Stop and Think!

Last week I heard someone ask this question:

How can God allow people to drive drunk and crash into innocent people?

A few days later, I heard someone on a radio interview saying that they can’t allow themselves to accept a God who allowed some outrageous injustice to occur, and I was struck by how easy it is for intelligent people to allow themselves to miss the obvious.  Consider a couple more questions, these are my questions, by the way:

1. Do you seriously think the drunk driver got God’s permission to drive drunk?

2. Do you think the perpetrators of evil ask God before they do evil things?

Being drunk is in itself a sin against God last time I checked, and doing evil is abhorrent in God’s sight, so what is all of this nonsense about God allowing these things?

What God does allow is for men and women to exercise free will, and many choose to do wrong.  An example of a person choosing to do wrong would also include a person choosing not to recognize God’s existence because someone else did a bad thing: Hello!

If this is a subject that concerns you, might I suggest that you take a look at one of my earlier posts on the subject of God’s restraint? It is an amazing subject, and it all boils down to the fact that God, in allowing people to have free will also enabled us to choose forgiveness for our wrong doing, and to choose to follow His ways, which do not include acting badly and hurting others.

It is really amazing when I look at a a culture that denies God’s very existence, chases God out of the public arena, refuses to allow prayer and mention of God in public discourse, that decides to hold God responsible when its chickens come home to roost.  I could be mistaken, but wasn’t the word “hypocrisy” invented for things like this?

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Morning Walk

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The air is cool and crisp, the brightly colored leaves are still as the birds sing their joyous song.  The smell of the grass is strong in the fresh air, and there is a slight scent of smoke. the leaves on the ground crunch as I walk along taking in the sights, sounds and smells of a new morning. My mind fills with images of the past and think of those great and small who have walked these grounds before. George Washington and his guests used to bowl on this green, and the generations since have come to call.

This was once a place of great industry and great men of high purpose, and I wonder if we have such purpose about our lives.

Many do have a great purpose to their lives, and while this purpose may not be recorded in the annuls of the Republic like those who came here in centuries past, our purpose is even greater then theirs if our purpose is also God’s purpose.  Many believe hat God had a great plan in the birth of this Nation.  I don’t know about all of that, but I do know that He has a purpose for us today.  It is probably not in building a Republic, for His purpose is about building a Kingdom, His Kingdom.

So, refreshed in the cool morning air, and inspired by all that is around me, it’s time to head into a new day of making disciples and building the Body of Christ on this earth.  May all of us begin our days with this vision, a vision of God’s purpose fulfilled in our lives.

What a wonderful experience life can be when it is filled with God’s work!

The Journey: Unceasing Prayer

We continue our journey into our self-examination of our personal discipleship today by considering the concept of unceasing prayer.  Previously we have considered daily personal prayer, Bible reading that is done in a prayerful way, and last week we looked at formal Bible study.  All of these spiritual practices contribute to our relationship with our Lord, and you will recall that our thesis for this journey was that we can only share with others from our overflow of relationship with Jesus.  So, if there is no overflowing from our relationships, then we will have nothing of Him to share with those whom we are trying to disciple.929 112-LR

To pray unceasingly is a fairly advanced thing to do, for most of us are lucky to remember to set some time aside to pray at all.  While a quiet prayer time every day is essential to our relationship with the Lord, it is the beginning of the process, not the end of it.  As we continue through the day, there is nothing that keeps us from silently praying as go along.  I once heard that someone had asked their pastor if it was OK to smoke while praying.  As the story goes, the pastor replied that no, it was not all right to smoke while you pray, but it is all right to pray while you smoke.

Obviously, this is a dated story, but it tells of an attitude that is important to grasp: When we set time aside for God, we must give Him our full attention, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t talk to Him in other situations.  Talking silently to God as we walk down the street, drive to work or wait for the bus, asking questions, making requests and just giving thanks and praise are great ways to be filled with His presence, and it is a great way to keep our minds focused on things that are truly important. To help this along, I also like the idea of taking a few minutes in the middle of a day to read a short text, say from the Psalms, just to keep some focus.  This is particularly helpful if you have a stressful job, to relax and get your head straight again.  I have found that this helps me keep calm, relaxed and seeing things in proper perspective, rather than just letting stress turn to frustration and frustration turn to anger.

As you go through the next several days, give these things a try if you aren’t already doing them. Yes, it may feel a little bit strange at first, but develop the habit, and I think you’ll see your stress level drop and your priorities more in line with God’s priorities… and you may also find that your relationships with other people may be much better, for it is difficult to be irritated with someone when you are praising God!

Next Journey post will move into some of the expressive spiritual practices, so be sure to join us!

Morning Reflection

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By the light of the early morning we sing your praises o Lord, for we know that you are the King of all things!  You have created this world that we live in, you have made, by the work of your hand all things.  You have given us life and light to live by, and you O Lord have forgiven our transgressions against you and your holy ways.  Go with us we pray throughout this day, and bring to us many who are desirous of hearing the good news about your Son, Jesus Christ.

Fill our hearts, we pray with a gladness and willing desire to share this day, with all of those with whom we come into contact, be they a friend or a stranger.  Give us the words to say, and give us the boldness to speak up for you in our circle of friends and others. O Lord we ask these things that we may do our part to build your Body on this earth, that we may share in your purpose, and we hope that by being willing to serve you, that the day will soon come when your will is done throughout this earth just as it is in Heaven, and so that in everything that we do this day, we will be pleasing in your sight.

Excuse me, is there a problem?

I had the radio on most of yesterday, and since I got tired of listening to everyone crying about the latest Redskins defeat, I switched to a news station.  It seems that the big news of the day was that the NSA is tapping the phones of friendly foreign leaders, and Mr. Obama had no idea.  It also seems that yet another reporter had her doors kicked in and her papers and documents seized by government agents, and nobody is commenting.

Hearing these stories reported over and over, I got to thinking…

Last summer we heard that the NSA is getting the info from our Facebook accounts, our emails and our phone calls; but nobody knows anything about that.  The IRS is targeting political opponents of Mr Obama for special treatment, but nobody knows a thing about it.  A US Ambassador is murdered in a terrorist attack in Libya, but nobody knows a thing about that. The Department of Justice has been wiretapping and reading emails of reporters who have reported stories that are inconvenient for the Administration, but nobody knew anything about that. Previously, the DOJ was involved in selling arms to drug cartels in Mexico… but nobody knew anything about that.

And when it came to negotiating about the impasse leading to the government shutdown, the Administration’s negotiating position was that they would never negotiate.

I’m probably not the smartest person in the room, and I’m happy to admit it, but do these fine people really expect anybody to buy this?  No one ever knows about anything that is going on, but what is going on all seems to deal with getting the goods on everybody else, spying on our own citizens and friends, punishing the opposition, never negotiating with the other party… isn’t there a pattern here?

Is it just me?  Wouldn’t a reasonable person have just cause to ask?

Or, to be very fair, let’s say that the president and senior staff and officials really didn’t know about all of this.  In that case, might I suggest that they get a handle on what is going on in their midst before things get much farther out of line?

Hey, just asking…

Disciple: New Priorities

In our last post in this series, we took a look at the transformative  process of the renewing of our minds. Today let’s continue this process and evaluate our priorities.  As our outlook on life changes, so will our priorities, and we can help this process along by becoming intentional in our approach to priorities.cisuyvbl (2)

It might seem odd to some, but we tend to have major personal priorities that we’ve never really given any thought to; they’re just there.  After all, how much time have you ever spent making conscious choices about them?  If you are like most people, including me, you’ve never really given priorities a thought.  So let’s try a little exercise.

Pick a time when you won’t be interrupted.  If there is no such time, pick a relatively quiet time.  Make a list (in writing!) of the five most important things in your life; be real about it.  This will take some serious thought for most people.

Now, read Matthew 28:18-20 and then read over your list. The Matthew text will give you a realistic appraisal of God’s priority for you, so the question becomes, one of whether or not your most important things in life (priorities) match up with God’s priority. A secondary question would be whether or not your listed priorities are even complementary with each other; for most people they are not.  For example, if your number one priority is to spend time with your family, number two is to become financially rich and number three is to have adventure, you are setting yourself up to fail because there are not enough hours in a day to do all three!  By the way, these things don’t all line up very well with making disciples, either.

Next, with this in mind, let’s go back over our priorities and see if maybe we need to drop one or more of these things and replace it with something that lines up better with making disciples.  This is a very intentional undertaking.  If you like to be a contrarian, please note that I did not suggest that you neglect your family; they are people who need your mentoring to become disciples, too…

I realize that if you actually try this exercise, it is difficult, and will require a fair amount of thoughtful prayer and reflection, or to put it another way, it will require effort.  Please stick with it!  It will pay major dividends in your life.  In our next “Disciple” post  we’ll pick it up from this point.  Your “homework” is to add the a question to your daily prayer time: Lord, what do my personal priorities need to be in order for me to serve you as you would have me to serve?

If you are like most people, the next few days will be quite interesting!

Lord of all Creation

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There are times when my heart is filled with pity for those who will not believe in God!

How can we look upon the awesome creation around us and not be filled with awe at what an amazing God we have?  When we see the changing of the seasons, how can we not be impressed by the work of His hand?  When we hear the roar of thunder, how can we not be impressed with His power?  When we gaze upon the vastness of the sea, or the limitless wonder of the heavens, how can we not be breathless at His magnificence?

At times such as these, how can we not be filled with praise for Him? What a glorious sensation!

And then, to contemplate the fact that the God who created all of this and so more, that very God who holds it all together with His Word, and who reigns on high as King of kings and Lord of lords has actually taken the effort to know my name, to love me, to want to save me from my sin, and who desires a relationship with me…!  This might be the most incredible and amazing thing of all.

Yes, these are times when I pity those who will not believe, those who will deny Him even when completely surrounded with evidence, so sure are they of their own great intellect…  To miss all of this, to miss His hand at work, His awesome love and relationship with Him.  How truly pitiful are such as these.