If it doesn't count for Christ, it doesn't count.

Friday, November 08, 2013

In Dreams

I haven't posted to my blog in a long time. This one is not that easy to post because it calls for some amount of confession that I'm not comfortable with on my part. Maybe I should have started with "I have this friend . . ."

One of my favorite songs begins with the line "I'm an old man now, I can't do nothin'". I'm not quite there yet. In fact, I still do pretty much anything I ever did. In fact, I sometimes find myself more determined once I get my mind set on doing something (which can admittedly take a while and is a mildly disturbing notion), but the words to another song, "I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was", become more and more applicable as time continues to pass.

It's true, what they said a lifetime ago. The older you get the faster time passes. I woke up one day and realized that I no longer have the rest of my life to get things done. One way or the other, I'm pretty much staring at what a young person calls the rest of my life square in the face. And more and more, Proverbs 13:22 has caused me to pause and reflect . . . and panic!  
"A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous."

I'm kidding. I'm not in a panic. But, I have looked at my situation, and I have recognized it for what it is. And I have spent a lot of time in prayer about this. Whenever that time comes I don't want life to be financially difficult for my wife. I do want to leave something for my girls. Generally speaking - so don't bow up and get all "libbery" on me - while women think of security, men think of success. It's really one and the same although the road to success doesn't always look so secure. And I'm not talking about great financial wealth. I'm talking about succeeding at something as opposed to failing at everything. I'm talking about having at least something in life that works. Something that was yours to do and you did it and, under the guidance and blessing of God, you brought it to what such things are supposed to be. I'm talking about the prosperous life that God Himself designed for you, which is simply living the life that God created you for. Need I include Jeremiah 29:11? So, Proverbs 13:22 would have a place in all this, right?

"Lord, I don't want my epitaph to read "Well . . . he tried".  (I'm a well known tryer, and our girls have always been so supportive and encouraging and proud of all of my trying.) "I want my family to be proud of me for something other than trying." (although I try pretty well.) "He was a great tryer" just doesn't have much of a ring to it, though, as far as epitaphs go.

So, last night I was led into a serious talk with God. And this very subject, these very words, came up.

This morning, I got a text from my youngest. "Dad, I had a dream last night that you wrote a book about how to pass values down to your children." Carrie dreams about me from time to time. I have gotten more than one call or text asking if I am ok, and that comes from a dream she had the night before. It's to the point that I do take her dreams seriously.

Not quite ready to believe what I was seeing, . . . er, reading, we texted back and forth a few times with me asking if she had actually read the book, me having publishing in mind. It did have a title and she saw the cover, but those details were not in her memory. I wrote back that it would make a good book, but I might not be the one to write it.  So here she comes,   ". . . remember that God is your source of all creativity and He lives in you, so the sky is the limit!"  Followed by, "And you gave me and Amy good values didn't you?"

Me: "I hope I did. I'm so proud of both of you and the people that you are. There were things that I wish I had done for you, though."

Carrie, "Of course you did! You loved us well, what more could we ask for?"

My remaining text was brief due to watery eyes.

Maybe Carrie's dream foretells the writing of a non-fiction book to go with the fiction I put out. Maybe, for me, it means that the real things in life actually are better than the things I can make up.

I have no doubt, though, that God sent a dream to one of the children that I want to leave something for to tell me that I already have. And, whether I know it or not, they do . . . and they place great value on it. And, though I'll keep trying in a different state of mind and with a different purpose, that might just be the greater fulfillment of Proverbs 13:22.

I'm gonna have to go now. I'm getting that watery eye thing again.



I have 2 videos for you. One is a sad song that has to do with what a man leaves behind . . . doesn't pertain to me at all, praise God! The other is the song I mentioned earlier in the post.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

In the beginning . . .

I've been thinking about prayer a lot lately. I haven't been praying more, or thinking about praying more. I've just been thinking about prayer more.

To get this out of the way, because this post is about something else, I will say that some time ago my concept of prayer was changed. We are always before Him. He knows our every thought, hears our every word, sees and understands our every act. So prayer is nothing like picking up the phone to make a call, knocking on a door to have a little visit, or bowing our heads and closing our eyes as if to summon or invoke God into our presence. When we do these things, we may say that we are going before God, entering His presence, but all we are really doing is saying, "O.K., God, You can come in now." And when we're done saying our piece, our "amen" is meant to be a "good-bye", "I'm hanging up now and I'll call back when I want to talk to you or when I need something." The unintentional effect is that God is treated like someone who is ignored and excluded from the conversation until we feel that He has something useful to add. Let's face it, such attitudes and methods of prayer allow us to forget that God is always present. We can get pretty uncomfortable if we're aware that He is here    . . . right here. He's looking over your shoulder right now.

If we truly strive to acknowledge God in all things then we are striving to hang with Him. We are constantly acknowledging His presence, His intervention, His guidance, His favor, His discipline, His counsel, His love, His power, His influence, His plan, His wisdom, His grace and mercy, and on and on. When we do this our prayer, our conversation with God, changes and it is continual.

OK, I didn't mean to go into all that just now. Maybe I'll get back to that in a later post.

I'm convinced that the Bible is God's inerrant Word. That said, the Bible doesn't tell us everything. It tells us plenty. It tells us enough if we are ready and willing to hear the Holy Spirit speak to us. God Himself said that there are mysteries that will not be revealed in this world in this life. As for prayer, I'm sure that we have no record of "THE" first prayer. Indications are that God talked with Adam a lot. The first record of communication between God and man is when He told Adam, as recorded in Genesis 2:16-17, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

The next recorded conversation is found in Genesis 3:9-19,starting with, "the Lord God called to the man, "Where are you?”"

So, what is important for us, now, in witnessing these exchanges? Both times, God spoke first. It's not that these are the only times, there are a multitude of others. This just shows that from the beginning God has extended His hand to mankind. And He has never withdrawn it. God always speaks first. We always say that God responds to prayer and, indeed, He does. But, our terminology might be wrong. Whether we are aware of it or not, our prayer is a response to God. And it is those times that we are aware of His call to stop and talk that we consider to be our "best", most intimate, most spiritual time with Him. It is those times that the conversation comes so easily.

Maybe I'm kind of slow about such things, but this came as somewhat of an epiphany to me. As many times as I have sat, kneeled, bowed, laid prostrate and then tried to summon, "call up", invoke, or, in a sense, "conjure up" God, approaching Him on my terms and with my agenda, creating obstacles in doing so, trying to get Him to answer me, I never realized what an effort that kind of prayer is. (kind of like writing that sentence!) The first time I literally began by answering Him - "Yes, Father?" - I felt . . . no, I experienced the difference. Spirit led prayer involves no coaxing of the Spirit. It involves coaxing by the Spirit.

I believe that the beginning of hearing and seeing God's most desired answer to our prayer is to realize that prayer is His call upon us to seek His will rather than our call upon Him to sway His will. It is apparent to me that I am not there yet but, when we reach a state of heart that truly and wholly surrenders to what God wants rather than what we want, when we seek Him, and we talk to God, pray, about what He wants, He can then manifest His will in our lives in ways that we never before thought possible, much less probable! (And I say this not entirely sure that the word "want(s)" even applies to God.)

God working through our surrendered will makes the possible probable. And it all begins with God walking in the cool of our day or upon the storm on our sea, calling out to us, and we simply answer, "Yes, Father?"


Here's your video!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Open The Eyes Of My Heart . . . I Recon

There is a video at the end of this blog post that I feel describes the state of heart for many Christians these days. We pray and sing worship songs asking and hoping that Jesus will "show up" in our worship services. In our homes, late at night or in the early hours of the morning, we might find ourselves on the floor, on our knees, faces buried in the rug, crying out and seeking Jesus, longing for Him just to step into the room with us so that we can see Him and know that all is well despite all that doesn't really seem to be well.

We might leave our church meetings or stand in our homes carefully trying to hide, or overcome, our disappointment that He didn't show up, we didn't see Him.

I think our problem is that we have in mind the Jesus that we long to see. We want to see Him performing miracles, reaching out to us, hugging us and holding us and maybe even briefly taking us away from the cares and burdens of this world. We want to see Him immediately fill our need or take away our problem. We really don't want to see Him in any other way until our moment of need has passed. And surely, He truly is seen in these ways. But, He has a way of presenting Himself to us when we are not particularly looking for Him. And he does this in a way that we really don't want to see Him. He does it in a way that, sadly, so many of us tend to ignore, or avoid, or reject automatically, instantly. . . . He has placed Himself right before us. And, yes, we have rejected Him.

(I am putting the entire text here.)

Matthew 25:31-46 (ESV)

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.  

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,  I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 

Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 

 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

How often do we groan, inwardly if not audibly, when we see ourselves being approached by someone that is going to ask for something? Maybe it is money. Maybe it is gas. Maybe it is food,but we see them headed our way and we start looking for a way out. How often do we look on, or down, in self-righteous judgement when we see a prisoner out on a work detail or being paraded across our tv screen?

Well, according to Jesus, looking at "these" is the same as looking at Him. Our attitude toward "these" is the same as our attitude toward Him. Rejection of "these" is the same as rejecting Him.

True, many asking for money for food or gas really want money for drugs or alcohol. Many make their living conning good people out of money that could be better used elsewhere. Those prisoners we see have been convicted of crimes . . . some horrible, unthinkable to decent human beings.

But, don't you know that many of those in Jesus' time on earth were engaged in the same types of activities for their day. And, of course, many weren't. They were just good people in bad circumstances. Just like today.

The thing is, I don't see Jesus qualifying them. He said, "I was hungry and you fed me" . . . or "you let me go hungry." "I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink" . . . or "you left my throat parched and dry." "I was a stranger and you welcomed me, you let me know that I was somebody to you" . . . or "you ignored me and made it clear that I meant nothing to you. At best, you had more important things on your mind than me." "I needed clothes and you gave them to me" . . . or "you could have helped me to just feel normal, to look normal, but you didn't." "I was sick and you made me feel so much better by simply coming to see me" . . . or "you wouldn't take a even few minutes to minister to me with your presence." "I was in prison and you came to show me that my actions, as bad as they were, did not disqualify me from ever being loved" . . . or "during my whole time there no one ever reached out to me to say that there is hope even for me."

Everyone needs something. EVERYONE. We all need Jesus. And it is wrong of those of us who know Jesus to keep Him to ourselves.

Maybe we should start with the attitude that these are all people that we actually want to help. If this is the case, then we are more likely to be able to offer the help they really need. If we daily, and throughout the day, ask God to prepare us for these encounters that He schedules for us we can depend on God to lead us into offering the help truly needed, whether it is material or spiritual or a combination of both. We must be very careful, though, when we start trying to find our way out of giving materially to those in need and trying instead to stick with one form of spiritual help or another.

James 2:14 (ESV)  What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

This is a big world filled with need. We have to be careful that our fleshly desire to show how spiritual we are - tell me that doesn't happen - does not override or over shadow the love of Christ which we must allow to shine through. The best way for us to show Jesus to the lost, and to each other, is to be Jesus. And we can only do that when we have surrendered ourselves to Him.

Jesus calls upon us to love far more than He calls upon us to "not sin". Indeed, He tells us that love overcomes a multitude of sin(s). That is simply because while we are operating in the love of God we cannot sin. I would say that an act of love is our greatest act of "spirituality". So, I would say to me, myself and I, "Stop trying to show that stranger how spiritual you are. Let go of yourself and surrender before all to be an instrument of God's love toward him or her in whatever way God directs. You want to be spiritual? Be loving."

There may be a series of these "open my eyes, Lord" blog posts. I really don't know. God reveals Himself in so many ways. But, again, Jesus has told us one place to look for Him in this world of need. Some do. Many of us just don't want to look in that direction. Before we do ask Him to reveal Himself to us, we need to understand and accept that it is up to Him as to just how He does that. We think we need to see Him in a certain way in a certain situation. That's only natural. Be assured, though, that He will reveal Himself in THE way that He knows is best for us. Be ready. Be alert. Expect the unexpected!


Here is your video: Can it be that you haven't found what you're looking for because you are looking in the wrong place, or for the wrong thing? (If you don't want to watch the church's ad, just bump up the timer line by about 48 seconds.