Sunday, November 30, 2014

Why Doesn't God Answer My Prayers?

Does it ever seem to you that God doesn't answer your prayers? Isn't He supposed to give us those things we want to make us happy?

First of all God ALWAYS answers prayer. It's just that sometimes the answer is "no" and sometimes the answer is "wait."

Second, what are you praying for? If we want to have our prayers answered, we need to adjust our prayer requests so they are more likely to get a "yes." For example, praying for money is not going to get a positive return on your prayer. Why? Because The Bible says that "the love of money is the root of all evil." However, if you were running an orphanage and there was no more money to feed all of the babies, and you prayed for financial help so the children wouldn't starve, it is far more likely that God will respond in a positive way. HIS way.

We have to remember that God is God. WE ARE NOT!

After King David committed adultery and murder, he massively repented after he got busted for it. He prayed for days in tears, humbly seeking God's forgiveness. He asked God for a clean heart and he was given one. This is David's prayer.

"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. 14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. 15 Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise."
- Psalm 51:1-17


Now that's a prayer! And God granted David's prayer.

Another reason God doesn't answer our prayers could be because of some unrepentant sin our lives. Having sex outside of marriage is a big one. If you are in an adulterous relationship, if you are having sex before, or outside of marriage, think about it. Why would God answer your prayers? Seriously? Read this.

"Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; 2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. 3 For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness." - Isaiah 59:1-3

That's pretty clear.

But the Bible says that we are ALL sinners. How can we even hope to have our prayers answered? That's simple. Repent. Seek forgiveness first for any and all of your sins. Repent means a change of direction. Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to "go and sin no more." The same words apply to us.

"So, why should we pray if all we are praying for is what God wants anyway?"

Do you call yourself a Christian? What does that mean? It means that you are a follower of Christ. It means you want to be like Him. It means that you have given up your old way of life for His. Basically, if we are not living like Christ, why should God hear our prayers? Why should He answer them?

Let's face it. We ALL sin. So why does God even answer our prayers at all. If we are sincere, come before Him in humble prayer, seek His forgiveness and THEN ask, God wouold be more likely to answer in our favor.

God is not like a genie in a bottle that we rub to make him appear and grant us three wishes, God is God! We're lucky to even be alive considering all the things we have done that are against Hus will.

God WILL answer our prayers but only if doing so lines up with His plan for our lives. Only if HE gets the glory and the reward and not us. Does that make sense?

God hears our prayers. And God will always answer them. It's just that sometimes, God does not always the answer WE want, but God ALWAYS answers the way HE wants. We need to learn to pray that way. IN HIS NAME.

Pray - Sanctus Real

Friday, November 28, 2014

Doom

My wife is about to head out to do her Black Friday shopping. She is not looking forward to going. In fact, she is feeling a sense of doom this morning. She is dreading going yet she feels compelled to go. Why? I think she goes for several reasons.
  1. Our daughter is going along. Mother / daughter time is always a compelling lure for my wife. They enjoy spending time together. Apparently, they SO love spending time together, they would do so in a war zone! And that is what they will be doing today.
  2. Saving money. My wife loves a good deal and is apparently willing to risk life and limb . . . and $20 in gas money . . . to save a buck or two.
  3. My wife hates to waste anything, especially coupons. I blame our daughter-in-law for this, who once told my wife that the coupons actually scream in agony when they expire unused. Sigh.
  4. Escapism. The last thing my wife says before she leaves on such trips is NOT, "I will miss you my honey." It's "Would you please empty the dishwasher while we're gone?" The last word of which nearly getting itself pinched by the slamming of the door.
  5. The sense of adventure. I think it's the women's equivalent of deer camp. There is the pursuit of the trophy - the ten dollars off with a $10 purchase. "I GOT THIS FOR FREE!!"
Life would be so much simpler without Black Friday. People would be sleeping in. Families should be enjoying each others company. This could be a day of calm after overdosing on Turkey, stuffing and football. Instead we shove and push our way through crowds to get the illusive gift that will probably get returned the day after Christmas.

When faced with such decisions in MY life, should I stay or should I go type things, I usually opt for the tried and true, "What would Jesus do?" option. Would Jesus shove His way through a crowd, leaving old ladies strewn in his wake, just so He could life high that $100 flat screen at Walmart? I think not.

What would He be doing instead on such a day as this?

I'd better stop before I get myself in trouble. I can't complain too loudly about my wife's exploits. I am just as guilty as she. As soon as they leave this morning I will watch a little Ravi Zacharias on TV, I will have a leftover Thanksgiving cupcake or two and . . . I will empty the dishwasher. But the thing I enjoy most about Black Friday is the time I get to spend alone . . . with Jesus.

I am reading in the Book of Isaiah today, preparing for the season that is coming. Today I am reading a prophecy about Jesus, written 700 years before He was born . . .

"14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good." - Isaiah 7:14-15

Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving. May we have a left-over day of thanks-giving today, and every day.

Lord Jesus, I pray for safe travels for my wife and daughter today. I pray your protective hand would be over them as they wade through the crowds far from home. And I pray for myself, that I would honor you today by completing the tasks set before me. And I thank you for the time you and I can spend together - in your word, in prayer . . . and in service, as I empty the dishwasher . . . with a smile. Thank you Jesus. In your Holy Name. Amen.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lawlessness

"The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness," - Matthew 13:41

I watched the news the other night as St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch made the announcement. No indictment against Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. I thought McCulloch did and great job, slowly and methodically spelling out every detail before he made the final announcement. Trying to keep things calm. He did his job well.

Because the grand jury made a no-indictment decision in this case, in their minds anyway, Officer Wilson did his job too. Yes, tragically there was a shooting and an 18-year old man died but officer Wilson did his job according to the grand jury.

And in doing so, the grand jury did THEIR job. They were charged with making a judgement, based on evidence and the eye-witness testimony of others.

The soldiers that were called out, the police officers in the line of fire in their community did there jobs as well. The only ones who failed to perform well were those citizens of Ferguson who decided that looting and burning cars were somehow the next logical step in an evening in which they did not get the decision they wanted.

That, in my opinion, is insane. It is lawlessness at its worst.

If we are left to our own devices and we are allowed to do what we want. Officer Darren Wilson would no doubt be hanging by his neck from then end of a rope. He instead is living his life in fear, and rightly so. He should be afraid. Not because of what he did. He simply performed his job. Because of the action he took August 9th, protecting his community, he will now be looking over his shoulder wherever he goes, fearful that someone will end his life.

The thing that strikes me in this whole issue are two things really. One, the black leaders in our nation seem to be fanning the flames, especially Al Sharpton, instead of trying to extinguish them. Would Martin Luther King be doing the same. I think not. He would be advocating peaceful protests. Our president made a few comments but they weren't enough to get people to listen.

Secondly, those people looting and burning businesses. When did it become okay to destroy a random persons property over the actions of another? It's NOT okay!! This whole Ferguson thing is an embarrassment to our nation. Watch the BBC news sometime and discover what the rest of the world thinks of us!

Many of my brothers and sisters in Christ believe that we are in the End Times - the days leading up to the return of Christ. The opening verse of my post today was spoken by Jesus when his disciples asked Him about one of His parables - the parable of The Weeds. According to what I read, these people who are looting and destroying things in Ferguson are being spurred on by the devil. Jesus will judge them when their time comes. And according to Jesus "the weeds" will be "thrown into the fire."

One thing to remember . . . as sad as this situation is, these things WILL need to happen. They have been prophesied. And events like this will get worse.

So what can we do as Christians? I think we need to stick to our beliefs, we need to stand firm for our God and King. In the end, none of this stuff matters, only the salvation we received through our belief in Christ. We need to repent of OUR sins before judging others, and even at that we are not to judge those outside of the church. That is God's job. So we must pray.

We must pray for our nation, we must pray for the family of Michael Brown and Darren Wilson as well. And we must pray for the protesters. The one thing that is needed most . . . the one thing that could have a calming influence on this and other shortcomings in this nation and world . . . is Jesus.

If Michael Brown knew Jesus he never would have acted like he did. If the people burning buildings and stealing things knew Jesus they never would have done what they did. The whole problem with the world today is that not enough people know Jesus. The status quo is simply not going to cut it. We Christians need to evangelize and we need to do it now. But in a loving way.

We can't "save" anybody. That's not our job. We are to be witnesses and carriers of The Gospel, the GOOD news of Jesus Christ. Let us have no fear in this. Let us ask people questions about their faith, lovingly. And pray. We need to pray. Let us do so . . . always. Let us do . . . our jobs.

"When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."  "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." - 1 Corinthians 15:54-58


Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Circle

Good morning!!! And happy deer hunting season!! A great day to stay inside and write a story . . . rather than take one of my usual walks in the woods . . . wearing my brown coat.

Today marks the end of my thrice-weekly blog posts. I have been writing these stories for exactly two years and I have written . . . well, this will be my 300th story!!

I have enjoyed writing about how I have seen God working in the lives of the people around me. What an honor God has given me by allowing me to watch His handiwork! He is such an amazing God and sometimes, how He works . . . the things He does, simply blow me away.

Not everyone likes some of the things I have said here. That's fine. I don't really care. Well, I kind of do. I write the truth and sometimes the truth hurts. I try to stay true to God's Word and if some people get mad at me for that, so be it. I'm fine with that. The only one I am trying to please here is God, not man.

I am still going to write. I will still write stories for this blog. It's just that they will only be published once each week instead of three times. I love to write. It's a gift from God! If I didn't write it would be like denying God, in my eyes. That is NOT going to happen.

At the same time however, I feel like God wants me to do other things as well. For example, I have been working on a project for about a year now. I have been designing modular housing for those with low, or no, income. Kind of like a Habitat for Humanity thing. I actually will be meeting with them next week to discuss my idea. Pray for that please.

I also will be spending the extra time writing a book. Maybe two. I would like to take these stories and mold them into an actual book, honoring God, through the stories and the lessons - always using scripture. The second book will be a novel, based on the conversion story of a young man, all based on The Gospel of Jesus Christ. The working title for that book is The Path. Surely not a New York Times Best Seller, but more of a story for my grandchildren.

And so I am throttling back on the writing of this blog but I am not going to stop working for Jesus. I know that I have been called. I am a Christian. There is no higher duty than to serve and be obedient to my Lord and King. And that is what I would like to talk to you about today. The importance of obsession in our faith.

I saw a speaker at a Christian men's conference once who used an illustration that I thought was very good. The speaker drew a large circle on the chalkboard and then, outside the circle, he made a dot. Pointing to the big circle he said, "This circle represents our lives. It's where we live. We work here, we eat here, we sleep here. We relax here, we make love here. This is where our friends and family find us. It's where we hang out . . . ALL of the time."

Then he took a few steps to his right an pointed to the dot he had made on the chalkboard. Tapping it with his chalk, he turned to the class and said, "This dot represents why our relationships don't work. The dot is why we commit adultery, it represents the reason we lie, cheat, procrastinate, waste time doing non-productive things. This dot represents all of the struggles we have in our lives, because this dot represents God and His location is outside of our circle."

The speaker went on to say, "The problem with how we live our lives is that most of us are quite content with having God live outside our circle. We like it that way. We feel . . . comfortable. I would submit to you that unless God, this little dot over here, unless God is inside the circle, you are NOT a Christian. You cannot go on living your life as if God is not in the circle. In fact, I would submit to you that God should BE our circle. Our lives should be the dot. A reversal! A Christians life should be totally devoted to God. Everything we do should bring Him honor, and glory and praise. Anything else is a waste."

The speakers words found a place in my heart. It has become more and more obvious to me that the speaker was right. God must consume us. HE must be our all-in-all. There must be nothing else. Jesus told us this Himself!

"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'" - Luke 10:27

ALL.

That means everything. Every thought. Every word. Every deed. And this is a command from Jesus, our Lord!

Packer game tomorrow? How is that honoring God? Grocery shipping this afternoon? How will that honor God? Getting drunk in deer camp tonight? How is that honoring God? We must live our lives with God as our circle. And the dot? We should erase it! So there is nothing left on our chalkboard other than The Circle - God.

Will The Circle Be Unbroken - Johnny Cash

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Why Don't I Have Any Friends?"

There are many similarities between a crowded city sidewalk and our Facebook news feed. People come walking at us like so many status updates. Some are funny. Some are downright disgusting. And the flow is seemingly endless.

There are millions of people on our planet. Billions actually. You'd think that everyone would have at least ONE friend, right?

I have heard it said that our friends choose us, we don't choose them. I think that's true. If it were the other way around, this world would be filled with billions of disappointed people.

If we have lots of friends we're obviously doing something right. At least it might seem that way. And if we don't have hardly any friends . . . well, we must be doing something to displease them.

I have seen people on Facebook, friends of mine, just ripping on someone. They are obviously not friends with each other. At least not now. But everyone else sees this ugly conversation going on and opinions are being swayed, one way or another. People are deciding "I don't think I want to be friends with that person. And they have never even met!

When we hurt someone and then don't do anything about it, chances are that relationship will die. If we hurt someone and they still remain our friend, what does that tell you? It tells me that there is some unconditional love going on. There is grace, perhaps a bit of understanding, and a WHOLE lot of compassion being handed out. THERE is a true friend. If you have a friend like that, you have a friend indeed!

Do you think Jesus had a lot of friends? He sure had a lot of people talking about Him! But I'm not sure he had tons of friends. He had quite a few enemies. Some even plotted to kill him . . . and did. Why? Why did Jesus have lots of enemies? God is love, right? Jesus should have loved them all. News flash: Jesus DID loves them all. It's just that some of the people didn't like what Jesus had to say. And when things didn't go their way in their relationship with Jesus . . . they un-friended Him. And in a rather large and deadly way.

Facebook is not the place we should be venting our frustrations or calling others out. Send a private message. Arrange a meeting. But don't drag someone up and down the street in public. If we have a disagreement with someone we are told in the Bible that we should go to them one-on-one . .  FIRST!

"15 If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." - Matthew 18:15-17

We are supposed to imitate Christ in the things we say and do. We are to be just like Jesus in our relationships. So, are we? Can we pass the test the next time someone wrongs us? Probably not. But we are commanded to do so!

"29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." - Ephesians 4:29

That is NOT a suggestion. It is a command! Do you think these guys are listening to Jesus? Probably not.


If we acted more like Jesus in our conversations I think we'd have more friends than we have now. Or would we? Actually, the only way we could ALL get along is if we ALL acted like Jesus. There's a thought. I wonder what living in a world like THAT would be like.

It would be like . .  heaven. :)

Live Like That - Sidewalk Prophets

Monday, November 17, 2014

Blessings

Blessings can seem few and far between these days. Just watch the news and we can get easily depressed. At least all of the political ads have subsided. These days when I travel to work it is dark out and when I come home it is dark out. It can be a very depressing time of year. But then something happens to brighten up our day.

Someone will smile at us or give us a hug and suddenly our days get just a little bit brighter. Why is that? Is there something magical in a smile? Is it normal to feel better when somebody squeezes you? The actions themselves mean nothing. It's what accompanies those actions that means everything. It's called love.

Love is a blessing. To receive a blessing it must be given BY someone. The person giving us that blessing could be the person blessing us. After all, they are the ones who smiled at us or hugged us. But where did they get their desire to do that from? I submit to you that any such desires to bless others comes out of love. Someone smiles at us because they love us. We hug one another because we LOVE one another. That is a blessing.

But where does LOVE come from? Surely love does not evolve out of a puddle of primordial ooze. Love is an emotion.

Question: Where do emotions come from? I don't really know. No one really can PROVE where it comes from. I personally believe that our emotions are given to by God. I feel the same way about blessings.

"We love because he first loved us." - 1 John 4:19

Blessings come in many shapes and sizes. We can receive a blessing in the form of a letter from a friend, a Facebook post, a door opened for a stranger, a hug from a dear friend, or sometimes blessings can come from someone we don't even know.

I work at a company filled with many talented people. Each one of them is good at something. Some design buildings, others draw them up. There are people who design roads and ways to make and keep our water cleans. All of them have God-given talents of one sort or another. Recently however, they have gone beyond their normal level of commitment and have decided to bless people they don't even know this Thanksgiving. They are providing Thanksgiving meals for several area families - families who cannot afford to pay for the food themselves.

This past Saturday I was blessed myself by being allowed to give some of those meals away at a local food pantry. Four families were hand-picked for this specific need but one family in particular caught every one's attention.

A mother of three was at the food pantry picking up food for herself and her children. Her husband left her. She has no job. She didn't even have enough money for the registration fee. When she was asked if she would like to receive a complete Thanksgiving dinner, her hands rose to her mouth in shock and the tears began to flow. She simply could not believe that someone would give her such a gift.

Blessings are given freely or they are simply not blessings at all. Blessings are given from the heart and, as the Bible verse says above, all blessings first come from God. He blesses people through others. He loves all people and often expresses that love through other people.

Blessing someone else is one of those gifts that can keep on giving. The blessings can echo far beyond the initial blessing into the lives of many others.

This woman who received the free Thanksgiving dinner. She was blessed. Her children were blessed. The giver was blessed and God receives the glory. Win, win, win, win.

The best blessings are given anonymously. Those are the ones God loves the most. Those are the blessings that leave little doubt as to who the deliverer was. God.

This holiday season, please, bless someone in some out of the ordinary way. When you dine out leave a tip for the waiter that is larger than the cost of the meal and thank your waiter personally for her service. They will be shocked . . . and they will remember your act of kindness for the rest of their lives.

Tell someone you love them. Most will say they love you in return. There is no downside to love, given innocently and freely, like a child gives love to a family member. So should it be with us.

God is the giver of all blessings. He is the maker of all things. If we are loving human beings we will never pass up the opportunity to love one another because God loves us.

"8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love." - 1 John 4:8

Bless someone today. You will be glad you did . . . and God will be glad too. :)



Blessings - Laura Story

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bridge

I was watching one of those Alaska shows the other night on Nat Geo (The National Geographic Channel). Some guy was trying to build a log bridge across a creek. The creek wasn't your typical slow, meandering waterway. This creek was filled with rapidly flowing ice water. And it was deep.

Prior to his decision to build this bridge he always had to remove all of his clothes, throw them across the creek first, and then wade through the ice water . . . the belly-deep ice water. It wouldn't take ME too many hours of deliberation before I would consider building a bridge. One dip would do it.

It took him all day to chop down a tree or two and cut them into pieces before he could simply just walk across the creek on his new wooden bridge. He felt good about his accomplishment.

What an idiot. He was smart for building the bridge but a fool for not building it sooner.

I drive across many bridges on my way to work. I never really think about them. I never think about all the hours of labor spent to make my morning commute a little easier. I never think about it at all. And that's the problem with us humans. We never think about such things.

For example, I have been told that, once you tour a meat processing plant, you will never eat hot dogs again. That may be true. I've never toured a meat processing plant. I like to eat hot dogs. But maybe, if I really knew what went into making them, I would never even want to touch the things.

There are some bridges where we have to pay a toll, a price, to cross the bridge. The Mackinac Bridge is one of those. Each summer when we go to our farm in Michigan we stop at the toll booth before we cross the bridge and pay money to use it. We actually pay a toll on nearly every bridge we cross. It's just that most of those costs come from taxes.

We who call ourselves Christians don't really spend a lot of time thinking about our sin. The things we do during any given day, whether they are God-honoring or not, don't really matter to us most of the time. We just want to get through our day. We just want to "walk across the river." We don't really think about how our "bridge" to heaven was built. We just want to get there.

Perhaps if we each had to get scourged before we got there we'd begin to understand. Perhaps if someone pounded some railroad spikes through our hands and into a tree we'd begin to get the picture. Perhaps.

Jesus has already built a bridge for us. He knew exactly what it was going to cost before it was built. And He paid the price for its construction . . .  with His life.

The next time I cross a bridge in my travels, I think I will stop and examine it. Take a look at its foundation. Check out the size of the beams. Maybe I should call up the construction company as ask them what it was like to build that bridge. But I probably won't. I'll just drive right on over to the other side.

What would we do if we had no bridges? Many of us would have to move, including me! But we DO have bridges. And we DO have an eternal bridge, in Jesus Christ. HE is our bridge to heaven. But what about the toll for crossing the bridge? Who is going to pay that? Already paid. Paid in full.

I'm going to thank Him in my prayers today for what He has done to aid my travels, in this life and in the next, Won't you please join me? Thank you! :)

"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all," - 1 Timothy 2:1-6

The Bridge

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Warm & Fuzzy

Winter is getting closer every day. We now have snow on the ground and the temperatures are below freezing. I keep asking myself, "Why don't you move somewhere else? Idiot!" Well, there are several reasons we don't move. Our family is here. Our jobs are here. All of our friends are here. And, truth be told, we actually kind of like it here.

Of course the winter does have it's drawbacks. Like my wife for example. Wait. That didn't sound quite like it should have. Let me explain. You see, my wife gets cold in the winter. She likes to sit and read books. That's fine. I like to read too. But her reading in winter causes her hands to get really cold. I mean REALLY cold!!

When my wife gets cold she does two things she doesn't normally do during the summer - she takes hot baths and . . . she likes to snuggle in bed. Nothing wrong snuggling. That sounds sort of romantic actually. ut we mustn't forget my wife's frigid digits. One touch and I shoot skyward like a scalded cat.

Speaking of cats, that's another bad thing about winter. Our cats like to snuggle too. Their just as bad as my wife is when it comes to leeching heat. Worse! They're forever climbing on my wife, looking for warmth and comfort.

Last night our cat did something it has never done. It hopped into our bed with us (at 2:00 in the morning!) and curled up between us. I had no clue. I was asleep at the time. But I became aware soon enough when I rolled over that someone else was in bed with us.

I felt a warm body next to me. Thinking is was my wife I snuggled a bit closer. She must still be cold. The poor thing. Well, I was plenty warm so I snuggled closer. That's when I noticed the purring. That's a little weird I thought but I reached out my hand to pull her close and grabbed nothing but cat fur.

Unacceptable!!

I shoved the cat off the bed as was greeted with a big hiss. I rejected the cats desire to stay in our bed where it was comfortable and warm.

Now some people will call me mean. My wife might be one of them. But beds are made for humans to sleep in, not cats. The same would be true for dogs is we had one. Our cats can sleep on the couch or the stuffed chair, but the bed is mine. It is created for a specific purpose and it wasn't to host felines.

I was listening to a lecture the other day that was given by a pastor. He was speaking about apostasy in the church.Apostasy is a lot like our cat in bed. Warm, fuzzy and should be kicked out as soon as it's noticed.

What is apostasy?

The 1828 Webster's Dictionary describes it as "an abandonment of what one has professed; a total desertion, or departure from one's faith or religion."

How does that happen? Slowly, very slowly. But it DOES happen.

The cat-in-bed scenario can also apply to sin in our lives. It creeps in ever so slowly. Even unnoticed at first but it can sneak in, even when we think we are watching.

"My wife is gone for the weekend. Maybe I'll check out that porn site the guys at work were telling me about."

"I'm home alone for the day. I'll eat the entire bag of potato chips while I watch my soap opera. I need a special day, all for myself. Maybe some ice cream too!"

"I wonder what this whiskey tastes like. Mom and dad keep it on the top shelf but here I am standing on a chair with the bottle in my hand. What will one drink hurt? Besides, mom and dad drink. How bad can it be?"

There are so many ways that sin sneaks into our lives. It finds a crack. A failing marriage suddenly makes it okay to explore other options. A bad day at school suddenly is cause for a drink, or two, or three.

What happened to who we once were? When did that once-innocent person get replaced with the more sinful model? Slowly. V-e-r-y S-l-o-w-l-y.

God wants more from us than a quick in-and-out at church on Sunday. He wants us to live lives of love and devotion. Of sacrifice and service. We are to worship God, not the idols we have allowed to be constructed in our lives. God doesn't want us to be comfortable. He wants us to be humble and to fear Him. Not be AFRAID of Him. To fear Him. To respect Him, to honor Him, to praise Him . . . above all else. May His Holy Spirit have His way with us - today, and always.

"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." - Psalm 139:14

"Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever." - Psalm 106:1

"12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." - 2 Timothy 3:12-17

Praise To The Lord - Jason Waller

Monday, November 10, 2014

Jessica

Why do interesting things always happen to me when I am donating blood? I have posted several here about my conversations while donating blood. This one is no different, although there is a new twist to the usual flow of words.

I had decided to take the afternoon off work. It was a Friday and there was no work on my table so I thought, "Hey, why not?" So I did.

One of my stops was the Community Blood Center. I was beyond my eight week waiting period between donations to I stopped in to see if they had any openings. They like me to donate blood and are grateful to see me, however I think their enthusiasm has more to do with my A-negative blood type than with me personally.

My blood technician for the day was named Jessica. She was good looking lady, hair pulled back in a ponytail. I'd guess she was in her late 30's - early 40's. I'd seen her there before. A veteran. That's always a good thing to have when someone is trying to locate one of your veins with a needle.

I usually donate out of my left arm and had my I Am Second bracelet all poised in position and rotated for easy reading. It's a great conversation starter and soon Jessica and I would be talking about I Am Second and what it meant and then we would be talking about God - my desire for ALL conversations.

But Jessica never asked about my bracelet. It was like she didn't even notice it! I was kind of disappointed. Instead she asked me this question.

"So, what are you doing for excitement this fall?"

The man I used to be would have answered that question differently than the Bob that lives inside this rickety old tent these days. I probably would have talked about the Corvette I used to have or all the projects I was working on at my job. That was then. This is now. I want to talk about Jesus.

"Well, I write a blog and I mentor / counsel teens and young adults in our area."

"Whoa. Back up a bit. You write a blog? What kind of blog?"

"I write a Christian blog. I write stories about where I have seen God working in the world around me."

"That's cool. Tell me more about the counseling thing."

"Well, I talk with kids about their faith, I give them advice when they ask for it, I listen to them as they unload their problems. I listen to them and then I try to tell them about Jesus and all the things He went through and how He will forgive their sins if they only come to Him in repentance and place their faith and trust in Him."

Mission accomplished . . . or so I thought. I continued . . .

"This time of year is really tough. Last year we had a young girl take her life and the year before a young man did the same thing. Suicide is a problem everywhere but it has hit our community hard these past few years."

That was the trigger. THAT was why "I suddenly decided" to donate blood that day. It's always amazing to see God working around us, and sometimes THROUGH us.

Jessica told me about her daughter who was struggling in high school and how her daughter had told her she didn't want to live anymore one night after breaking up with her boyfriend. Jessica was a wreck for one nasty week as she watched over her daughter like a hawk.

When her daughter went upstairs to take a bath one night Jessica kept walking by the bathroom, knocking on the door and asking if she was alright.

Zoom back out of this conversation for a moment and look at the two people God brought together - a mom with a daughter who has contemplated suicide, and a man who has had experience counseling teens who have seen two suicides in their lives.

We talked for the entire duration of my blood donation and for several minutes afterwards as well. I prayed for Jessica and her daughter and then I left for home . . . with a smile on my face. It is nice being used to help someone else. Another one of the many gifts God showers on those who love Him.

I pray to always be ready (as it says in 1 Peter 3:15) to give a reason for the hope that I have. To see these situations as they are happening instead of regretting my inaction after the fact.

One of the prayers I should pray more often is to ask God to forgive me, not only for my actions, but for my in-actions as well.

May each of us be faced with situations this week, opportunities, to serve God through pouring ourselves into the lives of someone else. As it says in Galatians,

"Let us do good to ALL people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." - Galatians 6:10

We can never discern what is in a person's heart, whether they truly believe or not, whether they are in "the family of believers" or not. That is why we are to default to doing "good for ALL people." And doing them . . . In His Holy Name.

Good Things - The Bodeans

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Empathy

"Empathy is the experience of understanding another person's condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling." - Psychology Today

Empathy, I think, is both good and bad. It is good in that when we have empathy for someone we ourselves hurt. We can relate to what someone is going through because we "feel their pain." It's like we're going through the experience, whatever it is, along WITH the person it's happening to. We KNOW what they are feeling. Empathy is bad . . . for that very same reason.

I have a friend whose family lost their pet dog recently. To them, their dog was part of the family and they grieved for their dog just like they would a family member. For those who have never lost a pet to death it is hard to have empathy for that grieving person because they have never gone through that experience themselves.

In my life, I have a special empathy for people whose parents develop Alzheimer's. My father had it. I know what it's like to go through that. I know what my mom went through, living with Alzheimer's everyday for years. I have empathy for that. I have LIVED that.

One of my daughter's friends was recently diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. I have lost several good friends to cancer. I can empathize. It is our experience in these emotional situations that creates our empathy in similar situations when we encounter them.

Some people, however, do not feel empathy for others. It might be because they have not experienced the death of a loved one, for example, to really know exactly how they should feel. But it is also possible that they simply do not have the ability to empathize. It's not in their DNA so to speak. Which would lead one to believe that empathy for others is a God-given gift.

Can you imagine God's empathy? How He must hurt. Imagine the pain you have felt in your life and multiply it by billions. That's a lot of pain!

God's love is unmeasurable. So is His empathy towards those who are hurting - all of  us.

Here is a question to ponder. What does a holy and just God do when all the people He created have sinned against Him - an offense punishable by death. "The wages of sin is death" is what it says in Romans 6:23. The answer is in the Book of John. You've heard it before. John 3:16

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."

THAT is empathy!!

How much empathy do we show for others when we encounter someone who is suffering? Some but not as much as God would. Imagine THIS scenario:

A young family is grieving over the loss of their baby girl. She didn't even make it two days in this world before she died. The mother and father hold each other and cry as they stand next to their daughters lifeless body.

Suddenly an older man walks into the room and, holding out a small bundle towards them, says, "This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased. I offer him to you freely. A gift to remove your pain."

Unbelievable, right? Yet God did that very thing when He sent Jesus to earth to die in OUR place.

Empathy? I'd say that God exhibits empathy alright! And we have been created in His image. We strive to become more and more like Him as we grow in our faith. What will we do today when we encounter someone who is hurting? How will we react? Will we place their pain above ours? I think that is part of what God wants us to become - selfless, compassionate, loving . . . empathetic.

Today, when you encounter someone who is hurting or grieving, even going through a really bad day, will you scroll past their Facebook post? Or will you pause, say a prayer, and send them an encouraging message?

May God create in us a humble, loving and empathetic heart. Be willing to serve in such a way and you will be pleasing your Heavenly Father.

"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." - Ephesians 4:32

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep."
- Romans 12:15

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." - Matthew 7:12

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." - John 15:12

"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." -
Philippians 2:3

Empathy

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Vote

Yesterday in this country we voted to elect people to represent us in government. We elected senators, representatives, governors, right down to county treasurers . . . and dog catchers I suppose. Nationally, things swung the republicans way. It looks like the republicans have now won control of the senate as well as the house. You can look for a flood of conservative bills to make their way to the presidents signature. However, the president is a liberal and not likely to sign any conservative measures set before him. So, once again, nothing will get accomplished.

Yesterday morning on my Facebook page I posted this comment:

Today is election day. How will you vote? Will you vote for someone who will do what he or she thinks is best? Or will you vote for a candidate who honors God in the decisions they make? Think before you vote!!!
A friend replied with this:

How does one know if a candidate honors God in the decisions he/she makes?

Interesting.

(The answer, of course, is . . . read your Bible!)

I posted this comment:

Try here (the following link) and make your choices based on God's Word.

http://www.isidewith.com/

There are some real questions to be asked when deciding who to vote for. Abortion for example. How does God feel about abortion? Read His Word! Here's God talking to His prophet Jeremiah.

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." - Jeremiah 1:5

God knows us before we are born. So how does He feel about killing someone He already knows?

Open your Bibles to the book of Exodus, The Ten Commandments.

"You shall not murder." - Exodus 20:13

How can we Christians vote for anyone who supports murdering babies in their mothers womb?

Next question.

My decision to vote for governor went now farther than the answering of that question.

So we vote. Many people in our country vote for themselves. The "What am I going to get out of it?" vote. I think that is wrong. We are told to make God-honoring decisions.

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding.” - Proverbs 2:6

Here's another good one to remember:

“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” - Proverbs 3:5-6

If you go back and read first and second Kings you will find the following phrase repeated again and again.

"He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord."

May it be so with our elected leaders.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Parable of The Sower

Flashing lights - reds, blues and yellows - painted the faces of those who were there. How did I get here? Where are all of my friends? Where's my phone?!

Someone came up to me and stuck a flashlight in my eyes. Seriously?

"My name is Michelle, I'm here to help you. Do you have any pain?"

"No." (Just the annoying flashlight you're sticking in my face.)

"Where's Abby?"

The lady didn't answer. She just smiled and walked off. What the heck is going on here?

Someone else walking up to me now . . . a cop . . . and another flashlight. What is with you guys and your flashlights?!?

"Hi. How ya doin' kid?"

"Fine."

"I'm Officer Oaks but you can call me Daryl. Can I ask you a few questions?"

"Sure"

"Can you describe for me exactly what happened? Who was driving the car?"

"Umm, Lizzy was. Where is she? Is she alright?"

"Lizzy is fine, Miss . . . Logan. How did your night begin?

"I . . . I don't remember."

"When did you first get in the vehicle tonight."

"After school, I guess. We were going some place. Umm, youth group. We were going to Abby's youth group."

"Okay. What did you do there?"

"Some lady was talking. Destiny . . . something. Everyone called her Dee Dee."

"Okay. Anything else you remember?"

"Yeah. She was talking about Jesus. She was really excited. A little TOO excited, if you know what I mean."

"That's nice Miss Logan. When did you leave your youth group?"

"Oh, wait. Something else happened. Something happened when Dee Dee was talking. She asked us about our faith . . . our relationship with Jesus. Abby didn't want to hear it and wanted to leave. Lizzy did too. Abby was KIND of interested but not really. It was her youth group after all. And Lizzy . . . she really did not want to hear what Dee Dee was saying. But Chanel was really into it. Then something happened."

"What's that, Ma'am?"

"Please, call me Ali. I ain't no ma'am."

"What happened to . . . Chanel, is it?"

"Yeah, This lady, Dee Dee, was talking and she was really excited about Jesus. She was telling us all about sin and repentance and how we needed to KNOW Jesus and ask Him to forgive us. I don't know. Maybe you should ask Miss "Destiny.""

"We will ma'am. I mean . .  Ali. What happened then?"

"Well, one of Abby's youth leaders came over to us . . . Maddy was her name."

"Yes?"

"Well Maddy and Chanel went off in the corner and talked all night. Then Chanel started crying and Maddy gave her a hug. They talked some more and prayed I guess. It kinda looked that way."

"And then?"

"And then we left. Chanel really wanted to go some place. So we left."

"Where did you go then?

"DQ. Hey, can I get something for my head? It's really pounding."

"Sure. Hey, Jenny! Jenny!! Can you bring this kid something for her head? Thanks."

"Sure."

"So what happened at Dairy Queen?"

"Chanel wanted to tell her friend Josee something. Josee works there. She and Josee were talking all excited like. They both started jumping up and down and hugging each other. Weird. Anyway, then we took off for the Truck Stop."

"Busy night. And what happened there?"

"What ALWAYS happens there, we sat in the corner booth and ordered coffee and fries. Then Chanel started telling Judy, she's our waitress, she started telling her all about what had happened at the youth group. Then Judy got all excited. I've never see her excited like that. She was slopping coffee everywhere! And I didn't think they even knew each other! But it was almost like they were related. Weird."

"And then?"

"Well, we got in the car . . . and . . . . that's the last thing I remember. Lizzy wanted to do something else and Abby was all for that. Lizzy was kind of mad actually. I just wanted to be out of the car. Then Lizzy started yelling at Chanel. Is that lady ever gonna get me those pain meds?"

"Sorry. Hey Jenny!! You can talk to Officer Ed later. This kid needs those pain meds. Okay, You said Lizzy was driving the car, right Ali?"

"Yeah. Chanel and I were in the back seat, She was calling her mom. Umm, that's Kathy, if you're taking notes."

"I am. Go on."

"Yeah. I remember Lizzy leaning into the backseat, grabbing for Chanel's phone . . . tryming to make her stop."

"And then? What happened next?"

"That's it. I was in the car and now . . . I'm here. Hey, is that Lizzy's car?!? Oh, wow! Lizzy?? LIZZY!!!!!"

"Hey, HEY!! Settle down. Take is easy. Lizzy is alright. She's got a concussion and we think she has a broken arm but she's okay."

"And Chanel? Where is SHE? Officer Daryl? Where is Chanel?"

* * * * *
All that happened over a year ago now. I still can't believe she's gone. I never saw Lizzy again after graduation. Abby neither. They both just kind of drifted away. I still see Chanel's mom though. Maybe I should call her Auntie Kathy because that's what she feels like to me.

I miss Chanel SO much. She was so excited to tell other people about her new-found faith and what had happened to her that night. I almost wanted to believe it myself but I'm . . . I'm just not sure. Still, there was something in what Dee Dee said that night. I can even remember it.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

Hmm. Not perish? Eternal life? Maybe Chanel isn't really dead then. Maybe that means . . . she's just with Jesus.

* * * * *

"That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.”

16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” - Matthew 13:1-23

Thanks to those who allowed me to use their names in this short little story. I will be writing more of these in the future. Stay tuned . . . and blessed be the name of the Lord!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Wisdom

"My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, 2 for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. 3 Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." - Proverbs 3:1-6

The older we fathers get the wiser we get. Theoretically. We gain knowledge and wisdom through many different means but mostly we learn from our life experiences (I will spare you a discussion about Calvinism vs Arminianism - at least for now). Were older and we've been through more stuff. However, despite a father's vast amount of accumulated knowledge there is a STRONG tendency for our sons and daughters not to listen to us. Why is that?

Well, it's the same reason that WE didn't listen to OUR parents. We're independent, we don't want anyone else telling us what to do, we'd rather figure things out for ourselves. That's one of the reasons people end up with a collection of scars in their lives - both on their bodies and on their hearts. Lessons learned in the school of hard knocks.

My wife and I were visiting our son last night. At one point we went down stairs to look at something. Out grandson came too of course. On his own. He got down on his belly and, feet first, began to go down the stairs. His father reminded his son to duck his head under the protective gate at the top of the stairs which his son did rather obediently. Why? Was our grandson dutifully obeying his father? I doubt it. I think it was more like his father's words only reminded him of a previous experience where he had NOT ducked his head and the pain that was associated with the lesson he learned. My son could have removed our grandson from harms way but by allowing HIS son the opportunity to fail and hurt his head, he had allowed his son the opportunity to grow.

Oh, if our children only listened to us parents. We are far more wiser. I think I smell the scent of sarcasm in the air. All we have to do is watch the nightly news to see just how "smart" us adults can be.

Parents usually want what is best for their children. Look at what Solomon wrote to his sons. How do we, as parents, impart our knowledge to our children without them rejecting it? If I knew that I'd be a millionaire from the line of parenting books I would be offering in the bookstores or on my television channel for only $19.99. Operators would be standing by to help disseminate The Wisdom of Bob encyclopedia . . . probably more like a pamphlet . . . one page.

Learning things in life is something we ALL do. What we do with that knowledge is up to us. If it were up to me the planet would be filled with Bible-believing Christians, all of us knowledgeable in the scriptures. I am grateful not to have the  responsibility of making THAT happen. But I have allowed sometimes painful lessons in the lives of my children so the lessons they learn from them will stick in their minds. Is that wisdom? Or is it simply being mean?

I believe it is wisdom. I learned to do that from reading and applying God's Word in my life. As parents it is our responsibility to "train up our children in the way they should go" (Proverbs 22:6). Telling them what to do will rarely yield the results we seek. But offering them some sage advice WILL eventually find a home in their heads if you tell them about the pain YOU learned in a similar situation, in a similar sin.

The phrase "nobody's perfect" is still as true today as is was back in Jesus' time when Paul reminded us in Romans 3 that "there is none righteous." Solomon reminded us as well in Ecclesiastes 7:20 "there is not a righteous man earth who does good and never sins."

So what "wisdom" can this old fool leave his children on this cold November morning? Read your Bible! Place ITS wisdom in your heart and mind. In doing this one thing we can ALL get through this life with smaller scars, less pain, and more understanding of what God wants from us in this life - to learn and grow in our wisdom and character. We who believe are privileged to be called children of God. Could we not show OUR wisdom by listening to our father's?

I think YES!

Teach Me God To Wonder (Hymn 299) - Strathroy United Church