A Fallen Tree…is it me?

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving…” Colossians 2:6-7

tree1Last month a giant tree, strong-stout and regal, fell behind our backyard.  We were very fortunate that it fell away from our property, the garage and family investment known as our ugly rolling turd (the RV).  It appears that the cause of death of this might oak was soil erosion.  Weeks leading up to its demise, we had a seven day span of unending rain.  As it continued to rain, flooding occurred which led to the weakening of this mighty tree’s root system…there was simply nothing to hold onto anymore.  With a sudden thud, the tree fell and that wonderful shady spot where Moms and Dads came to watch their children play soccer, became the grave of something that had once been so mighty and tall.

I am sure we will miss that tree this summer, when the sweltering heat cascades in waves around that High School Soccer field.  We will miss the chirping birds who nested there and have now been displaced.  The tree removal service has since come and gone, chopping that once majestic oak into fire wood and mulch, all because its roots couldn’t find anything to hold onto any longer.

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My boys hanging out on that fallen tree before it was removed.  

This real-life tale reminded me of how easy it is for mighty oak trees to fall…and for the holiest of believers as well.  We are all susceptible to the trappings of sin, and many a tear has been shed for a saint who has fallen from grace.  The names, at times seem to be many…and it causes a wave of exhaled breath when each one falls.  Like a punch to the gut, we feel our hearts sink as the shock of it all can be felt like the sudden thud of a felled two ton oak.

It can be very tempting to think of this “root” problem as someone else’s burden to carry, but the very real threat is all around us.  We cannot pity the fallen saint while we look from afar thinking that this could never happen to me.  Beware of this trap dear friends!
Pay attention to the soil in which you sink your roots.  Make sure they go down deep into the dark, rich soil of Christ himself.  Because there will be rainy days again…there could also be floods that come and attempt to uproot you.  Be mindful that what is done in secret is known to God, and that He longs for your integrity and honesty just as much as the world around you is clambering for truth.

I will miss that great oak, but I also am more sober; I am more consciously aware of the soil that my roots are currently in…and I long for them to become more profoundly rooted in the Holiness of Christ.  How are your roots today?

-Just a thought.

The Kitten, The Lion and Me…

Recently my family adopted a small kitten.
We thought it would be good for our eight year old twins.
By that I mean we made the mistake of driving past a pet store, and then walking by the little kitty jails they have at those establishments…and the rest as they say, is history.

So we now have this newly adopted kitten in our home.  cat
He is a wild and crazy kitten, I suspect like most kittens his age.
Recently he has taken to attacking our legs as we walk by, and in the morning it is now routine for him to perch in an opened, yet screened in, window and maliciously listen to the birds chirping in the nearby trees.  This kitten is domesticated, yet there is still a wildness about him.  He would most likely attack, kill and consume a bird if opportunity were to strike in his favor.  It is in his nature to be this way – with claws flared and crouched in a stance ready to pounce.

I recently read a news story (it literally happened today) about a mountain lion that had gotten into a family home through an open patio door.  When the mother and daughter awoke in their bed at 3am to the loud barking of their small dog, they saw the shadow of an unknown animal lurking in their home.  In a matter of moments, the mountain lion had left the foot of the bed with the family dog in its jaws.   Isn’t nature truly wild?   It is in the nature of wild things like that.  Call it instinct or something in their DNA, but it is how these creatures innately are – predators by nature.

It made me wonder about our humanity as people.
More importantly, how we are made up.
seekingIt is in our DNA.
We have a nature too.
In Genesis it says that we were created in God’s image…though it is marred because of sin, that image is still there, within us.  More importantly, our spirits are naturally drawn to our Creator…many don’t know it, but this is why we question, why we seek, why we search our world for answers to all of life’s questions.  We were made this way.  Just as that kitten is instinctually drawn to pouncing on its prey, we are instinctively drawn to truth…and the Chief truth is found in the author of truth – God himself.

I am drawn to the children’s story of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, and when one of the children asks if Aslan is safe they get this reply –  “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”  God isn’t safe and sin cannot stand in the presence of God without being vanquished.  Without getting too theological, His goodness quickly overpowers and kills sin and darkness.  Hence this search for truth in our lives – we long to be reunited with the Author of Truth and Goodness.  It is in our DNA to seek Him out.  Some will blatantly reject Him for various reasons in life, but in general, we all long to rid ourselves of guilt, shame, sin, sickness and death – Christ is the answer, and He is the One we have been searching for in this life.  Is following Him safe in this life?  No, many perils and dangers will come because of this choice to follow Him.  The path may, in fact, become harder for us, but the journey will provide hope, joy and peace despite the circumstances or bumps along the way.

Sure, that kitten maybe a handful, he may even wreck havoc on the bird population in our neighborhood, but this is in his DNA, this is what he was born to do…and purring as goes…what is in your DNA?  Let me reassure you that how you were made is no accident.  We the created intrinsically long for our Creator…and we have been created for so much more than this.
-Just a thought.

Losing the Forest for the Tree?…

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.” Psalm 31:24

What do you do when all of your strength seems to fail you?
What do you do when it seems to be sucked from your body through trying or exhausting tasks?   Have you been discouraged recently or perhaps even right now?
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Perhaps it is time to take a step back from your troubles and those things that sap your energies.

The other day I was looking for my keys and I couldn’t find them.
I had searched high and low, even looking underneath the cushions on the couch.
I was getting frustrated and anxious, because I had to be somewhere and my vehicle key is rather important.  So finally I sit down, trying not to allow the momentary panic of potentially missing a meeting bother me.  I took a couple of deep breaths and then thought about where I had last seen or placed my keys.  Finally, after stepping back from the problem at hand, I was able to see the solution, and I recalled where they were…sure enough I found my keys.

worryIn the midst of the frustration and worry, I had to take a step back.  I had gotten so close to the problem that I couldn’t see the broader perspective or possible solutions.   I think we’re all like that – we stand too closely to the problem, when problems arise.  We try to micromanage situations and problem-solve and trouble-shoot and sometimes we are successful, but other times we become overwhelmed by the insurmountable tasks ahead of us.  So we put our heads down, we plod on through trying to take on the world and address all of our problems and stressors, all the while we are so close to the problem(s) that we have lost the forest for the bark of one tree.  be still

God has come to me many times when I get like this to remind me to “Be still and know that I am God…” (Ps. 46:10) It is only when I pause and take a step back do I finally understand this.  God longs to lead us out of the forest of our worries.  He desires for us to seek the long-term perspective: that we are Kingdom people called by Him, and we are called Sons and Daughters!  Although these current problems and sufferings might still continue, isn’t it helpful to know that these are all temporary?  Yes, we will probably continue to feel suffering, pain, sadness (all of the above), but this will not last, it never does.  Stepping back from the tree, we will have a broader perspective and a longer range vision on our future as Kingdom people.

Be encouraged today, joy comes in the morning!  Put your whole trust in the Lord, he will give you strength and endurance for the problems at hand, also know that this is all temporary!

Something more to ponder today!

Drowning In The Waters?

I have this memory.
Do you know the kind?  It’s the kind that embeds those moments in your life, those moments of great fear or panic, and they etch themselves so deeply into the recesses of your brain that you will never forget?

Do you have memories like this?
I’m sure you do.

My memory?
I am a small boy, in a swimming pool at Gene Epply camp.
I don’t remember hardly anything from that time…but I remember that pool.
I remember how I stepped off of the edge and into reflective waters.  Perhaps it was a hot day, I do not recall, but I do recall my little legs straining to touch the bottom and just finding more water.  Panic set in.  The sounds of the laughing and playing children around me faded in and out as I struggled to stay afloat while my vision and my ears were precariously between the two plains – Water and air.

I can only imagine what my face looked like in those brief but terrifying moments.  Others might have seen a small toe-headed boy with wild panicked eyes flailing around in aqua blue waters.  I knew, without help, I would drown.  I hadn’t learned to swim yet, and I was going under.

All of this probably lasted only mere seconds, but to a drowning boy who was taking water into his lungs like it was air, this moment seemed to take an eternity!  Finally, large hands grabbed me with great strength, and I was hoisted out of the depths of those waters and into safety once again.

It’s funny what you remember when you are young.  Those odd things that stand the test of time and come calling into our recollection from time to time.  Memories are a funny thing.  They flutter about, and come to life when certain scents waft in the air, or through certain songs…or in this instance, when I visit a swimming pool.

That moment still lingers in me even after all of these years.
I believe it was my father that pulled me out of those waters – me, a little terrified boy who had yet to learn to swim.

I think there is a very real spiritual parallel here to grasp.
Many people in our communities are struggling to stay afloat in life.
Some have waded out too far from the safety of the shores.
Some have terrified looks in their eyes as they suddenly realize their predicaments.
Others have simply given up trying to stay afloat and are about to go under for the last time.

My son became a lifeguard last summer.
His time as a lifeguard taught him to remain vigilant during his shift at the waters edge.
Every now and then he and the rest of the lifeguards had to come to someone’s rescue and pull them back to safety.  The job of a lifeguard seems glamorous with awesome opportunities for tanning, but in reality it is a job of ever watchfulness.

In the same way, a follower of Christ ought to be a lifeguard who is deeply committed to watchfulness.  The water’s edge, the place of safety is the Church…where firm ground and restored hope surrounds all that are rescued.  The problem I see in the Church today is that there are far too few lifeguards willing to risk it all and venture into the depths of the waters when they see hapless people drowning in its depths.  There are far too many comfortable lifeguards who are more preoccupied with casting judgments like “it serves them right” or “they are just getting what they deserve!”

I am glad Jesus didn’t say that about us!
We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…it doesn’t say all (except for ________(insert our names here), no ALL…everyone of us have fallen short.  (Romans 3:23)  Instead it says, “for while we were sinners (while we were drowning in the depths…while we were going under for the last time) Jesus died for us.  (Romans 5:8)

I still have that memory forever etched in my mind.
The day I almost drowned, was also the day I was rescued.

Perhaps, dear Church, we should get back to lifeguarding, because there are still so many falling below those dangerous waters…and who will help them?  Who will come to their rescue?  We are called out

Devotional Pondering: The Lifter of your head.

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
    my glory, and the lifter of my head.” Psalm 3:3

Have you been to the place of darkness?
The moment when you have felt hopeless, alone and perhaps afraid?
It is a lonely place…sometimes even when you are surrounded by people.
There are seasons of restlessness, unhappiness and perhaps hopelessness too.
But allow me to reassure you today with a word of encouragement – No matter the difficulty you might be facing, or the circumstances that seem to loom in on you, you are not alone.  You are being strengthened by the Most High even if you do not immediately feel this way.  He is the lifter of our heads when we are downcast.  He provides shelter to us when we are standing in the heart of the storm.

I have felt the winds of these storms recently.
I too have encountered the weight of a heavy heart.
Sometimes seasons come and the darkness threatens us…but the sliver of light that does remain gives me hope.  I know that He is with me even in the heart of the storm.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for lifting my head when all I want to do is hang it in discouragement.  Be with me today, thank you for your joy which shines even when the storms of life swirl around me.  Help me to be content in you, no matter the circumstances of life around me.  “In you, Lord, I have taken refuge”   (Psalm 31:1) Thank you for being there for me and lifting my head when I was downtrodden.  Shine in me today so others might see your glory.  -Amen.

Devotional: A Love That Never Fails

Have you ever heard the old phrase: ‘Nothing lasts forever‘.
It’s usually said to bring comfort to those who have lost a loved ones, a relationship, a treasured item like a cell phone or car…but I know at least one instance in which this phrase is flat out wrong.

God’s love is not temporal and does not have an expiration date on it.
He wants to lavish us with His provisions and love and the only thing that stands in the way of that at times is…us, and our old sinful nature.  Sin has a way of convincing us that the temporal, fleeting things are most important, and yet they pass away, they expire and are no more.  Yet, there God stands from everlasting to everlasting with something far beyond sometime finite – because He is infinite as is His love for you and for me.

Psalm 136:1,2 says:  “Praise the Lord! He is good.  God’s love never fails…”
So why do we put our trust in the things that are fading and passing away instead in putting them in the Eternal, Infinite love of God?  It seems like such a wasted investment, doesn’t it?  I don’t know about you, but I do not want to come to the end of my life and realize that I have squandered by time, talent and treasures on things that didn’t last.  Instead, I want to deeply invest in the Eternal and never ending love of God.  How about you?

Prayer:  Dear Lord, help me to know you more fully.  Help me to see your beauty in the world around me and to know that you love and desire my love in return.  Thank you for the many blessings that you have given to me today.  Help me to not take these blessings for granted.  Help me to love others as you have loved me.  Be with me today.  In your name I pray all of these things.  -Amen.

 

Day 60 – Be Done With Sin!

“Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, army yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin…”  1 Peter 4:1

The joys of life can often be overshadowed by the hidden sins we think we are hiding from God.  We think that if we act a certain way, or talk with just the right words, that we will fool everybody.  That may be true of people, but it isn’t true of God.  He sees it all, the good and the bad.  He knows us, and in that knowing He sees.  I used to be afraid of that “seeing”.  I used to think that this meant God was always spying on me and being intrusive…but that’s not how God works at all.  sin

Like a loving parent, His desire is for us to be rid of all kinds of sickness, and sickness of sin is the worst of it.  He despises sin to the point that nothing with sin can ever stand in His presence.  This Fatherly love, that is perfect and completely devoid of malice, desires the best for us.  He sees the potential in us even when we do not see that potential ourselves.  We might consider ourselves worthless or lacking gifts or talents, where God sees us in a whole different light – His perfect light which is true, pure and full of love for us.  He sent His one and only Son into this world so that sin and death would finally be vanquished forever – so that through Christ, we might experience true life!

redeemWhatever temptations you are facing today – God’s providence can sustain you!
Whatever sins you have been wallowing in for far too long, Christ can forgive and redeem you.
Whatever struggle you might see as impossible to overcome – The Holy Spirit will empower you and strengthen you to overcome and see victory!

Allow this to take place in your life.
Say yes to true living and turn from the trap of sin that leads to loneliness, sorrow and pain.  Hope awaits us all – let’s embrace God’s Light in our lives today more fully than we ever thought possible, with the power of the Holy Spirit within us!

Prayer:  Lord deliver me from ____________________(name it) today.
You know these struggles and these temptations.  Help me to fully embrace your will for my life.  Lead me in this day, deliver me from the snares of the evil one.  Thank you for seeing the potential in me and for guiding me on this path of holiness.  -Amen.

Day 59 -Finding Contentment

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

Much of our struggles in life come from stuff and being discontent in life.
We long for that new cell phone that just came out and so we sacrifice to get it and when we do it’s nice for a time, but then it losing its shine.  We envy people who have “made it” professionally and so we covet what they have while we lose sight of the blessings we already possess.  We grumble and complain about situations and completely miss the little blessings God provides to us every day…or we take them for granted.

grumbleThis happened to me yesterday and it brought a humbling sense of God’s presence to me.  I was having a bad morning.  It seemed nothing I could do was good enough and so my wife and I went to get coffee at a local coffee shop.  While waiting in the drive-thru for what seemed like ages, I began to complain about that.  (Have you ever noticed that negativity breeds more negativity?)  I was criticizing the car in front of us for their choice of sports teams…and just being very discontent with the way life was going that morning.  But then it happened.  It was our turn to grab our coffees at the drive-thru window and pay.  I had my wallet out and I was ready.  When I finally got up to the window, still in a huff because of my day, the drive-thru employee informed me that the car in front of me had already paid for our drinks.  Wow…that was kind of like a slap in the face to me, as if God was trying to get my attention and remind me that my contentment doesn’t come from circumstances around me.  In that moment it had nothing to do with coffee or getting something free (although that was cool), it had everything to do with my attitude and response to the things around me.

Have you been there?  
grumpyHave you allowed negativity to rule your thoughts and actions?
I know from experience I am not fun to be around when this has happened to me…and I’m sure it’s the same with you.  No one wants to hang out with angry, sullen, sour people all the time.  If we are to be men and women of faith, who are fit to be called and Sons and Daughters of the Most High, we have to change this stinkin’ thinkin’ kind of attitude!

Where does our contentment come from?  It comes from the One who gives us strength to make it through whatever circumstance and situation – good or bad.  Through it all, He content1remains faithful and steadfast.  He is above any problem we might be facing or will face.  He stands outside of the troubles of life and He gives to us what we need in order to see the bigger picture – WE ARE KINGDOM PEOPLE – Not of this present world but the next!  We can live out His Kingdom now and live in holy contentment because of who He is.

Prayer:  Lord, help me to keep my attitude in check today.  Help me to see the bigger picture than the temporal problems that I am facing right now.  Give me your strength so that I might reside within Your holiness.  Lead me Lord and thank you for reminding me that You are there and You will provide!  -Amen.
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Day 58 – What’s Your Inspiration?

Read this passage:  Psalm 37:3-7

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
    when they carry out their wicked schemes.

All other paths will not provide you the resources or inspiration to continue in hope and peace.  When we commit our way to God’s, he, as verse 6 says, “will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn…”

Have you been searching for a sense of purpose or fulfillment in your life?
How has that been going?
As that old country song once said, we are looking for love in all the wrong places…the same can be said of our search for purpose and meaning in life.  We can fill it with degrees, awards, professions, relationships…but at the end of all those things we might still find ourselves feeling unfulfilled and aimlessly searching for a deeper meaning to it all.

everestIf we commit our ways to the Lord, he will realign us and set us on the most meaningful journey we could have ever hoped for.  I am not saying it will get any easier, but the outcomes of such a journey brings a refinement of character, a honed purpose and spiritual discipline that aids us when difficult days come…and they will.  It is in those difficult days that we find strength and hope in the Lord.  Perhaps you are facing some of those days right now.  If you are, place all of your trust in the Lord and he will direct your path.  This is where inspiration even in the face of adversity comes from.

Prayer:  Lord I ask you today to give me a sense of your purpose in my life.  I have become discouraged and out of sync with you.  Set me on your path once again.  Be the lifter of my head and help me to see the beauty even in the thorns of life.  You have placed me on this path, help me to walk faithfully with you no matter what comes my way.  In your name I pray these things.  -Amen.   

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