while new allies are born, friendships are dissolved, with little hope of restoration.   

         Everyday friends in our non-political world also split; and often due to disagreements that become hostile and ugly.  Even families have been known to lose all measure of civility when disagreements escalate to the point of such anger that relationships are completely dissolved.  

         A friend shared just this week that his family was having a reunion, but some of the siblings would not attend because there was a rift between siblings over something that happened when they were young children. How can this be?  How can a person stay angry over something for so long, due to a difference of opinion or other supposed infraction?

         There were many people in Jesus’ day who did not agree with Him.  He was the Son of God and many could not or would not accept Him as such.  Yet, he continued to teach and love.  He offered forgiveness for those who would choose to believe in him.  Still, because he went against the grain of what was traditional or “normal” he was rejected, scorned, scoffed at, and even hated.

         Perhaps there are those within your friend group, or family circle who have hardened their hearts to forgive because of a disagreement, years long passed.  It may have been over something significant, or possibly over a simple misunderstanding that was blown completely out of proportion.

         I encourage you to reflect on those with whom you have contact with, whether it be workplace, school, family or a friendship that has seen the door closed.  Just as Christ went against the grain to make right relationships through his teachings, perhaps there is a way you could reach out to someone to initiate the bonds of relationship once again.

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Making Of A Hero

Heroes come in all shapes in sizes, and often the definition depends on culture, background and sometimes even religious perspective.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke out against Nazism in Germany.  Helen Keller overcame both deaf and blindness, becoming an advocate for these disabilities. Thomas Jefferson was instrumental in the American revolution and Winston Churchill inspired Britain during their battle against Nazi Germany.  Harriet Tubman became active in aiding slaves to freedom and Joan of Arc, a simple peasant girl, led the French army into battle! These are only a few from a “list of famous courageous people who sacrificed their own comfort to stand up for principles of human dignity and liberty.”1

What makes a hero? When I hear the word ‘hero’ I can’t help but think of the 9/11 attacks nearly 7 years ago!  Much was said about those firefighters and emergency personnel who honestly performed heroic acts.  They worked tirelessly and selflessly to save as many victims as possible during that horrible disaster.  And as brave and courageous as all these men and women were, the truth is our firefighters, police and military personnel do this day in and day out, and hardly is any recognition given.

Jesus is rarely described as a hero.  Yet wouldn’t He exemplify the word to the greatest degree?!  Jesus was a man who went against what was traditionally taught and against the greatest evils of this world.  He went so far as to defy death with His resurrection.  What mere man can make that claim?  He set the stage for the opportunity of change in the right direction.

So the question bears asking.  Can anyone be a hero?  It is said happiness is staying focused on your mission, not your results.  We can be happy when we are humble, gentle, and patient.  When you add goodness, knowledge, self control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love, while thinking about what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy, we have the perfect recipe for happiness!  

When we feel good about who we are because we are focused on the task before us, even if it seems dangerous to any observers, we can be heroic, even if others do not view it in the same light.  

Sometimes the task before us is to grow spiritually.  That requires the dedication of a hero, as well! It takes faithful determination to search the scriptures with diligence, while staying focused on the message.  

I encourage you to consider your heroic actions!  As you read The Word and consider what it is saying to you, personally, you have the opportunity to grow spiritually, giving you the guidance you desire.  You can become enabled do heroic deeds for your family, friends and neighbors, whether it’s to deliver a meal, share a hug or smile, teach children in a classroom, or perform some other act of kindness.  

Monday, April 30, 2018

Strong Women

          As I look at my small world, I know I want to leave something fundamentally good behind, when I leave this world.  I want to make a difference.  I’m by no means, the only female who has felt this way.  

         Our rich history tells us Anne Frank, Mother Teresa, Florence Nightingale, Amelia Earhart, Margaret Thatcher, and Diana, Princess of Wales also wanted to make a difference, and lived their lives so the entire world would remember them, even if that hadn’t been their plan! 

         In today’s world, women like Arianna Huffington and Taylor Swift find themselves, according to Forbes Magazine, in the top one hundred most influential women. Most women in the list, I didn’t know, which may make me uniformed, and there were a few on the list I hated to agree with!1
         Another area where we can find women who made a difference is in God’s word.  Hannah, in 1 Samuel, desperately wanted a child.  In her cry to the Lord she promised that should He honor her request, she would return the child to him to be raised in the Temple.  God honored her plea and gave her a child.  Hannah honored her promise and took her young son to Eli the priest to be raised in the Temple.  This special boy was Samuel who grew up to be one of the leading, godly men in the Bible.
         Abigail is yet another Biblical woman who showed unique strength.  Married to Nabal, a wicked and self-centered man, Abigail made a decision that took great courage.  She chose to provide a feast for David and his men after Nabal had rebuffed David’s request for food.  David was ready to fight, but Abigail’s kindness spared her family of certain retaliation and likely destruction.  After Nabal’s death, David took Abigail for his wife because of her virtues.
         Esther is still another woman the Bible tells us uses uncommon strength and courage after she, the Queen, learned Haman, King Xerxes’ top man, was going to annihilatethe Jewish people.  Queen Esther, a Jew, put her life on the line by talking with King Xerxes’ for her people.
         Being a “strong woman” (or man) for God can be intimidating and costly (through loss of friends or family relationships or possibly your life, like Esther encountered), but when we give ourselves to God, He is with us every step of the way. 
       So I challenge you to reflect on your life.  Are you “strong for the Lord?”  Are you willing to make a difference?

Monday, April 23, 2018

Noah, The Original Prepper

There are advertisements everywhere about being ready for a catastrophic event.  It seems at least once a week there is a commercial on television for large quantities of food stuffs, all prepared and packaged for the purpose of survival.  Families are re-learning the process of gardening; and planning for the big natural disaster, since grocery stores, even if only being threatened with a good snowstorm are plummeted with shoppers who clear the shelves of everything in sight!

Some might describe “prepping” as big business and that might not be too far from the mark, although there actually may be such a need for this kind of preparation.  At an expo about “prepping” in this area, survival shelter plans have been presented that have the potential to help functionality for up to 200 years!  

Others are creating “homesteads” and going “off the grid,” in an effort to leave behind all the hustle and bustle of city life and “normality” as we have come to know it.  This requires time, a bit of funds and lots of planning, but it can be done successfully.  It is often heralded (and rightfully so) the healthier alternative, both physically and emotionally.

Those who were once considered fanatical for “prepping” and fearing the world ending from some catastrophic event, there is a shift.  It is not only the “common man” or uneducated person preparing for something big to happen, however un-likely.  Highly educated people like lawyers, doctors and “high-end” professionals are also seeking the resources necessary to be prepared should there be a terrorist strike, natural disaster, war, loss of a job, or other circumstance that would require self-sustenance over a long period of time. 

As Believers, we see the end of time through the information afforded through God’s Word.  As prophesies continue to be fulfilled, we recognize events that are closing in on Christ’s return.  Preparing for a catastrophic event is not a ridiculous idea, since the “end times” assure us we will be facing persecution and troubles as the day draws nearer.

What’s interesting in all this is to recognize that “prepping” is not a new idea.  Noah might be considered the “world’s first prepper.” Consider that he was given a directive by God to build a big boat before it had ever rained!  Not only did he have to build this boat, he had to collect two of each animal, for an undetermined length of time!  It’s reasonable to assume that after he corralled all the animals on his boat, he also had to have enough water and food to feed all those critters plus his own family!

Joseph was yet another Biblical hero who found it necessary to “prep” for an upcoming drought.  God told Joseph, Pharaoh’s dream meant seven years of plenty to be followed by seven years of famine.  After explaining to Pharaoh this event, Joseph prepared.  He gathered and stored provisions for people across the land to sustain them for the upcoming famine.

I encourage you to consider the idea of “prepping.”  What does it mean to you? The “end times” are drawing nearer. God expects us to have prepared hearts, and given his examples through Noah and Joseph, it may not be such a bad idea to be somewhat prepared externally, as well. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Lean On Me

  Passenger pigeons roosted in forested areas throughout North America in regions east of the Rocky Mountains, while their breeding range was primarily in the southern states.  Stories from years ago, about the pigeons roosting, sound almost like something from a horror movie!  It seems they traveled in great masses; so large in fact, in some towns when the scream of the birds arrived, the towns people would take cover, horses would bolt and children would scream in terror.  
Ultimately, these birds are now extinct. Although humans are not totally responsible for this, the pigeons are completely wiped out in part, from hunters for eating and from those who just didn’t like them; choosing to exterminate them in whatever way they could, including blowing up roosting and nesting areas, killing hundreds of birds at a time! 
We live in a country of incredible freedoms: speech, print, religion and other rights. Yet there are those who believe those freedoms are for a particular race or religion.  There are people in our world who choose to demoralize and demonize other people with their hate and vicious cruelty just because they are different from what their twisted minds see as right. 

 God has a grand design we can’t recognize because we can’t see the whole picture. He created all people and loves everyone.  That doesn’t mean He approves of bad behavior that goes against the teachings found in His Word; and there are consequences when we do! Easter just passed as we celebrated Jesus’ resurrection.  He went to the cross, died and rose again as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins so we can have a life of eternal glory.  

Just like the pigeons that met together in such mass and strength, the sturdy limb on the tree would break, we need to join forces as believers who will not succumb to those who would do others harm because they are different.  Our traditions and culture is what makes us unique.  It’s the blend of all this diversity that make our world and workplace such a wonderful place to belong.

It doesn’t mean we will always be safe.  These pigeons once traveled by the thousands from area to area and ironically created a setting that left them vulnerable and ultimately set the stage for hunting that caused the birds to now be extinct.

God gave each person a unique responsibility and purpose in this life.  As believers we have a distinct duty to follow in God’s footsteps as discharged by Him.  Jesus was a strong force that changed our world, but he came as a servant and wants us to use courage, vision and faith to move forward. 

We are to be committed to making a difference in an imperfect world that has turned ugly and mean.  But we need to stand tall and strong, dedicated to service, while leaning on the Rock of our faith, listening for His guidance and then willing to go out into a world that does not always accept us.  It is His message.  Are you willing?          

Monday, April 9, 2018

Be Inspired For Christ

                     It is absolutely exhilarating when walking through the mountains on a trail when you observe deer or elk, a turkey, or even an occasional bear (although I’m not positive I’d ever want to walk upon a bear!)  But being surrounded by nature with the colorful, sweet smelling flowers and trees laden with gold, crimson and orange leaves can be breathtaking. It’s an amazing place to feel close to God.  It is also a place to be inspired.

            There are different ways people feel and express inspiration.  Some are filled with courage, or an overpowering feeling of caring about someone or something.  Other times it’s nearly a tangible enthusiasm, a determination to reach down deep within to enable them to reach for the moon while they chase their dreams, or it’s being filled with a confidence that seems boundless!

            When the first settlers began crossing the mountains and plains of the “New Land,” they were inspired by the beauty and freedom of this place we now call the United States!  They loved the land and surrounding nature with a feeling of inspiration that surpassed places they had moved from.  Their journey carried them across wide expanses of water and then land until their hearts were filled with the wonder of these new places.  They found a peace, acceptance and kinship with the mountains and prairie they likely hadn’t expected.

            Their enthusiasm about the land created a deep determination to survive regardless of the odds.  They had to care about their neighbor through hostile situations, shortages, winters, droughts and other unknowns; having courage that surpassed perhaps anything they had experienced formerly, while having confidence, that in the end, they would prevail!

            In a world that seems filled with hate and distrust for nearly every neighbor around us, it gets increasingly difficult to feel the inspiration we need to even carry forward a single day.  Our media is filled with unkind tongue lashings for anyone who would disagree with a particular thought or idea, that seems to be the “trend of the day.” 

Crime and violence continue to worsen, as our laws continue to change, while seemingly accommodating those who are first to disagree with the moral institutions on which our country was founded.  Expressing our positive feelings about God can be challenging even on a good day!  As Believers, we are denied the right to share our faith, yet those who oppose our faith have been given legal right to speak untruths and vile words against us.

            How, then, can we share Christ with others like we would share the excitement of a sports game?  Where can we find inspiration to push onward? The only answer can be through prayer and the Written Word along with fellowship with other Believers.  

            I encourage you to take a walk in the place you call “home.”  As you are walking, contemplate your conversations with others.  Be inspired by helping others in need, recognize your strengths and use it to serve, read a biography on one of your heroes, learn something new or create a vision board!  And then…. use all this to deepen your relationship with God.  

Monday, April 2, 2018

To Be A Sheep

           I remember seeing old Western television shows where there were huge range wars between cattle ranchers and sheep herders.  The cattle ranchers were certain the land could not sustain both cattle and sheep.  Yet, over time, with compromise on both sides, the differences were alleviated and peace reigned. It’s wonderful to see sheep being pastured throughout countryside, across our nation and know sheep have become a very important part of the economic industry.

         As Christians, we’ve heard the expression of being sheep lead by the Great Shepherd.  We know that the sheep know their Shepherd’s voice.  The implication being that as children of God, we know when Christ is speaking to us.  

          As it turns out, scientists have discovered that sheep actually have quite the memory and really do know their shepherd’s voice. In fact, they can remember faces of other sheep for at least two years and can recognize human faces they’ve been around for a while and are even reputed to be able to recognize human faces in a crowd, perhaps even as well as humans!1

          It’s interesting to know that sheep really are potentially, very smart animals.  They are not stupid, nor do they follow blindly.  They band together against predators, much like Christians gather together to strengthen their understanding of God’s Word.  While we know we can stand alone in Christ, standing together as a group of believers solidifies our stand.

         David, the Psalmist was a shepherd before he became king, and recognized the relationship between the shepherd and his sheep.  He writes about this relationship in Psalm 23. In 1 Samuel, David explains to Saul that when danger lurked, whether in the form of a lion or bear, he would rescue the small lamb that was taken from the flock because that was his responsibility. He took his assignment very seriously. David knew his flock and they knew him.

        Jehovah means “to become known,” and our God unceasingly makes himself known to us if we avail ourselves to Him. God is called Jehovah-Raah which means “The Lord my Shepherd,” or “the Lord Shepherds me.”2  Jehovah God shepherds his flock and knows the voice of each one.  As he makes himself known, as one who leads his flock, he also desires a close relationship with us, His sheep. 

        Jesus, through God the Father is the Shepherd who knows our voice, knows how many hairs we have on our head and knows everything about us.  He wants nothing more than to rescue us from all the “wolves” in our lives much like David rescued the small lamb and any stray sheep when he was shepherd before he became king.

         So, I challenge you to “know God-Jehovah.”  He is the Great Shepherd who knows your name and wants to be your Strength, Strong Tower, and Protector.  Be His sheep!  Read His Word, communicate in prayer and learn to hear His voice.