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November 11, 2019, 2:40 PM

Periscope Depth


I must confess that I know very little about submarines, the ocean, or anything maritime. I enjoy going to the beach, as long as I can see my feet in the water, but that is pretty much the extent of my knowledge of the sea. The thought of being in a submarine on top of the water is scary to me and the notion of being in a submarine hundreds or thousands of feet underwater causes me to have a panic attack. Periscope depth is a comparatively more shallow depth and it’s the point at which the submarine is under the water but still able to raise its periscope in order to visualize anything on the surface. Obviously this depth is limited to the length of the periscope and may vary from vessel to vessel. As I understand it, a submarine, similar to an airplane requires a certain amount of air pressure inside to offset the pressure of the water on the outside. The deeper you go, the greater the external pressure thus requiring an even greater internal pressure. At periscope depth, somewhat near to the surface, the pressure is less than that in deeper depths. It is much safer at this depth also because you are able to see your surroundings. Sometimes in my faith walk, I feel like I stay closer to periscope depth because it’s easier and safer. There is less risk involved and I can see where I’m going. But God has not called me or you to live our lives as followers of Christ at periscope depth. He has called us to go deeper into the areas of the great unknown and search out the mysteries of His word and person.

He has called us to a deeper faith that requires us to trust in His guidance system. I don’t have the first clue about sonar but apparently it usually takes much longer to acquire the rate of speed and direction an object is going with sonar as compared to radar or plain sight. When we trust in God’s guidance it also means we must trust in His timing. It may take a little longer for us to get to where He is taking us but His way is always better. His thoughts are not our thoughts and even when we see things on the surface, we can easily miss what God is up to on a deeper level. We must trust and obey, living by faith and not by sight.

Also, as we follow God into a deeper faith, we can be assured that the pressure around us will increase. The Christians of the early church knew this truth quite well. The more they tried to live as followers of Christ, the more the world persecuted them. Take, for instance, Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13 are doing the work of the Gospel and sharing the Good News with the Gentiles after being rejected by some of the Jews. Verse 52 tells us that after Paul and Barnabas left, the disciples who remained were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. They weren’t filled because the persecution ceased. They were filled because they now had a faith that would not disappoint them. It’s that same Spirit that fills every believer and maintains the counter-pressure of the world and the enemy. As we go deeper, the pressure from the outside increases but the pneuma pressure increases in us making us able to endure and continue to go even deeper in our faith. There are beautiful things in the depths of the ocean that can’t be seen by those desiring to stay at the surface. There are amazing things God desires for us that we won’t experience until we dive deep into our faith.

Robert




November 5, 2019, 10:59 AM

What Does the Donkey Say?


 

Hollywood is the source of much of the liberal culture in our nation. It’s a place where a person is ostracized and their career effectively ended if they speak out for conservatism or Christianity. This has long been the case but it seems to be growing more obvious in recent years. However, Hollywood did get something sort of right. In 2001, Dreamworks introduced the world to the story of a good-hearted ogre trying to get his swamp back. He enlisted the help of some fairytale creatures to accomplish this. One of those animals, however, wasn’t necessarily of the fairytale type. The character known only as Donkey resembles an actual account of a Biblical donkey. In Numbers 22, Balaam is on his way to visit with Balak, the King of Moab. Balak had requested Balaam to curse the Israelites after they had camped out in the plains of Moab. Balaam consulted God, and the Lord told Balaam not to curse the Israelites. Balak was not happy with Balaam’s rejection and sent a second group of people, more distinguished than the first. In essence, the king sweetened the offer a bit in order to persuade Balaam. Subsequently, Balaam consulted God again and the Lord told him he could go but not to say anything except what he was instructed.

The Lord told Balaam what he was to do but when the pot got sweetened, he went to God again. There have been times when an opportunity has presented itself to me or our family and the Lord clearly showed us His will. Rather than being obedient and standing firm, I have allowed myself to be persuaded by what appeared to be a sweeter offer. Instead of my answer being consistent with God’s instruction, I rationalized accepting the offer. Like Balaam, the Lord let me go but I believe, “God was very angry” 22:22, when I ignored His instruction and persisted in my own desire.

Even in Balaam’s going against God’s initial instruction, God’s mercy and grace would abound. Balaam’s donkey, who would have been more than just a militant beast of burden, was going to be used in a supernatural way. This donkey that Balaam would have grown to trust and depend on would prove to be one of the best friends Balaam would have. Numbers 22: 23-27 provides the account of the three times Balaam’s donkey attempted to protect its owner. Like Balaam’s donkey, the Lord sends people into our lives to help us when we are dead set in going our own way rather than following God’s instruction. It usually starts with a gentle word of caution, progressing to words of truth that may hurt, and culminates with a refusal of the friend to continue down the path with us.

Our response may be similar to that of Balaam to his donkey. One of rejection and opposition. God puts people in our lives to be a donkey in a good way. One way I determine the intention of a person is by asking two questions; does this person love and follow God, and does this person love me? If the answer to these questions is yes, then I may need to consider their advice as potentially being from the Lord. Not just that, but I might need to consider my actions and intentions and evaluate the path I’m headed down. A real friend is someone who speaks the truth in love, even when it hurts. Next time you think someone is being a donkey to you, stop and consider what the donkey is saying. It might be worth listening to.

Robert




October 24, 2019, 9:25 AM

I’m Bored!!


 

If I had a quarter for every time one of my kids uttered those words, I’d be a wealthy man. Probably, all parents would have a little more jingle in their pocket if that were the case. It never seems to fail that along with the declaration of boredom comes a little tension with a side of attitude. We learned, as many before us and many who will learn for themselves, to give our kids chores to do when they tell us how bored they are. This seems to be at least a temporary kryptonite to boredom. I tend to see the same thing among adults within the church at times as well. Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 the strong words that if a man doesn’t work then he doesn’t eat. This has been a theme for many chest-pounding blue-collar workers throughout history. But there is a continuation of the context of that verse found in the following verses. Paul states the problem of idleness and the result of it. People had stopped working and keeping themselves busy with their tasks and began to gossip, complain, and stir up trouble. He brings this up again in 1 Timothy 5:13. Notice how he says that the people are urged in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and get to work. If we apply that same general principle to our spiritual life, there may be fewer issues in the church. When people stop focusing on the task of the Great Commission and become comfortable or disengaged from the work of the Gospel, they tend to become gossipers, complainers, and cause tension among the body. Paul says to urge these folks in the Lord, implying that it is according to Him and to glorify Him by our efforts, to get back to the business of spreading the Good News. If we find ourselves with enough time to sit around and complain and gossip, that is probably a good indicator we aren’t working for the Lord like we ought to be. Notice also in Nehemiah. Not all of the people working to rebuild the wall were builders. Many of them had other professions such as singers. Nehemiah doesn’t record any of them complaining about inconsequential things that didn’t impact the building of the wall. No one is on record complaining about having to rebuild the less desirable areas of the wall or gates. There aren’t any verses where those building the wall refuse to work because the work wasn’t suited to their preference. However, you do find a group of people who knew the task set before them and, even at the threat of their life, continued to work faithfully to complete that task. In conclusion, if you’re spiritual walk has become more occupied with complaining than working, maybe you have forgotten the real task set before you and the importance of it. If you find yourself being distracted by things that shouldn’t matter as much as you let them, ask the Lord to urge you to get busy by His Spirit or through others. The Great Commission requires our attention and efforts and we must be careful not to become idle. If we are unwilling to work for the Gospel, then we forfeit the blessing that comes from it.

 

Robert




October 16, 2019, 10:27 AM

Lessons from Man’s Best Friend


Last Christmas, Emily finally gave in and allowed us to get a dog. Of course we got him for the kids, but naturally, he has become like one of the kids to us. He has become a part of the family and is pretty special to us. He has perfected the “puppy dog eyes” when he wants something and how to give attitude when he is mad at us. As I said, he’s like one of the kids. But for all of his good qualities and behavior, he does do some things that I find quite irritating. For instance, 3am bathroom breaks, going into the kids' rooms and waking them up at 7am on Saturday mornings, licking me on my bald head, and the way he chews up clothes hangers. The Bible talks about a particular habit that dogs have that is just a touch beyond irritating and leans to the side of repulsive. This teaching became abundantly clear to our family when Thor, our dog, got sick and vomited. While Emily and I were trying to get things together to clean it up, Thor began to clean it up himself. Toby thought this was cool and the girls were grossed out. It was a good opportunity for us as a family to discuss Proverbs 26:11. It says, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” Some may think that’s a little over the top and offensive but there is much truth in it. First of all, the offense of the illustration is how God sees our sin and how repulsed He is when we continually return to it. Yet His mercy and grace always extend beyond the depth of our sin.

Secondly, sometimes the Lord allows us to return to our vomit after He repeatedly prevents and protects us from it. Not because He hates us but because that may be the only way we get our belly full, so to speak. Take for instance the Israelites living in the divided kingdom. Captivity was the eventual fate for both Israel and Judah because of their allowing and partaking in idolatry. In Daniel chapter one, we find Daniel and his friends as a part of the people having been taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar and carried away to Babylon. Babylon was a place well known to be a major participant of idolatry and pagan worship. So, because of the people’s inability to remain faithful to God and abstain from idolatry, He allowed them to be carried away into a land consumed with idolatry. I can’t help but think that this was, in part, to allow them to get a belly full of the vomit of their sin of idolatry. Maybe their exposure to the sin would cause them to realize the folly of their ways and drive them to repentance and returning to God. In essence, God gave them over to the desires of the heart in order to cause them to eventually repent and return to Him.

Paul uses a similar rationale in 1 Corinthians 5 in dealing with the immoral brother. He says in verse 5 to hand the brother over to Satan that the sinful nature might be destroyed and the man’s soul be saved. The idea is to allow the man to get a belly full of his sin to the point he becomes sick of it and broken over his fallen condition and repents. This should not be confused as a license or encouragement to sin. God demands holiness and we are called to holiness through Christ. The prodigal son had to get to the point of being disgusted with his circumstances so that he would return to the father.

There is nothing pretty about a dog licking his own vomit and I intend in no way to glamorize sin. It’s the difference between eating from the King’s table and licking the vomit off the ground. Choose life and blessing by living according to the Word. Choose salvation in Jesus and walk faithfully according to His commands.  If you've been dining on the dog's cuisine, confess and repent and turn back to God that you may taste and see that the Lord is good.  

https://youtu.be/yOzf0VrDNGU

Robert




October 1, 2019, 11:00 AM

Human Sticker Burr


I guess it’s that time of the year again. It seems as if overnight our yard was taken over by the great Texas sticker burr, aka, Cenchrus echinatus. One of the strange things my wife noticed about our yard was that the sticker burrs seemed to be most heavily concentrated around the edges, right up next to the sidewalk and driveway where we park. Once you tip-toe past them in this area, they are more scattered and it is easier to maneuver through the yard. I could just mow over them but that would only serve as a temporary solution and make the problem worse when it returned. I could put chemicals on them to kill them off but that can be harmful to the other grass and the environment. There is one way to eradicate the problem but it takes time, persistence, and tremendous effort. The secret is found in the fact that, while the tops of the weed are troublesome, the roots are very superficial and can easily be dug up with a garden hoe or shovel. This removal of the root system prevents future growth but needs to be done on a regular basis to prevent new growth.

Paul talks about people, who in my mind, are similar to the sticker burr. In Romans 1:28-32 Paul addresses some things that often don’t get considered as being in the same category of sins he lists in verses 24-27. Those who are filled with bitterness, deceit, envy, and hatred or who are gossips, slanderers, and arrogant are identified by Paul as being equally guilty as those who commit the “big sins.” I think if Paul were to write this letter today he would probably include using social media to insult and “throw shade” at others rather than being mature and doing what they Bible says about going to that person to work toward a resolution. These types of people seem to pop up in churches like the weeds among the good grass. Their behavior can be painful to those who come in contact with them and often require an intentional tip-toeing around. They can be located in the areas that people notice first and discourage them from becoming further involved in the church. The problem isn’t necessarily their actions, but the lack of depth of their roots. Because their roots aren’t deep, all they are capable of producing is fruit that doesn’t require much more than a superficial faith and like stickers that grow in bunches close together, they usually gravitate toward each other. It’s these people we must be fervent to pray for, not only that their hearts would change, but also that the Lord would protect us as we traverse around them. God has a way of eradicating the “sticker burr Christians” and even provides the Biblical process for this in Matthew 18, but hopefully, it doesn’t get to that point.

I know Paul also says in Romans 2:1-11 that we’re not supposed to condemn others or be judgmental. The type of judgment he is speaking of is the judgment reserved for God, for His judgment is based on His attributes, and none of us are God. The Bible does teach that we should evaluate the fruit of a person in order to know them. Matthew 7 begins with instructions not to judge in this manner but goes on to say in 7:18-20 that a tree will be known by its recognizable fruit. So while we shouldn’t judge others, we should evaluate behavior based on the standard the Judge has set forth in His Word. A tree will be known by its fruit just as the heart of a person is made known by their fruit.

Don’t be a sticker burr. Pray for those that are.


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