Thu, Feb 25th - 4:06PM
During a season in my life I served as an assistant firearms trainer. It wasn’t as difficult as it was instructional – for me.
The lead firearms trainer, one of the best in the world in my opinion, would teach a week long class to roomfuls of students who had never held a real gun, much less shot one. Back in my generation, it was commonplace for every male child to have at least a passing familiarity with firearms, but that was then… Most of the students I observed were wide-eyed and ignorant. (and the good ones knew it!).
Every class of new recruits began the same way – several days of classroom instruction followed by several days on the live range. The first day of classroom was fairly interesting, as the students learned the necessary nomenclature and applicable procedures, like how to draw and aim, how to reload, etc. It was all very necessary, but much of the class began to lose interest the second day. I guess they figured they had all become gunfighters during the first day – like just buying a weight-training set makes a person feel in better physical shape! But then came the live-fire…
In class, I would yell at someone for pointing a pistol at me, although I knew the gun was unloaded. The theory, of course, is that if you always treat guns as loaded, even when they are not, you’ll learn necessary safety habits, good for a lifetime. Guns are impersonal at best, and with enough disrespect they will shoot anyone – even their owners!
I was always nervous on the live-fire days, for one thing always, always happened – a certain measurable percentage of the students would stand in front of their targets, with loaded guns in their holsters, and literally forget everything they had trudged through for days in the classroom. It wasn’t funny anymore; not for me. And my colleague, the lead instructor, had had students shoot themselves (by mistake) on the live range! I was right to be on edge!
Point is – the classroom may be just repetitive, boring training, especially to the arrogant, but it’s the only “cheap and easy” training these students would get – everything that followed would be expensive.
The question I’m getting to is this: why has a loving God left His children (hope you are) in this sewer of a planet at war? In other words, why are we here?
The answer can be found above…it’s the only training we’re going to get, and if not here, then where?
If planet earth was still the Garden of Eden, how would we learn anything that would get us ready to co-manage the Kingdom? And that answers another question: what are we being trained to do?
The Bible says that God’s people will one day judge angels, among other activities! Well, good grief! I’ve never even seen one, and I have trouble managing my household! Apparently, I need training in Advanced Management, and I don't have much time to get it, and if the road weren’t rocky my feet would never toughen up.
If this doesn’t seem fair to you, bear in mind that it isn’t. But it is practical, and it is necessary. This is one tough class! But like firearms training, would you rather get yelled at and embarrassed in the classroom, or yelled at for accidentally shooting someone on the live range?
Like my instructor friend used to say, “Learn from your mistakes, and while you’re at it, learn from the mistakes of others – you may not have enough time to make them all yourself.”
So here we are on this chaotic, war-torn planet, and we only see a very minute percentage of the warfare being waged around us and against us. This is our only classroom. Don't be afraid of failure – now is the time to fail, and learn from it.
Eternity is the live-fire range.
Mon, Feb 22nd - 10:14AM
For many years after being born again, I was on an irksome quest to find my specific, God-ordained mission in life. Imagine then, how upsetting it has been for most of my Christian life that I did not know precisely the details of my calling. I figured something must have been wrong with me that I couldn’t hear from my own God! I talked myself into believing I was deaf to His voice. What a handicap!
This reminds me of grade school when the students are asked to express what they want to be “when they grow up”. It always seemed to me, grade after grade, that I was the only student who did not have a clue. It never occurred to me then that many of my peers were probably in the same boat, but just smart enough to make up a good answer.
Oh, how I sweated out those first days in every grade! The real terror though, was inside of me, because I really didn’t know what I wanted to be, and it made me feel inferior and useless when all my classmates answered the question without effort. There is no blessing in being unique if the uniqueness is based in insecurity.
I’m sure that somewhere in America there are still classrooms where the teachers ask their students what they want to be when they grow up. Shame on them! In my opinion, any teacher insensitive enough to find that a plausible question should burn their own credentials!
Perhaps the only answer that makes increasing sense in today’s world is this: “When I grow up, I would like to be an ADULT!” You know (or should), everyone gets older but not every one grows up.
Real adults are a rarity, and judging from the news around the world, becoming more rare every day.
But now I realize I’ve been misled by my own expectations. It is not necessary for me to know my calling – God knows, and I need to simply trust Him to reveal what I, as an individual member of his household, need to know – and no sooner than I need to know it.
God never asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up in Him, but somehow I thought He had – and marked myself down because I apparently couldn’t hear Him. The “calling” is His to give, and He will be plainly heard at the right time. He is my Father, and He knows what I am to be, and He’s on the job every day!
Until I hear the specifics that pertain uniquely to me, my general calling, and yours, is to be His faithful witness. And for right now, that’s hard enough.
I bet if I can get that right, the rest will be easier to grasp. I am not to witness about me – I am to witness about Him.
Why do we so readily take the ‘cart before the horse’? And why is backwards from God always the default human position? I believe the real job of the Holy Spirit is to make us comfortable defaulting to a position 180 degrees backwards from how we were born!
I live in the mountains, and I marvel that almost anywhere walkable is up. The mountains are beautiful, but they are also difficult. I learned early on when I moved here that it becomes important to not look too far up the hill I’m climbing, rather, I should simply concentrate on taking the next few obvious steps. And if I do that, the top of the hill will arrive on time for me.
Be a WITNESS, and take the small, obvious steps – and trust God to bring the top of your hill to you - and in time for Him.
Thu, Feb 18th - 10:50AM
Unburdened by Grace
Goodbye, my friend. In my mind I gaze down at your now peaceful face, nearly expressionless in its simplicity. The face of a human body, used up and abused by an all-encompassing sickness in the last light of earthly life, but now quiet, peaceful in its silence.
I can no longer see the pleasure and pain of this life expressed on your face, a face like mine, secretly twisted by sin and the moment by moment struggle you’ve been engaged with since the minute of your birth.
I admire the way you stood up under the pain and horror of your sickness and treatments, as well as the fleeting times of hope for wellness, now finally and forever resolved in Eternity. At the same time I grieve your passing and miss your life among us, I am deeply envious of you, because now I know in my spirit you are finally unburdened – unburdened by Grace.
We prayed for you from our darkness, our mirrors never ceasing to be dim, but yours now sparkling clear with Abundant Life.
While your places are now empty, and your earthly possessions no longer know your touch, we truly envy you, for you are now undistracted while possessed by God. From our dimness it’s difficult for us to imagine what it’s like to face our Faith complete, as you now will never cease to experience. I’m certain your laugh will resound with those forever rejoicing, now your peers.
Many years ago, God in His goodness, gave me five seconds of time when He lifted all my burdens. Until that short experience I had no idea how heavy my burdens were, but in a flash I was weightless and completely unburdened. Until that moment I had no comparison, and only relative relief, but in those seconds I became carried away by love – love that emptied my soul of all care, all worry, all plans and all struggles and fears. For that five seconds I saw clearly for the first time, and only time, how it must be when I face my God for the first moment. And Oh, how I loved Him!!
There was no room in my soul for sadness or darkness of any kind, for both immediately ceased to have meaning, and I felt them fall away from me like dirty clothing surgically removed, and eternal joy exploded within me!
Oh my God! How I long to have You to touch, and to hold forever. To run my eyes and hands over Your face. To feel you touching me, and brushing me with Your holy scars. How I long for You!
So goodbye my friend. Now you will pray for me, and even as I miss you, and my earthly form clings to earth in misdirected zeal, my very essence begs God, yours and mine, to answer your prayers.
While your memory will wax and wane as I spend my days struggling, as you spent yours, my soul and yours remain forever joined to Jesus, and through Him, to each other.
Goodbye my friend, but only for a little while!
Wed, Feb 17th - 6:06PM
Back when I became a real estate agent, I received training in the benefit of creating written goals. We were told that over 80% of people who put their goals in writing tend to achieve them. I haven't checked the numbers for accuracy, but the point was made that when it comes to achievement, there was a substantial difference between verbal goals and written ones. Well, I did that, but of course, I buried my written goals in my desk drawer…! Probably 80% is a little high for someone who never reads them again, but I think writing goals down can be a good tool for Christians. Spiritually, where do you want to be in a year or two? And while we’re discussing goals, it is also important to realize the goals God has for us. He does, you know, and it’s healthy to know what they are. I think He intends for each of us to know them, too. This is one of those ‘ask and keep on asking’ things.
As a new Christian, I fell into list making when I realized that God could speak to me (personally) through Scripture, and as such, I began keeping a record of the promises God gave me, on the premise that those words and those promises had been given to me, and could be counted on like possessions. This made sense because I read in Romans 11:29 that ‘the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.’ (NASB), and to me, these words were given to me as gifts by God, Who does not change. Dare to believe….. And so, thirty plus years later, I have a list of words and promises God has given to me. I keep them in my computer and in the flyleaf of my bible. And every now and then when the sun ceases to shine and I’m feeling closed in, alone and empty, I take out my list and read each item aloud to God in prayer. I can't begin to explain the miracle that happens next!
Bear in mind, I am not now, nor have I ever been a fan of thumbing through a “promise book” to pull out the ones I like. And I try hard to be open to hearing what He has to say, even if it’s tough. I’m not always happy about what He says, but the point is, God does communicate (any surprise?), and I think it behooves each one of us to keep a record of His specific communications. And while you can be given the same words God has given me, you can't lay claim on them until He gives them to you. And just to clarify, this isn’t like winning the lottery – they are almost always conditional; obedience is usually required, and nobody said it would come naturally.
Another list I once made was a list of my fears. My wife and I both did this one day during a quiet time, and our lists were made not with a plan to necessarily share them with each other, but merely to clarify to ourselves what fears we were experiencing. I highly recommend it, but only if you are willing to be starkly honest with yourselves. Afterwards, we did share them with each other, and we followed up with specific prayer against each fear. This is highly toxic to the Devil’s plans, and perhaps should be re-done every so often. It’s also a real eye-opener because it helps highlight the garbage we hear in our heads every day and too often discount. It’s important to recognize the sources of the “stuff” in our heads.
Just for the fun of it, when you’re feeling like the world is against you, and has been against you for some time, list in detail the things you can be thankful for. I discovered this list one day when I realized that my wife and I spent most of our time grousing about the unfairness we had experienced, so much so, that it had became a lifestyle. I remember saying to her, “Good grief, we’re the most un-thankful people I know!” We each made a list of things we could be thankful for, and our lists were really long ones! That was a real exercise in freedom! And it also helped us to realize anew that our worlds should revolve around God, not the other way around. How easy it is for us humans to get things backwards! In fact, with God in mind, that’s our default position.
So my recommendation is to sit down sometime soon and make your own lists. Some will become like jewelry around your necks, and some will be keys to freedom. Some will be real eye-openers; some will be spiritual weapons you can use for the rest of your lives – but here’s the key – make each list in faith.
Works for me!
Fri, Feb 12th - 4:24PM
Least of These
Years ago, right about the time dirt was created, my dad caught me in a critical mood one day and unloaded some wisdom I needed to hear. And every now and then I remember his words – because I need to remember them.
I was being critical of our extended family and exposing in it what I viewed as hypocrisy. My father didn’t correct me on my criticisms, in fact, he probably endorsed my views, but after listening to me at length, he stated, “It’s all right to tear something down, but only if you have a plan to rebuild it.” In that vein, the term “lip service” is almost always hypocrisy in action.
I’m also aware that when I express a critical view, I share in it as a participant along with those I criticize. There is simply no way for me to dodge personal responsibility by being only an observer – I am all too human, and it’s my albatross. In my last post I mentioned the term, “psychological wages”, and today I’d like to flesh out the idea.
I believe we live in a gender-biased society. No, I’m anything but a Liberal, but let me state my case. My opening premise is the statement: we strive to “volunteer” along paths that offer, 1) the least resistance, and 2.) pay us psychological wages.
Let me illustrate: I like to cook, and every now and then I score a success in the kitchen, but you won’t find me volunteering for a church project that involves cooking. Why not? Because it’s a project requiring women – I will get no wages I want by helping women do “women’s work”. But would I invest in a project like fixing a parking lot? You bet. Especially if “popular” men are involved – why? The wages are better. Even if it’s going to be a hot, hard project, and it takes a day of my precious time (it becomes more precious with age), and even if I don’t really want to do it, I will do it because other men are doing it, and other “real men” should help too. I get paid “wages”. And I compound my hypocrisy with these motives and with my foreknowledge of the truth. I stand without excuse.
Jesus mentioned in parables the concept of ‘doing it to the least of these’. I think we should focus on the word “least”. The people that comprised ‘the least’ were 1) the helpless, and 2) the ones least able to pay psychological wages. Wouldn’t it have been just as “helping” to help a rich person, or at least someone not helpless and a bit more popular in society? Status and acclaim not withstanding, wouldn’t that be ministry too?
I have no doubt there are those God calls to minister in His Name overseas. The people in those countries are just as loved as we are, and they obviously need the help, but I think it’s awfully easy to also feel “called” and thereby avoid the needs across the street.
As poor as India seems to be, I bet it pays better “wages” to some, who later get to be called “missionaries” in front of their congregations. This in mind, it is imperative we recognize what we are being called to do, and by whom – and why.
I’m becoming more and more suspect that I can’t trust myself or my true motives. I don’t think I even recognize what my true motives are, but I’m trying to be open to the Truth, even if it’s a hard truth.
Your ‘neighbor’ might live an ocean away, or your ‘neighbor’ might live next door, but be aware of who calls you, and who is paying the wages. Maybe next time you hear a sermon on helping others it’ll trigger more than “lip service”.
Tue, Feb 9th - 10:47AM
There are tasks
we all participate in that are almost universally disliked, and a lot of them
have to do with helping others when they cannot help themselves. Some people thrive in professions that
highlight helping the helpless, and I can’t describe the admiration I feel for
such people, albeit mixed with feelings of “better you than me..”.
paramedics, and nursing home workers usually top my personal list of such
admirable people, but I’m sure there are many other categories I’m not aware
of…and that’s my point. Without
personal contact, most of us never think of these folks; we just rely on them,
and we rely on them a lot.
spent many years in an Alzheimer’s facility, safely locked in from the
world. She was fed, bathed and
looked after by a staff of workers who came into her world every day, and then
went home to their own after their shifts. Visiting my mother was painful (for me), and I didn’t do it
often. Thankfully my brother and his wife were geographically more available,
but they were also more willing – shame on me. I’ll always be haunted when I wonder how much my mother
really understood, for you see, someday I’ll find out.
were running through my mind last weekend as I careened down a mountain road to
Boulder, Colorado, and I began to think of contrasting personalities in people
I’ve known – types of people we all know, I’m sure.
One type is
the obvious personality we all notice. No crowd is complete without at least one, and cliques naturally form
around them. I think it starts in
the first grade and perhaps even earlier. They just naturally attract others to themselves. I’m not judging these people at all,
and I completely realize they can’t be held responsible for how others react to
them – people are naturally attracted to what is perceived as strength; it’s
just the way the world works.
But the polar
opposites are the personalities we usually don’t even notice. About as obvious as a bowl of oatmeal,
these folks have trouble attracting anyone, and this “lack”, as we judge it,
causes them to disappear in a crowd, and correspondingly, they simply don’t
seem to value being noticed.
organization I suspect the Oatmeal People are under appreciated and overlooked in
favor of the more aggressive, but as I drove to Boulder I found myself
wondering how the Lord looks at these people.
I should tell
you that my context for these thoughts was a church-focused service project,
and without any condemnation, I have observed that much of the time, the
high-profile personalities find themselves simply too busy to involve
themselves in projects that don’t contribute to their personas. It is the Oatmeal People who volunteer
first for the really lousy jobs – the tasks that give them nothing in return, not
even psychological wages.
Now to be
balanced, our world is fully stocked with both types of people, and many days
and in many differing environments the roles switch, and it is difficult to
simplify my premise enough to write about it with scientific accuracy. But as has been said, “Even a blind pig
finds a few acorns”, and for the sake of argument I’ll have to settle for being
right part of the time.
With that in
mind, I want to say for the record, “God bless the Oatmeal People.” No organization, no project, certainly
no church, could function without them.
And even if we
don’t pay them much attention, the Lord does, and their reward may very well
exceed the majority of others.
To them I
would say, “Thank you for all you quietly do – the world runs on people like
The ‘last will
be first’ - in the Kingdom.
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